Every Town Has One

We lived for about ten years in a small village in Alaska called Cooper Landing.  If you haven’t read this, or if it’s been awhile, go do so. It will keep me from being repetitious.

It’s true that Alaska has a, well, different kind of population.

Anchorage is sort of like any city. The locals there sometimes refer to it as “Los Anchorage” and will talk about how you can drive out of Anchorage for about thirty minutes in either direction (there are only two roads in and out) and find real Alaska.

But the small towns and villages are, well, different.

Most people just don’t want to live in rural Alaska.  The weather can be brutal. Winter lasts almost forever.  The cost of living is sky high. Cabin fever and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are real things.

But Cooper Landing is a unique little Alaska community. It’s a resort town. Lots of residents (including the people who bought our house when we left) are weekenders from Anchorage.  They’re typically wealthy people with second homes who come down to fish and boat the river and lake. The entire Kenai Peninsula is considered Alaska’s playground.

A large part of Cooper Landing’s history centers around Cecil and Helen Rhode.

photo courtesy of Mona Painter

You can read about them here.  Scroll down to the second article on the page.  At least skim it a little, because it will help you understand the rest of this story.  And here’s another article, from my time there (and mentioning both me and Dave) about the mountain.  Unfortunately, the photos appear to be missing.

Cecil and Helen had both died by the time Dave and I arrived in Cooper Landing, but we came to understand the very large footprints (large indeed, as in two mountains and a park) they left behind.

We also counted their son, David, as a good friend.

As an aside, this is my favorite David Rhode story.  One winter evening, we planned to have a few people over (a total of ten including us) for dinner. I decided to serve do-it-yourself stir fry. We had a Jenn-Air griddle embedded in our kitchen counter and it was a very convenient place for guests to make their own stir fry.  I chopped up lots of stuff, set it out in bowls, and cooked a large pot of rice.

David Rhode was one of those guests.  On his way to our house, he stopped off at a local grill/pub and in the course of conversation, mentioned that he was on his way to our house for dinner.  And ears perked up.  Somebody said, “The Davises are having a party?”  And David said, “Oh, yeah. Come on over.”

And 35 people showed up at our house for dinner, when I had been expecting eight.  Considering that there are only 300 people in the whole town, that was a significant segment of the population.

I spent the entire evening chopping up veggies.  I used every bowl in the house. And some girl came through my kitchen asking where the bathroom was. I pointed. I had never seen her before in my life.

David Rhode is a free spirit indeed. He’s also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.  He’s the guy in the yellow ball cap looking askance at us wimmins.  (By the way, the quilt on the table is now in my living room awaiting hanging on the wall.  I was describing how it’s made, totally by hand.)


His parents helped put Cooper Landing on the map.

After they died, there were two mountains named for them. The most prominent is Cecil Rhode Mountain which stands right on the south side of the village. We had a beautiful view of it from our dining room.


There it is. (Not my photo.)

photo courtesy of Mona Painter

Here is a photo (taken by Cecil on the mountain that bears his name) of Helen Rhode looking down on Cooper Landing.  If you draw a line straight down from her right foot, when you reach land, you’ll be pretty close to the roof of our house.

Notice the bridge going over the Kenai River? See the white bare land on the far side of the river, on the left side of the road?  That area, that land, is now a park.  It’s small, just about the size of that white area.  It’s called the Helen Rhode Memorial Park, and it is filled with native Alaskan plants only.  Town residents volunteer to keep it maintained.

But Cecil and Helen and their son David were not the only long-time residents of Cooper Landing. Another one was Red Smith.

Red was a relatively tall, older man with red hair (I assume that’s where he got the name). He’d lived in Cooper Landing for a long, long time, and knew both Helen and Cecil, and he, of course, had watched David grow up there.

Red had an interesting hobby.

He wrote all sorts of treatises on government.  He filled them with lots of stuff about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and lectures on US history and the flag and you name it.  He wrote letters to the editor that nobody wanted to read.

And he filed lawsuits.

He filed lawsuits a lot.  It seemed like he filed one every month or two.

It was kind of a joke. Nobody paid him much attention.  He was just this argumentative, eccentric old guy who filed lawsuits and would tell you all about his rights and your rights and how nobody was respecting his rights.  He used to come in the library when I was there and I would manage to find something that was really pressing that I needed to do and look very busy indeed. If I didn’t, he would bend my ear for an hour.

