The Trail Series #3 – The Bandit (by Fozrulz)

Summary:  The Bandit.  Third in the trail series.

Rated: K+ (3,230 words)

 

The Trail Series:

The Trail Series #1
The Trail Series #2
The Trail Series #3
The Trail Series #4

 

Joe, Ellie and Clay are still on the trail. This story can be read on its own. It’s Clay’s turn to tell a story of his childhood.

 

Joe and Ellie were yawning, it had been a long day on the trail. They were on their way to Stockton for a horse buying trip. Joe was still laid out on his bedroll belly down recovering from a run in with a cactus. As the night drew on, Ellie and Joe had been telling Clay stories from when they were younger.

 

Clay was still laughing about the last story. He noticed his brother and sister were yawning. “Ok, you two,” he chuckled, “time to get some shut eye.”

 

“Aw, Clay I ain’t tired.” whined Joe.

 

Clay grinned at his younger brother and sister. This was his first trip being in charge of the two on his own. Joe was 18 and Ellie was 13, but he felt like they were still little and he was in charge. “No, come on, Joe, it’s a long hard day on the trail tomorrow. You’re going to have enough trouble staying in the saddle with a sore behind. You need to get some sleep.”

 

“Jeez Clay, I’m not a little kid.” whined Joe.

 

Clay was tired as well. He was in no mood to put up with sass from Joe. He didn’t care if he was 18 or not. “Joe, I’m telling you, I’m going to make your behind more sore than it is now, if you don’t turn in.”

 

“Bossy,” muttered Joe.

 

“Yep, and if you don’t do what I tell you, not only will your behind be sore, but I’ll tell Pa and this will be the last trip you get to take with me.”

 

Trying to be the peace maker, Ellie interjected, “Heh Clay, can you tell us a story about when you were younger? We promise we’ll go right to sleep then, right Joe.” she said toeing her brother.

 

“Yeah, ok,” muttered Joe as he stretched out to try and make himself more comfortable. He winced as he turned on his side, but finally found a comfortable place.

 

Clay smiled. He missed growing up with these two. He imagined he would have been telling them stories to get them to sleep his whole life, only Hoss would have been part of the mix, too. “Ok one story and then to bed, got it?”

 

“Got it.” agreed Ellie. Ellie got her bed roll and looked around. She was a little nervous, never having slept on the trail without Papa or Adam. “Heh Joe, can I be right next to you?” she asked.

 

Joe grimaced, “Sissy, I’m awful sore, if you roll into me, it’s going to hurt something powerful.”

 

Ellie looked down, “Oh, I didn’t think about that.”

 

Clay interceded, “Come here Ellie, lie down next to me. You can be between me and Joe, but we’ll give Joe plenty of room.”

 

Ellie unrolled her bed and much to Clay and Joe’s surprise, her stuffed monkey, Mooch, was in there. She was kind of embarrassed. She looked at them, “I needed something from home.”

 

Joe looked at her funny. Clay said, “We aren’t saying a word, are we Joe?” Clay gave Joe a hard stare.

 

“Nope, not a word.” smiled Joe. “You don’t say nothing about the cactus and my butt and I won’t say nothing about Mooch.”

 

Ellie just looked at him and stuck her tongue out at him. She turned to lay down when she felt a hard swat to her behind. “Oww” she said, rubbing her behind, “what’d you do that for?” she asked Clay.

 

“Because, Pa’d of done the same if he was here. You know better.” Clay said laughing. “I’ll swat your behind all the way to Stockton if you don’t behave.”

 

Ellie just glared on him, but settled down on her bedroll with Mooch.

 

Clay eyed her, “What’s with Mooch anyway? What kind of name is that?”

 

“I’ll tell you the story some day.” she said. “But you promised a story, so it’s your turn.

 

Clay settled in and started, “I was about 10 and living with my grandparents…..” He remembered it like it happened yesterday.

 

“CLAYTON JAMES STAFFORD!!” Clay heard his grandfather bellow. He knew he was in for it now. When is grandfather used is whole name, he may as well get a pillow and plan on sitting on that pillow for a goodly number of days. Clay raced down the stairs from his bedroom. He practically ran right into his grandfather on the stairs.

