Fire Down the Valley Ch. 02

Brunette

The track up from the valley floor to Mather’s mill was comparatively easy going. Wide-berthed and heavily laden Lumber carts regularly came down the path that ran alongside the narrow, but rapid-running Slater Creek. The deciduous trees were thick here—still, after more than a decade of lumberjacking. The trees along the stream bed were mainly cottonwoods, unfit for any use in building. The undergrowth at this elevation was thick and the other trees were mostly soft wood. The mill camp had been built farther up the slope of Hahn’s peak precisely to put it in the middle of the tall and straight stands of fir trees, the mountain pine. You could make longer, straight boards from these trees. And you could make telephone poles to accommodate the telegraph lines snaking west from the “civilized” East Coast.

The mule didn’t object to the rise of the road at this point, but Cal held it back, knowing that there was much rougher, more challenging and rocky terrain to follow.

Mrs. Thornton had fixed him a full breakfast and had offered to fix something for him for the midday meal, but Cal had turned her offer down, knowing how scarce food was for her and how many mouths she had to feed. He was accustomed to bringing her foodstuffs, not taking them from her. He planned to eat with the men at the mill. He had been a favorite of theirs the year before he went to the Cowdens. He’d gone to the mill nearly every day and helped wherever he was needed. The work toughened him up, and Milo Mather always had foodstuffs to give him to return to the schoolhouse in the dark of the evening. It had been a good arrangement all around. It made him feel like he was giving back for what Mrs. Thornton had given him.

When he arrived in the mill camp, he was surprised to find that it was deserted. He had timed his arrival for mealtime, and the loggers should have been in for their midday repast and those working the saws to trim the wood into planks should have been shutting down operations and moving toward the dining hall.

But no one seemed to be there. The silence was eerie, and for several minutes Cal thought he was completely alone. But as he rode up to the dining hall, he saw that old Hiram, one of Milo Mather’s original loggers, who had nearly cut his arm off in the first year of operation and who was too old to work the lumber now anyway, was sitting in a rocking chair on the building’s porch and sucking on his corn cob pipe. Milo Mather hadn’t just sent Hiram packing when he no longer could work the timber; he’d found odd jobs for him to do around the camp and had given him the title of “caretaker,” even though the camp, to Cal’s recollection, had never needed someone to take care of it.

That apparently had all changed now, because Hiram was the only one Cal found at the camp.

“What’s happening up here, Hiram?” Cal asked as he rode up to the porch. “Where are all the men?”

“They’se all gone, Caleb,” Hiram answered. With a little jerk, he’d taken the pipe out of his mouth and collapsed into a phlegm-filled coughing fit. Hiram had always called Cal by his full given name, thinking that it gave the young man who had come to the camp as an orphan from an Indian raid some dignity. Some of the white men never would fully trust Cal after knowing he’d spent time with the Arapaho. “A few went into Hayden, but most to Denver and beyond,” he continued in a strangled voice when he was able to. “It’s gonna be a mite hard for Milo to pull together a new crew. But I guess they’s always men in the valley needin’ work.”

“Bad cough, Hiram. You need to do something about that.”

“God will provide. But if you have a bottle of somethin’ there in your saddle bag, that might be a big help too.” Hiram cackled at his own joke, which only served to set him off coughing again.

“Sorry, the Cowdens don’t drink anything you might want.”

That “God will provide” sounded so familiar coming from Hiram’s mouth. It was the saying Cal had always attached to Hiram, and Cal guessed that maybe God had provided for Hiram. But it seemed, on the surface observation, that it had mainly been Milo Mather who had taken care of Hiram. “Why and what are you doing here alone?”

“I’se caretaking as I’se supposed to. Old Mr. Mather didn’t want me to stay, but I said that he could either let me do my job or let me go. I didn’t want to leave from my job at the first sign of trouble.”

“The first sign of trouble?”

“Jah. That would have been from the men from the Double O ranch down on the way to Hayden. Mr. Savage’s men. They came ridin’ in here three days ago and told Old Mr. Mather to shut down operations for a while if he didn’t want to get mixed up in what was happening.”

“Happening? What did they say was happening, Hiram?”

