Vol 3 - Chap 5

 

 

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                - A Seminar In Marble Games -
                            By Geoffrey Wallace Brown, PhD.

  • Chapter 5

    1.

    Good morning.

    I thought I'd tell you a little about my life here in Frazer.

    I get up at 4:30.   (Yesterday I got up at 10 minutes to 4:00 to deliver what was for me a very difficult lecture, synthesizing ten years of hard academic study in one hour and 15 minute session.)

    I read, study, and meditate until about 6:00.

    I cook myself breakfast, with a little decaffeinated coffee.

    I don’t like to get high.

    Anymore.

    Then I come down to my study, which is nicely done up in the basement.

    There are soft, bright rugs on the carpet on the floor.

    Books line the walls.   (I have graduated from cinder blocks to red brick.)

    My desk is an old, but nice, library desk.   Oak.   That I refinished.

    Tung oil.

    It's got a little bar across the bottom that I put my stocking feet on.

    I rounded it off so it's nice and soft.   And smooth.

    I stare at a lot of old relics from my past.

    There is a large Eeyore stuffed animal on the table next to the lamp by my Laz-E-Boy rocker/recliner.

    Fat city.

    There is a nice homemade checkered quilt draped over that chair.

    It is beautiful.

    And warm.

    And very cozy.

    To lie down and really relax.   And think.   And not be afraid.

    Of anything.

    The Eeyore doll was given to me by my wife.

    Another sits on my bookcase, given to me by my students.

    They represent a period of time when I got into shrinkery, and needed a great deal of support from my wife and students.

    And got it.

    Thank God.

    On the couch there is a beautiful Pendleton Blanket from the Pendleton Woolen Mills in Pendleton, Oregon.

    On one arm is a huge Beaver Skin, tanned.   Given to me by my good friend Tom Dimond.

    Dimond hunts mountain lions.

    With dogs.

    And anything else that moves.

    At night.

    He's over in La Grande, Oregon now.

    He makes pots for a living.   And blows glass.

    Dimond's C.B.  "handle" is "Dimond Jim.

    Mine is "Brown Bear."

    When we go hunting together.

    For bears.

    Dimond made me the favorite piece of "sculpture" that I own.

    It's on my bookcase, right next to my desk.

    It's a sculpture of a banana with a bare naked woman gracefully arched across the end of it.

    With gigantic breasts.

    Pointing straight up.

    Behind me, as I sit at my desk, I have a large sign, a poster actually, that says, "Dr.  G. Brown Please Do Not Walk On the Grass."

    That has to do with something I used to teach my students back in my Ethics course at Whitman.

    I used to ask them, constantly, why they should obey the signs in the grass that said not to walk on it.

    When it was clearly in their interest to walk on it.

    And they wouldn't get caught.

    And they wouldn't hurt the grass.

    In fact, that was their Final Exam question.

    It's a version of "Why should you be moral?"

    Any defense of any logical, rational answer to that question was incoherent and invalid I used to tell them.

    Because there is no (what I now call "third-dimensional") "reason" why you "should" be moral.

    All third-dimensional views tell you to be selfish.

    I just wanted them to see that.

    The only answer to the question "Why be moral?" is spiritual.

    And comes from Spiritual Sense.

    As opposed to "material sense."

    And it originates in that yearning for something higher and better than what the "material world" has to offer.

    But I didn't tell them that.

    I knew I'd kill their interest.

    I just asked them to answer the question "Why Should I Be Moral?"

    Or, Why Shouldn't I walk on the grass, when I can get away with it, and it won't hurt anybody?

    Including me.

    So, one of my students, a particularly argumentative and obnoxious little Jewish guy, who was loyal to me to the end in my fight to save my job at Whitman, put this sign up, right in front of the main door leading out of my office building, right before classes, at the busiest time of the day, just as I was about to leave for my big class of the day.

    It was this big sign, a placard of plasterboard, red, with black letters, that said: "Dr. G. Brown Please Do Not Walk On The Grass."

    Right in the middle of my battle to get tenure.

    I laughed so hard I took it down and brought it into my office.

    And kept it forever.

    It's a real treasure.

    To me.

    As I look up, to the top of the bookcase facing me, I see ten little plastic medicine bottles, each with a different kind of medication in it.   Thorazine.   Haldol.   Lithium carbonate.   Librium.   Valium.   Mellaril.   And Seconal.

