Only the grass where the wind played shadow-games, only occasional out-croppings of bare black rock, the broken bones of old lava flows breaking through earthly flesh. He sat still in the saddle, listening to the wind, feeling it, sensing something upon it. A distant cloud of antelope floated across the wind.
This was not a place for a man but for the wild horses who ran, manes and tails streaming in the wind or the occasional buffalo, very rare now, remembering their distant thunder upon the earth.
These moments he loved, alone upon the plains that ran on for endless days of riding to the east, south and north. Only to the west, over beyond the horizon, did the plains come to an end against the vast eastern wall of the Rockies, the Sangre de Cristos here, but a part of the Rockies none the less.
A little more than a year ago he had been a rancher, with wide acres of land and over three thousand head of white face and long horn cattle. The land was still his but the cattle were gone, caught in an unexpected five-day blizzard, and to make a living he had become town marshal.
This, where he now sat his saddle under the wind, this was where he belonged. Here he was at home. Here he knew what to do. In the town where he lived he was uneasy, restless for the hills, uncomfortable even among those who respected him and had asked for his services.
He frowned, watching a distant buzzard against the sky. Something was wrong in his town, something he should know about but did not. He was a sensitive man, and he felt an uneasiness that should not be there. He shook his head, irritated with himself. He was becoming a fool, imagining things that were not there.
He glanced again at the buzzard. Buzzards. There was more than one. A dead critter, no doubt.
The sooner he could save enough to re-stock his ranch, the better. He had saved money, then bought cattle with it just before the freeze-up and lost everything. He reined his horse sharply around, turning away from the thought that never in his life-time could he save enough money to start over.
When he began ranching it had been easier. Many cattle ran unbranded on the range in those days and he had found strays in the valley of the Purgatoire that had been there for years.
It was different now. All cattle were branded, all the land claimed by someone, and even though he still owned land starting over would be difficult. He had gone to Hyatt Johnson, the banker in town, but Hyatt hedged.
LOUIS L'AMOUR'S LOST TREASURES
| SUBSCRIBE NOW! |
What's in the Next Issue!