Nevada Highway Patrol, Wagon and Knight, at Dawn
Although crimes against art (and we’re not talking about Prince’s Lovesexy album) rank third only behind drug and arms trafficking in worldwide grossing criminal endeavors, the mere pilfering of raw, to-become-art materials seems a small crime compared to museum thefts of finished masterpieces.
Nonetheless, the post-heist adrenaline rush gave way to post-heist nerves as traces of the beryl Nevada predawn came into view on the horizon to her left, as she drove southward along a desert highway that suddenly had eyes, even if it had no billboards. Darkness makes criminal endeavors so much easier on the stomach. Sure enough, not long after dawn, the blue lights appeared behind her, seemingly before the highway patrol car itself, out of nowhere. Then again, the stretch of Highway 93 between Wells, Nevada and the Idaho border is pretty much the middle of nowhere, so there really wasn’t anywhere else the blue lights could have appeared out of. It is hard to know after the fact whether those nerves – literally of the gut – are consciously buried evolutionary adaptations for danger detection or rather self fulfilling prophecies that actually draw danger near. Is it blood or fear that sharks actually smell in the water?
She sighed and turned the country music down on the stereo. Not the kind of country music that gets made in Nashville Tennessee or Los Angeles California, but rather the kind that gets made in Jackson Mississippi or Austin Texas. The kind that ignores commas between cities and states and the kind that Nevada state troopers were surely unfamiliar with. But the trooper didn’t seem to care much about Americana country and western. He seemed more concerned with the details her license, registration, and the seven foot tall sculpture of a presumably medieval era knight in rusted bronze armor strapped to the roof of her rusted green Subaru station wagon.
“Where’d the statue come from?” he asked, rapping his knuckles on the bronze knight, seemingly enjoying the tings. “It doesn’t seem properly secured. We don’t want things like this ending up on the highway. And how did you get it on your roof?”
The truthful answers to that line of questioning would have went something like: I took it from a junk lot beside a trailer park. It wasn’t going to good use. It didn’t seem as if anyone even owned the property. It just seemed like a dumping lot. They had so much rusted trash sitting around they won’t even know it’s gone. And yes, it seems properly secured. It’s made it this far, hasn’t it? Two boys I met in at a casino in Jackpot helped me get it onto the roof. They were drunk and needed a break from the blackjack tables.
Instead, however she opted to answer more simply, and less in response to any question he actually asked.
“It’s for a piece of art,” she stated, simply.
“Art, huh? What are you going to do with this?”
Her approach seemed to work. She could now talk about the future of the bronze knight instead of the presumably criminal activity of its recent past, or about the half smoked joint that sat somewhere in her Subaru.
“It is for an installation art piece. Classic images of western civilization, knights and stuff, contrasted against the landscapes of the American west, set up and photographed.”
He rapped his knuckles on the knight again. Ting.
“Interesting…” he said, uninterested.
It is amazing how the troopers who patrol the middle of nowhere have somehow seen and heard it all.
“We had a large bronze bison statue that ended up on the highway two weeks ago. Caused an accident. That wouldn’t happen to have been for your art, too, was it?”
“No. It wouldn’t fit the concept.”
Truthfully, she was not responsible for the heist of the bronze bison. But truthfully, ideas of what she could do with it were reeling through her mind’s eyes.
“How did it get there?” she asked, captivated by the now idealized image of a rusty bronze bison, realizing how dumb her question was as soon as it slipped out the driver’s side window.
“We’re assuming from a vehicle. Not sure how else a large buffalo statue could end up in the highway,” he replied, in the dry, unsurprised-by-anything attitude of the Great Basin desert, its inhabitants, and its wanderers. “I need to write you a warning for your left tail light being out. Get that fixed. And I’m keeping your info in case we hear of any complaints about statues… (he paused, to rap his knuckles on the bronze one last time)… being stolen. My daughter’s an artist. Or wants to be. But she only paints, thankfully. Good luck with your project. What are you going to call it?”
“I was thinking about just Western.“
And then he returned to his patrol car. She sighed, wanting to turn the country and western up again, more than ever now. Hopefully whomever owned the junk collection site, if anyone, wouldn’t notice or complain or at least would understand that their knight in rusted bronze armor was going to a better place.
Postscript: At the present time Western has not been completed, or the author has been unable to obtain permission to publish images from the project. Two interesting facts must however be reported. First, it does not appear there was a bronze bison versus vehicle accident; rather, the accident was caused by a vehicle stopping to photograph the bison on the highway. It is unclear whether the photographer knew the bison was a statue or not, but northern Nevada appears on the border of the bison’s historic habitat, and is certainly well beyond the boundaries of its present day range. Second, a stunning photograph, presumably taken from a roadside hill near the setting of this story, entitled “Nevada Highway Patrol, Wagon and Knight, at Dawn” was recently hung in a local art gallery.