    And some dexadrine and methadrine.   And Coedine.   From an ealier time period.   Of experimentation.

    On the right-hand side of my "office" wall there are some pictures of my wife and myself, back when we were first married and living out on our first little farm.

    Our love had been "illegal," in a sense, because she had been my student.

    And you don't do that in a small, liberal arts college, modeled after the New England tradition.

    And values.

    My old reliable hunting dog, East Rattlesnake Jake (from East Rattlesnake Gulch in Missoula).

    There is a picture of the three of us together.   I am sitting cross-legged on an old wood kitchen chair, with my Winchester 101 (made for Sears) double-barrel over-and-under twelve gauge shotgun across my lap, looking straight at the camera.

    In the backyard.

    With the screen door and the back porch with the elk antlers clearly in sight.

    Kathee is standing slightly behind me, and on my right side, with her left hand on my shoulder.

    Looking straight into the camera.

    Jake is sitting faithfully at my side, looking, however, sneakily off to the side to see whether there are any pheasants to go after.

    (I do have the shotgun in my hands.)

    And we are all (successfully) trying to project an image of what we are all about, as a happy, embattled little family.

    Underneath the picture, on the paper board that the picture is made on, Kathee has written, in her beautiful calligraphy, "To Dr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Brown, from, Kathee and Geoff."

    The pictures were taken, and mounted in that old rustic brown color, by another loyal student of mine.   A guy named John Davis.

    There are some others of that period, grouped together on the wall that form a kind of "collage."

    Our favorite is the one in the kitchen, where I have my arm around her, and John took the picture across our kitchen table.

    He had dropped in on us when we weren't expecting him.

    There were empty seven millimeter magnum shells on the table, a pack of Marlboros open, a dish with warm butter out, a stray pottery cup of Dimond's out on the table, and a still-wrapped-up warm six-pack of beer.

    And an empty half-gallon jug of gin, from the night before.

    And these two bleary-eyed, somewhat sheepishly embarrassed souls hugging each other from across the table.

    Next to that is a picture of some the of the older guard in our little faculty, giving a colloquium, or panel discussion, on sexuality on the Whitman College Campus.

    One of the panel members is clearly asleep.

    The rest have wandered off into Plato, or the drink they are going to have when they get home, or the little coed they have locked up in an apartment somewhere.

    It is a study in stasis and miasma.

    Taken, again, by John Davis.

    Directly under that is a (framed) picture of me and Kathee getting married.

    Because we had to.

    Because we couldn't any longer keep living in "sin."

    And expect me to keep my job.

    So the picture is taken in a Judge's office, the local Justice of the Peace, with the full disarray of his desk and his office making the statement about the obscenity we were participating in.

    To become "legal."

    To have our love relationship sanctified by the government.

    I handed the Judge a twenty dollar bill for his services.

    Up above that, closer to my desk, and above the bookshelf on my right-hand side, is a picture, no, the actual document, of my Baptism in the Episcopal Church.

    Dated the 14th of February, 1964.

    In Walla Walla.

    St.   Paul's Episcopal Church.

    When I was a junior in college.

    Apparently the good folks in the Episcopal Church haven't yet discovered that "baptism" has nothing to do with certificates and churches.

    It has to do with completely turning away from the material world for Truth, and Reality, and Love, and Principle, and Soul, and Intelligence, and Life, and immersing one’s self in the world of Spirit.

    And seeing where that leads you.

    But, apparently, the joys of the Country Club have to be shown for the thin gruel they are before one is willing to make the wholehearted turn.

    Each at his own pace.

    A sacred law.

    One of my favorite things, sitting on the bookshelf, right beside my desk, is a silly little figure of a happy, smiling ninny.

    This was a present to me from my favorite Bar Maid of all time.

    Her name was Prudence Weber ("Prudy.")

    And she worked at Little John's in Walla Walla.

    Her husband was a big shot at the Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

    Jack Delaney and I used to go there every afternoon at 4:30, when we weren't going to the Green Lantern down the road.

    Jack was perhaps my best friend at Whitman, in a special way.

    He was an Irish Catholic, or so he acted.

    And said.

    But he knew a lot more about God than Irish Catholicism can give you.

