Tuintsunde Mescalero Renegades – Texas Bounty Hunters

 

They saw a pack of Mexican Red Wolves, wearily watching their approach on the distant horizon. They stopped and watched them for a moment before kicking their mounts as they climbed upward. The wolves turned and scampered into the sage and Creosote bushes that lined the vista and disappeared.
They were cotton-mouthed and dusty, sweaty, and growing weary when they stopped to water their animals. They hadn’t seen or tasted water for a long time.
Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“This is the land where the shunkaha is lord.
“Why don’t you speak English so I can understand what you are saying, you old squaw? What is a shunkaha?”
“You should know our language, Wasichus. The white eyes call him wolf the Mexicanos call him Lobo, but he is shunkaha to the Lakota. But even he is disappearing because of your people, Wasichus.”
“Are you sure he just ain’t hiding because of this heat you’ve been complaining about?”
“I am sure because now we see many more coyotes. They have moved in where the shunkaha used to be. The coyote is smart. The white eyes will not make the coyote disappear. He is too smart for the white eyes.”
Esben absently nodded his head as he scanned the horizon for any movement. Shoots Plenty had been talking for the past month about how the white man drove the Lakota from their ancestral land. He silently agreed with just about everything Shoots Plenty said, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of letting him know.
“I dreamed that I was back in Paha Sapa and I was with Gray Grass and she was braiding my hair. Do you dream, Wasichus?”
“No, I don’t have time to dream. Dreams are just a waste of good sleep.”
“When our Creator sleeps his sleep is filled with dreams of His creation.
My people tell of the time He saw strange things in His dream. He saw animals crawling on four legs, some on two. Some flew with wings, some swam with fins. There were plants of all colors covering the ground. Insects swarmed everywhere. Dogs barked, birds sang. People called out to each other. Everything seemed out of place. The Great Spirit thought He was having a bad dream. He thought nothing could be this imperfect.
When the Great Spirit awakened, He saw a beaver nibbling on a branch. He realized the world of his dream became His creation. Everything He dreamed about came true. When He saw the beaver make his home, and a dam to provide a pond for his family to swim in, He then knew everything has its place, and purpose in the time to come.
We must not question our dreams, Wasichus. They are our creation.”
“Why are you dreaming of Gray Grass? You have been spending a lot of time with Carmen.”
“I dream of both women but not at the same time. That would not be wise.”
Above them Esben noticed a falcon circling, looking for a meal.
“You see that, Shoots Plenty?” he said pointing to the sky. “It’s not too hot for that Falcon to come out and look for food.”
“He probably smelled your one-eyed mule and thought it would make a tasty meal.”
At that moment they saw movement behind the plateau in front of them. They looked at each other. Shoots Plenty motioned with his hand in the direction of some Pinyan bushes.
“We are being watched, Wasichus.”
Esben kicked his mule, “Let’s ride.”
Outside of Tornillo, they came upon the bodies of a family of six Anglos. They were scalped and their eyes were poked out and they were all stabbed up. Their throats were cut too, and they were full of bullet holes. The woman’s breasts were cut off and they all were butchered between their legs. The odor of rotting flesh was overwhelming. Flies were everywhere.
“Reckon they killed everyone or did they take the rest prisoners?” Esben asked.
“I do not think so. Why take prisoners? It is not the way for the Tuintsunde Mescalero, who you call renegades.”
“How far are they ahead?”
“I would say they are here and they know we are here.”
After burying the six Anglos they continued toward Tornillo. When they got there it was deserted. They both glanced down at the dust below them and were shocked at what they saw. There were tracks of at least a dozen rigs, buckboards, wagons and carts as well as horse tracks, all shod, headed in the same direction – east.
“People left for a reason, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty said, gazing in the direction the tracks led.
“Afraid of something.”
“Apaches.”
“Tuintsunde Mescalero Apaches. That’s who they are afraid of and who we came looking for. The people of the town have not vanished into thin air, they made a sudden frightened panic-stricken rush to get away.”
“I feel evil in this place,” Shoots Plenty confessed.
They looked over the desert toward the mountains while a lonely dust devil danced around them. Nothing met their eyes save an unbelievably vast stretch of desert.
“The Tuintsunde Mescalero are getting bolder and are on the warpath, burning, killing, maiming. The people of the town fled like sheep. Let’s get ready.”
Shoots Plenty didn’t argue. They tethered their animals in the trees near the shady spot they found. They loaded their rifles and Colt .45’s along with the Winchester ‘73s they took from Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick and opened boxes of ammunition and then lay out, Esben lighting up a cheroot.
“Those small smoke sticks smell almost as bad as your one-eyed mule. You should only smoke Kinnikinnick.”
“I want to see the Tuintsunde Mescalero when they come for us, not some narcotically induced ghost.”
“When the renegades smell your smoke stick they will know you are a white eyes and think you must be a mule skinner because you smell so bad. That is why you should smoke Kinnikinnick it smells better. The Mescalero will think you are their people when they smell it and then we could ambush them.”
“Once you told me, Silence is the mark of respect; so, respect me.”
Before long they viewed a band of renegade Tuintsunde Mescalero appear over the horizon. There were twelve of them heading their way at a gallop.
As soon as they were in range, Shoots Plenty picked up his Henry rifle and began firing off as fast as he could aim, getting off five quick rounds.
Soon four Apaches lay dead on the ground and a fifth was dragging himself with his hands toward some brush, attempting to escape.
Esben rolled out three shots, all of them hammering into a Mescalero’s chest and throwing him backward off his horse.
At the same time, Shoots Plenty fired from behind a barrel at the front riding Mescalero. One of the slugs smashed the Mescalero’s elbow; the second tore his throat out. He went down with blood pouring from the wound. It looked more black than red in the fading afternoon sun.
One renegade had rapidly fired his gun at Esben but missed with every round. He was desperately thumbing fresh cartridges into the cylinder as Shoots Plenty and Esben were firing at the rest of the Mescalero’s who were falling around him. He snapped the weapon closed and lifted it, grinning as he aimed it at Esben.
It was Esben’s gun that was empty now. He couldn’t do anything as the renegade thumbed back the hammer of the old Army Officer’s Colt .44 revolver.
When the renegade was about to pull the trigger, Esben left his feet in a dive, snatched one of the Winchester’s from the ground as he rolled over, and came up firing. There were two shots left in the rifle and he put both of them into the Mescalero who was firing at him. The renegade went over backward and twitched a couple of times, and then lay still as a dark bloodstain spread over the front of his shirt.
When the dust cleared Esben and Shoots Plenty stood over ten renegade Mescalero’s dead bodies while they watched the last two riding hard toward the Rio Grande and back into Mexico.
Shoots Plenty, holding the scalp of the renegade who had crawled for cover in the surrounding bushes, said, “How will your Captain Smith know that these Mescalero are the renegades that he wanted us to kill? All us Indians look alike to you white eyes.”
“He’ll know. Let’s get these bodies loaded on the horses that were left behind and get them photographed and sent off to the captain. We got more work to do.”

WHITE MAN LEAVES A TRAIL OF BLOOD BEHIND HIM – FROM TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS

“Tomorrow we find these two outlaws,” Esben said,  pointing at the two wanted posters he had spread out on his blanket next to the fire. Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick. A couple of horse thieves.”

“That is good. Your people have been stealing horses from my people for many sleeps. It is time the Lakota got revenge.”

“Well, you will get your chance for revenge tomorrow. They were spotted up near the area of Socorro. We’ll ride out first thing in the morning,” Esben replied, grabbing the posters as a burst of wind snaked around his ankles. “Now settle in and get some sleep.”

“I do not wish to settle. Your people have settled my people on a reservation near the mountains. I love to roam over the prairies. It is there I feel free and happy, but when we settle we grow pale and die.”

“Damn, Shoots Plenty, stop talking, will ya’? I don’t know who the hell you’re talking to half the time. You are either telling another story, or you are complaining about something. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

“You should listen to what I say, Wasichus. A long time ago the land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo, steal my ponies, and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting. When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.”

