The tough old guy always kept an eye out for those places that might yield the metal with the distinctive yellow lustre. He had spent his youth travelling throughout the southwestern part of the United States in search of precious metals. His travels had taken him to isolated places and towns where two legged predators were as dangerous as the four legged kind that inhabitted the surrounding countryside where the prospectors picked, shoveled, and panned. He had learned to spot those men who were more likely to bend the principles of honest men, than bend their backs to hard work. Many times he had had to use his work-hardened fists to redirect the misguided intentions of some hat and boot wearing varmint.
Now that he was older, he had found a home along the Rio Grande. He still enjoyed the land, and how if a man could use his head, his eyes, and his hands, old Mother Nature would reward him with bits of her treasure for his efforts. He had also found that teaching the young men of the region how to search in the right places, and what to look for, had its own special rewards.
But, maybe what had become closest to his heart was his small flock of sheep. When he was herding them, he could keep his prospecting skills honed, and at the same time, the herd taught him lessons he had not learned or appreciated when he had lived his years working alone.
Along the way, he had had to choose between using herd dogs such as the healers that moved sheep by nipping at the sheep’s heels, the headers that used the strong eye to stare down the sheep to guide them from the front of the flock, or livestock guard dogs. It was the latter that not only fit his needs, but appealed to his nature. His flock was small, and so he was able to herd them where he chose, himself. But, the Mastiffs, that traveled within the herd, provided extra eyes that were always on the lookout for any predator that might think that the flock would be easy pickings. He had gotten the pups and introduced them into the herd at only four weeks of age. As far as the dogs knew, the sheep were family members. Pity the big cats, wolves, or any other predator that got too close to the family.
Each of the Mastiffs stood nearly three feet tall at the withers, and exceeded 200 pounds. On two separate occasions, he had watched them inflict mortal damage on bears that had gotten too close. Big cats found that their safety depended on being able to get to the top of a tall tree, and wait for the herd to move on. Wolves sometimes made the mistake of not looking closely enough to notice the larger “sheep’ that mingled amongst the rest. The wolves slashing teeth were no match for the tremendous force of the attacking Mastiffs. The dogs would ram the wolves with such force that the wolves would be sent rolling across the ground. Before they could gain their feet, the dogs’ massive jaws would be on them, crushing bones, crippling, and rendering the wolves helpless.
Pete smiled to himself as he thought of his flock, and their loyal protectors, as he made preparations for the trip north. He knew that there were wolves in the hills and mountains where he planned to graze his herd. But, he had seen his guard dogs dispatch skulking predators before. He smiled at the thought that they were older, wiser, and even stronger, now.