Just a screed after driving 500 miles


One day, when the descendants of our generations are sunning themselves and buying floppy straw hats from street vendors and drinking piña coladas and having oil massages on the tropical white sand beach at a Sandals on the North Pole, someone will text them a video of the days when it was all ice and snow, and none of them will believe it. Certainly not if by then they have all come to believe that all facts are, by default, #FakeNews.

Hell, lots of the people enduring the current heat wave don’t believe it’s hotter now than it ever has been in their own memories, so why should anyone believe any such thing about a time when they weren’t even alive?

Every day of the last three weeks in Oklahoma was in the 90s, with several topping 100. When the humidity is at 100 percent, and the air is plump enough with moisture not to need any of yours and won’t do you the favor of carrying off so much as a drop of the sweat soaking your pants, your socks, your shirt, it just accumulates and slicks you down. A wet dog can walk two miles in that kind of heat in full sunlight and not dry. And once you hang the towels you’ve tried to mop the dog up with out to dry, they just hang there on the line like dead fish and are just as wet the next morning, only a worse kind of wet.

It got to be too much. I was planning to move on from Poteau, anyway — mostly because of the cottonmouths down in the lake where Roo likes to pretend she’s one of them stalking tadmouses — but the heat finally drove us out. Because of all the repairs I had been doing to the camper and the packing of loose items, Roo knew we were going, and she didn’t even argue about getting out of bed around 9 AM, which is, as far as she’s concerned, way too long before dawn to do anything.

I used a weather map instead of a road map to choose a destination, but it was no help. The conventional method of escaping the heat by heading north wasn’t much help, because it was three degrees hotter 1000 miles north in Minnesota, had been for a few days and was forecast to be for another few. Still, reasoning that sooner or later it might cool off up there — for crying out loud, it’s not even June yet — I loaded Roo up and pointed the crate due north.

We made it as far as Iowa and onto a gravel road as dusty as any track in the western deserts and finally to a campground at a place called Skip Bluff. It’s a pretty place — sorry for the lousy photograph, but it’s all I had in me to take after the 500 miles of driving in the relentless sunlight. This place is already acting like it’s the end of the summer. Everything is green, but there’s a little lake here that’s already covered with a stagnant algae and the grasses on the banks tipping into the water as the level recedes beneath their roots.

Having spent a few months in the civilized campground at Poteau, I had almost forgotten about getting back into the thick of Cracker America, but I was reminded as soon as we got here. Here’s the thing about the American Cracker that journalists based out of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles will never, ever understand. You can’t find a real Cracker by flying into Atlanta, spending a day driving around in a rented SUV and sticking a microphone in a few random faces outside a Piggly-Wiggly just because some town somehow looks Southern, as they so often do to try to gain insight into the mind of the Trump voter. To experience the American Cracker, you have to face them on their own territory.

By American Cracker I mean a specific portion of our countrymen. What defines the American Cracker is the one thing they live for: the hope of getting to use their gun on someone. You can be from as deep in the hollows as it gets, but if you don’t look forward to the day you get the return you want on the investment you made in your guns by shooting someone, you don’t qualify. Lots of people don’t believe that, but that’s how it is. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment or abortion or Jesus or any of that. Those things only come into it as needed. You might pray to Jesus to preserve your Second Amendment, which He after all personally penned into the Constitution when it was written in Bethlehem or wherever in the hell it might have been, by presenting you with a Planned Parenthood doctor to shoot, but the shooting is all you really hope for. That’s what defines the American Cracker. Sorry, but if you’re just one of the millions of Americans who own a rifle or a handgun and enjoy shooting at a piece of paper or a water jug, you won’t qualify. You have to be prepossessed of the idea that real prestige can only be achieved by shooting someone.

Part of it must come from the conception of The Rebel, which has somehow become distended over the years from a group of citizens tired of being beleaguered by a distant king who drained you of your money, controlled your trade, sent his representatives to rule you on his behalf, who in turn sent his agents to tell you how much you were going to get for a bale of cotton or tobacco, to insisting on slavery as a fundamental human right of the white man, to riding a motorcycle with your cigarette blowing ashes back in your face because it was cool, even if it was a hell of a bad way not only to enjoy either cigarettes or motorcycles, even though there would be no point in telling that to half the angry-looking graybeard Harley drivers riding around in Saturday packs without either helmets or Obamacare and not finding any irony in the rest of the country having to foot the bill for that instance of Liberty™ when they show up with a cracked skull and a missing leg in the ER, to whatever it is right-wing rebels are rebelling against now, some generalized combination of brown, gay, educated,  born in a city, or who originates from the vast land that stretches from Texas clear to the Antarctic, known only as Mexico. The American Cracker is just someone in the mood for violence.

The Cracker is here, where we are. You can always spot a cracker encampment by the six or eight trucks parked near one trailer. Next you’ll spot the dirty dogs sniffing around the various folding tables, coolers, stacked cases of Bud Lights and piles of garbage which, in the name of Freedom™ they will never manage to pick up. If the Cracker has a dog, that dog will always be dirty and usually chained. The chain is optional, but the dirt is a rule of some kind. Then there are the children running around with the replica Colt .45s you can purchase at any Walmart. The children, the Cracker hopes and prays, someone will look at in a way that they can construe as threatening a rape or molestation, because of all the justifications for shooting someone, none is more bulletproof. 

If you happen to find yourself standing next to an American Cracker, you can try the usual pleasantries on him, but they won’t do any good. If you say, “Hey, how are ya?” the Cracker will not respond. They consider rudeness a useful tool. Sometimes it makes other people angry, which might give you the chance to shoot them. Rudeness also helps to alert others to your possession of firearms, even though you have to be an idiot not to assume there are guns in every waistband and another few rifles of various types and calibers tucked strategically among the beer coolers.

Anyway, we’re going to keep heading north tomorrow. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that I take much better care of Roo than I do of myself and I hope for her sake to find a pond for her to hunt tadmouses in.

Apologies for typos, errors, ranting, etc., but I'm writing in a hurry here....