Mama did not seemed to have noticed how late I was when I arrived home, probably because as I glanced at the clock on the stove I realised that something was off. I took a closer look, tapping it to make it keep time again. At Mama’s odd glance I wandered over and turned her wrist to face me. Her watch registered the same time as the stove clock. I had arrived home at the exact time I always did from work. I pulled out the feather from my pocket and stared at it while Mama continued to sneak glances at me.
‘Where did you find that?’ she asked. I couldn’t think of an answer so I just shrugged and headed for my room. For weeks after, I stopped at the griffin rock, peering as far as I could without actually going in to the forest to see if there was any sign of Amduscias. Other than the feather that I kept hidden at home, I found none. Until a few more weeks passed.
I began to spend every moment I could on research. Although I found Amduscias listed, other than that he was an angel, looked like a unicorn at times and caused music to play there was not much more to go on. For the first time since our meeting I began to be afraid. I had seen Mama’s pregnancies progress. There was no denying that I was probably pregnant, which kind of pissed me off a bit. How many girls get pregnant their first time? And besides he is an angel. Surely though his bits looked like human bits if somewhat larger, he is another species.
Then I remembered mules, and ligers. Somewhere in all this craziness I came across a word I would begin to dread. I began to also research nephilim. Not that that did a lot of good. Except make me fear I was going to have to birth a giant.
It wasn’t long before Mama had no choice but to confront me about my somewhat obvious weight gain. Not that an unwed mother was anything new to our community, but I knew how disappointed Mama was that it had happened to me. Especially as there appeared no way for her to rectify the situation after I lied and told her that I had a one night stand with a biker who I could not really remember and had not seen since. I remained as vague as I could on dates. I had no way of knowing how this was going to progress. It wasn’t that long ago I was with Mama on the whole angels thing. I thought of talking to the local priest, for about a minute and a half. I figured he would either have me locked up as insane ,or locked away in some nunnery waiting to get their hands on whatever I spawned. Neither choice seemed like a good idea. This left me floundering.
So I floundered and I grew larger. Larger than I thought possible, which meant I began having scary visions of giant babies taking up most of my thoughts. It seemed as if life became a heat haze that warped everything I knew, or thought I knew. I found myself being drawn with more intensity back to the forest as the pregnancy progressed. At first I fought the urges, much like I fought the urges for pickled ice cream.
Although I was not yet approaching my due date, as far as I could reckon in human terms, I knew that my time was near. And as it drew closer I drew closer to the forest. Wandering in its cool shade I found myself drawn to the place where I had seen Amduscias. Curling up on the ground where he had once curled I again felt a connection. As the days passed I spent more and more time in the forest. Often sleeping, sometimes dreaming of wings and baby soft skin.
And so it was that I was back to the beginning when the first pain hit me. It did not give any warning like I had seen with Mama. This went from zero to full on in the time it took for a leaf to fall to the ground. There was no rest in between. Just constant pain. Until he came once more to me. He padded up the path and curled up on the ground, watching me as he once again switched in to his more human like form. Though the pain did not recede, his presence helped me to focus on something other than it.
I felt his arms lift me upright and cradle me against him and once again his wings lifted us in to the sky. The pain was an abyss I drifted in and out of, seemingly to the rhythm of his wings as they beat the air around us. I heard his voice. Amduscias whispered to me of what was to happen. He told me the reasons for the pain that I was to suffer both now and the rest of my days. Tears ran once again, this time landing on my face. How cool they were. His sorrow seemed almost as heavy as my pain. I fought to hold on, to stay, but once again I awoke on the forest floor. Alone. Completely alone. No Amduscias. No child. No pregnancy. Only a memory. Enough of a memory to condemn me forever. Just as he’d said. And a new feather, smaller than the other, but no less forsaken. It would have to do.
Sounding no louder than a gentle rustle of leaves, his wings opened and the trees parted allowing us access to the sky. One hand he kept between my shoulder blades while the other cupped my buttocks, deftly parting my legs as we soared higher. I silently hoped neither the Careys nor the Hudsons were out and about and looking up. As Amduscias slid his erection inside of me his eyes changed colour. Bright as pumping blood, their red glow seemed to reach inside me and warm me against the air that grew chillier as we continued to rise.
Amduscias flew with abandon. Rising straight up, with me impaled on him, then slowing down and spiralling deliberately on the air currents, he rode me in to a stupor. His skin was sleek, and softer than a baby’s against mine. Mama was a bit of a breeder, so I had a lot of baby skin to compare him with.
His voice was gentle, not much louder than the sound of his wings. As he sent me further in to oblivion he told me his history, much like a parent telling a bedside story. I learned of his joys, his fall from grace, his now ever present sorrow. He asked for my forgiveness, before admitting he would not forgive himself for crossing this last barrier in to what he called the abyss. All the while he spoke so softly, he drove hard in to me as if to lose himself. I felt my own self drift in to an abyss of another kind as we tumbled from air current to air current.
