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Bound Volume 2015
On-line edition of the Chuckwalla Reveille, the Voice of the Tri-Desert Empire.
(Formerly the Jericho Clarion) Covering Chuckwalla, Blythe, Jericho, Sometimes Spring, Pele Verde, and all of Eastern Imperial County. Home of the Yellow Jackets. Go Jackets! Jacket Power! Headquarters of the Fifth Marines Desert Warfare Center. Gateway to the Mojave, Colorado, and Sonoran Deserts. Sunshine 300 Days a Year.
Editor’s note: Dexter Dietz, the Chuckwalla Reveille's owner and publisher, remains under federal witness protection while awaiting the unlikely but hoped for trial in the Hague of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. We first met Dietz in San Francisco’s Haight, after knocking on an apartment door with the inscription “Only the illusion doesn’t deceive." He later became involved in shadowy transactions involving weapons transfers in Southern Sudan. Returning to the States, he sought a quiet enterprise that would print easy money. The Chuckwalla Reveille, the weekly in a tiny desert town, had a small but steady trade with several real estate brokers and a car dealership. Dietz had no interest in reporting or editing but these matters are easily hired out. He led a retired life until FBI agents took him into protective custody. We were sitting at the bar at the Merchants’ and Millionaires’ when Dexter rang. Could we come to Imperial County to guard his interests? We were at liberty, having just been fired for insubordination from a metro daily. We agreed to take the reins in Chuckwalla until the al-Bashir indictment is resolved.
Chuckwalla, southeastern California, population 12,000 un-incarcerated. Set on the west bank of the muddy, pesticide-laced Colorado, surrounded by blank desert, a hundred miles from anything. Main industry, a state prison within the gerrymandered city limits. Agriculture: subsidized cotton nobody wants, alfalfa two hundred miles from the nearest cow. Yemen in summer, Siberia in winter. A high concentration of coughers and hackers because of PM 10 (that’s dust, to you). A sun-dazzled main street of vacant buildings, condemned because of an underground plume of hydrocarbons, the residue of defunct gas stations whose Indian owners had decamped for Mumbai. Typical desert small town. Bleak, windblown, boring. The crowded police blotter mostly crime against property, residential burglary, auto theft. High unemployment, the few jobs low wage and physical. Meth labs in trailers down lonely roads behind locked gates. For violence, the domestic squawk, the bar fight. The schools bad and few bother to finish. Lots of diversity and they mostly hate each other. “Welcome to Chuckwalla,” said the Chamber sign at the off-ramp. “Eat, Sleep, Shop.” The Chuckwalla Reveille is the town’s weekly newspaper, Chuckwalla Wire the on-line edition.
The Reveille’s periodic reconnaissance of the Tri-Desert Empire
(Editor’s note: The Reveille welcomes Cheryl Weiss, 17, a senior at Chuckwalla High and a member of the school’s Crème de la Crème scholastic honor society. Weiss is joining the paper as a part-time intern reporter who will be following the Chuckwalla city council.)
Nix the shots. Penny Axelrod, animal rights advocate and co-chair of Loose the Dogs, used her three minutes at the city council's public comment to protest a Chuckpo citation for walking an unlicensed dog. Axelrod, whose group opposes the city's leash law, said she got cited Friday on the bike path when her 20-pound terrier Faro scuffled with another dog. "The ordinance requiring rabies shots must go," Axelrod said. "Dog owners object to the vaccination because of the link to autism." She said that one of her dogs, Zor, became autistic after getting vaccinated. "In fact, most of so-called bad behavior in dogs can be traced to autism." She provided council members with a copy of a study that appeared in her self-published e-book The Puppy Papers.
Local authors Go to firstname.lastname@example.org for the updated list of self-published e-books by Imperial County authors. Some new titles:
Truant Disposition, by Chuckwalla JC student Blaine Peters. In this jailhouse memoir, Peters revisits his brushes with the juvenile justice system, and his daring escape from the privately-run YoutGard detention facility.
