The HW Hands Deliberate
“You know,” Ridge said, “we got two killers swingin’ in the breeze out yonder. Without that Navajo tracker to tell us, we can’t be sure Easterly’s pony is the one we want.” He tipped his head toward Imala. “This sharp-talkin’ squaw’s got me wonderin’ about the whole affair. If Easterly’s guilty, why wasn’t he here with the others?” He combed his mustache with dirty fingernails and furrowed his brow. “Do you think we can trust her?”
Matt spoke up. “I do. My stomach is feeling better already. I ain’t had a—you know—since she cooked up that tea.”
Shorty stood and headed for the door.
“Where you goin’?” Ridge asked.
“Check the weather,” the tall Texan answered.
Ridge stood near the hearth and gazed around the line shack. C.J., or Easterly as the HW ranch hands knew him, sat at the table. Matt sprawled with his back against a wall. Imala stood halfway between the fireplace and table.
Razor-sharp beams of light from gaps in the crude roofing were filled with dust motes sparkling as they stirred and drifted. It seemed to Ridge they were thicker than usual. Maybe more people in the place kicked up extra dirt.
Shorty stooped through the door. “Gettin’ a mite airish out there.”
Free – This Time
C.J. pulled his hat down tighter and spoke louder against the stiffening breeze. “I sure am grateful to you for speaking up back there. I don’t think they’d have let me go if you hadn’t said what you did.”
Imala rode behind C.J. as they headed west into the wind. He twisted around far enough to see if she heard him and was struck by the beautiful image her windswept hair created. In that instant, Imala was the central focus that the world swirled around. A rush of affection drew him in, and he wanted to go deeper. A flash of insight revealed that a divine plan brought him to this point. Imala was meant to be his. He was ready to share his innermost soul with her.
“Imala, I’d like to tell you something—”
“So would I,” she said. “I’m downwind of you. We’re going to have to find shelter soon and wait out the storm. Before that happens, you have time to stop at a catch-basin and wash up.”
C.J. was going for heartfelt testimony, and she said he stunk?
He took her statement as a rejection, and it gutted him. There were lots of good reasons why he was in this position, and she should have been understanding.
He imagined he didn’t get an honest look at her earlier. She was probably uglier than he realized—a bent nose, maybe crooked teeth, and crossed eyes.
He turned to her again. Nope. More beautiful than ever, and his heart burst.
He would do whatever he needed to attract this Indian maiden. He’d take on the fiercest warrior in her tribe, he’d shoot arrows better and farther than anyone, he’d become whatever she needed.
But first, he had to take a bath. He’d even take off his socks this time.
C.J. is love-struck. Will it be requited? Leave your thoughts now.
Here’s a short article about stock tanks. Nature makes ‘em too.
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