The following article was published in "Outdoor Guide" magazine in the fall issue, 2002.

--- Random Shots ---
I Have Met The Enemy
By JOEL VANCE

I have met the enemy and she is babelicious.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent two Lettuce Ladles to Jefferson City to persuade the populace of the Missouri State Capital not to eat meat. "Go Veg" read large buttons on the bosoms of the comely pair who talked to a wildly apathetic audience of about five in front of the Capitol one noon hour.

They were offering free tofutti ice cream cones, made with genuine soybeans (real dairy products are forbidden to PETA members---taking milk from cows is a form of stealing...and of course we all know that keeping animals in captivity is slavery).

One young boy slurped at the toffuti because no eight-year-old kid ever turned down an ice cream cone, especially from a lady who does not look like Miss Frizzby, the third-grade teacher with the mole on her chin that has hair growing in it.

Now I respect women much more than men. I'd much rather work for a woman boss than a man because they listen and are willing to try new things, and I'd much rather hang around with women because they aren't afflicted with testosterone poisoning, and they're more fun to look at.

But when women go around dressed as salad all bets are off and ridicule is permissible. Not just permissible ---it's mandatory. It's a shame that two young women (okay, stone foxes) suffer from a serious brain fart that makes them go around dressed like edible greenery, but who am I to criticize a bikini-clad, very attractive pair of people? Especially when I don't exactly challenge Pierce Brosnan, a PETA member, in the looks department.

And especially when the young ladies are bursting with health---out of their skimpy costumes.

Actually, they did attract more than five people. There were about 15...but perhaps ten of them were newspersons, armed with television cameras, reporters' notebooks, and still cameras. I noticed that the guys waited until the ladies bent over to take most of their photographs (so did I, come to think of it).

PETA gets much publicity because when two comely lasses slink up to a reporter with tofutti dripping down their wrists and whisper sweet nothings about the way livestock is brutalized and that hunters are perverts with nothing but killing on their minds, it's a tough-minded reporter who can take notes, eat a soybean ice cream cone and keep his eyes above chest level.

Every guy there restrained himself from saying, "Uh, you got toffuti dripping down your arm. Want me to lick it off?" But what she was saying remains a mystery. "What did she say?" they ask each other.

"Who cares," the next guy replies, wiping the drool off his mouth. "I gotta get back to the darkroom and see what develops!"

In a way I feel sorry for the Lettuce Ladies. Even though they were the coolest thing around, thanks to skimpy clothing, they were crusading in a town full of hunters and meat eaters. Jefferson City does not have a health-food restaurant and vegans are in a distinct minority. It was like preaching against the evils of gambling in a Las Vegas casino. Furthermore it was 90 degrees and humid, so if there were any PETA supporters or any protesters espousing the bloody side, they were hanging out in air conditioning, far from the Lettuce Ladies and their melting toffuti. It's pretty sad when you can't even scare up a few red-faced protesters for the television cameras.

It's also pretty sad that real news is so scarce that a bunch of reporters would gather to interview and photograph two babes dressed like Bugs Bunny's snack food. But then that's Jefferson City (and I suspect the word had gotten around concerning their lack of modest attire-it may not be news, but it beats covering a
car wreck).

One reporter asked about the propriety of a PETA billboard near St. Joseph that pictures Mary breast-feeding the baby Jesus. She launched into a spiel about the evils of cow milk and how natural feeding was far better for babies, which probably is true, but I started thinking about the sanity of a group that claims to be natural but uses a billboard, something as unnatural as snot on Miss America's chin.

When it was all over and I had time to think about it, I remained unconvinced by PETA. I plan to keep my bird dogs in slavery and force them to hunt every fall (they'd much rather be free to hold paws with the wild things). I haven't given up barbecued ribs yet, even though they came out of a baby's back.

But when I think about the Lettuce Ladies I have this almost irresistible urge to slather them with Italian dressing and dig in.

Joel Vance is the author of Down Home Missouri (When Basketball Was King and Girls Were Scary ($25); Tails I Lose ($25); Bobs, Brush and Brittanies ($22); Grandma and the Buck Deer ($12 softcover); and Billy Barnstorm the Birch Lake Bomber ($I5-two 90-minute tapes of humor short stories read by the author). All are available from Cedar Glade Press, Box 1664, Jefferson City, MO, 65102. Add $2/bookfor S/H.