Chapter Four
(Of Men and Love)

Peace on El Rio Grande


When we had left Nuevo to get to Juarez we followed the Pecos River a good ways north. Bix had done real good at first but about the only way we had to eat was shooting animals and things, and after a couple of bad days he had got so weak that when Dan went off to take a crap one morning and came up on a little buck so fast he got it with his pistol we thought it was a good sign and we settled down to eat on that buck a couple of days. I still didn't have my legs working too good and had hurt my back bad during that little run from the jailhouse to the horses, during which I had went through so much pain myself I was out of my head some, seeing some colors and things, some of it like the peyote, and it was on the Pecos there we first encountered Tom Bowman, though Hatch and Packy had come across him once before, had done some gambling with him in New Orleans. Bowman had been on the stagecoach to El Paso, that wild town on the Texas side, and was going there to gamble and get some of the money coming there, and too he had bad trouble in New Orleans, but the stagecoach had been set upon by murderers and thieves and Indians so many times that though it left San Antonio with about twenty men for an armed escort that was to be especially mindful of Indians, yes, but in particular some new gang of, so it went, mostly Mexican bandidos, on reaching the Pecos the armed escort was down to half strength, and Bowman the sole remaining passenger, as the other passengers, two lawmen with a dangerous captive they wanted to try and hang in El Paso, were gone, one lawman dead by the Apaches, the other dead by the dangerous captive, that did get clean away, and, there was another big fight with Apaches on the Pecos, which supposedly the armed escort won again, but a couple of nights after that, as everybody had been drinking steadily for the last week, two of the half dozen remaining men had a shameful knife fight wherein both died, plus too the remaining driver that got between them somehow, and the next morning the four remaining were so embarrassed and disgusted they voted to wash their hands of the whole thing and go clear back to San Antonio, they said, as they all had wounds of one sort or another. They were pretty tough men, Bowman said, and they did not like him. After they took what they wanted from it they told Bowman to take the stage on to El Paso himself. Just over the rise, they said. But Bowman thought they maybe went to El Paso to gamble because with all the money they had they were rich men. They didn't have enough room for all of the whiskey ration, which was another reason for them to go to El Paso, and Bowman came riding into our Pecos camp on a mule, said howdy, and would we have a drink with him. Hey, I know you, said Hatch. So you do, said Bowman. That is too bad. Well, now, said Hatch. Maybe it is not so bad. I wish I could remember. Maybe you don't, said Bowman. I don't think I have a friend left in this world. Can't be that bad, said Hatch. Let us have a drink, said Bowman. Say, said Hatch. I remember you. We was all in this game on that boat. Boat at New Orleans by the name of ... Cree Mother, yeah. Who won, asked Bowman sad like. I quit early, said Hatch. I ain't no gambler. Yes! That is true! said Bowman brightening up some. You were that potato farmer who had to buy a year's supplies! I remember you now! How glad I am to be meeting you again, sir! Let us shake hands on this most fortunate encounter and have a drink on it, sir! We can do that, said Hatch. But I ain't never in my entire life been no potato farmer, haw, haw, haw! No? So you were never a potato farmer? said Bowman settling down with us after we all started passing the couple bottles he brung. Heh, heh, heh, said Hatch. Heh, heh, heh. No. I am that man Hatch they was wanting so bad then for the mutiny of the good ship Witch Sarah. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Hatch is real proud of that one.

