In the second installment of the Dear Brother letters, Reese and the gang fight a crocodile. At least, if you define “fight” as “feed a helpless old man to.”
Perhaps you were right about staying at home after all. Since the things that happened in my last letter there has been nothing but a truckload of pain on my road. As you know I don’t mind a fight when it comes down to it but I am not sure in my mind that me and the boys were in the right fight this time.
The cops came down to Key West after we did for those Seminoles, and asked Black all the right questions. Florida cops are smart, but I guess they have to be. Luckily Black gave all the right answers, or so he says. I trust him but am just as happy to be driving out of this damned state.
We did some thinking on this Baron fellow on the way to Ochopee. I did not mention earlier, but it was Baron Collier who built a lot of the highways across Florida back in the early days. They say he also invented the stripe down the middle of the highway, which I guess is useful for stupid people who don’t know right from left. I was wondering if the Baron we were looking for could be the same one. He would be pretty old. I guess it sounds stupid but I was pretty excited about meeting such an important man in the history of the highways, and maybe he would understand some of the things I understand. Or maybe it would be a different Baron and I would be disappointed. The way things came out, I hope it was a different Baron.
We got into Ochopee to look for the Baron pretty early on in the day. They have the world’s smallest post office there. Black, who could find trouble in solitary confinement when there’s nobody else in the damned prison, met up with some New York lady who knew the trouble he’d found back in Vegas. We are going to need to go back there someday, when the kid and Blind Joe are a little more ready, but we will need to do it careful. I want to be in a car right next to an armored truck shipping in more dollars to the casinos, because anyone looking for us special will be blinded by the only thing that really matters out there.
Anyhow, the Baron lived way out in the swamp. The people thereabouts knew something about him but I did not really want to get rough with anyone, so we just rented a couple of boats at a price which would feed a family on steak for a week back home, and went out.
I do not ever want to be that far from a road again. I don’t see how anyone can know anything without a clear path, and in the swamp all the paths move when you are not looking. It took us three hours to find the old man and we only managed it because of an old highway sign, which proves that you need the highways to get anything done.
I never did find out for sure if he was the same Baron. He had a ring of bones around his shack, and we broke it, which was a mistake. We only got a little while to talk to him before the bad things started. He was not too sane, either, like he’d been drinking moonshine way too long. Again I say that being away from the roads is not healthy.
Aw, hell. I am fooling myself if I say he wasn’t the real Baron. Ben got the entire thing on videotape and I have watched it several times now. So I should not hold out for a signed statement, and anyways he is dead now. I think I am not going to talk about the way it happened, because it was our fault, but when we meet again I will tell you if you ask me.
Before he died he had a lot to say about roads and gold and silver and I sort of think that the crocodile that ate him was some kind of nature spirit, like you hear about in the backwoods. If so the Seminoles have a nature spirit living in their crocodile pen and they show it to tourists three times daily twice on Sunday. If I could figure out what to do about all this I would do it but I can’t.
He did say I should seek the book of good roads. Well, all right, that is something I can do. Wish it felt like enough. Maybe when I find it there will be more.
I hope you and Ma and the family are on an evener keel than me. I will come by and visit soon and bring the boys if I can. Ma would like them and so would you.