Thursday, March 6, 2014

More from The City of Rocks

Although BJ has visited the Lazy M Ranch several times, his first visit to the City of Rocks on the vast property doesn’t come until Chapter 17. He and his companion, Paul, borrow horses for a ride to the rock pile. Paul calls him Vince rather than BJ like the rest of the world. While on this visit, they have unwelcome visitors.
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The horses set an easy pace. Paul kept a snug rein on Streak, who broke into a gallop at every opportunity. On the other hand, the farther Lucy got from the stable, the slower her gait became. After another hour, Paul pointed ahead of us.
“Is that it?”
“Yep. The Lazy M’s own City of Rocks.”
“Man that looks weird out there all by itself. Even weirder than the big one up at the state park.”
“New Mexico’s full of weird. You think you’re standing on the moon at the Bisti Badlands. And then there’s Carlsbad Caverns, Tent Rocks, White Sands, and those eerie lava beds in the Malpais.”
“I gotta get out of Bernalillo County more often,” he said.
We went silent, falling increasingly under the spell of ghostly monoliths as we approached the City. The horses plodded between the first two hunks of mute rock on the north-northwest side. The “street” that opened up before us was a broad avenue strangely devoid of plant growth. I saw no human footprints, but wind whistling through the alleyways raised weak, wispy dust devils. Footprints in the sand would not last long out here. Our mounts’ hooves no longer clopped; now they made a huffing sound. It was as if we had passed through a portal separating two worlds.
“That big boulder in front of us looks like a hotel. An old western hotel.”
I stared at the hulking mass. “Why? It’s just a big rock.”
“Come on, where’s your imagination? It’s a couple of stories high. It’s kinda square. It looks like those pictures of a frontier hotel minus the balcony that runs around the second story. And that’s Muldren City’s saloon over there.” He pointed to the right.
I fell into the spirit of the thing. “Okay, then that’s the bank. And the telegraph office.”
He laughed, obviously delighted I was playing along.” “Let’s go see if we can find the freight office. Then the town’s complete.”
“Oh no. Not without the jail, it isn’t.”
“Right. I forgot the sheriff’s office and the jailhouse.” He twisted in the saddle and pointed. “There it is, right across the square from the hotel.” Paul dismounted and looked for a place to tether Streak. “They forgot the hitching rail. No western town’s complete without a hitching post.”
He tied his reins to the only bit of green in sight, a small mesquite bush. “Hope that holds. I’d hate to walk back to the ranch house.”
I joined him on the ground and dubiously tethered Lucy to the same puny plant. While he scrambled up the side of the “hotel,” I searched for evidence of human habitation.
“Watch out for snakes,” he yelled, already out of sight atop the boulder.
In a natural alleyway at the side of the jailhouse, I found impressions like miniature buffalo wallows. The small lane was sheltered from the worst of the wind. People had rested here, smoothing out the dust and dirt to make a bed, probably for an overnight stay. A pile of debris and tumbleweeds lay against the end of the small passage where the rock walls met again. I nudged the garbage with my boot. It was all food related: greasy sandwich or tortilla wraps and crumpled Styrofoam containers for coffee or posole.
The human coyotes had probably hidden illegal immigrants here while they stocked up on water from the windmill in the distance. Then, before the morning light came, they would have spirited their charges across the desert onto the highway where someone waited to pick them up. It was a natural—and obvious—spot. I was willing to bet the smugglers had not remained with their human cargo during that long, anxious wait. They had probably camped somewhere in the near vicinity, realizing the Border Patrol would be aware of the City’s potential for hiding illegal aliens and other contraband.
A muffled shout from Paul drew me out of the mental drama playing out in my head. I walked back to the plaza, but found no sign of him.
“Vince,” he said from above me. I looked up to find him squatting atop the hotel. “There are people out there.”
“Where?”
Walking across the hardpan. I think they’re headed here.”
“Keep out of sight. I’m coming up.”
###
Things liven up after that. 
Thanks hope you enjoyed the read.

Don

Next week: Maybe I’ll haven an Oopsie worth writing about by then.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.







Thanks.

Don

Next week: A big mystery.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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