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The Missing Sheriff (Podcast Episode 2)

“The Missing Sheriff”

Chapter 1: The Boy Behind the Scenes

The town had one road. It was an important road as it led to somewhere important and it came from somewhere important, but this little town that sprouted up somewhere in the middle existed, it seemed, just for travelers to pass through. Some would stop, and stay a little while, to maybe rest, grab a drink, or sometimes trade or buy supplies, but they always left soon enough. The appearance of the buildings lining this road told the story of a town and of a people barely holding on. Crooked shutters, broken windows, people walking looking down at the ground, and an empty abandoned Sheriff’s station. No one had stepped foot in that station for years, and the build-up of dust and dirt on the windows made it obvious. Yet, this crummy old town in the mid-west was called home to a small group of people. One of which was a young man they called Parker.

Parker was tall for his age and lanky. 16 years old and he looked like his body must have grown too fast. Everyone in town knew Parker, but that didn’t say much as everyone knew everyone there. Not a hard thing to do when only seven people lived there, but everyone knew Parker in a different way. He didn’t own much of anything yet helped everyone else with what they owned. He made his way by being behind the scenes. Without knowing it, he was also helping to keep the whole town standing.

It was a Saturday, not that that mattered to anyone in the town, and the Sun was rising. As most of the people in the town were sleeping, Parker was already hard at work tending to his first job of the day.

He was in the Saloon, finishing up working in the back cleaning and drying glassware and dishes when Franklin, the owner of the not-so-fine establishment, walked into the dusty kitchen. He was old and frail looking with a large mustache, and thin wispy hair which never seemed to be combed.

“When you’re done with that,” he said, “I need help carrying some things up from the basement.” He spoke demandingly; yet, by the way he stood, it came across like he had no fight left in him if Parker decided to disagree with him.

“Sure thing,” said Parker, “but then I gotta run over to Sarah-Jean’s to help with the horses.”

Franklin pointed a finger threateningly at Parker. “Alright, alright, but you’ll be back tomorrow morning, right?”

“I will,” said Parker nonplussed by the tone of Franklin’s voice. That’s just how he was, and Parker knew by now to just roll with the punches around him.

Soon enough, Parker was slamming through the swinging doors of the entryway to Franklin’s Bar and Saloon at high speed exiting on his way to meet Sarah-Jean. He ran across the road and two stores down to start his second job of the day before anyone else in town even had their breakfast.

Every morning was pretty much the same for Parker, starting with cleaning dishes at Franklin’s place, then getting the horses ready for any travelers who spent the night in their forgettable little town. Next, he went on to the spacious, yet mostly vacant Hotel to make beds and clean sheets with the ever-cranky couple Bob and Mindy. After lunch, it was on to help Tom at the General Store, and then finishing up his work for the day in the small kitchen of Tabatha’s Restaurant where Tabatha cooked and served, and Parker cleared and cleaned. Every day, Parker saw every resident of the Town and worked for them all.

At night, he would either take a complimentary room at the Hotel or sleep under the stars near the horses before repeating the same routine the next day. He was in a perpetual maintenance mode; fixing and cleaning and keeping things together for the other 6 residents. He was just doing what he was called upon to do. That Saturday, though, would bring about a catalyst for change and force a break in The Town’s comfortable routine.

Chapter 2: The Visitors and The Demand

When Parker stopped outside the Horse paddock, Sarah-Jean was waiting for him with a blank expression. No “good morning’s” were going to be heard at that moment.

“Alright, you know what to do,” she said dangling a horse brush from her finger, “brush ‘em, and clean out the stalls when you’re done.”

“On it,” Parker replied taking the brush off her finger with a swift swipe, and he was over the paddock fence in a heartbeat. There were three horses in the paddock. A black horse with a perfect soldier-like stance, a dark brown one which was roaming the paddock grazing on what little grass remained, and finally the light golden brown horse that never left the paddock. Sarah-Jean was brushing that golden brown horse while Parker brushed the black horse with a curious eye towards Sarah-Jean. Every morning, while Parker brushed the horses of any visitors, Sarah-Jean brushed the golden brown horse she called Missy. He never once saw her ride Missy though. He never asked either, but years of his curiosity finally worked it’s way up to the surface.

“Why don’t you ever ride Sarah-Jean?” He asked timidly, and her head turned towards him swiftly and accusingly.

“What would be the point?” She said. “There’s nowhere to ride to.”

“What about just to ride for the fun of it? I heard you were quite the rider—”

“The past was what it was, Parker,” he was interrupted before he could finish, “but it’s just not practical to be riding around for fun when I’ve other things to do.” She said her peace sternly, and that put an end to their conversation for the remainder of Parker’s time working on the horses and the stalls. Two gentlemen collected their horses and Parker heard them talking about the dangers of the road ahead and the dangers they were lucky to not see on their way so far. Sarah-Jean handed off their horses and leaned against the paddock fence as Missy came over for Sarah-Jean to pet her.

