The Brushwhackers | By: Joe McManus | | Category: Short Story - Adventure Bookmark and Share

The Brushwhackers

type story here
The Brushwhackers

The night was about as dark as one would have it. There was no moon shining through the overcast. Although it was the middle of the summer, one would expect better weather. The wind that was blowing felt cold to the skin. The rains had just begin to fall a few drops at a time, as the car’s headlights pierced the darkness of the desert highway.
Jack and Wanda Olsen were on their honeymoon, after the short ceremony that had taken place just three days before. They had been in love all their lives and knew that one day they would tie the knot. They both grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where the excitement of the day was when Poncho the chicken laid an egg. Jack had told Wanda that she was a rooster. But so much for the small things. They had been traveling across the states on their way to the Pacific Ocean and didn’t care where they wound up. “Any of the West Coast states is fine with me,” said Jack. “A, right Wanda?” “Yes Jack, you make all the decisions for us, my dear husband,” was her answer.
The music from the radio was playing softly and these two lovebirds were in their own little world as they entered the desert. The rains thinned out to nothing, but the winds grew stronger. There was nothing that could shake their sense of well being. They both had lived simple lives and this was to be the one and only time that they would probably have by themselves. When they returned home, it would be back to the dairy farm. The song on the radio said it for them both. “When two are in love the way we are, then nothing matters any more. “ “Oh my darling husband, I want to tell you again how much I love you…
JACK! LOOKOUT!” Jack severed the big Buick and just missed it. “What was that JACK?” asked his wife with a sense of fear. “It looked like a body laying in the road,” He came back as he slammed on the brakes. The car skidded twenty feet and almost tipped over before it came to a stop. “Whew that was a close one,” said Jack as he sat for a minute to catch his breath. “Do you really think it was a body Jack?” asked Wanda as Jack opened the door and stepped out. She could see him walking back towards whatever had been on the road. By now the wind was picking up more, blowing sand like a thousand tiny drums against the car. She looked out the back window and saw Jack as he disappeared into its blackness. The sound of the wind grew louder and louder. She held both hands to her ears to stop the noise.


The big rig had just stopped at the last refueling station fourteen miles on the other side of town. John Hawkins had been in the trucking business for almost thirty years and seen and heard just about all there was. Tonight he had a run to Seattle and was trying to make it before eight in the morning. If he could, that would give him a little time to be with his daughter and her husband. He wanted to see his grand children before he left the state again. Since his wife had died, they were his whole family. Sometimes he would be on the road for a month before he would be back this way.
RRRUN, RRRUN the big engine sounded as John sifted the gears. Soon the rig was moving down the road heading for the big city. “It’s going to be a close one if I make it,” he thought. As a long haul truck driver, he knew about the federal rules that only allowed him just so much time on the road before he had to shut down the rig. Every sixteen hours a driver must have eight hours off for safety.
He was hauling a load of furniture for a young couple who had transferred from Norfolk, Virginia to the Bangor Naval Base near Silverdale, Washington. The husband had just received the rank of Chief and was reassigned to a nuclear submarine. John was always a cautious driver and knew that everything this family owned was in his care. He took pride in his work and had the reputation of being a careful worker/driver. The miles had been long, but soon it would be over and he could relax with his family.
“Hey Hawkins, you on the line tonight,” squawked the CB. “Yea, I’m back at ya Jerry. What you need tonight?” asked John. “Oh I just wanted let you know that the big bad wolf was howling again tonight and you know what that means,” responded Jerry Murdock. “Yes I know, keep down my speed and the “Smokey” won’t give me a ticket. Well I want to tell you something young man, I haven’t gotten a ticket for ten years now,” he came back. “They’re not hard to get,” said Jerry. Onward the big rig went, through the small town and out into the open road. The desert lay before him, another long stretch ahead of open highway. John reached over to the switch and turned on the wipers as the rain started to hit the windshield. He turned down the CB and raised the volume of the radio as the darkness swallowed up the big tractor trailer rig.


