These stories were written by A. Kelly Pruitt under the pen-name Turnup. They are copyrighted. They may not be duplicated, sold or used for any purpose other than your personal reading pleasure. However, if you are an editor for a newspaper or magazine or a legal representative of such, please contact us if you would like to publish any of these articles. We invite your comments and appreciate your responses. ...click button to link to article or just scroll down.
Well folks here it is again, time for yours truly ol’ Turnup to make out his report on what’s happening along the border.
If you’re following my column you know that I’m the unofficial spokesman; my title of course is Ambassador at Large, and I’ve been given the unofficial responsibility of saying just about what I wanna. ‘Cause see no one is claimin’ me as a community asset. So, if you like what I’m spreadin’ just give me a postcard or let me hear from you through firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve had quite a few requests to tell how come I’m called Turnup. So since the political climate is calm at the moment; no one has been caught embezzlin’ in the last week or so, I might as well tell you that Turnup was laid on me back in the 30’s when we was in the grip of one of the worst depressions man has experienced in recorded history.
Millions of your grandparents and some of your parents were out on the road huntin’ work and a place to sleep. The banks, most of them, had gone busted, or had the people’s money all stuffed into someone’s suitcase and vanished. Most of the plains country was literally blowing away. There were days and days when the dust blocked the sun and choked the livestock plumb to death, sometimes they died knee-deep in sand and never fell over.
Well, me and my dad and my brother who was two years older than me, an’ I was six years old then. We were up in Kansas tryin’ to find work plantin’ trees for the Gov’ment, but the wind blew all the trees away as soon as they were planted, so it turned out there wasn’t no work after all, especially for a man with two little boys.
Our old Ford car had blown a rod somewhere out there in all that dust so we carried what we could and started to walkin’. Somewhere back when the car was still workin’ Dad had stopped and picked up this old Kiowa Indian whose name was Two Feathers. Dad was part Indian an’ had a soft spot for anyone wearin’ moccasins or wrapped in a blanket. Two Feathers had both, along with a black hat that had an arrow stuck through its top. He told us he was a Kiowa Medicine Man that had lost his power on account of a woman. A woman, he was sorry to say, who did not belong to him, but to a much more powerful Medicine Man that could take away his own power and could even make him die. He said that was why he had to wear the arrow in his hat so he wouldn’t be tempted to steal a woman again.
Anyway Two Feathers was walkin’ along with us with his hat down over his eyes, his blanket pulled up over his face and his toes stickin’ out of the ends of his ragged moccasins. We weren’t the only people who were walkin’ see. People were just walkin’ because there was nothin’ else to do. If you sat down, perdy soon you’d feel the sand pinning you to the ground like it had a personal vendetta against all moving things. If it was suppose to move the sand covered it up. If it was suppose to stay the wind uprooted it and tumbled it away.
Two Feathers stopped and sat down by the side of the road, his back against a torn down signpost and took off his sole-less moccasins and tossed them into the wind.
Dad came back and sat alongside Two Feathers.
“What are you doin’?” My dad yelled into the howling wind.
“Wait,” was Two Feather’s reply.
“Wait for what?” my dad yelled.
“Somethin’ will turn up, you’ll see, somethin’ always does. It has never failed; somethin’ will turn up sooner or later.”
Well, my brother and I kinda huddled down beside Dad and wrapped our sleeves around our noses and waited. I must have gone to sleep ‘cause when I woke up the wind had stopped blowin’ and it was real calm and I could see the bare feet and legs of someone in faded bib overalls standing near us. He was talkin’ to Dad about how the wind had stopped. He was using words like ‘you’ins’ and ‘ken’ and ‘poke salat’ so I figgered he was from the Ozark hills. When I looked up at his face I see he’s got a pair of shoes tied together and hung around his neck. When I looked at his browned bare feet I suspected they hadn’t known many shoes in their history. He ‘allowed’ that if someone had two bits he would sell, in a blink of an eye, those wonderful almost new shoes.
Two Feathers took out his snap purse and fished down deep an’ comes out with a single quarter and holds it up to the young man who didn’t bat an eye, nor say a word. He took the quarter an’ stuck it between his teeth, then handed the shoes over.
After he had gone Two Feathers put the shoes on and laced them up. They were just right.
My dad said, “When did you say you lost your Power?”
We were all hungry and tired but his question made us laugh.
That’s when I started my philosophy; that something is bound to turn up, if we’ll just know what we need and will wait. I said that so often that the sayin’ stuck and I was called Turnup.
Well folks, now you know, an’ I take my hat off to that old Kiowa Indian that taught me, by demonstrating, that something will always turn up.
