Independence Isn't Everything

Cody Calf had always wanted to prove to himself and to everyone else that he could be a great law cow even at the risk of getting killed. Miss Lily had adapted to his bigger amount of risks even though she still worried about him, and Moo and his posse were still somewhat overprotective of him. The Cowgoyle incident was a good example of this, as it would have meant the death of Cody had he not lucked out with the stalactite. "Maybe giving him that honorary deputy star was a mistake," Moo said to himself one day. "It's gone to his head."

But with every law cow duty comes a risk, and Cody knew it. He was one of the bravest cattle in Moo Mesa, even if he was not the brightest or the one with the most common sense. Some of his risks were worth the trouble, and some were not but turned out helpful in the end. (A good example of a risk not worth taking was Cody's adventure into Misty Swamp to reclaim his $25 he saved for a new pair of cowboy boots from Captain Longhorn Silver. Had it not been for that risk, however, Moo could not have captured Longhorn and arrested him for the good of the community. Needless to say, Moo called Fort Knight and they cooperated with replacing the stolen gold Longhorn had melted. As for the Masked Bull, it only added to his list of failures.)

Overprotection sometimes leads to extensive capture, and in this case, the Masked Bull held Cody hostage one day as bait to kill Moo and his posse. The Masked Bull had jumped to the conclusion Cody could not handle himself, when he clearly could. As a result, it was a startling shock to the Masked Bull that Cody was not panicking over the situation, but handling it professionally. "You brat!" he sneered. "You're supposed to be screaming bloody murder over this!"

"You don't know what I'm capable of, you bushwhacker!" Cody protested. "Besides, Moo will get me out of this!"

"Oh, I think not. This is going to be Moo's last moo!" the ever-hated outlaw sneered as he planted dynamite over a cliff. "He'll get a real bang out of it!"

Back in Cowtown, Miss Lily had received word that Cody had been cownapped (again) and she was shedding tears, although she was not bawling over it. "I wish I could be a better bovine to him," she sobbed as she reported to Moo the bad news. "He's been acting awfully independent lately, and he's only, uh, what is it? 10 years old? I've genuinely forgotten it. What am I to do?"

"Calm down, Miss Lily," Moo replied, trying to help her feel better. "We'll find him and bring him back. I just have a feeling we underestimated calf-pint. I somewhat regret giving him that honorary deputy star because I believe it went to his head. He has proven himself capable of coming through in the end, just as he did several months ago with Five Card Cud. Like the Code of the West says, 'Jeopardizing your life is only worth it if it saves millions more.' Cody's done that a few times, hasn't he?"

"Yes, he has," Miss Lily nodded, "but I still worry about him."

"Yup," said Dakota.

"I think you're worrying a bit too much. Just try not to think about it," Moo continued. "He'll be all right. Let's rodeo, boys!" The trio saddled up and headed off towards where it was reported Cody was being held.

The Masked Bull was working all by himself, because he fired Saddlesore and Boot Hill Buzzard when they proved to be too much of an incompetent hassle for him. So he sent them to a factory in Chicago to work until they could "learn to behave like a real outlaw and prove you can eliminate that rotten Marshal," as he put it.

"You won't get away with this, and…" Cody began, noticing their absence. "Oh. You don't have those two bumbling birdbrains anymore."

"Nope," said the Masked Bull. "They can't do anything right. Actually, Saddlesore was more capable than Boot Hill Buzzard, because he at least learned to read and write. So it's easier doing crimes by myself. Now you just wait here. This is where I pull over and stop." He brought his horse to a stand still, got off, and went to go set the dynamite. Cody struggled to free himself from the ropes that bound him but was making no progress.

Then several gunshots occurred, and a gold star came right at Cody and promptly broke the ropes that bound him tight. "Moo!" he exclaimed as he jumped free of the Masked Bull's horse.

"There you are, calf-pint!" Dakota exclaimed.

"Are you all right?" Cowlorado added. "Miss Lily is plumb worried about you!"

"I can handle myself," Cody replied.

"Yeah, but she doesn't know that," said Moo. "I feel we underestimated you, and we apologize for that. In the meantime, get on my horse, and please, stay on the horse. And we'll in return see to it that the Masked Bull doesn't bother you anymore."

