The Box Canyon
A Serial in Eight Parts
Sam led his horse up the narrow sandy arroyo. His horse was tired and walked with its head down. Sam was almost as tired but his kept his head up, looking and listening. He was fairly sure that he had shaken his pursuers, but he wasn’t about to take it for fact yet. Before turning up the arroyo, he had spent five hours riding in the river’s edge, sometimes swimming through deep sections to cross over to the other side, sometimes riding over hard rock. He was sure no one could track him. But they could have just started riding north since that was the way he had been headed, and were now keeping a watch out for him. This was rugged country however, with many ravines and line of sight was not very far. The farther away from Gloria and her father’s ranch he got, the better his chance of surviving.
As he traveled up the arroyo, he kept to the small stream of water, although his wet boots tortured his feet. But his feet were the least of his problems. The narrower the arroyo became, the steeper the walls. More of a canyon now, making the approaching twilight darker. Around a bend the arroyo opened wide. On one side the ground was higher and there was a thick stand of mesquite and thorny shrubs. Thinking this could be a spot to rest, he worked his way into the mesquite bosque. At the far side, near the canyon wall, he saw an opening into a side canyon. Leaving his horse tethered and browsing on the spare grass, he went back and did his best to obliterate his tracks.
His led his horse up the twists and turns of the side canyon, looking for a good campsite. After less than a half mile, a large box canyon opened to the south, and across the narrow mouth there was a crude fence of brush with a flimsy gate, partly open. Not far from the gate he could see a small cabin in the shade of two large mesquite trees. There was no smoke and it looked deserted as he approached. Makes no difference, we’re camping here tonight.
He turned his horse loose to drink from a small spring fed stream that ran only a very short distance from the canyon wall before forming a small pool and then disappearing into the sand. As his horse drank, he rubbed it down with fistfuls of grass. There was feed in the pasture that the box canyon provided, and with the brush fence he knew his horse would not stray.
The cabin was well made—adobe, with a stone chimney. There was a shed with a lean-to and even an outhouse a little way in back. Opening the door, he could smell a very faint lingering smell of death. Damn. Striking a match he saw a lantern on a table and lit it. The table and a chair was to the right of the door, under a window with a wood shutter. The cabin was orderly with shelves in back with tin containers and some books. A small leather covered trunk sat in one corner.
There was a bunk on the other side, and Sam was reluctant to look. Forcing himself to go close, he could see a mummified body. It had been dead for quite some time to be in this condition. He turned, blew out the lantern, and shut the door. I’ll deal with this in the morning.
Taking his saddle and bedroll, he found a protected sandy spot where he could see the side canyon he’d come from and spread his bedroll. Digging out a pair of moccasins from his pack, he gingerly pulled off his boots. He lay looking at the stars, tired, feet hurting. While chewing on some jerky his mind was busy recalling the doings of the past week.
To be continued