|Ragtail and Damn Donkey|
They reckoned it was the dirty, tattered snot rag fixated on his belt that got Ragtail his name.
But it could’a been because the seat of his britches had long since amalgamated into something done and done over, scraped clean through from sliding down hillsides when his footing gave way. Patches turned this way, and that way covered his modesty like a crazy quilt. They was all sewn on with a long, looping stitch, so that may have been where his name come from.
Ragtail didn’t seem to mind. He spent his time alone except for Damn Donkey, and that exasperating beast didn’t care for looks or if Ragtail had a few gray hairs creeping around under his hat or on his chin.
In any case, Ragtail accounted he would clean up and even get a proper horse as soon as he found a lode with the right color.
He lived high once when he pushed deeper into an abandoned drift and collected a nice little haul of galena that assayed high in silver. He lodged into a hotel so fancy that they made him take a bath before allowing him to stay.
But he didn’t enjoy it.
For one thing, the bed was too soft. However, the floor was clean, so he bunked down there. City noise relentlessly pierced his skull with high tones blended with clomping feet coming from every direction. So many people on the move drove him to keep his shotgun handy.
He endured his luxury for a week then used the last of his windfall to pay the stable for taking care of Damn Donkey. The only good feeling he left with was he got his fill of steak and bacon.
Broke and on a grub-stake again, Ragtail needed to find new territory. As soon as he showed up at the Assayers Office the vultures that preyed on the hunting skills of hermitic prospectors knew what he had and where he likely got it. They left town before he finished his check-in bath.
The scavengers were on the carcass. No sense in going back that way.
But there was a tugging at him to follow the siren call of a lost mine. The story went that an aged Spaniard stumbled out of the desert years ago. He said that he was a young man when his company marched north and ran afoul of local tribesmen. Only several of the armor-wearing invaders survived the encounter and they were used as slaves by the people with the strange language.
Once a year the women of the tribe journeyed to a valley where they picked the pods from the trees growing there. The slaves went as burden bearers. The old man said that when he was the last of his kind, on the annual trip to the valley he simply walked away.
Somewhere on his escape south, he had passed a gold field where nuggets lay for the picking. He showed the evidence. Two thumb-sized beauties – almost pure.
Men had disappeared trying to locate that gold. Ragtail reckoned it was time for him to try.
Next Wednesday Ragtail prospects new territory. What will he find? Leave a comment.
Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
Thank a veteran.