“Got him.” Dwayne negotiated in and around small clumps of scrub brush to retrieve the quail he had dispatched with his old, but reliable wrist rocket. Dwayne had offered Sonny Ray the wrist rocket earlier, but Sonny Ray assured him he would be fine with his pocket of rocks. Dwayne had not seen or heard from him in over an hour. Dwayne had shot ten quail. After placing his quail in an older medium sized flour sack, he decided to head back in the direction of camp, and keep an eye out for his hunting partner. Dwayne headed down a small hill, staying on a game trail, when a cotton tail rabbit decided to make a jail break, and crashed through some mesquite branches near to the trail where he walked. “Rascally wabbit, scared the,” Dwayne said laughing, in his best Elmer Fudd. Suddenly he paused in his tracks. Dwayne sensed something watching him.
He looked around slowly, moving only with his eyes.
Two months ago an old man from up north, in Medicine River, not too far from where they had set up camp, had been attacked and mauled by a mountain lion. However, his other senses, namely his sense of smell; alerted him to the fact that there was no danger whatsoever. He climbed the hill slowly and saw Sonny Ray sitting under a lone mesquite tree. A cream colored cloud blew gently upward, dispersing through the branches of the mesquite tree. The burning flower wafed down in his direction. Both men smiled.
Smoke Signals, hawaiian style.
“Not bad.” Dwayne sat down next to Sonny Ray, looking at his five quail. “Not bad yourself.” Sonny Ray said, pointing at the sack at Dwaynes feet. The men sat quietly sipping water. “Man that tastes really good.” Sonny Ray smiled nodding in agreement. Dwayne was fairly reserved, and somewhat laid back, but him and Sonny Ray got along like they had known each other for a minute.
“Pretty good yeah?”
Sonny Ray asked.
Both men were sufficiently invested in maintaining their stay; in the pain free zone. “There’s a stream a little further up the canyon where we can go and clean these quail,” Dwayne said. Sonny Ray nodded, as he placed the five quail in the small flour sack. Tonight they would feast as kings.
The afternoon had slipped away with the sun as the two prepared to rendezvous for the evening.
The giants of the desert, majestic in form, and raw in beauty; stood quietly in an ancient formation.
Decades later, Sonny Ray remained in awe of the desert of the southwest.
They traversed down the hill, avoiding the prickly pear cactus, and the occasional cholla patch. Ocotillo was present as well. Mesquite, and Palo Verde trees offered contrast, and diversity to the desert landscape.
Large boulders dotted the land, as if placed there by the Ancient of Days personally. Dwayne carried the flour sack over his shoulder as they reached the bottom of the hill. Unbeknownst to the two men, a small vapor blood trail followed quietly behind them. They had walked up the next hill, and stood quietly as they both gazed down at the small camp fire in the short distance.
Cyrus was waiting.
They descended to the bottom of the hill. Quail could be heard calling, directing the other quail to follow the escape plan.
The lead scout quail sat perched high on a branch, surveying the field. It sought refuge for those in it’s charge. Vowing revenge for it’s fallen, the quail retired from the field of battle, and sought solace; slipping away into the escaping light of the desert; as the blazing orange sky, faded from white, to blue, to black.
The men had walked up the next hill, and we’re almost to the bottom of that hill, when they saw it. It was kind of hard to believe really.
It was a bobcat. Both Sonny Ray and Dwayne had lived in Arizona long enough to know; that it was rare for anyone to see a bobcat out in the open. It just doesn’t happen.
Both men became immediately aware that this particular bobcat had very little fear of man. It approached nonchalantly, like your house cat might do, like when you first come home from work.
The bobcat was maybe thirty five pounds. It appeared to be somewhat malnourished; which in of itself was sufficient to account for it’s bold behavior. Either that or it had rabies. Nonetheless, these small cats were not to be discounted. The bobcat began a slow calculated approach to the men; and their quail. The bobcat could taste the blood of the quail, in the air. It began with a low guttural growl, that caused both men to have slight case of horripilation. They were as prepared as possible, one with a wrist rocket, the other with a couple of tangerine sized rocks at the ready. The bobcat continued to advance closer now. It began to hiss really slow, but with a rising crescendo of
hissy fit loud. Sonny Ray got chicken skin. Dwayne later said it made his skin crawl. Without a pistol or shotgun, their options were a little scanty. Common sense said, drop the quail, and cut your losses. Dwayne looked at Sonny Ray, and both men nodded in silent agreement to do just that. The bobcat was perhaps, sixty five yards away. As the men were about to place the hard earned quail on the ground, the bobcat picked up it’s pace. “Not good,” Sonny Ray said, in the simplest wordage possible. Dwayne was in full agreement. Both men began looking around, as they subconsciously wondered if they could out Macgyver the other.
“Oh Shit,” one of the men said, as the bobcat closed.
Out of the shadows of the sheer canyon cliffs, the giant black eagle, leapt from it’s rocky perch. The aggressive movement of the bobcat had aroused it’s rapacious instinct to dive, to hunt, to kill. Though at this time, it would not be out of hunger. It’s large powerful wings carried the black eagle in and out of a dimension; entirely of its own. The winged creature flew through the air with protective intentions, bearing down on the hapless bobcat. The two men didn’t have a clue, as their interest was not particularly focused on the sky at this time. They began to back up; but not quite ready to succumb to panic. The bobcat was within forty yards now. Dwayne dropped the blood stained bag of quail. The bobcat continued it’s quest.
