Mitchell‟s Cabin; or Doing Time in the Woods CD Roberts This story takes up where “The Mrs. Loretta” ends. Kid, I’ve told you there’s all sorts of reasons to read literature. And speaking of books, I’ve been thinking about that “Walden” book by Thoreau and I’ve got an idea.” “Well if it’s as good as the idea from that Lysistrata thing I’ll give it some consideration.” “Kid it’s even better. How many times have we been chased out of towns in the last couple of years?” “Heyes, you don’t need to ask me that. Too many times.” “Right. So all we gotta do is what this Thoreau fella did. He lived in a cabin by himself; practiced being self-reliant.” “Is that what that book is all about?” “Well it’s about more than that. It’s got a lot of philosophy in it. But that’s not what is important. What’s important is the idea of living away from everyone in a cabin. If an Easterner like Thoreau could do that, we could do it easy. We pick up supplies in Porterville, that way we can tell Lom where we’ll be, and head on up to old Mitchell’s cabin. All we have to do is take it easy and wait out our amnesty.” “Heyes, I think you’ve talked me into it.” “Let me get this straight. You two are gonna live by yourselves in Mitchell‟s cabin until the amnesty comes through.” Lom Trevors, sheriff of Porterville and former outlaw, looked at Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry with a mixture of disbelief and amusement on his features and in his voice. “Lom, you‟ve gotta admit it‟s a great idea. You yourself said we should stay out of trouble. Can you think of a better way? We won‟t be around any lawmen that might recognize us…” “Heyes is right. No posses, no getting chased out of towns…” “No poker. No women. Have you two stopped to consider that?” “We are going to be confining ourselves „to the most significant and vital experiences,‟ because „it is life near the bone where it is sweetest.‟ The best things in life ARE free Lom, and we don‟t need much to survive on.” The Kid nodded and said “Yeah, whatever he says,” indicating Heyes. Lom stared at the two of them as if questioning their sanity. “Look Lom, we are only talking a few months, right? It‟s not going to be that much longer before we get our amnesty. You said yourself the governor was looking at us with a more favorable eye recently,” said Heyes stating his case more pragmatically. “Yeah, I figure we can do six months on our own easy. I mean Heyes says this fella Thee-row lived on his own and he was an Easterner. Lots of fellas live on their own for months, maybe years, like trappers.” “Uh huh.” “Oh c‟mon Lom, this way you won‟t have to worry about us.” “Oh I‟m not worried about you two.” “That‟s good Lom. Anyway you‟ll know where we‟ll be if you need to contact us.” “Mitchell‟ cabin,” he paused thinking. “When‟s the last time you‟ve seen that place anyway? Five, six years? We‟ve had some rough winters you know.” The Kid and Heyes looked at each other with knowing grins. “Lom,” said the Kid, “we are talking about Mitchell‟s cabin. He built it like a fort.” “And it‟s already spring; it‟ll be summer soon, so we don‟t have to worry about the weather.” “Well I hope you two know what you are doing.” Lom glanced down at his desk and shuffled some papers. Raising his head he continued, “I‟m not so sure you two can last two weeks much less six months without a saloon down the street.”
