LASTFRONTIER-GEOGRAPHY

JIM HARRIS

What Geography Says About Our Coming Conflicts and Fate

            Because I have become intoxicated with land and water, the smell, look, and sounds of the natural world, I have developed a hunger for the subject of geography.  I love to look at geographic maps to see what they might tell me about where in the world I am.

            Five or six years ago, I bought two new books that I read quickly and casually, without much regard for making their subject matter a part of my mental library.  In a couple of columns, I wrote just a few words about the books.

            However, during the holiday season while recuperating from surgery, I decided to reread both books.

            The first book is “On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks” by Simon Garfield.

            The second book–a considerable portion of which focuses on the American Southwest–is “The Revenge of Geography:  What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate” by Robert D. Kaplan.  

            I enjoyed both of these books, but Kaplan’s work is both fascinating and just about as exciting as the long title sounds.  Thus, for this edition of The Last Frontier, I will share a few of his ideas. 

            Geography is a description of the earth, and Kaplan believes that a country’s geographic place can tell us much about that country’s politics, economics, and culture in the present and in the future.

            Kaplan is NOT a geographic determinist, one who believes that the fate of a country or a people is entirely determined by where he or she lives, but by studying history, geography, and demographics, it is not difficult, he writes, to conclude “that geography is vitally important.”

            Here is the first sentence in the final paragraph of the book’s preface:

            “As political upheavals accumulate and the world becomes seemingly more unmanageable, with incessant questions as to how the United States and its allies should respond, geography offers a way to make at least some sense of it all.”

            Kaplan believes that the areas of the world that pose the largest threats to the continued power and safety of America are Eurasia (which includes the Middle East); China; and Mexico-Central America.

            Readers of the brief essay may already be surmising that Kaplan’s 2012 book sounds like a modern narrative, like it was written for a 2018 or 2019 audience.

            How long has America been sending soldiers to Iraq and to Afghanistan?

            And now President Trump has sent troops to South Texas along the Rio Grande border with Mexico?

            In his long concluding chapter of “The Revenge of Geography,” Kaplan examines the transformations taking place in the lives of those individuals living in northern Mexico and in the Southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

            In other words, he is writing about you and me and our neighbors on both sides of the international border that divides America and Mexico.

            Kaplan believes the geography of our region has always been a huge factor in the lives of those who live here.  He also says that “we delude ourselves in believing that we are completely in control of our destinies…” but that “the more we are aware of our limits, the more power we have to affect outcomes within them.”

            In addition, he believes, “Geography, climate, population determine communications, economy, political 

organization.”

            Furthermore, he thinks that while we have been fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “a massive state failure was developing right on America’s southern border, with far more profound implications for the near and distant future of America, its society, and American power than anything occurring half a world away. What have we achieved in the Middle East with all of our interventions since the 1980s?….Why not fix Mexico instead? How we might have prospered had we put all that money, expertise, and innovations that went into Iraq and Afghanistan into Mexico.”

            Looking for historical parallels to what is happening in the American Southwest and northern Mexico, Kaplan finds many that tell what might happen here.

            Similar situations to that found in the Southwest can be found in Ming China in 1449; in medieval Venice, Italy; in the Indian Mutiny against Britain in 1857-58; in the Battle of Syracuse in 413 B.C.; and in the decline of the Roman Empire over several centuries before and after the time of Christ.

            In “A Study of History,” (1957) historian of the rise and fall of Rome, Arnold Toynbee writes the following about countries, including the Roman Empire, who confronted conditions like those in the American Southwest:

            “The erection of a limes(a boundary or wall) sets in motion a play of social forces which is bound to end disastrously for the builders.  A policy of non-intercourse with the barbarians beyond is quite impracticable.  Whatever the imperial government may decide, the interests of traders, pioneers, adventurers, and so forth will inevitably draw them beyond the frontier.” 

