When I visit somewhere I consider it just common courtesy to do a little homework first. So naturally when getting ready to visit Sheboygan Wisconsin on the Fourth of July weekend I noticed quickly that they had what was described as "The World's Tallest Flagpole". That of course made a visit mandatory on a magnificent sunny day.
It is certainly one very, very tall flagpole. That little white dot at the base of the flagpole is a strapping 6 foot plus lad who frankly looks like an ant.
Here I am leaning on the base of the pole.
So, what's the deal?
The flagpole is 400 feet tall. It is a project undertaken by the Acuity Insurance Company and stands outside their headquarters. The numbers are mind boggling.
The flagpole is 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. It weighs 420,000 pounds. It takes 500 gallons of paint to coat it. The flag proper is 70 feet by 140 feet. Each star is three feet tall. The whole thing weighs 340 pounds and is 9,800 square feet of Red, White and Blue.
It draws the eye. It is hard to stare at it very long - you get a bit dizzy - but hard also to look away.
But is it really the tallest?
No. I was not aware of it but there has been a recent - sorry for the pun - wave of Giant Flagpole building. Assorted Middle East and Central Asian countries just have to one up the competition and raise their flags just that much higher. Freudians, have a field day with this one.
Make what you will of it but all those Big Sticks in repressive lands are the handiwork of an American firm, Trident Support Corporation. Marc Summers and David Chambers are a couple of resourceful engineers who got into this line of work kind of by accident. Every few years they build one a little bit taller. And then their phone rings. Tajikistan, Jordan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan. The current "champ" is in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. At 560 feet it has held the record for two years now.
Now, I want to be fair. The info that claimed the Sheboygan flagpole as the world's tallest was either old or poorly written. The actual information that Acuity puts out calls it "The World's Tallest Symbol of Freedom".
I am ok with that. None of those other flags, though they may be a little higher off the ground, fly over as good a place. Here you can salute the flag, or if you prefer, not. You can agree with the policies of the current Administration or call them scoundrels. I can and do have pointed discussions with friends and relatives who vote in different ways and still consider them - as I hope they consider me - to be decent patriot folk and great neighbors.
Tajikistan and its ilk may be waving something around but it is certainly not a symbol of that kind of freedom.
Happy 4th of July, 2016