Freak Zone

Now into some twisty fifty mile an hour curves, the traffic breaks up. Semis in the slow lane Jake braking and a few hot shots zipping by- way over the speed limit- then cutting into slack spots before doing the same move again. It’s the law in Colorado. Fast lane is only to pass. Also, if a vehicle is obviously stopped on the side of the road, State law says you have to get over to the left. Mile after mile of smoothed out, red-streaked rock formations everywhere since the road drops you two thousand feet in about five miles. Coming out of a tunnel into bright sunlight, Rick spots the red sportscar that had the truck from hell on its ass. In a long sweeping left banked curve, I too see her. She’s tucked in between two semis like a chick between a hen and a rooster.

I pass, on the right is our former enemy. We look down from way higher in Tegan’s Dumptruck. She just looks straight ahead. The psycho with the twin flat beds is nowhere in sight. This gal wasn’t chancing it. She was staying right where she was, thank you very much. After a few miles we forget all about her.

Every one worth a damn in Colorado drives a Dodge pickup of some sort. New ones- or close to it. Flat beds, set up for towing fifth wheel horse and stock trailers, service bodies. The big grills and frame make the three quarter tons look like three ton jobs. I’m a Dodge man to the core, but these new Dodges are half tons on steroids. Pull any new pickup into a materials yard and start loading scoops of gravel with a short bucket loader. On any of them a real ton of material will have it looking just like a great Dane looks hunched bent over taking a dump on a lawn. Driving said loader for Jessie, first owner of the Acton hardware, I witnessed many a sad faced owner frantically shoveling sand or gravel out of his bed to get the shocks off the overloads.

I’m at the Boulder DMV with my son-in-law and Scout, my four year old granddaughter. She’s a big deal. A six grandson streak was finally broken. As Jason, Scout’s dad, waits his turn the man about four people ahead of him is heard to say, “I’ll be back in two minutes!” I’m sitting down in one of two dozen wood chairs that line one wall. Scout and I watch the man go past a bunch of busy windows then past the security guard and out the double glass doors. As soon as the doors closed everyone had something to say about what had just gone down. This buzz-headed, inked up bozo in his late twenties, has just slunk out in his low slung shorts and flip flops leaving a kid in a removable car seat on the DMV desk. Hey, it’s Boulder. The license gals have wooden desks you sit down in front of. Pretty laid back. Not this laid back though. You leave your kid? An infant? It was pretty damn funny what everyone in line had to say about it.

This chubby black gal next to us about three chairs over breaks the ice. “You have to be kidding me. Is this dude a friend of yours?” Directed at the fifty or so Latin looking woman wearing a nice shirt and sweater circa 1980’s. Looking dazed at the front doors then scanning everyone staring at her from the closest lines and chairs behind them she pops right out of her daze to defend herself. To anyone who wanted to listen, CLERK: “I’ve a good mind to have the man arrested. I’ve never seen such behavior in 21 years of working here!” OK, she’s now off the hook. The outrage pours out in machine gun burst from all over the room. Even the clerks on each side of her and the people being helped get some shots in.

This cowboy had a couple of good ones. Since he was about six four and three hundred pounds, he could say any damn thing he wanted. In this atmosphere, he had a lot of latitude anyhow. COWBOY: “Were all thinkin’ it. Poor white trash has now reached a new low point!” Now two women approach the baby. One spins the car seat around and tilts it. A cute little white trash baby is asleep. It has a tiny, too-small shirt on that barely covers the top of its chubby tummy. Someone had written. WHITE POWER on its tummy with a felt pen mimicking a tattoo. Swell. Many more comments poured out, then the father was spotted coming back into the double doors. He’s smiling and sort of strolling. His flip flops clapping on the linoleum floor as he comes back to his desk and clerk.

He smiles and starts to say something and gets his legs cut off at the knees by a now enraged clerk. CLERK: “I don’t want to hear anything from that mouth of yours except goodbye. If I hear anything different I will not hesitate to have security arrest you!” All said straightforward and well modulated. This zero made the mistake of looking back for some support. No way. Stone cold silence and frozen glares. I glance down at Scout and see she looks concerned. I whisper, “Don’t worry, the guy’s an idiot being taught a lesson!” She smiles and nods her head. Picking up the car seat, he puts on his sunglasses in defiance and leaves the premises.

Our next stop was GREAT! A really old, really big used book store and vinyl record warehouse. My first stop on the Freak express. I buy my grand kid Simon a six foot backed cut out of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter from Star Wars. Simon is the thoughtful insightful sort. Rare for a Fahey spawn. He says a dejected, “Too bad he died in the Pit of unspeakable horror!” Huh? What bullshit is this? As I fork over ten bucks for the original but beat up display I fill Simon in. Boba Fett kicked in his back pack thrusters, dropped two sonic grenades and was blown free about three minutes after Jabba the hut was choked out by Leia!” No wonder our country is falling apart. Kids don’t know any of the important things that bind us as a society. He perked up at this bit of news. Also, Boba built a ‘Slave Two’, intergalactic bounty hunter ship, but, another time.

If you think I’m off base ask any kid fourteen or younger who John Wayne is. They have no idea what you’re talking about. I have an old movie that has John Wayne asking for war bond donations. He was dressed in his cowboy gear sitting with a high back chair backwards. A lit smoke in one hand. His Stetson was pushed back as he wrinkled that broad forehead of his and said, “I don’t need to tell you who I am, so, lets get down to what I’m on screen for!” Sorry Duke, not any more. I once fixed the phone jack on his ship at the Balboa Island Marina pier off his house while working for Pac Bell. It really was a ship. It had formerly been a U.S. Navy minesweeper. About sixty five foot long with all steel frame and hull, quite a ride to hit the ocean on. It was called, ‘The Grey Goose’. I wish I could have gone on it. Alas, I fixed the phone problem at the pier jack connection. As soon as I replaced a green pitted connection, the phone started ringing on board.

While Simon took the six foot board out to the truck, I watched him through the storefront glass to make sure he got back OK. With all the displays, it was hard to keep an eye on him. As he came back inside, another kid he knew from school comes in right behind him. Night and day. Simon, hippie throwback followed by a pierced Goth in torn black everything. They seem to like each other. As they say adios, one of the owners of the store says, “Hey, Judas!”, while he comes down a crowded book aisle towards us. For some reason he thought I was with the pierced kid. I smile and nod. The owner looks like a young Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, 1970’s. He accepts me as a friend and says, “You going to the battle of the bands tonight!” I shrug my shoulders and ask Simon if he’s going. Simon says no and heads for the record side of the split building. I go for small talk. “So, kid, did it hurt getting all those pins and studs put in?” He looks bored but gives me a monotone ‘humor the old guy’ spiel. Then I notice the ink peeking out of his shirt collar. I’m stunned. He had to be fifteen if that. The store man is his uncle, it turns out. His uncle says, “Hey, show him how much you’ve gotten done!”