            Near the end of “The Revenge of Geography,” here is Kaplan on the region of America that is our Southwestern home:

            “The quality and fluidity of this cultural and bi-national (the US and Mexico) interaction will, arguably, more than any other individual dynamic, determine how well American interacts with…(Eurasia and Africa).  American foreign policy will likely be both wise and unwise by turns in the course of the decades.  But American economic power, cultural power, moral power, and even political and military power will be substantially affected by whether we can develop into a cohesive, bilingual supra-state-of-sorts with Mexico and Canada or, instead, become trapped by a dysfunctional, vast, and increasingly unruly border region that engenders civilization tension between America’s still dominant Anglo-Protestant culture and its Hispanic counterpart….

            “Thus, if the United States and Mexico do not eventually come together to the degree that the U.S. and Canada already have—if we do not have Mexico as an intimate and dependable ally in world forums—it will adversely affect America’s other relationships, especially as Mexico’s (and Central America’s) population grows at a much higher rate than ours, and thus Mexico will assume more importance as time goes on.”

            To conclude, while writing this Last Frontier, I’ve been wondering if I were starting over as a freshman in college, would I choose geography as a major?   

            And speaking to the many conflicts in which America finds itself in the early years of the 21stcentury, here are the final seven words in Kapland’s “The Revenge of Geography”:

            “A world balanced is a world free.”

CUTLINE

Students of history can learn much from studying a geographic map of the natural and artificial boundaries in northern Mexico and the American Southwest. 

HistNote862—Colombia

Jim Harris

Seven Days in Colombia, A Beautiful Land With Beautiful People and A Rich History

      All of my life has been filled with good luck, and just a couple of weeks ago I had the extremely good fortune to spend seven days in Colombia.

      That’s the country of Colombia in South America.

      My invigorating and enjoyable days in Colombia turned out to be one of the great journeys in a life of many trips and passings, even though my wife Mary was not able to accompany me.

      The trip to Colombia was long in the making, but it took place on the spur of the moment.  My late Hobbs friend Henry DeVilliers and I had talked about visiting Colombia for a couple of decades.

      Henry’s wife Maria and several of their children were born in Colombia.  He taught school there, and after we met at New Mexico Junior College and became good buddies, we talked many times about him giving me a tour of the country that had become a major part of his life.

      We never made the trip to Bogota or the small mountain town of Fusagasuga where Maria’s family lived, but just a few months ago when my son was married in Lovington, Henry’s son Henry Junior came to the wedding.  Junior, who has a home and businesses in Colombia, and I started talking about him giving me the tour that his father and I never made.

      Then in a conversation Junior and I had last month, we both decided it was time that I finally made the trip.

      It became the tour Junior’s father and I never took because of my friend’s untimely, accidental death. In some ways it was a tribute tour to our friendship and a memorial to my grand amigo. 

      Colombia is a magnificent country because of its beautiful land, its stunning people, and its rich history.

      This is a nation named for the traveling and adventurous man who first brought to the attention of Europeans and the rest of the world the two continents that would be named the Americas, that is North America and South America, as they are called today.

      Colombia is located in the northwestern corner of South America.  Clockwise around its borders are Panama, the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and the Pacific Ocean.

      It contains three branches of the Andes Mountains within its borders. The Andes run north and south down the western side of the continent.

      Colombia has a variety of topographies.  In addition to the mountains, it has coastal land, tropical rain forests, and a plains region called “El Llano.”

      Colombia’s borders form a diamond with four points.  Those boundaries have been shaped by geographic configurations, such as rivers and mountains, and by political and social conflicts and agreements with its surrounding neighbors.

      Most Americans are aware of Colombia because of the production and distribution of drugs found from within its borders.  In addition, Colombia has been in a civil war with guerrilla rebels.  Fortunately, with the ending of that conflict, peace has come to the country, and the hopes for prosperity and a better life for its people are much greater than they were a few years ago.

      The rebel forces, FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have laid down their weapons, a not insignificant factor in my decision to visit Colombia.

      I traveled on United Airlines from Hobbs to Houston, then on to Bogota.  That morning I woke up in Lea County and the night I went to sleep in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota.  That night in the big city, I dreamed about what a small world we live in.

