Curtis Dahlgren
Is America over and lost forever? (Depends)
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By Curtis Dahlgren
October 15, 2013

MY BROTHER AND I grew up on a farm in the 1950s. It was a trip, over gravel roads, just to get to a small town (where people were definitely clinging to their religion). Up here in the U.P. we are still clinging to the America of Doris Day, Donna Reed, and Mrs. C. of Happy Days. Is that America "over" – gone forever? I honestly don't know, but one thing I do know: A person still has reason to hope when one lives hours away from the U.S. "mega-metropoli."

If you don't know where the U.P. is, think "Upper-eastern Wisconsin" (which it almost could have been)! Michigan didn't even want the U.P. because it was thought to be worthless. Michigan really wanted the more civilized Toledo Strip, but had to settle for the Upper Peninsula (which stretches from the longitude of Toledo to west of St. Louis): North America's best kept secret; Michigan's better half; don't tell anyone.

By the way, when Horace Greeley said "Go west, young man," some say he was thinking about the U.P. because he was part owner of a copper mine up here. Tired of the rat race? From Miami Beach just get on U.S. 41 and keep driving until you can't go any further north. Not all roads lead to the U.P. but enough of them do so you can get here from there. You won't see a lot of celebrities or Ivy Leaguers up here, but native Yoopers have ranged from the original Gipper, George Gipp, to Glen Seaborg – the physicist of the Manhattan Project. The U.P. was a playground for the Fords and McCormicks too, so it's good enough for me.

Anyway, the point is that America isn't over until it's over, and some of us are clinging un-bitterly to the Olde America in the Northwoods of the Bible Belt. This is actually Part 5 of a series inspired by a friend's question, "Why would anyone live in the U.P.?" Suffice it to say for now that it is mostly rural – not wealthy but rich in wildlife and natural beauty. Some citified people would be unimpressed and might even pity us due to the myth that all of us get a lot of snow up here (though Chicago gets more snow than I do).

Well, in closing this little letter, I want to paraphrase a story that appeared in our local weekly, the Menominee County Journal (by M. Tuinstra, 7-11-13, borrowed from "Touching Stories"):

Once upon a time there was a very rich man who took his two sons to visit their country cousins in the next state, to show them how poor they were. On the way back home, he asked the boys, "What did you think about that? Did you learn anything today?"

"WOW," said one of the brothers. "We don't even have a dog, and they have two of them. We have a little piece of land and they have fields that stretch beyond the hills. We have a fence around our house to protect us and they have neighbors who help them! We pay the city for water and they have two artesian wells that never stop flowing. We have a swimming pool in the back yard, but they have a creek that's forever flowing to the horizon!

"Yes thanks for the trip, Dad. We never realized before how poor we are!"

P.S. This wasn't a fairy tale. My brother and I lived it. And the further North you go, it only gets BETTER.

© Curtis Dahlgren

 

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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)

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