The Other Murder at the Samuels Hotel

1920s era auto stage

by Ron Roizen and Francie Lane

Two murders and at least one attempted murder happened at Wallace’s stately Samuels Hotel over its 66-year history (1908-1974).  Herman J. Rossi famously shot and killed Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist in the hotel’s lobby on the evening of June 30, 1916.  Ten years later, in a less well-known case nowadays, young Florence Jordan shot and mortally wounded E.J. Hicks.  The homicide happened in a room on the hotel’s fourth floor during the evening of Monday, May 24, 1926.  At the time, 17-year-old Florence was the wife of Charlie Jordan, a man in his early 40s.  The couple had married 16 months earlier, on January 21, 1925, when Frances was just 15.  Frances’s gave birth to a daughter in October, 1925, but the infant survived only two days.

Murky circumstances surrounded the Hicks’ shooting.  Hicks, age 48, had a wife and three children.  The family had resided in Kellogg for the past 10 years.  Hicks ran a local auto stage (taxi or bus) service.  He’d been paroled out of the prison at McNeil Island in Washington in October, 1923 after returning most of the loot he’d stolen in a March 28, 1922 mail pouch theft.  Hicks, it appears, had romantic designs on Jordan—and she, from time to time, had been a passenger in his vehicle. 

The evening of the shooting, Florence Jordan was alone in the hotel room; her husband was reportedly elsewhere in the hotel.  She fired six or seven shots at Hicks, two or three striking him.  “Yes, I shot him,” said Florence in a report in the next day’s press.  “He insulted me and I emptied the gun into him.  I guess he came up to my room to insult me.  I had warned him time after time to leave me alone and I had to shoot him.”

Florence’s defense attorneys argued both self-defense and temporary insanity.  The Idaho Statesman reported some of the defendant’s testimony from the stand on October 14, 1926:

“I was lying on the bed in my room about 7 o’clock on the night of May 24, when I heard a knock at the door,” said Mrs. Jordan.  “Believing it to be my husband, I called for him to come in.  It was Hicks who entered and he immediately began making improper advances.  I ordered him to get out, but he continued toward me.  I attempted to jump out of a fourth story window but didn’t have time to raise it.  Then Hicks shouted, ‘come here, I want to love you.’”  It was then the witness testified that she reached into the dresser drawer, procured the .38 caliber automatic and fired at Hicks.

Were Hicks’s words and actions sufficiently threatening to justify Florence’s deadly response?  Florence recounted her history with Hicks from the stand.  “Many observers,” said the next day’s Spokane Chronicle, “believe Mrs. Florence Jordan weakened her own case when she took the stand yesterday…”  According to Florence, she’d first met Hicks on New Year’s Day, 1926.  She was his lone passenger, and he’d asked her to sit on the front seat with him.  Florence was traveling from Kellogg to Osburn to visit her parents.  But, Hicks drove past Osburn to Wallace, and then up Burke Canyon to Frisco, and then back down to Woodland Park, where he stopped his vehicle “and embraced her several times, from which she tried to draw away.”  Hicks finally delivered her to her Osburn destination.

Prudence might have dictated that Florence thereafter would have steered clear of Hicks.  Yet, she recounted from the stand four additional encounters with him—on January 5th, 8th, 11th, and then “several weeks later.”  The first of these appears to have constituted a sexual assault on Hicks’s part.  On the 5th, in Kellogg, Florence testified she was walking along when Hick pulled up near the sidewalk and offered her a ride home.  After some persuasion, Florence obliged and got in.  Hicks however drove instead to an “oil station” where he bought her some candy.  Then he told her they were going to take a ride to Pine Creek.  Florence threated to jump from the moving vehicle, causing Hicks to accelerate.  “At a point several miles below Kellogg,” said a Spokane Chronicle report, “he stopped under the pretense of repairing a tire and asked her to get into the back seat, which she did.  Her clothing was torn from her and on the way back he threatened to kill her if she told any one of the incident, she testified.”

