WWJD?

As we look closely at the upcoming 2012 election, we cannot help but think about how far our nation has drifted from the vision our founding fathers had of a free people protected by a limited government.  They would surely shake their heads in disbelief if they could see what has happened to their great experiment in self-government and liberty.

It is likely that if Thomas Jefferson came back for a day, after reading just one issue of the Washington Post and watching an hour of MSNBC, he would find a bar, drink himself stupid, and then call the Queen of England  to apologize for the revolution.  I can only imagine the horror he would feel as he looked over our 2012 federal budget, read through Obama’s healthcare bill, watched the unwashed idiots playing their bongo drums on Wall Street, and listened to Michael Moore waggle his triple chin about the rich.  I cannot speak personally for Mr. Jefferson, but I am sure that after seeing these things, he would sprint at full speed back to the safety and sanity of his coffin.

To be sure, Mr. Jefferson’s return as a concerned “founding zombie” is not likely, but it really does make one wonder whose side he would really be on if he did.  Many have acclaimed Mr. Jefferson as one our nation’s more “progressive” thinkers, so if any of our founders had the potential to belly up to Obama’s world view it could arguably be him.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that some mad scientist was able to reanimate Mr. Jefferson’s corpse just in time for him to vote in next year’s election?  Who would he pull the lever for?  Put simply…WWJD? (Note to Readers: Zombies are not required to show a picture ID at polls in most blue states.)

Head Muscle submits that with only a bit of research, Mr. Jefferson tells us in his own words:

Jefferson On Liberty:

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

“The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.”

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

Jefferson On Government:

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

“The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

“Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstances of distance, be unable to administer an overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstances, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite public agents to corruption, p,under and waste.”

“I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones.”

“The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the States are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations.”

“Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”

” Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Jefferson On Wealth Redistribution:

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

“To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'”

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Jefferson On Taxation:

“If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, and give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses. And the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they do now, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mis-managers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains around the necks of our fellow sufferers.”

Jefferson On Gun Rights:

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

“The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

Finally…Jefferson On Obama Care:

“Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.”

So WWJD? Let’s take a quick tally. Were Mr. Jefferson suddenly walking among us again he would:

1. (Most importantly) Need a shower and some fresh privies

2. Be for a limited federal government

3. Put states in charge of their own domestic affairs

4. Be pro second amendment

5.  Support personal property rights

6. Be firmly against wealth redistribution

7. Rebuff European-style taxation

and yes.., finally…

8. Support the repeal of Obama Care

We may be guilty of being a bit presumptuous here at Head Muscle from time to time…okay…all the time, but it seems pretty clear that we already know the answer to the question.

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The Example (Part VI)

It had been almost an hour since the buses had departed and the camp was still celebrating their victory.   Shorty had led the campers in song for about a half hour and, when his voice finally gave out, a makeshift band of guitar players took to the stage and continued the sing along.  It was well after dark now, but Carl could still see folks waving their flags in the glow of the campfires.   The lights from the news crews were burning brightly as well. As Carl watched lines of correspondents reporting on the evening’s events he could not help but feel proud.  The CNN cameras that had been set up in an attempt to catch exclusive video of a mob scene, had instead spent the last two hours filming a patriotic celebration.  Carl had no idea how the next few days were going to unfold but, for the first time since the ordeal had started, he felt hopeful.

As Carl watched the celebration from his chair next to the RC Cola machine, he noticed Shorty walking across the parking lot toward him.

“Howdy partner!” Shorty croaked still hoarse from all the singing.

Carl waved back and motioned for him to pull up a chair.

“It’s been one hell of a night, ain’t it?” Shorty continued as he sat next to Carl.

“You can say that again,” Carl responded.

“You know that was a great idea you had with the flag and the singing.” Shorty noted as he looked over the still growing camp. “We dodged a real bullet this evening.”

Carl nodded.  “I cannot help but wonder who tipped off the press. Those news crews knew what was about to happen.”

Shorty reached down into the top of his right boot, and pulled out a pack of small cigars.

“You smoke?” he asked offering the pack to Carl.

Carl shook his head.  “No I quit a few years ago, when I had my second kid. I figured I wanted to stay around a while to see them grow up.”

“Good damn thing,” Shorty shot back as he lit his cigar. “It’s a nasty damn habit.”

With that Shorty reached into the top of his other boot and pulled out a small silver flask.  He opened it up, took a long swig, and extended the container toward Carl.

“Now not smoking is commendable,” Shorty snorted,” but not drinkin’ or smokin’ is just downright contemptible.”

Carl chuckled, took the flask from Shorty thankfully, and tilted it skyward.

The ranch house looked pale through the night vision binoculars, but it was clear enough.  From what the two men could tell there were about four or five people inside.  They had seen an older man and woman through the kitchen window, and just a few minutes earlier they had seen a lady that looked like Carl’s wife in the living room.

They had waited in dark of the tree line for about 20 minutes after dispatching Sheriff Motter to make sure that no one had heard the commotion.  After realizing that they had killed him, the two masked men had carried Motter’s corps into the woods and covered it with leaves.  They were only concerned about getting it out of sight for the moment, because they would be long gone in a couple of hours.

The man put down his binoculars and motioned to his accomplice.

“Looks like they are getting ready for dinner,” he whispered through his stocking mask. “Let’s get this done and get out of here.”

The other man nodded, pulled a back pack off of his shoulders, and unzipped it.   Reaching inside he pulled out two 9 mm pistols, chambered rounds in each, and handed one of the to the first man.

They had done this type of thing many times over the years, but this was the first time that they had ever been asked to do it in the United States. Their plan was simple and well rehearsed.  They would sneak up to the house, cut the phone lines, and then break in through the kitchen door.  They would give grandpa a good beating, hog tie grandma, take the wife and kids, and set the house on fire.  If everything went smoothly, which it would, they would be in and out in less than 15 minutes.  Once they had Katie and the kids, their instructions were to deliver them to a safe house just outside of Oklahoma City.  They would hold them there, until ordered to set them free…or something else. Either way was fine with them.  It wasn’t personal; they were just doing their job.  After taking one more scan through his binoculars, the first man nodded and they started slowly working themselves toward the house.

