Pulling up a few hundred feet short of the vista, overlooking the craggy and rock- strewn mountainside, Chris and Vin dismounted, loosened their horses' saddles some and set about having a small respite before going back to work. Each had brought along some jerky and biscuits which they fished out of their saddle bags and along with their canteens, headed over to a flat plateau that looked out over the scenic site.
They'd been tracking a mountain lion that had come down out of the hills and was seen stalking around some of the homesteads in the valley. Nothing had been taken or killed, but it made the farmers and ranchers nervous to see the large cat so close to their homes. Then it had seemingly disappeared and that in itself seemed to cause more worry, not knowing what the predator was up too.
So Vin had taken charge and decided he'd go and track the cat, see where it had gone. Chris volunteered to go with him and that was fine. He never minded Larabees company.
Itd been a quiet day, neither had much to say, Vin doing what he did best; tracking . . . his mind set on the job. Chris, on the other hand, didnt say much, his thoughts were elsewhere. And Vin knew that. He half suspected Chris wanted to come along just to get away from the town and all the memories there. Vin knew his friend could have gone out to his place in the hills to get away, but even though his mind might have been on other things, there was still reasoning behind the gunmans decision to join him; safer for two men to be hunting a big cat than just one. At least thats what Chris had told him and hed agreed. And like hed told himself before . . . he never minded Larabees company.
Billy Travis had been in town for a week prior, visiting his mother. Chris always found time to spend with the youngster; fishing, taking him places on horseback, showing him all kinds of things a father would take pride in doing. And as what usually happened after the boy left, Larabee would become quiet, lost in his own thoughts, often withdrawing from the rest of them. The peacekeepers knew that the man was no doubt mourning over the lost times he would never have with his own son; teaching him things, watching him grow, answering questions. Hell, it had a sobering effect on them all . . . knowing the pain their friend was in and held from them, Mary included. And just like the others, Vin knew Chris was interested in the pretty newspaper woman, but it seemed like he couldnt take that next step . . . wouldnt take that next step. Things holding him back. Unresolved things.
The two men didnt talk much even after settling down on some rocks to eat their lunch. Vin loved this spot and came here often. He wasnt sure if Chris knew of this area but the man never said anything as Pony followed Peso up the steep incline to get where they were right now. More than likely Larabee figured they were just heading up because thats where cats usually went . . . up. And it was true. From this viewpoint, Vin could look down the mountainsides with his glass to see if there might be a den along a ledge somewhere, or a cave, whatever. Hed be lying to himself though if he didnt admit to himself that he also had an ulterior motive for bringing Chris up here. Hed just have to wait and see if it panned out.
Vin broke out of his thoughts when he saw Chris head jerk up and his gaze lock onto something in the sky. He followed his friends line of sight and was pleased at what he saw. It was a majestic eagle soaring higher and higher with each long lazy turn.
Looks like someone else decided it was time to eat.
Vin squinted then nodded his head in agreement, seeing the eagle was carrying something in its talons. A slight frown creased his forehead as he bent to take another bite of biscuit.
Vin brought his head back up in a hurry, first glancing at Chris, then back to the raptor after hearing Larabees quiet exclamation.
Guess he wasnt interested in eating whatever it was he had.
Watch. Vin commanded him softly, a small smile of satisfaction tugging at his lips. He knew what was going to happen.
As the small object tumbled through the air, seemingly headed to end up as nothing but a splat on the canyon floor, the eagle suddenly swooped below the free-falling object, catching it on one strong wing.
The hell? Chris never imagined an eagle would play with its food before eating it. He glanced over at Tanner only to watch Vins eyes track the raptor as it soared on mighty open wings, catching an updraft which took it high again. He turned his eyes upward, squinted and watched some more.
The eagle took a sharp turn to the side, the little object on its wing sliding off and once again began falling and tumbling through the air.
Its a mama eagle, Vin informed. Shes teachin her youngin how ta fly. Watch, Chris.
