You Say You’re Sick?
“Git outta here, then,” Smitty said. “Don’t need your pox cooped up in here with us.”
C.J.’s throat hurt, and his chest ached from raw, rasping coughing. “Ain’t a pox,” he wheezed, pinching off the words. Talking was an effort that led to more breathless hacking. He had no energy for it anyway.
Smitty pulled his blanket over his mouth. “Ride west until you come to a butte. Can’t miss it. It’s red and has a knife-edge on the north side. There’s an Indian woman stays around there who’s a healer.”
The last thing C.J. wanted to do was ride today, but Smitty was right. He couldn’t stay, and he needed care. “What do I take—” C.J. went into another round of chest-burning spasms—“to pay her?”
Extending an arm out of his bedroll in a shooing wave, Smitty said, “She’ll tell you. Git.” He rolled over, the extent of his nursing care done.
Riding Sick and Exhausted
Was he still going west? C.J. wasn’t sure. Breathing without falling into a round of coughing required all his attention. He couldn’t smell the pine-scented mountain air that had pleased him so much when he first arrived in the high country.
He tried to blow his clogged nose cowboy-style: pressing one nostril closed and blowing hard through the other. All he got for his effort was a fine spray that blew back in his face and more hacking until he was breathless.
C.J. had lost his way. He was sure of it. He had ridden all day and only stopped once for a rest. After barely making it back into the saddle, he was scared to get off again. So he kept riding.
Smitty didn’t say how long it would take, and it cost C.J. too much energy to keep his head up to search for the butte. He may have gone in circles.
His little mare walked on while C.J. dozed. He dreamed a man led Skewy from the pines into juniper-studded country. C.J. tried to talk to him, but the words were covered by barking coyotes.
Night fell, and still, the guide moved them forward through the suffocating howling.
C.J. saw fires—cooking fires. A man dressed in western clothes and moccasins had a hand on Skewy’s halter taking him to a clearing. He stopped in front of mounds of brush that had openings in them—Apache dwellings.
The man stopped and retrieved a deer from behind C.J. How long had Skewy been carrying the game?
We’re Here, Get Down
People appeared as silent wraiths. The deer vanished, and the man C.J. thought of as the guide motioned for him to dismount. He tried but couldn’t get his foot out of the stirrup.
Hands helped him, and in a dizzying spin, he was on the ground. Strong arms supported him along a path to a lean-to covered with juniper branches. More of the boughs were scattered thick for a floor.
The ordinarily pleasant aroma of the woody cedar overwhelmed C.J. and added to his difficulty in breathing.
An unaggressive but insistent push put C.J. in the shelter.
A woman built a fire in front of the lean-to and added a smoky material that blew over C.J., making it hard to breathe.
He buried his face in the juniper boughs for fresh air, but she pulled on his shoulder. He turned to see she had a gourd cup and a knife.
Will C.J. recover – easily? Leave a comment now.
Here is a short article about wickiups, but notice the video at the end.
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