Robert M. de la Torre
“Bullion Bob”. Copyright 2010. Robert M. de la Torre. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced in any matter whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover design Rose Marie de la Torre. Mojave desert.
Books by Robert M. de la Torre
Fat City Mouse
Always Walking Barefoot
Jonnie the Scarecrow
The Green Shutters
Son of the Phoenix
The Ape Mine
Jack Sleeps in the Park
All stories written and created by Robert M. de la Torre
Copyrights belong to the author.
The desert winds
The tiny scorpion that crawled up the side of Bullion Bob’s face, sat for a moment , resting himself on his beard, until he had the strength to wipe him off. Sweat, caked with sand covered his face, making it hard for him to focus with his battered eyes, the sun that was glaring down on him. Knowing that he was lucky to be alive, Bob gave in to the hot desert sand that was scorching his body, as he struggled to free himself from the heat of it.
A memory of his beloved friend came to his mind, as he laid there motionless. On his back, like a helpless turtle, he tried to moan in pain, as the wounds on his back and neck, tortured him, he could not speak a word to call out to anyone who might be near to come and help him. The light of the sun beat down upon his face, while billowy clouds formed over him. A drop of water he felt and the crack in his face, that formed his smile, felt another one dance across his lips and rain began to fall on Bullion Bob.
Night crossed the plains where Bob laid, his body soaking up the rain like a sponge, he stayed still and felt the coolness come over him. The air was stirring up the dust again, and this time he moved to pick himself up from the desert floor, that held him down from standing. He searched for a place where the water collected and stumbled over a rock, then fell into a small puddle of life giving water.
Bob hacked and coughed and could feel the particles of dirt come from his mouth, as he spit them out and rinsed himself. Realizing that his crippled hands could not lift themselves up to his parched mouth, he sank his head inside the tiny pool, and quenched the desert from his tongue. His throat made sounds of gurgling, as he gulped the water down. Bob could feel himself revived again, after he had been down on the desert floor for two days and tried to prop himself up against a rock, to see where he had been.
The smell of the wet sage was in the air, its fragrance lifted his spirits as he breathed in and out, taking in the aroma of the desert, letting him know that he was alive and going to live through his unforgotten ordeal. The rock he huddled next to made for little shade, enough to keep the sun from baking his face, and torturing his open wounds. Bob laid in the sand naked and hungry, but he knew that his maker wouldn’t let him die like a dog. The coyotes howled in unison that night, as the moon shone high in the desert sky. Bob could hear the cries from them, sounding out like laughter, as if they knew his time would come soon and they could feast on his carcass that laid there waiting for them to come to dine. He held close to the rock and squinted through his swollen eyes, to see if he could spot the devils that knew he was there, helpless, without friend to see him through.
The water had seeped deep into the hot sand, Bob’s body baking, he could barely talk, to hear him tell himself that he was going to make it. Thirst spoke to him, reminding a poor soul that he was not going to die, as long as he felt pain. The winds raked across the floor of the desert, picking up the dust that covered him partially, his body laying like a hill of human dirt as he began to hear the sound of another soul, faint in the distance beyond where he laid, he heard a man singing, as he began to fall into delirium.
It was Trappy who found Bullion Bob that day, his mule had smelled the body of a dying man, and ceased to go on any further. Ears standing high, one lower than the other, Lamplight stood over Bob and sniffed the sand, where Bob laid. “You got yourself into a fix real good old timer,” he said with a smile. Bob groaned to let Trappy know that he was still alive. Trappy dismounted Lamplight and took his canteen, then bent down to give poor Bob a drink of cool water. “Easy feller, take it slow”, he whispered as he tilted the canteen to his lips.
Bob sipped the water and tried to speak, but his lips were to cracked to form a word. “Easy feller, you can talk to me later when you are well”, Trappy assured him. Bob tried to tell Trappy what had happened back at the mine, where he was shanghaied, and the only word Trappy could understand was “Gold.”
Trappy fluffed up the firs on the travois, then placed Bob’s wracked body on top of them. “There old feller, you rest up now and Lamplight will take us home.” he chuckled as he tied him to the travois. Trappy kicked Lamplights flanks lightly and they road off into the desert, Trappy singing his song all the way. “Thar ain’t no Purdy wumon in this desert fer me you see, all thar is is sand n’ misery, so I ain’t gunna come back soon, till the light shine high of the silvery moon.”
Bob drug behind Lamplight and his companion Trappy, sucking up water from the bota bag he gave him, telling him to drink when ever he felt the urge.
They traveled across the vast Mojave, and the winds were calm most of the way, Trappy’s hat curled over his face, protecting him from the sun, as they moved along the desert floor, to Trappy’s home, where he could nurse and tend to his new friend Bullion Bob and find out what this talk of gold was all about. Trappy made his living from coyote firs and varmint pelts, he had no idea that his new friend had found himself a mother lode.
The one thing that Trappy new mostly about gold, besides that it made a man rich, was that there would be plenty of trouble to go along with it. Bob’s coughing and sputtering could be heard now and then as he drank from the flask with the cool water in it. A twitch from Trappy’s brow reminded him that he would be alright, once out of the desert sun and in a place where he could bathe and let Trappy tend to his wounds. His face carved up real bad from the knives the drifters used to get him to fess up and say where the gold was, were beginning to scab up from time and the sun baking his blood. Bullion Bob, a hearty miner, wasn’t about to go and die, and leave the secret of the found mine behind, he intended to get what belonged to him, no matter what the cost. The only thing that Bob was about to endure for the next 13 miles, was Lamplight and the foul air he left behind for him to breathe.
“You with me there feller?” Trappy asked him, as he looked over his shoulder. Trappy had seen that Bob was taking advantage of the ride to his place, and found that he fell fast asleep.
The bluish mountain range in the foreground was now coming better into view, the smell of sage filled the atmosphere and white scattered clouds were forming over head, reminding Trappy that the desert would cool down again, making their trip to his place more bearable and seemingly not too far off. Trappy, usually spent his winters close to home. The harsh coldness of December and January made it harder for him to venture out into the desert. A place where a man could easily die from frost bite, if he wasn’t too careful.
