Recognition

March 06, 2021

Today there are three Cherokee tribes who are federally recognized.  These are the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) in Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation (CN) in Oklahoma, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in North Carolina.  The Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 tribal members, making it the largest of the federally recognized tribes in the United States.  In addition, numerous groups claim Cherokee lineage, and some of these are state recognized.  More than 819,000 people are estimated to have identified as having Cherokee ancestry on the U.S. census, but most are not enrolled members of any tribe.

I came across an AP article in my paper last week that described how the pandemic has left unrecognized Indigenous tribes in the US at risk.  The problems they face are not much different than the recognized tribes and others, but there are additional roadblocks to financial help.  Since they are not recognized they have no means of applying for federal or state assistance.  The path to federal recognition is long, complicated, and expensive.  In addition to the anthropological and genetic research it requires extensive documentation showing they are distinct from other tribes and have been continuously operated since the 1900’s.

When I looked online, it confirmed the Indigenous peoples in the US are split into recognized and unrecognized groups by the federal government.  Unrecognized tribes in the United States are “organizations of people who claim to be historically, culturally, and/or genetically related to historic Native American Indian tribes but who are not officially recognized as Indigenous nations by the United States federal government, by individual states, or by recognized Indigenous nations.”  That includes hundreds of tribes nationally and 27 Bands or Tribes in Arkansas, with most of the Arkansas Tribes being some variant of Cherokee.  Unrecognized tribes are not eligible for federal or state assistance.  The 574 federally recognized Tribes are eligible for a share of the $8 billion relief package for the virus response approved last March.  While this amount is small given the numbers of tribes and individuals, it helps.

Thoughts:  Of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Cherokee Nation and the UKB have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and most of their members live in the state.  The UKB are mostly descendants of “Old Settlers” (Western Cherokee) who migrated from the Southeast to Arkansas and Oklahoma about 1817.  They are related to the Cherokee who were forcibly relocated there in the 1830’s under the Indian Removal Act.  The Eastern Band of Cherokee is located on land known as the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina.  They are mostly descendants of ancestors who resisted or avoided relocation and remained in the area.  Since they gave up tribal membership by escaping relocation, they became state and US citizens.  In the late 20th century, they were reorganized as a federally recognized tribe.  Recognition is a desire held by everyone, not just Indigenous peoples.  We need to recognize the religious and cultural differences that make us unique.  When we recognize others, we also affirm that they matter to the country and to you.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Voting

March 05, 2021

In the USA Today portion of today’s paper the leading news was the voting rights measure that was passed by the US House of Representatives.  The Resolution touches virtually every aspect of the electoral process, including restricting partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, removing hurdles to voting, and bringing transparency to the campaign finance system.  The bill is seen as a counterweight to the restrictions advanced by Republican controlled statehouses across the country.  The state restrictions were passed after the past president’s repeated false claims (read, all lost in court) of a stolen 2020 election.  The measure passed on partisan lines, with no Republican votes in favor.

I have proudly voted in every national election (and most local ones) since becoming eligible when I turned 18.  That includes voting legally in the four different states where I have taken residence.  I have staunchly maintained that my vote be cast by secret ballot.  That means I have never claimed a party affiliation and have instead maintained myself as “independent.”  While this preserves my privacy and allows me to vote my conscience rather than party line, it also precludes me from voting in the primaries that choose the candidates who run for election.  Regardless of which party candidate wins election, I have tried to support them as my conscious will allow.  

As House Bill–1 moves to the Senate it appears it will face opposition, and an expected partisan vote.  That means the Democratic controlled (50-50+1) body will face a significant question, what to do if forced to choose between the protection of voting rights and the protection of the filibuster.  Dozens of states with Republican legislators are trying to make voting more difficult.  While the explanation is voter fraud (which has not been found), it comes down to the belief that lower voter turnout helps their party win elections.   The bill seems to have no chance of winning the 60 votes needed to overcome a Senate filibuster.  The bill will only pass if all 48 Senate Democrats and 2 Independents agree to scrap or alter the filibuster, as they have the power to do.  Independents control the vote over partisanship.

