Tag Archives: Louisiana

Fire and Fireworks

Boys have a fascination with fire. The fact that we like to grill is an indication of that. One of the reasons I joined the Boy Scouts (Troop 176) was so I could play with fire. But I was attracted to fire long before that.

As kids in rural Kenner, we had plenty of opportunities to play with fire. We never missed an excuse to build a campfire in the Manard’s key lot and cook something, sometimes one of our fingers—ouch! Our parents always tried to discourage our fire building and cook outs in the key lot with a lame excuse, like the City of Kenner doesn’t allow fires.

“And? So what?” was our usual come back. What followed was about ten minutes of a half dozen kids badgering parents, who only wanted to be left alone and drink beer. “Oh, OK! But don’t come running to me with burnt fingers.”

And we had a one-match fire going within minutes. (Hint: gasoline helps.)

A favorite Boy Scout meal was foil stew. It was easy to prepare. You simply make a pouch out of some heavy duty foil (preferably) and fill it with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, and a little seasoning. Add just a small splash of water and seal it up real tight. (The water part became beer when we got older)

You get a good fire going and let it settle down to coals, spread those out and flop that pouch of foil-delicious on them, then add some more coals on top. Let that puppy cook for about 20 minutes and pull it off the fire.

Carefully slice the pouch open and peel back the sides to make a bowl—and dig in. I ate many a foil stew while in the Boy Scouts and with my boys on later camping or hunting trips.

Fire included fireworks, and in those days we had M-80s. If I had to guess, I would say an M-80 was close to a half a stick of dynamite! Well, it seemed like it, and was close enough you can’t get the “real” M-80s today. It is amazing we never blew fingers off, and yes, we did hold them, light-em-up and throw them, not advisable, especially with a “half-stick-o-dynamite” M-80.

Son and Margie Manard, Bobby and Melanie’s parents, had discarded a kitchen trash can. It was the kind made out of steel with a pop-up lid and a removable can insert for the garbage, also made out of heavy steel. It was in July when we had ready access to M-80s, and we decided to see how high an M-80 would propel that heavy steel, can insert. So, we got out in the middle of Sixth Street and flopped that can face down over a sizzling M-80. After which, we all ran for cover.


That can went straight up almost as high as the nearby trees were tall, forty feet or more! WOW! We gotta do that again! And we did; numerous more “agains,” until that can was all bloated looking and dented from M-80 detonations.

I was really into building plastic model airplanes, and another of my favorite uses for fireworks was to glue bottle rockets under the wings and make my plastic F-80 or P-51 fly. Trouble is, it never quite worked out like I expected. Getting the two bottle rockets, one on each wing, coordinated was something outside my skill set at eleven years old. My airplanes mostly went in circles as one rocket fired off before the other, and the in the opposite direction when the other finally lit up. Then the wings melted from the heat. That game got expensive, so I gave up.

This fascination with fire lasted even into my parenting period. I went on a father/son camping trip with my youngest son’s (Ryan) Scout troop. We stayed in the Group Camp Cabins at Fountainbleau State Park. Part of the weekend pitted the scouts against their dads in various scouting skills like first-aid, wilderness navigation, and, of course, fire building. The dads faced off against several teams of scouts on who could build a fire and get it going enough to burn through a thread stretched over the fire at eighteen inches above the ground. And we had to use flint and steel to start the fire. The scouts, not being clever like their devious dads, went the traditional route: first laid down some flammable material like dry leaves, then some kindling , then larger twigs, and finally some sticks.

In our scavenging through the woods for materials to build our fire, I discovered that dry Spanish Moss, the black stuff, burned like it was soaked in gasoline.

You know what’s coming.

With all our fires built and ready to fire up, the scouts looked questioningly at our mound of dry, black Spanish Moss, piled up high enough to almost touch the thread.

Ready, set, GO!

I struck flint to steel and FFOOOMMMPP! In a blaze of fiery glory, that thread disappeared in about three seconds flat.

We won.

Ah, the good old days. And I suddenly feel the need to fire up the Weber…

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Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

Here kitty, kitty…

pantherI found this image of a panther on Facebook. Look closely and you can see it is a black variation of a spotted panther. You can see the spots on his foreleg. Folks say they don’t exist in Louisiana. Well, supposedly this game camera image was taken in Louisiana. (For the uninformed, game cameras are set up in the woods, usually strapped to a  tree along game trails or looking over automatic deer feeders. They take a picture automatically when the sensors pick up the evidence of something moving nearby.)

