Chapter Twelve (Of Man and Journey)
BLOOD IN THE LOST CITY
After that I talked a little with Miguel and there was a lot of talk about did we want to get a ranch or continue the activities and what did we really want out of life anyhow now that the good folks owned all the country unless maybe you was content with hiding on a mountain, and while the others was going to try to get a little capitol back together I went south with Dan, see what the possibilities was down in there.
We knew the best way to get to the jungle was down the coast so we followed El Rio Grande to the coast, and did not have too much mishap. A little bad weather is about all. We had a batch of weed and peyote dust in cowhide bags and kept it dry and took our sweet time. You could sense by the people along the way that the time of the Apache and Kiowa and Comanche was done and this meant business for the rich and for the lucky and for the Christians and them knew best how to follow the rules, and peons that had nothing in the first place and much less luck would live and breed and die like they did for hundreds of years and in a little bit less danger, till a revolution come along, and poor white traveling in from the southern United States to that river mixed their hill town weep with the ranchero cry but the difference be many fold, some kind a defiance in the more final peon hunger, some kind a fear in the white hope, more a experience and less guilt behind the peon cruelty than the white one, and then we got to the coast, Brownsville and Matamoras. In Brownsville there was some Niggers dancing and singing in part of the town and you saw the African experience was so long that a belief in Jesus give it no guilt. We played with some gals and asked some of these people if they knew Coonhound or Jacob and be damned if some of them did not know about "that bad'n" old Coonhound, and then me and Dan rode on down the coast, feeling better.
We had a wonderful time riding, figuring we were headed for adventure and riches, going to be famous too, and we had all sorts of plans and idea for once we made this fortune, and it was fun beating the winter for a change, just barely escaping out of her grip and lost our blankets in the tide anyway. Most the gang had seen this much of the beach in their youth and kind of let it go because there wasn't too much profit around here and though you could lay around and eat fish and bananas and forget John Law the bugs was ungodly, clouds of mosquitoes and get in the weeds just a little you had the clouds of big gnants which bit hard as mosquitoes, so we had to get some serapes and rode in the cool night with peyote and found shade in the day to smoke and it seemed like such a fine life till one heat of day you was sure everybody in this part of the world was in siesta and we sure was, all laid our ever which way neath these big palm type of trees and our horses so happy with us we let them run loose on the beach, which was a damned good thing, because we woke up surrounded by rifles, and I don't know who those no good sonofabitches was, neither, never did find out, but they took everything we had, if we had wore underwear they woulda took that, and they took our weed, well, the leader, a real skinny jolly sport, took our weed and rolled one cigarette out it and handed it back down to us, they took our pipes, saddles, guns, knives, woulda killed us cept we kept smiling, and told us to enjoy Ia fuma and they all ganged around in this great big swarm of gnants which they brung with'em, I mean, the gnants was not there till they come mon their flea bitten mules and poorest little army you ever saw, like I say, we never learned just who the hell they was, ever, but as they all carried on and had fun watching me and Dan try to fight off the swarm and smoke la fuma at the same time, I mean, we was stark naked at that point, no boots, nothing, and I did have a special made pair of low heeled squawman type boots that could last me the rest of my life, never did get those goddamn boots back, as they all had the happiest time seeing two genuine mountain men bare naked at their mercy, this far south, how come you boys come way down here, hee hee hee, why I guess we was really something to'em, hair and beards grown down our chests, hee hee hee, you don't need no clothes, hee hee hee, then we smiled real simple and seen they was about thirty strong, and soon as we had done our smoke they banged us around on their nags and mules some and rode down the beach, hee hee hee. See, they could not chase our mounts. They tried but was too heavy and our two, a roan, a black, good little ponies, crashed off into th~ jungle and circled and come back to us, Comanche and Apache, we had been feeling kind of peaceable and give these horses names. Well, Dan. Well, Bill. Whatta you think? Why? Whatta you think? Let's ride outta these gnants. Hoo. These are crazy times. You got me on that one. Let's ride outta these goddamned gnants. It is losing the knife that bothers me, Dan. It is losing the knife that bothers me, Bill. We got to get those knives back! Goddamn! We could ride our horses with no bridles or nothing and we followed. Hell, we didn't need no saddles nohow, did we, Dan? Hell no, we was getting too civilised, but I had that knife almost long as I had my peter. Me too. Bowie, shit, Bowie never invented no goddamned mountain man knife-what a lot of shit that one is-and Dan and me was talking this and got mad at that money grubbing murdering fool Bowie-at least once Bowie was party to doing in a bunch of slaves that they was not able to do nothing with in time-and vowed we was never going to use that joke "Bowie knife" ever again and I swear we would of killed him bare handed on the spot because those knives was ourn and when we caught that bunch we was so peyote crazed we had to hold ourselves down from busting up their camp right then! The reason we did not was cause we had no bridles and we needed that for that kind of riding so I got down and crawled in their camp and it was not full dark neither but we was impatient and they was all kicking their campfires and starting to go crazy on that peyote dust they was trying to smoke with the weed, thought you just mix a little that dust with your smoke and I guess it is a alright idea alright but they did not know it was not strong weed and they was getting a little crazy about then, I saw this and that two was about to have a knive fight anyway so I run in screaming like the archfiend and grabbed up the exact two lasoes I had so desired and kept running, and meantime Dan had whooped in and sent their mules ever which way and let me say we come pretty close to busting up their camp as was, as it was never the same for them after that. After that you had all these fellers thrashing the brush after their mounts, and going crazy too! It was really something. Old Dan and me gnawing on this one rope to make bridles off it.and blood in our hearts but we knew we was going to appreciate the humor in this one for later. Yeah, it was really something, one feller would drag a mule in-see, they had them hobbled-and he would be carrying on with some kind of revelation but then back at the camp his partner then bringing in a mule too-and they was having a lot of trouble bringing in them mules, too-would be having his own revelation over something or other and then like as not they would get in a knife fight over each other's revelations-and that's how we got our knives back first thing-this leader, we knew him, we knew he would have one, had the knife fight with his number one man, killed one another, see, they really liked our knives, the style, the soul in those knives, you know, a man might have a whole bunch of guns he loves, but a man only keep one knife like that, uno, uno fits your hand just like your peter and here we was sitting out there on the beach chew on rope and these devils running all over and around us after hobbled mules and here in their camp just off the water edge these two top dogs killing one another with our knives, hell, we rode in there slinging rope and kicking their fire some more and here is skinny pants hisself with mine in his hand and Dan's in his chest and I do a Comanche and take mine out his hand and next comes Dan and does a better one and gets hold his own before the man is through falling and our good horses moved, and Dan drug that man one mile fore he would give it back. Feel better, Dan? Yep. Feel like a new man. I can make it now. Me too. We cut a couple pieces and slung up our horses and turned around and come back! Well. You can say it was cause we was all with peyote. They had the guns, yes, but we had the peyote. All them gents was getting more and more loco and Dan lassoed the campfire while this time I kept the thirty mules excited, see, Dan is good like that and did some good riding first lassoing one pot of beans then another, I mean, I don't know who was going to eat them burning beans by then nohow and everybody now took to shooting back and forth or else just running down the beach, hell, they'd been running out in the water, some ofem, for quite some time now, and I don't know who it was but two or three of'em actually had sense enough to unhobble their mules, and there was one or two here real smart cause they worked with that peyote and went ahead and got off with most the booty and which is why Dan and me only got my set of guns back and no rifles and I give one to Dan, got my six guns and the belts and everything when three fellers thought about fighting with me from on top of hobbled mules, all I had to do when I saw my guns was stab the mule and grab the man before she fell, hell, he was wearing both guns but too skinny to pull them loose and I don't even remember as that I killed him but just pulled him loose from the belts as I run and flung'im to a side and come back around and met old Dan riding at the head of a horde and flopped'im that old gun belt, hell, almost had time to tie it around him, said pull'er loose there Dan if you're strong as me and he did and we rode and then we come back on through and killed exactly six insane devils apiece and reloaded as we got away. That is how it went, that is what we did. And that finished that camp. Yessir. When we did our comeback there was nobody there. You had fourteen dead men, we counted, counting the one up the road, and scraps of this and that, they had even wasted most the sack of peyote dust, so we sniffed it all up and toward dawn found our shirts and pants and serapes and hats but no boots, hated to loose them boots but on that beach we needed hats worse, and we did have most our weed back and some of theirs too which was pretty good too and we just kept riding. Yessir, we sure did. Now I'll tell you a little one about that weed.
