All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.
Precious Cargo is copyright © The Silver Coyote
And damn if that wasn't as far as that relationship went! Joe thought,
still reminiscing about Heather. And he knew who to blame. At that time,
coming off a bad divorce, he had still been plenty gun shy around lady furs.
Nothing more had come of that evening with Heather for the simple reason that
he hadn't pursued it. He and Heather had worked together for years after
that, and their friendship had grown stronger, but nothing else ever came of
that night's kisses. Ah well, Joe thought, another missed opportunity.
The terrain around his truck had changed, he realized. He had descended into
a sloping plain between mountain ranges. The stereo had faded to static hiss,
he reached up and turned it off. He was now on the west side of the Arkansas
River Valley, headed south towards Poncha Springs. The Sawatch Range towered
over the highway on his right, dominated by Mount Antero, over fourteen
thousand two hundred feet high. Down this way the valley was broadening and
flattening into good ranch country. As he neared the village of Nathrop he
geared down to 55 miles per hour, just in case anybody was taking a
particular interest in him.
While keeping an eye open for local law enforcement, he continued to
reminisce about pleasant trips of the past, recalling another hard-driving
day that had been the non-stop run from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles back
in '80. It had been early March, and he'd been in Colorado Springs for two
weeks on factory training courtesy of his employer at that time, a large and
world-renowned electronics equipment and computer manufacturer.
It had snowed intermittently through the two weeks he was in town, but the
plows kept up with it and kept the roads clear. Then came Saturday morning,
when he left before sunrise after a night's snowfall. The plows had been out
on the interstate, but there was some ice that had formed on the roadway
since their passage, and then another inch of snow fell on that. It made for
tricky driving, and even though he had Interstate 25 to himself that morning,
he kept his speed down to about thirty five or so, waiting for the sun to
rise and begin the thaw of the roadway.
Just about dawn, somewhere south of Fountain in the rolling hill country, he
had been approached from behind by a small sports car type vehicle. The
driver gained rapidly on him, flashing his headlights. Joe had maintained his
speed and position in the outside lane as the car roared by him at twice his
speed. Joe caught a glimpse of a finger in the passenger window of the car as
it went by. "Good luck, buddy," he had said out loud, thinking I'll see
him off the highway soon. The car zipped into his lane and drew rapidly
And for all the times Joe had ever said or thought that about some errant
driver with dangerous tendencies, just this once God smiled and gave him that
gift of actually seeing it happen. He had gone another mile or two south
following the tire tracks of the car that had passed him, and as he
approached the crest of a grade, the tracks diverged. They separated,
indicating the rear wheels weren't directly tracking those in front, not
parallel to the path of travel. In other words, he could see that the car had
momentarily lost traction and slid sideways.
Coming over the top of the grade, he observed the tracks to actually cross
over one another, not once but several times, and then depart the roadway
towards the median. Decelerating to about fifteen miles per hour while
looking towards the median, he observed the top portion of the car, upright
but buried up to the window sills in the snow. The driver, a feline fur of
his own age, perhaps, was standing on the trunk, waving to him, hoping to get
him stop and help. Joe did what any self-respecting Angeleno would do to any
driver who had given him the bird. He rolled down his window. "Boy, you were
sure in a hurry to get there!" he said above the noise of his own engine.
Waving in an almost friendly manner, he fed throttle to his truck and slowly
accelerated back to thirty five, leaving the speed merchant up to his own
devices. The memory of the driver's stunned expression was still clear in his
mind today, going on thirty years later.
Later that morning he had encountered a convoy of Army deuce-and-a-half six-
by-sixes near the New Mexico border, filled with soldiers dressed bulkily
against the winter cold. Other trucks may have carried armaments or
machinery, for they were well covered, but the soldiers sat out in the open
on benches. He fell in with the convoy and rolled along with them for many
miles until coming upon one of them that had run off the roadway and
overturned. There was a command car and two other six-by-sixes there, and
probably forty or so soldiers standing about. He could see injured furs
laying on canvas in the snow. As he was gearing down and preparing to stop,
an MP stepped forward off the shoulder and waved him on. Passing slowly, he
observed an Army nurse or doctor attending to the injured, and observed
another MP talking on a two-way radio.
