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Libertarian Crusader Diary

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1996 Campaign Era

 

Published by Gary L. Fincher

 

Volume I, Edition I – April 27, 1995

 

Frederick, Maryland

 

 

  

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Finchers Leave for Ballot Trail

 

In the dawn of the November, 1994, elections, I suddenly had found myself a veteran of two ballot access campaign cycles.  First, of course, there was the 1992 presidential election cycle, which saw me work on ballot drives in 10 states, not to mention the now-infamous Florida arrest.

 

Then, after a year’s hiatus as a word-processing secretary at a social agency in Portland, Maine, I swirled the circuit in the 1994 elections, doing 7 ballot drives in 8 months, both for the Libertarian Party and for Term Limits.

 

 

1994 had been a pretty eventful year for me.  The first of the year started as a pretty quiet time for me, but in early January, I had exploded back into petitioning, in the notorious Maine term limits drive in which I was cited in area newspapers as “the most active circulator”, acknowledged as the most prolific signature-gatherer of that campaign. Soon, I was bouncing around the country, from state to state, working on ballot drives from Arizona to Massachusetts and from Wisconsin to Mississippi.  In addition, my social/dating life was at its most active level in *94.  All told, the legacy of 1994 will be remembered as my most fruitful to date:  Ballot drives in all 4 time zones, travel in 33 states plus DC, finally notched my visit to the last of the lower 48 states (North Dakota), saw at least 34 prominent attractions,  and dated 16 different women in 3 different states. By the end of the year, though, all was quiet again but I was in a new scene with a new cast.  I was again doing word processing work but in Appleton, Wisconsin, with my new significant other, Kay, 48, and her daughter Crystal, 18.

 

But this year, in February, the Libertarian Party called and I was summoned to begin the 3rd cycle of my ballot access experience.  Bill Redpath, the LP Ballot Access Committee chairman, called me in Appleton and asked me to embark on the 1996 ballot access campaign brail.  However, my first response was to explain to him that I now had complications, i.e., I was now tied down with a wife and couldn’t see any way to reconcile the nomadic petitioning lifestyle with the preservation of my new relationship.  And even though I yearned to get back into the petitioning activism scene, I was not about to yield my marriage.

 

 

This seemed at first to be an irreconcilable situation, and I tried to create a compromise by getting Kay to agree to let me go away for a couple of weeks at a time to distant locales for intensive petitioning that would presumably net me a lot of money in short bursts.  So I tentatively began making plans to go down to Alabama to work on my 18th ballot drive.

 

But at the end of negotiations with Kay on the final details of the plan, she announced that she would now be willing to leave her position as a Realtor and commit to work with me on LP ballot drives for the entire duration of the 1996 ballot access campaign {until September, 1996).  What a bombshell!  But what good news it was.  Kay and I made plans to go to Alabama for a two-week initial foray, come back to Wisconsin for another couple of weeks and then embark permanently to where we thought might be North Carolina.  No matter the details – I was just happy that after two solo cycles, there was now no dichotomy between having a relationship and being able to crusade for LP activism as a profession, and I could feel at peace with a thriving and stable love-relationship coexisting with an exciting, gypsy lifestyle of travel and adventure.  What a perfect setup!

 

First Alabama Trip

 

Wisconsin was cold and there were patches of snow on the ground that February day, but the warm Gulf Coast beckoned as we prepared our departure.  After what seemed to me to be a brutal experience of weathering most of my very first Midwestern winter, I welcomed the opportunity to spend a little time in the sunny South.  And I know Kay did.  In fact, Kay had never been down South before, and we both were almost overcome with eagerness.   Kay had to do a few things at the Neenah (Century 21) office where she worked, but after that pit-stop, we broke away around noontime from the biting cold Appleton area and headed south.  It was good to be on the road, and we seemed to be in a carefree state.  That Saturday afternoon, we cruised down U.S. 41 to Milwaukee and hit 1-94 then cruised down to the Chicago area.  North of Chicago, we stopped off at Winnetka and saw the house where Home Alone was filmed and then to Wilmette, where the massive Bahai Temple stands, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  We ate a breakfast-style supper that night at the Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, deemed by me to be the best omelet and pancake dive in the country.  After getting lost In the ‘burbs of Chicago, we headed into Indiana, dropping south to Indianapolis before lodging in for the night.  The next day, we had breakfast in rural Indiana, and then went into part of Ohio, through Cincinnati, and down into Kentucky.  We had lunch at a Captain D’s in Lexington, KY, and discovered that the mountains of eastern Kentucky bore little resemblance to the winter-like conditions we’d left behind in Wisconsin.  We had traveled far enough south to be shedding the cold climate and getting into a warmer one.  Those eastern Kentucky Appalachians were fairly scenic and Kay was enjoying them for the first time as we sailed southward down 1-75.

