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Snakes of Deseret

Wanting to join the human world, brown silken hair once arranged on her head like a medieval princess, a raised crown all around with a train of long, now cut short and bobbed, as tattered as her once equally long, blue prairie dress heretofore torn into a skirt – above the knee. The Remnant was left behind to clean up the mess and, luckily, she still had her now pink Nike running shoes.

Sally sat beside the snake, drawing a drink, emotionally and physically exhausted, pondering what to do next.

Beige, a few black blotches running its course, a blue line along its back, the pipeline filled with the Colorado River seemed to stretch forever glistening in the late magic hour twilight sun as she sat in the dark green of a cone filled pinyon among a 500 year old grove ground to bits for range improvement in the unholy in the alpenglow of the very Vermillion Cliffs.

She had just passed under Hwy 89 and was now on the other side of the fence that runs for 11 miles and is 11 feet high, designed to keep the world class Kaibab deer herd from migrating across the road and harming the animals in the migrating Suburbans pulling houseboats as they speed at infinity to wreckreate at Lake Foul. To be kept in a canyon compound, like them.

Her father used to hunt these monster muleys to feed she and her mothers – he was once gored and almost finished him as one fought back when he approached to finish it, resulting in a damaged lung and kicking him in the groin, leaving Sally the only child of wife number eight to face his wrath.

The deer no longer migrate, as they are leery of choke-point tunnels that, supposedly, provide safe passage under the ribbon of death that runs between Page and St. George.

She has so far survived.

Sally seethed.

She was livid at the snake and his transgressions as Prophet.

“Fucking B.B.,” her red face racing outwardly audibly in the silence of the midnight full moon as she raged against the cold pipe, slamming it with sticks and stones, twirling to the ground in a heap looking up to the billions of bright beacon gods in the sky, dirty lines streaming down her face being refilled.

Feeling the indoctrinated shiver of shame fall upon her, not knowing which of the stars to appeal, she screams “Forgive me, Father!”

* * *

Around the campfire with a dozen drinking shitty Pabst and passing fat blunts, a tattered 60 something whose Sun spotted eyes and lined faced beamed of years of acting upon righteous indignation proclaimed, “It’s about God damned time we reclaim Gadsden from these so called Patriots! We’re the Patriots for our Mother!”

Ray ran several now derelict big green public lands activism groups in the 80s-90s as a young man but, like many Yuppies of his generation became complacent, part of the meritocratic machine, the disgusting self loathing end coming when he was forced by his board to back off opposition against a natural gas pipeline project, the largest in the United States draining the fracking fields of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, so that they could accept $25 million in return for their “cooperation.” He resigned in protest, buying an old brick home in the heart of Escalante, just to feel Just in the land of the Just.

Their work complete, dropped off earlier in the day by comrades, having been mules hauling gear up Squirrel Canyon (there were vigorous votes for the beautiful narrow confines of Water but mules are bred to be wide to carry burdens), the rabble on the rim were enjoying the fruits of their hard work before the return trip.

The 30-something woman opposite the fire had the look of the just plain tired, having experienced the intimacy of the wren and desert spotted in the canyons surrounding the White Cliffs and the relict No Man’s Mesa for three days before. From Eugene, Kelsey had become a participant observer, a journalist writing for a struggling print rag trying to make the digital transition.

Her story was to cover the conflict between The Posse of western legislators – of which B.B. was one – and their support of the Lake Powell Pipeline designed to feed the unlimited growth and posterity of St. George and the surrounding Dixie region. Meeting the obligation to her editor, she decided to take some spring break time off with this jolly roger group at the insistence of Ray who she’s known since a rug rat, she wandering with him inside her mother in the beginning cathedral silence and communal oneness, a friend of her parents.

Ray didn’t drink but he did like his cannabis and to pontificate, himself, “That pipeline is another nail in the coffin of the Canyon Country and it is high time we rise up once again in defense of Mother Earth! Big Greens are soft, activism is more than click bait and end of year tax deductible donations. Climate change is real and the only way to reverse the trend for our children is to stop the cancerous growth by putting your boots, sandals, bare feet, lovely stinky feet on the ground and in front of pontificating Prophets and their Posse’s who believe this land was chosen for them and their “posterity” by their God.”

Pausing, drawing hard on the fat spliff in his thick hands, his eyes reflecting the fire in his belly. “It is high time we cut off the head of the snake.”

On and below the rim of the 2,000 foot escarpment, the work was serious as serious can be.

The rukus had previously rigged a series of cams, hexes, and nuts to anchor two rap stations ancients, cracks and boulders, the static rope hanging 300 feet below now with four very sober bodies on the lines, two on each, two at 150 and the other two at 250 feet below the rim. The vermillion rock reflecting moonlight maroon, the cracks jet black, the ledges clearly seen for purchase. A perfect spring night to suspend yourself from a soul purging cliff for mere mortals – of which these Patriots are not.