The nubian eyes of the black eagle stared fixed at it’s target. It’s talons were fully extended, as death flew silently, unrelenting was the black eagle dream.
The heavenly predator laid claim to this creature of the earth.
Without the hint of danger upon it, the powerful black eagle snatched the bobcat from the ground; the way a child might pluck a dandelion from the grass. It’s massive wings were perhaps only eight, maybe nine feet from the ground; as it blew over the top of Dwayne and Sonny Ray. This was the original stealth fighter.
“AAhhhh!” The men cried out in unison, as they threw themselves, shamelessly to the ground. Tough day all around. The last thing Dwayne and Sonny Ray saw this night, one that would never be forgotten; was the terrified, and confused look of the bobcat, as the hushed black eagle flew over the men again, before leaving the area. The doomed bobcat seemed to plead with the men, as it’s legs were hopelessly flopping around in the wind. It’s eyes seemed to beg; ‘help me.’ They could hear the cry of the cat on the wind, as the black eagle disappeared; into the night. The fading sound of the bobcat bleating out a final cry for his mother proved to be inconsequential. The men stood slowly. After dusting off they watched the silhouette of the black eagle disappear into the night. “Inspirationally insane,” Dwayne offered with a college educated smile. “Fuck,” was all the high school graduate, Sonny Ray could manage. “I concur sir,” Dwayne said. Both men began heartily. “Did you see that shit man?” Sonny Ray exclaimed. Dwayne had gathered their quail, and began their final push up into the canyon. As they walked they became captive to their own thoughts. Sonny Ray thought about this black eagle. By virtue of the fact that this black eagle showed up when it did, it was obvious to Sonny Ray that it had acted out of a protective measure rather than of need. Was this really happening to him?
Darkness fell, and the stars shed their celestial light upon the earth, as the mighty saguaro remained as indigenous monuments, fixed upon the land. The coyote sat on the hill with his friend gila monster, watching the unpredictable humans. They ended up conversing late into the night, burning flower, and blowing smoke rings at the moon. As they continued walking Dwayne grinned to himself. Cyrus was right, Sonny Ray was the one. And why wouldn’t he be, Sonny Ray was his son. The two men walked side by side as they neared camp. Cyrus had set up camp near the canyon wall. The glow of fire reflected off the many layers of sandstone of the canyon wall. Cyrus stood waiting. A small campfire could be seen behind him. The smell of various foods mingled in the air. The two men finally approached camp; both captivated by an event that either of them would be able to forget anytime soon. The old man stood waiting. He had brewed a pot of coffee, the aroma greeted them as they walked toward Cyrus. The old man began to chuckle as they came closer. He could see their bag of quail. He grinned at the two men. “What is it Cyrus?” Dwayne asked.
The old man looked at Dwayne then at Sonny Ray. He shook his head slowly. “What does that mean?” Sonny Ray asked. Both young men had such a comical look of consternation on their faces. The two weary men cleaned up, as Cyrus prepared the quail. After sharing a simple but tasty meal the three men settled in on their bed rolls. The stars hung in the sky like bad memories, always there to remind them of things they might not want to remember. The three men stared up into the sky, each searching out the things that hurt the most, the things that were most important in their lives, understanding that more often than not; these two things were intertwined, sometimes one in the same. The crackling of the fire was the only sound the three men shared. Sonny Ray though, had grown weary of sad thoughts, they weighed him down. “Did you know, that a native hawaiian was at the battle of the little big horn?” Sonny Ray asked, from deep, deep, left field. The two men turned slightly in the direction of Sonny Ray.
“It’s true, really. This hawaiian guy ended up becoming a scout for Custer.” Dwayne sat up slowly.
“Sonny Ray are you jerking my chain?” “I would never jerk your chain Dwayne,” Sonny Ray smiled slyly. Dwayne gave a look that denoted doubt.
“Dude I am dead serious. It is a little known fact, but a fact nonetheless,” Sonny Ray said trying not to laugh. “So what happen to him?” Dwayne asked, not thinking. “What happened to him? He got his ass killed that’s what. But hey he was running with the bad guys so what did he expect?” Sonny Ray stated, setting up the finish to his story. “The sad thing though was, he was a relative of mine,” Sonny Ray said, pretending to be sad. “Sonny Ray I know we just met, but I have to tell you something.” Sonny Ray asked with his eyebrows. “Your so full of shit.” The old man chuckled, waiting for more. “Dwayne I’m serious now.” “Okay wise ass if he was your relative then what was his name,” Dwayne asked trying to squash his story. “His name was Charlie Puka in the shirt,” Sonny Ray said proudly. “Charlie Puka in the what? Dwayne asked, knowing all the while he was being pulled into the black hole of his friends story. “Puka in the shirt,” Sonny Ray declared. There was a short pause in the conversation. Dwayne mockingly sighed. “Okay, what does Puka in the shirt mean Sonny Ray?” Dwayne was now fully committed to the story now. “Puka is the hawaiian word for hole. The hawaiian scout had so many arrows in him, they called him,'”Charlie Puka in the shirt.'”
“Your full of crap, but that was a pretty good story.” Cyrus chuckled. Soon all three men were laughing. The men grew quiet again. They resumed their search, as the stars hung like good memories in the sky; reminding them it was good to laugh now and again; even in the face of death. The wind began to pick up, blowing the fire into disarray. Cyrus drifted off to sleep. The two men began to slowly drift into their own thoughts. They lay back, and continued to contemplate the beauty of the star filled skies above them.