Beamo’s Gold part 25
Disaster hits Little Bit and Beamo.
The new day dawned crisp, clear, and cold. I slipped outside to relieve myself behind some shrubs. In the new day shadows, I noticed a tall figure close-by staring up at the mountains. Hopper Leap, out collecting firewood for the breakfast cooking. I called out to him but he had trouble taking his eyes off of the misty peaks just too lofty to be believed.
He finally sauntered over to me through the brush in the growing light. “Ious never thought a big country with such mighty mountains would make a hard rider feel hemmed in.”
“It’s a different aura out here, that’s for sure. Even the air is thinner. You get used to it. We’ll leave behind the worst mountain weather today if everything goes right.” I picked up some heavy branches to stack on top of his armful. He nodded his head and smiled wryly at my fake assistance. “Where we are now is special. From this point on, all the creeks and rivers flow into a different ocean, the Pacyfic Ocean not the Lantic. We are at what’s called the continental divide.”
“Wat yous mean, Beamo? All the running water in the world goes into the Missysip!”
“Not true, Hopper. I read books that talk about rivers even bigger than our Missysip on different continents.”
“That would sure be one awesome trip to go see hems ginormous rivers on hems contonits.” Hopper shook his head in wonderment.
“Maybe someday,” I said. We walked back to the main campfire together. He wore a thoughtful grin as he set about frying up moose bacon on two skillets.
As I headed back to Little Bit’s tent, I noticed Bonehead bent double over my cycle. That sight sent me into maximum rage. I ran over and threw him off of my bike. He turned in mid-air, snarled like a bobcat, landed on his feet. We faced off.
“Ious’s just puttin’ hand guards on yous cycle handlebars to keep the cold off yous hands.” He pointed at the new shields over the grips of my handlebars. All of a sudden his savage snarl flipped back to that beatific glow from his baptism. “Ious puts a pair on every cycle.”
I scanned over at the other cycles. Most of them now sported his makeshift sheet metal hand guards. Tee and then the other outlaws got out of their tents to circle around us. Tee’s look said he had me. He didn’t and I was still furious.
“I’m not buying your goody-goody shi, bushwacker. Nobody touches my machine! Ever!”
“Watch your tone, scavenge man,” Tee said.
“You’re not fixing my ride like you did Soosey’s, Tee. I’m not going to have a breakdown getting away from the MA, savvy?” He flashed just a slight wince but several outlaws caught it. “That’s right you all heard me. That’s what happened.”
Outlaw faces blanched in the morning light. Their leader broke the Bandit Code. This was a big deal. Even if they didn’t sound any shock and probably suspected it before I spoke, it now hung in the air like shi-stained chonies on a clothesline.
“Truth is you’re the one who said he wouldn’t ride with my girl,” Tee spit out, trying to double-back the accusation.
“Am I the leader of this outfit? Do I get to order Bonehead to fix a Sawbird Gang rider’s cycle? You tell me, Bonehead, who you take orders from to fix cycles?” I gave Bonehead my hardcore glower. I beamed the same limelight glower my dad gave to crooked salvage dealers. His righteous rage would fill up our scrapyard and linger for hours after. Nobody I ever saw could stand up to my dad’s hardcore glower and few could to mine. “Maybe I should be giving the orders.”
Gasps sounded from some of the dollmolls. Hauling her bundle on her shoulders, Little Bit walked through the other outlaws to stand next to me. Bonehead stared back. No longer beatific, he had a detached pose that was a confession. Other outlaws looked away and shuffled around, wanting direction from somewhere. In order to jinx the chance of a fight, Clip and Big Beast–the last two old-timer outlaws who rode with Mand Sal in the Bloody Rebellion–turned and headed back to their tents to pack up.
Just a blink of an eyeball and it would go down right there. I positioned into my stance. Hands knew what to do. Not a lip, finger, or a toe would move until. All quiet, the wind didn’t dare to rustle. Jittery outlaws froze in mid-stride when they realized my compression and absorption. Amused goons watched on the sidelines. Battle music in my head came in pure and pulsating and savage.