Irma Swenson, a mother of three and a grandmother of eight, was taking a break at the local Big Mac. She was on her way to Portland. As she sat eating and looking out the window, John’s truck went by. She had been there for about fifteen minutes when a group of rough looking men came in. They all went to the back of the restaurant and sat in the last booth. She was sitting by herself eating her meal, when she over heard the men talking about someone or thing called the “Brushwhacker.” “I hear tell that the creature is big enough to tear one to shreds if the force is strong enough.” Said one. “I heard one time a man was walking out on that desert and got over taken by the thing and when they found him, he looked like he had been cut by a straight razor,” Said another.
Now Irma who came from Sweetwater, Tennessee had heard stories back home before she left on this trip about such things. Of a different creature that roamed the Rocky Mountains. But this one was new to her. When she was through with her meal, she got up and went to the washroom. She heard them talking about this thing that had many arms and traveled out in the desert at night. When she came out of the washroom, she had to stop by their table and ask the question. “How can you tell if you have seen one or not?” They all stopped talking and looked into her eyes and said. “You had never seen one?” “No I have not,” she answered “And I think that you fellows have made up stories just to frighten folks.” “You don’t believe in the west’s fearless monster called Brushwhacker?” said George as he stood up from the table. He was a giant of a man and stood six foot four in his stocking feet. Irma being only five foot herself, stood looking up with her mouth open. “Why I barely escaped with my own life last week when I was out on the highway going over to these fellows place,” he said as he waved his hand towards the rest. Irma had heard a few in her time as well, so she said, “Have any proof?” “Do I have proof?” he said. “Come outside and I’ll show you some proof.”
The car that appeared to have been new a year or two ago, looked like it had been through a thrashing machine. There was hardly any paint on it and was full of dents with some broken windows. “What happened?” asked Irma. Big George spoke as he walked around the car with his fingers sliding across the metal. “Well it was like this lady,” he started. “I was on my way out towards the other fellows place, like I said before. When I got out on the highway, oh about ten miles or so, It had just finished raining with the wind howling like it is tonight. I had just passed that old abandoned gas station when the first one came out of the desert and grabbed a hold of my car and won’t let go.” “You mean that there is more than just one, out there?” asked Irma. “Oh yes,” reported Big George as his hands started to shake. “Why by the time they were through with me, there wasn’t much left to bring home. As you can see with this car.”
Back in the restaurant, Irma sat for almost an hour before she decided to start down the road. “Maybe I should spend the night at the motel down the street,” she thought to herself. “Oh don’t be so silly. I know that those boys are pulling my leg.” She took a refill on her hot drink and went out to her car. “I’m in no hurry, but I do want to get to Portland before noon tomorrow,” she mumbled to herself. She started her car, turned on the lights, wipers, and then drove herself down the main street toward the highway. The rains now came down like a river and with her wipers on high, but thinned out as her taillights faded into the black night of the desert.


Wanda was sitting in the car waiting for Jack to get back. Even though the rains had stopped and the wind started to blow hard, she sat all tensed up. It was then some large shaped thing smashed into the side of the vehicle. It hit so hard that the whole car shook. Then it was gone. Of course in the darkness the only light there was, came from the headlights of the car. Bang! Another one hit the car. “OH Jack! Hurry back please before these things eat us up,” screamed Wanda. “Oh Jack, Jack.” Then she saw her husband running for the car in the headlights. He struggled against the strong winds as he fought his way back to the car. His clothes were in shreds and hanging from his body. He ran as fast as he could, fighting “them” off all the way. When he reached the door, he pulled the handle and slid onto the seat. “Let’s get out of here right now,” he said almost out of breath. He fired up the car and roared down the road. “Jack! What happened out there?” asked his wife, almost in a shout. “What are those things?” “Not now Wanda, wait until we get away from this terrible place,” he came back. “Was that a body out there Jack? What did you see?” ask his frightened wife. He didn’t say a thing as they sped onward. But his eyes gave a hint of the horror he had seen. He looked like he had aged at least five years. Everytime Wanda would ask a question all he would say was, “Wait until daylight.”


