To Hades and Back: The CAP: episode something or other...pt2
Later that same evening at the Battlefield, the Engineer had just ordered a Diet Coke
from Maurice. As he was settling himself into a comfortable chair next to the fire place,
several Debs approached him and asked that he continue the story. Feeling comfortably full
and warm by the fire he agreed to do so after a quick glance at Bt who was seated next to
him in a similar chair and sipping, surprisingly, on the same type of drink he was
Well now, lets see, he began, Wed just left the country of Iowa
and were entering and area called Dakota. It was very strange but Dakota looked almost
exactly like Iowa with well ordered farms, fields laid out in proper rectangles and fat
cattle grazing in lush pastures. This is where my official duties would begin. I had been
commissioned to inspect several building projects, mostly roads and bridges, that the
legions were constructing for city states in this area.
Id collect several unique pieces of equipment to record the progress of these
jobs besides the usually surveying equipment, I had two newly developed recording devices.
One recorded pictures using a light proof box with a shuttered window on one side.
Pointing the box, shutter side out, at an object and opening the shutter allowed light
into the box which somehow inscribed an accurate representation of the object on a film
stored inside the box. After treating the film with certain chemicals the picture of the
object could be clearly seen. The other device recorded a series of pictures on a
different sort of film which didnt require chemical processing. When this strip of
film was passed in front of the eyes at a certain speed the individual pictures blended
together giving the appearance of motion. Through some means, sound was also captured on
the film so that I could explain exactly what was occurring in the moving picture. Bt
quickly appropriated this device and Im afraid most of the moving pictures we have
are of mountains and rivers and not Roman Legions efficiently building bridges over the
rivers and roads through the mountains.
Id just begun to think that if all our trip was to be through such pleasant
country wed have nothing further to worry about when several very official men
mounted on fine horses stopped us a short distance inside the Dakota boundary line. They
identified themselves as soldiers of the King of South Dakota. Not all of Dakota, mind
you, just the southern part. They were quite foppish for soldiers if I do say so, right
Bt? He said, inviting her to take up the narrative.
You wouldnt believe the uniforms they were wearing, Bt replied with a
chuckle, Sleeves to below the elbow so tight that it was almost impossible for them
to bend their arms enough to guide their horses much less draw their highly polished
swords or, Olympus help them, fire their inlaid lacquered bows. There were full ruffled
sleeves that extended to their wrists and kept getting in the way and pants so tight I
dont see how they could breath much less bend enough to sit in the saddle. At least
the uniforms were a shade of blue, not my favorite shade of blue, but you cant have
everything, I guess
You mean tighter than HerKs waffle weave pants? Dolittle blurted out
almost without thinking and then blushed a bright red at being so bold after only being a
student for a few days.
Bt just laughed and replied, Yep, even tighter. And Bt smiled again at the new
student to make sure she felt at home and comfortable. Anyway, these soldiers said
that all strangers entering the kingdom had to report to the king at his palace. Since it
wasnt out of our way we decided to go along with them and see what sort o f person
this king was. Bt glanced at the Engineer as if to ask if he wanted to take up the
story at this point and he nodded his head in agreement.
The palace, He began, Was the strangest building Ive ever seen.
Believe me Ive seen just about every kind of building in the known world and this
place was, well, the strangest. It was made out of grain! Thats right, wheat, oats
and barley and along with some other strange grains Id never seen before including
one that they used more than any of the other. It was called corn.. The structure had some
sort of masonry or wood framing but the surface of it was covered with grain. The people
used the different colors of the grains and the foliage from the plants to make pictures
all over the walls on the inside and the outside of the building. Actually they used the
corn for most of the pictures since it apparently came in several shades of brown, tan,
yellow and red. It was a most interesting structure. When King Mitchell found out I was an
engineer he delighted in showing me all the wonders of his Corn Palace. We spent several
hours there and then continued on our journey. Bt had cleverly steered the conversation
around to what we could expect after leaving his kingdom so when we left that afternoon we
know where we were headed and what sort of problems we might meet along the road. We were
not totally prepared, however, for what happened next.