The black hair, streaked with red hair, is exposed as the kid takes off his multicolored Jamaican flop cap and lifts his zombie apocalypse t-shirt over his head. Half of his upper back had a Friday the 13th Jason in an almost colored-in red stripe shirt, stabbing some other gore guy with his scissor fingers up through the stomach. This other undertaker looking guy is coming down with a machete into Jason’s skull in about one second. Muscles bulging with the power he’s putting into the blade’s downward blow. Hey, some lucky gal might marry into this work of art. It can only go up in value. I shake my head up and down and say nothing. My input wasn’t needed for once. The kid puts his shirt down and heads down a book filled isle with his uncle. Not a word said.

Heading back to Tegan’s, I tell Simon and Scout about the special needs kids I talk to all the time at the Tehachapi show and the second hand shop I’m doing my Community Service at. Simon wanted to know what Community Service was. I gave him the short version. “They can’t shoot you after court on compliance codes so they make you clean toilets and scrape gum off the floors with razor blades!” He gave me the thumbs up. Scout once again looked upset. I tell her I also get first shot at all the toys and books that come in from my pickups. This makes her real happy. Back to the special ed kids. Most aren’t kids. Some are in their fifties. All are just like me though. Stuck at sixteen years old mentally. If that. I click with them. On some weekdays, the local theater has half prices. Not only the usual one dollar hot dogs, but breaks on tickets and pop corn.

I go to this four plex all the time. Especially when about twenty of these ‘kids’ have show day. The theaters are really small. Fifty people, max, in each one. I’ve been in it plenty of times sitting all by my self. The last time I went and the kids were there, the new Marvel flick was out teaming up Iron Man, Thor, some kung fu chick, a bow and arrow guy, Captain America, and, the HULK. The doors open late all the time so we were jammed up all in a bunch just like cattle after a stampede. About five groups back all the families are normal with normal kids. Behind them, apart a few paces, are the special kids with their escorts. They just walk down the street from their home at the top of the avenue.

Everyone is well behaved and really excited. In the front of the conga line are two pals I’ve smiled and said ‘Hi’ to before. One is really stocky and looks like a cross eyed, fifty year old Charlie Brown. He’s wearing a HULK sweatshirt that has HULK flying through the air on one of his leaps. His pal is black as black can be and stone cold blind. He has a cane and those rolled back eyes that let you know this kid is really handicapped. The blind kid is attached to his buddy like glue. Arms locked. A matron is right behind them but relaxed. Everyone wants in so the lines start to bunch together. A normal teenager from the front of the line has just broken Charlie Brown’s heart with a statement to his friend in line with him.

It was innocuous enough but a hard blow to hear for the special kid. “You know, the HULK is way over rated. Iron man or Thor could beat him, no problem!” As some vomit came up out of my stomach, I had to put a stop to this kind of blasphemy instantly. I spin and go into attack mode. “First of all, the HULK doesn’t even need these other losers. I heard they forced him to join. Second, the HULK has already bounced Superman like a basketball when they met, running him out of his own town; he destroyed The Thing in three pages of that comic after the fight started; Thor and Iron Man double teaming HULK would just make it easier for HULK to waste them instead of having to hunt them down one at a time. After they’re toast, what is Captain America, some karate gal and Robin hood idiot going to do against a now really pissed guy that gets bigger and stronger the more you beat on him?”

The doors open and in we all go. As I go for popcorn, I pass Charlie Brown and his pal waiting for their tickets. I put up my hand, Charlie Brown high fives me then pulls me over for a huge bear hug. I sat a couple of rows behind them and made comments all through the movie on how HULK was doing all the real fighting, etc, etc. It was fun.

Back home, just last Saturday night, we had bizarre lightening-like flashes coming over the tops of the five thousand foot hills that separate us from the Mojave Desert. Since we heard on ‘Coast to Coast’ that a big solar flare was to be hitting us, we figured that might be the source. We call everyone we can think of in the Antelope Valley and surrounding areas to go outside and report back to us. Except for my sons, no one cared. I was Chicken Little and the sky was falling. Pretty sad. Hey, if the S.H.T.F, we know one thing. We’re calling family and that’s all. Everyone else that thinks the way we do, off grid, own water, self reliant. They won’t need a call. So, we too are pretty much looked on as Freaks. So be it. Queue Hendrix’s anthem for the fade out and let your Freak flag fly.

Oh, while at a Boulder Café, around ten thousand foot up on the mountain behind Coal Creek, I share my table with three Chinese tourists. Only one spoke English fluently. The others nodded their heads a lot. They looked like Chinese Ozzie and Harriet kids. Very polite. Maybe in their early twenties. The other two are male and a thin, intense looking female with tightly pulled back hair. She smiles at me then ignores me. I notice her quiet companion is missing the ends of two fingers on his left hand. Zeng, the only name I can remember of the more fluent of the group sees me looking at the nubs and says a pleasant, “A panda bit them off!” What? A fuzzy little chubby fur ball did that? I tell him that I had just read a book on Wolverines and could see him losing fingers to one of them, but a panda? The man missing the ends of his digits speaks Chinese to his companion. They have a spirted back and forth them I’m filled in. All three are now looking right at me as their companion speaks.

“He says he once thought the same thing. He was shocked to find out their fur is a hard and sharp as a pigs bristles. They also fight off leopards and kill small animals for food. When he was studying them in Bejing, a man went into an enclosure to hug one and have his picture taken. He had his testicles torn off and almost died on the way to emergency!” Gee. Who would have guessed?

One last thing. On those Wolverines. They have fantastic, life-long connections with mates and offspring. From being studied by radio transmitters, fathers years later will hook up with mates, daughters and sons and spend weeks hunting and playing together. If a male shacks up with a pregnant female, when the usually two or less pure white offspring are born, the male will raise them as if his own. Cool! Pound for pound the Wolverine is the most powerful mammal on earth. Only about five hundred or so left in the continental United States. More in Canada, and some colonies still exist in the colder areas of Europe and the Norwegian areas…

Ravens in the Mist

Taking a break from weed eating, I laid down next to my UNIT crane to watch some spectacular clouds flow past high above me. One minute I’m hot and uncomfortable in the direct heat, the next moment the clouds covering the sun made me wish for a sweater. Hearing the cry of a Red-tailed Hawk, I get on one elbow to shade my eyes to spot him. He sounded close by. Indeed, he was just to my left maybe sixty feet above me. He was making his unique call because he was pissed. My two ravens, Heckle and Jeckle, were harassing him out of their ‘zone’.

