Sunday, December 30, 2012

New (to me) Kawasaki KLR 650. Bought it today!

Well, I just got home with a new (to me) 2011 Kawasaki KLR 650 with only 680 miles on the odometer.

I've been looking to get another dual sport bike since my BMW R1150GS deserted me.

After researching several bikes in the DS class, I ended up wanting a KLR.

Now, where to get one? I scoured all of the usual sites: Craigslist, eBay, CycleTrader, etc.

I found a couple that looked interesting and settled on a newer one, a 2011 KLR650 in Silver/Orange with only 680 miles on the odometer...barely broken in! 

The previous owner had added Happy Trails nerf bars, MX pegs, an aluminum bash plate, Acerbis handguards and a Kawasaki rear carrier.  Not too shabby.

I paid for it, went by AAA to register it and enjoyed a nice ride home on the I-15. The bike sounds like a VW but rolls down the asphalt well.  Now to get her out in the sand...

On a related note, it appears I'll be liquidating some guitars as mama says if another toy comes in, something is going out.  Good-bye Les Paul and Telecaster!

More to follow...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Should stranded adventurers pay for their own rescues?

Many of us go “off the grid” often enough that we buy GPS tracking devices or Personal Locating Beacons (PLBs) to let family, friends and potential rescuers know where we are.  I own and use a Spot GPS tracker. 

Some of us purchase insurance specifically tailored for adventuring souls who may require air extraction or emergency services and want to avoids the very costly bills of such misadventures.

However, some folks think that the rescuees should foot more of the bill…it was, after all, the adventurer who put themselves into the predicament to begin with.

Well, whether it’s over land or sea, desert or mountains, the question is asked: Should stranded adventurers pay for their own rescues?  Here's a recent article that sheds some light on the issue.

Should stranded adventurers pay for own rescue?

Some states are considering billing victims for back-country rescues. But one group warns that the policy may discourage people from getting help.

By Bruce Kennedy/MSN 12/26/2012

The blogosphere is afire with praise for an in-depth and amazing multimedia report by the New York Times about the world-class skiers who were caught up in a deadly avalanche last winter in Washington state.

The report focuses on the perils facing skiers who go into the unmonitored back country. It also coincides with news that several states -- including those where skiing, hiking and other outdoor recreation are big business -- are considering legislation to bill victims of back-country mishaps for some rescue operations.

Lawmakers in Wyoming are considering a bill that would let local law enforcement charge for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions in cases where they believe the victims put themselves into harm’s way.

The legislation came after an incident last winter: a $14,000 operation to rescue three snowmobilers trapped in a mountain pass. When state officials asked the snowmobilers to help pay for some of the costs of their rescue, the three hired an attorney -- who questioned if the state had the authority to ask for such a payment.

In response, the proposed measure would let rescue payments "be left up to the discretion of the sheriff (involved)," Wyoming representative Keith Gingery, the bill’s sponsor, told the Jackson Hole News and Guide. "They'll say which ones are victims or whether someone may have contributed to the situation."

If the measure is passed, Wyoming would join a growing list of states and counties that allow some sort of fee for search-and-rescue operations. 

"If you’re getting rescued, there should be an expectation you’re going to participate in the cost of that rescue," New Hampshire senate Republican leader Jeb Bradley said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Lawmakers are hoping these fees will not only help fund local SAR operations, but encourage adventurers to be more cautious in back country areas.

Colorado has a "Corsair" card that residents and visitors can purchase for $3 a year or $12 for five years. says that by purchasing the card, "you are contributing to the (state’s) Search and Rescue Fund, which will reimburse these teams for costs incurred in your search and rescue.” But it also warns the card is not insurance, nor does it pay for medical transport.

Grand County, Utah, meanwhile, lists a sliding scale of fees on its website for SAR operations -- with collectable costs anywhere from $250 for a small incident, classified as taking less than three hours with six or fewer responders, to $750 dollars for a "large incident" requiring more than three hours with seven or more responders. Those fees do not include extras like helicopter rental, fuel costs and any damage to equipment.
But the idea of billing the victims of outdoor adventures also has its opponents.

In an online position statement, the National Association for Search and Rescue worries that some victims in life-threatening situations may put money concerns over safety and decline to contact potential rescuers.

"A perceived or actual belief that the subject of a SAR mission will be billed for the lifesaving actions undertaken on their behalf must not delay or interfere with a timely call for help," the statement notes. 

