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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:21 pm 
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http://www.breachbangclear.com/i-love-y ... er-people/

Here's a sample of my other writing.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 10:31 am 
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doc66 wrote:
http://www.breachbangclear.com/i-love-you-1911-but-its-time-we-see-other-people/

Here's a sample of my other writing.


Better watch out, the 1911 lovers are gonna get ya!

I love the guys who swear they are owned and shot 1911s for decades and never had a single malfunction. They need to stop buying 1911s and start buying lottery tickets.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:58 pm 
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complex57 wrote:
doc66 wrote:
http://www.breachbangclear.com/i-love-you-1911-but-its-time-we-see-other-people/

Here's a sample of my other writing.


Better watch out, the 1911 lovers are gonna get ya!

I love the guys who swear they are owned and shot 1911s for decades and never had a single malfunction. They need to stop buying 1911s and start buying lottery tickets.


LOL. I got you! I still own, them, don't get me wrong, but I recognize them for what they are. And it was kinda fun to write it in the form of a letter-ish way.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:37 am 
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Doc, I've been checking here to see if you have started a new story, or continued any of your existing sagas.

I hope you will share with us where to find your current story, I've read and re-read what you've already completed.
Is there a list of your stuff somewhere? Maybe I missed something.

I miss you and hope to read MOAR soon! :)


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:12 pm 
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So, I've been working on something larger lately, but I've not forgotten about Cooper and crew, so here's one that's not awesome but a story that kept me writing. I hope you all enjoy it for what it is. I wanted to have this up for Christmas (it's not a Christmas story) but didn't get it finished in time.



The snow had come to the mountain. They were used to snow, from about the end of December to the end of March, perhaps the beginning of April, there was snow around. Usually, though, it was a peaceful layer of ambiance which covered the trees, lay on the fields, and melted away eventually, leaving behind brown grays until the next snow. Every five or so years, the snow came with a vengeance, the layers built up, the ground remained covered and the wildlife struggled through the months of cold, barely surviving until the spring when shoots of new grass pushed through the dead fall and compacted leaves. Cooper trudged through the heavy snow with his snow shovel on one shoulder and his bolt action rifle on the other. He was pulling the sled with the egg basket and milk cans behind. He felt like he should be in a Norman Rockwell painting, but it was the reality of life these days. As he walked, Cooper scanned the trees for movement and the ground for signs of wildlife. There had been bear sightings all over the mountain, and Not Tim had reported chasing one away from his stock barn. Boone and Josh said they had spotted a pack of feral dogs using this road to cut from one side of the mountain to the other. On investigation, Cooper had seen the tracks of the animals where they had churned up the snow in the middle of the road going past the homestead. He had cautioned Jessica and Sanjana to always go outside armed with at least their pistols. He was afraid that the chicken coop was too far from the house to provide the fowl protection should the pack or a bear decide the homestead was the place for the next meal. The loss of the chickens was something they would not be able to replace for some time; it was no longer an option to run to the local co-op or ordering a new batch online; those days had long since passed.

A glance over through the trees showed the top of David and Leticia’s cabin and the tendril of smoke rising from the chimney made Cooper want to head that way to escape the cold and snow. He turned away, however; he had chores to get finished, animals which needed food and water and cleaned and eggs to be gathered, runs to be cleared of the latest snowfall, he had so much to get done before he could sit down and enjoy a few hours of warmth by the fire. The one hundred yards he had to travel seemed more like one thousand with the added burden of the snow which nearly toppled into his boots with each step.

To the east, the sky was a blaze of gold light, chasing the dark blue of night from the horizon. He could still see the waxing moon hanging low in the western sky, and a few of the brighter stars cut through the encroaching light of the sun, making Cooper wonder about the astronauts on the L5 space station. Where they still alive in the massive structure, trapped between earth and the lunar body after nearly three years? The station had been designed for longevity, as well as housing multiple occupants—fifty people from what Cooper could remember—the station contained greenhouses with experimental plant life, water recycling, oxygen production facilities, almost everything needed to exist on another world, would the mix of international dwellers want to remain in the orbiting sphere while below their planet fell to pieces? They had the means to return to the earth, but the ground support for them to contact and rely on was nonexistent, as far as Cooper knew. He pulled his thoughts away from the L5 station and back to the chickens and the barn where there were things to worry about which impacted him on a more immediate level.

As he approached the chicken coop, Cooper cast a glance at the ground around the raised building, noticing the indentations in the snow, the raccoon paw prints around the base of the coop. He could see where the animal had investigated each pillar, wandered the exterior of the fencing looking for a weak spot in the barrier separating it from the meal inside the building. The foot prints wandered off back into the woods and Cooper hoped that the animal would leave its foray’s to simple scouting missions. If it came back and tried harder to get into the run, Cooper was either going to have to set a trap for the animal, or sit up one night and shoot it. He could not afford to have the animal attempting to breach his coop, or run amok in the hen house, killing his stock. For a moment, Cooper wondered if he should put a couple of the goats in the run to discourage the raccoon, but decided against it; the presence of the goats might attract other, larger, predators to the run. Then he would have to hunt down a pack of dogs or even a bear.

The presence of the bears worried Cooper. They normally would have been into the first few weeks of their hibernation by this time. He wondered just what was keeping the animals out and about in the deep snow; had there not been enough forage for them in the fall? Was something else keeping them from denning up? Was it one bear they kept seeing, or several? Cooper cracked the ice on the water trough and pounded on the side of the big water barrel to break up any that had formed around the sides or in the container during the night. He opened the spigot and started shaking the hose to get the water flowing through the layer of ice inside the tubing. After a moment, there was a sluggish spurt of slush from the end of the hose and the water flowed. Cooper pointed the hose into the trough and filled the long, low watering pan. Just as he did so, the rooster gave a call, nearly making Cooper drop the hose in surprise. He swore at the bird with a laugh and shut the water off, letting it drain from the hose before opening the door to the roost. The chickens began to flutter out the door and into the run, squawking and clucking, the chatter of their morning sounds filling the air. Cooper went to the attached shed and unlocked the door, digging into the grain bucket there for the morning feed. He filled shallow pans and tossed the grain out into the run for the chickens to peck at. With the egg basket in hand, Cooper emptied the boxes of any eggs, happy to see there were ten eggs. Locking everything back up, Cooper headed for the barn.

The goats had to be milked. He hoped that Boone or Josh would be at the homestead soon to help with that chore. Jessica, Sanjana, and Leticia, were all on the no chore list for the day, as was Heidi—who since her stud business had taken off was more or less out of the homesteading business, even in the winter months—David usually helped him, but since the man had been under the weather, he had taken a couple days off to try and shake the bug which was keeping him down. They could use one more person around the place, however, the close knit group could be insular and it would be hard for another person to simply step in to the mix.

