I took a drive out around the Magic Valley one recent evening, past the ripening wheat and barley fields in the flat sunlight of a fading day, and was struck yet again by the glorious bounty of the land around us.
Our ancestors would truly marvel at the vast expanses of productive farmland, the technologies of pivot irrigation, the prosperous towns and burgeoning housing going up everywhere.
But they would marvel still more at the way we’ve retained much of the traditional values they established: the importance of family ties, our vibrant if changing adherences to faith, our willingness to support our schools, our common-sense and practical view of politics and civic engagement.
And they would marvel as well at our love of country, our heart-felt patriotism, our appreciation of America’s founding, our continuing if sometimes raucous republican form of government, our defense of freedom everywhere. We take too much of this for granted. Benjamin Franklin, asked what was the form of the new government, said “a republic – if you can keep it..” So far, we have done that, even under the stresses of modern times.
In a marvelous short poem at the start of World War II, Robert Frost captures the generation-by- generation march of settlement and progress across the continent of which the Southern Idaho region was a part. “The land was ours before we were the land’s,” he writes. “…To the land vaguely realizing westward, but still unstoried, artless, unenhanced.” (Frost, The Gift Outright, 1942). That is the Magic Valley story, the story of the West and the story of America, of how we have built communities with many stories, expressions of art, enhancements to many lives.
Today is the 245th anniversary of American independence and the love of nation which Frost so eloquently expressed is still much with us. We see it in the preservation of values, and in the many celebrations of our shared heritage. The fireworks, barbeques and community concerts are the outward expressions of our region’s putting love of country so high in our values.
We celebrate outwardly, as President John Adams urged us to do, and we carry that past into our present daily lives. We Southern Idahoans are proud Americans and we will not veer far from that by the siren song of discord. The only swamp which needs draining here is the one that some seek to impose on us. Their definition of freedom is freedom for themselves only.
These are mere voices of discontent, minimal complaints by those who’ve either have never lived elsewhere or who chose to ignore the beauty and freedom all around us. No matter. They will always see the glass as mostly empty, even when it is mostly full.
Later in the evening with the dusk descending, the gathering night turns quiet as if a storm is passing, leaving bits of wind-borne cottonwood seedings as a home-made quilt laid gently down upon the land.
Great Horned Owls hooty-hoot-hoot in the canyon beyond as a stillness settles across the valley broken only the trickle of the creek and the good-night calls of robins and magpies. A storm passes and the slight trailing wind rustles branches ever so slightly. Across the canyon, an expanse of wheat sways with the air’s guiding currents.
No one knows the hour when each will be called; it is in the hands of the same Creator who blessed this nation, this state, this land of our beloved Magic Valley. So once more, let us celebrate the gift outright, the bounty of the earth here, where “the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night,” (The Great Gatsby,1925). It is indeed a sweet breeze on a field.
Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee. Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com