    Jack knew because he broke the rules.

    And loved.

    He was the most Spiritual man I knew.

    He knew God better than anyone I knew anywhere.

    We never talked about God, except toward the end.

    When I found out how much he really knew.

    But he lived God.

    He was God.

    To me.

    When I needed him.

    In the crunch.

    Every time.

     

     

    2.

    What, then, is the "Christ?"

    You hear so much these days about the "born again" Christian.

    People who are supposed to have accepted the "person" of Jesus Christ into their hearts.

    And let "him" guide their lives.

    They are supposed to be 50,000,000 strong.   By their own calculations.

    But I find it hard to believe that 50,000,000 Americans could be that wrong.   About something that important.

    If living in the belief that there is life in matter (that there is more than One God) is the "dream" that composes "human life," the Christ is what comes to deliver us from the bondage of that dream.

    It's as simple as that.

    It happens in all kinds of ways.

    Right now.

    This is what the "Savior" means.

    At different times, and different ages, the "form" that the Christ Idea will take will be exactly appropriate for that age.

    It depends on how literate or how literal an age is.

    The kind of metaphor, or "still small voice" that is needed.

    To speak.

    To the receptive thought.

    Of that age.

    This, contrary to appearances, is an age of thinkers.

    It is not an age of or for the literal-minded.

    (Those who would have their thinking dictated to them through recipes, formulae, or media.)

    This is an age of the iconoclast.

    The independent, rebellious, tough-minded thinker.

    This is not an age for sheep.

    People would rather be cold, and alone, and true to themselves, than buy the lies they have to eat to become a comfortable sheep.

    Now I have to qualify that in one special way, in one special sense.

    Tied in with being independent, and tough, and thinking, is the idea that you are true to your "self," i.e., true to what you know and believe is good.

    That is your little star.

    Wherever it leads you.

    And that, if you are a thinker, is your shepherd.

    That is the Christ.

    Or, the "Christ idea."

    Leading you in your life.

    Up and out of the dream of life in matter, or material sense.

    Up and out of the hypnotic dream that there is evil.   That there is a material man.   That there are other "powers" besides The One.   God.

    Called "men."

    That there are, in fact, even such things as "other minds," besides the One Mind, that function independently, and occasionally, in opposition to the One Mind.

    This is not possible in a perfectly constructed Universe; and part of what we are being led out of is this false belief that causes so much misery.

    Until we let it go.

    The belief that we are "persons," acting independently, and sometimes in opposition to, God's Law.

    And "let that Mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus."

    That is, the knowledge, the understanding that all there is to me is the Mind that is God.

    Bringing me to a realization of that fact.

    By way of the "Christ."

    The "Savior."

    Wherever and however it operates in my life.

    It may be slow, or painful, depending on how faithful and true you are to what you know is good.

    But you can watch this, and see it happen in your life, and learn to ride with it as it happens: that is really living.

    Letting the Christ live you.

    Not fighting it.

    Letting it.

    Human will, of course, would want everything its own way.

    It would want the belief that it is a power, and an independent force or presence for either good or evil.

    But, you have to realize, that the so-called "human will" is "built" out of fear, and fear alone.

    That is why it is a myth.

    Sand.

    Shifting sand.

    A lie, with no foundation.

    Because it is built on the lie that the Presence of God, the Love of God, is not sufficient for our complete happiness, fullness, and well-being.

    That's all there is to the so-called "belief" that there "is" a so-called "human will."

    This lie is the "great whore" in the Book of Revelation.

    It gives rise to what is called the "carnal" mind.

    Today we call it the "personal" or "human" ego.

    Freud and Sartre and Nietzsche have the best "understanding" of it that I have ever found.

    But you understand it perfectly well.

    Already.

    You know what that fear is based on.

    The blackness of the night.

    Fear of the dark.

    Fear of your own "greed."

    Fear of your own "hate."

    Other people's "hate."

    And all the rest of it, including the fear of "disease," as a power apart from God, that is going to get me!

    You know what I am talking about perfectly well.

    And it is just these fears, that "form" the "carnal mind" that the New Testament is talking about, that the "Christ" comes to "redeem" us, or "save" us from.

    Bring us out of.

    Lead us out of.

    By showing us, in no uncertain terms, that they have no power, no basis in anything but lies, misapprehensions, and fear.