The barn was dark and warm from the combined heat of the animals in the structure. The Llama, the goats, the two cows, the pigs, the horses, all combined to kick up the temperature in the space. The goats began to bleat as soon as they heard him at the man door. They were ready to be relieved of their milk. The other animals began their own greetings-filling the air with lowing and snorts as Cooper closed the door behind him and pushed open a couple of the windows to let light into the structure. He moved among the stalls, checking each animal in turn to see that it had fair well through the night, and satisfied himself that all was well. The water in the buckets had no frozen overnight, so the temperature, at least in the barn, had not fallen below freezing. Putting the egg basket on a shelf, Cooper racked his rifle and took off his jacket. It would get warm from the chores, and he did not want to sweat too much under his layers. He then lit the kerosene stove and put on a pan of water to warm. While the water warmed, Cooper pulled the milking stool to the rack so that he could secure the first goat for milking. The process was not as hard as it had been when they first received the goats, each now knew the routine, and only occasionally did one give him a hard time. It depended on the personality of the goat. Today, things went smoothly, and the goats chewed at the grain in the bucket while he cleaned the teats off with the warm water. Soon, he had two buckets of milk and was pouring them into the milk cans to settle out. As he was finishing, the man door opened and Joshua puffed into the barn, stomping his feet and muttering.

On seeing Cooper, Josh nodded and racked is own rifle. “Damn dog pack was all over the place last night. I saw tracks up and down the road and into the woods.”

“I didn’t see any around here, except for a raccoon.” Cooper was straining the milk through a screen made from an old t shirt. They had several of these ready and washed them regularly.

“That’s because there was a big fucking bear track down the middle of your driveway,” replied Josh.

“I missed that,” returned Cooper, concerned that the bear had been so close to the house. Taking the screens over to the pig trough, Cooper banged the leavings out into the trough, adding the bits to the grain there. The screens were then washed and rinsed with more warm water. He hung them aside to dry. Wiping his hands on a rag nailed over the wash bin, Cooper wondered if there was any bag balm to be traded anywhere on the mountain. The teats of the goats were getting raw in the cold weather. So were his hands. There had to be a home remedy. Another question for El Jefe. “Fresh tracks?”

“Last night or this morning tracks. I don’t want to be around when those dogs and that bear tangle,” nodded Josh, pulling off his own coat and starting to fork feed into the troughs for the cows and horses.

“What the hell is the bear doing out right now anyway?” wondered Cooper as he started to feed the pigs. “It’s awful late in the season.”

“Maybe the dogs chased it out of its den?”

“How much do you know about bears?”

“Next to nothing,” admitted Josh. “I know what everyone knows, and just enough more to be in the dark about them.”

“As long as the thing stays away from our stock, it can wander the mountain at will,” decided Cooper, digging into the grain sacks. He noticed that there was a small hole in one and investigated the tear. It was not a tear. A field mouse had been at the sack. Cooper wish again that he had a couple of cats around, and wondered where he had put the mouse traps.

Josh leaned on his pitchfork. “I’m more worried about the dog pack to tell the truth; a bear will leave us alone for the most part, but a dog pack will go after easy prey, and that means anything from the stock to you and me to the little guy if we let him out where they can corner him.”

Cooper nodded. “We’re not letting him out to play unless it’s on the deck. He’s been wanting to come to the barn, but until we can watch him better, he’s quarantined to the house. He hates it.”

They went back to feeding and cleaning out stalls—not a full clean, but removing enough of the used straw so that the animals were not standing in their own feces all day. While Josh put the finishing touches on the stalls, Cooper climbed up in the loft and tried to judge the amount of hay there, wondering if they would make it through the winter. He did not want to have to cull any of his stock, but the amount of snow and the uncertain length of time the season might last might make it necessary. He would have to go up and talk to El Jefe about what he could do to extend his feed; they had a ton of corn, maybe the same in oats, but they also needed to keep the grain for seed, perhaps the weather would break early in the spring? He had no idea what to do. Usually they could let the animals forage for a while during the day, but with the dog pack on the loose and the bear around, he did not feel comfortable leaving the stock out unattended.

“We’re going to have to hunt down that pack,” said Cooper aloud from his place in the loft.

“What’s that?” asked Josh, looking up at him with his hair sticking out from under the stocking cap and straw and hay sticking to his clothing. Cooper had to smile at the appearance of the man.

He repeated his statement adding, “Soon as we can. They’re only going to make things worse up here as the weather gets worse.”

“True.” Josh leaned the pitch fork against a stall and brushed his clothing off. “You know, the best way to draw them in would be to stake out another animal and wait until the pack comes in and kill them all bunched up.”

“What animal would we leave out?” asked Cooper. “I’m not donating one of my stock.”

“Maybe El Jefe has something he would have culled out.”

“Maybe we won’t have to leave out any stock and we can figure out where they are denning up and take care of the problem at the source.”

“Lots of maybe’s,” laughed Josh.

“Yeah, it’s a conversation for another time,” said Cooper dropping out of the loft. “I have solar panels I need to clean.”

“Heidi promised to have corn pone ready,” agreed Josh. “You need help this evening?”

Cooper shook his head. “I’m going to feed and milk and be done. It’s fucking cold, and tomorrow will be the day to start all the regular shit that needs to be done.”

“Who would have thought that life would come down to all this,” mused Josh. “We’ve stepped back in time about a hundred and fifty years.”

“It’s better than being dead.”

“Sure it is,” agreed Josh. “Down in the valley, there’s people dying off again. This spring, we’ll do down there and see fewer people than last year, unless something happens to get everything back going again, we’ll do that for a couple more years until those left will be the ones like us who managed to get their shit together.”

“After three years, you think that there’s still people who don’t have it together?”

“You and I didn’t go on the salt run, but after listening to Heidi and Boone talk, there’s a lot of people who don’t have it together yet.”

David and Leticia had mentioned the same thing. Cooper pushed the conversation topic out of his mind. “I want to take advantage of the day off as much as I can; I’m going to clean the solar panels and then have a hot cup of tea spiked with moonshine.”

Not Tim had set up a still and was turning out a fair product. They had even started aging some in old wine casks, traded up from the coastal valleys. Cooper had a cask in his basement. He had been sampling it occasionally and enjoying the results more with each sample. In a year or two, it would be a fairly acceptable whiskey.

“I’ll help you with the panels,” Josh told him.

They battened down the windows, put the basket of eggs on the sled with the milk cans, then with Josh pulling the sled, Cooper took the snow shovel to the panels and with Josh’s help, scraped the snow off the surfaces of the panels, then finished with a broom to clear the last bits off the panels. Cooper had Josh drop the sled at the back door of the cabin and went with the man down the drive to the road. He wanted to see the bear tracks and also it gave Josh company at least part way home; Cooper did not want anything to happen to the man on the way home. True to Josh’s word, the tracks of the bear were large and deep in the snow on the cut space between the trees that was the driveway. Cooper put his boot in one of the tracks and felt a jolt of fear at the size of the animal’s claws. The print was as long as his boot with an impression more than ankle deep. It made Cooper remember the first time he had seen where a bear had clawed a tree, stretching high above Cooper’s head to leave deep impressions on the bark of the aspen, the territorial marking making Cooper feel small and fragile, even with the weight of his rifle in hand.

Cooper watched as Josh walked down the road and disappeared into the tree line where the drive to the house he lived in with Boone and Heidi lay. With nothing else to do, Cooper walked back up to his own cabin and set the milk cans and egg basket into the entry way. He leaned the sled up against the side of the house to keep the snow off the deck and then with the eggs in hand, stepped into the warmth of his home.

