by Bo Keeley
(Swans - February 28, 2011) When I was a 28-year-old retired veterinarian, I spent the year sleeping in a coffin. It was simple, pine, and lined with electric blankets against the icy Michigan winter nights. It was also the logical progression from an on-and-off career riding boxcars around America. Before that, I built a hermetic crate in a garage to shield the light from sensitive eyes. In a prior nightmare power shortage in an Auckland House of Mirrors, the doors kicked open one-by-one until a janitor bashed the real one. Early on, beloved mother opened my Xmas boxes-inside-boxes to a final love passage. Bless her understanding heart for allowing me to keep a pet pocket worm.
The recent idea of digging a burrow, moving in, and observing my fellow creatures evolved from a besotted visit to an Anchorage bar where drunks gradually became aware that in place of the usual bar mirror stood a wall-to-wall glass window. It permitted a menagerie of rhesus monkeys to cavort on spruce branches, and every few minutes bemuse us drinkers. We were each others' floorshows.
I just put the finishing touches on my burrow at Sand Valley, and urge visitors. I meditate and type six feet beneath the desert floor with a Western Diamondback doorman named Sir. It's cool, quiet, and airy with one side open and a stair to the surface. No mammal near the tri-section of California, Arizona, and old Mexico digs a deeper burrow. I like to think Captain Nemo turns in his grave. The twist is an open wall of ¼" hardware mesh flush with the vertical dirt. A half-dozen species of reptiles, rodents, scorpions, and my fetching trader rat, Band-Aid, so far, scuttle in auxiliary tunnels off my main bore, and peek in.
Sand Valley, California, is a 10-mile round sandbox crosscut by dry washes and ringed by 600-foot Mountains. A single track from the town of Blythe leads an hour pursuit to the pristine circle where seven residents survived the '06 summer that decimated 30% of the population. The blistering heat, and the adjacent Chocolate Mountain Bombing Range, where daily jets pepper 1000-pound bombs leaving gaping craters, are the other reasons I built the hideaway.
Too far-flung for a backhoe, imitators do well to start with a pick and shovel. Stake with string an 8' by 12' plot, and don thick gloves. Toss the initial 4' layer of dirt far from the burgeoning hole to make space for deeper gravel... One hundred hours later, come-along a 10' trailer over the cavity, and gently drop it. Install the tires as vertical retaining walls, add 4" well pipe as a retaining roof, pile on mattresses, a foot dirt tier, and plant a cactus garden for camouflage and tweeting birds. The annual fixed expense is a $30 property tax because the county plane camera can't see the land improvement.
The virgin den is equipped with a computer, solar, bookshelves, and a desert waterbed as emergency storage. A 55-gallon-drum air vent is too small to access large bosoms, and I prefer slim girls dating back to the coffin. The creatures lurking outside the view screen think me no queerer than I them.
The lessons from living six-feet under are: Never laugh at anyone else; Laugh at yourself; and Jump at life like a Jack-in-the-Box.
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About the Author
Bo Keeley is a retired veterinarian, former publisher, author of seven books on sports and adventure, national paddleball and racquetball champion, commodities consultant, school teacher, psychiatric technician, traveler to 96 countries, and executive adventure guide who has been featured in Sports Illustrated and other national publications as an alternative adventurer. (back)