On “about January 8,” Florence further testified, she’d taken Hicks’s stage to Osburn, on which occasion Hicks “made improper proposals.”  On the 11th, Florence refused Hicks’s invitation to enter his stage, she said, out of fear.  He again warned her not to tell anyone about what had happened on the 5th.  Several weeks later, Hicks invited Florence into his stage depot in Kellogg and she accepted his invitation.  Nothing further was reported on what happened on that occasion at the depot.

On May 1st, Florence and her husband attended a church service in Portland, Oregon, where they were visiting.  So moved was she by the sermon that she decided “to tell all.”  On her knees, she confessed to her husband about her encounters with Hicks, Florence testified.  Charlie became angry and his treatment of her, said Florence, thereafter was cold and cruel.  On one occasion he choked her, saying he’d kill her.  Sometime after the couple’s return from Portland, on May 12th, they booked a room at the Samuels Hotel.  Twelve days later occurred the tragedy with Hicks.

Florence Jordan’s Shoshone County jury duly rendered a not guilty verdict on Thursday, October 14th.  Many of the women in the courtroom audience wept on behalf of the defendant’s sad plight—a phenomenon observed at Herman J. Rossi’s trial ten years earlier.  The jury was unanimous on its first ballot.  Sounding one of the themes in “the unwritten law,” defense attorney V.T. Tustin thundered in his closing argument that “It was an act of eternal justice when Hicks fell dead across the threshold of the Jordan room.”  He also told the jury that he would have advised his own wife to do what Florence had done were she confronted with the same situation. 

Defense attorney H.J. Hull—the prosecutor in Rossi’s trial—also played on the jury’s heartstrings.  He painted his client as a mere child victimized by two older and more worldly men—i.e., both Hicks and husband Charlie.  Said the next day’s Spokesman-Review report:  “He told the jury that a verdict of ‘not guilty’ world tell the world that a 40-year-old man could not take a girl wife and ruin her and get away with it.”  Prosecutor Charles E. Horning’s warned the jury that a not guilty verdict would say to the world, “You can kill a man in Shoshone county and find the juries are friendly.”  But Horning’s efforts were to no avail. 

Florence, now freed, declined to accompany her husband to a restaurant, preferring instead to spend another night in the county jail and make her own arrangements the next day.  She almost immediately filed for divorce.  In October, 1929, she married a new husband only a year older than she. 

Question after question still hangs unresolved over the case.  Why had Florence and Charlie (or, perhaps, Florence alone) resided at the Samuels Hotel for 12 days?  Why would husband Charlie have knocked on the door of his own, unlocked hotel room?  How did Hicks’s body end up in the doorway, when Florence said she’d shot him because he was advancing toward her?  What, exactly, had Florence confessed to Charlie on May 1st?  The spirit of the times seems to have focused chiefly on the age disparity between Florence and the two middle-aged men (the press on occasion even termed them “elderly”).  The girl-wife whose innocence had been “ruined” by two older and lustful men simply could not be punished for taking the life of one of them.

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Reflections: The Blurb

So, you’re asking me:  How did I come to write “The Blurb” about Maggie’s paintings?

Well, it was a long time ago, now—in the Spring of 1995.  Maggie, for some reason, chided me a little one day, suggesting that I couldn’t care less about her art work.  I responded that it wasn’t true.  Of course I cared about her work.  Hadn’t I, for instance, patiently gone to the trouble of framing many of her big pieces?

But that wasn’t her point, of course.  What she meant was that I didn’t care about her art’s deeper meanings, its importance, and, well, its artistry.

And so, quietly, a few days later, I sat down to try to write out what I genuinely perceived to be my responses at that level.

Thus was composed The Blurb.

When I showed it to her she was pleased.  But not overly so, as I recall.  I got the feeling my words, as she may have seen them, were perhaps a pale substitute for the more visceral and immediate reactions she had in mind when I looked at her work. 

I don’t know; I’m not sure.

