Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mailbox Molesters

A mailbox is a defenseless container standing alongside a rural roadway. It's protected by the U.S. Government, and also protected by the resident of the nearby property, who may or may not be a kindly person.

To Mailbox Molesters, it’s a symbol of authority, representing everyone who keeps them in check, such as their parents or teachers who make rules they don’t want to live by. Rather than confront those they hate, they confront the mailbox.

A Mailbox Molester is usually a 17-year-old male, give or take a couple of years, with a dark soul and lots of suppressed anger. He can come from any segment of society but prefers the company of lowlifes who enjoy tormenting others. To call these destructive vandals “scumbags” is an insult to bags of scum.

Mailbox Molesters come in many forms.

Mailbox Shooters – Unlike other mailbox molesters, this dangerous jerk is often a loner. He gets a thrill out of shooting defenseless items, such as mailboxes, with little regard for where or how far the bullet will travel. To prove his manhood, he’ll fire multiple rounds to make sure the mailbox is dead.

Mailbox Bombers – These boneheads hang out in small packs, often three to six idiots deep, and get their jollies by placing explosives, usually a powerful firecracker, in a mailbox. They’ve also been known to videotape the event so they can enjoy watching their destruction over and over again. Law enforcers also enjoy playing the videotapes over and over again, especially in court.

Mailbox Maulers – Good-ol-boys with red necks and rocks for brains get their kicks by hooting and hollering and creating mayhem. They drive battered old trucks with expired tags and no mufflers. When they spot a row of innocent mailboxes, they put the pedal to the metal and mow them down in one lethal pass. Then they hoot and holler on down the road, wondering why society frowns on their existence.

Mailbox Bashers – Bashing is a two-idiot team sport. The driver veers close to the mailbox while the basher smashes the mailbox with a baseball bat or a rock as they drive by. Instead of hooting and hollering like maulers, they tend to snort and snicker. Bashers are maulers without the swagger.

Mailbox Benders – The bender is an amateur molester. He’ll drive his vehicle up to the mailbox and maneuver against it, then bulldoze the mailbox into a bad angle. He doesn’t really want to hurt anyone – he just wants to let you know he hates you, even if he doesn’t know you.

I’ve lived in my place for 10 years now. So far I’ve been the victim of a shooter (multiple holes), a bomber (firecracker), three bashers and a bender. The most recent attack occurred this week. Next time, stop by for a chat.

My initial reaction usually involves some heavy retribution. First of all, these morons should be tethered to a post along the roadside where people can drive by and swat them with a large stick or a shovel or a sock of fresh manure. At the very least, they should be spayed and neutered so they don't breed.

But after I settle back down, about 144 hours later, I realize that reacting emotionally to a senseless act of vandalism is exactly the reaction the perpetrator was seeking in the first place. So I try to forgive and forget, and let the forces of the cosmos sort things out.

NOTE TO MAILBOX MOLESTERS: Tampering with a mailbox is a federal crime. Even though it’s not a serious offense, you’ll be placed in a federal database of criminal misfits. Getting a government job or simply boarding an airplane when you have a federal criminal record could be an embarrassing bureaucratic nightmare.

NOTE TO MAILBOX MOLESTERS: Destroying a mailbox is a health risk. The world is full of dangerous people who might actually take offense to having some anonymous pinhead destroy their property. Wipe out the mailbox of the wrong dude and you may be dealing with some nasty repercussions. Deranged hermits, outlaw bikers, mob enforcers and serial killers have lots of suppressed anger too. Many of them also have mailboxes.

One of the many theories of life is that we are in this world to learn lessons that will be beneficial in the next life and the best way to learn is by overcoming suffering. Thus restless young punks were brought into this world to help us overcome. We are then confronted with various options, such as retaliation or forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s not easy to forgive those who trespass against us, but it’s the best way to get through life without adding to the chaos. On the other hand, loving your enemies is a hard nut to crack.

Mailbox Molesters are basically cowards. Instead of resolving their suppressed anger by courageously confronting the underlying problem, they choose to attack something that can't fight back, such as an innocent animal or a defenseless person or a stationary object.

Grow up, jerk. Someday you may be the proud owner of a mailbox. Then what are you going to do when some lowlife scumbag bashes your mailbox beyond usefulness? Life on Planet Earth is hard enough without the added insult of random senseless vandalism.

What goes around, comes around.

