“Jake, we’ve picked the last of the cotton. The dust on me is thicker than the clothes I got on.
Maybe it’s time we move on.”
“Prob’ly right, Leon. I hear tell we can pick up some work harvestin’ corn over in Colorado. I’ve had enuf of this Kansas heat and dust.”
“We got nuthin’ holdin’ us here. May as well head on out West. Maybe we can get up in those mountains in Colorado after we finish the corn harvest.”
“Why you wanna’ go up in the mountains, Jake?”
“Oh, just to see what we can see. You gotta’ be able to see a long way. They say the air is thinner up there, too.”
“I guess you’re right ‘bout that. Let’s get started. Seems like all there is to life is workin’ and movin’. Plus a bath thrown in here and there. Say, how much money you got now?”
“With that last paycheck, I got maybe two hunred dollars. Why you ask, Leon?”
“I got about the same. Why don’t we buy a mule to carry our gear? It’d make it a lot easier to get around.”
“That’s the first good idea you had in a while, Leon.”
“Easy now. We oughta have enuf money to buy a little huntin’ rifle and a pistol. We’d still have enuf left over to pick up some provisions and such.”
“You’re on, bud. Let’s head on over to Salina, pick everythin’ up and head on out. Rocky Mountains, here we come.”
“Yeah, Rocky Mountains after Colorado corn.”
“…havin’ ol’ Boudreau here to help carry our load makes me feel like we travelin’ in style. Say, I wonder how that ol’ Cajun that sold us Boudreau ever got up to Salina, Kansas? He must be the only Cajun in the state.”
“He prob’ly is. While you were followin’that purty young thing around the store Jake, Beauregard tole me he was jus’ watchin’ the store for a few weeks while his ol’ army buddy went back to Illinois to bury his daddy. Beauregard brought Boudreau with him when he came up from the Louisiana swamp. Said he was from Abbeville and talked like I oughta know all about Abbeville. Hell, I ain’t never even been to Louisiana and I sure don’t know anything ‘bout Abbeville. Maybe I’ll go down there someday, though. Lotta good huntin’ and fishin’ down that way cordin’ to Beauregard.”
“Ya know, Leon, Boudreau’s a good ol’ mule. He don’t talk and carry on. He does his job and don’t complain, and minds us when we talk to him. He’s a lot better than some of the women I bee around.”
“Maybe so, but there’s a bunch of women I’d rather kiss than ol’ Boudreau.”
“Ya gotta point there.”
About that time Boudreau came to a sudden stop and started braying. Jake and me looked down at a large rock in front of us. Just to the side of the rock we spotted a large rattle snake coiled and ready to strike. He looked to be over five feet. Ol’ snake was like lookin ’at us tryin’ to decide who to hit on. Jake gave me a sudden hard shove just as the snake struck. He missed me by a couple of inches.
Jake turned and shot the snake in the head. Squirmin’ for a short time, he became quiet. He was dead.
Jake and me continued to shake from the fear we had felt during the encounter. I was so messed up, I retched what I had eaten. I was beholdin’ to Jake and we were both beholdin’ to Boudreau for warnin’ us. That ol’ mule mighta saved my life. I could see the tombstone in my mind, ‘Here lies Leon Rogers, killed by an oversized rattlesnake while headin’ out West and not listenin’ to his mule’. I must say that rattler made purty good eatin’ that night roasted over a fire.
After we walked a couple weeks, we made Colorado, but we were a little late. The wheat harvest was on the down side. We did find some work at a big ranch for a couple weeks before the harvest ended. While we worked, Jake and me kept lookin’ to the west where we saw the biggest mountain I ever seen.
“That’s Pikes Peak, Leon?”
“Yes it is. Story goes that it’s over 14,000 feet high, one of the tallest in the U.S. Ol’ Zebulon Pike was the first white man to see it, so he named it after his self.”
“Leon, you, me an’ Boudreau just gotta see the top of that baby. You game?”
“Sure, I’m right there wit cha.”
So, Jake and me took a deep breath, pulled the rope harness around Boudreau’s neck and we started to climb…