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The Village Idiot

Lookit here

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

"But don't let 'em check you, they're sucking the wrong brew
The cowards should not steer your life by their own fear
care what you are dreaming; the future is teeming
With stories that want to start"
-Abney Park: The Story That Never Starts

(1/2017) I's sitting among the educated, listening to them yammer on in government speak, trying not to laugh (or scream) as they toss idea upon idea across the table, swatting each good intention down with some ordinance or law. I wonder why I am in the room. Most of what they say rolls 'round me as if waves of monkey chatter. I don't get it. I want to go home and build a bread, read a book about building bread, take a nap while a bread is building itself.

Out of the chatter someone comments on this place once being a self-sustaining community. The chatter suddenly becomes a language I almost understand. I remember Emmitsburg before US 15 bypassed the town, and brought everywhere else closer. I look 'round the room. There may be one other who remembers this place before the highway changed the way its residents live. I suspect only that person is from Emmitsburg. Everyone else, including me, is from somewhere not this place.

I ask, "Is Emmitsburg officially a bedroom community?" I know the answer. The committee has been talking about solutions to such a community's problems for hours. I dread the answer because it takes away what I recall as being Emmitsburg and I'll have to think (which hurts) about what this place is becoming, or could become.

"Yes." I am told, and everything flips, yet again.

Of course I'm behind the curve. They've been trying to solve such problems as illegal drug usage (heroin deaths), how to attracted new businesses, lighting a fire of community spirit though their words were government speak and only filled my head with a dunning drone.

I go home with ideas tumbling in my thought hopper. Mixed with them are the objections that I know will follow. "There are state laws, there are county laws, there are town ordinances. You can't break the law, not even to fix a problem caused by the law. You can't, we can't..."

Why do we bother? Governments have brought us to this place. Why would we look to governments to fix this place?

"care what you are dreaming; the future is teeming

With stories that want to start"

I spend a coupla hours searching the local history website and typing up some ventures the town, or some self-starter, might seize and run with. If Emmitsburg is now nothing more than a residential area where a large number of commuters own houses solely as a place to sleep, it still has a history worth exploring and exploiting, both for its monetary value and as a spark of community pride in place.

First up, the muzzle loading world encompasses Colonial America right through the Civil War and into today's woods and fields as hunters still harvest deer with "cap and ball" rifles. When and where is the annual Armstrong event; complete with collections of his firearms, vendors selling muzzle loading rifle kits and accessories, "living historians", lecturers, reenactors, local gunsmiths crafting muzzle loading firearms held? Where is the Armstrong museum? Hell, where is the tiny, obscure plaque noting that the man once lived and worked in Emmitsburg?

Next up. With the Gettysburg Battlefield north of us, Frederick's National Museum of Civil War Medicine to our south and the Daughters of Charity maintaining a museum of their founder in the midst of us, combining these histories and organizations to create some annual event seems a no-brainer to me. I suspect the Civil War reenators I know would love to turn out as wounded warriors tended to by the Ds of C under the supervision of George Wunderlich. (George, who once ran the museum in Frederick and may still for all I know, could probably pull Civil War era minstrel banjo players to the event as well.)

Jumping away from the history of this place I refer to the Izaak Walton League of America, Frederick Chapter #1's youth program. I've watched kids from all over Frederick County, even WV and PA, come into Coach Ben Kelkye's youth hunter education program as shy preteens and leave it as self-confident young adults. What I have rarely seen are Emmitsburg kids on the firing lines or in the classroom.

If there is a reluctance to promote firearms, or hunting, the Gettysburg Archery Club is to our north. (Some of that club's founding members were Old Emmitsburg's residents. Bob Eiker comes immediately to mind.) While the club had declined over the years it currently has new members interested in expanding the sport beyond those only in it for hunting. Archery events do not generate any more noise than a ball game would, nor present the serious safety issues firearm events do. Some of the IWLA kids tell me their public schools now offer archery classes. I'm sure some of the local arrow slingers would leap out of the woodwork should the town take an interest in promoting this sport with or without coordination with the public schools.

And last, a youth market garden run primarily by children not involved in the area's school Ag programs.

I send emails to all the committee members I have addresses for. I can already hear the refrain: "You can't, we can't..."

I am not Socrates. I do not love this place more than I love life itself. I sleep here, but I don't live here, though I'll likely die here. I've no money, no political clout, no entrepreneurial drive. I'm no great thinker, or much of a small one. I'm closer to Till Eulenspiegel in spirit than I am to Socrates, though completely lacking Till's wit and skill at mocking those anointed who rule us with their "state laws, county laws, town ordinances." The temptation to just sit back and laugh as this place continues to rot seems easiest. Let the next generation build something new on its moldering corpse, if the next generation not of this place can come up with a reason bother.

Government people not of this place did much to destroy Emmitsburg's culture. They deemed our schools unnecessary. They determined we could work and shop elsewhere. They gave us a welfare class when it was discovered we weren't sufficiently burdened with our own. Eventually they gifted us with drug addicts and dealers from elsewhere, as if we hadn't produced enough of them ourselves. And we look to such people for solutions? Why?

Perhaps this is a better idea?

"Hey Mr. Brown,
That can't be what life is like!
Iíve watched some movies,
And I've, Iíve read some books
Life should be exciting
And sometimes scary but
What youíre describing doesn't
Seem worth the time
Hey little boy,
I think you were always right
Iíve dropped that worthless life and
Iím moving on
Life should be adventure
Iím stealing back my soul
Iíve lost too many years now
Iím awake"
-Abney Park: Letters Between A Little Boy And Himself As An Adult

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.