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The Interrupted Odyssey of US Grant and Ely Parker and Visiting a Devastated Town After a Tornado... and Lending a Hand

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 6, 2022 3:00 am

The Interrupted Odyssey of US Grant and Ely Parker and Visiting a Devastated Town After a Tornado... and Lending a Hand

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 6, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Dr. Mary Stockwell, author of Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant  and the American Indians, tells the story of how the lives of America's first Native American appointed to a cabinet level position and our 18th President intertwined. Listener Paul Kotz shares about his service trip to Mayfield, Kentucky several months after a tornado devastated the town. 

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Time Codes:

00:00 - The Interrupted Odyssey of US Grant and Ely Parker 

35:00 - Visiting a Devastated Town After a Tornado... and Lending a Hand

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show. Our next story is on our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, and his friend and associate, E. Lee Parker, the first Native American appointed to a cabinet-level position in the United States history. Grant came to the West first as a soldier. He went to West Point, and one of his first assignments he was sent out to Missouri, and then during the Mexican War, he was sent to fight in Mexico. When he was about to go, he was already engaged to a girl named Julia, whom he would marry, and she kept saying to him, you know, you're going to be killed by the Indians, you're going to be killed by the wild Comanches.

He said, don't worry about it, I'm alright. He wasn't afraid of the Indians, but when he got into Mexico, it was the very first time he saw people of Native American descent. He was the first generation, eight generations of his family since the 1630s. He was the first one who had no encounter with Indians growing up. Everybody else in his family had been on some frontier, moving from Massachusetts out to Ohio, so it at least encountered Indians. He saw the poorest of the poor in Mexico who were descendants of Indians and Native people themselves, and he said, this country is so beautiful, and the mistreatment of these people who are at the bottom of society by the wealthy and the powerful is terrible, and that shook him deeply. He then later was assigned to California as a soldier after the Mexican War, and he said, here are the Indians, they were nicknamed the Digger Indians because they survived by gathering nuts and roots. He said, they're used like beasts of burden by the men seeking gold in the gold fields.

He said, this is terrible, and he used to write again back home to his family. Don't tell me about civilization. Don't tell me that the white man is bringing civilization to the Indians.

The only civilization that they ever brought was smallpox and whiskey. You get a sense of right from the start, he had immense sympathy for them. In fact, he did a painting when he was a student at West Point, and it's of an Indian woman and man trading.

So we know from his letters and later in his memoirs, he must have had some innate sense of these are good and decent people. He did not like war, so the thought that you would go and slaughter people that he felt had done nothing except be the original occupants of the land, as he said, he didn't like that. I think if he had been allowed to choose his own life for himself, he would have been a farmer, and he would have stayed on the land in Ohio, and he loved animals. He never, ever, ever went hunting.

He loathed hunting. Unlike the children he was growing up with, he had a respect for nature. To me, he meant he had a more sympathetic view to creation and reality, not normal to his time in question, and maybe still not normal today. His best friend, E. Lee Parker, who was a Seneca Indian, said there was something innately Indian about U.S. Grant. He's not like other Americans.

He's definitely not like the men of his times. This man who's going to be known for these horrible battles in the Civil War had a kind of innate sympathy for nature and a kind of Indian way about him. At least that's what Parker noticed about him. Parker was born in western New York.

He's a Seneca. He was born on the Tonawanda Indian Reserve, and right from the start he was just a remarkable student. He wanted to learn. He often told the story of once he was writing with British soldiers, and they mocked him because he couldn't speak English, and he was so humiliated he told his father, I want to learn. I want to master the English language.

I want to learn everything. And so he was sent to local schools on his reserve run by a Baptist preacher. He went to local academies. He eventually had some college education, and he read everything, absolutely everything. People who met him said, there's nothing you can mention that he doesn't know.

He can converse on everything. He became a great writer. He became a great speaker. He loved oratory, and eventually he read law.

He should have been able to sit for the bar exam in New York, but they told him he was an Indian, so no, you can't take the bar exam. But when his tribe was fighting in the Supreme Court to maintain their land on Tonawanda, he was the advisor to the tribe's lawyers, and he sat there in the Supreme Court giving advice that helped the Seneca keep Tonawanda. He was, you know, he was, how shall we say it, he accepted like his whole tribe did.

We know the world is changing. We'll do our part to be part of this American experience, so he's perfectly educated. But he loved his tribe, respected their traditions.

