Ranger Rick

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve had the privilege of living in a wide variety of countries and societies. And having not always been entirely sane myself, one way that I judge societies is by how they handle their crazy folks. “Back in the day”, as they say, I lived in a town called Olema, and I was loosely associated with a group of people called the “Diggers“. The Diggers had a communal ranch up the hill from my place, Peter Coyote lived up there. It was a lovely secluded old place, with a constantly changing cast of outrageous characters living and passing through the ranch. Among them was one of those crazy folks, I’ll call him Billy because that wasn’t his name.

Like many crazy people, he cycled into and out of his illness. When he started acting up, people would talk to him about it. When it got bad, he’d retreat to his one-room shack behind the main house where he lived. He’d go into his shack for a while, and wouldn’t come out. People fed him. When the dinner meal was cooked and everyone sat down to eat together, someone would take him a plate. He’d open the old wood-panel door to the shack, but hardly talk, take the plate and close the door. And when he got really mental, he’d pull the bottom panel out of the door, and people would just put the plate in through the open panel, and take out the dirty dishes. After a while, he’d hit bottom, and the first sign of him coming back was he’d put the bottom panel back in the door, and open the door for his food.

Then after another while, he’d start to talk to people, a bit at first, and finally, maybe a month after he’d first shut himself up, he’d come back out and join the group for dinner and the like. He’d talk to people about where he had gone. It didn’t make much sense, but people listened and tried to explain things as best they could. No one thought of him as special, he was just crazy Billy.

That was one of the most compassionate acts by a group of people that I had seen, and the memory of it has stuck with me.

I was reminded of the Diggers, and of Crazy Billy, by the recent death of a man whom everyone around here called “Ranger Rick”.

Ranger Rick Kaufman, 1949-2012 SOURCE

I live near a little town in the redwood-covered hills called Occidental. It’s not a city, it has no city government, it’s known for its Italian restaurants and not much else. There are maybe a dozen or so businesses. And somehow, over the last quarter-century or so, Ranger Rick became the unofficial mayor of Occidental. Or maybe the town greeter. Or perhaps just the street sweeper. He didn’t do much, he didn’t have any official job, and he drank too much, but he was the spirit of the town.

Ranger Rick was nobody’s fool … but he looked at the world from some very different place than you and I. He could be kind and gentle one minute and raging angry the next, but he never hurt a fly. He watched over the town like some benign and slightly demented elf.

A local guy let Rick sleep in an old cabin on his land. Some of the town merchants kicked in a few bucks a month for a stipend. People who had restaurants gave him the odd meal. He walked from his cabin to town every morning. If you drove through town too fast, he’d shout at you. Sometimes he was not entirely coherent. He pruned the town trees. But mostly, he just wandered the town, back and forth, side to side, helping people who looked lost, keeping an eye on the kids getting on and off the school bus, talking to the tourists. He was the public face of the town, the common thread over the years, the often-inebriated town greeter, both cranky and kind, sweeping the streets and muttering to himself.

And finally, sadly, I suppose inevitably, the alcohol caught up with Ranger Rick last week, and he died peacefully in his sleep.

I bring this up because far too often we are reminded of man’s inhumanity to man. I bring it up because I want to commend and celebrate the spirit of the people of the town of Occidental. Any place else, Ranger Rick might just have been despised as the town drunk, but the people of Occidental made room in their town for a strange, lonely, eccentric and somewhat demented man to have a full and meaningful life. And to me, that’s an important measure of any society, what we do with our crazy folks.

My best wishes to all, hug your loves and your folks and your kids, life is far too short, remember Phlebas …

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers.
As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.



I thought long and hard about whether I should publish this one, and as part of that, I recalled my childhood where my father helped out a guy like this from time to time.

I also recalled something said in the journalism business, about how every person gets their name in the newspaper; when they are born, and when they die. Since Occidental apparently doesn’t have a town newspaper, I decided to let WUWT serve that purpose.

– Anthony


My thanks to you for your choice, Anthony. Indeed there is no newspaper in Occidental. A memorial service for Ranger Rick will be held at 11 a.m. on March 3 at St. Philip Church in Occidental.



I went today to the town of Occidental for Ranger Rick’s memorial service. The yellow daffodils were blooming all over town. Rick’s mother and his two grown daughters were there. I think they were surprised at how well-loved he was … and at the host of strange folk, young and old, who were his friends.

Occidental is a time-warp kind of place, located in a hidden landscape of the mind rather than a geographical location, full of vestigial hippies and other refugees from the 1960s. It’s not even a town. People came from miles around to honor Rick, and to tell stories of how he had touched their lives. A little girl, maybe five years old, stood up at the microphone and said “I liked Ranger Rick. He was my friend. One day he stopped us from having a food fight, and gave us bouncy balls instead.” From the mouths of babes … kids were always his favorites.

Occidental for a while had a couple of resident chickens, a rooster and a hen. They just wandered around town, kind of the town pets. A local merchant told his tale of the Ranger. “When I came to town to open my pub, Rick started coming around. I asked some of the other merchants who he was. They said ‘He’s the Mayor of Occidental’. ‘Mayor?’ I said. ‘Occidental’s not even a town, it’s just a ‘census designated place’, it doesn’t have a Mayor.’ ‘Rick’s the Mayor anyhow’, I was told. So when I saw Rick again I said ‘So I’m told you’re the Mayor of Occidental.’ ‘No, I’m not,’ Ranger said. ‘The Mayor of Occidental is the rooster.’ He was perfectly serious.”

Another man who was living in another town told of taking a job in Occidental. At his first lunch break, he went to a local store to get some food. “I was standing at the counter when I heard the door open. A man who was mostly beard stuck his head in and said ‘Hey … come with me.’ I looked around, no one else was there, he must have been talking to me. I didn’t know what to do, so I turned away, and I heard the door close. In a few minutes it opened again, and the strange man was there again. ‘Hey … come with me.’

I truly didn’t know what was happening. I paid for my food. When I went outside, he was there and said “Come with me!”. He disappeared around the corner of the building. I didn’t know the town, I didn’t know him … people had warned me about Occidental, and now four hours in town and I was already going down the rabbit hole. I peered around the corner. He was just going around the next corner. I followed him out to the edge of town where he had stopped under a tree. ‘It’s here’, he said. ‘What’s here?’ I said. ‘I mean right here on this spot’ he said. ‘What is it that’s here?’ I asked. ‘It’s the Yum-Yum tree’, he said, and pointed upwards. I looked up and to my amazement, the tree was full of ripe pomelos. Rick started pulling them off and piling them in my arms.

He loaded up as well, and we went through a back trail to the main road. ‘Great’, I thought, ‘I just got to town and I’m already a criminal with a demented accessory’. When we got to the road Rick said excitedly, ‘It’s up there!’ and pointed up the road. ‘What’s up there?’ I asked, mystified. ‘It’s big, it erupts out of the ground’, he said. ‘That’s a fire hydrant’ I objected. ‘Exactly’, he said, ‘let’s get it,’ and he started bowling pomelos, uphill, at the fire hydrant. I had no choice at that point—there was nothing left to do but embrace the suck, so I joined in the bowling. I ended up good friends with Rick, and I have to add there’s one thing he did for me that nobody had ever done.

He really improved my pomelo bowling …”

Yeah, that’s Occidental, all right, spend half a day there and you end up pomelo bowling with a genial madman … the next guy got up. “I went over in the morning after Rick died. I took his stash because I didn’t want the police to find it, and I put it in a safe place. So after I finish talking here, I’m going across the street and anyone who wants can help me use up Rick’s stash in his honor …” He drifted off. I saw him later across the street with a half-dozen folks. As sometimes happens in Occidental, the weather in their immediate vicinity had gotten kind of hazy, I think it might be something to do with naturally generated aerosols or something. They were laughing, talking about the Ranger, honoring their fallen friend in their own manner.

So the stories flowed, one hour, two hours, people talking, people weeping, stories from the kids and the dads and the moms. One woman said she’d let Rick sleep on her couch sometimes. She said he never asked for much, but occasionally she’d give him clean socks when he asked for them. Another man stood up and said “I thought I was the only one giving him clean socks”. So did another man … socks, go figure. Occidental is a town where the people give a lost man clean socks … and it is a town where that’s pretty much all he asked for, people gave him the rest without his asking, because in his madness he worked hard every day at keeping the town sane.

Lots of folks were wearing Ranger Rick t-shirts today, with no words on them, just his face in black and white with his piercing blue eyes. And there was a sign up on a table that said “Everything I need to know I learned from Ranger Rick”, with his photo, and a place for people to write their wishes … and there were pages and pages of wishes for Rick.

It’s that kind of town. The daffodils were blooming today in Occidental. Rick planted most of them. He cared for the flowers and talked with them and gave them water. We cared for him and talked with him and gave him clean socks. Sometimes, life is not all that complex.


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February 26, 2012 4:06 pm

Willis and Anthony,
This is one of the best things I’ve read on WUWT.
Ranger Rick and the town of Occidental will not be forgotten. This is how people treat people.
RIP Rick.

February 26, 2012 4:07 pm

Thank you Anthony for your decision to put this in. My already high esteem for both you and Willis has increased another notch. And I am that much better for having read it.

Ed Moran
February 26, 2012 4:07 pm

Thanks to you both.

February 26, 2012 4:09 pm


February 26, 2012 4:10 pm

Welcome back Willis.

February 26, 2012 4:11 pm

Thanks for this post, w.

February 26, 2012 4:12 pm

Thanks. I think it does a lot of good to read stories of kindness now and again. A gentle reminder of our higher selves.

Ken in Beaverton, OR
February 26, 2012 4:19 pm

Thanks Anthony,
Every human deserves dignity. You have acknowledged Ranger Rick for that.

February 26, 2012 4:22 pm

I am sure many of us here have family or friends who have suffered through similar difficulties. Depression, Alzheimer’s, bi-polar disorder, substance abuse, etc. are, sadly, common and confusing. Often the easiest way to deal with it is to simply turn around and walk away – ignore them. I like to think of myself as reasonably stable, if somewhat dull. 😉 But I hate to think that if that stability were to slip, there would be no one to lead me a hand. Kudos to the good folks of Occidental and Olema. 🙂

alan drobnak
February 26, 2012 4:23 pm

Everyone should know at least one ‘Ranger Rick’ during their life. Mine was named George Dickinson, the mayor of Wholand. As much a place in the mind as it was a physical location it was situated on the banks of the Housatonic River in Oxford, Connecticut. People like this are in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “Too weird to live and too rare to die.” If interested you can still, I believe, google George, Wholand and the characters he attracted to place you ‘can’t get to from here’.

