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Lloyd Omdahl, Published March 10 2013

Omdahl: Cowering in cellar again?

The first time I heard the word sequestration, I knew it spelled trouble. I thought they were saying that we should see Quester, as if it were the latest horror show. It was.

This sequester was supposed to happen at midnight on March 1. It reminded me of the night we crossed the Year 2000 and everyone stayed up to see if the computers in the world would explode and humanity would have to start collecting data all over again.

Having been a planner for the North Dakota Civil Defense Survival Project, I thought anything called sequester meant the Russians were coming and we needed to head for some underground shelter.

Our house has storage space under the front steps, designed as an emergency shelter back when the Russians were frisky. I felt the safest thing to do about sequestration was to take cover in this underground space. I didn’t know if sequestration was radioactive or not.

To make room, we had to throw out 30 years of Christmas decorations. We had enough to decorate Sheridan County because every auction sale seemed to have at least three boxes go for $2 or less. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

During the Cold War, underground shelters were stocked with water and crackers. We finished our crackers in 1997 during a blizzard so now we needed fresh food supplies.

When President Barack Obama and the Congress drew the middle class line at $400,000, I thought that put me in a group eligible for food stamps. To a poor country boy like me, $400,000 seemed rich, but Washington has a funny way of drawing lines. None of them are ever straight.

Well, I had my argument over food stamps down at the social service office, and they won. They said food stamps would be cut by the sequestration and they only had enough for the chronic poor. Besides, I would need to be tested for drugs to get a card. If they had done that, CVS pharmacy would have repossessed me.

Our little shelter didn’t have room for food, water and beds so we surrendered the beds and slept in a stuffed chair in two-hour shifts. We went on sequestration watch at 8 p.m. February 28.

We have a 35-inch basement TV that I saved in 1997 as the flood waters were creeping up the stairs. I creeped faster. We could see TV if we left a little crack in the door. CNN was covering sequestration damage in their usual style as it moved across the country.

They did three in-depth interviews – two elderly ladies in an Idaho rest home and an illegal immigrant being deported back to Chicago.

It just so happened that Turner Classic Movies was rerunning “Dr. Strangelove,” and that brought back frightening memories. Maybe this sequestration was like the fail-safe bomb that could not be stopped. Sequestration could be doomsday all over again.

CNN was now interviewing one of the producers who made “Dr. Strangelove.” In his opinion, sequestration was a fraud concocted to divert our attention from a fake moonshot from New Mexico. (He had just finished watching “Conspiracy Theory.”)

When it started to get chilly in our bunker, I thought I should be eligible for fuel assistance because I was so far below the middle-class line drawn by President Obama and Congress. No such luck.

Well, the sequestration deadline came and went, and we’re still waiting for doomsday. Maybe our kids will get to see it. It may turn out to be their fail-safe.


Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor, and a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@q.com