      I spent the one night in Bogota, and the next morning I visited several museums and walked the up-and-down streets of a city located high in the mountains.  Bogota has a beautiful central plaza that contains a presidential palace, their White House, and a beautiful Catholic Church.  The city has nine million residents.

      From Bogota I traveled south and west to the much smaller town of Fusagasuga which has around 100,000 residents.  Also located in the mountains, the town of Fusa has a beautiful church on its central plaza. I happened to arrive there on Good Friday, and the town had several processions that took place in celebration of Easter.

      I spent several days and three nights in Fusa visiting historic sites and meeting many individuals who are friends and relatives of Henry Junior.

      With Junior and a man who works for him, Diego Sanchez, and Diego’s fiancé, we traveled back to Bogota and rode a bus for over seven hours during the night to arrive at a small town at the edge of the Amazonia jungle.

      We stayed two days in Guaviare, located on a huge river, the Rio Guaviare.  One of those days we drove a few miles into the jungle to visit the village of a native tribe.

      On other trips out from Guaviare we visited a beautiful and smaller river, which contains several pools in which resident swim in relief from the heat and humidity and heat of the jungle.

      From Guaviare, we traveled six hours north to a resort city, which serves as a portal to the plains of Colombia.  Villavicencio is located six hours to the east and over a mountain range from Bogota. We stayed a night in the Hotel del Llano, a beautiful hotel in the middle of the city where we ate Peruvian food and traditional food from the plains.

      On the fertile and lush Colombian plains fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance—including, corn, peppers, pineapples, oranges, rice, and grapes.  The plains are also home to cowboys and ranchers who raise massive herds of Brahma cattle.  I ate a considerable amount of beef on this trip.

      From Villavicencio, I traveled back over the Andes, with peaks over 13,000 feet to spend one more night in Bogota.  Early the next morning, a Thursday, I flew from Bogota to Houston and then back to Hobbs.

      I will remember my trip to Colombia for the rest of my life.  It was a moving experience because of the land, the people, and the history of the country I learned by visiting museums and talking with its residents.

      There will be future History Notebook columns about what I saw and what I learned in Colombia.  

      The history of Colombia is tied closely to the history of America, and Colombian history speaks to Southwestern and Lea County history.

HistNote871-IndianWarriors

Jim Harris

Indian Military & Their Leaders

            The movies I watched as a kid and enjoyed the most were “cowboy and Indian” films, and hearing or reading the names of the actors who played the cowboy protagonists or the names of the characters they played makes me have visual reveries of some of the great moments of entertainment in my life.

            They were Wild Bill Elliot, Bob Livingston, Bob Steele, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Buster Crabbe, Smiley Bernette, Gabby Hayes, Gene Autry, Tim McCoy, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Lash LaRue, Poncho (The Cisco Kid’s sidekick), Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, Johnny Mack Brown, Randolph Scott, Rex Allen, Rory Calhoun, Red Ryder, and Alan Ladd.

            I saw a lot of movies even before I was in high school and really got addicted to motion pictures.

            I might have had trouble remembering all of those cowboy names if it had not been for the internet and Google, but the names trigger, if you will pardon the word, a flood of scenes and stories I first saw in the Crest Theater, and several others in the South Dallas of my youth.

            So these types of movies were called “cowboy and Indian” moving pictures.

            All of the protagonists I’ve listed are cowboys. What about the Indian parts?

            Well, for one thing, none of the Indian actors played “starring” parts.  They were at best sidekicks to the stars.  The one I remember most vividly was “Tonto,” played by Jay Silverheels. Tonto was the companion of  The Lone Ranger.  He was the faithful and quiet Indian.

            Most of the Indians in the cowboy and Indian movies were not faithful to the white people moving into the Indian territory on the plains, the Southwest, or the far West.  And they certainly were not quiet.

            Usually the Indians were screaming as they raided and scalped ranchers, farmers, miners, settlers, or whoever happened to get near members of such tribes as the Cheyenne, Souix, Lakota, or Apache.

            And the raiding Indians usually died by the dozens as they circled covered wagons or stole herds of horses.

            It won’t surprise many readers of this History Notebook that the Indian raiders were actually very good fighters and that many tribes operated very effective military machines.

