Chase drove the old Chevy Impala station wagon out of their small town of Sprague, population 110. The town’s business district consisted of five buildings, three situated on the main street, and the other two sitting on two adjacent corners.
The hub of community activity took place at The Saloon, where all the local farmers spent time drinking, shooting pool, and jawing about crops, their families, and the war in Viet Nam. Old Bob, owner of the tavern, had an old black and white situated in a corner just beyond the bar, and the moment any news announcer came on its screen, the patrons of The Saloon would hush up and listen to reports about the war taking place thousands of miles away from small town Nebraska.
George Kramer, Rusty Hicks, and Big Hob Nash all had sons drafted into that war. George and Rusty were proud fathers, too, bragging up their sons’ willingness to fight for the United States Marine Corp. Big Hob Nash, however, did not condone a war that had nothing to do with America. He was not pleased that his son was being made to serve in the jungles, rice patties, and hill country of an Asian country that had been at war longer than America had been around. Hob was outspoken about his resentment, too.
“Thirty thousand lives so far,” Hob one day declared in the middle of a drinking binge, “and for what purpose? To free the South from the North? What the hell does that have to do with our boys? How many more boys have to come home in body bags before we call it a victory and get the hell out?”
Hob had sloshed beer all down the front of his bib overalls, too, as he ranted, “If my boy ends up dying over there, I’m marching up to that White House in Washington, and demanding an apology in person from that goddamned President Nixon!”
And yet on Sunday mornings, in the second largest building taking up the opposite corner of The Saloon, Hob Nash remained stoically silent as Pastor Connors led the congregation of the Sprague Methodist church in prayer, pleading with the Lord to support the troops and loudly declaring that the United States’ involvement could only lead to victory in the coming days ahead.
After most Sunday services, Big Hob could be heard spouting off about the war again in his garage located at the center of the block, with the Methodist church on the north side and The Saloon on the south side.
The other two buildings, the Sprague General Store and the old two-pump Gas station sat on adjacent corners from The Saloon.
Rain loved visiting the gas station, owned by Petey Nicks, because on Fridays when Petey went fishing down at the Bluestem, Rain and Chris were left in charge of the old two pump station, taking care of the five or six folks who pulled in there needing gas.
Chase claimed Petey Nicks was a cheap ass, because he only paid the boys in a six pack of Dr. Pepper and once in a great while Cherry flavored Goody pop. Rain and Chris didn’t care. They were in a hog heaven each Friday evening when Petey returned to close up shop. They usually drank all six bottles of cold pop as they sat on the old dusty boards of the General Store, a favorite hang out for their older brothers Outlaw biker club.
As Chase gunned the old wagon, taking them out of Sprague, the rolling farm fields passed by Rain’s sights in a blur. With summer fast approaching, those fields were dotted with farmers planting seeds on their trusty John Deer tractors. They passed by the place of the accident, and already the school bus had been hauled away by Grady in his tow truck.
Rain swiveled around in his seat to survey the badly damaged hog of Cal Roberts, but, it, too was gone. Someone had used a lot of muscle and effort to haul the mangled Harley out of the ditch, then load it up in either the back of a pickup truck or a flatbed. Rain figured the Daws and his Gladiators had picked up his brother’s bike and hauled it off to where someone would spend hours, days, and perhaps weeks, repairing the damaged beast.
Five miles down the road they passed by the Blustem, a favorite fishing spot for most local farmers. Rain and Chris had camped out there many weekends during summer breaks.
The lake made Rain think of his little brother and he said, “You should have seen Chris, Dad. He handled himself like a man, hardly cried at all with that bone sticking out of his arm. He even walked by himself up onto the roadway. It must have hurt him something awful, but Chris sucked it up and didn’t lose it like most kids would have done. You would have been proud of him.”
Chase glanced over at Rain, his hound dog eyes unreadable. “The bus crash was unfortunate, more so that Chris had to suffer for it. But I want you to be honest with me, Rain.”
Rain sat there, uncertain where his dad was going with this.
“Red Ellis called me,” Chase said, “down at the Saloon. He told me he has to post bail for Ben Long Soldier. Sheriff Butler locked him up in jail on account of him crashing that bus while driving intoxicated–”
“Bullshit, Dad!” snapped Rain, clearly agitated that Ben was being falsely accused of drunk driving. “It was Cal Robert’s who caused that wreck! He was drunk off of his ass when he swerved over in front of us! Ben lost control when he tried to avoid running his sorry ass over! I swear, that’s the truth, Dad!”
Chase glanced over at Rain, offering him a stoic, solemn look. “Not just saying that to stick up for your friend, are you?”
“Hell, no!” Rain said, adamantly. “After Cal caused the crash, he even attacked Ben with a knife. Ben simply defended himself and Cal ran when he heard Butler’s siren. Before he disappeared in Miller’s field, he threw a bottle of liquor directly through the bus window to make it look like Ben had been drinking. That’s the truth.”
Nodding, Chase said, “You best keep that truth to yourself until I get this sorted out. If Cal was to blame, Daws is gonna be gunning for anyone who can testify about what you just told me. Outlaws have enough trouble right now with the Gladiators and their allies, the Bandits, the Disciples, and the Association. Hell, one wrong word to the Angels out of Omaha, and those other four clubs will crush the Outlaws, and put an end to us.”
He drove in silence for several moments, a troubled look on his bearded, craggy face. “Things are tense right now, son” he said, quietly. “Mikey has to be careful how he treads around this. I started a precedent back in the day, and now as president of the Outlaws, Mike Shade has drawn a line, as well. That line has us crossways with the Hell’s Angels, the Italian Mob, and even the Irish. The whole thing is set to go off like a powder keg. And we certainly don’t need to set off any sparks to ignite the whole damned mess.”
Rain stared at his dad, confused. “So, what am I supposed to do?” he asked. “Keep quiet about that asshole Cal Roberts, covering for him while Ben Long Soldier takes the blame for the crash?”
Looking uncomfortable with Rain’s blunt assessment of the situation, Chase slowed for the light ahead marking the first intersection into the small town of Crete, population 1500. “Look,” he said, “I know you and Chris consider Ben your friend. In the past two summers, that Indian has taught both of you boys a lot about horses and how to handle some of the wildest of the lot. But I’ve always thought Long Soldier a little off balance, the way he talks to those horses while he’s breaking them–”
“Ben doesn’t break them,” Rain declared, heatedly. “He redirects them! He repairs the wild in them, inviting them to reinvent themselves. To become different in a particular way, without permanently changing their essence or characteristics. He offers them to switch from one mind-set to another. Ben harnesses the wild in them, asking them to lay it aside while he transforms them, using powerful medicine to still the whirlwind within them!”
Flicking on the signal to make a right into the clinic parking lot ahead, Chase remained silent, aware that Rain was glaring at him not at all liking the fact he was being told to stand down from helping his friend.
“Oh, I get it,” Rain said. “Let the drunk Indian take the blame, right? Because everyone will believe that story, that Ben Long Soldier was drunk as a skunk while driving the school bus! That just ain’t right, and you know it, Dad!”