Archive for July, 2012

“Change the name of Arkansas! H____, no!”
—Anonymous Arkansas Folk Tale

In this third post of Arkansiana, which I wrote back in 1981 as part of a proposal for a newspaper column by that title, I describe a famous (or infamous) bit of Arkansas folklore—a fictitious political speech against changing the name of Arkansas.

As noted by James Masterson in his book Arkansas Folklore (Rose, 1974), since the “original” version was known for its “unprintable profanity and obscenity” (p. 184), I chose to present a combination of two “sanitized” versions: one which uses the “Arkansaw” spelling, and the other which uses the “Arkansas” spelling.

However, even these versions contain several curse words that I tried to delete or abbreviate without altering either the “flowery” literary style or the gross humor of the piece which is now a recognized part of Arkansas folklore and perhaps a contributor to Arkansas’ reputation as a habitat for uncouth and uncivilized riffraff. (This unsavory reputation, whether deserved or not, will be addressed in the final post on Arkansiana to follow next week.)

Now let’s examine my essay about it that I wrote so long ago and to which I have made some judicious alterations and inserted some bracketed updates and other information. 

Change the Name of Arkansas!

            “Why Mr. Speaker, to compare the fair state of Arkansas to that of Kansas is to compare the light of the noonday sun in all its brilliance to the feeble glow of a lightning bug’s a__!”
–Anonymous Arkansas Folk Tale

From Arkansas tall-tale folklore has been passed down through the years the tradition of a mythical speech that was supposed to have been addressed either to the Arkansas House of Representatives or the Arkansas Senate during a debate over a bill to change the name of Arkansas.

Some seem to believe that this change was in the spelling of Arkansas to Arkansaw to match the pronunciation. Others feel that the proposed change was supposed to have been in the pronunciation—from “AR-kan-saw” to “Ar-KAN-ziz.”

In any case, the imaginary orator (variously identified as a Senator Jones or Representative Cassius M. Johnson) who is supposed to have hailed from Johnson (or Jefferson or Jackson) County, inflamed by the introduction of the bill, is said to have risen to his feet in anger and to have delivered a scathing denunciation of both bill and author (usually identified as a “blue-bellied, copper-eyed, corpse-maker from the jungles of Yankeedom”).

Of the half-dozen or so existing versions of this masterpiece of exaggeration and obscenity, only two “sanitized” versions reprinted by Fred W. Allsopp have commonly been published for the general public. If we combine the best elements of these two printable versions, with a little bit of lewd imagination we might get some idea of the breathtaking grandeur and magnificence of this oratorical gem:

“Mr. Speaker, you blue-bellied rascal! I have for the last thirty minutes been trying to get your attention, and each time I have caught your eye, you have wormed, twisted and squirmed like a dog with a flea in his hide, d___ you! . . .

“Mr. Speaker: The man who would CHANGE THE NAME OF ARKANSAS is the original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of the Ozarks! Sired by a hurricane, dammed [given birth] by an earthquake, half-brother to the cholera, nearly related to the small pox on his mother’s side; he is the man they call Sudden Death and General Desolation!

“Look at him! He takes nineteen alligators and a barrel of whiskey for breakfast, when he is in robust health; and a bushel of rattlesnakes and a dead body when he is ailing. He splits the ever-lasting rock with his glance, and quenches the thunder when he speaks!

“Change the name of Arkansas! H___, no! . . .

“The man who would change the name of Arkansaw, would massacre isolated communities for a pastime. He would destroy nationalities as a serious business! He would use the boundless vastness of the Great American Desert for his private grave-yard! He would attempt to extract sunshine from cucumbers!

“Hide the stars in a nail-keg, put the sky to soak in a gourd, hang the Arkansas River on a clothesline; unbuckle the belly-band of time, and turn the sun and moon out to pasture; but you will never change the name of Arkansaw!

“The world will again pause and wonder at the audacity of the lop-eared, lantern-jawed, half-bred, half-born, whiskey-soaked hyena who has proposed to change the name of Arkansaw!

“Gentlemen. you may tear down the honored pictures from the halls of the United States Senate, desecrate the grave of George Washington, haul down the Stars and Stripes, curse the Goddess of Liberty, and knock down the tomb of U.S. Grant, but your crime would in no wise compare in enormity with what you propose to do when you would change the name of Arkansas!

“Change the name of Arkansas — h___-fire, no! . . .

