Oil Town Royalty: A Quest For Higher Ground

As of tonight, December 22, 2000, at 5:05 AM, I am convinced of two things: All the dogs in Talco are plotting against me, and I am certifiably insane. While the former may only be one of the over- exaggerated theories that come from my mentally unfit mind, the latter is most assuredly true. I didn't come to these conclusions lightly; it was more of a dark, cold, night, adventure-to-be sort of thing, really.

I had started the evening off with planning and scheming. I packed a green backpack with everything I could possibly need on the dangerous mission I was about to embark on. Not one, but two flashlights were tucked safely away, one for guidance, the other as back up in the event I should lose the first. My new camera was in another zipped compartment. No one would ever believe I had done this unless I had some serious photo-evidence to prove my bravery. A few tasty dog treats were in the front pocket. They could deter mean dogs that barked and alerted light sleeping masters with shotguns and the cop's number on speed dial. I also figured that if I fell down a well or became trapped under a fallen limb, I could always use them to survive on. My summer journal, entitled "La Vita e'Bella!" was cast into the bag along with a nice erasable ink pen. It is nowhere near the warmth of summer, I know, but it seemed fitting to write about my experience in it. Lastly, I wrapped and packed the item that I am now debating my mental health over: my tiara. Now, I've always wanted a tiara, and I finally got one for Christmas from my best friend. Since that day in school, I have crowned myself queen/princess/empress/goddess of various realms (i.e., the band hall, my room, my friend's living rooms.). I have absolutely no idea why I wanted to take it there of all places, but if my plan took flight, I would soon hold a coronation ceremony for the new, undisputable queen of the WATER TOWER (da da dum).

My thirst for thrills has always led me to believe that I would one day die young doing something insanely stupid like playing hopscotch on a mountain top, or, more realistic yet, getting shot by some redneck as I flee their land after an unsuccessful cow tipping expedition. My list of things to do before I die include riding a mechanical bull, going salsa dancing, skinny-dipping in freezing water, sneaking bibles and relief supplies past KGB's on the border, and climbing the water tower. Since someone told me that the KGB is dissipating and pretty much non-existent, perhaps I will live forever? I first learned about this interesting activity in Talco in seventh grade, when I saw the sad little tower in the distance. It is said that everyone who climbed it got caught, but everyone knows someone who has gotten away with it once. Such is the logic of the quaint Talconians. I've always wanted to be that someone who laughed at the law and climbed that tower with reckless abandon. I am now so much older and wiser. Okay, so I'm only three years older, and I'm still the same fool who wanted to climb it three years ago. I'm not wiser either, because this time, I actually tried it. I wanted (and still want) to be among the greats who have scaled its rickety ladder and balanced precariously on the ledge, overlooking majestic Talco in all the glory of its one square mile. I call them greats, legends, even heroes, but no God fearing person would actually admit that they were anything but notorious thugs who got a little too daring while under the influence one night. Of course, I am aware that deep inside everybody, including myself, there is some want to be acknowledged by these ne'er do wells, and to be accepted by them. It is hidden; another personality that only surfaces in fantasies and daydreams. It is not an aspiration to join ranks with the night life lovers, but just an interesting wondering of what it would be like to hear one of them say, "Hey, man, now that was, like, one for the books, man. You're going to be telling your kids about that one!"

So I waited for my parents to fall asleep, since this wasn't exactly the most legal thing I've ever done. I then put on my bicycling shorts, sweat pants, heavy black jeans, green fleece shirt, green cashmere sweater, black wind breaker, army coat, two pairs of socks, my black gloves and my favorite black Star-Wars hat. After a glance in the mirror, I took the hat off because it looked stupid. By the time I had my full attire on, I had shoulders to rival any man's, and a clumsiness to go along with it. My attempt to climb out the window quietly was shot to pieces the moment I even thought about climbing out the window quietly. My parents are a little hard of hearing, plus they were asleep, so I didn't do any harm in breaking a shrub in half as a hauled my 'blind side' out the window first. It was colder than I thought outside. I secured my bag by tying it in knots around my shoulders and stomach, hoping nothing would jostle noisily. I took a deep breath, and took my first step in the general direction of the tower. My foot had been in mid-air for about a nano-second when a dog began to bark at me. That set off my own dog in the front yard, which roused my neighbor's dog across the street, which awakened the two black labs in the yard beside it, which stirred the mutts two blocks down, who gathered vocal support from every dog in the housing projects. Being afraid to move, my foot stayed in poised and trembling a few inches above the ground. When everything finally quieted down, I gingerly lowered my foot so that it only crunched the gravel ever so quietly. It was no more than a slightly audible whisper. And the dog started barking again! After the whole chain of canine warning systems had been activated again, I just sighed and started on my way. The first step had set the tone of the whole trip. I was quiet as one can be in five layers of clothing and a backpack tied around one's stomach. If there was a special type of dog-bark reading equipment, you could have traced my path from my house across Talco and to the tower. Whatever I had been thinking with the whole dog treat thing, I don't know, but I had a horrible mental picture of myself being stranded up a tree surrounded by ferociously barking dogs with nothing to eat but Healthy Pup's Lamb and Rice Dog Treat Chews.

At last, the small pinnacle that had stood in the north, taunting me with its out of reach promises of fame, loomed before me. The only things that separated me from great adventure and total lack of anything to do were a wide field in between two houses, and a fence. I started sneaking across the field. Step by step, inch-by-inch, I made it halfway in twenty- five minutes. I crept along so I wouldn't disturb any more dogs. Why didn't they just sleep at night? I was five feet away from the fence, a position it had taken me thirty minutes to arrive at, when the throaty growl began. "Oh, no. Please no. Anything but that." "BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK HOOOOOOOOWWWWWWLLLL BARK BARK." and so on and so forth until I was as far from that field, fence, and tower than the dog's maddened, furious barking could reach.

This was all my luck. I climbed the small platform on the miniscule oil derrick in front of my house. I smiled and thought back to a time when this rusty contraption scared me, and I faced down my fears by climbing it. Now it was nothing but a mere sentimental place to go when it gets too rough inside the house, or when I have some serious plight only the fresh air and the sense of intimacy with the heavens can cure. I now feel resigned to it, trapped forever in a not so daring, not quite thrilling world. I stand at the edge of my walk way and stare at the elusive, mysterious water tower. It would always be higher and more of a thrill, something which will probably pass me by as I become older and more devoted to my career and relationships. It will always possess some sort of dangerous beauty, until this town dies out and it eventually crumbles, despite the new paint job they are putting on it. However, as I stare at it wistfully, I see something else: tall fluorescent lights that cast a bright orange glow about it surround it. Interesting. I do my best impression of a royal queen who has surveyed another nobleperson's castle and found it flawed in the extreme. I carefully unzip my bag and unwrap my tiara. Placing it on my head, I lie back on the platform and take in the beauty of the stars. Standing on top of the water tower, I could have seen my kingdom from above, looking down at the ludicrous little oil town. But I am higher where I am. Such bright lights would not have interfered with my view of the town, but would have prevented my view of the millions of twinkling lights and the large glowing quarter moon surfacing in the sky. As I adjust my tiara so that I can lie down and observe better, a dog starts barking in the distance. I sigh and declare myself happily insane. I am queen of this place where I lie: a little off the ground, a long way from the sky, but closer to God than I've ever been. I think I'll watch the sunrise this morning; it is almost time for it to make an appearance anyway.