They had taken a quick trip around the water hole by the spring and found cougar tracks on the upper side. They had walked around over the area and saw only the one set of tracks.
was hopeful that the human scent would discourage the cat from coming back. Both
regretted that Raven had been snoozing by the fire and showed no inclination to
leave. The big dog’s scent around the
water hole might have gone further toward warding off the cat. Slade said he
hated to do it but that the cat would probably have to be shot if it didn’t
return to higher ground. Santos
He described the stable to the women saying that it was in good repair and any animals closed in there would be very secure from predators. The fence around the corral needed a few new rails and some nails to make it solid. He thought the south camp would be a good way to keep track of the herd there.
Ellen related her afternoon’s work and wished he had gotten home in time to see the horses ID numbers. She was pleased with them.
As they were talking Senora della Cruz got up and began slicing meat and packing potatoes in a deep plate. She laid a large tortilla over top of the plate and added two galletas. She filled a jar with milky coffee and closed it tightly. When Slade had finished his meal, she brought the covered plate and coffee to him and asked that he would carry it to Jefe Muñoz since his mother wasn’t at home to cook his meal. Ellen ran and got her own coat and shawl for her head.
With Slade carrying the plate and Ellen the jar of coffee they walked through the passage way and turned to the left out across the open space to the small house the Muñoz family lived in beside the barn. Jefe was happy to have the food and promised to return the Senora’s plate the next morning.
Ellen and Slade held hands and walked around the courtyard and the walls of the houses, enjoying the crisp air and one another’s company.
When they returned to the kitchen, Senora della Cruz had cleaned everything up and had already retired. A plate of galletas was sitting in the center of the table. Ellen smiled.
“I guess she forgot to show you her surprise. See if there is coffee left.”
Slade picked up the coffee pot. “There is and it’s very hot. I’d say it was just made.’ He carried it to the cupboard and took two cups to set on the counter. He poured coffee in each and added canned milk and sugar. With a big grin he followed her to their room.
The work that needed their immediate direction and oversight was nearly done. The final thing, due to a suggestion from Diego, was that the two colts be moved from El Niño Negro’s immediate vicinity. He thought that stallion would be easier to handle since he wouldn’t be worried about competition for his mares and the colts would be less anxious to prove their own virility. It would be a while after his months of freedom before he remembered his stable manners. They moved the colts to the large fenced area directly behind the courtyard where shelter could be provided into the larger barns. Various kinds of feed had been stored there as well as some cattle housed. Since no one was living in the house, the large barn would be more convenient for Ramon than a small shelter in the corner of the field by the house.
Slade agreed and they planned that Slade would finish that bit of work the following day while Ellen prepared to leave the next morning. If they started early, with a little push they could be in
late that night. Santa Fe
At sunrise, moving the colts was a simple matter. Ramon had them broken to lead and they were excited to leave their corrals and explore new territory. The morning air was crisp and cold; fall was on its way. Sunlight was streaming over the horizon and the two youngsters followed Ramon and
with their heads
up and a brisk step. They were released
into the new field through the gate at the corner by the house. While they tossed their heads and explored
the confines of the field, Slade and the men began the installation a short
fence from the field to each corner of the barn. It was only about 30 feet and when the
current fence was removed, it would leave a wide passage for the colts to reach
the barn. The last thing was to separate
an area for them in the end of the barn.
Slade pulled out two old pens and moved the partitions across the entire
end of the barn. The colts were used to
sharing space and were good buddies.
They would be fine in one large stall area. Once the work was begun, since the men knew
their business, Slade left them to their job and returned to the house to help
with their preparations to leave. Santos
While Slade sat at the table with
over the final long range plans, Ellen put together a box of supplies for the
possibility that they might have to spend a night on the road. Everything else was still folded and covered
tightly on the wagon. The Senora had all
of her things ready to return to her home in town. The kitchen was sparkling
and Manuela had been told to pack all the food stuff to send for the Muñoz
family when Jefe left later in the afternoon. That would leave the kitchen and pantry clear
of anything to attract rodents until someone returned to live in the house. Santos
Ellen and Slade had only their night things to put in the trunk and they would be ready to leave the next morning. .
It was only shortly dawn the next morning when they left the gate of the courtyard. Manuela and
, Cecil and the other two children stood
in the opening waving. As they passed
the distant horse corrals, Ramon, already up and working his horses, waved the
them from el Nino Negro’s back as he danced around the field. It made Ellen happy to see him being ridden
by someone who enjoyed him and appreciated his beauty. Santos