Camp Fire Stories

Camp Fire Stories

By: D.E. Hague

It was night and a quarter moon glowed in the sky. Three men sat around a camp fire in a pine forest. Two of the men were the Dickson brothers. Darryl Dickson and Dennis Dickson.  Jasper Collins was the third. Each man sat on a log and was sipping whiskey from a copper cup. The camp was sparse. The fire, the three men, three horses and a donkey.  There was also a rolled bundle of blankets in front of Jasper. The bundle was synched tight with three separate bindings of rope. Two short legs stuck out from one end of the bundle.

“Ok, I get not all have heard of the Red Ghost but not even the Camel Corp?” Darryl asked Jasper. Darryl had his bowie knife out. He was using it to cut off a plug of black chewing tobacco.

“Oh my,” Jasper spoke with a slow southern drawl. “As I have said. I am down from Louisiana. Our fine state possesses gators, crafty women, and duels. We do not have any wild camels, nor have I heard of anyone riding such a beast.”

Darryl leaned towards Dennis and slapped him on the shoulder. “Dennis, you know about the Red Ghost.”

“Cause you’er always rambl’n on about ghouls and what not,” answered Dennis.

“Well, I find it interesting. Neat to think there is more to this world than the dirt at our feet,” said Darryl.

“See, warned ya Jasper. Darryl sees himself ta be a think’n man,” said Dennis.

Jasper smiled as he adjusted his seat on the log.

“Indeed, you were not lying Dennis,” chuckled Jasper.

Darryl kicked dirt at Dennis. “Well, all you ever talk about is whores and cards.”  

“Ladies do make ya nervous brother,” laughed Dennis.

Dropping his bowie knife and tobacco plug, Darryl jumped to his feet and cocked his right hand back into a fist.

“Stop show’n off for our friend. Ya ain’t no bull dozer brother,” said Dennis

“You keep digging, I’ll wipe you.” said Darryl.

 Ya ain’t lick me yet,” laughed Dennis.

Darryl spit tobacco juice into the dirt. He relaxed his fists and sat back down.

“Mr. Bill. S. Quire was very accurate about you two gentlemen. Wild,” laughed Jasper.

Jasper slid his butt down to the dirt and leaned his back against his log. Placing his legs up on the large bundle of blankets he tipped back his hat.

“He breath’n?” asked Dennis nodding towards the bundle.

Jasper shook his head. “Oh yes, indeed. Showed some compassion and left him an opening. Breathing in this fine pine scented air.”

“He is a troublesome thin,” said Darryl.

“Boy don’t get some smarts, gonna be a long ride strapped ta that donkey,” said Dennis.

“Seeing that we have a long trail…” Jasper was interrupted as the bundle of blankets moved in protest.

The two brothers laughed as Jasper kicked the bundle.

“Still now,” Jasper said to the bundle.

“As I was saying, there is a great deal of riding ahead of us. If Darryl has a few yarns to spin, I wouldn’t mind hearing them,” said Jasper.

Dennis rolled his eyes as Darryl slapped his knee and smiled.

Dennis tipped back the rest of his whiskey. “Well ya dam opened up the flood gates,” said Dennis as he reached for the whiskey jug.

“So the Red Ghost?” Darryl asked Jasper.

Jasper swigged his whiskey then motioned with his cup for Darryl to proceed.

Darryl spit out another wad of tobacco and then started.

“See, before the war the Yankee’s bought a bunch of camels for the army. Called it the camel corp.” Darryl paused as he picked up his bowie knife and plug of tobacco. “Wanted to see if them camels were better for exploring the west then horses and asses.”

“Where did they purchase the camels from?” asked Jasper.

“Some Prince from across the ocean,” answered Darryl.

“Still say horses are best,” Dennis cut in.

“Well they aint,” Darryl shot back.

“Ain’t no lady gonna be smitten with a clown on top a camel.”

“See, whores and cards,” said Darryl looking at Jasper then Dennis. “Brother, you are lucky you have me to keep you alive.”

Dennis choked on his whiskey. “Keep me alive, ya barely can put you’er boots on without me.”

“Put my boots on?” Tobacco flew from Darryl’s mouth. “You are the one that got stuck in Rattler Canyon.”

Dennis dropped his whiskey cup and stood. “Stuck? I found the money ya lost.”

Darryl stabbed his bowie knife into the dirt then jumped to his feet, “By god you did.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen. Calm down, you are up setting my foot rest,” said Jasper has he nudged the heel of his boot into the bundle of blankets.

