Lance, the proprietor of the upmarket vacuum cleaner store told me about New Cuyama but he didn’t seem to know much about old Cuyama ‘cept that it was there first, when Atlantic Richfield plunked down a bunch of manufactured houses for their oilfield workers before, Lance said, the federal government shut Arco down but when I questioned him for specifics he retreated to, that they skimmed the oil off the top of the field and the rest of it was too costly to get, for now. Lance was the law in New Cuyama, when he lived there, the outpost sheriff. He’s a big enough man for the job, a big hulk of a man thick as a tree everywhere. He said New Cuyama looks like there’s nothin’ goin’ on but the place is really hoppin’ at night. He’s sure right about how the place looks. He said the water supply is what killed the place, you’d see a sheen of oil floatin’ on the water when you flushed the toilet, but it wasn’t just the oil, it was full of phosphates, too, from all the farming. Then he told me about the John Ricards family who owned 300,000 acres there on one side of the highway, recipients of a grant from King Phillip of Spain, they still owned that land. On the other side, the Russell ranch and some cattle company. Lance has been here in Santa Maria since 1976. He said that he’s a republican, in that challenging way that bible thumpers do as if daring you to say the word, “evolution”. Generally, I don’t answer such challenges unless I’m paid to, I just put on my, “is that so?” face and encourage an explanation because I’m curious to know what strange logic informs reactionary volition. The trouble with Lance’s thinking is that the only reason for his being a “dyed in the wool republican” was actually a reason for not being a democrat. But I didn’t want to try this out on him, ‘least until I find out more about Cuyama.