Tag Archives: Leap

Running From President 4

It’s hard to say who made the first mistake. Certainly Leap’s mother should never have named him Leap, even if he was born on Leap Day. Some temptations just have to be resisted. Worse, she should have spoken his name out loud when she named him. Leap Alan Hed, for heaven’s sake. How could she have missed that Alan would become A., and no one could ever meet her son without saying Leap A. Hed.

Leap wasn’t blameless himself. By fighting back to the point of absurdity, he made himself famous enough to come to the public’s attention. Counting his age by leap-day-birthdays and calling himself 16 when he was in his sixties — that’s just asking to be noticed.

Of course Billy Joe Barker was to blame for touting him as a write-in candidate for President. Then when he said that Leap was sane because he really didn’t want to be President, it was the last nail in Leap’s coffin.

People never give you what you want, but they always give you what you don’t want. Didn’t anybody know that?

Shelia Barnstaple of Wilmington, Ohio started a blog called I Want Leap for President. Wilton Damonson of Ash Fork, Arizona started a competing blog called Leap on the Bandwagon, also using the hashtag #LeaponforLeap. You would not believe how many people have 140 characters worth of something to say.

Throughout August, as Donald sank in the polls, people first sighed with relief, then suddenly realized that Hillary would probably win. Someone published a poem anonymously that read:

When Donald came I feared the worst,
If he won it just might kill me.
He surely was the worst of worst,
But second worst was Hillary.

Within days the doggerel was re-posted four million times, and a hundred and ninety-two people were claiming authorship.

Meanwhile, Shelia Barnstaple and Wilton Damonson combined forces and the draft Leap movement really took off. Leap found his house in Dannebrog surrounded by reporters. It looked like Marilyn Lovell’s lawn in Apollo 13. Leap came out with a shotgun to run them off, but they only clicked their cameras faster. He retreated. The shotgun was never loaded, since Leap was basically a peaceful fellow, but the hashtag #Leapforlawandorder raced around the globe at the speed of light.

Leap drew the shades and locked his doors, turned out all the lights but one, and settled in to wait out the silliness with his paperback collection of Nero Wolfe novels. After an hour, the reporters started pounding on his door, then on his windows, and finally on the walls of his house. He couldn’t call for help since he didn’t have a phone, but his neighbors took pity and brought in the county sheriff. He drove the mob back into the street.

That night, Barnstaple and Damonson posted a call to join Leap in his Silent Vigil for America. Three hundred thousand people promised that they would.

Sometime during the night, a darkly clothed figure joined the reporters briefly, then quietly faded away. Once it was light the next morning, Armin Arkin of WFUD noticed that the back door was ajar and announced that he was going in. Within minutes, the street was empty and the house was jammed with anchors and their cameramen elbowing for room to broadcast.

Leap had disappeared. more tomorrow

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Running From President 3

It was a bad week in mid-August. Donald was imploding and Hillary should have been, but Donald kept grabbing the microphone. Nobody was thinking about e-mails because Donald kept spinning out one-liners. The Democrats were simultaneously frightened that he might win, and exulting in the poll numbers that said he never could. The Republicans were furious at lost opportunities, and tearing their hair out over the poll numbers.

On Sunday, August 14th, Billy Joe Barker sat down in front of his computer to compose his weekly commentary for the Tulsa World. The column was called Thank God Its Monday, but this night he simply couldn’t find anything to be thankful for. He had had such high hopes for Trump, but that was only a bitter memory now.

Then inspiration took him by the throat. His fingers flew across the keyboard and he hummed happily as he typed out the doom of a poor schmuck who had never done him any harm.

Please Mr. Custer

If you are old enough, you may remember a novelty song from 1960 called Please Mr. Custer. A trooper was complaining to commanding officer, who happened to be George Armstrong Custer, that he really didn’t want to go with him on his ride out to see what the Indians at the Little Big Horn were up to.

I don’t blame him. Nobody blamed him. It was a good laugh and nobody thought the trooper was unpatriotic for yelling, “I don’t want to go.”

