Old News: Melinda Pillsbury-Foster’s Classic June 24, 2008 inspirational article on “The Goatman of Ojai”: http://iconocla.w02.winhost.com/AbsoluteNM/anmviewer.asp?a=2999
The Safety Stop That Launched Constitutional Restoration Charlie Sprinkle, The Goatman of Ojai
It happened on the lovely road that connects Ventura, Calif. to Ojai, that famous, slightly inland village where such famous world figures as Krisnamurti and Annie Besant held forth in the early 20th Century, changing the direction of spirituality for the Western world. Originally called Nordoff, for Charles Nordoff, the author of “California: A Book for Travellers and Settlers,” published in 1872, the bucolic settlement’s name was changed to Ojai in the early 20th century.
Theosophy and other inquiries into Eastern philosophy still persist there along with health spas and golf courses. Serious movements happened there; the residents expected it.
In the early 1970s the Movement to Restore the Constitution was born anew there. Before that morning in early June the focus of those involved had been the IRS; on that morning its directions changed and multiplied. After that day what happened to the Constitution is better understood and so better challenged.
That magic spark was struck in front of Dahl’s Market, which still sits on what is variously known as Ventura Street and Highway 33, on the road to Ventura. The moment came early on that June morning and it was started by a feisty man named Charlie Sprinkle. Charlie had moved to Ojai from Virginia, having spent time in the U.S. Air Force. Sprinkle liked to fly. On that morning he was driving his newly refurbished Volkswagon Van, with a 40 HP engine, gliding along the road, minding his own business. He had had the van lovingly repainted a shiny white. Charlie was going into business selling Amway, then a new enterprise that Charlie felt held great promise. Just that morning he had picked up his vehicle at the mechanic’s, carefully going over the van before accepting delivery. Charlie was, himself, a mechanic.
The van’s paint job was intended to keep the Amway product line as cool as possible. His Amway signs were affixed to the shiny doors. The windows were tinted to further the protection of Charlie’s stock, carefully arranged in the back. Tooling down the road Charlie approached the front of Dahl’s Market, heading towards Ventura. There ahead of him was a traffic stop, manned by six California Highway Patrol Officers, stopping all traffic going towards Ventura. Charlie came to a halt, watching the line of cars in front of him. It looked like slow going up there.
Forty-five minutes passed. One of the officers told Charlie this was a safety check, a service provided by the State of California to ensure that drivers were not endangered by malfunctioning vehicles. Ungrateful, Charlie pointed out that the safety check was costing him money; he was told to be quiet. Charlie is not the kind of guy who is naturally quiet. Nearly as soon as he moved to Ojai he had joined a group protesting the IRS and was then planning to make his point in the Ojai 4th of July Parade which would take place in just less than a month.
Smirking, the officer who finally examined his van issued Charlie a citation, telling him that his right brake light was not working. Charlie told them that was impossible, explaining that the filament for the brake light and the turn signal were the same filament in the bulb. Charlie laid it out for them with hand gestures and elementary physics. To blank stares he went on to tell them that the electricity arrived at the filament through the wiring to the brake switch through the turn signal mechanism, making it flash. If the brake light does not work the turn signal could not work. It worked, therefore the brake light works. They ignored him, continuing to issue the citation. Well, said Charlie, in that case, put your badge number, name, and the exact time the citation was issued on the citation. Still smirking, the officer complied.
Fifteen minutes later Charlie was walking into the California Highway Patrol Office located near Ventura at the Intersection to the Santa Paula Road and the 101 Freeway. Entering the office, he asked that his truck be inspected. He had, he told the office manager and the guy sitting at the desk, just gotten it from his mechanic and before venturing on to the roads of California he wanted to make sure it passed muster. Impressed with his fervor, the two men hastened out to the parking lot.
They took 15 minutes, going over it in minute detail. They walked around it, admiring its shiny new paint job; they checked the brake lights, the turn signals and other such complex technologies. All worked perfectly. Affixing the INSPECTED sticker to the windshield they congratulated him on getting the truck in such top shape. The desk officer wiped off the water left from placing the sticker. Then Charlie told them he had just been cited. As that sunk in he followed with the fact they would be served with a law suit.