Darryl and Dennis kept their eye’s locked on each other as Darryl sat back down.

“Please go on,” Jasper said to Darryl.

Darryl raised his hands high into the air then clapped them together. “So the U.S. Army had all these camels. Set up an expedition, went out into the desert. A race against another team with horses and mules.” Darryl paused. “I think it was mules also. But that doesn’t matter. So it is all set up. Gonna prove how great camels are. And well, of course the camel’s win.

“Was it close?” asked Jasper.

“Not even. Camels hauled more tonnage faster than the horse team.”

Jasper’s brow curled as he sipped his whiskey. “So, why are we not all riding camel’s?” Jasper asked.

“Write that Prince, maybe he sell ya one,” laughed Dennis.

Jasper shook his head at Dennis. “So what happened?” Jasper asked Darryl

“The war.” Darryl spit out tobacco. “The war came about right after, just like everything else what was important the day before got done forgot the next.”

“What did they do with the camels?” Asked Jasper.

“Sold a few of them. But most they just let go,” answered Darryl.

“I never seen no camels. And I have been all the way ta California,” said Dennis.

“Ain’t gonna see no camels inside brothels,” Darryl shot back.

“Have any been spotted?” asked Jasper.

“Oh yeah, out around the dust bowl by mount Kilpatrick and I heard around Angel Hole gap.” Darryl patted his belly. “Heard some been shot an eaten.”

“People eat them?” asked Jasper.

“Oh yeah, a miner in Texas told me he would make a stew. Think it was a pinch of salt and…”

“Darryl,” Dennis cut in. “That drunk miner was pull’n you’er leg.”

“Dennis, I swear you are always interrupting.”

“Get ta the one part so ya can stop this yapp’n and get some sleep,” said Dennis as he reached behind himself and grabbed his bed roll.

Darryl chugged down the rest of his whiskey and motioned for Dennis to pass him the jug. Dennis tossed the whiskey jug to Darryl.

“Thank you brother,” said Darryl as he refilled his copper cup.

“See, story is there was one very troublesome camel in the whole bunch an evil one.” Darryl stopped and sipped his whiskey. “Had dark red hair, like red clay. Was bigger, meaner even smarter than the rest. None could get it under control.”

Darryl paused and wiped tobacco spit from his chin

 “It was left at Fort Johansson with a skeleton crew of soliders.” Darryl shook his head. “Well boredom and soldiers never ends well. And after a few to many days of that beast raising hell one of them privates decided he was gonna teach it to behave.”

“Darryl, may I jump in with a question?” Jasper pointed his copper cup at Darryl. “I don’t mean to sound doubtful about your tale. But…” Jasper paused “But how is it again that you came upon this information?”

Darryl smiled. “Few years back held up a stage couch. Had a scared shitless blue belly inside. A deserter.”

“Penniless soldier, bout everyone in that coach was a pauper,” Dennis added.   

“Them coach horses got us a few dollars,” said Darryl.

Dennis tipped his cup towards Darryl in agreement.

“Blue Belly told us how it took all four of the soldiers to lure that camel into a chute.  And then about two hours to get a saddle on it. That beast was awfully bitter about the whole affair,” said Darryl.

Darryl picked up his bowie knife and plug of tobacco. He sheathed his knife and wrapped up his tobacco and jammed it down into his pocket. Placing his brown Derby on his head he stood. Grabbing imaginary reins, he mimicked saddling the hump of a camel.

“Now, the solider who mounted this creature fancied himself bit of a rodeo rider. Even had on a pair of red leather boots. And he had his buddies tie himself and them boots to that animal so he couldn’t go get bucked off.”

Darryl shook his head and waved his hat in the air. “Despite that young man’s confidence it was a short affair. Let that red devil out into the carol and it started bucking like the most ornery colt ever seen.”

Darryl began talking faster as tobacco spit dripped down his chin. “Now that boy being tied down and all quickly turned into a negative,” Darryl threw his hat into the air. “After the third hard buck he realized it would be better to get thrown clear then remain on top. And, and …the solider…” Darryl’s words were cut short as he started to choke on his tobacco.

“The… the…sold…” Darrly barked up a black wad of tobacco.

“Settle down brother,” said Dennis.

Darryl rubbed his chest and nodded at his brother he was ok.

“Sorry about that fella’s” Darryl spit again into the dirt. “I just love a good story.”

“Indeed,” said Jasper.

