Helter Shelter

Got masks?
How 'bout panties?

I don't know about y'all, but I can only take so much terror, tragedy and fear. After looking out over a bleak landscape for a while, I have to get down close to the ground and look for some nuts trying to sprout. Last week, I found some, popping up like the first flowers in the Mt. Saint Helens post-eruption ash.

For instance: A few days back, a 59-year-old man who recently moved to Fallon, Nevada got a strange letter, postmarked from Reno. The man thought this was odd, because hardly anybody had his new address, and the letter was in a peculiar yellow envelope, with no return address.

Well, don't you know, his first thought was that some terrorist had sent him a big yellow envelope full of anthrax. So, like any right-thinking citizen in these troubled times, he called the cops. Sheriff's deputies took the envelope, put it in a biohazard barrel, and hauled it away.

Well, it turned out that the envelope contained one pair of black, lacy thong panties, and a two-page letter loaded with sex talk.

"It was from a secret admirer," Churchill County Sheriff Bill Lawry told Fox News. "We returned the letter and the underwear."

The recipient, who was too embarrassed to give his name, told the Fallon Eagle Standard, "I don't know of anybody who would do this. I feel kind of silly."

I say don't feel silly, bubba. I don't know anything about this particular secret admirer, but I did play guitar in redneck rock & roll bars for 20 years. That means I know a little something about strange panties, and the strange women who give them up. Believe me when I tell you: Dropping them in a biohazard barrel is a real good idea. Close the lid up tight. If you don't, they might claw their way out.

Even as our troubled brethren in Nevada were dealing with the panty scare, folks back east were trying to find ways to protect their pets from terror attacks.

Animal lovers at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say they've been swamped with calls from pet owners who are looking for cat and dog gas masks, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Understand, I love animals. I am a secondary caregiver to two useless cats. I feed them, I brush them, and I pay their vet bills. When they get under my feet on the stairs, I just shoo them out of the way, even though I probably should step on them, just to demonstrate the consequences of loafing on the stairs.

If I had a bigger yard, I'd probably have a dog, too. As it is, I just pet other peoples' dogs, every chance I get. Friendly animals make my days a little brighter, and I like to return the favor when I can.

Even so, I can't get behind the idea of putting gas masks on the pets. Mostly because I don't think they'd put up with it. Okay, I concede that a patient person might be able to get a mask on a 15-year-old basset hound, who probably wouldn't protest if you braided his ears. But you can forget putting a gas mask on a cat.

Imagine that you're sitting at home, and you get a 15-minute warning that a big plume of anthrax is heading your way. Let's say you've got your kitty, and his little gas mask, right handy. Do you think that cat's going to hold still while you try to seal up his head? Or will he just start scratching, screeching, pissing and pooping for all he's worth?

Somewhere along the line, gas mask makers have thought this through. Cats do not tolerate bondage, even when it's good for them. That's why there is no such thing as a cat gas mask.

Now dogs, that's different. We Americans have made dog gas masks before and during WWI. But those were battle-hardened military animals, with enough sense and discipline to wear their protective gear. Today's spoiled-rotten animal companions probably wouldn't be so compliant. I guess that's why you can't buy a dog gas mask today. You can only see them in museums.

So, if a pet guardian wants to be prepared for a chemical or biological attack, what should he do? I'm going to tell you: Buy a full haz-mat suit, complete with a self-contained air supply. In the event of an emergency, stuff your pets into the suit.

If you've got dogs, cats and birds, one suit won't be enough. I say get a suit for each species - put the cats in one, dogs in another, birds in a third. Each suit will cost you about two grand, but who can put a price on a beloved pet?

If you've only got one small pet - say a kitty, a bird, or a bug-eyed chihuahua - you might be able to get by with just the head of a haz-mat suit. Put the critter in there, seal up the bottom of the disembodied suithead with some duct tape, and you're good to go.