            In general, Indian military operations were conducted more in guerrilla fashion than like the various United States military troops, whose battle plans were usually based on European models.

            And the cowboy and Indian movies I watched never showed an Indian general or chief off to the side of a battle directing his warriors in the combat theater.

            However, there were many great military leaders in the dozens of Native American tribes.  I will mention just four of those in this brief essay:  Wolf Robe, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas, and Sitting Bull.

            Not as well known as the other three chiefs, Wolf Robe was a Southern Cheyenne, a tribe whose plains territory extended all the way to Oklahoma, also known as Indian Territory.

            Oklahoma is where Wolf Robe died in 1910.  Oklahoma is the burial ground for many well-known Indians since many of the tribes were placed on reservations in the state. Wolf Robe was born around 1840, and he was a chief during the era of reservation establishment following the Civil War.

            After serving as the chief of a formidable Cheyenne fighting force, he was responsible for helping to relocate his people without the bloodbaths that many tribes experienced.  After decades of military successes against Arapaho, Blackfeet, and Pawnee, Wolf Robe saw that the white Americans would slaughter his people if they did not surrender to the reservations of Oklahoma.

            Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas were both Apache war chiefs who became famous historical figures for their fighting prowess.  Both of them lived and fought in the southwestern corner of New Mexico and the southeastern corner of Arizona, and both thought of northern Mexico as part of their tribal territory.

            Mangas was tortured and murdered when he came in peace with a white flag to talk to US military leaders in what is now the Gila Wilderness in southwestern Colorado.

            Geronimo is probably the Native American who has most been a character in American fiction and film.  A great leader of his people and a fierce fighter, he died in Oklahoma in 1909 following a fall from a horse and a January night spent on the ground in very cold weather.

            In 1993 director Walter Hill made an excellent movie about Geronimo.  Titled “Geronimo: An American Legend,” it starred New Mexico actor Wes Studi as Geronimo and included several fine actors, including Jason Patric, Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, and Matt Damon.

            I think of this as a great cowboy and Indian movie. Maybe it should be called an “Indian and Cowboy” film.  Or take out the cowboy and put in “cavalry soldier.”  It is a far cry from the types of cowboy and Indian movies I watched as a kid.

            The final war chief in this short essay is also one of America’s most famous Indian leaders.

            Sitting Bull, like Geronimo, became the subject of dozens of books and films.  He was a war chief and a civil chief and a medicine man.  Some weeks before the battle of Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull had a vision of American cavalry soldiers dying in a huge battle in which Indians were victorious.

            It was Northern Cheyenne warriors who defeated George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876.  Those Indians had been influenced by Sitting Bull’s prophesy of dominant tribal victories that would turn the tide of white people taking Indian lands on the plains and across the continent. 

            Sitting Bull was killed by US Indian Agency policemen when they attempted to arrest him on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota on Dec. 15, 1890.  He was 58 or 59 years old.

            The reality of Native American life in the 19thcentury wasn’t like the Indian life depicted in the movies I saw as a child and a teen.

            Today watching those movies from the  nineteen thirties, forties, and fifties, those starring Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger, I see individuals and their biographies much differently than I did decades ago.

            That is particularly true of the native characters in the “cowboy and Indian” films.

            I still enjoy watching what we now call “westerns,” but I see them with thoughts of wanting to know more about the realities of the fictions that were so entertaining and instructive.

History Notebook 884

By Jim Harris

Pioneer Roll Call: 

Families of Early Lovington

            In his Lovington centennial book, “Lovington: Survivor on the High Plains,” Lea County historian Gil Hinshaw gave an enjoyable and informative present to residents with a listing of 43 pioneer men and women involved in the development of the town.

            In the last 24 pages of the book, in what he called a Biographical Supplement,” Hinshaw wrote several sentences about each of the individuals he thought of as being the most influential in helping to make the county seat the contemporary and modern place it is in the 21stcentury.

            As Lea County and Lovington continue to grow and develop economically with the latest oil and gas boom, this is a good time to remember those individuals of a century ago, or for some readers to hear new old names of those who came before.