I awoke back on the path in the forest. Alone. I might have believed myself carried away with a rather delicious fancy were it not for my clothes strewn about beside me. As I looked over my naked body tiny goose bumps began to form. Dazed as I was it took some time to dress myself and find my way back out of the forest. Other than one glossy feather I found forsaken under my clothing, there was no sign that Amduscias in any form had existed.
‘Because I am forever lost to my home’, he replied. As he spoke the pool of tears became clearer and in its reflection was what I knew instinctively to be an image of his home. I understood his tears.
‘Why is it lost to you?’ I asked.
‘I was foolish to believe in one who was not truthful. Those of us who trusted in his light were led to ruin, to exile.’ Gazing in to the reflection he seemed to actually smile a little. ‘But his light was as beautiful as the fresh morning, and just as hard to resist.’ As the question began to form in my mind, he answered. ‘My name is Amduscias,’ he said and as he spoke his name, a glow began to form behind him. Within the glow large wings unfurled and a trumpet wailed, kokako like, its music settling mournfully around us. With each new note the trees bent and swayed opening up a space for his wings to spread wide and high.
He leaned back in to his wings and raised his head. As he brought it back down the eyes with which he regarded me were now similar to my own in both their size and colouring. His cheekbones were pronounced and his chin covered in fair stubble. Matching tresses hung down his back and strayed over his shoulder reaching past his nipples. He shined, and with each shaft of light that flashed around under the canopy he seemed to draw me closer to his light.
‘Come,’ he said. Again music filled the air. ‘It is too late now for you,’ he smiled, as he stood upright. The hand he held out to me, no longer misshapen and clawed, was twice the size of my own. I lay mine upon it and it seemed to disappear as he folded his fingers, claiming it for his own. Pulling me up, his gaze held my eyes. ‘You should have left when I told you to. Now, I shall condemn myself even more. I shall condemn you, and we shall both be lost forever.’
Another thing Mama got wrong. Angels have all the bits, and they work. Oh dear God do they ever. Not that I had a lot to compare it to, being the town’s only 19 year old virgin, but his bits were every bit as impressive as the rest of him.
Amduscias’s wings enfolded us and there was no mistaking the fact that this angel, because I had tweaked to this being the only possible explanation, had an erection. I felt my first twinge of fear as I contemplated the size of it. It just kept growing and now Amduscias had a definite smile curving his lips. I wish I could say I know how he managed to make all my clothes disappear; I guess angels just have a knack for it. Like Joey on Friends, with his ability to undo any bra any time.
Mama always said that angels were a load of hooley balooley. I was 19 when I found out that Mama sometimes didn’t know what she was talking about.
Riding my bike home from work usually found me daydreaming about some fantastical creature. Except for the small forest between the Hudson’s and the Carey’s farms the landscape was flat, often brown, and boring to look at. Daydreaming let me turn those browns in to lions hiding in wait for their prey, or great desert dunes where the camels outnumbered people. At times I imagined them so large, the camels I mean, that I knew the ridges between the dunes must have been left as they ran in great herds searching for humans to trample and drive from their lands.
One day as I rode, I was imagining that the giant rock that stood at the entrance to the forest was perhaps a griffin, lying in wait to pounce if I got too close. Behind the deathly still griffin I felt rather than saw movement. I placed my imagination firmly behind my curiosity so that any danger would be minimal. After all, my reality was a slash of greenery in a landscape drowning in dreary.
Throwing the bike against the rock I headed towards the trees. Perhaps there was an animal injured. Although, if I brought one more home to Mama she might make good on her threat and make me move out to the woodshed.
After the heat of the afternoon ride, stepping under the trees, the shade felt wonderful. A small path covered with tiny fallen branches, leaves and moss announced my journey and I ventured further in to the damp cool.
My brother Jared always muttered about his spidey senses after seeing Spiderman. For the first time I figured he might be on to something. The back of my neck tingled from more than my hair brushing against it. Once again I felt movement. My head turned in the direction it registered. No other part of me moved, not even to breathe, for at least a minute. Then, as I gasped in some much needed air my legs took over and began running. Not as any sane person would expect, in the opposite direction of what I was seeing, but towards it.
It focussed on me as I approached. As far as I could see, or feel, it did not seem threatened by my fast and ungainly approach. When I was close enough that I could reach out and touch it, which my hands were twitching to do, with a grace I had never imagined, the unicorn curled up on the ground, tears flowing down its face like melted silver. As they dripped on to the forest floor a pool formed. As the pool grew so did its turbulence, eddies of mist circled out of it before dropping back in to it only to rise and fall over and over again.
With the cool, the forest now seemed to be bathed in a dark and damp sadness. The weight of it made drawing a breath difficult. I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and curling my legs under me lay my head against the unicorn’s neck and closed my eyes.
It should have been shocking but when an arm slid around me all I felt was peace. Opening my eyes I lifted my head and watched with such fascination as the transformation ran down the limbs. Gone was the softness of the fur, replaced with smooth fair skin. Long nails protruded from both his; yes this was definitely a male, misshapen and large toes and fingers.