Panthers are indeed out there, but sightings are extremely rare and usually at a distance where it could be argued what was seen was something else, like a deer or a hog, or even a big house cat. But I know two people who have seen panthers.

One was my friend Sharon P. She saw hers in south Mississippi—close to Louisiana, right? Sharon is an avid hunter and has trophies on her wall that would make most any hunter envious. My point is, Sharon is a savvy woods-person and is not prone to hysterics, thus, in my book, if Sharon saw a panther, Sharon saw a panther.

The other sighting I am aware of was by my friend Buck. He was a heavy equipment operator in his early life after discharge from the Army and was working as a dozer operator on the Sunshine Bridge, which was built in the early seventies, if not mistaken. The equipment was stored at night in a marshaling yard some distance from the bridge site, and each morning Buck had to drive the dozer to the work site on a levee . There were cane fields on one side of the levee and woods on the other, if I am remembering this correctly.

This particular morning was extremely foggy with restricted visibility such that you could see only a few yards. He waited for the fog to lift but soon got bored with that and cranked up his dozer and started the trip to the site. Even though the fog had lifted off the ground a few feet, up in the elevated cab of the big dozer, he could see only a few yards ahead, and staying on the levee was difficult.

He got aggravated with that, so, he shut it down and lit up a cigarette and sat there in the dead silence, waiting for the fog to lift.

It didn’t, and he eventually had to relieve himself of his morning coffee, so he stepped out of the cab onto the track of the dozer, then dropped to the ground. Upon landing, he was face-to-face with a black panther.

The cat screamed!

Buck Screamed!

The cat did an about face and took off!

Buck did an about face and took off—but his trip was cut short when he ran smack into the tracks of the dozer. That hurt!

Buck said he spoke to some farmers about this later, and they confirmed they had also been seeing a panther in the area. So, don’t let anyone tell you there are no big cats in Louisiana.

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The Avenging Angel

I have been asked if I plan to write a third book in the Catahoula Series. I do and am working on it now.

It begins in July of 1866, a year after An Eternity of Four Years ends, and carries the reader into that period after the War Between the States called “Reconstruction.” In many respects, Reconstruction was as bad as the war was for the South. Racial tensions ran extremely high and often exploded into violence as the former “rulers” (the planters) attempted to regain some semblance of control over the shattered southern economy and their former servants (the freedmen). The antebellum system of authority was broken by the war and emancipation. In its place, a new system emerged that more resembled chaos. As one would expect, the planters didn’t take well to the change.

Some northern interests wanted the South severely punished for what they had done and saw Reconstruction as a chance to extract that punishment. Southern culture and traditions were turned upside down, and southerners struggled to deal with the changes while attempting to make a living (avoid starving), pay taxes on unproductive property, and rebuild the South.

Out of the chaos came organizations like the Klan and later The White League and the Knights of the White Camellia along with all the violence, mostly against African Americans, that was part of that.

The working title for Book 3 is The Avenging Angel (which is subject to change). It tells the story of Rachel and Ethan attempting to build their lives together in the middle of all this. Along with the familiar characters Ethan, Rachel, Analee, and Pernell, you will meet a few new ones, and see a couple of old ones come back into the story you have not seen since Book 1. Ever wonder what happened to Brandy and Zeke after they ran away?

It is a work in progress that I have only outlined and written a few chapters. A lot of research needs to be done, and story details remain to be worked out, written, and edited before it will be published. I hate date setting, because I am always wrong, but I hope to have it published by the summer of 2016. I will do the best I can, but don’t hold me to that.

Meanwhile, here is the opening scene from chapter 1 of The Avenging Angel to wet your whistle.


From Rachel‘s Diary

28 July 1866

I knew, by the stern expression on my husband’s face, that he was nearing the limits of his patience. Listening to Mr. Waldo T. Pettigrew expound upon how he had been sent by Washington to repair the broken South and lead it from its wayward rebellious ways back into the Union fold. In his tone, you could hear the man’s utter contempt for people like us, southerners, whom he considered to be beneath his station, and that was not sitting well with Ethan.

Four years of war tends to change a man, and I knew it had affected my husband in ways I was yet to fully understand, but I was sure his tolerance level for carpetbaggers, like this one come to bring us the way, the truth, and the light of his enlightened existence, was much diminished.

