Monthly Archives: July 2015

Could a quiet weekend be in store at N. Broadway & U.S. 36?

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

There were five of the pickled idjits hanging out there yesterday, trespassing on posted private property in the 4900 block of N. Broadway. I’ll admit, I cussed ’em all out for their loutish behavior, and might even have done worse than that if they weren’t such wusses, sitting there in silence as I verbally ripped into them.

For the record, I did well and made $33 in the couple of hours I spent as humble beggar there.

Today, July 31st, the bums will be receiving their taxpayer-funded monthly disability checks (because August 1 falls on a Saturday). It’s a scam; although alcoholism/drug addiction per se is NOT a qualifying disability, there are so many physical and mental health complications from chronic substance abuse that the bums can qualify for SSI/SSDI on that basis.

These benefits are used by the bums to party in a cheap motel for a few days, buy booze and dope, and otherwise squander Uncle Sugar’s largesse. They’ll be broke again in a week or ten days.

I hope they’ll stay away from my neighborhood until they’re all partied out . . . In fact, I hope they stay away FOREVER.

no-problem-if-you-arent-homeless

Max’s Journal 7/30/2015

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

ovnfr

One was used for hot water only, which I utilized for my own instant coffee every morning, but now it’s back to hot tap water instead.

ovose (1)

He’s disappointed because he’s not the center of attention every day. This is the sort of bum who ought to be given the $5 bus ticket on RTD bound for Denver.

See a Facebook photo of Samuel Forgy for yourself:

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You know, I find it pretty easy to believe that Mr. Forgy attacked his neighbors with a knife and then approached police officers with a hammer. However, every time some doped-up lunatic with potentially deadly weapons goes on a rampage here in Boulder, his so-called friends talk about his stellar qualities while ignoring the harm he actually caused to innocent people. This is called D-E-N-I-A-L.

Give me a break! And kudos to Boulder PD, who handled the situation exactly as they should have.

I’ll be interested to see what happens to the drunken child molesters and their equally drunken girlfriends in my north Boulder neighborhood, now that notice has gone out that they’re lurking there in front of the Mexican restaurant in the 4900 block of N. Broadway. I know that many of the motorists passing by the corner of U.S. 36 read my blog, and I’m hoping they’ll STOP giving cash to these predators.

That’s all for now, folks. Time for a quick game of chess online . . .

Parents in the Dakota Ridge neighborhood please take note, and more

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

These are the two white males I referred to in my previous post:

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There are many other registered sex offenders (including child molesters) who either stay in the First Step/Transition Program at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, 4869 N. Broadway, or who use it as a mailing address and for morning services like showers, breakfast, locker access, etc. See the Boulder PD online sex offender registry.

I provide this info solely so that those citizens living in the neighborhood can be wary of the dangers present. I am firmly opposed to vigilantism in any case. However, feel free to join me in both spoken and written criticism of the apologists/enablers at BSH, who literally don’t give a damn about being good neighbors.

You kindhearted passersby on the corner of U.S. 36 who have been handing out cash to Messrs. Funk and Gibson might want to reconsider your generosity . . .

It’s time once again for Boulder PD to evict all of the RV squatters who have been illegally parking their broken-down vehicles — and living in them both day and night, also illegal within the city limits — on Front Range Dr. directly to the west of Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. This is an annual occurrence, but the police seem to be a bit behind schedule dealing with it in 2015.

I have an idea for another short story, which would be based on real events playing out over the course of the next few months. It would require the help of others directly involved, so we’ll see what happens.

Count the motor vehicles in this photo, then count the bicycles, then tell me what mind-altering substances the city’s transportation planners are ingesting:

Emily Ely rides toward downtown Boulder last week after the city completed its

Emily Ely rides toward downtown Boulder last week after the city completed its “right-sizing” lane changes on Folsom Street. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)

I think they might be overdosing on ‘shrooms, even though they’ve decided to delay WRONG-SIZING at Iris & 63rd.

Tonight at my campsite: Sausage gravy on white bread (since the biscuits at King Soopers are terrible).

Drunken Neanderthals take over corner of N. Broadway & U.S. 36

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

Neanderthals

Okay, the pickled idjits don’t carry spears, only jugs of rotgut vodka in their backpacks, but they look even rougher than this bunch. 

It’s become a daily occurrence over the past few weeks; the arrival sometime during the course of the day of two Native American women — one of whom was recently evicted from Housing First at 1175 Lee Hill for inviting her street friends to stay overnight in her apartment — and two Caucasian men — one of whom looks like he’s been beaten in the face (or fallen face-first onto a sidewalk). One inebriate will take a turn panhandling on the corner for a half hour or so (being unable to stand upright for longer periods), then another, and so on, while the others party and sleep underneath the only shade tree in front of the nearby Mexican restaurant in the 4900 block of N. Broadway. NOTE: Both of the white guys can be seen on Boulder PD’s online sex offender registry, convicted for sex crimes involving children.

