Bobcat in a Hole
Pine Ridge, SD
Slim Buttes – Whew! There for a minute I thought I’d lost my sense of humor.* Comes and goes, y’ know, returning in disguise in what these days seems to be a heightened cynicism.
Like, after waiting five years for the tribe to process my paperwork and install a water hydrant, thereby hooking up to the local pipeline, Mini Wiconi (‘Water of Life’) and relieving my need to haul water. The guys came out and planted two little blue flags indicating the existing water line and where the hydrant will be, and left.
But, besides me, who cares? No water or electric for five years, or indoor plumbing…an outhouse, candles, batteries, wood heat, internet access at the coffee shop a half hour away in Pine Ridge ‘Ville’ (Village), no fridge, keep it simple, gas and groceries.
Sweat lodge twice a week, kids hanging themselves in an across-the-rez epidemic, uranium-contaminated groundwater, death by auto accident, death by diabetes, death by freak accident with people hungry for the details, raccoon killing all 48 or however many of the ducks, massive grasshopper infestation, eating everything, pine needles, trees, anything green, everything.
“Last resort is to catch a bunch of ‘em and put ‘em in a blender and blend them up. Then strain off the juice and spray that on your trees (two-year old cottonwoods). Apparently, they don’t like the taste of their relatives,” said the lady at the greenhouse.
That method seemed extreme, and I considered it after the tobacco juice (Copenhagen. Brady swore by it, and said his granddad swore by it, too) failed. Picking them off individually, which I’ve done up until now, is terribly labor intensive and time-consuming, requiring constant monitoring and vigilance to the extreme.
Catch and release, what I do, except for the very unfortunate few I threw against the trailer’s metal siding, telling them, “KEEEEP…I SAID…STAY THE FUCK OFF MY TREES,” but that was only in frustration, and of course if you were there, I wouldn’t have used such language, but since it was just me and the grasshoppers, wtf, and that was after already trying the ‘talking to nature’ method for a couple weeks, seeing if the word would spread through their community and if it would take effect.
I reminded them, a few in particular, holding them right up to my face, that I hadn’t been killing them, and wouldn’t kill them, and they could have evvvverything else out here, but would they please stay off my trees and pass the word along.
They say you need ducks. Ducks can’t get enough grasshoppers, they say. But then, you’ve got to provide security for the ducks, as Tom has learned after Mr. Raccoon decimated his duck population this summer, outsmarting Brady and his traps, climbing the six-foot perimeter fence, and over the hot wire, which unfortunately isn’t hot, electrified; it was an idea. "A duck a night," Tom said. Still needed a few elements to be operational, Tom said.
On the entry and exit paperwork, they ask you what your profession is, and I usually put ‘writer’, or sometimes ‘writer/comic’, but I seriously doubt if anyone
in their right mind EVER reads that pile of cardboard that accompanies each and every flight into and out of the country, except you can’t just toss it, you’ve got to have it to leave, and if you don’t, then it’s a big hassle and fine at the departure gates, but anyway, if a person is going to claim to be a writer, then they should probably try to write, right? or not write, and either lie, or simply say ‘comic’. And that would be a lie, too, but perhaps at that moment, not.
However, I have some new material, some new sketches, sports related; ‘The Dad at the Little League Game.’ A silent production; he leaps to his feet, comes stomping down out of the bleachers, gets into it with the umpire through the chain link fence, waving heatedly, animated, pointing his finger, gets thrown out, barking over his shoulder on his way to the parking lot, blood hot in his cheeks, madder’n hell. Fun, huh? You’ve seen it?
‘The Third Base Coach’, going apeshit, mistakenly waving the runner around second, attempting to stretch a double into a triple, then frantically trying to wave him back to second, big eyes as the throw comes in from the outfield, telling him to slide…DOWN! DOWN!
The guys sitting around the table down at the base farm were sort of indifferent. Light chuckles, slight smirks. They liked the ‘Hometown Hero’ slo-mo touchdown run off a fake slant-in, deep route, catch, straight-arm the safety, tiptoe along the sidelines, high-stepping showboat strut the last five yards, wrapping it up with a little bit of a circus show in the end zone and high-fiving the fans on the way back to the bench. You’ve seen it a dozen times, slo-mo maybe, but not on stage.
Can I post some of this stuff for you on utube?
Then, there’s ‘The After-Game Interview’, and you can imagine how that goes; ‘and I mean, like, you know, the ball bounce my way, and like, preparation, and I mean, like, take advantage of our opportunities, and I’d like to give a you know like shout out you know to all our you know troops overseas…HEY…and I mean, like, you know, thankgodandallthefans an like, I mean…the coaches…the tutors, like, you know, like, I mean, it was a you know, team effort, you know.’