As I watched, more and more ravens arrived to assist in running the hawk off. Taking turns nipping at his tail, and coming in like Me 109’s on a B-17 bomber, the hawk was impotent to stop them. His only recourse was to go for altitude. Swinging in large circles while evading the irritating ravens. he was soon a speck in the sky. As the hawk reached a certain height, the ravens flew off at high speed in every direction. Once the speck disappeared, my ravens were back in their oak tree happy as clams. It dawned on me suddenly that both species had tactics. At the lower altitudes the ravens ruled. Once the hawk achieved a superior height where his larger wings could sustain flight easier for him then the smaller winged ravens, he could dive at will on them. Well aware of this fact, the ravens hid. Sweet!

I’m filling my Power Wagon with boulders from Spring Canyon one sunny day. It’s hot, and I took a break from rolling the larger stones up a plank into my flatbed. Taking a seat under the shade of a large juniper, some movement across the narrow dry wash catches my eye. It was a large black tarantula doing battle with a large black hornet with bright red wings. As the large spider tried to maneuver away, the hornet or wasp would checkmate him from escaping. Ultimately the flying insect using only his legs to avoid the spiders mandibles and stinger accomplished his mission. To get underneath the spider to deliver a couple of stings to a weak spot in its abdomen thus disabling it. The wasp then started dragging the spider across the sand and pebbles to a hole about five feet away. It then disappeared into the abandoned gopher hole dragging the now curled up spider behind it.

I do some research on this flying insect. Its local name is, ‘Tarantula Hawk’. N.A.S.A. and other scientists have a lot of interest in this insect too. One thing that has them studying it is the reaction the hawks sting has on the spider. The venom doesn’t kill the arachnid. It just puts it into suspended animation. The hawk then lays its eggs onto the dormant spider for its young to feast on when the larvae hatch. If for some reason the eggs don’t hatch, Mr. Tarantula comes out of his torpid state, sometimes months later, no worse for the wear to go about his business. A neat thing to pull off this suspended animation with no side effects. Especially for space travel or putting someone on ice until a cure is found for a medical condition. I could see using it on Halloween. You dress up in a giant wasp outfit and nail the exwife as she answers the door. Wake her up when the kids are 19.

While rolling giant boulders off of hillsides off of Soledad Canyon, a favorite pastime as a kid, it takes four of my pals and myself to work a fifty ton job loose to start its slow roll, then pick up speed bouncing to the wide dry creek bed about a quarter mile below us. It was almost ready to go all on its own from erosion, so we just had to help it along a bit. As it finally leans past the point of no return to juggernaut down the steep hillside, a movement underneath has us all aghast. Forgetting to watch the boulders descent, we all stared at part of an exposed tunnel as the rock went over and down. For just the blink of an eye, a black carapace about the size of a bowling ball shot past the opening and down the same tunnel into the hill behind us. We were astonished. What was it? We all agreed it looked armored. It was so fast shooting out of the bright sunlight we didn’t get much of a look at it. It wasn’t a mammal. More like some sort of giant insect? Never saw its like since.

Rattlesnakes… I’ve never seen one over six foot, ever. Seen photos of twelve footers in Texas and such. Not around where I’ve hiked and hung out. We do have the Mojave Green, though. Its venom is about five times more potent then the Pacific Coast Rattler or the sidewinders. The big black desert rattlers don’t get long, but they can sure get fat. Seen them twelve inches around in their middles plenty of times and that’s without a fresh kill inside of them. We once came upon a big rattler trying to swallow a large jackrabbit. The rabbit was hung up going down for some reason. This snake had his jaws so stretched, his eyes were flat and wide open. He kept staring at us as he tried to get the rabbit down and get away at the same time. We watched him from some rocks it was so fascinating. He finally disgorged it and crawled off for a smaller banquet.

As far as rattles go, the most I’ve counted is fourteen. I read in a book that captive rattlers grow up to 20 rattles. It’s because they don’t move around much getting fed in their enclosures. In the wild they break off when they get too long and start anew.

Lots of people think that a rattle snake bite isn’t that deadly with serums and such. Not so. I’ve seen many an old rattle snake wound, starting on my own Uncle Curly’s hand, to the idiot ‘Snake Whisperer’ moron in front of the Agua Dulce hardware store. THEY NEVER HEAL. Nope. Every year my uncle would have to put up with the wound on the back of his hand sloughing off skin like a bad sun burn and having tremendous pains come and go constantly. Ditto for the snake handler. He’s gone from 310 pounds to 175. He also has a sunken wound in his chest that has skin paper thin where it keeps trying to patch the venom holes. No dice. You can see his blood coursing through the veins the skin is so thin and taut.

One of our best true life adventures was when my sons Ty and Noah were little. We used to pick the night of a full moon on a hot summer evening to go on black widow hunts. We had so many in our rock walls it was ridiculous. Taking flashlights and cans of spray ‘raid’, we all ways tried to get a new record on kills. I think one night we bumped off over 300. On one such night we witness a battle between an exceptionally large black widow and a big Jerusalem bug. You know, the big armored ‘potato bugs’ that are orange and black striped. Out of her nest in the crevice of two large wall stones, she wanted this bug big time. It was the first time I realized that some spiders can spin strands of sticky web from the ends of their legs. Illuminating the battle with our flashlights, it went on so long we sent Ty to the house for some Cokes.

Lassoing the big beetle like a cowboy would an errant steer, the spider would then race to a twig or small stone to tie up one of the bugs six legs. Then the spider would lasso another leg to try and repeat the process. In between the beetle was like a mini tank. Breaking the bonds it would try and get free. Nope, that spider would not quit. Finally the bug got tired. Lassoing three of its legs, the black widow raced in and delivered a killing bite to a point between its carapace and thorax. Adios beetle. We all acknowledged her victory. Just before we spayed the crap out of her…

When in Rome

It’s one of the oldest sayings around. Good advice, too, say if you were sitting next to a Roman Emperor such as the great Augustus. If at the arena? Cheer when they cheer and shout encouragement when they stand and shout. If you want to stay in favor. It’s the same as today. Now, if you were sitting next to Caligula, double so.

First of all, he was stone cold nuts. Most likely from all the lead in his food preparation bowls and dinner ware. Wine really brought out the lead in the big goblets wealthy Romans favored. Archeologists have know this for a long time. I just read about it in an old National Geographic I bought at Goodwill. Well, back to Caligula.

This guy did a lot of weird sexual stuff, but, you can read up on that, my story is about how Caligula wanted to get public support back the fast and easy way. A real big gladiatorial event at the Coliseum. To make sure it went off as planned, he enlisted the help of his favorite drinking companion, Publeus Maxima. The top ‘Beastiary’ in all the corners of Rome.

Now, Maxima was just about the best darn killer of any type animal you could ever want to see. The bigger and meaner, the better. Also, in the later stage of his career, he had his animal assistants drug the animals he was to face, just to ‘make sure’ he would always come out on top. There was a trick to it. You had to keep the animal at bay until you saw the tiger’s eyes glaze, or the elephant’s trunk dip a bit, then, in you went with spear or sword, and the crowd roared. Business as usual.

Oh, almost forgot. Maxima loved to torture his foes, every chance he got. He and Caligula were as two peas in a pod.

Since there could be 210 days of games in a year, the crowd was pretty jaded. Some ‘advisors’ in the Emperor’s crowd, came up with some ‘extras’ to really make the crowd love the day’s events. A day to beat all fights in the arena before it. They had so many games and so many various arenas and stadiums, it was a tall order. Taking in animals from poorer conquests, completely wiped out entire species for fodder for the games. If that wasn’t your cup of tea that day, why, travel to the stadium for the chariot races. A charioteer was the big Kahuna in those days. He could sway an election, just by sitting next to the person needing votes. Next were the gladiators that had won their freedom by various means, yet still fought. It was in their blood. They would retire all the time, but, the roar of the crowd and a boring life always brought them back, ‘for one last match’. Usually for huge bets from both sides in the event. Sometimes cities were exchanged over the outcomes. Last on the scale of all these were the Beastiaries. Well trained. Many tricks. The animals never really stood any sort of a chance against a good one. Maxima was ‘The best’. At the top of his game. He was even being talked about in the same sentences mentioning swordsmen and trident net men. A big honor. He might be a transition. Bring his mates respectable, so to speak.

Well aware of this fact, plus, backed by the Emperor’s wallet, and Pretorian guard, Maxima made sure he had all the best of the animals flowing into Rome daily. A special area was set up for the animal merchants to show their latest acquisitions. Maximus always had first selection. He especially looked for large, impressive looking specimens. They made for a better kill, but even more important, well fed, made for a slow, ponderous opponent. Who wants lean and quick. On one such procuring trip, Maximus spotted a magnificent beast. An older elephant, but quite impressive.

It towered over the other elephants it was herded with in a large plaza. He pointed it out to one of the Mahars. The report was good. “A fine beast. Well mannered. Unusual for an African elephant. Also, it had exceptional scarring. Would look great for a dramatic finish. Maximus bought it, plus all the other elephants. They were big and people deemed them quite dangerous. A bit drugged and against seasoned killers, they stood no chance at all. Comparable to some of the wrestling extravaganzas we have now a days. The animal men had everything under control. The hardest part was to make it seem dangerous and difficult. Not only were they trained killers, they were also excellent actors. Two day before the event, Maximus strolled through his row after row of grist for the mill. Also a showman, Maximus planned to end the day’s events as the last act. It would be him and the ‘Old Man’.

That’s the name all the feeders and handlers had given the old elephant. Coming up to the well-chained beast, Maximus spoke to the animal quietly. Letting him know who he would be facing. The next time they met, the Old Man would be in one of the large cages at an end of the arena. Awaiting their fates. The Old Man would eat well this night. And all the water he could hold. It would make him even slower. At least sixty years old, it might be a tough sell. Maximus knew how to fix that problem.

The games begin. The first event was really starting to piss Caligula off. A huge fake mountain on hidden wooden wheels, had been rolled out into the arena, blocking the view of many in the almost capacity crowd. Hey, even if the arena wasn’t your cup of tea, you had better attend for at least part of them. Tongues would wag. Not today. Posters and criers paid by the Emperors flunkies had promised a game to remember. The crowd was noisy taking its seats. A good sign. The booths for the painted prostitutes did record business. Rows of them filled every spare twist and turn on every level. It was a different world then. Food vendors and fan wavers were for rent. Anything you so desired could be bought, or rented.

Watching this mountain roll in was making the crowd quiet. The Emperor was not pleased. Once the fake mountain stopped, a doorway opened near the top and a Greek poet stepped out, blinking his eyes in the bright sun shining down into the center of the arena. The wealthy had large shade covers pulled down to give them relief. Not so the Greek. Starting to strum his lyre, the Greek started slow, then, feeling a love of his words turning the fickle crowd in his favor, he raised his voice, gaining strength from the response. In reality, the crowd was waiting for the punch line to this fiasco. They had not long to wait.

As Caligula himself rose to say something, more doors opened in the middle of the mountain. From them emanated lions. Also hit in the eyes by the bright sun, and, intimidated by the vast crowd moving all around them, they did what was only natural, they climbed to higher ground. Unaware of his new guests on the mountain, the Greek in a new burst of vigor, suddenly feels something rub his leg. Looking down, his scream of terror brought down the house. The Emperor sat back down, a contented look on his face. The Greek was soon torn to pieces and eaten by the starved lions. It had been a big hit! The day started off perfect!

The day picked up. After an intermission and some heavy drinking, the crowd settled in for the end of the show. Now a bit cooler and their blood lust abated, they were ready for the chaser act, then, off to home and twenty slaves to tend every need. As Maximus entered the arena, the crowd roared its approval. He always gave a good show. The crowd was well aware of his opponent. The Old Man was the last elephant alive. As each of his pen mates went to their doom, the Old Man watched with interest how they met their fate. Now, it was to be his turn.

As Maximus gave the sign, the gate swung up, and the Old Man was goaded from behind by heated metal spikes. Smoke came off of his hide as he trumpeted and tried to spin in the tight confines of his corral. Nope, it was forward or more red hot burns. Time to die. Trotting out into the center of the arena, the Old Man blinked his eyes in the bright sun, then stood still, awaiting his fate. Maximus knew his craft. Trotting around the elephant in tighter and tighter circles, he would then switch direction and run in the opposite direction. His two swords glinting in the fading afternoon sunlight. Like a hundred times before, he made his move. First, hamstring the beast, then, play to the crowd before the thrust into the throat area. A fast, clean kill.

