Texas Jackalope

by Wendymypooh

It was a cold, stormy night in late autumn when the seven peacekeepers from Four Corners settled down for the night around a roaring campfire. The lawmen had been out hunting down a notorious gang of outlaws who had been wreaking havoc in the territory. Judge Orrin Travis, their employer, had elicited their help in apprehending the gang. Vin Tanner, renowned tracker, had used his remarkable tracking skills to hunt down the gang at their hideout.

A furious gun battle had ensued, lasting several hours, and leaving a large portion of the outlaws, dead or severely wounded. Through what Josiah Sanchez, ex-preacher, claimed as ‘divine intervention’ none of the seven men had been seriously injured. Flesh wounds, minor cuts, bruises, and one dislocated shoulder, coupled with overall weariness once they had turned their prisoners over to federal marshals, had led to the seven deciding to call it an early night instead of riding on into town.

J.D. Dunne, the youngest of the seven was almost asleep when he became aware of the first strains of a melody drifting on the wind. “What is that?”

“Cow hands singing to their cattle J.D.” Buck Wilmington told the younger man.

“Where is it coming from though? We’re nowhere near any ranches out here.”

“High range.” Vin Tanner’s quiet voice supplied through the darkness. “Cow hands singing to their herd, and the wind is carrying it down into the valley where we can hear it.”

Another strain caught their attention this time from an opposite direction. It was a solitary tune and had a haunting quality to it.

“You can’t tell me that is a cowhand singing to his cattle.” J.D. remarked, “It sounds downright eerie.”

“Nope…that’s a jackalope.” Vin told him.

“A jackalope? What in tarnation is that?” Buck exclaimed.

“A jackalope is a small animal that resembles a jack rabbit, but has antlers growing out of its head.” Vin explained. “It’s repeating the cow hand’s words back to them.”

“You don’t really expect us to believe such a tall tale as that, do you Vin?” Nathan Jackson asked sleepily.

“You can believe whatever you darn want to, Nathan. I was just telling you what I know it to be.” Vin said, his voice held an edge to it, the tracker not liking it being implied that he was lying.

Chris Larabee had listened quietly to the exchange of words between his companion’s, smiling all the while as Vin explained what they were hearing. He knew that Vin was fond of bringing up stories that he had heard to get a rise out of his friends…especially J.D. before they caught onto it being false. This time was different though, and he had noted the edgy quality Vin’s voice had taken on. He had heard the melody and the explanation from Vin before, and although he wasn’t quite sure he believed it, he knew that Vin did, and that was good enough for him.

“That’s enough talking for the night. Morning’s only a few hours off and we all need to get some sleep.” He said aloud in a voice that wouldn’t tolerate any arguments.

The other men settled down onto their pallets around the fire, and soon were lulled fast asleep by the melodic strains of the Jackalope.