"Delays can place SAR personnel in extreme danger and unnecessarily compound and extend the length of the SAR mission," the statement adds. "Because of these factors, and to eliminate the fear of being unable to pay for having one’s life saved, SAR services should be rendered to persons in danger or distress without subsequent cost recovery from the person(s) assisted unless prior arrangements have been made."

Here are some comments:

"People should absolutely be bearing the cost of their rescues from the back country.  Taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay for other people to risk their lives having a good time.  Once you decide to explore off marked trails, you should expect to own the risk associated with your adventures.  I like the idea of some sort of insurance program to cover the SAR costs - then you can share the risk with your fellow adventurers.  Note that I say this as an avid hiker myself."
"Insurance was invented to address risk - life, health, property, etc.,  If an individual decides they wish to engage in activities that have inherent risks then they need to protect themselves, their family and their assets should a risk associated with the activity be realized.  Hence, require individuals to have insurance and if they don't they will get billed for services just like if they did not have health insurance and they required medical attention.  YES - they should be prepared to pay for such services."
So, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Loneliest Road in America: Riding Highway 50

America’s Backbone, that's what they call Highway 50. 
It stretches more than 3,000 miles from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California. 

I spent 3 days riding about 1,500 miles round-trip from San Diego to Ely, Nevada to Reno, down to Bishop, California and back to San Diego.  "Just in case," I ordered a Highway 50 Survival Kit listing historical sites, rest areas and, most importantly, gas stops.
The Nevada portion (Highway 50) — referred to as the Loneliest Road in America — roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail, going from Silver Springs through Fallon on its way to Reno. 

Check out this description: “Remnants of the Pony Express Route are visible for much of the way. Stretching the width of Nevada, Highway 50 is a fascinating scenic and historic corridor through a land seemingly untouched by man. The road travels through snow-mantled mountains that reach summits of more than 11,000 feet.”

That sounds pretty cool, right?

I mean, how can you NOT like a place that was described by the AAA in these words: "It's totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don't recommend it. We warn all motorists not to drive there unless they're confident of their survival skills."

That kind of place was made for me!

SpotWalla GPS Track:

I saw a lot of pretty scenery on the route of mainly backroads I chose, as many ghost towns and historic mining towns were found along the way.

A few of the unusual sites I saw are the Hickison Summit petroglyphs, Grimes Point pictographs, Charcoal Ovens State Park and the singing dunes of Sand Mountain.  And there are a bunch of other cool places to see along the way -- Lake Lahontan outside of Silver Springs, the missile bunkers near Fallon, and miles and miles of nuthin' but lonely roads.

Like some of you may know, I’ve had a few mechanical issues in the recent past.  My motorcycles have left me high and dry in the middle of nowhere (Triumph twice, BMW once).  My motorcycling mojo was gone.  I was frustrated and just about ready to throw in the towel.  Maybe long-distance motorcycling just wasn’t for me.
Before I took up another hobby (underwater basket weaving was an option), I planned one more “test” ride, to see if motorcycling—a pastime I enjoy so much, was something I would continue doing.
I remembered a ride that would fit the bill.  A highway out in the middle of nowhere.  What would be better than getting out and putting my bike to the test? Hmmm.
My mind started working. What if…Could I?...I had some time off available and thought I’d make it a long weekend of riding.

Here is the ride report:

  Day 1: San Diego to Ely, NV


About 570 miles of easy riding today.
The I-15 is nothing but a fast burn from San Berdoo to Barstow to Baker. Nothing to see here, folks. Get your gas and move along. I kept the speed between 70 and 75 most of the way, but there was a sweet spot at 80. Not much traffic.
The weather was brisk the entire way. It was foggy and misty over the Cleghorn Pass but no rain otherwise. It was 70 degrees when I rode through Las Vegas at 10:30 am.
I dropped onto the 93 North off of the 15 a bit past Vegas. What a cool, straight road through the high desert that is. A rider could, if he was so inclined, ride "hands free" for 13.5 miles. Longer really, but it gets boring after that. Ask me how I know.
A gas station clerk in Alamo, Nevada warned me to watch out for the snow. I asked him if it had been snowing. "No, but you should be careful, anyhow." Sage advice. I did see snow at the 7,000' level. It was a bit chillier, too. But my gear did fine so I was OK.
Speaking of gear: I wore my Triumph Acton jacket and over-pants. They're tough, waterproof, warm and have protective armor built in. My Sidi Canyon Gore-Tex boots and Road Gear "Boss" gloves were also warm and comfortable. The Nolan N-102 helmet with Cardo-Scala Bluetooth was perfect and provided me with some rockin' road tunes courtesy of the (140) MP3s in my Garmin Zumo GPS.

