Petersen: Crystal cuddlers | TheFencePost.com

Petersen: Crystal cuddlers

This true story took place quite a few years ago. Della, a ranch woman — then in her 80s — operated her own small ranch. She was an old-time rancher, almost entirely self-sufficient. She raised an assortment of sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and tended an enormous vegetable garden.

Back then, cults were popular among the young and the clueless. Often traveling across the country in beat-up vans or revamped school buses, zealots might stop in communities and beg for — or steal — money and food. Della's place was near town and bordered the main highway which sometimes meant unwanted visitors would knock on her door. When she needed to leave the ranch, she would leave her canine friends — Coach and Tiger — on guard duty.

One day, I picked up Della. We'd planned a trip out of town to grocery shop and eat Chinese food. On that same day, a pair calling themselves "Crystal Caressers," pulled over to the side of the highway opposite Della's dwelling. They had joined a cult calling themselves Crystal Caressers because they "worshiped" quartz, claiming it had mystical, supernatural and healing powers. To be a Crystal Caresser meant one wore a chunk of quartz suspended like a pendant around one's neck and held it in one's palm while murmuring mystical prayers. The couple, garbed in odd clothing, crossed the cattle guard and walked along the path toward Della's front door.

Halfway there, Coach, a Border Collie, charged. Tiger, a Heeler, circled and began nibbling at the C. Caressers' heels. The C. C's panicked. Parked nearby was Della's old stock truck. The Caressers scrambled up the wooden sides of the stock rack and dropped into the truck bed which was covered with a layer of evidence that it had recently been used to haul critters. Peering between the stock rack's wooden slats, the C. C's caressed their quartz chunks while uttering calming words to the dogs. Their inspirational talkativeness struck Coach and Tiger as fine entertainment. Since they had nothing else planned for the afternoon, they settled down to listen to the uplifting words.

How long the CC's remained incarcerated in the truck is unknown. When Della and I returned from our trip, we were both quite struck with the bucolic scene. A lovely summer day under a cobalt sky. A Border Collie and a Heeler sat side by side gazing at the stock truck. A peaceful tranquility prevailed until suddenly came a loud, frantic "HELP, HELP," seemingly spoken by the truck. Then we noticed human hands poking out and flapping wildly between the stock truck slats. Upon approaching closer, we could see eyes peering out. Then the owners of the voices must have scrambled up the slats for voila! Two heads poked above the top rail. Coach and Tiger, tails wagging, began woofing excitedly.

"Well, I'll be danged," muttered Della.

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"Uh-huh," I agreed. "What do you want to do with 'em? Maybe we should call the sheriff?"

But Della took pity on the Crystal Caressers, so we set about freeing them. Unfortunately, the stock rack's exit gate tends to jam. We could only get it lifted two feet. Which meant the Crystal Caressers had a choice of clambering up and over the side rails or scooting under the gate. They both clambered since scooting in the deposits on the floor would — I imagine — be distasteful even to quartz fondlers.

Once established on the ground, the twosome explained their presence by sermonizing and offering free literature. Della listened until they ran out of verbal gas. "Git," she said, "before I fetch my shotgun."

Encouraged by Coach and Tiger, the CC's, clenching their quartz pendants, departed almost as fast as a speeding bullet.

"My, my," Della commented, "some folks sure have entertainin' ways, don't they?"

I could only agree. ❖