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Western Short Story
Kit Carson, Red Fox and Kit 'n' Caboodle
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Kit Carson died when he was 59 years old, too old to carry on any longer, the half century of damage going deeper than he knew, but suspected every morning he awoke with cramps and an old pain he’d brush off deeper than he’d admit, his last words every night, just before sleep, were as much prayer as promise to himself or his wives, scattered to the winds and the west.

Some folks said his best buddy, Kit ‘n’ Kaboodle, was an invented companion he’d manage to get into a conversation when he needed to talk his way out of a tight scrape or harm’s way. He understood what one teacher wife meant when she said “first person.” His use of language parts didn’t go much further than that, but he’d rather shoot and spit tobacco juice than get engaged otherwise, as simple as that.

Kit had three wives and ten children and was a frontiersman, and holds a place in western history and in tributary pieces in on-going news articles and movies long after he died of an aortic aneurysm on May 23, 1868, but an acknowledged frontiersman of the first order, the kind spoken of as our first heroes, Western history toting them by illustrious numbers, the rank and file of them, those who opened wide the whole west.

He spit the name out when a great bear lumbered out of the woods at him in a rugged Colorado range, the grunts and groans like thunder in the sky, peace all shot to sudden Hell and him saying aloud, “What in tarnation is this, a whole Kit ‘n’ Kaboodle acoming at me, and looking for the one shot of shots to care for the matter.”

“Boom!” it went, a second piece of the sky gone asunder.

The crash of the dead animal went as loud or louder than the “Boom” that killed him at the peak of his age, on the peak of a mountain. Later, after skinning the bear, hanging his hide on a sun-kissed stone, having a meat meal in a third day of meatless grub, he toasted the bear with a raised drink; “Here’s to you, Charlie, or whatever name that might have grabbed you, before I shot you dead.”

Kit was well aware that his shot might have been heard by others astride the mountain, which kept him alert, the first sound was metallic, a trigger click on a rifle being set, or a metal tool accidentally touching a huge rock or a stone edge of the mountain, an Arapaho coming down the mountain as sly as he could go.

Kit left a chunk of kidney on a bare rock, as raw as an invitation could be, and crept off to a different spot offering a full view of the kidney-loaded rock.

It did the trick, the Arapaho smelling the gift first, giving off a smile, taking a firm and hungry bite of the meat, and spinning about with quick searches which showed off a quiver empty of arrows.

Kit, in the best way he could muster a few Arapaho words, and if he could write it out, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t, it would look like and sound like, “Good morning” and “eat,” which came out as “Nil’oo’kb” and “Bii3’ii,” figuring they’d be enough to get him by an hungry Arapaho with an empty quiver, at the end of a hunt.

The greeting did not startle the Indian, who kept on chewing on the kidney as if he hadn’t eaten in days on top of days. showing his large, white, bloody teeth at the art of consumption, nothing like a meal at hand, or mouth, and a free meal for all of that.

They lay against warm stones, the pair of them, realizing at the same time, who and what the other one was, no mistaking either identity, frontiersman, Arapaho, at the start of a new day, the sun bright with hope for both of them, the Arapaho with no arrows for hunting but a meal at hand, and the frontiersman without a target for his rifle, the start of day like a dark conclusion, bereft of game, target, enemy.

The Indian pointed at his chest, saying “Beexouu,” meaning Red Fox, and explained in sign language the habits of the fox, then pointed at Carson.

Kit tapped his chest and said, “Me, Kit Carson.” He said it several times, and Red Fox, nodded and said, with a huge smile om his face, hands up-raised in question, and muttered “Kit ‘n’ kaboodle?” With the most querulous look on his face, without words, acknowledged it was the query of all queries.

The two of them, the Arapaho and the frontiersman, newly met that very day, broke into laughter loud enough to advise the whole mountain that fun of sorts was afoot.

Pretty soon, they’d address each other as Kit or Red Fox, either one doing the initiating, whenever a question was about to be posed in any way possible, by hand or face signal, a questionable look sent toward the peak of the mountain, or to Heaven itself, with its often blue majesty riding herd on everything on the face of the good old Earth, beginning here right in the midst of Colorado, its highest mountain as if riding herd on the balance of the hemisphere.

When Kit began to make signs that he’d cook up a meal on an open fire, with a collection of dry grass, small and dry twigs and split logs, Red Fox held out his hand, as if to stop any commotion, and cupped the other hand to his ear, they both heard the unmistakable call of another Arapaho seeking a response from a tribal member. Red Fox, obviously recognizing the source of the call, put a quieting finger across his lips and lay back perfectly still and, in a sure manner, made himself as unnoticeable to whoever was seeking him

Carson set himself the same way, the two of them hugging the heart of the mountain, lying perfectly still, eyes only seeking movement elsewhere on the mountain, each one doing it as if practiced before between the two, until this day, complete strangers. Red Fox was down to making signs with his eyes, and Kit read the signs like a brother of long standing or long practice.

Kit crossed one index finger over his lips and whispered, “Shh,” very lightly, and Red Dox, understanding the signal, and almost laughing, made the same move and sound, like two thieves in dark cahoots.

The Arapaho and the frontiersman spent the day in bondage, each owning up to the other, knowing the day would never be repeated on this side of Heaven or, indeed, this side of Hell.


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