It was all just a bit of a joke.

One day, David Rhode showed me a lawsuit that Red had filed. When I saw the look on David’s face, I realized that Red’s bullshit was no longer a joke.

This screed was long. I can’t remember how many pages, but there were lots of them.  It was all written in Red’s usual legalese shit, with “whereas” and “therefore” strewn all over the place, and cited all sorts of Miller v United States stuff, complete with numbers.

He was suing everyone on earth.  I cannot remember who all was named, but it included legislators and borough representatives, and it included David Rhode.

Red was mad because the park was named for Helen Rhode, and the mountains were named for Cecil and Helen.

He was royally pissed off and he wanted his day in court.  He had evidence, you see.  He listed it all.  He also listed all the Amendments that he felt had been violated, and all his “rights” that nobody was addressing, and all the various parts of the Constitution that were being ignored.

I looked at that mess, and tried to tell David that it didn’t matter, that Red was crazy, that nobody would listen to him for two seconds, but I knew it wasn’t helping much.  David grew up knowing Red. He knew Red was nuts.

It hurt him anyway.

It was his parents’ legacy that was being attacked by a spiteful, jealous old man who believed every conspiracy theory you can imagine and thought he was an expert on the US Constitution and smarter than any lawyer anywhere.

I do not remember anything coming from that lawsuit, or anything else Red ever did, but Red hurt my friend, a good, decent, kind, gentle man who didn’t have a bad thought about anyone.  I never forgave Red Smith. It was a nasty, hateful thing to do, and he did it for no other reason that he liked to pontificate about his view of the law and the government and he was royally pissed that nobody thought enough of him to name anything at all after him.

Every town has a Red Smith.  Some towns have several of them.  I bet a big city has hundreds.

Breckinridge County, Kentucky has at least two.



14 thoughts on “Every Town Has One”

  1. Wonderful post as always Sally!


  2. “He used to come in the library when I was there and I would manage to find something that was really pressing that I needed to do and look very busy indeed. If I didn’t, he would bend my ear for an hour.”

    We have one of those at work. Fortunately, he doesn’t follow women into the bathroom so we can escape him. The gentlemen have to use different tactics. I don’t inquire.

    “…he did it for no other reason that he liked to pontificate about his view of the law and the government and he was royally pissed that nobody thought enough of him to name anything at all after him.”

    How very sad. Well, he did leave behind a legacy of sorts. Don’t be a dick, like Red Smith.


  3. I’ve been living in Breckinridge county since 2012. This county seems to be very quiet with not a whole lot of crime. The only serious crime I can remember is a murder in Garfield. I think it was two years ago. I can’t remember. It was at an abandoned gas station on 60. I don’t remember what came of it though.
    I like this county. It’s so nice and quiet. We really don’t know anybody here cause we keep to ourselves. We talk to one neighbor and that’s it. Otherwise we all keep to ourselves.


  4. Our town used to have a kind of informal church alliance called the Three Saints: Saint Paul Lutheran, Saint Mary Catholic, and Saint James the Fisherman Episcopal. We did all kinds of interfaith stuff, especially during Lent and Holy Week. On Palm Sunday we had a procession from the center of town to Saint Mary’s, because they had enough room. We passed around hymn sheets and had Holy Communion together, and nobody much minded who was from where. We ran community fundraisers together.

    Until somebody–I don’t know who–tattled on the rector of Saint Mary’s to the bishop. Non-Catholics! Taking Communion from the hands of a Catholic priest! Scandal! Impurity! Cats and dogs living together!

    We tried to keep it going, but because the Catholics had to peel off and have their stuff separately every time a priest was involved, we couldn’t keep the spirit. And that was the end of the Three Saints.

    Every town has one…


  5. Nicole seems to think that the Schwab family posted a video where they “proved” the allegations against them were false. Nope. Those allegations came directly from a court report. No one made up the Child Welfare reports, the police reports for domestic violence, the failed drug tests, and reports by their son that his parents were so drugged they neglected all the kids. All that court information was available to the public because the Schwabs tried to take their case to an appeals court.
    The video doesn’t disprove any of the allegations against the Schwabs. It just shows the father and a friend harassing a reporter for reporting the information. They claim it was false news because the reporter didn’t investigate everything herself…she just repeated the allegations from CPS and the police. Allegations that were so strong that the Schwabs failed in the appeal. The information was later put under a “gag” order because it involved children in a family court case.


