The Charlie Bravo Story

High on the Plains

Can I tell you a story?
This is one of many stories that, for many reasons, I had decided to keep under wraps for years. They are many of my absolute favorites, but due to my particular location on life’s road at the time they occurred, work wise/church wise, etc, I thought it wise to let the statute of limitations expire before “telling off” on myself.
I have been known to do some pretty ridiculous things. One of these things is to choose spectacularly inappropriate seasons for Charlie and I to get the traveling itch; usually this happens in the dead of winter when temps out in the back country barely hit the teens during day, but often dip into negative digits at night. Hey, I never claimed to be smart.
So there we were: somewhere north of Raton, NM, trying to sleep while occasionally poking my head out out of the sleeping bag like a frightened turtle to peep at the thermometer. You will notice that it me that was braving the cold to take a sounding, as Charlie wasn’t about to give up her spot at the very bottom of the bag. When we hit -7° and it was still falling, I said no mas, threw everything in the car and headed north towards Colorado with the heater screaming.
Sunrise found us up on the high desert, way up where the Rio Grande is a large creek at the bottom of a deep ravine. The Labonte bridge is an ancient one lane affair that spans the gorge, and the river below was frozen into a solid sheet of ice. Charlie and I scrambled down and actually walked across the Rio Grande; probably another unwise decision, but if it had been a wise one, it probably wouldn’t have been one of mine.
We had been down there awhile when we heard a commotion from the desert above; we climbed back up and peered over the rim only to see a tribe of sho-nuff indians just hanging out on the desert, engaging in a little “enhanced perception via chemicals”. This doesn’st seem as odd now as it did then, as I know now that there are numerous reservations in that part of the country. As far as I knew at the time, I was Custer at Little Big Horn, and Charlie was the 7th Calvary. Crap, I thought; they are directly between me and the car, and the car is where my pistola was stowed.
But what was I thinking? If by this point in my life, if I hadn’t acquired the skills necessary to deal with a tribe of herbally enhanced native Americans on the high desert, I deserved to get my meager scalp lifted. I can hear it now: “Hey! Where this white man’s scalp? Ungawa! Grab tweezers!” Or “This one came from the short white man store already pre-scalped!” Not a noble way to go, so I blew the bugle and the company advanced.
As we approached, I noticed one old gentleman was sporting a pristine pair of old world bell bottoms. And I don’t mean a prissy modern pair with nancy embroidery and sequins festooning the hinder regions, but a truly magnificent pair of Levi’s big bells circa 1971. They looked as brand new as if they had came straight off of the shelf of Buffalo Bill’s in Park Plaza Mall.
The parley began in a manner unlike any in the history of the Old West: “where’d ja get those jeans?” He told me that he raised weed to sell in the dispensaries in the area, and there was a lady up at Ft Garland that had a cache of Levi’s stashed away; it only seemed fitting and proper to swap Colorado cush for some righteous bell bottoms.
He then reached into his heavy overcoat and pulled out an orange plastic Fanta bottle. But it wasn’t empty; the bottle had been cut in half, slid back together, and was packed full of the devil’s lettuce. I’m talking a good bit of weed.
“Wanna buy it?”
“How much?”
He eyed it for a bit, then said, “sixty bucks”.
Now we were twenty miles across the Colorado border where the bud was legal, but just beyond that lay the territories of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, where it wasn’t. Besides, what was I going to do with it, even at such bargain basement prices? I hadn’t touched it in decades, and would have been so paranoid to even have it in my possession that if I had even seen a cop in the distance, I would have voluntarily surrendered and maybe even given myself a good cavity search, “just because”.
So I declined; it seems that occasionaly I am cabable of making wise decisions. It didn’t seem to hurt his feelings, and as he slid the bottle back inside his jacket he said, “wellllll, wanna get high?”
Time for another good decision, but then I reconsidered: middle of the desert. On the edge of a canyon and the frozen Rio Grande. Hanging out with a passel of uber cool Indians. With a goofy black dog, flouncing around like she didn’t have no sense. Worrying about my corporate carreer back home, and their ridiculous amount of control over me; enough to compell me to pee in a jar upon command and without a warrant. Nooooo, this needed to happen.
I sat there on the bridge with mi nuevo hermanos, telling lies and chunking rocks onto the ice far below, until it seemed like the sun was due to set. But it wasn’t; it was only noon, and the day had only began to get weird, as we were turning back south into northern New Mexico.
To be continued…

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