Carl and Shorty sat quietly for some time sipping on Maker’s Mark and watching the campers celebrate.  Thanks to ample amounts of Lone Star beer, the flag waving had singing had turned into what Carl could only describe as the world’s largest Karaoke party.   Someone had plugged a stereo into the PA system on the stage and a long line of crocked crooners were now awaiting their turn to out sing George Strait.  The current contestant was in the middle of a horribly off key version of All My Ex’s Live in Texas.  After finishing his hatchet job on the song, he took a long swig from what looked like a Wild Turkey bottle, gave the booing crowd a good natured finger, and stepped off stage.

As Carl and Shorty watched from their seats at the station a Sheriff’s car pulled up blocking their view.  The driver, an old friend of Carl’s, emerged from the car and walked over to where they were sitting.

“Howdy Carl, you keeping this rowdy bunch under control?” the Sheriff queried.

“How are you Pete,” Carl responded standing up to shake the Sheriff’s hand.

“Doing okay as long as your army across the road stays drunk and friendly,” Pete responded.

Pete and Carl had known each other for about 10 years.  Pete Cameron was one of the senior Sheriffs in the area and frequented the truck stop for free coffee and snacks.  Carl had an unwritten deal with the local Sheriff’s Department that coffee and donuts were always free on or off duty.  Carl saw it as his way of giving back to the community, and the Sheriffs had always reciprocated by hanging out at his place and patrolling the station regularly.

Once, several years earlier, Sheriff Cameron had responded to a burglary alarm at the station, and had arrived to find two local hoodlums leaving the store with their arms full of beer.   When he stepped out of his car one of the robbers saw him, panicked, and threw a beer bottle at him breaking his nose.  Despite the pain and blood gushing from his nostrils, Pete managed to apprehend both suspects.  By the time Carl arrived at the station, Pete had both suspects hog tied and in the back of his car, both writhing in pain from a liberal application of pepper spray.   Carl was so thankful he refused to take Pete’s money for fuel for over a year.  Soon they had become good friends and Pete stopped by the station every few days to chat and drink coffee.

“I think they are policing themselves pretty well,” Carl responded extending the flask Pete’s way.

Pete politely waved it off.  “No thanks buddy, I am actually here on official business,” Pete continued.  Carl withdrew the whisky and gave Pete a curious look.

“Someone causing trouble in the camp?” Carl asked curiously.

“No, nothing like that,” Pete responded.  “I was actually wondering if you would do me a favor.  Deputy Motter out at your place is not answering his radio, and I think the lazy ole’ goat has fallen asleep again. I don’t want to get him in trouble with the office, so I was wondering if you could call your house and have someone go out, knock on the window, and wake his butt up?” Carl smiled and pulled out his cell phone. “You bet,” he replied as he dialed his home number.

Carl stood waiting as his home phone rang and rang.  There was no answer.  Carl’s smile faded as the phone rang a tenth time. Everyone was supposed to be at home.  Someone should have answered almost immediately.  Even if they had not, the answering machine should have picked up on the fifth ring; something was wrong.   As the phone continued to ring, Carl could see Pete’s demeanor change.

“Where are they?” Pete asked clearly showing his concern.

Carl lowered his phone and disconnected the call.  “That’s strange,” he mused.  “They are supposed to be at the house, and no one is answering.  The answering machine did not even pick up.”

Pete needed to hear nothing more.  “The damn line has been cut!” he exclaimed turning and heading for his patrol car.  “We gotta get out there fast!”   Carl felt is stomach turn.  “You’re taking me too Pete,” he blurted as he ran to the car behind the Sheriff. Pete had no time to argue and motioned for him to get in on the passenger side.  Pete was on the accelerator before Carl had his door shut.

Shorty watched as the patrol car sped away toward Carl’s place. He took another swig from his flask and then crushed out his cigar on the concrete.  “Looks like the war’s already started ole buddy,” he chuckled to himself.

The corral fences around the ranch house had made for good cover and the two men had been able to slip up to the house quickly.  Once the phone lines were cut they made their way to just under the kitchen window.  The first man raised a small dental mirror up to the window above them and angled it so that he could see inside.  It looked as if everyone was sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner.  He lowered the mirror and nodded to the man behind him.  It was time to get busy.

The two figures crept past the window to the kitchen door, and then stood against the wall. They pulled out their pistols, and then threw their collective body weight against the door.  With almost no protest, the door jam splintered and the door flew inward in a shower of glass.

Katie was facing the door and saw it fly opened.  She stood and screamed reaching out for her two children. Her father was the next on his feet, a bit disoriented from the invasion he fumbled for the revolver he had laid beside him on the table.   Before he could reach for it though the first man shot, hitting him squarely in his right shoulder.  Katie’s father fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood.  Katies mother screamed and fell to the ground next to him cradling his head.

“Okay, everyone be calm and no one else will get shot,” the first man called out as they advanced into the kitchen.  Katie grabbed her children who were both crying hysterically and pushed them behind her.

“Get out of my house!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.  “Leave my family alone, please!” she pleaded.   In the corner of her eye she could see her father on the floor reaching for his revolver on the ground next to him.  She desperately tried to get the attention of the assailants.  “My husband will find out who you are, and he will have you arrested,” she threatened realizing how stupid she sounded as she said the words.  “You won’t get away with this!” she screamed as the men came closer.

Her father grabbed the gun, but the noise alerted the men to his actions.  The first man moved over him kicking the gun from his hand. “I guess you don’t think we’re serious,” he yelled at the terrified family.  He pointed his 9 mm at Katie’s father’s head.  “It looks like I am going to have to show you just how serious I am.  Katie’s father closed his eyes as the man started to squeeze the trigger.

The shot that rang out however, did not come from the assailant’s gun.  It came from somewhere behind them in the living room.  It was followed immediately by another shot.  The first man dropped to his knees and fell across Katie’s father – dead.  Katie could see blood racing from a large hole in his back.  The second man flew against the refrigerator door and slid down it leaving a trail of blood smeared on its surface.  Katie screamed again and closed her eyes clutching her children.

From behind the kitchen door Lanum Tate emerged holding what looked like a .357 magnum revolver.  He advanced on the two men at gunpoint, took their weapons, and checked their pulses.

“Is everyone okay!” he demanded as he looked into Katie’s terrified eyes.   He realized that they did not know exactly who he was, so he reached into his pocket and pulled out his badge.  Lanum Tate FBI, he announced, “is everyone okay?”

“My dad has been shot and needs an ambulance,” Katie cried coming to grips with what just had happened.  “Please help us!”

At that moment Lanum saw the reflection of flashing lights outside as several cars sped to a stop at the front door.

“Okay, that is the police, and they don’t know I am here.  Everyone be calm, lay face down on the floor, and let me handle this,” he ordered.  They did as he ordered, but Katie was in such shock that she found it hard to move her arms and legs. Tate laid his pistol on the ground, held his badge over his head and started announcing his presence.

“Agent Lanum Tate FBI! The area is secure, do not shoot!”   At that moment the front door burst open and three Deputy Sheriffs entered with their weapons drawn.  “On the ground!” they began yelling.  “Get on the ground now!”  Agent Tate complied while holding up his badge.  “I am an FBI agent and I have secured the area!” he repeated.  “Do not shoot!”

Realizing who he was, the deputies put their guns down, and came to his aid.  Pete came into the back door shortly afterwards with Carl close behind him.

“Carl!” Katie cried running to his arms with their children.  “They shot daddy,” she sobbed into his chest,  please don’t let him die!”  Carl’s eyes began to well up with tears of rage and relief. “It’s okay baby,” he whispered to her.  “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Carl looked up and saw Lanum.

“Agent Tate!” he exclaimed in shock. “How did you know…”

Tate smiled and shook his head.  “I didn’t know, but I suspected that someone might try something, so I drove out to have a look for myself. When I got here I found an empty patrol car so I headed for the house.  I got inside just in time to stop that one from killing your father-in-law,” he explained pointing to the first dead man.

Carl was at a loss for words.  “Thank you,” he fumbled.  “Thanks for saving my wife and children.”

Katie started to sob harder and squeezed Carl tightly.

A half hour later, the house was a full crime scene.  Pete had roped off the area, and had ushered the entire family to the safety of his SUV outside.   An ambulance had arrived as well and paramedics were busily tending to Carl’s father-in-law.   Carl sat quietly next to his family trying his best to calm them, and himself, down.  After what seemed like an hour, Sheriff Cameron walked over to the vehicle.

“Hey Carl, do mind if I have a couple of words with you in private?” he asked.

Carl paused and then nodded yes. “I will be right back,” he whispered to Katie.  “I promise you are safe here,” he assured her.  As soon as she released him he opened the door and stepped out.  Together Carl and Pete walked past the tape and back into the kitchen.

“Carl, we have run background checks on both of these men and I am very concerned,” Pete explained. Carl did not understand what Pete was telling him.  “Do you mean they have criminal records?” Carl asked not sure how to respond.

“No,” Pete responded. “That’s just it.  They don’t have any records.  Their driver’s licenses are fakes, their fingerprints trace to two entirely different people, and the van they were driving was stolen 3 days ago in Tulsa Oklahoma.”

Carl was dumfounded.  “So these guys don’t exist?  Is that what you are telling me?”

Pete paused trying to choose his words carefully.  “Carl, these guys are not your average criminals. Their van was loaded with gear, and they seem to have been planning this for quite a while. Everything I see here points to a professional job. “

Carl let Pete’s words soak in.  “You mean they were assassins or something?” he asked in disbelief.

“I don’t know who or what they are,” Pete responded, ”but if that FBI agent had not shown up in time, my  guess from the ropes and handcuffs in their van is that your family would be gone right now.”

Carl’s head was spinning once again.  “You mean they were going to kidnap them?” he pressed.

“That’s what it looks like to me.” Pete concluded.  “I think that someone who does not like what is happening over at your station wanted to send you a message, and they sent these guys to do it.”

“That is what I think as well,” Lanum responded as he walked up behind them.  “I think that this is the same group that vandalized your station and sent your manager to the hospital.”

Carl turned to face Lanum.  “So who are they?” he asked again. “Who is trying to hurt my family?”

“I am not exactly sure just yet,” Lanum continued, “but I believe that the same group that sent those protesters to your camp earlier this afternoon sent these guys to your house.”

Pete nodded his head. “Makes sense to me,” he agreed. “But who?”

“Well, I am not sure, but one of my folks at the agency did a little online research this evening,  and called me just before I came out here.  He told me that several pictures of the protest buses popped up on a far-left website the Bureau has been tracking.  In the text below the pictures it noted that the fight was going to “get very ugly tonight.”

Carl did not see the connection.  “So what?” he asked.  So one of the protesters took some pictures while they were at the camp, and decided to lash out a bit on their web site after we sent them packing.  I don’t see the connection with what happened here.”

Lanum paused again.  “The pictures were of the buses leaving, so the person that took them was still in your camp.  It might have even been one of these guys for all we know.

Carl paused.  It was starting to make sense now.  Someone had put operatives in the camp and they were the ones causing the trouble. “What is the name of the site?” Carl asked Lanum.

“It is a group called the Agents for Social Justice or ASJ. They are nobodies, but they appear to have links to many more prominent organizations including LeadOn.org.

Carl could not believe his ears. “You mean LeadOn.org is trying to kill or kidnap my family?”

Lanum continued ignoring Carl’s question.  “When we find out who in that camp took those pictures, we will know who did this to your family.”

A pickup truck had been parked quietly near the edge of the Lamonte place for about an hour.  The driver had been watching the events of the evening unfold at a safe distance. He was angry.  This was the second time his plan had failed. Now he was going to have to take matters into his own hands.  With his lights off, he pulled away slowly being careful not to be detected.  As he drove off he picked up his cell and made a call.

“We didn’t do it,” he said looking into his rear view mirror.  “Those amateurs screwed it up big time. I am going back to camp before folks realize I am missing. Tomorrow I plan on finishing things myself.”

The driver hung up his phone, tossed it onto the passenger seat, and reached into his boot top for a cigar.

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The Example (Part V)

The next few hours were a blur for Carl.  Between the police, firemen, investigators, and news reporters he did not know which way was up.  Questions poured in from so many directions, he could not keep track of who he was talking to.  Finally, at about 6 a.m. the last fire truck pulled away from what was left of his station.  The morning sun was just starting to peek across the prairie, and hazy ribbons of light were casting a golden hue across the truck stop.   To Carl, it looked like nothing less than a war zone.  The business that he had worked and toiled his whole life to build was practically in ruins.  As Carl surveyed the damage he pulled in a deep breath of cool morning air.  The store front was still partially splattered with paint, his new diesel island was a smoking ruin, and his station manager Marcus was in the hospital burned from head to toe.  Perhaps he was even dead by now.

Carl felt a wave of helplessness wash over him.  He had never wanted any of this. For the first time since the whole mess had started, Carl felt as if he was about to snap.  Tears welled in his eyes so heavily that he had to brush them away with his flannel shirt sleeve. He kept seeing Marcus’ burned face in his mind. What if it had been him? Had he stayed at the station that evening instead of coming home, he would have been the one in intensive care…not Marcus.

At that moment Carl felt compelled to do something that he had not done in years. Looking around to make sure he was alone, Carl sat down on a curb by the burned out pumps, bowed his head, and said a prayer.  The words came to him slowly at first but the more he prayed, the more the words began to gush from his heart.  First he prayed for Marcus, and then he prayed for the safety of Katie and the kids.   Tears began to stream down his face as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut.  “Dear God, if I am the one responsible for this mess, forgive me,” he said out loud.  “If I am not, please give me the wisdom not to make it worse,” he concluded.

Carl looked up into the morning sun now blurred by his tears.  All of a sudden he noticed a figure standing in front of him.

“Hey, are you Carl Lamonte?” the figure inquired.

Carl jumped up and wiped his eyes on his sleeve, feeling simultaneously embarrassed and relieved.

“That’s what they call me,” Carl responded clearing his throat.  “How can I help you?”

As he spoke, his vision cleared.  The man in front of him was wearing a dusty Stetson cowboy hat. He was a big fellow with a meticulously waxed grey mustache, and he had what looked like a Marlin 30-30 leaver action rifle across his shoulder.   The sight of the gun threw Carl off for a moment, but the Cheshire cat smile on the man’s face threw him off even more.

“Well I’ll be damned!” the stranger exclaimed at the top of his voice as he reached out with his free hand.

Carl extended his hand and the man grabbed it tightly pumping it up and down in the air.  As he shook Carl’s hand he looked over his shoulder to a pickup truck full of men.

“Hey boys, I told you this was him!” he yelled pumping Carl’s hand even harder.

Carl was confused, and still somewhat concerned about the rifle on the man’s shoulder.

“May I have the pleasure of knowing who is trying to break my arm?” Carl quipped.

“Oh hell,” the man exclaimed turning his attention back to Carl.  “I’m sorry son, I just got carried away when I saw you sittin’ over here havin’ a conversation with the good Lord. My name is Billy T. Winslow, but all my friends call me Shorty.”

Carl caught his breath and managed a smile.  “You look pretty tall to be named Shorty,” he replied not really knowing what else to say.

“Well, I didn’t say it was a good name!” the man replied with a chuckle.

“So what can I do for you Mr. Winslow?” Carl continued.

“Call me Shorty please,” Carl’s new acquaintance boomed. “Me and my boys are here for your little barbeque.”

Carl was confused.  “Well the barbeque isn’t for another week and a half,” he noted.

“Yeah I know,” Shorty shot back. “We just figured we would get here before the rush.”

“The rush?” Carl asked somewhat amused.

“Yeah buddy,” Shorty responded without hesitation. “The way I see it, things are going to start filling up quick around here, and we wanted to be right up front when the fun starts….now where can we pitch a few tents?”

Carl paused, soaking in the conversation.

“Well I’m not so sure you and your boys want to stay here right now. Things have been pretty crazy lately.”

Shorty’s grin appeared once again as he slapped Carl on his shoulder.

“Well why the hell do you think we’re here?” Shorty chuckled.  “We drove all the way from El Paso last night after we saw you on the news.  Now, why don’t we just set our camp over by the access road across the street?”

Carl did not know what to say.

“So what is the gun for Shorty?” he asked.

Shorty dropped the gun off his shoulder and looked it over.

“Oh, this lil’ pea shooter?  We just figured we would pass the time plinkin’ at tin cans and such waiting on the barbeque to start,” he explained.

Carl was feeling a bit overwhelmed. “So you drove all the way from El Paso just to come to my barbeque and plink at tin cans?” he pressed.

“You got it partner!” Shorty confirmed with another friendly slap on the shoulder.   Carl looked back at the truck full of cowboy hats.  “Well, the station is closed, so I am afraid you guys will be on your own,” he warned.

Shorty let out another chuckle. “Son, I’ve been pissin’ in prairie dog holes since I was two years old….Now you just go about your business and we will be just fine.”

Carl was at a loss for an argument.  “Well that’s county land over there, so I can’t be responsible if the Sheriff comes out and runs you off, but until that happens  you are welcome to use the station restrooms and showers around back.”

Shorty’s grin beamed even wider. “Well, that’s right neighborly of you son!” he exclaimed. “But I think we will be fine just as we come.”  With that Shorty spun around on his boot heals and headed back for the pickup truck. After about three steps, he turned around again.

“I forgot one thing ole’ buddy,” Shorty hollered back.