            Today seems more like a universe away from the frontier era a century ago in Lea.  The remainder of this History Notebook column will very briefly remind and inform readers of early residents Hinshaw wrote about.

            J.S. “Jim” Anderson and an extended family of many settled in 1906 four miles east of Lovington to farm and ranch.

            John Turner Beal (1848-1916) moved from Milam County, Texas, to settle first at Ranger Lake before he moved closer to Lovington where he was a cowboy and freighter.

            William Madison “Uncle Billy” Beauchamp was the “epitome of the public servant,” according to Hinshaw.  Beauchamp came to Lovington in 1914 and died here in 1982.

            Robert “Bob” Beverly (1872-1958) was a cowboy, rancher, peace officer who worked in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  He was a Lea County Sheriff.

            Tom Bingham was a Deputy Sheriff in Lea who was a cowboy and rancher who died in 1944.

            Ernest Byers (1882-1966) lived most of his very productive and serving life in Lovington, but his family first settled next door to the Hobbs family, having moved from Kansas to Southeast New Mexico in 1907.

            Samuel L. Theodore “I” Burk worked as a cowboy on many ranches in Texas before he came to Lovington in 1909.  He passed away in 1968.

            Mary Lou Graham Carson was a beloved school teacher and a pioneer in Lovington schools.  She passed away in 1995 at the age of 92.

            Powhattan Carter (1886-1974) was a Lovington businessman and pioneer in the oil and gas industry.

            J. W. Caudill claimed land in both West Texas and Eastern New Mexico as he helped develop both Seminole and Lovington as a successful businessman and rancher with many of his family in Lea.  He died in 1959 in Hatch, New Mexico.

            George Causey (1849-1903) was a buffalo hunter and rancher who built the first ranch headquarters and windmills on land that would become Lea County 14 years after his death.

            Gordon Cone was a prominent Lovington oil man and businessman.  He died in 1975.

            Claude L. Creighton owned and operated many of Lovington’s first businesses, an electric company and a furniture store.  He moved to town in 1909 from Palo Pinto County, Texas.

            Baxter Culp (1882-1941) was a successful Lea rancher who moved to New Mexico Territory before Lovington was founded.

            Frank Jack Danglade (1898-1957) was a successful land man and oil man who became a New Mexico State Senator before his death.

            Arthur Dearduff (1878-1946) was the county’s first doctor, a man who practiced and lived in several Lea towns, including Lovington.

            Pascal S. “Sim” Eaves was a member of the New Mexico House of Representative, a successful businessman, and a man instrumental in Lea becoming a county.

            Sarah K. Ellis (1884-1945) was Lea’s first superintendent of Lea County schools.

            Charles Fairweather, an Englishman who became a New Mexico cowboy, owned ranches and hotels, including the 1918 Commercial Hotel. Born in 1871, he died in 1945, and only last week his son Sparky was buried in Lovington.

            Troy Fort was one of the county’s greatest rodeo cowboys and a rancher who lived north of Lovington.  He died in 1993 at the age of 76.

            John D. Graham first came to Lea County as a rancher in the 1890s.  He was also a businessman and one of the owners of Lovington’s 1918 Commercial Hotel.

            E.L. “Lem” Harbison was a pioneer farmer who settled near Prairieview in 1909.

            Jefferson D. Hart (1864-1948) was a business and civic leader who was vice president of the First Territorial Bank and the Lovington School Board.

            Allen Clinton Heard was also a successful businessman and rancher, the owner east of Lovington of the Mallet Ranch, which became the High Lonesome Ranch.  He died in 1944.

            Mettie L. Jordan (1904-2001) was a teacher and historian of Lea County schools, publishing in 1991 a book detailing the stories of all the schools that appeared in Lea County in the first decades of the 20thcentury.

            I.W. Lister was the owner and operator of Lea’s first pharmacy when he came to Lovington in 1917 and opened Lister Drugs.  He built several still-standing structures, including the 1931 Lister Building, on the south side of the courthouse.