We needed to drink then worse than anything though I myself didn't usually like drinking too much less it was after some killing. Unless there was some violent killing whiskey or tequila just made me sleepy but with kind of a restless feeling. That was O.K. There on the Pecos River because I needed to rest and had pain and did not want to smoke weed and think about that pain and if there was some restless whiskey feeling that is O.K. too when I am a white man in Apache territory. I am Castilian and Irish and Dutch and don't know the Apaches anyway. But back during the war when my brothers and me and some others took off after a gang that took our horses, I remember this time good because as it was three days and nights and we caught up and killed the entire mess of them and also drank their fire-water rot-gut liquor they had and cooled off, the earth and the heavens were beautiful, like peyote. Maybe more than peyote. Real happiness can give you peyote. So can fear. Fear can give you peyote that is so fast you will be hard put to remember what went by. It had been a hard trip and these neighbors were nice older men but not really our kind, just always playing up to us, thought young boys like us ought to be off getting killed in the war or the like, though they were kind anyway because they admired and feared us for being tough boys, and we helped them sometimes, and all the neighbors had turned back after a couple of days cept these two turned around that last day just in time to get ambushed and killed by some of the gang when that gang learned they was followed by the Olive brothers, and meanwhile me and with my two brothers had reached the main body of the renegade halfbreed bunch, seven, and sort of got the jump, brought our horses up from a kind of arroyo and come in ahead of them. Being the oldest brother I got three at first, two in a blast of both barrels from the shotgun and rode forward and hacked one man's horse down and the fellow died somehow in the fall because I had broke the horse's head with my knife and he and the horse flopped into a pile. I am powerful in ways. Good thing I didn't hit them with the shotgun because I killed one more in the little chase that followed and my brothers got the rest. Soon we had it out with the three from the ambush as they came on us sudden and I had been in a restless way and drank some swallows of whiskey and so due to my wanton ways got a rifle bullet through my right leg that did my horse in too. My brothers got those ones with no more trouble. By drinking that whiskey it left me barely sober enough to be tying up my wound, which was clean. While my brothers rounded up our stock I sat listening and watching my poor horse die in a kind of harmony with the universe and the throbbing from my leg. That horse he knew he was leaving us, and he was calm, when I say kicking around I mean he was just mainly concerned with getting through it. I knew then I was not fearful of when my time came either. All God's life blended unto Him and He was all there was or could be. I knew this, just like some of the mainly warlike Indians, like the Comanches, ones that know life and death closer up, know this. They are few white men that know this like Wild Bill does. Some. When an experienced Comanche takes a turn with his lance and goes forward and over his enemies he knows this then, and the rules have it you do not turn around if you hold the lance. He knows God's life is in the enemy and everything else breathing too, but he is not Jesus or nothing and he is not ashamed to say he likes breathing best the man in himself, because he has taken off one time or other and learned about that man in him best, learned enough about it there to love it, and he loves it so much he will risk it in this world just to see it all together at one time like with the lance, or say alone on a fast to get a vision, and he has no white man guilt about that part of life out in front of his lance because he knows this act is part of the world we got going here, because if it was not that other piece of flesh would not be finding himself out front of his lance anyway. They will also eat peyote, the Comanches, and they have the hardest time trying to understand the white race, which near as they make out must be onto some evil medicine which may kill the Indian for a time but has to by and by do itself in. Bad medicine is that which must by natural law end itself as well as man using it because it is no more than the use of death. Death as the red man sees it, not the white man hell bent on thinking he has to be born in sin. Out of the white race is so much uncontrolled sheer violence it is turned inward, so as to do something, I don't know what much better than a heathen Indian, and white men will drink whiskey until they are blind, and they will kill the red man until he starts in doing it too, until the red man can no longer take off to know best the force of life from within his own self. I love the life of my own blood, and got two brothers, Miguel Olive, Kelly Olive then but fifteen, and I waited by my dead horse and got the blood of my leg slowed down where the throbbing of me which along with that trickling stream from the gully had been the sky itself came to mean more my mainstream rather than back into God, because I ain't ready for that much God yet, we all know that, and I was soon remembering more about me, Bill, just a little ways off of that blood ran in Miguel, Kelly Boy, of which I had for a time been able to hover about up in the throbbing heavens looking out after while they were running down our little herd of ponies. I loved them like me, because it is the same. Just a little off of each other. My other brothers of blood, our Texas gang, like Bix with some from the Irish and some from the Cherokee, like Tom Bowman that has a little African thrown in, we be a mite more so off of each other, and that is good. As Jesus would say, that is good, as the red man would say, it makes good medicine. I may cease in my time to spill blood from man, or we may, if we be allowed to take time instead of rushing along like some man trying to take life itself. If that is what they are trying to do, I hardly know any better than a heathen Indian. I reckon Jesus was serious, to be giving his blood and all, ain't nothing more serious to mortal man than his own blood. And so maybe he's right we can be immortal and free, but I have met no man yet I can see was up to it, no.

