Devil’s Hole Revisited
A remote location in Wyoming – October 31, 2008
The sun was just beginning to sink behind the highest peaks, as Jake Smith and Travis Jones made their way down the two track path leading to the Murtry place. They shuffled their feet as they walked, brown, dry leaves crunching beneath their Nikes. Uncle Kurt’s cabin was old, in need of repairs, and had never seen such modern conveniences as electricity or running water, unless you count the hand pump used to fill a kitchen basin with water.
The boys loved visiting their Uncle Kurt and had been overjoyed at the suggestion they stay with him, while their parents tended to business in Cheyenne.
Kurt Murtry, a bachelor, missing several teeth, was excited as ever to see his nephews and looked forward to having company at the cabin.
“Ya s’pose Uncle Kurt has any costumes stashed ’round here somewheres? It’s Halloween, ya know. Don’t see many houses for trick-or-treatin’.” Travis kicked at a rock. “Least we could dress up and maybe carve a pun’kin or somethin’.”
Jake narrowed dark, brown eyes at his light-haired cousin, deep in thought. “Think I saw some kind’a trunk up in the loft. C’mon! Let’s check it out!”
Travis was quick to follow the lead of the older boy. Jake always had great ideas, usually accompanied by stern consequences from their parents, but great adventures nonetheless. Travis hoped tonight would be no different.
It was getting dark now, only a small beam of light from the full moon peeked through a dirty window, so Travis held the Coleman lantern, while Jake brushed years of dust and cobwebs from a wooden trunk.
The dry air of the loft held the lingering aroma of dust and leather, an enticing scent to two young boys. Old furniture stood here and there around the room, covered by sheets, looking like a variety of oddly-shaped ghosts.
“Ya s’pose there’s ghosts livin’ up here?” asked Travis, casting a nervous glance over his shoulder.
“Nah,” Jake answered, then, turned to Travis with an evil grin. “Least if there’s ghosts, they ain’t livin’ anymore!”
Travis gulped, his small fingers trembling as he clicked a switch on the lantern, making the room just a little brighter. Jake softened his tone, not wanting to scare his younger cousin from their Halloween adventure. “Uncle Kurt said his grandparents used this loft for storin’ winter supplies.”
Kurt Murtry hadn’t ventured to the loft in years. He was sure the boys wouldn’t find anything up there that could get them into trouble. At least that’s what he thought.
Jake pushed and the trunk’s lid opened with a squeak. Two sets of eyes widened, one brown, one blue, staring at the contents. Hats. Old hats. Jake carefully reached into the trunk and removed a worn, black hat, placing it on his head. Travis followed suit, lifting a floppy, brown hat to his own head. The boys looked at each other, smiling from ear to ear, with the best costumes two nephews could have hoped to find in Uncle Kurt’s loft.
They dug deeper, pushing past coats and vests, until they found it. An old, old picture, fraying at the edges.
“Wonder who these two guys are?” Travis thought out loud.
“They must’a lived here in the cabin a long time ago. Maybe Uncle Kurt knows somethin’ ’bout ’em,” Jake answered thoughtfully.
Sitting on the floor at their uncle’s feet, a crackling fire warming the cabin, the two boys listened intently as Uncle Kurt’s voice lulled them into a sleepy, trance-like state.
Uncle Kurt stared at the picture. “Yup, boys. It’s them. Shared this very cabin, so the story goes. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the West. Ya see boys, a long, long time ago, this place was known as Devil’s Hole…
Jake was the first to wake, shivering with cold. They were deep in the woods. The full moon shone brightly and the mournful cry of coyotes could be heard in the distance. How had they gotten here? Jake’s brain scrambled for a clue, but the last thing he remembered was sitting in his uncle’s cabin, safe and warm.
He shook his cousin awake. “Travis! Wake up! Where are we?”
Travis, rubbing his arms in attempt to warm himself, gave a confused shake of his head.
Jake looked in every direction. Nothing looked familiar, he couldn’t see Uncle Kurt’s cabin, couldn’t see much of anything through the dark, thick woods. He almost missed it, but when he looked again, his eyes caught glimpse of a campfire.
“C’mon!” he pulled Travis to his feet and the two walked toward the distant glow. Maybe the campers would know the way to Uncle Kurt’s place. At least the fire would warm them and keep the howling creatures away.
They approached cautiously. One man sat near the fire. Jake was first to notice the gun belt he wore. He caught Travis’ eye and shook his head. This wasn’t the kind of help they were looking for. Quietly, the two turned to leave. They’d find Uncle Kurt’s cabin some other way, when…
“Howdy, boys.” Another man appeared behind them, gun in hand. “Kinda late for a coupl’a fellas young as you to be out here on your own.” The man holstered his weapon and motioned them toward the campfire and the boys obliged him. “Heyes, looks like we got us some company,” he called to his partner who still sat near the fire.
