General Fiction posted July 15, 2022 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 

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Prisoners for Fort Concho

A chapter in the book Gun For Hire

Fort Concho by day's end.

by Catherin Elizabet Belle

The war being over, Jeb journey's to southwest Texas
As the day wore on, the sun baked the land and increased my thirst. The galoots tied to their saddle complained loudly. Without turning my head, I said, "Shut up." When their whining becomes a whisper, I smile to myself.

Toward sundown we came upon a grove of mesquite. I signaled for Horace to make camp. He pulled the wagon next to one of the larger mesquites. "Jeb, how far you reckon Fort Concho is?"

"We'll be there bout noon with an early start." Dismounting, I hear the prisoners complaining. Ignoring them, I help set up for the night while Tommy gathers wood.
Horace catches my eye and grins, "Recon, we ought git them fellas off them horses."

"Yep! Let the horses rest a while. We can tie them to that big'um."

The old man yells, "You ain't gonna keep us tied up!" The young'un just stares as his legs give way and he dropped to the ground. Lifting him by the belt, I sit him against the nearest mesquite lashing a rope around the tree, hands tied behind him. Horace had tied his partner to another mesquite ten feet apart. These galoots were going to Fort Concho astride the saddle or across, it was up to them.

The youn'un's gathered wood as Missus Cletus set to fixing the evening meal while Horace and I tended to the team. Flames danced from the fire, putting a sheen across the weary kids' faces. Missus Cletus smiled as she picked up Carrie Sue, placing her in the wagon, saying, "Tommy bedtime."

Sleepily he nodded his head and says, "Yes'um Maw."

As I retied the galoots' hands behind their backs, the young asked, "How am I to sleep?"
Smiling, I replied, "Don't know. Don't care."

Nodding to the Missus I turned to Horace saying, "I'll be moving off a way, don't want no surprises." I walked away into the trees.

As darkness covered the land, a million stars set the ebony dome aglow across the earth. There's nothing purtier than a Texas sky. Laid back on my saddle, rifle across my knees listening to Lancer munch the grass, an ole coyote howling off to the west. Listening to the sounds of night, thoughts of Maw and Paw back on the ranch drift through my mind, and I wonder how they are. Working my way west, avoiding Yankees, and confederates still fighting the war has taken over three year. Shor will be glad to reach Fort Concho and head south to the ranch.

Saddling Lancer, I move to check on the prisoners who are just waking up and what I'm sure was a very uncomfortable night. Hee! Hee! Shor can't get excited about their situation.

Clettus and family are stirring about with Missus Clettus at the campfire preparing vittles. "Howdy, ma'am.

As she straightens up from the fire she says, "Coffee, be ready in a few, Jeb." Pausing, she asks, "Jeb, we gonna feed them?"

Clettus walks up as Jeb replies, "You got enough to feed owl hoots without short' the family?

She replies, "Thanks to you, Jeb, we are fine and we can restock at Fort Concho." Missus returns to her cooking as Tommy and Carrie Sue come out of the wagon and head to the woods for their morning constitutional.

Clettus hooks the team to the wagon as Jeb lashes the two "would be robbers" to their horses and mounts Lancer. Clettus sits on the wagon seat with the Missus beside him, reins in hand. He slaps leather moving out on the last day before reaching Fort Concho. Everyone is in a good mood, which soon turns to caution as we see a dust cloud moving in their direction.

Jeb halts the forward movement of his two prisoners as the Calvary approach. The lieutenant hails Jeb, "Where you headed?"

Jeb says, "Fort Concho."

"Who's the men you got tied up?"

Jeb replies, "Taking um' to Fort Concho. Stole into camp bent on robbing and killing after they stopped by for coffee earlier the same evening a few nights back." Jeb looks back and sees Clettus pulling up with the wagon.

The lieutenant asks, "You know those folks in the wagon?"

Jeb grins and says, "Yep! Been traveling with them since Arkansas. They're to meet up with a wagon train heading to Oregon Territory; a family, man, woman, two kids."

"Captain, move out." Turning to Jeb, the lieutenant says, "You should be at the fort by mid -afternoon. Turn your prisoners over to the Captain Rendlebrook, the 4th Calvary's quartermaster."

Tipping his hat, Jeb motioned his prisoners to get going as Clettus slapped reins on the team to get them moving.

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