Darryl picked up his derby hat and placed it back on his head. His eye’s grew wide as he restarted.

“So, the solider is getting bucked five ways to a hard Sunday. Panics, reaches both his hands down to the straps. Then snap.” Darryl twisted his neck high and to the left. “About the sixth hard buck snapped that young soldiers neck.”

Darryl pretended to go limp from atop a saddle.

“He was dead. Strapped down. His body just wiping around as that red devil kept up its bucking, trying to throw that body off of its self.”

Darryl straightened his back and held both his hands out as if they were pistols.

“The other soldiers drew their wheel guns and started shooting at the flank of that animal. Said the bullets just bounced off his thick hide.”

“Probably too drunk ta aim straight,” Dennis butted in.

Darryl looked at his brother and smiled. “Brother, on that I feel your theory is correct.”

“So, what became of the beast?” asked Jasper.

“He reared up on his hind legs and broke down the fence. Sprinted for the main gate. Cleared that in a single jump.”

“And the solider?” asked Jasper.

“Was still strapped atop that camel. Flopping around like a headless chicken. Off they went, just a trail of dust behind them.”

“Now Jasper, brace you’er self. The first part of the story I will label plausible. This next, all fable,” said Dennis.

“Plausible?” Darryl looked at Dennis. “Look at you using a big word.”

Dennis looked at his brother and cocked back his left fist. “I swears it. Before this trek is over we will come to blows.”

“Surprised we made it this far,” replied Darryl with a smile.

“Brother, whenever ya feel like test’en the waters…”

“Dennis, I am certain that time will come,” said jasper cutting in. “But I would much appreciate letting your brother finish his tale.”

Dennis held up his hands in surrender.

“Desipte my brothers opinions, there have been several strange and deadly encounters with the Red Ghost,” said Darryl “Tales of this devil charging into camps. It’s hoofs shaking the ground. Flames shooting out of it’s nostrils.”

“Flames out of this animal’s nostrils?” asked Jasper.

“What I tell ya?” smirked Dennis.

“I admit farfetched but I am merely just passing on what I heard,” replied Darryl. “But I have heard at least two first hand accounts. Bob Bricker and Thomas McCool. Thomas’s wife got trampled to death by it.”

“Thomas’s temper is what killed his wife,” said Dennis

Ignoring Dennis, Darryl continued, “Bob’s and Thomas’s stories about the same. Heard the rumbling hoofs, the screech of a demon then the beast would come crashing into the camp. Stomping on anything it could find. Tents, horses, people. Anything. Bullets wouldn’t stop it. Not even slow it down. And you know what else Jasper. Can you guess what else there was?”

“I do have a suspicion,” replied Jasper.

“That dead solider was still strapped on top the beast. Bob said it was a half-eaten corpse. Thomas said it was mostly legs bones sticking out of old red leather boots.”

“Both these gentlemen described the same pair of red leather boots?” asked Jasper.

Darryl shook his head in confirmation.

“Where was the last place you ever heard of this Ghost being spotted?”

“Thomas was camped about fifty miles from Doolie’s trading post.”

“And where exactly is Doolie’s trading post in relation to the claim we are searching for? This Peacock claim?”

“Oh boy brother, seems ya have spooked this fine gentle-man,” laughed Dennis

“Well, Jasper only your foot rest there knows exactly where this claim lies. But it would seem we are heading in a similar direct in relation to Doolie’s,” said Darryl.

Jasper looked down at his foot rest then back at the brothers.

“Austin, can you still hear me boy?” Jasper said to the bundle of blankets.

A muffled curse rose up from the bundle.

“I will assume that was a yes.” Jasper dug his right boot heel into the top of the bundle. “Now listen you will remain in your bindings tonight. However, in the morning if your temperament is improved we may let you out.”

A muffled string of curses rose from the bundle.

Jasper quickly found a short stick lying next to him and whacked the bundle three times with it.

Darryl and Dennis laughed.

“Looks like we are strap’n em ta the ass,” Dennis said with a smile.

The three men prepared to sleep. Each of them spread out their bed rolls and laid their gun belts to the right of themselves. With boots on the men finished their whiskey and laid down to sleep. The two brothers were fast asleep and snoring while Jasper laid awake for some time.

As Jasper lay awake he took out a gold coin from his right pant pocket. The gold coin was just a bit larger than a silver dollar. He held it up to the diming fire light and traced his fingers across its strange inscription. Placing the coin back into his pocket his shut his eyes and searched for sleep.

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