The Reverie of a Busy Mind at 4 AM, December 3, 2019

Harry Welty

Charcoal sketch of Daniel Marsh Welty by his wife, Georganne, circa 1960
Charcoal sketch of Daniel Marsh Welty by his wife, Georganne, circa 1960

   Woke up thinking about my Dad, long gone these 33 years. A parade of thoughts, one after another strung together like the last thoughts of a man falling to his death. Dad, the 14-year-old who made lists of the candidates his parents should vote for in his indignation at the corruption of Democrat, Boss Pendergast in next door Kansas City. Who walked irradiated Hiroshima weeks after it was leveled. Whose younger brother removed his car’s tires and left it on cinder blocks before his first date with my Mom knowing that Dad didn’t know the difference between a hammer and a crescent wrench. The young man given a job in his Uncle’s bank who along with the other impressionable young tellers were traumatized by the ribaldry of a coworker who regaled the boys with tales of her many abortions. This during the Eisenhower Era in Arkansas City, Kansas, four miles north of Oklahoma grown rich by defrauding Indians out of their oil. Who offered his public official boss the unwelcome advice not to accept expensive gifts from the companies their office was charged to regulate, and who wisely left to take a job working in Minnesota to teach and who taught well despite letting loose an infamous stream of profanity in class. Who tried to bribe me during my awkward stage by offering me fifty cents for every girl I cut the rug with. Who taught me to count to 100 and who helped me collect the stamps of nations he was eager to travel to. Who was a champion for the idea of hosting the first black student to enroll at my high school and who told me I would live to a ripe old age even as he secretly expected to die at age 49 like his father before him. Who told me of the power of self fulfilling prophecies and, in his last act, proved it by dying far too young and worse, went to his maker knowing that his son who kept losing local elections had just lost his third teaching job through sheer incompetence.

   Maybe all these thoughts were prompted by my Father-in-law’s death two days ago as the eighth snowiest blizzard in Duluth’s history bore down on us. Maybe it was the hours of lonely snow shoveling the following day. Maybe it was the three shrews I saw racing with a will over the beautiful barrenness of fresh snow to hunt down half their body weight in prey by the end of the day. One hid in a hole my boot had made, and another caught my attention by cutting loose a string of shrewish expletives that would have made my Dad smile. He was taking issue with a crow that took him for an easy meal but the shrew, no bigger than my thumb, lunged at the Pterosaur and knocked it back on its tail feathers before dashing for safety to the corner of my garage. Maybe he jinxed it because two days later a city snowplow dislodged a decorative boulder which in turn knocked out bricks where the shrew had hidden.

   After crawling out of bed to type up these stray thoughts I peered out the window by our annual Christmas jigsaw puzzle. Three stars shined through our city’s light pollution. Even in the darkest unlit corners of Earth the naked eye can only distinguish a couple thousand stars, and these are our neighbors. If our bodies were the Milky Way these few stars would stretch no farther than across our fingernails. Missing from our eyesight are two hundred billion additional stars. At light speed it would take a photon forty 100-year lifetimes to reach the farthest of these visible stars. It would take 10,000 100-year lifetimes for it to reach the far side of the Milky Way. And beyond this lie a trillion other galaxies. I take some satisfaction in knowing that we humans are each of us a galaxy composed of a trillion symbionts and parasites living alongside our cells. It takes a special planet to keep a human in good order. We will never in a million years find another star to take Earth’s place.

   Worryingly, the corruption that so offended a young Dan Welty lives on fed by the heedless destruction of our only habitable planet by billionaires in league with the spawn of Pendergast - Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, Duterte and Donald Trump. They choke our whales, birds, fish and corals with plastic and salt the land with chemicals a billion years’ worth of life has never encountered.

   Thanks Dad. You were a good little Republican to worry about Boss Pendergast and his heirs. Little did you know that you were a RINO.

Harry Welty is a small town eccentric who paints more opinions than you could shake a stick at wherever he finds a boxcar on the Internet.