Chapter 7: Finding Dixie
Enos found Rooster sitting on his porch drinking moonshine, just like he’d remembered from visiting him with his pa’ over twenty years earlier.
“Afternoon, Mr. Sills,” he said, amiably. “I don’t know if you’d remember me, it’s been a while.”
The old man peered at Enos, who now stood at the edge of the porch. “Can’t rightly say I ‘member your name, sonny, but yer pa’ was Otis Strate. Lord a mercy, but ya’ shore did turn out lookin’ like ‘im.”
“That’s right, sir, I’m Enos,” he said shaking the man’s hand.
“He was a good man…fair.”
“Yes sir, he was.”
“Well then Enos, come on up here an’ sit a spell an’ let’s see what we can do for ya’. Can I get ya’ a sip?”
Enos took a seat in an old knotty pine chair. “Thank ya’, sir. Just a taste, though.” Enos hadn’t had a drink he reckoned in over 10 years, but home brews were a point of pride to a moonshiner and turning the old man down would have been akin to spitting in his face.
The old man poured a shot of whiskey from a green Mason jar into a short glass and handed it over. “So, young man, what’s on yer mind that you’ve come up t’ this neck o’ th’ woods? Can’t say I get vis’ters much anymore, though Amos does get down t’ chew th’ fat every once in a while.”
Enos took a sip of the shine and fought to keep a straight face. Either ol’ Rooster was loosin’ his touch or he was a piss poor moonshiner – it tasted like molten vinegar. He cleared his throat. “Well, we’re lookin’ for a truck that matched the description of one you had worked on some time back,” he said. “You had some new springs put in?”
Rooster looked puzzled. “Yeah. Yeah, I used t’ have an ol’ pickup. Sold it t’ Andy Higgins on about last summer, I reckon.”
“Andy? Is that Abel’s boy or Floyd’s?”
“Do you happen to remember th’ year of truck it was?”
“’81. Say, that boy’s not in any trouble is he?”
“I don’t rightly know anything about him, sir, I’m just tryin’ t’ track the truck down right now, make sure everything’s alright. It hit a curb down at th’ square.”
“Oh, well, ya’ know how it is w’ shiner’s kids. They’ve always got about three-fifth’s rollin’ ’round in their veins.”
Enos grinned. “Some of ’em, sir.”
“You shore do remind me o’ yer pa’, boy,” he said, laughing, “I swear he was th’ only cold sober bootlegger I ever saw.”
The sun was sinking, bathing the tops of the hills in glowing amber hues, as Enos left Rooster and headed back towards the Duke farm. He would just have to take a chance on someone being there – going back to Hazzard would be nearly 15 miles out of the way from Chalk Hills. Instead he drove east five miles, swinging around Stillson Canyon, until it met up with Mill Road. He hung a left and another three miles had him at the Dukes’ front porch. Uncle Jesse’s truck was parked by the barn. He hopped out and walked up to the screen porch. A memory of Daisy, bounding through that door, smiling at him while her hair caught the breeze flashed through his mind. He shook his head.
“Uncle Jesse?” he called, opening the door.
“Come on in, Enos.” Enos stepped into the kitchen where Jesse was stirring something in a saucepan on the stove. “Did ya’ find anything out about th’ truck?”
“Yes sir, I went t’ see Rooster Sills, but he sold the thing come last summer. You know Abel Higgin’s boy, Andy?”
“Not rightly enough. Seen him a couple months ago around town. Why, is that who ol’ Rooster sold it to?”
“Yes sir. Abel still settin’ up by Dry Creek?”
Jesse thought for a minute. “I ‘spect so, though he got caught for possessin’ shine last year so his teeth are gonna be on edge about talkin’ to the law ’bout anything.”
“That’s why I stopped by, Uncle Jesse,” he said. “I was wonderin’ if you’d have a coat I could borrow that didn’t say LAPD. I’ll need th’ 12 gauge an’ shells I left here, too, if they’re handy.”
Jesse set the pot down on the stove and turned to look at Enos. “Now, just hold on just a minute there. It’s nearly 5:30. This time of year, it’ll be full dark in an hour. You ain’t going out there now.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Uncle Jesse, but I reckon I am.”
“Now, Enos, I know you’re wantin’ to get to th’ bottom of this, but it ain’t gonna do Daisy any good you going out into them hills after dark. If ya’ do find Abel, you’re gonna get yerself shot.”
