Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Women of The West

Crazy Anna's dog Yalla

Prospectors In The Valley

Ragtail studied the eroded remains of a wagon trail where it crossed the wash. “Ain’t much call for wagon traffic in the hills without a mine,” he said.

“That road’s washed away.” Lark pointed out the obvious. “If there was a mine hereabouts it’s played out by now.”

“Maybe there’s some left for us to find.”

Lark lowered his pack and wiped a sleeve across his brow. “We don’t know which way to follow it.”

Ragtail dropped his hand from Damn Donkey’s neck and gave Lark his full view. “Your smart gear got a tooth broke off, don’t it? Why would anybody live in the hills and go down-country to mine? If they lived up there they’d still be there and the road would be worn.” He kicked gravel from the wash bed toward the other miner.

Lark turned his nose up and giving his back to Ragtail sang:

     Oh, Lord show me the way
     Don’t delay, do it today.
     We need to find some ore that’ll pay.

Damn Donkey’s pack shook, his bray echoing up and down the canyon. Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK.

Ragtail sent a rock sailing past Lark’s neck.

On Up The Road

Alerted by Damn Donkey’s twitching ears, the prospectors inched to the top of the hill, moving behind boulders and brush until they could lay on their bellies and see the valley beyond.
It was the road’s destination. An old shack, barn, and empty corrals battled time near a copse of mature oak. Something moved down there.

“I seen a dress,” Lark said. “Them’s fem-uh-neen wimmin!”

Ragtail squinted hard and thrust his head forward like it would get him closer to the view. “What would wimmin be doing out here?”

“Protecting our privacy,” said a voice behind them.

Both miners whirled in the dirt. Ragtail looked into the open end of a shotgun held by a tall middle-aged woman. She wore a dirty bellowing black skirt. Evidence indicated that her blouse was once white.

Next to her was a shorter female of the same indistinct age that women drift into after they’re girls and before old crones. This one had hair the color of a haystack and her hand was on a large black dog.

When Lark moved to rise, the dog growled, showing teeth.

“Anna, why don’t you take Yalla and fetch that donkey,” the tall one said. “We’ll have company for supper.”

Lark cleared his throat. “You call that black dog Yalla?”

The shotgun moved in a lazy swing between Ragtail and Lark. “That’s what Anna calls him and the dog’s hers. She also thinks the dog’s a ‘she’. It doesn’t do to upset Anna."

“Uh, you mentioned supper,” Ragtail said. “What are you having?”

“Whatever you brought.”

It's Not A Mine

The little group made their way to the worn cabin. Two more women waited for them.

One was thin with refined features, her hair groomed back in a bun.

The other wore a threadbare racy dress that allowed the buxom bulge of her upper chest pulchritude to sport a tan that could only be acquired by days of exposure to outdoor life. She broke out in a grin.

The thin one spoke to the lady with the shotgun.

“Kettie, Cornelius is worse. Really bad.”

The short woman leading Damn Donkey, Anna, emitted a burst of Spanish.

Kettie poked the gun at the men. “Do either of you know doctoring?”

Both prospectors shook their heads.

“Come on now. You’ve never took care of nobody?”

Ragtail said, “Just Damn Donkey here. Then mostly his feet.”

Lark raised his shoulders. “Don’t look at me. My burro came up lame and I turned her loose.”

Kettie pointed the barrel at Ragtail. “You’re it, then. Cecilia, get Cornelius covered proper. Call when you’re ready.”

Thin Cecilia disappeared through the cabin door.

Lark asked, “Is Cornelius your father?”

Anna mumbled in her cursing language.

The happy woman slapped Lark across his back and said, “You’re a spur to the funny bone.”

Yalla growled.

Ragtail took on a sweat. What had he got into?

What's wrong with Cornelius? Can Ragtail be a doctor? Leave a comment and click a reaction box below.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Placer Age

Lark Explains Geology

Ragtail stopped at the edge of a gulch and shaded his eyes with his hand as he looked uphill and down.

