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Working all day on the 4th of July

I'm lucky. I had the day off on Independence Day, the 4th of July. But my daily paper was on my doorstep at 5:30 a.m. My paper guy was up and on the job with the dawn's early light. And I don't think that's his only job. The next day, July 5th, I got another paper, which means somebody must have been working all day on the 4th to put that paper together. Today I salute those Americans who kept America working and humming on the 4th of July while the rest of us had the day off.

After I read the paper, I turned on the TV and there they were -- the weather people, the sports people, the news people -- doing their jobs the same as they would any other day. I turned on the radio too -- still reporting. Independence Day is a national holiday -- the banks are closed, the court houses are closed, summer school is closed, most businesses are closed and folks want to have hotdogs and picnics, go to ball games, go to the beach, go to reunions, rest, reflect and take it easy, but somehow the wheels keep turning.

While it was still early, I heard the whistles of a train roaring through town. The coal, steel, autos, farm machinery and passengers (the passengers go through at about 3 a.m.) were still wheeling up and down the tracks, holiday or not, and the engineers, brakemen and traffic directors were still turning the cranks, flipping the switches and pushing the buttons to keep them rolling.

We had extra kids in our house who were eating more cereal, sandwiches and dessert than planned so we had to take a run to the grocery store for supplies. And there they were at the store -- the checkers, the baggers, the whole crew working hard to make sure those of us taking the day off for the holiday would have a nice day.

Later we needed gas. The stations were all open and busy. No holiday for those folks. Hats off to the station guys and gals.

Our neighbors had big city guests they wanted to get the taste of small town life so they took them to the most quaint cafe around -- good food, cheerful service, reasonable prices, a community's favorite gathering place -- pie and coffee for 99¢ -- open on the 4th of July. Nothing like that in the big city.

I noticed the police department and highway patrol didn't have the day off. They were all out and visible in greater numbers than any regular weekend. And a good thing too, because the traffic was heavier and there were more parties going on all around the area. Thanks to the cops and the mounties.

We all know the armed forces were on duty on the 4th. They were on their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were in bases throughout Europe and Asia. The Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force were engaged and at their posts. It's to the forces that we owe the fact that we are still independent and able to celebrate.

The list goes on and on. Our country doesn't run on automatic pilot just because we have a holiday. Somebody has to be on the job to keep the machines steaming forward. And the people who do may just be greater patriots than those of us out eating hotdogs, shooting firecrackers and waving flags.