Stand Guard


Mirror flashes came from the butte at the south end of a ridge. The road to town skirted the bottom of the height and led to the hacienda, wavering only to avoid rocky outcrops or navigate arroyos, called washes.

Esther May grabbed her .44 caliber Henry rifle and a box of cartridges from her packhorse and went to the front wall, facing the butte. She could see over the five-foot adobe structure, but the rock she found to stand on made an excellent firing step.

Stationed at intervals around the acre-sized compound, men faced outward. Esther May’s chosen spot was near a middle-aged man in a straw sombrero.

Are They Coming?

She saw nothing.

“Where are they?”

The mustachioed vaquero on her right finished a burrito and picked his teeth with a small wedge of leather. “Just wait.”

A few minutes later, Esther May saw dust rise on the road and swung her rifle in that direction.

“Don’t shoot yet,” Mustache said. “They’re the riders coming in.”

The lookout from the high ground arrived on a lathered horse about the same time the three men stationed along the stream returned.

Getting Tense

Knowing a fight was coming scratched her nerves like a dry corncob to the back of her neck. Esther May’s stomach cramped. She rubbed her sweaty hands on her pants. “Is everyone in now?”

Her companion leaned over the top of the wall and searched the north.

Esther May followed his example. A puff of dust was coming their way.

Mustache resumed his position with a grunt. “The herders.”

The riders came into view. They wasted no time galloping down the valley. It was plain the four herders’ horses were tiring, one lagged behind the other by several lengths. The lead rider seemed smaller than the rest, probably a youngster with only one or two years on the range.

Esther May watched the race, the man in last place falling farther behind. . The spectacle reminded her of Fourth of July contests back in Texas.


In an instant, six Apaches materialized as if out of the ground. Their horses leaped out of a wash and into the herders’ path. They overwhelmed the herders in seconds. From a quarter-mile away, Esther May heard victory yells.

Within heartbeats, the Indians melted into the earth leaving four dead horses and one dead herder.


Esther May saw it all and couldn’t comprehend what happened. Such intense action now over in silence, leaving a profound change for friends and family. How could lives be swallowed so fast, over and done forever?

And not a shot fired in their defense.

Esther May trembled violently and grabbed the top of the wall with both hands to steady herself. Mustache hugged her with one arm. “Go to the kitchen and rest, senorita. It will get worse.”

What’s Worse?

His prophecy came true with a whoop and a yell. An Indian on horseback came riding in front of the hacienda. He dragged a body on a rope. Esther May assumed the victim was still alive.

Gunshots from a mix of weapons: rifles, muzzle-loaders, pistols, and shotguns, exploded from the wall. Esther May found she was firing as fast as she could lever a round and pull the trigger.

The Apache yelled the whole way, he and his horse were unscathed as they disappeared into a wash dragging the body with them.

What should Esther May do now? Leave your comment here.

Here’s an interesting story of one boy captured by Apaches.

To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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