Lamplight stood in her tracks, still and not moving. She scratched at the sand below her and ears perked up, one lower that the other. Trappy knew she had sensed a creature crawling on the desert floor, perhaps a rattler. He patted his burro on the neck and looked around with squinted eyes, to see what it was that caught his burro’s attention. There it was, under a sage bush, at least six feet in length, a Mojave green, tasting the air and knowing that we were in its path. “We got ourselves some supper old feller.” he hollered as he chuckled. Trappy dismounted his burro and circled the bush that the green was hiding under. Shaking his snake stick, he got the highly poisonous reptile to move out from the bush, straight with its body moving slowly, Trappy picked it up by the tail and snapped it like a whip, breaking the neck of his delicious supper to be.
The fire burned inside the rocks, while Trappy pulled a pan for cooking from the travois and skinned the green, later he would use it for a headband that he proudly wore, Trappy’s headband collection was by far the biggest in the Mojave he thought, and would trade them for other things that strangers would give him in return. He smiled and looked over at Bullion Bob, and figured he was going to need one also. Bob sat upright for the first time in a couple of days and began to eat the delicious snake that Trappy made for him. “Eat as much as you like old feller,” he said while smiling. He was glad to see Bob was getting his strength back again and laid back on his blanket and savored the snake meat he just cooked.
The old rock shack stuck out from the side of the mountain, where Trappy lived, nestled in the mountains, it sat peacefully there, making a home for him and a place where passer byes could stop in and say hello. If he was lucky, there would be one or two strangers each year, usually on hunting trips, that would stray his way and meet him. The old rock shack, with one room was all Trappy needed to shelter him from the winters, and keep him cool from the heat of the desert below. The well he dug the first year he lived there, offered fresh cool water for drinking and cooking. Old skins draped over the windows that let others know that he was a trapper and it made a place where he could hang them out to dry and a great drape to guard from the winds that would usually blow through them.
The old shack was home for Trappy and Lamplight. He had taken Bullion Bob in and began to nurse his wounds. Stretched out across the bed he gave to him, until he could get better and sleep in the tent outside, Trappy laid his friend down so he could get a better look at the cuts that were deep in his face. Bob flinched and jerked away, when Trappy poured his home made medicine on his face. He chuckled and laughed inside, not letting Bob know that he thought it was funny to see him wince from the sauce he made up for healing. In the desert, cactus was good to use for fast patching and stopping the bleeding. The first year Trappy was in the desert, he had an accident with his six shooter. Forgetting that he had a round still chambered in it, he pulled the trigger and shot one of his toes off by accident. Since that day, Trappy never forgot to check his pistol out real good, before a cleaning.
Bob tried to hold the side of his face, where Trappy poured the home made medicine on it, with his crippled hands. Fingers to broken up to touch the spot where it hurt most, he just poked at his wounds with the bent knuckles and cried out as Trappy let the medicine seep down inside his deep cuts. “Hold still, I’m a finished now,” he promised him.
It was the first time in about three days since Bob was able to stand on his own, the medicine helping greatly to assist him in getting up, he stood up and tried to walk a few steps before he sat back down. “Ah good old man, your going to be fine,” Trappy noticed as he let out a sigh.
“I want to thank you partner, for everything,” Bob told him quietly. “You ain’t got to thank me, it was Lamplight that found you,” Trappy told him while laughing. Trappy was busy mixing up something to eat, he had some stew planned for the evening meal and wanted to get started with supper early, knowing Bob hadn’t eaten much in a couple of days. Trappy had a way of preserving the meals he ate, a make shift cooler, gave him a day until the meat he usually caught or killed would last him until he was ready to use it. “Hope you like rabbit,” he asked him while shifting his brows to see what he’d say. “I’d eat a tumbleweed right now partner,” Bob returned as he turned toward him. Trappy spooned a few scoops of the stew on a flat plate, then handed it to Bob, who tried desperately to hold the spoon that was given to him. “Here fella, I’ll be glad to help ya,” offered Trappy while smiling from ear to ear. Bob wolfed down the stew from starvation and nearly gagged on the chunks of rabbit that Trappy spooned up for him. “Easy there old buddy,” he said to him softly. Bob was making sounds like a whimpering puppy, trying not to eat too fast and savor the delicious rabbit that Trappy cooked up for him, while his new friend fed him small tastes at a time.
“Mmm Mmm, you can sure cook boy,” Bob wailed, as he chewed the pieces of meat. “Thank you old buddy, now see if you can hold the spoon yourself,” Trappy suggested. He wanted to make sure Bob healed up fast and didn’t want to pamper him anyway that would make his healing slower. With the cactus medicine in his stomach, Trappy prepared for a night of sleeplessness, knowing Bob would be up all night, howling from the stew and the medicine all mixed up in his stomach, anticipating him as he would be up all night as he tossed and turned.
Trappy took the plate from Bob and sat it down on the table, then took the stool and parked it up next to his bunk, and started to ask him questions. At first Bob wasn’t about to talk to him about the gold, then decided he could trust Trappy. Besides, Trappy could have left him for dead if he wanted to, but instead helped him along.
“So tell me old buddy, how did they catch you off guard?” he asked politely. “Well, you see, it went like this, do you remember that last big rain we had?” Bob asked him curiously. “Sure did, the biggest rain we had so far!” Trappy returned while looking outside. “See, I hadn’t had a bath, oh, in about a week or so, and I decided it was time,” he confessed. “I’d seen the drifters earlier, they were hiding in the hills, I figured I had enough time to get myself cleaned up and all,” he added. “I see,” sighed Trappy looking at him with much interest. “Well I turned my back on em, It must have been a minute past, then wham! They hit me hard,” ouch! Trappy yelled. “That’s right, couldn’t get to my shotgun in time, that’s when they hauled me out of that puddle of water and started carving up my face,” Bob explained. “Sons of bitches,” returned Trappy furiously. “Well, when they knew I wasn’t going to tell them where the gold was, that’s when they broke my hands,” he told him while holding up his hands. “They figured I didn’t have a chance out there by myself, and left me for dead,” he explained. “I figured I was a goner for sure,” he added. “Then that’s when you come along,” Bob finished.
Trappy let Bob rest up and lay back down on the cot for awhile, before he was to ask him anymore questions about the gold. He figured he would spook poor Bob, if he kept on about where he hid it and all. Besides, Bob looked weak and Trappy wanted him to heal.
