The rider had sat motionless on his horse for an hour or more. The stand of pines located to his right, and a third of the way down the hillside, had been his choice as the best place to stop. He knew that it's background would help hide his presence from any unfriendlies that might be looking from below, or from the east.
Newcomers to the west would have been puzzled by his behavior, for there had not been the slightest sound or movement to indicate that danger might be imminent. The rider had lived on the frontier for many years, and had developed instincts that went beyond what he saw or heard. Had someone been along to question his caution, he could not have explained it. He just knew. One impatient move, and he would not live to see the sunset that night.
Off to his left, a bit of movement caught his eye. A rabbit was working his way down the hillside, obviously headed for the water hole at the bottom of the hill. Suddenly, the rabbit stopped almost in mid jump, and darted into the cover of a clump of brush to his left.
Ignoring the sting of the sweat burning his eyes from the mid-day heat, the man slipped his knife from it's cloth scabbard on his belt, and held it alongside his leg in a fashion designed to keep the sunlight from reflecting off the blade.
Like the rider, his horse had spent most of his life in this country, and his own instincts were even more pronounced than those of his rider. Those instincts made the difference this day. The rider saw the ears of his horse lift, and his head turn quickly to this right. Forewarned, the rider turned quickly in the saddle, and the knife of the Ute warrior made only a surface cut on the rider's shoulder, rather than being driven deep into his back as intended.
The warrior had no sooner fallen to the ground beside the horse, than he began scrambling to his feet. Given another second, and he would have made it. However, the rider had immediately left the saddle in pursuit of his attacker. Before the Ute could rise to his feet, the razor sharp knife of the rider did it's work, and the Indian's lifeless body dropped to the ground.
The rider instinctively knew there would be more than one attacker. No sooner had he disposed of the first one, than he spun around to face the next Ute warrior. As his eyes searched for movement, an arrow went into his right side, causing him to bend over briefly from the burning pain.
The horse displayed the same discipline as his rider. Despite the attack, he had not moved an inch. That allowed the rider to pull a pistol from the scabbard looped around the saddle horn. The warrior was preparing to send a second arrow his way when a bullet from the pistol sent him on his way to the hunting grounds that awaited all warriors who suffered death bravely.
With his eyes scanning the cover around him, the rider led his horse to the thickest cover available in the immediate area. There he waited to see if there would be another attack. Within the hour, he watched wildlife began to move down toward the water hole, an indication that whatever other Indians had been there, had moved on. The rider was not surprised at their decision to move on. To have two warriors killed in a surprise attack on one man, would most likely be considered to be a sign of bad medicine, and reason enough to leave by the rest of the war party.
When the sun went down, the rider and his horse moved on down to the water hole. After allowing his horse to drink, the rider refilled his canteen and water bag. While his mount grazed on some good grass near the water hole, the rider took the edge off his hunger with some of the cold flour that he carried in his saddlebags for times when food was in short supply. There was game around the water hole, but a rifle shot might well bring the Ute party back. He had been hungry many times and survived. Better alive and hungry, than dead with a full stomach.
After his horse had been given enough time to eat his share of the new grass, the rider moved about fifty yards away from the water and picked a likely spot to spend the night. Before turning in, he used his knife to cut the arrow shaft off, leaving the arrowhead itself buried in his side. It didn't seem to be in a vital area, and any attempt by him to cut it out, would probably leave him to weakened by the loss of blood to defend himself. He would make do for now, and remove the arrow at a time better suited for his safety.
A days ride east of the Wind River mountain range, he ran into the campsite of a group of trappers. One of the men had a Cheyenne squaw, who claimed to have experience in removing arrowheads. With a few of the trappers holding the rider down to keep him from moving while she cut, she worked quickly, and it was soon removed as well as could have been expected from any surgeon.
The next morning he had just ridden south when another trapper rode into their camp from the east. After hearing the story of the rider's attack, and the removal of the arrow head from his side, the newly arrived trapper said. "Sounds like a man with the bark on. Did he give his name?"
"Aye", answered a tall trapper with a Scottish accent. "I've seen him before. He's a man to ride the river with. Goes by the name of Dover."