Humboldt: Where the Handouts Come from Surprising Places


Jim Kemp (family photo)

Visitors to the Humboldt area frequently have encounters that shift their world view.  After reading my last post, my handsome and dapper engineer uncle, who while raised here has lived out of the area for many years, sent me an email:

Your blog reminds me of a year or two ago while I was visiting your folks.

I had gone into Phillipsville for a couple of things from the store.   While
waiting to check out I started a conversation with the guy in front of me
concerning, what a beautiful day it was and hoped all was well with him, etc, etc. He responded back, yes it was a nice day, yadda, yadda, yadda.

He looked like someone that was on his last nickel, very shabby clothes,
unshaven, hair going every which way and probably hadn’t had a bath in some time. I have seen a lot of folks up your way that looked just like him over the years. Anyway he paid for his few cans of beans and such from some bills he had in his pocket and headed out the door.

I set my $20 or so of stuff on the counter and the young lady quickly bagged it and handed it to me. I said, “How much?”

She said, “Its paid for; the gentleman in front of you just paid for

After stuttering and stammering a bit I said OK and headed out the door just in time to see the guy leaving the parking lot in a beat up old VW Bug with a lady passenger that looked just as grubby as him.

I told Neil what had happened and he said the guy probably had just sold his crop, was feeling pretty good about it and figured you must be a nice guy and in-need. I was stunned while Neil chortled and seem to act as if this was an everyday thing for that time of year. Maybe it was, but I was certainly impressed.



  • Kym, something is wrong with the quote from Jim. It isn’t all there.

  • I had trouble inserting the thing. It seemed okay on the write page but then it came out wrong on the blog. But it is fixed now.

  • That’s a wonderful story, Kym. Thanks for passing it along.

  • I’m thinking the guy was a practitioner of “random acts of kindness”–you know, pay for the next car in line’s toll but maybe he felt so rich he just needed to share it.

  • I haven’t seen many VW bugs at the Deerhorn for quite a few years. Who needs a noisy underpowered car that gets 19 MPG? Great story.

  • Maybe the scruffy guy was stunned to be talked to so nicely. He threw money at the clerk in a fit of surprise!

  • When I worked as a waiter at a pizza place my best tippers were always those in the restaurant who were working through the problem of ‘the munchies’.

    I know my story doesn’t have the same ‘milk of human kindness’ feel to it, but it sure did bring back some nifty memories!

  • Knowing Uncle Jim, I suspect the guy was warmed by Uncle Jim’s friendliness. He always has kind words and sweet joking manner than makes everyone chuckle.

  • Ben, the VW is so cute and evocative of an era!

    Elaine, Knowing Uncle Jim, I suspect the guy was warmed by Uncle Jim’s friendliness. He always has kind words and sweet joking manner than makes everyone chuckle.

    Forkboy, More evidence that marijuana should be legalized–trickle up economics!

  • It’s one of the charms of Humboldt that, here less than anywhere, you can’t judge a book by its cover. My husband and I attended a rally against Prop. 8 just before the elections, and we had great fun noticing that passers-by that looked completely unlikely if you go by cliche and prejudice, were very encouraging and supportive. (Naturally, there was more of them than people who were unhappy with us since in Humboldt, Prop.8 was losing 2-to-1.)

  • There is a strong live and let live attitude here that permeates conservative culture. Now, (and being a liberal, I can say this with lots of love) if only we could get the liberals to be a little more tolerant of people having differing viewpoints.

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