The sheriff slowly plodded up to the crest of the dune and looked around him. He had come quite a long way in search of this place and was pleased he had finally found it. He took a piece of paper out of his pocket to check his notes to establish firmly in his own mind that he had indeed found the hideout of the Rainy Day Kid. The notes were taken from one of the Kid’s victims and described the hideout as at the top of a dune in the dessert to the southeast of town.
The sheriff had been looking for the Kid for a long time. As the years went by and the Kid continued to elude the sheriff’s grasp, the sheriff became more and more determined to put the Kid in jail where he belonged. The only problem was in catching him.
The sheriff sat down and stared at the four boney legs aimed at the sky. He began to wonder if this was really the hideout of the Kid. While it was a long way out, it seemed to be a place were it would be hard to hide. But perhaps it had a purpose for the Kid which eluded the perceptive mind of the sheriff.
The sheriff decided to once again review in his mind all that he knew about the Kid. This was something that he had done many times before, but each time he hoped he would see something new or that what he knew would fit together in a new, different, and insightful way. And so the sheriff meditated.
Actually, there was not all that much to review. The Kid was born down the street at Mrs. Jenkins house, but she denied giving birth to him. This was quite possible since Mrs. Jenkins ran an “entertainment” establishment right next to the saloon. Strange things were know to have happened there, but the Kid was the only known instance of a baby.
Mrs. Jenkins had initially taken responsibility for the care of the new baby, but as soon as he could get around on his own, he began to get largess of various kinds from the townspeople. They would give the youngster a half a sandwhich, jeans made of well-worn denim, or a penny or nickel. Once or twice he was given a revolver which was useless since it had run out of ammunition.
As the Kid was given things, he was told something like, “Here Kid. Save this for a Rainy Day.” This led to a name for the Kid, since he had usually been called or referred to as “Kid” or “Hey you.” But gradually he became known as “Rainy Day.” Even after he had grown up, his names had been combined so that now everyone knew who the “Rainy Day Kid” was.
But in becoming an adult, the Kid had changed. Instead of being supported by the donations of the townspeople, he now went out and collected things himself. There were a few things which others could understand. It was no mystery when a potato or half a steer turned up missing, for after all, the Kid had to eat. But why would he want the lovely Miss Arbuckle’s gingham dress? Or Bart Cohen’s guitar? Or old Granny Greene’s thirteen year old cat?
When asked why he took these things, the Kid simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “For a rainy day.” As you might imagine, rainy days were quite rare in a town on the edge of a dessert. But one would in fact come from time to time. Then the Rainy Day Kid would visit the people he had taken things from and offer to sell their own stuff back to them. He only charged Miss Arbuckle a quarter for her dress, but Bart’s guitar was worth a half dollar to him and Granny Greene’s cat was on the market for a full dollar.
The townspeople were quite upset with the turn the Kid’s life had taken. It was very awkward to go without the things they needed and valued. It was even worse when they had to buy back their own stuff when it rained. The sheriff received many complaints. The sheriff vowed to put the Rainy Day Kid behind bars. The sheriff, however, could not find the Rainy Day Kid.
Just today, for example, while the sheriff had been in his office designing a handbill offering a reward for the Kid, the Kid had stolen Amelia Taylor’s wet wash right off the line where it was drying. Amelia hied down to the jail to tell the sheriff about it and the sheriff came storming out onto the street. When the Kid saw the sheriff, he began running down the street to get away. He caused the Wells-Fargo wagon just coming into town to swing out to avoid him. The wagon nearly hit little Jimmy Carter who should have been in Georgia anyway. But the Rainy Day Kid got away.
The sheriff suddenly jerked himself into the present. There was no new insight given to him by reviewing the history of the Kid. He was not even sure that this place was the Kid’s hideout, but it was the only lead he had. The sheriff looked at the four legs reaching toward the sky. It occurred to him that this might be a clue of some sort. He took out the paper with his notes on it and turned to the other side. Now all he needed was a pencil. He reluctantly removed a cartridge from his belt since the bullet it contained was lead and would leave a mark on paper.
The sheriff carefully made a sketch of the four legs rising out of the sand on the back of his notepaper. He looked with smug satisfaction at the rendering, realizing that it was less than artistic but nevertheless captured the essence of the scene. He saw that the sun was going down and that night quickly appeared here in the dessert. He picked himself up and saw the darkness had already begun to envelop the foothills in the distance. The sheriff was not worried. He pulled a pocket flashlight from his pocket and clicked the “on” switch. Nothing happened.
The sheriff let go of a deep sigh, realizing that the batteries in his flashlight were dead, and settled down for the night. He would get going at first light tomorrow, not notice the flash of light on the horizon, and head toward the town of Jackknife.
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