    And there is nothing to be afraid of.

    Absolutely nothing.

    Because all there is is God and His Idea, or Reflection, Man.

    And He certainly isn't going to do anything to "harm" his precious, beloved Son.

    Is He.

    "How," you may ask, with considerable exasperation in your face, "do you explain all the evil that is so demonstrably present in our lives today then!"

    I reply thus.

    Are you really more interested in explaining evil or destroying it.

    Take your pick.

    They are absolutely mutually exclusive.

    If you explain evil, as the academic world and the "Churches" of our day seem to feel it is their God-given obligation to do, then you are stuck with it.

    You have given evil an identity: a person, a place, a name, a reason for being.

    This is, in fact, the very last thing you want to do with evil.

    It is the arrogance of the "intellectual" mind that causes you to feel that this kind of "explanation" must somehow be legitimate.

    But, the intellectual, while a gift of God, an angel, if you will, to help you up the ladder of Self-understanding, if taken as a  law in itself, becomes based on the fear, the same fear that causes us to believe that God's ways will be insufficient for the day.

    Including His information.

    Intellectual arrogance, based on the fear of God's insufficiency, that He will let down His Beloved Child, is extremely subtle.

    And deadly.

    All it asks for is a reason!

    One dinky little old reason to explain why or what on earth could be causing these terrible things to be happening.

    That's all it asks for.

    And, of course, once you let the legitimacy of that (seemingly humble) kind of reasoning in the door, you have literally opened Pandora's Box Wide to the World!

    The point here is that just exactly the opposite kind of reasoning and kind of mentality from the intellectual's (or the academic's) is required.

    The mentality, or "reasoning" of a child.

    "Except ye shall become as little children shall ye in no wise inherit the Kingdom of Heaven."

    Heaven.

    The knowledge, the understanding, this AWARENESS is the power to heal and save from any of the frightening evils that the intellectual and theological communities set out to "explain."

    Because, once you have destroyed the belief that such things are possible in the Kingdom of the Perfect Universe, constructed by the Perfect, Adorable Being, you have destroyed the only basis or "cause" for the presence of seemingly so-called evil in the first place.

    The only basis.

    The belief.   That such things are possible, or present, here and now as actual realities.

    They are all a dream.

    A nightmare.

    That is being destroyed by its own self-incinerating wickedness.

     

     

    3.

    Good morning.

    Let me continue a bit with my life in Frazer.

    My home cost me $12,000.

    It's a tight little bugger, well built, by a guy from this area.

    I think of it more as a sailboat than a house.

    A couple of bedrooms, bath, upstairs.

    A tight, functional little kitchen, with lots of windows.

    A breezeway made into a back porch.

    Two car garage, that functions partly as a shop.

    I sleep downstairs, next to the washroom and the study; because the guy next door regularly has his buddies over to rehearse for upcoming Powwows.

    They get around in a circle and sing, beating the Drum in the middle with sticks.

    We keep different hours though.

    So it doesn't bother my writing.

    "Oliver," my neighbor's name, always has some dogs.

    One of these dogs, "Truckie," is my best friend, my only real friend, here in town.

    Every night we go on walks together.   Usually up to see the graveyard.   Or down the railroad tracks.

    Last year it got down to -40.   Without a wind.

    Truckie used to have a friend--another doggie pal--named "Wylie," but Wylie got run over by a car last winter.

    I was coming back from our little post office one day, and there he was.

    I reached down to pet him, but his tongue was hanging out of his mouth and was sticking, frozen to the ground.

    He was still warm.

    So I rubbed his head.

    Said goodbye.

    And went on.

    Truckie has fleas.

    And mange.

    The worst case I've ever seen.

    He scratches all the time.

    He didn't know what it meant to be petted until he met me.

    Oliver, and the Indians, generally, have a little different attitude toward dogs.

    When the winter ends they go around town shooting all the dogs they don't want, that made it through the winter.

    Truckie's been shot a few times.

    By 22's.

    Well, stripped of "normal" human companionship and love as we both are, we have both learned a great deal about love from each other.

    I remember the day he first gave me a "lick" on the face.

    He was quite surprised.

    He had evidently never done it before.

    He's a big dog.

    And really quite homely.

    With a tongue like a bear’s.

