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"Earning the Rockies"

October 5, 2017

 There's an expression that has been around for a while, which arose out of America's period of westward expansion. Imagine in a time before the Interstate, before Route 66 – towns and service areas sprinkled like rose petals atop the dusty crust of the Great American Desert, since modern irrigation known as the Great Plains. To endure the vast and arid landscape of scrub sage and all the varieties of grasses beneath the scorching sun and bitter winds of winter is, when they peek up over the horizon, to have "earned the Rockies."


I encountered the phrase reading Robert Kaplan's most recent book, "Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World." More about this book later.


Today, passing through millions of acres of tamed western lands all turned over to wheat and sorghum, soy and corn I'll do no such earning. But to know that once entire communities, so many families and an innumerable supply of fortune seekers all "earned" those tall peaks leaves me with enduring respect for the sweat that was spilled to fill up the Oregon Territory acquired in 1848.


In his "Travels with Charley" John Steinbeck wrote of an effort to rediscover "this monster land" in seeking out diagnostic truths which are the basis of larger truths. And how can any greater expression exist for the soaring altitudes and expansive lateralness of our country?


So while I may not earn the Rockies in the truest meaning of the expression, I do ask for the chance to earn the confidence of a good many Americans. The good spirit and trust of comrades on this American journey we share, to open your hearts and minds to an invasion of inquiry.


Here's to earning our place in America, wherever our feet land.

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