Since we was mucho rested we rode through that night and stopped to build a fire at noon the next day. With my mother's money I'd bought saddlebags and carried more clothes than I'd owned in years, and it was about the same with the compadres, and they had a lot of weed too and said we was going to farm weed. Hell, we ain't farmers. But we will grow weed. What about peyote? Ain't the right climate, Bill, said Bix, cause I looked into this matter. You don't want we should build a farm in Mexico? Nope, too crowded down there. Well, man, now as I think a little less romantic, I don't see what we can do with the water hole. You know how that place is. They all knew this water hole like me, and whereas it was a mile from El Rio Grande the river went dry there about half the year and the water hole would go dry about every time before snows melted and built the river, and the ground got hard and bare too, and we was not farmers, and sat smoking and talking about it all. You losing interest in the little filly, Wild Bill? Hard to say. I see strange moods coming. Shit, I bet he's in love, said Dan. Sure, said Sieb. Sieb, I think you're a hopeless romantic yourself, I said. I think you are, Bill, he said. let's build a ranch, said Dan. We ain't cattlemen, Bix said. Well, hell, we can do that, I said. Anybody can do that. But that sure is a lot of work too, said Dan. We can steal the cattle, for a start, said Sieb. Yeah, it would be nice to keep these clothes without robbing the banks, said Bix. Man, feeding those goddamn cattle all winter is hard work, I said. Yeah, I know that too, said Dan that used to work for my father. And roping them and stringing fences, he said. A quietness settled and the sun headed down and we was getting a little mean about our life, and sleepy and I took some of our water for coffee and put it on the coals and built the fire just enough and it was good I did, because after everybody had his cup of coffee we was just ready enough to hear riders coming up to our smoke, sneaking around in the soft hills to outflank us. Shit on fire, said Dan and kicked some wood on the fire and hung up his cup. We checked our guns and mounted and moved single file down into a arroyo and broke into a little run and then picked a tall hill and went for it. We watched the smoke of our fire and soon seen nearby it dust lifting off people moving in on it in about two places and then at one point saw some of these others ride upon a rise, and they was carrying rifles and after somebody. Can't be wanting us, said Bix. We just got back. They think we are somebody, said Dan. How do you boys feel about a dry gulch, I asked. Too early, said Bix. We just got here. Well, let me bring this plan up. Go ahead, Wild Bill. Fix the horses below the other side. They will be along our trail down there and I will talk with them. You boys just get stationed in the weeds. All right, they said, and hurried to tie the horses and I walked on down. As it was, I took about a ten minute wait because those others had some kind a argument back at our camp, and this was good because I thought about this new shirt I wore and I took it off and run up the hill and buried it, and then there I was walking down the hill and heard them coming and put on a little limp. Here these fellers come ripping through the gulch and all jittery and lo and behold here is this strange man coming to meet them with no shirt on and wearing two six guns and a mountain knife and a big smile. Howdy, gents. Who the devil are you! They kept clattering in there with the ones in front stopping and bumping each other around and the leader had a star on and says again, I asked you a question, mister! What are you anyway, a sheriff, I said. Damn tooting, said him. I am Sheriff James and this here is my posse and so just who the devil are you? You guys out for horse thieves, by any chance? Some sonofabitches stole my horse last night. We are after one horse thief and cattle rustling murdering half breed, said James, and he better not be you, because we will get him, too! Naw, not me, I said. Why are you dressed like a Indian, he said. Aw, you know how it is, Sheriff, I had my shirt on my horse and was taking a bath when these sonofabitches stole my horse. See here, you, said James, and about fifteen men got ready to arrest me. I might be ugly, says James, but I ain't stupid! You are lying through your teeth, he said with his finger. You can't take no bath out here! Why, there ain't no water out here, he said. Yeah, said his entire posse. Now Sheriff. Hold on there. If a man knows how, he can clean his body with the yucca plant, I said and doing my muscles a little like I was bathing. It is the Apache way, I said. Is that true, he said. For a fact, Sheriff. Well, see here, he said. I'll have you know that these Apaches you're talking about are not even completely subdued by the U.S. Army yet. Yeah? Well, the U.S. Army always was kind of slow, especially the calvary, I said. Why yes, I remember this one time they had me doing a little scouting job against Cochese, and they wanted me to find Cochese, and the old buzzard only had two hundred and fifty fighting men with him, which is, of course, you know, still a little easier than finding just one lousy fighting man. Now, Cochese. Never