Saturday, August 19, 2006

Johnny Cash and Sandhill Cranes

Patrick and I moved the last weekend of June. Since then we have spent every weekend unpacking books, hanging art and running household errands. Finally today we took a day off and drove north to Duluth. We stopped at the Starbucks in Forest City, and I bought the last album Johnny Cash recorded before his death. We played it in the car. It's not a great album, but worth having, with one really excellent song: "God's Gonna Cut You Down," a rousing traditional gospel song. I began thinking about Cash and how the right wingers in this country try to claim our popular music, including Cash. I read somewhere that John Bolton has a rock band; Lee Atwater was famous for playing the blues; and I have dim memories of the Republicans using Bruce Springsteens' song "Born in the USA" in the second Reagan presidential campaign, in the confused belief that it was a patriotic song like "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

My own feeling is, rightwingers ought to come to terms with the fact that they don't have much of a culture. Good art has to be honest, and most good art is humane; and the American right wing is neither. This led to a poem, the first poem I've written in several years:

You've taken all our money,
And you've taken all our time,
Working in the Wal-Mart
Or working in a mine,

But you don't get Johnny Cash,
And you don't get ol' Merle.
You don't get Bruce Springsteen.
You don't get Steve Earle.

Make your own damn art and music.
Make your own hopes and dreams,
Sitting in your counting house
With your money making schemes.

Make a choir of bosses singing
"Greed" and "war" in tune.
Put on your white shoes
And dance with Pat Boone
Along the rising ocean,
Under a waning moon.

Not a great poem, but it was good to finally write one of any kind after years.

When we got to Duluth, we went to Canal Park and were in time to see the American Valor, a 767 foot bulk carrier, leave the harbor on its way to Two Harbors to load taconite, moving in a beautiful slow curve as it followed the channel into the shipping canal. As usual, there were sailors on deck, waving at the tourists along the canal. There aren't many workers who get to wave at an admiring audience, while standing atop a huge and beautiful machine.

On the way back, we passed two large birds in a field. We both had a "huh?" reaction; and Pat turned the car around. They were sandhill cranes, hunting something -- I assume bugs -- among low, green, bushy plants I think were soybeans. The sun was low. Almost horizontal light hit the cranes. Pat got as close as he could and took pictures. Finally, the cranes took off. We had never heard their cry before. My bird book describes it as a loud rattle. To us, it sounded like a rapidly creaking door.

Farther south, right at the end of the metro area, we saw three more cranes, standing on a lawn like so many lawn ornaments.

If you're in the right place at the right time of year, you can see thousands of cranes. But this is the most we've seen on one day.


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