On Writing, Family, Food, Gossip, Life and Lewiston History
An Interview with J. A. Scribner—Trinity County Writer, Researcher and Publisher

During the summer of 2014, I had the privilege of interviewing local historian, J. A. Scribner, who also happens to be the webmaster of this very site. As presented here, he reveals much about his time in Lewiston, and puts to rest some longstanding misconceptions about his role in the town's social structure, past and present.

Local residents know Mr. Scribner from his past involvement with the Lewiston Schoolhouse Library (and erstwhile museum) and the original Lewiston Food Pantry, to name two prominent institutions, both of which he served on an executive level. But his writing has also been read far and wide by devotees of north state history, through his own self-published Lewiston Community Newsletter and Lewiston Website.

In seeking him out, my aim was to get to the bottom of some rumors I'd been hearing about some recent events in Lewiston, California (population 1400 or so), which, more often than not, had J. A. front and center. Much talk about the man has been on the wires for some time now, especially among locals, and I felt it was time someone ferret out the truth about the town's latest turns of event, as it were.

Simply stated, what the heck has been going on in Lewiston, and how, exactly, is J. A. Scribner involved? I endeavored to solve this mystery first hand, by canvassing the area to ask people here about their impressions of the enigmatic writer and researcher. My quest, which entailed some fascinating findings, culminated with this interview. But, in the process, I found that these queries involved still more questions than the answers they produced.

I met Mr. Scribner for the first time just a few days before our first sit down. For the record, we are not friends nor related in any way. Neither of us has been remunerated for this interview. Our discussion, over the course of three separate meetings, is presented here in its entirety, with an absolute minimum of editing. My participation should not be viewed as my endorsement of any opinions that he has stated herein.

Please also note that certain names have been removed, upon mutual agreement, mainly to protect the privacy of others. To whom it may concern, as they say.

And now...submitted for your approval, as they also say.

J. D. Harris
Trinity County, Calif.


I. Foundations

Q. Just how long have you been a resident of Lewiston?

A. I moved here with my family in 1982, when I was still a teenager.

Q. Have you always been a writer?

A. Well, sure. But I never really had much of an outlet for my writing until I got involved with the Lewiston Schoolhouse group, as a volunteer. That's when I was afforded the opportunity to build the town website. I'd started researching and writing articles for the community newsletter that we were putting out, even before I took over publishing it myself.

Q. The website and newsletter: Are they all about the schoolhouse?

A. Yes and no. The newsletter started out as a mouthpiece for the town library, back in 1997 I believe, which was before my time. Over the years it became more about the town itself, especially after I started as editor in 2003, up until the time it finally had to cease operations altogether, another casualty of the economy. But only for a short time. We finally revamped the Lewiston Community Newsletter just last year, got it back in print in its present form, and now it's all about Lewiston, pretty much. The library organization has nothing to do with its production now either.

"We finally revamped the Lewiston Community Newsletter just last year, got it back in print in its present form, and now it's all about Lewiston"

Q. How were you able to start up the newsletter again, legally speaking?

A. By never relinquishing control once I first started publishing it. Nobody saw fit to copyright it back in the day. So I did so myself many years ago. Of course, nobody could have imagined that anyone would go so far as to try and take it away from us, we volunteers. I'm just glad I had the circumspection to know better. In light of what later happened with the website, it turned out to be a wise decision, copyrighting it along with the web page.

Q. You're referring to the attempt to shut you down last year. We'll come back to that. First, tell me about the website.

A. I started that from scratch in late-2002. One of the hats I wore as a volunteer was that of Publicity Director, for what it was worth. At the time, just as now, everyone and his uncle had a website going—to promote this organization or that non-profit. I figured, why not us? So, I learned how and before long we were on the web. It turned out to be the absolute best publicity tool that Lewiston has had in ages, judging from its web traffic and the number of people who've responded to the site. It gave local tourism a real shot in the arm.

Q. But again, even that's not entirely about the schoolhouse, is it?

A. The web page? No. Even though it still goes by the same name as the institution that I was volunteering for at the time it all began, I've tried to make it more about the town. It really is Lewiston's official website now. Especially in light of the town's long-buried history and the efforts we're making to restore and preserve it.

Q. We'll talk about your role as local historian as well. But before we go any further, let's get something straight here: For the record, what is the nature of your involvement with the non-profit that oversees the Lewiston Schoolhouse today?

A. I am a Life Member of the organization, for one thing. Like about fifty or so other people that I know of, from the old days. And I suppose I'm technically a volunteer still, especially if the residual publicity that is generated by the website counts at all, and it does. But that's about it. Let me be clear: I am not a leader of the institution now, not by any definition. No one should misconstrue my role as webmaster of this site, or anything else I've been doing, as coming from any position of authority within the organization. I'm no longer a director there, and I do not have, nor do I need, the imprimatur of the non-profit to do what I do.

Q. Could you ever see yourself doing that again? Working for that institution, in whatever capacity?

A. I've been asked by a number of people in the community to get back into it. But not likely. It's like the old saw, you can't go home again. That certainly applies here. No, it's enough that I saved the website and newsletter before my departure. That was most important. The safekeeping of our town's history is assured. We don't absolutely need a storehouse for artifacts in Lewiston to have an historical preservation movement here. Ours is still going strong, thanks to these publications.

Q. Let's back up. What was it that qualified you to run a library in the first place?

A. Well, other than a love for books, I had really no experience in such matters. None of us volunteers did, actually. Not in terms of a formal education in Library Science, I mean. But once I signed on as a volunteer, I took more of an interest in our town's library on a managerial level. Only because no one had really been able to see to the nuts and bolts of running the library up to then, beyond the day-to-day volunteerism needed for keeping the building open to the public. I consulted with the Library Director of Trinity County, a great lady, who helped me learn as much as I could about Librarianship 101 in a very short time. From that crash course I was able to make some noticeable changes to the institution, like finally putting the Dewey Decimal Classification in place in 2003.

Q. And the Lewiston Pioneer Museum, which was housed inside the schoolhouse—For a time you were the curator as well?

A. What passed for one. Periodically, we would get donations of old photos and artifacts from Lewiston's past. These I would research, if necessary, to establish their provenance, then label them and display them in the museum. I spent years cataloging all the museum items, creating an extensive database, for posterity.

Q. From what I gather, it sounds like you were pretty much in charge of everything there. Do you take credit for the institution's success during that time?

A. Not at all. And I was no more in charge than anyone else who ever held an executive position. It's like driving a car: You don't get credit for traveling at the speed limit; it's the vehicle that's doing all the work. I was just one of many drivers over the years, only for a relatively brief time, and largely out of necessity. I was blessed to have a legion of supportive predecessors, like Doris Callahan, to name one—true visionaries who laid a strong foundation—and other volunteers who encouraged me along the way, as well as countless co-workers during my time there who, really, deserve the lion's share of the credit for our success. It was beautiful, the way people came together. And I was honored to be one small part of it.

II. The Writer

Q. I'd like to delve deeper into your writing. In addition to what you've written for the website and newsletter, you in fact worked for the Trinity Journal for a time, no?

A. Yes. I was the writer for the Lewiston info column that appears every week. And I submitted articles for the paper's annual tourism supplements as well—things to do in Lewiston, and all that.

Q. Impressive. Where else have we seen your writing?

A. Just on Facebook, mainly. I happen to be one of the many contributors to the local page known as Lewiston NewsandEvents (sic). I've submitted short articles about town happenings in the past. There are about five of us locals who have administrative access to that page, by the way; it doesn't entirely belong to me. But I've mentioned it in the newsletter as a great way for people to stay in touch with local happenings. (pauses) Also, I did a short article for the grand jury's website when I served a couple of years ago, and I've submitted letters to the editor of the Journal a few times. But it's been quite a few years since my last missive.

"I have nothing against the Trinity Gazette, though I do understand how it's upset a few people around here.
But none of my work has ever appeared there, nor ever will quite likely."

Q. What about this new Trinity Gazette newspaper? Some of the stuff in there I've been reading looks suspiciously like your work.

A. Baloney. I wan't to go on record as saying I have never written anything for that newspaper. Not in letter form. Not in article form. Nothing.

Q. Not even using an alias?

A. I do not write under a pseudonym. Look, I have nothing against the Trinity Gazette, though I do understand how it's upset a few people around here. But none of my work has ever appeared there, nor ever will quite likely. If I were to write for it, everyone would know it by my byline, which I put on every work of mine that I submit. Nobody from there has ever asked me for a submission, by the way. And I doubt they will anyway. That publication looks like it has more than enough contributors.

Q. I take it this isn't the first time you've been asked about it.

A. (sighs) I don't know why anyone thinks I even have the time to moonlight as a stirrer of the crap storm around here. If I'm going to write something provocative, I'll put it in one of my own publications, under my own name, all right? I have no qualms whatsoever about ruffling feathers; God knows I've managed to do it in the past. So why would I start hiding behind an alias now? It makes no sense.

III. Pillars

Q. Speaking of being a rabble rouser, let's talk about some of your acquaintances in Lewiston, past and current. Tell me, who exactly is this Steve Lindsay fellow? And what is your association with him?

A. All right. Steve is an expert tracer. If you need to know only one thing about him, it should be that. Back in 2006, I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Steve Lindsay. I'd published an article in the newsletter about the longstanding mystery of our town founder, B. F. Lewis. Nobody really knew what happened to the man back in the day, and only rumors about him survived. So Lindsay, responding to the article, emails me one day expressing interest in the subject. Turns out, he's one of the few locals who actually care enough about our town's history, quite frankly, to immerse himself in it every bit as deeply as I have. And, being a researcher by trade, he has the tools to possibly crack the case, he tells me. So he proceeds to undertake, at his own expense, a search of the public records databases in the Pacific Northwest for any trace of the Lewis name. What he ultimately found was that many of the old rumors about Lewis are not only untrue, but that the man and his family had a lot more going on than anyone here ever realized, at that time or since. Before long, Steve had uncovered the actual obituary for Benjamin Franklin Lewis, which had appeared in an Oregon newspaper in the year 1900. Proof positive of the man's long life, well beyond Lewiston.

Q. Now that right there was enough to turn local history on its head, right?

A. You have no idea. All the information Steve uncovered pretty much debunked all the worst rumors that had been circulating about Lewis, stories I'd been hearing since I moved to Lewiston.

Q. Like what?

A. Oh, how Lewis was nothing more than a common horse thief. That he'd been hanged for his crime. Just a bunch of crap, really. It all started right after he and his family moved away, probably by his few enemies here—some of the people who'd sued him in court, mainly to get his property, his inheritance, in a case that amounted to full ownership of the town itself, really. And all the lies about his supposed criminal record and premature death were printed in the Trinity Journal back then, too. Never have they been retracted though.

"Before long, Steve (Lindsay) had uncovered the actual obituary for Benjamin Franklin Lewis, which had appeared in an Oregon newspaper in the year 1900.
Proof positive of the man's long life, well beyond Lewiston."

