This dog stinks (idiom): this is a bad idea
//"My heart is beating so fast. I can't even breathe. This dog stinks, Andrew."
I came up with this dog stinks while sitting at my desk trying to think of a cool Twitter handle. As I racked my brain, my dog, Bailey, farted. That’s when @thisdogstinks was born. Five minutes later, I decided to use it in Prank It Like a Man and gave it a definition.
That, in a nutshell, is how my mind works. I find inspiration in the darnedest places. In fact, I created an entire sub-division because of a long cheeseburger line. As I waited, I gave each person in the line a story. They all had something to say. They all had secrets. The characters in my books all live within the boundaries of the El Dorado Ranch Homeowners Association. They each have a tale. For the kids, the tales are innocent. For the adults, not so much.
The story of the El Dorado itself is one that will be told someday. But for now, enjoy the one-man, wiki-like explanation that lives below.
The El Dorado Ranch Homeowners Association in Cedar Park, Texas was born on June 22nd, 2002, when the first of five hundred planned homes was built by J.D. "Money" Addams.
J.D. didn't quite reach his goal of five hundred homes, but he got closer than he should have. The fast-talking, loose-living Texan was always a bit of a con man, and he was certainly never one to ask for permission — i.e. permits, legal authorizations, and whatnot. That sort of business plan can work on a small scale, but once you’ve built one hundred and ninety-nine homes in the middle of one of America's fastest growing cities, people are bound to get curious.
Folks always say, "Surely, someone must have given the stamp of approval for his project." Coincidentally, that’s exactly what everyone in the city planning office thought. To avoid embarrassment, mostly because an elementary school was built to accommodate J.D.’s burgeoning community, the city planner back-dated all of the necessary paperwork and told him to go through the proper channels if he wanted to continue building.
Unfortunately, J.D. never got the chance. He died in 2006, after being accidentally shot in the caboose, while on a turkey hunt in the Hill Country. The shooter, his son-in-law, John Jay Jamison Gaston, swore on his Texas Edition F-150 that he saw a turkey. Fortunately, for John Jay Jamison, the birdshot in the buttocks isn't what did J.D. in. Thankfully, the fatty tissue of the buttocks can handle tiny slugs of lead meant to take out Thanksgiving dinner. And in J.D.'s case, there was considerably more fatty tissue than would normally have been attached to a normal-sized man. The circumstances surrounding J.D.’s untimely death are still up for debate and argument at the pool on El Dorado community day, but one thing is for sure: It might have been the fault of John Jay Jamison. People have always found it suspicious that J.D. got bit by a copperhead snake in his hospital bed. It really is a strange coincidence for a man to get bitten by the same kind of snake that his snake-handling, preacher son-in-law shows off with every Sunday, while sharing the word of God in the B-E-H Mart parking lot.
For all of his character flaws, and there were a lot, J.D. had one valuable quality. Estate planning. Of course, he probably didn't consider that his daughter, Mary Sue Helen Thomas-Addams-Gaston, would be married to the man who may or may not have been responsible for his demise. But she was. And, thanks to J.D.'s notarized, last will and testament, she was the sole heir to his fortune — the biggest house in El Dorado, four shotguns, two revolvers, one rottweiler, a pickup truck bed (with liner), and a mess of undeveloped land.
Mary Sue Helen never had any interest in following in her daddy’s footsteps. She’s always been the staying at home during the week and going to church on Sunday type. She finds it easier to pass judgment on people seven days a week that way. So, after she and John Jay Jamison moved into their new mansion with their brood of five, Mary Sue Helen promptly got rid of the shotguns, revolvers, and rottweiler. (John Jay Jamison kept the pickup truck bed and liner.) Then she sold the rest of the land to a developer who wasted no time picking up where J.D. left off. (Except for the asking for permission to do things part. They did that.)
J.D. had just one condition for Mary Sue Helen — watch over his beloved El Dorado. (He also wanted her to have John Jay Jamison thrown in jail, but he was too weak to be understood on his deathbed. Keeping an eye on El Dorado was the only thing in writing.) True to J.D.’s wishes, Mary Sue Helen does just that. To this very day, with a keen eye and a photo folder labeled violators on her phone, she proudly patrols the streets and sidewalks of El Dorado looking for any reason to further implore the miscarriages of HOA justice.