In any case, we both knew I had at least tried.

Maggie soon thereafter had “a show” of her oil paintings at the Berkeley Espresso, at the corner of Shattuck and Hearst.  Her paintings graced the walls there for weeks.  And a single, small, framed plaque offered The Blurb (with a short paragraph added at the bottom) for customers with half an interest in what they were looking at.

Her 50th birthday was upcoming in November of that year.  It more or less coincided with the Thanksgiving weekend. We rented a lovely A-Frame up at Downieville for the occasion.

What was I going to get her? 

Well, I had a dozen tee-shirts of varying sizes printed up with The Blurb on the back side.  One, I gave to her and the others to our “Brady Bunch” adult kids and other family members.  (So far as I’m aware, not a single one of these still survives—I unfortunately lost mine years ago.)

I’m not an art critic of course.  And The Blurb, for the party for whom it was intended, got only a so-so reception.  But that is how it came to be, as I recall after so many years.

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New in Wallace!

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Gunder Hefta (1942-2021)

After high school graduation (June, 1960) I spent eight pretty pointless months in Europe, working at various places for the company that employed my father, Ampex.  On my return (February, ’61), I spent a pretty pointless semester at newly opened Foothill (Junior) College, which hadn’t yet moved into its upscale location at Los Altos Hills and was instead housed in dowdy buildings on El Camino in Mountain View, California. 

Then, finally, in September, ’61, I enrolled at San Francisco State College and joined three high school friends—Tony Governor, Mike Hanrahan or George Ebey (I can’t remember which, initially), and Gunder Hefta–in a shared apartment on Irving Avenue.  This was, at the time, an older, blue-collar-ish, mostly residential area of S.F. known as either “The Sunset” or “The Avenues.”  The Irving apartment was a block or two up from 19th Avenue, the main thoroughfare that ran all the way down to the SF State campus, at Holloway. 

For me, at least, that apartment and my three semesters at SF State were breakout life experiences.  For one thing, my cooking-oriented roommates, Tony and Gunder, often prepared salads with the dinners they made for the group, something I don’t remember my mother preparing when I lived at home.  In some crazy, I’ve-finally-made-it way, my thought at the time was that salads were the height of the new sophistication that had entered my life.

We later moved to an apartment on Taraval and the crew of roommates changed—with Hanrahan replacing Ebey, or vice versa, and Tom Tarr joining us at some point.  But the “culture” of our group remained substantially the same.  Gunder was the only one of us who’d graduated from Palo Alto High School (aka, “Paly”).  I’d known him previously—if only vaguely—because he’d dated Phoebe Graubard, a girl at Cubberley.  Of our Irving/Taraval group Gunder had the most luminous intellect.  He had two intellectual passions, life science and the English language—the latter, that is, as it hosted poetry and literature.  Were it not for Gunder I don’t think I’d ever have been introduced to poets Kenneth Patchen, Robert Creeley, or Jack Gilbert.  I spent a lot of my free time wearing out the grooves on my Joan Baez (another Paly grad) and Ray Charles LPs.  It was a freewheeling kind of shared apartment existence.  The four of us would come and go whenever and had our own class schedules and part-time work to attend to.  But there was a shared aspect too.

The thing I’ve remembered most richly after all these years was Gunder’s ready and hilarious playfulness with language.  He loved making up ridiculous spoonerisms just for the joy of it.  We didn’t have a TV, but at the time there was an evening news show on Oakland’s KTVU called “The Tuck and Fortner Report.”  Gunder, I remember, called it “The Fuck and Torture Report.”  When at some point actress Cloris Leachman’s name became known, Gunder redubbed her “Clorox Bleachman.”  Excusing himself to visit the bathroom he’d sometimes casually explain: “Need to bleed my lizard.” I wish I’d kept a glossary of all his off-the-wall inventions. 

He played with words in other ways, too.  I remember he used to like to mutter—in the worst possible Mexican accent—a kind of guiding oath:  “All my life,” he’d say, “I have longed to fight zee bull; but first I must fight zee leetle bull,” he’d continue, “zee one that lives inside me.”  It made no sense, and maybe he was quoting something he’d read or heard, but it was an iconic Gunderism all the same.  He also liked to express frustration or acute disappointment with a sudden melodic string of sounds that I cannot possibly transcribe but sounded something like this:  “Wo-oh-oh-a, wo-oh-oh-a, wo-ho-ho-a,” in tones on a descending scale.  It was another of his iconic sound-using trademarks—and one I vividly recall even to this day.

We only had one class in common—Prof. A.K. Bierman’s Philosophy One.  Bierman was a brilliant teacher, but his class started at 8:30 a.m.—a time in the morning Gunder was reluctant to oblige.  I don’t know why, but Gunder was almost impossible to awaken in the morning.  To say he slept like a log would be an understatement—he slept like a granite boulder.  I soon gave up trying, and as a result Gunder missed, according to my recollection, almost every session of Bierman’s wonderful class. 

It was an unusual class.  For almost all of the sessions Bierman sat on a stool at the front of the room reading—lovingly, and with lots of interposed interpretations for our benefit—David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.  This might seem like it’d be the most boring of all possible 90 minutes, but Bierman made it intriguing, elevating, and often also very funny.  The book, as I recall, was only 94 pages long, but most of the semester was spent this way.  Then, near the end, we were supposed to have also read and fully taken in Plato’s Republic—which I dabbled in, but cannot say I fully consumed on my own.

By the time the final exam came rolling around I was seriously worried about Gunder’s prospects.  The night before the test, we stayed up until the wee hours, me cramming him on Hume and what little I knew about Plato’s book.  And when the exam’s grades came back, Gunder, with his graceful pen, got an “A” and I, exhausted from the night before and never that gifted as a wordsmith, got a “B-.”  Like I said, he had the most luminous brain in our bunch.

After I heard that Gunder had died (on 9/12/21), I took a look around on the web to see what traces I could find of him and his life.  I was delighted to discover that Gunder had published a bit of wordplay in Boy’s Life magazine all the way back in 1957, when he would still have been a student at Jordan Junior High:  “Daffynishion—Dictionary—a large object used for pressing flowers.”  It’s ridiculous, I know, but therein lies its fleeting charm!

But there were more telling traces of Gunder I found on the web too.  After college, Gunder pursued a career in book editing—one might say it was a perfect confluence for his two passions.  Google’s book-searching service—“Google Books”—yielded the comments of a number of authors or coauthors expressing their appreciation and thanks for Gunder’s editorial work on their books.  “Gunder Hefta, who was ‘present at the creation,’” wrote Alfred A. Blaker, author of Photography: Art and Technique (1988), “has been influential and infinitely helpful throughout.”  Similar sentiments came from Stephen A. Spongberg, author of A Reunion of Trees (1990).  “I am particularly indebted to my editor, Gunder Hefta,” wrote Sheila Conner, author of New England Natives (1993, a study of that region’s native flora), “whose editorial abilities are surpassed only by his civilized patience, kindness, and wit.”  How many books Gunder midwifed into existence and how many grateful authors he helped or even rescued we will probably never know. 

I think I’ll close with something trivial—and yet also telling about the memory of youth and friendship.  Gunder, in our little apartment group, had a nice collection of aftershaves.  I had none, but he let me use his Bay Rum on one occasion before an important date.  I always admired—perhaps even envied a little—Gunder’s collection.  Only recently—in the past few months—did it occur to me that I could order some Bay Rum from Amazon.  And I did.  And seeing it in my medicine cabinet—now, here in Wallace, Idaho, so many decades later–I can’t help but smile and remember my old friend.

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THE ROSSI MURDER is now available at Amazon

Here’s the link:

Happy end to a long journey.

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I think I’m okay with McConnell’s argument

[This post is available in the Georgian language, here:]

There was no little irony — and even some surprise — lodged in the fact that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered Trump’s strongest defense just after the close of the second impeachment trial by first conceding that the ex-president was unquestionably guilty-as-charged.