Quote for the Day – "Instant Karma's gonna get you... Gonna knock you right on the head... You better get yourself together... Pretty soon you're gonna be dead." lyrics by John Lennon

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a mailbox on a dirt road. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Medal of Honor

Courage is a latent virtue. You never know you have it until you're tested.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration, awarded by the U.S. government, that can be bestowed on a member of the United States Armed Services. It is often awarded posthumously.

The recipient must distinguish himself -- "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."

The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. The USA had sent military advisors to the region in 1950, attempting to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. Our involvement escalated in the early 1960s, and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965.

Vietnam -- November, 14, 1965

A U.S. Infantry unit, outnumbered 8 to 1, was under heavy fire in the Ia Drang Valley. The enemy fire was so intense, the Infantry Commander ordered the Medi-Vac helicopters to stop coming in.

Not to worry -- Capt. Ed Freeman, Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battery, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) is coming for you.

Capt. Freeman was not Medi-Vac – it was not his job to evacuate the wounded.

Instead, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered to avoid the landing zone, Capt. Freeman ignored the Infantry Commander's concerns and flew his Huey helicopter down into the hostile machine gun fire.

Capt. Freeman landed his chopper and sat there under heavy gunfire until 2 or 3 wounded soldiers were loaded on board. Then he flew up and out, transporting the wounded to a field hospital.

And he kept coming back, 13 more times, picking up some 30 wounded soldiers in all and transporting them to safety.

The Battle of Ia Drang was one of the first major battles of the Vietnam Conflict. The U.S. casualties were 234 dead and 242 wounded.

Medal of Honor Recipient, Capt. Ed Freeman, died on March 25th, 2009, at the age of 80, in Boise, Idaho.

Rest in Peace.

United States Armed Forces casualties in the Vietnam War:

58,209 killed in action
303,635 wounded in action
1,948 missing in action
246 medal of honor recipients

Quote for the Day – "Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." John Wayne

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and served in the U.S. Army in 1966-1968. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beer Season

A sober person is one who yields to the temptation of denying himself one of life's pleasures. Alcohol makes you feel the way you should feel without it.

Beer is an ale or lager made from a grain (usually barley), hops, yeast and water. It's the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Globally, beer drinkers consume 40 billion gallons per year, including spillage.

In wine is wisdom. In beer is gusto. In water is bacteria.

The oldest known recipe for beer was inscribed on a clay tablet in about 1,800 B.C., making it one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.

Subsequently, the wheel was invented to haul grain and hops to the breweries, and haul barrels of beer on to the taverns. Without beer, we'd all still be living in caves.

In America, Beer Season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is the peak period when Joe Six-Pack and Bubba Red-Neck have a can of beer in one hand at all times. It helps them to keep their balance.

It takes a lot of practice to become a proficient beer guzzler. Some tips for beginners include:

Tip #1: If your beer is unusually tasteless, your can (or bottle or glass) is empty – get another beer.

Tip #2: If your feet feel cold and wet, your beer can is probably being held at the incorrect angle -- rotate the can so the open end points toward the ceiling (indoors) or the sky (outdoors).

Tip #3: If your feet feel warm and wet, you have a bladder control problem -- stand next to the nearest dog and complain about the lack of training.

Tip #4: If your beer is tasteless and the front of your shirt is wet, you applied the can (or bottle or glass) to the wrong part of face -- get another beer and practice in front of a mirror.

Tip #5: If you're in a drinking establishment and the opposite wall is covered with fluorescent lights, you have fallen backward -- get someone to tether you to the bar.

Tip #6: If the wall seems extremely close and you have a crushed cigarette in your mouth, you have fallen forward – see Tip #5 for solution.

Tip #7: If your singing sounds like someone stepped on a cat, drink more beer until your voice improves.

Tip #8: If everyone looks up to you and laughs, it probably means you're dancing on a table -- fall on someone large and soft, preferably of the opposite sex if you're able to tell the difference from that altitude.

Tip #9: If the floor is moving, you're probably being carried out – find out if you are being transported to another location where you can drink more beer.

Tip #10: If you cannot lie on the floor without holding on, you have reached the point of no return. Hold on tight. You will be just fine in about 42 hours.

Tip #11: If your beer is hot and darker than normal and tastes a bit odd, someone may be trying to sober you up and you're drinking coffee – dump it out immediately and growl at whoever gave it to you.

