Unwelcome Wagon Part 9

Jared took to his feet, holstering the unfired weapon. A moment’s appraisal confirmed the most important details, those being that their assailants were amateurs of the lowest stripe, and that none of the ship’s crew showed any worse for wear. In fact, it would appear that the only wounded in their party was the one who least had it coming...his horse.

“Whoa….whoa….there, boy,” he approached the animal with an open palm. Anyone who’d ever spent time in the company of horses understood that in no way were they “dumb, emotionless brutes.” The horse tossed a wicked side eye as it snorted, delivering a forceful stamp of a hoof to the dusty ground. “I deserved that,” Carnes said easily as an apple came from his pocket. “Puttin’ you in harm’s way like that. Sorry, fella. Let me have a gander.”

The bullet had grazed over the animal’s haunches, leaving a blessed shallow streak no deeper than he might’ve had from running through a patch of brambles. The livery from which Carnes hired him most likely kept a generous tub of salve on hand for scrapes of this nature. Still, he might not have the opportunity to visit until this particular errand was in the past. He fished his canteen from a saddle pouch, knelt down, and commenced pouring some its’ contents into the dirt.

His fingers dug in, working the mud until it thickened into a lumpy yellowish paste. Jared scooped a handful, manipulating the compress into the type of mud pie a child might make. Once contented with the progress, he rose to his feet. “Here we go, fella,” he soothed the horse as the compress was kneaded into the open wound. The patient gave him a wary eye, rippling his withers as another cautionary stamp was heard.

“Gonna be shiny,” Jared comforted the big animal as the first aid chore was completed. After a fresh splash of water to clean his hands, he offered up one more apple. “I conjure I’ll get you a couple more, soon’s our business here is finished,” he whispered as he rubbed the mount’s jawline. “Friends again?” Carnes chuckled to himself as he reached up to scratch the horse's ears.

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