As the sun climbed in the sky, so did we.
Climb the embankment.
It wasn’t quite like the escarpment on the East End of the Flattops,
but it was up, nonetheless.
And of course we couldn’t see the sun.
It was on the other side.
We were on the west side, down.
But, it was definitely a nice sensation to see Dawn getting brighter and brighter.
By now we were more than halfway up. And we traveled single file now.
I still couldn’t quite tell who was with us.
It was still dark enough.
Some of the soldiers were in front.
We were far enough away that Sarge packed and lit up his pipe.
On the go.
I muffled an, “all right”.
as his familiar, fragrant smoke wafted down below me, and behind me,
those soldiers echoed my sentiment with an, “ooh rah Sarge”.
When the soldiers up ahead of us heard that, they turned around and could see Sarge’s pipe smoke and they chuckled, “yeah”.
The lighter it got, the more we picked up the pace.
It wouldn’t be long now before we reached the top.
Soon enough there it was. One by one, the front soldiers rolled over the crest. Then Sgt. York. Then me. Then the ‘rear guard’.
Once on the top you could see the aspens open up to wide open spaces.
This wasn’t exactly the way I came a few days ago.
The trail went by an especially thick clump of aspens on the left.
As the Sgt. passed by, I could hear what’s become a favorite refrain of mine –
But it’s funny, I couldn’t quite tell whether the Sarge said it,
or where it came from.
not two seconds after I heard it,
Pvt. Benjamin, carrying Wilson on her back,
slithered out from behind this dense clump.
Was that Sarge?, Or was that Pvt. Benjamin?
“Okay you two,
which one of you just “PSSST’ed?”
They turned around simultaneously and looked at me for only a second.
Then turned back around.
“You’re not going to answer me?”
With Wilson on her back, facing me,
I got a real nonchalant salute from him.
And then a nod.
“Glad you could make it.”
“Funny Wilson. Very funny.”
“But I’m so glad to see you my friend.
Are we going to make this or what?”
I got one big “ooh rah” from the whole damn single file.
Man I wanted to run up there and give Wilson a great big hug.
But, soldiers don’t do that. Do they?
It’d have to wait until we were in private.
So we trudged on.
Soon we came to an island of evergreens and aspens.
Must’ve been around 11.
The sun was almost high in the sky.
This time of year it was not directly overhead.
But the apex of its arc was not far away.
Time to take a short break. One by one we melted into the thicket.
Everyone broke out some grub and had some water.
As we sat in a circle, I figured out it was El Segundo’s bunch.
The “unknown Black Knights”, that I was in the company of.
‘Cept I didn’t see El Segundo.
Who was left behind made some sort of sense.
Sergeant Major White and his two men.
They were the General’s “personal bodyguards”.
And the Rossi brothers.
I could very easily believe those three units would be loyal to the General.
To the end.
And of course Tonto.
I suspect they were their version of Damon and Pythias.
Cookie I could believe would go either way.
But, he needed “an army” to feed, so, . . .
And then there’s Lady Ashley. Where did she fit into the picture?
“Hey guys !!!”
I must’ve jumped a foot in the air.
The voice out of the void from behind scared the ever-living “bejeebers” outta me.“
It was El Segundo.
“Are you out of your mind man? You scared the shit outta me!”
My men are used to me slinking in. I sort of forgot you were with us.”
“Either you’re gonna have to stop doing that, or I’m gonna have to start getting used to it.”
“Why don’t you get used to it.”
“Okay guys, listen up. Tonto is not far behind.
About an hour.
I caught him signaling back to the compound.
The General and the rest of the Army is on its way now too.
They’re ’bout two hours behind.”
“So we got this,
take another two or three, and then we “double-time” it
to Devils Causeway.”
“You got things set up Benny?”
“Like the 4 July!”
“What are they talking about Sarge?” I asked.
“Don’t have time son.
And pack up.
We gotta go.”
“Gonna make like some geese, and get the flock outta here.”
“Oooh rah!” rang ‘the chorus’.
“You good Wilson?”
Benny’s got my back. (that was funny)
I’m good to go!”
I nodded back.
As everybody packed up and headed out,
I noticed El Segundo had slithered away.
Man he’s good!
I turned back around to follow everybody,
but they were already gone too.
I sorta panicked for a nano-second.
Then I caught a glimpse of them beyond the trees.
In the direction I knew we should be going.
“Hey, God dammit, wait for me!”
So, on we trudged. Double-time.
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