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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Katherine Lee Bates’ poem/song

My inspiration for today's editorial thoughts comes from two places which I'll try and combine here for some things I'd like you to consider. One of the "places" is my recent road trip across this country and back, and the second "place" is one of the most beautiful songs/poems ever penned.

First, let's look at the trip. I've written before about a lot of the things pertaining to the annual Run For The Wall in Washington DC. Things such as the patriotic events we encounter in the various towns and cities we pass through as we journey. What I haven't really written about though, is my thoughts on the country itself that we see on our route. That's what I'd like to try and picture for you today.

On May the 18th, 2011, a cold, drizzly sort of day, myself and about 300 motorcycle riders departed Ontario, California in route to our nation's capital, a structured journey of 10 days duration. At the very onset of the trip, while passing through the Cajon Pass climbing out of the valley basin, all of a sudden the gray clouds parted and sunlight poured down through on us for a short period of time. Enough that I could see my wife and friends waving American flags and bidding us Godspeed on our journey. It was the first time on this trip tears came to eyes. It wouldn't be the last.

We passed on to the Mohave Desert of Southern California on a rare wind-free day with moderate temperatures. We crossed the Colorado River at Needles, Ca. and began the climb up the mountains to Williams, Az. Our moderate temperatures became 6" of snow before we got there. Still, the snow-covered mountains were beautiful. Me, I just cranked the heater up a tad in my truck and motored on.

In Gallup, New Mexico another storm caught up with us and pelted us with hail for a few moments. Even through that, the storm clouds were awesome. The mountains of Northern New Mexico were found in their usual state - majestic and beautiful. Even Eastern Colorado, with it's seemingly endless prairies and fields was great to travel through this year.

Those of you who have ever traveled I-70 know how flat, and yet interesting, the Western part of Kansas is until you finally get to some trees in the Eastern portion of the state. Then we're passing through the rolling green hills of Missouri until we cross the mighty Mississippi River at St. Louis. Southern Illinois and Indiana are just about the greenest green farmland you'll ever see.

Kentucky, with it's "bluegrass" looks awfully green to me. It's sort of like Illinois and Indiana on green steroids. Then we come to West Virginia where the roads are going up and down and around anywhere in the state. It was here that we again encountered God blessing the earth with rain and hail. It was the worst hail storm I've ever been "blessed with" and, even though you worried about damage, it was still awe-inspiring to witness. The last day took us through the rolling, green hills of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and into Washington DC, the capital of our nation and all of its sights and wonders.

Having traveled the general route and area that Katherine Lee Bates traveled back in 1893, in a very small way, I can relate to her thoughts on the nature of our country as she passed through and viewed it's varied scenes and vistas. I just wish I could express my thoughts as well as she did when she sat down in her hotel room in Denver, Colorado and penned the words to a poem she entitled "O Beautiful For Spacious Skies." As we now know, it was later put to music and renamed - "America The Beautiful." I can only attest to the truth of the title of that poem/song and say - it truly is beautiful.

In just a moment I'll provide you with the words of this song, but first, I'd like to just mention a couple of things that relate to it. My trip to DC was in remembrance of those of our military who were either Killed In Action or were still Missing In Action from recent wars. The Civil War had not been over very long before Miss Bates wrote her poem and I'd like to think the third verse significant to that war and all wars since fought for our freedoms.

The second verse seems to me to almost be a prayer recognizing that our nation's citizens need to be vigilant in controlling themselves and in so doing, keeping America great. The words "Thy liberty in law" is speaking of God's Law. Wouldn't it be a far better country if we all controlled ourselves according to His Law? Now, let's read together the words of Katherine Lee Bates' most beautiful poem/song.

        O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,

        For purple mountain majesties, Above the fruited plain!

        America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

        And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea!


        O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress

        A thoroughfare for freedom beat, Across the wilderness!

        America! America! God mend thine every flaw,

        Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!


        O beautiful for heroes proved, In liberating strife,

        Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!

        America! America! My God thy gold refine,

        Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!


        O beautiful for patriot dream, That sees beyond the years,

        Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!

        America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

        And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea!

In closing, based upon my life of 70 years, my study of the Bible and my travels throughout much of this country, I totally believe that if there is one nation that God has shed His grace on, it's America. That's why it's beyond any form of reasoning in my mind, that our country seems bent on removing God from the soul of our nation. I think that we should all pray that He continues to "shed His grace" on us.

Ron Covey

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