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Bo Drury

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Albert and Betsy Lost on the Trail
By Bo Drury
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Bo Drury
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followed by his little sister as he hunts for the missing family cow Albert discovers the indians are on thier trail and escapes into the woods becoming lost

The first rays of sunshine had lightened the sky and then burst forth, its red gold rays casting far reaching shadows across the sleepy camp. Libby, Alberts Mother, and several other early risers had come to the fire to warm. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.” Carl remarked looking at the red glow of light in the east. Looking up and taking in the brilliant sight Libby shook her head.” Remember what the sailors say….red sun in the morning…sailors take warning….” She smiled at him then turned serious as she looked back towards the area where the stock had been bedded down. “What’s wrong with that cow? She’s been putting up a fuss all morning, woke me up before daylight. Looking toward the second wagon she called out.” Albert...hustle up and see what’s wrong with ole Bossy.” “It’s the smell of those wolves prowling around, I’m sure makes her nervous about the calf.” Carl allowed “You think they would come in this close?” “The dog would set up a howl if they did.” he assured her.” I’ve noticed old Cap is hanging in close though. He wants no part of that pack of wolves.” Thirteen year old Albert climbed down from the wagon, none to happy about being rousted out of his warm bed to check on the dumb cow. “May as well milk her while you’re at it, Albert.” His mother said handing him the milk pail,” It’ll go good with these grits this morning.” she said as she stirred the bubbling broth over the fire. There was no doubt in any ones mind that Albert was disgusted as he stomped away in the direction of the cow, muttering under his breath as he went. Pouring Carl another cup of coffee she remarked,” She’s quietened down already. Maybe she was just lonely.” They all looked up as Albert came hurrying back. “Bossy broke the rope and ran off into the woods. The calf is gone.” “Darn those wolves.” Carl stood up,” get your snow shoes on son, and see if you can catch her. No time to look for the calf. Probably couldn’t find it anyway. We’ll get moving as soon as you get back.” Albert grabbed a biscuit and stuffed it into his mouth, then picked up two more and put in his pocket as he hurried away. “I’ll save you some breakfast.” his mother called after him as he hurriedly donned his snow shoes, and sheep lined coat. He wrapped a scarf around his head and face and trudged through the thick snow in search of Bossy. Ole Cap leaping along behind him. The cold made his eyes tear up and his nose turn red. “That darned dog will not be any help getting Bossy back, probably run her further into the woods.” Carl said watching after them. No one noticed a few minutes later when Albert’s little sister, Betsy, bundled up in her coat followed in the tracks of her big brother. Albert didn’t go far before he figured out there were feet print other than his or Bossy’s in the snow. He studied, should he turn and go back, or try to catch Bossy before someone else did? Those prints were made sometime in the night. Wolves didn’t get that calf, it was injuns! Those sneaking redskins! He decided he better get a move on and catch up to Bossy. He was sure Ole Cap would warn him if he got close to the Indians. He was bounding ahead looking for game. He would stop now and then to sniff the tracks ahead and then off again he would go. Albert soon lost his fear of what lay ahead thinking they were surely long gone. He had only catching Bossy to worry about. Twenty or thirty minutes into the woods he thought he heard someone call his name. He stopped and listened. Must be the wind...wait he heard it again. Faint and far off. He turned and listened intently. “Al...bert.” called out a small voice from somewhere behind him. He retraced his tracks and there he found Betsy...worn out from trying to catch him. Tears streamed down her face. “I couldn’t find you.” she said accusingly. “You take to big a steps.” she cried “Betsy, what in the world did you follow me for? “ He picked her up and wiped her nose and tears. “You found me, don’t cry. Did you tell Mama you were going?” He wondered then if he should take her back or keep after the cow. It was going to delay their travels for this day...but he knew when they missed Betsy they would be in an uproar. He thought about it for a few minutes then decided to hurry on taking Betsy with him. He hoisted her to his shoulders and started off. Ole Cap had come back delighted to see little Betsy along. Suddenly he stopped. The hair on his back stood up like a wire brush. He emitted a low deep growl and stood stock still. Albert heeded the warning and squatted down holding Betsy close. He put his fingers to his lips and warned her not to make a sound. Betsy’s eyes grew large as she watched first her brother and then Ole Cap. She was smart enough to know when to be still. Albert reached out and put his hand on the dog hoping he would not give them away. It was the Indians coming back. He knew they would soon reach his tracks. He could just make out their voices as they neared. They too heard the small voice call out and had come in search of it. They would have to make a run for it. He