Thursday, August 14, 2014


I read this article linked below.  Don’t you do that same thing unless you can handle some pretty painful and miserable stuff.  I thought, “Well, Mary, you’ve hit your limits.  You can NOT blog about this.”  But it's a pretty brave and honest essay and I admire this kid very much.  He's not a denier of reality nor is he a victim of cowardice.  He's got guts.

Then the Great Falls Tribune reported that a Valier man had been arrested in an FBI sting for arranging to meet a 12-year-old girl for sex and I thought,  “Well, that’s local, I know this guy, and though it's not quite the same as that overwhelming article on, it's close.  Maybe I SHOULD write a post.”  And I do know this guy -- not socially.  I worked at the "Prairie Star" with him before Brent Gaylord sold out and the paper became “Trader’s Dispatch”.

Then this morning I spent some time visiting with my neighbor across the alley.  Remember me posting about Rosie, who died of stomach cancer and then her husband Wayne who died in a car crash?  (He had only one arm and wore a morphine pump, wasn’t supposed to drive, but his bud talked him into it and . . .)  I did each of their graveside services since they had no church and I'm a retired minister.

Dave Schaibley, my neighbor

When the trailer wouldn’t sell, Dave Schaibley -- their son -- and his wife Jody moved out from Illinois where things are economically tough.  But it wasn’t long before his wife, who is on oxygen, had to go to a nursing home in Shelby.  Other bad things happened, but Dave tended his yard and dogs and took his wife some special yogurt for lunch every day, rain or shine, snow or high water.  My computer window looks out on the alley so I see him come and go.  He’s an honorable guy who loves to fish.  He gave me some cherry tomatoes and little zucchinis just right to stir fry.

Curt Aaberg mug shots

But he complained innocently that a few weeks ago people stopped talking to him at the post office or at the store.  His feelings were hurt.  Suddenly it dawned on me that he looks enough like Curt Aaberg to be mistaken for him.  It also was clear to me that Dave lives in a trailer, is from elsewhere, doesn’t know many people, doesn’t socialize much, and in some ways is much closer to the kind of low income person we like to stigmatize and demonize than good ol’ gregarious Curt is.  So now I HAVE to write this post.  Maybe buy Dave a t-shirt that says, “I am not Curt!”

I was not so surprised by Curt’s bad judgment and childish cravings as some guys around town say they were.  I never went bowling with him.  I never drank with him or anyone else.  I did aggravate him, because when I was working for the "Prairie Star" in 1999 I’d come a half-hour early every day.  (Old teacher habit.)  That’s when he was on the phone doing deals and, it was pretty clear, contacting his sweeties.  Jean, his wife, didn’t come until later.  She is a super-competent person who actually operated the business.  Curt just brought in ads by being an old-fashioned drummer/salesman, circulating around the ag businesses the way Brent Gaylord taught him.  

No ad sales now.  No business.  Another economic hole punched in a small town that can’t really afford to lose more businesses.  I have a few observations:

Jean and Curt in better times

1.  Since I have worked with a non-profit which gets at-risk boys off the street, I have heard them say that their most likely tricks are standard middle-class working white guys with kids.  Not any stigmatized, demonized, persecuted, pierced and tattooed trash trailer felons.  The seeming normalcy of tricks is their disguise.  (Some are cops.)  The stereotypes protect them.

2.  This family -- which I observed for six months before Gaylord sold the paper, putting me on unemployment -- had in its history a lot of alcoholism and abuse of various sorts.  They were supposed to have the drinking under control, but they had eliminated the alcohol without eliminating the behavior: the secrecy, the threats, the sneaking around, the resistance to trust or intimacy, the co-dependence, the uproar and demands -- it was all there.  I was coming from a background in ministry, law enforcement and city government (Portland) that alerted me to this stuff.  The Methodist minister and I talked about this family.  (He's not here now.)  They DID work hard and put up a good front -- at least Jean did.

3.  Life in the industrialized West encourages these patterns.  Working on railroads, windmills, canals, big field machines, oil rigs, semis and so on means that an ordinary working guy has a chance to get a job, but being desperate to stay in that job keeps him pinned in place even if he’s hurt and aching.  The clinics are suspected of being too free with painkillers, but good old dependable booze is always there.  Men work long hard hours for their families, but what families?  Lots of moving, lots of man-camps, lots of kids back somewhere else.  Maybe several wives.

4.  Small towns are very snoopy but they are also very good at denial.  If they find out something they don’t want to know, their brain carefully blacks it out.  On the other hand, if they find out something juicy, the hell with the facts.  And don’t lecture them about morality and the law.  They know everything about it -- they are "good Christians".  In fact, most of them are, in an unsophisticated and mostly habitual way.

5.  How is it that a sixteen-year-old has more common sense than Curt?  He’s not worldly enough to recognize a sting in the classified ads even though he sells them for a living? (No one is so easy to con as a con artist.)  What did this old guy think he was going to do with a 12-year-old girl? She's neither fish nor fowl -- neither child nor adult.  He has no idea -- he’s in a Playboy magazine dream about blonde teens, long-legged, augmented bosom, innocent, not critical -- about how the other guys would envy him, about what a status marker it is.  His own girls are barely out of their teens, but they’re different.  Didn’t he once scour the country to find one of them the used car she wanted?

Philip Aaberg

6.  Yes, Curt is a cousin to Philip Aaberg.  Curt doesn't like Philip and had never heard his music until I loaned his wife a CD of mine.  Maybe as compensation to reassure people that Philip wasn’t arrested,  the Sunday GF Tribune had a big photo layout about Philip's many generosities, accomplishments, and friendship networks.  He's a respected, maybe even beloved, sort of guy.  I'm very curious about what force made the two men so different.    Was Curt thinking to himself, “I bet Philip never had a hot young babe like the one I ordered!”  As if Philip, who knows how to have a love life and cherish a wife, had to pay for sex with a child.  You can bet Philip will never have to stand trial either.

There’s pornography and pornography;  there’s pedophilia and pedophilia.  They are not big demonized easily understood and avoided monsters.  They are slippery slopes and blurry categories.  A twelve year old blonde girl is a big prize in Africa maybe.  (She might be represented as a virgin, a magic cure for something.)  The French more likely might prefer an older woman with a little skill and experience.  But if you're into domination, control, and maybe hurting someone who can't retaliate, an abused American kid is what you want.  

To a pre-adolescent or even preschool kid here’s such a thing as being over-familiar and over-stimulating.  How many men love to tickle kids?  Even if they cry?  There’s also torture, transgression and befoulment that is psychotic.  That's what shocked the sixteen-year-old in the first story and made him look for help. 

What’s scary about Curt is that he’s so clearly mainstream, so mini-Hugh Hefner, so much with his head up his ass, all without anyone finding him aberrant. Only banal.  Obnoxious, maybe.  All the time with his family -- what, pretending everything is okay even though there must have been clues?  Like not wanting the new hire to come in early?

But don't take it out on Dave Schaibley just because you're afraid to take a close look in case "sin" might stick to you.  He could use a friendly face, a "Hi, Dave! How's Jody?"  Why spread the damage when it's already so bad?  (He has a copy of this post.)

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