This Is My Country

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Every year at this time, I pack up my blaze orange, my snake boots and my 12 gauge, and I travel to the sort of place in which the average Democrat would be as comfortable as Janet Napolitano in a bikini contest. By the time you read this, I’ll be stomping through fields of corn and sunflowers, surrounded by nature’s bounty in the plains of South Dakota. Deer will frolic, coyotes will skulk and pheasants — well — pheasants will die. Quite a few pheasants will die.

My father accompanies me on this trip each year. Actually, I am still allowed to accompany him, even after that regrettable incident with the truck a few years ago. (To this day, I maintain that I did not bury the truck side well-deep in the mud. The trail wandered, and I had to swerve to miss that combine that someone foolishly left in the middle of that huge field — also, I was trying to light a cigarette at the time.) While on our trip, my father and I eat red and brown food, drink red and brown booze, smoke cigars and generally act in exactly the manner my mother thinks we do.

But the annual “Crystal boys” retreat has come to mean a great deal more than simply spending a week acting like an overgrown fraternity brother with men who either have reached the age at which they should know better (my father is in his mid-70s) or men who know men who know men who should know better (I am considerably younger). Truth be told, my own purpose actually overshadows even the lofty goal of allowing my mother a few days of peace and quiet. Amid the general carousing and camaraderie, I find something I miss throughout the rest of the year.

The lodge in which we stay sits in a town of about 150 people. To get there, we fly into the airport in Bismarck, N.D., and then proceed to drive south for a couple of hours through some of the most blessedly magnificent land in our great Nation. There are vistas which can claim greater grandeur: the towering majesty of the Rockies, the Lord’s palette which is an Atlantic coastal sunrise, and even the gargantuan geometry of the Manhattan skyline, to name but a few. The high plains are fairly flat and almost ubiquitously beige. There is no hum of traffic, no roar of industry and no urban glare. Nearby Lake Oahe is fine for fishing, but it’s hardly the stuff of an Ansel Adams photo. The Black Hills are hours to the west. The Missouri River rolls through, but without much whitewater fanfare. The fields run off to the horizon in every direction. Yet, it is as beautiful a place as God in His infinite wisdom ever created. Out here, hundreds of miles from anywhere most people will ever visit, I see America.

Some might think this place — and its people — simple. But they are far from it. The people out here are what the sage might call “the salt of the Earth,” although even that phrase fails to do them credit. These are the people whom liberals deride as “hicks” and “hayseeds.” President Barack Obama isn’t going to visit anytime soon; there are no smug Hollywood millionaires about. The people who work this land work hard; the union thugs would hardly recognize them. Plus, getting a stretch limousine through a sorghum field is nearly impossible. Farming is everything here, the alpha and the omega of the regional economy; and these people understand the value of their labors. Trying to abscond with their hard-won earnings and handing them off to the bottom-feeders in the basement of the Democratic Party would be, in a word, unwise.

Much like this land, the people out here are tough, but they are humble. They give thanks at every meal and celebrate every day as a gift from the Almighty. This is America is it was and still can be. I don’t mean we should all trade in the minivan for a John Deere and sell the townhouse for a few acres of loam. Most of us would starve to death, and the liberals would go stir crazy once they realized the nearest Starbucks® is 200 miles away. But there’s a valuable lesson to be learned out here: This is a great Nation, populated by great people.

Thank You, God, for letting me live in this country. And don’t worry, Mom. Pop is fine.

–Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.