Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 8, page 3 of 8)


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Chapter 8

For Monty and others who raised hay, the pigs were a more serious threat to their livelihood. Alfalfa growers especially hated the pigs, which used their tough snouts and sharp tusks to rip holes a foot deep in the irrigated fields, tearing up the thick roots which kept the plant producing such excellent fodder, cutting after cutting, but a root which pigs found just as appealing as coyotes found lamb. Even for growers who raised barley or oats, the pigs were a nuisance or worse. Once the heads on the stalks filled out, the pigs loved to break into a field and roam through it, randomly snatching mouthfuls of stalks in their huge jaws, sometimes rolling over in the grain to scratch their flea- and tick-infested hides. Once the hay had been baled and stacked, they could wreak havoc by tearing out bales on the bottom and feasting on them. One or two pigs wandering the country by themselves would only be a nuisance: a herd of 60 or so could cause a real economic loss if uncontrolled. And so Monty was going to work tonight, to control these animals so that his cattle could thrive and not go hungry this winter.

On his way out, Monty pulled a work jacket off its peg, slid his long arms into the comfort of a denim garment shaped to its owner's physique through years of wear, and shrugged his broad shoulders into place. Nights could be cool out in an open field or on a hilltop under the clear sky, once the day's heat rose and dissipated, unconfined by the layer of smog found in the urban areas. Besides, it was easier to grab bullets to reload if they were in the pocket of a loose jacket instead of in tight jeans. He reached into the back of the top shelf of a cupboard and slid some boxes of shells to the edge where he could read the specifications of the ammo. He pulled out a box of rifle shells in the .270 Winchester caliber which his rifle used, and selected the type he wanted for pigs, with a semi-jacketed nose. He put a half-dozen of those in the left pocket of his jacket. There were already at least a half dozen more in the gun's clip, and he knew he wouldn't need more than that, shooting by moonlight.

He also selected a box of the heaviest handgun shells in his stock, a 150-grain bullet. The rifle shells looked like miniature ICBM rockets with the long, thick base packed with 135-grain powder and the shoulders tapering down to the slimmer nose, the payload a duller copper than the shining, expendable base. In contrast, these revolver shells were uniformly thick, a blunt instrument consisting of a heavy piece of solid lead sitting on a charge of 150-grain powder. Monty reached into the other side of the shelf and slid out the handgun in its holster, hand-made from the shaft of an old boot. It was a .357 Magnum Ruger with a 7-inch barrel: ease of concealment or a quick draw were not qualities needed for this work, but rather hitting power and accuracy. He strapped on the revolver, slipped the strap of a pair of 9x field glasses around his neck, and headed out the door. The rifle was in the truck in its usual place, in the rear window gun rack where it could be removed quickly if he was driving somewhere on the ranch and spotted one of the type of predator which wasn't welcome here.

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