Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dinner Conversation

This is one that kept me up all night one time. Just the opening line kept running through my head, like a movie, flipping between tuxedoed waiters and penguins... and I kept thinking 'So what?!? Where is this going?' Well, about 2 1/2 hours later, and revisions/editting/read-thrus this is the end product. I am hoping it is enough to let me get some sleep. And as always, who know where this could lead...


   The small ensemble filled the air of the place with soft music that the tuxedo-wearing waiters danced to, like penguins going through the crowd with a meal for their nest. The soft sounds of knife and fork against delicate china mixed through the soft rumble of quiet conversations, masking the quick melodic clinks of crystal being touched lightly to one another. Occasionally, the entrance of another couple would divert the attention of the suited man sitting alone at a back table.
   After a momentary glance, he would again turn his sights inward, to watch the mental projection he alone played. A glass held slightly off the table in one hand, tilted as if frozen in its journey to bring drink to his mouth. His lips but inches from its edge, parted slightly in preparation for the amber colored fluid contained in the glass. A flash of light, reflected off the inner front door catches his attention, and his eyes focused on the woman entering the room.
   Soft, brown hair flowed down and slightly around her shoulders, glinting golden flashes as the lighting reflected from the trembling tresses as she removed her coat and handed it to the cloak attendant. Framed by her hair was a face that women would look twice at, and then be jealous. No age lines, and just a touch of make-up, accented the natural high cheek bones and penetrating gray eyes beneath lustrous lashes.
   He gave her the once over as she spoke to the maitre d', who began to escort her in his direction. The dress she wore was black, and from one step to the next, he could not tell if it was skin-tight, or flowing, as she approached. The glass was set down forgotten as he rose from his seat.
   Their eyes met with a quick intensity as she neared his table. A chair across from him was offered and accepted by her with a small smile. A brief nod to the maitre d' and he sat again, carefully adjusting the napkin back to his lap. She glanced to his glass, and then rose taking in the details of his suit, to his face, noticing the slightly showing age lines, the soft whisper of evening beard, and the crispness of his returning stare.
   "It is good that you were able to make this appearance," he said in a soft baritone. He leaned back and gestured to a passing tuxedo. He pointed to his glass, and glanced to her questioningly, quickly dismissed by a brief nod to her. "Two ," to the waiter, and he turned back to the table. "You make such an entrance, dressed as lovely as you are. You look good in that black dress."
   "It is said 'A lady always has a black dress for the occasion that warrants one'," she smiled.
   "Ah, so you are one that has several black dresses, then?"
   "No." Her eyes hardened slightly, and she gave her head a slight twitch, as if to slightly throw back a stray lock from her forehead.
   "But you said a black dress for the occasions that need them. Do you not have many occasions to dress so nicely?"
   "To complete the saying, 'A lady always has a black dress for the occasion that warrants one, but the whore has one for each day of the week.' Now, why would a man of your means, want to be talking about the dressing styles of ladies, such as myself, when said lady does not even have a drink yet?" She leaned forward, and placed her hands together in front of her.
   A small look of surprise crossed his face, and he reclined in his seat. A glance to the side showed the waiter had arrived, placing their drinks on the table. The waiter glanced at each quickly then addressed the man. "Monsieur, Are you ready to order?" With a look of renewed study to the woman, he ordered for them both, and watched as the waiter left the area. He reached for his glass as he turned to the woman.
   "Shall we raise our glass in salute for something? Or show how low we really are by just slamming them back?" she asked, as a smile crossed her face. She had raised her glass up halfway, waiting for him to do the same. The glasses chinked softly.
  "To each their own," he softly said, and sipped softly. Her eyes held his, watching as he drank, then she followed his action, taking a small sip before setting it back on the table. “I see you do not want to rush through things. Shall we wait until after dinner to finish our conversation?"
   She sat quietly in thought, studying the blank look on his face, and then she put a neutral one on her own. Her hand tentatively brushed against her cheek, a habit from years past when she is deep in thought. Finally, she laid her finger against her lips, and gave a short, firm nod of her head.
   "That would probably be best." Their eyes met once more, and locked for a long moment. The arrival of the waiter with their meal broke the spell. Both kept their eyes on their food, and between glances to each other, and a sip of scotch, the meal was eaten in silence. He began to glance frequently to his watch, showing impatience with something. She took it in, knowing he was feeling some discomfort. He noticed her slightly gloating look, and realized she knew he is tense. He pushed his plate back and drank his scotch in a gulp. Catching her eye, he looked down at her plate only half finished, and glanced back up. Her eyes tightened softly as he saw her irritation, and quickly he turned, signaling to the waiter for drink refills. Reclining again, he smiled.
   She slowed down eating her food, glancing his way with a smirk on her face. After several moments, the silence was broken.
   "This is the parting of our ways," his soft, low voice barely reached her. "One would like to think that our parting should not be of such sorrow, but of joy, knowing that one day, we might meet again, and raise a toast to the time spent apart. Ahhh. But here we are, mixing what could be pleasure, with what we call our own business." A long sip of scotch went down, and her eyes have locked onto his. "Such as it is," he whispered.
   Time seemed to have stopped. A muffled crash from the kitchen brought movement back to the room. With deliberate motions, she folded her napkin across her plate and raised her drink to her lips. Her tongue traced her lips after a slow sip, and soft sigh is released. She directed her gaze back to his again, and said in soft, husky breath " 'That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet'," she exhaled. "Oh, mince not your words with me."
   "I applaud you, clever lady." Another sip of scotch was taken. "Are you ready to depart?"
   "I am."
They sat for a moment in silence, sipping their drinks. At a glance to his empty glass in hand, he set it down and stood from his chair. A waiter appeared to assist her in rising.
   "Arrangements were made previously for this encounter. Nothing need be done but through the door now."
   He indicated that she should lead toward the cloak room. Both were quiet as their coats were returned to them. He held her coat for her in assistance. Their eyes met once more. Both saw the thoughts churning behind each other's eyes, but neither said a word. At some unknown signal, the door was opened and both walked out.

