A man is in court for murder and the judge says, ”You are charged with beating your wife to death with a hammer.”

Then a voice at the back of the court says, ”You bastard.”

The judge continues, ”You are also charged with beating your daughter to death with a hammer.”

Again the voice at the back of the court says, ”You bastard.”

The judge says, ”Now, we cannot have any more of these outbursts from you or I shall charge you with contempt! What is the problem?”

The man at the back of the court says, ”Fifteen years I lived next door to that bastard and everytime I asked to borrow a hammer he said he never had one!”

The Republican War on the Poor

When John Boehner spoke to the press said, “read my lips — we’re going to cut spending,” he didn’t mention the part about implementing those cuts on the backs of the poor and the disenfranchised, the American families who depend on food stamps to feed their children. He did say, however, “so be it” when asked about the prospect of more Americans losing their jobs. A prospect which will undoubtedly lead to more people depending on food stamps.

A hunger-relief group expressed deep concerns with a House GOP bill that would cap spending on food stamps, fearing it would target the least well-off and disproportionately harm children. Of course these are target groups of the Republican agenda. After all, they don’t contribute to campaign funds, nor give jobs to retired Republican members of Congress.

The bill, H.R. 1135, was introduced by Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX). The aim of the bill, in part, is “to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.

44 million people participate in the food stamp program each month. The figure increased 62 percent between 2007 and 2009.

Doesn’t the fact that food stamps are already means-tested indicate that there is virtually no waste in the program and that all 44 million people on the program need it to survive?

As reported, 22 million of the 44 million people depending on food stamps are children. And according to the Associated Press, 90 percent of black children, and 30 percent of Hispanic children will be on food stamps at some point in their lifetime. Neither group is noted for voting Republican, and therefore are apparently expendable to the GOP.

A report issued by Moody’s in 2008 found that food stamps are the most economically stimulative federal program during times of high unemployment. Don’t we want to be stimulating the economy right now? Apparently not, if you’re a Republican or if you plan to vote for Republicans.

If they get their way, there may be a day in the future when the Christian Children’s Fund spokesperson, you know, the guy who resembles Santa Claus, begins touring American cities asking for your help to feed a hungry child right here in America instead of some third world country. There’ll be much to be proud of as an American when that day comes.

Teabaggers are Waning

A year ago it seemed easy for the teabaggers to draw a crowd of upset people, even though they usually inflated the size of those crowds, especially on Fox News. But the movement, if it can be called that since it was a top-down effort funded by rich right-wingers like the Koch brothers, doesn’t seem to have the drawing power it once had. Consider the recent teabagger convention held in Florida.

It was called the Save America Convention and it was held in Tampa this last weekend. The convention was tailored to appeal to teabaggers, featuring some 25 speakers, such as Congressman Ron Paul, former Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo, and Fox News pundit Andrew Napolitano). It also had 13 musicians and performers who appeared for the entertainment of the crowd.

There was a major problem, however. There was no real crowd. About 300 people showed up in a hall rented to hold many times that number (see photo). They were obviously counting on a much bigger crowd than what they were able to draw. Maybe even more telling is the fact that out of the 300 attendees, only 137 bothered to vote in the Presidential preference straw poll, which was won by former Godfather’s Pizza head, Herman Cain. Has the teabagger “movement” run its course? Is it now fading into history to take its place beside the Luddites and the Know-Nothings, two other notable movements based in ignorance of pertinent facts and sensible policies?

We should all hope so. They have been more annoying than they have been truly powerful, and more about affectation than about real or necessary change.

When I’m 64

Well, today I turn that magical age of 64 that was put into my generation’s consciousness by the Beatle’s song, When I’m 64 back in 1967 on their Sgt. Pepper album. I don’t mention this as a source of pride or achievement. It’s merely an accident of survival, and one that seems somewhat ironic when you consider that two of the Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison did not live to see that milestone year.

When I first heard that song nearly 44 years ago I never dreamt that I would really make it to this age. As someone once said, “If I had known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” From that vantage point of 1967 I never even gave a thought to seeing the end of the 20th century and having to write the year beginning with the digits 2 and 0 instead of the 19 with which I’d grown up. Somehow we all seemed to think that life would go on forever and we’d never grow old. We would be like James Dean, frozen in time, never aging, never looking, nor thinking, nor acting older. I mean that metaphorically, of course, since we all know that we’ll age, and that life will come to an end at some time in the future, but the future seemed so far off, maybe even limitless, at that time.

Now here I am. Whether I make it any further, I did make it this far. Maybe someday I’ll look back and think that 64 was a nice age to be at one time and see it as a stopping off point for what remained of my life at this moment. Maybe I’ll look back and think that it was the best of time, or maybe the worst of times. Maybe there’ll be no looking back. But right now, right here, this is my reality. All the rest is either memories or imaginings of the great unknown.

Unlike any previous generation, today’s 64-year-olds have:

More time. The average American lifespan has increased from 47 years in 1900 to 77 years today. Those already 65 can expect to live to 83.

More older friends. Typical baby boomers will watch the U.S. population older than 55 grow from 25.6 million in 1950 to 108 million in 2030. Put another way, in 1950, 16% of the U.S. population was older than 55. Today, it’s 23%, and in 2030, it’ll be 31%.

Better health. It used to be that most Americans retired at 65, then got sick and died within a few years. Today, according to a MacArthur Foundation study, nearly nine in 10 Americans ages 65-74 say they have no disability.

More money. In the 1950s, 35% of older Americans lived in poverty. Today, that figure is 10%. From 1970 through 2001, the percentage of growth in real income (adjusted for inflation) of those ages 65 and above was more than seven times that of those 45-54.

More education. From 1970 through 2002, the percentage of Americans older than 65 with a high school diploma or higher jumped from 28% to 70%. Nearly one-third of Americans 60-64 were involved in some form of adult education in 1999, up from 17.4% in 1991. And increasingly, Americans are retiring in a town with a university or community college because they want the stimulation.

More youthful attitudes. Nearly two-thirds of boomers say they feel younger today than their actual age, up from just under half in 1998. And eight in 10 Americans reject the notion that “my retirement is or will be similar to my parent’s retirement.”

More interest in continued work. According to recent research by AARP, 79% of baby boomers expect to work in some capacity in their so-called retirement. Some will need to work an additional 20 or 30 years. Others will want to work — to stay active. Whatever the reason, experts predict that by 2015, the number of employees older than 55 will reach a record 31.9 million, compared with 18.4 million in 2000.

It seems clear that older adults today aren’t, as the Beatles song goes, “wasting away.” They won’t be “knitting sweaters by the fireside.” And they won’t be fitting easily into other stereotypes, either.

The Strange Case of Big Nose George Parrot

In the late 1870s, a band of outlaws called the Sim Jan gang operated in Wyoming. They decided to try their hand at robbing Union Pacific trains. At that time most banking was done by cash, and much of the cash moved by rail. Trains became tempting targets for criminals looking for big scores.

Some gangs became quite adept at train robbery. Sim Jan and his gang never became too adept at it, however. For example, they tried to derail a train out of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, by loosening a length of rail. A railroad section crew on a handcart came by soon after and discovered the damage to the track. After repairing the track, they sped off to report the incident to the sheriff. The next day the gang shot it out with the two lawmen sent to investigate. Deputy Sheriff Robert Widdowfield and railroad detective Henry Vincent were killed by the gang, making them the first Wyoming lawmen killed in the line of duty.

The first member of the gang to pay for the crime was Frank Tole. He was killed a few weeks later while trying to rob a stagecoach. “Dutch” Charlie Buress was soon after arrested for the murders and put on a train bound for Rawlins, Wyoming, where he would have gone on trial. He didn’t make it to trial though. When his train made a stop in the town of Carbon, the hometown of deputy Widdowfield, he was hanged from a telegraph pole by an angry mob who pulled him from the train.

Big Nose George

Next in line for justice was “Big Nose” George Parrot. He might never have been caught had he not gotten drunk two years after the killings and been overheard bragging about his involvement in the crimes. He too was put on a train bound for Rawlins to make his trial date. When the train pulled into Carbon, history seemed about to repeat itself, because once again a lynch mob was waiting. But Big Nose was able to talk the mob out of the hanging by admitting his guilt and promising to tell all if they let him live to face trial. Had he known the fate that awaited him, he might have preferred being lynched.

Big Nose George made it to Rawlins and was tried and convicted for his crime. He was sentenced to death by hanging, to be carried out in 3 and 1/2 month’s time. But he didn’t live long enough to see the sentence carried out. During a failed jail break he nearly killed a guard. A lynch mob decided that a speedier, unofficial hanging might be better than waiting any longer. On March 22nd, 1881, a crowd of about 200 people dragged Big Nose George from the jail and hanged him from the crossarm of a telegraph pole.


The mob had to hang him twice because the first rope broke. After a sturdier rope was found, Big Nose George, still very much alive, was hanged again. By then, however, George had managed to untie his hands from behind his back without anyone noticing. So, when he was strung up for the second time, he swung himself, by the noose around his neck, over to the telegraph pole and wrapped his flailing arms around it, holding on for dear life.

Big Nose George had no sympathizers in the crowd. The mob was happy to wait for gravity and muscle fatigue to finish the job. Over the next several minutes, he slowly lost his grip and finally died what must have been a slow and excruciating death.