mind, said Sheriff James. Now look, you, he said. Now see here. Now, you didn't see anybody run by here, now did you? Cause about three or four men run by here and they must had been armed and dangerous cause they run by here quick like. Why do you say that, Sheriff? What? Hey, look here you, did you see these men, or why didn't you? No sir, I did not. I smelled their dust, if that is any help to you? The sheriff looked at me for about one second, then. Then he said. All right, men, let's ride. I tried to get out of their way but one tried to ride me down. His horse bumped me and knocked me to a side and I rolled and sit up and pointed at him. He moved right along, then a rifle went off somewhere above him and its round took him through back and shoulder and he hit the ground dying. Gawd, I'm done for, says he. Some of the ranks went this way and some of them did not and some of them went up toward the shot. This rifle was Dan, of course, but then Sieb that was a peeping over higher on up shot a man's horse. The one's with that one took one hell of a time straightening out and turning back around and the man with no horse shook himself to his feet and run in his boots. All the rest of the posse rode one side or the other in idea of out flanking the men on the hill, and I walked up to this man on foot and he was bent over to get his breath and hoping he didn't get shot and I said to him I was real mad at the way his partner rode into me. He just about fainted and next thing without thinking I broke his nose with my fist because I was a little mad. Along the top of the hill come Bix with the horses and there was the posse clambering up and Bix turned back with the horses and headed for the other side again. Next thing
the horse which had that first feller they shot went on up the hill after the rest and Dan crawled quick and got up and waved the horse down and went to snatch it and in a little trouble he did, and with a few bullets flying he rode on down and got to the gulch and headed on out. I put a gun on this poor feller I'd hit in the face and waited for Sieb, and here come Sieb running and bumping along on his ass. One of the posse stopped long enough to try a shot at Sieb and I told this poor feller he was next. But the next feller got it was one of them clambering posse when Dan come trotting alongside that hill, and next Dan shot a horse and you had both those fellers up there hurt but alive and cussing. Dan caught that living horse and brung it down to Sieb. The shot horse was getting up and falling, getting up and falling. I had been harassing the mind of this one I hit, and I stopped and looked at him and saw I had unusual anger built in me. The extent of it come as a surprise. Sieb and Dan come down the hill and I hopped on with Dan. There were three of the posse that decided to run along after us but I turned on them with Dan's rifle and that changed their minds, and Bix was far enough ahead with the string of horses to get away and we moved along toward the water hole and Bix waited for us in a spot we used to camp and we caught him a little after nightfall. We could smell the pot of beans and bacon cooking quiet on the coals. That whole thing sure was insane, said Bix. Sure was, said Dan. And I agree, I said. Why did you guys go for it? Why did we have to mess with their business in the first place, spoke Sieb. It all did seem awfully strange to us, and we had coffee and corn pones and jerky and decided to go on and get plenty of rest in this place as it had a running stream and still looked out over a good piece. I don't know why we did it, I said. Man, why did we do it? Nobody understood that one and we spent two days there in a attempt to get our thinking straight. I had quiet moods due and they come and I was sitting watch the first night and I needed Elizabeth. When Bix come to give his turn I told him this and we sat and talked. Wild Bill, he said. We are all a little tired of running. Yeah. Well, Ah, hum. Yes, indeed. Hey, she seems to have a lot of energy. Yes. Does she always jump around like that? Yeah, actually, she does. She beats anything I ever saw and I sure miss her.
Next day about noon a rider leading a pack animal was spotted out a ways below us. We looked at him and I said that was Fritz. That's Fritz. Yep; Fritz says midday is a good time to travel. Ain't many out at that time, he says. Hey, you guys give'im a smoke signal. I'll go down and meet him. They did this and Fritz saw me way before I caught up with him. Wild Bill. Fritz. Who is that with you, Wild Bill? Some of my old compadres, Fritz. Is that so.I hope they ain't so crazy as you.
Fritz told us there was a few Apaches out where he'd been. He said the posse we had the scrape with was after a friend of his, Manuel. Manuel is a good lad. He steals cattle and gives it to poor folk. He is half Apache and is real quick and they don't even know his name yet. He rides alone.
Let's get Manuel to get us some cattle, Dan said.
Manuel ain't that simple to reckon with, said Fritz. Are you boys thinking of starting a ranch at the water hole. How'd you know that? Well, you went and got turned around over that Baca gal, didn't you? How did you know? It only figures. Oh. Then you're good at figuring, Fritz. You got to be, Bill.
