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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #423
Field Trip
David Gunn

Mother Bumpkins is on a mission. She is leading a small but dedicated contingent of environmental activists on a field trip to a remote part of southeastern Utah. The exact destination can't be revealed, not yet, for the element of surprise is crucial to the success of the mission. For the purpose of egalitarianism, the five members of her team--two women and three men--are all named "Bob." They are dressed in camouflage attire that would blend in better with a background of dense rain forest than the red rock of the Colorado Plateau they are traversing. Still, the clock has just struck first light, and they would be hard to spot even if someone was specifically looking for them. Someone will surely be looking for them soon, though, for the mission of the group is what the government likes to call an act of ecoterrorism.

Mother Bumpkins and the five Bobs naturally don't see it that way. To them, they are merely trying to preserve the environment. And if that means turning road grading equipment into performance art, well, so be it.

In this part of southeastern Utah--and, very well, here's a hint: the six just dived behind a stand of box elders when a car's headlights briefly illuminated the area as it raced north on Route 191--in this part of southeastern Utah, both state and federal governments seem intent on building roads in the most pristine tracts of wilderness imaginable. For precedent, they cite an 1866 revised statute that permitted road construction to help commerce move over federally owned lands. The statute was repealed 90 years later, but with a significant loophole left in: any road already constructed was valid, and local officials immediately claimed that any old cowpath constituted a road. Given the current pro-development tenor of the administration and its lapdog Congress, the only logical recourse is to blow up road grading equipment.

Intent on keeping a low profile, they travel low to the ground, darting amongst the creosote bushes and ocotillo like guerrilla fogdogs. The Bob who is carrying the map and compass spots a cairn that she built a week ago and motions for the others to head down an adjacent arroyo. The path is narrow and steep, and they must proceed in single file. Binoculars Bob takes the lead, signaling for quiet. But he inadvertently kicks a stone into the dry gulch that startles a covey of ravens. They take flight, loudly protesting the interlopers. Camera Bob, who is even now documenting the event with a night-vision cam-corder, follows Binoculars Bob down the slope. Mother Bumpkins ties off Mortar Bob and Bazooka Bob, so they can be lowered without having to stow their armament. Then she and Compass Bob scramble over the edge. At the bottom, Binoculars Bob is frantically gesturing for quiet. Not fifty meters away sit eight pieces of insidious road building equipment. There is no sign of activity, and if all goes according to plan, the machinery's inactivity will soon be permanent. Mother Bumpkins identifies a Marini-Fayat 221 track-mounted paver; a Komatsu PC-120 excavator; a Kubota self-propelled broom with tow package; a Detroit diesel chip spreader; a John Deere loader-backhoe; a Perkins pneumatic roller-compactor; a Sasta vibration road roller; and a 1960 Ford Galaxy 500, prized personal transport of the county commissioner whose pet project this ruinous right-of-way is. She smirks as she taps Bazooka Bob's shoulder and points to the Galaxy. Let that be the first casualty.

Binoculars Bob climbs atop a slickrock outcropping to take his position as lookout. Camera Bob slips back up the gully to get a better viewing angle. Compass Bob pairs with Mortar Bob to help her sight the targets. And Mother Bumpkins joins Bazooka Bob to expedite the gun-loading process.

In less than a minute, both Mortar Bob and Bazooka Bob have readied and aimed, but a millisecond before they fire, Binoculars Bob whistles loudly. They stop, holding their positions and their breaths. Barely visible in the early morning light is an approaching car, driving without headlights. It pulls right up to the construction site and stops. Two men get out. They are talking, gesticulating at the equipment, but they keep their voices low and Mother Bumpkins can't understand the content. Then they furtively attach a pair of cables from their car to the Sasta road roller, an action that suggests that they, too, are interlopers here.

The tension among the six is palpable. What now? Mother Bumpkins spots the little glowing red eye on Camera Bob's cam-corder. Yes, they have a film to make. And if in the process a little collateral damage occurs, so be it.

But the Galaxy can wait. She points to the paver and the excavator, and Bazooka Bob and Mortar Bob line up each in his and her respective sights. It's nasty but necessary, thinks Mother Bumpkins, and she gives the signal to fire.

Two massive explosions rip the still air of the high plateau as the projectiles find their targets. Flames leap high from the Marini-Fayat paver as its nitroglycerin fuel cell detonates. Mother Bumpkins discharges the steaming shell casing from the bazooka, loads another, and taps Bazooka Bob's shoulder. He aims for the John Deere and fires. Another hit! Meanwhile, Bobs Compass and Mortar have taken out the chip spreader and broom with one well-placed mortar shot. "Nasty but necessary," Mother Bumpkins repeats to herself, as she clears the bazooka's chamber again. But she is increasingly anxious, and as a result she drops the new shell. It rolls away from her down the ravine. She scrambles after it, but bumps Mortar Bob just as she fires at the compactor. There is another massive explosion, but it isn't the Perkins. It is the car of the interlopers.

Though shocked, Camera Bob continues to document the event. Perhaps he'll edit out the collateral damage later. In less than a minute, the road roller, the compactor and finally the Galaxy are history. He focuses on their charred and twisted remains, then gradually blurs the image and fades to black.

The weapons are dismantled for easier cross-country travel, Compass Bob checks her bearings, Binoculars Bob signals that the coast is still clear, and the six silently absquatulate in the growing half-light that is already turning the pools of dark shadows into an identifiable red rock landscape. But emergency vehicles are already racing down Route 191, their sirens shrilling, and Mother Bumpkins can hear a helicopter in the distance. "Nasty but necessary?" She hoped so, but she was no longer quite so sure.

We're not sure of much, except that this 423rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar has the potential to be explosive in its own right, and here with the collateral damage part of the show is Kalvos.