Summary: Some of the gals requested a story where the guys shucked their shirts. I aim to please
Feedback: Positive and constructive
"Chris we´re getting close to em."
"How far a head are the rustlers?" Larabee asked, watching the tracker swing back into the saddle.
"About half an hour. They´re slowing . . . horses are tiring out. We can get ahead of em by takin´ the ridge and then comin´ down the other side. Them followin´ the floor, with its twists and turns, it´ll take em longer to get through the valley," Vin reasoned.
Chris and the others looked at the ridge rising above them, and the treacherous trail leading to it, and saw reason to be concerned.
"Mr. Tanner, surly you jest. The path you propose does not look safe for a prairie dog to traverse." Ezra expressed.
"Hate to say it Vin, but I have to agree with Ezra. That ridge doesn't look real stable." Nathan stated.
"Things ain't always what they seem. From here it looks all shell and loose dirt. Once you´re up there it's narrow but solid." Vin reassured then looked to Chris awaiting his decision.
Seeing the confidence in the trackers eyes, Chris nodded his head in agreement. "I'll follow Vin on the ridge and get ahead of them. The rest of you stay behind them. We´ll catch them between us before the valley opens up to the plains."
Vin and Chris turned their mounts and started up the incline. Reaching the top of the ridge, they realized they weren't alone.
Ezra brushed trail dust off his sleeve. "Ah, you know me, Mr. Larabee. I always prefer to see something coming so I can figure any and all angles. And I do believe three in front and four bringing up the rear are much better odds."
"Peso knows this trail so don´t go wandering from his tracks," Vin warned, trusting his mount´s instincts as they started along the narrow ridge.
Though the going was slow at first, it wasn't long before they were able to pick up the pace. Just as the ridge began to curve back to the right, Vin turn Peso to the left and started the climb down the other side.
Once they reached the bottom, the three men rode back to the opening of the valley. Vin, Chris and Ezra dismounted and hid the horses from sight before finding strategic locations for their attack on the rustlers.
Vin had moved about halfway up the embankment and stretched out on top of a ledge that stuck out a little. Chris and Ezra found boulders to use as cover and that allowed a good view of the opening of the valley. They sat down to wait, but the wait wasn't long.
In the end the fight was over quickly. The rustlers had ridden out of the valley and with a few well-placed shots from Vin had stopped instantly. A few shots from Buck and Josiah behind them, put a stop to their thoughts of retreat. Knowing they were trapped the rustlers gave up. The outlaws dismounted with there hands held high as the seven slowly approach, guns aimed at the rustlers as they stay alert for trouble.
JD, Buck and Josiah worked to tie the men´s hands as the rest kept them covered, watching cautiously.
Then it happened. One man, as he brought his hands down to be tied by JD, shoved the kid back and went for his gun. Chris reacted, his gun firing before the man could even clear leather. The seven ducked for cover and attempted to keep up with the other rustlers that broke and ran in different directions. There weren´t many since as luck would have it, most had already been tied.
Vin spotted a rustler taking aim at Nathan's back. He crossed the distance slamming into Nathan, as the man fired, knocking him down and returning fire on the outlaw.
Vin felt a burn in his side as he hit the ground and attempted to rise until he saw the would be assassin lying dead, his bullet having found its mark.
"Vin you're hit, just stay down and let me look at it." Nathan ordered when he saw the blood on Vin side.
Chris looked to where Vin lay on the ground and saw the blood on Vin´s left side . . . a lot of blood. But he quickly brought his attention back to the three outlaws looking down the barrel of his gun, waiting to be tied. His worry over Vin would have to wait until the three men had been secured.
"Mr. Sanchez, it might be best to go ahead and give these . . . gentlemen their last rights. I do believe Mr. Tanner´s injury has cause Mr. Larbee to surpass angry and reached deadly. I fear he would truly enjoy ending the life of the next imbecile who dares to give him any difficulty." Ezra stated with certainty.