Jenn Oates
February 26, 2012 4:28 pm

Very nice, Willis, and Anthony.

Marj the Truck Driver
February 26, 2012 4:30 pm


February 26, 2012 4:46 pm

Thank you for that.

Michael J. Bentley
February 26, 2012 4:50 pm

Inhumanity starts when we think we are better than another, any other. To accept each other as unique and special allows all of us to be humane and gentle with one another. This “Human Interest” piece points that out with simplicity and grace.
Kudos to both Willis and Anthony

Jim Barker
February 26, 2012 4:51 pm


Will Hudson
February 26, 2012 4:51 pm

I have rarely read anything from Willis that did not both mezmorize me and make me think more deeply about life and all it brings. Many thanks, Willis.
And many thanks, Anthony, for publishing this piece. Outstanding.

February 26, 2012 4:56 pm

Thank you Willis and Anthony for this touching story, the point of how do we treat our crazy ones is well taken.
How indeed do we treat those that soothsay co2 doomsday as if it’s magically happening, they have put their passion ahead of the observable facts from the objective reality of Nature, and some more than others have crossed the line beyond irrationality to other realms of dark visions of the future. How do we as a society deal with these people? They have been with us, likely, as far back as human memory and history resonates. It has been observed that throughout the ages that the “crazy ones” where listened to for their mytic insights. Now a days we know this to be the result of various mental illnesses or the use of mind altering and illuminating drugs the results of which are diverse and rich human mythologies our various cultures have.
Of course, dark mythologies of man sinning causing his own destruction isn’t the best way to set public policy to say the least, yet that is where we find ourselves as a species.
Maybe the modern notion of man’s enlightenment with science is more of a shared standard and direction to aim for than an accomplishment; much like the protection of liberty and freedom one must bring eternal viligence and dedication to highest starndards of inegrity and excellence in one’s commitment to the exacting and thus difficult process of the Scientific Method.
Humbled by Nature, an experience and value point of view that every human dedicated to the discovery of glimers of insights into the natural vibrant dynamics of our environment may provide a context for bringing people including those soothsaying doomsday around to our mutual shared common ground in the objective reality of Nature, with all her harsh wonderous beauty. Maybe compassion for those with aniled minds locked in particular views might enable bridges towards communicating and comprehension while respecting peoples commitment to their value systems and desire to protect our mutual home, Earth, the only known place in the known universe where we know we can exist in a natural environment.
Thanks again Willis. Ranger Rick will now be remembered – and touched – by far more people with your eloquent heartfelt words of wisdom.

spangled drongo
February 26, 2012 4:57 pm

Willis and Anthony, thanks for that dose of reality. Those wonderful characters seem to be a part of more remote areas.

Chris B
February 26, 2012 4:58 pm

There but for the grace of God go I….

Titan 28
February 26, 2012 5:00 pm

A tale about human decency. Every now and then we need to hear things like this. You made the right decision. Thank you.

February 26, 2012 5:01 pm

Thumbs-up, guys. That was quite moving.

February 26, 2012 5:03 pm

I think every life should have a “Ranger Rick” in it.
The scary thing when I think about it is that most of them I knew back in the day when conventional wisdom said they should all be locked up (the third I knew because all those places had been closed, I think). One of the other two would in today’s twisted world would probably be jailed and cause to have them take me away from my parents.
One was an old lady (I don’t really know how old) we called Leah, I don;t know anything about here except here house was small for the lot it was on and sat way back from the street. And the lot was pretty much weed-grown, and what little you could see of the inside looks in my mind’s eye like that of a hoarder in today’s TV world.
I know that kids would taunt her and that she would come out onto her front porch dressed in a faded green house dress with her stockings rolled down below her knees and scream at us.
I also know that if my mother had the vaguest suspicion that my brother or I had been a part of the taunting, the wrath of God would be upon us. An I know that my mother sometimes visited Leah with a pot of something to eat. I don’t know how many times or how often, mmy mother was careful that not much notice was made.
On the adjoining property property was what had started out as a 1-room cabin that had expanded by an dining room and a screened-in porch turned into a kitchen, and to the rear, a screened-in porch that was his bedroom. The must have been a bathroom, but I don.t remember it–there is a possibility that it was the small shed at the bottom of the property, I don’t think I’ve ever been it. His house was close to the street, so there was a large (for a city) lot behind that stretched down to Leah’s property line. That and the vacant lot beside he planted to all sorts of flowers and truck crops. He must have told us stories, but all I remember inside his house was trying to extract some large number of years worth of sand from under the rug in the living room, and watching him light his pipe by rolling a piece of newsprint into a tight cone that he set afire in the little wood stove in the front room (or was it in the arch between front and dining rooms?) of by the pilot light of the old gas stove in the kitchen.
The third (and I’m sorry to say, last} was a pan handler I’d see often as I walked to the train station in the evening. He kept a running patter going, that often made no sense, He sat with a big loveable dog (might have been a Pitbull–that was long before I learned that I was supposed to hate them). I teased the dog about hanging around with the guy so long he was beginning to look like him,
The patter was usually cheerful and entertaining so I gave him money from time to time–seemed only fair. Then one day he disappeared.
A long time later, I had moved along, I happened to see him–asked about the dog, which he pointed to under a car in the shade. Asked him where he had been–he said he’d gotten sick, so he pissed on a cops shoes to get a bath, some clean clothes and a trip to the county hospital.

February 26, 2012 5:07 pm

My Dad went through a spell like Ranger Rick’s. It lasted from age fifty to age seventy. Then he pulled out of it, and was really wonderful from age seventy to age eighty-two, when he passed away.
Alchohol didn’t help, though he thought it did. What really helped was a small town, and people who would tell me, when I cringed with embarrassment, “Oh, that’s just Doc.” They got enough out of his good moods to put up with his bad ones.
He had his reasons to be angry. Don’t we all. (The Global Warming fraud can get me nearly as bad as my Dad was.)
When he raged he was scarey. Spittle would spray onto your face, if you didn’t back off. However he never lashed out with anything other than words, that I know of. Even so, I never dared stand up to him and go jaw-to-jaw until I was thirty-five. The fact I went jaw-to-jaw, even though I got all covered with spittle, really seemed to help him, and to be part of what brought him out of it. Maybe it just showed I cared.
Putting up with a person going through troubles can be one of the hardest things you are ever asked to do, but, when they pull out of it, there are no words to express the gratitude you feel.
Gratitude? When someone has put you through hell for twenty years?
Yes, gratitude.
And especially gratitude for the small town that put up with him even when I couldn’t.

February 26, 2012 5:09 pm

Test. My comment vanished, perhaps becall I used the word h—.
[Patience, my friend. It’s a moderated site, takes us a bit of time. All the best. -w.]

Mike Wryley
February 26, 2012 5:23 pm

I also grew up in rural areas with nearby small town, seems we all had a “Mayor of Occidental”.
To me, the take away is the fact that when left to their own devices, people find ways to take care of each other without the intervention some state or federal bureaucracy. Things did not go well for Ranger Rick, but for some that is the price of free agency.

February 26, 2012 5:29 pm


40 Shades of Green
February 26, 2012 5:33 pm

I toured the redwood empire North of San Francisco, got lost and ended up in Occidental. Lovely town. Does not surprise me that you treated Rick as you did.
What does surprise me is that I got a real Hippy Marin County vibe off it. Not where I would have expected you to reside, Willis.
Then again, it is a bit ironic that Anthony hails form Chico.
Both hotbeds of liberal thought if I am not mistaken.
Having said that, a lovely tribute and hopefully the link will be passed around the community and some of the good citizens will come back.
40 Shades

David Falkner
February 26, 2012 5:34 pm

A very good article, thanks Willis. May Rick rest in peace. What you do unto the least of these…

Jason H.
February 26, 2012 5:35 pm

At this particular time, we really needed this story. It was sad, yet very refreshing at the same time. Thank you Willis and Anthony.

February 26, 2012 5:43 pm

Thanks for posting this, a real gem. RIP Rick.
Spangled drongo – I think you are right. Long before I went on a mountain-biking trip with my brother to Moab, I read a good guidebook which mentioned an old guy who lived on the edge of the town, and was also a little bit ‘out there’. I think he came to the town in the 1950s when the uranium mines first opened. I forgot about this, and then after a few days in the town an old guy on a push bike [on which he seemed to carry most of his possessions and his two dogs], came out of the darkness, stopped and started talking to us. Long afterwards I remembered the book and it clicked who he must have been. There are some great trails around Moab, amazing geology and scenery, but meeting and talking with the old boy was a privilege. I hope he is still going strong today, but fear not.

February 26, 2012 5:43 pm

We had a fellow like that in Excelsior, MN. “Mr. Jimmy”. Some sort of family tradgedy when he was an early teen. Some old aunt or the like took care of him, but (I think the tradgedy involved a fire which may have killed his folks/siblings??)
Anyway, somehow he had a house in Excelsior. He’d do “odd jobs”. He’d wander around the stores, public library, Lake Minnetonka shores during the summer, etc. People would give him food, clothing, talk with him. Had a fine tenor voice and would sing at public gatherings, Christmas, etc.
The allegation is that he ran into an aspiring rock muscian, Mick Jagger, while they were performing at the Excelsior Amusement Park back in the early ’60’s. He went into the drug store to get his free straberry soda water. They were out. He turned and said to the fellow behind him, “You can’t always get what you want!”. Note that the song says, “I met Mr. Jimmy at the (Chelse) Drug store, and he said…” (Just remember, the British call it a “Chemist”!)
But Willis, because of this, because of meeting and talking with Mr. Jimmy, I know what you feel and are thinking. I’m GLAD you’ve memorialized “Ranger Rick”.

February 26, 2012 5:45 pm

Great tale well told, Willis – when you’re on nobody’s better. Reminds me very much of the Ranger Ricks that have come and gone in my own life. Hopefully most people have the opportunity to share the world with these free spirits and recognize it for the gift it can be.