“Lom!” Heyes smiled pretending to be offended. “I think you have lost your faith in us. Tell you what, we can bet on it. A sporting proposition.” “A sporting proposition, Heyes?” Lom rubbed his chin. “OK, I bet you two don‟t make it past six weeks up there alone.” “Six weeks? Lom you are on,” said the Kid eagerly. He did a second take. “Uh Lom, how much?” “Why don‟t we say we‟ll each pay Lom $100 if we don‟t stay the six weeks against his paying us $100 if we do? After all Lom, you‟re our friend; I‟d feel pretty badly if we took you for too much.” “Well Heyes, that‟s real generous of you. It‟s a deal.” The men shook hands on the bargain. “You boys take care. I‟ll be seeing you.” “When the amnesty comes through, Lom.” “Whatever you say, Kid.” The two men were on the winding mountainous trail that led to the cabin once occupied by trapper Jeff Mitchell. Mitchell had counted the outlaws that roamed Wyoming Territory among his friends, mainly because living in such an isolated spot he figured he couldn‟t afford to be particular about any company that cared to show up. His cabin had welcomed numerous visitors of dubious morality and occupations, generally on the run from the law, who counted on his discretion and his food for survival. Mitchell was gone now. No one was sure what parts he had left for, although Oregon was considered likely, and there were even stories that he had left for Canada. As far as Heyes was concerned, the vacant cabin would be an ideal spot to practice self-reliance, selfreliance that didn‟t require too much effort that is. With this in mind, he and the Kid had brought abundant supplies of food with them, including a forty pound bag of flour, plentiful corn meal, sugar, Arbuckles coffee, canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned green beans, and beef jerky, the latter in case they had difficulty catching game. They didn‟t think that was likely to occur, but it didn‟t hurt to be prepared. The supplies were loaded onto two pack mules, along with rifles and ammunition for hunting, a box of cigars, whiskey, brandy for special occasions, matches, pencils, pens, inkwells, and two blank writing journals. My Journal by JedXXX CuXXX Thaddeus Jones 4th April We had coffee for breakfast and it was purty good since I made it. Biscuits and bacon. We got here yesterday and the roof has some holes in it so we‟re gonna fix it, but it‟s OK for now „cause the weather is good. The cabin looks a little tired but Mitchell built it good so I suppose it is stronger than it looks. We can always fix anything it needs. There is only one bedframe so we are gonna take turns sleeping on it or on the floor. We can be real lazy here, and not have to work which is fine with me. The sky is clear. We are gonna fish. Looking forward to lunch. “Heyes.” The Kid was sitting crossed legged in front of the cabin on one side of the doorway. “Mmm, what?” Heyes was lying on the ground propped against the wall of the cabin on the other side of the door reading. “I feel stupid writing in this thing.” “If you‟d rather, I can loan you a book to read.” “Funny, Heyes. You know I don‟t see you writing in yours. If keeping a journal of „our experience in the woods‟ is such a good idea how come you‟re not doing it?” “Kid, I was up before you, remember? I‟ve already made my entry for the day. I didn‟t sleep in like you. I wanted to get a start on this Thoreau type of life. I‟ve already made a record of my thoughts and experiences so far, my humble philosophy so to speak. And it really isn‟t that difficult Kid. „The forcible writer stands bodily behind his words with experience. He does not make books out of books, but he has been THERE in person.‟ You do have experiences and thoughts you can write about don‟t you?” Heyes grinned. “‟Course I‟ve got things I can write about! I‟m having experiences too, you know. You‟re not the only one with ideas, you know.” “Good. Go ahead and write them, it‟s a good habit to get into. I‟ll read while you write.” The Kid stared at his journal page, sucking intently on the end of his pencil. He glanced sideways at Heyes, and back down at the page several times. Finally he shut the journal with the pencil in it. He put his hands behind his head, leaned back against the cabin wall, and then closed his eyes. Heyes snickered. The Kid ignored him. A few minutes passed. The Kid became restless and shifted his legs repeatedly.
“We should go fishing now.” “Kid, we have all day, what‟s the hurry?” “It‟s better to fish earlier; we‟ll catch more fish that way.” “Kid it is not going to take us a long time to catch enough fish to eat for lunch. Exactly how many fish were you planning to eat?” “Heyes, you can read while we‟re fishing as well as you can here.” “Mmm, that‟s true Kid. OK. You get the poles ready, and we‟ll go.” “I‟ll get my pole ready and you can get your pole ready, and we‟ll go.” “Alright, you get your pole ready, go on down and start fishing and I‟ll meet you there later.” The Kid stood, looked down at his partner, muttered some imprecation below his breath, and stalked off. A few minutes later he returned with two poles. He stood beside Heyes blocking the sunlight. Heyes pursed his lips and looked up. When he saw the two poles the Kid held his mouth widened into a broad open grin. “Well thank you Kid, that‟s much appreciated.” “I didn‟t do it for you, I did it for me. Iffn‟ I got only one pole ready I‟d be the one doing all the fishing. I figure I‟d better get you started on catching your