It was a hot sunrise in Cowtown, and Marshal Moo Montana was already on the lookout for trouble. Since the Masked Bull kept on robbing the various stagecoaches that came through town, he was hoping the Masked Bull was also responsible for the latest crystal mine robbery. The mine was located six miles south of Elbow's Bend. With Dakota and Cowlorado by the Marshal's side, no one got away with breaking the law in Moo Mesa; at least, no one got away with it in the end. Moo had informed his two deputies, the Dakota Dude and the Cowlorado Kid, after hearing faint screams of "HELP!" in the distance.
To ease their minds of the trouble, the cowboys had their instruments with them (Cowlorado on guitar, Moo on harmonica, Dakota on accordion) and were singing some of their favorite tunes, like "Clementine," "Home on the Range," and "How Dry Am I." "Like it says in the code," Moo once recalled, "music can be soothing to the soul if it's used properly."
When the fearless trio reached the crystal mind near Elbow's Bend (after stopping to find Cowlamity Kate, Dakota's girl, was also after the culprit), they found Miss Lily Bovine tied to the upper rocks nearby. "Miss Lily!" Moo exclaimed in shock, proceeding to fire a golden star from his gun. The star cut its way through the ropes and freed her. Cowlorado lassoed Lily out of the sky before she could crash and end up with a fatal broken bone. "Yee-haw!" he shouted in delight, taking pride in being the best roper (and rider) in Moo Mesa.
"Are you all right, Miss Lily?" Dakota asked.
"I'm fine, boys, and as always, ever so grateful," she replied in gladness. "I wish the Masked Bull would leave me alone. I don't know if I'm becoming a regularly-scheduled decoy for him just so he can finish you off. It's getting aggravating!"
"I'd be angry too if that varmint did that to me," said Kate. "He's got no business meddling with you, let alone the cowboys."
"Yup," said Dakota in agreement.
"Did you find why he was inside the mine?" Moo continued. "Was he after gold? Silver? Maybe even those wacky red crystals we've been seeing lately?"
"It was those wacky red crystals. He's using them to make dynamite so that he can get deeper into the mine and get the treasure that the family will Mayor Bulloney showed me just yesterday rightfully is mine. All I'd like to know is why I'm the Masked Bull's target, and what exactly those red crystals are."
"I think I can help," said a voice from behind. Everyone turned around just in time to see who it was. It was J.R., the cowboys' Indian friend. He fought alongside the cowboys on occasions in the same way Tonto aided the Lone Ranger. But in Moo Mesa, it was more like there were three Lone Rangers.
"Those crystals are crystals my tribe has valued for many years due to their explosive power," J.R. continued. "When we weren't using it to blast through the mines and look for resources vital to survival, our harness tools helps eliminate that explosive element, which I can't recall the name of, so that we could make jewelry with it. I may be an Indian camping out in a teepee, but it's a profitable business."
"I'm sure it is," Moo replied. "How does the Masked Bull turn it into dynamite he can blow up with a plunger, or else light the fuse?"
"All he has to do is mold it, like how you sometimes mold clay," said J.R. "I am certain if he blows up the crystal mine, either he'll get all the treasure, or nobody will get it."
"Not if we keep the mine safe," Cowlorado objected. "Just wish it wasn't so hot around here. As far as I know, the mayor's not hogging the water right now."
"Remember when he did that?" Dakota spoke up.
"Somewhat, Dakota," said Moo. "Good thing we all brought our canteens." The group paused to take a drink of water. Kate pulled out a spare canteen and divided up her water with Lily. J.R. had his own canteen.
"Guess this'll be a split-up job," Moo continued. "In my 10+ years as Marshall, I've had plenty of cases where the outlaw creates a diversion just so he can get back at the loot."
"I think that's the case," J.R. put in. "Someone's coming!"
Up in the distance, the group caught sight of Jack, Cowtown's telegram specialist, panicking as he ran up to the cowboys. "Marshal! Marshal! The Masked Bull is robbing the bank! It's not the mayor's bank, but it's the First National Bank of Cowtown! He's done cleaned out the area, and even took away the spider cobwebs! You've got to stop him!" Jack panted for some air, then collapsed.
"See what I mean?" Moo replied. "That's our diversion right there. Cowlorado, why don't you and Dakota teach him a thing or too? Kate, J.R., and I will stay right here with Lily and guard the mine in case he comes back. Maybe you can even create your own diversion and lead him back here."
"You betcha, buddy!" Cowlorado smiled. "Yippe-eye-oh-ki-yay! Yee-haw!" He saddled up on Jezebell (Cowloardo's beloved horse), and rode off to town, towards the bank where Jack had indicated the Masked Bull was going. (Moo's horse was Cyclone.)