I thought of that trooper today as I remembered my column of August first. It was about Leap Alan Hed, the boy who was born on leap day. Kids teased him so much when he was young about his name, Leap A. Hed, that he got back by counting his age by leap-year birthdays. He told me himself, when I interviewed him over the phone, that it was a piece of silliness he regrets to this day.

I invited him to run for President as a humor candidate, and offered to carry his campaign in this column. He turned me down flat, and I called him the sanest man in America because he really doesn’t want to be President. He doesn’t even want to pretend he wants to be President.

The trooper in the old song said, “I don’t want to go,” and Leap said, “I don’t want to be President.” Fifty-six years apart –- the last two sane men in America.

I wanted to vote for Trump, I really did, but I can’t. Hillary –- never mind. And the outliers, not them either.

On November 8, I am going to write in Leap Alan Hed, the last sane man in America. If you find Donald and Hillary as unpalatable as I do, I invite you to join me.

The piece was picked up by AP and UPI. All across the nation, every anchor with two minutes to spare read part of it on his broadcast. It became a phenomenon.

The reason was clear to those who paid attention. For a year, Donald Trump had given the talking heads something to cover. He was fun; he was colorful. He was safe. Nobody in his or her right mind thought he would ever win anything, and the rest of the Republican candidates were a dreary lot.

Then he won the nomination. The talking heads felt panic, and a massive sense of guilt at the idea of “What have we done?”

By the time relief arrived through Donald’s spiraling self-destruction, they were really tired of him. And they had always been tired of Hillary. Leap was a breath of fresh air. Leap was something different they could talk about, and he was safe. No one could ever take seriously the candidacy of a man who refused to run.

It seemed as safe as betting against Donald had seemed.

How quickly we forget. more Monday

Running From President 2

Billy Joe Barker, newsman, regular contributor to the Tulsa World was a long time Republican. He had a dalliance with liberalism during the sixties when he thought he was a hippie. He had the hair for it back then, and it’s the only part of that era he misses. By the mid-seventies he was back to a buzz cut and back to being a Republican.

Billy Joe hated Hillary, passionately. He was a Ted Cruz supporter, despite the hesitation Okies have for anything from Texas, but Cruz didn’t last. Billy Joe really tried to like Donald Trump, but he couldn’t. The last straw was watching Trump’s first interview with his new running mate Mike Pence. After that, Barker had a continuing  vision of Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy on his knee. He gave up on Trump even before Cruz said, “Vote your conscience.”

Barker couldn’t begin to support Hillary, couldn’t stand the Libs and Greenies, and knew there was no hope for a third party. He was flummoxed. That’s when he decided to use the Tulsa World to push a pseudo-candidacy. He didn’t care who he ran, it was just a joke in a political season that had lost any taste of humor. He needed someone like Pat Paulsen, back when Billy Joe was briefly a hippie.

On the same day that he came to that conclusion, he read about Leap Alan Hed in Reader’s Digest. The article told about Leap celebrating birthdays only on years with a leap day, and about his claim to be 16 even though he was born in 1952. Billy Joe Barker had found his candidate.

First he had to locate him; that took two days. Leap had moved to Dannebrog, Nebraska, a bustling metropolis of 307 people. Wiki says 306, but that was before Leap moved in. Billy Joe called him long distance. That took a day of phone tag since Leap didn’t have a phone, and had to take the call at a neighbor’s house.

Billy Joe explained his proposition. Leap almost fell off his chair laughing. He said, “You’ve got to be out of your damned mind. The second worst part of what you want me to do is the campaigning. The worst part is, if I lie well enough, I might win. The answer is no!”

Billy wrote up his weekly column for the Tulsa World, telling the story of his aborted search for a candidate. At the end, he said, “If only crazy people run for the office of President, then Leap Alan Hed is the sanest person in America. He really doesn’t want the job.”

Beware of what you ask for. Or what you don’t ask for. more tomorrow

564. The Tale of Leap Alan Hed

In 2016, after a month and a half of extremely serious writing about race in America. I decided to celebrate with a bit of total nonsense. I chose to do it on Leap Day, because what better time for silliness than a day that only comes every fourth year.

