The Cray Boys were taking it nice and slow in Sandbar, near the Forth Wolls mountain range. They sat alongside the rails, their mood getting more and more toxic as the day went along. Jump on that train and it’s straight down the wire, due west.
This they did. When Steamy Mary came huffing and puffing from afar, they got on their feet; their undernourished bodies swaying a bit with fatigue under the blistering Sun. The freight train was moving ever so slowly, that’s how it appeared, and they started running in parallel with the tracks feeling pretty confident they’d be fine jumping on. Only when the train passed them did they realize how fit the “bloody Mary” was in her old age, she was rolling about twice as fast as they could run. They jumped on haphazardly, landing themselves shoulders first on the bare wooden floor of one of the last wagons, knees bloodied and pants torn.
Over the next several days, Gregory sits and stretches out besides Wilmar all
the way. They are hungry and sleepy. Sing about every morning and night to hold
hopes up, even play the odd old harmonica as the Sun sets behind these
time-tested mountains. Dusty trails fly by, sometimes slow rivers are
The banker sat out front in the first class compartment, smoking expensive cigars, drinking three-star whiskey, and playing cards with his associates and any well-to-do stranger willing to join. It’s not that he was a better player than most – he wasn’t – but his deep pockets gave him the firepower to go on playing for hours and hours until he won.
Mr. Jefferson despised cheaters, but not as passionately as he hated winners who quit when their pockets were full. “Them venom spitting snakes,” he’d say.
Not coincidentally, Gregory and Wilmar were headed for the same place as the banker and his entourage: The well-developed pioneer town of Alberqerque, New Mexico. The two drifters had been all ears when they heard about some odd jobs they’d like to look into. Mr. Jefferson resided and worked in the town, where he was a member of “polite society” – a better class of people who weren’t always very friendly or courteous. Had he known the Cray Boys were on the train, he could have changed their lives forever simply by waving of a hand, had he wanted to. He hadn’t a clue how many blind passengers there were on Steamy Mary; his subconscious mind sensed there were at least ten, but he didn’t care either way. The banker rested well in his seat knowing that for him safety was assured.
The Cray Boys weren’t safe. Food was scarce and had been so for a long time, as their marked facial features revealed. How to get the next meal was a joke they could laugh at hysterically for a long time, even though their undernourished bellies kept aching.
“I was really strong once, when I was young!” Wilmar often said.
“Yeah, like 5 weeks ago, buddy?” his friend retorted. “We had it good in them old days, didn’t we?”
“Oh yeah, I guess,” Wilmar would respond without confidence. He was close to giving up hope; if it hadn’t been for his friend, he might well have been dead already. They’d gone four days straight without food, and he had been whining a good deal about wanting to die, except his pal wouldn’t let him and kept slapping his face to keep him awake.
“It’s a chunk of beef, bro!” Gregory would tease. “Right down the hatch it goes!”
“Oh, don’t torment me like that! I’ll never live to set foot in New Mexico.”
“Sure you will, brother. Days getting much better straight ahead!”
Source: By Calistemon
Not really. Money men, very good at what they were doing, had been busy spreading rumors that Alberqerque’s economy was glowing hot, there were lots of vacant jobs for everyone, and those who proved themselves trustworthy could get work in the gold streams for a 50-50 split. Self-proclaimed millionaires were traveling around to major cities, signing up investors and recruits, spreading the word with fanatical energy. They used posters, speeches, demonstrations, mouth-to-mouth to spread their lies. The ensuing gold rush was like a disease which infested a town so recently known for its placidity.
Mr. Jefferson sometimes went to visit the local sheriff at the county jail, where he got to personally meet a good many treasure hunters, drifters, and what he called “cow-ards.” He deliberately put emphasis on “cow,” which usually made people laugh the first time they heard this joke. He also called some men “cowgirls” and “cow lickers” to their face, something the banker felt safe doing because of the thick bars that separated him from them. His deputies had heard these jokes too often, but they looked down on the inmates with a vengeance and happily accepted their boss’ repetitive and inelegant style.
“Darn be them rumors!” the sheriff would say. “When Judge Simmons and I find out who those money men are, we’ll see to it that they are hung by the neck!”
“Humph-yeah!” Mr. Jefferson would laugh, pretty sure it was a lie. The judge and the sheriff knew damned well who was behind the rumors, but were doing absolutely nothing about it, because those two were on the take.
Business was good in the town, because a man always needs a bed for the night, something to eat, and new clothes for the job. There was the county jail for those who couldn’t afford to pay for such things, taking to stealing and robbing instead. Crime had skyrocketed, and Sheriff Karlson’s jail was overfilled with an average of 2.5 men in every cell.