share of the provisions. It‟ll be a good habit to get into.” “Right you are, Kid,” replied Heyes smiling as he rose. My Journal 5th April Didn‟t get enough to eat for lunch yesterday. Because of my partner we started fishing too late in the day to catch much. I ate one little fish and one that was OK sized. They tasted good enough though. We drank coffee if you can call what my partner makes coffee. For dinner we had beans and more of that sludge to drink. We didn‟t get around to fixing the holes in the roof yet, but it don‟t matter none „cause the weather is still good. We lazed around and had a good time. We had a good breakfast of biscuits, bacon and MY coffee. “Heyes, I gotta admit it, this is the life. No work, good food, great weather, and no worries. I could get real used to this.” The Kid stretched, and yawned. Heyes yawned in return. “Like I told you Kid, all we gotta do is wait out the amnesty, and no work.” “Yeah, but mebbe we should fix that roof today.” He looked up at the clear sky. “I dunno, it doesn‟t look like rain, but I don‟t suppose it would hurt to play it safe.” “You don‟t suppose right, Kid. Why don‟t we work on it after lunch today? If we do a little every day it won‟t seem like work.” “Heyes that is a good idea. We‟re gonna have to hew some boards and shingles anyway before we can get up there.” “Yeah, we‟ll need some axes. Have you seen any lying around?” “Nope, but Mitchell had to have left some here. Mebbe in that little side shed.” After a long relaxing lunch, the two men entered the small shed attached to the side of the cabin in search of the tools they would need. That Mitchell had abandoned the cabin many years before was more than obvious by the general disrepair and confusion in the shed. Dirt, dust and cobwebs covered rotted wood boards and trash. “Guess this is going to take a little bit of time to clean up.” “Guess so Heyes. It‟s a real mess; Mitchell must have not been planning on coming back.” “Or someone came here and rifled through things.” “Mebbe so.” The Kid sighed. “Well lets get started.” It took two hours of work to clean up the shed and its contents. Much of the equipment was rusted beyond use, but they did find a usable hatchet, and some blades that needed new handles. All the blades had dulled with time so they had to repair the base of the sharpening wheel. By dusk they had the wheel working again, and by mutual agreement decided to save the work of sharpening the blades and making new handles for the next day, especially as the fading of the light made the work too difficult to do. Both men were sweaty and tired. They stretched their backs, and walked into the cabin. “You feel like making supper, Kid?” “Nope, do you?” “No. I‟d toss a coin for who cooks, but if you feel like I do, I bet you want to skip the whole idea.” “You are right Heyes. How about some jerky and some coffee?” “Partner, right now that sounds perfect.”
“To you maybe. I don‟t think I‟m gonna like going to sleep hungry.” “Kid I don‟t think you are even going to notice any hunger after a good day‟s labor like that. That‟s what‟s good about this living in the cabin on our own and having to make do. We are going to sleep real well.” “I thought what was supposed to be good about this was not having to work and getting to be lazy and wait for our amnesty.” “That too Kid. As soon as we get these few chores done we are going to lead a life of leisure. You‟ll see.” “You better be right Heyes. I wouldn‟t want Lom to win that bet.” “Kid, we only have the roof to fix, right?” The Kid thought this through and then smiled. “That‟s right. Guess I was just feeling a bit tired after today.” Heyes started the coffee. “Uh huh. This was just an unexpected detour so to speak today. We had no way of knowing about the tools in that shed needing repair. Now that that‟s about done the rest will be simple.” They both smiled, and settled down to wait for the coffee at Mitchell‟s rickety table and equally rickety chairs. The Kid hummed while rocking his chair back and forth on its uneven legs. He stopped as Heyes walked past to fetch the coffee pot. He held his head up and sniffed. “Heyes, I think there is one other chore we may have to do after a few days.” “What‟s that Kid?” “Wash our clothes, or at least wash your clothes.” Heyes leaned over the Kid. “You were right the first time Kid. Wash OUR clothes.” Journal entry no date. We slept late because we were so tired from cleaning up that shed yesterday. Biscuits and beans for breakfast. We decided we needed a rest after yesterday, because we were a little sore from stooping so much, so we went fishing. We had a good time, and caught enough fish for lunch and supper. We looked at the sharpening wheel and figured we had done a good job fixing it and we could use it tomorrow. Time for bed. “Well all we have to do is hew a few boards and shingles. The roof isn‟t in that bad of shape.” The Kid stood up from the sharpening wheel where he had finished honing the last of the blades. “Yeah, but let‟s take a break for today, Heyes. We got the tools fixed and sharpened; that‟s enough work for one day.” “You‟re right, Kid. „Most men…through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the facetious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.