Shadow of the Grizzly – Excerpt 1

Excerpt 1

Shadow of the Grizzly

Shadow of the Grizzly

Shadow of the Grizzly by L. J. Martin

Clint leaned against the clean barked rail of the new breaking pen, watching Ramón give Gideon a lesson in horse breaking.  Built for strength, the pen, except for its gate, was constructed of posts buried upright, side by side, a solid wall of outward-leaning logs.  The subject of Ramón’s attention was a dun-colored, Roman-nosed broomtail that was not among the forty original Andlausians he had received for helping Don Carlos Vega.  A few wild horses ran free in the tules, and this broomtail had been chased by Clint right into Ramón’s reata.  The broomtail was a kicker, and Ramón wanted to cure that as well as break the animal to hobbles.  He had the broomtail’s right forefoot and left hindfoot tied together, and the left forefoot and right hindfoot rather close together.  The rawhide lines formed an x under the horse.  Each time the dun tried to kick, he tumbled to his side in the corral dust – and Ramón let him lie there for twenty minutes and consider the consequences of his bad habit.  Again the dun kicked with his right rear hoof and again he tumbled to the dust, his left forefoot jerked out from under him.  Ramón and Gideon ambled over to the gate rail where Clint had climbed to watch.

“You have nothing better to do,” Ramón chided, wiping his dark-skinned brow, furrowed from years of age, wind, and sun, “than watch this poor excuse for a caballo be taught manners?”

“Been cutting corral posts,” Clint answered with a crooked smile covering his much lighter – although sun-darkened – face, “any my back convinced my legs to wander over and watch you two teach that knothead to stand quiet.”

Gideon, darker than either of them, with tightly curled black hair, mounted the gate rail beside him.  “Ramón got tired of watchin’ me lose the kickin’ contest.  When’s the dinner bell?” he asked.  He shaded onyx black eyes with a callused hand as he glanced up at the sun high overhead.

“I don’t know,” Clint said, his own stomach beginning to complain.  He doffed his hat and ran his hand through an ample mane of fair hair, then centered warm green eyes – eyes that became cold and blue as pond ice when he or his was threatened – on Gideon, who sat equally tall on the gate rail.  “I saw little Billy out gathering wild onions a while ago and took that for a good sign.  Maybe his old man has whipped up a stew from that deer you shot yesterday.”

“Or better yet,” Gideon said as he jumped down from the rail, “maybe ol” Gordy’s roasted one of those sand hill cranes Ramón shot.”

“You two gringos” – to Ramón even a black man like Gideon was an interloping gringo – “are making me hungry just listening to you.  More than likely, Gordy has beans and corn mush…  What he is best at.”

“True,” Clint said.  “Let’s wash up and find out.”

The piece of metal hanging from the ranch house eave began to clang.

“My gut’s a better timepiece, least when it comes to dinner, than old Seth Thomas ever made,” Gideon said with a laugh, and sprang over the rails in an easy motion.

“You two would let this fine animal lie here for the buzzards,” Ramón said, hurrying to untie the dun.

“No, we wouldn’t,” Clint yelled back over his shoulder.  “But we knew damn well you wouldn’t . . .  You’re getting old and soft, vaquero.”

“Do not confuse age with softness, gringo,” Ramón said sagely.  “The devil is not the devil because he is the devil, but because he is old.”

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