Dr. Dave
February 26, 2012 5:46 pm

I commend Willis for writing this piece. But it’s not just how we treat our “crazy folks” but also how we treat our “old folks.” Too many folks ship their elderly parents off to nursing homes or assisted living facilities because they don’t want to be “bothered” by them. It didn’t used to be this way. Just a couple of generations ago families took care of their own. Now, it appears, that’s the states responsibility. I don’t want to get too maudlin, but I’m reminded of this old John Prine song:

February 26, 2012 6:14 pm

Thanks for the story Willis. A good reminder of the value in all, and that we’re all, without exception, drifting, floating, tumbling, slipping and sliding toward that event horizon and that when we encounter folks like Rick (עליו השלום / alav ha-shalom), we should remember the line, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

John Blake
February 26, 2012 6:16 pm

Seem to recall, but cannot verify, that over some decades from the 1950s a “King of San Francisco” played this role.
In Manhattan, along Sixth Avenue above 57th Street we had Moondog, wearing a tinfoil Viking helmet with broomstick spear and battledress to match– a gravely dignified, quiet presence, but absolutely mad.
Are we not all Kings and Vikings? Lord bless us, every one.

Colin in BC
February 26, 2012 6:23 pm

Thanks for posting, it literally brought a tear to my eye. I said a short prayer for Ranger Rick. RIP.

February 26, 2012 6:25 pm

Emperor Norton died in the 1880s.
There was a greeter in Long Beach or someplace in southern California — I can picture him on a curb, but not where that curb is — in the 1950s.

Thomas W. McCord
February 26, 2012 6:43 pm

There was once an Emperor of San Francisco! His name was Norton I.

February 26, 2012 6:47 pm

Thank you for sharing this Willis. Through out life, we meet individuals, each and every one. To learn small and things about those individuals, and hence ourselves, is life’s great joy.
How we react to those who have had adversity, who live with adversity speaks volumes about ourselves. What we precieve to be adversity also speaks volumes about ourselves.
To treasure each and every individual, to learn from them, to enhance our lives from that learning so that we may be a benifit to humanity as a whole is what life is really all about.
For by our collective benifit efforts, we all benifit.

February 26, 2012 6:48 pm

Occidental? I lived in Graton for awhile, spent 12 years in Sonoma county all together. I almost rented a place near Occidental. When I saw the title to this article, I thought it was a coincidence. Very sad news, may Ranger Rick rest in peace. OTH, it’s nice to hear about places in the world were people still have a heart. It gives me hope.

February 26, 2012 6:48 pm

I wonder if you have heard of Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico. 30,000 people packed the streets of San Francisco when he died.

February 26, 2012 6:49 pm

A dewdrop in a desert — thank you, Willis (and Anthony for being perceptive in knowing what is in the public interest and the public soul to publish it).

February 26, 2012 6:52 pm

Thanks Willis.
I live about 60 miles north of you on the coast in Gualala, and have off and on since 1949. I read Ranger Rick’s story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat a few days ago, and it reminded me of some of the eccentrics who used to live in nearby Point Arena and Manchester fifty years or more ago. Somehow they fit into our rural way of life, and some even held down jobs as ranch or farm hands. Now they would be institutionalized, but then we had room in our towns and lives for characters. I’m glad Occidental still does.

February 26, 2012 7:00 pm

Great story; a good reminder that in the end we are all equal too … yesterday a good friend of a friend, Ken Lindbloom was lost, an individual I had also met and chatted up several times at dinners, and he even had a chance to work at an enterprise I was with a few years back, an individual who had a really bad run of luck better than 30 years that affected his health adversely the balance of his years on this earth … he was witness to a 1st auto accident and subsequently involved in a 2nd accident facilitated by the first, even though he had placed himself well enough away, but fate sometimes deals from the bottom of the deck.
“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”

Mr Lynn
February 26, 2012 7:06 pm

Thanks for the memorial, Willis. It is worth noting that as ‘normal’ as some of us seem to be, we are all at bottom equally as puzzling as Ranger Rick. And all of us deserve a bit of remembering.

/Mr Lynn

February 26, 2012 7:09 pm

We used to spend a lot of time in Southwest Harbor, Maine. They had, possibly still do, a character who seemed to drift around a lot and was often hitchhiking along the roads even as far as Ellsworth on the mainland. We gave him a few rides over the years, had many simple exchanges, and dropped him off wherever he wanted. Ten minutes later, we would see him hitching the other way!
We were worried about him and asked a few questions. It turns out that he had a private room in the town, was independently funded, and generally watched out for by the town. Way to be, Southwest Harbor!

February 26, 2012 7:10 pm

Great story Sir: touching and well written.
I remember Eiler Larsen, a “town greeter” in Laguna Beach, California, who stood at the side of the road and waved to the cars as they pulled into town. When he finally fell ill, the town took up a collection to send him back to his home country Denmark, where he passed away.
There is now a statue of him at the side of the road where he used to stand. He is still waving.

Paul Hull aka McComberBoy
February 26, 2012 7:13 pm

Thank you so much Willis. How many of us have a story to tell like Willis? Here is mine, a eulogy I wrote for my Uncle David, a man with whom I had never exchanged a word. But it was really for my father, a man who taught us over and over again the value of humans who have no apparent value. Willis and mods feel free to leave this out if it is too long winded.
“Uncle David was born February 25, 1927 in Tehema County and died August 28, 2007 in Riverside. He was 80 years old. He was preceded in death by Aunt Roberta, in 1919, Uncle Bill, in 1943, Uncle Bob in 1944 and Aunt Evelyn in 1991.
As Dad and I talked about this time of remembering, he mentioned a verse of scripture that he thought was appropriate from Ecclesiastes.
1 A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
Now you could look at those verses and say that King Solomon had a bad day with 20 or 30 of his wives and was worn out. Or we could just assume that he was just being jaded and cynical. But I think there is vast truth here that applies to Uncle David.
Life wasn’t easy, even from the beginning. How many of us would liked to be named Just. Because that was his name. Just David Hull.
I remember speculation in my youth that was even voiced about where that name came from. Some suggestions were humorous in nature, like the adding of Enough to Robert Lester Lee Hull. But it wasn’t always humorous.
I remember a time we went to visit David in the hospital at Napa, and the nurse was calling out for Just, Just, Just come get your pills. And I remember dad becoming angry that they didn’t care enough to know that he had always been called David. And I’m sure that many of us wondered whatever got into Grandma to name her son Just. It seemed mean, or cruel, or unfeeling. Like the Hogg family naming their daughters Ima and Ura…but maybe not.
Eleanor Porter wrote a book, published in 1916, called “Just David”. And it’s the story of a boy who struggled to fit in. A boy who went his own way. A boy who was gifted yet left on his own after his mother and father died. He was a boy, though, who through the training he had received and the God given talent that he had, was able to succeed in his life. And I have to believe that Grandma wanted those things for her boy.
But David wasn’t destined to achieve great things. He struggled, just to keep up, much less get ahead. He could be frustrating to an older brother or sister, because he would never walk alongside, or scurry to the front. He was always lagging behind and forcing you to turn around to see if he was still there, or if he had wandered off somewhere.
He struggled in his school work. In fact, for a time, because he was falling so far behind, he went to live with Aunt Alma and receive special tutoring while he attended, just up above the ranch, at the old Philips school house. He wasn’t one to be involved much with his older brothers he just kind of kept quiet. One of those kids who is so hard to reach.
And then, the world he did know began to fall apart. His oldest brothers were gone to college and then into the army…because World War II was underway. He was there when his older brother, home on leave, attacked his drunken father for striking their mother. He was there through the escalating family abuse and alcoholism that was tearing at the very structure of the family.
But things got worse. His closest, dearest brother had to leave too. The war was raging around the world and the two blue stars became three as dad went off to the Air Corps to join his brothers in the fight. And David was there when word came that his oldest brother was gone…never to return.
Dad came home on leave to grieve with the family over the loss and David, more withdrawn and harder to reach, was struggling with all that confronted him. And there, in that saddest of times, Dad was able to reach him for (as far as we know) the last time in his life. He went to David and said these simple words, “I love you, David.” And the tears poured down David’s cheeks as the message got through the times of sorrow and bitterness to a troubled, heartbroken young man.
Uncle David was not destined to spend a lifetime thrilling crowds with musical virtuosity. Not destined to dazzle the Nobel committee with his scientific genius. Not destined to win applause for heroism or self-sacrifice. He was destined to be Just David and spend more than sixty years in institutions until finally he was freed forever on August the twenty-eighth.
Dad, you said to me when we went to LA to see him for the last time, “This is end of a long sad journey”. And in one sense it was. And I think I understand why you were drawn to the words of Solomon when he said, the “day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth”. But I think you can be comforted with your many times of going to see someone who didn’t respond, who often times didn’t even know you and yet you went anyway. You were unashamed of a brother who was in a mental hospital and prone to violence. Taking us, showing us, that you loved him before and that you would not and could not stop loving him for his whole life. What honor and recognition you heaped on him, to your own praise, because he was your brother…and you loved him. And you were determined that he would always be your brother. Loved and cared for to the end by a brother who wouldn’t let him be, just David.”

Mike H. in Spokane
February 26, 2012 7:21 pm

Larry, you’re thinking of the Mayor of Carlsbad. He would walk down to the main intersection in town and greet all of the traffic going north on the Coast Highway. I think it was US101 but I’m not sure. I lived in Santa Ana at the time.

February 26, 2012 7:30 pm

It strikes me that the professional “caring” types – emphatically those on various government payrolls, direct or at some grant-seeking NGO’s remove – never want such eccentrics to be left under their own respective vine and fig tree, and concentrate fiercely upon their victims’ psychiatrization to ensure that the critters in question get “properly medicated” by way of the pharma industry’s blockbuster nostrums, emphasis on the neuroleptics and the mood stabilizers.
Having dealt over the decades with the medical problems of these mentally disabled but largely harmless folk (for such is invariably the job of us lowest-on-the-pay-scale primary care grunts), I’ve gotten to know perhaps more than my share of “Ranger Rick” types as well as more than I like of the professional “carers.”
As civil government intrudes more and more into the private lives of all Americans – for our own good, it’s always argued – I get the impression that our society is less and less interpersonally connected, with people becoming almost completely unfamiliar with the lives of those around them, insulated each from the other by thickening layers of bureaucracy which desensitize us to the needs of our neighbors while denying us knowledge of our responsibilities as well as understanding of our ability to act purposefully and effectively in aid thereof.
I can’t help but think that while this is not a matter of planned policy, the effect is very pleasing to the career politicians who batten upon our loss of genuine community and the increasing vulnerability that loss imposes upon us as a people.

Mike H. in Spokane
February 26, 2012 7:31 pm

I got it wrong as usual, the man that I knew as The Mayor was in Laguna Beach here along with some others. Maybe my first comment can be dumped.

