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Shiftless Behaviour by PatriciaG

Beta: Raian

Word count: 3,260

“Now, Scott, explain it to me again. When you cut the limbs near the road, were you wanting me to find you and the Calhouns or did you think you were trying to throw me off your trail?”

The boys had stopped to eat lunch by the previously jammed creek they’d spent the morning clearing.

Scott rolled his eyes and sighed. “You’re bringing this up again.”

“Well, I was able to find ya. You will admit that, won’t ya?”

“Yes. Thankfully, you did find us before anyone ate the tainted vegetables. What’s your point?”

“I just want you to admit, once and for all, that I’m the better tracker.”

“What? You don’t think I can track as well as you?”

“That’s already been proven,” laughed Johnny.

“Oh, I beg to differ. I think I could easily track you, Johnny.”

“Wanna bet?”

“Do you want to place a little wager on it, brother?”

“You’re on. Murdoch will be leaving for Stockton this weekend. I’ll slip out right after he leaves and hide out,” Johnny grinned and added, “I’ll bet you I’ll make it back to the ranch before he gets back on Monday and you’ll never find me.”

Scott stuck out his hand to shake on the bet. “Should we discuss terms? You know, for when you lose.”

“Loser … clears creeks for a month.” Johnny suggested.

Scott shook his head, “No, I’d prefer a monetary value. A week’s pay.”

“Make it a month’s pay and you’re on.”

“Deal.” They shook on it to seal the bet.

Both brothers started scheming how they were going to win.

Scott sneaked into the barn in the middle of the night on Friday. He spent hours removing two of Barranca’s shoes, notching them so they’d leave a pattern he could follow, before re-shoeing the palomino. He felt tired on Saturday morning, but proud of his devious actions.

Johnny’s plan included wearing moccasin boots and leaving earlier than expected to get a bigger head start.

Saturday morning, Murdoch discussed the weekend workload with Scott over breakfast.

“I though Johnny would’ve been down here already. You’ll have to relay what I’ve told you to your brother after I leave. Oh and Teresa should be back from the Williams’ on Sunday morning.”

Scott got a strickened look on his face. “Excuse me for a moment. I’ll go check on Johnny. He should really hear this from you as well.” Scott raced upstairs to Johnny’s empty bedroom. “Damn it!” He slammed the door before rushing back downstairs.

When he quickly returned to the kitchen without his brother, Murdoch questioned, “Where’s Johnny?”

“Oh, I guess he wanted to get an early start today. I’ll catch up with him and give him your orders.”

Scott, chomping at the bit to start tracking Johnny, had to bide his time until Murdoch left. He waved goodbye to his father before racing upstairs to pack his saddlebags. He wanted to take his spyglass, a change of clothing that would keep him camouflaged, and a notebook to write down the clues he found. He wanted proof to show Johnny when he’d been found. His next stop, the kitchen for enough food that didn’t require a fire.

With his stuffed saddlebags, he rushed to the barn to saddle his horse. “Damn it, Johnny!” One of his horse’s shoes had been removed and left hanging on the wall between the stalls.

“What’s wrong, Scott?” Jelly asked as he wandered into the barn.

“My horse needs a new shoe, or rather this shoe needs to be put back on,” Scott answered obviously frustrated.

“I wondered why Johnny took that shoe off this morning. He said he’s just playing a little joke on you. I take it you don’t find it funny.”

Scott glared at the old man. “Jelly, Johnny and I will be … out on the range all weekend. Can you take care of things around here for us?”

“Well, you know I can. It’ll be pretty quiet around here what with all of you gone, though.”


Scott spent the rest of the day tracking his brother and cussing Johnny’s ‘cheating’ ways. It was slow going having to stop and search for the horseshoe tracks that matched Johnny’s horse. Scott didn’t consider his own behavior as cheating, but then he thought about it and started laughing. They had both  used horse shoes to sabotage the other.

Johnny headed into the rocky foothills to get away from his brother. Scott had caught up to him surprisingly fast, but Johnny still felt confident he could outsmart Scott.

Saturday night, both brothers had cold camps less than a mile from each other. The temperature dropped that night and they both wished they’d brought warmer gear.

Sunday morning, Johnny tried the cut branches technique that Scott had used, but it didn’t shake his brother. By mid-day, Johnny knew Scott had to be cheating to not fall for any of his tricks. He hid Barranca in some bushes and laid on his stomach looking through the binoculars that he had ‘borrowed’ from Scott trying to find his big brother in the rocks across the meadow from where he thought he lay hidden.