            James “Jim” Benjamin Love was one of the two Love brothers who in 1908 lived and worked in the town named for the family.

            Robert Florence Love was the older of the two brothers, a man who served the community he built in a number of positions, including as a state representative and as a county sheriff.  He died in 1943, his brother Jim dying two years later.

            Georgia Lusk (1893-1971) was the first woman from New Mexico to serve in the US House of Representatives.  A superintendent of county and state schools, she was the wife of rancher and businessman Dolph Lusk, and then the successful owner and operator of the ranch after his death.

            Wesley McCallister (1878-1940) was an affluent businessman and one of the men who helped the Love family develop the town of Lovington.

            Jake McClure (1900-1942) was a champion rodeo cowboy who died in an accident while practicing roping on his ranch outside of Lovington.

            Henry Clay McGonagill (1879-1921) was thought of as the best of the rodeo cowboys during his life, and he also died in a riding accident.

            Matthew Hawkins “Hawk” Medlin moved to Southeast New Mexico with his family in 1885 when he was only 4 years old.  He owned several ranches and died in 1952.

            H. C. Pannell (1905-1976) was the superintendent of Lovington Schools and the first president at New Mexico Junior College.

            Eugene H. Price was a rancher who in several writings and maps recalled the story of ranching in this corner of New Mexico before the 20thcentury.  He died in 1952.

            Henry Record was an extremely successful rancher in the hard sandy country south of Monument.  A difficult-to-work-for boss, he was generous with his wealth following his death in 1962.

            Luke Roberts was a businessman and civic leader who owned the Lovington Leader.  He passed away in 1942.

            Tom Ross may be the county’s most famous outlaw, a man who robbed banks and killed more than one man.  He killed himself when cornered by lawmen in Montana in 1929.

            A cowboy and a camp cook who worked on many ranches, Alfred “Allie” Green Rushing owned and operated the Caprock Store when he died in 1953.

            Rancher Matthew Elmore “Math” Sewalt (1876-1918) was born in Fluvanna, Texas, and died in Kansas City from the pandemic of flu that killed millions worldwide.  He was one of the men who built the 1918 Commercial Hotel, and he built a house at Jefferson and Love.  It also belongs to the Lea County Museum.

            Frank G. Teague (1873-1970) was a blacksmith and wheelwright in both Knowles and Lovington.  He was a key figure in turning the frontier land into the modern communities for thousands of people.

            John Thomas “T-Bar” White (1868-1926) and Allen Heard created the High Lonesome Ranch east of Lovington.

            Ethel Rose Yadon (1891-1984) was another of the most important teachers in the frontier communities of Lea County.  Loved by her students, she had an enormous influence on the quality of life for thousands of her students and adults who were her neighbors.

            To conclude, families transform geographic spaces into communities, and probably everyone of these individuals in this biographical list would say if they were here today, “It is not just the individuals, but the families who should be thought of as the makers of Lea County history.

            We should be reading of the Bingham family and not just Tom; of the Graham family and not just John D.; of the Lister family and not just I.W.; and of the Medlin family and not just of Hawk.

Last Frontier 296

By Jim Harris

In the House of Being:

Heidegger, Willie Nelson, and Time

            I first read the German philosopher Martin Heidegger in an introduction to philosophy course at Stephen F. Austin State University in the early 1960s.  A young reader who was energized by the novels of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, Heidegger’s books and essays seemed long and boring to me.

            I first became aware of the country songs of Willie Nelson in the same decade.  A listener who believed the Modern Jazz Quartet and Miles Davis made the coolest music, I thought Willie Nelson sang cornball country and was a hick from the sticks.

            Now half a century later and feeling like a hick, I’m reading with pleasure Heidegger’s major book, “Being and Time” published in 1927, and I’m listening with pleasure to Willie’s “Come On Time,” released in June of this year on his album “Ride Me Back Home.”

            So both of these writers, Heidegger and Nelson, are interested in the subject of “time”, and these days so am I, just as I continue to enjoy reading about writers who are philosophers and popular music singers.

