The hum of the steel-belted radials on the gray gravel ribbon of highway and vibrations from my trucks engine are still with me as I easy myself back onto my bed. Two-hundred-ninety miles two ways, two overnights and it is good to be back home again.
It’s amazing the length that I have to go to in order to find an open library with a catalog of old newspapers and magazines. Because of COVID fears, Nevada is again heading towards full-closure and I had to race time and distance to complete my desired task.
The first night, I arrived a little late, so after checking into my tiny motel room I set out to the local McDonalds for dinner. I went left out of the parking lot on foot since I’d seen the restaurant about four blocks back as I was coming into town.
My dog, Buddy was a happy companion that evening. He did not have to eat the dry dog food I had waiting for him in the truck.
A quiet night followed as I watched a station out of Salt Lake City and learned no more about the world than I would had I left the idiot box off. We slept well and come the next morning, I took Buddy for a walk and prepared his food.
He’s a good traveler and comfortable being by himself.
Entering the old library building, I had to wear a mask, having to keep it on until alone with nearly 170-years worth of old newspapers and magazines. Dust from decades of storage and disuse filled the air, the odor of aged paper and ink waft about the small cellar room as a single bare light bulb in a pan-shade, hanging from above, swung slightly as someone walked along the floor, my ceiling.
Like Casablanca, romance and a touch of melodrama.
On and on, piece by forgotten tidbit: Gus Richards escapes vigilante justice but does 10-years in the Nevada State Prison; Three miners fend off a rabid coyote with a slab of bacon; and the first time a palm prints was used as evidence in a court trial. And though I’m no closer to knowing if Wyatt Earp really did bartend in Goldfield or if the Hole-in-the-Wall gang pulled their final bank job in Winnemucca, I did fill a notebook and a half.
I also found the information I was hoping to locate. Yay, me!
By the time I left the library, it was already dark and the wind was blowing bitter and I found myself shivering before I could get my truck door open. Once back at my room, coat on, I took Buddy for a walk out back of the motel, then fetched him more dog food and fresh water, before going to get myself something to eat.
This time I walked to the right as I left the motel and towards a Burger King which was only a couple of blocks away. I would not make it that far.
Past the narrow alleyway that separates the motel from its neighbor, came a bzzt…bzzt…bzzt, the unmistakable sound of a neon sign trying to fail. And I couldn’t fail to see it, bolted fast to the wall above a door, its red and white glow beckoning me to enter the tavern within.
Darkness to darkness greeted me as I slip through the doorway and moved to the bar. The dark was soon replaced by a few low hanging lamps above four deserted tables, a lengthy glow along the bar displaying the distilled drinkables and the pallid and ever radiating glare of a television tuned to FOX News.
I had entered ‘conservative territory’ and suddenly felt at ease, but not quite at home.
And my fortune showed good as I heard ‘buy the house a round,’ while taking a stool. The voice was lost at the end of the bar where two men sat, huddled in conversation, drinking and smoking.
Quick, so as not to miss out, I said quietly, “Whiskey, neat.” And as fast as that, my night begun its sideway spin.
Several shots in and listening to the hot-air gas-bags talk about proof here and proof there, I found myself getting pissed. Talk, more talk, all talk, nothing but talk and not a shred of physical proof.
“Effing blowhards!,” I complained loudly at the TV. “Show me some goddamned proof or jus’ shut the fuck up.”
Quietude, so quiet that I am certain even the TV went silent following my outburst.
As I forced myself to glare at the tube, I could feel eyes burning their way through me. I dared not move my head to look at any of the men, including the bartender, who also stared at this interloper who dared to spout a misaligned opinion.
Finally, “What’s your name, Bub?”
Here it comes I think, as I answered, “Tom. Yours?”
“Gary,” came the voice in the dark.
The silence was long and loud as I sipped my drink.
“You gotta problem with Trump?” the voice identified as Gary asked.
“Not him,” I answered, “But all his fucking talking-heads. They talk a good game but have nothing to show for it.”
“Well, let me tell you something Commie Tommy…” came Gary.
I interrupted, “What’s that Gary the Fairy?”
Downing my drink in a single gulp, I stared into that dark portion of bar, where no one moved, no one spoke.
Finally, the bartender commanded, “Come on — you need to leave.”
I did and there was no tip for him.
Outside, the wind was now a gale and bitingly cold, even with the jacket I had on. The outside lights to BK were off and looking towards Micky D’s, I concluded it was too far to walk and risk getting picked up for ‘public intoxication,’ though I was no where near drunk.
My thought process is such that I wouldn’t put it passed the bartender to ‘drop a dime’ saying, “I kicked a belligerent drunk guy out of the place and he’s walking south on Idaho Street.”
Instead, I headed to my room where Buddy was happily waiting. He was really biting at the bit and needed to get outside, so we rushed out back of the motel once again.
As he took care of his business, small flakes of snow began pelting us.
Done and back inside, I stripped and crawled between the sheets wanting to warm up and fall asleep. The wind though insisted on visiting and it grew noisier by the minute.
It had found a small space in the window frame to whistle and whine. Then it buffeted my motel door, which I was fast to learn, hung loose in its frame.
“Womp, womp, womp,” it banged in and out at each new gust.
By this time Buddy was on alert, all hackles, growling and half-barking at every sound. I couldn’t get him to quiet down and began to worry that someone might complain.
Finally, I grabbed one of the two chairs that accompanied a small table, and slipped the back of it under the door handle and hefted it into place. The door stopped rattling and a certain peace came to the room.
Finally — time for sleep — or so I thought.
After an hour, I found my self still awake. So I grabbed my cellphone and though not my intention at first, I proceeded to burn up all my available data, picking online arguments, trying to get others to understand how stupid it is to listen to a bunch of gas-bags on TV, radio and newspaper and never see a piece of physical evidence.
Meanwhile Buddy maintained his low, vicious sounding growl all night and into the early hours of morning. Needless to say, I was half-exhausted by the time we left the room.
We stopped and got breakfast at Taco Bell and before crossing that long, lonely, wide-open space of land, the great Nevada basin, where the only broadcaster I could pick up was an all talk-radio station. Not even the Christian radio station, the one I can always count on, was clear of hissing static.
And guess what the talk-radio gas-bags were yammering about? All the evidence the Trump team has on hand, proving that the election was rigged.
Aargh! Off went the radio and I continued my lengthy journey homeward brooding in silence.
Back in town, I had one more stop to make: the veterinarian hospital to pick up the cremains of Yeager. I backed in to a parking spot, and since they are allowed only so many people, if any, inside the clinic, I called to let them know I was there.
While waiting an old, white-faced black lab came out with one of the technicians, who handed the dog’s leash to it human. Buddy saw the elderly pup and went crazy, whining, crying and jumping from the back of the cab to the passenger seat and back again.
“Oh, Buddy, I’m sorry,” I said, knowing he’d never understand, “But that ain’t our Yaeger.”
It didn’t help. He continued his fit, which caused my heart to ache.
Gladly, I was called to the door to pick up the box I’d arrived for. As for Buddy, he eventually settled down.
An now that I am home and resting, laid back and relaxed on my bed, I find myself thinking about a kid I knew and how he came to our home for dinner once. I can still see him sitting in a chair we had in the corner of our living room.
I also recall the dogs dancing about him, excitedly trying to entice him to pet them.
However, he refused, clearly uncomfortable with their presence. Thinking back, I knew that something was off about him, especially now, since he’s in prison for the rest of his life.
Drowsily, I scratch Buddy behind his ears as he lays next to me.