A Hank Wells Story

His name was Wells. Hank Wells.  Hank was the real thing … a cowboy straight out of the old west.  It was a lifestyle he’d grown up on, as he’d helped his mother and father on their Wyoming cattle ranch all of his life.  He couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  His hat bore the sweat stains from years of hard work, his jeans and flannel shirt were his uniform and his boots were well worn and meant for business.  Come rain, shine, snow, heavy winds … he could be found riding the range on his favorite steed, Jack.  Jack was a handsome brown and white American Paint Horse, standing an impressive 16 hands high at 6 years old, filled with energy and awareness of his surroundings.  Jack and Hank cut a striking figure on the range and the cattle were always eager to follow wherever the pair led them.

One brisk fall morning, as Hank and Jack were riding the forested edge of the cattle pasture checking the animals, they heard a strange noise just inside the woods up ahead.  Sensing possible danger, the pair quietly moved forward to investigate.  As they neared the area where the sound had come from, they saw something that put fear in Hank’s heart.  Small patches of cowhide and blood.  He snatched his Weatherby rifle out of the saddle holster, released the safety and readied himself.  Urging Jack slowly and cautiously, they moved forward.  Jack knew that danger lurked ahead and stepped as quietly as possible.

Suddenly, they heard it.  A sound that was unlike any other.  The unmistakable howl of the coyote.  Then, another and, finally a third.  Jack stopped in his tracks and his hackles went up.  Hank sat straight up in the saddle, quickly wrapped Jack’s reins around the saddle and, in the blink of an eye, his rifle was out of the saddle holster, cocked and settled into his right shoulder.

The pair inched forward.  One silent hoof step at a time.  They slowly moved deeper into the woods, following more signs of cowhide and blood on the ground.  Once again, they heard the blood-curdling howl from all three coyotes.  Hank gently urged Jack to the right where the howls were now coming from.  They were now about 70 yards into the woods, the sunlight barely providing any light through the thick canopy of trees overhead.  Hank shut his eyes, briefly, to help adjust to the surrounding darkness.  Just then, Hank saw them.  Two, then four red devilish eyes staring back at him from up ahead.  But, where was the third?  Hank knew the other coyote had likely made his way around behind him and Jack, just waiting to pounce on the sturdy horse when the time was right.

Hank looked down at the ground between him and the two coyotes and there it was.  One of his family’s prize heifers had been taken down by the small pack of coyotes.  It was still alive, but was definitely suffering.  Hank’s first concern was to put this cow out of its misery.  Hank quickly thought through the scenario around him.  Once he shot the cow, he’d have to work fast to take down the two coyotes in front of him and the one behind, even though he didn’t know exactly where that third one was back there.  Of course, Jack would have to be extremely agile in order for Hank to take out all three and not risk any injury to Jack or himself.  Hank had a plan.  It was something risky that he’d seen done in the movies, but never tried with Jack, or any other horse for that matter.  Still, it was his only chance and it had to work.  Keeping his eyes and rifle trained on the coyotes in front of them, Hank bent down and whispered the plan in Jack’s ear.  Jack seemed to understand and cautiously adjusted his stance as Hank sat back up.

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Hank fired the perfect shot to relieve the cow from suffering.  Immediately, Jack laid down on his right side while Hank slid off to the left, settling his elbow on Jack’s stomach.  Hank fired to his left where two of the coyotes were.  BOOM! One down.  Hank heard the coyote that had been behind him, so he quickly swung around to his right and BOOM!  Another one down. Swinging sharply back to his left, Hank fired the last perfect shot.  BOOM!  The third and final coyote was down. Although it seemed like it happened in slow motion, it took less than 5 seconds.

As the smoke cleared, Hank could see that all three coyotes had been dispatched with greater accuracy than Hank thought he had.  Those coyotes wouldn’t be bothering the rest of the herd and Hank was relieved.  While they lost one cow, the other 300-plus head would be safe.  For now, anyway.  Hank stood up, brushing the forest floor off his jeans.  Jack got back up on all fours and turned to nuzzle Hank’s shoulder.  He and Hank locked eyes in understanding and relief.  The pair had done exactly what Hank had hoped and they did it in perfect unison.

While there wasn’t enough good meat to harvest from the cow, Hank did field dress all three coyotes.  He was a strong believer in using as much of a dead animal as possible.  He would use the hide for coats and the meat would provide several meals.  Coyotes were predators, but that didn’t mean their lives had to be taken and left to rot.

Still feeling a little shaken at the close encounter, Hank walked Jack out of the forest, with the coyote fur and meat strapped behind the saddle.  When they got back to the pasture where the rest of the herd was grazing, Hank realized they didn’t seem to have been affected by anything that had transpired in the dark depths of the forest.

After a few minutes, Hank climbed up on Jack and sheathed his rifle.  Slowly, the pair continued around the pasture.  Hank knew this is where he was meant to be.  Hank and Jack … protecting the herd that provided their livelihood.  Hank and Jack … cutting a striking figure on the range.  Now with an even deeper level of trust between them.  Hank and Jack … a real cowboy and his trusty steed.

Yee haw, cowboy!

By: Lisa Shrefler for 82717

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