"One of the things I most enjoy in writing fiction, particularly historical fiction, the creation of characters who become like actual people to me," writes beloved author Gerald Lund in the preface of his new book, "Only the Brave". "...I have come to learn that the characters should--perhaps even must--take on lives of their own if they are to be worth caring about."
While "Only the Brave" is a continuation of the story from "The Undaunted", Lund felt a new set of fictional characters were required to really bring the story to life and introduced the Westlands and Zimmers. "It would have seemed contrived and forced to put [certain] elements into the Drapers' and the McKennas' lives. So I bid them farewell and started anew. My only hope is that you will quickly fall in love with our two new families as they carry the story forward." Families who illustrate the lives of those early San Juan pioneers who were called upon to be buffers, shock absorbers, and lightning rods, softening blows, striving for peace, and building Zion in southern Utah. Enjoy the first chapter below, or get the book deseretbook.com.
September, 1881—Hall’s Crossing and Ferry
San Juan County, Utah Territory
As he sat looking down at the river below and the ferry on the far side, Joseph A. Lyman, known to everyone as Jody, saw the cloud of dust a short distance downstream and knew instantly what it was. The dust mostly hid the men, but there was no question whose horses those were. Once again Lyman’s party had caught up with the men they were after, and once again they were too late.
When the call came for families to go to the San Juan, Jody and Nellie Roper Lyman, his bride of just nine months, decided to go. Their leaders had specifically asked for young couples to add their strength to the company. They were sobered by the challenges but excited to be part of something larger than themselves.
Jody removed his hat and wiped away the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. Now he wasn’t so sure this had been a good idea. He glanced at his two companions. Lemuel H. Redd Jr.’s family had run cattle out west of Cedar City. Now he ran cattle in the land of the San Juan. Like Jody, Hyrum Perkins, who had been a coal miner in Wales, was now a farmer. Jody pulled a face and corrected himself. Normally they were farmers. At the moment, they were a posse.
About a week ago, two cowboys had come into Bluff. Like so many of the cowmen in the area, they had a look about them that caused women to step back into their houses and hiss at their children to come quickly. The larger and older of the two men was named Bob Paxman. The younger called himself Dickson. First name or last? It didn’t seem to matter. They claimed to be looking to purchase horses from the Mormons, but their questions about where the herds were kept and how many horses there were raised suspicions. Two days later, a rider came racing into town from Butler Wash, a deep and wide gully that served as pasture for their horses. Ten horses were missing. The tracks led west toward Escalante, the next established settlement, which was 125 miles away.
This was a serious blow. Horses were the settlement’s lifeblood. The loss of even one animal was a serious matter. Jens Nielson, the bishop of Bluff, had called Lyman, Redd, and Perkins in and charged them to go after the two outlaws and get their horses back.
Now in his sixties, this patriarch of the group was much beloved and much honored, so there was no question about answering his call.
Two hours later, their saddlebags were packed and their bedrolls tucked in behind them.
Lem Redd ran his cattle in this wild, red rock country, so Lyman and Perkins deferred to his judgment and experience.
“If we hurry, we can catch them before dark,” Hy ob-served.
Lem shook his head. “That’s the last thing we want to do. They know we’re back here, and they’ll lay an ambush in the canyon for us if we push them too hard. We’ll sit awhile with the Hall brothers. Give them a couple of hours head start. Maybe have some grub.”
Jody replaced his hat and grinned. “I could live with that.”
When the three men from Bluff told Charles Hall and his brother, who ran the ferry together, that they had just helped across two horse thieves and about ten head of stolen horses, they were furious. But there was nothing to be done for it, so the three riders sat for a spell in the deep shade of the gorge and rested themselves and their mounts.
It was about four o’clock and the three Bluff riders were probably three miles up the canyon from the ferry when Jody, who was in the lead, pulled up. He half turned and waved the other two forward. As they joined him, he inclined his head to the left. Here another road forked off from the main one. It wasn’t as wide or well-traveled as what they were on, but it was wide enough to take a small herd of horses. “This must be that new shortcut Charles told us about,” he said. He looked at Lem. “Which way do you want to go?”