‟ “Thee-row?” “Uh huh, Thoreau.” “And that means?” “Well I figure it means that since we got up early today and already got this much work done we deserve a break. I vote we spend the rest of the day enjoying the „finer fruits‟ of life. How about we go fishing and read?” “How about we go hunting? I‟m getting tired of fish.” “OK, we‟ll go hunting and then we‟ll read and rest.” “Sounds like a plan.” It was nearing dark when the two former outlaws returned to the cabin. “Hours hunting! Hours! And all we have to show for it is one measly possum. And possum don‟t even taste good.” The Kid was in the middle of a tirade and glared at Heyes. “Well that‟s not exactly my fault, Kid.” “Not your fault?! With all the noise you made out there you might as well have sent out notices to all the game: Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are out hunting today but they don‟t want to shoot you so here‟s warning, now go off and hide. What was the matter with you? Have you forgotten how to hunt?” “Kid need I remind you I was the champeen tracker in all of Utah. And I didn‟t step on that branch when we were creeping up behind that buck did I?” “Oh no, you didn‟t step on that branch. You just tripped on a rock and pushed me onto it.” “Look at it this way Kid, „Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous animal? True, he can and does live, in great measure, by preying on other animals; but this is a miserable way—as anyone who will go to snaring rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn—and he will be regarded as a benefactor of his race
who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet.‟ So you should feel good about yourself if you don‟t eat this meat tonight. You‟re now a benefactor of mankind.” “WHAT is good about starving? I‟m hungry, and don‟t think I‟m not gonna eat my share of that lousy possum. I just ain‟t gonna like it.” He stalked into the cabin continuing angrily, “I‟ll benefit mankind all right. Soon as we get our amnesty, I‟ll go shoot that Thee-row fella. That way no one else will have to suffer listening to his stupid ideas.” Heyes called after the Kid, “Kid, all that stuff is written down. Shooting Thoreau isn‟t gonna stop people from reading and reciting what he wrote. You‟re not being logical.” The Kid paused, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. “Heyes if I was being logical I‟d have to shoot you to shut you up.” He walked into the cabin and slammed the door. Heyes looked down at the possum he held, and shrugged. “I like possum,” he said. “Another beautiful day, Kid,” said Heyes standing and stretching backwards head tilted chin up taking in the clear blue overhead panorama. In his hands was the piece of wood he was hewing into shingles. “Sure is. You know Heyes; we haven‟t had a day of bad weather since we got here. And its only gonna get better as we get closer to summer.” He sat back and stretched his arms and his neck. “There‟s no hurry in getting this roof done, is there?” “Nope, don‟t suppose there is.” Heyes paused. “Tell you what, why don‟t we take a break. We can work on this some more tomorrow.” Journal no date We worked some on making shingles for the roof yesterday, but the weather was good so we took the afternoon off. We agreed it don‟t look like it‟s gonna rain anyhow, so doing the roof is just to keep busy. We figure we can get the shingles and boards we need done today and maybe start fixing the roof tomorrow. Four days later: “Sure is hot up here.” The Kid was lying on his back on the roof, gazing up while shielding his eyes from the sun. “Mmm, I‟d have to agree with that partner. How long you figure we‟ve been up here?” Heyes was nailing a board in place, carefully avoiding hammering his thumb. “About an hour, I suppose.” “Feels longer.” “I know. Wanna take a break?” “After an hour?” The Kid shrugged. “Well at least we got up here today and got some boards placed.” “I suppose that is an accomplishment. Sure, why not. We‟re only doing this to keep busy anyhow.” Journal, the next day: We worked on the roof yesterday. Heyes really stinks so we decided to wash our clothes and bathe in the river today. Breakfast of bacon and beans. “Hey watch it with that pot. That water‟s hot you know.” “I do realize that Heyes.” The two outlaws were testy. First they had to find a good washing location with plenty of running water. They had decided on a spot where the river branched. Unfortunately this was not particularly close to the cabin. They had to lug the iron pot and washtub to the branch, not to mention all the woodworking equipment, except the sharpening wheel. Mitchell hadn‟t left any washing equipment besides the pot and the washtub, so they had to build the rest of what they needed from scratch. They had to make a battling stick and paddles, make a wood pump so they could run fresh water over the clothes to rinse them, and build a battling bench. They had tried to get away with only two legs on the bench to save time, but it wobbled too much and they had to add the required third. Then Heyes had to go back to the cabin for the bucket and soap which they had forgotten. The Kid was going to light the fire under the pot while Heyes was gone, to heat it up and get started, but Heyes had remembered just in time that without water in it the pot would crack, so the Kid had to wait for the bucket to fill with water and pour into the pot, before they could actually start. Now they had the pot and some water heated and were finally able to add more water. “Well if you realize it, pour the rest of the water in slower so the hot water doesn‟t splash out.” “Look Heyes, I‟ll take care of this, you just get the washtub filled with water and start battling the clothes.”
