By Karl Terry
One thing readers of this column would probably be surprised to know about me is that I was once a hand model.
That’s right, my stubby and formerly ink-stained digits were featured prominently in a publication of national significance. I hadn’t thought about it in years until I was going through a box of old photos and newspaper clippings. There it was — my cover shot from 28 years ago.
OK, the publication was local, a special section of the Quay County Sun, but the event it promoted was national and once–in-a-lifetime. My stubby fingers were shown holding hands with a contrasting set of slender female fingers from the newspaper’s staff.
If you were alive on May 25, 1986 (Memorial Day weekend) you may recall the “Hands Across America” event that sought to raise money for the hungry and homeless of America. The hook was to create a human chain of people holding hands all the way across America symbolizing the unity necessary to wipe out hunger.
A man by the name of Ken Kragen promoted the idea. He is the same guy who, a few years earlier had been the promoter of the “We are the World” album that raised millions for humanitarian projects in Africa. Smart guy, I just don’t think he quite had a grasp of the enormity and emptiness of the Western landscape.
Anyway, the route followed I-40 from Amarillo right down Tucumcari Blvd. (old Route 66) in Tucumcari. They were expecting people from all over to travel to Tucumcari to their assigned spot in the line.
The day of the event, we had lunch and made ice cream with a group of friends and then took our place in line out front of the motel they operated. I’ve got to say in the end I was impressed. I’m pretty sure there were no gaps in the line the entire length of town. We had old folks from the nursing home in wheelchairs and walkers, we had cowboys on horseback from area ranches linked up by lariat, and yes we had folks from all over show up for a spot in line.
One of the highlights of the day was a visit from pop music star Kenny Rogers who briefly flew into the Tucumcari airport to greet fans and participants. He then lifted off in a helicopter to take his place in line with then relatively unknown country music singer and songwriter Lee Greenwood and Dallas Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett at the New Mexico-Texas state line.
I don’t think the event reached its fund raising goal but it sure impressed me by raising $34 million and including 6.5 million people in the chain. While there were huge gaps in the desert of New Mexico and other places, mathematicians say that number of people would actually have stretched the entire route.
Everyone’s inner flower child, languishing for nearly 20 years, got loose that day and we all joined hands and sang.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: