Topic #37: Word -
"Lost"
Splish, Splash, I Was Takin' A Bath by: Jo
A Foggy Conversation by: Lori
The Island by: Cindy
Splish, Splash, I Was Takin' A Bath
By Jo

A loud crash from the bunkhouse greeted Lou and Kid as they rode into the yard. “What the… “Kid exclaimed as he hurriedly jumped from Katy.

“Rachel, is that you, are you alright?” Lou called as she hopped off Lightening and followed Kid into the bunkhouse. Neither was prepared for the sight that met their eyes.

The room was in total disarray and a rather disheveled and distraught Buck stood alone in the middle of it.

“Buck?” Lou began, “Buck are you OK?” He turned to her and looked at her with wild eyes. Lou stepped back into Kid.

Kid stepped around Lou and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “What is it Buck? Did you do this?” His touch seemed to calm Buck, who sat heavily in a chair.

“I’ve lost it,” he groaned his head falling into his hands.

“I’ll say, gees, Buck, what happened in here?” Cody had entered the doorway silently and surveyed the room. “Looks like a tornado hit this place.”

Buck launched himself at Cody before anyone could stop him. They both tumbled out the door across the porch and into the dirt. Buck had Cody by the throat. “If this is another one of your games Cody, it ain’t funny. WHERE IS IT?”

The commotion brought Rachel and Teaspoon out of the house and Jimmy from the barn. Horse sense always being better than people sense had Katy and Lightening, who had just been left in the yard, headed for the safely of the barn. Kid, Lou and Jimmy dove into the middle of the fight to save Cody who was turning bright red under Buck’s strangle hold.

It took a minute but they finally managed to save Cody and restrain Buck. Teaspoon and Rachel joined the others in the door yard and looked at the riders for and explanation. “Would someone mind telling us what just happened?” Rachel spoke first.

Buck was still straining against Jimmy and Kid while Cody stood behind Lou rubbing his neck. “HE TOOK IT AGAIN” Buck yelled. “HE THINKS HE’S FUNNY, WELL YOU’RE NOT!”

Teaspoon grabbed Buck by the collar and dragged him over to the water trough. With a strength none of them would have believed possible, he got Buck on his knees and his head under water. Buck struggled but couldn’t get away. Teaspoon dunked him three times before Buck finally stopped fighting him and slumped in the dirt beside the trough. “Now that’s better, Buck do you think you are cooled off enough to tell me what this is all about?” Buck muttered something under his breath and pulled his knees up to his chin. He looked for all the world like a little child who had just been scolded by his parents. “Anyone care to start?”

“Kid and I heard a crash as we rode in and thought Rachel had fallen or something in the bunkhouse so we ran in and found the place all torn up and Buck in the middle of it.” Lou began gesturing toward the bunkhouse.

“He said he lost it and then he jumped me.” Cody had recovered enough to speak.

Rachel had gone into the bunkhouse to see for herself what Buck had done. She emerged a few seconds later and stormed over to where Buck still sat in the dirt. “BUCK CROSS YOU HAD BETTER START EXPLAINING YOURSELF AND IT HAD BETTER BE GOOD! STAND UP WHEN I’M SPEAKING TO YOU” Rachel fumed at the startled rider.

He scrambled to his feet and said “Yes, ma’am…… I can’t find my pouch, I always leave it on the post at the head of my bed if I take it off and it’s gone. Cody stole it once and I thought he did it again. It means a lot to me, I can’t loose it.” Buck spoke quietly with his eyes downcast.

Jimmy had smiled and disappeared back into the barn as Buck started to speak. Buck had just finished apologizing to everyone for fighting, when Jimmy walked back to the group. “Ahh, Buck, is this what you are looking for?” Jimmy stood holding the pouch in the air for all to see. “You left this in the barn last night when you washed up after your run, remember?”

“Oh…. Sorry….. I forgot.” A very red faced Buck stammered. He reached for the pouch but Rachel was faster.

