Gun For Hire
: River Rising by Catherin Elizabet Belle
Staying off the main trails travel was slow. With the sun high overhead, I stop in the shade of an old pine somewhere near the Texas Border. Leaning against a snarled tree, I dig into the sack Callie poked in my hands. A hint of a smile crosses my face eating a biscuit with a slab of meat, washing it down with water from the canteen.
Stepping into the saddle I move southwest toward the Sabine. In the timbers, I hear horses to the south. Not too eager to meet unsavory cahoots, I sit in a clump of pines. I had all the fightin' this here Reb wants.
Keeping a steady pace I make fifteen miles before stopping. Brilliant golds and red set western sky aflame. The shadowy trees offer a haven for the night. Taking the saddle from my horse putting it under a big shade tree I tie him near grass a few feet away. Pull the gun from the scabbard laying it across my torso pulling my hat low over my eyes I listen to the night; owl in flight and rodents scampering through the needles and underbrush. Near midnight a breeze rustles the leaves as the moon shines through the branches illuminating the glen off to the east. T'was then I drifted to sleep awaking just as rising sun was casting an eerie gray pall over the forest.
Awaking I ate pemmican with water from the canteen. Riding west I encountered four five riders. Rebs, they were, but jist trying to get home. We'd seen the same action. We're ragged, hungry, and just plain tired.
Moving toward the setting sun in five days we reach the Sabine. With the gray of evening shadowing the trees the noise of running water caught my attention. At the small pond my cayuse drinks his fill. I listen for sounds of other riders. When I hear none, I step down from Lancer to fill my canteen. Back in the trees I kindle a small fire as the shadows lengthen. Hording the coffee Callie had given me I brew my first pot. Leaning against the trunk of a tree I sip the coffee with my rifle across my knees. It's been right long time since I left my folks ranch. I can see maw standing on the porch her apron wrapped around arms calling me to supper. With those thoughts and the quiet of the night I doze.
Around midnight riders approach the river. Keeping my horse quiet I wait. The voices echo in the night but couldn't tell what they said. Soon they slosh through the river. Returning to my perch using my saddle for a pillow, I sleep.
With the rising of the sun we're on the trail moving in a more southwesterly direction. Close enough to smell water when I run across Yankees, they give chase. Shore don't want to palaver with no yanks. Touching Lancer's flanks, he bounds off hell bent for leather dodging in among the trees we lose them blue bellies. Hid in a thicket, I wait until the sound of their horses fade in the distance. Stepping from the saddle I lead Lancer through dense undergrowth until I reach a clearing. Hearing only the rustle of the leaves in the wind, I say, "Lancer, we stay here tonight old pard." He nudges my elbow as I lift his pack and saddle. "Well, pard, its tepid water and jerky." In the shadow of a tree, I watch him nibbling the sparse grass as the sun sinks below the trees. We gotta be near the Trinity. With my rifle across my knees and pistol in hand I doze.
As the gray shades of dawn creep across the land it's time to ride. A mile further we make the Trinity where Lancer drinks his fill as I see to my canteen. Hearing the brush rustling behind me I whirl around gun in hand. Startled to see a young lass I ask, "Gal, you alone?" She nods.
"Whatcha doing out here?"
"Come for water."
"Where's yore folks?"
As she moves to the water she says, "Back in the woods a spell. We're headed out west."
"How many in your party?"
"Mister, jist Maw, Paw, and my brother; we supposed to meet a wagon train at Fort Concho."
The lass who can't be more seven-year-old, I say "Here give me that thar bucket, I'll get yore water and you take me to your folks."
"Paw won't like me takin up with a stranger; he's gonna be real mad."
"It's okay gal, you'll see." Filling the bucket, I turn saying, "What's yore name, gal?"
Smiling she says, "Carrie".
Moving toward her I say, "Okay, Carrie lead out."
She follows a deer trail back to a wee clearing where I see one wagon; a slight fire going where a woman is tending to a skillet of bacon frying from the smell.
Jist as I step out of the trees a burly man steps from behind the wagon with a rifle aimed at my belly. "Carrie, get over here gal?" He watches her take the bucket from me and move toward the fire. "Who are you, Mister?"
"Howdy, names Jeb Smith."
"Where ye headed?"
"South Texas down around Burned Valley; folks have a place down there."
Motioning with that thar rife he says, "Move on out where I can get a good look at ye."
With Lancer following I move further into the clearing. "Well, son why didn't you say you was a Johnny Reb."
