Authors: John R. Erickson
Tags: #cowdog, #Hank the Cowdog, #John R. Erickson, #John Erickson, #ranching, #Texas, #dog, #adventure, #mystery, #Hank, #Drover, #Pete, #Sally May
The Case of the Kidnapped Collie
John R. Erickson
Illustrations by Gerald L. Holmes
Maverick Books, Inc.
Published by Maverick Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 549, Perryton, TX 79070
First published in the United States of America by Gulf Publishing Company, 1996.
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., 2012.
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Copyright Â© John R. Erickson, 1996
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012931090
978-1-59188-126-1 (paperback); 978-1-59188-226-8 (hardcover)
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.
To Mary Kate Tripp, book editor for the Amarillo News-Globe, who has done more to encourage reading and writing in the Texas Panhandle than anyone I know. Thanks, MKT.
Sorry, But I Can't Reveal the Collie's Name
A Porkchop on the Eighth Floor
My Clever Interrogation of the Cat
The Unwelcome Guest Arrives
The Angelic Kangaroo
Forget the Kangaroo, It Was Beulah
She Resists My Charms
A Major Theft on the Ranch
A Plan Takes Shape in My Mind
I Arrest the Thieving Turkeys
Beulah Is Kidnapped by a Cannibal!
Will This Story End Happily or in Tragedy?
Chapter One: Sorry, But I Can't Reveal the Collie's Name
t's me again, Hank the Cowdog. As you might have noticed, this story is called The Case of the Kidnapped Collie. Pretty spooky, huh? You bet it is.
In fact, it's so spooky that I can't reveal the collie's name. It might give the kids too much of a scare. See, I happen to know that this certain unnamed collie is popular with the kids, and if they knew she was going to get captured by a ferocious cannibal . . .
Oops, I didn't want to mention that either, the cannibal part. Forget I said it. Let's just say that I was misquoted. I was discussing camels and you thought I said “cannibals,” but I didn't.
I said nothing, almost nothing at all, about collies or cannibals, and now we can get on with the story.
Have we discussed bird dogs lately? Maybe not, and maybe we should. I don't like 'em, never have, and the main reason I don't like 'em is that I've known a few . . . well, one anyway . . . and I didn't like him, not even a little bit.
Remember Plato, the stupid, spotted, sticktailed, dumb-bunny bird dog? You might recall that Plato was . . . I don't know what.
How can you describe a guy who shows up at the very exact moment when your fondesh wist is never to see him again? Fondest wish, I should say. At the very exact moment when it appears that you will finally get to spend a few precious moments with the woman of your dreams, there he isâthe bird dog.
He shows up like flies at a picnicâunwanted, uncalled for, totally irrelevant to the situation.
Always grinning. Always the perfect gentleman. So kind and friendly it makes you ill, but what
makes you ill is that you want so badly to beat him up.
But who can beat up a guy who's always nice? That's the problem with Plato. He's too dumb to know how much everybody hates him, and he's too nice to be told in the usual mannerâa thrashing.
So he ends up winning the heart of my girlfriend, and I end up wondering how dumb he can be when he wins all the time. And the more I think about it, the madder I get, and excuse me for a moment while I bang my head against this tree over here.
BONK! BONK! BONK!
That's better. Where were we? Oh yes, trees.
Trees are large plants. Their roots grow downÂward while their branches grow upward toward the sky. Nobody knows why they do it that way, but the important thing about trees is that you should never bang your head against one.
Their bark is worse than their bite, you might say.
A little humor there. Trees don't actually bark, see, but they have this hard layer of . . . maybe you got it.
Okay. All trees should be equipped with a sign that says, “Don't bang your head on this thing, no matter how much you hate bird dogs, because it will mess you up and the tree will never feel a thing.”
But the point is that I had no use for bird dogs and had no reason for ever wanting to see one again. But I did.
It all began . . . hmmm, when did it begin? Was it in the summer? No. Winter? No. Spring? Don't think so. Then that leaves . . .
. . . the leaves were turning yellow. Okay, here we go. It was in the fall of the year, of course it was, you ninny, because that's when bird season starts, and it follows from simple logic that you begin seeing bird dogs around the start of bird season.
Sorry, I shouldn't have called you a ninny. That was uncalled for. You did your best and you can't help it that your memory moves quite a bit slower than . . . well, mine, you might say. Mine operates at fifty megahurts and it hurts pretty mega right now after banging my head against the stupid . . .
I've got a headache and I shouldn't have called you a ninny.
Anyways, it all began in the spring of the year, toward the end of November, as I recall. Yes, it's all coming back now. We'd had several cold fronts and the mornings were cool and crisp. The chinaÂberries had shed most of their leaves and the days were getting shorter.
