Independence Day

As we head into Independence Day 2020, many of us have begun to realize that this year, it’s different. Everything is different. The year, Independence Day has taken on a whole new meaning for me and so many others. For the first time in our nations history, almost everything was shut down. People were quarantined…leaving only the essential workers going to work, and the rest of us staying home, except for food, medicine, and doctor visits. Covid 19 had changed everything.

Spring Break for the schools brought the quarantine, and even if we had no children in school, we felt that change deeply. Everything just…stopped. Restaurants were closed, movies were out, bowling leagues ended early, as did all sports. Once the warmer weather hit, it felt like summer, but it was only May. This would prove to be the longest summer ever…I’m not complaining, mind you. Summer is my favorite time of year. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been, if the quarantine had happened in the Winter, when I wouldn’t have been able to get outside and walk on the trail near my home…especially since I am not into winter sports, and those places would have been closed anyway.

Finally after more than three months of quarantine, the states were allowed to begin reopening. Still, we did not know what the summer would look like. Sports were up in the air, contemplating a shortened season, or as in the case of some, cancelling the 2020 season altogether. Graduations, funerals, birthday gatherings, and holidays were uncertain. Finally, as campgrounds and hotels began to reopen, it looked like summer might be salvaged. Still, several fairs and some 4th of July fireworks thought about, or did cancel. My husband, Bob and I usually go to the Black Hills over the 4th of July, to do some hiking, so this was a concern to us. Finally, word came down that the fireworks display we loved would indeed be held, and that after a 9 year span without fireworks at Mount Rushmore, that display would also take place this year. We were so happy, and booked our motel right away.

As we prepare to watch the fireworks on Independence Day 2020, it comes to mind that Independence Day has taken on a whole new meaning. For a time, we lost our independence, and now we have it back. The feeling reminds me of how the early settlers felt, when England finally gave up and we had won our independence from them. Yes, we still have a ways to go before we will have our country back to normal. During the lock-down, some bad things happened and some people are in an outraged state, but I believe that we will be able to get back to normal through the love of God being shown in our nation. There are those who want to change the root of our nation, but they will not succeed. We are and always will be “One Nation, Under God” and we will have victory over the anarchists. Today, we celebrate the birth of our great nation, the United States of America. It is with a whole new meaning…Freedom Again!! Happy Independence Day everyone, God bless you all, and God bless America!!

For many years, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have gone to the Black Hills to celebrate Independence Day. It has been our tradition for about 30 years. This year, things got changed up a bit. Our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband Travis invited us to come to Washington to spend the holiday with them. We will be watching the fireworks display at Semiahmoo Bay on the 4th. Bob and I went there a couple of years ago when we spent Thanksgiving with Amy’s family. The bay is beautiful, and I’m sure it will be even more fun in the summertime warmth…although it wasn’t very cold in November. We have never seen fireworks set off over water, so that will definitely be something new, and something about which we are very excited.

Celebrating our nation’s independence has always been a favorite holiday for Bob and me. We love everything about it. The fireworks take my thoughts back to history lessons, of the Revolutionary War. The rockets shot at ships, and the fighting that took place because we were a nation ready to be our own country. The fighting was sometimes brutal, but it was necessary. The patriots willingly gave their lives for the cause of independence. The fighting took place on land and water, and yet we have never seen fireworks over the water…until now. In my mind, I can see the ships from the Revolutionary War out in the bay. I can imagine the fireworks are the rockets, and the war is real. Nevertheless, I am glad that it isn’t really real, because I would not want our soldiers to have to relive that, but I can feel like a mouse in the corner, watching as history unfolds in front of my eyes…at least I can imagine it.