"Mister, you didn't ask. And with you holdin' that thar rifle on me I wasn't getting' to frisky."
"Maw pour this here Reb a cup of mud." Turning back, he lowers the rifle, "Come on to the fire son."
Settling down around the fire the man speaks, "Names, Horace Clettus, me and mine fought for the Confederacy. Who was you with Jeb?"
I couldn't help myself as I sat a little straighter and taller when I say, "Terry's Texas Rangers by gory."
A big old smile crosses his whiskered face, "Yup heard tell about you Rebs."
He pulls out an old corncob pipe a filling it, sets ember to it, puffs a time or two then says, "Well, sonny, how far is this here Burnt Valley where you's a headed?"
Shaking my head, I reply, "Don't rightly know Horace, never left the ranch 'till I joined up with the Rangers; left from Houston straight to New Orleans. Was at a lot of different places during the war don't rightly recall their names."
Scratching his long gray beard, he asks, "Seen any yanks, Jeb."
"A feared I did, out run one bunch; after that stayed off the roads real cautious. Don't cotton to fightin', jist wanta get home see my folks."
"Jeb, that's how come we's hid out in this clearing away from the river. "Them yanks aren't too friendly, they act like they still fightin' the war." Knocking the burnt tobacco from his pipe he jist sits.
We been sittin' a spell when the sun sinks below the tree tops and the brilliance of the golden red sky fades to gray. In a soft voice his woman says, "Paw supper's ready."
Standing Horace pokes his pipe in his pocket and says, "Jeb will join us Maw."
As she hands the kids their plates, they move to the edge of the wagon. Picking up two plates she hands me one then to Horace.
"Thank you, Ma am." She nods and sits across from Horace on a small box. "Ma'am, 'tis shor good eaten."
Lifting her eyes with a wide smile she asks, "How long it been since you had a good meal?"
Looking into her blue eyes I reply, "It's been quite a spell, ma am."
Rising Horace says, "Jeb gotta see to the horses, join me." He steps off into the trees a short distance from the camp. "Jeb, we's headed for Fort Concho. Son, it's a fair piece from here. Think you could travel along with us for a spell; shore could use your gun."
Standing by one of the horses as he gives each one grain not sure what to say I ask, "You expectin' trouble?"
"Yup, talked to an old buffalo hunter a while back, he said the Comanche are on the prod. We'll be headin' into their territory in a few days."
Pondering on his asking' I hear the flap of an owl's wings on his nocturnal hunt. Comfortin' to know t'aint no one roaming the woods I reply, "Reckon as how I could if you're shor what you're askin'.
"Son, you be a good man; I got my family to look after. I could use you that's for shor. T'was to be four other wagons with us to the Fort; one turned back, one sunk crossing the Sabine. Don't know about the other two, they never arrive."
Grinning, he says, "I reckon you're either a good shot to survive the battles I heered the Rangers fought; or a coward." Before I could get my dander riled, he continued, "I don't figure you for a yellow streak. So yeah Son I'm shor."
"I reckon I'll stay then."
As he walks back to the wagon, I fall in beside him. Arriving at the camp Horace says, "Maw, Jeb will be travelin' with us for a spell."
With that said I take Lancer and move back into the woods settle down for the night. With my gun hand ready and my rifle across my knees, I rest my head on my saddle. Listening to the sound of crickets chirping and rodents scampering through the underbrush, I doze.
With the first light of dawn the wagon is ready, Horace slaps reins on the team his horse tied on behind we move out heading west. I ride ahead of the team keeping an eye on the horizon in search of any hostiles that might be wandering around in the area. We make ten miles by sundown when halting for the night. Mrs. Clettus cooks up some biscuits and beans with a pot of hot coffee. Shor taste good after a day in the saddle.
Carrie Sue brings her plate and sits beside me, jist grinning up at me afore she says, "Mr. Smith, can I tell you sump thing". And without waiting for an answer she continues, "You the first stranger I didn't get in trouble for talkin' to. Paw says you okay."
Looking to see Horace's reaction to his girl child I smile when I see a twinkle in his eye saying, "Well, I be thankin' you, Carrie Sue, for a tellin' me. I'll try not to disappoint you and your paw."
Tommy finished his meal handing his plate to his maw, "I'll be gatherin' the wood fur you, now."
Without looking up from her mending his maw says, "Stay close son."
Catching Horace's eye, I stand saying, "Tommy, what say I give you a hand?" Not waiting for his answer, I stride toward him.