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Last edited by doc66 on Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:13 pm 
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Cooper was sitting in his favorite chair, his robe wrapped round him and his wool sock covered feet up close to the fire reading a novel they had traded for some time in the summer. He was finally getting to read it, and the references to a world now past made the spy thriller seem more like a Science Fiction novel. The boy was down for his nap, Jessica was in the kitchen making more tea and Sanjana was out on the balcony deck smoking a stale cigarette in the cold. Cigarettes were still traded around, no matter how old they were, as long as the paper wrapping them held together. Cooper knew some people were tearing apart the crumbling tubes and using the tobacco in pipes. Late last fall, a caravan had come to town with a bale of tobacco, exchanged caravan to trader across the country from Tennessee it was rumored. The bale had gone for premium trade; he had heard someone had even traded a pound of hoarded coffee even up for a pound of tobacco. Out of the corner of his eye, Cooper saw Sanjana stiffen and then set the cigarette in the clay pot they used as an ashtray—they were too precious to just throw away—before coming to the door to open it a crack.

“Not Tim is coming up the driveway,” she announced before closing the door and going back to her cigarette.

Marking his place in the book, Cooper set it aside and stood from his chair with a sigh. He had just wanted a few hours with no company. Jessica called to him from the kitchen area.

“What would Not Tim want?”

“No clue.”

“Is he alone?”

“Don’t know yet,” said Cooper. He walked over to the wall of glass separating the warm interior from the snow without. Sanjana was waving at the man as he trudged up the drive, rifle cradled in his arms and his breath puffing out in hard clouds reminding Cooper of a steam engine. Not Tim waved back and bent his head back to walking. “Looks like he’s alone.”

Jessica stepped next to him and blew across the top of her mug of tea. “He looks cold. I’ll put out a cup of tea for him.”

“I’ll go get out of my robe,” decided Cooper, knowing that whatever had caused Not Tim to come up the drive on a Sunday was probably going to require that Cooper head back out into the cold.

When he stepped down the stairs from the loft, Not Tim was in the mudroom taking off his boots. Sanjana had returned from her sojourn and sat at the counter with her own mug. Jessica poured Cooper a fresh cup handing it to him as he took a seat next to Sanjana.

“What’s up?” asked Cooper.

“Don’t know yet,” said Sanjana. “He just said, ‘I’ll let everyone know at once.’ He looks upset.”

Not Tim came in from the mudroom sans his coat and rifle and boots, accepting the mug of tea from Jessica. Cooper motioned to an empty bar chair at the island. Not Tim nodded his thanks and sat heavily, letting out a deep sigh before sipping at the drink to warm his cold body. Jessica jumped up on the counter and crossed her legs with her own mug in hand. Cooper admired that she could still be that limber. Sometimes, he felt as if he were ninety and could barely get out of his chair. He supposed the yoga she and Sanjana did together was a lot of the reason. He was going to have to join in one day—when he didn’t feel so beat.

“How’s it going Not Tim?” asked Cooper. “It’s a cold day for a visit.”

“It was going real well until this morning,” said Not Tim. Always a thin looking man, today, Not Tim looked particularly drawn. Dark circles were under his eyes and his beard seemed to be stiff and brittle. Cooper wondered if the man and his family were getting enough to eat now that the season had changed over.

Because the man wanted to be asked, Cooper did so. “What happened this morning?”

Taking another drink of the tea, Not Tim shook his head before launching into his story. “I went out to take care of the stock and that damn pack of dogs had gotten into the chickens. I lost ten of them, there’s another five missing, and I had to kill two more. That’s damn near all my flock. I don’t know what I’m going to do without those eggs. I’m worried that that pack is going to get my goats too. I’ve got the rabbits close to the house, but I doubt that’ll stop the dogs.”

“They got them last night?”

“Apparently,” said Not Tim. “We didn’t hear a thing—which surprises me, Patricia usually hears stuff at night—more than what’s there usually.”

“How’d they get to them?” asked Sanjana.

Not Tim looked pained. “They chewed through the chicken wire it looks like. I guess the boy left the door unlocked and they forced their way in. He felt like shit, but there was nothing to be done by that point. I’ve got him chopping extra wood as punishment; I was angry,” admitted Not Tim, “but I couldn’t see a reason to do any more than that. My disappointment and the lecture he got from his mom and I was probably more than enough punishment. I know I hated lectures from my folks.”

They all gave a laugh at that, each one remembering their own moments of past parental scolding. The memories brought a moment of silence in which they all drank tea and stared into the past for several seconds.

“Did you try to track them?” asked Jessica.

Not Tim shook his head. “I was too busy taking care of everything else. First the damn bear and now this. I wonder at my luck.”

“But the bear didn’t do anything,” mentioned Cooper.

Giving Cooper a sharp look, Not Tim shrugged. “No, I guess not. Just walked around the place. Hell, when it saw me, it kinda woofed at me before walking away like it wasn’t concerned about me at all.”

“It was here last night,” said Cooper, catching the ‘why didn’t you tell me’ look from Jessica. “Just walked down the driveway and to the road is all. Maybe that’s why the dogs didn’t come here.”

“Well, we need to do something about them,” said Not Tim. “If they keep this up, we’re going to be out of stick before the winter is done; I can’t have that, and neither can a few others around us.” He gave Cooper an imploring look. “You an El Jefe had a good season, not all of us have the skills you all do, and I had to work for El Jefe part time to keep the whole thing together. Without that, I doubt we’d have made it this far.”

Cooper nodded. “I get it. We were that way a couple years ago ourselves. It takes time.” He sighed. “I think the first thing we need to do is see where the pack is denning up. We’ll see if we can track them from your place.”

Cooper looked out the large windows at the front of his house where the view of the valley below stretched to the horizon, displaying the dormant trees, the snow covered fields and the hills and mountains beyond. The sun was still above the tree line and would be for at least three more hours; but he knew it would take a while to gather up enough rifles and men for the job. They would have to go another night and risk the dogs attacking more stock before tracking the animals. But they could at least get word out to the neighbors of the plan, which he was formulating as he sat and spoke with Not Tim.

“If you’re up to it, can you contact your neighbors? Have them contact the ones next to them if they have any—I can’t remember whose where at the moment; I’ll go to talk to Boone and Josh—we had a conversation about this just this morning while doing chores,” mentioned Cooper to Not Tim, “And I’ll talk to El Jefe as well. We don’t have enough time left in the day to do this; so warn everyone to make sure the stock is secured tonight.”

Draining the tea, Not Tim pushed the cup away. “I can let people know.”

“I’ll meet you at your place in the morning as soon as our chores are done.”

“What about everyone else?” asked Not Tim.

“We don’t need a ton of people wandering in the woods,” said Cooper. “You and me and Boone or Josh to track them. Once we find the den, then we can make a plan to get the pack out of there.” He sighed, feeling regret as he spoke the next part; it wasn’t the fault of the dogs they had formed a pack; the situation of the world had created the vicious turn of events making the once house pets into killing machines to stay alive. “We’re probably going to have to kill the bunch of them while they are denning up, or get them leaving where they are holed up.”

“You look sad about it,” said Not Tim.

“I am, in a way; it’s not their fault.”

“They didn’t kill your chickens,” reminded Not Tim as he stood. “I’ll get back home and let the neighbors know.”

“See you tomorrow morning,” said Cooper, standing with the man. “Be careful; if the pack is big enough, and hungry enough, they could attack you.”

“I brought the big rifle,” assured Not Tim. “20 rounds of .308 should deter them.”

Thanking them for the tea, Not Tim went back out into the mud room and relayered for the walk home. Cooper looked at Jessica. “I’ll walk him to the road and then head over to Boone’s. After I’ll walk up to El Jefe’s and see if he has any advice. If I’m not back by dark, let David know.”

