We had been riding hard for an hour across a tableland known as Cibollo Mesa, and now for the first time had halted at sighting our destination, yet distant three hours’ hard riding. “Boys,” said Dad, “we’ll make it early to-day. I know a fine camping spot near a big pool in the river. After supper we’ll all take a swim, and feel as fresh as pond-lilies.”
“Oh, we swim this evening, do we?” inquired Orchard. “That’s a Christian idea, Dad, cleanliness, you know. Do we look as though a swim would improve our good looks?” The fact that, after a ride like the one we were near finishing, every man of us was saturated with fine alkaline dust, made the latter question ludicrous.
For this final ride we changed horses for the last time on the trip, and after a three hours’ ride under a mid-day torrid sun, the shade of Concho’s timber and the companionship of running water were ours. We rode with a whoop into the camp which Dad had had in his mind all morning, and found it a paradise. We fell out of our saddles, and tired horses were rolling and groaning all around us in a few minutes. The packs were unlashed with the same alacrity, while horses, mules, and men hurried to the water. With the exception of two horses on picket, it was a loose camp in a few moments’ time. There was no thought of eating now, with such inviting swimming pools as the spring freshets had made.
Dad soon located the big pool, for he had been there before, and shortly a dozen men floundered and thrashed around in it like a school of dolphins. On one side of the pool was a large sloping rock, from which splendid diving could be had. On this rock we gathered like kid goats on a stump, or sunned ourselves like lizards. To get the benefit of the deepest water, only one could dive at a time. We were so bronzed from the sun that when undressed the protected parts afforded a striking contrast to the brown bands about our necks. Orchard was sitting on the rock waiting for his turn to dive, when Long John, patting his naked shoulder, said admiringly,—
“Orchard, if I had as purty a plump shoulder as you have, I’d have my picture taken kind of half careless like—like the girls do sometimes. Wear one of those far-away looks, roll up your eyes, and throw up your head like you was listening for it to thunder. Then while in that attitude, act as if you didn’t notice and let all your clothing fall entirely off your shoulder. If you’ll have your picture taken that way and give me one, I’ll promise you to set a heap of store by it, old man.”
Orchard looked over the edge of the rock at his reflection in the water, and ventured, “Wouldn’t I need a shave? and oughtn’t I to have a string of beads around my swan-like neck, with a few spangles on it to glitter and sparkle? I’d have to hold my right hand over this old gun scar in my left shoulder, so as not to mar the beauty of the picture. Remind me of it, John, and I’ll have some taken, and you shall have one.”