When Parker walked through the door of the Hotel next to Sarah-Jean’s stables, Bob and Mindy were arguing about something but stopped immediately when they heard the bell ring above the opening door.

“Ah, Parker,” said Mindy, “We’ve got just two rooms to turn down, both upstairs, rooms 6 and 8.”

Bob through two keys Parker’s way, “Here.” Parker caught the keys.

“Ok, sounds good,” Parker said, and he started straight upstairs to the second level for rooms 6 and 8. When he was finished, he made his way to the lobby where Bob and Mindy were arguing in whispers now. Bob turned to Parker leaning against the counter where guests would come to check in.

“Did you hear about the drought they’re saying is coming soon?” Bob asked Parker.

“No, but I heard about the potential floods from too much rain last month, and we seem to be alright,” Parker replied with a shrug of his shoulders and a little laughter in his voice.

“You don’t take things seriously, Parker, this could be a terrible thing for us,” Bob said straightening himself up placing his palms down on the counter. He was a big man that you could describe as thick in stature and in mind. It was Parker’s point of view that if he couldn’t do anything about worrisome news to simply not believe it which turned out to be the reality most of the time. Not to make Bob angry, Parker just agreed with him and left to meet Tom, leaving Mindy and Bob to argue about their impending doom due to the coming drought.

Parker made his way to Tom’s General Store as the town was now full of traveler’s passing through. The quiet and tiny town was now bustling and loud. He could no longer just run through the streets, or he might get trampled by horses or a wagon. Bob and Mindy went outside also to learn more about the drought from anyone who would talk to them.

Tom’s store was full of lots of things. It was a spot to trade mostly, but sometimes Traveler’s bought with actual money. There was food, medicine, clothes, tools, and every week their inventory could be different as they traded medication for blocks of cheese, or clothes for a pickaxe. Parker helped Tom keep things ordered and people from looting anything from the shelves. It was his favorite part of the day as he got to speak to some travelers and watch Tom negotiate to get supplies he could trade or sell to his fellow townspeople. He wasn’t very good at it though, and he seemed to give in too early every time.

“I’ll give you five shirts for a sack of potatoes,” one traveler said, and Tom agreed almost right away before Parker could interject. Later, Parker picked up what they purchased for a sack of potatoes.

“Tom!” Parker said. “These shirts all have holes in them, and they look like they were made for an Ox! They’re huge!” Tom walked over to see the shirt Parker was holding up, and Tom brought his hands over his face in an act of shame and worry.

“What did I do,” Tom said, “Those potatoes could’ve lasted us a full two weeks!” he was pacing the room with his hands on his head. Parker also showed him the fruits and vegetables he traded for which were moldy.

“Ok, I know what we can do,” Parker said, and Tom stopped pacing looking to Parker with desperation. “We can cut up the t-shirts and make bandanas and handkerchiefs… and maybe the bad food will still be good for the horses so we can trade with Sarah-Jean. She’ll be fair to you, so you don’t have to worry about making a bad deal there.”

“Brilliant!” Tom shouted hands in the air practically jumping up. He was skinny and short, but he would also stand with his arms close to his body and slightly hunched over making him look even smaller. Definitely didn’t help him negotiate when dealing with some of the burly travelers and fur trappers that passed through. But, crisis being averted, as was needed almost every day, Parker left to walk next door to Tabatha’s Restaurant. It was basically the same place as Franklin’s Bar and Saloon, but on one side Tabatha served food and on the other Franklin provided drinks. As things could get rowdy at night in the Saloon between Franklin’s Bar and Tabatha’s Restaurant, Tabatha kept Parker mostly in the kitchen coming out only to clear off tables.

Amongst the travelers in the Saloon were also the rest of the townspeople. Sarah-Jean and Tom were in a corner table negotiating the trade of his moldy food for some supplies he could trade at the store. Bob and Mindy sat at a large table with other travelers getting the gossip from the road. Everyone was eating and drinking when the saloon door swung open, and a gun fired into the ceiling getting everyone’s attention and making the room silent… instantly. A tall man stood in the entryway with a smoking gun pointed to the sky. He had on a black cowboy hat that shaded his eyes. A long mustache fell to his chin. Two more men walked in and stood behind him guns pointing around the room making everyone, especially Tom, flinch when the gun pointed their way.

“Who here is just passing through?” said the man with the black cowboy hat slowly and calmly yet the menace in his voice was felt throughout the room. His gun was still pointed to the ceiling and still smoking. Five people raised their hands timidly. He dropped his gun to his waist and gave orders as if simply ordering tonight’s special from Tabatha’s menu, “Stand up, empty your pockets, and purses, and then you’re free to go.” No one made any move to defy those orders as the two other men with guns moved around the room collecting coins and jewelry. Soon, all who remained in the Saloon were the 6 residents, and Parker listened and watched from around the kitchen doorway afraid and unsure what to do.

