Tippy the terrier
had a temper. Ronnie kept him well-behaved through “Dog
Whispering” principles of exercise, discipline and affection but he was still a handful. The dog spent days with her father, a retired colonel who
taught him tricks and spoiled him with low-cal organic dog treats. His
last dog, Mitsy, died and they’d buried her on the mesa behind the
house. Tippy wasn't as smart as Mitsy but he was faster and could jump
higher. He spent all day learning tricks, patrolling the yard, walking
the neighborhood with the colonel and sleeping. Every once in awhile,
when Walter wasn’t paying attention, Tippy would jump the backyard wall
and cross the road to the mesa beyond - the wild edge of the growing
city where exciting smells and risks abound.
Ronnie, Walter and Tippy had moved to Duke City from Minneapolis after visiting one beautiful week in October. She got a job at a temp agency and rented a apartment downtown. But when she got the county job and decided to buy a house, she found the sprawling west side of the city far more affordable. They moved into a new house in Unit One of the huge "Apostrophy" development just before the housing bubble popped and construction stalled. The realtor and developer had made promises about coming shopping, parks and hiking trails but everything came to a stop, including completion of several houses on her street "Parentheses Lane" that now stood half-finished, targets for vandals, tar paper and insulation rattling all night in the wind.
Ace lived at the Flying T RV Park after his wife disappeared. The truck stop was way out on the edge of town where the mesa dipped into the next dry river valley west of Duke City. There was nothing but wind and dust out there when Alva Simpson, Chairman Simpson’s father, built the place.
“Built” is a euphemism, of course. At the time, he had retired from a 40 year career of throwing his weight around in the local land development scene. He only had to nod his head in the direction of the Flying T to get approvals from the county commission. They had already named an elementary school and library after him and no one would say no to Alva's retirement nest egg - The Flying T Ranch Travel Center.
The project was a complete success for Alva. He didn’t have to bribe anyone or put up much money. He got the city and county to pay for every inch of road and utility lines under an "economic development" grant and his franchise agreement with the gas station and restaurant relieved him of constructing the actual travel center. Alva's expenses were limited to the required surveying, the thinly gravelled driveways to 117 spaces and the crappy signage on the freeway identifying the "Flying RV Park" after the "T" was lost in a dust storm. Alva got rich.
The edge of town was a fluid line always pushing outwards during the booming real estate years. Since Ace had parked his travel trailer in space 27, subdivisions of stucco boxes had nearly surrounded the Flying T on all sides. Development unevenly blanketed the mesa like a ragged quilt patchwork of small subdivisions held together loosely by a few crowded two-lane roads and a web of powerlines.
Unlike other engineers in the development business, when the real estate market tanked and the furious land-scraping and paving of the mesa slowed to a crawl, Ace was very relieved.
Hauser Redding, aka “Tommy Redneck,” pulled his new aluminum stock
trailer with his noisy shiny black Ford 350 into the college parking
lot. He was early. The “stockmen” as they called themselves were
supposed to arrive together - an organized caravan like Wayne, their
operation leader, had planned. But Tommy has missed the final meeting
and the crucial part about where to rendezvous because of his goddamn
mother in law.
They had planned this thing for months, or a couple weeks. OK, last Sunday. The intent was to disrupt traffic to the maximum extent possible - which sounds so simple. Traffic gets disrupted all the time at campaign events. The visit by the President’s wife was a great target - plenty of liberal media to become disheartened. No way to get caught if they stuck to the plan. Too bad he’d missed that meeting.