“Compare the lily of the valley to the gorgeous sunrise; the discordant croak of the bull-frog to the melodious tones of a nightingale; the classic strains of Mozart to the bray of a Mexican mule; the puny arm of a Peruvian prince to the muscles of a Roman gladiator—but never change the name of Arkansas. H___, no!”

[To read the full version of this “sanitized” speech with an introduction that indicates its literary sources as (Frederick William) Allsopp (Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Grollier) 1931 and (Benjamin A.) Botkin (no work or publisher cited), 1944, click here.]

If such declamatory brilliance inspires your soul and fires your (coarse) imagination, then you will no doubt want to read and revel in the uncensored, uncut, x-rated “for mature audiences only” versions, to which I will be only too happy to direct you (purely in the interest of historical preservation, of course).

After all, as concerned citizens we must not allow this irreplaceable bit of our precious historical heritage to disappear forever in the shifting sands of time. We do owe a debt to our progeny to pass on such jewels of wisdom and stirring patriotism.

Simply send in your name and a self-addressed, stamped plain brown wrapper. Visa or Mastercard accepted. [Note: Just a joke!]

Seriously, folks, the original versions may be found in James Masterson’s Arkansas Folklore [Rose Publishing Company, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1974, pp. 182-5, 310, 352-4, 357], available at your local library or historical society or purchased at the Arkansas Territorial Restoration and other such sites around the state.

[This book may not be as easily obtained now, thirty years after I originally wrote this piece, since I had difficulty finding it online. There are also other similar ribald versions of the speech that I located online but due to their excessively vulgar language and imagery I did not list their Web sites here. Caution in locating, accessing, and reading them is strongly advised!]

Next week: “Yew Mean the First Arkie Wuz a Eye-Talyon Franchie?”

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“Sometimes we forget the difference between the true professional and the merely gifted amateur.”
—Snoopy to audience after soundly
thrashing Charlie Brown in a tennis match

As noted in my preceding post, in this series of articles generally titled Arkansiana, I am sharing four pieces I wrote back in 1981 in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Arkansas newspapers to allow me to write a regular column by that name.

In the first piece, which I published in the preceding post, I explained generally how the term “Arkansas” came from the name given by French explorers to the Indians who inhabited the Lower Mississippi River Valley near the place where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi, not far from my hometown and county.

Now in this second post I elaborate a bit on that story, providing some historical and linguistic details that were not set forth in the first post. As noted, however, due to the passage of time since these pieces were originally written, some of these “facts” may no longer be totally accurate.

For a more current and authoritative “true professional” account of the naming of the state of Arkansas I refer you to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture on this subject.

But here is my original “gifted amateur” version of that story as I recounted it more than twenty years ago to a disinterested audience of newspaper editors. 

The Pronunciation of Arkansas 

Arkansas River,
Arkansas City;
Can you pronounce that

Are you kidding? Anybody knows it’s the “AR-kan-saw River.”

Right you are. Unless, of course, you happen to be from the Sunflower State, in which case you would call it the “Ar-KAN-ziz River.”

We Arkies have our “AR-kan-saw City” (on the Mississippi River in Desha County from whence I hail), while Kansans have their “Ar-KAN-ziz City” (a somewhat larger metropolis near the Oklahoma border).

Why the difference? And who is right?

Well, the story is rather long and involved, but in essence it goes back to the early European exploration and settlement of this part of the country.

The first European that we know about to explore our area was, of course, the Spaniard Hernando de Soto. On an expedition in 1541-42 he and his men came from Spanish Florida, traveled across the South, discovered the Mississippi River, crossed it, and wandered around in what is now the state of Arkansas for several months. But de Soto neither gave the region a name nor claimed it for Spain.

Hernando de Soto and Indians

Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto discovering the Mississippi River and the Quapaw (Arkansas) Indians in May 1541 (as depicted by Robert Guillemin on a post card by DEXTER PRESS of West Nyack, New York)

More than 130 years later, in 1673, French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet [also spelled Jolliet] descended the Mississippi River from Canada in their search for a passage to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean).

Landing near the mouth of the Arkansas River (as yet unnamed), they were welcomed by a group of Indians, one of the four villages later to become known to history as the Quapaw or “downstream people.” [Modern versions say that the name actually meant “People of the South Wind.”]

Marquette and Joliet with Indians

Father Jacques Marquette and trader Louis Jolliet, the French explorers, visiting the Quapaw Indians in 1673; according to the note on the back it was Marquette who named the Indians the Arkansas (a painting by Robert Guillemin who worked from an ancient print in the Hallobaugh Collection, on a post card by DEXTER PRESS, West Nyack, New York)

Of the Sioux family, these Indians were recognized as (or called themselves) the Alkansa (Arkansa or Arkansea), a name given earlier by the Illinois Indians to a confederation of five tribes who had originally lived along the banks of the Ohio River.

