Parks Pharqueson Farms

EPISODE 1: Infrastructure


PROLOGUE:
US Highway 61, which runs (or at least used to run) up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Canada, has many nicknames along its length. In various places, it's known as "Airline Highway", "the Blues Highway", "The Great River Road", and "Scenic Highway". It has seen many momentous events, about which many songs have been written. But this story takes place just off an obscure stretch of it near the SW corner of Mississippi, where the road is just called "Highway 61" or even just "61", and where large sections of it slide off the loess hillsides periodically.


Welcome to Pharqueson Farms.





Here, for a number of generations, the Pharqueson family scraped a meager but sufficient subsistence from the loess using a varying roster of cotton, corn (maize), beans, and scrub cattle. Their proudest accomplishment was preventing their piece of loess from eroding too badly, which was the fate of most of their neighbors. But then came WW2. The 2 older brothers of who survived went to college on the GI Bill and never came back except for occasional visits. The youngest brother missed out on this opportunity and was left to run the farm but his children were inspired by the visits of their "exotic" uncles to leave the farm by one means or another as soon as they were old enough. Except for one who actually liked farming. But nobody liked him so, after living long enough to acquire the moniker "Old Man Pharqueson", he died a childless bachelor and his surviving family members, now all city-slickers, wanted nothing from the old farm except their share of the money for selling it off.


Selling the place proved to be a problem. By now the land mostly grew weeds and the cattle had stomped the upper layers of loess into a concrete-like slab, so it was useless for most agricultural purposes. But it was too far away from the nearest city, which itself was too small to have many jobs, to be attractive for residential development as a bedroom community. This same lack of regional population also scuppered schemes for building an industrial park, a factory for Japanese cars, a nuclear power plant, or anything else useful. Thus, eventually the property went up for auction and was purchased by an anonymous buyer for the pittance it actually was worth.


Most locals assumed the buyer was a rich lawyer or construction contractor from Natchez or Vicksburg, or even a Louisiana politician, who wanted a hunting camp to entertain important clients. They expected that the fields, which had been laboriously cleared by hand so long ago, would soon return to forest. This had happened to many old farms in the general area over the past couple of decades.


But the locals couldn't have been more wrong. Their worst nightmare, so terrifying that it hadn't even formed a coherent thought in their minds yet, was about to come true. Pharqueson Farms had been purchased by a former NFL #1 draft pick who had been forced into retirement at the age of 25 due to repeated concussions. As he had hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money and only a fraction of his brain cells remaining, and being too young to care, he thought it would be good idea to build a theme park in this place. And he also thought Bullethead Sweatshop Industries was the best contractor for the job.


-----------------------------------------------


Bullethead casually side-stepped several canebrake rattlesnakes and wished each one good hunting as he made his way across the nascent construction site. None of them rattled at him, tacit admission that they knew he knew how to behave himself. While Bullethead had never actually lived here, he'd spent way more time than he cared to admit about an hour's drive to the south down Highway 61, in an even more benighted place, so knew how to see snakes with his peripheral vision. Glance down for snakes and wash-unders, take 2 steps rolling the foot on 2 axes so as to make no sound while glancing up to avoid widow-makers, poison ivy, thorns, and spider webs, glance down again, repeat, all the while keeping the other eye, the ears, and the nostrils looking everywhere else. This was the essential rhythm of life as part of the food chain in this part of the world, even for the top predator.


As yet, the goings-on here were the responsibility of the local powers. "Mister Ed" (MRED, Mississippi Rural Electrical District--a fictional entity but a sarcastic colloquialism) and MDOT (Mississippi Department of Transportation--a real thing) were taking care of the site preparation, upgrading both the local electrical grid and road network. It would still be a while before BSI had anything to do itself, so Bullethead's battered and much-travelled trailer office hadn't yet been reclaimed from the Lake Planco junkyard, let alone towed down here.


To date, MDOT had widened MS 642 in front of the property to include turn lanes controlled by a traffic light.





And Mr. Ed had built the necessary 3-phase substation with 100% redundancy and on-site back-up generators, while upgrading the powerline to match.