As I reach his side, he looks up at me saying, "That's right nice of you, Mr. Smith."
Grinning I say, "Tommy, since we's gonna be working together how about you call me Jeb."
Hopping on one foot then the other his eyes a glow he says, "Let's get to it, Jeb." With that we saunter a short distance from the camp picking up dry branches and brush on the ground for his maw come breakfast.
We hadn' much more than got back to camp when Mrs. Clettus sent the kids to bed. "You youngins be turning in we's gonna be leaving at sunup.
Travelin' with the Clettus's we're makin' about ten miles most days, been on the trail a couple weeks since leaving the Sabine. It was nearing sundown when Horace pulled the wagon into a small clump of oak for the night. Still sittin' the saddle I say, "Horace, I'll see if I can scare up some game. Won't be goin' fur, keep a watch. We, shor nough in Comanch land. Touching spurs to Lancer, I heerd Tommy askin' if he could be a goin 'and heerd his maw tell him to build a fire for supper.
Couple of miles from camp I come across another rider's trail, notice him sittin' on the rise at the edge a small valley. Checkin' my gun Lancer and I keep ridin' like we ain't a see'd him. His horse whinny's. Drawin' closer to him I hear the cock of a rifle as he calls out, "Sit easy Mister."
He strolls off the rise toward me that old rifle point right at my belly. I see an ole grizzly man long gray beard streaked with tobaccie wearing buckskins. At about twenty feet from where I sit, he calls out, "Who are you? Where you headed?"
Resting easy in my saddle knowing my six-shooter is handy I reply, "Jeb Smith, headed for Fort Concho."
"Nope! Travelin 'with a family trying to reach the Fort." Watching as he lowers the rifle I ask, "What's yore handle?"
He eyes me real close then says, "Gus Cooper, mountain man." Grinnin' he says, "Don't call no place home, sonny."
Smiling I reply, "Yup! Knowed a man like that in the Rangers during the war; didn't make it Gus." Looking off toward the west I ask, "Seen any injuns, comanch?"
Running his big ole paw across his beard he answers, "Nah, I heerd they were up near the Oklahoma Territory a couple weeks back." Stickin' his rifle in the scabbard he says, "I'll be moseying down the trail, sonny. Watch out for them yanks, they shor ain't friendly."
Tipping my hat, I say, "I'll do er Gus." Moving on down the trail Gus heads north I watch a rabbit dash through the grass. Turning, I move to reach the wagon which should be coming up behind me; knowed tweren't more a couple miles ahead of it. Sitting in the saddle gazing north I see storm clouds gathering, guess we're in for a bit of a blow. As the sun sinks toward the western horizon casting a golden glow tinged with red the rumble of the wagon drifts across the air. Riding to meet them I see a grove of oak off to the south. Reaching the wagon, I say, "Horace pull into that clump of trees, oughta be a good place to camp for the night, gotta storm headed this way."
Nodding his head, Horace pulls the wagon into the grove with the wagon tongue facing north. Helping the Missus down, we unhitch the team hobbling them at the edge of trees. "Jeb, how close you say storm is?"
"Reckon, it'll be here about midnight."
Spitting he says, "Maw, you and the young'uns sleep in the wagon tonight, I'll sleep under it." Looking away from his family he asks, "Jeb where you be beddin' down?"
Nodding in acknowledgement of his question I reply, "I'll be back in the trees; don't want no surprise visitors."
Horace walks over close asking, "Son, you see sign to make you think we have visitors?"
"Nope, but there's yanks roaming up near the border and we're in Comanch territory I'll be sleepin' light."
After a supper of cold biscuits and rabbit with plenty of hot coffee, the youn'uns and Mrs. Clettus are asleep. Horace under the wagon is no more asleep than me. Listening to the rumble of the storm as it comes down on us. Close to midnight the wind howls as thunder roars across the sky followed by earsplitting bolts of lightning and the rain spits on the ground before becoming a real frog strangler drowning everything until the leaves sag water running off the tips. Toward morning the thunder and lightning abate leaving a steady downpour.
As the darkness turns to gray skies of morn, I hear Ms. Clettus rattling pans. Then from under the wagon I hear Horace say, "Maw, stay put; we'll be eatin' a cold breakfast. I'll see to Jeb."
He turns in my direction as I rise to see what's on his mind. "Morning, Horace."
"Morning, Jeb, Whatcha think. Can we travel?"
"When you expected at Fort Concho?"
"Well, Jeb, before the first freeze is what they said."
