All the News|That’s Fit for Me

     Someone stole a 20-pound rabbit and a 35-inch-tall horse.
     It was on Page 1 of the newspaper Tuesday.
     The giant rabbit and the tiny horse were recovered later that day, I am glad to report. We read about it on Wednesday.
     I am not saying this to make fun of the newspaper.
     I like living in a place where news like this makes the front page.
     The week before, the lead story on Monday’s Page 1 was “Cops Bust Under-age Drinking Party.”
     On Main Street, no less.
     Imagine that, teen-agers drinking.
     The police in our little town in Vermont are known to troll the airwaves for unencrypted cell-phone conversations, to find out where the weekend beer parties will be. Then the cops wait until the fun has started and move in – cracking down on crime.
     I am glad the cops do this. Not that the cops hassle high school kids for drinking beer. (I know some of the high school kids.) I am glad the cops are at such loose ends that they have time to do it.
     And I’m glad the newspaper reporters are at such loose ends they have time to write it up. And put it in Page 1.
     It beats the hell out of reading what the Republicans are up to.
     When I drive across the country, which I do every few years, I always buy the local papers in small towns. They are all the same – different gradations of bad – but I like them. Not just because I’m an old news guy, but because, as Garrison Keillor says, a good newspaper is never quite good enough, but a really bad newspaper is a joy forever.
     I dislike the newspaper in our small town, because it’s so bad. We get good stories, like the big bunny and the little horse, only once in a while. I like the stories, but I hate the paper. Typos, bad grammar, dumb headlines, lousy photos.
     I’m sure I would dislike the newspapers in the other villages across the nation if I lived in those small towns. But I don’t, so I like them. I find them consoling, somehow.
     When I drive across the country I also try to stop at local diners instead of the chain restaurants, even if I have to drive a few miles out of the way to find one. I especially like the little cafés in tiny towns in the middle of nowhere – eastern Montana, northeast Wyoming, central South Dakota. Most of the little cafés have a big glass jar by the cash register with a photo of a local kid who has cancer, or some other terrible disease. Those jars carry the news as well as a newspaper does.
     When I say a local kid, it might be a kid 60 miles away or even farther than that. But the people who eat in the café know who it is, or know someone who knows who it is, so the jars are always half-full of money that people have donated for the family.
     It’s always like that, across the whole country, until you get to the places where people live pressed together like rats in a lab. Sometimes even in big towns you’ll see a donation jar in a store or a café, but if you do, you can bet there’ll always be someone keeping an eye on it.
     I’m not trying to sing a paean to small towns or to the goodness of Americans, like a politician hustling for votes. I don’t think people are better in small towns than in big cities. I know for a fact that a lot of Americans, some very rich and famous and powerful ones, are a bunch of bastards.
     And I know the newspapers are better in the big cities.
     What I’m saying is, I liked that story about the big bunny and the little horse. I wish they’d had a picture of them. Course, if they did, it probably would have been out of focus.

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