“Not so fast there, Mister. You’ll get this back when I’m ready to give it to you.” Rachel grabbed the pouch and turned on Buck. “You have caused enough trouble for one morning and not to MENTION THE MESS YOU LEFT THE BUNKHOUSE IN…..” She was right in his face yelling at him when he disappeared.

SPLASH

Everyone except Buck roared with laughter as he picked himself up out of the though and headed toward the disaster he needed to clean up.

Teaspoon finally calmed his laughter down enough to ask. “Rachel did you know you were backing him into the water trough?”

Rachel just smiled sweetly and replied, “Why, no. He just lost it!”

A Foggy Conversation
By Lori

“We’re lost, ain’t we?”

“We’re not lost.”

“Come on, just admit, we’re lost.”

“We are not lost.”

“Hey, there’s no need to take that tone of voice with me, or give me that kind of look, Buck. There’s no shame in admitting we’re lost.”

“I know there’s no shame, Noah, but we’re not lost. I know exactly where we are.”

“A’right. And where would that be?”

“We are about fifteen miles outside of Shaye’s Creek.”

“How can you tell? With all this fog and mist, I can barely see two feet in front of my horse. I can’t even see a lone bush until we’re right up next to it. We can’t see the sun, we can’t even see a tree to see which side the moss is growin’ on. So how can you tell?”

“I just can. Now stop askin’ so many questions. You’re soundin’ like Cody.”

“That’s not true.”

“Yet, you’re still talkin’. Sounds like a fair assessment to me.”

“Hmmph.”

“Making noise counts too.”

“Oh that was real mature, Noah. Stickin’ your tongue out at me. It’s hard to tell you and Cody apart when you do something like that.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Hey, Buck, do you hear that?”

“Hey, stop ignoring me, Buck. Do you hear that?”

“Of course I heard it. ‘Though I can’t hear it now with you yappin’ at me.”

“Sorry. So, what is it?”

“It sounds like water.”

“You think it’s Shaye’s Creek. I don’t remember the creek ever soundin’ like that.”

“Maybe it’s just higher with all the rains. It’s this way.”

“Whoa. I don’t think that’s higher just from rain. That ain’t Shaye’s Creek.”

“Of course it is. We just came on it in a different spot down a bit from the town.”

“Uh, no. We’re at a river. And the reason we’re at a river instead of a creek, and more specifically Shaye’s Creek is because we’re lost.”

“We are not lost. Let’s follow the creek upstream and we’ll hit Shaye’s Creek before we know it.”

“Again, I say we won’t. Because we’re lost, Buck. Now just admit it.”

“Let’s find the town.”

“Oh, I believe we’ll find a town alright. And when we do, and when we find out that we’re miles off course and are in fact lost, you’re gonna owe me a steak dinner.”

“See, thinkin’ with your stomach. You sound like Cody.”

“No, I’m just thinking of the nice meal I’m going to have at your expense. Because we’re lost. And when we find a town, it’ll prove I’m right.”

“And when we find Shaye’s Creek, it’ll prove I’m right.”

“Whatever you say, Buck. Whatever you say.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

“There’s a town up ahead.”

“I know.”

“Does it look like Shaye’s Creek to you?”

“It’s hard to tell from this distance. I can barely see the shapes of the building through the fog.”

“It doesn’t look like Shaye’s Creek to me. I don’t remember the town having buildings that big.”

“It’s just the fog distorting them.”

“Alright. You keep telling yourself that. Me, I’m thinking of the nice juicy steak I’m going to be eating tonight. And that you’ll be paying for.”

“Shut up.”

“Now who’s soundin’ like Cody?”

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Welcome to…Miller’s Landing. Miller’s Landing, Buck. Not Shaye’s Creek. Heck, we’re miles away from Shaye’s Creek. We were traveling in the opposite direction the entire time.”

“I…”

“You got lost. Admit it. There’s no shame, Buck. It just means you’re human and you can get confused just like the rest of us.”

