In 1967, on my first 14,000 mile bicycle trip, I visited friends in Sacramento, California. As I was leaving, I rode by the Capitol building and other state office buildings. Across the marble top of one of those state buildings was written, in two-foot tall letters, a poetic quote. Over the years, I forgot what the quote was, but I remembered that it had made an incredible impression on me at the time.
Two years ago, I flew to Sacramento and visited that family again. At breakfast I told them the story about the quote carved on the building and that I couldn’t remember what it said.
B.J., who had been a child in 1967, said, “Then let’s drive to the Capitol and find that building.” We circled the Capitol and other state buildings and in just a few minutes there is was, high up on the State Library building in huge letters: “BRING ME MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS.” Wow!
A couple of nights ago I was talking to Chris and Mandy Chaney about this. Instantly, Mandy found the poem on her iPhone from which the quote had been extracted. The poem is Coming America by Walter Foss. It not only says “Bring me men to match my mountains.” The poem also says, “Bring me men to match my forests; bring me men to match my rivers,” on and on.
Here I am, talking to two young Powell Countians, Chris and Mandy, both of whom are community leaders. (Mandy will be the race director of the Rugged Red this year.) Then I recalled the forty-plus young men and women who are members of the awesome Mountain Rescue Team. Those team members, from Powell, Menifee, and Wolfe counties took care of the trail runners in last year’s Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon. Those young people make up one of the top mountain rescue teams in all of North America.
Then I began too recall all kinds of different groups of young people who make this place thrive and function. Over a hundred volunteers helped us in The Rugged Red and also helped with the cancer drive. Additionally the young people at the high school were invaluable in different kinds of good projects. I have worked with Eagle Scout Trevor Faw and some of his friends. It is incredible what they have done at the Stanton City Park. And then there is the natural born leader Janice Odom, who has brought several thousand dollars in grants for projects into Powell County. Many of those projects involved high school and elementary students.
Instead of asking someone to “bring us men to match our mountains,” I think we older folks should concentrate more efforts into building and developing our young people into men and women who match our Eastern Kentucky Mountains, young men and women who match our awesome rivers, who match our Daniel Boone National Forest. Let’s help build our young people to become the men and women who will match our Red River Gorge.