Fine Dining and Conversation
Evening cook fires lifted chili-spiced aromas throughout the settlement. The western horizon, red, orange, and purple marked the place where Father Sky and Mother Earth met to kiss the sun goodnight.
Easterly sat in the hogan’s doorway with Hund across his legs. He should be helping Atá Halné with the meal, but it was only a pot of beans with tortillas, and he was unwilling to give up the freshness of cool air after the day’s heat. He petted the dog and noticed others were also outside admiring the sunset. “People are funny.”
Inside, the older man stirred the pot. “Do you want some of this meat in the beans? Could be ham, could be lizard.”
Easterly shifted, trying to keep his legs still so he wouldn’t jostle the dog. “All those people showed up every day to watch me ride Skewy, then when I did it, they all left and never came back.”
“I think we’ll add the meat.”
“They didn’t want to see me tame a horse, they wanted to see me bucked off.”
“And salt,” Atá Halné said, sprinkling some in the pot directly from a leather pouch. He joined Easterly at the door. “As soon as the mystery meat is soft, we can eat.”
The younger man pointed his chin toward the last bright spot of sky. “Sure is pretty country.”
“About that,” Atá Halné said. “My relatives will be returning soon. Diné culture says we will be welcome to stay, but I think you would be uncomfortable sharing all the details of family living. You notice there is only one room in the hogan.”
“When do you want to absquatulate?”
The older man held up a finger. “It’s fine to use slang when your listener understands and appreciates it, as I do. But around others, if you mean to ‘leave’ or ‘disappear’, just say so. Anyway, our poke’s full, and we’ve got money in our pockets. Our horses are rested, you’ve even picked up another one. How much did you pay for the mare?”
Easterly chuckled and tossed a pebble. “Thirty-seven cents. It’s what I had in my pocket. The stable owner wanted Skewy gone. Said no one else could ride her, and no one else was interested because I’d already done it.”
“Hmm.” Atá Halné returned to check the pot.
Picking up Hund, Easterly squirmed and repositioned his legs. “Just make yourself right to home in the dirt like I do,” he said, putting the dog down. Hund returned to Easterly’s lap and curled up.
“You sure have a way of training animals,” Atá Halné said. “Beans are ready. Let’s eat.”
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
The Navajo stared at his beans as if the bowl were a doorway to the past. When he spoke, Easterly strained to hear him. “There was an Apache boy in school with me. I’m not sure how he came to be there, but he was more-or-less an outsider too. We became friends.” Atá Halné paused.
“And?” Easterly prompted.
“He fell to consumption. They didn’t do a thing to help him.”
Easterly stopped eating, his wooden spoon returned to the bowl as he waited for Atá Halné to continue.
“It’s a hateful disease. Slow and painful. Before he died, he told me about the beautiful Mimbres Mountains. That’s where his tribe is – the Mimbreños.” Atá Halné took a deep breath and expelled it. “That’s where I’m going.”
“And you don’t want me to come along.” Easterly finished for him.
“No! That’s not it at all. It’s been three years since their great chief, Mangus Colorados was murdered by soldiers at Fort McLane. But the raids aren’t over. I’ve found out since we’ve been here that there is still fighting going on between the whites and Mimbreños. As strangers, we’d be targets for either side. You’d be safer here.”
Easterly studied his beans before replying. “I saw some of the wounded from the war between the states. I know fighting’s a miserable business, but I’d like to go with you.”
Atá Halné nodded. “If it works out, it’ll be fine. But keep your gun strapped on after we pass Albuquerque. Buy a rifle there, too.”
Are the guys heading for trouble? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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