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The Hanged Man



The fog lifted around 10 am. Shortly after that a biker blew through. On the road, generally, I've noticed bikers don't hang around long. Except in Sturgis, they just roar up and get off, stagger around a bit, adjust themselves, spit, kick a rock or two. Maybe take a picture, or a pee. Then it's back on the bike and away they go.

All they've got is the ride. It is a great ride. I took a tour a decade ago through Colorado and New Mexico on an aging but game Yamaha 1100. But I don't miss the butt beaters any more.

Moving all the time is a biker's natural addiction.

Listen to me. I'm doing the same thing. But when I stop I have a couch. I have a chair to sit outside. I have a fridge full of stuff. They have....the dirt. And the ride. I don't miss it....much.

Nowadays I like to linger.

On the way down the hill I was undisturbed by the ubiquitous shot-up Elk Crossing signs. But the Hanged Man stopped me.

He was on the north side on a curve, a figure twisting in the wind beneath an arch, bearing the sign "We do it the old way". To the side was another sign, "Dad's Dream Ranch", and a name: Gurule.

I rolled to a stop half off the road behind an old green Ford pickup with no tailgate and a half bale of hay in the back. Nobody visible in the cab, but there was a dog sleeping on the hay, and another in the shade beneath the bed. Underdog and Overdog, each lost to the world.

Is this the best we can do these days? Cerberus had nine heads.

Beyond the arch and it's ominous burden there was a wrecked barn and a lean-to with a rusty tin roof, and next to that a patchwork house. There was a lot of rusty stuff around, in point of fact, including a school bus, various wheels and parts of cars, a horse trailer, and a miniature windmill whirling merrily away.

The figure on the rope was old clothes on some kind of frame, with a gimme hat squashed down on top, and the whole thing stiffened with white paint. Just dangling there, moving in the breeze.

I got out to stretch my legs, and when I turned to get the camera, the pickup in front of me started up. Underdog jumped up in the bed, and the truck made a U turn in the road. I hadn't seen the driver get in. He must have been lying in the seat. He looked hard at me as he passed by. Then he turned right, under the arch.

What I saw I have seen before. A scrawny neck, unshaven, sticking out of a dirty shirt. Lots of these guys on street corners in town, bearing a sign like "Everbody needs a little help now 'n then". What stood out here were the coke bottle glasses, which made his eyes into great circles, like owl's eyes.

"Good luck, Gurule." I thought.

The breeze came up a bit, and the Hanged Man blew out toward me.


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