The Bandit in The Wagon by Diana L. Pierce Alias Dee Grainger all rights reserved

It was day break. The birds were singing loudly as Dee wiped her eyes and got up from her bedroll. She smelled the aroma of fresh made coffee and eggs frying. Her traveling companion was already up and ready for the day. Young Jim Horn had direct orders from his foreman to see Miss Grainger to visit her friends Mary and Tom Adams near Laramie and home again. He really wasn't too fond of the idea at first because of all the teasing the two of them have exchanged the past year since she came to live at Shiloh. He could see after taking her there and having brought her more than half way home again he was wrong. Dee could be a good friend. He notices her coming toward him, "It's about time you got up sleepy head. Me and Chance here have been up better than an hour now. We already ate, but got you some breakfast here, dig in." She yawns, sips on the coffee she just poured and takes the tin plate of eggs he hands her. "Thank you, you should have woken me up. Can't believe I slept that long." Jim chuckles, "I thought about dabbing some bacon grease on your face to see if Chance would get you up." She laughs, "Lucky for you that you didn't." Jim pats the dog on the head. "I know. I figured I didn't want my boy here in trouble." They pack up the wagon and are soon, back on the road.

Meanwhile back at Shiloh the hands are getting around for their day. The Virginian says to Trampas, "Hope Dee and Jim don't fight the whole time they're gone. I reckon they ought to be here sometime today." Trampas adds, "Hope Jim brought back some muscle with him, you know we still got plenty of post to drive. He might of got soft on us being gone a week." The foreman says, "I doubt it. Tom said he'd find him something to do." The men all head out for a day of fence building.

The travelers finally get back on Shiloh land, but have at least a couple hours before they reach the house. The wagon rocks back and forth on the rough washed out road. Jim has all he can do to handle it. "They must have had a down pour sometime after we left. Plenty dry again now." Dee's holding on tight to the side of the wagon and holding on to her dog. "It seems to me. You could find a smoother path than this." Bumpy ruts raise chaos with the wagons under structure and it begins to squeak loudly and wobble as they reach better ground. Jim yells, "Woo! Woo!" pulling tightly on the reigns to bring them to a stop. He gets off the wagon and looks under it. It was plain to see the axle was almost ready to break. He sputters, "That's just great. The dang things busted." Dee gets off the wagon to investigate. She said, "At least we got two horses, guess we'll have to ride them home." Jim grins, "Guess we could. Why didn't I think of that?" Dee didn't give him her usual come back line. They unleash the team and pull them a long side the wagon to climb on easier. They ride off leaving everything in the wagon but Chance who follows behind them. As they reach the entrance to the ranch they hear the cowhands coming up behind them. Trampas is the first to meet them, "Where is the wagon?" Jim tells him about the break down and says, "That's why we're riding the horses back without it." Dee yells, "Come on, Chance!" She could see him coming quite some ways behind them. Trampas says, "The boss man's coming with an empty wagon. Take that back to get the stuff you left there, Jim." Jim takes the wagon and the Virginian ends up leading the team horse the rest of the way. Dee had already given her horse a drink and is putting it in the corral by the time the foreman gets there. "How was the Adams?" She smiles, "They were fine. Thanks for loaning me Jim. I know it put you shorthanded." He leads his horse to the water trough, "We've been short before. You two argue all the way or just half?" She said, "We don't argue that much. You know, Jim can be nice when he wants to be." With that she headed to the house with Chance by her side.

In the meantime Jim is almost to the abandon wagon. He hadn't thought anything about the basket of food they left drawing attention to wild animals. Not that there was much, but a loaf of bread and a few eggs left. When he starts to unload the wagon he sees something had been in the basket and left eggshells and bread crumbs all over. All of the sudden as he grabs a suitcase, he hears a loud chattering, the critter was still in the wagon. He waves his hat at him hooting and hollering trying to scare the masked intruder away. The raccoon stood on his back legs chattering and batting at Jim's hat with his paws. Trampas who was coming to help him with the wagon heard all the noise and rode up quickly to see what was taking place. "Yoo, Jim, who's your friend there, the masked bandit?" Jim still waving his hat at it yells, "Hurry! Shoot him." Trampas laughs, "Me shoot him, why don't you shoot him you got a gun?" Jim says, "I can't shoot the cute little rascal with him jawing me like that." Trampas fires a shot in the air and the raccoon takes off on a run. Trampas laughs harder, "You've been spending too much time with Dee. I can't wait to tell this story in the bunkhouse." Jim says, "I bet you can't. You going to help me with this stuff or not?" They load the wagon and tie the broken one up to pull it behind.