“What is that?” Carl responded curiously.

“Thank you!”

Carl found himself confused once again.  It was a feeling that he was getting used to.  “Thanks for what?” Carl inquired.

Shorty walked back to where Carl was standing, his big smile now gone.

“Thank you for remindin’ us just who the hell we are,” Shorty replied looking Carl directly in his eyes. “Thank you for reminding us that we are Texans!”

With that, Shorty returned to his truck, hopped in, and drove his crew across  the access road. Carl watched them for a few minutes as they unloaded tents, coolers, and more rifles.  Before long they had set camp and were boiling what looked like a pot of coffee.

Carl went back inside his station. He needed to call the hospital to check on Marcus and then check in with Katie.  After a few minutes he was able to reach the head nurse at the emergency room. She was polite but clearly busy.  According to her, Marcus was alive but still in shock.  They were treating his burns and other injuries but the jury was still out as to whether or not he would make it through the night. Carl then talked to Marcus’ wife Rosalinda, and assured her that he would do everything he could to find out who had done this to her husband.  Rosalinda did not speak much English, but he could hear the overwhelming pain and sorrow in her voice.   Marcus was in a bad way for sure. If he lived, he was going to have to go through months of painful skin grafts on his face and arms. According to the doctor, he may also have suffered severe brain damage from the beating he took.  Carl hung up the phone, sat down in his desk chair, and rocked back rubbing his eyes.  He could only imagine how much Marcus’ medical bills would be.  Perhaps he would find a way to help. Maybe he could get back on the news and ask for donations.  Carl closed his eyes, exhaled, and slipped into a sorely needed sleep.

Around noon, he was jolted awake by a banging on the quick store’s front door.  He looked around the corner of his office door and saw Katie outside.  Carl jumped up from his chair rubbing his face and unlocked the bolt.

“Hey sweetie,” Katie chirped as she kissed him on the cheek.

“Hey,” Carl replied still groggy.

“Well…I brought you some sandwiches for lunch, but from the looks of things outside, you aren’t going to need them,” she replied gesturing over her shoulder with her thumb. “It looks like dinner is already cooking!”

Carl figured that she was talking about Shorty’s group.

“Oh that’s just five or six cowboys from El Paso that came down to see the show,” he explained.

Katie gave him a weird look. “Five or six? You really didn’t do well in math did you?”

With that, Carl stepped out of the station and looked across the access road.  In the few hours that he had been asleep, things had changed fairly significantly.  Scanning the prairie Carl could count no fewer than about 30 tents.  People were all over the place, fires were burning, music was playing, and it even appeared that one group had a horse shoe match going.  As he watched, three more trucks pulled up and about 15 men in cowboy hats jumped out with bed rolls, rifles, and coolers.

“What did you do to get all these folks here?” Katie asked in astonishment.

Carl had to think a moment for the answer to come to him. “Well, I reckon I prayed,” he confessed under his breath.  Katie did not bat an eye. “See what a little churching can do?’ she admonished.  “Aren’t you glad I didn’t let you stay at home and watch the Cowboys every Sunday?”

Carl was lost for words.  In just a little over four hours, the prairie had swelled from 5 cowboys to about 40.  As he stood with Katie surveying the growing crowd, two young men crossed the access road with what looked like a big platter.  As they came closer, he recognized them as two of Shorty’s crew.

“Mr. Lamonte?”

“That’s me,” Carl responded.

“Uncle Shorty said for us to bring you some lunch,” one of the men said extending a foil covered tray.

Carl shook his head. “Well that’s not necessary…”

“Please tell your Uncle Shorty we are much obliged!” Katie cut in taking the tray.

The men smiled, tipped their hats, and headed back for their camp.

Carl gave Katie an irritated look. “Honey I don’t even know those fellah’s…”

Once again Katie cut him off. “Carl baby, I love you but sometimes I wonder what you are thinking.  Look across the street.  Just since we’ve been standing here another five truck loads of people have pulled in. I don’t claim to fully understand what is going on here, but one thing seems pretty clear.”

“What’s that?” Carl sighed.

“They are here for us, and we need to be thankful, “Katie admonished.  “Now you be neighborly, because they may be the only friends we have in a few days.” Katie lifted the tin foil, pulled out a spare rib, and took a small bite.  “Oh, this is tasty,” she exclaimed licking the tips of her fingers.  “No one barbeques like a Texan!”

With each passing day, the crowd across from the station continued to grow.   By the end of the week, Carl could count about 300 tents and twice as many people.  Shorty had also proven to be a natural leader.  Each morning he would send his boys out to meet with the new arrivals, get their names, and make a list of any weapons and ammunition they had brought with them.  He also started separating the prairie into sections.  The area by the access road and highway was reserved for cars and tents, while larger campers and RVs were sent to the rear. Carl had made his showers available and set up several hoses for water but, with his station in the condition it was, he had little else to offer.  Friday afternoon, to Carl’s surprise, five flatbed trucks pulled up fully loaded with green portable toilets.  A half a dozen men jumped out and, without even asking, started lining them up along the side of the street.  As the last john was being lowered to the ground, an older man in overalls walked over to Carl and shook his hand.

“Hope you don’t mind a few out houses on the road,” he said gesturing over his shoulder.

Carl had been concerned about facilities for the growing crowd and was, in fact, grateful.

“Not at all, thank you very kindly,” he responded.

“I am happy to help,” the man continued.  “I got a 60 day notice just like everyone else in this state, so I figured I would do my part to help out.  I will send a truck by every day to clean them up.”

As word of the amassing crowd spread, businesses around the area started pouring out their support.  Local donut shops brought pastries and coffee, restaurant owners showed up with trays of sandwiches, and a garbage removal company dropped off about twenty large  dumpsters.  A San Antonio radio station even donated a portable stage and PA system for Shorty (now the de facto camp boss) to make his morning announcements from.   Carl had never in his life seen such an outpouring of community support, and as the crowds grew to well over a thousand people, the goods kept pouring in.

