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Tales of the Ordinary

Tales of the Ordinary

The old man gripped his cane tighter as he strolled closer to the pedestrian underpass. Just exiting the short native-rock tunnel, covered in strange graffiti, he saw a blue tent. A newer one, well off the path, surrounded by honeysuckle undergrowth. Nylon. Not the moldy canvas pup tent he knew as a child.
He slowed to catch a glimpse inside. The tent flap opened briefly in the breeze. A man’s boot, badly worn. Jesus, how many miles on those boots? A dog? A small dog. He bent at the waist to look closer. The dog glanced at him with disinterest, closed his eyes. Feeling conspicuous, he moved along. Probably homeless, both of them, though less so for the dog.
Just yesterday on tv he had seen a tent city of refugees somewhere in Syria, or was it Yemen? A dry and barren place. People living in tents. Kids playing. Dogs. He concluded that the worldwide population living in tents was probably expanding. Tents are nicer than they used to be, at least. Means nothing t…
Recent posts

The Bizarre World of Rep. Ed Emery (R-Lamar)

In the strange, twisted world of state representative Edgar Emery (R-Lamar), there is no color gray, and he'd just as soon there were no brown either. Like many Republican legislators, he believes in the simple rule of law, right and wrong, cause and effect - there is a simple response to every action.

Emery, a staunch conservative who does little to hide his disdain for undocumented workers, currently serves, ironically enough, as chairman of the House Special Committee of Immigration Reform. At a recent hearing in Joplin, he spent the day listening to a host of Hispanic educator/advocates plead their case on behalf of immigrant workers.

During the afternoon session, several immigrant activists spoke quite eloquently about the plight of undocumented workers in the Ozarks - how Mexican agriculture collapsed after the implementation of NAFTA, how Mexican farmers were forced to look elsewhere for work in order to earn money to support their families - you know, family values.

Another i…

Literacy Success Story #8

Literacy Success Story #8 - from the notes of a reading teacher working with illiterate adults. The year is 1989, and Barbara Bush, like so many dutiful first ladies, is pushing a big literacy campaign.

Student #122 - Doug, construction worker, Springfield, MO.

Doug, 23, came to the program to improve his reading so he could advance in the construction trade. He was a general laborer and needed to learn how to read plans and blueprints to have any chance of promotion. Doug drank a little and had recently become separated from his wife of five years and his two children. He was living on his own for the first time and fashioned himself as a bit of a ladies' man.

The program director took him on as a student until a good volunteer could step in, but since most of the good reading tutors were young women, it took a while. After three months of twice-weekly instruction, Doug was starting to make some progress, but his late night carousing was also starting to take its toll. He began canc…

Aunt Norma's Dark Past

I was thumbing through some old Springfieldians and came across an interesting article that delves into state senator Norma Champion's early days at KYTV as host of the Children's Hour. Champion parlayed her television notoriety into a city council seat and eventually defeated Craig Hosmer in 2002.

Her record as a legislator has been, arguably, one of the least distinguished and vacuous in southwest Missouri political history. You can read more about Aunt Norma at All About Norma.

Anyway, back to the crack investigative reporting on Aunt Norma from Issue #1 (Summer 1992) of the Springfieldian.

"Champion hosted the popular Saturday morning children's show "The Children's Hour", sharing the stage with puppets, pets and shy, embarrassed children.

". . . While Champion's service on City Council raised no question of character, a closer look at Champion's television years may reveal another side of the candidate. . . .The controversy centers around a…

FBI Investigation Inches Closer to Roy Blunt

ABC News investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, reports that FBI investigators are taking a close look at House Speaker Dennis Hastert's letters to the Department of Interior on behalf of casino interests represented by crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ross reports that . . .

"Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes."

If I'm not mistaken, this is one of the three letters signed by the 7th District's very own moral icon, Congressman Roy Blunt. Back in January, we posted a timeline of fundraisers and letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton that clearly linked Blunt and Hastert to Abramoff's casino interests in Louisiana. Here's a clipping:

June 1999 - Abramoff donates $5,000 to ROYB fund.
February 2000 - Abramoff donates an additional $1,500 to ROYB Fund.
March 2000 - Abramoff donates maximum amount to M…

Sunday Thread

The News-Leader was all over the power plant issue in this week's Sunday edition. Environmentalists argue against a new coal-fired plant; CU argues in favor of building the thing. Frankly, I don't know enough about this issue to say much, but it seems that, given the reality of global warming and the cost of generating power, that any viable way to create cleaner, sustainable power should be a priority.

Sara Overstreet told us of a handicapped woman who can no longer ride her motorized wheelchair to an OACAC Head Start center due to the closure of the Broadway Avenue railroad crossing. I know I sound completely insensitive, but it's yet another in a series of sad, lightly truth-tinted stories from Overstreet.

Last year, she wrote of a special needs adolescent boy who had been repeatedly turned down by Big Brothers & Big Sisters, when all he sought was a little kindness and love. I remember that kid, even though I never had him in class. I don't know what specifically…

Rountree Teacher & Principal Charged

The News-Leader online edition reports that misdemeanor sexual misconduct and assault charges were filed today against Rountree PE instructor Mark Washam. Washam was arrested and released in mid-March by SPD. Five girls and one boy were listed as victims. Principal Carolyn Harralson was also charged with misdemeanor violation of failing to report the abuse to the Childrens' Division.

I'm sure the offended parties feel vindicated, and if Washam did exhibit some of the alleged sexual behaviors listed, his removal from contact with children is a good thing.

Pedophiles and sexual offenders are a sneaky lot, but as one who works with adolescents on a daily basis, there are still questions in my mind about this case.

One thing you won't see in this case or others like it . . . the discipline records of the children involved. A record showing repeated instances of disrespect for authority, dishonesty and aggressive behaviors, for instance, would cast this story in an entirely differ…