The three men exchanged glances, dropped their guns and threw their hands up high. "Tell Mr. Larbee he´ll get no further trouble from us, no sir. We didn´t know it was him after us. I heard he´s meaner than a cornered badger and scarier than the devil himself."
Buck, Ezra and JD continued to cover the men as Josiah collected their weapons. Chris stepped up to the three men, his glare so cold and deadly that the youngest of the three lost control of his bladder.
Seeing the others had everything under control, Chris turned and went to check on Vin.
Chris tried not to notice all the blood on his friend, covering his clothes and soaking into the dusty ground. The rag Nathan used to hold pressure to the wound was also covered in blood. "Nathan?" He asked, concern lacing his voice.
"It isn´t as bad as it looks. It´s a deep graze on his side, but it won´t need stitches. Did bleed like a stuck pig but once I have it bandaged it should hold together and heal nicely as long as he takes it easy. I wanna start getting some willow bark and yellow root tea in him. It´ll help keep the infection away. I´ll need a fire to heat some water and he´ll need to rest for a while with all the blood loss." Nathan never stopping his action of cleaning Vin´s wound as he explained to Chris. Folding a bandage to use as a pad Nathan placed it over the deep, ugly gash. They helped Vin sit up with Chris´s support, thus allowing the healer to wrap a bandage around Vin´s waist to hold the pad in place and add pressure to the wound.
"Can´t do that, Nathan. Need to get these rustlers over to Allen Town while the judge n army´s still there. We´ll have to leave now to make it by sunset," Vin stated, slowly getting up with Chris´s help.
"It won´t hurt none if we get there after sunset." Nathan argued.
Vin and Chris looked at each other for a moment. Chris assessing Vin and Vin confirming with a nod that he´d be okay.
Buck, Ezra, JD and Josiah watched the exchange.
"There they go again, having one of their silent talks," Buck said, a shiver running down his spine at the thought of their strange connection.
"Yeah, but why? We all know Nathan has the last say when it comes to one of us being injured." JD reminded.
"Would you like to put a wager on that belief, Mr. Dunne? I am willing to wager that we will all soon be on our way. Shall we say $5.00." Ezra grinned, his gold tooth gleaming in the sun.
"You´re on Ezra, I say Chris will say were leaving, but he isn´t going to risk Vin´s heath. He´ll have him and Nathan stay here so Vin can rest and heal." Buck stated.
"No, you´re both wrong. With Vin hurt, Chris won´t leave them out here by themselves. He´ll wait until Nathan says it all right to go in a couple hours." JD stated with confidence.
"Mr. Sanchez, what about you?" Ezra requested
"I´ll just watch the prisoners," Josiah reported with a silent, knowing smile.
The men watched closely as Vin and Chris finished the silent conversation.
Chris finally answered, "Can´t Nathan, stage leaves at sunset and the Judge will probably be on it. Need to get there before he leaves so we can deal with him instead of the army."
Nathan while understanding the reason, still wasn´t happy and it showed. "Fine, but Vin´s not riding point. He stays where I can see him at all times."
Chris turned to his men, "Get them mounted up and tied to their saddles. We need to make Allen Town before night fall."
Ezra held out his hand to collect from Buck and JD, while Vin looked at him with a smirk and shook his head as he walked over to Peso.
Soon the group was on their way to Allen Town.
Riding non-stop and making good time, they reached the outskirts of town an hour before sunset.
"This´ll make a good campsite on the edge of these trees." Vin expressed as they cleared the trees and saw the town´s outline a quarter of a mile away.
Chris understood immediately that it wouldn´t be good for Vin to be around the army with the bounty still on his head, There was always the chance that one of the soldiers might have seen a wanted poster. However, he didn´t like the idea of leaving him alone at the camp either. Normally it wouldn´t have bothered Chris, but Vin wasn´t in top form at the moment. He was tired and weak from blood loss and the hard riding that they had done, but how to approach Vin in a way he would except?