“I don’t know how it happened.”

“You got disoriented by the fog. You couldn’t see, and you headed in the wrong direction. Could have happened to anybody.”

“I’ve never gotten lost.”

“Never?”

“Not since I was young.”

“It’s alright, Buck. Buy me a nice juicy steak, and I won’t tell a soul. Especially Cody.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“It’s a deal. Come on.”

The Island
By Cindy

“Water’s runnin’ kind of high,” Cody commented as they stopped by the bank of the river.

“Yeah, really high,” Buck corrected. He directed his horse around Cody to get a better look.

The Platte always ran fast in these parts, but after a week of nearly non-stop, heavy rain, combined with the spring thaw, the water was fairly racing along the way. Trees that had been safely along the bank the last time either rider had come through were now submerged several feet up the trunks.

“Good thing they got that pull-ferry here,” Cody said, starting down the hill. He watched the trail carefully, concerned about the mud. “Wouldn’t want to try swimming the horses across here.”

“Wouldn’t even try it here,” Buck said. He waited for Cody to get a little bit ahead, just in case his own horse slipped, and then he started down.

They reached the river bank and headed toward the dock. Wind-blown waves broke over the wooden decking, more proof that the water was much higher than normal.

Buck dismounted and watched as Cody struggled against the current to get the ferry close to the dock. Actually, it was just a raft, pulled across the river by a series of ropes and pulleys. Under the best of circumstances it wasn’t a pleasant ride crossing the wide river.

And these were definitely not the best of circumstances.

The wind whipped up again, jerking the rope out of Cody’s hands. As he struggled to get it under control again, Buck shook his head and stepped forward. “Cody, look at the way that raft is being pulled. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to try and cross here.”

Cody grunted and gave an extra pull, finally succeeding in getting the raft right up next to the dock. The little craft bumped and ground against the pilings, the flat surface getting washed repeatedly by the waves. “It ain’t gonna be easy,” he conceded. “But with two of us, we can do it, Buck! And just think, once we’re on the other side, Caleb Falls is just a few miles.” He stepped up next to Buck and nudged him. “C’mon Buck, think about a dry place to stay at the hotel, a hot meal, a soft bed.”

“Assuming we don’t get dumped into the river,” Buck pointed out. And assuming the hotel would even let him in – if they got there.

“Well, I’m gonna try it,” Cody asserted, leading his nervous horse onto the bobbing raft. For a moment, just as they got on, one side of the raft lifted up on a wave and it seemed poised to collapse – but at the last moment it righted itself. Cody had wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck as the raft bobbed, and it took a few moments before he let go again. Trying to sound more confident than he felt, he asked, “Well, you coming?”

Buck studied the river again before answering, uneasy with the idea of trying to cross. As uncomfortable as it would be to spend another night out in the rain, he’d certainly been through worse. But if Cody was determined to go, Buck knew he couldn’t let the other man try to make the crossing alone. “Let’s go,” he finally said, leading his horse forward. He wasn’t happy about the decision by any means, but things weren’t going to get better by just standing there.

The weight of a second horse and man drove the raft lower in the water, and the waves washed over the surface with greater depth. As the horses pranced nervously, Cody untied the ropes holding them to the dock. “We’ll be across in no time,” he said nervously, not quite believing in his decision now that he felt the raft rocking beneath his feet.

Buck grabbed the pull rope. “Hang on to the horses,” he said. “If they spook, we all wind up swimming.” And then he began to pull, hand over hand, inching them away from the dock.

The small raft bobbed and dove as the waves took over, and the rocking grew more pronounced as they moved slowly away from what little protection the shore had offered. The wind tried to push them downstream, even as Buck tried to propel them across the expanse. Within a few minutes his shoulders were sore to the point of shaking from trying to pull against the heavy current – and they had barely made any progress. It would have helped to have Cody pulling too, he knew, but the other rider had his hands more than full trying to keep two nervous horses under control. With their weight, if either animal panicked and reared, he didn’t much like their odds of staying afloat.

