by Lester L Weil
The yell woke up two Mexicans sleeping in Santa Fe’s plaza. They looked up to see a rider coming hard and fast up the dusty street. At full gallop, he waved his rifle high and let out another yell. His fur laden pack horses were trailing far behind, unable to keep up.
The mountain man slid his horse to a stop in front of the cantina. His buckskin jacket, moccasins, and possibles bag were festooned with quills and beads; there was a necklace of bear claws and shells. He wore a fur hat made from a lynx. His Hawken rifle’s fringed leather sheath was decorated with feathers and beads. The rifle-stock and the Green River knife at his belt were studded with designs.
He called out with a stentorian voice.
“I be a by-god Mountain Man. I fought and kilt grizzly bear. I fought the Blackfoot and climbed the Rocky Mountains. I seen Colter’s Hell and smelt the sulfur. I ken shoot the eye out’n a hawk. I raised hair, hunted buff’ler and et a puma. This chile be a true by-god Mountain Man. Waugh!!!!”
The awakened town began to stir as he strode into the cantina. “Whiskey. Gimme a jug.” His presence, not just his size, dwarfed his surroundings and those present.
After he had slaked his initial thirst, he sat drinking at a bench in the plaza. Children gathered and whispered among themselves, marveling at the magnificent buckskins and trappings. Young girls with their dueñas detoured from their paths to see, from a safe distance, the wild creature sitting and drinking in the plaza.
The old man woke with a start. His dream was gone and the bartender was kicking him as he lay on the floor at the end of the bar.
“Get up, you useless old man. Time to close and you have to get out.”
The old man rose, unsteady on his feet and stumbled out of the cantina. A pale moon was low in the sky giving faint light. He settled on a bench in the plaza trying to find a position that favored his aching body. As he nodded off, a town constable rapped his knee hard with a baton.
“Get Up. You can’t sleep here. The plaza is not for the likes of you. Get Out!”
Again the old man stumbled to his feet and limped off, his head down. Finding a alleyway, he settled in a dark corner. It was getting colder and he shivered in his torn clothes. As sleep finally came, he once again began to dream of his long ago past.
“I be a by-god Mountain Man. I fought bear and injun….”
–Chile – Used by Mountain Men to refer to each other or themselves.
–Colter’s Hell – The Yellowstone Caldera
–Dueña – Chaperone
–Possibles bag – The leather bag in which the Mountain Man carried his ‘possibles’, everything from pipe and tobacco to rifle patches and balls. What could not be carried in the bag was hung on the bags shoulder strap. Shooting needs were top priority, kept where they could be found with ease and speed.
–Waugh – Used as an exclamation point to a statement by both Mountain Men and Indians. The grunt-like sound resembled/imitated a bear.
Published in Doorknobs and Bodypaint 2014
Lester L Weil
Lester L Weil, an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder. He is retired in Arizona near the Mexico border.