A Fresh New Dawn
Easterly emerged from his bedroll. The hint of light below the horizon was his favorite time of morning.
He stretched, immersed in contentment. The perfection of creation spread around him. A sky full of sparkling stars was blotted out here and there by silently creeping clouds. They teased moisture into the earthy smell of sage and the pleasant equine scent of animals.
He reached for Hund, scratched the dog’s ears and felt his ribs to make sure the plucky little critter had enough to eat.
All was good. Mornings were a time for renewal.
Hitched Up, Moving and Moved
Easterly handed Esther May a pouch of jerky. “You ready for the day?”
“What’s this?” She held the sack up as if she could see through it. “It better not be a Christmas gift, ‘cause I didn’t get you anything.”
Esther May’s chuckle lifted Easterly’s spirits. He had never seen an outright happy side of her before.
He liked it.
“It’s jerky. There’s a lot of it in the wagon. I made us up traveling bags.”
“How considerate. Thank you, Easterly.” She touched his cheek with her fingertips.
Easterly’s breath caught. His pulse thumped in his throat. Esther May said something that he didn’t hear because of the buzzing in his ears. In case she said they had better start moving he muttered something that sounded agreeable.
He turned the team up the road, following Esther May’s wagon. The spot on his jaw where her touch had brushed it felt warm.
It was a great morning.
A quarter mile on the trail and Easterly idly noticed some road apples dropped by Esther May’s animals. With a start, he jerked around to see if Skewy and the stud were tethered behind.
They were, obediently plodding on their lead ropes. He didn’t remember hitching them to the wagon. He forgot his routine after a girl’s silly gesture. He scolded himself. Flights of reason and responsibility could get you killed in this country. He scanned the horizon for threats.
He saw nothing but dark clouds towering over the mountains to the right. That was good. They were sending a cooling breeze downrange. His lapse into a reverie was a consequence of the boredom of sitting with nothing to do. Harmless this time.
“But I won’t let you critters get surprised,” he said aloud. “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.”
The mules twitched their ears backward when he spoke. Easterly took note of that and two other things. Esther May had pulled quite a way ahead, and the larger mule pulling his wagon was limping.
He pulled the team to a halt and set the brake. Inspecting Rosarita’s left front hoof, he found a pebble jammed in her frog. His pocketknife was too small and pointed to pry it out.
“Skewy, fetch me a hoof knife, will you?” Talking out loud helped him figure out how to accomplish tasks. He talked to both mules and the chestnut stallion in turn as he scrounged around the wagon searching for a suitable implement.
He settled on breaking off a cracked piece of wood from the tailgate. “If I do it right, I can whittle this down to a stirring spoon. But right now, we need something different, eh, Skewy?”
Easterly used his knife on the narrow end of the slat to shape it into a chisel. When he lifted Rosarita’s hoof again, the pebble fell out. Easterly kicked it aside. “There’s a dose for you. All that bother for nothing.”
He patted the mule and set the team to pulling. Rosarita walked with her usual gait.
Esther May was a dot on the road ahead.
Will the separation in distance between the young adults have any consequence? Leave a comment.
Does your mule have a pet frog? Check it out here.
Horses like frogs too. Here you go.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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