Going Slower and Higher

Mountain Road

Prairie Wolves Ain’t So Bad

Easterly drove the wagon so he wouldn’t have to put his sore foot in a stirrup. Esther May took the post of outrider on her gelding.

For two days, as they rode higher up the foothills, Easterly glimpsed prairie wolves. Smaller than real wolves, they were as tall as good-sized dogs but leaner. They weren’t as aggressive as their lupine cousins, occasionally popping a head up here or there before disappearing. The livestock took no more notice of them than they did Hund.

Easterly shifted on the wagon seat and pointed one out to Esther May. “I think those critters are only following us because the stud was limping. Since his hoof is almost purely healed, I don’t reckon they’ll bother us. I ain’t gonna waste a bullet on ‘em.”

Esther May and the prairie wolf had a staring match, not of hatred but curiosity. “No need,” she said, agreeing with Easterly.

Easterly hoped the reference to the stud’s hoof would prompt Esther May to inquire about his injury. Of course, Esther May inspected his cut foot every night and rebandaged it. She knew how it was, but still, if she cared for him, she’d ask about his welfare at every opportunity. Wouldn’t she?

 

Leave ’em Behind

Another day’s travel put them among juniper trees, tall grass, and cool air. Easterly took a piece of jerky and stretched one out to Esther May. “Where’re our friends?”

“Haven’t seen ‘em all day. Probably went back to hunting rabbits. The truth must’ve hit ‘em that reality fills a belly better than slobbering after a big meal.”

“Speaking of a big meal—” Easterly pulled the team to a stop. “Stay still,” he whispered to Esther May. He reached under his seat for the rifle and raised his uninjured foot to the toe board. Resting the weapon across his knee, he aimed and fired.

“Good shot, Cornelius James Easterly. Venison tonight.”

Who Built This Road?

The road still wound uphill. Pine trees speckled the landscape. The junipers grew closer and thicker with oak brush filling in the gaps. The trail along the side of a hill sometimes created a scary view of a steep dropoff on one side and brush going straight up the other.
They covered three miles, down from their average of ten, before finding a place to stop.

 

Easterly Reverts To C.J.

“Let’s call it a day, Cornelius James Easterly. That last pull was almost straight up. The mules can use a rest.”

Esther May had taken to calling him by his entire name ever since he told it to her, and that irked him. “Can you call me C.J.? It’s what they called me back home. I’ll answer to it.”

“Well, I’ll be. Company’s coming, Cornelius James Easterly.”

“Esther May!”

“Oh, all right. I was funning you. But look here, someone is coming down to us.”

C.J., the erstwhile Easterly, squinted where Esther May pointed. The trail wound around until disappearing behind the brush, reappearing in stretches and vanishing again. He saw movement, a wisp of white tarp; then a small wagon came into view. It was configured much like theirs. Two mules in the traces, and two mules behind.

Esther May dismounted and chocked the wagon. “We can have the rest of the venison ready by the time they get here. Having company will be nice. But keep your pistol handy just in case.”

Will meeting company on the trail turn out good or bad for the young adults? Post your idea in comments now.

Here is a glimpse of where Easterly and Esther May are heading.

To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran. The time to do so is precious.

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