Q. So how did you get involved at that point?

A. Being the one who reported on it initially, I felt an obligation to finish the story, if at all possible. Or at least flesh it out as much as I could. That's when I decided to do a bit of footwork. After Lindsay laid the groundwork for me, I traveled to the Columbia Gorge, met with some of their historians and saw for myself that the Lewis grave site in the IOOF cemetery there had no stone marker on it. So, once I got back I undertook a fundraising drive among Lewiston citizens to fund a proper gravestone for the man who our town was named after. Steve was one of our first contributors, financially. The board of the Lewiston non-profit I was working for approved the project, as a matter of historical preservation, which had always been one of the priorities of our group, another extension of the museum element we had in place. I even had the honor of helping compose the actual text that appeared on the tombstone myself. We wanted to make it clear that he was not just a successful miner and merchant here, but the actual namesake of Lewiston, and that's all spelled out right there on the stone, just as it was stated in his obit. It took a few years, but it was finally finished in 2012—gravestone in the ground and all—which also happened to be the 150th anniversary of the old schoolhouse in Lewiston, where the man's children went to school for a time. What a coup.

Q. Wow.

A. So in a nutshell, that's who Steve Lindsay is.

Q. But he's also been a bit of a lightning rod in his own right, true?

A. Look. The man has a few enemies here because he has no compunction whatever about speaking his mind. Whether you view that as a virtue or as a flaw, the fact is, he's quite simply done more for the cause of preserving our history than anyone else around here you can name—and without any hint of an ulterior motive, which is saying something. So in my book, he get's a pass for hurting some people's feelings along the way.

Q. There's been some confusion about the role that Lindsay played in running the non-profit, the Friends of the Old Lewiston Schoolhouse Library. Over and above the Lewis project, was Steve ever a member of the Board of Directors there?

A. No, no and no! I don't know how many times I have to say it. Look, Steve Lindsay is, like many of us, a Life Member of that group, and he'd volunteered his services to do the Lewis research, of course. I also recall that he had donated some historical items to the organization on at least one occasion. But never was he a director, elected or selected, of the non-profit. He never had any say-so in group activities and never even attended a single meeting. If he had been an executive member, I would have been the first to shout it from every rooftop. That would have been a much-needed boon to our group, his involvement on a managerial level. He's a bright guy with a love of history. I would have killed to have him be a part of it. But that never came to pass.

Q. Why not?

A. Let's just say that a sudden case of unnecessary jurisprudence interrupted our recruitment procedures that year, affecting many potential volunteers, which precluded Steve's involvement as well. That's where the confusion started, followed by a misprint about it in the local newspaper, which only exacerbated the rumor; the columnist simply didn't do her research. Why this rumor persists, I can't even begin to guess.

Q. He eventually won a court case on this matter. Isn't that correct?

A. Last year, yes. Plaintiffs had filed an earlier case wrongly naming him as a defendant. This action caused him much suffering on a personal level. He sued back and won, as I understand it. But the rumors just won't seem to rest.

IV. Personalities

Q. Now, as I've gathered, that case was an offshoot of another court matter that reportedly involved several people whom I'd like to bring up here. And if you could comment on their roles in all of this, I'd appreciate it. All Lewiston residents, I understand, they are (redacted).

A. The names you mentioned are all people who are well versed in the art of small town politics. What they have going in our town right now amounts to nothing more than a tiny cult. A cult of personalities, really. I've said it before. And that's all I'm prepared to say about them right now, as far as any court matters go.

Q. But what about the case itself? Can you elaborate?

A. At this point, there really isn't much I'm permitted to say about it, for legal reasons. There's a gag order of sorts that was applied to a legal settlement that I was a part of. I'm comfortable saying only that much, as that fact was reported in the local newspaper shortly after the compromise a few years back and an attorney from the other side spoke of it there. Otherwise, I don't dare go into it. Sorry.

Q. Hmm. To my understanding, this type of order is normally associated with cases involving incest or rape—where the privacy of the victim is paramount. What was it about this case, a civil matter, that made it so sensitive in the eyes of the court that a gag order should be issued?

A. Your guess is as good as mine. No real explanations were ever put forth as to the need for it. But the attorney I mentioned was about to become a judge in this county at the time. So that might have been a factor; I just don't know.

Q. Neither party is permitted to comment?

A. Exactly. Not that that's stopped supporters of the other side from shooting their mouths off anyway, from what I've been hearing. Also, it is interesting to me that the other party in that case has since portrayed the compromise as a 'win' on their part, as I predicted they would. The fact is, our perceived loss was nothing more than the result of a settlement that took place between all parties. If anything, it was a wash, not a win or a loss, for either side. But this shows the level of dishonesty from them that we were forced to deal with all along.

Q. Were these the same people involved in the food bank matter?

A. There was some overlapping. But the takeover, if you want to call it that, of the food giveaway operation that I'd started in Lewiston several years ago was undertaken mainly by some out-of-town people, with the support of some of the others that you mentioned. Still, they've all taken turns badmouthing we past volunteers ever since. It wasn't enough that we let them have it. They still have to keep up the lies and trash talk, like children in a schoolyard.

Q. So why didn't you fight for it, as well as for the court case?

A. If you were to listen to the other side, they'd tell you it's because I'd been humiliated. I was guilty of any number of crimes—caught, by them, red-handed—and then I ran off to hide in shame. The heroes had ferreted out the criminal element in these organizations and gallantly came away with the spoils. And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.

Q. So what really happened then?

A. Fatigue, on my part, was one of many factors. But ultimately I came to the conclusion that it would be like cutting the baby in half. Same as with the court case. A protracted battle, which I was fully prepared for, would have meant bringing irreparable harm to the cause itself, and ultimately killing it, slowly, gradually—death by a thousand cuts—a labor of love that I'd invested myself in for years, and a valued local institution that our town worked very hard to establish and to nurture through the years. The alternative was only slightly more acceptable: letting the imbeciles have it, to do much the same thing, only even more slowly, through their own incompetence and neglect, which they were well known for in all their past endeavors here. It was a tough call. But it came down to a lesser of two evils decision. And now, the public is seeing them for what they are. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, I like to say.

Q. Fine. But how did the website come under attack?

A. As I alluded to already, one of the local women you named (redacted), and a few of her friends, tried to shut it down, for reasons that amounted to BS. But she must have known it was BS, because her attorney wisely backed out before it got to trial. It all came down to issues of copyright and intellectual property, as I'd claimed all along. I had the First Amendment on my side. While she had a menagerie of truly ugly local residents in the courtroom cheering her on. While their ugliness was certainly formidable, it just couldn't quite measure up to the Constitution of the United States. What I'm saying is, these were some ungodly ugly SOB's. Get me?

Q. Yes, well...

A. It should be a crime for any of these monsters to even leave their homes. That's the level of ugly I'm talking about here (laughs).

Q. I see. So how does Judy Pflueger fit into all this?

A. Judy's not ugly. But many of her actions as our district supervisor have been pretty despicable, in my opinion. As we speak, Pflueger is in her final weeks in office. But back in 2012, she and Derek Cole, our then-county counsel, saw fit to effectively interfere with the functions of a non-profit organization, as we board members saw it, by issuing a move out order of sorts against the institution I was working for, which was housed in one of our town's historic buildings. The order was presented as an offical dictate, quite dire in its very tone, which supposedly resulted from some county bureaucrats' mysterious inability to locate the original lease agreement that Doris Callahan had set up with the county back in the early-'90s—which, if true, was itself a deplorable development, totally unforgivable of our county's recordkeepers. But I think a preponderance of the evidence shows that the action was, in reality, prompted from what we viewed as lies told to the county's Board Of Supervisors by three Lewison citizens—Donaldson, Deerdorf-Queen, and Nixon—about alleged improprieties taking place inside the historic building where I volunteered: museum elements having been put in jeopardy by current management, or some such nonsense. {Trinity BOS, minutes of meeting: Jan. 5, 2012} But no specifics were provided by the accusers. Why? Because, at that time, none of the three alleged liars had been inside the historic building for over a year, and couldn't have known as surely as they'd testified about the state of affairs there, as I'd explained to the supervisors myself. The three of them had spoke only in generalities, suggesting and implying wrongdoing, without any details forthcoming, which I later pointed out was an indication of their ignorance, if not their deceit—again, in my opinion. So, in response to the incredible testimony of the three prevaricators, a detailed email was sent to each of the board members, from our organization, outlining these points in great detail, and pleading the case for a dismissal of the order. But none of that mattered. A little old-fashioned political backscratching took place behind the scenes, and the order was issued anyway, without the matter even being put to a vote by their board. Pflueger and Cole did it all by themselves, behind closed doors. An arguably unconstitutional action by some of our representatives in county government gave a mob of incompetents from our town unprecedented, and unwarranted, power, which caused the contents of the Lewiston Pioneer Museum to disappear practically overnight. Following the decision, one officious local woman (redacted)—yes, her again—with her supporters in tow, entered the building surreptitiously and removed the historical element—the bulk of everything that was of any value to our town's history—apparently hoping the public would blame me and other volunteers for the missing items. It was like if the Reichstag Fire had happened in Lewiston, only half-assed. (laughs) They were just trying to fulfill their own prophecy, by way of subterfuge, to sort of back up what they'd reported to the supervisors.

"An arguably unconstitutional action by some of our own representatives in county government gave a mob of incompetents in our town unprecedented, and unwarranted, power, which caused the contents of the Lewiston Pioneer Museum to disappear practically overnight."

Q. Shocking.

A. Oh, those people were pretty shameless. But see, they were every bit as much boneheaded in the way they went about it. The thing is, we saw them coming. Geniuses that they are, they pretty much telegraphed their intentions well in advance. So, measures were taken by management to minimize the impact of their expected trespass. Simply put, they didn't get all that they think they got, if you know what I mean, and very little of what they truly needed, from the premises. The most important elements, those that were absolutely essential to the legacy of our town, were well protected and never fell into the hands of the enemy. But the damage the mob did in the process was enough to irreperably harm the institution and would soon divide the town. Again. Most everyone knows the whole story now. Which is why so many Lewiston residents are still pissed at them. The people of our town worked for years compiling historical artifacts and old photos pertaining to Lewiston history, for display in that museum. Now, it's all pretty well dismantled—with precious town relics having been unduly compromised in short order, some placed in mothballs, others scattered and disorganized, their provenance and identifications lost or disregarded, still others completely missing from the property—from what I've been hearing. And, of course, rumors have indeed circulated in the interim that I had something to do with all that.

Q. Does anyone know what's there now?

A. I'm told the remaining museum pieces have apparently taken a back seat to more kids' books. Because Lewiston has a huge population of young people, you know. Do you sense my sarcasm?

V. Projections

Q. Well, along the way there was some specific allegations, as you've indicated, about theft, abuse, embezzlement and who knows what else, during your time there. Would you mind addressing this?

A. How much time have you got? (pauses) The group of people I've referred to already, whom I lovingly call the "S**thead Brigade", have, for instance, accused me of removing materials from a local institution where I'd volunteered, and selling them on the internet, and elsewhere, for my own gain. It doesn't matter that I was never even questioned by law enforcement, let alone charged with such a serious crime, the perpetuation of their lie continues, even years later. Here's the real story: a fellow volunteer had been selling her own possessions online for years, as part of her personal business, and I was helping her. The few books that she had for sale, which comprised a small fraction of all the items of hers for sale there, came totally from her huge personal collection; none was ever a part of the library in question. So you can see how such a thing can be construed as me "selling stolen books" on my "online bookstore" by people who lie as a matter of reflex. I have explained all this before, but the liars had their own version, which they're still telling to this day. Why? Because their vendetta is more important to them than any inconvenient facts that might get in the way of it.

