Marching in Bend
by Bruce Patterson, March 2, 2017
“The economic royalists proclaim that we seek the overthrow of American institutions. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.” –FDR
Unlike me, my wife Trisha’s been “centered” her whole life long. The first-born girl, and second born child, of Chicago Irish Catholics on their way to having a dozen, after Trisha learned how to properly comb her own hair, she got put to work combing the next baby’s hair. Keeping babies safe, clean and happy: cooking, cleaning, washing, hanging clothes, ironing clothes, doing KP, schoolwork and keeping the peace in the household went a long way toward making Trisha who she is today.
She also found time to graduate high school with honors, and was recognized as a National Merit Scholar. Her college tuition and fees were covered by an interest-free government loan she was obligated to begin repaying only after she was gainfully employed and on the tax rolls. She graduated from Loyola at Chicago and then volunteered for the Peace Corps. In 1969, she left Chicago for good, found her way to San Jose, moved into a collective and started a clothing business. In 1971, she and a bunch of her friends moved to a belly up ranch in Anderson Valley: 80 acres for 55 grand split a dozen ways. When they moved in, the ranchers inside old Maggie’s Oaks Café observed how nobody but big city college kids with more cash than sense would pay so much money for a worn out postage stamp parcel producing gravenstein apples nobody wants.
Up there Trisha spent ten years living in a homemade hillside cabin having neither running water nor electricity. For ten years she worked the same sprawling, overgrown orchards, and the same soggy organic gardens and did the same odd jobs (when I first met her, she was getting paid bushel-rate for stacking firewood at Yorkville’s old mill site). Then she spent another twenty-six years working at the AV Elementary School.
Trisha was a natural as a bi-lingual teacher’s aide and, later, a Bi-Ed kindergarten teacher. She went to night school down in Marin and eventually earned a Masters in Education. After Bi-Ed (Dah Bored said they needed the money for “classroom computers”) was abolished and she all but forbidden to speak Mexican to the Mexican kids (didn’t want to spoil them), Trisha earned a Credential in Special Ed and went to work in Special Ed. That gig turned out to be akin to enlisting in the Prussian Army under the command of Field Marshall Franz Kafka, but that’s another story.
Trisha still likes staying busy and since we’ve been up here she’s volunteered for a bunch of things. She’s even made her political opinions known here in a town that fancies itself the Cowboy Capital of Oregon; here where folks still brag about being the sons and daughters of the Pioneers (only seven generations removed) and—damn—telling the truth. She’s volunteered as an English and Spanish reading tutor at the elementary school and, after it closed down last year, she started working some with Head Start.
She’s also done a fair bit as a citizen activist, them being those who remember what country they’re living in and how things are supposed to work. No doubt having learned not just from the Jesuits and Saul Alinsky, but from old Boss Daley his-self, Trisha has also mingled with some community groups on “both sides” of today’s mass-manufactured, eye-gouging, tongue-biting dysfunction. She’s worked with Human Dignity Advocates and the Rural Organizing Project. Oh, almost forgot: she also likes giving hell to our banana-clipped submachine gun-toting, Old Testament thumping, Trump worshipping State Senator which, I don’t mind admitting, tickles me pink.
But the notion of Trisha getting a ride with an old gal pal of hers and them wheeling it up to Bend to participate in the International Women’s March without me struck me as not just shortsighted but slightly insulting. Eighty miles round trip over half-assed snowplowed highways to a snowbound, merry-go-round city full of curling streets and roundabouts surfaced with packed snow beaten into wash-boarded ice and covered with nose-to-ass Sunbelt suburbanites behind the wheels of Performance Cars and Man Trucks all in big old, fish-tailing hurries? Without me?
My wicked old mind got to wondering why Trisha would even consider hitching a ride up into those Hazardous Driving Conditions when she’s got me sitting here checking out the lint in my receding bellybutton? Me a once bonded wheelman who’s not just available but bright-eyed, bushytailed and raring to go? Trisha should’ve (and could’ve) known I wasn’t going for that. Given the popularity of Trump junta among not just the good old boys and their young buck and doe yahoo offspring, but among the international coterie of bucks-up, pale-faced, power-walking retirees living out their days in Natural Cascadian Splendor at the standard of living to which they’ve become accustomed, it also wouldn’t’ve hurt my feelings none had Trisha decided to bring me along as her bodyguard. (Funny but true: those who carry highway flares in their rigs are the least likely to ever hafta personally use one. Same goes with hauling around Winter Survival Kits. Are you scared of dropping off the edge of a high country coil of road and disappearing down into a snowdrift where nobody finds you till after you’re frozen into a Popsicle wrapped in an exploded plastic air bag? To avoid such tragedies, highway safety experts agree, strategically place one (each) Winter Survival Kit in your rig and you’ll be OK.
Lastly, of all the people on earth, how could Trisha forget that I like women more than men? Hell, if some Trumpite roughneck gets in my face and brands me some kind of pinko Radical Feminist, I’m liable to kiss him. If you’re unwilling to stick up for your own mother and sisters, wives and daughters, what good are you? Human rights are human rights—tyranny is tyranny.