McConnell contended simply that the literal language of Article II’s Section 4 did not grant the Senate the authority to convict an ex-president.  He read aloud that section of the U.S. Constitution, verbatim, in his speech:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Like many Americans, I was disappointed with Trump’s acquittal.  One way or another, Trump’s villainy and depravity on the 6th of January deserved the fullest repudiation the Senate could deliver to him.  There’s no question he was guilty of violating his sacred oath of office on that horrific day.

Yet, and on reflection, I think I’m okay with McConnell’s argument.

First of all, he may actually be right in his reading of ART. II, Sec 4.  I don’t know, I’m not a constitutional law professor.  But he may be.

Secondly, conviction – and barring Trump from holding future federal office – would have created something like political martyrdom for Trump. 

His base would once again find themselves disadvantaged by mainstream American society — in that they couldn’t vote for him again. 

Trump himself could claim that fear among Democrats of his future political muscle was the true motivation behind the second impeachment. 

This sort of martyrdom would leave open the now unresolvable question of just exactly how much vote-winning strength the ex-president might still retain in 2022 or 2024. 

Finally, and I think most importantly, martyrdom for Trump in the eyes and hearts of an authoritarian and even quasi-religious following like his might have proved to be a powerful and long-lasting toxin.

So, okay, McConnell’s solution avoids that prospect.

And maybe that’s not so bad.

McConnell’s forceful and unreserved condemnation of Trump’s January 6th conduct also effectively splits the Republican party around the issue of Trumpism. 

McConnell didn’t need to condemn Trump in explaining his legalistically grounded vote.  But in doing so, he differentiated himself from the Republicans who voted for acquittal simply because they didn’t wish to offend their still-pro-Trump constituencies. 

We saw the importance of this force very soon after the final Senate vote, when Louisiana’s G.O.P. censured Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict (“…because,” said Cassidy, “he is guilty”).

For my part, I cannot understand how any thoughtful American could continue to support Trump after the January 6th tragedy.  The trial showed that Trump tweeted words heaping further scorn on Mike Pence only minutes after receiving a phone report that Pence was in peril. That revelation must have chilled the souls of even the staunchest Trump Republican.

Whatever the explanation of any continuing Republican support for a post-Jan-6th Trump, McConnell’s speech has now drawn a line in the sand for Republicans.  He’s still that caucus’s leader in the Senate and thus still wields no little influence.  Clearly, for McConnell Trump is now a has-been, a stain, and embarrassment.  Moreover, and according to McConnell’s “lock him up” advice to the D.O.J. – also in his speech – Trump may well also be a criminal in McConnell’s eyes.

For my part, I think Trump is washed-up, done-for, finished – as he should be.  The January 6th tragedy cast a very bright light on the man’s depravity. 

The surprising thing is that I’m also beginning to actually like Mitch McConnell a little.  Now there’s an outcome from recent events I’d never have expected!

by Ron Roizen

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Some Thoughts on Yesterday’s Tragedy

As bad as yesterday’s tragedy in D.C. was, there may have been some good to come from it.  For one thing, it finally – after four long years – broke Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party’s leadership.  Maybe it required something really, really, really bad to happen for that break to finally come about.  Both Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell acquitted their constitutional duties admirably.  It was particularly notable that McConnell’s eloquent and forceful speech, denouncing claims the election was faulty, came before the Capitol was invaded by Trump’s mob.  The same speech given after the invasion would have been thinned in its significance. 

The Capitol’s desecration also finally ripped the mask of buffoonery and inconsequentiality from Trump’s face.  Especially his “go home in peace” video aired during the insurrection, with its vehement repeat of his unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him, fully exposed that this guy means business and was seriously out to overturn the election of Joe Biden.  We still don’t know why the Capitol Police, with no backup, were so ill-prepared for Trump’s mob.  Trump’s rally and its “wild” pre-characterization were well known to local authorities long before.  The ugly possibility that Trump had a hand in weakening the police’s defensive capacity hangs over yesterday’s events, too. 

