About the Author

Call me Paul. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my bank account, and nothing particular to bind me to the east coast, I thought I would consent, to please the corporation that employed me at the time, to uprooting my small family, packing all and everything that could be packed into a tiny Volkswagen with a great big rooftop rack and heading west for the city of Deepmidwest, FO-Flyover USA. Little did I imagine that my ship would never again return to a permanent place in my port of origin.  My father was an immigrant from Sweden in the early 20th century. Likewise, I became an immigrant to Flyover, and as the years have passed I have embraced my immigration destination heart and soul, married a native woman and begat yet more children.

But Paul, you say, you speak of your journey as though you moved to a foreign country. Well, I did. Before my emigration from back east, friends and acquaintances there informed me—half kidding, but only half—that I should expect high boardwalks, painted Indians racing up and down the streets and the sound of gunfire at all hours of the day and night. Needless to say these back-east stereotypes only revealed elitist eastern ignorance. But their tongue-in-cheek counsel did imply something that was right on: Flyover, compared to back east, is indeed a foreign land. People in Flyover just don’t think like coastal folks.

So how do citizens of Flyover think?  There are no doubt many approaches one could take to a question like this, but in my mind two words keep presenting themselves: pioneer spirit.  I have long been fascinated by the number of Flyover citizens who can claim recent, easily traceable pioneer ancestry.  The first pioneers, after all, didn’t begin to arrive in substantial numbers to settle in Flyover until around 1850.  I have encountered many people in Flyover who grew up on farms started by pioneers.  The pioneer spirit still survives in Flyover.

Six features of character and personality seem to me to especially typify the pioneer spirit—

  1. Practical intelligence.  Some pioneer people, I suppose, might have become impressive intellectuals in other circumstances, but that’s not what they needed to survive and thrive in pioneer country.  They needed to find out quickly what worked, do it, and stick to it without succumbing to distraction.  Life was tough and grueling.  There was no place on the frontier for pipedreamers; maintaining a firm connection to reality was literally a life-or-death requirement.
  2. Optimism and cheerfulness.  Pioneer folks needed a profound hope that their new life would succeed in order to even begin the trip to pioneer country.  Once they got there and began to experience the all-to-often harsh reality of their new life, finding happiness could be a major challenge.  Persistent melancholia could turn out to be not just burdensome but downright deadly.  It’s a good thing optimism and cheerfulness are typically conjoined in human nature.  Otherwise there might have been many more pioneer wannabes who just didn’t have what it took.
  3. Gumption.  Hard work was certainly required of pioneers, but that alone wasn’t sufficient; mere industriousness, after all, can end up being futile.  A dictionary definitionof gumption: ‘1. Boldness of enterprise; initiative or aggressiveness.  2. Guts; spunk.  3. Common sense.’  An etymological dictionary describes gumption as: ‘1719, originally Scottish, “common sense, shrewdness,” also “drive, initiative,” possibly connected with M.E. gome “attention, heed,” from O.N. gaumr “heed, attention.” Sense of “initiative” is first recorded 1812.’  Gumption appears to be one of those words in the English language with no word-to-word translation into any other language.  But pioneers surely did need it to thrive.
  4. Cooperation.  Pioneers almost universally placed a high value on personal liberty.  They were not typically ones to be pushed around by tyrants and bullies; indeed, as often as not it was just such ones in the lives they left behind that formed a significant part of pioneer motivation to move west.  Independent, often isolated families were the center of pioneer social organization.  Yet there were times when individuals and families had to cooperate in groups to deal with the rigorous life conditions they encountered.  But such cooperation was invariably voluntary.  Compare this to the coercive collectivism being forced upon Americans today by central authorities.
  5. Truthfulness.  One of the last accoutrements of civil society to arrive at the frontier was law and its enforcement.  As a result, there was a good deal of lawlessness.  But was there more lawlessness among the pioneers than in the more “civilized” places in our nation?  If there had been, anarchy and destruction would surely have prevailed.  When I immigrated to Flyover, one of the first things I started noticing was that I no longer had to live in constant fear of being defrauded as I did back east.  Today Flyovereans are not all perfectly truthful all the time, but basic honesty in everyday human interactions is much more pervasive and dependable.  One’s word is one’s bond.
  6. Religious faith.  Flyover is not normally thought of as part of the “Bible belt,” but religious faith, overwhelmingly Christian and leaning toward orthodox/Bible-based rather than revisionist/liberal, has always played an important role from pioneer times and continuing to the present.  Are Flyover Christians—of whom I became one many years ago—bigoted and intolerant of those who don’t share their beliefs?  Don’t believe what you hear in the back-east or out-west megatropolises.  Tolerance  in Flyover is large and generous, stopping only at what is patently, manifestly intolerable.

