The character of a dying man is
revealed through the choices they make, a mirror of what is valued, proclaiming
what they seek. This was Noble's thought when sitting pensive on his hotel's
rooftop smoking a joint.
Many thoughts went through his mind
as he sat, enjoying the view of the waves hitting the shore in perfect white
lines. He toyed with Joyce's Ulysses in his hand and stared in awe at
Pete hanging with the birds off the sand cliff, quiet and still.
What is thought? He wondered, it must be more
than what the Irishman thought of thought. He read: "Thought is the thought of
thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is
the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms."
Tranquil yes, but do thoughts not have substance to them? A weight? There must be
more than just a dark void in the box of thought, something that nullifies
Joyce's view of the void: a thrice-deduced thought still taking place within a
thought, complete with emotional, physical and mental landscapes outlined with
color and smells and pain.
Noble knew he would never hand-glide
with the Migrants floating off the cliff. He knew he didn't have the strength
to do it, but he could let the thought in, and toy with the image, the wind and
the smell of salt air making the thought richer, an event that was to never be
but had the shudder of realism. He was grateful for the firsthand witnessing of
what it was like but what bothered him was that he could have succeeded to fly
with the black and white birds and gazed at the Pacific sunset when he was of
able limb and had the time. No matter what he did he could never have the full
experience of hovering like a bird, astral planning in the flutter of the air,
in control of a soundless ship, accepted by the Migrants and seagulls as one of
them. This realization wrecked the joy he was feeling in the presence of the
evolution of flying, and made him think: Do dreamers merely become better
dreamers if no action is taken? Is their expertise not mental projection, void
of tactility and touch? Is not a dreamer, who does not act, an incomplete man?
He can live many lives in his imagination but his shoulders are thin and his
stomach is soft.
Noble stayed on the balcony alone
the entire day, thinking of his life and the time he had left.
It is easy to forget that within a
twenty-four hour stretch, one well-connected man can make the difference
between surviving and thriving. The flow of a given day,
especially an off day, can make or break the level of richness experienced.
Most people close the door of opportunity after initial contact, and a few will
entertain a man with idiosyncratic eccentricities, both wanting to gently
remove oneself from the pending melee that will lead to a wasted day. However
some, who recognize a door when they see one, will let it go on in a
moment-to-moment tender, which can lead to new vistas, new people and new
experiences. With a laidback, laissez-faire attitude, one can renew their faith
in the fellowship of man. So when this stranger, an untested and unproven
quantity, wants to say something about their story, the revelation can be
The next day started with an
innocent fish and rice dish and coffee, with his Kit Carson book opened and the
breeze soothing, but morphed into an opportunity and an emphatic yes. It
was a day that flourished on the foundation of yes. From the restaurant
Noble and Errol went to the Bamboo café for coffee and then a kiosk on the
beach for a beer. Feeling like a Sfauist and not wanting to speak too
much, Errol started to talk about his time in the army when he was Special
Forces in Vietnam, his time at the Okinawa naval base, his time as a merchant
marine, followed by a full confession of his love for the cowboy life and Errol
Flynn. The living adventure behind this stranger came to life, the words that
explain the story of the scars and lines on his face, and the hidden corner
pieces in the puzzle of the man.
and understated, Errol was in his sixties, wife dead and kids grown, roaming
around South America because it was the only part of the world he had not seen.
"What I'd really like to do with my
time now is get back to ranching, like I done in New Mexico for those years
after the navy. Boy them days were good."
"So you were a cowboy who chose to
go to sea," said Noble.
"That's exactly right. Never heard
it put that way before. Simplifies it good too."
"Well at least you chose
something, and didn't let inertia take you." Errol was uncomfortable with the
word ‘inertia.' "Momentum," he added, met with a nod.
"Anyone who reads about Kit Carson
has gotta have something worth something in him. I don't know much about what
he did other than he was the best shot during the Civil War and that he got on
well with the Indians."
