Dying Vultures
The Tahoe Ladies

 Adam sat looking out over the broad plain, Sport shifting from side to side nervously under him. The smell of death lay heavy in the still air, making man and beast edgy.

"Can't tell what it was", Joe said, retrieving Cochise's reins from Adam and swinging back into the saddle.

"Maybe bad water? Can't think it was something they ate," Adam considered. "Well, we have to go that way, so we might as well head on, brother ," and he nudged the unwilling Sport forward. Carefully, Sport watched where he put his hooves. All around him, black carcasses lay, the sun glinting off the once bright feathers. Here and there, a body, not quite dead, would rise up only to fall back, never to rise again. Hardest of all, Adam thought was to look down and catch an eye looking back at him. An eye that would blink slowly then close forever, the beak sagging open in death. Try as he might, he could not get his horse to move faster through the carnage. A glance behind him showed him that Cochise was also not in a hurry and Joe appeared as affected by what he saw as Adam was. They were close to the far edge of the killing field when it finally came to Adam. The vultures, the thousand or so that lay dead and dying behind them, could have only died from one cause. He was about to turn to Joe with this revelation when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. There one old vulture stood swaying, her wings half spread, her head back and beak to the sky. Slowly, as though it cost her a great effort, she turned and looked directly into Adam's eyes, her sorrow and pain telegraphed to him clearly. She tried to take a step towards him as though he had called to her. But one foot was mangled and she couldn't complete the motion. Instead she fell in a heap of dulled black feathers, one wing as though reaching a hand towards Adam.

"Adam," Joe called cautiously, coming up alongside where Adam sat transfixed by what he had seen, "I think these vultures died of starvation."

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