My Answer to a World that Never Asked, personal essays by Chuckwalla curmudgeon and e-mail gadfly Besos Amazn.
Lancelot, The Knight a la Cart, by Cathy Lennox, Chuckwalla High School English teacher. Medieval love poetry transformed into 20th Century English, with the afterword, “Tu-wit, Tu-who. Merry notes on bawdy minstrelsy.”
Fleur de Coop Bail Bonds of Brawley is opening a satellite office in Chuckwalla in the Pavilion Building on Hobbesianway across the street from the courthouse. (Sponsored)
Letter to the Editor Re: last week‘s Council Notes. I’m surprised that such a famous weekly can’t afford a stick and hearing trumpet for the Magoo you send to our council meetings. In fairness, your reporter did manage to use his surviving sensory organ to nose out the one person (me) who would bother with him. I introduced him around, guided him to the restroom, explained the issues. Now this. Let’s review the errors. The Chuckwalla gas plant is not owned by the Chinese. It’s owned by a consortium that includes the partner Shanghai Energy Petrochemical. It should not be referred to as “the Chinese gas plant.” Pele Verde Memorial Hospital has not been rated “worst in the nation” by anybody. The “second worst” rating comes from an East Coast consumer protection group that has not been accredited by the Medical Practices Board in Washington, D.C. The tar plume under Main Street is not “unfixable.” Using new fracking techniques, drillers may be able to dissolve the plume with chemical infusions and draw the hydrocarbons to the surface for removal. As for his calling the new traffic signals “irrelevant,” I can only hope that in the natural run of things a doddering, deaf, dim-eyed hack with an enflamed beezer, will be irrelevant soon enough. Bibby Patel, Chuckwalla Councilman
(Editor’s note: The reporter referenced in Councilman Patel’s e-mail no longer is with the paper.)
Weighty Matters In a 3-2 vote Wednesday the Chuckwalla City Council approved installing a scale at the public speaker’s podium in the council chamber. At future meetings, speakers stepping to the podium will have their weight projected on a screen on the back wall. Mayor Robert Crane said that other municipalities have found the scales expedite proceedings. Recent council meetings have dragged past midnight as citizens used “public comment” to address contentious issues such as gas plant emissions and the sewer pond extension. Crane said citizens addressing the council would still get a full three minutes at the podium.
Critics however claim the new technology could have a chilling effect on free speech. Mary Callahan, from the Sobrantes United Pilates class, said the council action sought to dampen criticism from her neighbors regarding the city plan to build sewer ponds upwind from their homes. Crane denied that the new ordinance targeted any group or that its intent was to stifle criticism from the Pilates class. “It certainly has nothing to do with obesity or a sedentary lifestyle or bad food choices,” Crane said. “I was the first person to use the scale.” Crane, known both for his orotund speaking style and his rotund appearance, said he tips the scale at three hundred and ten pounds. “I don’t mind owning what I weigh,” Crane said. Cheryl Weiss
About those scales. Chuckwalla High School dietician Cindy Mallory says she favors weighing speakers at council meetings, as an incentive to healthy living. Mallory said that if Chuckwalla citizens had to reveal their weight they might think twice about “fast food loaded with lard, corn pus and brine.” Seeing numbers shows the effect of “moron food,” she said.
Dog Fisherman Arrested Chuckpo arrested a Chuckwalla restaurant owner Tuesday for dog fishing from his front porch. Police lieutenant Abel Dick said that Harry Ming, owner of the Saipan Grill, was arrested Tuesday at his home, 2012 High Beam Way, after he began casting for feral dogs with a 10-foot surf rod. Dick said that when arrested, Ming was reeling in a 40-pound Shepherd mix. The noise of the battle awakened neighbors who called police. Dick said the population of stray and feral dogs has risen in Chuckwalla as owners beset by hard times have released their pets into Arroyo Cholo on the bike path. After obtaining a warrant, officers searching Ming’s residence turned up a collection of dog collars in a bureau drawer and a freezer filled with wrapped meats.