BTW, they’re no more than 10′ away from large NO TRESPASSING sign placed there by the owner(s) of this private property.

There’s hardly a spot for me there any longer, and it’s certain that none of the business owners or workers or residents of the Dakota Ridge neighborhood will want to stop and chat with me with this bunch of troglodytes present. I have to wait for any chance to “fly a sign” myself for an hour or so, and passing motorists who don’t know me may think I’m part of that rat pack. Hence, I’ve made up a new sign, which seems to work well:

HELP THE SOBER

NOT THE PICKLED

READ MY BLOG

“homelessphilosopher”

THANK YOU!

On Saturday, with a special guest guitarist (he can’t play worth a lick, drunk or sober) to accompany the foursome’s caterwauling, they sang the first lines to about 50 different songs because they were too hooched up to remember the rest. Not at all like the musical stylings of the late alcoholic D.H., who sang and played the guitar for years on the corner of U.S. 36, and butchered the lyrics to complete songs in a very funny way (I still wonder if he did so on purpose).

Sunday morning, only one of the women was present as I played the role of humble beggar. However, some stranger with a dog showed up and wanted a turn, which he took when my self-imposed hour had expired. You guessed it; he tied his dog to the signpost at the end of the median in an attempt to gain the sympathy of passersby. I read the Sunday edition of the Daily Camera and a novel for the rest of the time I sat on the wall, until leaving for my campsite around 2:30PM when the rest of the scurvy crew arrived.

Also, as I had a good view of that small commercial district while standing on the median, I was thrilled when I observed a Boulder County deputy cruising through it, looking for loitering bums. Apparently, he didn’t spot Pickled Pocahontas under the tree, but he did run off a transient couple who was lounging around behind the restaurant. He made two passes, and I have no doubt this is due to complaints from people who live and work in the area, as well as the property owner(s). It should become a daily patrol — until the bums get the message that they aren’t welcome in this area.

I understand that their previous hangout had been underneath the bridge at Broadway & Rosewood a few blocks to the south. This suits them better for two reasons:

1) It somewhat resembles a cave; and

2) Their bad behavior isn’t so disruptive to decent people — including the majority of the homeless — who want to live in peace.

It’s TOO MUCH to hope for that the nonprofits in north Boulder would ever choose to do right, and give these bums the $5 bus tickets on RTD to Denver.

This is what I’d hoped to see here in Colorado, and more

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller 

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Dan and Terzah Becker Facebook photo at Bowen Lake

Things didn’t work out that way, due to my increasing physical disabilities, but I do enjoy scenic views in every direction from my north Boulder neighborhood. And the visits overnight from the wild critters are almost always enjoyable (rodents became too much, however). What this pic by my friends really offers is a peaceful solitude, apart from all of the drama that intrudes on our daily lives.

The Mayor of Boulder, CO doesn’t know that Vatican City is an independent country: “[Pope Francis] doesn’t control a country, but the moral authority is extremely valuable and not to be ignored or dismissed,” Matt Appelbaum says in the Daily Camera.

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“I’m smart enough to run your electric utility!”

Read Macon Cowles won’t seek re-election to the Boulder City Council in the DC. George K. has also decided not to run again, but that still leaves seven BCC members who need to be booted out by voters in the next couple of election cycles:

Three Stooges X 3

On the lighter side:

Owl

Owl (Boulder County Sheriff’s Office)

See the story here. Many nights, I hear the owls HOOTING around my campsite, and they’re quite loud. I don’t mind it a bit, because it has an entirely different quality to it compared to the yelling and cursing of either drunken transients around Boulder Shelter for the Homeless or rowdy patrons of the nearby Bustop Gentleman’s Club.

Tonight at my campsite: Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and Ritz crackers.

License panhandlers in Boulder, CO and more

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

I think this is long overdue, because panhandling is in fact a business. I certainly regard it as such, and I depend on that income from generous passersby to buy all of life’s necessities; I’ve never applied for any of the social services benefits I’m eligible for here in Colorado because I wish to avoid becoming a slave to the system, nor do I patronize any of the private nonprofits other than Boulder Shelter for the Homeless (for my morning shower and to maintain a small locker with a change of clothes and sundry items).

True, my spot at the corner of N. Broadway & U.S. 36 is outside the city limits, but I still see a pressing need to regulate the conduct of anyone who “flies a sign” in the City of Boulder itself. Too many of these characters are obviously under the influence (a danger to both themselves and motorists), or loud and aggressive toward passersby, or yelling and fighting each other for a turn, or otherwise behaving badly.