Law is getting big, nowadays, Bill. Yeah. Maybe I'll tie in with you boys for a time. Sure. Compadres, that all right with you? Sure. All right, so what's next? Well. Go on down to the water hole. I'll find Manuel. May take me a few days.
We parted then and Fritz said, Bill? Yes. Try cutting off some of that hair. For a disguise. And keep your shirt on. Hum. Maybe so, Fritz.
Grass was tall at the water hole and over in El Rio Grande water run and fish swum. The compadres went fishing with cornmeal, cactus thorn and horse string. The plan was to start building on the adobe. The compadres smoked their weed and took baths. It was a better spring than most and looked like a real healthy summer coming. I took a razor one day and sit in El Rio Grande and shaved my beard with Bix standing guard. I left a handlebar moustache and then I cut my hair off almost up to my ears. You sure are handsome, Wild Bill. Is that so? Yeah, just keep a shirt on and you'll stay out of trouble. I sure feel naked, Bix. Put the shirt on. You know why I feel naked. It's like cutting the whiskers off a cat. Wait till you're a established citizen, Wild Bill. Then you can grow it all back. By then I'll be sitting in my rocking chair. Well, we gotta make a stand, Bill. Yeah. I felt
lame and wandered back to camp and the boys had went fishing and smoking weed. I lit my pipe and got sadder. Then they come back, said, hey, look at Wild Bill. Wild Bill looks so young and pretty he must be sick to death. I am. Well, look, Wild Bill, we brung fish, mucho comida. Good. I will eat ten pounds and go to sleep. That next morning I said I was going to take a break and visit Elizabeth, and I took Bix's razor and his saddle and I set out. Shit, Wild Bill, Dan said. A minute later Bix said, Wild Bill. Yeah? Buy a hat. O.K.
I made it a easy ride, sitting in my buffalo coat at night looking at the coals, and I skirted Elizabeth's ranch to go to this town to buy a hat, and I get towns a little mixed up but this was Sheriff James' town, because on my way out of town we saw one another and he looked at me and I looked back and he could not place me. I could see his digestion had not been too good lately. I rode into the back side of the ranch as usual and Elizabeth come out. She was a little overjoyed at first, to see me so handsome. Que bonito tu eres! She was more beautiful than I had believed. I needed to see you, and talk. Her brother come out and I got off my horse and shook hands with him. The whole while I had known him he had been friendly and let himself come to know me a little. They called him Hijo. Good to see you, said Hijo. Where are your compadres? They are back at the ranch. You have a ranch, jumped Elizabeth. We got one started. At the water hole. Oh? She thought about that one. Come inside and let Mama see how nice you look. She took me on inside for exactly my first time, and I met the Mama in the woman's own domain, though the woman was shy. Elizabeth was doing the talking but before long there I was invited to supper. Well. Actually, it was too early for them to invite Wild Bill to supper. We was passing tacos and drinking coffee and they was asking me questions. You are from Texas, Bill Olive? And you lived with the Comanches? You had a Comanche wife? Feelings come over me and by and by I was less and less saying yes I did or am or was and just about the time we was getting to the I wills or won'ts I was so restless they quit asking. Then Elizabeth and I went and sit in the patio and she said, when do you return to the water hole? Well, when should I? Well, Bill, you should know, I can't know. When can I be with you alone? We're alone now. You want to make love right here in the patio? Bill, you go back to the water hole, and build the ranch. I can't make love to you now? First build
the ranch, and then we will have a marriage. And I guess when we have this marriage there will be a great big band playing and a great big dance and fiesta and a few knife fights and people coming from hundreds of miles and my family and your family giving one another gifts. Yes, my love. Well, I don't like it. Why not, my love. I want to make love here, right now, in this patio, and then I want to cut my finger and write it in blood that you belong to me, and write it right across the stars. That's my style. But that's not the way it is done, Bill. I went quiet, and she said, what is it now? My belts was hung at the end of the bench we sit on and I got up and put them on, and lifted a boot on