Dispatches from Home and Abroad

by Calendar Hacksaw


After I suffered that recent mental "episode," the doctors pronounced me no longer capable of cognizant thought, and this column sets out to prove them right.

You know, sometimes the world just seems to revolve around Walker Basin and Twin Oaks. We've got this war against terrorism going on halfway around the world, and yet it takes very little imagination to see its tentacles stretching all the way to Kern County. It's a small world, indeed.

Hey, readers, let's start out with a patriotic quiz. Here's the scenario: you veer, veer right at the "Y" on a cold, rainy day and spot a soldier in uniform hitchhiking towards Twin Oaks. You should:

  1. Wave.
  2. Pull over, offer a swig of your beer and a pack of Lucky Strikes.
  3. Tell the soldier to throw the stuff in the bed of the truck and jump in.
  4. Surrender the truck, say "Happy Valentine's Day," and take your place hitchhiking.

The correct answer, of course, is (d). But you knew that.

* * *

In an announcement earlier today which surprised few, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that it had signed a long-term lease to convert the Twin Oaks General Store into a prisoner-of-war camp for low-risk Taliban soldiers.

"The place was destined for chain link and razor wire anyway," chimed one old easily-recognized local. "Actually, some good might come out of it."

During WW II, a POW camp was set up near Cucamonga, in San Bernardino County, to house Italian captives. Almost immediately, tourists flocked to the area just to get a glimpse of the incarcerated. In fact, the sheriff had to shut down nearby roads because of the congestion. Terms of the Third Geneva Convention (1929), specifically state that POWs must be protected against public curiosity.

But soon the novelty wore off, and locals frequently went to visit with the men. Cucamonga was a grape-growing region, so there were many Italian immigrants already living in the vicinity.

When the prisoners were no longer deemed a threat, they were allowed to go to work in the vineyards, taking the place of workers who had been drafted into the service, thus keeping the local economy strong; a win-win proposition for all involved.

After the war ended, the POWs were repatriated, and it came as little surprise that as soon as their Bruno Maglis once again touched Italian soil, many immediately filed for immigration and returned to their adoptive home, Cucamonga.

So I think we can all foresee what's about to happen in Twin Oaks with the TOGS POWs.

The Afgan fighters, made up primarily of Pakistanis and Saudis, will feel quite at home in cattle and horse country, truly inspired by our open range. Many are already good horsemen, so how long will it be before a spirited game of kökpar—polo, Central Asian style—is scheduled for Lawrence Snow Arena? Finally; a new use for Donna Douglas' goats! Whether you call it kökpar, buzkashi, ylaqoyyny or ulaktartysh, it's all the same: just so long as you collect that headless carcass, take it around the pole, and put it back in the circle from whence it came.

This will be a big boon for the local health care providers, as well, since injuries are quite common. And we will need teachers; educators of every stripe. ESL, for starters, but also Understandin' Okie Culture, what to order in a Basque restaurant, fly fishing (wet and dry), alternative uses for the hand dryers at freeway rest stops, and how to properly bow when approached by a Queen or Princess contestant. After all, these fellas will be anxious to shed themselves of their terrorist trappings in return for three squares and a clean mattress.

Plus, for about $10,000 in materials and supplies, maybe less, and absolutely zero labor costs, the jailbirds could completely refurbish and paint the General Store, including new counter stools, doors on the toilet stalls, handicapped access, and draft beer for a quarter a glass.

In no time at all, the POWs will be integrated into the community, taking the places of local wranglers and ranch hands who eagerly enlisted in the armed services and are now hot on the trail of Osama. That's just the way America works. How will Twin Oaks change? Well, for starters, Karaoke night will never be the same. I would suggest you ladies start sewing your burkas right away, because I've heard you complaining for years about the lack of eligible men in these parts. Try to picture a cross between a burka and a duster; nice and warm in the wintertime.

* * *

Well, what a coincidence: the Taliban are coming and the Kern Primrose Sphinx Moth is due to take flight in Walker Basin next month. For planning purposes, let's target the week of March 10th. I imagine we'll have hundreds of people out looking for the little buggers this year. Wait for a warm day with no breeze, then go out amidst the primrose and filaree. Take a decent camera with you. No trespassing, though; we don't want any trouble. And if you think you might want to start a little Sphinx Moth farm of your own, beware! According to a Wall Street Journal article last month, a new set of rules proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture may soon make it illegal to grow your own moths and set them free. In fact, if you do anything besides look at one of our moths, you're probably going to be doing some serious hard time as Bubba's "spouse" in the federal pen, far removed from all the action down at the TOGS POW-WOW. The Geneva Convention might as well protect moths, too.

* * *

Another quiz: You're sitting in TOGS (assuming it still exists), looking out the window at the dogs in the bed of Tom Robinson's truck. Some of the folks with you choose different verbs to describe what they see. Which of the following is correct:

  1. "Them dogs is hankerin' to jump."
  2. "Them dogs is fixin' to jump."
  3. "Them dogs' got half a notion to jump."
  4. "Them dogs is commencin' to jump."
  5. None of the above.

The answer is (e). Tom's dogs would never jump out of his truck. I saw one of 'em try to one time, and I swear that dog turned around in mid-air and went back up and in without his paws ever hitting the ground, yelping in guilt-induced agony all the while. They're good dogs, and I think they'll enjoy their new assignment: patrolling the perimeter fence and smokin' them Lucky Strikes. Yes, even the dogs play an important role in this war.

* * *

Reformed Taliban fighters serving as Sphinx Moth docents? I think not. But they could do wonderful things with the old mine down at Loraine, owing to their extensive cave-dwelling experience. An economical, underground motel would be appreciated, for those of us with nowhere to stay when we're in town. Make yourselves useful, boys.

Calendar Hacksaw can be reached these days at calendarhacksaw@highdesert.com, and he'd like to have a piece of land in Twin Oaks to call his own, but unfortunately can only offer $1,000 and a used generator. So, if you'd like to have Calendar as your neighbor, here's your big chance.

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