The sun hung gold and red above the snow-tipped ramparts of the Colorado Rockies. On a high bluff across the Purgatory River a group of Indians sat their mustangs watching the slow, winding course of a railroad train climbing toward the foothills, fearful of this clattering, whistling monster on wheels that might spell doom to the red man. Had they not seen train after train loaded with buffalo hides steam eastward across the plains?
A lithe rider, dusty and worn, mounted on a superb bay horse, halted on the south side of the river to watch the Indians.
"Utes, I reckon," he said, answering to the habit of soliloquy that loneliness had fostered in him. "Like the Kiowas they shore die hard. Doggone me if I don't feel sorry for them! The beaver an' the buffalo aboot gone! The white man rangin' with his cattle wherever grass grows! Wal, Reddies, if yu air wise, yu'll go way back in some mountain valley an' stay there."
"Wal, come to think aboot it," mused the lone rider, "they're not so bad off as me--No money. No job. No home! Ridin' a grub line, an' half starved. Nothin' but a hawss an' a gun."
He put a slow hand inside his open vest to draw forth a thick letter, its fresh whiteness marred by fingerprints and soiled spots. He had wept over that letter. Marvelling again, with a ghost of the shock which had first attended sight of that beautiful handwriting, he reread the postmark and the address: Lincoln, New Mexico, May 3, 1880. Mr. Brazos Keene, Latimer, Colorado, c/o Two-bar X Ranch. The Latimer postmark read a day later.
"My Gawd, but this heah railroad can fetch a man trouble pronto," he complained, and he stuck the letter back. "What in the hell made me go into thet post office for? Old cowboy habit! Always lookin' for letters thet never come. I wish to Gawd this one had been like all the others. But aw no! Holly Ripple remembers me--has still the old faith in me--An' she named her boy Brazos--after me."
"Only five years!" mused the rider, with unseeing eyes on the west. "Five years since I rode along heah down the old trail from Don Carlos's Rancho--An' what have I done with my life?"