C..J.’s sudden bolt down the road put a fright in Esther May. She drew the pistol that C.J. ignored and scanned the area for danger.
The horses were calm, their ears twitching in the direction where Skewy galloped around a curve and out of sight.
After another glance behind, Esther May holstered the gun. If C.J. wasn’t running from something, then … did he think she wasn’t trying to help him reach safety?
Why Would He Think That?
Yes, he had behaved immaturely and wet his pants when confronted by an Apache, but in the end, he saved her.
And yes, she was mad at him, but not for a second did that mean she wasn’t trying hard to help him.
Every man she ever knew, including her father, treated her as a girl with frivolous notions. Did she misread C.J.? Didn’t he want and expect her to be an equal partner.
Someone to work shoulder-to-shoulder with him during their trip to Arizona.
Evidently, she was wrong.
Esther May wiped tears from her cheeks. If C.J. didn’t trust her, she’d continue by herself. She had horses, supplies, and money to use if she reached the town.
Come to think of it, she had weapons too.
Yeah, she’d make it.
Staying Off the Road
Esther May consulted her internal clock. She was at least half a day behind the riders. Men like the vaqueros wouldn’t stop for a break, but she couldn’t be sure.
She picketed the horses, grabbed the Henry rifle and crept though the brush overlooking the creek crossing.
No one was in sight. Just the picture of beautiful, clear water running across the ford. Still cautious, she made her way to the water’s edge and read the signs.
Four horses had been here. She saw the same number of hoof prints on the other side of the small stream. C.J. had to be the forth rider, but she didn’t know if he was trailing them or was with them.
Where he was didn’t matter at the moment. Her livestock needed water, grazing, and rest.
Esther May returned to lead her horses to a more secluded spot downstream of the ford. She stopped at a widening of the creek bed where an alcove in the far bank provided shelter and concealment.
The place had green grass and a crab apple tree without any fruit on it. It seemed inviting after the rocky, juniper covered ridges. She unsaddled and unpacked the horses, hobbled them, and set up camp. Two days here would do wonders for the animals.
She located her bedroll under an overhanging ledge with a fire pit in front. Satisfied with the safety of her position, she dug through the food pouches.
Coffee and corn dodgers were in immediate demand.
Time to Leave
Esther May checked to make sure the fire was out. She’d become attached to the place on the creek bank and she didn’t want a fire to damage it. She said a prayer of thanks that no Apaches had wandered past and discovered her.
She extended her heavenly communication to include a supplication for her continued well-being and left. With the vaqueros days ahead of her, she could take the road for easier traveling.
Daydreaming Past the Signs
Something was different. In this country that meant unsettling.
It took Esther May a moment to realize what caused her concern. She had been following the riders’ old tracks. She hadn’t seen where, but three dropped out.
There was only one rider ahead of her now.
Does Esther May have cause for concern? Post your comment now.
The western movies often show a rider galloping all day without resting his horse. That’s not likely. Check out this article about horse health on the trail.
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