I felt a little discouraged this past week. I suppose a lot of us did. We haven't had strong national leadership on the pandemic, various states are pitching out on their own, there's still a lot that's unknown and worrisome and it just seems like we might be in limbo until at least the election and probably for a good long time after that. And suddenly, randomly, I found myself humming "Home on the Range," where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home on the Range has an interesting and disputed history. You can read about it here where the story pins down 1874 as the year Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem that he asked a friend to put to music. Dr. Higley must have been an optimist. In 1874, we were still two years away from admitting the Colorado Territory as our 38th state. Four years of civil war in the previous decade had taken a terrible toll on our still young country. Cowboys were driving cattle from Texas up to Kansas on the Chisholm Trail, the 15th Amendment had just given black Americans right to vote in 1870, and Susan B. Anthony illegally cast a ballot in an election in Rochester NY in 1872.
The decade was a tough one in the U.S. There was probably a lot to be discouraged about. The stock market crashed in 1873 bringing five years of economic depression; the government was warring with Native Americans and actively creating the reservation system; Sam Tilden, a Democrat, won the popular vote in the presidential election of November 1876 but lost the in Electoral College to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes but the final decision wasn't settled for fourth months until Congress worked out a deal with four southern states to end Reconstruction. No pandemic, but gee...Doesn't seem like blue skies and rainbows.
Still, Dr. Higley, the optimist, saw something inspiring, uplifting, beautiful in life, in the land, in the midst of what had to be a rough go in general, and he took the time to write his feelings down in a little poem that spread across history and time. I know there was sickness, hardship and tribulation. I'm not romanticizing the period. But that one little poem of one man along with the tune of another, was sung by thousands of cowboys, and hundreds of thousands more for over 150 years gives me a glimmer of hope for finding a happy moment or spell where seldom is heard a discouraging word.
I wish courage, patience and a positive outlook to you this week. Hum a little tune as you go along.