I had intended it to be a one time bit of humor about an accidental President. It wasn’t anti-Trump, because at that time the idea that Donald Trump would become president was a million miles from anyone’s mind.

I went on with my life, getting ready for the release of Cyan and writing blogs on writing, science, and science fiction. I wasn’t worried about Trump. I was worried about Clinton. I eventually voted for her, while holding my nose, but my sympathies were with Bernie, or some other Democrat. Apparently a lot of people felt the same way.

I was aware of Trump, but I wasn’t thinking much about him. I just hoped the Republican candidate would be someone I could vote for if Clinton became the Democratic candidate.

By July, Trump was in the race and looking more and more ugly. But lest we forget, the prospects of Clinton as President didn’t look that good to a lot of us either. 2106 was beginning to stack up as a lose-lose situation. Reasonable candidates were failing fast in both parties.

I brought Leap Alan Hed, the nobody who won the Presidency by accident, back for a reprise and continued his story throughout the summer and fall. I bid him farewell the night before the election and faced reality with a post written in September but posted the day after the election.

In September I reprised the poem Hungry, about a border wall. That is another prophetic piece that I wish weren’t so accurate.

All the things I wrote fearfully about that summer have come true, along with more misery than I could have anticipated. Now I am bringing Leap back for a re-run, beginning today over in Serial. Everything has been tweaked to read smoothly, but ninety-nine percent remains unchanged.

Think of this as a presidential campaign in an alternate universe. And besides, politics aside, it’s just a good story about a nice guy who found himself in completely over his head. These posts have never been put in one place before, to simply be enjoyed as a story.

Running From President 1

In 2016, after a month and a half of extremely serious writing about race in America. I decided to celebrate with a bit of total nonsense. It didn’t work out the way I had anticipated. For a longer version of that story, look at today’s AWL post.

This is the story of Leap Alan Hed and his unintended write-in bid for the presidency. Think of this as a presidential campaign in an alternate universe.

======

Once upon a time – 1952, I think it was — there was a kid who was born on Leap Day.

His Dad was named Alan Hed, and he wanted to give his son the same name, but his wife had a quirky sense of humor. She told the nurse to call the boy Leap, as in Leap Alan Hed. When he was really young, his dad called him Alan and his mother called him Leap, but when he got old enough for school, his kindergarten teacher — who was a mean bastard, anyway  — called him Leap A. Hed. That brought about a sudden parent conference and after that the dad got his way, and the boy tried to forget that his first name was Leap.

People wouldn’t let him forget, and finally he gave in and refused to answer to a Alan any more. He went further. He decided that if he was going to be the boy with all those nicknames:

Leap Boy
Leap Frog
Leap for Cover
Leap Forward
Leap Back
.  .  .  and of course, still, interminably, Leap Ahead  .  .  .

.  .  .  if he was going to have to put up with all those stupid names, he was going to go all the way. I refused to celebrate his birthday on the twenty-eighth of February or the first of March. He only celebrated it on February twenty-ninth.

Worse, he counted his age by birthdays. When he was sixteen, he started putting his age down as four. He spent a lot of time talking to the principal about that, but they finally got tired of the whole business. You might say he out-stubborned them.

He couldn’t out-stubborn the draft board. When they said he was eighteen and he said he was four, they didn’t buy it. He claimed discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. He might have made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but when the 1969 draft lottery was held, February twenty-ninth drew number 285, so the draft board dropped the case.

After that his life calmed down. He never married (he claimed he was too young) and the IRS was indulgent. They figured he would regret his claims when he wasn’t eligible for Social Security until he was 260 years old.

Unfortunately for Leap – or Leap Boy, as the media eventually called him – some joker heard about his claims and put him up for President in 2016. This is the story of that event. more tomorrow

236. American Voices

If you are just discovering Leap Alan Hed, his story is getting rather long. Try the tag cloud under Leap.

