Junk rule pits rural ideals against suburban standards
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Last spring, San Juan County in northern New Mexico hired a plane to survey its interior. An aerial tour of the scrubby hills and swales revealed quite a bit about the county: Pump jacks, two generating stations and a refinery are evidence that it runs primarily on coal and oil. And though it has experienced busts, its cities have swelled with recent booms, pushing subdivisions deeper into the sagebrush. But a closer look, at backyards festooned with old cars and their estranged parts, suggests that the county’s rural reaches support some informal enterprise. The line where irrigated lawns and looping cul-de-sacs abut dusty salvage yards is where the conflict began.
In January, a “convoy” of 70 clanking cars crowded the commission parking lot. A protester named Carl Bannowsky, wearing a silver-buckle belt and snakeskin boots, listed the vehicles in attendance like items at a road show. “We had street riders, hot rodders, rat rodders, roundy-round racers, antique trucks, antique tractors. …” Some, he said, came from his own salvage yard.
Lyman has only a few dozen vehicles and two outbuildings; he could, if he chose, comply in a matter of hours. Instead, he’s organizing another convoy and running for county commissioner next year — just in time, he says, to revoke the ordinance. “We’re going to turn heads. We’re going to say, ‘You better wake up and see what’s happening to your lifestyle.’ “