Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ramblin' With the Fam

Egypt has the pyramids. China has the great wall. Mitchell South Dakota has the Corn Palace.

I’m not sure why South Dakota’s tribute to Midwestern agriculture consistently makes my top ten list of wonders of the modern world, but it does, and I think this fact has as much to do with extraneous factors as it does to the fact that it’s a large building covered with corn.

Every year, thousands of families make the pilgrimage to South Dakota to find a bit of Americana in the form of a drug store famous for handing out ice water, a mountain displaying the likenesses of several presidents, and a building covered in corn. I beheld the wonders during a dusty summer road trip when I was about eight, and neither the Great Wall, nor the Eiffel Tower, nor any other wonders have ever displaced them in my memory.

There’s a marvelous sense of exploration inherent in travel when you’re a kid. The destinations don’t have to be exotic, and they don’t have to distant to incite wonder; all they need to be is a little new, and a little different. Along with the memories of great vistas and interesting locales that road-tripping with my parents gave me, one of the most enduring legacies of those travels is the sense of curiosity it fostered, and the spirit of following curiosity wherever it leads.

With the cost of travel increasing this year, a lot of folks are choosing to stay closer to home, and it’s a great opportunity to go poking around places that you may have passed by and wondered about over the years. Show your kids what fun can be had being tourists in your own region, state, or town.

There’s an American flag that flies over a cemetery in my town, above the grave of an army veteran named Nathanial Ames. The fact that Ames, a veteran, is buried in the cemetery is not unusual; what is unusual is that the general he served under was George Washington. Ames is one of a small number of Revolutionary War veterans buried in Wisconsin, a place that achieved statehood in 1848, roughly seventy years after Ames fought with the Continental Army under the future president. When I discovered Ames’ grave as a boy, it put me on a quest to find out how in the world a Revolutionary War vet ended up here, and along the way, I ended up discovering the story of my own town.

Curiosity fuels education, and the more combustion it produces, the further the wheels in your student’s head are going to carry them! Curiosity developed in childhood is a lifetime asset.

1 comment:

Barb said...

My crazy parents drove my sister and me all over the southern and western US and part of Canada when we were growing up, most often camping along the way. I have memories that include my Dad drinking coffee from the same grounds in the same cut-open beer can the entire trip; my little sister breaking out in poison oak just as we arrived in San Francisco (thanx to day camp back home); standing in the snow with one foot on either side of the Continental Divide; canoeing Lake Louise with its white, glacial water; driving thru the Great Salt Desert with 7 people, all our camping gear and a DOG in a station wagon with NO air conditioning! And more. I also have more recent memories of cheese factories, sword makers, awesome bakeries, and historic sites within an hour of where we live now. Unforgettable stuff--excellent essay, Dr Groth!