Chapter Four

Tell you what, said Tiddle. We get Dan on this mule I got left and you get'im out of here. I got other work to do. Tiddle, hell, look, you ain't getting out of this any better'n we are. Bix, you guys killed Reeder, not me, and there is a posse coming and I am just going back to my store because I am a citizen. You going to tell'em how you took no part in it, huh? I didn't! I tried to save'im! Is that what you was doing? Yeah, yeah! Hell, and me sitting back all that time thinking you was just softening'im for the kill, hee hee, well, I'll be. Ah, shit fire, Bix, let's take Dan back to the Brownrats and let them take over and you ain't well yourself cause I got to tend my store and got a fleet of shrimpers coming in and if I ain't there they might just help themselves.

This was done. For the time Bix and Dan was settled in the old spread out drift log one room bunkhouse where the Brownrat sons slept on three beds. Ben and Robert Brownrat was out of there living with wives, and Jed Brownrat and Kenny Weaver was fussing with their wives and back in, long with John and Jim that never had no wives, two oldest sons, and it worked out with nobody needing to sleep on the floor. Bix and Dan had a whole bed, drunk rum and smoked and eat and slept and went out of their heads, and talked to me some, cleaned their guns and piled up ammunition and honed their knives. Jaybird was fit to be tied. Aawr! Going to get us all killed!

Not if them posse lights their pipes at night, bragged Dan, took all the credit for Reeder, headache and all. Or clean their guns in the waves, har!

Wawl, you was just real lucky, boy! said Jaybird in a tear off a chunk of bread he brung over from Josephine and pushing it through his mouth and chomping half his moustache. Ulk! Real lucky I calls it!

Yep, heard old Reeder's horse and the old fool lit up and I thought, why I'll just send a round out that way, damn if it didn't knock his horse tween the eyes, yuk, went on Dan, swallowing rum, taking a chunk of bread too, Bix saying good shooting there, Dan, whilst Jaybird never breaks stride. Thank you, Bix. Ark! Real lucky I calls it you ain't seagull feed but you wait around here you're going to be soon enough since you boys are all wanted by Texas law now and they know you're here and I don't want you getting killed on my property or any the rest of us killed long with you only cause you eat beans here and I got to work hard all my life and seen you grow up bad after the war turned all them Niggers loose and destroyed this country bout soon as we working people whipped out the Mescans for giving the Comanches guns and Bill Olive can talk about Coman. ches but he don't know nothing nohow even with he come from some hard working people and I don't know where you McConchie boys come from and I hear tell your brother married hisself some money and property but it don't mean nothing when you ain't Christian and don't work same as if you take a million dollars from a bank and burn it clear to the ground and don't get caught and stay drunk and sleeping with naked women till you go burn in hell but except I ain't seen nobody get away with robbing a bank full of money and not get hung yet! No I ain't but there's a big man in the sky sees everything you do too just like I used to watch over my boys and give'em the strap whenever they do wrong or some damn thing and I kept'em brung up right like my paw same as did with me but now Mary Jo I never hit her but she never did much nohow and I guess she's bout as pretty a young missus as you'll find down here but she ought to get married by now when the right God fearing young man's going to be along and used to hard work and decency and respect for his fellow man and Johnnie and Jimmie, hell, why ain't you boys married yet. We need more law abiding people to all work together and live in this great country and keep the Mescans out and maybe then you would work harder because here we are way behind and got to sell more nets and do what we can till we can get more people down in here and maybe a market for flounders and mullets, why these shrimper fellers now, they're starting to do real good out there, awlp, gaw-awd-damn-ee, Mama ain't cooking this bread fast enough, but now these shrimper fellers they.

