You’re looking at three heavy boxes on that bottom shelf there. They’re physically heavy because they’re full of paperwork. But much bigger deal: they’re emotionally heavy because they contain everything I own that’s related to Randy Weaver and the horrors his family endured. Correspondence with Randy from jail. Notes from his trial. Notes and photos from my visit to his home (including the spot where son Sam was murdered by fedthugs).
I want them gone.
I was “political” before Ruby Ridge. Afterward, I was … different. Heartbroken. Outraged. Radical. I knew everything had changed the moment I saw those fuzzy images from Idaho on my little antenna-connected boonie TV. I threw myself at that story like I’ve never done before or since with anything, traveling back and forth to the trial, the site of the siege, and the jail where Randy was held. There was a terrible, terrible wrong done and I (one of many, I know) felt it was my place to right it.
I became friends with Randy and we made a verbal agreement to write his story together. Gerry Spence put the kibosh on that. I think Spence planned to write his own book on Randy (and after defending him so ably, pro bono, it was certainly a perk he deserved, though it was a terrible blow to me). In the end, Randy just became a chapter in another Spence volume. Later Randy and daughter Sara produced their own book about the siege, one of those sad, awkwardly written, ungrammatical patriot-movement works that touches those who are already inclined to be moved but never reaches beyond the choir. It broke my heart again to see it.
The best book still remains Every Knee Shall Bow : The Truth & Tragedy of Ruby Ridge & The Randy Weaver Family (later released under a different title) by Jess Walter. Walter was a Spokane Spokesman-Review reporter who covered the trial. He went on to co-author a very big book on the O.J. Simpson case and has since become a prolific and successful novelist. He’s had a New York Times best seller, won an Edgar Allen Poe Award, and was a finalist a few years ago for the National Book Award. He deserves every accolade he’s received and he began by telling the Weavers’ story exactly as it deserved to be told.
So what to do with those three heavy boxes? I once thought about writing a novel from all those notes. But time passed. I never did. Now so much has changed (in my life, in the way the feds choose to deal with “political” resisters after Weaver and Waco, in the world in general) that I can’t imagine ever doing anything with the contents of those three boxes.
It’s now time to start the long, slow slog of renovating the back section of my house. When I moved here in 2013, I moved from a house that had a garage, an attic, a basement, and beaucoup closets. No such things here. All my tools, prep-gear, spare furniture, and mathoms got shoved into the derelict back wing. This spring is the time for moving things out or shuffling them around so that floors can be torn up and rotted foundation beams replaced.
Newly built closets got some of the stuff. The garden shed got a bit. The local thrift store has received its share of donations. But there’s still so much to go — including those three burdensome boxes.
When I told a fellow writer that the boxes were telling me, “Either do something useful with us NOW or pitch us in the Dumpster,” he objected that they were just three little boxes. They couldn’t possibly take up that much space. Besides, surely I could find some use for those documents. What about going through them and scanning the useful ones into the computer?
He’s right, of course. Objectively.
But unlike most writers, I’ve never been a Keeper of Info. I once burned all my family photos. Boxes of my old schoolwork, transcripts, and report cards — out. I threw away 40 years of journal entries that I’d assumed I’d keep forever. The moment I was done writing the documentary film Innocents Betrayed, I hauled a two-foot stack of research materials into the yard, tossed it into a barrel, and (illegally) watched all that genocidal horror go up in smoke.
Each time I’ve done something like that, I’ve felt lightened. Even when the items in question don’t bear the weight of photos of a broken family or notes on a tragedy. It just feels better, cleaner, lighter in every way to have the past gone. Especially any part of the past that carries heavy, but fruitless, emotions.
So please, please don’t tell me about the “practical” things I could do (or not do) with those boxes. I’m not interested in hearing about cheap storage units or in getting suggestions that I store them in the rafters or whatever. My writer friend is correct; these are three smallish boxes and in a purely practical sense there are many ways of dealing with them.
But that’s not the point. The point is that memory is so heavy. Memory takes up so much space and carries so much awful weight.
Those boxes are still telling me, “Do something useful with us or let us go.” I tell you, the temptation to release them to the past forever is strong …