So off we go to the Women’s March, by golly, me behind the wheel of our Cobalt Bullet. Pleased that the highway is finally mostly free of snow and ice, as we get close I remember how there’s nothing like a serious series of snowstorms to make rugged outdoorsy Bendonians feel cursed by the heavens: “You expect me to shovel my way out of all this snow? You expect me to ease down this ice-covered hillside street in my pickup truck? You expect me to follow that pickup when it’s my turn? OK, say when.”
Whenever I’m on the road, I pass my time pretending I’m back to hauling precious and somewhat fragile equine cargo. I put in some 150,000 miles hauling horses, give or take. I went to ranches and racetracks from the foothills east of Lodi southward all the way to just about Old Mexico: to a stud ranch atop the ridge above Julian and Anza Borrego, to Del Mar racetrack on the beach way down below Camp Pendleton (Marines) and just above Punta Laguna and Saint Diego; to Valley Center, Perris, Hemet and Valle Vista on the road to Idyllwild. So getting us safely to little old Bend was as simple as following Standard Operating Procedures.
Not so when it came to finding a parking spot in Old Town near the site of the rally: the “amphitheater” next to the Deschutes River in Drake Park, the namesake being some eastern tinhorn timber pirate and not the internationally famous Sir Francis the pirate. We wind up approaching the rally by hoofing it up the riverside trail. On the river flanking the park there’s an old mill pond that’s now a silted-in recreational lake. (Lots of squabbling these days over the fate of that bit of “historic” real estate). The pond draws year round visitors and plenty of waterfowl, though I expect the great sailing birds would be even happier if the salmon and steelhead were still running upstream. the pond was frozen over and covered with a few inches of snow that’s been tattooed with the rangy prints of a pair of adventurous hound dogs; them plus the webfoots plus the almost snake-like tracks of a river otter.
By the time we get within earshot of the PA system, it’s already warbling unintelligibly. It’s “snow showering” and the wind’s swirling through the tall trees. Trisha’s got her snow chains on her boots and I’ve come equipped with my old logger’s boots with their high heels, high tops and Vibram soles, so I’m not worried about one of us losing our footing and hurting ourselves. But Trisha’s getting cold and, like most ex-Chicagoans, she dislikes getting cold.
From upstream the crowd looks fairly substantial, its flank maybe 100 yards long and packed, and I tell Trish I want to see the other side to keep our blood moving and maybe find someplace close enough for us to hear the speeches. And so we did but the weather kept getting nastier. We still couldn’t hear anything, the march was beginning and by now we’re good and cold and ready to beat a hasty retreat to our car.
At least 3,000 people marched, the Bend newspaper reported the next day. Given that the weather was fit for neither man nor beast, I was encouraged. But far more encouraging was seeing thousands of young couples with their daughters and sons, little groups of elementary schoolgirls free of supervision, high school and college girls and boys, barkeeps, nurses, teachers and doctors, husbands and brothers and, yes, grandparents and great grandparents, sympathetic bystanders and friendly cops.
I’ll admit I was hoping that, once Herr Trump took the Oath of Office, he’d immediately get arrested for violating it. That creature’s whole stinking life has consisted of him and his lackeys committing High Crimes and Misdemeanors. I do believe we’d hafta search far and wide to find another individual so utterly lacking in redeeming social value; so absolutely incompetent, needy, greedy, sleezy and all-round wicked and dangerous: a lizard imagining he’s a dragon. Then if our Auto de Tweet the First hasn’t taken money from comrade Putin, the butcher of Chechnya and Aleppo, many in his inner circle have—far too many to dismiss since, in business as in Intelligence gathering, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern and, of course, factoring in the stakes.
Then you don’t need to be an expert on International Affairs to know that this demented Alt-Right zillionaire brat pack junta is not just trashing our democratic traditions and values, and making us international pariahs and laughing stocks, they’re endangering our soldiers and citizens overseas and damaging our precious National Security. Ask yourself: when these sub dudes are going out of their way to provoke Mexico, Cuba, China, North Korea, the Palestinians, the Arab League, every Muslim on earth, Slavic Europe (the people of Central Europe have absolutely no use for Mother Russia’s tender mercies, thank you kindly) and everybody else on earth that’s paying attention, does that mean these guys are bullish on the stocks of the conglomerates having Pentagon Contracts? They’re obviously Bullish on tar sands and Russian Arctic oil: why not to inflate their personal portfolios (these guys wear their “holdings” like Indian scalps looped over their saddle horns) while fueling their personal Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines marching off to everlasting glory.
When Trump made a pagan tribal ritual of declaring he was going “drain the swamp” as Moses had parted the Red Sea, why didn’t we see he was only out to make room for the leeches and the cottonmouths, the tics, chiggers and no-see-ums?
So what’s a citizen to do when he or she is declared subject to Law Givers you’ve put their own selves above the law? Law Givers who openly proclaim they’re out to destroy the law in order to “unleash” chained and tortured corporate Capital; the Givers of All Things. Apathy now requires repudiating everything we’ve learned about being good citizens and decent human beings. Active collaboration amounts to doing what none done dare call treason, to paraphrase the title of a crypto-Nazi manifesto Trump takes as gospel. For us to duck and cover is not just fruitless; it’s impossible. If we’ve still got a single hair left on our ass, so is running away.
Here’s a quote by the revolutionary Thomas Paine that, as corny as it sounds, speaks to our moment: “In this crisis the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot shall desert the service of his country. But he who stands it now deserves the gratitude of man and woman.”