Disclaimer: The High Chaparral characters do not belong to me. They have been borrowed strictly for fun and not for fortune.
"The High Chaparral"
"Another Man's Treasure"
"It was a dark and stormy night—" Joe Butler halted his narrative, as he was instantly assailed with moans, a groan—and even an exasperated gasp. The cowhand reined his horse in and aimed a completely puzzled look at the 'gasper'. "Wha-at?"
Manolito Montoya drew his mount up and arched his stiff, aching back.
The young Mexican's traveling companions took the opportunity to try and straighten their sore spines out, as well.
"Joe...compadre`...we appreciate your distracting tales. I, for one, find them particularly entertaining..."
"But..." Montoya's even more perplexed compadre` prompted.
Manolito gasped again. "Must they always include such inclement weather?"
The five-man crew from the High Chaparral had spent the previous day caught up in a desert dust storm. After hours of being pelted with stinging particles of flying sand, the group had finally found refuge on the leeward side of a large outcropping of scorpion-infested boulders. The weary travelers, who had been forced to endure a sleepless night—sitting up—with their backs against the cold, stone walls of their 'storm shelter', had definitely had their fill of foul weather...literally! It seemed the minuscule missiles of silica had found their way into every orifice.
The interrupted tale-teller spit some of the grit from between his teeth and then adamantly stated in his defense, "I tell ghost stories! 'It was a beautiful, sunny day' ain't no way ta begin a ghost story! Ghost stories are s'posed ta be scary! A dark, stormy night sort a' sets the mood."
Buck Cannon, who'd been sitting there, swiping the gritty granules from the edges of his eyes, turned his irritated gaze to his amigo. "Reckon you jes' gonna hafta face it, Mano. Joe, here, ain' never gonna be no 'fair weather friend'."
Joe grinned—and the rest of the grumpy group chuckled—at their associate's rather witty remark.
Buck's nephew, Blue Cannon, caught the glint of sunlight reflecting off of something metallic, just up ahead to their right. The boy slipped his boots from his stirrups, dropped to the ground, and headed off to investigate the shiny object.
Assuming the lad to be 'answerin' the call a' nature', his uncle dryly commented, "We all be BOYS here, son. It ain' necessary ta take a hike ta take a pee."
"I think I may have found somethin'!" Blue shouted back over his shoulder—and the sound of the group's latest round of laughter.
The lad stopped, just fifty feet from them, and their eyes widened with amazement. Though they had all passed that way plenty of times, nobody had ever noticed a half-buried wagon before. The storm's high winds had shifted the sand, exposing the skeletal remains of a covered wagon. The canvas frame's broken ribs were scattered about, as well as the wagon's contents.
Blue stood there, staring down at the apparent source of the 'shine'—the head of a large, brass brad. The windstorm had 'sand-blasted' the tarnish from the top of the metal fastener, leaving it looking like new. He hitched his horse to one of the wagon's busted wheels and then dropped to the desert floor, for a closer scrutiny of his 'find'.
The boy brushed the sand away from the brad and discovered that it was embedded in a strip of brown leather. The cowboy continued his clawing. The sand felt red-hot, even through the thick layers of his gloves.
Turned out, the leather strapping was attached to the convex cover of a wooden box of some kind.
'Wonder what's inside?' the young detective contemplated, and kept right on scraping the sand clear.
The rest of the crew came riding up.
"Woo-wee!" Buck exclaimed, as the outline of a wooden box began to emerge. "Blue-boy has found hisself a TREASURE CHEST!"
The men sat there, looking highly amused.
Blue ignored his uncle's teasing and calmly continued his tedious task.
Considering the rising temperature, the kid's task was, perhaps, a bit too tedious.
Manolito slid his feet clear of his stirrups and dropped deftly to the ground. The Mexican tied his horse, Macado, to a mesquite bush and then picked up a piece of one of the canvas frame's broken ribs.
"Thanks for helpin' me," Blue said, as his step-uncle began scooping sand away from the top of the trunk.
"De nada. Besides, the sooner you see what is inside, the sooner we will all be on our way," his helper rationalized, with a wry grin.
Blue grinned and then began digging again, in even greater earnest.
The two workers were soon sweat-drenched and breathless from exertion. However, their arduous efforts paid off, as the front of the trunk was finally freed from its sandy prison.
Blue tried the latch and found it to be neither locked nor rusted shut. The treasure hunter's hands trembled with excitement as he—at last—began lifting the heavy lid.
The rest of the men dismounted and stepped up to have themselves a little 'look-see'.
The young cowboy swung the cover open wide and peered inside.
There were only four items in the box: two tarnished, brass spurs, with broken leather straps, silver-engraved buttons, three-inch shanks, twelve-point rowels and solid nickel jingle bobs; a lavender-colored, leather, lady's riding glove that had, apparently, lost its mate; and an empty flour sack, which—judging by all the stains—had also doubled as a baby's diaper.
Blue knelt there, staring sadly down at the trunk's meager contents. "Just a bunch a' junk!" he finally realized—aloud.
Buck heard the extreme degree of dejection in the boy's voice and gave his left shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "No-ow, don' be too hasty. Why-y, I betcha some young lady greatly valued the han'some cowpoke whose boot heels them spurs once a-dorn'd."
"Si!" Manolito quickly concurred. "I am equally certain that that caballero highly prized the company of the pretty senorita whose lovely hand that glove once graced."
"An' I'm pretty sure that that sack there, once held the family's most precious possession of all," Joe determined, "their child."
Blue flashed his fellow travelers a grateful grin. Then he collected the brass spurs from the bottom of the box and closed the lid.
"Look like it were a TREASURE CHEST, after all!" Buck announced as he helped his nephew to his feet.
The boy's bashful smile disappeared as his hat was suddenly pulled down over his face. The kid lifted the brim of his hat and gave his grinning relative a blue-eyed glare—and another bashful smile.
"Guess it's true what they say," Sam Butler somberly surmised as the grounded group gradually remounted. "One man's trash really is another man's treasure."
The men from the High Chaparral exchanged solemn glances and then rode on towards the ranch...in thoughtful silence.