The Saga of Miles Forrest

Lucas was having a good time.  He had taken care of my horses, ridden them almost everyday, but about mid-afternoon the ride began to catch up with him.  Gone were the smiles and we were just beginning to really climb.  I can normally make it to Silverton with only one night on the trail, but with the grim features on his face I reckoned that we’d spend two nights on the trail.
    The first night’s camp was just south of Columbine Lake.  There was a small meadow off the road a piece.  We crossed it and camped on the far side of the meadow where the timber began.  There was a small stream running through the meadow and skirting our camp to the west.  I decided to hobble the horses so they could graze in the grass and have access to water.
    I watched as Lucas dismounted.  There was no way I couldn’t smile as I saw him walk stiffly to pick up firewood.  At least he wasn’t complaining and started doing chores without being asked.  I didn’t know how much outdoors experience he’d had.  After I unloaded the mule I went to the stream to fill up the coffeepot and a small pot for beans.
    As soon as Lucas had the fire started I put the pots on the fire.  Lucas watched me as I placed my bedroll down and then he followed suit.  We were in shadows, but the sun was still shining on the tops of the peaks in the distance.  The coffee had come to a boil and I poured each of us a cup.  It would be a while before the beans would be ready.  Molly had a piece of ham placed in with our food supplies.
    “Want that I cut up the ham an’ throw it in with the beans or keep it out?” I inquired of him.
    “Keep it separate, por favor,” he replied then took a taste of the coffee and grimaced.  “Senor Miles, do you have any sweetener for the coffee?”
    Smiling I replied, “No, the only luxury I bring on the trail is this.”  I reached in my saddlebag for a little pouch I always kept in there.  “Friend of mine, back in Texas, always kept some of this around to help flavor the beans.”
    I put a few pinches of it in the beans.  “Have to be careful not to get too much or it’ll make the beans too bitter.”  
    Showing him the pouch, he gave a smile, the stated, “Chili powder.”
    While waiting, I checked over my guns, wiped them off.  “Always a good idea to check your guns after a day’s ride,” I hinted.  He got up from where he was sitting to get his rifle.
    The next morning I was up early, before graylight.  I had to roust Lucas up.  He was stiff and sore.  “Come on, Pard.  We’ve got a day riding.  The horses will get a workout today.  I want to camp this side of Molas Pass.  It’s only about a dozen miles, but it’s a steep grade.
    He went up to stand by the fire that I had started earlier.  “Coffee’ll be ready by the time you bring the horses in.”  I could tell he didn’t want to leave the fire as it was fairly cold this morning.
    So far the weather had been good.  There were clouds in the sky but the sun was also shining.  I kept a watch, for the weather can change almost instantly in the high country.  Tonight I imagined we would find snow.  I hoped to make it to a group of boulders that had trees intermixed within them.  There was a small place in there that I had camped several times before.
    Lucas was chilled as we settled in for camp that evening.  “Hurry up, son, get that fire started.”  This was a good place to camp as there were boulders on all sides that would reflect the heat from the fire.  Tonight I would give the animals a bit of oats that I carried and picket them in camp.  
    We had seen several wagons coming and going.  The ore wagons coming from smaller claim sites going into Silverton where there was a smelter.  There were a few supply wagons going down to Durango…not many of those anymore since the railroad came.
    “Lucas, get over there by your bedroll.  Be relaxed, but I want you holdin’ your rifle.”  I switched my cup to my left hand.
    “Hello, the camp!” came a voice from the darkness.  “Mind if we come in?”
    “Come on–easy like,” I replied.
    There were three of them, rugged looking.  From my glance I reckoned they were miners down on their luck, but they were riding good horses.  Miners either traveled with a burro, mule, or shanks mare.
    “Saw the fire…say, that coffee looks mighty invitin’,” he declared.
    “Go ahead, help yourselves,” I replied.
    They fetched cups from their gear then gathered around the fire appreciating the warmth.  The one who had been talking ordered, “Ioway, pour us some coffee.”  As the man was pouring, I was introduced.  “The one doin’ the pourin’ is Ioway Jenks, this feller to my right is Glen Framm.  I’m a-bein’ Micah Teeter, and we’re obliged for the hospitality.”
    “I’ll not begrudge a traveler coffee nor the warmth of a fire on a chilly night,” I responded.  “Why you traveling so late?”
    “Framm’s horse began limpin’, so we had to walk some of the way.  We’re hopin’ a night of rest will solve the problem and we can ride on into Silverton tomorrow.”
    I saw him glance over at Lucas.  He smiled then reached up to wipe his mouth.  “Hopin’ yuh wouldn’t mind us stayin’ here for the night.”
    He had given me no reason to suspect him of everything.  I didn’t recognize the names as being wanted.  However, there was something nagging at me.  “Go ahead.  You won’t be able to bring your horses inside the rocks.”
    That brought a little frown.  “Okay, Glen, go and secure them soon as yuh finish that cup,” he ordered again.  Then turning his attention back to me.  “We’re thankin’ yuh.  By the way, yuh didn’t tell me yur name.”
    Without looking I said, “My pard over there is Lucas.  I’m Miles Forrest.”
    He put out his hand, I ignored it pretending I didn’t see the gesture and went to my bedroll.  “Reckon one of you boys could thrown some more wood on the fire?  I reckon it’ll get cold before mornin’.”
    Leaning back against my saddle I reckoned…