Last Friday, as is customary almost 52 Fridays every year, I was driving east toward Chillicothe on the George Washington Highway, otherwise known as U.S. Route 50.

In earlier years, I worked on survey crews in at least four counties along the George Washington Highway. I have driven it from west to east and back in Ohio, though I believe it covers America from Ocean City, Md. to Sacramento, Calif.

A day before my weekly GW Highway cruise, in Savannah, Ga. there was a city council meeting during which Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach said the city is planning to rename its Talmadge Bridge, which is named after former three-term Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge – an obvious cracker, one must suppose.

Frankly, until reading about Gov. Talmadge and his Savannah bridge last week, I can’t say that I’d ever heard of the Southern good ol’ boy.

But I wasn’t crossing the Talmadge Bridge. I was traversing the George By God Washington Coast to Coast Highway across these here United States. And I was duly offended.


Glad you asked.

For one thing, it was the trees dotting the roadside landscape from west to east. There were white oaks, red oaks, black walnuts and yellow poplars. I may have even seen an Asian beetle or two.

How, pray tell, after 241 years as a United States of America, did we get to this point where even our trees are defined along potentially racial divides?

Forget about tearing down historic monuments that pay understandable homage to the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Hamiltons, Jacksons, Lincolns and Lees. We have a far more serious crisis with the naming of our national trees. And don’t even get me started on the Canada goose, that noble black-and-white brant (yes, it is black, and it is white) with its loud, trumpeting call.

Have we no consideration for the feelings of others when it comes to naming geese and trees? To say nothing of the December Christmas tree and Christmas goose. (I got mine early one year, but that’s another story.)

Consider this. Listed among our many North American trees is one “Apache” Pine (obviously offensive to Cochise and the Chiricahua Apache), and 13 “American” trees: the American Basswood, American Beech, American Elm, American Green Alder, American Hackberry, American Holly, American Hophornbeam (whatever that is), American Hornbeam (ditto), American Larch, American Mountain-ash, American Plum, American Sycamore and American Walnut (not to be confused with the Black Walnut).

And then there are the Spanish Oak, Cuban Pine, Corsican Pine and Chihuahua Pine, trees all potentially offensive to someone, somewhere at some particular time. It’s time for some chainsaw therapy, methinks.

We’ll get back to the offensive tree-naming in a moment or two. But first let’s compliment the city of Hillsboro for its forward-thinking progressivism.

At one time, Hillsboro had school buildings named Lincoln, Washington and Webster. Long before today’s nationwide mindless mass action to eradicate such names from public edifices, Hillsboro was on top of it. Good work.

Without a doubt, the city will soon rename its heretofore traditional political party dinners and events in the names of Lincoln, Jackson, Jefferson, Truman, et. al. No more standing ovations at the annual Lincoln Day dinner for a certain loud-mouthed pseudo-Republican. How about that!

Now, as promised, let’s go back to our trees.

While there are 13 “American” trees, I find it personally offensive that we have 19 “Swamp” trees: the Swamp Birch, Swamp Blackgum (doubly offensive), Swamp Chestnut Oak, Swamp Cypress, Swamp Hickory, Swamp Holly, Swamp Laurel Oak, Swamp Magnolia, Swamp Oak, Swamp Pine, Swamp Post Oak, Swamp Red Oak, Swamp Spanish Oak, Swamp Tupelo, Swamp White Oak (also doubly offensive), Swamp Willow, Swamp Willow Oak, Swamp-cedar and Swampbay.

Drain the swamp, already, House Speaker Paul Ryan and gutless Senate Wonder Mitch McConnell.

And while we’re at it, let’s start renaming a few Ohio counties, shall we?

Three of the state’s larger counties are Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga. Each is offensive in its own way. (Think Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin and the Native Americans, who said Cuyahoga means "crooked river.”) Or crooked politicians. Things get lost in translation after so many years.

On a less cynical and satirical note, let me close with just a few words from one of my favorite entertainers and lyrical philosophers, Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Performing before an almost all-white audience in Tennessee, Hubbard paused to offer his support for the First Amendment and rap music, which had been under considerable public tension.

Here’s what Hubbard said.

“In music, Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe killed more people than Ice T and 50 Cent. And just think of all those great bluegrass murder ballads we wouldn't have without the First Amendment. I’m a great believer in the First Amendment. First is first.”

Hubbard also said that all of us should remember to “keep our gratitude higher than our expectations.”

Any day that we can do that is a great day. In a great country.

Indeed. It is a great county. The things that bring us together ought to far outweigh anything that drives us apart.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.