Archive for November, 2017

Zack stepped out of the saddle and nearly fell to the ground. After flexing one leg after the other, he tied the reins to a tree limb and did the same for the pack horse. After removing the supply bags, Zack pulled a rope from a bag and set it aside.

“If you take care of the horses, we’ll set up camp and fix a meal,” Steve announced as he began loosening the cinches on his mount’s saddle.

“I got it. I’m not sure I can even sit down right now,” Zack answered.

Zack walked to Darlene, and she dropped Penny into his waiting arms. Penny giggled and wiggled, anxious to be let down. Zack put her on the ground, and she darted away.

Darlene called out to her retreating back. “Don’t go far.”

“I won’t” Penny answered as she headed for a patch of bluebonnets.

With help from Zack and Steve, Della and Darlene pulled saddles from their horses, wiped them down with handfuls of grass and then passed the reins for Zack to lead them to the stream. At seeing Steve limp around the horses flank,

Della walked up with the black mare and held out her hand. “G’me.” Steve started to protest, but just shrugged and handed his horse’s reins to Della. “You go sit down and pull off the prosthetics. Your legs are still too raw to be wearing them for so long.”

“It’s more my ass, then my butt.” Steve laughed then walked to a fallen log and sat down with Penny where she drew shapes in the dirt. Steve pulled up his pant legs and pulled the artificial lower legs from his stumps. He rubbed the pink skin and sighed with relief at no sign of ulcers.

“Why don’t you have feet?” Penny asked.

Steve looked up and smiled. “I lost them.”

“Where? I can help look for them.” Penny tilted her head to one side and studied his face. “I’m good at finding things.”

“I’m sure you are, but they’ve been gone a long time.” He smiles. “Besides, I have these.” He held up a prosthetic.

Penny looked a little confused then smiled. “Okay. I’m getting hungry. Are you hungry?”

Zack appeared at Steve’s side and opened one of the packs. “What should we do first?”

“Give me the shovel, I’ll take care of the fire, you can hang the tarp from that branch to the ground. It’ll give us cover in case it rains.”

Steve reined his mount around and led out, with Della on the black mare first to follow. Darlene followed Della with Zack bringing up the rear leading the pack horse. Steve led the group across the rugged terrain until it suddenly they were back at the edge of the blacktop. He studied a sign in the distance, then pulled a map from his pocket. They were approaching Miller Ranch Road. If they continued on, they should be back on State Road 90 and could head back north. They rode for another hour, near a water treatment plant, then they were back on 90 with fewer signs of the tornado damage. They saw a small white square white building in the distance.

“Is that Marfa again?” Darlene asked.

Della answered in her best Obi Wan Kenobi voice. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

“Party pooper,” Darlene answered amid peals of laughter.

The five horses plodded away from the distant remnants of Marfa. They followed the roadway a short distance away while dodging around scrub trees and mesquite.

“Why aren’t we riding up on the road?” Della asked.

“We need to be able to hide quickly. We don’t want to take a chance someone on these back roads sees us.”

As the afternoon wore on, Penny began to whimper. Steve glanced to the raised train tracks in the distance and wondered if they would find a train sitting on them at some point. His gaze followed the tracks to a green belt perpendicular to the track and road ahead about a mile away. It could mean water and a place to camp for the night.

He tapped the stirrups against the horse’s belly. Water would let them clean up, have a meal and provide a place to rest the horses for the night. He turned to Della and called out. “We’ll stop up ahead, let’s get there.”

With a new enthusiasm for the last leg of the day’s journey, the trio following Steve picked up their pace. When they neared the small draw, they found a trickling stream surrounded by lush grasses and a variety of trees including a few sprawling-branched oak trees. Steve led the others farther away from the highway into a dense grove of trees. Steve got down from the dark brown mare and handed the reins to Della. He carefully picked his way to the stream and looked back at the overpass crossing the highway. They would be hidden from any passing traffic. He looks from right to left and found a level area under the thick limb of an oak about twenty feet from the stream. A little further downstream was a less brushy area with plenty of grass and close to the water.

He walked back up the bank and waved at the waiting group. “This’ll do. After we unsaddle the horses, we’ll take them down there.” He pointed to the grassy area a short distance away.

It took nearly two hours to sort through supplies and decide what they required instead of what they wanted. Steve, Della, and Zack made three stacks: one of the absolute essentials, another one of items at least one of the trio thought was needed, then the last pile of expendable. A second pass reduced the items to what they could get in three huge duffle bags. When they were finished, they sat down and stared at the remaining supplies.

“I hate leaving so much behind,” Zack commented after a long pull at a bottle of water.

“I feel the same way, but we can only take so much,” Steve answered. “Come on, big guy, time to move out.”

The two men saddled the horses as a sense of uncertainty settled over the small group. On each saddle, they tied saddle bags with extra water and supplies and bed rolls. When they were finished, Steve still worried about the supplies being left behind. He passed around more bottles of water, jerky and energy bars. Everyone ate quietly lost in the realization of the sudden changes. Since none were more than casual riders, they were hesitant at best.

“Let’s mount up. Darlene, do you want Penny in front or back?” Steve asked.

“Front. I think.” She answered.

Darlene mounted, got settled with her feet in the stirrups, then Zack passed Penny up to sit in front of her mother. Della mounted by herself and pulled on a baseball cap. Steve reached up to the saddle-horn and pulled himself into the saddle. He pushed his prosthetics into the stirrups and rose up to adjust his seat.

“Well, Zack. Are you coming?”

“I got this,” Zack answered.

He grabbed his own saddle and stuck his left foot into the stirrup. He bounced on his right foot, but the horse shied and pranced away leaving Zack hopping after him.

Steve used his prosthetics to bump against his mount’s side and turned the reins to guide his mount to Zack’s horse’s side. He grabbed the bridle and held the skittish mount still.

Zack stepped back into the stirrup and with a quick jump swung his leg over the back of the saddle. He pulled himself up and settled on the seat. “Good to go,” Zack announced with a broad grin as Steve released the bridle and handed him the rope attached to the pack horse’s bridle.

“Follow single file and stay about ten feet apart,” Steve ordered. “Zack, bring up the rear and hang onto the pack horse. You can wrap the rope around the saddle horn a couple times but don’t tie it. Just in case.”