April Fool's Edition
By Robin Ford Wallace - Embedded in the Trenton-Rising Fawn 51st ISD Militia
"Why'd you have to do it, Red? Why'd you have to go and declare war on the United States of America?"
Casualties continue heavy as the bloody firefight rages on between Dade County separatists and a wrathful federal government that has presented the county the stark choice of disarmament or death. So far, the denizens of Dade, stubborn mountaineering stock renowned for their fierce independence, have stuck to their guns literally and figuratively, holding off the government troops that have rolled into this isolated northwesternmost county of the state by the thousands in their tanks and armored vehicles. Bodies litter the post office parking lot—
That’s as far as I had gotten when I pulled into the post office and had to use both hands to park the car. It’s probably illegal to drive and type at the same time but this was my first story as a war correspondent and I was nervous; plus I knew the Sheriff’s Department would be too busy fending off the feds to fool around with traffic offenses. I thought it was a pretty good lead though “northwesternmost” was giving me hell with the laptop spellchecker and I wondered whether I should change “stubborn” to “stalwart.” It sounded more like something you’d say in a war.
Sheriff Cray Ross slung his AK-47 jauntily over one shoulder as he ducked behind a sandbag for a brief pep talk with his deputies, stalwart lawmen and women dressed in khaki with black armbands bearing the letters ISD for Independent State of Dade, the resuscitated entity that had been declared at the special county commission meeting the previous Thursday, when Dade seceded from the United States of America as it had once before, during the Civil War, and seized the U.S. Post Office in Trenton. “We’ll never surrender,” cried Ross stalwartly—
“Get a grip,” I chided myself, backspacing until I had killed the whole paragraph. That was one too many “stalwarts,” I didn’t know if Sheriff Ross even had an AK-47, and though I was pretty sure he would say something like “we’ll never surrender” sooner or later—he’s a nice enough guy I guess but no Winston Churchill—journalistic integrity meant I had to wait until the words were out of his mouth before I put them in.
Besides—and this is the important part—my duty as a sane person was not to glorify this war but somehow to convince the county leadership to stop the killing.
As I left the car, though, I didn’t notice that the killing had actually started. The parking lot of the post office was not really littered with bodies so far though somebody had left a McDonald’s cup on the sidewalk which I picked up and tossed into the trash on the way in.
The P.O. had been occupied for three days now (I hadn’t wanted to stop the killing bad enough to interfere with my weekend plans), yet I didn’t see any military vehicles except for the Sheriff’s Department Hummer, which was parked over to the side with some prison trusties smoking cigarettes as they washed it down with a water hose. There were deputies guarding the trusties but they didn’t have their guns out and they were smoking, too. Nobody looked all that stalwart.
“It’s starting off kind of slow,” admitted Red Tumley, Dade’s county executive and commission chairman, as well, since Thursday, as commanding officer of the 51st Rising Fawn ISD militia unit. Like the sheriff and the other county officers, he had set up shop in the post office where he was doing what he called his county executating at a card table in the lobby. Red wore an ISD armband but otherwise was dressed as normal, not changing his customary ball cap for the military beret that some of the district commissioners had affected lately.
“Has Washington responded at all to Dade’s declaration of war?” I asked.
“Not yet,” said Tumley. “I sent them another email this morning.”
Oddly, I sympathized. Everybody’s who’s ever tried to throw any kind of do in Dade at all knows how it feels to sit behind a little table all alone while nobody shows up.
“We’re hoping to get a little more action from the U.S. Postmaster,” said Red. “Delly, he’s sent them two memos.”
Delly Cobbins was the Trenton postmaster. He and the other postal employees were taking the occupation cheerfully enough, not letting it interfere with their mail-sorting duties except to occasionally offer the ISD forces doughnuts.
Meanwhile Cray Ross and his deputies had trooped out from the loading docks and started drilling in the parking lot but not very hard, holding their guns with one hand and using the other to wave at passersby on Highway 11.
“Red,” I said, “this is crazy! Dade can’t secede from the Union. Sure, it’s easy and fun to blame the feds for stuff but (no. 1), they’ll cream us, and (no. 2), what are we going to do without federal funds? They pay for the interstates, the armed services, the national parks, the— ”
“You’re preaching to the choir,” he cut me off. “I’m hoping the thing is over before it’s time to turn in our roads request. We couldn’t keep this place paved without Uncle Sam. And where do you think Cray got his Hummer? Army surplus. Also, we’ve got five or six grants we might lose if the secession lasts long enough to get anybody at Homeland Security mad.”
“Then why’d you do it, Red?” I demanded. “Why’d you go and declare war on the United States of America?”
“It was Cray Ross that thought it up,” said Tumley. “Remember how Cray stood up and told everybody four years ago that if they’d elect him sheriff, he’d defend Dade County when the president invaded to take our guns? Well, the president hasn’t done it yet, no more than he's done anything about those death panels we heard so much about, and Cray figured he’d better defend the county preemptively or he’d lose credibility—and possibly reelection.”
“But you agreed to it, Red,” I persisted. “You stood up at the commission meeting and cast the deciding vote for secession.”
He grinned. “It’s not like I couldn’t use a little help in the primaries myself,” he admitted. “The average Dade voter goes around in a constant state of righteous indignation looking for an outlet, and who am I up against this year? A guy who makes his living helping them blow away endangered species. Reckon I’d better rattle me some sabers and wave me some guns or I’ll be endangered my own self come May 24.”
“So that’s what this war is about,” I said contemptuously. “Not ideals, only simple personal gain.”
Red just laughed at me. “You should be talking. You’ve got as much at stake in this here war as any of us. What else do you have to launch your new independent newspaper with, the Methodist Men’s Luncheon?”
I thought of my opening paragraph, the one about the bloody firefight. Red was right. It beat the hell out of, “The iced tea was cold but the mood was warm at Trenton UMC as— ”
I couldn’t go on.
And that is how I happened to move into the Trenton post office. They’ve given me a little card table of my own so I can see everything that goes on and report it blow by blow to The Planet’s readers, if it ever gets any, and if anything ever happens.
Meanwhile I’m camped out here with the others, waiting for the federal bureaucracy to notice our grim defiance and send in their goons to take our guns and crush us like an eggshell. Until then, it’s crowded but it’s not so bad. People are friendly and there are usually doughnuts.