Katherine Lee Bates was a poet and literature professor. She wrote the verses that became known as “America The Beautiful.” One memorable line “Amber Waves of Grain” was inspired by her train journey across the midwest, my original stomping ground. This poem was paired with a hymn to commemorate the Fourth of July. I learned this while visiting the midwest last week. This is a place where you become totally dependent upon your GPS, if you get a signal at all. Cornfields on the left…soybeans on the right…where the heck am I? I could be anywhere. No discernible landmarks here in “Anywhere, U.S.A.” Another thing I learned on that trip is that the speed limit is 55 mph on most interstates that I traveled. Of course, just like anywhere else, there are no speed limit signs when you enter the interstate. Not until you’ve been traveling on it for three or so miles. I’m surprised I didn’t see more state troopers. But there are signs when you enter the interstate that inform you that the legal blood alcohol content level is .08, the same as in my state. Not surprising since this is the land of cornfields and liquor stores…and liquor made out of corn. Nearly everyone I spoke to on this trip mentioned their own DUI story. One even showed me their paper driving permit they were given when their license was revoked. Ironically, it had a ring stain on it where they had used it for a beer coaster. I wondered, had they learned their lesson? Was one conviction enough? In my state, Texas, it’s a three strikes policy. The first two convictions are a misdemeanor and the third is an automatic felony. Yes, we have evolved since the days when the offender wouldn’t go to jail until they took out a family. Now, they don’t let it get that far. And, with the Fourth of July holiday, there was sure to be many people celebrating all day long…and then hop in the car and drive home from that celebration. Again, I’m surprised I didn’t see more state troopers. I must admit, it was nice visiting my old home town. The beauty of it all was invigorating. And spending time with my family at our annual get together was more fun than I could handle. I did notice that everyone brought two coolers with them to the picnic. A large one containing their beer and a smaller one containing their back up liver. All-in-all, it was a great holiday and a beautiful fireworks display. Last year’s celebration didn’t go nearly as well. Our town’s Mayor had given someone money to buy fireworks for the city’s fireworks show and the guy never came back. This year, I hope everyone made it home safely after the celebration. A celebration of amber waves of grain and hops.

Until next week…cheers!

Daun Thompson