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July 20, 1886
Just when I wanted to write an entry all about Riley getting stung during our “lost” Yosemite adventure, something came up. Something of an emergency. I was just making my way to the barn, planning on taking a ride on Shasta. However, I only got as far as the tack room when one of the hired men came galloping up to the house, yelling my name. As I watched him vault out of the saddle and run up the porch, I froze. Had something happened to Riley?
Suddenly, my feet came alive. I dropped the saddle in the middle of the barn’s aisle and took off running. “I’m over here!” I yelled. “Is Riley all right?” When he heard my footsteps, the ranch hand, Matt, turned from the porch, saying something about someone getting injured. The look on my face must have shown my thoughts, for he was quick to assure me that it wasn’t Riley. “It’s that new hand, Josh,” Matt said. “He and Carlos were fixing a length of barbed wire fencing.”
My stomach turned over when Matt continued the story. Apparently, Josh lost his grip through carelessness. The barbed wire flew from his hands, slashing Carlos in the face. Riley had sent Matt to ask me to get warm water and some rolls of gauze to try and stop the bleeding. I nodded and headed for the house, sprinting across the the sitting room and ducking into the kitchen. The black beast’s warming tank held plenty of water. As Matt galloped away, I found a large pan and filled it with water from the tank. My mind visualized horrible bleeding cuts on Carlos’s face. A run-in with barbed wire never turned out well.
My hands were shaking by this point. I had never needed to help with ranch accidents before. Normally, Chad took care of them, or if more was needed, Mother helped out. Taking a deep breath, I squared my shoulders. Mother wasn’t here. Neither was Chad. It was just Riley and me, and if Riley was bringing the injured Carlos to the house, it must be bad. I sent a quick prayer heavenward, hoping the deadly wire had missed his eyes.
Picking out two rolls of neat, white fabric, I decided to grab the iodine as well. That finished, I made my way back to the kitchen, laid some towels on the table, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. Riley appeared at the back door, his face flushed and red. My heart jumped when I saw blood on his hands, but I realized a moment later it wasn’t from him, but rather from the man he was helping up the porch steps and into the kitchen. When I saw his face, I thanked God. The barbs had missed his eyes, but he was slashed in three places. One long barb had sliced him along the left side of his head. At least it looked like that. It was hard to see through all the blood.
Carlos’s teeth were gritted in pain, and every breath came out as a gasp. I’ve never been someone to feel queasy at the sight of blood, but when I saw what the wire had done to his face, I quickly looked away. Riley took no time in setting him down. His eyes scanned the supplies. It was then I realized I had forgotten a rag to help clean his face. I flew to the rag bin and grabbed a clean piece of toweling. When I got back, Riley grabbed it from me and thrust it into the bowl of water. As I watched him wipe the blood away, my own blood boiled at the thought of Josh’s carelessness causing this accident.
“Where’s Josh?” I asked in a low voice. I had words for him, but no words were needed. Riley shook his head and gave me a look that said, He no longer works for us. That’s fine by me because Riley can barely afford to pay the two hands we have. Many times, Chad “borrows” Riley for some task or another. I think big brother knows things are tight. Working for Chad at Circle C pay really helps.
Riley was able to staunch the flow of blood and get Carlos’s face wrapped up enough to haul him to town and Doc Weaver’s office. We both knew the man needed stitches. Maybe Mother could sew up a deep cut like that, but I’m not ready for that kind of ranch work yet. I’d rather go hungry a meal and squeeze out a silver dollar to pay Doc Weaver than stick a needle in Carlos’s tender flesh. I shiver just thinking about it. I never realized just how many ranch duties Mother took care of. Nurse, housekeeper, manager . . . Life on a ranch calls for one person to be able to fill many different roles. Right now, my biggest role is trying to learn to manage the cookstove and provide a meal for my new husband.
After my heart settled down and Riley and Carlos left for town, I went back to saddling Shasta. The sun was shining, and nothing sounded better just then than a romp on my colt.