Chapter Seven: Wings like Eagles

Chapter Seven

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!”

Wings like Eagles: Chapter Six

Chapter Six

The three Outlaws pulled up beside the Sprague General store and Rain angrily leaped off of Doug’s bike and strode over to the dusty old porch. While the thunder of the three Harleys slowly faded, Rain firmly planted his butt on the rickety wooden bench situated there and looked squarely at Doug.

“That wasn’t fair!” he said. “Ben wasn’t drinking! Cal was! And he tossed his bottle through the window of the bus to make it look bad for Ben! How would Grady even know alcohol was involved, unless Cal told him when he called his tow service? The whole thing was a setup!”

Doug was about to respond to his little brother’s tirade, but it was then that Mike slipped his kick stand down, dismounted his Harley, and walked over to Denny. “Get off your bike,” he said, flatly.

“Why?” Denny asked, defiantly.

Mike glowered and glanced over at Doug. “Because,” Doug said, “he doesn’t want you dumping your beast in the street, you fool.”

Denny shook back the tangles of raven hair, stuck out his chin in a show of obstinance, and said, “You gonna hit me for not backing down from Daws and his bullshit?”

“No,” Mike said, coldly. “I am gonna hit you for not shutting your mouth when I told you to.”

Stubbornly refusing to get off his bike, Denny snapped, “Go for it, then! Take your best shot!”

Without hesitating, Mike Shade let loose with a swift round house punch, his knuckles slamming into Denny’s startled face, sending blood spurting from his torn bottom lip.

From his place on the porch, Rain winced as he watched the brutal assault take its toll on the wiry form of Denny. Staggered by the blow, he planted his booted feet on the gravel-covered street, but finding no purchase, his boots slid out from under him and Denny began to topple over, his heavy bike destined to crash to the street.

Rain sprang up off the porch, and leaned into his falling brother, lending him just enough support to gain his balance and replant his boots firmly on the ground. Managing to keep the Harley upright, Denny grinned at Rain.

Blood pouring from his split lip, he said, “Thanks, little brother. I owe you one.”

Rain then found himself in the grasp of Mike who towered over him by a good three feet. “And you!” Mike growled down into his face. “What in hell did you think you were doing by defying me?”

“Sticking up for a friend!” Rain said, his skinny frame lifted so high by Mike that his tennies left the ground.

“Well,” Mike said, angrily, “do you think your friend is worth taking a beating for? Don’t think I am going to ignore the defiance you showed me out there, you little ass hole.”

He released Rain with one hand, holding it up very near his face, imitating the hand gesture Rain had performed so obstinately out there on the highway. “And if this don’t bring tears to your eyes,” he said, slapping him hard upside his head. “Then this surely will!”

He doubled up his fist preparing to deliver a solid punch to his face. “Mike,” Doug said, so quietly, that the other three looked over at him, surprised that he had spoken. “Enough. Rain got the point you were trying to make. Why don’t you back off a bit now. Or how am I going to explain the bruise you leave to my Pops?”

Mike froze, holding Rain up by the front of his wife beater, his fist cocked and ready to throw his punch. “I ain’t afraid of your old man!” he snarled, annoyed that Doug dared interfere in his business.

“You should be,” Denny said, spitting out a thick stream of blood.

Mike lifted Rain a few more inches off the ground, leaving just the tips of his tennies dangling there in the gravel. “This is gang business, stupid sons of bitches,” he growled, fiercely. “Chase would understand the discipline I must apply to keep you guys in–”

“Denny’s split lip,” Doug said, nodding, “Yeah. But Rain doesn’t even belong to the Outlaws. Pummeling him, would not sit well with Pops. I’d think that through before leaving a mark on his face.”

Shrugging, Mike said, “Fine. I’ll just plant one on his chest. It’ll be up to him to cover it up until the bruise fades.”

Slowly, Doug slipped down his kick stand.

“No,” he said, solemnly. “I think you’re done with Rain.”