Thoughts:  The right to vote is fundamental to the American Revolution and the resulting Constitution.  While this was a just cause for the Founders, it has always meant “my” right to vote rather than yours.  That is obvious by amendments defining who has the right to vote and formation of the Electoral College to make sure the “elite” rather than the “rabble” actually vote for the President.  Responsible voting demands non-partisan action.  What we need are legislators who are willing to vote conscious rather than party line or keeping themselves in power.  If we are “for the people, and by the people,” perhaps “all the people” should be able to vote.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Restrictions

March 04, 2021

Major League Baseball spring training camps got underway across Florida and Arizona earlier this month.  MLB was unable to convince the MLBPA to agree to a delayed 154-game season and an expanded postseason, so spring training and the regular season will begin as scheduled.  February 17th was the first reporting date for pitchers and catchers for many teams, and most players were in camp by the 25th.  Sunday marked the beginning of pre-season games (Royals are 3-1 so far) and April 1st is opening day.  Many of the restrictions that went in place during 2020 will continue during 2021, but there are notable differences.  This includes allowing fans.

The 2021 season will look a lot like 2020, except the plan for a full 162 games.  Doubleheaders will again be two seven-inning games.  Each offense will get a runner on second to start every extra inning.  There will not be a universal designated hitter as the Players Association and the League could not come to an agreement (yet?).  The playoff field will feature five teams per league, which will be the three division winners and two wild cards, with a one-game play-in between the Wild Card teams, for each league.  There was a decision to deaden the ball this season.  By loosening the initial wind of the ball, it dropped the weight slightly during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.  In 2019, MLB teams swatted a record-smashing 6,776 home runs, compared to the 30 clubs combined total of 4,186 home runs in 2014.  Major League Baseball owns Rawlings, and Rawlings hand makes every baseball used, to “create consistency.”  Sounds like “monopoly” to me.

On Sunday fans streamed into the stands at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, and watched the Nationals play their Grapefruit League opener against the Cardinals.  The stands had green tarps pulled tightly over most seats and masks were worn by most.  The crowd swelled to around 1,500 fans, or about 21 percent of capacity.  Fans and players alike were happy to have live fans.  Nationals starter Erick Fedde was quoted, “There was a little more buzz when you walk out to the field and start playing catch and getting into the bullpen.  It was fun.  It reminded me of older times.”  All 30 major league teams will allow fans to attend spring training games in accordance with local coronavirus ordinances.  All will employ a pod setup, with physical distance built in between occupied pods of seats.  Masks will be required for attendance.  If the opener is any indication, this restriction will be obeyed “by most.”

Thoughts:  On Friday Arkansas’ Governor joined most states in lifting most safety restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.  The mask mandate will remain in place until at least the end of March.  As of today, there are nearly 9 million active cases in the US and just under 532,000 deaths.   The CDC warns that new variants and a plateau in cases make this a critic al time to maintain strict guidelines to ensure the trend continues.  Many only heard what they wanted to believe as businesses opened and masks became optional.  The restrictions that allowed the number of hospitalizations and deaths to go down are being abandoned across the US as the nation clamors for the “right” to go back to business as usual.  While they may not be as fun, obeying the restrictions will save lives.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Socks

March 03, 2021

The Ren & Stimpy Show was a popular animated television series created by John Kricfalusi and originally aired on Nickelodeon.  The series premiered on August 11, 1991 and ended on December 16, 1996.   The show follows the adventures of Ren Höek, an emotionally unstable and sociopathic Chihuahua; and Stimpy, a good-natured yet dimwitted cat.  The series was controversial for its dark humor, adult humor, and shock value.  A failure to deliver episodes to the network led to Kricfalusi’s termination from the show in 1992, with Games Animation producing the remainder of the series.  Despite production problems, The Ren & Stimpy Show received positive reviews and quickly developed a cult following.  That would include me.

I have mentioned how when I was younger, I pinned my socks together to avoid losing a sock.  When I wore the socks, I would attach the safety pin to the sock to not lose the pin either.  People often made fun of me and asked if the safety pin was used to keep the sock up on my leg.  I endured the ribbing smug in the knowledge that I never lost one of a pair of socks.  When Melissa and I married she also questioned my habit.  I finally stopped pinning my socks together and followed her habit of folding the tops together after they came out of the dryer to make it easy to grab a pair of socks from my drawer.  Last year Melissa bought me three pair of copper infused socks.  It was the classic three-fer, with two pair alike and the third a different color.  They were also marked “R” and “L” to let me know which foot to put them on.  Over the year I have somehow managed to lose two of the darker socks.   When I put on the remaining pair, I noticed they were both marked “R”.  I had managed to lose the two left socks.

