The business enterprise that’s getting the most attention in Wagon Rut is the brand new Coonass Construction Co. The company’s huge corrugated tin building is topped by the highly visible neon sign that flashes out CCC’s unorthodox slogan: “Why Use A Redneck When You Can Use A Coonass?”
I went inside the new building and asked the manager, “What’s the difference between a coonass and a redneck?” He said, “the Sabine River.”
“English” Billy Boynton, who spends so much time in Wagon Rut that he’s rumored to live there, went to the opening reception of the Coonass Construction building. It was an enjoyable event, marred only by the collapse of the ceiling of much of the reception area.
“English” Billy scurried around the premises until he found a few old 4 by 4s that he shoved into the broken ceiling so that it could be temporarily propped up. There’s nothing Cajun about “English” Billy, but if there were, his quick and clever action on this occasion would count as a sterling instance of Cajun ingenuity.
It turned out a small porch with a roof had been built right outside the reception area. Somehow, the roof was built with no pitch. As a result, each time it rained, water collected on the porch roof, then ran down the interior wall connected to it. The repeated soakings ruined the wall’s studs, which had been set three feet apart to begin with.
Repairs have been made and business is fine. The store is running a sale on used jack-posts. Supplies are limited.
A less well-publicized new business in Wagon Rut is the Front Yard Used Autos operation. This innovative business venture started when a few clever neighbors realized that every yard in a block-long stretch of road was filled with vehicles.
The rules of the new operation were simple. If a customer wanted a particular vehicle, he went to the front door of the house in the yard where the car was parked and asked about the price.
The only cars that weren’t for sale were those that were being repaired. Front Yard Used Autos owners made sure that cars under repair were always surrounded by groups of young men in t-shirts and gimme caps holding cans of beer, looking down on the auto engine and saying things like,
“That’s a carburetor all right.”
“Yep, that’s the carburetor.”
“Yeah, I think it is.”
“It’s the carburetor.”
Even these under-repair vehicles could be bought if a customer wanted one bad enough. Sometimes, a customer approached a car being repaired and asked one of the beer drinkers “How much?” To this question, the beer drinker replied, in a very loud voice, “Well, uh, hell, uh, yeah, uh, well, why not? I reckon we could work something out.” At that point, everyone around the vehicle broke out in the sort of hearty laugh such humorous statements warrant.
This business venture could have had a real chance for success. Unfortunately, the combined weight of the vehicles caused all the front yards to collapse in a single night. What remained was 16 houses surrounded by, well, big holes with vehicles at the bottom of them. But homeowners are still thinking like entrepreneurs and trying to figure out what sort of tourist attraction might be formed out of the series of vehicular holes.
A more successful new business venture in Wagon Rut is the Front Porch In The Carport Co. This business capitalizes on the idea that the accouterments of the traditional bayouland front porch could be placed in the driveway. This move, it is suggested, would provide variety for those who’d grown weary of the front porch experience.
A few residents have been skeptical, arguing that all the Front Porch In The Carport Co. does is set up eight folding chairs, a cable spool and an industrial waste can in the carport and deliver a bill for $2,500.
But the owners of Front Porch In The Carport argue they provide a much-desired public service that consumers are willing to pay for. It’s going to be hard to refute the argument. Receipts from Front Porch In The Carport owners prove that nearly half the population of Wagon Rut has already purchased a “carport front porch.”
While the revenues of small businesses may go up and down, Wagon Rut will always be able to rely on what is both its commercial and social center: Trey Trey’s Mudbogging Emporium.
The Emporium is keeping busy the same way it has for an astonishing four consecutive years — with business innovation. Just for starters, the store recently introduced its new, first-in-the-country ATV-wide aisles.
“Customers can now drive their ATVs right into the store, through the concession stand, into bathrooms — even into the supply closets, if they feel like it,” said proud owner Buster “Ambully” Higgs III. Customers on the Emporium’s trademark Muddancing Floor have been told that even they must make room for ATV drivers.
Also big at Trey Trey’s is the popular new feature called Just Mud — an enormous cement pool (30 feet in diameter) filled with wet mud kept at body temperature. Rumors are that the mud has a strongly aphrodisiac effect on customers. But so far, there haven’t been any complaints or any arrests.
Of course, Just Mud is always popular. But the Thursday night Mudbobbin’ For Beers event remains the biggest moneymaker in Wagon Rut. Plans for a Mudbobbin’ For Beers Fest continue to be bandied about. Insurance issues remain a primary concern.
Of course, Trey Trey’s trademark Drive-Thru Mud Spray-On has been around for a couple of years now. Although the Spray-On was designed to coat ATVs with mud, it’s almost as common to see a truck come through the drive-thru as an ATV. “That’s a little funny, since it costs twice as much to get a truck ‘mudded.’ We call it ‘mudded,’” says Higgs. “ATV drivers pay $10 for a mud spray-on; for trucks it’s $20.”