 

Before we knew it, we were in Knoxville, Tennessee, and as we pulled into a McDonald’s to get some refreshments, Kay encountered a real, live southern accent for the first time and she almost fell over laughing at the girl giving us our change.  She was amused, let us say.  It was near dark when we got out of Knoxville, and we headed toward the Smoky Mountains looking for a place to bed for the night.  We promptly found a great deal on a room ($20 double) in Pigeon Forge, at the gateway to the Smokies.  We still had some evening left, so we drove down through the “strip” between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, played some games in an arcade, and went into a local restaurant for some hillbilly “vittles”.  Actually, it was pretty neat.  It was Huck Finn’s Cattish restaurant, and the place was hillbilly all the way.  From its old-timey wood furniture to the iced tea served in Mason jars, we truly felt like we’d just sat down with ol’ Jed and all the kin to dig into their vittles, like southern-fried catfish, hush puppies, cornbread and fried okra.  All the waiters wore overalls, of course.

 

The next day, we went over to Gatlinburg and ate breakfast at the countrified Log Cabin Restaurant, to keep the home fires burnin’ in our bellies, you know, and

 

Me at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Me at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

then took the exhilarating chair lift to the top of the mountain where we could see all over Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountain area.  Afterward, we drove across the Smokies into North Carolina and stopped off at a little village at the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  Not far from Cherokee was a town where I lived as a youngster, Sylva, and a mountain “holler” where my Uncle Bud used to live.  I have various memories of the area, as I’d made a half dozen trips through there between 1970 and 1986, and I thought that I might be able to drop in and see my aunt (Uncle Bud had been deceased since 1989).  But upon driving up into the “holler”, I found the old homestead to have been long since vacated and that was that.  But we discovered a pearl in that the house I lived in when I was 8 years old, in downtown Sylva NC, which I hadn’t seen since, was still there and still photographable.  Later, after reliving some old memories of a bygone era, we drove down into Georgia on our way toward Alabama, At Clayton, Georgia, we thought we’d take a detour and check out a little piece of small-town Americana by going down to the middle of town and looking for a little cafe.  As we parked on the town square, we encountered a chilling, but very real, portion of Georgia tradition.  A shop owner was selling T-shirts with overtly racist slogans on them, with depictions of the KKK and other anti-African-American allusions and rhetoric.  When a gust of wind blew some shirts off the rack as we were looking at them, the shop owner came outside to pick them up and, sure enough, he fit the stereotypical profile of a bigot and we got our photograph and got out of town.  Racism is alive and well in the highlands of northern Georgia…

 

We went through a scenic little section of South Carolina before hitting Interstate 85.  Kay hung out the window taking snapshots as I drove right through the middle of downtown Atlanta, commenting on its architecture.  We had some barbeque late at night after crossing into Alabama but it was fairly late when we got into the Birmingham area.  I drove up to Stratford Drive (on top of the Mountain) to show her Jimmy Blake’s house, where I lived in his basement for several months in 1992 while on probation from the Florida incident.  She was impressed by not only the castle-like structure of the house, but of the panoramic view of the valley below and the entire city of Birmingham in its scope.  Now the trip was basically over, so our contact person, Mike Cobb, who was the coordinator for the Alabama drive, was to meet us in the Birmingham area and provide us with petitions and a cash advance.  We stayed at a prepaid motel south of Birmingham and Mike met us the next morning and we were off to go on location in Auburn, Alabama, site of Auburn University, the largest university in the state.  Upon arriving in Auburn, we had some logistical problems involving our check and the bank and we had to drive to Montgomery and back but then we were ready to get to work.

 

The Alabama Drive

 

We got our motel room for a week at Auburn and we set out to work the university, which is known for its strong libertarian leanings, especially in the economics department and philosophy department.  The Ludwig Von Mises Institute is on the campus of Auburn University, and Llewellyn Rockwell, prominent libertarian activist and writer, is president.  Elected Libertarian Mark Thornton is an economics professor, and we found that 2/3 of the economics professors there are overt libertarians.  Tibor Machan, well-known libertarian writer and philosopher, teaches philosophy at Auburn.

