Pete Goes to Town

by Susan Moore

 

Town had never looked so good. Kid and Heyes had been on the trail for several weeks filled with long, hot, dusty days with little food, little rest and cold fireless nights. But they were satisfied now that they had lost whoever it was that had been trailing them. In fact, they had not seen another soul for a couple of days now and they were looking forward to the opportunity to slow their pace, clean up, feed their undernourished bodies and sleep.

“This isn’t much of a town, huh, Kid?” Heyes observed as they tethered their tired mounts to a hitching post.

“Suppose not compared to some, Heyes, but it sure looks good to me,” Kid answered as he scanned the streets for familiar faces and a decent looking place to eat.

Suddenly a dog came careening around a corner at the far end of the street with a bit of rope dangling from his neck and dragging behind him. Yells charged after the dog as a boy who seemed to be all legs and arms did his best to catch up to him. Close behind him and keeping an amazing pace was a girl with her skirts hitched up enough that one could witness her youthful strong limbs pumping away at the ground beneath her. The dog began weaving through the legs of hitched horses causing a new chaos as horses began to shy. One reared and pulled its rein free then rocketed off down the street kicking and bucking with the dog as its more or less intended target.

The boy cut to the boardwalk nearly knocking a matronly woman to the ground. He managed to keep her upright but she dropped the bundles of goods she was carrying and she started in a tongue lashing on the boy with, “Well, I never…”

“I’m so sorry, Missus Pritt!” the boy breathlessly but dutifully apologized as he regained his own equilibrium and continued with the chase.

“I’m going to tell your mother about this, Jonathan!” the woman yelled at the fleeing youth.

“I’m sure you will,” the boy muttered under what little breath he had. In the meantime the girl had stayed on course down the middle of the street as the dog zig zagged back and forth now obviously fighting the rope around his neck.

Heyes quickly remounted and headed off to round up the skittish horse. Kid watched the tiring dog as it neared him and took a dive for the large, brown pup and the rope trailing behind him. Kid missed the dog which took a side step at the last second but he managed to trap the rope jerking the dog to a sudden halt. At first the pup just sat in a dazed state then jumped in the air and began bucking and pitching from the restraint about his neck.

“Pete, no! Stop!” the girl shrieked, or rather wheezed, as she stopped in Kid’s shadow. She leaned forward with her hands on her knees, skirt still hiked up ready to take off again if need be. Her braids drooped on either side of her sweat covered face.

The dog collapsed in an exhausted heap at Kid’s feet, tongue hanging out in a strangled hanged-dog look and Kid quickly leaned over and loosened the rope around his neck. The dog moved to make a break for it again but Kid trapped him with a bear hold.

“Thanks, Mister,” the boy coughed as he jogged to a stop even with the girl who was still eyeing the dog from a hunched over position.

“No problem. Seems like he doesn’t much like having a rope about his neck,” Kid patted the dog who had relaxed in his arms and had began panting in earnest.

“No, sir, he doesn’t. Just like a wild colt with that thing about his neck. Normally he’s a real calm, easygoing pup but once you slip somethin’ around his neck he goes plum crazy.” The boy dropped to the ground by the man and dog; he began stroking the young dog’s head.

“He nearly climbed up on top of my head and shoulders tryin’ to get away from that there rope,” the girl finally found enough air to speak.

“I tried to tell you…” the boy started to chastise but thought better of it.

“How you going to get him home, Jonathan?” the girl asked with genuine concern in her voice.

“Dunno,” was his only answer.

“Well, I think we better get him out of the street and ourselves as well,” Kid advised.

“Don’t let go of him!” the girl demanded.

“Don’t worry, Miss, I don’t intended too,” Kid chuckled as he worked to lift the hefty dog from the street. Gratefully, the dog did not put up a struggle about being carried. Kid headed for the boardwalk with the two young people following him.

“You could carry him home,” the girl suggested as she watched Kid’s muscles tighten through the back of his shirt.

“I don’t think I want to carry him that far, Annie. He probably weighs 50 pounds.”

“Sixty,” Kid corrected as he and the dog sat on the end of the boardwalk.

Heyes rode past the trio leading the runaway back to its spot on the rail. He dismounted to secure the animal and listened to the matron as the shopkeeper finished restoring her packages to her.

“Some people’s children! Honestly, I expected more from that boy, I had him in my Sunday school class for years, you think he would have learned something…”

All the while the shopkeeper nodded his head and murmured, “Yes, Ma’am.” “You’d think so, Missus Pritt.”

Heyes couldn’t help smiling as he returned to the end of the street where Kid still sat hugging the pooch as if he were his best friend.

“Looks like you got your hands full there, Thaddeus,” Heyes mused.

“Kind of feels that way, too, Joshua,” Kid smiled back to his cousin. “Jonathan and Annie are trying to come up with a way to return this young fellow home without the use of the rope around his neck or carrying him. Any ideas?”

“Well, now, how far are we talking about?” Heyes questioned.

“Bout a mile and a half,” Jonathan answered.

“You ran that far?” Heyes looked with astonishment at the two youngsters.

“Oh, no sir!” the boy answered. “We only ran about half a mile. I was visiting Annie and Pete followed me. Then Pete thought chasing Annie’s chickens would be fun and we didn’t want him gettin’ in no big trouble with Annie’s Ma so we slipped the rope around his neck then he just sorta went berserk!”

“He started jumpin’ and buckin’ and tried climbing up things including myself,” the young girl looked at the back of her arms and pointed out the scratches there. “And that’s when we let go of him and he took off and well, the rest you know.” The girl’s green eyes looked like they rather enjoyed the adventure. But the boy’s blue eyes still looked filled with concern.

“What are you going to do about my horse, Jonathan?” a bleary eyed squirrel of a man demanded of the young teenager.

“What’s wrong with your horse, Mr. Jenkins?” Jonathan asked in return.

“Well, your dog scaredt him and chased him off out o’ town!” the squirrel man chattered.

“I believe you will find your horse right where you left him, sir, with little worse for the wear,” Heyes assured the man.

“I’m real sorry, Mr. Jenkins. It won’t happen again,” Jonathan humbly apologized.

“Well, I’m sure you din’t mean no harm, boy. Just be more responsible from now on,” the man softened like he suddenly remembered what was like to be young. “He is a good lookin’ dog.” He patted the dog on the head then scurried off.

“Good lookin’ but you ain’t good for nothin’.” Jonathan affectionately rubbed the dog’s neck.

“Jonathan, do you think you can ride him home?” Heyes asked the boy and suddenly saw a relieved look in the young blue eyes.

“He’s a big dog, Mister, but I don’t rightly figure Jonathan can ride him,” Annie said in a very serious voice.

The three men chuckled together as if Annie had told them a joke. “No, Annie, he means atop a horse!” Jonathan laughed aloud as Annie puffed up with momentary embarrassment.

“I knew that!” she grinned.

“Come on, let’s get this dog home before he decides he has regained his ambition,” Kid requested. “Do you think you can handle him on a horse or do you want me to take him?”

“I think I can do it but I don’t have a horse here,” Jonathan stood and began looking around to see if there was anyone he could ask to borrow one from.

“You can use mine,” Kid offered. “Get up there and I’ll hand him up to you.”

Heyes untied Kid’s horse and held him steady while Jonathan mounted and Kid settled the big young, but now docile dog across his lap. “You want to ride along?” Heyes asked Annie. “I could help you up behind him,” Heyes patted the bedroll behind Jonathan.

“Ah, no, that’s okay. I think I’ll walk home. It’s not far.” Annie suddenly turned shy and took a step backwards towards the boardwalk.

“Hey, Annie!” Jonathan called down, “Thanks a lot. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. Without Pete.”

Heyes mounted his own horse then offered his stirrup to Kid. “Come on Thaddeus, you might as well ride along with me. Might need your help if Pete decides he doesn’t like riding.”

Kid’s blue eyes gave his cousin an “are you serious” look and the dark brown eyes laughed a “yes, I am” look back to him. With a slow unsure shake of his head Kid grabbed his cousin’s arm and put his foot in the stirrup. The horse backed up with disapproval of this plan causing Kid to hop a little before he was able to swing his leg over the horse’s back. He settled behind Heyes and let out a small snicker.

“What’s the matter?” Heyes, with a huge grin on his face, glanced back over his shoulder to his blond headed cousin. “We used to ride this way all the time!”

“I know!” Kid smiled back. “That’s what’s got me concerned. Seems like we always used to end up on the ground.”

“Ah, come on, Thaddeus! Trust me!” Heyes answered as he headed their horse down the street, slowly passing Annie on her way home. Heyes nudged the horse into a trot to catch up with Jonathan and his own riding partner as they were cautiously riding out of town. “If you’re lucky maybe we’ll get there right at supper time.”