It was banks, bulldozers and boom times. Alva made a killing just drawing lines and filing deeds. The state was one of the last to enact subdivision law. Legislation was quietly vetoed by the rancher governor at least a couple times. You didn’t have to build roads or provide water. Just survey and file. Market and sell. Sometimes not even in that order. You’d think it’d be hard to mess that up but Alva did.
Alva liked to say he was a rancher like the beloved governor but all he ever did with the Cozy Y was sell it off. He lost parts of it too - soured deals or card games. He was stupid about money and had really bad luck.
Right after he inherited the ranch he sold the fields and woodland bosque along the river. Even his greedy grandfather, the Colonel, had known not to do that. Loss of that irrigated bottomland cut the ranch’s already slim agricultural prospects leaving only mesa lands - already overgrazed and eroded in the Colonel’s time by centuries of sheep.
But this, like Alva’s other mistakes, was missing or skipped-over in the satiny smooth ranch tales. These included Annie Simpson’s biography of her husband’s grandfather, The Colonel and The Cozy Y - a history so slick and light it might could slide off any self-respecting coffee table.
Local business news features centered on Alva as successful businessman and his young twins, heirs to his proud legacy. They were displayed prominently at various events wearing silly matching outfits and gloomy faces - both custom made by their mother.
The stories served to promote the ranch’s only remaining profitable enterprise, El Caracol. While Alva was the centerpiece of this rich ranch fiction, as well as a frequent centerpiece in the Caracol bar, he had next to nothing to do with any of it. His mother Consuela ran everything. Until the day she died. Then it all fell, silently and heavily, on the shoulders of Consuela’s half-sister, Rosa. Now that she’s gone, it’s gone to hell.
Chocky learned the truth incrementally and over years. Rosa tended to provide information on a need-to-know basis. He didn’t even know she was his landlord until he tried to buy the property six years after he’d lived there.
He felt she misjudged the timing - not even giving him answers about ranch archaeology he’d asked repeatedly before she died. She’d only say he was asking the wrong question and look at him with mischievous eyes.