The dusty road to the Lone Vista Dude Ranch was a winding, gravelly , washboard affair, twisting up the canyon about 10 miles from town. Smitty told me the couple from San Francisco, Dexter and Harriet Prescott, had booked two months at the ranch, along with some friends (bartenders know everything). I had called them on the phone, introduced myself as a fly fishing guide and asked to talk to them about guiding them this summer.
I drove through the ranch gate and met Otis, the handyman.
“Can you tell me where the Prescott’s are staying?
“Yessir, cabin four.”
I drove up to the cabin. The white drift boat with the rainbow peace sign was parked in the driveway. Even before I got out of the truck, Dexter Prescott came out to greet me.
He was a tallish, sun-tanned man in his late 40s. He was dressed in khakis, tassel loafers, no socks and was wearing a robin’s egg blue polo shirt with Yellowstone Club embroidered on the pocket. He had a gold chain around his neck but the pendant was hidden.
Word was he had made a fortune in Silicon Valley building up his high tech company from scratch and selling out to Google for zillions. He extended a bony hand:
“What can I do for you?”
I told him the real reason I was here was because of the fire along the river and I was there that day and I saw his drift boat and his party leaving the scene and I checked out the fire and I found this laying on the ground:
I opened my back pack and showed him the mangled hunk of charred metal.
“This is what’s left of a Phantom 4 Pro Quadcopter Aerial Drone we found at the fire scene. We traced the serial number back to a Fry’s Electronics Store in San Jose, Ca. It was purchased in March of this year. The price was $1499.00. The buyer was a Mr. Dexter Prescott.”
Prescott’s tanned face turned a whiter shade of pale.
“Look, it was an accident. Me and Harriett along with our friends, Jack, Muffy, Gilbert and Claire…we stopped for a shore lunch. We popped open a few bottles of wine, spread out the charcoal and soaked it with lighter fluid. I emptied the whole can because, you know, we wanted it to start FAST.”
“I touched it off and POOF! A big ball of flame blew up and the wind was blowing real hard and the dry grass caught on fire and it spread really FAST. Harriet and I were stomping out the flames while Gilbert and Claire were taking phone camera video and posing for selfies. Jack and Muffy thought what a great chance to start up the drone and take aerial video. So we had the drone flying and the camera phone going and wind was blowing and the fire was spreading and then more flames and more smoke and somebody ran and got the Coleman cooler full of water and dumped it on the fire but too late the blaze was out of control and then the drone crashed and we all kind of panicked and dashed to the boats and got out of there as fast as we could.”
“Mr. Prescott, you should have fessed up on the spot. The sheriff is pissed…he thought my crew started the fire. The mess cost the Town $28,680.”
“You know, I am truly sorry about this. Me and my wife and my friends, we are all avid outdoors people. We support Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Turkeys Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Save The Whales, Save The Rain Forest, Save The Dolphins, Save The Sea Otters, Save The Spotted Owls, Save The Penguins, Save The Pandas, Save The Puppies, the Gorillas, the Orangutans, the Tree Frogs, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise, the Black Footed Ferret, the Black Spider Monkey, Save The Starving Little Kid In Africa with the Fly on His Nose and we give generously each year to The Big Riffle Foundation. What more can we do?”
“Mr. Prescott, write the Town a check for $28,680, that’s what you can do.”
Back at the Wagon Wheel, me and Skeeter and T-Bird had beers with Butch the Game Warden and the sheriff and the Volunteer Fire Chief. We had a good chat and a few grins and I handed over a check for $28,680.
Skeeter looked at me kinda funny.
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon was playing on the jukebox.