Two NPS flatbed trucks rolled through the battlefield at the end of the day, the summer heat finally starting to dissipate. They had just passed The Orchard and stopped along the side of the road, lights flashing, and two men from each truck got out. One of them was sweating profusely despite the AC that spilled out of the open door.
“This is insane, Terry!” The sweating man whispered to the other person in the truck, despite nobody else being around.
“What did we say about using our real names, FRANK-LIN!” Not-Terry whispered back through clenched teeth.
“I am not using a code name. That shit is for kids and movies. If we get caught, they have our fingerprints on file. We’re going to disappear no matter what we call each other, TER-RY.” Franklin said, no longer whispering.
“We’re not even wearing disguises.” Franklin muttered.
“Look. I know that, but if there are casual observers, we all just blend into the background, and if somebody reports us at least they won’t have our names.” Not-Terry said.
He looked Franklin in the eyes for a moment, “If you want out, just say so. At this point, we’ve just taken a detour on our way back to HQ, but after this. . .” Franklin dropped his eyes to the ground. He had never been a part of something like this before, and he knew he’d never get the chance again.
“Okay, okay Hamilton. Fine.” He said quietly. “But Ben Franklin was ugly as hell.” He murmured under his breath.
“Oh, he wasn’t that bad, and he was cool!” Hamilton/Terry said.
“Well, he doesn’t have a musical named after him like some people.” Franklin said archly.
“I didn’t pick the names, bro. I’m just along for the ride.” Hamilton smiled at Franklin, who rolled his eyes and returned the smile. It was the smile of a little boy who was along for an adventure of a lifetime, and knew it. But suddenly his smile faltered as his eyes slid off of Hamilton and looked past his shoulder. Hamilton turned around and saw a police car driving slowly toward them. As the car pulled up even with them, the officer nodded silently and moved on.
Hamilton turned toward the other two from the truck, Jefferson and Burr, and pointed at the cannons by the side of the road. “Okay, let’s get moving. You two start with these here. We’ll grab the long 9s.”
The next day four cannons were missing from Gettysburg National Park, their spots marked by signs that said, “Out for repair.” The following day, the cannons were returned with some minor repairs to the wheels, and a new plug to block the barrel.
And so it went for months. There are a lot of cannons in Gettysburg, after all, a little over 370, and then there were all the VFWs, and the national parks, and the war memorials.
The Smithsonian (Air and Space Museum)
A small child was walking, rather reluctantly, with her mother pulling her by the hand. She had already seen like a hundred airplanes and like two hundred rockets, but she didn’t understand why this one was so d-word special.
“Can you believe that my grandpa flew this very same type of plane, Jillian? Isn’t that exciting?!” Her mother crowed at her.
“Was it this one, mama?” She was looking at the man in overalls pushing a mop bucket from behind the display.
“No, I don’t think so. Most of those planes were dismantled, even grandpa’s. Most of them don’t work any more, like this one.”
“Is it because they leak oil all over the place?” Jillian said. Her mama laughed but the man with the bucket was walking past her, but suddenly stopped when she said that.
“No dear, they took most of the parts out long ago, including the oil. These planes are only in the museum now. I think.” Jillian’s father turned and noticed the man with the bucket for the first time. “Isn’t that right, Mr…..” He looked at the name tag. “Lafayette?”
The man in the overalls looked at the little girl, winked slyly, and said in an exaggerated French accent, “Oui. Alor, they will never see the sky again. They are of two worlds. ‘Ere in the museum they are chained to the ground, but in the world of our memories, they are free!”
The little girl looked underneath the P-51 Mustang at the slowly growing puddle of dark liquid, then looked back at the man. “Well, that’s sad. Are you sure they’ll never fly again?”
Lafayette laughed, “Who knows, Cherie? Perhaps they will seek liberty once more and ascend into the sky!” The parents slowly put themselves between the French custodian and Jillian and started pulling her away.
“Uh, thank you Mr. Lafayette. Jillian, let’s leave this man to his work.” The parents quickly left the display and walked back out into the main hall and turned toward the Spirit of St. Louis, which was mercifully free of custodians.
Jilllian turned around, saw the man pulling a barrier across the entrance to the WWII fighter plane exhibit, and threw him a little salute. He snapped to attention, raised his hand to his forehead, palm out, and saluted right back. Behind him, John Hancock started tightening the manifold bolts on the P-51, and whispered, “Clown.”
Nobody knew who made the first move, who actually got the ball rolling on what came to be known as the Smokey Revolution, but we know what kindled the idea. Of all the unlikeliest places, it was a meme. Cast your mind back to that terrifying time after the President was elected. The country was reeling, conservatives were shooting revolvers into the air, and the internet was awash with liberal hand wringing and bots poking the proverbial Russian bear. Or the literal one. That video was on YouTube with over a million views in just a week. But if you can recall, it wasn’t long after #45 took office that he started removing science positions in the cabinet and issuing orders that silenced those divisions of government he was undermining: NASA, the EPA, the Board of Education, and of course, The National Park Service.
Some brave Park Ranger took it upon themselves to make an alternate Twitter site to explain what was going on in the government so that the people knew, so that they could stay informed. Soon after, alternate sites for all the parts of the government that were silenced popped up and rose up against their tangerine oppressor. It was a beautiful thing, a passive aggressive resistance led by nerds, scientists, teachers, and eco-warrior rangers. Not long afterward, a meme, The Meme, was created that said “First they came for the scientists, and the National Park Service said, ‘LOL, no.’ And went rogue. And we were all like, ‘I was not expecting the Park Rangers to lead the resistance. None of the Dystopian novels I read prepared me for this. But, cool.”
This slightly rambling meme circulated for months, years even, and somewhere in that time period it sparked an idea. A foolish, ridiculous idea that probably would have stayed that way if it wasn’t for the military parade on July 4th, 2019 that diverted almost 3 million dollars away from the National Park Service to pad the president’s delicate ego. That was the last straw. What was just the spark of an idea was fanned into a fire that, somewhat ironically, was started by the Park Rangers, and would set the world ablaze. But in a good way, like a controlled burn.
That flame, however, was almost extinguished by the actual dumpster fire that became 2020. Nobody knew how bad it would get, except for the medical professionals, biologists, immunologists, history teachers, China, and the Director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. During the course of the Coronavirus outbreak, many of the Smokey Revolution fell sick or disappeared, tucked into one of Attorney General’s Black vans that began to circulate out of Portland like an infected web, because they were protesting. It didn’t matter for what, they held up signs and attended rallies that were not sanctioned by DHS, like the Freedom rallies for guns, for unborn life, or against masks. Oh, or the rallies for the President, but I repeat myself.
However, a small group persisted, and used this time to strengthen their resolve, their membership, and their plans.