by Kent Ballard
No, I’m not a man of wealth and taste, nor did I hold a general’s rank when the Blitzkrieg raged. That title may have confused me with someone else. But you won’t confuse me with Zach.
When Zach first approached me with the idea of a joint blog, him taking it one week, me taking it the other, I naturally assumed, “Jeeze, he’s far more desperate than I thought…” Then I remembered his recent shoulder surgery and figured he tires easily while hanging upside down like a bat to type. That was understandable enough. If the eyebolts in his ceiling ever work loose, he’d crash face-first into his computer and that would be the tragic loss of a good laptop.
So after some emailing and yakking over the phone, I’ve agreed to take over Just Sayin’ every other week for six months. When that time is up, we’ll figure out if we want to continue this odd marriage or if we want a divorce. (I’m going to hold out for the house and the furniture if it comes to that.)
I’ve known Zach for thirty years. I only met him face to face once, and then for only seven hours at another writer’s house. I remember the food being good and the liquor flowing freely. I quit drinking in 1999, and was amazed to see his photo when he started Just Sayin’ because I always thought he was the Chinese guy at the party. Turns out I’d been wrong all these years. This explains the strange looks I got from the Chinese gentleman when I began a tirade against him and the city of Boston over the Big Dig.
I agree with Zachary on many things. With everything else, I am right and he is wrong. That’s the American Way on the Internet, and I’m a proud supporter of my own beliefs. Years ago, on another forum, I pointed out that he was to the left of Vladimir Lenin. He unkindly reminded me that I had once called for a nuclear first strike on Massachusetts to rid the nation of socialists and ne’er-do-wells. I had in fact made that statement, but of course was simply joking. Multiple hydrogen bombs landing on Boston would only cause the Department of Homeland Security to take away yet more of our civil rights. Hey, if they can do it with a kettle bomb powered by charcoal…
Mr. Klein and I live not only in different worlds, but in different centuries. He lives the easy city life, where you can flip open your cell phone and get a pizza or chop suey dinner delivered to your front door. The city plows the snow off his streets. He has limitless luxuries like a four-minute police response should he call them, a fire department, hell, even paved streets. I used to have such things myself, for I lived in Indianapolis for twenty-three years. I hated it.
I was born and raised on a small farm one county east of Indy. I got a job in Indianapolis, met a girl, got married, and soon was tripping over kids toys in my yard. Turns out I had married the wrong girl so a divorce followed ten years later. I kept the house, the major appliances, and got joint custody of the kids. I am one of the very few men you will ever meet who actually won a divorce. (The judge thought she was awful too. He was right.) I then set out on a quest to get to know the rest of the ladies in Indianapolis in the Biblical sense, and was about halfway through the project when I found a quiet, meek, shy beauty and fell head over heels in love. Twenty-eight years later we are still together, and living with me has had its effect on her. She can cuss, clean fish, shoot her 9mm with deadly accuracy, and fears no living thing.
When our kids were grown and gone, it was during our peak earning years. I wanted out of the city, and she was happy to follow me. It took three solid years of searching, but we found our new home.
I can’t tell you which town I live in, because the nearest thing that would pass for a town is fourteen miles away. My home is in far west-central Indiana, in the middle of what is known as a “geologic anomaly.” The great mile-high sheets of frozen ocean paused here during the last Ice Age and carved out some extremely weird topography. Then it covered itself with forest. I own 71 acres of that land, my home being in the middle of it. My driveway is a half-mile long, going back into what appears to be the Black Forest. Beyond that is my dead-end road. Beyond that, and you have the most wretched mud-and-dust roads imaginable to the nearest blacktop. A very peculiar location, as I have the telephone number of one county, the mailing address of a second, and my home is actually in a third.
It keeps the riff-raff away. I value my privacy. We supposedly have a sheriff’s department around here somewhere, but they’re never seen this far into the boonies. My insurance company charges me the maximum rate for fire insurance, because in the event of a fire—as my agent explained—there will be nothing left except for the basement. The deep forest starts twenty yards to my south and east, about twelve yards to my north, and all the storms, lightning and snow come from the west. You could literally become hopelessly lost and never set foot off my property. I know. I did that for a couple of years.
We love it here. This is the kind of land you see in picture books and winter holiday greeting cards. It will also probably kill me someday when I grow too old to care for the land properly. When I want to hunt, I go out the back door. When I want to fish, I go out the front. I couldn’t do that in any city.
I’m the Police Chief, Fire Marshal, Mayor, and Chief Engineer here. I can pee off my front porch and shoot out my back door. We skinny-dip in our largest pond. The only loud sounds here are the ones I make. It’s very different from Boston. There is no pizza delivery, no Chinese delivery, no sirens, no door-to-door unconstitutional searches by paramilitary SWAT teams. Indiana is the only state in the Union which has a law on the books allowing you to shoot a uniformed police officer if he breaks into your home. (And a very strange court case behind that.) In the winter when the power goes out we simply step back 150 years and carry on. Our ancestors made out pretty well with kerosene lamps and wood burning stoves. We can too. And I defy anyone on the planet to show me a more serene, peaceful, and meditative spot than my little four-inch deep creek that bubbles through the forest at my extreme northern boundary. If I could bottle that sound, Prozac would go bankrupt.
I registered to vote during the first year 18 year-olds got suffrage, 1971. I was and am a registered Independent, though very few Independents run for anything nowadays. I consider myself a Libertarian and often wonder why Zach and I have not strangled each other over these many years. It’s because he’s a great guy and I’m not too bad a soul either. We are both well educated, stay well informed, both listen carefully to other points of view, and both see in shades of gray—not black and white. And when he comes away with some ridiculous, half-wit idea of how this world should work, it ain’t my fault.
I hope you’ll find me acceptable for this while. At one time or another I have argued with everyone I know and yet if I have an enemy, I’m not aware of it. All I ask of you is a chance. You may grow to like me too if you’re not careful.