Archive for May, 2012


natural law

Today Wolfgang sent me a link to this performance by a Slovenian young women’s chorus called Carmina Slovenica. Wolfgang knows I have a particular fondness for choral music, but he could not have known how much I needed to hear these strong female voices at just the moment his link arrived.

I was having a rough day because I’d been doing research in connection with a case in which there is strong suspicion that a toddler has been abused by a father’s family member who is a registered sex offender under a statute devoted to sex offenses against minors. Based on the child’s sexually precocious behavior after visiting this individual, the mother had developed unsettling fears that something was seriously wrong. But it was only after the Redemption Project ran background checks on the father’s family members that the mother realized the father’s family had apparently conspired to hide this person’s sex offender status from her.

I saw her horror when I shared the report with her. She hadn’t known. I also saw the light go on in the mother’s eyes as she realized that she had been manipulated and lied to by her former boyfriend and his twisted family.

Yesterday we learned that the father’s family is now claiming to a judge that the mother had been told about the family member’s sex offender status long ago. These people are such low-lifes it makes my skin crawl. They’re making the mistake of thinking they can trifle not only with the truth, but use the courts to override a mother’s instincts to protect her cub at any cost. They may as well have aroused a mother bear.

I am doing my best to calm her. But this is a formidable task when you consider the deep well of Natural Power healthy maternal instincts tap into.

Coincidental with these events a remarkable woman has reached out to me and we have been talking. She has published a true story under the pen name Lone Heron, which describes her upbringing in a severely abusive family. The book’s title is Inherited Rage (, and it relates how Lone Heron survived by killing both her parents as a teen, and how she has walked the long road to Redemption since then. She has transformed herself into a natural healer of extraordinary ability and insight. Everything she is telling me validates my vision of what we should be doing to help kids recover from the tragedy of parricide and all the twisted and evil things that lead up to it.

But here is the lesson I am drawing from this coincidence. Unlike so many kids who survive by killing their abusers, Lone Heron denied she had committed the killings and refused to talk to the authorities. The courts were unable to convict her and she was, in fact, acquitted and thereby allowed to rebuild her life without the destructive interference of the state. In this one rare instance, Natural Law prevailed.

So as I see how the toddler’s father’s family is trying to use the courts to subvert Natural Law and permit their continued access to a child who may become damaged through their unnatural perversions, I am realizing that there are limits to what we can allow the courts to impose upon us as sovereign human beings.

We continually see the courts dispensing injustice and destroying lives in the process. They get away with doing this because we continue to submit to their authority. Judges like Rex Reed and John Hodge do not deserve our compliance.

I am not suggesting that we should become a lawless society, but that we owe our allegiance to a higher law, Natural Law, which we know in our hearts and which will prevail hundreds and even thousands of years from now when our legislatures, courthouses, and prisons will long since have been reduced to dust.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir performing “Atmadja Duma Strachilu” (Revolutionary Songs)


wishes do come true

I think the only inducement that got me to leave Estrella Vista at the end of March was my colleague’s offer to host a reunion between my sister and me on the Texas Gulf Coast. It had been at least three years since Christine and I had been together.

I’m glad that I made the trip for three reasons.

First, Chris and I got to spend some quality time together. Chrissy runs in pretty respectable social circles up in Chicago, and the longer my beard has grown, the more she has worried that her older brother might be going off the deep end. I know the visit reassured her. I am the same misfit she has always known and grown to appreciate, and no worse.

Second, my colleague and I made good progress on our manuscript for a book about public education. We reordered and reprioritized all the content and created a coherent outline that drives to the point we want to make: that the schools are designed to destroy individuality and achievement.

Third, the long drives to and from the coast gave me an opportunity to reconsider and sharpen my own priorities for this work on behalf of kids. In one of the long stretches of Quiet Time, the thought came to me that I should focus more single-mindedly on serving our kids and cut out all superfluous activity that deflects my energy from the work. The thought came to me that I should stop “pushing” and trust in the Universe to do its thing.

So I decided to disengage from working on the book in a way that does not leave my colleague in a lurch, and she and I devised a plan that will soon place the book’s future in her hands alone. And I decided to stop devoting time each day to the promotion of this blog and see what happens to its readership growth.

Even though I have stopped e-mailing over 200 people daily reminders that a new post is up, readership of the Wandervogel Diary has never been higher. New opportunities—potentially game-changing strategic opportunities—have been finding me on their own. So if you stick to the Guided Path, wishes do come true!

(Over the last couple months quite a few people who had been receiving the e-mail reminders asked me if I was still blogging, and I answered, “Yes, everyday. If you wish to receive a daily reminder, why don’t you just sign up for reminders on the blog, right under the calendar?” WordPress butchers the blog’s graphic formatting in their reminders, but it’s better than nothing!)

