Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

From every indication, my recent retirement is coming to an end, my solitude shattered - at least for now. My people have been talking to their people . . .

"Miguel who?"
. . . who have expressed a certain tepid interest in my talents and minor achievements, and have further expressed a tentative willingness to give me some money for doing something or other of the same ilk. This is not a case of returning by popular demand to the acclaim of a grateful public . . . 

. . . so much as an offhand nod to my own importunings. But never look a gift horse in the mouth, as I remind myself every time someone hands me a horse. 

From a Grateful Nation

If everything goes as planned, I am off to Virginia City, Nevada to resume my duties in the wind industry, or "windustry". This endeavor will require enough driving about the countryside, leaving a carbon hoofprint sufficient to offset whatever ecological advantages may accrue to any greener world I might otherwise have left behind me.

Nevada is a place much like Utah with fewer Mormons, a fabled land devoid of "tabernacles" where a "ranch" is as often as not a brothel . . .

. . . which in turn is often indistinguishable from a "poultry installation" . . .

"Helloooo-eww . . . ?"

Without seeming to protest too much, I will be all business while in Nevada, neither having any taste for the demimonde of Mormonism nor that of the Playmate Ranch.

I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate place than Nevada in which to reemerge as a bona fide member of the labor force. First, it is a perfect Gene Autry backdrop where anyone worth his (or her) salt can always saddle up and ride again.

And I am not the first person with literary pretensions to have landed willy-nilly in Nevada. In fact, Virginia City furnished Mark Twain with much of the grist for "Roughing It," his memoir of travel to the Nevada Territory in the heighday of the Comstock silver district. 

 I mention this because Twain's memoir contains a succinct description of the wind in the Washoe country whose exploitation I am commissioned to assist. It's one of my favorite passages, one I wish I had written myself:

". . . [A]ccording to custom the daily "Washoe Zephyr" set in; a soaring dust-drift about the size of the United States set up edgewise came with it. . . . the vast dust cloud was thickly freckled with things strange to the upper air -- things living and dead, that flitted hither and thither, going and coming, appearing and disappearing among the rolling billows of dust -- hats, chickens and parasols sailing in the remote heavens; blankets, tin signs, sage-brush and shingles a shade lower; door-mats and buffalo robes lower still; shovels and coal scuttles on the next grade; glass doors, cats and little children on the next; disrupted lumber yards, light buggies and wheelbarrows on the next; and down only thirty or forty feet above ground was a scurrying storm of emigrating roofs and vacant lots. . . .

"The "Washoe Zephyr" (Washoe is a pet nickname for Nevada) is a peculiar Scriptural wind, in that no man knoweth "whence it cometh." . . . . It is a pretty regular wind, in the summer time. Its office hours are from two in the afternoon till two the next morning; and anybody venturing abroad during those twelve hours needs to allow for the wind or he will bring up a mile or two to leeward of the point he is aiming at."  

I can't say I'm sorry to return to the fray. I suppose I just haven't been retired long enough to get very good at it. Doing it properly, as I've mentioned elsewhere, requires a modicum of attention and practice. I know people who can fill their time by going off to Belize or Tobago or Tierra del Fuego and build schools and water systems. I had a late uncle who spent his dotage proseletyzing the Haitians back when there still was a Haiti, doling out tips in exchange for being called "bwana." But I lack the missionary spirit, whether for indoctrination or for infrastructure.

Going off to the river for a few days of fishing is, for me at least, a generally absorbing affair that fills my requirements for solitude. But if that's pretty much what there is to do when you require to relieve the mind of more pressing matters (like the lack of revenues flowing into the domestic oeconomy), then the pleasures begin to pale and the days seem empty of significance. On the other hand, maybe missionary work is easier than it looks.

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