Damn Pup

“Where’d that damn pup get to now?” Old Pete muttered as he and the mule reached the rocky outcropping that overlooked the southern part of the valley. He could see through the ponderosa into a good stretch of grassland below, but there was no evidence of the curly-haired black Indian dog. Pete shook his head in disgust, jammed his rabbit-fur hat farther down on his head, and snapped the mule’s lead rope impatiently.

At least the mule didn’t need voice direction. Which was more than could be said for the dog, but Pete wasn’t callin’ the damn thing, no matter how aggravated he might feel. There’d likely be Jicarilla Apaches roamin’ the valley for elk, and Pete was taking no chance of being found before he wanted to be. The dog could go to hell, for all he cared. He grunted irritably as he worked his way down the hillside. Idiot pup.

He paused at the tree line, getting his bearings, the air crisp on his face. A light snow powdered the ground. A good-sized elk herd was bunched on the hillside to his left. He squinted. They seemed a mite restless. Then he saw the wolves, eight or nine of them waiting downwind while two big ones trotted the herd’s perimeter, checking for weakness.

Then he caught the sound of a low whine emanating from the prickly ground-hugging branches of a nearby juniper. As Pete watched, the black pup eased from the tree’s grip and came to crouch at his feet, tail between its legs. It looked anxiously toward the elk and whined again.

“Not as dumb as I took ya fer,” Old Pete said, readjusting his hat.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Apache Canyon

There was a reason it was called Apache Canyon and Old Pete proceeded cautiously, aware that there’d been a recent outbreak of hostilities between the Jicarillas and the locals. Somebody had gotten twitchy-brained and shot off their gun without thinkin’ twice and now the whole Sangre de Cristos was on edge. Didn’t matter that he’d had no part in the original quarrel.

However, Pete hadn’t seen a soul in three days, and he was beginning to think he was gonna get to Taos in one piece after all, if the damn half-grown dog taggin’ him would quit wanderin’ off then comin’ back, widening the scent trail with his idiot nosin’ around. Pete scowled as the puppy reappeared, this time from a thicket of scrub oak, dead leaves rattling on the ground. The dog went into a half-crouch as it came closer. It was holding something in its mouth, its curly black tail drooping anxiously.

“What ya got there?” Pete asked. He squatted and held out his hand and the dog released the item into his palm. “Shit!” Pete said, dropping it. Then he leaned closer and sniffed. It really was shit. Human, too. Fresh enough to still stink. He rose, studying the slopes on either side, turning to examine the pass behind him. So much for bein’ alone.

“Thankee pup,” he muttered. “I think.”

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson