Kepa fidgeted in his saddle as the foreman led him into the hills. He had never ridden a horse in his life, and his “character” in this time bubble had never either.
The foreman looked back and saw Kepa’s obvious discomfort. He chuckled. “Never been on a horse before, eh?”
Kepa just shook his head, wondering what he had gotten himself into.
“We still got a few hours before we get to the camp,” said the foreman. “Let’s stop and take a rest. I could use something to eat.”
The foreman, who had introduced himself as Dominique, reined in his horse and dismounted. Kepa tried to do the same, but he nearly fell out of the saddle onto the ground. He dusted himself off as he stood, glaring at the horse.
“Don’t worry,” said Dominique as he grabbed the reins of Kepa’s horse and lashed them to a tree next to his own and the third horse that was carrying supplies for the camps. “It gets easier with practice. Hell, after a while you almost feel like riding is more natural than walking.”
Kepa rubbed his butt cheeks, grimacing as he did so. “I can’t imagine that day will ever come.”
Dominique sat down with his back against a tree, beckoning Kepa to join him. Dominique was a bit older than Kepa, maybe in his forties. His skin was dark and leathered; he’d clearly spent many days out in the sun. He wore a cowboy hat to keep the sun from beating on his head. And he was clearly still very fit from all of his time working outside.
Dominique handed his charge a canteen. Kepa gratefully accepted it and took a few large swallows of cool water before handing it back. Dominique took his own drink before stashing the canteen and pulling out a small bundle that he unwrapped. He gave a piece of jerky to Kepa before biting into his own.
“So, what brought you out here, anyways?” asked Dominque.
Kepa shrugged. “Truth be told? Money. Things are hard back home. I just want to make some money to help my family.” As the words came out, Kepa was shocked to hear how naturally this story came out of him. It was as if he had really been some other person, with a completely different history than his own. But, at the same time, he was himself, with his own memories and story. He didn’t think too hard about how the two identities shared space in his head.
“You got any family here?”
Kepa shook his head. “No. I had an uncle that had come out here. Well, not here, Oregon. But he came back and got married. He always told me how much money he made working out here. Though I could do the same.”
Dominique nodded. “There’s good money here, if you work hard and don’t waste it in town. I’ve seen too many throw all of their money away at cards or worse. They never have enough to go back.”
“How about you?” asked Kepa. “What brought you out here?”
“I can’t lie, I was attracted by the money too. But,” he said wistfully, “there was a girl too. Her uncle had sent for her, promising opportunities. She didn’t feel she could say no, so she came out here, and I followed. Things didn’t work out for us. Anyways, she went back to our town and I just couldn’t, so I decided to stay.” He shrugged. “I’ve done pretty well for myself. I can’t complain.”
“Hegaztia airerako, gizona lanerako,” said Kepa. “Just like birds are meant to fly, men are meant to work.”
Dominique smiled. “With that attitude, I think you’ll do just fine out here.”
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