Chapter Two

Rattlesnake Dan took a southerly course. He visited his brother, Old Dave, in Laredo still married to Sherry, and Sherry was carrying her second child and never wanted Dan around anyway, and Felicia Gutierrez was a friend of Sherry's and lived there and Dan impregnated her under the excuse that she needed to get over the death of her mother. I dunno, I jus dunno, said his brother. Felicia never had taken the violent death or her mother too bad, loved her though she did, see, there she had come from the nunnery to peyote and had somewhat gone into a world of the spirits, talking to her mother all the time, and whereas Dan did break her heart, and she died in labor, Dan's judgement on the matter was she had already agreed with her dominant mother to leave for the spirit world real early. By time she died with her broken heart in labor Dan had been gone a long time, him never been able to clean guns around two crying pregnant women or even smoking weed. I could tell, said Old Dave, he was getting real bad. Tbo, Dan didn't even leave a goodby, because he had to leave fast.

He was cleaning and smoking and sitting in Sherry's big Laredo house, a whole afternoon under the pecan trees in the patio talking how he was out of the Gang and time was come for him to get his revenge on every damn soul in Texas what had done him wrong, and how he was starting out with that shitass greaser sheriff over in Nuevo cause this was one of them what had beat him in the head with rifle butts a few years back-time we tried to rob the bank and got throwed in jail to hang-Dan said he knew it was him cause he spied him just yesterday. Hot damn, he sure ain't one them we got when we come back!

Sherry screamed, you butchering beast, one of his deputies is one of the ones David ran the wagon over and he is cripped for life and is bad as you and you go over there they will connect you with David and all of us here! Oh, my lord goddamn, said Dave. Hell, said Dan, I been there just yesterday. Time I do all my revenge fore I get too old or killed. Being as how I quit Texas Gang. A wail went out of Felicia's bedroom. It sounded as if she could hear Dan from back in there. Time to ride! said Dan. He was so full of weed smoke they thought he would have a beer on the way and not get so far as crossing the river that time, but he didn't come back.

No. It must had been something. He didn't drink no beer, but had stole a key to Sherry's dry goods store, stole a powerful load of dynamite. Guess it was the most artistic and daring thing he has ever done. About ten o'clock Dan waited on the jailhouse roof, seen the sheriff leave the bar across the street, and he lit the long fuse and clambered down into the alley and run half a block to his horse. Dynamite was hanging on a rope down one side and blowed off one big comer of the adobe jail. Dan was the only man on a horse for two block and he rode in, lassoed a arm and shoulder of the crawling sheriff, and rode for Texas. Funny, everybody still up must had been pretty drunk as usual in that town, cause they did not appear to catch what had come of their sheriff til two days later some children out picking prickly pears run across the piece of him left by the coyotes, and Dan, on the Texas side.

Somebody has got to pay for all this, said Old Dave, and gained twenty pounds and stayed inside a entire month.

Dan went through Austin and shot a man, nobody ever got the details on that, as he made his way to the Texas coast. Took his time getting there, had to see some woman and shot some man somewhere in between, and news of the first killing traveled fast, and a Marshall got a raft to pole him and horse to Padre for showing his warrant to the Brownrats, and the Brownrats just wanted to fish and have no trouble from men, and they said to this Marshall that they would tell him when they seen Dan. Jim Brownrat did not say this, he was getting a little crazy again and made to the Marshall that he was totally out of his mind and turned his back on him and walked off. Crazy as a loon, ain't he, said the Marshall, Bill Reeder, and Jim sit on the steps of his mother's big drift wood house and sniffed a sore on his foot. Reeder was a big and tough and impressive man, been a law man in Texas a long time and he rode from the Brownrats over to Tiddle Caylor's store which was now getting by and he talked to Tiddle and Tiddle liked him. Yep, I met Dan maybe one time, said Tiddle. I remember him as a real edgy and loud sonofabitch. That's him, said Reeder. Think he might show around here? No, said Tiddle. Ain't much for him here at the Island. He might pass through the Olive house, over on the mainland there. Ain't you been there? No. Why, no, said Reeder. See, he told this gal friend he had to come down here to see the ocean fore he cashed in. Cash in? Hum. That is interesting, Marshall. Me, why I'm just sitting her snug where I got friends and keeping shop and so I don't know too much about the outside world.

Rattlesnake Dan traded his horse for a row boat, says he just paddled out a half mile, looked and seen the man he traded his good horse to get shot by some people what Dan didn't even know was coming. He just wanted to see El Golfo De Mexico again. Saddle on shoulder and rifle in his other hand and boots still wet from when them angry fellers had got two slugs through his floor of skiff he passed by the Brownrats, told their old man, Jaybird Brownrat, he wanted to trade his saddle for a horse so as to ride on down the beach. Just want to ride on down that beach, he said with the memory that Jaybird did not like him. Jaybird was out in the yard on his elbows and knees mending a net by claw and teeth and he leveled his head and looked past his spectacles. According to Dan he talked with the net in his teeth. They are after you, boy! You let us working people alone now! We got a U.S. Marshall over here right now and he'll shoot you down so you best be moving on! That a fact, said Dan and dropped his saddle. Look here, goddamnit, I need a horse! Hey, Johnny, he said to John. Get me a horse! Naw, we're going straight, said John. After that John just didn't make reply to Dan. Jaybird ain't named Jaybird for nothing, got pretty worked up. Wawk! We're working people! Wa-ak! Awk! Real disgusted Dan went on and that saddle was in the Brownrat yard for final, nobody ever moved it. He busted on into Tiddle's, damn, fishermen is funny people, ain't they! Watch the door, Dan, said Tiddle. This place ain't made of one hundred percent oak. Yeah, what's this about a Marshall after me then? Yeah, he is. Where is he? Dan, I ain't getting involved. I own property and I'm keeping it this way. Yeah, wait till the next hurricane hits! Who's side you on, anyway? Dan seen Jim looking in a barrel of flour. Hey, Jimmy! Tiddle said, goddamnit, Jim, get your ass wiping fingers out of that flour! It's got bugs in it, said Jim. If it's got bugs in it they come off you! Jim, said Dan. Goddamnit, answer me! Everybody's always hollering at me, said Jim. I can't stand it, I can't stand it! Think I'm about to go under!

Bill Reeder liked to hunt and fish and was off down the Island with Robert Brownrat and Kenny Weaver on a couple of the ponds shooting ducks, He was a widower and lonely soul and had to be a unlikely type to get next to the Brownrats. Said he used to break the law hisself, till fifteen years ago God laid hand on him and he become a law man. His calling was to be trailing special bad men like Dan and any the rest of his friends that come back in Texas. Trouble with Dan McConchie and Bill Olive and Dick Hatch and all them is how it's so hard to find out just what they do. They don't shave and are known to act like Mescans and Niggers and Indians, eat meat raw and ride without no saddle and smoke marijuana. They live so evil you know they has got to be breaking law and killing and robbing but they're so sneaky it's real hard to find out just when. Robert sit quiet in his Indian blood. Kenny said how Richard Hatch had become a lawyer out in New Mexico Territory. So I was told, Kenny said. Sonofabitch must be a real carpetbagger then if that's the case, said Reeder. What I like about you boys, he said, is the way you live out here and fish and hunt and sell nets and so on and don't break no law. Ain't no law out here to break, Robert laughed. Yessir, you need a good Babtist church out here but you mind your own affairs all the same. Well, our mother is a Catholic, said Robert with a smile. Cbme from Italy. Yeah, you boys get to have all the fun, said Reeder sad. But how in hell you all ever get to know that pack of hairy sonofabitches anyway?

The trouble with us all, was saying Bix and Packy to one and the other at the same time, is we just ain't spiritual enough! Why, we just ain't!

Yeah, we finally got it figured out, said Packy in a tub and Mary Ann cleaned his back. Yep, we got to face it by now, he said sad. Bix seen a demon waiting up in one corner of the blood dripping cobwebby ceiling. Oh, my god. And me just sipping this here tequila too!

Damn, Bix! You're just drinking tequila this time! I know, I know, said Bix and bawled. Hell, I been off peyote six months! Wished I'd never eat it!

Hell, I seen'im too, Bix! And I always just hear'em back of me and never see'em before! First one I ever seen, Bix! Oh, no! Oh, God, aaiiee!

Looks bad as hell, Bix! I see teeth on'im!

Yeah, me too! Look in his mouth! Not in his eyes-see in his mouth!

Oh no!

Ababy!

Oh no!

Who's demon is he, anyway?

Oh, God, no!