One of my favorite episodes of Ren & Stimpy was called Black Hole.  While traveling through space the pair get sucked into the “hideous vortex.”  When they come out the other side of the black hole, they realize they have been teleported to another universe.   As they try to find a way out, they come to a mountain of socks which were all the world’s missing left socks.   Stimpy’s “space-time doohickey” then notifies him that if they do not get to the trans-dimensional gateway by 3:00 pm, they would be trapped there forever.   They end up imploding, and the mountain of lost left socks is regrettably lost forever.

Thoughts:  When I noticed both remaining dark socks were marked “R”, I realized Ren & Stimpy must have been right.  It is only the left socks that mysteriously disappear in the dryer.  I thought my mother had told me to pin the socks together, but when I mentioned this to her, she told me she knew nothing of the practice.  Apparently, it was my father who had convinced me to do it.  He did not like to lose socks, and this was his way to ensure it did not happen.  One of the ways I now adapt to losing one sock is to only buy socks of the same color and type.  If I lose one, it can be matched with another whose mate has worn out.  A willingness to adapt spells the difference for moving forward or staying caught in the same repetitive cycle.  That is true for my socks, but also true for the changes brought by 2020.  While some laughed at countries where people wore masks prior to the outbreak, and now speak wistfully of the time when we no longer need to wear masks, I wonder if that is wise.  Like influenza, covid-19 is an ongoing risk that may never go away.  We will be required to adapt.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Spiro

March 02, 2021

When Melissa and I were driving in southeastern Oklahoma last week we came across the town of Spiro.  Spiro Mounds is a major Northern Caddoan Mississippian archaeological site.  The 80-acre site is located within the floodplain on the south side of the Arkansas River.  The modern town of Spiro developed about seven miles south of the site and is named for the mounds.  Between the 9th and 15th centuries, the Indigenous people created a powerful religious and political center, culturally linked to the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, also called the Mississippian Ideological Interaction Sphere (MIIS).  Spiro was a major western outpost of Mississippian culture.  

My senior paper as an undergrad in North American Archeology was a 150-page descriptive analysis of the Middle Mississippian complex of sites.  The Mississippian culture reached its greatest extent during the Middle period (1200 to 1350 CE), stretching throughout the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi River valleys.  Although there were regional variations, the cities, villages, and ceremonial centers were all linked together by trade.  The main complexes are known for building large, earthen platform mounds for temples and burial sites, along with other animal and geometric shaped mounds.  The largest city was Cahokia, located in present-day southern Illinois.  Almost all Mississippian sites predate the Spanish expedition by Hernando de DeSoto (1539 to 1543 CE) but few lasted far beyond these devastating intrusions.  The notable exceptions were the Natchez communities which maintained Mississippian cultural practices into the 18th century.

During the 1930’s treasure hunters bought the rights to tunnel into the second-largest mound on the Spiro Mounds site (Craig Mound) to mine it for artifacts.  They exposed a hollow burial chamber inside the mound.  This unique feature contained some of the most extraordinary pre-Columbian artifacts ever found in the United States.  These included fragile, perishable works of textiles and feathers that had been preserved in the conditions of the closed chamber.  The treasure hunters sold the artifacts they recovered to art collectors, some as far away as Europe.  Some of these artifacts were later returned to regional museums and the Caddo Nation, but other artifacts have never been accounted for.  Since the late 20th century, Spiro Mounds has been protected by the Oklahoma Historical Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thoughts:  Laura Croft and Indiana Jones popularized the romantic idea of locating lost artifacts and bringing them back for display in local museums.   Their movie titles illustrate the problem with early forms of “Archeology”, Tomb Raider and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Rather than conducting scientific research, they were grave robbers.  That is what happened at Spiro Mounds during the 1930’s as well.  For modern archeology, provenience, or where the artifact is found and its association to other aspects of the site, is what makes it valuable.  It adds to the story of the culture.  For collectors, it is the rarity of the artifact that makes it valuable, regardless of where it is found.  The lack of provenience is often seen as a good thing, as most privately collected artifacts are stolen from public lands.  That is why Spiro Mounds and most other sites are now protected.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Holly

