As Nu Zillans enters the final days of our election, and America enters Day 17,000 of the 2012 campaign, I am reminded of a brutal summer spent electioneering in Oklahoma City.
Must have been 1976, or thereabouts.
My roommate was killing time before joining the Navy, and I was about to flee to Texas.
No one was paying us for our looks, so we gladly accepted the largesse of a feller who at the last minute decided to run for state senate.
His decision prompted the immediate call-up of a crack campaign team (Steve and I) and the critical machinery of politics (e.g. Steve’s ancient Jeep and a monster auger that damned near crippled me).
Phase One of our strategic campaign involved spending 24 hours straight silk-screening campaign signs in a filthy old warehouse. It must have been 105 degrees outside. Inside, it was like the surface of the sun, only darker.
Since there was NO ventilation, we had to breath and re-breath highly lethal ink and solvent fumes. I lost a lot of brain cells that day, which explains my career in journalism and P.R.
Anyways, we shall not reveal the former candidate’s name in case he is still a practicing lawyer known for suing people. We shall instead call him “Burt Bilbo”.
After many hours of silk-screening campaign signs in thousand-degree heat, thousand-percent humidity, thousand proof fumes, our workmanship began to slip.
A lot of our signs no longer said “Burt Bilbo for Senate.” They began to say things like, “Fergie Burgills fro Snenates”.
Which was actually not too bad an effort, because by then Steve and I were down to about two functioning brain cells each.
After we’d silk-screened 10 million paper signs — both Burt Bilbo and Fergie Burgills versions — we then had to staple them neatly onto little wooden sticks, which seems a relatively straight-forward task for fellers who’d just spent two years at Oklahoma University.
But thanks to brain death, our hand-eye coordination was somewhat impaired. And the crushing August heat had given us an attitude.
As I recall, I stapled a sign to Steve’s forehead after he complained I was not stapling them correctly to the sticks.
He then used his All American Swimmer strength to, with one hand, dunk my head into the reservoir of dark blue ink.
Oh well, it could have been worse. The other color we used was dayglow yellow-green. Seems the candidate was color-blind and liked this color combination.
Somehow we survived “Fergie Burgling” in the warehouse (non compos mentis), and we moved on to Phase Two — even more life-threatening campaign work consisting of erecting HUGE wooden campaign signs.
It doesn’t sound that dangerous until you consider:
1) Our candidate waited so late to declare his candidacy that all the easy locations were long gone.
2) It had been over 100 degrees in Oklahoma City for weeks and weeks. The topsoil was only marginally harder than steel-reinforced concrete.
3) Directly underneath the topsoil was 20 feet of the thickest, meanest gumbo clay on Earth.
4) The rusty electrical auger we used weighed at least 17,000 pounds.
5) Between Steve and I, we had our two functioning brain cells AND three functioning arms.
Loud Obnoxious Ninjas
Our task was to be like campaigning ninjas. We were to be silent, stealth-like and invisible, rolling up to high impact traffic areas, erecting huge “Vote Fergie Burgills for State Senate” signs, then disappearing before the law came. Poof. Like ninjas.
Except that, after countless 14-hour days, we were more like LOUD AND ANGRY OKIES ARMED WITH A HUGE FREAKING AUGER than actual ninjas.
I grew to hate that auger. As I write this, I can still, to this day, feel the searing, auger-related pain in my left thigh and hip.
The auger was about the size of a 75 horsepower outboard boat motor. Powered by the Jeep’s battery, it would arrr, arrr, arrr until striking gumbo clay, then the drill bit would stop dead.
The torque would force the top of the auger to rotate counter-clockwise, at great speed, slamming the handle, and the hook on my artificial left arm, directly into my hipbone. Over and over and over again.
Toward the end of the campaign, both Steve and I were about to snap. After one particularly grueling day, we limped back to Norman.
During the half-hour drive, we decided that an evening of morale boosting was urgently required. So instead of wasting the remaining $20 in campaign funds on food, we decided to go to a titty bar called Walter Mitty’s.
Now, for the benefit of my impressionable son, who may read this, I need to stress that this was a looooong time ago. I was dragged kicking and screaming into said titty bar, totally against my will, at which point the bartender said, “Yo, Billy, the usual?”
Anyways, there we were, dead tired, sun-burned and grossly dehydrated.
Then we saw Pam. In front of us. Dancing. All nekkids. With wonderful gurly bits sticking out all over the place.
After much consideration, we concluded that she was, without doubt, the most perfect woman ever created.
However, following further review, and due to our extreme sunburn and dehydration, we were forced to admit that Pam was not in fact perfect. To obtain perfection, she needed to have ice cold water squirting out of her hooters, like on one of those artistic lady fountains in Europe.
Perhaps surprisingly, the evening ended early, and there was no need for bail bondsmen.
And, for the rest of the election, our morale was way better. In fact, we campaigned up a storm.
In the end, Burt Bilbo lost the Senate race.
But what’s important was that we’d done our patriotic bit for democracy.
And, to this day, I carry very strong memories of that Snenates campaign.
Of that stupid auger and…
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