All that remained from my unicorn was his head. The large eyes still flowed with tears and the horn glowed softly in the dappled light.
‘It is best you go,’ the unicorn said.
‘Why do you cry?’ I asked. Of all the things happening it seemed the most important question to have an answer to.
Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant was a notorious bank and train robber and is possibly best-remembered as the Queen of the Rustlers in the American West of the 1800′s. It could truly be said that this queen came from a family of outlaw aristocracy. Her parents ran the infamous Bryant Gang in Australia and may have even known the outback bandit Mad Dog Morgan before he earned his enormous reputation. When you consider the fact that the later Kelly Gang, Australia’s most well-known gang of outlaws, often pointed to the Bryant Gang as their biggest inspiration and their own personal heroes, Buckshot Bryant came from the most blue-blooded bandit stock imaginable.
Joanne, or “Jo’s” parents settled in America to live in comfortable retirement from their ill-gotten wealth from Down Under. Jo was always a handful, a very willfull and adventurous young lady who caused her parents no end of trouble. In 1861 Bryant’s parents left Missouri (where Jo was born) to escape the freshly-started Civil War and traveled east. While her family hobnobbed with various east-coast gentry Jo herself purportedly began a fling with THE Samuel Colt, a newly commissioned colonel in the Union army. Colonel Colt never saw action in the field, doing mostly administrative work, but that left him with plenty of time to frolic with the beautiful young lady he had fallen in love with. Jo was in her late teens or very early twenties (accounts vary) and Colt was as old or older than her father. When Jo’s family moved on in their travels Jo insisted on staying behind to be with her lover, remaining with him until his death in 1862.
Rather than return to her parents at this time Jo’s adventurous nature led her to begin frequenting east coast rail lines, bedecked in fashionable outfits and luring well-to-do men with amorous intentions into her coachroom, where she would immediately pull a revolver on them and force them to undress and give her all their valuables. She would then slip out of the room and off the train. When the high-living young beauty was running out of the funds from her latest haul she would once again start riding the rails, relying on her sultry looks and her well-dressed appearance to draw another victim her way. One passenger she did not rob during that period of her life was a young Union officer named Humphrey Bogart,
with whom she supposedly had a brief fling. Bogart would later marry Amarillo Rose, the most colorful figure of the Amarillo Range War.
Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bryant traveled to Missouri, siezed with an uncharacteristically nostalgic desire to once again see the home where she had spent her childhood, Kiwi Aussie Manor. She found the place a gutted shell because the abandoned home had been used as a headquarters by Confederate forces and then burned during a Union raid. Feeling more rootless than ever Jo boarded a train headed west, planning to resume her usual criminal activities. As fate would have it, once the train got into eastern Kansas it was boarded and robbed by the James-Younger Gang.
As various members of the gang made their way through the train cars relieving the passengers of their valuables, Jo sprang into action and nearly shot Frank James right between the eyes before being grabbed from behind by Frank’s buddy Cole Younger. While the now-disarmed Jo stood there cursing the two outlaws in the foulest language imaginable they both stood there eyeing the gorgeous young thing before them with just one thing on their minds and it wasn’t Reconstruction Era politics. Calming down, Jo further charmed Cole and Frank by shrewdly telling them how her home had been burned by Union troops and about her railroad scam. Soon Jesse himself was on the scene ogling Jo and listening to his brother and Cole fill him in on this unexpected development. Jesse offered Jo a place in the James-Younger “organization” and she accepted, riding off with the outlaws.
Jo started out serving as a “plant” on trains the James-Younger Gang intended to rob. Dressed in finery she would pose as a passenger, then once the gang began their assault she would produce a gun or two to keep the passengers in line and accomodate the heist in any other way she could. Ever fiery, however, Jo soon tired of that role and began taking a more active part in the robberies, toting a shotgun and even dressing in the gang’s legendary long dusters and dark cowboy hats like the other notorious woman in the gang, Belle Starr
(though since this was before her marriage to Sam Starr she was still known as Belle Shirley). Jo and Belle got along famously and Belle herself gave Bryant her nickname following a legendary incident. Bob Ford, a fringe character in the Missouri outlaw world, was often trying to force himself on Jo. After one such incident Jo began loading her shotgun, swearing she would blow off Ford’s manhood so he would stop troubling her once and for all. Bob Ford fled as quickly as he could but Jo still fired off a barrel full of buckshot at his retreating form to drive home her point. Ford was far enough away that the shot wasn’t fatal but it caught him full on the buttocks, making it difficult for him to sit down for several days. Belle laughed uproariously and began calling Jo “Buckshot” Bryant, the name she would be known by forever after.
Buckshot spent a few happy years with the James-Younger Gang, enjoying dalliances with Cole Younger and the two James brothers, sometimes both at once according to Belle Starr in her memoirs. All that Hell-raising took place in between daring bank and train robberies. Eventually, however, Buckshot Bryant wanted to lead a gang of her own and headed west along with her latest lover and fellow gang member Kevin “Colorado” Costner.