Yesterday a belated birthday package from Christine reached me, and at least two more of my wishes were answered.

Just the other day I had been silently wishing that I had a copy here of a photograph of me that had been taken when I was about 15 months old, and much to my amazement Chrissy included one in the package. (My mother had trimmed it so that it sits in an oval frame at an haphazard angle—so typical of her—yet this is an object that was ever present in the environment as I was growing up, and very influential in the formation of my self-image.)

I was also wishing that I could remember the name of my battleaxe kindergarten teacher who turned me off to school at the outset. Well, a report card from when I was five was included in Chris’ package, as well.

The battleaxe’s name was Katherine Diller… yes, now I remember: Mrs. Diller… what a genius that woman must have been. She predicted that I would be a “C” student, and she observed that even though my work showed “originality and initiative,” that I did “follow directions.” She praised my originality and initiative to my parents’ faces and punished me for these qualities behind my parents’ backs. All she cared about was following directions.

Even at age five I was convinced that I knew the score better than Mrs. Diller, and resolved to “follow directions” only when it suited me. My life’s course has validated this resolution in spades. It was Mrs. Diller who unintentionally turned me into a free-thinker and outlaw. I am so thankful my family never accepted her low expectations and encouraged me to march to my own beat instead.

I guess I should be thankful for the old battleaxe, too. Were it not for her, I might not feel such deep and abiding empathy for our kids, and they might have to fight the system which seeks to enslave them alone.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to The First Edition performing “If Wishes Were Horses”




Groove of the Day 

Listen to George Harrison performing “Faster”


in memoriam


On this Memorial Day, let us remember not only the fallen heroes, but all war dead.



I offer my condolences to the family of Ringo Smith, owner of the Study Butte Mall in Terlingua, who was found dead yesterday after a long period of poor health and personal tragedy.



Groove of the Day 

Listen to the Moscow Virtuosi performing Benjamin Britten’s “Cantus in Memoriam”


redneck country club

I’ve been spending more time at the Grub Shack than ever before.

A few weeks ago, after dropping over $100 at the general store in Terlingua for just a modest amount of food and paying for gas on top of that, I had a brainstorm. Why not spend more money at the Grub Shack instead? I figured I would come out ahead financially… plus, this arrangement appeals to my natural distaste for meal preparation and clean-up, and the social experience would slow the steady drift towards eccentricity which accompanies too much isolation.

So I created a “reverse tab” at the Shack, making advance payments that are worked down over the course of each week. So far this arrangement is quite satisfactory, plus my relationship with the establishment just seems so much less transactional, which I prefer. It takes me back to the days when I was a kid and I ate for free at a restaurant our family owned. I feel like “family” again.

Yesterday I made two visits to the Shack, once for breakfast and once for an early supper. I met new people both times (including the cousin of a former US President, who invited me to visit his home to trade yarns) and I reconnected with old friends, as well. You never know who you will run into at the Grub Shack. As its fame grows, people are driving to the Shack from farther and farther away.

When I arrived the second time, Whitebear was there visiting with Cinch. Whitebear is one of my best friends and we talk by phone a couple times a week, but I see him only rarely. Then my hermit friend Val showed up (longtime readers will remember Val from our movie nights, which fell by the wayside long ago). The last time I saw Val was on the Winter Solstice. Val said he is making a greater effort these days to get out among other people. Cinch made Val feel so welcome, I’m hoping Val will become a frequent Shack visitor too.

After Whitebear and Val each departed, a Mercedes SUV pulled up, and a family of three came in. It was George and Anita Goss, and their 2-year-old daughter Kaylee. George is a local musician and songwriter, and after a little while he fetched his guitar from the car.

“What we got here is a redneck country club,” George announced approvingly, and proceeded to entertain us while Kaylee marched around the table demonstrating just how cool it is to wear green sunglasses upside-down.

“Kaylee marches to her own beat,” her mother commented proudly. Yeah, we all do out here, and the Grub Shack is one place where we all get along.

I would have stayed there much longer, but a big storm came up suddenly. I had to get home to shut my windows.


Grooves of the Day 

Listen to George Goss performing “Ain’t No Honky Tonks in Jail”



Twelve years ago Otto and I would have been on the road this weekend.

Every once in a while, I am overcome with nostalgia for my “Forrest Gump” days when I drove aimlessly all over the country (but usually the West) in my BMW M// Roadster.

This yearning for the past is usually brought on by hearing one of many songs on a compilation music tape given to me by Cheri, a woman who worked for me at the time. Her husband had put the tape together to provide a soundtrack for one of their road trips, and it soon provided a soundtrack for my many trips.

To this day, when I hear any song from “Cheri’s travel tape” (3 samples below), I begin salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs, lusting for the open road and for the power of that magnificent machine.