Scott climbed some rocks to be high enough to look down on Johnny. He used his spyglass, since he couldn’t find his binoculars, to search the area.

Mr. Tuttle and his grandson, Ben, were hunting in the area. They saw the palomino in the distance.

“Look Gramps. That Johnny’s horse.”

As Mr. Tuttle looked where Ben pointed he noticed a flash of light in the rocks. He thought he saw a man holding a rifle pointed at Johnny Lancer, but his eyesight wasn’t so good.

About the time Johnny saw Scott in his binoculars, Scott found Johnny in his spyglass.

“Shit!” Johnny exclaimed as he saw Scott wave at him. Then, a rifle shot rang out and Scott wasn’t in his sights anymore. “Shit!” Johnny searched the surrounding rocks, but found nothing.

“Johnny!” Ben hollered as they rode to his hiding place. “Johnny, are you OK?”

“Ben, Mr. Tuttle, what are you two doing here?” Johnny didn’t want to stop to talk. He had to find out what happened to Scott.

“We just saved your life,” Mr. Tuttle proudly announced.

“There’s this man in the rocks with a gun pointed at ya and Gramps shot him.” Ben beamed.

Johnny looked near the bottom of the rocks and saw something brown in a heap. He raced to his horse and spurred him toward what he dreaded might be his brother.

Mr. Tuttle and Ben followed behind at a slightly slower pace confused by Johnny’s actions.

Johnny rushed to his brother’s side. The fall hadn’t been that far, but Scott had a nasty cut on the side of his head from the rocks. The gun shot had hit him high in the shoulder and spun him off balance, but luckily it had gone through. When the Tuttle’s arrived, Johnny yelled, “Bring me a canteen.”

Handing the water to Johnny, Mr. Tuttle began to apologize. “I’m so sorry, Johnny. I didn’t know it was Scott. What were you boys doing out here anyway?”

Johnny didn’t take time to answer the old man. He splashed some water onto his bandanna and began to wipe the blood off Scott’s face. “Come on, brother. Wake up.” He lightly patted Scott’s face. “Wake up.”

Scott groaned as he blinked his eyes and slowly opened them trying to focus on his brother. “What happened?”

“You fell. Let’s get you back to the house.” Johnny helped Scott to stand. “Where’s your horse?”

Scott turned to point behind him and cried out in pain, falling to the ground.

“What’s wrong?”

“My right leg. Oh, it hurts. I … I can’t stand on it.”

“Ben, go get Scott’s horse and hurry.”

“Scott, I sure am sorry I shot ya. I didn’t know it was you. I thought someone with a rifle’s gonna shoot Johnny.” Mr. Tuttle hung his head.

“Accidents happen Mr. Tuttle. Scott’ll be OK once I get him back home.”

Johnny put his arm around Scott’s waist helping him to stand. Then, he held on to Scott’s belt to hoist him into the saddle.

Thankfully, they were only a few miles from home. As they passed some ranch hands on the way, Johnny sent Carl to get Dr. Jenkins as the brothers continued to the hacienda.

The ever-present Jelly worked in the barn when they rode in. “What in tarnation have you boys been up to?”

“Jelly, help me get Scott to his room.”

“Do I need to send someone to get Sam?”

“Nope, Carl’s already gone after him.”

As they helped Scott off his horse, he said, “Sick. I’m … gonna … be sick.” Johnny quickly grabbed him as he vomited close to Jelly’s feet and the old man jumped out of the way.

“Help me, Jelly!” Johnny demanded as Scott wavered standing on his one good leg. Together they managed to drag the injured man to his room. Barely making it there before Scott heaved again, but this time into a water basin. They laid him in his bed and placed a wet rag on his forehead. When Jelly attempted to take Scott’s right boot off, he screamed in pain.

Jelly shook his head, looking at all of Scott’s injuries: blood on his upper chest from a gun shot, blood in his hair from what Jelly didn’t know and something wrong with his leg that he couldn’t put weight on it. “Murdoch’s not gonna be happy when he gets back tomorrow.”

“Jelly, would you go put some water on? Oh, and bring up a pitcher of fresh water, bandages and the medicine basket.”

Johnny pulled open Scott’s shirt to look at the hole in his shoulder. “Scott, I want you to sit up so I can take your shirt off and have a look at your shoulder.” He placed the water basin next to Scott’s hip in case he felt sick again. The bleeding had pretty much stopped, so Johnny didn’t mess with it, just helped Scott lie back down as a groan escaped his lips.