 

“Yes sir?” Clay asked.

 

“Where’s my pocket watch?” his grandfather asked grabbing Clay by the arm.

“Your pocket watch, sir?” asked Clay dumbfounded. He had no earthly idea where the pocket watch was.

 

“Yes, young man, my gold pocket watch.” his grandfather ground out. His grandfather had caught Clay earlier in the week looking at the gold pocket watch in his grandparent’s bedroom. He was forbidden to be in his grandparent’s bedroom. He was also forbidden to touch things that didn’t belong to him. His grandfather, James Stafford was a harsh and unyielding man. Stafford was quick with a strap and Clay didn’t sit too comfortable for a couple of days. His grandmother, Ann was the most wonderful, kind hearted woman. As an adult, Clay would look back and wonder how is grandmother put up with his grandfather.

 

“I don’t know , sir.” Clay pleaded. “I really don’t know, sir.”

 

Stafford still had Clay by the arm. “I want my watch back now, boy!” Stafford said menacingly as he shook Clay.

 

Just then, Clay’s grandmother came to the bottom of the stairs. Clay breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe he was going to escape a strapping. He really didn’t know where the watch was. “James, darling, maybe the boy didn’t take, maybe you just misplaced it. After all, after being punished for just looking at it, I don’t think the boy would take it. You didn’t take it did you son?” she smiled turning toward Clay.

 

“No ma’am. No ma’am. I didn’t take it. Honest Grandmother, honest Grandfather, I didn’t take it.” Clay begged the tears in his eyes.

 

Stafford shook Clay’s arm as he let go of the boy. “If I found out you took that watch, I’ll whip you twice as hard.” he said threateningly.

 

Clay just looked at his grandfather, “Yes, sir.” he swallowed.

 

Ann Stafford nodded to her grandson. “Go on up to your room and finish your homework, Clay.” she said gently as she grabbed her husband’s arm to lead him down the stairs and into the parlor.

 

“Yes ma’am,” said Clay grateful for the escape. The rest of the day passed uneventful. There was no mention made of the watch. Clay was on his very best behavior.

 

The next day, Clay was about to leave for school. He had forgotten his books. He raced back up the stairs and into his room. He thought he heard a noise in his room as he entered. He looked around his room. His bed was made, his window was open with the curtain flying in the morning breeze. Everything looked like it was in place. He shrugged his shoulders and walked over to his desk. He started to pick up his books, when he noticed his weekly allowance quarter wasn’t sitting on his desk. He thought to himself, that’s strange. I’m just sure I left it there. He started to look for it, when he heard his grandfather bellow, “Clay, time to get to school.” Clay knew better than to make his grandfather wait even one second longer than necessary. Clay grabbed his books and headed out, calling. “Coming, sir.”

 

The missing quarter and the missing pocket watch completely forgotten, Clay bound in the house after school. He was in the best mood. He’d gotten a good grade on history test and his best friend Jeff asked him to go fishing on Saturday. He knew with the good grade on his test, Grandfather would give him permission. He was so excited as he entered the house until he walked in and saw his grandmother frowning at him.

 

“Clay?”

 

“Ma’am?” he asked warily. He wasn’t sure what he had done to earn a disapproving stair from his grandmother. She rarely got angry at him.

 

“Clay, do you know my silver brooch with the rubies in it?” she asked tapping her foot.

 

“Yes ma’am, the one shaped like a hummingbird?” he asked.

 

“Yes, that’s the one. Do you know where it is?” she asked as she crossed her arms over her chest.

 

“Why would I know where it is?” asked Clay confused.

 

“Are you sassing me?” she asked clearly getting agitated.

 

Clay swallowed hard, “Oh no ma’am. No ma’am. I just don’t know why you’d think I would know where that was.”

 

“Hmmm.” she said giving her grandson a piercing stare.

 

Clay gulped, “Really, Grandmother. I didn’t touch it. I swear.” pleaded Clay.

 

“Well, it’s missing. Clearly something is going on.” she said.

 

“Honest Grandmother, I didn’t take it. Come to think of it, my allowance quarter was missing from my desk this morning.” he said.

