Citizen Rose

A few months after moving in with Rose I received a letter welcoming me to the West Virginia Bar Association. I had decided to open my office in Moundsville, the county seat of Marshall County, where Rose lived, rather than the bigger town of Wheeling, a little further up river. I rented a small storefront a few doors down from the courthouse and started making the rounds, trying to get my name around town.

My first formal contact with the local bar was an ethical interview required of all new members. The lawyers I had met while taking the bar exam told me this was mere formality, and that their own interviews had consisted of nothing more than a handshake and a warm welcome. My interview was of a different sort. I was ushered into the office of an ambitious, fair-haired Moundsville attorney whose first question dealt with a name that appeared on my bar application.

"I see you've used Richard Rose as a reference," he said, thumbing through my paperwork like it was a criminal's rap sheet.

"Yes. Do you know him?" I smiled, glad to see we had something in common.

"Everyone knows Richard Rose," he said with a withering glance over his half-frame reading glasses. "Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Gold. I have a few questions about your application."

That evening I related to Rose how I'd been grilled for over an hour after my interviewer had seen Rose's name as a reference. Rose asked who the attorney was.

"Oh, that guy," Rose said. "He's still mad at me over the golf course deal."

Rose explained that several years before, the County Commissioners had voted to condemn a thousand acres of rural property, including Rose's farm, to develop into a golf course. Rose immediately organized the neighboring farmers to fight the condemnation, and they successfully defeated it. The lawyer who interviewed me had represented the County Commission in the case.

"I remember I was speaking at a public hearing," Rose grinned, "and I'd gotten people pretty stirred up. Things weren't going the way the Commission wanted. The farmers started shouting that they'd get lawyers and fight this thing to the top. Then that fathead you talked to today yells back at ‘em, 'You don't need lawyers. You've already got Richard Rose doing your talking for you!' He looks at me like I was a bug that should be squashed."

It wasn't the best way to kick off a career, but I couldn't expect everyone to like me. Rod, the attorney I was renting my office from, had promised to introduce me around town the next day, and I assured myself that tomorrow would be better.

On the walk over to the courthouse the next morning, Rod explained that Marshall County had two judges who disliked each other so much that each refused to mention the other's name, referring to each other instead as "Part One" and "Part Two."

"Part One and I don't get along very well," Rod confessed, "but the one you're meeting first, Part Two, we're really close." Rod gave me a reassuring wink then disappeared behind a door marked, "Judges Chambers - Part II."

Through the door I could hear Rod's muffled voice, then the judge's loud response. "Gold! What the hell'd you rent to somebody like that for? I heard about him already. He's a disciple of that loose cannon from Benwood, Richard Rose."

I heard Rod say something else I couldn't catch, then a few seconds later he emerged from the judge's office.

"It's all set," he said with a big smile, holding the door open for me.

With some misgivings I walked into the unkempt office where a portly man with a flushed face stared without expression at me from behind a large ornate desk. I started to offer my hand but it seemed clear he would not have reciprocated so I thought better of it.

"Welcome to the Marshall County Bar," was all he said. Then he spun in his chair to look out the window behind him. The introduction was over.

Out in the hallway again, Rod pointed towards a door at the opposite end of the hall. "That's Part One's office," he said, heading for the elevator. "I'm not as tight with him so things may not go as well. You're on your own."

I stood there for a moment staring at Part One's door, then decided one judge a day was enough. I granted myself a continuance and returned to Benwood for lunch.

As I walked up the steps to the house I heard a rustling in the apple tree that shaded the narrow walkway on the south side of the house. There in the uppermost branches stood Rose, picking apples and carefully placing them in an old black bucket he'd wedged between some branches.

"Did they run you out of town early today?" he said, tossing an apple down to me.

"I met another one of your admirer's," I said. I told him the judge's name then took a bite of the apple.

"Oh, that guy," Rose said with a chuckle.

I wondered how many "that guys" I was going to have to deal with in Marshall County.

"He's probably still upset over the State Road deal."

