Authors: Gary Paulsen
Someone was up here with him, and that someone was obviously after his bear.
The boot tracks stayed well to the side of the paw prints. Justin followed both sets through the snow halfway across the meadow and stopped. He put one foot down next to the boot track and then picked it up. The imprint was identical.
He was following his own tracks! The grizzly knew what Justin was doing and had outsmarted him. The bear had circled around and had cut back into the same trail.
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
New York, New York 10036
Copyright © 1997 by Gary Paulsen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
The trademarks Yearling
are registered in the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.
Series design: Barbara Berger
Interior illustration by Michael David Biegel
Real adventure is many things—it’s danger and daring and sometimes even a struggle for life or death. From competing in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska to sailing the Pacific Ocean, I’ve experienced some of this adventure myself. I try to capture this spirit in my stories, and each time I sit down to write, that challenge is a bit of an adventure in itself.
You’re all a part of this adventure as well. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you in schools, and this book is the result of hearing firsthand what you want to read about most—power-packed adventure and excitement.
You asked for it—so hang on tight while we jump into another thrilling story in my World of Adventure.
A low snarl filled the room. Justin McCallister’s eyes flew open. He rolled out of bed. His feet barely touched the cold wooden floor planks as he ran to the window. “What is it, Radar? You hear something out there, girl?”
Justin crouched and put his hand on the young collie’s neck. The dog was tense and the hair on her back was standing up. “Don’t worry, girl. Old Molly is on duty tonight. She’ll take care of any sorry coyotes that come around trying to bother the sheep.”
Radar’s ears went up. The growling changed to a high, piercing bark. She scratched wildly at the windowpane, then flipped around and tore out the bedroom door.
Justin was right behind her. He grabbed his uncle Mack’s rifle from the rack above the living room fireplace, took a flashlight from the mantel, and yanked open the front door.
A bitter blast of cold Montana spring wind slammed into his body. It felt like a solid wall of ice and reminded him that he was barefoot and wearing only the lower half of his long johns.
Radar bounded into the darkness. Old Molly was barking now too, and Justin could hear the lambs in the south pen bleating. Shivering in the freezing wind, he pointed the light in the general direction of the noise.
“Can you see anything?”
Justin turned. His aunt Polly was standing in the doorway, holding out a down jacket.
“Not yet.” Justin quickly slipped into the jacket and stepped off the porch.
Justin nodded but didn’t say anything. He levered a shell into the rifle.
A shrill yelp from one of the dogs cut the night. Justin stopped, fired one shot in the air, and started running.
When he reached the sheep he found the gate on the lamb pen ripped off its hinges and tossed aside. A mass of quivering animals were crushing each other in an effort to huddle in one corner of the pen.
Old Molly was on the ground near the opening. She was whimpering and blood was dripping from a long gash in her side.
Dead lambs were everywhere. Their bodies had been slashed and ripped to the bones. Great claw marks dug deep into their flanks.
Justin swallowed and pointed the light at the soft dirt. The tracks were plain: two large pads with five long scissorlike claws on each.
“Hold her, Justin. I need to get in at least three more good stitches.”
Old Molly was stretched out on the kitchen table. She was weak from loss of blood. But that didn’t stop her from trying to move every time Aunt Polly stuck the long needle and thread into her side to sew the ragged pieces of skin and fur together.
Justin tried to comfort the old dog as he put all his weight into holding her still. “It’s for your own good, girl. A few days’ rest and you’ll be good as new.”
“Wish I could say the same for that new crop of lambs.” Uncle Mack sat near the table in his wheelchair, holding a clean bowl of hot water and some bandages.
Aunt Polly cut the thread and took a roll of bandages from her husband. “These things happen, Mack. It’s part of ranching up here. You know that. We’ve been doing it almost thirty years.”
“But grizzlies don’t usually bother us. Whenever they did in the past it was because they were hungry. And then they only took a stray lamb or two. This is different. That bear was out for blood.”
“You think it’s the same one that hit Mr. Davis’s place last week?” Justin asked.
“Gotta be.” Uncle Mack looked thoughtful. “If I didn’t have this broken hip, I’d go after it. Somebody’s got to put a stop to the killing before all the ranchers up here are wiped out.”
Radar sat up where she’d been lying by the door and started barking. Justin went to the window and moved the curtain. There were headlights approaching from down the road. “Someone’s coming.”
In a few moments there was a knock at the door. Justin opened it and a short man with a fringe of a white beard under his chin and a floppy felt hat on his head, stepped inside.
“Hello, Roy.” Uncle Mack turned his chair to face the man. “What brings you out so early?”
The man saw Molly and removed his hat. “What happened?”
Uncle Mack sighed. “Justin thinks it was a grizzly, maybe even the one that was at your place a couple of days ago. We lost twelve head, and Old Molly got the stuffing beat out of her.”