He was so beloved by his tribe, he was elected leader of the Seneca when he was only 18. So he was an amazing person. He was so far ahead of the world he was living in, where this idea would later be developing, that somehow, to be an American, you have to wipe out all your Indian-ness or whatever your culture is. He used to say, no, you can be both.

You can retain your traditions, but you can still be part of this new American experience. He himself, if he could have voted, he would have voted Democratic. He liked Stephen Douglas, who believed in settling the West, not looking back, you know, letting slavery die, and building a tremendous American civilization, all of us together out West. So he was a fascinating human being. But he needed to get a job, and his job was, he became an engineer. And he worked on the canals in New York. Finally, he got a job right before the Civil War, working for the U.S. Treasury. And he was the superintendent of all the lighthouses in the Great Lakes. And then right about 1859, he gets a job building a custom house out in Galena, Illinois, and that's where he's going to meet U.S. Grant. And you've been listening to Dr. Mary Stockwell tell the story of Ulysses S. Grant and E. Lee Parker. And Parker is the first Native American appointed to a cabinet-level position in United States history. And of course, Grant, who had these special, special feelings for American Indians, identified with them. If you know and hear more about Grant's life, you'll come to understand it.

Go to Our American Stories and listen to this story of Ulysses Grant when we come back, more of this remarkable American story, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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He was at the height of what you could be as an ambitious young American in the 1850s. Grant was a failure. Grant has fallen on hard times. He missed his family.

They were living in Missouri, his wife and children. He starts to drink and he has a parting of the ways with the army. He leaves the army, resigns, goes back to Missouri. He fails at everything.

The farm fails everything. Finally, his father, who's a very wealthy man who had been a farmer and then a tanner, had a tannery and then he built this big leather business across the Midwest. He gives his son a job, just a clerk again in a leather store in Galena, something Grant hated, and that's where Parker meets him. Parker comes in to buy leather goods and he's fascinated by this man who's about the same age, this man who lives as Grant. And that any time he goes in the store to buy something, Grant hides in the back room and waits until the customers are gone. While Parker waits to talk to him because he said, I like him. He's behaving more like he's Seneca, like he's Indian. Parker said white men love to talk and love to brag and love to say, hello, how are you? He said they never shut up. You don't have to be a loudmouth. You don't have to be gregarious.

You must be stoic, calm, respectful. And slowly you get to know him and slowly Parker befriended Grant. Then the Civil War begins and U.S. Grant eventually starts his way back into the Army, becomes a general.

And Parker, who was a Democrat as soon as Lincoln is elected, loses his office because he's been working for the Buchanan administration and he's not a Republican. He goes back home to Tonawanda and is just trying to farm. He tries and tries, let me in the Army. He goes to everyone asking, let me serve. But even Seward says to him, oh, this is a white man's war.

Go back home and farm. But eventually U.S. Grant helps him. He gets him a job because he has perfect English, perfect speaking, perfect writing, perfect penmanship. This is the time before anything typewritten. So your secretary must be able to write anything quickly in a perfect handwriting.

You know, telegrams are beginning, but letters are still the main means of communication. U.S. Grant gets him a job working for another general. But when Grant's own secretaries are so miserable and they can't clearly state what is happening, writing the letters for Grant, they realize the man who's got the great penmanship, the man who's really the most educated and genius is this young guy, Parker. And they take him and they assign him to Grant. He's chosen because, again, of his ability to communicate, his perfect handwriting.

And it's not like a secretary today where you dictate it. It would be more like Grant has to figure out what to say. Parker helps him say it, helps him communicate with Washington, D.C. And after Vicksburg, Grant is the big general.

Grant says, this is the man I need. You can often see drawings. Newspaper reporters would be drawing pictures at the time as they start to follow Grant coming from Vicksburg out to Tennessee up to Virginia to finally fight Robert E. Lee. And you would always see Parker behind him in his uniform.

And he would have an ink bottle tied to the buttons on his vest coat or his coat tied with the rope. He was always with him, always behind him and did a tremendous job. When they get to Appomattox and Robert E. Lee is supposed to come in and sign surrender agreements, another secretary is so shaken, can't even hold the pen. He turns to Parker and he says, you do it.

