Population Control
Joanne Faries

"Heard you were getting a neighbor, Cody."


I gathered county gossip at Mercer's Barbershop as Brad used the big shears to tame my wavy locks. My mother managed to beat from me every other trace of my Italian father. She turned me into a rancher, but she allowed my hair to curl out from my hat. 

"Yep, seems there's some odd parcel of land butting up to yours. It's been for sale for a hundred years. A Jersey real estate fella, in Jackson to ski, did research, had money, and papers. Judge Roswell, here for his weekly trim, said the guy was sharp." Brad snorted. I kept my eye on the mirror. The scissors kept a steady clip.

"Maybe I need to visit the judge. Forget the shave. Thanks."

I drove into Hickock, the county seat. Although I didn't have an appointment, I knew I'd get in to see the judge. The old coot was still wishing my mother would let him sign her dance card.

"Cody, my boy, I know why you're here. However, Mr. Spencer is going to be a county taxpayer very soon. The survey will be done in a week, closing the next, all to fit his travel time."

The judge and I enjoyed a juicy chat. Nonetheless, he could not tamper with the law. I left him to go see my buddy, Dustin, up at the Mining College. Over lunch, we scoured paper copies the judge slipped to me.

"Shoot. I've got a chemistry class that'll do anything for a good grade." Dusty winked. "Trust me. Move your cattle to the highland property. You'll want them out of my way."

I made it home in two hours while contemplating the next two weeks. With the last grocery bag in hand, I slammed shut my truck door confident that Dustin's crew would surprise Mr. Spencer and me.  


"Damn. What the hell is that smell?" Rotten eggs permeated my house. The valley reeked. Then I remembered it was survey day and I smiled.

The phone rang at noon. It was the judge.

"Cody, I don't want to know what you did, but Mr. Spencer withdrew his land offer."

I hopped in my pick-up, rolled down all of the windows, and enjoyed the stink in the air. From the truck bed, my dog whined and sneezed. Leaving the dirt path, I wound my way around my property waving at Dustin's students. Well-hidden, they dismantled some elaborate equipment.

At the main paved road, I got out to pat my sign "Lone Springs, Wyoming.   Population 1."  

First published: February, 2007
comments to the writer: Knob'sWriter@iceflow.com