Wednesday, January 09, 2008


It was indeed summer. Warm and humid, just like an Indiana summer. It looked like they could be in Indiana. The trees, the grass and the weeds looked the same. And there was corn growing in fields.

The town was pretty close. They could see houses and shacks up ahead. As they approached, they could hear horses. But there were no trains or railroad tracks. Nor steam engine sounds, like those coming from a mill or factory.

The houses looked older. Many were small, some were made from brick. Some were made of solid beams with plaster between the beams, a few were log houses. There were hogs, chickens and vegetable gardens in some of the front yards.

Closer to the center of the town were a couple of livery stables and some old blacksmith shops. The livery stables had old buggies out front and the blacksmiths forges were wood-fired with hand-pumped bellows.

One of the livery stables had a sign. “Chillicothe Livery.”

And the style of dress looked older, like old pictures of the earliest settlers around Lincoln. And out of school books and library books.

People they passed were speaking English. A few of them cast long, suspicious looks at the boys.

“These folks look at us more peculiar than folks back in Lincoln. And we ain’t even swiped nothin’ or pulled any pranks on them,” Johnny said.

“Where you figure we’re at,” Isaac asked.

“Don’t know,” said Nathaniel, “But from the looks of things, we’re back in time. We are wearin’ different clothes, even. Maybe that’s why some of ‘um are looking at us funny.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

The town looked to be about the size of Lincoln. The general store had a sign that said “Chillicothe General Store”, so they figured the name of the town must be “Chillicothe.”

Across the street from the general store was the courthouse square. Some fellows were marching in military formation on the courthouse lawn. A guy in a uniform that looked like it was from the Revolutionary War was leading the small band of men.
The boys stopped to watch the men marching.

“They’re gettin’ up an Ohio regiment to go to Mexico. Them fellers are drillin’ to get ready to go,” said a man coming out of the general store.

The boys turned toward him.

“You fellers look a little young to sign up. But you might make it as drummer boys or powder monkeys,” the man offered.

“No, we’re just here in town for a little while,” Isaac replied.

The man pulled a cigar from his breast pocket, bit off the end, and lit it with a match.

“Well, this one will probably be over for you are growed enough. Old Fuss and Feather’s will have them Mezcans whupped in a month or two,” the man said. He then turned and walked up the street.

The boys looked at each other quizzically. Nathaniel was first to speak.

“That man must have been talking about the war with Mexico. If we went back in time, that would make the most sense. It could be 1846. We could ask somebody.”

“No, I wouldn’t do nothin’ to draw more attention to ourselves. If these folks here us say something about being from the future time, they would lock us up thinking we are crazy,’ Isaac said.

“Isaac’s right,” added Johnny.

Nathaniel nodded in agreement. They walked up the street a little ways and came to a pump.

“I’m thirsty, how about you guys,” said Isaac.

Nathaniel went to the pump handle and began to pump. Isaac and Johnny knelt next to the trough and washed their faces and hands in the trough water. When the water began to flow, Isaac, then Johnny, cupped their hands in the flow of the cold, clear water and drank.

“I haven’t seen you boys around here before,” said a man in waist coat and a top hat.
Isaac stuttered a bit but Nathaniel came to the rescue.

“We’re just passing through,” Nathaniel said.

“Aren’t you fellows kind of young to be traveling without your Ma and Pa,” the man inquired.

“We’re orphans,” Nathaniel replied.

Crack! A wave of thunder cracked across the sky, followed by a cold blast of wind.
“I’ll be damned” said the man, “we just had thunder and cold air come through a little while ago. In the middle of the summer. Can you believe that?”

“It’s the Door,” yelled Nathaniel, “Something must be happening.”

They sprinted down the road out of town. Johnny was the fastest of the boys and ran out ahead, followed closely by Isaac and Nathaniel. They pumped their arms and drove hard down the road.

They passed the blacksmiths and livery stables on the way out of town, and the motley collection of houses. A few people paused to look at them, but no one tried to follow.

Ahead they could see the Door. It was dimming and flashing, and changing size. As they got closer, they could see it starting to close. And they could see Tom on the other side, waiving and yelling at them to come through the Door.

Johnny leapt into the shrinking opening. Isaac, close behind, dived into the Door the instant it closed.

Johnny landed at Tom’s feet and rolled a couple of times. He quickly jumped to his feet.

Isaac’s torso fell to the ground. Johnny and Tom looked in horror at the lifeless eyes and the body that was severed just below the chest. And thought of Nathaniel, lost and alone on the other side of the Diamond Lake Door.


Chestnut Daniel followed the railroad tracks west towards Goshen. He walked the rails until well after dark. West of Millersburg he came upon a stopped freight train. He found an open boxcar door and climbed up inside. The car was empty and he set out his bedroll.

A few minutes later the boxcar jerked and creaked as it started to move. It was heading west at a slow pace. Chestnut Daniel lay down upon his bedroll and fell asleep to the sway and roll of the moving train. He slept through the night and well into next morning.