And Chris watched as the little object, that he now knew to be an eaglet, try to get its wings out and fly. Of course they didnt work quite right or flap fast enough, but yet again, the mother swooped down under its baby and caught it on the far wing. Then the whole procedure started again.
Amazing, was all Chris could say as he watched time and time again, his lunch all but forgotten.
Vin took a sidelong glance at his friend, then looked back, watching as the little eaglet finally got the hang of what it was he was suppose to be doing. When I first came ta live with the People, there were a lot of things I wanted ta learn . . . needed ta learn. But there was a part of me that held back . . . kept me from seein, understandin. Was like I had stones in my path that I kept stumblin over. I couldnt see em, but I was taught they were there. Vins eyes followed both eagles as they flew off around a mountain top, out of sight.
Runnin Bear, Vin continued, looking down with a shake of his head, Runnin Bear brought me to a place, kinda like this, set me down and told me ta watch the eagles, then think on what I saw. When I knew what it was they were tryin ta teach me, then I could return to the tribe and tell him of what Id learned.
Vin picked up a small stick and snapped in into tiny pieces. He looked over at his friend and saw he had his attention. Both heads turned back to the sky when a cry was heard and the eagle was back, with another baby in its strong claws.
Trust. Thats what I learned, Vin continued as the eaglet was dropped, the mens eyes drawn to it, holding their breath until the mother swooped and caught it. Just like that litl fella there, he punctuated with a nod of his head, has ta learn that his mamas gonna catch him fore he falls too far, and trust that shell learn him ta soar and ta be a powerful predator.
Always thought I had trust . . . and I did, the head under the slouch hat nodded a couple of times, in the things I knew and saw, but not so much in the matters of my heart, and he tapped his chest with his fingers, looking at Chris and seeing he had his attention once again. Thats what I had ta learn. Trust what was in here, he repeated the tapping, as well as whats in here, he added, as his fingers then traveled up to his head and gave a light tap there. Hard ta do. I was in a new place, among people Id never been with before. But I learned, he finished with a nod, looking back out over the vista.
This is what he wanted Chris to know, why he hoped the eagle would be here when they came. He knew Larabee had trust, knew the man trusted him, trusted the other men, trusted his gun, trusted his instincts . . . when it came to things he knew or saw . . . just like himself at one time. But he wanted to share with his friend, wanted Chris to know, that when it came to matters of the heart, whether it was sharing of his past, or his nightmares, or fears, or feelings for a certain woman, whatever . . . that he always had someone he could count on, to catch him, if need be. A man needed to know that . . . even if he didnt think he did. That was the kind of trust he was talking about . . . what he had to learn, what Running Bear and the mama eagles had taught him.
Chris took a deep thinking breath, pursed his lips and gazed out over the mountain tops. The eagle had gone again, the second eaglet now knowing how to use its wings. He wondered if theyd be another showing. He also wondered if Vin brought him up here for a purpose, the man had ways of getting into anothers mind . . . his especially, either by his actions or his words. Hed learned a lot being around Vin. An eyebrow quirked and a question was on his lips when he saw his friend stand, reach into his pocket and draw out his spyglass. A few seconds later Vin handed the glass over to him, pointing at the place he was to look.
Looks like we found our cat. Best we get down there fore we lose him.
Chris pushed the extended end of the spyglass in before handing it over to his friend to pocket it. Lets go then, he agreed as they picked up their canteens, strode to their horses, tightened the cinches and mounted up.
Vin turned Peso to head back down the trail, Chris doing the same, but not before turning in the saddle at the deep cry of the mother eagle signaling that yet another eaglet was about to be thrust into the all important, but necessary, lesson of trust.
You comin, cowboy?
Right behind ya, came the answer as the man in black gave a tug on the brim of his hat, as a gesture of thanks, to the majestic soaring eagle, then nudged Pony into following his amazing and insightful friend back down the mountain.