Road Rage

by Calendar Hacksaw

Iíve never seen a crop duster flying through Walker Basin or the Piutes, but the first time I do Iím gonna sell out and move my junk somewhere else. Those damned things will be the death of olí Calendar yet. I took Driverís Education twice--once in high school and later in the Navy--but neither instructor ever said a damned thing about crop dusters.

So, there I was last month, heading up toward Cottonwood, tryiní to enjoy a well-deserved vacation from churning out a dozen of these columns every year.

Let me tell you, when you get north of Sacramento, the highway rest stops come at intervals of about 25 miles; sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Apparently the folks in the northern end of the state suffer from some intimate problem that us Centralists and Southerners have escaped. They have to visit the urinariums with far greater frequency.

About 10 miles or so north of Willows, the "Blue Gum Safety Rest Area" sits astride Interstate Five like a pair of saddlebags draped over the butt end of a retired Pony Express nag, safely tucked away in a small grove of old-growth Eucalyptus towering a hundred feet or so skyward. Not only do these Blue Gums prevent the motorist from seeing the forest through the trees, but they also block any view of the fertile farmland that lies just beyond.

Well, I didnít need any "rest" just then, having got it all out of my system back by Colusa, so I was content to just roll on past Blue Gum and enjoy the view.

Thatís when the bi-plane came from nowhere over the trees to my left and quickly banked in such a manner that its yellow underbelly completely obscured fully 90% of my driverís side windshield, as though the mothership of all San Joaquin Valley bugs had suddenly splattered itself to oblivion. My chest suddenly tightened, a one-hour old Sausage McMuffin lodged in my throat, I hit the brakes, swerved to the right, and provided instant free entertainment for a merry band of toileteers lolly-gagging around the northbound outhouse, watchiní the free air show.

One second later I realized I needed that rest stop real bad. Two seconds later, it didnít matter much anymore.

* * *

Letís cut now to Day 4 of the odyssey, as Calendar checks in to a privately owned campground so he can enjoy some creature comforts for a day or two; just a toilet and a shower, or what the Clinton administration defines as being "above the poverty level" for Twin Oaks.

I should make it known right here and now that Betty and me pretty much have no use for kids whatsoever, especially if theyíre urban or suburban rats under the age of about 14. We donít rightly know what went wrong with parenting in this country, but there sure are a lot of candidates for involuntary sterilization, or that other thing.

What would possess an educated couple to deliberately decide that the freedom of their precious offspring is more important than world peace?

Folks, when the Hacksaws reserve a campsite and move in, itís pretty safe to assume that we intend to occupy the whole banana, not just the spot where the tent or trailer lands.

That means the water faucet is ours, the picnic table is ours, the shoreline is ours, the pier is ours, the trees are ours, and the sun better rise in the east and set in the west. Period. Failure by anyone to recognize our claim will immediately result in a hellova lot of vile swearing and arm-waving, because thatís just the way Betty is.

Kids today think that just because theyíre out of the city and no longer surrounded by walls and fences, theyíre free to roam wherever they wish. And their parents seem to agree. But as far as weíre concerned, an Ďimpliedí property line is deserving of greater respect than a Ďdefinedí one. So weíre very sorry if little Brad and Muffy were psychologically scarred for life as a result of their unfortunate encounter with Betty while she was relieving herself next to our truck in the middle of the night. Now get them worthless leaches outa our campsite!

Absent love, they demand attention. Absent respect, they try to instill fear.

* * *

Cut now to Wheeler Ridge Road (Iíll call it "Weedpatch Highway" long before Iíll call it "East Laval Road"), and Iím tooliní along behind a watermelon truck enjoying the morning view.

"Hey, look at the crop duster!" my partner says, and I immediately look through my front windshield thinking thatís where itíll be. Nothing there.

"No; over there, to your left."

And I gaze out the side window, over the cotton fields, searching the distant tree line for something moving. Thereís a bit of haze, clinging to the ground, but the morning sun is shining though, and all is right with the world. Ah, yes, there it is; I can see it now.


Damned crop duster! Brake to the floorboard, coffee flyiní every which way, people screaminí, and whereís a rest stop when you really need one?

Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at, and he appreciates rural kids because most of them understand that "Like, what, dude?" is seldom, if ever, the correct response to a direct order.

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