- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
When Carrot's distant relative Emiglia moves from a scholarly English home to the Ramsden ranch in Texas, everyone has to make adjustments.
THERE WAS A BOBBLE IN THE WATER, AND THE BIT of stick that was serving as a float dipped sharply at one end. Carrots thrust her stub of a pencil and her grubby notebook into her denim pocket and took the cane pole in both hands. There was a perch down there, sure as shooting.
After several delicate flirtations with the sodden earthworm threaded onto the hook, the fish must have decided that this was too good a meal to share with the smaller ones of its kind that were beginning to make dashes at the treat. The stick slid under smoothly, and Carrots, with the ease of a born fisherman, pulled up and back on the pole. With a wet shplop! the sunperch came free of the water and swung in the sunlight, its red-gold stomach shining.
"Six!" exclaimed Carrots, satisfaction in her gruff voice. "Just about enough for a mess for Aunt Ella."
Roger's tail thumped once in agreement as she dropped the fish into the bent bucket at her side and threaded another protesting worm onto the hook. Then his ears came up, and he looked across the cattle pond. "Rrrrooof!" he said, with some emphasis.
Carrots followed the direction of his glance. "Uh-oh!"
Laying aside her pole, she reached backward to catch the .22 rifle leaning against the willow behind her. She jacked a cartridge into the chamber and went onto one knee among the goatweeds.
A rippling wedge of water was following the black head of a moccasin as it swam diagonally across the small pond toward the spot where the cows came down to drink twice a day. More than once a cow had been badly bitten, and that didn't do a dairy cow any good at all.
Spat! There was a boiling disturbancewhere the wedge-shaped head had been. Coils rose and sank, rose again, then sank to rise no more.
Carrots jacked the spent shell from the rifle and leaned it back against the tree. Reaching out a square and grimy paw, she ruffled Roger's ears.
"Good dog! Only snake dog in captivity!"
The German shepherd grinned, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth, saliva dripping onto her sleeve. Neither of them minded in the least.
She squinted at the sun, now just visible above the forest beyond the water. Already its edge was below the highest rank of pine needles, but Carrots felt that she had a bit of time, still. The little lake lay in a wide saucer of land, surrounded on all sides by thickets and stands of big hickories and oaks and pines. It wasn't as late as it looked. Besides, she wasn't in any hurry to get home. Not today.
It hadn't anything to do with the long hours of work yet to be done before the day was over at Bobcat Ridge Dairy Farm. Her mother had understood, which was why she had suggested this jaunt to the perch pond. Mother understood a lot; entirely too much, at times. Not that that made her change her decisions.
Carrots sighed and pulled in another perch, larger than the last. Plopping it into her bucket, she peered into the worm can. Not a wiggle of motion. She shook it hopefully, but not even a piece of worm seemed to be left.
The ghost of a cool breeze moved across the lake, pushing ripples before it. It almost seemed chilly amid the muggy heat of an East Texas summer afternoon, and Carrots shook herself and stood. She wound the line firmly about the pole, stuck the hook into the stick-bobber, and set the whole over one shoulder, along with the .22. She hooked a spare finger into the mouth of the worm can, then lifted the sloshing bucket of water and fish.
"Come on, Roger. They'll be getting ready to milk, time we get there."
He rose from amid the goatweeds, snorted heavily to get the dusty smell out of his nose, and trotted ahead of her up the cowpath that led into the woods. Carrots squinched her bare toes in the deep powder of the dusty path, feeling the warmth all through herself. There was something about the smell of a late midsummer afternoon, the white dust, the occasional drying cowpat ... something that ached to find a way out of her.
"How in heck can you make poetry out of worms and weeds and cowpats?" she asked aloud. It could be done. She knew that, on some deep level she hadn't any name for. It was just something she hadn't figured out how to do, yet. But she would. No question about that.
Roger knew quite well when one of her questions required an answer. This one didn't. He detoured past a rotting stump to investigate any signals that some passing fox or red wolf might have deposited there in the past couple of hours.
Carrots trudged on, deep in thought. Ahead a crow signaled her coming to anything in the woods that cared to know. For once she didn't notice and caw in return. This was one day she hated to see end. Tomorrow ... tomorrow everything could well be changed, totally and for all time.
"It isn't that I'm selfish. I think it isn't that," she said to Roger, who had come up behind her.
He whuffed, feeling that this time a comment was called for.
"No, I don't mind sharing. I don't mind work ... I like it, really. Milking, and haying, and everything. No. I just don't like changes, you know?"
Carrots shifted the gun and the pole on her shoulder, easing a sore spot where they'd been resting, "But maybe I'm just borrowing trouble. Maybe nothing will change. We'll go and wash up and get the milking things ready, and tonight will come and go, and nothing will change at all. That could really happen, don't you think?"
There was no reply. Carrots hadn't expected one. Even Roger knew that things were in the process of becoming strange and uncomfortable. She felt it in her bones.