It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death. It shall be life.

— Ten Bears in “The Outlaw Josey Wales”

This time of year is traditionally very quiet in our sleepy college town, but the quiet is different this year. It has been this quiet since mid-March. Sure there have been some times during the past four months when it was more deeply quiet than others. Indeed there were times when you could hear the crickets at noon, as it were.

The quiet you hear now is different from the quiet of any other late July.

Late July most years is when many folks would take their last chance for a vacation. I know that last year my family went to Colorado. We rented an Airbnb up the mountains and reveled in the lack of electronic connection to anyone. We lived on hotdogs and s’mores. It was a good time.

Not this year. While I’ve not canvased my fellow faculty, the impression I get is that this year is very different.

Do you remember that movie The Outlaw Josey Wales? Near the end of the movie Josey and his ragtag group were holed up in a cabin believing the Comanches would be coming at them. They were fortifying the cabin and loading their weapons and planning contingencies. Then Josey went and talked with Ten Bears and everything was settled.

Well, it is like that at the university. We are in our cabins getting ready for the Fall Semester. The good news is that we have our equivalent of Josey Wales. The bad news is there no equivalent to Ten Bears in COVID-19.

We have to be prepared for anything.

It has become clear to me over the course of my 31-year career at Pittsburg State that we have to make a place for more online courses. It has also become clear that, while online courses have a place, in many cases there is just no substitute for being face-to-face.

Let me be like Jesus for a minute and explain it in a parable. A comprehensive university is like unto the Coney Island hotdog store on the Washington Street Strip in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Every Thursday, I would go with a group of companions to Coney Island. They served hot dogs, of course, but they also sold Frito pies. They had chili, onions, cheese, and mustard for the hot dogs, so all they needed for the Frito pies were Fritos. And they probably had Fritos available as a healthy side-dish anyway. Ye who have ears to hear, let them hear that online courses are like unto Frito pies: they can be made from things we have on hand and some people will buy them. Just as Frito pies were exactly what I needed on any given Thursday, online courses were exactly what a lot of people need.

But we didn’t go to Coney Island for the food even though it was... sustaining. Coney Island had a pinball machine. We took turns at the pinball machine and enjoyed each other’s company. We could’ve gone to places with cheaper food; we could’ve gone to places with more nutritious food; we chose to go to Coney Island because we could play pinball with other young people of similar interests and start working on a life-long case of acid reflux.

But I digress.

We are ensconced within our cabins preparing a metaphorical meal for our students this fall. It is like a four-course banquet that is being held in the out-of-doors when there is a threat of rain. There must be nutritious food of every type. But we need to be able to disassemble it quickly so it can be eaten under the shelter of the trees should the storm come.

Hot dogs and Frito pies wouldn’t look so bad in such circumstances.

We are ready, Josey Wales.