“How old is Old Pete, anyhow?” Suzanna asked as she perched herself on a large granite rock and looked down at the valley with its long grass and meandering streams. She glanced at Gerald. “He doesn’t look much older than you.”
Gerald chuckled. “He’s been Old Pete as long as I’ve known him. They say Old Bill Williams started calling him that in ’26 when they were trapping with St. Vrain and his bunch north of the Gila. Pete was kinda harrassing Bill, wanting to know just how old he was. Finally, Old Bill got aggravated and started callin’ Pete ‘Old Pete.’” He grinned, plucked a piece of grass, and looked it over carefully. “And that’s what he’s been ever since.” Gerald put the grass stem in his mouth, bit down appreciatively, and chuckled again as he gazed at the green landscape below.
“Those mountain men are quite something,” Suzanna said.
“That they are,” he answered. “That they are.”
Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson
“No, don’t go out there now,” Maria said. “It is late and there is no moon. El es oscuro como boca de lobo.”
“How d’you know how dark it is inside a wolf’s mouth?” Alvin Little grumbled as he put on his boots. “Leave me be.” He paused again, listening. The sound came again, the rattle of sticks tumbling off the pile of kindling just outside the door. “I spent two hours yesterday cuttin’ that kindling and I’m damned if someone’s gonna go stealin’ it.”
“El noche es más mala que Judas,” she protested. “It is unsafe.”
He reached for the door latch, then turned to look at her. “More evil than who? Judas, you say? Where d’you get this stuff?”
He stopped on the sill and shook his head as he peered into the darkness. A pale sliver of moon and no starlight. Heavy clouds blanketing the sky. He chuckled. So this was what a wolf’s mouth looked like. He leaned forward and peered at the wood piled alongside the cabin. He could just see the once neatly stacked kindling. Sticks lay haphazardly at the foot of the pile, as if someone had tried to climb it. Alvin scowled and stepped into the yard to gather them up.
A slight scratching sound came from the wooden roof, but Alvin didn’t have time to do more than lift his head before the mountain lion was on top of him, or hear more than Maria’s single scream before the big cat’s teeth found his throat.
Copyright © Loretta Miles Tollefson 2017
Old Bill and the two mules had been stumbling south, half-blinded by snow, for three days. When he came over the top of the rise and looked into the valley below, he passed his hand over his face. He must be hallucinating.
He looked again. Sure enough, that was a valley below. The snow was thinner there. A herd of elk had worked large patches clear. The wolves patrolling in the snow beyond the herd were breaking through, snow almost to their hocks.
He studied the layout. Elk, snow melt for water. Bound to be Injuns. He passed his hand over his face again, warming his eyes, and looked again. Sure enough, smoke rose near the hills at the valley’s southern end.
He was coming in peace with little more than the mules and his clothes. They’d feed him, sure. Had probably already seen him. “C’mon, you mules,” he said.
from Moreno Valley Sketches