Columns » Bob Lancaster

So it begins



You can forget the spin. With the Big Sellout over the weekend, the Great Crash has commenced, and I've just been wondering which of the amenities of civilization I'll miss most when we re-enter the dark age presently. I'm sorry to admit it, but it'll likely have something to do with food — or the lack thereof. It won't be long before we don't have any.

I figure Sheffield Nelson will get dibs on all that's left in the supermarkets in this part of the country, and the rest of us will either be obliged to grow our own or left to scrounge. We can grub for wild tubers for a while, but there are just so many of them out there.

 I'm no McGregor, sunburned son of the soil. My few attempts to grow edible plants have been laughable failures. I've no more idea how to bring a cabbage to harvestable maturity than how to reconfigure a motherboard. And if it got that far, I'm of a nature anyhow that I'd probably swap the cabbage for a handful of magic beans.

Also I'm no hand at growing or slaughtering or butchering livestock. My reluctance on that score goes back to the Merrie Melodies cartoons, in which the farm animals — pigs and rabbits and cows and assorted fowl — are more articulate than any extant naked ape, and saner, and funnier, and free of the malice, artifice, and deviousness.

Even creatures usually considered unpalatable (except by survivalists, the French, and G. Gordon Liddy), mice and wily coyotes and such, can articulate the existential verities better in Toonspeak than radio gasbags can here in Bizarro World. Only humans and cats are mean enough to see their fellow sentient beings as primarily something to kill for food and secondarily something to kill for sport.

I remember the shock of seeing Sheriff Andy Taylor (with Gail Davis, Little Rock's own) go out shooting crows just for target practice. I had admired ol' Ange till then, not as much as Barney did, but considerable, and here he was shooting Heckel and Jeckel, maybe the greatest wits since Oscar Wilde, just for the hell of it. What kind of a stupid, disillusioning deal was that?

Dr. Schweitzer exacerbated the empathy with fauna of different lineage. In my case, it never made the stretch to red wasps or pit bulls, but it feinted in that direction. It wasn't that I came to consider beasts of the field as comrades or anything, but now that I've said comrades you and Ann Coulter can go ahead and call me a Communist. You're entitled. I'm not a Communist but words have consequences and old codewords can be like old found landmines when op-ed crazies start monkeying with the pressure plates. I'm not a Communist and not a Socialist either, but George Orwell was a Socialist and if I were guru shopping this day and time I'd put him dead these 60 years up ag'in any one of your'n still kicking.

I don't criticize the fatted-calf process, though, or feel myself above it, because if somebody else does the stabbing and butchering, out of sight and out of hearing, and wraps the meat in cellophane after hamming the hocks and tenderizing the tough cuts — well, it helps the appetite and soothes the conscience to be at several removes from the scene of the crime, but it provides no alibi or admissible absolution. The critter with a Christian name still died to sustain your sorry ass long enough to permit you to scarf up its offspring tomorrow, its grandspring the day after that.

The point with the meat-harvesters is the same as it is with the sodbusters — that is, after this crash is done crashing it's going to be those with the cleavers and skinning knives who get the mutton, the growers and bakers of the grain who'll have bread to sop the gravy. You and I are basically screwed. We can mob their packing plants and granaries, but at that point there ceases to be any point, and by the next 8 a.m. digits and appendages are seasoning stews.

Already this summer I've noticed a shift toward niggardliness in their willingness to share home-grown tomatoes.

So the Mother of All Crashes is upon us, and while I wish your clan the best, I'm not sanguine about the trough prospects for me and mine, for our little dingle dangling doughtily from the noble old House of the Red Rose. Even the short-term prospects. If we make it through the Dog Days I'll be amazed. I know where there's an especially fecund hickory tree, but this ain't one of those quickie crashes fixable to a kind of rickety precariousness with a few spot welds and new gaskets. It's the big one, dwarfing even the epochal one confirmed at Adrianople, and hickory nuts just aren't going to get the job done.

Sons-a-bitches are so tough you have to crack them with hammers, some with sledge hammers, and I'm damned if I'll have the strength there on the doorstep of starvation. Anyhow, there's not enough nutmeat in one of them to satisfy a half-grown dog-peter gnat.

And of course as always the raccoons will beat us to the persimmons. 

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