News trucks were also arriving in droves.  Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN had set up large media enclaves and were reporting live from the site daily.   Their correspondents would stroll through the crowd, interview campers, and give live reports almost hourly.  Carl was amazed as he listened to the interviews.  It seemed as if Shorty had even handed out talking points.  Without exception, everyone interviewed would simply state that they were there for the barbeque, and to show their support for Texas.

To Carl, the atmosphere almost seemed festive.  Texas state flags and American flags flew from just about every tent, country music thumped endlessly through the air, and the popping of fire arms could be heard off in the distance as campers set up skeet shoots and target competitions.  Folks were getting along, working together, and generally having a pretty damn good time.   It was the most amazing and humbling thing that he had ever witnessed.

Since the fire, Lanum had arranged for a Sheriff’s car to be posted at Carl’s home 24/7, so Carl had been spending most of his evenings at the station.  He did not want to involve his children in the madness, so he and Katie had agreed that they would stay at the ranch until things had died down.   Carl set up a cot in his office at the quick store and spent most of his days giving interviews, talking to Shorty and other campers, and doing what he could to help out.  He still had no idea how things were going to unfold, but when he looked out across the growing sea of tents and campers, it was clear that things had become much bigger than just him.

Late Tuesday afternoon Carl was sitting by his old RC Cola machine resting, when a group of CNN workers pulled up in a large truck and started unloading cameras, generators, lighting, and cables. The reporters that Carl been accustomed to seeing would usually have nothing more than a single shoulder camera and light, so all the activity piqued his interest.  Within an hour, the crew had set up a string of cameras and lights up and down the access road.  At about 6 p.m. a man in a headset appeared and motioned for the cameramen to start filming.  It was at that very second that a line of large buses appeared in the distance. As they approached the station, Carl could tell that they were different.  As they drove between the station and the camp, Carl could see that they had large images of Texas with red slashes through them painted on their sides.  As the buses drove by a voice on a PA began to chant, “Texans are Traitors!”

Everything came to a complete halt across the prairie, and hundreds watched in silence as the buses drove past, not sure just what they were seeing.  The buses pulled into the overnight lot of the station and before Carl could get to them, dozens of people started pouring out.  They were holding anti-Texas signs, peace signs, and upside down American flags.  Carl stopped and watched in shock as over two hundred angry protesters amassed on his property, chanting, shouting profanity, and pumping their fists in the air.   Almost, as if rehearsed, they formed up in rows and marched out toward the access road right in front of the news cameras.  Carl looked back across the street toward the camp and saw something that sent a cold chill down his spine; it was the shape of a thousand people moving en masse toward the street.   Carl shivered; someone had set this up with the media and they were counting on a fight.  How else would the CNN guys have known exactly when to arrive?  As he watched the tide of people moving toward the protesters, he could see Shorty stepping onto the stage.

“Everybody calm down!” Shorty yelled into the microphone.  “This is nothin’ but a trick to try and get us kicked outta here!” he continued.  Some folks turned and started to listen, but hundreds still headed for the street.  Shorty continued undaunted.  “Lay one finger on those losers and this whole thing is over!  If we do not hold the high ground we will lose this battle!”

Carl’s mind was racing, someone had to do something quick or there was going to be a full scale riot. All of a sudden he had an idea. He dashed into his office and grabbed a furled up Texas state flag that he kept for special occasions.  Running outside, he crossed the street waving it over his head. “Grab your flags and line the road!” he yelled at the top of his voice.  “Grab your flags!”

Shorty could see what Carl was doing, so he grabbed a Texas flag off of the stage and started waving it over his head as well. “Grab your flags!” he yelled into the microphone.  “Let’s remind these folks just where they are!”  Shorty’s sons came up to the stage and started waving flags as well.  “Line the street with your flags!” Shorty’s voice boomed over and over from the PA.

As Carl stood on the street with his flag he could see the crowd start to reverse its advance.  All of a sudden he saw flags coming down from tents, RVs, and pickup trucks all across the massive camp.  By the hundreds, people started lining up next to Carl and cheering.  In what seemed like just a few seconds hundreds of  flags appeared up and down both sides of the street. Those without flags took off their shirts and waved them over their heads cheering wildly.

The protesters were clearly shaken, and about a quarter of them ran back to the safety of their buses.  The rest however, started marching down the street screaming, cussing, and spitting at those who had lined up on the roadside.

As the protesters neared, Carl heard a man next to him singing God Bless America under his breath. Carl could not help but join in. “Stand beside her and guide her…” he bellowed at the top of his lungs.  Almost simultaneously another 50 people joined in raising their voices in unison.  Shorty heard the singing and joined in on the PA.  Soon the song rang out on both sides of the road completely drowning out the shouts from the protesters.

“Keep singing!” Shorty bellowed into the microphone.  “Show the world that no one messes with Texas!”

As Carl sang he felt tears welling up in his eyes for the second time in a week. This time however, it was because he was proud.  Not only was he proud to be a Texan, he was proud to be an American.   This was not a fight for Texas; it was a fight for the America that he had loved so dearly his entire life. He was fighting for the America that had allowed him to build a thriving truck stop from nothing but an old gas station with a rebuilt RC Cola machine.  He was fighting for the country that had sent waves of Marines up the beach at Iwo Jima, put a man on the moon, invented baseball, and defeated the Soviet empire.   Many on the news had referred to the crisis as the “New Civil War,” but in Carl’s mind it was a rescue operation.

At that moment, Carl was snapped out of his thoughts by a deafening cheer.  He looked down the street toward the protesters. Apparently they had reconsidered their plan, and were in the process of making a hasty retreat to their buses.   As they retreated, a cry rose up across the prairie.

“Texas…Texas….Texas!”

The chant boomed like thunder across the open plains, and seemed to shake the very ground on which Carl was standing.  He watched as the buses pulled back onto the road and drove through the crowd past rows of flags and raised cowboy hats.  The noise was so deafening, Carl could not even hear the bus engines as they drove by.  As the protesters disappeared toward the interstate, another cheer arose from the crowd.  This time it was one of victory.