He turned and looked at Esben and found him asleep.

“I enjoy this killing of the white eyes,” he said, “where I get your paper money for doing something I would proudly do for nothing.”

Sleeps Plenty threw another log on the fire and pulled his buffalo robe around his shoulders and closed his eyes while softly chanting.

The next day they found themselves on a rocky windswept ridge. Esben was glassing down on the outlaw camp below. They were near Socorro, about thirty miles west of Agua Dulce.

“We will stake our horses here and approach on foot,” Shoots Plenty said.

They found six horses staked out, while the two rustlers slept, rifles close by their sides. Esben and Shoots Plenty readied their own rifles, and then Esben called out, “In the name of the law, come out with your hands raised.”

“We are not the law, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty told him.

“I know that, but they don’t.”

The rustlers scrambled up, groping for their rifles.

“Don’t go for your guns,” Esben yelled out.

“You ain’t no law dogs,” Max Bentley replied as he raised his weapon and triggered a shot. For a moment the flat explosions of Winchesters broke the desert silence as each man brought his gun into play.

Esben cracked the hammer on his Colt .45 and fired. Max Bentley was struck in his right arm, rendering it useless. Esben fired off two more quick rounds. One striking Bentley in the neck and the other in the left cheek, killing him instantly.

Wilson Kerrick, a killer, and ex-convict, fired a shot at Shoots Plenty, but the Lakota warrior dropped him with the first round from his Henry .30-.30 Lever-Action Repeater Rifle.

Shoots Plenty emptied his rifle into Bentley. The first slug punched into Bentley’s belly, but the outlaw held his kneeling position. The Lakota pumped three more .30–30 bullets into Bentley’s torso. Yet somehow the stricken rustler stayed up, gamely trying to get his gun back into action. Shoots Plenty’s final shot drilled into Bentley’s left temple, ripping through his head and out his right ear. Bentley fell face forward, dead when he hit the ground.

Shoots Plenty said “That Wasichus showed more nerve under fire than I have ever seen displayed by a white eye before. Perhaps he is part Lakota.”

“That part would be his black heart,” Esben replied.

They cautiously walked over to the fallen rustlers, both were dead. They collected several new Winchesters from the camp, threw the bodies across the stolen horses, packed everything else that needed to be hauled out and headed north.

“Maybe now we can eat that one-eyed mule you ride and you can take one of these fine ponies.”

“I told you, we ain’t eatin my mule. So just quit askin.”

Shoots Plenty stared at the mule and finally said, “Let us get the man with the box that captures a white man’s soul. You can send it to Captain Smith so he can see that we killed these bad men, Kerrick and Bentley. They are beginning to smell as bad as that one-eyed mule you are riding.”

By the time they reached Ten Miles Well, a journey of 25 miles, the corpses had swollen badly in the heat. They sent word via wire for the Agua Dulce coroner, but he refused to come. Finally, the justice of the peace at Socorro, who had jurisdiction over the area, rode up with a wagon to take the bodies from them.

Two days later they received the reward money and left Ten Miles Well in search of the renegade Apaches who were terrorizing ranchers on the Texas Panhandle.

THE LAKOTA SACRED RED ROCK – THE TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS


“Wasichus, did I reveal to you the Lakota story of the sacred red stone?”
“Is this going to be another of your crazy stories, you old squaw?”
“You should listen, le mita cola, for my words are simple. You have not heard them because you have not taken the time to listen.”
“Oh, I listen. I can’t help but listen. You talk all the time.”
“You should open your ears and heart to the words of wisdom my people have to say. My people found a sacred red rock. It was shaped by the proud Sioux people upon the prairie of what the white eyes call the Black Hills in the Minnesota territory where the buffalo roamed known as Paha Sapa, to the Lakota.
We smoke it before battle and offer it in peace. There is power in this rust colored rock. When the winds blow ancient memories return to my people. The spirits of forefathers echo across the grassland. This red stone has powerful magic the Wasichus can not take it. The Great Spirit speaks to us through this rock; it speaks to our soul.”
“Why don’t you carry on your crazy conversations with your sacred red rock then and quit bothering me?”
Shoots Plenty continued, “When my people walk the windswept prairie of this Minnesota Territory we can feel the power of the haunting Red Stone. This is why when our people die we take them back to Paha Sapa, our holy land.”
“You better pray to the red rock that the white man doesn’t find gold or something in your Paha Sapa or you will have to find another place to plant your dead.”
“Sadly you are right, Wasichus. It is a shame what the white eyes do to the land of our ancestors. You know, we should shoot that one-eyed mule you are riding and eat it and get you a real horse. It would be nice to taste meat again.”

“I told you we are not killing this mule so just quit talking about it.”

“He smells too.”
“Hold up there, Shoots Plenty. Is that a body near that big rock?”
“I cannot see, I am old and my eyes are tired.”
“But your mouth doesn’t tire, does it? Let’s ride over there and take a look.”
Their animals snorted and pranced about nervously as the smell of rotting flesh entered their nostrils.
Esben and Shoots Plenty stared at the bloated and decomposing body of what appeared to be a young Charro, covered with rocks and lying among the dry sage next to a large boulder. He was wearing a serape, the garment worn by the farmers in the area.
“Some one shot him, Wasichus and it was not Apache. If Apache did this, they would have taken pecokan sunpi, a scalp lock. He was killed by the white eyes or possibly the Seditionistas that took your horse and guns.”

“There were twenty of them.”

“They would not be able to sneak up on a Lakota.”

“Maybe not a young Lakota.”

“That boy looks to be no more than twelve or thirteen years old. Shot through the left temple. Appears like he was executed. Someone tried to keep scavengers away from the body by covering him with rocks.”
“Why would someone kill a young boy? His family must be looking for him.”
“If he has a family. It appears like he has been here for a few days. I’m surprised the buzzards haven’t found him.”
“It is too hot here even for buzzards.”
“There are tracks over there. It looks like a shod horse and a small burro. The burro most likely belonged to this Charro. Perhaps he was robbed and then killed.”
“It is a shame to kill a small boy for his burro.”
“It’s a shame to kill a small boy. Let’s follow the tracks and see if we can find this person.”
They had almost reached the San Pedro River when the sun went down. The Cottonwoods lining the river banks were starting to shed their leaves. The ones remaining were yellow and faded. Their animals breached the water and they noticed what looked like another young Charro in the distance, leading a burro. They spread out about ten yards and each approached him from different sides.
“What is your name, amigo?” Esben asked.
“It is Juan.”
“Juan, we just found the body of a young Charro a ways back. Shot in the head. By any chance do you know him?”
“That is my brother, Pedro. He was trying to get his little burro back from a very bad man and he shot him.”
“Do you know this man’s name?”
“Si, señor, his name is Martin.”
“Brace Martin?”
“Si, señor, that gringo he take all thees belongings from me and my brother Pedro. We jeest getting it back when he come on us and he keeled my brother. I run off on my burro because I know he keel me too if I stay.”
“How did he get your things, Juan?”
“He ride into our camp and take everything we have off Pedro’s burro and beat us bad and leave us tied to a tree with no clothes. We find this hombre’s camp and sneak in at night and find our clothes and take what was ours and start to leave when the hombre he wake up and shoot and he keel Pedro.”
“Well, we have been following his trail. What kind of horse is he riding?”
“It is a beeg brown horse and he was leading Pedro’s little gray burro.”
Esben looked at Shoots Plenty and said, “You want to come with me or go back and play house with that Carmen lady?”
“I think I should go with you, Wasichus. She wants me to take up wah ti living and wants me to become her mihigna ki. I think I am too old.”
“You are old but not too old to become that woman’s husband.”
“No, I am too old. We should go. Who is this Brace Martin that we look for now?”
“He’s a stage robber out of the New Mexico Territory. He and a cow-boy by the name of Curly Bill Brocius tried to rob a U.S. Army conveyance near El Paso, Texas and wounded two soldiers. They were eventually captured but they broke jail and escaped to Mexico.
Martin came back and formed a gang of horse and cattle thieves. They have been riding out of the San Simon Valley of Arizona Territory. It’s time we ended that.”

