Sam ‘N’ Ella’s Farm Fresh Chicken is flying off the shelves, and they need a new chicken processing plant. Having researched sites and checked on incentives, they decide on Cracker County.
Preliminary interest in Cracker County is high. It’s a big economic boost. More jobs, spending, people, customers for stores. Sam’s plans to bring in Mexicans and Somalis, but after a year or two they will certainly be true blue Americans. The church ladies at the Refugee Center are especially excited.
Cracker County isn’t quite as peaceful as it seems. There have been a number of homicides, first of drug dealers. The sheriff announced it officially as a turf war, but who won? There aren’t many drug dealers in the county any more. More shocking was the murder of the operator of the county’s pain management clinic. The doctor wrote lots and lots of large quantity prescriptions for opioid pills, many more than you might expect to be needed in a small community. Of course science has shown us that when opiates are properly used to treat pain they do not lead to addiction. The large number of pill and heroin addicts in town belied this, but no one is against science.
The tragic fatal shooting of the pain doc as he drove through the Cowgirls bikini coffee stand as he did each morning was officially ascribed by the sheriff as an attempted robbery. The barista said she took cover as soon as she heard shots and saw nothing. No other witnesses were found. Nothing was taken but the sheriff said this is common in robbery attempts, the robber gets scared and runs away. Rumors of a couple on a motorcycle close by went around, but most people took the word of the sheriff.
Pills and heroin are very hard to come by now and while many of the users have cleaned up, some said they didn’t feel safe any more and left town. Safe from what? They won’t say, even when pressed.
Cracker County is nicer now despite the crime problem. A lot of people weren’t happy about the chicken plant and some even went to the planning meeting. Some talked about truck traffic, some about pollution and runoff, some complained about the subsidies Sam ‘N’ Ella’s was getting. Some even suggested bringing in hundreds of people with no more housing or schools would be a problem. The church ladies got up and said shame on you, you are clearly all racists who have hatred in your hearts, remember we must welcome the stranger. An accountant tried to pass out an analysis he had made of the fiscal impact but the chairman called a vote and it was 4-1 for the plant. The dissenter said the incentives were too generous and he could only vote for a less expensive package, and that Hillbilly County had gotten the E. Coli Brothers hog plant for much less. But everyone- everyone important anyway- was very excited about the plant and the meeting wrapped up.
“Sam ‘N’ Ella’s is coming to Cracker County!” said the headline. A lot of people still didn’t like it though. No one was happier than Chuck Wood, owner of the county’s largest construction company, who got the contract to build it. Some of his workers didn’t seem enthused, and word got to Chuck maybe he should not build the plant.
Chuck was incensed. He put a trailer up at the site, but it burned down. He started grading, but the equipment was vandalized. He started to move all the equipment off the site at the end of the day, but the labor cost was very high. He didn’t want to put another trailer there- it would be very embarrassing if that one burned too- and managing the job was quite difficult.
The equipment operators tried to get the excavators and bulldozers off the trailers one morning at the site and found they wouldn’t start. They had been more thoroughly vandalized at the yard than they had at the site. The excavation subcontractor was furious- the machines looked to be a total loss. When new equipment could be arranged wasn’t clear. Chuck was beginning to regret the whole thing.
He went to the sheriff and complained but the sheriff said he had only so many officers and lots of calls, and he couldn’t secure the site for him. Chuck reminded him that he and his his employees paid a lot of taxes and spent a lot of money in the county, and the sheriff said true and thanks for paying up but it’s not in the police budget. He said try private security if you want but it will be expensive.
One night a group of big, rough-looking guys showed up at Shifty’s Roadhouse. They kept to themselves but with a little prodding from the fillies let slip they were there to work security on the plant construction site. One even said the sheriff wouldn’t do his job so they would do it for him.
Shifty came over and said he was glad they were there, the plant was important for the community and they could drink free draft beer or well drinks. The goons weren’t dumb and didn’t go crazy but nonetheless got very, very tired and had to be helped back to the motel. The next day they woke up to find their clothes, wallets, phones, and cars gone. Somebody eventually came to get them and they never came back.
All this trouble didn’t go unnoticed. Pastor Bob of the Crackerville Methodist Church said clearly there was a lot of opposition to the plant in the community, and while he understood people’s’ concerns it was clearly motivated by racism, which is a sin. The church ladies at the Refugee Center (Cracker County didn’t actually have any refugees, but they had gotten a grant to start the agency and wanted some bad) told everyone the level of racism in the county was appalling. Pastor Bob and the church ladies announced a Christians Against Racism prayer service. It was sparsely attended but the worst part was the kids outside playing their car stereos in the church parking lot at full volume. Pastor Bob tried to go out and talk about Christian love, charity and neighborliness to them but it was too loud. The deputies ran off one group, but more came, and after they ran the next group off the officer in charge told Pastor Bob they were too busy and couldn’t come back. The service was cut short.
Eventually Sam himself got involved. Sam’s grandparents, Sam and Ella had pioneered the business of bringing fresh chicken to America’s tables. The lawsuits over the deaths had been difficult and expensive but Grandpa told Sam if people got sick they should have cooked their goddamn chicken more. Sam called the county commissioner and after a friendly chat asked him what was going on. The commissioner was very embarrassed and said, as you know, rural areas have more trouble with vandalism and we’re sorry but we are getting a handle on it and the plant should be moving along soon.
Sam tells him thanks for all you are doing and we will keep in touch. He hangs up. Sam doesn’t care too much, he needs another plant but he can find a town where there won’t be so much trouble. Some suckers somewhere will pay for a plant for him and provide food stamps, medical insurance and public schools for his workers. He calls his lawyer and asks him to see about suing Chuck for failure to perform. He calls his COO and asks him what the alternatives are to Cracker County. The COO assures him there are a few other good options lined up. Sam ask him to stop by in the morning and run them by.
Chuck is devastated to hear from Sam’s lawyer. He calls his own lawyer who assures him something can be worked out. Chuck hangs up, knowing “worked out” means a large bill at least. The new boat and the lake house will have to wait.
People don’t think too much about the chicken plant any more. People forget quickly. Word is the Refugee Center may close for lack of refugees- the grant may not be continued. Pastor Bob is thinking about an advanced degree in theology at Vanderbilt, then maybe teaching somewhere. Secretly he’s a little tired at the lack of Christian charity he sees in his flock, and their mundane difficulties. Chuck is hustling for more business- being successful means never slowing down, never resting on your laurels. The sheriff had a pointed conversation with Shifty about overserving, and Shifty said he was very sorry and never let anybody get behind the wheel drunk but big guys normally hold their liquor better than that and the motel is right next door. The motel only had a security camera at the front desk so how the goons got all their stuff stolen was never clear.
Cracker County is a pretty normal rural community with normal problems- lack of good jobs number one. The lack of drugs and problems caused by aggressive foreigners is disregarded by most, as people are rarely grateful for not having problems. Something funny seems to be going on though- the good people seem a little humbled, and the rednecks seem a little cocky. The crime problem is less but not gone. A few black boys at the high school decided to bring in drugs from outside, but were killed near their homes in another tragic act of gang violence. Who the gangs were nobody was sure, but nobody tried to sell drugs after that.
Will another corporation try to put a plant in Cracker County? Will another doctor try to set up a pain management practice? Will Chuck and other local employers try to cut costs by hiring illegals? Nobody has a crystal ball, but maybe, just maybe, it’s better not to try these things in Cracker County……..