by Emmett Smith
AT The end of last year, the Blue Earth County Attorney, Mr Ross Arneson, was exercised according to press-reports by the actions of an old man out in LeHillier, just west of Old Mankato. LeHillier for long time has been a raffish quarter, and it is widely-pilloried as home today to loads of presumed methamphetamine-addicts, wayward youth and others, well, down on their luck. So embarrassing is this all to some of the bare handful who live on the “good” north side of US highway 169 that three or four of the snooty among these prevailed some years since to have the name LeHillier painted over on the new watertower and the township-name, Southbend, substituted.
Rebranding of things like Democrats is by now an old gambit in postmodern America where more by far work in the “service economy” than at anything actually productive. Today even in LeHillier many are employed as, you guessed it, professionals or at least as “sales-associates,” and this “upward” element hoped by repainting the sign on the watertower to be rid of a certain felt stigma.
LeHillier in her better days after all had been home to Belle Born, a gun-toting doxy of one of the oldtime Ma Barker-gang. Traditions have to defended, and all the rest of our multicultural “values.”
MR Ross Arneson is another member of our erstwhile professional community with a deep committment to the usual unilaterally-proclaimed publicly-funded “community standards,” and when he got word that an ailing man had a motley collection of collapsed and rusting car-carcases all over his LeHillier garden, well, Mr Arneson (prompted one imagines by Mrs Arneson, the environmentally-concerned and other society-ladies) resolved to act. After all, as in Iraq, is not the cry “honey, do something!” our universal American cry? And, anyway, the old man is reportedly quite ill — should he not therefore be in a nice clean nursinghome somewhere, under professional care? It would all be just so much more tidy.
Only, alas, the Blue Earth County peasantry and other southern Minnesota underclasses all now are well-versed in the chicaneries of their soi-disant betters — and, lo and behold, the old man of the defunct motorcars was not so defunct that in order to defend himself he had neglected to go out and buy from the state licensing-authority a flock of “collector-plates” for his car-collection.
Point to the old man and the “lower orders” and free citizens.
Well, said the Mankato Free Press, Mr Arneson was resolved to abate a nuisance, and he was going forward with plans to seek another ruling from a higher court. In view of the projected further expense and irrelevance, it became necessary to compose the following letter to the editor. As the writer is not a “credentialed” personality, he was rather taken by the fact that — unlike the usual practice with screeds received from the hoi-polloi! — the editorial people, themselves all professional newspaperists, did not tamper with his text and it actually was run as received….
A Rare circumstance! Well, one imagines that, not easily-perceived by the common scum afloat on murky waters, all sorts of occult vendettas and hatreds rend and tear the ranks of the local demi-elite — and, one expects, the editorial types may not particularly like Mr Ross Arneson. This is attested by the fact that the only editorial-excision was to delete the honorific of Mr from wherever the letter-writer had included it in front of the Arneson-surname:
31 December 2006
Mankato FREE PRESS,
To The Editor:
On my monthly radio broadcast Mankato History This Month, on KMSU-89.7 FM, I visit with different guests about our remembered past here at home in old Mankato. More than anything over the past three years I have learned that the times certainly have changed, and probably not always for the better.
For example, a hundred or even just seventy years ago, if Mr Ross Arneson had been county attorney then and gotten all excited about an old man who had some junked cars on his lawn, well, things would have worked out with a whole lot less melodrama and expensive procedures in court. This is mainly because there were a lot fewer of us, and people of all classes in Mankato then rubbed elbows everyday with generally good effects all around.
In those days, Mr Arneson would have taken his morning coffee in some place like the Wagon Wheel Cafe and gotten his haircut every week from John The Barber, just like everybody else. And if he had gotten a wild hair about something not really important or urgent to his job, folks — friends and neighbors! — would have said things to him like “damn fool” and other wisecracks and jokes, and cheered him up generally and gotten his mind off it.
Now of course we don’t have this sort of ordinary human contact with one another. And yet we still call all of this “democracy” and it is what we are trying to put over on those people in Iraq. Well, good luck to them, and Mr Arneson too. All I have to say is that the times have changed for sure, and it is all the difference in the world between a civil society — and, nowadays, a “professional” society.
Emmett R Smith,
Mankato History This Month,
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 27 February 2007]