The most apt and truthful single word I can think of to tie all this together: conservatarian.

I once had the joy and privilege of meeting an authentic pioneer.  Her name was Emma.  Her parents were wheat farmers.  They emigrated, along with eight children, in the late 19thcentury from Bohemia straight to north Flyover.  When Emma was born on the new world frontier they lived, all nine of them, in a primitive dugout along a river.  Later her family once again migrated south in covered wagons on news of a major land rush in south Flyover.

The family came to a stop short of southmost when they found themselves constrained, along with countless other land seekers, by a border set by government authorities.  The starting gun sounded, and the hordes of expectants surged across the border eager to stake a claim to the best land southward.  Meanwhile Emma’s family and most of the Bohemian community that had traveled with them stayed put, looked around and decided right where they were looked pretty darn promising.   They ended up settling, cultivating and, after decades of hard work and rigorous saving, owning some of the most productive wheat land in North America.  If they had been on the rear end of the dash across the border, they might have gotten stuck with red shale and tumbleweeds instead.

When I met Emma she was in her mid-nineties.  She was my wife’s beloved and admired maternal grandmother.

I will never forget the one and only time many years ago that I sat in Grandma Emma’s presence.  She occupied a little house “in town” procured for her by her family for her “retirement.”  I have not the slightest recollection of what we talked about.  My remembrance of the event, even after many years, is as clear as if it happened yesterday, but it is visual only.

The hot sun was pouring out over the flat land outside.  It also poured into the house, because Grandma Emma eschewed curtains in favor of bare windows.  The scene was like something out of a Van Gogh painting, very Arlesian.  The sun also shone from her face, from her very being.  Her eyes, unbespectacled and dimmed from the cataracts of age, twinkled in spite of it.  As she spoke, her hands gestured, and one couldn’t help noticing their gnarledness from arthritis and a life of unimaginably rigorous work, but they were still speaking.  Grandma Emma died a few years later  just days short of her one-hundredth birthday.

I have come to love Flyover and have striven my best to become a latecomer Flyoverean.  I hope the place never changes, even though I know everything worldly changes eventually.  Change will probably come slowly, however, as Flyover has almost nothing in the way of natural attractions to lure new immigrants from the coasts: no purple mountains’ majesty; no salt air and charming onetime fishing villages; no dry warm desert haven for retirees.  I remember being amazed, enchanted by the sheer flatness of Flyover wheat country the first time I beheld it in the shimmering distance under a hot summer sun, but that’s just quirky me.

As I sit together with my wife on our cedar deck soaking up the pleasure of a spring day easing toward evening, I find myself enjoying the wide open skyscape above.  Sometimes when the atmosphere is just right, the contrails of jetliners overhead will form a crisscross hatchwork of cloudy white stripes.  There, I see a tiny silver speck at the point of the newest contrail.  Hey, have a great day up there, folks!  But don’t land.  Just keep flying right over.

2 thoughts on “About the Author”

  1. I hope the sad state of American politics today is not the cause of your silence this last year….I’ve enjoyed your site and your arguments, and wish you the best.

    1. The sad state—and “sad” is an understatement, surely you’ll agree—has nothing to do with my absence, Brett. The problem has simply been difficulty finding time to do the writing. My primary adult career has been making high-end string instruments, and that continues, although at a reduced rate in my mid-septuagenarianhood. Perhaps your encouragement will goad me into finding a little time, at least for some short posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *