No Joking Around!
It was a hot day in Cowtown. The Masked Bull was out on the plains again robbing the stagecoach like he usually did. By this point, however, the civilians were prepared for his actions, even though they were getting sick of everything he was doing. They weren't entirely stressed over it, because they knew that with Moo Montana and the Cowboys on the job, the Masked Bull never got away with crimes in the end. In fact, nobody in Moo's 10+ years as Marshal had gotten away with crime. "That's quite an accomplishment if you ask me," Miss Lily once congratulated.
This was a bad thing for Mayor Bulloney, since he often relied on Sheriff Terrorbull to perform as the Masked Bull for help in his get-rich-quick schemes and his plots to kill Moo and the Cowboys. Sheriff Terrorbull was now the sheriff of Lonesome Gulch, but the mayor of that town was unaware of his front as the Masked Bull. But Cowtown knew it, because Moo was able to prove it.
How'd he prove it, you ask? When Puma had another freak attack and almost scared the people of Moo Mesa into running for their lives after gunfire from the Masked Bull, Cowlorado roped the Masked Bull in the utmost of excitement. Moo pulled off the mask later, revealing Terrorbull. "I knew it!" Puma screamed.
"So, old alarmist Puma was right," Moo had commented. "You're the Masked Bull, and you've tried to cover it up by letting your brother, Horrorbull, take on the role, haven't you?"
Mayor Bulloney watched Moo unmask the criminal and began weeping aloud, alone, in his office. It was over. His double life of evil and good had come to an end. I say that because he used his position as mayor for his get-rich-quick schemes, and now, he could no longer attempt anything. Cowtown later elected a new sheriff, Sheriff J. Paul Bull Dog (a bulldog, of course, making him Moo Mesa's first non-cattle law enforcer). Bull Dog did his job out of fairness and integrity, and often welcomed Moo Mesa's frequent visitors, the Fab 5, with glee. The people of Cowtown showed their forgiveness to Mayor Bulloney by re-electing him in the next election.
In case any of you forgot, the Fab 5 are cats who reside in Hicksburg, Texas. Their leader, Cody Belachman, the die-hard lynx proud to be a Texan (and likely to draw if you were to insult him or his home state), had lived in Hicksburg his whole life, and his fellow Texan wildcat, John Thane (a.k.a. the Masked Ranger because he suffered a fate similar to the Lone Ranger; he didn't have an Indian friend, however), moved to Hicksburg from Austin. "Bandit Bryce" Burton, the tiger formerly an outlaw due to amnesia, hailed from Arizona. Benjamin Travis, a Cuban bobcat by birth, moved to Texas when he was five years old. While he still had the heavy accent, he learned to talk cowboy talk. Finally, there was David Blaze, the lion rambler who left his family (and everything he had) at age 13 just so they could get out of financial troubles. His story was published in the papers and touched the hearts of citizens all over Texas, and all over Moo Mesa. Eventually he earned enough money from bounty hunting that he was able to buy a house with the works.
The day Sheriff Bull Dog first met the Fab 5 came from when he joined Moo and the Cowboys on their last trip to Hicksburg (on account of Billy the Kidder robbing the bank of which Mayor Bulloney was formerly the bank president, it was now run by Jules Bovine, Miss Lily's older brother by five months; unlike most recent cases, Cody Calf did not join the cowboys on this one). For Sheriff Bull Dog, a native of El Paso, Texas, it was like taking a vacation back home. This explained how Cody recognized him.
"Well, I'll be," he said. "Look who's a-comin', boys! It's our old pal, J. Paul Bull Dog, a-comin' with them cowboys from Cowtown."
"Seems he's all dressed up for the occasion," said Benjamin, noticing the sheriff star. "He got one of them stars on his clothes. But why ain't the ropin' cowboy got a star?"
"Guess he ain't earned one yet," Cody replied. "Now that there purple dude, the Dakota Dude, has one 'cause he's workin' for Moo."
The cowboys and Sheriff Bull Dog pulled up. "Howdy, Cody," they called.
"Howdy, Moo," Cody greeted heartily. "Y'all comin' down and seein' us today?"
"Yes, but not for a pleasure visit," Moo replied. "Billy the Kidder done robbed the bank and is fleeing here so he can hide, and possibly escape to Mexico."
"Mexico?" David exclaimed in mild shock. "That's a first. Usually, any outlaws I've dealt with are trying to escape Mexico and come here to hide. Perhaps they should start going the other way. It'd be a long ride to Brazil."
"Yep, but don't give them outlaws any ideas, David," Cody replied. "Meanwhile, I think we'd all be able to help y'all out. And Bull Dog, nice to see y'all again."
"You too, Cody," said Sheriff Bull Dog with a smile on his face. "For your information, it's now Sheriff Bull Dog, but I'm not telling you in anger. They elected me to Cowtown after Moo done proved once and for all Puma's instincts were correct: Sheriff Terrorbull is the Masked Bull, and when he ain't, he brother, Horrorbull, is. Sheriff Terrorbull is probably continuing his role as the Masked Bull since the town of Lonesome Gulch doesn't know that. Maybe it's best they didn't for now. But they will. Eventually."
"And one of these days, I'm gonna prove it for them," Moo promised. "In the meantime, have you seen Billy the Kidder anywhere?"
"What does he look like?" asked Bryce.
"He's a goat about 5'10", and he's got two henchmen with him, also goats, I think. He's always tricking folks with his jokes, using everything from jack-in-the-boxes to guns that fire out blocks that eventually spell out messages such as 'See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile.' Where have I heard that before?"
"Probably song lyrics," John guessed. "Just a guess, but I do think that's what it is."
"Yup," said Dakota. "If Billy the Kidder's here, my guess is he's probably causing havoc to the sheriff."
"That must explain the gunfire," said Cowlorado, motioning towards Main Street. "If we don't do something quick, the sheriff's gonna get killed."
"Come on, boys!" Moo called. "Let's rodeo!"
"Yippie-eye-oh-ki-ay! Yee-haw!" Cowlorado shouted with glee as he, Moo, Dakota, and Sheriff Bull Dog rode on towards Main Street.
"We're right behind y'all, Moo!" Cody shouted as he and the rest of the Fab 5 saddled up and followed them strategically.
Billy the Kidder wasn't with his henchmen on this occasion; he fired them after his last embarrassing encounter in Cowtown after getting a taste of his own medicine (during the incident where Cowlamity Kate dressed up like Miss Lily and ultimately helped trap him in his own trap). Here, he was firing his guns to scare the people while simultaneously surprising them with his jack-in-the-box pop-ups that read, "Fooled you!" Most of the scared ones were women and children; the men were firing back at Billy the Kidder.
Billy used his tactic he used on Miss Lily on Dusty Clark, the husky sheriff of Hicksburg, to take Dusty hostage. (When Dusty walked outside his office, a big box that read "Open up for a surprise" was lying out in the middle of the street. As soon as Dusty opened it, Billy the Kidder popped out, yelled, "Surprise!", grabbed Dusty by the throat, and hauled him off back to his getaway wagon.)
As soon as the joke-crazy goat made eye contact with Moo, he panicked. "Ack!" he screamed. "It's Moo! It's Moo Montana! Here in Texas! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" He kept firing his guns as he fled for his life, but Moo and the whole posse kept on blazing his trail. Moo tried firing golden stars from his two guns, but Billy dodged every one.
When it became appropriate, Moo turned to his adventure-loving deputy and said, "Cowlorado, why don't you teach him the ropes?"
"You betcha, buddy!" Cowlorado smiled. He grabbed his lariat, twirled it, and aimed for Billy the Kidder. While he scored a direct hit, Billy managed to escape. Oddly enough, Cowlorado's lariat did not break. "That's funny," he commented. "You'd think it'd break, but it didn't. I'll try again." He did so. Again, he got Billy, but Billy escaped.
The third time Cowlorado used his lariat (by Moo's instructions), he grabbed Dusty and his horse, Hurricane, and freed them from Billy's clutches. Billy shrieked at the sight but continued firing, leading the cowboys on a wild goose chase throughout Hicksburg. Civillians watched with intense anticipation and some even cheered when they saw the Fab 5 with Moo and his deputies (and Sheriff Bull Dog).
"Phew, what a relief," Dusty gasped. "What can I do to thank you?"
"No need to thank us," Moo replied. "Like it says in the Code of the West, 'Real cowboys always do their job unselfishly and without anyone else's debt involved."
"Seems Billy anticipated our arrival," Dakota spoke up. "What other tactics does he have?"
"I don't know," said Moo, "but we've got to think of something."
When the group got outside the main streets of Hicksburg and into the farming community, Billy was losing momentum. He decided it was time to try one last effort, so he pulled out a jack-in-the-box with explosives. When he threw it at the incoming cowboys, Dakota grabbed it and threw it back at him. The resulting explosion left Billy looking as black as charcoal. Cowlorado twirled his lariat and lassoed him for the third time. This time, Billy didn't try to escape; he was too tired to go anywhere.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "So close!"
"No jokin' around, Billy!" Cody snarled. "It's off to them prison bars with y'all's hind!"
"You weren't going to get past the Mexican borders because they were heavily guarded," Dusty added to the thought. "You know that!"
"I hate my life!" Billy cried, beginning to sob tears as the law cows and Dusty dragged him off to jail.
Back on Main Street, Cody fired two shots into the air and announced, "Y'all can come out now. That there jokester's out of them jokes!" The townspeople, relieved to hear that, came out in celebration. Some were crying from the action, of which Cowlorado and Dusty helped calm them down. Harry Stevens (a human being), the mayor of Hicksburg, was more than thrilled to see Moo and the cowboys again. "Moo Montana!" he exclaimed. "Boy, are we glad to see you, you and your friends being the best law cows on this side of the Mississippi."
"Well, thank you, Mayor Stevens," Moo replied in humility. "I appreciate the appreciation, but like it says in the Code of the West, which I live by, 'If you get a big head from helping people, your hat won't fit. I like that."
"Why don't y'all come on in to Callahan's Last Chance Saloon and have yourself a nice meal?" Dusty suggested. "It's the least we can offer."
"It's about that time, I suppose," said Moo. "Okay. We'll stop in." The cowboys and Fab 5 walked in to the saloon for lunch to celebrate their capture of Billy the Kidder while the mayor had the stolen money shipped back to Cowtown. Cody took the time to explain to Moo, "It's Callahan's Last Chance Saloon because it's named after my great-great-great-great-great grandpappy, the famous cowboy responsible for bringing them gangsters known as the Winchesters to justice. Y'all know what his reward was? $90,000!"
"$90,000?" Moo exclaimed. "You could retire with money like that!"
The cowboys sat down and took their orders. It was a great day to relax. As Moo would later put it in his journal, "Lives have been saved, schedules have been kept, and the money is safe back where it belongs."
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa © Ryan Brown
The Fab 5 © me