Report from the Badlands

Where Are the Civil Liberties Cops?

Oh joy, it’s Christmas in the toxic wasteland of New Idria. You know it’s that time of year again when the trailer kitchenette floor is covered in wall-to-wall mud instead of two inches of cinnabar-orange dust.

We broke out our “Xmas tree” from storage: the five-foot diameter paper-mache mace ball that we hang each year above the Bridge Over Troubled Water. The mace ball also serves as our “Census Taker/Religious Pamphlet Peddler Eradicator.” This year we decorated the gnarly spike ball with the parasitical green mistletoe that’s strangling our cottonwood trees and a pile of gaily-red two-day shut-off notices from PG&E. Very festive.

And a good time was had by all. Hey, it beats stringing popcorn and cranberries.

But what really makes this Badlands Xmas so unique is that this year we decided to test the clout of the American Civil Liberties Union, which seems to be weirdly silent about the Constitutional rights we just lost to the Patriot Act and that brave new cluster-glut of a bureaucracy called the Homeland Security Agency.

I’m sure you know what’s coming: yes, a Badlands Nativity scene.

Every year we hear on the news that the ACLU is once again challenging a school or local government for setting up a Christian Nativity scene on public property and thereby violating the separation of church and state. You see, the government isn’t supposed to do that because it shoves a religious belief down our gullets.

(By the way, in case you don’t approve of the separation of church and state, just remember why some of your ancestors, the Puritans, came to this gin joint in the first place – to escape government persecution for practicing their own religion. That’s probably why freedom of religion was the first amendment to be made.)

We decided to set up our own Nativity Scene in the Town Square – that is, in front of the dead 1972 Badillac DeVille, forever up on blocks – outside the Orange Acres Community Town Hall and Wreck Room Trailer. We wanted to see if the ACLU would come after us for violation of the first amendment. It was an experiment of sorts.

We had the manger all set up – an old mining slough box padded in dried up foxtails. Naturally, we couldn’t agree on what Baby Jesus should look like because we all have different concepts of God. My Sister Mel the Tambourine Virtuoso wanted to put a nice cuddly Cabbage Patch Doll in the manger.

I thought that was absurd. It would be much more accurate, I believed, to place an all-knowing gray alien doll in the manger.

Kemp wanted his Austin Powers nerf head to go in.

We were on a tight budget. In fact, we had no budget at all so we had to rely on whatever materials were available on the ranch. Our prospects looked grim.

We squabbled all day over who would get to pick out the Baby Jesus. In the end, Mel’s doll won.

The final touch to the display was when three of the welfare bum dogs went to sleep in front of the scene. We put their dog bowls on their heads as they snored. The three magi!

We waited for two weeks for the ACLU to come and shut us down, but they never did. Finally, one morning as I was strolling down the banks of the polluted orange creek, I was horrified to see the Cabbage Patch doll floating in the toxic waterway. I grabbed the sopping orange doll, turned and ran up the hill to the Nativity Scene and my worst fears were realized.

Drooped over the side of the manger was a striped orange tail. Mayor Orange the Cat had taken over the makeshift crib as his personal bed.

“Now I’m really puzzled why the ACLU didn’t come after us,” said former Councilman Kemp, “for subjecting others to such bad art.”

Mel played “Away in the Manger” for everyone. And Orange still hasn’t left the manger.

Jack-Booted Thug of the Week: PG&E, for continuing to charge us top rates while the power was down in the Badlands for three days. That’s larceny and it’s illegal, but we can’t fight them because they’ve got 50 more lawyers than us. And that violates due process.

San Carlos Creek Update: Attention all outdoor sportsmen! We are starting the New Idria Field and Stream Club. To attract members, we are giving away one million dollars to the first angler who can snag a real live fish (NOT mutant) in the orange creek.

So far, the catches have been two discarded tires, one ancient, rusted out mercury flask…and a lawn jockey.

Comments about the Badlands? Email Kate “Freedom FROM Religion” Woods at [email protected]

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