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Citizens of California’s Calaveras, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties have seen strange stuff hauled on these very same flatcars, often, for the last year—since the construction company, Mountain Nest Limited, leased the use of Stanislaus’ venerable “city railroad.” All sorts of building equipment and related supplies are hauled on weekdays. Often from Monday through Friday there will be finished lumber, bags of cement and great beams of laminated lumber or various metal extrusions strapped on the train’s flatcars; very dull, although somewhat curious viewing for all onlookers. Then a nostalgic train of passenger cars, only, is hooked up to go on Saturday and Sunday with joy-seeking tourists, making roundtrips once each weekend day from Stanislaus to Sonora. So, on any Friday morning not many local citizens did double-takes as the town’s rustic train made it from Sonora to the brand new Stanislaus city railway station mall, or when moving vice versa during the week. As expected, if ever thought about, the train belongs to the town on weekends for sponsoring and maintaining Gold Country nostalgia; and then is used during the workweek by MNL for hauling freight from Stanislaus to near the company’s town called, Mountain Nest, sited between Sonora and Murphys, CA. On this fine day, however, weird stuff is being hauled from Mountain Nest (to Sonora) to the town of Stanislaus, near Modesto, California.

On this TGI Friday in high-desert country the air is crisp while it is sun-filled only after some very early fog lifted to spread thinly and then to disappear justifiably with the dawn. It is spring around Chinese Camp at just before eight o’clock when these peculiar trucks tied tightly down on the flatcars could be identified as vehicles—if anyone bothered to give more than a course examination—only because they had huge wheels. But they are special vehicles. They are actually armed trucks, unilaterally deemed military-type tanks by the designer; albeit strange looking “tanks.” Three-quarter-ton 4X4 truck frames are used to hold crude bodies made of quarter-inch steel plates welded into very rough military-tank turret forms above truck suspensions crudely made heavier and stronger, than originally, to support the top weight added to each. Rusty barrels of long guns, incidentally a different diameter and length with each unit, are laid low through roughly cut holes in steel turret side-plates. There are no ponderous caterpillar tracks for the “tanks” to run on; but instead, those 36-inch wheels with mammoth rubber tires—seriously knobby tires. The visible steel plates are not painted because the tanks are not quite finished; therefore some seriously rusty spots show rather like camouflaging. In reality these odd vehicles are supposed to look like bantam WWII Army tanks but certainly do not.

Mountain Nest Limited members—those of the company’s and town’s proletariat who knew of “those weird trucks” being modified in a huge secluded shed at the edge or their town—hadn’t expected to use the literal war pieces themselves because they surely didn’t expect any kind of war, or even some sort of terrorism, in rather rural California. Who would want to terrorize people who lived in trees or sagebrush? Who in rural America would dare to terrorize? Yes, indeed, who would care to terrorize a literally desolate population?

Mountain Nest Limited President and spiritually enlightened group leader, Roberto Paseo, had those, “. . . well armed vehicles simply for sale,” he explained, “Some of our customers . . . the ‘survivalists’ and rich folks afraid of the Armageddon’s ‘Rapture’ and such stuff . . . will pay big money for them. And, no, they are certainly not illegal nor are they for any terrorist . . . or criminal purposes.”

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