In their westward migration this branch or sub-tribe had separated from the main body at the Mississippi River, turning south or downstream—hence the name Quapaw (from u-ga-qpa, which was pronounced gutturally by the Indians as “olgakh-par” or “gk-whaw-pau”).

[Again, for more information on this subject consult the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. The rest of this version is based on James Masterson’s Arkansas Folklore, an article in the Desha County Historical Society periodical, and my own knowledge of French.]

In their attempts to communicate with these Indians the French finally located an old man “who could speak a little Illinois.” From him, in the Illinois language, they learned of “another village, called Aramsea (Arkansea/Arkansa),” a little farther south.

So (as noted by the late Judge Jim Merritt of my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, near this site, to whom I am indebted for this information) “the old unnamed . . . Indian at Mitchigama gave to history the sound, and Father Marquette translated it into a word, and duly noted Arkansea in his journal and map . . .” The Algonquin Indian guides of the French, however, pronounced the word as “oo-ka-na-sa.”

Later the French explorers, in referring to these people, heard and therefore spelled the word in an amazing variety of ways (estimated at more than seventy!) such as: Acansa, Accanceas, Akansa, Alkansas, Arcansa, Arkanseas, Arkansea, Arcanças, etc.

In these efforts by the French to communicate the name of these people (and hence the region they inhabited), true to French grammatical style the final “s” is a mark of the plural and therefore silent in pronunciation.

In other words, the early French explorers might refer in writing to this tribe as the Arkansa (for example), but the people would be referred to as the Arkansas (plural), yet both words would be pronounced identically.

Today, in modern French, since the word is written the same as in English, the name of the state and the river is l’Arkansas (singular). But the tribe of Indians by that name would be les Arkansas (plural). [Note the change of the preceding article to the plural form “les.”]

Ironically, most Frenchmen today don’t know the derivation of the name, and, assuming it to be a form of Kansas, pronounce l’Arkansas as “lar-kawn-SAHS.” We Arkies adopted their spelling and pronunciation, and they repaid us by changing theirs to ape the Jayhawks. Quelle gratitude!

So, in the word “Arkansas” (AR-kan-saw) what we have is an American pronunciation of an Anglicized version of a French corruption of an Algonquin interpretation of an Illinois word for a sub-branch of a Sioux tribal family.

And you wondered why there was some question as to its “proper” pronunciation!

Next Week: “Change the Name of Arkansas? Hell no!”

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 “Ours is a story-telling culture here in Arkansas and in the South. We lose touch with our stories, our eccentricities, our characters, and we lose track with ourselves.”
—Editorial in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,
February 14, 2000

Back in 1981 I was laid off from the French translator-editorial assistant position that had brought me to Tulsa four years earlier in 1977. While I was searching for a new job, preferably back home, I wrote up several articles in an attempt to persuade the Arkansas newspapers to allow me to write a regular column titled Arkansiana.

In my file cabinet, in a frayed and torn manila envelope, handwritten in ink and titled Jimmy’s Writings, I still have those original articles and the column proposal, all of which I wrote on erasable bond paper and typed on an old 1936 Underwood standard typewriter. (For more about that old typewriter and the copyediting job I eventually used it on, see my earlier post titled “My Mother’s Bible.”)

Needless to say, the newspapers in Arkansas did not accept my column proposal. (Here is one of the actual rejection letters I received at the time.)

John Starr note

A copy of a rejection note from John Starr of the Arkansas Democrat (to magnify, click on the image)

Over the next four weeks I will present these short pieces, one each week. Although some parts of them are now outdated or even inaccurate, I have left them pretty much as they were originally written. I have merely retyped them on the computer and slightly edited them to correct some minor copyediting errors.

I hope they will be of some interest since they are not merely factual information about Arkansas history and culture (which are themselves fascinating subjects), but, like the rest of the entries on this blog, are actually reflections of the humor and nostalgia of that period of my life in spite of my failure to “write my way back home.”

The Name of Arkansas 

I love the girl from Arkansaw
Who can saw more wood than her maw can saw
And can saw much more wood than her paw can saw
In the grand new State of Arkansaw.
—Anonymous Old Rhyme

“It is, indeed, in the name of Arkansas that we come at last upon something unique. No other State name gives rise to debate about its pronunciation and its spelling. No other can be so easily fitted with burlesque rhymes. No other has a variant spelling—‘Arkansaw’—conventionally used in humorous references.

