C.J. raised his hands in the universal gesture of surrender.
His body reacted of a volition he couldn’t control. He tried to speak but his throat constricted, squishing every bit of moisture from it to spurt out through his bladder.
He felt the warm wetness spread across the saddle and the inside of his legs. What had he done? He couldn’t look but felt the heat rise in his face intense enough to set his ears to ringing.
Time slowed down. C.J. was aware of everything: a yellow butterfly on a sagebrush, an odd-shaped cloud, chinks in the adobe wall, the man on the barebacked horse moving closer. He saw it all, even though he kept his eyes on the rifle pointed at him.
He was trapped by Indians. Please don’t let them be Apaches.
The man rode past him, wrinkled his nose and spat. He spoke to the woman in a language C.J. didn’t understand. She laughed and lowered her rifle. Pointing off to her right, she said, “Little Black Water,” and waved C.J. away with a backward motion of her hand.
C.J. didn’t know if she was making fun of him or had given him an Indian name. He wasn’t going to wait to find out, either. He spurred his horse in the direction she had pointed.
In case she directed him to an ambush, he began randomly changing directions while still riding westward. Three hours later he stopped and rubbed sage all over his saddle, removed his overalls and used canteen water to clean them as best he could.
Remembering how he reacted to his first encounter with Indians set his face to burning again. Thank goodness no one that he knew witnessed his humiliation.
What you got to trade?
The painted sign over the door proclaimed this to be the Little Black Water Trading Post. Three women with earthen water jugs balanced on their heads walked the grounds near the building. There was no road, just a building of rough-hewn lumber squatting in the middle of dirt and grassy weeds flattened by horse and foot traffic.
Situated near the shadows of cottonwood trees by a trickle of a creek, the trading post had a hand pump atop a well-head fixture in the yard. Why would women go to the trouble of pumping water when it was flowing right past them? He saw the answer in the form of cattle and a few goats standing in the stream. He supposed the animals would relieve themselves wherever they stood. As he watched, he got the answer. The well water was fresh.
Across the creek, on the civilized side, were more buildings. A settlement of one saloon, an assayer’s shop, a general store, a smithy’s stable and forge, some nondescript buildings, and a few dwellings. A rush of gratitude filled him to see a settlement. He wasn’t alone in Indian territory after all.
C.J.’s attention was drawn back to a middle-aged woman stepping out of the trading post wiping her hands on the apron atop her gingham dress. She was tall and heavy-boned, face creased from wear and sun. But her hair was still red and tied in a knot at the back of her head. As C.J. rode forward, she hollered back into the establishment, “Here’s a strange one, Sean. Come look. He’s a tenderfoot, Lord love him.”
Does the trading post lady think C.J. needs divine protection? Do you? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
Thank a veteran.