By the end of 2010, over two hundred more homes were built in El Dorado. J.D. Addams unpermitted, illegal diamond in the rough was turning into a property tax windfall for the county. Of course, with the new homes, came more kids. And with the kids, came more schools. By 2011, a middle school and high school were built right next to the elementary school.
There were growing pains. To celebrate their two-hundredth home being built, the developer decided to throw a special Halloween party for all the new homeowners and their kids. On the night of All Hallows’ Eve, they turned an unfinished home into a haunted house. Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication between the party planner and the jobsite foreman. The lawsuit is still going through appeals, so not much can be elaborated on, but let’s just say there was a set of stairs that weren’t finished and a family of raccoons that weren’t in the mood for a party.
Lawsuits notwithstanding, El Dorado continued to grow. By the end of 2012, another two hundred homes were built. By the end of 2013, one hundred and twenty-five more. The rapid growth did cause some habitat issues, but the only complaints came from the animals. To deal with the displaced wildlife, the city erected deer crossing signs to warn drivers. That’s when the complaints rolled in. Homeowners were not happy that the city would have deer cross in the middle of the road. They wanted the signs to be placed at intersections with streetlights.
Today, more than seven thousand people call El Dorado Ranch home. With four public schools, three pizza joints, two gas stations, and a fairly disgusting dive bar, it’s become one of the most popular places to live in Central Texas. Which is saying a lot when you consider that the three surrounding sub-divisions each have at least two dive bars.
Young parents come from far and wide to have their children educated in El Dorado’s five-star schools. (The state scoring system is based on ten stars, but the board of education has a plan to circumvent that.)
The sick and healthy come to access the healthcare system. (It would cost them the same anywhere else, but the buildings are newer, which makes the sick feel healthier.)
The old come to live out their final years in peace and tranquility. (That one’s a head-scratcher. Florida or Arizona are much better options.)
Amazingly, El Dorado's attraction isn't limited to humans. Earlier this year, a family of ducks took refuge in the pond and have happily lived there ever since. Well, mostly happily. One of the ducklings got eaten by a pet wolverine that escaped from its cage in a homeowner’s backyard. The mother duck seemed a bit out of sorts for a few days, but she’s gotten over and is back to tending to her other offspring.
Life isn’t always perfect in El Dorado, though. (Just ask the ducks.) There are issues. And not always the kind that require a notice of violation for a weed-ridden lawn. The association’s Facebook page is riddled with complaints of teenagers yelling profanities near the pool, diatribes about neighbors not picking up their dog’s poop, and Ring Doorbell videos of porch pirates stealing Amazon packages.
Some neighbors, namely Mary Sue Helen, gossip and muddle into everyone else’s personal business. Other neighbors get into fights over broken fences and overgrown tree limbs. Children follow in their parent’s footsteps and cause chaos on the way to school, on the way home, and online. Businesses sometimes fight for survival when their YELP reviews get inundated with negative comments from customers who didn't get the extra condiments they wanted.
El Dorado is also no stranger to controversy. Currently, the association's board of directors is being sued by a group of four eagle-eyed homeowners. Their audit of the association’s expenses allegedly shows several payments to the dive bar. Interestingly enough, the dates of the payments all seem to have fallen on karaoke nights. If it turns out that the board didn’t use HOA funds to pay their tab, most folks still think they should be criminally punished. No one wants to hear them sing again.
Even with the imperfection and controversy, life in El Dorado is good. In fact, it’s almost a mirror of any other functionally dysfunctional middle-class neighborhood in America. Where there’s joy and laughter, there’s pain and anger. Where there's good health and sickness, there's life and death.
Everyone, young and old, in El Dorado has a story to be told. Some of those stories are full of youth, innocence, and borderline juvenile delinquency. Some are full of sadness. And some should probably never be written.
No matter what the story, though, folks in El Dorado know that it will probably get the attention of Mary Sue Helen.