Of course, at the rate they were moving, they were going to be out here for a while.

Buck took a deep breath, flexed fingers that were growing numb from grasping the rope, and then he put his taxed muscles behind pulling again. Ever so slowly they moved toward the far shore.

Cody watched as the raft seemed to be inching forward. His hands were full with the horses, but he knew that Buck was struggling to move them alone. At the moment, the horses seemed to be settling down, and the raft wasn’t bobbing as violently. Maybe he could leave them alone for a few minutes . . .

Everything happened very quickly then, though both Buck and Cody seemed to see events transpire as if in slow motion. Just as Cody let go of the horses and moved toward Buck, a sudden gust of wind and a rolling wave hit the little craft simultaneously. As the raft rocked, the horses panicked, stumbling toward one edge. Their weight made the raft tip precariously against the ropes that guided it. And on the far bank, the tree that anchored the lines started to give way; the roiling water had climbed high enough to be washing away the very foundation of earth that had held the roots in place.

As all of those actions and their consequences converged, the raft tipped up fully on one edge, dumping its occupants into the raging river.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He felt his horse lurch as it stopped swimming and found a foothold on firm ground. Buck tentatively put his feet down as well, pleased to feel the river bed underneath him. He stumbled forward, letting the horse half-pull him as they struggled out of the water and onto land. He let the horse go and leaned over, coughing up some of the river water he had swallowed, and then he turned to scan the water.

He and Cody had gotten separated after getting dumped into the river. Buck knew he had seen Cody pop to the surface, and he’d shouted to the other man to grab hold of his horse, let the animal swim against the strong current. He thought Cody heard him – but he’d been pretty busy since then just trying to keep his own head above water. He was looking directly into the driving rain and wind, and it was hard to see, but he thought there was something moving . . .

“Cody!” He was sure now, and he ran down the shore and then into the water, grabbing Cody’s arm as the other rider struggled onto land.

Cody let go of his horse as he felt Buck’s shoulder under his arm, and then they both stumbled out of the water, falling to the ground.

Cody just lay still for a few moments, breathing hard. “Almost didn’t think I was gonna make it,” he admitted.

“It was pretty rough,” Buck agreed.

“But we made it to the other shore.”

“Not exactly.” Buck pointed to the north, where the other bank of the river could be seen – still quite a ways off. “We’re on an island in the river.”

Cody groaned. “We’re lost!”

“We’re not lost,” Buck countered. “We’re just not quite where we planned to be.”

“Like I said, we’re lost,” Cody insisted.

Buck just sighed – leave it to Cody to exaggerate. “We’re on an island in the middle of the river. We started over there, and we want to get over there,” he said, pointing first one way and then the other.

“And how we gonna do that?” Cody asked. “I can’t swim any more.” He did manage to finally sit up.

“No, we can’t try it tonight,” Buck agreed. “The current’s way too strong. We’re tired, and so are the horses.” He looked up, watching as more black clouds rolled in through the darkening sky. “This rain can’t keep up forever,” he continued, trying to convince himself as much as anything. “The river’s bound to go back down again in a day or two.”

A day or two?” Cody flopped back down onto the ground. “A man could starve to death in a day or two.”

Buck bit back an angry retort – if they were going to be stuck here, he didn’t want to be fighting. He took a deep breath and held it for a moment before speaking. “Cody, no one’s ever died from not eating for two days,” he said. Ignoring the pained look Cody shot his way, Buck continued, “We have plenty of water, plus jerky and hardtack.”

Cody just moaned and shook his head. “I can’t believe we’re lost,” he muttered.

Well, enough was enough, Buck decided. He walked over and grabbed Cody’s jacket, pulling the other man to his feet. “We are not lost,” he insisted again. “We’re just stranded here for a while, so we might as well make the best of it. We’re going to set up camp back by those trees, so unsaddle your horse and let’s get started.”