Crack! He was startled in his sleep by a cannonade of thunder. He was standing at a pump. He yelled something and he and his friends were running through the small town. Running, running, at his fastest clip behind Johnny and Isaac.

Lungs afire, leg muscles straining. Eyes burned in on a hole in the world.
Johnny dived into the hole. Then Isaac.

“Isaac,” he screamed. The hole closed and Isaac was sliced in half just below the chest. Nathaniel tripped over the lifeless torso and limbs. He rolled a couple of times and stood over his friend’s remains.

Just as quickly as he had run up the road, his mind was back in the box car. He was trembling and awash in sweat. A thousand memories flooded over him. He knew where he was from and how he got into the Mexican War.

And just as a door had opened and closed many years ago, a window was now open and Chestnut Daniel could see his life come into full view. He could not go back, but at least he could see across the missing and muddled years, and look forward from his own time and his own place.


In a recent post entitled “Is the Economy Good for You”, the Author addressed a National Public Radio segment that interviewed folks along Interstate 10. The Author addressed an interview with a Texas woman who was working as an assistant manager at a convenience store. The single mother and her family could not make ends meet and could not afford health insurance. But when asked what was the biggest issue she faced, she stated “illegal immigration”.

She went on to claim that illegal immigrants got welfare and government healthcare and this prevented people like her from obtaining such services. When the interviewer told her that illegal immigrants have little access to healthcare and welfare, she ignored this fact.

She then voiced her resentment with the statement that she saw “them” driving “nicer cars”. The Author noted in his earlier post that this sounded much like Ronald Reagan’s race-baiting allusions to “Welfare Queens” and their “taxpayer-financed” Cadillac’s.

In a perceptive and well-reasoned post entitled “Competency as a Cultural Value” on the “Easily Distracted” website, the author of that post stated that this Texas woman was trapped in a narrative, a culturally reinforced “just add water” worldview where vaguely sinister forces were at work in government and everywhere else at the higher levels of power and privilege she can neither access not understand.

The blogger wrote:

Her [Texas woman] key issue maybe ought to be health care reform, but she’s enmeshed in another kind of narrative, one where racial resentment, among other things, is lurking very powerfully just underneath the surface. But even that is a layer covering the real depths. What I heard listening to her was someone who basically thinks that she’s in a hopeless place because some great engine (emphasis added) is churning mysteriously in the depths of history, that life is just bad now.


In the view of the blogger, policy proposals and the prospect of competent governance cannot reach deeply into the masses of the disaffected.

Offering a tangible plan that promises this tax incentive, that fact-finding commission, this reinvestment project, this funding for retraining doesn’t reach people who perceive the present as a slum left behind by a low-rent version of Benjamin’s angel of history. In fact, all it does is convince them that the candidate with the plans is one of those folks with his hands on the levers, one of them who always seems to come out on top.

Re-routing (or hijacking) the perception of reality has proven to be an easy thing for human leaders. Billions of humans believe, based upon various belief systems, that intervening imaginary beings can bend the laws of physics and biology for the benefit of a supplicant. A few superstitious twits on the Ducati.MS forum (and millions elsewhere) believe that the number “666” is unlucky, or cursed. Probably about 30% of Americans still believe that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the 9-11 attacks.


In the post “is the Economy Good For You?” the Author also addressed the “social contract” as envisioned by the 17th-Century English Philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes concept of the “social contract” is that humans will give up some liberties to live in a stable society. That society, as envisioned by Hobbes, would be run by a despot.

The Author noted that aspects of the social contract may be breaking down. If the contract is breaking down, then the basis of the bargain erodes. The value perceived is lessened. The “Great Engine” is running in reverse and no longer works, or is perceived not to work, for many Americans. But that does not mean the state, the enforcer of the contract, will relinquish any control. In the last seven years, the state has arrogated more control unto itself. No, the state will still demand its taxes, compliance with criminal and civil law, and require the recognition of privileges and monetary transfers to state-favored organizations or individuals.

In some sense, the Author feels the dissatisfaction, the de-coupling from the social contract. He has watched wages stagnate and erode for quite some time. He has seen the costs of healthcare skyrocket, raising the price of coverage to unsustainable heights. And he has watched as the burden of taxation shifts to the middle class from the wealthy.

And he watches the deceit with which the improbable presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and his hucksters promote the so-called “Fair Tax”, a brutally regressive national sales tax that will blast the middle class and operate as a windfall for the wealthy. He still does not believe that the nation will fall for this scam, but cannot be sure.

Will the vast mass of the disaffected latch onto the promise of the [Un]-Fair Tax to disband the Internal Revenue Service to permit its passage? The prospect is palpable. And what will replace the IRS? An armed force of revenue police to force stores and sellers to collect the tax? Yard-sale cops? “Shoot-to-Kill” orders for black marketers?