Fastest in the West

Who is the fastest in the wild, wild west? The jackrabbit is fast, but he can be outrun by the cougar. The cougar is speedy, but he can be outrun by the wild mustang. Can anyone outrun the wild mustang? That is what all the animals on the prairie have gathered today to find out.

Down in the front the prairie dogs have set up a family picnic. They aren’t a part of this competition, but they aren’t about to miss out on the fun. Off to the side sit the jackrabbits. There was some talk of their chief challenging the mustangs, but now he’s announced that he is to be one of the judges instead. A wise move. No one has better pick up time than the chief jackrabbit, but he just doesn’t have the stamina for this kind of race. Clustered in the middle are the buffalo. They, too, are only observers, since their forte is strength and not speed, but no prairie gathering would be complete without them. Ranged behind the buffalo are the cougars. They were the most recent challengers to be defeated by the wild mustangs, and as such they also have a representative judging today. Perched in the trees by the train tracks are a few buzzards. They eye the prairie dogs with interest, but everyone has agreed to a truce today. The buzzards are here as judges also, their perspective from the sky being essential. A lone turtle wends his way through the crowds, selling cool water for the sunny day, completely uninterested in the competition except as a way to earn some profit.

It’s almost start time and now the mustangs are arriving. Proud and strong, they shake their manes as they gallop to a halt on the open plain before the spectators. With a loud neigh, the herd leader calls the judges forward. While he talks to them, the crowd begins to mutter. Where is the challenger? So far, no opponent has shown up. The prairie dogs crane their necks to see if anyone is coming. Suddenly the youngest prairie dog squeals. The ground is trembling ever so slightly. Soon the rumbling is evident to the whole gathering. In the distance, the shining train appears, rushing toward them, trailing its black smoke. Several of the smaller animals dash for cover. The buzzards lift up into the sky. Only the cougars’ well timed pacing keeps the buffalo from stampeding. The train squeaks and groans to a halt right in their midst. The crowd slowly quiets down.

The lead mustang is announcing that the race will begin in half an hour. The challenger is the smoking black giant before them. A ripple of excitement passes through the watching animals. Never would any of them have thought to pit the mustang against the machine. It is an unspoken rule on the prairie that every animal stays as far from the train and its tracks as possible. Stay out of the way of progress, it is said, and you will live longer. Some animals are calling the lead mustang a fool for breaking this tradition now. Others are fascinated. The cougars look forward to what must be the certain humiliation of the mustangs. The jackrabbits can not imagine a machine mastering the prairie more fully than a living being. The buzzards find the question interesting if irrelevant. Everyone knows flying is the best and fastest was to get somewhere, but the issue of second best is intriguing. A few of the animals place discreet bets on the outcome.

At last it is time to begin. The race is to be a long the one, all the way to Abilene and back again, more than forty miles all told. The judges will wait by the finish line, all except the buzzard who will shadow the racers to insure that there is no cheating. Everyone is excited as the chief jackrabbit counts down to the start.

3…2…1…Go!

With a graceful leap, the mustang is off, moving quickly from trot to full gallop. Very soon he is out of sight. The train begins much more slowly. It chugs to life and the wheels turn sluggishly until it gets its great weight in motion. Chug, chug, chug, faster and faster it moves. Chug, chug, chug, faster and faster. Soon it’s speed is tremendous. Tirelessly it gains on the mustang. Overhead, the buzzard is the only observer now, watching as the train catches up with the galloping mustang and then smoothly moves past. The mustang increases his speed a little, but he cannot catch up with the train.

The train arrives in Abilene a good hour before the mustang, but here is its disadvantage. In order to turn around and go back, the great engine must be moved to a special turntable track and be slowly turned around. This process takes time. The buzzard watches as the train waits on its human inventors to switch it around. In the mean time, the mustang has arrived in Abilene and is immediately turning for home. He barely breaks a stride as his hooves thunder around in a circle. He is half way back to the finish line before the train leaves Abilene. It has a full load of coal now, though, and its speed is unbelievable. Steadily, it closes the gap.

By the time the two contestants are in sight of the waiting spectators, the train has nearly caught up with the mustang. The chug of its engine can be heard as its wheels turn effortlessly. Still just a half length ahead of the train, the mustang increases his speed. Flecks of sweat fly off his whipping mane, and his sides heave with the tremendous effort. The two are flying toward the finish line. All the judges watch with intense concentration. The prairie dogs have dropped their food and are staring with open mouths. The buzzards fly forward for a closer look.