Another good byproduct of the tragedy was the fact that it transformed what is usually a pro forma exercise by the Congress – the opening and counting of the Electoral College’s state-by-state results – into a tangible verification and certification of the election’s legitimacy by the U.S. Congress.  This was exactly the opposite outcome from what Trump’s mob may have hoped for. The Senate rejected the challenge to Arizona’s electoral outcome 93-6 and rejected the challenge to Pennsylvania’s 92-7.  The remaining challenges were dropped.  These were resounding confirmations by Congress’s upper body. 

It should have made all thoughtful Americans proud, moreover, that both houses committed themselves to finishing their electoral task despite having to work through the night.  In my judgment, Ted Cruz’s opening argument on behalf of the Arizona challenge – with its reliance on survey data about American distrust of the election – was lame and unworthy.  Some of the remarks delivered by both Democratic and Republican no-voters on the challenges were quite moving.  I was also touched by Kelly Loeffler’s withdrawal of her challenge to Georgia’s electoral results, thus terminating that state’s challenge.  She was surely chastened by her own lost election the previous day, yet her act suggested an awakening on her part.

Incidentally, I don’t think Trump’s mob’s members were driven solely by the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen.  After all, how can any mob member actually know about one or another state’s election processing in detail.  And surely even they pause to consider whether the “news” they’re getting from rightist sources is fully trustworthy.  No, my feeling is that paying allegiance to the Big Lie is more a kind of shibboleth, a secret password for membership in a woefully angry and alienated segment of our society.  How and why a wholly unsavory character like Donald Trump should have acquired their allegiance is a mystery that we’ll need to ponder for years and years.

I don’t know if the Republican Party will now, as some have suggested, split into two parties – i.e., a Trumpian and more traditional wing.  But it seems to me that the tragedy of yesterday’s events at the Capitol has given the nation, both the thoughtful Left and the thoughtful Right, a terrible counterexample around which to forge a new national unity and sense of purpose in the upcoming Biden administration.  I wish yesterday had never happened.  It was the most heartrending event in American history that I can recall.  But I hope some good can come out of it even so.

–Ron Roizen

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Classic College Application Essay/Letter

Need a little assistance? Are you, about now, struggling to compose a first-rate college application essay or letter? Maybe Hugh Gallagher’s classic example may help.


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran of love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my back garden. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby d|ck, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for MI5. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on holiday, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

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A message to my Trump-supporting friends

Lenin, Engels, & Marx

It now appears very likely that Mr. Trump will lose in Tuesday’s election. 

The pollsters, chastened by 2016, have reportedly cleaned up their act sufficiently so that their estimates have become more reliable again.

In light of a likely Trump loss, I want to take a moment to comfort my Trump-supporting friends. 

Over the past several months of the vying campaigns it’s seemed that the main argument for continuing Trump’s presidency has been the threat of imminent socialism or communism from a newly elected Democratic or left-of-center presidency and congress.

I want to assure you that this is a fantasy, it’s not going to happen.  The U.S. has resisted and rejected state socialism ever since it burst on the scene in Russia in 1917.  It did not fall into socialism’s embrace in the post-World War I years, when political disillusionment owing to the senseless slaughter of so many was rife across the western world.  Even more tellingly, it did not turn to socialism in the decade-long throes of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The political climate even became rather too imbued with anti-communism during the “Red Scare” period in the 1950s.  And the U.S. did not copy the well-advertised attractions of the welfare state as they were promoted, for example, in Scandinavia and Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. The fall of the Soviet Union, at the end of 1991, certainly didn’t enhance communism’s allure for Americans.

Moreover, the two great arguably socialist innovations in American political life — Social Security and Medicare/ACA — have remained contested turf in our society.  Trump ran in part on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and the U.S. Congress has allowed Social Security’s ultimate fate to become imperiled by its unwillingness to step up and make modest structural changes.

