L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 221, April 28, 2003
"NEXT TIME ..."
Bill and Silent Guy Strike Back
Exclusive to TLE
(With apologies to Kevin Smith)
"Libertarians always have such cool projects!"
This exclamation escaped my lips on April 6, 2003, when Lynn Atherton displayed her husband Roger Bloxham's experimental aircraft.
I recently met Lynn and her husband at a dinner party in their home, rather surprisingly hosted in my honor. It hadn't really started out that way, but these things tend to take on a life of their own, sometimes.
For years, my uncle Guy and I dreamed of attending Wanenmacher's Tulsa Arms Show. Guy and I are the Jay and Silent Bob of the South Dakota gun show circuit. Wanenmacher's show seemed like the ultimate shrine to guns and the free market, and we wanted to make the pilgrimage since I moved back home to South Dakota.
This year, "Silent Guy" located a bus tour that started in Minnesota, stopped in Sioux City, Iowa, and then continued to Tulsa. The cost was a piddling $250 in FRNs and included the bus ride, hotel for the weekend, and exhibitor passes to the gun show.
We're there, dude.
I usually make a point of trying to meet libertarians when I travel: they're fun and I like their company. I contacted the Oklahoma Libertarian Party and was in turn directed to the Tulsa Area Libertarians. I introduced myself and indicated that if the Tulsa Libertarians had a table at the gun show, I'd be interested in stopping by; alternately, I'd love to go to dinner with anyone who'd be free Saturday night.
In short order, what I'd assumed would be a quick burger at Denny's became an amazing dinner party hosted in my honor. I sat flabbergasted as the event materialized before my eyesfor a while, I was a bit worried that I might need to give a speech.
Thus, the "2003 Libertarian Road Trip" was born: a gigantic gun show with a little politics sprinkled in for good measure.
The gun show was April 4-6, 2003. The bus picked us up at a truck stop south of Sioux City on Thursday, April 3, at about 10:30pm. We would be driving all night and arrive about noon on Friday. We'd then have the afternoon to wander the arenaa nine-mile hike! while exhibitors set up their tables.
My uncle and I talked to some of our fellow travelers and gun enthusiasts. Not surprisingly, some were making this trip for business rather than pleasure. I did a quick count: there was just under half a million dollars in FRNs on the bus, distributed among its heavily-armed riders. My uncle and I were site-seeing dilettantes by comparison.
I've never had any luck sleeping upright, so we arrived rather bleary-eyed for breakfast in Joplin, Missouri. Being south of Kansas City for the first time in a couple of years, I had the opportunity to briefly go off my Atkins Diet for a breakfast of grits. Grits can be something of an acquired taste, but one I've enjoyed since my business trips to Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1990s.
Another few hours found us at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. This is one of the most impressive firearms museums I've ever seen. If you're anywhere near Claremore, I heartily recommend it.
Another hour, and we were standing outside the exhibit hall at the Tulsa fairgrounds. Then the doors opened, and suddenly it was like a scene from a Kevin Smith movie:
CUT TO: INTERIOR EXHIBIT HALL. BILL and SILENT GUY enter through a side entrance. Their mouths drop, and they stare in amazement.
The camera DOLLIES IN for a SMASH CLOSE-UP on BILL.
BILL (Awed): Ho. Ly. Crap.
CUT TO: WIDE ANGLE OF ARENA. Bon Jovi's "Bad Medicine" is playing. We zoom up and back, exposing 3,800 tables filled with guns and related materials. It stretches on and on into the horizon. It is organized chaos, with EXHIBITORS scurrying up and down the aisles, preparing for the public opening of the show the next day. There are occasional announcements on the public address system regarding parking, warnings to unload and then leave, etc.
BILL and SILENT GUY are utterly dwarfed by the enormity of the arena.
MEDIUM SHOT OF BILL AND SILENT GUY. Next to them is a huge steel garage door. As they stare in wonder and amazement at the scene around them the door slides open to reveal a PINZGAUER 712M Troop Carrier 6x6 all-wheel drive vehicle from Swiss Army Vehicles.
Run DMC's "Tougher Than Leather" plays as the 712M rolls past BILL and SILENT GUY.
CLOSE-UP OF BILL AND SILENT GUY. BILL is smiling vacently in the direction of the PINZGAUER.
BILL: Dude, I think I just filled the cup.
SILENT GUY reacts with disgust and steps back a pace.
One cannot do justice to the size and volume of the space, the number of guns, and the astounding amount of sheer, raw, unadulterated freedom that resonated within the arena.
While it's not possible to recount everything that was seen and heard over three days at this incredible event, a few individual incidents merit note:
Jim Burke of Paris, Texas bills himself as an "Artist in Leather." He makes the only Western-style holster for M1911-style pistols I've ever seen (though seminal libertarian author L. Neil Smith later informed me he's been making them for 20 years).