“Now, let me see,” the man continued in his calm menacing voice as he began to pace the room, “You had five guests in your little town here tonight, and you have people passing through here all day so you are going to start paying a little tax to me or I’ll burn this town to the ground.” He continued to pace and never raised his voice. The silence made him easy to hear, and his tone made his resolve clear. “I need $4 from each of you, now.” When he finished the first sounds from the residents were gasps and then stuttering and murmuring as they tried to explain that they didn’t have that kind of money.

“I didn’t finish!” He raised his voice for the first time over their muttering. “I need $4 from each of you, now, and then every month going forward!” He finished speaking, and then raised his gun and slowly scanned the room seeking out any dissenting voices to silence. Parker unfroze from behind the open doorway where he was hiding and walked out into the room slowly with his arms in the air. Before he was two steps into the room the two other men with guns were on him grabbing his arms tightly and pulling him towards their leader with the black cowboy hat.

“And who are you?” He said. Parker gathered his courage so he could speak clearly and sound convincing.

“I’m the man who will get you $10 from each person next month if you forgive them the $4 right now,” he said hoping he pulled off a better bit of negotiating than Tom did this afternoon. The man doubled over and laughed.

“I’d hardly call you a MAN,” he said stopping his laugh sharply and looking to the rest of the residents to see what they had to say to Parker’s offer. No one said a thing. They were too afraid and too shocked. “Well, it seems you do speak for these people… alright, little boy, I’ll make this deal with you, but if you come up short, I’ll burn this town down, and if any of you try to run away and leave this town I’ll find you soon enough, and you’ll pay your debt with your life.” He spoke with his face inches from Parker’s, and Parker could feel the heat of hate pouring off him.

With their sudden arrival, came their swift exit as they laughed riding off into the night shooting their guns into the air. Parker didn’t know what he just did or what they were going to do now, but he knew they didn’t have the $4 each and at least he bought them one month to figure out how they could turn this dying town into a cash machine. Everyone looked at Parker, and no one said a word. They just sat with their heads slumped down embracing their inevitable defeat.

Chapter 3: A Memory or A Vision?

Parker was looking at his town from above as if he was looking through the eyes of a bird passing over. He knew it was his town, but it looked different. It was bigger and cleaner, and it just looked nice. He swooped down and flew along the main road first passing Tom’s General Store on his right. Tom’s store looked to have expanded to twice the size, and he had two other people working as Tom was inspecting produce being traded and he seemed to be standing taller with his chest up clearly happy with the products he would be trading for.

He scanned to his left to see Bob and Mindy’s Hotel having doubled in size as well. He could also see people through the curtains, and there appeared to be not a room unfilled. Parker flew in closer to see Mindy on the front porch welcoming guests and saying goodbye to others. He saw her lean down to a little girl speaking to her and her worried looking mother.

“Oh, don’t worry dear. It’s good to be wary, and safe, but there haven’t been bandits on this road for a decade,” she reassured the little girl putting a hand on her shoulder and smiled to her and to the relieved-looking mother. Just then, Bob came outside, and he and Mindy looked at each other like Parker had never seen before. They looked like they were happy.

Parker flew back up and over the road, which now dawned on him was bustling like never before with travelers and also with new residents. He wasn’t sure how he knew certain people now lived there, but he knew they did. Up and over the road he soared and into the Saloon. Franklin was on the Bar side serving drinks and making jokes with the customers. A man bumped into another, and they both dropped their glasses, shattering on the floor. Parker expected to see Franklin lose his mind, but instead, he walked casually around from the bar and quickly stopped a fight by offering the two men a free round on him. A woman Parker had never seen before came over with a bucket and a rag. Then, Franklin and the woman cleaned up the mess. Something was going on between them, but he didn’t recognize the woman, and his flying-self seemed to have a mind of its own as his vision turned to Tabatha’s Restaurant side of the Saloon.

Tabatha was serving plates of food to full tables, and another woman was helping as well. Tabatha seemed calm, relaxed, and even paused to talk with some of the travelers. That was something she never did as she was always running back and forth between the front and the kitchen that Parker never saw her rest. Her usual anxious self seemed nowhere to be found. He was then pulled out of the Saloon and again up and over the road seeing a few new buildings that extended past the Saloon as his gaze fell to Sarah-Jeans stables. Yet again, doubled in size, but that wasn’t the most profound thing he saw. Sarah-Jean had an extra paddock behind the stables, and she was on her horse Missy teaching other children to ride. She was laughing and smiling, and her horse even seemed to be smiling.

He then soared back up and turned around to go back up the road from where he came. His focus went to the building he missed on his first pass. Next to the Hotel, across from Tom’s General Store at the top of the town, the abandoned Sheriff’s station. It wasn’t abandoned though. No dust on the windows and then he looked down in the middle of the road where a man stood. Tall, and his stance gave the impression that he was immovable. He had a horse beside him, and Parker tried desperately to see who it was. He couldn’t change his point of view, and he just stayed hovering above him. The Sheriff stood there, hand on the reigns of his horse, in the center of the road, and Parker new somehow that all the amazing things he’d seen in the town were because of the Sheriff. He was the center of it all. Suddenly, Parker started falling towards the Sheriff. He was getting closer and closer, and was a moment away from landing right on top of him… Parker sat up with a start coming out of the dream breathing heavy.

