When I finished this episode, it ran nearly 1800 words. That’s a short story, but a heck of a long blog post! So I split it in two, and I’ll post the second one tomorrow to deliver the promised two-fer this week.
Monday, September 2, 2013 (10:47 a.m.)
On the March
Mrs. Fetched thinks I’m nuts. I think she might be right. But she’s the one who was born on Planet Georgia, is 100% loyal to her state, and thinks this “militia” march is right & proper — so I’m not sure why she would object to me joining in.
Anyway, I actually emailed the guy who sent the spam and told them I was a non-combatant but would be willing to act as an embedded journalist for the march if none of the mainstream media was interested. I got a terse response: “call me,” a phone number, and a first name. When I called, he didn’t act surprised that I was a blogger, nor was he put off at my not being sure they were right (and thinking they might be a little crazy). “I get people tellin’ me they got Silver Stars in Iraq and all that $#¡+ — and that stuff’s easy to check out,” he said. “I’d sooner have an honest enemy with us than a gung-ho liar, ’least you know what to expect. Gimme your address and I’ll send you your credentials and some local people you can hook up with.”
Sure enough, in a couple days I got a large envelope with a letter, saying I was duly appointed as an embedded journalist with the Georgia Citizens’ Militia, some contact numbers, a white armband, and a list of things to bring. Guns, ammo, first aid kits, water, and food top the list. The white armband marks me as a non-combatant; there’s a list of armband colors and what they mean… these guys are more organized than I’d expected.
I arranged a ride with my local contacts, one that I know well enough to talk to. He was surprised, and a little suspicious, that I was going to be joining them — he knows my general political bent. When I told him I was the embedded journalist, he nodded and relaxed… that was more in keeping with what he expected. We agreed to split gas money and ration tickets, and they came by FAR Manor to pick me up before dawn. I ran a warm-up interview with the other riders along the way; we had a couple of hours to kill and I figured it would be a good start — their armbands marked them as grunts, so it was good to get an idea of what motivated them. The answers were both banal and surprising: it was an excuse to get away from the homestead, they believed in what they were doing, that kind of thing. Of course, they wanted to turn it around and ask me why I was going, especially since I wasn’t a gung-ho supporter — fair enough. I told them I was personally curious about them and their mission, and thought it was worth sharing with the world — and, like them, needed an excuse to get away for a day. They all laughed, and there was a certain tension in the car that I hadn’t noticed until it evaporated.
About the time the sun came up behind us, the talking-head radio told us that the Tennessee Highway Patrol was running roadblocks at the old border and searching for, and confiscating, weapons. It wasn’t affecting the militia, because most of us were coming up 136 to I-59, then north to Cole City. That the Tennessee Guard was at the “wrong” border was taken as a direct provocation by the others in the car — “once we set ’em straight today, I guess we gotta work our way right across the top of the state and fix the line, county by county,” one of them said.
“You think it’ll come to that?” I asked, back in journalist mode.
“Looks like it,” he said. “You heard their governor — he as much as said it was gonna be war. He wants a war, there’s people who’ll be glad to give it to him.” The others nodded.
At last, we reached the exit… cars were parked everywhere. I figure the smarter ones arrived last night and slept in their cars or camped out. A guy at the top of the exit was directing people to parking places, and pointed at the check-in/inspection/mustering station in an old gas station. There were some busses parked there — mostly from points south like Valdosta and Albany — and even an old Hummer, decked out in camo and chrome. It’s a really pretty day, bright sun, a little cool, just a few clouds… a great day for barbeque. (I just hope we’re not going to be the ones on the spit.) Our driver dropped us off and went to park, about a mile down the road, and we got in line to check in.
I presented my credentials, and the guy at the table nodded. “You’re with my platoon,” he said. “You’ll want to interview some of the officers too, I suppose?”
“Sure, if they’re willing. You too.”
“I can give you a few minutes once we’re done here. They’re expecting you now, though. Go to that tent —” he pointed to a big open tent, just visible behind a bus — “and show them your papers.”
“Here’s the journo,” one of them said as a guard confronted me at the tent and made a big show of studying my papers. “Send him along, Private.” The guard stepped back, saluted (a journalist?) and I took a chair across a pair of card tables.
“First off: no names, no faces,” the head honcho told me.
“I kind of expected that,” I said, pulling out my cellphone. “Let’s try this: pull your hats down so I can’t see your eyes. I’ll take a little footage, let you look at it, and delete it if it’s too revealing. Then you know I can’t ‘forget’ to pixelate your faces and give you away. As for names… how about this? You’re General Mayhem, your second there is Colonel Mustard, and my platoon leader is Sgt. Pepper?”
I wasn’t sure how they would take that, but they thought it was funny. “Good enough.” They pulled their hats down, I took some footage, and they were OK with the results. I did the interview and emailed the video home, so that’s safe anyway… and I’m writing about doing the story here, not the story itself. ;-)
I spent the next hour or so walking around and taking video, interviewed a few random souls (interchangeable pretty much), and gawked at the spectacle. I saw a few other white armbands; mostly younger guys. I caught one and interviewed him — it turned out they were couriers, carrying dispatches up and down the road. Some of the platoons had already moved out; as Sgt. Pepper was running check-in, we were bringing up the rear. I shouldn’t have been surprised that “my” platoon was mostly non-combatants — couriers, medics (yes they had some EMTs!) and the journalist (me). I had one of the couriers take me up to where they were marching so I could get some footage. There was a nice breeze coming in, and people’s mood suited the weather. I got a lot of guys waving, a few “Hi Mom!” gags, and just about all of them were smiling.
Helicopters were already making passes. Several people had packed binoculars, and identified most of them for me as I took video. “That one’s State Patrol.” “That’s Fox5.” “That’s Channel 46.”
I called Mrs. Fetched when the “move out” call came, and told her we were moving. “BE CAREFUL!” she yelled, and hung up. Stressed much?