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Recent federal and state budget cutbacks have affected the Fishhouse Conservation Corps of the National Union of Friendly Americans (FCC-NUFA) and forced the late Chef Leinenkugel to haul his helium-hydrogen-assisted gypsy wagon full of griddles, hooch, small arms, tubas, a Wurlitzer organ, kitchen sinks, and lookout tower out of FCC Camp #3459210093-B, located far from the maddening crowd in a remote corner of Lake County.
The cutbacks even extend to the camp cook in times like these.
Chef Leinie is one of the few deceased camp cooks still alive. When the cork popped from the champagne bottle, that was the signal to leave this earth, but his vehicle to the beyond was without roof so he decided to stay a bit longer.
His death, while long anticipated, still caught everyone a bit unprepared.
He had planned to be buried in a phone booth, but the phone booth was lying on the ground at NUFA headquarters and the roof was leaning next to my wood pile in town.
Death was just too much trouble but the budget cuts left no one out, even the deceased.
We found him towing the billowy contraption down the trail toward safe haven at Camp Shack one day, so we invited him to be the spring-summer chef. The wagon is nearly the size of the shack but operates with fingertip control, thanks to a complex mechanism of gyroscopes and shock absorbers, its ballast filled to the gills with a helium-hydrogen mix that lowers the effects of gravity on the cumbersome-looking vehicle by nearly sixfold.
At the few tight spots on the trail, he simply issues a little less hydrogen and a little more helium into the ballast and floats the rig past the trouble.
Chef Leinie’s patented wagon recently had the attention of the major automakers, but with the coming of the tar sands and extended tax credits for burning the remaining fossil fuels on the planet, he quickly found that he couldn’t gain an audience.
He usually doesn’t show up at our shack until the hunting season begins in the fall, but the recent fiscal crisis meant that he was living the nomadic life again, something that chefs take upon themselves like a failed marriage.
We still haven’t figured out a wage system at the shack that will pay us all a stipend for hosting friends and family, so we could offer him little more than a bunk and meals.
He was happy to oblige.
A man of leisure, an inventor, philosopher, and certified transmission specialist who just happens to make the best darned sphagnum quiche this side of Helsinki, Chef Leinie, of course, had some sustainable ideas he felt could help the area through another fiscal downturn. He was still sore about the fact he couldn’t get a permit for a human-powered dirigible multiplex drive-in theatre. He envisioned people harnessed into their own small “Hindenburgs” and floating into the drive-in, tying up to enjoy the latest Hollywood spectaculars on a hologram screen suspended from convenient cell phone towers.
“Those things are popping up everywhere, on every ridgetop. Might as well get a little more use out of them,” he said. He had long ago tried to stop the advance of such technology, figuring that the weight of their own techno-babble would likely doom the whole preposterous mess anyway before the anachronists could.
Admitting to a touch of claustrophobia, Chef Leinie said he thought the idea could benefit the film industry by opening venues for people afraid of small dark rooms. With a shrug of the shoulders he changed the subject. But his eyes grew animated.
“As spring turns to summer around here, what have we got in an almost inexhaustible supply?” he asked. “Fog. ‘It rolls in on little cat feet,’ as Carl Sandburg wrote, ‘sitting on its haunches over the city.’ Let’s gather it, squeeze the hydrogen and oxygen out of it, and turn it into a good use other than something that keeps our feet wet that you can’t see through.”
Chef Leinie envisioned a legion of fog harvesters working the streets and hillsides of port towns around the lake. In nimble fashion, union brothers and sisters would swoop the fog from the sky with giant butterfly nets and then fill large hemp sacks with the cool, airy compound. Kids could sell sweetened “Fog on a Stick” on the corner and make a little money. Neighborhood shops would break the fog down into its essential usable parts and provide employment for local communities. Fog harvesting equipment could be manufactured locally.
“There is no shortage of fog in these parts,” said Chef Leinie. “Enough with these extractive industries that eventually exhaust the resource and leave entire towns destitute when they pull out. Let’s power those Humvees and SUVs with hydrogen, not fossil fuels. I’m going to write the oil companies and tell them to get on the bandwagon because their days are numbered.”