Heyes put their pants into the tub to rinse them in the cold water, and then took one out at a time, and battled it on the bench, hitting it hard and angrily. He turned the pants over and over as he hit them, and then tossed them aside on the bench. “They have grass stains.” “So?” “So they are your pants, Kid. You scrub the stains out.” They each worked on their own pants in silence. The water in the pot boiled and Kid added the soap. They put the pants in to boil, and took turns stirring them with the paddle. When they figured they were ready they took the pants out of the boiling water and rinsed them in the tub with fresh water. They only had one washtub which meant they had to empty it and refill it for the second rinse. “Hey, don‟t shake the water out of your pants on me!” “I don‟t know what you are talking about, Kid.” Heyes walked away and hung his pants up to dry on the clothesline they had hastily strung while the clothes were boiling. The process was repeated on all of their clothes except for their second pairs of longjohns that they were wearing. By nightfall they wearily emptied the iron pot and washtub, and turned the pot upside down on some thick wood branches to dry so it wouldn‟t rust. Too tired to bathe, they returned to the cabin, and the Kid dropped onto the bed and Heyes onto the pile of blankets on the floor. “Heyes, how about we sneak into town and use the Chinese laundry next time we need to wash clothes?” Heyes opened his mouth to respond, and the Kid quickly cut him off, “and don‟t you quote anything from that Thee-row fella. I‟ve had enough of him.” “Kid, I was going to say I agree with you. I don‟t think you would get any argument from Thoreau eitherabout the work part that is. I don‟t think he was too fond of work—got in the way of his thinking. „Course being that it isn‟t exactly honest to sneak into town behind Lom‟s back—well he‟d probably not approve of that. But then, some people carry honesty a little too far, if you ask me.” “Heyes, knowing you like I do, I am not gonna worry about honesty. I am going to sleep.” The Kid rolled so he no longer faced Heyes. The conversation was finished. Journal: My whole body is sore from yesterday. I‟m hungry and neither one of us feels like cooking so we are eating jerky and cold beans. I plan to sleep all day. I‟ll bathe tomorrow. Journal: Took a bath. Feel less sore. I am going to hunt for fresh food. I told Heyes to stay here so he won‟t scare all the animals away. He can work on that damn roof. If I don‟t get more than jerky and beans to eat, I‟m gonna flatten him. It got overcast and sort of damp yesterday and our clothes didn‟t dry. I feel stupid hunting in my long johns and boots. It‟s still cloudy today. The Kid crept quietly through the trees. It was rapidly getting darker and, when he glanced upwards, he noticed that what little he could see of the sky had a dark, angry, ominous appearance. His quarry, a deer, was now within range, and he aimed his rifle carefully for the shot. He wanted this deer badly. He was tired of fish and jerky, and almost salivated at the thought of fresh deer meat. Deer meet with canned tomatoes and biscuits. No, make that deer meat with canned green beans and biscuits. That would be a real meal, substantial and filling. He pulled back on the trigger. Lightening flashed a second before he pulled the trigger spooking the deer. He missed. Damnit. Damnit to hell. The deer was gone. Thunder roared, followed by more lightening. Great-- a real big lightening storm. Just what he needed. Now he had to get back to the cabin without getting struck by lightening. And Heyes was on the roof. Hopefully he‟d had enough sense to get off the roof before the lightening started. After all he would have had a clear view of the sky. Heyes would have seen the storm coming. Yeah, Heyes would be OK; he could take care of himself. The Kid began the trek to the cabin. He took three steps and the sky opened up unleashing a fountain of pelting water. Heyes had been on the roof placing shingles as the sky began to darken. He made a mental calculation of the odds of a rainstorm starting in the next hour or two, and decided the risk of a storm outweighed the risk of an angry Kid at the moment. It was gloomy, but not that gloomy, and the sky didn‟t have that feeling of impending rain. So while the odds of a storm could be placed at fifty-fifty, the odds of an angry Kid were already one-hundred percent. He concentrated on his work and ignored the weather, hoping to have a visible accomplishment to present to his partner. The result of this was that he didn‟t see how foreboding the skies had become, and