The Sun hadn’t risen yet, but Parker couldn’t go back to sleep. His mind was racing. He could’ve been asleep for a minute or for hours. He wrestled in his mind about the Bandits and what his plan was going to be. He thought about the Sheriff, and where he might be. There was never a Sheriff in the town as long as he could remember., and anytime he asked someone about it, they’d simply reply, “One day he was just gone, but I’m sure he’ll come back eventually.”

“Well,” Parker said to himself, “we can’t keep waiting.” He stood up from the patch of grass where he was sleeping and began to walk to the road. He passed the paddock which was empty as the horses were sleeping in the Stables. He reached the empty road and walked down with purpose and with confidence. Passed the Stables, passed The Hotel and then turned to face the abandoned Sheriff’s Station. He climbed the few steps onto the patio and placed his hand on the door handle. Pushing his thumb down on the metal latch, and giving a gentle push, he watched the door swing open to the empty, and dusty room inside.

Parker stepped inside and gave a little cough from all the dust before looking around. A single desk sat to the right, and a prison cell to the back left had its door ajar sending the message of welcoming its next prisoner, or of having just released one. Parker walked over to the desk, his footsteps seeming extra loud in the dead of night. He sat in the wooden chair and brushed the thick layer of dust off the desk with one swoop of his right arm. Again, he coughed from the dust he released. He looked around, and to his left he saw a rifle leaning against the wall in the corner with a gun and holster hanging on the wall next to it.

“When the Sheriff left,” he thought, “he didn’t seem to bring anything with him.”

He leaned forward and opened the desk drawer in the center. Wanted posters fluttered, and bullets, fallen from a box, rolled around the drawer. He closed it and reached for the drawer on the right and inside he saw what he was looking for. The Sheriff’s badge.

“He definitely wasn’t leaving on any official business,” Parker reasoned allowed.

Parker lifted the badge into his hand and brushed the dust off with his thumb. He pinned the badge to his chest, walked over to the corner and strapped on the gun holster, picked up the rifle and walked to the entryway. He sat on the porch waiting for the Sun to rise. In the morning, he would let everyone know, that this town was no longer missing its Sheriff.

Chapter 4: Taking Control

Parker stood on the porch of the Sheriff’s Station and looked down at the confused faces of his peers, but the badge on his chest, and a feeling in his heart gave him the courage he needed to stand tall and proud.

“Ok,” Parker began, “as you can see, I am taking the role of Sheriff for our town, as too much time has passed to keep waiting for someone to come and protect us. It is time we start protecting ourselves and sticking up for ourselves.” Parker stepped down from the porch but was still taller than everyone there. Everyone stayed silent, but Franklin had a sort of scowl on his face that said, “who do you think you are, boy?” Parker continued in spite of the scowl.

“Last night was a wake-up call that we are letting all sorts of people come through our town and leaving it worse than how they found it. Selling us bad produce,” he pointed to Tom, “Spreading rumors of despair,” he waved a hand towards Bob and Mindy, “and overall, passing through our town like it’s nothing but a stepping stone, making us feel like we’re being stepped on all the time,” he waved both hands passed the whole crowd of six.

“That may all be true, son,” said Tom, “but what are we to do against bandits with guns?” He whimpered a little and his shoulders hunched forward as he spoke.

“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” Parker said with a clear and powerful tone, “we’re not going to pay them a dime, and we’re going to go one step further.” He paused thinking for a moment about what they were going to say to his next statement before going ahead, “we’re going to capture, and arrest them.” The reactions were as he expected. Franklin scowled deeper somehow and waved a hand like swatting a fly, Bob and Mindy began to argue how that isn’t possible, Tom just looked horrified, Sarah-Jean shook her head muttering something like, “this boy is crazy,” and Tabatha began looking around anxiously as if there was somewhere urgent she suddenly had to be.

Parker waited for them to calm down, and then said, “Just listen to my plan, and if you don’t like it, you all can go try and run, but I guarantee those Bandits are not too far away on this road and they’ll be good on their threats.”

“Fine, fine, tell us how a group of six adults following a boy are going to capture some gun-slinging Bandits,” Franklin said with that scowl still on his face, and Parker was beginning to wonder if it was just a permanent feature. Parker explained his plan in five minutes, and when he was done Bob and Mindy stayed silent, and Franklin’s scowl became slack, and Tom began to stand up just a bit taller. Sarah-Jean was the first to speak.

“Well, I’m a little nervous about my part, but that just might work,” she said.

Franklin was next, “Looks like I need to find someone else to clean up the bar, Sheriff.” Franklin shrugged his shoulders, and that was about the best reaction Parker could hope for. Apathy for Franklin was two steps above his usual mood. Soon, they all agreed, and work officially began, for Parker, on his first day as the town’s new Sheriff.

———————————————

Part one of the plan was pretty simple. If the Bandits ever came to the town, they had to look like they are making enough money to pay them, so they needed to work harder on making their little town appear more prosperous.

