Wednesday, March 1, 2017

LEGENDS OF THE WEIRD WEST: Mailbox Baseball in the Weird West




   I believe in aliens like I believe in spooks. I mean, we have to have a soul, look at us! The things we get up to and damn few of them are biologically important. Art, War, Fine French Cooking, we don’t need that stuff. We like it. It pleases us. It pleases the soul. Now, look up into that big black sky at night. Does something to the soul, too. And the brain, if you let it.
   A man can’t stare up at them stars and tell me things only worked out for us. One planet, one bunch of idiots, that’s it. Us. No, it’s too damn much up there. They say best evidence there’s intelligent life in the universe is none’s tried to reach us. I tend to agree. Because we are troublesome. But who’s to say aliens don’t have their own troubles? Troublemakers, say? Grab a ship, head out to the farthest reaches like I used to with my dad’s truck back on the farm. He had a ’56 Ford cab-over, loved that truck. We’d find a place to run out of gas, sit on the flatbed in back. Maybe a girl, some beer, maybe watch those stars. Maybe ride on the hood down the highway or bash a few mailboxes, we did that, too.
   So maybe aliens ain’t come down to shake hands. But nothing saying there ain’t been a few hotrodders out there who let too much of their daddy’s ship get away from ‘em. One goose of the gas pedal and they end up ass over teakettle in our neck of the woods. And what better place to do it than the Old West? Say, Aurora, Texas, 1897.
   Story goes, April 17 of that year, ship crashed on J.S. Proctor’s farm round about 6AM. Right into a windmill, tore up the ship, killed the poor fool inside. Story goes a lot of ways but it starts there. They got a look at the driver, pilot, whatever they thought of what he was, and concluded he was “not of this world”.
   Some even said Martian.
   So, being good Christian folk, they buried the body in the local cemetery, said their prayers (that’s part of it, they said they prayed for him), walked away from his unmarked grave and that was that. They have a sign in the town to this day, outside that cemetery, very official, saying this is where he is. Not exactly, but in that area. Little story about the crash carved in there, too.
   Naturally, reasonable folk can leave that alone. Or not, shit, reason’s a relative thing. Some might say Hell, not even worth considering. Some might not be ready to know if it’s true. Some still, sure it’s false and wanting to rub that in some faces.
   Me, I don’t care one way or the other and let’s just say it did. I like the thought. Old West is a perfect setting for an alien crash. It’s what makes the Weird West possible, stories like that. The blend of intractable frontier land and intractable universe. Lone cowboy on the prairie looks up at the sky, lone alien pilot screaming behind his joystick as he goes down in flames.
   We were exploring still, back then. Maybe they were, too. We were braving a frontier, maybe our neck of the galaxy is the alien’s version of that same thing. We’re the wild natives, dancin’ and hootin’ and scarin’ the hell out of ’em. Bein’ enlightened, they’d leave us alone.
   Like I said, aliens, if they can build ships, they’re smarter’n us. Enlightened and they wouldn’t dream of slumming with our kind. But their kids? See, that’s a different story.
Kids are troublemakers, no matter how far your race has come. This one hitting the windmill, probably stole the keys like I first did on that cab-over. I was 13, rode the hell out of that truck a good 2 miles before I hit the side of my uncle’s barn and tore out two fence posts. Substitute alien ship for Ford pickup and Earth for barn, I think it starts coming together.
   Grave’s unmarked because the kid jumped out the last second. After taking out a windmill, of course. His version of mailbox baseball. Said his sorries, begged the townsfolk to cover for him and off he went. Probably thought he’d have a damn good time down here. Why not? Earth in 1897 was a humdinger.
   William McKinley was President. We’d just invented Dos Equis. (And the aspirin to take for your hangover from it.) A man still carried an iron on his hip. He ranched cattle, mined for copper, walked outside at night and breathed the freshest damn air. We had cities too, but not as many. And not as big. There was a lot of open spaces between things. Lotta room for a kid to hide from his daddy for stealin’ that ship.
   I hid after them fence posts, believe it.

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