"Do you miss Texas, Vin?"
"Why the hell would I miss Texas, JD?"
"Well, I know, the bounty, but . . . it's home."
Vin shook his head. "No, it ain't."
"I thought you were from Texas."
"Then, it's home."
"No, JD. It's where you make it be. Home ain't just where your momma happened to drop you."
"OK, then. Anyplace you'd be, if you could be anyplace at all?"
"Other'n right here?"
"Yeah, where'd that be?"
"Kansas. I'd be in Kansas." Vin's eyes roved around the room, finally coming back to JD. He nodded several times in quick, sure succession. His eyes faded from the room then, and took up a sight far north of where he sat in a propped chair in a lantern lit saloon. He smiled. "A man can stand and look out forever in Kansas Territory. The bluestem on the high prairie's about yea tall," he motioned with his hand to his chest. "It waves, all together, when the wind runs 'cross it, so's you think you're lookin' at a big green sea. Smells good, feels good. Wind just blows right through you like you wasn't even there. No homesteads, no fences, no noise . . ."
The others at the table stared. Not one of them had heard Vin Tanner run together so many words, so many sentences, with so much feeling before. Chris had talked with Vin, a lot, and he had never heard what he was hearing tonight. It wasn't the whiskey, he hadn't had but a couple drinks. There in front of the regulators sat a man remembering something sacred, and they barely breathed, each and every one of them, not wanting to disturb the spell.
" . . . you can get lost in the sky, it's so big. Stretch out your arms and never touch the horizion. Blue like a field of Texas bluebonnets, and the lakes suck up that blue and spread it out til it'd like to never end. Sometimes there's a deer or antelope on the prairie, and it looks like a little tiny thing. Man feels like nothing and no one can ever touch him in a place like that."
Silence fell, as the others gazed at Vin. He didn't notice, he was lost in the sea of grass and wore a small, contented smile. "That's home, JD, a place like that."
JD nodded, mesmerized.
Ezra came out of his trance, rose and walked slowly to the bar, where he nodded to Inez, who began to fill his glass. A man beside him snorted and shook his head. He turned to the sound.
"Yes, Mr Lewis?"
The man he called Lewis was perched beside him at the bar, shaking his head. "Tanner 'pparently ain't been to Kansas in a while. Place ain't like that a'tall no more. Homesteaded. Buffalo all gone, just piles a'bones that the railroad's gonna pick up 'n turn into fertilizer. Railroad cuts through it all, trail herds running across it, eatin' ever'thin' the grasshoppers ain't et already. Ain't no blue sky in Kansas Territory no more."
Ezra watched the man sadly, then his eyes returned to the tracker splayed out in the chair a dozen feet away. Vin was still smiling.
"I'm gonna go over and tell him what it's like now," Lewis added.
Ezra raised a hand to stop him. "Don't."
Lewis turned to him "Huh?"
"Don't," Ezra repeated. "Let him remember it as he described it to us."
Ezra reached his hand into his pocket and lay two shiny silver dollars on the bar. "Because, Mr Lewis, you would rather sit here at this fine establishment and enjoy a few drinks on me." He pushed one silver dollar across to Lewis. "And tomorrow, you may enjoy another round for you and your friends." He pushed the second one over.
Lewis played his fingers over the coins and shrugged. "Sure, I kin do that. Thanks, Standish."
Ezra turned back to Inez as she sat a drink in front of him. Josiah spoke from the other side, startling him.
"My, Ezra, what brings you to such kindness tonight?"
He straightened his coat and picked up his drink.
"I have no idea what you are talking about. I am merely trying to avoid a nasty demonstration of an uncivilized man's ill control of his temper. Has not a thing to do with any form of kindness."
Ezra nodded, satisfied.
"Don't take away a man's hope-it might be all he has." Josiah quoted quietly as he continued to watch Ezra.
"It's all any of us has, Mr Sanchez. It's all any of us has."
The two men pushed away from the bar to return to the table.
"There was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky."---Willa Cather
| Back |