I found a spot to sit on the porch where I could see Rose through the branches.

"You see that garage back there?" he said, pointing towards the back yard. I'd often wondered about that building. It was a solidly built block garage, but the vehicle entrance faced the cliff-like incline that rose abruptly to the four-lane highway bordering Rose's back yard at about rooftop level. There was no way a car could get into it.

"Yeah," I said. "The 'garage-to-nowhere.' I figured it was some kind of Zen koan."

"It was a koan for me, that's for sure," he said. "And I hope for some of the courthouse gang, too." I could hear the rustling of branches and the steady plunk of apples falling into the bucket as he spoke.

"There used to be a house that went with that garage, up there where the road is now. Built it myself, right after I got married. My parents still lived here and I wanted a decent place to put the family, so I decided to build on the lot back of here--what used to be a lot. I cut the timber myself off the farm and sawed it into lumber with a rusty old sawmill rig I bought off a guy for eighty bucks. I was alone so it took me most of a winter to do it. Then I hauled it all into town in the spring and started building the house.

"I mixed the concrete and poured the footers myself by hand--the stuff you get in the trucks is watered down. When I framed it I only used seasoned oak and locust--wood so hard that every nail I hammered into that house had to be held with vicegrips. I used cement instead of mortar when I laid the bricks. It's hard to work with, but lasts twice as long.

"Must have been one helluva house."

"‘Build for a thousand years and live as if you're going to die tomorrow,’" Rose quoted softly, more to himself than to me.

"What happened to the house?"

"It was in the way of where they wanted to put their highway," he said, changing positions in the tree. "A guy down the road--who was the mayor's cousin--got five thousand dollars for an empty lot. Me, I got six-thousand for my lot and house both."

"And they got away with it?" I got up and walked over to the tree.

"Not without a fight. First I took them to court. That's where I met your new friend the judge. He was just a lawyer for the State Road Commission at the time, and I made a lot of trouble for him. Of course, fighting these thieves in court is a battle you can't win. I paid some other lawyer five hundred bucks to tell me the fix was in and there was nothing he could do."

He stared down at me from under his wide-brim hat. "Naturally, my lawyer didn't tell me this until he had my money in his pocket." As if to emphasize my guilt by professional association he shook the branch above me and I was showered with apples, several bouncing off my head and shoulders. Rose let out a high-pitched, childlike laugh, then continued.

"I saw that I wasn't going to get anywhere by myself, so I got all the neighbors together who weren't in with the politicians and we formed a property owners association. We went to the newspapers and held rallies and drove to Charleston. I think we really had ‘em worried for awhile.

"But then that State Road lawyer--your judge--went to them, one by one, and raised the offers on their houses. Naturally, they all caved in.

"So then it was just me. I made a picket sign and marched in front of the construction trucks, telling the TV cameras and anybody who'd listen that this country was no better than Russia if they could steal the roof over your family's heads whenever they got the notion, and pay you what they damn well wanted to!

"But eventually they took my house, of course. The bulldozers were brought in and they just ran along that little ridge up there, flattening every house they came to. When they hit my house, though, it wouldn't budge. They kept taking longer and longer runs at it, trying to take it down. Finally they got it leaning and on the next run they knocked it off the foundation.

"But you know what? That house came off in one solid piece. Doors, windows, porch, roof--nothing so much as creaked. There was just a solid perfectly good house laying there on its side. The demolition guys said they never seen anything like it."

Rose chuckled at the memory and started down the ladder. I reached up to take the bucket from him but he seemed to either ignore me or not notice. It made me think again of that first Intensive when he refused to accept anything from my hand.

On the ground he began examining apples that had fallen and putting the good ones into the bucket. I bent down to help him and he seemed not to mind my adding some apples to his bucket.

"Funny thing is," he said, "everything worked out for the best. Those bastards at State Road actually did me a favor. I was going nuts trying to manage the two farms and the three or four pieces of property I had in town. After the house was gone, I realized that all they did was take away one of my headaches."