  6. Speaking of the village weirdo…

    Nicole’s heroes, Amelia and Raymond Schwab are a sideshow in and of themselves.

    Raymond just put out a video…complete with tragic music in the background…about his plan to starve himself to death in front of the White House. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7CAvyMIdSg

    What a DRAMA QUEEN this asshat is!

    Raymond says that his family was “in crisis” and that members of his extended family became involved….took his children, hid them, and turned them in to CPS. In two years…they’ve only had one hour supervised visits. Cue crocodile tears.

    An article about the case says that the eldest son said his parents were doing Meth and sleeping most of the day and he had to quit school to supervise and care for his little brothers and sisters. And protect them from the nutty parent’s rages.

    Long around this time, mom Amelia was committed to a mental hospital for a while after being arrested for domestic violence for assaulting Raymond at a strip club.

    Apparently, Grandma somehow became involved and took the children to CPS saying the parents had abandoned them. I’m guessing they dumped the kids on her and either disappeared, or just refused to pick them up.

    The kids are now living with extended family…with the permission of Amelia and Raymond…..supposedly, the very people who turned them in to CPS.

    These people are a couple notches past batschit crazy. These people are poo-flinging-monkey crazy. And of course they’re both into religious fanaticism…. and homeschool….and conspiracy theories….and hating the police. Just. Like. Joe and Nicole.

    There are articles that claim that a court cited that Raymond flunked a drug test for Meth. Nicole posted a youtube of Raymond and his friend denying that such a test ever happened. (which proves exactly nothing…but by God, they deny it!)

    I sure as hell don’t have any idea what the truth is in this drama parfait….but I’d be willing to guess that when your family turns you in to CPS because mom’s beating up dad at the strip club for drinking too much and eldest son says his parents are doing meth, it’s probably not “just a misunderstanding”.

    And all the while Amelia and Raymond run their drama show….their relatives are thanklessly raising their kids.

    I’d be willing to guess most of those relatives roll their eyes at Raymond’s hunger strike.


  7. I have realized that my six-year-old grandson may grow up to be the-every-town-has one. He carries a little pocket note book and he writes every single thing that he finds offensive. He reports kids to the principal with dates and times and exact statements; he writes down how many times his brother rode his bike across the busy street; and he reports his dad for getting to loud when he is angry. (my son is a single parent of three kids and the mother walked out and hasn’t looked back, so he does yell a bit too much but he doesn’t cuss the kids or hit them or you know all the other shit that some parents do.) I suspect when my little Kole grows up, he will either be in the CIA or the town trouble maker. My nephew is the principal of the school where my grandson attends and he called me the other day laughing so hard he could barely tell me about Kole’s latest reporting rampage. Apparently, one of the teachers gives him the stink eye and not just a little but a lot of the time. He also noticed that the teacher coughs into her hand and doesn’t wash her hands. Yes, he is a delight. Of course, he is so damn cute, I have to fight the urge to smile at him no matter what…but I force myself to tell him to quit tattling unless someone is dying, about to die, or killing someone.


  8. Yes, every town has one or two.

    Self serving. Self-righteousness, as defined as having or showing an exaggerated awareness of one’s own virtuousness or rights.

    If I could borrow from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, and paraphrase to a more local level. Ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for your community.

    Yoo hoo….Breck County self serving, self-righteous one or two. Can you hear me now??

    By the way, enjoyed the history telling of Cooper Landing. I read the linked articles, too. Quite interesting!


  9. By the way, enjoyed the history telling of Cooper Landing. I read the linked articles, too. Quite interesting!

    It’s one of the coolest little villages ever.

    Winters are long and dark, though. Very long and very dark.


  10. I think the Naugs should join the Schwabs on their white house hungry strike 😉
    Joe will out live them all.


  11. Sally- I would love to know how you ended up in Alaska after living on the east coast. I bet that’s an interesting/neat story.

    (you don’t have to post this- I would just love to hear your story)


  12. Sally- I would love to know how you ended up in Alaska after living on the east coast.

    Some time I’ll write about it.


  13. Jeannie,

    He will be just fine. He’s only six and obviously he has a good grasp of what is wrong and what is right. At that age it’s a black and white thing. It takes age and experience to start to see the grey areas.

    I raised a son like that. He went to law school and now does Internet privacy law. Surprised me I thought for sure he would grow up to be a prosecutor.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.