More Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 11, 2002


Column
By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
December 11, 2002

In my imagination, I see...
(Note from Virgil: The dogs, the pavement, the dirt roads, the tire tracks, the deep woods, the mailbox, the chain saw and gunfire are real. Everything else in this column is a product of my imagination.)
Monday through Friday they are there. Saturday and Sunday they are gone.
The winding dirt road leaves the pavement and disappears in the deep woods. There must be a dwelling place at the end of that road: a cabin, a small house, a big house, a mansion. In my imagination I see a rustic cabin.
The road is sparsely traveled. You see fresh tire tracks only on weekends. And you don’t see very many tracks then. It’s as if someone drives in before dawn on Saturday and drives out very late Sunday night. I have yet to see anyone come or go.
Whoever he is (I assume it is a he) could be driving a luxury automobile, a massive SUV, a small foreign-make car, or a pick-up truck. In my imagination I see a rather old pickup with dented bumpers and doors and a gun rack in back.
There may be a connection between the fresh tire tracks and the disappearance of the dogs on weekends.
Two black dogs. I don’t think they are Black Labs. Their noses are too pointed. And they are too small, smaller than the white dog in Terry Kay’s novel. If they are of a registered breed, I don’t know what breed it is.
All I know is, they spend their daylight hours, Monday through Friday, by the side of a winding dirt road that leaves the pavement and disappears in the deep woods.
The dogs station themselves in the edge of the woods near, but never on, the pavement. There they keep a silent, almost motionless, vigil.
One of the black dogs, the larger one, I think would like to be friends. He wags his tail when I pass by on my daily walks and call to him and tell him he is a good dog. The smaller one looks at me suspiciously, and sometimes gets up and moves farther back in the woods.
The dogs are well fed. You can tell by the sheen on their coats. And they are not skinny like the emaciated strays that roam the roadways and nose around in some litterbug’s McDonald’s real deal meal sack or a Wendy’s biggie fries box.
I don’t believe anybody’s feeding the dogs on weekdays. I say that because nobody’s picking up the mail. If someone was doing one of those chores, it looks like he or she would be doing the other.
On the corner, at the intersection of the pavement and the dirt road, stands the ancient mailbox. The door, long since rusted and broken, rests inside the box. So the mail is in plain view of the world as it passes by in automobiles and trucks, on bicycles, and on foot. I cannot help but glance inside on my morning and afternoon walks.
The mail begins to accumulate on Monday. By Friday there is a sizeable stack, maybe 15 or 20 pieces. On Saturday and Sunday the box is empty.
So somebody has come home. And what a homecoming it must be, not so much for the person who lives there, but for two black dogs that have kept a silent, almost motionless, vigil by the side of the road for five long days.
In my imagination I see them leaping and licking and joyfully barking because someone they love was lost but now is found. And I see a man joyfully responding to their welcome and giving each a treat as the three of them make their way to the front door of the cabin.
Once inside, the man puts down pans of fresh food and bowls of water for his best friends. Then he builds a fire in the fireplace and settles down to go through the week’s mail.
The two black dogs, unable to decide between the fresh food and their best friend, opt for the friend and playfully interrupt him, much to his delight.
I have no idea where the man goes or what he does. For all I know, he is a brain surgeon who spends the week at Mayo’s Clinic in Rochester, N.Y. Or perhaps he is a captain of industry — a CEO or a super salesman — doing business in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles or Hong Kong. Maybe he is a politician who steals away from Washington on weekends to hide his identity in a rustic cabin at the end of a winding dirt road. He could be a graduate student at Yale who comes home for a well-deserved break.
In my imagination, here is what I see. I see a construction worker (a carpenter, a bricklayer, a bulldozer operator?) working on a project far away, holed up at night in a cheap motel, missing his dogs, hoping no one steals his mail, living for the weekend.
Because of the sounds I hear in the deep woods in the vicinity of the winding dirt road, I see a self-made, strong, rugged individual. The whine of the chain saw tells me that he is felling trees and cutting firewood to keep himself and his two best friends warm on cold winter nights. At dusk on Saturday and at dawn on Sunday, gunfire erupts in the distance, telling me that my unseen and unknown imaginary friend is an avid outdoorsman and hunter.
In my imagination I see him replenishing the black dogs’ five-day food and water supply and safely hiding it in a place inaccessible to the raccoons.
I see him pulling out late Sunday night in his pickup for a construction job far from home.
I see two black dogs chase the pickup to the pavement, then stand forlornly and silently as they watch the taillights disappear in the darkness. I see them station themselves by the side of the winding dirt road that disappears in the deep woods, and there being another long vigil.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

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Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
December 11, 2002

Republican majority could mean limits on rights to sue
Legal reform may be closer than we think, but don’t be surprised if it’s not called that.
Political analysts believe if legal reform were going to happen then it would happen now. We have a President who won limits on lawsuits when he was the governor of Texas and republicans who have control of the Senate and House.
And the lobbyists are clamoring to call legal reform anything but legal reform.
They prefer to call it an “economic development issue” or as President Bush calls it “job creation bills.” The lobbyists argue that limiting consumers’ right to sue will save struggling businesses, preserve jobs and protect access to healthcare.
I’m a republican, but I’m not buying that cow.
Dr. Donald Palmisano, a New Orleans doctor and lawyer who will become president of the American Medical Association (AMA) next year, calls our current justice system “broken” and says that calling legal reform “tort reform” or “malpractice liability limits” gives people opposed to legal reform a foot up. Huh. If calling it what it is arms its opponents then maybe it isn’t such a good idea.
The AMA portends that legal reform would benefit Americans because some doctors have had to quit practicing due to costly malpractice lawsuits and expensive insurance. And that is a shame. So Palmisano’s AMA wants the government to limit medical malpractice lawsuit awards to a maximum of $250,000. So which shame is greater? The doctor with his high insurance bills or handicapping a jury of 12 by telling them that no matter how tragically or needlessly a life ended, that life is only worth $250,000 at best? If it is not the doctor’s fault a patient dies, I believe the jury would know that. I believe in the justice system. If it is the doctor’s fault, if he was negligent, then the amount awarded should be decided by the jury. The incident should warrant the settlement, not a group of people lobbying to decrease insurance rates.
In any business venture, be it saving lives or sweeping floors, we must weigh the costs of doing our job with our returns. It is just that simple.
The problem as I see it with physicians is they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, that is between health insurance and malpractice insurance. It can’t get worse than that. I’m not a big fan of insurance. You buy it, you pay ever increasing premiums and hope you’ll never actually need it or if you do need it you pray your claim won’t be denied because you failed to read the fine print on page 112 of your most recent insurance manual.
We need electricity. It’s regulated. We need gas. It was recently deregulated and most wish it hadn’t been. We need insurance. To drive a car. To see a doctor. To operate a business. Regulate insurance. Put caps on insurance premiums. Limit the number of people getting rich as insurance rates force more people to risk getting caught without it. But don’t tread on my rights as a consumer.
[DISCLAIMER: Let me make it clear that I’m not defending frivolous law suits like the gentlemen claiming McDonald’s made him fat. People filing frivolous lawsuits should have to pay the expense of the trial. I do not believe 12 sane people would find in that man’s favor. Not unless they know something I don’t, like McDonald’s is slipping an ingredient into Big Mac’s which makes them addictive (i.e., Big Tobacco) or false nutritional content statements.]
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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