By Larry Whitely
It is known as the Fourth of July holiday. The real reason why we celebrate this day is much more than fireworks, parades, picnics, camping trips, fun on the water and family cookouts. The Fourth of July is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, declaring our independence from British rule. It is our Independence Day.
Sadly, a lot of people have forgotten that fact. I am not even sure it is taught in our schools anymore. Like a lot of our other holidays, it has been lost to marketing campaigns trying to sell us things.
Independence Day should be a time we pause to honor those who served or are serving our country so we can enjoy the freedoms our independence gives us. It is because of them we can fish, camp, boat, hike and all the other things we love to do in our great outdoors.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”
THIS WAS THEIR LAND
Before we came, this was the land of the Native American. To them, the land was owned in common. There was no concept of private property. The idea that it could be bought and sold or taken from someone just because they wanted it was unheard of.
They had an appreciation of nature’s beauty as intense as any poet. Animals were respected as equal in rights to humans. They were hunted, but only for food and clothing. When they were successful, they gave honor to the game. They believed in a Great Spirit who created the earth and who pervaded everything.
The Indian viewed the white man’s attitude to nature as opposite of theirs. When we came to their land, we were hell-bent on destroying, not just them, but the whole natural order of things. We cleared land and killed animals for sport, just leaving them to rot.
History books called them “savages,” but they were just trying to protect their families and the land they loved from those who came to take it from them. They were not the savages, we were! What would you do if someone came to take your home and land and harm your family?
We gave them land, you say. Yes, we did. Some of the poorest land there is in America. There is a mistaken notion Indian tribes are wealthy because they’ve been given a special privilege to operate casinos. In truth, very few Native Americans benefit from this. The federal government continues to breach its responsibility, just like they broke so many promises. Native Americans have the highest rates of poverty, unemployment and disease of any ethnic group in America. But, you won’t hear that on the evening news. Shame on us!
In spite of all that, American Indians serve in the armed forces at a higher percentage than any other demographic. No matter the conflict, American Indian men and women continue to risk their lives for the very government that took away their way of life and has treated them so badly.
NATIVE AMERICAN QUOTE
“This war did not spring upon our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things. This war has come from robbery from the stealing of our land.”
–Spotted Tail, Sioux Chief
THE LAST CAST
He was alone on the lake. The sunrise was breathtaking. There would be many fish caught that morning. One was the biggest smallmouth in all his years of fishing. He managed to take a selfie of him and the fish. As he hit send on his smart phone, he smiled. A son texted back, “Nice one, Dad.” Another son replied, “Good fish, old man!” A grandson asked, “What did you catch it on?” His wife asked, “Are you doing ok, and how are you feeling?” He smiled and texted back each of them with only the words “I love you” and then went back to fishing.
It suddenly occurred to him he had not heard or seen another boat all morning. Kind of felt like he was fishing on his own private lake. He heard crows, ducks and geese. He saw deer and turkey at the water’s edge. Birds were flittering around everywhere and singing their songs. He said to himself, “Is this what heaven will be like for a fisherman like me?” He smiled again.
The afternoon sun was high and hot. He motored into a shaded cove and shut off the engine. The slight breeze felt good there in the shade. He dropped the anchor, sat back and relaxed. He wished he hadn’t been so busy trying to make a living and would have taken his boys fishing more. But, they both grew up to be fishermen. They both became good husbands, fathers and Godly men. Their kids became fishermen, too. They had a dad that took them. A papaw, too.
The sunset was beautiful in the western sky. He knew he should be heading home. His wife would be worried. In the gathering dusk, he wanted to fish just a little longer.
The doctor had told him the radiation and chemo was not working. He was at peace with that because he knew where he was going. He headed for his favorite fishing spot near the boat ramp. In the half-light, the bait gurgled across the surface. A big bass slammed it and the fight was on. He lifted it out of the water and removed the bait from its huge mouth, lowered it back into the water and in the dim light, watched it swim away. He looked up, and with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “Thank you!” It’s time to go home. It was his last cast.
This story is from Larry’s book “Seasons – Stories of Family, God and the Great Outdoors” available on Amazon in paperback and e-Book.