Monday, 18 March 2013
The Bar-Z Hold-up
By Jack Holt
From The Modern Boy magazine, dated 23 February 1935, #368, Vol. 15. Contributed by Keith Hoyt via his son and my good friend, Brian. Keith died last week so I hope you will appreciate his dedication at the end of the story…Digitized by Doug Frizzle, January 2013.
Young PERCIVAL ULYSSES WOODGER finds the Wild West Wilder even than HE expected — choc-a-bloc with desperate bandits—and LAUGHS!
"Great Guys for a Joke!"
“IS—is—is—wheee!—is the Wild West very wild?" stammered Percival Ulysses Woodger, as the buggy swung down the trail from Rattlesnake Bend Railroad Depot towards the Bar Z Ranch.
"We Britishers, you know, sort of conceive the life of a cowpuncher to be full of hair-raising battles with cattle thieves and b-b-b—whee!—bad men and outlaws and things.
"The lawless element, we have been given to understand, in this part of the world far exceeds the orderly workaday folk who earn their daily bread in an honest fashion."
Bud Elton, boss of the Bar Z outfit, grinned.
"Don't you believe them tales, son," he laughed. "This little lump of Texas ain't more lawless nor New York, Chicago—or even London, where you hail from. It's true we have a particular brand of crook and roughneck around this part of the world what's—how d'you say it?— sorter more picturesque than the reg'lar run of thugs.
"But he ain't any less or more of a bad lot jes' because he wears a big hat an' totes hisself around on a cayuse."
"I rea—I rea—wheee!—I realise that. What I mean is—"
"Sure, I know what you mean, but I can assure you the life of the normal waddie is mainly humdrum, son. Cow-nursin' is jes' a reg'lar round of routine, like any other job. Fence ridin', ropin' in strays, brandin', twice a year rounding up the beeves, eatin' frijoles and bacon, singin' to a punctured accordion, an' occasionally ridin' to town to blow in your payroll—that's the normal life of a cow-poke to-day. No. The beef trade ain't the romantic business it's cracked up to be."
Percival gave his usual whistle to suppress his bad stammer before replying:
"How disappointing! Still, everybody describes their own particular profession as dull, I believe."
There was silence for a short while, except for the rhythmic clatter of the lank mare drawing the buggy along the rough Texas trail. Presently Bud Elton spoke again.
"And what might be your profession, mister?"
"Why," smiled Percy, after whistling, "I'm afraid—well, the only profession I have at the moment is as a sort of roving vagabond. I left my home in England, you know, to teach my uncle a lesson. He said I wasn't capable of making my own way in the world, so I made up my mind to run away for six months to show him he was wrong.
"My last port of call was Houston City, where I was able to be of some assistance to the National Bank there, and hearing I was keen to see a bit of the real West, they repaid me for my services, very kindly, by arranging for this visit to your ranch—which I'm sure I'm going to enjoy immensely."
"I hope so," said Bud generously. "I can only say you're right welcome, pard. Me an' the boys'll do all we can to make your stay interesting. But as regards rustlers and bad men and such—well, we can't supply those—"
"Not even—whee!—a little shoot-up?" Percy grinned.
"Not even that, Mr. Woodger. Less the boys like to stage one special for your benefit. They're great guys for a joke, my boys."
“Well—whee!" grinned Percy. "I suppose I'll just have to be satisfied with the ordinary routine of a cattle ranch. At any rate, I'm pleased to see you wear the traditional garb. You know, when I arrived in Houston and saw what a modern city it was, I began to doubt there were any real cowboys left! Is that the Bar Z over there?" he added, pointing to a collection of huts and corrals dimly visible across the prairie-land.
"Sure, that's my outfit, pard. And that dim smudge you can jes' see on the horizon is my main herd—the finest section of beef in this neck of the woods, though I sez it myself. I'm proud of 'em!"
They chatted on until they came to the ranch—the tanned, bearded cattle-breeder with a cluster of laughter-wrinkles round his kindly grey eyes and Percival Ulysses Woodger, looking just as cheerful and undaunted as he did on the day he started out on his memorable journey from London, five thousand miles away.
"And now," said Bud Elton, when the buggy finally came to a standstill within the corral fence that marked the immediate boundary of the Bar Z, "let me introduce you to the outfit. That's 'em—that ornery-lookin' gang of hoss-thieves lookin' all bashful over yonder.
"Hey, boys! Step right over and meet our English guest. Hope you've all got clean shirts on and washed behind your ears!"
The group of cheerful-looking cow-punchers came over and were introduced to Percy.
"This is Tiny Waters," said Bud Elton, with a gesture towards a lank, six-foot specimen of Western wiriness. "He's my top-hand. Fancies hisself as a humorist, but, believe me, his wisecracks wouldn't raise a grin from a laughin' hyena. See Tiny on a hoss, though, an' you forgive him his humour immediate. Best brone' man and roper in the county!"
"Shucks, boss," said Tiny, fidgeting bashfully.
"This is Dude," said Bud, introducing another. "Has social ambitions, has Dude. Tries to play the guitar and sing opera and always wears a clean collar Sundays."
"Aw—quit hazin', boss!" grinned Dude.
"This here's Zack Rogers. The beeves is scared stiff of him, which ain't to be wondered at when you glimpses his handsome frontispiece. But it ain't on that account. He's a champ bull-dozer. Carried off first prize at Yuma only last fall."
Percy shook hands with the grinning Zack.
"This chunk of rawhide is denounced by the name of Jan Peek. Drop of Swedish in Jan somewheres— you can see it when he washes his face—but there ain't a better cowhand ridin' the ranges.
"We define the following article," continued Bud, pointing to a smiling cattleman with drooping- whiskers, "as Pizen-oak Pete. Pizen-oak is an old stager. Been in the cow business since he was breeched."
"Powerful glad to meetcher, pard!" said Pizen-oak.
"There's another scoundrel in this outfit," said Bud, "but he's that small in dimensions we often mislay him. Where's Slim, boys?"
"In the feedhouse, boss," grinned Zack Rogers. "Hey, Slim, come show yourself!"
The hail was answered by the appearance of a round head in the doorway of a shack that was the cowboys' dining quarters. The head, of course, had the customary body attached to it, as Percival Ulysses presently saw. But what a body! "Slim" was so fat he could hardly squeeze through the feedhouse door. He waddled over to Percy and shook him by the hand, beaming all over his large round face.
"Slim came from out East," explained the joking boss of the ranch. "Thought ranch life would get his figure down. We let him try ridin' with the herdsmen for a bit—that's why we got so many knock-kneed and bow-legged hosses around the ranch—and then we decided he was bending our ridin'-stock out of all recognition, so we made him our cook and nursemaid. Slim feeds us and gets our hot-water bottles of a night."
"I'm—I'm—wheee!—I'm sure Mr. Elton exaggerates," smiled Percy. "Anyhow, I'm very pleased to meet you, Slim!"
"The pleasure is mutual, I'm shah!" said Slim, in a surprisingly affected voice. "It is indeed a great —nay!—a stupendous treat, if I may say so, to meet a real gentleman among all these hooligans!"
"You see," grinned Zack, "Slim ain't forgot his swell Eastern eddication. He always speaks in that high-toned way!"
"Very aristocratic family, Slim's," put in Tiny, the alleged humorist. "Once removed from a vizcount—and once removed to the town gaol for disturbing of the peace on Independence Day!"
"Kindly," said Slim, with dignity, "reserve your witticisms for a more fitting audience. May I show you to your quartahs, Mr. Woodger?"
"Th-th-th—wheee!—thanks!" said Percy.
"Mr. Woodger's bunking down in the mansion," said Bud Elton, indicating the ranch-house. "Everything's arranged. If you follow Slim, pardner, he'll lead you to your bed-roll."
Percival thanked the boss of the Bar Z and followed Slim into the "mansion."
Planning a Shoot-Up!
THE rest of that day Percy spent in an enjoyable tour of the ranch, riding on a quiet horse beside Tiny Waters, the "top-hand," or foreman, of the outfit. Tiny pointed out to him all the interesting details of a cowboy's daily work, studding his conversation with the wisecracks on which he prided himself.
Percy, in his turn, talked to him much as he had talked to Bud Elton on his trip from Rattlesnake Bend—that is, on his mistaken conception of the West as a place bristling with two-gun men—with killers, outlaws, and desperate characters.
Tiny's playful nature could not resist the temptation to pull Percival's leg.
"Did the boss tell you that, now?” said he, not a flicker of a smile on his face. "Say though, he told you wrong, Mr. Woodger! This hyer bit a rangeland is the most lawless in the hull south-west. Yeh, sure! Guess the ole man was scairt of frightening you away, that's what! "Why, only t'other day me an' the boys had to fight for our lives agin a horde of desprit Mexicans. Yeh, sure! Bullets was aflyin’ thicker nor wasps round a jampot. Most never a week passes without we have to lynch some guy for get'n obstreper—obstreper—for g't'n het-up an' loosin' off his shoot-iron into somebody. The lawlessness is sure sump'n awful, Mr. Woodger, hereabouts. Yeh, sure!"
Percival looked surprised, but made no comment.
"Yeh," continued the leg-puller, "and the mortality among sheriffs and state and federal officers round these parts is so high, Mr. Woodger, that the gov'ment supplies 'em each with a free coffin as part of their regulation equipment."
This seemed rather tall to Percy, but he was too polite to say so.
"Do—do—do—wheee!—do you think it would be advisable for me to go about armed, then," said Percy, "during my stay here? I had imagined from the way Mr. Elton spoke that there was no need."
"Say," answered Tiny, with a look of horror, "it's jes' plain suicide to walk about without a coupler six-guns! Why, there might be a desprit character lurking behind that very clump o' mesquite now. I guess I saw it move jes' then!"
Tiny Waters drew one of his long-snouted revolvers impressively and pointed it at the bush indicated.
"Come outer that, you coyote, or I'll let fly!" he shouted.
Percy chuckled as a rabbit darted out of the bush and bounded in fright across the rangeland. Tiny put away his gun without a suspicion of a smirk.
"Only a jackrabbit," he said, "but it don't do to take no chances in these parts. 'Tain't healthy! Shoot first an' converse afterwards is my motter. We mighter bin frozen meat right now if that guy had started shootin'!"
"Why, the guy that mighter bin there if it hadn't bin a jackrabbit!" replied Tiny.
"I th—I th—wheee!—I think I see what you mean," said Percy, his puzzled expression giving the lie to his words.
Throughout the tour of the ranch, Tiny continued to give impressive details of the imaginary desperate encounters of the neighbourhood, until at last Percy left him, to take his evening meal in the ranch-house, with the impression that he really tad struck one of the hottest spots in the whole Wild West.
"Anyhow," Percival told himself philosophically, "I wanted to see the real West. It seems to be wilder than I thought. I must take the first opportunity of procuring myself a couple of revolvers for protection. Nothing like being on the safe side!"
Within the cowpunchers' feeding quarters the humorist of the Bar Z was telling his colleagues of the innocent way Percy had swallowed his yarns.
"Say, though, but you should've seen him lap it up! It was most all I could do to stop me face crackin' with innard laughter! Yeh, sure! I told him—"
"I think," said Slim, who was serving the punchers with their supper, "such untruths are in fright-fullay baad taste. Mr. Woodger is ah guest. It is, if I may say so, not at all a hospitable attitude—"
"Aw—shucks! Can your high-falutin' grammar, dook," said Zack Rogers. "There ain't no harm in it, an' the guy looks a good sort—mostlike he'll enjoy the joke same as us when he finds out. He wanted the West to be wild, didn't he?
"Well, it's only sorter charitable, if you look at it thataway, not to disappoint. Why, I've a mind to take my guns and go shoot-up Rattlesnake Bend right now, jes' so's he can have an eyeful of what he's hankerin' after!"
"Say, though, that's an idea!" chipped in Tiny. "Why not?"
"H'm!" said Pizen-oak laconically. "Try shootin' up Rattlesnake with Sheriff Dawson about, and your hospitality will end up in the town stew!"
"All right, granddad," said Tiny. "We needn't really shoot-up Rattlesnake to give our guest the treat he's hankerin' after; we can stage a nice little private hold-up for his benefit right here on the Bar Z! What say, boys?"
Zack Rogers, Dude, and Jan Peek signified that they were tickled by the idea. Pizen-oak seemed doubtful, and Slim frankly disapproved.
"I refuse to lend myself to such ruffiahnly practical jokes," said he.
"Say, fatty," grinned Tiny, giving him a dig in his balloon-like abdomen, "nobody wants to borrow you. Your supple boyish figure ain't quite the style for a hold-up man."
"Tehah!" said Slim.
"There's a fine chance to pull the works to-morrow," went on Tiny. "The boss is ridin' over to Dutton's outfit to see about the shipment of that herd o' beeves he sold him recent. Me an' Zack and you, Jan, an' Dude—"
"Dude ain't in on this," grunted Pizen-oak. "Me an' him's got to take our reg'lar trick on the range. There's a ditchin' job to do to-morrow."
"O.K. Then me an' Zack and Jan here'll see it through. Gee! I guess we're gonner enjoy ourselves. Soon's the boss has cleared out, we'll make some excuse and ride out like we got business to do. Maybe if we could change our duds now—"
"I absolutelay refuse," protested Slim, "to be a party to such a hobbledehoyish scheme. I feel it my duty to warn Mr. Woodger—"
"If you do," grinned Tiny, "I shall feel it my duty to sling your sylphlike form into the hoss pond!"
THE three practical jokers—Tiny Waters, Zack Rogers, and Jan Peek—watched eagerly for the going of their boss about his business to Dutton's ranch the following day. He went about midday, and the three began to make preparations for the fake hold-up they had planned for giving Percival Ulysses the Western excitement he seemed to expect.
