When things are investigated, knowledge is extended. When knowledge is extended, the will becomes sincere. When the will is sincere, the mind is correct. When the mind is correct, the self is cultivated. -- Confucius
Politically correct ideals are garbage: true wisdom comes from decades of deep thought and neutral observation. Only a so-called sociopath could ascertain wisdom from this crazy world in a neutral way. Cool thoughts- uncorrupted by modern politics, social norms, or societal ideals- are required for wisdom. Questioning everything, and going against the grain on all universally accepted norms is the path to true intelligence. The Gods notice this.


Red Oak Iowa

Red Oak Iowa. 'A shade better'. Boyhood home of Johnny Carson, and frequent stop of presidential candidates. This community stands for small town values, and Joni Earnst! (Not from here but a nearby town actually, but hey- who cares?).

Unfortunately- ominously- all small towns have their secrets, or perhaps I should say skeletons. I am ashamed to say I was born in this town- through no fault of my own, mind you. I lived there from the time I was born until I was four, then again from age 9-17, and from age 20 to 22, then from age 44 to 46. This totals 16 years of hell. Why exactly was it hell? I thought you'd never ask...

Red Oak is a Victorian-era town with a lot of cool architecture and old houses. The courthouse is an awesome architectural specimen. The library and a few houses in town are English Tudor, and, well, that was the good part.

It is, and always has been, a depressed and poor community just like so many other small towns in the Midwest. It prides itself on its pathetic high school football team, which is quite possibly the losing-est team ever. I have never heard of them winning a game- much less a homecoming. They always have been a joke, and are considered an easy win to area teams from other towns. The town of RED oak has an orange water tower, and one can only assume that it is somehow related to the football team's orange color (tigers). So this massive 85 foot tower atop the tallest hill in the town is a beacon of losing for all to see for miles and miles. This is fitting, as most Red Oakians are losers. 

orange oak?

About half are on welfare, and about 2/3 are drug addicts (crank is the big thing here- known on tv as “meth”). The rest are mostly retired folk, low or middle income. A small handful are extremely wealthy. This includes the family of slumlords that break every law in the book on landlord - tenant law in Iowa, and own most rentals in town...Many, many single mothers on welfare riddle this town. They mostly live in Red Oak Manor- a property owned by the more notorious state subsidized Oak Creek Apartments. A lot of them also occupy the apartments above the many downtown businesses (or former businesses). Not that anything is wrong with being a single mom nor of being on welfare. Shit happens. But the inordinate number of them show what an island of non-opportunity this place is. Jobs are scarce, and they are mostly service crap like fast food.

There is no Walmart here, only Kmart operating with a skeleton crew since it gets so little business. Their treatment of customers and deceptive pricing and refund policies have earned them a scathing editorial in the local newspaper at least once, and their actions surely repel buyers- who invariably choose to drive 20 miles to the next town to shop. Digressing, two small dollar stores and two grocery stores dominate the town. Most businesses survive no more than a few months in Ded Oak. Few businesses that open in the so-called business district- “the square”- last more than a month. No one shops here- not even locals, except for immediate needs like a little food etc. I considered taking pictures of all the empty businesses downtown to insert into this piece, but decided not to bore the readers with scores of boring pics, so I only took pictures of the empty lots. Ah yes- the lots...More and more empty lots are popping up in Ded Oak as businesses close and no one maintains the old Victorian buildings, which start to crumble for lack of tuckpointing and other basic masonry. The city smartly plants most of them with pretty grass and flowers, but huge areas that were once rows of two story buildings lie agape. The remaining buildings are largely empty; very few have businesses in them- I would guess about 10%. 

(all lot pics above are within one block radius of square)

A very rich man named Wilson who was in the concrete business, died and left his money to the town's improvement. So they bought nearly all properties on Broadway, tore them down, and planted grass. Then they built the Wilson Performing Arts Center. This is a place for concerts, plays and other rich shindigs. Every event is so expensive to get into, it should be called the Country Club Redux. Meanwhile 99% of citizens see no life improvements at all.