An annual license should cost at least $25, and the city needs to adopt a reasonable code of conduct for panhandling, and punish those who misbehave by revoking their Panhandling License — unlicensed panhandling anywhere inside the city limits should be a municipal offense carrying at least a $100 fine.

Here’s an example of what needs to be stopped:

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This is Boulder Colorado Facebook photo: “One of our corner lobbyists at 28th and Baseline having a screaming fight with a motorist behind me.”

Another problem that ought to be addressed are the FAKE VETERANS who falsely claim to have served our country in the military service, in order to gain your sympathy. This guy is the classic case here in Boulder:

Richard Grant (Boulder County Sheriff’s Office)

Fortunately, he’s been gone for about a year now, since getting a bench warrant for Failure to Appear on a charge of Harassment involving a female panhandler at N. Broadway & U.S. 36. There are many others like him, however . . .

Here’s another review of “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee. It’s appropriately entitled “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise” and I applaud Catherine Nichols for writing it.

As I posted on my Facebook page: Editing is one thing; what happened to “Go Set a Watchman” some 60 years ago is called CENSORSHIP. Those involved at that publisher back then deserve to be raked over the coals now.

Tonight at my campsite: Biscuits and sausage gravy.

The truth about homelessness in Utah, and more

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

For a long while now, we’ve been treated to propaganda about how Housing First is ending “chronic homelessness” in our neighboring state of Utah. Time and again, I’ve pointed out two relevant facts:

1) The chronically homeless are only a tiny percentage of overall homeless numbers; and

2) There are about as many homeless people in Utah now as ever.

See the data for yourself, in the 2014 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness; scroll down to page 9 and peruse “Figure 3.1 Utah Homeless Point-In-Time Count, 2005 — 2014” (I wish I could find data organized in this way for Colorado).

In 2005, there were 13,690 homeless persons counted in Utah, 5,565 of them in families and 1,932 chronically homeless. After some variation up and down in numbers over the years, 2014 showed 13,621 homeless persons counted, with 6,312 of them in families and 539 chronically homeless. Yes, indeed, chronically homeless numbers — relatively small to begin with — have declined. But, the number of homeless people in families has increased and the number of homeless overall has remained steady.

My guess is that many of the chronically homeless simply moved on from Utah during this time, some of them probably coming here to the Denver/Boulder metro area in Colorado.

To tout this as a success for Housing First is to twist logic into a pretzel. Look at the entire picture, people. Don’t ALL homeless people count, not just the “chronically homeless”?

Subway serves a free lunch to nearly 1,100 needy people at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

I’m delighted to see that sales of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” are booming, with people wanting to read it and decide for themselves if it’s an accurate reflection of the white mainstream’s racist attitudes in 1950s Alabama.

This summer in Boulder, CO has been very disappointing to me. I’d grown accustomed to this time of year being a break from the transients flocking here in search of Hippie Paradise, but thanks to our local shelter/services providers doing even more to welcome the bums it’s been a mess, instead. Not a morning goes by that I don’t see new faces at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless — and they candidly admit that they’re here for “legal” marijuana, which they think they can smoke anywhere in public or resell on the street for a profit.

Time for NEW LEADERSHIP among the nonprofits: BSH, Bridge House, Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, and others. Their current boards of directors and staff must go!

BTW, there was a lot of blood on the sidewalk at my spot in front of the Mexican restaurant in the 4900 block of N. Broadway yesterday. The bums who were present denied any knowledge of how it came to be there, but I made it clear that their stupid violence needs to go elsewhere. Back to Denver sounds like the best option to me.

That’s all for now, folks.

Review: ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee

By Max R. Weller

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

— Isaiah 21:6 KJV

I read this novel on Saturday, after buying it at King Soopers because it was discounted by 40%; still, sixteen dollars and change is a major investment for the Homeless Philosopher. It was worth every penny to me. The flashback in Chapter 5 to the 1930s childhood of Jem, Scout, and Dill — in which they stage their own version of a Baptist revival — had tears running down my cheeks, it was so funny. The character of Atticus had the same reaction.

“Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are separate novels which happen to share a cast of characters. So are “Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” so let there be an end to confusion on that score. Thus, “Watchman” is set in the 1950s, in the midst of growing turmoil over race relations. Remember, in real life President Eisenhower sent federal troops into Little Rock to enforce school integration and keep the racist Arkansas governor and his minions in check. In that context, Harper Lee can be forgiven for using somewhat overwrought dialogue in Jean Louise’s confrontation with her father and dethroned idol, Atticus, at the end of the book. In the heat of the moment, she calls him a “ringtailed son-of-a-bitch.” Atticus refuses to become angry in response, and instead allows his adult daughter to vent her emotions. I think a pivotal moment for Jean Louise, leading up to this, occurred when the retired Calpurnia made an unspoken yet unmistakable rejection of Scout, just two short years after the old Finch family retainer had deeply mourned the passing of Jem.

