Ragtail studied the eroded remains of a wagon trail where it crossed the wash. “Ain’t much call for wagon traffic in the hills without a mine,” he said.
“That road’s washed away.” Lark pointed out the obvious. “If there was a mine hereabouts it’s played out by now.”
“Maybe there’s some left for us to find.”
Lark lowered his pack and wiped a sleeve across his brow. “We don’t know which way to follow it.”
Ragtail dropped his hand from Damn Donkey’s neck and gave Lark his full view. “Your smart gear got a tooth broke off, don’t it? Why would anybody live in the hills and go down-country to mine? If they lived up there they’d still be there and the road would be worn.” He kicked gravel from the wash bed toward the other miner.
Lark turned his nose up and giving his back to Ragtail sang:
Oh, Lord show me the way
Don’t delay, do it today.
We need to find some ore that’ll pay.
Damn Donkey’s pack shook, his bray echoing up and down the canyon. Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK.
Ragtail sent a rock sailing past Lark’s neck.
On Up The Road
Alerted by Damn Donkey’s twitching ears, the prospectors inched to the top of the hill, moving behind boulders and brush until they could lay on their bellies and see the valley beyond.
It was the road’s destination. An old shack, barn, and empty corrals battled time near a copse of mature oak. Something moved down there.
“I seen a dress,” Lark said. “Them’s fem-uh-neen wimmin!”
Ragtail squinted hard and thrust his head forward like it would get him closer to the view. “What would wimmin be doing out here?”
“Protecting our privacy,” said a voice behind them.
Both miners whirled in the dirt. Ragtail looked into the open end of a shotgun held by a tall middle-aged woman. She wore a dirty bellowing black skirt. Evidence indicated that her blouse was once white.
Next to her was a shorter female of the same indistinct age that women drift into after they’re girls and before old crones. This one had hair the color of a haystack and her hand was on a large black dog.
When Lark moved to rise, the dog growled, showing teeth.
“Anna, why don’t you take Yalla and fetch that donkey,” the tall one said. “We’ll have company for supper.”
Lark cleared his throat. “You call that black dog Yalla?”
The shotgun moved in a lazy swing between Ragtail and Lark. “That’s what Anna calls him and the dog’s hers. She also thinks the dog’s a ‘she’. It doesn’t do to upset Anna.”
“Uh, you mentioned supper,” Ragtail said. “What are you having?”
“Whatever you brought.”
It’s Not A Mine
The little group made their way to the worn cabin. Two more women waited for them.
One was thin with refined features, her hair groomed back in a bun.
The other wore a threadbare racy dress that allowed the buxom bulge of her upper chest pulchritude to sport a tan that could only be acquired by days of exposure to outdoor life. She broke out in a grin.
The thin one spoke to the lady with the shotgun.
“Kettie, Cornelius is worse. Really bad.”
The short woman leading Damn Donkey, Anna, emitted a burst of Spanish.
Kettie poked the gun at the men. “Do either of you know doctoring?”
Both prospectors shook their heads.
“Come on now. You’ve never took care of nobody?”
Ragtail said, “Just Damn Donkey here. Then mostly his feet.”
Lark raised his shoulders. “Don’t look at me. My burro came up lame and I turned her loose.”
Kettie pointed the barrel at Ragtail. “You’re it, then. Cecilia, get Cornelius covered proper. Call when you’re ready.”
Thin Cecilia disappeared through the cabin door.
Lark asked, “Is Cornelius your father?”
Anna mumbled in her cursing language.
The happy woman slapped Lark across his back and said, “You’re a spur to the funny bone.”
Ragtail took on a sweat. What had he got into?
What’s wrong with Cornelius? Can Ragtail be a doctor? Leave a comment and click a reaction box below.
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