The man called Heyes stood. “How do you do that, Kid? You always seem to know when someone’s watching us!”
“It’s a gift, Heyes. One you should be thankful for.”
Jake and Travis exchanged panicked glances. Heyes and Kid? Both boys took note of the hats the men wore. The same as the one’s in Uncle Kurt’s trunk!
“So which one of you boys is gonna tell us how you came to be way out here on your own?” Heyes asked.
Jake, who always took the lead, spoke up, “We’re not sure, mister. We’re lookin’ for our Uncle Kurt’s cabin.”
“Your Uncle Kurt’s cabin? Kid, you know of any cabins around here?” the man looked toward his partner who shook his head.
“It’s an old place, sits back in the hills, off on its own. Uncle Kurt says it’s been in the Murtry family for years.”
Now it was the men’s turn to exchange a glance. The Kid rubbed a hand over his face. “You boys are Murtrys?”
“No, sir, but Kurt Murtry’s our uncle. My name is Jake Smith and this here is my cousin, Travis Jones.”
“Smith and Jones?” Kid Curry gave the boys a disbelieving look. “That the best you could come up with? You sure you boys ain’t runaways?”
“We ain’t runaways!” Travis dared to speak up, “And my name IS Jones! My Pa says the world is full’a people named Smith and Jones!” The boy finished with an icy, blue glare toward Curry, which only lasted a moment when he saw the one being directed his way.
“And my name IS Smith! We’re cousins! And like Travis says, we ain’t runnin’ away!” Jake added, locking eyes with a set of eyes as dark and cunning as his own.
“Alright! Alright!” Heyes held his hands up, demanding quiet. “Whoever you boys are, you can’t go wandering around in the dark. You’ll make camp with us tonight and come morning, we’ll help you find your uncle’s place. Agreed?”
Two small heads nodded.
“You hungry?” the Kid asked, knowing two lost boys would be, and again, the heads nodded eagerly.
As the boys devoured the meal, Curry motioned Heyes away from the fire. “What do you make of it, Heyes? Relatives of Kyle’s?”
“Not sure yet, Kid. But they shouldn’t be out here alone. And if they are related to Kyle, he’ll know where to find their Uncle Kurt.”
“So we’re takin’ ’em to the Hole?”
Heyes nodded. “At first light.”
“Ya hear that?” whispered Jake. “They ARE Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry! And they’re plannin’ on takin’ us to Devil’s Hole!”
“But Jake, if them two really ARE Heyes and Curry, how come they’re still…” Travis gulped. “Livin’?”
The next morning dawned crisp and clear. The two outlaws mounted, each giving a hand up to a miniature version of himself. Now, in the light of day, the similarities between them were undeniable. Funny, how neither outlaw seemed to notice.
They rode through most of the day, stopping twice to rest their horses. Before remounting after the second stop, Heyes pulled the bandana from his neck, tying it over Jake’s eyes. Curry followed suit, using his own bandana to blindfold Travis.
“Wha’cha doin’?” Travis asked.
“We’re almost to Devil’s Hole,” the Kid explained. “The path is a secret. We could tell ya, but then we’d hafta kill ya.”
Although Travis couldn’t see Kid Curry’s face, he could hear his smile, just like his own Pa.
Just before sunset, they stopped on a hilltop overlooking the cabin.
“There she is, boys. Devil’s Hole!” Heyes’ voice held a wistful tone.
“It’s been a long time,” Curry added, his own voice sounding sad, like a man longing for home.
Jake and Travis slid from the horses before removing the cloths that covered their eyes.
“Uncle Kurt’s cabin! You found it!”
Both boys turned to thank the outlaws who’d brought them here, but found themselves standing on the hilltop alone.
“…An’ this here cabin itself was built at the hand of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry,” Uncle Kurt’s voice continued.
Two sleepy faces exchanged perplexed looks. They were back in the cabin, sitting by the warm fire while Uncle Kurt told his tale. A dream? Had everything been just a dream?
“Great-Grandpa Murtry said Heyes and Curry changed their ways, tried for an amnesty till the very end. Never got it though. Started usin’ a coupl’a aliases, Smith and Jones.” Uncle Kurt chuckled softly. “Ya’d think a coupl’a men, smart as them, could’a come up with better names, huh boys?”
Jake and Travis looked at each other, then, at the picture Jake still held. The faces of Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry looked back at them, like ghosts from the past. Their shared adventure had been only a dream.
“You boys best be goin’ ta bed now. It’s gettin’ late.”
Jake and Travis hugged their uncle and obeyed. The dream had seemed so real, but now, so confusing. As each boy wordlessly prepared for bed, he emptied his pockets onto the shared nightstand.
Surprisingly, each boy’s pocket held an old, old bandana. They smiled at each other, the dream suddenly not so confusing anymore.
Great-Grandpa Heyes and Great-Grandpa Curry – Alias, Smith and Jones.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.