“Did ya sleep well there Bob?” he asked politely. Bob stretched his arms out and yawned a bit to show some gold teeth he had, then looked around the small room of the rock shack to see Trappy waiting for him to wake up. “Yeah, I reckon so,” he announced. “Sep for this dream I had about getting my claim in before those drifters beat me to it,” he added while looking for a place to spit. “Still got some blood in my mouth, if you excuse me Trappy,” he told him while getting up to go outside. “Here, spit in this here pale Bob,” Trappy suggested.
Bob leaned back on the cot he was sleeping on and went on to tell Trappy, how he was worrying about those two who jumped him back at Prairie Flats. “First things first Bob,” he snapped. “We got to get you good and well, before you go and do anything else,” barked Trappy looking so stern. “What do you figure Bob?” Bob asked him with great concern. “I made this her for you to play with until you get your grip back,” he proudly announced. Trappy threw him a pouch he made filled with sand, and ordered Bob to knead it with his hands so he could get his strength back in him. “Shoot, you think it will work Trappy, my hands are pretty broken up?” he questioned with doubt. “Just do like I tell you and you’ll see,”
A couple of weeks had past and Bob was squeezing the life out of the pouch that Trappy had made for him. Trappy was delighted at the progress he was making and decided it was time to show him how to use a six shooter. The old shotgun he was used to using, was ok he thought, but Trappy wanted Bob to be handy with a hog leg, besides in the desert you had to be good with a gun or else you would wind up on the other side of one.
One afternoon, while the two good friends were talking about each others lifestyles, Trappy decided it was time to give Bob a special present, and something he would use for the rest of his life.
The gun was a Colt .45, with a wooden rose handle, carved by hand by a soldier he served with in the Army during the war. Its silver body, inlaid with a beautiful scrolling was perfect for Bob he thought. Though the pistol was a bit too much gun for the size of body, Trappy took it from the blanket he had it wrapped in and tossed it over to Bob who had been sitting across from him. He caught the pistol and studied its beauty, holding it with a firm grip, looking down the barrel at its trueness.
“What do you think partner?” he asked him anticipating his return. “Ah Trap buddy, this is a beauty,” Bob returned with satisfaction. “It’s yours good buddy, keep it and take care of it,” Trappy followed while chuckling. “Shoot Trappy, I can’t, “ Bob said with humbly. “I aim to teach you how to use it, so don’t go getting all soft on me now,” Trappy told him.
Bob followed Trappy out of the old stone shack, he knew the pistol was his now, and was anxious to feel its power, and perfection. Bob missed his old shotgun, the one the drifters took from him. He remembered the many years it protected him and his claim from other jumpers, who wanted so badly to rob him of. Bob held the pistol with one hand, waving it at the sky, feeling the weight of it as he took aim, pretending he was the best shot in the Mojave. Trappy took some bullets he had with him, and showed Bob how to load the gun, then backed away a couple of feet and told him to take aim and brace himself. “See that old rock sitting there Bob?” he showed him with his finger pointing toward it. “Yeah, I sure do, “ he returned. Steady while you aim, take in a breathe and let it out slow, then let her have it Bob.
The blast from the Colt was loud, and dust from the ground spurted up just short of the rock he aimed at. “Not bad old fella,” Trappy chuckled. Bob held the pistol steady and tried not to shake too bad, then squeezed the trigger and held his head back. “Good one Bob, can you feel her now?” he asked him. Just then, Bob let loose another round and the rock disintegrated in a second. Trappy saw that he was going to be good with the Colt and was relieved to know that when they went into town to get supplies, he wouldn’t have to worry too much about him.
The pistol and Bob became one, he always hit what he aimed at, and was shooting targets Trappy threw in the air form him to practice on. One time he tossed a silver coin up in the air and Bob shot a hole right through the middle of it. Trappy began to get a bit jealous, when he discovered that Bob was out shooting him, but nevertheless he was happy that he was the one who taught him how to shoot.
Trappy sat on the stool puzzled, looking at Bob and listening to him tell him about the story of how he had to kill a man. He went on to say that he had to flee into the desert and take up mining after farming went sour, the dirt just no good anymore to plant in. He said that an old dirt farmer friend of his went into town to play cards and win some money, just so he could have enough to eat. After “Perty” had won a couple of hands, they accused him of cheating and one drew on him. Perty shot the man, being faster on the draw, and shot a hole right through his head. It was Bob who, saw what had happened to the one who accused Perty, being he was the one sitting on the other side of the table, and when he had seen a card sticking out from his boot, he turned and shot another man who was going to kill Perty and he took the shotgun and killed him where he sat, blowing him nearly in two, then running from the card game with the shotgun the drifters now had. Bob fleed into the desert and they put a bounty on him for murder, knowing he could never show his face again.
Trappy sat bewildered and tried hard to figure a way Bob could turn up in town with him. He thought that if Bob could prove he saw Perty cheating, they would at least give him a fair trial, if they caught him. Trappy knew Bob wanted badly to stake his claim for the gold he found, and if he was going to do it, he would have to fess up when he got to the claims office. Bob knew Trappy wouldn’t let him go alone and asked him if he was ready. Bob figured if they wanted to hang him after all the years he had been a fugitive, he would at least die a rich man.
Trappy wasn’t worried too much about Bob getting hung by the law, he was more afraid of what the Mojaves would think of a grey man with a long beard, and what they might want to do with him, especially if they knew he had a stake in a gold mine. By their law, all gold belonged to them, and they had to find a better outfit for him to wear, something that they wouldn’t feel intimidated by. Trappy had seen with his own eyes, what the Mojave did with miners and thought of a plan that would make them believe he was just another trapper like him.
He sat in the chair, staring at Trappy who was trying his best not to laugh. The once free flowing beard that blew in the wind, was now braided, four strums hanging down from his chin, that gave him a look like he resembled something from the stone age. The rattlesnake headband that Trappy wore all the time gave Bob a wilderness look, like he had been out in the bush for years. He gave him a rabbit skin and they fashioned a loin cloth from it, and he wore skins from deer around his feet, strapped by leather lashing that kept them secure up to his ankles. Bob looked more like a mountain man than anything else, Trappy was glad that he looked like anything but a miner and would be comfortable meeting the Mojaves on their turf. Bob stuffed the Colt in his loin skin and was ready to go into town.