Mike flung Rain away from him, sending him stumbling, tripping, and then clumsily falling, the palms of his hands creating deep fur-rows in the gravel-covered street as he attempted to break his fall.

Doug was off his bike, and stood ready for Mike to attack him. Mike lumbered toward him, his massive fists clenched tightly at his sides. Rain pulled himself to his feet, staring at his oldest brother in disbelief. This was unheard of under normal circumstances. Mike was president, and not one of the sixty-some members of the Outlaws ever defied him. Doug was clearly out of line, and Rain knew it was on account of him that his brother was drawing a line in the sand.
And Rain wasn’t certain Doug could meet the fury of Mike Shade, and still survive without getting seriously hurt.

“You’re just pissed,” Denny said, spitting another stream of blood from his mouth, “because of Daws’s threat, ain’t you, Mike? I’ve never seen you cow to no one before, and now that Daws Roberts brought up this threat to call the Nomad, he’s got everyone of us on edge. I say we call his bluff on his stupid phone call shit. I said it before, we should call church with the Angels out of Omaha, let them settle this and deal with Daws and his constant threat he keeps throwing in our face!”

Still intent on fighting Doug, Mike stepped closer to him, his fists slowly rising to start the exchange of blows they would soon rain down on each other.

To Rain’s dismay, Doug wasn’t backing down. He dropped into a fighter’s stance, his own fists raised, a spooky calm look in his eyes.

“Wait!” Rain cried out, placing himself between the two bigger guys. “This ain’t right! You’re gonna fight on account of me–”

“Out of my way!” Mike snarled, grabbing onto Rain’s skinny shoulders and flinging him to one side. He stepped up closer to Doug, a fierce rage in his heated gaze.

“This,” Denny said, “ain’t just about you, Rain. This has been building for quite some time. Mike and Doug need to settle this.”

Denny, uncertain himself about the outcome of a fight between his brother and the notorious Mike Shade, said, “Instead of putting a hurt on each other, let’s just push Daws and let him make his phone call. Save your wrath for dealing with that crazy bastard when he comes!”

Mike and Doug inched closer to each other, neither one taking his eyes off of each other, both fully prepared to go at it.

“There will be plenty of wrath left,” Mike growled, “when this is over! So just shut the hell up about this Nomad!”

He then let loose with a flurry of rapid-fire punches, which Doug effectively deflected. On Mike’s last swing, Doug blocked him with his left hand, and his right hand shot out, striking the startled Outlaw president directly on his chin.

Furious that Doug had plowed through his guard, Mike snarled a string of red-hot curses at him and attacked with renewed fury.

“Boys!” came from the doorway of the Sprague tavern across the street. “Knock that shit off!

Wings like Eagles: Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Daws Roberts and his four Guardians killed their bikes. Sneering once at Mike seated there behind the patrol car, Daws said, “Got a call from my brother, Sheriff Baxster. Fortunately, he survived this wreck and managed to get to a farm house over this hill here to call in for help. Since you’re here, and those ambulances are heading back to Crete, it appears his phone call saved the day, so to speak. Cal was even thoughtful enough to call Grady’s tow service. He’ll be along shortly to haul that bus out of Miller’s Pond for you.”

He slipped his kick stand down, climbed off his bike, and added, “Cal claims the Indian was swerving all over the road, Sheriff. Sounds to me like he’d been drinking–”

“Oh, hell, too!” burst from Rain’s lips. “It was Cal who swerved over in front of–”

“Rain?” came from Mike, slightly above a whisper.

“Quiet,” said Doug, reaching down to squeeze Rain’s knee with a vise-like grip. “Close your mouth. Now!”

Rain winched at the strong grip on his right knee, yet managed to offer Mike a look of defiance. “But that just ain’t true,” he com-plained. “It wasn’t Ben’s fault at all. It was–”

Doug released his knee, swung his arm up, and caught Rain with a swift, backhand to the side of his head. “This really isn’t any of our business, Rain. So shut your mouth. Got it?”