 

We found Auburn to be very receptive and easy pickings, as we pulled over 1500 signatures from there in less than a week.  In addition to working the campus, we worked a Kroger grocery store, and we met and talked to both Rockwell and Thornton, who signed our petition.  After working Auburn for a week, we headed south for our promised treat.

 

Racist t-shirts in a Clayton, Ga. Shop

Racist t-shirts in a Clayton, Ga. Shop

Kay petitions for the LP at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Kay petitions for the LP at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

After turning in our signatures to LP member John Hix in Montgomery, we took off toward Mobile but went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and stayed in a beachfront hotel overnight.   The next day was designated as a travel day and after eating son fried oysters end gumbo on the Gulf Coast, drove up along Mobile Bay sightseeing and taking pictures.  We went through Mississippi and into Louisiana, routing ourselves across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the

longest bridge in the world, 24 miles, 8 of which there is no sight of land.

 

At the other end of the bridge and the gray waters of the Pontchartrain, lies New Orleans, and we poked around the Crescent City for a while before driving deep down through the bayou country.  We stayed overnight in Houma, La., and the next day explored the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, and at one point drove down a highway to what we termed “the end of the earth”, to where the road dead-ended due to the land being too marshy a coastal swamp to sustain roadway.  The Gulf lay just beyond our sight.

 

At a Cajun restaurant, we had same oysters, crawfish pie and fried alligator, topped off with pecan pie, but the gator we tried for the first time was very greasy and not tasty at all.  We turned around and headed back into New Orleans, where we walked around the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and the Mississippi River before driving back along the coast (Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula) and spent the night in sleepy little Bayou LaBatre, Alabama. We decided to go back the next day to GuIf Shores Instead of petition in Mobile, so we took the Mobile Bay Ferry across the channel and then drove into Florida.

 

In New Orleans

In New Orleans

Getting Cajun eats in the Bayou

Getting Cajun eats in the Bayou

Upon entering Florida at Perdido Key (that’s right – the Florida Keys) we stopped of f at a beach and played for a while and walked along looking for shells.  Then a stopped alongside a road stand and got some fresh, hot boiled peanuts (mmm mmm!) and drove into Pensacola where we encountered a spectacular view of the Bay. We spent the night in south Alabama and the next day vent into Mobile,

where we got a place and settled into it. 

 

Mobile was simply charming, with its antebellum homes, plantation-style dwellings, azaleas and Spanish moss and it was definitely full-blown spring in that town, though it was still February/March.  We were compelled to do some exploring in old Mobile before getting down to business.

 

Compared to Auburn, our totals for Mobile were less than impressive, but what can I say?  The Gulf Shore from New Orleans to Florida is definitely a distraction.

 

 

Kay & Gary find time to play during the Alabama LP drive in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Kay & Gary find time to play during the Alabama LP drive in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Finally, we decided to make the third and final phase of our Alabama drive be conducted in Huntsville, in the far northern part of the state. So we ended up working Huntsville for 3 days, with moderate success, before heading back “home”.

 

Enroute back to chilly Wisconsin, we stopped off at Nashville to spend the night. While there, I stopped by and saw some old acquaintances, “Mama Jane” Marlin, 84, and her sixtysomething daughter Annie, both who had helped me when I took a trip to Nashville from Texas 10 years earlier. The next day, we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Kay and I both recorded a song at a Nashville studio. Later, we stopped at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and took a brief tour of the world’s largest cave.

 

At Milwaukee, on the way back, we visited Ken Zollner, a former petitioning colleague of mine (Wyoming, 1991) to have a drink and talk about LP politics.

 

Hitting the Road for Good

 

A surprise hit us when we got back to the Wisconsin Fox cities area, when Kay went into her office and found that her desk had been cleaned out.   Further investigation yielded the fact that she had been dismissed from the agency, which set the scene for our immediate return to Alabama.

 

This time, as financial hardship loomed, there was no time for sightseeing.  We roared out of the Midwest, cutting right down through the middle of Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, driving from 3 in the afternoon until we hit Huntsville, Alabama, at about noon of the following day.

 

We worked a little more than a week in Huntsville, with .marginal success, but along the way found some time for some recreation.  One day trip we drove over to Alabama’s Guntersville Lake, a large and scenic lake in the foothills of the Appalachians.  At one point, we found a secluded little wooden pier at an inlet and watched the sun go down as we took in the lake’s quiet beauty.