February 26, 2012 7:40 pm

WILLIS: I would like to know what is your basis for this love of your neighbor/friend? Is it some “feeling?” Is it some “”religion?”
It is definitely right, IMHO, but I am very interested in JUST WHY YOU think it is important to discuss the crazy man here?

Lynn Clark
February 26, 2012 7:45 pm

Here in Louisville, Colorado, our “Ranger Rick” was a man named John Breaux. He spent the last eight years of his life riding his bicycle all around Louisville and neighboring Lafayette, picking up trash, opening doors for shoppers and generally lifting the spirits of all who came in contact with him. Sadly, tragically, his life ended three years ago after being struck by a car.

A. Scott
February 26, 2012 7:55 pm

A great story – and perhaps a good lesson, especially now. One about being more accepting, setting asides differences and peculiarities, agreeing to disagree and understanding that being different isn’t always bad ….
Our AGW opponents could use a good dose of that today – but so can we all at times.
This story is particularly special to me, as we had our own Ranger Rick as I grew up. He too was from a slightly different planet at times, and was, like Ranger Rick, our local ambassador, honorary mayor, and ultimately, famous resident celebrity.
His name was Jim. Although he had some developmental disabilities he was friendly and often sharp as a tack. He would patrol the city, and got to where he knew most locals, adults and children alike, by name. The community adopted Jim, and made sure he was taken care of and treated well. An acquaintance of mine decided Jim needed business cards, as the official “Roving Ambassador” to the city. From that day he never left home without a stack. Gave him a I think real sense of worth and pride. That simple gesture, was really a repayment to his loyalty and kindness to the community. There were many others along the way, who tried to repay the commitment he made, and service he gave, to the community..
When his family passed away locals stepped in again. Jim needed a responsible adult to escape the care home every day – and a local resident made sure that happened every day.
Jim, as it sounds so to did Ranger Rick, touched a lotta folks lives – most in ways they never realized. Even today, while I haven’t thought of him for years, I remember him with a smile and certain fondness.
One day in June of ’64, as he told the story, Jim snuck into the crowd of about 300 at Big Reggies Danceland to catch a bit of the band. Playing that day was a cat named Mick and his new band the Rolling Stones.
The next day at Bacon’s Drug store, Mick was having a prescription filled, and Jim ran into him again in line at the soda fountain. Jim ordered a cherry coke, but they told him they were outta cherry syrup, and Jim told Mick it was ok, that “you can’t always get what you want.”
Several years later Mick would do the song “You can’t Always get What You Want” – which included lyrics of “went down to the drugstore … to get my prescription filled … was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy … decided that we would have a soda … My favorite flavor, cherry red … I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy … I said to him …You can’t always get what you want.”
Mick has never commented to my knowledge. Mr. Jimmy was at Mick Jaggers next concert in the Twin Cities. Long after I once had a chance and asked him personally,d he just smiled and said – “you can’t always get what you want.”
Some have tried to debunk Mr. Jimmy’s story, but he was unwavering for 40+ years. Some said it had to be true – that Jimmy wasn’t capable of making it up – and I always thought that at the time too. Today I’m not so sure – Mr. Jimmy always had a wry smile, and sometimes a keen sense of humor.
What I do know for sure is he did see Jagger then, was at the next Rolling Stones show, and the lyrics all fit. Unlikely, but just maybe Mr Jimmy did pull one over on us. No one care though, as the story – true or not – perfectly fits who and what Mr Jimmy was … its completely believable it could have happened that way. I guess in a way that’s all we really “need.”
And that is the lesson Ranger Rick and “Mister Jimmy” types can teach us …through their simple lives – their acceptance of, and giving to, others … you can’t always get what you want … sometimes you get what you need …
Mr Jimmy passed away peacefully in 2007 after a long struggle with diabetes. Like I imagine Ranger Rick’s, his memory has a permanent place in the local history and hearts.
Thanks for the post reminding me of this Willis.

stan stendera
February 26, 2012 7:59 pm

Eschenbach’s eagle and Watt’s eagle soar ever higher. I have so many tears in my eyes that I can hardly see to type even after reading the wonderful comments which induced even more tears. Thank you willis. Thank you Antho,y.

stan stendera
February 26, 2012 8:00 pm

Se I wrote I couldn”t type. Try Anthony.

February 26, 2012 8:00 pm

Thank you for posting. R. I. P.

February 26, 2012 8:10 pm

I’m thinking there were enough in Southern California that we might all have been remembering different ones.

Steve from Rockwood
February 26, 2012 8:22 pm

To Ranger Rick, who never hurt a fly. And to the good people of Occidental who had the decency and respect to let a man live until he died.

February 26, 2012 8:36 pm

Tucci78 said @ February 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm

It strikes me that the professional “caring” types – emphatically those on various government payrolls, direct or at some grant-seeking NGO’s remove – never want such eccentrics to be left under their own respective vine and fig tree, and concentrate fiercely upon their victims’ psychiatrization to ensure that the critters in question get “properly medicated” by way of the pharma industry’s blockbuster nostrums, emphasis on the neuroleptics and the mood stabilizers.

Never say never Tucci78. My very good friend Jerry from San Francisco worked for many years to achieve as much freedom and independence as possible for the mentally ill with considerable success. He didn’t prescribe drugs, preferring to teach them how to meditate. He’s dying now and I am going to miss him very badly.
Thanks for the story Willis. Living in a rural community we have our share of Ranger Ricks and yes, we care for them. Never got around to making one a mayor though. I host a story about our Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress from a few years ago, both now sadly deceased.

Claude Harvey
February 26, 2012 8:53 pm

I think the community treatment of both Crazy Billy and Ranger Rick is a function of “community size”. In my experience, individuals everywhere and on average tend to be kind and compassionate in their one-on-one dealings with other individuals. Small communities generally replicate individual values and behavior in that regard. Institutional behavior is a different matter entirely and so is individual behavior within the context of an institution.
Large communities inevitably institutionalize most everything, including the care, shelter and feeding of “the crazy ones”. Individuals in such an institutionalized community cease to feel personally responsible for those less fortunate. They rationally suppose (and are assured) that others are being paid with their tax dollars to handle such matters and if they see evidence said affairs are not being properly handled, individuals respond with anger toward the responsible institution rather than compassion and direct assistance for “the crazy ones”.
Big cities suck! But that’s where fame, fortune and most jobs reside.

Mac the Knife
February 26, 2012 8:54 pm

A kind hearted eulogy, Willis!
I think there’s a bit of Ranger Rick in each and every one of us. Those of us who don’t deny it, recognize bits of him in others also. And when we come face to face with real Ranger Ricks, that small part of us drives our compassion to acknowledge them and show them kindness.
May God bless the kind hearted everywhere ….and carefully cup the Ranger Ricks in His hands of grace.

Baa Humbug
February 26, 2012 8:58 pm

Thanks Willis, yes it was moving. And thank you Anthony for posting this.
I can’t but think if Occidental had a couple of leftard knowalls, they would have wanted to “help” Rick by mandating the town to “provide” this that and the other for him, for his benefit of course….of course.

Jeff Alberts
February 26, 2012 9:08 pm

I spend a fair amount of time in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities for the elderly. Most of the latter have “lockdown” sections where the severe dementia patients are housed. I also live in a relatively rural area. I’m not sure the approach used for “Crazy Billy” would work for these folks, who would surely wander out in front of a bus, or die from exposure after they’ve wandered off from their homes. Some of these people have family who visit them, some don’t.
Is there a better way to deal with such folks? I don’t know, but I do know you just can’t leave them to their own devices, unless letting them die is an option.

John F. Hultquist
February 26, 2012 9:16 pm

Thanks for sharing.

February 26, 2012 9:23 pm

“I thought long and hard about whether I should publish this one…”
As Sir Anthony thuswise publicly fears his id embodied by Wild Man Willis, he holds Greatness, who anxiously pines to be invited in from the cold, at bay…far away.

February 26, 2012 9:31 pm

Willis Eschenbach said @ February 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Not sure if this answers your question, but like I said, jae, I generally just choose a path and take it without much pondering the whys and the wherefores. From my perspective, Rick died, and I chose to write about it, and not much happened in between …

Dunno about you Willis, but for me and several writers I know, writing is (poor analogy) akin to scratching an itch. You don’t seem to have much in the way of choice. I often enough wake in the early hours of the morning and it’s as if I’m being dragged to the keyboard. But that’s more of a what than a why. And I refrained from using my usual analogy ‘cos it’s a bit TMI.
Hope you enjoyed the story about Bronco.

February 26, 2012 9:32 pm

Awesome. I knew a guy like this on an island off the coast on N.C. my wife have vacationed on for almost 15 years. From our (tourist) point of view, he was a little ‘funny’ – he seemed to show up everywhere we were, I suppose because he was much like Ranger Rick – he was kind of the face of the town from our point of view and many of the locals. I recall one trip where it rained really hard, really fast – one of those sudden thunderstorms common on the Outer Banks of NC in the summer. The streets were partially flooded & I saw Doug – up to his shoulder – laying in a huge puddle pulling debris out of one of the only ‘storm’ drains so the water could go the 2 feet or so below the sea level of the street to a small creek. We asked him why he was doing this & he replied ‘because no one else will’. From that time on, I’d buy him a beer everywhere we met & let him have a few of my smokes. Instant respect. We saw him every year for about 10 years until we heard he died in his trailer behind on of the local bait shops in a terrible fire. Supposedly from a propane/cigarette mishap. That to this day still remains a true mystery – although the locals have all kinds of conspiracy theories.
Doug was an odd bird, but he somehow made us feel at home. I still miss that guy – odd as he was – every time we visit & tip a cold beer in his memory.

February 26, 2012 9:47 pm

Thank you Anthony for allowing this in and to you Willis you made my day brighter and my heart lighter. 🙂

February 26, 2012 10:03 pm

Reblogged this on ATA MOTEK.

Eric Anderson
February 26, 2012 10:19 pm

Thanks for this post. Great story, and a nice break from all the climate craziness of the last two weeks. Thanks also for having the wisdom not to try and turn the post into some stretched and strained commentary or analogy on climate stuff — just acknowledge that it’s got nothing to do with it and move on — the story is about society and about life.
Thanks for sharing.

February 26, 2012 10:52 pm

I have an enormous respect for this site. You can not only open people’s minds to the truth but also their hearts. Thank you Willis.

Rob R
February 26, 2012 11:12 pm

This was a nice memorial to an interesting charcter.
Well done.

stan stendera
February 26, 2012 11:30 pm

Eschenbach”s eagle soars yet again!!!!

