Friday, February 20, 2004

Guns and Roses, (with thanks to pigs, too.)

In a small community in the foothills of the Rockies lived a group fifteen
feisty and fiercely independent elderly women, each occupying her own little
rough cabin, each tending her own plot of ground, although the crops varied
from cabin to cabin.

None of these women were younger than seventy, and all had wise eyes that had
seen much of the world and its good and evil. Each owned her small plot of
ground, having acquired the right to live upon her own land through trade of
various kinds.

One woman had been a storekeeper for the early tie hack camps, and had put by
a dollar a month until she converted those hoarded bits to gold pieces. When
she married, she and her newly-freed husband purchased a dab of land on trade
from the local tribe, and over the years, had spent their time when not
working the store in building up a nice, snug cabin.

Another woman had taken in the laundry and mending of the tie hacks, and had
hoarded her coins as well, until she fell in love with a drover and they
settled down to keep company for the rest of their lives.

A third woman had been a belle and a flirt, and her chosen line of work had
paid her well, as women were scarce in the rough timber camp. When she
married the camp cook, she also acquired his three children and a small garden
patch behind a cabin, the cabin sorely in need of a year of cleaning. She, a
versatile and good-natured madam, was up to the task.

Another woman had been the local distiller. Her Scots husband had brought
barley with him from the Highlands, and after learning that there were other
things to eat in this new land, she discovered that with a bit of work, the
added value of pouring long-changed barley into glass jars for sale to the
camps and taverns provided her with a good life. This was after her husband
was trampled to death by a runaway team of coach horses he had attempted to

Each of the fifteen women had a skill and trade to share with the others, and
their voluntary trading kept them all comfortable and safe in their small
community, among the long-abandoned larger structures. With their memories
and company, they had a happy and peaceful life there in their beloved

One day, they looked down the dusty road to see a handsome man on a beautiful
dun gelding riding up to their little remote community. Dressed in gray, he
sported a silver badge on his coat.

All the women advanced to their front porches, staring with welcoming smiles
at this unexpected visitor, for few ventured up to this tiny remnant of former
times, and fewer still came well dressed and so handsome. As the man
dismounted form his horse, he asked to speak to Mrs. Hegwood, and she stepped
forward, thinking it must be some news, carried by a passing traveler,
arriving from her distant daughter, now living far off with her husband in a
large town in another state.

But no, instead, he pulled from his inside coat pocket a bit of paper, and
handed it to her, while informing her that she had four hours to clear her
personal effects from her home, as the cabin and ground would be sold at
auction in a few days for unpaid taxes. Little did the women know that the
successful bidder on tax auctions was this man’s cousin, recently retired as
tax assessor after many years of unremittingly raising the land taxes of
remote landholders.

As Mrs. Hegwood began to cry, the retired madam rushed to comfort her, and
offered to return to her home to bring over packing materials and assist in
the effort to gather up photos, hairpins and such. The madam raised her eyes
to the other women, all struck dumb with shock and fear, all realizing they
had never paid taxes nor received any notice, but knowing that such seizures
were possible under “government.”

“Go,all of you, and gather your personal packing materials and come back and
let us help our dear friend! There isn’t much time, and we must all work
together!” Slowly, one by one, the other women nodded and made their way back
to their cabins. In a few minutes, they returned, each carrying a basket,
box, carton or sack, each laden with packing materials and grim faces.

As the handsome man in gray settled in the cabin’s sole rocker, the women
sidled into the small structure, each nodding politely and with apparent fear
as they entered the door.

Once inside, however, the first, a small woman of eighty-three, quickly went
to the stove and poured a fresh cup of hot coffee for the man, and took it out
to him, where she remained, chatting while he sat, the man in gray not
offering her the only seat, his hat tilted back but not removed.

The others, wasting no time, quickly drew out from the packing materials their
respective pistols, and checked for full loads, although had any of them found
an empty chamber, all would have been shocked at the carelessness.

“We can’t all miss, even if our hands are shaking,” said Mrs. DuBose, the
retired shop keeper, “this is a simple recipe, just the basic Three Esses – 3
Ss – and although others may follow, they will have no proof he ever arrived.”

As the women stepped out to the cabin porch, each hid her weapon in the folds
of her apron or calico dress. When Mrs. MacGregor, the barley farmer, said
the word recipe, the man in gray fell off the porch with thirteen holes
riddled through his frame. The blood soaked into the ground, where it would
soon be spaded for a late-planted rose bush.

Across the hills, the echoes of the gunshots died slowly, but such noises were
both common and expected in this part of the country. Hauling out shovels, a
small wheelbarrow and several beautifully-honed axes, several women loaded the
gray-clad body and headed downhill for the ham and bacon farm of Mrs. Black.
Two women stayed to turn the earth to receive a rose bush to be transplanted
from a cabin further up the path. Other digging would take place at
scattered intervals along the community pathways. Other, deeper pits in the
woods would later receive any shards of bone left after the hogs finished
their grisly meal.

“We have all done it,” said Mrs. Hegwood, “and I thank you, for if we do not
stand together against tyranny and thugs, they will mow us down one by one.
Property rights must be protected by the community, or no property rights are

“Yes,” chimed in Mrs. Black, wiping her hands on her apron after a rinse at
the well, ”government is always the thug, and we need only stand together to
keep our individual property rights safe from trespass and seizure. I like
this simple recipe we thought up those many years ago, the first time they
sent someone to take our homes – the three Esses – Shoot, Shovel and Shut up.
How many has it been so far? Not more than ten, I think. We may need to
order more rose bushes soon. I'm going to go finish baking my cookies.”

IloiloM. Jones, January 31, 2004

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