In Texas, Buckshot and Colorado gathered around them the nucleus of the bank and train robbing gang that became known as the Poker Studs. That name for the gang came about because of Buckshot Bryant’s ever-roaming eye for handsome young men, whom she grew to love having around her as her subordinates. Treating these young men as her male harem, Buckshot was so desired by all of them that she took to having the young studs play poker for the privilege of sleeping with her each night. Thus, they became known as the Poker Studs, a name which was supposedly inverted and became the namesake of the game called Stud Poker, in a Burnside/Sideburns kind of way.
Colorado Costner grew increasingly jealous of this behavior and after a furious argument with Buckshot, blurted out his love for her and rode off. Bryant was surprised by Costner’s declaration of love since she thought he saw it as just fun and games like she did. Sad but too proud to chase after him, Buckshot watched him ride off, not realizing they were destined to meet again.
Oddly stirred by the depth of Colorado’s feelings for her, Bryant tried losing herself in booze, loveplay with her Poker Studs and non-stop larcenous behavior. Eventually feeling that banks worth robbing were a bit too far apart this far out west compared to back in the Missouri-Kansas area, Buckshot decided to move into rustling instead of bank robbing, though the gang would still keep their hand in train robbing with occassional heists. Sitting tall in the saddle and with her trusty shotgun always at her side, Buckshot Bryant molded her Poker Studs into a very lucrative operation. The gang would rustle cattle from ranches throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, herd them below the border into Mexico where they would be either sold or traded for horses, which could then be sold back in the U.S. for a profit.
Once, after rustling some livestock from the High Chaparral, the gang was pursued by Manolito Montoya himself, who attacked the band of rustlers single-handed.
Intrigued by this foohardy courage, Buckshot ordered her Poker Studs not to kill the handsome Latino, with whom she checked into a Tucson hotel. There the two reached some form of accomodation, with the result that Jo promised to stop rustling from the High Chaparral and Manolito promised to never reveal the location of the desert hideout that he had trailed the gang to.
Sometimes Buckshot and the Poker Studs would rustle just a few cattle for the gang’s personal consumption and would have a massive cookout under the nighttime desert skies, the beef accompanied by tortillas, rice and beans, all washed down with gutrot whiskey. Bryant would revel in these festivities, comfortable and very pleased, surrounded as she was by a gaggle of toughened hombres who all desired and feared her at the same time.
Joining in the fun with Jo at these events would be Poker Studs like:
–Dancin’ Pat Swayze, formerly of the Point Break Gang, who joined Buckshot’s gang when she sheltered him from the Texas Rangers who were pursuing him
– Lariat Leo DiCaprio, the experienced rustler, fresh out of prison, who helped educate Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs in the ways of rustling. His specialty was altering cattle brands
– Colin “Wild Irish” Farrell, who fancied the rustling trade (and himself) as a continuation of the ancient Irish “art” of rustling as depicted in Celtic Mythology.
During this period of her career the Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed tweaking the forces of the law in the frontier as they ineffectually tried to bring her to justice. In the New Mexico Territory Buckshot Bryant made it her personal mission to confound the best efforts of Pat Garrett as she continually bested him at the mental chess game they played. Jo made him look so foolish that she is considered the main reason why he eventually lost reelection as sheriff and moved to Texas.
Bryant held Judge Roy Bean in particular contempt and loathed him as the epitome of the hypocritical, self-serving and corrupt system of law enforcement in the Wild West. Bean had vowed that if Buckshot was brought before him he would sentence her in one minute and hang her in two. Once, when Dancin’ Pat and Wild Irish had been captured and Bean had sentenced them to the gallows Jo mounted and executed what would today be called a commando-style raid to free her imprisoned Poker Studs. This escapade infuriated Judge Bean so much that Bryant took to freeing many of the other prisoners Bean had sentenced to death. She was so successful at this that, from then on, despite the many felons given a capital sentence by the power-crazed Judge only one was ever actually hanged. One of the men Jo rescued from Bean’s demented form of “justice” was the wandering gunfighter Juniper Johnny Depp, said to be a descendant of the notorious pirate captain Jack Sparrow. Depp and Bryant had a brief affair, which ended when the next paying client for his skill at gunplay came along and he rode off.
Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs are still a very sore subject with the Texas Rangers since no other band of outlaws was as skilled at foiling their pursuit. If cornered Jo and her minions were more than happy to resort to gunplay and Bryant’s shotgun sent many a law enforcement officer or bounty hunter to their graves.
Ranger William “Bigfoot” Wallace so admired Buckshot’s pluck that he had an unofficial “truce” with the rustling queen and would often get together with her and the Poker Studs across the border in Mexico to raise Hell in saloons.