February 26, 2012 11:36 pm

Thanks Willis,
In Calgary, we have about 3000 homeless people. We do a fair job of accommodating them in decent, friendly shelters and more permanent accommodations. I was discussing our homeless situation over lunch in Houston last week, while I attended the NAPE oilman’s convention.
Surprising to some, oilmen often do discuss these humanitarian matters – it’s not the heartless, greedy Steven Seagall idiot movie script that the leftists would have you believe. To me, providing a humanitarian, friendly environment for our homeless people and helping the more functional ones get back on their feet is just the right thing to do.
For those who have no compassion for the homeless, I explain it this way: If we had 3000 homeless people in our city streets competing for food, shelter and spare change, our petty crime rate would soar, and costs for everything from policing to hospitals to insurance to building security would soar. At a modest cost, our society provides for these people. The functional ones get back on their feet quickly. The less functional ones, whether they be mentally-ill or substance-addicted, may never get a job or pay taxes again. But they stay out of jail and they don’t hurt anyone. Our homeless support program is a significant net benefit to our society, and costs much less to society than having our large homeless population fend for themselves.
So, in conclusion, the compassion is free – it costs us nothing to do the right thing.
Could we do better for the homeless? Yes we could, at greater cost. When the politicians opened the mental hospitals years ago, they realized that these people did not vote, and tossed them into the streets – and now they live in our homeless shelters.
Our neighbourhood has its own homeless guy named Steve, who hangs out at Safeway and Starbucks and lives off our handouts. Steve is polite, articulate, and invariably cheerful – except when talking with other homeless guys, when he can be more direct. Steve is not interested In the shelters – he sleeps outdoors or finds a warm place on the coldest nights. There are several hundred Steve’s in our city. They don’t do well on really cold nights, and usually die at about age 50.
Regards, Allan

Bob Malloy
February 26, 2012 11:57 pm

Anthony, you say you thought long and hard about publishing this.
I applaud your decision, Willis I always look forward to your pieces, I find them thought provoking yet stimulating.
This one I really enjoyed, I once worked with a gentleman like this, on one occasion he kissed me fair on the lips then just walked away, I was dumbfoundead to say the least. On another occasion he was singing softly to himself as he swept the workshop floor, when I joined in with his singing, he dropped the broom strode over threatening me with a knuckle sandwitch if I didn’t stop singing, the song he said was his and only his.

February 27, 2012 12:18 am

In Russia every village, and virtually every quarter in a big city has its own “beloved drunk” who gets fed, helped, talked to, given money, etc. Very kind of the Russians, you would think. But it doesn’t help their society as a whole, and the same “kind” Russians would beat black and blue somebody who does better than they do, looks cleaner, talks in more literate way, or shows some education. If they can, they would burn your house if it looks nicer than their dirty houses.
It is better, of course, to have some kind of a traditional ancient kindness than none. However, kindness toward “the lowest of the low,” characteristic of any savage Medieval and Oriental society, is often a form of feeling better about yourself without doing much. Something akin to watching horror movies in order to come out from the movie theater and feel a relief: your life is not that bad!
I know, I know. I am a “poisonous worm spreading around vile ideas,” as Mr. Eschenbach put it so kindly. A specialist in kindness, Mr. Eschenbach, isn’t he?

February 27, 2012 12:33 am

jae says:
February 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm
WILLIS: I would like to know what is your basis for this love of your neighbor/friend? Is it some “feeling?” Is it some “”religion?”
Hiya jae
My Grandpa told me, “There was a time when a question like this was never thought of”… “It was part of a moral compass and social integrity”. He went on to say, ” Now a days, people question your motives for doing an act of compassion or even taking an ethical stand”. [ Kinda like when Mr Watts told Mr Jones about some passwords on a server – I think ]. “When people ask or question motives these days…it shows how society has become calloused”, he said.
“Why should a question, like this, even be asked… that is the heart of the matter, isn’t it?”
I think, he may have a point?

Hari Seldon
February 27, 2012 12:36 am

Maybe we should think about Gleick in this context. A ‘genius’ who has suddenly become self destructive. There is a scientist in the man, it may be deeply hidden but I think its still theie Maybe, just maybe Gleick has had a revelation that his entire world view was predicated on lies. Depressed people often become self destructive and a little compassion in our comments may be in order. Sorry if it sounds like psycobabble, but Its the way I feel anyway…people are just people.

February 27, 2012 12:49 am

Good on you, Willis, for honoring this man’s life and the town where he lived it. And good on you, Anthony, for giving us this little time and place to help Willis perform the honors. His writing, your publishing, our reading, are all pieces of the same ceremony.

February 27, 2012 12:55 am

BEN ARONOFF’s photo of RIck Kaufman above should be nominated for whatever portrait photography prizes are going. He has captured the essence of a man who had lived a pretty hard life, but did so with a sense of humour and kindness.

February 27, 2012 12:56 am

Thank you Willis and Anthony.
I think all of us know some person like Ranger Rick. Sometimes just somebody, but often a former schoolmate or even a family member. A story like this is quite moving and hopefully makes us all a little better. Life is not just climate, but we all breath the same air.

February 27, 2012 1:06 am

Hari Seldon says:
February 27, 2012 at 12:36 am
I alway thought a “genus” was smarter than me 🙂
Do you understand the differences between compassion and false compassion?
One of the best explanations I’ve heard is by this man.
Granted, the presentation is by a religious..but then again, I’ve been known to read NASA and IPCC reports. 🙂

February 27, 2012 1:26 am

Trying again…it ate my other post 🙂
Hari Seldon says:
February 27, 2012 at 12:36 am
I always thought “geniuses” were smarter than me 🙂
There is a difference between compassion and false compassion. I gave a link in my last post to a presentation – it might have been what sent my post to the spam bin. Do a google for – sheen false compassion 1 & 2

February 27, 2012 1:34 am

Thank you Mr Eschenbach, and Mr Watts. You are both true gentlemen.
Johnny in NQ

February 27, 2012 2:27 am

Alexander Feht said @ February 27, 2012 at 12:18 am

I know, I know. I am a “poisonous worm spreading around vile ideas,” as Mr. Eschenbach put it so kindly.

Mr Feht, I am inclined to agree with you. And Willis. You are [behaving like] a poisonous little worm.
When the Git first arrived in the little village of Franklin with his future wife, we were poor. Not quite “too poor to have a pot to piss in” as the saying goes, but we had spent every last cent we could muster to purchase a hovel on 10 acres of land. My first act on the day we moved in was to knock on the next door neighbour’s door to say I would be happy to help fight the bushfires that were raging around the valley. Monday saw me helping as much as someone who never did such things before could. It was an interesting introduction to country life and I came to know a little about our neighbours and they about us.
The following week saw Jimmy Hay bringing us a great slab of frozen squid and six “point-of -lay hens” that had all turned out to be male, rather than female. The next door neighbour, Ivan, lent us some irrigation pipe and an electric fence energiser so I could start a garden. His brother gave me several dozen bales of spoiled hay so I could make compost. Over time we managed to build a comfortable life in this community. I was president of the volunteer fire brigade for several years. Mrs Git was treasurer of the community youth support scheme and obtained a huge number of tree seedlings for planting out on the foreshore. I could go on…
Today we live in a small luxurious home that attracted people from as far away as Canada to come and help me build it. We now live in a community that has gone from being shabby and downtrodden to being spick and span and proud of its achievements. Mrs Git and I are far from solely responsible for this, but when we pitched in and did things “the way they used to be done” enough followed suit to reverse the melancholy. And we helped newcomers who wanted to learn “country ways” how to join in.
Mr Feht, you do not have to behave like a poisonous little worm. You could instead help build a better world. While the statists want to keep rescuing people from the river, some of us venture upstream to find out what, or who is pushing them in. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, paraphrasing Jesus’ declaration that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand: “You better dig it while it’s happening”.
I wish you no ill will Mr Feht. The “People’s Paradise” you describe reminds me very much of Camp Hill housing estate in Nuneaton where I spent the first thirteen years of my life. Happily, I left it behind. Don’t you think it’s time to leave Russia behind?

Disko Troop
February 27, 2012 2:30 am

My own Ranger Rick was called Siddy Martin. He had been seriously shell shocked in WW1 and spent his time between conducting bayonet charges on our local beach and picking up litter in our village and binning it. He often picked up things that were not left or lost, including my mothers bicycle on many occasions. He pushed his life along in a pram and lived in a galvanised tin shack with a stove in the middle and a hole in the roof for the smoke. We kids would join the bayonet charges across the beach, sometimes twenty of us with all the holiday people joining in. We used to go with father to dig up mothers bike from Siddys back garden, and redistribute all the other things he had collected. Father would give him a lift up the steep hill from the beach on his motorbike, with the pram towing behind.
Not many places left for the Siddys and Ranger Ricks.
(Add extra commas, dashes, and parenthesis to taste)

February 27, 2012 2:35 am

Willis Eschenbach said @ February 27, 2012 at 1:59 am

On the other hand, Judith Curry and many others get all exercised and claim it’s a problem of scientific communication, and how this is a huge communications failure. But there have been billions spent, and communication still failing. Why is that?
The obvious answer for an AGW supporter is treachery, that is to say bad actors on the other side. Skeptical people who do all this terrible stuff to screw with decent, honest scientists. And of course, there has to be some evil mastermind who is behind what is always described as the “well-financed” opposition to AGW …

Communication is an exchange of ideas. It requires listening to and absorbing what the other says. I don’t think that Judith gets this yet, but there’s hope 🙂

February 27, 2012 2:46 am

All too often I think that we forget the undeniable truth that it does not matter how smart you are (or not perhaps). What matters is how you apply this. You can choose to live a good life and do good things. Or you can choose to do bad things.
As a scientist for instance, you can choose to ignore evidence and sell your (scientific soul) as Gleick et al do and just like they say: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and boy is the slope slippery.
If you always attempt to do the right thing or attempt to always tell the truth and are willing to always admit to say you are wrong, then you will never back yourself into a corner like Glieck.
In this instance, that was his problem…he was not willing to admit defeat or that he was wrong. This is why the tale of Ranger Rick could be beneficial to him and others.
Here is a man who overcame everything and still did good and still made a name for himself in his corner of the world. We must all work within our own limitations. We are not all Gods and/or perfect. The first time you admit that and admit that you might be wrong, that is the first time you realize that you do make mistakes and that you might be wrong about your positions.
I think applying this story to the AGW scientists would go along those lines, but as a stand-alone story the story is powerful enough by itself to show that we can all accomplish quite a bit by ourselves within our own limitations. The secret is to realize our limitations but then to make a difference despite this. Then go that extra mile. It is never enough to just settle for par.
Great story of one of those people who make a difference but too often never get told. I would much rather hear about him then celebrities myself.