The Old man timed him. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Maximus was grabbed, then crushed by a rolling forehead, mashing him into a pulpy unrecognizable mass. The Old Man wasn’t just any old elephant. He was a former War elephant. Bred and trained for decades by the Romans’ old foes, the Carthaginians, the old man had waited for his moment, then, spinning on one foot in the loose sand of the arena, caught Maximus cold. Unfazed by the crowd, or the smell of the blood seeping out of the raked sand, the Old Man now stood and swayed, seemingly content. At sight of his friend being smashed to death, Caligula ordered five lions to be set loose on the beast. NOW! Rolling in the five most starved lions in steel cages, their trap doors were raised and the animals goaded out. Spotting the elephant, two of the lions raced towards him, then, slowed as a team to stalk. The Old Man backed up against the arena wall, then started swinging his trunk from side to side. The lions sprang at the same time. As the two leaped on his back, the other lions came in on the exposed sides of the great beast. Sinking in their sharp claws and fangs, they suddenly found themselves being crushed to death. Slamming his one side into the cement of the arena, the Old Man then rolled completely over, crushing two more of his tormenters. As the surviving lions backed away, the old man, leaking blood in rivers, and having only one eye, then did something unbelievable.

Ignoring the hesitating lions, the old torn beast, turned, faced the Emperor, trumpeted, then BOWED. The crowd went BERSERK. Caligula was crazy, but not that crazy. Waving for the lions to be driven off the sand, he then tossed down a garland. A special wreath signifying the Emperors favor. From that day forth, no elephant was ever killed in the Coliseum again.

Mongolian Death Worm

In scientific circles, ALLERGORHAI-HORHAI. About two foot long and shaped like a sausage, rumored to achieve even larger lengths. Said to have the ability to give an electric shock, amped enough to kill a camel and its rider. Also, emits a shrill shriek, just before its shoots out venom in a directed stream. Hmm… The real ‘Indiana Jones’, Roy Chapman Andrews, just returning from a trek in the vast Gobi desert, had found out about the creature from his head camel driver the hard way. His driver, named Tserin, should have his own book. Tserin would leave weeks ahead of Andrews’ expeditions, to prepare the tents and camps for Chapman’s large party of explorers, and, usually Roy’s first wife, Yvette. A real kick in the pants as women in the field go. More on her later. Chapman wanted to save a weeks travel by cutting across an area in the Gobi, that Tserin would not put one toe into…Chapman had to give up on that idea. Tserin told him to get another camel train master. He wasn’t going into that area because of the ‘Horhai’. In some ways, I0 find Tserin even more facinating then Chapman. Roy had some of his supplies stolen and one of his men killed on his first expedition outside of China and the protection of the Chinese army. This was in the early 1920’s. The Chinese General wouldn’t go into the Gobi, so, he suggested Tserins band of nomads. Chapman hires him to get his goods back. And, to bring back the murderers for justice. A save face deal. In less then a month, Chapman is contacted by the General that the thieves are in hand, and, at his very compound. “Come collect them and pay your reward!” Chapman always travelled with an extremely bulky and heavy, short wave radio, that took up an entire Dodge travelall car. It was worth it, countless times…So, bringing his entire expedition of nine such cars to see justice, they park outside the palace in Peking, to await the general and to watch a hotly contested polo game going on between some hard riding tribesmen. As the game came closer to the parked cars at the end of the long field, they catch a look at what Tserin and his friends are using as a ball. One of the bandit’s heads. The rest were in a pile, awaiting another game, most likely. Roy used Tserin exclusively after this incident. So, when a man like this won’t go into an area, you had best pay attention. Yvette, Roy’s wife, really wanted to see one of these Death Worms. She also wanted to bring one back alive. Roy shot all of his specimens. Not Evette. She would find the babies left by these, ‘hunts’, then nurse them along, turning them into pets. Roy would get steamed. Until her hobby saved all their lives. Taking in a baby Vulture she found in a canyon, she would set it to perch on a fifty cal. machine gun they had mounted on a car’s back seat to ward off bandits. She would feed it on this gun, twice a day from animals Roy brought back. In a dispute at a watering hole with another tribe, one of the headmen noticed the Vulture perched on the gun and ordered his men back. It was too much of a bad omen… Since the hot desert sun heated up everything, the camel riding tribes wore a long, robe-like garment called a ‘Del’. Underneath they kept all their weapons out of the sun. So, you never knew what the hell they had underneath. You knew for sure they had a long curved sword. That’s how they settled all personal disputes. After a few expeditions, tribes folk would travel long distances to Roy’s camps. They had heard of the doctors Roy usually had along for specimen study and such. Not really medical doctors, they still did amputations, and set broken bones. You can’t have enough friends in the Gobi. Some desert storms can easily bury cars up to their roofs overnight with sand. Ditto for quick sand and fine flowing sand that would overheat all the Dodge cars instantly. With over a hundred and twenty five camels in one of his trains, Tserin would pull them all out by camel power. These men took so many crates of fossils and specimens out of China and Mongolia, entire warehouses are still full of them in countless museams, all over the Eastern part of the US. NEVER OPENED. Yep, just like at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, but this is real. Chapman never did find a Death Worm, but, I did a search on the web. A large Chinese scientific team is heading out this summer, to try and find one…

The Swozie’s Ride

I’m at the Acton market, years ago. I’m squatting at the magazine rack as I let the kids shop for frozen food. I was covering meals for a couple of weeks and I DON’T COOK. Screw that. I’ve told my kids many a time, if they come home and find me stirring some pot on the stove, to get my .12 gauge and blow my head off. It’s a Doppleganger, taking my life over. Kill it fast and get it over with. As I’m flipping through a ‘Country Living’, I hear some ladies in line say, “You know, up there past the murder house!” My ears perk up. Murder house? Then, the cashier adds, “The Knotts Berry place on Shannonvalley!” Huh? That was my place! I listen as another guy in line says, “Yeah, the old guy up there shot five people in a home invasion!” Now I’m really interested. I shot five people? I was sort of proud. Plus, with this kind of baloney going around, who would worry about burglars…What had actually happened was the shooting of a pack of wild dogs that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. Coming in through our front gate a sneaking home Tejas had left open, the dogs had already killed all of our geese and had worked their way down to our mules and horse corrals. A pal, Cowboy Greg, had left me in charge of three of his horses as he wooed a new sweetheart. She turned out to be a daughter of Satan, but, that’s another story. These dogs were hard to see in the dark. It was five am on a Sunday morning, so, the sun was’t up yet. I chase the dogs down the dirt drive in a nightgown and untied boots. I hit ’em with some .12 gauge from my short barrel pump. They don’t go down. DAMN! Birdshot! My son’s Noah and Ty run with flashlight carrying the double odd buckshot box. I jack out the crap rounds, then reload on the run. I nail one of the pit bull mix bastards and he still comes back up. I take him to pump city. He stays down…The cops come, tell me to just bury the dogs, the story goes around town and changes from dogs to people. I say nothing. I like the notoriety…I’m at my mailbox a few days later. Darryl Swozie stops his battered pump truck. As usual, his exhaust is making that death rattle wheeze when he takes his foot off the throttle. He waves me to his window, then informs me he knows who owns the stray dog pack. Its from a halfway house for child molestors and creeps, just over the hill towards Aqua Dulce. He also says, that for fifty bucks donation, he’ll take care of the problem. I give him the two twentys in my pocket. His clan is one to stay on good terms with. Being nocturnal, and very numerous, I always stayed on their good side…Sheriffs come by to visit me a couple of days later. Seems someone in an old septic pumper truck had chained the gate closed at a County halfway house over the hill, stuck a septic hose through a side laundry window at three am, then, filled the house with sewage. When the people ran outside, gun shots fired in the air, drove them right back in. Looked like they were going to have to close the house down. My name had come up for some reason during their investigation. I told them I hadn’t a clue on what they were talking about…From then on, when the Swozies needed some water, I filled their Sparkletts bottles gladly…


