Friday, December 18, 2009

Mount Carmel, after: Part 4, Eureka! No Way!

I asked directions from a middle-aged woman working in a convenience store/gas station. She didn’t want to tell me. Finally she flicked her hand nervously and said, “Turn right at the first road.”

I felt, for the first time, what it might have been like to live near the attention.

In an effort to keep people like me away, all the street signs had been taken down. That’s how I knew I was close; I was headed into the unknown. I just gradually got to the right place. But to get to the middle of nowhere, I was driving through a neighborhood.

Or not a neighborhood, exactly: suburban farmland, the kind of area where people buy one to five-acre lots. It’s subdivided and zoned for residential. People keep chickens, horses. But they have ranch houses, cars, horse trailers. They live outside the city and commute in. A lot of them probably wore cowboy boots, but I wouldn’t say they were cowboys or ranchers. All or most of them probably owned handguns and hunting rifles, but I doubted they wanted explosives in the neighborhood.

Mount Carmel did cover a fair parcel of land (77 acres). But in most of the pictures, it looks more isolated than it is. It was surrounded, and not so far away, by families. Across the street from the entrance, a ranch house sat. In the front yard a Big Wheel was parked next to a sandbox. A kid’s bicycle sat next to the front steps. I turned left. The compound was down a hill. Some of its buildings were very close to the street.

Ranch Apocalypse was also a lot closer to Bellmead than Waco. Score one, two, for my investigation: not isolated, not Waco. I looked down on my second-hand dossier. It suddenly looked exceedingly whack, compared to the nearly-ordinary, very quiet scene I was in. That frightened me. But I parked anyway.

Everybody in the neighborhood had work to do. But they had a lot of tourists there. I was not alone.

I've looked it up. I can't prove this with Google maps, not that I'm any good with that program. One house close by was rented by the ATF prior to the raid as a (poorly-handled) undercover outpost. I hear, some unremembered travel blog, that this house has been destroyed. In the meantime, the Branch Davidians have reconstructed.

The east side of Ranch Apocalypse was a farm, and the owner heard machine gun fire often--when leadership between the Roden vs Koresh faction occurred, and other times (weapons practice?)--I came in from the west side.

The next post will be the hardest to construct.


Slamdunk said...

I'm surprised as well; 77 acres is much smaller than I thought for the incident.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I sure as heck wouldn't have wanted to drive a tractor or a cow too close to my neighbor's house in that instance. Can you imagine? But that Big wheel and sandbox: unbelievably close.

Ann T.