Thursday, December 29, 2005

No more eggnog for Katie!

Ok, Spotty. Time to get off your substantial haunches and post something. [Whining in the background. Ed.]

Spot thinks that Katie has been into Uncle Bill’s special rum eggnog, big time. There is no other explanation for the story she tells today, December 29th. Katie tells the story of Hazelton, a hardscrabble North Dakota town, and a man who graced the place by living there, rancher Ben Kalberer.

Kalberer sounds like a thoroughly admirable, community-spirited man. A bachelor, Kalberer was apparently the adopted uncle of every kid in Hazelton. Here’s what one resident said of him:
"Ben Kalberer was the pied piper of Hazelton," says Tom Weiser, who recently stepped down as president of the Hazelton Development Corp. "Kids followed him everywhere. Without a family of his own to support, he used what he had to brighten other people's lives."

Stories abound of Kalberer’s generosity and thoughtfulness to the young people of Hazelton. Every kid, if he or she is lucky, has some adult who treats the kid as a separate, autonomous individual of worth, wholly apart from the obligation of family. It can be a key to self esteem and a gift beyond measure. Kalberer’s gifts to his community were recently recognized by the naming of a new high school gym in Hazelton in his honor.

Here’s the too much of Uncle Bill’s eggnog part.

Kalberer apparently spent a lot of his time in the local tavern, Earl’s Bar. That Katie finds such a person admirable is astonishing to Spot. Even more astonishing is this:
After Kalberer died in 1975, Hazelton, like many other small North Dakota towns, continued to struggle. By the 1990s its population had fallen below 240. In 1997, town officials faced a wrenching decision: renovate the high school or close it.

"That wasn't an option for us," Weiser says.

So Hazelton's citizens took a risk. They voted to raise their taxes, passing a $1.3 million bond issue with 72 percent of the vote.

Apparently, the risk is paying off. What amazes Spot, though, is that Katie could ever affirm the decision of a community - acting through the government, for crying out loud - to make a decision to raise its own taxes for the common good. What ever happened to individual initiative Katie? To the good old Invisible Hand?

We could use more Ben Kalberers. But we could also use more citizens like those in Hazelton, willing to sacrifice for their community.

Incidentally, Sigmund Spot told Spotty that he wants to comment on Katie and the Chronicles of Narnia. Look for it soon.

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