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That’s Not Going To Buff Out

July 4, 2019

The day, this day of days, dawned bright and beautiful. We rousted our kids out of bed in the predawn morning and took them up to the mouth of Grove Creek Canyon to witness the unfurling of the largest free flying American flag in the world, called Big Betsy. She’s 75 feet wide by 155 feet long.

Last year, there was a problem when the flag was supposed to deploy. It ripped. And the Follow The Flag team had to use the local football field to repair it.

This morning, I asked Kyle Fox, the founder and head of the Follow The Flag organization if the flag was going to deploy correctly. I was joking when I asked it, but he was deadly serious when he answered,

One hundred percent guaranteed.

True to his prediction, shortly after 7:00AM, right on cue, the flag unfurled beautifully. It was a brilliant start to an wonderful Independence Day.

We did holiday things. We went to the reservoir. We bought food for a BBQ. And this afternoon as we started to prepare for our dinner and fireworks, the wind started to blow. And then it blew harder. And it blew harder still. For nearly an hour the wind rushed down from the North, swirled and then rushed back again. And right behind it came the rain. Huge pelting drops. The kind that hurts when it hits you. The kind that can drench you in mere moments.

And then, just like that, the storm was past. But, what destruction lay behind it in it’s path? Not a horrible amount on our street. Although, I worried my young maple trees might blow over. I did leave a car window down and got drenched going out to roll it up.

We cooked our burgers on the stove and baked chicken and dogs in the oven. Corn on the cob, watermelon, ice cream and cookies.

It was right in the middle of preparing dinner that the storm came through. It knocked out the radio broadcast we have set up for Follow The Flag.

My neighbor called me to say the power to our trailer was out. As we made our way to the trailhead, we had a great view of Big Betsy. The flag hung awkwardly as it bunched to one side of the canyon. No longer flowing freely. And a large gash extended from the base of the flag up nearly half way to the middle.

She hung ragged and limp. Forelorn stretched across the canyon. It was clearly broken. And as it turned out, it was beyond repair.

Tomorrow morning at 5:00AM, Big Betsy will come down for the last time. In her place will be another large flag. It’s called The Major. It was purchased to fly across Ogden Utah’s Coldwater Canyon. The Major is literally Big Betsy’s twin.

Big Betsy will be replaced. How, is still to be decided. Maybe it will be a GoFundMe. Maybe someone will step in and donate the $15,000 it cost to make. Maybe the community will do bake sales and cookie drives.

And that’s an interesting metaphor for our country: the flag may be damaged, but it’s not about the flag. It’s about what it represents. And that won’t change.

Happy Independence Day to those in the United States. And to everyone else, happy Thursday.

This post has been edited to explain that The Major is Big Betsy’s twin and is not yet flying in Ogden.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

  1. Eric Scott permalink

    Some lucky scout troop gets to do a gigantic flag retirement soon?

    • I think the plan is to make Big Betsy the “traveling flag.” Parades, rodeo’s, baseball games, etc. The “flat” version

      They are doing a flag retirement Monday night for any flags in the community that need it. Not sure they are going to retire this one quite yet. Just no more flying over the canyon

      • Eric Scott permalink

        Ahh. Repair and demoted to “light duty” status.

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