They took turns walking, while the other rode Lamplight. Trappy was used to it, especially when he felt good inside and felt so much apart of the desert. The days that were cool and not too windy, he cherished and it made good for searching for things on the desert floor, that he would seldom find. Trappy made the trip into town in half a day, and he was used to walking, so he let Bob ride most of the way in. He had to chuckle now and then, when he saw Bob on that burro and how he hoped the Mojaves would except him. Trappy had lots of furs to trade and he hoped that they would have a burro or maybe a mule to trade for his coyote skins. The Mojaves liked the skins Trappy always had, it was the way he took pride in his trade, that they liked the most.
It was three of them that stood in their path, they had been waiting for them to come up on the trail. They saw them coming and waited. Trappy greeted them in their tongue and they returned the greeting. It was Desert Wind that was interested in his new friend and they never kept their eyes off of him. Bob stayed on Lamplight, until it was customary to shake hands, then he dismounted and walked over to Desert Wind and greeted him. He saw Bob’s Colt and right away wanted to look at it, Trappy motioned for him to give it to him so he could feel it, then Bob handed it to him and waited to see how he would react to the feel of the Colt and maybe he would want to shoot it as well.
The expression of giving his firearm to an Indian, made them feel trusted and were happy that he was not an enemy of theirs. Bob received the Colt from Desert Wind and stuffed it back in his loin skin. Trappy knew that he wasn’t interested in the pistol, they kept looking at the skins on the travois and Desert Wind made his motion to trade. Bob stood back and watched Trappy bargain with him, as the two made an agreement to a good trade. One of the braves with Desert Wind, led his spare mule over to where Bob was standing, and gave him the rope that kept him from roaming the desert. Desert Wind gave his approval and they mounted up on their horses and rode back to their village, looking back, staring at Bob until he was sure he wouldn’t take one in the back.
The mule was in good shape, Trappy was glad that now he had the sure footed beast in his possession and could pack more skins for trading purposes. Bob and Trappy took turns riding her and they both now had a mount of their own. Trappy gave the mule to Bob and said he owed him nothing for it and chuckled when he saw him in his skins and riding a mule for the first time. Trappy waited until he was used to her, and asked him what he was going to call her. Bob laughed and just kept a straight face until he forgot what he was going to say. Trappy chuckled and told him, “You’ll think of something.”
A sound of a bell broke through the silence of the desert and Trappy told Bob that they would soon be in Dry Sage. Bob was happy that he was finally coming to the place and could get off the mule for awhile. He kept thinking of his claim and wondered if the drifters might have beat him to the punch. Trappy assured him that they weren’t going to claim something that wasn’t theirs, for fear of getting caught and thrown into the town jail. Claim jumpers were usually hanged in Dry Sage, unless they were shot first. Another thing Bob was worried about was the fact the he was a fugitive and maybe somebody would recognize him, Trappy chuckled and thought to himself that nobody would come close to identifying a man who looked like he did, and even thought that maybe they would not even want him in town. Trappy knew he had to get him into some clothes and went to the mercantile to trade off some firs, for something more suitable that Bob could make his claim in. Besides the women in Dry Sage would take offense to a man wrapped in a loin fur.
A small crowd of towns people were gathered around in front of the mercantile, studying Bob and wondered who he was. Trappy tried his best to keep them interested in the firs and started to show his finest. They stood back and held their noses, trying not to get too close to the man who smelled like a mule and looked like a savage. Seeing the Colt he had stuffed in his loin skin, they gave him plenty of room and asked no questions. Trappy collected pay for his skins and they both made it across the street to the hotel, where they could get a hot bath and then some nice duds to wear in town. Bob kept his eyes open for anyone he might have known in the past and became relaxed after seeing that time had passed, and maybe a few of the ones who knew him from before.
They tied the mule and the burro outside the hotel, while many stared at the two of them. Trappy gave Bob a nickel and they walked into the hotel where a middle aged woman greeted them, holding her nose. “I take it you two need a bath?” she asked them with certainty. “Yes ma’am, the two of us,” Trappy returned. “I hope not together!” she chuckled. Bob smiled showing his gold teeth, while the lady, known as Lilah, stared at him over, seeing that he was in pretty good shape for an old timer. “Bath and cigar 10 cents,” she added. Trappy flipped another nickel to Bob and followed Lilah up the stairs. Bob followed after, seeing that things were going real good.
Lilah threw in the perfume for Bob, knowing he would need it the most. She took a liking to him, and thought for a moment that she had known him from before. “So where did you say you’re from stranger?” she asked him. “I didn’t ma’am,” Bob followed in return. Lilah soaped his back and lit his cigar, she figured he would talk sooner or later, especially after a good bath and cigar. “The name’s Bob ma’am,” he told her. Bob sat back in the steel tub and let Lilah scrub him up real good, he was beginning to get comfortable with her questions and figured she could do no harm, especially with Trappy around, saying the two of them were just a couple of trappers. After Lilah gave him his bath, she brushed him up real good, then gave him some duds to put on and trimmed his beard real nice. “Look here Bob, now don’t you look Purdy?” she commented. Bob stared at himself in the mirror and saw himself for the first time in over ten years, and wasn’t sure if he was looking at himself standing there in front of it. Old man Perkins threw in the boots Bob, he said you could pay him some other time, he said things were going good for him, not to worry. Bob slipped into the snake skin boots and felt himself getting taller, then told Lilah he would thank him later for the kind deed. She stood back and made a face at him, like she was pleased to see him looking so good. Bob stuffed his Colt into the belt that held up his new pants and went to meet Trappy who was waiting in the saloon.
It had been about the same time as he had his last bath, that he actually heard any kind of music. One lady who was leaning against the piano was singing out some songs, that Bob never heard before. He looked around the room, where a few men had been playing poker and tried to see if there was anyone he knew from the time he became a fugitive. Satisfied that he didn’t know anyone, he saw Trappy sitting with a couple of men, playing a game of cards. He motioned for Bob to come over and sit with them, not recognizing him from his bath. They just looked at Bob and studied their cards, not paying any attention to him as he sat down and waited for them to deal the cards.
Bob looked around the smoke filled room, listening to the lady at the piano, waiting to see what his hand looked like. He kept thinking about the day when he had to shoot a man, who thought his friend was cheating and started getting nervous. Bob kept a straight face as he was dealt a four kings, he thought to himself that he had the better hand, and bet all that he had, two cents. The two men that were sitting with them, asked for another card and Trappy said he would stay. When the last bets were made, and time to show their hands, Bob kept his other hand on his Colt and made sure no one would accuse him of cheating. Bob collected up his winnings and stood up from his chair, then started to walk toward the door. One of the fellows started getting edgy and told him to come back and sit down. Bob could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up and kept on to the door, while Trappy stood up to follow him out. He could hear the cocking sound of the trigger on one of the others pistol and at that time Bob turned around and shot him through one of his ears. The bullet came out through the other side of his head through his other ear, and he fell to the floor.
