Last night, when we arrived in Tucson, there was a sense of lethargy among the riders. The heat had indeed taken a toll. However, this morning, thanks to a good night’s rest and hydration, there was a pep in our step at breakfast and we were ready to go. I was met by a very nice young man named Troy who got up early, allowing me to shake his hand and offer my thanks.
The theme for Day 1 was “HOT,” but as I rode the Day 2 route, the theme that came to mind was “rugged American individualism.”
After a short trip to Littleton, AZ, for fuel, we were off to Tombstone, AZ, a place rooted in American history and folklore. I remember as a little kid watching Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglass in Gunfight at the OK Corral. I loved that movie. My favorite modern day depiction starred Kirk Russell, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, and Val Kilmer in Tombstone. Sorry, Kevin Costner. The movie Tombstone is the ONLY western movie that the West women will watch over and over. Me thinks they fell in love with ol’ Doc Holiday! (Val Kilmer should have won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his superb role as Doc Holiday.)
After exiting I-10 East at Benson, we began the trek to the famed location. As we traveled, mounted upon our Iron Horses, I pondered what it was like for those pioneers who set course and headed on the same path years ago. What did they expect to find? What challenges did they face on the way? What was it that made them so resilient, resolute, and unrelenting in their pursuit of happiness? That was when it hit me. The answer was rugged American individualism. It was an attitude captured in a simple Horace Greeley maxim, “Go west, young man” — and the women went as well.
After climbing to 4,540 feet, there it was. The first thing I saw was Boot Hill. I was under the misconception that this would be a built up area, but no; it is just a simple rustic town that has preserved the infamous Allen Street (I kinda like that name), which was the center of activity in historic Tombstone.Pioneers came west because of a mineral boom, but where there is good, there is also evil. I found it interesting that the narration at the OK Corral mentioned that the cowboys and the corruption that came to Tombstone was a result of southern Democrat migration. Some things never change.
The Earps came to Tombstone for a fresh start on life, but as fate would have it, circumstances changed their plans. They once again took up the law man’s mantle and made a principled stand against the mob of the day. It cost them, but their legacy lives on today. It would have been easy for them to say, “Nah, not my business,” but they realized that law and order play an important role in our quality of life. When small business owners and entrepreneurs built the West, and indeed they did “build that,” they required security for their success. When you look into the eyes of the folks there you see that rugged American individualism.One thing though, that was one close quarter gunfight. How were the Clantons and McLaurys such bad shots? I took lots of pictures there and sent them back to my girls. They were ecstatic.
We left Tombstone and headed to Bisbee. After going through Mule Pass tunnel, there we were in Bisbee (5,300 ft.) built on the side of the mountain. The lucrative Bisbee copper mines are still in existence today. The mine’s excavation hole is so deep that I could not see the bottom. Although we did not stop there, once again, I was reminded of that special quality of rugged American individualism. We continued on and stopped in Douglas, AZ, for fuel and lunch. There are no special amenities there, but what lovely people! Their faces beamed with a certain pride, so much so that we stopped and spent time with them. That is my America. That is what we, as Guardians, must stand to protect and preserve.
As we headed out from Douglas, AZ, towards Lordsburg, NM, there was a very simple nondescript monument/historical marker on Arizona Hwy 80, just 7 miles before crossing the border into New Mexico. I slowed down a bit so I could take it in, and lo and behold, it was the place where the Apache War Chief Geronimo surrendered. Upon his surrender, Geronimo was taken to Ft. Sill, OK, my first duty station in the Army. He is buried there and I visited his gravesite as a young lieutenant.
For the next few miles, I considered Geronimo’s rugged individualism and commitment to his people, especially after his mother, wife, and three children were killed by the Spaniards. What impressed me most, as I traversed the southern US desert, was the ruggedness and a certain hardiness that still resides in those who occupy the land. Just as their forefathers and foremothers did, they forge ahead.
That was what I saw in the faces at Lordsburg and Barnett’s Las Cruces Harley-Davidson. Veterans, riders, and just great Americans who came out to share hamburgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst with us weary riders. I was so honored to meet so many great Americans and see that rugged American individualism.
Too often I have seen the opposite: the look of subjugation of the individual’s indomitable spirit to the whims of the collective welfare nanny state. I look upon our cities and instead of seeing that burning spirit, you see despair, despondency, and dejection. You don’t see the spirit of “Go West, young man.” You see who is going to pay for my cell phone? Where is my EBT card? Who is going to clean up our section 8 housing? What am I entitled to?
Americans have stopped migrating to rural areas seeking their own individual goals, dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Instead, they are concentrated in urban areas, with higher populations, and higher dependence on government largesse. Even the once proud Native American tribes were forced into collective reservations and promised largesse from the government under the guise of quasi-independence.
Americans have been sold a bad bill of goods that is counter to the essence, the fabric of who we are. Those pioneers who answered Greeley’s call did not stop and ask for the government to give them a map, flour, horses, or wagons. They did not arrive and ask, “Where is the government subsidized housing?”
Yes America, you did “build that” — a great country. Be proud of your legacy and what has been accomplished in 237 short years. However, in the twinkling of an eye, lies, deception, and bumper sticker slogans can rob you of your birthright as Americans: freedom and individualism — not dependence and collectivism. I can just hear the explosion of liberal progressive socialist detractor’s heads, but what I saw is a testimony to what we were, and can be once again.
Tomorrow we head for Texas. We have three days in that great state with stops in Midland, Austin, and Beaumont. I am quite sure I will find that same rugged American individualism in Texas. But, let me warn you Texans — as you seek businesses to relocate from states like California to the Lone Star State — tell them to leave their liberal beliefs and politics.
And have you all heard? California is thinking of instituting an “Exit Tax.” Liberal progressives never saw a tax that they did not like. Wonder what the taxes in Tombstone were when the Earps arrived?
Steadfast and Loyal!