            Heidegger, born in 1889, and Willie, who turned 86 last April, are of course of different generations, Heidegger dying in 1976 just after Willie moved to Austin to establish with a few of his friends what became known as “outlaw country,” a genre of country music I decided was pretty cool.

            The way things are going with Willie, with new songs written and new albums released regularly, he may never die.

            Heidegger’s massive book “Being and Time” is a work that explores how the subject of “being” has been defined in philosophy, saying that the subject has not been explored much by thinkers since the time of Aristotle.  He believes philosophy, for the last two thousands years, has been more about individual beings rather than the abstract subject of being, and back in the 1920s he wanted to revive interest in discussing the importance of that subject.

            In his song “Come on Time,” Willie says a lot about time in just four short stanzas and 28 lines.  Here is the first stanza, with slash marks indicating the end of lines:

            “Time is my friend, my friend / The more I reject it the more that it kicks in / Just enough to keep me on my toes / I say come on time, I’ve beat you before / Come on time, what have you got for me this time? / I’ll take your words of wisdom and I’ll try to make them rhyme / Hey it’s just me and you again / Come on time.”

            Willie takes a mano-a-mano approach to his subject that he calls a friend who is in a boxing match where they are standing toe to toe and are ready for a slugfest. 

            Although I do not know it for sure, Heidegger probably never heard of Willie Nelson, but I am sure he would like what Willie has done in his song that reads like a poem. Heidegger liked what artists, novelists, and poets do with language.  In fact, here is probably the most famous three sentences from all of his writings:

            “Language is the house of Being.  In its home man dwells.  Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home.”

            Heidegger believes that the subject of Being (he likes to capitalize it to distinguish it from everyday beings) exists only because humans have language.  Without language, there is no thought.

            Heidegger thought so much of poets (his word for all writers of literature), he delivered a lecture on the subject on “What are Poets For” in 1926 and published it as an article in 1937.  In he writes, “If Being is what is unique to beings, by what can Being still be surpassed? Only by itself, only by its own, and indeed by expressly entering into its own.”

            And near the end of his essay on poets, he writes, “Song is existence.”

            That’s something that Willie has written and said for as long as I have listened to him sing the songs he has written.  Just can’t wait to get on the road again to sing with my friends, he says.  This is my existence.

            So the two of them share much, especially when it comes to the subject of time.

            After his albums titled “Stardust” in 1978, “Poncho and Lefty” in 1983, and “Teatro” in 1998, this new album “Ride Me Back Home” is my favorite of his collections.  “And written when he is 86 years old?” you are asking.

            Rolling Stone magazine did an article about him back in April, a few days before his birthday. Of the new album  Rolling Stone writer Patrick Doyle says the title song “isa heartbreaking tribute to horses who have seen better days (‘Now they don’t need you/There’s no one to feed you/There’s fences where you used to roam/I wish I could gather up all of your brothers and you would just ride me back home.’ “

            “The subject is close to Nelson’s heart: He has more than 60 rescue horses on his property outside Austin, Texas, which he calls Luck — one of his favorite things to do is walk across his driveway to his fence and watch them approach him, one by one. ‘I’ve bought a lot of horses that were gonna be slaughtered,’ Nelson said. When he heard Sonny Throckmorton’s song, he was floored: ‘It’s a good story,’ Nelson says. ‘I heard it and I said it fits exactlythesame thing I’m doing. It just seemed natural.’ ”

            Several of the songs on the album deal with the subject of time.  In addition to the title song and “Come on Time,” there are “My Favorite Picture of You” and “Seven Year Itch.”

            There are many ways to define both time and being.  Time may refer simply to the present era, as in “We are not here for a long time; we are here for a good time.”

            The word being, with a cap B or in lower case, can also mean many things. So to conclude, here again from his poets essay is Heidegger:

            “Not only is man by nature more daring than plant and beast.  Man is at times more daring even ‘than Life itself is.’ Life here means being in their Being: Nature.  Man is at times more venturesome than the venture, more fully (abundantly) being than the Being of beings.”

            That last sentence may send some readers to the bookstore to purchase a Heidegger work. 

            Then again, it may urge other readers to an early cocktail hour.