Mary Ann up and run loose of her house in a scream. It was a little dark and she tripped on a crawling bounty hunter and he shot her three times in blind fear. Bix and Gunter had different fear and smashed two lanterns and even as the house was adobe and the table the only thing afire Tom Treefrog was on the roof having a bad time with Juanita and he smelled all the smoke and hearing Bix and Gunter and he leaped naked from the roof, for some reason. A dozen sneaking bounty huntes went chickenshit and jumping for their horses and Treefrog run aways himself till someone took a look at him and fired five or six times and old Treefrog kept hopping till hit in the leg bad and he was down. Bix, in his long hannels himself, seen this one in the yard aiming for old Tom, and snatched his arm and broke him on a tree a few times and if the man lived when Bix bit him he died with Bix's teeth in his throat. If was something I could sink my teeth into, Bix said. That time Packy stayed in, poured his tub on the fire, said there are times to remain calm in the head and that, believe him, it was much more fearful under that grinning demon than it was outside with a pack of chickenshit riffraff. Anyway, Mary Ann was dead then, died fast.

Packy made claim he would get ever one of them eleven or twelve remaining drunk shitasses in order to make sure that he got the right one. I was gone by then or would of done what I could to hold him back in a case like that, cause, and Bix, too, did give him this argument, none of that pack in the night was identified, and for all anybody knew Bix got the right trigger happy fool anyway, and anyway, Mary Ann was not killed on purpose like was my Senora Gutierrez. Bix was there, all right, with the argument, but not for too long him just then. Got to see the ocean, he said. Got to see the Texas ocean like Dan! Bix went, and that left Tom, laid up with a hole out of his thigh you could get your fist in, looking to be crippled for the rest of his life with sweet Juanita and his offspring, on her goat farm, and there was Hatch, ever more insane trying to whip the army of the government by which law he was using, something about Hatch, likes to beat his head on a rock, and so that left nobody. Gunter, a wanted man, armed hisself to the teeth and rode to El Paso to kill a bunch of riff raff he didn't even know the names or looks of, because they sure was not the only bunch of riffraff out looking for him and all his friends. For guts and hindsight he eat some more peyote.

By time he come to El Paso he had forgot it was Christmas. The fourth hour of Christmas and he did not see why places was open and people up and down in the street drinking and laughing and arguing. He looked up to try to pick out the moon and then a gun went off and the bullet whipping a storm right above his hat, and ten men on horses was half a mile up the street but coming at him quick. Gunter's mind come together and he went to meet them head on, pulling his sawed off shotgun on the way. But it was just a big drunk horse race, was all, and Gunter went into them and blasted one from his saddle, contacted one other for a instant and flurry and slung that one out into the air, and Gunter rode on through, with one well aimed shotgun blast from his back to discourage regrouping of the enemy, and horses was all over the boardwalks and people and smashing walls and rolling about, and one drunk devil was turned around front of Gunter, riding hard, and Gunter caught him just long enough to lash out with the shotgun and bust the feller's head, and the gun, too.

I felt bad about that, said Gunter, as I was sitting out in the brush and figured out it was Christmas. But next thing I said, hell, how come does it matter whether or no I get the right suffering sonofabitch. In Mary Ann's revenge. Bix and me done got three and I expect to chalk up a few more fore my hand's played, too. Shit, these riff raff are all alike. They got it coming. Think I'll go back to town and get a drink of whiskey.