Q. Why would this theft rumor be so pervasive?

A. How did the rumors about Mr. Lewis become so entrenched in local lore? Because he was successful here, for a time, and the people who hated him wanted what he had. So they set out to get it by any means, hook or crook, and slandering him along the way—and for many years after he departed from here—was just one of those means. Sound familiar? It's the oldest STP story in the book. It worked back then, and for a long time thereafter, until we finally were able to set the record straight about Mr. Lewis more than a century later. And it almost worked again. Except that, unlike him, I'm still very much around, to defend myself and to tell the whole story. Hence, the liars, then and now, have all been exposed. The truth is out there now. Lewiston caught on. Thank you, local internet users.

"How did the rumors about Mr. Lewis become so entrenched in local lore?
Because he was successful here, for a time, and the people who hated him wanted what he had.
So they set out to get it by any means, hook or crook, and slandering him along the way...was just one of those means."


A. Small town politics, like I've been saying. But as for the confusion, one explanation could be that we did in fact have a volunteer for a short time, on whom we collected ample evidence to indicate that she had stolen from us, to the tune of hundreds of dollars in losses. Veronica Gray of Lewiston even had a two-year restraining order against her, filed by another volunteer, for similar thefts, during which time she went on to commit acts of burglary in Chico, and again at the Lewiston Post Office just last year, for which she served time. So I'm confident that it wasn't my imagination when things turned up missing during her time as a volunteer with our group. And I'm proud of the fact that we were the first to nail her. But it's entirely possible that this person's past acts have been interpreted by some as having been perpetrated by me and others in the organization, because it all happened during that same period. It's called conflation. And it's another of the pitfalls of reckless innuendo.

Q. What about embezzlement?

A. More lies. Nothing like that ever happened on my watch. All receipts from fundraisers were double checked and validated by one or more other volunteers each and every time. As the treasurer, I was never left alone with uncounted cash. But you wouldn't know that listening to my detractors, who've woven tales of theft out of whole cloth. Try asking them for evidence. Any evidence. It's not there, of course. Quite the contrary. In point of fact, that institution saw a sizable increase in funding levels during my tenure. That was no accident; it was all because of amped-up fundraising drives and direct mail solicitatations for memberships, all of which I helped start. It's all there in black-and-white—The bank records don't lie. But when you are the elected treasurer of any group, as I was for nearly ten years, you can become a target for anyone who wants to accuse you of financial wrongdoing, especially if your accuser lusts for your job. Again, no evidence was ever put forth, just allegations. All it took was The Big Lie, repeated over and over, as Goebbels himself taught, to get the job done. That's what happened to B. F. Lewis, and continues to happen in this case. I can protest my innocence only so much, as I have all along. But the lie is always more sexy.

Q. The fundraising revenues: There was full disclosure?

A. I know what you're driving at. But that wasn't my doing. Even before I joined the group, the board had made the decision to not publicize the totals we made at our events, as other organizations sometimes do. This was totally about not wanting to seem too money-focused in the eyes of the public. We were afraid it would look tacky. Ours was not a business, after all; it was a public service organization. We volunteers weren't just doing it to raise money—which may sound naive—but to us it was about so much more. And we tried to be careful about the image we projected. Still, we always knew that some people would ask questions. We never imagined that anyone would be so diabolical as to publicly cast suspicion upon us for this policy, however. Whenever I was approached by donors and supporters of the fundraising event after the fact, I would happily tell them what we made. Also, it was openly discussed at our board meetings, which were open to the public. And we always encouraged members of the public to attend if they were curious about our financial affairs. But I only recall one individual ever asking me about the revenues from our events, namely (redacted), which she did repeatedly, and with what I saw as cynical motives for doing so. I kept that information close to the vest in dealing with her, however, only because this woman had been in competition with us ever since she brazenly started co-opting some of our in-house fundraising projects years before—mainly for her own gain, I might add—the locally-produced telephone directories that our group started many years ago, to name one. But that's another story.

"(T)hat institution saw an enormous increase in funding levels during my watch.
That was no accident; it was all because of amped-up fundraising drives and direct mail solicitations for membership, all of which I helped start.
It's all there in black-and-white—The bank records don't lie."

Q. Again, going back to the food bank...

A. No. I never took food home for my own consumption. Only for temporary storage in my home freezers, all of which was returned later for distribution. Here again, just make something up and repeat it over and over. Sooner or later it's bound to stick. That's what their people treied to do, too. But no evidence was ever presented by the liars from their group either.

Q. A neighbor in old town reported seeing boxes from the library being loaded into your car on one occasion. What was that about?

A. It's all true, as a matter of fact. And I've said so many times. It should be understood that the neighbor in question was at that time a known alcoholic. I don't say that as a put down, only to call into question his credibility as a witness. But in that instance, he was actually not mistaken about the boxes. Only about his implications that there was any wrongdoing taking place. That's where his judgment was off. If he was suspicious about it at the time, all he had to do was ask me; I would have told him what I was up to. Instead, he shared it with others, like some gossipy old lady would do. It wasn't long before I learned that he was in fact in cahoots with the other s**theads. So it wasn't about his judgment after all, only an indication of his allegiances. Still, the alcoholism might explain that too.

Q. So what were you really doing then?

A. I've told this story repeatedly, about having numerous boxes in my car which we drove off the property that day. They were filled with discarded books, hundreds of them. They all went to the book recycler, as usual. This was just one of dozens of trips we'd made to Red Bluff, where the nearest recycling center is, during my tenure as the Library Manager. Tens of thousands of books ended up there, I'm proud to say. I always used my gas to get them there, too. I saw it as my job, but it was also a practical measure. Whenever there were too many boxes for a single carload, the excess would be stored in my garage until the next trip. And with the countless book donations we were getting from the public every month, there was simply no room in the building, or anywhere else on the property, for the reams and reams of donated reading materials that we regularly amassed. Our shelves were already full. I had to periodically cull the best of the bunch for the library, and donate the rest.

Q. Yet you were accused of selling them for your own gain.

A. Right. In fact, I did try to sell discarded books in quantity in the past—another of my jobs, as treasurer of the institution—in order to benefit our group. You know what I found? Nobody buys used books, not even in larger quantities. Not around here anyway. I know because I researched it. Again, my job. So, we were forced to recycle them, which we did regularly for years and years. I was always up front about this. It was never a secret. Our Board of Directors knew about it and approved it, as a practical matter, a basic fact of running a library such as ours, one that solicits book donations. Simply put, there's no 'there' there, in any of the theft charges. All of these rational, and fully verifiable, explanations of mine were overlooked by the liars, because the truth didn't fit into their plan of attack. They didn't go, "Oh, well thank you for your answer. We'll give that one a rest now." Instead they just kept hammering away at the same point. Idiots.

Q. So after defending yourself didn't work, what did you do next?

A. That's when I decided to look into the backgrounds of some of my accusers. And it wasn't hard to do, while uncovering some fascinating revelations along the way. See, in addition to being a bunch of ugly cowards, most of the people in question had some highly questionable reputations of their own, to say the least. As well as some dark secrets from their past—and in some cases, their present—that they'd rather the public didn't know about. Big surprise, huh? So in my search I found that all these despicable hypocrites with their fingers pointed at me each had three fingers pointing right back at them, as the saying goes. Exposing them for their BS, which is really why they hate me, was a cake walk as it turned out.

Q. What did you find?

A. First, there's the former schoolteacher who loved to preach the virtues of the children of our town. He had a DWI conviction in Shasta County from a few years back that he hoped nobody would find out about. Well, now people know. Fail. Then the fireman's wife, (redacted), who's quite possibly the biggest phony of all, who'd lost thousands of dollars donated by the public in the stock market, and without the knowledge or approval of the donors. Can you say 'fraud'? These are facts. I can't make this crap up. Also, the former attorney, who, back in the '70s, lost his license to practice law, all because of his own alleged complicity in criminal activity.

Q. Is that the same (redacted) who's now embroiled in the Lewiston water scandal?

A. The very same. And lest I forget, the hammy actor who portrays a certain children's icon every season, and who has a penchant for cannabis-laced baked goods, consumed in some quatity right before he greets the little buggers. Hello? Parents? And those are just a handful of examples. These are the people who represent the core membership of the bizarre assortment of local characters who joined forces to take me down. Now do you see what I've been up against? What a train wreck.

Q. Come on. Aren't you just engaging in ad hominem here?

A. No, J.D. It's all about hypocrisy. People have to know the truth. These amateur Torqemadas of our town are all phonies, and the public should know that.

Q. So what could you possibly have done to earn the wrath of all these people? Did you back over each of their dogs?

A. Funny. But first off, you say "all these people." Understand that it was really about a dozen or so locals who took umbrage initially. And most of them made the simple mistake of reading a lot into my words, or being shown only excerpts of what I'd said in emails which were taken out of context. Thanks to their obsessive slandering of me in the interim, and some gullible people's propensity for believing gossip, that number has grown a little since, to probably a couple dozen more detractors in our county. But the newer recruits are people who, in many cases, don't even know me, but have chosen, for their own reasons, to believe the rumors about me that have been propagated by the idiots. That's how pernicous gossip can be.

Q. You talk about the power of gossip as being a factor here. In asking around about you, of those I talked to who either know you or at least had heard about you, about half defended you while the other half said they believed some or all of the negative stuff they'd been hearing. Do you dismiss all the folks from the latter group as gossips?

A. Well, not exactly. There are probably other factors at work here, too. One big one, which should not be overlooked, is the element of substance abuse in our community. I'm being serious. And not to reduce this to chemicals; that would be simplistic. But most of the locals who dislike or distrust me, including those whose disdain for me is based only on the things they've heard, either drink to excess, smoke pot or do other drugs on a regular basis. Unlike me. Not that I'm a prude or anything. But let's face it: no one likes or trusts a narc. It's about public perception. My obvious squareness, quite frankly, is something that many people just don't readily accept. "He's not one of us—He must be up to something." And I'm not saying the use of chemicals is the problem. Only that dependencies tend to make some people more gullible, paranoid, and more apt to take seriously rumors and innuendo.
Another consideration is that more than a few of my detractors are also members of area churches and fraternal lodges. And no, I'm not saying that such people are stupid. It's just that superstition tends to thrive in clannish environments like these, and I believe gossip can have more of a stranglehold on members of such groups. I do want to point out that many of my friends and staunchest supporters are in fact recreational drug users, light drinkers, church-goers and/or members of local lodges, as much as many of them fall into the category of 'none of the above.' So I'm certainly not painting with a broad brush here. These are just other considerations that might help explain my current persona non grata status in these parts, at least among some people.

