With June comes the much-anticipated, annual Old Settlers Picnic at nearby Devils Tower National Monument. My husband and I serve on the board of the Natural History Association, and this is one of our summer highlights, when we’re not watering, weeding and working at our respective interests. The monument itself was created in 1906 by President Teddy Roosevelt, by the newly minted Antiquities Act. It is the nation’s first National Monument. (read more)
We celebrate and honor several “Old Settlers” at this gathering, and many others enjoy the day under the great monolith. The day begins with an area church hosting a service, then the park superintendent welcomes picnickers and the festivities continue. This year, the weather stayed a perfect mid 70s and skies were blue. Our MC, Bonnie Sweeney, introduced the honored elders and read their biographies, detailing their years in the area. One gentleman preferred to tell his story and we were treated to a living history talk. Seems he’d been an early aviator in his day.
Hilarious cowboy poetry of Chuck Larsen was served up with a Devils Tower decorated cake, with ice cream (chocolate and vanilla), followed by area musician Cindy Witt, accompanied by former music teacher, Todd Kahler. Kids ran around, this year not to be herded by a 4H committee of games, etc.; a bus of retirement home residents and one with Chinese tourists dropped by for the local color.
A stone marker with inscribed names of past honorees was “unveiled,” several of which unfortunately misspelled, and they will have to be re-engraved. It’s always something, we say in defense of snafus. Considering what other calamities befall this old world at present. . . Still, one’s name is precious, and so the mistake shall be addressed.
Other calamities. . . I struggle with balancing a compelling need to watch the day’s news, to ignoring it altogether, thus hazarding what someone once told me, “You won’t know who kicked you in the behind that way. . .” Good point. But is there a position between head in the sand and not being 100% engaged with the media? Of course, my head and heart both say. My gut begs me to worry less. We are being stretched, like cells preparing to divide, as in mitosis. I visualize it nearly daily.
I visited a friend recently, and she had invited several others, some of whom I didn’t know, and a guest learned I was preparing to visit France. He seemed incredulous as to why I would do such a thing. After a while, he found me talking with another group and said, “Ma’am, could you do something for me when you get to France? Could you ask them why the hell they hate us so much?” Well, I was stunned, and later in bed I thought of several retorts I could have made, but hadn’t the wits at the time, as often happens. For instance, “I don’t think that’s the question, Sir,” or, “Sir, this is a ‘when did you quit beating your wife’ question.” Instead, I offered a lame response that I was sorry he felt that way, and that perhaps some French find our behavior as tourists, uh, impolite. (You know, Sir, the ugly American thing?)
His question may not have been posed outside the present political milieu. (Mitosis. All over the place. . .) But, at the Old Settlers Picnic, the differences were pleasantly, delightfully, simply historical.
Chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Barbecue and fried chicken. Old Settlers and Young Pioneers. Thankfully, I can count myself somewhere between the two.
I remember Rumi’s, “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there lies a field; I’ll meet you there.”