There was even some preliminary work being done on the parking lot, but Bullethead paid it no mind. He'd change all that soon enough. Meanwhile, he mulled over his vague ideas of how to build a park here. The topography, although mostly flat and open, would still pose challenges. Not least of which was the need for a sewage plant as the local infrastructure had nothing of the sort for miles up or down State Highway 642. Even the old Pharqueson farmhouse, which had been declared an historic structure that must be preserved, had used a septic tank (the green disk next to the propane tank--see 1st pic).


Still, some general ideas were already forming in Bullethead's addled brain. He could already see the vague outlines of the park's areas and was already thinking of how he could work in his catalog of off-the-shelf coasters.





It was still too early, however, to move in Jaysef, Gergas, and Orbles. They were still tying up loose ends in Nepal. Hopefully, the police there had more important things to worry about, just as they did everywhere else. But they'd be needed here soon. Bullethead walked back to his rented 4WD pickup listening to the cackle of the crow spirits with his 3rd ear. They were everywhere here and had been forever so they hadn't been attracted by this project. Thus, their presence wasn't a bad omen, or even an omen at all. Maybe.
 
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Ok Bullethead, you have sparked my interest yet again. I will be following your story as you update. Looking forward to it :)
 
Title changed to "Pharqueson Farms"
Thanks muchos! When this forum began, we could edit thread titles and thus put episode numbers in them, but that went away a year ago or more, yet I keep forgetting because every other forum I inhabit allows editing thread titles.

I always like a good story to go along with a park or ride. It's a great start!
Ok Bullethead, you have sparked my interest yet again. I will be following your story as you update. Looking forward to it :)
Thank you both very much. Full disclosure, though... As a Neanderthal, I have neither imagination nor creative talent so don't expect much of a story, just a series of bad ideas intended exclusively as satire. Them as can't do, teach. Them as can't teach, satirize :D. I satirize myself mostly because, being a throwback Neanderthal somehow born into a Cro-Magnon world, I'm a sideshow freak; that's why the gods made me, it seems. But as such, it's my right to throw barbs back at the audience on occasion :).
 
EPISODE 2: More Infrastructure


Bullethead dusted off his bib overalls, scraped the manure off his brogans, pushed back his battered straw hat, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He was wearing nothing else and felt rather itchy because of it (or maybe that was the fleas), but he was trying to blend in. Then he spit out his chaw of Bull Durham and clomped up the steps of his road-worn trailer office, which definitely blended in here. Inside, already seated around the much-abused card table were his 3 principle assistants, the Kerbals Jaysef, Gergas, and Orbles, all similarly attired, even though they would never blend in. The table was piled with drawings and photos, and there was a mason jar of clear liquid at each place.


Raising his mason jar, Bullethead offered a toast: "To the start of another project!" The 4 of them clinked jars and carefully sipped the contents. It felt slippery in the back of the mouth, the same way bleach makes your fingers feel because it's dissolving your skin, but that just made it go down easier. The liquid had the vague aroma of antifreeze and slight hints of the flavors of garden hose, rust, and charcoal appreciated by discerning consumers of moonshine. Bullethead could already feel the top of his skull trying to waft away in the breeze from the ceiling fan. Ah, that's the good stuff!


"Gentlemen," Bullethead began, "you all look ridiculous in those outfits."


"Well, Sir," Jaysef answered, "it's so nice to work in a place where alien spacecraft and little green men are an accepted part of daily life. Everybody here made us feel so welcome we wanted them to know we felt like we were at home."


"Be careful with that, guys," Bullethead said as he took another sip. "If anybody turns up missing or cows get mutilated, there might be a lynch mob showing up at our door." The Kerbals clearly hadn't considered that and looked nervous. Bullethead let them stew a bit.


"Anyway," he finally continued, "what sort of normal stuff has been going on here so far?"


Gergas shuffled the pile of documents and ultimately produced a couple of photos. "Well, Sir, we've pretty much got the backstage area built. In fact, the warehouses are already starting to take deliveries. Here's the security gate at the entrance and an overview of this area."








"I hasten to add", Orbles interjected, "that these mundane structures aren't considered 'normal' by the locals. There's no industry here at all. Most folks here haven't ever seen a parking lot, let alone a warehouse, so we had to explain the whole concept to the laborers."