A new Democratic administration will not take away America’s privately owned firearms, poison its schoolchildren with a new-old ideas, or ban fundamentalist Christianity in favor of soulless secular humanism.  The new Democratic hegemony, on the contrary, promises the return of a sensible mildness and inclusiveness in our political life. 

I am a Democrat – by now, an “Idaho Democrat.”  I don’t want to pack the U.S. Supreme Court or even do away with the Electoral College.

Our system of government is not a “direct democracy” but instead a “representative democracy.”  This means that we pick some among us to go to D.C. and take care of our collective business for their term of office.  After we’ve elected them we may have little control over what they actually do.  The only tangible control we have is throwing them out at the next election.

Mr. Trump has well earned being thrown out.  Beyond that, even some of my Trump-supporting friends have confided that he’s hardly a good example to our children or a good fit for the presidency.  (Others of course may not share those views.)  For my part – I readily confess – I cannot fathom why even a single thoughtful American would have cast a vote for him in 2016, and far less a vote in 2020.  But surely that speaks to my limitations as a student of American politics, too.

Still, I wanted to send this message to you.  The sun will still come up if and when a Democrat becomes the U.S. president again.  Rabid Leninists are not going to be roaming our streets imposing with iron fists a new political order.  Big billboards showing a smiling Chairman Mao are not going to be pasted up. 

Calm yourselves, my friends.  It might even be interesting and useful for a new political right to emerge from the ashes of Trumpism. 

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The Rossi Murder’s Preface

Fellow lovers of Wallace and Idaho history,

“The Rossi Murder,” my 94.4K-word manuscript, is still in need of a publisher.  After a three-month stay at WSU Press it was courteously declined.  As you might imagine, I’d hate to see the 18 months of effort congealed in this work go to waste.  My hope is that Facebook and the World Wide Web may send news of its languishing situation far and wide.  And, as a result, a publisher somewhere will get wind of the story and come knocking.  I know, I know:  it’s a longshot.  But that’s my hope and — for now at least — I’m sticking with it.

Yours, Ron


Nine Mile CemeteryWife Maggie, daughter Alexis, and I moved (from Berkeley, California) to the historic little mining town of Wallace, in Idaho’s northern panhandle, in November, 1997.  We soon started looking around our new environment.  It wasn’t long before we discovered beautiful, forested Nine Mile Cemetery, which lies a little more than a mile north of town on Nine Mile Creek Road.  The cemetery’s entrance road runs upward between two hillsides.  To the right, very near the entrance and only a few feet from the graveyard’s flagpole, sits the prominent grave of Herman J. Rossi.  In due course I would hear the rumor that Rossi’s grave had been consigned to this location, across the road from the cemetery’s main grounds, because of objections that he was a murderer.  (Despite all the years that have passed since I’ve never been able to securely confirm or disconfirm it – although I question this rumor’s verity at the end of this book.)

Also early in our Wallace experience, I acquired a copy of Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson’s wonderful, large-format book titled Mining Town.  It offered an intelligent and affectionate account of Wallace’s history alongside eloquent photographs drawn from a remarkable array of images housed down at the University of Idaho’s Library in Moscow – called the Barnard-Stockbridge Photographic Collection.[1]  Hart and Nelson’s text, as it happens, neatly summarized the main points of the notorious Rossi murder in two pages (140-141):  Herman Rossi’s second wife, who was 15 years his junior, had a serious drinking problem.  On discovering, on his return, that she had enjoyed a drunken weekend with a young lover, Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist, in the Rossi home while he was away for a week in Boise, Rossi strode downtown to the Samuels Hotel, assaulted Dahlquist in the lobby, and then shot him as he fled across the room.  Three and a half months later Rossi was found not guilty of murder by a jury that wasted little time on deliberation.  I remember thinking, on reading Hart and Nelson’s brief account, that there had to be a lot more to this story. Continue reading

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