“It is useless to speculate upon what the reputation of Arkansas would have been if the State had been named not after the Akanças [Indians] but after any one of their four or five component tribes—the Quapas, the Southouis, the Tongingas, the Tourimas, or the Zautoouys.”

So concludes James Masterson in his book Arkansas Folklore (The Arkansas Traveler, Davy Crockett, and other Legends, Rose Publishing Company, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1974).

Arkansas Folklore

The actual copy of James R. Masterson’s Arkansas Folklore that I purchased at the Arkansas Territorial Capitol Restoration in the 1980s (Arkansas is the only state in the Union that has three capitols preserved in its capital city)

[Note: The Quapaws were forced to leave their Arkansas home and move to what is now Oklahoma. They have a land allotment in the far northeast corner of the state near the borders of Missouri and Kansas. Some years ago I read that there were only four native speakers of Quapaw left and they were aged. The Wikipedia Web site notes that attempts are being made to preserve the Quapaw language]

The “debate” to which he [Masterson] refers about the proper spelling and pronunciation of Arkansas has been going on for a good long while and still seems to crop up occasionally even today.

By coincidence, this past week my fifth-grader son [Keiron, who is now forty-two years old] told us at the supper table that one of his classmates had asked in class why Arkansas was pronounced “Arkansaw” when it was spelled like Kansas.

The well-intentioned, but sadly misinformed, substitute teacher “instructed” her young charges that it was because “Arkansas was once part of Kansas and what’s why it’s spelled like that.” (Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so!)

Don’t you believe it! The truth, of course, is that Arkansas (as a territory or state) has never been “part of Kansas,” nor even remotely connected to it. The similarity of their names is by pure chance, if not by pure luck.

In fact, the word “Arkansas” is derived from the French name for a group of Indians (the Arkansa) who lived near where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi [near my hometown in Southeast Arkansas].

Marquette and Joliet with Indians

An artist’s image of Father Jacques Marquette and trader Louis Jolliet, the French explorers visiting the Quapaw Indians in 1673; according to the note on the back it was Marquette who named the Indians the Arkansas (a painting by Robert Guillemin who worked from an ancient print in the Hallobaugh Collection, on a post card by DEXTER PRESS, West Nyack, New York)

Being French, the plural form of this word would be “Arkansas,” the final “s” being added in writing to show plurality but not pronounced. This particular aspect of French grammar posed no problem as long as the territory in question belonged to France.

However, after the United States government purchased the whole Louisiana Territory (of which Arkansas was a part) in 1803, things began to change. When the first Americans began to pour into the Arkansas area the “un-American” spelling caused obvious pronunciation difficulties and differences of opinion on both spelling and pronunciation.

Louisiana Territory

A map of the United States with the Louisiana Territory as added in 1803 by purchase from France with Arkansas being located just above the area on this map titled “Orleans Territory,” part of what is now the state of Louisiana (map taken from the Web site above, to magnify, click on the map)

William E. Woodruff, founder and editor of the Arkansas Gazette, the first newspaper in the territory (established at Arkansas Post in 1819 and later called “the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi”), was a staunch advocate of the “-s” spelling. It was largely through his determined effort that this form eventually won out, leaving the “Arkansaw” variation to be adopted for humorous purposes, usually derogatory.

This “Arkansas” spelling, however, led many well-meaning but badly misinformed people (such as our dear substitute teacher) to assume that the name was related to, or even derived from “Kansas.” The result was a long and sometimes bitter dispute reaching such proportions that the Arkansas Legislature felt compelled in 1881 to decide the issue once and for all by official action [which no other state has ever taken], to wit:

Arkansas Old State House

Arkansas Old State House, the capitol of Arkansas from statehood in 1836 to 1912 and the oldest surviving state capitol building west of the Mississippi River (photograph from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism on a post card by DEXTER PRESS, West Nyack, New York)

(Concurrent Resolution of Senate and House of General Assembly of the State of Arkansas 1881). BE IT RESOLVED BY BOTH HOUSES OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. That the only true pronunciation of the name of the State, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians, and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound; that it should be pronounced in three syllables, with the final “s” silent, the “a” in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables—being the pronunciation formerly, universally, and now still commonly used, and the pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of “a” in man, and the sounding of the terminal “s” is an innovation to be discouraged.

