Read Lost in the Blinded Blizzard Online

Authors: John R. Erickson

Tags: #cowdog, #Hank the Cowdog, #John R. Erickson, #John Erickson, #ranching, #Texas, #dog, #adventure, #mystery, #Hank, #Drover, #Pete, #Sally May

Lost in the Blinded Blizzard

BOOK: Lost in the Blinded Blizzard
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Lost in the Blinded Blizzard

John R. Erickson

Illustrations by Gerald L. Holmes

Maverick Books, Inc.

Publication Information


Published by Maverick Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 549, Perryton, TX 79070

Phone: 806.435.7611

First published in the United States of America by Gulf Publishing Company, 1991.

Subsequently published simultaneously by Viking Children's Books and Puffin Books, members of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1999.

Currently published by Maverick Books, Inc., 2013.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Copyright © John R. Erickson, 1991

All rights reserved

Maverick Books, Inc. Paperback ISBN: 978-1-59188-116-2

Hank the Cowdog® is a registered trademark of John R. Erickson.

Printed in the United States of America

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


Chapter One
Mysterious Ringing in the Night

Chapter Two
Hickory Dickory Dock: The Mouse Ran up Slim's Leg

Chapter Three
The Swirling Killer Tornado

Chapter Four
A Few Pointers on Marking Tires

Chapter Five
Drilled by a Flea in Front of Miss Beulah

Chapter Six
A Sick Baby

Chapter Seven
Who, Me?

Chapter Eight
Don't Forget: I Volunteered

Chapter Nine
Snowbound with Cannibals

Chapter Ten
Devoured by Coyotes

Chapter Eleven
Just Kidding

Chapter Twelve
A By-George Happy, Heroic Ending

Chapter One: Mysterious Ringing in the Night

t's me again, Hank the Cowdog. It was a cold, windy night in February. It had begun to snow and the cowboys were worried that it might turn into a blizzard.

It did, one of the worst blizzards I'd ever seen.

As I lay there in front of the stove in Slim's house, little did I know that within a matter of hours I would have to leave the warmth and security of the house and go out alone into the teeth of the blinded blizzard and perform an errand of mercy.

I didn't know all that, and you're not supposed to know it either. It comes later in the story but I kind of blurted it out without thinking.

I shouldn't have done that. Forget I said it.

Okay. Drover and I had gone down to Slim's place to spend the night, but let me hasten to add that our going down to Slim's place had
to do with the fact that he allowed us dogs to sleep inside in front of his woodstove.

See, I really don't approve of sleeping indoors, and I've never had much use for . . .

All right, maybe the sleeping-indoors-beside-the-stove factor had played a small part in our decision to camp out with Slim that night, but only a very small part.

Mainly, I thought that he needed some company and also the security that comes from having the Head of Ranch Security close at hand.

No kidding, that was the main reason.

Well, it was along about nine o'clock. Slim had been sitting in his big rocking chair and reading a livestock magazine, while we dogs, uh, guarded the stove.

You never know when some nut will try to steal your stove.

All at once, Slim stood up and yawned. “Boys, all this excitement is about to wear me out.” He fished out his pocket watch. “Good honk, it ain't but nine o'clock and I'm already fightin' to stay awake.”

He wandered into the kitchen and opened up the icebox and pulled out the makings for a ketchup and bread sandwich. When he took the first bite, ketchup oozed out the back side. It looked pretty awful.

He gnawed it down to a stub, licked his fingers, and pitched the stub over in our direction—two little corners of bread splattered with ketchup.

I sniffed it and, shall we say, turned it down. Even Drover, who will eat anything that doesn't eat him first, even Drover turned it down.

We whapped our tails on the floor and tried to express our deepest sorrow at turning down Slim's offer of stale bread crusts. At the same time, I tried to let him know that I might consider a better offer—say, sardines, Vienna sausage, a piece of cheese, or any one of the many varieties of fresh meat that might have been tucked away in his freezer compartment.

This was a delicate situation that required near-perfect coordination between tail-whapping and a sad look in the eyes. I thought I'd pulled it off pretty well, but Slim missed it.

“Dumb dogs,” he said, and built another ketchup sandwich.

Suddenly and all at once, with no warning whatsoever, the lights went out and we were plunged into total darkness, except for the little flare of light that showed through the air vent on the stove.

I could hear Slim mumbling to himself in the kitchen. “Well, there goes the electric. We must have gotten five snowflakes. That's usually what it takes. Now, where'd I put the candles?”

In the process of stumbling around to find a candle, he kicked over the sack of garbage that had been sitting beside the stove for two or three weeks.

“Dadgum garbage. You'd think somebody around here would take it out to the barrel.”

He found a stub of candle in one of the cabinets and struck a wooden match with his thumbnail. Pretty good trick, as long as you don't get burning sulphur under the nail, but he did, and that seemed to wake him up.

That was the first time I'd ever seen a grown cowboy sucking his thumb.

He lit the candle and then went looking for his coal-oil lamp, which he found and lit with the candle. Holding the lamp about shoulder high, he went to the front door and looked out. “Dogs, that old wind is gettin' up. If it should happen to start snowing hard, we'd be in for a blizzard, sure 'nuff.”