Pizen-oak and Dude were out on the ranges tending the herd, so there was no risk of obstruction from that quarter. Slim, however, was proving a bit of a handful.
"I tell you I refuse to countenance this practical joke," he insisted for the twentieth time. "It's baad taste to raag a visitor in such a fashion. As soon as you have gone I shall make it my business to warn him!"
"Aw—see here, Slim," protested Zack. "Be reasonable. We're only tryin' to amuse the guy and give him a taste of the Wild West as he's seen it at the cinema. You gotter entertain a guest, ain'tcher, now? An' if you can entertain yourselves at the same time
"The principle of the thing," said Slim, "offends against good taste. Besides, if you're going to start flourishing firearms and—"
"Shucks, nobody'll get hurt. We're loaded with blank."
" 'Tain't no use trying to argy wi' him," chipped in Jan Peek. "Grab him an' lock him up where he can't interfere!"
"Youse a genius, Dutchy," chuckled Tiny Waters. "Why didn't we think of that beautifully simple solution of the problem before? Grab him, boys!"
"Desist!" yelled Slim as the three boisterous cowpunchers made a dive at him "I refuse to lend myself—"
"On this hyer 'casion," laughed Tiny, as they bore the stout cook of the Bar Z to the ground and seated themselves upon his tummy, pending further instructions from their practical-joker-in-chief, "you're not going to be lent.
"You're jes' sorter gonner be put in storage where you can't make trouble. Bring him to the bunkhouse, boys. He won't be able to skip that hideout!"
The three muscular cattlemen lifted the hefty chunk of protesting avoirdupois that was Slim and bore him bodily across to their sleeping quarters. The bunkhouse was a long, stoutly built shack with only one door, and two windows so small that Slim couldn't get out through them. There was a fanlight in the roof, but that was right out of reach, and there was nothing available to climb up on.
"He won't get loose from here," grinned Tiny. "Heave-oh, boys!"
They slung Slim through the open door like a sack of coals. He landed with a bump within and said "Ouch!" and then the bunkhouse door had slammed and he heard the key turn in the lock.
"Ruffiahns!" he cried. "Release me immediatelay! I protest!"
"Jes' you keep right on protestin'," cried Tiny Waters, "till we get back. S'long, Slim. See you at supper. Come on, boys. Git your hosses. This is where we depitise as desprit bandits!"
The three jokers mounted their horses and rode over to the ranch-house, where they knew they would find Percival Ulysses Woodger. They hailed him from their saddles, and presently Percival appeared on the veranda.
"Me an' the boys has got a bit o' business to see to," explained Tiny. "You'll be all alone on the ranch, Mr. Woodger, for an hour or two, so I thought I'd better warn you 'case you get some of them there desperadoes I was tellin' you about."
"Oh!" said Percival, in a tone that was not at all self-assured. "Th-th—wheee!—thanks awfully! I'll—I'll—er—keep my eyes skinned."
"Here," said Zack, passing one of his guns to Percy. "Take this gat—you may need it."
Percy took the gun gingerly. "B-b-b—whee!—but surely I'm not all alone on the ranch? What about Slim?"
"Oh—Slim!" said Tiny, with a sad shake of the head. "Poor Slim—he's gotten one of his attacks on him."
"Yeh, sure' Didn't you know? Slim suffers sump'n awful from fits, and while he has 'em he's powerful dangerous. If you hear him yelling or shouting for help, Mr. Woodger, you give him a wide berth. S'long, Mr. Woodger!
"By the way, they say Two-gun Egbert, the mad killer, is around these parts, and Ruiz, that bloodthirsty rustler, and his mob. Apart from that there's nothing to worry about. Don't mind us leavin' you for a while, does you?"
“Of—of—wheee!—of course not,” answered Percival. "Still, I—er hope you won't be long."
" 'Bout four or five hours, but if you feels nervous or wants assistance, Pizen-oak and Dude are out there on the ranges only three miles off. S’long, Mr. Woodger."
The three cowboys wheeled their horses and rode away. Percival watched them until they disappeared round a bend of the trail. Then he looked at the big Colt revolver in his hand, a little doubtfully.
"H'm! This doesn't seem much of a protection against Two-gun Egbert, the mad killer, and—what's it?—Ruiz and his gang. I sincerely hope neither gent thinks of paying the Bar Z a call this afternoon!" he muttered.
Then he placed the gun in his coat pocket and returned into the ranch-house.
THE three jokers from the Bar Z Ranch little knew that their going was watched. A mile down trail they passed a heavy clump of mesquite concealing three men, who watched their going with interest.
"We better stay away from the ranch about an hour." Tiny was saying as the three rode by. "No good bein' too sudden, or he might tumble."
"O.K.," grinned the other two as they trotted on.
Three evil faces watched them until they were out of sight. No, it was not Two-gun Egbert, the mad killer, nor yet Ruiz and his gang. These men were much more dangerous and more solid than those mythical desperadoes of Tiny Waters' imagination.
Red Grange, the outlaw and gaolbird, was "wanted" in four counties of the State of Texas; "Snitch," his long-nosed companion, had similar claims to notoriety, and it was said that Six-gun Gallagher, the third man, would have to hang three times before his murderous misdeeds could be fairly avenged.
These three had been watching the Bar Z for days, waiting their chance. They knew, as the whole neighbourhood knew, that Bud Elton had just put over a big deal in cattle with Dutton's outfit, and that two thousand dollars had changed hands and was now tucked away somewhere in the Bar Z ranch-house!
These gentry required money very urgently just then, for the net was tightening around them, and unless they could sneak across the border into Mexico they knew they would shortly find themselves face to face with a party of Texas State marshals. Yes, they needed money, and they had no scruples about their methods of getting it. Even another killing or two meant nothing to these three, so long as they could escape over the border.
“That only leaves the fat cook and the lodger!" grinned Grange, when Tiny and his pals had passed. "They're easy meat. We can shoot our way through them like a pound o' drippin'. The boss left the ranch this mornin'. Two of 'em is out on the ranges with the cattle. Them three sez they won't be back for an hour."
"Well," replied Snitch, "what're we waitin' for?"
They left their hiding-place and began to make their way to where they had tethered their horses. A few moments later they had mounted and were riding back down the trail towards the Bar Z Ranch and that desirable two thousand dollars.
Locked in the Bunkhouse!
PERCIVAL ULYSSES WOODGER had hardly returned into the ranch-house when one of Slim's powerful yells penetrated to him from the bunkhouse.
"Poor fellow!" thought Percy. It must be terrible to suffer from such attacks. I must say I feel far from comfortable, being left alone with all these desperadoes about, and with a man suffering from fits!"
Percy stuck his bead outside the ranch-house again and listened. Slim was now thumping on the heavy bunkhouse door and yelling to be released at the top of his voice:
"Mr. Woodger! Mr. Woodger! Hailp! Hailp!"
"Dear me!" Percy told himself. "He seems to be calling for me. I suppose I'd better ignore him, as I was told."
Percy took a seat on the veranda steps and tried, with difficulty, to feel at ease. But he couldn't sit for long and listen to those appealing calls for help.
"Per-per—wheee—perhaps I’d better go and try to comfort him. It surely can't do any harm."
So Percy walked over to the cow-punchers' sleeping quarters, and, during a lull, took his usual whistle to steady his speech, and tapped gingerly on the door.
"Coo-ee, Slim!" he said.
"Oh, thenk goodness, Mr. Woodger!" came Slim's muffled voice from within. "Those ruffiahns have locked me in!"
"All right, Slim. Just keep calm. Why not lie down and rest a bit?" said Percy soothingly. "You shouldn't get yourself excited, you know."
"Excited!" shrieked Slim. "Mai goodness! This is too much!"
"There, there!" Percy said hastily. "I didn't—I didn't—wheee!—I didn't mean to excite you. Just do as I say, now, and perhaps you'll feel better."
At this point Slim resumed his thumping on the door, yelling:
"Let me aht! Let me aht! It's most important! Oh, you merst, Mr. Woodger—you merst!"
"Slim—Slim—wheee!—you mustn't carry on like this! It isn't good for you, you know. I don't know what's the correct treatment for fits, but I'm sure getting yourself all worked up—"
"Fits!" cried Slim, sounding as if he was really suffering from one! "Fits! Fits! Did you say fits? Raally, this is too murch—"
"Well, that's—wheee!—what's wrong with you, you know. Your pals told me that I wasn't to—"
"Mai goodness!" gasped Slim. "Mr. Woodger, they didn't tell you thaat? It's—it's prepostrous! I've never had a fit in mai lafe. It's a foul untruth! Oh, the scoundrels! The absolute villains to say such a thing about me!"
"W-why," stuttered Percy, "aren't you having a fit? I really thought you—"
"Mr. Woodger, this is all part of their dastardly scheme! I'm speaking the truth. Let me aht of hyar, and I'll tell you all. But you merst let me aht. It's most important!"
Percy was thoughtful for a few seconds. After all, Slim might be speaking the truth. There were two sides to the question. He only had it on Tiny's assurance that Slim had temporarily gone off his rocker. Surely it was not good for Slim, in any case, to be imprisoned in the bunkhouse, with no one to comfort him. On the other hand, if he suddenly went berserk on being released—
"If I—whee!—let you out, will you promise to be good ?" said Percy.
Slim gulped, and swallowed his pride.