“Going down will be the easiest way around it,” Lark said.

Ragtail’s response was a grunt.

“Don’t make no sense, you being difficult.” Lark swung his arm in a wide loop. “The quicker we reach the outcroppings in the foothills, the sooner we strike color.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“What do you mean?”

Ragtail put his arm around Damn Donkey’s neck. The beast liked to have the base of his ears scratched. It was a routine the pair had developed when Ragtail needed to cogitate.
“First off,” he said, “we can follow the wash to the foothills. We might find water and good spots for some placer mining.”

Lark shook his head. “You gotta have a running stream for placer mining.”

“Shows what you know.”

“I know a lot.” Lark dropped his pack and tapped on the palm of one hand with the forefinger of the other. “If’n you knew the fine science of geology, you’d know that the dust settles through the dirt in layers. Been so since the beginning of time. They call the layers “ages” like the Iron Age or the Bronze Age. Those are the layers you dig in to git iron or bronze.”

Lark paused to shake out his kerchief and wipe his face. “Now if you want placer gold, you gotta dig for it in the placer age layer.”

Ragtail balked at being lectured to, especially from the likes of Lark, but the man was making sense. “How do you know if you’re at the placer age?”

“Well, it’s hard, ain’t it, gold being a bashful metal. But they say there’s supposed to be bones from long-ago critters buried in it.”

“You ain’t making sense. Do you see any critters, new or old stampeding around here?”

“I had to think on that,” Lark admitted. “They was supposed to have big buzzards in those days. I reckon those huge birds flew out to the desert to dry their wings. They probably brought a bone along to chew on while they aired out.”

Ragtail had to give Lark credit. It sounded like an educated assessment. “Okay,” he said, “but I still want to follow the wash and look for gold droppings on the bedrock where running water would pool up.”

Lark shouldered his load. “Fair enough.”

Ragtail watched a Turkey Vulture gliding on air currents. The large bird roamed in wide circles, coming back over them with a casual flip of its wide-spread wings. How many critters had fed the scavenger? What did he do with their bones?
Ragtail guessed it didn’t matter. Man or beast had to leave his bones somewhere. Maybe something ought to come from them.

Why was he thinking like this? Doggone that Lark. Putting the science in was taking the fun away of being in the desert with Damn Donkey and the excitement of discovery ahead of them.

He should have shot the yodeling interloper when he first saw him.

Will Ragtail find the Placer Age? What do you think? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ragtail Meets Lark

Reathway Williams AKA Lark

Ragtail Renames Reathway

Ragtail hid behind the juniper and steadied the long barrels of his shotgun against the tree.

He pointed toward movement on the ridge as a figure came into view waving a kerchief and singing: “HELLO hello, HELLO hello” his voice lilting up and down in rhythm with his steps. He broke out into a full nasal song, “I’m a fellow you want to know.”
His round shadow glided smoothly over the boulders and across the dirt even though his overhanging belly jiggled and sashayed with each step.

It wasn’t a pretty voice or much of a tune. Ragtail gritted his teeth. His shotgun held steady on the stranger who continued singing as he approached:

     I’ve got a song that’s pleasant to hear
     One that falls softly on your ear
     You’ll want to invite me in today
     My music will chase your cares away.

The stranger stopped, removed his hat and bowed. “Good day sir. I’m Reathway Williams: conservator, entrepreneur, prospector, and among other things I create music.” He slapped on his hat, spread his arms and hit his high notes: La La LAAAAAAA!

Damn Donkey went chin up again: Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK.

“Shuddup, shuddup, shuddup!” Ragtail yelled. “Dern fool. I should’a shot you but it would’a added to the noise. Then I’d had to clean and reload the gun.” He returned his weapons to the pack on Damn Donkey. “As it is, that’s one Tommy.”

