“When the war closed, the most vital of issues both in our own country and around the world was whether government should continue their wartime ownership and operation of many [instruments] of production and distribution. We were challenged with a… choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas would have meant the destruction of self-government through centralization… [and] the undermining of the individual initiative and enterprise through which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.” – Herbert Hoover, October 22nd, 1928
The story goes that my great great grandfather arrived a little too late for the Land Run. (Even now it’s typical for the men in my family to be a few minutes late! Some things just don’t change. To be more accurate, the Land Run was more than one race over a couple of years. He missed this particular race, which may or may not have been among the last few races.) While other families were finalizing their claims, they found out that a family wanted to unstake their claim as they in the wrong neighborhood. So they struck up a bargain, my family’s wagon for their claim. The wagon that had been their mobile home, provided for nearly every need, and was their only shelter, in excange for a hundred and sixty ‘free’ acres so long as they can meet the rules.
I can only imagine what they were feeling as they made their way to their a hundred and sixty acre claim. (After all, we agreed to give up the wagon, there was no mention of whether or not the pack animals were apart of that deal, though I would think that the original family had their own pack animals who could pull the wagon.) Would the land be good enough to grow food? Would there be plenty of water? What would their neighbors be like? Would they manage to make the neccessary improvements so that they and their children can keep the land?
After traversing a maze of claims and passing dozens of families who have already started on their homes, they found their own claim. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be doable. Their neighbors were also a great help, the neighbors who would one day become kin, but not for another twenty years or so. That land did remain in the family.
Today it’s a rather difficult place to get to, assuming you can traverse the maze of dusty roads that are prone to being washed out when it rains. There are the ruins of a cellar that the family used when they first moved there. There is aslo a strange outcropping of rocks that bears the scratched names and dates of the people who had been there over the last two hundred years. Two of my uncles live there today. One of them grows his own food, fishes from the pond, manages a couple dozen head of cattle, and built his own house. The other uncle is attempting to get his financial house in order and avoid gambling in the process. Below their feet is another source of provision, a black pool that others will pay us to have them remove it for us.
In all the years, the spirit that made my ancestors risk the unknown is somewhat lacking. Not just in one family, but in many. Rugged individualism is now a thing in the history books. We need it back badly, for I fear that we’ve given it up in exchange for the illusion of a safety net that doesn’t actually exist.
“The greatness of America has grown out of a political and social system and a method of [a lack of governmental] control of economic forces distinctly its own our American system which has carried this great experiment in human welfare farther than ever before in history…. And I again repeat that the departure from our American system… will jeopardize the very liberty and freedom of our people, and will destroy equality of opportunity not only to ourselves, but to our children….” – Herbert Hoover, October 22nd, 1928