Hey, look here, Wild Bill broke his leg. Wild Bill sure is having a tough year. Why did you break your leg, Wild Bill. We're all going to have to sit on your head and pull that leg together, Wild Bill. Wild Bill probably broke his leg to stay out of work. We're sure doing a lot of work around here, Wild Bill. We're going to sink a windmill and build a big house by winter and get cattle and rule this wide range, but you won't be no good to us, Wild Bill, with your broken heart and broken leg.
My leg left me a big lump and scar where the bone tore out on the way home but it did mend and I stayed off it while the compadres and Fritz built a ranch and Apaches did not bother us and nobody else did neither and it got so I would just wake up and reach for Grey and flop up on him and holler and out would come a fat woman and give me a roast or liver and I then chewed and stretched and felt all right with my broken heart and Grey knew to take me to the river and in and I rolled off in the middle to a bar and eat and he went to the other side and up and grazed. Fritz hired a few Mescans and got mules and things and everybody put up adobe and a windmill and people was fired and hired and before summer was out we just about had a nine room headquarters finished and with some women and ninos and chickens running about. Most of these people come from Manuel, and he would ride in quiet and least expected, with maybe some half-breed fighting man, and the new fighter half starved maybe, maybe with his woman along, and once it was a sister. That time the man was a six foot Mescan named Perez, weighed about a hundred forty pounds, that gained just a little weight eating our barbecue, and had along his beautiful young sister, Tina, and Perez started to shoot Sieb the first night for looking too long. Perez had been hungry just long enough to be a little crazy, but after that he was a real quiet one and his strong little sister washed clothes, and Perez would hunker in the dark with a cigarillo or sometimes marijuana, and if you asked him to do a thing he always did it but the only captain he had was Manuel, and we saw Manuel once or twice a month. Manuel knew like everybody how us Gringos was by his help going to be a power in the land, and why for him doing all this was not a thing you saw that hung plain. Something was between him and me, something drifting, but old and wise and hard like north wind. The sensible part about using us was we was very good in guns and war and worn into one another by old scars, which is a little uncommon and pure in fighters-odds just don't allow it much. When he did show in camp, he rode in slow and nodded two three times and women and children stopped and looked, and he would come over and talk to me, in his way. He was a romantic type loner, a killer, knew the human tragedy, like a Indian he knew earth, air, water, fire, and self, all what is good, or the beauty, and the ugly is just fear, of course, and man's fear being the worst kind, and whether the men on this earth will get through it or no, the rest is so big, the beauty is so big and forever no boundary, all the hunger, all the torture, all the grand evil ain't shit, not even shit, in the face of the universe. Like a man, like a Indian man, it was all said and done in his soul. First time he dropped by, there I was in the river, in some pain, most of it in the heart, and he laughed, hey, Wild Bill, you say those calvary men wanted to get your woman? He made me feel just a little better, better than I had felt since I last saw him. Hope you liked the show, I said. Hb had strong shoulders, sitting on the same tough horse, and he smiled at me so long I wondered just how much civilized language he knew. He threw his right shoulder like a rock. Had hatchet give to me by one them chiefs I kill one sentry. Calvary men they go to attack people live not inside reservation. Manuel shut up then and we knew he was real agile and had took the spokes out of that wheel all right. He liked Apaches and poor people, and poor Mescans mostly didn't know much about him but if they had children and kept the silence Manuel might come by and leave'em a steer, they knew that. Perez, now, was a outlaw, something of a black sheep that had his Catholic family killed by the Apaches, and his siter Tina being the sole survivor, and Perez knew Manuel and had done some work with him and after the incident he brung Tina to Manuel and told him they needed help. Tina was a very strong sixteen year old girl turned woman and sometimes she had crying fits and sometimes she would just stare, but she worked good and we thought a lot of her and we did anything for her she wanted and she had hardly known her brother Perez, him being a family outcast, but she and him grew close now. We had such a bunch of people there that though everybody worked cept me there come some problem feeding them all so before we even had the house finished we found it necessary to steal a few herds of cattle, and Manuel took us here and took us there, long trips for raids in midnight, taking all young unbranded ones we could find, plus a few of the others for barbecue and jerky, and we was so big and well armed we was doing this with not much trouble, and even I was going along because my heart was bad and my head even worse with all the laying around and I just bound up my leg and rode clumsy. Course clumsy for Wild Bill is hop and skip and jump for a ordinary ranch hand or calvary soldier and the word was a bunch of bandidos was ravaging the countryside and selling the cattle in Mexico and we built up that ranch so fast nobody knew the competitions going on til it was too late.