What I'm meaning to get at is I am a proud man, not some conceited gunslinger but kinda like a Comanche that be taking off to smoke and think about it and yet go past even worrying about it at all. I mean, I am powerful in ways and I know my ways. I mean, what I am talking about here are some of what you call values and which are mine, and that is how I want to keep it. You know what I mean now. More like that than some Texas cowboy so full of grudges and sheer violence he gets on a big drunk and shoots up a town of people he don't know or else he decides to draw a bead on that over-rated loud-mouth they call Wild Bill Hickok and get killed. Well. This day I just met Tom Bowman he got my goat more than he should have. I mean when he came riding up on a mule he took from a stagecoach looking just like some runaway Mississippi gambler without no calluses on his hands and looking greasy and fat and dirty I was not inclined to take him too seriously. I saw he had some African strain or something but that did not mean anything either because everybody knows all kind funny people come off the Mississippi River, and I guess he didn't take kindly to me either as I just grabbed a bottle from him in order to rest my back more and just let him and Hatch talk back and forth. Know what I mean. I was real tired. Me and Bix. Hatch and Dan and Sieb showed more energy and they was talking. I went on and slept some more when that grinning sonofabitch and pirate Hatch said Hey, Olive! I said what. You're sleeping your life away, Olive! Hatch, I am sleeping to get my life back so shutup. Olive, you have to defend yourself! What, said I touching my hand gun. Hold on a minute, said Bowman. Wait, said I, there is hell to pay if I have to get off my back. Wait, he said. I didn't mean a thing, if you are Wild Bill Olive that is alright with me. What, said I. Now if I can just shoot from here that is alright too. Hold on a minute, said Bowman. Damn it all, what are you trying to do, Hatch, he said. He was starting to think we were all against him. So I said, Hatch, what in hell are you trying do do anyway? Hatch said, well. Olive, all I did was to introduce everybody. Ain't that right, Dan? Dan said that's right. Thought it was real funny too. But Sieb took up for me. Said it was not fair to bait me while I slept. Hell, Sieb, said Hatch. All I did was ask Olive to wake up so as to be getting his two bits in as is only fair. It's only fair, said Dan. Well I don't want any trouble, said Bowman. Look, just what did you say, man? What about me being Wild Bill? Just what is this? Well, he said settling down a mite. Sir, I meant no harm. I only said I never heard of anybody else named Wild Bill. That's all. I mean nothing by it. Hold on a minute, Hatch said. Look, Tom. The way you put it, you said you didn't know there was room on this planet but for only one Wild Bill. Yeah, said Dan. You wondered what Wild Bill Hickok. Please,gendemen, please. You are getting me in deeper with your friend here. I did not mean. Look, said I. Sitting up I said to him plain. I am Wild Bill Olive. That means that of those Olive boys that did not go to the goddamned Civil War I am the oldest, the meanest, who is Wild Bill Olive. I can whip any man in Texas. My little brother Kelly that has the weight on me could maybe take me if he got in the first lick. Hold on now, said Tom Bowman. I was not refering to fisticuffs, or even rough and tumble. I wasn't either, said I. You may be the heavyweight world champion of fisticuffs for all I care. Nor were I, I said and was noticing he had a good command of the English language and decided then to show I did too as my dear mother had instructed. I only weigh a hundred and sixty or seventy or eighty pounds, depending on how things are going, case you want to talk about heavyweight fisticuffs or even rough and tumble. Maybe I could knock out the world's biggest fisticuffer all according to the Queen's rules, I am not saying I could not, but, sir, this is not what I am refering to. Nor were he, said the damned pirate. Indeed he were not, said Dan and I saw they were building a case against me. Nobody is talking about boxing, man, my god, said Bowman. Goddamn, that is what I am saying, said I. Let's start from the beginning, said Dan. Hold on a minute, said Bowman. The point of it is, goddamnit, you could not take Wild Bill Hickock in a pistol shootout. Oh shit! Man, I said getting madder than was good for me. Are you fellows going to let me talk? Let Bill have his say, said Sieb who was on my side. Yeah, said Hatch. Let'im talk. Bix woke up and said he believed in me. Thank you, Bix, now look here, damnit. When I say I can out jump, out fox, out move, any sonofabitch in Texas, I mean I am the best there is, smartest, meanest, toughest, best looking, wild man in Texas, I mean what I say, and that goes for that smart aleck up in Kansas James Butler Hickok too. He can practice fancy stunts with his six-guns all day long and shoot all the drunks he wants to, it don't bother me none. He is a fool and also a showoff. He will get his ass shot someday too. Next time you see him, you tell him there is a man down here that is more what you call wild than he can ever think of being. To me he is a big sissie, and I would tell him so myself except I don't like the weather up there. Besides that I am not a showoff and foot stuntman like he is. I am a mountain man. I don't like big towns, too. I am also a honorary Comanche Indian. Besides that, if he was to draw his fancy pistols on me, I will tell you, I would fix his ass. And that is what I have to say about Mr. James Butter Hickock. He ain't no wild man by my standards, no sir.

