Bowers is little more than a tiny community situated in what was once an enormous pecan plantation. The trees are huge. The main highway leading to this outpost abruptly splits, leaving the traveler with a choice between the town, if it can be called that, in one direction, and a small collection of shanty homes in the opposite direction. Exiting in favor of the residential, the traveler discovers that there is a definite class distinction. About a mile beyond the last visible shack, a detour emerges. This leads to Bowers’ well-to-do, and my destination. Four pillars rise in the distance, jutting upward above the giant trees. They are the smokestacks of a power plant, which can be seen for miles from any direction.
I pull into Mr. Reynolds’ driveway and he comes out to meet me. He dons a USMC cap and a beard. He is amicable and grateful for my visit.
“So, Mr. Reynolds…” I begin. We are still outside. His unfenced yard looks out over acres of gorgeous, wild bottomland.
“Please, call me Jules.” His accent nags at me.
“Jules, I’m just curious…are you from somewhere up North?”
“God no, man! I’m from New Orleans!”
“New Orleans? Well, sir, I apologize for my mistake. I’ve lived down here all my life. I should know the difference between…”
“…between a Yankee and a Coon Ass?” He light-heartedly interrupts.
“Don’t sweat it, Mason. You don’t mind if I call you Mason, do you? ‘Mason Dixon,’ hell of a catchy name by the way—love it!”
“Mason is fine.”
“Good, let me show you the arena.”
It’s nearing twilight as we make our way toward the rodeo arena. Though not far from his house, the arena is only accessible through a dense wood behind his property. The sun is nearly set and the grass is high. Jules turns on his flashlight. We cautiously make our way, conscious of the possibility of poisonous snakes. The creatures of the night are having a hell of a concert.
The arena is small: I’d say not more than forty yards by thirty, including the rising bleachers. A single entry gate is heavily locked. The bottom bleachers are obscured by a fence. Wild, waist-high weeds line the circumference. But the top bleachers are slated, so you can see through them. Jules signals me towards the nearby thicket.
“I’ve got a ladder hidden over here,” he says, pointing.
“Are you sure it’s safe to leave something like this out here? Like this?”
“I’m not going to haul the thing back and forth through these woods. It’ll be okay,” he answers. He’s breathing heavily.
We each grab our end of the ladder. With some difficulty, we heave it up in an attempt at leaning it against the rail that guards the top bleacher. All this activity has awakened the sleeping dogs.