We had cut down the billboard showcasing Nixon and his pal, Spiro Agnew. Our chainsaws were now quiet, their grrring songs still ringing in our heads. Stoned that we were, we all gathered on top of Nixon and Agnew and raised the saws heavenward over our heads. It was still night, but Haggis snapped a picture of us with his camera, the flash traveling outward from the bulb, finding our haggard and stoned faces in the dark, the moment captured. Then the moment was gone. Inexplicably, like all moments. Except in the remembering. Without this image in time, we might never have been there.
Proof of the Past
There is no present like the past—or the future. In fact, there is no present at all. Merely an illusion, an invisible line drawn between the two, a line you cross. You step out of the past into the future through the moments that take you there. Those moments go by in an instant, if that. Fleeting, to say the least. As though they were never there. Except for a photo on an old Nikon, captured with a handheld flash. And your memory taking you forward into the future. Moments. Like the flash going off and blinding you. Photos are the one remnant of the present, now the past.
Haggis tucked the camera into his parka, shined a light down on the gigantic troop truck and said it would be a good place to camp the rest of the night. There might even be army rations stowed away in there somewhere. He said the Army would be back in the morning, if the snow let up, but certainly not tonight. The snow was coming down even harder. My eyebrows and beard were crusting with ice and snow. We were in a full force, all-out blizzard. Sounded like a plan to me. I was more than eager to get out of the cold. Wanted to save my life. Going back a couple of miles to my truck was not an option.
Now More Than Ever
We left our chainsaws on top of Nixon’s face and waddled like a frozen flock of ducks quacking back and forth to each other, down the embankment and to the highway through the now waist-deep snow. We reached the abandoned 1960’s Army truck. It was a hulking, massive machine. Probably held thirty soldiers, at least, and enough provisions to last a month. Built by a private corporation for pennies on the dollar and sold to the U.S. government for thousands. Sitting there in the snow, I thought it looked like a mansion on wheels. And, of course, it was locked up tight. No problem for Haggis. In no time he picked the lock, and we were in. It was a deep freeze inside. But the cabin was large enough for all of us. A door led to the back. A canvas roof and canvas sides covered this mini-ballroom. This was where the soldiers would be sitting on benches, waiting to be transported into battle. Haggis hotwired the ignition and got the auxiliary diesel engine started. A few shivering minutes later, we had heat. All five of us had ample room to move. We had our pot, so we decided to make the best of a bad situation. We were warm and safe from the elements. If the army did return, we’d be up shit’s creek without a paddle. It made me nervous. I looked outside expecting to see headlights, but there was only darkness and the howl of wind, the sound of snow hitting the windshield.
Good Old Uncle Sam
Pink Bear broke out his pot and filled a pipe. We all took good, long hits. I was feeling better now, but, of course, the moment vanished and I was smack-dab in the future, thinking of my past. Ease had come to me like a woman silently in the night. But I was getting hungry. The munchies made their presence known, a growling, rude bunch of little men banging their fists against my stomach. The Gold was working wonders on me. I took another hit. Autumn scurried away like a squirrel searching for nuts and located rations inside a locker stowed under a bench-seat in back. All kinds of dried foods wrapped in plastic and aluminum wrappers. Hell, I was ready to eat anything. Even the wrappers. We didn’t have a stove—or couldn’t find one. We ripped open the pouches and slid the dried food into our mouths. It tasted like what I thought the paste that held Nixon and Agnew to the billboard would taste like. Stuck to my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I wanted to spit it out, but made myself swallow. Again, Autumn disappeared in back and returned with canteens of water. We washed the dried food down and shoveled in some more in between hits from the pipe. Things were looking up. We stretched out in the spacious cab, the clank-clank of the aux engine gurgling away in the white night. We repaired two hammocks Autumn found and rigged them up. I fell asleep, one of the best sleeps I’d ever had, lullabying my way into dreamland. Courtesy of the U.S. Army.
I awoke with a start, the sun shining in my eyes, hot and relentless. I turned over and fell out of my hammock. Everyone else was still asleep. I crawled to a window and looked out. Blue sky as far as the eye could see. Everything was melting. A snowplow raced by, throwing up loads of snow to the side of the road, not even giving the army truck a second notice. But it was time to go. The snow was disappearing—fast. Colorado can be like that. A blizzard one day, eighty degrees the next. Better not press our luck. Get back to my Trusty Truck and get the hell out. After all, we had the Midas touch of shit.
We quickly exited the troop carrier and made our way up the hill to the billboard, flopped over in the snow like a fighter out for the count, where Nixon and Agnew stared up at us with their baleful eyes and plastered-on smiles. I could almost smell the glue that held them to the billboard ripening in the Colorado sun. We slipped away down the track toward Trusty Truck off in the distance. Hopefully she’d start and we could get away before the National Guard showed up. We left them a present upon leaving their five-star accommodations: five freshly rolled joints representing each of us. Left them on the console for all to see—payment for the United States Army putting us up for the night, care of Commander-in-Chief Nixon and his pal, Spiro Agnew. Thanks for the memories, guys.