the bench and leaned on my knee and looked at the night, and she said, are you going to wear all that for the rest of your life? Do you know, I said, how hard it is for me to build a goddamn ranch? Do you know how hard it is for me to live without a house, she said. How hard for a woman to raise children without shelter and comfort? Why can't you live like a Indian? They get sheltered. Because I am not a Indian. I was quiet but she kept on wanting me to talk about it, and felt me grow cold and the pleasure of killing flowing free in my fingers and I knew of one thing to stop my sickness and that was man killing. I got to go, I said. She took my hand and we walked out to my horse. She said, kiss me. I did, and she said, do you love me? Maybe I'll get over it. You know you love me, Elizabeth said and started crying. I smiled and she said I scared her. Well, it ain't just everybody gets chased off into the desert of his own head. What do you mean? I mean. Well. Building a ranch and raising kids ain't necessarily enough for my mind. I could of done this a long time ago in Texas by the help of my daddy. You scare me. Here you had Apaches, and they bred and prospered and ruled and had their ways. In Texas it was Comanches. Then the Spanish come. Then the Anglos come. And it will go on changing. All babies are the same and it will go on changing. What's the use in it, Elizabeth? I am a Christian, she said crying. Well, I ain't seen no followers of Christ, men, women, preachers, business men, outside you and maybe my own mother yet. You ever been real hungry, Elizabeth? By that, I mean starving. Of course not, she wept. Well, it would change your whole way of looking at everything. I want to die! Yeah, well, I felt like dying a bunch of times myself. Cruel I was and knew it and went on. The mountain man was living when I come back to this world and now it is the city man and they want to kill me and I guess I'll hang on and see if they can do it. I mounted and she clung to Grey weeping. Then I could not hold back my sympathy and pulled her up in the saddle and the love come over me. We needed to make love so bad she immediately put on a calm, thinking the mother might be in ear shot, and she said, Bill, let me go saddle my horse. What about your folks? I can do what I want to. I'll tell them we are going to take a short ride. After her horse stood ready outside, this she told them, and she had a big argument with her mother and come back out running tears in anger. I could hear her mother back inside and it seemed to be the first time Elizabeth had defied her. We trotted away and next thing she quit sniffing and brung out this big plan of when far out enough we turn her horse loose and it would get on back to the ranch and I would bring her in when it was daylight and she would tell them how some Apaches took after us and she fell off and I rescued her and we just barely got away and had to hide all night long, and for me to shoot some bullets through my hat, and so even as it was a new hat I did put one hole in it for her. Let's not turn the horse back just now, I said, or they'll be out looking for us too soon. We rode a few circles and come to a spot good enough for a quiet camp and when we turned her horse loose he wouldn't go. I took her on Grey's back and we rode some more and then I fired a couple rounds by her horse's ear and kicked'im and took the advantage of riding hard and separating, and we come to a even better spot to camp, down in a wash, and it was getting late so as to be unlikely for any of them working people to see her horse walking in saddled and back. I put down my blankets and saddle and we didn't talk and we made love, went deeper than we had, than I ever had, away from her ranch for the first time and forgetting who we were. She was quiet and went to sleep, and I lay on the saddle and smoked and my mind was very wide and clean and quiet without much thought and then she woke. let me smoke too. First thing she'd said in hours outside a I love you here or there and I told her this was marijuana, knowing she could enjoy it. I want to do everything you do. So we did this together as a very solemn ceremony, and made love over and over, and deeper always till I could not tell was I the man or woman, at all, because she was the one doing all the making of love, creating man and woman and the universe, and then, by the coming of a rainbow dawn, we was earth. We did not remember we was human beings be- cause we was just the earth.