"I'm not really surprised," said Bullethead. "I used to live a bit south of here. It's the same story there, thanks to the local Hysterical Society." He took another sip and muttered curses on that outfit. "So tell me about the warehouses..."


Gergas spoke up. "Well, Sir, first after the employee parking is the cold storage building. So far, the temperature's holding well enough that those burger patties should still be good in a few years when we finally open this park. However, this building requires constant security to keep the locals from stealing the refrigeration tubing for their stills."





"Well, we'll be building a wall around this whole complex anyway," Bullethead mused. "Mostly to hide it from sight of the rest of the park. But we'll have to put barbed wire on it, it sounds like. Maybe buy some big, mean dogs, too. Oh well, next?"


"This is the dry storage warehouse, Sir," Gergas continued. "Nothing fancy. Then, Sir, there's the mechanic shop, which is already doing some business."








"How did we wreck a tour bus when the park isn't even open yet?!?!?!?!?!?!?" Bullethead demanded.


Nobody spoke for a moment. Finally, Jaysef said, "Um, well, Sir, I was interviewing the applicants for the driver job. When I asked one of them if he could drive, he said, 'Hol' mah beer an' watch this!' So I did. He disappeared across the pasture in a cloud of cow chips and dust. After a while, there was thump in the distance and a column of smoke soon appeared over the trees on the hillside. So I finished the rest of the beer, thinking he had no further use of it."


Bullethead put his elbows on the table and cradled his face in his hands. After a few moments, he took another sip from his jar and shook his head (very carefully, because it was feeling only semi-attached by now). "I was afraid this would happen. Our employer wanted to hire locally. I told him that was a bad idea. He insisted. Maybe now he'll reconsider. Oh well, what's next?"


Orbles now took up the tale. "This magnificent creation, Sir, is the first wastewater treatment plant in the county. There is no sewage infrastructure, nor much of any other kind, at all here. As we were building from scratch, we went for the fancy, complete mix, constant aeration version because it took up the least room and space is at a premium on this project. I could go into all the technicalities, Sir, but they're only new and strange to the locals. Even the local EPA inspector had never seen anything like it."





"Finally, Sir," Jaysef continued, "we have the first profitable venture in this project: the water tower. As you know, Sir, the local water system is totally inadequate even for a small trailer park, let alone an amusement park. So we had to drill water wells, add treatment for that, and build a water tower. We put the tower on the highest ground on the property so the pressure here is now excellent. The tower holds 450,000 gallons, way more than we need, so we sell the rest to the county. And also, we put cell phone antennae on the tower not only to provide coverage here, but also to generate more income from the rent."





Bullethead looked out the window at the tower on the hill. It really didn't look any worse than countless others across the country. After a couple more sips from his jar, he decided it wasn't the eyesore he'd been afraid it would be, so wouldn't need camouflage paint.





"Well, Gentlemen," Bullethead said as he unsteadily sat back down at the table, "if worst comes to worst, we can still go with the industrial park project if the theme park doesn't pan out. And I'm sure the locals are thankful that more than 2 people in a trailer park can take showers at the same time now, in separate trailers anyway. Assuming they actually take showers. But it will be nice to build actual park-type stuff. Hopefully we can start some of that next."
 
Wow this looks promising! Fantastic surroundings and landscaping. And the story! Can't wait to see and read more. Hope the tourbus was insured...[big grin]
 
Hello there Bullethead :) I just love the story your writing to go along with the progress of your park. I was laughing all the way through it while trying to drink my morning coffee. Your sense of humor is contagious.....

The warehouse is done so well and looks so real. Everything is looking good :)
 

Joël

Volunteer Moderator
Parks with storytelling like this one are always fascinating to me. Well done Bullethead. I look forward to how it continues!
 
@Tillietwos: I hope I didn't ruin your keyboard :)

@Joël: Thank you very much, and I hope the below doesn't disappoint.

