Dashboard confidential
A Fourth of July ramble

By Dave Sweetman, contributing columnist

Tourists save their lunch money for most of the year to try and catch a glimpse of the America that we, as drivers, get to see every day. Granted, we may not get to stay in five-star resorts, but we still have a great deal to see and take in. This time of year, summer months can lull even a seasoned driver into just another boring trip, if you let it.

Highways clogged with campers and tourists in no hurry to see the world’s largest concrete prairie dog or ball of twine always seem to be in the way. It’s not my highway and I share it with everyone. But, if your luck is like mine, I seem to get stuck behind the 20 mph tourist in the 11-mile-long one-lane construction zone in Kansas. Sometimes that slow crawl is an opportunity to reflect. Recently, while doing just that, my mind rolled back to another trip from the West Coast through south Texas and up to Chicago.

Because of the July Fourth holiday weekend and rough weather up ahead, there was no real hurry. Choosing to ignore Rand McNally and my GPS choice of most direct route, I instead chose a more interesting route from Sweetwater, Texas, that proved a better way to go.

U.S. Highway 380 connects you to the appropriately named town of Old Glory. Check your atlas, I’m not making this up. An easy stroll and a left turn onto

FM 707 weaves and bobs through miles of cotton fields and prairie.

Mindful of the sights and local scenery that put a refreshing spin on a trip I had done many times before, I rolled along with the windows down, CB radio and phone turned off, enjoying the smell of fresh mowed hay on a cool summer morning.

Entering the town of Haskell, Texas, every driveway, mailbox and front yard displayed the American flag. On both sides of the road as far as you could see, the stars and stripes decorated storefronts, roadside farms, and produce stands. One with a wide, safe pull-off gained me a melon for the fridge and a basket of the sweetest tomatoes you could want.

Up ahead, easing into the town of Goree, Texas, I dropped back under the posted 25 mph speed limit and admired the picture-perfect homes, all of which also displayed the American flag. Off to my right in the front yard was a little girl of about 8 or 9 dressed in her finest. I imagined she was about to head to Grandma’s for a family picnic, but this little Miss was waving a very large American flag and blowing kisses at passing traffic. My first thought was that if Uncle Sam had a granddaughter, surely she lives in Goree, Texas.

About then something must have happened to my air conditioner as my eyes became watery and a warm feeling rushed over me. This was one of the purest moments, a living example of the meaning of our Independence Day celebration, and it was handed to me on a silver platter. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. I can still see her as if it were a photograph.

So for all of our tight schedules and hustle to make our deliveries, take pause, drivers. Give thought, a silent prayer even, to those gone before us, to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedoms.

As many of America’s drivers are veterans and many veterans are drivers, it is easy for us to see many of those freedoms and the America many of our 9-to-5 neighbors take for granted. While barbecues and holiday trips to the lake are important for those lucky enough to be home, my perspective is a bit different.

For this driver, the true meaning of Independence Day lies with that little girl who stands by the roadside, waving Old Glory, blowing invisible kisses with all the passion she can muster.

For the relative who went off to World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the Middle East. For the father, son, brother, sister or daughter who never came home. Little Missy’s flag waves for you.

God bless America. LL