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Thursday, October 14, 2010


by: Dan Holden

His name was Stephen Xavier Battlehorn, but everyone called him Booger. When his mom would wake him up she would say, “Time for school Booger.” At breakfast his dad would peek over the top of his newspaper and say, “How’s my little Booger today?” The kids at the bus stop, the bus driver and the crossing guard all chimed in, “Hey Booger.” Mrs. Singleton, the second grade teacher, called roll, “Ashley Adams, Chip Baden, Booger Battlehorn, blah, blah, blah”
Stephen really enjoyed picking his nose. It just felt good.

“Hey Booger, did you find any gold in there?” His father asked.


“Hey Booger, did you find any gold in there?” His sister Nails asked.

“Noo stupid head.”

“Hey Booger, did you find any gold in there?” His mother inquired


“Hey Booger did you find any gold in there?” Asked his friend Sam.

“NO!” Booger replied and quickly jumped on his back and wrestled him to the ground.

“Get off me man.”

“No. Take it back.”

“Take what back?”

“The gold stuff.”

“Alright, I take it back. Now let me up.”

Booger slowly removed his knees from Sam’s arms. As soon as they were free Sam socked Booger right in the nose.

“Oh dude, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you bleed,” Sam said.

With his hands cupped to his nose Booger ran home and straight to his room. Standing in front of the mirror Booger tilted his head back in order to survey the damage. There was definitely blood, lots of blood, but there was something else that glimmered deep inside his right nostril. He grabbed his flashlight but it still was too dark to see. In desperation Booger jammed his indexed finger as far up his nose as possible. Something hard was up there but Booger couldn’t hook it.

“I’ll have to use tweezers,” Booger thought.

He bolted to the closet and pulled out his Operation game. He had lost most of the pieces but he still had the tweezers. Booger took those tweezers and shoved them deeper and deeper into his proboscis


“Was that metal?” he thought, “Got it.”

He pulled as hard as he could and with a sudden

“Ploink,” out came the tweezers grasping a nugget of gold.

“They were right all along. I was digging for gold. They didn’t have to be so mean about it though. I’ll show them. I’m going to be a millionaire and I’m not going to give them anything.”

The next morning when he went to breakfast with his finger in his nose his father said, “Hey booger, diggin’ for gold are ya?’

“As a matter of fact I am.”

His father chuckled and went back to his paper.

That day at recess Booger found a secluded corner and began mining. In a mere half and hour he had filled his pockets with little booger sized nuggets. Just as the bell rang yanking the kids from their games of four square Suzie Meddleson screamed, “Ungh, Booger you’re nasty. I’m gonna tell my daddy and he works for EF BE I. They are going to arrest you for booger picking.”

“They can’t arrest me for booger picking ‘cause I ain’t pickin’ boogers. I’m diggin’ for gold.”

“Now I’m really gonna tell you big liar.” She ran off with her pigtails bouncing and begging to be pulled.

The rest of the school day was unbearable. Why do I have to learn all of this stuff? All the money I will ever need is right up my nose.

When Booger walked into his house after school he was anxious to get to his room so he could add to his horde of gold, but in the living room with his mother sipping coffee were a couple of men in cheap plaid suits and over-sized mirrored sunglasses.

“Oh Booger what have you done?” his mother managed to say through her tears.

“Nothin’ ma”

The fat suit stepped forward and said, “Booger you need to come with us.”

“But I didn’t do anything.”

“No buts son. You come with us.”

Skinny suit grabbed him by his arm a dragged him out to a van that was waiting across the street.

“Don’t worry Stephen your father will know what to do,” his mother cried not too convincingly.

“Oh now you call me Stephen,” thought Booger, “What happened to the nickname now? I’ll show you all when I’m rich. I bet I could pay these guys off in boogers.”

“Hey you guys I can pay you a lot of money if you let me go,” Booger said.

“Oh we know, Booger, we know.”

The doors to the van slammed shut and it was pitch black. They drove for what seemed like forever. Booger finally fell asleep.

When he woke up he was strapped to a table, and hovering above him was a horrendous mechanical contraption.

“Booger Battlehorn,” a voiced boomed from a speaker somewhere in the room, “meet the NosePicker XP, NosePicker XP meet Booger.”

“What’s going on?” Booger screamed.

“We have information that there is gold up your nose and we plan on extracting it. We need the gold to fund our giant military industrial complex.

“No the gold is mine.”

“Ha! You said mine. Get it. Mine. Forget it. Now be very still this is a very delicate operation.”

Suddenly Stephen remembered something his Dad had always told him. “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friends nose.”

“Oh, hey your right,” the agent said, “Gee I hadn’t thought of that. Whatever shall we do? Oh yeah.”

“Click.” A series of gears and pistons begin to move and a pair of tweezers shot forth. In the background Booger could hear people singing.

“The shin bone’s connected to the knee bone. The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.”
Suddenly his father burst into the room and snatched Stephen from the table. The tweezers missed his nose and accidentally plucked his eyebrows.

“Hurry. Let’s go.”

They ran out to the car and sped off.

