Archive for November, 2009

Owner of Laser Tag Chain

November 22, 2009

As you have probably surmised, it is of the utmost importance to disinfect equipment frequently.

Some careers sound incredible on paper, but in reality are not.  Cow Puncher, Sound Engineer, Blacksmith and Professor of Comparative Literature are a few.  Unfortunately, so is owning the world’s most popular laser tag company.

The problem lies in the consciousness of the fact that other people are enjoying your service and products, while you are stuck in a corner office with nothing to do but give paperwork to your secretaries, sip highballs, stroke the sleek coat of your office tabby, and practice on your mini putting green.  Oh, and also invite tailors up to measure you for new suits.  There you are, officially stuck, while greasy-faced twerps pour into pleasure domes, your pleasure domes, voices breaking as they grunt at each other, cheer at felling their companions and laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh their idiot laughs, thinking naught of you, the one who has so munificently bestowed these laser mazes upon them.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve wept into my giant, leather-bound desk planner, so full of sorrow was I at the lack of recognition I received and how removed I was from where my heart truly felt it belonged– in a dark  laser-filled arena with plastic arms and armor adorning my be-suited body, gleaming like a god in the low light.  Despite their grubby hands and pizza-scented breath, we were not so different, these groups of teens with their obligatory parent chaperones and I.  We were all united by a common love for futuristic faux battle.  We all dreamed of a day when the entire world would be embroiled in endless laser war with breaks for mozzarella sticks and large Surge sodas.  Yet they were preparing, whilst I… I… what was I doing with my life?  Had I ever truly lived?  In trying to bring life to others, I had let my own soul wither like a raspberry on a vine which has not been eaten by a bird, small rodent or scavenging human!

Was it too late?  Could I still escape?  I knew the break would have to be drastic, a monumental gesture.  Clutching my one true companion, my office tabby, “Office Abbie,” to my chest, I leapt boldly through the plate glass window.  Since I know myself so well, I had anticipated the day that I would decide to leap through the window and had situated my office on the ground floor.  I made it, but Office Abbie did not.  Or rather, she clawed my beautiful silk shirtfront to shreds, severely compromising the design of my elaborate chest tattoo in the process, and disappeared down some dark alley the moment that I dropped her.  I dearly hope that she has not become a streetwalking cat, pretending at purrs for any Tom, Dick or Harry that offers her a kitty treat.  If you happen upon her, I implore you, let her know she can come home.


Undercover Manicurist

November 21, 2009

Important tools for your arsenal

What with a vanity war on, there has never been a greater call for high-level military manicurists.  Though I originated the division back during ‘Nam, it wasn’t too long ago that I was hired as a government contractor to put together the (at the time) classified “Operation Emery Board Freedom” stratagem, and head up the training.  Indeed, you are receiving your information from the best of the best, the most elite.  The squadrons I trained personally were among the first to enter Baghdad, and still hold the distinction of being the only troops warmly welcomed.  (And many of the people they interacted with– officials of the highest order, mind you– do not even know that these brave men and women were actually highly trained military personnel.)  After all, who doesn’t love a nice hand massage and a well-executed french tip?  Iraqis are not immune.  Afghans are not immune.  Neither are the Iranians or Bulgarians.  Wait, forget you read that last part.

You simply must take a moment to dwell on the bravery these men and women display on these missions: boldly parading (literally) into enemy outposts, caves, and encampments on elaborate floats, riding glamorously bedizened steeds, dance music from one hundred boom boxes signaling the arrival of these  feathered, jeweled, well-coiffed troops.  Yes, it’s absolutely required that my troops loudly announce their arrival!  Ask yourself– could you muster the required courage?  At any moment, the identities of my troops could be discovered and the whole lot of them tossed out on their ears (at best) or beaten and killed (at worst).  I’m pleased to say that our soldiers have suffered zero casualties.  Now that’s a well-trained platoon.  And I must say, we only accept the best and the brightest to enlist with us.  None of this “SEAL,” or “Green Beret,” nonsense.  We’re the Canaries, and we’re the first in any tight, dark hole.

Of course, any radically innovative program will have its detractors, and I’ve taken more than my fair share of criticism of the program.  The Air Force was jealous of our convoy vehicles, used as they were to sporting the flashiest transports.  The Navy objected to the open wet bar and 24-hour karaoke on our transport ship.  And everyone wanted our safety record.  What’s so wrong with having fun and using proper protection?  Or getting information from the enemy while giving him or her a good hand job?  Did you see Saddam’s nails when they got him out of that fox hole?  That’s right.  A little birdie told the attack troops where he was.

