August 17-28?, 1969…2009…The Middle…
As the workday at Spahn’s ranch died down, Charlie and Clem sauntered over to the barn to see Shorty before he left for the day.
“Hey Shorty, Man, we never see ya. How come you don’t wanna party with us no more?” asked Charlie, his hand on Shorty’s shoulder, smiling from one ear to the next.
“Hey Charlie, listen, I just do my job and go home. I got a wife now, you know. Any partying is done with her now. What do you care anyways? You got all them kids to party with.” said Shorty, as he shovelled the last of the horse manure into a wheel-barrow, his final chore before heading home.
“Well Hell Shorty, come sit with us a spell at the camp-fire. We got some good weed that I nabbed from my friends up near Santa Barbara, on my last trip up north. Come join us, Man, just for an hour or so.” said Charlie.
“Ah, nah, I better get home, Charlie. Besides, I don’t much like that stuff anyhow. I’m a drinkin’ man, ya know.”
“Okay, you got a bottle in here somewheres don’t ya?” asked Clem.
“You know I do, Clem!” Shorty said with a chuckle.
“Well then, bring it on down to our camp-fire and party a bit with us!” urged Clem.
“Just for an hour, Buddy, that’s all. You can spare an hour for us, can’t ya?” insisted Charlie, moving ever closer into Shorty’s personal space.
“Okay, okay. Listen, just for an hour, mind. I got dinner waitin’ on me at home, ya know.” said Shorty, winking at Charlie and Clem as he did.
“Ya, ya, no problems. Just an hour. That’s the way, Shorty! Finish up here and come on down to the fire with your bottle, okay?” was all that Charlie said as he and Clem began to walk away from the barn and towards the fire the girls had built down near the creek.
And so, Shorty did just that. He finished his chores and grabbed his Mickey bottle which had been hidden on top of one of the larger barn rafters and lumbered down to the creek, as promised.
The evening wore on and that hour morphed into two as Shorty downed most of that Mickey of his, the girls having sidled up to him to make him feel welcome.
Soon, one after another, each of the Family members bade their farewell, as Charlie, Clem and Shorty remained at the fire, talking over old times when The Family had first arrived at Spahn’s. The liquor had taken its affect on old Shorty and Clem and Charlie were feeling no pain from their pot smoking as well.
All three had stretched out their legs and were leaning their backs against some wooden logs gazing into the fire,which by now, had become more of a red ember glow that a crackling fire. Shorty hadn’t felt this relaxed in a long time and all three were definitely enjoying the night, so much so that no one wanted to be the first to call it quits for the evening.
“Shorty! Charlie! You guys still down there?” yelled Bruce from the top of the rocky trail which lead to the out-buildings and the frontage road of Spahn’s.
“Yeah, we’re still here. Come join us, Man. The others have gone so it’s mighty peaceful down here.”said Charlie, slurring his words as he took a friendly sip from Shorty’s Mickey.
“No, you guys should come up here, Man. Shorty, I just saw Thunder, you know, that ornery stallion you like so much, I just saw him down off of the Pass road near the turn-off to Topanga Canyon. He’s on his own and musta got lose from the corral.” yelled Bruce as he stood on his upper perch looking down at the guys and that camp-fire.
“You saw Thunder where?” yelled Shorty back to Bruce.
“About a couple miles from here, down near the Topanga Canyon turn-off. I just come back from a buggy ride down in the valley there. You’d better get on up here, all three of ya, as Flynn’s gone to town and there’s no one else to wrangle him.” explained Bruce.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming right up. That damn Thunder! He’s so stubborn. probably chewed right through that rope I had ‘round the corral post. Every chance he gets he takes off.” hissed Shorty as he and the Charlie and Clem got up from their resting positions and kicked sand into the fire-pit.
The trio climbed back up to the out-buildings and Shorty made tracks for the barn to secure a lasso rope to retrieve his favourite horse.
“Hey Shorty, we’ll go with ya, Man. You know how he likes to kick up a storm bein’ roped and all. Let’s take the truck. We’ll get her in short order. Clem, you go hitch up the trailer to the truck and meet us out front.” ordered Charlie.
“Be right there.” yelled Clem as he jogged over to the out-buildings.
Hey, Thanks, Charlie. That Thunder is quite a hand-full and in the shape I’m in tonight I could use the extra hands.” Shorty said, chuckling yet again.
As Clem brought the truck and trailer around to the boardwalk, Charlie and Shorty got into the front seat and Bruce hopped into the box of the truck with the rope and a bulging potato sack under his arm.
As the four slowly drove on to the Susana Pass road, the dark, windless night enveloped them,
the glowing red tail-lights of the trailer becoming more faint as they made their way down the well-worn black-top road.