Black Eagle Down

Black Eagle Down

by Mike Kuzara

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477264072
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/10/2012
Pages: 188
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.43(d)

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Black Eagle Down


By Mike Kuzara

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2012 Mike Kuzara
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6407-2


Chapter One

Curiosity

OCT. 1, 3:30 pm, 8,234 feet above sea level, just below a place known locally as Elephant Rock in the Big Horn Mountains of north central Wyoming:

Jerry "Pat" Garrett leaned from his horse and rubbed at the light frost covering the Plexiglas window of an old blue two-horse trailer that had been parked off on the side of what the native population called a road.

Actually, road was merely a euphemism used to describe the remnants of the old logging trail that paralleled the northerly flowing Big Swampy Creek. The boulder pile about a hundred yards south of the horse trailer, was where larger vehicles had to turn around. Foot traffic, horses, and ATVs could pick their way around to continue on south.

The forest in this area was a good blend of ancient, old- and new-growth timber. The 1890s had seen extensive cutting by hand by that hardy breed of tough men known as "tie hackers." They were gone by 1913. The forest rested and recovered so that by the 1950s one could walk through a forested mountainside that contained burnt snags, 150-year-old stumps with still-visible ax marks, smooth-sawed stumps from selective cutting, trees of every age, and rotting remnants of the wooden flume that carried away the hand-hewed railroad ties. Recent logging left open patches creating "parks" that were slowly relinquishing their openness to young seedling trees providing excellent elk habitat.

There were a few camps further up in parks near the end of the trail under a ridge called "The Arm" supplied by either packhorses or ATVs, but most hunters staged out of a modestly developed campground where this trail met the more improved Boulder River main road.

Big Swampy road, trail, track, (take your pick) turned into a streambed during the first big snow melt. The torrents of rushing water scoured out all of the fine softer material leaving a cobblestone course that tested the best of vehicle suspensions. Scars gouged into the biggest boulders indicated that it was foolish to bring any vehicle without substantial ground clearance this far up, and yet, here sat this horse trailer.

"Well Rosie, guess I'll have to get down for a better look," Pat Garrett told his horse as he stiffly swung down.

Pat tied Rosie to a nearby tree with the lead rope. In his profession as a Wyoming Game Warden, he had learned that anything could happen any time. Having a horse spook without being securely tethered usually meant a long walk. The last and only time Rosie ran off, Pat found her easy enough, but much to his chagrin, his rifle was missing from the scabbard. Someone had found Rosie, tied her to a tree near a main road, and helped himself to Pat's rifle as a reward.

While Rosie shuffled and snuffled nearby, Pat tried peering into the other small windows on the sides of the horse trailer. It was dark inside and mostly Pat was rewarded by seeing himself reflected back from the Plexiglas. What he saw was a forty-year-old handsome face with a thick, black handlebar mustache, brown eyes that looked out of a well-tanned face, framed by a battered black Stetson.

Pat thought he could make out some bedrolls, boxes, and coolers inside, but the Dutch doors on the back were padlocked as was the side access. The combination locks looked pretty new. Pat didn't see any hoof prints, old or new, leading away from the trailer. "Very strange," he thought.

Pat was just about to inform his horse that he thought this trailer was merely storing hunting equipment when he felt warm breath on his left hand, the thumb of which he had hooked in his hip pocket.

Adrenaline caused Pat to leap sideways while turning and clawing for his pepper spray. "Jeez!" Pat yelped as he bounced off the side of the horse trailer, cracking his elbow on one of the tie-down loops welded to the side. The huge black dog that had sniffed at his hand stood calmly confident, watching the discomfited game warden with mildly alert interest.

"Dozer heard your horse." The booming laugh sounded like it came from inside a rain barrel.

"Shit, Ace! I wish you and this packhorse you claim is a dog wouldn't sneak up like that!" Pat gasped as he held his throbbing elbow.

The rain-barrel laugh echoed off the rocks of this narrow canyon. The 140-pound dog remained calmly watching the startled warden.

"I got some coffee and some clean underwear in my tent," chuckled the man Pat had addressed as Ace as he made a small jerking motion with his head to indicate that his tent was somewhere behind him.

Pat could not see more than a few feet into the new growth the forest service had planted about ten years back. The ten- to fifteen-foot trees were so close together, each fighting for sunlight, that Pat could not determine how anyone the size of the man in front of him could possibly fit through what people referred to as a dog-hair stand of timber.

Ace looked as much like a bear as did the dog he called Dozer. The man wore heavily greased logger boots that laced clear up to just below the knee. His black soft-wool pants were tucked into the boot tops and a blue-green Woolrich shirt covered a down vest. The wool wouldn't have made the telltale swishing sound against the pine branches that so much other material made. The ensemble had been topped by an Australian rainproof hat but it was now hanging down Ace's back by the stampede string. This left the big man's face unshaded revealing ice-blue eyes behind round granny glasses. The lightly lined face was framed by wild, shoulder-length brown hair that had turned silver at the temples. The bushy, unkempt mustache accented a large hawk nose. The thick eyebrows that slanted up with a little twirl at the end reminded Pat of Spock on Star Trek. Pat correctly guessed the hat had been removed, first to keep it from making noise, and secondly to keep the man from running his face and head into any branches that the brim would have blocked from his vision.

