THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- INDEPENDENCE

by: Wes Ishmael

Peetie peered through the field glasses he always kept in the pickup and shook his head. There was Hooter moving a bounty of round bales from one spot to another, not from one location to another, just shifting the position of the bales where they were. Peetie had seen Hooter doing the same thing a day earlier; it was the dust that caught his attention.

When Peetie saw the goings on a day earlier, he figured Hooter had heard about some new placement pattern that was supposed to save on spoilage. But here he was moving the same bales again. Plus, it looked like he'd put red tarps over the tops of some.

He'd tried calling Hooter on his mobile and couldn't raise him.

Even more worrisome, Hooter had missed the special meeting of the Rio Rojo Cattlemen's Association the night before. They were finalizing details for the Burger Barn the association provided at Apache Flats' annual 4th of July celebration. It was the main fund-raiser for the organization each year. More than that, it was a bundle of fun and Hooter was always square in the middle of it.

Peetie shook his head again, put the glasses down and headed for Charlie's place to see if he knew what his cousin was up to.

Blizzard Blasting

Some years, Apache Flats went all out on Independence Day—a parade with floats, a carnival for the kids and historical readings. Other years, it was more sedate, a town picnic, all-day horse shoe tournament and music from what passes as a local band. There were never any fireworks, of course; no one in their right mind would attempt it around here where it's always dry that time of year.

No matter the surrounding activities, homemade ice cream was always the centerpiece. Presumably, it started years earlier when family's brought their frozen treats and special recipes to town to share with neighbors and friends. Pride and inevitable competition fueled evolution to the current Apache Flat's Blizzard Blast.

People came from at least three states every year to buy a ticket for the right to sample as much homemade ice cream as they wanted.

Folks came from as far away as Lubbock to enter their frozen concoctions in the open competition. County residents—some way more seriously than others—vied for the local crown. In fact, the winner two years ago was rumored to have spawned the idea for a new best seller churned out by national ice cream brand.

“You know they got that idea from me,” Nelda Isselfrick would tell anyone, if that particular company's name came up in conversation.

“You moth-eaten old crow, the only idea you ever gave anyone was figuring out how fast they could get away from you,” Aunt Pinky would tell her.

Unquestioned though, is the fact that Blizzard Blast competitors come to learn, swap and steal secrets as much as anything. Through the years, the competition has been a fount of creativity for flavors and otherwise.

Folks around here still speak in awe about Delmar Jacobs' Plum Jalapeno Coffee Peanut Butter Surprise. Delmar didn't record the recipe as he was making it, though, and the concoction has never been replicated. “Creee—Creeeaa---Creeeation means never repeating yourself,” Delmar had slurred during that evening's award ceremony before tumbling backward off the makeshift stage. Keep in mind Delmar is the same one who tried swapping ice and rock salt for liquid nitrogen one year. Don't ask.

“This year, my Prickly Peach Rocky Road is going to be the one to beat,” Aunt Pinky had told Hooter as he was cranking the handle on what had to be the hundredth batch of the stuff. Aunt Pinky swore you could taste the difference between hand-cranked and otherwise.

Message from Below

“All I know is that he tossed his mobile phone and had his Internet shut off,” Cousin Charlie told Peetie. “He's even thinking of trading to an older model pickup that doesn't have all the GPS stuff.”

“No wonder I couldn't get hold of him.”

“Yeah, but it makes it tougher for him to call you, too,” Charlie said with a grin. “He says he's got a phone in the house, internet access at the library in town and God willing, a post office to tote his mail. Says he's had it with being a blip on the government's screen.”

Peetie rubbed his chin. “He's always been wired that direction, but what set him off, and what about those bales?”

“I can answer the first question and I suspect the answer to the second has to do with it. It was those fly-overs by the EPA drones up in Nebraska and Iowa, them taking aerial pictures of feedyards and who knows what else, supposedly in the name of assuring compliance.”

“That does make your skin crawl, doesn't it? Peetie said. “As long as so much of the public depends on the government trough, it's too easy for folks to turn a blind eye. It should concern every one of us, producers and private citizens alike.”

“That's pretty much what Hooter said, or what he started out with,” Charlie explained. “I don't think I've ever seen Hooter that mad. And, that's saying something. He went off on EPA, GPS, Google Maps, everything else you can think of then came back around to EPA again. ‘They trespass on our privacy and use our own tax money to do it,' is what he said. That's the last time I talked to him; he seems to have been hunkered down ever since.”

Peetie rubbed his chin again. “Well, one thing we know for sure, if him moving those bales has something to do with it, it's sure not for camouflage, using red tarps on some of them. I'll go chat with him.”

“Good Luck.”

Hooter was just climbing off the tractor when Peetie arrived.

“I've been trying to call you.”

Hooter grinned. “You need to go back to using the house phone. I got rid of my cell phone. I've got a say, it felt really good, too. You'd be surprised how fast an oxy-acetylene torch will melt one.”

“I was asking for you over to Charlie's. He said you were in the midst of an electronic cleansing of sorts.”

“Yep.”

“He also reckoned it was those EPA buzzards that were behind it.”

“Yep.”

“What I can't figure though—and I wasn't spying on you, but I saw all the dust yesterday and today—what's with the hay? Charlie reckons it's connected.”

“Yep.”

“Care to elaborate, seeing's how you missed the meeting last night? You're in charge of the buns and the bacon, by the way.”

Hooter climbed down. “Wish I could show you, Peetie. But, you'll have to have Louie take you up in his crop duster to see. I had him fly over a couple of times and he tells me it looks fine.”

“Ahhh, a topographical memo to whom it may concern.”

“Yep.”

“So, what's it say?”

“There's not enough hay in three states for me to say all I wanted, but then, you figure it has to fit one of those aerial photographs, too. So, I settled on a reminder: Amend. 1—4—9—14—et al.”

“Those amendments in the Bill of Rights that refer to a right to privacy.”

“Yep. I figure if they want to us my tax money to go joy riding looking for things they've got no right looking for, in ways they've got no right to go about it, then they might as well see something worth seeing.”

Peetie appraised his pal. “I'm proud of you Hooter. That's a sensible response.”

“Yep, that and I also have addresses, maps and even pictures for the home residences of all those EPA higher-ups that I'm going to send them. You know, it's amazing what you can find on the Internet.”







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