Of course, the fireworks aren’t the real thing, but rather just reminder of what our nation and the soldiers who fought for our independence, went through. My imagination of happened is just that…a figment of my imagination, because those events are long in the past. Still, I don’t believe that we should ever forget the lessons of war. There is always a reason we go to war…a wrong that must be made right, tyranny that must be stopped, killing that must be squashed, and slaves who must be made free. Good nations don’t go to war for evil purposes. I believe that the most important lesson to be taken away from any war, is that we must never trust our enemies, and even more importantly, we must never allow the enemy to infiltrate our nation and our government. Happy Independence Day to our great nation…the United States of America. Forever may our flag fly and forever may our nation stand.

I think that one of the things most people look forward to in mid-summer is Independence Day. Of course, the normal holiday for many people is filled with picnics, fireworks, and celebration of our freedom. Many of us consider the price that was paid in the Revolutionary War to win our freedom from England, and then our thoughts move on to the many wars the United Stares has fought into keep our freedoms, and to win freedom for oppressed nations around the world. It’s a noble thing our soldiers do, often with little thanks from those they help. And all too often, their work is quickly forgotten or even protested by those who do not understand how important it is not to give away our freedoms to those who do not share our values.

Whatever a person’s politics are, or even if they don’t participate at all, pretty much everyone celebrates Independence Day. It is a beloved holiday in this country. It’s a day to celebrate who we are as a nation….the land of the free, and the home of the brave. The fireworks are to remember the rockets that were used in the battle for our independence. The patriot soldiers fought hard against the British, never giving up, even if they lost their lives in the battle. The danger was worth the risk. They could no longer be slaves to the British. They were being taxed without representation, and unmercifully. It was time for the United States to become it’s own nation. I don’t think the British have any inkling that they would lose the Revolutionary War. It was like being beaten by your child. How could that “kid” actually have grown enough to beat them…and yet, the “kid” had not only fought against the “parent” country, but they won. They fought and now we’re free!!

Since they won, we have something wonderful to celebrate on July 4th…our independence. When I think of the alternative, I cringe. It’s not that I hate England, because, in fact, I don’t. I have relatives there, including in the royal family, so I don’t hate England, but we were just different. Our values and ideals were different. We could not peacefully co-exist the way we were, And yet, now that we are two separate nations, we are allies. We had to be equals in order to be allies. We had to have their respect, as a free nation, and we got it. We have been a respected, free nation since that day…July 4, 1776. And that is why we still celebrate our independence. Happy Independence Day everyone!!

When I think of Independence Day, I often think about how the fireworks remind me of the many battles that went on in order to win our freedom. Then, I began to wonder if there was ever a time when the 13 colonies almost didn’t become the United States. Britain was, after all, the world’s greatest superpower at the time. British soldiers fought on 5 continents and they had an amazing navy. They massacred rebels and civilians in Jamaica and India around the same time and retained those colonies. So, why not the 13 colonies of North America? There are many explanations, but the one I found most interesting seems, almost to tie to the way things are in America right now…and really all along.

The reality is that Britain won many times on the battlefield, but…lost in the taverns. The taverns, you say. How could that be? Well, taverns were everywhere. They were the social network of colonial life, much like the town hall meetings, and even more, like Facebook or Twitter today. Some areas of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania had taverns every few miles. People could get their mail there, hire a worker, talk to friends, sell crops, buy land, and eat a good meal. It was in these places that opinions were formed. People discussed the problems they had with British rule, and talked about how to get rid of the yoke of the Mother country.

Some say that Britain might have had a chance if they had been represented in the taverns too, but I don’t think so. The time had come for Americans to think for themselves, and to run their own lives and their own country. First came the Stamp Act and the Americans protested. More oppression followed, as did the protests. The resistance grew and grew, until war broke out. No matter what it took, the colonies were determined not to lose. The tavern meetings had accomplished what they needed to. No matter how many times it looked like Britain might win, they would not, because of…well, social networking. Social networking, when people get together to discuss right from wrong, and to discuss solutions. Sometimes the solutions are simple, and other times they create enough of a stir to bring about a revolution. No matter what the reason, the colonies were not about to lose, and because of that, we are a free nation and it was on this day, July 4, 1776 that our independence was made a reality, and we became the land of the free and the home of the brave. Happy Independence Day America!!