“Should we come looking for you?” asked Jessica. The possibility of the dogs attacking weighed on all of them and the precaution was in case the worst happened.

“Just check the road. I won’t leave the road.”

“Take the AK,” cautioned Jessica.

“Already thought of that,” assured Cooper. “Can you get it for me?”

“Two mags?”

“If I need more than that, it’s more than the dogs we have to worry about,” joked Cooper darkly.

She kissed him lightly and went to the steps up to the loft. Sanjana peered at Cooper with her dark eyes serious. “If they come at you, get your back to a tree, a big one, so they can’t get behind you.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“It can save your life,” she told him seriously.

“Should I ask how you know?”

Sanjana smiled at him, the humor of her lips not reaching her face. “I got cornered once—when all this started.”

“Glad you made it,” said Cooper seriously.

“A big fucking club and a knife helped.”

They held eyes for a moment, Cooper feeling the seriousness of her statement and as always, becoming uncomfortable under her gaze, until Jessica came back with the AK. Sanjana gave a short laugh, saying, “We’ll leave a lamp on in the window.”

“Thanks.”

Cooper took the rifle, kissed Jessica again, and went to don his own winter gear.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:14 pm 
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The fireplace at Rancho de la Montana was roaring, with big round logs stacked deep, the flames brightly illuminated the room and the sparks from the snapping of sap danced and glittered into the throat of the chimney. Big enough to stuff a whole cow into its stone maw, it overheated the room and actually made the flagstones which served as the hearth hot to the touch. The story and a half height of the room had always reminded Cooper of the interior of extravagant movie sets; the ones from the fifties and sixties. Where the room were always appointed with leather furniture, high back chairs around a poker table, velvet drapes, pictures of generations past and present and wet bars tucked into a corner. Chandeliers crafted of wagon wheels and wall lamps glowed at intervals and cast shadows in unusual places. From its vantage point over the fireplace, the skull of a massive bull looked down on the room where El Jefe sat in an old rocking chair near the fireplace with a blanket over his shoulders while Tio and Hector stood nearby ready to cater to the needs of the old man.

And El Jefe was looking old.

Cooper had never seen the man appear as he did that winter. His skin was sallow, he had dark circles under his eyes, and his normally white hair had turned to a steel gray seemingly overnight. He was drinking mulled wine from a tall mug, and the alcohol made his eyes look rheumy.

“Así que tenemos un oso?” muttered the old man, almost to himself. “¿Qué tiene el oso hecho? Eh? The bear is good, no?”

“The bear is good,” agreed Cooper, wishing that he knew at least some Spanish so that he could follow the thoughts of the old man. “But it’s not the bear I’m here about, el Jefe, there’s a dog pack on the mountain. They killed Not Tim’s chickens, and we need to hunt the pack down and take care of them before they do more damage than we can recover from.”

“Los perros?” wondered the old man. “Lobos?”

“Not wolves,” said Cooper, shaking his head. “Wild dogs. Um, loco perros. Bad ones.”

Cooper looked over at Tio and Hector to see if they were going to be any help in the conversation. The two were dressed in what Cooper liked to think of as their uniforms; flannel shirts over white tee-shirts, Dickie pants, wallet and watch chains, bandannas, high tops. The big gangster Tio shrugged and Hector limped close to the old man to adjust the blanket around his shoulders.

“Ah, bad dogs. You have to kill them; once a dog tastes sangre, they are ruined. You can’t keep them around.”

“I know,” agreed Cooper. “I was hoping that you could help us out a bit, maybe give some suggestions on what we can do?”

“Hunt them,” said el Jefe as if it were obvious. Tio caught Cooper’s eye and motioned him away from the old man with a jerk of his head. Cooper nodded. He leaned in close to El Jefe and thanked the old man. El Jefe nodded and rapid-fired some more Spanish at him, his eyes worried. Cooper was at a loss as to what to say or do. Hector’s impassive face seemed to crack for a moment and then the façade slipped back in place.

Tio took Cooper away from the old man, the roaring fire fading as they moved to the other side of the room. People moved around them, intent on chores and looking eager to be away from the big enforcer. There was an undercurrent of tension and the worry could not be hidden on many of the faces Cooper saw. Tio took a chair at one of the tables in the massive room and Cooper followed suit. Hector was still fussing over the old man, but was casting glances over at the two men. One of the cousins—Cooper could never keep the names straight, but he thought it might have been Theresa, a woman David had been interested in a long time ago, chubby with pregnancy—poured them both mugs of warmed corn beer. She gave Cooper a small grin before turning away. Tio picked up the mug and drank deeply. Cooper followed suit, the corn beer not only warm from being heated, but the warmth spread through his body in a way that a hot drink would not have. The heat given to the drink made the corn beer seem as if it could be chewed. He liked the different flavor heating gave the drink as well; it seemed to bring out the sweetness hidden in the corn.

Tio set the mug down. The man’s dark eyes reflected the flames of the fire. “El Jefe is not so good.”

“I see that,” said Cooper, catching the seriousness of the man’s words. “When did it start?”

Shrugging Tio played with the mug, spinning it in an unconscious motion which looked to the be the lemniscate sign. Shrugging, Tip put the mug to his lips. “As winter set in, it seemed to get worse.”

“What does this mean for la Rancho?”

“You blanco don’t mince words.”

Cooper took a turn to shrug. “El Jefe has been a pretty dominate figure in the survival of everyone up here; if not for his generosity, most of us would be dead from starvation or sickness.”

“Cierto.”

“When he’s gone, will la Rancho continue to be a place we can come?” Cooper looked over at Hector who was finishing with his ministrations over the old man and walking to where Tio and Cooper sat. “Who will be the new Patron?”

“That’s up to El Jefe,” said Tio. “But he has his moments when he’s good.” Tio leaned on the table. “Do you remember when we had the biker troubles?”

“I do,” said Cooper. There were times in the night when he sometimes vividly recalled pulling the trigger of El Jefe’s ornate 1911.

“Do you remember what El Jefe said to you?”

Cooper admitted he did not. Not specifics. The old man had been talking a lot about being in charge.

“He named you la Poderosa,” said Tio. The gangster waved a hand around the air. “All this coming to El Jefe to solve problems, that’s on you now, cabrone.”

Hector sat down and a drink was brought to him. He listened as Tio spoke, nodding. “Si, El Jefe has told us this; all here on the mountain, they look to you now. La Poderosa. The responsibility of those here is on you now.”

“What the fuck?” asked Cooper. “I don’t want to do this shit.”

The two men laughed. “El Jefe says it’s not something you want, it’s something you earn, no matter what you want.”

Hector sipped his corn beer. “El Jefe is dying man, he’s fucking almost ninety. El Rancho en las Montanas, it will always be here, but the responsibility of the mountain has been handed to you.”

“Si,” agreed Tio. “Not Tim came to you to solve this problem. El no vino aqui. He knows where the problem gets solved.”

Leaning his elbows on the table, Cooper rubbed his face in his hands. “Oh, mother fucker. How the hell did this happen?”

“You took responsibility, dumbass, a long time ago,” said Tio. He raised his mug. “Viva La Poderosa.”

“Viva,” repeated Hector.

“You two shut the fuck up,” said Cooper, drinking from his own mug. “I feel like Willie Nelson in that fucking movie, Barbarosa.”

