It was spring of 2015 and I was at the Brazenhead in Mason, Ohio having a beer with some heavily connected conspirators fresh off the ear rings of Judy Shelton, the local Republican protector of John Boehner within the ranks of the Central Committee where I first learned that the Speaker of the House in Washington D.C. was planning to step down. It was also there that I learned that Sheriff Richard K. Jones was eyeing Boehner’s congressional seat which evoked some interesting thoughts which had been percolating for quite some time. At times I have liked Sheriff Jones. He once gave me a well done portrait sketch drawn in a way that made him look like a Wild West superstar—which I liked. But he lost me when he supported the union position against Governor Kasich’s Issue 2 in 2012, and the Lakota levy in 2013. As larger than life and John Wayne-like that Sheriff Jones wanted to be, he was a strictly local hometown celebrity who would be like a tropical goldfish cast into the frozen waters of the Artic Ocean if he were to go to Washington where much bigger fish than he experienced in Butler County, Ohio were there to eat him quickly—so I thought it odd that he’d even consider risking his reputation at his age to such a politically dangerous enterprise. After all, in Hamilton, he was a big fish in a small pond—but in Washington, where the GOP is changing rapidly under Tea Party influence—the game had changed in front of his face not in his favor.
I get the opportunity to work with lots of people from other parts of the country. In my work with bullwhips locally I was always well-known to be the best that anybody had ever seen. I grew up with that designation where literally everyone I met had never witnessed a person who could crack a cigarette out of the mouth of a willing participant with a bullwhip. For me it was not enough to be a big fish in a small pond, I had to know that I could be a big fish in a big ocean too—so I pushed myself to get better and compete against people from all over the world. Competition after all makes everyone better, even if you don’t like the results. I knew as a bullwhip artist that I could never truly consider myself one of the best in the world if I didn’t challenge myself against people who also considered themselves the best at the craft.
My journey took me to many competitive events; winning several trophies competing with the best that are out there. I even have had some stints in Hollywood dazzling celebrities with my whip work. I know what it feels like to stand in the middle of the road on Brand Blvd in Glendale California where television producers and movie stars were gathered around stopped traffic to watch me perform because they had never seen what I was doing before—and were fascinated. For me personally, it was then that I deserved to call myself a big fish in a big ocean. I had challenged myself and I had to. My life goal was to write stories about the pulp hero Cliffhanger and as the author; I had to know that I could have the swagger in real life of the character I had created. As a writer I had to know that I could do what I demanded my character to do. I never wanted to be one of those sickly writers who live through their art. Rather, my art had to reflect my reality—so I demanded of myself to be really good at the things I wrote about. Yet prior to the year 2000 few people knew about me outside of my hometown. I was a big fish then too, but the pond was small and easy to win in. Outside of my town the water was much larger and there is always the theory that there is somebody better than you. Until you test yourself against them, you don’t have a right to consider yourself the best—and if that’s your goal, you have to step out of the small pond and into the big one and compete.
Between 2005 and 2008 I had satisfied my goal. I had met and worked with some of the best bullwhip artists in the world. There were a few I didn’t get to meet, but at a high level, everyone is pretty even, so you get a good idea of where you stand among them. And it was very satisfying to realize that with all the hard work, that I could swim with the biggest fish in the biggest water possible and hold my own. I didn’t do such a thing to fulfill my personal ego, but to satisfy my literary needs for my own personal work of philosophy. After I achieved that goal I was ready to move on to the next thing and was quite secure in my place in the universe. Those who watched me and competed against me who worked hard to get better and better, I am happy for. I never felt a need to keep up with them or to outdo their efforts—because I know what they are trying to do—which was the same thing that I was—they need to know that they can swim with the biggest of fish. And I respect people who strive to do that. There is lots of room for big fish to swim in a big ocean. There are plenty of little fish to eat, so there is no reason not to cheer on other big fish to grow even larger—and impressive.
When Sheriff Jones first gave me the poster of himself I thought of him as a big fish. The day he gave it to me Fox News was going to have him on that night to talk about immigration issues on the border of Arizona. And during the Issue 2 union debates he and I were frequent guests on 700 WLW radio—so I thought of him initially as a big fish in a big ocean. But over time it was obvious that he was happy to be the big fish in the small pond, because the ocean out there was a bit too threatening. He’s a local boy who will always be the hometown hero, the public servant who marches in parades and made good by the area he grew up in. But going to Washington D.C.—that’s a big ocean that requires more than just tough talk—you have to actually be tough.
Jones showed what kind of person he was during the Issue 2 debates where he thought he was a conservative Republican who attended Tea Party events and was fighting to preserve American tradition. But his view of that tradition was much like John Boehner’s, a progressive touchy, feely, sentiment about conservatism that belonged more in a Sunday school class than in the halls of Congress. As the government in Washington started changing slowly under the Tea Party influences, Jones stood against that tide attempting to preserve the Republican standard nurtured by crony capitalists and pink middle-grounders just a few steps away from socialism on the scales of political philosophy. Issue 2 exposed him as a labor union supporter who refused to see the damage collective bargaining was doing to local budgets. He certainly lost my support, and many others like me who are looking for a purer version of a constitutional republic than we presently have.
When I heard that he wanted Boehner’s seat the first thought I had was that he’d be reluctant to test himself against the big fish of Washington. I remembered my first bullwhip competition against some really talented people—particularly Chris Camp who had won about everything there was to win in the bullwhip arts. He was a star in Vegas, had several world records and was the bench mark of a really good professional bullwhip artist. I worried for days before the competition about having a respectable showing against him. That was nearly 15 years ago, but I remember well how nervous I was about it. It was a bone chilling paralysis that sucked the life right out of you. The reason I was so nervous was that I thought I was pretty good with the bullwhip, but if I couldn’t hold a candle to Chris, I would know that I didn’t have what it took to be the best. Since the bullwhip was one of my signature attributes it was very important to me to be one of the best, so I pressed on. In 2005 after working very hard, I won every event there was against the best competition that the nation provided. I earned their respect and I earned the right to consider myself one of the big fish—and it was one of the proudest days of my life. In the scheme of things, it was a pretty minor deal—a competition at a regional festival. But, in the world of bullwhip work, it was a big deal to me because I had a lot to lose in the attempt.
The talk went on that evening and I listened casually while looking at all the magnificent cannons decorating the Irish Pub. It was an appropriate setting for political intrigue and maniacal subterfuge among the socially manipulative. And that made the beer taste better. But I only half believed those sources when they said that Boehner was going to step down. So I have to also believe that Sheriff Jones is going to climb out on that limb and try to take Boehner’s seat. My advice to him would be to keep his image of a big fish alive for the sake of his grandchildren. An embarrassing experience in Washington would be hard to recover from unless he thinks he’s savvy enough to take on the candidates coming out of FreedomWorks. Because they are the future—the past is John Boehner and progressive radio hosts like Bill Cunningham. Sheriff Jones has more in common with them than the candidates nurtured along through FreedomWorks. Getting elected is only half the battle. Getting trampled as a RINO on the house floor is far more embarrassing.