Chapter One

It felt like I had the piss shot out of me, and I brung my body off my bed of hides and sure had to piss. Again we was trying to live safe in a ever worse increasing law abiding community and we had this can­tina and I was made bouncer and while we had it I lived in the back of this damn place and it was hell ever morning round high noon kicking back this damn rotten door and getting rid of all that overload of beer exactly round the time the Senoras the other side of the irrigation ditch was stripping down their clothes lines and crossing their hearts and so on. The day was more fierce than usual because I ain't actually no big enough man to be bouncing full grown two hundred pound riff raff, especially when they're fighting back and me drinking myself full of beer just so I would not be too quick and hurt some good clients or nothing and here last night this real big feller had come in real late for a reason of not to be getting drunk, like me, but just beat me up and win a big bet, and this is why I felt shot and was a little bent to a side and just did get over into the outhouse fore I shit in my britches. It was a embarrassing start of a new day because I hate to look bad.

I sit and thought a long time about this dream of Elizabeth shooting me I had just come out of because something in a side of my lower guts was not working proper and the entire goddamn gang was mad cause I had not opened up in the front and they was rode over to drink some coffee with me and have us a pow wow.

Come out of there, Olive, they hollered for a time but they also did not like how all them women cross the ditch was taking it. After Juanita had brung me two cups of coffee I come out.

You're getting drunk on the job, Wild Bill, said Rattlesnake, and every other night he was losing his feet or something himself.

I ain't used to being around so many drunk human beings every night, I said, seeing my pipe was still in my pants all right but was broke.

For a while there, Wild Bill, I thought he had you, Hatch said. Hell, I think he had been in training for it. See how he had all that good wind. Not ary ounce of fat on'im, too.

No excuses, now, Olive, said Gunter. You're supposed to be keeping order, stead of entertaining.

Ml right, you guys, I said. I quit. This ain't a natural life. I am' going to see the Peyote Woman. I had this dream, see. The Peyote Woman lived up in the mountains of Chihuahua, and Peter The Potential One could take me there in order to find the meaning of the dream or anything else. Elizabeth hung in me and I had writ her letters and had a feeling it would not do no good to see her face to face and I had not seen her in near two years but knowed she was still at her family's ranch and still not quite married, and I might see this or that woman but get less and less satisfaction, and was trying not to spend a whole lot of time in the clutches of Mrs. Trudeau, even as she kept pulling the Texas Gang out of the hole ever time we went broke from legal business, and she had a great big deep woman's well, or ocean, to brave and so on. Sd I and Peter The Potential One took a ride on up to hear out the Peyote Woman.

Meanwhile, Mary Ann was dying, of something, can't remember, and she had give Packy Gunter one baby, and Mary Ann looked about a week from the other side of the world when Packy tucked the baby under his arm and went to St. Lduis for to give it to his mother. He had too just married Mary Ann and got the kid in her will pretty good, as was only good sense when you have been through what we have, hunger and strife and bloodshed, and look at how I could not get married on just fame alone, and so on, and there was some new charges brung out on me, for burning down that bunk house and killing them people, for, as it turned, that rancher had made plaster casts of my bare feet prints and had been laying low and picking his time and a good lawyer, or getting his guts up or something, and meanwhile the U.S. damn Cavalry wanted themselves a new trial and fought the Water Hole, had gone out there and shot some women and children when running after some bandidos, and then gone back out there a'nd shot more women and children for sympathizing with the Apaches, and Black Hatch just about lost his grip over that one because he knew a couple these half breed children killed and he and Fritz was all caught up in a insane attempt at suing the U.S. Army, and there was some new charges on Sieb about killing Cant, and old charges on Sieb brung tack out, and next thing we was all in trouble and wanted for just being in the Texas Gang, so Tiddle and Johnnie and Jim went back to Padre Island, and Hatch went a little crazier on that here he had brung his wife and four adopted kids from St. Louis and was now sending them back with Packy, and then Hatch's wife and pregnant went a little crazy because he had just told her he would see her when the trouble blowed over, and there was just a hell of a lot of bad shit, and no need to even say what all, and so when Packy and his baby and Hatch's pregnant wife and all her kids got off the train in St. Louis and took a coach ride, Gunter stopped the driver at a art exhibit being done by this old friend from his New Orleans days. It was all just one of these moments in destiny because Gunter did not know this old fart was in St. Louis, and him and Hatch's wife and all of'em was just getting to the decent side of town where lived Hatch's in-laws, and this sign outside a pretty little picket fence house looked to be done in the hand of his old friend and Gunter said, stop! My children need relief, said Hatch's wife. Hell, let'em relieve it right here, said Gunter and tired of the journey with the pile of kids. I know this man, this genius! They need baths, and food, said Hatch's wife. And I need a drink, said Gunter jumping free with his babe in arm. Hatch's wife feared things coming, told the coachman to toss Gunter's trunk overboard, and as the man could not by hisseif she helped him and they tumbled it upside down and blocked the gate of the picket fence and drove away fast, and Gunter already inside and spying a bowl of punch and getting him and his kid a drink. They had a couple drinks of punch then could hear the old genius running around out in the yard hollering out at everybody about whose trunk this was, and there was some fancy dressed people in and about and ladies being helped over the iron trunk and all. This is my trunk, Genet, said Gunter at the door and same time trying to get his squawling little bastard drunk. Here, sugar pie, have a little drink with Daddy, that's a good suger pie, there. Gunter, my Lord, said Genet. Can it be you? Damn straight, tell them dudes please to stop pushing at my trunk so goddamn rough fore my shotgun goes off and I think from where it is pointed now it surely would castrate them both! Shotgun? Certainly, and if those couple sissie looking fellers are a wee bit stronger'n they appear and thus successful in their attempt of right siding my case the hair trigger should then knock upon that far side where it is at rest and I do not recollect from which end I did lay the barrel, mind you, but if it don't get one of them fellers it ought to get his partner then.