He stood up and made circular motions with his right shoulder, trying to work out the stiffness. "Not to mention the fact that every one of those politicians, from Governor Barron on down, ended up going to the penitentiary."

In the weeks to come I gradually learned that it wasn't just former legal adversaries who had memories of Rose. The next day I had lunch at a little diner a few blocks from my office. As I paid my bill at the register the waitress studied me curiously.

"Mind if I ask you a question?" she said.

"No, go ahead."

"You're the new lawyer, right? The one who's living with Richard Rose?"

"Yeah," I said cautiously, "I'm the new lawyer."

"So how's he doing? He must be, what, sixty by now?"

"Yeah, close to it."

She counted out my change carefully, the way people do who aren't too sure of their addition.

"My husband and I used to run a little bar there in Benwood near his house. Rose would stop in some evenings. He wasn't a drinker, but he'd order a soda and shoot the bull with some of the guys from the mill. Played a little poker in the back, sometimes.

"I remember when he first started coming here I thought he looked like he was different from everybody else. Like he didn't fit in, or something, and I asked my husband who he was. My husband says, 'The meanest, toughest son-of-a-bitch in the valley, that's who.' She laughed at the memory.

"I was a little wild in those days," she said, giving me a knowing look, "and that aroused my curiosity. I remember I went right over to Rose, gave him a soda he didn't order and said, 'You don't look so tough to me.'"

"'Is that a fact,' he says.

"'My husband tells me you’re the meanest, toughest son-of-a-bitch in the valley,' I say to him, standing kinda close to his chair.

"Rose looks me over a second then says, 'That's what I want 'em to think. That way people leave me alone.'" She laughed again, then told me who she was, even spelled out her last name. "Make sure you tell Rosie you saw me, okay?"

The news of my arrival in town spread quickly among the locals. Everywhere I went people recognized me as the new lawyer who was somehow connected with Richard Rose, a man whom, I quickly discovered, was liked by some, despised by others, and understood by no one. People knew him variously as a friendly farmer, loyal friend, political loose cannon, belligerent fighter, that 'poet fella,' or 'that mystic guy who runs the hippie farm out on the ridge.' The only common thread that ran through all the ways people thought of Rose, was that in one way or another everyone respected him, even if it was, for many, a grudging respect. After awhile I was no longer bothered by people's reaction to my association with Rose, except in one very big area.

Regardless of their other memories and impressions of Rose, everyone knew him as the man who gave the Hare Krishnas a foothold in the Ohio Valley. A foothold they used to establish a sprawling empire by buying up all the land for miles around--except for the Rose farm, which was not for sale at any price.

No one knew that Rose had been "duped" into the deal, as he later laughingly admitted. All anyone knew or cared about was that the "Hairy Critters," as the locals called them, were now dancing and chanting and parading around on McCreary's Ridge, and that Richard Rose was to blame for it. Few knew the story of how it came to happen.

As Rose told his wife on the day he married her, his real purpose in life was to teach, and if that chance ever came along he would take it. For twenty years that chance never came. In post-World War II America people were interested in jobs and families and suburban tract homes, not in the musings of a man who spoke about becoming the Absolute. But Rose was not idle. He carefully planned in his head and on paper the organization and structure of an esoteric spiritual group to be centered on his farm, should the opportunity ever come. By the mid-sixties he'd about given up hope, and with his health failing at the time, he began writing down his discoveries to leave behind--a "note in a bottle," as he called it. These writings would later be compiled into The Albigen Papers.

As Rose was finishing these writings, and preparing for what seemed like his impending death, young people from the fledgling counter-culture in Wheeling inexplicably started drifting out to his farm. Some were the children of his friends, others the friends of his children. They'd heard whisperings and stories and came to check him out. They found that Rose was, well, Rose, and they kept coming back. It was fun to get high then hang out with the Zen farmer with the quick wit who seemed as intrigued with them as they were with him.

Rose had never seen kids on drugs and they had never met a man who could read minds. Although none of the visitors were serious enough to settle down and do any real work, Rose interpreted their interest in his philosophy as a sign that the "door had opened." It was time to make a move.