Town closest to the Baca ranch was Sheriff James's and at the time me and Elizabeth was being the earth there was some new trouble and fun set in store by my friends. One thing, Manuel, the one that knew the lone routes among all the new ranches and fences, said to Fritz he wasn't never going to steal no cattle for no Gringos. This was the first word we got from Manuel. Said we must all be chicken livered - cobardes - not to be getting our own. Manuel, see, was not out for making a profit and so you could not reach his price. I guess this set hardest with Dan. Then over in the town who did show but that wanted man Packy Gunter-alias Patrick Ratt-and with the runaway Mississippi gambler Tom Bowman-alias Tommy Treefrog-and they had heard how I was alive, and everybody was alive, and Packy come out of Mexico where that rich and crazy ex-wife of Cant, our Mary Ann, had been nursing him back to health and he says she was driving him crazy, and he found old Tom Treefrog out of Juarez on a goat ranch with Juanita, and Tom was supposedly married with sweet Juanita and the goat ranch doing all right by the care of her cousins and kin but Tom was too fat and lonesome and for friends and folly he brung Packy north along my trail, and when these two fat devils get to this town they have to get a drink first thing and here they were at a end of the bar in their shiny derbies and watch chains and rumpled store bought affairs, and in clumped Sheriff James and all eleven of his posse, and which took up the rest of the bar and James and his men had just come in off another hard chase, and James was doing this all the time now and leaving one deputy to look after his town, which was quiet most of the time. James went on a bit about a hard day's work and how some in town didn't appreciate him, and next Packy and Treefrog were able to catch a little on this and that outlaw in the country and how number one on the list was no longer the half-breed horse thief but was a damn squawman built like a beast and scarred from head to toe and hair down to his navel, ran a gang what sold rifles to Apaches. See what he did to my nose, said the gent next to Tree frog, and before that one might take in his high yeller complexion Treefrog said, loathsome. Civilization is not completed till they conquer the redskin, said Treefrog. Drink to that one, yessir, said Packy. Patrick, said Treefrog. We should all drink to that, and I mean all these fine men standing next to us. Bartender, three rounds for Sheriff James and his men. The bartender was one of these little squirrels and he jumped quick and had the entire posse set up before they knew what happened, and Treefrog tipped his hat to James, we are behind you all the way, Sheriff, even if the town ain't. Yessir, cheers, said Packy. Down the hatch, said the gent next to Torn. Here's looking at you, went James. And all drank. Round two, shouted Treefrog getting ahead of the bartender. Noble, said Packy. To the brave men, yessir! Salud, called forth a Mescan deputy. Salud, said Treefrog, and everybody said salud. The squirrel ran so fast he spilled whiskey on everybody's hand including the town drunk's. Here's a looking at ye, bawlp, hic, said James. Round three! To the ladies! To the mothers! To the whores! Salud! Jaaiiee! Money, money, I am just a poor bartender! Here, my little man, keep the change! A man and his money will part but a man and his liquor are one, said Packy. Right, Sheriff! I can drink with any man, said James. Right, hop on it, bartender, get off your wooden leg! Salud, everybody said except the town drunk that was a little crazy anyway and said, fuck you! All right, men, said Packy spreading his hands for elbow room. We drink Treefrog's money till the first man falls! Right, Treefrog! Right, Patrick! Get off your wooden leg, bartender! Salud, went all but for the town drunk. Fuck you! The town drunk was sensing some kind of moment of glory. By the by, belched James, say? Salud! Jaailee? Get off your wooden leg, bartender! He's getting ahead of you, Treefrog, throw'im another! Fuck you! Caramba, said Packy, and come loose with the bowie knife he kept tween his shoulder blades and slammed it in the bar and there were four Mescans in the crowd and they liked that one. Throw'im another twenty dollar gold piece, Treefrog, maybe he can cut that leg down a little for speed, jaailee! Hey, by the by, just who? Drink up, James, you're getting behind, man! I can drink with any man! Fuck you! You shut up fore I toss you in jail, you drunk sonofabitch! Fuck you, Sheriff! What! Did you men hear what he said! He been saying that all night, said a Mescan. Arrest that man! The town drunk said, what's wrong Sheriff? You losing your touch or something, can't do it by yourself? Sheriff James come for the town drunk and the town drunk jumped over the bar and Sheriff James jumped over the bar and fell down and the town drunk jumped back over the bar and everybody got out of the way for Sheriff James to come back over the bar and he did and went down again and the town drunk used both hands but managed to get Packy's knife free and Sheriff James was on one knee and attempting to get his gun from its scabbard when the town drunk using both hands put that knife about half way into his chest. Jaailee, said Packy. Three more men fell down and the town drunk jumped back over the bar and got into a rough and tumble with the bartender. We better arrest him, said one of the men. Si, said a Mescan. Si, diga, said another Mescan, deja un Gringo menos en este pueblo! Verdad, said Treefrog. Verdad, said Packy and put a boot on James and separated his knife from the dead man. The greasers are turning against us, said the gent had been next to Treefrog and he grabbed Treefrog and lost his balance and Treefrog butted him in his bent nose. Then Packy and Treefrog walked on out just as the argument was getting a little serious. Of those that could fight after that there was a Mescan and two Gringos got killed and whereas the word from this settled with Manuel when he got it he did not know it was all out of the same gang, and Packy and Treefrog was tired after the long train ride and the heavy drinking and went to a hotel room and Rattlesnake Dan was coming in to talk me into a bank robbery while Bix and Sieb held down the water hole, and Manuel told some Apaches they ought to get those Gringos at the water hole when they got around, and Packy and Treefrog threw the hotel bed up against the door and went to sleep on the floor.