Enos turned away from Jesse, looking instead out the window to the hills in the distance. “I’ve been shot at before,” he said, quietly.
There in that moment – in the haunted look in in the younger man’s eyes, Jesse realized just how much Enos had changed. The naïve innocence had been scrubbed away, leaving a man who he reckoned had witnessed more hatred, violence, and bloodshed on the streets of Los Angeles than they could ever fathom in Hazzard County. He rested his weathered hand on Enos’s shoulder.
“There’s no more you can do today, son. I know yer in charge of th’ search, an’ I can’t stop ya’, but I’d appreciate it if ya’ didn’t go off an’ get yourself killed. Right now, you’re the only one who knows what yer doin’ an’ we need ya – Daisy needs ya’- to stay safe.”
Enos turned back and sighed, but anything he might of said was cut short by the voice coming in over the CB radio.
“Lost Sheep to Shepard, Lost Sheep to Shepard, you got your ears on? Come back.”
Uncle Jesse went around the table and picked it up. “This is Shepard. What’s wrong, boys?”
“Uncle Jesse,” said Bo, “is Enos there with ya’?”
“Yeah, he’s right here, what’s goin’ on?”
“Uh, well…we found Dixie..”
“Ask him where,” said Enos.
“Okay, Bo, where is she?”
“Th’ woods just past Stillson Canyon, where Mill Road Splits off to Snake Trail Lane.”
Enos was out the door before Bo finished talking.
“We’ll be there in just a minute so you boys just stay there. Enos just left an’ I’m right behind him. I’m gone.”
Enos pulled off where he saw the General Lee and Bo and Luke waiting beside it. He’d just driven through here not half an hour before on his way from Chalk Hills and hadn’t noticed a thing, of course he’d also been going about fifty miles an hour – a speed that wasn’t conducive to noticing much other than the road in front of you.
“You were right, Enos,” Luke called as Enos got out. “It looks like someone ran her off th’ road.”
There was a small ravine here between where the roads split, not visible from the road itself. “I just drove past here not a half hour ago.” Enos pointed down into the woods. “Down there?”
“Yeah. Took us forever ’till we saw the tire tracks in the mud on the side.”
“You’ve got good eyes, Bo,” he said. “We don’t have too much more light as it is though. Have you guys been down there?”
“No, we followed the tire tracks ’till we seen her, but we thought it best to wait for you before we went messin’ with it.”
“I’m much obliged, Luke.”
Instead of following the tire tracks directly down to the Jeep, Enos walked the other way, following the tracks back up onto the road until he came to the point where they’d first swerved. Beside them was a set of tracks still visible in the muddy ruts on the edge of the road, made by a deeply lugged truck tire. These he followed back to the road where they were lost in the tracks of the other vehicles. He walked back to the first tracks he’d found.
“Y’all come here,” he called. Bo and Luke ran down the road to where Enos was crouched down. “We’re definitely lookin’ for a truck. See these tracks here? The tires are too big for a car. They’re probably fairly new too, you can see the lug marks real well.”
Luke bent down and examined them. “Huh, well that fits with the truck we saw on the tape of the bank.” He looked back at Enos. “You find anything out about it?”
“Yeah, I’ll tell you ’bout it later, though. The sunlight’s not gonna last much longer an’ I need to check out Dixie.”
Enos went back to the ravine, noting that whoever had run Daisy off had to be fairly familiar with the roads here to know exactly where that ravine was since the side of the road was grown up with briars and sagebrush, unless it had just been a lucky shot. Had it been summer, they might not have found it this quickly. As it was, a trail was just visible. He followed it through the undergrowth until the bank sloped suddenly down.
At the bottom of the small gully rested the Jeep, its wheels sunk deep into the mud. There was nothing inside, so he turned back to the trail the vehicle had plowed. Most of the ground was covered with dead leaves, but behind the jeep, in the mud, was a partial footprint of a man’s heavy soled work boot. Too much was missing for him to guess the size. Another footprint, this one of a smaller woman’s sized boot was visible beside the door of the Jeep. The smaller tracks, instead of going back up to the road, led further into the woods. Enos followed them. Along the way were more partial prints, mainly from the front part of the treads of both sets – Daisy had been running, and someone had been running after her.
About 500 feet into the woods, the prints stopped, ending in a wide spot of crushed and mangled vegetation. Five grooves, about six inches long, tore into the mud at the far end. Enos knelt down and placed his own fingertips into the grooves, slowly tracing the marks.
