As the latest election newscast droned on, the old man sighed and muted the television.
“Y’know, I’ve met a couple of presidents. And some presidential candidates, too,” Grandpa Ed Duryea said to thirteen-year-old Grace one afternoon.
“You did? Which ones?”
“Well, there were Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter back during the Bicentennial. That’s 1976 to you youngsters who may not care that this country has a proud history spanning almost 250 years.”
“I know that,” Grace said with a tiny pout.
“Even met Trump and Hillary Clinton, though neither when they were running for President then,” Ed said.
“Yup. Then there was Rodney Schuyler Beauchamp.”
“Who?” Grace said, her eyes widening.
“You never heard of Rodney Beauchamp?” her Pa said.
“Of course not. Nobody by that name ever ran for president,” Grace said.
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Gracie. And Beauchamp was probably the most presidential man I’ve ever met,” Ed replied. The old man then walked out to the kitchen for another mug of coffee.
“You can’t just leave me hanging here with that bit of information and just walk away, Pa,” Grace said as she followed her grandfather into the kitchen. “Who the heck was Rodney Beauchamp?”
Ed stirred some creamer into his mug of Colombian Suprema. He clinched a larger smile down to his wry grin, the one that Grace knew could bring on a great tale of his reporter days or an even greater lie.
“1970 it was. Rodney lived on a farm with his brother Roland near Mooers Forks, up on the Quebec border. Got tired of all these hippies and privileged draft dodgers running through his place day and night to sneak into Canada,” Ed said, nudging his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“I read about that. Some guys refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War and ran off to Canada. Right?”
“Correct, hon. It was as divisive a time in our history as I’ve seen in my sixty-odd years. Peaceful protest turned into violent police, even military, pushback. Racial strife leading to flaming riots in big cities from coast to coast. And Roland’s orchards and pastures became his own Ground Zero of protest. He was ticked off at the government and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” Pa said.
“So that’s why he decided to run for President?” Grace asked. She rocked her chair closer to her grandfather.
“But you said…”
“I said he was ticked off, but there’s a little more to the story. See, those bachelor farmers don’t have much of a life but cultivating, herding and milking, from before dawn to after sundown. Their pastime is reading their Bibles and the news. In the Beauchamp brothers’ case, that wasn’t just the Adirondack Enterprise, but included the Montreal Gazette…a major newspaper without any biases here in the States.”
“So?” Grace said, blinking.
“So Rodney and Roland looked at the whole American geopolitical scene as world citizens, not just North Country farmboys. And they didn’t take kindly to how we got neck-deep in the Big Muddy of the Mekong with that whole Tonkin Gulf decision letting LBJ essentially declare war, when it’s actually the role of Congress, not the President. They felt the powers that be had ripped and set fire to their Constitution. That and all those boys tearing up their farm on the road to Canada settled Rodney’s decision.”
“To run for President…”
“Actually, to BE President. He figured if the Constitution was no longer the law of this land, he’d make it the law of his own land. So Rodney declared his two hundred acres the sovereign United State of America and himself as its President,” Ed said with that grin again.
“Awww, Pa…” Grace said, pushing her chair back and turning to leave the kitchen.
“After the United State army——Roland——chased off some conscientious interlopers by seasoning their backsides with light shotgun loads and rock salt, the State Police found out there was a new country between the old USA and Canada. Rodney and Roland chased them off, but then US marshals declared war on their United State. They stormed the farmhouse before dawn. Roland was ready, but outgunned. That’s when Rodney declared an armistice. The Feds put Border Patrol officers on Rodney’s boundary with Canada and the influx of ‘undesirable aliens’ coming through Rodney’s United State national cow pasture dropped a trickle,” Ed said.
“Sure, Pa,” Grace called from the living room.
Ed shook his head and recalled the last words he heard Rodney say before they hauled him off to jail and put Roland in the back of the coroner’s station wagon.
“You have no standing in my country. You don’t have jurisdiction to make me do or not do anything. I’m a proud citizen and President of this United State and here, under our constitution, I decide those things. And you can’t stop us. This is just the beginning. Your failed nation no longer has a moral or political center, no rudder. You’re adrift. I don’t think you’ll ever get back to being the real United States anymore,” Rodney Beauchamp said.
“That was one tough old bird,” Ed said under his breath.
He pulled his laptop in front of him and clicked up the New York Times’ site. After reading a few stories there, he visited the Plattsburgh Press-Republican’s site. After ten minutes, he returned to the den where he and Grace had started this history lesson. She had changed the channel from CNN to Fox, which she always laughed at, but her grandfather shook his head at both channels.
“You know, Gracie, not too many days have gone by since they took old Rodney away that I haven’t seen something that made me think he was onto something with that ripped-up Constitution idea. I’ve seen it twisted and folded and sometimes mutilated by the ruling class and the common man alike,” he said, slumping into his leather chair. He knew he couldn’t stand to watch any more election fallout stories. His constitution couldn’t take much more.
“Would you turn on the PBS station, please, Gracie? I think it’s time for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I think I need my sense of right, wrong and the fair treatment of your fellow man…or tiger… reinforced.”
© Joe Hesch