Even in the cooler mountain air, the battered metal helmet and breastplate produced so much heat that the sweat poured off his skin, but seventeen-year old Elizio de Vaca rode proudly in the center of Juan de Ulibarri’s two-score mounted force, a hundred or more Native allies behind them. The small band of Picuris Pueblans who had fled to the eastern plains would be taught a lesson they wouldn’t forget.
Ulibarri and his Spaniards had ridden north from La Villa Real de la Santa Fe to the village of Don Fernando de Taos, collecting allies along the way, then turned east to climb a long narrow valley, then a steep mountain slope. Elizio had expected more mountains, but instead they descended into a valley far longer than its width, the Spanish line strung out as they crossed the long green meadows. What a wondrous place it was, Elizio thought, turning to look both north and south: surrounded by rich timber, small sparkling streams meandering through its long grasses. On a ridge to his left, elk raised their heads to examine the men in the strange metal garments, then returned to their grazing.
At the head of the column, Ulibarri reined in, also looking around. The column eased toward him. “We will camp here this night!” he called to his men. He looked around uneasily. “We are not the first who have stopped here!” he said sharply. “We will post watches!”
Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson