Chapter 2 – The Trees Have Ears

As the weeks passed, the glamor waned. Bandolero and Blacky were both aware something was missing, but they couldn’t put their fingers on it, nor their ears or noses, and not for lack of trying.

The ears were Bandolero’s idea.

“Listen, Blacky, I have an idea,” he said one morning. The idea was to put their ears up against a tree trunk and listen for a message from Mother Nature. They had a quick breakfast and set out in search of a suitable tree. Mid-morning they had to put the search on hold in order to escape a posse they inadvertently crossed paths with on account of their attention being diverted to the task of finding the right tree. Of course, no posse could match the escapism of Bandolero and Blacky, once they realized what had happened. Nevertheless, it was an awakening.

“Damn!” exclaimed Blacky, wiping his brow with his hat. “We need to be more careful!”

“That’s for sure,” agreed Bandolero. “Say, look at that tree!”

Sure enough, less than fifty feet from where they had stopped to water the horses, having shaken the posse, stood a remarkable arboreal specimen.

At first, Blacky didn’t see it. “What about it?” he asked.

“Tilt your head sideways and cross your eyes,” instructed Bandolero.

Blacky did as instructed. He had learned long ago that when Bandolero came up with strange suggestions such as this, it was best to humor him.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Blacky prognosticated after a few moments, rubbing his eyes. “Kinda reminds me of Mary Lou.” Mary Lou was his mother’s name. Blacky had been unable to speak the words “ma” or “mom” or “mother” since he was thirteen.

“Who’s Mary Lou?” asked Bandolero in a moment of forgetfulness.

“You know,” answered Blacky, “my mmm, my mmm, my mmm…”

“Stop!” interrupted Bandolero, as realization dawned in his consciousness. “Sorry, man, I forgot.” And he really was truly sorry about it.

Blacky, recovering, knew that Bandolero really had forgotten and didn’t mean to hurt his feelings.

“It’s okay,” he said, and they shook hands on it, reaching across from horse to horse.

So they dismounted, hung their hats on their saddle horns, sidled up to the tree and, taking opposite sides of the trunk, gently but firmly placed their ears against the warm, though sandpapery, bosom of a tree that bore an eery resemblance to Blacky’s mother.

The glare of the noon sun beat down on the two outlaws as they silently listened to the message of Mother Nature through the trunk of this maternal tree in the middle of the badlands. The reason the sun beat down on them was that there were no leaves on this tree. Blacky’s mother had lost her hair about the same time Blacky had found his puberty, which may have contributed to the resemblance.

Like the glare of the noon sun, the glare of the mid-afternoon sun also beat down on the two outlaws as they continued to silently listen to Mother Nature’s message. The horses lazily grazed on grass and weeds and beetles, occasionally glancing over at their motionless riders to see whether anything was happening yet.

“What are they doing?” asked Blacky’s horse.

“You mean you don’t know?” responded Bandolero’s horse. Of course, he didn’t have a clue, either, but wasn’t about to admit as much.

“Are you saying you do?” asked Blacky’s horse.

“Yes, certainly,” lied Bandolero’s horse.

“Well?” inquired Blacky’s horse.

“If you have to ask,” answered Bandolero’s horse, “then you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” replied Blacky’s horse, dejectedly. They resumed grazing.

A little after 5:00 Blacky’s and Bandolero’s eyelids simultaneously flew open and they gazed momentarily into each other’s eyes with the sudden realization of mutual enlightenment.

“I gotta pee!” said Blacky.

“Me, too!” said Bandolero.

Mother Nature had finally called to the outlaws Bandolero and Blacky.