The Box Canyon
A Serial in Eight Parts
Sam was awake before dawn. When it was light enough, he stuffed a sack with jerky and a few corn dodgers and picked a random book off the shelf. Again he traded his Winchester for the rolling block Remington and made the climb out of the canyon by the trail in back of the cabin. By the time he walked to his spot overlooking the arroyo the sun was just hitting the tops of the far mountains.
As he sat watching the sun spread, he became aware of pale smoke rising on the far side of the mesquites. His heart thudded in his chest. Maybe he had been too complacent, thinking they had given up pursuit. He carefully rummaged in his sack for the extra rifle cartridges, making his movements slow and small. He slipped several in his pockets and laid out several more on a nearby rock to be readily available. Griping the rifle, he sat and tried to penetrate the mesquites with his gaze, trying to see who was camping there.
After what seemed forever, Sam saw a man emerge from the mesquites. He knelt by the small stream in the arroyo and scoured a small skillet with sand and rinsed it. He was dressed in black and when he stood his pistol had a white handle, probably pearl Sam thought. And with that thought Sam knew who the man was. Sam had seen him playing cards in the saloon. Someone had identified him as a gunhand who had been involved in a shooting over in the Colfax County range war.
Not knowing if he was alone or with others, all Sam could do was watch and wait. Eventually he saw the man riding his horse, heading up the arroyo, alone. Even from where Sam was he could see the long barrelled Sharps rifle on his saddle. The Sharps was a long range weapon, so maybe the gunman was not just a pistolero but a drygulcher too.
It was just a matter of time before the arroyo petered out in the hills beyond and the gunman, Sam still couldn’t think of his name, worked his way back down. Sam was lucky the gunman hadn’t seen the side canyon this morning, but he couldn’t count on being lucky a second time. But at least the gunhand was alone. There was only one man to deal with. One man was possible.
Sam hurried back to the box canyon and, from the rim over the cabin, studied the hills opposite. If the gunman was a drygulcher, he would need a good shooting position. Trying to figure the best spot for a rifleman to wait to ambush someone in the cabin, Sam spotted three likely places and descended to the cabin. From that viewpoint, he discarded two of them as poor choices. He climbed back to the rim and looked for a good place where he could have the advantage of higher ground. Although all this planning was based solely on the Sharps rifle, this also had a good view of most of the box canyon and the approach to the cabin. Sam was not good with a pistol, but he was a good rifle shot, and the rolling block Remington was a good accurate rifle.
Having done this he went back to his perch above the arroyo and kept watch the rest of the day.
To be continued