Leaders in Motion
(A regular feature in which the Reveille chats with vanguard personalities in the Tri-Desert Empire. This week with we’re with Chuckwalla resident Lenora Hicks, the autistic animal rights activist and architect who designed the new chicken campus for Carr’s Quality Poultry.)
Reveille: What did Tom Carr ask for?
Hicks: “He wanted a facility that would stand up to public scrutiny. He wanted something like the humane slaughterhouses for cattle and pigs. Chicken processing is hidden from the public. The birds are de-beaked, stacked to the ceiling in tiny cages, force fed for eight weeks, hung upside down on a tram, and slaughtered by illegal immigrants in a horror show of blood, feathers, offal and stench.”
Reveille: Carr has had trouble before.
Hicks: “His operation was closed down by the state after a massive die off. That was mostly because of the hot spell two summers ago. There was also some footage from a whistleblower.”
Reveille: What’s your plan?
Hicks: “The campus has an open quad with cooling ponds and misters. Solar panels run fans that clear the buildings of floating detritus. There’s a large rotunda so the chickens can circle the quad like the sea bass at the Monterey Aquarium. Windows allow public viewing.”
Reveille: How about slaughter?
Hicks: “Robotic guides gently push the chickens onto a moving walkway. An audio system broadcasts recorded chicken clucking that has been demonstrated to reassure the birds. As the chickens enter the plant they’re decapitated by laser beam and flipped onto the assembly line. Blowers prevent hormonal triggers from reaching the oncoming birds.”
Reveille: Is this a healthier bird?
Hicks: “Maybe. They’re not shot through with stress hormones, since they aren’t grabbed out of a cage, hung upside down and slashed across the throat. The main point of the campus is to create humane conditions.”
Reveille: You have a history. You saved the chicken at Chuckwalla High.
Hicks: “My being autistic, school was hard for me. During Chuckwalla Days, the senior class used to have a three-legged chicken game during the rally in the gym. A hen was let loose and teams of two students with one leg strapped together tried to catch it. I totally identified with the chicken. That was my life at Chuckwalla High. I came down from the stands and tried to stop it.”
Reveille: You did stop it.
Hicks: “This was before I started talking. I found a mop and began whacking the three-legged teams. I was squawking like a chicken, standing in front of the hen and swinging the mop. At first I was booed, and then I started getting some cheers. A gym teacher stopped the show, and the principal came to the microphone and said we could all learn some lessons here. I started to talk after that.”
Budget Woes Hamper Honors Budget constraints threaten to diminish the funeral ceremony honoring slain Chuckwalla policeman Don Clifton after council members got an estimate of additional costs. Police Chief Habib Zygatt, 234 pounds, said it would cost the city an additional $10,000 in overtime and transportation expenses for the memorial set for February 27. He said rank and file officers from neighboring districts could carpool but the city would have to reimburse chiefs and senior deputies arriving in official vehicles. Zygatt said it was important the other desert departments show solidarity at the service of a fallen officer. “It’s our mutual assistance,” he said.
Officer Clifton cost the city. Councilman Bibby Patel said the planned service for the slain officer seemed unnecessarily lavish, considering the officer’s troubled tenure with the department. During his two years with the Chuckwalla police department, Clifton had been the subject of citizen complaints alleging excessive use of force. He also was involved in an out of court settlement of a suit charging that he had had sex with a minor in the back seat of a squad car. “We honor Officer Clifton’s sacrifice,” said Councilwoman Helen Faraday, “but the city already has made considerable expenditures in his behalf. I see an item here for $500 for a floral tribute. I see an item to Gabe’s Rigs and Plugs for a horse drawn caisson. I see $800 to KZZS for live radio coverage. I remind all of us again that the city is on the brink of receivership.” Councilman Erskine Tibble, a retired county deputy, defended the expense as necessary for public safety. “Nobody can understand who hasn’t been a law officer. Only sworn officers are qualified to judge what is needed for a policeman’s funeral.”
