DEFENDING AMERICA
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
January 4, 2000

"PHEW, WE MADE IT THROUGH"

Well, we're still here! No nuke plant meltdowns. No catastrophic power stroke. No Chinese paratroopers raining from the sky. Russian missiles stayed snug in their silos. Saddam Hussein and his big-bucks buddy, Osama bin Laden, kept their bombs in their bags and their bugs in their bottles. And all our toilets flushed.

The passing of the last day of the last year of this wild ride of a century into the new millennium left me exhausted. My wife, Eilhys, and I hit the rack at 9 p.m. after she indulged me by helping me run through my end-of-the-world checklist one more time.

No way was I going to be part of more than a crowd of two on the day so many experts were warning the sky might fall.

Popcorn and movies were it. We studied a double-feature matinee -- "On the Beach" and "Dr. Strangelove" -- as if they were Army training films. That was all we could squeeze in before putting the guard dogs through yet another precautionary drill and barricading the fortress.

But for me sleep was fretful. I kept waking up every hour to see if our canary was still alive, if the little red light was still shining "on" from our television and to listen for the phone -- 10 radio and two TV stations had me on standby to report in case any bad stuff hit the fan.

Not sure what I could've reported on had the Y2K terrors descended upon us, as I'd have been out of commo. I guess if someone got through on the cell phone, I could've riffed on how I love the smell of hot candle wax early in the morning and why the backup generator won't be ready until the 7th. That might've been good for two or three minutes.

The question now is what to do with 2,000 bottles of spring water, 20 cases of tuna, 400 pounds of rice and beans, 10 cases of Army-ration MREs (Meals Refused by Ethiopians), a few thousand rounds of shotgun ammo, a like number of batteries and a half-garage of pink candles I got a deal on from a bankrupt restaurant.

Eilhys, with her infinitely cheery disposition when things are most grim, suggested I open a roadside stand in front of the house and flog the stuff at a discount. She pointed out that once the generator was finally up and running, fueled by my new butane gas tank, I'd be able to operate 24 hours a day, good weather or bad. She kindly didn't mention that all was purchased with most of the money we'd been saving to revisit our honeymoon place in Fiesole, Italy.

I shot that idea down faster than Al Gore can say Tennessee. "Right! Except that would take this town's planning commissions another millennium to approve. First we'd have to get Larry-the-engineer to do a study analyzing the impact on the environment. Then he'd have to run it by Wetlands and all the other agencies, and 82 inspections, 20 grand and a couple years later, they'd say no."

Returning the cash -- the rest of our savings -- to the bank won't be a problem. That is, when I find it. I swear I buried the swag by the big rock next to the oak tree in the back yard. Ten holes later, still no sign of the tin cans. The dogs are no help either. They're so exhausted from the extra motivational training, they've flat refused to double as sniffers to get me out of a serious jam.

Eilhys doesn't buy my line that we're all victims of the past, in spite of a most excellent excuse. After all, I had the five Ps -- Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance -- beaten into me by tough sergeants when I was a kid. So whenever there's a threat, I've just got to get ready.

But all's not lost. I'm holding onto the 86 cases of whiskey just in case Prohibition comes back. You can never tell. And in the event the wrong Wunderkind presidential wannabe makes it to the White House, I'll have something to numb what's left of my brain.

In the meantime, so far so good. But just in case, keep 500 bucks handy and keep 5 yards.
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