"Mr. Tanner, if you don´t mind my company, I believe I shall wait here with you. I do so detest having to associate with the Neanderthal mentality that men in uniform tend to exhibit. Their mere presence wrecks havoc on my delicate metabolism. I would much prefer your company to theirs." Ezra remarked, quite obviously having the same thoughts as Larabee.
"Alright, then the rest of us will take the rustlers in while you two set up camp. Unless the judge needs us to give testimony, we should be back within the hour." Turning his horse toward town, Chris gave Ezra a nod of appreciation as he road past.
Ezra acknowledged Larabee´s thanks with his customary two finger salute and then dismounted as he and Vin watched the others ride off.
After caring for their horses the two worked together to set up camp. Vin arranged a ring of rocks for the fire pit while Ezra gathered wood to start the fires and feed it through the night.
Ezra dropped his load of wood and noticed a very pale looking Vin carrying wood he had collected. "Vin, it was agreed upon that I was to be the collector of the fire´s fuel and your task was to set up the location. So might I ask why you are doing my part as well? Am I not doing a satisfactory job?"
"Yer doin´ fine, Ez, just thought I´d help." Vin answered, the exhaustion showing in his voice.
"It would appear that we have collected a sufficient quantity to last through the evening. Might I suggest you take a seat while I start the fire and put on some coffee?"
"No, still need to find somethin´ fer dinner, our supplies are about out." Vin reached for his rifle.
"I´m sure the others will bring supplies back upon their return." Ezra argued.
"Yep, most likely. We can use them on our three-day ride back to Four Corners. Want be going back the same way we came, different direction and it's mostly desert. Anyway, I´m getting´ hungry and they might be gone fer a spell. Do me a favor and cut some limbs to use as spits, okay?"
Ezra worked on the spits as Vin requested. He heard several shots and tensed for a moment, worrying that Vin had found trouble. It seldom took the man more than one shot to bring down whatever he was shooting at. After a moment, when he heard no return fire, Ezra relaxed slightly.
He watched the tree line and only relaxed totally when he saw Vin come into view. "It would appear you had very good fortune."
"Yep, came out on the other side of the tree line and a whole group of the critters took off. Got one for everybody and a few rabbits to boot." Vin smiled, holding up the seven pheasants and two fat rabbits he had shot.
"Well, since you have provided our sustenance, it is only fair that I clean and prepare them for our evening´s enjoyment." Ezra smiled as he took the food from Vin and motioned him to the bedroll he had laid out by Peso´s saddle near the roaring fire.
Vin nodded his thanks as he laid back and rested against the saddle.
Ezra prepared the birds and rabbits, put them on the spits and placed them over the fire.
Settling in, the two watched the meat as it began to cook over the open fire and the smell of coffee started to waft on the air.
"I have yet to fathom how a group of bumbling boobs were able to steal and sell so many horses. Not to mention the six that they were able to steal from the contingent of soldiers who were taking them to Fort Laramie. Their lack of intelligence shining through in their attempt to sell the Army horses to the livery in Four Corners, a town widely known for having seven peace keepers." Ezra mused as he watched Vin staring at the fire.
"Weren´t smarts that drove them, just a quick and easy way to get money," Vin agreed.
"Yes, greed and laziness will invariably lead those with no conscious or heartless tendencies to hurt and take from others." Ezra paused as his own words hit, could this be how others saw him?
Vin seemed to know what his friend was thinking, "You ain´t nothing like them, Ez. Even when you did run a con, you never hurt nobody innocent. Come to think of it, you always had to do lots of work setting it up. Weren´t nothing lazy about it."
Ezra stared at his friend and upon hearing the conviction is his voice felt relief. "Thank You."
Both men turned at the sound of riders coming in hard and fast.
"Just the boys," Vin soothed as Ezra jumped to his feet, gun in hand. "But since your up, how about turning that game so they´ll finish cooking on the other side. Time they get their horses taken care of the meat should be ready."
Ezra turned the spits and then poured a cup of coffee, lacing it with the imported brandy that he carried in his flask before handing the cup to Vin. He then poured himself a cup.
