When we moved to Horizon City, Texas, the town was little more than an isolated retirement community located in the desert east of El Paso. It was a quiet residential area wrapped around a golf course that, from the air, gave it the appearance of an oasis in a sandy, wind-blown wilderness.
My wife and I enjoyed buying veggies, eggs and baked goods in the small “mom and pop” shops located along the main thoroughfare. We particularly liked the eggs one vendor sold—they were huge “double yolkers,” the likes of which I have never seen for sale before or since. There was one service station/convenience store that sold bread, milk and soft drinks but any major shopping required a trip to town: El Paso with its sprawling shopping malls, mega-stores and movie theatres.
Horizon City was parted right down the middle by two school districts and there were two small elementary schools, one in each district. After the fifth grade, students had to be bussed to secondary schools located along the Rio Grande further to the south. But the small town’s isolation was not destined to last.
I suppose the beginning of the end came with the opening of the first supermarket. Right away the little shops were forced to close and the huge “double yolkers” disappeared. It wasn’t long until El Paso’s urban sprawl spread its grasping tentacles across the burning sands and began to engulf the town. New roads were built that eventually would end its unique isolation. As a wave of new houses splashed over the sands, middle schools arose from the desert floor, followed by high schools. Almost before we knew it, there was a Walgreen’s, a variety of gas stations, and burger wars erupted between Burger King and McDonalds.
It was near the beginning of this burst of rapid growth that I was elected to several terms as an alderman on the Horizon City Town Council. Residents were divided on the issue of growth—some wanted to maintain the isolation while others welcomed the opportunities an expanded economy would portend.
As a matter of policy, every backyard in the community was surrounded by a rock wall that brought welcome privacy to each household. On the other side of the rock wall, in some places, was to be found nothing but desert—a desert that was under pressure for development. One particular developer came before the town council with a proposal to build a modern business complex next to a particular Horizon City neighborhood.
As aldermen (even the women on the council were called aldermen), we studied the proposal that would include “clean” businesses such as offices for doctors, realtors, accountants and such, and that would include a green belt separating it from the existing neighborhood next to which it would be built.
During the ongoing debate about whether or not to approve the complex, a good friend, and a member of the church congregation to which I belonged, came to me and asked me to vote against approving the development. He, along with some of his neighbors, was adamantly opposed to having a business complex spring up just over the rock wall from his back yard. I told him I would certainly take his concerns into account as we deliberated the matter.
Because of the “green” nature of the proposed development, and what appeared to me as an unacceptable alternative, I cast my vote in favor of the development along with all of my colleagues on the council. My friend was livid. He stormed out of the meeting in anger. At church the following Sunday, he refused to take my outstretched hand and ignored my effort to explain the reasons for the position I had taken.
It was only a few short weeks after that when the man’s business interests took him to another city. He sold his house and moved with his family far from the town of Horizon City. On the Sunday preceding his departure, he sought me out at church, embraced me and begged my forgiveness for his “unforgiving and un-Christian attitude.” He said that he could not move on with his life having a cloud of hostility hanging over his head. “Our friendship,” he said, “is more valuable than any disagreement we might have had.”
“The world is too narrow for two fools a quarrelling,” said Thomas Fuller. The last time I was in El Paso I drove through Horizon City and, to my dismay, found that the development in question never developed. On the other side of the rock wall where my friend once lived is still found nothing but blowing sand.
Marcus Aurelius probably said it best when he wrote, “Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.”