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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Fixing Salem Truancies

March 14th, 2020 by dk

It was almost dark in a quasi-industrial neighborhood not far from the university. The doorway under the stairs seemed lonely from lack of use. A bare bulb was covered with cobwebs and a little moss. Beside the “G. Farsnow” nameplate was a note: “Bell Broke. Knock or GO AWAY.”

Gil Farsnow had never been the welcoming type. He made up for it by entertaining ideas that others would shut the door to avoid. I knocked. “It’s open!” came the response.

I pushed the door open, with some effort. “It sticks when things are wet, which is always,” he remarked without looking up. Gil was peering at a puzzle below the only light in the apartment. “What’s an eight-letter word that means standoff?”


Gil smiled. “— that ends with k.”


He put down his pen. “Would you like something to drink?”

I wanted to say yes, if only because I wasn’t sure he had any idea who had just walked through his seldom-used door. He seemed genuinely uninterested. “No thanks.” I stepped around the unhidden hide-a-bed toward the table with his puzzle.

He looked up for the first time, and smiled again, motioning to a chair. I was craving light and there wasn’t much to be had. The bulb over his table — with no moss on it — suddenly began swinging as I sat.

“Heavy machinery rattles everything down here,” he explained, as he opened the rattling refrigerator, four steps away. “I don’t hear the construction too much, but I feel it. Since Hayward Field fell behind schedule, it’s been seven days a week. You can set your clock to it. The shaking will stop at seven — but only for exactly 12 hours.”

I cradled my palms, as if holding a cup. My eyes wanted light. My hands wanted warmth.

“What’s our topic today?” Farsnow began. “Deadlocks and rattles? Do you need a third?”

I didn’t. “How about those two combined? People are rattled by the standoff in Salem over the cap-and-trade. What can be done?”

“Special sessions,” Farsnow muttered, as if I was the fifth person to ask.

“But the Republicans won’t show up,” I complained.

“True,” Farsnow thrust his index finger up, to make a point or measure the breeze — maybe both. “You know where else they won’t show up? Anywhere in Oregon, where state troopers could arrest them and bring them to the capitol.”

“How does that help?” I asked, wishing it was another word puzzle.

“No Republican incumbents could campaign if a special session is underway. They could go to all the barbecues and parades and rodeos they want — in Idaho or Wyoming, but not in Oregon.” The bulb seemed to brighten. “Governor Brown could effectively exile Republican incumbents during campaign season. Democrats could then win the quorum on their own.”

I wanted to ask more, but the bulb started swaying again and I had what I needed.

The door sticks when it’s wet, but it still does its job. I got my answer before darkness descended. I hope there’s a plan somewhere in Salem to do the same.  


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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