He returned his attention to the worn leather strap that rested in front of him. It looked at home against the saloon’s stained and scuffed table. The piece of hide had come from his grandfather’s western saddle, a simple remnant of the man he looked up to most. The lengthy latigo had been cut – with Beau’s pocketknife while no one was looking – at his grandpa’s memorial only days before.
Beau picked up the piece of leather, sun-bleached and supple from years of hard use, and coiled it through his fingers. His mind roamed through memories. No attention was given to the sporadic clanging of the door, and the fierce gusts of Texas heat that accompanied each thirsty customer.
This last-minute motorcycle trip through the desert – spurred by the man’s sudden passing – offered only heat, sweat, solitude and recollections of his grandfather. Not to mention, the endless highways, and their inevitable grime and warm whiskey. All things the man two generations above had loved. And this relic – this worn strip of leather – was his only co-pilot.
A jukebox switched songs gruffly. Black Sabbath blared through raspy speakers. Beau looked up at the old thing, which sat on a floor that had likely never been mopped and rarely swept. An analog clock hung above, cobwebbed and askew. His pops would have felt right at home.
He returned his attention to the table where a horseshoe, still harboring its rusty nails, sat on a stack of napkins. Likely protecting them from the rickety fan’s efforts. Beau stared at the shoe before pulling a lighter from his pocket.
With the corroded metal in one hand and the lighter in the other, he warmed a nail over the small flame until it glowed red. Staring down at the old latigo, Beau sunk the nail into its worn leather. Then again. Then again. Reheating it between uniform piercings. He held up the strip to observe its new marks. A rustic passport stamp for the valued relic. A tattoo from the open road.
Holding the band closer to his face, Beau’s eyes shifted focus. He glimpsed the tavern’s clock through one of the holes and became still. He studied the clock, which had taken on the appearance of a watch face, set within the artifact.
He lowered the band to his wrist, cuffing the leather with the opposite hand so it lay taught. That’s it, he thought. Through the clank of glasses, the roadhouse’s fumes and rock music spewing out of aged speakers, a decision was made.
This is how he’d keep the man’s spirit alive. The same one that burned inside of him, too. This is how he’d capture the grit, the passion, the rock n’ roll existence. It would be a symbol of all the wild stories – the ones you tell and the others you wouldn’t dare to – and the rugged-glory of the open road. Nothing taken. No fucks given.
As he stepped out of the bar, haze rippled off sweltering asphalt, distorting the horizon. He stopped next to his 1948 Panhead and swung a leg over. A helmet was buckled; the strip of leather zipped safely in a vest pocket. Led Zeppelin came through the speakers, joining him and the Texas heat.
Beau Daniels circled his bike through agitated dust. Without a second thought, he turned home. He had a watch to make, a lifestyle to honor.
Story by Kacey Waxler.