Read Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States Online

Authors: Dave Barry

Tags: #Parodies, #Humor, #Form, #Political, #General, #United States, #United States - History, #Topic, #Essays, #Fiction, #History

Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States

DAVE BARRY SLEPT HERE

 

By

Dave Barry

 

Fawcett Columbine

New York

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright (C) 1989 by Dave Barry

Maps copyright (C) 1989 by Anita Karl and Jim Kemp

 

A Fawcett Columbine Book All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 89-91513 This edition published by arrangement with Random House, Inc., New York. Cover design by Loretta Leiva Cover illustration by Van Howell Manufactured in the United States of America First Ballantine Books Edition: June 1990

America loves Dave Barry

 

“Brilliant … Barry not only changes the face of American history, he practically has to be restrained from taking up hammer and chisel to change the faces on Mount Rushmore as well.”—Associated Press

 

“If you like to have fun with American history, here’s your chance. Dave Barry Slept Here is a zany, delightful twisting of just about everything important in America’s past.”—St. Louis Post Dispatch

 

“A delight from the top of his introduction to the tip of his last outrageous footnote.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

 

“Impressive … Genuinely fresh insight … Dave Barry Slept Here might be the rallying point for reformers determined to restore rigor and bite to the public school curriculum.”—Greensboro News and Record

 

“I wish I would have taken Dave Barry’s history class in high school instead of the one I did. Instead of getting in trouble for writing all over the desk, I would have been excused for an upset stomach from laughing so hard. And I would still be laughing now, years later.”—Grand Rapids Press

 

“All the history you’ll ever need to know.”—Tampa Tribune-Times

 

THIS GUY HAS ALSO WRITTEN

 

Dave Barry Turns 40 Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits Homes and Other Black Holes Bad Habits The Taming of the Screw Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead Claw Your Way to the Top Dave Barry’s Guide to Marriage and/or Sex Babies and Other Hazards of Sex

Dedication

For Robert, who really was born on October 8

CONTENTS

 

Introduction………………………………………………………vii ONE Deflowering a Virgin Continent…………………………………….3 TWO Spain Gets Hot…………………………………………………..8 THREE England Starts Some Fun Colonies………………………………..16 FouR The Colonies Develop a Life-style………………………………..24 FIVE The Birthing Contractions of a Nation…………………………….31 six Kicking Some British Butt………………………………………..37 SEVEN The Forging of a Large, Wasteful Bureaucracy……………………..46 EIGHT A Brash Young Nation Gets into Wars and Stuff…………………….54 NINE Barging Westward……………………………………………….62 TEN The Civil War: A Nation Pokes Itself in the Eyeball…………………70 ELEVEN The Nation Enters Chapter Eleven……………………………….75 TWELVE Groping Toward Empire…………………………………………85 THIRTEEN Deep International Doo-doo…………………………………..95 FOURTEEN A Nation Gets Funky………………………………………..103 FIFTEEN Severe Economic Bummerhood…………………………………..109 SIXTEEN Major Nonhumorous Events Occur……………………………….117 SEVENTEEN International Tension City…………………………………124 EIGHTEEN The Fifties: Peace, Prosperity, Brain Death…………………..133 NINETEEN The Sixties: A Nation Gets High and Has Amazing Insights, Many of

Which Later On Turn Out to Seem Kind of Stupid……………………143 TWENTY The Seventies: A Relieved Nation Learns That It Does Not Actually Need

a President…………………………………………………..153 TWENTY-ONE The Reagan-Bush Years: Napping Toward Glory…………………163 Index…………………………………………………………….177

INTRODUCTION

“WE THE PEOPLE …” These are the words that begin the Declaration of Independence. Or maybe we are thinking of the Gettysburg Address. No matter. The point is, these words are written on an extremely historic yellowed document that we, as a nation, keep in a special vault in Washington, D.C., where, each working day, it is cherished by employees of the Document Cherishing Division of the Federal Bureau of Historic Yellowed Objects.

 

And with good reason. For these three words remind us that we live in a nation that was built by human beings. It is easy to forget this, especially when we are riding in the coach section of a commercial aircraft, sitting on seats apparently built by and for alien beings who are fourteen inches tall and capable of ingesting airline “omelets” manufactured during the Korean War (1949-1953). At times like this, it is important that we look back at the people and the events that got us to where we are today, for, in the words of a very wise dead person, “A nation that does not know its history is doomed to do poorly on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.”

 

And that was the main reason why we wrote this book, aside from wanting to become so wealthy that we shall routinely leave motor yachts as tips. Tragically, many Americans know very little about the history of their own country. We constantly see surveys that reveal this ignorance, especially among our high school students, 78 percent of whom, in a recent nationwide multiple-choice test, identified Abraham Lincoln as “a kind of lobster.” That’s right: more than three quarters of our nation’s youth could not correctly identify the man who invented the telephone.

 

What is the cause of this alarming situation? Partly, of course, it is that our young people are stupid. Young people have always been stupid, dating back to when you were a young person (1971-1973) and you drank an entire quart of Midnight Surprise Fruit Wine and Dessert Topping and threw up in your best friend’s father’s elaborate saltwater aquarium containing $6,500 worth of rare and, as it turned out, extremely delicate fish. (You thought we didn’t know about that? We know everything. We are a history book.)

