Saturday, October 24, 2009

We communists, taking root and blossoming


“We communists are like seeds and the people are like the soil. Wherever we go, we must unite with the people, take root and blossom among them.” Mao Tse-Tung, 1966.

Dolores seemed like an unlikely place to harbor communist ideals or to produce a Marxist model for utopian cooperation and advancement. But right there it was. Evidence, plain as the nose on you face.
It started out innocent enough. Lynn Leavell had a simple wish. He hoped that one day, all the neighborhood kids would enjoy basketball.
Not just watching it on TV, or playing under the tyrannical guidance of an oppressive coach in gym class or after school — but in the freedom of someone’s own back yard. His — for example.
So, despite only being 9 or 10-years-old, and of limited resources and abilities, he set out to make that happen.
To set the record straight, Lynn was generally a capitalist. He had strong beliefs in the monetary system, the exchange of goods and services, the advancement of a man (or woman) by hard work, and careful administration and application of the fruits of that toil.
But it was like that well-worn Polish joke, “What’s the difference between capitalism and communism? Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man; Communism is the reverse.”
The first step was to convince his dad, who worked out at the sawmill at the time (or maybe it was his mom for she worked out there as well,) to bring home a big old pole. It had to be one tall enough and sturdy enough to hang a backboard from.
The pole appeared one day finally, without fanfare, and was deposited right there at the edge of the yard, parallel with Mary Ruth Major’s fence.
And what a knarly-looking monster it was? It was straight and tall, without bends, curves, irregularities or deviation regarding its reach toward the sky. But man, it was not pretty.
Every six to ten inches, all the way up and all the way around, little nubs, where once a small limb had hastily been trimmed with a chainsaw, protruded slightly from the pole. Some were smashed down flat. Others, the size a man’s thumb, needed the attention of additional sawmilling.
Not to be discouraged, Lynn set work with a hand saw and in some instances a hammer, or wood rasp, and occasionally even a hack saw, in his efforts to smooth over the problem protrusions.
His efforts were rewarded with a passably-smooth pole that was eventually raised, part of it submerged in a deep hole, and set with concrete out in the back of the back yard, near where the old shed used to be, but with plenty of space all the way around. Most of the time a basketball would fall within the confines of Leavell property, no matter how errant a shot.
Time passed and indeed, the neighbor kids did find the wooden backboard at regulation height upon the great knobby pole, to be quite satisfactory. Hours were wiled away after school, on weekends, vacations and during the summers. So much so, that a big brown hole was worn into the lawn and endless contests of H-O-R-S-E, Around the World, one on one, two on two, two on one, and whatever variation you could think of, would occur at all times of day. Every so often, a player, or the game’s host, would pause temporarily and the saw would be summoned to deal with the as-yet-untouched, but never the less still dangerous, knot on the pole.
The games and the yard itself developed a unique, or perhaps unheard of, quality of fairness and equality. Players of awesome ability were matched against those of mediocre, or even sub-par ability with little or no ill effect. Young men played side-by-side with young women. Men against boys. Brother versus sister. Good opposed evil, and so on.
That is where the reference to communism surfaced that I warned you about. Communism, pure and simple, blossoming right there in the soil of Leavell’s back yard on Seventh Street and Hillside Avenue in Dolores, Colorado.
Communism — in its distilled state … disproving Will Rogers often repeated remark, “Communism is like prohibition. It is a good idea but it won’t work.” Or lying bare the idea that a cow of many, is well milked and badly fed.
But old Karl Marx couldn’t have set it up any more perfectly. For in that back yard emerged a genuine model, the real deal.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
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