Now see, what could we do, we was robbing fishermen, robbing them of fish, and the other times we saw fishermen we would ask them about these lost cities, and they had all heard about them too and give us directions as to where they was supposed to be, and even as how we could go around all that brush, take the long way and get there by horse, and it always ended up we just kept moving down that beach, until finally you just could not get no horse off that beach nohow noway. We're getting into some strange country, Dan. Yep. I bet the Catholic church ain't even down this far. I bet they ain't too. Well, I arn tired of bananas and I hope we see some fishermen soon. Me too, and I hope they can speak a little Espanol for a change. We moved on a couple days seeing nary a soul and getting very tired of bananas and pineapple and not wanting to run off in the jungle and be wasting our forty-fives, too often, this we was doing about one bullet a day because when you got to have meat you got to, just not being bananas and pineapple men is all, and it was a shame to blow one of those little critters in two every sundown, especially when we had only thirty-three fortyfive rounds left, see, it was a very poor little army we wiped out, hungry devils they were, and then, lo and behold, right in the heat of another day, out steps a padre. Well I'll be a jackass's uncle, said Dan. Well I'll be one too, I said. I tell you, he was wearing the black robe in that wet air, a regular padre, kind of a skinny one, like the monkeys and the fishermen and things that lived down there, only he was more insane than most padres, you saw that. He was old, too, and leaned on a staff, and then he lifts that staff in one hand and waves it like a finger at us. Come down, come down, he said. Our horses sure could use some fresh water, Padre, we said. It was harder and harder by then to find water and if it rained we caught it in our hats but it had not rained that day and the horses was powerful thirsty and we had been looking for a cove or place to move against the land and find water, and the padre hobbled on inside the leaves and we followed by chopping the way for the horses with these machetes we got from fishermen and with Dan and me working our arms to the bone chopping jungle the padre would get impatient that we and the horses was moving just a little wee bit slower than he was and he would glance back and say some kind of Indian local giberish and throw in a few bits of Spanish with it and finally we just got tired and said, fuck you, man, you got water or no! He disappeared and then we looked back and see we had only come a hundred fifty-eight feet off that beach, pure hell all of it. Dan. Bill. If I see that man again I'm going to shoot'em. Me too. No. Yeah. Save that bullet. Cut him. Just like that last banana tree. That one was wood, Dan. Yep, old Rattlesnake Dan is getting strong. Yep. When did we last call you that? When I last seen the snakes, Bill. Well, Rattlesnake. You got strong. Yep. This was one revelation. The next was two three days after. I'm skipping the weed story, but it don't matter too much. Aw, hell. This padre was about ninety years old and had a whole village of heathen behind him where you ate the mushrooms and flailed one another with these special made sticks. Well, they got us and the horses watered and fed and took Dan and me to a initiation ceremony. See, they thought the magic mushrooms would do the trick. Had a special box for the mushrooms, the padre did a few incantations over it, the sticks passed back and forth through the fire and so on. It was pretty wierd but just more Catholisism, and I guess next thing was to be all these naked heathen, men, women both, beating about on one another and us,too, when we got ready. They was most friendly and congregating about the whole thing. Women sticking out their breasts but everybody expected to wear something below the waist. Now in the meantime old Dan and me had our big bag of weed out and puffing on our pipes and the India had their pipes and I don't know what the hell they had ever smok~ in those pipes but they had never smoked no weed before, not Injui weed. We ate a whole bushel of mushrooms, just sat on our haunches eating them around that fire till everyone got tired of passing the sticks back and forth and just sat there watching us kind of amazed and meanwhile smoking our brand with us, and then Dan said, Bill, I feel good. Me too, I said and we dropped off our haunches and sat