“They said no farmers would be comin’ into the valley and that they were going to take care of the problem of the sheep at the same time. They didn’t have to say any more than that. Mr. Mather, he don’t want to take sides in any of this. He just wants to cut and sell lumber. So, casino şirketleri all the men are gone for a spell and I’se here caretakin’. You come for some supplies for Mrs. Thornton down at the schoolhouse? ‘Cause if you are, I know that be fine with Mr. Mather. You go on into the kitchen and take anything you need.”

“Thanks, but I’m just passing through, Hiram. I’d appreciate a little something for myself for a midday meal, though.”

“Passing through?”

“Yes. I’m taking the mountain paths to get into Hayden. Got business there for a couple of weeks.”

“Why the mountain path?”

“The cattlemen have the passes into the valley at both ends blocked off. Taking rifles and not letting men pass.”

“Ah. Then it’s started, has it? You go on in and get you some grub.”

“Thanks, Hiram. You might think of leaving too.”

“I imagine everything will be just fine up here, Caleb. The cattlemen need lumber too. I figure that Mr. Savage ain’t stupid. He may stop the work for a spell, but he don’t want to end it altogether. And he won’t find no sheep or farm fences up here. My thinking is that he sent the lumberjacks off to keep them out the fightin’, just as he was sayin’ he was doing.”

Cal figured that Hiram wasn’t stupid either. After scrounging something to eat in the mill kitchen, he started out again, this time on a logging trail, but not too long after that turning onto a track that only his training with the Arapaho told him was a trail. The mule, of course, wasn’t Arapaho and didn’t believe there was any trail there, so the going not only started to get steeper, toward the higher elevations beyond the stands of pines, but the mule also got harder to move.

In late afternoon, mule and rider broke out of the pines above the timberline. The peak of the mountain looked almost near enough to touch, but Cal knew that he was barely halfway to the top in elevation. From here there was a stretch up the slope of barren rock and hard soil, but the line of snow, even this late in the year, was not too far above him. From here the path followed the timberline. Even the Arapaho hadn’t wanted to be too exposed at this elevation. There had been tribal clashes even in the centuries before the white man arrived in the area. He’d heard many a story around the campfire of the wars between the Arapaho and the Utes. And this was the domain of the large, aggressive animals such as the bear and the timber wolf as well. Even the Arapaho had traveled trails that would permit them to melt into the pines at the first sign of danger.

The mule obviously felt safer here, in the more open terrain and on the surer path, even if Cal himself went on higher alert. It wasn’t just the big animals he was watching for but also for maverick Arapaho braves who had escaped the forced relocation to the south and were existing alone or in small bands in the mountains. He would have been surprised, though, to find marauding cattlemen at this elevation. Cowboys didn’t like the mountain, and there was little to draw them this high. Cal imagined that, to a cowboy, the mountains were too much like the hated fences. That was what Cal was counting on by taking the mountain path. Completely oblivious to the dangers at hand, now the mule wanted to get on with the journey at a faster clip than the ever-vigilant rider did, and Cal continually found himself reigning the mule in.

It was about the time that Cal broke into the timberline that he had every reason to be worrying, although the worry hadn’t gripped him yet. His presence hadn’t gone unnoticed. Tracking him now was one of those solitary Arapaho braves Cal was watching for. Cal, however, wasn’t anywhere near as able to detect the young brave following him as the Arapaho was in tracking his prey.

Not long after breaking into the open, Cal came upon a turbulent mountain stream taking snow melt down into the valley and knew that he was halfway to Hayden now and that he could start looking for someplace safe to camp for the night, which was quickly approaching. He followed the stream back down the mountain, looking for and picking out a good place to cross, and then continuing on for a bit to find a glen in the forest next to a pool of water below a waterfall to make camp. This, he reasoned was as safe a place to spend the night as any.

His was a false sense of safety, though. The Arapaho brave followed him at a distance down the stream and climbed a tree as they neared the glen, knowing instinctively that Cal would set camp there, and attentively watched Cal’s every move as he made a campfire, set up a lean-to tent, and boiled coffee for an evening meal of hard bread and smoked trout.

* * * *

Ilesh clung to the branch of the tree, almost motionless, for more than three hours, watching Cal prepare and eat his dinner, check to ensure that the mule was safely staked out, inventory what he had in his saddle bags, douse out the fire, strip down to his underlinens, and crawl into the lean-to he’d constructed against the protected side of a rock casino firmaları outcropping.