Redd dismounted and walked slowly forward, examining the ground. There was plenty of evidence of horse and wagon traffic in the main canyon, but with so much sand, it was hard to say which of the tracks were the most recent.
Lem finally looked up and pointed up the main canyon. “I’m pretty sure they went this way. If Hall’s right and we hurry, we can maybe get ahead of them and lay a little ambush of our own.”
Lem got back on his horse. “Let’s go slowly and as quietly as we can,” he said grimly. “We can’t assume they didn’t see this, so we could be walking straight into an ambush.”
At the moment, the two thieves, Paxman and Dick-son, were both thinking one thing. Twice in the last two days they had seen three riders trailing them in the far distance. They had to either shake them or get rid of them before they reached Escalante. Otherwise, this whole deal might fall apart. Paxman suddenly spoke. “I’m tired of it,” he exclaimed.
“Tired of what?” his partner asked.
He stood up in his saddle and looked ahead, and then pointed. “See that spot under them cottonwood trees? Let’s stop the horses there. Won’t take that much to loop a rope around them and secure them for a while.”
“What fer?” Dickson asked.
Paxman growled in disgust. He had already determined that the minute they sold the horses, he was dropping the kid. He swore. “Dickson, you are dumber than a rock stuck in six inches of mud. Ain’t you tired of having them three dogging our tails? I say, let’s end it. Now.”
Dickson, for once, was in full agreement. As they tied up the horses and started back down the canyon, had they looked up the road about forty or fifty rods, they would have seen where the shortcut road rejoined the main route. But they weren’t looking that way.
It took Lyman, Perkins, and Redd only about twenty minutes to traverse the shortcut. As they approached the junction with the main road, they slowed to a cautious pace. All three had their pistols out. Suddenly Lem pulled up, holding up a hand to stop the others. He put a finger to his lips and slid out of his saddle. The other two then heard what Lem had heard—the soft whinny of a horse. Then another. Using hand signals to communicate, the three dismounted and crept forward. When they saw the horses tied in the trees, they suspected a trap. They crouched down, searching the willows and bushes for any sign of their two enemies. Hyrum Perkins, moving like a cat, circled around and came up from behind the horses. After a minute, he gave a low whistle. “They’re not here. Their own horses are tied up behind me and there are boot tracks headed back down the wash. I’m guessing they’ve gone to set up an ambush.”
“That’s gotta be it,” Jody agreed. He didn’t add that if they hadn’t decided to take the shortcut they might be dead by now. “So?”
Lem grinned. “Well, we got our horses back. I’d love to take these two back to face the law, but I don’t relish that idea much. I say we take the horses and make a run for home. Take their mounts, too, so they can’t follow us. Leave these two rattlesnakes for the buzzards.”
They moved the horses slowly until they were about fifty rods from where the side canyon rejoined the main one. Lem, still in the lead, held up his hand, turning in the saddle. “It’s most likely they’ve set up their ambush site above the turnoff, since we didn’t see them. But we can’t be sure. So, Jody, Hy, I’ll take the lead. You drive ’em hard. And stay low in the saddle. Don’t give those two bushwhackers a chance for a clean shot.”
“You say when,” Hyrum called.
“I say now.” And he spurred his horse forward. Shouting and waving their lariats, Hyrum and Jody drove their horses up behind the herd. Snorting and whinnying, the ten horses leaped forward into a hard run.
In the desert, where about the only things that make any noise are the wind, the jackrabbits, and the lizards, the sound of more than fifty iron-shod hooves clattering on gravel was right up there alongside summer thunderstorms for getting someone’s attention.
In the rocks, Paxman and Dickson were both half asleep. They had been there for nearly an hour, and the afternoon heat was still stifling. Paxman leaped to his feet, instantly alert.
