Spring had sprung into full splendor on the western high plains of the Gunderson Ranch. New baby calves frolicked in the lush pastures under the watchful eye of mama cows. A cavalcade of colorful flowers bloomed from the fields to the forest. Delicate pale pink heads of primrose, stalwart stems of golden yarrow, the emerald green bushes of sumac grew alongside the caramel-covered stalks of autumn’s dried grasses. Birdsong and insect chatter abounded on the ground and in the sky. Sring was a fleeting season at best, and I appreciated the metamorphosis after a long winter. Sunshine burned the chill from the early morning air. As much as I benefited from solitary communion with nature, I wasn’t our picking posies. I was out picking my first target. Old habits died hard; hunting was in my blood. Plus, I had nothing better to do until my shift started at Clementine’s. And the thought of another night dealing with drunks and bar fights always put me in a killing mood. I’d hiked to a prairie dog town on what used to be Newsome land, but now belonged to the Gunderson Ranch. The section was remote, a flat area surrounded by craggy rock formations that prevented the persistent buggers from digging tunnels un-impended across grazing land. But the topography created a bowl effect that I likened to shooting fish in a barrel. Since cover was minimal, I’d crawled under scraggly bushes as my “hide” and with luck I’d stay down wind. Dressed in camo, lying on my belly, propped on my elbows, I peered through the scope of my dad’s “varmint” rifle. Despite the age of Remington 722, its accuracy was unparalleled. Out of habit, I used my right eye. The black shadows from the retinal detachment weren’t too bad during the day. A few clicks and the fuzzy brown spots in my sights became clear. Furry heads popped up and disappeared into the mounds of chalky dirt as I scanned the networked holes spread across the rugged plateau. Bingo. My first target was two hundred yards out, before I pulled the trigger, a red-tailed hawk swooped down, snatching my kill right out from under me. The prairie dog’s surprised screech echoed across the plains. A flurry of panic ensued among the critters as they retreated to hidey-holes. Their collective caution lasted roughly two minutes. Sleek heads popped up like jack-in-the-boxes. Several brave animals stretched tall, aiming twitching noses to the sky, letting the sun tan their hides. Suckers.
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