Tee’s eyes and flash of teeth showed his rage. He pointed at me and then at Little Bit. “You, scavenge man, and you–” he didn’t say his half sister’s name– “take your cycles and head out. We’re too low on fuel to push on. Get to that Dezret trading post and bring back go juice. Leave right now.”
I was done taking orders, but Little Bit looked up at me with dignity in her pleading eyes I couldn’t deny. Without any more words, I turned my back on Tee and she followed. We packed up without saying anything to anyone or breaking our fast. I pushed my cycle to the trail, mounted, and then kick started it. The morning was warming up and the snow was growing slushy.
The cycle under me hummed along with no stalling. Fifteen minutes later, I noticed my bike felt slightly, just ever so slightly, lighter. I halted on the crest of a large incline. After searching my panniers, I belted out, “My bible. That bastard Bonehead stole my bible!”
Little Bit gave a slight smile then her face backed up to set-mouth determination. We chewed on strips of venison jerky and drank water from our canteens, watched the white clouds stream over us from the west like some kind of upside down, sky-wide river. The air still warm but after watching the small, puffy clouds, I knew we would get hit with another cold front again, maybe as early as the afternoon.
Funny how the one you want more than anything comes to you when you are stuck in the worst happenstance of all your seasons. Complications of looking for the right path sink in when it is all on the line for more than just you. Here I rode in this intriguing new wilderness with my beloved. It should be a celebration, a feast, but the only thing I feasted on was my own doubt. Probably true that doubt isn’t a rare state for most but it was for me in my late twenties.
The winding trail started to be mostly downhill mixed in with steep incline switchbacks after rounding up the muddy bottoms. We used the downhills to coast to save fuel but it wouldn’t be long before our twenty-gallon cycle tanks were empty.
Sixty-five miles west, we rounded one bend and there was a momma griz with two yearling cubs right on the narrow trail. The startled sow bear just eyed us at first. She gave the look of a beast that never seen people before let alone machines like noisy cycles. She shook it off and charged us right as we tore out past. Once the russet furred bulk of her got moving she came close. Of course, deadfall pines slowed us not far up the trail. Hot, putrid bear breath on your neck will make you forget your other troubles fast. Lucky break for us, at the top of the crest came a plunge in the road so we narrowly escaped being ripped apart with seven-inch claws.
Late evening when my fuel tank ran out. By my estimate, we were still seventy-five to eighty miles away from the Dezret trading post, if it still existed. As I looked inside the fuel tank of Little Bit’s cycle with my flashlight to see if I could get away with siphoning some wood alcohol fuel, I heard the groan. A great scraping noise bore down on us.
“What is that?” Little Bit whirled like a dancer with her head up, looking for the source of the groan that now came from everywhere.
The day stayed warm. Above us, on the steep, south-facing side of the cliff right on our north, the built-up snow had turned to slush. Now I realized it was flowing down the mountainside. In seconds tons of it would flow over the trail we were on, smother us under a ten-feet-deep water-ice-mud blanket.
“Take off. Don’t wait for me!” I ran back and started pushing my bike.
“No, get on my cycle!” She waved at me, had her engine revving but it was too late. The massive flow wasn’t deadly fast like a flash flood or a snowslide. It came down just a little quicker than I could push the cycle. The slush-mud wall covered the road ahead and in back of us, and then hit me first. The torrent shoved like a thousand dead, icy hands. Both of us went over the side of the mountain.
I fought to keep my head out of the watery ice cataract that sent me tumbling down and down over rocks and brush, finally ramming me into an alder tree near the bottom of the gulch. I grasped onto the biggest side branch with bright green leaves and just managed to climb up.
One of Little Bit’s black pixie boots stuck up out of the slow raging deluge. I climbed over as close as I could get. When the boot got within reach, I slipped my arm way down into the slush. Not wanting to pull the boot off her foot, I managed to get ahold of the crook of her left leg.
Not too much work to pull her out of that water-ice muck since she is on the small side. She continued to cough and gag as our tree was pushed down. After that point the flow subsided. Now our world was bathed in mountain shadow darkness, but I still had my flashlight in my leather jacket pocket.