The trial took place in Ventura Court and lasted 30 minutes. The judge found that the CHP had no cause to stop Charlie. Charlie had tried to subpoena their mechanic expert who was training officers to do inspections. The CHP admitted that they have no such experts. This remains the case today.
Two weeks later the CHP announced they would no longer be pulling people off the road to check their vehicles for safety. The judge, finding in Charlie’s favor had declined to compensate him, saying they had no way to pay for the liabilities they had created. There should be a means for getting them to pay for his time, said Charlie. Charlie knew nothing about the law. This changed. The law library was pointed out to him. Two weeks later California announced it would no longer be providing Safety Checks for disappointed drivers. The State of California could no longer afford this luxury.
The 4th of July Parade went on, though not as the Committee planned. Charlie was determined to have a float in the parade and make himself heard. The Committee told him he had to construct his float first and then get their approval. “What?!” said Charlie. Approval for a float on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence?
On a day by day basis the local paper, the Ojai Valley News, and other local papers followed the train of events as the committee did battle against Charlie’s First Amendment right to self expression. Charlie read that he intended to hang President Nixon in effigy while the parade was in motion with amusement. Charlie had other plans.
At 6am on the morning of the 4th of July Charlie was at the starting point, near the Ford Motor Company just north of the “Y” in Ojai. There, in an open field where everyone assembled, was Charlie with his own Parade Committee made up of two small children dressed in rags and an elderly milking goat with an udder that nearly dragged on the ground. The goat was wearing a pillow case that dangled down on both sides that read, “Don’t Let the IRS Get Your GOAT .”
A polite and lawful gentleman, Charlie asked the organizer where his float should be. We will pass over the response.
That year the parade started off with Charlie leading the goat followed by two wailing children waving small American flags, coached as to the appropriate behavior for an American taxpayer. All along the route, which stretched from the Ford Dealership to Bryant Street, about a two mile route, people would cheer for Charlie, the goat and the performance put on by the children. Many had come just to see the final denouement of the saga they had followed in the paper. Claims by the Ojai 4th of July Parade Committee had included the claim that Charlie intended to hang President Nixon in effigy during the parade. Some hoped it would actually be President Nixon. They were wrong about the effigy, but there was more excitement to come.
When Charlie, the goat, and the kids, reached The Hub, a watering place of some repute, on main street, an aggravated organizer rushed over and began yanking on the goat’s halter. The elderly goat, treated for a few moments like a ping pong ball, was rattled. A second official, white slacks and red coat, entered the fray to hear Charlie say, “she does not give much milk and she drinks a whole lot.”
Abruptly, the rope jerking stopped. As if this was a sign giving permission, the much abused goat raised her tail and relieved herself onto the leg of the second nattily dressed official, who distracted by the acrimony, did not immediately notice the dark spot on the ground or his pants and white suede shoes turning yellow.
“My goat has her opinion of you, too!” yelled Charlie. Enraged, the well watered official demanded one of the cops standing by eject Charlie, the goat and the kids. Sighing, the cop said, “Look, leave that guy alone, he will sue your ass. Also, you are holding up the parade.” So much has changed with law enforcement.
And so the parade continued on to its end at Bryant Street as the crowd roared their approval. Unfortunately, Charlie’s float did not win the prize, but he deserved it.
Soon afterwards a Congressman contacted Charlie. The letter was addressed to, “The Goatman of Ojai.”
These are the true and accurate events that launched Charlie into history and into his life-long vocation of holding those in authority accountable.
The Constitution and common law are the tools of justice that, in the hands of the people, keep us free. Through the devious strategies of a few they have been removed from use, resulting in the world we see today. A few have struggled to place them back in the hands of the people. Charlie is one of those individuals.
Sometimes serious movements make their points through humor, but the gravity of their purpose and the urgency of need remains unchanged. This is how the Movement to Restore the Constitution began – that unfolding continues today with Charlie still active and as cantankerous as always.
Watch this space for the ceremony that will install the memorial plaques appropriate to the history. America needs its Constitution and the common law; now you know why. Join us to commemorate the efforts of stalwart individuals like Charlie Sprinkle.