So the town drivels on, functioning but not really doing too much. Most employed residents work in other towns. The few that do work here are caught up in the minimum wage traps known as McDonalds and Burger King, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, Subway, the grocery stores and dollar stores, and the two nursing homes. The hospital pays decent for high level nurse credentials, and there are a couple factories that pay enough to barely get by on. One I worked at is teetering on closing and offers no benefits whatsoever- not even health insurance. Another makes car batteries and offers the spectre of lead poisoning as an added benefit. Yet another is losing business to China and reducing lines. Several large factories and hundreds of other businesses have quit this town for a better work force. (D and L, Murphy's, Traco, CDS, Eveready...). My last employer there, who does pre-employment drug testing, had to change their own rules. So many people failed the tests, they simply could not operate any longer unless they hired drug addicts. So they continued to test, but hired positive applicants. If these people got hurt, it was used against them; if not, oh well. The largest employer in town does not pre-test-  but if you get hurt they test! Then, failure means no worker's comp for you! I personally know a former employee who got her teeth knocked out by slipping on wet floors while working there. She tested positive for pot and was fired – no workers comp! This is how they stay in operation. Most drugees in town work there because they know there is no pre-test. I have worked there and personally witnessed groups of employees using drugs on the clock. No one cared. This is the backbone of the local economy.

While some live in houses here, a lot live in apartments or trailers. There is nothing wrong with that, but it shows that affluence is miniscule. The Red Oak Manor, Oak Creek Apts. (both owned by the veterinarian, and state subsidized), 4H Manor (federal subsidized projects of sorts), City View Apts. (subsidized housing with lots of drug raids), Acorn Acres (apt.s for the elderly and disabled, extensive complex), and many miscellaneous buildings with apartments, plus the trailer court with 400 or so lots, make for the majority of residents in this godawful town.

More interesting is the little known fact that if you want to participate in the local flea markets on the square in the summer, you must be a homeowner to sell anything there. That's right- renters are not allowed to sell in a public place. The city insures this by checking your homeowner insurance policy before allowing you to register. I personally know people who have been both allowed in because they own a house and who have been denied a space permit because they rent. 

Though I have personally lived in the trailer court, and have relatives in Acorn Acres, and have had girlfriends and other friends in both 4H and Oak Creek, I am just saying that the few well off here in their nice homes do not represent the majority. The town is mostly low income people and it is not a wonderful place to be, to raise a family, to work, nor to expect a future with any meaning.

What is offered here? Very few choices in retail; most items you need require going to the neighbor town of Shenandoah 20 miles away or to the Omaha metro about an hour away. But it is a peaceful small town at least, right? Well, you can't ride a bike without getting a ticket for speeding, not wearing a helmet, not having a taillight or headlight...I was once read the riot act by local cops for walking atop the dike.

about here...

There is real crime here though. While they watch their precious dike like a hawk, drug dealers thrive, and drug labs abound. There is a high speed chase about once a month- which is a lot for a town of 5,000 (this is not a suburb either- it is an hour away from the nearest city). There are also an inordinate number of car break ins, vandalism, and assaults. But how long has it been like this, just recently, you may wonder?

Let us go over a few facts.

The city of red oak, via its city maintenance shop, decided to kill all the cats it could. Numerous dead cats turned up in a nearby field. A few teenagers broke into their office and found a 5 gallon bucket of rat poison and 2 cases of canned cat food, not to mention a .22 rifle. All of these items were removed and thrown into the river. Statute of limitations prevents prosecution of this act, so don't worry about who it was now. Trust me- it really happened. 

city shop with its wonderful signage

office of cat-doom
field of death- cat sematary

This is why the next week in the local paper it said that the city voted to pay for a fence around the city shop and its adjoining sewer plant, and alarm system- no explanation given. People involved are proud of this. City employees are worm manure. This occurred in about 1989. 