He left and walked slowly back up to the road to where they were waiting with Uncle Jesse. “Find anything that’ll help?”
“A couple of footprints. You mind if I borrow your radio?”
“Heck no, go ahead.”
“Thanks.” Enos leaned into the General Lee and grabbed the mic. “Sheriff, this is Enos, do you read me, over…” He waited, but there was no answer. “Sheriff, are you there?”
“…This is Sheriff Ros- -co P. Coltrane…Of course I’m here, Enos, where th’ heck else am I gonna be? I ain’t got no supper waitin’ at home an’ Flash hadn’t figured out how t’ cook yet. Where in th’ world are you? I ain’t seen hide nor hair of you since this mornin’.”
“Sheriff, you remember how t’ work a real crime scene?”
The bravado disappeared from Rosco’s voice. “…a…a what?” he answered quietly. “Y…you…you didn’t find…not, not Daisy did you?”
“No, Sheriff, we found her jeep. There’s some tracks around it, though, and maybe some prints. If you could come out when it’s light and take pictures of everything, I’d be mighty obliged.”
“Dang it, Enos, you done just about give me a coronary! Yeah, I can do that. Where’s it at?”
“The little ravine off the split between Mill Road and Snake Trail. If you follow the deer trail on past the jeep, you’ll see the most of th’ footprints.”
“You can count on me. Me an’ Flash’ll take care of it first thing.”
“Thanks Sheriff, over an’ out.”
“So, wait a minute, Enos,” said Bo. “We’ve gotta leave Dixie here?”
“Just until tomorrow mornin’ so Rosco can take the pictures. Sorry, but if I don’t do things by th’ book, won’t nothin’ hold up in court.”
“Yeah, I s’pose you’re right.”
“Well, I’m gonna head on back,” said Uncle Jesse. “Enos, that shotgun of yers is gonna need cleaned. It’s been in th’ closet fer ten years.”
Enos took one more look behind him into the woods before heading to his own car. “I’m right behind you, Uncle Jesse.”
About an hour later Bo and Luke returned to find Enos at the kitchen table, cleaning the 12 gauge he’d left there years ago.
“Plannin’ on doin’ some huntin’?” asked Bo.
“That’s not real funny,” said Enos, not looking up.
Bo threw Luke a look who shrugged his shoulders. “So what’d ya’ find out from Mr. Sills?” Luke asked.
“He sold the truck last year t’ Andy Higgins.”
“Andy Higgins? The guy they caught lookin’ in windows of th’ girls’ dorm down at the Capitol City Community College?
Enos looked up at Luke. “Where’d ya’ hear that?”
“Susie McCullum was talkin’ about it standin’ in line at the post office couple months back. I don’t reckon anything came of it.”
“You don’t know where I can find him, do ya’?”
Luke shook his head. “Not anymore than up at his pa’s.” He took a second look at the shotgun Enos was now piecing back together. “You’d be better off if we came with ya’. Three shotguns are are might better than one.”
“I’m much obliged, but no. I gotta go alone.”
“Now come on, Enos,” complained Bo, “you can’t just leave us outta th’ loop. Daisy’s our cousin, ya’ know.”
“I know that, Bo, but Abel Higgins is more libel t’ shoot you than me. ‘Sides, everybody knows Cletus and Rosco ain’t but two shakes behind you most of th’ time. Nobody’s gonna talk to me if they see th’ General Lee around. I need you fella’s to help me with somethin’ else anyways.”
“Sure Enos,” said Luke, “what do ya’ need us to do?”
“I need ya’ to go down and have Rosco look up th’ county records on that truck that Rooster had. He said it was an ’81, but he’ll need the VIN number and license and tell him to put an APB out on it. I doubt it’ll do much good if he’s up in th’ hills, but maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“Sure thing, Enos’.”
“Thanks y’all. Listen, part of the reason I had Cooter pull those strings is ’cause me an’ my pa’ visited every moonshiner in them hills before he passed on. Hopefully some’ll have long memories…or bad aim…”
“You just be careful,” said Bo. “Oh, hey I almost forgot. Uncle Jesse’s got a spare CB. You want us t’ hook it up in your car for ya’?”
“Thanks’, Bo, I sure would appreciate it. I feel like I’m 500 miles away without one.”
Bo clapped him on the back. “We’ll get it in there right now.”