The young Arapaho brave was well versed in being one with the tree, and he had the strength to perch there, motionless for as long as he needed to. In the years since, as merely a boy, he had eluded the American soldiers who were rounding his people up and shipping them off, Ilesh had lived up to his name, which translated as Lord of the Earth in Arapaho. He had grown lithe, yet muscular, and straight and strong. And he had learned to steel himself against the elements, clothed only in a breechcloth and leather leggings and moccasins, in all but the coldest weather.

He waited there until the dark of night before silently slithering down the trunk of the tree. The mule knew he was there and moved nervously away as far as its tether would permit. But Ilesh came closer to the beast and put his hand its muzzle, stroking it and keeping it from whinnying its fear. Having calmed the mule down, Ilesh reached down and pulled his breechcloth away, freeing a long, thick knife. Taking this in hand, he slowly stole toward the lean-to, entered it, and landed at a full stretch on Cal, who was lying on his back.

Ilesh had the element of surprise and he was a stronger man than Cal. The struggle was fierce, with Ilesh having the advantage of hold from the beginning, as Cal was just waking up. Slowly but relentlessly, Cal was tiring within Ilesha’s full-body embrace. The Arapaho brave forced his knees between Cal’s thighs and spread and raised them. The brave’s knife was long and hard and sharp. It sliced into Cal again and again and again. Cal thrashed about, but he couldn’t withstand the relentless attack of the Arapaho brave for long.

Cal lay there, limbs akimbo, and head turned to the side, limp and totally finished. Ilesh rose up on his knees, prodded the body under him without obtaining response, and nudged Cal’s body over onto its stomach. Straddling the young white man’s hips then, Ilesh thrust his hard knife of a cock inside Cal’s channel again and enjoyed a victory fuck inside his prey.

* * * *

When Cal woke up, it was morning, but not fully light yet. Still, it was later than he had planned to be up and on his way. He stretched his limbs, working out the kinks. He still felt hung over from the night’s activities. The Arapaho brave had taken him twice more in the night after that first assault.

This led to the thought of where the brave was now. Had he just attacked and then run? With a groan, Cal sat up from the horse blanket that had covered the ground underneath him in the night and stumbled up and out of the lean-to tent. He was surprised that the canvas covering of the lean-to hadn’t come down on them in the night while they were thrashing about. When he managed to stand up from the crouch that had brought him out of the tent, he saw that there was a fire going and a coffee pot brewing. But no Arapaho brave in sight.

He looked around and caught the glimpse of movement out in the stream, under the waterfall, and moved cautiously in that direction. The brave was in the pool of water, naked, and magnificently formed. He was showering under the waterfall. Cal shivered just to watch him, knowing that the water must be icy cold. The brave was acting like he didn’t have a care in the world and could take all the time he wanted in the water. Cal crept up as close to the pond as he dared, hiding himself behind a bush inside the tree line.

“I see you, little Jivin,” the brave called out in Arapaho. “Come into the water. I can make you forget how cold the water is, and you stink. I don’t want to be inside you again until you are clean.”

“All white men stink to you,” Cal said, with a laugh, as he rose and walked out from behind the bush. He stood there, smiling at the man who had been raised as his campmate, the only man for a long time who had referred to him as “little”—or, for that matter, had called him by his Arapaho name, Jivin, which had been given to him as a baby. The name translated as “To Give Life,” and the Arapaho had given it to Cal and called him that as a reminder that it was they who had let him live rather than killing him along with all of the others who had been in the wagon train with his parents—and possibly his siblings. Cal would probably never know if he had been an only child.

But he hadn’t been raised as an only child. He had been raised in the same communal group of tents with other Arapaho children. Among those had been this sturdy Arapaho brave, Ilesh, standing so magnificently under the waterfall and wagging his hefty cock at Cal. For years, Cal had thought that he and Ilesh, a couple of years older than he was, were actually brothers, and at some point, as Cal started to become aware of his sexuality, he regretted that this was the case. It was only when the American soldiers came and his paternity was questioned that his Arapaho family revealed that he wasn’t Arapaho as well—one with a different look about him. He wasn’t even fully a member of the greater güvenilir casino communal family around the common fire. There were other blond and blue-eyed people in the camp, mostly women, and some with both Arapaho and Caucasian features. No one having told him otherwise, Cal just assumed that Arapahos came with various different traits.

