Buck Smith’s Option

Part Fifteen

By Tom Word
 
Kyle and Buck cantered north up the road that paralleled the course, following the signal from Strong’s tracking collar.  When they reached the pond, they cut left across the big harvested bean field.  The signal was coming from the farm curtilage west of the bean field.  When they reached it, the tracker indicated the collar was inside the farmhouse.  
Kyle swung from the saddle and knocked on the front door.  A dour balding farmer, in his 60s, clad in bibbed overalls and a khaki shirt, opened the door and walked onto the porch.
“Get your damned horses off my yard,” he blurted, anger in his voice and eyes.
Buck swung out of the saddle and led his and Kyle’s mounts from the yard grass onto the graveled road that circled close around the house.  The steel shod hooves crunched on the pebbles.
“My dog is in your house,” Kyle said, pointing with the tracker.  Realization showed on the farmer’s face—he had thought the tracking collar was a shock collar.
  “Bring my dog out,” Kyle ordered.
The farmer slipped back in the front door and quickly returned with the collar in hand.
“I don’t have your dog—I turned him loose when I took this here collar off him,” the farmer said.
A muffled bark came from within a Butler building thirty yards north of the farmhouse.  
Strong had smelled the horses.  “You are a lying son-of-a-bitch,” Kyle said.  
Buck swung into the saddle and reached the steel building in seconds, found the windowless steel door unlocked, and went in.  Headstrong barked again in greeting—he was tied by a grass string (bailing twine) to a workbench.  Buck cut the string with his pocketknife and led Strong out.  Kyle and the farmer still stood on the front porch of the farmhouse.
“Let’s go,” Buck called to Kyle as he buckled a roading harness on Strong and swung back on his horse, his check cord now snapped to the harness.
Kyle resisted the urge to punch the farmer, instead snatched the tracking collar from his hand.  The hooves of their horses divoted the farmer’s lawn grass as they cantered away.
“Stay off my land.”  Each word was fainter from the Doppler effect.  Ahead of Buck’s horse, Strong pulled happily against his roading harness.
They reached the stable in fifteen minutes.  Kyle had called Dillard on his cell phone to report the successful rescue.  Dillard stood grinning at the gate to the pasture surrounding the stable.
Darkness was falling and rain pelting strongly as they washed down their mounts and put oats and fresh hay in their stalls.  Then they were rolling to the motel, Strong on the back seat of the dually beside Kyle, Buck driving, Dillard riding shotgun.Kyle’s cell phone played the opening notes of Dixie, its ring tone.  John Russell was calling from the clubhouse.  Strong was in the first brace of the finals tomorrow, braced with The Redman, a familiar rival handled by Eddie Shipp of Oklahoma, who happened to be one quarter Cherokee.  No other dogs had been called back, though four others had been placed on standby by the judges.They reached the motel in full darkness.  The temperature was falling fast.  Strong followed Kyle into the lobby at heel, tail wagging.
To be continued in Part Sixteen.