This is an old west story. Vin and Ezra get stuck with morning patrol.
"Whacha got there, Ez?" Vin asked as he sat down next to Ezra at Ezra's favorite table.
"A letter from mother," Ezra sighed. "She wrote to tell me of her exploits and a chance meeting with a gentleman that has a beautiful daughter about my age. She desires for the young lady and myself to meet and perhaps get to know one another. She wants me to meet them in Atlanta since the young lady is not willing to come out west just to meet me," Ezra said and folded up the letter and slipped it back into it's envelope and tucked it in his coat pocket.
"You goin' ta meet 'em?"
"No. I am in no hurry to marry. I will, however, send mother my regrets as I will not be joining her."
Vin smiled, "Yeah, I can tell ya real broken up about not joinin' her and the young lady."
Ezra laughed, "Caught that did you?"
"It was kinda hard ta miss. Maybe she wants grandkids," Vin said and took a drink of his beer.
"Well, if that is her plan, it will not be happening any time soon."
Vin and Ezra joked about Maude trying to marry Ezra off to various young ladies over the past years. They were joined by Buck and JD who got in on the conversation.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra sent a telegraph off to Maude soon after the telegraph operator entered the telegraph office the next morning, informing her that he would not be meeting her in Atlanta or anywhere else for that matter.
When Ezra stepped out of the telegraph office, he seen Chris and Vin talking outside the saloon. He couldn't hear what was being said, but knew something was up when they were done because Vin nodded and Chris entered the saloon.
Vin looked up and around the town and spotted Ezra and waved him over.
Ezra sighed and strolled over to Vin, "What does our infamous leader want of us this morning?"
"Josiah and Nathan can't do morning patrol because Mrs. Ramsey went into labor. So, you and me got it."
Ezra shook his head, "How many does this one make?" Ezra asked as he and Vin walked to the livery.
"I think it's number six. Ain't for sure though." Vin smiled.
"What are you thinking?" Ezra asked at the look on Vin's face.
"I'm a bit peckish?" Vin answered, not quite thinking peckish was the right word.
Ezra smiled and nodded his head knowing what Vin meant, "What do you have in mind?"
"I's a thinking about Mrs. O'Dell and how she's always saying yer a mite thin."
Ezra laughed, "I am assuming you want to begin at the end of our usual patrol route."
Vin wagged his eyebrows and took off at a dead run the rest of the way to the livery with Ezra right behind him. The two peacekeepers didn't take long to saddle up and ride out. Buck, Chris and JD watched the two ride out.
"Those two are up to somethin'." Buck said as he heard them laughing on their way out of town.
"Don't care," Chris said. "I'm going to my room."
Buck smiled, "Don't tell me you're getting to old for night patrol."
"I'm not much older then you, so go to hell," Chris yawned.
"Didn't you do the night patrol with Chris?" JD asked after Chris had left.
"Yep," Buck yawned.
JD smiled, "Go to bed Buck."
+ + + + + + +
As Vin and Ezra approached the small home stead, they could hear old Sadie barking their arrival. Mrs. O'Dell stepped out of the farm house, wiping her hands off on her flour covered apron.
She smiled up at the two peacekeepers, "Where have the two of you been keeping your selves?" She looked them over and shook her head, "I swear Ezra Standish, you get thinner each time I see you, and you ain't much better Vin Tanner. Come on, get down off those horses and get inside so I can feed ya."
Knowing the woman wouldn't take no for an answer, Ezra and Vin dismounted and followed the woman inside.
"Sit and I'll get ya boys a plate of flapjacks, eggs and bacon and some coffee. Can't have you doing morning patrol on a chilly morning without something hot inside ya ta keep ya warm, now can I?"
While Ezra and Vin ate, Mrs. O'Dell got down a couple of small tins and started to fill them with chocolate chip cookies and fudge brownies. She then came out of a back room with a basket and placed the tins inside it along with a few slices of corn bread, some cold fried chicken and a couple of apples and pears a piece.
"Now this should tie you over till you get back to Four Corners."
"Yes Ma'am." Vin smiled, his mouth watering for the brownies.
"What have you got frying in your pan?" Ezra asked.
"Fry cakes. Would you like to try one?"
"They do smell delightful," Ezra answered.
Mrs. O'Dell opened the door to the oven and pulled out a roasting pan full of the fry cakes and offered Ezra and Vin each one.
Ezra took a bite and moaned. "This is as delightful as it smells. What is inside it?"
Mrs. O'Dell smiled, "Raspberry jam. My children loved them. I made them because my oldest is coming for a visit later." Mrs. O'Dell put a few of the fry cakes in the basket, "I don't think he'll mind if you have a few of them."
Vin enjoyed the fry cake as much as Ezra did. "These are really good," Vin said and licked the powdered sugar from his fingers.
Mrs. O'Dell took a couple of canteens and filled them with water before she sent them on their way. Ezra strapped the basket handle to the saddle horn and Vin hung the canteens from his saddle horn. Both men tipped their hats to the woman and rode away to finish their patrol.
They had rode about forty five minutes when they came upon a man and his two children. The father was leading a chestnut roan with his children riding it. The man smiled when he seen Vin and Ezra.
"Morning Mr. Tanner, Mr. Standish."
"Morning to you Mr. Westen," Ezra greeted.
"Howdy," Vin said.
"May we assume that was your broken down buggy back a few miles?"
"Yep. I knew that wheel was getting bad, but I was hoping it wouldn't have to be fixed 'til after harvest."
"When it broke, Suzie got hurted. That's why she's crying," Tommy told them.
"You got a ways to walk before ya get home, don't ya?" Vin asked.
"Oh, about ten, twelve miles," Mr. Westen agreed.
"How about we take the children so you can ride," Ezra said.
"I don't want to trouble you boys none."
"Ain't no trouble," Vin said as he reached over and picked up the little girl and handed her over to Ezra.
"That would be mighty kind of you. Thank you."
Vin then took Tommy and sat him in front.
"I have just the thing for a hurt," Ezra said and reached into the basket and took out the tin with the chocolate chip cookies and gave Suzie one. He then handed the tin over to Vin so Tommy could get one. Vin offered the father a cookie but the man declined. Tommy and Suzie thank Ezra for the cookies.
By the time Vin and Ezra escorted the father and children home, the cookies were gone. Mrs. Westen was waiting for her husband and children outside on the porch in a rocking chair, rocking her five-month-old baby.
"I was getting worried, Carl," Mrs. Westen said as she came to stand in the yard. "Mr. Tanner, Mr. Standish."
Mr. Westen sighed, "The wheel finally broke and I had to leave it behind. I didn't get to far when Misters Tanner and Standish came along and brought us the rest of the way."
"Yeah mama. Mr. Ezra let us have his choco chip cookies," Suzie beamed.
"Oh he did, did he?"
"Yep and they were good," Tommy said.
Vin and Ezra handed their charges down to their father when he came over for them.
"I hope the children weren't any trouble for you."
"No Ma'am," Vin said and tipped his hat.
"I thank you for bringing my family home safely."
"That's what were here for." Ezra smiled down at the woman and tipped his hat.
Vin and Ezra left the small family and went back to their patrol.
They had only gotten a few miles down the road when they came upon old man Hadley and his mule.
"A good morning to you Mr. Hadley." Ezra said and tipped his hat.
"A good morning, ha. What's so good about it"
"Is Lizzie givin' ya crap this mornin'?" Vin smiled.
"When ain't she? One of these days she's goin' ta push me too far, Boys"
"What's got her in a tizzy this mornin'?" Vin laughed.
"We got stuck out here last night and ain't ate our mornin' meal. I keep tellin' her there's oats and maybe an apple a waitin' at the cabin. Does she care?"
"Perhaps we can help," Ezra said and reached into the basket and produced the apples and pears.
"Are ya hungry, Mr. Hadley?" Vin asked when Ezra got down and walked over to the mule and offered her an apple.
"Yeah, I could eat somethin', but I could sure go for some water."
Ezra handed the old man the other apple and two pears then took one of the canteens of water from Vin and handed to him. "These should get you back to your cabin."
Mr. Hadley took a drink of water and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his thread bare coat, "They sure will, Boys. It's mighty kind of ya, thank you."
Ezra mounted up on his horse. Ezra and Vin bid Mr. Hadley and Lizzie a good day, tipped their hats and moved further down the road.
"Ya know, Ez, he ain't never gettin' rid of Lizzie." Vin smiled.
Ezra shook his head and laughed right along with Vin.
They came to a fork in the road and stopped, "Which way, Mr. Tanner?"
Vin looked over at Ezra, "How soon da ya want ta get back?"
Ezra took a deep breath and pondered then smiled over at Vin, "I have nothing to rush back to, and yourself?"
"Nope," Vin smiled and went the right.
Ezra followed. It wasn't long before they came across another situation needing their assistance.
Ezra looked over at Vin, "Am I seeing what I think I am seeing?"
"Well, Ez, that depends, ifin' yer seein' the same thin' I am."
"What, prey tell, is that?"
