Calling Sheriff Dolittle
Joy's Origninal Note: This is a variation of the Little Britches Universe, modern day with Vin, JD and Ezra as children. It contains references to a natural disaster and its consequences. Hankies will be needed.
My Note: I decided to combine a bunch of true bits of stories I've heard over the years with this AU. No hankies needed this time. :)
"I just didn't know who else to call Sheriff."
Chris nodded absent mindedly as he studied the scene before him. He'd heard that particular sentence at least once a week since becoming the Sheriff of North Pass. A small rural county just didn't have the resources of a big city. So by default and because sometimes simply there was no one else a Sheriff ended up taking on a variety of jobs.
Right now that job was figuring out what to do about the deer currently lying in George Marlin's store. According to George the animal had wandered in the propped open front door of his shop a bout a half hour ago. When George tried to shoo it out the deer had panicked and hit the door closing it. Seeing that as soon as he left it alone George did just that and called for help.
"Hey Sheriff if you don't want to shoot it I will."
Chris turned his head just far enough to glare in the general direction of the speaker. Killing Bambi while it was curled up in the 'Dip n Sip' ice cream shop was not happening. "All right, everyone go somewhere else," he growled at the crowd.
After helping to move along those stupid enough not to take the hint Josiah ambled over. "Raine will be over as soon as she figures out the proper tranq. dosage."
Chris nodded, "what time is it?"
"About twenty after one," Josiah raised an eyebrow, "why?"
"Do you want to be seen shooting Bambi by a school full of kids?" The town's school was one block over from Main. The school busses and parents picking up children would have to drive right past the shop.
"It's a tranquilizer gun," Josiah reminded him.
"You want to explain that to JD and Vin."
Josiah shuddered slightly, "No brother, I do not."
The two men stood in silence for a moment before Josiah murmured, "Whose idea was it to watch that movie anyway."
"Explains why he's on cow watch then."
Chris's grin was answer enough.
"You mind if I duck in the hardware store while we wait?" Josiah asked.
"I need a couple of washers and some WD40. I want to fix a squeak in the bunkhouse furnace."
"Go ahead, charge it to the ranch account."
By the time Josiah returned Raine had arrived. In short order the deer was tranq'ed. Then Josiah and Chris loaded the deer into a cage on the back of Raine's truck.
"Thanks for the quick response." Chris said. "I really appreciate the help."
"Well I do have a soft spot for the Sheriff's office." Raine smiled.
"What will you do with her now?" Josiah asked.
"I'll take her back to the office and do an examination to be sure there is nothing wrong with her. If she's healthy I will take her up the mountain and turn her loose. But I will need some help unloading her." Raine quirked an eyebrow at Chris, "Do you have anyone at the office you can spare?"
"I can probably think of someone, " Chris said over Josiah's chuckle. "Call the office when you're ready to go."
"Thanks, Sheriff." Raine climbed in her truck and left.
Chris found he had just enough time to check in with Buck before picking up the boys after school. Pulling out his cell phone he started walking towards the Sheriff's office. "Buck how's it going?"
"You know when I decided to be a cop I had a lot of ideas about what that would involve. I never figured that would include staking out on a cow." Buck sounded bored, "I feel sillier than a fish swimming in a whiskey bottle."
Chris smiled slightly, nothing ever got to Buck. "So anything?"
"It's so quiet the flies are asleep. Never thought a cow could cause all this trouble."
"Well stick to it, I never want a repeat of yesterday's supermarket incident." Chris growled, "Signing off."
Buck laughed heartily as he closed his phone. He'd been off duty so hadn't responded to the mentioned call. Being called to the produce section of Bob's IGA wasn't so odd. Having to break up a screaming match between two leading members of the local PGA was. Emily Stewart and Lucy Bricker were mothers and pillars of the community but that hadn't stopped them from going at it. It was just the latest in a serious of incidents, all because of Grammy Anna Stewart's cow.
