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What makes a great state song

It all started at our town’s outdoor Symphony in the Park. The community band played “Oklahoma,” the state song. Before “Okla” got to “homa,” most in the crowd, including me, were standing up and clapping to the music.
My husband could only sit there and wonder why.
Dear Husband, who came from Pennsylvania by way of Florida, couldn’t understand the reason for standing and clapping during the state song. Maybe it’s because his soul wasn’t stirred by:
“Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,
Mighty is your name,
Steeped in glory and tradition,
Object of acclaim,
Where brave men fought the foe of freedom,
Tyranny decried,
‘Til the bell of independence filled the countryside.”

However, the Florida part of him surely would stand for:

“Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away.
There’s where my heart is turning ever.
There’s where the old folks stay.”

No, he said. He never stood for “Swanee River.”
I polled friends on Facebook to see where they stood on standing for a state song.
The Oklahoma friends all immediately said they’d stand.”Why wouldn’t we stand and take pride in our state?”
But, my Texas FB friends were strangely silent, perhaps worried about being drowned by the “Oklahoma” fans.
When I asked them specifically if they stand for “Texas Our Texas,” their replies were “What state song?” and “haven’t heard it since seventh grade Texas History Class.”
Maybe if the state adopted “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Who could resist clapping after: “The stars at night are big and bright…”
No response from my cousin in Colorado or my friends in Missouri or Kansas.
Surely people in Kansas know their song by heart:
“Home, home on the range.
Where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard
The name of our state in this song.
And the skies are not cloudy all day.”

The author, one Brewster M. Higley, obviously never saw a Kansas tornado.
Colorado’s song also glories in the landscape while leaving us guessing on the state’s name:
“Tis the land where the columbines grow,
Overlooking the plains far below,
While the cool summer breeze in the evergreen trees
Softly sings where the columbines grow.”

Beautiful tune. Unfortunately, for too many, “Columbine” evokes not a pretty flower, but the Columbine High School massacre of 1900, when 12 students and a teacher were killed.
In 2007, Colorado adopted a second state song, a John Denver tune:
“It’s a Colorado Rocky Mountain High….”

The Missouri state song is “The Missouri Waltz.” Do people get up and dance when it’s played?
“Tennessee Waltz,” a 1950s pop song about a two-timing sweetheart and a mate-stealing friend, was Tennessee’s state song for about 17 years. It was replaced by “Rocky Top” in 1982 and by two other songs since then. Tennessee has had seven state songs, so far.
I wished I had some Kentucky or Indiana friends to poll. The Derby and The Indy 500 can’t start without people standing and getting weepy-eyed at “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Back Home Again in Indiana.” (Which is not the real Indiana state song. That honor goes to “On the Banks of the Wabash,” which is eerily similar to “Back Home Again.”)
What makes a good state song?
A mention of the state would help. Hear that Kansas, Colorado, Florida?
It needs images and sensations that make one proud of the state, happy to be there.
Must it make you stand and clap?
The loveliest state song, “Georgia on My Mind” doesn’t inspire standing, much less, clapping.
I suspect we Oklahomans stand and clap not only because “Oklahoma” is our state song. We do it because it’s a great song.

It’s a pep rally set to music. The only state song that comes close to such vitality is “On, Wisconsin,” a sporty tune co-opted by high school football teams across the country.
The spirit builds with not one, but two lead-ins. Then comes that rising instrumental bridge before the pride hits with “OOOOk-lahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.”
A good choral version would climax with a second reprise in tight harmony, descants soaring above everyone else.
I doubt I’d stand if I heard it the song some place else, like in Omaha or Des Moines. And I’m not standing for the “Gonna give you barley, spinach and pertaters” part.
But when that song starts stirring, and others start getting up, expect me to be one of the first.
The land I belong to is grand.

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Something to bore me too sleep

Four-fifteen in the morning and I’m lying in bed, staring up, barely able to make out the popcorn bumps in the ceiling.
I could only guess how long I’ve been staring up there. Last I looked at the clock radio, it was just after three.
Another early morning of being awake. No, I didn’t have any caffeine after six. Nice and quiet outside, even the barky neighbor dogs are asleep. Nothing’s pressing at work. The car runs fine. The cat’s been fed and seems healthy. No one among my friends and family are having problems. We’re not broke. My husband loves me and his CPAP keeps him from snoring. I don’t even hear the CPAP.
I was awake like this the night before, same early hour. And the night before that. And any number of nights before that.
Why? Who knows?
Some nights I try counting forward or backward. I rub the cat, hoping her purr would lull me to sleep.
I pray, asking God to forgive some long-forgotten sin that’s been repressed in memory. I pray for peace. Peace comes, but not sleep.
Empty my mind? No, even after minutes of mindlessness, sleep won’t come.
This must be hereditary. Mom has talked about being wide awake at four in the morning. Nothing pressing on her mind. No problems with the house or the family or the world or the bed. She can’t sleep at four in the morning either. She said TV or reading helps her get back to sleep.
TV? Reading?
That would only wake up the husband.
“Is there anything wrong,” he asks, his voice gurgling through the water flowing from the CPAP. “You want to talk.”
He almost begs me to talk, to say what’s on my mind.
How should I know? I’m thinking about not being able to sleep.
I leave the bedroom, hoping to find something boring on TV. If I can’t get to sleep on the bed, I usually get to sleep on the couch. I slouch back, just about to nod off. The husband comes, asks me if I’m okay or did his CPAP keep me awake.
“If there’s anything wrong, let’s talk about it,” he says.
Nothing’s wrong, except not being able to sleep.
I say another prayer. This time I’m more specific.

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A night like this

The leaves on the bushes haven’t moved for the longest time; the air is so still. A choir of frogs croak around the yard and cicadas crick their replies.

Such stillness.

Nights like this make me wonder why anyone would want to be inside.

What makes nights like this so precious is how easily nights like this could go wrong. How easily could the air swirl and blow away any sense of stillness?

Two such storms swept through Muskogee over the past two weeks. The first came on a Sunday — church night — then turned into the tornado that swept through Joplin. Then came tornadoes in Chickasha, Piedmont (our old school rival), Guthrie, Haskell. How many homes, how many lives, gone?

Nothing but rain touched our house, making me wonder why. Why was my house, my neighborhood spared? Why them? Why not me?

Why must I ask? Tonight I can sit in the back porch of our untouched house and enjoy the sublime stillness. The cicadas slow their song. The leaves quiver ever so slightly. I have the opportunity to thank God for one more night of stillness.

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