A short 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 tree line.”
      “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 back.
      “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 position.”
      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, Jubal. Wolves.”
      “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 ever-deeper snow.
      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 round.
      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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