The lady that was singing dropped to the floor, while the music stopped and the rest looked on to see what had happened. Bob stuffed his Colt into his belt and saw that everyone was looking straight at him. He flashed on the day he had to kill the man, who was going to kill him and saw that no one was going to do anything about it.
The marshal came through the door with a deputy and saw that there was a dead man. Trappy tole them that it was self defense and another fellow told the marshal that it was true, that he saw what had happened. Lilah came down from the stairs looking on and seeing everybody standing in the card room and said that she saw him drawing on Bob.
Bob stayed at the jail for a half a day, going over his story and making sure he wasn’t going to be charged with murder. Trappy kept on telling the marshal what had happened and the marshal finally let them both go free. “I could feel the rope getting tight around my neck?” Trappy chuckled as they walked out of the jail. The marshal gave Trappy and Bob an hour to get out of town and get all their business done, so the two of them went to the claims office so Bob could stake his claim on the gold he found. Trappy and Lilah both made sure he had his stake in his claim and that it was signed on paper and sealed then left Dry Sage, saying goodbye and thanks to Lilah who told them to come back some time and get another bath.
Leaving town, Trappy told Bob that he had never seen anyone shoot the way he did back there. Bob wasn’t proud of killing and owed it all to Trappy, who taught him how to use a gun.
In the desert, the sun was a glowing reddish color, the sage smelled throughout the air, Bob thought to himself as they headed back to Trappy’s place, that he still had to face the drifters, who were still out to find his claim. He knew that his fighting days weren’t over, until he killed the men who left him in the desert for dead. At 40 and the year 1889 Bob was by all means a rich man, looking more like a gunslinger in his new duds that Trappy bought for him in Dry Sage. He sat tall on his mule as he rode next to the man that saved his life.
At first, he felt himself turning into a killer, someone who enjoyed gunning down a man who needed killing, as he felt his Colt tucked in his belt, reminding him that now he had already killed two men. He saw the man’s face as the blood ran from his ear, pouring out onto the floor, as he fell lifeless before he even hit the ground. It was Lilah, the last person he remembered at the card game, as she was coming down the stairs. All that had happened after that was a blur, and now he was back in the desert again, this time riding free, with the cold feeling of the way he was left to die, and the thought of how he was going to get even. “You alright there old timer?” asked Trappy with concern. “You look like a man who just saw a ghost,” he added. Trappy saw that Bob wasn’t anywhere near the outskirts of Dry Sage, he saw that he was out there somewhere, maybe thinking about his gold.
It was actually Lilah that he was thinking about. She had made in impression on him, like no other woman he ever knew. There was something about her that just kept his mind thinking. Bob looked over his shoulder and saw the town of Dry Sage in the heat waves of the day. He thought that one day he would go back there and make an honest woman out of Lilah. He was sure she would want him, especially after the moments they had back in town.
“You ever kill anyone before Trappy?” Bob asked him with a serious look on his face. Trappy sat back on Lamplight and scratched at his beard, then turned to Bob and told him a story about how he first met the Mojaves. The first time he took to the desert as a trapper.
“Yeah, sure did old timer,” he answered. “Had to do what you are doing now, only it wasn’t fer gold, it was for my firs,” he added while pointing toward the travois. “It was winter, back in ‘85,” he explained. “Somehow the animals weren’t much in these parts,” he went on. “I had about the only firs around, kinda like the last ones I suppose,” he told him. “They came up behind me, and before I knew anything, I was surrounded,” he went on. “Was it the ones we traded earlier?” Bob asked him. “Naw, they is good people,” Trappy confessed. “They were a renegade tribe, warriors of a sort,” he told him. “So what happened?” Bob asked patiently. “I gave them what they wanted, except my clothes,” he said with an angry expression. “They wanted my Army jacket, and when they tried to pry it off of me, I stuck one right in the side and started hollering like a madman,” he chuckled as he held his knife. Bob laughed as he tried to picture Trappy engaged in hand to hand combat with an Indian and started to laugh with him.
“Yeah, and when they saw that I was crazy, they turned and run, taking a couple of the firs they were after,” he laughed. “I thought I was a goner, I got home and thought how lucky I was to get away with my scalp.” he chuckled again. “Never saw hide nor hair of the likes of them, I imagine someone ran across them and did em in, like I should have,” he laughed again.
Trappy always amused Bob with his stories of the desert and Bob was glad it was he that rescued him from the perils of his wounds and the heat of the desert that day he came along and found him. “I know what your thinking old timer,” Trappy mentioned to him. “You probably think I am crazy,” he chuckled as he spun his hand around the top of his head.
The route along the top of the hills gave a view over the desert, as they rode closer to Trappy’s place. The yellow flowers in bloom gave a sign that autumn was coming soon. On the tops of the mountains was snow that seemed to cling there, as if the winter would never end. In the evening was the cool wind that blew over the desert floor, making it comfortable for travel. Trappy knew Bob’s mind was back at Dry Sage, he knew that his mind was on Lilah, by the way he drifted off, just staring out over the prairie. Lilah was a fair woman, though tough around the edges, she would make Bob or anyone at that a fine wife, if he were to get her to settle down. Lilah’s life evolved around the town and the hotel, she probably wouldn’t know what to do out at a ranch house, taking care of chores and such. Her passion was taking care of men. The only thing Bob had going for him to win her over was his new look, and of course the gold. Lilah liked the finer things in life, she would have hung on to him like a squirrel on a nut, if she knew he had found the mother lode. Something told Trappy that Bob wasn’t about to stay away from Dry Sage too long, he figured he’d be back there by the end of spring, just in time for summer, and of course to spend his claim.
The burro came to a stop and Trappy searched the sage to see what it was behind them. He figured it was just another rattler, shading himself from the sun. Bob kept an eye out for things that seemed suspicious, in case of an ambush, he was ready.