Lassie’s Bodyguard

November 19, 2009

Prior to the mudslide.

Please usher children and the faint of heart from the room, because I am about to divulge a dreadful secret.  Lassie, the collie dog of fame, died 37 times.  Of these deaths, we were only able to resuscitate the critter 18 times.  That’s right– when we couldn’t bring her back, we’d have to skin her, strap her pelt to a sheep (or once, a gaffer boy) and hope for the best until a new Lassie could be incubated, hatched, and flown in from the Shetland Isles.  This is why the television series was the most expensive to date– Lassies aren’t cheap.

I can tell that you are thinking to yourselves, “St. Rid, if you were the dog’s bodyguard, how come the damn girl died so many times?”  And shame on you.  Shame on you for even thinking that I had fallen asleep at the wheel.  Because I’m about to tell you something else, something they don’t want you to know.  That dog was deceitful, and treacherously cunning.  Add that to her penchant for risk-taking, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  It was only lucky that I was the one looking after her.  I remember one time in particular– I had been called in to chase down and try to shoot Timmy with a tranquilizer after he’d snorted a week’s worth of Ritalin.  “How had Timmy gotten ahold of all that Ritalin?” everyone was asking.  By this time, they ought to have known, but somehow the dog was the last one suspected.  It’s little wonder she won 19 Emmys.  Despite her track record of creating havoc, she managed to maintain the illusion that she saved the kid from himself.  But I knew better, having spent more time with the dog than anyone besides Rudd Weatherwax and his dastardly mustachios.  And earlier in the day, I’d seen her loitering around Timmy’s dressing room.  Normally she had nothing to do with the kid, preferring to let his handlers muzzle him between takes rather than engage with the towhead.  But I was so busy chasing the little guy as he swung from branch to branch and scrambled madly up crumbling gravel inclines… I was so distracted by this situation that I forgot all about Lassie.  Which is as she wanted it.  She’d taken full advantage of the chaos, and had called in studio execs to witness the scene.  While we were busily prying a howling Timmy from the branch of a mid-sized oak, Lassie was busily renegotiating her contract, and stipulating that all of us, the cast and crew, be replaced with animatronic U.S. Presidents.  True, it is difficult to tell when the switcheroo took place when you are watching the original series, but I will give you this clue:  Did Cloris Leachman or June Lockhart bear a striking resemblance to Andrew Jackson?

I didn’t much mind losing my job to an animatronic Martin Van Buren.  I was sick of the hijinks, sick of risking my life day in and day out for a reckless and thankless dog.  The studio offered me a role guarding a chimp whose claim to fame seemed to be that he smoked Virginia Slims, but I was ready for a career move.  Nevertheless, for anyone who can put up with an animal diva, bodyguarding can be exceptionally well-paying work.  With my Lassie money, I built a hovercraft tugboat.

Coiner of Psychological Disorders

November 17, 2009

Feeding the brain via the crude, yet effective, "funnel o' gin" method.

These days schoolyard insults revolving around various psychological conditions are so common as to be considered passe.  But there was once a time when only one word existed with which to taunt those different than you and I– MAD.  Thanks to the perfidious influence of one Lewis Carroll, these days most people assume that the adjective applied only to those employed in the Felt & Pelt Headpiece Arts.  In truth almost everyone fell under the wide umbrella of the term.  From kings to kings and back again, most people were mad, but nobody had thought to make distinctions between the various types of madness.  Being something of an amateur scientist, and having written a treatise on dreams that some Austrian intercepted from the post, bastardized, and published under his own foul name, I sought other avenues by which to distinguish myself  as a force in the nebulous new field of psycho-olog-chia-alytics.  (I also sought to poison the Austrian, and eventually experienced the joy of injecting him repeatedly with morphine.)

My first addition to the field was the term, “hysterical.”  Originally, I assumed this would be applied to cats, and imagined vast windowless prisons in which these devil creatures would be locked away for all eternity.  My surprise knew no bounds when my original publication was translated and the word “women” was substituted in “cats” stead.  I learned from this experience that there are precious few good translators from Moldavian to English, French, Chinese or British, and henceforth took care to write in all five languages.