Sometime later in the living room of the house, the Graingers are talking about a barn dance their neighbors are having on Saturday night. Holly says, "Dee, have you ever been to a barn dance?" She smiles, "It's been years, but yes I've been to some." Elizabeth says, "Sounds like fun I think we all should go." Dee asks, "Do they square dance? I love to square dance." Her Uncle Clay answers, "The last one we went to they did. I haven't done much of that, in years, myself." Holly grins at him, "I'd say we better do something about that, my dear."

In the bunkhouse, Trampas has kept himself from laughing long enough. He just has to tell the guys about Jim and the raccoon incident. Jim hadn't got back from his chore yet, so now is the time to tell it. Trampas goes on and on about the critter sassing Jim. "I can't shoot the little rascal with him jawing me like that." They all roar with laughter. About the same time Jim comes in the door with the Virginian. Jim was annoyed with his friend, "Well, you couldn't shoot it either." The foreman says, "Let me get this straight. You two had an encounter with a raccoon and neither of you shot it? It could have had rabies." The two could see he was very serious. That was the end of the teasing.

Saturday night the Graingers and their cowhands were all at the barn dance. The music is great. The company is great. Everyone is having a grand time. Trampas is impressed that the new Grainger could square dance like that, "Ma'am where'd you learn to dance like that? Those calls get me goofed up sometimes." The Virginian grins, "Trampas, I see you tried going left when you should have been going right." They all laughed thinking they got one wise crack up on the king of kidders. Dee smiles, "The truth is Trampas. It's the only kind of dance I do know." Trampas says, "Well, here's a nice tune. Let me show you some moves. Shall we?" He guides her around the dance floor before she has time to say no. She steps on his feet, "Sorry, told you I can't dance like you do." He chuckles, "That's okay, just let me lead. Can you do that?" They both laugh. When the music stops they end up by door where the Graingers are. Clay asks, "Everyone ready to head back?" They all agree it's time to call it a night.

They had left Chance tied to the front porch to keep him out of mischief while they were gone. As they approached the house they could hear him barking. Holly says, "Sounds like Chance can hear us coming. He's letting us know it." The Virginian was riding along beside the carriage, "Sounds more like a distress cry to me." He hurries ahead of them to the house. Chance was barking at a raccoon and just as the rider got to him, the animal appeared too had bit the dog. The Virginian shot the raccoon. Shortly after, everyone was gathered around the porch. Dee runs to the dog. He was licking his front foot. "I don't think it broke the skin. I'm sure he'll be okay." Clay said, "Keep watch of it. We'll have the vet look at him tomorrow. Hope the thing wasn't rabid."

The next day the veterinary gave Chance a check-up. He said, "I don't see any open cuts but the dog should be under quarantine for ten days to be on the safe side." Dee tells him, "I'll keep him tied up days. He sleeps in my room nights anyways behind a closed door." Clay asks, "Could you tell if the raccoon looked sick?" The vet shakes his head, "No, it didn't look like it was, but had it been caged instead of shot we could have watched for signs in the raccoon, instead of the dog." The Virginian spoke up, "I didn't have much time to think about trapping it right then." The vet pointed to the little shed the hands had built for Holly's chickens, not yet occupied. "If it were me I'd put him in there. You can watch him through the chicken wire door." Everyone but Dee agreed to it. "That's just not right." The dog was put in the shed without her consent.

Every day, Dee spent most of her time sitting on a block of wood in front of the shed watching her dog. And every night she protested about having to keep Chance out there over night. As days went by she stopped complaining about it entirely. One early morning, the Virginian got around earlier than normal and was walking toward the corral when he spotted Dee coming from the house. He got out of sight and watched her as she put Chance back in the shed. He sneaks up beside her. "No wonder, you ain't been bickering lately about him being shut in." She nearly jumped out of shoes. "Come on, he's only got a couple days left." She knew she was about to get a scolding just from the sound of his voice. "I guess if you keep him shut in during the day. I can look the other way." She looks at him puzzled, "You're not mad? How come?" He puts his hand on her shoulder, "Maybe I agree with you this time."

Months had passed without any mention of rabies around the area. The veterinary stopped one day to visit as he was passing through. The Virginian and his cowhands were at the corral breaking horses. The vet asked, "Had anymore problems with raccoons, lately?" The foreman replies looking at his young cowhand, "No, but we ain't been leaving them any picnic baskets, lately either. Have we Jim?" Jim frowns at him without saying a word.

THE END