The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Diana Pierce

 

 

The Bounty on Wolves

Spring was in the air. The Lancer ranch was bubbling with new life. Calves, fowls, piglets, and every baby animal one would expect to see on a ranch such as this was making their appearance.  It was an extra heart touching experience to watch them run and play.  But live stock was not the only species multiplying.  Wildlife was plentiful as well and some put danger in its place to add to the ranchers problems of living in a vast uncivilized world.

Murdoch Lancer was talking with his foreman outside the coral. “Senor Lancer, de wolves attack. You want to send hunters?”  Murdoch's jaw drops, “Yes, send a group after them, but don't send so many the cattle aren't protected. Did you get a shot at them?”  The Mexican shakes his head, “Si, senor, hit one. Pack is big. We lose many calves already, senor.”

Later that day at the dinner table, Murdoch informs his sons about the wolves. “We have a problem with wolves. I sent some cowhands to hunt them.”  Scott looks at him, “I heard about it. A huge pack could destroy us. We better keep the herd guarded, especially at night until we encourage the pack to leave.”  Murdoch scratches his head, “I know that. We'll have to work in shifts, but this means some pretty tired cowhands. We'll need to hire more help. I think you and Johnny better ride into town. Maybe you can find some men to either hunt wolves or tend cattle. I don't know what else to do.”  Johnny wipes his face with a napkin and lays it on the table as he stands up. “Let's go right now, Scott.”  He heads out the door. Murdoch looks at Scott, “He's right, you need to go now.”

Sometime later, Johnny and Scott walk into the saloon. They walk up to the bar and order beer. Johnny looks around the less than busy establishment. “Where we going to find help? I thought this would be the best place to look. Not many here.”  Scott nods his head, “I thought so, too. Let's talk to those guys sitting over by the door.” A table with four Mexicans and a white man who are playing cards caught their attention. Scott addresses them, “We are looking to hire on at Lancer. We got trouble with wolves. Any of you guys hunt or if not we could use extra cowhands until the wolf problem dies down.”  They look up from the card game and the American in the group says, “I ain't much at tracking, but reckon I could knock one down if I got a shot at one. I hadn't planned on taking on a full time job. If this is only temporary though, yeah you can count me in.”  Johnny looks at him, “We hope it's only temporary. We need all the help we can find. These other fellas speak English? You guys need work?”  Three of the amigos agree to go with them. Scott left word with the bartender to pass the word along. They stop by the sheriff's office before leaving town and posted a bounty for wolves shot on Lancer ground. The sheriff laughs. “Heck, five dollars a head. Maybe I ought to be hunting wolves.”

The word was spread, but only four men return to Lancer with the two brothers. They greet the foreman and explain what they expect will help with the wolf trouble. They leave the new recruits with him and ride to the house to inform Murdoch. Murdoch is very impressed with his sons, “You two amaze me. Good idea posting a bounty, but five bucks is a bit steep isn't it?”  Scott stares at him, “Money talks, Sir. It will be worth it if we're rid of them.” Johnny says, “We only found four men to hire. Maybe this bounty will bring hunters here, so we can spare our cowhands from doing it.”  Murdoch shook his head, “I hope so. We can't afford to lose many more calves and if one freshens in their present we're likely to lose the cow, too. Hungry wolves can smell hot blood for miles.”

A few days had gone by. Not one wolf had been eliminated and their nightly feast consisted of veal stole right under the noses of the men on guard. It was bad enough calves were taken, but the drama scattered cattle in all directions. Help was not coming soon enough and Murdoch knew they were facing big trouble. He decided him and his sons should spend some time of their own on this hunt.  Jelly and Teresa would have to do the chores there on their own until he could free up some help.  He left money with them and his foreman in case someone came to collect the bounty on wolves.