Vin took a sip of the hot coffee and froze for a moment looking down at his cup. Bringing it up once again and inhaling the steam, Vin took another swallow and smiled, "Ya, make good coffee, Ez."
"Why thank you, Mr. Tanner. I do have a culinary touch with certain items."
"Brothers, give me a few moments and I´ll have some supper ready," Josiah´s booming voice announced from where the horses were picketed.
"No need, Mr. Sanchez. Our sustenance for the evening has already been prepared. We shall be dining on a fine meal of roast pheasant and hare." Ezra informed the man as he poured and offered him a cup of coffee.
Josiah´s shock lasted only a moment. Shaking his head he accepted the coffee with a smile. "Here we were worried about you and hurried back. Buck´s gonna be upset. He wanted to stay a bit and get to know a lady that bumped into him when we were taking the rustlers to jail. Chris would hear nothing of it. He told Nathan and me to go fetch some supplies as we were leaving town as soon as he was finished with the judge."
"Ah hell, Josiah, that ain´t worry. That´s just Chris not wantin´ to be bothered with some young gal´s pa . . . or husband." Vin quipped.
"How you feeling," Chris asked, walking into camp and going straight to his friend.
Meeting Vin´s gaze for a few moments, Chris nodded his head accepting the answer for now and turning to look at the fire. "See you two kept busy."
Chris gave Vin a slight smile and went to the task of spreading out his bedroll in front of his saddle which he had dropped near Vin´s.
The others made their way into camp with saddles and bedrolls, dropping them at different places around the campfire making the circle complete. Soon all had spread out their bedding and gotten comfortable.
Buck was soon complaining about not being able to stay in town and get to know the young lady better. But at Ezra´s comment on lady luck being with the young woman to have allowed her to escape such an ordeal, JD and Josiah began to snigger. Buck´s expression soon had them turning their attention back to their meals.
Nathan informed Vin, in between bites, that as soon as they were finished eating that he wanted to check out his wound and have him drink some medicinal tea.
Vin and Chris´s eyes met and the men smiled. It was nice that everyone and everything was just as it should be after the long day.
The seven stopped by a creek and filled up the canteens before heading out across the desert that lay ahead of them. Keeping a steady pace they made good time crossing the hot sand, only stopping twice to rest the horses and give them a cool drink by using their hats.
Three hours into the trek Vin stopped suddenly. Standing up in his stirrups he looked back in the direction they had come and then to where the were headed, scanning all the area in sight.
"Vin?" Chris asked, sensing the sudden mood change in his friend.
Grabbing the coiled rope from his saddle he tied one end to the saddle horn and tossed the rest to Chris. "Tie this to your saddle then attach your rope and throw it back to the next man till were all connected. Make sure to tie it tight, can´t take a chance of it comin´ undone."
"What´s going on, Vin?" Chris needed to know.
"Windstorm coming in quick. It´s gonna be a strong one and it´ll pick up the sand as it goes. Been in one or two a time before. You won´t be able to see a foot in any direction when it hits. No cover to be had and ya can´t stay still or it´ll cover and bury ya." Vin watched as the others did as he instructed. "Pull yer bandanna's up over your mouth and nose and yer hat down low to protect your eyes. I´m gonna try and get us to those rocks off to the west, but it´ll be close. Don´t try to run the horses if the storm hits first, you´ll most likely run into the person in front of ya. Just hold on tight to the ropes and trust me."
"Don´t worry about us Vin, you just lead the way," Josiah assured, and the others voiced their agreement.
Vin set a rapid pace, leading them toward the rocks, never stopping as he kept his eyes on the sky and the coming storm. He could see that it was catching up faster than they were able to move toward their chosen cover.
Vin realized that the storm would be on them soon. He yelled back to the others, "As soon as we reach the rocks, wait on your horse till I get to ya. I´ll send ya where you´ll need to be. You not only won´t be able to see much, but you won´t be able to hear nothin´ either. It´s gonna be here soon so remember to protect your face." Just as the last word was said the storm swept down upon them.