Jaybird talked or worked, one, and never minded if Ben come in and be saying how the government hired the Niggers to shoot the buffalo so as to starve the Comanches and the Mescans once owned San Antonio which was a stronghold against'em, just to try and argue, Ben was a Brownrat son what tried sometimes, and whereas Bix got drunk and went to sleep, Dan had too much a headache and lost to Jaybird this day, in a hour and forty seven minutes, by time Jaybird had got around to how if we boys could just go out to California and change our names and work and save our money we might could then come back to Texas in ten years and start all over again when they would maybe have so many people working real hard and being quiet and respectful of their fellow man they might not have time to run down all them what had never served their penance when they was young and bad. Shit on fire, said Dan, got to get in touch with Bill and Sieb and Hatch and Gunter cause I see it all now we are going to have a hell of a blood bath right here on the island, come on, Bix, get out of it! Well, maybe he didn't lose by much, because Jaybird heard that one, that one got him. Urp! Wawk! What in tarnation, want no blood bath in my house, nosir, get everybody killed just because you're going to hell, see here, now we're working people, we're working people, we don't got time, awk! No, no, Dan, Bix was saying, I'm talking to Bill now, he's all laid up at the Baca ranch, I'm talking to'im fine now and if you get me up I'll see demons!

My youngest brother Kelly was growed up long side two Mescan brothers, Jaime, Allen Acosta, plus one big one named Lisandro Herrera. They was out a clan of weed farming, cock raising, what you call mean Mescans, a big family of devils, cousins and uncles and pretty women they was always making keep mostly quiet in the back of it all. Acostas had a beauty I might had tried to marry one time or other was I not twenty years older'n her, named Diana, just for this history. Oldest brother Rudolph limped from had shot himself in the leg with a shotgun, and he was busy in the businesses and not around so much, like this day my three Scorpion blood brothers limped into my brother's little place. Lisandro had a Scorpion brother, named Daniel, and a older one named Rudolph involved in business somewhere this day, but him and the rest of the Acosta brothers, and more, was there, a big day showing the Acosta clan. Guitar whanging younger Acostas, Jerry and Wheel, I come to know bits of over the years, Spanish fire, fast, Jerry was loud and merry and Wheel was more quiet, flipping his knife. They had color, and laughter, what it would take to get the Corpus Christi bank by surprise. Jaime you know, growed big, the swimmer of life, not so mean as some but he had to be let move along else a ocean of emotion crashes on you ever direction till your blood be mixed along in it. Mien was short and strong and quickest amongst these, smart like a quiet Mescan fox, if you will sit out this description of some men here, because I am talking about what the Mescan Texas Gang looked like, to the old shot up Texas Gang, them what had seen enough guts spilled to keep all dreams red and yellow and black.

Mien was overcoming a rifle round that greased his liver, and he and Bix respected pain, met at the Olives in a little Indian blood. Dan would remember he stole once from Bonnie Olive's coin collection, had a bad head, and played good guitar. Black Hatch was there, with his neck rope burned, coughing out his wind pipe around the new swelling of his old rifle scar. He and Lisandro Herrera eyed one another one more time. Herrera, you're fat. Hatch, you look sick, man. One more time they settled and shook hands. Herrera, I'll give you permission to join the Texas Gang. Run off some your fat. Hatch, I got my own Texas Gang, and we're all Mescans. What about Kelly? Kelly, ah, we can use Kelly, cause he's tough as a Mescan. What's all this Mescan stuff, Herrera? Well, you know, Hatch, some people don't like Mescans. What do you care, Herrera? I'll tell you, Hatch, see, we ain't Santa Anna and a bunch of peons with women and babies trying to do military moves, understand. Herrera sees Hatch is a little run out and he leans real close, eyes bright as marbles, face big as a piece of earth, a big sweaty hill of Mescan bandido, but Lisandro was fast with it, real fast. Get back, Herrera, snarls Hatch. Woof, he's violent! goes Herrera and quick steps, but next thing he shakes Hatch's hand. Herrera is six foot like Hatch or Kelly, a barrel of power on top of ass and leg of a normal sized man, and has little quick hands, pats Hatch, hey, don't get nervous, Hatch, when you meet Mescans at Kelly's house it's all right! Esta bien, esta bien! Goddamn you, give me some weed then, you fat Mescan! Hey, hollers Herrera, ahead this time with Black Hatch. Hey, Kelly, you hear what he called me? Yeah, Fat Mescan, what's that? This over the hill Gringo said I'm a fat Mescan! What do you think of that, Kelly? Only you get to call me Fat Mescan, Kelly. Not even Bill calls me Fat Mescan. Get him some weed over here, Kelly, before he calls me greaser, because I don't know what I might do next if he calls me greaser, Kelly! All right, Fat Mescan. Hey, Bonnie, go get weed for my blood brother, Fat Mescan, and my brother's blood brother, Black Hatch, fore they step on each other's toes.

Hatch had got beat at the Water Hole. He said this. Fritz, hell, now here was a man that wandered the land and he knew them hungry people what seen no towns and the half breeds and corn growing peons and them hungry people didn't even know what goddamn government claimed the land.

Cept Herrera did not let him get started no better than just that. Hey, Hatch, you know what I hear? You know what I hear about what the famous Texas Rangers say?

What! Well, what, just what in hell do the goddamn famous Texas Rangers say, then, Herrera?

Well, you know, Hatch, how I'm just a Mescan, some people in fact, would say that I'm a greaser, that I don't eat nothing but grease, case you want to hear the facts now.

Yeah, yeah, Herrera, what do these Texas Rangers say, goddamn you, or would you rather that I just go on and talk about Fritz! Hatch, I hear these Texas Rangers are able to ride like Mescans, shoot like hell and fight like Comanches, some people say they ride like Comanches and fight like the very devil, ain't that it, Kelly, ain't that how it goes, yep, well, Si, and they say, this is what they say. Say that a little man whip a big man ever time if the little man know he's right and keep on coming. That's it, ain't that it, Kelly, right? I'm learning English pretty good. How am I doing on my English, Kelly?

Yeah, well, let me tell you something, went up Hatch in a howl. Herrera stepped back and Hatch said this.

I don't care be a man strong as ten and can run and hop and skip and prance he go bare hands against a man with a mountain knife, man with a mountain knife will get'im ever time, and he'll get'im just the same wrong or right!

Then Hatch was out flanked by one Joe Anglor. Anglor is small and sneaky and patted Hatch on the back, telling'im take it easy. Goddamn, they're all around me, said Hatch. Everybody seen Hatch was thin in his nerves, and hurt. Herrera, said Hatch. Maybe I better just join the Mescan Texas Gang. Joe Anglor said, we're all on the same side, Hatch, the same side, same side.

Hatch and Dan and Bix sit and drinked and smoked with the Mescan Texas Gang. Yessir, we're real glad to see how Kelly and you boys will carry on for us after we're gone.

