You may have heard about it. This time, Scrooge was played by Independence City Manager Robert Heacock, who decided that a charity run by a man named Richard Boyden couldn't park a semitrailer in Independence Square to take donations.
Boyden's charity is called Operation Morning Star, and its mission is to deliver goods to destitute Lakota Sioux living on Indian reservations in South Dakota. For at least three years, Boyden parked a tractor-trailer in the city square so that people could drop off items, which Boyden would personally deliver on Christmas Day.
But this year, Heacock, the new city manager, explained to Boyden that if he let him use the public space, what would keep the Ku Klux Klan from claiming a spot, too?
After stories appeared in The Independence Examiner and The Kansas City Star, however, Heacock decided last Friday to let Boyden park his trailer in the square after all.
You could almost hear the reformed Heacock telling his staff, "Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!"
It didn't surprise this holiday roast that the Examiner and the Star came to Boyden's rescue. They've been praising Boyden and his charity for years. But for some reason, local reporters never get around to the more fascinating side of the Boyden story.
You see, Boyden actually is a pretty strange fellow. And the Strip means that in the nicest possible way, having seen what happens when media folk get on Richard Boyden's bad side. This tenderloin wants no part of that.
The Strip first learned about Boyden's eccentricities when the Pitch received a bizarre e-mail from the Vietnam vet and church minister earlier this year. Boyden was upset because this paper's editor, C.J. Janovy, had decided not to write a story about his charity.
Janovy had considered writing a column when a controversy briefly flared over a broken promise involving the use of a truck pledged by local Teamsters. But the dispute had been ironed out, and Janovy informed Boyden that the Pitch couldn't justify a story that other newspapers had already told numerous times about a charity whose beneficiaries weren't even in the area.
The Strip can understand Boyden's disappointment. But this chuck roast was surprised when it read Boyden's subsequent charbroiled e-mail to Janovy.
The angry rant was filled with strange references to anti-Semitism in the media and accused Janovy of being a self-hating Jew. (For the record, Janovy isn't Jewish.) The e-mail also directed Janovy to read about the imminent downfall of the United States, which Boyden had spelled out in a wacky set of Web pages filled with nutty conspiracies involving Freemasonry, Nazism and revelations that biblical episodes had taken place not in the Holy Land but here in America.
Janovy wasn't the only subject of Boyden's wrath. In April, Boyden briefly posted a broadside aimed at three local female journalists, calling Janovy a liar, one radio host "hateful" and another "racist." All three had committed the unpardonable sin of not promoting his charity. Boyden also lambasted unhelpful local clergy who clearly were under the influence of Freemasons determined to enlist churches in an ongoing effort to destroy Native Americans.
Boyden urged the reading of RichardBoyden.com -- so that "you will see what G-d has in store for YOUR G-dless way of life and AmerikKKa ... and that in fact it will soon come to an end, and for that ... I will be thankful!"
The Strip realized that Boyden was a wonderfully entertaining end-of-the-world nut and decided to ring him up.
In that first conversation, Boyden wasn't happy that this slab of protein had called to inquire about his apocalyptic beliefs, and he said in a threatening manner that if we printed a word of the conversation, he'd sue us.
OK, Dick. Here's a word from that conversation: "unit."
Anyway, we called him up again last week to ask about the controversy over Independence Square. We called before the city had relented, when Boyden still thought he'd have nowhere to park his truck.
When we asked Boyden what he thought of Heacock's reference to the KKK, Boyden shifted into an ominous tone and said, "The KKK was founded by high-ranking members of Freemasonry in the 1860s. And it just happens that the mayor [of Independence, Ron Stewart] is a high ranking member of Freemasonry. So if you want to talk about the KKK, that's what I'm dealing with here in Independence."
That Boyden! What a character. A few minutes later, he called back and left a sober-sounding message: "If I was a black group or a gay group or an animal rights group or some other group associated with the whole animal-loving fetish program of white people, hey, I'd still be there. But it's an Indian thing. Think about it."
Boyden, who acknowledges on his Web site that he's a white dude without a drop of Indian blood, went on to explain that he needs about $15,000 more in donations to buy a new tractor-trailer. "I don't have any rich Jews or rich Christians or anything. Nobody does anything for Indian country."
It was the same rap we'd heard before -- anyone not willing to turn over cash or goods must be Indian haters out to crush him. To illustrate this point, we feel compelled to share one more tidbit from that earlier phone conversation Boyden dared us not to print. Boyden ranted about former KQRC 98.9 co-host Murphy Wells, who, in a segment about Boyden one morning, refused to announce the telephone number of his charity over the air. "She's a little racist bitch from hell," Boyden told us, still seething.
Anyway, here's the best part of the message he left us last week: He got real confrontational and said, "Why don't you make the Christmas trip with me? What kind of [meat] are you?"
Hey, Richard, calm down. We love your nuttiness.
And to everyone else, this rib roast gives this holiday suggestion -- take your donations to Independence Square, and please, just do what the man says.
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.