My American Experience

When I was eight, I found myself at an acreage outside Wilber, Nebraska sitting on a retaining wall peering through the night sky at the moon. It was a warm July night, and upon the surface of the moon inside the Lunar Module Eagle sat Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Shortly, I would be called inside to watch on live TV as Commander Armstrong made that "one small step" into hustory. Eight was a great time to be an American. 

When I was 21, I found myself halfway between one place and another. It was four in the morning as I pulled into the gas station in Chillicothe, Texas. I had come a long way that night and I still had a long way to go. Inside the station was a young female cashier and two large Texas Rangers. the cashier was chatty, the Rangers were not. When the cashier related that she had never heard of Iowa City, I replied not to let it bother her. Until I saw the sign at the edge of town, I had never heard of Chillicothe, Texas either. As we drank our coffee, the Rangers gave me directions and a few opinions on the demerits of Big Ten football. In a town where no one knew me in the dark of night, I was safe in their care. 21 was a great time to be an American. 

When I was 55, I found myself at a fishing cabin overlooking the Clark Fork River in Montana at dusk. My party had spent the last few days mountain biking and fly fishing, and for dinner that night our participants had grown from the original crew of Investment Advisors to include our fishing guides and their spouses, a nice couple that had picked up one of our members who found himself stranded, some "townies" and even a former yacht captain for of all people, Bernie Madoff. Our motley crew enjoyed a feast of Italian food and fine music. It was a delightful night, even with the admonition to us "flatlanders" to not wander off too far (it seems bears like to dine on both Italian food and fly fishermen). I was the worst fly fisherman in the group, my best mountain biking days are decades behind me, I wasn't a local and I'm certainly not an outdoorsman, but I was welcome in their company. 55 was a great time to be an American. 

When I was 59, I wrote on these pages that, "America is the place to be." I was writing about the COVID pandemic, then in its infancy. I was, of course, writing about a great many things beyong COVID: a faith in our abilities, our people, and our way of life. 

Today at 62, warts and all, I understand America better than eight-year-old me did. Without reservation, I can still say, "America is the place to be."