So long and get up, Turnup
A Man Called Turnup
Here it is again an’ I’m not ready for my scheduled report on what’s happenin’ down here on the border. ‘Cause see, when I get out on the the road I’m out of touch with most of the world of intrigue and hopeful happenin’s of the good folks that I’m suppose to be reportin’ on. Like, up there in Congress when them worthy gents call Senators gits on television they are real polite to one another, but, you see, when they want to yell at each other, which they do, they go behind closed doors, so we wont know what they really think about each other. Now, of course, I’m not faultin’ them on this, because if half of the things they accuse each other of was true, which, of course, they ain’t, then we’d hang them all and make a funny farm out of Washington.
But, of course, there ain’t much difference between them an’ us. I reckon it’s just the way the Great Wisdom made us. So, I’m not gonna sit in judgement. There’s plenty to be grateful for, and amused at, and if we find too much fault we may miss the truly splendid moments. ‘Cause, see, the great moments in our lives are tucked in between our worst moments. An’ if we’re fussin’ an condemnin’ others we could miss these wonders altogether. So, right here I’m gonna tell you one of these times that happened to me.
See, I was up in the little art town of Taos, New Mexico. I hadn’t had a good year, or so it seemed. I’d been tryin’ to git one of my stories made into a movie, which, as it turned out wouldn’t have done well if I had succeeded. But it was gettin’ late in the year before I finally decided I’d done all I could.
I got my big horses up to my big wagon and was trottin’ them big stout Percherons out onto the blacktop with about a thirty mile an hour wind comin’ at me. Big flakes of snow was fallin’ like snowballs, an’ I’m sittin’ on the wagon seat thinkin’ that this was just about as dark a day as a man can stand. An’ I’m anxious to drop off into the low country before dark. I had my saddle horse tied on behind the little goat trailer an’ I could hear the goats fussin’ at me, their unhappiness about the cold.
Well, I get out of town past the ol’ church in Ranchos. I had my team in a high trot goin’ up that long grade when I sees someone standin’ alongside the road holdin’ a small suitcase in one hand and a dog leash in the other. As I got closer I could see the leash was tied to a small dog. I see right away that this person whoever it was was lookin’ for a ride. You know, when you’re in a fast movin’ car you can pretend you don’t see the hitchhiker. But when you travel in a wagon you just can’t do that. So, when I got up close I pulls in my horses and looks down. I couldn’t tell what sort of a person was under that bundle of coats and scarves. All I could see was a pair of large eyes that told me they were too pretty to belong to a man. Another thang I saw, or thought I saw was that those eyes had witnessed life at its very worst. It was just a glance, you understand, but I saw in that brief moment what it would take volumes to tell. I saw back down the track of time the all too familiar tragedy of the female species at the hand of our overbearing, domineering men. Her eyes were tear-stained and full of hurt.
Before I knew it she was hoisting up her dog to me and climbin' up the wagon-wheel to sit beside me, placing her suitcase and her dog between us.
“Thanks,” she said, “I’m about frozen.”
She felt the heat rising up from the bucket of live coals I’d put under the wagon seat before I’d pulled out of Taos. She put her small booted feet around the bucket and hugged her dog up close like it was the only thang in the world she trusted and looked up the road. She did not seem to want to talk, which was all right with me. I hadn’t expected company on this cold October day. As I clucked to the team and pulled out into the fast lane, cars whizzed by, sometimes honking impatiently or they just went roarin’ on. It was just too cold and miserable to be polite, not today. Today was a day to give the finger to the whole world.
I took the River Road at Pilar and pulled in at the first camp sight I came to. I’d have to tie the horses beside the wagon and feed them from my meager supply of hay and grain. By the time I got the chores done the quiet girl had gathered wood and kindled a fire near the wagon.
She’d seen the chuckbox behind on the back and fished out some pots and pans. I was still staking out the goats when I smelled coffee boiling and the good friendly smell of biscuits cooking.
“Hmmm,’ I thought as I glanced at her bending over the fire, lifting the lid of the dutch ovens. We hadn’t said a half dozen words to each other, but I was already beginning to think I might have been lucky this day, after all. And, I thought I heard bits and pieces of a song coming from her or maybe it was just the wind.
After I got the horses and goats tended I went into the wagon and built up the fire in my cast-iron stove. I didn’t know just what I was expectin for our sleeping arrangement. I had only one bed and it was not exactly a king size. And there was just no other place to sleep except the floor. And that’s where my dogs slept. I tidied up the place a bit feeling somewhat ill at ease because of the weather. I could see that by morning we could be covered up by snow. Although, it was not snowing at this low altitude yet, it sure looked like it might start snowing at any moment. By the time I got things fixed in the wagon so my guest wouldn’t know I wasn’t the best of housekeepers, she was scrambling up the wagon wheel holding a pot of coffee in one hand and some plates in the other. I helped her with the plates and coffee. She didn’t talk or indicate what she planned to do. She gathered up her long skirt and climbed back down to bring up the dutch oven while I’m tryin to look amiable if not grateful. You know, thangs like this don’t happen, but maybe once in a cowboy’s life , so I’m not in good practice, see? Well, I’m settin’ on the bed, she backs in through the small door and closes it.