VI. Repercussions

Q. So what's at the heart of this, then? Why exactly do you have enemies here, after all your years of public service?

A. Believe it or not, what it comes down to is words. These people fear me because of my speech, simply stated. I never actually did anything to any of them—the ones who started the rumors, and who first spread the lies about me. And it was never any of my actions they objected to, not really. Oh, they'll tell you I committed all kinds of rotten acts. And many of them actually believe all that shit, much the same way that a religious fanatic sees his own strongly held beliefs as unquestionable fact. Because most of them are so wrapped up in the cause of bringing me down that they're fully prepared to believe the absolute worst about me—no matter how preposterous, and regardless of the source—if it means my comeuppance. But it was actually the things I'd said—to some of them, and about most of them—that really got their goat. The one lady even went all the way into a courtroom—twice—in order to exact her vengeance on me, spending thousands of dollars, presumably of her own money, in the process; she was just that enraged about me speaking the truth about her and her pals. And most of them continue to harbor a grudge about it to this day. Because I called them on the carpet and publicly criticized them. I challenged them. I even humiliated them. With a few pointed, but accurate, words.

"What it comes down to is words.
These people fear me because of my speech, simply stated.
I never actually ever did anything to any of them."

Q. Go on.

A. What I did was, I exposed them for some of their bad behavior, starting with a series of emails some years ago. Of the members of this small group, I accused the leaders of deception and greed, and the followers of sheeplike complacency, among other things. I called them out for it, then I let everyone in the community know about it. I spared no detail in outlining the harm their actions caused our town, as I saw it. And I used an extensive network of contacts that I'd amassed from years of outreach in this community to sound the clarion call. Even the s**theads themselves never knew all who found out. It was really quite a scorched earth campaign on my part. Up till then, I'd used that network, which I built myself, only for publicity purposes within the institutions I'd volunteered for. But in no time, it suddenly turned into a region-wide propaganda machine to alert thousands of people in the north state, and beyond, of all the bad acts of a few people in Lewiston, with copious details about how those actions negatively impacted our town. It was really quite amazing. People around here are still discussing the facts presented in those bulletins to this day. But I know how all that probably sounds: like I see myself as some self-righteous truth seeker who officiously reports others for crimes real and imagined. No. Just someone who's become hyper-sensitive when I see people trying to inflict their BS on others, especially if I'm among the "others."

Q. A veritable town crier.

A. I wasn't always this way. I used to pretty much mind my own business whenever I observed people trying to get away with things that weren't, shall we say, entirely above board. But one day, I realized that an institution that I'd worked very hard for had been disrespected by the actions of a couple of local residents who had selfish motives for doing so. I asked them to stop, and when they refused, I chose to speak out about them. The public had a right to know, I figured. I wasn't just tattling on the culprits, but explaining to all our group's supporters and fellow citzens alike just how and why the bad guys succeeded in harming our town. And the guilty party has resented me for it ever since. Nobody had ever confronted them so publicly. They never dreamed they'd ever be exposed like that, on such a broad scale. You can only imagine how mortifying that must have been for them. The 'they' I speak of are what passes for leaders among this group we've talked about, this local freak show. But it just proves that words really can make a difference, for better or worse. And so, much slander about me has come from them ever since, in retaliation for all the revelations.

Q. Sounds like you and Lindsay are in the same boat. During my research, I found that some people around here tend to confuse the two of you. I was going to ask you about this phenomenon, but I think I'm beginning to see it.

A. Really? That's interesting. (pauses) Well, we're both pretty outspoken, in our own respective ways. The key difference is that Steve sends letters to the local newspaper editor and erects yard signage as a means of speaking his mind, while my writing about all the culprits and their crimes has been more sporadic, and primarily electronic, mostly occurring in online chats and postings. But don't think that it's some two-man conspiracy or something. It's not. He and I just happen to share most of the same enemies. Yet our respective speech about them is totally independent; we've never shared our missives with each other before hand, or anything. But they, the subjects of our polemics, have knowingly conflated Steve's outspokenness with me and my past writings, allowing the public to think he and I are one and the same, for whatever their screwy reasons for doing so. Probably to consolidate the hate, if you'll pardon the rhyme. Otherwise, it's understandable, the confusion. For one, we were both involved in the Lewis Memorial Project, Steve and I. For another, the rumor has been circulating as to his alleged involvement in the non-profit with me, which is false. And now, he and I are both seen as troublemakers, all because we've spoken out about the same group of people. Oh, what a tangled web...

"(T)he food bank newcomers have been conveniently taking credit for actually starting the food giveaway operation here, including the co-opting of the word 'pantry' in their group's title, while hoping nobody remembers the original Lewiston Food Pantry that operated out of the back end of the Lewiston Schoolhouse for several years...and the many successes we had long before they arrived."

Q. And what was it that you said to, or about, the food bank people?

A. A couple of volunteers from a soup kitchen in a nearby town—whom we soon learned were just grunts and not actual leaders there—waltzed their way into our town a while back, when we had the Lewiston Food Pantry on a brief hiatus, and proceeded to commandeer the food relief efforts we had going here, and had started years before. They arrived with a sense of entitlement and more or less demanded we volunteers communicate with them, to hear all their big ideas for 'improving' our operation. When we balked at their effrontery, they set up their own food bank here, to somehow show us up, I guess. But their efforts, I knew, would only succeed in dividing the community support. They must have known that too, but they proceeded with their little self-serving pissing match anyway. They'd befriended some of the people from the other case, as I mentioned, all kindred spirits in their shared hatred towards me. They and their volunteers have been talking crap about me ever since, especially after I confronted them in a Facebook debate around that time. I was a bit of a wiseass, true. But they didn't take kindly to being humliated by me online. So they blocked me, and I've been in their crosshairs ever since. Crybabies.

Q. And how did that all turn out?

A. I decided to back out and let them have it when I realized that, as I stated earlier, their own self-aggrandizement was propelling them to harm the very cause they were puporting to be the new messiahs of here. I wasn't going to be a part of that. With two identical groups trying to do the same thing in a town this small, a cause as important as feeding those in need is only bound to suffer, I figured. If you love something, set it free, as the old saying goes. So I did. While I'm glad that food relief efforts in our town are, apparently, ongoing, my belief is that the motives of the bulk of the current organizers have not been entirely selfless. Since that time, they've been doing pretty much everything we did up to then, including obtaining grants from regional givers and donations from local businesses, while pretending its all somehow revolutionary and orginal on their part. And, naturally, they're doing ten times better than we ever did, if you believe their laughable self-promotion. All of that would be easy to forgive if it wasn't for their leaders' incessant slandering of us, their predecessors. Can you even imagine a more childish display of cowardice? That, quite simply, is why they'll never have the full respect of this community; because when you show your ass the way they have, people take notice, and your support base dwindles. They don't seem to get that. Most asounding of all, the food bank newcomers have been conveniently taking credit for actually starting the food giveaway operation here, including the co-opting of the word 'pantry' in their group's title, while hoping that nobody remembers the original Lewiston Food Pantry that operated out of the back end of the Lewiston Schoolhouse for several years—without their involvement—and the many successes we had long before they arrived. We pretty much laid the foundation, and they've been mostly riding our coattails. The most comical aspect of their 'reign', if you can call it that, is the vainglorious publicity of theirs that touts unmitigated success with everything they do here. You have to laugh at their delusion.

VII. Community

Q. You often speak in the royal 'we.' Are you really including others who are on your side, or could your enemies accuse you of being a megalomaniac, too?

A. No. For years, I've worked alongside many other volunteers in all the endeavors I've been involved with, and they're definitely the 'we' I refer to, for the most part. Naturally, I won't name any of them here. But in point of fact, the numbers of volunteers who've dropped out of their service to the institutions I've spoken about since it all fell apart far outnumber those who've stayed on. And those losses have not been replenished with new recruits, either, I've noticed. That just shows how divided our town really is, now more than ever. And these aren't necessarily close friends of mine—Scribner apologists who will defend me without batting an eye. They're just people who've become disgusted with the behavior of the others I've told you about. They've all been made to feel disenfranchised, alienated. These are folks who all along have just wanted to be a part of something, to do good things and to serve the town they love, in whatever capacity. But the craven actions of a few cliquish, clannish huddlers in this town have caused the good people to become burnt out on volunteering. It's a shame. This is what small town politics does to a community.

Q. And yet, despite your assessment, successful fundraising still goes on here. Local institutions continue to function through volunteer assistance and donations from the public, just like always. Lewiston causes seem to be surviving. Explain.

A. Not like the old days, though. There was a time not that long ago when locals—many of whom barely knew one another—would come from all over to support a cause they believed in, meet new people in the process and come away feeling good about their town. Now, it's like some private club. Everyone is still welcome to participate, sure, but folks are put off by the cliquish nature of the group that's organizing the event. In this town, it seems like they're all run by the same six people anyway. And by now, most of their prominent volunteers are all close friends and relatives of the leadership. It's clear that some of them only serve when there's an incentive to help out—effectively being paid off—and never just for the good of the community anymore. And those low folks on the totem pole? The actual grunts, who usually get the crap assignments? They don't tend to stick around long, especially once they realize that they're just being exploited by the self-appointed leaders. The state of volunteerism in our town is a sad state of affairs now, like so many other things here. But don't take my word for it. Look around—The community crime watch organization we had going is decimated now, practically non-existent. The local charity thrift store has closed down, replaced by a for-profit junk store. I can't remember the last time our neighborhood anti-litter group had a publicized cleanup event. We had a rehab center here for several years that finally crashed and burned, and which only succeeded in enabling as many addicts as it treated. Nobody comes to the community services district meetings anymore. Our volunteer fire crew is so understaffed, and has been for years, that they don't even respond to all the emergency calls that go out. One of our area water companies has been in a complete shambles of late, especially in terms of leadership, with no sign of recovery on the horizon. Out town's sole fraternal lodge is on the verge of shutting down any day now, according to reports, with their ever-shrinking membership levels each year; things are just that tenuous. The same is true of the elementary school here, with talk of one day bussing the kids to the next town to go to school, because student roles have shrunk so much. Then there's the so-called Lewiston Action Committee—Remember them?—which lasted about ten minutes here, doing whatever the heck it was they were formed to do, without ever meeting their stated goal of non-profit status, or even bothering to try it seems. Hell, even the town's garden club—an ever popular group since it started in the 1950s—had to cut their regular meeting schedule in half, due to record low attendance. If this keeps up, we're headed for ghost town status. (pauses) On the other hand, we do have a Frisbee field here now. Twelve-year-olds everywhere are friggin' ecstatic. (laughs)

"(T)he craven actions of a few cliquish, clannish huddlers in this town have caused the good people to become burnt out on volunteering.
It's a shame."

Q. That pretty well covers all the public entities in Lewiston, from the sound of it.

A. God, no. There's still a few left with good people in charge. The cemetery cleanup committee, the area 4-H group, some of the local church organizations, probably the Lions Club—who do good works that benefit the school kids. (pauses) I'm sure I'm forgetting a few more. But these are just some of the groups with some degree of integrity remaining. It's not a total dead zone here.

Q. In their publicity, some local organizations have reported record totals from recent fundraisers. This too would fly in the face of your observations.

