Columns » Bob Lancaster

Ranger Wipe World

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The pard and I returned to the Kolumnistbunker last week, heeding new, urgent warnings of the Homeland Security geniuses that great menace might be once again afoot, although concerning who, where, when or how none of them had the first clue. Terrists (in Bushspeak) is all anybody would say. And Something Big. More of that crack intelligence. I'd forgotten just how gloomy it is in der bunker, draped in dirty plastic sheeting, sealed in with duct tape, while glorious May mocked from the exterior. We hunkered in those dank confines all through the holiday weekend, usually celebrated with a grand picnic and healthful outdoor recreation. All of you carefree, fun-loving, less patriotic types thronging Riverfest probably didn't even notice our absence, but I told the pard: "Let somebody set off one little dirty bomb like the Fox Network is always fantasizing about, and those quarter-million revelers will remember us, all right. They'll be beating down our [bunker] door." They laughed at Noah, too, she recollected, right up to the time that he pulled up the boarding planks. The limestone tedium of bunker-sitting gave us ample opportunity for some solemn Memorial Day meditating. Remembering some of our parochial hero warriors, such as Mr. O., the longest-surviving Arkansas member of the Last Man Club, and Mr. G., who left one of his legs on the Bataan Death March, and Mr. M., lone survivor in one of the big shot-up landing craft at Normandy. Good guys all. The Kolumnistbunker library (no rival for the new Clinton Library) consists now of a couple of books, one of them containing accounts of the heroics of Medal of Honor winners in the 20th century wars. These are men worth thinking about, who did deeds worth thinking about. Hard not to compare what they were fighting for -- or what they themselves believed they were fighting for -- with what American soldiers in Iraq are said to be fighting for today. One of the officers in Iraq was on the TV the day before Memorial Day talking about the need for the home folks to "support the troops" and he suggested the best way to do that, perhaps the only way, was to "support the mission." Pretty obvious, I guess, but there in the bunker I'd been pondering how one went about showing support for the troops while doubting or publicly challenging the worthiness of their mission. It used to be possible, as when thousands of Arkansas homemakers used their sugar rations to bake cookies to send to men in the trenches. But it wasn't possible for Sen. Fulbright and I reckon it's not possible now. It's too much like the Baptists' loving the sinner and hating the sin. Even if you think it's troop-supportive to want the troops pulled back out of harm's way before their ill-conceived mission has been accomplished, few of them would see it that way, and fewer still of the jingoists who are running things. The second of the Kolumnistbunker's two tomes is a survival manual, "A Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills," (by Thomas J. Elpel, Lyons Press, $16.95). It'll serve us when we emerge after Armageddon, once the terrists have come and gone and destroyed our infrastructure and our way of life and so forth. Everything us softies need to know about making our way through the nuclear winter. There's a chapter on how to rescue somebody from a crevasse. Another on how to catch prairie hors d'ouevres in an Apache foot snare. How to make a bull boat out of a tarp and some willow limbs. This is a survival guide that doesn't shy from the really tough challenges we'll face. A chapter titled "Crapping in the Woods," for example, details post-apocalyptic evacuation etiquette. No TP then, of course, "and for alternatives you may use leaves from non-poisonous plants, or try smooth rocks, snowballs, or 'ranger wipe.' [Snowballs? Yeow!] Ranger wipe is when you wipe twice; first with your finger and then wipe your finger on something else. Ranger wipe is widely used around the world and it is the reason that people in many cultures only eat with one hand, the other one." Somehow, it doesn't strengthen my will to survive the bunker to know that the brave new world of Ranger wipe awaits. Everything you'd ever want or need to know about butchering a road-kill deer is contained in the chapter titled "Butchering a Road Kill Deer." But I was disappointed that a more important topic, "Spit-Roasting Possums," was omitted altogether. Without roast possum, the rusty knights of the DeSoto Expedition couldn't have survived their so-called entrada into these wilds nearly 500 years ago, and I'm pretty sure that the pard and I and our ilk wouldn't be able to survive into Ranger Wipe World without it. Possum meat isn't savory, despite the stupid Clampett Clan raves to the contrary, but you know the little sons-a-bitches will be there, much more plentiful than deer run over by yipping homeward-bound terrists in Humvees, when our Pet milk and Granola bars and tins of Spam have run out. Doc Irvin stopped by the other day to report that, having retired from medical practice, he has decided to become a senior goatherd, and I told him that was probably a smart survival strategy too. Whatever nastiness or horror the terrists throw at us, it won't bother our goats very much. Since Old Testament times, goats have survived and even prospered in conditions that demoralized even rats and Texans. A goat wouldn't be put off for a second by Ranger wipe. And makes a lot better barbecue than the possum.

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