“Brrrr…” she says, as she unwraps the woolen scarf from around her head and face in the lamplight.
I got a first look at what my net had seined for this unusual evening. She was not a beauty but her face was strong and resourceful. I could see that she was part Indian, Chocktaw or Cherokee, I guessed. She had a fine generous Cherokee nose. But her eyes were large and rather slanted at the corners, like she could be some Oriental, or Polynesian perhaps. Her hair was long and dark, but not black.
She smiled at me for the first time, and I felt like I’d been caught peeking into her soul, which I had been, of course. Somehow, she was striking in appearance, but not cute or beautiul. She had an inner beauty that came to the surface and could cause one to say she was beautiful, a quiet dignity that was born of quality rather than youthful God-bestowed good looks. I’d pulled out a folding chair for her over by the stove, which was now giving off its own happy song of snugness. She dished me out some scrambled eggs ond bacon like I was some helpless little boy.
Coffee, bacon and eggs was not exactly what I’d planned for a cold evening snack. But of course, this whole episode was not of my good planning, don’t you know. We mostly ate in silence, the sound of my chewing got louder and louder. Then I started hearing my heart beatin’ like a Pima Indian war drum.
“You got a name?” I ventured.
“Well yes, but I don’t like it much.”
“Where you from?” I said with a grin that didn’t need to be grinned. I scraped at my plate. “If you had a name that you liked, what would it be?”
She set her plate down on my little nightstand with an air of finality.
“Look,” she said, folding the seams of her skirt tight around her slender legs, “Yes, I been married. But I ain’t no more. I've had enough see. I’ve had plenty to last me a million years. So the answer to your first question is yes, I was, but now I’m not. I just packed my bag and walked away. And you can call me anything you please. Because I’m never again gonna be who I was.”
I’d been sitting there on my bed, probably with my mouth open. I liked this girl. I liked her ire and her way of knocking down barriers.
“OK,” I said, "that’s fine with me. I’ll just call you Walkaway Pawnee. An you can call me Turnup."
Yessir, that was how come she got that name Walkaway and that was how come we’re still together after all these
So, folks, when thangs get to lookin’ like you just can't take no more.... It could just be a little miracle knocking on your door.
When the sage Turnup was asked to explain the sanity of war he answered in these words.
“There can be no existence without struggle. The world of Illusion comes into being when two opposing lines of stress create tension; tension creates struggle and struggle creates existence. In the illusion of Duality, when balance is lost there is stress. In the world of Duality there must be opposing forces; good and evil, right and wrong, Democrats and Republicans, love and hate, the powerful and the powerless. Forces struggle among themselves for balance and when balance swings out of control there is war, whether it is between heavenly bodies or in the tiniest micro-organism inside our bodies. Everything seeks balance. But perfect balance is only found in the Oneness of Perfect Being. In the world of Duality it can never be.
“War is inherent in the struggle for world balance. Within the folds of peace there is the threat of war, and in the horrors of war there is the birthing of peace. Mankind cannot be free of war. Peace implies a time without struggle. But struggle is built into the idea of a perfect world; a perfect world cannot exist, because existence creates stress and stress creates struggle.
So, my friends, you ask me,"How long will this war last?" And I say to you: stress cannot be ended. At the very moment of perfect balance imbalance is born and struggle must ensue. This present war was not born yesterday. It had its inception when the world of Duality was created. And the wars of the future will be created in the stress lines of this war. Mankind cannot be without war. It is built into existence. There is the hunter and the hunted; the eater and the eaten. The hunter must kill to live and if the hunted escapes the hunter will die. War is a struggle between good and evil, between power and the powerless, between hate and love. When love is out of balance it quickly becomes hate. Those who struggle against war are themselves engaged in war. Protest of its very nature is violent. Because it does not love, it is struggling not to hate. It then is in danger of becoming violent and can, at any moment, take up arms and a war is in the makings. To remain neutral is on the side of balance; to judge one way or the other is on the side of imbalance.
“Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Hussein, nor even Mr. Bin Laden are to blame for the world they were born into. And neither is the soldier on the field of battle. He or she did not build the stage where they now struggle. And if it is the duty of a soldier to fight, then he must fight like a soldier and, yet, not hate those opposing forces that struggle against him; for they are but the same force seeking balance. And, if it be a soldier’s fortune to take a life, or, even, many lives, he should consider it as nothing, and know that war is in truth a mass migration of souls. The slain Iraqian will, or may, be reborn tomorrow into an American home. And the American soldier may be reborn as an Arab. Slave traders re-occurred on earth as children of slaves and learned firsthand the burden carried by the slave.
“All of humanity is in a struggle for balance. So, in your choosing, choose wisely. And let not your heart be troubled. It is not your fault. In truth, there is no fault; only the ebb and flow of greater or smaller lines of stress as they seek balance, like a great wave that rises above other smaller waves, it reaches its greatest power possible and at that moment it is already sinking and as it descends it lifts the smaller and weaker into greater heights of beauty and power.”
