Tuesday, July 22, 2008


There had been fireworks on Friday night, as spectacular as any small town ever has. And there were fireworks again on Saturday night, as fine as anything I ever saw on the 4th of July in Milwaukee. The sky stayed bright with fireworks from horizon to horizon for forty minutes.

The show started late on Saturday because right at dusk the fire siren sounded, and the firemen were called to battle a blaze at Grain States Soya. The show would not proceed without firemen and EMTs standing by. The festivities started about half an hour late, and they were worth the wait.

While we waited, I watched people. That's my business, watching people. And making connections and comparisons. And what I saw on Saturday night reminds me of what I saw on Sunday morning during the ecumenical church service. Community.

Community. Not just talked about on Sunday morning, but lived on Saturday night.

There was a park bench in front of me. A fellow and two children – boy and girl – spread a blanket partly in front of the bench and partly off to the side, then they sat on the park bench. The fellow had a black tattoo on his neck coming out above his shirt collar. He could have been former Navy; he could have been a head-banger – you couldn't tell by looking. He didn't look Hispanic, though the children with him did. He spoke both English and Spanish to the youngsters, and they spoke English and Spanish to him.

There were several families spread along the water's edge on both sides of the park bench. In places the lawn chairs were three deep between the road and the water. Children were running and playing and trying to catch the frogs we could hear croaking.

The little Hispanic girl got fussy: she wanted some cotton candy. The father wanted to save the park bench for the three of them, one supposes, but didn't want to leave the little boy alone on the park bench. The three of them headed back to the concessions together, to get some cotton candy.

Two of the children who had been playing along the water now landed on the newly vacant park bench.
To my left a man spoke. He could have been a truck driver for Grain States Soya or a shop keeper or a school teacher. You can't tell by looking. He might have been the children's father, I don't know. He said to the children: "That place is taken." The kids returned to sit with their families.

That's what I find in West Point, that community isn't just something you talk about: it's something you live, in little ways like this.

To be continued....

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