George’s namesake nose was so big that when he was finally cut down hours later and laid out in a coffin, the undertaker had trouble nailing down the lid because of the dead man’s nose pressing up against it.

George had no next of kin, or at least none who came to claim the body, so two local doctors, Dr. Thomas Maghee and Dr. John Osborne, claimed it in the name of medical science. Dr. Maghee had a personal interest in the case. His wife was criminally insane, the victim, it was thought, of head injuries sustained from falling from a horse.

Maghee wanted to examine Big Nose George’s brain for any signs of abnormality that might explain his criminal behavior, then use what he learned to try to help his wife. With the assistance of Lillian Heath, his 15-year-old apprentice, he sawed off the top of the skull, removed the brain, and studied it, finding nothing unusual. In a macabre gesture, Maghee let Lillian keep the top of the skull as a souvenir.

Dr. Osborne’s interest in Big Nose George was not so scientific. He may have been motivated by revenge. According to one account, he was on one of the trains robbed by the Sim Jan gang and the delay caused him to miss a party. After making a plaster death mask of the deceased, a common practice at the time, Maghee removed the skin from Big Nose George’s chest and thighs, and mailed the human flesh to a tannery in Denver, Colorado, where it was made into human “leather,” definitely not a common practice at that time. Osborne then had the tanned leather made into a coin purse, a doctor’s bag, and a pair of shoes.

Shoes made from George Parrot's skin

Not the entire shoes. They were made from combination of leather taken from the shoes Big Nose George was wearing the day he died and Big Nose George’s own skin. The shoes are on display to this day in the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins. If you’re ever there, you’ll see that it’s easy to tell where the ordinary cowhide ends and Big Nose George begins. Most of the shoes’ leather is an ordinary dark brown, but the leather on the front of the shoes over the toes is the color of Big Nose George’s own Caucasian hide.

Dr. Osborne wore the shoes while practicing as a country doctor. When he diversified into ranching, banking, and politics in later years, he kept wearing them. Even when he was elected the first Democratic governor of Wyoming in 1892 he wore the shoes to his inauguration.

Barrel of Big Nose George's Remains

The rest of Big Nose George’s remains didn’t fare much better. Drs. Maghee and Osborne kept him in a whiskey barrel filled with salt water for about a year; then, when Dr. Maghee decided he’s learned everything he could, or Osborne decided one pair of shoes was enough, Maghee buried the barrel, with Big Nose George still in it, in the yard outside his medical office.

The remains were still there in 1950 when Dr. Maghee’s office building was torn down and the site cleared for new construction. It was then that workmen discovered the long-forgotten whiskey barrel containing a human skeleton with the top of its skull sawed off.

When the medical examiners were called in to investigate, someone remembered that many years earlier a young woman named Lillian Heath had been given the top of the skull of an outlaw named Big Nose George as a gift. She then went on to become the first female doctor in Wyoming. By 1950, now in her eighties, she was still very much alive, and she still had the top of the skull. Over the years she had used it as a pen holder and a doorstop. Her husband had used it for an ashtray. When the skull top was brought to where the barrel had been found, it fit the rest of the skull perfectly. A DNA test later confirmed the match.

Lillian Heath with top of George Parrot's skull

Today, the lower portion of Big Nose George’s skull is on display in the Carbon County Museum alongside the shoes made with his skin, his death mask, and other related artifacts. But if you want to see the top of the skull, you have to go to Iowa. Dr. Heath held onto it for another decade or so, then donated it to the Union Pacific Museum in the city of Council Bluffs.

That leaves the coin purse and the doctor’s bag, also made from Big Nose George’s hide. They haven’t been seen in ages. Who knows? Perhaps they are still out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

An Irish Daughter

An Irish daughter had not been home for over 5 years. Upon her return, her Father cursed her heavily.

‘Where have ye been all this time, child? Why did ye not write to us, not even a line? Why didn’t ye call? Can ye not understand what ye put yer old Mother thru?’

The girl, crying, replied, ‘Sniff, sniff…Dad…I became a prostitute.

”Ye what!? Get out a here, ye shameless harlot! Sinner! You’re a disgrace to this Catholic family”

”OK, Dad… as ye wish. I only came back to give mum this luxurious fur coat, title deed to a ten bedroom mansion, plus a $5 million savings certificate. For me little brother, this gold Rolex. And for ye Daddy, the sparkling new Mercedes limited edition convertible that’s parked outside plus a membership to the country club…(takes a breath)…
and an invitation for ye all to spend New Years Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera.

‘What was it ye said ye had become?’ says Dad.

Girl, crying again, ‘A prostitute, Daddy! Sniff, sniff.’

‘Oh! Be Jesus! Ye scared me half to death, girl! I thought ye said a Protestant! Come here and give yer old Dad a hug!’