In other words, while it is spelled “Arkansas,” it is pronounced “AR-kan-saw” and not “Ar-KAN-ziz”!

Next week: “But why is it pronounced that way?”

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 “Patriotism is the religion of the soil.”

—Stephen Mather, American conservationist,
Quoted in Ken Burns’ documentary on the National Parks

I had not intended to make up a special post for the Fourth of July until I attended the Independence Day service at our local Methodist church this past Sunday, July 1.

That service reminded me of several posts I have published in the past and brought back memories of other related patriotic themes, all of which inspired me to collect them in this post.

Remembrance of Family
Members on the Front Lines

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

—Thomas Paine, American patriot

First I was reminded of three previous posts about members of our families who served our country in the military during time of war.

I have already published posts about Mari’s father who served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific during World War II. To read that tribute to him titled “The Passing of a Real Man,” click on the title.

Grover in WWII Uniform

Grover Williams in his WWII army uniform

I have also published two posts about our son Keiron who has served three overseas deployments with the United States Army.

Keiron's speech

Keiron delivering his Memorial Day speech honoring American veterans (to magnify, click on the photo)

In addition, I had an uncle, Frank Murray Barrett, my mother’s brother, and a cousin, Troy Gibson, my father’s nephew, who served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific in WWII. Among my mother’s old photos which she kept in a shirt box are two letters she received during WWII. One was from Murray and the other was from Troy. I have read them often and am always struck by how both men tried to sound positive in the midst of very dangerous events in which the outcome of the war was in no way yet assured.

Murray Barrett in Navy Uniform

My uncle Murray Barrett in his Navy uniform during WWII (to magnify, click on the photo)

For instance, in Troy’s letter he wrote about an attack on his ship by Japanese Kamikaze (suicide) pilots. Although obviously disturbed by the massive losses in ships and personnel, Troy was able to note that on his ship “only five sailors” were lost in that latest attack.

Me and my cousin Troy Gibson

Me and my cousin Troy Gibson, a sailor in WWII (to magnify, click on the photo)

To read about a little book on battleships sent to me by Troy during WWII, visit my earlier post titled “My Favorite Childhood Books/The Truth about Santa Claus.”

The Hardships of
Women on the Home Front

“Be prepared to take care of the home front as we take care of the war front.”

—Lt. Col Jackie Ritter of the Oklahoma National Guard
to the families of whose being deployed

(To read a recent article from the Tulsa World about the latest deployment of Oklahoma soldiers and the effects on those left behind, click here.)

At the end of Keiron’s Memorial Day speech linked above, a woman asked if she could address the crowd. She explained that although it was entirely proper to recognize and honor members of the military who actually fought in our country’s wars on the front lines, similar acknowledgment and praise should go to those on the home front who supported their loved ones far away in combat.

She briefly recounted the hardships endured by her mother and others like her while her father was on active duty overseas during WWII.

In preparing this post I was reminded of that woman’s point and of the sacrifices made by Mari’s mother while Mari’s father was gone to war. I have already told several times in previous posts that Grover Williams and Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Conrad, were married a week before Pearl Harbor and that Grover was drafted into the army where he served for three years before he saw Bessie again and his new daughter Marion who was born in his absence.

While Grover was gone, Bessie moved back to rural Florence, Arkansas, a few miles up the road from Selma, my birthplace, to stay with her parents until her husband returned.

During that time, Marion was born on September 6, 1942, in St. Mary’s hospital in Dermott, Arkansas, some thirty miles from Florence. Since Bessie had no car she had to return to McGehee to stay with her sister Grace Ward who transported her to Dermott, ten miles away, when the time for the “new arrival” came.

Mari and Mimi1

Bessie Williams and daughter Marion on the farm during WWII (to magnify, click on the photo)

Since she had no means of transportation on the farm, Bessie had to ride a horse from her parents’ place to Florence—about ten miles—to get the mail. During this time there was little correspondence from Grover to Bessie, so she really never knew where he was. In one of her rare letters to him she told him that she and Mari had been out looking for guinea eggs. Later, when Grover had been transferred from Hawaii to Australia and then to New Guinea, to prevent his letter from being censored by the army, he simply told Bessie that he “might be sitting on one of those nests.” She then knew where he was for at least a while until he was again transferred, this time to the Philippines.

In regard to the lack of news from Grover, on one occasion someone in McGehee saw a roster of local servicemen who had been killed in the war. One of them was named Williams, so the news was passed around and eventually reached Bessie that Grover was dead. She had to endure that erroneous report until she could somehow check it out and learn that it was false. That was not an easy task due to the isolation of her parents’ farm and their lack of transportation and communication.