Thus having spoke, the sage Turnup, took down his tent and departed, knowing that he, too, was like the great wave; a mighty wave is only a drop of water in the ‘Sea of Oneness.’
Hello out there in the World!
Don’t give up on me, yet!! I’m still working on getting my wagon out there to see you all. However, the good Lord is giving me some static, see?
He put me on a bronc a week ago, which pitched me, saddle and all, over the fence. Now, I know you don’t want your image of me tarnished, so, I must say, I was sittin’ up there squealin’ like a demon, and hittin’ that old outlaw with my hat and spurrin’ him every time he hit the ground, which was every three or four minutes, at least. But on one of his mightly leaps the off-side latigo busted and when the saddle hit the ground I was still in it and still yellin’ and scratchin’. But, see, I had the rope tied to the saddlehorn and on the other end was a 1500 pound Brahmer bull and he was not stickin’ around to see what was tied to his horns. Out over the cactus, prickly pear and sagebrush that ol’ steer went, headin’ for Old Mexico, haulin’ me and saddle, like a sled tied to a tornado.
Walkaway was with me and she swears that when I disappeared into a dustcloud I was still settin’ upright in that saddle and still was fannin’ the cactus with my hat and yellin’ “Hay-a you yeller arsed son-of-a-birch!” Or somethin' to that affect. When she finally found me I was hangin’ upside-down in a barbed wire fence, colder’n an old maid’s knee at a love-in.
So, if I don’t if you don't see me out on the road for a few days its not because I didn’t have good intentions. But with Walkaway’s loving care I should be better than new in a couple of years. I’m really enjoyin’ being crippled. I ain’t never had it so good. My only concern is that li’l ol’ Walkaway will find out I been well for three days and fakin’ all the rest.
Do you believe all this? If you do, I’ll write some more later.
With love to all,
Turnup Lives to Ride Again
Walling out Mexico
This is your roving, self-appointed reporter giving you a birds-eye report on what’s happening along the highways and by-ways of the slow lane.
I don’t have no authority except as I feel and see things from the seat of my old gypsy wagon, where I live most of the time.
See, I’ve got two old horses, and two old dogs, Wizard and Gracie, and a wolf that I rescued, as a pup, from a snow bank, several years ago. He’s no small thing anymore. But he’s as loving and as sweet as any dog could be. He sits on the wagon with me, or curled up sound asleep at my feet. When it’s hot, he trolls along in the shade of the wagon or beside the horses in their shadow. He’s never shown one moment of aggression against human or animal. He just seems to be a lovable cooperative wolf. I never tie any of my dogs. They’ve got the run of the bar-ditch where I mostly travel.
What I like to do as I travel, is to let you folks know what I observe out here about the people and places along my way, who may or may not be on the slow track (out of necessity and not out of choice) and of course, my wolf. In this report I feel the need to let you, who don’t live on the Mexican border, know what’s shaping up. For instance, ‘the border wall’, like the one in Berlin in the cold war days.
I came down from Nogales, Arizona this past summer and stayed at Columbus, Texas for a week, right by the wall, the border authorities had constructed there. And, folks, what I see is nothing very friendly. It’s an ugly situation born out of a sense of “Well, what in tarnation can we do about it?” We can’t stop the illegal exodus from Mexico, and we can’t let it continue.
So, I’m not going to take sides, at least, I hope I don’t. But, these people that we’re trying to fence out are desperate, hard-working men and women. They are mostly honest and good people who are not looking for a new country they can take away from people who are fortunate enough to already have arrived in the land of milk and honey. Most of us came from somewhere else, we just got here a little earlier. And, what’s more, they mostly all intend to go back. Mexico is their home, not the U.S. And the this wall don’t stop the drug traffickers.
From my view on top of the hill, I could see it, an ugly 20 foot high wall that let the wind and the jack-rabbits through, but no fat Mexicans. Which, of course, if they’re going to come through the desert to America, they ain’t gonna be too fat. I have never had one fat illegal immigrant stop by my humble camp. At the most they will be carrying a gallon jug of water, but often, not even that. Usually they approach in a shy way and with respect, explaining that the ‘Mencionares,’ the ‘Lookers’, meaning the Border Patrol are near and if they could just get to somewhere and find a job…… You see, these people are not hardened criminals, as the wall suggests. But the wall makes them criminals because they are here as law-breakers, not as friends and neighbors in a desperate search for a place to make a stand and work, so they can send money back to Mexico for their wife and children. There is no doubt in my mind that if they had a choice they would prefer to stay in Mexico.