So it's Parker who will do all the agreements, all the surrender. And in fact, when Lee saw him standing there as the union uniform, he became offended because he thought, oh, Grant has a freed slaver and free black working for him. Then he looked closer. He looks closer. He goes, no, he's an Indian. And he ran up to Parker, shook his hand. He said, you know, the only American in the room. And Parker scolded him a bit. He said, no, we're all Americans.

We're all Americans. Parker often said, too, that was a dramatic meeting. He said the next day they had another meeting, Lee and Grant, like in an apple orchard. He said that was a far more dramatic meeting. He said, I'm sitting there with my portable desk.

I'm writing and writing. And he said, I wish someone would have painted that day. I really seem to really more realize this was over. And he said it's to see these two men, one who had been so famous in the Mexican War, Lee, the other, Grant, who had been really a failure as a soldier, to see their lives flip upside down. Lee is now leading the ruined life and Grant is at the height of his popularity and the height of his fame.

It was just almost unbelievable to sit there and to chronicle this in the papers he was writing back to Washington, D.C. When U.S. Grant is inaugurated president, he makes this strange comment in his first inaugural address. Everybody assumes he's going to talk about the South. Let's not hate.

Let's get back together. But he also makes a strange comment. He said, the original occupants of the land, I'm in favor of anything that will help in their civilization and citizenship.

And it's got this like tinny quality. Why is he talking about the Indians? He should only care about the South. People forget he's inaugurated in 1869. What did he do between 1865 and 1869?

Well, that's when he was general of the Army. And he looks West and he says, we're going to come up with an Indian policy that is humane. And he said, I do not want no more murdering, no more killing. He'd been a general in the Civil War when things like the Sand Creek Massacre occurred out in Colorado. And he said, this is terrible. You can't just murder people willy nilly. There's no you must not massacre the Indians.

We got to figure out a way to save them. And so he turned to many people. He asked Sheridan to help him. Sheridan was just Civil War all over again. Kill all the Indians. He turned to Sherman.

Come on, give me some ideas. He turned to many generals. Finally, the person who helped him the most was Parker.

Parker remains at his side. He now assigns him to go out West to sit in many of these Indian councils. And he says, just go out and listen to these people.

Let's figure out a way we can live together in peace. The tribes out West were astounded when Grant's personal representative appears at all of these meetings. He's obviously Native American. He's Seneca. They're astounded. So over four years, Grant and Parker come up with a policy.

What should we do? He said, well, peace, of course, it's often nicknamed a peace policy. The goal for both Grant and Parker was eventually all the Indians would become citizens of the United States.

And Grant used to talk about them like the blanket of the Constitution would rest on them and they would be they would have all the rights of citizens of the United States. So when he made that strange statement, the original occupants of the land, he'd been thinking about this and studying it with Parker for four years. Now he's president. Now he can implement his policy.

And he figures the person who can help me the most is Parker. You know, he is what I would like all the Indians in the far West to be. He's got his heritage and his culture, which he's proud of. But he also made the transition to a modern livelihood.

And he's like the model of what I want everyone to be. Grant's only worry, he said, can I appoint this man? Is he an American citizen? Is the Seneca Indian who's so brilliantly educated at my side, is he an American citizen? And he turned to his own attorney general and he said, yes, because we read the Constitution. There's a line about Indians who do not pay taxes.

They're not going to be counted in congressional representation. And they said, well, my gosh, he's been working in New York. He's worked in Virginia. He's worked throughout the West. He's always paid taxes.

Obviously, he's an American citizen. That was the decision. And Grant was extremely popular at the time.

And he was appointed the head Commissioner of Indian Affairs. I think it's a forgotten story to this day. A tremendous story in many ways. And you've been listening to Dr. Mary Stockwell on the relationship between Ulysses S. Grant and Ely Parker, the first Native American appointed to a cabinet level position in American history.

That story continues here on Our American Story. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

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Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to our American stories and the story of U.S. Grant and Ely Parker. When we last left off, Parker had become the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, becoming the first Native American to hold that position and the first Native American to hold any cabinet level position. And soon both Grant and Parker would be thrust into the political turmoil of the day.

Again, here's Dr. Mary Stockwell to continue the story. You know, when I was in school and I read it today, I read it in every, every recent biography that's come out on U.S. Grant, they always tell you the same thing. Grant had a peace policy in which he wanted peace with the Indians and then they say he appointed Christian missionaries to run all the reservations in the West and it failed because of the Sioux War and Custer and things like that. I discovered that was not true.