My big Triumph is purring like a kitten. A really big kitten.

I listened to some melancholy music today.  

·         Johnny Cash: Understand Your Man;
·         Bob Dylan: Going to Acapulco;
·         Bob Seger: Travelin Man/Beautiful Loser;
·         David Allan Coe: Long Haired Country Boy;
·         John Hartford: Gentle on my Mind;
·         Dickey Betts and the Allman Brothers:
·         Ramblin Man;
·         Jackson Brown: These Days;
·         Tom Waits: Old '55;
·         Jamey Johnson: In Color.

Now, THOSE are some road tunes.

I settled into the funky (and apparently historic) Hotel Nevada at 3 pm after a 571 mile ride.

Ely ("Ee-lee"), right on Highway 50, sits at about 6,200' and looks like it may get some snow tonight. We'll see.

Day 2: Ely, NV to Bishop, CA

This turned out to be a great day of riding! Just under 500 miles (with only 350 planned). No snow, no rain, just sunny, cold skies.

I would love to tell you that I saw lot of interesting stuff but it was not much more than high desert scrub brush and miles of lonely back roads. And I love that.

I left Ely at 7 am on a beautiful clear, crisp morning. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and it was a brisk 46 degrees. Lovely riding weather. I passed exactly one car between Ely and Eureka. I stopped in for breakfast at a local diner/casino where the locals proved that Eureka is indeed the "friendliest town on the loneliest road."

A couple guys stopped and asked me about my Triumph and told me about their bikes. This is something I enjoy the most about riding through the US--talking to the locals. I never fail to learn something new about a town from the good folks who stop by to chat and discuss motorcycles.

I realized quickly that most of today's ride would be above the 6,000' level. I never lost sight of the tall, snow-covered mountains to my front and sides. I skirted those beautiful mountains all day...and believe me, I felt their presence.

I saw the foundations of long-deserted dwellings on my way to Austin. Some were marked as historical; others just stood sadly by the side of the road. What they might've been is anyone's guess.

About 20 miles east of Austin I pulled off to see the Hickison petroglyphs. There's a small, unhosted site 1/2 mile off the highway down a gravel road (motorcycles be warned). Really not too much to see as the pictographs are faded and the petroglyphs are pretty much worn off.

The UFO carved into the sandstone was as amusing as it was distasteful. That was an interesting 15 minutes.

I gassed up in Austin and received my one and only stamp in my Highway 50 Survival Guide from a nice young lady at the Chevron there.

As I was leaving she ran out and asked if I was continuing west. When I confirmed that I was, she warned me to watch for black ice on the New Pass, a location that rarely sees sunlight. Very kind of her to pass along that info.

I had been told of a bypass shortly after Austin -- the 722. I decided to stay on the 50 and soak up as much loneliness as I could stand. I didn't see anything too exciting, though. Maybe the 722 would have been a better idea. Next time...

Again, nothing too exciting between Austin and Fallon. I passed by Sand Mountain but didn't hear the Singing Sands. Maybe they rest their vocal chords on Sundays?

Fallon was by far the biggest of the towns on the 50 thus far. It appeared to be a booming metropolis of cowboys and ranchers. I think I even saw a Wal-Mart.
I continued on to Dayton where the speed limits are artificially low. Try driving 25 MPH for 5 miles. I guess towns are trying to boost their revenues in tough times but I don't like it. Caravans of slow-moving vehicles looked on as other drivers were being targeted in speed traps along Dayton's streets. No good.

From there I reached Carson City in no time. The wind was blowing and the air was chilly. My Aerostich heated vest kept me warm the whole ride...though my toes were a bit cold.

Once I arrived to Carson City I decided I was way too early to check in to a hotel. And I still wanted to ride some more. So I continued on the 50, then turned south on the 395 and rode 200 miles to Bishop. Brrrrr! It gets cold above 8,000 feet.

There was a slew of signs warning of icy/slippery roads. And I saw two snow plows coming down the hill. Well, the road wasn't closed yet so off I went. I have always loved snow in the pines and it smelled great as I zipped over the passes. My tires got a little squirrelly on some ice/gravel/snow but nothing major. Out of Nevada and back into CommieFornia.