Deputy Motter took a sip from his coffee and cringed. It was cold and bitter, and so was he.  This was the third night in a row that he had been assigned to sit out in front of the Lamonte ranch and make sure no one tried to vandalize it.  This was what was known in the business as crap duty.   He had listened to the radio intently as every Sheriff within a hundred miles had sped to the Fill & Fuel to stop a riot.  He had then listened in amazement when the units arrived only to find a bunch of  cowboys singing the national anthem and waving flags.  The fact that he had not been there really pissed Motter off. It was just not fair that he had been given babysitting duty while the rest of the state was making world news.

Motter glanced toward the house and made his hourly report on the radio.  “This is unit 23, all quiet at the Lamonte ranch,” he droned into the handset.  Dropping the microphone back into its holder, Motter opened his car door and stepped out to stretch his legs.  The evening was uncharacteristically cool for summer, and it made Motter want a warm cup of coffee even more.  He picked up his binoculars and scanned the pastures around the ranch house.  From his vantage, all appeared to be normal.   Motter let out a sigh and looked at his watch.  His relief would not be there for another 5 hours.

At that moment a twig snapped somewhere behind him. Deputy Motter turned around to find two eyes staring at him through a black stocking mask. Before he could reach for his gun, the cold steel of a crowbar came crashing down on his head sending him to the ground.  Motter struggled to get back to his feet. The pain was unbearable, and he could feel blood running down his neck.   He got to his knees and tried to reach for his gun again, but for some reason his hands were not working correctly.  He never felt the second blow.

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The Example (Part III)

Carl was jolted awake at 4:30 a.m. by a loud ringing sound.  He had been lost in a deep dreamless sleep, and the abrupt ringing had startled and disoriented him.  After slapping the top of the alarm clock two or three times, he realized that he was hearing the classic ringer on his cell phone.  It was a special ring tone that he used for his station manager Marcus Ramirez.  Marcus had been with Carl for about 15 years, and was simply the best station manager in the business.  He was honest, great with the customers, and the most reliable and conscientious employee Carl had ever hired.   Most importantly however, Marcus did not bother Carl with the small stuff. He ran the station, did the hiring and firing, made sure the numbers balanced, and even placed fuel orders when Carl could not.

The fact that Marcus was calling at 4:30 in the morning clearly meant that something was dreadfully wrong at the station.  Carl jumped out of bed, grabbed his jeans from the floor, and fished his phone out of the pocket.

“Marcus is that you?”

“Yes sir, it’s me alright,” Marcus responded.  “I am very sorry to bother you so early in the morning, but you need to come to the station right away.”

“What’s wrong?” Carl demanded.

“Mr. Lamonte, you just need to get down here as quickly as possible,” Marcus persisted.

“Okay,” Carl conceded, “I will be there in 10 minutes.”

Carl closed his phone and tugged his jeans on. In the 15 years that Marcus had worked for him, he had never heard him so shaken. Carl grabbed a clean shirt from his closet, jumped into his truck, and peeled out down his gravel driveway. His mind was racing. What on earth could have gotten Marcus so upset?  In what seemed like only a few seconds Carl was pulling into the station, and the first thing that he saw took his breath away.  Someone had scrawled the word “traitor” in red paint across the windows of the quick store.  It had clearly been a rush job, and bright red paint was splattered everywhere.   As Carl pulled up to the store, Marcus stepped outside to meet him.

“They really hit us good Mr. Lamonte,” Marcus sighed.

As Carl looked at the red mess his blood began to boil. “Who the hell would do something like this?” he growled under his breath.

“That’s not all sir,” Marcus continued.  “They cut our pump lines too.”

Carl felt his heart skip a beat. He had been so fixated on the red paint, he had completely missed the pumps.  He spun around on his heels and looked at the closest diesel island.  Each of the pump hoses had been severed in two.

“I am going to have to order replacement hoses,” Marcus continued, “I don’t think we will get them for a day or two.”

Carl could take it no longer. He had kept his end of the deal and stayed silent much longer than he had wanted to. He was not going to stay silent any longer.  Carl stormed into his office, slammed the door and called the Governor’s office. Once again no one picked up the phone and Carl was passed to an automated attendant.

“You have reached the office of the Governor of Texas,” it droned. “We are unable to take your call at this moment. Please leave a short message and one of our staff will return your call at the earliest opportunity….”

Carl did not try to be polite.

“This is Carl Lamonte and I am tired of waiting for the Governor to return my calls,” he bellowed into the receiver. “I have done it your way for two weeks, and I am fed up! If you do not call me back today and tell me what you are planning to do to save my station, I am going public!”

Carl slammed the phone down. He was furious that he had trusted them, and knew that he should have seen this coming.  Carl felt a chill run down his spine.  With two weeks left before the 30 day deadline, he still had no plan and felt more alone than ever.  At that moment a familiar voice broke his thoughts.

“What’s all the ruckus about in here?  What you going public with Carl, a new brand of beef jerky?”

Carl turned around and saw one of his regular truckers standing at his office door.

“Hey there Clifford…sorry for the outburst,” Carl sighed.

“No worries buddy,” Clifford replied with a grin. “You were shaking the coffee pots out in the store so I wanted to bring you a cup before it all spilled.”

With that, Clifford extended a mug of hot black coffee Carl’s way.  Carl regained his composure, smiled, and took the cup thankfully. Clifford had been one of Carl’s first station regulars.  He was an independent owner operator and ran a coast-to-coast route between Jacksonville Florida and San Diego California.  San Antonio was a regular stopping point for him, and over the years he and Carl had become fast friends.  Clifford was from the “old school” of trucking when it was more of a lifestyle than a business.   He would often grumble about the “new guys” with their GPS units and corporate cell phones.  “There are a lot of truck drivers out there,” he would often tell Carl over a beer in the overnight lot, “but truckers are a dying breed.”