We floundered out of the slush and climbed up the north-facing slope. Already freezing, the cold snap wind returned right as the sunlight died. No broken bones but still we were in real trouble. All of our gear and both our cycles were buried under the refreezing slush filling the bottom of the gulch.
“We have to strip!” she ordered. We shed our wet clothes and handguns, hung them on shrubbery to hopefully dry by tomorrow. If we vived the night it would be a miracle. Nothing for it but to try to find a cave to hunker down until sunrise. At least we had each other.
Up the mountainside, inside a crevice just big enough for us to crawl into, we huddled up but our two freeze-shocked bodies weren’t going to be enough. When I left her to try to start a fire with my Bowie knife, scraping the magnesium bar on my wristband, Little Bit began shivering violently. There was no way for me to make fire here; the few twigs closeby soaked and the ground just too muddy.
“Don’t leave me until I die,” Little Bit hissed through her chattering teeth.
“You give up, I’m gonna get pissed off!” I hollered at her. She just smiled what she thought her last smile, as if to say, Nobody’s afraid of you, Beamo Roamer.
No choice but to head back out to try to find drier wood. My flashlight beam on the rocky ground, I struggled painfully barefoot and shivering up to a ridge. Following a game trail, I came across good-sized, crescent-shaped hoof prints. A herd of five or six animals had been knocked into the ravine by a smaller slush-slide coming down the north-facing slope.
I barefooted carefully around a bend then heard heavy breathing and rocks rolling. Just a few yards ahead my flashlight beam revealed a mountain caribou that was out of breath from climbing out of the gulch. Down the steep slope, another animal struggled to get up to the even ground on the game trail. I flicked off the flashlight and crouched down, waiting with my Bowie knife. The first caribou croaked out a warning but I jumped up and ran at the second beast when it emerged out of the gulch. The zonked creature just had time to turn her head before we collided. The caribou is a type of deer of the far north, and unlike other deer, the does have antlers to defend themselves just like the bucks.
The animal outweighed me by tens of pounds but was exhausted. My left arm held back the great antlers at the same time my right arm plunged the big Bowie into her throat. Blood jetted out and she went down. I finished beheading the second caribou, turned and the first caribou trotted away. Behind me, rocks rustled and rolled where I came up the trail. A small human body crashed into me. Little Bit got herself under the fount of steaming life fluid still spraying out the neck stump.
“I love the blood; it’s so warm, so warm!” she squealed in delight.
In the flashlight beam, I watched her writhing in the beet-colored gore, naked and grinning in ecstacy. Then I worked at gutting and skinning the beast. For Little Bit’s birthday present, I replaced her cherished dead mother with an artificial womb carved out of a beheaded caribou. When I finished scraping out the offal, without any hesitation she crawled inside the cavity. I covered up with the rawhide then lay down up against the caribou with Little Bit inside.
Two or three hours later the carcass was freezing solid. We were both in fair shape now despite being scraped-up, warmed and ready to do something, but it wouldn’t last the night. We dared not go to sleep. Wrapped up in the rawhide, rusty smell of blood now normal, I got up to go look for dry wood again. The wind strong, invisible icicle fangs gnawed at my bare feet.
Up the next mountainside was a glow. I focused on it, determined a bonfire lit up the lee side of a broad ledge under a giant overhang.
“We have to move, now,” I said to her as I cut the rawhide in half. “A couple miles away up the side of the next mountain I see a big campfire.”
“Who is it up there?” Her voice had a reluctant tone. She scooted out, stood up and looked in the direction I pointed. A woman has to make up her own mind if she can handle being a captive of the MA. I knew Little Bit came down on taking her life before that could happen.
“I have no idea. Nobody is supposed to be living in these mountains. Not enough water out here to raise crops. Could be anybody passing through.” I covered her shoulders with her half of the rawhide then crafted strips of the thickest parts for temporary footware. Finally, I set about sawing off a haunch and a few strips of frozen, tenderloin meat. “You know I have my Bowie.”