    I mean, this dog is ugly.

    He is so dumb that he lies on his back with all four feet straight up--his favorite posture--and can't figure out how to scratch.

    He did figure out how to kill geese though.

    He went into the yard of these old folks, who live on the few vegetables and animals they own, and killed every one of their precious geese.   One by one.

    And just left them.

    Just to give you a flavor of the normal violence...when my neighbor down the street decided to divorce his wife, he not only walked out, but he burned the house down after him.

    Truckie has mange, by the way, from his diet.

    They feed him nothing but venison all the time.

    The Indians go out "jacklighting," spotting deer at night with spotlights on the trucks.

    They usually have them on top of the cab.

    The deer stares right at the lights, which makes his eyes glow in the dark.

    So you just aim right between them.

    There is one beautiful little girl here, about fifteen years old I think.   It's hard to tell because they're old by the time they're thirty.

    Her name is Jodi Howard.

    It's impossible to tell what the specific situation is on any of these kids because their family situations are so totally screwed up that you can't remember all of the details.   Or find them out.

    Incest is very common.

    All kinds.

    It's not uncommon for a kid's folks to be drunk before he goes to school.

    Girls have one purpose in life: and they know it, and the boys know it.

    Consequently, they get as ugly and as fat as they can as quickly as they can to avoid that purpose.

    You often see children, who are the parents of other children, walking by the house.

    Nobody knows anything about contraception.

    You often hear of a court case where a girl is accused of assaulting a boy.

    Girl cat fights are normal at school.

    The kids form a circle and urge the two "combatants" on each other.

    The little kids are constantly begging money.

    So they can go buy sweet stuff.

    At the little one-horse store.

    Which reopened.

    And there is nothing so desperately lonely as the Prairie.

    With the wind.   And the cold.

    They ask me, "Aren't you afraid?" when they see me on the edge of town about to walk out into the night.

    On one of my long slow peaceful precious visits with the Presence that is the Life and Source and Truth of my being.

    It was on one of my walks down the railroad tracks, about a mile out of town, next to the little lake that inhabits this spot on the map, that I first saw Jodi's name.

    She had written it with a rock on the concrete bridge, that permitted a little creek to flow into the lake.

    It said, "Dear God, Help me please.   Signed, Jodi H."

     

     

    4.

    Good morning.

    I want you to know that I do permit myself certain vices.

    I recognize them as vices.

    I accept that they are preoccupations to be worked out of.

    But, for the time being, they are nice, and help me to work on the really hard disciplines of the moment.

    Each step is a step that you must take; and you must decide for yourself what the best balance is.

    Yes, you "give up" certain material things, that you thought you fancied, for treasures that you are setting up in "heaven," that you really do fancy.

    Like understanding.

    Love.

    Freedom, peace, and happiness.

    It's an exchange, of sorts, where you "trade in" the objects of material sense for the Beauty of Soul.

    At your own pace.

    It's a steep climb.

    Whatever suits you.

    Just keep your eye on the trail and don't worry about the mountain peaks ahead.

    I can remember when I "gave up" smoking, a year and a half ago.

    And drinking two months after that.

    I put the cigarettes out in the garage, so if I needed them I could go out and get them.   But I would have to walk all the way out there, and think about it all the way.

    Well, when I turned from them, that was it.

    I had no impulse to go out to the garage.

    Not an impulse.

    Same with booze.

    Not a sip.

    Not a puff.

    No inclination.

    None.

    But, it happened that way because I let myself set my own pace.

    Now I look back on that particular little peak, with some pride, at how simple and graceful it was.

    I love to hike.

    I love the refreshing mental discipline, and the knowledge, the absolute certainty, that I am accomplishing something worth accomplishing by my efforts.

    That's freedom.

    Perfect listening.

    No matter what comes; and no matter how much I would try to restrain and change what comes.

    My job is to get myself out of the way: and listen.

    Perfectly.

    Calmly.

    Listen.

    And trust.

    That is the struggle.

    To trust.

    To have the humility to let, to Let His Will Be Done.

    Very, very hard.

    Because I always think I have a better way.

    But I have learned, through many a hard and sore experience, to listen and let.

    So.   That is what I do.

    That is my struggle.

    To Let it be done His Way.

    Not mine.

