sample from the start of Brannigan Rides Again
Reining in his horse, Jubal Pearce pointed off
to the left. “There she is, Pa. Down in the valley. Just comin’ out of the
“I see her, boy.” Aaron Pearce pulled his horse
up alongside Jubal and leaned forward. The sun’s late-afternoon glare was
bouncing off scattered patches of snow and ice that still dotted the
high-mountain valley floor, and Aaron had to squint against it.
Jubal’s buckskin cocked his ears toward the
mare in the valley, then he stretched out his neck and nickered. A quarter
mile away, the chestnut mare in question tossed her flaxen mane and whinnied
“Look close,” Aaron said. “Her bellies
dropped; she’s about ready to foal.”
“Ginger’s never wandered away before, Pa.
Why’d she leave like that?”
Aaron’s face screwed up into wrinkles. “I
figure mares are kinda like women, son, they get restless just before giving
birth. In Ginger’s case, maybe walkin’ helps ease the foal into better
In the valley below, Ginger suddenly squealed
and broke into a hard run across a treeless stretch, her distended belly
swaying. Crackling noises swept up the ridge as the mare’s hoofs crashed
through the frozen crust covering a broad strip of wind-swept snow.
A puzzled look on his face, Jubal asked,
“Why’s she running, Pa?”
“Can’t be from us,” Aaron said. He turned and
scanned the swath of snow-encrusted pine trees behind the mare. “Oh shit,
“I see ’em, Pa. Oh God, they’re after Ginger.”
Jubal spun his buckskin to face the downhill drop-off, then touched spurs to
the horse’s tan flanks.
Lunging forward onto the steep slope, the
horse immediately squatted on his haunches as he slid over bare rock and
loose soil made slick by melting ice. Head down, forelegs pushing one way
then the other, the horse slalomed downward, racing a following avalanche of
ice-covered dirt and rock.
Yelling and whooping to scare the wolves,
Jubal urged his horse down the slope toward Ginger, now struggling through
Their dark and silent shadows flitting easily
across icy crusts, the wolf pack closed in on the fleeing mare. The lead
wolf, his body low, legs stretching for distance, drew ahead of the rest.
Still on the ridge, Aaron Pearce pulled a
.30-30 Winchester rifle from the scabbard lashed to his saddle. He aimed at
the pack leader now almost upon Ginger. “Got to be three hundred yards,”
Aaron muttered. “Too damn far.” Then, holding his breath, he squeezed off a
The targeted wolf didn’t break stride. Nor did
others in the pack.
Jubal heard the shot, knew it missed, and
realized he’d be too late. He screamed into the wind, “Noooooo!”
* * *
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