Following them … and not by much of a distance, either … were a mixed bag of posse wannabes. A few professional lawmen, a clutch of bounty hunters, and anyone else that had a gun and a horse and could be drug up by the sheriff and the railroad people.
The horses were exhausted and it wouldn’t be long before they collapsed unless they were allowed to stop, rest, drink, eat. For that matter, it wouldn’t be much longer before they, themselves, collapsed.
Whose idea was this, anyway? They could have hit a bank or a Wells Fargo shipment. Hell, they could have hit half a dozen stagecoaches without setting off this kind of frenzy. It was those railroad guys. They really didn’t like bandits. Which they were. Damn.
Don’t you hate it when that happens?
It was getting dark, now. The sun was setting over the mountains. Where could they go? Ahead were the Superstitions … and there was nothing up there but jagged rocks. Where was water? Some grass for the horses and a place to lay themselves down and breathe.
In the distance, they could hear the hoofbeats of oncoming horses. They looked into the fading sun and they knew.
I loved traveling — especially alone so that I didn’t have to worry about other people’s plans and schedules. Those were days when I was an early riser with a lot of energy, so I wanted to get up in the morning and be out and about.
After Garry and I got married and we worked out a few kinks in our traveling, we became great travelers. We had a good time together — everywhere we went.
I don’t think we had a really bad vacation. We had one when it rained — heavily — every day . I suppose that was as bad as it got. There was one where the accommodations were nasty, but the weather was great. I think I’d rather have crappy accommodations than bad weather. After all, how much time do you really spend in your hotel room? If the weather is good, you’re only there to sleep.
These days, though, the idea of travel makes me tired in advance. It isn’t just bad backs and the arthritis or that we don’t want to spend a day on our feet.
It’s the airlines that want to charge you for a bag of peanuts and have made the seating so tight that even short people like us are crowded. It’s the noisy airports where all we hear is white noise, static, echo, and mumbling. There are no comfortable seats and a bottle of coke can cost seven or eight dollars.
There’s no fun in flying. The security makes it so slow. The weird restrictions make it impossible to know if you can take your shampoo and hair gel or they will be seized as potential explosives. The elderly are their favorite targets for setting up extra fees for everything.
Nothing to eat while you’re flying, though I notice there’s plenty of booze aboard. No assistance during the flight. I’m too old to heave my bag into the overhead bin and I’m not putting my valuable — or my computer and cameras into cargo.
And then, there’s driving. Rutted roads, miles of traffic jams or just plain heavy traffic. Road construction. Detours. Those days when we could drive all day are gone. Three or four hours into a trip, we’re ready for a nap and a soft chair.
There are places I’d love to see, cities I’ve yet to explore … but I’m afraid they will have to wait for the next round of life.
Our best traveling days were in our forties and fifties when we were still energetic, but didn’t have a little kid to plan around. When it was just the two of us. No agenda, no plans. Just going where we felt like going whenever we were in the mood.
But if won a vast quantity of money on, say, the lottery and we could do it all first class? I might just change my mind!
More than a week in Arizona and we couldn’t lose them. We couldn’t see them. The big country that protected us shielded them, too. It was the posse from Hell!
We kept to the high country, hoping the cactus, tumbleweed and narrow trails would distance us.
Scorpion Gulch was the way to the mountains and beyond. We saw a few pilgrims here and there taking in the view. They ignored us. Good for them.
This was the same trail used by Waco Johnny Dean, Long Tom and Dutch Henry Brown in the relentless chase for that Winchester ’73.
The same trail used by Sheriff Pearly B. Sweet and the posse from Welcome and Carefree who pursued Bob Hightower, Pete and the Abilene Kid, the three Godfathers.
There was no losing our posse from Hell.
Rawhide, we figured, might be a good place to lose those guys … whoever they were.
Rawhide — a place where dudes are welcome. We wouldn’t be noticed as the pilgrims sashayed up and down Main Street. Maybe the posse from Hell might have paper on a few of these strangers.
Rawhide also was a good place to grab some grub. Maybe even some shut-eye. But no time for real fun if you get my drift. Those pilgrims kept giving us shifty looks.
Back on the trail, I thought we saw an old saddle pal. He rode with us in the old days. He was a good old boy. Turned out he was dead and just a statue, probably done in by the railroad men who dogged us for too many years. Close up, our old pal still looked good. They don’t make men like him any more.
We had to move on. No sense chasing memories. We wanted to head back to the high country and the safety of those mountains. But time was running out. We knew the end was near.
Just as well. We were running low on luck and bullets.
The posse from hell finally cornered us at Wild Horse Pass. They stayed with their long guns as we faced them down. It was a long day’s siege into night.
We would not go quietly. We could see the fear in their eyes as we held our position. Clearly, we had them on experience, as we stared across the pass and other confrontations which have blurred over the years.
In the distance, we heard the strains of “Shall We Gather At The River” sung mournfully by the good folks at The Light of The Desert Lutheran Church. Was this a boot hill elegy?
My Everest: Thirty Years of San Diego Hiking (With Dogs!)
Kindle and Paperback August 29, 2017 Author: Martha Kennedy
I don’t like reviewing books written by friends.
What if I don’t like it? Will they hate me if I can’t give them a great review? Authors take book reviews personally. We aren’t supposed to, but our books are personal. I can’t think of anything in my world more personal to me than the (one) book I wrote. Apparently, no matter how many books you write, you will continue to feel that way about all of them. They are your babies, your little love children.
I wasn’t too worried about this one, though. I’ve read other books by Martha and I liked them. I’ve always liked Martha’s writing (if you don’t read her blog, you should), especially when she is writing about her dogs. When this when came out, I dashed over to Amazon and immediately bought a copy. Then I got bogged down with other stuff and didn’t start to read it until a few days ago.
This is a wonderful book. It’s so very good, I hardly know where to begin raving about it.
This isn’t just a book. It isn’t about hiking (despite its title) in the San Diego hills with your dogs. This is a book about finding what is real and what matters. It’s about discovering the world is God and you are part of it. It’s about recognizing all living things having an equal right to be on this planet. It’s about learning how tiny we are while expanding to be part of the hugeness of life.
“My Everest” is a beautiful book. It is profound and thoughtful. I found myself putting it down to leave myself time to think about it and what it meant to me. I don’t do that. Really. I don’t. I just read. This was different.
“My Everest” is not one of those silly books about searching for yourself, either. Martha has found what I also found — that we are where we should be and we are in the right place. Our job is to enjoy it. Fully. See it, feel it, absorb it, love it. Be part of the all-in-all. Fly with the buzzards and the hawks. Get warmth from the earth with the rattlesnakes. Watch eternity roll by with the rocks.
This is not self-revelatory narcissism. It reaches out and says “I love you” to everyone and everything. It’s not offering you rules to follow so you can walk the same path. There is no path. “My Everest” is about joy and sanctuary , the world that Martha Kennedy and her many dogs found in the Chaparral in San Diego.
Those hills and mountains were her place. The suggestion is implicit that any place can be your place. You don’t have to go to those specific hills or mountains. The important thing is that there is a place — your place — that brings you that full measure of contentment.
I don’t think I can explain it any better except to say I loved the dogs and the mountains. I love the people she met on the way. The young people she brought with her to hike the hills. In good weather and bad.
I loved how she loved her dogs, yet understood that when they passed, that was how it had to be. Because we live, we pass — humans , dogs and all that lives.
This is not the kind of book I would have normally sought to read, but I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to read it. In many way, for me, “My Everest” is a prayer and a hope for a world gone wrong. I don’t find a lot of hope — or any kind of prayers — in 2018’s world.
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!