I arrived to Bishop at 5:30, just as it was getting dark. I found a hotel with parking right in front of my room and called it a day. That makes for a much shorter ride home tomorrow.

All in all it was a fine day of riding. Some may not enjoy the monotony of a road like the 50, but I just loved it. I listened to my music, sorted out the thoughts in my head and soaked up the high desert scenery. Lovely. Just lovely.

Here is a selection of the tunes I enjoyed today:

·         Sleeping Monkey: Phish
·         The Window: Steve Miller
·         Every day is like Sunday: Morrissey
·         24 hours at a Time: Marshall Tucker
·         I want to go to the Sun: Peter Frampton
·         6 days on the Road: Dave Dudley
·         Back home Again: The Mahones
·         And a mess of old blues (RL Burnside, Johnny Copeland, Son Seals, Melvin Taylor)
Day 3: Bishop to San Diego
I rolled out of Bishop at 7:45 am under brisk weather and sunny skies -- just the way I like it! There was no snow overnight, as was predicted, and it looked like it was going to be a perfect finish to a really good ride. (SPOILER ALERT: It was!)
The 395 winds its way north-south somewhere between the I-15 and I-5. It follows the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, though I didn’t see the elevation that I did yesterday.
Not unlike Highway 50, this portion of US Route 395 is high desert with lots of the same mountains, scrub brush and nothingness.
I passed right through Big Pine and Lone Pine. All sorts of pines, actually.
Fun fact: Lone Pine is noted as an access for both the highest point in the contiguous US (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point in North America (Death Valley). Mount Whitney and the mountains surrounding Death Valley are visible from the 395.

I kept seeing signs for Death Valley, 100 miles to the east. Not today, thank you very much.

On I rode past Independence, then through the sad little town of Johannesburg. That place should be listed as a ghost town.

After riding 178 miles, I stopped at 395/58 crossroad (named “Kramer Junction”) and gassed up; it was the last time I would need fuel today. Yes, my bladder is the same size as my gas tank...
In no time flat I had reached San Berdoo and was on the I-215 (that feeds into the I-15). We’ve discussed THAT highway, so you know it’s nothing but a high-speed contest where-as the residents of LA try to get back to their homes as quickly and dangerously as possible. There are some seriously bad drivers out that way!
From Kramer Junction to San Diego it was 176 miles of hot asphalt. Nothing spectacular to speak of. For some reason, I was listening to instrumental tunes on my MP3 player today. Here are a few for your enjoyment:
  • Watermelon in Easter Hay: Frank Zappa
  • Cliffs of Dover: Eric Johnson
  • Last Date: Floyd Kramer
  • Theme from Endless Summer: The Ventures
  • Black Star: Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Guitar Boogie: Arthur Smith
  • Chitlins con Carne: Melvin Taylor

My Triumph performed flawlessly. The big girl was smooth and comfortable and just perfect for this little road trip. Today's mileage was 356 miles, for a total of about 1450 miles overall. Not bad for a little 3-day ride.

To wrap up this ride report on Highway 50: The Loneliest Road in America, I’ll say that it’s a fine road for those who enjoy the high desert and old west. There aren’t a lot of entertaining sights but there are a whole lot of friendly people.
While Highway 50 stretches all across the US, I highly recommend the portion that crosses Nevada.
I did it late in the year…maybe November is too late. But I enjoy cool weather riding. Much more than hot weather! I'd guess that July or August would be hot.

Dress appropriately, see the sights and make sure your bike (and YOU) are in good shape. Because there ain’t nobody gonna go get you if something happens to either of you in the middle of nowhere.

Stay safe, my friends.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wanted More Dead Than Alive

