Hello, friends! Today is a special day on my blog: I get to tell you about an amazing kid I “met” blogging a couple of years ago. Lenny Lee is eleven but it only takes a few conversations with him before you know he is no ordinary eleven year old. Lenny is special and one of those rare individuals who can light up your life with sunshine even on the darkest days. There is a reason his blog avatar is a sun. Even the wild forest animals that live near his house know he is special. (He can hand feed raccoons!) So today’s post is dedicated to him. It’s a book I wrote just for him, to hopefully brighten his day as much as he brightens mine. This is just the first chapter, but the rest will be soon in coming to blog posts for him to find.
And for those of you who don’t want to read a kid’s Wild West yarn about lawmen sheep chasing flea-bitten outlaw goats, feel free to go to Lenny’s blog instead. You have an amazing friend to make. :o)
Still here? Then please enjoy my humble contribution to the Cheer-on-Lenny-Fest:
Title: Sheep Go to Heaven (A Middle-grade Tall Tale)
Chapter 1: The Woolly West
Ike followed Barney’s hoof tracks right to the edge of the cliff. There were other tracks too, but Barney’s didn’t leave that rim. If Barney had fallen down into the gully, Ike didn’t have time to search the sparsely treed patches lining the mesa top for whatever trouble had happened here. He had to find his friend. He leaned over the edge. He hated heights, which is not something you admit when you are a sheep. He would get a reputation for being yellow instead of the handsomest cowpoke in Tin Can County.
He drew in a shuddering breath, inhaling the dry desert air, and looked down. There was Barney, hanging onto the ledge by his teeth. Literally. He had a scrubby old bush between his lips, his body hanging free but about to plummet a hundred feet to the bottom of the gorge. His eyes were wild with fear.
“Barney,” Ike called, “hold on! I’m getting a rope.”
He adjusted his gun holster and untied the lasso hanging on his left flank. With his hooves full of rope, he frantically scanned the cliff’s edge for something to tie off on.
That’s when he came eye to eye with Bull, the biggest, meanest goat that ever walked on two legs. He and his boys already had their shooters poised on Ike’s heart.
Ike raised his hands slowly, away from his own weapons.
“Well, well, boys,” Bull said gleefully to his men, “looks like we caught ourselves the Sherriff AND the Deputy.”
“Not a good day for the Tin County law,” said one of Bull’s men. Ike thought maybe it was Jaws, the ugliest one.
Ike’s deputy badge suddenly felt heavy on his chest, like a bright red target instead of the shiny gold thing he used to get girls’ attention. He’d only ever agreed to be deputized to help Barney out, his best friend who happened to be the Sherriff because no one else wanted the job. Barney was easily convinced of things, especially when he was so forgetful. The Hazee townsfolk could convince him to do anything just by telling him he agreed to do the task already and must have forgotten. He’d go along with anything because of that. Ike figured being deputized was a good way to watch out for Barney, to make sure he didn’t get taken advantage of anymore. Attracting the single ewes with his brave, deputy status was an added bonus. He just hadn’t counted on how much time being deputy would take. Watching out for Barney while he played Sherriff was a big job and he knew Barney would end up in serious trouble someday. Like hanging off a cliff by his teeth. Ike smiled wryly.
“What’s so funny?” asked Bull, cocking his gun. “Want something to laugh at?”
The deafening crack of gunshot echoed through the desert, bullets spraying the dirt at Ike’s feet. His hooves danced back and forth to avoid the hard earth spitting and stinging on his flesh.
Bull and his posse guffawed heartily. They took a step closer.
“I’m taking you in, Bull. All of you put down yer weapons,” demanded Ike.
The goats laughed all the harder.
“We’re the ones who’re calling the shots here, pretty-boy.”
With that they resumed firing at Ike’s feet, forcing him to back up against the cliff until his hooves slipped over the edge.
With a sickening lurch in his stomach, Ike fell backwards, sliding down the rocks and scraping his body as he tried to find anything to hold on to. He came to a sudden stop when his knees smacked the ledge where Barney was. He was eye-level with Barney now, where his friend still clutched the branch in his teeth. Bull and his goats leaned over the edge. Ike could do nothing more than glare at them while he clung to the cliff.
“Why don’t you two just hang out for awhile?” gloated Bull, “We’ve got us a bank to rob.”
The goats disappeared, the pounding of their hooves above reverberated in the gorge below.
“Barney,” Ike said, trying to keep the dizzy sensation from overwhelming him. “Can you swing yourself up onto that side of the ledge?’
“Mmrph,” answered Barney through bits of brush.
Slowly, he began to swing his body backwards and forwards, moving like a pendulum until with a loud thump his back hooves landed on the wider portion of the ledge. Barney backed himself onto the ledge until his whole body was secure. With his front knees folded on the thinner section of the ledge, Ike scooted towards the wider spot where Barney was then hefted himself up. Breathing hard, they both leaned their backs against the cliff.
“That was none too fun,” said Barney.
“Yeah,” agreed Ike. “Why in the blazes are you out here, Barney?”
“Tracked Bull here. I left you a note back at the jailhouse, asked you to follow me.”
“You mean the scrap of paper on my desk with your bad cowboy poetry on it?”
Barney stared blankly then slipped a hand into his shirt sleeve. He reddened when he pulled out a piece of paper. "Dear Ike,” he read, “I received a tip off that Bull and his gang would be at the gorge. Going to investigate. Come when you can.”
Ike groaned. “Durn fool. Obviously Bull lured you here.”
Barney appeared so dejected Ike didn’t dare chastise him more. Instead he said, “Well I reckon it’s a hundred feet up and a hundred feet down, so my vote is down.”
“Mine too,” said Barney, nodding.
They picked their way down to the bottom of the narrow gorge carefully, sometimes jumping from ledge to ledge, sometimes sliding down on their backsides.
At the bottom, Barney clapped his friend on the back, his earlier shame forgotten. “Right, now let’s go stop Buck from robbing the bank.”
“Bull? No bull. I’m sayin’ the truth. It’s our duty to stop them.”
“No,” sighed Ike, “Bull. His name is Bull, not Buck.”
“Oh, yeah,” laughed Barney, nervously.
Ike elbowed him with a smile. “But you’re right. His name should be Buck. Or Billy. He’s goat, after all. His momma must have been none too smart.”
Barney smiled back broadly. Best to let him think he’d made a joke instead of a mistake again.
Together they hoofed it out of the canyon.
To Be Continued... Next up: The Good, The Baaaaad, and The Mugly