Cadwallader - Chapter 6 - The Hunt Begins

By TK Hugh

Editor's Note: The following is Chapter 6 of a fictional, yet realistic story about a man by the name of Ben Cadwallader, who just spent some valuable time in the desert. Dust in your boots, the cyclic motion of the horse beneath you, the smell of a campfire, and the heat of the sun in a hot New Mexico desert. This will be a bimonthly, long-running story in a special department within the magazine. --Carrie Aulenbacher, WMD Managing Editor


I woke up and the first thing I noticed was that I was in the shade. I knew that when I passed out that I was out in the open, but as I slowly opened my eyes, I could tell that something was protecting me from the sun. Just then I heard a nicker and I knew…Red!

I rolled over and there he was, that big red horse of mine was casually munching scrub and keeping the sun off me at the same time. I’m sure it was accidental, cause no matter what you might have heard, horses aren’t nearly as smart as dogs, and only fair to middling smarter than cow critters. But right then, all that mattered was that I wouldn’t have to walk anymore.

It took a bit of coaxing to get close enough to grab ahold of the bridle that they had left on him. Horses seem to be spooked when they smell blood. So it took me several tries to get on him. I was mighty weak and he had never been ridden bareback before, but I talked him into it. Finally, I was on horseback and for the first time since I got bushwhacked. I was feeling good about my chances of living another day.

**

I must have been a site riding into Navaho Wells that day. No saddle, no shirt, red as an Indian and my eyes swollen almost shut from looking out over the desert with no hat to shield my eyes. I could hear folk talking as Red looked for a place to rest. I practically fell off of him and into the arms of a man who had come out of the trading post to take a gander at the commotion.

He helped me over to the well that had been dug over one of the natural cisterns that gave Navaho Wells its name and leaned me against the rock wall that had been built around the hole. After drawing a bucket of water, he carefully poured a dipper full into my waiting hands. It was tempting to drink quickly and deeply, but I knew better. After drinking several small amounts, I relaxed against the well and closed my eyes. I was alive. Alive and starting to recall again exactly why I was in this position. My relief at surviving the desert gave way to a burning anger.

I staggered a little as I got up. “Better stay here and rest a while,” said the man. “You look all in. Maybe you can tell me exactly how you wound up in such a sad state, son?”

Over the next half hour or so I told the old man, who ran the trading post, how I came to be near naked on a saddleless horse.

When I was able, he took me into the store, which wasn’t much more than a lean-to with four walls instead of three. There was the usual assortment of sundries that a passer through might need to pick up, since there was no town, just the trading post taking advantage of the only water within 50 or 60 miles.

“So,” he started, “what be your name, if you care to give it?”

“Cadwallader, Ben Cadwallader”, I said between sips of water from the cup I held between both hands like the precious thing it was. I was out of the sun, had taken water and now I was so tired I could hardly sit in the old straight-backed chair the storekeeper had offered.

The storekeeper either didn’t see how tired I was or was just happy for the company, but he lit his pipe and continued. “Cadwallader,” he said slowly like he was thinking about how the name sounded. “Unusual name, ain’t it. By the way, the name’s Ingersoll.”

“Welsh,” I said as my eyes started to droop a little.

“Hmm…I got a worthless son that traipses all over these parts. Says he’s a miner, but mostly he just works till he has enough money to drift.” He stopped talking as he realized his pipe had gone out. He got it going again and continue.

“He was telling me a story about a man named Cadwallader who played Hob over in Leadville a few years ago. Wound up playing the law for a while after that. Be that you?”

“Yeah,” was all I could say as I slowly slipped out of the chair and fell asleep on the floor.

** 

When I woke up Ingersoll had fixed me up right proper. My feet were bare and covered in some foul smelling salve. He had dressed all of the bigger cuts and cleaned and bandaged the two large cuts on my head. I raised up off the pillow to get my bearings and Ingersoll came out from behind the makeshift counter.

“Sorry about leaving you on the floor, Cadwallader,” he said as he knelt down beside me. “You were just too damned big for me to move and after what you went through out yonder, I didn’t figure a good sleep on the floor would kill you.”

“Much obliged,” I said while sitting up. I looked outside and it was good daylight. Had I only slept so short a time?

“How long did I sleep?”

“Pretty much all day and all night. It be nigh eight o’clock in the morning,” said Ingersoll as he got up and walked behind the counter to a small kitchen area. “You hungry?”

Hungry? My stomach felt like my mouth had been on vacation. “I could eat,” I replied while standing and giving my body a good stretch. Ingersoll glanced at me and went back to his large cast iron fry pan. The smell of eggs and bacon filled the room as he turned and dumped five or six fried eggs and what looked like a pound of bacon on a big plate.

“Eat up,” he said. “It’s all yours. I ate breakfast hours ago. Sorry I ain’t got any bread. Never been much of a hand at baking. I got an Indian woman brings in a basket of loaves every now and then to trade. I make it last as long as I can, but its mighty good.”

I really didn’t miss the bread much as I dug in and finished off the entire plate. I was tempted to take it up and lick the last, but thoughts of my father’s disapproving scowl put down the thought.

“Lordy, Lordy, “Ingersoll said with a smile. “If you can’t do anything else in this world boy, you can eat!”

Ingersoll disappeared into the back for a moment and then came out holding a shirt. “I had this in the back for quite a while. It was in a box of goods some nesters traded as they were heading back East. Guess the streets weren’t paved with enough gold for ‘em. It was so big I couldn’t use it, sell it or trade it. Might as well give it to you.”

I gingerly slipped the grey homespun shirt over my burned shoulders and slowly buttoned it up with my torn hands. It was a might small in the shoulders and a might big in the belly, but it would keep the sun off and I told Ingersoll I was grateful. “You wouldn’t happen to have a gun I could buy on credit, would you?” I said without much hope, “And an extra saddle?”

“Well,” said the old man, “I ain’t got an extra saddle, but I do have a couple of old horse blankets that would keep those ragged pants of yours from chaffing your horses back.” He went on, “as to the gun, well you’re in luck. About a month ago a Calvary Sergeant came through here and wanted to sell his old pistol. We dickered a while and I wound up giving him five dollars for it. He threw in shell kit for free. I’ll go get it and see if it suits you.”

When he came out, he placed a leather wrapped pistol on the rickety counter.

“This thing is too much for me’” he said. “It’s a Colt Patterson Dragoon. It’s a .44 caliber cap and ball. Almost no one uses these since making paper patch bullets is just too much trouble nowadays. But it shoots straight, although it feels like it weighs more than a sack of flour and kicks like a Missouri mule.”

I picked up the pistol and it felt good in my hand. The weight was nothing and I knew the damage that those .44’s could do from the War.

My thoughts turned to the Frey’s. It was time to go hunting.


Stay tune for Chapter 7, in two weeks! --Carrie Aulenbacher

About the Author

T.K is a US Navy veteran and an engineer with over 30 years experience. 

He is a weapons enthusiast, and a student of the Old West. A man out of his time, he feels as if he should have been born a hundred years earlier. 

Both sides of his family arrived in America several generations before the Revolution. 



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