By then we rode about fifty strong, sometimes sixty, depending on what had to be done back at the ranch and the fact that though these was hard hand-picked men by Manuel there was still about a dozen of special outlaw breed we allowed to come in and out, a bunch of bastards and half-breeds that worked off us and did run herds in Mexico, and by working off us they was expected to pay off a little too but they would get that money and go crazy in Mexico, and a few never to return and we was getting such a big ranchero of families and the final word by Manuel was give the mothers food or money first and so many of these lost souls was finding a home that nobody could keep count of the money and food because there was plenty of it and Manuel had this fat old cousin that he caught hoarding more than was his and Manuel beat hell out of him.
We named our ranch Water Hole. Our brand was 0, for "Hole".
I layed a couple the women during the period and it made me sad, and after one of these situations I rode off till I had climbed aways, and I looked back around and seen all the adobe and those people living back there. Somebody had even set up a tienda. Sounds reached me and I heard one woman's new born baby howl his first one and I knew she had made it. I had a little pride in the new tribe, as we did have class and these was a good bunch of men. Too, a small fear run in my bones, all this happening before my face, screwing, faucets, and so on. I looked down at'em and I noticed Bob Sieb in a hammock and I knew he had just opened his eyes and seen me. In a sudden he jumped out, like me wearing just his pants, waving. After he waved a time he picked up a rope and run out to the big corral, a few horses in the corral and he went up on a rail and seen a horse and did a little jump and on the back of that horse and churned up all those horses but when the dust cleared he had cut rope and thrown on a hackamore, and some woman was opening the gate for him. He caught up with me on the run. Hey, Bob, I said, you look hurt and troubled. Maybe not so hurt and troubled as you, he said, Bill. Well, Bob, then what's ailing? Bob Sieb was bouncing and dancing on his horse, flapping his elbows. You eat too much chile today? Hell no, Bill! It's all this work! It ain't human, Bill! Sieb, we got to make a stand. Bill, we ain't even having no fun no more! I been building up adobe all summer! It's weird, Bill, weird! We made a few runs, Sieb. That's work too, Bill! You been getting plenty woman, Sieb. These fat women are driving me crazy, Bill, and they are you too! Do you know where I was going? No, where's that? I got no plan. Want to come? You know, I am in love with the Baca gal. We all know that, Bill, well, you want to go on up there. Yeah, we got something to offer her now. Maybe she forgives me for killing the calvary fellers. Sure she does by now! Think so? Sure she does. Little thing like that, and they shot first, shit. Trip might not be fun and sport, Sieb. Let's go, Wild Bill. Maybe we can find some peyote in town. Naw, they don't got it, Sieb. Well, let's go, he said. We buzzed back down in camp to get boots and the guns we needed and let the others know.