A. The leader of those groups is not being completely honest. Consider: our local economy has been in the worst place since the Great Depression; tourism here is at a standstill; half the businesses and many of the homes in our area are for sale, and nobody's buying—and we're supposed to believe they're seeing record revenues? Happening at each and every fundraiser, no less? Please. If it's true, then the only explanation for that would be if the group leader herself, maybe with the help of some of her deep-pocketed friends who owe her a favor, was willing to write a check to the organization in question—what amounts to a standard donation that coincides with the event, and a tax write-off, naturally—which gets added to this year's take, to offset any losses from the previous year's totals. That way, their group can say with a clear conscious, "we made x dollars more than last year." Because they did. But, in essence they had to buy their own success, through contemporaneous cash infusions from targeted sponsors that were collected on the fly, and probably after the fact. It didn't come organically, the way most groups are forced to do it, be sheer work alone. They're not fooling anyone.

Q. The decline in volunteerism: Do you think it's because fewer people actually care?

A. No. I'ts largely because—and this is the dirtly little secret of our town now—nobody wants to get sued. You heard me. The bar has been lowered to such a place that the fear of lawsuits in this town is palpable now. It's happened too many times already. Everybody here knows all about it by now, how it all came about. And people don't forget. I mean, there have always been the usual political divisions here, just like in any town or large neighborhood—organizational infighting and the politics of personality—the type of thing that inevitably rears its head in any close-knit social structure. That's not unusual. But until about ten or twelve years ago, the concept of neighbor-suing-neighbor as a means of taking over someone else's group, or reporting fellow citizens to agencies in local government for the same purpose, was a foreign one in our town. Not any more. Folks here are now starting to realize that board members, even volunteers serving as directors on any committee, are subject to lawsuits—for any reason at all, filed by any Bay Area transplant who who comes waltzing their way into town bringing with them nothing more than a carpetbag and a huge pair of cojones—and that virtually anyone could end up losing their property, should they become a target. Potential volunteers are forever asking themselves, could I be next? People are scared, plain and simple. But all of this is really just a symptom of a much larger problem here: everyone has become sick and tired of volunteer group leaders with personal agendas and big egos. The only thing that they, the volunteer so-called leadership in our town, do with any aplomb is hold endless meetings about nothing, and tout their latest non-event as a raging success, even before it's begun. These are clear signs of a failed institution, and of incompetent leaders. And we've got too many of them now in Lewiston. It's sickening.

Q. Critics would call you a nay-sayer.

A. I know it. And what's funny is how they reflexively say things like, "Why don't you volunteer if you don't like it?" That's the beauty part; I've been a volunteer here for more than a decade. Almost no one has the kind of perspective that I have on the matter. And that's how I know so well of which I speak. But rather than dismiss what I'm saying as negativity, one should recognize my words as a wake-up call. These are desperate times for our town. Let's save the pollyanna thinking for kindergarten. Now is not the time to be singing Lewiston Uber Alles in unison in the middle of the town square; we have to start making some desperately needed improvements here. Furthermore, our town doesn't need more volunteers as much as it needs selfless, competent, straight-shooting leaders whom the volunteers can count on. We have an ever-shrinking tribe of Indians here now. Very few real Chiefs.

VIII. Significant Others

Q. Do you feel comfortable talking about Michele?

A. Haven't you been paying attention? I've been talking about her all along. (laughs) In many ways, she's been a big part of all that's gone on. And thank God for her. Really, she represents the biggest weak spot in the s**theads' entire scheme. If not for her, they might have succeeded in doing a lot more damage than they did, all of them. And the fact that their credibility in this community has suffered as much as it has is due largely to her presence throughout. She was there for the schoolhouse debacle, the food bank mess and was even witness to a lot of the crap in my family life. (pauses) Oh, where do I begin? First of all, her name is pronounced DAY-on-YAH-tay, not DEE-oh-NATE. She's a Trinity County artist who's lived in Lewiston for over twenty years. She was a fellow-volunteer at the same time as me, in virtually every project that I was involved with. She was the manager of the Lewiston Food Pantry for the five years we ran it. She's owned an antique store and an art gallery in Lewiston for many years. Like me, she had been friends with all the liars at one time or another. And she, too, regrets that error. (laughs) Michele has been not only my right-hand person through all this, as well as my crutch, but has probably worn as many hats as I have over the last ten years or more, working in tandem with me on countless projects. Among other duties, she's been the resident artist for the historic building, my personal editor, set decorator for fundraisers, secretary on the board when I was treasurer, and on and on. Hell, she's actually the one responsible for designing the schoohouse's front steps—a lot of people don't know that. And, she single-handedly revived the Holiday Gala concept from olden times at the schoolhouse during Bridge Lighting for many years running, all on her own. She's amazing. She's just happy to remain in the background most of the time, working hard behind the scenes, quietly, unobtrusive, unless and until called on to do more. But most important of all, there's been no better witness to all the crimes committed by the other people we've talked about than Michele. She can back me up on pretty much everything I've told you. And she's gone out on a limb more than once to do just that.

"No one in their right mind is going to believe that a respected local artist would jeopardize not only her standing in the commnunity, but her own business interests here, by playing any role in the things they've accused me of."

Q. But couldn't one conclude: Of course she'll support your side; she's harly impartial?

A. Naturally. I'd expect that attitude from any outside observers. She and I have been very close, personally and professionally. But no one in their right mind is going to believe that a respected local artist would jeopardize not only her standing in the community, but her own business interests here, by playing any role in the things they've accused me of. And she would have had to know, right? Petty theft? Embezzlement? From a small town non-profit? Are you kidding? For one, where's the gain? For either of us? It's ridiculous. But there's no way I could have done any of those things without her being, at the very least, an enabler, or more likely, an accessory herself, which is preposterous. People who know her, and by extension, who know me, know that it's all bulls**t. It's real easy to falsely convict an individual of these sorts of crimes in the court of public opinion; it all starts with a single lie. But when there's suddenly another person involved, someone who's well-liked to boot, and who even less fits the profile of the stereotypical wrongdoer than the chief suspect does, that only complicates things for the accusers. That's when their already-flimsy allegations fall apart. That's when the public starts to say, wait a minute. That's when all the lies from the other side are exposed. And that's why they ultimately failed in bringing me down: by having to bring two of us down. It just couldn't be done. What were we, the Bonnie & frickin' Clyde of Lewiston, for God's sake? It was beautiful, really. I couln't have asked for a more satisfying vindication. And I have her to thank for making that happen.

Q. Forgive me for getting personal now. But although it's off the subject, there's also been some talk about certain abuse claims involving you, on a familial level, which reportedly cropped up during the course of your volunteerism in the community. Care to comment?

A. Oh, it's not off the subject at all. It's all very much a part of what we've talked about so far and I'm perfectly comfortable discussing it. Again. Understand though, it's a fairly long, drawn-out tale—the whole ugly story, in its raw, unedited form—so I'll try to be as brief as possible. (pauses) Here's a synopsis, and I'll try to do this chronologically.
It began when my crystal meth-addicted niece moved herself into the family home in 2009—when both my elderly parents were gravely ill, and where my oldest brother and I lived taking care of them. As I saw it, she moved back primarily to further her lifestyle, exploiting the ill health of my parents in the process. But she claimed a sudden desire for closeness with the family as her motive, after twenty years of living, and drugging, in another state.
I wasn't buying her claims of wanting to be near her grandparents in their final years. She'd bullshitted our family many times before, like drug addicts often do to their own relatives, and this time was no different, I knew.
I objected to her presence in our house, and tried to dissuade my mother from allowing it, but she and the other relatives once again fell for my niece's emotional manipulations, all during a particularly delicate time for our family, and she stayed.
Within a year, my niece had made threats of violence against me, and then attempted vehicular battery on me at my home—No exaggeration. So I filed for a restraining order against her, for Domestic Violence, and got it. Twice, in fact.
But I also got zero support in that case from the rest of my family, who, astonishingly, sided with the druggie, some of them going so far as to later act as "character witnesses" for her in court. Ironically, I was the one who they saw as trying to undermine family unity, by asking a court for protection from my niece, and thereby having her removed from the family home. She was still permitted to visit her grandparents, however; she just couldn't live there.
All the while, it didn't help matters any that my strenous objections to my siblings' nursing home solution for our folks over the years further divided us along the way as well.
By the following year, my relationship with the family had degenerated to the point where my siblings colluded with APS to contsruct a trumped-up elder abuse case against me. This action was designed, as I saw it, as a way for them to punish me for seeking my court order, as well as to officially divorce me from the family once and for all, and all under the guise of protecting them from me.
This type of forced separation is something that my brother and sister had wished for for many years, but they never had the opportunity nor the means of pulling it off. The real reasons they wanted this is complicated. It all goes back to the family dynamic and the usual petty jealousies and feelings of resentment among siblings, longstanding issues from decades' past, which was really at the heart of it.
Our mother had always been the roadblock, but now, due to the deleterious effects on her mind brought about by her advanced age, they finally had mom to use as a tool to accomplish this.
And by now, there was another rub: Their newest motive was clearly about getting me out of the picture before the time came to settle the estate, and other matters of the will and trust. Yes, it's one of those age old stories, about wills and relatives and the divisions that often result. Our parents were then in the twilight of their lives, and their passing, sooner rather than later, was something everyone had been mentally preparing for.
Despite being pressured by the others to go forward—for several months, in fact—my mother resisted signing off on the proposed RO against me, knowing that I posed no threat.
But finally, after three separate visits by county agents to investigate—all of which were prompted by the lies of my niece and siblings, who repeatedly alerted the agency about me—and much coercion of mom by my siblings along the way, her increasingly-weak mental state finally gave way.
The charge: "Isolation", which is the jaywalking of abuse allegations, despite my not being the so-called primary caregiver and hardly in a position to isolate anybody.
There was never any violence or threats from me, and never fear of same concerning me, as told repeatedly to investigators by mom herself. And the rest of my family knew that. So they worked with agents to build a case based largely on misconstruction of facts and fabricated assertions from my relatives, all of which were sculpted and finessed to fit the definition of isolation. It was quite an impressive feat of acrobatics, really. And the county agents, eager to put another notch in their belts, ran with it.
Young parents today who are familiar with the notoriously overreaching policies and practices of CPS would easily understand how its sister agency, APS, can be every bit as rapacious, as I found out for myself.
So, a two-year order was issued by the court, initially. But, it was actually reversed by the same judge within weeks. This never happens, by the way. Even the court couldn't bring itself to take the order seriously.
But it was too late. By year's end both of my parents had died, virtually alone, exactly the way I feared they would, in a nursing home.
From broken hearts, no doubt.
I was powerless to save them.
But I'm still here.
And that about covers it.

