Saturday, November 3, 2007

Billy - 4

Billy sat down in the shade of a Hackberry that had taken root in the side of the hill. He could see the riders in the distance and he could see the silvery line of the Canadian river off to the north. It would be awhile before the riders reached the jumble of adobe buildings on the north side of the river where Casimero Ramirez had settled in 1876 and Plaza Atascosa was born. That was the same year that Billy had left Missouri.

It was also the same year that Charlie Goodnight had moved his herd into the Palo Duro Canyon. Some of the cowboys said that Goodnight was forming a Stockman’s Association. He and the other ranchers were tired of losing cattle to the little ranchers who they claimed were branding mavericks from their herds. There was certainly some truth to their claim. How else could a cowboy working for $25 per month end up owning a spread covering several thousand acres?

Just a couple of miles to the west of the ford and on the south side of the river, Billy could see Juan’s place. There wasn’t much to it, just a small adobe with a barn and corrals for his sheep.

Juan had followed Ramirez out of New Mexico to graze the open lands along the Canadian river. Romero was a Comanchero and leading citizen of Mora, New Mexico, before moving his herds to the Texas Panhandle and establishing a new town. He brought around 3,000 sheep with him and they had now increased to almost 5,000 head. His relationship with the local ranches was never secure, but they had learned to live in peace together. There was still plenty of open range available for grazing.

As Billy watched, two more riders headed south across the ford out of Tascosa. It looked like they were going to intercept the riders that he was watching. It seemed strange to Billy. Normally in this open country you didn’t run across many other riders unless you were on one of the main trails. The trails here ran mainly along the river except for the big freight trail headed north out of Tascosa to Dodge City.

The riders he had been watching picked up their pace a little when they saw that they were being met. It looked as though they were expecting it. They quickly drew together and the four of them appeared to be having a heated discussion. He could see the riders that he had been watching pointing in his general direction. It didn’t look good.

It wasn’t long before the group broke up. The pair that he had watched were headed back the direction from which they came. The other two riders headed off to the west up the river. Billy couldn’t think of any reason why, but it looked as though they might be going to circle around him so that he and the kid would be trapped. You could probably chalk it up to four years of wariness over his past, but Billy had found his intuition on such things was usually pretty good.

Billy scrambled back down the slope to where Tad was standing and watching him. He said, “I think those riders are looking for someone and it could be us. Do you know any reason they might have for that?”

Tad looked a little pale but said, “No. I can’t imagine why anyone would be looking for me. Are you an outlaw or something?”

“No, I’m not an outlaw and it may be nothing, but I think we’d better follow this draw and try to stay out of sight. Maybe we can make it to Juan’s before anyone spots us. I’m not in any mood to be answering a bunch of questions from those fellows if they do come across us. Get on that mule and lets get moving.”

The draw provided a small amount of cover for the two as they headed down the slope toward Juan’s place. If their luck held they might not be spotted. It was getting close to sundown and in another thirty minutes the light would start to fade. If those riders weren’t looking for them there would be no harm done. If they were, it would be better to be closer to town so that someone might see them if the riders meant harm.

As they got lower on the slope the danger of being seen would be from behind. If the riders were to get up on the bluff, they would be able to look back toward the river and see them in the draw.

Billy couldn’t help but wonder about the strange behavior of the riders. He couldn’t think of why anyone would be looking for him but he wasn’t sure about the kid. Tad’s behavior had been a little bit suspicious. Why had he been all alone when the horse he had been riding broke his leg? He was too young to be out by himself without someone missing him.

Billy had tried to get the boy to tell him a little about himself but hadn’t had much luck. He was hiding something. His story was consistent, but any time he pressed the boy with questions, he would change the subject. Billy felt sure there was a connection between those riders and the boy. He just needed time to sort it out to make sure he landed on the right side of the issue. He didn’t want to be turning the boy over to someone that meant him harm if it wasn’t well deserved. This country was still pretty lawless. There wasn’t much telling whether the riders had honorable intentions or otherwise.

3 comments:

Incognito said...

:-)

Hillbilly Willy said...

Mr. Poet. Willy has a blog that he uses to test things and thought you might be interested in the head of it.

I have recently started working with a different graphics tool that works pretty well.

Along with that I saw a picture the other day of a shadow figure leaning against a fence. Well I combined that with another picture and came up with a graphics just for fun.

Take a look at it at Willy's test Site

Panhandle Poet said...

Now that's just pretty cool Hillbilly Willy!

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