Randy Jackson stared moodily at the steam rising from the “world’s best dad” coffee mug sitting on the table in front of him. Across from him sat his father Andrew, a steaming cup in front of him as well, and to Randy’s right sat his sister Jennifer, who was in the process of finishing off a bowl of Corn Flakes. Nobody spoke until Jennifer pushed her bowl to the centre of the table and leaned back in her chair.
“It’s gotta’ be coyotes,” she said. “Kendra and I heard them somewhere out west on Saturday when we were out horseback riding.”
“The thing is, there’s just no sign,” said Randy. “Two lambs and a ewe missing, like they just vanished into thin air.”
“Oh hey, maybe it was extraterrestrials,” said Jennifer.
“Nah,” said Andrew, with a laugh. “Extraterrestrials leave mutilated corpses. Or so I hear.”
Randy heaved a disgusted sigh. “I can’t believe you guys think this is funny,” he said. “You’d be crying in your porridge if we’d lost a calf.”
There was a moment of silence.
“You’re right, it’s not funny,” said Andrew. “Sometimes you laugh just so you don’t cry.”
Jennifer looked more serious. “It’s true,” she said. “I don’t even like to think about lambs going missing. They’re so cute and adorable.” She paused. “If it is coyotes, what do we do?”
“Good question,” said Randy. “I was hoping the donkeys would look after those problems for us.”
“Hard to know how many head we might have lost if we didn’t have the donkeys,” said Andrew. “If all we lose this summer is two lambs and a ewe, we’d have to conclude they’re doing a great job.”
“That’s a big if,” said Randy.
“I’ve got Diamond so used to the rifle,” said Jennifer, “I can take target practice sitting in the saddle and she doesn’t even flinch.”
“Awesome,” said Randy. “That way she doesn’t spook at the beer bottles.”
“Tin cans,” said Jennifer. “I don’t shoot beer bottles. Last thing I need is broken beer bottles out where I ride my horse.”
“Ah, but how many of them would you actually break?” said Randy. “That is the question.”
“How about all of them,” said Jennifer. “I bet you a week’s wages I can outshoot you any day of the week.”
“That would be a more interesting bet if a week’s wages wasn’t zero,” said Randy.
“That’s true,” Jennifer agreed. “I need a raise Dad.”
“How about I pay you commission,” said Andrew. “Fifty bucks for every coyote pelt you bring in. A hundred and fifty if you bring in a cougar.”
“I want a thousand bucks if I bag a grizzly,” said Jennifer.
“It’s a deal,” said Andrew. “Though it’s more likely you’d find a black bear in these parts.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “Seriously, what I will do – I’ll pay you $5 a day to saddle up Diamond just before sundown and ride around the outside of the pasture. Take the rifle with you and do some target shooting while you’re out there. Make the coyotes think there’s a whole army out there.”
“Omigosh! That is the best job ever!” Jennifer was clearly excited. She stopped and appeared to be calculating something in her head. “That’s 35 bucks a week! And I can double it just by beating Randy in a shooting contest! I’ll be rich! Rich, I tell ya!”
Both Randy and Andrew laughed. “Rich is relative, I guess,” said Andrew.
“Not my relatives,” said Randy. “And I can’t afford to get beaten in a shooting match. Not if it’s going to cost me 35 bucks. So you’ll have to be happy with the 35 you get from Dad, kiddo.”
“Aw, come on, don’t be a coward Randy! Five bucks then. I’ll bet you five bucks I can beat you in a shooting match.” Jennifer was insistent.
“OK. You’re on. I won’t feel guilt about taking five bucks from you. Thirty-five would be too much.” Randy grinned.
“You got nothing to worry about bro’, you won’t be taking any of my hard-earned cash,” said Jennifer.
“Not that any of your cash is really that hard earned,” said Andrew. “My question is, will all this shooting have the desired effect? Will predators be frightened off? Will helpless lambs be saved? And I am actually serious about that.”
“Probably not, if all we’re shooting is tin cans,” said Jennifer.
Andrew got up from his chair. “See what else you can bring in then,” he said. “The future of the Jackson homestead is in your capable little hands.”
Jennifer raised her hand, finger pointed forward, thumb up. “Bang,” she said.
Catch Rollin Penner and the Traveling Medicine Show in Concert at the Gretna Hotspot Festival in July.