Reared in the heart of Oklahoma on a farm and ranch, I got acquainted with what is termed as “ag crime” early in life. Stories of stolen cattle and other livestock ran rampant as a word of warning to protect property. Thieving is still thieving no matter what is stolen. Who needs the string of pearls, ancient manuscript, or gold medallion of ancient origin when you could have ready cash from stolen stock?
It didn’t stop there, either. When meth became the drug of choice for manufacturers, anhydrous ammonia, which farmers use to prep the soil for planting, started to be stolen. Using empty propane bottles for grills, they raid day or night and fill up. On one such run, my sister saw them and gave chase. What she would have done if she caught them no one knows.
Crime connected to agriculture costs ranchers and farmers in the millions each year. Being a rabid mystery reader, I wondered why this didn’t get into any storylines. Lacking the glamor, I suppose, of the aforementioned pearls, etc., these types of crimes don’t even make the headlines. It inspired me to write detective stories with this as the backdrop.
In addition, I discovered that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation employs a group of agents known as “ag rangers” that focus directly on ag-related crime. Another piece fell into place for my wayward, put upon detective, Vince Gibson. Character-wise inspired by Jim Rockford, a pinch of Lovejoy, and a smidge of my loud-mouthed farming family, Vince is blue collar to the bone.
Occasionally aided by his Baptist girlfriend (Free Will, by the way), Vince takes work wherever he can get it. Prenups? Sure, why not. Track down a supposed malingerer? Of course. Investigate a farmer’s hay bales getting vandalized? Only if his girlfriend twists his arm, which she does frequently. But is there something more going on than just vandalized alfalfa? Bet on it . . .
Twitter: Bret Jones@BretJones1