Buck chuckled again thinking about Grammy Anna Stewart. If anyone embodied the term, 'feisty old lady', in the best sense she did. The Stewarts were one of the original families to settle in North Pass in the late 1800's. Anna had been born on her family's ranch and informed anyone foolish enough to ask that she would die there. In her late 70's she still grew and canned her own food, winning prizes at the fair every year with her pickles and jams. She also kept a few chickens for eggs, and a milk cow. She also had plenty of children, grand and great-grand children who adored and would do anything for her.
The trouble had started about three months back when Anna decided it was time for a new milk cow. Accordingly she informed her oldest son, Jed, of her need and he quickly provided a fine jersey. A minor footnote in the community, Anna wanted a new milk cow, one was obtained. Until the cow, Jesse, started turning up a mile down the road at Amos Bricker's.
Amos was Anna's neighbor to the south. His family could claim the same generational status in the valley. For the most part the two families had always gotten along. The first few times Jesse turned up in Amos' field no one thought much about it. Various males from both the Bricker and Stewart clans checked fence lines tightening up loose barbed wire, re-setting posts. For a while this fixed things, but then Jesse started showing up at Amos' again. This time the Stewarts went over their fence lines with a vengeance, replacing several sections. But still Jesse kept disappearing only to re-appear at Amos'. The only way to insure she stayed put was to keep her in the barn. Something Anna claimed ruined the milk.
Then things started to get ugly something Buck surely hated. Frustrated Stewart fence fixers started to say that there had to be some other reason Jesse kept getting out. The Bricker side countered by implying that maybe certain Stewart's just didn't know how to fix fence. The trash talking then graduated to fist fights involving younger generations of both families. Things had been steadily escalating since then. Both families began digging up old slights to each other and as in any small town everyone had started taking sides.
The Sheriff's department had looked into it but since there was no proof of anything criminal Chris hadn't been able to do much. All he and the department could do was deal with the on-going arguments as they happened. That was until the incident between two women who should have known better. That was when Chris instituted 'Cow Watch' as Buck liked to call it.
Personally Buck thought it was probably a couple of young kids having a lark. With school over for the day he fully expected to catch someone 'helping' Jesse escape.
The school bus passed below his hide out pausing to discharge several sizes of Stewart's at the family gate. Most of them started walking up the road out of sight but two boys that Buck recognized as 11 year old twins Mark and Caleb hung back. Buck started smiling sure that he was about to end the mystery. But the boys didn't go anywhere near Jesse. Instead they opened the barbed wire gate next to her pasture and went to fill a water tank there. Buck watched them finish the chore then after some struggle over closing the gate run up the road. Sighing he sank back onto his rock disappointed yet relieved that it wasn't one of Grammy's own causing the trouble.
Buck was pouring the last of his coffee when he noticed that Jesse was now standing along the fence that separated her from the pasture with the water tank. As Buck watched she carefully stuck her head through the wire. He laughed as Jesse worked her way through the wire using a shimmy that would make a stripper proud. Then after a drink at the tank she ambled over to the gate the boys had closed. With practiced moves she opened the gate gaining access to the ranch lane. A short walk over the cattle guard and Jesse was off. Buck hurried back to where he had parked. He would follow from a distance to be sure but it looked like the mystery of the escaping cow was solved.
"Mr. Chris!" Vin yelled in panic from the back seat. "Stop, he's killing her!"
Chris was used to reacting fast in an emergency but he'd never tried to go from 50 to zero with three boys in the car all reacting to Vin's cry. He had to simultaneously check traffic, look for a place to pull over and comfort/control three boys.
"Ezra stay in your seat till I stop," he snapped as the older boy started to release his seat belt. He knew Ezra only wanted to get to JD who was screaming from his car seat. Pulling over into a driveway he put the truck in park. Ezra was already halfway over the seat by the time he had his mike in hand. He hated that he had to be a Sheriff first then a parent but he had to react to whatever Vin had seen before soothing anyone. Luckily just having Ezra squeezed next to his car seat was having a calming effect on JD.
"Nettie, this is Chris, I'm out on highway 402 at the Smith's, anyone close. Over."
"I'm right over the hill," Buck replied. "What do you need? Over."
