Category Archives: Columbus Day

Going the Distance

Over five hundred years ago one man had a thought; I suppose there may have For all I know he wasn’t just sitting under a blue sky contemplating some fruit when it hit him. Then again for all any of us know it could have been someone else that gave him the thought, perhaps someone that could not afford to have their reputation ruined should they be wrong or laughed at for having such a thought.
That thought of course, was that like the fruit he may have been contemplating, the earth was round. I am fairly sure he wasn’t the first one to think of it but he may have been one of the first that went out to prove the theory. After years of people laughing at him and thinking him quite the nut or fruit as the case may be there was at least one person that thought that he just might have something. He just might be right, the world that they had known and believed flat could very well be rounded after all the ships that dipped under the horizon to the south would always return why wouldn’t it be so of those that disappeared over the far horizon. You can always argue the point that he really didn’t find what he was looking for after all he had been trying to reach the far-east, but who among us can say that everything someone started to find was found the first time or even the second. Just think of how many things have been discovered and invented while looking for and trying to create something else.
There are so many things about Columbus Day that we can celebrate, while shaking our fingers at the same time. However, I am not here to feed either of those fires. Yes he thought he was somewhere else; yes there is a very good chance that the Vikings were here many years before he happened along with his one thought. Of course like those Vikings, the one person that believed Columbus; also had visions of more land more territories to conquer, however they had one more thought… gold. Above all a profit would need to be made at any cost. Much like the world of business, today but a capitalistic monarch one can only shiver at the thought and don’t make me go down that road.
You have to agree that he put it all out there as he went looking for someone to believe in his idea, I am sure we all have known that heart break when we find that no one believes in your vision. Setting out in boat and hoping that he was right everyday selling his ideas to his crew and those on the other boats. He set his toes in sand and met people that had never before been seen by a white man. While on the reverse those that saw Columbus come ashore saw their first white man. I know what you’re thinking they weren’t as happy as they first where some months later. Mine is not to come here and say neither what he should or should not have done nor those that came after him. This little essay while it could go into depth about Columbus; who was here first, what he did right or wrong and on and on ad-nauseam. I will leave you only with the above about that as I believe there is more to the celebration of Columbus Day that matters more than what he did or did not do correctly. This day is about Discovery and adventure looking beyond what we know is there and looking for more and something no one has seen before.
When I six, yeah I’m showing my age here but it can’t be helped, I was sitting on the end of my Grandfathers bed one evening talking to him and watching television while he was reloading ammunition. Since he was an avid hunter and shooter this scenario was nothing new. There were many nights before that one and many more in the years to come where I would be in his room and he would be doing the exact same thing. The only difference was that I was not standing inches from him offering my help. As the evening went on there was many times that he would turn around and keep my attention on the old black and white television by pointing out what was happening. I would turn back and watch only to turn away a minute later and talk to him, at six I found that what he was doing was way more important than what was happening on the TV. Well, okay I knew what was happening on TV was more important in the scheme of life, but I was six cut me some slack would you. I watched and fidgeted, just when I wanted to give up on the TV my Grandfather had me tell him what was I was seeing. I did my best to describe what was happening without my luck, I’m not sure if it was my lack of knowing the right words or if I was just more interested in him making bullets. I watched as the events unfolded on the screen and continued to tell my Grandfather what was happening.
As the landing module separated from the capsule and edged its way toward the moon, I became more interested in what was happening on the TV. It was the switch that my Grandfather had hoped would happen and soon I was telling him he had to come and watch. My excitement grew and somewhere in my semi blank mind I told myself that that had to be the coolest thing ever. I called my Grandfather over from his workbench it took a few times but he came over and sat down next to me. It wasn’t long before the lunar module was down on the surface of the moon and Neil Armstrong was coming out and climbing down the ladder and uttering that now famous line.
I Watched awe struck as the TV flittered and rolled out of sequence and then back, as the next man stepped out on that tiny ladder and made his way to the surface of the moon.
“Mikey,” my Grandfather said, “this is history in the making your world is going to be very different from mine.”
I almost asked him if it was really real but I stopped, rested my head against his chest as he put his arm around me. It was several minutes before either of us spoke as we kept our eyes glued to the old TV. We stood and placed our hands over our hearts as the two astronauts saluted the newly planted flag of the United States. Sitting back down we resumed our positions as if nothing had happened. For the next hour we watched everything that happened he would jump up as soon as they would take a break and return to his work. When the time with those explorers was over for the evening I went to my Grandfathers side and went to work helping him reload his bullets. Not that I was that much help at that age but I did what I could. I knew that the world that I had known just a few hours ago truly was different. I had watched the lift off of those astronauts’ days earlier from Florida from that very same spot on his bed. It seems to me that in the years to come every time there would be a lift off or a landing on the moon we would be there in his room watching them explore what mankind had dreamed of doing for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
I would like to say that the experience ignited in me a passion to become an astronaut, but it didn’t. Although, I have to admit I did spend many days and nights thinking about space and exploring it since that night. What it did do however was to ignite that spirit of Columbus, a commitment to ones ideas, ones theories, thoughts and convictions. A desire to see what lies beyond the known, to see where that path leads, to walk, run, sail, ride, drive, to a place that you have never been before. As much as I wanted to be the man that stepped on the moon I was unable to achieve that part of the Columbus dream.
I have however, spent nearly half my life trying to look down a road that I have never been down before and wondering what was at the other end. I have always wanted to see things I have never seen before. Be in a place that unless you lived in its backyard there is a chance that you might not ever see them. I have worked in a couple of jobs that took me to a few places that I never knew existed and scenery that I could only have imagined. The Mississippi river is an ever-changing flow of water creating new curves and straits every day, my time there made me see how someone could love it and hate it at the same time. I have met some interesting people rich and poor, intelligent and not so intelligent and as I sit and think about my travels I often think about Columbus and his travels.
While I have yet to set my toes in many of the places that millions of others have planted theirs, I have set them in a few of those places. I would like say that I am in line to set my toes on some distant planet or star or some other place that we don’t know exists yet but I can’t. I can say however if there is a way or chance I will do it in the spirit of Columbus find a path for me to go down.
For those of you just tuning in and were hoping for some moral or something that made perfect sense; all i can say is man did you come to the wrong place.
So to you my friends and family on this nearly non-existent holiday that is Columbus Day, grab up your spirit of discovery and look about your world and try to find something that you may have over looked. And at the end of the day raise your glass and offer a toast to those men in those tiny boats that risked their lives looking for something they never found, finding something that was not lost, all while pointing us in a new direction.

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