other out in job lots, and for the gol-dangedest reasons. That sort of ruckus goes on every day, and is downright uncivilized, in this humble cowboy's opinion. And it gets on everybody's nerves.
Let me tell you - and I ain't apologizing for it - time you've sat out a few winters in a line cabin seeing nothing but snow, and rocks and a few scraggly cattle, and your partner's ugly face, and the UFOs playing tag at night over the mountains, well, you get some pretty funny notions. Anti-social notions. Like how nice it would be if the whole world was this quiet and empty. Sort of peaceful like.
But anyway, like I was tellin', Harry and me were even grumpier than usual that morning, seeing as how we'd just had a call from the boss, message delivered by way of Fred's Mercantile, Big Piney. Working for the likes of Sid Halsey - who winters in Denver, leaving us to mind the ranch and freeze our ass off - does that to a man. Makes him grumpy, I mean. So, over a breakfast of burnt bacon, hard biscuits and sheepherder coffee ("dark as shit and twice as strong," says Harry), we formed a conspiracy of two. Harry wanted to bring in his sister Lucy, a poor buck-toothed thing who works in the diner over in Centennial, but I vetoed that right off. I knew what he was up to, and I was having none of it. Sam Evans has no intention of getting himself tied down with womenfolk, thank you very much. Lucy stayed out.
Having decided on the personnel involved, we went to work on the "how" of our plot. This proved to be the knottiest problem, despite the fact that the Big Piney Cinema once ran twenty-seven straight weeks of disaster movies - and we went every week. Remember, the earth is a big place, there was only the two of us, and several billion people we could reasonably expect to be more or less against what we were planning.
I suggested we try and find ourselves some of that 'Ice Nine' stuff that writer fellow Kurt Vonnegut used in Cat's Cradle, a book I read several years back while snowed in at Elk Mountain. One of the summer tourists left it in the bunkhouse. (Tourists are always leaving reading matter around; that's why you find so many educated cowboys.) Anyway, this Ice Nine stuff worked faster than Jim Beam on an empty stomach and froze everything on the planet up solid as a fish cake. No muss, no fuss, no skint elbows. I wanted to write and ask Vonnegut about it - the Ice Nine, I mean - but Harry said forget it. An author wouldn't get in cahoots with us; our ending the world was sure to put the crimpers on his readership. Besides, Wyoming is froze up solid as a fish cake for a good part of the year anyway, so the idea lacked what you might call 'novelty'.
"Well," says I, "the way them rats is multiplyin' out in the barn, we could --" Harry gave me a look, and I shut my trap. I didn't like that movie either.
We thought long and hard about hydrogen bombs. In one of the movies we had liked, some scientist fellows set off a nuclear explosion over a weak spot in the earth's crust -- just to see what would happen. ("Scientists," said Harry, "have got no more sense than tom turkeys.") And … whoo-ee! You wouldn't believe what a show!
Geysers shooting a half-mile higher than the Yellowstone geysers … volcanoes that made that one the old-time Romans had so much trouble with look like a piker … more fireworks than the Fourth of July, the Millennium and Frontier Days all rolled into one. Harry thought all that might get kinda rough, but I liked the idea.
We could find us a bright young college student, I said, subscribe to Science Digest and get some free government publications on atomic energy, buy the kid some plutonium ("Where?" asked Harry), and put him to work in my Aunt Josie's basement in Laramie.
Trouble with that idea was, we never could figure out where to get the plutonium - Christ, we didn't even know what the stuff looks like. And us cowpunchers don't earn much pay. Not like them 'CEOs' we're always hearing about. Anyway, Aunt Josie says college kids give her hives.
By this point, we were pretty well short of ideas, and it was April and the snow was beginning to melt, so that most likely would have been the last of our plotting, if the spaceship hadn't landed.
'Landed' is not the right word. That thing took the tops off three cottonwood trees, banged through the roof of Sid Halsey's barn ("How're we goin' to explain that?" asked Harry), uprooted a quarter mile of fence posts and finally came to rest in the east pasture, killing one of Sid's prize bulls. That pilot did not have what you might call 'the soft touch'.
Well, we found a porthole in the thing and clambered right aboard, that being one of the first laws of the range - plot to destroy the world or not - to render aid to the stricken traveler, even if said traveler has just slain your boss's prize bull and wrecked his barn.
But there wasn't nobody on board. Nobody at all; just some blinking lights and dials and gadgets like you see in the movies, and here and there little piles of a funny, greenish dust. We began to feel spooked.
Why weren't we spooked to begin with, you'll be askin'? I'll tell you. With your streets lit up like Las Vegas all the night, you city folks don't have any idea what goes on over your heads. It's like a freeway up there. And to those of us who see them regular, them glowing balls and flashing lights and rotating cigars aren't at all remarkable. Just annoying.
With nobody around to rescue, we got out of there right fast, and devoted some time to looking over the situation. Finally, Harry got the tractor and the chains and dragged the ship out of the trench it had dug when it came down. We both wondered what all Sid would say about 'soil erosion' and 'ruining his land' when he saw that trench. My guess was, all hell would break loose. I mean, it was really dug - right down to the hardpan.
We couldn't see anything wrong with the ship but some dents. I hammered them out with the sledge while Harry took the snowmobile into Big Piney and picked up a roll of baling wire. You've heard the old saying, "give a cowboy a pair of pliers and a length of baling wire and there's nothing he can't fix." Well, it's the gospel truth. Sometimes I think the West is held together with baling wire.
And that's where we stand. Soon as we locate the doohickey what's busted, we'll wire her up, and it's good-bye planet Earth.
Harry and me, we've been thinking on it, and there's no use our blowing up or otherwise incapacitatin' a perfectly good planet just because we don't like the occupants and a few other details. That ain't what you might call 'polite'.
No, we're gonna high-tail it on out of here 'til we find a part of the universe we do like. My Lord, it can't all be this crowded.
Whoo-ee - Big Dipper, here we come!
BIG PINEY, Wyoming (UPI) - Residents of this sleepy Wyoming community were startled early yesterday morning by what many believe was a visitor from outer space. Citizens reported seeing a large, round, glowing object, "green, with blue lights along the side," according to one witness. The object, which appeared about 6 a.m., apparently flew over the town, hovered, then took off rapidly in the general direction of Ursa Major. Several persons claimed that it seemed to come from the vicinity of the Sid Halsey ranch, east of town. According to Fred Tillis, owner of Fred's Mercantile, the movement of the object was erratic. "It looked," Tillis said, "like it was being steered by a drunken cowboy."