“Can you swim?” Ethan asked him in a dry, matter-of-fact manner.

Upon hearing that, I frowned as I looked over the rail of the riverboat at the swirling, muddy waters of the Mississippi passing below. I knew exactly what he had in mind to do. “Ethan, please don’t.”

As this pompous ass pontificated on his considerable swimming ability, being as he was from the Atlantic Coast, Ethan noted my pleading expression punctuated by my arched eyebrow expressing my displeasure, a trick I learned from his mother. Thus admonished, he tipped his hat to Mr. Pettigrew and excused himself from his company.

I lingered for a moment when Pettigrew inquired of me, “Why did he suddenly leave? Did I say something that offended him?”

I smiled. “I believe he found your attitude toward the South offensive, as did I. And I would advise you to temper your speech during your stay in Louisiana—unless you fancy wearing tar and feathers.”

Mr. Pettigrew’s shocked expression indicated he clearly understood my meaning. “But—why did he ask if I could swim?”

“Because, you, sir, were about two seconds away from him grabbing you by the scruff of your skinny neck and the seat of your finely tailored trousers and tossing you overboard. You are not treading water right now, only because I asked him not to do it.”

His expression went blank as he took a deep breath and sighed before replying barely above a hoarse, stuttering whisper, “I–I lied. I can’t swim.”

I shrugged. “Then I just saved your life.”

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Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, The Avenging Angel

Today, I lost my best friend …

Lane & Buck ca 1963Michael (Buck) Roy and I have been friends for nearly 60 years now. During that time, we were like the closest of brothers. In fact, he lived with my family for a spell when we were teenagers. He went to be with the Lord this morning around 9am.

In a way, I am glad he’s gone, because he suffered with Lewy Body Dementia. He was aware he was quite literally losing his mind, and as expected, it scared him, and not many things scared Buck. It would scare me, too. I know he would not want to live in his own private hell of non-existence, dealing with the frightful hallucinations he was having as a result of the LBD.

He’s at peace now.

It is hard to put into words one’s feelings for another after being so close for so long. We shared so many adventures together, some of which I have written about here and here and here. (And I will write more as they come to mind.) We spent many a night around a campfire, discussing things that made no sense to us and things that did, solving the world’s problems and maybe helping aggravate a few. Our minds worked so much alike, it was scary. I suppose that is what drew us to each other.

Buck, which is what all of us who knew him from childhood called him, was one of the most outgoing people I ever knew. He could strike up a conversation with anyone about anything, even if he knew nothing of the subject. It was very hard to not like Buck. It was very hard not to smile when around him for any but the briefest periods. We did smile a lot, and we did laugh a lot, and we even wept on each other’s shoulders when we were hurting inside.

We knew the other would be there when we needed help, have each other’s back in a fight, even down to burying the body if it ever came to that.

Buck is gone now, but will never be forgotten. The best part of his passing is I know I will see him again in eternity. You see, when he was a teenager, Buck accepted Christ as his Savior. He went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade in New Orleans. Our separation will, therefore, be only temporary. And once again we can sit around a campfire, this time in Heaven, and swap tales.

In the meantime, I am going to really miss him.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

Barefootin’ – Manard, Joey and Me

I took out the garbage last night, and being too lazy to look for my shoes, I dragged that can out to the curb barefoot.

And my feet hurt!

The driveway is well worn, and the aggregate tends to be a bit more exposed than in recently laid concrete. I felt like I was walking on rocks!

And you are thinking, What is your point?

I don’t really have one, other than my feet never used to hurt like that. I guess that comes with age? I remember when I was a kid, we never wore shoes in the summer, except when we had to “dress up” to go somewhere. Otherwise, once school let out, our shoes went into the closet and didn’t come out again until school started, assuming they still fit.

Our feet may have been a bit tender after nine months being encased in leather, but they soon toughened. Within a couple of weeks or so, we could run across Sixth Street, which was “paved” with gravel or clamshells, without feeling any pain. Naturally, being shoeless, we did incur a few cuts and bruises along with a few rusty nail punctures, but my dad always had the tetanus shot handy.

Those days are gone. Now I am old and a tenderfoot for life. I doubt I could stand the pain long enough to build up the calluses again.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953Actually, that event reminded me of this picture hanging in my office. It is of me on the left, Manard Lagasse in the center and Joey Giammalva on the right. It was taken in 1953. We were best buddies then. I was 9 years old. Manard and Joey were 7 years old.