The story starts off slowly, with 26-year-old Jean Louise Finch returning home by train to Maycomb, AL from New York City, an annual pilgrimage for her since Atticus shoved her out of the nest (for her own good). She happens upon a more-or-less open meeting of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council, attended by almost every prominent white man including Atticus Finch and Jean Louise’s Maycomb boyfriend (an attorney working with Atticus in his law firm), and being held in the Courthouse.  Jean Louise eavesdrops on the proceedings from the same seat in the balcony where she’d witnessed Atticus defending a Negro man falsely accused of raping a white girl some twenty years earlier (NOTE: there are some important differences in facts about this case in its brief mention in “Watchman” as compared to its detailed treatment in “Mockingbird”). The Citizens’ Councils all over the South were attempting to stem the tide of full civil rights for Negroes, and Jean Louise herself makes reference to the specious constitutional argument about states’ rights based on the Tenth Amendment. Of course, it’s the Fourteenth Amendment, the one which guarantees due process and the equal protection of the laws, which directly bears on the civil rights of all citizens.

Someone in The New Yorker wrote that “Watchman” fails now because of its “didactic treatment of race” — whatever that is supposed to mean. No, this work fails only because the publisher lacked the moral courage to print an indictment of the paternalistic brand of racism practiced by mainstream white Southerners in the 1950s, FAILED TO PRINT IT AT THAT TIME, an audacious indictment written by a young woman born and bred in the South. We’ll never know, but I think it would have been a bombshell back then, and its author would certainly have been excoriated by many of her own people.

As to the slanders about others (including Truman Capote, the real-life Dill) having ghostwritten both “Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” it’s beyond ridiculous, and illustrates the fact that an effete literary establishment (and its hangers-on) has NEVER wanted to credit Harper Lee with possessing her abundance of talent. As to editing, extensively or not, a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook page, “EVERYONE needs an editor.” That much I accept.

I highly recommend this book to all those who can form their own judgment by reading it, without regard to any of the silliness surrounding its long-delayed publication.

‘James Holmes guilty of murder in Aurora theater shooting’

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

Read the story in the Denver Post. All that remains for Holmes is a decision by the jury on punishment. Frankly, although it’s not permitted in Colorado, I favor public hanging in a venue where as many spectators as possible might have a chance to see justice carried out.

The other matter to be resolved now is what, if any, consequences Dr. Lynne Fenton may face for her failure to seek court-ordered involuntary commitment to a secure psychiatric facility BEFORE Holmes went on his deadly rampage. See Aurora theater shooting gunman told doctor: “You can’t kill everyone” also in the Denver Post. Quoting from this article below:

In Colorado, mental health professionals can have patients involuntarily committed to a hospital but only if they pose “an imminent danger to themselves or others,” said Tom Olbrich, the director of access and emergency services for the Jefferson Center for Mental Health.

That leaves much up to the interpretation of the therapist. In 2014, lawmakers provided clearer guidance about what “danger” means, but Olbrich said the decision turns on whether the threat is “imminent.”

“Unless you have good, strong evidence that indicates that the person is about to do something in the next day or two it, it probably doesn’t meet the standard of imminent,” he said.

Fenton, who is now facing a lawsuit over her decision, insisted that Holmes never told her anything to suggest an attack was imminent.

To prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, it showed Holmes calculatedly kept details of his plot from his therapist. To defense attorneys, who have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the fact that Holmes continued going to therapy shows a man who was reaching out for help.

But it was Fenton who seemed most torn, still unable to understand the mind of her patient. During one break in testimony, she and Holmes and the rest of the courtroom stood at attention as the jury exited the room.

Her eyes drifted to the right. They looked first at the floor by the defense table. Then they lifted to look at the man on trial there.

Dr. Lynne Fenton from her CU faculty bio page

Dr. Lynne Fenton from her CU faculty bio page (University of Colorado file

What a travesty of the practice of psychiatry that so many innocent people died because this idiot, Dr. Fenton, couldn’t see the evil right in front of her . . .

A Summertime Visit to the Farm

A short story by “Philip Neumann”

Chapter 1

“Boy, let’s walk over to the hardware store,” Uncle Jacob said as we were clearing the kitchen table of breakfast dishes. “I need a box of nails if we’re going to patch all the holes in that old chicken coop, and make the varmints at least work for their dinner.”