The Water Hole was gone under. Ranches what claimed its territory was let have it except the U.S. Army made the settlement into a outpost and changed the name to Fort something or other and it never rained there ever again and it just got drier. Water Hole itself dried up. The corn all dried and without El Rio Grande out there the town could not had made it was not pipe brung in. It was said Fritz got away but you know how he only had one good arm now. It had took the killing of a few U.S. Cavalry and though Hatch was not present during the four o'clock A.M. attack, two mornings later when the wire was in he was snatched up in that town, forget its name every time, where Sheriff James was killed by the drunk, where Mrs. Trudeau lived with her broken heart, when he was leaving Mrs. Trudeau's house-believe he was getting her ass now but after all I was not there-well, he claimed it was just the skinny daughter Cynthia, said Cynthia was a better lay than her mother anyday, but I couldn't agree with that but they got old Hatch in mob fore he reached his horse-the Gringo element in town-well, in their feverish desires to witness the death of one of the Texas Gang they took to hanging Hatch from the first oak tree outside Mrs. Trudeau's yard, and it was not a big tree or very straight and the rope slipped to the bottom of the crooked limb what was allowing Hatch to kick off the trunk whilst they pulled. This happened three times and Hatch was almost dead and the rope was rotted and tearing and somebody run for a new rope and they put Hatch on his horse and tied his legs under the belly of his horse with the bad rope, and was going to pull on the other end soon as they had the fresh rope on his neck, pull off his head, I guess, and when they was getting this other rope around his neck and Hatch fainting and ducking his head and making it hard, Coonhound-hell, Coonhound was the one fucking Cynthia, wasn't'e? -Coonhound was in Mrs. Trudeau's attic with a twenty-two rifle that Mrs. Trudeau's late husband had up there for shooting the rats up there with, Coonhound did this clean rifle shot through Mrs. Trudeau's trees across a comer of a house and a alley into this yard of this Protestant citizen where Hatch was getting hung- just kapak out of the trees somewhere-and the twenty-two grinded into the hangman's shoulder joint, and you know it smarted. Rest of'em ducking'n looking'n scrambling around Hatch's horse that was real scared now and next come a double barrel blast of buckshot by Cynthia up the street, into Hatch's horse's ass and a few other people, and Hatch was on his way, and men was giving some chase but some bad Mescans then come out and did too, and once the run got out in the country the good folks crawfished, turned back, went and cried to the Mescan sheriff, and he just said to them how things must be done legal. Like Sheriff James used to. Mrs. Trudeau and all her money didn't even bave to send her daughter back east neither. Course not and them Mescans give old Hatch water and guns, free, though he said send a bill to Mrs. Trudeau, cut him loose with a good slug of tequila, pointed the way south for him.

Sieb did not fight the Water Hole's last one neither. Bob Sieb is a bastard and really did not know the origin ofhis birth but he was El Pesca, Pisces like Jaime or my mother, not Leo the Lion like he said that time we met Bowman on the Pecos. Maybe he had the heart of Leo or fire out of something as does this story teller, but he was a fish, all right, like we all begin to see. His eyes bulged. He had left our cantina but when the rain hit the earth he got lonely for us, strung up that big stud. Time for him to swim back down stream, and when we was not there, he went for the ocean, El Golfo De Mexico. See that beach, said him like his Scorpio brothers. Took him more time than them getting there, but he headed downstream more than he headed up, and plus adventures he got there.

Tall man in them hard days, six two, and bespectacled, he wore these spectacles most the time, a easy to identify outlaw, he moved on the clumsy side. He read books. He knew the bible pretty good and in Del Rio or some little Texas border town he met this bunch of traveling Christians when he was drunk. He got tangled with this widow among their lot. There was a clamering tent meeting in session and Sieb and her holding hands and he seen a fat sheriff and his deputy laying a evil eye on him and he said to his lady friend he was a changed man. I feel it! Oh, I feel it, said he, and hit the dust and he hurt hisseif on the one gun he had not give to his lady, gun in his gut, so he come back up and took to the stage instead. Told all the folk he felt it and was going to tell'em about it, and the preacher was up there in the first place did not like that one bit, nosir. I feel it, oh Lord, save me for I have sinned! Oh Lord, my name is Jeremiah Judgeson, said Sieb. My name is Jeremiah Judgeson, it is, and I have took money from my poor father's savings, way back in New York, halalujah, and I have abscounded from my good home and played cards and I got drunk and seen naked women! Oh, Lord, I do feel it, I am back in your arms and oh how I shall prove it by reciting the entire bible right now, by God! I am going to start with Adam and Eve, too! Yeah, Lord, it was you made all this world in seven days, it was you, Lord! Down on your knees, my son, shouted the preacher. Sieb twirled and stomped and clapped and shouted down the preacher and recited the bible, and the people wailed and the sheriff was a unhappy sort of man and seen the chance going and so come up on the stage with his deputy. Get down, on your knees, cried the preacher. Stage was a old rotted thing you had to set up and hang together with leather hinges ever time there was a new tent meeting, good for a skinny preacher and maybe with a little kid getting hisself baptised but the sheriff was pretty big and busted a couple boards at the end and stuck his leg in and offset the whole affair. Lantern poured cross the stage, give the preacher a hot foot but Bob Sieb was clumsy but jumpy when he had to be, kicked the teeth out of the deputy that was doing a lunge over the rolling preacher, leaped from the fiery stage atop bodies as the sheriff begin to shoot and the tent to burn and the people to tear the whole thing apart. The sheriff tried shooting before getting his fat leg out and fire whipped around him, only man to not get away, as even the hot footed preacher and deputy got away with the crowd, and Bob Sieb, that ripped out the opposing end of that tent. Sieb hid along the river till he could steal his stud back from his dissappointed lady, as it and his guns was in her care, and that is how he got to Brownsville and Padre and sneaked up the beach eating jackrabbit and met Texas Gang when he had only one forty-five and no more bullets to be tossed in for his share in the last stand.