Note the “summer uniform,” which was limited to shorts and maybe a tee or hat but no shoes. (Side note: Joey had flat feet, and on wet concrete, he could make realistic-sounding flatulence noises with them.)

Joey’s mom took the pic, and Joey carried it in his wallet for years before he made enlargements for Manard and me.

Both Manard and Joey are deceased now. Good times together! Good memories! Good friends sorely missed! Whenever I see Bubba, Manard’s son who I think looks just like him, I want to grab him and hug him, pretending for just a few moments that “Man” is still with us.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner

The Great Escape

My mother was a bird person. So are my two sisters, Jeanne and Martia. I’m not, unless you count dove hunting. The first bird in our family was a parakeet. Don’t remember what happened to it, but I don’t recall him being around very long. Then my mother got a dwarf parrot. It was green and only slightly larger than the parakeet. Don’t remember its name, so we will call it DP1 (Dwarf Parrot 1). It was followed by DP2, then a Myna Bird, then two large parrots, and eventually DP3. She had the big parrots when they were living in River Ridge, and these two birds did their level best to disassemble the house piece-by-piece biting off a chunk of wood at a time. Eventually, she got rid of them. It was either that or become homeless.

Dwarf ParrotDP1 is the subject of the first story.

MB usually left early to make hospital visits, while my mother slept in a bit longer, a trait I inherited from her. She awoke one morning to find DP1, as the Monty Python Norwegian Blue Parrot skit said, “Decidedly deceased!”

There was no question he was dead. He was on his perch, in a manner of speaking. His little dwarf parrot feet were solidly clamped to the wooden dowel, but he wasn’t exactly standing on it. He was hanging upside down from it. He looked completely natural, except he was on the wrong side of the dowel.

Our resident coroner, my dad, pronounced the cause of death as a heart attack. This diagnosis came about after questioning my two sisters, who at the time, were about four and two. It seems they liked to see the little green parrot jump around when they poked a stick into his cage. That must have been “entertaining” until he went Tango Uniform (Google it).

DP2 replaced the deceased DP1 and soon became famous in Kenner, well, at least for a day, and he was probably talked about for a few weeks after. My mother often walked around the house with DP2 perched on her shoulder along with the attendant dwarf parrot poop dribbling down her back. She even went outside with the bird on her shoulder. She assured the rest of us, “Oh, he won’t fly away.”

He flew away.

I was summoned along with my friends to find and capture the wayward DP2. Do you have any idea how hard it is to see a green bird way up in a tree among green foliage? We did, however, find the bird, and what followed was the great dwarf parrot chase.

He flew from tree to tree, and we followed calling to it. Needless to say, the stupid bird completely ignored the stupid kids calling to it and flew to another tree.

Free at last!

Finally it settled in a tall pine tree on Williams Street. My mother decided she needed re-enforcements and called the Kenner Fire Department. Must have been a slow day for them, because they actually showed up.

With the introduction of the KFD’s really tall ladders, the great dwarf parrot chase grew more “high-tech” and even more interesting. KFD set up the ladder, a fireman climbed said ladder, said fireman reached for bird, and said bird promptly decamped to another tree. It was wash, rinse, and repeat as they worked their way down Williams Street. All this was very amusing to us kids, and we followed along watching the show—along with the rest of the neighborhood and more than a few driving by on Williams who pulled over to enjoy the proceedings. Soon the KFD had quite an audience, and for them, failure was not an option.

The bird eventually tired of the game and allowed himself to be captured by a fireman. I always wondered how the bird made it down that ladder alive after leading them on such a merry chase.

Too many witnesses?


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner


MB at ParadiseIf you knew my dad, MB Casteix, you knew at least two things about him. First, he was a doctor, and second, he was an avid fisherman. That man loved to fish! I never knew him not to own a boat, and they were first and foremost fishing boats. They were selected or designed for that single purpose. Any other applications were purely secondary and largely coincidental.

He loved to fish in the Louisiana marshes for red fish and speckled trout, known elsewhere as “red drum” and “spotted sea trout.” (Actually, speckled trout are not trout but are in the drum family.) When he was a teenager, he and his friends would go duck hunting in the marshes, and after they got their limit of ducks or the ducks stopped flying, they put away their shotguns and got out the fishing poles. No part of the day was wasted for them.