Jacob was my bachelor uncle, who lived alone on a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas. His younger brother, my dad, had been killed on Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. My mother never really got over it, and I was now a teenager in need of a male role model before I ended up in the juvenile reformatory in Jefferson City, Missouri.

The year was 1954, and I was all of fifteen years of age. Hardly a delinquent in my own eyes, but folks in my Missouri hometown didn’t appreciate their privies mysteriously catching fire in the middle of the night. Gee-whiz, it was only those a safe distance away from other structures, and they never actually caught me red-handed, but when Judge Brown’s outhouse went up in flames he calmly informed my mother that I needed a long vacation out of state. Almost everybody had indoor plumbing, anyway, but I guess people are sensitive about such things.

When I’d arrived on the train from Missouri a couple of days earlier, Uncle Jacob was at the station in the small town of Otoe in Kansas — named for an obscure Indian tribe who once lived in the area — and the first thing he said to me was, “Boy, I don’t care for the idea of doing my business in the bushes, so there’ll be no fires set to my outhouse.”

I assured him that was not anything I had in mind, having been sent into exile on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence. I was turning over a new leaf, I proclaimed, with my fingers crossed behind my back.

“You’ll be here for the summer, and maybe longer if things work out. This is a working farm, boy, even if it appears to be falling apart, and I still do things the traditional way as far as crops and livestock. The place was homesteaded by my grandfather, your great-grandfather, who came over from Denmark before our Civil War — in which he fought for General Sherman against Johnny Reb and then fought the Injuns who weren’t too happy about the coming of civilization. A lot of history here, so if you pay attention you might learn something.”

“Uncle Jacob,” I volunteered, “I’m a hard worker and  more than happy to learn about family farm life. I have to ask, since the farm is so close to town, don’t those folks get upset by the aroma of your hogs?”

When he finished laughing, which took about a minute, he pointed out that small town Kansas residents also kept livestock of all kinds in their backyards. “Boy, that’s not manure you smell; it’s money!” I tried to wrap my mind around the idea of Judge Brown and his prissy wife keeping hogs and chickens in their backyard back in Missouri, but it made my head hurt.

On this particular day, we started out on the short half-mile trek into town about 7 in the morning, after chores and breakfast, including the first cup of strong black coffee I’d ever tasted. Jacob swore it would put hair on my chest, and being just fifteen this was something I really wanted.

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1950 Ford 8N Tractor

Chapter 2

The farmhouse was located at one end of the half-mile frontage of the farm’s 160 acres on an all-weather county road, and at the other end was the Otoe city limits. As we walked along, Uncle Jacob took the opportunity to tell a few of the stories that had been passed down from my homesteading great-grandfather, the Union Army veteran and part-time Indian fighter.

At one point, we stopped so that I could see the remains of the family’s sod house built in 1880, about the time that Jacob’s dad, my grandfather, was born. According to Jacob, he never had any interest in farming and went into banking as soon as he could. That’s why my great-grandfather left the farm in trust to the very young Jacob, born in 1910. “The grand old man died in 1923, aged 80, and so there were a series of tenant farmers until I came of age,” Jacob explained. “I might have felt guilty about evicting tenants at the start of the Depression, but they went broke anyway and couldn’t pay the rent to the estate. When I moved in, there was nobody on the place except jackrabbits and a few of those gaudy Chinese pheasants.”

The original wood-frame house and barn were built before 1900, and remained in good shape thanks to the efforts of Uncle Jacob. He admitted, “I never cared how rickety small outbuildings looked; to me, a solid farmhouse and main barn were most important. Even so, we’re going to patch the holes in that chicken coop today.”

I’m glad we made the walk to the hardware store, rather than riding in the Ford pickup, because it gave me an insight into this extended family I’d hardly known.

“Uncle Jacob,” I inquired, “did you ever see an Indian around here?”

“No, Boy, the Otos and other tribes were gone by the time I was born. But, during the Depression I saw many a rough-looking hobo looking for a handout. If they would work for a day, I’d feed them good twice and let ’em sleep in the hayloft. The bums who wouldn’t work? I showed those varmints the business end of my old ’92 Winchester, and that big .44/40 caliber hole made ’em step right along in double-time.” We both laughed at that image in our minds. “Most of the hoboes were good men, down on their luck, but the few bad ones were just mean as rattlesnakes. They all wanted to keep drifting on, it seemed.”

“Was this farm hurt by the Dust Bowl storms? We learned about that in American History class last year,” I asked.

Jacob thought about it for a minute, as we stopped again, then he said, “Not this one so much, Boy. I never believed in planting crops fence to fence, and always left about a 10′ wide strip of native prairie grasses around each field. That and the cedars your great-grandfather planted as windbreaks saved most of this farm’s topsoil. And I’ve shot many a cottontail rabbit for supper, not those stringy jacks, walking along the fencerows.”