I'm seriously considering campaigning for Senate in 2004 with my Kimber Customer Classic strapped to my hip. If I do, I'd wish to have a stylish leather gunbelt and holster that would look good with a suit, particularly at the debates. I was expecting to have to commission a custom rig until I met Jim Burke.
After sitting in the aforementioned Pinzgauer 712M, I was sorely tempted to buy one. They're not that expensive when compared to the average SUV, and it would certainly get me in and out of my grandmother's Pedro, South Dakota property in any weather.
It would also be one up on the doctor who likes to drop his kids off at school in his Humvee! I could have the girls kick open the rear door on the Pinzgauer while screaming at them Ermey-style: "Ok, girls, move! Go, go, go! You little girls wanna be late for school?! You wanna end up sitting in detention?! Move!!"
There was a booth that sold faux license plates: hard plastic items the size and shape of real plates on which anything may be printed. Knowing that I was to be met for dinner that night by libertarians I'd never met, I thought it might be useful to have my name on something prominent so that they could identify me. I had a license plate printed that bore the American flag in the background and read, "Bill Stone / US Senate 2004 / South Dakota".
I thought it was rather sharp, so I zip-tied it to my vest and hung it on my back. The reaction that this provoked amazed me.
People repeatedly stopped to shake my hand. The most common comment was, "I sure hope you kick that SOB Daschle's ass!" and "I'm rooting for you, buddy, send that little jerk home!" One vendor remembered me from a Dakota Territory Gun Collectors Association show in Yankton, South Dakota, where I'd briefly stood at the Yankton Area Libertarians' table. He smiled broadly, wishing me every luck sending Dashle packing.
I even ended up getting a Pager Pal at cost because the vendor insisted. I honestly didn't want to, but he said, "No, you take it. When you get elected, you just tell everyone how you wear your Pager Pal on the floor of the Senate, ok?"
The Pager Pal has become my new best friend: it will comfortably conceal my Kimber under almost any clothing, even tight jeans.
It's quite clear that Tom Daschle's days as a United States Senator are numbered. There's no real likelihood a Libertarian can win (though my uncle had dinner with some people who thought differently), but he's very vulnerable. I continue to believe that if the National LP were to cease funding an expensive and pointless Presidential campaign and instead focus on a vulnerable candidate from a low-population state, there might be a realistic chance that I would become the first Libertarian elected to national office.
Then, of course, was dinner with the Tulsa Area Libertarians.
I was picked up from the fairgrounds by Roger Bloxham. At his home, I met the other Tulsa Area Libertarians. All were memorable individuals to be sure, but most impressive was Roger's wife, Lynn Atherton.
Lynn greeted me at the door to her home with a big, friendly hugfrankly reminding me of a mother welcoming a child returning home for a visit. It was quite clear that despite the fact that I was a total stranger, since I was a philosophical kindred spirit she considered me one of her own.
After a grand dinner prepared by the libertarians, we sat around chatting, discussing politics and philosophy until nearly four o'clock in the morning. I'd have stayed all night (and in fact, Lynn and Roger had offered both myself and my uncle their home for the weekend), but I had to be back on the bus at 6am.
Prior to my trip, my friend Scott Bieser had asked me to say "hi" to Atherton and Bloxham. Little did I know that not only do they know Scott, they know everybody.
Lynn has been around a long time. She's forgotten more about practical politicing than I'll ever learn. Were she not too young for the title, the people she knows and the things she's seen would mark her as one of the Grand Dames of the Libertarian Party.
Indeed, Lynn Atherton and Roger Bloxham are the only individuals with whom I'm personally acquainted who have awards named after them: the Roger Bloxham Award is given to the Tulsa Area Libertarian who endeavors the most in campaigning or servicing in public office. The Lynn Atherton Award is goven to the Tulsa Area Libertarian who best serves to promote the Libertarian Party.
At about 2:30am, Lynn took me out back to show off her husband's experimental aircraft. At which point, it really struck me:
Libertarian have cool projects because they're always looking up. We refuse to believe that the world has placed limits on us. We see the world as a place of prosperity, of high hopes, and of incredible dreams. We travel through the world with our heads held high and our eyes focused on the stars.
Statiststhe right- or left-wing kind, it doesn't matter which just stare down in the mud, impotently whimpering about the raw deal life has handed them.
I sign my correspondence with L. Neil Smith's battle cry: "Freedom, Immortality, and the Stars!" Unlike the Statists, we libertarians mean it. Political defeat after political defeat, Lynn Atherton comes back undaunted, her head held high, and her husband plying the skies. She takes total strangers into her home with a hug and kind words.
This is the world we're fighting for, in which all individuals look at life as a series of opportunities rather than a litany of mistakes.
Freedom, Immortality, and the Stars!