Showing the Way Isn’t Leading
C.J. rode his mare beside the buggy’s rear wheel. He wasn’t exactly following Ramón in this position. C.J. wanted to see the talked-about hacienda, that’s all. Either cowboy was free to go any direction he desired.
The road crested a rise over the sloping outskirts of a butte, and C.J. caught his breath at the view of the valley.
A green line of trees and brush indicated a small stream running from the hills to his left-front, across the basin and curving away through a gorge.
The valley had to be five miles across, and in the middle, in front of the stream was a lush, green square. C.J. reckoned it to be an acre of trees and buildings.
As they wound down to the meadowland, C.J. could see an adobe wall five feet high enclosed the entire property. Visible tree tops promised plenty of shade.
Ramón drove the buggy through a wagon-sized gate and turned right, toward what had to be a carriage house in the rear.
C.J. hesitated and decided he’d followed the arrogant cowboy far enough. He rode Skewy to one of the hitching posts in front of a windowless, white-washed, adobe-brick building. The single-story structure was half as wide as the wall-to-wall distance. A porch ran the length of it. The only break in its features was a round-top doorway in the middle.
No one greeted him when he stepped to the porch. Esther May would have if she were able. C.J. patted his gun. If they were waiting for him to be with Ramón, they were in for a surprise. He’d find Esther May, and they’d get out of here.
In the Patio
The door was an entrance to a patio. Across the shaded courtyard under an overhang supported by columns, Esther May sat at a table. Her companion was a dark-haired woman with skin the color of leather burnished to a shining brown.
The woman saw him first and waved a hand. Two men stepped from corners on either side of C.J., rifles raised.
Esther May turned and grinned. “C.J! You’re here!”
The woman waved her hand palm-down and the riflemen melted back into the shadows.
Esther May craned her head to see around C.J. “Where’s Ramón?”
Why Did She Ask?
It took C.J. a moment to figure out there was another building, probably the living quarters, behind Esther May and the woman. Through the brush, he saw a path between the building and wall. Coming down that path was the irksome cowboy.
C.J. pointed at him. “If you mean the buggy-rider, he’s right there.”
Ramón rubbed his side where a holster would be. His lips were tightened white. “Remove your hat in the house of Doña Maria Esquerra.”
C.J. raised his head in a chin-point. “You got yours on.”
The Mexican took two quick steps forward before being stopped by a sharp, “Ramón!” He stood stiff and quivering like a fiddle string while Doña Maria gave him further instructions. “Show our guest where to freshen up.”
C.J. wanted no more to do with the cowboy or his attitude, and the Mexican felt the same from the pleading glance he gave the charcoal-haired woman.
Brand Him if You Can Ride Him
The hacienda’s mistress may have taken note of her employee and gave him a prestige-saving gesture. “See that he bathes before dinner.” Ramón’s perfect, white teeth may have enticed some people when he smiled. To C.J., they were like fangs.
He glanced at Esther May. She seemed confused. Was she drugged? “Esther May, do you want to get out of here?”
A Lady in the Making
She stood and raised a hand to her throat. Somewhere she had obtained a dress fit for a lady. Esther May never looked prettier. Her hair didn’t seem so short and she wore dainty emerald bows pining it back above her ears. Her toes, sticking out from under the dress, were not in her trail boots but woman’s shoes.
“What’s got into you, C.J.? We’re offered a place to rest a spell. Are you gonna act like you have no manners?”
Doña Maria set her cup on the saucer. “You are welcome to stay or go. If you stay, you must wash before sharing our table. You also must put away your gun, as has Ramón.”
Ramón’s grin widened.
Will C.J. accept the invitation? Leave a comment now.
Probably all households in the old west had a firearm. Usually, it was a rifle or shotgun. Few men carried pistols and if they did, the guns were placed in a pocket or tucked behind a belt. Most shoot-outs occurred after alcohol consumption with many shots fired. A surprising number of combatants were never injured. Show-downs in the streets were rejected in favor of ambushing an opponent. Face-offs in the street were rare, that’s why they became a sensational Hollywood staple.
In one movie, Doc Holliday tells a Cowboy, “I’m your huckleberry.” Was that phrase really used by Doc? Don’t know, but, yes, it was a common vernacular. Check here.
To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.
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