Saturday, February 26, 2011

Story of an Honest Man

The wonderful and doggedly frustrating part of telling a story is knowing where to begin. All of our stories are parts of others and finally make sense only in the context of those other stories. But to get the original story told you have to start somewhere.

For this story, look at a map and draw a line from Bend, Oregon to Belle Plaine, Iowa. Then, draw the line across the Pacific to Chai-yi, Taiwan and back across the water to Big Spring, Texas. The principals in this story would probably draw the lines in a different order, but never mind that because I’m the one telling the story.

Sometime in the misty past, an old friend from Alaska days came to visit. While here, Jim wanted Connie to give him a pottery lesson out in the studio. When Jim went to Belle Plaine, he furthered his pottery education by taking a class in which out of wet clay he created several pieces.

When Connie learned of it she insisted that he select and send her a piece of his choosing. (It’s a professional thing of one potter to another, I guess.) And, she insisted that he bill her for the piece. She wanted to be able to say that she had purchased one of this budding artist’s first pieces.

The piece arrived with a bill. We all get all kinds of bills, but when was the last time you received a bill in song, complete with three verses and a refrain like this?
“Two dollars and forty-three cents
Its muggly ugly
From a mind that’s bend
Two dollars and forty-three cents”
So moved were we by Jim’s lyrics that my mind went immediately to Dan in Chai-yi. Now Dan is as much a character as Jim. Dan is not only a journalist but he has a special affection for paper newspapers, or as he calls them, “Snail Papers.” Like Jim with the pottery bill, Dan wrote lyrics for a song titled, “The World’s First Musical Obit for Newspapers.”

Alas, Dan says he doesn’t sing, at least where anyone else can hear him, because he doesn’t want to make them cry or give them a heart attack. Journalist and Searcher of the Web that he is, he found someone in Big Spring, Texas who for $19 dollars will take anybody’s lyrics and turn them into song. From the other side of the world, Dan contacted J. Gale Kilgore and contracted with him to write the music for his snail papers lament. Lo and behold, three days later, Dan had his song and posted it on Youtube. When I heard it, I thought I was listening to Tom T. Hall. Whoever it was I wanted him for Jim’s song. Through the wonder of cyber space, I rushed Jim’s lyrics off to Big Spring, Texas. Three days later I had the song, “A Bill for a Two Dollar and Forty-three Cent Mug that looks like a cross between Frog Lips and a Toilet Seat.”

I expect this song to soon hit the top of the charts in frog ponds and plumbing supply places across the world, but that’s not why I’m telling you this story. Only after he wrote the music and recorded Jim’s bill did I learn that Kilgore he is also an honest man. Here now is the rest of the story.

J. Gale Kilgore is America writ large. A retired man from Big Spring, Texas, Kilgore records songs for song writers around the world via his website store, for just 19 dollars a song recording.

When Danny Bloom, an American expat in Taiwan asked Kilgore to record a song for him, Bloom sent in the required 19 dollars by mail, in cash, from Taiwan to Texas, airmail.

The letter arrived. Kilgore opened it. Inside, unbeknownst to Bloom, was US$118 in cash.

Kilgore sent an email to Bloom that said "You sent me $118, sir. Did you make a mistake? You were supposed to send me just US$19."

Bloom did make a mistake. In his hurry to send the money, he counted out what he thought was a ten, a five and four crisp dollar bills. But one of the dollar bills was a hundred dollar bill. Oops! Bloom says he had no idea he made such a mistake, and if it was not for the honestly of Kilgore, he never would have known.

Bloom contacted Kilgore and said thanks, and Kilgore is now sending a check for 99 dollars to Bloom in Taiwan by airmail letter.

Many people have reacted to this story by calling Kilgore a true American hero and Honest Abe in a new skin. Bloom says he really appreciates Kilgore's honesty and down-home true-blue American kindness.

"It's not the money," Bloom says. "It's this man named J. Gale Kilgore, I feel he represents America writ large. He is the true American hero, in my book!"

When I began writing this blog I said that I would write about understanding the past and adding something better to the present. I think J. Gale does that, and so do Connie, Jim, and Dan. Thank you all!

- Milo

1 comment:

dan said...

A story well told! J. Gale Kilgore is a retired dentist in Texas and one of the true spirits of the American West! Long may he record songs for posterity!