For those who enjoy the gunslinging cowboys of the Old West, here's a short story I recently put together.  It's an idea that's been rolling around my head for a while now and I decided to put it in writing.  Enjoy.
Wanted More Dead Than Alive
The leather was wet on the outside and mostly dry underneath and smelled bad all over. He felt none of it, though. He felt nothing but tight anger and the need for revenge, hot and fast.
He was scanning the landscape behind him for the posse, or what was left of it. There shouldn’t be anyone left following him after the dust-up he gave them the night before, but the two brothers were tenacious and mad and wouldn’t be turning back anytime soon.
He shifted in the saddle and looked ahead. His horse raised its head and went back to chewing the dry grass.
The high desert was quiet but for the chewing and his thoughts.
Gonna need water soon, he thought. And a doctor.
Okay, let’s get going.
Boot heels dug into the horse’s side and he headed away with the sunrise in his eyes, away from the angry brothers and his dead friend.
The dew was gone and the sun was up.
Gonna be hot today. Damn.
About noon.
A gunshot, and another. Silence.
The rifle’s report was far behind him, but not far enough.
The dried blood had caked into his leathers and it didn’t hurt. No feeling from the wounds in his side and leg.
We need water soon. This is no good.
Two more shots, fast, then another.
Not getting any closer. What’d they run into?
No sign of other riders for days. Shouldn’t be Indians – not the ones to be concerned about, anyhow.
Let’s make some time.
Shadows, Smoke.
Up ahead he could see the smoke from a fire. Afternoon shadows coming. Too early for a campfire.
The rider thought about moving around to avoid whatever was causing the smoke. Putting space between himself and others would be best. But he rarely did what was best.
The need for water led him to urge the horse northeast, toward the smoke.
In his head, as he rode, the rider counted the rounds he carried. Six in the Colt on his hip, fourteen on his belt. There were seven in his rifle, including the chambered round, and a box containing eight more in his left saddlebag. That bag also contained a handful of loose rounds he had taken from his dead partner; six for the pistol and twelve or thirteen for the Winchester. He thought as he rode – was it twelve or thirteen?
Twelve or thirteen…
Over the next hill he would see the burning wagons and the dead horses and the dead men. And women and two children. But he wasn’t thinking about those things now. He was looking at the landscape and determining the best vantage point – where he would come onto the scene with the best chance of not being shot again.
The rider circled around the hill and the debris came into view. The tracks leading away told him that whoever or whatever did this were long gone. He walked his horse among the broken belongings and smoldering corpses until he saw the canteens. Looking behind him, he dismounted and kicked the water carrier away from an old man. The dead man looked as if he meant to take a drink as he was killed and had died with a surprised expression on his old face.
It was dead still and quiet but for the fire eating up the rest of the wagon. Turning, he saw the old banjo, still smoking; a string popped. Drinking deeply, surveying the scene, guessing at how it happened. The water in the canteen was hot and he finished it. These were not local Indians; not Mexicans, either. Who did this? Pulling a small keg of water from under the burning heap, he poured the contents into a shallow pan; his horse sniffed at the water and drank it quickly, overturning the pan. The noise of the old pan against the hot sand and the burning wood the only sounds except the movement in the brush.
The Colt was out and pushed before him as he walked toward the dying boy.
Get out here, come on.
He heard the shallow breathing and slow movement across the sand.
Come on, let’s go.
He was not more than 16, 15 maybe, and shot in two or three places. His eyes looked at the ground as he pulled himself toward the man and his pistol.
The man holstered the gun and moved closer to the boy, looking for others. His horse stood quietly and watched.
Who did this, boy?
A low groan and a gurgle of blood. Shot through a lung for sure.
Who did this?
Not looking up, the boy rested on his forearms.
Men. Four or five. White, mostly. Came out from behind the hill there. Started shooting right off. Killed my pa and sister. I was in the wagon when I got shot. Shot again running out that way.
He motioned to the brush with his head, the blood in his hair dried.
They left. I thought I was dead.
You are, boy. You are.
I know it.
Can’t give my water to a dead man. What do you want to do?
Bring me to my sister. Let me see her.
OK, boy.
But he was already dead and they both knew it.
Another draw from the last canteen and the man climbed into the saddle. Another look around and he urged the horse on, following the tracks.
It was two hours before sundown and the desert would be hot for a while.
The rider thought of this and the men ahead of him. And the two behind him.
He made for the low brush, guiding the horse south, southeast. He’d meet up with the group tomorrow, maybe tomorrow afternoon, depending.
The wounds throbbed but were no longer bleeding. The water had cleared his thoughts and he considered his situation.
I need a doc soon.
First he intended to find the men responsible for killing his friend.
The horse negotiated the rocks and brush as the light went away. They would be moving for a few more hours; the rider settled in and let the horse take him across the cooling high desert.
It was two hours past dark when the rider stopped.
This place is as good as any.
He surveyed the scene and threw his roll on the ground. He was asleep in a matter of moments.
The rider dreamed of a home in Wyoming. It was quiet there and the wind blew miles of tall, golden grass over the hills. His back was to a small home that he built with his brother. There was a woman and a boy there, too. Elk and sheep would drink from a creek nearby. In the dream, he could not turn to see the woman or the boy. He felt their presence — he knew that they were behind him — but could not see them.
It was dark and cold when he awoke thinking of the small home and the woman.
Time to go.
A violent day
The rider smelled the smoke before he saw it. A small campfire, carelessly left burning. He was close behind the men; he knew it, they knew it. He glanced at the smoldering fire as we went by. It smelled of sick and he knew they were dying.
The tracks led southeast, following alongside the hills. Plenty of places to hide up there. A rifle could find him at this distance but he was not worried; the men didn’t have the strength to climb those hills.
He saw them before noon. One leading a horse along the scrub brush, the other on the ground leaning against a saddle. The man walking the horse looked at the rider over his shoulder as he continued. The rider dismounted and drew the Winchester from its carrier. He walked into the shade of a mesquite and placed a bead on the walking man. The horse flinched and stopped as the man dropped to the ground. Chambering another round, the rider shot the man again, this time between the shoulder blades. The horse nudged the lifeless body and turned to eat the dried grass.
The rider loaded two rounds into the rifle, picked up the ejected shells and replaced the rifle. Leading the horse slowly toward the man on the ground, the rider thought of the two men not as human but as varmints, troublesome, undesirable animals that didn’t know any better but that needed killing all the same. The man on the ground said nothing as he glared at the approaching killer.
The rider drew his pistol and walked to the dying man.
That was my brother.
I know it.
Well, get it over with.
Where’s the gun you took in Deming?
The gun…
The gun. You took it from a friend of mine in Deming. You and your brother there killed him.
Your friend. Is that why you’re here?
I’ll ask you again…
Zeke has it.