the new fence

Years later, a letter to the editor of the local paper was printed about someone's neighbor trapping his kitten in a garage and starving it to death in a cage. The neighbor- a city employee- claimed the cat had made footprints on his vehicle, which he said made it justified. Eventually, he was considered for termination, but insisted the city council hearing on it would be made public. They withdrew, and to this day the prick drives around a city owned pickup with a large animal cage in back. What was the problem? The city traps loose cats in all the public parks here and kills them. He threatened to expose that. The prick now acts as code enforcement, which means he makes a salary by driving around daily taking notes on infractions. This began about 1990 and continues to this day.

In 1986 two teens shimmied up the gas pipe on the side of a department store- then called Pamida, now Shopko. 

gas pipe that was climbed

They entered through an AC unit on the roof and then one fell through the false ceiling. He found the exit doors illegally chained shut, and so had to find a ladder to get back out. By this time, the police had arrived. Both were charged with trespassing only, as nothing was stolen. Then in a juvenile court proceeding, they announced that the charges were upped to first degree burglary- meaning a weapon was used while stealing stuff out of a building. One kid said he would plead guilty to trespassing only. The other pled to it all, scared I guess. So the one who took the frameup was fined 9,000. for “damage to the front door” where “a torch was used to break in”. How impressive that this town frames juveniles to help businesses scam some money.

Well known for corruption, Red Oak has always had a wealth of tales about what the cops, the city council, and the county attorney's offices were up to. Many were true. A few years ago they tore down the old jail and built a brand new "law enforcement center", which is a jail, the local police dept., and the sheriff's dept. all in one place. The funny thing is the lobby. When you walk in you will see two windows. One says "Police" and the one next to it says "Sheriff". You walk up to one and a dispatcher will ask you "Do you need local police or the sheriff?". If you are at the sheriff window and say 'local', she will step over to the police window- or vice versa. It's like a Monty Python skit.

The school board is just as bad: always making bellicose decisions. I will never forget when two bullies cornered my cousin in the junior high shop once, and lit a torch- threatening to burn his face with it. When he told on them, he was suspended for being a distraction and causing trouble. The bullies were never punished. Of course, the most violent people I remember in the schools were the teachers. Who else remembers Mr. E. throwing a chair out the third floor window of his math class? Or the time Mr. H. roughed up David S. in the stairwell? Don't forget when Mr. B. threw Charlie R. through the classroom door either, breaking it off its hinges.

The best school story of all is a recent one. The junior high custodian (let's call him “Oddy”), a drug dealer and drug addict, deliberately broke a water line in the basement while texting his girlfriend (gf, not his wife). He told her he wanted a new school built so he'd have less work to do. Several emails and texts from him admit it, and were forwarded to me, which I have. She also sent them to the local radio station and newspaper, the school superintendent, and the police. No one did anything, so I contacted an Omaha news station's investigative reporter, Mike McKnight. I asked him why the school wants a drug addict/dealer working around teens. He wrote back several times, asking me to keep it on the down-low so no one would be tipped off- and then he suddenly dropped it. Most people in Red Oak know absolutely nothing of this. The school was closed for a year and its students took classes in the high school gym. Now, they are back at the old jr. high, which means the pipe is fixed. But the city plans to build a new one. If they can use it now, why can't they use it next year? And the police did nothing- why?? Apparently drugees always get their way in small towns. Good job “Oddy”! 