His ears still ringing from the sudden blow to his left temple, Rain glared in anger at his brother, then slowly wiped tears from his eyes. “Yeah,” he said, gritting his teeth as he held up his hand glistening with tears to make sure Mike seen them. “Got it.”

Mike sat there on his hog, clearly understanding why Rain displayed his tears. A look of shame passed over his bearded features, and was quickly replaced by a look of red-hot anger. “You and I are having a talk later, Rain,” he said, firmly, a definite threat in his eyes.

Baxster walked over to Doug’s Harley, looking at Rain. “Besides,” he said, “how am I supposed to believe anything you say now about this crash? You lied to me. You claimed you didn’t know who the biker was the bike belonged to. Can’t rely on you now for an eye-witness, can I?”

It was then that Daws and his four scruffy-looking Guardians focused their attention on Ben Long Soldier leaning against the patrol car. “Should be ashamed of yourself, Chief,” Daws said, snorting in disgust. “Not a lot of folks around here take to kindly to a drunken Indian putting their kids at such risk. I assume those ambulances had hurt kids in them, and I’d say you’ve got a lot to answer for.”

Rain badly wanted to speak up in Ben’s defense, but already he was regretting the fact that he had so boldly defied Mike by gesturing at him with his tear-streaked hand. He knew he was in for a couple of punches to his chest or upper arms that would leave painful bruises on him for the next several weeks. He had no doubt that Mike would deal with him later. And so, he kept his mouth shut, while Daws spoke to Baxster, urging him to arrest Ben Long Soldier for driving while intoxicated.

Baxster stood there, looking uncertain. It was obvious, however, that the words spoken so heatedly by Daws were slowly tipping the scales on the matter. Ben peered at the bus in the middle of Miller’s Pond, remaining calm as if Daws wasn’t digging a deep hole to push him into.

Rain had known Ben Long Soldier ever since he’s started school in Crete back in first grade. He knew him as the first friendly Indian he had ever met, for Ben had such a way about him that he put him at ease with his warm smile and his often soft-spoken words.

When the Lakota was not driving the school bus for the Crete district, he worked as a wrangler for local rancher Bud Ellis, who owned a horse ranch just west of the small town of Sprague. The past two summers, Rain and Chris had been hired by Bud, a rough-spoken, rawboned rancher who was gruff as hell and hard as nails. The tall, skinny older man was not a nice guy to work for, but Rain and Chris put up with the cantankerous old coot, mainly because they had the chance to see the magic of Ben Long Soldier in action.

Ben had spent all of his life around horses back on the reservation where he was born. He had learned the secret on how to work with some of the most wild, unruly horses, taught to him by his grand-father, a holy man of the Lakota at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Ben Long Soldier was a horse whisperer, and for the herds of wild horses Ben Ellis brought to his ranch, Ben was the “last step” they took before being put down with a bullet to the head, if they reached the point of being unbreakable. His success rate for the three-hundred horses purchased by Ben for the past two years had been phenomenal. And Rain and Chris had been included in the “whisper sessions,” fascinated with Ben’s ability to soothe, correct, and tame each horse who passed through Bud’s corral.

That the Lakota man took the time to share his secrets with the two brothers was considered an honor to them.

To sit there now and listen while Daws Roberts lied and convinced Sheriff Baxster that the bus crash had been due to the fact that Ben had been drinking, was causing Rain much distress.

He looked over at Mike Shade, who sat there coldly staring back at him. He then shifted his gaze to Denny, the only one who some-times foolishly argued with Mike or called shit on his decisions and rulings. Hoping to gain his support, so that he could speak up on behalf of Ben, Rain groaned inwardly when Denny simply shrugged and pointed a finger at the wrecked bus out in the middle of Miller’s Pond, as if saying, “It got there somehow now, didn’t it?”