was astonished when a bolt of lightening struck the chimney splitting apart the bricks He raised his arms in front of his face to protect it from a stray brick. He then rolled along the roof to the side of the cabin the ladder was propped against, and started down. He was down three rungs when the deluge began. Another bolt of lightning flashed close by, and he dropped from the ladder—into a murky puddle of mud. He stood, and hobbled into the cabin. His ankle was sprained from the drop, but other than that and being completely covered in mud he figured he had got off pretty lightly. He wasn‟t worried about the Kid. The Kid knew how to take care of himself, and had good luck too; he‟d be fine. Safe inside the cabin, Heyes grabbed one of the ragged window curtains to wipe the mud off his face and looked around. What he saw wasn‟t an inspiring sight. The unfinished roof was leaking, although leaking was a bit of an understatement. Parts of the roof leaked, and water poured through the remaining hole that he hadn‟t managed to board up, which happened to be directly over the bed. He limped to the bed and pushed it over to a drier spot but it was already soaked and would take days to dry, that is, once the rain stopped. He grunted. Lady Luck was not looking at them too favorably he figured. The stove was the next wettest part of the cabin. Well, he couldn‟t move that. He walked back to where the hole in the roof was and allowed the rain to wash off some of the mud his face and hands were covered with. He wiped his hands along the legs of his long johns trying to remove some of the muck from them but only smeared the mud in further. He gave up on that, and he decided to get some of the jerky and canned food out of the cupboard. At least he could have some supper ready for the Kid when he returned, because they sure weren‟t going to be able to cook whatever the Kid had shot. He opened the cupboard and water flooded out onto the floor. He grunted again, and removed the jerky and the cans. He put them on the table, then moved the table to a drier location next to the bed, and then limped back and moved the chairs as well. He found the can opener, picked up a can of beans, and began to hack at the can. He had been at this occupation for some ten minutes when the door bolted open so hard and wide that it hit the wall. A flash of lightning illuminated the doorway in which stood the Kid, rifle in one hand and nothing in the other. “Heya Kid, I‟m fixing supper.” Heyes gave the Kid a warm welcome and a broad smile. The Kid didn‟t respond or move. Finally another bolt of lightning flashed, followed quickly by crashing thunder, and the Kid walked slowly and deliberately forward until he stood in front of Heyes. “You‟re what?” he asked in an even low growl. “Fixing supper,” Heyes replied happily holding out the damaged but yet unopened can. “Heyes, I‟m soaked, tired, and hungry. I was almost struck by lightning three times on the way back, the cabin is leaking.” He stopped and slowly turned his head and body three hundred and sixty degrees around taking in the extent of the damage. “No it‟s not leaking, it‟s more like its drowning.” He walked to the bed and sat on it only to jump up. “Sheesh! Damn thing is soaked. I am miserable, and you are going to fix me a supper of beans?” “Well, I admit, things could be better, but this is only a temporary setback. You‟ll feel better after you eat.” “Beans and jerky.” “Beans and wet jerky,” Heyes pointed out with a very small lopsided grin. “Look, Kid, the rain will probably stop by tomorrow. I promise I‟ll fix that last hole as soon as it lets up. And we‟ll change into our clean clothes tomorrow.” “Our what?” the Kid asked very quietly. “Our clean clothes.” “We don‟t have any clean clothes,” the Kid shouted. “They were hanging up to dry, remember? The clothesline fell and now they are in the mud. It didn‟t occur to you to get them off the line and into the cabin when