The newcomer hooked his thumbs under his galluses. “Oh, no my fine fellow mineralogist, you misunderstood. My name is Reathway, not Tommy. Whoever Tommy is, I doubt he could sing like a lark.”

Ragtail spit, not bothering to wipe his chin whiskers nor concerned that it landed near Reathway’s boot. “A Tommy is a count agin you for messin’ up. A guy gets three and you already got one. I’d advise you to git on back over that ridge, Lark.”

Reathway’s face darkened as he pointed a finger at Ragtail. “Now see here Mist—”

Damn Donkey bit his finger causing Reathway to stomp and holler.

Ragtail laughed and slapped his leg. “I see you dance too, Lark. Ain’t no end to your talents, are they?”

Lark pressed his skinned finger in his other hand, pumping them while filling the air with deprecations and curses.

Ragtail clapped his hands. “Thanks for the entertainment, Lark. Your singing’s improved mightily thanks to Damn Donkey.”
He made a back-handed shoo-away wave. “Now how about leaving me in peace?”

“Okay, lookee here,” Lark said. “My burro drug up lame three days ago. I set him free.” He kicked a stone and shrugged. “Ain’t no one to talk to.”

A queasy hot flash went through Ragtail. He never considered being without his companion. The idea hit him for the first time how lost he’d be in the expanse of the southwest desert without Damn Donkey: a blind man in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean.

“Besides,” Lark continued, “if’n we team up for a while it’d save you from botherin’ where I’ve already been. Ain’t no color on t’other side of the ridge neither.”

Ragtail parceled out his visitor. “Where’s your poke?”

Lark hooked a thumb over his shoulder, “Back yonder. I can fetch it pronto.”

“Got any coffee?”

“Flour and beans. Got any bacon?”

“Jerky. Could you keep from caterwauling and setting off Damn Donkey?”

“I’ll gather my stuff.”

As Lark disappeared over the skyline, Ragtail asked Damn Donkey, “Should we wait for him or not?”

Should Ragtail and Damn Donkey wait for Lark? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On The Way

Young Damn Donkey

Searching For Lost Gold

Ragtail deliberately worked his way down an arroyo, picking at each piece of quartz, but the only color he found was in a dollar-sized fire agate that went in his pocket.

Where the gulch opened up to a valley, Ragtail led Damn Donkey to the shade of a juniper.

His lunch-time ritual, which was lunch only because it could happen between sunrise and sunset, was to loosen Damn Donkey’s pack cinch, give him some water, and share a piece of jerky. It kept the animal occupied over the break trying to chew the tough string of meat with flat teeth meant for grazing.

Why the critter would even eat the staple of all desert travelers was a mystery, but Ragtail once saw Damn Donkey chewing on a Spanish Dagger. The thought came to him that the plant was pretty much Nature's jerky. Ragtail got a kick out of his companion eating the meat and apparently so did Damn Donkey.

They both heard the sound.

It wasn’t the breeze through the branches. Damn Donkey’s ears were up and twisting, a sure sign that something or someone was close. Ragtail decided it was human and tensed up. He crouched behind the tree trunk for secrecy when Damn Donkey raised his long nose, widened his eyes, and spread his jaws.

Ragtail had wondered where the term “braying” come from. A word like that could almost be whispered. It sure didn’t pertain to donkeys. They get a belly full of air and blow it out hard through a windpipe lined with cactus. It’s about as smooth a sound on the ears as a washboard is to skinned knuckles.

Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK, Aaaah-EEK.

Ragtail pulled Damn Donkey’s head down. “Shut yer fool mouth and listen.”
Damn Donkey turned toward the ridge and locked his ears forward. That was enough warning for Ragtail. He pulled a .36 caliber Colt Navy Revolver out of the pack and stuck it in his waistband. He followed that by unsheathing a Greener side-by-side 12 bore muzzle-loading shotgun.

What's heading their way? Leave a comment and check in next Wednesday to find out.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.