Cody started to argue, but then he decided he was just too tired. He walked slowly over to his horse, pulled his pack off, and then removed the saddle. Free of its burdens, the horse wandered off a few steps toward the trees and then slowly lowered itself to the ground.

Cody picked up his gear and started toward where Buck was – and then he stopped suddenly and stared into the trees. Something was moving . . .

And then everything was still and quiet except for the storm.

But he had seen something . . . hadn’t he?

“Buck, did you see that?”

Buck turned away from what he was doing. “See what?”

Cody pointed into the trees. “There was something moving in there.”

Buck looked in the direction Cody was pointing, but all he saw was leaves being blown by the wind. “I don’t see anything.”

“It was there,” Cody insisted.

“Well, what do you think it was?”

“I don’t know,” Cody admitted. “But something is out there.”

Buck just shrugged and turned his attention back to setting up camp. “The wind’s coming from the northwest,” he said. “If we move around the bend, we should be able to get out of the wind a little.” He grabbed his pack and started out.

Cody picked up his gear, but then he stopped and stared into the trees again. He was so sure he’s seen something – but there was nothing now. Well, after being dumped into the river and having to swim for his life, maybe he had imagined it.

Buck was clearing out some underbrush as Cody walked up. “It’s almost dry in here,” Buck reported. “Shouldn’t be too bad tonight.”

“Yeah, sure,” Cody grumbled. “Just like home.”

Buck just shook his head as he straightened up. “I’m going to bring the horses around here,” he said. “You could clear out a little more brush.”

“Sure,” Cody mumbled as Buck walked away. “I’ll make it real comfy.” He reached down and grabbed a handful of brush, tossing it angrily aside. “Real comfy.” He tossed a bit more brush away, then he looked up . . .

And found himself staring at two shiny red orbs that were staring right back at him!

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The scream carried above the wind, and Buck heard it clearly. He turned and raced back around the bend – only to find Cody standing knee-deep in the river, pointing shakily into the trees.

“Cody?”

“It was there.”

“What was there?”

It! It was there, in the trees.”

“What was, Cody?”

Cody found himself shaking as he tried to put his experience into words. “The monster,” he finally whispered.

“The what?” Buck asked. Surely he hadn’t heard correctly.

“The monster!” Cody repeated, still whispering.

“Cody, why are you whispering?” Buck asked. He did look in the direction of the trees, but just as before, he saw nothing except evidence of the wind.

“It might hear me!”

“What might?”

“IT!”

“Cody, you’re not making sense.” Not that there was anything new about that . . .

“Buck, it was there – right there!” Cody insisted. “Staring right back at me, it was, with these huge, red eyes. Looked like fire coming out of them!”

Buck wanted to laugh, but Cody really seemed to be shaking in fear – and despite his claims, he wasn’t that good an actor. Still, he was far from ready to acknowledge the presence of a monster on their little refuge. He stepped up close to the trees, peering intently into the darkness. “There’s nothing there now, Cody.”

“It was there!” Cody insisted. “Something was there.” “Well, do you want to go look for it?” Buck offered. “No!” Cody shouted, a little too quickly. He took a deep breath and added, “I mean, Teaspoon always says, don’t go lookin’ for trouble. Besides, monsters don’t like flames, so once we get a fire going, it’ll be fine.” Surely he’d read that somewhere . . . “Uh, Buck? We can get a fire going, right?”

“The trees are pretty tight, so there’s probably some dry wood in the interior,” Buck answered. “I’ll go see what I can find while you set things up here.”

Cody grabbed Buck’s arm as the other man started toward the trees. “You ain’t goin’ in there – are you?” He glanced nervously into the shadows, his voice back to a whisper.

“I am if we want a fire,” Buck said. “There’s nothing out here that isn’t waterlogged.”

“But the monster . . .”

Buck peeled Cody’s hand away from his arm. “Cody there’s no monster. It was probably just a trick of light or something.”

