BYRON — Charles Oliver does not understand why it is such a big deal that he had not returned census forms sent to his home this year. But when a worker from the U.S. Census Bureau turned up about 10 a.m. Tuesday to get the information, Oliver said, he obliged.
First name: Charles.
Last name: Oliver.
Date of birth: May 7, 1957.
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As he answered questions, his eyes turned toward the long driveway leading up to his home. In it lay his 2-year-old Chihuahua, Sofie, surrounded by blood.
His census omission had cost him more than he had ever imagined.
“They know I’m here,” he said, wiping his eyes, then pointing toward Sofie, still in the driveway two hours later. “Why do they even need a census? Let me not pay my taxes. They’ll be here.
“They’ll find me.”
Oliver said the census worker, whom he described as an older, heavyset white male with medium length gray hair driving a newer model sport utility vehicle with a Vietnam Veteran tag, didn’t apologize after both men spotted Sofie. He simply left after being told to, incomplete census forms in tow.
Sofie was the only of Charles Oliver’s eight dogs he and his wife had purchased. The rest had been dropped off on his property. He let the rest roam around the family’s home, built several hundred yards away from the street. Sofie was kept inside.
She was in the yard, Oliver said, because he was outside cleaning up a spill in the garage. That’s what he was doing when the census worker showed up.
Census workers get a bad rap — much like bill collectors and door-to-door salesmen — for showing up to homes unannounced, just doing their jobs. They’re making sure to count anyone missing when census forms are tabulated, much to a jurisdiction’s delight but the ire of residents.
And they’ve had their shares of misfortune along the way.
In the last week, census officials report that six workers have been killed in traffic accidents while out working on what the bureau calls non-response follow-ups, when workers go to homes where no census form has been returned. During the 2000 Census, 13 workers died during the non-response follow-ups, including one who was mauled to death by a dog.
Ed Davis, spokesman for the U.S. Census bureau’s Atlanta office, said an incident involving a worker running over a dog had not been reported to either the regional or local offices. Safety is pushed heavily to the more than 635,000 census workers, he said.
“We take very seriously the public safety and personal safety of our workers,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, things happen when we have hundreds of thousands of people in the field.”
Oliver said after the man left, he called his wife, away on business in Seattle. She didn’t take the news well, either.
Then he tried to dig a hole for a burial. A bad back wouldn’t allow it, so he said he would wait for his son-in-law to help him finish.
Peach County Sheriff’s Office officials who came to the scene took information for a miscellaneous incident report. No charges are expected to be filed against the unknown census worker.
Efforts to reach local census officials were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Oliver is not mad at the census worker, he said. He just doesn’t understand why the man was at his home in the first place.
“I feel sorry for (the census worker). He’s doing what he thought was right,” Oliver said. “But (the government has gotten) too much information on me here all year. Why don’t they find the ones that ain’t paying taxes?”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.