Tip #12: If your hand hurts and your nose feels slightly ajar, you've been in a fight -- apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them.

TIP #13: If a friend calls the next day to check if you returned the goat, go see if your car is in the driveway.

Tip #14: If your bedroom is painted gray, has a concrete floor and a steel door, and there's a toilet located in the far corner next to a bench where several nasty-looking dudes with facial tattoos are staring at you, you are in jail -- keep your mouth shut, your eyes open and begin revising your financial plans for the immediate future.

Tip #15: If you wake up the next day and your head feels like someone surgically implanted a bowling ball between your ears, you have a hangover – take a long nap and vow to never drink another beer again.

Beer Season is a wonderful time of the year. Regular people refer to it as "summer." It's when the weather is nice, the kids are out of school, the fish are biting, outdoor grills are blazing and young yahoos are partying.

Just don't overdo it and drive carefully. There are enough maniacs in this world without adding to the chaos.

And stop tossing your beer cans in the roadside ditch. It's very irritating to those of us who live along your path of litter. Instead of trashing the environment, perhaps you could crush the empty beer cans on your empty head and stack them into a giant pyramid in your den as a proud display of your guzzle capacity.

The problem with some people is that when they're not drunk, they're sober.

I'll occasionally imbibe in the nectar of the gods, mostly to make other people seem interesting.

Quote for the Day – "A woman drove me to drink and I never even had the courtesy to thank her." W.C. Fields

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a sobering distant memory of moving floors. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Culture of Corruption

Integrity is not determined in the ballot box. We incarcerate petty thieves and elect the great ones to office.

InfoUSA is one of the largest compilers of consumer information in the world.

Basically, they make lists of people and sell them to junk-mailers and spam-blasters. For example:

1) "Oldies But Goodies" – lists 500,000 gamblers over age 55.
2) "Elderly Opportunity Seekers" – lists 3.3 million older people looking for ways to make money.
3) "Suffering Seniors" – lists 4.7 million elderly people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease.

Vinod Gupta is the chairman and CEO of InfoUSA. He hails from Rampur Maniharan, a town in Uttar Pradesh state. And if you can find it on a map, you win a cookie.

He received a BTech degree from IIT Kharagpur in 1967, and an MS in Agriculture Engineering and an MBA from the University of Nebraska in 1972.

Gupta served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (appointed by President Bill Clinton). He was nominated (by President Bill Clinton) as the U.S. Counsel General to Bermuda. He was also nominated (by President Bill Clinton) to be U.S. Ambassador to Fiji.

It's nice to have friends in high places.

In January of 2002, Bill and Hillary Clinton (and others) took a vacation in Acapulco, Mexico. They traveled on Gupta's private company plane. According to court records, InfoUSA paid $146,866 for the excursion.

From 2002 through 2006, InfoUSA paid Bill Clinton over $2 million as a consultant. They spent $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Hillary Clinton to campaign events.

It's nice to have friends with deep pockets.

These outrageous examples of a fat-cat entrepreneur trying to ingratiate himself with high-profile political figures came to light in 2007 in a lawsuit filed in Delaware, initiated by angry shareholders of InfoUSA stock.

According to the New York Times, May 26, 2007, an InfoUSA spokesman described Mr. Clinton's consulting services by stating, "They were limited to making appearances at one or two company events each year."

It's nice to be paid oodles of money for showing up once or twice a year and making an appearance.

I'll do it for half the price and even throw in a card trick.

But not to worry. Nancy Pelosi has come along to save us from unscrupulous politicians.

Since 1987, Nancy Pelosi has been a member of the House of Representatives, representing the Eighth Congressional District of California. As a Democrat, she was the House Minority Leader in 2002 to 2007.

When the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives in 2008, she became the Speaker of the House, and as such is second in line of succession, behind the Vice President, to become President.

When she became Speaker of the House, she vowed to rid politics of the "culture of corruption" that had prevailed under the Republicans.

Apparently, Democrats are honest folks and Republicans a bunch of crooks.

Well, isn't that refreshing. Finally, someone is going to clean up all the sleazy political influence peddling.

In February of 2007, shortly after Ms. Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House, her son Paul Pelosi, Jr. was hired by InfoUSA as its Vice President for Strategic Planning, at a salary of $180,000 per year.

