Monday, friend Tom will be in Boston helping the Commonwealth of Massachusetts celebrate its very own holiday, Patriots Day, by running until he is a bundle of wet rags.
Yes, Tom is running the marathon. It’s 26.2 miles of misery. Or if you’re our age, 56, insanity. This year’s misery is particularly poignant for Tom and 35,999 of his closest marathon-running friends, for it is the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
Since the bombing, Massachusetts has flexed its muscles of resilience. It has rallied around the slogan “Boston Strong.”
All America has rallied in Boston’s defense, Oregon included, even our rare New York Yankees fans. And now Oregon needs to follow the Massachusetts miracle of actually having a state-sanctioned holiday and perhaps even celebrating with its own Left Coast-style holiday marathon.
No, I am not clamoring in personal interest. Many of us will probably have to work on that Monday to contribute to the Gross National Product and all that. Still, it’s an idea whose time has come.
Oregon’s holiday could be called Pioneer Day in honor of our state’s pioneers, past, present and future.
The day would especially honor those brave souls who traveled the Oregon Trail, passing through what would become La Grande, and made the state safe for convenience stores and big box outlets. The pioneers’ trek from Missouri was epic. And that’s true even though they had no hashtags or smart phones in their covered wagons.
Think Oregon strong. Our forefathers who came from Missouri in covered wagons braved everything that makes Weather Channel reporters salivate. Tornados. Oppressive humidity. Hail. Wind that could knock the freckles off the face of a button-nosed pioneer kid.
Just to survive, these hardy souls had to do everything short of kitchen table gall bladder operations. The pioneers could fix wagons. Play veterinarian for horses and oxen. Shoot and butcher deer and rabbits. Catch trout. Sleep on a bed of rocks and convince the wife that camping out was fun.
These were tough souls, but it wasn’t all work. Pioneers also knew how to kick up their heels to fiddle tunes around a campfire when at last their 12-mile journey for the day was complete, with no convenience store in sight to buy camouflage baseball caps or fist-sized apple pies.
Even today, driving 70 mph on the interstate, or 80 mph in Idaho, travelers who make the trip from Missouri to Oregon feel it is a monumental task. And that’s in a climate-controlled car with cruise control and classic tunes often younger than you are on the radio.
People are still drawn to Oregon today for its rain, mud and extraordinary beauty. Pioneer Day, if enacted, would honor the renowned spirit for leading the nation. Think Beach Bill. Bottle Bill. Land-use planning. Marionberries.
Pioneer Day would also be an inspiration for taking that pioneer spirit into the future as we bottle and sell the vaunted Oregon quality of life.
Oregon strong has a long and storied heritage. Having a holiday that is all our own to celebrate all that makes Oregon unique seems overdue.