For Tali, the imagined stories of the missing loot just made her sad. Her hopes of helping her mom save their home were dying. “I’ll be glad when we get back, my mom needs me now,” she said.
“Are you going to have to move?” asked Jold.
“Probably, only jobs I can get are babysitting, mowing yards and cleaning houses. I don’t think that will be enough to make the difference.
“Where will you go?”
Lightning and thunder continued, each flash illuminating the ominous clouds in the distance. Willy counted the seconds out loud after each flash. “One, two, three, four, five, six… at the speed of sound, it takes six seconds for the sound of thunder to travel one mile. It took 18 seconds for the sound from that last lightning flash to reach us; it’s three miles away.” There were no trees, caves, or overhanging rocks for shelter. Not a one of them had thought to bring rain gear.
“If it starts raining let’s just huddle up around the fire and try to keep it from going out,” said Ben. “Yeah, there’s plenty of driftwood around, I think we can keep it going,” said Willy.
An hour later the thunder and lightning subsided and not a drop of rain. The gang was relieved and settled down to sleep, all except Bandit. He began growling. That soon changed to a yelp and then a bark, waking the gang. “What is it Bandit?” demanded Jold, as if he expected an actual answer.
Tali was the first to notice, she jumped up. “Where’s this water coming from?” Everyone stood to their feet. Within a few seconds it was covering the ground around them and getting deeper. “We have to get to higher ground…Now!” Yelled Ben. “I remember seeing a rocky outcropping that way.” There was not time to grab any of their gear. Were it not for the light of a full moon, they would have had no way to see where they were running.
Before they had made it a hundred feet the water was knee deep. Kate, Willy and Jold locked arms for stability as the water gained momentum. Ben and Tali did the same right behind them. Jold made a last second grab for Bandit before the rushing water could sweep him away. The water was nearly waist deep by the time they reached the safety of the rocky outcropping. About the size of a house, it was at least ten or twelve feet above ground. The rocks had not been worn smooth like those in the canyon; the first three of them were able to scramble up easily.
Kate looked back, “Ben, Tali,” she yelled. “Ben, where are you?” yelled Willy. No answer. The sound of the rushing water was like a raging river crashing through a narrow canyon in the Rocky Mountains during spring runoff. They could hear nothing over the roar, but the yelling continued. Their eyes told the story; fear gripped their hearts.
Ben and Tali had stumbled and were being swept along unable to regain their footing yet refusing to surrender their hand holding death grip. “Feet first,” yelled Ben. He had learned from a river rafting guide that if you’re ever swept down a river, float on your back with your feet out in front. And that is exactly what the two of them did while clinging to each other. The ground underneath them was mostly desert sand. Unseen rocks and boulders were not the problem, it was the huge driftwood branches tumbling along that threatened to take them out.
“Jesus help us,” yelled Tali. In what seemed like an instant the water slowed to a stop. It left them sitting on soggy wet sand, debris all around. Still hold hands they stood to their feet. They stared at each other. “Wow… can you believe that!” said Ben.
“Yeah, I can,” answered Tali, “that was a miracle!”
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Ben said. “Kate, Willy, Jold, can you hear me?” He yelled.
“We hear you,” came the faint distant reply from Willy.
Ben and Tali started running toward the sound of Bandit’s barking. He must have known it was safe, he had jumped from the outcrop and was in a full-on sprint for Ben and Tali. In the moonlight they could see the three of them standing on the outcropping waving their arms. “Are you okay?” yelled Kate with her hands forming a megaphone around her mouth.
“We’re okay, we’re okay,” yelled Tali.
Bandit was the first to greet them with face licks as they bent down to hug him. When they reached the outcrop Willy and Jold helped them up. Kate hugged them both, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I was so scared; thought maybe you might be killed.”
“It was a miracle,” said Ben. “Tali prayed to Jesus and the water just stopped.”
“Wow! Awesome! How cool is that!”
They all sat down on the outcropping under the moonlit starry sky and talked about what just happened. “Thank you for helping us God,” said Kate. At daylight, they felt safe enough to climb down and headed back to where they thought they had camped. They found the entrance to the canyon, but there was no sign they had ever camped there. Everything was gone. Nothing left now but the clothes on their backs.
“No worries, I’m know we can find our way back to the Shirley Ann,” said Ben.
“Yeah, I remember the way,” answered Willy. “Through the canyon, across to the oasis for a drink, up the winding trail to the plateau, down the other side by the steps and straight north to the Shirley Ann.”
“I’m guessing about four hours,” said Kate.
“Yeah, sounds right,” answered Ben.
Thirty minutes later they walked clear of the steep canyon walls. “Glad you told us to wait last night Kate; we would have drowned in the canyon for sure,” said Jold.
