The Saga of Miles Forrest

It sure was nice to be out riding in the high country again. Seems like so much of my work was traveling by stage or train anymore, so this was a refreshing venture, and Hawk seemed to be enjoying it as well. The only real problem is that I had to go back to eating my own cooking. Not that it was all that bad, but Molly does much better. I can eat beans and bacon, but her biscuits and gravy along with a piece of pie beats my fare any day.
Tandy stayed a quarter of a mile to half mile behind me. I really didn’t know the kid. Kid, he was twenty, so no longer a kid in the eyes of society, but when I saw him I saw someone with a lot to learn. He seemed eager enough, but sometimes eagerness could get a person killed like it almost did him.
I thought about having him come into my camp, but the folks would know we were traveling together. It did sort of concern me about what he knew about living out in the woods or along the trail. Guess he would have to learn quick.
A danger for me would be to forget to check my back trail. Even though he was trailing me, I couldn’t afford to get lazy. A good way to get killed was to not check the back trail. Hmmm, that’s true of life some as well. Remember what was behind and learn from it, but don’t let any of it get you down.
I wanted to make it over Red Mountain Pass and camp somewhere on the downside. Figured it might be time to give Tandy a little lesson to see if he was alert. Normally I make camp about a half-hour to hour before dark. Today I decided to pull off a little earlier. About a half hour later there came Tandy. I’ll give him this, he was looking around at the surroundings, but not good enough. I let him ride on by and a few minutes later started out.
Now it was my turn to be careful. Since I didn’t know the kid very well, if I came up on him sudden-like he might just start shooting. But I wanted to see how alert he was and how much control he had, at the same time I didn’t want to be eating any lead. He went around a bend that was sheltered by a large rock. In my mind, if I had someone trailing me, this would be a good place to stop and wait for them. I stopped and waited, and waited, and waited. Patience is often the game of life, and I learned long ago that in a situation like this to be patient.
Then I had a thought and moved down, off the trail behind some aspen. It was another ten minutes or so that I heard hooves on the rocks. It was Tandy, checking his backtrail. Good. I was down, off the trail, and most folk tend to look up for danger. Sure enough, he was looking up, his pistol was out and he was moving slowly.
“Tandy!” I yelled. He turned and I thought he was going to fall off his horse. Then I heard him cock his pistol. He still hadn’t spotted me. I cocked mine as well, something didn’t seem just right.
“Is that you Mr. Forrest?” he asked.
“Holster your gun,” I ordered.
“Oh, yes sir, just forgot. I wasn’t expecting you.”
I moved on out of the aspens. “Not bad, but don’t forget to check all around you,” I paused. “Why did you think someone was behind you?”
“I thought I heard hooves clattering on the rocks, so I stopped and listened. Then I figured I should check it out. Sure glad it was you. By the way, why’d you do it?”
“Figured I should see how much learnin’ you’ve had. Like I said, not bad. Let’s move on down and see if we can find a stream and set up camp for the night. If I recall there is one not too far down trail.”
Thirty minutes later we came to the stream and I moved upstream this time. “Funny thing,” I said. “People tend to look up the side of a mountain first, but I think folks will set up camp on the downhill side. I’ve never figured that one out.”
We moved twenty minutes up the small stream off the trail. I let him rustle up the wood, after all he was the youngster and I got fixin’s out for supper. Soon the coffee was boilin’ and the bacon fryin’. I opened a can of beans and poured them in a little white enamel pan I carried with me.
He went to find more wood for the night and I got my Bible out from my saddlebags. I was reading about Abner, Saul’s great captain, coming to the camp of David and how David accepted him.
“Whatcha reading, Mr. Forrest?” he asked.
“My Bible.”
“Bible! You like those kid’s stories? I always figured they were just tall tales.”
“Nope, this book is true. Lots of life lessons to be learned here, plus gettin’ a person ready for the next life.”
“Next life?”
He turned to his bedroll, and as dark was now upon us I put my Bible back in my bags. I went to sleep, feeling a little uneasy, not really knowing why. Over the years, however, I learned to lean upon those feelings and not push them away.

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