At Her New Quarters
Esther May ran her hands over the gelding’s shoulder and back. After weeks on the trail, particularly the ride across the mountain, the horse needed time to recuperate. She went to C.J.’s mare, Skewy. The spirited little animal had finally accepted Esther May but still bit and kicked at strangers as Julio and Roberto discovered.
As she had with her horse, she found Skewy to be in want of food, good water, and rest. Neither horse had thrown a shoe, but both needed the attention of a farrier. The four other horses were in better shape.
Julio leaned his head from side to side peering through the corral fence of ocotillos behind his family’s casa. “Here comes Brother Pablo.”
Esther May caught a glimpse of Brother Pablo, his brown cassock blending in with the dirt path. His clerical clothing, tied with a rope belt, and his sandaled feet gave her an image of the Spanish missionaries. Esther May went to the slide-pole gate in the corral to greet him.
“Good morning, Brother Pablo. Thank you for helping me last night.”
The priest waved the comment away. “You were gone early this morning. After the distress you suffered, I worried for you. Are you preparing to leave?”
Esther May ducked her head. “No. I just made arrangements to board the horses and me here at Julio’s place.” She scuffed a toe in the dirt. “I apologize for my behavior, Fa—um, Brother. All the worries just seemed to boil over at once.”
“You did what anyone would do, Senorita. You were better than most, probably.” Pablo tilted his head. “Am I correct that you said See Gee is not your husband?”
Esther May felt her face grow warm. “Not my husband, no. We’ve been on the road together for safety. Not as husband and wife.”
Pablo scratched his chin. “That explains why you’re with the horses rather than at his side. But surely you must care what happens to him.”
“I would appreciate it, Brother, if you would quit trying to hogtie me to a man. It’ll happen when it happens.” Esther May didn’t mean to snap at him and her outburst was sharper than she intended. But there was something irksome about the conversation. She wouldn’t apologize.
Pablo seemed unaffected by her peevishness and she calmed herself. “I saw the doctor was with him this morning, Brother, and these horses need my attention.”
Pablo half laughed, half snorted. “The doctor was there all night because that’s where the whiskey was, not because of the patient. The doctor drank more than he poured on See Gee. Now I have to send Julio for another bottle.” He eyed Esther May. “Unless you want your money back?”
“That money is yours, Brother. I would like for you to use some of it for C.J.’s expenses. Whatever is left over is yours.”
Pablo made a slight bow. “That is most kind. There is much our poor mission needs.”
“Then here’s something else for you to use or sell,” Esther May said, pointing. “Unless someone shows up claiming those two horses, you can have them along with their saddles and bridles.”
Brother Pablo frowned and narrowed his eyes. “Did those belong to the men you told me about?”
Brother Pablo dropped his gaze to Esther May’s hip. “If they’re gone, why are you wearing a gun?”
“There was a third man.”
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Ocotillo was and is a common building material. Here is one short article.
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