"I's seeing a bunch a sheep in the middle of the road. A man and woman I don't know with a couple of kids chasin' puppies."
Ezra nodded, "Then we are seeing the same thing."
Vin and Ezra dismounted their horses and walked over to the couple.
"May we be of assistance?" Ezra asked.
The woman took one look at Vin and Ezra, "No, it's okay."
"Loretta, please let me handle this. We could use their help."
"We don't know them, Howard."
"Then let me introduce myself and my companion. Ezra P. Standish and this is Vin Tanner. We, along with five other men, protect the town of Four Corners and its surrounding area."
The children stopped chasing the puppies when Ezra introduced himself and Vin and ran over to him.
"Your real!" One of the boys said.
Vin and Ezra looked at one another then back at the boy, "Very much so. What is your name young man?" Ezra asked.
"I'm Caleb and he's Jacob. We're twins."
"Yeah, Ma said you wasn't real." Jacob produced a dime store novel from his back pocket, "See Ma, we told you they were real."
"Yeah, he's the gambler and he's the bounty hunter. Jock Steele wrote about 'em."
"I think we can trust them, Loretta." Howard smiled at his wife.
"Please forgive me. You can not be to careful when you have ten year old boys that seem to find trouble."
"It's okay Ma'am. Boys can be a real handful. What can we help ya with?" Vin asked.
"Can you help us catch the puppies?" Caleb asked.
Ezra smiled down at the boy, "I think I may have the very thing that will help with that."
"Yeah, we won't have ta chase them. Ez has somethin' that will bring them right to us."
Ezra went to the basket and took out the chicken.
"Howard, would you please get the tin plates so Mr. Standish can tear the chicken into them?"
Howard reached into the covered wagon and grabbed the plates. Vin took his rope from his saddle and cut it up into six pieces so when the six puppies came to eat the chicken, along with their mother, Vin and the boys could tie a piece of the rope around the puppies necks so they couldn't get away from them again.
"Now maybe we can go on ahead to our land," Howard sighed. Howard then turned toward Ezra and Vin, "Thank you for the help. I'm Howard Gatehouse. This is my wife Loretta."
"When we get settled, we would love to have the two of you for supper some time." Loretta smiled.
"Where's yer land?" Vin asked.
"We bought the Taggert farm. They're kin to Loretta so we got a good deal."
"Yer almost there. It's just a little ways up this road."
"You hear that boys? We're almost home," Loretta said.
The boys shouted excitedly.
"I think we can handle it from here, Mister Tanner, Mr. Standish," Howard said.
Vin and Ezra shook hands with Howard and mounted their horses and went on their way.
"Hey Ez. Could ya hand me one of the fry cakes."
"Sure thing, Vin." Ezra handed Vin one of the cakes and took one for himself and they each took a drink from the canteen.
They ate the fry cakes as they rode on. They had gotten a few miles when they heard a yell for help and spurred their horses to go faster. The yell lead them to a river bank. Both men jumped from their horses and ran to the river bank. There, in the water, was a woman clinging to a downed tree. Both men took off their boots and without hesitation, wadded in. As they got closer to the woman, they could tell she was just a teenager. They helped her out of the river.
"Thank you, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Standish," the girl said through chattering teeth.
"Where did you fall in, Betty?" Ezra asked.
"Up the road a bit. Frankie's still there. I told him not to play near the river but he did any way and fell in. I got him out but the river bank was to slippery and I was cold and couldn't get out myself. I've got ta get back to him."
"We'll take ya to him," Vin said.
Ezra mounted up first. Vin helped Betty up to sit behind Ezra then mounted up himself. They took off as fast as they dared to where Betty said she left Frankie. When they arrived, Frankie was sitting under a tree, crying. Their draft horse was grazing near by. Betty got down and ran to her brother. Vin and Ezra joined them.
Frankie hugged Betty, "I lost mama's present."
"It's okay, Frankie. We'll find something else."
Frankie looked up at Vin and Ezra, "It's mama's birthday."
"We were coming back from town with her present and now it's in the river," Betty explained.
Vin looked around the area and seen the wild flowers. Ezra knew what Vin was going to say and nodded to him.
"There's a lot of wild flowers here. I's sure she'll like a bunch of 'em fer her birthday."
"We don't have anything to put them in," Frankie said.
"You do now," Ezra said when he returned and handed the boy the basket.
Vin and Ezra helped Frankie and Betty pick the wild flowers, then escorted them home.
Mrs. Ruxton was hanging laundry out on the line when Vin and Ezra rode up with Betty and Frankie. She stopped and wondered over to Vin and Ezra.
