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Desert Tales No. 15, Vol. 2

Au Courant with the Changing Times

“What’s in this big box they just delivered? It must weigh over 100 pounds that I can’t pick up,” my husband asked.

“That’s my survivalist food I ordered.”  I said pushing it across the tiles into the kitchen, while my husband stood with his mouth open.

“You ordered what?”

“You know – freeze dried packets of lasagna, stew, soup, chicken rice, stroganoff, chocolate pudding, and honeyed banana chips  - like the kind of dinners you made with river water the last time we were camping in the High Sierras at Mammoth Lakes.”

“Yes, but I only bought enough for two days and we only camped for one – when you got bitten by a spider and we had to leave the camp. I couldn’t get you in a tent again.”

“And you never will! Look, the box came with powdered milk, and instructions on how to be self-reliant in a crisis.”

“What kind of crisis are you worried about?”

“After what we went through with Hurricane Andrew in Florida where I had to wash my clothes in a plastic barrel and spin around barefoot imitating a washing machine because we had no electricity for two weeks, I want to be prepared for any calamity.  Look at the riots in Ferguson, the criminals crossing our borders illegally, the wildfires in California; and in 2011 millions of people in Japan had no power or water. I don’t trust anybody or any government anymore. So we are going to practice self-reliance and survive any crisis.”

“Well – they did put me through survival training in the Air Force.  I was paired with a New Yorker who told me he had never slept without a roof over his head before.  He stuck close to me because he knew I had grown up hunting in the Uinta Mountains in Utah, and he had spent one weekend in the Catskills, but he wasn’t sure how we could catch a rabbit without tools or fish without string.”

“The brochures they sent also talk about keeping a manual can opener in our survival kit, candles, matches, extra medication, a shovel, hammer, axe, Swiss knife, and rope. The other booklet instructs us to buy cans of meat such as sardines, spam, and pickled fish.”

“I am not eating Spam, and I don’t like anchovies, sardines or canned oysters.”

“You never tasted them, so how would you know? You won’t even eat Rockford cheese.”

“I am all-American, I don’t eat biology specimens. And that cheese smells like dirty sox.”

“Oh, we are also supposed to have a short-wave radio we can roll up.”

“They mean -  crank the power generator handle to recharge the battery for a world band receiver portable radio.”

“They will also sell us a water purification system, because it says here that we can go without food for several days, but not water; and since we live in the desert and with this Ebola floating around we better order it.”

“How much is that going to cost me?”

“With the monsoon season we had this year I could have filled up several barrels of “grey water,” that’s what they call non-potable water, but you can use it to irrigate the survival garden you are supposed to plant with these seeds.”

“What other project do you have planned for me?  I am not weeding a vegetable garden, chasing away cotton tails and jack rabbits and spraying insecticides.”

“Oh, do you have any old shirts that you did not donate to the Viet Nam veterans, to make a scarecrow to keep the birds from eating my seedlings?”

“I don’t know how to make scarecrows.  I only worked on a farm for one summer and getting up at five to milk cows was a good incentive to finish college.”  

“You could build a cage with chicken wire all around the vegetable garden.  I think they now call it – to be politically correct – poultry restraining device.” 

“So now the chickens also have rights issued by the federal government. How intrusive is
Washington going to get?”   

“Well – if you don’t want to grow a survivalist garden near the golf course you could make a hydroponic one in the garage.”

“I am not having tomatoes drip all over the paint job of my car! How would you like to go by yourself to New York to see a Broadway show?”

“That would be great; but first we have to arrange our self-reliant system, and I have the food organized in categories: breakfast oatmeal, soups for lunch, and stroganoff and chicken rice pouches for dinners, chocolate puddings for desert, but how long do you think we could survive drinking the water from our pool?”

“Well – it has about nine thousand gallons of water, and allowing for 110 degree weather in the summer, with about a two-inch evaporation per week, and say – one gallon of water daily per person – for two of us – I think that would give us about one year of drinking water; but if I drank beer, I could save you some water – if I bought several cases of beer to store in the garage I could save you more water.  I think if we used half a gallon for bathing and brushing our teeth and half a gallon for drinking, although in the summer we would need extra drinking water, and if the monsoon rains put back three inches of water in the pool…”

“I didn’t ask you to recite the Gettysburg Address – I only want to know how long I could survive without having to call FEMA.”

“They are the last people I’d call. Remember how in Florida during hurricane season the emergency services took control of our cell phones so we had no communication, and FEMA was hiding from the governor?  And the teenage neighbours stood on a box directing traffic because the street lights were out.  We can’t depend on the government when there is as crisis.  They are a crisis themselves!”

“See!  Now you know why I ordered these boxes of dehydrated foods, and want you to purify the pool.”

“You forgot about what would we do if there is no gas for the car and the ATMs will not give us cash.”

“No, I didn’t.  I am buying two bicycles and a golf cart from Dennis, and walking shoes; and hoarding cash in a glass jar I will bury in the garden.”  

“So you have transportation figured out. How about entertainment?  We won’t have Downtown Abbey on TV for you to watch.”

“No, but we can play cards.”

“I’m not playing Poker with you!”

“How about strip Poker?”

“Buy lots of candles…”

Alinka Zyrmont -


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