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21 April, 2011

I Sat in Front of the King

A couple of days after my encounter with a queen in Wenatchee, eating lunch in Twisp, I sat in front of the king, an older gentleman who, every 4 minutes would make a pronouncement:

"I'm gonna pick up 3-4 more horses." No reason given.
"I ought to buy a few hundred head of cattle. Seems like the fish and wildlife Department won't even talk to ya about leases till you have a herd."
"The job those boys did on the fence,...I might ask 'em out to do the whole property."

Basically, listing things he would acquire in that odd monarchic tendency toward bucolic nostalgia. Like Marie Antoinette playing  milkmaid in Petit Hameau, a rustic Swiss-ish village she had built at Versailles. Do they ever really blend in? Heck no, but the rich spend a lot of money locally in their quest to feel like farmers, which is the modern capitalist version of the Prince and the Pauper, and acceptable to the peasantry.

Sometimes it works out well. The locals, or at least a family or two who do the king's dirty work, may get the run of the place during the 90% of the time when isn't around. Suppliers of feed and fencing, gear and luxury goods, have a new customer who not only pays on time, but can be counted on to spend extra if the seller so much as hints that some other guy is doing similar things. The king must win at the game of competitive consumption. 

But then, the king ain't from here, and he don't exactly understand some of the balances he is upsetting, the social and environmental  laws he's breaking. He overpays the young guy (who everybody knows is an idiot) while the dad (who everybody knows can fix anything and needs the work to stay off the bottle) remains silent and grows bitter. He fences off open range, brings in questionable stock, and when he grows bored (or scared) of nature goes on a building spree that bulldozes the old Indian village, paves the single best field in the valley, and pollutes the night sky with floodlights.

With any luck, the king gains a new fascination and moves on before he does too much damage. Without it, he falls so deeply in love with the place that it becomes his court away from court, and other nobles follow, inflating land prices and making it impossible to farm or ranch any more, ruining that which drew him there in the first place.  The occasional king is smart enough to notice and regret this irony, but most don't even recognize what happened.


  1. King Trump is moving in about 20 miles up the road to try his hand at running a vineyard. I, for one, will be sticking to my west coast pinots - fewer pesticides and no oily residue.

  2. I'm sort of cracking up at you making a Petit Hameau reference, and I don't even know why, apart from familiarity with your deep and obsessive francophilia ...