Spoiler Alert: Vegetarians might be upset by this story.
Actually, omnivores and pescatarians might be offended, too. Especially the ones who only consume animals which moo, oink, cluck or swim.
I started thinking about this after visiting a goat farm near Spokane, Washington, where they raise goats for meat to sell in local markets. It's delicious. More on goats, later. But looking around for local goat farmers, I couldn't find many and I started wondering why.
The other day Jim-the-Landlord asked me if I had any stationery. "Not the little thank-you-note kind," he said. "I need to write a letter."
Boy, did he come to the right place. Since forever I have been a big fan of stationery: the higher the rag content, the better. I like the creamy vellum (which isn't really calf skin anymore—I think it's a petroleum product) and envelopes lined with another color paper.
Way before we communicated via the internet, many of us sprayed our own perfume on letters. We adored fountain pens and bottled ink, but bowed to progress when the cartridges came in. Washable blue for school—permanent black for important missives.
Around twenty years ago two tough little old ladies were having dinner and drinks in Crown Point, Indiana, talking about the good old days and the bad old days. "Think how much fun it would be," said one to the other. "You'd get your own director's chair, you'd have dinner every night with movie stars. Just tell 'em your story next time somebody knocks on your door." Former Lake County Sheriff Lillian Holley had been slamming her door on inquisitive faces for 50 years. "Come on, Lillian," said the first lady, "What's up with the Dillinger thing?"
Lillian Holley was 42 years old and sheriff when Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger, escaped from the "escape proof" jail in Crown Point in 1934. Holley was serving out her husband Roy's second term as sheriff, after he was killed in the line of duty. Five years ago they had moved from Hammond to the sheriff's house, attached to the jail, where more than 100 prisoners could be held. (For 76 years, until 1958, county sheriffs were required by law to live next to the jail.)
It was not a great time for women to be in law enforcement. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover claimed that women were not suitable to work as special agents due to their unpredictable nature. He said that even though women "probably could learn to fire a gun," he could not imagine them "shooting it out with gangsters."
Over the years I forgot how to play.
When I looked up "How to Play" on the Internet, I found "How to Play Poker," "How to Play Candy Crush," "How to Play 'Hotel California' on the Guitar."
That's not what I had in mind.
John Dillinger and I go way back.
When looking for a job in 1970, I was a lot like Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. A curious gal from a small Midwestern town, I trudged up and down Chicago's Michigan Avenue carrying my newspaper clippings from office to office. I was dressed for success in my smart blue coat, stockings, sensible pumps, and gloves. The only thing I was missing was a pill-box hat. Mostly I think the editors who interviewed me only looked at my legs.
My last appointment that day was at The Chicago Literary Times.
I just can't get it out of my mind: Sounds of the familiar Clip-Clop rounding the bend as the garbage folks approach in a wagon pulled by their friendly, elegant steeds. Just the sound of it makes my whole life seem timeless, part of the long wind of humanity that will continue to blow after I'm gone. No wonder the Amish are Amish.
Turns out there are plenty of horses right here in Northwest Indiana who could do the job. I'm not talking about your Friend Flicka. You need draft horses for this kind of work: big, slow guys who've never run a race in their lives. They pull heavy stuff.
I asked a couple of draft horse aficionados what they thought of the garbage pick-up scheme. "I think it's a great idea," said Pam Worthington, current treasurer of the LaPorte County Draft Horse Association. "It's quiet, it's green, it's fuel efficient."
The South Shore Train shooshes past our lovely villagette with a bit of a click and a clack that settles our biorhythms. Like the Angeles Bells of the Middle Ages or the Call to Prayer in Muslim countries, the sound distracts us from the day-to-day and nudges us to consider far-away places with strange sounding names. In those particular cases, really far away places.
It's pretty quiet out here. Occasionally a hobby plane swoops close to the tickle the Lake, or a helicopter thwaps by. A souped-up daddy's convertible sometimes lunges through these serpentine dunes as if chased by demons. But there aren't many of them. You hear the frogs, the locusts, the birds, a dog, children laughing, an occasional wild turkey gobble-gobble. Like that.
Then there's the really bad noise that regularly, clumsily, lumbers through our narrow winding streets. It sounds like Indiana State prisoners are all being released in Humvees. Or we're being invaded by True Believer Survivalists, whose revered Book of Concatenations compels them to disturb every quiet creature within 30 miles. They are—cue "Flight of the Valkyries" music—The Garbage Collectors.
How's your garbage lately? Gone, probably. Many of us separate the recyclables (most of them) into one bag and dump the food scraps, vacuum bag, (litter box?) and everything else in another bag. Then we move them outside into grotesque plastic bins. Voila! Garbage gone. Problem solved before it even becomes a problem.
Having traveled to a few Third-World countries and through some very poor neighborhoods in the United States, I can tell you that "no visible garbage" is one of the distinguishing marks of a prosperous and civilized society. Removing trash requires organization on a rather grand scale and nearly religious private participation.
Wagon-train trails leading through America's pristine west were often littered with refuse: bean cans, dirty clothes, heavy furniture. No trailblazers forged ahead to distribute garbage canisters along the routes. The modern camping practice of burning and burying refuse had yet to be invented. No rules and regulations in this huge unincorporated area! Yippee Yi Yah! Toss it out the window!
I talked to a couple of folks the other day—self-employed self-starters. A realtor and a producer of trade shows agreed with me that they, too, sometimes wish they had go-to-work-in-an-office jobs.
We'd get up in the morning, put on nice clothes, go to an office, do our jobs, eat lunch at a nice restaurant. When we came home in the evening, our houses would be as clean as we left them. Nobody would have left any dirty dishes in the sink. Nobody left piles of half-read newspapers around, stacks of books on the porch. Nobody forgot to put the orange juice back in the fridge.
Remember the kind of jobs where you were paid to “look busy?” In my day, I was pretty good at looking busy. During high school Latin, my doodles would have proved some of Freud's more outlandish theories. In Geometry, I perfected the Perfect Palmer Method of penmanship. In Chemistry, I had to re-learn the Algebra I missed, while reading banned books.
Grandparents worry about everything. Even when we're focused on Toys for Tots, by the dawn’s early light we fight dangers lining their paths to adulthood: giant trees might fall, lightning might strike, markets can crash, bandits, measles, bacteria, hormones, and, along with everything else: human traffickers.
It's right here in Northwest Indiana, where the FBI and the State’s Attorney have set up task forces to deal with it; and the Lake County Sheriff and the Hammond Police Department are making arrests.
I first heard about human trafficking 25 years ago, while working on a documentary about kids in Uptown, a poor Chicago neighborhood. When I asked a young mother about her kids, she said, "The oldest is gone. She was only twelve. They shoved her in a car and took her away. White slavery, that's what it is."