Tag Archives: Leap

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.”

225. Somewhere in America

Leap Alan Hed has been around all summer. If you want to look up the rest of his story, go to the tag cloud and hit Leap.

From Leap Alan Hed, somewhere in America, to a favorite cousin,
(I can’t tell you exactly where he is. Someone might find this.)

Dear Anne,

I’m still on the run from the news media and from those who would write me in as President.  I’ve been on the road now for about six weeks. I’ve lost weight and grown a beard, but anyone who looks closely could still recognize me, so I stay hidden most of the time. That was almost a blessing at first. The high Rockies were beautiful when I could stay there. It has been getting colder every day for a while now, and I have had to come down, so I am once again hiding too close to people.

I thought the desert would be open and empty enough for me to go unnoticed, but it isn’t. I stumbled onto a deserted shack and made myself comfortable last night. Then I had midnight visitors. Five Mexicans: two young men, one young woman, a child, and an old man. They must have been a family. You could tell they were just over the border and on their way north looking for work.

Donald would have crapped himself to be caught by a bunch of “rapists and murderers”, but, of course, they were just frightened people, looking for a little peace. And hungry. Both hungry in the long term sense that had sent them looking for work, and hungry right now. I don’t speak enough Spanish to matter, but sometimes smiles and gestures are enough. I shared my food with them. I cooked up all I had, but it wasn’t enough. Tomorrow I’ll have to take a chance and find a place to buy more.

They left this morning before the sun came up. They were very quiet as they went, but the child’s voice woke me. The old man was last to leave. He is probably my age but he looks a hundred years old. He saw that I was awake, so I said, “VIa con Dios,” and he made a little wave as he slipped out the door. I wish them well, but I fear for them. I fear that they will be caught, or die in the desert as so many do. And I fear for what will happen to them after November.

Damn these people who chose Hillary and Donald, and now they hound me to run as a joke President. I’ll bet they thought it was funny, when it all started. Well, very little of this seems funny to me now.

I’d better quit so I can mail this when I go looking to buy food. Anyway, if I get any angrier, I’ll set the paper on fire just touching it. Soon November will have come and gone, and I can come out of hiding, and see you and Ted again. Bake me an apple pie, say November 15th, and I’ll be there to eat it.

I wonder what will become of my new Mexican friends in November?

      Love,
      Leap

217. Interview, by G, part 2

There must be a thousand Democrats that would make a better president than Hillary, and a hundred thousand Republicans who would make a better president than Trump. That line is from yesterday’s post. Since this is part 2, you really should read part 1 before continuing.

G.: “If the choices are so unpalatable, would you choose one anyway?”

Leap: “Choice isn’t really the word. I would vote for Hillary if I could, but since I’m on the run from the media, there is no way I can get within miles of my polling place.”

G.: “You wouldn’t vote for a write-in, or a registered third party?”

Leap: “Third parties never win. Third party candidates don’t expect to win, they are just using the election to make a statement about their beliefs. If a third party candidate won, it would scare hell out of him. Just like me.”

G.: “So you don’t really like Hillary, you think third parties are throwing away your vote, and you don’t want the job. So why not Donald Trump?”

Leap: “The wall. A million reasons, but most of all, the wall.”

Leap continues: “Let me tell you a story. I worked as an engineer all my life. The company I worked for built farm equipment. Once, they sent me to California for a few years, to a plant near Salinas.

“There weren’t any undocumenteds in our facility, although more than half the staff were Mexican American. Several of them became my close friends, and they are the ones who opened my eyes to the facts.

“I spent a lot of time in the field, watching the equipment we built being used. Everywhere I went I saw swarms of migrant farm workers. Mexicans – that’s what everybody called them. Whether they were Mexican American, legal immigrants, or illegal immigrants didn’t matter. Mexicans. I saw how hard they worked and under what terrible conditions. I saw the shacks they lived in, and it didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem American.

“I asked my Mexican American friends back at the plant and they explained. Farm workers live in fear of immigration officers. Even the ones who are here legally know a whole community of those who aren’t, or at least are on the borderline of legality. Children who were born here, American citizens, live in fear that their parents will be deported.

“It makes them pliable. Deportation is a whip in the hands of their employers.

“A wall – what a joke. We have a wall. It doesn’t stop the hungry, because it isn’t supposed to stop the hungry. It exists to let workers through, and then remind them that if they step out of line, they will find themselves back on the other side.

“America couldn’t survive without a wall that lets through workers who will be silent and docile and work for slave wages under slave conditions.”

*****

Foolish Leap. He set up the interview to show how much he didn’t want to be a write-in candidate, the made the mistake of letting his passion show. He made the mistake of making sense, in a world that is hungry for sense, so of course he made his own life worse.

The interview galvanized the nation. Leap’s anti-candidacy went from being a curiosity to being a real alternative. New websites sprang up everywhere, along with tweets by the hundreds of thousand, and even a dozen fake Facebook accounts.

The biggest of them all was hashtag #Leapthewall. Commentators were forced to search for a new term to replace “went viral”. Viral didn’t do it justice.

And Leap went back on the run.

216. Interview, by G, part 1

If you are new to Leap’s plight, you can catch up at 178. Leap Boy, back in the news, 192. Billy Joe Takes a Leap, 200. The Last Sane Man and 203. Leap on the Bandwagon.

Leap Alan Hed is on the run, not from any crime, not from angry criminals, but from the insatiable news media. When Billy Joe Barker proposed him as a write-in candidate for President, they descended on his house and he fled. Now a couple of weeks have passed.