“Yeah, or something,” Cody replied, totally without conviction. “Buck . . .”

“I won’t be long, Cody,” Buck said, starting forward. “When we get a fire started, I’m going to want some hot coffee. Why don’t you find the pot and the coffee?”

Cody watched as Buck seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness within a few steps. Part of him wanted to go after his friend – but another part of him wanted absolutely nothing to do with that plan. “Maybe it was just the light,” he muttered. Of course, with the clouds and the rain, there was no visible moon or starlight, so where would the light have come from?

He finally shook his head. “Buck’s right – there ain’t no monster,” he said. Hearing the words out loud made it easier to believe – well, a little easier anyway. “It’s just my imagination,” he continued. Teaspoon always said his imagination was over-active, something that Cody had decided was a compliment.

He grabbed the packs and dragged them almost up to the tree line – no sense taking extra chances. There was a small package of jerky in his pack and he set that out. Then he started to rummage in Buck’s pack to find the coffee.

That’s when he heard it.

It was a loud huffing, panting noise – and it was coming from right behind him. Right about where those eyes had been . . .

Slowly, fearfully, he turned around, inching his hand toward his pistol. His eyes automatically strayed toward his saddle, where his trusty rifle lay. He sure wished it was a little closer. Still, maybe it was just Buck . . . huffing and panting . . .

No, probably not.

He turned all the way then – just in time to see a giant shadowy figure snatch up the jerky and disappear into the darkness of the trees.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Buck dropped the two branches he had just picked up, and he juggled the rest of the wood in his arms for a moment before steadying the load again. Moving as quickly as he could with his burden, he hurried back to where he had left his fellow rider.

He stepped out from the trees – and stopped short at the sight of Cody’s pistol coked and pointed toward him. “Cody?”

“Did you see it this time?” Cody demanded.

“I haven’t seen anything, Cody,” Buck answered. He slowly put the wood down and walked to one side, out of Cody’s direct line of fire. “What do you think you saw now?”

“It was huge,” Cody whispered. “Just a huge shadow. It was huffing and panting, came out of nowhere – and it stole my jerky!”

Somehow, Buck wasn’t surprised that it came down to food. Still, this whole monster thing was getting a little old. “Cody, put that gun away before you shoot me,” he suggested. “Then we’ll go look for whatever it is you’re seeing.”

“No!” Cody swallowed nervously. “I mean, it’s a shadow, Buck. Darkness is its friend.”

Buck sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I found some pretty dry wood, so we should be able to get a fire going. Then it won’t be dark right here. All right?”

Cody nodded. “Fire, light – yeah, that’s good.” He lowered the gun, but he didn’t put it away, not quite yet. After all, the fire wasn’t burning, and it was still very dark.

Buck set about gathering up the wood he had dropped, trying his best to ignore Cody. There was no doubt that something had spooked the other man, but what could it be? They were in familiar territory, none of these river islands were very large, and he hadn’t seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.

In short order Buck had a fire burning brightly, and it wasn’t until then that Cody finally moved away from the river. He still sat away from the trees, facing the yawning darkness, and his pistol lay at the ready by his side.

Buck put the coffee on to heat, a little unnerved by Cody’s continued silence. For most of the trip he’d had exactly the opposite complaint – Cody had rarely shut up. Now, the unnatural silence was more than a little unnerving.

They drank their coffee in silence, and then they sat around the fire, still in silence, until Buck finally reached for his bedroll. “It’s been a long day, Vody. We should try to get some sleep.”

Cody shook his head violently. “That’s what it’s waiting for,” he insisted.

“What?”

“It’s waiting for us to let down our guard,” Cody replied. He had retrieved his rifle, and he patted the stock reassuringly now. “I’m gonna stand guard.”

“Suit yourself, Cody,” Buck said. He rolled out the canvas, pulled the blanket over his shoulders, and turned with his back to the fire.

