“These are stolen? Why are we stealing horses? Can’t we go to jail for that?” I asked nervously.
“Calm down Amigo, we’re just borrowing them. And, they don’t put you in jail for stealing horses, they hang you! Or, did you forget that we’re still in Texas?”
I knew that he had to be joking…didn’t he? With Eze, I could never tell. Nothing seemed to get to him. I held onto Ashley even tighter without realizing it.
“Wow Pooh, I like you too, but if you hold me any tighter I won’t be able to breathe.” She said, as she loosened my grip around her waist with one of her hands.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize how hard I was squeezing, I just don’t have anything to hold onto, and my stomach really hurts.”
“Did you bounce wrong while we were trotting to catch up? I know, how about switching with me? With that, the horse stopped and she slid down. “Okay Pooh, climb into the saddle, and put your foot in the stirrups.”
“Are you sure about this?” The horse suddenly felt much bigger. It was just a huge pile of muscles, and it seemed like I could feel every single one of them between my legs. “I’m really uncomfortable with this. I can barely see. How am I supposed to steer the horse?” I struggled with any excused that I could think of.
“It’s a horse silly! They have a better idea of where to go than you do. It’s not gonna walk into a tree because you forgot to steer. Now, hang on!” She swung up behind me and hugged my waist. Then leaned her head onto my shoulder and whispered, “Let’s go slow, I like it that way!” She then licked and nibbled my ear.
My legs squeezed with a rush of excitement. Suddenly the horse bolted and we ran past Eze & Christina. I was squeezing with everything that I had, but the horse kept running faster. Ashley was laughing and whooping as we ran. I didn’t know when, but I had let go of the reins and was holding onto the saddle horn with both hands screaming “Make it stop! Make it stop!”
And with that, I felt a pull between my legs, and the horse slid to stop, took a few steps, and blew.
Somehow, Ashley had grabbed the reins, and saved our lives. If she hadn’t stopped the horse, I was sure that we would have been in a bad way.
“Geese Pooh, I didn’t know that you were so sensitive. If I knew that I could get that kind of rise out of you just by nibbling on your ear, I would have done that last night!” she said.
“You did, that’s why my stomach still hurts!” I said, while sitting there with a death grip on the saddle horn.
“Really?” Ashley said in disbelief. “Oh! Is that why you stayed gone so long when you went for our drinks?”
“Please don’t tell anyone.” I begged.
“Please don’t tell anyone, what?” Eze asked, as they caught up. “Don’t believe anything that he tells you Ash! He’s just trying to get into your pants!” Eze laughed, as they rode past.
“He can get into my pants! He’s hot!” Christina yelled as she looked back.
“I saw him first!” Ashley argued.
“I’m just trying to get to the mountains!” I said.
“It’s okay Pooh, I know that you mean well. Next time just don’t let go of the reins. All that you have to do is pull back. Squeezing with your legs just makes him want to run!”
We continued walking the horses into the darkness. The roadway reflected what little light there was, making it look like we were walking on water. The road turned to the right, but Eze kept his horse going straight onto a dirt road.
I felt like I was starting to get the hang of riding horses. It really wasn’t that hard, especially if you had a saddle. I didn’t know how Ashley was riding without one, but I liked having her arms around me. It felt reassuring, she smelled good, too.
The ears on the horse pricked up, and it started walking faster. Ashley said, “We must be getting close to the river. He can smell it.”
I saw Eze stop in front of us at a big tree. “This is it!” He said, as Christine slid down, and Eze followed. He left the reins with Christine, and disappeared into the trees.
We rode up to where Christine was, and this time I pulled back on the reins, and the horse stopped. “Good job!” Ashley said, as she slid down.
“Where did Eze go?” I asked.
“He said that he dropped off some things earlier in a cache, and would be back in a few minutes.” Christine said.
I lifted my right leg over the horses back and stepped down. When I did, my whole body felt like it locked up. I could hear the girls giggling again. “I’m glad that I continue to offer humor to everyone.” I really was having a hard time standing up and stretching. I didn’t realize that I would be so sore from just sitting down.
Eze appeared with a set of packs. “Girls, can you tie the horses up to that fence? Me and Pooh will get the fire going.”
