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John Livingston

Ode to Claire

I was blessed to play on an incredible small college football team at Wittenberg University. Freshman year I played on the “scout” team. The function of the “scout” team was to run the offensive and defensive plays of the opposing team against our own varsity teammates. Our varsity that year won the first Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl Division 3 National Championship game—it is still being played. In other words, I got to play against the National Championship Team 4 days a week for 15 weeks. I still think I should get a ring for getting beat up by Wes Bates and Bill Beebe—both All Americans who could have easily played for Ohio State or Notre Dame. My second year I played varsity, and our team wasn’t as good, and Monday following our final game when I went to clean out my locker there was a note that said my “Board Job”—how my room and food was paid for, was no longer part of my “tuition package”. We couldn’t call any type of financial aid at Div.3 schools a scholarship. We had “Board Jobs”. I had to find a way to pay for my room and food ASAP. An incredible opportunity landed in my lap—one of my buddies was leaving college and a job as a “houseboy” at the Kappa Delta(KD) sorority house came open. Houseboys worked in the kitchen and served meals—3 meals a day 5 days a week.

The head cook where I was to begin working had a reputation—to say the least. Her name was Claire Klaus and she had terrorized houseboys for 40 years. She was all of five feet tall and weighed I am sure over 300 lbs. She had no upper teeth. For two years every day I would try to make Claire smile and show me her teeth and when she did, she would “blush”. The only break in a façade of toughness that I would ever see, until I would visit her years later in an assisted living center. She would whack her “boys” across the head with a wooden spoon with impunity for any little thing we did—spots on the glasses after washing, talking in front of the girls while serving, taking samples of the entrée before serving could be brutal. If Claire found out we were dating any of the girls—as almost all of us did, she would make things even worse for us—scullery detail and cleanup on weekends for example.

The day my father dropped me off for two-a-day football practices his last words to me “Don’t let your college get in the way of your education”. I am sure Claire Klaus was not who or what he was thinking about. Nobody on the football staff at Wittenberg could hold a handle to Claire’s toughness and meanness. Her work ethic and her sense of “duty” to her girls was something I have never seen before or after working at the KD House. After over two years, and through several rotations of “houseboys” Claire and I became close friends—we became family. One of the things that I learned during my time at the KD house was that the girls living there could be just as crass and just as jaded as the guys in my fraternity. I am sure that today I could say that I was harassed by Claire and the girls, but I sure needed the job, and my options were few and limited. Sometime along the way Claire became my protector and not my adversary, so did the great majority of the girls who were considerate, kind and became good friends—some lifelong friends. What I learned was that people are people. I learned that people like Claire, who on the outside were downright mean and belligerent, could have on the inside hearts capable of great love and compassion. I learned and watched while I was serving that some of the people who came from circumstances different from Claire’s, could be selfish, rude, and “mean spirited”. I learned to decipher the difference between a smile of expediency and a smile of thoughtfulness and kindness—most of the time I could tell the difference—but not always, still can’t.

My whole point in this discussion is that an important part of my education in college came under the hand of Claire Klaus. When I look at politicians and many in the ruling elite, I wonder how long it would take for Claire to see right through them. What would be their disdain for her? Her sense of service, her work ethic, her duty to “her girls”, and her honesty and discipline were examples to anyone who could look beyond her physical appearance and the smell of nicotine. And what would those in the elite world think of her? Would they call her “deplorable” or racist?

J. D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy painted the perfect picture of Claire when he described his maternal grandmother who saved him from a life of drug and alcohol abuse. Claire and J. D.’s grandmother actually lived within 15 miles of each other. Both women exemplified the virtues and the flaws of humanity. Both had loving hearts that saved many souls—despite their flaws. Both would be considered by those in the ruling elite as “deplorable”.

I would rather be ruled by women like Claire and J. D.’s mother than the entitled elite politicians who take WE (the deplorables) People for granted.

I thought of Claire last night when I listened to Liz Cheney’s concession speech. From Teton Village, with daddy by her side, could a more complete picture ever be painted of an elite, entitled, child, clinging desperately to her access to power, claiming her virtue( a perfect example of perpetual virtue signaling) and her allegiance to the constitution. She was so separated in space and time from her constituency that she forgot that she represented the people in Wyoming, not the lobbyists and media inside the beltway. Inflation, immigration, private security, woke culture, and quality education for our children were not mentioned once in her concession speech. Liz forgot who she was supposed to serve. She served the anger in her heart and her desire for revenge and retribution against DJT. All the people of Wyoming wanted her to do was listen and react to their concerns. Virtuous people like Claire Klaus know a selfish mean-spirited heart no matter how much a smile tries to hide it. We sure have a lot of smiling politicians in DC and Idaho.

When DJT talked of draining the swamp he wasn’t talking about people like Claire or you or me. He was talking about people like Liz, and Mitt, and the Bush’s.

We need someone to drain the “Idaho Swamp”.

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