by Randy Deems
I am a longtime reader, but I have never been inspired to write you before. Things have changed a little. I am beginning to see what you have been saying all along.
King George II made a royal visit to our lovely hamlet on Tuesday. I am unlucky enough to live in the town of Pierce City, MO. Normally I would say lucky enough, but a devastating tornado ripped the heart from our town on May 4. I am a very lucky person. I lived in Wichita, KS when the F5 came through 5 years ago. I was in Missouri visiting family at the time.
Thanks to the good people who invited me to speak in Tulsa on May 4, I was not in Pierce City when the tornado struck. My first hint that all was not well came about a mile outside town. I arrived at 8:30 p.m. The tornado was an hour east having created a path of devastation 43 miles long.
An emergency worker had a long line of traffic stopped on state hi-way 37. I prepared to go around when he stopped me. "You can't get through," he said. "Downtown Pierce City is gone. A tornado has wiped it out."
"Hold on, I live in downtown Pierce City," I said. "How can I get home?" He routed me around the back way, and as I came to the top of the hill I saw for the first time the devastation that had been wrought. My boys were crying in the back seat. They were worried about their cats. I told them to pray, because if our house were still standing it would take a miracle. The miracle happened. You couldn't see much of the house because of all the trees on it, but there it stood.
I live in the 137-year-old Theron Bennet House. He was our second most famous citizen after Harold Bell Wright, and was a composer and band-leader. He wrote songs like, Meet Me In St. Louis, and Don't Set Under The Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me. The house was extensively damaged, but is repairable. Many of my neighbors were not so lucky. They were wandering around their yards Monday morning with looks of shock and horror on their faces.
Our beautiful little town has been destroyed. Not one business was spared. Antique stores and boutiques occupied most of the downtown historic buildings. They have been reduced to piles of rubble along with our only grocery store, hardware store, restaurant, gas station, pharmacy, bank and convenience store. All gone. The National Guard Armory where many fled to take shelter collapsed on them. One person lost their life and several were trapped for some time. Hundreds of homes are now piles of debris.
In the midst of our devastation and sorrow, President Bush flew into town. He graced us with a speech at St. Mary's church where we go to stand in the soup line. Mountains of goods of every kind, generously donated by charitable Americans lined tables in the gym. Hundreds were gathered where dozens normally come to be fed. I wondered how many lived in Pierce City. My family had come to eat. We had no electricity to cook with, and no water to drink except what was provided by the Red Cross.
I don't know why everyone else was there. Curiosity, I guess. My oldest son Madison (10) wondered how tall George Bush would be. "Do you think he will be as tall as Mom," he asked me. Since I am married to a gorgeous six-foot redhead, I told him I would be surprised if he was. "Remember, he's a Bush, not a tree," I told Madison.
The president was preceded by a vanguard of flunkies. They told us we could chant. I suggested that we should chant, "Write a check, George," but my group was unenthusiastic.
He made his way through the tables of people, stopping to comfort the family of the man who died in the Armory. He passed our table, and shook hands with my boys. He complimented their appearance. I concurred. He made his way to the microphone and gave a lovely speech. Then he went away. We still had no electricity, no phone and no water. I attempted to return to my home. A hi-way patrolman stopped me at the railroad tracks. "You can't go through here," He said. "You'll have to leave."
"Leave," I protested. "I live here." He gave me a menacing stare. "I don't care where you live, turn this car around and leave. We have a motorcade coming through here."
"Where would like me to go?" I asked. His hand dropped to his gun. "I can't tell you where to go, but you can't stay here," he said. I left before he shot me. It took me thirty minutes to find a way to get to my house.
I must confess that this experience is not unique in my life. So far I have never found any part of government, from George Bush to the Mayor of Pierce City to be anything than at best a nuisance, and at worst a menace.
How did George Bush help Pierce City? He made a speech. Had he reached into his pocket and wrote a personal check to help rebuild the grocery store, I would have been impressed. Speeches don't mean much to me.
If he had taken the price of just one of those cruise missiles dropped on Iraq, extorted from the people of Pierce City, and all across America, we could rebuild Friendly Supply (the hardware store) and Freda Mae's Tea Room. We could reopen Casey's General Store, and Thompson Drug.
Instead, he gave a speech and kept me from getting to my house so I could continue cleaning up the mess. At least he could have dragged a tree limb to the debris pile, or helped get my boy's trampoline off the Methodist Church across the street. Then I would have shook his hand and said, "Mr. President, you're a good man."
As it is I say, "Mr. President, you're a windbag, and an infernal nuisance." And I say to all those like windbags in Government, "Get out of my way and don't bother me with your pretty speeches. If you want to impress me, get out your checkbook, if you have any money left after the tax-man comes, roll up your sleeves and grab a rake. There's a lot of work to be done."
Anyway, thanks for the informative site, and keep it coming.
Thanks, Randy Deems
Randy Deems [send him mail] is a minister and sometime schoolteacher. He and his wife homeschool their two boys.