GRANNY and the GREAT SMOKE-OUT
by Leigh Lundin
If I start at the beginning, I have to tell about my grandmother. She was a pioneer woman, a Quaker homesteader in Iowa, running her own farm long after anyone else would have retired. Even in her latter 70s, she sewed lap robes for the ‘old people’, some fifteen years younger than she.
Granny liked Richard Nixon, at least at the early years. The nation pulled together through the Great Depression and pulled together though World War II, so it was inconceivable that the vice president selected by the great General Dwight Eisenhower could be misguided, let alone misfeasant.
Iowa is blessed with rich, black soil that can grow anything. Corn grows taller, cattle grow fatter, and cheese cultures grow richer in Iowa. By some prehistory oversight, God allowed cannabis sativa to take root, and marijuana flourished in the great state of Iowa. It blossomed along farm fences and proliferated in the pastures and fence rows of grandmother’s farm, a land where happy milk comes from happy cows.
Granny whipped out her scythe, pumped up her weed-whacker, and fired up her bush-hog. She was serious. Within a week, granny built a two-storey haystack of weed that could entertain a Grateful Dead concert for an entire season, including bus trips. But, the question arose, what should she do with it?
By late July, the pile of pernicious pot became a mountain of dry leaves. No one told her not to play with matches and Granny did the obvious; she burned it.
It was a marvelous fire that would be talked about for decades. It flamed up into the heavens and it created a cloud of smoke as dense and thick as the tension in the Watergate hearings.
"Bert, if Nixon says we ought to stay in Viet Nam, then by gum we should stay. We’re fighting communism and no way Russia’s gonna tear down that Berlin Wall. Say, that looks like a cirrocumulus strato-nimbus lenticular cloud formation rolling in."
"Old Miz Lundin, I reckon, burning leaves. Does it late summer, like clockwork. Smells a mite… fragrant, don’t you think? And colorful."
"I love the smell of burning leaves. Anyway, Bert, what business do we have in an undeclared war? Can’t we all get along? Wow, I never noticed before, don’t John Deere’s have a perfection of colors? They match with anything, Farmall, Allis Chalmers. Hey, you got any nachos?"
"Cheese fries. I’m thinking onions."
"Make mine with chili. Hard to tell through all the smoke, but ain’t that your wife coming?"
"Yep. She joined some kind of feminist club and they’re all talking divorces now, looking at their vaginas with mirrors and finding themselves. Ain’t had sex in a month. Them women spend their time marching and burning bras."
"She’s looking pretty fine without a bra."
"I was thinking the same thing, but that temper of hers… Hi, Missy, you’re looking a mite less intense."
"I feel so relaxed for the first time in… Gee, boys, those smoky cheese fries… I’ll give you two hundred dollars for a chili cheese fry and a roll in the hay. You, um, you can use the mirror, if you like."
The smoke cloud rolled eastward. Central Illinois experienced a baby boom and the lowest divorce rate in over a century. When Chicago ran out of Fritos, people who never tasted Doritos began to ask for them by name.
In Indianapolis, the state legislature proposed establishing a Fillmore Midwest. Demand for popcorn soared. James Ritchie and Dick Stodghill stopped writing crime and sports stories and entered what became known as their haiku period.
Columbus, Ohio, the center of America’s product testing, featured a statistical spike in which mystery shoppers found they liked everything, especially if it came with cheese sauce. A fellow named Dave Thomas began giggling. "Oh, wow, I’ve got the coolest idea. We can charge extra for cheese on our chili and make a fortune, right? And wow, get this– we can sell these milkshake things and call them ‘frosties’, get it? Chili – Frosty?"
In Pennsylvania, farmers began painting their barns Peter Max paisley. Amish and non-Amish hugged one another and said, "I love you, man, peace."
In Washington, DC, a woman named Woods accidentally erased a recorded conversation:
"Trust me, John, the American people want this Watergate business to go away. Spiro, what’s that smell? It reminds me of… of roofers! I haven’t tried roofers since I was at Duke. What were we talking about? Hey, anybody besides me up for nachos? Wow, you ever notice this office doesn’t have corners? Gordon, I’ve never seen you looking so mellow. Let’s invite Cheech and Chong to the White House! Rose Mary, make a note of that and may I say you’re looking hot, really hot."
So without quite remembering why they’re celebrating or who originated it, a village in Iowa celebrates Zearing Days. The town has truck pulls and tractor pulls and taffy pulls, and some take pulls from a pipe. They consume frightful amounts of genuine Maytag cheese and corn chips, but the legend of Miz Lundin’s bonfire is all but forgotten.
And there’s Bert. Sometimes, his wife smokes something she shouldn’t and gets especially amorous. She looks up at Bert with doe-like eyes and says, "Wanna use the mirror?"