March 01, 2021

Last week I received word from a friend that the Holly bush that served as the focal point in the turnaround drive where I work may have died.  Following the intense cold of the last several weeks the leaves have all turned black and have begun to fall off.  The yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is an evergreen shrub or small tree with green leaves and red berries that add color throughout the year.  The Yaupon is native to the southeastern US.  While it is often planted as an informal hedge shrub or privacy screen, our bush served as a colorful stand alone, accented by a low rock wall enclosure and three stone steps forming a bench where people can rest and reflect on the day.

When I looked the holly up online, I found it grows native from southern Virginia south to Florida and west to southeast Oklahoma and central Texas.  Each plant produces little greenish-white male or female flowers in the spring, though only the females will bear fruit.  The small berries are usually red but sometimes yellow.  The berries not only provide winter color but provide food for birds and other wildlife.  While our bush had been trimmed to a height of around six feet, it can grow anywhere from 12-45 ft high, but usually no higher than 25 ft.  The Yaupon Holly is common throughout its range, and if the suckers are not trimmed back, it can be trimmed into hedges.

The original popularity for the plant comes from the caffeine found in the leaves and twigs of the Yaupon Holly.  Native American Indians used the leaves to prepare a tea.  The tea was ceremonially consumed in large quantities and then vomited back up, lending the plant its species name, vomitoria.  The vomiting is not a natural result of drinking the tea but was self-induced by adding other ingredients to the concoction.  Tribes from the interior traveled to the coast in large numbers each spring to collect and drink this tonic.  The tea was also a common hospitality drink among many groups.  The Holly and the tea remained popular among southeastern Americans into the 20th century and is still occasionally consumed today.  The flavor is said to resemble another holly drink and practice, the South American Yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis).  I liked the bush and hope it will recover.

Thoughts:  Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid in some 60 plant species.  While cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, and coffee beans are the most well-known, other natural sources of caffeine include yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly.  The use of these plants for invigorating drinks or chewing the leaves and berries seemed to develop independently throughout the lower temperate or tropical areas where the plants thrive.  Most cultures who use the plants have associated myths describing how the plant came to be discovered and is now used.  While myths are used by all cultures to explain the “why” of otherwise unknown behaviors, they are often rooted in fact.  The difficulty is separating the facts from the hyperbole that makes the story resonate with the people.  It seems the opposite effect is driving many of the myths (falsehoods) being spread about ideologies and science today.  If the ideology or science infringes on what I want to believe, I just make up a story to provide a different narrative.  Unlike the ancient stories, these are not rooted in facts and will not last the span of time.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Flu

February 27, 2021

I came across an article from the associated press about the Flu.  While February usually finds us at the height of Flu season, that is not the case this year.  Instead, it has virtually disappeared in the US.  Experts provided two possible explanations.  The first is the masks, social distancing, and virtual schooling put in place for covid-19 helped in staving off the flu, and the push to get people vaccinated for flu and the reduced travel added to the decline.  The other possible explanation is the coronavirus pushed out the flu and cold viruses that are more common in the fall and winter.  That follows the pattern seen when certain strains of flu predominate over others.  Areas as distant as Maine Medical Center in Portland and Oregon’s Salem Hospital have not recorded a single case of flu.  Flu has long been the nation’s most infectious disease, blamed for 600-800,000 hospitalizations and 50-60,000 deaths annually.

Since I turned 65 my doctor told me getting a flu shot was something I needed to add to my list of required vaccinations.  This came at a time when the pandemic was ramping up and the Doctor’s Office did not have the shot.  My pharmacy refused to provide one because of “the covid issue.”  Instead, I went to an emergency clinic.  When the nurse finally came to my car she asked if I was allergic to the vaccine.  When I responded that I had never had one, she stopped and stared, “Really?” I had not been around anyone vulnerable and had “heard stories” about the shot giving you the flu. It seemed easier to avoid the hassle and not get a shot. I got my flu shot and had no adverse effects. Go figure.