"Good afternoon, Gentlemen. I thought it was Josiah's and Nathan's turn for morning patrol," the widow said when she stopped in front of Vin and Ezra.
"They had ta go and help Mrs. Ramsey have her baby," Vin said.
The Widow nodded her head in understanding. "I have a pot of beans and ham on the stove for lunch if your interested. Sorry, I don't have any corn bread to go with it."
Vin smiled over at Ezra. Ezra reached into his saddle bag and removed the tin that had the chocolate chip cookies and handed it down to the widow, "You do now."
The widow took the tin and looked in it, "Thank you."
"We got ta get back ta town," Vin said.
"Mama, Mister's Vin and Ezra helped us pick your birthday present. See," Frankie said and held out the basket.
The widow took the basket and smiled at the wild flowers then looked up at Vin and Ezra, "Thank you. Are you sure you don't want to join us? I have plenty."
"Yes, Ma'am. Mr. Tanner and I are late as it is," Ezra said. "And a happy birthday to you."
"Yeah, happy birthday, Ma'am."
"Thank you and when you see Josiah, tell him I said hi and he has to come for supper soon."
"We shell relay your message," Ezra said.
Both Vin and Ezra tipped their hats and left the small family.
+ + + + + + +
Chris looked down at his pocket watch then back down the road toward the end of town. "Their late."
Buck laughed, "They've been late before, Chris."
"Yeah I know, but it still bothers me every time those two are off on their own and late getting back."
"Maybe they ran into some trouble?" Buck smiled up at Chris.
Chris glared down at Buck, "That's what I'm afraid of."
"More then likely, Chris, they ran into Mrs. O'Dell. You know how found she is of those two. Always trying to fatten them up."
This got a laugh out of Chris.
Chris and Buck looked down the street when they heard Josiah and Nathan. Buck stood up next to Chris when the two men stopped in front of them.
"How did it go?" Buck asked.
"Fine. Real fine. She had a boy," Nathan answered and dismounted.
"Yep, and his name is Benjamin Jackson Ramsey," Josiah said after he dismounted.
Buck nodded his head, "Good name."
"Why are the two of you out here and not inside the saloon?" Nathan asked.
"We're waiting on Vin and Ezra," Chris sighed.
"Yeah, Chris here put them on morning patrol and now their late getting back."
Nathan groaned, "Why did you do a stupid thing like that? You know how those two find trouble." Nathan shook his head, "I'll go and get what I think we'll need when we go looking for 'em."
"I don't think you're going to need to do that Nate," Josiah said and indicated two approaching riders in the distance.
JD joined the four men, "See Chris, they're fine. Ya didn't have to worry about 'em."
Vin and Ezra stopped in front of the five men and dismounted.
"You're late," Chris said. "Mind telling me why?"
Ezra and Vin told the men what had happen on their patrol as they lead the way into the saloon and to their usual table.
"Sounds like the two of you had a busy morning," Josiah said.
"Yeah, we did. Mrs. Ruxton said ta say hi to ya Josiah," Vin said.
"And she wishes for you to join her and her children for an evening meal. May I suggest this evening?" Ezra smiled at Josiah.
"Why is this evening?" Josiah asked.
"It's her birthday today," Vin answered.
"It is? Huh," Josiah said and rubbed his grizzled chin. "That's a mighty fine suggestion, Ez. I think I will."
Inez brought over their lunches and mugs of beer. After they all ate, Vin and Ezra left to take care of their horses.
"Ya think we should tell 'em about the brownies?" Vin asked Ezra as the two of them brushed their horses.
"After the morning we had, I think not. I have been looking forward to them. Except for the fry cakes and one canteen of water, we gave away our basket and it's goodies."
Vin nodded his head and smiled, "I's a hopin' ya'd say that."
"When we finish, we can meet up on the roof of the saloon and have our just dessert," Ezra said.
"Sounds good ta me. Do we want milk or coffee with 'em?"
Ezra thought about Vin's question for a minute then looked up at Vin's smiling face. Both men said milk at the same time and laughed. With their saddle bags slung over their shoulders, Vin and Ezra stopped at Vin's wagon so he could drop off his saddle bag then went to the saloon. Vin stopped at the bar while Ezra went up to his room. Ezra met Vin in the hallway outside of his room. He and Vin made their way to the roof. Once they got to their favorite sitting place, Ezra opened the tin and sat it between them. Vin handed Ezra his mug of milk and sighed.
Down below they could hear the town's people moving about their daily lives while they sat back and enjoyed their just dessert of fudge brownies and milk.
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