By the looks of its city Website, Ferguson, Mo., appears a rather pleasant place to live or visit.
Two static pictures bookend the top of the site. One shows a drawing or picture of a fishing rod apparently cast out into the water. A duck is pictured just below it. It is uncertain as to whether the duck is giving the invisible angler moral support or whether the person is fishing for ducks. Over on the right bookend is a rather cute young lady riding a bicycle. She wears modest shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. The shirt is sometimes called a “wife-beater” when worn by men but since a woman is wearing it, maybe it is a “husband-beater” or “boyfriend-beater.” Maybe T-shirt is safe.
Several pictures in the middle of the Ferguson page fade in and out. They include some historic railroad cabooses and a picture of the city fire department’s only ladder truck spraying a stream of water on a couple of kids in T-shirts and shorts, presumably during a summer day. Perhaps given the rioting along with several businesses burned down over the last couple of nights, the ladder truck photo is maybe the most unfortunate of the Web pictures.
Of course, one can probably find many signs and pictures or symbols of where the infamous occurred.
I recently stayed in Dallas for a week of meetings which meant a drive from our hotel off the Stemmons Freeway to downtown near the Convention Center — the latter now named for former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — and back. The route took us under the triple underpass past Dealey Plaza. It was under that triple underpass where the presidential limousine carrying John F. Kennedy sped through after he was shot and was pronounced dead a short time later on Nov. 22, 1963.
A colleague of ours from Colorado rode with us on those days to our meeting in downtown Dallas. This associate told us he had never either been to Dallas nor seen the site where Kennedy was assassinated. He found the site fascinating and even professed it to be on his “bucket list” of sites to visit before he met his end.
One particular topic of discussion on the way back to our hotel was while driving in front of the old Texas School Book Depository where alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald worked and fired the rifle that killed Kennedy. Elm Street, which ran in front of the famous book building and on which JFK rode when he was shot was marked with a couple of “Xs,” painted where the bullets fired from the sixth floor of the depository building.
I have been to Dallas many times. I even lived in two different suburbs for short periods of time. I have also been downtown to the assassination site on more than one occasion. I did not remember the Xs being there.
Apparently, the Xs have been painted on the street for years and the city would remove them, both for street work and from keeping tourists who would dodge traffic for a picture near the X from ending with the same ultimate fate as Kennedy. My colleagues and I had a discussion about the Xs and I found several stories including this one from the paper of record in Big D.
The police shooting of Mike Brown and all the unrest it has spawned will never match the infamy as that of what happened in Dallas 51 years ago this month. But some recognition will always remain in Ferguson for those who appreciate even the biggest warts on our American history. Most cities with former black eyes even Waco, Texas, — despite, boosters of that Central Texas city still point out, the onetime Branch Davidian compound is 12 miles northeast of Waco — ultimately come to grips with their past. And while these dark times are not particularly celebrated, they do become a rightful place in local and sometimes even national history.
What Ferguson — in the landing path of Lambert International Airport — will become someday is hard to guess. Perhaps just as soon that all the discord came to town after the police shooting of Mike Brown, so will it eventually disappear. Then may once more people may fish with ducks, or for them, and cute women wearing sleeveless Ts will roam the suburban St. Louis landscape.