The outcome of the matter was that Genet give his old friend one then not opened bottle of aged rye, and Gunter drunk it and laid his kid to sleep and was in a emotional state of mind and went about on his hands and knees barking like a dog and snapping at heels and pissing on his trunk and along the picket fence, for a start. He bit a woman in the thigh and her husband demanded would Gunter accept pistols at dawn. He flung the man through the picket fence, and from there, says Gunter, his memory does fade. While the man's wife lost one petticoat and run down the road like a deer, Gunter run a couple circles baying like a hound, rose to his hind legs and begin on the other folks. Women he bit, or slapped with his Horse Pecker and generally molested, while their husbands he thumped in the head or broke the arms of. Nightfall showed a big battle between him and the St. Louis Police Force. I figured it was the end for me and my blood, he says, but I fought like a demon, and always remained cool in the head, though at each lull of gunfire I did the hound bay to disguise my position and to unnerve the enemy, and I blasted a hole in the floor and then went to chopping and by the final charge I and my son-who through it all demonstrated his was the stuff his father is made of-were under the house. I do not remember all the following events-vaguely I see whacking a gendarme in the leg with my knife, such a blow as that surely removed the limb-and there was a big rain in the night and various reports of me seen coming from behind hedges and leaping rushing gutters with babe in one arm and sawed off shotgun in the other. I appeared at Mother's mud slinging and still possessed of guns and knife and babe and a gaping scalp wound which I had remained unaware of. They are trying hard to get the last of the Gunters, I explained to her, and she had a little trouble holding up, but she did what she could. Genet I have not seen since, if he lived, nor do I care to, as he sent via Mother a nasty letter decalring the end of what for many years he had led me to believe was a friendship, and claimed I had ruined him and put him a very ill fellow. I hated to lose the good trunk and all I owned except for my essentials, my shotgun and six guns and mountain knife, but Mother give me breakfast and prayer and took in my little child and I was on my way by dawn.

I have always said, be sure and get them before they get you. I do have one brother, an ambitious and manic fellow, a political man, but I owe my own success to personal philosophy, a way of life, indeed. Fight like a cornered rat but dominate the center of the ring. A wise man will break his apple. He who keeps a sharp blade will remember not to cut his finger. The early bird gets the worm. They who build a castle may suffer an attack at dawn before the completion of the moat. A weak man walks on three legs, I always say.

But shitfire, Mary Ann went on living then. Gunter come in a ragged man, wild behind the eyeballs, and hugged her ankles when she was wanting to chop more wood. Us all in her house because Bowman had on a big pot of beans and chile and armedillo, we looked out and see this big scene of Gunter in the dust. He stood hisself and said to us, but, sirs. Goddamn, said Hatch. You look like you been through hell, Gunter. Hbh, heh. But, sirs, said Gunter, mad. My sick woman chopping wood and you bunch of bastards just hiding out and laying back! And there commenced a argument. Gbddamn you, Gunter! You leave Mary Ann dying and we come up here and pull'er through and today she got so healthy and frisky why she! Mary Ann, you been running around with this scoundral Hatch again, have you! No, Packy, dear, the desire comes rather slowly for my health is still delicate but this morning I dreamt of your return and everything about you and. Bowman is cooking in there, is it! Why, why that high yeller sonofabitch making my woman do his kindling I ought to kick his ass soon as I run you off, Hatch! Haw, he's delirious, said Hatch with his finger and Gunter grabbed the elbow and they rolled around and I took up the ax and broke kindling.