And to make it convenient for Paul Pelosi, Jr. to strategically plan things for InfoUSA, he's able to remain at his full-time job as a mortgage officer for Countrywide Loans in California. Unlike all the other employees at InfoUSA, he does not have to report to work at the company's headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

Call me curious, but the strategic planning (or lack thereof) and mom's new job has a bad smell to it. Cultures of corruption tend to emit an odor much like a dead skunk in the middle of the road. And it stinks to high heaven.

"Democrats are committed to reforming the way Washington does business," Ms. Pelosi announced proudly in 2006 while supporting a bill banning members of Congress from putting spouses on campaign staffs.

Ms. Pelosi's husband, Paul F. Pelosi, owns Financial Leasing Services Inc. (FLS), a real estate and investment firm in San Francisco. Over the last 9 years, FLS has received $99,000 in rent and accounting fees from Nancy Pelosi's Political Action Committee (PAC), funded by political contributions.

Paul Pelosi took over as treasurer of his wife's PAC committee in 2007. Federal Election Commission records show that FLS skimmed $48,000 in fees in 2008 alone, which was eight times as much as it received annually from 2000 to 2005 under a different treasurer.

It's nice to have a helpful spouse to assist you in your quest for power.

In April of 2009, Ms. Pelosi stated that the American people were demanding "discipline and accountability" after the multi-billion dollar federal bailouts of financial institutions. She promised to create legislation with broad oversight to investigate Wall Street.

We can all sleep easier now with the gallant Ms. Pelosi keeping a sharp eye out for discipline and accountability.

In May of 2009, Ms. Pelosi, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed she was never briefed by the CIA in 2002 about torture, specifically water-boarding. She later claimed she was briefed that it was an approved technique but that it hadn't yet been used. When CIA memos were produced to show she had been briefed and that she was told it had been used, she then claimed the CIA misled (lied to) her about it.

If she was indeed told about the technique of water-boarding and it had not yet been utilized, as she claims, then why didn't she object to it being used in the future. She made no such objection. Instead, she attempts to blame others for not properly informing her. Or perhaps she took a nap in the meeting and missed the entire presentation.

Ms. Pelosi, who seems a bit light on integrity and competence, is next in line to be President of the United States behind only the Vice President.


It is not in the nature of the best men and women to strive for political office – the best men and women have no desire to govern the affairs of others. And when commerce is controlled by politicians, the first things bought are politicians.

Politicians are just like everyone else; some are good, some are bad and most are somewhere in-between. Party affiliation doesn't seem to matter much either. There are plenty of corrupt politicians to go around.

Even though there are men and women of principle in both parties, neither one is a party of principle.

Ironically, according to John McCain, a Japanese General was hanged after World War II for torture, that included water-boarding. Even with that as a precedent, Justice Department lawyers under George Bush somehow determined that water-boarding was not considered to be torture. Accordingly, the USA can execute an enemy for the same act the USA perpetrates on others with impunity.

It's nice to be in a high level of a righteous government where hypocrisy is of no concern because you're on the side of the good guys.

The problem with political jokes is they get elected.

Quote for the Day – "The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club." Dave Barry

Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and no friends in high places. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Armadillo Alert

There's a tool shed in my backyard about the size and shape of a typical outhouse. We no longer have use for the outhouse around here, typical or otherwise, since we discovered the miracle of indoor plumbing.

Under the tool shed lives an armadillo. His name is Armando.

The word ‘armadillo’ comes from the Latin word ‘arma’ meaning wearing armor, and the Latin word ‘dillo’ meaning a very weird thing. In other words, an armadillo very weird thing wearing armor, much like my ex-wife if she were wearing armor. It's basically a small animal, about the size of a pregnant sewer rat, that looks like a miniature brontosaurus afflicted with the shingles.

Armando and I have much in common. We both come out late at night. I like to gaze at the stars and Armando likes to waddle around the premises, scratching the ground in search of edible tidbits.

My dog, Buddy Lee, considers Armando to be an intruder. Armando considers Buddy Lee to be 22 pounds of buffoonery with four legs.

Buddy Lee circles Armando, huffing and puffing and pretending to be formidable. Armando ignores such nonsense, knowing he's impervious to an attack because he has the ability to instantaneously curl up into a facsimile of a bowling ball.

Many armadillos occupy my property, about eight acres of hilly woods. They seem to delight in digging holes small enough to be hidden from normal peripheral vision yet large enough to twist an adult ankle, about the size of my ankle, if that adult isn’t careful where he or she steps.

