Mary Peace Finley Award-winning author of books for young people
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Julio stopped at the crest of a sand hill and stared. Below, Bent’s Fort rose from the prairie, tall and solid as rock, two stories high with double gates opened wide as if in welcome. He dropped to his knees, swung the basket off his back, and let it tumble onto the sand. "Someone in there has to know, Chivita." With an excited "Eerp!" Chivita leaped into Julio’s arms, a bundle of black and white, nuzzling his chin and ears with her nose. "That’s it, Chivita!" Julio ducked away from her tickling tongue. "Clean me up. Make me look good before we go inside." Chivita backed away and cocked her head, one brow raised. Julio glanced down at his bare chest, the ragged pantalones, pants that were new and white when he and Papá left Taos, and at the beaded Cheyenne moccasins on his feet. "You’re right. Impossible." He stood, brushing away strands of sun-bleached hair that dangled like yellow straw in front of his eyes. He slipped his reed flute into the leather bag at his side, straightened the shoulder strap, and wiggled the woven basket into place on his back. "Vamos, Chivita. Let’s go." After three days alone since he had parted company with the Cheyenne, the noise from Bent’s Fort thundered against his ears. It looked as if the whole world had come here to trade—or to join the eastbound spring caravan. A line of wagons stretched for half a mile, waiting to be hitched to mules or oxen or horses. Beneath a large United States flag that slapped against a pole above the second floor, people rushed back and forth between the Fort and the wagons.
© Mary Peace Finley 2012
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