Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wagon Days and Mars

Ketchum’s Wagon Days Parade Saturday will celebrate not only the West’s history. It will celebrate Mars, wireless communications, the Internet and medical advances. It will celebrate the nation that showed the way to feeding the world.

When the Big Hitch passes by, it should remind us of the characteristics including creativity and tenacity that made America one of the world’s most powerful nations. It should remind us of the traits we need more than ever today.

That the parade will celebrate American ingenuity seems to run counter to fact given that all the entries will be human-powered or pulled by horses. But consider this: The giant wagons of the Big Hitch are pre-modern icons of transportation.

They carried loads of ore from mines around the region to area smelters. Outbound they carried the food and tools miners needed to enable them to unearth precious silver used primarily in the young nation’s currency and other metals used in developing industries.

AAA and other roadside services didn’t exist in the 1880s. No tow truck could rush to the aid of muleskinners if an animal threw a shoe or a wheel broke. The men had to fix the problem themselves or wait long days until someone could ride to town to summon rescuers. And how embarrassing would that have been for those self-sufficient Westerners whose predecessors overcame more than a few busted wooden spokes just to get to the West?

Instead, they planned, prepared and executed their trips armed with the right tools and the skill to use them. If planning failed, they innovated and tried again.

They crossed narrow roads through rock fall and mudslides. They survived gullywashers and snow storms.

Today, Americans are coping with globalization, the loss of jobs to outsourcing and an economy that’s stuck in a wallow created by misguided financiers. In our quest to create a better future, we would do well to emulate the can-do spirit of the people who came before us.

That spirit is what drives the scientists at NASA who recently landed the Mars Rover to explore the red planet. It’s what keeps biologists, engineers and entrepreneurs up late devising the next new technological and medical marvels.

It’s what should inspire us ordinary citizens to support such efforts in order to create better lives for everyone.

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