 

Another day trip we drove up to Chattanooga, where we took the inclined railway (steepest in the world) up to famous Lookout Mountain (which is actually in Georgia).  What a panoramic view of the Tennessee River and Chattanooga from atop Lookout Mountain that was!  Immediatety afterward, we visited Rock City, a privately. owned (bravo for the free market!) tourist attraction full of all kinds of nifty, scenic and enchanting things, in which we got to see, among many other things, a vantage point where 7 states could be viewed simultaneously:  Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.  There were plants, rock formations, waterfalls sad man-made storybook creations.  Well worth the admission, I should add.

 

When the Alabama drive was concluded, and they had the 21,000 signatures needed in hand, our job was over in the Heart of Dixie.  Bill Redpath wanted us to go to Maryland, so off we were.

 

Kay and I stopped by Chattanooga again for one more attraction – this time the Tennessee Aquarium.  It was an interesting and scenic little stopover and then we had supper and drove to Cleveland, Tennessee, to stay the night.

 

The following day, we stopped between Chattanooga and Knoxville at Lost Sea, a little cave known for containing the largest underground lake in the country. Later, we rounded out our day by a short stopover at Cumberland Gap, the area at the convergence of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia where Daniel Boone led his westward pioneering through a break in the rugged Appalachians. Actually, the view from the top of the Pinnacle t the valley below at Cumberland Gap was nicer than the one at Lookout Mountain sad we were enchanted by the picture-prettiness of it. On the top, the state line between Virginia and Kentucky was manifest and Tennessee could be seen just below.  By nightfall, we had made Pikeville, Kentucky, deep in the Appalachians and got a motel there.

 

The next day, we winded our way through the mountains Of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland before staying the night at Cumberland, Maryland.  But along the way, we saw another attraction – West Virginia’s New River Gorge and the USA’s second-highest bridge.

 

Before we checked in to start petitioning, we wanted one more recreational fling, and boy, did we get it.  After driving eastward from Cumberland, Md., we drove south at Hagerstown and into Antietam, site of the bloodiest day in US history (Civil War battle, circa 1863). Then, we visited the mystical little town of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Sitting right across the rivers from Maryland and Virginia, Harpers Ferry sits on one of the most enchanting corners of the earth. nestled in the beautiful Potomac Highlands. Here was the site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid, in 1859, where he was eventually hanged by the government.

 

Back across the rivers, in Maryland, Kay and I rented a canoe in hopes of having a fun-filled  – and dry – day.  We arranged to be taken to Antietam Battlefield to the Antietam Creek put-in, where we would navigate through 6 ½ miles of the rapids-filled creek before dumping into the wide waters of the Potomac for the 7-mile homestretch.

 

Antietam Creek is narrow (less than 100 yards wide) but rain had been scant this year and it was filled with all kinds of obstacles, including numerous rocks, debris and fallen trees.  Immediately after put-in we grounded upon some rocks at the first rapids and knew we were in for a long day.  After a few stressful moments, we got out or that bind, but less than fifteen minutes into the trip, in the second set of rapids, we promptly moved up onto a beaver dam and capsized.  Those waters were ice cold and we were both cursing and fuming, as my wallet and camera got wet – something I didn’t really anticipate when we embarked on the trip.  Fortunately, however, it was to be our last spill, despite the fact that at times when sensing approaching rapids, we feared the worst.  But then, it wouldn’t have been fun without the thrilling impending danger lurking around the next bend. Antietam Creek was like an obstacle course, with many rapids (which we maneuvered fine for the most part, thank you) and we had to navigate very carefully around treacherous fallen trees many times to avert a spill.  A few times our canoe turned sideways and we thought we weren’t going to make it, but we did.  And I guess we got better as we went.

Canoeing on Antietam Creek in Maryland in April 1995

Canoeing on Antietam Creek in Maryland in April 1995

All of the sudden, we spotted open water and the mile-wide Potomac River awaited~. and we made our scheduled left turn and headed for the take-out.  The Potomac was wide and calm – for the most part – but we were surprised to find there was a couple of small rapids we had to navigate before hitting port.  As we sailed along we knew that to the left shore was Maryland, and to the right, West Virginia.  It was more relaxing than Antietam Creek and we could concentrate on the splendor that was the Potomac.

 

As we grounded up on the boat ramp, Kay, who was in front, got out, leaving me remaining in the back of the canoe.  I stood up to get out, but realizing I would be stepping into cold waters, I asked Kay to (gently) pull the canoe to shore and instead, she jerked on the rope and I fell back into the boat’s hull, injuring my back.  A fitting end to surviving a treacherous day on the whitewater, only to injure myself getting out.

