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About death


I had a good business there on the waning ends of the Missouri, teaching would-be-wagoners about death. Here in the young city of Saint Charles, we were an odd mix of union soldiers, families and grey-coats who were looking to erase their lives and start over. We all had reasons for wanting to head west. Mormons were convinced that a promised land lay out there past the horizon. Some figuring that if gold sat in streams in California - it figured to do so in streams all up that coast. Some folks saw a path to an entirely new way of life, trying to leave as much of the young country to the east behind them as possible. At least until it inevitably caught back up with them.

Many folks that came to me had never held a weapon, leave alone fired one. That was something to be thankful for. That there were men and women that didn't wear the stain of death on their character. If rumors were true - there were men and beasts between here and Oregon that had nothing but our deaths on their minds. That was something to be taken very seriously. Between Bison, Cheyenne, Bears, Wolves and the Pawnee, there was plenty to fear. All of them had the advantage, knowing the land you were crossing. Knowing it's secrets; knowing where to catch you by surprise. I had to teach people how to react under stress, how to be able to pull their gun and use it. There'd be time to think about the consequences afterwards.

"Always fire with the intent to kill or don't bother picking up a weapon in the first place."

During the war, he'd done so many times. No time to worry about whose family you were rendering fatherless when you fired, because if you hesitated, you'd be dead. The war had been ugly - with great losses for both sides. While it was over, the feelings of distrust, the feelings and the filth of warfare - still remained in all of us. It was a matter of fact.

"Aim to kill, with certainty. Make a bullet count or what you are shootin'at is liable to kill you first."

The line of trainees brought their weapons up pointing down range, kachink, pow. zing. kachink, pow. zing.

"Man or beast, nothing likes being shot in the arm or the leg. Shoot for the heart and the head, make it quick, bring down your target."

kachink, pow. zing. A Winchester level action could shoot two shots a second if it had to. It was meant to be fired from a standing position, not crouched and prone like a sniper gun. This was not a now-that-I-have-your-attention gun, this was a weapon meant to kill it's target. By the looks of today's crop, some might not even make it as far as Wyoming. Some would turn back when the horizon fell out so far that the big country would send them back to Missouri in a panic. Some would disappear into the grasses, never to be seen again.

Well alone


It had been weeks now since sharing the bed had gone from necessity against the night's cold towards an air of embrace. We had both surrendered to the truth that we really wanted to be there together. Neither of us had a word for what was happening between us. I would wake up some mornings and he had been watching me sleep. I could feel against my hip that doing so pleased him a great deal. We would both remember these first few nights in our snowed in escape.

"I love you," I said rather suddenly and softly. The morning sunrise struck through the window onto his face, his sweaty chest hair in rivulets down his stomach. His beard wet and soft.

"You need to be careful where and when you say that, " he said stopping me, touching my bottom lip, "You and I are the only ones in the woods who will understand this." he said adding weight to his erectness and body next to me. " 'n, nobody else should be expected to. and blurting out a word like that could get all this destroyed. 'er worse things. its warmin' up out and with it brings all kinds a'trouble with it."

An immediate and palpable silence fell between us. He could see his words frightened me.

There will lay under skin rug blankets we'd hunted and made together. Layed bare in a pool of each other's sweat, tasting ourselves on each other. Tears had begun to pool in my eyes as he thrust himself down on me pouring kisses in my mouth, licking my tears away. We were both quite lost to what was happening between us.

Later that day as we were about to head out to work and feed the sheep and horses, I stopped him. I understood how important it was that another soul never suspect was happening in our shared hollow, how any risk could be the last one we took.

We'd build a secnd cabin - and make sure that by all appearances, we were sheep herders helping settlers find the next valley. If these weeks were turning into a life together up in these woods, we'd have to protect it from all predators - most importantly our inquisitive settlers. Appearances would have to made - efforts to get the hounds off our scent, if you would. The thaw would bring more wagons and travelers to the region. The full creeks and rivers would bring with a flow of folks, still fresh with the scent of the puritan country some 1200 miles to the east on their clothes and wagons. Fresh bibles kept at the ready to share with an unsuspecting traveler. Faith branched across the continent into Mormonism, Calvinism and old world's Protestants and Catholics. The First Nations - the Algonquin, the Iroqui and the Abenaki were whispers on the voice of history. Puritan religion had seen to that quite matter-of-factily.

The Umatilla of these parts were friends of Lewis and Clark; but also understood how important it was to hide up high in the mountains away from the white man's judgmental stare. Imagine living on a land for generations only to have another race of people sweep in and take it. The First Nations had seen this before from warring nations, but never on the scale of the white man. Europeans fought with cruelty and a sense of righteousness, the fruit of the Puritan seeds planted into the ground so many years before by their Fathers. Strange how a country can form itself upon fleeing religious persecution learns so very little from it's humble beginnings, resorting to the worst side of themselves when things really counted. A few of us had hoped that jumping up on a horse and riding it for as far as we could go, that the world would not catch up. We were quickly proven wrong. We would start saying that spring, but never quite saying, you are welcome here but please don't stay. Stories of brighter sunrises, deeper valleys and wider expanses ahead, kept most folks moving on. If we could appeal to their sense of manifest destiny - they would leave him and me. They would leave him and me well alone.


