“RUSTY CLEMENS,” A militant vegan, claims to live in the Jefferson Street Apartments ... Does he? 	     Ian Stepleton photo
“RUSTY CLEMENS,” A militant vegan, claims to live in the Jefferson Street Apartments ... Does he? Ian Stepleton photo

     In Ogden, Utah, he goes by “Otis Streicher.”

     In Chatham, Va., he’s known as “Cecilio Stratham.”

    And in Ripon?

     Rusty Clemens.

     Never heard of this guy? There’s a reason for that.

     He (or she?) doesn’t exist.

     But what he lacks in corporeal form he makes up for in consistency.

     “Rusty” never gets distracted from pushing his singular agenda across America: Meat is bad!

     But you know what can be good?

     Having a little fun with a pretend letter-writer who doesn’t know I’m in on their secret.

     FIRST, A LITTLE BACKground.

     I began receiving letters from “Rusty” back in early 2016.

     I generally try to verify the authenticity of letters, particularly if they’re coming from an email address I don’t recognize. (We have our fair share of repeat writers.)

     This time, however, I dropped the ball.

     So, in February 2016, I allowed a letter to run under the headline, “Lent is a good time to try a vegan life” from a man purporting to live at 123 Jefferson St.

     “Undercover investigations have documented farm animals being beaten, caged, crowded, deprived, mutilated, and shocked,” he wrote. “Lent offers a superb opportunity to honor Christ’s powerful message of compassion and love by adopting a meat-free diet for Lent and beyond.”

     Rusty 1, Commonwealth 0.

     “Rusty” must have sensed blood in the water (or whatever the equivalent would be for a vegan shark: Tofu in the tank? Okra in the ocean?), because he continued to write off and on.

     But I caught on. ...

     To read the entire column, including editor Ian Stepleton’s attempt to meet with “Rusty Clemens,” see the Feb. 8, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.