Esther May’s Worried
Esther May fixed him with a wet pleading stare.
Easterly’s guilt rose. He had meant to reinforce her confidence, not belittle her concerns. Was he always going to accomplish the opposite of what he intended with this girl/woman? “Look, Esther May, I’m sorry. I only meant … well, this stream here ain’t all that deep. I’ve crossed worse.”
Her lower lip trembled. “It was a powerful dream.” She lowered her head and turned to her wagon.
He heard her plain enough as she left.
“All it takes is enough water to cover your face.”
She really was worried. He’d make it right. “Let’s sit tight here while I check it out. We ain’t in such a hurry that we have to barge right into it. In fact, let’s set up camp.”
She gave him a grin that hurt his heart for the beauty of it. She placed a hand against the base of her neck like it helped her breathe. “You mean it? You believe me?”
“Sure I do. Never said no otherwise.” Well, he may have implied it, but he never said it.
Horse and Human Test It.
Easterly saddled the chestnut stud. Skewy had her ears up, a low soft nicker rumbled in her throat. She shuffled against her hobbles.
Once mounted, Easterly was pleased. He expected the stud to show reluctance and irritation since the horse hadn’t been ridden in some time. The rumor was that stallions were a handful to handle, but this one set the lie to the common belief. He was a worthy animal in every way.
Easterly rode past Skewy, stopping to scratch her ears. “Not this time girl. This big fella and I have crossed a lot of streams and we know how to do it. Just watch him and do what he does when your turn comes.”
At the edge of the Rio Grande Easterly took note of the water. He looked for ripples suggesting underwater obstacles like rocks or logs. He checked the slow current for floating debris, a tactic learned by experience.
He tongue-clicked and nudged the stud’s ribs with spurs. They entered the stream.
Easterly slid his boots out of the stirrups, except for the toes. If they went into a hole he wanted to be able to clear the saddle. Sometimes horses went down sideways and couldn’t regain their feet until they had drowned their rider.
The stud knew what he was doing so Easterly gave him slack reins. The horse’s ears twitched. First forward, then upstream and down.
They made it across.
There was Esther May on the bank they left. She held her fists against her stomach.
Skewy watched either Easterly or the stud intently. Hund couldn’t be seen, and the mules didn’t appear to care for anything but forage. The other two horses were out of sight in the brush compound.
“OK boy. Let’s go back.” Easterly tapped the go-ahead signal and the stud responded.
They waded the stream offset to the first crossing.
He could see the anxiety on Esther May’s face before they climbed out of the water. He turned the horse around and made another trip.
Across and back.
If anything, Esther May seemed more tense.
Easterly rubbed down the stud and put him back in the mixed remuda of horses and mules. He found a dead branch longer than he was tall and trimmed it.
Casting a sidelong glance at Esther May, he waded into the river poking the bottom in front of him.
Are Esther May’s fears real? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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