“The Dust of Monroe,” from the June 16, 1916 issue of The Monroe Journal.
Of a certain servant of the King of Syria, it was written that he was a great man with his master. He was a great leader and honorable, a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. His one affliction marred all his greatness. It cast a gloom over his friends. It was a barrier to his future career. It was a dark and every growing spot on an otherwise bright prospect.
This piece of ancient personal history makes us think of our town. It is beautiful for situation, a veritable city set upon a hill. It has the stately oak, the spreading elm and the inviting umbrella tree for shade and could be made a veritable queen among the cities of our state. She has the lordly mansions and the cosy bungalows, her lawn is covered with green and decked with flowers. The names of her efficient merchant princes have gone out far and wide. Her banks are the safe depositories of her thousands of wealth. The people are refined and friendly and hospitable. All of which go to make attractive and build up a town, but it has the dust. Yes, like Naaman’s leprosy, Monroe’s dust mars all. It makes the faithful inhabitants sigh the sigh of despair. For, lo, these many years the faithful housekeepers have scrubbed, swept and dusted until they have become weary, worn, nervous and sad. For it all, what reward have they got? Dust, more dust, ever increasing dust.
Yes, it fills the cabin and the mansion. It is breathed in the home, on the streets and in sacred precincts of God’s house.
Cleanse your house with snow water if you will, rest awhile, get a breath, then you go answer the door bell and welcome your friends, and, lo, the dust is already there to meet them also—on the floor, on the chairs, everywhere, ready to stamp itself upon all who enter.
It is sold with the new goods fresh from the factory, it rides upon the food from the market, it takes the choice seat when you order a car for an outing—Oh! The dust, the insolent dust! It is no respecter of persons, places or things. Like the poor, it seems to be with us always. For should it rain, it rolls up like the waters of the Red Sea for the passage of the children of Israel only to return to its place when the sun shines out again.
What is dust? Not just common dust—but the dust of the streets of an inhabited place? We know it is not anything nice, for the Lord used it to make the third plague upon the Egyptians. It seems just dust is pest enough and we are truly glad there is no modern Moses to smite the dust of Monroe, for it is already everywhere.
We once heard an old ex-slave say a little clean dust was healthful. Be it so, but what of the dust of our streets?
A German chemist describing what he called a clod-hopper, said: “He is simply organized potato with ability to move and assimilate more potato.” We borrow his words and say, “Our street dust is simply organized filth with ability to move and assimilate more filth.”
It meets the traveler and home seeker with the first welcome…fills his eyes, nose and throat, clings to his hat, shoes and coat. No matter where he goes it is at his feet and his side as a companion that will never forsake, and should he in disgust decide to leave he will have more to do than shake it from his feet.
We walk our streets with no thought of harm
From man or beast, for our faithful “Cop,”
Is ever ready to call out to the intruder, “Stop!”
We lie down to rest in peace,
Both son and sire,
For we have ever ready and efficient
Watchmen to put out the fire.
But no man has arisen to say to the dust, thus far, and no farther.
Have we not some men, who like the Judges of old, will rise up and deliver us from the bondage of this dust?
We care not whether you can speak like Demonthenes or Cicero,
We care not whether you can fight like Joffre or Jellicoe,
We care not whether you have the teeth of Teddy or the smile of Woodrow—
Just deliver us from this awful dust of Monroe.
And we will your brow entwine
With the laurel, the ivy and the pine,
And you will be classed as one of great renown
As we hail you, the deliverer of our town.