Grooves of the Day 

Listen to Dexy’s Midnight Runners performing “Come On Eileen”

Listen to Moxy Fruvous performing “King of Spain”

Listen to Kajagoogoo performing “Too Shy”


technical difficulties

It had to have happened eventually. I am working with such an ancient laptop that a breakdown was inevitable… and of course it would happen on a holiday weekend when the replacement part (in this case a battery) will not arrive until next Wednesday or Thursday.

I know you techies out there are wondering why a dead battery should bring things to a screeching halt when I could just rely on my normal power supply—well, when I start up the computer, I have to switch to battery power momentarily, otherwise my screen remains black. I don’t understand the problem, but this is the workaround I’ve devised to be up-and-running everyday.

Anyway, I’ve figured out I can open my computer and see what I’m doing as long as I’m in “safe mode,” but the available functionality is curtailed and doing my normal work is a pain-in-the-keester.

I’ll do what I can to get out posts, but I am thinking the best thing for me to do under the circumstances is to just concentrate on enjoying the holiday weekend and maybe branch out and use these next few days as an opportunity to become a more versatile human being.

If you don’t see any change in Diary posts, it means I’ve failed to escape from my rut.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Kraftwerk performing “Radioactivity”



james prindle update

Here is the latest news from Memphis from our Redemption Project advocate, Stephen Sydebotham:

I have spent the last four days (Sunday thru Thursday) in Memphis, Tennessee, visiting James Prindle and meeting with the attorney we hired for him.

There had been a plan in place for a ride to pick me up at the bus to take me to my motel so I could freshen up and then go down to the jail to see James, who had been awaiting my arrival all day. However, my ride got lost and I ended up waiting several hours before I called a cab. After arriving at the motel, I got cleaned up, fretting all the while that I would let James down because I was so late and might not be able to see him that night.

I called the jail, told them who I was, and they said James was waiting. I said I would be there ASAP, and they said they would relay a message to James. My ride finally arrived at the motel, and we drove down to the jail. After checking in at the jail and pleading with the authorities to let me go upstairs where the glass and phone hookups are, I finally won them over, and they allowed me to go up.

James and I have been communicating with each other by letter and phone for 15 months, and with all the anticipation and buildup to this event, you would think there might have been a let-down, but there wasn’t. James saw me before I saw him, and he had the most enormous smile on his face and held out both arms, as if showing me he wanted to hug me through the glass. He ran over to the chair, picked up the phone and pointed at it like, “let’s talk.”

That was the most special hour-long conversation I have ever had. I was allowed a second visit the following day, which was even more special. At the end of that hour, I put my hand on the glass, he put his hand in the same position on his side of the glass, and he said to me “I love you,” and I said “I love you too, James.” 

James is everything I had hoped he would be, and even more. His spirit is like a breath of fresh air. None of his family ever spent any appreciable time with him or made him feel wanted. He thoroughly lights up when he knows you care about him. 

The meeting with our attorney Claibourne Ferguson went well too, and he answered all the questions I asked. He and his investigator both affirmed their belief that James is absolutely innocent. They even submitted James to a rather brutal test which convinced them of this fact. Claibourne and his investigator spent about 3½ hours with me and encouraged me to make certain we keep James in a positive frame of mind through the whole trial. The way James appears to the jury will have a big impact on the outcome.

Even though the state has no evidence linking James to the sexual assault of his baby sister, the trial is not going to be a slam-dunk for our side. The state requested a delay to collect additional “evidence” and is now coming to court with videotaped testimony from an unreliable witness whom we will be prevented from cross-examining except on appeal. The judge in this trial is a former prosecutor named Bobby Carter, who has a reputation for favoring the prosecution in his rulings on motions presented. The court system in Memphis has a proven track record of being discriminatory against juveniles (see Our best hope is that we will be able to seat a fair jury.

I will end this update with a plea for help. We need approximately 15 people who live in the Memphis area, or who would be willing to travel there for James’ trial, to sit on his side of the courtroom. We need to show that James has a large support group. If the jury sees this, it will help our cause.

Thank you.

~ Stephen Sydebotham



Groove of the Day 

Listen to Soul Asylum performing “Stand Up and Be Strong” 



James was attacked and injured by other inmates on May 28th. Read the postscript to yesterday’s post, “Mommy Dearest,” for full details.


mommy dearest

A hot wind is blowing from the southwest and the temperature—even up here on Estrella Vista’s high perch—measures 102° in the shade. It has to be at least ten degrees hotter down on the desert floor.

Yet even if it were a cool day outdoors, I should still be burning up.

I have been smoldering ever since I visited the Facebook page of the mother of one of our kids where I see her bragging about her six (and soon to be eight) kids, and where she is receiving compliments from oh-so-knowledgeable Facebook friends about what a wonderful mother she is. The truth is, after she pops them out she pretty much treats her kids like used paper cups.