Well. I thought it was settled then. The boys was all a claping and a cheering. Bix was telling me to show him my muscles. Tom Bowman was taken back some. He did not quite know what to make of it all. I knew Hatch and Dan would be asking me to back things up some time or other when they got the chance against somebody or needed some thing done they didn't feel like messing with, and that is what happened next in that town El Paso after we were through with Ciudad de Juarez, but that was alright just then because I was tired and wanted more rest. Bowman too, said he was glad to see I was the best there is. I said well maybe not just then, my back being near broke and all. And Bix has more what you call guts, I said. And Sieb has more luck. Dan can be dangerous when you least expect it because he can take a beating and save energy at the same time. In fact, Bix, Dan, Hatch here, these boys are what you call Scorpions, going by that science of the heavens what you call Astology, I said to show him my knowledge of the stars. Actually, nobody is a more dangerous enemy than is a Scorpion. Right, compadres? But Bowman knew Astrology too. I am Sagitarius, he said, and that is the Bow Man. You don't say, said I, figuring him for a liar. That's right, he said. I aim for my mark and I don't miss. Right now my mark is El Paso. Sieb is a bastard but put in he was Leo the Lion- Aarrr! Bowman asked what was I. So I told him how I was Virgo the Virgin. I am the pure, the wild, the free, the untouched, the one that gets off scott free. I have true virtue. I see, said Tom Bowman. Let us have another drink of pain killer.

Afore going on to that insane hotel in Juarez we parted with Bowman at El Paso and made plans to see how he did there later. It had been a easy enough trip getting up to El Paso from the Pecos except we was starving to death when we came through that bad town, so Bowman paid for us a big feed of eggs and cow brains and chile con carne soup, and he took us after that to have two beers apiece for which to get us from there over across the river to meet Packy, so we was not exactly weak from hunger when we almost locked horns with the Juarez police force, though Bix of course was a little worse after dumping such a spread alongside what we decided was a ruptured spleen. We did have this incident in El Paso first, when we drank these two beers apiece by Tom Bowman in one of those many saloons they have there. See, the railroad was finally coming to El Paso, and meanwhile all these greedy people had come there to wait for it, and that is really how little Ciudad de Juarez had such a big police force, just so as to protect herself from all this loud riffraff that was across the river waiting on the railroad to come and connect El Paso with the rest of the civilized world, and so to all us boys in our fits of exhaustion El Paso was a nerve wracking type of town, fights and exciting women and the like, and sure enough those four wayward stagecoach guards, sitting all scarred up at a table in exactly the same place we picked to drink the beer in, had got away from the Apaches too. They was themselves having a beer in there. Tom Bowman said to them, oh, ho, fancy finding you gents here, say? Just trying to be friendly, and Tom was in a nice mood then. But they would have none of it, and we got some beer and went clear across the room from them and sat down, and one of them that was wearing about three six-guns yelled clear across to us, and there was people in the way too, said, hey, you what had his mother that found herself a daddy in the wood pile! I say, just what the hell did you do with our stagecoach? This made us real jumpy because here we had just got in off the barren plains where we had not been seeing anybody whatsoever and all of a sudden we were being yelled at. I got off my chair fast and down to one knee aiming my pistol over at that other table and people were screaming and running outside and tripping over tables and my gang had all come to position up and down and along our end of the room and old Tom Bowman stayed right there at his table kind of dramatic like about it too if you can see what I mean-and he smiled at that feller and said what. What was that you asked me, gents? Say, it is fancy finding you all here, being I was sure you had gone on clean back to San Antonio like you was suppose to and all, hot damn. It had all completely out-flanked those four beat-up fellers-one with his arm in a sling too-and Dan even had followed the bartender and leaned over the bar and stuck his gun in the man's mouth as he was about to get his sawed-off shotgun loose from behind the bottom of his bar. The bartender was attempting to say something but nobody was listening to him anyway cept maybe one ear of Dan because we was all interested in what those other fellers had to say. They didn't have nothing to say for a spell, so Sieb went over with a white napkin or maybe table-cloth he got from somewhere, if it were not a apron took off the bartender, hard to say, and he officially commenced to interrogate each feller as to his name and means of earning his keep and with a bullet he writ it on that table cloth. You see, gents, went on Bowman to them with his thumbs all stuck in his vest. These men are all my official body guard, part of it in any case, and whereas I have nothing at all against you boys personally especially as you yourselves guarded me and fought off fierce Indians and bandits all the way from San Antonio to the Pecos, and at the evident wear and tear on your own skins, why, we will not do any more here than to keep your names, and places of birth, if any of you have that too, gentlemen, as is all only the merest necessary common and simple official procedure, meaning nothing of personal grudge of course, understand, now, boys, gents. At which these fellers was all so bam-boozled and awe-stricken and maybe even inspired by God himself they was only too glad to have a beer with us, as by then Hatch and Bix was doing anyway, that bartender running his legs off to please by then, too. Even Bix was brightening up for a time there, and the bartender told us about this old doctor from the river, and so that is how we went directly then to Juarez, with the bartender and everybody wishing Bix luck on his spleen, and we left Tom Bowman engaged in a game with those fellers. It was at The Bent Hand House of Chance and Love, and that was where in our plans we were to be meeting Tom later on. Tired as we was it were real good to get out of the wicked town then too.