It was in the air, all right. The Texas Gang was going on home. I was having a hell of a time. It was hard to get at what was in store because the past had me. I fought these old dreams, mainly. Us getting together to get the Nuevo bank and camped and then got so bored and crazy one morning we went to get it when we didn't even have Sieb cause he was supposed to be getting more information but was hanging back with this woman, figured he'd done his part, what was gain the information that the Mescan police force got blind drunk every night so get the bank early in the norning, first thing. Mescan law was drunk, all right, but was so used to it you had plenty of'em hadn't even gone to bed yet and they seen us go in that bank, someway, and they begin to go in it too, three, four, five, six, ten of'em at a time, us standing there had not even pulled gun, foggy with weed, me, Dan, Hatch, Bix, and Dan said, what in hell do you people want? And one back of him laid a rifle barrel against his back of head and Dan went waving and Bix wanted to shoot and was shot from a side and Hatch hollered, give up, gang! and just as his hands went up he was kicked in the cajones and I remember slinging a couple ofem around and going down under the pack of'em, under their boots. Didn't see ary body else then, not till we was blood rushing and smoking the weed Dan's gal throwed us through the jail window, Dan up on the bars and him hit in the head with rifle butts. Our medicine had just been no damn good that morning. Funny how it got just a little better round siesta time. Sometimes it's that way, and we act stupid. Time we brung down this herd to Cruz and Sanchez and was double crossed. Somebody's fault for not knowing Cant the politician was still alive and hunting Mary Ann and had brought agreement with Cruz and Sanchez to get us to this spot on the upper Rio Grande so for his personal little posse to run in on our flank and ambush. Ones of us with the herd was just me, Dan, Bix, and we met Cruz and Sanchez and two more with them, and was invited for coffee while Cant's posse come up. Something wrong, said Dan. Yeah, and we looked at them, and seen a glimmer of fear in Sanchez, that was fat. What's wrong with you men, I said. Why are you scared, Sanchez, said Bix. Get down and get some coffee, said Sanchez. I'm not scared. We heard a horse, looked, and moved about and over Cruz and Sanchez and the two with them, scattering cows. Should of shot them then, and they got back up and fired at our dust, but Sieb got Cruz and Sanchez later on, and we was already outflanked, men moving in with rifles and we hit the river, some cattle with us. Two rifle men was dismounted on the other side of the river and a round went through me, near blew me off Grey, cept it didn't and I hung on a side and made the bank behind some cattle, looked back-and trying to breathe around my bleeding, see Bix and horse roll in the river, and two more men on horses loose themselves and come yipping down ridge and out in the water to finish him, crazed because to them we was big killing. I thought that was the end of Bix, didn't know next come Dan on the backs of them and killed them, lost his horse in the steady rifle fire. Bix was either hit in the head by a bullet or by a steer after he rolled in the water, but he was still seeing and him and Dan swum in cold water and grabbed cattle and them people shot the cattle, but by and by they was able to get low and out of it, and I was on my way by then. People come after me at first, or anyway that was the experience of my mind, and I hung off my horse, but a man could see there was no saddle on Grey and likely no man. Rode the river down a day and a night drinking, so damn thirsty that the wound would give me no pain, just more thirst, and I was all ready to give in and die when the river was drying up into puddles and I got to the Water Hole.

