"Quiet Pancake...don't wake the others.", I said quietly in her ear. We headed out of the barn and across the pasture on foot. The grass had a coating of dew and felt like walking on water. Pancake was all giddy with excitement as her ears were perked and she wanted to run. Pancake is a 6 year old Palomino who has followed me everywhere since the day Larry gave her to me. The boys thought she was colored like a pancake so the name stuck. She didn't seem to mind and sometimes I think she has a sheepish smile when you called her name.
I packed lightly with emergency backpack, a 30/30, a 357 revolver and some food. I didn't plan on being gone more than 48 hours and seemed senseless to travel packed for a week. I did pack some coffee the Guard had supplied as I knew Larry and friends were low. Always nice to show up bearing gifts!
We found the edge of the pasture so I bridled and saddled her. We cleared the barn and pasture right at daybreak and if all went well we could be at Larry's by mid-afternoon. I was tired of no news and decided this "Project Manager" was going to check on his friend. I mean its not like they'd miss me or anything. I left a note with the missus and told her to keep hush, I'd be back tomorrow. I saddled aboard Pancake as she reared with anticipation. "Whoa Pancake...easy girl", I said as I patted her neck. I felt her relax just a bit and thats when I yelled, "Giddy-up Pancake..to Larry's we go"! She sped down the side of the cornfield towards Larry's as if she instinctively knew the way. As we came to the edge of the corn and about to enter the woods, she slowed to a trot and we stopped 20 yards inside the woods and listened. "Listen girl...lemme know if you hear anything", I said as her ears were like radars. After a few minutes all was calm so we proceeded on our marked trail.
After an hour of riding, that feeling of being watched hadn't subsided. We had cleared the first woods, crossed down two fields and entered a second woods. I had circled back some and kept an eye on the fields yet I saw nothing. Pancake and I proceeded down the creek as it was easier traveling and in the heat was a fresh source of water. I kept an eye open and her ears were still swiveling like radars. We both were on edge trying to listen and watch behind us. I had taken a different route this time that took us deeper into the woods. I had mistakenly taken this route once before and I knew we'd be ok. No one else knew of the path and if someone from home was following, they'd either become lost or give up and go home.
Another hour of riding and we stopped for a break. It was warm and humid today and in the early morning the bugs were thick. I took my handkerchief off and dipped it in the cool water. Wiping my brow and squeezing the rest on my head. Pancake was drinking and suddenly snapped her head up and towards the rear. Her ears were locked on something I couldn't hear or see and she nickered. Shuffling about nervously she started to lunge forward. I jumped up and grabbed the reins and looked back as I felt a searing pain in my shoulder and blood splatter across Pancakes backside. I fell forward halfway into the creek as I grabbed my 357 from the holster. I never even heard the gunshot...