It was hot and humid, and we were going to build a fire? I already knew not to question Eze, because he always seemed to know what he was going to do, even if I didn’t. I wanted to be that confident! I wanted to know what I was going to do next! I wanted to be in control for a change! I hoped that hanging out with Eze, and taking this trip would help me do just that!
“Are ya gonna stand there looking after their asses, or are ya gonna gather some wood for the fire Amigo?” Eze questioned with a smile, as he was lighting some tinder, with a handful of twigs and dry grass.
“Sure Eze!” I said, scurrying around picking up sticks, and dead branches. “You know, I wasn’t looking at their bottoms, I was just thinking about taking this trip, and getting away. That’s all!”
“Well, Amigo…stop thinking so much, and start appreciating the moment. Those are some great looking asses on those two, and you would do well to appreciate them!” Eze playfully remarked as he took off his cowboy hat and started waving it over the smoke. In an instant, there were flames about two-feet high, and Eze continued to feed them with the wood I was gathering.
“Keep grabbing more wood. I split a bunch on the other side of that mound earlier, but I didn’t want anyone else burning it, so I left it. I’m gonna shuck those saddles and stake out the horses.”
I walked about fifty yards past some mounds, and sure enough, there was a big pile of firewood. I made several trips back to the fire unloading armfuls of wood. I wasn’t sure how long Eze planned on staying, but it was looking like we would have plenty until morning.
From the look of it, there had been a lot of campfires here under a huge old cottonwood tree. The flames licked the darkness, and the shadows created movement that wasn’t there. I asked, “So how far from the river are we?”
Eze and the girls were walking back with the saddles, and blankets. “Right behind you Amigo! That dead álamo there is the only thing preventing cars and trucks from diving into the muddy Brazos below! As a matter of fact, you can see where some have run into it. I’m not sure if all of the bullet holes are what killed it, or all of the cars running into it! I do know that several have missed and ended up in the water.”
Everyone pulled up a big log and sat down around the fire. It wasn’t until now, that I realized Eze was wearing a pistol. His eyes caught mine staring at it, and then at him. “It’s okay Pooh! I will show you how to shoot it in the morning.” He said opening a canvas bag and pulling out a bottle.
“Everyone, as you know, I’m not a drinker, but I do toast on special occasions with some tequila, and this here is one of those occasions!” He stood up taking the top off of a bottle filled with brown tequila. “I am toasting my last day here on the Brazos, and probably the last time that we will be seeing each other. Ya’ll are going home for the summer, and me and Pooh are heading West to the Rocky Mountains!” He took a long swallow, and then handed the bottle to Christina.
“Do you mean that someone actually died here?” Christina said with a concerned voice, as she took a pull, and handed the bottle to Ashley.
“There has been a lot of death that has occurred here ladies. This used to be an old ferry crossing back in the Civil War days. An old boy named Jesse Batts built it. It was the only way across for twenty miles until they built Koppe Bridge a few miles up river. That’s gone too. They even had a little community here. There’s still a cemetery on top of that hill in the trees. Most of the headstones are turned over, or barely legible. They used to slave trade down the road in Millican, and several of them got shot and killed here trying to run away.”
Ashley took a drink and handed it to me. I had never drank before, but figured it to be the thing to do at the moment. So, I wiped the bottle off with my t-shirt, and took a swallow. It was horrible, and burned everything in my mouth. It felt like my nostrils were on fire as I tried to keep my mouth shut and finish swallowing.
Eze took the bottle from me and took another drink while he continued with his story. The way that Eze could talk had all of us wanting to know more. “They used to have steamboats come all of the way up from Galveston and pass right by here too. The local Indians used to call the river Toschanhono. That was until the Spaniards came. They always seem to have a better name for something. Ya see, one day when the river was over it’s banks and running wild, there was a band of hostile Indians chasing a Spaniard Padre and his converts. They came upon the Toschanhono, and had nowhere to go, but across. So, they did just that, and actually made it. But when the Indians got to the river and tried, they were all washed away and drowned. Dead! All of them! Well, when the Padre saw that, he knew it was a miracle that they had survived, and the Indians didn’t. He dropped to his knees, crossed himself and prayed naming the river El Rio los Brazos de Dios. In English, it means The River of the Arms of God. And, don’t think those converts didn’t remain devout Catholics the rest of their lives after that!”
“Amen!” Ashley said, and took another drink.