The Declaration of Independence is the document embodying the public act by which the American Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776 declared the north American colonies to be free and independent of Great Britain.
Our red, white, and blue flag is our symbol of freedom, and we love our flag and our freedom. A flag can be raised, dropped, or waved as we give it great honor. We can hoist a flag, keep a flag flying, lower a flag, put a flag out, and celebrate a flag. At our family home, which celebrates her 100th birthday this year, we have a flag pole on one of the round columns on our big wraparound front porch. When I put it out to loosely fly each morning in the slight summer breezes, I whisper a prayer: “Thank God for letting me be born an American. Thanks for allowing us to proudly fly this red, white, and blue flag that we each cherish with all of our hearts for those who have fought and are fighting wars and have died for us. Hold each one of us gently in Your hands this day and the days to come.”
This flag is our special symbol that we rally around when we see it flying. We saw it hoisted high immediately after the tragic 9/11. Just recently, we saw our flag hoisted high after the deadly tornadoes ripped through Mississippi this spring and through many other states. The flag gave us hope to just keep on trucking and never to give up on living a free life and the freedoms we so cherish in this great country of ours.
In 1980-1981 our entire family, my husband, Dr. Frank Marvin Davis, Sr., Frank Marvin Davis, Jr., age 13, Lewis McReynolds Davis, age 7, Miriam Elizabeth Davis Williams, age 2, and I took the opportunity of a life time to circle the world going and coming two different routes to go to live in Los Banos in the Philippine Islands for 6 months. We were at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) owned by The Ford and Rockefeller Foundation. Frank was on loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to design and build an Insect Rearing Laboratory. We lived under a dictatorship form of government for six months. The Philippines later became a democracy. When we landed, the first thing I noticed were men in uniforms standing with machine guns in their hands at all the grocery stores and banks. I went into complete shock and turned to Frank and said, “I think I have to go back home.” I cried all night long. I knew that I had left America. Would we live or die? We did live, and we grew to love this third world country and its wonderful, loving people. To survive, I painted my way through, and most of all, we learned to know how much we truly loved and appreciated America. What an experience to see and love all the other countries we got to stop and visit as we came and went back to the U.S.A. We are merely small tiny spots on this place we call earth.
In 2009, Frank and I had another opportunity to travel to Beijing, China, for one week for Frank to deliver a paper about his expertise in the world of insect rearing and his lifetime career as an entomologist. Here we were in China, a Communist form of government. We had once again left the greatest gift and form of government, democracy, behind. When we returned, one of the first things we spotted was our American flag, and I thought of the words, “crown thy good with brotherhood.” We learned in both countries that it was a little flag pin of red, white, and blue, either seen or not seen that we displayed in a simply American smile on our faces that became our common language and bridge to both dictatorship and Communism as two different forms of government that we had never experienced. Every American needs to go to a third world country or to a country that does not practice democracy to forever appreciate with our whole hearts the American flag and our many freedoms living in the greatest country in the world.
So what and how will you be celebrating this July 4, which falls on a Monday this year? Will you barbeque outside? Will you bite down into a hot dog on bun with pork and beans on the side? Will you slice a cold watermelon and sprinkle a little salt on top? Will you slice a home-grown juicy tomato from the backyard garden? Will you dip out fresh peach ice-cream from the hand turned/churned freezer into a big bowl? Will you slurp down a whole glass or two of ice-tea with a leaf of mint leaf floating on top? Will you drink several canned Coca-Colas, Sprites, or just pure cold water in bottles? Will you devour several slices of pound cake or chocolate cake? Will you feel too full and stuffed when you have enjoyed every bite? Will you make you way on down to the Starkville Sportsplex to see and hear the fireworks displayed so brightly after it finally turns dark? Since July 4 is usually the hottest day of the whole year here in Mississippi, I can almost bet you a dime that all day long you will be wiping sweat from your face and neck as it drips, and you will wish for a slight breeze or two to offer some relief from the sweltering Mississippi July heat wave. Promise me that we all will take time to remember: ”For pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress a through-fare for freedom beat across the wilderness.” Our brave forefathers gave us on July 4, 1776 this day that we shall celebrate with joy, laughter, fun, and fellowship. We owe them everything, and silently and with our hearts and very souls we should give to them a grateful and simple thank you. We are free Americans for their gift of freedom.
This day, I am sharing with each one of you a special gift of a painting of mine. Come go back with me to October 12, 1976 on Columbus Day thirty-five years ago. My second child, Lewis McReynolds Davis, was 2 years old in. He is now 37 years old, and he and his wife, Gayla, son, Grey, and daughter, Holland live in Kingwood, Texas. I packed up all my art supplies and slipped away for a few hours as Frank babysat for me that day. I was headed to the corner of Main Street and South Washington Street of my beloved and native Starkville. This is a large painting on stretched 100% cotton canvas of 20X30”. There are 9 subjects. Count them with me now: 1 tall metal green light pole which became a flag pole, 2 American flags, 3 wooden flag poles, 1 street sign holding 2 signs, 1 mail drop box on a concrete standing pole, and 1 street.
Look at the background and enjoy seeing the lovely cloudless blue sky:
Oh, beautiful for spacious skies.” I sketched and painted those two flags blowing and swaying softly in the breeze. Can you feel that cool soft breeze right as you see those flags blowing now as you enjoy viewing my painting? Feel the breeze on your cheeks? Those are two very proud flags. There is a third flag that I did not paint, but in our minds we know it lives there that day on the side of the light/flag pole. It is invisible to our eyes, but it’s definitely there. The tall green pole gives such a nice color contrast against the blue sky, and it is holding the two street signs for Main and Washington Streets. How appropriate that this street bears the same name as our first prresident George Washington, and it’s an old street in this town, too. I love the now antique mail drop box. I have not seen one quite like this around town in a long time. The colors of the dark and navy blues with “U.S. Mail” on the side are very rich. We know we are in the good ‘ole U.S.A. See the hint of Main Street itself.
When I grew up Starkville was still a small town, and even in 1976, she was beginning to think about becoming a small city. Just look at her now. We are now the hometown of the largest university in our state. We expect over 20,000 students to grace us with their presence this fall and to become not only Mississippi State Univesrsity students but Starkvillians, too. Good ‘ole Starkville, known as the Hospitality City in Mississippi - she’s come a long way, baby.
Oh, isn’t it grand to be an American? There is absolutely no place quite like the U.S.A. There is no place on this earth quite like Main Street and South Washington in Starkville. A through-fare for freedom, where a U.S. mail box and flags blowing on the breeze seem to say “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.”
To each one of you I wish you the happiest 4th of July ever.
See Davis’ photo in color at http://www.starkvilledailynews.com/lifestyles .