West Along the Gila

Why Don’t You Stay?

Doña Maria took Esther May by the hand and searched her eyes. “You say you’re ready to go, but I see the worry in you. Shouldn’t you stay?”

“Of course, I’m worried. But I’m excited too. On the other side of those mountains is Arizona Territory. That’s where my daddy and I set out, and where I expect to live my life.”

Be Careful

Maria glanced at the gray-haired Apache woman sitting in the wagon among the supplies. “Make sure it isn’t a short life, young amiga. I don’t trust her.”

Esther May followed Maria’s gaze. Abuela, as they had taken to calling her, sat stiff and expressionless, her stare locked onto a distant time or place. She could have been a rock.

“I owe her.” Esther May didn’t have to say more. Everyone in the hacienda knew by now that she had killed Abuela’s son.

“And I owe you,” Maria said. “When you find your ranch, come back for cattle. Or perhaps I’ll drive some breeding stock over to you, so I can see your place.”

Parting Gifts

“You’ve given me so much already, Doña Maria. A wagon filled with supplies and a driver to boot.” She grinned at the older woman. “You shouldn’t have made him go, though. What if he misses you and comes back?”

Maria snickered and cast a side-eye to the short, pot-bellied man leaning against the wagon wheel. “Old Blas? Just keep a tortilla in front of him and he’ll follow it.” She puckered her lips. “Maybe you won’t have to. He packed some of his stuff, so I’m sure he has want he wants.”

An Odd Group

A little thump struck Esther May’s chest as she took in her companions. An Apache woman of indeterminate age, and a Mexican man whose gray hair stuck out from under his sombrero and blended into his white beard.

“Seriously, Maria, he’s too old to drive a wagon to Arizona. It’s bad enough to take Abuela out of her country, but if she’s without her tribe, she’s my responsibility.”

“Only because you made it so. And, my dear senorita, Old Blas volunteered to go. He was raised by an Indian woman down in Mexico and said Abuela reminds him of her.”

Mount Up

“All right, then.” Esther May hugged her hostess. “Time to go.”

Esther May mounted her gelding and took her packhorse in tow. Old Blas climbed onto the wagon seat and popped the reins on the mule’s rump. Abuela showed no emotion as the little band headed out of the protective hacienda walls.

Where Are We Going?

Getting under way, Esther May rode next to the wagon and said, “Doña Maria mentioned a river on the other side of the hills ahead. She said we could follow it west. Do you know about that path?”

“Si,” Blas said. “The Gila River trail. We can take it to Camp Grant in the territory, but it’s not the best place to stay.”

“It isn’t?”

“No.”

“Um … where is, then?”

“From there, we can go north to Fort Verde or maybe Fort Whipple. Beautiful country.”

Esther May’s hopes got a kick of enthusiasm. “You’ve seen it?”

“No.”

Is Esther May’s group as diverse as they seem? Where will they end up? Leave a comment now.

Here’s some info about the Gila River. You get bonus points for correctly pronouncing Gila.

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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