Beam me down

Due to the habit of the mainstream media of reporting excessively on silly, unimportant things, such as the hundreds of republicans and democrats campaigning for their respective parties’ nominations for president, you may not be aware of a genuine crisis that happens to be presently occurring at this time. Scotty is missing. Well, not all of him. Just some of his ashes, in a small, lipstick-sized container. Hopefully, by the time you read this, Scotty will have turned up, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. You remember Scotty. He was the guy on Star Trek who, every time the Klingfrees attacked the Enterprise, and Captain Kirk called for full warp speed so they could run away heroically, got on the intercom and shouted, ‘Ah con’t dew it Captin. Ah hoven’t got the powah!’ Scotty played James Doohan in real life, who died a couple of years ago. A company called Spaceport America blasted some of Scotty’s ashes into space a few weeks ago, allowing him to once again boldly go where he’d never been before. Also aboard was a vial containing some of Gordo Cooper’s ashes. Gordo was one of America’s Mercury astronauts, the one played by Fred Ward in ‘The Right Stuff.’ When I heard about this effort I thought the rocket, ashes and all, was going to go into space and stay there, floating around forever, sort of an interstellar cemetery. But that was evidently not the plan at all. The rocket only went 72 miles high and then came back down, landing at the White Sands Missile Range. Space officially starts 62 miles up, so the remains went 10 miles into it. The ash vials were jettisoned from the rocket and parachuted back to earth. I guess they were afraid the landing wouldn’t be real smooth, although I can’t imagine what difference that would have made to Scotty and Gordo. The only problem is that the ashes landed somewhere in the mountains, and no one can find them. Now, Scotty and Gordo weren’t alone on the mission. More than 200 families paid to have a loved one’s ashes sent into space, at $495 a pop. The vials were supposed to be returned to their owners, mounted on plaques, suitable for display in your home or office. Unless the ashes can be found, that won’t be possible. Which raises the question: ‘How much money did Spaceport spend on the rocket, and what was the actual profit on the scam’ I mean deal.’ According to my calculator, which must be accurate since I got it at K-mart, Spaceport raked in about 100 large for that one flight. The rocket couldn’t have cost more than maybe $10,000, and even if JP8 runs several bucks a gallon you’re looking at over $80,000 net. For that kind of cash someone needs to locate those ashes. If it was me, I’d take some extra vials up into the hills, put a little sand in them, come back, and screw them to the walnut. Who would know’ It’s not like the relatives are going to say, ‘No, that’s not Hank. Hank was a lot taller than that.’ Even if they noticed the ashes were sort of pale, you could just tell them being blasted into space will do that to you. But Spaceport is not the only option for people who want to give the dearly departed a ride. Plenty of others have offered to help out their fellow man by doing strange thing with the ashes, their only compensation being large wads of legal tender. The choices range from being loaded into ammunition and shot at game animals to being made into actual diamonds. I think Ray Scott’s idea is about as good as any. Ray founded the Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society, and is one of the finest Texans you’ll ever meet, despite the fact that he lives in Alabama. He attended the annual conference of the Texas Outdoor Writers Assn. recently, and fit in with that bunch so well the board voted to make him an honorary Texan. Ray related, during one meeting, how he had decided to start offering die hard fishers a chance to spend plenty of time at their favorite lake, even after their time was up. For a small fee he would take the deceased’s cremated remains out in a bass boat and scatter the ashes in their favorite fishing spots. A suitable memorial service would be available, at a modest additional charge. Ray was kidding, I think, but there is definitely a market for stuff like that. Personally, I still plan to be buried in a Coleman ice chest, but being shot out of a rifle at a nice buck has its appeal, too. And I don’t think the folks at Spaceport should worry too much about losing a few vials of ashes. It might even help their business. Matter of fact, I think the whole country would be better off if we all pitched in and retained their services in regard to the trainload of presidential nominees we’re having to listen to lately. The election next November would probably be a lot less painful if the candidates were all lost in the New Mexico mountains’ ‘ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never travels in the mountains, or space, without a guide. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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