Murder in the Middle Pasture

volume

4

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Hank faces a baffling new mystery which begins with the death of a calf on the ranch. Hank goes on a very dangerous mission to spy on the coyote village and arrest the murderer. A pack of wild dogs also complicates the plot. It takes all of Hank’s deductive powers to solve this one!

 

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The Case of the Wild Hogs

It's me again, Hank the Cowdog. On December 19, we got a snow. On December 20, it snowed again. On December 21 the overflow of the septic tank froze up, making it impossible for me to bathe.

By December 22 we had four inches of snow on the ground and fellers, it was cold. It was that morning, at approximately 9:00 o'clock, that I awoke from a deep sleep and noticed something very peculiar.

My bed was shaking. My bed consisted of two old gunnysacks and under normal conditions it didn't shake. Something strange was afoot, and it was my job to check it out.

I opened one eye, perked one ear, and I sniffed the air. In the security business we call this a preliminary scan. In other words, at that point I wasn't using all my sensory equipment. There's no sense in squandering your gifts, no matter how many you have.

Well, I sniffed and I looked and I listened. I smelled diesel fuel but I always smelled diesel in my bedroom because the tank on the north side leaked and the cowboys on our outfit were too lazy to fix it. Now, if they'd had a fuel leak in THEIR bedrooms, they would have fixed it pronto, but this was only Hank's bedroom so nobody was worried about it.

Anyway, I sniffed and I looked and I listened. And then I heard it: a strange grunting sound. And my bed was shaking again. I had no choice but to open my other eye and put my other ear into service.

I scanned the area from horizon to horizon and suddenly realized that there was something in my bed—something small, white, short-haired, and stub-tailed.
"Drover?"
"Uhhh."
"Drover?"
"Huh?"
"Get out of my bed."
"What?" He lifted his head and stared at me. His eyes were out of focus. "Hank, is that you?"
"Who else would be in my bed at this hour?"
"I don't know. Oh Hank, I had a terrible dream!"
"You're fixing to have a genuine nightmare if you don't get your carcass out of my bed."
"I dreamed we had snow on the ground and it was bitter cold and I was freezing and . . ." He looked around. "Oh my gosh, my dream's come true."

"This is your lucky day, son. Now scram."
He raised up and stood there shivering. "Oh Hank, I'm so cold and miserable! Let me stay in bed with you where it's warm."
"No dice. Did you know that you grunt in your sleep?"
He stared at me. "Grunt?"
"That's right. You're worse than a bunch of hogs. A guy can't sleep with all that nonsense going on in his bed."
"No, that wasn't me, Hank, honest it wasn't. I woke up in the night and I could have sworn I saw," he rolled his eyes around and dropped his voice to a whisper, "a bunch of hogs—right over there!"

"Do you expect me to believe that?" He nodded. I chuckled. "Well, I've got news for you, Drover. I don't believe anything I hear and only half of what I see, so there's very little chance that I'll swallow your story."
"Well, okay. Sure was a good one though."
"I'm sure it was. Now, if you'll just . . . were they wild hogs or domestic?"
"Wild."
"Nonsense. We don't have wild hogs around here. What makes you think they were wild?"
"Well, they had big long white things . . ."
"We call them tusks. Go on."
"And wicked red eyes . . ."
"Hm. Keep going."
"And four legs . . ."
"That fits."
"And they were grunting, Hank."
"Wait a minute, hold it. They were grunting?"

"Yeah, they sure were. Does that mean anything?" "Possibly so, Drover, but before we jump to any hasty conclusions, I have one last question. It is possible that they released a type of odor from their musk glands that smelled exactly like diesel fuel?"
He rolled his eyes. "I think maybe they did, Hank, I'm almost a hundred percent sure they did." "Well, there we are, Drover. Now that I've managed to drag the testimony out of you, what we have here is the Case of the Wild Hogs."
"Wild hogs! Oh my gosh!"
"Yes indeed. They're armed with enormous tusks and extremely dangerous. You ever go oneon- one against a wild hog?"

"Heck no."
"Well, let me tell you, they're bad mocus. They can rip your guts out with one slash. They can chew your ears off with one bite. They're fast, they're quick, they're utterly heartless."
"Oh!"
"Our first objective is to find out what they're doing on this ranch without permission. Our second objective is to run 'em off the ranch without getting ourselves cut up into a dozen pieces."
"What are we gonna do?"
"I just happen to have a plan."
"Thank goodness!"
"If you'll shut your little yap and let me finish."
"Okay."

I drew out the battle plan in the snow. "We're here at Point Abel. Over here we have Point Baker and over here Point Charlie. As you can see, the three points form a triangle."
"Oh."
"I'll proceed to Point Baker, over here, and then sneak over to Point Charlie, right here. We'd best hold you in reserve here at Point Abel."
"You mean . . . I have to stay here and guard the gunnysacks? You won't let me get out in the snow?"
"That's correct. When it comes to tracking wild hogs, we use only the first string."
"Oh drat."

"If you see anything suspicious, sound the alarm. You got all that?" He nodded. "All right, that covers it. Good luck. I'll be in communication."
At that moment, I spotted Pete the Barncat up by the yard fence. He rubbed up against the corner post and he was purring like a little motorboat. How do you suppose a cat does that? I've tried it a hundred times and I've never been able to purr.

I loped up the hill to check him out. "Morning, Hankie. Did you find any monsters in the night?"
"Funny you should ask. As a matter of fact, yes, and I've got some questions for you."
"Oh good. I just love to answer questions."
"Number one, did you see any wild hogs around here in the early morning hours?"
"Hmmm, wild hogs. How many?"
"I don't know, four, five, six?"
"No. I didn't see four, five, or six."
"How many did you see?"
"Seven."
"Why didn't you say so?"
"Well, you asked if I saw . . ."
"Never mind what I asked! What we're after is right answers, not right questions. It doesn't take any brains to ask the right question, but I wouldn't expect a cat to know that. Which way were they going?"
"Who?"
"The wild hogs, you dunce."
"Oh." He licked one of his paws. "Which way do you think they were going?"
"East."

"That's right, Hankie. You're pretty sharp." "You may have been crazy when you got here, cat, but you're talking sense now. That's all for the moment, but don't leave the ranch. I may have some more questions for you."
He grinned. "Any time, Hankie. Good luck with the wild hogs." Off he went, twitching the end of his tail back and forth.
I never did like that twitching business. Really gets under my skin, makes me mad.