I was so wrong. For decades I bemoaned the lack of interesting history or the newness of events in the United States compared to Europe, Africa and Asia. Our history was so young, and theirs so old. After visiting structures in Europe built before the arrival of Christ on the world scene, Jamestown, Virginia seemed like a fresh idea. After walking in the steps of Cicero, Washington’s voice was not as loud. This is shallow thinking.
The voice of Abraham Lincoln echoes across the Atlantic and the Methuselah Tree in California sprouted two thousand years before Christ and continues to catch the winds. We have a rich, sorted, and amazing history in the land of North America.
I was recently stirred while reading a book I received for my birthday, “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne. The book details the rise and fall of the Comanche bands of the Llano Estacado. He offers a look at the lands of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Mexico in the mid and late nineteenth century and the people who occupied the area, those ancient and new.
Most people fail my question, “Where was the first church built in what is now the United States?” The answers I get range from Massachusetts, Virginia and Florida. Few get it right, Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Gwynne enlightens us to the first defeat of the Spanish as they swept through the New World. The loss would come against the Comanche just outside of what is now Ringgold, Texas on the Red River. This force which destroyed the Aztec and Inca were thwarted by a nomadic band of Native Americans. The Comanche would ultimately be the inhibitors to a Spanish West.
I’ve climbed the rocks of the Wichita Mountains, waded the Red River, hiked the Cap Rock of Texas, and looked down upon the Llano Estacado with only a small understanding of the depth of historical events in these places. Further, my home sits in what was once the most dangerous place for a Texas settler.
I caught the vision of Bison roaming the land our neighborhood now sits upon in such a mass they appeared as a black sea of waves. I heard the screams of frontier women and the muskets of frontier men as the arrows flew from men on the backs of Mustangs. I felt the inescapable cold of winter and oppressive heat of summer the frontiersmen, Native American, and Spaniard had to endure.
At times I was furious with the Comanche then that furry was replaced by embarrassment of the whites. I was catatonic over the treatment of women by all.
The ground I stand upon even at this moment was full of a difficult, sorted and yet magnificent history. The ground is holy as the blood of men and women of different cultures and different times all runs together into the soil.
A group of people crossed the frozen ocean from modern day Russia to Alaska and over 6000 years made their way south and began laying a history as old as Europe’s. We can find countless sources to provide us endless stories about the Americas and the people who occupied the lands. We quickly learn the story of man is the same no matter his place on the planet. Stories of love, family and affection and paradoxically, stories of hate, cruelty and evil.
To those of you who live in the DFW area with me, you will discover a wealth of depth to the places you are familiar as you read of Gwynne’s book. You’ll want to return to familiar sites and reflect. To others, it is a window into the world before barbed wire and a moment to reflect on the human will. A will that is all American in its White, Native American and African American roots.
Little did I know I lived upon historic and holy land.