I had seen the Peyote Woman then. She said Elizabeth was my woman. In that case, why is she weak and treacherous, I said. Women are that way, said the Peyote Woman.

I had eat no peyote since leaving the Peyote Woman. As it was I had near run onto Elizabeth's father's ranch just from there but Peter The Potential One that was staying pretty relaxed on plenty pulque during this visit said to me, Bill, sometimes the Peyote Woman, she is wrong. Why do you say that, Pedro? This Peyote Woman, Bill, she lives all the time up here with her Indios and she don't know no better. She very old but she strong and she have these two three novios make the love and go bring her tobacco and coffee sometimes and, the children die here, Bill, many many, because there ain't all the time very much food coming in and no doctors cept her, you see, and sometimes Peyote is not the perfect medicine when you got the measels. Um, Pedro, I see. Uh huh, she see all the stars and all the colors and wisdom and she get the good fucking and she know all about life more than me and you but she don't know what it is like down below and all the times says she never wants to see the white race because the children they die and the children they come back and the white men smoke tobacco and drink coffee and whiskey everyday so they just shooting in front of the world like a red comet and after they go by then the Indios bring up to here more meat like before and then a little more children live and maybe so then she tell her novios to take her to this big mountain over there because she know everybody she need already. Ah, I see. Uh huh, she don't care bout no woman that wants the little things. Ah, certainly you are the potential one, Pete. Uh huh, the Peyote Woman she just bitch like all the rest. Well, goddamn, Pete, why did you bring me up here? Because you pay me, Bill. And now you happy to know Elizabeth is your woman.

I was trying to talk the Gang into us all staying together and going to find some place in the mountains somewhere and take all our women and children and live there, but I give up. There was new wanted posters out on Sieb, and he was laying about smoking and supposed to be seeing a new woman he had at the Water Hole, and this day was the second time I beat up Lem we was some of us at the bar with Sieb and me doing my last talk that we should forsake civilization, and Peter The Potential One was bringing in three mules loaded down with liquor and had took his personal short cut and had looked back down and seen a party of men all armed to the teeth on the main trail from El Paso, and he reached us and said, Bob Sieb, they come now! Sieb grabbed a rifle, canteen, rope, hooking his guns on a elbow, roped this stud we had and got on his way. How you going to stop that sonofabitch less you put a hackamore on, we said. I ain't stopping, he said. I will drink at the Water Hole! Where will you be? I will leave word with the Water Hole, adios! What a crazy suffering devil he was, likely to get thirsty and crazy as hell fore he got to the Water Hole.

He jumped a irrigation ditch with guns on shoulder, rope in teeth, rifle in one hand and dropped the canteen when he tore down two clothes lines, and a pack of women sent up a howl and the dust covered him. Yahoo, he said.

Peyote gives you a knowledge of future events and I guess he knowed it would rain right after I whipped Lem.

Next thing here come on in Lem with this gang of bounty hunters. I recognized him when he was far off cause of the way his head stuck out lower'n his shoulders. Why, I'll be, I said.

Damn, said Hatch. He only come out of pride, you know, Bill, and we ain't got Sieb to put the spell on'im this time.

I'll run get'im, said Bowman. Naw, shit, I said. You always whip a man easier the next time.

Lem and about twenty come in slow, and Lem said in a real mean little spark of fear, howdy, Bill Olive. We want you and Sieb and Gunter and Rattlesnake Dan.

There was me and Dan and Hatch and Tom Treefrog Bowman there, spreading a bit, plus a friendly bunch of Mescans that we didn't know was how good or up for a fight, but we knowed old Lem was speaking just for his old reputation and that it was up to me to kick the air out again. Howdy, Lem. I hope you ain't doing the thinking for these fellers.

We don't need no boss. We just come for your carcasses, he said. But first I aim to whip your ass good and get my title back. They weighed me this morning and I arn two hundred forty three pounds buck naked and I'm hard as a rock. Then he took off his shirt and give it and his reins to his partner and got down and the rest of em stayed up. I could see he was older and meaner and had been getting in some experience.

