Dale, Jo, L.O., and the Bush library
With regularity, I take trips out into the Midwest region beyond Kansas City. In addition to trying to make this website relevant — with the help of unselfish freelancers and a couple of staff members — I’m the publisher of a free regional antique and “historical tourism” monthly. Our advertising base there is decidedly small town, independent-minded business people.
For the most part when I talk with these folks, I avoid politics. The conversation is mainly about business — if I can keep them advertising with us, whom we may mutually know that is in business, the weather and maybe a little about family life, especially if there’s kids about. And many times in a small business setting, there are kids about.
Long ago I settled with myself that I’m not going to preach, argue, cajole or get mad about someone’s politics that I do with business with even if they don’t fit my left/populist sensibilities. Admittedly, keeping advertisers and my business afloat also had something to do with that don’t ask/don’t tell decision.
But neither was I going to bend to someone else’s politics, particularly if they were exclusionary and mean — regardless if it cost me business. And because of my opinion on gay rights issues, we have lost some business. And when I detect racial stereotyping, which has cropped up in conversations with advertisers, I respectfully announce I don’t agree with that opinion — at the same time telling myself I couldn’t care less if they did advertise.
No brag, just fact. Being consistent in political thinking is a prerequisite if you want change.
Admittedly, it sometimes feels funny being a leftist yet practicing capitalist — accepting a system that I wonder if someday will go the way of feudalism because of the way it sometimes mistreats people and abuses the environment. But in the meantime, I’m a capitalist — a situation that I think makes some of my nonprofit-orientated leftist acquaintances nervous. But that’s another story.
Anyway, my trips to other places are learning experiences, as they should be if I am to survive as a businessman.
This past week, I drove to Mounds, OK. This town of about 1,100 is 30 minutes south of Tulsa. I went to visit an advertiser. He had gently questioned his modest advertising expense with us — whether we were worthy — and, I think, he just wanted to meet the guy who published the thing. Always willing to leave the confines of my office, I obliged.
Dale and Jo had put in 34 years of “junkin’.” They had lived here and there, traveled the country and now were back home in Mounds. The struggles of the small town affected them. They worried that the history of the town would be lost. They worried about what their town would become as folks from Tulsa, eager to buy up land, built big homes and computed to jobs in the city, oblivious to the town people around them. We sat down to visit in the middle of the store as two grandkids, a six-year-old boy and four-year-old girl, scurried about, occasionally eyeballing me with a curious look.
As we talked, Dale brought out old postcards he had collected with the address of “Indian Territory” on them, or “I.T.” to him. He would rattle off towns, some long gone, where the writer had mailed the postcard. Sometimes, Jo would roll her eyes a little when Dale got goin’ on a particular old one.
Next door to the shop the town was putting in a museum in a building over a hundred years old. The head of the local historical society was L.O. Dale naturally invited L.O. over to meet me and talk about the museum.
L.O. had been in the area most his life. His family at one time had a diary farm. Mounds, L.O. said, once had over a dozen diary farms. The dairy cows are gone now, the last diary dying off in the late 1980s, near as L.O. could remember.
It was hard not to like these folks, and I worried if they liked me — something I don’t think or care much about here in KC. Wanting that comfort there in Mounds really didn’t have anything to do with business; I just felt humbled and impressed with the company I was keeping.
I was asked if I collected antiques. Not really, I said, but I did look for old political buttons, particularly Franklin Roosevelt campaign buttons. L.O. said he collected FDR stuff, too.
The conversation came around to The Harry S. Truman Library back in Missouri. I said I had recently written a story on the library for our monthly, Discover Mid-America. Dale then mentioned he had heard President Bush was working on getting his library built.
“Would you go visit his library when he gets out?” Dale asked me.
I hesitated to answer. It was the dreaded political question I work hard at avoiding in such settings. Finally, I answered, “I just want him out.”
For a moment there was silence. Then, L.O. said, “You just want him to go back to Texas, don’t ya.”
He said it as a statement, not asking a question. I took it as one of agreement, though I admit that may be wishful on my part.
Not long after, Dale followed me out the door, thanking me for coming and giving me directions back to Tulsa. He looked over my old Toyota Tacoma pickup pretty hard without saying a word about it.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
© 2007 Discovery
Publications, Inc. 1501 Burlington, Ste. 207, North Kansas City, MO
contents of eKC are the property of Discovery Publications,
Inc., and protected under Copyright.