Friday, June 23, 2017


Only recently have I realized that my blog snapshots of whatever I found to be an interesting configuration of objects or a keen color of auto body have become targeting material for the town’s enemies of nonconformity.  I am inadvertently painting bull's eyes.  They look at what I took a photo of out of enjoyment and label it junk, nasty, embarrassing, to be eliminated.  Self-appointed village Maenads, they pour their fury onto the mayor, who has a big voice that will discourage fistfights but cannot fend off women on the prod.

An elegant local lady who seemed to already know my name asked me, “Well, how do you like our town as compared to the last place you lived?”  It developed that she thought I’d been living in Browning all this time and naturally she assumed that I was relieved to be safe in beautiful downtown Mayberry.  I didn’t say that my “last town” was Portland, very trendy.  At least until a local weirdo murdered two honorable men and wounded another.  Things are rarely what they seem.

In no other place I’ve lived have women stopped me on the streets to advise me that I’m not wearing the right clothes.  They know the “right” ones and where to buy them.  The idea that I don’t give a rap does not occur to them.  They assumed that, poor lost soul, I just didn’t KNOW.  Right now the ladies are in full flower because of Homesteader Days.  There must be men involved this year because there’s a tractor pull and hints at a beer blast.

Now and then I think maybe I should write a version of “Anne of Green Gables” about Valier, but I’m afraid it would be too dark for most people to read.  At first the town seems “pretty,” and that’s its reputation in spite of the blocks of grain siloes in town.  A good example of the Valier formal self-image is the “VADC” website  The photo that includes the Rockies was taken with a telephoto lens.  (See the town’s official website: for a more realistic view.  There are no clues to Yard Court on that website, no name for the town judge.)

I received a letter that I was half-expecting and almost invited by joking about the height of my grass in this good year for growing.  I either mow it all in seven days or a town crew will come to cut it for me and bill me/fine me $150.  I hear rumors it’s going up to $250 which if unpaid, will become a lien on my property.  My county taxes are less money.  Hiring someone to cut grass would be expensive but my yard has to be cut with a weed-whip because of the stepping stones, bathtubs, raised beds, and so on -- my efforts to eliminate grass.  The assumption behind the town ordinance is that yards are flat and can be mowed like fields.  "Tractor Mind."

So the cats and I were doing a little horizontal thinking, postprandial, and I hear a riding-mower roaring out front.  Spilling cats in all directions, I went out in a hurry.  My best hope was that it was Corky again, since a week ago  he had been passing between mowing jobs and knocked down my boulevard (parking strip to some).  He said we should have a talk, but didn’t come back.  (He delivers Meals on Wheels.)  I picked up vibes that he wanted to alert me about Village Disapproval, but he didn’t say anything.  

People just hate talking about problems so they make semi-secret strikes through public opinion in an effort to provoke change.  There seem to be no good solutions.  They shrink from confrontation, don’t want to cause offense and feuds, but their attempts to evade only seep underground and fester.  They stockpile their covert observations of neighbor offences to use in defence if necessary.

Alors!  This time the riding mower was Leo, with whom I wrestle over lead in water and the state of my sewer and etc. because he’s the senior town employee.  And I rip into him, tears and screams, thinking “Migod, I only got the warning letter this afternoon and I’m supposed to have 7 days to comply.”  But he (and his big black dog) beg for mercy.  He thought he was just helping me in passing, the same as Corky.  Of course, Corky didn’t mow my daffodils down, which Leo had just done.  (They aren’t blooming now — but they need their leaves to make next spring’s bulbs.)

When I shut down my outrage, Leo played his own sad song.  He’s actually summoned to COURT over his own lot.  It seems his old cars don’t comply and he has a ticket.  But he has a surprise up his sleeve: old cars are legal if they can run and he has fixed this one — now it will.  

I’m wondering whether I should go “observe” court.  This morning I spent an hour prowling around to try to find “Yard Court” so I could play observer to Leo at trial.  I never did find him.  No one knew about Yard Court, even that it existed, except that it developed that there are TWO, one for the town and one for the county.  My letter came from the town, but possibly Leo’s case is county.  I did take photos of his lots, which shouldn’t endanger him since he’s already written up and by the time you’ve read this, a decision will have been reached.

Part of the problem can be that sons love cars to "fix" but they don't get ticketed.  Dads get caught between the law and the son.

My basic grump around town is that things run like high school, the same popular girls insist on conformity, the same athletic boys trumpet defiance, and both join to resist any kind of outside authority.  There are “memes”, the little social units of response that are played over and over, sometimes word-for-word.  Drugs come from the rez.  Town employees should have irreproachable yards.  Cars are potential fortunes, no matter their condition.  Some memes are contradictory:  lawns are a sign of pride/lawns mean nothing.  In conversation some people will repeat the same observation again and again.  A few memes are stigma declarations, sexist or racist, without any animosity or awareness, as though discussing the weather.  Some of these people are well past retirement.  Some are barely more than kids.

The people who are so concerned about appearance are starting to suggest fences.  Twenty years ago fences were considered a kind of failure, a rejection of one’s neighbors.  I’d be happy to build one if I had the money, and there’s the next rub.  Some people are pretty well-off.  Others are poor.  And some think they are in the Wild West (they didn’t grow up here) and can do as they please.  But probably most in both modes are cocooned.  They don’t want to know, don’t want to act, don’t want to decide.

The town infrastructure amounts to a necessary cooperative in order to support and guide the water, sewer, power, streets, and so on.  But many have adopted the mercantile attitude of the times and the dominant politics, getting what you want on the cheap and not investing emotionally in the core enterprise.  Those with money respond to commercial advertising that dangles the perfect life; those without money defend their egos by scoffing.  It's toxic.

June 30, 2017
Leo reports that the Justice of the Peace dismissed his case on the grounds that if it isn't enforced on everyone, it can't be enforced on an individual.

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