Death of Brace Martin: The Texas Bounty Hunters

“We sleep so we wake before the heat comes and then we find that outlaw you want to catch,” Shoots plenty said as he stirred up the coals in the fire causing sparks to fly into the dark. Soon flames rose, like wild tongues around the oak logs and licked at the cool night sky.
“Why don’t you shoot that one-eyed mule. A mule is not like a horse. A horse will work with you but a mule just waits until he can kill you. We could eat him and then you can get a horse.”
“I like that mule. He’s smarter than any horse I ever had,” Esben replied.
“You never had an Indian horse. They are smarter than the Wasichus horse.”
“Why are they smarter?”
“Because the Indian is smarter than the Wasichus.”
“Yeah, so who is living on the reservations?”
“Ugh.”
The next day the blazing sun was rapidly emerging in the east and the temperature was rising when Shoots Plenty said, “We should go so we can travel far before the sun is three fists in the sky.”
They ate pemmican and corn while they rode West toward the Chihuahuan Desert
It wasn’t long before the heat was becoming unbearable as the sun beat down mercilessly on the two riders.
“She thinks I am a Lakota Chief,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Who thinks you are a Lakota Chief?”
“That Carmen lady.”
“I wonder how she got that idea.”
“Maybe I am chiefly.”
“Or maybe you lied to her.”
“She said her heart laughs with joy when she is in my presence.”
“Really?”
“That is what she said.”
“I don’t see it.”
“I was in love once, Wasichus. Yes, that is the truth. It was Chief Black Kettle’s daughter, Gray Grass. I said to him, “I love your daughter, will you give her to me, that the small roots of her heart may entangle with mine so that the strongest wind that blows shall never separate them.”
“Yeah, so what happened?”
“He said no. It made me sad. I cried. But you know, Wasichus, the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
“That’s too bad.”
“No, it is a good thing. Later Gray Grass had many little ones. She got fat. Now my heart laughs with joy because I am not with her.”
“What is with you Lakota and your laughing hearts?”
“We were a happy people until your people put us on a reservation. The Great Father promised that we should never be removed we have moved five times. I think you should put the Indians on wheels so that you can move them as you wish.”
They rode slowly for some time while the hot sun burned down on them before Shoots Plenty spoke again, “That meal was damn good. I am gonna think about living with Carmen if it is like this.”
“Can’t you just be quiet? I thought the Lakota liked silence.This is a bad day. The worst day. We have gone 35 miles in this blazing heat through cacti and blistering sands and all you do is talk. Our animals, they have gone without water the entire day,” Esben said, “and the water in our canteens is so hot we cannot drink it and all you do is babble nonsense about some Mexican woman.”
They made their way into the mountains, climbing all the while, going backward on themselves as they followed the sinuous path higher. In places, sections of the hillside had fallen away, leaving a gash of red earth and loose rock which slid dangerously as soon as their mounts hooves were set upon it.
Upon reaching the ridge top they were exhausted and came to a halt and rested. They had met no one, nor seen any evidence of habitation at any time since they had left that morning but they both felt the presence of something or someone.
“There is a cave up ahead with some water. We will rest there, Wasichus.”
“That looks out of place, stay alert,” Esben replied.
“If the Creator put it here, it is in the right place.”
Ahead of them, they saw layers of shale protruding from the summit of a small hill.
The heat in the canyon was intense. At the scent of water, Shoots Plenty’s horse and Esben’s one-eyed mule quickened their pace. Anything that moved had gone for cover and that was what Esben and Shoots Plenty had in mind when they hobbled and watered their mounts and approached the cave. The animals stood with their heads down with their ears laid back to show their unhappiness being near the mouth of the cave.
Shoots Plenty took his lance and poked inside to make certain no rattling-tails were lurking. They entered the cave.
The cave opened out, the sides spreading wide, the ceiling rising high as a church. Light filtered through unseen apertures, the slender fluted shafts falling from above. The sun filtered through the leaves of the nearby overhanging trees.
Then an explosion blew them in the air and everything turned black, leaving nothing but night.
Out of the darkness and into the edge of light Esben thought he saw something come rushing by him, tall and darker than night itself. A blackness inside a blackness. It’s footsteps echoed like thunder and its breath was foul like rotting flesh, eyes as hard as glass.
It disappeared deeper into the shadows of the cave.
The scent came to him, like stagnant water at the edge of a stock pond, with shat, urine, moss, algae, dead fish and fermented vegetation.
Esben opened his eyes. Where was he? How long had he been lying here. His head hurt like hell. What was that he just saw? What happened?
The last thing he remembered was the explosion. Someone must have booby trapped the entrance to that cave and he had a notion it was Brace.
He was unable to see due to the darkness surrounding him. He reached for his holster. His Colt .45 was still secure. He brought his Winchester rifle in with him. Where was it? He groped the damp ground surrounding him until his fingers found the rifle. He chambered a round.
“Shoots Plenty? Shoots Plenty, where are you?”
He hadn’t intended to get the old Indian tied up in this mess. It just happened. Shoots Plenty insisted on riding with him on the way to Artesia. He should have told him no but it was too late now. Shoots Plenty couldn’t see beyond the end of his arm, so he wouldn’t be much good to him anyway.
“I am here, Wasichus.”
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. My head does not feel so good.”
Esben struck a match and saw the form of Shoots Plenty sitting up with his back pressed against the far cave wall.
“I thought you Indians could root out traps. What happened? Are you sure you are an Indian?
“I am an Indian and something like this would never happen to me. I used to have power. Now I have been civilized and old age is creeping up on me.”
“More like old bad habits. Come on, follow me. Something or someone ran past us into this cave.”
“Maybe we should leave. It could be an evil spirit.”
“It’s evil alright, follow me.”
Slowly, Esben rose to his feet, putting his hand against the wall, he ventured deeper into the cave with Shoots Plenty holding onto Esben’s gun belt.
Esben’s back hurt from landing on the cave floor and his forehead was sporting a welt the size of an egg.
They felt someone run past them.
“Stop!” Shoots Plenty yelled.
They heard a shot and then saw a flash from the barrel of a gun before they heard the ricochet of a bullet near their head.
Shoots Plenty dropped to the floor of the cave.
Esben leveled his Winchester in the direction of the fleeing person and fired.
A cry of pain was heard. The shot found its mark.
Esben ratcheted another round into the chamber of his Winchester and started toward the cave entrance in pursuit of the suspect that had just about killed him and Shoots Plenty.
When they reached the opening of the cave they looked around. There was blood on the ground heading toward the stand of Cottonwood trees.
“I do not see nothing, Esben,” Shoots Plenty said.
“He’s gone. Let’s mount up and head to town. I think I know where we can find him.”
Esben found his one-eyed mule, grazing near the opening of the cave next to Shoots Plenty’s horse. They were glad they had the foresight to hobble their mounts before they entered the cave.
They mounted up and headed for the town of Artesia. Someone set them up and they knew who. He would pay.
The stock dogs were barking up a storm as they rode into town. They dismounted at the corral. There were tracks in the dirt and they didn’t want to disturb the ground around the hitch rack. Walking carefully, they surveyed the sandy loam in front of the hitching post. The boot prints in the dust were large, and the left one had a hole in it.
“Most of these hoof prints have been here for a while and are not from freshly shod horses. But this one is,” said Shoots Plenty. A Bay gelding was tied at the end of the hitching post and it was wet with sweat.
“That is his horse,” Shoots Plenty uttered, nodding in the direction of the big Bay horse. “The foot prints are going toward the dance hall. There are splotches of blood on the ground over there and more foot prints between the wagon track.”
They examined the tracks as they went along. After awhile Shoots Plenty said, “This is the way he came back. Someone was bleeding badly. See drippings of blood? See where the grass is flattened down over there?” he said, pointing in the direction of green grass running along the side of the bank building. “Here is where he laid down and it was a time before he could get to his feet. A tough man. Who is this man, Brace?”
“The son of a bitch is a cheating killer. He can take on three men in a fight and win. He is so cold he’s known as the Iceman in parts of this territory. He has no feelings at all, to my knowledge. But this is the end of the trail for him. Come on, follow me.”
As they got to the end of the building, Esben stopped and looked around into the back alley. There were some barrels and wooden crates and discarded trash and he spotted a man stagger around some wooden barrels. It was Brace.
Brace was a large man, bow-legged and barrel chested, with a mass of fiery red hair growing straight out from the top of his shirt and the sides of his hat. His face was broad and sunburnt above a great tangle of beard
Brace continued to stagger into the alley. He went in gun up and out.
“Come outta there or someone is gonna get hurt,” Esben yelled.
“It’s gonna be you, Bounty Hunter,” Brace said cocking back the hammer of his gun.
Esben’s hand went down to his sidearm and he was clearing leather before young Brace could blink. Esben’s .45 caliber round pierced his neck and he dropped to the ground, bleeding out next to the wooden crates and barrels that littered the alley.
Esben took aim and fired again.
Brace let out a scream. He was still alive. He stuck his head out and that was when Esben’s next round went between his eyes. He dropped back behind the barrel. He was dead before he hit the ground.
They ran up to the barrels with their guns at the ready.
Looking down at the prone body, Shoots Plenty asked, “Is that Mr. Brace?”
“What’s left of him. The son of a bitch finally got what he deserved. Let’s go get the Doc and have him haul him outta here.”
“Why does the white man get his medicine man for someone who is dead?”
“Just to confirm he’s dead.”
“I can confirm he is dead. Will we get our money now?”
“As soon as we have his picture taken I’ll send it back to Captain Smith and he will wire us the money. You best not let Carmen know you came into so much money or she may make you buy her a tipi.”
“I will not tell her. Let us go and get that medicine man.”