You know that little feller you whipped here? I hear he almost whipped you! Why, you must be going down hill! Why, that little feller, why I whipped his ass last Saturday! I busted both his collar bones! Now I'm going to get my title back! He give his hat and guns to his partner.

Now this was making me feel better. After the visit with the Peyote Woman I had just not been able to make no decisions on what to do with myself. Here I was, not drunk or full, my leg not bunged up or nothing like the other time I fought Lem, and I was in good health, and it ain't just every day you get to fight when you're ready. I told Lem how ashamed I was for him to had beat that feller up so soon after I had near killed'im, and give my stuff to one of the little kids that liked me, a kind of a little kid that was sure to learn from all this.

See you gained a little weight, Olive!

He come on just like before, and never knowing that my pride, too, had been hurt from that fight we had, and I let him snatch my arm and then I hit'im direct that must truly had been half again as hard I ever did hit'im last time I shouldn't 've let him get hold cause he clawed off hide and spinned me off balance and he went on back and bounced off a horse and stayed on his feet. If kind of hurt my feelings again. He blinked, spit, slung a little blood and smiled sweet. Thought it was his move again but I met him head on. We went down then and rolled and I was going to roll him right and come on top but a horse kicked him the wrong way and he come on top, and he clutched my head and one arm and snapped his teeth into my shoulder. Now that one really scared me cause he has jaws like I never see on a human being and I got a ear and was trying to get a eye but couldn't get it and the ear hold tore, with a great chunk of my shoulder tearing out, and, they tell me, that for a second there I went a little stronger'n old Lem, never minded pulling off the ear and just got his throat and bent and twisted and heaved and come direct and up and Lem's back of head broke a beer bottle and I was on top and free, leaned my hundred seventy five pounds into his short throat-and I would catch a cramp in my right hand for a month after-and trying to get my other arm free and he let go it and banged me in the brains, and I rolled under three horses to back off long enough to think about what to do. It weren't looking good. After I whip Lem, I'm going to go see Elizabeth, I thought. It is bout time to settle down.

Lem was impatient and kicked a man's horse in the stomach and I stood slow and suddenly stepped and twisted low and plowed my fist in his torn ear. He got so mad he was actually moving kind of fast.

I fingered his beard and kneed him real good in the liver and spinned away and he run and it was his big mistake that he tried a big kick and I dipped under the leg and sent'im into a fall he wasn't ready for. Come down with all my weight on one knee right in his pit of back. I took a arm and flipped'im over and hang a knee in his guts and slugged his jaw a few times, had my squaw man boots on this time and stomped some teeth out, then got on in his throat, Good thing I like you, Lem! Or I'd kill you!

They was three of em working at getting Lem on his horse and the others kind of ready to go but one had gall and said the man they was really looking for was Robert Siebanthol-crazy like he would get us in order to get Sieb-and this kid, named Florencio and only ten, pitched me a gun just on notion and I come up and shot this fool gunman-he was really something, pulling at his guns in the fall and broke his shot shoulder bad. Our medicine was good and all the Mescans with us and there was more coming. Men, women, children crossing the irrigation ditch.

I think I'll shoot somebody for fun too, said Dan, but he held off and let'em get Lem and the gunman back over their horses, just kicked the last to mount in the ass for being a little slow. Then we give free drink to everybody in the neighborhood and went broke. Them people drunk and drunk and fell in the water, and leaped in, and run naked through the rain, and a old man drowned first thing. The children, you could most the time hear if one them went under. Juanita started out by tending some bar, but Bix come in and she had been through a hard time of having and bringing up her kid, Treefrog's kid, if you remember, and that kid had growed and risen to his hind legs at least a couple of times already, so Juanita said she had been gang banged by the Texas Gang, and dragged Dan to the back room. Dan was impressed, all right, but in a few hours on the cow hides with her he went to sleep, woke up, and see old Bix over in the cow hides and Juanita wild as a demon. Wait your turn, Dan, said Bix. Bowman come in from swimming and a kick in the shin by some gal's brother and said he was next for being Juanita's third lover and father of her child. Bowman left the door open and a pack of people fell on through and Dan got dressed and got drunk. Not that we wasn't watching our flanks and had gone decadent or nothing, but it was a time of wonderment and confusion and I and Dan stayed armed and Dan said he quit Texas Gang.

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