My good wife asks me every week “Why are you doing this? Who reads these articles you keep laboring over all the time? How do you know anybody does . . . and if they’re doing any good?”
Very good questions.
I can answer the first one: I appreciate very much the opportunity to get up on a significant “soap box” and sound off on issues I feel strongly about, issues that affect all us Americans. Like the guy with the placards on the street, preaching to passersby, I hope that something I say, something I’ve thought long and hard about, something I feel we ought to be discussing widely and honestly, may resonate with others and effect even a small change in our national direction.
The other questions? I have little, if any, way to gauge who reads my offerings, and even less feedback to ascertain whether any good is being done. Yes, I get “reader responses,” for which I’m grateful to my friends here at Newsmax, but not representing poll-like numbers. Many are encouraging and appreciative, while a few are downright vitriolic, even calling me names I won’t repeat here. But as a percentage of the estimated several million readers of the many writers and their articles here at Newsmax, my pieces seem rather insignificant. I’m quite sure the world would keep spinning predictably without them.
But as I pondered all this, wondering whether I should just quietly disappear from this dais, my ancestor Daniel Boone (my great-great-great-great grandfather) came to mind. And curiously, along with my great grandpap there appeared another early American who some think was just a myth but who was historically a flesh and blood pioneer —Johnny Appleseed. In my imagination, I questioned each of them about why they did what they did.
They were both pioneers, venturing where others dared not go, marking their paths so they could find their own ways home, and maybe lead others to new places. Each faced real dangers from hostile and suspicious foes, but each proved agile and adept at sizing up new environments and learning how to get along just fine in them.
In fact, both earned the admiration and respect of the native American Indians because they saw how Boone and Appleseed respected the wilderness they were passing through. It’s not a stretch at all to describe them both as this country’s first real “ecologists,” men who dearly loved being “green.”
Johnny actually, and literally, carried sacks of apple seeds with him, sprinkling and implanting them around settlements, endeavoring to replace beautiful trees that he felt had been needlessly cut down. He encouraged early settlers to beautify, as well as take from, their environment.
And as I visited with these grand old men in my mind, I realized that neither had any idea, at least till very late in their lives, that their influence would extend beyond a few hundred people at most. Granddad Dan’l developed a reputation as a soldier, fighting in the French and Indian War and in the American Revolution, and he served in the Virginia Legislature. But he left most “politickin’” to his contemporaries Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, et al.
He had a wife and eventually 10 kids, and he took more naturally and passionately to settling, owning his own land, and guiding others to theirs. He has been called “the first great American naturalist” — he cherished the land in which he settled, and he wanted to conserve its wild and native beauty.
And though his reverence for life in the great wilderness inspired writers like Wordsworth, Bertram, Byron, and Whitman, mostly unknown to Boone himself, his own self-description was much simpler: “I am a woodsman.”
A woodsman. A planter of apple seeds. What influence could they possibly have, especially in a turbulent, nation-forming cauldron of events that saw the creation of America, the wars with England and France, the establishment of a new Republic and a democratic form of government unknown in the world of their time? Two “hayseeds,” two “yokels” out in the woods, not connected to the power centers in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and particularly Washington?
But influence they did have, beyond their knowledge or intent.
In his magnificent "Boone, a Biography," author Robert Morgan details the fantastic saga of the trailblazer who literally opened the door to the American West, though his conscious purpose was a simpler one — leading others toward their dreams. And Johnny Appleseed, circuit riding through early settlements in the vast new country, could never have imagined himself the central figure of stories and songs and plays, a symbol of others to follow who would hallow and cherish our land, its original inhabitants, and its unparalleled beauty.
I don’t know. As this new year gets underway, I’m questioning whether hacking out my little pieces is worth the effort, or even needed in any way. Like so many, I’m gravely concerned about the detours I see our society taking, the abandoning of our traditions and original foundations; I see the daily trashing, not just of our immediate environment, but of the social and moral pathways that made our people strong, self reliant, and unique in the world.
I believe we, as a nation and a free society, face hordes of hate-blinded enemies . . . while we spend billions on depraved, soulless, downright evil “entertainment” and allow little organized minorities to wrench away our blood-bought identity and our constitutional liberties. We seem to be imploding on ourselves, squandering resources on hapless programs and helpless, time wasting distraction and self-gratification.
I don’t like saying these things, or feeling that somebody must.
I’m likely not the guy who should be saying these things, since others can say them better, and some are, thank God. Still, I can’t ignore the impulse — perhaps it’s in my bloodline, my heritage — to urge others to conserve our moral environment, to plant new seeds in our communities, and to value and teach our kids to value what our forefathers fought and died to create for us. I've hoped I've been helping others find the trails that brought us from our past, and that could lead us home again—and maybe blazing new ones into an unforeseen brave future.
But Dan’l Boone I’m not. Johnny Appleseed was perhaps unique to his own time. I may just be whistling in the wind. But I do remember the tune. So maybe I’ll keep on whistling a while longer . . . or maybe not. For now, let’s pray that God will oversee the election of our next leaders, and grant us yet another happy New Year.
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