 

But another major part of the problem is the system used to teach history in our schools, a system known technically, among professional educators, as the Boring Method. You were probably taught via this method, which features textbooks that drone on eternally as follows:

 

EARLY EXPLORATIONS

 

The region was first explored by the Spanish explorer Juan

Ponce de Rigeur (1534-1579), who in 1541 was commissioned

by King Charles “Chuck” IV of England (1512-1583) under

the terms of the Treaty of Weems (1544) as authorized by

Pope Bilious XIV (1511-1598) to end the Nine Years, Three

Months, and the Better Part of a Week War (May 4,

1534-August 8, 1543, at about 1:30 P.m.), under which

France (1243-present) would cede an area “north of the

17th parallel, west of the 163rd longitude, and convenient

to shopping” to England in exchange for those lands

originally conquered by Denmark during the Reign of Large

Unattractive Feathered Hats (1387-1396) and subsequently

granted to Italy under the Treaty of …

 

And so on. Little wonder that our young people choose to ignore their nation’s history and instead focus their intellectual energies on procuring designer clothing. Not that you, the reader, should feel superior. You are probably not such a history whiz yourself. In fact, we are willing to bet that you cannot even name the man who served as Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976 (It doesn’t matter.). Which is why it is a darned good thing for all concerned that this book has been published. Because this book does not waste the reader’s valuable brain cells with such trivial details as when various events actually occurred. Oh, sure, it contains many exact dates—it is, after all, a history book—but you will notice that we have tried to make these dates as easy as possible to remember by making them all start with “October 8,” as in “October 8, 1729” or “October 8, 1953.” We chose this particular date after carefully weighing a number of important historical criteria, such as (a) it is our son’s birthday.

 

In our view, the one-date system of history has the same advantages, in terms of simplifying things, as the metric system of measurement, which has taken this country by storm, and we look forward to the day when history textbooks carry this system even further and contain only one year, so that a child will be able to get all the way through the secondary educational system without ever having to grasp any concept other than “October 8, 1947” (We were born in 1947.). And that is only one of the many revolutionary advances contained here. Another one is: We have left out the dull parts. Take, for example, the Role of the Plow in the Settlement of Nebraska. “The hell with the Role of the Plow in the Settlement of Nebraska”—that is our motto. This philosophy left us with plenty of extra room, which enabled us to provide you, the reader, with large, restful expanses of white space, as well as numerous riveting “behind-the-scenes” historical anecdotes that you will not find in a normal history book because we made them up.

 

In conclusion, we hope that, in reading this work, you gain a deeper and broader and taller understanding of how We, the People, through the sweat of our armpits, created this great nation, a nation of which it can truly be stated, in the words of the famous folk singer Woody Guthrie (October 8, 1912-October 8, 1967.):

This land is your land, This land is my land, Looks like one of us Has a forged deed to this land.

CHAPTER ONE
Deflowering a virgin Continent

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, America was very different. There was no civilization: no roads, no cities, no shopping malls, no Honda dealerships. There were, of course, obnoxious shouting radio commercials for car dealerships; these have been broadcast toward Earth for billions of years by the evil Planet of Men Wearing Polyester Sport Coats, and there is nothing anybody can do to stop them. But back then, you see, there was no way to receive them, so things were pretty peaceful.

 

The only inhabitants of America in those days were animals such as the deer and the antelope, who were engaged primarily in playing; and the buffalo, or “bison,” (Meaning “buffalo.”) who mainly roamed. The bison must have been an awe-inspiring sight: millions of huge, majestic animals, forming humongous herds, their hooves thundering like, we don’t know, thunder or something, roaming from the Mississippi River all the way across the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains, which they would smash into headfirst at speeds ranging upward of thirty-five miles per hour, then fall down. They were majestic, those bison, but stupid.

 

But all of this changed twenty thousand years ago with the construction of the Land Bridge to Asia, which was completed on October 8. Suddenly, the ancestors of the Indians and the Eskimos, clans who called themselves “The Ancestors of the Indians and the Eskimos,” had a way to get to North America. Still, it was not an easy trek: They had to traverse hundreds of miles of frigid snow-swept wasteland, which was cold, and each was permitted to carry only two small pieces of luggage. Eventually they arrived in an area very near what we now know as Kansas, and they saw that it was a place of gently rolling hills and clear flowing streams and abundant fertile earth, and they looked upon this place, and they said, “Nah” (“No.”). Because quite frankly they were looking for a little more action, which is how come they ended up on the East Coast. There they formed tribes and spent the next several thousand years thinking up comical and hard-to-spell names for major rivers. Also they made a great many Native American handicrafts such as pots, although at the time there was not much of a retail market for these, so the Native Americans wound up having to use them as household implements.

 

During this same period another group of early Americans, the Mayans, were constructing a culture down in Mexico featuring a calendar so advanced that it can still, to this very day, tell you where various celestial bodies such as Venus and the Moon will be at any given moment. They will be out in space, states the miraculous Mayan calendar.

 

Meanwhile, way the hell far away in someplace like Finland, Vikings were forming. These were extremely rugged individuals whose idea of a fun time was to sail over and set fire to England, which in those days was fairly easy to ignite because it had a very high level of thatch, this being the kind of roof favored by the local tribespeople—the Klaxons, the Gurnseys, the Spasms, the Wasps, the Celtics, and the Detroit Pistons. No sooner would they finish thatching one when the Vikings, led by their leader, Eric the Red (so called because that was his name), would come charging up, Zippos blazing, and that would be the end of that roof. This went on for thousands of years, during which time the English tribespeople became very oppressed, not to mention damp.

 

Then there arose among them a young man who many said would someday become the king of all of England because his name was King Arthur. According to legend, one day he was walking along with some onlookers, when he came to a sword that was stuck in a stone. He grasped the sword by the handle and gave a mighty heave, and to the amazement of the onlookers, he suddenly saw his shadow, and correctly predicted that there would be six more weeks of winter. This so impressed the various tribes that Arthur was able to unite them and drive off the Vikings via the bold and resourceful maneuver of serving them relentlessly bland food, a tradition that remains in England to this day despite numerous armed attempts by the French to invade with sauces.

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