Sunday, April 10, 2011

Welcome to Shin Oak Ridge

Welcome to the fictional town of Shin Oak Ridge, population 4,532. It is located in Copete County, deep in the heart of Texas. Deep, in fact, in the limestone, cedar brake, live oak and bluebonnet heart of the heart. A thriving little town before the 1930's, it straddled State Highway 411, a major artery from Austin to the Highland Lakes and west Texas beyond. Three busy cotton gins kept busy in season, and the railroad depot was central to the town. That heyday is gone forever, there is no depot, the occasional freight train doesn't stop, and the highway moved a mile out of town before it too was superseded by the new interstate fifteen miles away.

Main Street and downtown are laid out in a roughly north-south direction. Only a few struggling businesses are left. Others moved over to the highway, creating a strange dichotomy of trade. Divisions abound. Old Town resents New Town. The old timers resent the newcomers, a newcomer being anyone whose family hasn't been present for at least four generations. There are divisions on party lines, church lines, and business lines.

The school district is the biggest industry in town. School board elections are hotly contested and the meetings are highly attended. City politics are a close second. Although the town has existed since 1858, the city was only incorporated eight years ago. That was an election that sharply divided the town once again and along totally new lines, although many of the old-timers were on the "let's leave things the way they've always been" side, and many newcomers took the "if we don't do it now one of the big cities will swallow us up!" approach. The fight hasn't ended. It is re-fought with every city election, indeed with every city council meeting.

The city has no budget for law enforcement, or many other institutions. Instead, Shin Oak Ridge has an agreement with Copete County for patrols by the County Sheriff's department. For the most part, the Sheriff leaves the duty to Precinct 3 Constable Stan Hart, and most especially Deputy Constable Pen Sadler. Pen is an experienced officer and knows this town. His family is one of the older ones. More importantly, he lives just outside the city limits.

Soon we will further explore my fictional town and its citizens.

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