When we left Hooter McCormick last he had discovered the joys of On Star navigation in Peetie Womac's new Cadillac. Nursing a respiratory ailment that makes BRD look like a simple stifle strain, Hooter had been chosen by the Rio Rojo County Cattlemen's Association to drive to the State House in Austin and demand action against the renegade People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization and its president, Ingrid Newkirk, who had publicly reckoned how she hoped the U.S. beef industry became infected with Foot and Mouth disease. Unable to get an audience with a state representative or senator, Hooter had another idea…
Between enough coughs, gags and wheezes to make Doc Holiday proud, Hooter once again pressed the On Star button in Peetie Womac's wondermobile.
“Hello, this is Maggie, you're On Star Assistant,” came the sweet voice. “How may I be of assistance?”
“Maggie,” said Hooter, mustering all the charm he could. “Remember me?”
“Yes, Mr. McCormick, I remember you. Is there someplace else I can help you find?”
With a grin stretching from Lubbock to Beaumont, Hooter replied, “Well, yes there is. I need the address and direction to the house of a woman by the name of Ingrid Newkirk. I think she's in Virginia.”
“Mr. McCormick, do you have her phone number?”
The Irish in Hooter's soul began to boil again, but he held it to a simmer. “Maggie, if I had her phone number, I'd just call her and ask for directions myself.”
Silence. “Umm, Mr. McCormick, the reason I ask is that we're not allowed to give out directions to residences without the permission of the person living in that residence. I can give you directions to any business in America 24 hours a day, and I can give you the directions to any home in America seven days a week, but to give you directions to a residence, I must contact them first and get their permission.”
Hooter was clenching the steering wheel of his parked craft and turning the shade of an embarrassed clown's shnoz. He struggled to keep his voice even: “Maggie, I'm having a hard time understanding what good your service does me if you can only tell me how to get to SOME of the places I want to go and not all of them. Surely, there is some way you can get the information for me.”
“I'm sorry Mr. McCormick, but rules are rules. Put yourself in their shoes. If someone asked us how to get to your house, would you want us giving them directions without your permission?”
Hooter had had enough. “Lady, I could care less who you give a map to my place! If somebody is too weak-gutted to poke their head out and talk to a stranger, friend or enemy, they shouldn't have a mail box to begin with. That's the problem with this country, everybody trying to hide so they don't have to take responsibility for anything. Thanks for helping me, Miss On Star! Thanks for helping me figure out this is just another corporate scam. And another thing, this bucket of bolts sucks more gas than a small tank!”
“But, but…” sputtered the shocked voice on the other end.
Hooter punched the On Star button again, then not sure that would disconnect him, he cranked up the radio to ear-pop range and headed the car for Apache Flats.
The Ties that Bind
By the time Hooter arrived back at Apache Flats it was 4 a.m., but the other members of the cattlemen's association were waiting for him in the parking lot of the War Wagon. Hooter hadn't called them. He didn't need to. The On Star folks had called Peetie Womac, demanding to know why he had treated one of their advisors so rudely. Once Peetie pieced the puzzle together, he was madder than Hooter. He checked his watch, calculated Hooter's arrival time and assembled the troops.
Hooter emerged from the car, whiter than a ghost's tooth, handkerchief in hand and a mood blacker than a well hole at midnight. Peetie was the first one to him.
“I heard from those quinine daisy sniffers at On Star, Hooter. I'm sorry. I already called the dealership and told them I want to trade it. It was a great idea you had though, a stroke of genius.”
“Yeah,” came the collective agreement of the other members.
Peetie wrapped a bear-like paw around the shoulder of his dejected friend. “We really appreciate you going to bat for us, Hooter, especially in the shape you're in. We just have to come up with another strategy, that's all.”
Suddenly a voice boomed across the dirt lot. “Who could sleep with all this racket going on? You boys may as well come inside.” It was Jackson, sole proprietor of The War Wagon and friend to all.
“Don't expect this on a regular basis,” said Jackson gruffly, as the committee tramped in and stared in wonder at the breakfast Jackson had waiting for them. “You gotta have some energy to think, that's all.”
Hooter's eyes brightened. “Jackie, if you didn't look so much like my cousin, Gertrude, I'd kiss you square on that cookie duster of yours. Lead me to that sweet tea.”
