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Angel

He was scared and literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.  He jumped up from his hiding place under a lone mesquite bush.  The vultures landed close enough for Rawley to stare into their beady little black eyes.  He continued to run even though his feet were already bleeding and his legs were aching.  He pushed forward when he happened upon a stream of water in the gully ahead of him.  His heart was beating rapidly.  He crouched to sip from his cupped hands as he scooped the water from the stream.  Rawley remembered from the cowboy movies that he had watched, he had seen that the villains would always cross the rivers to wash away their scents in case they were being tracked by canines.  He immediately plunged into the water and walked waist deep down the stream.  It was symbolic in a way, kind of like a baptism.  Rawley thought, "Ain't no river wide enough to keep me from getting away," as he waded through the water.  Suddenly, he spied a figure sitting on the far bank.  As he drew closer, he could make out the image of a large man of color.  He was dark skinned, freckled faced, and had dreadlocks.  The man looked as if his ancestors were a combination of Caucasian, African, and Native American, like the legendary buffalo soldiers of the old west.  "Hey, whatcha doin out there?" he yelled.  Rawley looked up, "I'm lost," he answered as he locked his grip with the stranger's large outstretched hand.  "Where am I?" Rawley asked.  "This is the Blanco River." the stranger responded with a cold steely expressionless face which made Rawley somewhat uncomfortable.  Rawley avoided telling him of the real reason for his predicament.  "You are about 40 miles outside of San Marcos," he continued, "my name is Angel, what's yours?"  The stranger tilted his head to the side but he continued with his steel cold stare with no hint of a smile.  Reaching to the top of the steep river bank, Rawley saw the sun as it shined brightly directly into the stranger's face and he could see his features more clearly now.  His forehead was scarred.  Angel noticed Rawley's reaction to his appearance and said, "Oh, that happened a long time ago when I was a child." he said realizing that the look of curiosity on Rawley's face prompted an explanation.  "The scar, I mean.  It happened when I was in grade school.  Back then, dark skinned people were segregated from light skinned people.  Dark skinned people were quarantined and not allowed to trespass on the light skinned people's property.  Doing so would be at the risk of being beaten or at worst hanged.  One day when I was out playing in the park, I took a drink of water out of the public water fountain.  I had never been told that a dark skinned person was not allowed to drink water from the light skinned people's water fountain so I thought I had gone unnoticed until a group of light skinned boys caught me by the collar and started pushing me. They pushed me to the ground.  They grabbed me again, stood me up next to the water fountain and dared me to take another drink.  One of them shoved my head down onto the spigot nozzle.  They pushed my head down over and over, again and again, onto the water fountain spigot until I lost consciousness.  I woke up on the ground covered with blood.  There were others who had passed near by but none of them stopped to help.  They just shook their heads and continued on their way."  Rawley knew that those people passing by probably though that Angel had started the incident and wasn't surprised to hear that no one stopped to help.  The story obviously was an outrageous example of mean spirited behavior and of the evil prejudicial nature that existed in the human species.  Rawley knew that the only way to stop the violence would be for each individual to refuse to engage in it.  "What if they threw a war and nobody showed up to fight?" he thought.  "I am so sorry, Angel.  I understand what you are saying and I know about how a mean spirited group of people can be moved by peer pressure to commit violent acts against their fellow man."

They began walking together when Angel said, "If you continue in this direction for about three miles then go over the next ridge you will come to a paved road."  "Is there a place where I might find a telephone?" Rawley asked.  "There is the Braun place, a farm house just over that next ridge." Angel answered.  "I will show you the way."  They continued to walk together in the direction of the Braun homestead as they ascended to the next ridge.  Rawley was speechless most of the time because he knew as a light skinned man that he could never understand the hatred that the dark skinned race experienced.  The actions that came from racism were beyond analyzing because only someone like Angel, who knew first hand from experience and carried the scars that resulted from it, how it really was.  It was more than Rawley would ever be able to imagine.  Yet, Angel still befriended Rawley without hesitation and gave him help when it was so desperately needed.  It was one of life's ironies that Angel and Rawley hiked together in silence.  In this case, the bond of the brotherhood of mankind was greater than the bond of bloodlines.  It was the flame of hope that kept their souls alive.  Without hope, they had nothing.