None of that was true. He gets into office. He lays out this policy. They go, what we should do is the U.S. Army should be in charge of all the reservations. We're going to get rid of all the private people. We're going to get rid of private traders. All the corruption is going to end and we'll watch over the soldiers that we appoint as superintendents.

They'll again run reserves or run the trading post. Grant wanted to do that because he said if the president appoints the army, anybody gets out of line in the West, they can be court-martialed and thrown out of the way. The idea was if the army protected the Indians from the onrush of settlers and railroads and immigrants coming their way, the Indians would have time, maybe a generation or two, to realize the buffalo were disappearing. They were going to have to come up with different livelihoods. Grant and Parker hoped maybe they'll become ranchers.

That would be something they could do, raise cattle or something like that. Yes, they would send doctors and teachers or whatever, but there was no sense that they were going to wipe out their Indianness. But it's very clear when you go through the grant papers, you realize these two men know, have figured that soldiers were more honorable, soldiers could be dismissed if they disobeyed. And if soldiers are told, you will protect these people, they would do it on pain of court-martial and being removed from the army.

It works for a long time, at least for a year, a year and a half it works. What these two men hadn't realized is the tremendous opposition that they would face. And they faced it from all kinds of people. Settlers out West thought Grant was nuts. The Western newspapers said, why are you doing this? Tribes in places like Oklahoma, like the Cherokees said, no, we don't want citizenship. Many in Congress didn't like it because they said, you've shifted the power.

You're taking power from us. We used to appoint everybody in the Indian affairs world. It was political patronage. Who cares if they got rotten stuff because the people we appointed sold the good blankets, the good food and pocketed a profit. They set up a thing called a board of Indian commissioners. They picked 10 wealthy, philanthropic American men.

And they say, you 10 men, you help us, give us advice, audit what we're doing and keep an eye on us, but you'll help us. America had gone through a weird revision of their attitude towards wealth. Americans traditionally did not like wealth or wealthy people after the Civil War. We thought it was corrupt. But in the Civil War, so many wealthy men, wealthy industrialists had helped the North.

Now people respect businessmen as wise. This 10 man commission, they are determined to destroy Grant's Indian policy. They're led by a fellow named William Welsh, who was a merchant from Philadelphia. And he said, this policy is terrible. Indians must never be citizens.

They're like second class almost children. And how could Grant appoint the savage Seneca to run it? We're going to do everything we can to destroy this policy.

And they do. Congress and this board of Indian commissioners stick a knife into Parker. If we can get rid of Parker, we can get rid of Grant's ideas. So what they do in the early part of 1871, William Welsh accuses Parker of pocketing a million dollar contract at West. Parker's brought before a subcommittee in Congress. He's put on trial, a frightening trial where he has called all kinds of names, claims he's corrupt, claims he's pocketing money for the Indians when he didn't. Parker is finally exonerated, but he quits, he resigns, and the army goes. And that's the last true communication he ever has with Grant.

So he resigns in 1871. He goes back to New York. He tries to find work.

He tries to just survive. He sees Grant only one more time when Grant is out of office and Grant's setting off on a world tour. Parker comes to meet him and he brings him the desk.

He has saved the desk from the McLean courthouse where they signed the peace agreement in 1865. And he offers that to Grant. He never sees Grant again. Grant will later be sick and dying outside of Saratoga, New York, and it's like his summer home.

Parker will try to come and meet him, but Grant's son really disliked him and wouldn't let him near him, would never let him say goodbye to him. Grant, before he dies, writes his memoirs. He never ever discusses his Indian policy, which was in the beginning so creative. He never discusses it. The stories I told you at the beginning, those are all from his memoirs when he talks about the Indians and his sympathy.

He never discusses it, just walks away from the sadness and the disaster of it and the wars too out west. The neat thing about Parker, Parker goes on to help write a book. He writes a book on the Iroquois. It's probably the first true study of an American Indian tribe that doesn't denigrate them. You know, that, oh, they're uncivilized, but it shows the Haudenosaunee, it shows the Iroquois Confederacy, the Sonica Nation, and a positive life. That's going to be the beginning of getting American scholars to stop saying Indians are savages.

Aren't we happy that we crushed them? And it gets us to respect them. And I should say, by 1924, all American Indians were given citizenship if they didn't already have it. That was because so many young Native Americans had fought in the First World War.