He finally leaned forward and whispered in Doug’s ear, “It was all Cal’s fault, I swear. Cal even had a bottle on him.”
Doug silenced him with a stern look, and Rain just then realized that Cal had thrown that bottle through the bus window. His stomach churned as he thought of the assumption this would lead to once Baxster examined the bus. Despite his fear that Mike would severely punish him later, words tumbled around inside his head as he worked up the nerve to speak them.

“Time for you, ratty asses to be crawling back to your rat holes,” Daws said, offering the three Outlaws a wicked smile and making a shooing motion with one hand.

“Git along little doggies,” he chuckled, though it came out less than humorous.

Mike and Doug exchanged an unreadable look, but Denny who hated being intimidated, snapped, “Go to hell, Daws!”

Mike warned, “Denny? Button it up!”

“Why?” Denny demanded, trailers of his long black hair sliding over his slender shoulders in the spring breezes wafting off the nearby pasture. “We don’t have to bow to him! We’ve been jumping through his hoops ever since he made his threat to make ‘that one phone call.’ Let’s just quit shitting around and call him on it, Mike!”

“Dennis,” Doug spoke his name, turning his stern gaze on him.

Rain quickly looked from Doug to Dennis and then over at Mike. Something was up here, and he was now more than curious as to what had made Daws think he could show such disrespect to the president of the Outlaws. He also wondered why Denny was so agitated and what made him go boldly where no man had gone before by mouthing off so rudely to Mike Shade.

I’m not the only one who is going to get an ass-kicking later, he thought, watching Denny return Mike’s glare with one of his own.

Daws caused all three of the Outlaws to look over at him as he said, “Better put a muzzle on your mongrel, Shade. One more yap or bark from him and I will . . .”

He mimicked holding a phone up to his ear, and grinned at Mike.

It was then that Grady Granger came barreling down the highway in his tow truck. A second deputy drove up behind Grady in a large white van to haul the rest of the students home in. While Baxster herded the kids past Daws and his Guardians, Grady drove his tow truck to a dirt driveway leading into the pasture. Tall, skinny Grady, dressed in his blue overalls, his shaggy red hair sticking out from under his Dekalb hat in all directions, climbed out and unfastened the barbed wire fence preventing him from driving on into the pasture.

He whistled a tuneless song as he worked the kinks out of the wire, and as he turned back to his truck, he waved at those occupying the roadway near Baxster’s cruiser. Rain found the gesture to be bizarre, because no one was certain who Grady was waving at. Daws and his Guardians simply stared silently at the beaming tow truck driver, while Mike, Doug and Denny exchanged curious glances, wondering if one of them should just get it over with and wave back.

“Just get your ass in there!” snapped Baxster as he noticed Grady grinning like a loon and waving up at the road, “And get that damned bus out of there, Grady!”

“Right, Sheriff,” Grady said, still grinning goofily.

He waved at up at the roadway again, and this time, Rain saw Ben Long Soldier give Grady a silent nod. He was quite surprised at what Grady then said, “Ben, my boy, you shouldn’t drink and drive. Now look what you went and done! Now I gotta fish your ol’ bus out Miller’s Pond, and that is not gonna be no easy job!”

As Grady climbed back in his truck and proceeded down the dirt track leading into the pasture, Mike said, “Let’s go. Your Pops is gonna wanna know about Chris. The sooner we tell him, the better.”

Doug and Mike both kicked over their bikes, but Denny sat there, staring holes in Daws.

“Dennis?” Doug shouted over the roar of his Harley. “Get your damned bike started, or you’re gonna find yourself alone and on your own!”

Snorting in disgust, Denny leaped up high and came down, his right foot landing on the pedal of his kick starter. His bike thundered to life. He shook his head at Daws and continued to sneer at him as he joined Mike and Doug wheeling their bikes around and shooting on down the roadway toward Sprague. Rain glanced back to offer Ben Long Soldier an apologetic look.

I wanted to tell Baxster, he thought, about that bottle that Cal threw, but I didn’t get the chance.

Doug opened his throttle then and took them soaring to keep up with Mike Shade speeding down the highway