Thursday, May 27, 2010

High Point, Texas

"Without alienation, there can be no politics." -- Arthur Miller

High Point, Texas

Rancher Brice was tired. Spent. 
He decided to Let Go.

The next morning He drove into the old town and loaded his pickup with bottled drinks, snacks, and sunscreen.  He drove to his property and parked the pickup visibly at the middle of his property on a high point close to the migrant trails.  He stood in the back of the pickup scanning the scrub for movement. Brice called in the language of the Southern People encouraging them to come to him without fear. 
"I have water and supplies." 

For several days no travelers would approach but only run away and hide.  Sometimes he heard hidden, muffled voices. 
"We cannot trust the Northerners, We must stay hidden until we reach Safety." 
"We need water, He might help us." 
"Do you think he might be the man we were told to meet?" 
For several days none of the travelers dared approach the pickup but the Rancher remained patient.

Near the end of the first day of the second week on the high point, a young, sun-darkened man step boldly out of hiding and approached the truck. 
Brice spoke first, in the language of the southern people,
"Good evening, my friend.  Would you like some water for your journey?"
"Yes. My family is thirsty. I have no money to pay you."
"Come out of hiding, You are my guests."
A woman stepped from hiding to stand at her husbands side. Rancher Brice smiled at her obvious pregnancy, thinking of his own Grandchildren.

"I have plenty of water for both of you.  Are you a strong worker ?" he asked the man.
"I am a strong and reliable worker.  I must support my family."
Brice realized that he was being blessed so he asked the couple and child to join his estate. 

The next morning, Mirta began assisting at the homestead.  Her first task was to pack lunch for two. Tony guided an old cow pony, Rum Raisin, into the trailer attached to the pickup. 

As they drove to High Point the Rancher explained to Tony,
"You will ride horseback so that you may explore quietly.  Your job is to find other Southerners and guide them to the high point."
"What if I am unable to find them or unable to convince them to follow me to the high point?" asked Tony.
"You'll find them. Rum Raisin will find them.  Do your best to convince them that We mean them no harm but if they will not follow you at least show them the direction towards the highway.  I will remain at the pickup looking and listening."

The Rancher provided Tony with water, a compass, a hand drawn map of the area and a telephone.  Tony only glanced at the map once.  Rum Raisin knew the territory like the back of his hoof. 

For several days Tony was unsuccessful at finding any migrants.  They remained patient.  One day at high sun Brice spotted Tony through the binoculars leading a small group of Men towards the pickup.  The men drank and ate purchases bought with currency from two different governments and were resting in the shade of the small trees as the satisfied Rancher drove home that day.

The next morning a cairn stood nearly twice as tall as a man at the very peak of the high point. 

Over the next few days, Brice hammered together a small shed while Tony explored.  Almost every time Tony brought travelers to the high point, they would help with the small construction project.

Brice's purchasing list expanded - soda, beer, first aid supplies, socks, undergarments, and hats.  Some of the migrants asked for charity but most were willing to trade for their needs.  The Rancher kept his prices reasonable, adjusted his ware selection to the desires of the customer, was kind to the needy and soon few of his customers were hiding shyly in the brush but directly approaching.  After a few weeks He noticed that some of his customers traveled South instead of North and some approached without Tony and Rum Raisin.

One afternoon a small group of men approached the Rancher at the shed.
"We would like some refreshment but we have no money. I am an experienced builder.  Let me erect a sturdy structure here at High Point and you will be a prosperous man with a store, not a peddler selling from a shack." 

The Rancher telephoned a fellow merchant and that evening a truckload of building supplies was delivered to High Point.  Each morning for several days another load would arrive and the men would build.

Soon the cairn was a small monument by the front porch of a two-story building. A store and restaurant with upstairs living quarters became the prominent feature on High Point.  The builders installed air conditioners, plumbing, electric appliances, bathroom fixtures, a security system, restaurant equipment and Mirta's new furniture.

It would be weeks before the Rancher would discover that his new friend the Builder was not a migrant. 
"I heard from business associates what you were doing here at High Point and realized that you could use my skills.
Now that the construction is complete my men and I must go.  We have other tasks to perform but I will be back to visit. High Point will continue to grow."

Tony discontinued the now unnecessary horseback searches and began helping the steady stream of customers at the store. The Rancher busied himself buying new merchandise for resell and overseeing the construction of a workshop at High Point.  He attempted to oversee further improvements to Mirta's apartment but was promptly reassigned by the new Mother.

One day a Surveyor approached Brice in the old town's bank.  "I can survey the land at High Point.  I'm sure you will be wanting to eventually create homestead plots and to pave roads."  The Surveying crew followed Brice back to High Point that day to begin the work.

Brice was able to negotiate excellent contracts with energy and water sellers who appreciated the labor supply available to install the infrastructure. The same crew was retained by the civil engineer Brice hired to construct the north-south road.

Mirta's new assistant designed and built an irrigated vegetable garden behind the store.  Flowers were planted at the front entrance.  Rum Raisin was replaced by a Ranch pickup and an All-Terrain vehicle but the horse wasn't out to pasture for long.  He began giving rides to the visiting children and appeared on the packaging for Tony's new "Secret Recipe"(Tony's Grandmother) homemade ice cream.

The restaurant grew in popularity so the cook and food servers became full time employees.  Brice hung a large print of the High Point survey in the store.  Within days a stranger approached asking about property.  A few days later a wide-load truck delivered the underground fuel tanks for the first automobile service station.  The second station had its grand opening on the same day ground was broken for the east-west road.

Travelers came to High Point for a visit and stayed.  High Point was prosperous, friendly, and safe. Several new family houses were built along the roads and Brice had his foreman construct an additional bunkhouse close to High Point because many of his ranch hands spent their leisure time there.  Over the years, many of the young ranch hands left the ranch to pursue opportunities in High Point.  One of them adopted the moniker "The Cowboy Realtor".

High Point's new hardware store expanded into energy and farming machinery after less than a year in business.  The housewife who sold home baked treats from her front porch franchised a satellite in the old town.  She bought so much grain that her business expanded into brewing and distilling.  

Ely was the first child born in High Point and would become the first to graduate from High Point Academy.  He celebrated his fifth birthday by riding Rum Raisin into the restaurant.  None of the customers complained, they were too busy cheering the young cowboy, but Mirta saw to it that Ely didn't teach this stunt to his little sister Luz.

Brice and the Mrs. moved from their house to make a new home at High Point.  "It's time for me to step down as ranch manager.  I've got other duties.  My kid's can run the ranch." 

Mirta's father claimed he moved to High Point to retire but he never lacked a project.  He and Brice became fast friends and spent hours counseling the adults in their businesses and challenging the minds of the ever expanding supply of youngsters.  They spent a lot of time teaching the kids about Joy.

Ely moved back to High Point after Veterinary College to take care of the ranch animals and the town's pets.  Luz became the first High Pointer to begin school at High Point Academy, graduate and earn a college degree without leaving town. 

Brice died old and full of years having seen a barren hilltop become a prosperous community.  Mrs. Brice had his favorite saying engraved as an epitaph - "Politics are a lousy way to get things done."



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