salamander yellow pad
We’d just been saddling up the horses, like we done how many times before? Just another day, morning still stiff on our fingers we fumbled around with buckles and leathers . I wasn’t paying much mind to him, we were saying few words as the day was far too early to have eased our aches and pains of haven rid for miles and slept hard on stony ground. He was in mid sentence about something I don’t remember, when all of a sudden he let out this “son of a bitch”. All I caught was a glimpse of that mare, one of our spare mounts, s kitting away from him. Still holding his back he turned hissing ” You son of a bitch.” She didn’t seem to notice the irate man intent on murder stepping towards her until he lost his balance and in attempting to correct it, threw too much weight back on himself and fell sitting into an invisible chair from where looking up at me he said ” I’m gonna kill that god damn horse.” I dragged em over to prop him against the boulder that had sheltered our camp from last night. He didn’t make much sounds except I figured every inch of the way hurt something inside him. I shifted him around so I could pull up his shirts and see where he been hurt. There was hardly a mark, not even black and blue just, the red shape of a horse’s shoe. I set him back against the rock, He groaned a bit and told me he was feeling dizzy and just needed to sit a while,”Then I’m gonna kill…” but he just seemed to stare, his voice gave way so “that son of a bitch” came out a whisper. I got em to drink some water. Then I just stood there not knowing what to do. He was mostly saying he was sorry to delay us, that he was just so tired, that it was just so hot, that he just needed to lie on the cool ground for a while and thanked me for putting em in the shade . Now I didn’t know too much about medical things, but I knew it wasn’t shady where Jake Rogers sat, legs straight out in a V, back straight as a board, head slightly back against the rock. It wasn’t shady, but it wasn’t hot neither – there were still flecks of frost clinging like crumbs to any small shady thing . When I touched him now he felt cooler. His skin paled and he breathed heavy and raspy as if he couldn’t exhale enough no more to get any new air in. Jake Rogers just sitting there died from a kick from a dishonest horse that we had taken on because she was all there was and we couldn’t do the kinda riding we needed with but one horse each. He died from something that had hardly put a mark on him. I cant say he died in my arms ’cause I didn’t even know he was dying’ . So I left him from time to time, first to settle the horses, then rebuild the fire, made us a cigarette, but when I went to put it in his mouth he just waved me away. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do when a man is dying’ some folks say you pray n talk to em seeing if there’s any messages to be left for family and such Some say you’re supposed to have ’em tell their sins so you can find a priest, tell the priest so he can have god forgive ’em so they don’t go to hell. I smoked cigarettes and made coffee while Jake Rogers was dying’. I tried to bury him right where he died but I hit ledge on the first scrape. I did manage a place not too far off. I didn’t really want to be dragging dead Jake around too much. I guess I was dumbstruck over the whole thing. No matter how much you try, death always seems to surprise and no matter how often you’re surprised you don’t, or at least I never did, get used to it. I figured his gear was mine by some kinda right of our riding together but the stuff that was on him? I didn’t know what to do? I was just about a mess cause he was my friend and that god damned horse killed him and here I was wondering if you were supposed to bury a man with his boots on or off. There was an envelope addressed to his sister. It was a good thing I found it cause I knew he wrote but I wouldn’t have known who to. It seemed I should write her about the way Jake died, some words about his good character and such. Maybe she’d want to know where he was buried and – where? That’s what put me to my knees there by the shallow grave of Jake Rogers, my friend, kicked to death by a puke horse. See I didn’t just didn’t know where we were. After a while I did manage to get on with things . It was fairly shallow, but I could do no better Besides I would spend the next hours of the day stacking stone over it. Meanwhile I had decided I would indeed shoot that god-damn horse But I didn’t want to have the carcass too near in case the scavengers attracted to it might get ideas about Jake, so I commenced to hauling stones instead. I didn’t go nowhere that day. I don’t know how long it really takes for a man to die, or how long it takes for another man to scrape out a hole to put him in, but by the time I was done I was tired. All I wanted to do was to sleep . I wasn’t too concerned sleeping that close to Jake’s grave. I figured if his ghost came visiting we’d just talk a bit. And once I explained to him how I would shoot that horse, but not right now cause I was tired, and how it’d be best to leave the carcass farther on, any animosity the ghost of Jake Rogers might have had towards me for delaying in my avenging duty would be appeased. However I did awake just as the first bits of sunlight was hinting at the day, relieved that his ghost did not choose to visit or if he did that I had slept through it. I sat up against that rock, pulled the letter from my pocket, my blankets up around me, unfolded the envelope and was relieved to see he had fully addressed it. Her name was Sadie, she lived in Tennessee, in some town I could not pronounce . I had resolved not to read it, believing that would be some breech of privacy, but I had to open it up because I had no paper and I hoped there was enough space for me to add my post script of woe. As I did so out slipped a fairly new fifty dollar bill. How ever Jake did put together a spare fifty I don’t know, but I took it a a sign that he held his sister in high regard and while this made me smile, it also made the thought of writing her more difficult. I rummaged out the pencil stub, glad I had had the good sense to take it too from Jakes pocket and there against the same rock on the same ground I proceeded in the same pencil to write to Sadie Rogers. I told her I was sorry to say her brother was now dead. That he died quiet with hardly a mark on him. That he had been a good friend to me and I had killed the horse that killed him. I was also sorry I didn’t know the date but thought it was somewhere near the end of September, and was even more sorry to be unable to explain where his grave was. After all how do you say to someone in Tennessee ride four days north of Durango a half a day west then cut north again following right of the red ridge for another day and then start looking. So I simply said I was sorry and that while I didn’t know a whole lot about her brother’s relations to his family, it might comfort them to know that he was on the whole a very decent man to those who deserved decency and loved the life he lived out here. I wasn’t sure if I should have told her I had buried her brother with his pistol on his hip, some folks have funny ways about guns. I had buried him with this weapon because he once told me how his ancestors believed a man would not be well received into the after life without one. When e’d asked about my ancestors I said I just believe in god . He said all people believed in some other type of things before they believed in god. I replied that I thought god was eternity and that eternity worked both ways, forever before and forever after. Pulling up his horse he said ” Look out there” ” I looked out over the mesa far off jagged fingers earth, all shadow red and purple rare round jewels passed by ancient hands as sun made games with what was left of night ” What does that make you think of?” Without hesitation I said ” Being in it” ” That there, what draws you to it, that’s your god.” And I thought he’s crazy, god lives in some clap-board house with a bell on it, where everyone’s supposed to come visit on Sunday morning, that’s god. “No.” he went on “That’s you god out there. Everybody’s god calls em home. Calls em to be part of it, to be in it.” I didn’t say no more, but found myself thinking maybe somehow he was right, the thing in me that was being drawn to the thing out here was like my little soul being called by the big soul of god. Well thinking like that does my head funny so I called out “Come on then, race you to god!” and we kicked our ponies into a reckless gallop aiming toward the rising sun of whatever god there might have been out there … I did send Sadie Rogers her fifty dollars and her letter, I don’t know that she got either. If circumstance had been a little different I would have probably kept that money but I went from having thirty cents to being able to sell his saddle and etceteras, so I figured it best not to be greedy and while maybe Jakes ghost might forgive me for lying to his sister, I don’t know that he’d forgive my stealing from her. See, I never could shoot that god-damn horse.