Figuring that the hurt soldiers were in good paws, he had gone on. That
convoy had been huge. Even after turning west on Interstate 40 in Albuquerque
miles later he was still passing the big trucks with furs and equipment. Of
course, by then he had long since descended out of snow country, in fact the
weather became almost shirt sleeve comfortable until the rain storms started
somewhere west of Gallup. For a while he had been enjoying the sun.
That had been quite a ride. Starting out before dawn, he had arrived home in
Los Angeles twenty two hours later after having driven through most of the
desert west of Kingman at night. He really didn't remember getting home, but
he remembered a girlfriend at the time giving him grief a day later for
sleeping for fourteen hours after that. He had finally called her Sunday
His reverie was interrupted by some noise emanating from a radio speaker. He
glanced down to the two-way radios, noticing that the top one had stopped
it's scan with the words NAT'L SIMPLEX in the display. He reached down to the
radio controls and disabled the scan function in order to monitor the
displayed channel. The bottom radio continued to scan. No further sound came
from the speakers.
Raising his eyes to the road once again, he observed the tiny community of
Nathrop come and go. As the village receded in his mirrors, he upshifted and
fed a little throttle to increase his speed to 65 miles per hour. After a
mile or so the top radio came to life again with a voice relating a call sign
and a location in Salida. Another tongue flick moved the toothpick out of the
way as he reached down to grab a microphone off it's hanger. He sat back
while raising the microphone to his mouth, and quietly repeated the call sign
he had just heard along with his own call and location.
"Good morning to you!" the disembodied voice said from the speaker. "The name
here is Greg, I'm located about halfway between Salida and Poncha Springs
just north of US50. I just wanted to see who was out here on five two five
this morning." Greg continued to talk, describing the radio equipment he was
using from his home, and gave Joe a signal report indicating the quality of
the signal Joe's radio was developing. While Greg was speaking, the blond
haired red fox in the passenger seat next to Joe stirred, waking up.
"Mornin' Greg," Joe replied into his microphone. "Name's Joe, I'm out here on
285 just south of Nathrop heading south. Do you happen to know if the Texaco
station down at the junction in Poncha Springs is open today?" Joe put the
microphone down and, reaching towards her, gently brushed the hair of the
sleepy fox next to him away from her eyes. "How ya doin', Angel?" He smiled
She smiled in return, squinting her blue eyes in the sunlight, and nodded a
bit as Greg's voice came from the speaker once again. "Yep, it's normally
open 24 hours. Are you familiar with the area?"
"Oh yeah, been around here once or twice before, but not for a year or two,"
Joe replied after retrieving the microphone. He proceeded to give Greg a
brief description of his radio equipment on board, briefly identified his
vehicle type, described the quality of the Greg's signal, and prepared to
"You're signal is full quieting, Joe. Thanks for the call back, and drive
safely." Greg signed off with his call, and the radio fell silent. Joe
returned the microphone to it's hanger and pressed the scan button on the top
radio. The word SCAN appeared in the display. Satisfied with that, he looked
up to his wife and smiled again. "Hungry?"
She briefly shook her head in the negative, quietly saying "No... not really."
Then, with a little more volume as she continued to wake up, "Not yet. Maybe
when I wake up." She turned to look out the windshield for a minute, yawning
and then shading her eyes against the sunlight with her right paw. She
noticed and reached for her sunglasses sitting on the dash, placing them on
her face. "Where are we?" she asked finally.
"Near Salida. We'll be turning west again here in a little while, but we're
gonna grab some fuel before we go over Monarch Pass." As he spoke they
crested a grade and a long downhill tangent appeared in front of them. "See?
There's our fuel stop up ahead." Right paw off the wheel, he dropped into
fourth gear to maintain speed on the downgrade. "We can get out and stretch
for a few."
"How long did I sleep?" she asked as she began patting and straightening her
blouse and jacket. Annie was about five foot four, built well in exactly the
ways that caught and held Joe's eye, and most others as well. She dressed
well, and was always the best counterpoint to Joe's denim and leather.
"I don't know exactly, I wasn't paying attention to the time when you fell
asleep. Maybe a couple of hours, maybe a little more" he replied.
She looked at the clock on the dash. "It's after eleven!" she said, sitting
up straighter and reaching for her purse. Down came the visor with the vanity
mirror, and she became preoccupied.
To Chapter Three: Flying High.
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