Old Man Renshaw. That's tonight's Doer's Profile.
He's dead. He just died. Police confirmed it this morning. Somebody called them to complain about all the bird activity over his house. It is a strange sight, hundreds of birds swooping and circling and perched up around his eaves. Sparrows have taken up on the shoulders of his scarecrows. Renshaw has two dozen scarecrows guarding his house. Many made up to resemble grown-up Peanuts characters. Usually they keep away birds and lizards alike. One moment it was a clear sunny day, the next the sky was blacked out. I knew Renshaw was dead.
He didn't believe in deaf people. Renshaw didn't believe a person could be deaf. He didn't believe in the concept of deafness. “You and I both know you can hear me, you just choose not to acknowledge my position!” he would scream at them. “You've decided not to hear the beauty of the world! You will live with your choice! A false choice!” At which point he would shake his head and press down on the accelerator.
Renshaw also didn't believe in the blind. “They don't exist.” He would stop you, interrupt your leisure or family time to explain that blind people were liars. “I see you. I see you. You see me. They can see me. And they do see me. This is unacceptable. All this business with a cane. It's deception. I don't care, I walk right in front of them. Hey – I'm not wasting my time.”
Then, “Would you like to see my sable brush?”
For a while, Renshaw was interested in saving old plastic gallon milk jugs, painting them red, white or blue and then arranging hundreds of them on his lawn in the shape of an American flag. “I put three inches of sand in the bottom of each one so the wind won't bother them. Why should I add more? Hey this is good sand.”
He eventually lost interest in that. The jugs have been slowly turning brittle in the sun for years. From there he began keeping track of his neighbors' parking violations.
All of this and more was chronicled in the local paper for years. Meticulous stories of Renshaw's activities and opinions, complete with quotes, that he himself would write and send to the paper. And they published them because it was easy and it needed to fill space and the whole thing is run by just one guy who'd rather be getting high.
I only ever recall reading one quote from his very patient wife, Patricia. “You play the hand you're dealt. That's life.”
To which Renshaw replied, “No no, we don't ever gamble. Listen. We don't.”
Last I heard, some hipsters bought his house at a county auction and have started a project where they staple pieces of sod grass all over the walls and roof of the place. Totally sustainable.