Bo and Luke left the house and headed for the shed where the spare radio sat gathering dust in a dog-eared box on a high shelf. Luke hopped on a crate and brought it down.
“It don’t look too bad,” he said, opening the box. “I reckon it’ll still work.”
“It better,” said Bo, “I feel like a got a bag over my head not knowing what’s goin’ on with Enos.”
“I know what ya’ mean. Hey, grab a screwdriver on your way out.”
Bo grabbed a screwdriver out of Uncle Jesse’s tool box and walked over to Enos’s car where Luke was already inside.
“Hand me those mounting brackets and th’ screwdriver.”
Bo passed them to his cousin and rested his arms on the roof of he car. “He sure has changed, hasn’t he, Cuz?”
“Hand me th’ radio. Who, Enos?”
“Yeah. I mean, shoot, it don’t seem but yesterday he was trippin’ over his own feet an’ lettin’ ol’ Rosco kick him around.”
“I gotta feelin’ he’s seen a lot more of the wrong side of the tracks out in LA than we could ever imagine here in Hazzard. It’s bound t’ change a fella. Here, take this.” Luke handed Bo the screwdriver as he climbed out from the floorboard of the car. “T’ tell you the truth, I almost wished we hadn’t been so eager to talk Daisy outta marryin’ him that day at th’ Boars Nest.”
Bo looked at him as though he’d sprouted an extra head. “Are you serious? She didn’t love him, Luke. She was just gonna marry him t’ spare his feelin’s.”
“Yeah, well, I reckon she didn’t love L.D. none either when she married him. ‘Sides, I don’t know if I quite believe that anymore.”
“What?” Bo laughed. “You can’t tell me you seriously believe that Daisy was sweet on Enos.”
Luke looked at him thoughtfully. “She’s…different when he’s not around. The first time he left Hazzard, I swear she looked lost half o’ the time, like somebody trying to remember something they’ve forgotten. Then she practically threw herself at every eligible bachelor that came through the county.”
“That’s just bein’ a Duke.”
Luke shook his head. “I don’t know. Everybody deals with things differently. Then when he came back, everything suddenly went back to normal. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it myself until she started walking around with that same look on her face three years ago.”
“I think you’re goin’ batty, Luke. So she missed him. That’s a pretty far cry from lovin’ him, though.”
“Yeah, I reckon she’d say that, too.”
Enos couldn’t have slept a wink even if he’d tried – so he wasn’t trying. He lay on the bed in the guest room, staring at the darkened ceiling until he finally heard the soft snores coming from the room across the hall. When he was sure everyone was asleep he got up and put on the old denim coat that he’d borrowed from Uncle Jesse. He tried to walk as close to the wall as he could to keep the boards in the floor from creaking. He didn’t stop in the kitchen but unhooked the latch on the door and made his way out through the screen porch out into the farmyard.
There was a full moon – a ‘shine’ moon his pa’ used to call it. He didn’t reckon he’d ever spent a full moon night at home as a kid. It was prime runnin’ time, and his pa’ was kind enough to drop him at the Duke farm instead of leaving him to the mercies of his ma’.
He walked over to his car and sat down on the hood. Staring out into the darkness, he thought about all he’d done and seen. His life on the outside was one of ‘small town boy made good in the big city’, but on the inside a standoff raged everyday, not so different from the one’s he’d faced with the SWAT team on the streets of LA.
On one side was Hazzard – the world and life he loved. The nights filled with lightening bugs and the howls of coyotes instead of street lights and sirens. People who waved when you drove past them or said ‘Hi’ if you saw them at the store instead of kids tryin’ to sell dope to other kids or hookers on the corners who he swore got younger and younger every year.
But there was another side to Hazzard, a side that tore at his heart and made the alienation of California seem bearable. He’d give just about anything to go back to the world he lived in five years ago – a world in which he had never seriously dreamed that Daisy Duke would ever return his affections. Therein was the crux of the matter, the source of his never-ending heartache. In all his years of loving her, he had never allowed himself to believe she could ever really be his – until the day she’d almost married him. For a few months, his dreams seemed to be coming true, only to be shattered suddenly, without a word on her part. So he’d run away to California, where he’d volunteered for the beats and later the cases that nobody wanted to take. The ones where you made sure you said your prayers in the morning because you might not be around to say them at night – only to survive to remember another day.
For the rest of his life, he would never forget what it felt like to believe that she loved him. And now, after all the years of running away, he’d do anything to see her safe – just one last time.