And on one of those lovely autumn afternoons, I happened to overhear a conversation between Slim and Loper, the two cowboys on this outfit.
Or let's put it this way. They think of themselves as cowboys and they take pride in their cowboy skills, but on this particular afternoon they found themselves involved in some serious noncowboy work.
They were doing some reconstruction work on the feed barn, see, and they had reported to the job site in their carpenter costumes. Instead of the usual cowboy boots and hats, they showed up in caps, overalls, and lace-up boots.
Instead of arming themselves with ropes and spurs, as usual, they had brought hammers and saws and pry bars. They had even brought a device that I had thought was against the law on our outfit: a tape measure.
No kidding, Slim and Loper had actually brought a tape measure to the job site! I was dumb-foundered. I mean, after years and years of wood-butchery and the very worst displays of cowboy carpentry, why had they suddenly decided to measure their boards?
I couldn't understand it. Maybe Loper had read an article on woodworking and had run into a reference to something called a “tape measure.” It must have given him such a jolt that he decided to buy one at the lumberyard and try it out.
Slim set the tone for the project when he pulled out a foot of tape and squinted at it for a long time. “Say, do these little marks between the inch lines mean anything?”
To which Loper replied, “Those are for brain surgeons.”
“Good. I can't hardly see 'em.”
And away they went, hacking and sawing and pounding. Would you care to listen in on one of their high-tech conversations? Okay, they had just sawed two boards and were putting them in place.
Loper: “Do they fit?”
Loper: “Are they close?”
Loper: “Do they touch?”
Slim: “Yep, barely.”
Loper: “Nail 'em. We ain't building pianos.”
I don't mean to scoff or make fun of their patheÂtic efforts, but if you think I'm exaggerating, just take a tour of the feed barn sometime and pay close attention to the west side.
Anyways, it was November and I had noticed the many signs of fall. The locust and chinaberry trees had . . . I've already mentioned that, but I didn't say anything about the cockleburs.
You know for sure that fall has arrived when all the horses on the ranch start wearing cockleburs in their tails, manes, and . . . whatever you call that bunch of hair on their foreheads . . . bangs, forelocks, padlocks . . . I'm sorry I brought it up.
The horses get involved with cockleburs, is the point, and even we dogs collect a few of them. In the fall of the year, it's almost impossible to conduct ranch business without picking up some cockleburs.
Other signs of fall: The hawks and kites have left and other types of birds have moved in, such as your crows, your bluebirds, your robins, and your sandhill cranes.
And wild turkeys, but we'll get to that later on.
Oh yes, and the wasps. All at once, they were everywhere and they were lazy and it didn't take much talent to get stung by one, the hateful little things.
Oh, and one last symptom of fall in our country is that you begin seeing tarantula spiders. You never see them until the fall of the year (which is sure okay with me), then all at once you see them crossing the road.
Me, I can get along just fine without tarantulas. They are big and hairy-legged and ugly, and let's change the subject. They give me the creeps.
Where were we? Oh yes, the Board Butchers were trying to repair the west side of the feed barn. Around two o'clock, they stopped and took a break. And it was then that I heard the bad news.
I happened to be seated nearby, beaming glares at Pete the Barncat and trying to extract three cockleburs from my coat of hair. I had been ignoring most of Slim and Loper's conversation, since it had been fairly boring, but I perked up when I realized that they were discussing a dog.
“You know, Slim, I've never gotten much of a kick out of hunting quail, and just the other day I realized why.”
“'Cause you're a terrible shot?”
“No. The sport in bird hunting, the real sport, comes from watching the dogs work, and I'm talking about good dogs, trained dogs, dogs that are born and bred for birds.”
“Yalp, but instead of owning a bird dog, you've got one that's bird-brained.”
The conversation stopped and I realized that they were both staring at . . . well, ME, you might say. I thumped my tail on the ground and gave them my most sincere cowdog smile.
Slim: “See what I mean? He's eatin' cockleburs.”
What? Was he trying to be funny? All right, maybe I did have a cocklebur in my mouth at that very moment, but I was extracting it from my coat, thank you, and not EATING it.
And just to prove it, to show what a silly mockery he was making of my dignity, I spit it out. There!
I wasn't eating cockleburs.
Nor was I amused by his childish remark about . . . what was it? Something about a “bird-brained dog”?
Not funny, not funny at all, but of course he laughed at his own stale joke.
He thought he was such a comedian.
Loper continued. “Anyhow, I invited Billy to come over this afternoon and bring that dog of his. I guess he's a pretty good quail dog.”
My head shot up and so did my ears.
Billy? Quail dog? Holy smokes, Billy was our neighbor down the creek and his so-called quail dog was named . . .
You guessed it. Plato.