Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lost History

For years I have been enamored by stories of the explorers and adventurers that collectively make up so much of the world's history. Algebra, English, Science-no way Jose. I was a middling student and could not grasp the  essentials of many subjects. But, give me a book and a good adventure yarn and I'm there. Of all my subjects in school, world history was the one I enjoyed. The tales of Vasco de Gama, Cortez, Columbus, Heyerdahl, Hillary and others captivated my imagination. The stories of the settlement and defense of their conquests reverberate through history. Our recent time off found us visiting the Alamo and it made me remember a history professor I knew. He said; and I agree, that it is a crime that in today's public schools teachers do not teach much further back than World War One (and brush lightly over that). I have always had an affinity for historical places and the events that occurred there. I guess that I am strange in that I think an understanding of where we came from and the events that got us here are a part of who we are. I can't imagine an education without stories of our discovery, the turmoil of the Civil War and the subsequent westward expansion. Places like the Alamo, Gettysburg and the site of Custer's last stand stir my soul. Odd as it may sound the vast, open West makes me realize how fortunate we truly are. Can you imagine a transcontinental crossing in a Conestoga/Prairie Schooner? No truck stops, roads, motels-having to hunt for sustenance; not to mention having to ward off Indian marauders and vicious predators. Those explorers and the trails they blazed make up many of our roads and highways today. The names of the cities and towns are mostly from the hardy folks who originally settled them. There may not have been a Ponderosa, but there was a Virginia City which exists today. Talk about history-I wonder how many folks knew what I meant there? Much has been made of how kids today spend their time. At the risk of sounding like my parents, they should be wrenched away from the idiot box, video games and other hi-tech devices. Schools should encourage reading and activities that exercise the brain. Many a time I went into space, chased Indians and became a small town's hero as their sheriff. Isn't imagination wonderful? How many kids can say that today?

BTW-Vasco de Gama opened the spice routes, Cortez was a Spanish explorer who conquered the Aztecs in central America, if you don't know who Columbus is..., Thor Heyerdahl championed transmigration-the belief that even the ancients crossed the oceans and explored-and built a raft out of reeds to prove it. If that story doesn't excite you, perhaps Sir Edmund Hillary (whom I have had the pleasure of meeting) conquering Mount Everest will.

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