Q. And what was the basis for the isolation charge?

A. It was a two-headed monster. And they really had to reach to get there, in both directions. First, I was unceremoniously accused of driving the sole family vehicle for excessive amounts of time, though not every day—typically what amounted to a couple of hours each day, on average—thereby effectively forcing my parents to remain at home without transportation during those times; that was enough to qualify as having an isolating effect on them. And yet this was never an issue between my parents and me; they never once objected to my use of the family minivan. So it was amazing that my accusers got away with this one. Never addressed were some salient facts: like how I had permission for all that time by my own mother, the registered owner, to use that vehicle for my volunteerism; I wasn't out joyriding in it. Or how I was actually the one paying for full coverage insurance on the vehicle, for both my brother and me, as my contribution. And I only drove it when it was available to me, which, to be sure, was most of the time. But that's because all my other family members at home had all become shut-ins, by their own choosing. They never wanted to go anywhere for recreation, or to visit friends, even when my brother and I tried to encourage them, which was often, instead only leaving the house when they absolutely had to do so. Further, the van was always there when they needed it—doctors' appointments and the like—I always saw to that. It was a totally fabricated charge. My mother could have revoked her permission at any time and demanded the keys from me, but she was actually very supportive of my volunteerism. That one was almost as ludicrous as the other half of the isolation claim. The biggest lie that my siblings fed the APS agents was that they were suddenly fearful to visit our parents in the family home solely because of my presence there. Yes, I was somehow scaring them all away. Me. A man who walks with a cane. Someone who has absolutely no history of harming anyone. No drugs, no booze—the ultimate square. And, someone with no criminal record at all. Does any of this sound plausible to you?

Q. It would seem incongrous.

A. Right. And here's some perspective for you: These claims of fear were suddenly being voiced by a group of people, who, for thirty years, made it a point to be AWOL from our immediate family as often as they possibly could—individuals who, one and all, remained totally uninvolved in the affairs of my parents throughout the years, while my eldest brother and I took care of the folks at home by ourselves. And their absence caused my mother much grief, I can attest. She only wanted her family near her, especially during her golden years, but she never got her wish. With the exception of my obnoxious niece, who had no qualms about showing up at the house whenever she pleased and staying as long as she wanted in order to sponge whatever she could off the family, they, my other siblings and their families, were too wrapped up in their own lives to even stop by for a random visit—instead only coming on special occasions and holidays, and then staying for measured amounts of time, allotting the bare minimum of their precious time to our parents. Mom never failed to take notice of these slights, and she was utterly grief stricken over it, time and again. And, most telling, they were doing this type of thing even back in the day when we were all getting along, which was most of the years we lived in Lewiston. So, what, were they somehow terrified of me back then, too? And just keeping it to themselves? The claim that I was in some way alienating them was bogus for the simple reason that their presence in our home during those final months—when we were increasingly at odds, my siblings and me—was no greater and no less than it had ever been, time-wise. That's a fact, and they know it. So there's your real abuse. My mother was never the same because of their self-centered, separatist behavior over the years. She was very upset over all that.

Q. That's quite a saga. Very sad. I'm sorry to hear it. But if I may say, it sounds a little like projecting on your part—You were accused of abuse, but you imply that others were the true abusers and you were actually the one trying to save the victims.

A. I understand that perception. But the world is not black-and-white. I made some mistakes, no question. But nothing on a scale that would equate abuse, towards anyone. And there were plenty of mistakes made all around, by virtually everyone involved. And that's more honesty than you'll get from anyone else in my family on this subject. Look, I was no more the savior of my parents than I was their tormentor. What I became, actually, was the scapegoat for all the mistakes the others made in their service to the folks—My henpecked brother had allowed his domineering wife to come between him and his family more times than you could count, which caused him much internal conflict, I'm sure. My sister regretted not spending more time visiting her aging folks and harbored much guilt about it. Both of their failed marriages were an emotional drain on our family, etc.—They were the ones projecting, by putting the blame on me for our parents' suffering, as they perceived it. Because their own guilt for contributing to that sufferering had to be remedied. So I served as the perfect foil.

Q. Still, it looks pretty bad when a mother takes such a stand against one of her own kids.

A. Sure. But understand that these types of court orders aren't that hard to get. Not like Domestic Violence orders, which are criminal in nature. All they needed to pull it off, my family, was to wheel mom into court and prop her up. Her mere presence there was enough to seal the deal. All the effort that went into filing the case was put forth by an overzealous APS agent, not by my mother. Understand, too, that she was a shell of her former self by then, mentally. She was at that time, we now know, in the final weeks of her life. She had become very tired, physically as well as psychologically. She'd also become very susceptible to outside influences, no longer the strong-willed woman we all knew and loved. And the many pressures that my siblings, niece and sister-in-law had been putting on her to act had finally wore her down. They played to her fears, promising to come visit her more often if I was out of the picture, and thereby implying she'd never see them again otherwise. All my mom wanted was to have her family near her in her final years, something she'd been deprived of since her kids married and left the fold. So, using the false front of family unity, it was they, her other children, who finally convinced her to throw one of her own under the bus. Eager to please them, and to keep them near, she made the sacrifice. They'd been attempting this for years and years, you know.

Q. In her court papers, your sister was direct in her allegations against you.

A. Everything but the kitchen sink, yeah. And I was just as direct in my written response to the court, by pointing out that my sister owes me a large sum of money, from a personal loan some years back. And how that was the real motivating factor in her taking a stand against me in court, first in my niece's case and then again with my parents. It's one of the oldest evasive tactics in the book: Deny the debt and demonize the person you owe the money to as a means of escaping repayment. It was like, if I declare you my enemy and refuse to talk to you, then we can't discuss my debt to you, now can we? That's how she behaved. This wasn't the first time she attempted to default a personal loan, by the way. A few years back, she evidently tried to welch on a loan she'd gotten from a Lewiston man named Bill Whitlock. Her regular payments to him suddenly stopped right after he died. Only after the man's daughter threatened to take legal action against her did she realize she wouldn't get away with it. That's just how unscrupulous this woman is, my sister. So in my case, she tried to turn the tables by claiming in court that she actually feared me—someone with no history of threats or violence at all—and by leveling a whole battery of abuse allegations in my mom's case against me, things that she could not possibly have been witness to, because she's lived elsewhere at the time. None of her bogus charges ended up being used against me, by the way. Her lies were just that outlandish.

Q. All right. But in all honesty, were you ever guilty of abusing anyone in your family, by any definition?

A. Of course not. And certainly not my parents. The word 'abuse' had never been uttered by anyone, not until my niece moved herself into our home, which was when the trouble started. No one had accused me of any such thing up until that time. It's just ridiculous to think a person would live forty-plus years with the same family members, and then just start abusing people out of the blue—people to whom he'd devoted himself daily for years on end, ever since they first took ill—right around the time that his opportunistic, drug addict niece moves herself into the house where her out-of-it grandparents were convalescing, mainly to further her own degenerate lifestyle. Sorry, no. I had something so say about that. I was the proven victim of threats and attempted violence—the only one in that house who could say that. I had a right to be protected against someone actively involved in the criminal underworld—That's not hyperbole. And though my methods were sometimes coarse, I regret nothing about trying to defend myself and my family.

"It's just ridiculous to think that a person would live forty-plus years with the same family members, and then just start abusing people out of the blue...right around the time that his opportunistic, drug addict niece moves herself into the house where her out-of-it grandparents are convalsescing, mainly to further her own degenerate lifestyle."

Q. Is it your assertion that the court order naming you as defendant was rooted in nothing more than petty family infighting?

A. That, spurred by the overreaction of ambitious agents from the county's Adult Protective Services. Helped along by a local sheriff's department that had grown fatigued by endless calls to their office about my niece and her behavior, which they ultimately resented me for, not her. Abetted by a judge who was annoyed to have what he clearly viewed as a trifling case put in front of him.

Q. I'm starting to see parallels between your family life and your relationship to the people you call your detractors in the community.

A. Well, they're all my detractors now, it would seem. But yeah. It was all about my choice of words with my siblings too. Never my actions. I personally confronted some of them when they visited my home, after they'd appeared in court to support my niece. I had a perfect right. Their candor in speaking out against me in a case that didn't involve them and in which they had nothing to gain by its outcome one way or the other, empowered me to speak frankly to them individually, for the first time in my life. It wasn't tit-for-tat, mind you. I didn't curse them out or call them names. No yelling. Nothing pejorative, really. I just turned the tables. I made it clear that they were hypocrites for labeling me an abuser when they were at least as guilty of the same crimes in other ways. For instance, I was galled that my own sister-in-law, a woman who, through her own controlling actions over time, was singly responsible for bringing my mother to tears on literally dozens of occasions, could have the temerity to tell a judge in open court her self-important thoughts on the extent of my abuse of the woman who she systematically worked to keep her own family away from for the thirty years we lived in Lewiston, causing her, my mom, much heartbreak in that time. And when my contractor brother, who for all that time permitted his wife's unholy domination of our family, averred in the same courtroom that I was something akin to a second class citizen in his book, rebuking me for my very existence it would seem, that was about the time I knew I finally had to speak out. So I did, the next time I saw each of them. I confronted them with the inconvenient truth about their role in our family, much the way I'd done to my niece after she moved in, and much the same way I did with all the s**theads in our town as well. You see, these people all seem to possess the same jaw-dropping delusional thinking pertaining to the respective roles they play. For years, my brother and his beautician wife would sit at home discussing all the problems of our household, as they saw them, and come up with solutions. Just like that. Their ignorance was bolstered by the fact that because she had an internet connection, she felt that that made her a college professor, or some shit. They were just that clueless, and full of themselves to boot. I was honored to be the one to set them straight about it the way I did. Somebody had to do it. Oh, my behavior was obnoxious, no question about it. But frightening? I think not. Threatening? Only to their illusions. They just weren't used to being confronted by anyone, but especially never by me. So they construed my revelations to them as being threatening behavior on my part; it was all just that earth-shattering for them. Poor babies.

Q. In light of how it all came out, do you have any regrets about confronting your outside family members the way you did?

A. No. You could say that my speech, calling them out for their prior bad acts as family members, was the beginning of the end. Yet I saw it as not only justified, but long overdue. I frankly wouldn't have done anything differently in that regard. With them or with the others. All of these people needed to know what they did wrong. Now, other people know about it, too. That's because I had no choice but to reveal the whole ugly truth. It became my duty. I never wanted it this way.

"All of these people needed to know what they did wrong.
Now, other people know about it, too.
Because I had no choice but to reveal the whole ugly truth.
It became my duty.
I never wanted it this way."

Q. So you've had two distinct enemy camps, really: your family and some people here locally who are against you for ostensibly different reasons. And you say it was your speech in both cases that generated all this. Still, it seems unlikely that two groups of people totally independent of each other would all be so passionately opposed to the same person. Am I missing something?

A. I've thought about that myself. (pauses) To rephrase your question, I've often wondered: If so many different people from various backgrounds are all against one person, can they all be wrong? Well, the short answer is yes. But how? And why? For starters, they weren't always independent of each other, as you stated; there's a loose connection between them, which I'll come back to. But why the unified front? Because virtually all those I've spoken about are members of two branches of the same cult. Their religion is nothing more than a bizarre obsession with me. No joke. Rather than being their god, I serve as the Great Satan of their lives, apparently. Not a week goes by that my name isn't discussed or written about among many of them, I'm quite sure, in whatever context. The very image of me pollutes their thoughts on a regular basis, I'm certain. It's a true obsession en masse. They're totally haunted by me, somehow—They'd have to be, in order to explain all this. That's just how impactful words can be, I guess. They've each drank the Kool-Aid and are now convinced, while trying to convince all who will listen, that I am the antithesis of all that is good, in their way of thinking. It may sound crazy, but there's no other explanation. I'm seeing evidence all the time, without even trying. Still. Even years later. It's mass hysteria on some level, plain and simple. All because of things I've said—in both the written word and the spoken word. They've each been so wounded by my speech, so profoundly affected by my speaking the truth about them, that they're all wishing for my downfall in whatever form, some openly. And should it ever come, you'll hear a loud roar of approval from them. Some of these losers keep busy by watching my every move, waiting, hoping for the moment of my own faltering, and, at times, even trying to bring it about themselves. No kidding. They can't stop thinking about me, talking about me—even plotting against me, some of them. And if you think I'm somehow paranoid, or just really full of myself, then you haven't been paying attention.