“Stephen what was that all about? Your mother said that the FBI came and got you this afternoon.”

“Dad, they wanted my boogers.”

“Your what?”

“My boogers. They’re made of gold”

“Stephen, that’s just a joke.”

“No it’s not. Here look.” Stephen dug into his nose and pulled out a gold nugget.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I wanted to keep all of the gold to myself. Everyone was always picking on me.”

“Ha. You said picking”

“Dad stop it.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that. If I had just listened to you this morning. I should have known.”

“No Dad it’s my fault I should have trusted you guys. I know you love me even though you pick on me. Maybe if we all just picked our noses instead of picking on each other everything would be O.K.”

“You know what Stephen. You’re awfully smart for a booger picker.”

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pioneer Spirit


If there is one thing that I have learned in our visits to our nation’s parks is that I am not nearly insane enough to be pioneer. It first occurred to me when we were in the Badlands as a passing thought, “Can you imagine stumbling upon this for the first time?”

It became more coherent in the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. “Seriously, half a day’s wagon travel from Kansas City and you hit this?” Imagine the ocean. Now imagine that it is made out of tall grass. Now start walking.

That night at the campfire would have been like, “Um, I think I forgot my wallet. I’m like one punch away from a free wheel rotation at Willy’s Wagon Shop. I’ll probably head back, but don’t worry I’ll catch up.”

Finally this summer these nagging thoughts and humorous asides coalesced into a fully formed thesis.

The pioneers of westward expansion were flippin’ insane.

We were in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which with some skillful camera work could easily have been used for the location shots in Lawrence of Arabia. We were surrounded by mountains, and though it was shorts weather, the temperature was moderate. Yet before us stood monolithic mounds of sand. We were at the base of God’s hour glass. If Paul Bunyan had a big blue cat instead of Babe, then this would be its litter box. No cactus or tumbleweeds, no rattlesnake whipping a wave across the desolation, no variation in color, just the monotony of the ocean, writ not in water or grass, but the muted yellow of sand. Yet at the highest point I could see of people marching like ants on a pheromone trail creating a dotted line between unending sky and interminable sea of sand.

Those tiny specks of humanity represented a challenge; if they could make it, then so could I. There would be no turning back. No defeat, no surrender. I can conquer the sand and I will drag my wife and seven-year-old son with me. So I packed our earthly belongings, or in this case water bottles, a couple of apples, and some sunscreen, into my backpack and struck out to seek our fortune.

The initial part of the sojourn was over level, relatively compacted terrain, but the distance alone inspired the first bubbling of complaint from Evan. It would be a theme for much of the vacation. There must be a part of child brain that demands parameters on any trip. It is what leads to the ubiquitous whine, “Are we there yet?” Without a concrete end in sight the only alternative is infinity, and to be honest looking at the unbroken horizon of sand I can begin to understand.

With a little pleading, manipulation and lies Colette and I were able to get Evan to reach the peak of the first dune. Walking in sand is the classic two steps forward one step back scenario. I had to consciously lift my foot out of the sand and plant it perpendicular to the direction of the miniature sand slides each movement would make. Sand crept into my boots and added weight so that I was soon lifting an additional five pounds per foot.

We had scaled several dunes and though our destination looked no closer the path back to the car had expanded as if the camera of my eye had suddenly zoomed up and out to reveal that we had become the ants. The appropriate Ennio Morricone score blending a scream of terror and the distant call of a vulture played in the background. It was becoming clear that we were not going to make it. In fact as some of the ants had crossed our path on their return I had noticed that they were all part of a high school cross country team. I group of humans bred to endure the lack of oxygen and water as well has the monotony of running in perpetuity. We were going to turn back.

Sitting at the top of the dune, sand creeping into every crevice, I inspected the sandbags laced to my feet. Grains had worked their way between the rubber sole and leather body of my shoe. The front end was flapping up and down like a bizarrely deformed duck. This would make a good excuse. I couldn’t make it. My shoe fell apart.

With clearly defined parameters the whining had settled down. Evan had surpassed me in exuberance, and I had to frequently tell him to stay close to us. The sole of my left boot began to flap as well. My longer strides had allowed me to pass Evan on the upward slope of the last dune. Following close behind, he called out to me. I told him I would stop at the top. As I removed my backpack and plopped on the sand Evan handed me a foot-shaped piece of blue rubber. For the last ten minutes I had been hiking in what amounted to a moccasin.

I placed the mocking shoe rubber into a zipper pocket of my backpack and continued with my soleless right boot. The grasping hands of sand kept pulling at the sole of my left boot necessitating that I lift my leg higher than normal in order to extricate it. We eventually made it to the car, and I disposed of my hiking boots. Luckily, I had a pair of Keens that would protect my feet for the next twelve days of vacation. Our hikes were all of the out and back variety always ending with a collapse into air conditioned car and familiar sounds of an iPod playlist. I get the solitary explorers, the mountain men, the trappers. They were solitary. Loners with nothing better to do and nothing to tie them down. But the pioneers that packed up their families, their homes, their lives and just started walking? They were flippin’ insane.