"Get down here, I need help. We may have," Chris stopped for a sec, then gave the code for an assault before dropping his mike onto the seat. Hopping out of the truck he ran around to Vin's side opening the door while scanning the area. The small boy reached out with tear filled eyes. "He hurt her," he wailed.
Chris scooped him out of the truck. Over Vin's head he looked at Ezra. The older boy was white but he was controlling himself so as to comfort JD. "You two okay?"
Ezra nodded from his seat next to JD. "He's just scared." Ezra knew that Chris had to find out what was going on before he could do much else. He swallowed his own fear hoping Vin wasn't going to have to deal with something horrible again.
Chris felt like it had been hours since he's first heard Vin scream instead of minutes. With his cop side taken care of he could now concentrate on the parent one. "Can you tell me what you saw?" he asked Vin.
Vin raised his head and pointed back the way they'd come. He was hardly understandable because of his sobbing, "It, it was chasing her."
"Who was chasing who?" Chris asked looking for anything that could have upset Vin. All he could see was Mrs. Smith's Great Dane, Billie. The big dog was sunning on the porch. He focused back on Vin. "Vin I need to know what you saw. Who was getting hurt?" Vin said something into his shoulder. He hated to do it but Chris had to get the truth, firming his voice he tried again. "Vin I need you to talk to me. Look at me."
"The kitty," Vin raised his head to wail. "He killed her." He pointed at Billie. JD, who had calmed down, started crying again himself to Vin's words. Chris wished he could bang his head on the truck.
Now Chris was torn, he didn't see a dead or injured cat, only the dog. Billie didn't seem wound up or bloody, which he should if he'd just killed something. Still he couldn't investigate when it meant leaving three scared boys alone in his truck. He continued to rub soothing circles in Vin's back as he wondered where Buck was.
Buck was close having been on his way back to home after solving the mystery of the wandering cow. Chris' tone of voice and sharp command sent his foot to the floor and hand to his lights. He roared over the hill spotting Chris standing next to his truck holding Vin. Since the little boy didn't easily accept adult comfort he felt his heart sink.
Chris breathed a sigh of relief as Buck's car pulled in behind him. Jerking his head toward the back seat of the truck he silently directed the other man to JD.
Thanks to Ezra, JD was again starting to calm a bit but he still eagerly raised his arms. "Buck!" Buck planted JD on his hip and reached a hand out to rub Ezra's head. "You okay?" Ezra nodded but didn't object to the contact so Buck knew he was shaken too.
While Buck handled the other two Chris tipped Vin's head up. "Vin I need to be sure I understand. Did you see the big dog hurting a cat?"
Vin sniffed loudly then nodded, "He, he had its head in his mouth."
"Okay, can I leave you here for a minute? I need to go check this out." Vin nodded again sniffing tearfully as Chris handed him over to Buck, who easily juggled both boys on his hips. Ezra had exited the truck and was helping by rubbing both boys backs.
Sighing Chris started down the road towards Mrs. Smith's. He'd never heard anything bad about Billie. If he were violent surely the department would have gotten some complaints by now. He unsnapped his gun just in case but on his approach all Billie did was roll over shamelessly begging for a tummy rub. Chris stepped over the dog and rang the doorbell.
Mrs. Smith opened the door a crack peering out at him. "Is there something wrong Sheriff?" The scent of baking wafted out her door.
"I don't know," Chris sighed, "has Billie been out all day?"
"Oh no, I just let him out a bit ago. He loves the way the afternoon sun warms up our porch. Did he go out on the street?"
"I don't know," Chris looked back at his truck. He could see three heads poking up in the backseat of his truck. "You know I'm fostering some boys."
"Oh yes," Mrs. Smith smiled at him. "I just think it's ever so nice of you to take in those poor orphans. I was telling my bridge club, I said, 'It's so nice to have a responsible man running the Sheriff's department.'"
"Um, well thank you," Chris said in his professional pleasant Sheriff's voice. "The thing is, I was taking the boys home and Vin thought he say Billie with a cat." Chris paused he didn't want to upset the woman. Luckily he didn't have to go any further.