He motioned with his head toward the dead man.
The rider shot him in the chest as he walked past.
The man gurgled as his head dropped.
That was a waste of a bullet.
The rider recouped the gun— a pistol his father had given him— from the corpse. It was empty and it was clear that the two brothers had been left with no ammunition and no fight. The rider went through their clothes and saddlebags until he found the small photograph. A woman and a boy standing in front of a small frame home. Theletters were there, as well, and the rider wondered at the reason the two had taken them. He placed the tattered packet in his pocket, the last remnant of a life long gone. He surveyed the site, whistled to the horse, and rode away, back toward what was left of the pursuing posse. He’d killed two brothers and would have to face two more before dark.
Before dark
He’d heard occasional gunfire throughout the day, never close enough for concern. Mostly from the west, but a spirited medley had come from the south earlier then stopped abruptly. Those were likely local Indians or the group of men who had attacked the travelers. Maybe both.
I need a doc. I need water. These horses need water.
The rider was growing weaker in the hot sun. His horse and the one following were still walking well but would not last long without water. He turned to the south to make for a patch of trees on the horizon. If there was no water, it would be cool enough to rest and wait.
As he neared the trees he could see that a small plank homestead sat in the middle of a dirt field on the edge of the trees. There was a well and a pump nearby. A mule stood among some scratch chickens and stared blankly as he approached.
Circling the home, the rider saw the three horses tied at the rear.
A woman walked slowly from the front of the home. Of course they were inside.
Please…they’ll kill my two young ones.
How many are in there?
He watched the windows as she spoke.
Two of them. They have my girl, my boy. My uncle…they hurt him bad. He’s in there with them.
Go back inside.
The rider continued riding until he reached the tree line. He dismounted and surveyed the back of the home from the shade of the trees. The horses drank deeply from a small trench, what was left of a once larger pond. His wounds burned as they pulled away from his shirt. His leg throbbed where the bullet had torn away the flesh. The leather from his chaps had fused with the healing wound and was ugly to look at.
A round fired from a rifle came from the side of the home. The rider looked up briefly, then back to the wound at his side. The gunfire was of no concern to him at this range – the injuries to his side and leg were more pressing.
He would shoot the horses if the men tried to flee and would wait until dark to go in after them.
Another shot went wild and to his left, into the trees. The horses looked up, then returned to drinking from the muddy pit.
The rider filled his canteen with murky water and drank: I guess I’ll take some of that.
He stared at the small home and assessed the situation. He considered the children and woman inside and expected them to get caught up in the killing.
He drank more of the tepid water and contemplated his options. It would be dark in two hours. He would rest for a moment and go in after them.
He awoke to the sound of horses nearby. Two men were talking quietly. The Colt was drawn and pointed into the darkness as he listened. The voices continued quietly as they moved away from his position. He watched as two men moved toward the horses at the rear of the home.
He watched as gunfire from the home dropped one of the men. The other ran back as gunfire was returned from the side of the tree line. That would be three, maybe four others. Two figures ran from the side of the home and were unhitching the horses when fire erupted from the men in the tree line. One man running from the home fell to the side as the other rode into the night.
I’m shot. You hit me. Stop shooting now.
Who are you?
Who are you?
You ain’t in a position to be asking. Who are you?
Tommy Denton. That was my brother, Tim. You shot him, too.
What are you doing here?
What’s left of a posse out of Albuquerque. Looking for a killer.
Well, you found some.
Who are you?
Throw your pistol over here. We’ll come out.
Don’t shoot.
The rider watched as two men joined the first man as they walked to the man lying on the ground.
You shot our friend.
I didn’t know who he was. He just came at us. We were looking for…
Two of the men shot him as he spoke.
