Friday, July 30

Chapter 2:

In which Bertram finds that life is not all peaches and cream and begins to relate the story.

“I never much took to foreigners,” he began one afternoon as I sat with him on the back porch of his one-room cabin just off Hwy. 2 in Montana. He had started talking the moment he gave me a ride from the side of the high-way where my car had terminated with a series of rather loud, and very wrong noises from under the hood. “And if I had my druthers,” he continued, “they would do well to stay at home in California where they belong.” This comment had come about as part of a conversation he and I were having about the current state of affairs in the state legislature regarding property tax increases. I, though a native born Californian, took no offence at his red-neck ways, but merely nodded in agreement and hoped he didn’t ask where I was from, but merely accepted this man's generous hospitality and free dinner at his cabin.
“See a couple years back,” he began again, setting down the large chunk of wood which he had begun whittling into something else -- a smaller chunk of wood -- “one of them pesky movie-stars moved just outside of White-fish, and, since then, all them other high-falutin’ movie stars have been buying summer homes up here, and raisin’ up the property taxes for us what has the right to the land.” With this assertion, he spat onto the gravel drive which passed towards the road.
“There was this one feller, who thought he’d start a land grab scheme like this once in Wyoming.” The old man reminisced, and, since I wished not to disturb his fragile train of though, allowed him to regale me with his anecdote… that and the fact that my car was still in for repairs and wouldn't be finished until the next morning.

“Lyle Buckenham, I think they called him,” Began his tale, “Big feller, bout near big as that barn door. Well, he got it into his head that if’n he could buy a place cheap, then raise the prices through the roof for property, he could profit by it, so he bought him up near bout forty acres – took every red cent he had to do it too.
“Well, Lyle never were the brightest acorn, and he done bought himself this here piece of land in the middle of nowheres-ville with nothing but sage as far as you could see. The fella’ that done sold him the property said it were good grazing land, but any durn fool could see that was a lie. But it didn’t matter none to old Lyle. He bought it up without a second thought.
“Now Lyle had to find himself more money to get his scheme off the ground,” the old man said with a half-cocked smile, “so he calls up on an old friend of hisn named of Frank Tutor.
“Frank tweren’t one a them who liked the idea of folks getting’ rich all round him without getting his’self a piece of their pie, so when Lyle tells him bout his scheme, he’s a bit interested, and when Lyle tells him the rest of’n his plan, he sorta’ smiles like, and agrees to fork up the cash for the job, and they buy themselves an oil pump.
“So there they are with the oil pump startin’ to pump a whole lot of nothing right along the main highway, and them two just sitting there waiting for the property to increase around them, then sell out.”At this the narration stopped, and the old man started staring off down the gravel drive that led to his house with a puzzled look on his face. When I asked him what was up, he turned back to me with a smile, and said, “I was just thinking.” Then he sat back on his chair and began whittling on a chunk of wood.


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