 

His grandmother looked at him, “Surely no one would bother with a quarter.” she scoffed.

 

Clay was a little hurt by that. A quarter was a fortune to him. He was saving to buy himself a swell set of new marbles, which cost $.75. He just had to save for one more week. “No ma’am.” he said as he put his head down.

 

Ann immediately felt bad. She could tell from Clay’s demeanor, that he was telling the truth. She walked over and put her arm around him, “It’s ok, I’m sure my brooch will turn up.” She gave him a hug and said, “Go put your things up, Martha left milk and cookies on the kitchen table for your snack.”

 

Relieved to not be in trouble, Clay hugged his grandmother back. “Yes, ma’am,” he said as he headed up the stairs. As he headed up the stairs, he thought about how strange it was that so many things were missing, Grandfather’s pocket watch, his allowance quarter, and now Grandmother’s brooch. He was just going to have to figure out what was going on or for sure, Grandfather would blame him and he would get the whipping of his life.

 

Clay climbed the steps to his room. As he passed his grandparent’s bedroom, he thought he heard a noise. He looked in the room to see a raccoon take off with something silver. He ran into the room, but the raccoon escaped. He raced down the stairs. He raced out the door and around the side of the house. He saw the raccoon making its way across the yard and up into a tree. Clay stood at the bottom of the tree. He thought about climbing the tree and finding the raccoon’s hiding place. The only problem was that there wasn’t a branch low enough to jump on. Just then he heard his grandfather. “Clayton!!” he heard.

 

Clay knew better than to not answer that bellow immediately. He hastily hurried back into the house. “Sir?” he asked breathlessly as he entered the house.

 

“Have you done your schoolwork?” asked his grandfather imperiously.

 

“No sir, not yet. I…..” Clay started.

 

“Are you outside playing, prior to completing your work?” he grandfather bellowed.

 

“No sir, I wasn’t playing, I….” Clay started again.

 

“Young man, you get up those stairs and attend to your work.” said his grandfather pointing up the stairs.

 

“But Grandfather, I….” Clay tried to start.

 

“NOW!” bellowed his grandfather.

 

Clay knew it was useless. The raccoon would have to wait for later. “Yes sir.” Clay said respectfully as he walked by his grandfather. As he passed his grandfather, he felt a sting on his behind. Startled, he jumped and looked at his grandfather, “Sir?”

 

“You will not disobey me again. I expect you to have your school work completed before I see you outside or there will be many more where that came from. Do I make myself clear?”

 

Clay sighed. His grandfather was always whipping him for something. He wished he could just live with his grandmother. He knew as soon as he was old enough, he would light out on his own and be away from that man. “Yes sir.” he said as he headed for his room. When Clay got to his room, he pulled out a sheet of paper and started to design a most ingenious trap to capture the raccoon.

 

Ann had come into the room just in time to see her husband swat her grandson. “James, really, you don’t need to spank him for every little perceived infraction. He‘s a little boy. Little boys forget to do things.” she said as she circled his waist with her arms.

 

James grunted, “I don’t want him to turn out like Jimmy. Up and got himself killed for playing cards. We were too easy on him growing up. I don’t want for him to end up dead, Ann.”

 

Ann sighed. The death of their only son weighed heavily on both of them. For some reason, James seemed to feel that his son wouldn’t have become a riverboat gambler and marry that New Orleans hussy had he been more strict. So, he tended to go overboard with his grandson.

 

She sighed again, “James, you were a good father. Parents can’t always control how their children turn out. Please try not to be so hard on Clay, please try and remember he’s just a little boy.”

 

His only response to his wife was a grunt as he gave her a small hug and pushed her away.

 

Meanwhile, Clay was in his room constructing the perfect raccoon trap. He placed his other allowance quarter on his desk along with his silver agate marble and some shiny bits of metal he had collected. He propped a box up with a stick and put the shiny items under the box. Now all he had to do was wait and as soon as the raccoon came in his room to steal the stuff on his desk, he would pull the stick and capture the raccoon.

