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Conestoga Carwash

I still think it could have worked.

It was western, it was practical, it tapped right into Winthrop's new blood supply – Highway 20.

It was Conestoga Car Wash.

A giant covered wagon with a sorrel Belgian draft horse to pull you through. Rainbirds for the pre-rinse, a railroad water tank for the final; sections of old quilts moved by remnants of farm equipment as the scrubbers; a ring of blacksmith bellows for the dry cycle. At the end, handsome ranch hands using red bandanas to pick up the water spots.

Then one day a handsome ranch hand said, through his squishy chaw, "That there? That's about the single stupidest idea I've come across since my brother tried to ski jump over the bull."

Okay. I concede the idea. But not the larger concept. Even with its runs at gun fights and real, manure-dropping horses on main street, Winthrop's westerness has always been skin deep . . . kind of like a tooled leather cover on a Kindle. So, if we're sticking with the whole board and batten thing, why not take it inside with some businesses that really shout WESTERN. Like . . .

Ranch Auto Detailing: Want to stand out in the current sea of cookie-cutter cars? In less time than it takes to go to pilates class we can turn your "vehicle" into a bona fide "rig". We'll hook a bumper on a fence post, drop a small tree across the hood, back into a standpipe, crack some glass, stain the dash, break the heater, replace one door handle with vice-grips, and fill every corner of the trunk or cargo space with sticky dust, old hay, rusty wire, lost tools, single gloves and saddle parts. For a small upcharge we'll throw in a steely-eyed cow dog to ride on your roof rack, nose to the wind, waiting for the world to make its move.

Cowboy Coffee: Face it – you can hardly fall off a train car without finding an espresso stand nearby. But where, I ask you, can you find freshly boiled Maxwell House in a bent graniteware pot, grounds still swirling from the cold water settling splash? No more tall, short, single, double, vente, grande, skinny, extra, chai, soy, hazel, or cappuccino crap. It's "cup of coffee" with four choices: milk, sugar, pine needles, dirt. The name? Something like "Solid Grounds". The slogan? "Not for the taste, for the challenge." Antacid is complimentary.

Instant Boneyard: Anybody can slap up an award-winning custom home with feng shui-perfect landscaping. But it takes years to develop the true icon of country life – the broken equipment boneyard.  You've seen them, out there past the easement-protected pastoral scenes. The weathered, settling tractors and pickups, resting like parts-stripped memories. The tilting harrow bed that, try as it might, just couldn't anymore. The wire and lumber and tanks and tires peeking through the grass like the most genuine of art. Well, eat your heart out no longer. With one phone call you can join this exclusive club. We'll haul away those silly rocks and plantings and give  you something that will make the grandkids jump for joy and finally allow you to stand out on the home tour. But call fast: our supplies are limited and going fast.

Latigo Language Institute: It doesn't mean you have to give up discussing poetry, pop culture or NPR news stories – it just means doing it in a whole new light. After our corral and barn-based total immersion program (please bring your own gloves) you'll be expressing yourself with color and simplicity you never imagined possible. "I can probably make that commitment, in terms of providing support" becomes "Yep".  "We need to develop and implement a proactive strategy based on established objectives" becomes "Get 'er done".  You'll learn the correct pronunciation of "howdy", perfect the use of "by gawd" and pocket an entire library of indispensible phrases like, "steeper 'n a cow's face lookin' down a well", or "eyes like two fried eggs in a slop bucket". Sure, your management partners might be a bit baffled at first but they'll be asking how to sign up when your new skill puts you at the head of the table.

Farm Manicure: Tired of hands that, no matter how much you work out, say "I'm an office softy?" We can fix that. Make yourself comfy in the broken rocking chair, lay your grippers on the anvil and let our artists in Oskoshs work them into something that will make folks at the feed store wonder where you're logging or what kind of baler you run. Wire cuts, scraped knuckles, broken nails, slivers, scuffs, burns and instant calluses using our patented hide glue injection method. You'll be amazed at what we can do with just a rasp, barbed wire, pliers, rough sawn board, pocket knife, belt sander and hot exhaust pipe.

Shocking as it may seem, none of these ideas are copyrighted. That's because I believe in giving back to the community. No need to thank me when you're rich. It will be reward enough to have helped Winthrop finally nail down the identity it's been dabbling with for years.