Territory Days in Colorado Springs is a great time. Throngs of people take to the streets to participate in various events such as: live music, Native American dancing, craft vendors, beer gardens and Old West traditions to include learning to pan for gold. It’s my favorite event of the year.
My name is Shame Williams. As a retired soldier I spend most of my days playing video games and reading Western stories. Most of the time, I sit in my recliner and play games though. However, when Territory Days roll around, I head down to Old Colorado City and spend the day participating in various events. My buddy, Barnacle Tim introduced me to this event. To add to the cool factor, Barnacle is a gold miner. He spends hours upon hours out in the wilderness searching for a vein of gold. Barnacle Tim, or BT as I call him, is 5’10, 175, and in his later 40s. He possesses the air of a man who spent his life in a library, his spectacles give him the appearance of a wise old timer, but his youthful smile makes him seem much younger. BT served in the Army, same as I , and we both grew up in the same geographical quadrant of the United States.
Yawning, I stretch my arms overhead and reach for the sky. My phone buzzes on the uranium glass coffee table that my television sits on. I lean forward and cup my phone in my right hand. The digital clock reads 0700.
“Hello?” I look at the name written on the screen. It’s BT. “Why is he calling me so early this morning?”
“Hey bud, you know what today is, right?”
“Yeah. It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost upon us.”
“Yeah, but today is Territory Days. You want to run downtown and see what is going on?”
“Sure. What time do you want to leave?”
“Now. Or are you just waking up?”
“Actually, I have been asleep for maybe an hour. I got caught up in dungeon-running in Elder Scrolls Online last night. Went to bed about 0600. Give me a moment to get a shower and wake up. I will be by to pick you up.”
My one bedroom apartment is small and the bathroom is even smaller. The toilet is next to the sink, and half of a step separates the toilet from the bathtub and shower combo. I shower quickly and throw on a Deadpool t-shirt and a pair of Levi’s. A pair of Under Armour half socks and black Addidas running shoes complete my outfit. “If it comes to comfort or class, I choose comfort.” Twenty-five minutes after BT’s phone call, I walk out to my teal green van and drive to his apartment on the corner of Murray and Platte. BT is waiting for me on the street corner. I pull up and he leaps into the passenger seat.
“Wow, you really must of jumped in and out of the shower. Are you good to drive?”
“Yeah. Where do you think we should park?”
“There should be plenty of parking down around the center of town. It won’t be too far of a walk to any of the events. Personally, I want to do the gold mining panning. It should be fun and educational.”
“Yeah. I’m probably going to hang out between the food vendors and Indian dancing…”
BT laughs and shakes his head. Throughout the time I’ve known him, he has often asked me to accompany him to various outings to search for gold.
“You have no interest in mining do you, bud?” My lips pull back into a crooked grin. I look in the mirror. Laugh and worry lines stretch across my face, and I chuckle. “God, I am getting old.” I punch my buddy in the shoulder.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, bud. I think that climbing the mountains and walking creeks are a good time. I just never have caught ‘gold fever’ to the extent I want to look for an untapped vein.”
Old Colorado City is already teeming with crowds of people when we arrive. After driving through the pulsating throngs of people, we find a free parking space a couple of blocks past a Mexican restaurant, we often frequent when on this side of town.
We walk back toward the town center. Tables of rocks, arrowheads, and turquoise jewelry are on display. I stop and look at the quartz and mica. Various rocks of different shapes and sizes glint in the bright sunlight. As a collector of arrowheads, I paw a few and finally select the ones I want to purchase. Barnacle taps me on the shoulder and nods at a beautiful Native woman who is dancing.
“Brother, look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?”
“Pretty as a picture, man.”
“Um, I’m going to walk over here and check this out.”
I chuckle and nod. BT falls into the same boat as I do when it comes to love. Both of us are divorced. Unlike myself, BT still believes in the power of love and long-term relationships. I believe love is a headache.
A white-haired and bearded fellow takes my money and hands me my change back. His bluish-gray eyes show laughter as I pocket my change.
“I take it your friend has never watched the Natives dance.” I smile and the old man smiles back. I shrug my shoulders and chuckle.
“He has lived in the Springs longer than I have, so I assume he isn’t virginal when it comes to the dances. Still, I can’t give you a straight answer because I don’t know for certain.”
“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. She is my granddaughter.”
“Oh, neither me nor my friend meant any disrespect toward your family, sir.”
“It’s okay. She is used to being ogled by white men and Native men alike.”
“That’s not okay, sir. Why does she put up with people leering at her?”
He gestures around to the crowd of people pushing to get a closer look at the dancers. Then he motions to the table where I stand. I am the sole customer at his booth.
“Territory Days is one of the biggest events that my family works. Tia dances, my wife and I find arrowheads and make jewelry. Between the three of us, it takes all of us to make enough to cover our cost for the booths and gas to get us here. She puts up with it, because the more people drink, the more money they spend.”
“How? How do you understand what I just said? Have you struggled to put food on the table? Do you spend your days trying to figure out how to maximize your funds, so that your child doesn’t do without the basic necessities?”
I look at the old man. His eyes are not unfriendly, instead, they show a tiredness which reaches deep in a man’s soul and forces him to resign to his fate. He extends his hand toward me and I grasp it in return.
“My name is Hank Two-Eagles.”
“My name is Shame Williams, Hank. It’s my pleasure to meet you.” He smiles and nods his head. His bushy beard trembles with the motion.
“Likewise, Shame. “
“To answer your question, Hank, I do know what it is to worry that my daughters won’t have the necessary things in life. I get paid once a month, and I know what it is like to sacrifice my wants for needs. Our cultures are no different in that regard.”
BT walks over to where Hank and I are chatting. Silently, BT listens until a pause occurs in our conversation.
“You ready to walk on and check out other vendors, bud?”
“Sure. I just got caught up chatting with Hank here. You done watching the dancers?”
“Yeah. The pretty girl took a break. She will be back in a little bit.”
Hank smiles and I wave good-bye to my newest friend. BT and I walk on toward the next set of events together.
“Man, that woman sure is pretty. I wonder if she is single?”
“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. Hank is her grandfather. They come here to help offset the cost of living here in Colorado. Hank and his wife hunt for arrowheads and make jewelry, Tia performs.”
“Oh. Are you interested in her, bud?” BT’s eyes darken and he looks away. “Surely, he doesn’t think I am trying to cut in between him and this dancing girl. He should know better.”
“No. I just got all that from her grandfather. I’m not searching for love. When that ship comes in, I’ll probably be at the airport.”
BT and I laugh and walk up to the gold panning event. BT moves close to the front, instantly entranced by the going-ons of the instructor. As I stand toward the back, a lithe shadow pulls up beside me. Too many years in the Army has made me wary of people being to close to me. I turn and recognize Tia from the dance. Dark hair, smoldering dark eyes, and luscious, full lips paint a picture of perfection in the shadows of Cheyenne mountain range.
“Hello. You must be Shame. My grandfather spoke highly of you.”
My words catch in my throat, I shift from one foot to the other while I search for something witty to say in return. Finally, I smile and extend my hand.
“Yes, I’m Shame Williams. You must be Tia. Your grandfather is very proud of you it seems.”
She smiles, my God what a smile. Her white teeth glisten like snow on the mountains in January. Her laugh is musical, and I instantly wonder if maybe love has come calling.
She smiles and butterflies flutter in my heart. I feel like I am fifteen. We chat idly as the prospector goes over panning techniques. Tia touches my shoulder and playfully gestures toward the front row where BT had walked to.
My friend glares at me, and we lock eyes. I grin weakly at him and shrug. BT turns and walks away. Tia looks at me, a puzzled grin crosses her full lips.
“Is everything okay, Shame?”
I force a grin and nod. “Yeah. I think. My friend has a crush on you. He thinks you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” She smiles, and I want to kiss her. “Down boy. Go find your friend.”
“Excuse me, Tia. I need to go find my friend and explain this misunderstanding to him.”
“Sure, I understand,” Tia smiles as she hands me her business card. “I think you and I could have a delightful conversation. Feel free to call me, or even better, look me up.” She winks at me and sashays away.
The sun has reached its apex as I wander through the throngs of people looking for BT. Unable to find him, I pull out my phone and text him. “I’m headed for the van. No need to rush, I am just tired of walking around.”
My phone chimes. “Fine. I’m already here.”
BT sits on a bench near the van. As I walk up, he crosses his arms and leans back against the bench.
“You alright, brother?”
I stare at my friend of nearly a decade. We have hit the highs and the lows during our friendship. We have always found a way to get through the toughest times. Why does it seem like we may not make it through this one?
“Look man, I didn’t know Tia was going to show up at the prospector’s event. It took me completely by surprise.”
I stop and look at BT. Veins taut in his neck, his arms still crossed, he glares at me. Frustrated, I glare back.
“You know man, if you want to talk to her, go talk to her. Don’t let me stand in the way of you finding true love.”
“Screw you, guy. I’m not a backstabber like you, ‘my friend.’ I don’t sneak attack people when they aren’t expecting it.”
My frustration morphs into anger. Balling my hand into a fist, I slam it into the grill of my van. My vision goes red. BT’s eyes widen as I step toward him. My friend puts his hands up to signal his desire to avoid being punched.
“I didn’t mean it like that, bud-”
“Yeah, you did. Every word you let out of your bitter heart, you meant it. I think you should find another way home.”
“Come on, man. I overloaded my mouth, it happens to the best of us.”
“Yeah, you did.”
BT looks at me and shakes his head in frustration.
“Look, I’m sorry. She is a beautiful woman, I kinda lost my mind.”
“No doubt. I’ve never been accused of stealing someone’s woman. She approached me, not the other way around. When have I ever pursued a woman in all the time you’ve known me?”
“You haven’t. Again, I’m sorry. She seems to like you, so you should pursue her.”
“No. I’m done with women. I won’t deny that I felt a connection with her, but I have no desire to pursue anything in the romantic realm. I just want to die alone. Let’s go home.”
BT and I load in the van, and I slowly make my way back to my friend’s apartment. The butterflies I felt in the presence of Tia Two-Eagles is now gone. After dropping BT off at his apartment, I drive home. As I make my way up to my third floor apartment, I have an epiphany. “My game console will never come between me and my friend. Love is far too complicated for a simple guy. I’ll stick with the games, they’re safer.”