Also by Charmain Callaway on obooko:
The earth was trembling.
That was the first thing Toni thought of when she fell on her hands and knees in the sweltering heat. She lifted her head to look around the seemingly endless desert floor. Seeing nothing, she slowly rose on unsteady legs, as if her five foot five inch height would help as she scanned the horizon.
With her hands linked together and held above her brows to cut down on the glare, it was on her second pass around when she noticed a faint dark line on the horizon, the extreme heat causing the line to dance in the sunlight. Squinting under the brim of her hat, she stared at the spot, then knelt down again, bracing her palm on the hot ground.
Yes, the earth was definitely trembling.
Was it her imagination, or was the trembling stronger? She slowly rose again, focusing hard on the dark line. She could just see a faint dust cloud above the line, almost as if it was . . .
Her eyes widened as her mouth fell open.
“Oh no!” she whispered into the silence. Toni twisted around, looking frantically.
When she turned again to the rapidly growing dark horizon and dust cloud, she noticed a tree standing alone in the midst of the desert. Gone was the fatigue in her limbs and the thirst in her throat. She ran with all she had, her hat pulling at her neck by the small delicate green ribbon that matched her shirt. She kept her eyes focused on the tree. Toni ran toward the tree, the only thing between her and the fast approaching stampede.
With his three men flanking on each side, Conrad was racing alongside the herd. Fifteen minutes ago, five thousand head of
cattle was happily grazing in contented peace in the small valley he usually used to do the yearly branding.
Lefty and Juan had been dismounted, one working with the branding iron, the other taking a needed break while he and Trent were on horseback, cutting out the unbranded ones. The men preferred to stay in the saddle and work all day, so the men took turns working on foot.
He was just cutting out the next young bull, his lariat swinging in the air, when he heard the screaming cry of a wild cat echo in the small valley. Unfortunately, the herd also heard the cry and immediately headed as one in the opposite direction. His men reacted immediately, those dismounted were quickly mounted, all of them headed for the herd.
Trent and Juan were directly behind him while Lefty was on the other side. They were slowing gaining on the herd when he looked up into the distance. Sure he was mistaken, he quickly blinked again.
Someone was directly in line with the stampeding herd, running toward them!
What was somebody doing way out here?
He checked where he was again and knew there was no way he could make it to the lone person. He would never be able to cut across through the herd in time. obooko.