The two rangers leaned on the truck, watching as the slip of a girl struggled across the footbridge swaying wildly in the whipping wind. "Man, she’s a looker," said Roy. "Bluest eyes I ever seen, and she fills out them jeans real nice. Plucky, too. Hell, I hate that damn rope crossing, myself." The gusts had been relentless that day, and now a chill was settling in as the sinking sun cast its rouge on the skidding clouds. The girl inched her way across the gorge on the flimsy-looking span.
Charlie Bear popped a plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth, regarding the slight form crossing the canyon bridge. "Yeah, she do at that. If I was younger and didn’t have Mabel, I’d sure like to know her better. Always wanted me a woman with blond hair. Wonder how long it took to grow it past her behind like that." He winked, then continued. "Wouldn’t get acrost it, were it me. I don’t think that old jute’d support me ‘n my gut these days." He spat, the blustering wind carrying the brown spittle maybe fifty yards, past the edge of the canyon. "I tell you what, I’m feeling my age. Fifty-eight ain’t no party. I’m falling apart, Roy-boy. Got the arth-er-itis in my fingers, and ever’ day I think my face gets more damn lines. Mabel says it’s starting to look like a damn map leadin’ to nowhere."
Roy looked his partner up and down, appraising. "Ya forgot to mention yer hair takin’ a look at that map and running’ away." He chuckled at his observation before continuing. "And yer tree-trunk legs, they look more like toothpicks these days, C-B. I’m s’prised they even hold ya up. But at least yer brain still seems to work."
Charlie grinned. "Yeah, my thinker’s okay. An’ I’m thinkin’ if y’all get any more sun, we gonna have ta get yer hair curled up real tight and hand ya a basketball. Start callin’ ya Rodman, don’t ya know."
Both men laughed softly. Roy pulled a thermos and an enamel cup from the cab and poured some muddy-looking coffee. Turning back toward the canyon, he raised it halfway to his lips, then thrust the steaming mug at Charlie, concern replacing his smile. A muted screech rent the air, and then the sound of something tearing. "Shit. Did ya hear that? The bridge rope’s goin’!" He hoofed it to the bridge anchor at full speed. Charlie dropped the coffee, grabbed the rope coil from behind the seat and lumbered after him.
Roy grasped the anchor line just as it gave way, almost missing it as it snapped. Damn, but it was heavy! Almost ninety feet of footbridge, and the girl clinging to it was fifteen paces or so from the other side. Stuck on the bridge, and a sheer drop to the canyon floor below. They couldn’t let her go down. "Charlie! Help me! Get the rope, and hurry!" His hold on the damn jute was tenuous, and every time the wind gusted it slipped some. He could feel his hand getting shredded. He dug his heels into the powdery dirt, trying to gain purchase on the cliff, and hung on. “Wish I’d ‘a worn my damn gloves. It’s slippin’ on me!”
"I’m here, Roy!" Charlie looped his line around the bridge anchor, tied a fast clove hitch and glanced at the girl. "Hang on, darlin’. Hang on!," he shouted, but the wind swallowed the sound, and he couldn’t be sure she’d heard him.
"Get that rope tied, C-B. I’m losing it!" Roy was starting to sound panicky. Charlie wrapped the loose line around the rotting jute and tied another knot, pulled back on the rope and secured it to the anchor. "Let go now, Roy," he said. "It’ll hold."
"My damn hand won’t uncurl," Roy muttered. "Gimme a minute." Slowly, he freed his hand and looked it over. “Cut up some, but it ain’t so bad.”
"Would ya look at that!" Charlie’s eyes were on the girl. "She made it. She’s yellin’ somethin’ an’ wavin’ at us real funny-like." He turned back to the bridge, pulled his knife and sliced through both anchor ropes. The ropespan fell into the chasm. "We need ta start a new bridge come mornin’."
Roy looked across the canyon. He could hear her now, faintly. "Thanks, fellas, you saved my life. I love you!" The two men watched as she stumbled up the hill on the other side of the canyon. "Well now, don’t that beat all," he said, awestruck. "She blew us kisses!"
"Let’s get back to the cabin, Roy-boy. Oughta clean up that hero hand of yers." He clapped his friend on the shoulder and pushed him toward the truck as the sun disappeared over the mountain for the night.
©1999 - 2021 Mary Barnett / Moodesigns