whispered to Betsy, ” Hold on tight -don’t make a sound...its Indians.” Betsy threw her arms around Albert’s neck and squeezed her eyes shut. He could feel her little heart pounding. He stood quietly and took a few steps, then bending low he began to run. Ole Cap ran with him, soundlessly, as if he knew the peril they faced. Suddenly he heard the loud jabber of the Indians...they had found them out. Now the chase was really on. He didn’t know which way he was going...toward the wagons or away. He was leaving tracks he knew. He had to get out of the snow somehow so he could lose them... They happened upon a small stream with rushing water. He would have to go in. He could hold Betsy up out of it He didn’t have time to give it much thought He plunged into the icy water... Ole Cap stopped, whined, and ran back and forth along the bank. Finally he too leaped in to go with Albert. They turned down stream. He hoped they couldn‘t tell which way he went. Ole Cap scrambled out of the water onto the bank. He ran along keeping pace with the slender boy... Betsy was heavy and had a death grip on him. His legs were numb from the cold water. He wondered how much further he could go like this. He didn’t hear anything behind him. He stopped to listen but all he could hear was the rushing water as it swirled around his legs. He went to the bank and sat Betsy down and climbed out. He was half frozen. He couldn’t feel his feet. It was rocky here and he felt they would be safe to leave the water. It would be harder for them to track he hoped, thinking of the Indians that pursued them. He wondered if the folks had missed Betsy yet. Maybe someone would notice the tracks of the Indians and come looking for them. Betsy had still not made a sound. He pulled her close to him to comfort her and warm himself. Ole Cap snuggled in on the other side his eyes watching for any movement in the brush. Albert knew he had to keep moving, get some circulation going in his legs. He lifted Betsy once again and put her on his back. “Hold on.” he ordered as he stepped from rock to rock hoping to leave no trail behind. Deciding they should follow the stream for safety they made their way along the rocky bank. He could always take to the water again if need be, as bad as he hated the thought. He had not noticed the big dark bank of clouds that gathered in the northwest. There was no way for him to know, too, that with each step, he moved further away from his family. His only concern now was staying ahead of what he thought was sure death for them both. He had overheard the talk of the men folk around the fire at night as he lay in his bed. The stories that they told of the fierce and savage Indians made his hair curl and put shivers in his spine. He knew what the Indians did to white women and girls they took. They would have no use for a boy like him, unless they made a slave out of him, they would more than likely torture and kill him, probably after they scalped him. He couldn’t help reaching up to feel his thick hair. They would steal a little girl like Betsy and make a squaw out of her. He couldn’t let that happen no matter what. Stopping to rest a minute he looked at his little sandy haired sister. She would be pretty, like their Mother when she grows up he thought. “I’m hungry, Albert.” she said in a small voice. He looked at her in surprise. “I bet you are,” he replied.” We didn’t get to eat breakfast.” He remembered the biscuits he had in his pocket. They were probably ruined by now he thought but when he pulled one out it was still intact. “Here I’ll split this with you” as he realized he too was hungry. He decided to save the other one. He sure was glad his mama makes king size biscuits. As he was about to take his last bite he noticed Ole Cap watching and wagging his tail expectantly. He hesitated only a moment before giving it to him. Cap had saved them. In Albert’s eyes he was a hero. He rubbed his head... “Good Boy.” he said affectionately. Its way up in the day he thought looking at the sky. They must be looking for us. (The folks he meant.) Maybe we should just sit still and wait for them to come. He wished he had a gun or even a knife. Pa had given him a knife, telling him to always keep it handy, but he had left it in the wagon where he was whittling on a little flute made from a hollow reed. He had practiced shooting the gun brother Ben gave him and was really pretty good, but all that didn’t help him here with no gun. He felt so helpless. He didn’t even have his sling-shot, plenty of rocks but what could he do with those? The sun shone down on them and it was warm. Betsy laid her head against him and fell asleep might as well let her rest a little while. Ole Cap will let me know when its time to move. He dosed of too as he grew warm and his feet thawed out. The leaves stirred around him. First just a few, then a breeze picked up and begin to blow steady, still Albert and Betsy slept. The gray clouds began to scud across the sky and it grew dark. The north wind had a chill in it. Albert woke suddenly as the chill in the air penetrated his clothing. He sat up surprised at the condition of the sky. It had been sunny only a little bit ago. Where was Cap? He looked all around... That mutt was nowhere to be seen. Betsy opened her eyes, sleepily looked about and declared she needed a drink. You’ll have to drink out of the stream of water.” “How? “ She replied. “Here let me show you,” he lay down with his face in the water and drank thirstily. “Like that.” he