He went north at first, toward the Canadian border, but he couldn’t find a way to pass over without being spotted. He turned south-west and tried to lose himself in the Rockies, but things have changed there, too. Where every cirque and valley used to be filled with old-time prospectors, broken down cowboys, and overly hopeful hippies, now every mountaintop is capped by a mansion with a movie star living inside.

I’m not sure where he went after that. He didn’t confide much to me, and after the paranoia set in, I don’t know how much of what he said was true. Being on the run will do that to you.

The media was hot on his trail and they have almost infinite resources. They would have found him in no time if they had cooperated. Instead, they guarded their sources, set misinformational rumor afoot, and generally got in each other’s way.

Leap stayed one step ahead of them, but it wasn’t a life worth living. He finally decided to give an interview to satisfy the world’s curiosity, and get everyone off his back. Poor fool. Giving one interview was like the old story of the man who reached for a bucket of water to put out a fire, and found out too late that it was gasoline. But Leap was an innocent, and innocents are doomed.

He wrote a letter to G. at —BC news, proposed a time and place. They met in the home of a distant relative (who was himself harassed for the next three weeks).

*****

G. spoke to the camera, briefly outlining events to date, then asked, “Why did you run and why have you agreed to this interview?”

Leap described the siege of Dannebrog, and some of the things that had happened since, then said, “I’m hoping that telling my story will convince the American people that I am not someone they want to write in for President, and that I can just go home and get my life back. That would be a miracle.”

G.: “I’m not sure that is a miracle we can provide, but go ahead, tell us why you think Americans have become so fascinated by your candidacy.”

Leap: “I’m not a candidate. I’m not running for President. I’m running from President.”

Foolish Leap. He still didn’t understand the phenomenon he had become. Those three words – Running From President – which his farmer friend had said in Grand Island, became the stuff of a thousand headlines and a million tweets.

G.: “Why do you think America has embraced your non-candidacy, then?”

Leap: “Look at the alternatives. We have three hundred million people in America, and this is the best we can put up for President? There must be a thousand Democrats that would make a better president than Hillary, and a hundred thousand Republicans who would make a better president than Trump. But I am not one of them.” The interview continues tomorrow.

204. Running From President

If you missed how this all started, Leap Alan Hed was tagged, against his will, as a write-in candidate for President. He fled in the middle of the night from the media circus that ensued. See 178. Leap Boy, back in the news, 192. Billy Joe Takes a Leap, 200. The Last Sane Man and 203. Leap on the Bandwagon.

Leap was born in 1952, on Leap Day, which was the start of all his troubles. He made his run from the media in his 64th year. That isn’t an age to start running.

Leap didn’t drink much, had never smoked, and had never had a wife, so he wasn’t too broken down. Still, 64 is 64.

Leap followed the genetic pattern of the American species. He headed west. That wasn’t hard in Nebraska where all county roads are routed by compass. He was in the middle of nowhere, half way to Rockville, when a pickup ground to a stop beside him and the driver motioned him to get in. The manure crusted on the wheels and fenders was reassuring; this was not a TV person. Besides, the sun was coming up, Leap was tired, and an old man walking down an empty road would be easy to spot from the air. Paranoia, or whatever you call it when they are really after you, had set in, and Leap had no problem imagining a horde of drones fanning out across the landscape, looking for him.

True to form, all Leap got from the driver was a nod and a grunt until they were back up to speed and a mile had passed under the tires. Then he said, “You’re Hed.” Leap admitted that he was. “Saw your picture in the newspaper. Heard about the ruckus in Dannebrog.” Then he called the newsmen a word that two men in a truck might use, but would never like to see written down. Leap agreed with him.

Another mile passed. The driver said, “How did you get into this mess, anyhow?”

“How does a guy get struck by lightning? Bad luck. Real bad luck.”

“How come you’re running for President?”

“I’m not! Some (and he used that word again) from Tulsa called me up and tried to get me to run as a joke. I said no, and he didn’t take no for an answer. Now the whole country wants me to run, or pretend to run, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

At Rockville, the driver turned left, crossed the Platte River and followed highway 68 toward Ravenna. He said, “You got any money? If you’re gonna run, you’ll need money.”

“Some. I took the rainy day money out of the sock drawer before I left.”

“I could loan you forty.”

“No, you keep it. But thanks.”

They drove on in silence. Fifteen miles later, as they were coming into Grand Island, the driver said, “I’ll drop you at the bus station.” Leap nodded. He didn’t ask the driver’s name. It didn’t matter, really. In the short time he had lived in Dannebrog, Leap had met a dozen men and women who would have helped him out just as automatically, with no hesitation and no thought of reward. In fact, Leap would have done the same himself.

At the bus station, he walked around the pickup and reached up to shake the hand of his new, anonymous friend.  For the first time he saw him full face, not profile. He was tanned and whiskered, lean, maybe forty years old, with a ball cap and a khaki shirt. He grinned at Leap and said, “Running from president. God almighty. Only in America.”

Leap said, “What would you do if they tried to stick you with the job?”

“Run like a deer, leap like an antelope, burrow like a prairie dog. Anything it took to get away.  Good luck. I hope they don’t catch you.”

**        **       **        **

For those of you who don’t live in Nebraska but still recognized the name Dannebrog in the last two posts, yes, you’re right, this is an homage to Roger Welsch, who would also run from President.

203. Leap on the Bandwagon

This series starts with 178. Leap Boy, back in the news and continues in 192. Billy Joe Takes a Leap and then in 200. The Last Sane Man.

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 public 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 breifly, 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, but Leap had disappeared.

200. The Last Sane Man

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 wouldn’t. 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 didn’t even want to pretend he wanted 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.