Posted By: Vulcan (#3087)
Date/Time: Fri Jan 22 14:08:41 2010
Subject: KSAF Report: California Township Under Threat

California Free State

The town of Benton, California is a picturesque little place. South of Mono Lake, near hot springs and with a rich history of Gold and Silver deposits, Benton has benefited from the recent Gold Rush that's sweeping the Mojave. It's not a perfect place, so remote and so vulnerable to the elements, but its a happy place, far removed from the horrors of politics in the central valley, the earthquakes of the Southern California Coast or the invasions of the Northern Forests.

It's home to nearly 200 people. But that may come to an end. After fighting off raids from Apaches and learning to grow desert hardy crops to supplement the erratic food shipments from the valley, after digging deep wells and tapping the aquifers, the town of Benton may be done for. And no one is sure why or how.

"Two weeks ago, we had a traveler come in to town." Says Sheriff John Ringo, shaking his head. "Wasn't an indian, per sey, just a drifter. We don't get many of them out here so remote, so we showed him a little kindness. A bowl of soup, a shower, some new shoes. He takes all that in stride, then says, in return for our kindness, we have one month to leave the town."

"Well, no one much paid him any mind. He drifted out the next day…." He pauses, shifting the tooth pick to the other side. "Well, yesterday, he was back and warned us we had two weeks. We sort of laughed it off until Zeke Johnson came in with are report that all 200 head of his goats were gone. Those goats provide a lot of food and Johnson's entire livelihood. We tracked the herd, alright… and the tracks just… stop. No tire tracks, no helicopter landing marks. Just… tracks that are gone. 200 head, with no sign. At all."

"So the traveler comes back the next day and says he will return the goats, if people start to leave. Well, Old Zeke takes a shot at him. Zeke used to be in the US Marine Corps, so he's a good shot and stubborn as all hell. The drifter takes the round right between the eyes, but it doesn't even phase him. He smiles and repeats, that because we showed kindness… well… we had two more weeks. Then just like that… he walked out in to the desert. We tried to follow him, but a dust storm came up that turned to a full on brown-out. We had to go back inside."

"So there we are. Benton. Facen' a crossroads."

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