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Frank Gray

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
City native Sam Hopkins-Hubbard, riding his quarter horse Tucker, left his home in Oregon in April on a cross-country journey to promote unity. His One Nation Ride is expected to take six months.

Fort Wayne native hopes cross-country ride shows US as indivisible

We call ourselves “one nation under God,” but the fact is we've always been divided.

We were divided during the Revolution and during the Civil War and during Prohibition and Vietnam.

About the only time we were really united was during World War II, and as soon as that war ended we went back to our old ways.

But we're still one nation, and it would be nice, says Sam Hopkins-Hubbard, a Fort Wayne native who now lives in the Pacific Northwest, if we could occasionally drop all the labels we use and just be brothers and sisters.

To drive home the point, Hopkins-Hubbard, 52, put together a team of three horses and set out across the country in early April on what he calls a One Nation Ride to deliver that message.

It's a risky venture, Hopkins-Hubbard acknowledges. He owns a small market and barbecue restaurant in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and has had to leave them behind on the trip, which is expected to take about six months.

One of his horses developed hoof problems and had to be sent back to Oregon. His 11-year-old Appaloosa named Max is unaccustomed to the heat, but he hopes it can make it to the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, his 5-year-old quarter horse is going strong.

Hopkins-Hubbard arrived in the Fort Wayne area just after the Fourth of July, where he plans to spend a week with his uncle, Gary Hubbard, in Huntertown, letting the horses rest up before continuing.

On his ride, Hopkins-Hubbard said, he's seen all kinds of communities that have been able to pull together, such as the small town where a woman's house burned. Within a day, the townspeople had cleared the site, and just as quickly set out to build her a new home.

“It's petty differences that divide us,” Hopkins-Hubbard said. “It's the divisions that make us weak.”

It's as though everyone has been given a topic, and everyone has said, “You take this side, I'll take the other and we'll fight.”

Just think of all the different issues that divide us, Hubbard said, rattling off a list of political, social, financial and other topics. If you take the entire American population and divide it 22 times, you would find yourself standing next to only 70 other Americans, he said.

He mentioned all the members of the military he has met during his trip. He's never been in the military, he said.

“But we're not off the hook as citizens. It's not just up to soldiers.”

He's right. We are a divided country, but we don't have to eat, drink and sleep our differences. We can put them aside, at least when it counts.

Along the way, Hopkins-Hubbard has run into plenty of people who are just Americans. Since April, there have been only two nights when he was denied a place to put up his horse and stay, he says.

Meanwhile, a lot of other people believe in his journey enough to give him gifts to carry to the Atlantic.

One was a feather given to a man at the funeral of his 19-year-old son.

At first, Hopkins-Hubbard refused to take it, but the man insisted he take it to the Atlantic, guard it with his life and bring it back when he is done.

That's his plan.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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