TFA: The Message
Flash player not available.

Click on the covers for more information on the different editions, including their availability.
If you cannot view the image, download the most recent version of Flash Player(external link)

The Message

Last night a blue thing, the smoke itself, from our campfire drifted down the valley, entering into the sound of the bellmare until the blue thing and the bell could not be separated, no matter how hard you tried. There was no crowbar big enough to do the job.

Yesterday afternoon we drove down the road from Wells Summit, then we ran into the sheep. They also were being moved on the road.

A shepherd walked in front of the car, a leafy branch in his hand, sweeping the sheep aside. He looked like a young, Skinny Adolf Hitler, but friendly.

I guess there were a thousand sheep on the road. It was hot and dusty and noisy and took what seemed like a long time.

At the end of the sheep was a covered wagon being pulled by two horses. There was a third horse, the bellmare, tied on the back of the wagon. The white canvas rippled in the wind and the wagon had no driver. The seat was empty.

Finally the Adolf Hitler, but friendly, shepherd got the last of them out of the way. He smiled and we waved and said thank you.

We were looking for a good place to camp. We drove down the road, following the Little Smoky about five miles and didn't see a place that we liked, so we decided to turn around and go back to a place we had seen just a ways up Carrie Creek.

"I hope those God-damn sheep aren't on the road," I said.

We drove back to where we had seen them on the road and, of course they were gone, but as we drove on up the road, we just kept following sheep shit. It was ahead of us for the next mile.

I kept looking down on the meadow by the Little Smokey, hoping to see the sheep down there, but there wasn't a sheep in sight, only the shit in front of us on the road.

As if it were a game invented by the spincter muscle, we knew what the score was. Shaking our heads side to side, waiting.

Then we went around a bend and the sheep burst like a roman candle all over the road and again a thousand sheep and the shepherd in front of us, wondering what the fuck. The same thing was in our minds.

There was some beer in the back seat. It wasn't exactly cold, but it wasn't warm either. I tell you I was really embarrassed.

I took a bottle of beer and got out of the car.

I walked up to the shepherd who looked like Adolf Hitler, but friendly.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"It's the sheep," he said. (O sweet and distant blossoms of Munich and Berlin!) "Sometimes they are a trouble but it all works out."

"Would you like a bottle of beer?" I said. "I'm sorry to put you through this again."

"Thank you," he said, shrugging his shoulders. He took the beer over and put it on the empty seat of the wagon.

That's how it looked. After a long time, we were free of the sheep. They were like a net dragged finally away from the car.

We drove up to the place on Carrie Creek and pitched the tent and took our goods out of the car and piled them in the tent.

Then we drove up the creek a ways, above the place where there were beaver dams and the trout stared back at us like fallen leaves.

We filled the back of the car with wood for the fire and I caught a mess of those leaves for dinner. They were small and dark and cold. The autumn was good to us.

When we got back to our camp, I saw the shepherd's wagon down the road a ways and on the meadow I heard the bellmare and the very distant sound of the sheep.

It was the final circle with the Adolf Hitler, but friendly, shepherd as the diameter. He was camping down there for the night. So in the dusk, the blue smoke from our campfire went down and got in there with the bellmare.

The sheep lulled themselves into senseless sleep, one following another like the banners of a lost army. I have here a very important message that just arrived a few moments ago.

It says "Stalingrad."

Richard Brautigan
Trout Fishing in Americ