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Border Emergency Report

BY LesOverhead / crazy, drug smuggling, future, history, Roadtrip, Travel, Uncategorized / 0 COMMENTS

I got pulled over in Arizona recently, a suspected potential drug smuggler. I didn’t mind a bit – it was an honest mistake. Frankly, it felt great. Like I could be considered dangerous. A rebel. An hombre. Not just your average white American codger.

But no, I wasn’t smuggling anything. I did have a bottle of Smirnoff but that’s not illegal (although I could be charged with lack of taste). Like any red-blooded American patriot, I felt compelled to see what this border crisis is all about. I went to Naco, a small Arizona border town south of Bisbee.

Naco’s nothing much. Dirt streets, low-slung adobe homes, shaded windows. Huge dump trucks were parked by the iron-ribbed fence, a mile east of the border crossing. I pulled up next to one in my rental car and got out for a look around. Nothing was happening.
I stood and waited a half hour for the caravans to arrive, the horde of migrants. But nada. No migration invasion anywhere. It got boring.

I went back to the car and listened to the radio – Spanish songs and announcers. I did not hear the word “emergencia” once.
And then I saw him. Or her. About a hundred yards down the road, on the other side of the fence. A single figure crouched on a teal blue bucket seat torn from some long-gone vehicle. The bucket seat was sitting on the gravel on the Mexican side.

As I came closer, I got a good look at the crouched figure. There was no doubt. It was a Chihuahua. The bony dog had its head deep into a tin can licking out the last drops. My mind flashed: photo op. But when I stepped up to the iron bars to take a pic, the pooch heard me and slunk off, tail curled through tiny legs, continually looking back to see if I might have something to eat. Emergency rations for a hungry mutt.

I had little to offer other than sunflower seeds and gum. I went to my Camry and brought back a handful of seeds and a stick of Big Red. I offered them through the fence, but the Chihuahua wouldn’t come near. Didn’t trust me. Can’t say I blame him. Or her. Or them.
Before I left, I sent my apologies and best wishes through the iron bars.

Mexico has had its fair share of immigration problems. It was in the San Pedro Valley, near Naco, where Coronado and his immense force of Conquistadors marched through in 1540 heading north in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. It was a fruitless journey. As was mine.

Finding no crisis in Naco, I headed north on two-lane roads and came to Sonoita. At a wide intersection, turning onto a road toward Tucson, I turned too early and ended up in the wrong lane going the wrong direction. A simple mistake. One anyone could make.

Two Border Patrol vehicles were parked on each side of the road. The officers saw me and no doubt smirked. One of them tailed me for two miles before pulling me over. I like to think he was waiting to see if I’d make a dash for it, but in reality he was probably running my plate.

I stopped the car and two officers approached. One stood back and to the side, in my blind spot. The other spoke and asked for my ID which I handed over. He asked what I was up to and I didn’t lie. I said I was investigating the border crisis. I think one of his eyebrows raised.

“Mind if we take a look in your trunk?” he said.

I paused to ponder it. Do I mind that? Did he have the right to search it? What if there’s something in the trunk I don’t know about? My inner voice said hell yeah I mind, but my outer voice said, “Knock yourself out,” and I popped the trunk.

They found nothing. No drugs. No warrants. No bust. No glory.

The officer seemed disappointed. He looked me in the eye and said smugglers often miss the same turn I just missed when they see their Patrol vehicles. In other words, I fit the pattern of a smuggler. I smugly put my sunglasses on and pulled my hat down low as I drove off. A codger to be reckoned with.

The fact is, illegal border crossings are at a near 40-year low.

Dept. of Homeland Security data shows that undetected unlawful entries into the US from Mexico decreased from 851,000 in 2006 to 62,000 in 2016. Other reviews from independent groups seem to agree there is no emergency crisis at the Mexican border. Chihuahuas may beg to differ.

Coronado on his quest for gold went all the way to Kansas before concluding he’d been hoodwinked. He had his guide, a native known as the Turk, killed by garrote. Then he mounted up and slunk back down to Mexico City, his tail through his legs (he fell off his horse and had to be carried part of the way). He died at age 44, a bankrupt and broken dude.

Makes me wonder what folks 500 years from now will think of our current Coronado – and his deluded search for gold, glory, and fame – again in vain. To those in the future, I send my apologies and best wishes. Happy trails.

Dispatch from Crazyville

BY LesOverhead / crazy, Creative, Homeless, Performance art, protest rally, Uncategorized / 0 COMMENTS

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The crazies were out in full force last Saturday at the dueling Portland protest rallies – on both sides of the street. Patriots came from both left and right, including one stuffed cowboy riding a dog that was riding a skateboard towed by a guy riding a bike. And a man (I assume, but women can be nuts, too) in a dark liquor bottle getup promoting “Comrade Marty’s Victory Gin.” Leader of his own party. I passed.

Protests bring out the loonies. From the right side, “patriots” in custom-made riot gear shouted “USA, USA, USA!” From the left (some in sunflower disguise – typical PDX) came chants of “Compost Fascism! Compost Fascism!” Fierce debaters stood face to face and shouted the same thing, “That’s been debunked! That’s been debunked!”

Off to the side, the Unpresidented Brass Band served up a raucous backbeat to the cacophony. Turning a protest into a party. Where people come armed for a fight.

It was a beautiful day in Portland. Started sunny and ended sunny. Cops kept the powder-keg environment under control with the aid of a few flash-bang grenades. Protesters who were carrying kept their gun concealed. Human damage was minimal. Four arrests. No serious injuries. And no change in the forecast.

