There was a really clever tax-related photograph on “The Back Page” of the Insight section of today’s San Francisco Chronicle. It did not show up on the Web version, because the source of the photograph was The New York Times. Ironically, neither the Chronicle caption nor the Times story seems to have grasped the significant of the photograph. One suspects there is something tongue-in-cheek about a story from Lawrence, Kansas filed by A. G. Sulzberger; but the basic content presented straightforwardly:
Every year, on tax day, residents of this college town gather in the lobby of a local post office for an upbeat, circus-like celebration as procrastinators rush to meet the deadline to mail off their tax returns.
As a string band played, a crowd formed a gantlet to the door, clapping and cheering to the galloping tune of the William Tell Overture for the last-minute filers.
“It makes you feel a little less guilty about not getting your taxes out until the last minute,” said Bob Dunlap, an auditor, as he made his ritual right-on-deadline filing.
Raquel Alexander, a tax professor at the University of Kansas, had her daughter drop her returns in the collection bin. “I don’t know if we’re more tax compliant than the rest of the country, but we certainly celebrate it more,” Ms. Alexander said.
Across the country, there were numerous anti-tax rallies on Monday, making this event a decided anomaly.
The tradition started 25 years ago by members of the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band, who were looking for a novel place to busk. They were encouraged by the post office workers and supported by community members who, just to add to the theater, sometimes wait to file until the last minute.
This does not really explain the cleverness factor, though. That resides in the name under which the buskers perform. Fortunately, they present that explanation on their own Web page with the good humor it deserves:
The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band is named after the gold prospector/guide turned cannibal Alferd Packer. Packer was the only American ever convicted of cannibalism. In the fall of 1870, five miners in Alfred's charge headed for the Colorado gold fields. They ended up in Alfred's stomach! At the conclusion of the trial, the judge's exact words were, "Alferd Packer, you voracious man-eater, there were only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you done et five of 'em."
So, is there a connection between taxation and cannibalism? Draw your own conclusions. However, my guess is that there is a Tea Party contingent that delights in the political persuasion of those seven victims.