On the way me and old Bob Sieb smoked about as much weed as we could and talked about Elizabeth and the romance and how proud she should be on hearing how well we had done. We should had cooked coffee fore we come into her ranch because I was not ready for her. Sieb had asked me did I want to shave first and I said, naw. If was toward sundown and we seen Elizabeth right off and she was standing with a man under a tree in front of the house and they turned and faced us and was holding hands and he was dressed real civilized and expensive and we come in and I saw fear in her, and she spoke and put fear in him, and he was a young man, blond Spanish type, green eyes Next thing, she took hold of herself. So in my condition, first thing I could say was, Elizabeth, I come to marry you. Her brother was way down the road, seen me, and put his horse to a trot. This is my fiance, said Elizabeth, and give his name, though I never got it. My shoulder twitched to kill him, and everybody seen it, probably Hijo down the road seen the twitch, and Sieb said, Wild Bill, worried for me and pulling back and checking our flank, saluted Hijo, and Hijo saluted, and I liked Hijo for it, for he was just real concerned about his sister and had always been nice to me, and I swear, I never saw such a fear as went out of that fiance of hers, and I was cold with the lust kept down and I thought right into his face, why, you sure are a weak and sick and ugly example of what ought to be a man, and he looked to Hijo, couldn't bear to take a second look at me and he trembled in her hand. Funny thing about it, it just give her strength. Watch he don't piss on hisself, I said to her calm. Then, my shoulder did it again, caught me by surprise that time, a natural desire to put the weak from their misery, I guess. Whooee, I said to Sieb. Why I best make up my mind fore it's too late. Smart and quick like always, she hollered, you killed those soldiers, didn't you! But that wasn't exactly her best move cause her little man near fainted or pissed or some damn thing, because he was a mess. He tried a smile at this point, which was another mistake. What do you see in'im, I said pointing. I really wanted to know, too, and crazy as I was getting, I guess this is the biggest reason I did not kill him. By then she was saying so many sharp mean things I couldn't even keep up. I broke my leg, I said and pulled the pants to show her, and Hijo come up by then. She went on for me to be breaking my neck and I said to her brother, what does she see in'im? Nervous as was Hijo he didn't mind smiling and had to catch hisself from a shrug or shake of head and Sieb said, hi, Hijo. We got a big ranch now, I told Hijo. Glad to hear, he said and his sister said we must had stole half the cattle in the territory. You're right, I said, and she said, well, just don't get ours. She was mean, see.
Ready, Bob, I said. Yeah, Bill. I shook Hijo's hand, just offhand, a natural thing for us to be doing. I won't never kill him, I told her. Because I love you. I got her that time, saw she still had it for me, then we turned and rode. Next time break your neck, she hollered.
We moved in the direction of town and I need a settling of my blood so we smoked and talked till we was out of marijuana. How come didn't we bring more? We been using a lot. How come we going to town? Get a drink. Think fear is the worst sin, Sieb? I'm sure hungry. You think fear is the worst sin? Yep. Get some jerky, Sieb. We're out. We got those oranges. Hey! Forgot all about those, haw, haw! Here, you think they kept? Yeah! Then what can you do about fear in women and children? Give'em kindness, Bill. What about hate? What about it? It's a fear too, right? Well, right, right. Cause, Sieb, you don't hate nobody for nothing. Yeah, they're in the way or they ain't. Yep, they mean something to you one way or they don't and they mean something different in a different way. Most people don't mean nothing to me, Bill. How can that be, Sieb. Look, them people are there or they ain't. That's something just by itself. So how can they mean nothing. That little sissie back there, he don't mean nothing, Bill. Don't he turn your stomach? He sure does. Think there's a man inside im? Hell no. There ain't nothing to'im, Bill. Then what's he scared about? Hell, I don't know, maybe he thought you was going to shoot his head off. I'm glad I didn't. Me too, I done enough running. Sieb, see, he got feelings. He ain't afraid for no reason. He wants to live for some reason. He's scared of dying, Bill. You think she can make him into a man? Now, how can a woman make a man into a man? Women are weak too, Bill. Yeah, yeah. Goddamnit, Sieb, I just can't understand what's she doing with him. He's rich, Bill. Maybe she wants a baby? Sure, he's her baby now, and besides, he's rich. Maybe he's poetical? Huh? Maybe he can read poetry and show'er fine things? Shit, Bill, anybody can do that rich.
We eat in the Mescan woman's cafe on the way and they said they could sell us some marijuana on our way back after their children picked it and we went into town for a drink and went to the bar where James was killed. I think people knew who we was, and some seen us station our unsaddled horses and they run inside to tell somebody, and the little bartender had half his ear gone where the town drunk bit it. Whiskey, we said. We leaned and looked at the door and the others and then we settled on the bartender. He didn't know if he was going to make a bunch of money and lose another ear again or what. After two, I said to him, you make me sick. No trouble, please, gentlemen, he said. Get off your wooden leg, bartender, Sieb said, for a try. It was a good try and the bartender told us how he was a poor bartender and touched his ear. Get off your wood leg, poor! After six, I said, Sieb, I know this is a lot of fun, good for my broken heart and all, but I better stop this fore I walk on this leg too much. So we left.