As an enforcer of the law, Pat's training allowed him to automatically take in and make note of as many details as he could quickly process, but it was very difficult to do so since his eyes were continually drawn to the wicked-looking seven-foot spear in Ace's left hand.

Ace seemed consciously cognizant of that distraction since he continually turned the shaft slightly, first one way and then the other, so that the sunlight ran up and down the polished surface of the eighteen-inch blade.

Ace was discreetly aware of Pat noticing the spear, so he grinned and nodded toward the implement in his left hand. "Walkin' stick," he explained.

"Nice!" Pat replied. He also made a mental note of a military-style twelve gauge slung tactical style from the big man's right shoulder. Later, upon getting a closer look at the shotgun, Pat saw a sticker on the butt stock that read, "Polish Bear Spray!"

Pat looked pointedly at the shotgun. "Expecting trouble?" he asked, finally coming down from his adrenaline high.

"Nope," the bear-like man rumbled, "just prepared." Then he continued, "Let's have that coffee. I've got something to talk to you about." As Ace turned to lead the way up the road, he turned back to the game warden, "You better grab your rifle off your horse. Never can tell what kind of dee-linquents we got nowadays ridin' ATVs up and down this road and I don't want you to come up missin' another one!"

Ace explained that his camp wasn't that far off the road, but he and his son had packed everything in along the boulder pile covering the tiny tributary that entered Big Swampy Creek from the east. That way there was no trail into the camp from the road. They then doubled back south and set up camp behind the screen of dog-hair timber just inside the start of the old growth timber. Several hundred yards northeast of the campsite the gentle slope of the terrain ended abruptly in a cliff hundreds of feet high like the blunt prow of a landlocked ship. When the light was right, one could use their imagination to make out the rough outline of an elephant with its trunk curled under.

Dozer patrolled parallel to the two men as they approached a twelve-by fourteen-feet wall tent dyed in blotches of light and dark green. The huge dog suddenly stopped and looked back at Ace who eased forward to gently raise a piece of fish line stretched knee high from tree to tree.

The dog ducked under the line, then the men squatted to get under. "Burglar and bear alarm," Ace explained, then he showed Pat how the line pulled a release on a small wooden contraption attached to one of the ancient stately spruce trees. A weight dropped on a pulley line just like a cuckoo clock, which operated a cog wheel that flipped a wooden clapper. Ace demonstrated the device, which sounded remarkably like a woodpecker drumming on a hollow limb.

"I seen trip lines with empty cans and stuff but I don't want unnatural sounds givin' this place away," the big man explained. "Also, I want the sound to distract who or whatever set off my alarm while I see who it is. That's why it's over there opposite the door."

Pat made note of the elk hanging high up on a meat pole outside the perimeter of the fish line. "Can I see the tag?" he asked knowing it would be there.

The warden checked the tag and license. "No trophy, this one. I didn't know you bow hunted."

"No hunt involved," Ace confessed. "Bulls get stupid during rut. You call 'em in, stick 'em with an arrow and hope you don't have to chase 'em down too far. You're right about no trophy head, but you can't eat the horns, right?"

Pat agreed with that philosophy. Then he observed, "Looks like you used five pounds of black pepper on that meat. Does it really keep the flies off?

"That and the bears," Ace said.

The two men sat on folding chairs next to the stove and drank coffee from tin cups that had to be picked up with a gloved hand.

"Damn! If I sit here much longer catching up on family news and friends, this stove is going to put me to sleep. What else did you want to talk to me about?" Pat asked, knowing from experience that the ritual of discussing family and friends was a time-honored tradition that gave each participant the chance to judge and feel comfortable with each other.

Ace got up without a word and pushed some things out of the way on the tent's only table, a slab of plywood on two sawhorses. He pulled a forest service topographic map from a leather map case, weighted the corners with coffee cups, plates, and a can of peaches, and pointed to a highlighted spot.

"We're here," Ace said, indicating a spot where the elevation lines stacked one on top of the other, representing the cliff behind the camp. "Aaaaaannnnnd riiiiiight, um, here," Ace stabbed the map with a scarred blunt finger, "is some kind of contraption sittin' on this knob up on The Arm. I'm guessin' that it has somethin' to do with these yayhoos down the crik here who have somethin' to do with two other bunches of surly yayhoos here and here!" Ace indicated two more places in adjacent drainages to the one they were presently in.

"I think I've seen those camps," Pat admitted. "One is just down the road here at the Big Swampy Campground kind of off by itself. There's one at Little Swampy and it's all by itself too. Then another is sharing the big campground on Gloomy Creek. They are the only group that has an ATV."

"Did you see their little spy-in-the-sky thing?" Ace asked, clearly agitated. Pat gave Ace a short negative headshake. "I think they're using it to spot elk from the air," Ace continued.

"If that's what they're doing, that's illegal, but I'd have to prove it first. Have you seen this thing?" Pat asked.