“He died in that,” pointed out Hector.

Giving the man a sour look, Cooper looked over to where El Jefe was sipping at the mulled wine and staring into the fire. “What the fuck do I do?”

“What you always do, vato, act like you got a plan,” Tio told him.

“I’m going to need a couple gunners when we find this dog pack,” said Cooper.

“Sure, whatever you want,” said Tio. The big man glanced at Hector who nodded and caught Cooper’s eye.

“Listen, la Poderosa, no matter what happens here at la Rancho, you got our help.”

Cooper sat back and read the meaning between the words. “Is there going to be problems here when El Jefe passes.”

Both men crossed themselves.

“There’s a couple cousins who think they should get the controlling interest in la Rancho,” admitted Hector. Cooper digested this for a moment.

“If you need anything from me—.”

“It may never come to pass,” shrugged Hector.

“So you and Tio will—?”

The two men made more signs and cast glances heavenward. “No, we’re just gunmen. Rancho de Montana will go to Javier, his grandson. You might remember him, he was there at the shootout.”

Cooper shook his head.

“He remembers you, he knows what his abuelo says; you have a place here always.”

“Well, shit.” Cooper sipped at the beer and while he wanted another, he knew he needed to get back on the road before night fall. “I’ve got to get back. I’m sorry about El Jefe. He’s been a great friend.”

“He’ll make the spring,” assured Tio. “When the weather warms, he’ll feel better.”

The three men knew it was false bravado.

Cooper drained the corn beer and stood, Tio and Hector standing with him. They shook hands around, and Cooper went out of the great room, leaving the fire roaring at his back.

The way back was even colder than the walk up. The sun was dropping below the trees, making long shadows on the snow. Cooper crunched through the sun melt crust, the sound of each step loud in his ears as he plodded homeward. He was pulling a sheet of plastic behind him, wrapped in the plastic was a couple jugs of the corn beer, a mason jar of honey, and some molasses the Rancho had traded for from somewhere else. The makeshift sled made a scratching noise of the surface of the snow, the monotone drone filling Cooper’s ears as he walked. Absently, Cooper wondered if he should try and make some snowshoes or dig his cross country skis out of the clutter in his garage. If the weather continued to be as it was, with the massive snow fall through the season, he would consider it. It might even behoove them to make a horse drawn sled, otherwise the mountain would be isolated until the first thaw. There was no conceivable way the gasified truck was going to get through the snow without a plow, nor for that matter would the diesel truck, even if they had enough fuel to spare for it. If it were not for the comforts provided by the solar panels and a few other modern wonders, Cooper knew it would be as if they were living in the 19th century. He felt sorry for his neighbors who had never had the chance to prepare for this type of event. Truth be told, Cooper had not been readying for what had happened either; he had simply been trying to reduce his dependence on the rest of the world.

The wind shook the trees and snow loosened by a day of sunlight fell from the branches. The noise made Cooper stop walking to look around. He had been so lost in thought, he had not been paying attention to where he was on the road. It was a shock to him that he was over halfway to the homestead. The sun was now behind the trees and while the sky above the limbs was blazing a marvelous riot of red and orange, the dark shadows of the early evening seemed darker than they should have.

The bay of a dog made Cooper start in surprise.

The call was far away, or so it seemed in the cold air of the mountain. The answer howl was taken up by other four legged canines, and for a moment it seemed to Cooper the entire wood had come alive with the mournful wails. Then they stopped as quickly as the sound started. Cooper clutched the grips of the AK, casting about into the trees, trying to see deeper in to the gloom than he knew he possibly could. There was only the sound of the tree branches clacking together. Shaking off his momentary dread which had kept him from moving, Cooper began to trudge down the road, albeit a tad faster than his trance like pace just moments before. The pitch of the sled was higher as a testament to his increased speed.

Soon the cluster of brambles which Cooper knew to be the entrance of the drive up to the homestead came in to view. By this time it seemed the sun had extinguished the flames of the evening with a glowing blue sky, edged by darkness and the promise of more cold to come. Cooper was never more happy to turn the last corner in this driveway and see the glow of the fire and the LED lights shining softly in the dusk.

He gladly pulled his boots off in the mudroom, his son running happily up to him and calling out to him as Cooper shed his outer gear. They talked nonsensically back and forth for a moment, using real words without much sentence structure, Cooper held up his end on the conversation as best as he could, given that the other side of the equation often wandered from subject to subject with little segue. Finally, the boy laughed at something Cooper said and ran into the next room.

Jessica, who had been leaning on the doorpost watching the two of them together, gave a concerned frown when she saw Cooper without the distraction of their son.

“What’s the matter?”

Cooper sighed heavily. “El Jefe is sick.”

“Sick—,” she repeated. “Like ‘I have a cold?’”

Cooper shook his head. Jessica managed to control the shock on her face.

“Oh no. Bad?”

“Bad enough that Tio and Hector had a sit down with me to assure me that I was always welcome at the Rancho.”

Jessica wrinkled her forehead. “So they think there might be an ugly reading of the will?”

“Something like that,” said Cooper. He pulled on his house fleece. “It means that once again, we’re on our own.”

“What exactly did they say, Cooper?”

Cooper went to the tea pot which sat on the wood burner and pour a mug of hot water over his herbal tea. He sipped at the steaming liquid in silence for a moment and took a place on the couch. Jessica sat with him.

“There’s a couple of factions up at the Rancho vying for control of the farm. I guess some of the cousins think they sould get the Rancho because they’ve put in so much work—or at least section it off—and El Jefe wants to hand the reins over to one of his grandsons who he’s been grooming to take over,” explained Cooper. “Hector and Tio are caught in the middle of wanting to keep El Jefe alive, supporting the grandson because that’s El Jefe’s wish and not destroying the farm in the process.”

“Where do we fall in all this?”

Giving a cynical laugh, Cooper waved his mug at the world beyond their picture window. “They want me to step up and be la Porderosa.”

Jessica, who spoke more Spanish than Cooper nodded her understanding. “As you should, probably. People already come to you about problems around here.”

“There’s so much to do around here, still,” complained Cooper. “Next year we want to add bee’s to the list of things we already do, and there’s only so much I can get done around here. I don’t need to go adding the stress of everyone else’s problems into my own.”

“Oh, bullshit,” responded Jessica. “You have all kinds of help here. David and Leticia are not going anywhere; they want to add on to the A frame come spring, Leticia plans on having a baby, Sanjana is not going anywhere—which is good for us. Boone and Josh are content with share cropping with us; they have no desire to really start their own farm down there, and Heidi, she talks a lot of shit, but she pitches in all the time. How do you think the stock was taken care of while you were up drinking corn beer with Hector and Tio?”

“I didn’t go up there to drink beer,” scolded Cooper.

“Regardless,” ignored Jessica. “You were able to go around to all the neighbors and have a sit down with them because we have enough people here to keep things running. Like it or not, you are becoming patron around here, Porderosa. People look up to you and you need to step up.”

Cooper sighed. “It’s a lot of shit I don’t want to do.”

“No one ever does,” said Jessica. She kissed him lightly and stood. “Sanjana will be back soon, and David and Leticia will be here for dinner. Get warm, have another drink, spike it with some moonshine; do what you gotta do.”

“How’s David feeling?” asked Cooper, glad to change the subject.

