The territory near Padua was so dry and so far from the sea, Sal thought it a mystery why Father Serra made this place his third Mission settlement. Then he saw hills in the direction where the sun rose. At their base stood a faint line of green treetops. He remembered Jimenez’s lesson: the trees mark a river—follow the river and you will find the people.
A portion of a low stone wall appeared to Sal before he saw any church. A robed Franciscan worked alongside native men to assemble rocks around a deep pit: a well.
“Brother Pieras? We bring greetings and supplies from Brother David,” Sal called out. The words startled the workers who turned to see Sal and Paciano. All the men, including the Brother, had leathered skin stretched tight over their gaunt faces. Their long limbs and angled bodies reminded Sal of the lizards he had spotted on their journey. Paciano was the first to offer his water vessel to the workers.
“Praise God,” Brother Pieras said. His voice croaked from his dry throat. After a long drink, he offered the only seats available. “Sit here.” He motioned to the large stones gathered to rim the well.
It was Paciano who wasted no time but opened a packet of the bear meat jerky to offer to the Brother and the native workers. Sal supposed the men would consume the food as quickly as they did the water, but they did not. The lizard image appeared to Sal again as he watched the Brother and the native men frozen in place, holding the jerky on their outstretched open palms. He and Paciano shared expressions of uncertainty. Who were these strange men in this isolated place? The minutes stretched on, the sun glaring down, the earth completely still. Finally, the silence was broken.
“God is good!” Brother Pieras proclaimed and the eating began. The men began to talk. They motioned to one another and tried to include Paciano in their conversation though he did not understand their language. When Paciano could not respond, Pieras motioned the other native men to move away from him.
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