The train and the mustang are neck and neck as they cross the finish line. The train squeals to a halt, sending sparks along the tracks, as the mustang stops by the water trough, breathing hard and trembling with fatigue.

The judges have consulted and now they are coming forward with the results, and the winner is…

The winner is….

What do you think? Who wins the race?

The Dog and his Sheriff

Once upon a time there was a dog named Cisco.  He had a sheriff named Sheriff Jones.  It was Cisco and Sheriff Jones’ job to keep order in the town of Culver’s End, and they took that job seriously.  Culver’s End wasn’t a very big town, but there were gold mines up in the mountains near there and lots of men coming and going all the time.  Most of them were good, hard-working men just trying to earn a living…but some of them were not.

One of these second kind was a man by the name of Slim Jim Donnelly.  He was a black-hearted man, wanted in seven states for every crime from cattle-rustling to train robbery to murder.  No one in Culver’s End had seen Slim Jim, but there was a rumor that he was hiding out in the area.  Cisco first heard the rumor when he was sniffing out some thieving raccoons near the Black Buffalo Saloon.  He trotted straight down to the sheriff’s office and made sure Sheriff Jones moseyed on up the street to hear the rumor, too.

That afternoon, Cisco set out to hunt for Slim Jim Donnelly, with Sheriff Jones riding by his side.  Cisco knew all the good hideouts anywhere near Culver’s End.  He had been roaming this range since he was just a little pup.  Sheriff Jones was useful, too.  He was an excellent tracker.  It was said that he could track a polar bear in a snowstorm, though Cisco never really did understand what a polar bear was supposed to be or why you couldn’t wait until it had finished snowing to hunt one down.  In any case, it didn’t take long before the sheriff saw signs that a large group of men had passed through that area.  Cisco soon had the scent as well, the distinct smell of men who were up to no good.  The dog and the sheriff followed the scent down to Graveyard Gulch.  It was a long and narrow canyon, and Cisco knew that there was a large cave on the far side which was plenty large enough for Slim Jim and his whole gang.  Cisco also knew that there was no way to get near the cave without being seen from the opening.  If Slim Jim had a guard posted (and he certainly would) they would be spotted right away if they tried to make their move.  The best plan was to wait until morning when Slim Jim’s gang headed out and take them by surprise at the canyon mouth.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Jones didn’t know Graveyard Gulch as well as Cisco did.  He slid off his horse and began to ease his way toward the cave, using scrub bushes for cover.  Cisco tried to pull him back, tried to warn him with a quiet growl, but Sheriff Jones could be stubborn at times.  He just told Cisco to “Stay” and kept on creeping forward.  Cisco sat down to assess the situation.  He knew that the sheriff was going to be spotted soon and taken captive, so he only had a little time to figure out what to do.  He reckoned his best chance was to use Sheriff Jones’ capture as a distraction and try to take the men by surprise.

Once he had a plan, Cisco moved quickly.  He headed back the way they had come and out around to the other side of Graveyard Gulch to be in position.  Sure enough, he was just barely coming up over the rise when he heard some shouts and  a loud shot.  Cisco truly hoped that the sheriff hadn’t gotten himself killed.  He trusted not.  Sheriff Jones could be quite resourceful when he needed to.  A few steps further and Cisco could see what was going on below.  Several men were dragging Sheriff Jones out of the bushes.  Judging from the way the sheriff was struggling, he was plenty alive.  Now a tall thin man came out of the cave, smoking a cigarette.   His men handed him the sheriff’s rifle.  All eyes were on Slim Jim as he broke the rifle over his knee and laughed.

It was the moment Cisco had been waiting for.  Like a shot out of a gun, he streaked out from behind the rocks and took a flying leap.  His timing was perfect.  Slim Jim had no warning at all before Cisco landed directly on his chest, knocking him onto his back.  The men erupted with shouts and drew their guns, but they couldn’t seem to figure out where to shoot.  Slim Jim was rolling around on the ground, trying to keep Cisco away from his throat.  Amidst all the chaos, Sheriff Jones was able to wrench his arms free and grab the rifle of the man nearest him.  After that, it was only a matter of time before Slim Jim and all of his gang were tied up securely in the cave with Cisco standing guard while Sheriff Jones rode back into town for a wagon to take all the men to jail.

The reward for the capture of Slim Jim Donnelly was $100.  Cisco let Sheriff Jones keep the money.  His reward was the satisfaction of a job well done.  Though he didn’t turn down the steak the sheriff offered him for dinner that night either.