Not only are armadillos hanging out with me, but they also seem to dominate the surrounding region. I took an informal, unscientific survey last month of the roadways within five miles of my country estate, keeping a running tally on road-kill whenever I ventured out into the real world. Over a period of 30 days, I counted 11 armadillos, 7 possums, 4 raccoons, and a banana. In terms of road-kill, armadillos are either incredibly abundant or possibly suicidal.

Armadillos are closely related to the anteater and come in about 20 varieties. All varieties have an armored shell for defense. The two most common models are the three-banded and nine-banded variety. The three-banded ones are the only ones capable of curling up into a ball as a defense mechanism.

Because armadillos have a low metabolic rate, with virtually no fat reserves, they can’t survive in colder climates. Native to South America, they’re found in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas and Arkansas. In fact, the armadillo is the state mammal of Texas. If I’m not mistaken, the state mammal of Louisiana is the red-necked yahoo.

Much like my ex-wife, the armadillo spends a great deal of its time foraging for food. While my ex-wife dines on French cuisine and hot fudge sundaes, the armadillo prefers insects, grubs and small vertebrates.

Armadillos have very few teeth, which contain no enamel, that are similar to peg-like molars. Since they primarily eat insects, they don’t have to do a lot of heaving chewing anyway. Like most insect eating mammals, they have a very long, sticky tongue to gather up tiny creatures as quickly as possible.

Armadillos have one of the most unique reproductive features in nature. They always give birth to four identical young, the only mammal known to do so. All four young develop from the same egg and even share the same placenta in the womb. Breeding occurs in July and the embryo remains in a dormant state until November. The four young are born in a burrow in March. All four young are identical quadruplets, always the same sex.

Some female armadillos, mostly ones used in research, have given birth long after they were captured, sometimes up to two years later. These so-called ‘virgin births’ are a result of the female’s ability to delay implantation of the fertilized egg during times of stress.

It’s illegal to own an armadillo in Kansas or Missouri, and all road-kill in Oklahoma is legal tender.

Buddy Lee discovered the wonderful world of the skunk one night not long ago. It has given him a greater appreciation of random critters roaming about.

Quote for the Day – "Lots of people talk to animals. Unfortunately, most people don't listen to them." Bret

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and an armadillo named Armando. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Folly of Optimism

Optimism is the folly of insisting all is well when it is not.

Several years ago, two optimists in south Chicago thought it would be a good idea to hold up a working-man's tavern on the North Side. In fact, they were so optimistic they only brought knives instead of guns.

All went well for the first ten seconds until the meeting broke up in the adjacent banquet room where scores of cops had been holding a retirement celebration for one of their fellow SWAT team members.

Before you could say "bad boys, bad boys, whatcha ya gonna do when they come for you," the two optimists were on their way to a large brick building, with a score of bumps and bruises, where they would spend the next few years waiting, optimistically, for a parole hearing.

And so it goes with optimists – expecting perfect outcomes and usually being disappointed.

Prisons are full of optimists; thugs who optimistically thought they could get away with it. But thugs who tend to be pessimistic assume they're going to get caught so they go out and get real jobs just like the rest of us.

Las Vegas is a monument to optimism. Pessimists gamble with the knowledge that the most likely outcome will be the loss of money therefore they often set limits and only lose what they can afford. But optimists will keep on betting no matter what, plunging further and further into debt, because they "know" they're going to win.

During Hurricane Katrina, residents of New Orleans were warned a massive storm was imminent and advised to leave the city. Pessimists (fearing the worst) vacated while optimists (expecting a positive outcome) decided to ride it out. In the aftermath, the pessimists who had stayed behind walked out in waist-deep water while the optimists sat on rooftops waiting to be picked up by others. Optimists are hopelessly helpless.

Optimism (the certainty of a positive outcome) should not be confused with positive attitude (a thought process that manifests internal strength in overcoming obstacles). Even a pessimist can have a positive attitude.

In the movie ROCKY, a boxing champion (an optimist) "knows" he can easily defeat his opponent (Rocky), a pessimist who is certain he will lose. The champion does little to prepare but Rocky adopts a positive attitude and trains hard. Realizing he has no chance to win, Rocky's goal is to survive all 12 rounds. Rocky happily achieves his goal because it's realistic. The optimistic champion is frustrated because it wasn't as easy as expected.

