There is a western wear store on the outskirts of the suburb I live in. I think it’s called Western Wear World or something like that. The kind of place where you can get cowboy boots and shirts with embroidered roosters on the back, blue jeans so starched they take your leg hair off, and saddles.

I would like to think this place is a relic from when this was all farmland but its proximity to a major highway and an older shopping center makes me doubt it. Although they do have an actual hitching post if you were to take your horse down the four-lane and happen to want to buy a cowboy hat.

I happened to be parked in the shopping center next to this establishment. I had just finished picking up a few items from the nearby grocery store, including a frozen pizza for lunch and a pack of envelopes.

Something caught my eye and I looked over toward Western Wear World to see a man and a woman come out the front double door at the same time. Side by side. They were wearing western clothes but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they would drop the “western” part and just call them “clothes.”

In their arms, they held three American flags on wooden poles. They solemnly marched through their parking lot to a grassy area in front of the building and, one by one, planted the poles in concrete holes in the ground.

Each time they placed a flag in the ground they stopped for a moment and either meditated or prayed briefly, all the while making sure the other flags did not touch the ground. When they planted the last flag they turned and walked back into the building. Closed the doors, and turned on the “Open” sign.

When all this started happening I noticed that clock said 10 a.m. on the dot. I also noticed that the sign displaying the business hours showed the store opens at 10 a.m. The part that really struck me about this was there was no way this could have been a coincidental display. I am guessing this was part of their job, which they obviously did every single morning, because even though they were not in lockstep they were in near-perfect unison.

I have participated in my fair share of flag ceremonies in my life, having been a Boy Scout from birth. I have had all the rules of the flag drilled into my head. Don’t let it hit the ground! Fold it the right way! Retire a damaged flag properly! And I’ll be honest, any time I have ever been involved in, or viewing, a ceremonial presentation of the colors I have always found them quite awkward. I mean here we are being so reverent and respectful to a piece of cloth.

Watching these two suburban cowpokes take this display so seriously really struck something in me. That was the most serious thing they were going to do all day long. They knew it and they were fine with that.

The rest of the day would be spent ringing up lasso ropes and handkerchiefs and returning defective spurs. It was all downhill from there, but whenever they got down they could look out the double doors and see the flags flying and know they had a choice to be there.

I would not call myself a patriotic person, but I am thankful I got to see the opening ceremony at Western Wear World.

With all the strife that we’ve been through politically about this side or that side, I’ve become exhausted and numb. I’ve lost touch with what it means to be a citizen of this great country. I don’t really care what side of the political fence you come down on. It doesn’t matter. As cliche as it sounds, what matters is that we are all under the same flag.

I am grateful I wanted a frozen pizza for lunch and needed some envelopes. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have observed the most serious part of the cow people’s day. That seriousness makes me truly appreciate that I live in a country where the worst part of my day is burning the roof of my mouth on that pizza and cutting my finger mailing letters.

And that kind of freedom is something to be serious about.

Chris Walter is a Georgia writer and artist. His latest book “Southern Glitter” and more are available at his website


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