Disclaimer: Yeah whatever…
Scott Lancer watched his kid brother with a growing sense of horror, surreptitiously glancing about he found himself in the most unusual position of wishing, hoping…actually praying for the appearance of their father. If anyone could talk some sense into Johnny it would be Murdoch.
Johnny scurried past clutching a stick, with a forked end, in his hand. His eyes were carefully tracking his prey. Devilish delight lit his bright blue eyes, and the pink tip of his tongue peeked from the right corner of his mouth as he concentrated on his mission. Dirt and dust kicked up around his feet, and Scott smiled as he realized his brother had jumped up to chase his quarry with only one boot on. The white sock on his left foot was slowly turning a grayish tan from the dry earth collecting in the fabric of it.
This whole situation came about as the two Lancer boys awoke, this last day of a return journey from the cattle drive they had been on. Yawning and stretching they had sat up in their bedrolls as their father called to them demanding they arise and get dressed while he ambled over to the chuck wagon for breakfast.
Trail and camping experience had taught both boys the importance of checking their bedrolls before crawling in at night, and of carefully shaking out their boots in the morning before putting them on. And if that hadn’t taught them the nightly reminder from Jelly would have. The old handy man was overly cautious about the hidden dangers of small critters, especially snakes as he was terrified of them, though he would deny it with his last breath.
Scott in his fastidious manner had carefully placed his boots together, on the ground just above and to the side of his head the night before, where he could reach them easily come morning.
Johnny had plopped down on his bedroll situated between his brother and father and had pulled his boots off and tossed them carelessly to the end. They landed on their side, the toe of one pointing east and the other pointing south. Their father had tripped over them on the way to his own spot and growled a mock threat of cutting a switch or perhaps taking a belt to his messy youngest.
The next morning Scott already had his boots by the time Johnny retrieved one of his and pulled it on. In his tossing and turning during the night he had managed to kick one his boots further away. Scooting to the end of his bedroll, he stretched to reach the other one, turning it over he gave it a shake and a small rattler fell out and slithered swiftly for a bush.
Johnny had jumped up and followed it, curious as to what Johnny was up to Scott had tagged along. He watched with increasing dread as his brother continued his pursuit, of the reptile, with the stick in his hand. Until finally he could no longer contain his curiosity and felt compelled to ask what was going on.
“Johnny, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to catch this snake,” Johnny replied with a tone that said it should be obvious what he was doing.
“Whatever for?” questioned an astonished Scott.
“I’m gonna scare Jelly with it,” Johnny chuckled wickedly. “I’m gonna slip it in his bedroll since he’s already up and make him think he slept with it all night.”
“Little brother…you are just asking for it. Not only will you get the sharp end of Jelly’s tongue but our father just might be moved to warm your backside with his belt like he threatened last night.”
“Lighten up, Scott. I’m just gonna pull a harmless prank, besides I’m not afraid of a little ol’ snake.”
“HARMLESS! Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t baby rattlers just as poisonous as full grown. You could very well be bitten!”
“I’m a lot faster than this snake Scott, quit your worrying.” Johnny retorted as moved the branches of the bush the snake had just retreated under.
“I’ll agree you are faster than the snake when you’re drawing your gun to shoot, but you aren’t trying to kill it you’re trying to catch it! Sometimes I think you have a death wish!”
Scott gasped and jumped back as Johnny rose and turned, clutching the rattler behind its head as it viciously squirmed, whipping its tail around.
“It’s not a death wish. It’s total defiance. Sometimes I dare death to grab me,” Johnny chortled, enjoying the abject fear that momentarily flashed in his brother’s eyes.
Right at that moment, Murdoch parted the vegetation and stepped into the clearing in search of his sons. Seeing the reptile in Johnny’s hands and hearing the angry buzz of its rattles, he leaped forward and bellowed, “JOHNNY!”
A loud pop echoed as Murdoch’s big hand flash out and smacked Johnny’s causing him to drop the agitated snake, right on the his foot clad only in a sock. Quicker than Scott even dreamed he could move the blond reached down and snatched the rattler by the tail and slung it just as far away from the camp as possible.
The reptile had not even hit the ground before Murdoch was loudly admonishing his youngest. “What in God’s name do you think you are doing? Have you taken leave of your senses chasing after snakes and running around with one boot on? What in the world were you thinking?” Murdoch bellowed as he pulled Johnny back towards the camp, never pausing in his vociferously spewed lecture to give Johnny time to answer.
Scott chuckled over the sight and his father turned on him. “And what in the world were you thinking? Why didn’t you talk him out of it? I expect this kind of thing out of him, and I expect you to keep an eye on him, you’re the oldest!” raged Murdoch.
Scott had been relieved when his father showed up just a few minutes before, he had even been thankful his desperate prayer for help had been answered, until he found himself in the same trouble as Johnny. Some days being the big brother sucked, especially when he got caught up in his little brother’s acts of defiance!
June 15, 2008