Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

July 4, 1976

July 4, 1976
You walked slowly through the crowds
as the Grand Marshal of the Parade
waved
and though he’d never been to war
was a hero to all
having played one
in countless roles.

At the edge of Cody
time stood still
as cars passed
by without consideration.

Although received wisdom
followed
more often than not
brings untoward results,
you decided to separate
and at a later point
reunite.

After crossing the street
you threw your backpack at your feet,
heading in the wrong direction.

You glanced to see
a pick-up pulling over
and your cousin
running towards it.

But it abruptly stopped
and a brawny man
jumped out
and began hollering
as if he were a drill sergeant
and his victim
a young recruit.

You quickly approached.

“What’s the hassle, man?”

Disbelief struck his face,
before he continued
his tirade.

“I fought in the war
and don’t like you all
comin’
in our part of the country
with your ideas.”

“My dad fought in the war!
Your country?
What in the hell
does that mean?”

“That’s it with you
and your kind.
You don’t have to tell me
what your ideas are…”

“We don’t believe in our country
is that what you think?”

Days earlier you had passed
the holy mountain
that manifest destiny defaced
in the state whose senator had won the flying cross
but was denounced as wanting
peace at any price.

“Don’t be smart asses with me.
You reds don’t know
the first thing
about country.”

“Reds? Where’d you get that idea?”

“Just you two get out of here
cause if you’re not,
I’ll be back later
with friends.”

In a huff he hopped back in
and sped away
clouds of dust
rising up.

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6 thoughts on “July 4, 1976

  1. This is cool because it functions not only as a nice poem (and a little bit longer than a lot of your stuff), but also as a snapshot. I love your oblique description of Rushmore.

    As I’ve said before, the best poetry is personal, and although I was far too young to understand the “hardhat-hippie divide” (if I can be allowed a gross oversimplification), I remember exactly what I was doing, about 1,500 miles away on the edge of the continent. We had a fireworks show at the beach, and I don’t remember it well, but I remember the smoke from pit-fires stinging my eyes and having a wonderful time.

    You didn’t say who the Grand Marshall was, and although the Marshall’s identity was well-suggested in the poem (I looked it up, and know who you saw), I didn’t think such a little burg would rate such a renowned fake hero.

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    • My favorite part of the poem is the stanza on Rushmore. While I’m a little bit uncertain on the rest, I’m very happy with that.

      That guy was one redneck, and to this day, my cousin and I think that the only thing that saved us was that I had the nerve to confront him. I can still see his facial expressions – couldn’t believe someone had interrupted his tirade. It really was one of my finer moments. We were two scrawny teenagers, and he could have easily dealt with us without any problem at all.

      “We had a fireworks show at the beach, and I don’t remember it well, but I remember the smoke from pit-fires stinging my eyes and having a wonderful time.”

      What a great memory. Where were you?

      Your last point is a good one, and one that never crossed my mind until now. One can imagine a number of reasons why: the pay was good; he was so in favor of guns that he saw his opening of the Cody Firearms Museum of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center a moral necessity; making sure his image was maintained.

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      • I was on the strand between Morro Bay and Cayucos, California.

        I’ve actually been to Cody, Wyoming–about twelve years after you were there, but it might as well have been a century. A lot of cultural changes between ’76 & ’88, which again brings us back to Jackson Browne’s “Lawyers in Love.”

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      • I did a little Google Image search on it – looks like a great spot. California is a place I always wished I had visited – must be a beautiful state.
        Yes, there were.
        One of the things I saw was the difference between my trip in 1976 to Yellowstone and the one I took to Alaska in 1981. On the first trip, the road was full of fellow hitchhikers, not so much so the second one. In 1976 there were still people looking for America as Simon and Garfunkel put it. Over time people slowly started mistrusting one another.

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  2. Powerful words, Tom! Reminds me of so many parts in books read and/or movies watched. Didn’t want to read too much into it; I just let the words fly and thought came to mind. On another not, I was out of touch there for awhile (life happens, right?) and getting back to reading more…

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