Q. That's quite a theory

A. Yeah, and I sense your skepticism. But think of it this way: How many single persons do you know who have been dragged into a courtroom, in two different civil cases so far, to answer charges of a non-criminal nature, brought by no fewer than seven different people? Thousands of dollars were spent by these litigants, remember, in order to take me down.
Or whose work for the local newspaper, and on the grand jury, had been the subject of numerous sabotage attempts by at least three other members of the community, who tried in vain to get him fired? They failed. I did resign from both, but not under pressure.
Or whose own public service website was nearly shut down, due to the efforts of at least five other people? Actually, they weren't that much of a threat, now that I think about it. (laughs)
Or who has been reported to government leaders by three other citizens, to bring about an official order against him? They succeeded in that effort, true, but they've since lost more than they gained, as I've made clear.
Or who's been the subject of countless vitrolic and libelous letters, emails, phone calls and slander that was disseminated by no fewer than twelve other persons in this town? I know because I've since witnessed some of these leaked communiques.
Who, I ask you? Any one of these actions would be a lot for one person to withstand. And yet, every one of these things has happened to me, all in just the last few years. And, all the perpetrators I've cited for you in each of these cases—whom I could readily name for you, but I won't—have been distinctly different people; no overlapping. That's close to two dozen people, by my count, and probably a bit more, actually, from one small town. And it's all true; I'm not making any part of this up.
By telling you this, I'm not trying to present myself as a victim or anything. Only to drive home the point that my enemies, an obsessive lot one and all, have gone to great lengths, in a variety of forums, expending much energy, time and worry, you have to imagine, in order to punish me for whatever crimes they think I'm guilty of.
So, considering all this, you have to wonder what an individual could have done to warrant all this attention, let alone all the time, money and toil that went into these campaigns, involving so many different people, don't you? And more to the point, what's the driving emotion behind all this recrimination of theirs? Is it fear? Hatred? Unrequited love? Looking at me here before you now, do you see it? Is it my winning personality that compels them? My overwhelming charisma? Am I such a brilliant writer and public speaker that people hang on my every word? Or, are there in fact horns sprouting from my head?
The answer: none of the above. Except for maybe the brilliant writer part. (laughs) Again, it's really just the message. The whole fantastical tale I've put to you here? It's all true. They can't kill it, or at least the parts of it that hurt them the most, so the messenger himself continues to be the target. Well, fire away, schmuckos. And please keep spelling my name right.

Q. Really. So what's the connection?

A. All right. The common link between my family and the other asses in Lewiston really comes down to one person: the Evil Niece, as I like to call her, the same one I've been talking about all along. At least that's where it started. Understand that not very long ago I was friends with nearly every member of the small group in our town that now opposes me. And up until a few years ago, I had a pretty stellar relationship with my family. With one notable exception: the drug-addicted niece who chose a lifestyle in her teens that was totally contrary to the fairly straight laced upbringing that she and I had had. See, we more or less grew up together—more like brother/sister than uncle/niece—then we sort of drifted apart in our teen years. But she was taught right from wrong, same as me, and instilled with the same value system. She knew better than to become involved in that lifestyle, but instead she chose to befriend some of the absolute worst families in Lewiston when she was coming of age here in the 1980's. She came to idolize some truly shady characters—underachievers, lowlifes, ne'er do wells, what have you—most of whom still live in this area and many of whom became convicted felons, unwed mothers, drug dealers and fellow "rehab rats", as I call them. They partied together, bonded, and partied some more, for years and years. She has maintained connections with most of them ever since she moved out of state in the early-'90s.

Q. But that's all in the past. what's your beef with her now?

A. Well, she tried to run me down with her car. Did you miss that point? Or did you think I was making up the whole RO story? That's where my siblings got the idea, by the way, in my case. They ended up wielding that same weapon against me, using mom as the go-between, when they saw how successful I was in keeping the niece at bay with it following her attack on me. The key difference being the court order I had against her was much more serious than mine, as it pertained to attempted violence and actual threats made towards me. But I digress. Seriously, when it comes to having a beef, as you call it, I think a vehicular manslaughter attempt would pretty much justify it.

Q. I get it. But what's really going on here between the two of you?

A. In a nutsehell, it's like a culture clash between us—disparate lifestyles, to put it mildly. But it's a lot more serious than different ways of living our lives. She's brain damaged, for one. Mainly from all the drugs. Which is why I view her as dangerous. And, she's a hustler. It's the nature of her addiction. She manipulated my family for her own gain, as she'd done for years, and exploited both my parents all the way up until their deaths. She'll affect this innocent little girl routine when it suits her, but she's really just a functioning addict, and, as far as I'm concerned, no better than a career criminal. When she moved into our family's home, she would openly flaunt her chemical abuse, trying to indoctrinate my mother, like it was a badge of honor, showing everyone how cool she was. She was deluded, of course, and definitely not cool. Like a lot of stoners here, she now had the new 215 culture in the north state to validate her bullshit life choices. It's a lifestyle which I've totally rejected, and her along with it. Our relations have been strained, at best, for decades, largely because of these differences between us, but it's the recent events within the family that really brought it to a head. I've been vocal in my distaste for her choices in life, and I didn't hesitate to confront her about her flagrant drug abuse, which she was very open about, often doing it right there in our home, after she moved herself in. My parents would never have tolerated that, and she was only exploiting their weaknesses, I knew, by being back there again after all that time and behaving that way. So I felt I had to step in to preclude that kind of disrespectful scumbag behavior from taking place in our family's home. In addition to protecting myself, I was making an effort to keep her skid row influences away from my parents as much as possible, particularly after they became ill, when they were the most defenseless.
After she got kicked out for her threats against me, she did her best to combat my efforts by causing further upset in my home and trying to pin the blame on me. She began by repeatedly coming to the house—in clear violation of the court order—in order to provoke a reaction from me, while appealing to the emotions of my family members there in the process. Sometimes heated arguments would ensue between my brother and I, which were always brief, always about her and her destructive presence, and always a case of mutual combat. She would then report this as me "yelling at" my mother for extended periods, to authority figures, as her childish form of vengeance.
When she wasn't doing any of these things, she would try to vilify me with her words as often as possible and to anyone who would listen. It was she who tried to poison the well for me here, long before she moved back to town, by spreading gossip about me from afar, especially after I began my volunteerism and became more prominent in the community. She had friends here who were also gossipmongers, and her slander was helped along here by them, which eventually made its way into the local grapevine. Largely, the badmouthing didn't hurt me in any noticeable way—my work in Lewiston as a community organizer continued unabated. But after she moved here, she made friends with some of the s**theads I've spoken about, many of whom are also fellow potheads and party people. Their shared animus towards me was the glue that brought them together. That's when the poison of her slander, combined with theirs, really began to take effect, which only inflamed the other problems that developed soon after.

Q. So you see her as being the one to blame for all this?

A. Of course not. She's just a food pimp in Nevada. That's all she'll ever be. She's not capable of anything more complex than "over easy vs. sunny-side-up." No. I mean, she was a factor, no question, among many. But I accept responsibility; I always have. Remember, the only real tragedy that occurred in all this is the ultimate fate of my mother and father, being made to live out their final days in a foreign environment surrounded by strangers. That was the biggest crime of all, in my way of thinking. My other relatives' complicity in that is totally unforgivable. And even though I fought against it, I could have done more to keep my parents out of the nursing home, where they spent the last weeks of their lives wasting away, abandoning any last ounce of hope. I realize that now. I live with these regrets every day. I wanted desperately to help them, but I failed. Everyone else in the equation acted the way they were programmed to behave, as they'd behaved all their lives. From my selfish family members to the s**theads with all their ulterior motives, there were really no surprises when all was said and done. They were just living up to their own potential, that's all. They never strayed from the script. But it was different in my case; I should have seen it all coming. And maybe I did, but I was too preoccupied with my own life, too distracted by my volunteerism, my writing, to be the driving force that I should have been in the lives of my parents, and especially, in their destiny. Railing against nursing homes wasn't enough, obviously. Only I had the power, the ability to act in effecting a positive outcome for them. And I lost my one chance to make that change. No, I'll take responsibility—and a good chunk of the blame, naturally, for everything that's happened. Of course, in the blame department, I've had a great deal of help along the way—from the niece, from the other family members too, as well as from a host of local characters, most of whom we've already discussed. These are all people who, in their own ways, set out to bring me down, but, through their own destructive actions, have only succeeded in harming themselves and others. And not the least of their victims has been our community, which I see as the secondary tragedy here.

"I accept responsibility.
I always have.
I could have done more to keep my parents out of the nursing home, where they spent the last weeks of their lives wasting away, abandoning any last ounce of hope.
I realize that now.
I live with these regrets every day."

Q. Like who?

A. Well, there's the Irish Catholic woman we've talked about, (redacted). Her small network of paid cohorts here has spent a good deal of time slandering Michele and me, and Lindsay too. Her motive for including him in that lawsuit was strictly one of spite, as I saw it. But it's really come back to bite her, like so much else that she's done here. I can't even begin to describe the level of disgust locals have for her, in light of the divisions she's caused in this community over the last several years. And she knows it now. Which is why she's resorted to using her friends to front for her when she seeks donations from the public, especially when they're for her own profit-making projects. Because her well of support here has dried up.
But what people from these parts will never forget about her is that she tried to do the exact same thing to us that she did to the last volunteer fire chief that we had in our town and his wife: by bullying them into submission while assassinating their character in order to take from them what they had. And of course she and her husband ended up with their jobs, more or less. That was just the first vendetta-fueled tirade she went on here, and the community hasn't forgotten, or forgiven her for it. That's due largely to the fact that, unlike her past targets, we didn't go quietly.
Worse still, Lewiston citizens who've dared to cross her have been met with the implied threat of 'pray your house doesn't catch fire; my husband and his crew may not be so quick to respond.' Yes, it's just that serious. It's a form of mental illness with her, I'm pretty sure.
She's well known for attending meetings of local groups that she sees as her competition, and openly questioning the financial accountability of their leaders, by demanding to see their books. It's a classic case of projection on her part; she has a knack for some highly questionable money management practices within her own groups, where she always manages to be in charge of the money. Suspicious, like the stock market fiasco I already mentioned. And nobody dares audit her books, if they know what's good for them.
Now, she's managed to funnel proceeds from Lewiston's two main events each year, once run by the same groups that she'd targeted in the past, into her own vanity cause: a bloated public works project of her own design that the town doesn't need or want. She has no shame whatsoever.

