May, 2014 Archives

Another story written by my dad about his younger years working in the forest service as a look out tower ranger…

     Red Butte rises above the juniper plains 20 miles south of the Grand Canyon like an aroused woman’s nipple.  It sits alone hundreds of feet above an old uranium mine, an airstrip once used by Charles Lindberg and miles from any other prominence.  It’s a volcanic plug , the only remains of a basalt area that covered everywhere millions of years before.  Red sandstone cliffs adorn it’s south side with a few aspens surviving in this lower elevation rooted in rocks. Babbitt ranches graze cattle for thousands of acres to the east and toward the San Francisco Peaks and Hualapai Indians hold the black stone promentory sacred, leaving offerings at the base on the west side and hold ceremonies there.

I was a Forest Service lookout this season relieving Rob, a tall 20ish single man sharing the alternative cultural lifestyle with my wife, Jane and I.  In other words there were herbal  mind altering substances used by us all during and after work.

This April morning though, I was not alone on the mountain.  Chuck and I sat inside the tiny 8×5 box—the lookout.  It had a bend-down-to-enter doorway. Beneath  A long 4 foot  window that flipped open on the east side sat an Osbourne Firefinder.  A small bare bed with an old mattress was along the back wall.  Snow was blowing about and on the ground and visibility was very limited; like about 400 meters.  A cute little cast iron stove nestled inside the door roasting the place warm with the aged grey pinyon pine firewood chopped to 8 inch lengths, sizzling with released aromatic pitch.

The window was closed, the inside smoky from a grass joint we shared in the earliest fire season of the 1970’s.  Chuck, was a chubby baby faced seasonal employee who when things got hot, ran the slurry command center at the airport.  A skilled exciting job-when needed; otherwise he hung out with this crew or that, snacking constantly and farting way way too much.  He had brought his 44 cal. Magnum Smith and Wesson pistol with a black 7 inch barrel and a brown carved wooden handle.  It sat in front of us under the window as we passed the dope back and forth.

Figures passed in front of and around the little cabin in the snowy mists—sheriffs.  A helicopter had flown above but had to land due to dangerous swirling winds and blowing snow.  People walked the rim of the top of the butte and under the ridge 200 feet below.  The radio was full of..”I’m on the cliffs on the southwest side and I can’t see anything.”  Or “I’m coming up the trail on the west side from the parking area—I got nothing.”  Or “These pinyons are too thick down here on the north side  to even see the top.”

The day before I had walked up the narrow 25 minute steep trail to open up the lookout and take  over for the weekend for Rob.  He had split the lonely mountain to visit family in Scottsdale.  Must be his bad luck or—good.  He missed the whole thing.  The door was broke open.  The mattress was stained red .sticky blood.  There were splatters of dried dark red blood spots on the binocular case (I checked to see if the heavy WW11 Navy glasses were still within.  The inside of the window was flecked heavily.  I looked , heart still beating heavily from the climb, stared not believing.  Looking  rapidly over my observer’s area of responsibility and seeing it clear I walked away carrying the radio back down to my truck.

“There’s blood all over the place.”  I told the assistant ranger, Mike.  As I descended as fast as I could and drove back to Tusayan Ranger Station.

The next day with Chuck we heard the chatter on the radio as we sat ,armed , warm and high in Red Butte Lookout.

“We’ve found it!  Bring the stretcher.”

Inside a matted dirty sleeping bag was a woman-dead- thrown over the side of the top of the butte and down, smashing 100 feet lower into a juniper tree that deputies had walked under , all day, not looking up.  The woman had been shot” in all her orifices multiple times.”  Chuck and I stayed inside.

A week later, the killer had not been found but they were looking for a station wagon with Mississippi plates.  I was on relief again.  The weather had cleared , heated up  and I lay naked outside the little non elevated tower on the still stained mattress.  The red areas held heat and I’d burnt my butt when I rolled over on them.  The binocular case still was decorated with bloody spots you could scrap off with a fingernail.  Rob had left me a present from southern Arizona; one 2” button of a peyote cactus; enough for a good buzz  but not as to incapacitate one.  I sun bathed- checked the woods occasionally with the glasses.  Things were quiet, normal, forgotten; no Chuck, no gun, no lawmen.

At 5’oclock  I decided to head on down back to the Station, but used a bushwacking route and cut out the trail switchbacks.  It was steep but not too loose and not heavily treed.  Part way down toward my truck I noticed a glint, a shining  something down over there in  the thick juniper forest north of the parking area.  I hopped and weaved thru the trees and suddenly there it was, right in front of me; a 1968 Rambler station wagon with license plates showing registration in…Mississippi!

“Holy Shit, he’s come back.  Maybe for me!”  I ran now along the level  ground off Red Butte to my Ford truck and drove away fast.  “ “The car is there, at the base of the Butte on the west slope 150 yards north of the trailhead.”  I was sure all those policeman and deputy sheriffs and helicopters looking around all that wintry April couldn’t have missed it.  He must have left and come back..but no.  The knucklehead lawmen hadn’t seen the tracks or the windshield reflection and on going back found…the killer.  He was a week old dead and swollen near his car, shot.

It’s a sexy place ..Red Butte.  Always had a lot of juicy fantasies there, laying nude In the sun.  Rattlers were thick.  I even had to stone to death two of them…Hmmmm death and sex…..