Musings from the Bunker 7/22/20
This week I was describing to someone that the ruts of wagon wheels can be seen etched into soft stone in the Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen. It got me recalling stories about the Oregon Trail and our family trips to visit parts of that trail. It is difficult in these days of Interstate Highways, rest stops and drive-through Starbucks to appreciate quite what the settlers had to overcome to get to California and Oregon—yet we can get a taste.
THE ARDUOUS JOURNEY BEGINS IN NEBRASKA
Most of those setting out west began their journey in St. Louis. As we all know, the Gateway Arch, at the Mississippi River, marks the symbolic start of the way west. From there folks moved west through Kansas and Nebraska. They started trekking across relatively flat prairie.
The first notable landmark they encountered was Chimney Rock, in western Nebraska. It was a waystation that told the settlers they were headed the right direction. Many diaries recount people’s visit and many left their mark in signatures and grafitti (which doesn’t survive).
Not far was Scott’s Bluff, which was so large and arising majestically from the prairielands as to lead some travelers to believe that they encountered the Rocky Mountains. At 800 feet in height, Scott’s Bluff and South Bluff indeed stood out against the flatlands, but were hardly an indicator of what lie ahead.
The first sign of civilization in the wide open Wet was Fort Laramie. The forts throughout the West weren’t necessarily the large stockades we remember from Westerns. Fort Laramie was a trading post, army post, and settlement. It originally was a fur trading post. It became the center of communications and trade in the northern plains, playing a role in the Indian Wars of the latter 1860s. The history is rich, both positive and controversial. A visit to Fort Laramie is a must to anyone traveling to this area.
There are many other sites along the way and guidebooks that will get you to each and every one of them, great and small. Here’s the National Park Service map and brochure: https://www.nps.gov/oreg/planyourvisit/maps.htm
Overlapping parts of the trail is the Lewis & Clark Trail and the Mormon Trail. More about these some other time…
SALOONS AS COMMUNITY
While focusing on the West, a little tidbit I learned about saloons many years ago that offers some insight into human behaviors and their desire for connection in even the harshest and seemingly uncivilized of conditions. People argue that the large number of saloons in the West are indicative of a heavy-drinking culture. In fact, these saloons were not just bars—they were the “social media” of the day. Many towns would have a German saloon, an Irish saloon, and saloons appealing to various other ethnicities. People would come to town and visit the saloon that reflected their ethnicity or country of origin. Once there they could leave messages for others, read postings, and exchange messages and gossip that they, in turn, would report in to the next saloon in the next city. No doubt there was a lot of drinking going on, but at least some of what was going on was getting news and a little taste of home and cameraderie.
BDS ON CAMPUS AND DOING LESS
Last week I suggested that Jewish students on campus be armed with a standard response to BDS resolutions in student government and then not engage in the timely, costly, debilitating, process of fighting such a resolution or trying vainly to engage in a debate of Middle East policy with the Palestinian supporters. It got a lot of response. Here are a few comments:
• A Christian friend and long-time supporter of Israel, suggested doing nothing is not an option. But that’s not what I suggested. What I suggested was to focus on forums of consequence, devoting resource there, while minimizing the attention given to forums, like student councils, that ultimately bear little consequence.
• A former college student at a major public university indicated my proposal is exactly what they did at his university. Eventually the resolution passed, there wasn’t much follow-up and the debate just went away.
• A friend whose parents are both survivors challenges me saying :
“Well I finally found something that we completely disagree about…. And for once I am almost irate! You know the saying … ‘if you say a lie a thousand times it becomes the truth?’ So if you say that Israel is bad and Jews are bad a thousand times people will believe it. And we all know what happens when you don’t stand up to bullies who present this sort of bullshit incessantly throughout our education system. Stand with Us stands for the proposition on schools, college campuses and other locations that educating our young to stand up to the propaganda bullies is an important way to survive.”
I’m not saying to stand by and do nothing about BDS. Nor am I suggesting better education. I’m only suggesting that perhaps fighting resolutions on campuses—and relying upon young people to carry the water in what are hopeless debates without consequence is not the place to devote resources. BDS is a real issue that deserves a real response in the places it counts.
MIKE TROUT—GREATEST EVER? AND FOR HOW LONG?
Much of the most hotly contested debate the past few weeks is around baseball records and “who’s the best.” The MLB site offers this interesting perspective, comparing Mike Trout’s early career to what we can expect will be the duration of his reign. Much interesting stuff about the Babe and Willie Mays to compare to:
How long will Trout reign as MLB's best player? Likely for several more years. https://www.mlb.com/news/how-long-will-mike-trout-be-best-player-in-baseball (and, yes, I’m also puzzled by the dates on the far left of the charts…).
With the Babe and the Say Hey Kid the only potential contenders for the “best ever” title, it’s pretty rarefied air.
All the best,