He placed a small ad in underground newspapers in New York and San Francisco, inviting "serious seekers" to join in the establishment of a "non-dogmatic philosophic ashram" in the hills of West Virginia. Instead of serious seekers, however, Rose got serious dopers, but he opened up his farm to them anyway, believing then, as he still does, that he should work with whoever comes through the door until someone more serious shows up.

Among the wave of West Coast hippies who made the pilgrimage to West Virginia were Keith Ham and Howard Wheeler, the first people Rose met who seemed to want more than a place to relax in the country. They told Rose they were former Hare Krishnas, but that they'd left because of philosophic differences with Prabhupada, the founder of the Krishna movement in the United States. They expressed interest in leasing Rose's "back" farm for the purpose of starting a non-denominational spiritual community. Rose, pleased to find people who seemed serious, gave them a ninety-nine year lease on the place, a 160 acre farm he had purchased when he was twenty and used as a meditation retreat.

As soon as the papers were signed, however, his new tenants, as Rose says, "put on bedsheets and started chanting gibberish." Using their newly leased farm as a base, the two men eventually established the largest Krishna commune in the country, and built the "Palace of Gold," an extravagantly garish edifice featuring two hundred tons of imported marble and a rotunda covered with twenty-four karat gold leaf. As more and more neighbors sold out to the Krishnas at inflated prices, Rose found himself inhabiting an island farm on what was now becoming known as "Hare Krishna Ridge."

The Krishna shadow followed Rose's shadow which followed me. None of this helped get my practice off the ground. I continued to make the rounds, meeting everyone I could, hoping one of the contacts would pay off. But after two weeks of being open for business, I had yet to speak to a single client.

The storefront office I'd rented was subdivided into two units. On the other side of a thin plywood wall was the Moundsville chapter of the American Automobile Association, one of the busiest places in town. The previous tenants had occupied both offices so there was a large opening between the two rooms, and no door. My landlord had been promising for weeks to correct this, but so far nothing separated me from the crowded waiting room of the Triple-A. Each day I sat in my rocking chair behind my table--the only two pieces of furniture on my side of the wall--trying to look like whatever I thought a lawyer should look like, while a steady stream of West Virginians passed by the door like visitors in a zoo, staring through the opening at the Semitic-looking oddity in the polyester suit.

Every day I waited for the phone to ring, an important piece of mail to arrive, or a stray client to walk through the door. Nothing. Each evening, as a matter of principle, I waited for the Triple-A office to close before I turned off my lights and returned to Benwood.

One night when I arrived Carrie was the only one home. Everyone else was still at work, and Rose, she said, had gone out to the farm. Then she left to meet a friend for a movie and I was alone. I switched on the TV and tried unsuccessfully to interest myself in the one channel it got. I switched it off and left for the farm.

When I walked into the farmhouse I found Rose, Phil and Mark sitting at the dining room table. In the middle was a small glass ashtray with three pennies in it. Rose was reading from a hardback copy of the I Ching and Phil, sitting next to him, was leaning over to get a better look at the text in Rose's hands.

Earlier in the week Rose had mentioned that Phil was leaving the farm after a four-year stay as farm manager. It appeared that Rose and Phil were consulting this ancient Chinese book of prophesy to get a hint about Phil's future. I judged from the mood that the oracle's judgment was not favorable.

"Yeah, but should a person place any stock in fortune telling like this, Mister Rose?" Mark asked, perhaps trying to cheer Phil up.

Rose looked up from the book. "I don't know the mechanics of it, but there is validity to some of these things. Anytime people endow something with belief status over a long period of time--whether it's the rosary or the tarot or crystals or whatever--it gives that object a power it might not otherwise have."

Rose closed the book and turned to me. "So how's the law business going?"

"Not too encouraging," I replied, joining them at the table.