It had been a revelation to him that Ilesh and he weren’t related, even of the same human grouping. This had made him look at Ilesh a whole new way, thinking of the times Ilesh had touched him and given him a strange sensation that had disturbed him, thinking that he and Ilesh were related. He had seen men taking men in the camp and the surrounding brush and forest, and he’d been curious about it and perhaps a little more than curious. Little was private in an Arapaho village, and the practice didn’t seem to have any taboos in that culture. But no sooner had he learned of this nonaffiliation than he had been taken from the Arapaho and deposited with Mrs. Thornton at the schoolhouse in the Slater Creek valley.

But Ilesh had known they weren’t related. And Ilesh had known what Cal was learning about his sexuality and his preferences. And Ilesh had the same preferences and had an affinity for Cal.

The previous year, while Cal was at Mather’s mill on the lower slopes of Hahn’s Peak, Ilesh had come for him. He fucked Cal in a glade almost within sight of the mill camp, pinning Cal on his back on the ground between the spreading roots of a giant tree, with Cal’s knees hooked on Ilesh’s hips and his pelvis rolled up to give Ilesh maximum entry, while the Arapaho pounded, pounded, pounded Cal’s channel and made his former campmate his. Cal had welcomed Ilesh’s attentions, having ached for him for over half a decade before the Arapaho maverick brave had come for him, not knowing that Ilesh had not been force marched down to the Oklahoma territory with the rest of his family.

For the past year they had met nearly monthly during Cal’s regular visits to Mather’s mill to gather food to take down to the schoolhouse for the orphans who had become his family after the Arapahos had been taken from him.

“You are getting sloppy,” Ilesh called out from under the waterfall. “It could have been any stray Arapaho brave who pounced on you in your tent last night, one with a real knife rather than a cock like mine wanting to breed you.”

“I knew the instant you picked up my trail. Soon after I left Mather’s mill,” Cal called back, with a laugh. “I never felt safer than the moment I knew you were there. I knew you were tracking me, which means you also were protecting me. And I knew you were lying on that tree branch up there and watching me. If you had not come for me when you did, I would have come out of the tent and asked you why you were taking your time.”

“I enjoyed watching you being a white man, of the modesty you showed even when you thought you were alone. I can see little of the Arapaho in you now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, campmate.”

“Don’t be. I know our time is past, that to survive you need to be a white man. I don’t want you to be taken for a renegade as I am.”

“The time may be neigh that it is no better for me to be what I have become in my latest life than living as you do, where you go and live,” Cal answered simply. “At least there is an honesty and lack of greed in the life of an Arapaho.” And then, at the raising of Ilesh’s eyebrows, Cal told him of the cattlemen and of the inevitability of trouble in his valley.

“I must watch over you more closely then,” Ilesh said.

“You mustn’t put yourself in danger,” Cal answered. “Don’t come into this, campmate. All parties will oppose you.”

“But not you?”

“No, Ilesh, never me. I will never oppose you.”

“You could come with me now.”

“I go to Hayden. There is a job for me there for a short time. One making good money, money we need at the ranch.”

“You could come with me now. What good is money in a festering world as you have described?”

“I can’t leave Mr. Cowden. Not now, not yet. He is not well—not in body and not in the head. I don’t think it will be long. But he took me in when few others would. I can’t abandon him.”

“I understand,” Ilesh said. Then he grinned. “But you understand that that is a value you learned from the Arapaho, don’t you—not from the white man? This is the Arapaho in you that is speaking of this call to loyalty.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Well, then, it is time for you to get the stink of a white man off you. Come to me in the water.”

“It’s too cold.”

“I will make you warm. I will make you hot. Moving fast up and down on my cock will warm you up. I will come and get you. But, if I have to, we won’t be back in the water for a while.”

“Fuck you.”

“No, fuck you.” And that’s what Ilesh did. He was faster than lightning and reached Cal on the bank of the pool of water before Cal could—or even tried to—escape.

Ilesh dragged Cal on his back to the edge of the pond and then, kneeling in the water himself, he slapped Cal’s thighs open, lifted the young man’s legs to rise up his muscular chest, forced his cock inside, and began to pump. Cal raised his pelvis to his lover and started a counterpistoning rhythm.

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