A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Dave Baral, went in with me to buy some calves from Lev Arklin at his ranch next to Big Rock Creek. Out of the bunch, I picked the Longhorn with the spots and attitude. Only about eighty pounds, they were still a handful. Just before loading them for transport, naturally, mine makes a break for it. Before catching it, a couple of guys at the ranch had it in their minds to just shoot the little prick. Some pretty good shots missed him four times. He ended up trotting back to his pals. I named him Lucky. Once a prick, always a prick has been my experience with troublemakers. Lucky filled that bill. He hated dogs. As he grew larger, he was able to kick a dog farther and farther. Steers can kick sideways, different from a horse. Dogs that have been used to hassling horses, find this out the hard way. He once nailed a Doberman so hard, it did two full somersaults before hitting the side of the barn…When the dog jumped up, Lucky was on top of him like Dempsey would do, nailing him with his head as the dog staggered up. Good thing for the dog he didn’t have horns yet. He literally knocked the crap out of that dog. It had lost it in midair and its own launched bowels sprayed across my freshly painted barn in an odd pattern. Dots and dashs of dog crap. It was almost as bad as the time my Bullmastiff, Dozer, nailed me with coyote waste. Dozer had him by the stomach and was shaking the coyote like it was a doll. As I ran up with a garden hose to break it up, one shake gave me a shot out ot that coyotes ass that hit me so hard and fast, I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. The spray started around my navel on my sweatshirt, then, caught me evenly all the way up to my forehead. Yep, in the mouth and one of my eyes…Lucky ends up at the Haunted Ranch, a few miles away, up a canyon with a spring that bubbles out of the ground. A rare thing in Acton. The spring is how we used to scare tourists. A friend used to give trail rides from her dude ranch in Aqua Dulce to city folks. Sometimes I would lead one. Being a kid, I would make all sorts of stuff up to make the ride more fun. I changed my stories all the time, but, the gist of it is, the horses wouldn’t go up the canyon because of all the bees covering that spring well head. There was a pipe feeding from it down to a small pond, so, the horses could water there. If you headed one up into the tight canyon, the bees would attack. All of my friend’s horses knew all about those bees, so, after one of my ‘they were all murdered’ type tales, I would add, “Go on ahead if you think I’m lying. Even the horses are spooked of what hides up there!” I would then take the closest cute girl’s halter and start to lead her horse on to the trail. The horse would toss me loose and get wild eyed, every time. It’s also why I was fired. Anyhow, the steers all loved it up there just below the spring. They grew tall and wide. Of all of them, Lucky had the horns. About forty inches wide and hooked on the ends. With Longhorns, the females have the wider rack. They bunch the calves in a circle, then put their rear ends against them, facing whatever threatens them head to head with the other cows. The bulls? Their horns are for one thing only. Killing anything that pisses them off. Longhorns fight for keeps. Especially in mating season. Their horns are stocky and hooked. Pointed on the ends. Just like the ones Lucky grew…Its time to take them to the butchers. A good butcher will quarter it, then, take a quarter for his services. You’ll have so many steaks, rips, roasts and hamburger, you won’t miss it, take my word for it. The guts alone will fill a Toyota pickup bed. Amazingly enough, coyotes and ravens can clear a pile you thought was huge in about a week. Or, backhoe and fill over. I say let the animals get a break. Lucky and his pals were going to another place to be bumped off, so, Baral hired some cowboys to load them onto a trailer for their last ride. I went along to say goodbye to Lucky. He didn’t like me after the ball removal ordeal, another story, but, he loved Leo. Leo would ride him all the time. These men who had chased him into a rounded steel pen of round rails, he didn’t like at all. Not having horses didn’t help. Also, they brought a long horse trailer for transport. Not a ‘stock’ trailer. A big mistake. Getting Lucky into the trailer was amazingly easy. He ran right in. As one of the cowboys went to swing the horse trailer door shut, Lucky did a buck into the air since the ceiling was for horses heads, spun in mid air, then, Lucky put it into gear with his head down as soon as his hoofs hit the trailer deck. As the man tried to latch the door, Lucky punched his head into it at about seventy miles an hour. It took the door right into the man, knocking him cold as it flung him backwards into the steel railings. From his straight shot out of the trailer, Lucky took leaping bounds straight for the steel railings. Putting down his head at the last second, his horns went in the gap between rails. His momentum and power, took him right through, bending the rails like they were copper. Now outside of the round pen, Lucky leaped, twisted and turned like he had an invisible rider on him, then took off in the thick brush. Nothing but the Sierra Pelonas, then Yosemite ahead of him. He did it. He got away! He sure lived up to his name…


