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by Calendar Hacksaw

I haven't been sleeping or eating very well lately, owing in large part to a letter I received which hit me square between the eyes with a force normally reserved for slamming a Harley Softtail into one of Tom Robinson's healthier calves on a moonless night during a torrential rainstorm on the Creek Road while loaded on black tar heroin with an awfully strange and heavily-tattooed mama on the back and desperately trying to outrun or otherwise evade what looks for all the world like a full-blown official state motorcade of cop cars, helicopters and the living ghost of my English teacher, Hunter S. Thompson.

But that's for another time.

The letter was from my retirement fund, telling me in no uncertain terms that I had exactly this many years and that many months until I would reach a certain age and be of no further use to my employer or society in general. I would be put out to pasture with a retirement check and a cheap pocket watch. Oops, sorry; no pocket watch.

Well, this bothered me on several accounts. First of all, I had no intention of working that long; maybe only half that. And second, I had no idea that I would reach that age that soon. What happened?

So now I have to shift gears in a hurry, a task made even more difficult by the bursitis in my shifting arm, which has made me seriously consider mounting the toilet paper holder to the other side of the commode and start buying Wranglers with left-handed zippers.

I write this on the eve of July 22, 2002. Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of my father's birth. I am once again thinking about my father. He was born in what y'all know as a dugout, located near Willow in what is now Greer County, Oklahoma. It wasn't Oklahoma then; it was Indian Territory. It didn't become Oklahoma until statehood in 1906, and that was after a nasty Supreme Court battle with Texas.

Even though Dad eventually became a bona fide, naturalized Okie, and landed in California in the 1930s, his westward migration came about it in a much different manner than most Dust Bowl refugees.

Life was tough in Oklahoma, and Dad saw fit to leave home during World War I at the age of 16 and head up to Wyoming where he thought he could cowboy. And that he did, working ranches around Jackson Hole and running a string of riding horses for the Eastern tourists who would venture out in the summer.

He also drove a truck some. When Wyoming struck oil, he was quick to capitalize on the find by operating heavy machinery in the fields. So, it was no small wonder that when construction began on Boulder Dam, he quickly found his way to Nevada and took a seat on a bulldozer. And there he sat, from Day One until the job was done.

One thing led to another, and completion of the dam signaled the start of the California Aqueduct, which slowly took him across the desert into Southern California in the mid-thirties. He became a Charter Member of Local 12 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, and wore that badge with great pride until the day he died.

So, what does all this fluff about my father have to do with my pending retirement? Well, Dad was my role model in so many ways, teaching me how to play ball, how to fish, how to love the wilderness and Okie ways. He retired with a nice pension at the age of 65, but boredom drove him back to the dozer again and again, and he was still riding a Cat into his 70s. Sure, he bought a boat and a travel trailer, and tried to do the retirement thing, but I guess it proved too difficult, too lonely, too costly. In the end, he was content to sit at home, read his newspapers and revel in the comfort and accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. And when his time came, at the age of 86, he drove himself to the hospital, with the same independence and pride he had always exhibited. The end.

Now I find myself quickly approaching that same, next-to-final chapter: retirement. Betty and I went to see a lawyer this week, and had him draw up a family trust. It only took about 45 minutes. It was the fastest $1,000 we'd ever spent, and hopefully the best.

The lawyer asked me to estimate my net worth. When I gave him the figure, his reply was, "Good. Less than $1,000.000. No tax problems." Apparently poverty does have its benefits. I hear half of you snickering. I wonder what part of "dead" don't you understand.

I've started examining the lives of my few retired friends, in search of clues that might help me make the transition. I'm not very good with numbers, so it's impossible for me to figure out what my eventual retirement benefits might look like. The checks will be coming from three different sources, not including the Fence Post residuals (did I mention I met with a lawyer?), and not all payments will begin the same year.

I could supplement my income through part-time employment, but how am I to know if I'll even be able to work at that age? Or what the wages would be? Besides, I have no marketable skills, so what kind of work could I possibly perform?

As I said earlier, now is the time for me to shift gears, left-handed. I need to determine how much cash it takes to keep me running each month, and contrast that against my various anticipated income levels. Then, hope for the best.

Oh, hell; it'll never work. I give up. I need a Harley and a mama.

Calendar Hacksaw keeps his life savings at, and he says if you take your plausible income and divide it by your permissible expenditures, you'll theoretically end up better off than half the residents of Walker Basin, and well below the other half. But don't expect anyone to cut you any slack, 'cuz we ain't runnin' a charity here.

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