Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
We were a week out of Wells when our rear-guard rider came in at the gallop.
Corporal Murphy was winded and sweating, “Lieutenant, we’ve got riders coming in. Big dust cloud headed our way moving slow, but faster than us. Could be two, two, and a half hours behind us.”
Lieutenant Ellenwood glanced at Sergeant Pointer and then asked, “Any idea on how many Murphy?”
Murphy was thoughtful for a moment. “As big as the dust is, I’d guess 50 or 60. I don’t think they’s Indians, though. Indians wouldn’t raise dust. I don’t think they’s raiders either. Too many of them. Best bet, Comancheros.”
“You’re probably right, Murphy. OK Sergeant, Ideas?”
Well, sir, we need to get our outriders in. Then we should fort up somewhere. With these wagons and non-combatants, there’s no way we can outrun them.”
“Any idea where?”
“Yes, sir, the scouts found a place yesterday. An arroyo with good cover and concealment. The high bank is chest high, and it’s narrow enough the wagons could just about block the way. There’s plenty of trees and brush. It’s about 2 miles to the north.”
“OK, Sergeant, sounds good. Let’s get the troops headed that way. Set a team to disguise the trail as best they can. I know it won’t fool them, but it may slow them down a bit more.”
“Murphy, you get a couple of gallopers and get the flankers in. When you get caught up, help out the trail folks.”
“Yes, sir.” Murphy spun his horse and sped up the waiting troopers. Soon there were riders heading out.
When we got to the arroyo, I could tell that Lieutenant Ellenwood wasn’t quite as impressed as he originally was. He immediately started ordering the wagons into position and setting up the remuda. Then had the troopers start building fighting positions. Meanwhile, I organized my team and set up a field hospital in the center of our position. We dug a chest-deep pit, about 10 feet around. In the center, I had a fire going and water on the boil.
Eventually, we had set our defenses and was waiting. That was when I noticed that there were far fewer troopers than should have been. I was about to question Lieutenant Ellenwood about this when the Comancheros showed up.
At first, it was just two of them. They were following the river bottom when they rounded the bend and saw us. They came to a jerking stop.
Nothing was said. They looked at us and our preparations. We looked at them, and everybody waited. Soon a third rider joined the first two.
“Hey, Amigo’s, you blocking da road. Why for you do that?”
“The way is still open. You can ride around us.” Lieutenant Ellenwood called out.
“You got’s auga? Maybe some grub? We mighty thirsty here.”
“Sorry, Amigo, what we’ve got, we’ll need. Why are you out here in the desert without supplies? Seems kind of foolish.”
“Joo calling me stupid? I not stupid, man. Maybe you stupid?”
While this was going on, several more riders had showed up. They were spreading out on the river bed. I could also see others to the left and right on the banks.
“Saaay gringo, Dat red cross, you maybe got’s a doctor? Medicine? Maybe opium? Laudanum? Maybe we trade? I’ve got good mescal and whiskey.”
Ellenwood didn’t say anything.
“Gringo? Why you not talk?” The Comanchero leader looked around at his companions. A burst of Spanish came out. They started laughing. “Gringo, I tink you afraid. I tink you wet you pantaloons. I tink we take you water and food.”
With that said, they charged at us. Firing rifles, pistols, and in a couple of case’s arrows. We returned fire immediately. As the Comancheros approached our forward position, they split up and rode down each of our flanks. They were firing as they rode past. When they got to the other side of our position, there was a pause as they regrouped. Then they came at us again.
This time after riding our flanks, they continued on and disappeared into the brush.
We had several wounded. They were brought into the treatment area, and my team sprang into action. Most of the wounds were minor, except for Lieutenant Ellenwood. He had suffered a head wound and was unconscious. I checked his condition. It looked serious, being a head wound, it was ugly and bloody. But once I washed the blood away, I could see that it wasn’t life-threatening. The skull wasn’t fractured or penetrated. It was just a grazing wound. Ellenwood would be alive but have a hell of a headache tomorrow.
I grabbed his pistol, rifle, and cartridge belt. I needed to tell Sergeant Pointer what was happening, and I figured that he could use the weapons and ammo.
I found Sergeant Pointer under the ambulance. He had set up a fighting position and was reloading his weapons. I quickly informed him of the situation and Lieutenant Ellenwood’s condition. As I was finishing, they hit us again. Repeating what they had tried earlier.
Again, rifle and pistol fire rang out. I added my efforts to the melee. Firing Lieutenant Ellenwood’s rifle. When the shooting concluded, I was kind of proud. I felt sure that I had hit at least one of the attackers. I looked over to Sergeant Pointer, who was again reloading. “Not bad shooting for a doctor and a woman, eh Sergeant?” I smirked.
Sergeant Pointer looked at me sideways, “Might have been, Ma’am. Except your rifle is empty. You’ve been shooting an empty chamber all along.”
I stared at him, at the rifle, then back up to the Sergeant. I grabbed the cartridge belt and started loading the rifle. “You might have said, something sergeant.”
“Sorry, Ma’am, but you looked like you were having so much fun. I just had to let you play soldier.”
I had finished loading the Winchester and was checking the Colt. I thought about what he had said, and a smile crossed my lips. “You know Mike, and it was a bit of a hoot. I’m sure that my grandkids will think so too.”
We both settled back and waited for the next attack. And waited, and waited. There wasn’t any repeat of the charges we had originally went through for the next several hours. But there were several single gunshots into the camp. No severe damage was done, and other than rock chips from ricochets, no real injuries.
Eventually, dinnertime arrived, and the evening meal was cooked up. I delivered Sergeant Pointer’s meal to him and stayed with him while he ate. While he was eating, I asked him about the missing troopers. He chuckled.
“Needn’t worry bout them fellers Ma’am. They’re out there in the brush doing the Lord’s work. Some of them are scouting out our friends, finding out where their camps are, where they’ve got their stock. Keeping track of what they’re up to. Another group is out there setting up ambushes. When things start to warm up again, our friends will find that they aren’t alone out there. Then the third group is setting up some surprises out there. Their goal is to persuade them, folks, to take paths that will move them into the range of our people in the second group.