Johnny and the Queen by d.b. brisbin

Word Count 1,954

Written for a 2020 Lancer Writers Challenge

Episode tag to The Lion and the Lamb

Johnny stared at Lucy’s grave.  It had only been a few weeks since Gabe had taken his sheep and moved on, leaving behind a woman he claimed was his, and a heartbroken Johnny.  It was his bad luck that he had to come this way, looking for stray cattle. 

A lone tear escaped and slid down his face.  Resting on his chin.

Barking broke through his melancholy.  He wiped his cheek and looked around.  It was coming from some rocks and now there was growling.  Barranca stirred, uneasy, looking to their right.

Johnny took a deeper seat into the saddle, whispered to calm the palomino, and reined him in the direction of the noise. 

When he got past the rocks, he saw a cow and a calf and a black and white flash moving back and forth, diving forward from time to time.  The calf was stuck in between some rocks, the cow standing next to it in a guarding position.  In front of them bounced a dog.  Johnny recognized it as one of Gabe’s border collies.  A little in front of the dog, a wolf.

Johnny slid his rifle from the scabbard on his saddle.  He eased it to his shoulder and sighted it on the wolf.  It was a big male wolf.  Inhaling, he released a quiet breath and squeezed the trigger. 

The wolf hit the ground. 

The cow bellowed and ran off about twenty feet, the calf struggling to go with it.  The dog shrieked and took off as well. 

However, as both animals realized the wolf was dead, they stopped and watched as Johnny rode up and looked down at the wolf.  Certain it was dead, he moved over to the calf and dismounted. 

“Stupid animals” he muttered as he made his way between the rocks. 

It took him and Barranca both to free the calf from the large crevice it was lodged in.  Fortunately, it was not injured and bounced immediately over to its mother as soon as it was free.

During the time they were working with the calf, the dog had laid down in the shade and watched.

Johnny rolled up his rope and put it back on the saddle and removed his canteen.  Looking upward, he poured some of the water over his face and in his hair.  He shook his head, sending tiny water droplets into the air.  A sip of the cool liquid and he replaced the stopper. 

Blowing out a breath, he put the canteen back on the saddle and took up the reins.  His left foot in the stirrup, he swung easily onto his golden friend. 

Preparing to turn, he looked at the dog.

“Come on, let’s go.”  He reined Barranca around and the moved off toward the cow an calf. 

He looked down for the dog and saw it wasn’t coming along.  He stopped and called again,

“Come on.  I’m not gonna leave you out here.”

“COME ON!”  He whistled.

The dog stood on three legs and whined.

That’s when he saw the blood. 

He turned Barranca back and stepped off.  He squatted in front of the animal and reached out for the paw.  The dog squealed when he touched it and backed up.  He then saw more blood around the animals white ruff. 

“Easy, there, I just wanna help.” 

The dog backed up again and turned its head.  “Come on.”  He whispered some more calming words in Spanish.  The dog limped toward him.  He held his hand out to let it sniff him then, gently patted the black head.  Large brown intelligent eyes looked at him and then turned and looked back again. 

“What is it?”  He stood up.  The dog barked and looked back, then limped back near some scrub brush.

He got closer and the dog disappeared into the brush.

Johnny bent over, and parted the brush to where the dog stood.

There on the ground was a tiny black and white puppy.  It whimpered as the mother dog neared.  Nearby, Johnny saw the bodies of three other puppies.  A closer look at the bitch, and he could tell she was malnourished, despite the abundance of fur.  If she hadn’t been eating, she wouldn’t have enough milk for the puppies. 

“Okay, girl, take it easy now.” 

Johnny watched the dog as he reached slowly for the puppy.  It began crying as soon as he touched it. 

“Shhh, shhh, little fella.  I’m gonna get you and your mother somewhere safe and get you some food.  Quiet down now.” 

He whistled for Barranca who obliged.  He picked up the border collie and laid her over Barranca’s neck.  He wrapped the puppy in his bandana and mounted up carefully. 

***************

Murdoch heard hoofbeats and turned from his desk to look out of the large window behind him.  He saw Barranca moving slowly towards the house.  At first his heart lurched, the horse was way too slow and careful.  His eyes caught sight of the large furry animal draped over the horse’s neck. 

Leave it to Johnny to bring in another stray animal.  But his curiosity peaked when he saw the white feet and tail tip 

He moved outside through the French doors.

“What’s that you have son?”

His heart melted when Johnny looked up with that little boy look.  “A dog, and” he drug out the word and presented the tiny pup in his bandana, “a puppy.”

“Let me help you.”

Johnny stepped off, clinging the puppy to him, while Murdoch stepped around to the front side of the dog.

“Why it’s a border collie, and a bonnie one at that!  Where’d you find them?”

Johnny glanced away, “Out by Lucy’s grave.  I guess they were Gabe’s and he left them”

Murdoch was silent, worried about Johnny being at the grave of his deceased girlfriend.  He had secretly hoped she would be the one to settle his son down, but that was not to be.  She had chosen the shepherd over the rancher even before she was killed.

“She was protecting a cow with a calf hung up in the rocks, that and this puppy.”

“Is this the only one?”

“Alive, yes.  I saw some other dead ones.  Guess she got left behind and then wasn’t able to get enough to eat.”

Before Johnny could hand his father the puppy and take the bitch down, Murdoch had reached up and gently removed the dog from the horse.

Johnny’s mouth dropped open as his father crooned, “There, there, let’s get you inside and take care of these wounds, and then we will feed a meal worthy of a Queen.”

Johnny turned to go to the barn, but turned back, as he realized Murdoch was headed into the house.  He followed him into the foyer and into the kitchen. 

Murdoch placed the dog right onto the kitchen table as Maria and Johnny looked on with bulging eyes. 

“Maria, could you put on some water to heat and get me some scissors.  Johnny, can you go out to the barn and bring me some of that healing salve we use on the horses?  Johnny?”

Johnny was so astonished at his father’s behavior that Murdoch had to ask him twice for the salve.

“Sure, Murdoch, be right back.”

When Johnny returned, he sat down and watched as his father gently cut away the blood matted fur in several places, cleansing the wounds, and placing the salve on them lovingly.  Murdoch spoke quietly to the animal, in a language Johnny was unfamiliar with. 

In the meantime, Maria had warmed some milk, and had gotten a piece of flour sack that Johnny dipped in the warm milk and twisted it for the puppy to suckle. 

The entire time Murdoch worked on the bitch, she lay quietly, watching him with her large brown eyes. 

He finished with a bandage to the front paw that was injured. 

Murdoch placed the dog on the floor when he was done, and reached for the bowl of water and food that he had requested Maria prepare for the collie. 

“Okay girl, let’s get you fed.”

Johnny followed his father into the great room, where Murdoch placed the bowls on the floor beside his desk.  The dog immediately devoured the food and followed it with a long drink.  When finished, she moved to Murdoch’s side and placed her injured paw and her head upon his lap. 

Again, he spoke to her in that strange language and patted her head.

“Johnny, bring me that blanket over there on that chair.” 

Johnny did as he was asked and returned with the blanket.  What happened next was even more incredible.  Murdoch stood and placed the blanket on the floor by his reading chair and pointed, speaking in that same odd language.

The dog moved to the blanket and laid down.  Murdoch reached for and took the puppy and placed it beside its mother.  The puppy curled up beside her as she stretched out on her side in contentment.

Murdoch sat down in his chair and began preparing his pipe.  “Johnny, pour me a Scotch would you?  And of course, one for yourself.”

“So was that your native language you were speaking to her in?”  Johnny inquired as he poured the drinks.

“Yes.  She must have been imported.”

Johnny had to wonder how a guy like Gabe could afford to ship a dog over.

“She sure seemed to understand.”

“Aye, Johnny, border collies are the smartest dogs in the world.  When she get’s better, I’ll have to show you how they work stock.  It’s amazing.”

Johnny handed his father his drink.

Murdoch put his pipe down and took a sip.  He smacked his lips.  Another unusual habit for his father.

