Wake Up, Easterly
Hands cupped his face. “Easterly, look at me.” It wasn’t Mama calling him. Easterly opened his eyes. It was, “Esther May!” His lips were thick and dry in spite of the occasional raindrop, slurring his words. “Thank the Lord. How far did I go? Why do you look like a boy?”
Esther May studied his face, particularly his eyes before removing her touch. “What happened to your foot?”
“Cut it.” He groaned. “Did you cut your hair?”
“Yep. Makes my hat fit. Can you walk?”
“Even hopping makes it bleed.”
Esther May scanned him, bloody bandage to matted hair. “What happened to your shirt?”
Easterly didn’t want to admit he tossed an otherwise good garment for being buttonless. “It was tore up.”
Esther May hooted a laugh. “I sure wish I had a tintype of you. You’re a filthy mess, no shirt, no hat, and the sleeves of your longies wrapped around your hind foot.”
Easterly thought to take offense, but his mind’s eye showed himself from Esther May’s viewpoint. He joined her laughter. “I reckon I’m a sight all right. Got any drinking water left for washing?”
“How bad’s that foot?”
“Cut pretty deep, I’d guess.”
“Let’s get some kerosene on it.” She helped Easterly stand, and pointed to her horse tied to a mesquite tree across the wash. “I ‘spect you can ride, can’t you?”
“As long as I don’t have to put this foot in a stirrup.”
“Ok. Let’s go, then.” She put her arm around his waist as he draped a grip over her shoulder.
A Shoulder To Lean On
Holding on to Esther May beat the walking stick all to pieces. Riding double seemed like a good idea too. He should tell her how much he liked being on the trail with her.
Easterly stopped and stared at Esther May’s gelding. “The horses. The stud and Skewy. We have to find them.”
Esther May tugged him forward. “They found me. They’re back at the wagon.”
“They made it?”
“Stud’s got a limp, but I think he’ll be OK.”
Easterly caught his breath, then let it out with a whoosh after a hop. “I suppose we’ll both limp along for a spell, but it’s nice to know we all swum through it. That was a mean stampede of water. It was tough to keep your head up. I know I swallered a gallon of it.”
“Watch this rock here,” Esther May said, as she gave Easterly an extra hitch to his skip. “You hurt your other foot, and I’ll have to drag you back with a rope.” They made two more frog leaps and Esther May halted. “You rest, and I’ll bring the horse over here.”
“Why didn’t you do that in the first place?”
“I thought you might be dead. Didn’t want to spook my ride.”
Easterly didn’t want to let go of her but couldn’t think of a reason to keep hanging on. “Yeah, that’d be easier.”
Once the gelding was in place, Esther May helped Easterly mount. His injured foot hung loosely outside the stirrup. If Esther May saw the blood dripping from the dirty wrapping, she didn’t comment on it.
Esther May used the free stirrup to swing up behind Easterly. “You want me to take the reins? You’re not gonna fall off, are you?”
Easterly was light-headed. He wasn’t sure if it was the exertion of mounting the horse or the fact that he felt Esther May’s front at his back. His upbringing made him lean forward to give her some decent room. “I reckon I can ride a horse.”
“Those mules you were driving? Rosarita and Hombrecito? They were still harnessed together, got sideways, and went under. I saw it.”
“Oh.” Easterly hadn’t thought of the mules. He had concentrated on the supplies. “Did the wagon come to land anywhere close?”
“Gone. Busted up, washed away.”
Esther May pointed out the most natural way out of the wash. She took hold of the back of Easterly’s belt for balance as the gelding lunged up the bank. “Easterly?”
He braced for more bad news. “Yeah?”
“I may have to carve your name on a grave board. I want to know all the names your mama gave you. Not just the one.”
Remember Easterly’s full name? Comment now.
Kerosene has long been used by country folks as an antiseptic. It may have a history of working as hoped, but this article tells of one death from using it. Bottom line: (pun intended) there are better medicines.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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