Laughing I reply, "Hell Horace that could be any day or not at all. With this rain you might get bogged down in the mud; and the Trinity's gonna be runnin' high. You'd lose a lot of time to cut north to miss the Trinity, but you still got the Brazos."
"Guess I better think on it, son."
"Be a right smart idee, Horace. I'm gonna ride out a bit."
Horace nods ascent as I pick up the saddle and walk toward Lancer who whines at my approach, "Easy boy." Rain dripping from the brim of my hat I ride out looking for tracks. Don't cotton to anyone slipping up on us. Two miles out I run across a trail of unshod ponies, three or four travelin' toward the Trinity. Sittin' easy in the saddle alert I continue the pace. Not long til three braves appear sittin' on a rise off to the North from this distance I can't tell if their Apach or Comanch.
Coming up on them from the North, four riders riding hard spill lead. The braves ride toward me; hell, their only youn'uns. Ducking into a stand of trees, I wait. Leaning over their ponies they dash into the trees coming to abrupt halt when they see me sittin' rifle pointed to the sky. Without thinkin' I motion for them to move on out. As the riders approach the trees ridin' hell bent for leather they come to a screeching halt staring me in the face. The rider out front says, "Who the hell are you?"
Watching as the three trailing him come to a stop I ask, "What's all the shootin' Mister?"
Looking me over he says, "Injuns. You seen any them critters?"
With my rifle lying across the saddle I reply, "Saw three sittin' on that rise yonder, but they disappear with all that shootin'. Whata they do?"
One of the other rider's yells at me, "They're Injuns!"
The hombre doing all the talkin' asks, "They ride in here?"
One of three riders with the talkative one says, "Come on Jess, they'll get plum away."
"Nah, mister, I stopped here for a short rest; ain't seen no Injuns. Where you boys hale?"
He sit's easy in the saddle says, "We work on a small ranch near Weatherford, but we're ridin' posse."
"Yup, raided a small settler north of Weatherford, killed the couple, haven't found their little girl."
Looking at the rider I say, "If she ain't dead they'll raise her as their own."
"How you know this mister."
"Jess, I grew up down in Burned Valley where my folks have a ranch; Mescalero always comin'' by the ranch."
"Cowboy, how about joinin' us?"
"Wish I could, but I'm guiding a family to Fort Concho, gotta get on down the trail."
"Keep watch out Mister, the Comanche are runnin' free."
Without another word, the four hightail it right outta that forest. As I prepare to ride out the three Injuns ride up in front of me and Lancer. My rifle still rests across the saddle, I make no move waitin' to see what happens. With the posse riding off to the northwest, they know there was no betrayal by the lone white eyes.
The young brave sitting in the middle took his arrow poking me in the chest as the others circle without one hoop or holler. After a time, they sit before me, this time when he pokes me with his arrow, I grab it from his hand holding it without moving a muscle. The young brave's eyes glisten not showing an ounce of fear. Horses, nose to nose, our eyes locked in a staring gaze only the wind flipping the hair of the brave. The rifle unmoved I ask, "Da nzhq." [It is good.] I try once more to communicate, "He Abaachii miizaa diints'e?" [Do you understand the Apache language?] They shake their heads. "Dak'aa nkee golkjjh". [It is about to rain.] With the negative movement, I hand the arrow back to the one in the middle.
With that the three young braves turn their ponies riding like the wind north. Smiling I surmise they're Comanch. Turning Lancer to the East I ride toward the Clettus camp. The rain moves out leaving a muddy mess. Riding back to camp, I wonder if they will relate their adventure with the white eyes claiming to have counted coup.
Arriving at the camp to find the river running bank full is too dangerous to cross. Horace hails me with a tip of his hat asking, "What you see son?"
Moving to unsaddle Lancer at the edge of the trees, he joins me. Keeping my voice low I reply, "Ran into three young braves being chased by some settlers. The youn'uns hit in the brush until the searchers left."
"Horace, some settlers were massacred, and the cabin burned; a young lass taken."
Shakin' his head he asks, "Those braves the ones?"
Thinking before I answer. "Naw, don't think so. They headed north after circling me."
"Jeb, why the hell didn't you kill them redskins?"
Rubbing my chin where a stubble of a beard was itching, I reply, "Horace, I grew up around injuns. Then thar youn'uns was out to count coup. Figure they did just that when they poked me with an arrow." Surprised them when I grabbed it then handed it back." Laughing, "Bettcha, they're telling tales around the campfire for days to come."