El Paso must of had no Marshall at this time, or else he was drunk, or out of town. In whichever case, there wasn't no law up yet. There was one dead deputy when Gunter rode in, and one big Nigger rolling'im over to get his money and ammunition and watch. Dollar for a watch, said the Nigger to Gunter. I can't tell time. Gunter was telling him how he himself did not need time, and a flock of townspeople-merchants and ministers and that sort-was a gathering down the street with a rope to hang the Nigger at sunrise, or hang somebody, as that Nigger there was maybe just a wee early for that bunch, but you could hear their cries in the dawn and arguments and complaints, and up the other end of the main street a bugle sounded, for some citizen must had telegraphed the Cavalry, and the Nigger said, you is plumb crazy. With that the Nigger went up, shook hands with Gunter and just about pulled him off his horse but Gunter pulled and the Nigger was big and Gunter kicked the horse and fairly pronto they was amongst the bunch of good folk and Gunter then quit trying to shake the Nigger because he needed him to help fight and they rode the same horse and fought their way free even as Gunter had ever seperate joint in his right arm sprung. The Cavalry come in on'em quick and the people got out of the way, them that could, and Gunter got off and run in a Catholic church. The Cavalry thought it was two Niggers and surrounded the church and Gunter come running out one side and plowed deep among some bushes in the garden, and, says Gunter, the big Nigger got away because that was a damn good horse. Out early in the morning was one nun and she spied him and come over and told him to give himself up and he thanked her for not turning him in to the mad dog Cavalry before he confessed and he made to take her hand and he clamped her to him and brung her down in the bushes. All she said was, ah, ah, ah, ah, but Gunter mashed her mouth and told her to shut up or he'd kill'er. The Cavalry trooped this and that way and dis­mounted and Gunter had too tired a arm to be holding her hard long and he pulled out his Horse Pecker in order to scare her to death, cept he couldn't get her to look at it and she kept going, ah, ah, ah, and so he took his knife and slit most her clothes off faster'n his arm did tire, and she screamed, and he thought, oh my god, I didn't do the right thing and now they'll get me for sure! The U.S. Cavalry was just everywhere and he acted in sheer instinctive premonition and prodded her with his Horse Pecker and tumed'er loose like you do a cow after you've branded'er. He got run over by a horse where he lay like a crouching beast and as he was putting back his Horse Pecker the old gal went the other way and the horse stepped back on'im. He slithered into the church and run up on a Padre, and said, I wish to confess, Padre! Here he is, went the Padre, and pointed, and Gunter whacked off the Padre's finger. Then all hell broke loose. He has cut off my finger, said the Padre in a scream and Gunter fetched him by the hood and kneed some teeth out and brung him round for a shield and the Cavalry was closing in and Gunter shrieked, get back or I beheads the Padre! Don't shoot the Padre, an order was called. Gunter seen they did not care if he beheaded the Padre or not, if it wasn't their fault, and they come in on him and finally his peyote did work and he cal­culated his escape. He feinted and spinned the Padre into three men which had sabers drawn. The arm of the Padre which had the finger off it flipped out and overhead and Gunter rolled under the first row of pews and a shower of blood put the Cavalry in a terrible lust. They converged on his position and he rolled and fired and rolled and fired and drew them to the back. In the smoky dim, that which he could later bring back by careful peyote study, is a man shot in the bowels by a slug what went through thick wood first, and the smell, the roar of bullets and men undisciplined. Upon reaching the second to the last row Gunter caught sense of his circle and headed back up, and his circle was marred only by the ham stringing of a poor trooper what chanced to be standing where Gunter had first gone low, probably so he could see. That one down Gunter come onto his legs and was out of the chapel. Round a side three troopers was screaming at citizens to quit scaring the horses because they had the Niggers surrounded and everything was going to be all right. Gunter said, them Niggers raped my sister! Them Niggers raped my mother, too! That got him to the horses and he sliced some reins from a horrified young feller and gripped one pitching saddlehorn and rode on one side with his bloody sprung right arm and knife moving back the crowd, and the horse was shot in a instant and staggered till she contacted a man riding out of town in a buckboard. Goddamnit, said this man for losing a few seconds controll of his horses, Goddamnit it to hell, he said. Gidyap, gidyap! There's a Nigger in your buckboard, there's a Nigger in your buckboard, the crowd tried to tell him as Packy was getting aboard with two sprung arms and his big red knife. The Cavalry mounts was scattering through the crowd and El Paso and one slug whipped off the man's top of ear and his hat and he did not lose control or look back then. Just out of town at a fork of the road the horses was winded and the man stopped for a smoke, said, goddamn sonofabitch and goddamn stinking sonofabitch, I always knew El Paso was going crazy! Me too, said Gunter. The man went, yip, yip, yip, and fell to the ground, and tossed about yipping in the tumbleweeds for a time. Gunter didn't give the horses much more rest than that, got on his way. The man lay on his back with a arm tween him and the sky and said, but in not so much spunk as he did the first time, goddamn sonofabitch and goddamn stinking sonofabitch.

In them days most the troops round there was Niggers and that Christmas some citizen ordered more Cavalry and since none more white was available Nigger Cavalry was sent in to conduct martial law, and somebody shot their white commander, a Mescan did most likely, and that was the time white and Nigger U.S. Cavalry had a shoot out in El Paso, and the entire Nigger troop was forced to desert. I have always felt sorry for the black man.


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