John Hawkins was on a time schedule, as he drove the big rig down the dark and lonely highway. The rains had been beating so hard against windshield that the wipers could hardly keep up, but now the rain stopped, so he turned off the wipers. There was nothing that was going to stop him from getting home this night. The big rig roared with a renewed spark of life, as he shifted into high gear. The strong cross winds begin and were trying to blow the rig over, but he held her to the road. The radio was playing his favorite western songs and the rig was purring like a kitten. He didn’t have a worry in the world. Except…. The Deadly Brushwhacker! Now John was not a man that scared easy, but he did show respect when it was due.
The headlights lit up the road ahead with the candlepower of a large searchlight. He could see clearly, a half a mile down the blacktop. As time moved on he tuned in the radio to a mystery program. He needed something to keep his mind active. “… and little Pete struggled to climb the last mound of sand that the desert had laid before him. The beast was slowly catching up with him and he knew that unless he could make it to the freedom of the city, he would as good as buzzard food,” said the radio. John’s mind wandered as he listened to the program. “Now that would be tough to be stranded in a place like this,” he thought. Wham! It hit hard. Wham! It hit again, this time the big rig was forced almost to the other side the road. John gripped the wheel with his strong hands and brought it back into his lane.
Wham! Another one hit, the sound was so loud that it drowned out the radio. “You’re not getting me tonight you Brushwhackers, there is no way that you will stop me again,” he shouted at the top of his voice. The wind was now blowing so hard that he had to fight to hold the rig on the road. They were attacking now with the precision of a well-trained army. They were pouring over the sand dunes in mass. Thump, Thump the wheels sounded as they ran over a few of them that fell under the rig. The headlights picked up hundreds of them in its beams. It looked like they were coming out in full force. They were trying to bring the big rig down and John knew it. But he hung in there with all that he had. Wham! Wham! Wham! They hit hard. John reached for the cord to the air horn and gave a hard pull. HHHONK…, HHHONK.. Then he let out a YAHOO! Like a cowboy riding a “Brahma Bull”, as the big rig struggled to hold on.


Irma was dreaming about what it would be like when she finally makes it to Portland. “It will be so nice to be with family that she hadn’t seen for some time now. Oh just to see her daughter and son-in-law with their little ones,” she thought. “Maybe I’ll stay for a month.” Little Eileen was her favorite. “Why she was the cutest thing I have ever seen.” She thought as the car traveled down the road. “This darn rain,” went through her mind, and then it stopped, as the wind picked up some more. There didn’t seem to be any other traffic on the road tonight. It was as some mysterious force was setting her up. The car begins to sway from the wind as it roared down the highway. Although she was a small woman, she could hold the wheel and keep the car in the lane.
Wham! What was that! She screamed! Wham! Again it hit the car. “Oh My Gosh!” she shouted. “What is that?” There in her headlights they came flying at her. “OH HELP ME!” she screamed as she fought to control the car. It was weaving from one side to the other. As hard as she tried, the car spun out of her control. Round and round it spun, as it went down the highway like a child’s toy spinning top. She pressed as hard as she could on the brakes and finally the car came to a stop.
Wham! Wham! They hit again as she started to loose control of herself. The winds increased and the car shook hard everytime one of them would attack. SCREECH was the sound one made as it scraped across the windshield. “Oh No,” she screamed. “They do have many arms like that man had said.” She was just about to have a nervous breakdown when all went quiet. The wind died to stillness and the Brushmonsters stopped coming. She sat there in a panic frame of mind when she began to look around into the night. When she turned toward the passenger side window, she saw something trying to climb up the door. There were little arms with tiny fingers scraping and clawing at the bottom of the window. NO! NO! NO! She screamed as she shoved the car into gear and sped down the highway and disappeared into the black of the night.


The Bartlett Boys, Ralph and Jesse were on their way home from the dance at “The Red Barn’ in Wilsonville. The town was on the far side of the desert. The Bartletts’ were known as some of the toughest young men around. It was said of them, that they were not afraid of any man or beast. Why they were so mean that when they went hunting rattle snakes, they would grab the snake by the tail and use it like a bull whip and snap off the head. Some say they would eat their catch raw. So much for their meanness.
Their car was the best of the best when it came to HOT RODS. It was candy apple red with flames painted bright yellow coming from the engine compartment. They knew that their car was tops around this area. Anyone who thought different had to answer to them. It had been a warm evening when they left the dance, but now it started to sprinkle a little. “Jesse, stop and put up the top will ya before we get wet.” barked Ralph. “What’s the matter little brother? Can’t you take a drop of water on your beanie? “ Came back Jesse. “Well big guy, look at that overcast,” he said. The car came to a stop and they both jumped out to fix the top. The rain started to come down in buckets by the time they got back into the HOT ROD. “Just in time, hey?” said Ralph as punched Jesse in the arm.
The Hot Rod went roaring down the highway like a ball shot out of a canon. With those big rear tires leaving rubber burning on the blacktop. The radio was on full and they were hollering and shouting at the top of their lungs. Soon the deserted highway started to show signs of traffic as headlights could be seen a mile up the road. These two could care less as they sped toward the on coming vehicle. “Watch this!” said Jesse as he took aim at the headlights. “Come on Jesse, don’t be a fool now and stay on our side of the road,” jumped Ralph. “That’s the matter little guy? Are you a tiny bit scared?” asked his brother. “I know how you get sometimes,” was the come back. So Jesse whipped back into their lane with a look of disappointment on his face. Soon they were up to the other car, but found it just sitting there with no one inside. Jesse applied the brakes and stopped. “What the…” started Jesse as they got out of their roadster and looked into the empty vehicle. “I wonder where the driver went,” said Ralph. “And look at the mess this car is in.” By this time the rains were gone and the winds started to pick up.
They were standing there looking this car over when they saw more headlights coming down the road. “Here let me pull off the road so this guy can get by,” said Jesse. “Look Out Jesse,” yelled Ralph. “This guy is not stopping.” Sure enough, the car flew right by without even slowing down. All they could see was a man and a woman in the car. Their faces showed fear like the two of them had never seen before. “Did you see that Ralph?” asked Jesse. “Ya I did,” said his brother. “Why they looked like there was a monster after them or something.” Then they both started to laugh out loud. “Here comes another set of lights, only this one has running lights as well,” remarked one of the brothers. “Hey let me get the car off the road all together, this guy is swerving all over the road,” yelled Jesse. “HHHONK! HHONK! Blasted the air horn as the big rig plowed right between the vehicles standing beside the road. “That was close,” screamed Ralph, as paint flakes settled on his coat. With that the two of them jumped back in their hot rod and sped off down the road into the night.