Between mouthfuls of eggs, bacon and grits, the group wondered how it was that a public organization could all but openly encourage its members to conduct acts of bio-terrorism and nobody but producers seemed to care.
“How is it you can't yell, ‘Fire!' in a crowded movie theater, but you can go on national television and spout any nonsense you want to,” wondered Lonnie Johnson.
“Yeah,” said Hooter's cousin, Charlie. “You remember when that windbag Oprah Winfrey spouted all that fiction about beef on her show? Cactus took her on, and it's not dead yet, last I heard. What did they use? Wasn't it some kind of Ag disparagement law? Maybe there's something like that we could use.”
After some thoughtful silence, Peetie chimed in, “It's a great idea, but even if there was a law we could use against them, it'd take too much time and too much money. We need something now.”
“I say we just go after those idiots with a short rope and a ball bat,” said Lonnie's cousin, Fuzzy. “I bet they'd understand that.”
“Now that might me satisfying in its own way,” said Charlie, thoughtfully, “But you know we can't do that. Besides, there's a gob of those lunatics running around. We've got to come up with something that makes Mom and Pop public want to shut them up just as bad as we do.”
Izzy Franklin, ambled over to the jukebox and punched in Patsy Cline's greatest hits. “And, if that something just happened to cause them some personal discomfort in the process, well, I ain't against a little gravy.”
“That goes without saying,” said Denny Bratton, with a grin aimed at Izzy's gut. “How's that diet working out for you anyway?”
Before Izzy could return the volley, Peetie interrupted: “Focus boys, focus. Time's in short supply.”
Claude Burkhart was rummaging madly through the stack of magazines on the War Wagon bar. “Hey Jackson, you got the Gurney's catalog around here?”
In unison, the committee turned to look at Claude. “Now is no the time to be worrying about your punkins and squash,” said Peetie, crossly.
“I ain't,” replied Claude, just as crossly. “What about bugs? We could call up the people who gather and breed those bugs and use them.”
“Just for the sake of shutting you up, what in the world are you getting at?” asked Peetie.
“Well, I was just thinking, no one likes bugs and those people would probably view bugs as animals. What if we sent them all a bunch of gnats or fire ants, then got pictures of them slaughtering insects.”
Rather than argue, Peetie just rolled his eyes and said, “Again, too much time. Besides that, Hooter already used a similar strategy with their sister organization. Remember Eunice Nickelcock and those white armadillos?”
“Oh yeah,” said Claude. “I forgot about that.”
“By the way,” said Peetie, “You might want to start opening up the doors when you paint all those panels you weld. Your oars are starting to float.”
No one had heard anything out of Hooter, except the occasional hack and wheeze. He'd finished eating and was leaned back in his chair staring at the ceiling as if in a daze.
“Aggression!” announced Hooter, suddenly. “Passive aggression. That's the ticket.”
The committee turned to look at Hooter with the uncomfortable stares of a family eyeing a beloved uncle that they suspect has finally punched his ticket for the paper doll factory.
“Now, Hooter, you've had a long trip, and you're sick besides. Just have yourself another cup of coffee. We'll figure something out.”
Hooter knew what they were thinking. “Look, I know it sounds nuts, but think about it. We need to be aggressive, but we need to do it in a way that the public can find no fault with. We've got to go after them without really doing anything to them.”
“You mean like that passive resistance thing that Martin Luther King did,” wondered Lonnie.
“Yeah, kind of like that,” said Hooter. “Only we need to do more than resist. We need to jam them up, make them spend more of their time trying to figure out what's going on rather than what they can do to gum somebody else up. Put them on the defense so they can't be on the offense.”
The group was now listening intently. “Hey Claude, don't you still have a nephew going to school in College Station?” wondered Hooter.
“Yeah,” said Claude, happy for the chance to redeem himself. “Ol' Whizzer's been there about six years now.”
Hooter was starting to grin again, an idea coming to mind. “Isn't Whizzer some kind of computer genius?”
“Yeah, that's why we call him Whizzer,” said Claude. “You don't want him helping you sort cows or build anything, but when it comes to that computer stuff, it's like he's in outer space.”
Hooter took a gulp of his coffee, surveying his brothers in arms with a look of satisfaction. “That's it, boys. Passive Aggression. And young Whizzer is going to help us do it with technology.”
To be continued…