"Okay," Cody agreed as he jumped on Cyclone, Moo's beloved horse. (Cowlorado's was Jezebel.) He held on tight as the cowboys charged on through the mesa.

"Now where'd that mangy varmint get to?" Dakota asked, all business as usual.

"He's hiding somewhere," Cody replied. "He's planting dynamite somewhere, but I can't recall where. All I know is that it is to be the end of you."

"Well, two can play at that game, but I'm not trying to kill the Masked Bull, just bring him to justice," Moo replied.

Not seeing Moo coming although seeing that Cody escaped, the Masked Bull pushed down on the plunger that activated the dynamite. "So that brat got away!" he said. "Actually, I anticipated that. No matter. Your marshalling days are over, Moo!"

The resulting explosion caused an avalanche of rocks that forced the cowboys to change directions, but it also left the Masked Bull in a predicament, as some of the rocks turned the wrong way and went for him. He ran as fast as his hooves would take him and managed to find his horse in the nick of time, although by that point he was too exhausted to continue. "This isn't worth it," he said. "I'll have to find some other way, or retire from crime altogether. I never did trust Mayor Bulloney as it was, because he's the one that really wants Moo to die."

Cowlorado spotted the Masked Bull at that moment, and the cowboys headed in his direction. When they found him, the Masked Bull went ahead and surrendered. "All right! You got me!" he exclaimed. "Go ahead! I'm too tired to carry on like this!"

"You did save us the trouble of arresting you the hard way," Moo made the comment as the Masked Bull reached for the sky. "I appreciate that."

"I will confess," the Masked Bull continued, "I'm running out of ideas. Either that or I'm getting too predictable. Just remember that I'm not working for Mayor Bulloney anymore, and I think he's the one that really wants you to die. That way it doesn't stop him from becoming richer. That's just how I see it, but I could be wrong. I'm retiring from crime. It's not worth it."

"The Mayor does have suspicion written all over him," Moo agreed.

Back in Cowtown, the townsfolk were all smiles as Moo returned with his posse, Cody, and the Masked Bull under custody. The town's new jail had just finished its final construction phase and was ready to be put to use, so Moo put the Masked Bull in there. "What? I don't remember this one," he said.

"We just finished building it, that's why," Moo replied as he put the Masked Bull behind bars. "You're our first customer, so to speak. We built it because it was getting to be too much of a hassle with the Sheriff's office also being a prison hall with too many evildoers going in there, although some crooks still do."

"How long am I going to be in here?"

"However long the judge decides. If Mayor Bulloney turns out to be the judge, he may not want you to go to jail. Last time he served as judge was during the whole incident where Puma blew a hole in your alibi and your twin was trying to protect your identity. Where is Horrorbull anyway? I know you are Terrorbull."

"He got killed in a gunfight," the Masked Bull replied sadly. "He was my brother, so it was sad for me for a bit, but justice had to be done I guess. He was involved in a bank robbery that also would've meant the murder of the bank manager, so the act was in self-defense."

"Who killed him?"

"The tiger they call 'Bandit Bryce,' that's who. Again, it was in self-defense on Bryce's part."

"I see that. Well, I must be off. And don't you go trying any more schemes, at least not while my back is turned."

"Don't worry," the Masked Bull sighed. "I've lost my touch for crime. It just doesn't pay."

"Nope," said Dakota to himself, overhearing the remark.

Moo, Dakota, and Cowlorado walked back to Miss Lily's Tumbleweed Saloon, where she and Cody were reunited to the delight of the townsfolk. "I was so worried!" she was heard to remark as the group walked in for lunch.

"I wasn't," Cody replied proudly. "I knew Moo would come to help. If not, I would've found a way to get out anyway. It just required a little patience and a lot of guts."

"If it weren't for calf-pint," Cowlorado put in, "we've not had a clue the Masked Bull was planting dynamite."

"He's a great one," Moo smiled. "He's definitely got what it takes to have my job when I pass and head for that great cattle drive in the sky."

THE END

Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa © Ryan Brown

The Fab 5 © me