** Optional Ending **
The doorman saw the couple sharing an intense gaze, and paused a moment. He saw no one taking advantage of the moment, and opened the door, allowing a brisk breeze to enter, which interrupts the gaze of the couple. They walked out and the door swung slowly shut.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Maeslstorm - part I

Prologue

The story has been passed to me to carry, of the times before my fathers' fathers' lives. Of the world long before the People we are, came to know it. From the stories, it is said that the grounds we live off of were once as barren as the skies when the clouds do not come across them. A land so desolate that only the sands covered them and the wind blew only to shift the grains.

The stories tell of a man that traveled those sands alone. A man that walked heavily with the burden he carried on his back, and what lay within his heart. This man many say did not have a name to be called by, yet others say that it was a name no one was to say again, and has been taken from our language. His journey carries him across the sands with no destination in sight, and the only purpose is to deal with the feelings of guilt and betrayal that were his burden alone.

This man, the One that brought a new world from the sands that thrived after the destruction; the One who traveled the sands that covered the Land as far as one knows; many call him Omanji, the Destroyer.

We called him Maelstorm.



Chapter I


The snow was falling fast and heavy, even though the wind was doing its best to blow it away from the ground. The trees had grown top heavy with the build up that he groans echoed as far as one could hear, intermittently with loud creaks and cracks of branches breaking under the stress. I couldn't open my eyes, but somehow in my exhaustion and weariness knew the sun was up, somewhere beyond the heavy cloud cover. As I lay there, wondering how did I come to be in this situation, my stomach made noises of hunger. 'Food,' I thought. 'What a wonderful item that would be.' At the same time, I recalled that my pack was empty, lost days ago in the days I have been lost in the hills. The cold was creeping higher up my legs, and I could no longer feel beyond my elbows. The blackness came over me again.