He set the lamp down and had just lowered himself into the rocking chair when, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, a bell began to ring. I shot a glance at Drover.

“What was that?”

“Sounded like a bell to me.”

“Exactly. But there are no bells in this house.”

It rang a second time.

“There it goes again, Hank! What does it mean?”

“It means,” I pushed myself up from the hearth and switched all my Hair Lift-Up circuits over to manual, “it means that the time has come for us to BARK. I don't know what that thing is or where it came from, Drover, but a dog can never go wrong by barking.”

And so we barked. We threw ourselves into the . . .

Okay, in my original analysis, I had more or less forgotten that Slim had a telephone in his house and that telephones make a ringing sound—but not all the time. That's the crucial point.

See, those telephones will lurk in silence for hours and sometimes even days, and just about the time you've forgotten about 'em, they'll stop lurking and start ringing.

And for that reason, I've never trusted a telephone. There's something just a little sneaky . . . I don't like 'em, is the point.

It took Slim a couple of minutes to find the phone. It had gotten lost beneath the shifting whispering sands, so to speak, of his living room—meaning that it had been buried beneath back issues of
Livestock Weekly,
dirty socks and old shirts, picture-show calendars, and other items too numerous to mention.

It rang and rang, and we barked and barked. On the fifth ring, Slim found the cord and pulled on it until the phone appeared out of the rubble.

He gave me a wink and said, “They can't fool me.” He put the phone to his ear. “Hello. Yes. Yes. No, I wasn't in bed. I couldn't find the derned phone. Hold on a second.” He scowled at me. “Hank, dry up, will you?”

At that point I figgered that I had barked just about enough, so I quit. I mean, I'd kept the phone from running out of the room, right? And I'd helped Slim find it, right? So I called off the Code Three and . . .

Was that a mouse sitting on the toe of Slim's boot?

I narrowed my eyes and studied the object on the toe of his . . . yes, it certainly appeared to be a mouse. I shot a glance at Slim.

He didn't see it.

“What? No, I'm baby-sittin' Loper's dogs tonight and they were barkin' at the telephone. No, I have no idea why a dog would bark at the telephone, but they did.” He chuckled. “Yes, I'm very proud. Would you like to buy one of 'em?”

I wasn't paying much attention to the conversation. By that time I had gone into Stealthy Crouch Mode and was moving on silent paws and weaving my way through the clutter—closing the distance between me and the alleged mouse.

Five feet away from the target, I stopped—froze, actually—and asked Data Control for a confirmation of my original sighting. It came back in a matter of seconds: yes indeed, we had us a live mouse at 0205.

Not only was this mouse alive and sitting on the toe of Slim's boot, but he was
staring at me
and wiggling his whiskers.

Have we discussed mice? I am the sworn enemy of all mice, especially those that stare and wiggle their whiskers.

I mean, you'd think a mouse would have sense enough to run at the approach of a Head of Ranch Security, but this one seemed to think that he owned the place.

Well, he didn't own the place, and I was fixing to send that little feller a message from the School of Hard Knots.

I trimmed out my ears in the Full Alert Position, punched in Manual Lift-Up on the hackles circuit, switched all guidance systems over to Smelloradar Control, and began the approach procedure.

Sounds pretty complicated, huh? You bet it is. A lot of your ordinary dogs just go blundering into a combat situation and won't take the time to use their instruments. I mean, they'd probably say that a little mouse wasn't worth all the effort.

Me? I figger that combat is combat, whether you're going up against a Silver Monster Bird or a sneaky little mouse. On my ranch, we take this stuff pretty serious.

Okay, I eased forward two steps—nose out, ears up, eyes narrowed, hackles raised, tail thrust outward and locked in at the proper angle. (We like to run that tail at about a 20 degree angle on deals like this, although I've gone as high as 25 degrees on a few occasions.)

I stopped and rolled my eyes toward Slim. He wasn't paying any attention to me, which meant that he was unaware of the trespasser on the toe of his boot.

I went to a Manual Eyeball Shift and turned my gaze back to the mouse. He was sitting on his back legs now, staring at me with his beady little eyes and . . . I don't know, biting his fingernails, sucking his thumb, picking his teeth, whatever it is that mice do when they put their paws in their mouth.

That's what he was doing, which was serious enough in itself. But it also appeared that he was
smirking at me.
That little mouse had just made a foolish mistake. No smirk mouses at Hank the Cowdog and tells to live about it.

Slim was talking again. “Yes, the lights went off about five minutes ago, wind must be blowing the lines around. Coal oil? Sure, I've got a gallon of it somewhere, if I can find it. You bet, come on over.”

I eased forward another step. The target had not moved. I was now within range. I prepared all systems for launch and punched in the commands to raise lip-shields and arm all tooth-cannons.

All systems were ready. I entered the countdown: five, four, three, two, one, charge, bonzai!

Mice are quicker than you might suppose, which probably explains why I missed the stupid mouse and sank my teeth into Slim's boot and set off a very strange chain of events.

BOOK: Lost in the Blinded Blizzard
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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