Thursday, September 02, 2021

R.I.P. El Neil

I heard about the death of L. Neil Smith a few days ago from the Rational Review newsletter, but I needed time to process the news before I wrote anything. I wanted to take time to think about what I'd write.

The only way to sum it up: It hurts.

He helped make me who I am. In fact, he's the reason this is the "Hooligan libertarian" blog.

I've written before that I didn't know what "libertarian" meant before I kind of accidentally found his book Lever Action through an NRA magazine-- a lukewarm book review written by someone who was completely bewildered by the book and just didn't get it at all. But something about it struck a chord in me, anyway. I cut out the blurb and kept it on a table by my couch for months until I had the spare money to order the book. I've never regretted reading it.

I wish so badly that I still had that book review-- or knew where I have it stashed. It was from some time before the end of 2002. A muddled time in my life, for sure. L. Neil hadn't known about the review and wished to see it after I told him about it. I never was able to help him with that.

Anyway, before I read Lever Action I thought I was a "conservative"-- that's what schooled people had told me I was all my life, since I didn't like government. I discovered I had been misled. I finally felt like I was on the right track. I also began the long task of examining all I believed and tossing away the stuff that just didn't fit. A task that continues.

I spoke with Neil on the phone a few times over the years and emailed him even more often. I am more glad than you know that I was able to tell him how much he meant to me. A few years ago I asked if I could mail him my treasured copy of Lever Action to be autographed and he was happy to oblige. It has been priceless to me ever since.

When my older daughter died, he sent personal condolences and donated (as did so many of you) to help me travel to her funeral.

He always made me feel important; that I mattered. That my opinions mattered.

He had a stroke a few years ago, and I feared the worst. I was glad to see him get back to writing before too long.

The only thing we ever really disagreed over was Trump. He was a supporter, I wasn't. I understood where he was coming from, though. I never argued with him over the issue and it never came up when we wrote to each other. It just wasn't that important. 

Through it all, he always meant a lot to me.

I don't have heroes. I'm not sure I've ever really had a mentor. But he came really close to being both for me. I miss him already.


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