The Saga of Miles Forrest

We had just finished eating and were sitting around the table laughing and telling stories. Come to find out that the stranger sitting at my table was a friend from years gone by–Grizz Horton. It had been several years since I had seen the old guy, but we started right where we left off. I met him while he was a wolfer at a ranch up in Wyoming. My job was to tend the cattle; his was to rid the ranch of wolves. He was good at his job.
Grizz heard I was in Durango and was in the area. He brought us a nice Christmas present–a bear. We feasted on bear steaks this Christmas, the bunch of us: Charlie and Marta, Elihu, Lucas, Doc and Edith were all there, along with Grizz. We had a nice, fun time.
“You should’ve asked Billy to eat with us,” chided Molly.
Doc laughed, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so pale as Billy. I don’t know if it was from the cold, the loss of blood, or he was just plain fightened.”
“Well, it wasn’t from overwork,” I declared. “And I doubt that it was from loss of blood. Honestly, he screamed like he was gut-shot. I wonder what happens if he gets a splinter?”
“Guess, that depends on where the splinter lodges and how big it is,” joined in Charlie.
“Yuh know,” started in Grizz, “I heard tell that most of those who died in those large sea battles, like Nelson at Trafalgar, died from splinters.”
We all stopped to listen. “‘Course those weren’t jist any kind of splinters; they may be the size of yur hand.”
“Whoooeee!” yelled up Lucas, “That’s some splinter!” Then he looked at all of us and ducked his head. “Sorry.”
All of us looked at him and laughed and Charlie bumped him with his arm. He had been raised that younguns should not speak unless asked.
“That reminds me of the time in the bunkhouse up ’round Chugwater,” he looked at me. “Remember ol’ Ben Walters, Miles? We had all retired for the night; it was cold outside with snow, ’bout like it is outside now. I can see the fire glowing in the ol’ stove for that’s where I bunked ’cause of my rheumatize. We had been asleep for maybe an hour, when a howl, sorta like the one Lucas made came from Ben’s bunk. Yuh remember, Miles?”
“I sure do, he sounded like an Indian was ready to lift his scalp,” I said laughing.
“Mister Grizz,” asked Lucas, “what happened?”
Grizz was smiling, but instead of answering, he ate a bite of Molly’s butterscotch pie, drank a long swig of coffee. Actually, by the time Grizz was through with fixing his coffee it was more like syrup. He laced it with anything that was sweet, honey, sugar, or even syrup if it was handy.
“As I was sayin’, we were all sleepin’, some snorin’ like last year’s tornado when ol’ Ben let out what war whoop. He was a-layin’ on his back, when up across his belly, over his chest, and into his beard ran a mouse.”
“Eeks,” cried Edith.
“No, it was more like ‘Y-I-K-E-S!'” laughed Grizz. “It was a drawn out cacophony! He started slappin’ at his beard, tryin’ to dislodge his new found guest.”
Edith held her hand over her mouth. “I don’t like mice; I wouldn’t have stepped in that bunkhouse again.”
Grizz took another long swig of coffee and handed me his mug for a refill. “Ma’am, what do you think was in that dressin’ Molly made? Giblets?”
With that it was Molly’s turn to hit him with her elbow.
“How’s the wounded man, Doc?” asked Charlie.
“He’ll make it if infection doesn’t set in,” he said shaking his head. “That’s a bad wound; it’ll take some time to heal. This was the man that Miles shot outside the jail. The one you shot died in the cabin,” he stopped and looked at Molly, then at his wife Edith. “Since this is the Christmas season, Molly do you think I could have another piece of pie?”
“Oh, Henry, my goodness!” chided Edith.
“Edith, it’s Christmas, and you have to think the Lord could have taken him from us with that knock on the head,” she turned to Doc Jones. “I have an apple pie I’ve been hidin’ from Miles. Want a piece of it?”
“What!” I exclaimed.
“That would be fine.”
Molly was up and headed for the kitchen. “Grizz, Charlie?”
Charlie said he was fine, but Grizz opted for another piece. “What about me?” I asked, but she was around the corner into the kitchen and I didn’t know if she heard me or not.
“Back to the patient,” started in Doc again. “Miles, that bullet you fired hit him in the hip; broke a piece of his pelvis off the big bone. I don’t have the means to fix it. I probably should cut it out so it won’t be in him loose, but then again, where it’s located it doesn’t pose a threat to cut a vein or artery. It’ll take him a while to heal and he won’t walk the same.”
Molly came back with the pie, and there was a piece for me. We sat there for quite some time, just enjoying each other’s company. I guess you could say this was family. Ain’t that what the holidays are for–friends and family?