Mount RushmoreFor me, there is no more perfect way to celebrate Independence Day that to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can’t think of a more patriotic place that is close enough to my home in Wyoming to be able to go to each year. The Black Hills is a shrine to patriotism. Mount Rushmore…home to the faces of four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln…brings home that spirit of patriotism that lives inside me. I love going to Mount Rushmore, and every time I go, I feel a sense of awe. These great men did the things necessary to make our country great. We don’t often think about the sacrifice a president made, but George Washington was a great soldier before he was president. He, along with the help of an ancestor of my husband, Bob’s, Henry Knox worked out a strategy to win the Revolutionary War, thereby winning our independence. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln was the American Flagsman responsible for ending slavery in the United States, and Teddy Roosevelt was chosen because of his contributions to business, conservation and the creation of the Panama Canal. These were four men who saw just how great this nation could be, and who worked to make sure that it always would be a great Constitutional Republic.

For most of us, the Independence Day celebration would not be complete without a grand fireworks display. I have been to a lot of fireworks displays in my lifetime, but few can match the display that takes place every year in Custer, South Dakota. They start by doing the roll call of the states. I have been amazed over the years that almost every state is represented. Then the fireworks begin, with synchronized music, that is the best mix I have ever heard. Of course, every patriotic song in existence is sung, and the display seems to go on for hours. By the time the evening is over, you truly feel like you have celebrated our nation’s birth. I always walk away feeling more patriotic than when I arrived…if that’s possible.
Fireworks
I believe that the United States of America is one of the greatest countries on earth, and in the past few years, people have been trying to tear it down, and make us believe that we are not a great nation with great people. I don’t like that. I don’t like that our government tries to take away our rights, and tries to change the fabric of this nation into a nation of whiney babies that I hardly recognize. I hate to make Independence Day a story about the election, but it’s time to “Make America Great Again.” It’s time to fight for our Constitution, and the freedoms it provides. If we don’t fight for those rights now, they will be gone forever, and with them would go the nation we love. I pray that you all have a very safe and happy Independence Day!!

American FlagsWith our nation’s Independence Day upon us, I find myself, like many other Americans, in a rather weary and confused state. So much about our country has changed, that it has almost become unrecognizable to me. The United States of America has always been known as the land of the free and the home of the brave, but now it seems that we are becoming the land of the free, only if we agree with what a select few want, and as for the brave, well it’s becoming very much out of style to stand up for our beliefs, values, or even for our country. I’m not picking on any one group here, but rather I find myself feeling quite sad that the sense of pride we have always felt for our nation is suddenly gone…at least in the minds of some people. I know that everyone really has a right to live their life in the way that they want to, but the problem is that lately everyone wants to tell everyone else how to believe. With that in mind, I thought it fitting to remind people about why our ancestors came here in the first place.

When our forefathers left England, it was to get away from a government that made it a treasonous act to separate from the Church of England. The people who did not agree with the teachings of the Church of England had to leave or they would be killed. That was the reason that the First Amendment to our Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” These were very important parts of our Declaration of IndependenceConstitution. The problem is that many people have forgotten those rights, or they have mixed up the meaning, thinking that we are not to have anything to do with religion in our government. That isn’t it at all. It says that the government is to stay out of our religious beliefs. That is not what is happening. Our current government is far too invasive in our religions.

As time went on, England tried to usurp more and more authority over the young colonies. They tried to interfere with religion, economics, and politics. Even though we were a nation basically under them, we knew it could not continue much longer. It was decided that we needed to be independent from England. That was when we knew that we could not continue to be under this type of rule. So, why do we celebrate the 4th of July…Independence Day. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. But it wasn’t on July 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence. That was on July 2, 1776. It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either. That had happened back in April 1775. And it wasn’t the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. He did that in June 1776. It wasn’t even the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain. That didn’t happen until November 1776. It wasn’t even the date it was signed. That was August 2, 1776.