 

Clay waited and waited and waited. The raccoon didn’t come. It was almost as if the raccoon knew he was sitting there waiting. Finally, he had been called for supper and he knew he needed to go down and eat. He reluctantly left his room and headed for the dining room. When he returned to his room, the box was still intact and all his things were missing. “That damn sneaky raccoon,” he whispered. He looked around to make sure no one had heard him curse, he would surely get a spanking for that. He made up his mind that tomorrow he was going to climb that tree after school and retrieve all the stuff that stupid raccoon had taken.

 

The next day, school dragged on and on. All Clay could think about was getting in that tree and getting that stupid raccoon. He had been called on several times for not paying attention. His teacher had penned a note home to his grandparents. He was sure to get it now. As soon as class was dismissed, he hastily made for home. It was Thursday, his grandfather’s club day. If he hurried, he could get home and find a way to get into the tree. When Clay arrived home, he headed for the shed and got a ladder. The ladder was really big and even though Clay was tall for his age, the ladder was unwieldy. He bumped into the door of the shed, ran over his grandmother’s roses and finally banged into the tree. Bumped and bruised, he determinedly put the ladder against the tree and climbed up the tree. On the way up, he tore his pants, his shirt and lost a shoe.

 

He finally reached the top and there was his prize, the raccoon’s nest. The nest was full of all kinds of things, his two quarters, his marble, grandmother’s brooch, grandfather’s watch, and grandfather’s snuff box. Clay collected all the things and started putting them in his pockets when he heard, “CLAYTON JAMES STAFFORD, COME DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT!”

 

Uh oh, he knew he was in for it now. He had a note home from school, he wasn’t suppose to be climbing trees, he had torn his clothes and lost a shoe. On top of all that, his grandfather sounded furious. He debated just staying in the tree. He sat there for a minute thinking about how much he hated that stupid raccoon. He looked through the branches to find his very angry grandfather staring up at him.

 

“Come down here at once, young man!” seethed his grandfather.

 

“But Sir, I found all the missing things, your pocket watch, Grandmother’s brooch, my allowance quarters…..”

 

“Really?” his grandfather asked sarcastically.

 

“Yes sir, a raccoon had them. I climbed up here to get them out of it’s nest.”

 

“Well, I see, come down at once.” his grandfather bellowed.

 

Clay sighed, “Yes, sir.” Clay made a move to climb down the branches. He reached the ladder and as he reached the third rung, his stocking foot slipped and he fell. He fell right on his grandfather. His grandfather was coughing and sputtering and threatening. Then Clay did the only thing he could do, he ran!

 

“So you see,” said Clay, “I had my own share of adventures.”

 

“So did your grandfather catch up with you.” laughed Ellie.

 

“Well not for awhile. He threw his back out, he was down in bed for about 6 weeks.” Clay laughed.

 

“Wow, I thought for sure he was going to beat your ass!” said Joe.

 

“JOE!!” yelled Clay and Ellie simultaneously.

 

“Sorry,” Joe said sheepishly.

 

Clay reached over and swatted his little brother’s behind.

 

“Oww!” yelped Joe, “You know it kind of hurts back there.”

 

“Well, it’s going to be hurting a whole lot more little boy if you don’t watch your mouth.” grinned Clay.

 

“I said ‘sorry’,” mumbled Joe.

 

“Clay, was your grandfather always so mean?” asked Ellie.

 

“Well, yeah I guess it seemed that way. I ran off when I was 15, I couldn’t really take it any more. I know now, it was just his way of trying to make sure I didn’t turn out like my real father.” Clay said staring into the fire.

 

Ellie sat up and leaned into him, “You know Clay, Papa is your real father. He loves you like us, I mean you know there’s no difference between me and Joe and you, right?”

 

Clay smiled, “Yeah, baby I know. Go to bed, now, both of you.” he said eyeing his little brother and sister.

 

He got up and tucked each one in. He laughed. He probably would have been doing that all his life with them. He kissed Ellie and rubbed Joe’s head. “Go to sleep, you two.”

 

“Night Clay, I love you.” whispered Ellie.

 

“Me too.” said Joe.

 

“I love ya’ll too,” said Clay as he prepared to go to sleep on his own bedroll.

 

Next Story in The Trail Series:

The Trail Series #4

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

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