If you’ve been with me for a while, of course, you know I’m a sucker for an adage. Perhaps the root of my affection for them and their universal messages may very well be traced back to the Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who also picked up the moniker The First American, as an homage to the myriad of contributions to colonial America.
While his accomplishments are considered far greater in so many other areas, Franklin as a writer must be lauded. His “Poor Richard’s Almanac” was second only to the Bible in colonial homes, many of which only had those two books on the shelves.
It was Franklin who gave the world Poor Richard Saunders, the horse-sense voice of colonial America. Thanks to this fictional conduit through which flowed Franklin’s advice, we all know the worth of water when the well is dry; we certainly know at the working man’s house, hunger looks in but dares not enter; and, of course, we know that early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
It was Franklin who sort of opened up the flood gates for later adages that many have coined. One that recently rented space in my noggin after Lady Jane and my fall trip to the Dakotas and Wyoming is, “Opinions are like noses; everybody’s got one.”
When traveling, while I do like the familiar experiences of say, an autumn trip through any of the six New England states, something Jane and I have done several times, I’m also a sucker for those never-seen-it experiences. So, were I the Tripadvisor type, anxious to share a rating with my fellow sojourners, I’m pretty sure I’d be knocking down those five-star ratings quicker than Norm on the sit-com “Cheers” used to knock down those mugs of suds.
You may recall I once covered the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. In doing some prep work looking at the Tripadvisor ratings, something I routinely do when I travel write, I took note of a rather modest 3.5 star rating, with 163 rating it poor and another 92 very mean folks rating it terrible. Of course, my Lady Jane, who grew up in Mercer County, loved it so much that I just had to play a joke on her.
When she fell asleep in the car after we left the palatial maize behind, I used my car’s Apple Play to softly voice text my so very helpful mail-and-newspaper-gathering neighbor Suzanne Kelley, who visited the Corn Palace with hubby Brad a few years ago. I told Suzanne that Jane actually found the experience more moving than when she and I saw the Sistine Chapel back in our Italian adventure in ‘13. There was a long pause before Suzanne replied, “Not sure I would go that far but very cool.”
Of course, as a niche experience, I can actually understand some negativism (although I do have an issue with those 92 “terrible” people). However, when I skipped around Tripadvisor to see the reactions of other travelers to other sights — such as South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Badlands and Spearfish Canyon, Wyoming’s Devils Tower and North Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt National Park — I was pretty amazed at the negativity over what I found so awe inspiring.
Let’s take the one I thought was the granddaddy of my whole trip, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills. It was the site that, for both of us stirred such patriotic, proud-to-be-an-American feelings.
Checking Tripadvisor, I fully expected to see overwhelmingly positive numbers. Now, don’t get me wrong. For most sites, there wouldn’t be too much wrong with an average of 4.5 stars based on 11,000 reviews. But a deep analytical dive just caused me to shake my head. There were 560 that rated the left-to-right towering heads of political icons Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln just average. Another 109 thought the memorial was poor. And, gasp, 46 rated it horrible!
Did they not go on the Presidential Trail Loop and drink in the natural beauty and gaze up at Gutzon Borglum’s inspiration from many different perspectives? Did they not speak with the park rangers to hear their anecdotal nuggets? Did they not puff their American chests out strolling down that avenue of state flags or go through the impressive museum and see the movie to gain a greater understanding of what a marvelous achievement this was?
Curiosity compelled me to read a couple of the negative reviews. One traveler complained that it was too hot on the day of his visit, which, of course, is blaming our four fellas up there for conditions completely beyond their control!
Another complained that the amazing likenesses that combined the abilities of those who knew how to use dynamite and those artistic enough with chisels and hammers should have been bigger! Well, let me just say, I’m sure the many who worked 14 years, some of whom died from the lung condition silicosis as a result of inhaling granite dust, to create the marvel surely thought they were plenty big enough.
So, while we might not wish to discard every opinion others offer, it’s also important to remember that those noses tend to occupy that space right above the upper lip on pretty much everybody’s (using one of my father’s favorite words) mugs.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.