The men followed Vin´s orders and pulled their bandannas tight around their face and used their hats as best they could to protect their eyes. Tightening their grips on the saddle horns and connected ropes, they put their trust in Vin to get them to safety.
With determination Vin fought to keep his bearing in the blowing dirt and sand and did his best to put the throbbing pain in his side out of his mind. It seemed to take forever but they finally reached the outcropping of rocks. Vin led the convoy through a break in the rocks which gave some cover from the flying sand.
Vin untied the rope from Peso´s saddle and dismounted. He coiled the rope around his arm, keeping a firm grasp with one hand while he unbuckled the saddle and let it drop where he stood. Giving Peso a slap on the rump, the animal moved farther into the rocks hunting for protection from the storm.
Pulling on the rope, Vin led Chris´s horse in. Once Chris was close enough, he grabbed his leg and tugged twice to let Chris know to dismount. Vin made sure to never lose touch with his friend as he dismounted. He placed Chris´s hands on the side of the rock and directed him through touch to move deeper into the rocks, never letting go as he went.
As Chris moved away slowly in the direction indicated, Vin untied the rope from Pony´s saddle and again undid the buckle, letting the saddle fall to the ground. He slapped Pony´s rump and sent him after Peso.
Vin repeated the action as he dealt with each of the men, finally following them after retrieving the canteens and bedrolls from the saddles. He reached the cul-de-sac where the others waited, the rocks blocking out some of the wrath of the storm.
Handing each man his canteen and bedroll, the group was soon settled in using the unrolled bedding as covering, they settled in as the storm continued to wail for what seemed hours but in reality was only thirty to forty minutes.
It was a relief when the storm finally started to slow and as quickly as it had come it abated.
Pushing the heavy sand-covered bedroll off, the men slowly rose to their feet, marveling at the mounds of sand that had formed around them.
"What was that? I´ve never seen or heard of any storm like that." JD exclaimed, then took a deep drink of water from his canteen.
"It´s called a Sandstorm, JD," Buck answered, shaking his head in an effort to clean the sand from his hair.
Ezra slipped his jacket off his shoulders and gave it several hard shakes, sending sand flying in every direction. "I dare say, I may never rid my attire of all this miserable sand."
"Lucky that´s all we have to worry about. Vin´s quick thinking saved us from a far worse fate," Josiah commented.
"You are quite right, Mr. Sanchez. We are indeed fortunate to have Mr. Tanner in our midst."
"Vin, how are the horses?" Chris asked as he watched Vin check the animals who had all stood together to ward off the storm.
"They´re fine, but we´ll need to dig out the saddles and clean them real good. Probably best to ride bare back anyway, till we can rinse the sand out of the saddle blankets." Vin replied.
"Saddle blankets, hell, I´ve gotta get this sand out of my pants before something important gets hurt," Buck whined as he picked up on leg and gave it an exaggerated shake before doing the same with the other.
"And what might that be, Mr. Wilmington, your brain?" Ezra teased, even thought he too was feeling rather uncomfortable with the amount of sand inside his clothing.
"Vin, there any water close by that you know of? Hopefully we can take care of the saddle blankets and well as ourselves," Chris asked, taking a close look at this friend.
"Yeah, there´s a good size waterhole a couple miles from here. Fed by a spring. That´s where we was headin´ for the storm. Figured it would make a good campsite for tonight."
"Alright then, Buck, JD and Josiah, see to getting the saddles. Ezra, take some of the canteens and give the horses some water. Nathan, you check Vin´s wound. I´m sure he overdid getting us and the horses here during the storm." Chris doled out orders.
"I´m fine," Vin argued, as he took his bandanna and wet it with his canteen and rubbed Peso´s face free of the clinging sand.
"Ya might be right, but Nathan´s still going to take a look and we´ll see what he has to say. I´ll help Ezra with the horses, you go let Nathan take a look." Chris´s voice had softened, his tone sounding more like a request than order.