“So, if you don’t mind my nosin’ in, why were you calling the Governor’s office?” Clifford pressed.  “Are you trying to find out what they are going to do when everyone’s 60 day notice runs out?”

Carl was tired of holding it in. “I wish I had a 60 day notice,” he moaned. “They gave me a 30.”

Clifford’s jaw dropped in disbelief.  “You mean to tell me they only gave you 30 days?”

Carl nodded his head and told his friend about the notice, the slow rolling by the Governor’s office, and the FBI incident from the night before. As he told Cliff the story he felt a huge weight being lifted from his shoulders. Finally, someone else knew what he had been going through.

Cliff took it all in while sipping his coffee.  “So if no one knows…who did that to the front of your store?”

Carl clinched his jaw in frustration. “I only wish I knew.”

“Well someone sure as hell knows,” Cliff persisted, “and they clearly think you are a traitor.”

Carl could see the red paint from inside his office. “Well I am going to get some answers real fast,” he rumbled.

A moment of silence passed as both men sipped their coffee and pondered the predicament. After a few minutes Clifford spoke up. “Well…the way I figure it Carl, you are on your own.”

Carl looked down at his coffee, knowing in his heart that his friend was right.

“The way I see it,” Clifford continued, “the Governor’s office isn’t going to do a damn thing.”

“What do you mean?” Carl queried.

“Well think about it for crying out loud,” Clifford scolded.  “All the businesses in the state have received 60 day notices except for you…one little gas station. Doesn’t that seem kind of funny?”

“I suppose it does,” Carl conceded.

“You’re damn right it does,” Cliff continued. “Why on earth would they give a little independent truck stop in the Texas prairie a 30 day notice?”

Carl assumed the question was rhetorical and did not answer.

“You my friend are the test!” Cliff concluded.

Carl listened intently. “What kind of test am I exactly?”

“Well, my guess is that the Governor’s office does not know what the Feds are going to do, and the Feds have no idea what the Governor is going to do.  I mean, how on earth are the Feds going to foreclose on tens of thousands of Texas small businesses?  It would be political suicide and they know it.

“So why the heck am I getting the silent treatment?” Carl inquired.

Cliff continued undaunted. “Well think about it from the Governor’s perspective for a minute. What is he going to do, call out the Texas National Guard and have them stand in front of every store in the state? And even if he did, what would his marching orders be? Shoot any Fed who tries to park in the parking lot?  I mean, I love my state, but I just don’t see it.  So, they have set you up to settle the whole issue.”

“So I’m nothing but a big patsy, is that what you are telling me?”

“That’s the way I see it,” Cliff concluded. “All those 60 day notices mean absolutely nothing.  Nope…what matters is what happens right here.”

Carl’s head was spinning.  “So why did they do this to my station?”

Cliff leaned forward and looked Carl directly in the eye. “Ole buddy, whether you like it or not, there is a fight brewin’ and the first battle is going to take place right here at your station.  It is also a sad fact that, no matter which side wins, you’re going to be a casualty.”

Carl put his coffee down and took in Cliff’s words. He had suspected that this was the case, and hearing it from his friend only confirmed it. Once again he felt his anger beginning to rise.

“So what am I supposed to do Cliff, stand out front with my shotgun and let my kids watch me get shot down on television?” Carl blurted in frustration.

Clifford rocked back in his chair ignoring Carl’s comment. “I think we are going to have to solve this problem Texas style.”

Carl gave Cliff a sarcastic look. “What are we going to do, hold up in the Alamo? I seem to remember that not ending so well.”

Clifford rocked forward in his chair and stood up.  Carl could not help but notice the grin on his face.  Cliff walked over and slapped Carl on the back so hard that he almost dropped his coffee cup.

“No ole’ buddy,” Cliff beamed, “we are going to have ourselves a barbeque!”

Carl was dumbfounded.  “A what?” he asked trying to make sense of what he just heard.

Clifford was undeterred.  “I will handle the details. All you need to do is advertise.”

Carl was still lost. “What exactly do I advertise?”

Clifford looked at Carl with a big toothy grin. “Why the first annual Fill & Fuel secession barbeque of course!”

With that, Clifford let out a big belly laugh and headed out of the room.  “We got two weeks Carl, get the word out, and I’ll supply the rest!”

Carl put his coffee down on the desk. “A secession barbeque,” he repeated under his breath. He was not entirely sure what his buddy was up to but, knowing Cliff, it was going to be a wild ride.   Carl stared at the pile of unpaid bills on his desk.  The fact was, he had already wasted two weeks waiting on the Governor’s office to give him a plan.  He had done what they asked him to do and stayed quiet, but all it had gotten him was a vandalized station.  Carl had hoped that they would help him out, but it now seemed clear that Cliff was right. He was on his own.  Carl shrugged his shoulders in resignation.  “What the hell,” he said to himself.  “A barbeque sounds like the best idea I’ve heard yet.”

Carl stood up, grabbed his keys, and headed for his truck.  As he walked across the parking lot, he could see that Marcus was already busy cleaning the paint off of the front of the station.   “I am heading into town Marcus,” Carl called out without stopping.

Marcus hopped down his ladder and ran to catch up.  “I should have this clean in a few hours Mr. Lamonte,” he panted.

Carl turned to Marcus as he reached his truck.  “That’s good, thanks for taking care of the mess.”

Marcus gave Carl a hesitant smile and nodded his head nervously.  “I am worried,” he continued. “What if the people that did this come back tonight?  What are we going to do?”

Carl looked into Marcus’ worried eyes and smiled. “We, mi amigo, are going to have us a Texas barbeque!”

With that Carl hopped into his truck and peeled out. As he hit the highway entrance, he flipped his cell phone open and dialed information.  “Fox 29 News San Antonio,” he told the operator.  After a few rings he was greeted by a woman’s voice.

“Fox 29 news room, may I help you?”

“Yes ma’am, this is Carl Lamonte owner of the Fill & Fuel Truck Stop.  I will be there in 20 minutes with your leading story for this evening’s news…”

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