Has our throw-away culture sunk so low that parents like this woman think they can get away with treating their own children as things to be used, neglected, and ultimately disposed of when and how convenient?

Is the idea of self-responsibility so alien in our culture today that a mother can abandon her child to defend himself alone from the misguided and wanton prosecutorial power of the state and from her abusive and crack-addicted ex-husband’s (her description, not mine) intention to see the boy destroyed for something he didn’t do?

The boy of whom I am speaking is, of course, James Prindle. And his mother is Monica Charlene Wilson-Sanders, an unemployed convenience store clerk, waitress, assembly line worker, and former student of the Tennessee Academy of Cosmetology, who lives in Cordova TN, a suburb of Memphis with pockets of poor people concentrated in apartment complexes. Thus far Monica has ignored my pleas to stand by her son—something she will not do despite the fact that she told me she “always had doubts” about James’ guilt.

I am not a judgmental person, but I cannot refrain from commenting that it is precisely this kind of parenting that lands good kids in jail. It is precisely this kind of parenting, too, that creates raped, brutalized, and dead kids in prison.

Monica has never taken the time or summoned the will to explain her situation to me, but I can only surmise that she has adopted a course which, perceived from whatever psycho-social corner she has painted herself into, must appear to her to be the line of least resistance. Yet if she lives long enough to ever become unselfish or introspective, she will regret this as possibly the most shameful mistake in her whole life.

When she recognizes her abandonment of James as the sin against creation it is, it will be much too late to do anything about it. The torment and destruction she will have wrought will then be complete and irreversible.

Now is not too late, but the present moment is passing.

James’ trial begins on June 19th.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Dixie Cups performing “People Say”


May 28th – We have just received disturbing news that James has been beaten up in jail. He has a black eye, his eyes are bloodshot, and he was shaking uncontrollably while being visited this morning by our friend-on-the-ground in Memphis. He wouldn’t tell our friend what had happened to him, only that “I want to talk to Stephen.” We are awaiting a call from him, and I will report what we learn when we learn it.

Monica, is this what you want for your son? It will only get worse.

May 28th (evening) – Stephen has called to say he heard from James and, although James was pummeled pretty severely and has sustained  injuries, he was feeling pretty good at the end of the phone call and was even laughing at Stephen’s terrible jokes.

Here is what happened… a group of 15-20 inmates decided to create some chaos in the jail by stuffing the toilets with toilet paper to make them overflow. Somehow James has developed a work ethic which causes him to clean things in the pod, just to have something to do. He will sometimes go into the showers and scrub them without being told.

His jailors love James’ initiative, but today when James cleaned up the flooded bathroom, his fellow inmates did not. After all, he was undoing the disruption these inmates had created on purpose, and the inmates interpreted it as an affront to them. So James was jumped and beaten by about four of five of them.

The guards felt sorry for James and sent out for a special fast food meal for him which consisted of biscuits and gravy, cole slaw, Mountain Dew–just the kind of thing a Southern boy would consider “comfort food.” The guards placed James in a holding cell so James could eat his meal in peace and without further harrassment. James said the meal was so good, it was almost worth getting beat up for.

James survived the attack and his wounds will probably heal in time for the trial. But here is the important point: James clearly does not understand the upside-down world of prison where what is bad on the outside is good inside the bars, and what is good on the outside (like exercising initiative and cleaning up a mess) is bad inside the bars.

If James is imprisoned in an adult prison for a sex crime on a child (which he did not commit), James will be eaten alive by the inmates. He is a small and sensitive boy, and so vulnerable that his lawyer confirms that he would not come out of prison alive. He will be the butt of inmate bullying and terror.

Is this what you want, Monica?

Somehow, in spite of everything you and Jeff have done to this boy, he has turned himself into a good kid; even his jailors love him.

Why can’t you?

You would stand by and see him thrown away, and destroyed or killed in prison?

What kind of mother are you?



Today I was noticing how, all around the property, nearly identical plants in close proximity to one another had fared very differently in last year’s drought. Some had survived, but more had died. I am not a botanist, so their differing fates remain a mystery to me. Yet somehow “survival of the fittest” doesn’t cut it as a satisfying explanation.

The dead plants and the surviving plants had to have received the same amount of rainfall. So what was it about the survivors that made them successful, and what was it about the others that had caused them to fail?

I had a dream last night that I found a large number of silver coins trodden into the ground beneath an ATM kiosk. While the people focused all their attention on worthless, fiat currency as it was being dispensed by a dumb machine, all the while they had been standing on real money which had the intrinsic value that only precious metals contain.

All day long I’ve been working on other people’s problems, and I’ve been dealing with other people’s reactions to their troubles. Some people cannot see through their tears and allow their problems to defeat them, while others use their tears like rainfall to nourish life, growth, and new opportunity.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Dee Clark performing “Raindrops”