The local newspaper magnate is about to be tossed out of a condemned house.
Some people on the Spokane Indian Reservation hope the eviction of Bob May will be the financial spanking that finally discourages the stubborn 50-year-old from publishing his paper, The Wellpinit Independent Watchdog.To his critics, May is cantankerous. In fact, you can only get the Watchdog on the reservation by subscription because the handful of businesses owned by the tribe won't stock it.
"He puts things in the paper and he doesn't put them right," said Lillian Thurber, who canceled her subscription recently after a story about her brother's arrest. "He doesn't tell the truth. He only tells half of it."
But many in Wellpinit are pulling for May. They hope he'll find another abandoned house and office for the mutts he loves: his dog, Dudley LaRouche, and his award-winning newspaper, the Watchdog.
Supporters say May is a selfless missionary, a deeply religious man who drives a donated station wagon, sleeps in a photography darkroom and upgrades his office by going to the dump - all to show American Indians they can be served by a free press.
"Bob is a wonderful man," said Virginia Bradshaw, a blind 65-year-old tribal member who listens to the police scanner for May and keeps a telephone book of unlisted numbers in her head. "He's done so much for all of us."
This month, May will have to leave a house built decades ago as temporary quarters for teachers in Wellpinit. School officials decided this year to renovate the house and have asked May - who has lived there rent-free for three years - to leave.
"I'm just thankful they let me stay as long as I did," said May, who is not an Indian. "But to tell you the truth, I'm not sure what I'll do now."
May sells advertising and subscriptions, handles billing, lays out pages, takes photographs, writes and delivers his monthly, 20-page photocopied newspaper, which has a circulation of 375.
He also pesters tribal leaders and federal officials for information and writes controversial stories that have angered readers enough to cancel subscriptions and threaten bodily harm.
The stories that get him in trouble range from charges of sexual abuse against a tribal executive officer to reports of drunken driving arrests and drug abuse.
"It's bad enough those happen without being reminded of it," said a woman whose husband was mentioned in one of May's police stories recently.
"People become very angry when I report on what happens," said May, who last week won his second award from the Native American Journalism Association. "But I think those stories serve the community . . . . When someone is arrested for molestation, people need to protect their own children."
A former teacher from Chewelah, May said he became further committed after reporting an auto accident that killed a former student.
"I taught this kid to read and now he's on the side of the road, dead," May said. "People here need to know what drugs and alcohol can do."
The paper brings in $5,500 a year but costs $7,700 to run. He survives - barely - on donations from loyal readers and bemused relatives, who sometimes wonder why he lives in poverty, just to put out a newspaper that brings him so much trouble.
"I love this," said May. "The kind of success I was looking for in my life was to do something worthwhile. I'm sure I haven't always done that, but I can't imagine being anything else."