Apple pickin’ time; brings them slimey motherfuckin’ jackrollers out from un’er ev’ry goddamn rock. They’ll be out here on the railroad lookin’ fer tramps got ‘em some change fer bustin’ their backs pickin’ apples. Pickin’ the pickers, they calls it. Some a these fruit tramps, firs’ thing they do when they’s finished an orchard is head inta town ‘n git good ‘n drunk. Hell, them bars ‘roun’ Wenatchee, The Snake Pit, The Arrow ‘n them, they’s overflowin’ when the pickin’s done. All apple money. Goes right from the orchards ta the bars. Them jackrollers is b’hind ev’ry bush waitin’ like vultures fer a tramp’s had hisself his workin’ drinks. A guy comes staggerin’ drunk down ta the jungles, his money’s good as gone. Mos’ guys that’s smart git the hell outta apple country when they’s finished pickin’. If it’s drinkin’ they got on their mind, they git drunk somewheres else, some place no one has the idea they gotta hunk a change in their pocket.
What some a these jackrollers’ll do is ride with ya. Might not even bother to git ya drunk first. They’ll ride with ya, wait till yer in the middle a nowhere, beat all hell outta ya, take yer money, ‘n roll ya out the door. If it happens to be daylight, they’ll roll ya out when the train’s passin’ through a tunnel. ‘At way, them rails in the crummy ain’t gonna see the body. Won’t be foun’ till the next unit passes through. By that time, them sons a bitches is gone.
I’ll come away from the apples with sometimes more ‘n a thousand dollars in my pocket. ‘At’s a lotta fuckin’ apples, an’ I din’t pick ‘em fer my health. ‘At pickin’ money’s what keeps me goin’ all year. Ain’t nobody gonna take it neither. Got me six copperheads, ‘n I’m ready ta put ‘em ta use. I killed two men in my life. Ain’t no killer. Don’t go ‘roun’ lookin’ fer trouble, but I ain’t gonna give some guy comes ‘long ‘n wants my money, I ain’t gonna give it to him on a silver platter. He’s gonna have to do some work to git it.
It’s one thing to git inta a fight, ‘n another ta pull a gun. My father, he always tol’ me if you pull a gun on a man, better be damn sure yer gonna use it ‘cause the other guy might have hisself a gun too, ‘n if he goes fer it, ya gotta shoot him. Ya got no time fer decidin’ what ta do er ‘splainin’ that ya was jus’ tryin’ ta throw a scare into him. Ya got no choice but ta shoot him. Ya might think ya kin always lame a guy, put him outta commission ‘thout altogether killin’ him, but when yer shootin’ fer yer life, it ain’t like shootin’ tin cans off a fence. Yer scared as shit ‘n shakin’ like a leaf ‘n yer damn glad ya kin even point the thing in the right direction, let alone aim fer a certain part of a guy’s body. Time I shot a guy, I leggo six shots ‘n only hit him once. It ain’t like them westerns make it out ta be. Ya git scared, ya shake all over ‘n ya barely know what yer doin’. ‘N even if the other guy come at’cha with a knife er somethin’, aimin’ to kill ya, ye’ll always be tellin’ yerself ya didn’t hafta shoot him.
Ain’t proud ta be carryin’ a gun. Jus’ a soon be rid a the damn thing. Thought a throwin’ it in the river plenty a times, but I dunno, I start thinkin’ ‘bout all the stuff ‘at kin happen. Look’it ‘at Juan Corona shit. Killed ‘n buried twenty-five, thirty tramps. They was all tramps, ev’ry las’ one of ‘em. An’ them is jus’ the ones they found. No tellin’ how many he killed. Know what the judge should a done with that guy? Make him ride a freight from Bakersfield ta Spookaloo. ‘At’s all, no sentence, jus’ git him in a boxcar with a tramp er two. I guarantee he wouldn’t make it past the lights a Bakersfield. There’s this other guy, the ball-peen murderer. Goes ‘roun’ at night, knockin’ tramps on the head while they’s sleepin’. Uses nothin’ but a ball-peen hammer. Think they caught that son of a bitch too.