Optimists are self-indulgent fun-seekers driven by emotion. Their favorite activities are adventure, thrills, partying, shopping and gazing into mirrors. Famous optimists include General George Armstrong Custer, Amelia Earhart, Evil Knievel and mass murderers expecting 72 virgins in an afterlife.

Pessimists are cautious dullards driven by logic. Their favorite activities are staying home and mowing the lawn. Famous pessimists include Al Gore, Andy Rooney, Batman and the guy who invented the parachute.

As with everything else in life, there are various degrees of optimism and pessimism.

Optimistic optimists are spoiled, perky underachievers who expect good things to happen at all times. When expectations aren't met, they pout until someone gives them a treat. They're totally out of touch with reality and view non-perky others as inferior beings, completely unaware of how irritating their perkiness is to the rest of us.

Pessimistic optimists are wishful thinkers who want good things to happen but accept the imperfections of life. They hope for positive outcomes rather than working to make them happen and aren't too surprised when things go south. But as with all optimists, they can do no better than break even or be disappointed with results.

Optimistic pessimists are realists who hope for the best but understand it rarely occurs. They're aware we live in a harsh world, thus they anticipate negative possibilities and adjust to circumstances. Pessimists are survivors.

Pessimistic pessimists are the meek who will inherit the earth. They comprehend the necessity of suffering and embrace it. They view life as a series of obstacles to be overcome. Many of them write blogs.

Optimists believe we live in the best of all worlds -- pessimists fear this is true.

Optimists either reach their high expectations or are disappointed -- pessimists either match the worst possibility or are pleasantly surprised.

Optimism is unreasonable wishful thinking. Intent is what makes a person succeed regardless of expectations, even when facing defeat. It is intent, not optimism, that makes a person invulnerable.

If you want to go through life being disappointed, be an optimist. But try not to be too perky – it's irritating.

Quote for the Day – "Nothing in this world is a gift. Whatever must be learned must be learned the hard way." Carlos Castaneda (shaman)

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where disappointment is never an option. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Anarchy in West Virginia

The greatest threat to individual freedom is an efficient bureaucracy.

However, government is a necessary evil.

If everyone took responsibility for their own behavior and cooperated on the basis of trust, we would have no need for regulation and oversight. Unfortunately, the human race is imperfect and must enforce a set of reasonable rules to prevent injustice. But the imperfection of the human race often creates a set of unnecessary, unreasonable rules, creating even more injustice.

The only sane option is to limit government as much as possible by ensuring the maximum amount of individual freedom, thereby allowing individuals to do as they please as long as they are not harming others or infringing on the freedom of others.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republicans whom I can’t stand, one nation under smog, indespicable with liberty and justice for some, not all.”

The above words were inscribed on one of the T-shirts of 15-year-old Katie Sierra, a student at Sissonville High School in West Virginia. Some of her other T-shirts expressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan and similar perceived injustices. The fact that she was a new student with green hair and the World Trade Center Twin Towers had recently ceased to exist didn’t exactly endear her to the rest of the conservative student body.

On October 23, 2001, Katie asked the school principal, Forrest Mann, if she could start an Anarchy Club so like-minded students could meet, have discussions and do community service. She presented Mann with the club Constitution that made it clear the club would not tolerate hate or violence. Her stated goal was “to dispel the myths about anarchism, especially the belief that anarchy is chaos and destruction.”

Not too surprisingly, this request was about as welcome as a leaky bag of raw sewage. Not only was Katie forbidden to form an Anarchy Club, she was suspended from school for three days for “disrupting school activity.”

Webster’s dictionary defines anarchism as “a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups."

In other words, anarchy basically means the absence of government. It’s the opposite of hierarchy, which denotes various levels of authority.

The Britannica defines anarchism as “the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.”

There are many people who believe in this way of life. They contend that as both political philosophy and personal lifestyle, social anarchism promotes community self-reliance, direct participation in political decision-making, respect for nature, and nonviolent paths to peace and justice.

The anarchy movement has a long history in certain European countries, particularly in France and Germany.

As with most utopian schemes, it looks good in theory but won’t work in reality. I remember back in the 60’s and 70’s when groups of dissatisfied folks, often called Hippies back then, rejected conventional society and formed communes. Almost every one of these entities failed, usually within a very short time frame.

