Sometime around 2004, i went to a pal’s wedding in Connecticut – knowing i would see some old pals from Utah, unseen for many years, i assembled a run of (whopping) 4 copies of (an obviously handcrafted/bound) chapbook.
This little tome called “Shoebox” contained stories written while living in Utah alongside some of these lads in hopes of sparking memories and giving a little something of myself in thanks for their inspiration and friendship.
Cover photo is a thistle growing inexplicably from the red rocks of the Grand Canyon’s north rim on a wander i did with the groom of the aforementioned wedding.
As it goes, i never heard anything about the booklet, and forgot about the project until again Utah (autumn 2018) and buddy Dane’s copy surfaced during a move. I dutifully snapped a few lousy pictures for documentary evidence of creation.
The stories were written mostly in the “sudden fiction” style i’d experimented with after encouragement from James Thomas and Francois Camoin.
Bob and Otto ran up to Uncle Weed shouting, “Wow, you could probably get a ten count against Jimmy Superfly Snuka!”
“Is he as great a wrestler as Gene Kiniski?” Uncle Weed asked, arching an eyebrow but enjoying the boys’ compliment. “Ah, stop it guys,” he shrugged sheepishly.
Then continued brightly, “Hey, go gather up a bunch of survey stakes and three long, skinny branches,” he instructed, then in passing added, “And,… maybe you should let me explain what happened to your parents myself.”
The boys wondered what the big deal about telling their parents, they had fun and weren’t injured or scared, plus they learned a lot about methods of protecting nature.
Then, following the instructions, gathered up armloads of discarded survey stakes before helping Uncle Weed arrange them in a rock-ringed fire-pit.
Then, under a sliver of moon, the three compadres sat around a little fire, eating creamsicles, roasting marshmallows, and talking. Talking about what they had seen, heard, smelled, touched, tasted, and thought that day.
It was a good night, indeed a good night for just about anything.
Inside the modified shipping container trailer, he propped the security man’s exhausted body up against the refrigerator and duct-taped him securely to it, snug, but still allowing ample space to breathe.
“Well that ought to hold you for the night you silly civil servant,” said Uncle Weed.
“MmmmMMMmmm,” struggled the man. Then, opening the freezer, Uncle Weed selected a variety of creamsicles, fudgesicles and drumsticks. From the cupboard, he borrowed a handful of popcorn kernels and half a bag of marshmallows.
“Listen, my misguided captive,” said Uncle Weed, “I would think twice before I pursued this further. I’d be quite embarrassed if I was you, being defeated by a skinny longhaired,… what did you call me…weirdo hippie? Yeah, think of what your buddies will say when you and your gun were brought down by the likes of me! Ha, I can just see the court-hearing now, even the Judge will get a chuckle I’m sure. They might even put you back on garbage patrol on account of this slacking. I would sure hate to see that happen, for your sake that is. Well, goodnight and cheerio!”
Then Uncle Weed stepped out the door, leaving $3 on the counter for the snacks.
“Oh one more thing,” popping his bearded face back into the fluorescent-lit trailer, your bulldozer might have a hard time starting tomorrow, you might want to consider giving it a good cleaning before firing it up, and probably invest in locking gas tank caps. As old Ed would often say, ‘sand works better than sugar!’”
“MmmmMMMmm,” mumbled the gagged man.
He tipped his hat, walked out and secured the outside door handle with the barrel of the gun.
The man continued blasting off his blunderbuss, shouting with wheezing lungs, “Gosh dang it, you terrorists! Thieves! Bad guys! Criminals! Justice obstructers! Malcontents! You won’t get away!”
Uncle Weed crept up behind him and leapt into action, quickly tackling him to the ground, grabbing his weapon, and tossing it safely away. They wrestled, kicked, yelled and worked up a furious cloud of dust.
“C’mon Uncle Weed!” Bob and Otto cheered, “Give him a wedgie! Pile drive him!”
“How am I doing guys?” Uncle Weed called back while in the midst of showing off his wrestling moves learned during his time on the community college, junior varsity team, “Should I pile drive him? Or maybe a supplex?”
“Arghh!” the man said, “You won’t get away, let go of me! Don’t hurt me! I’m just following orders from my superiors at the head office,” the man huffed and puffed.