Cody just watched, not knowing what to say. He knew Buck hadn’t seen or heard what he had – but why didn’t Buck understand that they were in danger? After all, Cody had told him there was something out there!

Well, it didn’t matter, Cody decided. He wrapped his arms around his rifle, reassured by the familiar weight in his arms. He’d just stay awake and keep them both safe.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Buck opened his eyes, stretching slowly to get rid of the morning stiffness. A quick look showed that it had actually stopped raining, at least for the moment. There were still dark clouds around, so that might not last, but it was still a pleasant change.

He shivered a bit in the damp early morning, and he turned toward the fire – which had nearly burned out. A quick glance to the other side of the fire showed Cody stretched out on the ground, sound asleep.

“Glad you stayed up to guard the camp,” Buck muttered as he got to his feet. Moving slowly to minimize the noise, he added some wood to the fire, watching as the flames built up again. He refilled the coffee pot and put it on to heat, then he looked into the trees.

Maybe this would be a good time to find out if there really was anything else on the island with them. After all, with Cody still asleep, the risk of getting shot was greatly reduced.

Moving silently toward the river, he started around the perimeter. His plan was to walk around the outside edge, and then explore the interior. From what little he’d seen last night while gathering wood, he didn’t expect it would take very long.

He figured he was about halfway around the island when he heard it. A snapped twig near the tree line, the rustle of brush . . .

Crouching down, Buck moved forward very slowly. He inched toward the trees, crawled over a downed trunk . . .

And came face to face with Cody’s monster.

They stared at each other, neither one moving. And then Buck started to smile as an idea came to mind.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

With the last piece of his plan in place, Buck stepped over the still-slumbering form of his fellow rider, moving toward the river. He turned and watched, waiting for the right moment.

The shadow came out of the trees, taking solid form in the light. It moved closer, following the trail . . .

“Cody, it’s the monster!” Buck shouted. Then he stood back to watch.

“Huh? What? Where? I’ll get my rif . . . OOOOOMMMMPH!” Cody’s words were suddenly cut off.

Buck doubled over in laughter as he watched 150 pounds of Saint Bernard bowl into Cody, seeking out the last piece of jerky he had just so happened to have placed on Cody’s chest.

Believing that the prone figure was his newest friend for having provided the tasty meat, the dog gobbled up the jerky and then placed a huge paw on either side of Cody’s head, slobbering wet kisses on the still confused rider.

Buck finally fell to his knees, still laughing. “You were right, Cody,” he finally managed to say. “He found me this morning, followed me back.”

Cody finally managed to extricate himself from under the massive dog. “This is the monster huh?” he asked sheepishly. He smiled as the dog pressed toward him for more attention.

“Only other living thing on this island,” Buck answered.

“How do you suppose he got here?”

“Guess he wound up in the river somehow and got caught in the current, same as us,” Buck said. He walked forward and knelt down next to the dog. With one hand he scratched the happy animal’s ears, while with the other hand he pointed to some scars on the dog’s side. “It looks like someone was beating this dog,” he said. “I figure that’s why he wouldn’t come into the camp. Took me a while to get him to trust me this morning.”

Cody was scowling at the scars. “Now who’d do a thing like that to a dog?”

Buck shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. We always had dogs around when I was growing up. They played an important role in Kiowa life. No one would think of mistreating them.”

Cody laughed as the big dog rolled over on his back. He reached out to scratch the dog’s stomach. “Well, I’ll take care of you now,” he said softly. “And we’ll get you off this island. Right, Buck?”

“Sure, soon as we can get off ourselves.”

“You think Emma’ll let us keep him?” Cody asked.

“Probably,” Buck answered. “Long as you promise to take care of him.”

“Oh, I’ll do that!” Cody promised, still playing happily with the dog. “Guess it was good we got lost after all!”

Buck sighed loudly and plopped down on the ground, “Cody, we are not lost . . .”

Writers Ranch Main Page