Sunday, May 06, 2012

An Independence Day memory, 'On the Road'

Discovering a clip on YouTube this morning sent me surfing over the tides of time, back to Independence Day, 1997.

I was in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on vacation with my family. Fireworks and fun. Patriotic rhythm and rhyme and even a rodeo. Hot dogs and happy day.

But my heart was broken. That night I learned Charles Kuralt was dead.

We throw around the word "hero" like yesterday's garbage, but if I have one in this word herding business, it is Kuralt. (And Ernie Pyle.)

Kuralt said two things I've used as my personal credo these last 12 years while working at the community weekly.

"It does no harm," he said, "just once in awhile, to acknowledge that the whole world isn't in flames, that there are people in this country besides politicians, entertainers and criminals."

Here's the second one, even more super:

"The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the greed in the headlines."

I watched him as a boy, "On the Road" and on "CBS Sunday Morning," the latter just before going off to church. I can still see him sitting on a stool just before the colors faded to black.

The day after he died, I walked up to a bookstore that has since shut its doors in Jackson. I skimmed the shelves. There it was. "A Life on the Road" by Charles Kuralt.

While my family met friends, I stayed behind, propped my feet up on a picnic table, the great Grand Tetons as my backdrop, and read Kuralt's memories from a life on the road.

Don't bring up that business about his personal life. Take it elsewhere. He did what he did. I am not his judge.

Charles Kuralt taught me how to love my country and its people, how to really love it, in the right way. He also taught me that there is most definitely a place in the paper for people other than politicians, entertainers and criminals.

Oh, how he is missed.

Here is the YouTube video that sparked the memory, his last appearance as the host of my favorite TV series.

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