The Moment


Where were you at the moment when your sexuality became part of your adult good self and not something to find a private place to practice it in hiding? Priests and Protestant preachers teach us to be ashamed of it all from the moment you are capable of free thought. It’s a miracle we’ve got a population if you ask me. Comes right down to it, its a messy business — and nothing you want to do with any gentleness when you are out in the wilderness in a wagon or your thighs have been wrapped around a saddle all day long. I’d learned in my slow sojourn westbound to just conceal it. To know how to identify a spot you won’t be found that is all your own. Even then it never is.

I was showering that morning, the sun peaking through the trees — and the jury rigged outdoor shower felt like my own private waterfall. I don’t know where my mind wandered to — during and after spraying my lust out in the modern air , before I realized he’d been standing there. Possibly the entire time. I wasn’t sure how to respond. He was there in his shorts, clearly as aroused by the morning light as I still was. The look in his eyes was a softness I’ve never seen matched. I remember trying to brush it off, while trading places and getting myself dried off.

“Its nothing to be ashamed of, “ he said quietly. I looked back at him expecting him to be covered in lather to find he had his now completely erect cock in his hand, at a slow measured use.

“Really. it’s not. I see the way you watch people… or don’t. I’ve seen how the ladies and their way don’t bring your eyes. I know what does…. I’ve been out here a long while, and I know things…. and well, if’n you’d ever like to do it with someone in the morning sun. you’d just need ask.”

I gathered my things and didn’t say a word in response. I headed out in the pasture to the day started, our conversation sticking and repeating in my head all day long. We saw each other again as suppertime rolled around. The small cabin with the fire going, felt unusually quiet. We were scraping through some stew when, without really thinking much more about it, I spoke quietly.

“That suggestion you had this mornin’…… “ I said with a small awkward pause, “Well, I think I’d like that. I think I’d like that very much.”


Water to Ice

We’d cleaned up, but not properly bathed, in our bed clothes when he spied me trying to figure out a sleeping arrangement by the fireplace.
“First off, you are one pine spark away from waking up in the night on fire that close. Second, it’s a lot warmer in the bed and its just sensible.
I’m not going to get fresh on ya or hurt ya in your sleep. It’s going to get cold, even with the fire. so you’ll sleep in the bed.”
I was too exhausted to muster up a complaint. We had come in off the trail, racing in front of a snow front. You could smell it in the air, the change from water to ice. Before we’d fed the horses and headed back up to his small cabin to make supper, a light snow had turned into a steady one. You could almost feel the cabin ache as the temperatures dropped further after dark.
So there I was hours later, listening to him sputter and sniff in the dark. It is strange, that soft and foreign sound a man makes when he’s sleeping. He was a big man, but by no means a loaf. He’d earned his muscle and size from forest work. Logging, hauling, and hay bailing in the fall.
He had that beard that meant he wasn’t committed to growing it out proper, but wasn’t all that committed to shaving either. As he breathed out he sputtered subconscious gibberish that sounded like they could be whispered spells from around a witches caldron.
In a flicker of firelight, I noticed some thick scars on his neck and upper back. A man’s body tells stories that he can’t hide. Worried he might catch me staring over at him, I turned my back and tried to get back to sleep.

Independence Rock

independence rock
The trail was a grotesque mixture of dirt, manure and ice. It simultaneously crunched and slid under your boot. We'd spared the womenfolk - putting them up in the wagons. That was part of this life, this journey we'd chosen. It was a life of dirty, thankless work.
We'd left the preacher, and his never ending line of kin, back at Independence Rock. Apparently all there was in his life was praising God and fucking his wives.
I'll admit there were nights when they'd all batted down, that I was a bit jealous, thinkin' of him having his pick of who shared his bed out on the trail on a late winter's night. But there was always a next day where what you left behind the night before - was standing there waiting for you. No life on the journey was easy, even if you had God to play at the gambling table.
He was going to set up a church on the prairie - thinking that someone might appreciate a little Jesus in the wilderness. Figurin' he'd make his mark out on the frontier rather than joining the rest of the Mormon folk at the Great Salt Lake.
The thing with religion though, is one man's savior is another man's sin. I smiled occasionally at the thought of him saying or implying the wrong thing to one of these Plainspeople Indians. Him violently and completely meeting his maker, so much sooner than he'd originally planned. His kin blowing the wind to the west and the south. That was the truth of life out here, don't plan anything to awful into the future - ya never know what 'right now' is waiting behind a corner.
Our Sunday stroll, as we'd come to call it, proceeded down the west face of the Rockies. We'd arrive at Pocatello in another couple days. There, these families would decide on California Gold or the unexplored Northwestern woods and rivers leading out to the new ocean.
For me, I'd get my pay and sit a spell. All them unknowns would still be there when I'd made up my mind. A rifleman could make a living on any of these trails. For what it was worth, fear still paid a really good wage.