explained. Picking her up he held her face down over the water. She began to kick and squeal. “Betsy, Stop. What’s wrong with you?” “You trying to drown Me.” she cried. “ have to lay your lips in the water and slurp it up.” he explained. “I won’t drop you in the water.” Still she struggled against him, terrified of the rushing water. He sat her down and walked a ways down the rocky stretch looking for a place where the rock was level with the stream. “Here.” He called” this is a good place. You can drink with out me holding you. She came forward, doubtful. “Lie down on your stomach and put your lips to the water, then suck it up!” he coached... He watched her but also kept his eyes pealed for Ole Cap. Now where would he get off to? I didn’t think he would leave us. I hope the Indians don’t catch him. He worried. They had to find a place out of the wind. There was no way to make a fire and it would be dark before long. Taking Betsy’s hand they left the rocky embankment and walked into the woods. There was snow but also places under the trees where the snow was gone. It had either melted or the trees were so thick it couldn’t hit the ground. He found an outcropping of boulders with an overhang of brush on it. It was protected by the trees as well. They crawled into the hollow of the rock. Albert thought about his Pa’s stories about owls and crawly things. After checking it out and finding no creepy crawly things, he pulled a bunch of dry leaves into the depression to make a soft bed and taking off his big coat he prepared to snuggle down with Betsy until daylight. It wasn’t quite dark yet and he noticed a star twinkling through the clouds that must be the evening star, the wishing star. He wished they were back at the wagon safe and warm. Pa needs to teach me how to tell direction by the stars he thought. Feeling in his pocket he found the second biscuit. “Here Betsy” he teased” lets pretend we are having a picnic.” He broke off half and divided it with Betsy and carefully put the other half in his pocket. The clouds closed in and the wind blew. Soon snow began to fall again. Albert and Betsy snuggled in the dry leaves beneath the sheepskin coat. He wished for Ole Cap, Betsey wished for her Mama but she didn’t cry, she had Albert and she knew he would take care of her. Shortly after Albert left, Libby called for everyone to get up and come to breakfast. One by one they gathered around the fire still sleepy headed. The men had started hitching up the teams to the wagons and preparations were under way to get an early start as soon as Albert got back with bossy. Noticing that Betsy was not there with the girls Libby told Alice to fetch her. Surprised she answered “She’s not in the wagon mama.” “What do you mean she’s not there...where is she?” “Why I don’t know” The girls looked at one another. Libby went to the wagon and climbed inside moving the bedding around. “Now where is that little minx?” Climbing out She looked over the camp. “Carl,” she called “Have you seen Betsy?” “Not this morning” he replied” is she hiding from her mama “he smiled as he finished with the harness. Turning to Libby he winked” Wonder where our little Betsy is…” and he sneaked around the wagon. “No Carl...she is not in the wagon...I can’t find her in camp” Straightening up Carl looked at his wife, “What do you mean...she’s gone?” With sudden panic, she realized that what he said was in fact true , Libby whirled around and cried out. “Betsy!” She screamed. Immediately the whole camp was at her side. Everyone began the search. Shortly one of the men called Carl aside. “Looks like we had company in the night... There are moccasin prints where Bossy was tied. They lead off into the woods.” “Here are her feet prints...she followed Albert.” someone called. “Don’t say anything to Libby about what you found...not yet.” Carl said hoarsely. Turning he made his way quickly to the wagon where Betsy’s little prints were showing in the trail after her brother. “Albert will look after her.” He assured her mother placing a comforting arm around her. ” At least we know where the little rascal is.” He looked after the trail with a troubled face. “Perhaps some of us should go along to help Albert. He will have his hands full with Betsy and Bossy” “He motioned for the men to come with him. “Might take a rifle along to see if we scare up any game.” While the men went after their rifles Carl pulled Slberts big brotherBen and a couple of the cowboys aside and told them what had been found... “Stay with the women and keep a close watch. Try not to alarm them right now. We’ll see what’s going on soon enough. “ Going back to Libby he told her “Ole Cap is with them. They’re in good hands” he joked. “We will be back shortly” with that the three of them headed into the woods following the trail Albert had left. Traveling at a fast pace it wasn’t long before they intersected with the place Albert had come back for Betsy. It was plain the Indians had been there also. Did the Indians have them or did the kids get away. Carl was stricken with agony. His children in the hands of savages he couldn’t believe this was happening. “Get a grip Carl. Looks to me like Albert went out this way ahead of them.” Doc, Alberts Uncle and Carls Brother, studied the ground.” He must be carrying are Ole Caps prints. He is running along with them.” Given hope, Carl pulled himself together. “Lets go.