While we may have been spared the 50,000 deaths from the flu, the 29 million cases and over 523,000 deaths from covid-19 have more than made up for them.  Six states have had over 1,000,000 infections and seven have had over 20,000 deaths.  As high as those numbers are, the 1918 influenza pandemic was deadlier.  The disease ravaged the world from February 1918 to April 1920.  It infected 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population, in four successive waves.  The death toll is estimated between 20 to 50 million, although some say it may have been as high as 100 million.  Pathologists have suggested the virus originated in North America, but others blame the Chinese laborers brought to the front lines of World War I.  The disease spread globally as soldiers returned to their own countries.

Thoughts:  It seems there are a lot of people who are taking the same approach to precautions around coronavirus that I took toward the flu shot.  I am not vulnerable so why should I care?  While not vulnerable themselves, their grandparents, and other loved ones they met during the holidays were.  This created super spreader events after every holiday this winter.  Now that the vaccine is available, we have learned of people being wary of getting the shot because the have “heard stories” about its effects.  The known effect of the vaccine is even if you contract the virus, you are unlikely to go to the hospital and will not die.  It seems it might be easier to avoid the hassle and get a shot.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Visitor

February 26, 2021

Over the weekend Melissa became a visitor to our local hospital.  We had been frequent visitors two years ago while they struggled to determine the cause of stomach pain.  For the last two months Melissa has been making periodic trips to the doctor to overcome an infection.  When the fever spiked again, we went to find a solution.  I mention the earlier trip because of the difference this time.  We had entered a waiting room full of people and after only 20 minutes they did an initial intake.  It was another 45 minutes before we were escorted back to a room to wait for a nurse to take vitals.  This time, Melissa entered the vacant waiting area alone.  She was seen immediately and taken directly to an exam room.  This all happened while I sat outside in the car.

Although it was not freezing outside, it was cold.  That meant I would turn the car on to warm up and then turn it back off to not waste gas.  I had brought a book to read but could not get my mind to focus, wondering what was going on inside.  We are fortunate to both have cell phones and I got texts updating me on what was happening.  After a battery of texts Melissa told me they would not be read for three hours.  I sat and watched a steady stream of people entering and leaving the ER.  Many were on their own and if accompanied the extra person was sent back out to wait with me in the parking lot.  The new reality is one of isolation.  That is true for both the patient and loved ones.

Melissa texted me around midnight and said she was staying overnight and that I should go home.  The worries and separation kept me up several more hours, so I was up to receive a goodnight text at 2:30 am.  Melissa was still testing and not yet in a room.  The new visiting hours were confined to one person for four hours in the afternoon.  I was glad to have the opportunity to be a visitor as this has only been in effect for the last months.  By visiting time, they were ready to release her, so I collected fresh clothes and went on up.  All the doors to the hospital were locked, and it took twenty minutes to find how to enter the building.  When I did, I was checked for temperature and reason of visit and had a visitor band attached to my wrist.  Checkout was rapid and I wound my way through the maze of hallways to get back to the one entrance and my car.  I drove to another locked door to pick Melissa up at outpatient.  I was glad to know Melissa was fine and is now doing well.  My visitor experience gave me a small sense of the separation families and patients of covid-19 patients are going through.

Thoughts:  I was overwhelmed by the lockdown procedures that are in place throughout the hospital.  The only two entrances were for outpatient procedures and the ER.  Both had checking personnel and guards nearby to keep unwanted visitors from entry.  Temperatures, masks, and social distancing were a requirement, not an option.  The busy halls I was used to were devoid of traffic and the cafeteria was “workers only.”  While this made sense amid the pandemic, Melissa told me many of the workers preferred the calm brought by quarantine.  Not having to deal with the demands of visitors has eased some of the stress of caring for patients.  This seems another change that will not go back to usual.  Perhaps we should be more appreciative of the times when we can be together.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

LOUD

February 25, 2021

The decibel difference between the TV shows I watch and the commercials they air have driven me crazy for decades.  As Melissa and I watch shows we may comment to one another, but any real conversation is saved for the commercials.  The problem is, the commercials are often so loud that we end up turning the sound off completely, rather than trying to talk, and hear, over the noise on TV.  That is despite the federal legislation banning broadcasters from boosting their signal during commercial times.  That applies for Cable companies as well.  Ten years after the bill passed it still seems to happen.