As homeless folks slept in the shade nearby, the Salmon Springs fountain provided a small rainbow. Nobody noticed.

Spoiler Alert: We all die in the end

BY LesOverhead / aging, death, future, humor, kangaroo, rattlesnakes / 0 COMMENTS


I flew to Billings last weekend for a friend’s memorial service and got more than a flight into the past. On August 13, 1976 this friend banged his head on an armrest while lying in the backseat of a car heading home from a bar.

The vehicle had ventured just a few feet off the road, for just seconds. The bumping broke a vertabra and cracked his universe, throwing him into a wheelchair for the rest of his life, a distance of some 40 plus years.

He was one of the good ones who so often get a bad hand. Generous beyond belief. The one who’d gather everyone left at last call and buy us all a late night dinner at Wong Village.

He was a genius math whiz poker-faced Packer fan. A railroad worker with a pocketful of cash on fire. A true class act.

His quadriplegic existence wasn’t easy but he went on living, aging, engaging in life as he rolled his shoulders forward and back and friends raised his drink with straw to his mouth. He swallowed deeply. It was a tough road to roll.

At the memorial service I talked with a guy I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I recognized him and thought he did me. But an hour later he came up and said he had no idea who I was when we talked earlier.

I was taken aback. Everyone else had aged and changed a great deal it seemed, but not I. I wondered how he couldn’t recognize me, until I went to the can and looked in the mirror and wondered who invited my dad. I must have shocked the guy. And no doubt others who pretended to know me.

The next morning after the Memorial Service I visited two matriarchs of family clans who were best friends of our family growing up. They now live next door to each other in a senior care center in Billings.

One had the marks and blotches common with an aging body, but her mind was tack-sharp. The other had not a pockmark on her, her smiling complexion still creamy smooth. But her mind was off skipping to a different tune and time. She didn’t follow too well. Both are exactly alike in one way: they face their future with grace and courage.

My visit with them left me wondering which is better – to look your worst, and have a sharp mind that knows it. Or to look fine, but have a mind that won’t focus. I vacillate between the two. Of course I should pick mind over body. But Vanity is almost my last name and it’s hard to shake.

I most surely will be an ugly old cuss and some will say I already am. Then again, maybe I won’t have to worry about it.
While in Billings I heard that the father of a rancher friend of mine had received a health diagnosis that didn’t sit well with him. So after making and eating breakfast one morning he loaded a revolver, put the barrel to his temple, and shot the diagnosis all to hell.

My mind works in morbid ways and I wondered what he’d made for breakfast. Eggs over (to the other side) easy? Scrambled? Ten pieces of bacon? Had he done the dishes? We all discussed it solemnly, put a brave face on it and said assuredly we’d do the same thing. Maybe not by pulling a trigger, but with surefire thought and action.

I wonder if I would really take that fork. Eat some eggs and bacon, clean up, then blow out the candle for good. I have no idea. I doubt it. I’m not that strong of mind, or that steady a shot. And to give up bacon forever would be hard.

When bored, I often think of ways to die. It’s amusing to me. In my mind, if you imagine in detail the circumstances of your death – like getting bit by a rattlesnake while hiking near Pictograph Cave, or keeling over from a heart attack in the grocery store and causing a cleanup on aisle 7 – the scene you imagine is guaranteed not to happen.

Because NOTHING ever happens exactly the way you envision it. It would be a cosmic fluke, near impossible. But if it does occur that I die in a grocery store on aisle 7, it’s proof the game is fixed and there’s order in the universe. Science will be advanced.

So when I saw the kangaroo headline in the Billings Gazette this weekend – the one that said, “Driver rolls car to avoid kangaroo” – I was pleased. I thought of the scene (near Fort Belknap).

The driver was taken to a hospital and a state patrolman checked on her. She said it was definitely a kangaroo. He said sure, with a smirk no doubt. Then he drove back to examine the scene and sure enough spotted a kangaroo standing 30 feet off the highway. It turned out to be a wallaby.

Now I KNOW I’ll never die in a car wreck caused by a kangaroo (or wallaby). I hope not to be paralyzed by one either – left in a wheelchair, unable to hold a gun, someone making breakfast for me.

Aging is a losing battle and time wins every time. But we still control how we spend it. I plan to spend less of mine looking in the mirror. Get lost vanity.

RIP Kevin D. and Bert H.



20 Odd Years In Business

The true, sober story of Les Overhead.

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I was leaving to buy a keg for a party in the mountains outside Missoula when the phone rang. I picked it up in a hurry. A woman asked if I had recently applied for a job with a radio station in Whitefish.

“Uh, yeah, did I get the job?” I replied, anxious to move the conversation along.

“Not yet. Are you available for an interview?” I wondered if she was in town and wanted to meet right then.

“Not for the next 24 hours,” I said. "To be honest, I'm on my way to buy beer for a party in the mountains."

“I meant next week," she said. She no doubt heard me hit myself in the head with the phone. Well, I blew that I thought.

But I was wrong. I somehow landed the job and showed up for work two weeks later, shaven and sober. After a couple years punching out radio copy on a Smith Corona and doing odd jobs like radio play-by-play for donkey basketball games I headed west.

Eventually, I ended up in Portland where I caught on with a series of ad agencies. I got into everything: print ads, brochures, radio and TV spots, creative disputes… Many words were exchanged. Nobody got hurt.

One day in the shower a hair circled the drain and it dawned on me. I should use my head and get off this manic ad agency merry-go-round. Go to work for myself and provide creative help to anyone with a good company or cause.

That day Les Overhead was born. Freelance Creative Director/Copywriter. A man of his word.

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