Later Gunter got Cant. Dreams repeated themselves when I laid up last at the Baca ranch, messed up from the Apaches. Them people running in crazy and getting shot and going around us till I get run over by a horse and there are so damn many they can't get set or see to shoot and some come off shot horses and flinged their bodies at me and some tried roping me, well, hell, we been over that story. How Sieb did the dry country crawl. Or the one where Cruz's brother, Mateo, and his men tried to kill me and Hatch in the river. Well, hell, you can get the feeling you maybe can't get killed. When your compadres have such good medicine, too. Except I had a leg likely to limp. That last one was really something, half a ear out in New Mexico, all the way through a varmit's guts by now, if the ants didn't get it, and then I could catch it how Gunter was bad hit in the leg, and next I was getting a blank, a gap, say. Where is he, Peyote Woman? First I thought she was all through with me. In a day or so she said, Gunter is weak. You mean, Peyote Woman, he is still alive! He is shot, she said. He is jumped on by a horse. What? But he lives! He is beat, she said. He is in jail. He is a broken man. Sicker than a whipped dog. The Texas Gang you brag about is all shot. Look, what jail? Look, you, I don't know the white man towns, she said. Huh! Look, bitch, you tell me where he is. The Peyote Woman left me hollering in the night. I was supposed to still not be walking but them working people was hollering back at me and it was hell on my nerves. Bill, we must work tomorrow, said Frito Chico, patient as he could. Pants, Frito, I want pants, I said. It was hell in there. Two three guys was all saying, I give him pants. Pants for one dollar! He don't need pants, he need one bullet in the head. Frito Chico lit a lamp and with my left arm I got on my guns and knife. All right! Ain't nobody stopping me with one lousy bullet in the head so what shinga cavron greasy Mescan wants to move first! Here, said Frito Chico, a little mad. Bill, here is your old pants. Here is your rifle too. My old pants had plenty tear, but they was fine, smelled fine, felt fine. My carbine was fine too. Boots! Here, Bill, your boots. Not so loud, Bill. Watch your collar bone, Bill. Pronto, I was ready. That good Apache horse of mine still outside, Frito? Here, Bill, I take you to that sonofabitch, went to getting his boots on. He took me to the corral where they had been working out my Apache Horse on three half broke females, making Wild Bill's stay pay for itself, sure nuff. Took bridle to it which near got Frito's ass killed. Frito rolled back out of the corral and I went and got my horse, and next thing I was out of the corral, on my horse, that actually was kind of fucked out by then, and here was Frito Chico, amazed, but with a blanket and a sombrero. The blanket is mine, Bill, a gift. Can you give me one dollar for this big sombrero because it is not mine. You have to have it when it gets hot tomorrow. I will say you stole it and give the owner one dollar. Them Mescans had not stole from me and I had a dollar, and the sombrero did fit. I got down and we embraced. Then we never saw one another again.

Let's see, I said. Bullets. Need bullets. I'll go see Mrs. Trudeau. Then I'll find Gunter. That thinking fit in such good place, that I next tried to figure, or see, where Gunter was, what jail, right then. But you know what I was getting? Same damn peyote memories. Me and Dan beneath richocheting bullets, and pikes, then come these soldiers thrusting their pikes. It's them pikes bother me. I was talking to Dan. You live through that one, Rattlesnake? Rattlesnake took a hell of a ball in his leg, and I don't think he was limping. Naw, he had a kind of grace. Just too full of poison.

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