“he said, following the obvious trail left by the Indians. They lost the trail several times and had to back track. Seemed the warriors had as hard a time reading tracks as they did. “I haven’t seen any sign they caught up to him yet.” Doc said “I’d say that boy can run like a deer.” Carl’s friend Harvey said shaking his head in admiration. “He sure had those Indians going in circles trying to catch up to him, and him carrying little sister.” When they got to the creek they could see that the Indians had split and gone in either direction. There seemed to be only three of them. One had crossed the creek in search of Albert’s tracks coming out on the other side. One had gone upstream and the other down. Seeing for them selves that they had not crossed over and come out on the other bank they studied about which way the kids had traveled. “I think Al would know that going up stream would be easier to track.” Carl mused. “We need to split up.” Doc suggested. “I think we need to stay together. No telling what we may run into.” Harvey argued. “It’s taking to long.” Carl worried.” we have to keep to their trail. If they find them first….” he didn’t want to think of that. He looked at the sky. They had been in these woods for hours searching for them. He saw the big dark bank coming from the north. “We have to find them before that storm comes in...We’ll lose all sign then.” Doc still studying the ground turned to them “The one that went downstream came back this way from these the kids must have gone upstream.” “That surprises me.” Carl replied” I guess he didn’t have time to give much thought to which was the best way to go.” The three men started off upstream at a brisk pace yet with caution rifles ever ready. They stopped often to listen hoping to hear a call for help or a dog bark, anything that would give them some hope the kids were still ahead of their pursuers. The clouds began to move in and the winds picked up. They could feel the chill in the air and knew they were in for a storm. They pushed on searching. Harvey, who had taken the lead suddenly stopped, holding up his hand. He had heard voices ahead. Carl and Doc came forward they could smell wood smoke. They got down on their hands and knees and approached the Indians camp. There were three figures hunched around the fire. They were talking and gesturing in different directions with their hands, seemingly upset about something. Carl scanned the area in search of the children. There was no sign of them. Evidently they had escaped much to the frustration of the Indians. Relieved, they silently backed away. “What now?” Doc asked of Carl. “Forget them. Let’s get after the kids. It’s getting late. We need to find them before this darn storm hits us full blast.” He answered. They began to retrace their steps. “Maybe their back in camp by now... Once they got away that’s probably where they headed.” Harvey offered hopefully. “Could be.” Carl replied looking again at the darkening sky. ”We’ll go back. You’re right. Albert won’t want to get caught out in this. He’ll have headed back to the wagons as soon as he lost them.” With that they started in the direction of the camp. Half way back they heard the bawling of old Bossy. Following her crying they came upon a small clearing. Betsy stood by her calf. He had been tied to a tree She was trying her best to get him to follow her. The remains of a burned out campfire were near by. Evidently Albert had disrupted them in the process of planning a fine meal. Untying the hungry little fellow Doc took hold of Bossy’s lead rope and led the way toward the wagons. Libby saw them coming leading the cow and calf. She ran forward a smile of welcome on her face. “They’re back” she called out joyfully...then stopped when she realized the children weren’t with them “Carl...” her voice faltered. “Their not here.” he stated. It was a question. “Oh my God...” she wailed hugging her arms to her body and sinking to the ground. Carl went to her, kneeling and taking her in his arms. “We’ll find them. Albert is a smart boy he knows what to do.” he tried to consol her. He would have to tell her about the Indians. Snow flakes had begun to fall. It would soon be dark. It would be impossible to look for them now. All they could do was to build a big fire and keep it going through the night hoping it would guide them home if they were out there. Carl felt sure Albert would find a shelter and stay there ‘til morning. It was a quiet group that gathered round the fire for an evening meal. Libby wouldn’t even try to eat, thinking of her children out there someplace cold and hungry... She paced back and forth through the snow and wind. Carl made her put on her wraps and bundle up from the cold. She was oblivious to all that went on around her. She watched the dark woods hoping vainly they would appear. Nothing anyone said consoled her. Carl watched her, waiting for her to collapse but she showed no sign of tiring. They continued to feed the fire taking turns. The wind blew and the snow drifted against the wagons. The fire provided little heat as the wind blew against it. They put up a makeshift shelter and gathered behind it for what warmth they could capture. Sometime in the night Carl dosed off when he heard Libby call out. He jumped up expecting to see her lying prostate on the ground but rather found her with her arms wrapped around the scruffy body of Ole Cap. “Cap…oh Cap where are they?” she cried looking past him in the direction where he had been. ”Good boy,” She crooned and rocked as she held him close and wouldn’t let go. The dog began to squirm to