"His father was buddies with Daniel
"So when the new immigrants were
landing in East Kentucky Daniel Boone picked up, left his farm and moved to
West Kentucky and founded a town called Booneville. So the Carsons
followed him there, which was wide-open prairie with a lot of Indian contact.
That's when Kit, who was about twelve, decided he was going to have the best
shot of any of them, Daniel Boone or his father. He was short, about five-foot
one, so when he finally beat them both in their annual shooting contest, he was
invited out to hunt. That's when he learned many of the Indian dialects that
was to shape his life." Errol had become all ears after telling his own life
"Carson City was named after him,
"Yep, and Fort Carson, in
Nevada. He lived as a hunter for seven years, learning from the best Mountain
Men, like big Jim Bridger and the others lost to the record of history. Lived
in the bush, improved his shot, and became known as a fair man with the
Blackfoot and Sioux in the area. He was given the Indian name Otter,
which was a name of respect among the Natives."
"And then the Civil War came."
"Drafted into the military he became
a Brigadier-General, same as Custer."
"But Custer fought for the north."
"Custer." Noble shook his head at
what a character Custer had been.
"He had a bit of an attitude problem
dint' he? Sort of cavalier."
"Very cavalier. He used to
play fight with is old classmates from West Point after a battle, with his
regiment suffering the highest casualty rate of any other on both sides."
"West point, huh?"
in his class."
"But it was
after the Civil War and after Custer's Last Stand particularly that Kit Carson
really hit his stride. General Sherman was hell-bent on getting the Indians to
live on reservations so they could open up the west, so he hired Kit
specifically to subdue the strongest tribe who had as yet not engaged with the
They lived on top of this plateau that was a natural fortress, protected on the
best land in the south. So instead of taking them on in direct battles as most
other generals did, Kit starved them out by burning their crops, completely
subduing them in eighteen months. Didn't even shed blood. One day the chief
went up to him and said: ‘Where do we go?' It was brilliant."
what happened to him after that?"
became an Indian Agent in New Mexico close to the border, got married to a
Mexican and then died when he fell off his steed at the age of fifty-seven.
Died from his injuries." Errol slapped his hand on the table.
ain't that a story! Fell off his horse! Ain't that-a-way to go."
strange, he thought, how a man is defined by their death.
just like Genghis Khan."
I believe Crazy Horse also died young from falling off his horse. What a life.
Wasn't even forty when he graduated to the Spirit World."
World, I like that. Got to try to remember that one."
Friedrich Nietzsche too though he didn't die. Fell off his horse as a medical
orderly during the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and shattered something in his
chest. Was never the same after that. Took to drugs and of course had his
breakdown when he was forty-four. All from a horse."
thrown off a horse is pretty damn serious. Snap your neck or break your back.
If you ain't got the alpha status of one of them big steeds they'll buck you
off or gallop and twist, which is the more common. You ever been bucked off?"
Reno didn't want to admit he had never ridden a horse but Noble thought it
would healthy to verbally admit it.
no, in fact I've never-"
damn good you ain't an keep it that way. See, I'm part Indian. My
great-granddaddy did that long walk from Florida and was one of those few to
survive. You know what I'm talking about?" It was a challenge, his hand played
to his Native blood, his cache in the woodpile. Noble could see now the strong
hairline and big bones and square jaw and wide cheekbones.
when they forced the Indians to walk west across a longitudinal point on the
map, which they did, and then the law was all Indians west of the Mississippi,
which is what they did. Forced march."
all ended up in Okalahoma I bet." Slapped his knee, chin jutting out, secret
knowledge shared. "That's where my great-granddaddy settled. Some nice land up
in those parts, er, just past Okalahoma. Good ranchin' up there." Errol swung
his hand down and whacked the leather on his cowboy boots. "Damn I miss horsing
around. Here it's legal to wear a pistol in a holster. Oh yeah, you can do some
real cowboying here in Ecuador. They just haven't got around to changing the
law. I even checked out a forty-hectare plot with those chocolate plants, er,
the one they make chocolate from. "
the one! Lots of those, and good spaces for ridin'. Get mahself a piece."