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Outdoors Outpost
The Military Pocket Burger
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 • Posted August 17, 2013

Back when I was in high school, about the time electricity was invented, there was a big scandal when some U.S. military bigwigs were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They were buying supplies from companies at inflated prices, such as $2,000 hammers, and $800 toilet seats, in exchange for kickbacks from those companies. It was pandalerium, as Jeff Foxworthy would say.

Personally, I would like to drive a nail with a $2,000 hammer just once, and maybe sit on an $800 toilet seat, but all that seems rather trivial now, when compared with what our military is doing with our money. And they don’t even have to hide it anymore. Pandalerium seems mild in retrospect.

For example, as of June 2013, 650,000 civilian employees were laid off by our military because of sequester cuts. Nothing necessarily wrong with laying people off, if they aren’t needed. I wonder why they were hired to begin with, if we can still get by without them, but that’s probably classified, or something.

The big news, however, is that while those cuts were taking place, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington state, received a $3.5 million grant to buy land around the base, in order to try to protect the Mazama pocket gopher. I am definitely not making this gopher up.

According to a Fox News story dated 14 July, the Mazama pocket gopher is not even listed as threatened, much less endangered. And lest you get the impression that this is an isolated incident, bear in mind that U.S. federal agencies, including the Department of the Impression of Defense, have spent $397 million since 2003 to protect 264,000 acres around military bases, to provide habitat for similar critters.

Now, to be fair, the land purchased around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, about 2,600 acres, contains more than just Mazama pocket gophers. It is also home to Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and streaked horned larks. I am not making these critters up any more than the Mazama pocket gophers. Look it up.

Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “This is crazy. How can the U.S. Military lay off employees, claiming it doesn’t have enough money to pay them, and still wear those nice suits with all the shiny round things on them? Not to mention buying land to protect animals that make holes in the ground to trip horses, and add nothing to society? Huh?”

Well, I’m with you on that, but what you have to remember is that Mazama pocket gophers are really, really cute. And, uh, also furry. And small. Don’t forget small. That makes them eligible for handouts from the government, like minorities, whether they deserve it or not. Whether they contribute anything to society or not. Whether that money has to be taken from hardworking, honest, upstanding citizens or not.

Why does our government throw money away on frivolous stupidity, while firing employees that may have actually provided useful contributions? That’s none of your business. Write another check to the IRS and shut up.

My theory is that the U.S. military needs that land, because it plans to build factories where it can grow meat in Petri dishes. I have no proof of this theory, but it stands to reason that if you’re worried about saving gophers, especially pocket sized ones, you would want to save cows, too.

According to the Associated Press, which spends most of its time associating, some gooberheads at Maastricht University in the Netherlands have managed to grow enough meat in a laboratory to make a hamburger. Really.

This did not, of course, happen overnight. It took them five years, so if you’re hungry for a Big Mac you might want to go ahead and get one of current production, made with soy beans, hooves, horns, and other natural cow products. Besides, the one hamburger the Maastricht guys made was served to a couple of volunteers in a blind taste test recently, who said it tasted, “very similar to blind.” So that one’s not available, anyway.

Besides slowing fast food to a millennial crawl, the lab burger has another major drawback – it cost more than $300,000 to produce. With fries and drinks, a family of four can expect to spend about a million, two hundred thousand six bucks and change for lunch, if they don’t go for the fried pies afterward. Minimum wage is going to have to get another bump or two, I suppose.

Of course, the fellows who came up with the $300,000 lab grown burger don’t plan to sell it to Joe Plumber and the wife and kids. No. They don’t intend to mess with the small stuff. They plan to market those things to the U.S. military, where the big bucks are. Figure half a million burgers to feed one to each serving member of the armed forces, twice a day, times about 300 days a year, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money, not including ketchup.

Me, I’m thinking I can make better use of all that land we’ve just acquired around our bases. I figure I can make Mazama gopher burgers for about fifty cents a pop, and provide ketchup, mustard, and mayo in little packets I’ve stolen from Burger King.

And the best part is that our troops can carry them in their pockets . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never spends more than $250,000 for a burger. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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