|The Good, The Bad, and
by Charles M. Bonanno
© Charles M. Bonanno -- all rights reserved
The Arizona Badlands, mother nature's ultimate expression of the words: dry, empty, and desolate. The sky looks down with an eye searing blue that hides nothing; not a lizards desperate search for shade, nor a skinny rabbit's hopeless flight from an even more emaciated coyote. The vulture doted sky simply meets the parched earth in a line as sharp as broken glass, and just as comforting. There is only one story being written repeatedly in this place. One musical note played monotonously in a song as old as life itself. Escape or die!
Over a slight rise as undistinguished as any others appears a small dusty mirage. An insignificant blurring of vision that would go unnoticed in any less barren panorama. But a vision that precedes yet another chapter in this oldest of sagas. Nevertheless, the cause of this vision wishes to delay the inevitable ending as long as possible. Out of the dust cloud emerges a elderly gold prospector hell-bent for leather, his faces is as obscure as the agents of his impending doom are clear. Following closely, three Apache Indians dedicated to the destruction of this trespasser emerge just moments after his passage. The final page begins to turn, the last note begins its final echo.
"Come on, fella! Were almost there! Don't give up on me now!" begs the filthy gnome sized man of his flagging steed. " Please, only a few more miles! You can outrun them flea bitten varmints. We'll reach the river and Fort Pearson soon! You can do it, boy!"
Whether or not his pleas have any effect is debatable. His poor mount has had better days. The once proud mule is clearly staggering and close to floundering. Lather covers heaving flanks, dust and dirt mat a once a glossy hide, foam pours from a bit torn mouth. The miles of harsh terrain have taken their toll on this once magnificent creature.
Arrows fall from the sky as the distance shortens, expending his last priceless bullet the prospector returns fire with a rifle nearly as tall as himself. A single warrior falls from his mount and rolls on the ground, the impact and momentum giving bogus life to limbs that will never move again. The dead man's misfired arrow pricks the mule's withers spurring it on, the ancient rifle falls from prospector's hands with the unexpected jolt. The chase continues.
Desert plants whip past. No longer able to control his panicked mount the prospector hangs on for dear life as the animal barrels through the sparse vegetation and jolts him out of the saddle with nearly every misstep.
"Horsefeathers! How was I suppose to know that was a sacred mountain?", the prospector grumbles into his long white beard. "Come on, Jack! Get me out of this and I'll buy you that bag of carrots I promised you!", he shouts to the slowing mule.
The lead Indian warrior advances, his tomahawk the last unexpended weapon in his arsenal. Whooping and screaming blood chilling war cries he steadily shortens the distance. The kill is nearly in range, vengeance on this interloper will finally be dispensed. The sacred burial ground of his ancestors will be cleansed of this alien intruder. The tribe's honor will be restored with the tortured death of this treaty breaker.
"HOLY COWPIES!" yells the prospector as a steel tomahawk buries itself in a bulging saddle. Gold dust and nuggets pour out in a golden rain as the mule bucks from yet another small cut to its abused hide. "You want this damnblasted gold," he bellows to the Indian who is nearly in arms reach, "well you can have it!" Winding up a pitch he lets fly with the largest gold nugget discovered since 49. The fist sized golden missile strikes the surprised warrior between the eyes. He falls limply from his horse to join his fallen comrade who has already attracted a loyal avian following. The chase goes on anew.
Up and up a small rise the pair race. Neither has a single real weapon the attack the other with. The sole surviving warrior attempts to ram his little Pinto into the more massive mule but fails. The two men windmill blow after blow at each other while their mounts attempt to bite one another. His ears still ringing from a lucky blow, the prospector's eyes clear to a welcomed sight. The final Indian warrior is giving up the chase! Nearly pitching over his stumbling mount's head, the warrior could be seen hauling back on his reins with maniacal strength. Watching the stopping warrior, the old prospector laughs with a picket fence grin and bellows to the entire world, "We did it, Jack! We beat them sorry buckskins! It's all down hill from here!"
How right he was!
Turning he discovers his error. The last surviving Apache warrior hadn't lost his nerve. He just knew the terrain a little better than the old prospector. As he turns around in the saddle the smiling prospector feels his mule's hooves leave the earth! Sailing with the grace of a mythological Pegasus but with the aerodynamics of a brick outhouse, they begin their long fall to the river below. The mule and rider had just become the latest victims of an old Apache hunting technique: run the prey off a cliff!
"OH, NELLIE!", yells the falling prospector as the mule gives forth a braying scream that echoes across the hills. Downwards they plummet, the saddlebags spilling a fortune in gold and the odd mining tool. For a tiny slice of eternity the pair plunge to their watery fate. Locked together like some improbable Siamese twins they reach the water with a geyser producing impact that washes over……. the camera crew?
"CUT, CUT, CUT, the damned film!", screams the irate film producer. "You two idiots missed the mark by twenty feet! We've lost daylight because of you incompetent morons! We'll have to re-shoot the entire thing tomorrow! OK, people, wrap it up. Will take in from the top tomorrow at seven.", he leaves as the camera crew begins to dry the soaked equipment.
Jack DeMule crawls out of the river in his half morphic mule form dragging the gagging stunt man. As the stunt crew takes the man away a van pulls up to the river. Out piles most of the Blind Pig crowd. Wanderer, the Lupine Boys' and others run towards Jack with a black suited man in tow.
"Jack are you OK?, yells Wanderer with a total loss of his usual demeanor. "Man, it took forever to find you! Can you ever forgive me? I never should have sent these guys to see you. I had no idea they were only trying to get around the Humane Society rules against animal mistreatment in the movies! This lawyer says we can break your contract and get you out of here!
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