Leap Alan Hed was going to Tulsa, to have it out with Billy Joe Barker. It had been eight weeks since he left his home in Dannebrog, running from the media circus that Barker had set in motion by calling on Americans to write in Leap’s name for President. Barker had started it all; Leap figured Barker owed it to him to at least try to stop it.

It was hard for Leap to travel. He could go by bus, slumped down, face covered by the brim of his hat, and take his chances on being recognized. That was how he got to Hays, Kansas. There he picked up a ride with a friend of a friend from Dannebrog who took him as far as northern Oklahoma. He found himself stranded in Ochelata on a Sunday morning.

By now Leap was hungry for normalcy, and on Sunday morning, that meant church. He couldn’t go in, of course. If you are from the city, or the north, you may not know this, but when you go into a small town southern church as a visitor, everyone in the congregation will come up and shake your hand, ask you your name, welcome you to their fellowship, and half of them will invite you for Sunday dinner. Leap would have loved that, but since his face had been in every newspaper in America . . .

The Ochelata Baptist Church was a long, low green roofed building, built around a courtyard. There was a park on the east, so that was the direction Leap used for his approach. He walked in, as bold as if he belonged there, across the park to the blind back of the sanctuary where he settled down hidden by a few trash cans and sat for two hours listening to the service taking place on the other side of the wall. From time to time, his eyes were awash with the moisture of homesickness.

He slept the day out in a wooded ravine, and walked southward on Highway 75 during the night. Morning found him somewhere, but he didn’t know where, hungry, cold, and discouraged. He was in front of a convenience store, on the outskirts of a small town, so he pulled up the hood of his sweatshirt and went in. He kept his eyes floorward as he picked out a couple of donuts and a cup of coffee, and didn’t look up at the checkout where the surveillance cameras are clustered. Outside again, he found a bench at the edge of the light.

He was on his second donut when a pickup rolled to a stop. A man of fifty got out and exchanged a few parting words with his driver before she u-turned and disappeared. Everything about their casual friendliness said man and wife. He was carrying a brown paper bag that said “lunch”. He crossed to Leap’s bench and sat down.

He glanced at Leap, looked away, then his head snapped back again. He studied Leap for about five seconds, then turned his head back toward the road and didn’t look again.

Discovered! This man knew exactly who Leap was, but he made no acknowledgment. With eyes averted, the man talked as casually as if he didn’t know Leap’s identity. Leap had seen that reaction several times in the farm country and small towns where he had been wandering these last weeks. People in rural America have a respect for privacy and a willingness to mind their own business which he found admirable

Leap’s benchmate said was waiting for a bus that would take him west to Sperry where he had a job as a school custodian. And, yes, there was another bus that went south to Tulsa. After twenty years as a skilled lathe operator in a small factory, the man had lost his job after 2008. He had been out of work, except for odd jobs, for seven years, and now he was pushing a broom at age fifty, and glad to get the work.

He had gone from Democrat, to Republican, then further with the rise of the Tea Party. He had no faith in government, no faith in politicians, but he still had faith in free enterprise. Where he had worked all his life, the owner had been just down the hall, working all day behind a second hand desk in a room with plywood walls. They had gone to the same church, and every decision the owner had made had included concern for his employees.

The factory made small parts, that went onto larger parts, that then went onto automobiles. In 2008, the system collapsed and the factory folded. Leap’s temporary friend blamed free trade and Hillary and Obama. He did not blame large corporations and their CEOs. His vision of free enterprise was a hard working owner in a dusty plywood room, with forty hard working employees out on the floor making things. Multi-national corporations were outside his experience and outside his imagination.

The bus rolled up with whoosh of air brakes. As the man got up, he added, shaking his head, “Donald Trump says he’s going to fix all that.”

“Do you believe him?”

“No, not really.”

“Are you going to vote for him?”

“I might. Probably not, though. It’s hard to vote for a man that full of hate.”

After a pause, he added, “I might just throw my vote away on this guy called Leap. That way I won’t be responsible for what happens later.”