Sitting in the restaurant there was music playing ever so low in the background. It wouldn’t interfere with normal conversation nor was it in any way disruptive. This one song sounded vaguely familiar. I could hear the melody and a few words as we ate and talked. Slowly I recognized the song playing in the restaurant, although I hadn’t heard it in years maybe as far back as my army days, stationed in Texas. I realized it was “Big Iron On His Hip” the name of the tune. It came from a time of songs telling stories and proclaiming heroes, the tall silent type. The man in the song with the gun on his hip was a Texas Ranger as I recall. He came to town to bring an outlaw to justice, alive or maybe dead, but he would do his job and he did.
“Big John” was anther story song of the tall, silent hero. As the title says John was big and strong. When a mine shaft collapsed Big John used his size and strength to leverage an escape for the trapped miners. The song concludes with the escaped miners trying to rescue the one miner left down there to save. The final words say they never reopened that worthless pit just placed a stone in front of it with the words here lies a big, big man, Big John. Another person who did not seek fame or position. The tall silent hero who knew what was right and when to do it irrespective of the personal consequences or fame. People who act out a personal code, people who have no obligation to act other than that inner voice in each of us.
I recall reading a novel, a work of fiction, which painted a similar type of hero. The story explains how the US President waited until the last-minute to announce the details of the United States Quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban missile crises. The President’s representative met in the office of the then Soviet ambassador. Without hesitation he advises the Ambassador that we know about the missiles, the country was being informed as they met and with that the world would know. The Ambassador being familiar with the American psyche understood fully what had just happened. The stranger had confronted him and if the Ambassador saw decency or patience as weakness, he now knew how wrong he was. The gun was drawn, the bullet discharged and landed directly between his eyes. Misjudging us and that absolute belief in doing what’s right, was a terrible mistake and the penalty was severe for his nation.
This was not meant as the image of the Wild West or a character portrayed in a John Wayne type movie. This was a portrait of the inner concept of us, who we are. Has that changed slowly or just slipped away? When we look inside ourselves today as Americans who do we see? Are we a people who recognize fear but choose not to be afraid. Who stands out for us in these current times? Is a person who responds to criticism with attacks or elected leaders who complain but offer no solutions, the inner self we have become? When industries change and jobs are lost, do we sit back and complain? Are we all looking for help rather than helping each other? The road that got us here as a nation has been of our own choosing. It certainly was not the road less traveled. We can still back up and seek a better path and now is the time. We are all smart enough to know that the inner voice in each of us needs to be heard. We are not called upon to stand tall and support the mine shaft timbers as the mine collapses around us. We are all called upon to stand tall and listen to the voice that tells us who we are. Then we know what is right and what to do. The time is now and the right path is clear if we listen and stand on our own two feet.