Columns » Bob Lancaster

Fourth lore

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Here’s some Fourth of July lore that you might find useful or entertaining. Most of it is factual and you can probably tell the stretchers. Any-how, as is always the case in this column, it’s all true in the best sense of the word and as free of spin as a Tim Wakefield knuckler. • The Arkansas legislature in a recent session approved a measure by Sen. Jim Holt to prohibit illegals from celebrating the Fourth of July by driving around in old big cars with bad mufflers honking the horn. The legislation also barred illegals from singing “My Country Tis of Thee” on the Fourth because it’s not their country. • John Philip Sousa’s original title for the famous holiday march was “The Stars and Stripes for a Pretty Long Time.” • Using Sen. Holt’s same rationale, Tyson Foods requires the illegals on its payroll to work a regular shift on the Fourth of July. Even the ones who make the big bucks mowing Don Tyson’s five lawns. • The banner year for displaying the U.S. flag on the Fourth of July was 2002, and the vast majority of those Old Glories were made in China and imported. In the first month alone after 9-11, we spent $40 million on Chinese-made American flags. We’re some patriotic suckers, aren’t we? • Karl Rove, the presidential adviser, has proposed that liberals and other fault-finders be excluded from official 2005 Fourth of July obser-vances, and then rounded up and sent to Git for rehabilitative attitude adjustment under duress. This is an old Republican White House theme, as the next item shows. • The first person known nearly to have had an eye put out by an errant Fourth of July bottle rocket was William H. Seward, the secretary of state whose later folly was buying Alaska. An urchin fired off the missile during a parade in Washington D.C. soon after the Civil War. An online biography says of this political giant: “During the war, Seward established a secret police force, which arrested thousands of citi-zens for disloyalty, that is, for disagreeing with Lincoln’s war policies. Arrested citizens were not told the reason for their arrest, no investiga-tion of their alleged wrongdoing was carried out, and no trials were held. Seward boasted to the British Ambassador, Lord Lyons, that he could have any man arrested in any state on a whim.” Wouldn’t he fit right in today? And what do you bet that urchin got his? • It was also Fourth of July fireworks that caused young Thomas A. Edison’s deafness in one ear, not his father grabbing him by the ear and swinging him up onto the platform of a moving caboose, as legend has it. • Gen. George S. Patton planned an annual Fourth of July ceremonial re-enactment of his slapping of the yellow-belly, but was killed in the auto accident before the arrangements could be made. • Bro. Jerry Falwell’s annual Fourth of July sermon holds that God allowed the American colonists to win the Revolutionary War because all the British from George III on down were gay. Lots of them WERE gay, of course, but nowhere near all of them, and anyway God was much more tolerant of gaiety back then than he is now. • All 37 of the natural-born children of the political Jim Bob Duggars of Springdale were either born, conceived, weaned, saved or vaccinated on the Fourth of July. • A practical joker threw a package of Fourth of July firecrackers into a Confederate column hauling wounded soldiers from the battlefield at Gettysburg, causing a panic and a stampede of the ambulance horses. Some of the already wounded were more seriously wounded as a result, and some of the already seriously wounded died. There’s a metaphor here for our present entanglement, I’m pretty sure. • Also during the Civil War, celebrating the Fourth of July in some Confederate states was a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, but that was Confederate money so nobody much minded a conviction. • In six consecutive years starting in 1883, Buffalo Bill shot 1,776 buffalo on the Fourth of July. • John Adams thought he could make points with Abigail if he could persuade Jefferson to make the phrase “all folks are created equal,” but Jef-ferson thought “all men” sounded nobler and wouldn’t budge. Jefferson and Adams died on the same Fourth of July, in 1826, of course, but few remember that James Monroe died on the Fourth of July five years later. • President U.S. Grant got drunk and fell off his horse at Fourth of July festivities in 1870, and tried to remount until an aide convinced him that there had never been a horse. No substance abuse was necessary for President Ford to fall off of two different speakers’ platforms during the Bicentennial Fourth of July celebrations in 1976. • Admiral Byrd set off fireworks near the South Pole in 1934, which first prompted the question whether they would really have made noise if he had not been there to hear them. • It was Ambrose Bierce in “The Devil’s Dictionary” who defined patriotism as the FIRST refuge of the scoundrel. Another holiday tradi-tion alive and well in Century 21.

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