Removing his hat, running his fingers through hair streaked with white he says, "Son you are one brave bastard or a dam fool." With a grin, "I think a brave bastard."
We hear Mrs. Clettus call us to supper. Tommy grabs his plate and sits so close I can't rightly move. "Supper's mighty taste, Ma am."
"Here, Jeb, have another helping."
"No, Ma 'am I had plenty." Sitting in the light of the campfire I sip hot coffee gazing into the flames. Rising I say, "Ma 'am, you and the youn'uns sleep in the wagon tonight."
Moving into the trees where Lancer waits laying my slicker on the ground, I wrap a blanket around me resting my head on the saddle my rifle beside me and pistol in my hand, I doze listening to the silence of the night. Toward dawn I hear riders off to the west as they keep riding my muscles relax. Glancing through the trees I see Horace up setting flame to the fire.
Giving a bird call getting his attention, I motion not to light the fire.
He kills the ember moving toward me asking, "What's up, Jeb?"
"Riders off yonder needn't let them know we's here," I reply. Continuing, "Smoke carry down wind." Saddling Lancer, I say, "Wait till I return."
Horace nods returning to the wagon as I move out toward where the riders passed. I come on the trail of shod ponies half mile from the camp. A way further the trail turns north toward Weatherford. Sitting in the saddle looking around listening to the silence I opine could be the posse.
Returning to camp Mrs. Clettus and the youn'uns are sitting by the wagon. "Where's Horace, ma am?" Before she can answer I hear movement behind me whirling with my pistol drawn, I see Horace step from behind an Oak.
He grins big saying, "Son, you sure are edgy. Whatcha find?"
Holstering my six-shooter, I reply, "eight to ten shod ponies heading north, could be a posse out of Weatherford." Carrie Sue run right into me wrapping her arms around my legs smiling, while Tommy sticks out his hand in welcome his eyes dancing with delight. Looking over their heads, Mrs. Clettus nods her welcome.
Tipping my hat in response, I say, "Horace, let's check the river."
The flow was strong in the middle with debris floating swiftly downstream. Shaking my head wiping the sweat from my brow I say, "Horace, too much debris, we'd best wait another day or two. There'll be another wagon train."
Worry resounding in his voice as he says, "Yup we best be waitin'; shor hate the delay." Turning back, he says, "Guess I better be tellin' the Missus."
Walking back to the wagon I say, "Horace I'm gonna ride downriver for a look see." As I mount Lancer Horace nods and continues to speak with his wife. Riding along the bank a mile, I find no better place to cross. Glancing down river there's a pile of driftwood along the bank, lying near it I see what looks like a man; approaching on foot with caution I see a young injun boy. I turn his body over finding a bullet wound in his side. He's unconscious but has a pulse. Picking the boy up I take him to the woods away from the water wrapping him in my blanket. He has a sheaf, but no knife. Taking water from my canteen I bath his wound. He's lucky the bullet went plum through. Building a small fire, I heat my knife to cauterize the bullet hole. Turning him on his stomach, I stick the red-hot knife to his body. The searing pain of burning flesh rouses the brave, not one whimper comes from his mouth. Good thing I'm a sittin' on him or he'd be high tailin' it out here.
When he settles down, I say, "Da nzhq [Greetings].
His dark intense eyes open wide. He replies, "Aoo, da nzhq." [Yes, greeting.] "Abaachii miizaa, dints'e". [the Apache language you understand it]
Seeing the fear in his eyes I reply, "diists'e. [I understand.] Hat'eo miizhii? [What is his name?] ha'shjjnaa? [where from].
With caution he says, "Runs with the Wind."
Placing the knife in the glowing embers his eyes follow my every move. When blazing hot removing it I say in English "Got do this "Runs with the Wind". Reaching to hold him he stalls my arm saying, "ash'ff, bff, an" [do it].
Nodding I force the glowing knife across the wound searing the flesh. The pain shows in his young eyes, but no sound is uttered.
Touching his shoulder, I say, "dii hooyee nzhq [you good]. How you say warrior?' Not waiting for him to answer, I continue, "You understand English?"
"aoo, white man in black robes teach."
In tending the wound, it was clear he was shot in the back, "Runs with the Wind, who shot you?"
With bitterness in his voice he says, "White eyes with four or five riders, they go north."
Looking toward the river pondering what to do I ask, "Where is your people?"
His quiet response, "Many days march from here."
