Monday, May 16, 2016
NORTH OF AUSTIN - Chapter 15
Abby’s father was named Vincent, called VIN or Vince by his friends. I called him Vince most of the time unless the kids were around, and then I called him grandpa.
He received a request from a town about seventy miles south of us to come and rule on a dispute between two of the largest ranchers in that part of the country.
The judge who normally handled those issues had recently died and there wasn’t anyone to take his place. People didn’t trust the local attorneys to be acting judge for they could be bought rather cheaply.
Vince said he would like to get away for a couple of weeks so he wrote them and said he would officiate the case.
It was dry country he would have to traverse in order to get there so he loaded up as much water as his horse could carry and left about four in the morning. He figured he could make it by dark that evening if he kept moving and didn’t stop to eat along the way.
Two weeks passed and we still hadn’t heard from him.
The stage ran once a week through the town he was going to; so I asked the stage driver to check on Vince and see if he made it alright. The shotgun rider said he heard that they were still waiting for him to get there for the ranchers were heating up about their disagreement.
Upon hearing that I hesitated to tell Abby and her mother what I heard but finally decided I better tell them.
They both went wild and wanted a posse to head out and find him. It was the next day before I got them settled down and only then by telling them I would go out and see if I could find him.
Abby threw a few things together and shoved me out the door with her last words being; “go get Long Hair the Indian.” Long Hair was the best tracker in these parts so I did what she asked. I thought I can track about as well, but there was no sense arguing with her in her present state.
I couldn’t really argue with her concern for that is a difficult part of the country as well as a dangerous part to travel through.
I decided to take a pack horse and enough food and water for three horses and Long Hair and me. Also a couple of repeating rifles made me feel a bit better.
We left in the afternoon and made about thirty miles to where Long Hair knew where there was a small spring. Only a very few had ever seen that small spring for it popped up in some rocks and disappeared just as fast. We watered our stock and gave them some grain, ate some beans we had brought with us; after which we bedded down for the night.
The next morning we were up early and cooked some fat back and some skillet bread. We cooked enough bread and fat back for something to eat for dinner at mid-day.
I always thought I was a good tracker but Long Hair could see things I couldn’t. After two weeks the trail had gone cold as far as I was concern but Long Hair kept finding a mark here and there.
Vince had his horse shod just before he left on his trip which helped distinguish his horse from others who may have been on the same trail.
About ten in the morning Long Hair said more men had joined Vince on the trail. After trailing the men for a half hour he said there were four of them. Then he stopped short and said; “men fight one hurt.”
He determined that the hurt one was left injured and the others rode off in another direction. We searched in vain for three hours when Long Hair said; “big storm come, must go.”
I had been watching some black clouds forming over the mountains to the south and thought we might get some much needed rain in a few hours.
Long Hair was insistent we head home very fast. The rain was pouring in the mountains and would soon cause the rivers to rise suddenly. We had to cross a dry Wadi that would not be passable in short order as the waters flowed down from the mountains - - so we set off at a gallop.
For the next five hours we would run at a gallop and then walk the horses trying to out run the storm. We shared what water we had with the horses and had dumped all the goods on the pack horse including the packing gear so he could keep up. Finally I took off his bridle and just let him run free behind us for my arm was tired from leading him.
We almost made it home late that night before the rains came. It poured for a week and flooded the farms along the river.
For sure the crops were going to be late getting in this year. All the livestock were moved to higher ground where they stayed for three weeks. As the waters receded they finally worked their way down from the hills.
Long Hair said trail lost now. No can find, rain wash away.
He then told me he had found wagon tracks about a mile away from where the men had fought and there were foot prints and some blood drops as he walked along. Then he said there were several footprints around the wagon and then it drove off.
After thinking about this information we concluded that the man who was injured had been able to wander off to where the people in the wagon picked him up and drove off with him.
Long Hair hadn’t had time to tell me about his find because we were trying to out run the storm. Besides we couldn’t have followed the tracks due to the rain.
I related to Abby and her mother what we found and they asked many questions I couldn’t answer. The best I could do was; he no doubt was hurt. How much I couldn’t say. He was probably with the people who drove the wagon and hopefully they helped him.
Not far from where they may have picked him up or buried him there was a cross road where they could have went in several directions. The rain washed out the entire trail so we didn’t have any clues as to where the wagon went. We hoped he was well and would someday find his way home.
The next few months were difficult to bear for all concerned. They wanted me to fill the position as judge but I refused. I needed to have time for my business as well as running my law office.
There was a new jurist appointed and I was pleased with the selection. He was in his forties and had a good grasp of the law as practiced in our part of the country.
We had him over for dinner quite often and as it so happened Abby’s mother was invited also. She was still in her forties and had a lively step.
I asked Abby why she usually showed up when the judge was over (as if I didn’t know) and she tried to convince me it was just a happenstance. They would spend a lot of time together on the front porch on those evenings and did a lot of laughing and giggling. One morning I had to go out to the ranch and I was up before daylight.
As I went by Abby’s mom’s place I saw the judge’s buggy on the side of the house. I rode out behind some trees in a gully and waited. Shortly just as the sun began to show behind the hills he came out and quickly hitched up his horse to his rig. She came out in her gown and waved goodbye as he left. He whipped his horse to a gallop and was away in a cloud of dust.
I took care of my business at the ranch and made it home for dinner at noon.
Abby said she was going to ask the judge to come for dinner. I told her not to bother for they were far enough along for her to have him over to her place.
She looked at me with the look of a heifer when she comes to a new fence.
TO BE CONTINUED