A Journey Through Fly-Over Country

To the Readers’ Forum:

Last, November, instead of spending a traditional Thanksgiving at home, my wife and I decided to drive, not fly, to Kansas City, the site of part of our medical training and employment. It is a 1,000-mile passage through what is derisively called ”fly-over country” by the coastal elites.

The year is getting old and the light weak by the time Thanksgiving comes. there are historic reasons why Thanksgiving falls when it does – matters of Pilgrim fact and presidential proclamation – but over time it’s become the holiday that defines this bare season. By the end of the 11th month, the year is ancient enough to have show us its wisdom. We know what to be grateful for by now, or gratitude is simply beyond us.

Moving west across the incredibly flat farmland of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the brown fields are stubble now, the tractors and plows largely put away. The clouds have the texture of steel wool. Winter could come the next minute or the next month. The perspective from the highway is very different than from a casual glance out an airplane window from 30,000 feet.

Passing near Springfield, Ill., I was reminded of three Americans who had lived nearby. Two, born one century apart, spoke simple, but profound words, ”with malice toward none, with charity for all” – ”Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The third, a small unemotional relentless Union general dictated the terms of surrender and reconciliation at Appomattox.

We crossed the Mississippi at twilight and spent the evening in Hannibal, Mo. – an old river town made famous by the writings of its native son Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. Like Concord, Mass. or Valley Forge, Hannibal is a part of the American imagination, a link in the narrative that defines who we are.

Visiting his home and museum, a few words in Twain’s 1883 notebook caught my eye. ”Human nature cannot be studied in cities, except at a disadvantage – a village is the place. There you can know your man inside out – in a city you but know his crust – and his crust is usually a lie.”

Fly-over country? Not really!

Dr. James Dahlie