What was it? I haven’t been keeping notes for the last four months, just mental notes.
‘Physical, Dental, and Mental,’ I say when they ask me at the VA** if I have an appointment. One appointment turned into six follow-ups and an urge to choke the lab girl, and I meant to ask the new, well, she’s not so new now, but relatively new lady shrink from Purdue if they can discontinue treatment if you get nasty or say something really fucking rude to any of the medical or administrative staff.
Louie says they can. And he should know, but it seems like they’d take into consideration if a guy was on meds or not, you know, like, I wanted to ask her, the relatively new lady shrink, if she ever felt threatened in the context of a session, and if she had something like a gun or taser in her desk in the event of such a…uh, eventuality…scenario.***
As for the lab girl, after asking if I could proceed directly to my appointment without the blood work, and her replying snottily, “It’s up to you,” I simply got out of the chair and walked into the hallway, punching the down button on the elevator and saying loud enough for the other four awaiting veterans to hear, “Not today, lady,” with the elevator punctuating my words with a loud DING announcing its arrival.
Don’t need to go into it here, because it’s petty, and they say don’t go on and on about your medical shit, because people don’t care, but suffice it to say that considering her attitude, I didn’t want her sticking me with a needle just then and vamping my blood for her tests. It was a spontaneous act. You ever have a day when you didn’t want anybody blowing you any shit, not in the mood for it?
Usually the VA treatment is excellent, along with genuinely friendly attitudes, including the luncheon canteen, which generally effects a comfortable feeling of justification for having risked my life and taking a hit, and then maybe she was just having a one-star day.
Speaking of stars, I still haven’t gotten mine yet. What’s that…a Brigadier General? I’m still a colonel, full bird, eyeing that first star. But generals don’t fly, and I still want to fly. Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Squadron, 86 active duty personnel, pilots, some quite young.
Eight new planes went out the door, squadron strength is currently at eleven, number 102, sixth edition (all tri-planes), rolled off the production line two weeks ago, and a bunch of people got promoted to captain, full-blown pilots. You want to make major? Then you’ve got to do more than just clock in, clock out. Everybody knows that.
*Everybody knows a sense of humor is something to be maintained, like a car, a relationship, or a checking account, or, gee, a lot of things require maintenance when you think about it, but lately, like the last year or so, yeah, give or take a few months, the thought crossed my mind just like it did Bo’s, when I astral projected over there and overheard him saying, needing a ride to work, ‘I ain’t got no fuckin’ friends’, and just to test the accuracy of the perception, I repeated the phrase as Bo would, when he and Misty were over here the other morning, and watched their lips turn into a curl.
Bo was needing a ride to work, and a friend to get him there, and after a month and six flat tires, my truck had grown tired of Slim Buttes road.
That gave me something to do, yanking me out of my surly mood, needing meds or pep pills, or maybe just a big dose of Jesus, waiting for water to arrive on the property, and thinking people really don’t care much about one another; you come in alone and you leave alone, unless you’re in a multiple-car accident or go along with a bunch of other people in an aircraft, but you know what I mean, you die alone, mostly, and in the meantime, from birth to death, people pretty much just tolerate one another’s shit. You’re lucky if you’re not wearing diapers again at the end.
“Just like a baby again,” laughed a friend. “Sleep a lot, wearing diapers, need someone to push you around.”
Well, that’s depressing enough, isn’t it? Well, take a look around. Want to talk about the environment or politics, the bobcat, or somebody’s notion of what somebody else should do? In the end, aren’t we simply acting in selfish interest with little regard to anybody else in the universe?
Like in ceremony, in that sweat lodge, in your church, the synagogue or mosque, everybody came in with something on their minds. After the ‘wipe off’, collection plate, begging forgiveness, bargaining, request for gift, we all return to our own worlds. It’s sometimes amazing, even within our own cultures, our communities and families, we can communicate in the same space, the same language, the same notions of what is real.
**You see a lot of guys over there wearing hats declaring which war they served in; very few WWII, some Korea, Vietnam Vet, Native Veteran, Iraqi War, Afghanistan, and so on. Walking wounded, what it says. It occurred to me in the rear view mirror, that the only place those hats mean anything other than there at the VA, is an Indian Reservation or airport security.
You don’t wear it, you’re just another old guy limping along. You wear it, you tell everyone you were one of those fools or patriots who served for whatever reason. To the other vets coming in for treatment, it usually gets you a nod.
***“No taser,” she said with a laugh, “but I’ve got a panic button, right here,” she said, reaching under the desk. Said she had to use it once.