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EPISODE 3: ENTRANCE PLAZA


Bullethead unscrewed the rusty lid of his mason jar very carefully so as not to create a spark. A couple of his childhood friends had met horrible deaths that way. The dangerous flammable vapors quickly wafted away, leaving a delicious aroma hinting faintly of Prestone. Bullethead's staff had also survived this daily survival test; they wore their usual expressions of relaxed tension, or maybe it was tense relaxation, he was never sure which. Bullethead raised his jar:


"To the 1st part of the actual park!" They all clinked jars and took moderately deep sips. When their eyes focused again, Bullethead continued: "So, show me what's been going on while I've been away."


Jaysef pulled out a couple of large glossies. "This, Sir, is the entrance to the yet-to-be-built park from the parking lot. We did our best to make it look all rustic and redneck, which depleted our stash of bad light bulbs. We did, however, acquire a stash of vintage red lead paint for the sign supports, to make it look less like a modern construction. The huge sign, complete with maintenance platforms, utterly dwarfs the actual ticket booths below, which we thought set the satirical tone we hope to maintain for the rest of the park."








"You might note, Sir," Jaysef continued, "the barn and silo adjacent to the gate. We acquired that from another old farm nearby and moved it here. We also took the historical habit of using rural barns as billboards to a ridiculous extreme, to give notice of the attractions we hope to build here eventually." Producing another photo, Jaysef went on, "This particular barn serves as the shelter for our line of rental mobility devices. We got a nice sponsorship deal from one of Fisherman's various 501c3's for this."








Bullethead mulled over the photos, occasionally sipping from his jar. Eventually, he spoke. "As much as I hate seeing us Southerners stereotyped, we're the only etho-social group it's still OK to satirize. And satire sells. So go for it. We're here to make money, not friends. But I have to ask.... Why did you all buy another barn when we already had one on-site?"


"Um, well, Sir," Jaysef replied, "we were planning on using the one here for the petting zoo. Integrity of the locale and all that, Sir."


"I doubt any of the locals could afford the price of admission and the tourists won't know the difference. But as long as we actually need 2 barns, I'm OK with it. Besides, the one on-site lacks a silo and I like how that makes the entrance sign blend in a little. OK, what's next?"


"Well, Sir," Gergas began, "once through the monstrous gate, customers will be greeted with this rather anti-climactic vista."





"We did, however," Gergas continued, "get a good deal from BBordewyk Atmospheric Lights, Lamps, and Sundries (aka BALLS) to provide illumination not just here but in the rest of the park as well. They have many models to choose from and a number of the will work here, we think."


"Dammit, Gergas," Bullethead roared, "why does their company get a better acronym than ours?!?!?!? Now I'll have to stay up all night thinking of something better for us." Bullethead took a big slug from his jar.


"With all due respect, Sir", Jaysef interjected, "I think the part of our acronym is quite fitting and I doubt we could improve upon it."


"I guess you're right, Jaysef," Bullethead eventually agreed. "Or maybe that's the moonshine talking. Whatever. We'll worry about that later. On with the show!"


Gergas continued, "Sir, the centerpiece of the entrance plaza is this wonderfully restored, fully functional 1938 tractor. It's on loan from the Wings & Strings Transport World museum."





"How much are we paying them for it?" Bullethead demanded.


"Very little, actually, Sir," Gergas answered. "Apparently they needed to free up some space for more awesome stuff, so as long as we don't break it....."


"That's always the catch, ain't it?" Bullethead responded, and took another drink. "Well, at least we put a fence around it. But I worry about the locals wanting to try it out in a tractor pull. Be sure it's locked down, battery removed, fuel tank drained, and all that. OK, what's next?"


Gergas continued again. "No entrance plaza is complete without some lockers, snackbar, and restrooms, Sir. And we a good deal on a bunch of refurbished shotgun shacks, so we used one of them as the locker building. And we got paid to remove an old farmhouse from another property that's being turned into a lay-down yard for a fracking operation, so we moved it here and used it for the obligatory snackbar and info kiosk."








Bullethead took another sip and considered the pictures for a while. Eventually, he said, "Well, that's not quite the worst thing I've seen today. I guess they'll do. Next?"