My dogs always alert me when someone is out there in the dark (probably scared to make a sound.) So, I get up, call the dogs back, chunk up the fire and holler out into the darkness, in Spanish, that it is safe to come on up and get warm. I put the coffee pot on and wait. It’s usually not too long; as soon as the fire burns up bright enough to see me, my wagon and chuck box, and the horses staked out near camp. They come on up then, and warm their cold hands and feet. You see, I don’t view them as illegal aliens. To me they are people. And I know if they were drug traffickers they wouldn’t be out there shivering in the dark unknown desert. They need help immediately, and a cup of coffee, and if I have anything for them to eat, which miraculously, I always do, I fix it; like opening a can of peaches or a piece of leftover cornbread or a cup of soup. You see, these people are not faking their degrading plight. They are poor and they know it! And there can be no poverty with dignity. Poverty is always degrading to the human spirit. So, my words are always quiet and reassuring. Soon, they leave because the young border patrols are not always kind to these criminals (as they see them.) And I’m not anxious to have these visitors in my camp when the border patrol approaches with the flashing red lights in the green and white vans.
You see, I’m also on the side of the Border Patrol. It’s their job to catch, document and return these men and women. So, when they come and flash their lights in my camp and ask, as they always do, if I’ve seen any undocumented aliens, I have to tell the truth. “Yeah, might have, but I didn’t ask any of them whether they were criminals or not. I just don’t know if they did or didn’t have papers.” I never act smart with these young men, ‘cause I once carried a gun and wore a badge. But by the age of 90, I have learned not to judge my fellow travelers. And I don’t see evil, only sorrow, and hardship and suffering. Even these well-dressed border officers suffer. Many of them may be descendents of Mexican extraction and most speak Spanish very well. Besides all of this, I’ve learned that it is not my purpose to judge a man’s transgressions.
I’ve never owned an inch of the Earth, nor tacked up a ‘no trespassing sign,’ nor called any place home. And I’ve done just about everything legal and unlawful there is to do. So, I try to touch the Earth and the world of men very lightly, and wish them well when they leave my camp. Because, if we, anyone of us has anything in common, it is that we are lonely travelers and Death is our only companion.
So long, for the time. Look for my next article. If you like it, let it be known to your newspaper or favorite magazine, and ol’ Turnup may slip through the hole in the fence once more.
Well, friends I’ve had a special request from a young woman who’s out wandering on the highway of life looking for some meaning.
She asked me to look into the universal mind to see what she could do with her life. Here’s my response to her.
Well, dear, nothing is ever as clear as we’d like it to be. So, here’s what I got for my asking.
You are unique! No other path was ever created like your path. Some paths can run side by side for a time, but they can never be the same path. Some paths collide and others glance off from each other; some are beneficial and helpful, others are not. Only you can walk your path. It was designed expressly for your feet to trod.
Great care was taken when you were created, along with your unique path. We might say that a path existed that must be trod by some creature, and that creature was then designed especially to accomplish that need. Paths, like the cells in your body are each unique, no two cells are alike. Each cell has a time and a place and must accomplish a certain function in our finite Universe. And every need of every cell is fulfilled. Great care was taken in sorting out what every creature would need in order to walk its unique path.
For an example: the wolf with was furnished with tooth and claw to rip and crush its natural food. The Great Mystery placed the digestive elements the wolf would need to digest its food, not in the wolf, but in the body of the creature it would eat. And, although the wolf would be a meat-eater throughout its life, what he would catch and eat would not be. And in the thousands of centuries of wolves’ and rabbits’ existence, there was never a time when the wolf killed all the rabbits. They are still here and are sometimes chased and caught by the wolf. Both the wolf and the rabbit are fed. So, is it not the same with you? To walk your path you must be sustained. If not, your unique path would go untrod. And the Universal Plan would surely collapse!
The wolf does not kill three rabbits, when all he needs to eat is one. His faith in tomorrow’s need will be there tomorrow. There are always more rabbits born than wolves. We live on a small speck of dust far out on the fringe of the Milky Way and our tiny world must be self-sustaining. Everything we need is right here. Have you ever heard of a wolf that worried himself sick over the fear that he would never catch another rabbit or lizard? And yet, worry is the fatal flaw of man. And what’s more everyone will admit that worry does absolutely no good. Why then do we do it? Now, if worry does no good, then why not drop it once and for all?
Now, this is the point. We are human creatures and we know we cannot change that fact. We live and we die as humans. This is a fact. And yet, within and without the narrow confines of our humanity, what if we could change just one small thing? What wonders we might witness! Within the narrow confines of our creature-ness what could we possibly change? We are unique and our paths and our purpose cannot be changed. We must walk our own path. No one can be born for us and no one can die for us. And no one but us can do what needs to be done by us. So, what could we change? In this lies the secret of the ages.
We can change our attitude, move it from a place of fear and worry, to a place of wonder and joy. And when we do the whole Universe changes; our health, our finances, our relationships with our fellow travelers, and our journey through this life. All can be changed by the flick of a switch.
