The Bad Guys

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I woke up in a cold sweat again. It's such a relief when I wake
up…but the relief only lasts for a little while.

During the day, I'm a cowhand riding with Rich Bully's gang. I'm
in on all the sodbuster fighting and such. Anyone that gets in our
way loses whatever they have. It's death and destruction when we
ride in.

But at night in my nightmare dreams, I see things clearly; all
the kids faces and the women clutching the little ones and screaming
as we're randomly blasting at anything that moves; me out in front
…and my guns blazing like I'm William Quantrill.

The trouble is it feels good while I'm doing it, like betting my
whole wad on a roll of the dice, and not really caring because I
know I can't really lose. Rich Bully is "the house," and
I'm on his payroll. But when I dream those dreams, then I realize
it was ultimately my choice not Rich's or "Pearly Dick's,"
or the "Wolfs," or anybody else in the gang. It's my soul
not theirs.

I've become like them, those gruesome east coast schemers. Oh,
the sweat soaks my head in my dreams; all the shooting over water
rights and fenced land and such. It seems so right at the time,
and I'm always willing to ride and shoot ‘em up with Rich, "Big
Chains," Red Drum and all the rest of them. The only trouble
is the nightmares are becoming part of my days too. Sometimes there's
no difference between sleep and wakefulness as the clarity of my
dreams follows me through the daylight hours and into the night

Today was one of the worst. No telling what I'll be dreaming tonight.
They had a bunch of us ride into the head sodbuster's place and
shoot 'em up like it was the Fourth of July, just to make an example.

We got the old farmers two sons. After we did it, they told us
to take their bodies and prop them up on an oak tree at the fork
in the main road into town, so the other sodbusters could see them
and be warned. Only thing is, there was a kid in there too when
we opened fire.

We didn't prop him on the oak tree though.

"The Wolf" came out to talk to us the other day. The
"Wolf" knows folks are starting to wonder what cards are
up his sleeve, and he's worried. He had on those big Eastern chaps
made out of lambs wool, with a forty five inch waist on him and
a huge ten gallon hat like he thinks real cowboys wear. Only thing
is he looked like the sinister rich eastern conman he is, come out
to save his own skin.

Most of the hands knew it too, because the whole time he was talking,
he was only looking at the reporter from the "Territorial Review,"
even while he was walking around some patch of land where we found
some buried injun's bones. They were blaming the sodbusters for
killing them, as if there had never been an injun war and only the
sodbusters were all to blame. He did it so he could make folks hate
the sodbusters more, but we all knew we had a hand in making those
bones ourselves.

When we first got into Bully's lash up he led us around like a
card sharp with a straight flush, with all his "Good Book"
talk, like we were going to heaven for shooting folks he didn't
like, but in my nightmare dreams heaven seems far away…and if this
is what God wants I don't want any part of Him.

Now it seems I have nothing left to lose, not even my soul…and
here it is coming on night again.

11, 2003

Raymond [send him mail] is
a husband, father, grandfather, former Vietnam Marine, Alaska State
Trooper, Highway Safety Specialist, finally, in my advanced years,
a college graduate, and above all, a believer in both faith and


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