Ben stopped, “Can you believe this?”
“I think that’s the pottery bowl Tali rescued from the cave,” Ben said as he pointed.
Tali ran over and started digging; the rest joined in. It was half buried and full of sand. They dug around it. It took three of them to lift it out and turn it on its side to dump the sand. To their surprise, as the sand poured out it revealed the holster and 44 at the bottom.
“Unbelievable!” exclaimed Tali, “Another miracle!”
“For sure, and I don’t care how hard it is, we’re taking it with us,” said Ben. Then he strapped the old 44 and holster around his waist.
Off they marched, taking turns carrying the heavy pottery bowl. At twenty-four inches wide and eighteen inches deep, it was awkward. It took two of them at a time until Tali came up with a better idea. “Let’s try carrying it the way the Navajo Indians hauled water pots. Place it on your head and balance it with both hands as you walk.” It worked.
Ben and Willy hadn’t forgotten the route, the oasis soon came into view and again served as their lifeline. “Drink all you can, there’s no more water between here and the Shirley Ann,” said Ben. They thought about filling the bowl with water but a hole in the bottom killed that idea. They would have to make it the rest of the way on one gigantic last drink.
Up the winding trail, across the plateau and down the crude sandstone steps on the north side. That took about two hours; another two and they should be back to the plane. However, there was no trail to follow and they no longer had a compass. Willy used the sun and his watch to estimate their heading. It was late afternoon; with arm extended, the sun was three finger widths above the western horizon. Willy pointed the 12 on his watch toward the sun, north would be at the 9 o’clock position. He then faced north and looked for an object in the distance. He spotted a cactus on a slight rise in the landscape. They would walk to that cactus and take another reading. It would keep them moving directly north.
But how would they find the Shirley Ann. If they missed it by a mile or two, they could be lost forever in this endless desert.
The sun kissed the horizon; it would disappear completely in one or two minutes. The gang was losing hope, another night in the desert with no water and the Shirley Ann nowhere in sight. A flicker of light caught Kate’s eye. “Look over there, what’s that reflection? It’s got to be the Shirley Ann, what else could it be?”
“The Foolish Enter…None Return” A full moon and flickering fire made reading the map feel even more like a long-kept secret was about to be revealed. They studied it while whispering their thoughts as if someone were listening through the wall in another room. Not a...
“Eeek! It's a Rattler!” Within minutes they were airborne. Bandit settled down in one of the captain’s chairs, Ben and Willy took their seats in the cockpit with Jold scrunched down on his knees between them, while Kate and Tali sat next to each other on the sofa in...
“A For Real Treasure” Ben called Kate, Willy and Jold to let them know what was up with Tali and that Grandpa Jimmy had a plan. It would be an adventure and it might help Tali and her mom keep their home. No doubt, the inseparable gang would rally behind Tali. Nothing...
“How's That Possible?” The gang climbed aboard the Shirley Ann and locked the door. The windows fogged over, and the engines started. They felt her throttle up, swing around, then stop. The motors shut down and the fog evaporated. Peering through the windows, it was...
“This is Just Weird” “Are you related to Grandpa Jimmy, ‘cause you kind of look like him, only a lot younger.” said Ben. “Nope, not related, I am Grandpa Jimmy.” “That’s impossible!” said Kate. As if to confirm Grandpa Jimmy’s identity, Bandit trotted over,...
“Back to the Shirley Ann” Early the next morning there was a knock. The elder, Tukkuttok, opened the door, it was Cheryl. He motioned her in. She looked at the boys, “Mark's going be OK, he will have to be in the hospital for a few weeks, but he’ll be fine.”...
“We Can Make It” Ben looked at the broken runner. “I’ve got an idea.” He unzipped his backpack and pulled out a tightly wound ten-foot nylon cord that was rated for 250 pounds. He tied one end to the side rail behind the broken stanchion. Then he made a loop on the...
“Danger at the Cabin” “We won’t let the wolves get you April, I promise,” said Kate. “That’s right,” said Tali. “It’ll be okay, Bandit will let us know if something is wrong. What do ya say we keep reading, the story’s just getting interesting.” April nodded...
"No Time to Lose" The short dog sled ride the gang had taken, from the Shirley Ann to the cabin, was exciting but not even close to what they were about to experience. The dogs must have sensed that the gang was inexperienced and hardly ready for the full power of a...
“Answer to Prayer” “It’s okay,” said Cheryl. “That’s my husband, Mike.” She rushed to his side and pulled the blankets back revealing the unshaven weathered face of a very sick man. She sat on the edge of the bed next to him, then reached for a worn towel draped over...