From The Novel :The Texas Bounty Hunters

 

 

The two men erected a tent that provided a welcome windbreak from the chill that had blown in from the north two sleeps ago.
The wind increased and a small twister blew past, picking up dust and debris on its way.
Shoots Plenty drew his blanket about his shoulders and looked in the direction of Esben who was leaning on his saddle by the fire.
“This whirlwind reminds me of a story,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Everything reminds you of a story.”
“That is because I know many. Have I told you the story about Coyote and death, Esben?”
“Most likely, you have told me just about everything you know, you crazy old Indian, and then some things you don’t know. You talk more than a squaw.”
“This I have not told you, so you should listen, Wasichus. In the beginning of this world, there was no such thing as death. Everyone lived until there were so many people that there was no longer any room. The Chiefs held council to determine what to do. One stood and said that people should die and be gone for a while and then return.”
“How did he figure that would solve the problem?” Esben asked. “It would just be a temporary fix.”
“Listen to the story, Wasichus. When that chief sat down Coyote jumped up and said that people should die forever. The world did not have room for everyone. If people who died came back to life, there would not be food enough for everyone.”
“It seems this Coyote fella is pretty smart.”
“Coyote is very smart, you must listen, Wasichus. The other chiefs objected to what Coyote suggested, saying they did not want their friends and family to die and be gone forever.
They decided they would build a grass medicine lodge facing the East and that the people who died would be taken to the medicine lodge and this is where they would bring them back to life by singing songs, calling the spirit back to the grass lodge. This made the people glad.
When the first man died the medicine man and the people gathered in the medicine lodge and sang songs.
In about ten days a whirlwind blew in from the West. The Coyote saw it and as the whirlwind was about to enter the lodge, the coyote closed the door. When the whirlwind saw that it could not enter it whirled on by.
In this way, the coyote made death eternal and from that time on, people grieved over their dead and were unhappy.”
“The Coyote causes you Indians much grief. Why do you let him in your council?”
Shoots Plenty ignored him and continued with his story.
“Now when my people hear a whirlwind they say that someone is wandering by. Ever since coyote closed the door spirits look for somewhere to go until they discover the road to spirit land.
Coyote then ran away and never came back, for when he saw what he had done, he was afraid. That is why he now runs from place to place, always looking back over his shoulder to see if anyone is pursuing him. And ever since he has been starving because no one will give him food to eat.”
When he finished, Shoots Plenty looked in the direction of Esben and noticed he was sleeping.

