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Green Mountain Rustlers: Short Stories of the West
Sandy’s dog , Spot, usually stays around the horses . The dog and the horses do seem to have a way of understanding each other. Never saw another dog quite like it. Some dogs will act up around horses and keep them edgy, but Spot helps keep them calm. Some years ago a traveling show came through here with a “mentalist ” showin’ he could read what folks were thinking. Jus’ like he could see inside their heads. Spot and the horses is a lot like that.
I knows that Sandy and Spot can read each other’s sign. Sandy gives signals to Spot and he can figure out Spot from his actions. But the dog and horses I jus’ can’t figure. Anyways it seems to work out pretty good.
I don’t run a big herd by Western standards but I get’s by pretty good. I took Sandy on when him and that dog seemed rather lost with no place to go. If he warn’t deaf I’d a thought he should be in school, but we’d have to teach a teacher before they could teach him. He’s young but he catches on to things quick. Now he’s started working for Sarah at the newspaper and larnin’ words an’ such by helpin’ set up them lead letters they’s call type. With him and Spot, my herd does well enough.
As I say, it’s not a big herd but big enough to not miss a few horses without doin’ a tally. With the dog seemingly gone I pondered if the some horses could be run off. If so, did they take the dog too?
Looking for Sign
I spent about an hour riding around the area hopin’ to pick up sign. A long shot but a person might have a bit of luck and find something”. But an hour of riding in circles didn’t get me much of anywhere’s though. Then I see a lone rider comin’ my way. As he got closer I could see it Jason Taylor, our new sheriff .
“You missin’ some horses ?” he asked.
“Don’t rightly know. Sandy’s dog ain’t here. Sandy’ll be fit to be tied if somthin’ happened to that dog .”
“Chief Red Eagle from the reservation told me he thought he saw the spotted dog but it was not with the horses. The Indians feel there is something special about that dog ,” Jason said.
“Well it is a pretty special dog , especially to Sandy. What’d the chief have to say?”
“Only that he saw a dog that looked a lot like Spot. When he sidled over toward the dog it more or less disappeared in the rocks at the foot of Green Mountain Road.
The dog would keep off the road he said but every once in awhile he’d stop and act like he was listening for something. But Sandy’s dog can’t hear.”
“C’mon Sheriff . How many spotted dogs like that have you seen around here?”
I’ve seen pictures of dogs like Spot. It’s a breed called Dalmatian. The pictures were in big city fire departments. It would show the dog trotting along beside or even between the horses pulling the fire wagon. You probably wouldn’t find a dog like him within five hundred miles of here. Which brings up the question of where Sandy found him and how they ended up here.
The sheriff was right that the dog can’t be listening. But what was he doin’? Derned if maybe he does have that gift the mentalist was showing off on stage—but was that for real of just a stage act?
The Newspaper Office
Well. I headed for the newspaper office. It was pretty much one big room with a desk near the door and a small showcase for folks who wanted to buy notepaper and such. Sarah, the publisher, was there and I asked her where Sandy was.
“I thought he was out at your place.”
I told her about neither Sandy or his dog being with the herd. She started to get a worried look on her face. “But you say Red Eagle thought he saw the dog near the road leading to the mountain? He did ask me permission to take some time to look into a story but didn’t want to tell me what it was until he knew more about it.”
“Somethin’ ‘bout this don’t feel right to me,” I said.
Sarah told John, her typesetter to take over for now while we went to look for Sandy and Spot. I feared we might run into some danger and I was wary of taking a woman along, not hat she gave me much choice. When Sarah makes up her mind, it’s made up. “We’ll see if my dog Buddy can track Spot,” she said as she got her buggy out.
Looking for Spot
“Best check your guns to make shur they’s loaded, I said remembering a recent incident when she bluffed some outlaws with an empty shotgun. Not sure if she done that a purpose or not. With Sarah it’s hard to tell.
I was honestly more worried that her buggy would make too much noise or be spotted, but we went ahead. Usually she lets Buddy ride with her, but this time she told him to find Spot and he took off running. Sarah let me take the lead since I was a horseback and less likely to get hung up by rocks and such.
I thought I saw Spot among the rocks. I slowed and signaled to Sarah to hold back. I should have thought to bring some field glasses along. I don’t usually carry them unless I’m out huntin’
Like Red Eagle told the Sheriff the dog looked to be listening for something. If that don’ beat all. How could a deaf dog be listening? Buddy ran up to Spot—happy as can be, but Spot didn’t greet him too friendly like. Then Buddy acted like he was listening for something. I got down off my horse and gave the reins to Sarah to tether to the buggy. She sensed something and took a rifle from the holster she had by the seat.
Don’t rightly know what I sensed but I started walking toward the dogs. I tried listening and focused all my energy into it. No sounds. Then it struck me. I felt just the faintest quiver almost tickled my feet. That’s what the dogs felt. They most probably took a stance like listentin’ out of instinct.
I climbed the rocks closer to the dogs until I could see over the rocks. Danged if I didn’t see Sandy there. He had his hand to the ground. I sidled over to him and asked him what the devil he was doin’ out here an’ making everybody worry bout what he’s up to. He signed that he told Sarah he had a possible story and he was jus’ checkin’ it out. He noticed sign that horses had been driven through here lately, maybe at night when nobody was lookin’.
He pointed out where horses might have been driven through in small groups. No real tracks, probably been brushed out. Sometimes in the late evening going by here he’s feel the vibrations of the horse’s hoofs. Truthfully, after he pointed it out I could see where some rocks had been disturbed.
His plan was to set a trap once he was sure. He wanted to ease up on where he thought the horses were and see what was what. If it was clear of more than a couple of guards he would send spot in to lead the horses out.
“Wait a minute,” signed. “How do you know it isn’t some rancher holding his horses here?”
“Why would any rancher bring his horses into these rocks?”
We could sure check it out. I got my horse from Sarah and asked her to fetch the Sheriff. Sandy would fill her in later.
When the Sheriff came back with Sarah we inched our way up the rocks until we could see a small corral. What we saw was the oddest mixture of horses I ever did see. Just off hand I saw a Zebra dun, A couple buckskin, a few sorrel, and chestnut. Don’t generally find a mixture like that in a herd. Lookin’ closer, I think, I spotted a couple of my own.
The horses were skittish though from being fenced in where there warn’t much to eat. Might be hwy we heard vibrations from their hoofs.
Sandy signaled his dog to go talk to the horses and lead them back. Where we would be waiting. The sheriff had also brought Red Eagle an a couple of braves to help if we needed them.
The rustlers had a smart idea of stealing jus’ a horse of two here and there so they wouldn’t be missed right away. Might have got away with it if it weren’t for the observations of a deaf boy.
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund