“I had me a little señorita once,” the old trapper said. “She was a real firecracker, that one. I never did learn Spanish real good and she could pull herself up all royal like and tighter’n a beaver trap all set to snap and not near as useful. She’d start spittin’ Spanish at me like some kinda wildcat and I didn’ know what she was sayin’ but I knew enough to let her be ’til she got over her fuss. She’d push her black hair away from her fire-flashin’ eyes and let out with ‘Es más feo que un dolor de estómago!’ and then she’d yell ‘Es más sabio que Salomón!’ I didn’t know a word o’ what she was sayin’ but I could tell from her tone that it was high time to skedaddle on outa there and go huntin’.” 

The old man shook his head. “Guess I went huntin’ one too many times, ’cuz one day I come back with a nice big cougar pelt and she was done gone. Too bad. That was the prettiest skin I ever saw.”

He leaned forward. “What’s that you say? I was uglier’n a stomach ache and thought I was smarter’n King Solomon? That’s all she was sayin’? Here I was sure she was ready t’ take a knife t’ me or send her brother Sol t’ do it for her. An’ all she was doin’ was grumblin’? Hah! Well, if I’da known that I mighta stuck around more and tried lovin’ her back into some kinda reason. She sure sounded god awful unreasonable at the time.”

The old man sat back, clicked his tongue against his teeth, and shook his head. “Huh, ” he said. “You don’t say.”

from Valley of the Eagles

OLD BILL – 1 of 6

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