Kid hated the long lonely trips escorting prisoners, but when your Station Master is also the town Marshall, job descriptions tend to blur into one another. This ride, more than any other had dragged on and on and on. The only redeeming factor was the beautiful scenery.
“I need some water.”
Kid sighed and sat back in the saddle. “We just stopped for water a few hours ago.”
“I need water.”
“You had a full canteen.”
The older man would not let it alone, “I drank it already. I need more.”
Kid rode on for a moment before he realized the old man wasn’t with him. He wheeled Katy around to face him, “You comin’?”
“Not until I get some water.”
“Dang it all to --”
“Now you mind your manners young man!”
Kid looked at him strangely, “it ain’t my manners mister. We’ve stopped too many times already. I’m supposed to have you at the next town before sundown tonight,” he looked off toward the setting sun. “From the looks of it, even if we rode straight through from here we’d never make it until near lunch tomorrow.”
“Well then,” he set his head at a harsh angle, “it won’t hurt if we stop one more time.”
Kid struggled to keep his temper in check, “Fine.. fine.. we’ll stop.. but this one last time!”
It wasn’t more than a half hour when they found an abandoned house with a well out front.
Kid slid down off of Katy’s back. “You stay right there, I’ll fill your canteen and we’ll be on our way.”
“Suits me just fine.”
Kid moved over to the stone well and peered in.
Sending an exasperated look over his should, Kid leaned against the stone wall, “It looks good. There’s a bucket and I think there’s still water down there.”
Kid leaned over into the mouth of the well, feeling the slight change in temperature less than a foot below the edge. Drawing the bucket up he set it on the side of the well and drank some water from the cup of his hand. Satisfied that it was fresh water, he reached out behind him, “Hand me your canteen and I’ll fill it.”
“Hand it to you?”
“Yes- I said-” Kid turned around to take it, only to find the old man’s boot in his face. “Hey!”
The prisoner’s kick was off its mark and only hit Kid’s shoulder, but it was enough to send him off balance. Loose soil at his feet sent him further back. “What do you think..” One foot than another flew up off the ground and Kid grasped for any handhold. He felt only air, “Help!”
Kid fell down into the well, never ceasing his struggles to gain some sort of purchase on the slippery rock. There was none. *SPLASH* He hit the water with the flat of his back and was momentarily stunned when his tailbone bounced off a rock under the water line.
He laid there for a minute, just staring up at the sky. “Johnson!... Johnson? You up there?” Kid sighed into the cold dark air around him, “You old coot!” He struggled to sit up, feeling the weight of his clothes, heavy with water, clinging to him.
Silence reigned above him and slowly, leaning against the wall behind him, Kid found himself on his feet again. “Hello? ... Is there anybody up there?” He searched the walls above his head, looking for anything he could use to help get him out. “Hello?”
Frustrated, Kid sank back down into the water. He folded his arms over his knees and lowered his head, “How am I gonna get out of here?”
A shadow fell over the water. Kid looked up, “Who’s there?” Soft nickering reached his ears. “Katy!”
Her head, dark against the sunset sky nodded at his words.
“Thank God you stayed!” Kid stared up for a minute before harsh reality set in, “Now what?”
Katy stood still, staring down at him. When Kid didn’t say anything, Katy nudged the bucket with her muzzle, sending the half filled bucket careening down onto his head.
“Thanks.. thanks a lot!” Katy took exception to his tone and disappeared for a moment until Kid’s pleading brought her back. “Please! Katy! Katy girl!.. I need you to go back home girl.. go back home and get help!”
Her head bobbed up and down, her soft snorts of breath echoing off the walls of stone. Her metal horseshoes clicked against the stone as she reared back on her hind legs.
In another moment she was gone and Kid was alone, left to pray and hope that Katy could help him.
Meanwhile, back at the Bunkhouse:
Buck and Ike were settlin’ down to a game of Scissor, Paper, Rock cause it was the only way Buck could get some peace and quiet. Their intense game was interrupted when Cody called out from the porch, “Rider Com- hey... a Horse Comin’!”
The two blood brothers picked up their hats and headed outside. Katy thundered into the yard, a sheen of sweat on her mottled coat. She clamored up to the hitchin’ post and waited for the riders to approach.
When they had gathered around she reared and set her front hooves on the hitching post and tossed her head back with a wild whiny.
Cody took off his hat and scratched at his golden head of hair, “What is it Katy?”
Buck leaned in, “Something wrong girl?”
Katy clipped the post as she hammered out a frantic rhythm. Cody and Buck both looked at each other, confused and perplexed at her strange state.
Ike waved for attention and signed at Katy. With her staccato reply he smiled and translated for Buck.
With a look of wonder and surprise the three riders saddled up their own horses and followed Katy out onto the trail.
Hours later, the four riders returned home. Cody still had a dumbfounded expression on his face. As they helped Kid into the bunkhouse, Cody turned to Ike, “I still don’t get it Ike.. how did you know that Katy would lead us to Kid?”
Ike shrugged his shoulders **It’s simple**
“What do you mean simple?” Cody seemed less that satisfied with the answer. He struggled to lift Kid up as he half dragged him inside the door.
Buck laughed, “Cody, Ike speaks Indian sign-”
“So?” Cody protested. He neared the bed, painfully bent over under Kids added weight.
Ike shrugged again.
Stark realization hit Cody like a sledgehammer. “Oh no.. you don’t mean-” He tried to set Kid down on the bunk, but the unconscious rider merely slid to the floor in a heap. Cody sank down on the bunk and set his head in his hands, “and Katy’s an Indian Pony.”
Ike and Buck nodded and sat back down to their game, leaving Kid sleeping soundly on the floor.
Thanks for Lori and Beth for their hints and encouragement