I got him into fresh water fishing in his later years. I was a member of a deer club in Alabama that had a private, 100-acre lake on it. We went there in the summers for long weekends of lazy days fishing for bass, perch, and sac au lait*, followed by great meals in camp at night with adult beverages and lots of tall tales and laughter. We had some wonderful times together on that lake.

I never knew MB was also a poet until not too long before his death in 2003. I don’t remember the circumstances under which he confessed he had written a poem. And if he wrote more than one, I don’t know about it, but I love the one I do know of.

Bet you can’t guess what it is about? Sure you can – fishing! He did a marvelous job of expressing his true love. And here it is.


By Dr. M.B. Casteix, Jr.

Men prate of the thrills they crave.

Some of a sparkling wine,

Some of a song sublime,

Some of a tempting dish.

But give me a lonely shore

Hard by the breaker’s roar,

Where the sea expends its might

In a long unceasing fight,

Or a sandy sunlit beach,

Where the wavelets gently lave

A distant windswept reach.

Give me the feel of the rolling keel

As it plunges over a breaking wave.

Give me the feel of the striking steel

When the hook goes home in a fighting fish,

And he dives beneath the keel

In a sizzling, rushing swish.

You can have your song sublime,

Your sparkling wine, your epicure’s tempting dish.

I thrill to the song of the reel.

I sure do miss him!

*Sac au lait – French for “sack of milk,” also known as “white crappie” outside of south Louisiana.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up, Kenner


You knew this was coming.

There is a season in the heart of every male when his thoughts turn to sex—I mean girls! Ah, adolescence, that golden time when boys discover there is a difference between boys and girls beyond that one likes pink and the other likes olive drab, one likes cute ponies  and the other likes hard-charging horses, one likes dolls and the other likes BB guns. Suddenly, it becomes obvious that girls are shaped differently—no, actually they are morphing into a different shape than we have been accustomed to seeing, and right before our very eyes!

Oh, the wonder of it all!

I am not sure how much of this I should divulge, as it might mean compromising some long kept secrets we boys are obliged to protect, kind of like protecting secret fraternity handshakes from the uninitiated. Basically, when boys reach adolescence they start thinking with an organ other than their brains, if you get my drift? The subjects we discussed in “Our Ditch” gradually changed from two-stroke engines verses four stroke and Chevy verses Ford to observations about this newly discovered female shape and what all that means in the greater scheme of boyhood. (And don’t think for a moment that girls aren’t aware of their newfound influence on boys. What they underestimate is how strong that influence is, and thank goodness they don’t get it!)

Dating, whatever that meant to us in the beginning, was a new word added to our vocabulary right alongside “cowboys,” “guns,” “motorcycles,” “cars,” and “M-80s” (and I am not referring to today’s emasculated version of the M-80 but the real M-80 of yore that was every young male’s favorite explosive device perfectly capable of propelling the heavy, steel, inside liner of a kitchen garbage can thirty or more feet into the air. And we know this because we have done it.)

Oh! Sorry! Back to the subject . . .

Girls, first they captured our eyes, and then the sneaky devils captured our hearts. What was, at first, a passing interest became more of a hunt, only we thought we were the predators and not the prey, which is what we really were.

0083 JanisI went through several brief flirtations with different girls, but then I saw one cute little girl walking home from school down Minor Street in her pleated Catholic school skirt, white blouse, and saddle oxfords. She had her books clutched to her breasts by her crossed arms, and her blond ponytail was swinging back and forth behind her head. And she lived less than a block away! All my life I had seen her around, even spoken to her a few times, but suddenly, everything had changed. I had previously passed her over, barely paying her any notice, but now was smitten!

My first real kiss was with her. In fact, all of my “firsts” were shared with her. She was barely fourteen and I was sixteen, and I was in love and didn’t even realize it at the time.

Of course, I married her, and we had two kids, boys, and yes, we are still married. Her name is Janis and she was the daughter of Bob and Mickey Cristina who lived on Minor Street.

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How Kenner Got a New Doctor

PO.Abdos, MB Office

I am going to tell you an old Kenner story few, if any, have ever heard. My dad was Dr. Martial B. Casteix, Jr. Most folks called him “Doc” or “MB.” He had his office on Williams at Sixth Street (now Toledano), but that was not his first office.

In the modern day image above, the door on the left was the US Post Office back then. The second door was to Abdo’s Drug Store, and the little attached building on the right was MB’s original office (later Shirley’s Jewelry Store) before he opened the office on Williams at Sixth.

