The Orange Plague

It started in New Mexico. Somewhere near Roswell. It quickly spread the length of Highway 550, from Rio Rancho all the way to Bloomfield. Now it’s been hitting Durango and Southwest Colorado hard.

It’s orange-cone-itus.

Crews may only be re-striping a couple of blocks of Main, but the cones start somewhere near Hermosa and don’t end until Bondad Hill. As you heed the “Be prepared to stop” sign and slow down, you naturally begin to scan the horizon for signs of highway construction. Workers with shovels. Paving machines. Paint striping machines. Bulldozers.

Nothing! There’s nothing! There’s not any construction going on!

What started out as a minor skin rash has turned into orange-cone-leprosy. Instead of State Highway Department crews managing their own freakin’ cones, they decided to subcontract it. They pay by the cone. A dollar a day per cone. The result was inevitable.

Orange cones for any and all construction. Flaggers ready to stop traffic – just in CASE the highway department decided to repave something. Cones every three feet instead of every 10. Cones for miles and miles and miles. Everyone ALERT!

One night I’d had enough. There was a quarter mile of cones alongside Highway 3. They’d been there for days, weeks, not doin’ a damn thing besides distracting my attention. There was no REASON for the orange cones to be there.

So I decided, “I’se gonna MOW THEM DOWN.”

This is where having a 20-year-old pickup truck with deer bars on the front comes in handy. I pulled over to the side of the old highway and waited till no one was coming. And then I floored it, spewing gravel, barreling toward the Orange Menace, every one of my Ford’s 460 cubic inches throbbing with horsepower.

Kaboom! The first cone went flying! It must have leaped 30 feet up into the air, landing somewhere in front of the Bolt Ben. Kawham! The next one crumpled beneath my bumper. I mashed the accelerator to the floor. Kawhump Kawhump Kawhump, it sounded like a drum beating as I put my 18-inch Peerless All Terrain Defenders over one after another of them cones, flattening them like flimsy beer cans. A couple decided to cling to my undercarriage and scraped their asses raw against the asphalt. I don’t reckon my nostrils will ever forget that horrible stench. But it wasn’t over yet.

One of them orange varmints held on for nearly a half mile. Finally, at 95, it let go. Last I saw in my rear view mirror, through the gun rack, “Little Orange” was in flames, belching oily black smoke as some 18-wheeler ran over it and put him out of his misery.

When it was all over, I had to go have a drink. I might not have saved Durango, but along this stretch of Highway 3, at least for now, those orange vermin looked like they’d seen kingdom come. It’s time them coneheads learned what the good people of Durango are capable of when threatened with a big city pestilence.

– Wade Nelson



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