Orbles now took up the tale. "Sir, as you recall, there's that old Indian mound in this part of the property, which is owned by the state so we had to work around it. We fenced it off and put up an historical marker."





"In addition, Sir," Orbles continued, "the state partnered with us to build a museum and interpretive center. Shaped like, but rather bigger than, the sort of house the Indians lived in back in the day, it's all made of concrete, even the roof, instead of wattle-and-daub, cane, and palmetto leaves. Modern fire codes and all that, Sir. Ranger Rick sits out front ready to demonstrate flintknapping and making fire by friction, plus explaining the '3 Sisters' system and other indigenous agricultural methods. The museum is surrounded by a small 'Indian garden' growing corn, squash, gourds, beans, tobacco, and sunflowers. Inside, besides displays of pre-Columbian local culture, there's a shop that sells Indian tobacco, the other produce, smoked fish, and Ranger Rick's reproduction arrowheads. As they're on our property, they pay rent and we get a cut of the shop's proceeds, Sir."





"Smoked fish?" Bullethead asked.


"Yes, Sir," Orbles answered. "The creek on the property, the headwaters of the Little Chunky River, is full of buffalo fish and will become more so once we build the dam. DeadEyeDuck's Fishmarket has undertaken to catch and clean some of them for demonstrations of traditional cooking on the original BBQ, the 'barbacoa'."





"I can smell it from here," said Bullethead, inhaling deeply. "I do like me some traditional cooking! And we really didn't have much use for that corner anyway, so good initiative. But I'm worried about all the US fire codes and other regulations. That's not our strong suit as we usually work in the developing world. How are we on that front?"


"Quite well, actually, Sir," Gergas responded. "As you can see here, Sir, we made the park service road around the rear of the entrance plaza suitable as a fire department access road. All the buildings are sprinklered and our water tower and pumps give us plenty of pressure. Here you can see the road and hydrants behind all the buildings, plus one of the pumps to ensure the hydrants all exceed 1500gpm. The local fire marshal was quite impressed as this is all so far ahead of what's been traditional hereabouts."











"Well, if the fire marshal's happy, I'm happy," Bullethead considered. "But that's something we'll have to keep an eye on throughout. So what's that big thing beside the pump?"


"That, Sir," Jaysef replied, "is the pedestrian bridge across State Highway 642. It connects the entrance plaze to what will, eventually, be the real park area. We actually had to build this first of all in the best place, then shape the rest of the entrance plaza around it. As you can see, Sir, we decorated the elevator towers on each end as faux dovecotes while trying to make the rest of the structure resemble an old, rustic, covered bridge. Not that there were ever any such things around here, Sir, but we're playing to the ignorance of yankee tourists. Why disillusion them?"





"I like your thinking, Jaysef," Bullethead said. He took another sip from his jar. "Anything else?"


"No, Sir," Jaysef replied. "Just the overview of the entrance plaza. The parking lot is still on hold pending completion of the salvage archaeology. Seems there was a small Indian village surrounding the mound, which apparently was the residence of the local chief. The archaeologists finished the part closest to the mound first, of course, or we wouldn't have been able to build anything yet, Sir. Agreeing to build the museum hurried things along there, too."





"Very good, gentlemen," Bullethead answered. "I think we're off to a reasonably good start. We'll press on with what's supposed to be on the other end of that bridge to nowhere. Let them sift for arrowheads in the pasture all they want. Until we actually have attractions across the road, there's no point having a parking lot. Meeting adjourned."
 
Another great episode Bullethead. The entrance sign and the way you used the barn as a billboard is great. Like your bridge too. Heck, I like it all. :)
 

heatherg23

Volunteer Moderator
I really like the ticket booths at the entrance. It's a great picture of them. Great pictures overall [up]
 
Like I said before...this is good stuff you are doing here...and the road kill is great. Someone needs to make a turkey buzzard for you in TMT.
 
Like I said before...this is good stuff you are doing here...and the road kill is great. Someone needs to make a turkey buzzard for you in TMT.
Yeah, and black buzzards, too ;).

I'm really hoping for more barnyard animals, though. Goats and sheep, especially babies, that sort of thing. Otherwise my planned petting zoo will be all about chickens :)
 
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