Tracking Chief Tasacowadi And The Comanches

From the novel, The Texas Bounty Hunters

A sudden movement to the far left of the woods caught the cowboy’s attention and he reined in his mule. A horse and rider were slowly moving between the dogwoods and ash trees.
He removed the glass from his waistband and put it to his eye. The rider was an Indian. He was wearing a black stovepipe hat with a turkey feather stuck in the band and a light cotton shirt and deerskin leggings. He had a quiver of arrows on his back and a bow attached to his horse pad. The horse he was riding was a large spotted Appaloosa. It was his friend Shoots Plenty, a Lakota Sioux.
The cowboy nudged the mule and moved in the direction the Indian was traveling. He stopped behind a copse of pine trees and heavy brush and waited. Soon he heard Shoots Plenty approach. He was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
When Shoots Plenty passed the rider yelled out, “ Inaji, halt. Raise your hands and slowly turn around.”
“Is that you, le mita-kohla, my friend?”
“Yeah, I thought it was supposed to be hard to sneak up on an Indian?”
“It is,” Shoots Plenty replied as he turned his horse around, “But I am old and civilized now. Why are you riding a one-eyed mule?”
“Because he is easy to sneak up on and the Seditionistas stole my horse.”
“So, you are easy to sneak up on too? I see they stole your pants and your guns also?”
“That’s true, but I’m gettin’ them back.”
“Of course you are, Wasichus, on this one-eyed mule. And when will you be doing this?”
“Soon, where are you headed?”
“I waited ten sleeps for your return. I figured you traded your old Lakota friend for a squaw so I am returning to my people.”
“I need to find Tasacowadi, the Comanche Chief. His people are in danger. Basilio Ramos and his Seditionistas are planning to raid the Comanche camp while Tasacowadi and his warriors are on their hunt. They will make it look like the Texians are responsible for the massacre. I have to warn him. Will you ride with me?”
“Nothing my brother asks of me is too great.” He took a swallow of his tea then replied, “Let us go before your one-eyed mule dies of old age.”
“Or you, Shoots Plenty.”
Soon the two riders reined their animals in and sat looking over their left shoulders to the northwest as a blue norther approached.
They listened as the muffled whistle of an elk floated on the breeze that seemed to rise from the earth behind them.
The cowboy’s back ached. He had seen more than forty winters and was well into approaching another as was his companion, Shoots Plenty. Neither man was no longer a young man.
They glanced around and spotted many pony tracks.
“No metal moccasins. No pony-drags. Most likely a war party; forty to fifty, possibly more. Comanche,” Shoots Plenty said.
“A Comanche war party can easily travel forty miles a day. Judging by the freshness of the dung piles the trail is no more than two days old. The stalks of grass stomped down by the ponies hooves are beginning to rise back toward the sky.”
Esben nodded and they kicked their mounts and rode upstream for a quarter mile looking for more signs of the war party before returning to the trail. It took another three hours before they finally found what they were looking for. To the left of the trail was a gathering of white stones set in the shape of the quarter moon.
“They passed this spot at the time of the first quarter moon which was three nights before. See over there?” Shoots Plenty remarked, pointing to his left. “The two sticks jutting from the ground, one higher than the other? The Comanche have been on the trail two days from their last camp. They are at ease; not concerned about enemy movements around them.”
Both riders continued to scour the ground for more signs. It didn’t take long before the old Lakota Sioux located a straight line of small pebbles pointing east, indicating the direction the war party was heading.
Rain and sleet began to pepper them for the next mile before letting up, failing to soak them and, more importantly, the Comanche pony tracks remained visible.
That evening they could smell the smoke from the Comanche fires. They dismounted and staked their ponies in a stand of Dogwood and cautiously approached on foot. They watched a mounted procession of warriors circling the fire, leading up to the Comanche scalp dance. One warrior rode through camp on his horse, his buffalo headdress on his head and freshly taken scalps tied to his tomahawk. One after another, riders arrived and dismounted at a large dance area where drums began to beat and the warriors began to dance in their elaborate costumes; some dressed up as antelope or deer, some as bear or mountain lions. It was fascinating to watch as they screamed, growled and roared, imitating the sounds of the different animals. Then they all screamed blood-curdling war cries.
“This will last most of the night,” Shoots Plenty whispered. “Let us go.”
They turned and crawled back to the stand of Dogwoods where they spread out their robes.
“You know, Wasichus, the earth’s soil is soothing and gives us strength. It is also cleansing and healing.”
“I feel one of your stories coming on, Shoots Plenty. Why do you tell me all these stories? Go to sleep.”
“Stories have a spirit. They continue to live and grow. It is how my people teach our young.
I am old and have learned much and know there is much more to learn. This is why I still sit upon the earth. I do not prop myself up away from its life giving forces. For me, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think and feel deeply; I can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about me. Then I can tell you stories.”
He placed a hand on the ground and explained: “We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her, we, and all other living things come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.
My people come from the Mdewakanton, Water of the Great Spirit. Your people call it Rum River. My people call it Wakpa Wakan, Spirit River. It flows through Ogechie Lake in what your people call the Minnesota Territory.
Originally, my people came up from the center of the earth and found themselves near Mille Lacs Lake, from which the Spirit River comes. Many moons ago, after a flood, my people went into Mille Lacs Lake and lived as underwater people. Then a whirlpool pulled them up to the surface and threw them out onto the shore, where they lived as people who walked on land again. They hunted and fished near the Spirit River and at other places around the sacred lake
When there were many beaver and otter, the French people came and brought peace between my people and the Three Fires People, who called themselves Anishinabe, the first people. When our people were at peace the white man made more money on trading the fur of our beaver and otter because both tribes were bringing them furs for trade. But when the beaver and otter were no more, the French people armed the Three Fires People with bullet firing muskets and my people were forced from the Spirit River, our ancestral homeland.
I am now old. I am filled with peace and good will. I no longer wish to fight. No longer is anger and fury lodged in my mind.”
He looked in the direction of Esben and heard him softly snore. He was asleep. He heard nothing of what he said.
“Hmm, I try to teach you, Wasichus, but you fail to listen.” He rolled over and soon he too slept.
They were awake and saddled up before the sun rose and rode to the Comanche camp. They knew the Comanche sign to give when approaching their camp, to alert the Sentinel they were friends. They rode their mounts forward twenty steps and stopped. Then turned to the right and walked another twenty steps and stopped before returning to where they began. The Sentinel waved them forward.
Esben was told to sit to the right of the chief, Tasacowadi, wearing a cape made from a huge bear. Shoots Plenty sat to his left.
Tasacowadi looked at the white stranger for a moment and then at the Lakota and said, “Why do you travel with this white man riding a one-eyed mule?”
“I have known him for many moons. He was raised by my people. Also, I am old and he thinks I am a Lakota Chief. He rides that one-eyed mule because it is easy for him to sneak up on that mule.”
Tasacowadi grunted and turned to the white rider, and said, “Speak.”
“We followed you for three days since you crossed the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, The River of the Arms of God,” the white rider said. “You are brave. You weren’t concerned about enemies being in the area. We watched your scalp dance last night before spreading our robes and finding sleep.”
“And why should we be concerned? We are Comanche.”
“A hombre named, Basilio Ramos, and a group of his followers from Chihuahua Mexico, calling themselves Seditionistas, are planning to stir up trouble between the Comanche and the Texians. They are committing atrocious acts against women and children of the Texians and making it look like the Comanche committed the attacks and also on the Comanche making it look like the Texians were to blame.
I know the Comanche has no fear, but your women and children are left unattended and are in danger as the Seditionistas have been spotted east of the Brazos. We have come to let you know.”
“The Comanche will kill this Ramos if he comes near our women and children.”
“Now the Texas Rangers are coming and you must be careful so that you and your people do not get caught in the middle of this bloodletting.”
“ We do not fear the Texas Rangers nor do we fear the Mexicans. We drove off the Apaches and the Kiowas and will do the same to the Mexicans and Texians.
“Many are the warriors of the white man. If we take the war trail for revenge, we will need the help of Cochise and his warriors.
Where have these Mexicans been spotted?”
“We will show you. But we must leave before the sun moves a fist in the sky.”

Texas Is Cattle Country

 

From the second book in the Esben Hjerstedt western trilogy.

A flat piece of rawhide covered the soles of his feet, protecting them from sharp stones and cactus. He had a narrow band of tanned doeskin that kept his long blond hair from falling into his face. The only other clothing he wore was a G-string. They stole everything of his they could find down to his boots and last pair of pants.
He reached in his rawhide bag and pulled out what remained of the corn and dried meat he had been carrying the past few days. He drank some water from a bottle made from the large intestine of a horse. The only weapon he had was a knife that he had secured in his G-string. He had been walking for days.
Nothing bothered him. When he was in dangerous situations he had nerves of steel which were manifested in the many battles he had participated in while scouting for General Crook and the U.S. Army.
He noted a volume of dust moving at a slow rate in the distance; it wasn’t much and he figured it must be a wagon drawn by two mules. Definitely not ox-drawn. Oxen do not lift their feet as high as horses and mules and they create more dust.
He removed his glass and put it to his eye. He could see two men sitting on the box of the wagon. By the time the shot reached his ears, the driver had crumpled and fallen forward. His companion reached out to catch him when an arrow struck him in the shoulder and he was knocked to the ground and slipped softly beneath the left rear wheel of the wagon. The mules came to a stop.
Soon the wagon was surrounded by twenty warriors, Apaches, faces painted, led by none other than Geronimo.
The Apaches circled the motionless wagon, whooping and firing arrows into the sides of the wagon and the slumped over body of the driver.
Two warriors dismounted and started to unhitch the mules when one of the mules bolted. They shot the remaining mule and began to skin it.
The rest of the warriors surrounded the injured man who was beneath the wheel of the wagon. They dragged him out and two warriors held the wounded man to the ground and another cut the soles of his feet off and made him walk around the wagon for sport before one of the warriors grabbed the front of his scalp and cut it off and shot him. The warrior held the scalp up in the air and started whooping and dancing around while the remaining members of the war party began to rummage through the goods in the back of the wagon before setting it on fire.
He cut off a piece of the dry meat and slowly chewed it while he watched the carnage unfold below him before he stood.
“I guess I’ll see if I can catch that mule.”

