Pages from the life book of Big Dan 

A white bearded man smiles a the camera.

Dan Kingery. Photo by Frederic John

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” it has been said. Ergo, as long as Dan Kingery and his human powered vehicle of inspiration and home-grown wisdom anchor the southwestern corner of McPherson Park, there shall be no vacuous moments at 15th and I Streets. 

By dint of a miracle from above and perhaps a benevolent wink courtesy of park authorities, the robust, engaging Mr. Kingery holds forth daily to whoever passes his stand. At full height, Dan measures better than 6 feet 2 inches and his bright blonde facial foliage shames Jim Bridger, or perhaps Paul Bunyan. 

Onlookers might quickly glom onto Kingery’s role as the McPherson Mountain Man. However, D.C. had earlier precedents for a free thinker dwelling out in the open — most notably the naturalist and philosopher Joaquin Miller who camped in a board cabin in the middle of Rock Creek Park — the house is still standing today! 

Ensconced in his 5 foot by 10 foot area, seeing Dan reading (or scribbling in) one of his many loose-leaf pads most assuredly amazes passers-by coming off local bus routes or strolling through McPherson Square. On this particular day, the usual winter dark has been augmented by ice, snowdrifts and an almost constant stinging wind current blowing from the Ohio valley. 

Yet there he reaches, with a Buddha-like composure, often through his bushy white beard. It’s hard to perceive traces of a wry smile, but it’s likely there. 

When roused by any query, Dan greets all comers amiably. 

It seems, nearly a year after a hectic official sweep of McPherson, Big Dan and his jovial growl of a voice are a welcoming entity since the crowd was dispersed, though Dan said authorities still threaten to remove him from time to time.

Dan has added his monumental shadow to that of the enormous gnarly “McPherson Oak” which is over 100 feet to the sky and which he estimates is “probably 200 years old.” 

Amazingly enough, Dan can be found hunkering down in his “sleep cubicle” even on the most frigid of days. He even said to me “rest is precious — particularly for one who possesses a busy mind.” 

Early in our one-on-one chats, Dan said his past in the military inspired him to seek Constitutional purity in his quest for personal freedoms. 

Our lugubrious host holds forth his biography: 

“I grew up in a small Midwestern town of 900 or so and everybody pretty much knew everyone’s ways and practices. 

“When I moved around, west, north, south — it took me 25 years to undo the indoctrination of 13 years of public schools.” Dan settled in D.C. by 2018, by which time he was fully versed in all the articles and amendments of the Constitution. 

His numero uno in the Bill of Rights hit parade is Amendment I: The right of peaceful assembly. Further, Article IV, Section 4 is a favorite of Dan’s. “People nowadays don’t respect the Constitution. In Article IV, the founders pledged good rule to the nation. Funny thing — you may not realize it, but we are this close to clean, honest government.” At this moment, the man formed the “little bit better” sign with his thumb and forefinger.

Dan also likes the Ninth Amendment, because it includes all the rights not listed, including abortion, camping and thousands of other rights. 

Dan Kingery has key quotes from the founder’s documents pasted around his enclosure. He’s no “MAGA” fanatic, just an old-fashioned libertarian. Not only does he keep his quarters (and his person) scrubbed and clean, but I also found the great man sweeping the main walkway of McPherson Square the other day. 

Shoeless, but I consider Dan Kingery a true “barefoot oracle.” For good measure, he will always hand over a pocket-size edition of the Constitution, free of charge. 

There is far too much open sky territory to cover in one profile of the unique citizen but did we mention he campaigned for United States president? 

Correction: This article has been updated to correct references to Kingery’s human powered vehicle, relationship with the authorities, and to refer to Amendment 1 of the Constitution.

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