The past can be remembered in so many different ways between many people. Some may remember images. Other may do best with smells or colors. My first memory is of a sound. It was deep and reverberated against my chest, calming me. I could not open my eyes, but that sound was comforting, though it pulled at my heart with sadness. The next thing that comes to mind is of my father, Meelo, working the ground with a hoe ahead of me, sternly telling me how to drop the seed and cover it in the garden. I must have been about 4 summers at that time. All I can remember is that it was father and I. We lived in a one room shack on the outside of Tilston and raised a garden for most of our sustenance. None bothered us, and I don't ever recall anyone coming to visit.

What I knew of town was from one trip Father had made me partake with him. Though only a couple miles out, the entire day was spent there whilst Father did some trading with others for items we needed. I was mostly told to sit and watch, not to wander and play with some of the other children I saw. In my memories I was content. I felt no need to mingle. At near day's end, we would walk back home, and complete the evening chores. One day was like another for the most part. Until the soldiers came to Tilston.

It was late summer, and harvest time was near. Father and I were in the fields weeding, and deciding which crops were going to be the first to be picked. I was in my seventh summer and still not grown into the clothes Father had arranged for me. My brown hair constantly fell into my face as I weeded, causing me to look handicapped in some way as I shuffled through the garden. I would toss my head, flipping the hair back, and as I shuffled to the right, give each leg a short kick to empty the dirt catching in the folds of the rolled up pants legs. With a final wave of my arms above my head to slide the arms of the shirt back to my elbows, I would then again bend over to attend the next plant.

"Meelo!"
I heard the yell first. It was coming from the house front. I stood glancing that way strangely, as I had never heard anyone yell for my father before, let alone a visitor to the home.
"Meelo! Hurry, you must help!"
I glanced quickly over to Father, who had heard our visitor this time. Several emotions passed across his face, many I could not recognize. Only the main one that I knew to mean dreaded concern. Concern like if we lost half the crop to the bug, and how would we manage.
"Mal. Stay here and continue. Do not come to the house until I call. Understand?" father asked me as he moved quickly towards the home.
"Yes, sir," I answered and bent back to my duty, wondering what was happening.

Form the corner of my eye, I watched as father rounded the front and waited to see if he would invite the visitor back, or holler for me to attend. For many minutes I could hear nothing, but then the rise of voices in anger and fear reached my ears. I stood up, trying to find out what more I could. Father came back around from the front and stopped, catching me looking that way. His eyes fell to the ground, and his shoulders slumped. He looked more dismal than I had ever seen him, and it brought a coldness to my gut. For a moment, I knew not what to do, when father suddenly straightened back up, a determined look on his face, and a fire in his eye. He waved me over, and I jumped at the chance to find out what is going on.

"Mal. The time has come for us to move along in the world. With no questions asked, you must do exactly what I tell you, as quickly as possible. When there is time, I will tell you what is going on, but for now, we must move quickly. Back to the garden with the basket and harvest everything that is even a week close to being ready. Some of them you know can be picked early and will ripen as we go. As much as possible, in as many trips to the home until I say. Got it?"
"Yes, father," I said, eagerness for something new filling my voice. I jumped for the basket and headed back to the garden to follow his orders. Father disappeared into the home and I could hear the banging of the cupboards as he searched through them.

I brought in the one basket I had filled so far, looking down the path to see if the visitor was still here, but there was no one in sight. Father had spread out two blankets and was stacking items in the middle of each. So far it was few clothes, some salted meat we had traded for, and a plate and cup apiece. When he eyed the basket I brought in, he motioned me over.

"Split this up between both stacks here. There is no time to get more, so this will have to do." He glanced at me seeing the many questions upon my face."There is trouble in town and it is trouble we don't need to find us. Don't ask more now."
"What would we be in trouble for? We are nothing but farmers, and have done nothing," I stated though he asked quiet of me.
"Aye, we are only farmers and cause no trouble for any. There is more to this than I can explain for now. Do this and be ready. I must get one more thing." Father stood and moved off to a small sectioned off area of the room that I was never to bother. I heard a trunk opening and some metal rasping. Father returned with a sword that had definitely seen better days. My eyes widened in wonder, as I never had known such a thing existed in our home. But before I could say a word, father gave me that look, and I knew to finish what I was doing before a switching came.

