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The dust bowl had been a long time coming.

The Evidencers won the war. They’d wanted to crush the Trads, but when they reached their hideout in the South, all they heard was moaning and groaning. So they left them to their pessimism.

The Purposes in the East, you could say anything you liked to them, it just bounced right off. They seemed happy enough staying up there in the mountains clutching their awards.

The Biases in the West didn’t want a fight either, but you couldn’t really negotiate with them. They just waited to see what you did, then said they knew you were going to do that all along.

So the Evidencers claimed victory and laid down the law. Their way or the highway. They even brought Sheriff Ritson up from down under, everyone had to line up to go through his mini MBA.

But still nothing much grew. Sun beat down, rain stayed away, green turned to brown.

They said it was due to the Great Pandemic. Then they said it was the Great Inflation, some bad guy way out East. Or it was those big energy companies in the city taking too much off the top.

Some even said it was down to the Digitals. They used to be a tribe way back when but now they were everywhere, making things easy but never quite the same.

Whatever it was, the Brandlands turned to devils and dust. Everything tumbling with the tumbleweed.

Then one day two young outlaws rode into town. One an affable soul, piercing blue eyes, a thinker, that’s what she was good at, thinking. The other a gunslinger, drooping moustache but the fastest draw anyone had ever seen. You took him on, he’d kill you. As he said: “there’s that possibility.”

Word had travelled on ahead of them. Story was they used to be with the Trads but left the South during the Pandemic.

The gunslinger knew it wasn’t about winning, it was about winning people over. All he wanted was to be asked to stick around.

And the thinker had a thought. If every brand in the land followed the same laws, soon everyone would end up looking and doing the same. But people, they were all different. Different needs, different deeds.

Which means you had to choose your target, take your position.

The other Trads had listened to their plan but couldn’t think past what they knew. If you said ‘marketing’ to them, they heard ‘advertising’.

So the two decided to find somewhere else to make their stand and this town was as good as any. As they rode in to the sound of their horses’ hooves, the thinker looked up and down and round and about. Nothing. Just the creaking of a Coca Cola sign above the saloon door.

The gunslinger stared dead ahead, one hand on the reins, the other ready by his side. If this was the welcoming committee, it sure didn’t look too welcoming.

And Lord knows why, but then he started to hum that old campfire song and the thinker filled in the words:

Badlands, you gotta live it every day / Let the broken hearts stand as the price you’ve gotta pay

We’ll keep pushing till it’s understood / And these badlands start treating us good

They tied up their horses and pushed on in through the saloon doors. Then the thinker stopped. “Wait a minute. You didn’t see Ritson out there, did you?”

The gunslinger turned. “Ritson? No.”

“Good,” went the Thinker. “For a moment there I thought we were in trouble.”


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