Slapout: Chapter 08

Wednesday Briefs

Small time town with big time drama.


Chapter 08

Cullen led his horse from its stall as he prepared to check the flocks. Eli had found the remains of a lamb yesterday so today he was not only checking for birthing issues, but something was getting past the dogs. He slid his rifle into the saddle holster and swung into the horse. The sun would break above the horizon in a few minutes and the day would begin its climb to the staggering heat typical for this time of the year. He enjoyed the early morning silence of the ranch. It seemed quieter here on the high plains than at his family’s farm in Georgia. It might not be as hot back home, but the humidity in the southeast made the air so thick it felt like you could slice it with a knife.

The horse eased to a stop at the gate and Cullen worked past the obstacle. He made his way to the south, and the first water tank in the pasture. Cullen released the windmill, and water began filling the trough. He liked to fill it each day even though it would have lasted for several days. He followed the adage his grandfather always gave about planning for the future.

Once the windmill functioned without a problem, he continued over a ridge marking a change in the terrain. The terrain became broken with grazing becoming much more scattered than closer to the headquarters. He eased the horse onto one trail, worn into the ground by generations of animals moving across the landscape.

After several minutes of searching, he heard the faint sound of the ewes and their guardian dogs. But he could tell by the sounds there was a problem. Cullen hoped he’d showed up early enough to prevent more losses. He urged the horse to a lope toward the flock. He topped the hill to find the sheep packed tight together with the dogs circling them.

Cullen studied the scene and spotted a ewe separated from the flock, and it looked like she was lambing. A few seconds more and he saw the cause of distress for the sheep and the dogs. He caught motion slinking under the camouflage of a clump of sagebrush.

A coyote. No, damn it. A pair.

He grabbed his rifle, snapped it to his shoulder and aimed.  The crack of gunfire echoed across the barren landscape.

“Shit!” Cullen yelled as the pair of predators disappeared. He knew this wouldn’t be the last time they used Eli’s flock as a moving buffet. To make matters worse, they probably had pups. But there was nothing he could do about the coyote right now.

He pulled the mare toward the ewe. She was circling a small area, refusing to go further than a few yards.

She’s got a lamb. Where is it?

Cullen swung his leg over the saddle and dropped to the ground. He let the reins trail from his hands as he searched the surroundings that didn’t seem to contain enough cover for a mouse. After a few steps, he realized the ewe could lead him to her baby.

He stood still and watched the wooly mama. A few minutes passed with them at an impasse before Cullen took a step toward one of the tiny clumps, and the ewe about lost her shit. He squatted and reached inside the grass and his hand landed on a damp textured something.

It didn’t take long to realize he had two newborns on his hands still wet from amniotic fluid, and one upset ewe.

“Take it easy, mama. We’ll get you and your little ones back to the barns. You just be patient.”

He carried two tiny lambs to his horse and after a few seconds realized this would be more of a challenge than he thought. But he got the lambs between him and the saddle horn. The calls of the two little ones and the protests from the mother would make this a long trip.


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