(Kingsfisher, OK) There’s some hallowed ground here just off the service road in this little Oklahoma town, birthplace to one of the 20th century’s most impactful salesman. In a setting quintessentially American sits a monument to Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.
I was fortunate enough to visit the place earlier this week as I traveled across Oklahoma spreading a message at odds with the vision of Mr. Walton. Nonetheless, I had to stop and pay homage to a man who recognized the adaptations necessary for a Main Street retail business to crush the competition by exploiting the massive government investments being made in transportation.
There was ample parking on this Wednesday afternoon, of course. To one side of the massive lot, snuggled behind a berm – the ubiquitous buffering requirement that has become the progressive feign those regulating the suburban big box store – is a bust of the great man and his faithful companion, his dog ‘Ol Roy.
Mr. Walton is pictured with a contemplative smile on his face. His image stares out towards State Highway 81, past the storage sheds and drainage ditch filled with trash, as if pondering the Wal-Mart location that will, within a few years, replace the store that he is symbolically turning his back on.
Yet, as you gaze at the torso that emerges from a protruding block of concrete and the levitating dog that guards it, the existing Wal-Mart facade beckons gently in the background. Why the superficial buffer of the berm? Why the illusion of separation created by the miniature trees and shrubs? Come back, Sam. Let the present glory of the tiny American flag flapping next to the grand Wal-Mart logo honor you. Face your creation with pride!
At moments like this, I ponder how merciless the sands of time are and what someday will become of a monument such as this. Soon this Wal-Mart will be closed, the parking lot overgrown with weeds, a reality we can all envision because we see it happen all over this country. But ponder far beyond the near term. Imagine thousands of years from now when some future archaeologist, studying the ancient civilizations that once occupied what the texts call Oklahoma, unearths the torso and levitating dog.
Is this a North American Caesar? Is this a war hero? The government of this land called Oklahoma spent a sizable amount of wealth crafting this monument; it must be important. Was the dog to be sacrificed? Was one or the other – or both – considered a deity? What do we make of this?
After the artifact is fully excavated, cataloged and archived, some researcher specializing in the study of the Ancient United States Empire will form a theory connecting it to other strands of known history. This man and his canine companion clearly represent the pinnacle of accomplishment for the era. If you can create a business that provides citizens what they want – the ability to quickly and easily acquire a lot of stuff – the combined power of massive centralized government and populist appeal will be mobilized to subsidize your operation, punish your competitors through regulation and taxation and build the infrastructure needed to make you wealthy. This was the promise of America, what made it temporarily the world’s most powerful nation, but also sealed its tragic demise. This is obviously one of those influential men whose toils defined the nation during the transition.
And that researcher will be correct.
Sorry I've been light on the content this week. I've been in Oklahoma since Sunday doing my best to spread the Strong Towns movement in cities across the state. It's been a grueling but productive week. I'm headed back home at the end of the day today. We'll try and get caught up here next week -- lot's to share. In the meantime, have a safe and fun weekend. If you're not already a member, perhaps kick it all off by becoming one.