on our arses a while and next thing we was laying on our elbows passing the pipe. The other pipe being somewhere lost in the crowd, them watching us, us watching them too. What do you think of the mushrooms, Bill? Like peyote. Yep. But a little different in a way, Bill. I would say a little faster, Dan, maybe less deep, maybe more violent. Look at those Indians. The Indians kept smoking that weed and had a few mushrooms themselves, too, the men had, and in a few hours that weed reached their minds. Now these Indians was kind of fat. It was really something, in a sudden they went crazier'n even the little army had. Raving lunatics all of'em. And it was good to get off of that one. And I don't know where the padre went. We never saw him again. They started to holler and hit at each other with the stick but you could see none of'em wanted to get hit now and it was driving'em crazy. So Dan and me piled on our poor horses and rode ou of that one. We was lost and followed a river before we found some trails and many times the trails only about five feet high, high as those Indians, little fat ones that bunch, probably just a bunch of adventurous converts out of some bigger clan, maybe, and we chopp and beat our way on down these paths until late that morning we come to the ruins, yes. There was all these little hills in what was damn near a clearing and as we thought to take a rest here, we took to understand that this was a city, what was overgrown by jungle. We was so tired we was sick and had shot a monkey and was going to eat him raw and then we saw we was sitting on some steps. We took this in real slow, just peeled the monkey and went on with him as planned and sit there listening to the birds and the monkeys. We sit there and eat this monkey and it rained and so the ants and gnats went off for a time and we slept and when it quit raining the ants and gnats come back and woke us up, and we could hear men coming from up in the jungle somewhere. We sure needed that sleep, Dan. We sure did, this jungle is getting to be more trouble than it's worth. A beauty of a jaguar heard the men coming and ran on out of this building which our steps led to, down the other side. You don't see many of those in Texas nomore. No. He didn't seem to mind us, did he? No, he did not. Well, I wonder who is coming? I don't know. Whoever is walking around in this swamp is insane. Right. Let's get on up there. Right. We saw we was all aches and pains and hated to get on up there but let me say it had become a damned swamp all around us and we knew anybody out in it was mean as hell. I sure am tired of killing things. I am damn tired of killing things, myself. We went into a overgrowth of very old stone room, the jaguar's cave, bones and things laying around, and we took turns moving the bowels, because we needed that too, one watching out while the other took his turn at it, and I guess we had about two turns apiece when we looked down and see a goddamned phalanx of soldiers with pikes and green uniforms sloshed into sight, started messing with the horses. The horses was tired but shy all the same because this was a bunch of starving lost soldiers and Comanche and Apache run on up the steps aways and while I'm scooping all the bullets into a little pile Dan steps outdoors and says, hey, you men, you leave those horses alone now, you hear? This stopped them for a moment. Bill, Dan said, there must be a revolution or something in this country. Yeah, it's a hell of a country. I say, those are my horses, me, belong to me, Rattlesnake Dan, my horses, not for food, no eat, you eat monkeys, see. Then one says, I am the Captain. I don't give a holy fuck who you are, motherfucker, those are my horses, me, Rattlesnake Dan. We need meat, the Captain said, and run the horses up a little further with his pike. Comanche, Apache, get in here, Dan said, and the horses come, and it was crowded, and it sure was gomg to be hell. You ready, Bill, he whispered. Yeah, I'm ready, Dan. Man, I'm glad we did that shit, he whispered. Me too. Yeah, we needed that one-hey, you men, get on back down there, these are my horses, me, Rattlesnake Dan, savvy? Look, you, said the Captain. We need meat, who are you anyway, I am the Captain, we have marched for one week. Eat monkeys, said Dan. The Captain waved at all his men coming in down there, look, you, I am the Captain, we have marched for one week, who are you, I am the Captain, we need those horses to eat now! Fuck you, Jack, remarked Dan and