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The Slice: Take time to embrace the family outlaws

A lot of us are hypocrites.

We say we admire those who lead stable, productive lives. We supposedly salute the upright, peaceful sort of folks who watched over their families and took care of business.

But have you ever noticed what happens at a clan gathering when the conversation turns to family history and one of the resident genealogy buffs mentions an outlaw in the family tree?

People stop working Sudoku puzzles. They put down the TV remote. And they look at the speaker.

“Your great-grandfather did what?”

Even if many of the relatives have heard it all before, it never hurts to go over it again.

It’s not that we make light of crime or, in some cases, violence – at least not in the sense of smiling about mayhem in modern times. Most mature adults would not glamorize a life lived outside the law or regard jail time as a badge of honor.

But there’s something about long-ago stories of black sheep in the family. They grab you in a way that tales of straight-arrow bankers, seamstresses, preachers and shopkeepers simply do not.

It’s OK to admit it.

A lot of us lead pretty tame lives here in the mild West. So hearing that some distant relation shot a corrupt country sheriff 100 years ago can prompt a subtle overhaul of your self-image.

“My life might appear to be humdrum, but it could be that deep down there’s a latent wild streak in me.”

That doesn’t imply that you secretly yearn to set up your own moonshine operation or hold up a stagecoach.

It just means that you are descended from flawed people who didn’t always toe the line.

If it is unseemly to take a tiny bit of pride in that connection, well, so be it.

“What else do you know about him – the guy who shot the sheriff?”

“Well, he had a daughter who grew up to be a school teacher.”

“I’ll bet that when she told the kids in her class to settle down, they did.”

Today’s Slice question: If you were to guess … how many Hoopfest spectators will be armed?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email A reader who used to be a corporate manager recalled how years ago an applicant for a position made his resume stand out by tacking on “Bats R, Throws L.”

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