Friday, October 28, 2005

The Legend of Insanity Gulch

Latigo Flint knows there are mysteries in the desert to rival any the sea or stars may hold. The old prospectors knew it too. They knew it all too well.

I straightened from the bronze plate embedded in concrete and stared out over a craggy, broken land of ancient, dusty dreams and dementia. I spoke then, my voice low and hard.
"This one stretch of desert has clamed more souls than all of humanity's ocean-crossings put together."

Several feet away stood a family, admiring the view. They turned, eyes wide.
"My goodness, is that really what it says there?" The father asked.

"Not exactly." I admitted. "But then bronze plates at scenic overlooks rarely get the story straight and really shouldn't be trusted."
I trailed a hand across the distant horizon.
"Somewhere out yonder lies Insanity Gulch. Believe you me, many a lonely prospector met his wretched end in the narrow, twisting--"

The daughter shoved me aside and stared at the placard.
"Shall I read it to you missy?"
I chuckled. "You don't look half old enough to be at the schoolin' age where they teach all the readin' and cipherin' and whatnot."

She shot me a vicious look. "I'm sixteen you spaz!"

"They teach it that early?!"

She rolled her eyes and read to the end, then looked up at me with a sigh and frown.
"This used to be a gravel quarry--in the fifties. They made concrete down there until demand dwindled and competition from San Bernardino put them out of business."

She gave her parents a disgusted look. "Of all the scenic overlooks you've forced me to stare, this one has got to be the lamest."

"Hey now missy." My voice trembled with emotion. "I already told you you can't trust bronze placards, they never get the story straight. See, I'm talkin' 'bout before it was a gravel quarry; I'm talkin' 'bout when it was known as Insanity Gulch--a craggy, broken land of ancient, dusty dreams and dementia."

"Look." She crossed her arms. "There's nothing out there. No mystery, no gulches, no dementia. They don't ever build gravel quarries in places where there's anything other than gravel."
She shook her head condescendingly. "And someone would have to be pretty dumb not to see that."

I turned from her and stared off into the distance. A soft desert wind blew up from the west. I removed my hat and let it blow through my matted hair.
"It looked like the sort of place where you'd find gold. It just did; everyone agreed."

The family was starting to trudge back to their minivan at this point. I heard their footsteps slow and then stop with a slight crunch in the unpaved parking lot where they stood listening.

"Everyone agreed." I repeated. "If gold was anywhere, it'd be here. But they never found a single nugget, only gravel."

My shoulders slumped and hands dangled limply at my sides. I bowed my head in tribute to countless dead prospectors.

"And in the end it drove them mad."


At 3:26 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

A man with vision is never fully appreciated. To see gold where others see only gravel; this is both a blessing and a curse.

No wonder you're wrecked and tough (and dangerous).

At 7:02 AM, Blogger slarrow said...

Sigh. Yet another Starbuck's vicious barrista in training, it seems. (I hope she didn't have red hair?)

At 8:54 AM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

how long ago did this happen? it reminds me of something that happened to me when i was about 16 years old . . . only it was up here in oregon at some silly oregon trail marker my parents made me stop and look at. i was pretty miserable.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger tabitha jane said...

you kno what would make a good novel? a story about a prospector in this here gulch of insanity. why, i bet you could even write it in one whole month! why not start next tuesday?

i'm not making you mad am i?

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

what's wrong with having red hair? huh?

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Trevor Record said...

I'm afraid that history is lost on the average tourist. You could've shown them the Stalingrad memorial and they would've complained about all the snow.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

It makes me mad (angry?) that people can't see that. What is the matter with teachers today?

At 9:51 PM, Blogger fourth_fret said...

that's how history is lost- both the history of reality, and the history of the great story tellers... because no one wants to lend an ear.

sad. sad indeed.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

The laws governing the bludgeoning of 16-year-olds has, by un-natural selection, degraded the wisdom of the human race. This makes me very sad.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

Indeed Sharon. The pity is there was only gravel.

Thank goodness no Slarrow. I probably would have been a bit more polite if she had. It's generally not a good idea to fuck around with death-dream prophesies.

It happened Wednesday afternoon Tabitha Jane. But I think that parents have probably been dragging sixteen year old daughters to scenic overlooks for quite some time now.

(A measured fury Tabitha, a measured fury.)

Slarrow is referring to the dream Latigo Flint has had for something like two hundred straight nights in which he's outdrawn and gut-shot by a female gunslinger with flame-red hair and a mocking smile. It's bad news. Reoccurring death-dreams that may or may not be prophetic are very bad news indeed.

I bleed red, white and blue Trevor Record, but even I must admit "Mother Russia" is pretty damn hot. And in the winter she appears to fly, hundred-foot sword and all.

Non-funny answer Old Hoss? Standardized Testing. Funny answer: Low blood sugar.

And what's more Fourth, I happen to be the Grin in the Dark. That used to count for something you know. Not these days I guess.

Right Dave. That's exactly what I was saying; sixteen-year-old girls should be bludgeoned. You've tapped right into it.


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