by Cantinker Moss

Photo by Victoria Dihua Xue on Unsplash


I don’t know much about Mr. Tolkien and Middle Earth, but I think I remember a hobbit named Bilbo saying, “I want to see mountains!”

Now, I think I recall a Mt. Doom (appropriately named) and the Misty Mountains being there.  And didn’t that he-devil, Saruman, live in those highlands?  Where was it that the Fellowship went or where the old hobbit met his end for eternity?

But I am an American, all you short and tall gentleman—gentle creatures of Middle Earth.  And I live in Middle America—the Midwest—fly-over country where the wheat, corn, and soybeans grow…where great rivers run to the sea.  But where do many of those rivers begin?  They begin in the mountains.

I too, want to see mountains.  Let me show you mine.

First, there are the old men:  the Ozarks; grizzled in their age from the Mississippi River to Oklahoma.  They are full of springs and creeks with sand pines along their banks.  Then throughout the plateau, an assortment of hardwoods are arranged on a palette to display an autumn effulgence on a bright October day after a frost.  Ah, Legolas, you would never find a finer tree to make a bow.

Then there are the Appalachians, and all their children from Maine to Georgia:  the White and Green Mountains…the Berkshires…the Alleghenies…the Adirondacks and Catskills…the Blue Ridge and Smokies—The Great Smokies… with a rising haze as if someone lit the forest on fire without a flame—only the smoke.  In these eastern lands, north and south, are the passes and hollers that met Boone and the pioneers on their way west.  This is the land of Sevier and the Over-Mountain Men who defended those Carolina farms from the arrogance of a king and his army at Cowpens and yes, in all its irony, Kings Mountain.

But then there is the West with its Cascades, Sierra Nevadas, and Rockies.  It is a place, beyond the plains and prairies, full of glory but also sadness…a place of humiliation and a displaced people.  It is reminder of a flawed earthly history.  Some once called it a frontier.  But in fairness to all people, perhaps it can be a reminder of a newer hope in the hearts and minds of all people.  And might this hope be fixed on a point that is newer than all?  It is a kingdom, greater than all kingdoms, which has a King, greater than all kings.

All these earthly mountains, east and west…north and south, are still wonderful because the great King created them.  The ones in the West are still mighty and have the names that the great King allowed women and men to put on their maps.  Their names are Wind River… Sangre de Cristo…the San Juan Mountains in the Ucompahghre…the Grand Tetons…the Flat Irons…the Anaconda Range southwest of the Mussellshell…the Black Hills…the Wasatch… and the Land of the Canyons in Utah.  Oh yes, and then there is the canyon…the Grand Canyon.

Over in California are the Sierras with their gold and big trees.  East of that in Nevada, is Virginia City, Gold Hill, and the Comstock.  And out of those hills, Gimli, you could mine silver…the finest in the world, and which sustained a nation for a time.

Follow the Cascades north, and you will find Rainier, that great volcano, which some say is warm at the top.  Further north, is Denali in Alaska.  It is the earthly mountain that looks over all the mountains on the continent.  And then, in the middle of the western ocean, are the Islands.  They hold mountains shining with the fiery possibility of their own danger.

Mountains…East and West…North and South…all upon this great continent.  Climbed…cursed…on calendars…on postcards…photographed…painted…and in some cases, worshipped.  But what of a mountain rich in history…with nations at war for its divine wealth…a mountain that indeed moved kings, caliphs and presidents…yet, nobody’s property but those to whom it was given…someday sought by all…someday adored by all:  a holy hill named Zion.

No wonder Bilbo wanted to see mountains.



Texas and Alaska

by Cantinker Moss


Someone I know posted this cute joke on Facebook the other day.  My only worry is that I might offend some Texans as I relate it.  But most Texans are pretty good-natured, and seriously, I really can’t picture this in the category of hate speech.  I don’t think many Texans would either.

Actually, the joke presents a certain logic if you think about it.  And the embellishments in my paraphrase really could be the color of any conversation in any drinking establishment by any two people until you get to the punchline, which illustrates a logic that is unique for the situation.  “If you do it…it is true!”  Do what?  Well, here goes—all in good fun!


…A certain Texan walked into a bar in Juneau, Alaska.  He was about 6’2″ and weighed about 250 pounds.  He wore boots and spurs, had on a range coat with fur about the neck, and of course the obligatory ten gallon hat on his head.

After a few Olympias, he began to mutter, then talk loudly.  Two bar stools to his right he noticed a short Eskimo who had just come down from the North Slope, and had just finished his beer.  He was not up for much conversation with anyone.

The Texan, one foot on a railing just above the floor, one elbow leaning on the bar, and the other extending an arm and hand holding another glass of beer, turned to the Eskimo and said,

“Hey, little feller…don’t you know everything is big in Texas?”

The Eskimo wondered what the statement really had to do with anything.  But then he again heard the Texan say a little louder,

“Hey, don’t you know everything is big in Texas?”

The Eskimo began to wonder if he should have another beer, or for that matter, buy the big fellow a beer.  But he remained silent until suddenly the Texan turned, fully facing the Eskimo, and shouted so loudly that the bar crowd turned quiet.  At the top of his lungs he said,

“Hey mister, I’m talking to you!  Didn’t you hear me say everything is bigger in Texas!  Whaddya think ’bout that?!”

It was a scene perhaps from the Old West.  The Texan could have been Wes Hardin, ready to draw a couple of Colts from his holster.  But the Eskimo decided to let his wit be the better part of valor.  Because the place was silent as patrons waited to see what the native would do, the Eskimo could speak in a calm, measured tone with the right amount of volume.  He said for all to hear,

“Sir, if you don’t be quiet, we’ll cut Alaska in half and make Texas the third largest state in the union.”

The crowd erupted in laughter.  The Eskimo went out into the snowy street.  And the Texan was still leaning against the bar when the establishment was ready to close.