Vin looked at his friend for a moment before walking toward Nathan, mumbling something about a mama bear and her cubs.
Once Nathan had pulled off the dirty, sand-filled bandage, he noticed that the wound had been torn open and was an angry red color. He cleaned it as best he could with the now limited water in the canteen before re-wrapping it.
"Nathan?" Chris asked.
"Just a little worse for all the wear. Looks like there might be an infection trying to get started. Needs to be cleaned to get the sand and dirt out. I also want to get some tea into him and a poultice on the wound to keep away the infection. If that waterhole is only a few miles I should be able to take care of it there and Vin will be able to rest afterward. A good soak in the water will clean it out and help with the aches and pains." Nathan reported.
"That´s the plan then. Everyone carry what you can. Nothing against the horses but ourselves. We don´t want to cause any soars by rubbing them raw from the sand. Let´s get moving." Chris once again got the group on the move.
Soon all the men were mounted and once again on their way. Vin kept up a steady pace as he lead the men across the terrain. The landscape had changed due to the flowing sand and if not for Vin´s sense of direction the men would have no idea which way to go. The landmarks were gone, buried beneath layers of sand.
Luckily it didn´t take long for them to reach the end of the desert. A cheer went up from the tired men as the sand turned to grass and the grass to trees. Moving into the wooded area the men had only traveled a short distance when it opened unto a glade with a nice size pool. The crowning touch was a small waterfall cascading down from the underground spring´s opening.
"Mr. Tanner, you didn´t inform us that you were leading us to a virtual paradise."
"It´s a small piece of heaven, Vin," Josiah agreed, as he slid off his horse and stood on the soft moss that covered the ground surrounding the pool.
"Sure is pretty, Vin, but right now I need that water." Buck commented as he slid off his horse and peeled off his clothes as he moved toward the water. He looked over his shoulder at the others and then back to the inviting blue water. "Sorry guys, but I just can´t take the sand rubbing any more." He shucked out of his long-johns and dived in breaking the surface a few yards out. "Oh yeah, finally relief."
"Buck, you´re . . . you´re . . . you, you . . ." JD stuttered.
"Now see what you´ve done, Mr. Wilmington. You have stolen the speech right out of our Mr. Dunne with your lurid behavior. You have most likely scarred the young man for life."
Yeah, Bucklin, least ya could of done was wait till ya got in the water to shuck yer drawers." Vin laughed as he peeled off his own clothes, with the exception of his long-johns. He walked into the water and dunked under, resurfacing by the waterfall. He held the garment underneath the falling water to rinse them out before laying them on the rocks to dry.
The others soon joined their two friends in the refreshing pool. Soon their garments were rinsed free of the clinging sand and set out in the sun to dry. The seven relaxed in the soothing water, letting the sensation take away the rawness their skin had felt.
Vin slipped his long-johns back on as he moved from the pool. He led Peso over to the edge of the water and using his hat he began to lift water and splash it across the animals back. However, that wasn´t enough for Peso who stepped sideways and bumped Vin out of the way before moving into the pool until only his head remained above water. . Neighing loudly, the other horses soon followed him into the water.
The animals after a few moments moved from the pool and went back to munching on the green grass, with the exception of Peso. He moved to the soft green moss and proceeded to lie down and rolled on his back a few times before getting up and joining the other.
Vin just shook his head at the animals antics and then disappeared into the trees.
When Vin didn´t return in a few moments, Chris moved out of the water, donned his long-johns, and headed for the trees. The others followed suit.
Before they reached the tree line, Vin reappeared carrying an armload of firewood.
"JD, you and Buck go find some more firewood. Josiah, start a fire and get some water boiling for Nathan and some coffee cooking. Ezra, you and I are going to go rinse the sand out of the bedrolls and then the saddle blankets. We´ll lay them out on the rocks to get them dry before we bed down for the night." Chris handed out duties.
