The word “cult” conjures up all sorts of negative cannotations. With Halloween fast approaching, you might immediately think of some super secretive satanic cult, where membership is granted only after a nasty ritual where the ceremonial meal is marked by a concoction of toads, lizards and the eyes of a newt. In reality, whenever several folks with a common interest covey up, the makings of a cult are in place. Today’s cults, unlike the organized crime families of yesteryear, seldom involve a candle, bloodletting and oaths of silence, the fabled Omerta, a code that exacted death as the penalty for breaking. As a matter of fact, common interests require a certain allegiance to those interests, whether they be sinister in nature or exist for the common good. Sometimes, admission to today’s cults are purely by accident and are discovered only after one becomes involved in a practice or activity. Such is the case with the latest cult that we find ourselves flirting with as a result of finally settling on an RV. First, in the spirit of confession, I should share a bit about my involvement in various cults.
My first experience with a cult began in 1967, when I joined a High School fraternity. Many of my friends during this unsettled time in a young man’s life belonged to one of two fraternities centered around Waynesville High School. These were rather innocuous groups of guys who were generally narcisstic and hell bent on having a good time in their free time. The initiation involved underage drinking and eating stuff that would make a coyote gag around a bonfire on the banks of the Gasconade river. I wasn’t much of a drinker in those days, as my father assured me that beer on my breath and the car that he had graciously provided me would not mix. When he spoke, I listened. My membership in this gang was my only experience in Greek mythology.
My next cult, involving a short ceremony, occurred at the induction center in Kansas City, where upon I swore allegiance to the constitution and handed my very soul to the US Army. It was a character defining experience and led to an accelerated maturation process while exposing me to the terror of war. Membership in this cult is not, at all, as it is depicted in the clever adds you see on television. After being separated from this cult, I again swore allegiance to the constitution and all that is good, when I raised my right hand and joined the blue mafia, AKA the Missouri State Highway Patrol. My generation was a transitional one in police service. We were slowly evolving from the Omerta like code of silence into a more open and transparent profession, where personal accountability is the word of the day. If you have not already done so, watch the movie “Serpico” and you will have a better understanding of this fraternity. Police organizations were and still are capable of internal politicizing and bickering on a scale to rival any institution in America, however; an external threat still can result in a quick circling of the wagons with an eye toward neutralizing that threat.
There are many kinds of cults that we really just take for granted. If you belong to a church, you are a member of a cult, albeit a good one. If the ritual to gain status in the Mafia is impressive, just attend a traditional Catholic wedding and prepare to be wowed by the kneeling, Latin passages, wine consumption, movement of the Priest around the alter and smell of incense as he waves the incense burner or thurible around the front of the sanctuary. Impressive! Motorcyclists, in particular Harley Davidson aficionados, are a cult. Their waves to one another and understanding of the thrill of the open road on a vibrating marvel of modern engineering is evidence of their regard for fellow riders. The initiation into this cult is usually gained through the production of your pen and checkbook! Amazon devotees are another cult who are initiated with the checkbook and or membership in Pay-Pal, the magic way to finance your addiction to the myriad of offerings in Jeff Bezo’s empire. Amazon is critical to RV owners, make no mistake. Yet another cult is the brother and sisterhood of pilots. I have come to the conclusion that most pilots cannot spell and mitigate this shortcoming with acronyms for just about anything that has to do with aviation. There are estimated to be 9,284 aviation acronyms in common usage, such as AD-Airworthiness Directive, ADF for Automatic Direction Finding (Equipment) and ADS-B for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, (Equipment). I will write about this peculiarity in aviation in a later blog. Suffice to say, it is “inside baseball” when pilots get together and speak their own language! There is a subgroup of fishermen (and ladies), generally tournament devotees who are very cult-like in their sharing of locations and techniques that are productive on a given day. I find these folks to be particularly annoying when my goal is a simple mess of crappie for a fish fry. Ask me and I’ll tell you where, on what and which pattern to use to help you enjoy this wonderful pastime. Ask them, and they will respond “in the lake”…….nice.
Sharon and I joined another cult when we began traveling with the RV crowd. We have found their initiation to be in the form of unheralded kindness and the willingness to share everything from the nuances of the protocol in campgrounds to the knowledge associated with the systems management one must acquire when he or she arrives in or pulling their “COW” or condo on wheels to a new location. (One can see that my association with pilots has had an effect, recreational vehicles, in aviation terms would be “COW”.) There are a number of sub-cults in the COW environment, usually centered around whether the unit is towed, or self propelled. Back to aviation again, these units are either Class A, B, B+,C, Super C, truck camper, pop-up camper, travel trailer or teardrop trailer. We have elected to belong to the travel trailer or TT subcult, and began with a trailer manufactured by a terrific company named “Grand Design”. We recently sold this trailer and focused on the trailer that we seemed to always return to when in the marketplace, the Airstream, a trailer that most folks identify as the all aluminum “silver bullet”. We intend to spend a great deal of time traveling America, meeting new folks and seeing things we have only read about until now, and the Airstream seems ideal to us. We have christened the new COW, the “Taz-Mahaul II,” Taz for Tazzy the Lab, Mahaul because it will be used to haul Tazzy with us.
A final note about the RV culture. If you view this pastime in purely financial terms, you will not make it work. By the same token, if you consider the expense involved in a single crappie fillet in hot peanut oil, you will want to frame that fillet rather than eat it! We have been impressed with the huge cross section of folks that we have met as we travel about, their friendliness and willingness to share their stories with us. Seeing this country from ground level, where you can absorb the sound, smell and regional cuisine is priceless. So is the ability to return to the unique and comfortable surroundings of your COW at days end, sitting around a fire and listening to the breathing of a softly sleeping Tazzy as you talk about things you have seen that day.
We finally have the time for this cult……..and we are loving it!