Because her two unmarried brothers had also gone to war, it was Bessie’s job to help her father with the farm work, which was quite arduous, especially while Bessie was pregnant with Mari and later while tending to a newborn baby.

Mari and Mimi3

Bessie Williams and daughter Marion at the time of the Battle of Iwo Jima during WWII (to magnify, click on the photo)

Remember, this was in the days before modern conveniences such as electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing had reached rural Arkansas. (See my earlier posts titled “The Way We Were” and “Life Is Reg’lar/My Mother’s Bible.”)

Thus there were no “creature comforts” such as air-conditioning, telephones, televisions, etc. It is difficult for us today to imagine how hard it was for women like Bessie to have to toil day after day, week after week, and month after month for years with little or no information about what was happening to their sweethearts, husbands, and family members.

Grover with Mari at Age 3

Grover Williams with daughter Marion whom he saw for the first time upon his return from WWII when she was three years old (to magnify, click on the photo)

For more stories about the hardships faced by women on the home front during WWII, Mari recommends a book titled Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin. It can be reviewed and purchased on Amazon.com.

Women in War

Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and in the Front During World War II (to magnify, click on the photo)

The Independence Day Service at the
Sapulpa United Methodist Church

Leader: We lift our hearts, O God, in gratitude for the gift of our country and land.
People: We rejoice with those who share in the dream of freedom and liberty for all.
Leader: With flags, prayers, and songs of praise we celebrate the gifts we have received.
People: Be with us, O God, as we celebrate the freedom that has come from You.

—Call to Worship
Sapulpa First United Methodist Church
July 1, 2012 

First Methodist Sapulpa

The First United Methodist Church in Sapulpa, Oklahoma (to magnify, click on the photo)

That patriotic worship service at the First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa that inspired me to make up this post began with a musical prelude by Jim Gregory, the church’s pianist and organist.

It was a stirring rendition of “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” which is also known as the Navy Hymn and remembered for a final line, a prayer “for those in peril on the sea.” To hear this hymn with the words on screen, click here. For another version of the hymn sung by a choir with scenes of stained-glass church windows and British naval vessels, click here.

After the call to worship and a hymn of praise “God of the Ages,” the prayer of confession and praise was repeated by the entire congregation:

“God of liberty, we acknowledge Your reign. For the freedom of our land, for the rights we possess, for the security of our laws, we praise You and thank You. Give guidance to our leaders; watch over those who serve. Raise up the poor, and exalt the humble. Make our nation prosperous in virtue, and strong in faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

First Methodist Church July 1, 2012 bulletin

Cover of the worship bulletin of the First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, on Sunday, July 1, 2012 (to magnify, click on the photo)

Following that prayer and the traditional exchange of peace came the song of praise: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” To view a video of this song being sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, click here.

After the scripture lesson, the morning message about the blood of Jesus, and prayers for the joys and concerns of the congregation, there came the offertory. It was accompanied by Jim Gregory playing a rousing old-fashioned, toe-clapping, hand-clapping medley of gospel songs about blood such as “Are You Washed in the Blood,” “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” and “There Is Power in the Blood.” (To read more about old-time gospel hymns in my Selma childhood, see my earlier post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”)

Next came the sharing in Holy Communion and the hymn of commitment, “America the Beautiful.” To hear this song performed by Ray Charles with photos of the United States and other stirring scenes of people and places, click here. (Note: If you read and watch only one thing in this post, make it this one!)

After the benediction, Jim closed the service with the postlude, “God Bless America.” To hear this traditional favorite with additional patriotic scenes and sung by Kate Smith who originally introduced it and whose theme song it became, click here.  (To view a previous post on love of one’s native land titled “Some Southern Stuff: Love of the Land,” click here.)

If you will click on these links and watch the videos on them, I believe you will understand why I was inspired to create this post as my salute to the Fourth of July and those who made it possible.

Now I would like to close this patriotic post with some select prayers for this occasion from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Patriotic Prayers from the Episcopal
Book of Common Prayer

Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

The cover of my personal copy of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (to magnify, click on the photo)

Prayer for Independence Day, p. 190:

“Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Prayer for the Nation, p. 258:

“Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and peace: Grant to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Prayer for Peace, 815:

“Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness; no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”

Prayer for Our Country in Times of Conflict, p. 824:

“O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer for Those in the Armed Forces of Our Country, 823:

“Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and give them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

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