Monday, November 5, 2007

Billy - 5

The draw that Billy and Tad had been following passed just to the west of Juan Garcia’s barn. It was fairly shallow by the time it reached the river at the base of the slope and could easily be seen from Juan’s adobe which perched on a slight rise that kept it above the flood plain. Juan was standing on the porch watching as Billy and the boy made their way to the corrals and led their mounts to the water trough.

With the sun setting behind them, it was difficult for Juan to see them well but he called out, “Billy, is that you?”

“Yeah, Juan, it’s me. Do you mind if we turn these flea bags into your corral?”

“Go ahead,” he called back. “Wash up. Lucinda has supper almost ready.”

Billy looked at the boy and said, “Tad, let’s get some grub in us. I don’t see those riders anywhere around so maybe they were lookin’ for somebody else. What do you think?”

“I think I’m hungry. That piece of jerky didn’t last very long. I hope they have something besides beans and tortillas,” he replied.

“Now you be careful of your attitude. These are nice people. They don’t have much but they’re willing to share. Be sure and show some gratitude for whatever they offer. Otherwise, you can have another piece of jerky and muddy river water for supper.”

The two made their way up to the house where Billy introduced Tad to Juan and his family. Besides his wife Lucinda, there were five children. The oldest was Juanita who would celebrate her Quincienera this year. She was turning into a beautiful young lady who would have all the boys calling on her in a few months. Billy thought he might call on her too.

Lucinda had Billy and Tad join Juan at the table while she had the children sit on blankets near the cooking area. She and Juanita served the men large plates of beans with a choice piece of mutton and stacks of tortillas before joining the children. It wasn’t necessarily customary for the women and children to eat separately. It was a matter of space. The home was small and there wasn’t enough room at the table for everyone to sit.

When they had finished eating Juan said to Billy and Tad, “Let’s go out on the porch where it is cool and we can talk.”

After a pleasant exchange of news, Juan looked at Billy and said, “Some men have been in town asking about a boy that sounds a lot like Tad here. They say he stole something of theirs and they want it back. They are offering a reward of $50 in gold.”

Billy looked at Tad and said, “OK, Tad. It’s time you came clean with me. Are those men looking for you?”

Tad said, “I didn’t steal nothing Billy. Honest. I don’t know what they want.”

“Come on Tad. We’re nearly partners after riding together for four days. You’re gonna have to tell me why they’re looking for you.”

“I can’t Billy. If they find out I told anybody they’ll kill me.”

“Told anybody what? What is it you can’t tell or they’ll kill you. How can I help you if I don’t know what’s going on,” said Billy.

“I just can’t tell you,” said Tad, “that’s all.”

Juan looked at Billy with a wink and said, “Billy, maybe it’s none of our business. Those men will be in town tomorrow. We’ll just take Tad to them and be done with it. Fifty dollars is a lot of money.”

“You know Juan, maybe you’re right. We could split it. Maybe it’s a good thing I couldn’t get that old pastorale to keep him.”

Tad was fidgeting as the two talked. It was obvious that he wanted to tell them what was going on but was afraid.

Billy looked at Tad and said, “I’ll tell you what, you sleep on it tonight and in the morning you can decide whether to tell us or not. You and I will bunk in the barn.”

Juan said, “Tad, why don’t you go get settled in for the night. There’s plenty of loose straw in the barn that you can spread your blankets on. I want to visit with Billy for awhile before we turn in for the night.”

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