"All right," he said, as calmly as he could. "But I assure you it's not true abaht mai having fits. I'll tell you all abaht it when I'm free. I can't keep on bawling through this wooden door."
"Very well," called Percy. "But how am I to get you free?"
"Thar's a skylight in' the roof, but I can't reach it. If you can get on to the roof and haul me up—"
Percy walked round the bunkhouse and located a drainpipe. By dint of careful manoeuvring he managed to scramble up the pipe on to the roof, crawl to the open fanlight, and look down upon Slim.
"You—whee !—certainly look all right!" he observed.
"I am all right," replied Slim. "Lean dahn and give me a hand up."
Percy leaned through the fanlight and extended a helping hand, and by standing on the very tip of his toes Slim could just grasp it.
"Now," said Slim, "pull me up!"
Percy pulled mightily. He had forgotten that Slim was about four times his own weight. The result of Percy's heroic efforts was to pull himself clean through the fanlight into the interior.
With a yell he hurtled down on top of Slim, and the two of them hit the floor with a bump.
"G-g-g-gosh!" stuttered Percy, sitting up and feeling his bruises. "How—whee!—did that happen?"
"Oh, mai head!" moaned Slim, "You fell on mai head!"
"S-s-s-s—whee!—sorry," said Percy, scrambling up. "Well, here's a pretty to-do. I'm locked in as well, now!"
The two stared at each other in blank amazement at this new predicament.
Slim sat down on one of the bunks, nursing his head.
"And this all comes of that Tiny Waters and his practical jokes!" he moaned. "I merst tell you, Mr. Woodger—they're plotting some scheme to give you a scare—"
Rubbing his bruised head, Slim told Percy about the plot of the jokers.
"The—whee!—rascals!" chuckled Percy. "I had a sort of suspicion Tiny was pulling my leg yesterday. Gosh, though! I wish we could get out of here and give them a whacking surprise!"
IT was while Slim and Percy were locked in the bunkhouse that Red Grange, Snitch, and Six-gun Gallagher arrived at the Bar Z. They looked round suspiciously as they dismounted, but all was quiet.
Cautiously, the three real desperadoes crept towards the ranch-house and tiptoed across the veranda. Grange flung open the door, his gun thrust forward ready to fire.
"O.K.!" he murmured, finding the ranch-house deserted. "I think we got an easy break. Come right in, boys, an' we'll locate that dough in no time."
The three entered the ranch-house, closing the door behind them.
“I—WHEE!—have an idea," said Percy, inside the locked bunk-house. "Do you think you could hoist me on your shoulders, Slim? I think I can just about grab the edge of the fanlight and draw myself up on to the roof."
"I'll try—but don't forget I want to get aht, too!"
"Y-y-yes. I know a way I can manage that!"
So Slim stood upright and Percy climbed on his back and thence on to his fat shoulders.
"Whee! Do you mind if I step on your head?" said Percy, balancing precariously. "Another couple of inches will do it."
"Not at all," answered Slim, with a tinge of sarcasm. "Pray do as you wish, Mr. Woodger. Try and avoid stepping on the bump you've just made by falling on it, though, won't you?"
Percy placed a foot on Slim's head and then made a wild grab at the edge of the fanlight above. He succeeded in clutching it, but Slim went staggering, leaving Percy dangling in the air.
Percy dragged himself up, and after a deal of gasping and scrambling succeeded in getting back on to the roof. He disappeared for a few seconds and then his face appeared again at the open fanlight.
"Are you—whee!—all right?"
"Perfectlay," groaned Slim, "apart from a kick in the face—"
"Whee! Hang on, then. I'll have you out in two ticks. I think the jokers must have arrived already and gone into the ranch-house to look for me. There's three horses here."
Percy disappeared then, and presently the unhappy Slim saw him again at the skylight.
"Here—whee!—catch this!" Percy said, throwing a length of lasso down. "Put the loop round your body, and I'll have you drawn up in no time. The other end is tied to a horse's saddle. You're too heavy for me to pull up alone, y'see."
Slim passed the noose of the lasso over his shoulders and settled it under his armpits.
"Now I'll just lead the horse a few yards away," said Percy, "and you'll be drawn up through the skylight. But don't make a noise. If they hear us it'll spoil everything."
Percy disappeared, and there were faint sounds of him scrambling off the roof to the ground. A few moments later Slim felt the pressure of the rope under his armpits. It tautened suddenly and Slim's twenty stone sailed into the air.
Bump! went Slim's head against the ceiling, and Slim gave a howl. The hauling business had happened so suddenly that he had no time to guide himself through the skylight, with the result that his head went smack against the ceiling!