the rain started, did it!?” “Kid, I was on the roof when the rain started. I just missed being hit by lightning myself,” Heyes yelled back. “I fell off the ladder, and sprained my ankle. I wasn‟t thinking about the clothes.” “You did what?” A somewhat shamefaced Heyes responded in a mumble, “I fell off the ladder and sprained my ankle.” The Kid relaxed visibly, his angry stiff shoulders rounded. Then he began to twitch, and when he could contain himself no longer he roared with laughter. Heyes tilted his head slightly to the left, and opened his eyes wide; his mouth parted slightly in disbelief. “You think that‟s funny,” he said his voice an octave higher than usual. “You actually think it‟s funny that
your best friend was nearly struck by lightning, fell off a ladder, and sprained his ankle. I had to limp back in here and move the bed and the table .And I started supper. You know what you are? You are a miserable ingrate.” He began to hit the can again with the opener. The Kid nodded. “But you know what Heyes? I do feel better.” He let Heyes bang on the can for a few moments before holding out his hand for the can and the opener. As he began to open the can Heyes hopped over to get a couple of plates, and then placed some jerky on them. The two men settled down to eat ravenously. After each had eaten a few forkfuls they began to discuss the situation. “You know Heyes; this place really is in sorry shape. Even if you fix the larger holes in the roof its still gonna pretty much leak everywhere else. Whole thing needs to be roofed.” Heyes nodded as he chewed. “Uh huh. What do you think the chances are it‟s gonna rain again?” “Don‟t know, but I sure didn‟t expect this rain.” “OK, so let‟s say it doesn‟t rain again, at least for awhile. We‟re really not so bad off. Everything‟s gonna dry off, and all we really gotta do is wash the clothes again.” The Kid grimaced. “Yeah that‟s all.” He paused. “And get something besides jerky and beans to eat.” He paused again and swallowed. “The flour…” He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut. “Heyes, forty pounds of flour…” “Well, I suppose we could manage without the flour.” “Heyes, no biscuits, no flapjacks? And the sugar‟s gotta be ruined too.” “Yeah, but Kid, if we give up over a bag of flour and a bag of sugar, we‟re gonna lose the bet.” “It‟s only a couple of hundred dollars.” “Lom‟s gonna laugh.” “That‟s true.” They chewed without talking for a few minutes. “Heyes.” “Yeah.” “We could sneak into town and get some more flour and sugar. Hope the storekeeper don‟t mention nothing to Lom.” “Uh huh.” More chewing. Heyes slowly smiled and raised his head. “Kid, Prattfall is on the other side of the mountain.” “Oh ho. Heyes that‟s perfect. We can get more flour and sugar there. And it‟s only a few more hours away than Porterville.” More chewing. “Heyes, do you think that would be cheating?” “Kid the way I see it is this rain was completely unexpected. When we made the bet with Lom he knew we were taking flour and other dry goods with us. Well, when something unexpected happens like a store burns down or something, the owner has insurance and replaces it, and continues running the store. We brought more money with us as insurance, right?” The Kid nodded. “So why can‟t we replace our flour and sugar and continue?” “Heyes, you‟re a genius.” More chewing. “Heyes, looking at it that way, we should be able to get our clothes washed in Pratfall too, right?” “Kid, I was just thinking that. And I don‟t see why we don‟t have a couple of baths too while we‟re down there, while we‟re waiting for our clothes that is.” “You know Heyes; I think this is a special occasion, don‟t you? Why don‟t we have some of that brandy?” “That‟s a good idea, Kid.” The Kid got the bottle of brandy and brought it back to the table. He and Heyes passed it back and forth several times. “Heyes, I been thinking,” said the Kid smiling. “What Kid?” “Those journals are soaked. We can‟t write in „em anymore.” He took another swig of brandy and his smiled grew even wider. The next day the two former outlaws weren‟t feeling quite so optimistic. In broad daylight, the cabin was a mud lined mess, the horses and the mules had bolted during the storm, and the warmth of the brandy had dissipated leaving behind two large hangovers.
Grumbling the two men put their boots on, and wandered out in their long johns, and wet Stetsons. The Kid set off in search of the horses and mules while Heyes retrieved the laundry. Heyes dumped the clothes on the table and went to help the Kid. The two mules hadn‟t wandered far, but it took hours to track down and capture the horses. Since their clothes were soaked anyway they did their best to rinse the mud out of their darkest clothes; it was decided that any white shirts were pretty much useless. They placed the relatively clean clothes on some rocks to dry. Then they washed the mud out the cabin with buckets of water. Dinner was beans and jerky. Breakfast the next day was beans and jerky, and coffee. After two more days of beans and jerky they decided their clothes were dry enough to wear and they could make the trip into Prattfall. They packed the clothes up and some other small belongings. Heyes went to saddle the horses, and to get one of the mules ready, while the Kid finished cleaning their pistols, and loaded them. He was seated in one chair with his feet propped up on another and sang while he cleaned the weapons. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw his journal lying on the floor, where it belonged he figured. Heyes‟ was in a cupboard, probably soaking wet too. Funny, Heyes, who always got up earlier to write in his journal, had never once mentioned what he had written. For the first time it occurred to the Kid that this was out of character for Heyes. Heyes loved to „show off.‟ What could possibly be in the journal that Heyes hadn‟t been talking about? The Kid got up, walked over to the cupboard and took out Heyes‟ journal. The pages were still damp and stuck together. He opened it left to right. He started at the back. Nothing there, but then there wouldn‟t be as that was the end of the book. He flipped back more pages, still nothing. He went to the beginning, and rifled through the first pages. They were blank. He opened his mouth and closed it. He took his guns and threw his saddlebags over his shoulder. He still had Heyes‟ journal. He walked to the stable, and silently put his saddlebags on his horse. He mounted, and took the reins. “Kid? Heya Kid what are ya doing?” The Kid stared at Heyes. He handed him his journal. “I‟m going to Porterville.” Heyes blinked and looked at what was in his hands. “Over a journal? You‟re leaving over a journal?” “Nope. I‟m leaving over a blank journal.” He started his horse. “Kid, don‟t. We‟ll lose the bet. Aw Kid c‟mon. Be reasonable. It‟s all here in my head. I was gonna write everything down, I just hadn‟t gotten around to it. Kid I‟ll make it up to you.” The Kid continued on. Heyes hurriedly ran back into the cabin, got his saddlebags, and rushing back to his horse mounted it and grabbed the reins of the two mules. He started after the Kid. The Kid was in no hurry, and was riding down the mountain in a relaxed manner. He let Heyes trail after him. “Look Kid if it makes you feel any better, I‟ll pay the bet OK? I‟ll have to borrow half the money from you, but I‟ll pay you back. Look Kid, I really was going to write my journal. I‟d get it all written in my head, but then you‟d get up and there was always things to do. I‟ll prove it to you. I‟ve got it memorized. I‟ll recite it to you.” Heyes began to make up daily journal entries and recite them on the way down the mountain. As the Kid was riding a few feet in front of him he had to shout out the entries. Eventually his throat went dry and his voice cracked. The Kid let him continue. Finally, when the Kid figured Heyes had recited about six more days of entries than they had actually stayed at the cabin, he relented. He stopped his horse and let Heyes catch up. “Satisfied? I told you I had it all written in my head.” “Heyes, you just made all that up. Admit it. Heyes.” Heyes pursed his lips and looked at the Kid. “Heyes.” “Alright, but you have to admit it was pretty good.” The Kid shook his head and laughed. “You know Heyes it was almost worth all that trouble we‟ve been through to listen to you try to make all that up.” “Does that mean we go to Pratfall instead of Porterville?” “Heyes, I am going to Porterville and civilization. Anyway, you already said you‟d pay the bet.” “Kid, Lom is going to laugh.” “Fine.”
Heyes and the Kid rode into Porterville at dusk. Making sure Lom was alone, they entered his office. He looked at them and then continued with his paperwork. “You boys got something you want to say?” “We‟ve got two-hundred dollars for you, Lom,” said Heyes. “Is that a fact? And why do you have two-hundred dollars for me?” “Aw, c‟mon, Lom, you know why,” said the Kid. Lom sat back in his chair. “Sure I know, but I wanna hear it from the two of you.” “Alright Lom. We lost the bet. We didn‟t stay at Mitchell‟s cabin for six weeks.” Heyes began to take his wallet out of his coat. “Six weeks, you boys didn‟t even last a month. And you were gonna stay six months.” “You know Lom, it‟s not exactly what you think,” began the Kid. Lom held out his hand, laughing. “Oh, just give me the money. Whatever made you two think you could live alone for so long is beyond me, and in Mitchell‟s cabin. I warned you we had some rough winters.” “Yes, Lom, you did warn us,” Heyes poured some coffee for himself and the Kid. “It was that storm wasn‟t it?” “Yep.” “Well that was a bad one. Who would have figured on a storm like that this time of year? Too bad you had such bad luck” He folded the two-hundred dollars and put it in his coat pocket. “You know Lom,” Heyes sat on the corner of the desk, “you could give us some good news.” “Sorry boys, not yet, but I‟m sure it won‟t be much longer now.” “Any idea how long?” “Couldn‟t say. Tell you what. Let‟s have a drink, I‟ll buy. In fact, looking at the two of you, I‟ll even give you a couple of dollars for baths.” “That‟s real generous, Lom.” “Well now, what are friends for?”