"Yep! I watched 'em bring it in one day and I saw it crash once. Me and Dozer been hikin' all around since I got my elk and I just love these mountains. 'Course I sorta make note of where the elk are too, if you know what I mean."

Pat understood that Ace Gronsky would be all too happy to inform his extended family as to the likely whereabouts of elk when they showed up at his camp on the night before rifle season opened, Oct. 15.

Pat looked at his watch, estimated the time until sundown, and asked Ace, "Why don't you tell me all about this. You've really got my curiosity up now."

"Okay, but I'm tellin' you now about a run-in I had with those hard cases downstream just in case the sheriff or anybody asks," Ace said. "I'm sorta surprised they ain't raised a stink, but then too, maybe not!" There was an air of conspiratorial expression to his tone.

Ace described how he had heard a strange sound from above the pine trees as he was on a hike down to the road junction two miles below his camp. It occurred to Ace that he might visit with some of the other hunters in the area who were in the established campgrounds. Maybe he could swap hunting stories with them.

Dozer and Ace had followed the sound to the small campground about fifty yards off road just short of the junction with the Boulder River Road that led eventually out to the main highway. Ace stopped just inside the tree line to observe four rough-looking men craning their necks to watch a small helicopter-like machine with four rotors descend into the clearing under the direction of the man with a remote control box. Ace could see that the screen on the control box, about the size of a small laptop computer, was showing a bird's-eye view of the campground. The man with the control rolled a thumb wheel so that the Minicam on the minicopter panned around the campground. The men were all startled to see Ace and Dozer on the screen watching them from the tree line. As three of them grabbed for holstered automatic pistols, the fourth man, flustered and distracted, allowed the minicopter to flip over in a loop and try to screw itself into the dirt and pine needles. The resulting cloud of dust obscured everything for a moment, and as Ace stepped out of the tree line to apologize for the distraction, one man, a mean-looking cuss with a single eyebrow clear across a low forehead, had advanced with his pistol drawn.

Dozer growled a deep warning rumble and the twelve gauge shotgun slipped off of Ace's right shoulder.

"If he moves, I'll shoot your fuckin' dog!" One-eyebrow screamed.

"And I'll be obliged to cut you in half!" Ace warned. "Now, holster your pistol!" As two of the men started to side step, Ace added, "And the rest of you stay put and gathered together, okay?" One-eyebrow was clearly losing it. His stomach muscles were pumping in and out and his breath was hissing as he hyperventilated. Given a few more seconds he would probably loose control and draw the pistol he had loosely holstered.

"You!" Ace said, as his shotgun barrel pointed to the man wearing a brand new Cabela's cap who stood on One-eyebrow's right. "Take his pistol out with two fingers! Now!" The man on the right was eager to defuse a situation they all saw might escalate, plus this wild-looking man with the nasty-looking shotgun and the wicked-looking spear seemed to be holding all the aces.

"Drop it in the fire!" Ace ordered. Cabela's-cap looked at One-eyebrow with a "what else can I do?" expression. "Everyone keep your arms out! And gather around the fire!" Ace ordered.

The men shuffled to the fire while One-eyebrow was absolutely shaking with rage. "Drop it!" Ace nodded to the man in the Cabella's cap. One-eyebrow's pistol raised a small shower of sparks as it fell into the fire pit. "Now yours!" Ace said to Cabela's cap. "Now you, lefty. With two fingers!" Three pistols were in the fire. "Let's get that fourth one in the fire before they all start going off!" Ace didn't need to prod the fourth man, who wore a brand new Lands End checkered shirt.

"Now, I suggest you all dive behind that big log over there until the fireworks are all over!" Ace said, and the four men sprinted toward the protection of the old downed tree on the far side of the campground. Ace and Dozer quickly disappeared into the trees to find a circuitous route back to camp. As they crossed Big Swampy Road and turned to parallel it back up stream, they were cheered by the pop-pop-popping of the pistols destroying themselves in the fire pit.

* * *

"Either they fixed that flying machine or they have more than one because I've heard it or one like it flying over on Little Swampy," Ace told Pat who sat there wide-eyed at what he had just heard. The old man went on before Pat could speak. "Since they need a line of sight, near as I can tell, they must bounce a signal off of that little tower they have up on The Arm. It's got solar panels for power and it wasn't there until these guys moved in."

Pat finally got his thoughts collected and asked, "What makes you think they're all connected somehow?"

"Patrick, Patrick, Patrick! What sort of lawmen are they turning out nowadays?" Ace chided with a big wolfish grin. "Didn't you notice there are four men in each camp? They all have brand new clothes and boots. They have brand new black Yukon SUVs, identical cargo trailers, and all the license plates are from Maryland. And the little peek I got through the tent flap showed me they have more than just cots inside. It's all mighty peculiar if you ask me. I don't think this quite falls under the game violations law, but I think the sheriff should be notified don't you? These guys are no more hunters than I'm a ballerina and I'll bet dollars to donuts they're up to no good!"

Pat nodded occasionally as he studied the map and listened to Ace's recitation.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Black Eagle Down by Mike Kuzara Copyright © 2012 by Mike Kuzara. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Black Eagle Down 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crouches. She stalks toward and leaps out scaring the squirrel up to Darksky.