Max Fly In Buenos Aires, Argentina

The phone rang.
“Rocco’s Pub.” It was Bubba, Rocco’s three hundred pound bouncer
“Hey, Bubba, is the Rocco Man there?”
“Just a moment. Rocco, it’s the Cheese Head. Can you talk?”
“Yeah, give me a moment. I’ll get to my office. Hang up the phone after I pick up.”
I could hear laughter and chatter in the background and then Rocco was on the line.
“Okay, I got it, Bubba, thanks.”
I heard the extension click as Bubba hung it up.
“Cheese Head, you still there?”
“Still here, whatcha got?”
“The connection’s good, like you are on the south side or something. Okay, I got this from Harry last night. The magazine rented you an apartment. It’s the one they told you about. The first-month rent has been paid and the key is where you would expect to find it. Inside you’ll find more detailed instructions.They want you to write an article on the Buenos Aires Cowboy Fair, La Feria De Mataderos. It’s a weekly fair with folk dancing, handicrafts, and food, as well as gaucho demonstrations.”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Do they do the polka down there?”
“Don’t think so. At least I haven’t seen it yet, but there are a bunch of Krauts walking around. Anything else?”
“That’s it.”
“Thanks, Rocco, I’ll be in touch.”
It was a studio apartment in the Puerto Madero district where rusting ships and decaying warehouses littered the area. I walked in and cleared off space on a bookshelf and set down my bottle of brandy. Now I was moved in. I found my instructions. They were from my handler.
He said to go to La Capilla, a boliches, a nightclub, in downtown Buenas Aires. It had been dry-cleaned and I would meet a deep cover agent, an agent of influence, a raven who had been working Buenas Aires the past three years. She had been briefed and was waiting for contact with me. She was in her late 30’s, about 5’ 4” and 110 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Her codename was Snake. She knew my code name and had more information about the Nazis and what happened in Poltava, Ukraine.
When she walked in the La Capilla it was already after midnight and the bar was still crowded. She was wearing jeans that hugged her like they meant it and a crimson T-shirt stretched tight across her breasts. She had on an open leather jacket, and tennis shoes and wore a holstered and belted six-shooter, a .357. She walked to the bar, turned, and stood with her elbows on the counter and her ankles crossed. Her eyes were as cold as hung beef and her mouth pitched at an angle that made me squirm in my seat as if I had a diaper rash. She promised trouble. She was my contact and damn if I didn’t know her. Medusa, still tough as nails.
She ordered a drink and took a sip and then looked around. Our eyes locked on each other as I walked toward the bar. Her eyes lifted from mine. They were blank, clouded, lost somewhere in the long roll of her life.
“Hi, I’m a Cheese Head from America, the state of Wisconsin. Names Max, may I buy you a drink?”
“Sure, you can call me snake, I’m from Georgia.”
After the drinks arrived, she thanked me.
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
“I see you are still walking on the green side instead of lying under the brown side, Max,” Medusa said.
“I am. Guess I’ve been lucky. How long have you been in this racket?”
“A long time.”
“I was told you would have some information for me?”
She laid an index finger against my lips. “Shhh, quiet my love. Not here. If you want to hear my story, you must have patience. Are you hungry, Cheese Head? The fresh pasta, calamari, and Patagonian wines are particularly good, as are the desserts. Perhaps you could buy me dinner after we finish our drinks?”
“I’m always up for a late night snack,” I replied.
“I know you are,” she replied with a smile. “I see you are back to writing once again. The vaqueros down here are an interesting breed. Very tough and manly. I have enjoyed myself while here.”
“I can only imagine.”
“Yes, please, imagine. It gets el toro raging in you, Cheese Head. I like you best when el toro is loose and running free in your mind,” she smiled.
I looked around and noticed a fat man in the far corner of the bar, eating a sandwich and drinking a beer. Later he was still sitting there. His sandwich was gone but his beer was untouched. He was looking in our direction.
“You notice that fat man in the far corner?”
“Yes, he’s been watching me for awhile now. He hasn’t touched his beer.”
I got up and gestured for Medusa to get up.
“Let’s go over there,” I said. “A little more privacy.”
She picked up her purse and I led her around the corner to a booth in the back.
I was facing to the front of the bar so I could watch the movement of the fat man with the sandwich and beer. He didn’t appear.
“Look,” I said turning back to face her. “The man who has been following you may have killed one of my assets, Selena, so you have to be careful. I am trying to be patient but I need you to answer my questions about Poltava.”
“Everyone wants to eat but only a few are willing to hunt, Max.”
I knew what she meant. Medusa wasn’t afraid to hunt and she was damn good at it.
She reached into her bag and removed a brown manilla envelope and began to unwrap the string holding the flap closed. She removed a sheath of papers about one inch thick. The cover sheet was marked, “STRENG GEHIEM” in bold red letters.
“What’s that mean?”
“Top Secret.”
“Is the whole report in German? I can’t read German.”
“That’s okay. That’s why you have me.”
I looked at her smiling face.
“I thought I have you for other reasons.”
“That too,” she replied with a coy smile. “This report has been very difficult to get. Nobody in law enforcement gives anything away for free, pissing matches over pride and turf too often leaving everyone with nothing to show for it except wet shoes,” Medusa said with a frown. 
“I had to be very creative,” she smiled that knowing smile.
I nodded my head acknowledging her hidden meaning.
“Let’s finish our drinks and go to my apartment. I have a bottle and you can translate what you have there.”
“I thought you would never ask.”

It took us about five minutes to walk to my new apartment. We were pretty sure the man with the sandwich and beer didn’t see us sneak out but we retraced our steps, just in case.
We didn’t see any sign of him.
I opened the door and ushered Medusa in.
I poured a hook of brandy in each of our glasses and sat down next to Medusa on the well-worn couch. She took a solid drink and reached into her bag and took out her report and began to read.
“Have you heard of Konstantin Ivanenko?”
“No, I haven’t. Who is he?”
“A Russian ufologist.
“Ufologist?”
“Someone who studies UFOs. Ivanenko was an expert, Max.”
“An expert on UFO’s? Is that like an expert on looney tunes?”
“Before you cast aspersions, Max, listen to this report.
According to Ivanenko, the Nazis established a German base in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains in Antarctica. It was discovered in 1938 by German Captain Alfred Ritscher. The area was renamed Neuschwabenland, New Swabia and was known only as Station 211. The Richter expedition’s scientists used their Dornier seaplanes to explore the area and discovered ice-free lakes that were heated by underground volcanic fissures and they were able to land on them. It is believed that the expedition was to scout out a secret base of operations. and the facility is known only as Base 211.
Now, if you had been a Wehrmacht soldier at the railroad station in Poltava, the Ukraine, during the summer of 1942, you may have seen a very strange-looking military unit. The unit consisted of women, all of them blond and blue-eyed, between the ages of 17 and 24, tall and slender, with sensational figures.
“My favorite kind.”
“Every kind is your favorite kind, Max. Each woman wore sky-blue uniforms and Italian-style garrison caps with the insignia of the SS. You might have thought the SS had recruited a platoon of high-class call girls, but the truth was far stranger than that. You would have been looking at Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s latest brainstorm The Antarctic Settlement Women or ASF. The secret Fatherland of the new 1000 year Reich.
Ten thousand of the racially most pure Ukrainians were transported in 1942 by Martin Bormann to the German Antarctic Base 211, in the proportion of four Ukrainian women to one German man.
If true, this would mean that Himmler transferred 2,500 Waffen-SS soldiers, who had proven themselves in combat on the Russian front, to Station 211 in Antarctica. This may be the source of the myth of the Last SS Battalion.”
“Are you trying to tell me that Nazi’s are living under ice in Antarctica?”
“I’m trying to tell you it’s possible and that it’s possible that life actually existed there long before the Nazi’s got there. There is strong evidence that Antarctica was charted long ago by unknown people when temperatures were much warmer.
In 1947, Admiral Richard Byrd went to Antarctica on Operation Highjump. They said the reason for the operation was to test military hardware under extreme conditions, the suggestion that it was a combat operation aimed at dislodging Nazi troops from their secret Valhalla has always floated in the air.
But that wasn’t all: Vice-Admiral Byrd had apparently stumbled into a magnetic anomaly that messed up his navigational equipment and his radio. He radioed back reports of seeing a completely different, verdant landscape under his aircraft.
It is believed the observatory contains vast crystals which put forth a certain kind of magnetism, which is used as a guidance system so that large spaceships could land at that location.”
“Where did you get this information?”
She was smiling in the mirror.
“South America, Buenas Aires, in particular, is crawling with ex-Nazis, including Richard Gehlen and Otto Skorzeny, Hilter’s former bodyguard. These pigs still like young women and have a difficult time keeping from bragging. Más loco que una cabra con pollitos”, they are crazier than a goat with chicks. It isn’t hard getting information out of them.”
I stared at her.
She smiled, “It’s a job, Max, and I’m damn good at it. “Echar un polvo, I get paid to fuck,” she smiled again.
“What do you think? Would you like to visit Antarctica?”
“I don’t think so, but thanks for asking.”
“Ok, well, I’m tired.”
“If you would like to make an old timer happy one more time, I sure would like you to spend the night with me.”
“ Max, you are more a survivor than an expert when it comes to women. I planned on staying.”
I woke to an empty bed.
I started some coffee and filled a cup. I walked to the little refrigerator and pulled out a carton of milk and added a couple of fingers to the steaming hot liquid and sat down on the couch, and thought about the evening before. If Medusa stayed on my calendar, I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the week. She sure had some unusual information on the Nazis living in Antarctica and I was trying to see how this all tied into the tragedy that happened on November 22, 1963.
There was a soft rap on the door. I picked up my revolver and went to see who was there.
It was Medusa. I let her in.
“I just got word from your handler. Your shadow has been thrown in jail.”
“What? When?”
“Last night. We have to go.”
There was blood on her chin and some on her hands and a spattering of blood on her shirt.
“What happened to you?”
“That fat man from last night? He followed us. I had to take executive action.”
“He’s dead?”
“What do you think?”
I felt like the glue that was holding the world together, was finally letting go.