Slim hung near the ceiling of the bunkhouse with the rope still tugging at him and trying to draw him through the skylight. The pressure of it was overpowering. Slim felt his chest would burst with the strain, and in spite of his semi-dazed condition from the blow on the head, he yelled for help at the top of his voice.
"The rope—it's strangling me! I'm ch-choking! I'm—gloop!—suffocating! I'm——"
"All right," said Percy, "don't lose your head!" and started hacking frantically at the rope with his penknife. As the last strands parted, thud! went Slim to the floor of the bunkhouse, evoking further yells from the unfortunate cook of the Bar Z.
"S-s-s-sorry!" said Percy, from the skylight, when Slim had recovered sufficiently to sit up and moan. "I'll —whee!—I'll get another rope. Hang on. I'll have you out all right!"
Percy hurried away, and in a few moments was back again with a new lasso, the noose of which he insisted upon Slim again putting round himself. The fat cook did so, fixing the rope over his arms.
"This time I'll lead the horse more slowly," said Percy. "So-d-don't be afraid. Just ease yourself gently through the skylight when you're high enough."
Slim's only comment was a moan. Percy disappeared, and then Slim was again drawn up, more steadily, towards the skylight. He managed to hit the hole correctly this time. But—he had omitted to measure his girth against the width of the opening.
Slim's head emerged into the great wide world, but his nether regions remained dangling in the bunkhouse. The pull of the rope only served to jam him tighter in the skylight. In desperation he called out.
"Shush! Wheee! Don't make such a noise!" admonished Percy, appearing again on the roof. "What's up now?"
"I'm—I'm stuck!" gasped Slim. "The skylight isn't large enough for me to get through!"
"So—so—it isn't!" said the surprised Percy. "I never noticed that!" .
Percival tugged at Slim, but he would not budge. He tried shoving him back through the skylight, but was equally unsuccessful.
"Here's a to-do!" said Percy thoughtfully. "You're stuck fast. You won't come out and you won't go in!"
"For goodness' sake stop that horse pulling at the rope! It's jamming me tighter every second!" yelped Slim.
So Percy nipped off the roof again, and to Slim's relief the rope presently slackened. But Percy did not return to the roof at once, and when he did finally reappear before the unhappy Slim and undid the rope, he wore a rather sheepish grin.
"I—I—whee!—I say! I am an ass, you know! I've just walked round the front of the bunkhouse and discovered that the key's been in the door all the time! I never noticed it!"
"Oh," groaned Slim, "this is too murch!"
Bruised and Battered Bandits!
MEANWHILE, within the ranch-house the three thieves were getting cross. They had ransacked it, but could find no sign of a hiding-place for the money. And their search had been so intent that they had failed to notice the weird and wonderful series of sounds which came from the bunkhouse across the way as Slim received his various bumps.
"I tellya the money's here some-wheres," growled Red Grange, "and we're gonner get it! It's no good searehin' around like this. It must be hidden some place. Best way out is to find some guy and stick him up and make him tell!"
"Swell notion!" they agreed, and the three left the ranch-house in search of somebody to "stick up."
By now Percival Ulysses Woodger had opened the door of the bunkhouse with the key that had been there all the time, and was endeavouring manfully to haul Slim back into the room by the legs. But Slim was jammed tight. He simply would not budge.
The three thieves heard these sounds of tremendous straining within the bunkhouse, and crept towards the open door—and just then Percy came to the door!
For a moment he felt startled, for the three looked very sinister—their faces covered to the eyes with silk scarves, and with long-nosed, fierce-looking weapons in their hands. But Percy remembered the jokers!
"W-w-wel—whee!—welcome, bandits, to our humble home!" he smiled pleasantly.
"Funny guy, huh?" snarled Red Grange. "Well, you won't feel so smart in a minute. Where's that money hidden? Quick, tell us, or we—"
"I believe," continued Percy happily, "it is deposited in the old oaken chest along with the family mortgage."
"I’ll give you three minutes to tell us where that money's hidden!" gritted Gallagher.
Percy backed into the bunkhouse as the desperadoes advanced, the muzzles of their three guns only a foot from his chest.
"How—wheee!—how would you like to shoot me, gentlemen?" continued Percy, posing as for a photograph. "Front face or profile? How do I look best?" Then he burst out laughing. "It's—it's no good, boys. I—whee!—I can't keep this up any longer. Your little game's rumbled. I know your guns are only loaded with blank."
"Blank!" growled Bed Grange, "See here, Mr. Wise-guy, jes' park your eyes on that little winder over there! I'll show you how many blank bullets is in my gun!"
As Percy looked towards the window indicated Grange levelled his gun at it and pulled trigger. A crash, a stab of flame, and the glass of the window shattered to bits.
