A Glibertarians Exclusive: Mystical Child Part VI
From the diary of Robert “Cairo Bob” Allen, 1841-1928
November 21, 1886 –Pyramid Peak
We arrived at the base of the smaller mountain at mid-morning, stopped in a patch of low brush near a small creek, built a fire, cooked up some bacon and biscuits, and planned our next move. Evans was of a mind that we should split up, one of us move off north, the other south, and check out any likely spots. I didn’t cotton to that and told him so. We don’t either of us know the other all that well, I said to him, and trust runs mightily lean in these sorts of doings. But he was pretty insistent, and to prove it he proposed to leave the pack horses and most of the gear where we’d stopped as a base camp, and both of us return every evening. This seemed to make a certain amount of sense, as I had to admit. So, we determined that we’d take the rest of the day to build some sort of shelter, let the horses rest and graze, and try to get the chill out of our bones before commencing to look for the Spaniard’s tomb in the morning. We built a lean-to of brush and built a big fire in front of it, and I think that was the warmest I’d been since the Monarch Boarding House in Boise. Oh, and towards evening I took my Spencer, went out into a patch of woods, and shot a big doe. Fresh meat!
November 22, 1886
Breakfast was venison tenderloin fried in bacon grease served up with leftover biscuits from the day before, and Bob didn’t think he’d enjoyed a finer meal in years, hunger proving once again to be the best of seasonings. That was a lesson Bob had learned long ago, during the War of the Northern Aggression, but he had forgotten it since – until that morning.
“Ask you a question?” Evans asked around a mouthful of biscuit. Bob nodded assent. “You sure were quick to jump on this here deal. Quicker’n a man whose only problem is an empty wallet, you don’t mind my saying so. Something else going on?”
“Don’t know as I’m wanting to talk about that,” Bob replied.
“We’re partners,” Evans pointed out. “Partners should know what’s drivin’ each other. Especially when there’s gold at stake.”
Bob thought that over. “All right,” he said, adding “you first.”
“Well, you probably noticed the cough, right?”
“Got some kind of problem with my lungs. A cancer, the sawbones in Elko said. Add to that the problem that my Pa had a bum heart, and he passed it on. So, I need doctoring, and that costs money. Figured this to be my best shot at getting some big Frisco doc to look me over.”
“Make sense,” Bob agreed.
“So, what about you?”
Bob finished chewing a forkful of tender venison. “Wife kicked me off my place west of Carson City.”
“Figured you had some kind of woman troubles,” Evans observed. “Seen the look on men before. So, you’re figuring on buying your way back into her bed?”
“It ain’t like that,” Bob objected.
Evans said nothing, just raised a questioning eyebrow.
Seized by a sudden need to talk about it – to someone, to anyone, as he had talked about it with no one for over six months – Bob spilled out a torrent of words.
“I ain’t never had a lot of money, sure,” he explained. “But she never seemed to mind all that much. She showed up in Carson City one day and took up a room above the dry-goods store where she was working. I did a fair amount of trading in there and realized one day that I reckoned her to be the sweetest, prettiest gal I’d ever run across, and I ain’t exactly a young man n’more. So, we courted for a while, then got married last May. Was a cold, rainy day, that day we got hitched, but neither of us cared. Brought her out to my place out on Clear Creek. Got forty acres, had a couple horses, a stretch plowed up for truck crops, keep a few pigs and chickens. No place to get rich off of, but enough to keep a family eating, you know?”
“Sure,” Evans said. “Grew up on a place like that in Virginny.”
“Me too,” Bob went on. “So, we were happy, you know? First year went just fine. I thought so, anyway. Then a year after we got married, she just up and tosses me out. Said to me, she said, ‘Robert Allen, you got to get away. You need to get off this place for a while. You ain’t hardly set foot off the place in a year, and you are getting stale. Write to me here, let me know what you’re doing, I’ll want to know, but you need to get out for a spell.’ That’s what she said.”
“That’s hard,” Evans observed.
“Tell me about it,” Bob said. “She told me that once I had some time away, to come back and see if things ain’t different. Figured if I went back with a pocketful of greenbacks, well, that’d sure go a long way to ease my way in, you know?”
“She’s that fine a woman?”
“None finer. Stuff she used to say, back when times was good… I can’t hardly tell you none of the best stuff. Can’t hardly remember myself, anymore. All I know is I want to be back on my own place with Isis – that’s her name, Isis – again, and if this here venture gets me back there again, then by God, that’s what I’ll do.”
They finished eating in silence. Damn, Bob thought to himself as he cleaned up his tin plate and cup in the creek, but I never thought I’d spill my guts like that – least of all to that sawed-off little bastard. To a preacher man, maybe.
When that was done, the two conferred again.
“I’ll head off to the north,” Bob said, remembering what Evans had said about his health; the north slope looked like rougher country. “You go to the south. Check out cliffs, overhangs, anything that might hide a cave, right?”
Evans nodded. “Indian said it was in a cave, covered with a big flat rock.”
Bob remembered his Bible. “Has a familiar sound to it, all right. Well then – let’s saddle up. See you back here around sunset.”
He rode through the morning without anything interesting coming up. Noon found him inspecting a stretch of rock outcrops with no result, so he ate a biscuit and a chunk of venison and turned back.
Then, in a spot he had overlooked before, there was a small, flat face of rock, set back in a small box canyon. Bob rode up for a closer look, and then…
“Sure as hell,” he breathed. There, in the rock face, was a large, flat boulder, leaned against the face; around the edges, Bob could see gaps. Overhead, a small creek spilled down the cliff face, over the boulder, into a small pool; the freezing weather had had its effect.
Bob dismounted and walked over for a closer look. The water wasn’t flowing any more, not in the cold, but the flat boulder was encased in a good six inches of clear ice, hard as granite. Through the ice Bob could see the faint form of a cross, crudely etched into the flat rock.
He looked up the cliff, down at the frozen pool – really no more than a puddle – then at the ice encasing the flat rock.
“God damn it,” he spat.
How she told me that one day we would meet up again.
And things would be different the next time we wed.
If I only could hang on and just be her friend,
I still can’t remember all the best things she said.