The three gear up and head out toward the areas where a wolf den was most likely to be. They come across some caves. They find a wolf den with a big female snarling at them by the entrance. Murdoch aims his shotgun and fires on her bringing her down. Another wolf comes growling at them, Scott took that one out. Johnny sneaks a look inside the den and finds six half grown pups. They didn't appear dangerous, but he knew what he had to do. He hangs his head for a moment and then he empties his six-gun into the litter.  Johnny knew this was no time to suddenly get soft hearted. These cute fluffy critters would grow up with the same appetite for beef their parents have. This would be six less after their cattle. Johnny climbs back in his saddle a bit sober faced, “Reckon that makes eight of them not having beef for dinner.” Scott looks at him, “You mean all six of those shots took out a wolf?”  Murdoch nods, “Pups, I reckon. Sorry, Johnny I know it's hard to shoot the ones who don't threaten us.  But they grow up.”  Johnny hadn't realized how easily Murdoch could read his thoughts before.   ”You're right, sir.  The little ones have to go, too.”

As they travel on across the rugged terrain for a couple of days, they manage to kill three more wolves, but seen many that escaped them. Then they meet up with a group of men who were seeking the bounty.  At least, a dozen men had already killed a few wolves and informed Murdoch they had collected the bounty from his foreman. They insisted they would continue for as long as it took. Murdoch and his sons were relieved to hear this and decided to head home as they were in bad need of a good night sleep.

It was nearly night fall when the Lancers returned to the ranch.  They could see a light shining through the barn door. They took care of their horses and entered the barn.  Teresa's bay mare was in deep distress as she was trying to foul lying on the barn floor. Jelly was doing what he could, but nothing seemed to help. Teresa is trying to comfort her horse. “Come on, girl. You can do it push, girl, push.” Johnny tries to assist, “I think it's twisted. If I could only reach it.”  He stretches his arm as far as he can into the mare. He no more than catches hold of a little hoof when it slips away from him. “Hand me a rope, Teresa.” Murdoch and Scott watch as Johnny gently delivers a new life.  The rope was tied with a small loop and Johnny was able to get a tight enough grip on the foul to turn him enough so the mare could push him out. The little colt does not breathe right away, but after clearing its nostrils and blowing softly in his face. Johnny proudly saves him. Both mother and son are now standing. The colt quickly enjoys his first taste of mother's milk.

Hungry and tired the group retreats to the house. There was a lot to talk about at the end of a better day than any of them had witnessed in quite some time. Murdoch says, “Johnny, you should have been a vet. Guess you know you're Teresa's hero today.”  Johnny smiles, “Well, guess either of you guys could have done it.”  Scott shakes his head, “Can't say as I ever helped deliver one before. Glad I was able to see it.”  Johnny looks at him, “Now that you're not pampered with that city life, bet you'll be doing more things like us regular people have to do.” Scott wasn't quite sure what his brother said wasn't an insult to him, but he left it alone.

Over the next few days, well over a hundred dollars had been paid out for the wolf bounty. There hasn't been any more calves taken and Lancer is beginning to get back to somewhat normal activity. The four temporary men employed decided to stay and the bounty was left enforce.  At least it was an insurance their herd would grow without the disturbance of wolves. If only other problems they've faced could have been solved that easy.

Teresa is admiring her new colt as Johnny walks up beside her near the coral. “He sure is a nice one, Teresa. Got a name picked out?”  She smiles at him, “Thought I'd call him Lucky. Sure was lucky you guys got back when you did. We may not have been able to save him with everyone gone after wolves. Thank you, Johnny.”  Johnny chuckles, “You're more than welcome. You don't have to keep thanking me.”  She grins, “I know. It's just these baby animals are so special and it's so sad to see one die.”  Johnny gives her a serious look. “I had to kill some wolf pups, it kind of tore at me, thinking how cute they were and me having to destroy them. I'm glad you haven't had to see me do that, Teresa.”  She could see he felt bad and she knew he loved animals as much as she did. “Johnny, I know you have a big heart. It saved them from being shot later and you probably saved a lot of calves, too. Not all animals can live together. We just have to hope the wolves will feed on something besides beef if they live around here.”  Somehow she set his mind at ease, but he had trouble with guilt every time he had to kill whether good reason was there or not.  These are feelings one would never expect from a former gun fighter.

 

 

~ end ~

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