At one point they found a
large hognose snake. It reared up like a
cobra and threatened them. It was rear
fanged, harmless to anything not deep in its mouth. They took turns holding a hand down to see if
they could not flinch when it struck, tapping the skin lightly with its
upturned snout. When the snake had been
pestered long enough it lay on its back and played dead.
They came to a halt at a
They launched it, and Ivan said, “All right get in. Stay low. When you get to about the middle lie down and curl up so I can step over you.”
Ivan poled them a mile or two along the river bank. Then he made the dugout swing into a barely visible backwater. For most of the afternoon they toiled along the meandering waterway. Great trees loomed overhead. Frogs grunted and dived for the water. Occasionally a fish jumped. From time to time Ivan would swing the pole to clear an overhanging bush of a basking snake. Sometimes the way was impeded by water plants. Ivan would go to the bow, plant his pole and walk to the stern over the bodies of his inert passengers, forcing the craft past the obstruction.
Jon and Tracy were lying head-to-head. They took the occasion to chat.
“Ivan tells me that gay males are getting more common all the time. Is that true about women?”
“That’s hard to say. With women it’s different. Most women like the looks of a good looking woman as much as a man does.”
“That’s a lot of like.”
“But it’s true. I guess it has always been true.”
“The Bible mentions
gay men but never gay women,” said
“Maybe it’s because it was too obvious to need comment.”
“But is it changing? That was his point.”
“Well women are doing a lot of things we didn’t do before. And we are a lot more independent. But that doesn’t help you. We were always capable of being independent. But we didn’t need to be.”
“Back when I was your age women wore skirts. They wore them all the time. Maybe you’d see them in shorts playing tennis or something, but skirts meant a woman.”
“What about Scottish men in their kilts?”
“It was a standing joke. There they were looking so bold and masculine, and they were wearing a skirt. It’s like they were so tough they didn’t have to worry about image.”
“Gay men can be tough.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“But pants are so much easier. You just pull them on and you’re done. With a skirt you’re always wondering if it looks right. And you have to be careful where you put your legs.”
“Begging your pardon, but women look to me like they are thinking about how they look all the time even when they’re wearing pants.”
“That’s because you stare at them. It makes us self conscious.”
“I stare at men.”
“But you’re no threat to a man.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean a man doesn’t care what he looks like to you. He’s just trying to figure out if he needs to treat you with respect. If you are a threat, then the answer is probably yes. Or if you are older. Or if you might be a friend.”
“So I’m right. Women are thinking about how they look.”
“O you wouldn’t understand.”
afternoon the canoe beached in a little lagoon. Huge oaks
overhead shut out the sky. The cleared
land was sand as white as table sugar.
The light was so bright off the sand that the trees were lit from below. It gave the whole scene a magical
appearance. There was a cabin tucked
under the trees and a chikee, a Seminole stilt
house. The uprights were of palm trunk,
the thatching of palm fronds. An older
woman sat in it sewing. At the sight of
the canoe she squealed, ran down to the shore and threw her arms around
There was a whinny, and a little horse came trotting up. It nuzzled Ivan with great affection as he lavished attention on it. It was exceedingly muscular and had an odd angle at the pastern.
“Cracker horse,” Jon said to
“Only it’s not a cracker
“Out west they call the wild
horses mustangs. You could call it a
“And you could call a Western mustang really good dog meat. Daddy, this guy who was recently my friend but is insulting my horse is named Jon.”
The old Indian saluted as he had his son.
“And the girl is
“You will stay for supper and the night.”
Jon certainly hoped so. And maybe Ivan’s father could lend them a pickup truck.
It was early the next morning
as the borrowed pickup truck was about reaching
It was an old hotrod trick, little used any longer since modern exhaust systems give so little back pressure that they do not affect performance. An old mechanic who remembered how to set one up had worked all night. But now the engine gave a very satisfactory roar.
Gunning the motor, the ranger
drove about a mile to an open hill, where the gunmen were just reaching the
crest. They, too, had been up all night
working with bloodhounds to follow the group
The men had not been happy about venturing out of all cover, but the path left them little choice. They moved alertly, tired as they were. The jeep entered the clearing and came boldly up to the leader.
“You boys got permits for those guns?” the ranger inquired cheerfully. He had to shout over the noise of the motor.
“You don’t need a permit to carry a gun,” shouted the leader.
“An automatic you do. They automatics?”
“Are those automatic weapons?”
“If they were, I’d say you were a brave man to challenge us. It’s lonely out here in the woods,” the lead gunman shouted back, trying to sound subtle with his threat.
The ranger turned off his engine. The silence was not complete. There was still the sound of a helicopter overhead which had approached under the cover of the noise of the jeep. The leader looked up. He was not happy.
“I guess you boys are playing survival games,” offered the warden.
“Any other reason you might have left flankers out while you crossed the field?”
“These flankers,” said the ranger. He pulled out a cell phone. “Bring ‘em out, boys.” To left and right, at about right angles, two gunmen stepped into the clearing with their arms up, escorted by rangers.
The leader glanced up at the menacing gunship, looked at the unarmed ranger and the two men with rifles. He was calculating chances. The ranger made it easy for him. He spoke to the phone again. “Give us a wave, you all.”
About two dozen armed men stepped into the open all the way around the perimeter. They waved and then stepped back behind trees again.
The ranger went on. “Now lets see that gun of yours. Yep. Fully automatic. Illegal size clip. Sophisticated sights. You sure do take your war games seriously.
“But it happens you have entered an ancient sacred Seminole ground. They don’t mind the occasional fool stumbling through. But this kind of thing gets their dander up. And seeing as how you are breaking the law forty ways, I’m going to have to run you in. So stack ‘em up and lie down to where we can check you out.”
The captured men complied. The men on the perimeter, a mixture of state and county cops and a number of rangers, moved in and secured them.
“Now listen,” said the ranger. “I know you are good old boys and got a perfectly good reason to be playing out here. Other time and place I’d be proud to join in, probably. And I don’t need to know what you’re up to. And of course once we get back to town and get you all properly checked in you have the right to make phone calls. But I should point out, that having put on this big a show, I’ve got to act real suspicious. So if anybody does actually ask to make that phone call …
“Well we just might have to
decide that you look like a bunch of terrorists, and then we’d have to ask the
feds what they think. Current laws,
they’ll keep you ‘til they’re happy. And
they don’t get happy easy. How many years
have those guys been in that marine base in
The party started the walk back toward town.
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