Monday, January 1, 2007

Dream A Little Dream For Me

“Dispatch, 209.”


“Dispatch, I think I can see some dust trails being made by a large vehicle south of Lunar Hill just inside the park boundary, down towards Peach Pit Wash.”

“We copy that 209. Can you make out any positive I.D. on this vehicle?”

“It seems to be a truck, sort of looks like a hot shot crew truck. Metallic blue is best I can do on color. It keeps moving in and out of the trees.”

“We copy that 209. What is your present location?”

“Top of Lunar Hill.”

“Be advised that all personnel at this time are being asked to return park vehicles back to HQ immediately. We are now in Incident Command Status pending a developing LE (Law Enforcement) situation.”

“I’m on my way down.”

“Copy that 209. 13:48.”

Barney Headlong, seasonal naturalist, was now a little peeved about calling in this possibly unauthorized vehicle. He had fully planned to spend three more hours of special projects time enjoying the view here atop Lunar Hill. As he clambered down the steeply sloped lava cone, he fumed about having to return the pick-up truck to headquarters.

“This is what happens when you start sticking your nose in, trying to do the right thing. Being a good little ranger wasn’t I? What the hell am I going to do back at the office? Should’ve never turned the damned radio on in the first place!”

How was he going to avoid Ted Sanders, that insufferably snooping micro-anal supervisor of his? Then he remembered that it was Saturday and Sanders was off and a flood of happiness flushed through his body.

Maybe a trip up to the Maintenance Yard might result in a positive inter-divisional partnership opportunity. He could help spray a hose on some old some dump trucks or maybe bear witness to the spell binding yarns spun in the always occupied break room. “We-uns went down to Meskeet and won a hole buncha dough on our way to that Air Force base to pick up surplus equipment. Them trucks and refrigerators they give us wern’t no good, though.”

A trip up to Maintenance was not meant for such a pretty afternoon though, especially since he had just found the perfect nap spot near a cluster of pines. Bushwhacking through juniper and sage and stumbling and skidding down the loose and slippery volcano, he seriously considered destroying his radio. The folded Wall Street Journal in his daypack would never be brought out and read atop the glorious summit of Lunar Hill. It would never drape across his face as a gentle breeze rustled in the late afternoon sun. There would be no contented slumber for this tired man in the green and gray uniform. He always said that he’d rather sleep in the field than doze in a meeting room.

Twenty minutes later he had almost reached the fence, which formed the southern boundary of Zenith National Park. On the other side of the fence was a faint two-rut track that paralleled it. A loud grinding sound like shifting gears drifted in from the southeast. Maybe it was the truck he called in earlier. Barney stopped to take a drink of water and eat his last banana. Plopping down on the ground next to the fence and leaning back against a large boulder he smiled greedily at his tasty repast. The deep and vast silence of this particular spot made him wish once again that he could now sleep, perchance to dream. “Ah there’s the rub”, he drowsily sniffed as he threw banana peel over his shoulder and yawned indifferently.

In the nearer distance to his left he could hear the crunching sound of truck tires grinding along the rock-strewn road. Somewhat alarmed he got up and crouched down behind a bush near the fence. Who might these folks be? You never knew around here. When you wore the uniform of a federal agency out in these parts it was all the more important to cover your rear and be alert. Barney knew that in his present duds he might be just as fun to shoot as a coyote or a jackrabbit to any number of folks, maybe a lot more fun.

The road was on the other side of the boundary fence and hence legal to drive on but he had never seen a vehicle on this particular track in all the years of special project work he had conducted here in the remote southwest corner of Zenith. He was crouched out of sight when the loud trundling mystery vehicle abruptly crested the hill and came into view.

It was a light blue government rig with a Nevada State Prisons insignia on the side. This was the dust raiser all right and it did look like a wild land fire truck except that it had bars on the windows. The driver didn’t look like a prison guard though. He was a white male in his thirties with long blond hair who appeared dirty and a bit sunburned. He drove slowly almost tentatively as if he was feeling his way across an alien and menacing landscape with great trepidation.

As the prison truck continued to pass his vantage point Barney could make out five other men squatting on the back of the truck. They had on no uniforms either and were surrounding and securely restraining someone whom looked exactly like…Ted Sanders! It had to be Sanders! Barney could not believe it!

“My God, it's that annoying jerk-off Sanders!” he beamed with joy.

The captive ranger wore a glum expression and seemed to be slightly bleeding from somewhere on the front of his head. The truck jostled out of view and made its way over the next rise towards the main dirt road where Barney's truck was parked.

He hesitated for several minutes as to whether or not to call in what he had just witnessed to Dispatch. “If they find Sanders soon, he could possibly be back at the office for the rest of my special projects time today. I should at least wait until I get back to the truck. That’ll give those guys more time to take him further away from my afternoon shift.”

Barney had nearly made it back to his truck when a pounding measured thump moved closer making the dusty ground shake. Immediately above a helicopter, flying low, made a pass over Barney and continued in the general direction of where he supposed Sanders and his captors were headed.

He reluctantly turned his radio back on.

“Dispatch, 209.”

“209 please standby. We are currently involved in a full blown SAR (Search and Rescue) and have cleared the airways for emergency traffic only.”

“My apologies. This can definitely wait till I get back.”

“Copy 209. 15:05.”

Starting the engine of his ranger truck he shifted into reverse and backed onto the dirt road that would lead him back to Zenith HQ. Turning and shifting forward he coaxed the truck into a slow gait down the deeply rutted road. “I guess even if they did rescue him now he’d be gone the rest of the afternoon in de-briefings and what not. Hells bells, he might even be put on administrative leave for tomorrow!”

This thought gave him great joy and comfort as the old Dodge Ram swung down the crumbling mesa towards pavement.

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