Being raised amongst hundreds, if not thousands as a kid, I would study them everyday. It was a matter of survival. Now, lots of doctors and psychologists have many reasons why a person becomes a psycho. They’re all way off the mark. Most of these creatures are BORN that way guys, sorry, no ones fault. Usually a genetic trait, or, some injury in the womb maybe. Spending a lot of time in juvenile facilities, Sheriff work camps, boys homes, half way houses, ‘special homes’, and such, I feel quite qualified to remark on the subject. Running into one of the top ten psychos I’ve known, recently, really got the old brain humming. So, lets get the ball rolling on memory lane…If there was ever a complete opposite of the ‘Horse Whisperer’, this guy was it. I first met him at Father Garret’s Home for Wayward Boys, off Soledad Cyn, back in the early sixties. Since he was always screwing around with the power, he got the name, ‘Sparky’…I lost track of Sparky after getting transferred to another home for nut case kids up in Lebec. That’s a whole different story. The next time I see Sparky is at a big horse ranch up Vasquez Cyn in Saugus. Like most successful psychos, he didn’t look like one at all. Sort of like a young Gary Cooper, but not as tall. I was at the ranch cutting weeds around the stables. He was there to take care of a little problem the owners had. Yakking it up like we had just seen each other, Sparky wonders if I would like a better job as an assistant working for him. I ask what the job is, and what I can make. He tells me ten grand for five minutes work, I’ll get ten percent at first, then, a lot more later. TEN GRAND! He had me hooked. He has a conference with the owners in their kitchen, then winks at me as he comes outside. He tells me to go to his van and get a small black bag, then, meet him in the green stable. So, I do just that. No one is inside the small, well kept, six stall metal building. It’s almost new, and has concrete floors. Nice. He then opens a paddock door to lead out a nice looking horse. It just has a rope halter for control. Now, I’m about seventeen years old. I figure in experiences, I’m actually about a hundred and fifty. Nothing could ever surprise me was my attitude. I was about to learn how wrong I was. Tying a loop of the halter to a post, Sparky then opens his small, medical looking bag. Like a vet would carry. Inside was just a twenty five foot, heavy duty orange extension cord. It had a large alligator clip on the female end. Taking a bucket of water, he then splashes the horse, hooks up the clip to the horses lower lip, then walks over to an electric outlet. He tells me to get off the concrete just five seconds before he plugs in the power cord. The horse drops like a rock in one second. Sparky unplugs the cord, wraps it up, puts it back in his little black bag, takes the rope halter off the now dead as a door nail horse, then, smiles at me and says, “Easy money!” I try and act like I see this every day. One thing about psychos, never act better than them. EVER. A bit of advice…How could such a thing happen? Well, rich people are rich for a reason. They will do ANYTHING not to be poor. Simple. So, you invest in some nag that can’t win a race, or, won’t drop a good colt, and, presto, a call goes out to a Sparky type to get your dough back from the INSURANCE on said nag. If you have a really proficient nut like Sparky, he knows how to give a heart attack with no ‘evidence to the contrary’ and every one is happy. Except the horse…I passed on the job. I didn’t tell him that though. Just gave him a made up phone number and hoped to never see him again…To give you the correct low down on a Psychopath is simple. In his/her mind, ANYTHING THEY DO can be justified. Get it?

The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea

My Uncle Wimpy is on deck of a big LST Naval supply ship, looking through some big binoculars at their next port of call, Tininan atoll. Like some gigantic jaw of a prehistoric monster, Tinian was a monstrous volcano that had shot up off the ocean floor, blew its top off, and left a perfect five mile around cove for ships to hide from storms in. Since the inside of the rocky bowl had only a tiny stretch of beach, all incoming vessels dropped anchor at the far reaches, then, worked their way to empty piers to unload as their turn came. Now, Naval vessels aren’t cabin cruisers. In the blasting hot Pacific sun, anything you touch, burns the skin. No leaning on a railing for a quick butt. Burn a hole right into your arm. My Uncle Wimpy was on board to put into place a new unloading proceedure the Navy had sent him to school for. Having already fought in WW1, he had been running drydocks for Battlewagons…So what if it was a supply ship. He was back in the fight. He was already half-deaf from decades of twelve inch and sixteen inch guns going off, so, it was the best he could pull off. Now, as they slowed to enter the protected anchorage, my Uncle looked down and noticed how the water changed abruptly as the big ship left the black of the deep ocean, into the sandy bottom of the old volcano cone. You could see clear to the bottom in the light blue, crystal clear water. All the sunken Jap ships we wasted taking the place, were marked with bobbing warning bouys. He said there were a lot of ’em to circumvent, so, they didn’t drop anchor until past midday. Now, as the ships ahead of you unloaded, you moved closer to the docks until your turn came. My Uncle set up these giant rolling racks and went to work unloading medical supplies, food crates, water tanks, all sorts of stuff. After this was accomplished, you moved your now empty vessel farther out to the smaller docks to fill up with ballast water to bring your deck lower, plus, await new orders. Unloaded, the ship was sitting about twenty five feet higher. Sailors off duty, especially the on board Marine guards all Naval ships have on board, took to diving off the stern. No one cared until a man hurt his neck and the captain forbid any more nonsense. It was back to waiting for shore leave. Drinking warm beer and playing some baseball. Better then the ship and the constant heat. These ships are all steel. Forget comfort. Even the officers sweated, but they sweated like gentlemen. The bellbottom Navymans’ pants were designed for them to be rolled up for scrapping paint and swabbing the decks. Not for a fashion statement. Once my Uncle’s duties were over, he pretty much had nothing to do, so, he did what all enlisted men do in such a circumstance. He avoided officers and gambled a lot in lower areas of the vast holds. Prior to leaving the harbor, my Uncle was up top, with about ten other sailors, kibitzing with some off-duty marines who were shirtless, and fishing off the stern. One of the marines, fresh off duty, snuck the men some warm bottled beer. A no-no, but, drink it fast and toss the evidence over the side. As one bottle flew after another, one of the marines said almost under his breath, “Man, that looks just like a giant floating eye!” He then pointed at what he was looking at. The other men took a look, shading their eyes with their caps. Another man tossed an empty bottle in the direction they were all looking while telling them they had heat stroke. As the bottle hit the water, in the blink of an eye, they all saw it at the same time. It was now crimson red, and, it was sort of fluttering under the water, closer to them. It was indeed an eye. But now, it wasn’t hidden by the creatures ability to camouflage. From a light blue, it was now an angry red. Maybe twenty foot below the surface, it now floated up a bit and towards the men, even closer. Its torso was HUGE. As the big ship swung at anchor, so did the creature. Now, the end of its torso was hidden by the black of the open sea, then, it would swing back into sight as the ship swung with the current. The eye looked to be twice the size of a dinner plate. It stared at the men from about ten foot under water at one point. It stared back with intelligence. Suddenly, it shot out the what looked to be, short, stubby tentacles from just in front of that eye, out in front of it, making them go completely under the hull of the ship. The two whips went even farther. It was a giant squid. But not like any sort the men had heard of, even in tall tails. This ones body was massive, like a truck my Uncle said, and the whips had to of shot out over a hundred feet, easy. As a meal horn sounded, the beast suddenly shot backwards into the black of the deep ocean. So quick, they all stared at each other in amazement…No one took sneak swims after that…