“The best way to do that,” Parker said, “is to actually be more prosperous.” He scanned the skeptical faces. “I have ideas for each of you, and I am going to have to be a bit blunt, but I’ve worked for all of you, and I’ve seen what people like and what they don’t. So, please try these ideas, and I know they will make a big difference. Bob and Mindy. Your rooms are great and clean, but it doesn’t invite people in to stay when you two are in the lobby arguing all the time. Make that lobby more inviting and focus on your guests rather than on debating whether a drought or a flood is coming.” Bob and Mindy looked shocked and then opened their mouths like they wanted to argue with him, but then sunk down and just listened. “Tom,” he said with some extra compassion in his voice, “if you demand to inspect your merchandise before buying anything, you’ll be able to make far better deals. I’ll also help there and make sure anyone coming into town aren’t a bunch of scammers.”

“Ok,” Tom said, taking in his advice with thought and appreciation.

Parker faced Franklin. “Franklin,” he began, and after ignoring the predictable grunt, he continued, “you have a nice Bar, but the travelers that come through are looking for a bit of rest and escape, and you could be a bit softer and less harsh towards them. Take a page from Tabatha’s personality and mimic that.” He just made a little face, but his eyes said he conceded to give it a shot. “Tabatha, you don’t use your personality. You just work, and I know it’s tough being the only person, but if you talk to the people at your tables, they’ll stick around another night, and buy more drinks and food. The idea is to get people to stay longer right? If they stay longer, that’s another night at Bob and Mindy’s, another night for the horses at Sarah-Jean’s stables, and so on.”

“And, what about me?” Sarah-Jean said raising her hand to show her presence.

“Get on that horse,” Parker said, and Sarah-Jean looked afraid. “That’s all. Ok? Everyone up for this?” The sixteen-year-old Sheriff asked his once employers. They agreed, some more enthused than others, but Parker knew he would be able to help things along as they went.

Part two of the plan was more tricky, and they did their work at night in case the Bandits were watching them. When the Saloon was closed, and the travelers in bed, they met over by the Stables ready to get to work. The plan was simple. First, it required them to remove the Bandits from their horses.
“I can do that,” Sarah-Jean said confidently that morning. Then from there, they had to make their guns useless, as they wouldn’t win in a shoot off, and then trap them. Parker had the ideas for that.

“Ok, Tom,” Parker said, “here’s what we need to make this work. In your dealings, make sure we get these. If we don’t, we can’t pull this off.” Tom looked at the list, worry in his eyes, but also pride that he was being trusted with this task and looked Parker in the eyes and gave a determined nod.

“I’ll get them all,” he spoke standing up a little straighter.

That night they began putting their plan into action. They budgeted only an hour or two each night so this way they could still work during the day as usual. Parker reasoned that it should be enough time.

A week into Parker’s new role as Sheriff, and the town’s new rhythm and approach to their businesses was already starting to pay off. Parker may have had to remind Bob and Mindy a little to take their arguing elsewhere, but Franklin and Tabatha kept each other accountable. Parker was always helping Tom as part of his daily routine. When the travelers walked into town, Parker now welcomed them from the porch of the Sheriff’s Station which gave the travelers an impression of the town that wasn’t typical. They felt safer, the scammers felt less bold to try anything on Tom, and occasionally Parker had to quiet those travelers gossiping about droughts and then about floods, or deadly diseases. He wasn’t about to let any amount of moral boost the townspeople were feeling be squashed by worrying about something they couldn’t control, and that was also probably just nonsense. Then there was Sarah-Jean, who still hadn’t worked up the energy or courage to get up on her horse Missy.

“It’s just been so long, Parker, I don’t know how I’ll be or even how she’ll react to a rider after so many years.” Sarah-Jean was genuinely trying to get her mind around it as she knew she was needed in this plan and in fact, her role, riding with Missy, was crucial.

“Well,” Parker said, “you know a horse better than I could ever understand. I’ve seen you calm down wild ones bucking around the paddock so well that parents felt confident to let their child ride the horse after.” They both were leaning against the paddock fence, arms folded the same way. “If anyone knows what she’s thinking, it’s you.”

“Ok, she said, I’ll do it. Right now. Don’t go anywhere.” She left and came back with an old saddle, but it had ornate carvings in the leather. With a good polish, it would shine like new. Missy immediately walked over to where Sarah-Jean was like she knew a run was in her future and was excited about it. Parker didn’t move from his spot on the fence and watched Sarah-Jean attach the saddle tentatively but without pause. When she was done, she looked over to Parker with a slightly worried look, and then put a foot in the stirrup and gripping tight on the saddle she pulled up, but not quite hard enough, and her foot that left the ground found its way back to the dirt.
“Remember, Sarah-Jean, you want to get up, and Missy wants to go for a ride too,” Parker said. She looked to him and then back to Missy and tightened her grip and on a three count leaped up, swinging her leg around Missy’s back sliding her foot into the opposite stirrup in one smooth expert motion. She immediately smiled and laughed, and Missy let out a pleased nehh. Her eyes never went back to look at Parker as she took off with Missy out of the open paddock gate. Parker walked away with a smile. Mission accomplished, he thought.