Within moments I was done sorting, and with Father's help, we tied up the blankets into a pack of sorts. At the front door, with a heavy hand on my shoulder, Father glanced once more around the room, as if he were remembering where everything was, then out the door we went. Back through the garden, father grabbed and pocketed as many more foods as he could, up to the edge of the woods that started the easy slopes of the Endiback mountains. Father set a quick pace moving for the peaks, and I followed as fast as I could behind. Nothing was heard but the stepping of our shoes through the undergrowth as the sun went down into late afternoon.

A couple hours past sundown father stopped us for the night. As I found some deadwood, he prepped a campfire and laid out a small portion of food to eat. As we sat there eating, I watched his face for signs that I could ask some of the many questions going through my mind. Father sat staring into the fire for a while, then glanced my way. Seeing my questions, he exhaled slowly, then slowly leaned back against his pack, again gazing into the fire.

"The questions running through your mind are clear upon your face, Mal. I would wish we had the time to sit here and answer them all, even if I did have all the answers, which I don't. But I can start some of it now, and give you more each night when we stop. Is that fair?" With this last comment, he looked askance to me. This was a first I had seen this side of father, and it intrigued me.
"I understand father. But first, where is it we are going? Why are we leaving all behind?" More questions wanted to follow, but I snapped my lips shut as his face shifted into a grimace of great strain.
"I do not know where exactly we are going. I have heard over the peaks is another land, just as good as this one. As to why we are leaving, it has to do with the leader of this land. I had not planned on teaching you about this for another few years, so bear with me as I try to do it in easy terms. The leader has sent soldiers to our town to collect his share. These soldiers take our monies, our foods, our items of trade to their hearts content, and only give a portion to the leader. They keep and squander the rest to their liking. It has been many years since they have come this far out from the main of the land to do this. The last time was before you were born. We have nothing of value to give them, even if we would go hungry during the winter. If we do not give anything, we will be killed as examples. Does this make sense?"

I thought over father's words, and realized what he was saying. So we were moving on, in order to save our lives by going to another place. I felt peaceful inside knowing that Father and I could do this. Then everything sort of blanked when I realized he had mentioned about my birth. This was a topic never mentioned.
"Could I ask about my mother now?" I tentatively spoke. Father's eyes met mine, and I could see the sorrow he held inside at the mention of my mother. The tears started to fill his eyes.
"No," in a gravelly voice he answered."Tonight is not the night for that story. Time to rest now as tomorrow will be harder, and we'll be a bit sore." With that he used his pack and jacket to cover himself, and turned his back to the fire. I sat thinking for a short while and did the same. Pictures of far away lands, people I didn't know, and a beautiful woman that could be my mother all floated in my dreams that night.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mind Freeze

It took a couple moments for my eyesight to adjust from the bright glare of the outdoors as I stepped into the pub. I could hear a jukebox on low in the background playing some country twang music, and the clatter of a couple empty glasses being picked up to be washed. As sight was restored, I casually walked up to a an open spot at the bar, there were plenty. The bartender was right there waiting for me, and I ordered a bottle of beer. As she went to get it, I placed a $5 on the counter and looked around at who would be in here.

A couple of yahoo cowboys were over at the pool tables. You know their type. Dress up like city slickers, get a little dusty riding in the desert in their pick-up trucks, and say that they are true cowboys. These two looked like they had rolled in mud last night, woke up and started drinking. I ignored them, even though one nodded my direction.

The bar itself was a bit horseshoe shaped. Across from me was a elderly gentleman, with his hands clasped around a tall drink. His head was tilted back from watching a TV mounted above the bar I would guess. His mouthed and closed a couple times before he would raise the glass and sip some fluid down. I felt some air start blowing, but it wasn’t cool enough to deflect the heat from the outside air.

