As Seen at Half-Mast, Port Huron, MI

who decides to lower flags to half staff (half-mast)?

Old Glory at half-mast, plus Joe Riedy & William Horn, Kings of the Port Huron sidewalk. View on COA Instagram.

“Hot dogs will be ready in ten minutes,” William Horn, proprietor of the Carter’s Concessions cart calls out as though there were more than just the four of us standing there solving all the world’s problems.

Who sets the rules for flags at half-mast? Governors? Local officials? The ripping, snapping stars and stripes in front of the Port Huron Public Library are at 50%.

All four of us has opinions and no one has answers. All we know is that something grim happened.

Joe Riedy, a Vietnam vet and veterans affairs apostle handed out American flags on Memorial Day stamped ‘Made in China’. We agree that there’s solid ground for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the manufacture of American flags in anywhere but the US of A. Write your congressman today.

The National Guard is the only US military squadron that comes back as a unit. I lose track of Joe is saying as my mind pictures that trip home, in the only way a civilian mind can, which is largely based on summer blockbusters about war. It occurs to me that one would find peace in returning with a squadron. That even without words, the healing wouldn’t wait for the VFW hall if you can gaze at your compatriot and know immediately, that in ways people like me will never know, you will never be alone. Hot dogs will be ready in 18 seconds says William Horn. The man’s a perfectionist.

A half mile to the east and within eyeshot is the Dominion of Canada, another nation just past a shipload of iron ore, 26 thousands tons or more, making its way up the St. Clair to the lake that gave Port Huron her name.

Port Huron, MI city hall, just across from Sarnia, ON, Canada. [Half-Mast]

Port Huron city hall and Canada just beyond her. Click to follow COA on Instagram

I tell Joe I’m second-generation railroader. His father or uncle or both worked for the railroad. “Trunk?” I ask. Grand Trunk Railroad, yes sir.

Once upon a time we all worked for the railroad and once upon time we all went to war.

“Democracy is a participatory sport,” is the QOTD. Make sure to remember that quote, dummy, I told myself. Small victories.

Joe keeps telling William to raise his prices but he doesn’t listen or is too much a man-of-the-people.

And I suppose that’s the beauty of our ten minutes across from the Port Huron Public Library where the flag flies at half-mast because the unpredictable will always happen. Never did any of us paint in broad-strokes (“X people are always ____” “political party X never can yadda yadda”). We were all most-assuredly from different backgrounds and all have had to be bigger than their own biases on any number of occasions.

Once you see how the other half lives you learn that the only thing you can come close to knowing or controlling is yourself. There’s Peace in acceptance.

And at the end I was pulled aside by a Soldier of Christ, a late-comer to our sidewalk powwow. He was a veteran of a different kind of war. In his super-terrestrial war there’s only winners or losers. You’re either in or you’re out. It’s clear cut. We agreed to disagree. On what grounds, he asked me.

“Because we’re all in this together,” I told him. “And democracy is a participatory sport.”

Evidently I’m going to Hell.

If you get an opportunity to contribute to the Buddy to Buddy program veterans assistance program please do. We’re all in this together!

As Seen at the Flying J, Lake Station, IN

Things move quickly at the Lake Station Flying J. If there’s a line at the front register the Cinnabon Lady can cash you out too. She can do everything the regular cashiers can, she shouts in a way that sends a message to regular cashiers everywhere. Can you work the scale too, a trucker asks. Sure can, honey, what’s yer number?

The action is hot outside too. A lady of an age to know better seeks assistance. Well God Bless You anyways, she tells me. She moves over to two road hogs and they aren’t as friendly. The trucker in the Pink Floyd shirt shakes the other’s hand when the announcement comes over the P.A. that number 29, your shower is ready, I repeat your shower is ready.

There’s another world here that you hold your nose at if you’re not a part of it. If you don’t have to be a part of it, pardon me. But something tells me that their world is the real world in a way our world will never understand.

route 66 museum dwight il on a steamy summer day. lake station

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For more short stories from Charlie’s trips across the Heartland, check out our Enjoy the Journey archives. To never miss a new journey, follow Cult of Americana via email.