By Bob Litton
Our town, Cromagville, is nestled in the most climatically and scenically delightful spot one can imagine — with low mountains to the north, a desert to the south, level pastureland to the west and a metropolitan caveland to the east. It is the best of all possible towns.
Like our sister city Neanderburg — twenty-six miles to the west — our primary industry is raising mammoths. However, we do have a few other gainful employments: tourism, cave painting, and lawyering. We are, in fact, the epitome of what the rest of America wishes it could be.
My ol’ pardner, Gus Blankmind, over in Neanderburg, says their town is better; but the only time the Neanderburgans one-up us is when we play skullball. I will concede that those good ol’ boys can throw and kick a mammoth’s skull clear into the next caveland. But, after all, you can make a living playing skullball for only a few years; after that, your own skull is too bruised to qualify you as skilled enough for any occupation. Gus’ and his fellow Neanderburgans’ obtuseness whenever we get onto the subject of comparing our towns can sometimes lead to light violence….Well, okay, often lead to light violence….Well, okay, often lead to heavy violence. Still, nobody’s been killed yet, at least nobody that either of our sheriff’s offices will mention.
I’ll tell you about a couple of incidents, however, two that I’m familiar with because I was involved in them.
For one, Cromagville and Neanderburg until recently had a common bonfire right on the border between our towns. We felt for a long time that the bonfire was the most economical way for our communities to keep our home fires burning, since many of our menfolk are a bit absent-minded and forget to tend the little ovens in their caves.
Well, of course, that fire required attending to also, and we had to draft fellows to keep it going, so we hired some people from both communities to do the work. All went well enough for several years, but eventually the bonfire tenders began to quarrel over the usual things: “I’m having to do all the work ‘cause you’re too lazy!” and “We need more of the torches for our community ‘cause our population is greater than yours!”, et cetera.
I tell you, we had a hell of a fight over that, on the plain with our clubs and in the court with our words. Now, although we’ve settled that issue, the memory of it still rankles and not everyone feels like their community got a completely fair shake out of the final deal.
Then, too, there are the personal problems between individuals. Take me and Gus, for instance.
One day a couple of years ago, I was over in Neanderburg visiting Gus and asking him about two of my missing mammoth calves. Ol’ Gus’s cave is right at the intersection of Tyrannosaurus Avenue and Pterodactyl Lane. It’s a comfy cave. It would have to be to house Gus and his very heavy wife and their half-dozen off-spring. I’ll never forget that cave because I messed up my back helping Gus drag his wife in there the night he got hitched.
Anyway, there we were sitting cross-legged on the stony floor, me citing my suspects and Gus claiming that neither he nor any of his neighbors would rustle mammoth calves.
“If we took anything, it would be full-grown beasts,” Gus said. “Hell, two calves wouldn’t even serve a family for dessert with the appetites we Neanderburgans have.”
“Look, Gus,” said I, “I tracked the dung droppings of those calves all the way to the intersection outside before they disappeared. Don’t tell me there ain’t any mammoth calves in this neighborhood.”
At that, Gus turned red and grabbed his oak club.
“Why, you’re accusing me — your ol’ buddy even — of taking those mangy calves!”
“How’d you know they were mangy if you didn’t take them?”
The fight didn’t last long. I didn’t hurt Gus much. He just doesn’t have to part his hair anymore. It was a waste really because the calves had already been eaten. But at least I had solved the “Mystery of the Missing Mangy Mammoths”.
Yeah, Ol’ Gus and I are still good buddies. One shouldn’t let a small matter like a mammoth-rustling erase the comradeship based upon a good woman-abduction.
I listed “tourism” as another of our industries. Get a load of that: tourism as an industry, as though you could mold tourists like you can clay pots. Nah, they come here from elsewhere, those Homo sapiens, as they refer to themselves. They want to see what life was like way back when. They call it their “heritage”. They all dream of dressing up like cavemen for a weekend and riding a bucking Triceratops in one of our rodeos. Ha, ha, ha! They don’t realize until it’s too late that a Triceratops doesn’t buck; it just rolls over and mashes you to death.
I tell you those folks have heard too many romantic tales or seen too many Jurassic movies (so I’m told, as I’ve never seen a movie, whatever that is). They drive into our Cromagville looking for something to remind them of a time when the world was whole…better put together, you might say. I think they envy us because we don’t have to court our women; we just conk them on the head and drag them off to our caves.
Personally, I think they’ve been deluded by one of the exiled Neanderburgans — a fellow named John Wayne, who about a century ago was kicked out of Neanderburg for bragging too much about stuff he didn’t do. He ventured off to a place the Homo sapiens call “Hollywood” and made a bunch of sauced-up films about the “Great Caveman Life”. So, now we’re deluged with all these visiting Homo sapiens looking for their “heritage”. What makes it even worse is that many of us honest-to-goodness Cromagvillites, as well as the Neanderburgans, accept their sops. Even those of us who don’t raise woolly mammoths dress like we do. It’s a contamination, I tell you.
A bunch of us make a comparatively honest living out of cave-painting. It’s not an easy profession because the light in our caves is dim most of the time; and even when there is supposedly sufficient light, it is such as will confuse your color-mixing. At least, that’s the excuse I offer for the less talented of our artists. The subject matter, too, is tedious, mostly about the “heritage” nonsense. Here you have a Cromagville man roping mammoths from astride his apatosaurus; there you have a Neanderburgan branding a stegosaurus calf. Hokum! I tell you! It’s pure hokum! Of course, the Homo sapien tourists can’t carry the cave paintings off with them; so, the cave-painters make copies on flat rocks to sell to them at ridiculously high prices. Actually, though, several of our cave painters are quite good, albeit the majority are mediocre to just plain awful.
Finally, there are the lawyers. There are about 25 of them in this two-caveland region with a combined population of nearly 17,000. Many of them are the dregs of other areas, lured here by the relative paucity of competitors, although some are native Cromagvillites and Neanderburgans who never learned to ride and rope well enough to bring down a mammoth. O, but don’t be fooled by their lack of good manners or suavity; they are cagey! They can use a stylus with a flair, piling up enough obfuscating clay tablets to make any judge dizzy. They can make you feel so guilty when you sue a doctor for malpractice or over-charging that you will apologize to the doctor for not having more savings for him to swindle you out of.
While it’s true that we are the originals of this land, I just wish those Homo sapiens would consider trying to be something better and leave us alone. I hate being an out-dated model in a phony daydream.