Tony McGough
February 27, 2012 3:00 am

Thanks for the account. Very moving.
And it seems from the comments that there are many parallel figures around the globe; and as many good people who display tolerance, kindness, compassion and the good sense to give the man space and freedom. To be his own nutty self.
Not all is lost in this Vale of Tears…

February 27, 2012 3:18 am

RIP Ranger Rick.
Thank you Willis and Anthony, and for the reminders from others of man’s humanity to man, which like hospitality I’ve found the world over.

February 27, 2012 3:24 am

Mr. Sturm (“The Pompous Git”),
I don’t know, what you are talking about, but it is obvious that you are not talking about anything I’ve said. I don’t live in Russia, the Russians I discussed are not my friends, and I never said they were.
You know nothing — zero, zilch — about who, how, and how much I help. Unlike you, though, I would never boast about it in public. Your pitiful self-praise is quite disgusting.
As to the “poisonous worm spreading vile ideas,” Mr. Eschenbach posted here on October 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm, the following: “…you unpleasant little worm…You are a slimy person, Alexander,… your vile ideas and nasty claims poison the very air around you.”
Now he says this: “I don’t know what I said before that has you all lathered up, Alexander but whatever it was, you are misrepresenting it now, and trying to put words in my mouth that I never said, both of which are very ugly habits.”

February 27, 2012 3:32 am

You knew the Olema Diggers? I visited there for a few weeks. I was there for the Rolling Thunder exorcism. I was more involved with the Briceland Branch. Samurai Bob and I were tight. And of course me and Grizzle. I heard a year or two back that Bob is gone. I hope his spirit is where it needs to be. And who could forget Peter…. I also spent a few weeks at Black Bear.
Contact me if you like.

February 27, 2012 3:33 am

We had a guy like this in my little home town. People would have him do odd jobs that they themselves could easily have done in order for him to have purpose. Those lessons were taught to me by my father. I think today’s society has lost sight of these things…

Viv Evans
February 27, 2012 3:39 am

Thank you, Willis and Anthony, for this memorial to Ranger Rick.
There’s one odd thing I recall about the ‘Ranger Rick’ who lived in my town.
He had a shopping trolley with his possessions in it, and the smallest of his dogs sat on top. His six other dogs, all scruffy, all grizzled, ranged freely around him. He daily went to the local market and got bones and things from the stall holders – for his dogs and himself.
There were a couple of other ‘Ranger Ricks’, and they all had one or more elderly dogs with them.
Now they are nowhere to be seen. I think our ‘caring’ bureaucratic society made them go into some home, give up their dogs – and thus hasten their deaths.
I think we’ll see fewer and fewer Ranger Ricks the bigger our social ‘service’ bureaucracies grow, the more our governments regulate everything in our lives, and the further society becomes citified and scared of ‘pollution’ from human beings like our Ranger Ricks and their dogs.

Cliff Claven
February 27, 2012 4:27 am

Cheers had me, Occidental had Ranger Rick, and WUWT has Willis.
Will you be filling in the void Ranger Rick left, Willis? Seems like a good fit.
[Reply: I haven’t noticed any popcorn filling in packages I receive. Business slow? ~dbs, mod.]

February 27, 2012 4:34 am

Hi Willis,
Same kind of thing happened to me last week… http://tpdrsl.org/index.php/bloggo/tants-dead.
It’s sad when these characters go.

February 27, 2012 5:02 am

The different definition of social.
Accross the atlantic gorge, there, when people are free to care for themsleves most folks seem to fare, through community spirit and team work, rather well. In essence they freely put social in community.
But in the socialist communities In EU, people are ordered into communities and forced to pay, through taxes and more, for the state to care about the community. Who, then, but does not exempt themselves from how well folks fare?
The difference then is affordability, in the free well fare community you can afford to be social, in the socailist well fare community you are taxed til the point where you can’t afford to be social.
In my socialist democratic country, who claims to be the best in well fare and health care in the world, we pay almost the highest taxes on this planet, yet we get the cheapest care possible, including the cheapest medication, and worst of all the state doesn’t even own a single soup kitchen for the homeless.
It’s ironic that in a socialist country only the private interest groups can afford to deliver free care, the state is more interested in keeping the credit rating in check so they can loan ever more the expanding well fare bureaucracy that gives everything away to venture capitalists to keep the stats on the up and up. Especially now that the health care are to be fitted by a green cross.
If the homeless want clothes, food or place to sleep, well then, they have to go to the private sector, because in the socialist health care system they only get remitted to sit under a “sun-lamp” for an hour.
It’s good to know that there are still some places where folks actually care. Thanks.

February 27, 2012 5:11 am

Whenever Mr. Eschenbach finds an opinion or an observation that diverges from his own, he feels free to attack the person (never the opinion itself) in most unsavory fashion that would result in the immediate ban — except he is the only one on this forum who is never moderated.
“Occidental had Ranger Rick, and WUWT has Willis”: indeed.

February 27, 2012 5:16 am

As above, thank you, Anthony and Willis. The comments are worth reading as well.

Michael Larkin
February 27, 2012 6:04 am

Doris Lessing:
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about an old woman I got to know, particularly with reference to Alzheimer’s, a word we spray around fairly lightly. I knew her for six or seven years before she finally died when she was over ninety.
She was, in fact, a woman of low intelligence. She had a poor childhood and married because it was expected of her, Most of her adult life she was a waitress and adored her work. She was a completely social person — she danced and had a wonderful pub life — and this social satisfaction was what she wanted from life.
At the age of sixty-five she was given the sack from her job because she was too old. Shortly after that her husband died. She had no pension and she went to pieces. From having the restaurant, where she worked and where everybody knew and loved her and she had a lot of friends, she became an old woman alone in her room. She became a drunk. People round here told me about it, and at the time I got to know her, she was into her eighties and totally demoralised. Although by then she was no longer drinking so much, she was in a filthy condition and could hardly get out of the flat. What really interested me about this was not the side issues about social services and so on, it was that because she had never been anything else but a social person and couldn’t cope with being alone, she got more and more stupid when she was on her own. Whenever you went to see her, if she had been alone for twenty-four hours, you’d think she was demented. I’m sure any doctor would say she was suffering from ‘Alzheimer’s’ or senility or something, but I noticed that if she had two or three people in to talk to her for a while, the craziness left her. She made sense. Sense on a pretty low level, but it was sense.
The point about her not being intelligent is relevant because, although she had always been a stupid woman, when she was normal, she made sense, was lively and quite funny. But whenever the services hadn’t worked, and perhaps no one had seen her for two or three days, and I visited her, she was gone — totally senile again! This happened again and again, I would go and see her and, when I arrived, she would ramble and waffle. She didn’t know what time of day it was, what day of the week, or the year. But, by the timeI left, she would be making perfect sense again. She was properly herself. Now this seems to me terribly important. I cannot help but wonder how many old people are diagnosed as ill, or senile, when in fact they just need human contact.

February 27, 2012 6:07 am

thank you Willis and Anthony.
Aus still has some chaps similar to Ranger Rick, around our smaller country towns.
Ive met a couple and theyre good value for interesting views and handy hints, on the oddest things.
so sad to see them go.
at least they lived free and as they chose.
RIP all the eccentrics and fringe dwellers.that dont rate on societies” must be like” scales:-)

February 27, 2012 6:47 am

Thank you for this Willis.
I am living with my own ‘Ranger Rick’, as my wife has a degenerative disease that is affecting her mental capacity. It is not easy to deal with in any way, especially for our children. Often I question my choice to take on this burden, but neither of us knew the exact nature of the disease when we met, so the decision was an uninformed one.
Stories like these make it easier to bear, at least for myself. This is not any easy thing to share.

Cliff Claven
February 27, 2012 6:53 am

Alexander Feht says:
February 27, 2012 at 5:11 am
“Whenever Mr. Eschenbach finds an opinion or an observation that diverges from his own, he feels free to attack the person (never the opinion itself) in most unsavory fashion that would result in the immediate ban — except he is the only one on this forum who is never moderated.”
Who says totalitarianism is dead? Long live the double standard!
[All are read. All are moderated. Robt]

Cliff Claven
February 27, 2012 7:02 am

Michael Larkin says:
February 27, 2012 at 6:04 am
“I cannot help but wonder how many old people are diagnosed as ill, or senile, when in fact they just need human contact.”
In my profession I’ve found that dogs work very well to keep one grounded in reality. Old ladies too often prefer cats but cats they just don’t care enough one way or another.
Bottoms up,

February 27, 2012 7:19 am

Every man should be cherished in life and in death.
So it seems God has made it certain than that Ranger Rick was cherished for his own efforts, however modest or eccentric, and by the kindest and forbearance of his neighbors. And who is to say that is not the way man is meant to be.
It says much of your community that it pays respect to such a man and that it bestows upon him what honor his humble efforts can command.
Thank you for publishing Willis.

Craig Loehle
February 27, 2012 7:29 am

One of the things that bothers me about the ratcheting up of building codes and vendor regs etc is that it leaves no room for the marginal individual. To open a shop today you need to start with a pile of money and a lawyer. There are people who can keep it together running a junky car repair shop or selling stuff on the street, but not if you make them be all orderly and perfect. A perfect example happened decades ago in Chicago. There were lots of SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotels, which were perfect for a wino or slightly crazy person or someone down on their luck. But because this was where winos hung out and hookers brought johns, people wanted to clean them up, which means tear them down, which is what was done. That put people on the street, which is better because….well, it isn’t. Similarly, NYC has mandated that all cabs must have wheelchair access, which makes it much harder to make a living as a cabbie. Chicago has been waging war on street vendors and closed a famous flea market. So where are the marginal supposed to live and make some $?