"Well, let's see what the I Ching has to say about our fledgling thief," he chuckled, handing me the ash tray and the coins. I had always been skeptical, even fearful, of occult practices, so I had never played with the I Ching before. I shook the three pennies and dropped them into the ash tray. Mark recorded the combinations of heads and tails that came up. After my sixth and last toss, Rose located the corresponding hexagram in the I Ching. He stroked his goatee as he slowly perused the text, then handed the book to me.

Success through modesty. You are in the

the company of inferiors, but will succeed

because of a strong and good friend.

I looked over to Rose, but he had turned his attention back to Phil. "Just because you're leaving the farm doesn't mean you can't do spiritual work," he said. "Hell, I was married, working, raising kids, and I still went up to Steubenville every week for meetings. It wasn’t even much of a group. Just a bunch of old women. Piddlers, really. But they were good people, and at least it was movement in the right direction."

I only half listened to his story as I read through the I Ching's commentary on the prediction I'd drawn.

"I went up for a meeting one Friday night, and I was a couple of hours early. I had junkers back then, too. So just to kill time I dropped by John's Miller’s hardware store. His wife was in the group. He thought it was nonsense, but he was a friendly sort and I liked being around him.

"While we were talking a customer came in and asked John how much his air compressors cost. John gave him the price, and the customer said, 'I can get that same compressor at Sears for a hundred bucks less.'

"John said, 'Yep. You can get it even cheaper. A lot of this stuff in here you can get cheaper other places.' And he goes on to tell the guy where he can go to get the best prices on the same things he's trying to sell in his store. Then he said, 'The only difference is I take personal responsibility for everything I sell. If you ever have a problem, I make it my problem. And I won’t rest until it’s taken care of.'

"So John tells him to think it over, and the customer starts walking out the door. But he stops and comes back in. 'Ah, what the hell,' he says, 'I'll just take that one.'

"After the customer leaves I told him, 'John, you're the one who should be in the group, not your wife. You already know the formula!'

"John just laughed. 'I used to be a real selfish guy,' he said, ‘until my father-in-law set me straight. He told me that if I ever wanted to be a success, all I had to do was make myself of service.'"

I looked up from the book. Mister Rose was staring right at me.

"That's all any of you have to do if you want to succeed," he said, holding my eyes with his. "Just make yourself of service. The rest will take care of itself."

As the weeks went by I took his advice to heart. When clients finally started appearing I did my best to help whoever walked through my door. Invariably, these were cases that no one else wanted. My professional colleagues delighted in sending the poorest people with the toughest cases and the worst hygiene down the street to my office. I took hopeless cases to trial, fought city hall, represented undesirables, and, in almost all instances, I lost. I worked for little or no compensation, and my clients ended up thinking I was worth even less. Rather than thank me for my efforts in defeat, they were often abusive, wondering out loud what the outcome might have been had they scraped together enough money for a "real lawyer."

In the evenings I came home to a chaotic kitchen ritual that did little to bolster my spirits. As everyone drifted in after the workday, they would fix themselves dinner, and for an hour or more the kitchen was a noisy blur of people in motion. Stove use was at a premium and the four burners worked continually. As soon as a pot or frying pan was removed another took its place. Everything was either boiled or fried because Rose discouraged oven use, saying it used too much gas.

In the midst of the turmoil Rose sat impassively watching the evening news on the old black and white TV perched atop one of the refrigerators, the sound turned up as loud as it would go so that he could hear it above the talk and noises of cooking and eating and dish washing. The news was the only thing Rose ever watched on TV, and he invariably used it to illustrate and support his observations about the planet.

"You see this guy here?" he would say to whoever was sitting closest to him, pointing to someone on the set. "That's a fishhead. See how his face comes out to a point, like a fish? People with heads like that are always cowardly and sneaky. I was in C.C. camp with a guy by the name of Green who had a head like that. He was one of the most...." And with that he would launch into what was usually a very humorous story illustrating that psychological type.

