One of our agents almost lost her life securing for us an original manuscript of the Legend of Charlie the Boot Maker. This legend is important to Project Pegasus. It goes something like this…
There is a legend in Texas about a boot maker named Charlie. Charlie could take just one look at your boots and know a lot about you. He even kept a little black book with your numbers in it. This story is about how Charlie got his gift.
Charlie wasn’t born in Texas, but he did get there as fast as he could. It took him 10 years.
He was born in a land far away, across a wide ocean. As a child, he was fascinated by cowboys. As a teenager, he dreamed of the wide spaces of the West. As a young man, he decided he couldn’t wait any longer and had to try his luck in a new world. He bought himself a cowboy hat, kissed his mother goodbye, and hopped on a freighter bound for Texas.
However, this was the time of a great war. Enemy submarines hunted the seas. As fate would have it, one such submarine came upon Charlie’s ship. As Charlie watched from the deck, the submarine shot its deadly torpedoes at him. Terrible explosions rocked the ship and it began to sink. Crew members scurried about in chaos. Charlie felt the ship shudder under his feet and lurch to one side. He thought that it was now or never. Taking one last look over his shoulder, he put a hand on his cowboy hat, grabbed his belt, and threw himself overboard. The water jolted him. He desperately grabbed at some floating wreckage, pulling himself halfway out of the water. He looked up to see the ship slipping below the waves. The sounds of battle faded away until nothing remained but the sloshing of the ocean. Charlie was alone. Hours passed and he drifted with the waves, his strength slowly, but surely, fading.
He was not, however, destined to drown that day. Out of the depths rose a dolphin, who picked Charlie up on his back and carried him away. This dolphin carried Charlie for many hours, until finally arriving at a lonely island. He pushed Charlie onto the beach, did a farewell leap into the air, and then disappeared back into the depths.
Charlie pulled himself further up onto the beach. He was tired and cold, but alive. He looked around. It was a tiny island, mostly sand, but with some greenery towards the middle. He could see some concrete ruins scattered around here and there. He wondered why there were no people. At the beach’s edge was a thick bramble of sticky bushes. He figured he might as well explore his new home. As he began pushing his way through the bushes, he startled a lizard. The lizard ran away across the sandy dunes. Suddenly, an explosion ripped through the air. Charlies was thrown backwards, his head ringing. As he came to his senses, he looked to where the lizard had been. Nothing remained except a crater.
With a horrible sinking feeling, Charlie realized that the war had visited this place too. The entire island was covered in land mines.
Desperation rose within Charlie. He wanted to go home. Not knowing what do to, he returned to the beach and looked out across the ocean. He wondered if this is where he would end his days. Alone, on a war torn island far from home. The sound of the surf breaking on the beach was his only companion.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He turned his head and saw what looked like a white horse. It vanished behind the bushes. Slowly, afraid that every step would be his last, Charlie crept to where the horse had been. He looked down and sure enough, there were hoof prints in the sand. Knowing that if he followed the prints, he would be safe from the mines, he set off after the horse. The prints wound this way and that way, but always towards the center of the island.
Finally, he came to a most welcome sight. A crystal clear pool of water, surrounded by fruit trees. The horse prints ended at the water’s edge. Charlie looked around, but the horse itself was nowhere to be seen. The oasis had everything he needed, including a little rock cave that he could take shelter in. He drank deeply and ate until he was full. As the sun set on his first day on the island, he even managed to start a fire, using the metal from his belt buckle and the rocks from the cave. He felt incredibly thankful for his good luck. Using a stick from the fire, he scratched a single mark on his cave’s wall. It was the end of his first day on the island.
A year passed. Charlie could now safely move across the entire island. He had discovered that if he took off his shoes, and walked barefoot through the sand, he could feel when the ground became firmer around a mine. Closer to the beach, he could also feel the waves breaking against the sand. He could tell time by how long it took for the wind to blow away his footprints. His feet had become very sensitive indeed. However, even though he was safe from the mines, his hope of ever leaving the island was fading. With each day that passed, despair crept into his thoughts. He had more and more trouble sleeping at night.
On the anniversary of his shipwreck, Charlie counted the scratch marks on his cave wall and sighed. He looked out across the sea towards where the sun set and said out loud, “You want me to wait? I’ll do whatever it takes to get off this damn island!”
That night, in his dreams, the white horse that he had glimpsed on his first day appeared to him. It walked up to him and spoke to him. It said, “Tomorrow, be ready.” The dream horse then morphed itself into one of the sticky bushes that ringed the beach’s edge. Charlie woke up.
It was night still, although the sky in the east had begun to lighten. He stared into the embers of his fire. He thought about the dream. He thought about the bushes. He had noticed them all around the island when he first arrived, but hadn’t given them much thought. He wondered what the horse meant. The sun came up. He ate some breakfast and decided to walk to the beach.
The day was a fine one. The sky was blue and filled with little white clouds. The surf broke gently onto the sand. Charlie decided he would spend the day watching the clouds go by. He laid back and let his imagination run with the shapes of the clouds. One looked like his mother’s favorite bonnet. She had always been worried about getting burned by the sun. Another cloud looked like one of the birds that sang outside his window when he was a child. His mother hadn’t let Charlie keep any pets, so the birds were his only animal companions growing up. He had liked their songs.
With a lazy sigh, he let his eyes drift back down to the horizon. With a gasp, he bolted up. There was a ship on the horizon! Frantic thoughts ran through his mind. What should he do? A fire, he needed a signal fire. He scrambled up and ran back to his oasis. He grabbed as much firewood as he could and a single lit stick from his morning’s fire. Running back to the beach, he prayed the ship would still be there. It was, although it had now moved halfway across the horizon.
In a hurry, he built a new fire on the beach, feeding it until it roared. But the ship showed no sign of noticing. Charlie was close to panic. Why didn’t they see it? He looked up at the smoke, it was pale and translucent. Suddenly, it came to him. The bush that the horse had turned into in his dream. He looked around and sure enough, there were many of them at the beach’s edge. He ripped off a branch and felt the leaves. They were oily. With newfound hope, he dumped the branch onto the fire. Like a miracle, the smoke turned thick and black. It rose high up into the sky.
Charlie looked back to where the ship had been. It was turning! It was coming for him. He was saved. He fell back onto the sand in relief and a little cry of joy escaped him. As the ship came nearer, his thoughts turned to his dream to go to Texas. Did he still want that? Or should he give up and return to home and his mother?
By the time the rescue boat pulled up onto the beach, he had made his decision. He hadn’t braved shipwreck, a deserted island, and land mines to turn back now. God willing, he would make it to Texas.