Greetings from the Wyndam Hotel in “Who Dat” city, New Orleans. Having been born and raised in Atlanta, GA, and being a Falcons fan, the fleur-de-lis is not one of my favorite symbols.
This is the first time in three days that I am not writing a missive from the state of Texas, doggone that state is big. We left early and fortunately beat a rough rainstorm that hit central Texas, but we did get some light showers as we left Beaumont.
I had a special visitor last night in Beaumont. D.J. Alvarez, the President of the International Blue Knights Law Enforcement MC, drove up from Galveston to chat with me, since I was honored as an International Honorary Member. I also want to say thanks to Bill and Bobby who drove down from Shreveport to be with us, along with a fella named Mike who saw us off this morning. It was a short trip today, but then again, after that first day of 445 miles, anything seems easy!
We had a nice ride — windy again, but fine — from Beaumont on I-10. We exited I-10 at Lafayette, LA (my second time there), and proceeded to Broussard, LA, for fuel and a snack. As always, a throng of folks came out to greet us. Hat tip to the Broussard PD who continued the impeccable ride escort service we have received.
As we drove into New Orleans the theme for today’s journal hit me: smaller is better.
Making a simple comparative assessment of our travels through our America, I have come to believe smaller is indeed better. By that, I mean the small towns. One of the reasons I did not consider going back home to Atlanta, after retiring, was that it is no longer the small southern town I grew up in. Yeah, I know, cities grow and my hometown has become one of the largest cities in America. But as these cities grow, something gets left behind: small town values.
I saw that during the past six days. Going back to Westmoreland and Brawley, CA; Tombstone and Douglas, AZ; Cloudcroft, Artesia, Carlsbad, and Eunice, NM; Andrews, San Angelo, and Mason, TX; and today in Broussard, LA, I recalled the smiles on the faces, the warmth of the people, and the simple lifestyles. Meeting the mayors and local officials and seeing the pride on their faces — that we would take the time to travel through or stop in their small towns — it left an impression not easily forgotten.
There is something about growing up in a place where folks know each other. Kinda like when I would go down south to visit my ol’ folks in Cuthbert, Ft. Valley, and Camilla, GA. People knew you by your elders. Your elders’ reputation was part of your heritage. Somehow, in America, we have forgotten the small town values in all of the hustle bustle of the metropolitan cities that are growing beyond imagination. When we went through Houston yesterday, there were those who were not very accommodating to our biker convoy. Some folks even cut our riders off.
It’s not just the values of the small town. It’s the way they do business.
America’s economy is based some 70-75% on small business. Everyday folks, who had an idea, saved, invested, and with their indomitable spirit, built something (yes they did “build that”). And yes, I do want to see small businesses grow to medium size, and even bigger, but the leadership and management should never forget the small business values and principles upon which they began. Small businesses operate as Subchapter S Corps and LLCs, and they use their personal income tax rate for business operations. We now have policy makers, who are so far removed from the small business owners in the big city of Washington, D.C., using gimmick slogans of “fair share,” “fairness,” and “shared prosperity,” they are actually hurting someone like Mike, who, this morning, told me that he now has to work two jobs.
When these same politicians in the big city make “comprehensive” policies such as Dodd-Frank, they don’t hurt the big banks. They hurt the small community bank which is the lifeblood of the small business owner and the mainstay of our small communities. Once upon a time, the small community banker knew the folks in his or her town and trusted them when they came to the bank with a dream. Now, because of incessant and onerous regulations emanating from Dodd-Frank, those same folks can’t help out their hometown neighbors due to government regulators who reclassify their loans. These big city regulators don’t possess the small town values and certainly not the perspectives.
Smaller is better. When folks know who you are, you are less prone to corrupt practices and actions. There are fewer places to hide. I remember the ol’ folks saying, “Never do something that you don’t want your Mom and Dad to read in the paper.” When everyone sees the mayor out shopping at Piggly Wiggly or worshiping at church on Sunday, you are truly a servant and have to be prepared at all times to respond to the constituents. Politicians in the big city have many exits from their city halls. State and federal elected officials can easily pick and choose where they go and when they are seen.
Smaller is better in so many ways. But my concern is that, as we move toward a more urban America, we lose that true sense of our country. Cities provide some very nice amenities, no doubt, but all too often cities afford a means by which individuals can withdraw and are just lost in the collective masses. One thing I loved about the military and base housing was the bonding of the communities — not just by the adults, but also by the kids. One day, when all is said and done, I will retire to a small town. Angela and I often reflect on our years living in Manhattan, KS, where we spent hours at Town Center Mall just visiting with friends.
What I have rediscovered on the Kyle Petty ride is small town America, and how I miss it. Not just the tangible aspects, but the intangibles that are the foundation of our Republic. I challenge you all to ponder what small town values mean to you, and if you live in a big city, do they exist?
Let us never forget, Superman grew up and called Smallville, KS, “home.” And he carried truth, justice, and the American way with him wherever he went. Our greater days lie ahead when we carry the Smallville values with us.
Steadfast and Loyal!