Super Warriors: Drugged Up GI’s

HOME:

I felt the liquid creep through my veins and the tension and fear leave my body. I was mellow.
I was trying to escape all the ears in the walls. Every night it was the ears, always the ears.
Yesterday silence was the only friend I had. I thought the bottom was the only place I’d been but I wasn’t there yet. No matter how hard I tried I was always behind.
Tommy got into a fist fight. He didn’t fare well. His right ear was almost severed and he re-broke his nose and dislocated his ring finger. I didn’t know if we would be able to remove his wedding band without cutting it off. I fixed him up the best I could using my wife’s sewing kit to sew on what was left of his ear.
Thanks, Doc,” he whispered.
That night I watched the needle take another man and silently I cried.

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai told the president of Egypt in 1965: “Some American troops are trying opium, and we are helping them. We are planting the best kinds of opium especially for American soldiers in Vietnam…Do you remember when the West imposed opium on us? They fought the war with opium. We are going to fight them with their own weapons.

VIETNAM:
I fell in love with a Saigon butterfly of the night, a whore named Kim Lien and she kept my plumbing clean. She looked like a bottle of cheap wine and worked on Tu Do Street and swore in English like a sailor. But she was mine and I was hers. We had a need and we filled it for each other.
She told me she was a hired wife for a CIA agent in Saigon. “He had a lot of money, money to burn. The CIA was accountable to no one in the United States government. Congress did not have a clue what money they had or how they spent it. That the CIA was its own government with its own set of rules. He didn’t care what happened to his money. He said he could always get more. The mother fucker kicked me out because I could not cook his stew properly. I was not a good housewife, he said.”
She told me she started working in tea houses when she was 10 and now she only worked for her father on his Flower Boat, a sampan, and for her brothers who pimped her out on dry land.
She informed me she was 19 but I don’t think she was a day over 16.
That night I held her hand for the first time in the bottom of her father’s sampan. I kissed her for the first time five minutes later and it was then that I gave her father 300 piasters so we could spend three hours together. I gave him another 100 piasters for some opium. We smoked it before she cleaned my pipes.
I told her I loved her in front of a bar on Tu Do Street with her brother standing on a nearby corner.
I proposed to her in front of the Meyerkord hotel, ranked #11 by the GIs, #10 being the worst and #11 being beyond the call of duty.
We were wed by a Buddhist monk on her father’s Flower Boat.
We spent our romantic honeymoon in a hooch I rented for 1200 piasters a month.
I delivered our first child in that hooch two months later. A boy. He didn’t look anything like me.
Lien told me, “In my village, they call our son bui doi (“dirt of life”). I am shamed.”
I held her close to my chest as she sobbed. We shared a joint and made love.
“Don’t worry, Lien everything is going to be all right. Let’s live life like there is no tomorrow because for us, there may not be. Let’s make love all afternoon. I don’t have to be back until this evening.” We shared some opium.
HOME:
I wept at night as I thought of her and my son and what fate had in store for them. I feared my bui doi boy more likely than not, was forced into prostitution along with his mother.
I still meet her in our secret meeting place and our small son joins us. In my mind, miracles can happen. I need miracles.

VIETNAM:
It was 1969, Saigon, South Viet Nam and it was raining, again. It rained every day since we got in country.
“Name’s Pappy Smith,” he said, holding a half-empty bottle of Tiger beer which he told us tasted better than the Viet Cong Bia Hoi.
He had skin like leather and welcomed us to Viet Nam, “You are in for a helluva fight. The average age of a ground pounder over here is 19 years old. The average age of a ground pounder when he is sent home in a body bag is 19 years old. I’m 35 and I have spent three tours in Nam and three years in Korea when I was younger than you are today. I went along with General MacArthur, chasing those fuckin’ slope heads right to the Yalu River before Mr. Truman and the rest of those fuckheads in Washington stopped us. If they woulda’ let us finish business back then, you boys wouldn’t be here today.”
He stopped his orientation long enough to finish off the rest of his Tiger beer.
“You may not believe this, but the sun does shine here once in a while. You boys just missed all the fun, the big Tet Offensive. Of course, it was a huge surprise to the folks back home, and the reporters claimed it was a victory for the NVA even though we won. We set the NVA back quite a bit killing millions of the little Gooks. But you would never know it reading the Washington Post and the rest of the American press. Obviously, to our newspapers, black is white.
“You are all fresh meat, our new Cherry Boys, and I’m your caped superhero and you always trust your caped superheroes, not one of them butter bars back there,” he said jabbing his thumb over his shoulder referring to the gold bars on the shoulders of the new second lieutenants that just arrived and were being processed in behind us.
“I’m telling you up front even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. So always be doing something positive. Be alert it could mean your life and more importantly, mine.”
We knew now when he was around we never sat down.
“Okay, shitheads, let’s saddle up I’m going to show you how to ride the skids. You Cherries will sit in the middle and watch this time. After that, I don’t give a fuck where you sit. Just don’t sit in front of them Door Gunners.”
“Hey you,” Pappy said, pointing in my direction.
I turned around and looked at him and replied, “What, Sarge?”
“You our medic?”
“Yep,” I replied.
He looked at me a bit and finally said, “I don’t know what they told you in doc school back in the states, but here is the real story. You and me go out on the first unsecured insert and stay out and return with the last pickup. You and me are on call 24/7, 365 days a year until you either rotate out or you buy the six-by-three farm. I do it because I get the big bucks, you do it because you are the most important man here. We all need you. Now, di di mau, haul ass, and get your shit together.”
HOME:
I dreamed of Lien and our son again and woke up crying.
My wife asked me if I was okay. I wanted to tell her “Fuck no. What do you think? I’m fucking nuts. I’ll never be okay. But I told her, “Yes, everything is fine. I just had a spell.”
My wife takes me in her arms and rocks me. She’s a good woman and she loves me and I love her too. She thinks it’s PTSD that makes me cry. I don’t tell her. She wouldn’t understand.
“When do you see your grief counselor again?”
“Tuesday.”
“Do you think it is helping?”
“I think so,” I lied.
“That’s good. Do you want to go with me to pick the kids up from school?”
“I looked at her for a moment and said, “No, I think I’ll go see what Tommy is up to.”
“Please don’t do drugs again, please. The kids haven’t seen you straight in over a week. They are scared and so am I. Please, please don’t go.”
I grabbed her and pulled her close. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t lie to her, not anymore. I felt the warmth of her tears soaking my chest. I knew I was going to shoot up with Tommy. “I love you,” I said.
I felt like a shit when I left.
VIETNAM:
Our squad consisted of Bizo, Bug, Cotton Top, Dizzy, Doo Rag, me and Pappy Smith. We didn’t know each other’s real names and never did. To all of them, I was just Doc.
We were quiet as we contemplated what we were about to do and talked in hushed tones about our families and loved ones, and what we were going to do after our tour was over.
We packed our rucks, drew fresh ammo, cleaned our weapons and filled our Canteens and tied them on the back. For me, being the medic, I made sure my Aid Bag was packed and that I had enough dressings and meds for the next 10 days. Everyone was nervous about what was about to happen.
I passed out twelve Dexedrine to each man. We would be alert!
Then Pappy yelled, “Saddle Up and climb the hill to the pad the birds are on the way.”
And then we could hear them, that distinctive sound of the Huey’s as they approached the firebase; the chopping sound of their blades getting louder and louder the closer they got. It was at that moment as they were about to descend to pick us up that the adrenaline started to kick in. We got up, crouched over, and ran with our hundred pound rucks, weapons, and ammo toward the birds. We turned around as we got there and jumped on board. We sat with our legs hanging out of the bird; we were no longer Cherry Boys. We talked about the times we went out on recon and how we forced the “Cherries” to sit in the middle.
Once the Huey’s arrived and we were situated the bird ascended and the firebase receded as we banked and headed for our LZ.
As we approached the LZ we could see all the activity around it, the smoke and artillery fire and then the final dusting by the Cobra gunships flying down below us.
Then it was our turn, the 1st Bird, we made our way down. The Crew Chief and the Door Gunner unleashed their weapons spewing rounds on the LZ and perimeter.
We rode the skids in so we could get off faster and then we made our way to the perimeter to watch and wait until the last bird dropped its load.

