Observing a shaggy creature along the side of Highway 50, Red slowed down to have a look. He wasn’t even to Grand Junction yet and he was bored. It’s a skinny young punk with a seedy duffel bag. Nobody’s gonna stop for him and it’s already getting dark. What the hell…

“Where you going, son?” asked Red as he swerved to miss a gaping mud hole.

“Montana, eastern Montana,” was the response.

“Get in. You’re in luck. I’m headed to North Dakota. That’s somewhere in the ballpark. Then I’m aiming this old Ford at Manitoba, someplace up on Lake Winnipeg.”

“Never been there,” said the kid.

“No feds up there,” said Red, “at least not the Yankee version. No suburbs, no malls, no chains, no credit cards…Paradise.”

“Yeah, paradise,” smiled Sam, bracing himself for yet another hitchhiking monologue, the price of a free ride.

“How far is it to Dakota, or Manitoba…or wherever you’re headed?” he asked, fanning the conversation.

“Why you wanna know, son? You ain’t one of them undercover federal agents are you?”

“No, sir. I ain’t ever even been to Washington, or nothin’,” said Sam. “All my family are from these mountains. We only pay taxes to keep the government from taking our land. Honest.”

“I believe you, boy. You don’t look like no fed. What takes you to Montana?” asked Red

“My sister’s up there and I thought I might find work.”

“I hear there’s lots of work but survival on the pay may be something else,” frowned Red.

“Course it’s the same around Western Colorado. There’s never been much work but it’s even worse since the blood-suckers moved in. Did you know that at least we had family-owned businesses in these parts and people could actually exist on their weekly pay. That’s before the corporate scalawags showed up. Now even the banks are from out of town.”

“I sure hope Montana is still backwards, or at least behind those kind of times. I’d like to find a job on a ranch,” shrugged the passenger.

“Watch out for them too!” stressed Red. “Lots of them have gone big city too with hormones in the cows and computers in the barn, buying calves on their Mastercards and reporting to some New York guy in a suit.”

Red pulled the pickup off the highway at Whitewater and said he needed to buy a map of Wyoming and points beyond. He went into a small store and came out with three boxes of shells, some bottled water and an assortment of sun bleached maps.

“Take a look at these maps,” he said. “I can’t read them without my bi-focals and I lost them back in September. Haven’t had the money to get a new pair,” he smiled unveiling a set of stained, staggered teeth, hanging onto puffy gums for dear life. “Wyoming’s at the top, then Montana. Over to the east is North Dakota.”

“We got a long way to go. I’d be happy to do some of the driving if you like.”

“Don’t think so, son. I don’t want them to nail you as an accomplice,” answered Red, still locked in a windshield gaze. “You want a swig of water? It’s mostly for the radiator. That clown back at the store didn’t have a hose. Said his water froze up last night. Don’t seem possible with this warm weather and all. This old pickup may get real thirsty climbing Douglas Pass. We gotta keep to the back roads and the higher ground so we ain’t detected by the authorities.”

“Excuse me, sir, but are you wanted for something, not that I mind, but are you?” asked Sam

“Not yet, kid,” sparked Red, smiling away. “But with any luck every cop between here and Nogales will soon know my name. Wait…what am I’m telling you for? I don’t even know you. Where you from anyway?” asked Red, getting serious for a moment.

“But with any luck every cop between here and Nogales will soon know my name. Wait…what am I’m telling you for? I don’t even know you. Where you from anyway?”

“My name is Sam and I’m from Norwood, Colorado,” said Sam. “I grew up raising cattle but dad got tired of living in debt, sold the ranch to some Hollywood celebrity talk show host, and moved to Denver. They figured the money would take care of retirement…”

“Which talk show host?” asked Red.

“O-Fire Pear-Tree, I think was her name,” said Sam.

“Oh, yeah, I watched her some days when I was out of work. Tries to make a big mess then clean it up in a half hour. Like’s silly controversy. Is that the one?”

“May be,” said Sam. “Now she’s got the ranch and I got nothin’. Guess that’s just the way it goes. You can’t fight city hall,” he sighed.

“City hall? What’s that got to do with anything? It’s the county what let things go to hell. All those tax assessors drooling over another Wal-Mart coming in. Commissioners far too impressed with all that money to stand up for their own–The end of commerce as we knew it. The newcomers and plenty of the young people don’t seem to notice the difference.”

“White shirts going to lunch, taking up space while our Real Western lifestyle goes to hell on a credit card machine. Used to be that America was for Americans….you know the founding fathers and such. Before you know it everyone will be on welfare with rolls of worthless paper money in their pockets. We’ll be speaking Chinese, eating rice and beans, dressed by the Salvation Army, wandering around in semi-circles with bones in our noses.”

