A voyage aboard the Durango

We join our intrepid adventurers as the H.M.S. Durango readies to leave port on a quiet morning late in the month of January, in the year 2007 of our lord.

Still a proud vessel, the Durango does show a little wear around the edges. Her sails aren’t quite as pearly as they once were, and the brickwork is a little rundown. Her once proud, blue-collar crew has also left to serve on other boats – many taking up the wheel, sails and crow’s nests on the S.S. Bayfield and the S.S. Mancos. Others have vanished for less glorious positions pulling the oars and patching the hull on warships like the H.M.S. Aztec and the aptly named S.S. Shiprock.

Nonetheless, the H.M.S. Durango is relatively ship-shape as she prepares for her voyage toward the western horizon. Much of her crew is now fronted by sharp-dressing, smooth-talking deck hands who boast real estate license shingles in their ample bunk space. Above deck, relatively listless hands are a different story, only performing work when necessary and usually looking overboard for that monthly message-in-a-bottle from good old mom and dad. The Durango’s holds are no longer filled with precious metals or even meats or foods for the faraway California colonies. No, the dusty ship now deals largely in the trade of rubber tomahawks, “Got Elk” T-shirts and split level ranchettes.

But that’s all about to change. The ship’s officer corps now holds a rare artifact – a map of sorts linking La Plata County with a far-off and magical archipelago. According to the map, the destination is dripping in sports cars, country club memberships and fusion cuisine. And the ship’s leadership and crew have high hopes of a new beginning and an end to the dreaded “Got Elk” trade.

“Set a course beyond the Twin Buttes,” the ship’s Captain Sid Zink calls to First Mate Ledger. “That’s hard to starboard, and just in case you’ve forgotten, we’ll be going further to the right now, Mr. Ledger.”

Cabin Boy Doug Lyon is setting out on his first cruise aboard the Durango, but eagerly chirps his agreement, “Steer a course for the Tropic of the Elephant. All hail a new beginning.” Helmsman Howley and Deck Captain Garland make the appropriate adjustments, and the ship casts off.

Unbeknownst to the captain and crew, a lass has stowed away deep within the hold. She, too, knows of the fabled map the ship’s captain holds in her hands. But unlike Captain Zink, she fears that the parchment has been cursed and will reign down terror upon the Durango. “We’ll show this crew a thing or two,” Lady Renee Parsons calls out. “Let’s see how they like this for size” she continues, and augers the first of several small holes in the ship’s hull. But the holes are easily patched and neither they nor Lady Parsons do much to impede the Durango’s progress. She sails off toward the sunset chasing dreams of
a New West.

The sea pitches and the skies rain down a dreadful storm, as the crew of the Durango follows in Ulysses’ footsteps. Just days into the journey, the noble ship successfully staves off an attack in the vicinity of River Trails Ranch. Shortly thereafter, she survives a blast from that blood-thirsty buccaneer Red McCombs. The mighty Durango then manages to dodge the temptations of the mysterious island of Telluride (thanks largely to that cargo of tomahawks – currency not accepted in places like San Miguel County).

But she also suffers a handful of defeats, surrendering to the exceptionally well-armed crew of the Tierra Group, giving a wide berth to a vessel known only as BP and narrowly surviving a brutal intestinal onslaught from the Farmington branch of Long John Silver. Many days into the journey, just as Long John is making his finally call from the latrine, helmsman Howley shouts, “Call me delusional, Captain, but I believe the Promised Land is in sight.”

A large, green sign reading “GRAND JUNCTION – City Limit – Pop. 45,299” greets the crew’s eyes. The ship drifts eerily past the sign into a sea of strip malls, sprawling suburban subdivisions, browning golf courses and streams of gridlocked traffic.

“It’s not what we expected Captain, but our calculations were dead-on. Mr. Howley is not delusional. I believe we have arrived at our destination,” Garland calls out.

With the captain and crew scanning the horizon with disappointed eyes, a voice sounds from a small rowboat directly off the bow. “Help me! Save me!” cries a small, weathered looking man with a grizzled beard. The crew hauls the marooned man onto the deck, offers him a healthy swig from their stores of Pinstripe and listens as he madly shouts, “Turn back while you still can. There is no escape from the traps of Mesa County.” Glancing around, the bewildered urchin then spies the piece of parchment in Captain Zink’s hand. “Oh, you’ve found my map,” he smiles, taking it in hand. “But there’s a problem here . . . You’ve been reading it upside down. This map leads to La Plata County, not away from it.”

Captain Zink rapidly rallies the crew, rings the bell and climbs to the top of the deck.

“Come about and set a course beyond the La Platas, Mr. Ledger,” Zink calls out to the first mate. “That’s hard to port, and lest we see this forsaken place ever again, let’s steer the Durango a little to the left this time.”

– Will Sands

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