I have a friend who works as a janitor for a school. Now, this person is good at what he does. And this job needs doing; it must be done. But my friend hates his job. He loathes everything about it. He dislikes the kids who mess up the lavatories, that he must follow behind and clean up after. He despises the too small paycheck that he must use to pay his bills, buy groceries and where it forces him to live. His life is one filled with hatred. He hates being sick and still he must go to work and drag his sick body around, he hates his ex-wife and his thoughtless children who never help him. He’s even mad at God for what God has done to him.
When I saw him recently I asked, “Joe, is there one miserable thing you could love about your miserable job? Tell me, do you know just one thing in your work that you can love and admire?”
“No!,” he said. “There’s not a danged thing right in my lousy job.” He glared at me and then his face began to soften. “Well, yes, now that you mention it. There is this tiny bird, with a blue spot right on top of its cute little head. I named it Sunshine,” he went on, “because it’s such a joyous little creature. It’s there almost every morning, when I clean up the restroom. It always makes my day. I guess you could say I love that bird. It sings for me and me alone. It seems that I’m the only human being on earth that sees its beauty and hears its wondrous happy song. It even made a little nest outside the window. I look forward to it every morning. It has so much to give and not a soul has time to appreciate it but me, old Joe. I’m the only one.”
“Joe,” I said, “did you know that the unseen world and the Host of Heaven was listening to your wonderful little story? And at this very moment they stand and applaud the tenderness, heart and courage you carry with you everyday. You are appreciated as you appreciated the little bird. For that little bird was made like you, Joe. It had to be a sparrow and do its part. It could not change its sparrow-ness. But it could change its attitude, and it did. And it helped you to feel better, didn’t it? Joe, what if you could do just as the little bird? And you started singing as you worked. What if you started appreciating yourself and the job you do for others? Could you do that? Could you lend your eyes to God, so God could see through you the wonders He has made possible. And as you so loved the little sparrow, God could love it also!”
This is your self-appointed roving reporter, Old Turnup. And I’m coming to you from the slow track, see? Me and my two old spotted horses, and the two old dogs and one timber wolf. I call the way I get around from point A to point B in an old stodgy ironed-rimmed wagon, the slow track, because it couldn’t be called the fast track. I call 15 miles a good day of travel. But, hey! When you’re 90 years-old, what’s the hurry? If I ain’t got there in ninety years, I’m probably going down the wrong road, see?
Which brings me to the subject, (again) that I want to lay on you good people. See, I’ve been making my way down the old Rio Grande River, ’cause I’ve been wanting to let my friends see it as I’ve been seeing it, starting at Columbus, NM, where they’ve got a six mile fence put up. They’ve got the Army Corps of Engineers camped out in their camouflaged tents. They are the ones who are supposed to be putting up this ’Great Wall”, or as some of the Mexicans across the river have called it, (with a snicker) the Berlin Wall. I say snicker because it is a real bad joke. Although the wall is twenty feet tall, made of corrugated steel, it must have spaces left between each panel. This is required by the environmentalists, so that the deer and cougar, the big cats and smaller animals, like coyotes, rabbits, snakes, hundreds of creatures, large and small can get to the river for a drink of water each day or night, along with domestic stock, ranch horses and cattle. A necessity since local ranchers own, or did own, the land to the center of the river. So the fence is a real funny looking invention. And like all walls trying to keep people in or out, it just don’t work.
From the village of Columbus, if some hungry Mexican family, looking for work and/or to have a better life somewhere in the good old USA, seeks entry, they have to walk three miles up or down river to get to a place where there is no fence. This country is just hundreds of miles of bone-dry desert between them and the good life. The same good life our grandparents and great-grandparents sought when they came to America. To want a better life is not a crime! However, to deny the chance for a better life to hard-working dedicated human dwellers on this wondrous little planet…..may be.
The fence is a disgrace. It does not keep people out! If they are desperate, they will come, legally or illegally. However, to build a fence between me and you does nothing for our human dignity. Now folks, Old Turnup here, who has traveled many a highway, many a highway under construction, got stuck up to the wagon axles in the muddy bar ditches and detours has talked to literally thousands of road workers. The majority of them couldn’t speak a word of English. My point is: they build our roads, clean our toilets, wash our dishes, run our sweat shops, clean our houses, baby-sit our children. They (the legal and illegal immigrants) do what no one else wants to do. If, as some writers claim, we are being invaded by hordes of criminals, then who are all these others willing to do whatever there is that needs doing. Heck with it then, let’s send them all home! And when they are all gone, let’s see how happy that makes us. And how fast we are willing to take the menial jobs! Then we can wash our own dishes, clean our own homes, build roads, irrigate farms, hoe and pick vegetables, work at construction labor and drive garbage trucks.
No, folks, from Old Turnup’s point of view, let us not shame our fellow human travelers, our friends from the south nor our neighbors to the north, by building an UGLY fence that stands up there day after day advertising our pomp and arrogance. Let us beat our swords into plow points and till the Mother Earth with dignity and respect for all who are come to this little planet. After all, are we not all immigrants? Aren’t we all bound by the same need? And aren’t we all just passing through?
