Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CALL (01/14/16)
- TITLE: Vaya con Dios
By Elizabeth Baize
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Closing my eyes I wished myself safely back across the Rio Grande. I imagined Papa, Mama, and James spending a quiet evening in the ranch house and gathering for family devotions. Had they included me in their prayers? The Lord knew I needed them. Yet finding myself at the wrong end of a rustler’s Smith and Wesson was my own fault. Almost a month had passed since Papa had sent Juan and me into Laredo for supplies. Riding down the street, I had been detained by a voice calling, “Amigo!” I had never seen Manuel before, but agreed to lope Chapo past him as he entertained the crowd with rope tricks. With a flick of his wrist he had roped me and my mount with two separate lariats. Afterwards I had invited him to share a pot of frijoles, and he repaid me with stories of a beautiful ranch on a plateau accessible by only two trails winding through the cap rock. When Manuel commented that the ranch needed more good men, my imagination ran wild.
That night while Juan slept, I had slipped away, crossed the Rio Grande, and waited for my new friend. Afraid he would send me home, I had trailed him for half a day before making my presence known. “What will I do with you?” he had said.
“Just help me get hired on. Please, Manuel?” In the end he had conceded. Now regret gnawed me to the core. If only I had resisted that call of adventure!
A gruff whisper jerked me back to the present. “Shouldn’t the boys be topping the rise with those steers?” The first man, Burt, grunted in response. Instinctively I knew they hoped to drop off the plateau through the pass while the moonlight lasted.
The boss had assigned me as a guard for the first time. It looked like my last. Before I could fire a shot eight rustlers had surrounded me. In the struggle Burt had caught a moonlit glimpse of my freckles and red hair. I could still hear his words, “He’s just a kid on the wrong side of the border.”
Now I shuddered to recall the leader’s threat. “Look here. You’ve got an hour to consider, but I’m thinkin’ you’ve found your life’s callin’. You join up with us, and you’ll see the cattle trails from here to Kansas City. If not . . .” He had jerked his finger across his throat. The outlaw’s words sparked keen realization that overrode my fear. Following God wherever He led was my true calling, and at that moment I knew my place was back in Texas.
Suddenly my blood turned to ice. Someone lay behind me. Cold steel contacted my skin, but I felt the restricting ropes loosen. “It’s Manuel,” a voice whispered, “Don’t move yet.” Wiggling my fingers behind my back I waited. Out of the night a lariat sang past me and the loop settled around Burt’s chest pinning his arms to his sides as Manuel jerked his slack. “They’re ours!” called out Manuel as another loop dropped around the second outlaw. I sprang forward, grabbed Burt’s pistol, and covered both men while Manuel secured them. Flashing a smile Manuel whispered, “Quiet and quick. Our compadres have gone to welcome the others.”
“But how . . .” I began.
“I rode out here just as they jumped you. I saw we had some time, so I rode back to the hacienda. Now help me tie these two on their caballos.” A few minutes later we headed back up the trail.
As the sky began turning pink the next morning, I hurried to the corral for Chapo. Manuel met me, and somehow I knew he understood. Unable to speak I gripped his hand in farewell. He looked back at me, his eyes almost piercing my soul. “Vaya con Dios, mi amigo. Vaya con Dios.”
Note: Vaya con Dios -- Go with God
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