Back in the late forties, most rail road switches had to be operated manually. It was pretty much the same, all over the world. India has the most rail layed of all countries. They still use steam for propultion in some areas. Since all those, ‘out of the middle of nowhere’ switches needed to be switched, men lived next to those switches. Some, if lucky, had a telegraph to keep in touch. Others, went by strict schedules. Rain or shine. Those switches had to go exactly on time or people would die. Hundreds of miles from a city, in South Africa, lived such a switch man. He had worked that switch all through World War 2. All alone. His only source of contact left by the hanging mail pouch the train would hook on its’ way past. His mail and the surrounding villages’ mail was tossed out the mail car’s open doors as the train flew past. He would get a break in the beggining for one week in Johanesburg. That had long gone away…Now, the old man was worried about losing his job, and his home. Slowly but surely, all the railroad switches were becoming automated. Plus, the old man wasn’t getting any younger. Out on the fringe of a huge African desert, winds blowing at a hundred miles an hour, wild life coming past at night, villagers and tribesmen angry at the railroad threatening him at times. It was a tough, lonely existence, but it was all he had. One morning, the old man hears an odd sound emanating from a dry gully, just past the long emergency rail siding past his shack. He uses his cane to make his way over to investigate. The sounds were being made from a tiny, barely alive, baboon. The old man put him inside his worn, ragged coat pocket, then went about is switching duties. Thus began a friendship and a working partnership that few could equal. As the old man’s health deteriorated, the baboon would help him into an old pull cart, then, take the old man to the switches. Being ten times stronger then the man once it reached maturity at around 80lbs, the monkey also took over the manual switching part of the job. Sure, they had their spats. But besides being a good trainman, the monkey was also loyal. Many a passing troop of baboons would call out to him over the years, tempting him to join. Nope, the only troop he acknowledged was the old man…One morning, a train track repair crew on a short bob engine pull into the siding to await the passing of the main line train, while in the middle of a track inspection run. Sitting in their idling train, the repair crew watch an odd event transpire. A large baboon, wearing a tattered engineer’s cap, scampered over to the switches, puts his ear on the tracks, then, hearing what he wants to hear, WORKS THE SWITCHES. Hiding in the brush as the train blows on past, tossing the mail and supplies, the baboon then picked up the articles, and went back to the shack. He then returned, and reset the switch. The train men were astounded. Once back at the train yard, the story spread. A train representative was sent to investigate. He found the old man so crippled, he couldn’t leave his bed. His friend had to be tranquilized for them to get near the sick old man. Not long after, the switch was automated. The company wrote off the old shack. The incident was forgotten…by the big shots. Not the train men. Every day, for years, the train men tossed off food and a small bag for the switchman’s shack. Fuck corporate; they wouldn’t turn their backs on a fellow trainman. He was a real pal…

Animal Tails

When pissed, the first thing a chimp does it go for your eyes. This way, he can then rip your genitals off, bite off your fingers, and break a couple of things, while you stagger around blind. My Uncle Melvin (Melvin Koontz, owned a trained original M.G.M. lion) bunked with me for almost a year while he slowly lost a medical battle. I used to drive him to the Veterans’ hospital on my learners permit in my mom’s giant 1952 Olds. He used to reach his foot over and stomp it on mine, while yelling, “COME ON, WHILE WE’RE YOUNG!” He had stories for every scar and hole in his body. Through him, I got the job feeding the big cats for Ted Derby, way up in Soledad Cyn. Anyhow, Uncle Melvin told me about this dog, his brother, my Uncle Wimpy, had, that was really something. Seems this Irish Terrier named Spinner (for always chasing its’ stub tail) sort of made pals with Jackie, the M.G.M. lion… Oh, Jackie was the name my Uncle gave him; the studio called him something else…As a young pup, Spinner played with infant chimps at a circus wintering town growing up, so was a real hard ass with a heart ten times the size of his chest. One day, he got into a big top training cage while Jackie was getting a work out for some cameramen from publicity. He would dance in and out, nipping Jackie, but not really biting. Screwing around. Jackie picked up on it. Jackie also timed him and did a quick spin, nailing Spinner in mid-leap with one of his giant paws. Spinner hit the bars like a big rubber ball, ringing the cage like a bell, then bounced at an odd angle into some raked hay in the urine ring all training cages have. Jackie turned to go back to business. Spinner comes out of the hay and nails Jackie with his terrier teeth, right in his big brown mane. My Uncle said it was so funny, seeing that dog hanging off the lions face that way, all the trainers came to see what all the laughing was about. The lion finally caught him with a paw and dragged him off, growling the entire time. Jackie never put his claws out. That’s why the dog was never really hurt. My Uncle told me it was really something to see. Too bad Spinner also chased cars…An animal that made my Uncle a lot of dough was his trick Zebra. The clowns used it a lot since it had a good temperment, most of the time. For money, my Uncle would bet his Zebra could kick a two foot two by four, three in a row. With money down, that Zebra would kick sideways as my Uncle tossed it and make it spin for a hundred foot or more. Now, lots of people think the lion is the King of the beasts. I’d say the King Cobra. Even elephants walk around them. Even in the world of big cats, maybe third. In a fight between a Tiger and a Lion, it usually goes to the Tiger. Tigers are solitary. Lions live in prides. Lions have pecking orders, so, will fight to a point, then back off. Not Tigers. It’s always manno de manno. Plus, Tigers carry more weight then Lions. But, that’s another factor making the top dog in the cat world the Leopard. Uncle Melvin slept in the same bed with his favorite big cat. He got tossed out of Glendale for it reaching through the backdoor milkman slot for the milkman’s hand. Every big cat slugfest between a big Leopard and another big cat, ended up with the Leopard cleaning the other cat’s blood off its’ fur. Too FAST. Too AGILE. Half the bulk but twice the power. The only other mammal to put some money on is the Grizzily bear. A member of the pig family, under that thick, matted coat is a body of gristle and muscle, going ten foot on its’ hind legs and coming into the ring at 1100 pounds. If out of control, a bear won’t back off from ANYTHING. Oh, its to the death? A Grizzily will accommodate. One animal no one ever, ever, ever trained. A Wolverine. A Wolverine regularly chases bears off their kills. Wolves hate them for the same reason. Wolverines will go psycho and glory in the fight, screw the meat…Now, of all his animals, Uncle Melvin loved his Giraffes the best. I once asked him why he didn’t take his Giraffes into the pond to wash them like the elephants. He told me they would tip over and drown. Too top heavy. I thought he was joking. He told me to watch them drink. They would splay their legs out as wide as they could, then streeeetttcchhh their long tongues to the water…He also told me camels pissed backwards. I found out he was right about that the hard way…