“Everyone will be on welfare — rolls of worthless paper money in their pockets. We’ll be speaking Chinese, eating brown rice and black beans, dressed by the Salvation Army, wandering around in semi-circles with bones in our noses.”

“Ya think?” quipped Sam. “I figure we’re just gonna run out of everything, water fuel, food, land, air. The rich folks will control what’s left and the rest of us will just fade away…maybe to Lake Winnipeg or Lake Eire…who knows?

“Sounds like you’re ready to quit, boy. That’s no good. How do you think we beat the British? How do you think we whipped the Indians? You think Andy Jackson felt like that when he fought the Battle of New Orleans? What about San Juan Hill and the Kaiser? What about our great victories in Grenada and Panama? It takes balls to be free, son. Balls.”

“You’re right, but what can two beat up hay seeds in a broken down Ford pickup do about it?”

Red pulled over to the shoulder just outside Green River.     

“I’ll show you,” he smiled, motioning Sam to follow him around to the bed of the rusted-out truck. He gave the sagebrush landscape the once over then threw a small tarp off to the side of the bed, exposing what appeared to be enough dynamite to blow Rock Springs into the 21st century.

“Wow!” gulped an almost speechless Sam. “Where’d you get it?”

 Red again peered at the younger man suspiciously, then relaxed, realizing that, due to his indiscretion, his companion was already privy to the contraband.

 “Guess there’s no secret between us now, kid,” he said, slapping Sam on the back. “I swiped most of this powder from the Camp Bird back in the 70s. The fuses I brought from Lake City. I tested everything and it’s all as fresh as cow pies in the morning dew! The rifles are mine. I bought them from a fellow in Dolores. Those baby land mines are from my brother. How he smuggled them back from Southeast Asia is anybody’s guess. Half the army was sending dope back in stereo speakers but not Carl. He was busy shipping high explosives, care of the U.S. mail.”

Both men stood at the rear of the pickup, one admiring the cargo, the other wondering what he had gotten himself into on such a chilly winter evening.

“There’s a liquor store in Rock Springs,” said Red. “Let’s grab a six-pack and I’ll fill you in on the rest of this caper.”

The two wandered into Oil Shale Liquors, bought a six-pack and two cigars. The headline on the local paper whined about the economy and the arrival of another mega discount outlet to Sweetwater County. The clerk looked bored. She was watching an O-Fire Pear-Tree re-run on a tiny television. The picture was cloudy.

“Not much for reception, huh?” offered Red.

“The boss won’t get cable…says he can’t afford it,” said the clerk. “I’ve got a dish at home. Got it for Christmas. Just put it on my Visa card. Gets 300 channels, I think…”

“That’s a lot of television,” quipped Sam in forced response. “How do you have time for anything else?” he teased.

“What else is there,” said the clerk as deadpan as the Bridger Basin landscape.

The engine limped to a start and two beers were cracked as the Ford paced its way toward Riverton.

“I know a great cafe in Riverton, good coffee, cute waitresses, decent food,” said Red. “It’s up the road the other side of Lander.  You gettin’ hungry?”

“I’ll be hungry by then, but I’m a little short of money,” replied Sam, hanging his head. “You go ahead I’ll just…”

“Can it, kid,” said Red. “I’ve got a wad of cash and besides, maybe you can make a little phone call for me before I turn east at Billings. Don’t worry about it.”

“You were going to tell me what the dynamite and the rest of your arsenal is for,” started Sam.

“Oh, yeah,” said Red, checking out his passenger once again. For starters, do you happen to remember the conspiracy to blow up Disney World back in 1994?”

“Not really,” answered Sam warily.

“That was my deal. It created quite a stir at the federal level. We had the FBI and CIA and ATF and the cops running around in circles. Sadly enough my partner flaked out on me and security got wind of us before we could get close enough to do business. Later that year we completed the blueprint for sending mortars into the local IRS office but that fell apart when our funds ran out. We didn’t want to hurt anyone just scare ’em. You must remember the Janet Reno kidnapping scheme. It was in all the papers!”

Sam lied saying he’d heard something about Reno and a boggled kidnapping attempt.

“That was my deal too,” bragged Red. “It was right after the Ruby Ridge hearings. We would have pulled it off too but we could never figure out who would pay much ransom. Who in their right mind would pay to get her back?” he laughed. “We had our chance since she was in Idaho for over a week.”

“So you planning to blow up North Dakota?” asked Sam wangling his way back to the subject at hand.

“Just part of it,” answered Red coolly, meeting the gaze of his rider. “Just one part of it. Just Citibank Visa. Just a block or so of downtown Bismarck.”


Filed Under: Fractured Opinion


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