Bowman was not by any shake of the stick what is thought of as being a good gambler. His ability rested in various forms of cheating his fellow man, what was he said all he ever had the fortune to be learning in his life of lonliness. But since El Paso was going to be growing he had good intentions now, wanted to fix himself up in some manner of proper commerce, maybe even kind of a house of pleasure like The Bent Hand, he said, so he would have the chance of retiring while he was still young. Now The Bent Hand House of Chance and Love at that point did not have too much love. It had a upstairs to it and had hired itself two gals from the east, but it was in a state of expansion and growth and was having new quarters built into it. It was not a bad place and Bowman said the more he looked at it the more he came to admire the looks of the place. It had possibilities.

Nothing of all this was told to us before we went to frnd Packy, and you know how it was with Packy, that bad gang hunting for him and all, so our bunch took to a little hideout Packy kept in the hills a little hop and skip and jump from El Paso on up in New Mexico on El Rio Grande, that same river that be flowing between Texas and old Mexico. Packy kept his hideout, not in a cave or nothing sneaky like that, because he had a little adobe hut amidst a group of other Mestizo type Indian huts, I mean, these people was Indian but kind of their own style of Catholics and spoke mostly a type of Spanish and grew corn and beans and had agreements with at least one bandido gang and some Apaches too and everybody all the time was bathing naked together in the river, real Christian like, and reminded me of the time I made the mistake of thinking me and old Dan could be good partners and go gold prospecting up in New Mexico on the Rio Grande. See, Dan needed to get over some bad whiskey drinking where he was seeing these diamondback rattlesnakes and vultures when they weren't even there, and I thought I could maybe put up with him in the hills there and maybe get some gold too, as he is a good hand at such things as that. It was a mistake because Dan can never go long without women, whiskey or no, and there was some people like these up there on that part of the river, fact is not too awful goddamned far from this hideout Packy had here, and they had this healthy looking widow seem to take a fancy to me, and Dan said so himself to me, but said I should stop talking always to her of how I figured the Apaches would be getting restless any time and wipe out the fort if the people could not face up to it and get prepared. I just wanted her to know about my mind first and I thought this, because the whites was starting to pick on the Apache more than was good for everybody, but the widow did not want to hear out my obsessions with bloodshed, as her folks had been there behind the mission and fort fifty year. Now we were only there three four five days and I thought maybe this here widow and me would tet together if she was nice but I was edgy on my triggers and had to go into either Santa Fe or El Paso to get some stuff we had to have, and picked Santa Fe that time trying to figure the Apache situation, and I got through airight, but I came back to find Danny not tending to business around our camp, no, but he was off living at the house of this widow, and I wasn't exactly in love with that treacherous widow anyway and gave her satisfaction none, but Dan was so miserable to be dry for awhile, thinking he ought to be seeing his friends the rattlesnakes and screwing the widow too, that the only times we got together to be getting anything done he would start in screaming at me. Course we didn't get no gold and after maybe two weeks of his screaming I knocked him down and went back to Texas. Good thing we were friends because we did not have us a gun fight.