The bartender came back, placed a cocktail napkin down and popped the top off the bottle. Without a question, she took up the $5 and made change at the register. A nice smile came from her as she put the $3 in change in front of me.

"Anything else I can get ya?" she asked.

"Not for now. Here’s for you," I said leaving a $1 there and putting the rest in my pocket.

The little flair of curiosity went out of her eyes, and the smile lessened a bit as she said thanks. She turned and headed back to an office at the end of the bar. It was about 2 in the afternoon on a regular weekday, and this place was deader than Tombstone. I sipped my beer a bit and finished surveying the room. The tables and dance floor were all empty, but at the last end of the bar sat a guy with his nose in a book and a couple drinks in front of him. After turning a couple pages, he would sip a small drink from one glass, then follow with a swig of Budweiser.

I glanced up at the ceiling above the bar, as the lighting seemed sort of dim where I was sitting, and it didn’t look much brighter where he sat. Just the fact he was sitting in a bar reading a book brought the urge to me to go over and question him. I took another sip to make up my mind.

Damn, at least the beer was cold.

I got up and moved down the bar to where he sat. As I approached, I sensed him start to tighten up. He raised his head for a quick glance at me. With steel in his gaze, our eyes locked, and time froze.

I mean, it literally froze. As his steel grey eyes locked onto mine, we were transported somewhere. It was like getting a mind probe and being injected with memories of people and places you ain’t never seen. Like that big ass headache when you eat ice cream too fast. Your mind starts to burn after just seconds of information from over years are pile-driven into your brain. I feel myself screaming out, but I can’t hear myself. Hell, I don’t know if there is anything left of myself or not at this point anyways. I forgot whatever my purpose was, let alone where I was or what I was doing.

After what felt like minutes I realized that these were my memories being viewed in front of me. What the hell was this shit? Then a feeling of pure terror came over me as all my fears were exploited. The rejections, the insults, the fears of spiders and snakes. Writhing all around my conscience.

Suddenly, those steel grey eyes were in the front of my mind. The pain had lessened somewhat, but I was still frozen. I could feel my body trying to shake in pure terror of what was happening.

A voice bellowed throughout my body "Leave me be. Find someone else to waste your time on."

With all thought possible I agreed, and found myself sitting at the bar where I first walked in at. The bartender was coming from the back room headed in my direction. A quick glance around showed everyone was at the same spots as before.

"Can I get you another?" the bartender asks. I tip my hand a bit to check the fluid level of the bottle. It was completely empty. I debate if I should order another, and out of the corner of my eye I see that book reader just shake his head once sideways.

"No, ma’am. I think I need to head down the road. Have a good one." I tip my hat at her, and head out the front door, blinding myself in the sunlight for a few moments before I start up the road.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Scared the Punks

Note: This is just something I threw together in trying to get some more memories of my Dad down on paper so to speak. March 8th would have been his 60th Birthday. I miss you Dad.


Sometime not long after I was brought into this world, my parents moved into an old two-story home in Kirklin, Indiana. I don’t remember the year, but that would be dating myself too much. But I do know that I spent the early years of childhood in this home. It was peeling white paint, but had a huge lot size. My parents even had a couple horses in those early years. One was white, the other brown, and named Sugar and Spice, respectively. Spice, I am told, was supposedly mine. I only know this as Grandpa had some old 8mm film showing myself atop Spice, with my Dad walking alongside holding me up. I must have been about 2’ish then. Shortly after that filming, I guess due to financial issues they horses were sold. I never could recall any memory of them, excluding the film.

The house had been in the family for many years. I recall a time years later that Dad showed me a picture of his great uncle and aunt out in the front of the home. That picture had to been at least 50 years old, if not more, and the house still looked the same pretty much. Paint was peeling more, but the rest looked the same. That same uncle and aunt were the ones that adopted my Grandpa at the age of 12, and changed his last name to the one I carry now. But that is a story for another day.

I remember different things about that home that bring up different feelings. There was the front room that faced the street. My parents had set it up as a ceramics room. There they would pour, bake and paint ceramic pieces – same as my maternal grandma did in her home. The living room was carpeted with this awful green pile carpet. That was the room where I took my first drag off a cigarette. Another story for later.