It looked at that point that the Engineer was going to save the rest of his story for
another time but the Debs begged for more. The Engineer turned to Bt, raised a questioning
eyebrow and said quietly, Do you want to tell them about the oracles or should
Youre doing fine, Bt replied with a warm smile.
King Mitchell had informed us that there were five oracles on the mountain about a
days drive distant from his country and before preceding on our separate missions, it
would be prudent for us to consult them. The day passed without incident as we climbed the
foot hills and then into the mountains. We secured lodging for the night at a rather nice
establishment. Had dinner in their pub and picked up some advertising parchments
concerning the oracles on the mountain top. Apparently this town at the foot of the
mountain owed its prosperity to the oracles. There were more hostels, inns, pubs and
dinning facilities than there were homes and public buildings. Everyone seemed to be
trying to make their living from those who came to consult the oracles. Several
enterprising souls even owned huge wagons pulled by six or eight oxen and used only to
convey supplicates up the steep mountain road to visit the oracles temple. We opted
for our own transportation, however.
I could not help but feel a sense of pride as I viewed the roads and bridges
traversing that mighty mountain. They were all build by the legions and I found little
fault in their design and construction . Although, the upkeep on them by local labor
seemed a little disorganized. I made a note of this for my report.
We reach the first temple of the oracles early in the morning. The weather was
extremely cold and cloudy and I was grateful to Bts foresight in packing warm
sweaters and jackets for us. One item we sorely missed was warm hats. Since neither of us
are particularly fond of hats wed not though to put them in. The road approaching
the temple provided an excellent view of the giant heads which were carved into the living
stone of the mountain top. There were four people pictured there. The size of them was
indescribable. When we consulted the advertisement parchment we discovered that these were
not representations of gods but of four men, mortals, who had excelled in leadership of a
great and perhaps mythical country usually referred to as USA.
Using the recording equipment Bt got several beautiful pictures of the heads. It was
so cold though, we did not stay long in this place. The wind was blowing so strongly that
any message we might have gotten from these oracles was snatched away before it reached
our now freezing ears. Regretfully, we returned to the underground cave where we had left
our wagon. About that time, several of the transport wagons from the town arrived and soon
the place was so crowded we were actually happy to return to the wagon and start off
towards the location of the fifth oracle some leagues further up the road.
We did stop at a food and fodder dispenser on the way. Like most other places they
also sold items that travelers might need. We purchased high grade fodder for the animals
and for us a matching pair of very bright orange knitted hats. They are quite warm but I
do with we could have found a different color. The proprietor explained that it is a local
custom to wear hats and even full suits of clothing of that color at that particular time
of the year. She said something about it being the law while hunting. Bt remarked that it
would be difficult to approach an animal one was hunting wearing clothing of that bright
color. The proprietor replied that the color was designed to keep the hunters from
shooting each other by mistake when aiming at animals. Bt had nothing more to say to the
seller but could hardly make it back to the wagon she was laughing so hard. She did remark
between laughs that if the hunters couldnt tell the difference between a man and an
animal it was no wonder most of the food for sale was preserved in one way or another
because these people certainly couldnt be expected to provided fresh food for
The fifth oracle was similar to the other four, although in a much less finished
state. It was a representation of another great leader who was much revered for his
courage and determination to free his people from oppression. It was very impressive but
again the cold and the wind prevented us from hearing any pronouncements from the statue.
We were invited to take with us a rock which had come from the mountain during the
sculpting of the figure. Bt selected a small one as we walked quietly back to the wagon
and continued on our journey.
We may not have gotten a direct message from the stone heads on the mountain but I
think we both felt more determined to complete our assignments. The heads represented men
who also felt they had tasks to do and, in spite of many set backs and hardships they
prevailed and were, to the best of their individual abilities, successful in their quests.
Could we ask less of ourselves?
And now, young ladies and gentlemen, The Engineer added seeing several hunters
had joined the crowd of listeners, The hour is late, so we will have to concluded
our tale on another day.
To be continued.....
Posted on Sep 24 1999, 10:56 AM