And, if by chance, you see my camp, along the fast lane, do stop and have a cup of coffee with me, meet my dogs and the wolf. He’s a lovable, friendly creature, with loads of intelligence and compassion for us humans.
Honest folks, there never was a big, bad wolf. Honest!!
The world has turned over several times since I last made a report to you.
This is old Turnup your self-appointed roving reporter, reporting from the slow track. I’m camped along the side of the road a few miles below Presidio, along the river. The chuck box lid is down and I’m sitting here by my campfire waiting for the Dutch oven to get hot so I can pour in some cornbread batter, to go with these pork and beans I just opened.
You know, I’m pretty happy, right now. But I don’t see many happy folks these days. Oh, a lot of folks still stop in and visit with me. And, of course, they ask if its all right to take some pictures of my wagon. And, of course, I always tell them to go ahead, that we live in a free country. But, you know folks, I just laugh at that outdated exaggeration. Somehow freedom just slipped away while we weren’t looking.
One of the things I hear a lot a folks telling me is how they feel about the price of gas. ‘Course they’re not happy about it and I can’t blame them. But, I try to tell them that its not the price of gas, it’s the value of our money that’s causing us to be so fretful. See, when I first came off that big hill above Presidio with my mom and dad, in that old T Model truck, gas was 12 cents a gallon. And the red gas, which you could see in the glass pump with the gallons marked on the outside, had to be pumped by hand, ‘cause they hadn’t found out how to get an electric pump to run without starting a fire, see. Well, twelve pennies doesn’t seem like a lot, but my dad worked ten hours, chopping cotton or walking the pipeline in the oil fields for one dollar and tens cents a day. So, in real wages, gas was about the same. My mom could take that one dollar and go to the grocery store here in Presidio, M. B. Herrera’s store, and purchase enough groceries for all of us for a week. A new car could be bought for $1400.00. And you cold buy a brand new .22 single shot rifle from Sears and Roebuck for $7.50 and a lever action one for $14.00. Yes, folks, things have changed since I was six-years-old. And yet, nothing has really changed, just the way we look at it and feel about it.
Another thing I see from my slow track is how little time folks have, and how little room there is left to expand and breathe. People seldom spend more than ten minutes when they stop. They are in a rush to get where they are not, wherever that is. So, folks, let’s look at what’s really happening. Its not the $3.50 per gallon. The critical mass is time. Time is running out for our little planet. And we’re all aware of it. Time, like space, is becoming less and less. Time, as we have known it is running head on with no time. And when time meets no time, space as we have known it will meet with no space. There will be no place to hide our secrets. No space is transparent. This is not a declaration of the end of the Earth, or the world. It is just the end of our perception of time as if it were a physical substance that we can use, and our perception of space as something we can purchase and sell. Both are man’s illusions. Like the river here that marks the boundary between Mexico and the U.S. Man, of all the creatures here on earth, is the only one who recognizes this imaginary boundary. But, as you can see, these boundaries are becoming very fuzzy and harder to control. Our ’Berlin Walls’ must come down. They aren’t supportable any more. Just look at the wars, the terrible price we pay to maintain the illusion that the Israelis, and the Jordanians, and the Palestinians can be kept apart by imaginary lines. Barriers between us must come down. We must drop competition and accept cooperation, if we are to survive the end of time. It can be done. And it will be done. And, think of this, we who are spirits on the earth are fortunate to be here to witness the ending of time and space; when time meets no time and space meets no space.
Well, this is old Turnup, signing off. With this little bit of observation, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Maybe this is just a little reminder that you know it.
Here’s an example of the kind of yarns I’d tell on ol’ Bill in those long ago times when we worked on the Gray Ranch. But, I’m not going to vouch for the truthfulness of this one, after all, this happened almost a century ago. And I suspect ol’ Bill has forgotten, maybe even forgiven me for my small sins. So, old buddy, you just kick off them fancy spurs of yours and behave ‘til I get this story spun!
Big Bull Story
Now, he claims that Leland Larsen was the boss. And he was. Leland was a big man. I mean, real big. I’m six foot three, and I had to stand on a ladder just to look up to Leland, see? So, there wasn’t no back-talk necessary. When Leland told us to do something, we did it! Or, at least, we made up a reasonable excuse that we hoped Leland would buy.
Well, as it happened, ol’ Leland Larsen would send me and ol‘ Bill, out together. I always suspected it was so I could bring ol’ Bill back alive, see. ‘Cause little ol’ Bill was not afraid of nothin’, except his pretty wife, and her father. Well, anyway, me and Bill was sent out to dust bulls, riding broncs.
