Is there anything better than the Fourth of July in America? What a week to enjoy and appreciate! I believe it reverberates so because we are looking back, celebrating where we came from instead of wasting time and effort fussing over the direction our nation is heading.

I’d a whole heap rather eat barbeque, baked beans and cole slaw than talk health insurance, wikiLeaks and Russian meddling.

Besides, a little heartfelt recollecting is just naturally good for the soul. I can still see those red checked tablecloths, hear the laughter, feel the heat shimmering off Broadway Street and remember wondering as a small boy how our little town came up with so many American flags! Watermelons taste better on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.

It was like everybody in the whole town was kin to you.

You cannot believe the depth of the love, the unwavering pride, the sheer joy we shared in being Americans. Nothing could separate us. We were rolling in those amber waves of grain!

And you need to understand here, me and Ricky and Yogi had never hardly been outside the confines of Carroll County. We hadn’t yet stood on the rim of The Grand Canyon and marveled at the depth and breath and scope of that panoramic scene. We hadn’t climbed Bunker Hill and sniffed the air for lingering gun powder. Nor witnessed dawn’s early light over the majestic mountains around Taos, New Mexico.

None of us had ever seen the sun drop gloriously into the Gulf of Mexico. Nor had we tap danced along the Painted Desert. And we had no clue as to the grandeur of the Columbia River gorge with its rushing water guarded so closely by mountains rising up on either side like sentinels oblivious to the march of time.

We certainly hadn’t camped out behind the Cunningham cabin in western Arizona, in the shadows of the Grand Tetons. Neither had we seen the unique beauty of northwest Washington from a raft in the Cascade River.

You talk about faith. We were not even close to being teenagers…..and we were head over heels in love with a country we’d never actually seen!

The closest we’d come to the California sunshine was a Roy Rogers’ movie. And it was in black and white. We had no idea of the serenity of the upper Kern River, the beauty of Carmel Bay or the girth of a giant Redwood. We’d never ridden the train up Pike’s Peak and looked out across forever.

We had seen an eagle soar once over Carroll Lake and let me tell you, that was about as special as it gets!

None of us had been on a powerboat ride across the Everglades. Or spent the night in Jerome, Idaho, where ten zillion stars dance only a fingertip away. Or watched in awe as thunderous waves crash against the rocks beneath the Cape Neddick Lighthouse along Maine’s magnificent coast. Or visited the Indian ruins in Canyon de Chelly. Me and Buddy had, however, fought a few imaginary Navajos in the woods behind the swimming pool.

We thought Archie Moore had a fair stretch of corn growing in his bottom field. Can you imagine our wonderment if we had seen the never ending cornfields rippling across Iowa! We figured it didn’t get any better than an afternoon swim at the clay pits. We hadn’t yet walked the edge of Crater Lake, peering down at the bluest water in the universe!

Shoot, we’d never even “looked off” the bluff below Memphis at the mighty Mississippi tumbling toward the gulf. Pictures in the Weekly Reader couldn’t do justice to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Mount McKinley. And we had never felt the excitement of race day in Indianapolis or Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

But somehow our youthfulness in this instance didn’t deter our understanding.

Everyone in town turned out to eat, greet and place a hand over their heart as the flag passed by. I shall carry to my grave the quiet reverence and apt attention given to the Stars and Stripes in that little park those many years ago. Me and Ricky, Buddy and Yogi didn’t need to take a vote. This was the best country on earth!

The Fourth of July was Dad’s favorite holiday. You think that didn’t resonate with his three sons……

We couldn’t recite the Preamble. We still thought Betsy Ross invented the first flag. We couldn’t spell patriotism. We were more interested in George Washington’s wooden teeth than any battles he won. We couldn’t have picked John Quincy Adams out of a lineup. But we knew blessings when they fell in our lap!

I’m telling you, milk and honey flowed down every street in town.