It was a thank you to them. Grant's vision that we're all one nation, that to be an American doesn't mean you're a descendant of the Puritans. It means you're here, you're on this great ship of state, you can be a mix of people, and it doesn't matter where your ancestors came from because we have these legal rights and we have an identity through the law. I think he reminds me of a poem Walt Whitman used to write about it, A Song of Democracy, where he talks about all of us on this ship coming from all over the world and together heading into the future as Americans.

And that to me is the great vision these two men had. So I think of Grant like Ulysses and this beautiful story of the Odyssey, where somehow Grant has this vision we'll all be together on some grand adventure, all of us. My ancestors, who go back to the Puritans, all the Indian tribes, he welcomed my ancestors, poverty-stricken Catholic immigrants from Europe. He wanted the freedmen in the South, the freed blacks to be part of it.

Somehow we're all going to be under the Constitution, and that's what it is to be an American. We go forward together. And a great job as always by Monty Montgomery on the production of the piece and the storytelling, and a special thanks to Dr. Mary Stockwell on her contribution. Her book is Interrupted Odyssey. Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians go to Amazon or the usual suspects and pick up a copy.

And what a story. Grant had a peace policy, it turns out, but my goodness, putting the U.S. Army in charge, well, it seemed like a good idea, worked for a bit, but in the end proved to be disastrous. In the end, nobody really wanted his policy.

Even the Indians didn't want it. This is the story of U.S. Grant and Elie Parker here on Our American Story. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories. And now a story from one of our listeners, Paul Cutts from the Twin Cities. Paul is also a professor at St. Mary's University of Minnesota. Today, Paul is sharing with us a story about when he visited Mayfield, Kentucky, a town that had recently been hit by a devastating tornado.

Here's Paul. Mayfield, more than a memory. That is what I saw on the side of one of the buildings that was still standing when I heard on the news that a tornado swept through the town area December 11th, 2021. I decided to organize a road trip.

Road trips to unknown places for me have this sense of adventure, mystery and a time to untap new possibilities of understanding other communities, but also getting a better idea of yourself. It started with a GoFundMe page for me shortly after the tornado had hit. Generous individuals gave money to support this town, which was hit in the middle of the night in mid-December. And as the daylight approached, people saw with their very own eyes that their entire community was ruined by Mother Nature.

I spoke with Cindy from Assembly of God Church by phone before we departed, and she said, The good Lord has not blessed us with the best weather. If you saw the town of Mayfield, this was an understatement. They were then hit with an ice storm soon afterward, which incapacitated residents for a few days.

The salt shack had been destroyed by the tornado, so they were in need to melt the snow building up. When the tornado hit, it intensified, reaching high-end EF4 levels as it tore directly through the center of town, resulting in widespread catastrophic damage throughout that historic downtown square of Mayfield. Most of the structures in downtown were heavily damaged or destroyed, including multiple large, well-built, multi-story brick buildings that completely collapsed.

Only large piles of bricks and lumber remained in the hardest-hit portions of the downtown area, and streets were left buried under the debris. The large and well-constructed Graves County Courthouse had much of its roof torn off, sustained collapse of its clock tower, and had some of its exterior upper floor walls knocked down. Several restaurants, an indoor soccer facility, a barber shop, an automotive business, gym, bank, movie theater, health and rehab center, and many other businesses were destroyed.

Even the Emergency Operations Center lost the ability to transmit radio communications. Three large churches were destroyed in downtown Mayfield. A school bus garage, metal industrial buildings, and apartment buildings also sustained major structural damage or were destroyed in other areas of town. Residential areas of the city were devastated as well, with numerous homes being damaged, including many that were actually leveled or swept from their foundations. Also, many trees sustained severe debarking, while cars were thrown hundreds of yards and mangled. Some dual-polarization radar imagery the news mentioned showed that the tornado had lofted debris up to 30,000 feet into the air as it impacted the city.

And more importantly, and sadly, 22 people were killed in and around Mayfield, with hundreds more injured, many severely. Meanwhile, my driving partner Paul and I ended up in West Frankfort, Illinois at around 1030 p.m. after having started at 7 a.m. in the Twin Cities. We traveled through small towns such as Canton, Missouri, heading into Illinois on our way to Mayfield.

