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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Team efforts and seed ideas




After the first two braves shimmied through Chalk Cave’s teensy rock mouth opening, we sent in three more pairs of well-equipped students each succeeding hour. I had mixed feelings about bringing communications into the cavern, as caves are well known for being hallowed sanctuaries from the powerful bombardment of our communication spectrum. However, since our tech students had invented this novel antenna, which they had spiked into the soil above Chalk Cave’s elongated passageways, this would be a good means for us to test and fine-tune their new underground radio transmission system.

*

Meanwhile, Amy and I climbed back up the ridge and over the dually van to discuss what to do about its flat tire. I was hesitant to hoist it up on a jack, since it was bulging with the extra weight of heavy silver; when Amy observed that since it was only one of four rear tires, we could still operate the pantechnicon by shredding the rest of the ruined tire clean off. Seeing no better tool than the spear point, which first caused the flat, we used it to slice the remaining rubber remnants away. Next, I shot a Polaroid of the spear points’ black mirror face, and posted it to my adventurous Max Rudolph facebook page. Then we used the same weapon to burrow a hole in the hard earth to return the artifact where it belonged; hopefully burying it deep enough so nobody else would experience a flat tire there for another five hundred years.

*

The afternoon was turning late, when we received communication that the first group had discovered the Salinger & mysterious map parchments Lana and I had hid in the lava tube last year - and they would soon be returning with it. They also reported that the strange luminous humming was continuous throughout the cave depths and they couldn’t pinpoint the exact source from where it stemmed. As Amy and I waited along with the remaining schoolchildren, we studied the vast landing where our community’s wise elders had rallied together as a cohesive team and slated the new airport to be. Here we marveled over some of its pros and cons. Then we popped the question to the children, what they thought if we were to work out a unique deal with the authorities, whereby our class could have a supporting role with the new airport. “What do you mean, like a de-icing / car wash for airplanes or something? – quizzed one of the kids.

*

What the children didn’t know was, since last year after coming into possession of the enlightening maps that our crew was about to extract from the cave, I had worked out a legal claim over the forty untaken acres. Standing under the ancient wooden arch gave a better perspective, as from the light there; we could see that the lava terrain of our new land clearly held a darker color then the surrounding sun-parched earth did. I remembered hearing that during the Borah earthquake of ‘83 that there were some heavy rumblings in the Picabo Desert and wondered if the earth here at the time had expanded unnoticed with a small lava flow, thus giving birth to this uncharted land. Later on, an INL seismologist confirmed this to be true and right now beautiful Amy’s star struck eyes practically popped out when I formerly announced that this land ripe for claiming next to the new airport would soon be ours and the silver safely tucked away would fund whatever positive foundation we wanted to construct upon it…

About the author:

Twice when Jim Banholzer has taken Polaroid’s of indigenous artifacts, unusually colored swirls, not noticed before, have inexplicably appeared in the background. He lives in an old dynamite shack, where he feels fairly safe from the over bombardment of outer communication influences. Not turning the TV on much, except for baseball or the Discovery Channel, helps this mood. At this stage in his life, he feels like his man-cave is a good energy spot, somewhat conducive to productive writing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Max’s map irregularities – Chapter 17

I slept a bit uneasy after setting off the car alarm, right when the time seemed perfect for Amy and me to share our first sweet kiss by the romantic sage grouse lek setting. The next morning we awoke to a warm sun at the Trapezoid Lake campsite and when I glanced over at Amy, for a fleeting moment I saw a million stars still reflecting in her twinkling eyes. Then, as we watched the remaining grouse fly off in pairs to a northern place of wisdom; one of the students remarked it didn’t look as if they soared very high and wondered how the new adjacent airport would affect this magnificent bird migration. Our own decampment would be a short one too, and after dousing the smoldering fire, Amy helped me hitch our camp gear up to the silver pantechnicon. Then we navigated along with the children in the school bus, up the isolated desert road, over to nearby Chalk Cave.

☼☼

We pulled through an ancient wooden arch, to a clearing in the tall sage, and came to a loud popping halt. A sharp obsidian spear point sticking out of the gravel had punctured one of the dually van’s rear tires; but at least it was at the same spot where we wanted to park. We would deal with the flat later, for now we were at today’s destination. And although we were within 50 feet of the cave, it took several minutes before any of the students noticed the jagged mouth opening. Behind the schoolchildren, I squeezed Amy’s hand tight as we clambered down past a juvenile owl pecking at a pile of brown rattlesnake eggs in the hot rocks. After cautiously passing the guardians, we felt a cool breeze emerging from the tiny lava stone entrance. This desert quietude held a dissimilar vibe than the Wood River Valley and as we listened closely, it sounded uncannily as if the cave mouth was whispering a message for greater mankind. It was almost celestial noon and though our shadows were small, the barely detectable voice singing from somewhere in the cave depths had everyone’s hair on edge.

☼☼☼

Two of our tech students set up an elaborate portable antenna they had invented, and spiked it into the rough terrain above the cave. This newfangled device would enable us better communications throughout the cavern and not only that, but it also had a recording mechanism attached. Then, the same young braves volunteered to spelunk headfirst into the darkness. Meanwhile, since Amy had been observing our schoolchildren through rosy Holden Caulfield filtered glasses lately, I wondered how she would react when she discovered that Lana and I had previously stashed a mile within the lava tube, a rare copy of Salinger’s Ocean Full of Bowling Balls. Although this great unpublished work is not supposed to be released until fifty years after Salinger’s death; the preceding year I had visited Princeton’s tightly controlled Firestone Library where the only public copy available is kept; and then through several fortnights of burning the midnight ethanol; I rigorously committed the fine work to memory; before meticulously hand scribing a second copy. This uncommon duplicate now laid in a wooden box eight furlongs deep within the climate-preserving walls of Chalk Cave. And as an added bonus; within this good medicine box, laid a series of parchments – several official maps that indicated some unclaimed land, somehow overlooked all these years by various government agencies. Moreover this unspoken-for tract of free land lay smack-dab between Chalk Cave and the proposed airport taxiway’s south perimeter!

