The romantic idea of Willis as an annuity plan, even an evanescent one, is not unlike those images of the Virgin Mary that pop up in elm trees every few years. Can this salvation be real? Well, it is if you believe it is. But when the image goes away, it takes a mighty faith to keep believing. While there are those in Hailey trying to hold faith, most realize the futility of such devotion. Real estate prices are flat, and with a dearth of operating businesses, there's really no reason to stop by.
"Bruce came in, rejuvenated downtown, and it brought people in," says Sallie Hansen. "Tourists stopped, they wanted to see Bruce's Mint, they wanted to see Shorty's, they wanted to go to the theater, and they wanted to drive by his house, they wanted to see Bruce walking around town. There was change.
"And now, I don't get as many phone calls . . . People come in here, they stand around, and then they say, 'Well, how's it going?'"