David Jungerman farms 6,800 acres of river bottom land in western Missouri.
He’s not the kind of guy who posts on Twitter or has a Facebook profile.
So when the 72-year-old Raytown man wanted to speak out politically, he used what he had handy: a 45-foot-long, semi-truck box trailer.
He planted the trailer with its professionally painted message in his Bates County cornfield along heavily traveled U.S. 71 about an hour south of Kansas City. He wanted lots of people to see it.
They did. Including at least one with a good case of outrage, matches and a can of gas.
On May 12, Jungerman’s trailer was torched. The Rich Hill volunteer fire department responded. A week later, it was set afire again. The firefighters put it out again.
Then flames erupted in an empty farm house that Jungerman owns.
“They don’t like free speech,” said Jungerman. He put out a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The sign is harder to read now because some of the letters are charred; the trailer tires burnt to nothing.
“Things are getting a little out of hand out there,” said Chief Deputy Justin Moreland of the Bates County Sheriff’s Office.
Local Democrats don’t want to be linked to the arsons. Jungerman has every right to speak his mind, said Kay Caskey, a Bates County Democrat and wife of longtime state Sen. Harold Caskey.
“Obviously our country is in disarray now because of economics, jobs and foreclosures,” she said. “We are hurting as a country. But there are too many people who want to tear it down instead of build it up. Yes, there is anger out there, and we are a long way from Washington.
“This man has a right to do what he did, but around here some people might wonder at what point do you cross the line?”
Jungerman said he didn’t mean to direct his sign at local Democrats. Many of those are old-fashioned Harry Truman Democrats, he said.
“They’re more conservative than many Republicans,” he said. “I should have put an ad in the paper to explain that. No, I meant the national Democrat parasite base that is sucking this country dry. The ones that just take from the government and not give anything back.”
Jungerman says he’s not even a die-hard Republican. He voted for Claire McCaskill when she won a U.S. Senate seat in 2006.
He put the sign out to make a point, but also to stir up some fun.
“You should have heard the truckers talking on the CB radio,” he said with a chuckle. “One would like the sign and another would tell him to pull over up ahead so he could whup him.”
Jungerman grew up on a farm, but got tired of the tail of a Jersey milk cow hitting him in the face so he told his father he was going to town to get a job.
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“I’ve worked 80 to 90 hours a week ever since,” he said.
He’s a staunch believer in personal responsibility. In 1990, he and his daughter confronted four teens they caught fishing in a pond on their Raytown land. The boys called them names and threatened them, Jungerman said, and one spit on Jungerman’s daughter.
Jungerman pulled a snub-nosed .38-caliber and held them until police arrived.
The police, however, arrested him, took his Rolex watch and threw him in jail. The next day when he made bail, police did not return the watch. They said they didn’t remember him having one.
He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge.
Five years later, against advice, he sued the city of Raytown for the value of the watch. He represented himself in a three-day trial that he won. But the judge overturned the verdict and the jury’s award of $9,175.
Jungerman appealed, won again and got his money.
Today, he owns a baby furniture company called Baby-Tenda Corp. at 123 S. Belmont in Kansas City’s Northeast area. He manages to get down to his farmland two or three times a week.
His problem now is that corn is looking good. Soon, it will obscure his trailer sign from highway traffic.
“Well, I would have pulled it out of there by now if they hadn’t burned the tires off.”