Dwayne took a sip off his Coke and shook his head. "Now Billy, you know I can't tell you that it's okay for you to take the law into your own hands like that."
"Nope, and you can't spend all day and night protecting my cows, neither. I can appreciate that, Dwayne. And you know that I don't hold you personally responsible for the damage. Look, we've had this conversation already if I recall, and I say we just leave it as is. There ain't a jury in this state that's gonna convict me for standing up for what's rightfully mine. And if they do, then they can just kiss my fucking ass."
"I hear you, Billy. And all I can tell you is that you better shoot low, 'cause if you kill somebody, you're gonna be in real hot water."
"Been there before," said Billy as he stomped out his cigarette in the dust and belched loudly. "Goddamn heartburn. Half the time, it feels like I got a fire in my gut."
"That's what being such an ornery cuss'll do to you," replied Dwayne.
Billy laughed and belched again. "What the hell went on down in Jumpup yesterday? Christ, the whole town's talking about it."
Dwayne shook his head and exhaled loudly. "Willie Meeks, you know, from up at the Paiute Reservation? Well, he took a round in the back of the head at close range."
"You got me, Billy. Looks like he might have been working as a pothunter and got double-crossed by his partner."
"A pothunter, huh? Any idea who pulled the trigger?"
Dwayne looked down at the ground as he spoke. "It was some real big white guy with long red hair and a thick beard."
"Shit, that's a big club."
"Tell me about it," complained Dwayne. "Mining the Anasazi's big business these days."
Billy nudged the dirt with the toe of his boot as he considered his next words. "I probably shouldn't say this, you being an officer of the law and all. But it ain't no secret that most of us around here have picked up an arrowhead, or maybe a pot or two, in our travels. Hell, the old timers used to dig into sites until they found themselves a nice collection of pots, and then they'd drop 'em off a ledge just to watch 'em bust apart."
"I hope you ain't bragging, Billy," said Dwayne with contempt, "'cause that kinda shit really burns my ass. It ain't harmless fun. It's STUPID!"
Billy held up his hand as if signaling for a stop. "I ain't never done that sort of thing. And I ain't telling you nothing you don't already know, Dwayne. The point is: most every local I know – myself included – usually look at the stuff left behind by the Anasazi as being pretty much finders-keepers."
"Well it AIN'T, Billy!" said Dwayne as he slapped his cowboy hat against his knee in anger. "Indian artifacts are protected by the federal government."
"Ah yep, just like my fucking cows are, right?" Billy winked. "Look, why don't you pull the burr out of your saddle and listen to what I got to say. You might even learn something, lad. What I'm trying to tell you is that I've never paid much attention to the laws that said you couldn't pick up what you found on the ground. I don't give a shit whether you call it federal land or not. And personally, I don't see how your paid archaeologists are any better than me. I find an arrowhead and I take it home and polish it up and it ends up being displayed on a shelf in my house. Your people would pick up the same damn arrowhead and take it back to the office and store it away in a goddamn box in some warehouse. Now, you can justify that in the name of the public good, or science, or even some highfalutin' standard of morality, if you want to. But the way I see it, that goddamn arrowhead is still gone, no matter how you try and slice it."
"If you think that archaeologists are no different than yourself, then you're dumber than I thought," Dwayne replied. "You wouldn't let some idiot off the street tell you anything about running cows, so what gives you the right to pretend you have any idea what you're talking about when it comes to cultural resources? You're a goddamn thief if you pick up an artifact and take it home. You might just as well smash it right there where you find it, 'cause once you remove it from where it was found, it's meaningless. It might as well have come from the goddamn moon."
"Calm down, little pardner," replied Billy with genuine concern. "I had no idea that you felt so strongly about this shit, Dwayne."