The Blue and White Plymouth came over the rise on the highway as fast as the engine could push it along. The expression on Irma’s face was filled with horror. It was as though she had not the will to live anymore. The speed-o-meter stood at 110 and the engine whined like a sewing machine making factory clothes. It should be said at this time. The car was once all blue before the attack. As she steered her vehicle down that dark road, she saw headlights coming from the other direction. She began to blink her lights at the on coming car. Hoping to stop them from going through where she had been. Whish! The car flew past her and on their way.
The brothers passed another on coming car that had a little woman inside. ”Did you see the look on that woman’s face?” asked Ralph. “I don’t know what’s going on,” said Jesse. “But this is the first time I have ever seen a paint job like that. A little blue with a lot of white and the way the pattern was, It didn’t match anything I have seen.” “Why is everyone in a hurry?” Was the question. They both looked at each other in amazement. But on they went not knowing anything different. They cruised along at 80 with the wind beating hard on the canvas top and the wipers clearing the fine sand off the windshield. Over the rise and down onto the desert floor they roared.
Wham! Wham! They were struck. “WHAT THE…” began Jesse. WHAT WAS THAT? Add Ralph. The roadster was hit hard and spun out at the high rate of speed. Jesse fought with all his strength to hold them on the road. He had both feet on the brakes as the car came to a stop off the road in the sand. The wind was now at a roar. WHAM! They were hit again. This time the canvas was gone! The two jumped behind the car and used it as a shield. The fine sand that was in the wind stung their faces when they tried to look up. All the lights were out, so what they saw were monsters with long arms, tearing into their hot rod. “Stay down Ralph,” yelled Jesse. “I don’t know what they are but they are sure trying to eat us a live.” “OH NO!” screamed Ralph. “Ones got me by the foot… Jesse help me!”…
The night passed on, in the horror of it all. There were more cars stranded along the highway and people grabbed by the Brushwhackers. The noise of screaming was so loud that it could have drowned out the wind. But to add to the mess on the road, the winds died and the rains returned soaking everything. But yet the rays of the morning sun begin to rise and spread its rays over the mountains off in the distance. The rains have stopped and the ground filtered the last of the water into the soil. Out in the desert, a lone wolf howled one last time. The daylight was coming on fast and the hawks began to circle the sky looking over the scene below.


