basset sarge, with his big nose
Basset Hound Sarge; Big Nose, May 25, 2010

Growing up, we would hear stories from afar from my aunt and uncle. They were nurses working as expatriates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition to living the nurse-life in Arabia, they traveled. They traveled all over the world – mostly in Africa and southeast Asia. They eventually returned to the U.S. and settled in the Portland, OR, area. When they would visit Hibbing, it was always a thrill to listen to stories from them, particularly my uncle. He had a cadence and style that lent well to story telling. Also, upon seeing my sister and I for the first time in a while, he would always ask, “How you doing? Doing good? You keepin’ your nose clean? Make sure your keep your nose clean.”

Being a young child, the nuances of the English language (or language in general) are not fully grasped. Being asked by an adult, “Are you keeping your nose clean?” is taken literally. I would almost instinctively check my nose to make sure nothing was hanging or dripping from it. It was not until I was a eleven or twelve that I realized what he was talking about; he was not telling me to get that dripping snot out of my nose, but he was telling me to stay out of trouble. Even though it was anecdotal at best for it being a “wise bit of worldly advice”, it stuck with me as a clever way of telling someone to stay on the straight and narrow.

Fast forward now – at least twenty-five years – my aunt and uncle still live in the Pacific Northwest. They have two grown boys who are each in their early twenties. The few times my sister and I saw our younger cousins as we were growing up was few and far between. They seemed different, but we just attributed it to their left-coast upbringing as well as the large age difference between us.

Jordan, the younger of the two, at last I heard, had gone to college. Information sort of stops there. He may have graduated, he may have a job, he may even be leading a normal, ho-hum life in the Pacific Northwest. I do not know because the only information I hear is about his older brother, Ean. Ean, as I heard, tried college. He did not like college, so he dropped out and moved to Washington. He met a girl. A girl who had three children, already, from three separate fathers. It seems the wise adage of keeping your nose clean should have crept into the minds of someone and at least raised the hackles of the hair in their nose. Something smells bad about this situation and it more than the diapers from those bastard children.


Ean and wonder-girl were soon expecting (her fourth child from as many fathers). The child was born, and soon things were getting into a sense of what might be called “normal.” Apparently, one of the other children had a problem with potty training. This is about where the story diverted into completely foreign territory for most of the family (including myself). Instead of having the wise words of keeping your nose clean from his father instinctively embedded in his consciousness, Ean finds the only reasonable thing to do is to shove the child’s face into urine – like a dog. The “face to urine method” does not work with dogs, and it did not work with a child, either. It did have the added feature of a court appearance, supervised visits with his own child, and various other fun things.

In my mind, this is the value-material that the producers of Cops would be after; just add a small bag of marijuana, or a crack pipe, maybe an empty bottle of Olde English 800 malt liquor, and make sure that Ean has a sleeveless, beer-stained off-white t-shirt on when the police arrive. You would have late-night-television-gold.

Fast-forward, again, to modern times (a couple weeks ago). Ean is now being accused of sexually molesting his own daughter. Wonder-girl has a new live-in-boyfriend and are expecting. She is now up to five children, and this be her sixth. Not actually knowing my cousin on a personal level, I am not able to comment on the validity of the accusation.

Again, this foreign territory to me. My day to day involves getting up, dealing with having lupus, getting the dogs situated for the day, heading off to the University where both my wife and I work. Spring through fall, I tend gardens and keep bees. In my off time, I read things like Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, or Deborah Cadbury’s Chocolate Wars. Court appearances, supervised visitations, and all the like are simply not in my

I am callous to the situation because this all seems preventable if one had simply kept their nose clean.