“You continue north to see Duran? He is a good man. I have been waiting for someone to take him this message.” He reached into his sleeve and drew out a small folded packet. “Duran found this trail as a young man. He respects the history of the first peoples in this territory.” He handed the packet to Sal and seemed anxious to continue his story.
“Duran once brought his baby girl to be blessed by the people of the trail. We named her Maria Theresa and the Chuttusgelis sent one of their own with him in friendship, the little girl we called Ria.” Sarria leaned back as if he was preparing to sleep. “Promise me, whatever happens, you will give this to Duran.”
Sal inspected a scrap of parchment wrapped in the packet. It was blank except for a squiggled line. “This is the Soledad brand," Brother Sarria said. "Duran has promised the Mission’s native converts will share the herd and the land when I go. Change is coming.”
Sal began to ask where Sarria was going in his weakened state. Then he realized he was hearing the last wish of a dying man. Everyone in the chapel leaned in to hear Sarria’s whispered words.
“Others have no respect for this history. Watch. See who comes with an open palm and who travels with a fist. Few men still follow the tradition of gift-giving as you have done for us today, my friends. Most bring only death.”
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