“Hey, don’t worry fella, I mean you no harm,” said Uncle Weed as he hauled his struggling body into the government issue, corrugated-steel trailer.
The man stood in the clearing confused for a moment, muttering “Son of a gun, where did that madman feller go?”
He spit on the ground, kicked some rocks, then seemingly confused, he started blasting his shotgun all over the place and shooting at nothing and everything while screaming, yelling.
“Fools, hippies, radicals! You can’t win! You just won’t win! It’s not in the orders! That’s just the nature of the way things is! This is not in my instruction book! We always win in the end!” he bellowed, his voice shaky and rough.
“Yikes, what are we going to do, where’s Uncle Weed? He didn’t ditch us did he?” Otto whispered nervously.
“Relax, he’s over there doing something with that big bulldozer,” answered Bob pointing over to a shadowy shape in the dark.
The new voice spoke again, “I can see you so stand up and walk towards me with you hands up or else they’ll be some real problems. Serious problems.”
“Bob, what are we gonna do, I think we’re in trouble.”
“Don’t worry, he’s just trying to psyche us out, he’s bluffing, he doesn’t really know where we are. Uncle Weed won’t let us down, we’re safe here… I think.”
The man spoke softly now, “Ah, I see, there’s the culprit, there on the dirt machine. One of them monkeywrenchers,… toying with the equipment.” He rushed over towards the action, muttering to himself, “Well I ain’t letting this maniac radical get away this time I tell you for dang sure.”
His shotgun made the noises it does before it fires, a loud CLUCK-THLUNK, and with that noise, Uncle Weed disappeared again. Vanished into the darkness.
The boys sat confused for a minute sorting out what they had just heard.
“C’mon guys, don’t let it get to ya, there’s still a lot more to it than that. Just remember to question everything, everytime someone tries to convince you of something absolute, and always think clearly and for yourself.” He paused and continued cheerily, “Come on, back to the bedrolls.”
They leisurely started back to camp following the trail of survey stakes, pulling the numbered tokens up along the way, snapping them and tossing them into the sagebrush.
Then, someone threw a stake and it didn’t make the soft thud of landing on the ground. Instead, there a sharp metallic sound rung out from the darkness.
“It must of landed on a trailer or a machine or something!” They all thought immediately in surprise.
They started quietly running back to camp, but within seconds, Uncle Weed was tackling them into the sand.
“You maniacs,” he said, out of breath, “You scared me half way to death.” He turned around and started galloping back to the field as if nothing had happened. Then he turned around and told them to wait up.
“See that sign over there,” he said, “That’s why we’re doing this. That sign announces the building of a smooth new road that will wind right through here. The weird thing is, a strong, healthy gravel road goes the exact same places, it may take an hour longer, but it works just fine.”
“Some people feel that the land belongs to them only or to one group of people just because they have a piece of paper stamped by someone,” continued Uncle weed, searching for the best words, “This is alright sometimes, you need some sense of order, but often, people try to find personal gain by irresponsibly manipulating, damaging, or destroying the land when its not necessary.”
“Like stinky factories with thick orange stuff coming from the smokestacks, making it hard to breathe?” asked Bob.
“Or buildings big hotels in the middle of national parks?” Asked Otto, “Or dumping dangerous trash in the ocean?”
“Exactly!” said Uncle Weed, “Sometimes you have to help the rocks, plants and lizards out a bit, give the land back the Mother Nature. A lot of great women and men have been fighting for the planet for years and we can’t let their efforts die.”
He picked up a discarded survey stick, looking it over, “This is just a stick right? Or is it? To me this represents the beginning of the end. Once the people in some office somewhere decide on a project, the surveyors are the first ones to come in to measure and indicate what goes where. Where to cut, where to dig, what to pave and so on. The sticks themselves are not bad, and the surveyors are mostly well-intentioned, hardworking folks who just want to work in nature.”
“So why do you pull them up then?” The boys asked still a bit confused.
“You know, its hard to say. Part of me knows the project will probably get done at some point anyhow, but I also believe delaying the project is important. Maybe for a day, maybe for years – I know other people spend time calling their elected representatives, protesting with signs, maybe even running for office, but those activities don’t suit my temperament, so I just do my part to slow down the wheels of progress to let the suits in the offices know I’m paying attention to their decisions, and well… nature has allies too.”