This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
July 2nd, 2007

Freedoms Are Not Free

Celebrating the Fourth of July is a tradition here in America. Usually a family affair, these days most likely a barbeque with all the accouterments. Different menus across our country, but I can't think of any place where watermelon as the grand finale isn't welcome. I do recall one party where there were two watermelons (which I thought at the time was overkill). One watermelon was for the kids, the second one for the adults. It had been spiked by making a hole in the rind large enough to insert a funnel, then gradually pouring the contents of a bottle of vodka in. Chilled overnight, it delighted and amazed the attendees. It was a festive event.

Parties seem to be what the Fourth is about now.


I'm showing my age of course, but I do remember wonderful parades, (and I'm a sucker for parades) with the veterans marching. The most elder veterans often driven in that years best convertible.

My childhood summer home, Rogers City, Michigan had a free ox roast before the band concert. The ox was cooked over a hardwood fire on a spit outside, under the stars (started the night before) and food was laid out in iced containers. You got a plate, your silverware and went through the line choosing what you wanted. When you reached the ox, a slab was sliced off and placed on a bun. Park benches were everywhere and folks visited back and forth. In the shade was a huge mysterious tan-colored wet mound. Eventually the big wet canvas tarp was removed and ice cream tubs stacked on huge blocks of ice were revealed. The kids were first in line. Men in white shirts with the sleeves rolled up scooped ice cream until dark. That's when the fireworks started down on the beach. (You can read more here.)

The events in order were a noon ceremony for the fallen at the cemetery across the street from my grandparents home. Then the big parade on main street downtown, followed by the ox roast, band concert, and then the fireworks! Townsfolk walked the few blocks from the band stand down to the beach for the fireworks. The biggest local business, Calcite, provided the fireworks, shot off from a barge floating a proper distance from the beach. We sat on the blanket grandma brought and oooded and awed at the display. We were close enough to hear the 'whump' as the shells were shot up into the night. It was wonderful.

All changed of course. The bandstand still lives, but in a different park. The beach is now a terrific city marina, and I have no idea if any of the events of the fourth exist there.


Thank God for Norman Rockwell. For those younger, he was a wonderful New England artist who depicted America at her best. The people in the paintings were his friends and neighbors which he dropped into truly American scenes. Better than a photograph, the paintings were of everyone's family and a significant part of our history. They appeared for many years as the front cover of the Saturday Evening Post magazine. The pictures shown is this column are by Norman Rockwell.

Our Fourth will be spent with friends at Gates Lodge on Michigan's Au Sable River, Michigan Fish-In '07. Folks from all over the country (and Canada) getting together to celebrate some of our hard-fought freedoms. A band concert isn't scheduled, but someone might have a guitar - the ox roast is downsized to barbequed beef, and just maybe a watermelon will appear. Personal fireworks are illegal in Michigan, so if we feel deprived too bad.

For me, for us, we are very grateful to be born in America. To be recipients of the many benefits fought for by the heros who served in our military. Every person who has or is serving are heros in my mind. If it were not for them, we would have lost that freedom we so cherish. Back during the 60's Cold War, I remember well a phrase repeated endlessly, "Better Dead Than Red."


But, there will always be those who are not willing to stand up for our country, our freedoms. I honestly believe they don't understand freedom, or that someone else paid for their freedom with their life. They don't want to understand, they would rather blame American first for any and all of the world's ills. But of course enjoy the freedom which allows them to do so.

Take a few minutes, take a good look at our flag. Know that thousands died to protect it. For you. ~ The LadyFisher

In honor of all those who served in the United States Military we bring you the original poem, which became the "Navy Hymn." To hear it sung by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters, click Here!

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