Apologia: My evil twin

Friday, October 14, 2005

No matter how hard I try to be a nice guy, I sometimes come off looking bad.

Or, as I explained to my workout-trainer buddy earlier this week: They must be talking about my evil twin.

Have you met my evil twin? You won't like him. He's the fellow who writes columns that cut just a bit too deep -- and then puts my name on them so I'll get all the phone calls, letters and e-mails.

Everybody has an evil twin. I ought to know. I've met enough of them in my lifetime.

You know who you are.

A couple of weeks ago someone -- I'm pretty sure it was my evil twin -- wrote a column about walking to school. The basis for the column was a story about Weaver Grade School in Springfield, Mo. Parents there have created what they call a walking school bus. It's an organized way to get walking students to and from school safely. It is, in my opinion, an earnest effort to prevent incidents most of us, particularly parents, don't want to think about.

But my evil twin made fun of the Weaver Walking School Bus. He would.

When I walked along dusty gravel roads over Ozark mountains -- unless, of course, the annual blizzard was in progress -- to get to and from Shady Nook School back in the early 1950s, we faced every kind of imaginable danger: drunk loggers, out-of-season hunters armed with high-powered rifles, vicious hounds on the scent of a deer, escaped convicts, mentally deranged escapees from Farmington, bullies, runaway tractors pulling limb-threatening mowers, vicious snakes bigger than white-oak logs, bears, bobcats, panthers, crushing boulders falling down mountainsides, creeks rushing with floodwater, violent thunderstorms with lightning strikes every 100 feet or so ... .

OK. I'm getting a little carried away. I only imagined some of that stuff. Except for the escaped convicts. I'm not making that up.

But while I was facing daily perils, my evil twin was playing hooky, hanging out at the river or snoozing in the hammock strung up between two of the old Chinese elms in the front yard. No wonder he never amounted to anything.

I'll bet Springfield doesn't have drunk loggers or runaway tractors.

I am fairly familiar with the Queen City of the Ozarks. I've been one of Springfield's biggest boosters over the years. It is one of those towns big enough to have everything you want but still look like the Cleavers live down the block. Springfield in the spring is one of the loveliest places on earth, resplendent with dogwoods and redbuds in nearly every yard.

My brother, who died of cancer last year, went to college in Springfield and was married in one of the city's lovely parks.

Thanks to the Internet, that column about the walking school bus by my evil twin was read by quite a few sensitive Springfieldians. A couple of them wrote letters to the editor. Do you think that bothered my evil twin one tiny bit?

As Bob Miller, the news editor, said while proofreading the Opinion page: "Looks like you picked on the wrong walking school bus."

Here's the sad part: Parents at Weaver are rightfully concerned. There are nearly a thousand registered sex offenders in Greene County -- some right in the Weaver neighborhood. That's a side of Springfield most of us would rather not think about.

It's also something parents in the hills around Shady Nook never worried about.

And my evil twin? Who knows what he thinks. But if you see him, smack him.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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