On the Other Hand...

Two Authentic New England Heroes

by Jim Davies

Meet Ed Thrall, and his wife Flicka. They live 2 or 3 hours' drive to our South along the I-93; they are farmers near Enfield, Connecticut, and Ed is now 77 and in fragile health. But for more than a quarter century, he has resisted the outrageous, arrogant, savage, unconstitutional encroachment of government with a courage that would put probably all of us to shame. Ed and Flicka have "Just Said No" to its gross and disgusting violation of private property rights - in a way closely similar to that un-named young Chinese man who stood, resolute, in front of the tank in Tianmenmin Square that famous day a few years ago. He was willing to lose his life, rather than let that government ride over his rights. So are Ed and Flicka Thrall. He won. So far, they haven't lost.

You might call Ed a Yankee Curmudgeon; I've no doubt he's been called worse. He and I can't agree on everything; I feel he blames blacks more than he should, for the monstrous growth of government that we have seen during his lifetime. But for his incredibly courageous refusal to move in the face of overpowering brute force, I have nothing but praise for him. I think that when individual freedom is restored to this country and the history of the twentieth century is properly rewritten, Ed and Flicka Thrall may become legends to the degree that Ethan Allen did two centuries ago, in the hills to our West.

Their story was featured last November in the "Hartford Courant", and I met them a few years before that and told it, more briefly, on (Connecticut) public access TV. Let me tell it to you now; for it's still unfolding.

The Dance Hall

It's one of the most remarkable buildings in New England; certainly, unique in design and construction. Rather in the manner of "The Field of Dreams", in the 1960s Ed Thrall dreamed of creating a dance hall on some scrub land on his farm - to preserve and popularize square dancing in that part of the country, as a wholesome recreation for anyone who cared to come and buy a ticket.

When not actually plowing or harvesting, he was a contractor then for clearing rubble from Hartford city center, which was going through a massive re-build - and he noticed that among the discarded parts of older buildings, there were some magnificent artifacts in stone and wood. So each day he loaded up his truck and brought them, unwanted scraps, to his land in Enfield. And he figured a way to use them in the construction of his dream, the dance hall.

By 1978, it was finished. He took me round it in 1990, and I have never seen such a structure. From the outside, it's very unimpressive - like an overgrown chicken coop, said the "Courant", dubbing it "Thrall Hall." But step inside, and the jaw drops. Ed took me in at basement level where I found massive stone cornices and slabs that he had salvaged to provide fireplaces and support for the huge dance floor overhead. Atop the massive stone pillars are truck tires, to give a soft, bouncy feel to that floor. Enormous solid-wood beams lie on the tires, spanning the 48' width. And every piece, salvaged from the scrap yard.

Upstairs there is this great floor, with a patterned square design, and rooms off, ready to provide refreshments. Airy and well lit, it's as good as any you'll find. "If you build it, they will come", says the movie script; and "they" would certainly have come, from miles around. If they could have.

Nanny Says No

But then, 2 decades ago, the government placed its dead hand upon the dream and took it away. Ed Thrall had designed his hall from his head, as he went. There can be no doubt that the structure is far better and safer, than if it had been constructed in a more conventional way; nobody has yet found fault. But there it was: Ed was not about to submit to the nitpicking bureaucrats and tell them his design secrets. And, being government people, without the "right" approvals and inspections, they were not about to let him admit paying customers. And there the matter has been deadlocked, for eighteen wasted years. What might have been a valuable center for friendly relaxation, yielding a useful profit for its creator, has lain fallow, producing nothing for anyone. And not only did the town government forbid Ed to use his property, they even charged him taxes on it! - which, naturally, he refused to pay. So they took "possession" of the hall, by a stroke of the pen; an action that Ed and Flicka, quite rightly, have always characterized as attempted theft. Ed, especially, has been in and out of court, mercilessly bullied by judges as well as by opposing lawyers; for in protection of his own property he has resisted its physical invasion by government agents by the reasonable and restrained action of firing rife shots over their heads and driving bulldozers at their police cruisers - and, as recently as last month, aged 77, by throwing rocks at one.

The mauling he and Flicka have received at the hands of the "justice" system has been in many ways worse than even the effective confiscation of his property. The theory (which any of us can read, in Amendment 5) is that government must monopolize justice so that "No person shall... be deprived of property... without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use [let alone, non-use!] without just compensation." The very black-robed jackals and hypocrites who are paid to protect victims like the Thralls, have in fact supported their attackers and left them defenseless.

It may be, dear Reader, that at some time you have cast a thoughtless vote for some politician who failed to promise to take up by their roots the zoning and building regulations that infest our society and throw them into the trash can, as befits any violation of private property rights. I sincerely hope that if so, knowing now what they really mean, you will never do that again.

In late March, Ed Thrall was arrested again while defending his property, but collapsed from strain in the police car en route to jail. He awoke in hospital, terribly weakened. It looks to me as if the government vultures, just like those you elected, can't wait for him to die but want to hurry things along.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 150

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