At the request of Mayor Crane, city treasurer Saroj Patel briefly sketched the city’s financial picture. Treasurer Patel said the city was $5 million in debt to suppliers, and would have to increase mandatory furloughs of city workers to five days per month to meet pension fund requirements. She said the state comptroller had requested a court hearing with an eye to declaring the city insolvent and mandating the appointment of a state guardian. “It’s not about money,” Councilman Tibble said. “It’s about keeping the luster on the badge.” Cheryl Weiss
Malicious mischief. After a brief foot chase, Chuckwalla police officers arrested Donald Nagel, 25, a Chuckwalla graffiti artist who has had past brushes with the law for defacing walls. Police said Nagel allegedly used super glue to paste a sticker saying “Your Son’s Blood Goes Here” over the gas cap of a Ford Suburbia parked on Hobbesianway. Chuckpo arrested Nagel last month for pasting “Too Proud to be an American” bumper stickers on parked cars at the county fairgrounds during the “Sunday Thunder” stock car races. Nagel was released after posting $500 bail.
Busker crashes Busk memorial. A celebration of the life of Calvin Busk, was held Wednesday at the Moose Lodge in Chuckwalla. Busk, 79, who passed December 25 due to post-surgical complications at Pele Verde Memorial Hospital, was a loyal Moose and a retired realtor involved in the promotion of the beleaguered Sometimes Spring Pleasant Gate Senior Village. A larger than life presence in Chuckwalla for three decades, Busk had a rollicking sense of humor and a love of practical jokes. “He held court every morning at the Peacock Restaurant,” said lifelong friend Elmo Dibbs. “He ribbed the heck out of everybody. He was a natural salesman and a manic character around here until the Pleasant Gate conversion.” The Pleasant Gate development went into receivership in 2012, and the losses to investors occasioned a flurry of lawsuits that embroiled Busk in court appearances during the final year of his life. At his request, only his creditors were invited to his memorial service. The printed invitation stated, “No host bar, open casket.” Busk wasn’t in it. On his deathbed, Busk had hired rodeo clown Andy Ikes to lie in the casket and greet mourners with a sepulchral laugh. “It was his last prank,” Dibbs said.
Frisbee Hospitalized in Park Fray “Chuckwalla’s Oldest Hippie,” Babba Frisbee, 72, was taken to the Pele Verde Memorial Hospital Friday after being pummeled by a gang of young toughs in Howell Park. Frisbee told police that he was relaxing on a bench near the bandstand at about midnight when he noticed several young men urinating into the children’s water fountain. He said that when he objected, the youths chased him around the bandstand, knocked him down and kicked him. Frisbee, a long-time colorful regular in the park who wears tie dye shirts, ponytail, and rainbow headband, was admitted to the hospital with a concussion and minor contusions, and was listed in stable condition. His assailants were described as three teenage males in jeans and dark hoodies.
(A regular Reveille feature spotlighting Tri-Desert bards.)
Might is Right
by Cubla Can
Some are Strong
Some are Weak
The weak are wrong
The strong will keep
End of Song
Emily on Smoke
by Dick and Son
Some things that buzz there be
Buds, clocks, the bumble bee
Some things that stone there be
Grief, grass, eternity.
Reflections on my 70th
by John Betts
All those who treated me like trash
Are now putrescence, or loose ash.
I feel good about that.
The girls who mocked my skinny legs
Now are fat repugnant hags.
Life is good.
Iraq Hero in Berserk Rampage Erstwhile Marine Jesse Header, honored last year as a hero after three tours in Iraq, turned the Horny Toad Saloon into a shambles Friday night, wreaked his girlfriend’s apartment, then brawled with police until he was Tasered into submission. Chuckwalla police Lt. Abel Dick said Header mounted the stage at the Horny Toad Saloon and wrested a trombone from Kinda in Beta band leader Keith Teeth. Toad bouncers ejected Header but he returned a moment later with a ball peen hammer, scattering Kinda in Beta, breaking glasses and bottles, and threatening Toad bartenders and staff.