I looked at my uncle carefully, not wanting to appear overeager, and asked him. “Would you teach me to hunt, Uncle Jacob?”

“I thought you understood, Boy — that’s to be part of your education here this summer.”

19th Century sod house on the Great Plains

Chapter 3

All Danes look alike. Or at least the male members on the paternal side of my family do; I concluded this after seeing a photo album Uncle Jacob kept in a steamer trunk in the farmhouse’s attic. There was even a Civil War photo of my great-grandfather in uniform. I think the Negroes back in my Missouri hometown, who were often said to “all look alike” by the rednecks, would have agreed.

I had no trouble in adjusting to the everyday labor involved in raising hogs and chickens; mowing, raking, and baling hay to be sold to the neighbors in winter as feed for their cattle and horses; helping with the wheat harvest around the end of June (I drove a big truck loaded with grain to the farmers’ co-op elevator for the custom combining crew, as they were short a man when they arrived at our farm); maintaining fences; learning about basic mechanics for every piece of machinery on the place; weeding the LARGE potato patch (Jacob traded potatoes for canned tomatoes, green beans, and sweet corn during the winter); and dozens of other tasks.

And yes, I found time to practice my rabbit-hunting skills that summer, both jacks and cottontails being fair game year-round in the Sunflower State. I used Uncle Jacob’s Winchester Model 12 shotgun in 20 gauge, which was also the weapon of choice for marauding foxes and other varmints seeking a free chicken dinner. My uncle kept a plentiful supply of 20 gauge loads in various shot sizes, from #8 and #6 birdshot to #3 buckshot. Jacob had purchased his Model 12 when he took over the farm, and it looked well-cared for after more than twenty years of service.

My only complaint was insomnia; the place was TOO QUIET at night, compared to the residential neighborhood I was used to. It didn’t matter where I tried to sleep — in the guest bedroom, on the floor of the screened-in porch, in the hayloft, etc. 15-year-old boys need their sleep, and there was never any chance for a catnap during the day. Jacob told me that I could catch up on sleep when I went back to my mother’s home in the Show Me State. I’ll admit I was looking forward to my own bed, although I knew I would otherwise miss all that had become a part of my daily life in Kansas.

Nothing is ever perfect, a fact I came to accept in regard to many issues in my life that summer.

Another lesson I learned was about neighbors pitching in to help each other, without waiting to be asked, whenever the job needed extra hands. Jacob explained that volunteering was a part of the barter system, trading your labor on a task at the farm next door and receiving their labor in return. Sort of like exchanging a bushel of potatoes for several quarts of canned vegetables, as my uncle did when the snows came. Although I wouldn’t be around for hog butchering that Fall, my uncle told me how he would distribute the bounty from the processing plant — bacon, hams, tenderloins, chops, sausage, head cheese, and more — to farmwives in the area, who in turn kept him supplied with fresh-baked bread and pies.

Head cheese — definitely an acquired taste, like coffee black and bourbon neat

Chapter 4

Sunday, August 1, 1954

Dear Judge and Mrs. Brown,

My name is Alvin Larson, and I’m the teenage boy who set fire to your privy last May. I deeply regret my wrongdoing, and I humbly ask you to forgive me.

As you may know from my mother, I’ve spent this summer on my Uncle Jacob’s farm in Kansas. I’ve worked hard and learned a lot about all that goes into a farming operation.

I’d like to work off the damages I owe you by coming to work for you, perhaps at your own farm, on weekends and holidays during the upcoming school year. Once I return to Missouri. I intend to make the same offer in person to the other four privy owners who suffered from my misbehavior.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Alvin Larson

This is the letter I sent to Judge Brown, in an effort to make amends and set my mind at ease. I had my uncle read it first, and he agreed that it was the right thing for me to do, despite the obvious risk in making a written confession to a judge. About ten days later, I received this reply:

Saturday, August 7, 1954

Dear Alvin,

Your letter both surprised and delighted Mrs. Brown and me.

The truth is that we had wanted to be rid of that eyesore for years, and upon consideration burning it down was as good a means as any. Nobody would have wanted to salvage lumber from a privy, anyway, and we would have assumed the cost of having it hauled away to the city dump regardless. Even so, we accept your offer to make restitution by the labor of your hands on our farm. We paid a Negro man $20 to dispose of the well-charred remains and fill in the pit, so it should take you about 20-25 hours to make good on your debt to us.

Do you know anything about horses? I can always use an extra stable hand to care for my American Saddlebreds.

Please allow me to smooth the way for you with the other four victims of your misguided prank, so they will know that you are serious in wanting to make amends. You may as well be informed by me that there is one city police officer who is determined to bring the “privy arsonist” to justice, but a settlement among all of the parties involved will quickly bring this to an end. 

