Kathy Bassett: Census takers being led to middle of nowhere

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Kathy Bassett

Kathy Bassett's column, "The View from Maybell," appears in the Saturday Morning Press.

I was asked last fall if I would be interested in being a census taker.

I replied, “No way.” Shiver, shiver, shudder.

I mean, I realize they have a job to do and the census has been around for a lot of years, but I sure don’t want to get anywhere near, under, over or on top of a job like that.  

It isn’t that I don’t like people. I love people and there are so many great adventures in meeting new people and having fun, so I don’t know why there is this big fence between me and this job.

Of course, I don’t know what all census takers have to know but I know what has happened around here, and it sure is fun to live in a rural area.

The first guy who showed up last year was from way out of this area. He had no clue. He said he was just getting addresses. He didn’t stay long.

The second guy that came was a really fun sort of person. He was lost, also.  

The addresses on his census map made no sense at all and were not correct. I didn’t argue, though. I found out a long time ago you can’t argue with the government.

Well, you know, there is a neighbor down the road a piece who has thousands of sheep. And on the census taker’s map, it shows a house right in the middle of a hay pasture.

We had a great laugh over how he pulled through the gate and drove and drove and drove. He expected to see a house any minute, but instead the road got muddier and muddier and pretty soon he found himself surrounded by the thousands of sheep, plus a great number of “huge white dogs peering in his window that were bigger than his car.”

I told him he was lucky they didn’t eat him for a snack. I pointed out to him that the “house” he expected to find was just a large, neatly stacked, long rectangular haystack.

On his map, it showed a teensy little number 2 on it. Perhaps the census bureau would like to know the quantity of mice that undoubtedly live in the hay and the numerous stray cats that stroll in and out for lunch occasionally.

Is someone actually going to live in this haystack? Yikes. Who are these people?  I have heard of straw houses, but not “hay houses.”

Two of the places he had on his maps had the exact same addresses and one had an off-the-wall address.

Two of the places haven’t been lived in for years. One is an old homestead place. He said they made a new rule now that “all buildings” must be accounted for.

I thought we were counting people?

He went on to further explain to me that there may come a day when someone might want to live in these places. Yikes. They would have to share living quarters with about 3,284 mice and a kajillion spiders.  

Who are these people?

I told him there was an easy way to count the sheep — just count the black ones. He told me he didn’t see any black sheep and I told him that was probably why he couldn’t find any houses.  

I loved it when one of my remarks about the government brought a big smile to his face and he told me, “I am only allowed to drop off forms and I was told to keep my mouth shut.”

But, he finished, “I know what you are saying.”

He handed me three forms to fill out, one for us and two for the old unlived-in places.

I immediately filled them out and mailed them off, with a mighty big “whew!”  

Several days later, here comes another census taker. He is checking addresses. Seems someone got the addresses all screwed up in this area.

We had another discussion about old places nobody lives in.

He told me a new rule is that if it has four walls, a door and some windows, it has to be counted. I’m still scratching my head.  

I thought they were just supposed to count people.

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