All the provisions were bought and stored in caves all over the desert near Barker. The field phone lines were laid, the look-out bunkers were dug (great chore to give Sadie!) and everyone’s defences started to lower after a time, that no fuzz had come up to question The Family of late, on any of their nefarious activities, much less the
But not everyone was as blissful as Charlie had thought.
“Hey Charlie, are you plannin’ on sendin’ anyone to Ballarat for some perishables, as the girls are tellin’ me we’re getting low on dairy and such?” asked Bruce, as the two leaned on the chassis of another broken dune buggy engine.
“Well Hell Bruce, Paul and them guys just went down! And we’re low already? Shit! Too many people to feed now. Too many, Man, and they keep wanderin’ in too. I swear George is sending us every walk-in weirdo he finds on his boardwalk down in town, up here!” yelled Charlie, as he threw a wrench down on the dusty ground, the heavy metal making a thudding sound as it landed.
“Charlie, listen, I was gonna go into town anyhow, to meet up with those guys who have that stash to sell. Why don’t I just pick up the list the girls have made?” offers Bruce.
“Yeah, sure, I don’t give a s---. Just stop throwing all this crap on my lap. I got enough on my plate as it is. These damn dune buggies keep getting sand in the fuel lines and the engines die. Tex is trying to manufacture a better filter but I’ve got more buggies down than going, and if we gotta split fast, we’re f—ked!” barked Charlie.
“Yeah, okay, I’ll handle it. You need any supplies for the buggies while I’m gone? asked Bruce.
“Talk to Tex. He knows what we need.” was all Charlie said as he grabbed the wrench that was stilling laying in the sand and leaned over the engine once more.
“Okay, okay, thanks Charlie.” Bruce sheepishly offered and walked in the direction of the bunkhouse where some of the guys were getting high.
As the afternoon wore on and everyone went their separate ways after the evening meal, Bruce took his customary stroll with Sharon, up along the bluff over looking the Panamint Range and the valley below, well away from Charlie’s prying eyes, as he and Tex had taken off to test the rebuilt engines of two of the buggies.
Bruce and Sharon sat on the western end of that bluff almost until nightfall, the longest time they had ever spent alone together.
No one knows what was said or what they did but some of the Family noticed their absence around the camp fire that night.
As the pair finally strolled back to the house, they chose not to join the gang at that fire and went instead to their own beds, for an unusually early night.
Morning came, as it always did in the Panamint Range, dry, hot, with a brilliant laser blue sky, well over 100 degrees even before noon.
Today, the girls got together at Barker and took a complete inventory so they could give tell Bruce exactly what would be needed to feed the gang for the next month.
We hoped to not bother Charlie with another food-run to Ballarat as he was gettin’ hotter under the collar every time we asked to spend more money. We still had tens of thousands from Sharon’s “bequeath” but Charlie was a tight-fisted sonofabitch!
In the distance, Sandy and Brenda could see a figure approach their Myers ranch hideout from the Barker ranch side, a lone figure walking slowly, kind of bent over, in what looked like heavy thought as he walked. As the figure grew near, they saw it was Bruce. They hoped it was a good sign and not a bad one.
“How’re ya doin’ out here?” he asked as he strode the last few feet up the Myers main house drive where the girls had the two babies under the two large trees that gave shade to the front yard.
“We’re okay. How’re things up there?” Sandy’s question a bit hesitant, probably hoping that Charlie hadn’t got into one of his rages again.
“Fine, fine. Just came by to see if you gals had a list for me and Paul. Charlie has given the okay for one more Ballarat run, and this one had better be the last for the next month, as he’s just too uptight to okay stuff with him anymore. I don’t know what’s got him so hot under the collar right now; all I know it this is the last run that I’ll be willing to ask of him, at least until the final one before the winter season sets in.” said Bruce, lighting a cigarette as he spoke. He often smoked away from Charlie as Soul didn’t approve of the nicotine fix everybody was craving.
”Brenda, are you and Sandy having any problems with pests down here?” asked Bruce.
“Oh Bruce, we’re swamped with those desert rats! We put the babies down for a nap yesterday and when we looked in on them, one had crawled in their crib! Can you ask that old coot who runs the General Store down there for something we can use to get rid of these monsters?” pleaded Brenda.
“Yeah, sure. Charlie had already pestered me to get some stuff the last time Paul and I went down but the guy had to order it in. I’ll pick up whatever he’s ordered, okay. Anything else, you Mommies need?”
“Will Charlie okay suntan lotion for the babies, do ya think? Ivan is actually blistering on his forehead from the sun and little Scorpio the same.” added Sandy.
“Don’t worry about Soul, I’ll get you the lotion.” were the last words Bruce said as he was handed their “Wish List” scribbled on a crumpled piece of paper and lumbered back west towards Barker, one quarter mile in those cowboy boots of his was no easy task.
As Bruce made it back to Barker, I had got the list from Tex of the dune buggy parts that were needed, loaded the Jeep with a couple guns, three water jugs and some tools and a couple of sleeping bags in case we broke down. After the girls gave us their final lists, we took off, cutting it mighty close to reach Ballarat before sundown.
As we drove away, Bruce took a glance in the rear view mirror to see that the Girls were waving bye. As the jeep jumped and putted and slowly crept away, headed for the Wash, Bruce could see that everyone had gone back into the main ranch house, in preparation for their daily sit-down meal of rice and veg.
But one woman, one woman remained, standing there at the edge of the Barker gate, waving back.
That one woman was Sharon.