It was such a hot early morning we put our boots and shirts in our saddlebags and was silly all the way to the woman's cafe where at dawn we waited for her to open. In eating Bob Sieb is just about in class of me or Packy or Tom, and we put our shirts back on when she come out, give her a early bird start and we loaded on a hearty breakfast and drunk coffee while her boys run off to pick the marijuana. Then Sieb started our day with a how was I feeling by now and I said I didn't feel nothing. You ain't going to kill'im? I love'er, Sieb. Is that so? That is so. What does it feel like? Feels like hell, Sieb, sheer hell. You do love her? Yeah. That is a fine thing, Bill. Why is that, Sieb? It just is, Bill. There ain't enough love in this world. I feel like hell, Sieb. Well, I hope you get to feeling better, Bill. You do? Yes, I do, Bill. One thing though, Sieb. Oh yeah, what's that? Killing can make you feel clean. You don't feel clean? I feel, now look here, I feel like I had this woman loving me but now she joined the other side. Don't you think she loves you, Bill? No. Sieb, she does not. The other side is our enemies, Sieb. She will marry my enemy now.
We started out and I did not want to smoke. No? No, Sieb. Why? Too tired. By evening when we stopped I was in bad shape, chills and nausea. We had coffee, roasted a couple rabbits, ate and I threw mine up. Next I was heaving too much to stand, all the spare water come out till I was down to stomach juices, yellow bitter stuff. We carried goatskins of water and was not on any water and was several miles off a river and I was drying up so in one of the lulls we got our stuff and mounted and rode for that river and I was urping so much by then my thighs and belly muscles was cramping and I would gather a heave and go, aaaaoooooouuuuuuuh, from the heave more'n the pain because that was how much it took to throw a heave like that, took all I had and that wasn't enough so the body went into cramps and I couldn't stay on the horse. I fell and Sieb took the bags and run for the river. When he got back I was in rough shape, in terrible thirst. He was crying and said, get hold of yourself, Wild Bill, and I drunk, and then for a few minutes thought I was maybe going to get off easy, but then it come again and took the water back out of me. Be next dying of thirst, drink water, wait, go, waeaooouuuuu. Then next be trying to straighten out the bad cramps, enough to get a little water, so I could wait maybe ten minutes for the devil to turn the wheel again. I was laying on a bunch of rocks so Sieb used his knife and hands and dug me out a bed and chopped up a bunch of bushes and threw'em in and then our horse blankets, worked real fast sol could roll over into a soft place. First he did some pleading like maybe I had some control over everything but I could not reply and anytime I could say anything it was just cussing and hate and he built a fire and brung water and sit up. This went on till far into the next morning before I could hold water in long as a quarter of hour, and by noon I was keeping it maybe a hour and claiming I was going to go back and kill that young man in sake of my own health. You coming, Sieb, I said. Yeah, Bill, but we got to get you back together first. This ain't too bad a place to camp and nobody likely to come across you. Let me get a little sleep here then I'll go see if I can kill us something. By late afternoon he was sleeping and I had quit all the heaving and was chewing a piece of jerky I found and I heard these javelinas and stood and got up on Grey and went out after'em with the rifle, seen'em and rode and knocked over one then another and then another. That left me pretty weak and thirsty so I went on back and Sieb was up and ready for anything and I told him where they lay and he went and brung'em in. He hung'em over the fife and we sit there two more days smoking and eating the javelina and watching the strength build back in me. How much can you take, Wild Bill? That one he wanted to know. There is a curse on me, Sieb.
But we did not go back to kill that feller. During the recovery Sieb kind of talked me out of it. The next day while I smoked and eat a javelina he said, think on it, Bill. Since you took it this hard, think how hard he took it. A coward dies many times, he said. When I next quit eating for a break and took a big pull on my pipe, I knew he was right. You're right, Sieb. He might be dead already, for final. I don't want to go back there, Bill, he said. God. Let's don't.