"Now," began Red Grange, "maybe you'll tell us—"
At that point his sentence came to an abrupt conclusion. Something that felt like an avalanche descended suddenly upon the bandits, and the three of them went sprawling in a heap, yelling with surprise and alarm.
Percival Ulysses blinked. Where but a moment ago had stood the three unpleasant-looking bandits was a confused mass of waving arms and legs, on top of which reposed Slim.
The shock of the revolver explosion had somehow jerked him loose from his wedged position in the skylight, and he had descended suddenly upon the heads of the three thieves who, until the moment he struck them, had been totally unaware of his presence.
"That—wheee!—that was a splendid idea, Slim!" cheered Percy, seeing that the cook's enormous weight had pinned the three men beneath him. "Just keep where you are for a moment. These jokers are in a lovely position to receive a little well-deserved chastisement!"
Percy looked about him and presently found a nice piece of flexible board, with which he proceeded to smite the projecting rears of the squirming figures beneath Slim.
"This"—whack!—"is to teach you jokers" —whack!— "a lesson"—whack! whack!—" not to tell tall tales and play"—whack!—"practical jokes on your visitors! Hallo! What's up now?"
Percival's attention, and that of Slim, was suddenly diverted by a terrific din outside the ranch-house. They looked out, and to their amazement saw three horsemen prancing about, firing their guns in the air and shouting at the top of their voices in a blood-curdling way.
"G-g-good heavens!" gasped Percy. "More bandits?"
"Bandits mai foot!" said Slim. "That's Tiny Waters and the others; I recognise their horses!"
"Then—then—whee!—who're these fellows?" gasped Percy, pointing to the squashed and battered thieves wriggling beneath Slim's form.
"You know," said Slim, "I do believe they're real bandits! Quickly—go and tell those silly asses to stop making chumps of themselves out thar and come to mai assistance!"
Half an hour later, with the three battered and bruised bandits safely locked in a corral waiting to be transferred to the Rattlesnake Bend gaol, Tiny Waters and the two other jokers were explaining, a little sheepishly, how it had all happened, to Bud Elton, who had returned on hearing the news, and to the Sheriff of Rattlesnake Bend.
Slim and Percival Ulysses Woodger looked on with a superior air and filled in the story from their point of view, thereby casting not a little glory upon themselves.
"Well," said Bud Elton, "it's a dinged good thing I thought of taking that money with me this afternoon! I nearly left it in the drawer of my desk. And see here, boys"—this to Tiny and the two others— "next time you want to play a joke please don't leave the ranch deserted."
"Yes—wheeee!" said Percival Ulysses. "The West isn't quite so wild as I thought, but it's quite wild enough, on the whole."
"It isn't half so wild as I was," grunted Slim, feeling his many bruises, "when I got stuck fast in that skylight!"
Next Saturday, Perry launches out as a Gold-Miner, and provides you with a hundred-percent Fun and Excitement!
HOYT, Charles Keith—Passed away on Friday, March 8, 2013, in QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. Born in North Sydney, on April 19, 1921, son of Wilbert V. and Hazel K. (Ryder) Hoyt. After high school he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1939 and served as both an instructor while in Canada and as a radar officer overseas where he met his future wife, Patricia “Paddy" Margaret Page who served in the WAAF. After the war, discharged from the RCAF as Lieutenant, he earned a BSc and MSc in Physics at Dalhousie University. During this period he went back to England and convinced Paddy Page to marry him. He then went on to earn a PhD in Physics at MIT. He returned to Dalhousie in 1955 to join the Physics Dept., focusing his work in optics, and retiring as Professor in 1986. He enjoyed teaching and many of his students maintained contact with Keith long after their time at Dalhousie. He is survived by children, Susan (late Lewis) Pickett, Moncton, N.B.; Brian (Petra Rykers) Hoyt, Stillwater Lake; Louise (Ted) Mussett, Dartmouth, and Allen Hoyt, Montreal; sister, Hazel Braman, North Sydney; grandchildren, Peter (Jenna) Hoyt, Johanna (Ross Bain) Hoyt, Michelle Mussett, Elliot Mussett and Jonathan Mussett; nieces, Nancy, Deborah and Catherine. He will be missed by special four-legged friends, Bella and Jimmy. He was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Paddy and his stepbrother, Kaye Lemoine. He had a strong interest in music and played the French horn as an amateur musician for many years. He had a great curiosity in, and appreciation of the natural world, especially animals of all types. Cats held a special place in his heart. Although in later years his vision failed him, he maintained a strong mind, keen wit and good humour to the end. Cremation has taken place. No visitation or service by request. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to two organizations strongly supported by Paddy and Keith in the last three decades of their lives: the Bide Awhile Animal Shelter Society, Dartmouth, and Oak-lawn Farm Zoo, Aylesford.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.