For the most part he considered the law his foe. When signs were put up posting this or that sort of prohibition, he’d get up on moonless nights and take them right down. When the colors of license plates on cars changed across the state, he’d keep his old one on until a trooper had pulled him over, right in his own dirt driveway. “It’s rusted right in, right where I bolted it,” he’d told the officer, pointing to the four screws he’d screwed in to hold it in place. When notices for jury duty arrived in his mailbox he tossed them in together with the junk mail. He never opened one of them, never let his fury rise by reading one of the questionnaires that preceded jury candidate selection. When presidential elections came he voted for the candidate he felt some disfavor toward just to show himself how pointless the whole thing was. Why, if he’d had one, he’d marry his own sister just to show how meaningless that was, too. The law was bunk. History was bunk. You couldn’t believe in such lies as a free market system when all the gas stations within an eight mile radius overnight had the same gasoline prices within 1/10 of one penny with each other without the whole entire thing being a racket. And so long as they skimmed their taxes off the top, like cream, the government played along with the whispering conspiracy that had to go on in the bleak nighttime hours between Exxon, and Chevron, and Lukoil, and whoever else was playing. It was all one great big lie, one big hoax. Just for fun, when he’d take a drive in the wee hours of the morning, he’d find a road with double yellow solid lines in the middle, cross those lines, and drive for as long as he could on the other side of the road. He took it in stride the several times he’d been arrested, and felt no animus toward the gun-carrying men themselves. It was the law itself he abhorred and which he had abjured. He had nothing against people.
There are places I have known, and regardless of my affections and whatever leanings, this way or that, which I may also have, the somber reminder is there. Cattle die. Kinsmen die. All men are mortal. So said, I read once in a fearsome kids’ book I have never found again, the Viking. When this is seen, not as a marble monument in Washington, nor as some great waxen get-up lying in state in Moscow, but off upon the grassy roadside in the prairie fields of America, death by the wayside strikes another note which is neither religious nor symbolic.
There is instead the blanched grouping of seven well-arranged crosses, none of these lives crucified atop a Roman hill, but all them at once talking, swearing and laughing, teasing each other and probably gossiping about the evening, just enjoying the open speed of the open country in a car together at night, just all slipped away at once. All together. Just like that. Very quietly. These sad reminders are, in fact, everywhere out West in the U.S. They are not anomalies. They are not rare at all. They are there at just about any small bridge or cement-walled overpass you see while driving, clusters of white beautiful crosses, like bright white wildflowers planted by many different pairs of caring human hands grieving across the plains of America.