A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Sweetness and I have decided to open the bushbunker here at the house as a historical tourist attraction. This is the plastic-lined duct-taped facility in which we cowered through several months — or maybe it just seemed like months — back during the early part of this sorry new century.
Homeland Security, if you recall, set us all to building and equipping these bunkers and scurrying into them to protect ourselves from chemical warfare, biological warfare and nuclear attack that were predicted to arrive at our doorsills momentarily. This was all just a scam, of course, meant to p.r. a bad-idea war and an even worse-idea re-election, but United We Stood at that time, even if it meant being repeatedly gang-duped by obvious jingo imbeciles.
Our bunker never was much to look at — you just can’t feng much shui with cinder blocks and duct tape — but the government inspectors gave it their highest rating (four green stars) for rat hole efficiency in deterring or frustrating boondocks terrorism.
It was certified against anthrax, flesh-eating bacteria, zealots wielding pepper spray, fire ants, phasers, zombies, fallout, and low-grade nuclear blasts with epicenters as close as Farindale. It was earthquake-proof, too, and would laugh heartily at any flood lesser than Noah’s. A meteor the size of Rhode Island would just bounce off of it. We felt safe when were sealed in there, I’ll give it that, but given the choice in retrospect of dying in agony with suppurating anthrax whelps or tending chamber pots long-term in a glorified hole in the ground, I just don’t know.
All the provisions are still neatly bunkered, except the stuff the rats got in, and what went sour, and what sprouted toadstools, and what the homeless guy made off with, and the crate of chewy candy that we gave to the unexpected stampede of trick-or-treaters who came very late one Halloween in double-decker church buses. What’s left has made the transition from old junk and debris to genuine artifacts, which means we can conscientiously charge admission to gawk at it.
Anthropologists found a 50-year-old fully stocked fallout shelter under the Brooklyn Bridge recently and plan to turn it into a museum exhibit, and that’s what gave me the idea about opening our bunker here to tourists. Our bunker has a better history. It, too, was a fallout shelter back in the Conelrad era and even before that it had served as what the folks then called a storm cellar.
Might near every rural homestead hereabout had a storm cellar in the early 1950s, with the building boom peaking just after the giant tornado wiped Judsonia off the map. This was the postwar era and men of the Greatest Generation, home from saving the world, were restless to build things, and for some reason they really enjoyed building them out of concrete.
They would’ve done swimming pools like the California men were doing, but first things first: you could get by without a swimming pool, but you couldn’t wallow happily in your own backyard cement pond if you’d been blown away the night before in a tornado. Also, swimming pools were an extravagance, perhaps immoral, in the eyes of a lot of people who’d recently come through the Depression. And there was this: you could throw your potatoes in a storm cellar and they’d keep there till the next crop came in, but you couldn’t do that with a swimming pool. They’d just rot in a swimming pool. Or the raccoons would come up and filch them. Or boys swimming in the swimming pool would get to throwing them at one another and make a real mess.
So what started as a storm cellar became a fallout shelter when people got tired of hunkering in a mildewed burial vault with spiders and scorpions and about 100 bushels of potatoes every time a storm came up, and then it fell into disuse after that famous “Twilight Zone” episode that made us all ashamed of leaving our desperate neighbors outside to perish in the nuclear holycost.
That’s the early history. Then we stashed our valuables there during the Carter malaise, and rebunkered for a few days as the collapse of Western civilization loomed at the approach of Y2K. Despite the big costly duct-tape makeover, we abandoned the bunker again after the WMD scam, and in recent times stray animals have bivouacked there, and that homeless guy who thought he was either Jesus or the governor’s stepfather. We offered it for Katrina refugee squatting but the only applicants thought we ought to pay them.
If we open it as a tourist attraction, Sweetness has nominated me as the docent. That means I will show people around, tell them to watch their step, tell them the slop jars are just for show, and point out interesting historical items. She says I shouldn’t be comparing us to Adolph and Eva, but I don’t know why. I knew it was against the law now to compare the Bushes with the Hitlers but don’t we still have the freedom of speech to compare ourselves with the Hitlers or with anybody else?
Anyhow, watch for our signs.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.