be free. “As soon as it‘s light he can take us to them. It won‘t be long now.” Carl told her. “The snow will cover his tracks before we can see them.” Harvey worried. “We’ll let him lead us to ‘em.” “You think he can do that” Doc asked. “I think that’s what he came to do. Otherwise he would never have left Albert.” Carl replied. “You’re putting a lot of faith in that old cur dog, Carl.” Doc said skeptically eyeing the dog. “Give him a bit to eat and some water. I think he is raring to go back already” “We can’t go ‘til first light anyhow.” Carl said with regret. “But let’s be ready.” Turning to Libby he said gently but forcefully.” You get in the wagon and get warm. You need your strength and your wits about you. You have the other children to think of too. When we go for Betsy and Albert its up to you to look after the rest of the families. The men will go with me, you will be in charge.” He felt giving her responsibility would help keep her mind occupied. The snow drifted around the boulder creating a wall that shielded the wind from Albert and Betsy as they slept. The snow gathered on the overhang of brush and as it deepened it draped over the front of the depression enclosing them in their shelter. Their body heat beneath the big sheepskin coat kept them warm in their bed of leaves. He woke once in the night, remembered where they were and pulled Betsey closer. Then fell back into a deep sleep. . Before the sky had lightened the men of the camp were already tramping through the woods following the sturdy old dog. He appeared to know where he was going and what they expected of him. From time to time he would stop, look back impatiently, to see if they followed and continue on seeking a trail through the thick brush and trees. It was hard for the men to keep up with him. At times they couldn’t help but wonder if they were on a wild goose chase. They felt they were going in circles. With no sun to guide them and snow still falling heavily it had to be instinct that showed him the way. They could be lost themselves but for Ole Cap. They came once again to the stream of water but none of it was familiar. Cap seemed to hesitate looking in either direction then turned down stream. Carl thought to himself, I knew he would choose this direction. They walked for what seemed miles. Further into the woods, skirting boulders and brush. The dog kept on not slowing his pace. The men were beat. Suddenly he stopped and whined looking back, he then ran ahead to disappear around a huge outcropping of rock. The men had to line out single file to follow through some narrow crevices. Cap was waiting for them when they got through, then he dodged beneath some snow covered branches barking. The men heard a clear voice exclaim, “Cap...where have you been...look out your getting snow all over us...” They heard Betsy squeal and laugh as the wiry mutt scampered all over them in excitement. “Albert...“Carl called out...there was a brief silence before he answered “Pa is that you...?“Disbelief and joy in his voice. “It‘s me boy.” his voice cracked with emotion as he pulled aside the brush barrier and looked inside the small cave like niche. “Poppa” Betsy squealed throwing her self into her daddy’s arms. “How did you find us” Albert asked putting on his big coat. “We have to thank this mangy ole mutt for that. He’s a real hero I’d say. “Reaching out to rub the dogs head” Let’s get home to your Mama. She’s bout sick with worry over you two.” He said gruffly as he gathered Betsy up in his arms and turned to the men with him. They were all smiles. Albert was surprised when he came out to see all the men from the camp with his father. “We looked for you yesterday. Saw where the Indians chased you but we lost you at the creek.” Doc grinned” So did they...” “I’m hungry Poppa.” Betsy said placing her little hands on his cheeks, turning his face to look at her. “Here Betsy” Albert held out the piece of biscuit he had saved,” that will have to do ‘til we get home. Then we can have some real food.” Alight snow was still falling when they returned to camp. Anna saw them first. “Mama“ Libby, bent over the fire stirring a pot of beans, looked up at her daughter. She couldn’t make out the meaning of the expression on her face, Joy...fear... She whirled around ready for anything and there they were. The color left her face and her hand went to her breast. She was speechless...then the tears of relief and joy poured forth as she ran to gather them both in her arms. Ole Cap was dancing around for attention as well, leaping up and barking. It was a glad and happy crowd that welcomed them home. Albert and Betsy keep them entertained all evening with stories of their misadventure. Libby looked on eyes brimming with love and a joy-full heart. She held Betsy close and looking skyward gave thanks Reaching out she clasped Carl’s hand in hers as she listened to Albert tell excitedly about their experiences in the wilds of the woods. It had been a good day she thought as she watched Ole Cap lay down at Albert’s feet and his hand drop down to ruffle the thick hair on Caps neck as he talked. What a picture...A boy and his dog...   

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Reviewed by Joyce Scarbrough 9/28/2008
I had to print this out in order to read it because of the lack of formatting, but it was worth it! As always, your stories have loads of action, Bo. I read it aloud to my husband, and he enjoyed it too!

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