I realized today that I've been neglectful in sharing pictures from my wanderings in the hills, so here are a few recent ones for you to enjoy, from my area in the FREE STATE of Colorado, where we still hold the majority of the ground, if not of the votes… I guess the petty tyrants in the state capitol would do well to remember that the ground we hold is—quite literally—the high ground.
Life between a rock and a hard place...in the avalanche zone
Definitely Einar's kind of tree...
Einar insisted on going first, leaving Liz strict instructions to remain hidden in the timber and watch as he stepped out into the open. There might, he hoped, be at least some chance that she could still escape with Will should the thing prove to be a trap. In the chaos he would create as they tried to take him, she must slip away, start back up the slope and not stop to look back. Which chaos, he knew, would prove to be very short-lived indeed, should Kilgore stick him with another of those horrid bear tranquilizer darts—or a federal sniper hidden up on the opposite hill vaporize his head with a single well-placed shot… Despite such possibilities, which seemed quite real to him at the moment—though Muninn, he believed, would have alerted him to the presence of the sniper; if there was to be hostile action, it would initiate with Kilgore, the others sweeping in to finish the job only after he’d made his move—one must have contingency plans. Must try. Must give the little one some chance. They’d not really had time to discuss it, but Liz would, he believed, act to protect Will above everything else, would not hesitate to turn and leave him to his fate, should it come to that and she see some chance of escaping with the little one. It was the way things had to be.
Cautiously, rifle at the ready and ears as sharp as they’d been at any time in his life, Einar advanced out of the timber and made his way step by step to the spot where Kilgore was standing. No shot rang out, no telltale dart-sting serving as precursor to the complete loss of all feeling in his legs, loss of control, flopping uselessly about on the ground—shuddered at the memory—but it might still be coming, and he watched the tracker with a wariness and an intensity which the other man well knew might spell a quick end to his life should he make the wrong move. Kilgore did not move at all, simply lounging against the tailgate of the truck appearing entirely relaxed, both hands clearly visible, waiting. Einar stopped some eight feet from him, scanning the surrounding timber in light that was quickly fading.
“Get in, Asmundson. No trouble on the road on the way up here, but you’ll want to be under the tarp, just in case. Where’s that bride of yours, and the kid? Change their minds at the last minute and head back up the mountain? Surprised she didn’t drag you along with her, that one. Knock you in the head with that rabbit stick of hers and drag you right on back up there, if that’s what she decided…”
Kilgore lowered the tailgate, offered Einar a hand but he wouldn’t go anywhere until he saw Liz safely over to the truck, covering her approach with the rifle and relaxing only slightly when she and Will were safely stowed inside. No more putting it off, then, stab of despair as he hoisted himself into the truck, a wild glance back up at what he was leaving behind, suppressing an almost overpowering urge to run, escape, and then Kilgore was slamming the tailgate behind them. His last glimpse was of the rapidly dimming timber, and in the branches of a small dead aspen, Muninn perched, watching, tilting his head in confusion. Dark. Trapped. Keep still. Don’t panic. One of the hardest things he’d ever done, but he managed it, breathing, focusing on the rifle, on having it ready.
There were blankets, wool blankets thrown in by Kilgore before leaving the house to come back for them and Liz made sure one was draped over him but it seemed to have little effect as Einar lay there on his back freezing against the cold metal of the truck bed, rifle resting on one of his bent knees against the possibility of attack and a final prayer—defense against the plots of the foe, against the snares he’d surely laid for them—silent but fervent on his lips and then they were moving, bouncing down the roughly rutted Forest Service road, through the trenches plowed in eight inches of new snow by Kilgore’s truck and those of the searchers.
Fifteen jarring minutes later they reached the highway, ride smoothing out, speed increasing and Einar unconsciously bracing himself, ever more certain that he was about to be suddenly and violently thrown against the front of the truck bed as Kilgore skidded to a halt ahead of a federal roadblock… The possibility of escape would, in that case, probably depend on the terrain at the roadside wherever they were stopped, and he played in his mind what he remembered of the highway, trying to figure where they would be just then and what opportunities might be offered for cover, concealment, wasn’t looking good, but if he acted quickly enough, if both of them did…
Truck slowing. He half sat up, ready to shoot through the back window. Told Liz to keep low. Saw nothing but darkness, no headlights closing in behind them, no flood lights from above, and then they were turning, climbing, road rocky and rough, Liz recognizing Susan’s driveway, and telling him so. Einar did not relax, raised himself a bit further in an attempt to solidify his shooting position—cover Will’s head, protect his ears, gonna be loud in here—while still keeping mostly below the level of the solid tailgate, hoping thus to gain a moment’s advantage as his opponents debated whether the bed of the truck was actually occupied or not. Foolish thought. They’d already know, of course, night vision and infrared telling them not only that their target was occupied but who and where its occupants were, not that it would do any good, not that they had ever been much for sparing mothers with infants in their arms, when the action started… That made him mad, which kept him conscious. A good thing. Had to stay awake. Having a hard time breathing, getting enough air, and it had nothing at all to do with the tension of the situation. Hadn’t much noticed the ribs so long as he’d been moving under his own power, but he hadn’t been doing that for some time now. Too much time. Getting awful cold. Not that it mattered. So long as he could keep his grip on that rifle, aim true and give them a chance, his little family.
Several more bumpy, steeply inclined minutes, and they rolled to a stop. No one came, nothing happened, silence, stillness for several minutes, Einar waiting, staring into the darkness as he grew increasingly cold and stiff, almost wishing the action would start, if there was to be any, so he could be sure of his hands when the time came. There. Voices outside, soft, barely audible, a sustained metallic clanking whose meaning he could not quite decipher and then they were moving again, rolling forward. Einar tightened his grip. Not long now, couldn’t be long at all.
When finally they eased into their destination and heard the door roll closed behind them, Susan’s voice coming low and reassuring where she stood framed in the soft light of the door that led to the house, Liz had to pry Einar’s fingers from around the rifle—he didn’t want to release it, wouldn’t go anywhere before he had it back firmly in hand—before she could help him out of the truck and stiffly to his feet in the dark, windless silence of Bud and Susan’s garage.