Alerted by screaming patrons, officers entered the saloon and attempted to subdue Header with stun guns but to no effect. After smashing the bar mirror, a tuba and a clarinet Header escaped out the back door. Dick said that half an hour later the police dispatcher received a call from Header’s girlfriend, Madeline Limmit, who said Header had burst into her apartment and was trashing the place. Dick said he and other officers struggled with Header and had to Tase him repeatedly. In a duffle bag in the apartment police found a loaded rifle, ammunition, and a toy hand grenade.
Header received a hero’s welcome and rode as grand marshal of the Chuckwalla Days Parade after being mustered out of the Marine Corps last year. During four years of service, he deployed to Iraq three times, receiving for his service a Purple Heart and a General Discharge. Header’s mother, Cynthia Neatfoot, said her son suffered depression and had been treated as an outpatient in the VA Hospital in Riverside. “It’s PT,” she said Header was released from police custody after receiving counseling. Cheryl Weiss
Mayor Crane Eyes UFOs Is the Palo Verde Valley a locus of “magnetic convergence” that draws extraterrestrial UFOs? Chuckwalla Mayor Robert Crane Wednesday enlivened an otherwise humdrum council meeting with the suggestion that the valley, because of the alignment of the surrounding mountains, might project a “powerful resonance” into deep space that attracts alien visitors from the cosmos. “It’s a candle and moth effect,” Crane said. The mayor said he is preparing a package for council eyes that would collect and collate local reports of UFO sightings. He said he is interviewing witnesses and scouring the Chuckwalla library for old records. Crane visited the office of the Chuckwalla Reveille on Monday to spend part of an hour examining issues of the newspaper going back forty years. By Cheryl Weiss
Missing Scout Troop Found on Scorpion Peak A sheriff’s helicopter located the 19 missing scouts of Troop 354 early Monday morning in the Scorpion Wilderness 50 miles north of Chuckwalla. The scouts were in good condition and were returning to Chuckwalla in a chartered bus. The scouts went missing Saturday night while on a camping trip to the Imperial County Scout Council’s Jamboree. Frantic parents alerted law enforcement when the scouts failed to return Sunday afternoon, and scout leaders couldn’t be reached by cell phone.
Sheriff’s spokesman Neville Botts said the scouts decided to take an unscheduled and unsupervised night hike in the wilderness near Scorpion Peak after scout masters retired for the evening. “The adults had gone to their own campfire a quarter of a mile away and were unaware that the scouts had left until reveille Sunday morning,” Botts said. The Council’s jamboree coordinator Jan Fisk said scout leaders typically have a campfire social hour Saturday night but ordinarily at least one adult remains with the youths. “We are looking to see if we need to tighten our protocols,” Fisk said. According to Botts, the social hour had extended past midnight. First Class Scout Henry Pipps, 17, said the night hike was a spur of moment idea. “We got bored sitting around and it was too noisy to sleep.”
New Fly in Town? Entomology researchers from the University of California, Riverside, will be in Chuckwalla this week to study the feasibility of relocating the endangered Colton Sand Fly to Imperial County. The elusive sand fly is native to a few acres on the outskirts of Colton in Riverside County. Strip malls and freeways have encroached on the fly’s meager habitat. The Colton City Council last year voted to develop the fly’s last parcel for a box factory but was overruled by a court injunction citing the Endangered Species Act as well as a possible conflict of interest arising from financial ties between council members and the owners of the proposed factory. Patricia Fens, UC associate professor of entomology, said the fly is closely associated symbiotically with a native thistle that grows in the undulating sand dunes. “We’re looking for similar dunes west of the Colorado where we can introduce the thistle, and, we hope, the sand fly.” Fens said that unless the fly can be relocated its survival chances are dim. “Pollution and noise from the Interstate are impacting the fly,” she said. A suit brought by the California Center for Biodiversity would have required the state to reduce the freeway speed limit to 10 mph on a half mile stretch facing the fly’s habitat. “That’s not happening in Colton,” said Colton mayor Jim Haines. “It’s a fly.”
