The pony had broken its hobbles and run off two days ago. Luke had been walking since, with his saddle slung over one shoulder and saddlebags dragging from the other hand. It was getting towards noon and he was thinking about finding some shade to lie in, but so far none had presented itself. Hot country out here. No more than some cactus and lizards and the heat waving off towards the horizon. He couldn’t blame the pony for running off.

There were mountains out to his left, rising up out of the gray sand like one of his grandaddy’s mirages. He needed a town or a ranch more than he needed any cool there was to find down in the foothills. Somewhere he could get some work, find something to eat other than stringy half raw jackrabbit and tins of beans. On reflection: damn that pony.