HOME:
The needle goes in and I can feel it relieving the pain. I smile and look over at Tommy. Is he dead? I laugh. I don’t know why I laugh because I am sad.
I start to shake and my mind goes back to Nam. Then I silently cry.

VIETNAM:
While in Nam, Dizzy would shoot up and get high and we would ask him, “How’s the war going, Dizzy? He’d respond saying, ‘real smooth. Today we’ve got ourselves a real mellow war’.
When Dizzy was killed, we tried to convince ourselves that he was just high, in a higher place, that he had taken so much dope that he was up there floating in the clouds somewhere. To help us believe this, we all smoked what was left of Dizzy’s dope.

HOME:
I was catching bass and getting drunk the day I found out I was being sent to Viet Nam where I learned to hate my brother. Viet Nam robbed me of my liberty and I realized that I wasn’t going to live forever and then I realized that I was as free as I would ever be. You do what you do. It don’t mean nuthin’.
VIETNAM:
The bombs started falling pounding my brain and all I wanted to do was disappear.
I couldn’t see the bodies for the clouds of dust. It made me wish I was in Wisconsin drinking Mad Dog 20 20 not caring where I was or what I was doing. I was just a poor boy. Many times I walked away from trouble but I couldn’t walk away from this.
My dad told me to do what I could do and do it well. Shit, I don’t think this was on his list.
I was holding Pappy Smith’s body close to mine while pressing a field dressing against the gaping wound in his stomach, hoping his intestines would stay in. We were waiting for the last bird to drop its load and come back for us. This is why Pappy got the big bucks.
The bird finally arrived. It came with the dust and left with the wind and took the rest of our wounded and Pappy from us. This time Pappy didn’t make the last pickup. I was alone.
I tried to shut my eyes and get him out of my sight, but I couldn’t.
VIETNAM:
I stared down at the man I killed, more a boy, really. There was a star-shaped hole where his left eye was. His face was bloated. He hung upside down from a branch in the tree he used for his sniper position. Strips of skin were missing from his face; he was thin, like a woman with a concaved chest. His straight black hair was streaked with blood and hung toward the swampy ground below him. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing.
HOME:
I saw Kim Lien standing in the heavy mist ahead of me on the dock by her father’s Flower Boat.
“Lien, where are you going?” I sob.
“I’m going to find Tommy. Do you wish to come along?”
“Yes,” I cry.
She yells at me calling me pretty boy and to hurry. “Di di mau, dep trai.”
She beckons to me with her hand before turning and walking to the boat
I put the needle in my arm one last time and smile before calling to her, “Lien, please wait for me. I can’t make it alone.”
WAR:
You pay for your sins and this war was filled with more than enough sins on both sides.
The Vietnam War was many things and among them, it was a pharmacological war.
A 1969 investigation by Congress found that 15-20 percent of soldiers in Vietnam used heroin regularly and that over 40,000 soldiers returned from Nam as drug addicts.
The armed forces issued over 225 million tablets of stimulants to our troops, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in WWII.

A Professional Diplomat

author-at-golden-colorado-copy

I grew up in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. I had me a woman and she got it on like an Easter bunny. She rocked me, swept me away. She carried me along to places I’d never been and made me strong; until one night I came home and she told me to fix my own supper and she ran off with the Fuller Brush man. That woman rode me into misery. After she left, I didn’t care about tomorrow. To me, tomorrow was just another day.
I don’t understand the things I do. I was still a dumb kid who couldn’t see farther than the end of his dick. I hated my parents because of my old man. He was making every effort to drink the town dry and he left outta here like his dick was on fire. The last thing I heard him say was, “I’m going to ride the cold wind high and free and this will be the last you will see of me.”
He was right. Three months later his body was found floating in the Rio Grande, the truth of his evil deeds silenced forever.
I spent some time in Matamoros, a little border town in Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, where I blew my money on a gal with big brown eyes and bigger tits who swore she loved me long enough to get me drunk and in bed. Next morning, she and the money were gone, and I was hungover and broke. So I walked back across the border into Brownsville and I joined the army.
Two years later I finished my stint with Uncle Sam and, like a bad penny, I returned to Brownsville. Times got rough and cotton wasn’t selling and I figured all we get is the chance to play the game, not make the rules, so I went into business for myself. While I was away I learned how to kill and I learned it well. I could shoot the eyes out of a snake at one hundred yards.
I found out there was a dark side of our society that had a need for the skills I had and I wasn’t shy about hiring myself out. I help people make peace or make war, it don’t matter which as long as the money makes it into my account. Business was good. I spent a lot of time in South America assisting our government in removing undesirables from positions of power in countries we needed to control.
I didn’t know my old man had made enemies and that they were looking for something he had and they thought I had it.
It wasn’t long before they found me and left me bleeding in an alley behind Lucky’s Bar. Two armed Mexicans in civilian clothes rushed around the corner, charging toward me. One was tall and thin and the other one was taller and muscular. He’s the one that hit me with his revolver. I guess I should be happy he didn’t shoot me. They said they would be back and I had better have their pharmaceuticals. They must have thought they worked for Merck or something. Pharmaceuticals? These beaners couldn’t even spell the word. They told me I wouldn’t be leaving Brownsville alive if I didn’t have it for them by the end of the week. They hit me two more times to make sure I got the message. That was a mistake.
I wasn’t going to let these strong-arm deuces come into my town and try to play rooster and beat the crap outta me. I couldn’t let ‘em get away with it, pharmaceuticals or no pharmaceuticals.
So, a week later I set a trap and sprung it on them.
Late Thursday evening, I watched as a stolen van, the sides advertising a nonexistent plumbing company, pulled to the curb alongside Lucky’s Bar. One block away, I watched the two men who were sitting in it smoking cigarettes. They were studying the third-floor window across the street from Lucky’s as I studied them. A lone figure was visible moving around the apartment. It was my apartment, I liked to live close to where I spent most of my time, Lucky’s, and that figure belonged to Ice Malone, my long time friend.
Soon, the two goons exited the van and walked across the street and into the alley that ran behind my apartment.
I took a deep breath and vaulted through the door into the alley. Crouching I looked up and down the thin strip of dirt and saw them near the rear entrance. There was a commotion at the north end, the river side of town. A figure emerged like a phantom from the dark enclosure and took two quick steps behind them, and swung his club with everything he had. The blow knocked the big guy forward, sending him crashing into the sidewalk with a large gash on the back of his skull. It turned out he was the lucky one that night because we caught up with the second scum bag before he could make it back to the van. He lost a couple of teeth and a lot of memory, and from the beating he took, his own mother wouldn’t a recognized him.
Ice and I hogtied them and threw them into the back of the plumbing van and drove them over the border, south of Matamoros. We gagged them and pinned notes on each one of them, in case they weren’t given a chance to talk. The notes said the next time they showed up in Brownsville, we would send them back in a body bag, cut up into little pieces.
I also left my card in case they might be in need of my services at a later date.