Despite the hit that “hysteria” was, many of my later terms were met with even more acclaim.  “Ulan Batar” became so popular that a parcel of land in Mongolia was set aside and an entire colony constructed to house people afflicted with the disorder, which at the time meant “excessive use of fur in dailywear.”  Another vital term I came up with was “cancer,” which it turned out was not a psychological disorder at all, but more of a popular topic for weekly news magazines to devote entire issues to when diverting public attention from shady war treaties.  Flip open any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and you are certain to find a disorder delineated and named by me.  Dementia Praecox– mine.  Bunco, Strindberg-otic, Staplerface– mine mine mine.  Dumpypants and Borderline… I don’t need to go on.  I think you get the picture.

Unfortunately, I have pretty much thought up every psychological and personality disorder in existence.  There is very little room for career advancement in the field, and breaking in is terribly hard.  However, I have heard that there are great opportunities in synthetic hallucinogens, which could scramble brains in new and interesting ways, thus creating more of a market for those who want to name psychological disorders.  Just a hint from your dear and thoughtful mentor!

Inventor of Electrolysis Treatment

November 13, 2009

Another visage saved from ugliness.

Let me pose a question here:  what killed the dinosaurs?  The answer is obvious to all of us:  moonshine.  Prior to Louis Pasteur, however, this simple truth was unknown.  Now let me ask you this:  what killed the woolly mammoth?  Are you stumped?  Unless you’ve read my treatise on hirsutism in the ancient world, you may be unsure.  You may think the melting of the Great Ice Wonderland, or you may think alien spores, or you might even think moonshine again, though we all know that by this time production of hard liquors was regulated by the government.  Nope.  The answer is excessive hair growth.  And you may not realize, but humans could very well suffer the same fate.

That is why I invented electrolysis.

I know that this alone will stand the test of time as my legacy to the human race, and that in the future statues will be erected, and I will be declared the Depilation Saviour.

My invention of electrolysis is an interesting story.  I was initially working on a sort of lightning rod for humans, since so many of our kind were being quite literally struck down each year by this tool of the gods’ heavenly wrath.  I had tried nearly everything– wrapping a person in tin foil  (which failed to protect, but led to my introducing a popular cooking technique that has been adopted primarily by campers and Scout troops), a more traditional metal rod that could be screwed directly into the skull (which turned out to be deadly for the clumsy, but also a source of unicorn-related taunts for those more adept at maneuvering), and even a headset that turned out to be the advent of personal radio devices… but nothing that served the purpose of a lightning rod.  One day, while testing a radical new idea of inserting hundreds of thin metal filaments directly into the pores of the face, I stumbled into the concept of electrolysis.  When I zapped the filaments, lo and behold, Lauren Bacall’s formerly impressive beard fell out.  I was very nearly sued for ruining her career until I hurriedly discovered the health benefits.

I’m sure this all seems very strange to those of you who received your first electrolysis immediately upon your expulsion from the womb, but believe me, the world was a very different place before I started saving it.

Indeed, they are dead.

Professional Striker

November 11, 2009

Brave compatriots, poor sloganeers.

There is nothing more unwieldy than a strike– and you can believe me about it, because I spent most of the early part of the century in the pro striking leagues.  Dental floss factories, safflower refineries, beet packing plants… you name it, I’ve striked it, and striked it with the best of them.  Who did Upton Sinclair come to for advice about California’s sulfur mines for his novel, The Jungle?  You guessed it.  Who was the popular, serialized comic hero “Colin Foradecenthourlywage” based on?  Yes, also true.  You see, for the striker with moxie, fame comes naturally.  And for those who are (often violently) opposed to work, striking provides an attractive and lucrative alternative.

Many a time has some young soul come up to me and said, “Hi.  My name is Joe.  I’ve got a wife and three kids and I work in a button factory.  One day, my boss says to me, ‘Joe, are you busy?’  I says, ‘no.’  ‘Then push a button with your left foot.’…” and so on and so on, until Joe is pushing buttons with all possible appendages, both major and minor.  He wants the madness to end.  What can he do?  The answer is simple, but many people are afraid to try it.  To this I ask, “Joe!  Will you live your whole life in fear, buttons governing your every move and a big bad boss always breathing down your chimney?  Light a fire in that chimney, and be free!  Get up off your tuffet!  Plant your magic beans and if you’re waiting for the right kind of pilot to come, I would fly to the moon and back. ”  I know my words are encouraging– most folks like Joe are already running, running off to make a sandwich board or find a megaphone I assume, before I have even come to the end of my inspirational statement.  Such is my charisma, the charisma of a veteran.

