At the top of the trail, me and Danger Violet stare down into the blooming canyon for signs of banditos or grizzlies or Indians. A bright sun in the sky pings off the high snowy peaks above us. The creek in the valley is raging drunk on runoff snow. Even up here we can hear the gushing rapids. Danger Violet lets out a high-pitched sigh and reaches out to grip my finger with her small pink fist.
I know, I say. We gotta go down there, hell or high water.
She squeezes tight then lets up a little. We'll be alright, Mountain Daddy,...she says without words.
A crow flies straight into a picker bush.
We'd better get movin', Danger, I tell her. I can't let on that I am jittery. Fear has no place in this land. With a snap crack of the reigns the two beasts whose purpose in this world is pulling us begin to move hard; black fur ripples over their awoken muscles like a horrific sea heaving charred and drowned sailors at a midnight sky. They are a team -- related maybe, probably in-bred-- from over in Labrador, a small mining outpost way back in the Siskadee Valley where beasts and peoples mix in bad ways and the outcome can be as perverse, as hellacious as these two in front of us. Half man? Half oxen? Wolf, whale? No one knows. No one wants to know. Each of their living moments is nothing but a curse to them. They reek of Satan's innards. One is called Max and one is called Milo and it wouldn't surprise me if either one of 'em turned around any second and put high holes in my gizzard, them being so protective of my green young partner and all. Danger Violet is the only one they recognize. The rest of us are just biding our time in their filthy company.
We descend on loose rock. I try and take things ginger but the beasts pull us in their desperate way. Beasts out-know any darn fool man that this is mean country and its best to pass down and through swiftly and silent. My burden is made more cumbersome: Danger Violet is strapped to my chest in a sacred elk belly Indian pouch. As things have panned out Danger Violet ain't too fond of walking and I'll be livershot if I'm the man to argue with her. So she moves across the wilderness bolted to my chest like a Lakota arrow come home to roost in my rotted heart. Our ways are our ways.
In the river bottoms I cut the black devils loose. In an instant they are gone. They need water and will do us more good if they are way out in front. Should a wildcat get stealthy, they'll wind it and tear it to bits or perish in the pursuit. And should Indians appear in the ways of a summer mist, well, their bullet ridden beast bodies will make good places for Danger Violet and I to hide behind, or under should it come to that.
We are alone here now, Mountain Daddy and Danger Violet. And we still have so damn far to travel. The late afternoon sun collapses down upon the tender green shoots and buds of early spring. Without each other we might not make it out of here. Our bleached white bones crinkle cut with a thousand coyote's teeth and laid out in these lush grasses for some half-drunk trapper to stumble on some other season long from now. Yet, we are not alone. We are together. And together by God we are determined to climb up out of this godforsaken canyon someday soon. Soiled but unbroken. Then, by the grace of so many unseen angels, we'll wander many many miles back to the homes we left long ago for reasons we can no longer even recall.