The Old West Company™
A WALK IN THE DESERT by Captain Kirk October 1996
Dust devilsdance in the dry dust. A tumbleweed scurries past as if to study the stranger in its mist. It is quiet. Desert quiet. Nothing a suburbanite has ever known. Silence as far as the eye can see. Oh, but wait. Something swims rapidly past my feet: in the sand, only a squiggly track remains. There is life here, but its hiding, watching me.
I am alien to this environment. It’s hot, its dry. The scorching sun burns into my tender white skin. Things are sharp and sticky. I could not survive here. Food, water; where would I find it? Where would I sleep? On this mysterious ground where every tiny rock and plant could harbor a creature that could bite or sting?
This hard dry grave-like ground crunches under my feet. I feel I am disturbing something that hasn’t been touched by anyone so big as I in hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It’s quiet. Very quiet. An eerie stillness. Not a breeze anywhere to be seen. Not a shadow moving. In fact, even the shadows are hiding beneath the scraggly plants. But I know there is life . . . watching me; pausing from their usual activity to see if I’m a threat to them. I hope they go on with their business. I pull up my canteen and take a drink - just a small sip - I don’t want to run out of water in this land. What seems inert and peaceful - but I know it’s teaming with life that could be harmful to me: poisonous lizards, venomous snakes. But as long as its hot I’m probably all right - I know these creatures are smarter than I and will stay “down below” where it’s cool - in the ground, under vegetation, rooted into the leaf of a cactus. Not until tonight will they be out hunting. Hunting for prey. I must move on. I can see the town in the distance. Buildings laid out in two rows; just one narrow main street. A thick blue haze hangs over the valley, softening the stinging rays of the merciless sun. In the distance, I see painted rolling hills, stretched out in horizontal layers, one atop the other, each succeeding one a lighter shade of blue. They must be a long way from here, much farther than they look. I’m glad I don’t have to reach them across this ever expanding landscape. One can walk and walk and never seem to get any closer to those beckoning mountains.
As I approach the town, I look for life, a car, a pickup truck, a horse. But nothing so far. It is quiet. Very quiet. I hear no life in the town. Not a single carpenter sawing a piece of wood or hammering in a nail. Something scurries across my path. Another wavy line is left in the sand. It must be from the tail of a lizard. I’ve disturbed him. I hope he doesn’t mind.
I approach the little town. I’m at one end of the main street. False-fronted buildings saunter off to my left. More stand to my right - as if at attention in a military formation. Faded words are painted on the buildings and on signs that hang motionless: “First National Bank,” “Tonsilori,” “Grain and Feed.” It’s eerily quiet. I expect life here - this is a town isn’t it? No, it’s a movie set! A western town built for the sole purpose of recreating a piece of American History on a few feet of celluloid. But it now sits here all by its lonesome - waiting for another film producer to bring it to life again - if only for a moment in time - the sounds of children playing - horses clopping, wagon trace chains clattering, people scurrying across the dusty street. The sound of boots with spurs on a boardwalk. The report of a gun shot and the plunk of a body. But it’s quiet. Eerily quiet. I mosey on down the middle of the street - looking this way and that - I can’t see into the windows - they’re dark and all the doors are closed. When I reach the far end of the street, I’ll return, but this time I’ll take one of the boardwalks back. I’ll try all the doors, peek in all the windows. But I already know the truth - I know I won’t discover anything new - I know the doors won’t open - I know that if I wrap my hands around my face and stare into a window, I’ll only see blackness; I’ll see my own reflection: that of the stranger. That is all that I’ll see. I’ll not see anyone around a card table playing poker, no one standing with one foot on a brass rail and one elbow on the bar, a shot glass in hand. For there is not even a room - not even a dusty, vacant room - you see I know this is just a “movie town” - a set to recreate life on a piece of cellulose with holes in it. I know the truth: these are false-fronted Victorian buildings in more than one sense of the word. Here, come around the back - these are not buildings at all - a single wall is held upright - towering toward the ski - held up by a couple of diagonal supports staked to the ground. This town is an illusion - not a town at all - no one has ever lived here - the next high wind will probably blow down the First National Bank and maybe even the Crystal Palace Hotel.
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This Month's Video: The Road To El Dorito
Railroads were critical to developing the American West. Making it possible for goods, like cattle, corn and wheat, to be shipped back East... See more on the "RAILROADING" page.
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A commercial for the 2012 Superbowl starring Joshua Harter and Don Kirk (The Captain). Unfortunantly, it wasn't aired or The captain would be an A-list star by now. Yeah, right!
This Month's Slide Show: Steam Railroads