blew a corner off his head. That was kind of a set back to'em, first you see the wild man, then you don't. But after a while somebody took command and they started shooting up at us, and after wasting a few rounds they conducted a charge. First you do not see two wild men, then you do. They did not have too much starch to start out with and with eight of them rolling up and down the steps, they next settled back down among the leaves and things, waded around some more and got themselves together again. So they did another grand rush slipping and falling backwards and on top of one another and stabbing one another and it was red and muddy enough but then it started raining again and it just got slushier, and they had lost about ten this time and backed off to get organised again. It was raining so hard we was free to look out and check if we had made every round count, and we had, but then, you couldn't miss, we was thinking two man each round, and some had stabbed each other slipping around with their pikes and bayonets, and we was looking out at this quivering conglomeration on our steps when a little man begin to dig hisself loose from it all. He come to his hands and knees and polite like moved enough people away to get on his feet, and he looked at us and we at him, and he did not have a scratch on him, and then, nothing in his hands either, he made his way back down the steps, and we know, that he got away. Cheeky little sonofabitch, wasn't'e? He sure was. The way this one was, there was only two sides for them to come up, a corner of the building, the rest of it being part of the general thicket, so we was doing O.K. and the third try was fierce, with them getting right at the door and we had to knock about three in the head. It's those pikes bother me, Dan. I feel the same way. How many you got left? Three. Well I only got two left. You know, Wildbill. Yeah, Rattlesnake. We come too late. Yeah. About a thousand years. Yep. This was the second revelation. You ready to die, Wildbill? I ain't gonna go easy. No, it ain't easy. Number four was really something. The horses was good in that one. I from one corner in the dark and Dan from another and men and horses went ever which way and I started working off my haunches for leverage and old Rattlesnake doing same and Comanche went down on top of everybody and took a long time dying and Apache broke out and down the steps and took a long time dying in the heap at the bottom. Then that army went around us, or went somewhere, let us be anycase. When the horses quit dying I rested my body a spell, and I was cut twice in the head, and I said, did you live through that one, Rattlesnake? He did not speak. Well, I found him under a pile of bodies, living. He liad a bad gash in the shoulder and a ball in his leg. I pulled him down the steps to a place I could operate and I dug into him and under that ball in his leg before he screamed, woke up and fainted back down again. Ball looked like it had been through the horse first. He woke the next day and ate some horse and slept again. We had to leave the day after that because it smelled so bad. We really didn't mind the cats.
You ask me how we got out of there. Before his leg went stale. It was sheer hell. I fixed a pack of about forty pounds of good stale horse, liver and heart, and I dragged old Dan for about a week. About the time he had malaria we come to a Indian settlement and even though I had no bullets I bluffed them out of three mules and about a bushel of corn, and I give the sign of the cross and they did too. I don't think they was Catholic but they knew I was desperate. Then one bright young feller put some Spanish to me as to how I had come and I told him so he could trace it back and get the stuff the soldiers dropped. With a lot of luck I found the Gulf of Mexico by the time we needed it bad and then we ate one mule. I mean, I had some kind of fever too by then, but when I saw that Gulf it left me. I never was no expert on direction but had just felt my way north and then there she was when she was needed. I don't know how Dan can do it. He has done it over and over. Too much pisen in'im to die, old Rattlesnake. We moved steady on fish and pineapple, made better time than coming down, smelled three thugs camping on the beach one night, took a break in Dan's fever and crept in and did them in for their horses and bullets and few pesos, and there was a old rifle and one torn shirt which fit Dan. In time we got there. I figured we would.