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Collected editorials

I never promised you a rose garden

News From Outlaw County

Let it not be said that I don’t keep up with the local news. I suppose we may as well begin with our local contractor, Shorty K. A while back there was a major construction project on the reservation. It seems that the government contracting officer saw this as a wonderful opportunity for his very own version of pay to play. If you were a contractor and wished to supply contracting services at ***very*** generous rates, you had to pay to play. Let it not be said that our Shorty isn’t a player.

The details are charming. Shorty and other players would leave paper bags stuffed with money concealed in abandoned buildings, money that somehow made its way into the pockets of our avaricious contracting officer. How do I know this? Why, I know it because it all came out at the trial.

It seems there are spoil sports in the government who try to reign in this style of free wheeling capitalism. These days a man can’t hardly do anything to get ahead without someone some busy body interfering. In short, the feds and the staties were all over this case and the miscreants were brought to justice. As they say, crime does not pay.

And how did our illustrious local contractor fare? Why, he turned states evidence, and testified at the trial of the greedy contracting officer. As his punishment for doing several million dollars of corrupt business he got a fifty thousand dollar fine, some probation time, and has to do a thousand hours of community service. It seems that crime does pay after all.

Recently Highmore scored a double hit in the Huron newspaper. First there was an article about the sentencing of a local teenager who had cold cocked another teenager. Said other teenager suffered brain damage and died. It must be said that this did not happen in Highmore. It seems that every year there is a music fest and dance in the nearby town of Orient, the principal attendees being teenagers and beer kegs. It is good to know that Highmore isn’t alone in its sterling upholding of the law. Our fisticuff champion pled out and got the usual probation and community service.

The other article was about our clerk of courts being sued for $200,000. The plaintiff, young Mr. Z, alleges that she leaked sealed juvenile records to an army recruiter which put the kibosh on his enlistment in the army, a career opportunity he claims was worth big bucks. The case sounds a bit dubious – given the state of the world and the desirability of serving in the middle east, the army isn’t exactly overwhelmed with volunteers. I would expect that they would be happy to overlook a few juvenile pecadillos. I will report followup news, if any, when it happens.

In other news from outlaw county, the Highmore Booster Club has hit upon an ingenious plan to raise big bucks for community projects. They are going to hold a raffle, selling five hundred tickets at one hundred dollars a piece. The prizes are guns (I don’t know whether they are rifles or shotguns) and gift certificates at a hunting outfitting superstore. The local wiseacres are skeptical about the success of this scheme, but I wish them all the best. After all, that’s what we need, more guns in outlaw county.

Finally I would like to relate an anecdote told by Mike C. I only wish I could write it as well as Mike tells it. It seems that Mike was engaged conversation with a chap whom I will call Mr. T. The topic of conversation was the Rusty Spur, a bar in southern Hyde County.

Mr. T idly asked of Mike, “Have you ever been done down to the Rusty Spur?”

Mike allowed as how he’d never been there and went on to say, “I hear it’s pretty rough.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s rough alright. They have a lot of stabbings and shootings there.”

Mike shook his head, “That’s rough alright, too rough for me.”

Mr. T went on, “You have no idea. They even check you at the door to see if you’re packing a knife or a gun.”

Mike whistled, “It must be really rough. Do they really check at the door?”

Mr. T continued, “Oh yeah. They check you at the door to see if you are packing and if you aren’t, why they give you one.

— Now that’s rough. —

The Outlaw County Motto

You can get a whole lot more done
with a kind word and a gun,
than with a kind word alone.

—– Al Capone

Milking the millionaires

Maryland tried to balance its budget last year by raising the income tax on millionaires. The state rate rose to 6.25%. In addition many cities in Maryland also have income taxes. Between city and state the tax rate can be as much as 9.45%. This is on top of the federal rate. The governor Martin O’Malley opined that the millionaires were “willing and able to pay their fair share.”

As a side note, when politicians talk about “paying their fair share” what they mean is “We need more money. You’ve got some left. We want some more of it.”

The sentiments were noble, and the prospects were promising. The results were disappointing. The state had expected to collect an extra $106 million from the millionaires. Instead it collected $100 million less from them. What happened?

Maryland had a millionaire drought; the number of million dollar income tax returns dropped from 3000 to 2000. It seems that the rich don’t like to pay taxes any more than the rest of us, and are in a better position to do something about it. If you have money, it is a simple matter to change your state of residence to one that doesn’t have an income tax, states such as Florida where most of the rich already have vacation homes.

In short, a revenue enhancement program turned out to be a Florida relocation incentive program. In other words, don’t count on milk from a cow that might end up in somebody else’s barn.


Q. Why don’t Canadians have group sex?
A. Too many thank-you letters to write afterwards.

Whatever happened to my rose garden?

Once upon a time I wrote a short story called My Dinner at Andre’s. Speaking with all of the modesty that I can scrape up, the concept of the story is brilliant. Andre’s is a mythical restaurant where fictional characters and people from different times and places can meet and exchange views and stories.

The idea of such a restaurant or inn is not new – many authors have used it to effect, letting person from different times in history and characters from fiction intermingle. That is ordinary. My idea was to bring together a person’s various selves from different points in their lives and see what they make of each other.

A wise man once wrote that the past makes bargains with the future. Men plant trees whose blooms they will never see. They write constitutions for generations they will never know. It is these bargains that make civilization and society possible.

And so it is with us. When we are young we make bargains with our future selves – or not as the case may be. In our youth we study and save, that our future self may have a career, and have comfort in our old age – or not. Consider the impoverished old man who looks back at his spendthrift earlier years and wishes bitterly that he had worked hard and saved for his old age. Does he look back and say, look at what you have done to me. You betrayed me. Or does he perhaps says, thanks for the memories.

There are questions like these that are seldom asked. In our elder years did we honor and validate the sacrifices and aspirations of our younger self. In our youth did we act on behalf of that elder person we will some day be.

So it was that I sat down to write this story of someone’s different selves at different ages dining at Andre’s and seeing what came of it all. There was a problem. I had to construct someone’s entire lifetime with enough psychological depth to make the various confrontations meaningful. I didn’t feel up to it, so I cheated. I used myself.

This may have been a bad choice. I am not sure that I should be a character in fiction. I am not, ah, interesting enough in the way that fiction characters are interesting. Now there is a question for you: If you were a character in fiction would you be interesting?

Still there were advantages. My memories were fresh enough; I had not surrendered to the urge to convert real life into anecdotage. I meant to be discrete about the sticky moments, but I knew well enough what they were and was prepared to use them.

It was a particularly convenient point in my life to write such a story. I was about 60 when I wrote the story; I had just sold the company for a lot of paper, most of which turned out to be worthless. I was at liberty and trying my hand at writing again. I was at a decision point of life with an unknown future ahead of me. It was a good time to take stock of what I had done and who I was.

One of the features of the story is that there two versions of future self in the story. One is on stage, is successful, and is well dressed. The other is off stage looking in, is shabby and destitute. As is so often the case in life the person I am now is nothing like either of my predicated future selves.

When I was gardening in Massachusetts I kept a small rose garden. When I moved to South Dakota I tried growing roses without much success. I imagine myself sitting at another table during that fictional dinner, eaves dropping shamelessly. I don’t intrude, for I am not part of the scene. At the end, when all is done I walk over to myself, introduce myself, and ask, what happened to my rose garden. And then, because my younger self was as fond of cheap irony as I am, he replies,

I never promised you a rose garden.

This page was last updated June 2, 2009.

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Collected editorials