CLICK!… “Ah headquarters, this is Deputy Carlson out on highway 66 about 30 miles east of Wilsonville.” CLICK! “Headquarters.” CLICK!…”YA, You better send out the State Patrol. It looks like a bad one this time.” CLICK!.. “Wil-co and the call has been made” CLICK!
As the sun reached the high point in the heavens, the scene was pitiful. There were cars all over the highway and people wandering along the road in a daze. The television crews from all the networks were on hand as well as the local newspaper reporters. Three ambulances had arrived and were helping the injured. Four wreckers from the junk business five miles down the highway, stood by.
“So tell me officer, what do you think caused all of this mayhem out here?” asked the TV reporter from KYYU. “Well I can’t say for sure, but looking at all the tire tracks and the carnage out here. Besides what testimony I’m getting from the eyewitness’. I would have to guess at the Brushwhackers,” he stated quietly. “The.. what kind of monsters did you say?” asked the reporter. “Brushwhackers,” came back the officer. “They are a terror of the desert and no one seems to know what sets them off. But every year about this time, they appear for a short stay and then vanish as fast as they came.” “There you have it ladies and gentlemen,” went on the TV reporter. “This highway has been hit with a disaster that can not be matched in the annuals of history. There seems to be some kind of monster on the prowl in this part of the desert and I have not found anyone who can tell me what it is.” The activity at the scene was in total chaos with everyone trying to figure out just what happened.
From down the road, a column of Army vehicles came onto the scene one by one. As they pulled to a stop, solders climbed out from the back of the trucks and assembled into ranks of twenty each. A Captain, with a hat full of gold braid, stepped forward and ordered his men to load their arms and standby. Then he introduced himself to the ranking state patrolman and assured him that he was ready to take over the situation. Deputy Carlson made a slight remark about the National Guard trying to take over anything. Which caused a red flare to come over the captain’s face. “Ah captain, may I ask what do you intend to do to help this situation? Asked the reporter as he shoved the microphone under his lips. “Well I was sent to take control, find this monster and do them in once and for all.” He said. “They have been a scourge of the west for years, but now their time has come. They can not out do the US ARMY.” “Again Ladies and Gentlemen, we have here a situation that will be handled with the superb expertise like our National Guard has handled these things in the past,” remarked the reporter.
“Oh my gosh! What is that out there?” screamed a woman sitting in her car and pointing out toward the desert. “Where?” asked the captain. “Out there!” she screamed again, pointing to the raise in the terrain about three thousand yards to the west. All eyes were trained on something moving. “There it is!” said one in the crowd. “Hit the dirt men!” yelled the captain. “Everyone else get behind your cars and stay down.” All the solders fell hard on their bellies and took aim at the object in the distance. Closer it came, step by step. It looked like it something out of a horror story, as it crept closer. From this distance and the heat of the desert caused the eyes to change the shape of this thing that drew closer and closer. “Looks like there are two of them,” yelled another. “Sargent! Give me the binoculars,” commanded the captain. “Sorry sir, we didn’t bring any. They were sitting on your desk, where you told me to put them sir.” Reminded the Sargent.
The longer everyone looked into the heated desert, the more their eyes played tricks on them. Soon everyone had a different idea of what they saw. It didn’t matter though, because the figures kept on a steady track toward them. Soon it was all that deputy Carlson could take. He started to laugh and laugh as he slapped his leg with his right hand. There were tears running down his cheeks when he turned toward the captain and his men lying on the ground. “What are you laughing about there Deputy?” asked the captain with the sound of sarcasm. “Why that’s, ha, ha, ha. He then cleared his throat and while pointing said, “Why that’s old Judd and his mule Delores.
Old Judd had been out looking for gold or silver or anything worth his time. Soon he was up to the crowd that had gathered on the highway and asked, “What in tarn nation is going on here deputy?” “Oh you know how people are when they come through these parts Judd,” began Deputy Carlson. “They all had an encounter with the dreaded Brushwhacker monsters.” “The Brushwhackers? Not those darn things again,” came back Judd. “I just went through a bunch of them about ten miles back.” “You mean that you have seen them up close?” asked the reporter from KYYU. “Why yes I have.” He came back. “I see them all the time, ah well at least this time of the year anyway.” “Tell us Mr Judd,” slid in the captain. “Are they as mean as they say they are? Do they have a lot of arms like they say? Can they rip and tear like folks have said? Tell us, what do they look like?” “Do they bite as some have said?” asked a lady in the crowd. “Well I have heard tell that some folks traveling these parts have seen all kinds of things that can’t be explained,” he began. Some claim that they were attacked and have been bit by them. Some say that they barely escaped with their lives and some have claimed to have their cars destroyed by them. Although that fine sand in the wind will take off paint. I must say that I have been around them for over forty years and they have never bothered me. Oh, they are a pain in the behind at times, but you get use to them. “Well Mr. Judd,” began the TV reporter. “You mean to say that all those stories we have heard about the Monsters called the Brushwhackers are not true?” “Well not exactly,” remarked Judd. “They could be called Brushwhackers all right, but I wouldn’t want to call them Monsters.” “Then what would you call the menace of the highways,” Asked the reporter. “Oh Just a bunch of old dried TUMBLEWEEDS,” was the answer with a smile on his face. “In fact, here comes one now.” Sure enough, a dried out bush about three feet tall, came rolling and bouncing along in the light breeze. The silence was deafening as the people stood watching the thing roll by.

Joseph Marvin McManus
26 March 2002
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