Jessica rattled the logs in the big stove and checked the level of the water in the pot. “He’s doing a lot better. Still tired looking, but the cough cleared up and the aches are mostly gone.”

“I’m glad; things can get bad quickly these days if we’re not careful.”

“That’s why we have so much help around,” noted Jessica. “To keep that for happening.”

The boy came running into the room and began to talk to Cooper about the rocks he was holding. Cooper pulled his son up on the couch and bent his head to play with the child as Jessica went in to the kitchen area and began to build up the fire in the stove to ready the meal. As she did so, Sanjana magically appeared from her turn at taking care of the animals, the rush of cold air sending a ripple through the heat in the house. The boy squirmed off the couch and called out to her, running across the great room to the mudroom to show her his rocks. Cooper smiled at his comfortable life; things could have been much worse, he knew. The strength of the community on his mountain would see them through the next few months. As they house became more active, Cooper settled in to think about the dog pack problem and how they were going to handle it.

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Not Tim’s wife had put out a big platter of dried blackberry infused cornbread, a pot of honey, and made sure that everyone had tea. Cooper sipped at the tea, noticing that she used more Mountain Rose Hip than Jessica and Sanjana, who used more sage in their mix. Everyone on the mountain had their own recipe for herbal tea, now that there was little to no chance of getting actual tea—or coffee—any longer. Cooper remembered going to Celestial Seasonings, and seeing the history of how they had started by gathering herbs from the Colorado mountains. It was ironic to see that once again people were using what was around them in a way that the Get Back to Nature crowd would only have hoped for in the industrial society of before.

With all the neighbors crammed into the space, it was stuffy and almost hot in the living room of the house Not Tim had acquired; the fireplace had been more for looks when the house had been built, but now, with some tweaking on Not Tim’s part, the heat sink was able to put most of the warmth back into the room and not up the chimney. Cooper was glad to see that in spite of Not Tim playing host, others had brought food stuffs or beverages—apple cider and slightly fermented grape juice—to help feed the hunting party. Fernando and Javier had even brought down part of a haunch of pork from El Rancho de Montana. The two young men were barely in their upper teens, but if Tio and Hector had sent them along, Cooper knew they would be alright to go on the hunt.

Cooper noticed a couple of the neighbors had brought homemade crossbows with them. He went over to investigate the contraptions. The men handling them were more than happy to show them off to Cooper. Peter had been one of the one’s on the mountain who had made it to his property after everything had fallen apart. He lived in a three story cabin with his wife, son, three of his son’s friends, Peter’s daughter and her child, The house wasn’t designed as a survival home, but they made the mountain retreat work, turning the garage into a barn and converting flower beds to gardens; his wine cellar was one of the best places to dry cure meat and those who did not have a way to do so, used Peter’s cellar for various trades in goods and tasks.

“Guy named Felix on the other side of the mountain makes them,” Peter told him, handing the bow to Cooper. “He was a hobbyist gunsmith, and started making these this past summer. I traded him a suckling pig and some walnut boards I had for it. He made the stock out of the walnut. The bow is a leaf spring, the string is cable from a garage door I think.”

Cooper saw that the firing mechanism was a simple, old school pivot lever held in the up position by a spring. Pressing the trigger end dropped the string stop on the other end and released the string. The bolts looked to be fiberglass cut from fishing poles or some similar material, with plastic vanes glued to the shaft and broad heads pounded out of old spoons and sharpened.

“How accurate is it?” asked Cooper.

Peter shrugged. “Thirty yards, maybe more? I took a deer this fall with mine at about twenty five.”

Handing it back to Peter, Cooper considered what it would take to outfit the community with them. Could they come up with enough trade? Ammo was running low for everyone, and having something like this to fall back on for hunting would relieve the stress on the ammo supply. Cooper and a couple others had compound bows, and he had used his to hunt, but he still relied on his old bolt action when it came to a sure thing for meat at the table. It was something he would have to look into.

“How many of those do we have?” he asked.

“Five that I know of,” said Peter. “I had the guy make one for three of us at my house, Jake and Foster on either side of my place have their own—I think the only thing keeping the guy from doing a land office business is the lack of raw materials.”

“So if we could come up with more parts, we could trade them toward more of these?”

“Sure, why not?”

“After this is over, you and I are going to visit Felix,” said Cooper, thinking about where the parts could be obtained locally. He thanked Peter before heading to the front of the room.

“All right folks,” called Cooper to get everyone’s attention. “We need to get this show on the road. Thankfully it did not snow last night so we still have a good set of tracks to follow. What I’m hoping is that we can follow the tracks to the where they are denning up and take care of them as they are down for the morning.” Cooper cast his gaze on everyone in the room. “I know we all have memories of pets and cool dogs we’ve known; but remember; these are wild animals now. They aren’t Fido and Fluffy. We need to take care of the entire pack so they don’t move on to be someone else’s problem. We’re going to break up into fire teams. Back your members up, take careful shots, don’t waste ammo you don’t have, and be sure that the target you are aiming at is what you want to shoot.”

Cooper looked around at the room. “If someone gets hurt—fall down, cut, dog bite—it’s up to their fire team to take care of them. If someone, god forbid, gets shot, call a cease fire. We can’t afford to let someone get injured and lay out in the snow. Who here has some kind of trauma training?”

A couple people raised their hands. Cooper put one each with a fire team to spread resources. They went over a couple more safety items before Cooper asked if there were any questions.

“What about the bear?”

Cooper waved the question away. “The bear is the least of our worries right now, I think. The dogs are attacking the stock, and the bear is just hanging out. Has anyone had any trouble with the bear, really?”

There was no real response other than a few remarks to the negative about problems with the bear. Cooper nodded. “Let’s get this done.”

Everyone gathered up last minute items, some shoved pieces of cornbread into their pockets, slices of pork, or drank down their tea before exiting the house into the cold. The fire teams found each other and there was low talking and laughter until Cooper gathered his team to him and headed out on the path beaten down by the dog pack. In his team was Boone, carrying his ever present sawed off shotgun and a .22 rifle, and Not Tim, also armed with a .22. Cooper was using the AK since it was the weapon he had the most ammo for. David still was not well enough to go with them, and Josh had stayed behind to help out around the homestead and take care of their own property. The group moved through the trees in a single file, no one talking now that they were on the path. There was no telling how close the dogs might be, and there was not a man among them who wanted to be responsible for spooking the pack and having to hunt them again.

The dog prints moved through the trees seemingly randomly, cutting back and forth and splitting up to come back together. Cooper knew the feral dogs were not very good hunters. Heidi had provided a briefing for him gleaned from several sources of encyclopedias and other books—all of which she had traded for, being the farsighted person she was—and according to her research, the pack would stay close to where the humans were and scavenge off of what they could obtain from them. That meant that easy prey, like chickens and rabbits, and other small stock, was venerable to the pack until it could be eradicated. For Cooper, and the others on the mountain, it was rid themselves of the pack or lose irreplaceable stock to the animals until they could be destroyed.