Q. No, please. Don't hold anything back. (laughs)

A. Here's a funny story—she even tried to spearhead a campaign of public opposition to the Lewis Memorial Project when it was announced a few years ago. No kidding. She was seen hanging homemade fliers throughout the community urging people to be outraged at me, the then-treasurer of the non-profit, about the alleged misappropriation of funds raised by the public, for what she tried to portray as a wasteful project. Never mind that two of her staunchest supporters were members of the same board that voted for it unanimously back in the day. Did she attack them? Of course not. But yeah, that's what you want to do: try to shoot down an historical preservation movement in a town that thrives on its rich history. What a genius.
Then, later, when that history project was finally completed, she and her bed buddies started a whisper campaign around town that the discovery of the man's grave in Oregon was some kind of hoax, that we somehow made the story up. Can you believe the balls on these people?
Anyway, after several such attempts at sabotage over the years, Mrs. Don Quixote and her mini-Mafia failed, needless to say. And virtually all of her own homegrown projects, ostensibly designed to improve our town, are now dead or dying. That's because people here quickly figured her out. The locals she conned into volunteering have fled in droves, all but the compensated few, who've stuck around because they have a vested interest in doing so, usually a financial one. Like the gossipy lawnmower weirdos she got work for through the district her own husband is in charge of. They're her biggest cheerleaders now, of course. And, like good soldiers, they too have been obsessively badmouthing us ever since their boss's last takeover—just another case of buying your friends.
In light of all this, it's hardly surprising that she tried to shut down the Lewiston Website. When she sees something as a threat to her, if she can't buy it or steal it, she'll try to kill it. Well, this time she failed at all three. Now do you see why she's widely thought of as a joke in our town? In her case, I'm afraid it's going to take more than the usual 'one Our Father and three Hail Mary's each Saturday night' to remedy all the evil that this heretical harridan is responsible for in our town.

Q. Whe else?

A. Veronica Gray, for sure. Like my niece, she's recently made friends with some members of the mob we talked about. Again, their shared hatred of me being the bonding force. Recently, she's been trying to pass herself off as a local artist, for the first time in her life, as a way of salvaging her own godawful reputation in the county. She appears desperate to present herself as legitmate now, after having done serious time for her recent series of crimes here. But this year, a bank in Weaverville where her "art" was scheduled for display swifty threw her stuff out once they learned about her criminal history. That's what's known as karma; it all comes back around. When I fingered her for the neighborhood thefts a few years back, she proceeded to tell everyone that I was, get this, a thief. That was her idea of a defense. Because no one projects quite as adeptly as a criminal who got caught. In her RO case, she even alleged in her own court documents that I'd been selling stolen items on the web. Coincidence? Her lies only fed into the stories that were already going around about me, being spread by my niece, and soon picked up on by the other s**theads. By the time my own sister opined in her court documents that the boxes filled with discarded books that we'd been storing in my garage, all of which were on their way to the book recycler, were somehow intended for sale on the internet—an eerily similar version of Veronica's court testimony, and traces of which later showed up in Quatiekins' ramblings—it became apparent that the three entities had been talking, and that there was an intermediary. That's right—the Evil Niece.

Q. All right. One more.

A. (redacted), whom I've already told you about. He's been one of the most vocal slanderers, and he's a prolific liar. Michele and I were witnesses the night he attempted to pick the locks of the Old Lewiston Schoolhouse, a county-owned building, to gain entry illegally. We prevented his break in, but everyone knows about it by now, and about his criminal history as well. Just abhorrent.

"Michele and I were witnesses the night he attempted to pick the locks of the Old Lewiston Schoolhouse, a county-owned building, to gain entry illegally.
We prevented his break-in, but everyone knows it by now, and about his criminal history."

Q. You often refer to these people as s**theads. Even if you have a valid case against them, don't you think that such vitriolic diatribes might only hurt you in the eyes of the public?

A. (pauses) Do I strike you as someone who actually cares about such things at this point? I mean, really. I started my volunteerism with stars in my eyes about the public that I set out to serve. I tried hard to be a people pleaser. Kind of childlike, really. I never imagined that small town politics, my favorite phrase as you can see, would be eating our town alive. Or that I would become enmeshed in it at some point. I just proceeded to serve with the innocent hope that everyone would come to appreciate what we were doing, all us volunteers. And yet it took me years to realize the ugly truth: that some people among us in this town, people who were also volunteers, were acting with hidden motives, and not serving the public unselfishly. I could kick myself for having been so naive. But once I had the epiphany, that's when I decided to back away, to drop out of local affairs, become less visible, working primarily behind the scenes, after ten years in the thick of it. Because when you devote yourself to a worthwhile cause—joining other like-minded citizens who just want to give something back to their community—only to see it become corrupted by the selfish actions of a few others, that's when it changes you. I went from being, among other things, the Publicity Director of a small non-profit organization, to, as you said, town crier, almost overnight. I take no satisfaction in this job. There's no fulfillment to be had from this type of work. It's just what needs to be done. Nor am I ashamed of it in any way. But worried about my public image? Me? At this late date? I don't think so. Now, it's all about the message. As long as that gets across, then I've done my job. People's hyper-sensitivity about offensive words doesn't concern me. They'll get over the bad words. And when they do, they'll remember the message. If they know what's good for them.

IX. Reflections

Q. Are you concerned at all about your legacy in this community?

A. It's mostly out of my hands—and I'm fine with that. My work as a volunteer, for more than a decade now, as well as all my future endeavors of any substance, will be remembered a hundred years from now, and beyond. That's especially true with my writing. Why? Because I'm brilliant? Because everyone adores me? Not necessarily. It's because people will have the internet archives to guide them by then, a very detailed compendium of everything we're doing online today. Do you really think that all the cyber-minutiae that occupies our lives now when we're on the internet just disappears after we clear our cookies and cache? Every celebrity tweet you read, every website you visit, every email you answer and every link you probably shouldn't have clicked on—it's all being archived for future reference, to the benefit of anyone from generations to come who seeks to learn more about the people and events of present day. That includes all the content of the Lewiston Website, and most of my other writing as well. It's all out there, the entire record of all that has transpired since the dawn of the internet, warts and all. And no one in the here and now can do a damn thing to change that, let alone to stop it.

"(W)hen you devote yourself to a worthwhile cause—joining other other like-minded citizens who just want to give something back to their community—only to see it become corrupted by the selfish actions of a few others, that's when it changes you."

Q. Describe your relationship with your immediate family members during the last few months you lived with them.

A. Increasingly strained. My niece was provoking confrontations at every turn, and for the first time in our lives, urgent phone calls to the sheriff were happening, and with growing regularity. It's just became untenable. But I tried to just focus on the tasks at hand: balancing my volunteerism with my family life, what remained of it. I was the only member of my family who had any amount of medical training. I used my nursing experience to help my parents for as long as I could. My oldest brother and I worked in tandem to that end, taking care of them. All I ever wanted was to see my folks' daily needs met, and let them live comfortably—with the influence of their party trash granddaughter kept to a minimum—and to keep them the hell out of the nursing home, where I saw first-hand the horrors that people's relatives are subjected to. I was passionately opposed, and really, the lone voice of opposition in my family to nursing home living, whereas my siblings felt that that was the answer. Well, they got their wish. And their karma followed.

Q. Hmm. So how has all this turmoil affected your writing?

A. Amazingly, I'm even more focused as a writer now. Largely because of all the nonsense I've encountered in recent years and better knowing how to deal with the assholes of the world. My publications have really blossomed, and I've been able to devote more time to discovering local history. I've gotten a couple of offers from regional publishing companies as well, so it looks like I'll be pretty busy in the foreseeable future. Virtually all I do now is research, write and publish—as my health allows. I also travel, mainly for medical reasons. But nothing has interfered with my writing.

Q. Do you still volunteer?

A. I'll never stop being a volunteer. Not in Lewiston, not anywhere. That's something no one can take away. These publications are my main contribution, and they ain't going away any time soon. See, there's no official list that someone can remove your name from, making you not a volunteer anymore. Volunteerism doesn't require membership in any particular group. That's the beauty of it. If there's a cause near and dear to your heart, you really don't need to sign up with an organizaton that purports to represent it in order to be a volunteer. Just go out and do something that's in concert with the goals of that cause or movement. Something constructive. Something beneficial to others. That's where it's at.

"If there's a cause near and dear to your heart, you really don't need to sign up with a group that purports to represent it in order to be a volunteer.
Just go out and do something that's in concert with the goals of that cause or movement.
Something constructive.
Something beneficial to others.
That's where it's at."

Q. Final question: Whom do you most admire?

A. (laughs) Sorry. But I just thought of another question that someone once put to me: Who's your hero? And I was embarrassed that I didn't have an answer for them. I'd never really given it much thought. But later, after thinking about it, I came to realize that the correct answer is "me." Sounds egotistical, I know. But I don't think of it that way. Because that should be your answer, too. As individuals, we're programmed by society to automatically say "Ghandi", or "Abraham Lincoln." Or the old stand-by: "my father." As a people we feel obligated to deify members of our workforce, like firefighters or soldiers, who are really just doing their jobs, nothing more. While you might appreciate some of the things these people have done in their lives, are they really heroes, when you think about it? Do you truly admire them as people, or just for a few accomplishments? And aren't we in the habit of applying that label, hero, too broadly? I finally came to the conclusion that our search for heroes, or those whom we admire in the world, should not be an outward journey, at least not at first. I just feel that people should be the heroes they'd like to see in their fellow man. And that all starts with self-respect, which is a quality that's sorely lacking in we human animals. Simply put: admire yourself, first and foremost. Not to the exclusion of other people, but as the first priority. How else can you come to value others, if not? And—perhaps more important—stop looking for saviors; you're only bound to be disappointed anyway. Be your own hero. You'll be a better person for it.

X. Postscript

For the record, J. A. Scribner still resides in Trinity County, at least part of the time, in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Trinity Alps. (I think he just says that to sound mysterious!)
Of late, he's been spending much of his time on the road, traveling mainly for medical reasons. But rest assured, friends and fans, it's nothing serious—or so he tells me. He was in reasonably good health during our interview last summer,when I last laid eyes on him, and in pretty good spirits, I might add, despite the often cynical tenor of his testimony as presented here. Some things just seem to get lost in translation when seen on the printed page, I guess, as much as they do on all these tiny glowing screens that dominate our lives now, and that have come to supplant the once-commonplace books that Mr. Scribner, Ms. de Onate and scores of volunteers before them hauled, sorted, processed, shelved and discarded in their years of volunteerism at the institution that still shares the name of this website.
Just the other day, in our latest phone conversation, J. A. assured me that all is well with him and Michele, and that the future looks bright for Lewiston as well. The small California town that he's called home (most of the time) since Jerry Brown's first go-round as Governor back in the day is, according to our venerable Webmeister, making a fine recovery in its own right.
Nevertheless, he also wanted everyone to know that any and all questions, comments and rude remarks can freely be left by you, the reader, by clicking on the webmaster link at the bottom of this page. He'll do his best to respond to all submissions in a prompt manner, even the nastier ones...or so he claims.
As for me, I'll be on my boat down in San Diego by the time the text of this interview is uploaded to the site. So please enjoy, one and all. And should anyone have issues with anything presented here, then I would ask that they please take up the matter with my attorney, Mr. Tuvski von Schitzen.

J. D. Harris
December, 2014

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