Chapter 5: The Showdown

All their preparations. All the late nights and long days left them here in this moment of uncertainty. If they failed, their town would be ash, and their own fates were questionable. If their plan worked, they would be safer, and altogether richer as they had begun to transform their town this month and had already seen the rewards. In fact, they actually had the money to pay the bandits flat out if they wanted to. They held a meeting with everyone a couple days before to decide on this matter. With the townspeople sitting in Tabatha’s Restaurant, Parker addressed them.

“I know it’s easier to just pay these men and not fight back,” Parker said, “but, we’ve worked so hard for what you’ve all earned this month, and I guarantee that once they see that, they are going to demand more money. We have an opportunity to strike while they’re not expecting it and an opportunity to stand up for what is ours.” Everyone watched Parker closely as he paced back and forth while he spoke and they said nothing until he was finished. Tom spoke up first surprisingly.

“I for one do not wish to enter another bad deal willingly, and that’s just what those bandits gave us,” Tom spoke with pride and more confidence then Parker had ever seen from the man. “Parker here has helped us all make our town better, and make us better, that I say it’s time we helped our Sheriff catch these men.” Tom finished, and Franklin’s scowl eased into a determined growl and an earnest agreement without words. The rest followed suit in agreement, and their path was settled.

And so, there they were, at the crossroads in their journey, living in a place where there was only one road. They labored setting their trap and now the moment was upon them. The town was empty of travelers as no guests were allowed to stay in the town the past couple nights. They didn’t want any other people being involved in case things should go wrong. Three horses approached the town from the direction of Tom’s General Store, and Parker appeared in the road on the other end of town and started walking towards the riding bandits.

Parker smiled to himself as he could see their plan already starting to work as the horses the bandits rode were becoming restless. The bandits were having more and more trouble keeping the horses under control, and by the time they reached the edge of town and Tom’s store, they were reeling onto their hind legs and shaking their heads. Sarah-Jean knew horses well. She knew what they liked, and she knew what they didn’t.

There was a simple combination of scents that was imperceptible to humans, but that drove horses absolutely nuts. Sarah-Jean also knew how to calm them down, and so she approached the bandits and their restless horses from the Saloon and immediately began to calm the lead horse down a bit.

“You can tie ‘em up over here if you’d like? Something seems to have ‘em all bothered.” Sarah-Jean spoke to the leader. He was tall as it was and seemed giant seated upon his horse. The sun was high overhead, and his black cowboy hat shaded his face, but she could feel anger and annoyance emanating from him none the less. He agreed to her suggestion with a simple grunt. Sarah-Jean grabbed the horses reigns and settled it down as she brought it over and tied the horse to the railing of the Saloon’s porch. The bandit dismounted with a thump and a clang of metal from his spurs. He grunted and eyed Sarah-Jean menacingly, but after a moment she began to move towards the other two bandits and helped calm down and tie up their horses as well. Then, she disappeared from sight as the three bandits approached Parker, who was walking down the middle of the road with a bag in his hand.

The town seemed empty and deserted as everyone was hidden, but not out of fear even if they felt some. They didn’t hide out of cowardice, even though they felt like they wouldn’t want to be where Parker was standing right now. They were hiding as a part of the plan.

“Where’s all your friends?” The bandit it black called out to Parker. His two henchmen flanked him on either side as they walked, hands on their pistols still holstered at their waist, glaring around from building to building, window to window, on alert, but also calm and confident. Parker walked slower, letting them make up some of the distance between them. He seemed timid and nervous. The bandits were at ease.

“Most left, but they’ll be back after our business is done today. They aren’t running away for good.” Parker spoke clear, but a little hesitation in his voice as he walked even slower towards the bandits. He was playing his role perfectly.

“I see you have our money… good, this town is pathetic and woulda been a waste of my time to burn it to the ground.” The leader grumbled his words as if the very air he breathed had a bad taste. Finally, Parker stopped and let the remaining five feet or so between himself and the leader be filled by them. X marks the spot, Parker thought trying not to smirk. He then held out the bag in his hand to the man in the black cowboy hat.

“Here it is, all $70 as promised,” Parker spoke softly and barely made eye contact, not like he could as the man’s eyes which were still shaded beneath his hat. The leader smiled and reached out to the bag. Just before he put a hand on it, the bag suddenly ripped open at the bottom and coins fell from the bag to the ground at their feet. The leader’s smile morphed into surprise and anger. Parker dropped the bag and stepped back with his hands in the air with a look of shock and fear on his face. The leader pulled his gun from his holster and pointed it at Parker’s head.

“You better pray all the money is here or I swear I’ll wait for your people to return before I burn these buildings to the ground.” He snarled at Parker and Parker took a step back and went onto his knees looking helpless and afraid. His hands up in prayer.