Go on inside. See who else is here. Get some food.
The rider pulled the Winchester from its sleeve and prepared to confront the four killers. He walked past the men’s horses, left in the trees earlier, as he made his way to the front of the home.
Open the door. Whoever’s inside, open up.
The killers’ demands went unanswered.
I think we got someone else in there, Red.
Yeah? Burn ‘em out.
Last chance. Open up or we’re burning you out.
The rider watched as the woman opened the door and stood with her two children behind her.
That’s more like it. Hey, Red, look what we got.
I see ‘em. Get the kids outside.
The rider dropped Red first, then fired three more times quickly as he walked toward the other two. Neither was able to draw a pistol and they slumped to the dirt, dying.
Get inside. Shut the door.
The woman slammed the door as the last man ran around from the rear of the home pistol at his side. Banging on the door as he looked at his dead partners scattered on the ground, he turned looking for the cause. The Colt barked loudly and the man dropped to the ground, a quizzed expression on his dead face, never seeing the rider in the shadows.
The rider stood in the quiet dark and listened. He smelled gunpowder and heard the ringing in his ears from the large cartridges. Nothing moved. He walked to each body and nudged it with a boot. Too much blood for more of a fight.
Open the door. Hurry it up.
The door opened and the woman stood in the doorway, her children behind her gazing at the rider.
Boy, there are some horses in the trees there. Go bring them back here. Don’t touch anything else, understand?
The woman started to speak, then pushed the boy away.
Go on, do as he says.
Is your uncle alive?
Yes, they tied him up. We’re just scared. Who are you?
Ain’t important. The other one will be back. Get your uncle and get me some clean water.
Water. And I need you to do some doctoring. Let’s go.
The rider whistled for his horse and reloaded his rifle as the young girl stood by herself and looked at the scene. Her eyes went from the rider to the dead men and back to the rider. He looked back at her as he slid the shells into the side of the Winchester.
Go on, help your mother.
The older man staggered outside and looked stunned at the sight all around him.
Thank you, sir.
The rider stared past him and into the home where the woman was lighting a lamp.
You got that water?
What are you looking for? We got nothing. We’re just farmers…my niece and her kids. Her husband…
Ignoring the man, the rider walked into the home.
We don’t have a lot of time and I need you to help me with a few things.
The boy came around the side of the home with three horses in tow.
There are a couple more back there.
Good. Bring them all over here. Water them, too. Get them some feed if you have it.
Motioning to the older man, the rider pointed to the dead men.
Gather up the guns and bring them inside. Don’t do anything stupid.
Taking a final look outside, the rider walked inside and sat on a chair. Removing his shirt, he drank deeply from a pitcher on the small table.
I’m going to need you to take care of some bullet holes. I need you to do it right now.
I don’t know how. I ain’t no doctor.
Once they get done outside, I want you to lock that door. I’ll tell you what you need to do. Get a fire going.
The rider drank the rest of the water, laid back on the old bed and looked at the low ceiling.
Well, that went better than expected.
He pulled the worn photograph from his pocket and drifted off as the three occupants stared at him.
When the rider awoke, the boy was looking at him, his eyes less than a foot away. The woman and the old man were sitting at the table and the girl was sleeping on the floor. The old man sat with a gun in his left hand. The rider’s boots were next to a pile of his clothes. His Colt was nowhere to be seen; it was the farthest he’d been from the pistol in almost 12 years.
You okay? You been out for hours.
Is it light?
Yeah. And that other one is back. He’s been outside since dawn.
Yeah, I thought he’d come back for his brother. Get me some water. And my Colt.
The woman looked at the old man.
I ain’t asking. Get me my pistol right now.
The boy brought it from under the low bed and handed it to the wounded man, transferring the cold steel from his small hands to that of the figure on the bed.
Everything changed as he wrapped his hand around the Colt’s grip. He checked that all six rounds were loaded.
The woman brought a cup of water to the man bleeding on the bed, a candle in her other hand.
That man outside, is he really from a posse?
