Submitted by columnist Dirk Ellingson
My friend the Stepford Rebel joked for Christmas he would give me a column. I asked if he meant to write one. He declined but allowed me a visit from which I could harvest his considerable wisdom. I said the title could be A Stepford Rebel Christmas. He said that sounds like a holiday special no one would watch.
We were sitting in my backyard surveying the trees. The deer often emerge for me because I feed them corn, a ritual only recently resumed on my dodgy leg. They lay low when the Stepford Rebel appears because they sense he has blood on his hands. Wholly unlike my friend Mike who I visited recently and was surprised to see displaying a mounted deer head on the wall. The taxidermist plaque paid tribute to Peanut. Mike loves animals more than anybody and even though he grew up in hunting happy Michigan, I couldn’t imagine him gunning down a deer. He didn’t. Peanut died of a heart attack.
“It was Christmas five years ago when we moved to Minden,” I told the Stepford Rebel.
“Has it been that long?” he said. “Time flies. Has much changed here?”
I considered asking him the same question because of his larger sample size, a lifetime instead of five years. I didn’t ask because I suspected the answer was a resounding “No.” Change is so slow as to seem nonexistent here. Then I considered that Yankee condescension and thought I would name changes observed in my half-decade south.
“Minden repealed Prohibition. You can buy liquor at the Walmart now,” I said. No booze on the store shelves held strange charm for me and I liked to regale distant friends with the story. “McDonalds added a drive-thru lane and erected a new building.” This I don’t like. I miss the old wall hangings of Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese, Captain Crook and the gang of characters from my childhood. “Some pharmacies folded their tents. We gained access to really cheap pizza with a Little Caesar’s.”
“Anything different besides Homer Road businesses?” he asked.
“You mean like changes in attitudes? People stretching their minds with challenging ideas?”
He seemed disappointed by my answer. The world changed considerably and 2020 found him discouraged. He owned a fetching camouflage mask seemingly tailor designed, but he was sick of wearing face coverings. He allowed his mask to dangle below the nose. It wasn’t the provocative chin strap but was nearing the feed bag descent. I quit nagging him months ago and try to keep my distance and my mask on. I’ve seen worst masks than his around Minden. The worst being a tattered Kleenex.
“I know the numbered days of the current President have you down, but this is really an opportunity for Republicans to regroup and select a more palatable candidate for 2024.” I offered this condolence before but it never cheered him.
“Biden’s just a puppet of the socialists. Look around the world. Communism doesn’t work,” he said.
“So, besides Reagan, who was your favorite President in your lifetime?” I wondered.
“Trump has his faults, but he has our best interests at heart.” I’m not sure how he reached this conclusion, but I’ve heard it before. It’s as peculiar an assertion as those who protest the math of vote counts. Or cry conspiracy that I guess the courts are complicit in as well. It’s made holiday shopping easier this year. I’m buying foil hats in bulk.
“He hijacked your party. Republicans can now groom a more moderate and sensible candidate. You didn’t see merit in selections like John McCain or Mitt Romney?” The Stepford Rebel did not. I was troubled. My assessment of Donald Trump waylaying the party might be inaccurate. He might in fact represent their majority.
“COVID was exaggerated to keep Trump from getting reelected. Mark my words, you’ll hear no more about it after Biden’s inauguration.” That’s a revision from “after Biden’s elected” because COVID remains the headline long after last month.
“What qualities or misdeeds would a Republican have to exhibit for you not to vote for him or her?” I wondered if Trump’s actions and utterances fail to offend you, what would?
“You think I settle for any Republican. It’s not true. I am just never presented with any suitable Democrats. They’re taking this country in dangerous directions. I know my truth and I’m sticking with it.”
That’s often how our political discussions conclude. I have told him he might have to choose between the Grand Old Party and its Trumpism spinoff. Like an incumbent GOP congressman reluctant to infuriate any in his base, the Stepford Rebel has yet to pick a side.
“What do you want for Christmas?” I asked to change the subject.
“You mean besides a different President?” he snapped.
“You’re already getting that.”
“You know what I meant.”
“I mean what thing do you want? What items of merchandise?”
“Better golf clubs and a better deer stand. What about you?”
“I’m past the plateau of life. I need to get rid of possessions rather than accumulate more. You know what I admire most about Mahatma Gandhi?”
“You’re supposed to say something about pacifism but you always talk about his stuff fitting on a table.”
“Right. His worldly possessions fit on a tabletop. He had a book and his glasses and a spinning wheel and a couple other things. How do you get to that point?”
“Don’t ask me. Sounds weird.”
“Really being able to walk again is the greatest gift. Even if my gait’s not as strong as it used to be.”
“You gonna carry that cane with you forever?”
“In the pharmaceutical trade, there are many abbreviations. One is PRN. It means, ‘as needed.’ I now carry a cane PRN.”
“That’s Latin for ‘when the circumstance arises.’” The Stepford Rebel surprised me.
“I never knew that. How do you know that?”
“I’m not as stupid as you think I am. My uncle’s a doctor.”
“I don’t think you’re stupid. I get frustrated because you’re not curious.”
“How curious are you? You’ve never been deer hunting but you sure talk about it.”
“I’m unwilling to butcher and eat a mammal so it doesn’t seem I should shoot a deer.”
“How about fishing? We haven’t gone fishing yet.”
“Okay. When the weather warms, we’ll go fishing.”
“You say it’s always warm here.”
“The fish likely disagree.”
“I thought you went ice fishing once in Missouri.”
“I did. No bites. A slow day even for fishing.”
“We’ll fish this spring.”
“I still have my tackle box and even restrung my reels last year. But like the snow shovel, I’ve yet to use them in Louisiana.”
“It’s never too late. And you never know, you might need that snow shovel in the coming weeks.”
“Ever owned a snow shovel?”
“I’ve never seen a snow deep enough my truck couldn’t drive through. Even in our shallow snow, you might have to shovel a path for that clown car.” He derisively pointed towards my carport at the ever-reliable Ford Focus.
“My one Louisiana snow so far melted within a couple hours. I can wait. In Missouri, snow stayed on the ground for days.”
“I know. I’ve been hunting there.”
Santa will likely bring the Stepford Rebel his new golf clubs and deer stand I hope they provide him comfort during the transfer of Presidential power next month but I suspect he’ll be back to complaining. It’s okay. He owes me four years of political grumbling for what I’ve subjected him to since 2016.