They had been walking for some time, and Cooper was beginning to wonder if the pack simply kept moving all day and never bothered to den up. The terrain had gone from the mostly cultivated areas around the mountain community—Cooper had never realized just how many trees they had cleared around the area—to the rocky and much heavily forested wilds that had drawn him to the area when he and Jessica had first started to look for property. The underbrush was thinner, clustered to the edges of small parks and holes in the canopy created by downed trees. Big clusters of boulders formed natural walls and barriers they had to circumnavigate to stay on the track of the pack. Ahead of him, Boone held up a hand for them to stop. Cooper imitated the motion and he could hear the others coming to a halt behind him. Boone pointed to a space between trees where a dog was laying, its head down but ears up and alert. Beyond the animal was a cluster of trees and a rock which seemed to form a small cave. The wind carried the scent of wet dogs, urine and feces.

Cooper lowered an open hand to the ground and went to his knee, hoping everyone behind him would do the same. The dog raised its head at a noise unheard by Cooper. He froze, hoping that the massive column of humanity would not be noticed by the animal. The dog—a mixed breed something—scanned the woods before lowering its head again. Cooper did not realize that the pack would be smart enough to have a sentry. He laughed at himself, and wondered if that were really the case or if the animal were just laying outside because it felt like it.

When Cooper was sure the animal was head down and resting again, he took a moment to study the terrain. The copse lay in an indentation against a slight rise in the floor of the forest. He decided that the fire teams would form a V and leave the high point of the rise open, using it as a backstop. If any of the dogs tried to escape that way, they would be subjected to the concentrated fire of the entire group, which Cooper hoped would leave no place for escape.

He had Not Tim and Boone stay put while he slipped back and gave quiet directions to each team, stressing to them the importance of stealth as they moved to their positions. Once each team had started their crawl forward, Cooper returned to Boone and Not Tim. Another dog had come out of the copse, this one a German Shepherd with matted fur around it’s haunches. The mutt kept its head down as the Shepherd gave it a sniff and began to walk around the trampled ground in front of the den. It stopped and tested the wind. Ears up and alert, the hair on the dogs neck and shoulders flared. Cooper hoped everyone was in position.

The animal must have made a warning sound as the mutt stood and began to whine. From the space inside the rocks and trees erupted more yips and whines. Other dogs began to appear in the little clearing. Cooper pushed the AK forward and took aim on the Shepherd. Someone fired.

The Shepherd jumped and snarled and began to bark as more guns erupted in the woods. With a small feeling of regret, Cooper squeezed the trigger of the AK and the German Shepherd jumped and howled, snapping at its hindquarters while Cooper cursed his poor aim. He shot it again and put it down for good as the den erupted with howls and barking and whines as the animals tumbled out of the copse into the withering fire of the hunters. The dogs seemed to be rushing to the attack at first, and then after a moment when they seemed to realize there was no visible attacker for them to fight, the canines broke ranks and started to run in several directions. Cooper took care to make good hits for the three or four times he sighted and shot. The animals were overcome quickly, standing no chance against the guns and crossbows of the hunters. Several dogs managed to run up the hill where they were picked off by well-aimed shots, one of the mutts tumbling down from a crossbow bolt. A dog ran at the spot where Cooper and his team knelt, only to be taken down by a blast from Boone’s shotgun just feet where they crouched. As suddenly as it started, the shooting stopped. Cooper waited a moment for the noise to clear and echoes fade away. Standing, he took a step forward.

With the shooting over, the air was suddenly filled with the whines and cries of the wounded dogs. Cooper felt his heart sink at the noise, and he and several others moved to the clearing to put an end to the suffering of the animals. As they did so, a dog rushed out from the den trying to escape. Two of the hunters shot the mangy looking animal dropping it just feet from the opening of the den. In the meantime, others moved among the downed pack, using knives and heavy rocks for the gruesome task of stopping the suffering of the animals.

While this was going on, the practical side of Cooper’s brain was counting the bodies of the animals. There were eight full grown dogs and four or five juveniles, which seemed to be about right for the pack size. While a wolf pack could get larger, feral dogs tended to have smaller packs because they were mostly scavengers, surviving off what they could easily obtain rather than true pack hunters like a wolf.

Not Tim looked into the den area and began to swear. Cooper went over to see what he was looking at. Among the leaves and fur and detrus of the den, a mound of puppies yipped and called out to a dead mother.

“I ain’t killin’ puppies,” declared Not Tim. “I’ve killed enough for a day.”

Cooper couldn’t disagree.

Boone moved into the den. He picked up one of the mutts. “They’re awful young. They’ll die on their own.”

He put the animal down and wiped off his hands, wiggling at the wriggling mass.

“We can’t leave them,” said someone else.

“We just shot a pack to keep them from killing all our stock, we can’t keep them either,” responded another.

“We could train them,” pointed out someone.

“What will you feed them? It’s not like there’s puppy chow any more, and this winter’s not going to be a walk in the park, you’ll want all the leftovers for yourself.”

Cooper had Boone hand him a puppy. The animal smelled awful, but it began to nibble on Cooper’s fingers and make squeaking noises, which made the smell bearable.

“We have to kill them,” he declared.

“You do,” said someone. Now that the main threat was handled, the need to destroy all the dogs, no matter the size, had waned. Cooper knew that if these were to be destroyed, he would have to take the responsibility. He did not want to do this.

“Fuck you guys,” said Cooper. “Who wants a goddamn dog?”

Several people nodded. Cooper looked over the gathered men and decided there needed to be some rules set forth before anyone took on the responsibility of the animals.

“Frist off, you keep them tied up or kenneled. They don’t roam the mountain. If they do, and we see them out, it’s our choice, but we can shoot them on sight. We don’t need another pack forming. You take a dog, you’re responsible for feeding it; don’t decide that you can’t do it and let it go; you either find it another home, or you take care of it, or you shoot it.” Cooper thought for a moment. “If your dog gets out and gets into someone’s stock, you have to replace that stock and we put the dog down. Agreed?”

Everyone nodded reasonably.

“Fine.”

“What about these?” asked Peter, motioning at the dead littering the ground.

Cooper shrugged. “Leave them. The forest will take care of them.”

People began to move up to look at the puppies or take one. When all of the stinking beasts were claimed, Cooper led the hunters back to Not Tim’s home. The hunters walked in a quiet, tired line, each man seeming to fall into his own private fugue while those who had the new acquired puppies spoke soft words to the animals who sometimes cried out or yipped. Cooper looked over at Boone and Not Tim, neither of which had taken a dog, and wonder just why he himself had picked up the animal and given the pups amnesty. He supposed that the little creatures could not be held responsible for their sires. The puppy lay against Cooper’s chest, warm and secure under the man’s coat. Cooper sighed and hoped the thing would become at least a good companion dog for his son. He hoped he was not postponing the inevitable.

Peter came up to Cooper as they walked.

“What about the bear?” asked Peter.

“I think we’ll leave the bear for another day,” said Cooper. “Besides, the bear hasn’t hurt anything yet, and if it doesn’t, why bother?”

“If you think it’s safe—.”

“I think it might be,” decided Cooper.

“You’re Poderosa,” said Peter.

“Yeah,” answered Cooper, looking down at the brown mass of fur in his coat. “Some tough guy I am.”

Peter shrugged away Cooper’s self-derision. “It’s knowing when to be strong, that’s the secret.”

“You sound like El Jefe.”

“Fifty years of life will give you that sage sounding voice so you sound like you know what you’re talking about,” laughed Peter, with Cooper joining in.