By the time our hero arrived at the scene, several citizens had been desperate to catch their breath. "What happened here?" he asked, double-checking Jack's account with the citizens in hoping for a match (a strategy Moo claimed was part of the Code of the West).
"Masked Bull done robbed this here bank!" said a customer. "All them greenbacks of mine I ever made in my lifetime are inside this here bank, or at least, they were inside this here bank. I hate that there Bull! I wish he was dead!"
"Now I don't plan on that, but he is in a whole heap of a lot of trouble already," Cowlorado replied. "If y'all are wondering, Marshal Moo is guarding some crystal mine the Masked Bull is planning to attack with some red crystals he's already stolen out of there. Says he's gonna make dynamite out of the crystals and blow up the mine so that the treasure can be his and not Miss Lily's like it says in her father's will."
"I heard about that," said Sally Sue Holsteen, a girl who had a crush on Cowlorado (but was covering it up for his sake here). "He used some of those to get into the vault. It was a total bank panic!"
"You came too late, but you did come as fast as you can, and that's what we appreciate," said the customer who spoke first. "You think he went back to the mine or did he go on to Elbow's Bend? He said something about robbing their banks."
"He probably went there, but I appreciate the information. Marshal Moo will be glad to hear it." Cowlorado rode on back to the mine after waving goodbye to the crowds and reported to his friends what happened. "I got there too late," he said, "but according to Sally Sue Holsteen and some other customer, the Masked Bull used dynamite from those very crystals to get into the vault. Said he was gonna rob the banks in Elbow's Bend!"
"Yes!" Kate exclaimed. "We've got that varmint right where we want 'em!"
"Just like I figured it would happen," Moo commented. "He doesn't want the treasure in the mine until he's done gone and robbed all the banks in Moo Mesa! Come on, boys! Let's go nab him! Let's rodeo!"
"Yippe-eye-oh-ki-yay! Yee-haw!" Cowlorado shouted. "Look out, Masked Bull! We're coming to collect!" J.R. mounted his horse and had Lily ride with him.
When the group got to Elbow's Bend, there was the Masked Bull, clear as ever, robbing the Second National Bank of Elbow's Bend. Someone had just pulled the alarm at the sight of his henchmen, Saddlesore and Boot Hill Buzzard. Both henchmen exited the bank with their respective money bags, and naturally, both panicked.
"Marshal Moo!" Saddlesore screamed.
"Marshal Moo Montana!" Boot Hill Buzzard echoed.
"You're right both times!" Moo quipped. "You're not going anywhere, however!"
"Oh, yes, we is! But you ain't!" Saddlesore shot back. "Stick 'em up!" He drew his pistol.
"I think you're the one who should be sticking them up!" Moo replied, drawing his two pistols and firing golden stars. The stars knocked both henchmen out cold after ricocheting off several buildings. The Masked Bull came out to see what all the commotion was about. "What's going on here?" he bellowed.
"Well, well, well!" Moo said sarcastically. "If it ain't our old friend, Masked Bull! How's the dynamite business?"
"How'd you…" began the Masked Bull, stopping himself. "Oh, dagnabbit! Them customers are always tattling on me! How dare it's always you!"
"Who did you expect?" Cowlorado taunted. "Matt Dillon?"
"Yup," Dakota agreed.
Cowlorado grabbed his rope and threw it around the Masked Bull before he could make any escapes. "You won't be needing all that bounty where you're going!"
"Not again! Not again!" Saddlesore cried. "Why do we always end up rotting in that prison cell?"
The group proceeded back to Cowtown and threw the criminals in jail. The mayor pretended to be grateful, but unbeknownst to Moo or anyone else, he himself was in on all the Masked Bull's plots, since the Masked Bull was in reality Sheriff Terrorbull, something only Puma knew. No one would believe Puma, however, because he was known for being an alarmist.
"Got him again, eh, Marshal?" the mayor began.
"Yep," said Moo. "All we have to do now is return the stolen cash to its respective banks. Dakota and Cowlorado are at it right now."
"Good," said the mayor. "Let's hope the Masked Bull has learned his lesson." After Moo left, the mayor turned to the Masked Bull and said, "Of course I know you really won't."
"And next time, that insolent Marshal can't stop me!" replied the Masked Bull. He rested in the cell to figure up his next plan. Meanwhile, Lily took official claim of the gold and silver within the crystal mine, and added it to the safes found within her home. As for the cowboys and J.R., they spent the rest of their day going on another cattle drive.
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa © Ryan Brown