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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Book 'em, Danno!

Watch it, buddy!

A story from home, more or less - DuPage County, Illinois, where I grew up. Yes, it's another story from the mean streets of Suburbia.

Written by Ted Gregory, a staff reporter in the Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, March 15 issue on the bottom of the front page (really) - "Man Shoots Goose. Will the Judge cook his?"

A nice cassoulet would go over well, right now, but guess they meant that more figuratively ...

"Like a lot of homeowners, Larry Tomko has grown weary of geese. He's tired of scraping poop from his driveway with a shovel."

Hey, buddy, let's not mince words. We call that "doo-doo" around here.

"He's fed up with boorish geese gobbling millet he leaves for the chickadees. He feels overrun when dozens of the feathery transients loll in the pond a few steps from his yard."

And probably less than completely excited when a bunch of them decide to fertilize his car. Picture a 50 pound pigeon with a nasty disposition. Now picture a bunch of those travelling in huge numbers, much higher than anything you'd see almost anywhere in Chicago, because unlike those oh-so-clever, habitually liberal and self-righteously environmentally sensitive city folk, we ignorant bumpkins did not see the wisdom of turning our own home into a poisoned, barren, broken glass-strewn concrete-choked wasteland, meaning that we actually have an ecosystem we have to deal with. What could we possibly have been thinking about? Good thing that a whole bunch of those sensitive liberal city folk decided to show their environmental sensitivity by moving out to live with us, at least until the rising property taxes they voted in resulted in a whole bunch of us being uprooted, forcing some of us ignorant bumpkins to move into the aforementioned poisoned, barren, concrete-choked wasteland, and witness how magnificently glass strewn it was. Have you ever seen the sparkle of the first rays of the rising sun off of the facets of the ten year old debris of a Michelob bottle down by the Lake? It's a sight you'll never forget.

I can certainly see why a writer located downtown would pick up a snarky tone as he talked about how the remaining native hicks who hadn't been displaced, yet, were treating the environment. Why, do you realise that some of us were letting the weeds continue to run wild, so much so that they had grown into these patches called "prairies" and "savannahs", some of them miles across? I can still remember the dark days of my youth when, my home suffering from the insensitive ravages of Conservative Republican rule as it was, run by the kind of men who just don't understand that nothing can possibly be good until it's been changed around a lot, I found that I could bicycle for miles down some roads, and where the land had not been overrun by the savannahs and prairies, it was under a thick blanket of glossy greenness, stretching as far as the eye could see in some directions. I think that such places used to be called "forests".

The good news is that after so many of our good, liberal democratic voting friends from Chicago proper and from the cities of the coasts arrived, bounced us rednecks out and started tearing down some of those hideous Victorian and Georgian structures we had laying around (replacing them with the finest in contemporary plywood), they saw the environmental crisis we had left brewing and took action. In place of the woods and prairies and savannahs and other blights upon our landscape, the newcomers have transformed much of DuPage into one of the world's largest reserves for the rare and endangered Kentucky blueglass, which I understand at one point covered no more than a few million acres. There's still a lot of work to be done, what with the prairies still choking out as much as three square miles of Illinois - the prairie state - but courtesy of tax policies that force many people to sell whether they want to or not and federal road subsidies that encourage the sprawl, we need not doubt that this nasty little problem will dusted off, soon enough. But I digress.

"When his frustration brims, Tomko has run out his front door waving him arms and shouting at the geese. Sometimes he launches bottle rockets at them. About ten years ago, he started firing pellets from an old air rifle at the geese. They would squawk and flee.

Then on Feb.26, he killed one, accidentally, sort of, with the pellet gun. Geese are federally protected, and neighbor Jack Casino saw it. Casino is a former hunter who said he has seen too many innocent animals suffer at the hands of man.

Now Tomko has a date with the criminal justice system."

As well he should, bad, bad man that he is, and what a tribute to the well-focused set of priorities our criminal justice system is developing. How well focused? Remember that earlier post about the Children's bootcamps? Well, you'd have some of the convicted felons running the camp accidentally kick some of the campers in the head or stomach because they were thoughtlessly throwing up or selfishly suffering renal failure after a forced march through the Southwestern deserts, during which the camp counselors had inadvertantly re-enacted the Bataan death march, only with children and under harsher conditions. Don't you hate it when that happens? I mean, you turn around, and all of a sudden you've raped a few of the 14 year old girls whose care you were entrusted with and some selfish brat who you unintentionally forced to strip naked in front of the other kids has started bleeding out of some of his orificies, and just won't stop no matter how lovingly you beat him.

How do these things happen?

Well, as hard as some of you may find this to believe, some of us backward conservative hicks wanted those guys brought up on manslaughter charges or worse, on some goofy legal theory that brutalizing children is at least as bad as brutalizing adults. You'll be relieved to know that we didn't get our way. The counselors, in those cases, were hardly ever charged with anything more serious than "reckless endangerment" (the same charge levelled against a single mother who leaves her children home alone when she goes to work), when they were charged at all, and nothing more than suspended sentences were given out to those running the death camps camps for troubled teens. We have to keep those prison cells empty for the real criminals, the truly dangerous people who our justice system has seen the need to focus its energies on the pursuit of: the accidental killers of unowned livestock. Godspeed, men! Let's see how the story continues.