Dickson snapped up, eyes wild. “What? What’s that?”
Paxman cocked his head to one side. Then he started to curse even as he grabbed his rifle. “Horses! A lot of them! And coming fast.” He spun around to look up the canyon. But immediately he realized that the noise was coming from downstream, not from behind them. He whirled back in time to see a man on horseback bust out from the undergrowth about two hundred yards down the wash. He turned down the canyon, and the herd wheeled and followed him.
Paxman jerked his rifle up and almost snapped off a shot, but by then, the narrow canyon was filled with horses and clouds of dust. He swore again when he saw two horses with empty saddles flash by. “They got our mounts!” he shouted over his shoulder.
Dickson’s eyes were wide and confused. Moments later, two more men appeared with the herd, half obscured in the clouds of dust. They were riding hard and bent low over their saddles. Paxman fired a shot, knowing there was not a chance of hitting them. Moments later they were gone, disappearing around the next bend.
“Let’s go,” Paxman yelled, levering a new shell into the chamber of his rifle. He leaped down and started after the horses.
“Wait,” Dickson shouted, turning to look up the canyon. “What about our horses?”
“They’ve got our horses, you stupid idiot. They’ve got our bedrolls. They’ve got our food. And if they get across the river before we catch them, we’re buzzard bait.”
Lem Redd turned the herd upstream toward the ferry as they came out of the canyon, but then he pulled his horse aside and stopped. When Hyrum and Jody came up, he was shouting before they even reached him. “I saw them,” he cried. “They’re coming. Hy, you go and help the Halls get the horses across the river as fast as possible. Jody and I will wait for these guys here. Slow them down a little.”
With a wave, Hyrum spurred forward. Lem swung down and led his horse into the willows. Jody was right behind him. Grabbing their rifles, they separated so they had a view of the canyon from two different angles. “We’ll not be killing ’em if we can help it,” Lem called softly. “Just slow them down long enough for us to get across.”
Jody waved back. For all his anger and frustration at these outlaws, he was of the same mind as Lem. They had come here to make peace. If word got out they had killed two cowboys, every cowboy within fifty miles would be coming for revenge.
“Here they come,” Jody hissed about ten minutes later.
Lem saw them immediately. The bigger one—Paxman—was in the lead, scuttling from bush to bush, headed for a large cottonwood tree. Lem jerked up his rifle, steadied the barrel against the trunk of a cottonwood, and waited for the man to make his move. Paxman was only about forty yards away now, an easy shot for a marksman like Lem Redd. But as his finger tightened on the trigger, he moved the barrel slightly to the right. Paxman appeared and dove behind the tree. BLAM! Even in the deep shadow, he saw the sudden white blossom appear in the bark of the cottonwood tree. The younger man yelled and jumped behind a large rock.
BLAM! BLAM! Jody fired off two shots in quick succession at Dickson. There was a sharp ricochet as the bullets whined away.
BLAM! The answering shot was probably from Pax-man, but he was shooting blindly. Then Lem saw movement again, only this time the two outlaws were scrambling backward deeper into underbrush. Lem put another round in the dirt a few feet ahead of them to let them know that they were clearly visible. Scuttling like crabs on a beach, they tumbled backward and disappeared.
Glancing upriver to where the Halls and Hyrum were loading the horses on the ferry, Lem called softly, “They need another five minutes. As soon as they’re loaded, we’ll make a run for it.”
But even as he spoke the sound of hooves could be heard. Both men jerked around. To their surprise and dismay, four of the horses were trotting toward them, evidently spooked by the rifle fire.
“Change of plans,” Lem called. “You get those four head to the ferry. I’ll stand guard until you’re ready.”
Jody was off and running before he finished. The horses were skittish, but Jody got them turned around. As they came up to the ferry, Hy shook his head. “Sorry,” he murmured. “They got away from us when you started shooting.”
“No room for them,” Charles Hall cried. “We’re already loaded.”