About the author: After mostly conquering his claustrophobia, Jim Banholzer has shyly spurlunkered in several Virginia and Idaho caves. Only once has a Guardian rattler struck at him, but its wicked bite merely pierced the jeans and not the flesh. Someday he would be curious to peep through the wormhole of a mysterious ancient desert arch.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Catcher in the Sage

(version one)


Soon after secreting away one of the silver-laden pantechnicons in a remote high desert area; I rendezvoused with Amy and the bus-load of eager school children she had driven down for our overnight field trip at Trapezoid Lake. By evening twilight we gathered enough dry sage for a small campfire near the wall tents, along with some out-of-this-world rabbit stew that Amy had cooked up. As nearby planets etched their elliptical orbits against the Milky Way’s silvery fog, the children appetites were whet for story time.


Feeling like a young Ivan Swaner, spinning a fanciful tale, I recounted how we had discovered substantial silver in the cairns, aided by Clark’s anagram clue. As the sage grouse settled down in the background from their ritualistic mating dances; I announced to the children that they would soon have some input as to how we should invest the second silver wagon stuffed full of cash. I glanced at Amy across the smoky campfire, and as she leaned with Bud against the wagon, something good stirred inside me. I appreciated how she had taken care of my pets while I was on the wild Red House, Nevada adventure; and now she had even brought the schoolchildren down for this beautiful spring overnight excursion. I was starting to look at her in a brighter light, when suddenly that well-worn copy of Catcher in the Rye flashed at me from her back pocket.


All of a sudden, I practically snapped. Just when I thought that Amy was somebody that I could start spending some quality time with, Holden Caulfield stood brazenly in the way. My hand snatched the cursed book from her pocket and in one motion flung it angrily toward the sputtering campfire. It bounced off a river rock and opened to the page where Holden was trying to scrub off some expletive graffiti from his school wall. Some of our schoolchildren were aghast; for this was a side of me they were unaccustomed to seeing. My voice had risen and I started lecturing Amy that she was allowing herself to become snared by the wrong books. I sternly warned her about poring over this dangerous book; especially if she was going to have it near the children. And with that, and my drumming voice overpowered the last sage grouse murmurs, signifying an end to the spring mating season. To top it off, I howled at Amy, “Why don’t you try reading, a couple of nice zesty Vardis Fisher romance novels, instead?”


Fortunately, by then, several of the schoolchildren had already drifted off to sleep under the peaceful stars. I apologized for my loud intensity to the handful still awake, a little late for me to consider that some of them probably never camped out before and may have been easily frightened. But none seemed too upset. On the contrary, it felt as they were gaining a valuable learning experience - which is exactly what field trips are made for. And for the second half of our outing we would be dragging the second silver pantechnicon wagon over to Chalk Cave, near the new airport location.



Courting in the Sage

(version two)

Soon after secreting away one of the silver-laden pantechnicons in a remote high desert area; I rendezvoused with Amy and the bus-load of eager school children she had driven down for our overnight field trip at Trapezoid Lake. By evening twilight we gathered enough dry sage for a small campfire near the wall tents, along with some out-of-this-world rabbit stew that Amy had cooked up. As nearby planets etched their elliptical orbits against the Milky Way’s silvery fog, the children appetites were whet for story time.


Feeling like a young Ivan Swaner, spinning a fanciful tale, I recounted how we had discovered substantial silver in the cairns, aided by Clark’s anagram clue. As the sage grouse settled down in the background from their ritualistic mating dances; I announced to the children that they would soon have some input as to how we should invest the second silver wagon stuffed full of cash. I glanced at Amy across the smoky campfire, and as she leaned with Bud against the wagon, something good stirred inside me. I appreciated how she had taken care of my pets while I was on the wild Red House, Nevada adventure; and now she had even brought the schoolchildren down for this beautiful overnight excursion. I was starting to look at her in a brighter light, when suddenly that well-worn copy of Catcher in the Rye flashed at me from her back pocket.


My first inclination was to snatch this cursed book and thrust it toward the sputtering campfire. But then, I caught myself, and remembered how this book has some redeeming qualities, once you learn how to read between the lines. Plus; there was no sense in making a scene in front of the schoolchildren, and tarnishing the sage-grouse courting ritual we had brought them down here for. I could tell that they were into this natural ceremony too, as, when I went into the wall tent to check my e-mail before retiring; I noticed that the group had posted the video of the wildly fluttering grouse they had filmed, onto my Max Rudolph facebook wall.


As the children began to drift off under the starry skies, I delicately reminded them that tomorrow would also be a big day for our group, as we planned to explore that sacred cave area, near where the fresh airport would be built. I wanted them to envision how this proposed project would play a large part in their futures, as well as letting them have an actual say on its impact. Before retiring, Amy and I drew near, and held each other close by the campfire, with the sage grouse romantically murmuring in our background. Like the book in her back pocket, it slowly dawned on me that that there was much more depth to Amy than I had initially recognized; and in this awakening spring atmosphere, I suddenly wanted to learn everything good about her…

To be continued…

About the author: Jim Banholzer, like Holden Caulfield wishes that he could scrub off every bad graffiti expletive from the world’s walls, so his little sister would not have to face its terrible ugliness.