Monday, May 17, 2021

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Joe's Neighborhood

The ‘small potatoes’ game


If you’re feeling a little down because of what is occurring in the world, wondering what is going to happen to health insurance, taxes and world peace, you should play the “small potatoes” game. It is fun-packed, travel-friendly, and can be played by the entire family. You’ve never played before? Ah, let me get you started.

The trial is not going well. Of course, my protestor is just persisting in his normal behavior toward the doctor, who, in a strange reversal of roles, is the guy being charged in this case. The protestor’s normal behavior is not nice. Trust me. I prosecuted the protestor multiple times in the past for crimes like trespass and interference. The last time around, the protestor had somehow connected himself with PVC pipe to several other people and laid across the floor in the entrance room at Planned Parenthood. Frankly, that passive resistance seemed more civilized than when he screamed at women as they entered the clinic. The abortion debate, and the protestor’s moral certitude, gave him a purpose. But the aggression seemed raw and unpredictable, especially as doctors who performed abortions were being killed around the country.

So, of course, I had loud splashy trials with the protestor and other members of his group for violating the law. Just the opposite today. Today, I am prosecuting the doctor for allegedly committing an assault. Justice for all. Ah, but holding the flag of righteousness does not make the trial less difficult.

As the doctor testifies, I see the jury staring at something behind my back. I turn to see what it is. There is my protestor, peering in through the glass window of the courtroom door, glaring angrily at the doctor. Yikes!

“Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, who was the aggressor, this doctor who is following the Constitution or that man behind the courtroom door with hate in his eyes?” The defense lawyer is not stupid.

Prep Iowa

The jury retires to the jury room. I rest my head on the desk.

After the jury returns a “not guilty” verdict, I am informed that I made a local radio talk program. Yup, they were calling me Shoeless Joe Weeg.

What? Can a slur be a slur if you don’t know what it means?

Come to find out what you probably already know, that Shoeless Joe Jackson, who played for the Chicago White Sox, was accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. It was the end of his career.

I was being publicly accused of throwing the trial.


Although . . . this was small potatoes compared to the late November day in fourth grade when I was walking home from school with my best friend who lived across the street. His older brother didn’t like me. Why? I’m sure it had something to do with my obnoxiousness that still pops up now and again 50 years later. My friend and I were prepubescent. The older brother was a normal hormonal teenager — hulking and scary.

The older brother saw us walking, crossed the street, grabbed my stocking hat, threw it into a tree, and beat me up. I mostly cried during this clichéd event.

But I was all right with that. Until the next morning.

The next morning, the older brother’s mother saw me walking alone to school. She marched over with that strident walk of a mother who has been wronged, grabbed my ear, shook me, and accused me of picking on her darling oldest son.

What? Yup, I was the bad guy for getting beat up.

And the oldest son, the bully? He became a priest.

Although . . . this was small potatoes compared to the time when I was 8 and eating dinner in the large dining room at a convent in Dubuque, where my aunt lived as a nun. The nuns back in those days were in full garb and looked very serious. I was messing around and had a fork in my hand. Somehow, the fork went flying, crossed the table, and smacked right into the chest of a pleasant-looking elderly nun. My parents and seven siblings sat stunned. I sat stunned.

Who did that? Who would throw a fork at someone who had taken a vow of poverty and chastity?

All fingers pointed to me.

I am going to hell. Even as a nonbeliever, I get it. When you spear a nun on the end of your fork, no matter your intent, you go to hell. It might not actually be the 11th Commandment handed down to Moses, but it should be.

So, there you go. This is the “small potatoes” game. Sure, the health care mess is frightening, but it’s small potatoes when you’re going to hell for stabbing an elderly member of a religious order. See? Tons of fun. Now it’s your turn. ♦

Joe Weeg mug bwJoe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.




  1. Marla Weeg says:

    This is so funny Joe!!!!!!!!! Love it.

  2. Sharon Johnson says:

    I could use your take-no-prisoners lawyering services as I type!

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