“I’ve been working on a beer-mud spray-on,” says Higgs. “Of course, the vehicle would be covered in mud and smell like beer. But it’s slow going. We’re having some chemical problems. And beer is expensive. But we gone get there. We just barely got our ATV-wide aisles finished.”
One innovation in the hot spot is a new third floor that will be devoted entirely to wenches. Expect completion by late 2022 or early 2023.
It looks as if even the arts may be getting a toehold in the business scene of the new Wagon Rut. “We can’t allow ourselves to forget the arts,” says Amateur Porn and Gigging Committee member Dusty “Gamebred” Buell. As you may have heard, the Amateur Porn and Gigging Committee serves the same function as a Chamber of Commerce in Wagon Rut.
Wagon Rut just received a grant from the Texas Commission of the Arts to start a new arts-oriented business venture: the Book On A Shirt store.
The shop’s only been in business a month, but owner Donny “Dogman” Devereux thinks he can already spot some trends. “Most people just want the cover of the book on their T-shirts. You know, they want the cover of Twilight or Fifty Shades of Whatever or the owner’s manual for the 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 4X4. You know, the popular books.
“But a few people want quotations from books on their shirts. So far I’ve put on ‘You are every dream I’ve ever had’ from The Notebook; ‘Dreams are more powerful than facts’ from Everything I Needed In Kindergarten I Wanted; and ‘Dream happy dreams,’ from Eclipse. Man, I wish I could buy stock in this dream stuff. Talk about a market trend.”
When he was asked if he might one day sell three-dimensional books made of paper and ink in his store, Devereux laughed and said, “Gotta admit I never thought of that one. It’s a pretty good funny, though. Come to think of it, we might put those Twilight novels in a couple of years down the line. We’ll see if there’s any demand for them.”
Of course, if anyone in Wagon Rut wants to buy three-dimensional books, the Yankee Paul “No Nickname” Emerson still sells them out of his basement. Through the entire month of October, he says, he’s having a sale on “all the writings of the Bronte sisters.” I’m doubtful the basement will be able to hold the crowds that’ll show up for that one. Of course, if you want to buy romances, Christian fiction or books by Ann Coulter, you can skip the trip to Emerson’s place; he doesn’t sell those kinds of books. La di da.
Of course, Wagon Rut’s longtime center of the high arts — the Duck, Fish, Dog And Bayou Paintings Store — is doing a brisk business, as always.
Owner Beau “Cree Cree” Moutree has recently added paintings of American flags, crosses and fleur de lis. And he’s anticipating a big change — the addition of paintings of people.
“I’ve already commissioned some paintings of a guy in a duck blind and an old lady basting a turkey. We’ll see how they do,” says Moutree. “The arts change, and we must change with them.”
Of course, not all business ideas are going to click — even in the new Wagon Rut. When young entrepreneur David Ignatow approached the Amateur Porn and Gigging Committee about getting a grant for a shop to sell educational toys, he first had to explain to the group what an educational toy is. When committee members came to understand what Ignatow was talking about, they started snickering and, very shortly later, broke into open laugher, with outspoken committee member Gunner “Skin Stapler” Boone yelling at Ignatow, “Come back when you grow up!”
Of course, the biggest business challenge to the area is the recent loss of one of Wagon Rut’s commercial anchors: Shane’s Boudin and Dutch Pornography Hut. The Amateur Porn and Gigging Committee is working feverishly to get “The Hut” back in operation.
“We’ve done everything we can to help Shane get back on his feet,” said committee member Jarvis “Shotgun” Hoggins. “I even offered to hold his Dutch pornography for him during this difficult transitional time. But Shane likes to go it on his own. I think he’s having some real trouble with his grease trap.
“It’s not all about business,” said Hoggins. “Most of us grew up taking our sweethearts hut dunking [dunking links of deep-fried boudin into headcheese dip]. These are memories we can’t afford to lose.”
So, it’s not all rosy for the Wagon Rut economy. But if anybody knows about business, it’s “English” Billy. He says business in Wagon Rut is good. “I can sell anything here. Anything.
“I mean, just look around you, mate. The place is poor and dirty, but it’s full of Hummers and Escalades. I had a bloke tell me the other day that his Hummer was his Jesus Hummer. So I showed him a bookmark I’d made by laminating a picture of Jesus I clipped out of a Jehovah’s Witnesses tract. He gave me $20 for it without thinking twice. I think I could have gotten $25.
“When I’m making my pitch, all I have to do is throw in some statement like, ‘but it may be more than you can afford.’ That’s it; I feel money in my palm immediately. A friend just paid off a debt with a truck-full of VHS tapes of Charlie’s Angels episodes. I guarantee you I will sell every one within a month. They say there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but this is a sure thing, mate. You think maybe you’d want to buy one? I can give you 10 percent off right up front.”
This, then, is a brief tour of the little big town of the new Wagon Rut, which is hoping that with future big business success, it may one day enjoy prosperity that rivals that of Snake’s Belly.