“Looky here Bob, come quick,” he shouted out loud. Bob dismounted his mule and started over to where Trappy was standing and saw the Indian woman huddled behind the sage. “She’s in labor Bob,” he yelled. Bob studied the woman and tried not to stare at her half naked body, then went to the travois to get a fir to cover her with. “Fetch some water Bob, she’s dying of thirst,” he commanded. Bob grabbed the water bag and brought it over to the Indian woman, and gave her some to drink. Her howling and wailing let them both know that she was going to give birth any moment.
Bob saw the birth of a new baby as quick as he had killed the man back at Dry Sage. Trappy was giving her comfort and helped her clean the infant, then put the two on the travois and headed for the Mojaves village. Trappy figured she wandered away from her village, in search of food and knew it wasn’t too far from where she started from. They both were glad that they came along and found her instead of the coyotes, who would have devoured her for food. Her chanting never stopped, until they arrived at her camp that she was from. The Mojaves had moved from their summer camp and now searching for a new place to hunt for the autumn. I could see their smoke from the fires burning, and now searched for Desert Wind, a familiar face that would be able to except their arrival in camp without fear of any attack by us. As we entered into their encampment, I noticed them staring at us and wondering why we had one of theirs with us.
The children gathered around my travois and had seen the baby that was just born, nearly an hour before we had arrived. Their peering faces reminded me of the days I played with my friends and everything amused us. Bob watched me and waited for my approval to dismount, it had been customary to stay on ones mount, until given permission to do so. The Mojaves studied our clothes and were cautious of us, taking notice of the side arm Bob was carrying and the way he was dressed. Their laughter was directed at Bob’s mount, the mule we had traded for firs. I had seen a few of the men before in the desert searching for food, but we never greeted each other. We waited for Desert Wind to make his appearance from his house, and see what he had to say about our new friend we had found in the desert, giving birth to one of their own.
The children scattered in all directions, then Desert Wind motioned for us to dismount and come to talk with him. He wasn’t too concerned for the well being of the young girl we had found, he was more interested in my firs and asked me if I wanted to trade. I made a sign to the young girl and asked him if we could leave her with him and his tribe, saying that I had no provision for a woman with a child. Desert Wind had seen Bob and his new outfit and asked me if he was a gunslinger. I chuckled a bit before I could tell him that I had bought the clothes with some firs I sold in town. Desert Wind wasn’t interested in the woman so much, as I tried to keep him on the subject of who would take care of her. One of his braves had taken a fir of a coyote I killed and showed Desert Wind that it was a fine one and that he wanted it.
Bob took his hand off of his Colt just as I was going to make him aware of the braves that would take him out in seconds, if he were to draw on the brave that took my fir. They most likely wouldn’t kill Bob, but instead take his clothes and mule and leave him to roam in the desert, after they had skinned him first.
Desert Wind saw the woman with child and motioned for me to take her to my house and watch over them. He said to me that her husband had been killed by the demon and she was not to be trusted anymore. He told me that his tribe was sacred and didn’t want them to be killed by the same demon that killed her husband. I learned that the demon was most likely some disease that had killed him and looked at the woman and tried to imagine how I would have to take care of her. The Mojave women took care of their own, and all I would have to do was make a place in my home for her. They made good farmers and most of the time they took their young with them to work, planting corn or potatoes.
Seeing that I had no other choice that Desert Wind left me, I gave the brave the fir he liked and offered another one to Desert Wind for the woman and child. After he had acknowledged that it was good, we left the encampment and moved across the desert back to my place. I was wondering what to call her, but instead I waited for her to speak and maybe tell me her name. She had no expression on her face all the time, and I figured that later she would begin to talk.
“What are we going to do Bob?” chuckled Trappy. “We, you’re the one who made the trade,” he answered back smiling. “So what are you going to do, run off to that gold mine of yours?” Trappy asked timidly. “Shoot Trappy, I figure I owe you more than that, don’t you think?” he replied willingly. “The way I figure is that winter is coming soon, she’s going to need more than a rabbit skin to cover her,” Trappy said as he chuckled. “She’s a beauty Trappy, ain’t no disputin that,” Bob told him with certainty. “Now you keep your eyes on the trail you here, she’s my woman now,” Trappy said as he smiled. Bob kept his promise to Trappy and rode ahead, so he wouldn’t look at his new bride, looking back now and then to see if they weren‘t trailing too far behind.
The baby never cried once, Trappy had to check to see if the youngen was still alive. His new bride covered him so well that he had to coax her into letting him pull the skins back to check to see that he was alright. “Looky there Bob, the little feller is doing alright,” Trappy said proudly. The woman pushed Trappy away from her baby and made a grunting sound, as if to tell him that he wasn’t aloud to do that. Trappy backed off and looked at Bob who was making good his promise and kept his lead, almost at the stone shack, where they would find a place for their new arrivals.
Trappy checked out the shack, opening the door slowly to see if there had been any intruders, making a home out of his place. Usually it was an occasional rattler, that would find its way inside and hide out in the corners, waiting for a rat or mouse to make a meal out of. Once he was content that nothing had been in his home, he led the woman who was carrying her baby into the shack, so she could have a look around.
She stood at the door, gazing at Trappy’s place, seemingly afraid to go any further inside. Trappy lit a candle and let her wander in to make a place for her and the baby, and get settled in. After a few minutes, she sat on the stool and didn’t make any sound, then Trappy went outside to help Bob gather some wood, enough for the winter that was coming soon. The snow would cover most of the place, making it hard for anyone who would want to come and find them. Bob knew that the word would be out soon, that he had made a claim in town. He kept thinking that it would be soon before he had to find the drifters and take back the mine that was his.
“I know what your thinking old timer,” Trappy mentioned. “I don’t want you to go off and get yourself killed,” he added. Bob didn’t say a word, he just kept searching the mountain for wood to use, wood to keep the woman and the baby warm. “Bob, I promise I’ll go and help you,” he begged. “I just want you to wait until winter is over you see,” he pleaded. “Now Trappy, you got yourself two youngens to look after,” he told him. “You don’t need to get yourself all wrapped up in my fightin,” he explained. “Shoot, by the time the snow melts, we both can track em’ and then take what is yours,” he said with a chuckle. “By the way, the first snow will cover most of the mine, they’ll be trapped if they don’t get out of there,” he mentioned to him. “Ok Trappy, but I promise, I’m going after them, first sign of spring,” Bob warned him. “Now your thinking like a trapper,” he chuckled.
