So, as noted, I have been working on archaeological surveys in Kern County, southwest of Bakersfield*. The land parcels we are surveying range between 200 and 600 acres in size, and are in relatively isolated locations in this rural area. This area is notorious for, amongst other things, a large degree of methamphetamine manufacture and use. So, it is no surprise that, hidden adjacent to one of our parcels, there is a set of shacks and old trailers that appear to still be used as shelters, have a worn chain-link fence surrounding them, and numerous large dogs - mostly dobermens and German shepperds - as well as what appeared to be a well beaten and chewed dummy on a rope.
We don't know what it is, but very likely it is a meth manufacturing facility. Which, frankly, means that it is also likely to be a place populated by paranoid people with firearms.
This is not the first time that I have encountered a meth lab in the field. And I will deal with this the same way that I have dealt with other meth labs: never go to the location alone, be near the vehicle at all times, make sure that everyone has cell phone, and make sure that our employer knows exactly where we are and what our concerns are.
Still, it's a bit unnerving.
Nor are meth labs the only trouble spots that we sometimes encounter. My colleagues who work in and around Humboldt County, as well as a few other choice locations around the state, often encounter marijuana farms - which doesn't sound too bad until you realize that they are often run by embittered ex-hippies and/or paranoid "bussinessmen" who like to booby-trap their crops in order to inure any who might come upon them - with the booby traps including everything from explosives to fish-hooks hung at eye-level.
Next time you toke on a doobie, consider that the plant you are about to take in might have been watered with the blood of an unaware environmentalist.
Likewise, there are many landowners who dislike environmental workers, who will allow you on their land with the intention of spraying you with a crop duster, or firing a shotgun at you.
Then, there's always the more subtle threats of the white supremacist who will let you on their land to work while simultaneously trying to figure out if you are fit for membership in their "gun club"; the people who are watching for a chance to get you to join their religious cult; or the ever-present evil of zombie macrobiotic dieters.
Most of the time, my job is much less exciting and adventurous than most people seem to want to make it out to be. Most of the time it's a bit of a grind. However, on occasion, it can get exciting. And by "exciting", I mean "unnerving and frightening."
Still, I have no doubt that we'll be fine. But just in case, would anybody mind calling my cell phone every 15 minutes or so.
*Hence the fact that I am, once again, not posting much right now.