Motives behind backwards treading men
When Daniella relocated her business to Port Townsend, I took the opportunity to escape the Idaho smokes and travel some roads I’d never been on. As I drove the U-Haul through some highway construction next to the old Oregon Trail, I became thankful for our modern conveniences, which made this efficient trip possible.
Upon this modern thoroughfare, there were sights to see, which I had never before beheld; a ghostly cement plant from that era immediately following the Oregon Trail’s, and then modern watchtower windmills all along the 45th parallel. There were even Wi-fi hot spots, available in case I wanted to catch up on the fire, but I felt it best to keep rolling forward with the van packed full of her worldly possessions.
Suddenly, a few miles beyond some road construction, a man appeared who was walking backwards. He was donning a fluorescent orange suit, with a beaming smile to match. He bounced backwards with a concentrated cadence, as if he was gauging something extremely important.
Besides marching backwards, there were a couple other things out of the ordinary about this man. First, he was at least two miles away from any actual construction. Why was he under his own steam there? On top of that, the man had an unusually chipper attitude about him. Surely, many highway workers are finely suited for their jobs; rugged outdoorsy types who thrive working under the elements, and who welcome climate changes of all sorts, but this man seemed to transcend even that. As we exchanged glancing smiles in our moments of passing, I thought perhaps that he was the happiest human on the highway.
It wasn’t until I got bumped from the Kingston ferryboat and had to reverse gear for the queue that I begin to catch up on the news. Soon aboard the next dreamy float ride, I opened the broadsheet to the fires, and then suddenly saw Kelly Jackson’s story entitled “World Exercise Champion walks backwards through Idaho.”
Practically jumping out of my skin, I yelped, “That’s the dude I saw!” then called Daniella in the ferryboat ahead to tell her part of this mystery was solved.
In Kelly’s article I saw that this backwards man, William Kathan, was on a mission to grasp young people’s attention and “to show American youth that anything can be achieved with a healthy mind and body.” He also had a website listed. I wanted to check it out, but knew I’d be off the grid for a few days, while helping Dani move into her new condo, which was still unwired. Meanwhile, Wes, one of the men helping, suggested I check out the Movie Little Big Man, Featuring Dustin Hoffman, as the main character was somebody who embraced contrarian views.
I had read about how in indigenous cultures, humorous “contrary coyotes” are some of the most highly revered individuals. Even wrote about it before. This feverous phenomenon reminds me of today’s outspoken comedians, who go against the grain of starchy acceptance and become highly admired and well compensated.
My enthusiasm for the backwards tale grew on this trip. I began to weave Mr. Bill into other offbeat stories while informing people about his unusual mission.
Finished with the condo move, I returned from Port Townsend, back to Hailey and a valley full of alarming smoke. I jumped back online and started multitasking, while engine searching for “Mr. Bill.” Opening the backlog of e-mails, I saw a brief note from the Wood River Journal editor, saying that my column Priceless Smiles over Diamonds would be the last one that they would be running. He thanked me for my dedication and went on to say that in a gracious manner that they had decided to put their focus more on ‘hard news’ now and that the budget had been changed to eliminate my column.
This “Regal Odkcos” knocked me back a step.
This was totally contrary to their philosophy of the previous year. When I first met the Publisher Trey, through Daniella, at a Lone Star after-hours event, he mentioned that they were looking for an ‘alternative columnist’. Likewise, as with their initial enthusiastic welcome from Pedro and some of the other staff. Perhaps, while following my heart in this wayward world, I had written some things too contrarian for their tastes. After all, they have big bosses to answer to, too.
Plus, Trey is a big Bush supporter and believes that our Commander in Chief inherited most of his problems from Clinton. I’d almost like to believe that too, I really would. In fact, reflecting back, I used to half-believe that five or six years ago, until Puppet Bush continued screwing up almost every aspect of positive things the Good old U.S. of A. used to stand for and spiraled us decades backwards on the rest of the world’s perception of our goodwill. If I could sense one redeeming quality within our Commander, besides his ability to memorize a roomful of people’s names, I could be more opened-minded to believing he could actually influence a scrap of positive change in the world. Whatever happened to the heavy responsibility that is supposed to go along with all of that power? If only our whole country could backpedal seven years to step out of this quagmire of bad luck.
Nonetheless my column was gone. I e-mailed fellow columnist, Lynea Newcomer that I was 60% relieved and 40% saddened. The sadness was magnified by the fact; I had just stepped in the door from helping Dani, my best friend in Hailey, move away from this town. Perhaps it would take a few days for all of this to sink in, especially since I had been rolling around the wild west with a head full of constructive ideas and had been investing most of my spare time writing down and expanding these dreams, dozens of works-in-progress, right here on this blog.
Was this what the Shaman-Priest meant when he said, “There are some things that you must accept. If you swim too strong against the tide, you could die on the beach.” His interpreter even repeated, “He wants you to remember that.”
I was quite thankful for the chance The Wood River Journal had given me. However, ever since Pam Parker remarked that my style of writing seemed to be “oddly timeless”, I had been wondering if newspapers were really the right place for my determined focus. Push-button publishing holds so much more power and capability, with hyperlink interconnectedness, easy photo posting, search potential and even permanence, compared to newspapers designed mostly to be thrown away, after a quick perusing.
Many reporters will agree with me, when I point out that another odd thing about writing for this area, is that writer’s often lay out some of their finest work and then - with some exceptions - receive less than a whisper of feedback, from the broad cross-section of the community, colleagues or even bosses.
Now that I had worked for both papers in this small community, I began to see with a piercing vision how backwards things were. Publishers were skittish about saying anything too controversial that might offend advertisers. And advertisers were adroit the fact that they could make publishers easily squirm.
With the ceaseless pressure of deadlines and a multitude of other glitches inherent to the newspaper publishing business, true innovativeness and cutting-edge writing could only be half-embraced at best. Big electronic city slickers had treaded into this town and quickly seized most of the important online traffic, despite repeated signs that this was about to happen.
I started to think that I understood the concept that if A supra-natural Deity actually dropped down into town, with proof-positive about a vast plan to begin better merging heaven with earth, that jaded members of the community would yawn, tell him to go shoofly and get lost in the Boulder – White Clouds for forty days, with his ancient backwoods ways.
In what I guess was my parting letter to Lynea, whose column usually faced across from mine, I mentioned that I shouldn’t let anything stop me in my tracks about my ardent plans to write about that backwards facing man.
I feel like he's gaining on me in the rearview mirror right now…