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The Kid Of Apache Teju
by [?]

Baby, my babe,
What waits you yonder,
Out in the world?
Dear little feet,
There must they wander,
Out in the world?
Soft little hands,
What shall they do there,
Out in the world?
Baby, my babe,
What fate must you dare,
Out in the world?

All around Apache Teju for miles and miles lies the gray, cactus-dotted, heat-devoured plain, weird and fascinating, with its placid, tree-fringed lakes, that are not; its barren, jagged, turquoise-tinted mountain-peaks, born here and there of the horizon and the desert; its whirling, dancing columns of sand, which mount to mid-sky; its lying distances and deceiving levels; its silence and its fierce, white, unclouded sunshine.

And when you draw rein under the cottonwoods at Apache Teju, uncurl the wrinkles of your eyelids in the welcome shade, and cool your eyes in the vivid green of the alfalfa field, it suddenly comes to you that never before did you understand what blessedness there is in a bit of shadow and a patch of green things growing.

From the spring at the top of the slope behind the house a line of noble old cottonwoods files along the acequia halfway down the hill, and there, where the ditch divides, forks into a spreading double row, which incloses the house and stables and comes together again in a little grove beyond the road, where the two ditches empty into a pond. The house lies there in this circlet of trees, a low, whitewashed, flat-roofed adobe, rambling along in apparent aimlessness from cosey rooms through sheds and stables, until the whole connecting structure incloses a large corral.

In front of the house is a tiny square of blue-grass, bordered by beds of geraniums and larkspurs and hollyhocks, inclosed by a low adobe wall, and shaded by a young cottonwood growing in the centre. Beyond, on the slope of the hill below the ditch, where its waters can be spread over all the surface, is the rich, velvety emerald of the alfalfa field. And the fame of that little square of grass and of that little field of alfalfa fills all the land from Deming to Silver City, and from Separ to the Mimbres.

And that is Apache Teju, headquarters for the northern half of a ranch that spreads over seven thousand square miles of the arid hills and plains of southern New Mexico, where for hours and hours you may travel toward a horizon swimming in heat, across the gray, hot, quivering levels, broken only by clumps of gay-flowered cactus and the blanching bones and sun-dried hides of cattle, dead of starvation and thirst.

The superintendent’s wife and I sat in the tiny grass plat enjoying the balmy breath that in the late afternoon steals over and cools this strange, hot land. Texas Bill had just galloped home from the nearest railroad station with a big package of Eastern mail; and the combined attractions of letters, late magazines, and a box of New York candy so engrossed us that we did not see the Kid until the gate clicked and he stood before us, asking,

“Is this the double A, quart circ., bar H outfit?”

“The what?” I gasped, looking at the queer little figure in astonishment. He was perhaps a dozen years old, though the slender, childish figure and the experienced face belied each other and made guessing difficult. He wore a man’s sombrero, old and dirty, which came down to his ears and flopped a wide, unstiffened brim around his face. With tardy recollection of his manners,–learned who knows where,–he doffed his head-gear after he had spoken, and stood with serious face, but unable to repress a smile that twinkled in his great blue child’s eyes at my astonishment. A big rent across one shoulder of his shirt showed a strip of sunburned flesh beneath and sent one sleeve dangling over his hand. His baggy trousers–no, that is not the word, they were “pants”–were held in place by a halter strap buckled tightly about his waist, and his feet were concealed in shoes so much too large for him that his toes were not visible in the mouths gaping at their front ends. And on one foot clanked and jingled the pride and glory of his attire–a huge spur, three inches long, silver-plated and highly polished, and so heavy that that foot dragged as he walked.