When I looked online, I found the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM ACT) requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to bar the audio of TV commercials from being broadcast louder than the program material they accompany.  This bill was the US Senate companion to proposed legislation in the House of Representatives.  Reportedly, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-Calif), wrote the bill after a loud commercial interrupted a family dinner.  When she asked her brother-in-law to turn down the volume, he allegedly said, “Well, you’re the congresswoman.  Why don’t you do something about it?”  The Senate unanimously passed the bill on September 30, 2010., and after some minor changes, the bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 15, 2010.  It took effect on December 13, 2012.

Most TV commercials are created to be loud so you can hear the advertisement, and to get your attention.  While the CALM Act is in place, the FCC does not regulate the volume of commercials, nor the volume of TV programs.  The FCC does require broadcasters to limit the power that is used to transmit the signal.   Technically, that means a commercial cannot be any louder than the loudest portion of the TV program you are watching.  The problem comes when you are watching a loud action program with soft dialog.  When they cut to a commercial you hear a boost or fluctuation in the volume.  While that might be a reason, it cannot be the only one.  We have tremendous volume fluctuation even between commercials in the same ad slot.  While the FCC tells you to report the incidence, it is easier to turn off the sound if it is too LOUD.

Thoughts:  While the CALM Act is in place, it is obvious it is not always effective.  Several manufacturers have put a noise dampening system into their TVs to moderate the sound difference.  That extra expense would not be necessary if the difference did not exist.  Perhaps we need a CALM Act to moderate our online discussions as well.  While they may not be loud (except ALL CAPS), they can be vitriol.  What we need is to be calm, and to listen, and then think, all before firing off a vicious tweet.  This might even work in face-to-face communication.  It is certainly better than just turning off the sound if you think another’s opinion is too loud.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Drive

February 24, 2021

Since Melissa had the day off yesterday, we decided to go for an afternoon drive.  The day was in the mid-70’s and this was exactly why we had kept the SLK convertible.  A combination of cold weather and sitting during the winter meant that our battery had died.  I know I need to periodically fire up the engine and take it for a spin to keep a charge, but it has been too cold to mess with lately.  I keep a hand-held charger for just such occasions (and the boat motor) so I hooked it up and the engine began to purr.  I pulled out of the garage and brought down the top.  It was a great day for a drive.

Melissa gave me the option of going any direction I wanted.  The four o’clock traffic was so bad I had no choice but to turn right on the main road.  When we got to the edge of town I decided to go south as I wanted to take another look at a lake I have wanted to fish.  As I turned onto the road a sheriff car slid in behind me.  He no doubt thought my little red sports car would not be able to stay under the speed limit.  I put it on cruise control, and we enjoyed the birds and scenery that went by.  I could see the officer checking my registration with dispatch.  Even though he found nothing, he continued to follow (too close by the way) for the next six miles.  He finally went around when we got to the next town. 

Melissa told me to turn right at the intersection and we ended up in Oklahoma.  As we took the bypass around a small town, we passed another patrol car that slid in behind us.  I saw this was local police and was surprised when again we were closely followed for the next seven miles.  I set the control for the speed limit and tried to enjoy the drive.  Since we did not have a clear destination, I purposefully turned off into the next town.  We were not followed.  I decided to take the car north and ended up in Spiro, Oklahoma.  The road east out of Spiro took us to Poteau, and from there we crossed over into Arkansas and Fort Smith.  I knew Fort Smith was on the boarder but did not realize the southwest road did not cross the river.  Despite the distractions, it was nice to just get out and drive.

Thoughts:  When we stopped in Spiro, I came across a sign showing all the wonderful places to go in Southeast Oklahoma.  The roads were nice and there was natural beauty.  I knew a bit of the colorful history, especially its lawless attachment to Fort Smith.  I could not help but think we were identified as part of that wild lawlessness as we drove through the area.  A red convertible with its top down on a warm day is obviously up to no good (and speed!).  Twice I warranted tailing for miles at one mile below the speed limit waiting for me to do something wrong.  We recently watched the documentary, Driving While Black.  The documentary mainly spoke of how the automobile gave a sense of freedom to Black drivers and families.  However, the name comes from the perception that driving while Black was enough to pull a vehicle over on suspicion.  While we were not stopped, I did get a small sense of what it must feel like.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.