They stepped out into the clearing behind Not Tim’s house and after some casual conversation in which people began to drift away, the group broke up finally when Not Tim’s wife came out and asked if anyone wanted hot tea. Everyone had chores to do, but the opportunity to visit with neighbors had been worth more than the lost time at survival tasks. Cooper and Boone walked down the road with several others who said their goodbyes on reaching their homes until it was just Cooper and Boone walking down the cold road. Both men stopped dead in their tracks, holding their breath when the bear crashed through the bushes, tumbled down the embankment and landed on the road way with a grunt and a moan. It sat for a moment in the road looking confused before pushing itself to all fours and letting out a powerful sneeze. The massive animal swung its head side to side and spotted the men. The three stared at each other until the bear made a growling moan and scrambled across the road and disappeared into the trees.

Boone looked over at Cooper. “Did that thing just fall down the hill?”

Cooper started laughing. “Yeah, I think so.”

Joining in, Boone looked down at his empty hands. “I’m sure as shit glad it didn’t decide to charge us.”

Cooper agreed. “I keep hoping that damn thing will just go back to where it came from so we can forget about it.”

Boone gave Cooper a curious look. “You know that thing lives around here, right?”

“You think?”

“Yeah. I’m betting the only reason we’re seeing it right now is because the dog pack disturbed it in its den.” Boone started walking again, this time with his shotgun in hand. “It probably roams all over the place up here in the warmer months.”

Cooper gave that some thought. “Well. Let’s hope it goes back to sleep then.”

“Yeah, I have no desire to hunt bear,” said Boone, stopping at the mouth of Cooper’s driveway. “You need us today?”

“No. We’ll pick it up again tomorrow. I’ll take care of the stock tonight.”

“Cool, see you later.”

Cooper waved to Boone as he headed down the road. He shifted the weight of the puppy. It was going to need a bath. It was going to need dewormed. Cooper wondered how that would be accomplished. More research in the stack of reference books they had acquired. He trudged up the driveway and to the house, wondering just what kind of trouble they were getting into having the dog around.

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Cooper woke when a breath of cold air wafted across his body. He lay for a moment and listened to the house as the night noises came to his ears. Something was different, and after checking on Jessica and finding that she lay in a deep sleep beside him, he swung out of bed and nearly stepped on the sleeping form of the puppy, secured in a wooden crate by the bed. The animal gave a small moan and burrowed under the straw they had put in the crate. There was a rag doll wrapped around a hot water bottle for the pup to snuggle against. Cooper wondered how long it would be before the dog was on the bed. At least it smelled better now. He pulled on his robe and picked up his Glock from the nightstand to investigate the house. At the very least he could throw a couple more logs on the fire while he was up. In his toddler bed, the boy was asleep as well, laying on his stomach with the blankets kicked off his body. Cooper covered the boy before heading down stairs. The door to Sanjana’s room was open, and when Cooper peeked in, the woman was not in the bed. It made him feel a little debauched to look into the room, but he knew he had to check with the feeling he was having. He felt a small chill, suppressed the feeling and checked the back door, finding it locked. Entering the great room, Cooper scanned the space, finding it empty. He went to the wood burner and opened the big glass door to toss in a couple more logs when movement outside on the balcony deck caught his attention.

Sanjana stood on the deck and the wind and snow swirled around her. The wind was lifting her robe to expose her bare, dark skin under the fleece. Cooper opened the door and stared at her for a moment. Her otherworldly beauty seemed out of place in against the blue-white of the snow. He hesitated—Sanjana always made him uncomfortable—and then stepped out on to the balcony, hugging his arms around himself. He closed the door to keep the heat in the house, his house shoes crunching the crust of the snow on the deck loudly as he walked over to where she stood, seemingly oblivious to the cold and wind. Above them the skies were filled with heavy clouds, which were light at the tops from the moon, and heavy and dark with snow at their bases. Sanjana turned to Cooper, her hair whipping in the wind and motioned for him to step forward. Her skin seemed to glow in the intermittent light of the moon.

“What are you doing out here?” asked Cooper. “It’s fucking cold.”

“Shh,” she told Cooper, and pointed out into the yard.

The huge bear was there, its shape a dark mound against the snow. The animals head swung back and forth as if it were testing the air or looking for something it had lost. Sanjana leaned close to Cooper.

“In my country, Jambavantha was a great guardian of the gods. He was a king of the mountains who was given an afterlife of a bear for his kindness and deeds by Lord Ramah,” she whispered to Cooper. “He had many adventures, and once fought Krishna for the possession of a great gem. When Jambavantha realized it was Krishna, he gave the gem over to him along with one of his daughters to serve as one of Krishna’s wives. Jambavantha’s duty was to assist Ramah in his struggle against Ravana. It is a good thing to have a bear here as a protector.”

Cooper was silent as she whispered the story to him. He smiled to himself in the darkness. “So we leave the bear alone?”

“Leave the bear alone,” agreed Sanjana. As she spoke, the bear rose up on it hind legs, a towering shape in the darkness, its moon shadow long and blue on the snow. Across the expanse of the yard, Cooper heard the animal give a low grunt and it dropped back to all fours, ambling off into the woods.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:13 pm 
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I know it's a day later but having a great story to read feels like Christmas all over again... Thank you!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2015 9:09 pm 
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good stuff Doc thanks .


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That was a very enjoyable series of updates! :awesome: :awesome:

Thank, Doc! :clap: :clap:

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:15 am 
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Very good read. Realistic, down to earth, extremely well written. Excellent entertainment. Want more. :awesome:

Is the L5 space station a reference to Scott Bieser's Quantum Vibe series, by any chance?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:21 am 
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mzmc wrote:
Very good read. Realistic, down to earth, extremely well written. Excellent entertainment. Want more. :awesome:

Is the L5 space station a reference to Scott Bieser's Quantum Vibe series, by any chance?


Haha....maybe. ...

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Leaving some breadcrumbs in order to find m way back...... 8-)

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teotwaki wrote:
Leaving some breadcrumbs in order to find m way back...... 8-)


Cool blog

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 7:22 pm 
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doc66 wrote:
Cool blog


Thank you very much! I just discovered this story and finished today. I enjoyed Cooper very much and also got a good chortle out of the 1911 love story at breach-bang-clear :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2015 9:11 am 
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Another great installment to a fantastically well written story!

Thanks!

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Thank you for the MOAR!!!

It is good stuff!!! (As always...)

I read the 1911 stuff over at Breachbangclear,
and I liked it. (I didn't know you were a poet)..

Thank you!
And keep up the good work..

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:49 pm 
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Thank you Doc. I love this story! :)


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Time for a 4 month update? Please?

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naanders94gt wrote:
Time for a 4 month update? Please?

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I was/am taking a hiatus from this story... I kinda started another story with Cooper and Company a while ago, but I haven't finished it. However, after reading your post I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about plotting it out. So, no promises, I'm camping this weekend and maybe I'll finish it up next week.

The Werks are playing in Knoxville on Monday as well... so many things happening!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2016 6:10 pm 
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doc66 wrote:
naanders94gt wrote:
Time for a 4 month update? Please?

Sent from my SM-G920P using Tapatalk


I was/am taking a hiatus from this story... I kinda started another story with Cooper and Company a while ago, but I haven't finished it. However, after reading your post I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about plotting it out. So, no promises, I'm camping this weekend and maybe I'll finish it up next week.

The Werks are playing in Knoxville on Monday as well... so many things happening!

I can dig it. Would love to hear more even if its a totally different direction. I enjoy your writing.

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