I’m going to have to go out there and kill him. Then I’ll be leaving.
He and his brother were waiting here for you. They said you killed a bunch of men back west. That true?
They all needed it.
His wounds had been cleaned and covered by old cloth but still burned.
Couldn’t get the bullets out of your side. Got one of ‘em. And the one in your leg.
Yeah, that’s good.
It bled a lot. Still bleeding. You need a doctor.
I need lots of things.
We did the best we could. We don’t do much doctoring out here.
You did good enough.
He pushed himself up on his elbows, his Colt still in his hand.
What are you planning to do with that pistol, old man?
The old man placed the pistol on the table and said nothing.
You may have to use it soon enough. Just don’t go pointing it at me. These folks need you alive.
A deal
The rider put his dirty clothes back on and ate the cold chicken, bread and vegetables offered him. The family watched as he ate, the silence inside and out an omen of what the morning would bring.
I’m going outside and talk to him. If I can talk some sense into him, I’ll be heading north tomorrow. If not, I’ll be leaving before noon.
The rider nodded to the old man, picked up his rifle and walked to the door. He heard the bolt slide shut. The morning was cool and quiet and the day would be hot soon.
I know you’re out there. Come on out where I can see you. Let’s get this over with.
You come out here, you sum’bitch. You left my brother laying there like a dog.
That wasn’t me that did that and you know it. Now come on out where we can talk.
What’s there to talk about? I ain’t leaving ‘til you’re dead. You kilt my little brother in New Mexico, you sum’bitch. Both of ‘em are dead now.
We can both walk out of here without any more bullets in us. I know you’re shot, too. Come on over here and we can work this out.
The rider looked at the horses standing in the sun. The mule had joined them and all of them stood observing the conversation. What was this boy going to do?
Don’t be stupid, boy. Get on back to your family. Nothing you can do here. You’ll just end up like the rest of these dead men.
The young man said nothing as he watched the rider from the tree line.
The rider went back inside and sat on the low bed. Taking the packet from his shirt, he leaned back against the wall and stared at the faded photograph. In the cool of the dark cabin the rider closed his eyes and thought of a small frame home on the plains. Of a woman and a boy. Of his brother and a good friend back west.
Going Home
The old man opened the door, stepped outside, and looked at the young man in silence.
The young man from New Mexico walked over and stood near the horses. He ran his gloved hand over the mule’s nose as we walked by his brother’s body. Standing in the dirt off of the porch, he stood and watched the door, listening to the voices from within.
Come on in, boy.
The boy stood to the side of the door, pistol holstered. He had no more bullets, anyhow.
Where is he?
Inside. On the bed. Dead.
I want to see him.
Go on in.
The young man hesitated for a moment, looking into the old man’s eyes.
He’s dead. Died just now.
The young man walked to the door, keeping his eyes on the old man.
Go on in.
As his eyes adjusted to the dim light inside the cabin he could see the woman, the two children and a figure prone on the low bed, a dark pool of blood already drying. A gun belt hung from a chair to the side of the bed.
That his Colt?
The boy pulled the weapon from its holster and eyed it.
I’m taking his horse. Putting my brother on it.
No one spoke as the boy looked around the dark room.
Where’s his Winchester?
The old man nodded toward the corner were the rifle was propped against the wall.
The young man walked slowly to the corner and retrieved the rifle, his boots on the wooden floor the only sound in the room.
He kilt my brothers. Shot ‘em in Albuquerque.
He won’t be killing anyone else now.
Naw, I guess not.
The cabin’s occupants watched as the boy inspected the rifle. Taking a last look around the inside of the old home, he slowly walked out the door and into the dirt lot.
The old man watched as the young man tied his brother’s body to the horse’s back. Mounting a second horse, the boy moved away, not looking at the homestead or the old man or the bodies lying in the dirt as he rode away.
The old man walked back into the cabin.
Gonna be dark soon, boy. Let’s get to putting these men in the ground. Start with this one.
The three occupants looked at the dead man lying on the bed.
I told him I wasn’t no doctor.