July 4, 2012 by John Myers
On a hot June afternoon in 1998 in
Today, I have that pledge framed and hanging on my office wall. It reads in part:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic…
I felt a lot of emotions that day. I had become a citizen of the greatest Nation on Earth. Yet in some ways I didn’t feel much different, no doubt because of my paternal roots.
I remember leaving my small country school to attend the biggest high school in
I remember the dinnertime stories my father would tell about his father Amil and his grandfather, Gustov, a bearded German who spoke English with a harsh accent.
Amil was all of 9 and had just become a naturalized citizen a few weeks before
he and his father embarked on one of the greatest American adventures ever: the
Those Unassigned Lands were considered some of the best unoccupied public land
My American heritage is hardly blue-blooded; but as much as any group, the people of that time put down stakes for a Nation that would dominate the world in just 50 years.
Stubborn Men And Beasts
An estimated 50,000 people lined up for their share of the land. The race began at high noon on April 22, 1889, when starting signals were given at the points of entry.
Gustov and Amil Myers were among the settlers in a hastily built wagon box that was pulled by an aged gelding and a mean mule.
Everything they owned was in that wood-and-iron wagon, and everything they dreamed lay in front of them.
It was a dash the moment the gunshot echoed across the prairie. Gustov’s mixed-team raced the first half mile. The horse was breathing hard and the mule would not run any farther than she had to.
Those behind were on bicycles or on foot. My grandfather remembered one man carrying four wooden stakes tied to his belt loops, but no hammer. Those ahead were disappearing on the horizon; the richest land would be theirs.
Gustov and Amil were under a 72-hour-deadline to stake their claim; they made it in less than half that time. The family would go on to farm and ranch off this land and would be part of the greatest population expansion ever.
A decade later, Amil was a young man. He staked another claim, this one on the
rich homestead land offered in
The Leftover Legacy
I marvel at the things my grandfather and father did. My dad was born into a 12-by-12 foot shack on the cold Canadian prairie 100 years ago. At age 6, he rode a pony eight miles to school and back. My uncle, Amil’s youngest son, now age 84, sold the final quarter section of the homestead last month.
The descendants of the man who as a boy was part of the Oklahoma land run have
gone on to be lawyers, dentists, teachers and writers. Whatever our
accomplishments, they pale in comparison to those of our ancestors who pioneered
I can recall the asthma attacks I had as a child. May dad would say that if I were of his generation, I would not be alive. It was true. Perhaps because the challenges we once faced no longer exist, there is a great deal that we Americans no longer dare.
There is a lesson in this as we pick the next President of the