The boys finished talking to Uncle Sam and went into the kitchen for a small snack.
“Dishes are finally clean,” Aunt Jeanie said, putting away her washtub. “Oh, hello boys. What can I do for you?”
“Well, we were going to have a little snack, but we see you just finished-”
“Nonsense, everybody is always eating around here. Go ahead and fix yourselves something to eat,” she smiled.
The brothers had just finished making sandwiches when the back door flew open. A tall red headed teenager stepped in, letting the cold night breeze sail through the small kitchen.
“Jake, Tom! You’re here!” the boy went over to them and offered one of his large, rough hands.
“Derrik?” Tom asked, grinning.
“The one and only!” he laughed. “Sorry I couldn’t meet you earlier. I was working with the cattle and in the fields all day.”
“It’s great to see you,” Jake said, giving his elder cousin a pat on the back.
Later that night, the boys lay in there beds, reading mystery magazines.
“This is really…..”
“I’m waiting,” Tom said. “I hate it when you start a sentence and never finish it.”
“Scary,” Jake said, still engrossed in the story. Tom rolled his eyes. Blowing out the lamp and snuggling deep into his covers, he said,
“Come on, Jake. My watch says it’s past 9:00. Ranch workers have to go to bed early, you know.”
“All right, I’m blowing.” Jake said, giving a small breath into the oil lamp. He lay in his bed and looked at the open window. The curtains moved slowly, caused by a slight breeze. The bright stars in the western sky shined down gloriously. He was about to close his weary eyes when a dark figure appeared outside the open window!
“Tom!” he frantically whispered. Tom stirred but did not awake. Panicking, Jake nervously watched the intruder step into the room, sneaky as a cat. The man, quite big, carefully maneuvered around the bedroom, unaware of Jake’s watching eyes. The man made a slight noise, waking Tom up. Upon seeing the intruder, Tom slowly turned his head to Jake’s bed. Meeting eye to eye, Tom signaled ‘lie flat’. The robber opened the drawers of the dresser and pulled out some valuable things the boys had and put them in a bag. Tom slowly pulled his covers and off and then jumped on the back of the man. Startled, the man fell to the floor. Then, a serious fist fight erupted. Jake hopped out of bed to join in. Whack! Tom fell hard to the ground, with blood seeping out of his mouth. Jake punched the man in the stomach. Then, he struggled to get the deerskin bag. Finally, after retrieving the bag, Jake tried to stop the man from escaping. But the big man just pushed him out of the way. He hopped through the window, and plunged into darkness.
“Tom, are you okay?” Jake asked, kneeling beside his brother. Tom sat up and rubbed his sore jaw.
“I’m fine,” he said. “We need to get Uncle Sam, now!”
After talking to Uncle Sam, the boys looked around to see if anything had been stolen. Finding nothing, the boys sat in the living room, with the rest of the family. Uncle Sam paced, deep in thought. Aunt Jeanie sat in a chair and nervously twisted her handkerchief. Molly held onto her brother’s arm tightly.
“These thing have got to stop!” Uncle Sam finally exclaimed. “We have to contact somebody.”
“Why don’t we forget about it tonight and get a good night’s rest. We can talk at breakfast tomorrow,” Jake suggested, yawning. Everyone agreed and they all headed back to bed.
The rooster crowed bright and early the next morning. Sunshine greeted the boys as they woke from their sleep. They got up and got dressed, and met the rest in the kitchen for breakfast. Bags and dark lines rested on everyone’s face from lack if sleep.
After a breakfast of pancakes and eggs, everyone went their own way. Derrik headed for the fields, Molly, the stable, Uncle Sam, his office. Aunt Jean started to clean up breakfast.
“Need any help, Aunt Jeanie?” Tom asked.
“No thanks. Now you boys get. Go have some fun!” she shooed. The boys went outside and stood on the back deck. All of the sudden, a voice cried out.
“Jake, Tom!” The saw Molly running towards them. She stopped to take a breath.
“Boys, can you get Daddy? Derrik said he found something in the fields he wants him to see. Hurry!” she panted. Jake ran inside and came out shortly with Uncle Sam. They ran down to the fence that divided the yard from the field. Derrik was on his knees inspecting something on the ground. Molly stood over him. She looked up.
“Daddy, look! It’s boot prints. They’s got a peculiar design, too.” Uncle Sam bent down. There, in the soft earth, was a huge boot print! On the heel of the shoe, was an imprint of a lasso.
“Well, I’ll be. Looky here. These here boots was made by Lassoing Boot Company. THe best boot company in these here parts. I don’t know nobody who wears these kinds……No wait! Ben Sickle, our neighbor, has a pair. Real nice one’s too.” he said, looking towards the ranch about a half a mile down the road.
“You don’t think…” Tom started.
“I din’t know, Tom. I don’t know.”
No more strange things happened the rest of the day. That night, the cozy family sat in front of the big, stone fireplace and had a nice little chat. The fire crackled and the dancing flames made large shadows throughout the room. It was very peaceful and relaxing. Molly’s eyes slowly shut and Uncle Sam’s light snoring made everyone feel at home. Closing his eyes, Jake laid back on the soft couch. Barely heard over crackling flames, a horse’s whinny was heard by Jake’s superb hearing. Opening his eyes, and listening carefully, he heard much more then just whinnying.
“Tom, doesn’t the flames kind of sound loud, for just a small fire?” he asked. Tom shrugged his weary shoulders. Jake got up and walked into the kitchen. A strange glow mysteriously filled the room. Jake knew it wasn’t from the fireplace in the other room. Pulling back the red calico curtains that covered the window, he let out a cry.
The barn was up in flames!
To be continued!