Larry Hatteberg (KAKE TV Wichita) is, in my view, one of the great storytellers in local television-and he has been for going on 40 years. Lots of th pieces he shoots and edits himself.
I saw this story maybe 10 years ago and thought then it was one of the most haunting and surprising pieces I have ever seen. I want to share it with you. Then I will dissect it a little after you watch it.
I like how this story challenges all of our assumptions about people who do not fit our expectations of how to live life.
I like how Larry and photojournalist Paul Beam show respect for Ernie.
I like the natural sound, the unhurried pace of the story.
There are some huge surprises placed exactly where they should have been. Beyond the house being a hole, the big surprises are the airplane and his quotation of “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The airplane tells us Ernie is not a dummy. He has been places and done things. His thoughts about freedom and even bathing show us he knows what he is doing is out of line with normal.
I appreciate how the story does not force us to feel anything. Of course we worry about Ernie’s health and safety. Of course you want to know if somebody is looking in on him. What about his family? That may be another story for another day. This one is just perfect as it is. It is not for everybody, I suspect, but it is for me.
Postscript: Ernie died about 6 months after the story aired. They found his body on one of the tree covered paths he walked every day. He was debt free, paid for his groceries by cash. By all accounts he was happy and others had the good sense to let him life life his own way.