Broken Promises

A Bad Feeling


Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, Mid-October, 1865

"I don't like it Sergeant. I don't like it a damned bit."

Casting a long shadow, Captain Joseph Updegraff, Commander, Ft. Sumner, shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, crossed his arms and leaned into the late afternoon to stare at the low, brown dust cloud hovering over Bosque Redondo three miles away on the Pecos River. Unless there was wind or rain, the cloud never went away, too many Mescalero Apache and Navajo feet to stir the dust, too little plant life to hold the soil. Not even a cactus grew where there was once thick gra'ma grass and mesquite. The horses and mules survived on a thin ration of corn and bitter water, but they were steadily disappearing, killed for food before they grew too thin and carried no muscle at all on their bones. Three years earlier cottonwoods ringed Bosque Redondo and trees and brush lined the river. It had all been cut and burned in cooking and heating fires. Now the nearest firewood, roots of mesquite, eighteen miles away, had to be dug out of the ground by squaws and children.

The sergeant crossed his arms, spat from the wad of tobacco in his cheek, and frowned.

"What don't ya like, Sir? If there's a man outta line, I'll be more 'n glad to jerk a knot in his tail and set him straight for ya." . . .