Deets had always been partial to the moon, watched it often, thought about it much. To him it was a more interesting and a more affecting thing than the sun, which shone on every day in much the same fashion.
But the moon changed. It moved around the sky; it waxed and waned. On the nights when it rose full and yellow over the plains around Lonesome Dove, it seemed so close that a man could almost ride over with a ladder and step right onto it. Deets had even imagined doing it, a few times--propping a ladder against the old full moon, and stepping on. If he did it, one thing was sure: Mr. Gus would have something to talk about for a long time. Deets had to grin at the mere thought of how excited Mr. Gus would get if he took off and rode the moon. For he thought of it like a ride, something he might just do for a night or two when things were slow. Then, when the moon came back close to Lonesome Dove, he would step off and walk back home. It would surprise them all.
Other times, though, the moon rode so high that Deets had to come to his senses and admit that no man could really ride on it. When he imagined himself up there, on the thin little hook that hung above him white as a tooth, he almost got dizzy from his own imagining and had to try harder to pay attention to what was happening on the ground.
Still, when there was nothing to see around him but a few horses sucking water, he could always rest himself by watching the moon and the sky. He loved clear nights and hated clouds--when it was cloudy he felt deprived of half the world. His fear of Indians, which was deep, was tied to his sense that the moon had powers that neither white men nor black men understood. He had heard Mr. Gus talk about the moon moving the waters, and though he had glimpsed the ocean many times, by the Matagorda, he had not been able to get a sense of how the moon moved it.
But he was convinced that the Indians understood the moon. He had never talked with an Indian about it, but he knew they had more names for it than white people had, and that suggested a deeper understanding. The Indians were less busy and would naturally have more time to study such things. It had always seemed to Deets that it was lucky for the whites that the Indians had never gained full control over the moon. He had dreamed once, after the terrible battle of Fort Phantom Hill, that the Indians had managed to move the moon over by one of those little low hills that were all over west Texas. They had got it to pause by the edge of a mountain so they could leap their horses onto it. It still occurred to him at times that such a thing might have happened, and that there were Comanches or possibly Kiowa riding around on the moon. Often, when the moon was full and yellow, and close to the earth, he got the strong feeling that Indians were on it. It was a fearful feeling, one he had never discussed with any man. The Indians hated the whites and if they got control of the moon--which was said to control the waters--then terrible things might happen. The Indians could have the moon suck all of the water out of the wells and rivers, or else turn it all to salt, like the ocean. That would be the end, and a hard end at that.
But when the moon was just a little white hook, Deets tended to lose his worries. After all, water was still sweet, except for an alkaline river or two, like the Pecos. Perhaps if the Indians got on the moon, they had all fallen off.