MB was a major in the Medical Corps in WWII and served in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy with the Fifth Army. His sister, Margie, was married to Robert L Manard, Jr. (also called “Son” or “Boo”), and they had a daughter, Melanie, in 1943. After the war Boo was an insurance agent, and Margie taught at Kenner High. I had her for math in the 9th grade.

Margie’s and MB’s dad died while he was in Italy during the war. He came home on leave to help settle the affairs of his late father. This was near the very end of the war in Europe, and every time he reported to a port of embarkation to return overseas, something happened, and he was sent home to wait for new orders. He was not paid during this period, and he insisted until his dying day the government owed him money—with interest. But he never challenged that for fear they might decide he was AWOL to avoid payment. The war ended and he was honorably discharged (I have his discharge papers to prove it).

While in this state of limbo and after his discharge, he lived with his sister and her daughter Melanie, and later her husband when he eventually returned from the war. Margie and Son lived in a shotgun single on Williams in Kenner right across from where MB eventually located his office. With the war over, MB intended to go back to med school and specialize in pediatrics.

Circumstances were about to squash that dream.

Dr. Kopfler was the only other doctor in Kenner then, and he was retired. When the citizens of Kenner heard there was a new doctor living with Margie and Son, the sick and wounded started showing up at their house. They came at all hours of the day or night suffering from every malady imaginable, including broken bones and knife wounds from bar fights. They bled and barfed on Son’s sofa and rugs.

Boo had enough!

He took his brother-in-law aside and told him, “MB, I can live with the people showing up all hours of the day or night and throwing up or bleeding on my furniture and rugs, but I just can’t deal with the ones having convulsions on my living room floor. GET AN OFFICE!”

And so he did. And that is how Kenner got a new doctor in 1945.


Filed under Family History, Growing Up

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 5

This excerpt if from The Last Day of Forever, and we find our characters in the middle of a hog hunt. The dogs in this scene are Catahoula Curs, now a recognized breed and the Official Louisiana State dog. Enjoy.

His eyes closed as he listened intently, Little Zeke focused on the sound of the dogs. “They moved off to our right and away.” After only ten minutes or so, the bugles turned to barks. “They’re on him, Massa Ethan. It’s another boar. I can tell by hiz grunts. And he’s a big one. They’re over by the swamp.”

The sound was coming from the general direction of where Rachel and I had seen Old Bull back in June. “There’s no catch pen over there. Old Zeke, bring the wagon around. You can pick up this one later. Let’s ride!”

I swung up into the saddle and jammed my heels into Pepper’s flanks, and he lunged into motion. Up the ridge we went and down the other side and across the creek once more. I pushed harder than before because of Zeke’s comment about it being a big hog. We came out of the woods and into another cotton field. I cut around, knowing Peyton and Morgan would have plenty to say about me trampling down cash crops had I crossed the field. Once around the field, we jumped another fence and entered the woods and down into a water-filled bottom. It was shallow and had a hard bottom, so I continued on through, it being the most direct route to the dogs.

We topped the next ridge, and my worst fears were realized. The dogs were on Old Bull, and he had one dog down already! Rachel topped the ridge right behind me and immediately recognized Old Bull. Morgan and Zeke were right behind her and looked down at the melee below.

“We got trouble!” exclaimed Zeke.

“Ethan, what are you going to do now?” asked Rachel.

I sighed, because I didn’t want to think about what I was going to have to do. The other times we got on Old Bull, there was a catch pen nearby, and we had fooled him into it twice. I knew that wouldn’t likely happen a third time, besides there was no catch pen near. I either had to shoot him or catch him by hand.

“Trouble, huh,” said Morgan.

“Big trouble,” I replied. “And we have a dog down already.”

“What are you going to do, Ethan?” asked Morgan.

Looking down at Old Bull, I blew a few times, as I steeled myself, then answered in a low voice, “Catch him.” I swung my leg over Pepper’s head and slid out of the saddle to the ground. After I handed the reins to Morgan, I pulled two short ropes from the saddle bag and tucked them under my belt behind my back, one on each side, then tossed two more to Zeke.

“Let the dogs tire him a bit before we go down there, Massa Ethan,” urged Zeke with apprehension in his voice.

Until Zeke said that, Rachel hadn’t realized what I meant by catching him. She looked at me incredulously. “You’re going to flip him like you did that sow, aren’t you? Ethan, are you crazy?”

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