No, we celebrate the 4th of July, because that was the day that the Continental Congress approved the final Red Fireworks over Mt Rushmorewording of the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. They’d been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes. That was the day that truly represents our Independence. Not the day it was accepted by Britain, but the day we decided to make it our own. That was the day we made freedom and independence our own. It was the day that we decided to live in peace together, with each man, woman, and child having certain rights that should never be denied them. I think some people in our country, and especially our leadership have forgotten that fact in their race to political correctness, anti-racism, and a thinly disguised attempt to control our religious rights.

FireworksWhen we think of Independence Day, most of us think of fireworks, picnics, and a day off from work. What I wonder about though, is if most of us know why we shoot off fireworks on this day. The answer may surprise you, because many people did not know this. Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams had a vision of a huge celebration taking place in the city square. He wrote a letter to Abigail Adams on July3, 1776. It said that our Declaration of Independence should be commemorated with “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” The first Independence Day holiday was celebrated on July 4, 1777. On that day, at that time in history, the city was beautifully illuminated. That day felt to him like a day that should be filled with patriotism from a grateful nation to its freedom fighters. And, I believe that is what many people think today, but I also think many people forget about the sacrifice that was made so long ago.

According to some historians, the first fireworks were invented in India, but the first fireworks came to the West by way of China. Most if the early fireworks were simply repurposed military munitions, used to entertain rather than to frighten or kill the enemy, which is fitting in a way, because it was those same military munitions that brought about our freedom from England. From those ancient beginnings, came rockets, by stuffing a container with gunpowder and leaving a hole in one end for propulsion. These were called “ground-rats” or “fire rats” and they were highly unpredictable. That made them somewhat less effective, but as anyone who has ever watch a modern day display go a little haywire, they were also pretty entertaining.

So, why do most people love the fireworks today? Is it because of the great technology that American Flagsallows it to be synchronized with the music, thereby adding to the festive feel? Is it the continuing patriotism in this country? Or is it simply the splendor of the display…the bright colors and the flashing light show? Well, I suppose it is really a combination if all three of those things. We are a people who love our traditions, and I believe that we are still a very patriotic nation. And, I think we love the tradition that was started by John Adams in 1777. It make us feel patriotic and allows us to honor all our military men and women who have fought through the years to keep our nation free. And really, being a free nation is still what it’s all about. That is the thing we must not forget. Happy Independence Day America!!!

Walter Alden DavisHow could a simple trip become such an awful nightmare? Walter Alden Davis was just going on a short trip with his friend, Fred Willar to celebrate Independence Day in 1906. It was going to be a great day, and it was a great day, until the day ended. Walter and Fred rode their horses to Hay Springs, Nebraska from their homes in Rushville, Nebraska. The distance was about 12 miles. Then they took the train into Chadron, Nebraska for the festivities and to visit some friends.

Walter had seen a coyote earlier in the day, so he borrowed a revolver from a friend in case he saw another one. After a great day with friends and the Independence Day festivities, Walter and Fred took the midnight train back to Hay Springs, where they got a room at the hotel. Unfortunately, Walter had forgotten about the revolver, which was in his pocket, and when he dropped his pants on the floor, the revolver fired. The bullet went up through Walter’s hip and into his abdomen. He died a few hours later, on July 5, 1906. He was only 21 years old. The accident happened just 11 days before his 22nd birthday.

When I think of how Great Aunt Tessie and Great Uncle William must have felt when they heard the news, it makes me want to cry. They had already lost a son, Edward Allen Davis in 1893, at just 3 months of age, and a set of twins, a boy and a girl, in 1898, who died at birth, and now this. We often wonder just how much tragedy we can take, and in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, medicine was just not as good. Doctors could only do so much for poor Walter. Maybe if this had happened in this day and age, he might have been saved, but maybe not too. There is just no way to say with any certainty.

