The Box Canyon
A Serial in Seven Parts
The rest of the day was spent scouting the area. He found several trails out of the box canyon, steep but usable—if just barely—and walked around the rim. The rim was high enough that the junipers were just starting to grow. Later on, he spent time in the side canyon also, finding two steep trails leading out to the higher ground that overlooked the arroyo and the mesquite grove. He also spent some time down at the arroyo’s mesquite grove, checking for tracks and just listening.
As evening approached he settled down on his bedroll. Supper was jerky and the last of the hard tack from the line shack, washed down with cold and sweet spring water. He lay and watched as the stars appeared. Chester, you picked yourself a nice spot.
With the night came the night sounds. Two great horned owls called to each other and there were poorwills in the mesquites. Farther away he could hear the occasional coyote. He drifted off with the moon just beginning to cast its light on the canyon wall.
* * *
The next morning he again walked to the arroyo to check for tracks and sat a long while under the mesquites. Wearing moccasins was helping his feet recover, and they also left less noticeable tracks. The strain of three days trying to avoid his pursuers was easing and he felt fairly rested.
Taking one of the trails up out of the side canyon, he found a comfortable spot under a juniper where he could look down into the arroyo and the mesquite bosque. The junipers, plentiful higher up were just starting to grow at this level. As he sat, clouds began to gather. Rain’s a comin’. He headed back toward the box canyon, staying on the higher ground, descending to the canyon floor on a javelina trail back behind the cabin. By the time he got to his bedroll he could smell rain on the wind. Gathering saddle and bedroll, he made his way to the cabin, which he had been avoiding.
By the time he had reached the door, the wind had begun to blow hard and he felt the first drops. Within a heartbeat it was pouring. He shut the door and the shutter on the windward side. The lee window let in some light though the day had suddenly turned dark. Stashing his gear in the corner he found the lantern and with its light looked around the cabin.
Over the door was a rack with a long barreled rolling block rifle and at least ten boxes of shells. Setting the lantern on the table, he took down the rifle. It was a 50-70 Remington. The shell boxes read .50-70 Government, .45 Colt and 44WCF. Also on the rack was an older Remington Army pistol like he had during the war, but this one was converted to use the 44-40 cartridges. Checking the Colt hanging by the bed, it turned out to be a .45. His Colt was a 44-40, the same as his rifle. Sam replaced the Colt in the holster.
The leather covered trunk in the corner held clothes. Next he looked at the shelves at the rear of the cabin. In the tins were salt, sugar, and flour. There was a large clay pot with a lid under the shelves. Inside was shelled corn, almost a bushel’s worth. Hanging from the ceiling, out of reach of mice, was some jerky and also some dried plants Sam didn’t recognize.
On the raised hearth of the fireplace was an iron pot and a Dutch Oven with a baking pan inside. A flat griddle hung from an iron peg in the stonework. There was a thick iron rod with a rounded end in the pot. Sam finally decided that this was used to grind the shelled corn into meal using the iron pot. Now the pot just contained some mouse droppings.
Going back to the shelves, he looked at the dozen or so books. The two on the ends had been chewed by mice a bit, but only the covers. There was a book of Shakespeare plays but the rest of them were by people he didn’t recognize. Sam’s education had been very spotty, but he had read a lot in the evenings as he worked on ranches.
Sam looked around the cabin. All in all it was a comfortable, well set up cabin. Removing Chester and his blanket, and leaving the door and the shutters open had dispelled the lingering smell of death.
The initial burst of rain had passed and there was now just a light sprinkle. Sam walked around back of the cabin to the shed. In the corner were the shovel and pick, and also a long bar. Hanging on the walls were a hatchet and axe, along with miscellaneous small tools. Hanging from a rafter was a saddle and blanket. On the back of the shed was a lean-to roof, providing shelter for a horse, Chester’s missing horse.
By now the sky had cleared and the afternoon sun blazed hot. Sam returning to the cabin, he took down the 44-40 Remington Army revolver and the box of 44WCF shells and added them to his saddle bags in the corner.
Going out the door he saw a horse with a drooping head by the gate.
To be continued