Most folks also presume that in order to strike a place, you must first work there.  Not so.  The most important thing is to incite other workers to strike along with you.  This makes you the clear leader, and most places of employment keep such poor records that the egg is on their faces when they cannot find your employment file.  It is important to become properly enraged when this information is disclosed, and to tell all the local media outlets.  It was through this process that I was once hired on as Executive Vice President in charge of Worker Affairs at a button factory.  Oh, no no no… I know what you’re thinking, but our business was producing the buttons that pin to your clothing– primarily for presidential campaigns and for striking workers.  Funny how things tend to come full circle!

Children’s Music Composer

November 9, 2009
kiddie music


I am often dismayed at the ridiculous myths that surround children’s music and its composers in this, our deluded nation.  Everyone seems so wrapped up in the magic and wonderment of “childhood” that they forget that children are conniving and scheming, and if you close your eyes and listen to one without looking upon its dewy little face or into its mesmerizing little peepers, then you’ll hear a shriller version of the adults you deal with on a regular basis– illogic, manipulation, and a willingness to kill are the prevailing characteristics of our species.  In fact, most of the greatest names in children’s entertainment share an across-the-board distaste of children. Think about it… so many popular kid songs of the last century are aimed at psychologically crippling  the child’s natural despotic urges and turning him or her into a laughingstock– for instance, “Black Socks,” which urges children to wear the same socks forever, thus leading to foot fungus and ostracism; or “Nobody Likes Me (I Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms),” which has led to pandemics of childhood entomophagy, effectively neutralizing generations of potentially crusading children.

It is also one of our society’s naive beliefs that all that is necessary to compose listenable children’s music is the ingestion of copious amounts of mind-altering substances.  For example, did a single hippie (a term from the 1960’s to describe an aspiring children’s songwriter) pen any one good children’s song?  No.  (By the way, you will not win an argument with me about Puff the Magic Dragon– this is simply not a children’s song.  Any savvy individual can see that it is commentary on the Napoleonic Wars.)  Likewise with the yuppies–same definition, different drugs, different decade (the 1980’s)– minus the excellent children’s song “Hungry Like the Wolf,” by Duran Duran.  Besides drugs, you also need a guitar, a machine to speed up your voice, a cartoon pal, and a lot of sound effects.

Some people even continue to believe that understandable language is necessary for kid music.  This is simply not so.  I will include a link to a song I wrote and recorded, which was extremely popular in the Soviet Union in the 1950’s, the words of which were eventually incorporated into common parlance in Slavic countries.  You, yourself, may recognize some of them, as there are many cognates.  For example, “Africa.”  Very few people realize that it was I who named that continent.  Also “Crocodile.”  Listen closely– can you hear it?  Yes, I was the one who named that animal, though I had originally intended for monkeys to be called “crocodiles.”  You cannot control language once it has entered the ether.

Once you’ve gained these essential insights,  you are on the right path to writing quality children’s music.

Parakeet Baron

November 7, 2009

Natural plumage or artificial? Can YOU tell?

Fact:  At any given moment in the U.S.A., there are at least three gangs struggling for control over the lucrative parakeet trade.  Fact:  If you trace the provenance of any given parakeet in the nation, you will find periods of unaccounted for time, aka: evidence of illegal smuggling.  Fact:  Not a single parakeet has been born in the U.S.A. since 1943– the year when the first parakeet sterilization facilities were established along the border with Mexico.  Fact:  All of this is thanks to me.

Like most enterprises, it all started very simply, very small, and as the result of a wager.  It was between me, James Cagney, and movie producer David Sebastian.  We were all out to win Carmen Miranda’s heart.  I was sure I would win.  After all, I’m a fair sight better looking than those two mutts Cagney and Sebatian were.  And as often as I’ve wooed man and woman alike with nothing more than the seductive removal of my lion’s mane jacket to reveal my lion’s teeth neckpiece, I knew that I’d have to go the extra 100 yards for Miranda.  After all, this was Cagney, James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy James Cagney.  He was the whole damn country squeezed into a pair of pants.  Who could resist the man?

I thought long and hard about what the lovely Miss Miranda liked before I realized– hats.  The woman was wild for hats.  I had to find the most incredible hat available.  I pounded the pavement of New York and Milan, Paris and Tashkent, visiting the world’s finest milliners and haberdashers.  But nothing could compare to the ineffable hat I imagined must exist out there, waiting to perch on Miranda’s head.  It was then that it dawned on me… perch.  Like a bird.  Like a flock of parakeets. Who wants a hat that simply lies there, when the possibility exists for it to flap its wings?  I would sew (or glue… I wasn’t sure which yet) a flock of parakeets to a hat for Carmen Miranda.  I leapt from my seat and took off running, so eager was I to begin.  I happened to be on a ferry at the time, and was so excited that I leapt from the deck and began swimming.  This was the day that I swam half the English Channel.

