They say that truth is stranger than fiction. Maybe. Maybe not. Being an avid fan of Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Terry Pratchett, I’ve read some pretty strange stories in my days. Cars and dogs that think; elves that are immortal; hobbits with hairy feet; and a flat disk of a world that rests on 4 elephants standing on the back of the Great A’tuin, the cosmic turtle, that swims through the Multiverse – now, that’s strange.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some really strange, but true, things that happen everyday. Check out Lady Gaga or Terrell Owens or the Michael Jackson media madness if you don’t think that things can get more than strange without any help at all from a writer’s over-active imagination.
But for my money, if you want to ring the bell on the carny-of-life strange-o-meter, mix up a frothing batch of truth in the ol’ brain blender and let the fiction of the human imagination garnish that potent concoction.
And what better place to find those basic ingredients of truth to blend up in your strange-power drink but on the road, right here in the good old US of A.
For example, I was driving on US Hwy 287 in Northwest Texas. Two eighty- seven is the venerable old North/South trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, and straight through my hometown of Loveland, Colorado. Somewhere between Denton and Wichita Falls, as I was fighting off the Sandman and trying to time my phone calls so that they start and end at the top of the hills near the cell towers, I looked out past the tumbleweeds and saw… Camels?
Camels! And I think, at first, that’s cool. I mean, how often do you get to see a flotilla of the ships of the desert except on the Animal Planet network?
Then I think, wait a minute. What’s a hump of dromedaries doing in West Texas besides eating cactus? And whom do they belong to? Do they (whoever this mysterious “they” are) milk them? Raise ‘em for hump steaks? Maybe they’re going to be used to attack the last battalion of the Texas Rangers. Sheiks with scimitars vs. Pecos Bill and his Remington sharpshooters. That’d be cool.
Are “they” a terrorist cell preparing for a Lawrence-of-Arabia-type assault on Fort Worth? Or is it just another Texan’s Big-Money dream? You know, a buy- me-some-goldurn-camels-and-the-world-will-beat-a-path-to-my-door kind of venture. How did they sell that business plan to the Farmer’s Market Bank and Trust?
Maybe it’s an oil-rich sheik who bought a ranch and wanted to just feel at home. Or, he’s keeping them for a dowry for a political marriage between his daughter and the local Oil Baron’s son. Cement that oil deal with camel’s blood and “I Do’s” and create a whole new monopoly for the 21st century.
Could be it’s a cult-ish environmental group that believes global warming will force us to have reliable, drought-resistant transportation when civilization falls apart and they’ll be ahead of the curve.
Could be just a Kuwaiti traveling carnival. Complete with djihnies in dime-store toilet water bottles and girls with veils that make them appear alluring when they really are not quite as pretty as the camels themselves underneath it all.
No, wait, it’s some savvy entrepreneur with the insider knowledge of a soon-to-arrive resurgence in camel-hair coats and he wants to be ready to flood the market.
Help! Stop me before I hurt myself!
You see what I mean? Once I get going, it’s hard to stop. So what about all that craziness I’ve seen traveling the byways and the highway? More to come...