I have written before about an area in northern Arizona called East of Snowflake that attracts all kinds of weird people. If you’re a burned-out hippie, a survivalist, a conspiracy theorist, or any other flavor of eccentric, you can buy land east of the small town of Snowflake for very little money and live happily ever after. Or paranoid ever after, or whatever floats your boat.
For the first couple of years I ran my newspaper in the White Mountains, I did it out of an office we had built onto our house. One day I was out running some errands, and my secretary paged me. This was in the days before cell phones, so I found a telephone booth (remember those?) and called the office. Melissa told me to come home because someone was there who was making her feel uncomfortable. I asked if she needed the police and she said no, just get back as soon as I could.
When I pulled in the large driveway, there was a pickup truck painted in a camouflage pattern waiting for me. As I got out of my car, a man wearing all camouflage, including face paint, emerged from the truck and asked me if I was Nick Russell. Being the smartass that I am, my first response was to ask, “If you park that truck in the forest, how do you ever find it again?”
He didn’t have an answer for that, but he had something he needed to tell me about. He said he was there to protect me because there were 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the small airport in the neighboring town of Show Low. I asked him just what those tanks and Russian troops were doing there, and he said they were getting ready to take over.
“Okay fine, so why do I need protection?” I asked him. His reply was, “Because you’re a journalist, man! Everybody knows they always kill the journalists first! Don’t you know that?”
I told him I wasn’t aware of that and thanked him for informing me. He had some kind of pistol strapped to his hip, and I could see that there was an AK-47 sitting on the front seat of his pickup truck. I knew this guy came from East of Snowflake before he ever told me. I thanked him again for his time and told him that I appreciated him coming by. Then he said, “You don’t believe me, do you?”
I allowed as how I didn’t really see why there would be 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks at the airport, so he pulled out a folded piece of yellow notepad paper and said, “Here, look at this. It’s proof!”
The only thing I saw was a square, drawn with a pencil, taking up most of the page. Knowing I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help myself and asked what the heck that meant. He told me that it was the floor plan of a building they were putting up at the airport that was big enough to hold 200 Russian troops and 17 tanks. He added that he had asked the people on the construction crew what the structure was for, and they told him to go away. He asked, “What does that tell you?” I didn’t want to tell him what it told me, so I just said I’d look into it.
His quick reply was, “No, you have to stay at home until the threat has passed. If you go out there, They’ll get you.” Then he told me not to worry because he was my bodyguard, and it was his job to protect me until the all-clear was sounded.
I assured him that I really didn’t need protection, but he was pretty adamant about it, and I don’t make it a practice to argue with people with AK-47s and handguns. My street was the last road in a little subdivision, and it was only one long block and then turned to go up to the main road at each end. For the next two or three days that guy was parked at the end of the street in his camouflaged truck, and every time I went by, he waved at me and followed me to the post office or wherever I was going and then came home and took his position at the end of the street.
At that time, Terry Ringey was the chief of police in Pinetop-Lakeside, and a friend of mine. I mentioned my bodyguard to Terry, and he asked if I wanted him to have an officer come by and talk to the guy. Technically it was not illegal to park where he was, but if I was concerned, Terry would have someone visit with him. I told Terry no, I didn’t want him to do that. In fact, I didn’t even want the UPS man to come down the street. Anybody with a uniform might be fair game for that wackadoodle.
Apparently, the threat passed within a short time, and the all-clear sounded, or maybe he just got bored or ran out of MREs and went home, but by the fourth day he was gone, and things were back to normal. Or maybe he was still there and just blended in with the trees. Either way, every time I drove by the airport for the next week or so, I looked to see if there were any Russian troops or tanks, and there wasn’t one to be seen. I have a feeling he might have been mistaken.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 29 mystery novels out, as well as 12 other books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – I really don’t mind getting older, but my body is taking it badly.