200 feet long and 100 feet wide, being lowered by 2 more sober professionals via winches to the 150 foot mark and shouts of “Ready!,” the banner’s tremendous weight unrolled with a quickness of a car sized spall on a talus slope. The breeze picks up a bit – it’s always windy here given the air meets no resistance from The Wall at the Mexican border – but the Angel’s at purposeful play have practice, patience, a preponderance of safety, the two at the 250 foot mark playing their role trying to control the netting with letters and a symbols lovingly, painstakingly stitched to lightweight netting that began covering the face.

The four quickly worked and anchored the banner – cams are awesome – stretching the runners to the billboard tight so the thermals over the busy spring break weekend would not tear it to shreds in sight of the industrial tourism that is highway 89 and the bowel of Deseret’s Dixie.

Ascending and dismantling in 15 minutes, the group heartily hooted and hastily beat it off the backside of Canaan, to waiting friends on the north side where the trail drops down to the Eagle Crags near Zion National Park, as they figured The Posse would also come up Squirrel.

* * *

Sally spent most of the night huddled under the pinyon next to the road, the fence, and the snake. Shivering and waking as one does on high desert nights in April when you don’t have a bag, she finally got up in the moonlight twilight and peed, and began to walk once again away from the Compound. She’s got another 40 miles to St. George and doesn’t want to hitch, as B.B. or The Posse might find her.

She could see the highways of road and water and parallelled, watching with all her senses for hours, making good time and distance. She had an appointment to keep and didn’t want them to sight her. She thought she saw a flickering light on the rim of Canaan, along with what looked like faint lights below the cliffs themselves. She watched the fire and hanging flies as she walked.

She thought about the indignity done to the ancient pinyon and juniper that once surrounded and provided shelter for her fellow Fundamentalists. Of the criminal rackets of which the Prophet was a part, that fed his flock, who used his position as a legislator to promote precious water to raise a Kingdom of Deseret complete with an army of posterity to defend it as was prophesized. That He mingled His philosophy with scripture for personal pleasure and greed. Fundamentally, she thought of her heavenly comfort sisters and lost brothers and the native seed collecting business labor children of which she was responsible for oversight.

About 10 according to the sun her fears were confirmed as she saw flashing lights. Luckily, the feds hadn’t yet used their mechanical monsters in this grove and she hid in an Old One, alongside an ancient urine soaked mound of sticks, in plain sight of a scarlet half globe of claret. She saw the Sheriff’s Posse vehicles pulling horse trailers being trailed by B.B.s Lexus and oaf. Already sweating from the heat it went cold doing its evaporative job as they quickly passed out of sight.

As if to relieve her, the white throated woodrat, as big as a guinea pig, soft with black hole eyes, emerged as she was petrified, and crawled into her lap where they sat and watched the rest of The Posse pass.

* * *

B.B. sat on his horse (he preferring it over his wheelchair that made him look like a cripple), oxygen tank secured to the saddle, his sweaty brow under his black ten gallon hat stained with the past an indication of the effort it took him to gain dominion over all that he could see – including the eye bloodying red cliffs towering 2,000 feet before him that the Federal Government stole from his grandfather. It was getting hot.

“Darrin, quit fiddling with that mule of yours and scramble your ass up here, I forgot my glasses. Gimme yours.”

Darrin’s Beau Bishop’s first born, heir to his throne, the “Constitutional Sheriff” in these parts, commanding a militia of deputies throughout Washington County.

“Hurry up, you oaf,” B.B. yelled as the mule sat down and dumped Darrin who tumbled into the sandy wash that got into his eyes and mouth, fatbelly-face down, hearing the pop of the frames break and feeling it slightly pierce his chest.

Struggling up and dusting off, spitting (all over himself with his dehydrated syrup of saliva), a spot of blood where his heart should be, his brim stuck to his pudged forehead never falling off, feeling the pressure of the Prophet, he scurries the steep loose slope, his cowboy boots slick without purchase, falls to his stomach punching his air to make him gasp as he feels another pop. This time, his inhaler, his ails a product of inbreeding. He crawls the final ten feet to B.B. on his hand and knees.

“Get up,” says B.B. as Oaf’s bulging eyes still reflected his lungs were violently struggling for air, reaching into his pearl snap, plaid shirt pocket to reveal the busted shards of a glasses with one arm and lens.

“I’m sorry, Father,” as he presents the rose colored mangle.

“You fuckwad. Give ’em to me.”

With a single lens, he put on the monocle and instantly turned vermillion. Darrin could see it, had seen it, felt it, and radioed to the others.

He saw a single, raised, clenched black fist on a green background that was 100’ high to the right, the Gadsen Flag with it’s bright yellow to the left, and in between it said, “We’re back.”

B.B.’s white stallion (of course) suddenly raised without making a sound, hefting the profit Prophet vertical, never leaving his place in the saddle as though glued (he was strapped in, after all), the horse’s hoof crushing upon the faded pygmy who thought it was hidden in the cowburnt remnant of rice grass.

“God damn Snakes.”

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Chris Zinda is an activist and writer living in Oregon.

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