Bowers TV Talk
"The Farm Report"
"We have snow flurries this morning, the horse trough iced up a couple of inches, and the sky is streaky pink and gray to the east. Yesterday was clear, and in the wee hours I could see the top of the constellation Scorpio. It's an early sign of spring, that and the lengthening days. That's my farm report."
I called in my report every morning to my urban friends, except when my daughter needed a ride to school at a dreadful time known as Zero Hour. On those days, I left the house so early, no one wanted a farm report.
If I had a Live Shot, I left home even earlier, a couple of hours before the morning paper was delivered. I subscribed because even though I read the Journal online it was nice to get the print edition. I liked to look at the news pictures. Plus, I needed the fire starter.
All my latte fly-away paks were in Laramie, on the Mad Elk story, so I decided to brew my coffee with a plutonium pellet. I dropped it in a Roswell Alien mug, with French Roast and spring water. I buttered some toast.
A half hour later I met my partner Duncan Blitz at Starbucks where we spent Fivebucks each.
Dunc and I shared a job at KYUK-TV. He produced, and carried the sticks while I shot, then we'd switch off and he would be the shooter and I would be the producer and lumper.
That morning we were going to drive across the state to do an Ag report on "Topsoil." I wondered what I'd done in some previous life, to deserve an assignment about a layer of earth. I decided to sleep while Duncan drove. He listened to Techno while the scenery unfolded: Feed lot, farm, ranch, casino. Then the retrograde: casino, ranch, farm, feed lot.
I asked Duncan to turn on the radio at 11:00 am for the Hourly. I was compulsive about the headlines in those days. I felt agitated unless I could hear that the dead were still dead, the economy was still bouncing, and the weather forecast still called for partly sunny skies.
The scenery improved on the 2-laner. Rolling hills, some livestock, a red-tail hawk. Then, cresting over a rise we cruised into a mule deer standing in the road, behaving just like the proverbial one caught in the headlights.
"A deer," was the last thing I heard myself say before we hit the unfortunate stag. My stomach turned, once for the thud, and once again as the sweet face of the stunned cervid pressed tight against our windshield. Duncan cut the engine and I grabbed the camera from the back.
I shot our sorry vignette: the crew car, hooded with a deer, which suddenly moaned,
"Help me with my head." "Help, please take this goddamned head off of me," he said. I shot a close-up of the deer head and tried not to hyperventilate as Duncan wrapped his forearm around the antlers, and pulled. The head popped off.
What we'd hit was not, in fact, a genuine mule deer, but a man dressed in a deer costume. He wore a flannel shirt and khaki's under his disguise, and introduced himself to Duncan. "RJ Peachtree, Game and Fish Warden, area 10, region 9, section 6, parcel 12."
"I'm sorry I hit you," said Duncan to the twisted Bambi.
"That's okay, it's part of the job," said Peachtree, sliding himself back down to the pavement. "I'm on undercover patrol, for poachers."
The game warden asked us for a ride to the "Moose and Squirrel," a local outfitter, and when we agreed he hopped in back, deer head in his lap.
We made great time on the state road until a set of blinking lights appeared behind us, out of nowhere. "I'm busted if that's Poison Pen," Duncan told us, referring to the State Cop who stopped him last month.
"Dang!" said RJ Peachtree.
"Merde" said Duncan.
The lights twinkled and strobed the dusty day until they were on us.
"A UFO," was the last thing I heard myself say before the crew car was energized by the lights.
"Stay in the car!"
"Roll tape, roll, roll!"
I saw hash in my viewfinder, but I kept rolling as the crew car shook and to this day I still believe that it flew. The three of us were immobilized, stunned in the headlights of the UFO, till it finally set us down.
"Dunc!!!" I begged, "Do we jump out one foot at a time, or both together," I screamed. "Duncan!!! which is it??? I didn't go to the Safety Seminar!!"
It didn't matter; the three of us were suddenly ejected.
"Roll tape, roll, roll!"
We were in a large plowed field that stretched to the horizon. Duncan, the game warden, me, and a small green figure with enormous eyes and spindly arms and legs.
I stuck my eye tight in the finder and framed up the space alien.
It strolled the field, its little green feet sinking into the soil. I imagined earthworms screaming and running, as I would have done if the camera had not been on my shoulder.
"It's gonna talk," said Duncan.
The green one opened its hand.
"God help us," said Peachtree.
"Breathe," I reminded myself.
The green one spoke:
"Nice topsoil," it said.