By Alan Sorensen
I'm fresh off two weeks vacation and trying to learn a new job. Instead of stories, I now write headlines.
That hasn't stopped people from being mad at me, though. One man I've known for years is particularly upset with me. But unlike others, he's upset by something I didn't do, not something I did.
He, like others, reminds me of the fabled boy who cried "Wolf!" They call on a somewhat regular basis and always at the last minute with "news that just can't wait." Usually, it's when we're on deadline, when we're finishing up for the day, or after midnight when I'm even more addlepated than I am during the day.
This particular man is my age or older and should know better. Each of his calls involves a tragedy of monumental proportions. No, they're not Amtrak derailments or four-alarm fires or even overflowing baths.
He calls about political issues he says require immediate press coverage. Come on. There is nothing immediate about any political events -- unless you want to agree with the network executives who cut into "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" Tuesday night with their news team's projections of the New Hampshire primary results (which they blew by several percentage points).
The big rub with his calls is that they come in at 3 or 4 p.m. and involve a political body that is 30 miles from Havre. By 3 or 4, I've usually put in eight or more hours and I'm in no mood to drive to a meeting that will indubitably be over before I arrive. (I've taken that drive before and the site I've been led to on each occasion was vacant -- I mean lifeless -- upon my arrivals.)
The last time I didn't drive those 30 miles to hear what this man could have told me over the phone, he told me I was no longer welcome in his community. Of course, he put it into stronger language than that. OK, so he made a veiled threat against me. It wasn't the first time.
I don't respond well to threats, so I went to his community the next day to find out what transpired and to get material for other stories. My caller was not around, but those who were said that nothing transpired and that my trip would have been wasted. That's news?
In talking with other people in this man's community, I find that I'm not the only person he's talked threateningly with.
When a bully browbeats a victim, the general rule is that he will get away with it for a period of time. The rule also indicates that in the end it is the victim who kills the bully. Being 6 feet and 6 inches tall and more than 200 pounds for most of my life (I've ballooned to nearly 300), I could have been a bully. But I grew up watching the Cisco Kid, Sergeant Preston, Popeye and Mighty Mouse, and I learned early on that the big bad guy always loses in the end. (Plus I got my butt kicked numerous times by shorter, quicker and older kids in the East End.)
Now, my caller has gone one step further in his plot to intimidate me. He refuses my calls about what I consider to be newsworthy events. That's fine with me. It reminds of the little boy who holds his breath and turns blue in an effort to get his way.
By the time a person is over 50, he should know not to kill the messenger just because he doesn't like the message. We all need to get the message and endeavor to understand it.
There have been numerous unfounded and as yet unproven rumors involving this particular man. Given my understanding of his nature, I would guess that they are untrue. His open hostility and his penchant for holding his breath are both extremely overt.
Rather than being all the bad things the rumor mongers call him, I suspect he's a man child whose extreme honesty manifests itself in childish behavior.
I just hope that someday he and I can once again speak, because I think that if he keeps to open discussion he has plenty to say that deserves to be heard.
Pastor Mark Baer of the First Nazarene Church of Havre died prematurely this week.
Pastor Baer was a profoundly spiritual man. We disagreed on several of the key issues of contention abroad in the land today. That didn't keep him from offering his hand at each of our meetings and inviting me to his church.
It's a message I think he'd like us all to get.