What followed was months of trial and error.  I recognize that the first hat I made was crude.  The hot glue was visible from all angles, and most of the parakeets perished in the box on Ms. Miranda’s front porch, unaware was I that she was filming on location in the Rockies.  It really put a crimp in my plans when I was brought into police custody for questioning; Miranda had called the authorities, thinking that perhaps the Brazilian mob had sent her a message, or that she had a stalker.  Me, a stalker?  Ha ha, I would have known she was away had I been stalking her.  But I did learn my lesson from this incident, and sacrificed the services of one of my butlers in order to have him trail her day in and day out.  It was a rough few months, as he was the only one who could properly polish the pewter bedpan set.  But what could I do?  I felt Cagney’s Doodle-y visage taunting me by day, and he troubled my dreams at night.  I would best the Yank.

In addition, I was experimenting so extensively with the parakeets that I’d nearly exhausted the native flocks of the U.S.A.  I began importing.  I soon realized that I was competing for birds with a number of pet shop owners and carrier bird companies.  By default, I built a parakeet empire from my headquarters in south-central Arizona.

After about eight months, I’d finally created it– a six-foot tall hat, resplendent with living parakeets in all colors of the parakeet.  In truth, they were all albino parakeets that I had taken the time to paint by hand so that they would represent the most ideal possible plumage variations of the species.  I invited Cagney, Sebastian and Miranda to a grand gala at the Cocoanut Grove, fully expecting Miranda to fall into my arms when she laid eyes upon the gift I’d wrought with my own two hands, and the help of the 30 hat-makers I’d employed.  Unfortunately, things did not go quite as planned.  As it turns out, Sebastian had all but won the challenge already– he’d taken a much more effective, yet inelegant path– he’d been plying Miranda with booze.  They later married.  It was Cagney, instead, who fell into my arms.  He’d been charmed when he first saw me remove my lion’s mane coat, but was gone when he imagined me in that hat.  And thus began our four year long affair, which would have bordered somewhat on the bestial if you removed the tap shoes.

Wartime Cookbook Writer

November 4, 2009

An original recipe: chicken blood, tapeworms and tripe

Every new war brings a new set of constraints and thus, a new set of opportunities for enterprising individuals.  In most of our nation’s past wars, the ladies and gents on the home front would be swept up in a fervor for cooking odd things.  The Spanish-American War brought us Spider Corn Bread and Royal Prune Cake.  The War of Eastern Attrition saw the advent of Hermit Vole Pie and Hominy Suet with Hard Sauce.  These are all beloved recipes that call up fond memories of grandmother cursing in the kitchen, and of picking fur from between your teeth after a satisfying meal with the extended clan.  It is because of these warm feelings that many people mistakenly believe that these recipes originated in their own families.  I’m sorry, but this is simply not the case.  The truth is that while your grandmother was taking nips of moonshine and passing off your beloved Pea Puree Pancakes as her own, I was hard at work writing the recipes that your family would come to associate with holiday brawls.

It is actually a very simple process to write a cookbook.  You see, there are already so many recipes in the world that it is entirely unnecessary to write another one from scratch.  I don’t think I ever have.  Instead, I follow my patented Cyrus St. Rid Reciperation Process®.  It goes like this:  I ask a servant to lead me to the kitchen, and once there, to find me a cookbook.  I then flip through it randomly and rip out whatever pages my hands chance to linger upon.  Once I have a good stack going, I am led out of the kitchen, and head to my shooting range.  My servant affixes all the pages to a mound of pillows, and I commence to firing birdshot at them.  My servant gathers up the pages and we begin creating new recipes.  If my servant yells, “Ingredient!” I respond with, “Dog Biscuits!”  If my servant yells, “Quantity!” then I say, “Five and a half liters!”  If, “Cooking Method!” then, “Poached!”  Any word or item in the original recipe that has been shot through is replaced with something new.  It is all terribly exciting.  You can feel history being made.  We continue in this way long into the night, stopping only to build a bonfire, bring out a spit and roast a large number of ermine for sustenance.  We also enlist another servant to wheel out the portable wet bar and mix drinks that make heavy use of maraschino syrup.  All these steps are vital in the creation of new traditional foods.  You, too, can use my method if you send me a check or money order for $25,000.  Rest assured, you will recoup this cost in the sale of your cookbook.  Unless, of course, your recipes require ridiculous ingredients such as avocados or coffee liqueur.