Rose was a student of human nature and he gathered his information from all available sources. At one end of the spectrum, he could read minds, and had an incredible intuition about people and events. But he did not limit himself to these rather esoteric inputs. He observed and studied the behavior of animals, particularly farm animals, saying that human behavior was not much different. He believed that family and social backgrounds predisposed people to certain behaviors and destinies, and that a person's racial and ethnic heritage was of great importance in coming to an understanding of the person. He judged you by what you said, how you said it, and what you could have said but didn't. He watched the way you moved, the things you did, the things you avoided. And, contrary to the "can't judge a book by its cover" homily, Rose also drew a variety of conclusions about people from their physical appearance. This often came out most dramatically during the evening news, when appearance was all he had to go on.

Rose's catalog of psycho-physiological types included, among others, such classifications as blockheads, muttonheads, pinheads, and stovepipeheads. For each one Rose had a prototype, (some famous actor or politician), a distinguishing characteristic, (invariably a weakness or compulsion), and a story involving one of his friends or neighbors who had that appearance.

Then, as the news ended Rose would say, "Turn off that idiot box, will you?" and we'd all sit in an uncomfortable silence as we tried to readjust ourselves to the fact that there was an enlightened man in the kitchen.

It was impossible to assume a "spiritual" state of mind at will, and even if we could, Rose wouldn't have bought it. The best we could do was take turns offering up incidents from the day and hope that he would seize upon one or more of our stories and dovetail it into a discussion of philosophy. In this way we hoped to avoid direct personal confrontations.

"You should’ve seen this guy who walked in today," Al began one night. Al worked as a counselor at the penitentiary in Moundsville, and he seemed to view every inmate-client as a potential case study for the evening's discussion.

"This guy's doing habitual life. All real stupid crimes. Skinny, wild eyes, hears voices coming up from the drainpipe in his sink."

"Does he have deep black circles under his eyes?" Rose asked.

"Yeah," Al said with exaggerated surprise. "Looks like hasn't slept in months."

"Kidney trouble. Wrong kind of sex." Rose's diagnosis was purposefully inexplicit in deference to the women in the room. "Probably went to reform school as a kid."

"Yep. He was sent off to Prunytown when he was ten years old," Al confirmed.

"Same thing happened to a kid down the street," Rose said. He got sent up and the older kids raped him. Then when he gets bigger, he's the one gets to be on top. And that's the sexual association he'll carry with him the rest of his life. He's never comfortable outside of prison, and eventually the voices will goad him into doing something that'll land him back in jail where he can get all of that kind of sex he wants.

"That's why a man has to protect himself," Rose went on. "When my dad was in the pen, he said that if someone whistled at you, you'd better grab something sharp and stick it in him. Otherwise, the next day somebody'd be putting his hands on you, and before you know it, you're no longer a man. And when your self-respect is destroyed, you've lost all spiritual hope as well."

Dan was next. "I put carpet in a house in Glendale, today. The woman was a real bolt cutter." He paused to chew the last bit of his steak from the bone.

"The husband comes out to talk. A little guy, you know, Wally Cox type, always apologizing. It turns out he used to lay carpet, so we're talking. Then the woman comes in and sees him.

"'You, get back into the kitchen!' she yells at him." Dan mimicked her with a threatening shake of his steak bone, and we all laughed. "He slinks away. Never saw him again."

"Was there a dog in the house?" Rose inquired.

Dan nodded. "German Shepherd. Stared at me the whole time like he wanted to tear my throat out."

"There's your explanation," Rose said. "The dog is the husband in that house."

It was my turn. "This old farmer and his wife came to my office today..."

Rose gave me an inquisitive look. "I don't think you'd know them," I said. "They just moved here from out of town and bought a dairy farm up on Robert's Ridge."

I explained that they'd come to me for the usual reason--no one else would touch their case. In this instance it was because of who they were up against.

"Their daughter was on her way home from town with some feed, when she has to stop while some cattle cross the road. While she's waiting for the cattle to pass, the cattleman who owns 'em--who I found out later has tons of money he inherited from his parents--walked up to her car and started touching her and making obscene suggestions.