“Tie them to the back,” the other Hall cried. “They’ll have to swim across.”
Jody had already turned away. He shouted, waving his arms back and forth. “We’re ready, Lem! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Redd pumped a shot into the underbrush as a final warning and then came on a hard run, leading his horse. “No sign of them. Let’s get out of here.”
As Lem tied his mount on the back of the ferry, Charles and his brother untied the flat-bottom boat, and the five men pushed it away from the bank and then jumped aboard.
For a moment it looked like they wouldn’t even get off the shoreline. The five horses tied at the back were snorting in fear and dug in their hooves. Seeing that, Lem grabbed the ropes and yanked on them hard. The moment the horses surrendered and leaped into the water, the ferry moved forward and they were launched.
“Jody,” Lem called. “You watch the canyon. I’ll watch the cliffs. If they show their heads, do whatever it takes to pin ’em down.”
No one spoke then. Charles Hall was leaning hard on the rudder, trying to keep the nose of the boat angled toward the opposite side. His brother was on one of the long oars; Hy was on the other. Lem Redd and Jody Lyman paced back and forth, watching for any sign of movement on the shore or cliffs.
“Those last horses are holding us back,” Charles called. Then he shrugged, sorry he had said it. “But nothing to be done for it.”
BLAM! BLAM! The two rifle shots came nearly as one. Hyrum yelled and fell back as a bullet ploughed into the wooden seat he was on, missing his leg by inches.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! The barrel of Lem’s rifle was smoking. “They’re on the cliff!” he cried.
Jody had seen the two silhouetted figures a hundred or so feet above them just before they fired. Now they had dropped out of sight. He took careful aim. When he saw a head come up he pulled the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off the rock face with a sharp buzzing whine. The head disappeared again.
A moment later, two silhouettes appeared. They were running hard in the same direction the ferry was going. Three more shots rang out. Charles jerked down and felt a soft puff of wind brush his cheek. The other two shots kicked up water.
Jody and Lem fired simultaneously, but again their two assailants had dropped out of sight. “Keep rowing! Keep rowing!” Hall bellowed. With bullets zinging all around them and horses snorting and jerking their heads wildly, it was hard to keep the boat angling toward the shore. This time Lem didn’t wait for their assailants to reappear. He fired twice more. Jody had dropped to one knee to steady himself. At the sign of the slightest movement, he fired off another round.
For the next minute or two—which seemed like forever to the five men on the boat—the firefight continued. But Lem’s and Jody’s answering fire was so fierce and so consistent that their enemies had no time to aim. One bullet hit the prow of the boat, but the rest splashed harmlessly in the water.
“We’re almost there,” Hall shouted. “And we’re gonna need every hand to get the boat beached and the horses off.”
Lyman was reloading his rifle and merely grunted. When he was done, he took two quick steps and leaped off the prow of the boat. He landed in two feet of water and almost went down. Scrambling wildly, he was up on the shore in a moment. Again he dropped to one knee and began firing, slowly, methodically, and with deadly aim.
Lem darted forward to the front of the boat and slid back the pole that kept the horses enclosed. With no more need to steer the boat, Charles Hall let the rudder go and jumped forward. He slapped the nearest horse hard on the rump. “Hee-yaw! Git!” Eager to be off the un-steady ferry, the horses lunged forward and jumped off, one after the other. Hall’s brother quickly loosed the five horses tied at the back, and they struck out immediately for the shore.
They were still under fire from the cliff top, but Jody was keeping them pinned down enough that nothing was coming very close. Then suddenly, Charles Hall was hollering. He was behind the boat, waist-deep in water, leaning into the ferry. “The current’s taking it,” he yelled. “Help! I need help!”
The four men leaped to the task. Hy and Lem jumped into the water to join Charles. His brother leaped onto shore and started heaving on the rope. The boat slowed, but not enough. The back was still swinging around.
“Jody,” Hy yelled. “Give us a hand.”
