Echoes From the Campfire

It was still light when we rode into Raton.  I didn’t care for the town; I’d seen many like them down in Texas.  It was very much segregated; to the south lived and shopped the Mexicans, to the north were the whites.  Neither side was kept up much, there was trash laying all around, whiskey bottles strewn in the alleyways.  Not only that, there seemed to be a feeling, one I recognized all too often–that of the Pale Rider.  He walked often through this town, his stench, the smell of death, lingered.
    We stopped in front of the saloon where Jens dismounted.  “Here, take my horse down to the livery.  Talk with the folk down there, I’ll check out the saloon and I’ll meet you,” he stopped to point, “over there at the cantina.”
    I took his reins and rode on down to the livery.  Saloons and livery stables are places where strangers might be known, or at least if they passed through.  There was a young Mexican boy wearing a heavy wool serape rather than a coat who greeted me.  Dismounting I handed the reins to the boy.  “Here son, two for the night.  Rub them down and feed them.”
    He looked me over as if my appearance and the clothes I were wearing would be the cost of the board and stall.  Looking up to my face he took off his hat, wiped his forehead, and gave a toothy smile.  “Uno, dollar, senor.”
    I unbuttoned my coat, and reached inside my vest pocket for my coin pouch.  Bringing it out I began to search through it.  Winking at the boy, I gave him two dollars.  That brought back the big smile.
    He started to walk the horses back to the stalls.  “Son, any other strangers been in town, maybe a group of five or six?”
    Stopping he looked inside the livery then back to me.  “I do not recall that many.  Some come through, maybe three or so,” he said, then nodded his head toward the stable.  “Check with el jefe.”
    I entered the livery and to the right side was a large door open with a forge in front of it.  There was a man, possibly the leanest blacksmith I’d ever seen, working on something.
    “Howdy there,” I sang out to get his attention.
    He didn’t look up from his work, just replied, “Give me a minute an’ I’ll be right with you.”
    Looking at him work, the thought came to mind, so much talent.  Here is a man making something out of a piece of iron.  He’s taking something hard, using the fire and a hammer, doing some twisting and more hammering, making something ornate.  It just amazes me the talent that the Lord has given some folk.
    He picked up the rod iron, now twisted and shaped, and thrust it into a bucket of water for a few seconds, then pulled it out, laying it on the anvil.  “Now, what can I do for you, mister?”
    “What are you makin’? I asked.
    For that I received a frown.  “Is that what you interrupted my work for, just asking what I was making?  But for your inquisitiveness, I’m making a rod iron gate for the widow lady Ferrell.  Now, again, what do you want?”
    I reckoned I’d just come out with it.  “Do you know Frank Reston?”
    “Heard of him, can’t say that I know him,” he said with a slight smile.
    Was he playing a game with me.  “Let me ask you this, has Reston been through here?”
    He grinned again.  “Who’s asking?”
    “Deputy United States Marshal Miles Forrest.”
    “Can’t say that he has,” the smile disappeared, and he touched the iron bar then picked it up, turning away from me to the forge.
    “Thanks for all the information,” I snapped at him.
    Barely turning his head my way, the smile appearing again.  “Sure, sure, any time.”
    Leaving the livery I started back down the street to the cantina.  On the way I had to pass the Mercado to get to the cantina.  There were probably half a dozen or so people shopping, gathering up the things they were need for supper that evening.  One thing about being cool is that the flies weren’t so bothersome.  I’d been to some markets where the flies completely owned the place; meat all covered with them.
    Looking in the cantina I didn’t see Blasco.  I stepped to my right to get out of the light and to let my eyes adjust to the dark room.  The bar was in front of me with several tables between.
    “Senor, something to drink?” inquired the barkeeper, a rotund, little man.  He wore a white shirt, was clean shaven with his dark hair slicked back.
    “Comida.”  My Spanish was limited, but being a Texas Ranger and now living in Trinidad I’d picked up a word or two.
    “Si,” then he pointed to tables toward the back of the room.
    I ambled over and sat making sure I could see all the entrances to the room.  There was little light; I hoped they didn’t keep it that way to hide what was in the food.
    It didn’t take long for him to come out with a plate of enchiladas, frijoles and a stack of tortillas.  “You will like,” he stated as he set the food in front of me.  “Water here is good, I’ll bring you some.”
    The fork was heading toward my mouth when in through the door walked…