Rustlers On The Prowl
I sold the farm," Mr. Tinsley announced. "And I’ve hired Mr. Jones to make us two wagons. We’re going out west to Kansas."
The Tinsley girls, Thelma, Lily, Louise, and Bertha, were thrilled! They had heard about many exciting adventures, including some involving cattle rustlers.
It was so much fun traveling, especially the first few days. When they got tired of riding, they could walk. There was no danger of getting behind, because they had to go so slow on account of the cows and calves.
Pa always tried to find a place to camp where there was water. Then everyone helped gather sticks and wood for the campfire. They took their baths in the river, which gave them shivers and goose bumps because the water was very cold.
The older girls slept under the wagon in fair weather so they could take turns watching the grazing stock, which were always staked out for the night.
As the Tinsleys continued their journey, they went past the last store and almost the last house. Evening was fast approaching, and they hadn't found any water. Everyone anxiously scanned the horizon for a house.
"There's one in the distance. Scamper on, girls, and ask the people if we can water these critters at their well," Pa said.
When Louise knocked, a kind-faced woman opened the door. "Hello, my little lady. What may I do for you?"
"We're traveling, and we need water for our horses and cows. Pa wants to know if we can water them at your well."
"Why, certainly; we're only too happy to let you have water. Tell your pa there's a good camping place here, too," replied the woman, smiling.
After a pleasant evening, a good visit with their hosts, and a good night's sleep, the Tinsleys were ready to continue on their way early the next morning.
"Before you leave, Mr. Tinsley," said their genial host, "I must warn you. There are horse thieves and cattle rustlers in these parts, and they're well armed and treacherous. Be sure to be on the lookout for them."
Pa thanked them for the warning and the pleasant stay. He waved goodbye as he slapped the reins and clucked to the horses.
The day proceeded as the former ones had until about noon, when two horsemen approached their little caravan. Since news of the outside world was scarce, they talked about many things: the happenings of the political world, even the wild animals in the surrounding country.
After the strangers had departed, an unusual quietness fell over the group. They struggled slowly onward while the sounds of the departing horses' hooves died away in the distance.
Near sundown they camped for the night. After the usual chores of the evening, the family gathered around the campfire for worship. Pa took the family Bible on his knees and read Psalm 37. Ma led in prayer, asking for the Lord's protection during the night and thanking Him for His care over them in times past.
"I'm glad you staked the animals close to the wagon," Ma remarked as they started toward the wagon to go to bed. "I've thought about those two strangers all afternoon. They didn't have any food or camp equipment with them. They could belong to the cattle-thief gang. Thelma and Lily will keep watch the first part of the night. Then at 1:00 Pa can take over."
Pa had a hard time staying awake when it was his turn as watchman. He sang and poked the fire and walked around and around. Finally his eyes hurt so much that he thought, I'll sit here on this rock and shut my eyes to rest them.
Ma, only half awake, was bothered by the uneasiness of the horses. I'll reach my hand out of the wagon and pat Dolly to quiet her, she thought. But instead of touching the horse, she touched a man's shoulder. "Is anything wrong, Will?"
The only answer was a sharp slap on her hand. She knew this wasn't Pa.
"Will, where are you?" Ma said in a startled voice.
As she listened for a reply, there came a shrill whistle from one direction and an answering whistle from the opposite direction.
"Someone's trying to frighten our animals," called Ma.
By this time Pa was awake. He examined the ropes and found that every one of them had been cut. But fortunately not one animal had left its grazing spot.
There was no more sleep for the Tinsleys that night. As the family gathered around the campfire to wait for dawn, they talked of how the angels had surely taken care of the stock to keep them from stampeding.
As soon as possible after daybreak they were on their way once more. When they reached the ferry, the excited boatman related his experience. At 3:00 that morning two horsemen had ordered him at gunpoint to take them across. Then Pa told how it was probably these same men who had visited them the day before and at night had tried to steal their stock.
"Why did your critters refuse to move?" questioned the boatman. "How could that be?"
"We prayed for protection," Ma replied. "And the Lord sent His angels to guard us and the animals."
"You must be right, madam," solemnly nodded the ferryman.