I heard later the Apaches did overrun the mission's little fort. It did not have the soldiers, just Catholics and the like passing by, but so many white men showing up the Apaches were getting desperate. Now down there in Packy's hideout there was no mission but these were Indians of that like, just a small lot of them and as I said they had Catholicism that was a bit out of touch, and being there was nothing there to bring other white men, these Indian Catholics got on by giving a couple of goats every now and then to the Apaches, and they were about as happy a lot of human beings as I have seen anywhere. With Packy giving them a few pieces of gold they gave us no trouble about jumping in to bathe with their women folk either. So we had us a holiday.

Which means we did not do any fighting or killing for a time. We swam and ate good and ate that peyote up and made love to the maidens, and wore out our welcome, pieces of gold or no, because if you ever want to get close to a female without even knowing her good first, I mean, if you really want to jump into what makes a woman move the way she does, get her moving as is right for her own self, why, I say to you, just have yourself a right amount of that special cactus first, say about three four big chunks, and that woman will move right, alright, you can be sure of that. Why, we soon had all those women in Packy's hideout ages of twelve to fifty-twelve pregnant and in heaven and out of their minds just like us, because, by the time me and Hatch and Dan and Sieb and Packy had finished off three feed-sacks of peyote we brung, and then didn't have us no more peyote left, we did not need no more, because we just stayed like that, as if we was in Heaven, and I guess that's where we was, for days and days, weeks and weeks, hard to say, and those women of all ages from ten to sixty-ten was just like us, just as if they too had been eating peyote, just the same as us. Of course they had not been eating none,because after two of their men tried some and then went off and killed their leader of their village, all the men there, that were all in two days fit to kill with jealousy anyhow, said peyote was the work of the devil, and they didn't want their women to have none of it never. Course by then, those women folk did not need it, and like I said they was all talking to God and getting visions just like us, so we was all in agreement to see they did not get any from us, they was perfect just the way they was, and too we wanted all we could eat ourselves, which was just about three feed-sacks of it lasting must of been a week I guess, hard to say, as we just kept eating it, naw, nobody never really did rest after any measly three four chunks, hell no, like I say, with all our baffling and study of the heavens and constant love making orgy that had all those poor men folks praying for a visit from their Apache friends, we maybe never even had time to sleep for two three weeks, just lay there eating that magic stuff and hardly even eating anything else, because peyote nourishes you, ate just a little goat because those happy females insisted on it so, when anytime any of us studied the heavens too awful goddamned long, see what I mean now, it was maybe bout long as a month fore any of us was starting to eat or sleep regular, if we ever did sleep regular, because peyote seems to never leave you all the way. Like I say, about a month after the three feed-sacks was empty it mattered none at all who was eating peyote or not eating it, and after awhile even those menfolk began to be affected by the great magical air all us Texas boys had spread for miles around, and maybe that was in part because only five Texas boys even eating peyote never could service all those females all the time, if ever, and so those girls all had to run and go gain forgiveness back from their poor men folks that was taking to screwing hell out of them and beating them something fierce, all of that just making their happy women more and more excited and having more visions and all, I mean, why, see, our Texas gang spread love, and by and by we did not even have to screw no more, and was all screwed out anyway, and we jwt walked around and we still spread love. It sure did beat all.

Of course, like I say, our welcome had been worn out, and around about the time we began to know Tom Bowman was in trouble again and it was time for us to leave, much as the women hated to see us go. The children too. The children thought we were going to be there to play with them forever. But we understood it was time to go, so as the men in the village could get back to their crop work and all. Our horses was in the corn fields all the time eating all the corn and beans they could. It had been what you call a good holiday, for everybody all around. Everybody had got something out of it. Even the dogs, as we always were petting the dogs. I am sure they will never forget us, and I am sure they will be the best Catholics in the world, after all the understanding of God we give them. Too, they will be having our children, so how could they ever forget?

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