Texas Ranger Mark Wahlberg came the closest to actually bringing Buckshot Bryant in, but, supposedly smitten with his gorgeous quarry, he let her go free instead. Unable to reconcile this with his devotion to law enforcement Wahlberg shot himself to death after watching Bryant ride off.
Buckshot’s friendship with Poker Alice, the frequently widowed card-player who roamed the west, is legendary. Bryant was far too shrewd to ever get involved in a poker game with the gun-toting mistress of the card tables but the two loved tearing up the saloons during the many times their paths crossed, often with mutual friend Doc Holliday present as well.
The biggest strain on their friendship came when Poker Alice was working as a dealer in a saloon owned by Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James and the would-be lothario whose antics had led to Buckshot being so named during their years in Missouri. Jo threatened to blow Ford away for his betrayal of Jesse and had to be physically restrained by Poker Alice to prevent her from killing Ford in front of a room full of witnesses. Alice persuaded her old, dear friend to leave, but Bryant vowed to never speak to Poker Alice again as long as she worked for Ford. That promise was kept but after Alice wandered on to another location the friendship between the two legends resumed.
Many books have been written about Buckshot Bryant’s involvement with various Native American leaders. Debate over her motives for assisting them in their battles with the bluecoats of the U.S. army continues to this day. Bryant would see to it that meat from rustled cattle would find its way to hostile chiefs like Red Cloud, Geronimo and Cochise to keep their people fed during hard times. Not only that but horses that she obtained in Mexico in exchange for rustled livestock would sometimes be given to those same chiefs to help fuel their war effort. In exchange the chiefs would help Jo and her gang to hide from particularly dangerous pursuit.
Buckshot was especially close to Cochise, who named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”, and the Queen of the Rustlers was foolhardy enough to visit Cochise in disguise when her old friend was on his deathbed in 1874. Bryant even accompanied the burial party and was said to be the only white person who ever knew Cochise’s exact resting place.
With the death of this friend of hers, Buckshot Bryant’s conviction to assist the warring Native American leaders was doubled. She took to leading her Poker Studs in running guns to the Sioux during the Sioux uprising. These activities led her into contact with former Lieutenant John Dunbar, noted for his years living with Native Americans, who named him Dances With Wolves.
Dunbar had once been mistakenly arrested for a few days because of his uncanny resemblance to Bryant’s old beau Colorado Costner. Dunbar’s philosophical musings about the plight of the Native Americans helped strengthen Jo’s resolve.
One day in the 1880′s who should come riding into the canyon hideout of Buckshot Bryant and the Poker Studs but that same Colorado Costner. He hadn’t lost his touch, and had tracked the gang down and penetrated their lair without them so much as noticing. He and Buckshot embraced and he related to her how he had been caught and arrested less than a year after riding off following their argument long ago. Luckily, when he left them the gang was not yet under a death sentence so he was not hanged but he had served a long prison term. His sentence was lengthened by his refusal to cooperate by giving law enforcement any information that would help them locate the woman he loved. Kevin told Jo how the thought of being able to one day hold her in his arms again was the only thing that kept him going during his time suffering in the hellish prison conditions of the time. This time Jo wasn’t too proud to admit her feelings for this man who had endured so much for her sake and the two were supposedly wed, although no records to support that assertion have ever been found.
Costner enthusiastically embraced his true love’s desire to aid Native American resistance and the two spent several happy years devoted to each other (the gang was now the Poker Studs in name only since Jo and Kevin were deeply in love). Their lives were filled with rustling, periodic train robberies, hair’s-breadth escapes from the law and with providing surreptitious aid to the Native American cause. The two felt a tight bond with the Native Americans, whom they saw as kindred spirits in living on their own terms against the power of outside forces.
In 1890 events came crashing down on Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner. After the gang was very nearly caught while running a supply of fresh beef to a suffering Native American community, the Poker Studs were fed up with risking their necks in such endeavors and abandoned Jo and Kevin. The two spent a few weeks in the village and therefore got to be first hand witnesses when the Ghost Dance spread into the community. The Ghost Dance has been classified as a semi-ecstatic state in which the participants were encouraged to believe all the dead Native Americans of the past, as well as all the dead buffalo, were going to return and the white people would all be driven away. This was all misinterpreted as another uprising and troops were sent to squelch it.
Thus it was that Buckshot Bryant and Colorado Costner were on hand at Wounded Knee when the army moved in to massacre the Ghost Dancers, who were all dancing, not fighting. From what has been reconstructed of the scene, Bryant and Costner, presumably sickened at what they were witnessing, savagely fought off the attacking bluecoats for as long as they could before the overwhelming odds caught up with them and they perished alongside the people with whom they had shared their strongest bond of kinship.
Now admittedly I have posted this in the early days of my blog. But Ed [who wrote this masterpiece] and I got talking on his recent post about: TEN NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS: COUNTDOWN TO FRONTIERADO and Buckshot, as she tends to do when Ed and I get talking, made a few waves about being forgotten. So…to keep her quiet while I work, I gave in…and I hope those of you who have not met her before will enjoy her adventures as much as I do !!!
