Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
It was first light. There had been a false dawn about 30 minutes earlier. Lieutenant Kirk, the Officer of the Day, had used that as a good time to notify his relief that it was time. After waking his relief, He walked the posts. Everything was as it should be. That is until he reached the tower. The standard night watch was a sole trooper, and in this case, it was a young recruit, just out of basic Training, Still waiting for his cavalry training.
It was obvious that the young boy was struggling with staying awake and almost panicked when Lieutenant Kirk suddenly appeared. “How’s it going, Carson? Anything I should know about?”
The kid was standing at attention when he replied. “No, Sir, everything is quiet.”
“Relax son, it’s been a long night, and we’re both tired. I’m just making my last checks, so be at ease. I won’t be long.”
Looking out at the surrounding countryside, Kirk reflected that this was what he considered the best time of the day, and year, for that matter. The air was cool and slightly crisp. He could hear the morning birds starting up. But that didn’t intrude on the quiet that the Lieutenant was savoring. Soon the Hacienda would wake and start another day. From Reveille to Taps, there would be a constant babble of sounds and voices. Bugle calls to various events, shouted commands for troops practicing short order drills. Even the normal daily sounds of a city going about its business. But for now, the only intrusion was the pleasant chirping of birds.
As Lieutenant Kirk looked to the southeast, he thought he saw some movement in his peripheral vision. The human eye is drawn to movement. Pulling out his field glasses, he checked the area closely. Sure enough, it appeared that a sole rider was approaching the Hacienda.
Handing the glasses to the young trooper, He asked, “What do you see out there, Carson? About 3 miles out and headed this way?”
The kid looked for a moment and replied, “It looks like a rider, Sir. Moving slow and slumped over, might be hurt.”
“Looks that way to me too. What I want you to do is head down to the guard room and ask Sergeant Doust to come up here. No rush, but it is important.”
The excitement was evident in the trooper’s voice, “Yes Sir, right away Sir.” and he scurried down the stairs leading to the interior of the tower and the Guardroom on the first floor.
Checking with the field glasses again, He noted that the rider did appear to be slumped over. Either wounded, injured, or asleep. Lieutenant Kirk pulled out his compass and noted the azimuth to the rider, writing down that information and the time. He paused for a moment, thinking that most of his day off was shot now. He would have to write this up. Then report it to the Captain, and maybe even the Colonel. They would go over his report and chew it to bits. If this went the way it usually did, Kirk could forget about a night in Wilkins.
While Kirk was mourning his bad fortune, Sergeant Doust arrived in the tower. “What’s up, Sir. Carson said there was a rider coming in?”
“Yep, Over there to the southeast about 135 degrees, and two and a half miles out.”
Doust raised his glasses and looked in the direction. “Yes, Sir, looks like a single rider. Slumped over, might be hurt.” He took the next 5 minutes, scanning the surrounding area. “I can’t see anybody else. That doesn’t mean anything, means if there is someone there, They’re good at hiding.”
“My feeling too. Recommendations?”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll need to turn everybody out. At 2 miles, they would still be outside of sharpshooter range. So even if they have good snipers, they’re too far off. I think we should turn out the Quick Reaction Force. Get them up and ready, then send a small scout team out and check things out first hand. That way, if this is a setup, we haven’t risked that much, and we’ll have plenty of time to get everybody else up and out.”
“My thinking too, Sergeant. Let’s put it together, and I’ll let you lead the scouts.”
“My cup runneth over Sir. Rules of engagement?”
“Defense only Sergeant. They shoot, you shoot. Then scoot and get your butts inside rifle range so we can cover you.”
“Works for me, Sir.”
As Doust was heading down the stairs, The Lieutenant called out, “Good Luck, Doust.”
“Training, endurance, and skill? Luck has nothing to do with it, Sir.”
Ten minutes later, Kirk was watching the approaching rider. Nothing had changed except the distance to the Hacienda. Kirk turned to Carson and his relief. Surprised, He addressed Carson, “Son, you’ve been relieved. Go get some chow and sleep. I think we can handle it from here.”
“With permission, Sir, I would like to stay and watch. This is the most excitement I’ve had in a year. Besides, you may need an extra hand up here.”
Looking at the eager young trooper, “OK, Carson. You can hang around. What I want you to do is get ahold of Sergeant Lafayette. Tell him to send a couple of sharpshooting teams up. If we need them, we’ll need them fast.”
Saluting, the young trooper, a grin lighting up his face, scrambled for the stairs.