Report from the Badlands

Welcome to "Got Merc?, California"

An astute reader has brought to my attention a matter of humongous importance, one that will launch the biggest thing to happen to New Idria since the heydays of the mercury mine when it was tearing up the mountain full-tilt during World War II.

The reader said that according to recent news stories the California Milk Processing Board — a bunch of ad men for the state’s dairy industry — are desperately seeking a town that is willing to change its name to “Got Milk?”

“I can picture it now,” wrote the reader. “You, Kemp, Mayor Orange and all the duly self-appointed council standing around the Badillac with big rib-eating grins under milk mustaches! You should contact these people right away.”

The director of the milk board was quoted as saying, “What I want is to be so happy to pick up a newly printed California map and run my finger down a road and see Got Milk? California.”

They sent their proposition and black Got Milk? T-shirts to some 20 different town mayors in the state, and one of them was the mayor of San Juan Bautista.

The entire town of San Juan, including the mayor, rejected the idea. Many mission town folks actually said the idea was “stupid.” Now why is that? San Juan could have used the extra tourism, not to mention a spanking new Milk Museum, which goes with the deal. They could put it next to new Castro-Breen Adobe funland.

The Got Milk? name change proposal caused a huge flap in the small rice-growing town of Biggs, north of Sacramento. When the mayor of Biggs responded favorably to the milk guys’ letter, she almost got tarred and feathered by local citizens.

But I was glad those towns turned it down because I was anxious to bring the idea up at our next Orange Acres City Council meeting. Alas, my glory was eclipsed by Mayor Orange the Cat, who walked into the meeting, late of course, wearing a large drooping Got Milk? T-shirt. He had a milk mustache on too. What a corrupt cornball he is.

He showed the council the letter from the milk board guys proposing that we change the name of New Idria to Got Milk? Freshmen councilmen Phony BooHoo and Crony Minutia thought it was a swell idea.

“Does that mean we get free T-shirts, too?” asked Phony.

“I want to get a lifetime of free milk!” said tea-totaler Minutia.

Everyone else, with the exception of Orange, thought it was a horrible idea.

Former councilman Kemp said the concept of equating a toxic, mercury-soaked wasteland like New Idria to anything as wholesome as milk was “a sham.”

My sister Mel, the Tambourine Virtuoso and City Manager, took it more personally.

“I’m not changing my mustache for anyone,” she said, twirling her fake handlebar stash. She had trouble growing a real one, so she finally just affixed a phony one above her lip.

“And I’m certainly not going to dip it in milk,” she added with a scowl.

“But what about the free Milk Museum?” I implored them. “We could build it right next to the New Idria Duct Tape Museum. Think of all the hoards of tourists bringing tons of children our way!”

A long, impregnated silence followed.

Even though he’s not a councilman anymore, Kemp motioned to not change the name of New Idria and Mayor Orange threw down the gavel almost before the unanimous “no” vote was taken. Then the cat licked his milk mustache off, squirreled out of the droopy free T-shirt and flew out his cat door buck-naked.

The Got Milk? proposition died a quick death up here. But not the idea of a name change. We have now been approached by the California Acid Mine Drainage Advisory

Board — a lobby who’s motto is “Mercury! The metal you can drink!” — and negotiations are going good, as long as we can keep Mayor Orange under wraps. The acid mine drainage guys would probably think we were a bunch of crackpots if they knew our mayor was a demented tabby.

We took a family town portrait for the acid mine drainage lobby, and we posed for it on the Bridge Over Troubled Water. We were all sporting orange mustaches, even Mel and Orange (who looked like an otherwise normal cat), and we put a caption on it: “Got Merc?”

Now that’s a catchy town name, don’t you think?

San Carlos Creek Update: The rain made the orange creek run clear for one day. It was weird! But things went back to normal when it clouded up again with gooey acid mine drainage on Sunday. When we took our town photo, we saw a mutant two-headed frog in the toxic waterway. Kemp said there was “something strange” about the amphibian, and he wasn’t talking about his two heads.

Then we read about how San Benito County is testing for microcontaminants like pharmaceuticals and hormones in the groundwater, which don’t break down from sewage, and how those chemicals cause the “feminization” of aquatic creatures.

So now we realize that our creek frogs are not only two-headed from methylmercury, but they are also hermaphrodites because of microcontaminants. Cheers!

Comments about the Badlands? Email Kate “lobbyist greaser” Woods at [email protected]

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