It was long about high noon when Buck Clay drifted into town, framed on either side by a fleeting high-desert dust diablo, kicked up by a blistering Santa Ana wind. “It looked like trouble ahead,” Clay thought, and he meant it too, by thunder!

With a ‘ka-ching’ and another ‘ka-ching’ sound of spurs, Buck stopped momentarily and stood. The frying sound of a startled rattler’s tail piqued the air. For its arrogance, the snake was penalized by a pungent jet of dark spittle from Buck’s tobacco chaw, which struck the reptile squarely on its head. In the distance hung the faint screech of a Red-Tailed hawk. A solitary road runner dashed across his front.


Ok… there were no spurs, no snake or hawk… but there was a no-shit roadrunner. Something was after it; Buck just wasn’t quite sure what. “Poor little roadrunner,” Buck thought, “never bothers anyone…Just running down the road is his idea of having fun. If that thing chasing him catches him; well… he’s through!” Buck doesn’t even dip, but that renegade maverick does smoke, and did so as he cleared the travel incidentals from the passenger seat of his vehicle. Buck noted that I didn’t smoke, so his well-mannered self profited from the opportunity to suck one before we parted on the prowl.

Buck Clay, or “The Reaper” as he is know here in the Southwest, recognized the potential negative affliction of a surveillance platform that is “burned.” That is, a vehicle that has been seen too many times, by too many of the people you are surveilling, and my truck was so burned by this point that it was actually glowing a nice U-235 shade of orange.

Perfect; fresh wheels means I can get back inside the inner circle of perdition, instead of spying from the outside with binos and scopes. Not hack optics, mind you, like Bausch and Lomb, rather quality fast glass from Leupold. Yes, I digress… with my one-and-only grossly over-extended surveillance vehicle, I had taken to throwing my bicycle in the back of it. Parking my truck at a standoff distance, I would retrieve and ride my bike into the inner circle of debauchery.

We two made a momentary detour around a Super 8 Travel Lodge, a stately institute of nightly requiem, one that was reputed to house sporadic human trafficking operations, and was a magnet to some real gypsy untermensch. Even as we made our slow loop, local gentry of unintentional leisure tracked our trajectory with Vulcan death stares. I know, its supposed to be a grip… but in my story it was a stare—-play the game!