The days were getting shorter, the nights cooling to lower temperatures and they waited for the snow to fall. As the sky turned darker, with more clouds covering them. They kept stacking the wood, the wood they would need to keep them from freezing. She kept herself away from them, staying close to the stove, cooking for them daily. With the baby by her breast, she never spoke a word, occasionally leaving the stone shack to do her business.
Late Autumn was closing and the winds were picking up more than normal in the desert. Bob looked down on the desert floor, gazing at the vastness and smelling the sage covered air. Two rabbits would be enough for supper he thought to himself and would take them to the Indian woman for her to cook up. There was enough supply of beans to supplement the meat and no one would starve during the harsh winter.
He had made himself a small hutch, enough space for himself and his saddle. There it stood just away from the stone shack, far enough away for him to sleep, incase the baby decided to cry.
Trappy saw the snow flakes coming down, and fall onto the earth. A blanket of white covered the shack in just a few minutes and started to pile up fast on the trees. Winter was on them, and they were ready to huddle in, and wait. A day had passed and the desert turned to white, and the cold started to set in.
Smoke poured out from the pipe that he made, the fire burned inside the stove. Bob stayed quiet and stared at a coyote that was searching for food. An eagle soared above them, and flew away from sight in less than seconds. The trees harbored the flakes of snow, that hung heavy on their branches, falling from the weight as it piled on top of them.
The tracks they made, were covered quickly by more falling snow, as they wandered through the mountain searching for more rabbits. Two mule deer stared in trance, and stood motionless as they trudged by them, knowing they were no threat, as they slowly passed them by.
The two of them checked the traps and set more for the following days. The desert below was invisible now, with clouds hovering over it. Bob knew it would be a long winter and kept himself from thinking of the gold. As they approached the stone shack, a woman’s voice was heard singing, the first they heard since they met her. Bob took the mule and rode further up the mountain, getting away from the thoughts of having to kill again.
He saw two riders coming into view, their firs making it hard for him to see who it was at a distance. The spears gave a clue that it was the Mojaves that came to hunt for food. Bob stayed out of view and watched them coming closer up the mountain. His mule standing still, with his ears moving from side to side, listening to the mountain and what it contained in it. The silence made it hard for him to stay where he was, and continued up the steep slopes, to a better place where he could see them.
One was Desert Wind, dressed in the skin of the wolf, his feathers dancing as he rode closer and looking around from all angles. The other brave stayed behind, watching where they had been, following the lead of Desert Wind, with his bow ready to kill. Bob watched them both for awhile and waited until they came closer to him, before he let off a round from his Colt, to let them know that he was out hunting. He could see the two Mojave searching the mountain for any signs of him. Bob knew that he would have to show himself sooner or later, or they would think that he was stalking them. He followed the tracks in the snow, to where he was before and stood close to the trees.
It was Desert Wind who saw Bob, and held up his hand to greet him. Bob waived his hand back to him and they came closer in. They saw the rabbits hanging from the mule, and gave interest in them. Bob motioned for them to take one, but Desert Wind refused, thanking him in return. The brave with Desert Wind asked how the woman and her baby were doing and wondered how she was getting along. Bob explained to the two Mojave that they were both doing very well. Desert Wind told him that is was good, that the white man had good medicine and turned their mounts toward the steep slopes and started climbing up them.
Bob and his mule left the spot where they had met, and went down the mountain to the stone shack, and tell Trappy what he had seen. The two rabbits would make a good supper with the beans he had, and then they could talk more about the mine.
The reddish color of the sun’s reflection against the snow, looked beautiful on the desert floor. Bob could see Trappy outside the shack, making something from the pieces of limbs they had cut for fire. There was no sign of the woman, who he looked for and thought to himself that she was inside tending to her baby. Trappy looked up and saw Bob coming on his mule and waived him over to come a see what he was making. He had wanted to let the woman free of the baby from her breasts and was fashioning a crib for him to sleep in.
“Hey there old timer, find anything?” he asked him with a chuckle. “Sure did, come across Desert Wind and one of his braves out hunting,” he said. “Surprised to see them, didn’t think they would ever come to these parts,” he added. “I’ll bet you were, usually they don’t come around here until summer,” Trappy confessed willingly. “Say what they wanted?” he asked. “Just wanted to know about the woman and the baby,” he told him. “I said they were fine, then they took off up the mountain, looked back and then they were gone,” he said again.
Trappy pointed to the crib he was making, and had a smile on his face, waiting for Bob’s approval. Bob nodded his head and told him he never thought of him becoming a father figure, especially after the many years of solitude and trapping. Trappy smiled at him and told Bob that he never would have thought of that himself and picked up the crib to take it inside the stone shack to show his woman what he had made for her. ]
They both went inside to see the woman sitting on the stool, making a pot of coffee and preparing the rabbit for supper. Trappy tried to take a peak at the baby, but the woman had turned her body away, so he couldn’t have a look at him. “She’ll come around soon enough Trappy,” Bob told him with a smile. “Yeah, but when, I just wanted to see the little feller,” he replied.
Trappy set the crib down on the floor of the shack, then stood back and waited to see what the woman would do. She sat there on the stool, cradling her baby, never saying a word, and just looking at the crib with curiosity. Trappy nudged the crib a little to show her how it rocked back and forth, then smiled at her and waited to see if she would like it. “Maybe you should line it with a couple of firs first Trappy,” Bob suggested. “Yeah sure, good idea Bob,” he agreed.
They both took a cup of the coffee from the fire and sat down to see if the woman would get the idea of putting her baby down so she could be free for awhile. “Trappy, you think maybe you should name the woman?” Bob asked him. “I dunno Bob, I gave it some thought, but it kinda went away,” he confessed.
Trappy combed his beard with his hand and fingers, then scratched at his head and looked around the shack, trying to figure out what a good name for the woman would be. He turned and looked at Bob and told him he should think of something. Bob laughed and shook his head and told Trappy that it was his job and couldn’t help but laugh at him. Bob tried to keep a straight face, but every time he looked at Trappy, he just busted up laughing. Trappy couldn’t see the humor in it all, and just sat back staring at his woman. He tried feverishly to pry the baby from her arms and put him down inside the crib he made, but it was no use, she held on to him tight and made her grunting sounds, kicking at him every time he got near her and the baby.