    Indeed, that is what we are all doing.   Each in our own way.

    Whether we know it or not.

    That was the lesson set for us by the example in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    No matter what the physical appearances say is going to happen.....   Let.

    Thy Will be Done.

    So the main vice and distraction I permit myself these days is cooking.

    My dearly beloved wife, wonderful cook that she is, gave me one secret to follow, which goes fundamentally against my idolatrous and iconoclastic nature: follow the recipe!

    Which I now humbly obey.

    In the interest of sensuality.

    Perfect cookery.

    I went out and bagged my limit in ducks last weekend.

    Last Sunday night I had a perfectly cooked mallard duck in sherry.

    Apple Pie with perfect crust.

    Artichoke, with mayonnaise cut with a little salad vinegar, and salt, pepper, and paprika.

    Perfect.

    A little scabetti squash, from a neighbor's garden.

    And steamed rice.

    Fit for a King.

    While I watched 60 Minutes.

    I have only one problem with food: I once weighed 275 pounds.

    When I was going through the terror of trying to keep my job, while pretending to recover from a nervous breakdown, and seeing a shrink once a week for three years, and eating lithium carbonate twice a day, I found that the only way to relax, besides eating the valium and mellaril and drinking gallons and gallons and gallons of sherry, was to eat.

    Chicken and french fries, were my favorite.

    And Chinese Food.

    And mashed potatoes and gravy.

    And Pot Roast.

    And Turkey Dinners.

    Etc.

    Etc.

    Etc.

    275 lbs., at my peak.

    Of fun and games with sensuality.

    So now, I have a gentlemen's agreement with myself to stay under 200.

    Which, at 6' 2", is about right.

    For a fat, and aging, and balding middle-aged gent.

    But I do love that chow.

    I sneak out to the garage at night and cut myself a sliver of the cherry pie I made for myself last week.

    The best Cherry Pie I have ever eaten.   (Sorry Kathee.   But true.)

    And I drink tonic now, instead of Gin and Tonic.

    Still with a lime.

    It's excellent.

    And, what used to happen thirty seconds after I took a hit off it now fails to happen.

    And I get to walk away from it with a clear head.

    Hell of a deal.

    Eat, drink, and make merry, and don't pay.

    The next morning.

    When it is time for me to turn from all that crap, I will.

    With gladness in my heart.

    Because it is all, all, each and every mouthful, a burden.

    And I know it.

    And I am waiting.

    To turn.

    And be freed from the bondage.

    Of my belief that relaxation and happiness comes from that kind of sensuality.

    But, while it is here, I will enjoy it.

    Just as I enjoy everything in life as a gift, from Love, to help on the trek upward.

    Everything.

    In life.

    Lifting thought upward.

    Home.

     

     

    5.

    "Jesus understood that what consciousness entertains, what you think and feel, and what you admit from the world's thinking about you externalizes itself in your body and experience.

    Jesus healed, not by treating the externals but by establishing every man's Christliness in his thought."

    This is a quote from something hanging on my wall, just behind my desk, right next to the sign that says, "Dr.G.Brown Please Do Not Walk On The Grass."

    It is a quote, from the Spring of 1973, that my beloved wife Kathee took down.

    She was scrupulously careful about note-taking.

    She was a Chemistry major in college.

    The hardest major in our school.

    I made that statement at the height of my so-called manic depressive psychotic episode.

    It was not a breakdown.

    It was a breakthrough.

    It was then.

    It remains so today.

    I risked all to get a glimpse of that reality.

    And, I lost all.

    And, gained all.

    Because, contained in that statement, and what it implies about the nature of God, Man, and the Universe, is the heart of Christian Science.

    The truth about the nature of God, Man, and the Universe.

    Yet, at that time, I knew nothing whatsoever about Christian Science.

    For very good reason.

    Christian Science has been in my family.

    My mother's side.

    And was held by some of the most hateful, awful, contemptible, evil, ugly, malicious, anal-sadistic assholes I have ever, or will ever, lay eyes on.

    My grandmother in particular.

    My brother and I had a standing joke whenever we got around her.   Which was as infrequently as humanly possible.

    One or the other of us, whichever one she wasn't lecturing, with her evil, ugly, malicious, gossiping, foul, judgmental mouth, would try to get the other one to laugh.