Day we headed out I quit smoking again. You feel something in the air, Wild Bill? I do. Little as the energy is I don't want to hold it down now. I kept my mind to running sharp and mean and feeling the air I whipped my head for a look behind and Sieb's
followed with eyes busting and teeth hard on pipe, and high up behind sun flickered off metal for a instant. See'em, Sieb? Yeah! My stomach twisted again, then went crash against my heart and my heart went on crashing, for my energy was not right. I don't want a chase, Sieb. No, then a dry gulch? Not really. Them is soldiers, Sieb. Yeah, see, I was right. What do you feel up to doing then? I don't know. What's in your bones? Can't tell cause all this blood goes rushing back and forth. Bill! I never seen all this in you before! You scared, Bill, or what? Don't know, Sieb. I'm too sick to know. Bad day to fight, Bill? Bad day to run too. Think the Baca gal wants you dead too? Don't know, Sieb. You still love'er? Don't know. I was maybe even crying I was so sick and I said, Sieb! Leave me! No! This is my fight, Sieb. And I'll stand here and do it. Bad day to fight, Bill! This is a bad place to fight, Bill! How much you going to take, Wild Bill, goddamnit! Here we was, moseying along with a bunch of calvary thinking they was sneaking up. Bill! Take this pipe, he says. How much you going to take! He's shoving his pipe at my teeth and yelling all this shit and reaching over so far and the horses brung us down a dip-think! - please! -think! -Wild Bill! -Wild Bill! -take my pipe! -and hangs the pipe in my teeth as we pulled apart and I grab it so I don't lose it and maybe have a couple pulls fore I can give it back-anycase I am calmer.
We run along a lot of open country and Sieb was grinning at me through his tears and I was thinking, now goddamn, why did I have to go through all that back there, here we be on a comfortable little trot and those guys back there can just bust their ass. I now had my heart beating right in time with Grey and there was just no sense in me getting locked up by the U.S. Army for their fool questions. Damn, they're fighting with Apaches, they ought to get over me after a time. This is the way I felt right then, and damn, but that is just about what happened, too. Who should be on a hill looking down on us but Manuel and God. We seen a mirror flash, and we looked all around for the answer and just barely caught it, way out back of the calvary. We could see the calvary, too, tween ten and twenty, busting their asses. That first one, Sieb. That was so careless about me and you it didn't mind if we got away. Must be Manuel, Bill. Hum. Can we be of help in seeing that bunch cut off? You know that big gully two mile maybe three over there, Bill? You're right. Yeah, you know, I don't really feel the balls to move that hard right now but we might as well run and get'em strung out in that sand. That is what we did, we put on such a show that the calvary fellers never realized some Apaches was coming till they had worn out their horses catching up to us and was two and three abreast and some of 'em two and three hundred feet behind us everybody inside that big ditch. We let 'em get too close, Wild Bill! Damn! We sure did, didn't we now! They got good horses! You want to get us killed, Wild Bill? No! We was on top this quick turn and point to climb out that we knowed about, and we first passed it it was so quick, so we stopped, made as if we was giving up, turned around and walked at our pursuers, then, hiya! We switched on'em and was a climbing and one feller tried a shot and we seen it coming and had bent and so missed seeing his horse toss'im, wasn't trained right or something, and by God the Apaches was doing better'n everybody expected too, cause off from the other side come first a couple arrows, right in front the calvary horses faces and the horses begun to pitch, then come several more and one horse got hit and turned back into the other horses, then what sounded like about fifty Apaches added to it all and we took one look at the long line of'em coming to do all that calvary in and us too can they catch us and we quit looking then.
You would think that none of those men could of got out it alive, but Manuel told us later how two did, good riders and they got loose and the Apaches let'em go, even as one was wounded bad, cause they was good shots and killed a horse and wounded three Apaches. Sieb's horse was hit too though we did not know it till we run it to death, and this feller did it was quite a trooper and one of them two got away, and he had grabbed a loose horse and got hit and still he got away. Meanwhile, here was me and Sieb after our little get away, me weak and him with no horse. It's a hell of a life, ain't it, Sieb. It sure is, Bill. You think we'll ever amount to anything? Hell no. But let's eat this horse, Bill. It was on a stream where his horse died trying to drink, and my love Grey sure needed his rest too.