"Oh yes, that was probably Bucky. He got out when I let Billie out and I had Billie catch him." Her mouth opened in a big 'O'. "Oh dear, I bet that poor little boy thought Billie was hurting Bucky. Oh dear." She looked over at Chris' truck then back. "Billie wouldn't hurt a fly, he and Bucky were just playing."
"Playing?" Chris looked down at the dog. "Vin thought Billie had the cat's head in his mouth."
"Oh he did. He does it all the time Bucky doesn't care. He just lies there and purrs. That poor boy he must be so upset."
Chris sighed, suppressing the urge to snarl, all this over a game. Now he'd have two upset little boys all night. Vin would keep replaying the scene in his head and JD would take his clues from Vin. Ezra would go into protective mode and all three would end up crammed one the upper bunk again. Not really conductive to a good nights sleep for anyone. Mrs. Smith interrupted his thoughts.
"Sheriff I'm sure that little boy would feel better if he saw Billie and Bucky were friends. Why don't you bring them all over here." She beamed up at Chris, "I can even get them to play again, probably. What do you think?" She blinked a bit surprised at the suddenly wide smile Chris gave her. The sheriff actually smiling, that would be something to tell her bridge club.
"Thank you ma'am, that would help." Chris tipped his hat, "I'll go get them."
It took some persuading by both Chris and Buck but soon all five were standing in Mrs. Smith's front living room. Billie was overjoyed at having company but being well trained was sitting where ordered while wagging in place. Ezra finally walked over and ran a careful hand over Billie's head to the big dog's delight. When Mrs. Smith showed up with Bucky draped over her shoulder Vin eyed the big dog uneasily. Mrs. Smith sat Bucky down on the floor and he immediately rolled over showing his stomach. She smiled at the boys then motioned Vin to stand beside her. "The Sheriff told me that you saw Bucky and Billie playing and it scared you. I'm really sorry that happened, but they really were playing. Do you want to see?"
Vin studied both animals thoughtfully. "It won't hurt the kitty?" he finally whispered.
"Oh no dear, he loves it." Mrs. Smith sat down motioning the others to do the same. She patted the sofa seat next to her waiting patiently until Vin climbed up beside her. Once he was settled she explained. "This game is called 'git the kitty'." She looked over to Billie, "Billie, get the kitty."
With a joyful woof Billie pounced on the purring Bucky. One paw pinned Bucky down while Billie opened his mouth over the cat's head. Bucky never stopped purring instead he just laid there, one small paw resting on Billie's muzzle. After a moment Billie lifted his head and swiped his tongue down Bucky's side. Then with a big doggy sigh he laid his head down next to Bucky who started to wash his face. Vin giggled at the sight of the big dog getting his face washed by a cat.
"See Vin what you saw outside was Billie catching Bucky for me. Bucky is an indoor cat but he slipped out this afternoon when I let Billie out. I didn't want him to get in the road and get hurt." Mrs. Smith offered him a cookie. "I hope you feel better now."
"Yes ma'am." Vin smiled shyly at her. The three adults shared looks of relief and understanding as all three boys got down on the floor to pet Bucky and Billie. Even Ezra forgot about pet hair for a while.
Unaware of the drama Chris and the others were going through Josiah hummed along with his CD player as he worked. The furnace in the Bunkhouse had been emitting a squeak noise ever since he'd lived there. Today was the day to get rid of it Josiah had decided. It was a simple problem requiring a couple of washers and about 20 minutes to fix. Throwing a wrench into his toolbox Josiah looked over at the bright yellow canary watching him. "Well that fixes that Sunny." The little yellow bird cheeped happily as if in agreement. Smiling Josiah went to take a shower.
Clean and refreshed he sat down to read for a while before Chris brought the boys home. He was deep in the latest John Grishom when an annoying squeak penetrated his concentration. A very familiar squeak. With a grimace Josiah put down his book and picked up the WD40. After a quick spray the squeak again disappeared. Returning to his book he enjoyed a blissful 10 minutes before it started again.
