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.”