Spotlight Feature Article by Jodie Martin
Clyde lifted his head up from the sun baked earth. As he did so, he could feel something clinging to his cheek and temple area of his head. He felt an empty hole in the recent past and wondered what had happened to him. With his right hand, he gingerly stroked his face to feel all the debris which seemed to have attached itself there.
Sensing what felt like open wounds, he traced the edge of the areas with his fingertips. In doing so, he realized that he must have been on the ground for quite some time as the blood from the open wounds aside his head had dried, and blended with the earth and small pebbles where he had just found himself. His head throbbed like a bass drum, being beaten by an over exuberant high school band member.
He checked his essentials. He could still see, so he still had his eyes. His arms and legs still worked, as best he could tell, and he could still hear the hot summer breeze whisper out of his left ear. He checked, sure enough, his right ear was full of dried blood and dirt. He’d live, he finally decided, as long as he got his wounds cleaned out and bandaged up. Out here, a feller was more than likely to die from an infection, than a snake bite, truck wreck, or falling into a gultch. Though some had died that way. Clyde knew he just needed to get back to his truck and clean up, then maybe he’d figure out what that hole in time should be filled up with.
Stumbling to his feet, Clyde scanned the horizon to find the sun, and get his bearings. Seeing the evening sun, he started walking in the opposite direction, only guessing that he’d find his truck somewhere in the distance. Luckily, the cab of his old Chevy soon loomed into his vison. Salvation was his if he could get to it before whatever had attacked him caught up. As he stumbled his way forward over greasewood, prickly-pear, and all sorts of desert flora, the “boom, sboom” throbbing in his head was, thankfully, lessening. The thought of that cold water in the can in the bed of his truck began to call out to him more and more as he trudged along. He felt as though someone had taken a dry cotton rag and used it to wipe out every ounce of spittle out of his mouth. Even the sweat that he should be drenched in was completely missing. He instinctively knew that was a bad sign; he needed water, and badly. He’d lost much water in the bleeding he’d obviously done, and the heat of the day had not done him any favors.
Reaching up from the draw he was now walking down, he grabbed the root of a wild persimmon tree to pull himself up and out of the draw. His arms screamed out in protest, as he was not a young man. In his youth, he’d have already been at the truck, enjoying a cool drink, but instead he strained against pain in his body as he pulled himself up the steep bank. Just as he cleared the edge of the draw, a couple of voices pierced the hot evening silence, and Clyde froze, hoping he hadn’t been seen and wanting to hear whatever he could from the mystery persons.
“You think he’s dead?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you go back and check see?”
“I don’t think so! What if he ain’t? I may have to hit him again. Don’t think I’ll be able to sneak up on him again, if he ain’t dead.”
“Well, if he’s dead, you should be able to sneak up real easy.”
“If he’s dead, I won’t need to whack him again, you big dummy!”
“Just shut-up and get in the truck!”
“Dang it; he took the keys!”
“Who in the Sam Hell takes their keys outta their truck when they’re out in the brush?”
“I don’t know, but one of us has to hot-foot it back and fish them out of his pocket.”
“And I guess you want me to do it?”
“It was your idea to steal the truck in the first place, so get to it!”
“This is more trouble than getting a job and just buying a truck!”
“Maybe you shoulda thought of that before now.”
Clyde lay under a cedar bush in the shade, listening to the two would be bandits, argue. He tried desperately to identify their voices. His thirst was growing, but he knew they’d not go anywhere, as his hand patted the keys in his pocket. He knew either one or both of them would return to the scene of the crime, to find him gone. If only one returned, he’d have to fight the other for his truck, and that cool, cool water.
As he thought it over, he was a little surprised to find that he was sharing the evening shade with a Chicken snake; a black non venomous snake known all over the southwest United States. An idea occurred to Clyde as he thought out his dilemma, and an impish grin spread across his bloodied, crusty face. His idea almost made him laugh out loud. With surprising speed, Clyde grabbed the chicken snake just below the head and allowed the snake to wind around his arm. Knowing the snake was non-venomous made him somewhat braver.
Now Clyde couldn’t wait to get either one of these desperados alone. Soon, the loser of the straw draw headed back to get the keys. Just as he got out of earshot, Clyde leapt from his hiding place, screaming about rattlesnakes and flung the chicken snake at the remaining thief. It hit his chest, and wrapped around his neck, like a clinging vine. The young man passed out, and fell to the ground. Clyde now slowly walked up to his truck and got a piece of rope out of the bed and tied the young feller’s feet and hands. After a nice cool drink of water, he loaded him in the bed and started back to town. It was coffee time, and the sheriff would be there. No use wasting time hunting down the other desperado. The sheriff loved that type of thing; besides, Clyde was all out of snakes.