While being exact opposites, anarchy and communism are almost the same thing.

In communism, everyone is considered equal, required to put forth an equal effort and given an equal amount in return. This would be a perfect world as long as everyone felt the same way. But those who disagree are virtually prisoners of the system, often sent off to a padded cell to be re-educated. Plus those in control of the system can’t seem to curtail their greed and provide more for themselves than they allow for the masses.

Anarchy has the same drawback. It only works if everyone agrees with it. A world without government is a world without rules and there will always be those who take improper advantage of it.

Katie Sierra deserved better. She had an unpopular belief system and wanted to share it with others. Instead of allowing a free flow of ideas, her school principal chose to silence her.

America is not a place where the majority rule -- it’s where we are all allowed to think and speak freely.

There’s nothing wrong with a little government, especially locally. Personally, I like roads.

But if we could somehow reduce the federal government by about 90 percent, that would be fine with me too.

Unfortunately, the new Obama administration believes in promising more than it can deliver and delivering more than it can afford. Borrowing against the future and passing the burden of massive debt onto future generations is not only repugnant, it is immoral.

Quote for the Day – "The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government." Henry Ward Beecher

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and a pack of wild squirrels free from government scrutiny. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Circus Days

Many moons ago, my family lived at the edge of a small town in Wisconsin. I was nine and my brother was six. We spent most of our time climbing trees and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives.

One morning, we discovered that a circus had arrived in town and was setting up operations in a nearby open field. As we approached the activity, the foreman waved us over and asked us if we’d like to join the circus. Since we were just a couple of young country bumpkins who didn’t know any better, we accepted the offer.

The whole place was buzzing with activity. The first order of business was to erect the big top. My brother and I were assigned to carry tent stakes and place them near the end of extended ropes. They were quite heavy for a couple of youngsters like us. My little brother struggled quite a bit but he was a real trooper. It took a half dozen workers, a team of horses and two elephants to get the big top up.

Next, we helped with some of the smaller tents. During the whole operation, everyone seemed to know exactly what to do and worked feverishly until it was completed. Then we all went over to the mess tent and sat down for a meal. The foreman made sure that my brother and I were well fed.

After lunch, the activity slowed to a relaxed pace. Jugglers were off practicing. The elephants and horses were being fed and groomed. Concessions were being prepared. One poor sap spent a considerable amount of time following the path of large animals with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. It looked like the worse job on the lot.

The foreman told us we could take it easy for a while and checked the rigging in the big top. My brother went off to watch the acrobat’s practice. I think he had his eye on the one called the Amazing Cassandra who took quite a liking to him at lunch. The most amazing thing about her was how she managed to fit into her tights.

I found my own distraction in a cage parked near the sideshow. Inside was Kongo the Gorilla. According to the billing, Kongo was a terrifying beast that had killed many men before his capture.

Somehow Kongo didn’t look too terrifying to me but since we didn’t have too many gorillas roaming central Wisconsin I could’ve been wrong. As a gorilla, he was basically a hairy couch potato. He sat peacefully in his cage, munching on apple peelings, appearing to be quite contented to gawk at the gawkers. I had spent much of the day dodging elephant dung and horse apples, but Kongo was in a class by himself when it came to foul odor.

I felt sorry for Kongo, and the elephants and horses. Kongo was confined to a small rancid cage, elephants were periodically chained and horses were whipped. As I grew into adulthood with an awareness of the innocence of animals, I would learn that whips and chains belong in the bedroom, not in the circus.

A short time later, our mother showed up, looking for her two lost sons who had failed to come home for lunch. The foreman quickly smoothed things over with her and gave us free tickets to the evening show.

Later that evening, my brother and I were sitting in the front row during the main event. The clowns had a routine where they threw water on each other, then chased each other around the ring with buckets in their hands to do it again. As the clowns approached my brother and me, they tossed their buckets of water in our direction. Naturally, the buckets were filled with confetti but we weren’t in on the gag and expected to get soaked. The whole place broke into laughter. Like it or not, my brother and I were part of the show.

The next day, the field was barren once again. The circus had moved on. My brother and I went back to climbing trees and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives. One thing for sure, neither of us had any plans to join a circus. It’s hard work, everything stinks and the pay is lousy.

My brother eventually stopped climbing trees and figured it out. He’s now an endodontist (root channel specialist) in Denver.