Off the living room was the kitchen, which led to the back porch and exit. I remember us kids would always be running around asking Mom to make her special kool-aid. It was nothing more than cheap punch with some 7-up added to it. Out the back door the yard stretched as far as a kid could imagine. I know at one time there were several acres that Dad owned off the back yard. He would rent them out to a local farmer for crops. Halfway down the yard to the side was Dad’s firewood pile. Six feet high, 4-5 rows across about 20+ feet long. Definitely looked like we would never freeze in the winter. Beyond that was our swing set that had the rocking pony on it.

Back inside off the living room were the bedrooms. Sis and I shared one together for all those years. Upstairs was more of an attic than a second level, I guess, now that I think about it. Dad had a train set up there running N gauge. The track board was probably about 6x4, and it was rare that I ever got to see him run that train.

Yeah, my mind gets hazy trying to remember the important stuff of back then. But as I grasp these details, it helps drag me back so I can start the tale I figured I would share today.

My family had spent several years in that old home. I don’t know the exact details, but it was decided we were going to tear it down and replace it with a single level newer home. The house next door to us became available (for sale or rent I don’t know), so the family moved over to it, and we proceeded to dismantle the old home. It was old. Walls were the old plasterboard and slats, and the foundation was red bricks. After some time, the home was dismantled, and life went on.

Well, I guess Life sort of went on. Around that time is when my parents started their separation. That for sure is another story.

Dad had been working during this time a regular day job, and then also being one the four town marshals for the town. Eventually, it came down to just him, and he moved on up the road to be deputy in Michigantown. Now being the deputy there wasn’t too bad I guess, except it was like 15 miles, give or take, between towns. Dad got the wonderful job of patrolling the public High School football games. Needless to say, there were a few people, and HS students that didn’t like him doing his job. I can’t count the times he had to get a ride home because some one had sugared his gas tank on the truck. The town only had one patrol car, so Dad had to use his personal vehicle to/from the games.

Needless to say, being the small towns that they were, and my Dad’s involvement with the authorities, many locals knew him, and knew where we lived. Some nights kids would come by and toss rocks, or shelled corn at the windows. Easy to see how someone could get worried as to family safety. Never know how far teenagers are going to take things. Well, I remember one story Dad told me about, and that seemed to pretty much be the end of those incidents.

The new house going up next door was pretty much just starting. The crawlspace had been dug out, and cement block lined the hole. It was only about 3-4 feet deep. For a few nights in a row, some teenagers had been throwing things at the house late at night and yelling stuff that I shouldn’t repeat. Dad decided he was going to put a stop to it. One night after I had gone to bed, he loaded up the 12 gauge and went next door to hunker down in the crawlspace. Wasn’t long until here come them three boys again. Dad stayed squatted down and waited for them to start trouble. Sure enough, the rocks and words started flowing. That’s when Dad knew it was time. He jumped up out of the crawlspace, pumped a round into the chamber of the shotgun, and gave a blood-curdling scream like he was Rambo back in Vietnam.

There was a brief moment of silence. The next sound made was of rocks dropping from them boys’ hands, and the blood draining from their faces. They turned tail and ran as fast as they could. Dad said they took off like they had seen a ghost. Needless to say, I never heard Dad mention another night of people throwing things at the house. To this day, I don’t know if this was just a story he told me, or if it was true event. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. It was my Dad.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rambo Ralph

When I first moved to Arizona when I was 14, I wasn’t sure how things were going to be. I was moving in with my Mom, sis and brother, but also a Step dad who I did not know that well. I remember only meeting him a few times prior to them getting married and moving out of state. I had only had time with them twice in the prior year. It was like getting to know a family all over again.

My step dad was a different type of person. To put it lightly, he was big about sports. Football, baseball, wrestling, whatever – he wanted you to play. Me, I was a chubby 9th grader who was more interested in playing tuba in the band than anything else. If you read here a bit, you’ll see a previous story about trying out for the freshman football team.