Now a bronc is a young horse, oh maybe four or five years old that needs some education. And roping bulls is an education in itself. But the combination ain’t so safe, see, because them bulls are big and dangerous. So, education happens fast out there on them hills and canyons along the rim of the Grand Canyon, where the Boquillas ranch is, and down on the cedar breaks where the Gray Ranch is.
The Boquillas ran about 10,000 mothers cows and about 400 bulls. The bulls were kept separated from the cows, except at breeding time. So, them bulls didn’t have nothin’ better to do than to fight and skin each other up, see? And those were the days before science found out how to eradicate the fly that caused the screw worm. So, when a bull got skinned up, them flies would lay their eggs in the wound and then maggots would hatch and start eating on that old bull. And, if it was treated, them maggots would most likely kill the bull.
So, me and ol' Bill, our saddlebags full of worm medicine and a lunch, would leave the ranch before daylight, riding two snorting colts at a high lope for the bull pasture, with the high hopes of returning by dark. If we were still alive, that is.
We figured we must be the best cowboys on the ranch or Leland wouldn’t send us out to do such an important job, see? But, if the truth was admitted, we were probably the only cowboys who were expendable. Anyway, there was a certain young bull out there that Leland wanted to sell to some breeder in Canada, see? Now, that big, black bull probably had ancestors in the fighting arena somewhere, because he had that proud fighting spirit deep in his black heart. Bill and I had already tangled with him several times, as he had gotten a screw worm in his horns. We’d had to rope and throw him in order to doctor him. And therefore, had not endeared ourselves to this 2,000 pound piece of hatred. He’d gotten well, but he loathed the young doctors that had saved his life. Now, that’s gratitude, ain’t it?
Well, as it happened, we jumped that bull about sun-up, or I might say he jumped us. He came busting out of the brushy draw all primed for a fight. And me and ol' Bill wasn’t looking for a fight so early in the morning. We had hoped we could ease him down to the fence. And then ease him along for about two miles where we hoped to get him through the gate onto some other cowboy’s range, see? That way we could claim he musta gotten out someplace. And, we could spend several days fixing fence, or looking for the place where he got out. See, on a big ranch like the Boquillas, a smart cowboy had to use his head. It was what we called strategy. It was an ancient mechanism called survival. And me and little ol’ Bill wasn’t no dummies. We had our own unwritten code of the west. If it ain’t fun, don’t do it!! And that black bull wasn’t anybody’s Sunday picnic. Anyway, that bull came out looking for us, his sharp horns gleaming in the early morning sun. he stopped just short of us and pawed, and bellowed and acted unfriendly. Our broncs got the picture right away and were threatening to stampede to safer territory, or buck us off. And by the time we got them settled down that bull had declared a victory on his part and had disappeared back into the brush.
When we got together again I sees that young Bill had gotten his feelings hurt by that bull’s gratitude and already had his twine out, shaking a loop out in the end of it, tying it hard and fast to his saddle horn. This meant he intended to go after that bull and rope it no matter what! I could see from the set of Bill's jaw, and the way he wiggled his ears that he had made up his mind to commit suicide, here and now. So, I sat there on my horse and watched him. I hadn’t been to a good funeral in several months. Besides, I needed a day off, and a funeral was always good for at least one day off from being a happy-go-lucky, carefree cowboy.
So, I said, “Boy, you better get off and tighten your saddle cinch. ‘Cause that bull is gonna give you a run for your wages. Which, I may remind you ain’t but about three dollars a day!”
Bill recoiled his long rawhide rope and got off and yanked up the cinch, and tightened the breast harness, fixed his bridle and then yanked on his stirrup. Now, I could see the kid was beginning to reconsider his options. Maybe it wasn’t such a good day to die, after all. He got back into his saddle and untied the hard knot around the saddle horn. But then, to my surprise, he shook out a small goat roper’s loop ‘bout the size of a #8 washtub.
So, I said, “What do you expect to catch with that little loop, kid?”
He looked at his rope and shook out several coils of rope, making a bigger loop and looked at it.
“Bigger,” I said, “a lot bigger.”
He shook out two more coils into a humongous loop that dragged the ground. “Now,” he asked, “tell me why I need a loop this big? He’s just a bull, not a whole herd!”
“Well,” I said, with a grin, “when you toss that big loop over his horns, if you’re lucky, he’ll run right through it and you’ll be able to go home tonight. And you’ll feel satisfied that you didn’t back down. And that bull will still be here for a rainy day.”
Bill caught my meaning and started coiling up his rope. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But, what are we gonna tell Leland?”
“Well, I’m gonna tell him the truth, of course. Remember, kid, I always tell the boss the truth!!”
“Yeah,” Bill laughed. “And, what is the truth, Turnup?”
“Well, heck! I’m just gonna tell the boss, if you want that bull so bad, you come out here on a bronc and collect him yourself!”
Bill tied his rope by the saddle string and with a laugh turned his horse south. “I really like your philosophy, Mr. Turnup. I really do.”