He was not sure exactly what it was that woke him from the depths of unconsciousness. Had he sensed the minute movement of the horned toad that stood mere inches from his face looking at him, the strange creature smelling of blood? Or perhaps it was the spark of will that resides within all living things. The result was the same no matter which explanation he would later choose; he was alive and he felt pain.
Reluctantly, crawling up from the soothing darkness, his mind started to sort out this unfamiliar dilemma. The pain, although sharp, seemed to emanate from no particular location, so he mentally took inventory of his body. He was an individual accustomed to the rigor of desert life, an existence where the slightest miscalculation could mean death. He may be badly hurt and must take every precaution. He knew that any movement might be his last. He had heard of men trying to move after severe falls and becoming paralyzed. In this land that surely meant death. His experience also told him, there might be more trouble than death, just waiting for him to show signs of life.
Slowly and in turn, he worked the muscles of his feet, hands, legs and arms. Immediately upon trying to move his head pain coursed through his body bringing the taste of bile to his throat. The bitter taste made him realize how great was his thirst. His throat felt as if he swallowed a felt chalkboard eraser. The one he saw her use that day before he mounted the Zebra Dun and headed east. How long has it been since he rode away from her? Why did he loose the courage to grab her up and kiss those lips that so tormented him when she spoke? Catching himself slip off in reverie he concentrated on his immediate situation, on staying alive. He must see her again. He must stay alive!
He lay face down on the hard dirt, his hair matted to the side of his face with sweat and gore. In his right hand the feel of his 5 1/2 inch barreled Colt’s .45, the grip worn smooth with use, providing comfort. Then all at once his memory of events became clear. He was at Three Woman Tank. He had ridden into the lava bed, known for this water tank, and just as he was about to dismount the world went black. Reflex must have drawn the Colt.
It was that uncanny reflex and his dauntless courage that earned him the reputation as a man to ride the river with.