Tales from a Texas Ranch from a City Boy with a Cowboy Hat
So… I mowed the yard, worked on the tractor, resuscitated the old chainsaw, walked the old fence line along the south boundary of the house compound surveying its replacement after last year’s wildfire, and kicked at Skunk the dog who had chewed up the hummingbird feeder as well as the yard hose while I was gone, cursing him roundly as Sierra the Dog skulked aside thinking I was cursing at her.
(Made me feel bad….she didn’t know the difference between my cursing at Skunk or her)
“Okay,” I said to meownself, since there wasn’t anyone else around to understand English. “Let’s go check the hog traps.”
So, I loaded up Sierra the Dog and Skunk into the back seat of my four-door Ford pickup and off we went to check the traps. Sun would set in about two hours I figured.
As I drove, the two dogs lolled their heads (and tongues) out the Ford’s right rear window, which I had lowered for their enjoyment, Sierra the Dog trying to grab every mesquite branch that came close to her window and put scratches on my truck paint job.
There were carpets of beautiful yellow flowers and green grass on either side of the bumpy road as we drove.
Who would’ve thought that just one year ago, today, the whole earth was afire (at least as far as I was concerned…if you don’t remember, we had a fairly serious wildfire here).
Anyway, I drove by Houston Windmill where the trapper had had his hog trap set earlier in the week.
“He must’ve moved it,” I thought.
Thinking I’d check with him later about that, I continued to bump along the ranch road to what we call the Hunter’s Cabin. My family leases a portion of our ranch to a fine group of hunting lessees out of Dallas.
The sky was West Texas blue, nary a cloud, wind gusting maybe 20 miles-per-hour and the sun was settling into the western horizon.
Sierra the Dog and Skunk, shoulder to shoulder, stood on the right-rear armrest taking in the passing panorama as we bumped along the ranch road.
As I pulled up to the Hunter’s Cabin, the first thing I noticed was that the front door of the Hunter’s Cabin was wide open, screen door and all.
By this time, Sierra the Dog was going bonkers in the back seat…Skunk, confused (he’s not as smart as Sierra the Dog) was concerned about her agitated state.
“Uh oh,” I said to myself, and turned off the engine of my truck, right after raising all the windows of the pickup to about four inches of open; dogs can’t get out of four inches of open truck windows.
Being one of those types that suffer a certain degree of paranoia in these days and times in Texas, even in north central Texas, I was cautious.
A completely open door, on a dwelling that should have had the door closed and locked. What?
Yep…I was a bit fidgety. And I was alone, except for two bone-headed dogs.
Looking across the gate at the open doors at the Hunter’s Cabin, I pulled the keys out of the ignition (I don’t trust Skunk…he might want to try and drive off in the Ford pickup).
I eased out of the pickup door, grabbing a Taurus handgun (“The Judge,” they call it….basically a shotgun pistol).
I shut the truck door and looked back inside as I did so, to see two, very excited dogs painting their noses against the inside glass of the truck window.
They know me well enough, so when I put my finger to my lips in a “shush” gesture, they backed off a bit.
I opened the iron gate, as quietly as I could and approached the open front door and stopped immediately in my tracks.
There, in the darkened shadows of the hallway interior of the Hunter’s Cabin stood, on its hind legs, a very furry animal, gazing directly at me, as I gazed at it.
In a flash, it disappeared, into the shadows beyond.
Now knowing that I wasn’t dealing with a terrorist (at least of the human kind) or a member of Mexican drug cartel (I already told you I’m kind of paranoid), I strode forward up the steps and into the house, “The Judge” in hand.
I heard claw-like scurrying around the cabin…to the left, then to the right, as I searched.
There! A dash across the hallway, by the bathroom!
I raised “The Judge” quickly, but too late.
As I hunted, I noticed that his varmint had been here a while.
There was detritus everywhere…gnawed up clothing, a chewed-up leftover potato, eating utensils strewn about, shelf-stored ammunition scattered on the floor, cabinet doors wide open, scat here and there, and, oddly, a neat little pile of eviscerated sponge in a corner of the kitchen.
I continued to hunt the varmint, not thinking of the open door through which I had entered.
Then…a scratching noise in the dining area, near the back door!
As I rounded the corner from the hallway with “The Judge” raised and ready, the setting sun showing through the windows, the raccoon, was apparently trying to make its exit out the back door. Then noticing me, it ambled, I mean almost casually, underneath the dining table, out of my sight.
I crouched to get a better aim under the table, where I knew it was.
Well, in an instant, it dashed, as quickly as a blink, right past me, to my right, headed for the front door!
I fell on my butt, twisted right and fired “The Judge” at the fleeing varmint…No. 4 shot 410, close range.
It tumbled with a thud against the wall, almost to the hallway, twitched a couple of times, and died.
That’s when I saw the rattlesnake!
It was smallish but it was coiled up in the corner of the kitchen, underneath the cabinets, by the stove, about 10 feet away from where I sat on my butt. It flicked its tongue but didn’t rattle.
I wouldn’t have seen it had I been standing.
I was inclined to shoot it with “The Judge” since I had four more rounds of No. 4 shot but decided not to because of the damage I would do to the kitchen cabinet.
So, standing up, I pulled the little .22 Magnum derringer from my pocket that I keep there specifically for rattlesnakes, and shot it with rat shot. One time was enough. It died there in the corner of the kitchen.
It was about two feet long. But I don’t like rattlesnakes, regardless of size.
After disposing of the snake and coon carcasses and wiping up the blood residue, I returned to my pickup where Sierra the Dog and Skunk lavished me with serious tongue-licking, wondering, methinks, why they had not been included in the episode.
Anyway, for an old fart like me, it was an adventuresome day.
But then, everyday’s adventuresome. Isn’t it?