Adventures with Blaze
“Stop right where you are,” demanded one of the two masked riders.
Blocking this winding route down from the mountains, these riders were standing in a narrow place between the hills, their heads were covered and their identity well hidden.
“Stop, right where you are,” the repeated command forcefully penetrating Charlie’s mind. “Climb down from your horse and throw that pouch of money over here.”
Charlie was shocked; he thought his trip to the bank would not be common knowledge. Today was the day his note was due and he must have it at the bank before closing time. He paused, looked at the two masked riders and demanded, “What do you want?” Seeing the armed and masked riders confronting him, an urgent feeling of apprehension begin to creep over him. “Was he going to lose his loan payment to the bank? Who were these people and how did they know he had this money with him? As his fear began to mount, he began to consider his options. With two guns pointed at him, did he have any hope for escape? His wife had remained at the ranch and he knew that if these two thieves took this final loan payment from him, his ranch would be at the mercy of the banker. It was a troubling thought, for he had heard some very disturbing rumors about this banker.
Buck raised his hat in salute as he and his two friends, Kate and Scotty, rode down the main street of Donley. The city of Donley was celebrating the annual festival of its founding by the bold and courageous pioneer, Hiram Donley.
Hiram was a man of modest means but gigantic in spirit and the pursuit of his love for these mountains. He had climbed the highest peak in the area, a peak of over eleven thousand feet known as the “Widow Maker.” Men had died on this lofty mountain crest, for the walls were rugged and the trails to the top were mostly nonexistent.
As one story goes, Hiram began this journey on a warm and sunny July morning, climbing the first few thousand feet by nightfall. The next morning he resumed his attempt to defeat these impossibly rugged hills that had defeated so many in the past. After crossing dangerous crevasses and climbing sheer cliffs, he eventually made it to the top. The first man to set foot on the top of this gigantic mountain. A summit that could be seen from many miles away, a landmark for the entire area.
Donley had been named after this plucky pioneer, and so the yearly celebration was in his honor. A good man, a good heart for others, and a ready smile. A man with a story to tell for all who would listen, for his exploits were many. The young people loved the stories about his capers, but the town folks quietly, while laughing, said, “Hiram is telling whoppers again.”
Kate, sitting astride Blaze, smiled, while waving her hat to the cheering crowd. Blaze stopped, at Kate’s command he kneeled and shook his long white mane. Again, at Kate’s command, Blaze rose on his hind legs, pawed the air, sorted a couple of times and began to dance sideways while tossing his tail in a high arch.
Buck whistled and Blaze turned and ran at an all-out charge toward Buck. Upon reaching him, Blaze came to a skidding stop and stood still, waiting for his next command.
Buck moved to one side of Blaze, while Scotty moved to the other, and Kate, still in the saddle, waved her hat again to the crowd. Kate stood erect in the stirrups and then launched herself onto the saddle. Waving to the crowd, she stood like a statue with her feet planted firmly on the saddle. The boys, a little fearful she might fall and against her protests, decided they would ride beside her in case she might lose her footing on the saddle. The three, waving their hats to the roaring crowd rode for a few yards and Kate then dropped back into the saddle. With a heel to Blaze’s flank, she raced forward to where the other participants in the parade were showing their animals.
Jimmy O’Donnell was riding his famous black filly, Princess, and Annie, who on occasion was called Twister, rode her brother’s horse, Merlin. The three boys and the two girls were having a great time while the crowd enjoyed these youngsters and their equestrian abilities.
The tents at the end of the parade route were just ahead and with a soft drink and a Barbecue sandwich on their minds, they were startled by a loud gunshot from what appeared to be a block away. Puzzled and confused, they stopped. “What was that!” Kate exclaimed.
“Sounded like a gun,” Buck said, anxiously. “Where did it come from?”
Looking in the direction from which they had heard the shot, they noticed the crowd moving and pointing in the direction of the Donley County Savings and Loan.
“Looks like the Bank is being robbed!” Shouted Scotty.
Buck looked at Kate and Annie, and anxiously said, “Dad had some business at the Bank this morning, do you think he is still in there?” As a surge of cold fear came over him.
Buck and his Dad left the ranch early that morning. They had loaded the four horses that were to be ridden in the parade, Blaze, ol’ Peanuts and Thunder. Buck’s dad brought Cracker along just in case he decided he would ride in the parade as well. They had decided that Kate would ride Blaze, Buck would ride ol’ Peanuts and Scotty would ride Thunder. Dad was stuck with Firecracker, a feisty and a highly spirited animal.
Mom had fixed a good breakfast, and after thanking and kissing mom goodbye, they headed for Donley. Mom had reminded dad that he had some business at the Bank and cautioned him not to forget.
Dad parked the truck and trailer on the South side of town, close to where the parade was to begin. After unloading the horses, the Boys fed them and gave them a good brush down. Kate arrived shortly after the others and began helping with the preparations. Poking fun at Kate, Scotty said, “Sleep late this morning, Katie, I saw you yawning.”
“I wasn’t yawning; I was just stretching the muscles in my face.” She responded, chuckling.
“I saw Annie do that once, she had caught a bee in her mouth,” Scotty teased. “I ask her if she was into eating bees and she retorted, ‘I just tasted it to see if it had any honey, it didn’t, so I spit it out.’“
Hiram had a way with stories; most believed they were tall tales designed to excite the kids who would listen and to entertain the adults who were fortunate enough to hear.
Hiram told this story about the time he was climbing the “Widow Maker.”
He and his dog, “Growler,” were climbing this rugged peak when they came to a crevasse about twenty feet across. He knew he couldn’t jump it and he knew Growler couldn’t jump a cut in the mountain that wide. He sat down on a tree stump, rolled himself a smoke and pondered the situation. “Well Growler, I think we’re stumped. We cain’t jump it and we cain’t go down for there ain’t no trail up the other side.” Growler, not being interested at all in their plight, turned and barked at a squirrel chattering in a tree behind him. He made a mad dash toward this annoying long tailed tree rat. He missed catching this shaggy tailed critter and old Hiram called him back. “Next time old boy, next time and that bushy tailed tree varmint will be yours.”
Hiram took one look at that tree and said to Growler, “By doggies, I do believe you have perked my interest in that tree.”
Hiram pulled his axe from his pack of necessities and began to chop that tree, making sure that it would fall across this deadly slice of terrain. The tree fell with precision and Hiram trimmed a few limbs and then carefully walked across. Growler wasn’t so inclined to walk this tightrope. So old Hiram grabbed Growlers legs, threw him over his shoulders, and walked him across. Depositing Growler on the other side, Hiram walked back over, picked up his pack of necessities and walked back, high stepping and proud of himself. One could even say, dancing on this log.
Buck quickly rode over to the Bank and rushing inside he realized that a holdup was indeed in progress. Looking around he spotted his dad shielding one of the bank tellers and giving these two a piece of his mind, as only his dad could do.
“Buck, get out of here!” his dad shouted. “These people have weapons and they could use them. Go get the Sheriff.”
These crooks wanted no part of the Sheriff, for they now knew that this caper was about over. One of the robbers grabbed Buck by the shirt collar and snarled, “Hold on there, you’re going with us!” Turning to Buck’s dad, one of them demanded, if you want him back in one piece you bring fifty grand to the mountains.” He continued. “I’ll be watching.”
“How will I find you?” Buck’s dad heatedly inquired.
“Never you mind, we will find you on the trail.” One of the robbers stated. “You just make sure you bring the money.”
All Buck’s dad could do was to nod his head in agreement. Fifty thousand dollars was a large sum for a rancher and his son was much more important than money.
“That your horse?” One of the robbers asked.
“Yeah.” Buck responded.
“Then get on it.”
“Don’t you have a getaway car?” Buck questioned
“You don’t get it, little buddy,” The robber said, sarcastic in his response. “Them mountains provide all the cover we need. We’d be dodging the Sheriff and State cops if we were in a car. Wouldn’t have nowhere to hide. A little west of this here big city of Donley, there’s a lot of hidden trails and hiding places. We know places where people will never find us. Now get on that horse.” The thief ordered.
People watching were fearful, because Buck was being kidnapped. He was being taken, against his will, to who knows where. These two were hard and unsympathetic toward anyone.
“Get on your horse, Big Shot.” The Bank thieves ordered Buck, again.
Reluctantly, Buck climbed onto ol’ Peanuts and at the robber's demand they headed west.
Looking back at Buck’s dad the one, later to be identified as Spook, said, “You bring fifty grand that a way,” While pointing toward the mountains. “And make it quick. The Sheriff is on his way and we don’t have time to play games, you got it?”
The other crook, soon to be to be identified as Charlie, frowned at Buck and hissed, “You best be careful and not give us any trouble.”
Buck’s father, hearing all of this, became extremely concerned and anxious for his son’s safety. “Okay, I’ll get it as quickly as I can and be on my way. How will I find you?”
“You won’t, we’ll find you. You don’t tell the Sheriff and you come alone, you understand.” Spook hissed.
“I understand,” Dad said.
“You are in this Bank so you make your withdrawal darn quick and get on the trail,” Spook stated, looking downright mean.
Watching, the Bank President said nothing.