Fredrick Lightfoot
February 27, 2012 7:35 am

Thank you Willis and Anthony,
“The mind is its own place,and in its self can make
a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
( John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book One )

Coach Springer
February 27, 2012 7:54 am

Hari Seldon says:
February 27, 2012 at 12:36 am
Maybe we should think about Gleick in this context. A ‘genius’ who has suddenly become self destructive. There is a scientist in the man, it may be deeply hidden but I think its still theie Maybe, just maybe Gleick has had a revelation that his entire world view was predicated on lies. Depressed people often become self destructive and a little compassion in our comments may be in order. Sorry if it sounds like psycobabble, but Its the way I feel anyway…people are just people.
Ranger Pete? If only he were that harmless and well-intentioned.
We had a guy in my hometown called “Abe Lincoln.” OTOH, there are tons of examples of the more harmful and dangerous types. I worked with an alcoholic who was able to stop drinking, but unable to conform or accept shelter from the community services or individuals who tried. He took to getting himself beat up for extended overnights in a good hospital until one time he didn’t get beat up bad enough to be taken to an emergency room, but still died of an unknown blood clot. I also held hands with a homeless guy who had just killed someone. We are not all Noble Savages.
Thanks for the post and interesting picture of a public figure who was blessed to find his niche. I’m still looking for mine.

February 27, 2012 8:06 am

Willis and Anthony,
This has been so cathartic. I read through every posing in this thread. You have touched the hearts of so many people and dredged up so many thoughts. Thanks!

February 27, 2012 8:07 am

[All are read. All are moderated. Robt]
This is so untrue it ain’t even funny.
Unless you apply to Willis special rules inapplicable to mere mortals, that is.

TG McCoy (Douglas DC)
February 27, 2012 8:30 am

Thanks, Willis, reminds me of some who I knew-and helped in Port Orford, Oregon.
Just the nautre of small towns- same here in NE Oregon…
It’s a Good thing..
RIP, Rick…

February 27, 2012 9:09 am

Lovely story of the man and his home, his friends. We have two locals that always would hang out in certain areas of town, they had ‘turf’ and many times, the local shopkeepers on the west side would fix up food for Mary who has since passed. Another fellow I would see further east was quiet, though would acknowledge (nod to) the usuals and my boss (subscribes to the paper where article on the man appeared) tells me he was given help via hospital care and is now on meds to help his condition. A veteran who maybe had seen too much, I don’t know he rarely spoke, just nodded. The only time I saw him out of his winter jacket, he was thin as a rail. So much hair and beard it was hard to see his face. At last he is well fed and feeling better. Thank you for your very human story of Ranger Rick and those who helped him.

John W
February 27, 2012 9:12 am

Wills, I love your post, keep them coming!

February 27, 2012 9:13 am

You shouldn’t have agonised over it Anthony. Nonconformity and the tolerance of it is the skeptic way.

February 27, 2012 9:40 am

Ranger Rick reminds me of another “Mayor” I heard about way back some time in another small California town who would wander the streets and respond just about any time anyone asked him anything with, “Don’t worry about it.” I can still hear him and have thought about him occasionally over the years. There’s no one around here right now like that, but I’m hoping to fill the gap.

February 27, 2012 10:00 am

Alexander Feht said @ February 27, 2012 at 3:24 am

Mr. Sturm (“The Pompous Git”),
I don’t know, what you are talking about, but it is obvious that you are not talking about anything I’ve said. I don’t live in Russia, the Russians I discussed are not my friends, and I never said they were.

Well gosh Mr Feht, the topic seems to be people in our local communities. How was I to know you were OT?

You know nothing — zero, zilch — about who, how, and how much I help. Unlike you, though, I would never boast about it in public.

How true, I know only as much about you as you reveal about yourself here.

Your pitiful self-praise is quite disgusting.

It matters to me not one tittle that my doing praiseworthy things disgusts you. Why on Earth would I seek your approval for what I do?

February 27, 2012 10:07 am

If it hasn’t been said, it oughta. This is the sort of thing that, to me, earns WUWT awards and accolades.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve…uh…gotten somethin’ in my eye…

Henry Galt
February 27, 2012 10:36 am

2nd time today WUWT gives me a lump in my throat. First was the LA award – massive congrats to Anthony, mods and commenters. 2nd this post. Wonderful + comments.
May as well make it three….

Thanks for everything.

February 27, 2012 10:51 am

Linked and commented here:
I am a throwback to another era. I grew up with cowboys who had very little but their honor and would fight for it. I come from a time where a man’s honor and honesty were important to him, and where calling a man a liar was one of the very deadliest insults you could offer a man.
Yup. The Diggers as I remember them. BTW my honesty saved my life when “Diamond” questioned something I had done. A Model 1911 to the temple until I had answered some questions to his satisfaction.

February 27, 2012 10:58 am

Willis Eschenbach,
Don’t make me laugh. The fact that I quoted your dirty insults in a concise form doesn’t mean that you haven’t written those words. Do you really think that all who read what you write are accomplished fools?
You posted your insults, thereby breaking the rules of this forum, and then you denied it, and now you repeat them because you painted yourself in the corner. Yes, you lied. And you continue to lie. Do you hope, somehow, to exonerate yourself by repeating, again and again, your blunder?
The more you cavort, the more you foam at the mouth, the more you try to evade the truth that is staring in your face, the more you undermine your reputation.
Don’t be ridiculous. Be a man, and apologize.

February 27, 2012 11:05 am

Mr. Sturm (“The Pompous Git”):
Whatever, dude.

February 27, 2012 11:23 am

BEN ARONOFF’s photo of RIck Kaufman above should be nominated for whatever portrait photography prizes are going. He has captured the essence of a man who had lived a pretty hard life, but did so with a sense of humour and kindness.
THIS!!!! Spectacular pic, quite worthy. Helps capture the depth of this heartwarming story.

February 27, 2012 12:24 pm

When I hear of someone like Ranger Rick – or Emperor Norton for that matter – I recall Mrs. Jones from when I was much, much younger. Mrs. Jones was an eldery (very), crotchety old lady. One day she would be handing out little ceramic figurines over the fence, and the next, she would turn the hose on us. She live in three old bread wagons that had been butted together and cobbled into a small house or shack. One day she was gone and not long after that so was that wonderful old house of bread wagons.

February 27, 2012 2:43 pm

The photograph looks to be of man older than in his early sixties; it also seems very familiar to me.
Is this a picture of Ranger Rick?

Alexander K
February 27, 2012 2:56 pm

Hey Willis, Anthony… respect, guys! Willis, your your writing is a prism that allows little bits of humanity to sparkle.

February 27, 2012 3:36 pm

Willis, thank you for all that.
I’ve been angry and upset with you since the night of the long scissors, but this has reminded me again of the Willis towards whom my heart really goes out. And more. I hear you reaching for the humanity buried under the avalanche of his own filthy bloodied hands, his own stupidity, his own guilt, and the shock and prying eyes of others, that is Gleick now. Could it have been you or me? Or is compassion missing the mark because Gleick is still looking for his chance to back-stab again?
Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain –
(Emily Dickinson 1862)

February 27, 2012 3:42 pm

Cheers Willis. I checked the link before I posted. The photo must have absented itself after you put it up:)
Found it here :
PS – smashing article as expected. Slightly damper eyes than normal experienced. Possibility of unwashed-crockery moments emerging!

February 27, 2012 4:24 pm

Willis Eschenbach,
Your violent fantasies of “slapping” people around will get you nowhere. Your words are dime a thousand. Instead of dealing with arguments, you abuse your opponents and attack them personally. You may have intimidated some people in your past by using this “don’t touch me, I stink” strategy. It will not work with me.
As much as I am repelled by the style and by the low intellectual level of this conflict, it will never end before you apologize. You know you are wrong, and you will have to apologize eventually.
Remember this: I will never let go. I hope that, even in your deranged state of mind, you understand the meaning of “never.”

February 27, 2012 4:51 pm

“But again … where is the crime in any of that?”
If you can allow a man to sup from your table at no cost to him and smile lovingly to his face while he calls for your casting into the bowels of Hell then why does it upset you when he stirs his tea anti-clockwise?
Who decides when ‘dirty-dishes’ (sic) become cutely eccentric or life-threatening?

February 27, 2012 5:27 pm

When my mother was a kid, she was living on a farm nearby Montreal.
During winter nights, there was a vagrant who entered the never-locked house door, and slept in the kitchen, always to leave before morning. Sometimes, they saw traces of him, but he never stole anything, simply using the heat of the house to sleep. Everyone knew and avoided surprising him in the kitchen. It lasted for a while, maybe a few seasons, and then he was not felt again. I say felt because he was never seen (at least by my mother). I think grand’pa left some food for him too from time to time.

February 27, 2012 6:07 pm

This was a moving story and it touched me especially because as I drove to work this morning I could almost feel the collective intake of breath when a man rang in to the local radio station and expressed his concern that he had not seen “Tarzan” for about twelve months. Suddenly all the listeners would have worried that perhaps “Tarzan,” an ageing man, had succumbed to illness or disease and left this mortal coil. You see “Tarzan” was known by so many as the bare chested eccentric who travelled, often at a run, the Bruce highway between Cairns and Townsville; Hessian sack over his shoulder ,down and back he would go, a symbol to many of the quirky and enduring quality of the human spirit. There are any number of legends and myths surrounding “Tarzan’s” background, is he the lost heir of a European royal house, is he an ex Olympian, muscles honed by years of training, or is he an ex lawyer escaping the excesses of a fallible mankind?
Whatever he was, he is now part of the fabric of this region. As wise people have said before, you can tell a lot about a town by the way it treats it’s “eccentrics” and I think the people of Cairns are happy to know that someone like “Tarzan” is content to live on the margin of our community.
I think there would have been collective sigh of relief when, ten minutes later, a woman rang in and said she had seen “Tarzan” only a few weeks ago walking down Mulgrave road near Earlville.
I continued my drive to work with a small smile on my face. Life is good.

February 27, 2012 6:31 pm

What I love about classic Athens is that even the town’s eccentrics, like Timon and Diogenes, were philosophers; in fact some of the most interesting ones. To appreciate and respect eccentricity is a symptom of a free and healthy society.
A moving story. Thank you.

February 27, 2012 6:54 pm

“It will not work with me…it will never end before you apologize. You know you are wrong, and you will have to apologize eventually…Remember this: I will never let go.” —Alexander Feht to Willis
Just as grains of sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives…..In this willy-nilly battle of wills, will Alexander Feht outwill willfull Willis and will Willis then willingly apologize?

February 27, 2012 10:17 pm

It is astonishing to me that someone would hijack a thread dedicated to venerating one of society’s downtrodden outcasts that this particular society refused to cast out. What should be a heart renewing pause to reflect on the kindness we extend and the respect we offer that is counter to stereotypical expectation has turned into a petty lash out at the author of a damn fine story. Yin yang.
Give Billy this moment – it is all he has left.

February 27, 2012 11:43 pm

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were:
any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee.
— John Donne (1624)
From Meditation XVII

February 28, 2012 2:10 am

Willis Eschenbach,
An honest man would never put so little sense in so many words.

