My wife and I took my stepdaughter to the Round Mountain, California, post office to get a post office box. The lady behind the counter asked for two forms of ID because of increased security due to 9/11. My stepdaughter offered an expired drivers license and a social security card.
The lady behind the counter turned completely frosty. “You should never show anyone your social security card.” She said in the same tone of voice she would have used to advise against public fornication. My stepdaughter named the person she was planning to stay with as a reference. The counter lady began reading through a three-ring binder of Post Office regulations.
Round Mountain is a very small town in the mountains of Northern California. I think the population is around 300. There is no free delivery there, so if you want to get mail, you have to rent a post office box, and pick up your mail at the post office.
I said, “It always bothered me when I lived here that you have to pay to get worse service than you get anyplace else for free.” The counter lady said “You can make fun of us if you want to, but …”. She refused to rent the box. It turned out that my stepdaughter decided not to stay in Round Mountain anyway, so the inability to rent a post office box only saved us some money.
Still the story provides an interesting example of how government employees use their positions to promote a private agenda. The purpose of providing ID is to verify identity. Later we found out there is a good probability that she knew exactly who my stepdaughter was without having to resort to paperwork, and that knowledge was the main reason she didn't want to rent a PO box.
In 1968 I turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. In the summer of 1969, I bought five acres of land in Round Mountain sight unseen for $39 down and $39 a month. The dirt road stopped a hundred yards from the property, and there was no electricity, no sewer, and no telephone. Within three years there was a very active community in and around Round Mountain of “homesteaders” like me. I built a house there, which was eventually burned down in the 60,000-acre fountain fire that ravaged Northern California a few years ago. The fire started just downwind of the community that grew up near my original homestead. Many suspect that the fire was set by an arsonist. The federal government promptly stepped in to provide a bunch of loans and grants to rebuild the settlement.
I lived there, on and off, for about ten years, and eventually got divorced and remarried while during that time. One of the neighbors was Milo, the husband of the lady behind the counter at the post office. He and I did not get along well. I remember one rather heated discussion with him were his dog sort of gently nipped my behind, and he just stood there and grinned. He liked plenty of sunshine on his neck, and I favored long hair, facial and otherwise. He once said that I had written three books about how to cheat on welfare.
Actually, I did write one slim book while I was there with went through two modest printings and attracted some local notice. I have recently scanned the book into graphics files, and you can read it if you like.
My stepdaughter was born and raised in Round Mountain. After her mother and I married, her father lived with another woman in Round Mountain. It was that woman, her stepmother, she used as a reference.
At the time of our visit to the Post Office, my stepdaughter's stepmother was involved in a lawsuit with Milo over a dog. Milo shot the stepmother's dog. The dog was taken to the vet and ran up a $700 bills. Milo never denied he shot the dog, but claimed it was justified. It turned out the judge was a friend of the Milo's, and he won the suit.
The politics of small towns can get really intense and personal. National political commentary is much easier, especially if you don't have a large readership.