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A Western Fable: Waist-Deep in the Big Muddy (Again)

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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers My neighbor's cattle operation had a huge number of prized Black Angus steers and Holstein dairy-cows. I wanted them and the lush range they fed on. I tried making some sort of deal with the owner, but he was one ornery sumbitch. He knew his Double I-Ranch was prime real estate, with super cattle herds, so he made sure to hire the strongest guards and gave them the latest weapons so nobody would consider making a move on him. He was taunting me, telling me he wouldn't deal, that I could go to hell. He needed a good lesson in humility. Over the years, the guy had been getting old and his security system had slipped into disrepair. He ran his ranch as a kind of corrupt one-man show so I knew he'd be a pushover if I moved on his property and just took it, got rid of him and set up my own manager of the place who would run it "independently" but take his cues from me, if you get my drift. I'm the most powerful land baron in the area now, so why not? Nobody could really stop me. But I couldn't just march my assembled gunslingers and cowhands in there and openly take it. I'd have to attack under cover of "the law": helping the poor downtrodden residents who live there, that sort of thing. So I went to the County Council and told them all sorts of scary stories about huge caches of weapons, including some really dangerous experimental ones, that were stockpiled on his ranch. I said he was planning on using all that ordnance against us and his other neighbors and his own people. I also told them that the rancher had been involved in the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing, even though I knew he hadn't been. Oddly enough, I could get only one other major neighbor to join my plan, a suck-up kind of poodle who thought he'd hitch his small ranch to my power-star. ATTACK BEFORE ANYONE CAN PREVENT IT I urged the County Council to pass a resolution saying the rancher better disarm or else face an attack. But before agreeing, the county authorities (those suspicious a-holes!) didn't want to take my word about the weapon-stockpiles and sent in arms-inspectors who, not surprisingly, weren't finding much of anything. I knew if I got all balled up in those inspections and in County Council politics, I'd never be able to take control of his ranch, and later the surrounding properties that also seemed ripe for the plucking. So I decided to attack first, "pre-emptively," so to speak, before he could do any damage and before anybody could try to stop me. Word got out about my impending attack, and lots of folks from all over the county, and even the state, demonstrated in the streets against me, warning about all the things that could go wrong if our guys attacked without a solid moral reason, without an imminent threat against us, and without a large coalition of friends and neighbors. But my top ranchhands and some former residents of Double I-Ranch I consulted about the coming attack told me it would be a "cakewalk," would be over real quicklike, and that all the abused workers on the ranch would be so happy to be freed from their tyrannical boss, they'd be grateful to us forever. NOT SO FAST WITH THAT "VICTORY" So we hyped all those scary stories about weapons and fooled or paid off enough County Council members, and soon we were mortaring the bejusus out of the next-door ranch -- it was awesome! It didn't take long for our guys to get to the main ranch-house. The hired guards didn't put up much of a fight -- in fact, they seemed to have melted into the general population. So I held a press conference announcing, under a big "Victory Is Ours" banner, that our guys had "prevailed" in the fighting. Double I-Ranch was now "under new management," which meant we began setting up friendly crew-chiefs who would do our bidding. But then all hell broke loose. Turns out that our guys had pretty much wrecked the place and weren't able to reconstruct much of this broken ranch. The contractors I hired couldn't rebuild the ruined corrals, stockyards, water-delivery and electrical systems, and so on. (They did waste and steal a lot of the reconstruction funds, but I thought it was worth looking the other way to keep them happy.) The local Double I-Ranch residents, including a lot of former guards, were getting surly. They started fighting us, using abandoned weapons caches our guys hadn't bothered to secure, since so much of our attention was focused on getting the Black Angus and Holstein herds to market and to expanding and protecting our new grazing lands. To make a long story short, our occupation of the ranch went into the toilet, and we no longer were seen to be on the moral high ground after word got out that our guys were abusing the locals we had captured. Every month, we lost more and more of our own hired gunslingers to the rebels in ambushes and sneak-attacks, often without the right armor to protect themselves. Some weak-kneed namby-pambys said it made sense at that point to abandon Double I-Ranch, which was consumed in chaos in any event, as various factions among the ranchhands were fighting among themselves. But even though they hated each other, by this time virtually the entire I-Ranch population, employees and just regular locals alike wanted us to leave. Even some of those ungrateful leaders we'd installed felt the same way. Many of our supporters thought we were bogged down there, for sure, and could be in that mess for decades. Even if there were no stockpiles of advanced weapons, and no Double I-Ranch connection to the Okalahoma City bombing, our guys were on the ground there, as planned, so it made sense to send in more armed ranchands and just power on through and come up with a victory down the road somewhere. Not just on this ranch, but in the entire area. So we built huge staging bases on the ranch, which would be used for leverage in getting our way with the other property owners in the region whenever we decided to move. NOW IN OUR SIXTH YEAR I'll try to bluff those owners into giving us effective access and control over their land, livestock and resources, including water and even possible oil fields. But, if that doesn't work, I figure since we still are the most powerful landowners in the county -- our Flying W brand is a strong one -- we'll just take what we want by force, if it comes to that. And why shouldn't we? We are the Good Guys. Almost all the politicians and local reporters say so. Of course, I own or can control virtually all the papers and radio stations/TV channels, and, for that matter, most of the politicians who count, too. Trouble was, this damned operation, which is now in its sixth year, is costing us a humongous fortune and folks on my Flying W ranch are starting to get restless, since I don't have much money left over to repair our fences, maintain our herds, and repair our ranch buildings. And many are noticing that I'm financing our campaign to control the grazing fields and herds and natural resources by borrowing heavily from outsiders -- mainly from those who might be future enemies. This means that my kids and grandkids will be paying that huge debt forever. Even worse, the lies and deceptions that my friends and I had told early on to get us into attacking Double I-Ranch are now coming back to bite us. Even many of my supporters who agreed with my plans at the beginning are rejecting me now that the going is tough. Indeed, folks are talking about a public lynching unless I abandon my "extreme" agenda. In short, I am so unpopular -- sometimes I feel like a skunk at a nudist colony -- that my supporters probably aren't going to be able to control the County Council in the next election. To which I say a hearty "f*ck you!" to one and all. You have no power, I have all the power. And our side is winning; we're winning, I tell you! And I have faith we will achieve victory. Someday. Or, if not, so? I'm about to retire and move to Costa Rica or Paraguay or somewhere. So what do I care if I've screwed it up so badly that whoever comes after me will be waste-deep in the big muddy for years, with nowhere to go but down? In the meantime, maybe I'll attack another big ranch in the area. Why? Just because I can. And it will provide a great distraction from my other...uh...projects. In short, I don't recommend trying to cross me. Just lie back and enjoy it. If any group moves against me and tries to destroy my rule, I'll take them all down with me when I go. Them and the whole goddamned ranch. It's that simple. You choose. # Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright, has written numerous parables, political fantasies and satires of the CheneyBush Administration ( www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm#fantasies ). A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). For comment: >>crisispapers@comcast.net . First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 3/25/08. www.crisispapers.org/essays8w/fable.htm Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.
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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
 

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