The Wagon Analogy

The westward-bound Conestoga wagons of the 19th century are an emblem of America's expansion. They also offer a useful analogy for our current situation.

Several years ago, I was stationed at Fort Leavenworth Kansas.  Fort Leavenworth was a major crossing point on the Missouri River for settlers and their wagons as they headed west. There are still massive ruts cut into the river bank where the wagons wore down the hill side as they struggled to climb out of the river bottom to higher ground on the western side of the river bank.  I often stood in those ruts and imagined the determination, excitement and fear of the pioneers who passed through that site. 

If you have made the drive across Kansas you know how barren and desolate it is.  If you have walked or ridden a horse on the prairies of Kansas, you know that Kansas is not flat. The terrain is very challenging.  It is inconceivable that families with small children made that journey which lasted months.  I am in awe of the mental and physical toughness of those Americans from our very recent past. I am also in awe of the material sacrifices they made.  The Fort Leavenworth area is laden with antiques and antique shops.  Some towns on the east side of the river are dominated by antique shops.

Why is that?  In order for the pioneer family to successfully cross the Kansas prairie, they had to leave the family heirlooms, trunks, pianos and chest behind.  Space had to be opened up for food and supplies for the family but the item that was most essential was grain for the teams that pulled the wagon. Care of the team, whether they were oxen, mules or horses was the most important factor. Without them, the wagon and the family were lost.  If the team failed, the family was stranded on the prairie and they faced starvation and death.  The pioneer also had to take great care of the wagon, a broken wheel or cracked axle meant disaster. Contrary to the movie depictions, the family walked beside the wagon. The women, children and pets walked. The only people who were allowed to ride were the sick and the injured. As soon as they got better, they had to get off and walk. Why? They couldn't afford to burden the team with the extra weight. The survival and fitness of the team equaled success and survival.

These pioneers also had to count on themselves for protection.  They faced many dangers and had no one to protect them from wild animals, Indians and thieves.  As a result, they were heavily armed.  Firearms were tools just like the axe and the shovel.  They didn't have the government to defend them, feed them or house them.  Most of them survived and prospered. The ones who refused to drop the piano off at the river crossing and insisted on taking the extra baggage with them at the expense of food for the team usually failed.  The team died or the wagon broke down and they were left in the middle of the prairie to face the winter with no food or shelter.  There were no anti-gun advocates on the wagon trail either. Guns were their  best friends.

Now look at the country a mere one hundred and fifty years later.  We are in the middle of the prairie.  The team pulling the wagon (the tax payer) has been pulling hard for years and they are getting tired.  The wagon (the government) is loaded down to the railings. It is full and can't hold any more.  The axles are buckling under the strain and the spokes of the wheels are failing.  There are some people riding the wagon that need to be there.  They are the old, the sick and the unfortunate (social security, Medicare and temporarily unemployed).  Unfortunately for the team, there are far too many who are on the wagon that shouldn't be there.   They have been on the wagon for generations and never plan to get off.

When the team dies, they will sit with the wagon until it rots and someone comes to save them. If a savior never shows up, they will die in place feeling sorry for themselves until their last breath.

So here we are in 2009. The team is faltering under the strain and it looks like they can't pull the wagon much further.  There isn't much more they can give.  The wagon is maxed out. The people on the wagon refuse to get off, in fact they demand more even when their doom is staring them in the face.  The snow clouds are gathering and it looks bleak.

At least settlers in wagon trains were sometimes saved by the cavalry.  Our so called leaders just arrived on the scene and put a 100 ton mill stone (stimulus package) in the wagon. 

We are stuck here for the next two winters.
The westward-bound Conestoga wagons of the 19th century are an emblem of America's expansion. They also offer a useful analogy for our current situation.

Several years ago, I was stationed at Fort Leavenworth Kansas.  Fort Leavenworth was a major crossing point on the Missouri River for settlers and their wagons as they headed west. There are still massive ruts cut into the river bank where the wagons wore down the hill side as they struggled to climb out of the river bottom to higher ground on the western side of the river bank.  I often stood in those ruts and imagined the determination, excitement and fear of the pioneers who passed through that site. 

If you have made the drive across Kansas you know how barren and desolate it is.  If you have walked or ridden a horse on the prairies of Kansas, you know that Kansas is not flat. The terrain is very challenging.  It is inconceivable that families with small children made that journey which lasted months.  I am in awe of the mental and physical toughness of those Americans from our very recent past. I am also in awe of the material sacrifices they made.  The Fort Leavenworth area is laden with antiques and antique shops.  Some towns on the east side of the river are dominated by antique shops.

Why is that?  In order for the pioneer family to successfully cross the Kansas prairie, they had to leave the family heirlooms, trunks, pianos and chest behind.  Space had to be opened up for food and supplies for the family but the item that was most essential was grain for the teams that pulled the wagon. Care of the team, whether they were oxen, mules or horses was the most important factor. Without them, the wagon and the family were lost.  If the team failed, the family was stranded on the prairie and they faced starvation and death.  The pioneer also had to take great care of the wagon, a broken wheel or cracked axle meant disaster. Contrary to the movie depictions, the family walked beside the wagon. The women, children and pets walked. The only people who were allowed to ride were the sick and the injured. As soon as they got better, they had to get off and walk. Why? They couldn't afford to burden the team with the extra weight. The survival and fitness of the team equaled success and survival.

These pioneers also had to count on themselves for protection.  They faced many dangers and had no one to protect them from wild animals, Indians and thieves.  As a result, they were heavily armed.  Firearms were tools just like the axe and the shovel.  They didn't have the government to defend them, feed them or house them.  Most of them survived and prospered. The ones who refused to drop the piano off at the river crossing and insisted on taking the extra baggage with them at the expense of food for the team usually failed.  The team died or the wagon broke down and they were left in the middle of the prairie to face the winter with no food or shelter.  There were no anti-gun advocates on the wagon trail either. Guns were their  best friends.

Now look at the country a mere one hundred and fifty years later.  We are in the middle of the prairie.  The team pulling the wagon (the tax payer) has been pulling hard for years and they are getting tired.  The wagon (the government) is loaded down to the railings. It is full and can't hold any more.  The axles are buckling under the strain and the spokes of the wheels are failing.  There are some people riding the wagon that need to be there.  They are the old, the sick and the unfortunate (social security, Medicare and temporarily unemployed).  Unfortunately for the team, there are far too many who are on the wagon that shouldn't be there.   They have been on the wagon for generations and never plan to get off.

When the team dies, they will sit with the wagon until it rots and someone comes to save them. If a savior never shows up, they will die in place feeling sorry for themselves until their last breath.

So here we are in 2009. The team is faltering under the strain and it looks like they can't pull the wagon much further.  There isn't much more they can give.  The wagon is maxed out. The people on the wagon refuse to get off, in fact they demand more even when their doom is staring them in the face.  The snow clouds are gathering and it looks bleak.

At least settlers in wagon trains were sometimes saved by the cavalry.  Our so called leaders just arrived on the scene and put a 100 ton mill stone (stimulus package) in the wagon. 

We are stuck here for the next two winters.