Jody fired off one last shot and then raced to help on the rope. Heaving and pulling, yelling at one another and puffing like winded buffalos, they finally got the blunt nose of the boat up on shore enough that it halted the back end from swinging around. With the exception of Jody, the men collapsed. Remembering the other danger, Jody ran toward where he had dropped his rifle.
It had taken less than thirty seconds to beach the boat, but that was enough. When Bob Paxman popped up for another shot, he was surprised that there was no answering fire. He stood and saw one figure clearly running away from the boat. This time he took careful aim and fired. BLAM!
The bullet hit Jody in the femur just above the knee, shattering the bone. His leg was knocked out from under him, and he went down hard. Clutching his leg, rolling over and over, he screamed in agony. Lem Redd had his pistols out and was firing blindly at the cliffs, but it was too late. A man was down.
The five of them waited in the willows until it was dark. They cushioned Jody’s leg as much as possible and bathed his face with a wet cloth. Hy hovered over him and covered his mouth if he started to moan too loudly. The two horse thieves had come down from the cliffs and were across the river from them. Their voices floated to them in the night. They called across that they were willing to make a deal. The five men knew that was a ploy and said nothing. Eventually everything was quiet.
There would be a sliver of a moon in a couple of hours, but for now all they had was starlight. Lem Redd finally called them in close together and told them they could wait no longer. They had to get Jody back to Bluff or he would die. Grimly, the four men gave him a priesthood blessing and then prepared to leave.
Moving stealthily, they rounded up the horses. They wrapped Jody’s leg as tightly as they dared and then lifted him onto his horse. He gave one piercing scream of agony and fainted. They all ducked down, expecting to draw fire from across the river, but nothing came. There was no way that Jody could stay on a horse, so Lem climbed up behind him. They bade soft farewells to the Hall brothers and then started out. Again, there was no response from the two rustlers.
By the time they had gone eight miles, Jody could bear no more. As gently as they could, they lowered him off the saddle and laid him on a bedroll. As soon as Jody was somewhat comfortable, Hy took two of their three canteens and headed east, taking Paxman’s horse as an extra mount. His task was to cover the almost hundred miles to Bluff and return with help to take Jody home. Or to take his body, which was a very real possibility.
As he watched Hyrum disappear into the darkness, Lem Redd had little hope. Even with two horses, it would take two days for Hyrum to reach Bluff and then another two at the least to make it back. The leg was starting to swell, and Lem sensed that the unbearable pain was sapping Jody’s strength with frightening rapidity.
Shortly after sunup, Lem knelt beside Jody’s still form and checked for a pulse. He didn’t notice when Jody’s eyes flickered open. “Am I dead?” he croaked. Then, be-fore Lem could respond, he shook his head. “Can’t be. You’re too ugly to be an angel.”
Lem hooted. “I surely ain’t no angel!” Then he sobered. “The leg’s bad, Jody. Maybe swollen to twice what it ought to be. Had to slit your pant leg open to give it room.”
“My wife won’t like that.” He managed a wan grin.
“We’re nearly out of water,” Lem went on. “I’ll get you comfortable, and then I’m going to have to walk down to Lake Gulch. There’s water there. But it’s seven or eight miles round-trip. You be all right for that long?”
There was another effort to smile. “I got a longing to dance some, but I reckon I can resist it.” Jody closed his eyes. Even that much effort was too much for him.
Taking the bedroll from Dickson’s horse, Lem stretched a blanket between two of the bushes to create some shade for Jody. Then, using the last of their water to dampen a cloth, he laid it over the ghastly wound to keep off the flies. Satisfied that this was the best he could do, he murmured a farewell—which Jody did not hear—and set off at a rapid walk.
It took him over four hours to make the seven-mile trip. Cowboy boots made for a miserable walk, and he had blisters by the time he returned. Jody was conscious, but barely. Lem bathed the wound, which was now a bright, angry red around the torn flesh. The pain was so excruciating that Jody passed out again before he finished. Lem covered the wound again and settled down to wait. And again he bowed his head and prayed for his friend.