Shots Fired at Local Youth Chuckwalla police Monday were interviewing two dove hunters who fired their shotguns at something they thought to be a space alien but which turned out to be a local Boy Scout. Chuckwalla police Lt. Abel Dick said the hunters, whose names are being withheld pending further investigation, sighted “a creature” in a skintight silvery outfit, with a bulbous head and large almond-shaped eyes. When the apparition began making high-pitched metallic noises and turned on them, the hunters loosed a blast of bird shot. Dick said the police determined that the “creature” was a 17-year-old scout from Troop 354 costumed in a Halloween outfit. “We haven’t pieced this one together yet,” Dick said, but he credited the gas plant health clinic for providing timely medical attention to the wounded youth and for calling police promptly. The youth, whose name was withheld because of his age, had superficial pellet wounds and was released to his parent.
(A regular Reveille feature highlighting Tri-Desert poetasters.)
by Orin Wimbly
The blue of night folds Howell’s band shell
A beatific Babba smiles that “All’s well”
When evil laughter breaks the quiet!
Three miscreants!!! Bent on riot
This trio of no-goods does now unbutton
And spray their piss upon the fountain
Oh, where’s the cop to stop this fun?
The midnight moon alas saw none
Up rose old Babba then
Bowed with his threescore years and ten
In his old attic a blear eye was set
To show a heart courageous yet
Bravest of all in Howell Park
He told them: stop this lark!
“Bust if you must an old grey head
But spare the kiddy fountain,” he said.
They beat him to a pulp and fled
Poor Babba Frisbee left for dead
If you know who played this trick
Please get in touch with Abel Dick.
Leaders in Motion
A regular Reveille feature profiling vanguard personalities in the Tri-Desert area. This week we catch up with 17-year-old Boy Scout first class Henry Pipps, the highest ranking scout in Troop 354 and a senior at Chuckwalla High.
Reveille: You were shot recently.
Pipps: “Not the first time. What happened, I was working on a community service project by helping Bert (Bertinelli) at the Chamber of Commerce with a promotion for the Convergence Center. I had to dress up like a Martian and walk into town to meet up with Mayor Crane. Bert wanted the whole troop but he only had one costume. Anyhow, I’m coming up out of the culvert over near Via Bienvenidos and I’m testing out this electronic horn that Bert gave me when ka-boom, two dove hunters open up on me.”
Reveille: Bird shot?
Pipps. “I got peppered in the back. Nothing serious. Last year I was shot through the hand with a .22 during the Scout Expo in Big Moccasin. See.”
Reveille: I’ve heard you scouts have an interest in firearms.
Pipps: “We have our own range on Scorpion Peak. We’re interested in the original scouting idea of General Baden Powell. He saw ‘scouts’ as being the reconnaissance for light infantry. We’re not so much about getting merit badges or doing good deeds as we are about field craft. Tracking. Bush survival. Escape and evasion. We shoot a lot.”
Reveille: What does the scout master think about this philosophy?
Pipps: “I don’t know.
Reveille: Who is the scout master?
Pipps: “I’m not sure. Might be Mr. Higgins.”
Reveille: What happened last month?
Pipps. “The Jamboree doesn’t have a range. We just stepped off Saturday night for Scorpion Peak to get in some practice. We weren’t lost; we have our own cabin up there; we were just doing some shooting and hanging out. We’ve been to Scorpion Peak a million times. But some parents got worried.”
Reveille: You guys have .22s.
Pipps: “Actually, most of us have .223 semi autos. Rugers. Also a Garand. A couple of 30-30 carbines. Remington seven mil. Some antique junk. Enfields, Mosh-Nagant.”
Reveille: Aren’t you too old to be a Boy Scout?
Pipps: “Officially it goes Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer. But in Chuckwalla there’s just Troop 354. Kind of like a one room school.”
Reveille: So what are your plans after graduation?
Pipps: “That’s a darn good question. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
Bound volume 2015