And if you perchance want your own WILD WEST SAGA after reading mine then ask Ed nicely. He has done a few for us bloggers out there, as well as a few other folk.
It’s a tale like no other. Rustling, train robbing, and having her own harem of boys (The Poker Studs) is all in a day’s work for Buckshot.
Some of Buckshot’s Poker Studs were…
Considered such a badass that Cochise named her “Shoots Deadly Woman”.
Even when she settles down with the love of her life Buckshot remains a force to be reckoned with.
But…yes there is always a but…Buckshot and Colorado Costner came to a bloody end…as all good swashbuckling love stories should.
It seems that there is more though.
Here is a snippet from the previously unknown saga of Buckshot and her time with Sam and Dean Winchester as they…well if you want to know more you’ll just have to head on over to Ed’s.
Courtesy of a package mailed to me by the late George MacDonald Fraser several years ago, but which wasn’t delivered until a few days ago (you know the mail service) I am in possession of a long-forgotten 1800′s newspaper account of a heretofore unknown adventure of Joanne “Buckshot” Bryant, the woman who keeps the spirit of Frontierado alive all year ’round!
(Clipping from the Dallas Morning News. The headline was like confetti in my hands, but I could see the date was April 19th. The year, unfortunately, could not be made out)
(indecipherable) maintains it was Buckshot Bryant herself, the Queen of the Rustlers, sitting at a table and drinking fine Kentucky bourbon. The two young men who burst into the saloon, supposedly named Sam and Dean, carried Winchester rifles and were dressed in garb the like of which none of the cowpokes or farmers in town had ever seen before.
As an Aussie/Kiwi ANZAC means much more than just the letters or the words they represent.
Australian New Zealand Army Corps.
To me those words represent a special breed.
On the 25th of April each year we commemorate one of the saddest days in Australia’s and New Zealand’s combined history.
The landing at the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.
The objective was to capture the Dardanelles and Constantinople, opening the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea for the allied navies.
An ill conceived idea of Winston Churchill’s, the landing at Gallipoli began to go wrong from the start, as the landing parties arrived at the wrong beach. Had they however, landed at the correct point it would have been a bigger massacre as the Ottoman Empire was ready and waiting with their gatling guns.
The Ottoman forces were led by Mustafa Kemal (also known as Atatürk). The bold plan became an eight month stalemate. Losses were enormous on both sides. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.
In 1916 the first ANZAC Day was held and it has since gone on to include in the commemorations all service personnel and to honour those who have died in all military operations.
So what is ANZAC Day really ?
Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the Gallipoli landing, at war memorials in cities and towns across both countries. The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927.
Dawn ceremonies are also held at the sites of some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most recognised battles and greatest losses. Places such as Villers-Bretonneux in France and Gallipoli in Turkey.
One tradition of Anzac Day is the ‘gunfire breakfast’ (coffee with rum added) which occurs shortly after many dawn ceremonies. It recalls the breakfast that was eaten by many soldiers before facing battle. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen meet and join in marches through the major cities and many smaller centres.
I will see many wearing the red poppy on ANZAC Day…it is the flower of remembrance.
It has been linked with death on the battlefield since WWI.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders fields’ linked poppies and death perhaps forever.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I will leave you with a tribute of my own to those who bravely fight for us in war.
A Piece of War…an excerpt
That quiet I was telling you about, it got to one of the boys; kid was just seventeen, pimple-faced, shouldn’t have been here, he lost it. Happens every now and again. Jumped up out of the trench and started running towards the Krauts’ side.
“C’mon you bastards,” he was screaming, waving his arms around. “Shoot me, you bloody cowards,” I think he said. Threw his gun away, tore open his uniform. “C’mon then, shoot me,” he kept yelling, running about. As much as we wanted to drag the silly bugger back, it was too dangerous. Any moment they could start shooting. Well, he kept it up for more than an hour. Could barely make a sound by the end there. Nothing happened. Not one shot.
Would have been easy. Thought about doing it myself, the kid was really spooking some of the lads, but nothing. Eventually he just fell to his knees crying, right there in the middle of no-man’s land. I wish I could explain what it felt like, seeing him out there in the moonlight, his crying the only sound for miles. Does it make any sense when I say he became all of you? His sound was the sound of home. I’ve never felt so heavy.
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And here is my entry.
(C) Jo Bryant
Ariki hovers over the mirrored water, obscured behind a battered Matai branch felled in a furious summer storm. Silver ferns, heavily curved with raindrops, dangle their leaves breaking the water’s surface. They vie with each other for space along its edges. Spider webs shimmer in the mottled sunlight. Spreading his wings wide; he circles over the damp domain silently disturbing the surrounding air. Searching the area for male interlopers, he checks for mosquitoes as well.
