One chimney sweep's prescription for America includes a strong dose of reality.
With the media dominated by debates, polls and pundits, I needed some straight talk and relief. So I was happy when my chimney sweep rumbled up the driveway last week, even though I knew he’d talk my arm and leg off. It’s worth every minute. Call it the real world.
Dan wants to talk about two things — politics and hunting, and not necessarily in that order. He studies both with equal interest. On hunting, he’ll regale you with story after story about hunting ducks and deer. Right now, the duck hunting is good, but he’s concerned about his Labrador. She doesn’t want to retrieve ducks.
As for politics, his pickup truck leaves no room for doubt. Bumper stickers for Tammy Baldwin, Barack Obama and state Senator Julie Lassa decorate the truck. Governor Scott Walker is represented, too, but it’s not the kind of sticker Walker would want you to see.
Speaking of Walker, Dan says this about all the recalls of the past two years: “At least they shut him up for a while.” Despite falling short of dumping Walker, recalls of state senators tipped the scales, he noted. “You haven’t heard him saying much lately, have you? So the recalls worked,” he asserts. Well, actually, Walker has been talking some of late, mostly about the agency he created that lost track of $8 million in loans. But that’s another story, one that Dan knows all about.
He follows this stuff closely. He must read a lot, because he’s at least as informed as some of the talking heads who pose for experts on the airwaves. Here’s a guy who works two jobs to make a living. At one work site, he belongs to the union, where he argues with his union rep about negotiations with the company. Dan thinks the workers deserve more than they’re asking for, and he ticks off a list of reasons why. For his part, he’d like to earn enough money to pay for a mortgage on a little home where he could hunt out his back door. That doesn’t seem to be asking too much.
I ask him what his fellow workers think about his bumper stickers. “They don’t say much,” he says. “Most of them are for Obama.”
Before he goes up two stories to clean the chimney for our wood stove, I serve him some toast and coffee, which he takes willingly. We talk about the economy. He knows the subject well, knows how hard it is to scrape out a living.
The topic turns to the so-called Great Recession that Obama inherited four years ago. “That wasn’t a recession,” he says, his voice rising. “That was a depression. You couldn’t find a job anywhere. That’s a depression.” Things are better now, he says. “If you look in the shopper, there are advertisements for jobs. Four years ago, there was nothing. Nothing.”
I find myself wishing there were more people like this guy. He’s lean as a bean, all sinew and muscle. He’s a skilled mason who can not only clean your chimney but build you a new one if you’d like. He goes from that job to another workplace every day, mostly for the insurance, and he takes simple pleasure in his outdoor pursuits.
We’ve been having these autumn chats for years. I’ve referred him to other friends, who’ve referred him to still others. I’m reminded that if we have an election party this year, Dan is going to be on the invite list. Every political event needs at least one guy who speaks common sense.
October 23, 2012
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Bill Berry is a FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Stevens Point and writes columns for the Capital Times and other publications.