Folks in our fair city remember the sacrifice made by your father, giving up his life in defense of his country, and almost nobody wants to see his son in legal trouble if it can be avoided. That happens to be the view of the police chief, as well.

Come by and see us as soon as you get back in town, and we’ll work out the details.

Sincerely,

Thaddeus Q. Brown

Need I say how relieved I was after reading this letter? I slept soundly that night, and every night the rest of the summer, so it wasn’t really a case of the farm being TOO QUIET for restful sleep, it’s that my conscience had been TOO LOUD. I never committed another crime (not counting the time I slugged Joe Dunn in the jaw for drunkenly accosting my girlfriend at the 1957 Octoberfest Dance in my hometown).

A few days later, Uncle Joe took me down to the barn to show me his wintertime project-to-be. When he pulled a dusty old canvas tarp off of a 1921 Indian motorcycle, in need of some work but clearly able to be put in running order again, my mouth just hung open.

Truly a classic machine

Chapter 5

The dog days of August on the farm in Kansas were about what I’d expected, because it’s the same climate in Missouri. The difference being that there were two ponds at Uncle Jacob’s place, deep enough to remain cool during the worst heat wave. There’s no faster way to get relief from the scorching sun than a quick dip sans clothing, except for slowly sipping a big dipper full of the water from the farm’s well — 90 feet deep. Melons put into a washtub full of this icy relic of the last Ice Age are a delicacy, more refreshing than any bottle of soda pop. Colder than a well-digger’s ass the old saying goes.

In the evenings, when the day’s work was done, Jacob and I would sit on the screened-in porch safe from skeeters and flies, and talk about lots of different things. For example:

“Uncle Jacob, you never mentioned who the ’92 Winchester rifle and the vintage Indian motorcycle belonged to. You’re too young to have bought either one, unless they were used.”

“Boy, the rifle came with the place, and since it’s unbelievable that a dirt-poor tenant would have forgotten such a valuable item and left it behind, I figure it must have been my father’s. Not much use for a weapon like that if you were a banker in Wichita and now retired. I never asked him about it. The Indian is a real mystery, because I’ve never been able to find a title for it here or in the safe deposit box at the bank. After I restore it this winter, I’ll just ride it for fun. You’re welcome to do likewise if you come back next summer.”

“Do you want me to come back?”

“Of course I do, Boy. You’re just about the best farmhand I’ve ever had working with me, and I’ve gotten by without paying you any wages. So far.”  We both laughed. “Actually, I’ve kept track of your hours and will settle up with you before you go back to Missouri. A little cash in your pocket along with what you’ve learned about farming — the way I practice it — will have made your time here worthwhile.”

“Why did my dad leave the farm? Do you know the reason, Uncle Jacob?”

“Well, my brother was five years younger than me, you remember. As I became more interested in farming, he became more interested in seeing the world beyond these 160 acres. Your dad would get a faraway look in his eyes when he heard the train whistles, as they rolled through Otoe day and night. After he graduated from high school in ’33, he managed to get a job working for the railroad, at a time when lots of other young men were hopping on freight cars going who-knows-where. He wound up in Missouri, where he met your mother — but she can tell you more about that.” Jacob paused to wipe a bead of sweat away from his cheek; it surely couldn’t have been a tear. “He saw plenty when he enlisted in the Army, and so did I, but he never made it back home and I’d like to forget most of what I did overseas.”

“Who did the two of you live with after my great-grandfather passed on, and the farm was being held in trust?”

“Boy, you can probably imagine that I bristled at the thought of living in any big city like Wichita. We stayed with our great-aunt at her place in Otoe, and I helped out six days a week in her general store while going to school. Not exactly ideal, but more to my liking than being the banker’s boy in the city. Your dad and I were never close to our own parents, and we sort of made our own way in life as best we could.”

“Say, Uncle Jacob, how old is this basset hound of yours? I’ve never seen him do much more than sleep here on the porch.”

“I’m not sure about his age. He just showed up in the driveway one day years ago, and decided it was agreeable enough to stay on. You’re right, he don’t do much. I figure that some city slicker dumped him out on the road to be rid of him. That’s why I make allowances for his laziness.”

farm_pond

Kansas farm pond

Chapter 6

About once a week I’d go into Otoe by myself to pick up a few miscellaneous items from the stores there, and stop at the drug store for an ice cream soda. This treat was made in a tall glass with a small amount of milk, chocolate syrup (other flavors available), vanilla ice cream, and club soda. Whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top were optional, but that seemed too girly for me. Of course, you needed both a LONG spoon and a straw to properly consume it, and then you’d tip the glass upside down to get the last few drops of goodness.

