Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Billy - 3

Billy had been keeping back from the river in order to avoid anybody that might be taking the main trail. It wasn’t that he was worried about being seen, he had just formed the habit of avoiding a chance encounter with someone who might have known him in Missouri. He had changed considerably since those days. His mustache had grown and he had acquired the style of dress that the local cowboys wore rather than what was normal for Jefferson City. Besides, it had been four years since he left on the run. It wasn’t likely that anyone who knew him then would be able to identify him now. They probably all thought he was dead.

The Texas Panhandle and New Mexico were good places in which to get lost. Perhaps that is why so many individuals whose past wouldn’t stand close scrutiny chose to drift into the area.

It had only been a few years since the Kiowa and Comanche Indians had owned this country. That was before the hunters had wiped out the buffalo. There were still bones scattered all over the prairie where hunters had stripped the hide and left the carcasses to be food for the wolves and coyotes. The only buffalo left were over in the Palo Duro Canyon where Colonel Goodnight had saved a few as pets. Now, what few Indians were left were over at Fort Sill in Indian Territory.

Billy angled off down the slope toward the river. He looked back occasionally to make sure Tad was still following. The kid had a way of drifting off – like he was in another world part of the time. Either his imagination was running wild or he was reliving something from his past. It happened at night too. The first night they had camped after he found Tad, the kid woke up in the middle of the night yelling and fighting at shadows. It unsettled Billy. It took a little while to calm him down and even then, it seemed that Tad didn’t want to get too far away.

It was strange thought Billy. He hadn’t wanted the kid tagging along with him but knew he couldn’t leave him out on the plains without a horse or water. But now, he was beginning to like him. It would be sad to leave him in Tascosa, but he didn’t want to have to take care of him. The kid would be better off in a town living with some family rather than drifting around from ranch to ranch as Billy had done for the last couple of years. He needed a home.

Tad came jogging up on the mule and said, “Billy, I think there’s somebody back there.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Billy.

“There’s somebody back there. I keep seeing dust over to the east. It’s maybe a wagon or something.”

“Well let’s get up on that hill so we can see. I don’t need somebody following us. You never know what kind of characters you might meet out here, but it’s probably just a couple of LX hands wondering why we’re crossing their ranch.”

Billy headed to just below the crest of a low rise and looked back to the southeast. Sure enough, there were a couple of riders drifting along. It didn’t look like they were following him but their trails would cross in another mile or so. They were probably just heading into town the same as he was. It might be a good idea to just stay out of sight until he could decide what they were up to.

He turned and walked his horse back down to the bottom of the draw where Tad was waiting.

“I don’t know who they are but let’s just take a break right here while they ride on past. We’re not in any big hurry. I guess Juan’s daughter will just have to live without me a couple of extra hours,” he told Tad.

There was a small grove of cottonwoods about a hundred yards ahead. They walked their horses down into the low spot where water sometimes stood and dismounted. Billy pulled out a piece of jerky and pitched it to Tad.

“Why don’t you sit here under these trees a bit, Tad. I’m going to walk up the hill there where I can watch those riders. I need to stretch my legs anyway. I’ll be back shortly.”

Tad said, “Billy, why can’t I walk up there with you. I don’t want to sit here by myself.”

“No,” Billy replied, “you wait here. I’ll be back.” With that, he headed up the hill to get a better look.


Sandy Kessler said...

hw wouldn't ?/would he??

Incognito said...

Okay.... next installment... :-)

so far, so good.. has captured my interest.

Panhandle Poet said...

Thank you Incognito. I was wondering whether to go on posting segments or not.

Incognito said...

oh absolutely!

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