"The Freemen 'have had communications with GodYahweh,' and vowed not to leave their ranch unless their demands are met," "Bo" Gritz said.AP story, LJS, May 2, 1996.
It was probably the Gothic lettering that finally ended the standoff between the feds and the Freemen in early October, 1996. That and the new self-adhering smoke molecules developed by Livermore researchers the day they were messing about in the lab trying to figure out how to blow longer-lasting smoke rings.
The Gothic lettering was the incredibly skillful work of Emily "Buzz" Caldwell, the first skywriter to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As a schoolgirl, she'd had only two interests: calligraphy and stunt flying. Her English teacher suggested she combine the two and become a skywriter.
"What a good idea," she'd said. "I'll be the toast of the nation."
She got her chance during the Clinton campaign's "October Surprise" a month before the general election.
The President hadn't been much interested in the Freemen back in early spring of '96; he saw nothing there to help his re-election. So he'd written it off as just another religious scam when his handlers told him the little group in Montana claimed Divine Authority to write $1.8 million in bad checks. They said, according to the April 12 NY Times, that they were the white gentile descendents of Adam and Eve while their victimsand nearly everyone elsehad descended from a sexual union between Satan and Eve.
Preachers and judges all wear black robes, the Times reported one of the Freemen had written, because that's "the color of darkness, Satan's colors."
And the President still wasn't much interested in the Freemen throughout the summer and into the fall. He was preoccupied with the July 4th grin transplant Bob Dole had received from Ronald Reagan through the new cosmetic technology funded by GOPAC. With the new grin, polls showed, Dole was closing fast.
It was Hillary who came up with the "October Surprise."
"We've got to neutralize The Grin before it kills us," she said. "Something spectacular and non-violent with the Freemen might be just the ticket."
"Who?" the President said, practicing a countergrin in the mirror. "How?"
"They like communication with Yahweh," she said. "We'll give them communication with Yahweh."
She told Stephanopoulos to "track down the best skywriter in the country and get her on the phone," so 32 minutes later she knew about Buzz Caldwell. Ten minutes more and she found out about the super adhesion smoke molecules.
The Gothic lettering was Ms. Caldwell's idea.
At secret testing grounds in Nevada, she strapped the new smoke cannisters onto her '51 Piper Cub and at 7200 feet spelled out in Palatine block letters a test message: "You sore annoy me. Go home."
The Truth, Mainly
"Not big enough," Buzz said after proofreading her work. "Or scary enough. It looks like something a first grade teacher might print on the board."
Still, it had its effect. The message, the letters all compact because the new smoke molecules couldn't dissipate, drifted over L.A. and caused freeway gridlock. But something more potent would be required for the Freemen.
"Gothic's what we need," Buzz said. "It looks deep-voiced and angry."
"But there's no man in the country who can skywrite in Gothic," the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs blurted, then looked down at his spitshine.
Two days later, Operation Yahweh Speaks set up camp 22 miles east of Fort Benton, Montana. Buzz Caldwell consulted weather maps, then ascended to 8700 feet to spell out in bone-chilling Gothic the message which prevailing winds four hours later would carry directly over the Freemen compound.
In black letters the size of aircraft carriers, it looked like this:
You bloweth my gasket. Pay your debts. Now. Vengefully yours, Yahweh
The Freemen came out waving white flags.
"Jeez," they told reporters who'd been alerted. "Golly. Wow. Holy Smoke."
Hillary immediately saw other possibilities for Buzz Caldwell's aerial calligraphy, and before the week was out, airborne messages from appropriate dieties were drifting over Belfast, Sarajevo, Beirut, Gaza, Colorado Springsanywhere The Elect pushed around The Others.
In Stockholm a week later, it was no contest for the Peace Prize.
"Emily Caldwell has given us a way to deal with those who think they get messages from God telling them to hurt others," the Nobel citation read. "It's the greatest leap forward in the history of mankind."
Buzz didn't even blink at "mankind." All she said was "Thanks a lot."
"Exquisite timing," Hillary said three weeks later as she and Bill watched election returns. "Wouldn't you say?"
"What," the President of the United States said, still working on The Countergrin in the mirror. "When?"
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage meaning from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.