I must mention the flood as well. It was 1985 or so, there were a few big storms, and the creek that runs through town rose to its maximum. It was a raging torrent. Since all the street sewers in town are drained into it, they backed up. Where did the water go then? Up every basement drain in town. So every house with a basement got flooded in almost up to the first floor joists. Sump pumps were sold out for miles, including Omaha. Most streets flooded as well to about a foot deep. People began to wonder: why isn't this draining into the river instead? Rumors began about the dike being closed off. It was printed in the next paper that the creek was unimpeded and nothing was closed; it was just a 'ridiculous rumor'. So a friend and I went there ourselves to see. Walking atop the dike, the place where the creek goes through it is controlled by big gates that go up or down. They were closed. Why? Only the city workers know. But the town flooded because they closed the gates, and they lied about it. I seen it myself. 

city workers gave 'flood gates' new meaning

Not one to be outdone, a local youth we will call “Carrie” decided to get some attention next time the creek was full to its top banks. Year I am not sure of, but it was about 1990 or so. She was about 20. She called 911 and said she was walking over the bridge on fourth street, and dropped her baby in the torrent. Rescue divers rushed in from Omaha, and firemen somehow dove into the fast current of the 20' deep creek all day looking for the baby. Then, she admitted she made it all up and her sister was watching her baby. She was arrested and charged with making a false report, fined a paltry amount (100. I think?), and served no jail time. Though she did not have to pay compensation to all the firemen for their time, the city did at least do one thing: they emplaced a sign on the railing. See picture. I see on Facebook she now lives happily with numerous kids. Hopefully none of them fall into any creeks. 

No Dumping Allowed- not even babies

Solving real crimes is usually of little interest in this town though. Such as the vandals who tipped over numerous headstones in the cemetery, several nights in a row. The youth of the town knew who did it, and I watched someone call in about it. They asked if there was a crime stoppers reward as stated in the newspaper. Long story short, after much runaround, no. So did they want to know who it was or not? No. My acquaintance hung up and they never found out. A similar incident occurred when someone was setting trash dumpsters on fire in the downtown area every night for a couple weeks. Crime stoppers was called, the arsonist was named, and every detail of his acts was described by a close friend and witness. A secret number was given, no one was arrested, and no reward turned up in the secret account. They just did not want to bother with it.

But then if you cuss in public- boy are you in trouble! I know someone who was walking one night and two guys assaulted him. During the fight, he yelled some curse words apparently, and so was ticketed. He did not understand the charge until he went to court and the magistrate explained it to him. Apparently in this town, if you cuss in a public place, like on a sidewalk, an old lady could possibly hear you and be offended. So, it is illegal. The judge said it's the same concept as yelling fire in a theater. Though causing public panic is not the same as cussing at someone who is assaulting you, the laws here do not necessarily adhere to the constitution's claim that we have freedom of speech. You can say most all cuss words on tv and radio now, except a couple, without the FCC fining you. But you can't say them in Prude Oak. 

I could go on. The time I was stabbed in the arm with a switchblade in a dispute over a girl. I was charged with assault. The time two people kicked my door in and beat me up in my own house, and went to court and lied- and walked free. (They said I invited them in and there was no assault. My broken door and stitched up face were irrelevant.) The time someone stole my car, and the cops just were not interested. So I sideswiped the car when I seen it parked somewhere in anger- then I was ticketed for reckless driving. The time I paid a traffic fine and was arrested a week later for not paying it. The time a rental house I owned was illegally taken from me by a rich bitch slumlord who was friends with a corrupt magistrate (neal).

I am not the only one. If you want a new garage, or yours burns down perhaps- you cannot rebuild. Code does not allow it. No new garages. One person built a deck without a permit. They were forced to tear it back down before they could buy the remedial permit. Anecdotes are numerous.

The radio station here is also a complete and utter joke. It is owned and operated by a freak that has a penguin voice. He repeats himself over and over and says all kinds of off the wall stuff that simply confirm his idiocy. Unfortunately most businesses in town blare this station, to try and sound like they are proud to be local citizens I guess (as that is the only station here). It is simultaneously nauseating and nerve grating to listen to that freak's constricted AFLAC duck voice droning on about grain prices, obituaries, arrests, and obituaries yet again.

And so we pitiful residents of this disgusting, pathetic town stagnate in a cesspool of idiocy, corruption, and drugs.

 Red Oak Iowa- a shade worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

constructive comments appreciated. name calling and links deleted.