“Trappy, how about Sage?” “Bob asked him smiling. Trappy’s eyes lit up and looked at him, as if he had just made his whole day, forgetting the labor he put into the crib and trying to get Sage to put her baby down. Trappy hugged Bob and told him he had good, and kept saying her new name over and over again, delighted in all his ecstasy.
She stared at the crib for the rest of the day, sitting on the stool, with the baby on her breast, thinking if it would be a good idea to at least try out her man’s creation. With her foot, she nudged the corner of it and watched it sway back and forth, over and over she kept on with her foot, watching the crib, until she stood up and moved the firs aside, then placing her baby inside the crib, she saw how much easier it was to move around the shack. Keeping a careful eye on the crib and her baby, she was able to make coffee much easier and felt a greater sense of freedom, as she was able to stretch out her arms and straighten up her back.
The crib rocked back and forth the rest of the day, as she sipped her coffee and saw how much better it was to have her baby resting, sound asleep. “See that Bob, I made that there crib,” Trapp said proudly. Sage smiled whenever Trappy said her name, as if she had it with her all along. Never knowing what her real name was, it didn’t matter anymore, now that they were all getting used to her fully dressed and the baby resting in peace.
The smoke poured out from the stove into the grey outside. Winter was in full bloom now and the four of them, stayed close to the stone shack whenever they were not hunting for food. Bob and Trappy were amazed at the freedom Sage now had, and watched her hunt for rabbits without a gun or bow. She was an expert at throwing stones and as accurate as any pistol. We let Sage do most of the cooking and would watch her closely, to make sure she didn’t venture too far from the shack and its surrounding. Although Trappy was right, she probably knew the desert better than we did and had no problem finding her way back home.
At night, we made sure each one took turns fueling the fire, making sure the shack stayed warm for the baby. Trappy kept us entertained with the songs he had learned as a boy, and Sage and I looked at each other every time he hit a high note and laughed with him as he chuckled. Trappy and I heard Sage sing before, and we tried to get her to sing the song we first heard her sing the day we came home from hunting. She had sung for us awhile one night, and we listened as she told a story with her native words. I wanted real bad to understand what she was saying to us in her song, but the melody was enough to hear her voice, as it had been so long before we were able to hear her speak at all.
When I had seen that they were tired and ready for bed, I left the stone shack and went inside my hutch to sleep for the night. The hutch was comfortable and there was enough room for me to stretch out, I made sure I had enough wood for a night and made good fire to keep me warm. Most of the time I kept myself thinking of how I was going to catch up with the drifters, who had left me for dead, and waited for the signs of spring.
I saw Desert Wind, crossing over the desert floor with one of his braves. They had not come to the mountain, like the times before. I figured if he wanted to come up to us, he would have by now. We were lucky to have the Mojaves share their hunting grounds with us, and made good trades with them to let them know that we were grateful for them doing so. I kept thinking of how I was going to tell him, that I had found gold on his land, and wasn’t sure if I was ready to say anything at all. My mind kept thinking of what they would do to me, if they found out without me telling and decided to confront Desert Wind and say what I had found. There was enough gold in that mine to make each one of us rich, especially if we divided it equally. I had enough already to last me a lifetime and thought it would be good to share it with my friends.
I knew the drifters would have a hard time, especially with the deep snow in finding the mine, they probably knew nothing about mining in the first time, which would give me plenty of time to catch up with them and give them what they deserve. I kept up with my shooting skills and even Trappy commented to me that a man would have to be crazy to draw on me, especially now that I was shooting from the hip, hitting my target precisely.
I sat out on a rock one morning, watching a deer come into our encampment. She searched mostly for fresh bush to feed on, and I could see that she was a young one, I wanted to take aim and shoot, but I just kept staring at her and watching her, not aware that I was there at all. She still had her spots which told me she was young, and I figured the mother would be close by. I waited in silence, hoping to get a glimpse of her and sat back on the rock sipping my coffee. The door of the stone shack opened up and the creaking of the hinge had spooked the young fold. It was Sage, coming out for her stretch and getting the fresh air of the morning. I stayed quiet and watched her for a moment until she saw me and came to with me good morning.
I was getting used to her language, and by the tones of her voice, I could almost hear what she was saying to me. She spoke quietly and softly, and I never heard her raise her voice, even in her song. She was gathering stones to use for hunting and I just watched her, thinking of that day we had found her in the bush, dying of thirst and in labor. It was Lamplight that found her, and we were glad she did, even though Trappy and I were good friends, it was good to have a woman around. I could sense us becoming a family.
I thought hard and started wondering if I shouldn’t leave them alone. They had themselves each other and I was beginning to think that maybe I was just another mouth to feed. I thought that I could leave when the night fell, and they would be asleep. Then reality hit me hard as I began to think of how Trappy found me. I never knew where he had taken me and wasn’t familiar with the desert, especially in winter. I knew I was 13 miles from the mine, but I had no sense of direction. It would be impossible for me to find the entrance, with the snow covering over it. I would most likely have gotten myself tied up by the drifter again, or maybe Desert Wind, if he knew I was keeping a secret from him.
Trappy was right, we would catch up to them in spring, and let them have it. Then I could fetch the rest of the gold and divvy it up with everybody. I took aim with my Colt and shot a pine cone from the branch it was hanging on and Trappy came running out from the shack to see what had happened. He chuckled at me and then I saw Sage running back inside.
“Going stir crazy are ya?” Trappy asked smiling. “I guess you can say that,” I replied as I checked my gun. “Hang in there old timer, spring is just around the corner,” he commented.
I knew Trappy was ready, as ready as I was, to go and find the drifters. He could tell I was getting tired of waiting and could sense that I may want to do something crazy. I had to tell him not to worry, that I was just getting in some practice. He laughed at me and told me to save my bullets, that I would need them when the day would come, and I had hoped that it would come soon.
After the last snow fell, I could sense a feeling of freshness come over my entire body. The cold water that flowed down the mountain from the melting snow, told me that Spring was here.
I saw Desert Wind again, he and a brave were out hunting for wild boar. More of a sport for them, than for food, they chased the boar on foot. Desert Wind, not much older than I, was in good shape for his age, and I could see him outrun the younger brave that was with him. He launched his spear into the boar, taking it down as he ran straight toward it. I could see the animal falling to its knees, on its last breath, before it let out a snort from its nose, then expired. Desert Wind raising his hands over his head in
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