I’m sure the family wondered how they could go on without this handsome son who had been such a big help on the ranch. Nevertheless, the Davis family were a strong bunch, and they would not only survive this loss, but the loss of two more children. One before William passed away in 1925, and another the year after his death. I have to think that Great Aunt Tessie was a one of the true pioneer women of the west, because those women had to be strong enough to live through disaster and tragedy, and still come out of it unbroken. While nothing would replace their handsome boy, they would move forward, and they would survive.

For years now, Bob and I have been coming to Custer, South Dakota in the Black Hills, for our Independence Day celebration. This year is no different…or is it? The heatwave that is hitting our nation right now, the droughts, and the wildfires that are the result of the droughts, are changing the face of Independence Day as we know it. For the first time in all the years we have been coming here, the 4th of July fireworks displays have been cancelled. Of course, we are disappointed, but we fully understand the reasoning behind it, and absolutely support the City of Custer, South Dakota, and their fire department in the decision they have made. The Black Hills have taken such a beating in recent years with wildfires and Pine Beetles, and we don’t want to see any more trees destroyed.

So, what will we do to celebrate our nations independence? We will go out to dinner, and then probably watch some of the fireworks displays in areas of our country who can safely have the shows. Yes, we enjoy the displays, and it doesn’t seem like it can be the 4th of July without them, but as with other things in my life lately, I am finding that sometimes you have to set aside things that you thought were the most important, for things that simply are more important.

As with my mom and my in-laws, whose health is not the best right now, the health of these areas of our nation is far more important than the fireworks celebrations that we all love. I seriously doubt if the people of Colorado Springs are thinking much about fireworks, as they worry about whether or not they will have a home to come home to. So, I will continue in prayer for my fellow Americans whose homes are in the path of the multiple fires in our nation.

Today is Independence Day, whether we have fireworks or not. It is our nation’s birthday, and as a proud American, I will celebrate our nation’s birthday with a heart that is filled with gladness…gladness that I am a citizen of this great nation. I will honor those great men and women who have fought and died to give me the freedoms that I am so grateful for and that we Americans sometimes take for granted. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them. Yes, I will celebrate Independence Day…our nation’s birthday…even if it is without the rocket’s red glare.

Sometimes, when I look at some of the pictures of my dad and my Uncle Bill, and think about all their antics, I find that they remind me quite a bit of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. They were always getting into trouble…oh not the kind that was really bad, just the kind that was a little bad. And of course, their favorite thing to do was to go fishing…or anything else that involved the water and no school. They were always trying some new thing…some new invention…or some new gimmick. Just like Mark Twain’s characters.

I can totally see my dad and uncle as two more characters in those novels. They would fit right in. I’m not sure the story lines would even have to be altered…except to add to more kids. Dad and Uncle Bill used to do things like setting off dynamite on Independence Day…not firecrackers…no, that was too small scale…they set off dynamite. Or they might set of dynamite on the top of the gate post…just to see what would happen. Of course, then they had to take out and reset the gate post before their mom got home from town, because she would have tanned their hides for them.

Don’t get me wrong. they had to work hard, as did their sisters, but if there was a way to get out of the work, or to find some shortcut, you can be sure that the brothers were right there. My guess is that as little boys, they were a handful for their mom. I’m quite sure that my grandmother would have done anything for her kids, but I think her boys might have been hard to reign in sometimes. But still, they were loyal to her and mostly helpful.

I guess you would have to say that they were…adventurous, and that is the part of those boys that reminds me of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Their adventures are what got them into trouble, and yet, their adventurous spirit is what made you love them in spite of their crazy antics. That is the kind of boys they were. And when Uncle Bill came out here to visit my dad before his passing, you could still see the twinkle in their eyes when they talked about the things they used to do. It was pretty funny. In my mind, I could just see my grandmother, on her way home from town…wondering what her mischievous boys had been up to all day, and what messes she was going to come home to. I’m also quite sure that more often than not, she came home to some mess that needed to be cleaned up…and a couple of boys who needed a good spanking…even if they didn’t mean to make the mess. I can also see her dealing with the dilemma of should I spank them…or just laugh about the whole thing.

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