The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
Part 9 of 20
Signals in the Wind
Joseph and Ebba Stokkeland lay dead near what little remained of their prairie schooner. Their son, sightless since he was four years old, lay next to their lifeless, blood-soaked bodies. The marshal could see the empty stares of fright gripping the two victims’ cold, dead faces. Picking the lad up, Marshal King moved away from the smoldering wagon over to a small grassy area next to a spring fed pond, where he questioned the boy at length.
Adam King was very familiar with these types of immigrants, folks who come to the new land to escape the hard times in their own countries, desiring to find a hope and a more bountiful future in the American heartland.
“You’re quite a shot with that pistol, son,” Adam attempted to comfort the boy and point the boy’s thoughts in another direction for the moment.
“My pappy taught me to shoot. My name’s Elias, Elias Stokkeland.”
Adam continued, “And you got a keen sense of hearin’.”
“That come natural. It just sort of grows like a bush on the prairie, but I also practiced with my hearin’ a lot by listenin’ to things and learnin’ what sounds different kinds of things make. I also practiced hearin’ how far away a noise was.”
“That’s quite a feat, Elias,” the marshal praised. “Can you fill me in a bit on what went on here?”
The boy told the Starshine Kid the frightful tale of how his family came to being attacked and robbed by five outlaws, and how the men beat his father and mother before shooting them. He informed Marshal King that he had heard the names of two of them, “One was called Calvin James and another, Calvin Paul.”
The Starshine Kid immediately recognized the names. Two of the Connors brothers possessed a feature not all that uncommon among certain family groups, two sons with the same first name. King had encountered a family once who named their fourth son with the same Christian name as their first son; they had forgotten they already had a son by that name. To offset the problem the couple called the fourth son by his middle name instead of his first.
Marshal King whistled for his horse. Once the animal arrived he took his canteen and gave the boy a long drink. With the boy drinking, the Starshine Kid considered his options in light of the current circumstances.
“You lay here quiet, ya hear, I’ll be right back, son,” Adam said. “I need to send a message right quick.”
The boy obeyed.
Taking the only piece of canvas remaining from the prairie schooner’s cover, the Starshine Kid laid it over the rising swirls of smoke then removed it methodically at varying times. Smoke billows rose up high into the sky above, climbing to kiss the clouds that graced the heavens overhead.
Just before darkness engulfed the surrounding horizons, a band of five Indians joined Starshine and the boy. Adam conversed with them for a while before coming back to the grassy area to address the youth.
“Elias, these fellows I was talkin’ to are gonna take care of you for a spell, if that’s ok with you. I got to run these outlaws down that did this and—"
“But them are savages, Marshal, Indians. I heard ‘em come down the trail and they ain’t ridin’ with saddles. I heard no leather creakin’ when they was ridin’, and…” the boy paused shortly, “I heard you talkin’ Indian to them, too.”
“Yes, they are Indians, Elias, but you’ll be a lot safer with these friends of mine than most any other place I can think of right now. They won’t hurt you, in fact,” the Starshine Kid took a long breath, “they will probably treat you like a royal king.”
“They’re savages and they’re in our land, Marshal.”
“They were here in this land long before the rest of us, son, and one day when you are grown and wiser, I hope you will come to understand who the real savages are."
“Ok, Marshal. You know what’s best. You’ll be buryin’ my folks, won’t ya?”
“Yes son, they’ll be getting’ a proper burial.”
“And you’ll read some portion from the Bible?”
“I will, son. Your parents would be a might proud of you, ya know.”
After gathering up enough rocks for the two rural graves, Marshal King completed the task at hand, then watered his horse and proceeded onward, onward into the starlit darkness of night.
Following the light of the moon, the Starshine Kid made his way along the trail left by the outlaws as the moonlight swiftly faded away and dark clouds filled the sky overhead. Reading sign proved far too difficult to do any longer. Sensing a storm, the marshal rode toward an outcropping of large boulders in the distance. Finding a large hallow area under one of the rocks, Marshal King took refuge as lightning, followed by loud crackles of thunder, flashed in the distance.
Seven miles away, the marshal calculated from the time of the flash until the sound of the thunder.
The empty loneliness of the night provided ample opportunity for the Starshine Kid’s contemplation of that fine line between reality and illusion. This particular night, however, was both mystical and surreal. The charcoal-gray color of the atmosphere enveloped the earth like a dome. The cloud-filled sky appeared far out of his reach, as though it had ascended to a much higher altitude than usual. He felt a peculiar silence, a calm that was unnerving. It was not a particularly cold night, but an eerie feeling of uncertainty that surrounded that rare electrical storm seemed to have a chilling effect upon him.
Over the years the Starshine Kid had spent many a night out under the peaceful canopy of stars that gracefully stretch across the heavens like a comforting blanket, but this night felt unusually special to him for some reason. The lightning flashes that rippled across the sky seemed to echo some sense of overwhelming power; a visible voice that reminded him that this planet is only a tiny speck of dust floating through an incredibly vast universe; a universe that is but a pebble in the palm of God’s powerful hand. The lightning, that beautiful display of the grandeur of Almighty God, was like a personal thank you from the Creator for another night of keeping watch over humanity in his generally thankless lawman’s job.
Jagged bolts of glaring light scattered themselves across the atmosphere, graceful whispers upon the sky, whispers with the awesome power to destroy the noblest of trees. Starshine enjoyed observing the arrows of light strike the horizon with monumental force. Red, blue, yellow, and varying shades of each could be seen reflecting upon the cloud cover.
He remembered something Jesus, the Christ, once said, ‘For as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of Man be in his day.’ Though not a particularly over religious man himself, he thought, What a wonderful sight that will be; the long awaited return of the world’s Savior.
The tranquility of this night’s show of light was soon to end, but Marshal King knew the memory of this natural scene of electrical force would remain etched upon his mind like an ancient petroglyph until his own short vapor of life on earth ended. As the sky lightened in color, a crimson and yellow sunrise appeared to the east. This sunrise was one that had not been emphatically longed for by Adam. He had wished, if possible, that it could have been postponed or avoided altogether. A night of splendor had completed its course. Flowers awoke across the peaceful prairie, unaware of the passing events of the night. Birds sang in gratitude for another day of precious life, while trees rustled in the gentle morning breezes; and the Starshine Kid, he propped his head up on his saddle for a few moments of desperately needed sleep.
* Stay Tuned *
Part 10: Ghost Mountain
The Starshine Kid: Arroyo Grande
By Royce A Ratterman
© All Rights Reserved
Cover Art & Illustrations by Erlend Evensen
The characters, locales, enterprises, entities, and events herein are entirely fictional and intended for educational and entertainment purposes. Content portrayals do not reflect any actual events, locales, entities, or any individuals living or deceased.