Uncle Jacob and I were the only customers at the hardware store who wanted 44/40 WCF ammo, the caliber being introduced in 1873 and long since faded into obscurity by 1954. But if you were lucky enough to own a John Moses Browning-designed 1892 Winchester rifle, it was too fun not to shoot it, even if your targets were paper. The 24-inch barrel version had a full-length tubular magazine that held 15 cartridges — hence the old saying load on Sunday and shoot all week. I became a pretty good shot, for a novice.

I’d been keeping a written journal of my experiences on the farm all along, and hoped that it would come in handy if I needed to submit a paper in English class — What I Did on Summer Vacation. Why, I hid out from the law in another state! Should have been good for an “A” but I never was assigned such an interesting topic, one that I might approach from my unique perspective.

One useful thing I learned to do was make biscuits. I used flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, lard, and milk. Baked in a hot oven — it would have been a hoot to try it in the old wood-burning cookstove, but a modern propane stove was more convenient — these always turned out well. Making sausage gravy in a huge cast iron skillet was easy, too. This was the sort of breakfast fare you washed down with a large mug of black coffee, and it filled you up until lunch. Bachelors have to learn to do all of the household chores, and cooking is the most pleasing of what is otherwise drudgery.

It was only a couple of weeks more until I was set to get on the train back to my hometown, and I knew for sure that I’d return to the farm in Kansas for the summer of 1955. I wondered how bored I would become back in my hometown, which had never held much appeal for me; that’s why I was attracted to the notion of torching privies. I had to trust that I’d become more mature over the summer under Uncle Jacob’s guidance.

Time would tell . . .

I still needed to finish up with repairing fences around the place, and there was more hay to be mowed, raked, and baled. A farmer’s work is never done.

Wood-burning cookstove

Chapter 7

My duffle bag was packed and I was tossing it in the back of the old Ford pickup to head to the train station, when Uncle Jacob remarked to me, “If I’m still running this place twenty years from now as I have been since 1931, this farm will stand out like rat shit in a sugar bowl.”

I was taken aback. “What do you mean by that?”

“Boy, I’m no Daniel like in the Bible, but I can see the handwriting on the wall and understand what lies ahead for the so-called family farm. Bankers with their lure of huge loans to farmers for expanding, along with government policy that favors big operations, will be exploited by the greedy corporations to turn farmers into serfs. Nobody will even think about supporting themselves by raising a few hogs and chickens and growing vegetables for canning like my neighbors and I still do. It will all be brand new overpriced equipment and tons of chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides if you grow any kind of crops; hormones and antibiotics if you raise any kind of livestock. Most farmers will go broke as things settle out.”

“What will you do, Uncle Jacob?”

“Just what I’ve been doing; scraping out a modest living and resisting the urge to borrow my way to prosperity. Alvin, listen to me, you’re a bright young man and should go into a profession that can offer you more than this place has given me.”

I decided I’d have to think about this on the trip back to Missouri, but I didn’t really feel the love for a home place like Jacob did. I might prefer a job that could take me all over the country, and maybe even the world. I wondered if my uncle was content with the path he’d chosen, being rooted to one spot. He was 44 years old, with no education beyond high school, and probably had a better life here than he could have anywhere else. I hoped so, because I truly admired the man I’d come to know over the course of a summer.

We didn’t say much as we drove into Otoe. When we arrived at the depot, Jacob pulled an envelope from inside of his overalls. “This is your pay for the summer. I tallied up about 700 hours of labor, at the generous hourly wage of $1, and it’s all in Jacksons for your convenience. Hell, you couldn’t get change for a Benjamin except at a bank.” He grinned at me and said, “You could stuff it under your mattress back home, but I recommend that you open a savings account at your mother’s bank. Personally, I’ve kept my cash both ways, but it’s useful at times to have a banker in your corner.”

We got out of the pickup, and firmly shook hands in the Scandinavian manner — no hugging or other unmanly gestures.

“Oh, one more thing, Alvin.” It was only the second time he’d used my real name, the first being just a short while earlier. He pulled out a long package wrapped in canvas from behind the seat and presented it to me. “I called your  mother about this, and it took all of my persuasive skills and natural charm to get her to agree, but the ’92 Winchester is yours now.”

This meant more to me that the $700 I’d earned, suffering through the heat, hands blistered, every muscle in my body stiff and hurting. The rifle was sort of a coming-of-age gift from an older warrior, one I’ve cherished and still own at age 76.

Thus ended my summertime visit to the farm in Kansas circa 1954, and I should add that things worked out okay back in my Missouri hometown.

Winchester Model 1892 Rifle, caliber .44/40 WCF

FINIS