Ashley Fetches a Hat

A/N: I’m fighting some writer’s block today, so have this blog-exclusive bit of Loyal Valley fluff!

Ashley Fetches a Hat
By Elisabeth G. Wolfe

Today’s been a good day. Master’s moving very well, and I got to take him for a walk twice! And it’s been sunny and clear but not too hot—a pity Master can’t see it, but he can feel it, so walks are good. But I’m off duty now, so Master says I can go with Jake and Mike while they go out to put the horses in the barn.

I’M OUTSIIIIDE!!!

Jake and Mike are busy and can’t play, but that’s okay because I’m OUTSIDE and everything is wonderful. I can attend to—ahem—business, and I can inspect the garden and make sure the raccoon hasn’t stolen any tomatoes, and I can run and romp and not spook the horses, Ashley, good girl. And I can check the perimeter and… ooh, hey, there’s a deer! Hi, deer, let’s play! Sure, run and I’ll chase you. And then… oh, wait, hi, rabbit! Do you want to play? Boy, you’re fast! Let’s run!

Don’t run away! I’m just….

Wait.

There’s a human out here, a man with a horse.

A stranger.

And he’s on the wrong side of the hill.

I’m too far from the house. If I bark, it won’t bring help, but if I go back now, I can’t tell anyone there’s a man out here. He’s probably got a bangstick, so I can’t just chase him off. I’ll have to bring him closer.

Right. First things first: find the man.

There he is. He’s lying on the ground, and his horse is standing next to him. There’s a big bangstick in the thing that hangs from the saddle, and I think I see little bangsticks on his belt. Tricky. But I think… yes, I think I know what to do.

Ruff down. Ears up. Tail wagging. Approach with caution. Hi, mister, want to play?

He sees me and snorts. “Go ’way, y’dumb dog.”

Who, me? (Wag, wag… look innocent, get closer….)

“Go on, mutt. Git.” He puts his hat over his face.

That’s it. Now slowly… slowly… slowly… got your hat!

“Hey, gimme that!”

Back away, tail wagging, but not too far. Come and get it, you stranger.

He swipes for it. I dodge. He gets up—yes, that’s right, come play with me, mister. He tries again; I dodge again. Come on, come on, a little further from the horse… that’s right… and—DASH! Zig, zag, spin him ’round, spook the horse! Horse goes one way, I go the other, and I don’t care which of us he follows as long as he doesn’t shoot.

But he doesn’t. He can’t. He doesn’t want anybody to know he’s out here. So he runs after me, but I’m like the deer and the rabbits—zig, zag, zoom! Over the hill, down and down, back and forth, and then—there’s the windbreak! DASH! Jake, Mike, Jake, Mike, Jake, Mike….

“Aaashley!” Jake’s calling, whistling.

“Ashley!” That’s Mike.

Jake Mike Jake Mike Jake Mike…

“I think I hear her—Ashley!”

Jake Mike JAKE MIKE HAT! HAT HAT HAT!

“Ashley, where have you—what the hell?

“Whose hat is that?”

Can’t stop! There’s the house! Clint, Jim, HAT! Daniel, Bella, HAT!

“What the—” That’s Daniel. “Whose hat?”

“There’s someone out there!” That’s Clint, and he’s already going for a big bangstick.

But I don’t stop until I’m in front of Master and drop the hat in his lap. Then I sit like a good girl. I brought you a hat, Master!

He runs his hands over it, surprised. “Ashley, what in the world—”

Bark, bark, growl, sneeze! There’s a bad guy out there!

Clint and Daniel and Jim have all run outside. Jake and Mike are shouting something, and then there’s shooting.

“Okay!” yells the bad man. “All right, all right, I surrender!”

Then there’s a lot more yelling I don’t understand. Bella’s got a little bangstick, and she comes over to Master’s chair. “It’s me, Marty,” she tells him.

He turns his head toward her. “Bella? What’s going on out there?”

She shakes her head. “Whoever it is, it looks like Clint or someone got him in the arm. Mike’s got him in custody.”

I huff. Good riddance.

“Jim’s bandaging the man’s arm. Now Mike’s tying him up. Daniel’s going to the barn, and so is Jake… I guess they’re taking him to Mason. Oh, here come Clint and Jim.”

Clint and Jim come in and put their bangsticks back on the rack and close the door. And then they start laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Master asks.

“Fella gave up without much of a fight,” Clint says, coming over to us. “Seems he knows when the jig’s up. But he said that’s the first time he’s ever been busted by a dog!”

“Is he—”

“Nah, just a rustler. Said he’d been scoping out the herd all day and had just decided to take a quick nap before sundown, and then he’d planned to swipe a few head after dark, take ’em to Mexico.”

“His horse is still out there somewhere,” Jim adds. “Jake’s going to look for it, while Mike and Daniel take our prisoner to Mason. He’s probably wanted for something or other.”

Bella laughs and puts her bangstick down. “Ashley fetched a rustler. Will wonders never cease?”

Master reaches down to scratch me behind the ears. “Good girl, Ashley!”

I smile and wag my tail. All in a day’s work.

© 2015 Elisabeth G. Wolfe. All rights reserved.