By morning, the leg was three times its normal size. Jody’s face was a ghastly gray-green, and his forehead was hot to the touch. When Lem removed the cloth from the wound to wet it again, he gasped and rocked back. Two thirds of the leg was a fiery red now. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The shattered flesh was crawling with a dozen or more maggots. Breathing through his mouth in quick, shallow breaths, Lem picked the maggots out as best he could and ground them underfoot. Then he forced some water into Jody’s mouth and bathed his face, trying not to look at the bucket, which was nearly empty again. When he finished, he bowed his head. The prayer was simple and short. “O God, do not let this good man die.”
It was about noon of the third day when a sound brought Lem Redd out of a fitful sleep. Jerking up, he looked around wildly, not sure what had awakened him. For one brief moment, his heart swelled with hope. Had Hy somehow made it back already? But that hope was dashed when he saw who it was. He dropped back down, clawing for his rifle. Utes, Piutes, or Navajo? That was the first question that flashed into his mind. It made a big difference. For the most part the Mormons had established good relations with the Navajo. The Utes could be more troublesome but were not in very close proximity to Bluff. If it was Piutes, that could spell real trouble. They were much more unpredictable and so desperately poor that they stole from the Mormons at every opportunity. Normally they were not violent, but there were exceptions to that.
But as the Indians came slowly toward him, Lem let out a long sigh and laid aside the rifle. They were Navajo. And even better, he recognized their leader. It was Pahlilly, a wise, old clan leader who often came to Bluff and who had been treated well by the settlers. Lem got to his feet, raised a hand, and called out, “Yah-ah-tay.” Pahlilly’s hand came up and called back the same greeting.
There were nine of them. The men rode horses, and the women and children walked beside them.
After listening to Lem’s rapid explanation, Pahlilly knelt beside the wounded man, carefully examining the wound. Jody groaned once or twice, but he was too far gone to come back to full consciousness.
The old Navajo grunted as he sat back on his heels. “He very bad. What you do for him?”
“I’m trying to keep the wound clean. Keep the flies off. And the maggots. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Not good,” the old Indian said. He stood up and spoke in rapid Navajo to the nearest brave. Lem knew a little Navajo but didn’t recognize anything he had said except for the final command to hurry. The young man leaped on his horse and kicked it into a gallop, heading back the way they had come.
“He go find prickly pear,” Pahlilly explained. “We make . . .” The wrinkles on his leathery face deepened. He held up both hands and moved them back and forth in a curving motion, as if he were stroking a large ball between them. “For the leg. Help make better.”
A wide smile broke out. “Yah. Poultice.” He looked down at the bucket. “Need more water. Where you get?”
Turning and pointing to the south, Lem answered. “Lake Gulch. There’s a small spring there. It’s a long ways, but I can go and—”
He stopped. Pahlilly was shaking his head and clucking his tongue. “Bilagáana,” he said, half in amusement, half in disgust. It was the Navajo word for white men. It wasn’t a compliment. Pahlilly turned to the other brave and spoke rapidly. The man grabbed the bucket, dumped what little water was left in it, and took off at an easy run in the opposite direction of Lake Gulch.
Lem turned to Pahlilly in dismay. “The spring in Lake Gulch is closer than the Colorado River.”
Pahlilly’s grin widened. “You wait. You see. Pahlilly teach bilagáana.”
To Lem’s amazement, ten minutes later the man reappeared, walking this time and loaded down with a full bucket of water. The old Navajo laughed aloud at Lem’s expression. “Red rocks not so far as Lake Gulch.” He pointed.
Lem had noticed the long but low outcropping of red sandstone about half a mile away on their first morning, but those were very common out here and he had given them no further thought. For a moment he was puzzled. Then he understood and groaned in disgust. “Water pots.”