We were lucky before we ventured from St. Paul South. A dear colleague dropped off 20-plus quilts to give to residents. Her church colleagues made these for a cause such as this, and so we loaded those in my Jeep, along with our own suitcases and supplies, and ventured out. The GoFundMe funds served as a springboard for money to be used in Mayfield and given to the City Hall.

We were so grateful that these funds could go to good use. We were on a road trip with a mission. We were headed to a distribution site at the county fairgrounds and much awaited us. If we could offer even a temporary relief, get a new education of what a town goes through, when much, if not all, is wiped out by a tornado, then we were open to a new challenge. Giving people hope was the main objective. We made it to Mayfield in one piece and had a great day moving many supplies and pallets of supplies, all the while working in the heart of where devastation hit the town.

We worked in collaboration in a massive effort with Army, National Guard, locals, and those from the outside. In Mayfield, Kentucky, it will take decades to get back to normal, but I remain hopeful because the people are strong. The people we worked with at the distribution center in the heart of Mayfield at the fairgrounds were welcoming and in need of help. They all gave hope to a situation that looked like a war zone. The debris had been cleared off many streets, but metal twisted around poles, structures overturned, roofs missing, cars destroyed, and even a multitude of RVs were brought in to give temporary housing and shelter to the displaced. My new friend Dora asked me to move plastic gas cans donated to be removed from a top shelf and brought within her reach. I asked her if she was a resident of Mayfield. She explained yes, and with hopeful words, I love my town, but when I came through the devastation recently, I actually got lost because all the markers I once knew were gone.

When you work with others and share stories, you build a common bond that even though you may not walk together again in, you connected and found that we are all so similar in what we need as people, love, care, and a place to call home and a purpose. Well, shipment after shipment came in. My colleague and I spent most of our time with that hydraulic equipment, moving paper products such as towels, toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, hand cleansers, toothpaste, bags, food, all the sites on the floor of the fairgrounds. Sometimes donations were mixed. I came upon what I thought were some gray towels.

They were, in fact, Depends. Colleen, one of the coordinators with a vision for the big picture, said, You never know when you need a diaper, no matter what your age. We all laughed. She said, Glad you have a sense of humor.

I need to see people laugh and smile around me. It helps get me through each day. Earlier in the morning, I had thrown out my lower back, but as I stretched it out, I said to myself, I can't let these people down.

Somehow my pain subsided to get the task done. As the night approached, and as we got back to rest for the night, the pain emerged again, but I felt good that we could laugh and be present with others who spent days trying to rebuild their lives and their town. As we got our rhythm, my colleague and I seemed to be on automatic pilot, and I trained others in the process of transport and stocking and serving the residents who desired goods to sustain their lives.

You could feel the love and the camaraderie. Everyone wanted each other to succeed in our common mission to serve Mayfield. On Saturday night, we took a little time to go to a bar named in honor of Bob Seger's song, Night Moves, and a guy named Bob came up to me and said, Great to see you again.

He talked about Super Bowl picks, how he moved from Chicago to Paducah and never regretted it. Since I was in Kentucky, I had to have a jack on ice. Here, you approach the bar, get your drink, and then take your seat. The band bellowed, tip your weight stamp generously, and then launched into another song from the 80s and later. The fact is, I had never been here myself or with my colleague until this night. The music was very good and the vocalist and guitar player entertained us with stories and played three different sets with a drummer who even stopped to see us, noting we were having a very good time and was glad that we came out.

After another set, I tried a tequila sunrise and my colleague was enjoying the songs. The guy who claimed to know me kept telling me about his own experiences and how an apartment complex he owned had been three quarters devastated but hope was sustaining him and the insurance adjusters were working on it. I hope a decade from now or sooner Mayfield and surrounding areas will be thriving again so people can recognize their neighborhoods. The people's spirits at times seem diminished, but their sense of hope and care for one another, guided by God's intentions for the future, shed light on a tough situation.

Someday I would like to go back and it will be a new, beautiful, vibrant reality and community and not just a memory. And a great job on the production by Faith and a special thanks to Paul Kotz for sharing his mission trip because it wasn't just a road trip, it was a mission trip and Americans do this all the time. They go on mission trips to help people in need and they do it when tornadoes hit, when hurricanes hit. Heck, sometimes they just do it to feed people who are hungry or just hurting. The story of Paul Kotz, his mission of mercy and the story of Mayfield, Kentucky here on Our American Story.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 21:11:13 / 2023-02-16 21:27:15 / 16

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