"You should have seen her. That old cow trotted straight down the road, walked the cattle guard at Amos' and went to eating." Buck was telling everyone his cow story over dinner. "I think she must be part goat."
"Did you tell the Stewarts?" Chris was not finding the whole thing that funny, all this because of a Houdini cow.
"I not only told them but Amos, Jed and I took Jesse back then watched as she did the whole trip again."
"You mean no one noticed the open gate and put two and two together?" Nathan asked.
"Jed's oldest grandson Bill came by and cleared that up for us. He knew the gate was hard for the boys to close so he checked it every night on his way home. He didn't want the little guys to get in trouble for something they couldn't help." Buck shook his head, "Jed said he would fix the gate so that it was easier for the boys to work. I also showed him where she was wiggling through."
"But now she'll be sad," JD said.
"Why is that JD?" Josiah leaned forward always fascinated by the workings of a young mind.
"Cause she won't be able to get to her special place anymore." JD's innocent comment had all the adults sharing looks. Trust a child to boil things down to the most important point.
"I fixed the furnace but I guess Nathan and I are going to just have to learn to live with the squeak." Josiah changed the subject.
"Funny story," Josiah chuckled. "You remember the canary I inherited?"
Chris grimaced, 'inherited' was an on-going joke at the ranch. As county Sheriff he had several animals he'd 'inherited' during the flood. At the time anyone who had room took in horses, cows, sheep, whatever they could. When things had dried out most had been reclaimed by happy owners except for a few stragglers. Chris ended up 'inheriting' two llamas, an alpaca, three sheep, one miniature donkey and a pig. The one time he had made noises about getting rid of them JD had a melt down. JD's terror only vocalized the other two boys. If Chris could get rid of animals he could do the same with little boys. After that the sheep, llamas, donkey and alpaca were turned out into a pasture north of the barn. Josiah built a cage for the pig behind the barn and it now provided garbage disposal for all leftover food fit to eat.
Josiah had 'inherited' Sunny the canary from a neighbor in his old apartment. The girl had promised to reclaim the bird as soon as she could but had never returned. He now had a much larger cage compliments of Josiah's craft abilities and spent his days sunning himself in the main bunkhouse window.
"What does Sunny have to do with the furnace?" Buck asked.
"Well he's learned to mimic the furnace squeak exactly." Josiah chuckled, "he had me thinking I was going nuts today. I fixed the squeak then re-greased it four times before I realized it was him making the noise." Josiah's grin was infectious drawing similar ones from everyone.
Dinner ended with smiles and pudding.
"So where is Nathan" Chris asked later coming into the living room after supervising bedtime preparations. Buck and Josiah were already there relaxing a bit before heading to bed.
"He should be back by now. I guess Raine gave him a reason to be late," Buck grinned suggestively.
"I hope he didn't run into trouble. Today has been one of those days." Chris sighed, "Why is it when something weird happens it's never a single incident?"
"Sure has been a crazy day. Me with Jesse, Josiah and Sunny and then of course Mrs. Smith's dead cat."
"Dead cat?" Josiah asked, raising one eyebrow. Buck filled him in on the events surrounding Bucky the cat.
After he was finished all three men sat in silence for a moment started grinning. Grinning gave way to chuckling then laughter. Between laughs there were comments.
"Special place for a cow."
"Git the cat."
"What are you guys laughing about?" A disheveled Nathan stood in the doorway. His sweatshirt had a rip in the sleeve and there was a hole in his jeans.
"What happened to you?" Josiah asked as Nathan dropped into a recliner.
"Bambi was out for revenge." Nathan groaned closing his eyes. "We let her go and she attacked. I had to jump a fallen tree." He opened one eye to glare at his laughing comrades. "Laugh away, you have no idea how much trouble one animal can cause."
Laughter again circled the room.
Additional notes: Joy told me the original story of a cow her family owned that liked the neighbor's pasture better than her own. The bird story was one from my family. Billie and Bucky are courtesy of our own BR Nancy. The deer came from a news piece I vaguely remember reading several years ago. Hope you enjoyed them.