Esther May grinned when she saw Abuela preparing the evening meal. The older Apache woman was frying tortillas under the sycamore tree with a rhythm that bespoke years of routine. She rolled dough on her leg, placed it in a skillet, flipped the disc once, and the tortilla was done.
She raised her eyes as Esther May rode closer to the firelight. “You are late. Did you have trouble in town?”
Esther May stepped off the gelding and held out a sack. “How would you like a taste of this to go along with supper?”
“What is it?”
“Apricot pie. It smelled so good; I had to buy one. Where’s Liluye?”
Abuela waved her hand. “Out there.”
“I’ll get her, then we’ve got to try this.” Esther May set the sack on rocks Abuela had stacked up for a kitchen counter. She got back on her horse and heard Abuela snort as the gelding’s hooves kicked dirt toward the skillet.
Out In The Dark
Something was wrong.
Esther May should have mingled with more the cattle, but she spotted only a few—far fewer than the dim evening light would hide. She pulled her Colt .44 and slowly rode upstream along the Gila River.
Movement in the water caught her eye. Esther May leaned low over the horse’s neck and took aim as a rider came across.
It Was …
“Liluye! You scared me,” Esther May said. “What were you doing over there?”
“Moving Riding Woman’s cattle. You told me to cross them over.”
“I guess I did, but I thought we’d do it tomorrow.” Esther May took pride in what she had accomplished by determination and grit. But when it came to hard work, she didn’t keep up with Liluye. The Indian woman didn’t forget a task—even small ones.
“Thanks, Liluye, but let’s go back to the fire and have some pie. You deserve a treat.”
“I will come—” Esther May saw a flash of white teeth—“you don’t have to shoot me.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Esther May holstered her gun. “I didn’t recognize you at first.”
“Better to be ready,” Liluye said as she turned toward camp.
Under The Sycamore Tree
The three women laughed as Abuela told stories of a rabbit fooling a coyote into thinking the fluffy little guy was a mountain lion.
Esther May hugged her stomach. “I’m so full; it hurts to laugh.” She leaned back and took a deep breath. “Finish the pie, Liluye. I have to take the tin back tomorrow.”
Liluye shook her head and pushed the pie plate to Abuela. “Too much sweet.”
The younger women watched Abuela demolish the last piece as quickly as the first.
From behind Liluye, a man’s voice said, “Aw, they didn’t leave us any, Rafe.”
The women spun to face the sound as another man entered the light. He wore blue woolen pants, as did the first speaker. “We’ll just have to find some other dessert, Carson.”
Liluye leaped from her sitting position. In one fluid motion, she drew a knife from her belt and plunged it into the belly of the speaker called Carson.
Both men erupted with cussing and pulled guns. Carson staggered back and brought his pistol down hard on Liluye’s head. She collapsed in a heap.
Esther May made it to her knees, but Rafe pointed his revolver at her. “Nice and easy, pull your gun out with your fingertips, and hand it over.”
Nothing To Do But …
She slowly complied.
Carson pressed his hands, one still holding his gun, around the knife hilt protruding from his stomach. His eyes were as large as the pie tin.
“Look, Rafe. That she-devil tried to gut me.”
He placed his back against the sycamore trunk and slid down with a groan. Sweat glistened on his brow, and a bright red spot oozed across his shirt.
Carson tilted his head back and panted. “You gotta pull the knife out, Rafe. I can feel it in there—still cutting. Get it out!”
“Well,” Rafe drawled, “I got a problem other than your sticker right now. How do I tie up the old one while enjoying my dessert with the young one?”
It’s a standoff in camp. Will Liluye or Carson survive? What do you think? Tell us in the comments.
Dutch oven apricot pies are hard to find on the internet. If you run across a video, put it in the comments. Meanwhile, here’s a dutch oven peach cobbler in a modern kitchen.
To read the series, click here for the first post. This will be Tales Old Roy Told. Tap the down arrow in the Archive box to open the list. After Tales Old Roy Told, work upward.
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