They saw the Braun homestead in the distance where they parted company and Rawley watched as Angel vanished over the horizon.  Rawley headed toward the farm house where he hoped that the residents would be willing to give him help.  He knocked loudly four times on the front door.  A withered hand moved to grasp the crocheted curtain and moved it over to one side of the window on the door.  A nice but elderly woman immediately opened the door and noticed Rawley's distressed condition.  A wrinkled old man joined her to greet Rawley and invited him to come inside.  Rawley's demeanor was somewhat confused and frustrated and it was accentuated by the damp clothing that he was wearing.  This elicited suspicion from the old couple but being examples of the pioneers of the American west, their suspicions were overcome by what seemed to be a feeling of compassion and understanding.  Years of spending a lifetime living on the land and scratching up just enough to survive resulted in that sort of humility.  Rawley explained that he was stranded and asked politely whether or not he could use the phone to call someone to come and get him to take him back to Austin.  Rancher Braun showed him to the kitchen  where Rawley took the phone from his weather worn leathery hand.  Promptly, Rawley called Petro's mother, Eva.  He spoke softly because he didn't want to alarm the Brauns who were now comfortably seated in their favorite chairs.  Over the phone, Rawley told Mrs. Clickerman that he had been busted by the Texas Rangers but that he had escaped unnoticed.  She was used to hearing about members of the band getting busted and was eager to help. She asked for the directions to the Braun's homestead and said that she was on the way.

Mr. and Mrs. Braun and Rawley found a shady place on the front porch to sit and wait for Eva to arrive.  They sat.  They rocked and talked about Jesus.  The old man said, "You know, along with his good days, Jesus had his bad days too."  "Really?," Rawley responded.  "Yes, take for an example the time when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.  And what about the time when Jesus wanted figs and found the tree barren so he cursed the tree never to bear fruit again.  Jesus Christ was a human being with human emotions.  He was not always the perfectly easygoing character who we want to believe he was."  Rawley was surprised.  "Jesus also taught that we should 'turn the other cheek' when we are offended, right?"  the homesteader asked.  Rawley was caught by surprise hearing this from a character who he would have expected to have a normal inclination to be a stereotypical and traditional conservative but, in fact, was something of the contrary.  "Doesn't that seem to be a contradiction when Jesus said 'turn the other cheek' and then went out to the temple and trashed it?"  Rawley asked.  The old man shrugged.  Rawley continued to make his point, "Jesus taught that we should 'turn the other cheek', right?  Well, isn't it a contradiction for him to commit a violent act when it is contrary to his own beliefs?  He objected to the money changers' thievery and committed an act of aggression by throwing the money changers out of the temple which makes him a hypocrite, doesn't it?"  Rawley paused.  "Well," the old man said, "it proves that the difference between right and wrong depends on the circumstances or, as an old cowboy I once knew put it, 'what side of the fence you are on.'" Rawley laughed and said "I guess you have to learn to take it as well as dish it out !"  "Yes sir, it all depends on the circumstances.  There are always two sides to every story." said Mr. Braun.  They rocked musing over their philosophical insights.  Unknowingly, or maybe it was intentional, the wise old man had described Rawley's situation.  He had been through a harrowing experience that the old man sensed.  As they spoke the sun was making its way behind the clouds and dusk arrived as the sky took on an orange striated hue paralleling the distant ridges.  Later, Mrs. Clickerman pulled her car into the gravel driveway leading up to the farm house.  Rawley left the old man and his wrinkled wife behind at the homestead that was full of the memories and experiences that had shaped their lives on that dusty ranch in the hill country in west Texas, rocking peacefully in their creaky wooden rocking chairs on their favorite front porch watching the sun go down together one more time.

Arriving in Austin that evening, Eva offered Rawley the use of her shower to freshen up which he quickly accepted.  He made a few calls to various hippie abodes to hear of any rumors which may have been circulating about the days events.  A warrant had been issued for Rawley's arrest and the Sheriff had issued an all points bulletin to be on the look out for him.  Rawley thought it was time to leave town.  He called Max and George, two  friends in Houston, who promised to make their way to Austin as soon as possible to rescue him.  They agreed to pick him up and to take him away from Austin and back to Houston.