The Saga of Miles Forrest

Brrr, that snow we received the other night sure brought in a cold spell.  Must be down near zero this morning.  I’d been helping Charlie do his rounds and took up some slack when he had to be out of town.  He wanted to hit the major towns before the end of the year; sort of take inventory.  He was supposed to be back from Silverton today, but with the snow the train might be delayed.
    I was warmly bundled as I walked the streets this morning.  The shops were just beginning to open.  Up the street I could see Darnelle out in front of her uncle’s store shoveling snow out into the street.  I decided to walk on up past the sheriff’s office and greet her.
    She looked up just as I got to her.  Tucking some strands of hair that had come out from under her scarf she gave me a warm smile for such a cold morning.  “You showed up just in time, Mr. Forrest, I just finished,” she said with a little laugh.  “Come on in, I have coffee warming on the stove all ready for this particular moment.  Join me.”
    I wasn’t about to turn down a cup of coffee.  In fact, weather like this makes a man hanker for it.  We stomped the snow off our boots on the little rug just inside the store.  I helped Darnelle with her coat and she proceeded down the main aisle toward the back.  I could feel the large room getting warmer as we neared the stove.  
    She handed me a cup, I didn’t bother to look in it for I knew it would be clean.  Pouring the coffee she asked, “How was your Christmas?”
    Fine, fine,” I responded, then took a sip.  Whew, it was hot!  Some women just have the knack of getting coffee, soup, and such hotter than others.  I wonder what it was?  “Glad you decided to come over to the diner for dinner.”
    Motioning to a chair I sat down and she took the one next to me scooting closer to the stove to warm her feet.  “Well, mother and father are out of town.  They went down to Santa Fe for Christmas.  They’ll be back this weekend if the weather holds.  I came to the diner to keep me from fixing a Christmas dinner.”
    “Wasn’t it lonely, here at Christmas?” I asked.
    She turned my way, looking at me solemnly and didn’t speak for a few seconds.  “In some ways you could say it was,” then a smile broke out on her face.  “In other ways, I’m never alone for the Lord is always with me.”
    I nodded at her; I could understand for I had spent many an hour on the trail by myself.  There were a few winters, that one up near Chugwater came quickly to mind when it was me, the wolves and the snowmen.
    Finishing my coffee I stood handing her the cup.  “Thanks,” then thought a minute.  “You have plenty of wood?”
    “I’m good.  Father had a couple of cords cut for us.  The upstairs doesn’t take much heat, except when that cold winds starts to howl,” she responded with a smile.
    I walked to the door and stood at the entry way looking up and down the street.  “You’re a cautious man,” I heard her say behind me.
    Turning my head I nodded to her.  “Pays to be cautious in my line of work.”
    “Do you think James Lamb will try to take his vengeance on you?” she questioned.
    I must have frowned for she continued.  “Oh, it’s all over town.  Some say you bring trouble to Durango,” she sighed and paused.  “Mister Forrest, don’t let people bother you with their talk.  Remember, you have been called to bring justice to this country wherever you are and right now you are in Durango.”
    Tipping my hat, I gave a smile.  “I’ll check back on you later.  I’m headin’ now to the station to see when they expect the train to be in.  Sheriff’s supposed to be on it.”
    Stepping out the cold wind came up the street.  That was one thing about going inside a warm room, a person had to come back out to the cold.  John Lamb’s trial was set for next week.  I reckoned that James and his cohorts would be here by then.
    I breathed a little prayer and I could almost imagine the words handing out with my frosted breath, “Lord, help me in the New Year.”

Echoes From the Campfire

But just to breathe that untainted air, just to see once the boundless open of colored sand and rock—to realize what the freedom of eagles meant—would not that have helped anyone?”
              –Zane Grey  (The Call of the Canyon)

    Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress.”
              –Psalm 71:3 (NASB)
There’s still a few embers burning in the campfire of 2019.  The year–the events, sorrows and pain, gladness and smiles–that it brought are now history.  There’s nothing that can be done about them, but to store them away in our memory and learn, hoping that we can be a better person in 2020 because of them.
    I almost didn’t get this sent out.  One, I thought about not sending anything out until next week, but felt stirred that I should as someone out there needs this.  Second, I almost forgot.  Call it the length of the year, or if you must, progressive aging.  The year being almost over we do take time to think of the past year, the good and the bad.  But take a minute or two, and ponder the words I’m going to relate to you from Bruce Kiskaddon.  This is not the complete poem, just a few verses for you to ponder as you sit, coffee in hand, in the evening shadows.

         The Creak of the Leather

         It’s likely that you can remember
         A corral at the foot of a hill
         Some mornin’ along in December
         When the air was so cold and so still.
         When the frost lay as light as a feather
         And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
         Remember the creak of the leather
         As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

         When the glow of the sunset had faded
         And you reached the corral after night
         On a hoss that was weary and jaded
         And so hungry yore belt wasn’t tight.
         You felt about ready to weaken
         You knowed you had been a long way
         But the old saddle still kep a creakin’
         Like it did at the start of the day.
                     . . . .
         When yore old and yore eyes have grown hollow
         And your hair has a tinge of the snow
         But there’s always the memories that follow
         From the trails of the dim long ago.
         There are things that will haunt you forever
         You noticed that strange as it seems
         One sound, the soft creak of the leather,
         Weaves into your memories and dreams.

