Busted Axle Road
Chapter 79

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

The sky was threatening in the west, making darkness come early. It seemed to Mike that the woods were getting deep in shadow, and by the time he finally drove the eight-dog team up to the side trail that ran to the runway in back of Mark's house, it was getting to the point where it was nearly too dark to see.

He was depending on Cumulus -- and a little on Ringo, too -- to find the way in the darkness, as much as his own knowledge of the trail, but Cumulus apparently figured that it was time to be getting home, so he made the turn to the spur trail without even being told. It was good to know that Cumulus could be depended upon; Mike realized he might have missed the corner in the gloom.

Mark was waiting in back of the hanger, sitting on the seat of his pickup truck, when the dogs raced up the runway at a good trot. They came to a stop in front of the hanger in response to Mike's "Whoa"; while he set the brakes, Mark got out of the pickup truck to help with staking the dogs back out at their doghouses.

"You know," Mark said conversationally "It's more work than it was when we only had three dogs to mess around with."

"True," Mike said. "But now that they're settling down more, it's more fun, too. It's not like we have to fight with them every inch of the way, any more, especially with this many dogs. I made it back from where we switched without a single tangled line, would you believe it?"

"They're settling down," Mark agreed.

"I thought about putting Cumulus in wheel," Mike said, "And trying to run Ringo in a single lead, but I decided that it was not a real great idea, back in the woods. Next time we go out, let's leave a dog behind and run him in single lead for a while."

"Yeah," Mark said, "Or, we could take George, and try it with nine dogs. He's getting big enough to get the idea."

"I wouldn't want to take him out for a real long run, just yet," Mike said. "But there's no reason we couldn't run him up and down the runway."

"He's getting ready for that," Mark agreed. "How do you think the rest of them are doing?

"You know, if anything, I think they're getting bored," Mike said. "Around the field, up and down the trail. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing a little new scenery myself."

"Maybe we ought to think about seeing if we can find some strange scenery to run them in," Mark agreed. "It's going to be kind of a hassle if we don't run them out of here, but that was something we were going to have to deal with, anyway."

"Once it gets to be winter, we got all the snowmobile trails we can run," Mike said.

"Yeah, but until the ground freezes, that's pretty much out. Most of those trails run on the frozen ground through the swamps, somewhere along them."

"Well, we could take them out run them around the golf course," Mike suggested. "If we kept off the greens, I think it'd be OK."

"Well, maybe," Mark replied. "Give me a chance to see if I can figure some way to build a dog box for the truck without it being too big a deal. Going to have two or three days to work on it, anyway."

"The dogs would run in the rain," Mike said, "But I'm not too sure I want to."

"Me either," Mark said. "Let me think about it, and maybe tomorrow night, we could get started to build something."

"Beats getting soaked to the skin," Mike agreed. "Maybe the dogs deserve a break, too."

Mark shook his head. "Oh, nuts," he said. "We can't work on it tomorrow night. I've got to go to the expedition meeting. I can't believe it's been a month, already."

"Steve and Binky's, again?"

"Yeah, undoubtedly for something unidentifiable and inedible," Mark said. "I can eat almost anything, but I never could stomach that shit when I was in Vietnam, and I can't do much better on her cooking, even now. Everything tastes rotten. Maybe she's forgetting how to cook some of it, she's so used to cooking American."

"Well, enjoy yourself," Mike chided.

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