“Would you rather be wearing a rocket pack or a gown and veil outfit made of burlap?”
The Yahweh Springs “Speedie Trip Gas Mart + Groceries” was once a flag-bearing member of a flourishing chain of convenience stories whose logo – a goofy-looking leaping deer wearing a rocket pack – was almost as well-known in these parts as Sinclair dinosaur (green brontosaurus) or the Mobil flying horse (Pegasus).
I looked at the young woman, then at the flimsy Space Age deer. For some reason, all I could think of was the footage of the Challenger as it broke into three parts and plummeted to earth.
“The rocket pack,” I said without hesitation.
We were having in breakfast in one of the weirdest convenience stories I had ever seen. It was even stranger than the old
“I think I know where you’re coming from,” said
He grinned and shoved his olive drab t-shirt sleeve up over his deltoid muscle. In the bulge just before the arm hit the shoulder was the tattoo he got in
“It hasn’t faded at all,” I said, leaning to get a close look. I looked at the tattoo, and then, for some unexpected reason, I found myself caught in the magnetic pull of
His hand pulled my head swiftly and gently toward him, and he touched my jaw with a hard, fiery yet delicate kiss. It happened so quickly I felt quite certain no one noticed. I sank back across the table onto the hard bench.
“Would you like a warm-up for your coffee?” asked the woman who had brought our homemade raisin bread toast, rose-hip jelly, alfalfa honey, and creamery butter to us a few minutes earlier.
“Yes,” I said. “Please.”
I wondered what the Speedie Trip had looked like when
In Yahwah Springs, “Speedie Trip” had found an uncomfortable home in an elegant, old carriage house constructed of pink Tishomingo granite and rust-red native stone, which looked to me like the Garber sandstone. After the Yahweh Brethren bought land and established their compound on the outskirts of town, the historical tourists attracted to the old Victorian spa architecture decided it was just too creepy to walk around town.
“You got the feeling that you were being watched,” said one person in a letter to the editor after the Dallas Morning News had tried to compare Yahweh’s charm with that of Eureka Springs and had made a valiant attempt to air brush the photos to take out the weeds in the sidewalks and the broken windows.
After members of the Yahweh Brethren populated their compound, even the fly fishermen and canoers brave enough to tackle collapsed infrastructure and Three Horse River, the Class III “wild river” that raged over drops, “haystacks,” and waterfalls fed by underground rivers and artesian springs, started to by-pass the town. The final blow came when the owner of the Speedie Trip threw in the towel.
The town was about to lose its only commercial enterprise. The regional rural economic development board was afraid it would lose its federal grant money if small businesses continued to collapse. In desperation, Jack Landsdowne, the chair of the board, approached the Yahweh Brethren.
“Would you mind trying to make a go of the Speedie Trip?” he asked awkwardly. Inwardly he sighed.
He hoped he wasn’t dealing with another David Koresh, or an eastern branch of some sort of polygamous cult. That last thought lifted his spirits somewhat. The idea of nubile young women who had been trained to be “obedient” started him down the path of a rather pleasant erotic fantasy. The thought of his own teen-age daughter caught him up short, though. He would be sure to warn her away from this neck of the woods. He’d hate to see her kidnapped and made to be some mad messiah’s newest bride.
“I think it’s a “left behind” cult,” said Jack to his wife when he arrived home that night. She looked at him with interest. She had read all the Tim LaHaye novels and was looking forward to the television series.
“Oh? I don’t think those things work out too well in real life,” she said thoughtfully. “I mean, you can’t just sit around and wait for The Rapture. If you do, you start making bad decisions.”
She was referring to her marriage to Jack, but thankfully, he was oblivious to the fact that he had proposed to her at a weak moment, just after she had finished attending a week-long tent revival outside
Overall, she did not regret it. She just wished she had made one small trip to the wilds of
“They are a strange bunch,” he said. “They seem to have their own culture – they make all their own clothes from natural fibers. At least they’re not nudists.”
The last disastrous economic development experiment had involved a nudist cult. They had not realized that winters got downright cold in southeastern
“I don’t think they vanished,” said Jack. “I just think they put on clothes and cut their hair. What better disguise? They’re probably back at work as teachers and librarians.”
We finished our breakfast and walked up to the cash register to pay.
“This is my wife, Ophelia,” said
“I don’t know why you keep saying that,” I said under my breath. I felt my jaw clench. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you I’m sorry I divorced you without telling you.”
“I love you, and we are here for a reason. I know you believe this as much as I do. We will get to the bottom of this.” He paused. The sound of bacon thrown on a skillet filled the air. He continued softly, intensely.
“Yes. Even if it kills us.”