To get a bit more to the story, spring came along, as does baseball fever. I was not trying out for the school team, and so the step dad talked me into playing Little League. I was at the final age limit, so I said ok. An older guy named Chuck coached our team, and he had been doing this for years. He was cool, he knew what he was talking about and practices were always fun.

At the end of the season, I had made acquaintances with a couple of the guys that went to the same school as I, and some younger guys in Jr. High, we all had thought that would be the end of it. About two months later, just after Memorial Day, Chuck calls each of us at home and invites us out for a team camp out up north. I couldn’t believe it when my parents said yes, but I was excited about going!

The weekend came and all of us loaded up for the trip to Mayer. Chuck knew a place off the main road, back near some of the old mineshafts in the mountains. We set up camp just off a small stream, then he took us over to a mine that he had explored before and showed us around. We played hide and seek in there for hours that day. By nightfall we were ready to eat some grub.

After a good meal of hot dogs, hamburgers and smokes, us boys decided it was time for some more fun. A game called “War” was suggested that I had never heard of. Basically it is similar to hide and seek, but when found you are considered shot dead and have to return to base (campfire). Now the team in hiding can also “shoot” the enemy by tagging them without being seen first. In the dark, it makes it all possible, and a lot of fun.

My team was designated hiders first, and we were given 15 to go to ground. I sort of followed one of the other guys, as I had no clue as to what we were doing. We had probably about 8 per team. Once the hunt had began, I saw how things were about getting “shot” and doing the “shooting”. My team was done in about 15 minutes, and we switched roles. When we began our hunt, it didn’t seem to take long as most the other team was hiding near each other. Again we switched sides.

I took off right away to about 20 yards outside the firelight and swung clear back around the camp to the water’s edge. The water edge dropped about three feet from the edge, which was lined with old stones. I lay down against the rocks, holding myself out of the water. Soon I heard the hunters coming my way, and I let myself slide into the water, submerged in 2 feet of running water except for my head, and watched them cross the stream and head back to camp.

I slowly got up and headed back the way they had came, intending on a new hiding place, when I came running across one of the other team. “You’re dead” I hissed and tapped his shoulder. I must have scared him good because he jumped damn near out of his shoes. I waited as he headed to the camp and then I crawled under the bushes. Stupid me I never thought about scorpions, spiders or snakes this whole time, but I belly crawled over a ten minute period about 20 yards, and was 15 feet from the clearing where our camp was. I could see and hear everything that was going on. The guy I had “shot” was telling how I came up behind him and tapped him. “Ralph was soaking wet, and had old leaves sticking to his clothes. I thought it was a ghost at first!”

Chuck had laughed and said, “Ol Rambo Ralph got ya!! This is the first year I seen anyone get shot by the hiding team. This ought to be interesting!” The hunters went back out with intent. I spotted 6 of my guys down – that left me and one other hiding.

I backslid out of that spot until I could stand up inside the bush. Here came another one that I reached out and tapped, whispering “You’re dead.” As soon as he was more than 10 feet I would run off a different direction and repeat the same tactic. Slide under some bush for 15 feet or so, come up standing inside it and tap the next poor soul. Soon I knew it was down to me against 2 others. I would make some noise and sprint over about 5 yards, trying to draw them apart but they wouldn’t do it. I was getting desperate.

I was sitting there trying to figure out what to try next when a steer comes moseying my way. At first I was a bit confused, but I remembered Chuck saying earlier, the range farmers here let the cattle roam all over this area. I thought of the best thing I could, seeing how I was from Indiana and all. I ran up and leaped across its back, held on and slapped its butt. That steer went ‘Moooing” and running right towards my attackers.

I slid off about 10 feet from them and jogged behind the cow. As the cow reached them they shouted, and turned to run from the cow. I reached out and tapped both at the same time. “I win!” I yelled. I jogged back to the camp to tell everyone and earned a new nickname that year – Rambo Ralph.