 

We drove into Virginia and lighted in Herndon, near where Bill Redpath lives and called him to give us further instructions.

 

It seemed that the Maryland drive was going to be coordinated out of Washington, DC, by elected Libertarian David Morris, and he pointed us in that direction.   But first, we were to spend the night at a northern Virginia motel room, and Bill came down to pay for it on his credit card.

 

Saturday morning, we drove into Washington and – wouldn’t you know it – we were hitting town right on the weekend of Cherry Blossom time.  From David’s apartment is downtown DC we got our petitions and headed into Maryland.  I wanted to work right away, but Kay didn’t feel good.  We went into the DC suburbs of Maryland’s Prince Georges County and had lunch at the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House.  Then, a drove over to Annapolis and went across the Chesapeake Bay and found a little Kmart and I worked it (collecting signatures) for a few minutes.  Petitioning on the Eastern Shore wasn’t that smooth, however, and Kay was waiting in the car, so we headed back into the suburbs but had trouble finding a room during Cherry Blossom weekend.

 

So, we moved up to Frederick, which is halfway between Hagerstown and DC, which was the serve as our base of operations.  At present, the Maryland ballot drive is still in progress and I’m still in Frederick (where I’m writing this charter issue) but there have been other key developments…

 

 

On the Recreational Front

 

Kay and I went, on the night before Easter, over to Harpers Ferry around 10 pm.  It’s difficult to describe the effect, but let me try.  Refer to my previous description of the Harpers Ferry area on page 7.  Then, imagine walking hand-in-hand with your sweetheart onto a creaky old railroad trestle spanning the Shenandoah River, and stopping right in the middle, over the water.  Picture a cool, breezy April night with a big ol’ full moon glistening on the shallow, rippling waters of the Shenandoah as it winds its way through a gap in the Appalachian Mountains, the bright moonlight showing a surprisingly well-lit view of the wooded mountains and multitudes of rocks in the shallow waters.  We stood there for several minutes in total awe of the beautiful moment we’d been given.  If you ever get to see that particular vista over the Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry on a full-moon April night, grab it – it’s worth it.

 

On Easter Sunday, Kay and I drove the 30 miles north to Gettysburg, Pa., to have an Easter Buffet and tour the battlefield, the site of the largest battle ever waged on the Western Hemisphere.  It was, for us, a nice way to spend Easter.  Later in the day, however, we were back in Frederick, Md., hard at work collecting signatures at a Kmart.

 

One day we decided to drive over to Baltimore and had a chance to walk around at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and even rent a paddleboat for a half-hour in the waters of the harbor.  That was a refreshing experience.  Then, we worked at Anne Arundel County for a little while before returning to Frederick.

 

Another time, while  we were in DC turning in signatures, we stopped by the national Libertarian Party headquarters and talked to Bill Winter, national media director, and Perry Willis, national director of the LP.  We also met and talked with Paul Jacob, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, saw the CATO Institute (libertarian think tank), briefly saw the Smithsonian Institute and the Library of Congress, and walked by the White House while we were in the area.

 

At the LP HQ in Wash., DC

At the LP HQ in Wash., DC

At the CATO Institute in Wash., DC

At the CATO Institute in Wash., DC

The latest development saw Kay leave me stranded at a Giant Food Store parking lot and drive all the way back to Wisconsin, but all of my “subscribers” to this newsletter have already been apprised of the details of that news story, so it won’t be detailed here.  Kay should be back on Maryland soil by Friday night.

 

The Libertarian Crusader Diary is a newsletter published by me, Gary L. Fincher, to replace most individual correspondence, to cover instances where I might unnecessarily duplicate the same story to each correspondent.  Wherever appropriate, individualized letters will be sent, but most correspondence will be replaced by this newsletter.  While this first issue was hastily written and put together, and attempted to cover over two months of event-studded activity by both Kay (wife and business partner) and me, the next issue should be cleaner and more cohesive, as well as better designed.  This issue could only concentrate mostly on developments since February, but subsequent issues should be more well-rounded and deal with personal developments and commentary on world affairs alike.  There will be more political commentary on both current events and “inside” analysis of the ballot campaign and LP activists in general.  Stay tuned.  Issues should be released every week or two.

Next Issue (May 16, 1995):

https://libertycrusader.wordpress.com/libertarian-crusader-diary/archived-back-issues/may-16-1995-lcd/

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