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Running Away From Home (From Hank the Cowdog #11: Lost in the Dark Unchanted Forest) Little Alfred is having a hard time accepting his new baby sister, Molly. Hank tries to give him some advice, but Alfred decides to run away from home. It's up to Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security, to save Alfred from the coyotes, bobcats, and other monsters that lurk in the "dark unchanted forest."
"My mommy doesn't wuv me anymore," Little Alfred told me. "She bwought home a new baby and she doesn't care about me. I'm going to wun away fwom home, Hankie."
I stood up and cleared my throat and began pacing.
"Well, I have several points to make, pardner. In the first place, your ma did in fact bring home a new baby, but that doesn't mean she's stopped caring about you. In the second place, I can testify that you've been something less than a perfect child today. In the third place...."
I was about to sum up my case when... HUH?
Little Alfred had vanished!
Drover was still sitting in the brush, a few feet away. "Where did he go?"
"Little Alfred, you dunce! Who else was sitting here just a minute ago?"
"I don't know. All I saw was you and Little Alfred, and he left."
"I realize that, Drover, which is why I asked you where he went."
"Oh. Well, he just got up and walked away in the middle of your speech. I guess he got bored."
"I doubt that. I was giving him good, sound, fatherly advice and...which way did he go?"
"Well, let's see. He went across the creek Hank, I'm pretty sure he did."
"Drover, do you realize what lies on the other side of this creek?"
"Yes, sand, but do you realize what lies beyond the sand on the south bank? The Dark Unchanted Forest!
"Huge trees, Drover, draped with hanging vines. It's dark in there, and scary. On every side, thorny plants and stinging nettles, and no one knows what kind of creatures you might find in there: coyotes, coons, snakes, monsters, bobcats....
"That's where Little Alfred has gone, Drover, into the Dark Unchanted Forest, and I guess you know what that means."
"He was a nice kid in many ways."
"It means that we must prepare ourselves for a very dangerous journey."
"Back to the house, I'll bet."
I stared at the runt.
"No, not back to the house, into the woods. For you see, Drover, what we have here is The Case of the Lost Child in the Dark Unchanted Forest."
Drover began limping around.
"Oh my leg! Hank, I just don't think I can Make it, maybe you'd better go on without me, I'll try to crawl back to the house and sound the alarm!"
"You'd let me go into the Dark Unchanted Forest all alone?"
"Oh heck yes, I wouldn't worry, 'cause you're big and strong and you're not afraid of anything."
"Yes...well, that might be a slight overstatement. Actually, I wouldn't mind having you...."
He started backing away. "Bye, Hank, and good luck with the snakes and monsters!"
"Wait... Drover, come back here!"
Too late. The little mutt disappeared into the brush.
So there I was, all alone. All at once I noticed a restless wind moaning in the tops of the trees, and overhead dark clouds were beginning to gather.
I heard Sally May's voice in the distance.
"Alfred? Alfred? Where are you? Come home!"
I looked up at the dark sky. I looked back at the dark forest. I listened to the moan of the wind. I sure wanted to go home.
But dern it, I just couldn't do it! My little pal was lost out there, and even though I didn't want the job of finding him, there was nobody else to do it.
Will Hank save Alfred from the monsters lurking in the Dark Unchanted Forest? Find out in Hank the Cowdog #11: Lost in the Dark Unchanted Forest (Copyright John R. Erickson)