Drawing in the Dirt
“See here?” Alejandro said, and drew an oval in the dirt with a greasewood stick. “That is the mountain range over there across the river.” He drew a line parallel to the oval then bent it across the upper part of the range. “This is the Gila River. In about twenty miles the way you’re going, it bends west and goes through the mountains. But your wagon can’t go. It’s a narrow gorge. Only on foot or maybe horse, can you go.”
This is Where You Want to Go
He shifted his feet and drew an X below the end of the Gila line. “This is Camp Grant here.”
Esther May studied the line in the dirt. “How far is it around the top of the range?”
Alejandro went to the side of his chuckwagon and retrieved pieces of jerky from a gunny sack. He lifted the lid of a wooden barrel tied to the wagon and filled a large dipper with water. Offering the water and jerky first to Abuela then Esther May before helping himself, he shrugged.
“The mountain gets worse. We’ve never tried to cross it. Maybe Indians can go over it, but who knows their ways? Better to keep going northwest past the river bend into the land of the Tonto Apaches. It’s good country. You’ll find water there.”
Well, Then …
“How far is that?”
“Ah, senorita, another dry fifty miles after you leave the Gila.” His shaggy brows lifted in sympathy. “And it is all uphill. You can’t carry enough water for your animals. They’ll die in three days.”
Alejandro waved at his rig. “We came from there. It takes all this to make sure five civilized men can do it.”
A Long Trip For … ?
“What were you doing up there?” The words came out of Esther May’s mouth voicing her suspicions.
Alejandro’s lips curled up under his mustache. “Trading.”
Esther May had heard tales of men who traded with presumably hostile Indians and didn’t want the particulars.
The Other Way
“How far, then, is it back around the bottom of the range?”
“Go back thirty miles, then go around that big mountain. See it?” Alejandro pointed at the tallest mountain in the range. “Circle around it and go over its foothills until the ground slopes down. You’ll find a valley after forty-five more miles—Aravaipa. Follow that, and you’ll begin to see water, then a running creek. Go northwest down the valley until it narrows into a canyon. Like the Gila, it bends and cuts through a mountain. It gets tight, but you may be able to make it. From the time you find the valley until it comes out at Camp Grant is another forty-five miles.”
No Easy Way From Here
“So, no matter which way we go,” Esther May said, “we have a long, dry stretch to cover.”
And Yet …
“There is another way I have heard, senorita,” Alejandro said. “Follow us back the way you came to that place down there.”
He pointed to a broad, green area on the Gila about fifteen miles away.
“But cross the river. Then, look for the first trail heading south. It should cross the range at a low saddle, and you’ll only have twenty-five miles to go downhill to Aravaipa Creek.”
Can We Trust Him?
Esther May couldn’t decide if the information Alejandro imparted was true. She went to Abuela. “What do you think?”
The Indian woman scowled. “We should follow water as much as we can.”
“A couple more things,” Alejandro said. “Don’t follow us too close. The boss, Emilio, shoots those he considers meddlers.”
“Nice,” Esther May said. “He must be the one who told us we would probably die.”
“The other thing,” Alejandro said, heading back to his wagon, “Aravaipa Canyon is a way traveled by Apaches.”
What will the women do? Share your thoughts here.
Beautiful Aravaipa Canyon. Read about it here.
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