"Well, he knew right away from her reaction that he'd made a big mistake, and when he found out how mad her parents were over what he did, he ran down to the magistrate's office and swore out a warrant against the girl. That way, he figured, they’d be too intimidated to file charges against him."

"How can he do that?" the others wanted to know.

"Magistrates will give just about anybody a warrant for just about anything. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork."

"So what'd you do?" Rose asked.

"I got angry," I said, watching Rose carefully for his reaction. "These are good, simple people. They have more than a dozen foster children at their farm besides their own. I called the magistrate's office and told them I was going to represent them in the case. Then, right after they left, I got a call from one of the women that works in the magistrate's office. Nice lady. I think she feels sorry for me because I get so many losers.

"Anyway, she told me the fix was in. Turns out this cattleman's been bothering young girls all his life. One of them even brought rape charges against him. But somehow he always manages to buy his way out of it. He's never spent a day in jail. Never even paid a fine."

My story was a big hit. Rose launched into one case history after another about corruption in the local judiciary, and for a half-hour none of us had to think about the questions we really should have been asking him.

"That's why these attorneys are so miserable," Rose said, finally winding down. "They drink with the judge, conspire with him about how to fleece the public, bribe him if they really get in a jam, then go to court and call him 'Your Honor.'

He turned to look at me. "Even your so-called 'honest' lawyers don't raise a peep when one of their clients gets sent to the penitentiary for stealing food to feed his family--just because the judge wants to look tough just before an election. The lawyers figure that's the way the game is played, and they just roll over. So they all end up like the punks in the pen--no self-respect, and no chance to rise out of the illusion."

No matter how many times I heard a variation of this speech it still bothered me. I felt like he was not only holding me accountable for the whole legal system, but that he somehow expected me to change it.

"Isn't it unrealistic to think one person can clean up the whole system?" I said.

Without a word Rose stood up and walked out of the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with a bulging manila folder.

"The outcome of wars isn't determined by atom bombs," he said, handing me the folder. "It's determined by desperate men with satchel charges."

Everyone crowded around the folder. Inside were numerous newspaper clippings of "Citizen Rose" in action. A younger, thinner Rose holding a microphone at a public meeting. An angry Rose carrying a picket sign reading "The State Road Commission uses Communist tactics." An article describing Rose's campaign against certain practices of the local school board. On and on. Clipped to many of the articles about Rose were related articles, such as accounts of the governor and some top aides going to jail for accepting kickbacks on the State Road Commission deal. And there were dozens of Letters to the Editor submitted by "R. Rose, Benwood." The one on top began, "Why does Wheeling rhyme with stealing?"

When we'd finished looking at the last of the articles he gathered them up and replaced them in the folder. "I refuse to be intimidated by anybody or anything," he said. What he left unsaid, but what we all knew, was that he expected each of us to live the same way.

"Cops, judges, the government," he said, "these bastards all think they can intimidate people by virtue of their superior position. I won't stand for it. A few years ago the IRS called me out of the blue and asked me where I got the money to keep two daughters in college on a painter's earnings.

"I said, 'Go to Hell! I found it, I stole it, I cheated little old ladies. If you think I'm doing something wrong, get a warrant and arrest me. But don't call my home and try to intimidate me, or somebody's going to get hurt."

Knowing I had to face him each evening kept me in a perpetual state of alert all day. Rose saw challenges to integrity and threats to spiritual potential in events that seemed commonplace to me. Inconsequential incidents that I figured came with the territory--a judge making an example of one of my clients, or another attorney stealing one of my cases--were regarded by Rose as that first wolf whistle in the penitentiary, sounding the beginning of a chain of accommodations and compromises that could destroy my chance to become a man, or to break out of the illusion.

"You might as well face it," he said. "We're living in a physical and psychic jungle. If you let yourself get pushed around in the earthly plane, then you become a coward who'll cave in when things get rough in the invisible dimensions. You've got to face adversity in this realm, and conquer it. Then you'll have character, at least, and possibly the chance to achieve something much greater." Home    |    Table of Contents    |    Next Chapter