Shadow of The Grizzly Excerpt 3

Shadow of the GrizzlyAs he returned to work, Clint noticed a low sound, concentrated on it, and realized it was a quiet whining. He searched the yard with his gaze, but could not find the source. Had one of the dogs stayed behind? He walked toward the house and rounded the corner. Floppy-eared, red as a bay horse, the hound lay under some buckbrush a few feet from the house. At Clint’s approach, the dog inched forward on his belly, his head canting from one side to the other, his tail wagging.

Clint knelt down beside him. The animal carried a wicked gash in his side, festered and putrid.

Billy ran up behind Clint and leaned down with his hands on his knees. “Gol’darn! They left one of their dogs.”

“This ol’ fellow stayed of his own accord because he was having trouble keeping up … and I don’t want to hear you swearing!” Billy glanced up guiltily. “Fetch him some scraps from the smokehouse, Billy boy.” The boy hurried away and Clint rose, rounded the house, and yelled to Ramón.

“Hey, amigo, we need some doctoring over here.”

The slender vaquero hurried away from his job at the wall and joined him. “What happened?” he asked, worried that something was wrong with Clint or Billy.

“The Stokes boys left us a boarder. But a sick one.”

Within moments, they were holding the redbone hound while Ramón cleaned the wound. The dog didn’t like it, but he didn’t complain much considering how it must have pained him. He seemed to sense they were helping him. He ate a little and drank some water Billy brought him, then crawled back under the buckbrush and fell quickly asleep and the men returned to their job.

As Billy carried mortar, he kept up a barrage of questions, directed at whoever was closest.

“Can we name him?”

“You name him, Billy.”

“Whose dog will he be?”

“He’s the Stokeses’, at least until we know they’ve left him for good.”

“Then whose will he be?’

“Why don’t we let him decide, if it comes to that? He’ll probably favor whoever feeds him and takes good care of him … and that includes keeping his mess outta the yard here.” That brought a wink between the men.

“Is he gonna get well?”

“The good Lord is the only one who knows that,” Clint answered.

And on and on, until even Ramón had tired of his questions when Billy started repeating himself the third time.

“Young Guillermo, go and check your pots,” Ramón suggested. “Before someone mistakes you for a magpie and takes a slingshot to you.”

“Yes, sir,” Billy said. He ran for the house.

“Do you think they’ll be back for the dog?” Gideon asked as they began to clean up and gather their tools.

“They had more than a dozen hounds,” Clint answered. “I doubt if they’ll miss this one.” He secretly hoped they wouldn’t. A dog, he suddenly realized, would add to the rancho. And Billy needed a friend.