Smiling at the vista below he rises higher, wanting the certainty he has enough distance. With the sun losing height in the sky he knows that soon he will be able to hunt; for now, he has time to have some fun. Satisfied with his starting position he descends, rapidly building his speed till he reaches fifty kilometres per hour. Positioning his wings he begins to loop-the-loop. Three times he performs the manoeuvre, each loop tighter than the one before. As he manoeuvres out of the third loop his mouth curls with pleasure. Ariki positions his wings for a synchronised movement, them plummets, doubling his speed before he reaches the mirrored face of the pond.
Before he hits the water he pulls out of the dive and soars horizontally. His 360 aids his visual sweeping of the area. A familiar form, partially hidden in the sword-like leaves of a harakeke plant looks unswervingly toward him with large slate eyes. Marama’s gaze sends a tremor undulating through his body. Relax, take a deep breath, he tells himself. Nonchalance okay. His antennae however, ripple slightly with excitement.
“Hello,” he says manoeuvring to land in front of her.
“Hello,” she replies. Her voice tinkles like water descending over smooth river stones he thinks. Mesmerised by its sound he stays silent.
“Ariki?” Marama smiles joyfully and his legs feel like tadpole blubber. Lowering her antennae she mischievously swats him on the head. “Anybody in there?”
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I was a little distracted.” He watches her smile widen. Nice comeback dunce head, he thinks.
“Distracted Ariki?” she teases. “What has you…so distracted?”
“I was, umm, wondering.”
“Anything I could help you with?” Marama is enjoying his discomfort. She can’t resist stretching out her wings so that they glisten red-gold from the setting sun. Changing the subject she remarks on his flight. “That was an especially fine loop-the-loop you just did.”
“Do you think you could coach me a little? I’m afraid I’m not getting it right. My loops are rather sloppy.”
“I’d love to help,” he’s unable to take his eyes away from her wings as they flash in the light. “You’re not as bad as you think. You have a lovely exit, I mean…” Ariki realises he’s admitting he’s been watching her. “You’re probably not getting up enough speed before you start.”
“Do you think that we could start now?” she asks, graciously ignoring his admission.
Marama stretches her wings, giving them a shake.
“C’mon then. I’ll race you to the other side,” she calls out. Her laughter rolls back on the breeze as Ariki realises she’s managed a head start.
“Cheat,” he shouts, flexing his wings he flies after her. She really is glorious he thinks as he watches her soar effortlessly. Reaching the other side Marama hovers above the flax lining the bank.
“Ha, I beat you.” Her smile softens the words. “But now I’ll let you show off a little while you teach me.”
“Sounds fair,” he replies. “Watch what I do. Then we’ll try it together.” Ariki ascends, signalling for her to follow; he stays close so she can see his movements. Building speed they race skyward. “Here goes,” he yells as he turns and drops. Trailing closely Marama is overwhelmed by the splendour of his movements. God, he’s stunning, she thinks as he goes into another loop. Finishing, he turns and waits for her to join him.
“Oh Ariki, that was more beautiful than before. I could hover here and watch you do that forever.”
“It’s nothing really,” he stammers. “We’ll have you doing it better than me in no time.” Secretly he is pleased. “Want to try? I’ll watch and then we’ll know what you need to work on. I think if you can go faster, before you start, you’ll be much better.”
Together they rise and fall perfectly synchronised. Beams of brilliant gold sunlight add drama to their dance.
“Marama,” Ariki pulls back and hisses at her. “Wasps. By the tree. Fly. Now!” He pushes her with his body. “Go,” he whispers, searching for somewhere to hide in the leaves of a manuka tree. “Higher, we need to get higher.” Keeping an eye on the activity below, they watch as the wasps search in vain between the red flax flowers.
“Ariki, what are they doing? Can you still see them?” Marama slows until he is beside her.
“Keep going,” he turns to look behind. “I can’t see them, but it doesn’t mean they’re not around.” He uses all his thirty thousand lenses to try and track any trace of the wasps’ path. “Keep going.” He hovers while urging Marama on. “Go higher. I don’t want them to see us if they are still around.” With a turn of her wings she soars away. Remaining behind he scans the area below. Satisfied that the wasps have not followed, he follows her path into the security of the manuka branches.
“I don’t think they saw us,” he says drawing level. Surveying the sinking sun he adds, “Don’t worry, they will be heading home soon.”
“Damn filthy bugs,” she shudders. “I hate them.”
“At least we are faster,” Ariki moves closer to her, “and smarter. Some of us are prettier as well,” he said waggling his antennae at her. Marama’s laugh jingles softly as she nods her head in answer to an unspoken question. Encouraged, he strokes her body with his wing.
Together they wait for the sun to set before leaving the security of the manuka. Adjusting his wings Ariki flies in reverse until he is behind her and waits for her reaction. When she slows her flight, he moves to join himself to her. Hovering, their bodies twisting, they form a perfect circle. He grasps the top of Marama’s head as she reaches around with her abdomen to allow him access to her.