“Please, please,” Parker said, “it’s all there, it was a mistake, I promise it’s all their, don’t shoot, don’t shoot, we’ll have more money next month.” The leader looked down at him, and his smile returned. Gun still pointed down to Parker’s head a foot away, the man with the black cowboy hat turned to his henchmen and barked orders to pick up the coins. They immediately fell to their hands and knees picking up coins and putting them in their pockets counting as they went. The leader of the bandits stood, confident, arrogant, and in control. But he didn’t know that he was actually doing everything Parker intended him to do.

He didn’t see the strange green mixture that Sarah-Jean sprinkled all over the ground at the edges of the town to throw their horses into a frenzy. He didn’t see the piece of string that Parker had wrapped around his pinky finger and connected to the bag of money. He didn’t see Parker pull that string splitting the seam of the bag of money. He didn’t see Parker discard the string as their eyes were on the falling coins. He didn’t see Franklin and Tabatha hidden beneath the Saloon’s porch both with small ropes in their hands, eyes on Parker. He didn’t see Bob and Mindy under their Hotel’s porch on the other side also with ropes in their hands, and eyes on Parker. Now was the time. Parker gave the signal by starting to recite a prayer as soon as the leader’s gun relaxed a little.

Franklin and Tabatha pulled their ropes, and Bob and Mindy pulled theirs on the other side at Parker’s signal. The ropes went underground in pre-dug trenches traveling all the way to where the bandits stood. Underneath their feet were a series of loose floor planks with the dirt and sand covering them. Underneath the floor planks was a large rectangular hole with long poles holding up the floor planks. The poles had small ropes tied to them, and as Franklin, Tabatha, Bob, and Mindy pulled on them the poles shifted, and the floor planks gave way. Above, the bandits began to fall into the ditch with their money following suit, as Parker rolled to the side away from any gunfire that might erupt during the chaos. Parker caught a quick glimpse of the leader out of the corner of his eye. The leader’s hat seemed to stay put as he fell and his face became illuminated in the sunshine for the first time. His face was one of shock and fear.

Tom and Sarah-Jean sped out from behind the stables with her horse, Missy, in tow. Sarah-Jean mounted the horse, and Tom hooked a rope to a harness hanging off the back of Missy. Sarah-Jean eyed Tom, and with a simple nod she received her ok, and her heels wrapped against Missy and the horse took off. The rope that Tom hooked to Missy was the end of a long thick rope that was lightly buried and led all the way to where the falling bandits once stood. The rope snapped up and sprayed a dusting of dirt and sand into the air revealing itself. The rope that curved along the edge of the hole that the bandits were now in sprang to life and moved in line over the center of the hole. On the other end of the rope, buried beneath the ground and more floorboards, like a pocket door, was the metal prison cell door from the Sheriff’s Station that they had removed. Missy pulled on the rope and pulled on the prison door sliding it right over the hole. Parker signaled Tom who was waiting with a pair of shears ready to cut the rope at the right moment.

The air was filled with dust and Parker, weary of stepping forward, waited anxiously for the dust to clear. The air cleared and Parker saw the prison door perfectly placed on top of the deep hole where the three bandits were now trapped. That prison door was so heavy, it took all seven of them to move it, and that was with sliding it on barrels. There was no way those three men, in a deep hole, would be able to push up hard enough to wiggle themselves free. They were only getting out if Parker allowed it.

Everyone started coming out of their hiding places as shots began sounding from the hole. Nobody was near it or in any line of sight to be in any danger, but the gunfire still made them all wince and cower down a little. Sarah-Jean, riding on Missy, approached where Parker stood and stopped, handing him his gun. Parker approached the new jail cell they all created together with patient and careful steps. He kept himself at such a distance that his line of sight could only see the top of the prison door, but not down inside. Their guns were now made useless.

“Listen here,” Parker yelled out to the bandits who were now yelling angrily. He could see their hands as they jumped up and tried to push open the door. “No amount of pushing is going to budge that door. I promise that.” Parker’s tone was clear and confident. He was a different person than the one who put on a show for the bandits minutes before. “The way I see it, you have two options.” He paused making sure they were listening. “You can throw out all your guns, and any other weapons you may be holding, and then I will ensure you are handcuffed before getting you out of that hole and into a proper prison cell.” The bandits started spewing all sorts of swears and colorful names towards Parker, but he ignored them and just continued speaking over them. “Your other option, is we all stand clear and out of your gun line until you all collapse of dehydration, or slowly starve. I imagine it’s getting pretty hot in there already with the Sun overhead.” Parker smiled. His plan worked.

It didn’t take long before guns started being tossed out through the prison door and onto the road. Parker then approached, gun on the prison door. He ordered them to jump up and grab the prison bars so he could see their hands as he got close. He then had them each handcuff each other while overseeing them above. Missy pulled the prison door off the hole, and Bob lowered a ladder down. One by one they ascended the ladder, and Franklin checked them for extra weapons they might have hidden. Parker walked them to the Sheriff’s station, now clean and mostly dust free. Parker chained them to the cell bars, and then all 7 worked to replace the prison door locking and securing the three bandits inside. Their job was done.