"Nope, take the rope and run it through the water to get the sand off, then stretch it from that tree to that one." Vin pointed to the designated trees. "Hang the bedrolls on it. Should be close enough to the fire to dry'em faster. When they´s done ya can hang the saddle blankets on it to dry and let them hang throughout the night."
"Okay, and you take a seat over against that tree and let Nathan take a look at that wound, now that it´s clean." Chris would not accept no as an answer.
Vin felt tired and worn out from the day´s events and didn´t argue with Chris. Settling himself comfortably against the tree, he let Nathan check the wound.
Hours later found the seven relaxing on clean, dried bedrolls in their long-johns, the rest of their clothes clean and drying on the impromptu clothesline. Their bellies were full from the ham, beans and biscuits Josiah had cooked up. They were passing around a bottle of bourbon which Chris had purchased back in Allen Town.
Vin looked across the fire to where Ezra sat. Something about the man had caught his attention. Watching a few moments, Vin´s lips turned up at the corners and he glanced over to Chris.
Larabee felt Vin´s eyes on him and turned to meet his gaze with a questioning look.
Vin tilted his head ever so slightly toward Ezra. Both men sat and watched their friend and his hidden movements. Finally Chris´s voice floated across the fire.
"Ezra, ya got a problem?"
Ezra froze, then looked at Chris with his poker face securely in place, "No, not as far as I know, Mr. Larabee. Why do you ask?"
"Cause yer wigglin´ like a worm over there, Ez. Figure ya either got a problem or yer hurt n hidin´ it." Vin answered, a mischievous glint in his eyes since he knew that Nathan´s attention would now be drawn to Ezra.
"What? You hurt, Ezra? I swear the lot of you are like magnets to trouble. Getting´ hurt all the them and then trying to hide it. Well come on, tell me what´s wrong, show me where you´re hurt." Nathan rose from his bedroll and moved over to squat in front of Ezra.
"Mr. Jackson, I assure you that I . . ." Ezra was stopped mid-sentence when he rolled slightly and shifted his weight onto the sore area. He couldn´t help but wince from the pain.
"Let me see, Ezra." Nathan´s voice gentled with compassion as he realized what might be the cause of the man´s discomfort.
Ezra realized there was no way Nathan would leave him be without seeing the problem. He rolled over on his side and carefully pulled down the back edge of his undergarment to show the injured area.
"Nathan looked at the exposed skin and saw were the sand sifted its way into the man´s clothes as they had ridden for the rocks earlier in the day and had remained there on the ride to the pool. It had literally embedded itself into the gamblers skin.
"Josiah, bring me a rag and my bag, please," Nathan requested.
"Josiah returned with the bag and the bottle of bourbon which he handed to Ezra. "Take a good long pull on this, Ezra," the preacher suggested.
Nathan removed a container from his bag. Opening it he scooped out a handful of the pasty cream and carefully placed it on the inflamed area. He lay a rag over the cream and waited a few minutes before slowly wiping upward with one fluid motion. The paste basically pulled all the little pebbles of sand pieces with it. Nathan then used a wet cloth to clean the remainder of the paste before pouring alcohol over the area and then carefully patted it dry. "It´ll be fine by morning, Ezra. You won´t feel anymore discomfort. It wasn´t too deep, just enough to inflame the area a little when you sat on it." Nathan explained as he put a little clear salve on the area.
Buck looked over Nathan´s shoulder to Ezra´s exposed derrière. He couldn´t help the thought that popped into his mind and with mirth in his tone commented, "Hey Ezra, looks like you´ve been branded on your backside."
"Branded! Branded! That traitorous, infernal, malformed piece of ground has marred and disfigured my person? How do I explain being . . . branded in such a manner? How to explain this . . . blemish to the future Mrs. Standish?" Ezra screeched.
"Tell her the truth, Ez. Tell her you got sanded.´" Vin smirked, leaned back on the bedroll and relaxed as the sound of his friends laughter filled the air.