"Casino, 45, is a self-employed tree specialist who calls himself an environmentalist. He and his family have lived in the neighborhood, bordered by a federally protected wetland, for about four years. Their home sits on two acres where horses and wild turkeys roam."

And the deer and the antelope play. Note that horses are not indigenous to Northern Illinois. They are an intruder species, one notorious for damaging grasslands, and Jack has reportedly brought in a whole bunch of them, according to this story, once again showing his commitment to serving the environment by helping to transform it beyond recognition. Good work, Jack! But let's read and learn more about this hero's tale.

"Casino said he started hunting at age 12 but grew increasingly unsettled by it and stopped in his mid-20s. About five years ago, he watched as a Canada goose was struck deliberately and killed on Warrenville Road.

'I swore if I ever saw that again,' Casino said, 'I'd do something about that.'"

Shouldn't he be out on a dark foggy night, maybe standing on top of a skyscraper, as he says something like that, while the voiceover man says "make room for a different kind of hero"? Isn't it really the tragedy at the beginning that makes the hero - Batman losing his parents, Superman losing his homeworld, and Casinoman losing about 40 lbs. of perfectly good protein? I picture him on the ground, cradling the goose's head in his hands, pleading with it to honk just one more time, crying out "as God is my witness, I shall never purchase sauerkraut again", as the goose breathes its last. I'm sorry, I need a moment here, I promised myself that I wasn't going to cry ...

I'm better, now. Really I am. But alas, Goosey Loosey can not say the same, for such is the destiny of a hero - the tragedy that defines him must always repeat itself.

"At about 2 pm Feb.26, while driving by, Casino said he saw Tomko level a pellet rifle and a goose on the frozen pond and fire.

'It was probably about five minutes of flopping and staggering', Casino said. 'I saw it die. It was pretty gross.'

Tomko said that he also was astonished and saddened. he said he had hit 'literally hundreds' of geese with pellets from the spring-loaded rifle and never injured one.

Tomko said that he became frightened by the irate Casino, who shouted that he was calling the police."

which is such a strange way for a 61 year old man to react, when a 45 year old man completely loses it and starts screaming at him, right? The authorities wasted no time in responding to this crisis.

"When two DuPage County sheriff's officers arrived a few minutes later, Tomko confessed. the officers told him to stay in town.

The next afternoon, one of them phoned Tomko and offered to let him surrender at the sheriff's office March 3, which he did. He also surrendered the pellet rifle. ...

Tomko was charged with unlawful taking of a migratory waterfowl, a misdemeanor violation of the Illinois Conservation Code. He was booked, posted a $250 bond and given a March 30 court date in Wheaton ...

Tomko said that he joked with his pastor that God had exacted retribution for missing church the day of the killing, a Sunday. The night before he surrendered, friends took him to a "last supper" and presented him with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

But Tomko conceded that he is a little nervous. If convicted, he could spend a year in jail and be fined $500 to $5000.

'I've never gone through this before', he said.

Casino says that he hopes that a prosecutor 'nails [Tomko's] butt' ..."

The state of the prisons being what it is, if one sends this rather nonthreatening looking, partially retired man even into a county correctional facility, somebody probably really will "nail his butt", as Mr.Casino says, ever so elegantly. As you read about this incident and the reactions of those involved, keep in mind that this man getting forcibly sodomized is likely to be a part of the package that will be his punishment, in response to his having had a freak accident with what amounts to being a souped-up BB gun, while trying to scare off an animal pest. Even if he does get put in with boy scouts, which seems unlikely given the reality that there are now gangs in the increasingly urbanized (and certainly no longer rural) DuPage County, we still have this terrified old man being thrown into prison for a year.

Does the punishment seem to fit the so-called crime? Jack Casino seems to think so. Starting exactly where we left off in the Tribune article, at the end of that last quote

"... although even Casino acknowledges that geese are a problem in the neighborhood. 'So what? The law is there to protect them', he said."

Either that, or to radically empower tinplated dictators with messiah complexes; sometimes one has difficulty remembering which. Such an exaggerated response to such a minor aggravation does little for the already strained community life of the region, as the report notes:

"Casino and Tomko barely know each other, but their feud has placed neighbor Chris Strong in an awkward spot. The goose was on strong's pond.

He is friendly with both men, but considers the geese a nuisance, especially when they chase his kids, or when his wife refuses to leave the house in the geese's presence.

'I'm not in a state of mourning, right now,' Strong said of the goose's end. 'I respect everybody's ideas, but I sure would like to see more hunting. That would be a great start.'"

And don't forget the garlic and white beans.

Guys, a goose isn't your neighbor, it isn't even a pet. It is livestock and the only right it has, as somebody once put it, is the right to be served with the proper garnish. The only immorality to be found in any of this, aside from the likelihood that the Winfielders would leave the sausage out of that Cassoulet when the goose was finally served, is to be found in the way Mr.Tomko has been treated, and I'm not going to joke about that. I salute the man's strength, for his being able to joke about what has happened, himself, and only wish that more of the people around him could be equally cool.