“You don’t happen to know what her name is do you son?”

“Not really, he had a Jim, a Poppy, a Queen, and Turk.”

“Well, she looks like a Queen.” When Murdoch spoke the name, the dog raised her head. 

“Aye, that’s what we’ll call her, Queen.”  The dog turned her head at the name again.

“That must be the right name.” Johnny observed.

“So what are you gonna call your pup there?”

Johnny choked on his drink, and coughed, “My pup.”

“Well, yes.  With your way with animals, he’ll be working stock in no time.  In the meantime, you are going to have to bottle feed him as Queen here will need a few days before she would have any milk, and by then, he’ll not want to go back to her.”

Johnny thought for a long minute.  Completely overwhelmed that his father was suggesting that he was keeping the bitch for himself and expecting Johnny to keep the pup.

“Cord.  I guess, I’ll call him Cord.”

Scott got home well after dark.  The only light was the one in the great room. 

He was greeted in the foyer by his father, a dog at his side, “Good to see you home son.  I was just going to turn in.  Johnny’s asleep on the couch.  Good night, Scott.  Come on girl let’s turn in.”

“Night sir.”

Scott watched in astonishment as his father, followed by an injured dog climbed the stairs to his bedroom.

He put his hat, coat, gun belt and saddle bags on the hall tree and headed for the great room.

He poured himself a well deserved night cap and observed his brother, sound asleep, a puppy nestled against his neck, a protective arm keeping it from sliding down into the hollow of the sofa.

He saluted his brother with his drink and downed it before heading upstairs. 

He couldn’t wait to hear this story over breakfast tomorrow. 

End
Written 2020/archived 2022

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25 thoughts on “Johnny and the Queen by d.b. brisbin

    1. Thanks so much. It was a challenge story where we used our pets.
      Glad you liked it and thanks for taking the time to read it!
      Donna

      Like

  1. Charming! And I recognize one or two of the dog names….Makes me dislike Gabe even more, to think he left a dog behind.

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    1. Even though I think we all enjoyed Andrew Prine, I didn’t like Gabe either. Yep, this was a challenge piece working our pets into Lancer. This one was a gimme. Thanks for reading and commenting. Donna

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  2. Thanks, Elin. It was a perfect opportunity for him. The real Queen’s nickname is “Snapper” as she doesn’t like strangers, but she would definitely fall and work for Murdoch.
    Thanks for reading and commenting and glad you liked it. Dona

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  3. As someone who raised and showed Rough and smooth Collies for over 40 years…this really tugged my heart. And thank you for giving us a great take on an episode I never liked much…was not a fan of either Lancer character Andrew Prine played, and could never understand why any woman would choose Gabe/Andrew over Johnny/JS. But you gave me a smile and even more live for Johnny and Murdoch. Lovely

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    1. Really glad you enjoyed this. WOW, that’s a lot of years with Border Collies. This was actually written as a challenge piece where we integrated our pets into a Lancer story. I have had border collies over 30 years. Mine are working dogs and we run sheep dog trials. So Queen is very real, as she is my Open dog now and the others are actually my other border collies, who also work sheep. Always good to meet someone who shares these special dogs. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Donna

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  4. A lovely, charming story. Andrew Prine was excellent as Gabe. He played quite a range of characters, many of them quirky, some coldblooded.

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    1. LOL! Well, Border Collies are pretty special in Scotland. Probably the national dog!
      Thanks for the read and the comment. Donna

      Like

  5. I love this story and enjoyed reading the comments about border collies. They are amazing dogs. It seems Queen and her puppy will bring Johnny and Murdoch closer-almost a miracle!

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    1. Hey Silvia, glad you liked it. I thought it was fun. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment! Donna

      Like

  6. So, Murdoch has a soft spot for border collies and letting Johnny keep the puppy-that was a surprise. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. A lovely homey, cozy story. Heartwarming. Nothing can bring out the humanity in people like animals. Bravo to both Johnny and Murdoch. Scott will indeed enjoy the story.

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