Chapter 6: A Bright Future

6 months had passed, and it seemed Parker’s dream had indeed come true. The town was growing, and some people who were traveling actually wanted to stay, and with Parker standing as Sheriff, any travelers who thought about scamming, stealing, or spreading lies and fear were quickly dissuaded from doing so, or they found themselves as temporary residents in the Sheriff’s station.

Parker was sitting at his desk, taking a moment to relax before he would head over to the Saloon to mingle with the townspeople and other travelers when there came a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Parker said. In walked Bob, Mindy, Franklin, Tabatha, Tom, and Sarah-Jean. Parker stood up from his seat surprised to see them all there. He lit two more lanterns so he could see them all better. “What is this all about? Don’t you need to get to the Saloon?” He said looking at Franklin and Tabatha with some concern. They looked back at him and just smiled. Well, Franklin’s face resembled a smile, and he definitely scowled less, but it was as if he had forgotten how to actually make the right face. Parker looked back confused, but curious with a tilt to his head like a dog.

“We’d like you to have this,” said Sarah-Jean walking up to the desk and placing a bag on it. Parker looked to Sarah-Jean with curious eyes and then opened the bag to see it full of money.

“What? I…don’t understand…” he said confused. Tom stepped forward to explain.

“That is payment, Sheriff,” he said simply, confidently as if that explained everything. He saw it didn’t and continued. “That’s all the money we were supposed to give those bandits that day, plus a little extra. We all came together and realized how much better our town is with you as Sheriff and remember it being similar when there was someone in this office before you. He left, and we realized that we also never paid him to make him stay. So, every month, you will receive a salary that we’ve all decided upon as the members of the new Town Council paid for by all the townspeople. As the bandits aimed to tax us unfairly, we impose this tax upon ourselves because we see now what it means to feel safe, and protected by you.” Mindy pushed her way to the front to add to Tom’s explanation.

“And we’ve also, officially elected you as the Town Sheriff. Unanimous approval from the new Town Council,” Mindy said with a little extra pep in her voice like she was the one elected the new Town Sheriff. Parker stood frozen and in awe of the gesture. He accepted it graciously, and at his insistence, they all went to the Saloon to celebrate on him. Before he entered the Saloon, Parker paused, looked back at the Town lit by candlelight and thought to himself, I love this place.

THE END

Outro

Before I get talking about the story and the takeaway idea, I’d like to say thank you for listening. If you’re new to this Podcast, I’d also recommend listening to the first episode, “The Toy Rocket” as it has a great message and lesson for getting you started on your journey towards whatever goals and dreams you’re working towards.

But now, let’s talk about “The Missing Sheriff.

The story itself was written as one big analogy. The idea is that the town is your mind or the World around you, and you are the Sheriff. You control what comes into your brain, into your life, and what doesn’t.

This is an important concept for living with optimism, and positivity, and simply being happy because what we let into our World, we tend to mimic. So, if we are bombarded with things to fear and things worry about all the time (eh hem news), we will then become fearful and worrisome. It’s like the characters Bob and Mindy. They constantly let in and embraced the gossip from other travelers, which let’s be honest, most gossip isn’t good or even true. They then became gossipers and fearful people. Nothing seems to capture peoples attention faster and easier than fear. Now, the point I’m trying to make here is that the negativity is out there, yes, but the positivity and optimism and love is out there too. So, it is up to you what you allow into your World and also what you seek to be a part of your World. From what we watch, read, listen to, and who we spend our time with; it’s all in our control, and it is important to take stock. That’s what I want you to do this month.

In the corresponding blog post for this episode, links in the description, there will be a downloadable worksheet to help you do this. It’s easy. The basic idea is to track what you read, listen to, watch, and who you spend your time with, and then mark how you feel afterward. Which things are bringing you down and what is uplifting you? Now, I said it is easy, but most won’t do it because they’ll think they are fine right now. And maybe that’s true, but I encourage you to try it anyway. What do you have to lose?

The message in this episode is one of the reasons for me starting this Podcast in the first place. I want it to be one more source you can turn to every month to leave feeling optimistic, inspired, motivated, and so on. When you finish listening, I want you to feel excited and pumped up to go after the things you want in life.

Like from the story, once Tom started to inspect the products he was trading for, he could make better trades and fill his store with great things to trade with. It’s the same for your mind and your life. Inspect the things you let into your head and your World, and you’ll start choosing better things to bring into your life.

That’s all for this episode of The Roaming Scholar Podcast, and I hope you enjoyed. Check out the blog post for more suggestions and to get the downloadable worksheet. For more information about the services I offer, including coaching, please visit my website at www.theroamingscholar.com. Also, if you enjoyed (and if you’re still listening I can only assume so) please take a moment and share it with your friends and family, or write a review. Thank you in advance!

Stay tuned next month, on November 7th, as we start a 2 part story and delve into the idea of what would happen if everyone could see glimpses of their own future in… “Ripples”

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