Water pots were a common thing in the desert southwest. The same wind and rain that sculpted the soft sandstone into all kinds of fantastic shapes often carved out depressions in the base rock. Some of these were small depressions of various sizes that trapped and held the rain. Some reached four or five feet across and several feet deep. One could find water in these larger ones even in midsummer. Lem felt like kicking himself.
Pahlilly flashed him a grin, shook his head, and said again, with much satisfaction, “Bilagáana.”
As the man brought the water, the other brave returned at a full gallop. Dragging behind him on a rope was a prickly pear plant about the size of a bushel basket. Immediately the women surrounded the plant and went to work. They pulled out the needle--sharp spines with their teeth and then cut the flat, round leaves down the middle so they opened like a book.
Lem was amazed to see the skill with which they worked. When they finished, they brought the leaves to Pahlilly, who carefully laid them across the wound. In a minute or two, he had the whole upper half of Jody’s leg packed in the sticky cactus. The women secured it with strips of rawhide. Jody twitched once or twice during the procedure but did not awaken.
When Pahlilly straightened and stepped back, surveying his work with satisfaction, Lem turned to face him. “Thank you, my friend,” he said with great solemnity. “The Great Spirit sent you to save my companion’s life. You are a true friend to my people.”
Though his expression did not change, the old man’s jet black eyes gleamed with pleasure. “And the people of the Mormons are true friends to the Diné.” He looked down. “He better now. His leg crooked, and he have much pain for many winters. But he not die.”
Lem nodded. “When you return to Bluff Fort, my family would be honored to have you sit in our hogan to break bread together.”
There was another curt nod, but the pleasure in Pahlilly’s eyes deepened even more. “It shall be so,” he said.
And then, just like that, the old Navajo returned to his horse and threw himself onto it. He spoke to his entourage in his native language. Then to Lem he said two words: “We go.”
Lem watched them until they disappeared into a small wash about half a mile away. Then, with a lump in his throat, he bowed his head and dropped to his knees.
Sometime in the middle of the night Lem awoke with a start. He sat up, not sure what had awakened him. A sliver of a moon was up, providing some light. He turned and looked at his patient. To his amazement, Jody Lyman was up on one elbow. “Lem?”
“I’m right here, Jody,” he said, half in shock. “Are you all right?”
Lying back down again, Jody let out a long breath. “My leg. I can’t feel it. Did you have to cut . . . ?” He couldn’t finish the sentence.
“No. A band of Navajo came by. They put a poultice on it. It’s drawing out the poison. The swelling has gone down.” Lem had readjusted the rawhide strips three times now because the swelling was receding so fast. It was astonishing. “But if you can’t feel it, that’s not good.”
In the near darkness, Lem saw Jody reach down and carefully probe his leg with his fingertips. There was a soft gasp, then, “Uh . . . yeah. I can feel it.”
“You’re going to live, Jody. And thanks be to God for that.”
“Gone to Bluff for help. He should be back in a couple more days.”
“Sorry to be so much trouble.”
Reaching out, Lem put a hand on his shoulder. “You done good, Jody. And now you’re gonna be all right. Try to sleep.”
There was a long sigh. “Yeah, I think I will.”
They were quiet for quite a long time, but then Jody spoke again. “Lem?”
“Do you remember what they told us when they called us to come out here?”
“They said a lot. What in particular?”
“The part about us needing to be a buffer between the Indians and the white man.”
“And like shock absorbers on a carriage.”
“Yes, I remember. What of it?”
Jody actually managed a soft laugh. “I think I believe them now.”
Lem laughed right out aloud. To have the man he expected to be dead right now joking about their situation was like a breath of spring in the middle of winter.
Then the wounded man sobered. “How long do you think it will take? To make it all work, I mean. It is gonna all work out, right?”
Lemuel Redd sat back and then finally shook his head. “Dunno. Maybe not in our generation. But maybe our kids will live to see it.”
“Will they be strong enough to stick it out that long?”
“We keep having days like this and I guess they’ll have to be, won’t they?”
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