Only the ignorant cast history aside

Oct 6, 2013 By Randy Tucker

Bulletin: We aren't the first people to have walked the Earth.

It's a natural to assume you're the first person to ever experience something. It's a practice that is growing in nearly exponential fashion with the rise of self-importance and the scandalous decline of history as an academic subject.

Rather than blame the schools and their ever present preoccupation with "self-esteem," the rise of this belief is largely internal but generates many damaging sentiments, the same sentiments often used to sell products to the chronically self-centered.

When you are the center of your own universe, and by default, the universe as a whole, it's easy to disregard the views and accomplishments of others.

In another strange quirk of the human condition, the more things you've accomplished yourself the more impressed you are by the accomplishments of others. When you've never done anything of consequence it becomes very easy to judge the work of another as somehow deficient and not of value.

While those devoid of a concept of history go blindly on their chosen path, never taking the time to appreciate the toil of previous generations, those who do value the foundations laid for us by our predecessors can sometimes find hidden beauty in the simplest of things.

One of my favorite fishing spots is along Warm Springs a few miles up Union Pass just west of Dubois. Judging by the footprints and the lures hanging high in the willows, it's a favorite spot for many people.

While the fishing is good, the history that overwhelms you as you walk down the creek to the east is much more enjoyable. Check dams and decaying log flumes are easy to spot along the tree line banks above the small stream.

Those log structures were put in place by men nearly a century ago. One of those was my grandfather. Looking at the rough-hewn beams, still containing the marks of skillful swings from a broadax, you can see a testament to strength and skill that is exceedingly rare in our soft, cushy modern existence.

I caught of glimpse of my Grandpa Gasser paddling a canoe in the Wyoming PBS production of "Knights of the Broadax" as the younger men rode the ties down the Wind River from Dubois. He was already in his mid 40s when the film was shot during World War II but his pipe and characteristic hat were easy to spot.

The huge kerf marks on the rough planks tell of saw blades three feet or more in diameter that cut the native spruce, fir and hemlock into usable, almost knot-free lumber.

Tearing down an old building brings on the same sentiment. The lumber in a home, barn or out building constructed prior to World War II reveals lumber taken from virgin timber, lumber with straight, tight grain nearly devoid of imperfections.

That kind of lumber is still available for astronomically high prices, but once was so common it often was used as firewood.

In my early youth we lived in Blytheville, Ark. It was a two-hour drive to my grandparents' cotton farm to the south of us near Mariana, Ark.

My Grandpa Tucker's farm was a magical place for an active youngster. The woods were full of raccoons, fox, snakes, tortoises, quail, and hundreds of native trees and bushes. Add to that my grandfather's hound dogs, chickens, hogs, watermelons, apple trees and cotton fields, and there were adventures waiting just outside the door.

I walked on my grandfather's feet as he plowed his acre-sized garden a half century ago, amazed at how his mule moved left or right with just a click of the tongue or a one word command. He hardly used the reins at all.

The house, barns, trees, fields and all the animals are long gone, submerged under the artificial ponds that grow rice throughout east central Arkansas.

Those few cotton farms that remain are just a vestige of what once was.

A novice to the area would assume that the land was always flooded and that rice was the only thing this land had ever produced. That's the great tragedy of the demise of history from our society.

Bob Dylan addressed this trend long ago in his classic "The Times They are a Changing." My favorite verse is the final one.

"The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. The slow one now will later be fast. As the present now will later be past. The order is rapidly fadin', and the first one now will later be last. For the times they are a-changing."

We exist in the mortal plane, in a brief earthly sojourn between the eternities.

Appreciating the challenges and triumphs of those that came before us should be the center of our culture. Our present preoccupation with youth is impractical at best and nonsensically egotistic at worst.

The youth know nothing, but should have the strength, drive and endurance to overcome this detriment. How we study, honor and revere our heritage is the hallmark of an advanced, civilized culture. Only the ignorant cast aside history in favor of the trends of the moment.

Maybe Dylan's lyrics had a different meaning entirely, the times are changing, but the more things change the more they remain the same.


Editor's note: Randy Tucker is a retired educator who now farms in rural Riverton.

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