Home on the Range 

Howard Bowles built his dream home in rural Byron, right next to the dream home of Ron Downs' gun club.

Page 6 of 6

Bowles cocked his gun once more -- the sonic trails from the second shot still dissolving -- and fired the final shot. It took a solid minute for silence to return, and when it did, it was remarkable. The horses were all but gone, as were the birds. Even the buzzing of the far-off motorcycles seemed to have come to a halt -- perhaps they actually did, their riders stopping to ponder: Where the hell is that coming from?

Bowles shuffled back up to his house with the pleased expression of a man so convinced he had nothing left to say. But he did. "Didja hear it?" he chuckled.

A few minutes later Bowles reiterated that he's not antigun, just antigun club on his turf. When he bought this house, that should've ended it right there. People live here now, and it's too damn dangerous to have gun clubs and homes this close together. It's the wrong project in the wrong place, he repeated more than once. "You know, they want to come in our backyard, shoot 'em up, have their fun, and then go back to their quiet backyard and go to sleep," Bowles said, removing his topsiders at the back porch. He was miffed. "They wouldn't want us shooting in their backyard."

Their backyard. The words hung in the air for a moment along with the gunsmoke. Howard Bowles had moved atop this hill to escape from people, and now some yahoo down below was about to ruin it for him. It hadn't dawned on Bowles that the day he planted those three skinny palm trees out front, he'd just as surely ruined it for someone else, that he'd just taken a piece of country living away from Ron Downs and folks like him. But something has to give. With each passing year, the knots on the rope of East County swell larger. And it'll be just a matter of time before they start creeping up Howard's Hill.

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