He was an outcast to many in the community where his family had called home for 156 years. What he did was considered unconscionable. What made this such an unusual situation was that the community was a university town with progressive leanings. But Bud Abbott’s actions were considered beyond reasonable.
It all started when Bud made a decision about a hilly property his family had owned since they first arrived. The property sat just beyond the city limits and was not considered developable. In a climate more suited to grape production, it would have been perfect for wine making. The property was naturally terraced with gentle slopes and narrow, flat land which would have been ideal for grapes, but not for business development.
Bud, like many in the community, was socially conscious. He was especially disturbed by the homeless. While the community had a homeless shelter, it was not suitable because of the violence resulting from those who preyed on those who were down on their luck. Destitute families, veterans, and ex-college students facing life challenges were Bud’s major concerns.
What he did that upset the city so much was to create a tent city on the property he owned. He bought the tents. He sat up a bathhouse. He provided for refuse collection. The tent city was quickly occupied, and for the most part, the occupants were respectful.
The City Council was outraged, even though the property wasn’t in the city. “You are bringing undesirables into our city”, said one member of Council. Another complained of drug use when there was no evidence that drugs were any more prevalent than they were on campus. The major complaint seemed to concern how the tent city made the community look.
Bud was sued for creating a public nuisance. Council filed for annexation so they could get rid of the tent city using zoning regulations. He was verbally attacked as he left his home, but yet he didn’t give up.
Frequently Bud would visit the tent city and capture the stores of those living there. The stories were a kind of therapy for him and an affirmation he was doing the right thing.
He found a few brave citizens to support him. One was a General Practitioner who made regular visits to check up on those with minor health concerns. A retired lawyer helped with legal issues, especially helping residents get access to benefits they deserved. A local contractor was able to provide jobs for some. But for all the good that was being done, Bud was still reviled as a menace and not as a humanitarian.
Bud was never concerned about his own safety when he visited. In fact, the visits became something that gave him joy. Over time he got to know those who lived in the tent city. Then one day, he saw a young man approaching him at a rapid pace. His appearance was frightening. He obviously had not been to the bathhouse. But what concerned him the most was how rapidly he was approaching with his arms extended. Bud was frozen as the young man put his arms around him, looked him in the eye and said: “I’m home, dad.”
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“The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” – Jim Hightower (Columnist and Political Activist)