February 28, 2012 2:20 am

Willis, thanks for replying. Thanks for all.
With regard to N&Z, I’ve seen nobody coming out of that episode in a way that to me seems squeaky clean. Nobody.
When I get upset like this, actually something good comes of it in the end. I go digging for the truth, the whole truth including everyone’s reactions, and nothing but the truth when it comes to the science – which got buried in the spat between you and TB,and missed by several others who have a good claim to being good scientists in this matter. I’m working on the sheer gold this thesis contains, behind the scenes, because too much emotion is… sidetracking… and too much Joel is… distracting…
Ranger Rick. I’ve met, lived and worked with, learned from, supported, been betrayed, and been loved again by many, many Ranger Ricks and other unusual characters. Maybe because I too am an outsider – living (in Glastonbury UK) in a community of outsiders who support each other.
I still disagree with you Willis, but I can neither give you an elevator speech as to why I disagree, nor an elevator speech as to why I cannot give an elevator speech. For years I’ve known that, like Moses, I am slow of speech. But I am truly glad that I feel I can welcome you and resonate with you again.

Dave Richardson
February 28, 2012 4:19 am

Thank you Willis and Anthony (congrats on the bloggies in passing),
A wonderful piece about how society should treat it outliers.
Perhaps it is an American thing in smaller communities, harking back to those lawless times only a century and half ago when good people would look after each other. I make this remark as a Brit who has travelled a fair bit in the USA in recent years – I will be there again in the Fall.
I certainly don’t want to get political, but I think there is a difference between people expressing compassion freely and expecting the state to provide.
Thanks again to you both.

February 28, 2012 4:44 am

Alexander Feht, this has gone long on for too long. Willis is a curmudgeon, he may be argumentative, insensitive, opinionated, easily annoyed. He’s got an ego, makes snap judgments, insults people casually and becomes a royal pain in the butt when crossed, when he thinks he’s crossed, or even just because. But the guy can be friendly and warm, and I’d be honoured to break bread or chug back some brews with him, but he’s not someone I’d suck my teeth at in a murky Alabama bar and expect to walk away intact.
However, whether I’ve agreed or disagreed with the stuff I’ve read by him here and elsewhere, whether I’ve liked or disliked his attitude…and at times I shook my head…nothing I’ve seen shows that he is anything but brutally honest and totally and impecabbly truthful. Is he being treated differently, leniently and favouritism., Hell, yeah! The bloke has earned it. His past accomplishments, his encyclopaedic knowledge, and his current work and Anthony’s obvious respect for him mark him as a genius and an exceptional man. You might not like it, you might think it’s unfair, but many of us like him the way he is and that’s the way way this cookie crumbles.
In any case, anyone here can follow this thread and the one on the hitch hiking post and see that it was you who gobsmacked him, as he put it, for no reason at all other than to express your mood of the moment. It was you who called him a liar, which you should know by now is not a small thing in these parts of the world. And here too, where he wrote a nice piece that touched so many of us, you came out of nowhere, hijacked the thread with your nastiness and gratuitously insulted him, others and me with your stupid pontifications about caring for the lowest of the low and comparing us to your smelly muzhiks in Upper Slobodia or wherever. Then you started nagging at him and now you look like you’re about to go postal with your “nevers.”
Give it up, dude, you fought the fight, lost and lost badly, but it’s no shame to lose to a man like Willis. He won’t apologize for the reason that he’s got nothing to apologize for. He even offered you words of peace in his last post, which is way more than the eff-offs I offer you for dissing me and others here like you did. And, for some reason, you didn’t notice that he upgraded your taxonomic status on the evolutionary scale…without consultation with or approval from the rest of us but hey, that’s Willis for you… from a slimy worm to a belly-crawling reptile. That’s mighty generous of the man and a huge jump on the evolutionary scale, so take it as a compliment and find a way to bow out with some grace.

Barry Elledge
February 28, 2012 5:08 am

Well,Willis, you’ve unleashed quite an avalanche of humane sentiments.
I appreciate your fragment of Wasteland, a poem I haven’t revisited since 11th grade, but which resonates here. TS Eliot was once a regular guy from Kansas, and might have understood.
In a distant century when I was an undergraduate, a friend and I used to dispute the nature of those moments when the inexorable roll of the grinding stone was suspended and a moment of mercy intervened.
“Grace,” I argued.
“Form,” he replied.
You might argue either side. I tend to view government as Leviathan, the soulless incarnation of witless rule and implacable bureaucracy. Humane values are crushed by the mechanism; if you are from the government, you are not here to help, even if you presume otherwise. An individual citizen might offer help and comfort to his fellows of a kind which no government agency can equal, and without the paperwork in triplicate.
My friend tended to view the natural passions as an invitation to savagery, thankfully restrained on occasion by civilizing customs and formalities. Form was a gift rather than an obstacle.
I now suppose each of us had it right. Societies based on envy and control of others need formalisms to restrain their natural tendencies. Societies which rely on free individuals to perform charitable public services necessarily depend upon the goodwill – the grace- of private persons.
Seen in this light, Alexander Fehr’s initial comments seem more comprehensible. I half recall an old Russian folk tale about envy and retribution which ended with the chilling prayer, “Lord, then pluck out my other eye!” (because God had pledged to visit the same fate upon the man’s enemy). No wonder that communism might come to power in a society which valued envy over personal advancement.

Mr Lynn
February 28, 2012 6:16 am

Peter Kovachev says:
February 28, 2012 at 4:44 am

Right. I wouldn’t have minded if a Moderator had seen fit to snip the volleys of mutual recriminations between Mr. Eschenbach and Mr. Feht from this thread, as an unseemly diversion.
Perhaps the two of you might benefit from talking to each other, rather than trading written insults. You are both interesting guys, and have much to offer each other. Pick up the phone.
/Mr Lynn
[Good advice. ~dbs, mod.]

February 29, 2012 2:05 pm

in the early seventies i lived in a batchelor apartment in downtown long beac ca. there were quite a number of “monster shouters” in the area and a few of the people that you speak of above.
the local police would keep an eye on these people and when certain ones would start looking really raggedy they would arrest them for public drunkenness or some such thing and the judge would give them the opportunity between 30 days in jail and 180 days on the “farm”.
“somehow” they would be convinced that 180 days on the farm was very much preferable to 30 days in jail and they would be bundled off to either the local VA hospital or the county alchoholic ward. this could happen in as little as an hour.
quite a number survived many years on this schedule.
then the ACLU went to court with the argument that being drunk was not illegal and got a court order to stop the city police and the county mounties from picking these people up.
when the paddy wagon stopped running, the coroners wagon started. (even in southern california you can die from pnemonia if you live under a bush).
after a few years they had all dissappeared.
no matter how much they put out their propaganda i still cannot feel other than utter distaste for those ACLU people.

Kathy Kinsley
February 29, 2012 4:53 pm

Thank you Willis for a very thought-provoking article. And thank you Anthony, for printing it.
I don’t usually hit this site looking for ‘human interest’ stories, per se. (Although one could argue that ‘the weather’ and the long-term climate are always of interest to humans.) Still, this one “off-topic” post really hit a spot.
I agree that “that’s an important measure of any society, what we do with our crazy folks.” I’m a bit on both sides of the fence on it, too. The violent ones should be taken out of society (and I don’t mean ones who yell – I mean ones who attack). But the ones that aren’t? Let them be. They might teach you are me a thing or two if we listen.

February 29, 2012 10:43 pm

Perhaps the best part about Ranger, was that no matter how bad his life was, or how drunk he was (especially on Fridays), he always cared for others. He once told me that there were too many children in this world to receive gifts from Santa, and therefore we needed to get more raindeer and come up with names for each of them so the all the children in the world could have gifts. While this may seem juvenile to some, the fact that a man who lived like Ranger, could care about everyone, whether they were tourists, school children, or locals, is a testament to how amazing the human race can be.

March 1, 2012 7:50 am

pk< says:
February 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm
Pk, I hear you. The pendulum swings this-a-way and then that-away. Here in Toronto we used to have a draconian system once and where they used to incarcerate the mentally disabled. Then, the civil liberties people, the therapists and social workers,and no doubt the municipal and provincial bean counters decided to “release” these people the “community.” In new-speak this translates as “toss into the streets and let the public deal with them.” The results werepredictable; deaths from exposure and long-term malnutrition, thefts, aggressive panhandling, sexual assaults and even a few murders. No bean counter has calculated the cost of all that. Now we have mentally ill people ho are unable to look after themselves sleeping and smelling up libraries, subeays, bank foyers and city parks where low income parents once took their kids to play and for little picnics.
Do we always have to swing from one extreme to another? I’m a conservative chap, but will always insist that we are responsible for those who cannot help themselves and that providing them with the minimums of a safe place to stay where they can have some degree of privacy, a place to store a few things they need to hang on to, some dignity, nutritious food, medical care, a place to wash up and launder and access to people who care is not only a humane, socially healthy but may even be more economically sound. This would not be charity, as we currently understand it in the sense of pious generosity, but more like the original Hebrew meaning of the term, tzedkkah, i.e., imperative and required acts of justice.

Viv Evans
March 4, 2012 1:42 am

Thank you, Wills, for your beautiful and moving description of the Memorial service for Ranger Rick, and for the stories people told about him.
I’m glad the daffodils were out and flowering.
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, and it is worn in lapels on March 1st, St David’s Day, the day commemorating Wales’ Patron saint.
There’s a daffodil species which grows wild in Wales (‘Tenby daffodil’, Narcissus obvallaris, http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=5209 ), and it flowers from the end of February, just in time for St David’s Day.
So those daffs flowering in Occidental may have been a Welsh tribute to Rick. Or so I would like to think …

Mario Veille
March 4, 2012 2:06 pm

Ranger Rick was my friend for 20 or so years . I am so glad to have found your site and thank you for kindly acknowledging my dear friend.

March 29, 2012 10:57 pm

So lovely written. I am the women about the clean socks (stolen from my husband) and the couch. It was too cold outside and and I would invite him to our house. I would drop him off in town on the way to work with socks, a hot shower and breakfast. I will miss him dearly. I would get up in the middle of the night with the TV still on. Him snoring his head off. I would turn off the TV on the way back to bed. He’d wake up to tell me… I was watching that! I turned it back on and went back to bed. Blessings Ranger Rick

April 3, 2012 6:24 pm

I was in Occidental over the weekend and people are still leaving small tributes to Rick. On his picnic table: a small meal, a can of beer, and a flower. It was very moving to see.

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