Overlooking The Tonto Basin
Esther May, Liluye, and the three Apaches rode across the juniper-clothed slopes of Four Peaks. The thought came to Esther May that she was more at home out here than in the fort.
“It’s strange,” she told Liluye. “I was with people that look like me, dress the way I’m supposed to, and they even had a store. But I had my guard up all the time.” She laughed at a memory. “Except for when I was with Sally—the girl I told you about.”
A Little Judgment
Liluye guided her horse around a clump of oak brush and came back alongside Esther May’s gelding. Her eyes scanned the horizon, then swept near and far, in a motion so relaxed that Esther May hadn’t detected the habit until she had come to know Liluye. “The girl would be a good scout if she held her tongue.”
“It does seem that white people talk more than Indians,” Esther May said, “and Sally talks more than all of us.”
“A screeching eagle won’t catch rabbits.”
Sally or Me?
Esther May tried to think of an appropriate response and wondered if the correct one was silence. Bent Hands spared her the decision when he rode up to join them.
“Someone follows. It could be the cowboy.”
Liluye turned uphill without a word. She was soon lost to sight among the trees and shrubs.
“Do you want us to kill him, Riding Woman?”
“No, but don’t let him see you. If it’s the cowboy, we’re fine. If it’s not the cowboy, be like a deer, and keep a close watch.”
Bent Hands turned in the saddle and waved at his two companions. Esther May was alone within a few eyeblinks as the Apaches seemed to vaporize into the terrain.
She wished she’d told Liluye not to kill anyone, then scolded herself. She was the one who sent the soldiers into the desert without water or protection. That was the same as a death sentence and a miserable one at that. Liluye had chances to kill the soldiers and C.J., but she harmed no one.
Esther May’s guilt crept up the back of her neck. She’d been a screeching eagle, but now was the time to learn the lessons taught here. She reined her gelding off the trail and dismounted behind some boulders.
She crept forward with the Henry rifle.
C.J. rode past; he had Skewy in a fast walk.
Esther May noticed the little skewbald mare’s ears were rotating in her direction and behind, but C.J. stared ahead.
She waited to make sure C.J. wasn’t being followed before mounting her horse and going after him. She couldn’t see the Apaches but had no doubt they were watching to see what she’d do.
Riding The Air
C.J. had stopped and was looking at the ground. He turned when he heard Esther May riding toward him.
“Where were you? I was following your tracks, then all of a sudden, there ain’t no more hoofprints in the dirt.”
Esther May grinned at him. “Bent Hands saw a rider coming, so we got off the trail to find out who it was. He thought it was you.” She waved her arm in a big, come-on-in circle. She started to say that a real tracker would have seen where they left the trail but caught herself. C.J.’s ego seemed easier to bruise since she didn’t declare her love for him when he expected it.
Instead, she asked, “Did you catch up with the soldiers?”
“Yeah. They hadn’t gone far.” He grinned. “The officer who wanted me beaten acted like my best friend. He was sure happy to see that mule.”
“I don’t suppose you took advantage of the situation?”
“Only a little.”
Skewy and the gelding were nuzzling each other. C.J.’s eyes lost focus in recollection. In that quiet moment, Esther May felt the pulling and yearning of affection for the cowboy.
He continued, “I sorta suggested that the mule could carry two, and it might be an officer’s duty to see his men taken care of. So they should ride, and he could wait in the shade for them to get to the fort and send someone back.”
“How did that go?”
C.J.’s grin almost reached his ears. “Not well. He claimed the mule for himself and said he’d be the one sending help. He plumb forgot that he’d be ridin’ into the fort in his birthday suit. All he wanted was to get off his tender tootsies.”
“Well, I’m glad they’ll make it—any old way they have to do it. And now that we’re all here, I think we’ll get on down to the herd.”
C.J. glanced around at Liluye and the three men. “Where’d they come from?”
Liluye glared at him in response.
Esther May decided she’d better make sure C.J. knew he was the rabbit in this land.
Will Esther May make her feelings plain to C.J. and Liluye? What will she say? Don’t forget to leave your comments below.
When you see old west trackers in the movies following a trail while they gallop at full speed, do you believe it’s that easy?
Here is a very short bio of Chief Joseph. Moving a large group of people should leave an easy trail to follow, but he led the Army on a merry chase. His is an interesting story. I encourage you to read about him.
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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