I don’t climb trees anymore either, but I’m still occasionally trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Almost certainly it will not include following large animals with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.

Quote for the Day – "Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets the bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood." Erika Jong

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and lots of trees to climb. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Sunday, May 3, 2009


A synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence of events that are not connected, often involving a metaphysical overtone. It's a psychically conditioned relativity of time and space.

For example, I was fixing a flat tire one day, grumbling about my ex-wife. Suddenly, a large brown bird flew by and dropped a blob of gunk on my head. When I finally arrived back home, there was a large brown envelope waiting for me, from my ex-wife, containing a message highly remindful of a blob of bird gunk.

Now that's what I call synchronicity. It was a reminder from another dimension not to mess with women.

Website recently had a list of amazing coincidences. However, they're really synchronicities.


On September 30, 1955, actor James Dean (1931 – 1955) was driving his Porsche 550 from Los Angeles to Salinas in northern California for a race car event. Along the way, a car driven by a 23-year-old college student crossed into Dean's lane causing a head-on collision. Dean was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

1) The Porsche was towed to a garage where the engine slipped out onto a mechanic, shattering both legs.
2) The engine was installed in a race car. The driver was killed in a race shortly thereafter.
3) The driveshaft was installed in another race car and the driver was killed in the same race.
4) The Porsche was later repaired and restored. The garage it was in was destroyed by fire.
5) Later, while on display in Sacramento, the car fell off it's mount and broke someone's hip.
6) The trailer the car was mounted on slipped from its tow bar and crashed through the front of a shop.
7) Finally, while sitting on steel supports, the car mysteriously broke into 11 pieces in 1959.


Two identical boys born in Ohio were separated at birth and adopted by different families.

Unknown to each other, they were each named James. Both were trained in law-enforcement, each married a woman named Linda, one named his son James Alan and the other named his son James Allen, both divorced and married a woman named Betty, and both had a dog named Toy. At age 40, they finally met for the first time.


In the 1930s, a man named Joseph Figlock was walking down a street in Detroit when a baby fell from a high window, falling onto the unsuspecting Figlock who broke its fall. Neither were hurt.

A year later, Joseph Figlock was walking down the same street when the same baby fell from the same window, falling onto the unsuspecting Figlock, once again, who broke its fall. Neither were hurt.


In 1975, a man riding a Moped in Bermuda was struck and killed by a taxi.

One year later, the man's brother, riding the same Moped, was struck by the same taxi, driven by the same taxi driver, carrying the same passenger that was the passenger in the first incident.


Edgar Allen Poe wrote "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," a story about four survivors of a shipwreck, adrift on a lifeboat for days. Three of them killed and ate the cabin boy named Richard Parker.

Many years later, in 1884, the yawl Magnonette went down and there were only four survivors. On open waters for many days, the three senior members of the crew killed and ate the cabin boy, whose name was Richard Parker.


King Umberto of Italy went to a small cafe in Monza, Italy, and noticed how much he resembled the cafe owner. Ironically, each was born on March 14, 1844 in the same town. They each married a woman named Margherita and Umberto was crowned King of Italy the same day the owner opened his cafe.

On July 29, 1900, the cafe owner was shot and killed. While expressing his regret of this incident to a throng of people, on the very same day, King Umberto was assassinated by an anarchist in the crowd.


In 1883, Henry Ziegland broke up with his girlfriend, who subsequently committed suicide. The girlfriend's enraged brother shot Ziegland, then turned the gun on himself and took his own life. However, the bullet only grazed Ziegland alongside his head and lodged in a nearby tree.

Years later, Ziegland decided to cut down the tree where the bullet had lodged. The tree was quite large so Ziegland blew it up with some dynamite. The explosion propelled the bullet into Ziegland's head, killing him.

You can't make this sort of thing up. Well, actually you can but the amount of synchronicity in store for you if you did would be extremely heavy. Much heavier than a blob of bird gunk falling from the sky -- more like a piano.

Many people believe everything happens for a reason. What seems accidental comes from the concept of destiny, a predetermined course of events. There is no such thing as chance.

Synchronistic events promote spiritual growth, through intuitive knowledge, giving meaning to our lives.

If my life had a little more meaning, I'd stop searching for my next ex-wife.

Quote for the Day – "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." Carl Jung

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and has had enough meaningful coincidences to realize they were not coincidences. His blogs appear on several websites, including