The sun is sinking low spilling a radiant red glow across the western sky. Putting a few more branches on the fire, reaching into my saddle bags, I take out jerky handing a strip to Runs with the Wind. Waiting for the coffee to boil I chew the jerky.
The darkness covers the land as an owl takes flight on his nocturnal search for food. The young brave is resting quiet. I feel his brow he is hot. Damn, gotta get his fever down. Walking to the river filling the canteen, I listen for riders. Hearing none I return to the boy bathing his body with the cool water. Near midnight he sleeps.
With the dawn saddling Lancer, I place the young apache in front of the saddle wrapped in my blanket and ride for the Clettus wagon. We're a mile out the injun's body burns with fever. Approaching the wagon, I call out, "Horace."
He comes running to the edge of the woods where I had stopped. He stands holding the reins of Lancer. "Hey boy, whatcha got thar?"
In a low voice I say, "Horace, a young apache. Found him lying in the river gun shot."
As I finish Mrs. Clettus walks up behind Horace and says, "Jeb, whatcha waitin' on bring the boy here."
Taking him from my arms she says, "Horace, his burnin' up; bring me lots water from the river." Turning asking, "Where his folks?"
"Ma'am, he said they were many days march away." Pausing, I add, "Be careful ma'am, he's hurtin' but he is a young apache warrior."
Tsking she replies, "He's a boy, and he's hurt. That's all I need to know. Now, get on with you."
She lays him by the wagon directing Carrie Sue to bring more blankets from the wagon. Looking to his wounds raises her eyes saying, "Jeb, you did good for the boy. Now, go find green moss best look along the river bank."
Calling to Jimmy I say, "Let's go boy."
A short piece down river we find moss undisturbed by flood water. Showing Jimmy how to gather it, I keep watch listening for riders. Returning to the wagon Mrs. Clettus takes the procured item packing it on Runs with the Wind's wound.
By Morning the young injun boy's fever had left him. Returning from the river I heard scuffling sounds coming from the wagon and Mrs. Clettus scream. I ran throwing back the canvas just ahead of Horace catching her as she rushes from the wagon tripping on her skirt. Hopping into the wagon with my gun pulled I face an angry injun holding a knife his back against a chest. Lowering the six shooter I say, "dooda, dooda! Shiich'oonii." [No, No! Friend.]
Runs with the Wind's eyes lock with mine in defiance. Holding out my hand I continue, "besh, dakoo." [knife, now] When he hesitates, I repeat, "Besh, dakoo." [knife, now!] My Apache is sparse and I'm not sure I am saying it right, but with my hand extended I slip the pistol into the holster. Horace stands behind me rifle in his hand when I say, "Horace put down the rifle."
"Son you sure?"
Keeping eye contact with the injun I say, "Yes, lower the rifle." Watching Runs with the Wind, not sure what he will do, I feel relief when he extends the knife. Taking it, I see it's one of Horace's hunting knifes. Again, I extend my hand to the boy I ask, "chii she'yiilhjjh?" [Hungry]
He folds his fingers together taking them to his mouth saying, "Aoo."
Without turning around, I ask Mrs. Clettus, "Ma am, food for the boy." I hear her walk away as the youn'un tenses only noticeable if one looks. He is a brave young warrior. Returning she sets the plate on the back of the wagon. Moving back toward the edge I reach for the plate holding it where the boy must move closer to reach it.
The boy inches closer, grabs the tin of food shoveling it into his mouth dropping it on the ground when finished. Smiling at the boy, I turn to Horace asking, "What's the river like this morning; can we cross?"
"Don't know Jeb; better take a look."
I step out of the wagon, turn back and invite Runs with the Wind to come out with me. Without saying a word, he follows me to the river. The Trinity's flow is four or five feet below yesterday's level. "Well, runs with the Wind, I speck we better try it." As I turn toward the wagon he stays staring across the wide expanse. It's only a short time 'til I hear the soft pad of his moccasins behind me.
Approaching the wagon Horace is hitching the team while Mrs. Clettus and the youn'uns pack up the wagon. As they near the river I say, "Horace I'll take the lead, you straddle the lead of your team." Motioning for the Injun to climb up behind me I prod Lancer to cross.
As we start across the river, Runs with the Wind pokes me on the shoulder. When I glance back to see what he wants, he directs me to move at an angle across the riverbed. Lancer has an easy time crossing the wagon behind us with Horace riding his team and Mrs. Clettus on the seat holding the reins. Once on dry land water barrels full we move west over rolling hills the sun baring down drying out the land.
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Catherin Elizabet Belle
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