    There are some things that make us sigh about the past years, including 2019.  True, there are probably some things from the past that haunt us.  But we must never forget, that means always remember that the Lord makes all things new.  The year is almost over, a new one to begin so what is it that will be in store for you in 2020?  
    Perhaps for many that read this, it will be the year that they take their purpose in life seriously.  They quit playing games with the Lord and seek to follow Him completely.  And, you want to know something else?  Look up!  This may be the year of the Lord’s return.

Coffee Percs

To have companionship, supper cooked to perfection, and coffee on the stove.  Now that was something a man could look forward to.”
              –Lynette Sowell

Sure was a grand Christmas ’round this homestead.  Hopin’ yurs was fine as well.  To have friends and family around was delightful, and this ol’ fencepost was surely blessed with some nice gifts.  We even celebrated high on the hog with some Kona coffee and Jamaica Blue Mountain.  Whooeee, they’re supposed to be top of the line (and we had some of that hog-meat as well).
    In a few days we can put the nonsense of 2019 behind us.  Well, for the most part–the bureaucrats will still be around.  Sometimes yuh wish someone would just come by and slap them silly, but that wouldn’t do for they are already nonsensical.  Hmmm, maybe to slap some of the silliness out of them would be better.
    One thing yuh can be sure of, without question–the Lord is in control.  He sees the big picture and the culmination of the whole thing.  Trust in Him as you enter this New Year.
    So here’ hopin’ yuh have plenty of coffee, that yur hips don’t squeak and give way, and that you’ll always remember to check yur cinch as yuh begin the journey into 2020.

Echoes From the Campfire

I was going down to Foster’s store to see if he had any canned tomatoes.  Molly had ordered several cans, but wanted a few more.  She was busy making several pies for tomorrow’s Christmas feed.  We’d put the kettles on in the morning to get the stew going.  For the past few years we always invited folks in the town over for a Christmas time of getting together.  We’d make up a couple large kettles of stew and have pie.  It was a nice time, and in the winter there were plenty of out-of-work miners needing something to eat.
    The stew this year was primarily elk with some venison thrown in.  There were plenty of potatoes and onion along with some carrots.  What I was to pick up was some more cans of tomatoes.  I just had to shake my head a little.  Hard to imagine them being able to can things such as tomatoes, peaches, and the like.  
    Stan Offut was standing outside the telegraph office puffing on a cigar.  He didn’t allow folk to smoke in the office so he didn’t either.  It was too small an office to have smoke gather.
    “Hey, Miles!  Telegram in here for you!” he hollered then went inside.
    For some reason I got a shiver.  It made me look around to see if the weather was going to change.  There were some clouds building back toward the north, but it looked as if we were going to miss the chance for a white Christmas.
    Stan met me at the door of the office with the telegram.  I unfolded it while standing there.  “Lamb escaped–STOP–guard wounded, serious–STOP–be ready.  J. Blascoe”
    Stan must have seen my face go grim with the news for he asked, “Something wrong?”
    I slapped him on the shoulder.  “Nothing that can’t be handled.  Thanks.”  I started to walk away but turned back.  “You and the wife comin’ tomorrow or does she have something prepared?”
    “Did Molly make a mince-meat pie?” he inquired.
    Giving him a nod, he replied, “Then we’ll be there.  Bea will like to get out.”
    Folding the telegram I placed it in my jacket pocket.  There was something that Marshal Blasco wasn’t saying.  “How in the world did a one-armed man escape armed guards on his way to prison?” I thought, mulling the thought over in my mind while walking on up the street.  For sure, Lamb would head this way; for no other reason but that his brother was still here.  Another was to even the score with me.
    I decided to stop by the sheriff’s office to see if Charlie was in.  He needed to know about Lamb.  As I walked in the door I shouted at him, “Don’t you ever do any work?”  He had his feet propped up on the desk and was leaning back.  My shout almost made him lose his balance.
    “I should shoot you for that,” he muttered.  “Take a couple years off a fellow’s life.”
    “Lamb escaped.”
    “No way!  How in the world?”
    “That’s what I was thinkin’.  One of the guards was shot.  Blasco said he was in serious condition,” I paused to pull on my moustache.  “I’m thinkin’ he had help.”
    “Teeter and his thugs,” stated Charlie.  “Give me their names and descriptions so I can get it in my head.  When are you thinking they may get here?”
    I went to the stove to check the coffeepot.  It was still hot, so I grabbed a cup from the shelf and poured a cup.  After taking a sip I replied.  “They could show up as soon as tomorrow, but I reckon after Christmas, or maybe even after the New Year.”
    Charlie gave a little grunt.  “Tomorrow would catch you unawares.  Relaxed, having fun with friends…be a good time to get you.”
    “I’ll be ready.”
    “What time is the feed tomorrow?” he asked.
    I gave a little chuckle.  “Doesn’t Marta tell you anything?  We’ll go to church and then head back to the diner.  Elena will keep an eye on things while we’re in church.”
    “Marta has been trying to get her to come with us, but right now she is too Catholic.  However,” he smiled, “she likes it when the Preacher Clayton comes to visit her.  He reads to her, holds her hand, then prays for her.  She just sits there, taking it all in with a smile.”
    “He’s sure a good man,” I responded.  “Helps those whom he can, even up in Mex town.”
    I finished my coffee, wiped out the inside with a towel I saw handing near the shelf then placed it back where I got it.  Charlie stood as I started out.
    “Merry Christmas, Miles.  Tomorrow’s gonna be a fine day,” he paused, “and maybe quite interesting.”