Reconnaissance

Girl in hat looking down the hillside.

Wait Until They’re Gone

Esther May turned her horse around. “Let’s get back in the trees and let ’em pass.”

C.J. craned his neck searching for the riders. “What for? If they’re on the road they won’t be Apaches. We can join up with them.”

“That’d be best, but let’s look ’em over first. I only saw the three on horseback. They may be in front of or behind wagons.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Wagons means they’ve got a reason to be on the road other than prowling around.”

“C’mon, Esther May. I’m not feeling too good here. You found the road, let’s take it down to the creek and let them catch up to us there.”

“You ever catch a skunk?”

“What? No, why?”

“They’re hard to let go without paying the price.”

“Esther May—”

“Let’s take their measure. We’ll be the ones catching up to them at the creek,” she glanced over her shoulder, “if they don’t look like scalp hunters.”

C.J. grumbled as he followed Esther May back under cover. “Scalp hunters won’t bother us anyway. Might even provide protection.”

“They could also draw the attention of their enemies. You saw how that worked out.”

Find a Hidey Spot

Esther May weaved her way through the trees.

C.J.’s voice carried a whine. “How far back are you going? We were at the road, do you want to lose it again?”

“We don’t want ’em to hear our animals. We need privacy, and this ought to about do it,” Esther May said. She dismounted and tied her horse. “I’ll help you down, or do you want to stay in the saddle?”

“How long are we gonna be?”

“Well, their horses were coming at a walk, and I’m going to sneak back where I can get a close peek at ’em when they pass. You’ll be here at least a half hour.”

“Yeah, I’ll get off.”

Esther May helped C.J. to a comfortable spot in the shade and fetched him a canteen. She grabbed another one for herself and the Henry rifle. She hesitated before unholstering the pistol she wore and went back to C.J.

“Here’s your gun. It’s loaded. Don’t shoot me when I come back.”

C.J. grinned at her. Didn’t he realize that she meant it?

At the Lookout

Esther May found a high spot on a bank where the road passed below and settled in. After lifting the sweat-stained hat to scratch her head, she pulled the brim lower.

It wasn’t to shield her eyes from the glare. She’d picked a spot where the sun was at her back. Let those coming squint into the light. With the top edge of her field of view pinched down, her focus narrowed to the dirt road.

How had she come to think like a fighter—a man? A dash of longing hit her.

She wanted to be a woman, civil and courteous. Her hair had grown back long enough to be feminine. She brushed it out of her face and scanned for dust rising from the road. Maybe they’d be out of the mountains soon.

Here they come. Not Indians. What did they call Mexican cowboys in Las Cruces?

Vaqueros?

Esther May almost stood to greet them, but something about the riders held her back.

They were a mixed lot. The lead rider wore a sombrero. The next vaquero had no hat at all. There was a coiled rope on the last man’s saddle. If they were range riders all would have lariats.

All three had saddle rifles.

Should Esther May contact the riders? What would you do? Leave a comment now.

Vaqueros preceded cowboys, it wasn’t the other way around . Check out this short article for some interesting data.

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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