I would be remiss if I did not mention what is perhaps the most important part of this process.  You need to invent a pseudonym under which to publish your books.  I sold the rights to mine ages ago, and from what I can tell the brand name is still going strong, though the new proprietors of the name moved into the nut butter market rather than continue along the wildly successful cookbook trail I had forged.  In my opinion, a bad business move, but who am I to comment?  Am I allowed to tell you the name I wrote under?  I think I should not, considering I am still fighting my way through a libel suit over the use of my name in a “children’s” book in which the main character sneaks into the windows of unsuspecting youths and spirits them away to a redundantly named pleasure land where he recklessly allows them to wander into harm’s way time and again.  You should be aware that this fate could also befall you, as fiction writers are a thieving, scheming, dirty bunch and they almost always turn first to the cookbooks for “inspiration.”

Snakecatchers’ Union Organizer

November 3, 2009

A typical night at the Local 253 Snakecatchers Hall in Los Angeles, CA.

Most of you reading this know only a stable American world of children running the streets with trundling hoops, friendly butchers tossing scraps to neighborhood dogs, and a snake in every hand on Sunday morning.  It may seem to you that this is the only way that life could be, but it was not too long ago that America looked quite different.  You see, only 80 years ago, there was a certain group of people who were oppressed.  A group of people who were tormented, ridiculed and paid with wooden nickels so that they were often driven to entomophagy of the most disgusting variety– the eating of escargot.  You would not have guessed it today, when these fine countrymen and -women serve on our city councils, are members of our aquatic fish clubs, visit the same tarot readers we do, and even enter into marriage-like unions with our sons and daughters.

I speak of the Snakecatchers.

It is easy to scoff, since snake catching has become such a respectable lifestyle these days, one that has even been romanticized by the entertainment industry.  Just walk into any video rental store and you are sure to find aisle upon aisle of snakecather-themed VHS’s in the Swampdweller section.  And all of you are sure to have a pair of chest waders tucked into the back of your closets just waiting for the next season that snakecatcher fashion comes back into style as it does every 12 years or so.  Yes, snake catching may have moved fully into the mainstream, but few are aware of the rich lore and deep cultural roots of the snake catchers of days gone by. I do not wish to delve too deeply into the subject, and thus rob some starving, faceless professor slaving in the bowels of a two-bit university in Bethesda or Tampa of their chance at celebrity, but he or she is welcome to contact me and quote me extensively or list me as a co-author of the definitive book on the subject.

In more ways than anyone else in this nation, I am the person who brought the plight of the Snakecatchers to light.  Your parents may remember my face gracing the covers of the glossy magazines– Time, Life, American Gun Culture Report, The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  I was known as, “The Face of America’s Snake Catchers.”  (The official term, Snakecatcher, had not yet been codified in those days.)  Why?  I was simply the first person to begin organizing.  I saw the treatment of snake catchers at the hands of bourgeois Pentecostal and Lutheran preachers, and I visited the bogs and lowlands where the humble Snakecatcher set his or her snares, laid long hours in wait for the cottonmouth, the king, the coach-whip, and the cat-eye.  I saw the dignity with which the Snakecatchers carried themselves, and the pride they took in their work… all to be treated lower than their wares.  The injustice of it boiled in me.  I couldn’t let things stand.  I began to stir up interest.

Our first meeting was in an abandoned shack in the middle of a remote salt marsh.  Lucky I had brought a bullhorn, because we overflowed the place.  Word had spread, and Snakecatchers from seven counties had made their way over to be a part of the movement.  The authorities hadn’t yet sniffed us out, but sniff us out they did, and after a few short months they were cracking down harder than ever.  But it was too late.  A sea change was underway, and never again would a Snakecatcher be forced to slither on the dirt for the amusement of a cruel crowd, nor would one be short-changed by a preacher claiming that a snake measured less than two links.  Snakecatchers were banding together and claiming their rights!

Many people have asked me over the years, “Why?  Cyrus, why would you take such an interest in a people so lowly, so different from you?”  I am about to tell you all something that I have never revealed until this moment… my mamas were Snakecatchers.  I spent years covering up the fact, pretended that I was interested solely in the plight of others, when the plight was truly a personal one.  But I’ve run from my past for too long, and it is finally the end of a 12-year cycle when my announcement will be très chic.