Report from the Badlands

Radio Free K-ORANGE

The New Year brings changes – and not all of them are as welcomed as, say, a new mayor.
The New Year brings changes – and not all of them are as welcomed as, say, a new mayor.

On the downside of 2003, my favorite late night radio show will never be the same. Coast-to-Coast host Art Bell is retiring after some 15 years of entertaining us insomniacs every night for four hours at a time. The topics were of the utmost importance: UFOs, government conspiracies, ghosts, time-travel.

People would call in to Art, who broadcasted from his desert home in Parumph, Nev., and he would have weird guests on the show too. Many claimed to be in contact with aliens, like this dame he interviewed not too long ago. Here’ a sample segment from that show:

ART: Why are the Grays abducting people?

DAME: They need to interbreed with us.

ART: Why?

DAME: Their sex organs have atrophied and they have no more emotions. They want ours.

ART: I see. And what will the results of this hybrid-breeding program be?

DAME: Our combined races will be really smart, like 260 IQs.

ART: Oh, I like that.

DAME: We’ll have bigger heads, but no hair.

ART: No hair? Oh, I don’t like that. I like hair.

DAME: Well, they tried but they just couldn’t make the hair thing work.

ART: Or maybe they’re just jealous of our hair.

See? Highly amusing stuff. And I’m not making it up. Many a would-be lonely night I’ve spent in New Idria listening to Art. I started tuning in to Art Bell in 1992, when his show was called Dreamland. Years later, Fresno picked up on his show, enabling us New Idrians to get better reception. The show got more popular and more syndicated by the year. But I guess Art just got sick of the wacko kook fringe that kept calling in – I could never figure out why the show attracted those types — which ruined it for the rest of us too. I mean, this was serious stuff!

The show is still on the airwaves throughout the world, but Art’s replacements can’t hold a candle to him. And they seem to be hell-bent on dragging religion into the show whenever they can: imagine four hours of nothing but “angels” or “the true meaning of the Shroud of Turin.”

Us New Idrians decided we weren’t going to take Art’s retirement lying down. We’d start a radio program of our own!

First, we had to get a radio antenna and the equipment, which wasn’t too difficult. We simply rummaged through all the junk scattered throughout the old ghost town of the New Idria Mercury Mine, dumped there by Futures Foundation Drug Rehab. We found all kinds of electrical doodads, including a huge antenna.

We harnessed the antenna onto the dogs – the welfare bums – and made them drag it up to the top of San Benito Mountain. We then got miles of antenna wire and rolled it down to Orange Acres, where our station was set up.

I think we had about a 10-mile-radius reception footprint.

We called our new station K-ORANGE, in honor of our Mayor, Orange the Cat. That’s also the color of our water, tainted by the abandoned cinnabar mineshafts and tailing piles left behind after a century of mercury mining.

My sister Mel, the Tambourine Virtuoso, kicked off the new station by giving a three-hour musical performance on the airwaves. She followed it with an encore performance of the same length.

I, of course, reported the news and the traffic updates for busy commuters on New Idria Road.

“Traffic on the nines!” I announced, every 10 minutes. “No vehicles spotted on the thoroughfare yet. Be on the lookout for an ice chest of cheap beer that fell off a hunter’s truck near widow-maker’s curve last night. Last one to get the beer is a rotten egg.”

It was pretty much the same for hours.

My brother Kemp gave the weather report. But not willingly. I simply put a live microphone next to him while he watched the Weather Channel in the Community Wreck Room, and suddenly our airwaves were full of expletives.

“Why doesn’t that #%* get out of the way? I can’t see the Dog #%* Doppler radar. The frackin’ #$%&*#!”

We let Mayor Orange DJ too. But we quit doing that because all you could hear during his six-hour shift was silence while he slept, or an occasional crunching when he was eating a gopher on the air.

When our Cousins Phony BooHoo and Crony Minutia demanded air time to brag about their dubious community service records and upcoming pancake breakfasts, that’s when we decided to pull the plug. I quickly learned why Art Bell decided to retire. A radio station draws all kinds of kooks to it, like a moth to a flame.

Before we shut it down though, I did do one late night talk show on K-ORANGE. But it was dismal. The topic was UFOs in Panoche.

“North of San Benito Mountain, you’re on the air!” I said, waiting for the first caller to speak up.

“I’d like a large pepperoni, no anchovies,” said the caller.

Ah well. So much for the short-lived K-ORANGE.

San Carlos Creek Update: Perhaps someday we’ll bring K-ORANGE back – if the polluted creek ever gets cleaned up. In that case, we would change the name of the station to K-KLEAR. But the chances of that happening are a gazillion to one, considering that for 22 years we’ve been telling the feds (who operated the mercury mine in its heyday) to clean up their mess.

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

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