Sunday, August 28, 2005

Larson Silkhammer

A healthy citrus orchard is not an easy thing to burn to the ground. The moisture level of a citrus tree, from root to fruit, is quite high. Plus the topsoil is tilled and kept clear of any sort of tinder source. Human arsonists know to steer well clear of citrus orchards when selecting a target.

But this simply makes Larson Silkhammer's accomplishment all the more impressive. To this day no one knows how he managed to pull it off but one thing is certain, river otters the world over will never forget the name Larson Silkhammer and what he achieved one late August night some years ago.

Larson Silkhammer was the last-born of a litter of six river otters. Even as a young kit, Larson Silkhammer felt the irresistible pull of singular purpose.
"Mother," he would whisper from atop his small rock that overlooked the moonlit Kern River in the southernmost stretch of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. "Someday I shall burn a citrus orchard to the ground."

"Larson Silkhammer Otter! You get back in the den with your brothers and sisters this instant. What is the rule about tuck-in's?!"

Larson would sigh, conflicted and more than a little ashamed by the ever present duality that split his soul: the instinct to be a good otter kit and make his mother proud, and the need to burn a citrus orchard to the ground.
"I remember the rule Mother, I do: After tuck-in and good night kiss, young otters shan't roam nighttime mist."

His mother would try to retain her grim tone, but the strains of a sad, loving smile would creep in.
"Well Larson, if you always remember a mother's rule yet break it almost every night, what does that say about your heart's regard for her?"

Larson would start to cry then and leap down from his small rock to nuzzle her side.
"I'm sorry Mother. I love you and always will. I'll fall asleep with my brothers and sisters from now on. I won't climb rocks after tuck-in ever again, I won't!"

Larson's mother would return the nuzzle and send him back to the den with a gentle tail spank. The next night would find him again perched on that rock, gazing off to the west. Somewhere out there, beyond the distant river bend, was a citrus orchard, and someday he would burn it to the ground.

Larson Silkhammer had never actually seen an orange in person (err, otter) but in his mind's eye he could see hundreds of thousands of them consumed by towering flame; orange on orange, shriveling green and boiling pulp. The vision made him shudder with the ecstasy of accomplishment and fire.


We know how the citrus orchard went up; the trees had been irrigated with straight diesel fuel, and a charred Zippo lighter was found in the center. What is unclear is how on earth an adolescent river otter managed to pump seventeen thousand gallons of diesel fuel into the irrigation system and then open and strike a Zippo.

The glow on the horizon line could be seen from Fresno, some hundred and forty miles to the north. And the smoke was reported the next morning from as far away as the CA/Nevada border.

You have to know there's no way Larson Silkhammer could have survived... I mean come on, he struck a Zippo in the center of an orchard that had been trickled and sprayed with seventeen thousand gallons of diesel fuel--but you can still dream he found a way.

Lord knows I do.


At 9:02 PM, Blogger Noir Muse said...

Mr. Latigo, you could write beautiful children's stories - albeit a bit dark perhaps. Not that dark stories ever hurt anybody. Ever thought about signing with little golden books? You'd be a hit I think.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Ghost Dog said...

Otters are curiously strong with the Force. He probably Force-ran out of there, like Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon did in The Phantom Menace when the Droidekas were chasing them on the Trade Federation ship at the beginning.

You can run hella fast when you are curiously strong with the Force.

Altoids don't help you with that, despite what the packaging says. It just means they're curiously strong with the mintyness.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger greta said...

This is utterly lovely. Perhaps you could pitch it to Disney. There really is a dearth of pyromaniac river-dwelling rodent drama. Nothing really springs to mind. In any case, nothing since Blazing Beavers 2.
Oh wait now ... was that Disney?

At 8:54 AM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I very much doubt that Larson perished. He is just the kind of dedicated river otter that would have been saved by Eduardo the Magnificent.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Blog ho said...

i suffer a similar affliction.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger MJ said...

I'll bet that not only did L'Arson escape, he's been in hiding all this time, planning eventually to open a restaurant in Kernville specializing in orange flambée!

At 3:18 PM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

poor little guy.

poor little orchard owner.

poor otter mother!

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

I hate to disappoint you, but I have little tolerance for ambitious otters or arsonists. As is often the case, I also find that two wrongs didn't make a right at all.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

I like arsonists, but otters creep me out.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Thank you Muse, you've taken me way back. Though he wasn't published by L.G.B., Bill Peet was, and in many ways still is, my literary hero. Bill Peet is quite simply the finest storyteller ever. Do you know that to this day I still have dreams that prominently feature Buford the Little Bighorn!

I suppose this is a possibility Ghost Dog. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon... those were regional sub-tribes of the Navaho People, right? They didn't invent Altoids though... the Sioux invented Altoids.

That's awesome Greta. Do something for me though... Google search "Walt Disney's Beaver Valley". You'll see the funniest things are so often almost true. (And a copy sits on my bookshelf... this is also 100% true, I'm not even kidding.)

You're right Old Hoss, Sir Eduardo would have saved him... except that Sir Eduardo died some years before. And thank you very much for bringing up such a painful memory.

By which you mean women constantly tail spanking you, right Ho?

MJ, you just put the "Louis L" into Larson's name. You're going to make a gunslinger weep for joy if you keep that up.

Yes Tabitha Jane... well, hippies like to cry for everything don't they? What about the ecstasy of accomplishment and fire, huh? That's important too goldangit!

Trevor, I'm not even going to agree to disagree with you. I'm going to disagree with myself about disagreeing to disagree with you.

I'm riled Cindy-Lou. You've done gone and riled me. Otters are awesome and magnificent!!! Name one thing Rob Thomas can do that an otter couldn't do better!!!

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I'll bet he sold short on the FCOJ market. That sly fox... err, otter.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

Damn it, I finally got Latigo Flint riled up and it's not even in a good way.


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