His name is Dakota Williams; a tall dark-complected cowboy in his mid-20’s. He’s nice looking but he has something about him that immediately sparked my concerns. I had seen him before. I didn’t know how or why but I knew he was trouble.
As a week passed, Dakota and the other cowboys, Jake, Bill and Wyatt have helped Jimmy and I immensely. We immediately put them to work building new fences and corrals in the flats of Tulip Mountain.
Everything at the ranch was going rather smoothly and I had been able to catch up on some rest and get familiarized with my new “staff.” I liked them all, except I didn’t see much of Cher. I was told in two weeks we had a scheduled appointment to travel somewhere for my wardrobe. I didn’t really understand what this meant or entailed. I didn’t say or ask much in hopes, either she wouldn’t return to the ranch or she would forget. I didn’t really know what her job title or job responsibilities were.
I woke straight up at 3:00 am.
The ranch is completely still.
What is my problem? Not again!
I think I hear something, but roll over and try to fall back asleep.
I toss and turn until I finally get out of bed.
I start my coffee pot and begin my normal morning rituals. But, I have a really uneasy feeling about something. I can’t pin point it or even understand what I am feeling.
The feelings are overwhelming me. Something is telling me to go to the flats of Tulip Mountain. I can’t even fight the feeling, so I follow my intuition.
I get dressed and go down to the barn. I grab my pistol, riffle and saddle Moon. I grab Cookie and a few other dogs and we load up in the ranch truck and trailer.
As I drive up the long windy dirt road to Tulip Mountain, I drink my coffee and play some tunes. I feel pretty good but sense something troubling.
I pull up to Tulip Mountain and notice the lock on the gate. It’s not busted, but rather, is facing to the inside. It’s almost dawn but it is still dark enough.
I continue to the gate and see an old Dodge I don't recognize, parked under a tree
I load my pistol and drive up to the truck. It is immaculate inside. This raises my suspensions. I open the glove box…nothing. What the hell?
I unload my horse and dogs. I load my rifle and tuck it into my scabbard. I put my pistol in a holster on my hip. By this time, it’s nearly dawn as we ride toward the flats, which is about an 8 mile trip horseback.
Tulip Mountain runs from Grant Pass near Medford, Oregon all the way across the border of California, on the outskirts of Oak Knoll. This was only a small area of our ranch. However, Tulip Mountain was the real deal. It is the steepest, gnarliest, brushiest country around. The wildlife on it is unbelievable and the scenery is indescribable.
As I ride, I realize I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving. I’ll be back in a few hours anyways, so it will be okay.
The weather is nice and brisk and my horse is feeling a little fresh. I smooch her up into a trot as we ride over a small hill. We get to the top and I stop to take in the scenery. The big granddaddy pines are nice and healthy. The grass is green and luscious and wild orchids grow everywhere. The air is clean and the wind is refreshing.
As I begin to drift into the scenery, I hear something.
Bay of dogs...? Sounds like hounds and they have something treed. I listen harder.
No, they’re chasing something. The noise stops and quickly resumes again.
It doesn’t sound like they are far. I kick Moon up and we follow the sound. I stop frequently to listen.
I come over the top of a knoll and can see some hounds have something tree’d across the river. The ride across the river is steep and brushy and will take some time to cross.
It looks like there are six hounds. I don’t see anyone else around and I can’t make out what they have in the tree. I don’t want my dogs to come with me so I down them and ride towards the hounds.
When I finally get near the river, everything is completely quiet. I cross the river and get to the other side of the bank. I wait under a tree in hopes they’ll start baying again. A few minutes pass and they proceed.
I am not far now, but I have to be cautious and make sure I can see what’s going on before I move closer. The noise stops and so do we. A few minutes go by…nothing. A few more minutes pass…nothing. It’s dead silent.
I start back tracking making a loop around the mountain, anticipating that I will put myself in a spot where I can see them again. As I continue around the mountain, I observe Moon’s behavior and immediately begin to feel scared.
Suddenly, a huge mountain lion jumps off a tree and straight towards us. I reach for my pistol as Moon jumps left, nearly falling down the steep mountain.
Hissing, growling and spitting the lion runs towards us, taking swipes as he tries to claw Moon. Running down the mountain, I start firing off shots at him but he won’t stop pushing us. He’s gaining on us as he bats at us again swiping Moon’s tail. Moon trips and tumbles down the mountain throwing me off.
I fall off and hit a broken branch lying on the ground.
I can’t get up. I try again…I can’t fucking get up!
Panic floods my body as my heart beats out of my chest.
It’s completely quiet at this point but I feel uneasy.
I continue to try to get up, but can’t.
And then, I notice a few feet away, the lion slowly walking back up the hill...
He’s a huge healthy tom and it looks like he had been shot from the blood coming from his hip.
I start to feel a sense of relief as I watch him walk away from me.
He then stops and lets out his scream; the scream of a woman.
Helpless, I lay there holding my breath, making sure not to make a sound.
He takes another step forward and then stops and looks back. He stands there for a while looking in my direction. Our eyes meet. Shit! I reach for my pistol…it’s not there!!
Fear floods my body.
The lion begins to bolt towards me. I see my rifle lying about six feet away. It must’ve fallen out of my scabbard when Moon went down. I try to get up but can’t. I start to crawl but realize I will be eaten by then.
He’s now within a few feet from me. I reach behind my leg and feel something. My PISTOL!
I grab it quickly and cock it.
Hissing and growling, the lion is so close now I can feel the spit hitting me. He opens his mouth and is now five inches from me. As he opens his mouth, I stick my pistol down his throat and fire.
Blood splatters into my eyes and on my face…