“Is this what you were wondering about,” she quietly murmurs. Ariki’s body responds immediately and together they spin around; a shimmering ferris-wheel freewheeling through the softening dusk air, their wings flickering in the reflected light off the water. They slowly rotate until they are within millimetres of the pond’s surface, still joined to him Marama searches for a suitable place to lay her eggs. She seeks out an area by the side of the pond where vegetation is thick. Together they hover just above the surface as Marama expels her now fertilised eggs into a space between the plant’s green foliage.
“I think they will be safer here,” she whispers. Ariki nods in agreement. Once Marama has laid all of her eggs, he slowly withdraws and glides up beside her.
Without looking back they both speed off, leaving the pond’s next generation waiting to hatch.
“Her name was Honey Murray. You were named after her.” Daddy hands me the photo. “She was different. As she grew up, she felt it more and more. While other girls fantasized about Elvis, or the boy down the road, she found herself having thoughts, about…other girls. Puberty was a horrible time. She hated watching her breasts grow; she used to tie a strap around them, trying to hide them. It was a different time. Homosexuality was a crime. At sixteen she ran away to the city.
She got a job, and after a couple of years she met your mother. They worked in the same hotel. Your mother was on reception, while Honey worked in the bar. They became friends and decided to get a flat together. Finally, one day, Honey confided in your Mother. She was astounded at your Mother’s reaction. She said she’d already figured it out.”
As he speaks I look at the photo in my hands. I wish I’d known the woman Mother was then.
“Are you sure we’re talking about the same woman?”
“I imagine it’s hard to believe, but your Mother wasn’t always so…your Mother.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Because…” But I already know what he’s going to say. Staring out at me from the photo are those beautiful greenstone eyes. The hair’s longer, and the features softer, but I realise why I’d always thought I was missing something that was right there. “Honey was me.”
“You’re a woman?” Could this get any weirder?
“On paper. Yes.”
“This is not…what I expected…coming here. A woman? Really? And Mother, Mother was a…my Mother. Really?” I was beginning to feel like the ice cube again.
“Honey, are you okay?” He sounds worried.
“No. No, I don’t think I am. But I think – before I run screaming from this house – you better…tell me the rest.”
“I was in love with your mother, and unbelievably, she felt the same. We had to be careful, being against the law, and socially, well…we kept it secret. It was harder for her, she was raised Catholic. In the beginning, I think that was part of the attraction. As it went on, she started having doubts, damn Catholic guilt. Then she wanted a baby.”
“Oh, right, your brother.”
“The rest of your family, do they know?’
“I don’t know, maybe. They disowned me when I told them what I was feeling.”
“But you look like…”
“A man? I am in all the ways that count. I just wasn’t born that way.”
“Hormones? Really? Even then?”
“Loving me went against everything your mother knew. She tried, but when she started having doubts, that’s when I decided to get treatment. There was a trial. A doctor in Switzerland. I applied, got accepted. I thought if I looked like a man, we could make it work. Honestly, I wanted it too. I’d never had a typical girlie figure, but when things started changing, for the first time…I felt right. That’s the only way to explain it.
Once I looked the part, we moved. Started again, where no-one knew us. It wasn’t enough though. I loved your mother, but she was dying of guilt because of what we were. And I started dying as well.”
“Hormones. Did all this?” Wow. “You still take them?”
“Hormones did a lot, and yes. But there are other things you can do.”
“Other things?” He looks like he is about to answer so I shake my head. I’m not ready for that conversation just yet. “If you stop, taking the hormones I mean…you’ll look more like a woman?” This was the weirdest conversation. God, I’d really like a look at his life thread about now.
“Some of the changes are permanent, some not so.”
“This is a lot to take in.” I am the master of understatement. “Wow. It’s a lot. A real lot.” Babbling understatement.
“I understand. My question is, do you want to?” He…she…no…he, was looking at me with those beautiful greenstone eyes. My Daddy’s eyes, and I automatically stroke my necklace.
“You still have that?” He sounds surprised. I reach out to caress his face.
“Every night, I hung it on the bed-head. It made me feel like you were watching me.” And there, before me, are the eyes that had loved me. I realise that those eyes, like his heart, are my father’s. That they had once belonged to a woman – I’ll need to work on that – but this is my parent. He hadn’t left me. “I’m going to need…a little time.” I still have questions, so many questions.
“You’re okay with this?” he asks.
“I don’t know if okay, is the right word for it. But, hey…it’s the seventies; besides, I don’t want to lose you a second time.”
“Do you want to stay? I’ve got room. I’ll make us dinner, we can talk. All night if you want.”
“Dinner sounds good, but I’ve got a motel.”
“Honey, you don’t…”
“No, I think I do. I want some time to sort through all this. You. Mother. Everything’s spinning. Everything is not what it was.” Please, please understand.
“Okay. I get that.” His fingers trace the line of my jaw. “You get that from my side of the family,” Daddy smiles. “And that’s definitely our nose.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t push that so much. I don’t much like my nose.” He pulls me up. “C’mon, you can watch me cook. I make a mean lasagne.”
“I was hoping you would,” he says. “I always hoped.”