    Mainly by giving Granny the finger behind her back, and pretending to bash her brains out with a baseball bat.

    Granny couldn't figure out why she was so funny.

    Mark and I regularly used to muse about what it would cost to put a contract out on her.

    The last thing she said to Kathee, my sweet and beloved wife, who has the purest mind and a heart of gold, was, "Don't become an alcoholic."

    Like me.

    It was implied.

    Then there was the matter of her brother, the most ruthless, power-hungry, land-grabbing baron in the history of the of the State of Montana.

    At least that was my opinion.

    And, since we are dealing here with my impressions, or reality as I perceived it, (not as it might have been perceived by other people, like his gracious and wonderful wife), I am only trying to establish how I was protected from any knowledge of Christian Science.

    Because I hated these people.

    I really did.

    Wellington D. Rankin was the name of this arrogant greedy asshole, pretentious, pompous bastard that he was; and I can clearly recall his so infuriating me at the ripe old age of five that I spit in his face!

    Wellington had a policy of hiring convicts, whom he would pay a dollar a day, at the end of three months, if they didn't go to town.

    Because if they went to town, they would get drunk.

    Small wonder.

    Wellington was possibly the most powerful man in the State.

    At one time he was one of the largest individual landowners, not just in the State of Montana, but in the United States.

    He was a fanatic about Land.

    More.

    More.

    Greed.

    Greed.

    I recall one kind of story that represented how he acquired his huge land holdings, ranches, he dreamed, that would extend side by side, contiguously, from one end of the state to the other.   The story that represents his exact kind of cunning brutality was this: a guy would kill another guy in a barroom fight, and would come to Wellington for help, knowing that he was the "best" lawyer in the state.   Wellington lived in an old dilapidated office building in downtown Helena, the State Capitol, so that guys who were really down and out wouldn't feel intimidated by the environment.   Wellington would offer to get him off on the following condition: the guy would give him nothing if he lost; and he would give him his whole ranch if he won.

    C'est la guerre.

    I remember the absolutely funniest confrontation I have ever seen in my entire life: my old man meets Wellington.

    They are having dinner with a large group of people (Wellington liked audiences) and, as usual, an argument develops.

    Somewhere out of the haze of bickering and razor-sharp cutthroat remarks, which was the Rankins' favorite conversational milieu, Wellington's voice triumphs: "You can't argue with me: I am the Child of God; when you argue with me you are arguing with God!"

    The old man says he just about fell off his chair.

    One time later, the old man got his revenge: Wellington came to our house for Christmas Eve.   And when he saw Walter pour himself a drink he marched all the way downtown to get some horseshit book on the evils of booze.

    The old man promptly threw him out of the house.

    Never to return.

    I was impressed.

    And proud.

    Of the Old Man.

    I hated that prima donna son-of-a-bitch.

    He was a "Christian Scientist," so he didn't "smoke or drink."

    But he had a storeroom, a veritable warehouse, full of candy.

    Cases and cases and cases and cases of candy.

    Bars.

    Milky Way.

    Baby Ruth.

    Almond Joy.

    Etc.

    They were for "the men" out on the ranches.

    He said.

    Those poor starving bastards.

    One time I picked up one of his "men" out on a far-a-way ranch, who was walking down the road, and looking mighty lonesome.

    It was a young kid who told me that Wellington owed him money for a few days work, and asked if he could borrow some scratch from me to get some food, which Wellington would surely repay me when I saw him.

    He was going to hop a freight when we got to town.

    I was driving my '51 Chevy.

    Third year in college.

    I gave him three bucks, and wished him well.

    And continued on to the Placer Hotel, in downtown Helena, which Wellington owned, and where I would have dinner with him.

    He railed and ranted and raved at me for three solid hours about the evils of supporting that kind of vice: of course the kid would use it to buy booze and not food.

    He laughed and laughed and laughed at the prospect of giving me back my three bones.

    I looked at him, as the conversation degenerated into his usual lecture about "Christian Science" and asked him one, direct, simple question, since I was a Philosophy Major at Whitman, and knew about such things: "What do you do about the problem of evil?"

    That was all I asked.

    I looked at him directly, simply, in the eye.

    He said absolutely nothing.

    He just looked at me, for the longest time.

    And stopped talking.

    That was the last time I ever saw him.



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