“We sure stepped in it this time, brother,” Johnny sighed.

Scott simply nodded and closed his eyes.

Jelly came bustling through the door with the requested supplies and the pitcher of water.

“Carl’s back. He caught Dr. Jenkins in his buggy during his rounds and he says Doc’s on his way. You gonna tell me what went on with you boys?” Jelly asked.

“Later. You stay here with Scott, while I go get cleaned up.”

By the time Johnny headed back to Scott’s room, Sam had let himself into the house and had climbed the stairs.

“Carl said Scott’s been injured,” Sam stated as he looked at Scott from head to toe. “I’ve got it from here. You two can wait downstairs.”

“Don’t you need some help, ya know since Teresa’s not here?” Jelly asked.

“Is the bullet still in there?”

Johnny shook his head and arms hugged his chest.

Sam noticed the right boot still on Scott. “Something wrong with his right leg?”

“Can’t stand on it.” Johnny answered.

“OK, I’ll let you know if I need your help setting the leg.” Sam watched them quietly leave.

While waiting in the Great Room, Johnny let Jelly in on their activities and the bet. Jelly shook his head, thinking if trouble didn’t find these two, then they’d find the trouble themselves.

The doctor dealt with the head wound first, probably a concussion. Then he moved on to cleaning the gun shot and bandaging his chest and shoulder. Finally, the leg. He cut Scott’s boot off, slit the blond’s pant up the seam to his thigh, and carefully checked over the break, a simple fracture that only required a splint. By the time Sam finished, Scott had grimaced in severe pain several times.

“I’m sorry Scott, but with the concussion I can’t give you any pain medicine. I’ll brew some of Teresa’s Willow Bark tea for you, thought. That should help alleviate some of the pain.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

Sam patted Scott on the hand. “Take some deep breaths and try to relax. I’ll be back with the tea.” He passed through the Great Room to let Johnny and Jelly know how the examination had gone before heading to the kitchen.

Johnny pulled a chair up to Scott’s bed and Jelly stood at the end. When Sam returned with the tea, he stopped at the door to listen to their conversation rather than interrupt.

“How we gonna explain what happened this time?” Johnny asked.

“Well, we can’t use ‘Shiftless and lazy’ ’cause I used that the last time Murdoch left, ya know to Blessing,” Jelly reminded them.

“Just an accident. Mr. Tuttle didn’t mean to shoot me,” Scott groaned as he shifted trying to get comfortable.

“We don’t have to tell him you were tracking me.”

“Johnny, you know we can’t hide anything from Murdoch. He knew we were in Blessing the whole time.”

“Yeah, I know.” Johnny agreed. “We’ll tell him when he gets home.”

Sam cleared his throat as he entered the room. “Here you go, Scott. I added some honey to help mask the bitter taste.”

“Thanks, Sam.” Scott drank most of it down with only a slight grimace for the taste.

“All right. Everybody out. We need to let Scott rest.”


Scott hadn’t slept much Saturday night and either Johnny or Jelly had stayed with him. Teresa got dropped off by the Williams family about mid-morning. She came blustering in the Great Room and saw Johnny on the couch and Jelly sitting in the chair quietly facing the empty fireplace.

Half-way through her energetic retelling of her exciting weekend she stopped, “Where’s Scott?”

“Upstairs in his room.”

“Is he sick?”

The men looked at each other. Johnny decided to hedge the truth a bit. “He didn’t get much sleep last night, so he’s resting.”

That pacified Teresa for a few more minutes of her story telling, but she could tell something had to be wrong. “I think I’ll go check to see how Scott’s doing.”

“No!” Jelly and Johnny answered in unison.

“He really needs his sleep,” Jelly added.

“You tell me what’s wrong with Scott, right now.”

“Well, he got injured yesterday. Now, Sam’s already been here and taken care of him,” Johnny answered.

“What exact injuries do I have to deal with?”

“A concussion,” Johnny began, “And a broken leg.”

“Don’t forget about the gunshot to his shoulder,” Jelly reminded Johnny.

“Oh my heavens.” Teresa looked Johnny over carefully to make sure he wasn’t hurt. “How long does Sam want him to stay in bed?”

“About a week or so.”

Teresa simply shook her head, mumbling as she walked toward the kitchen, “I’m sure there’s a good story to go with this, too.” She saw her pot of willow bark left on the counter. She put some some water on to heat. When the tea finished steeping, Teresa carried the pot and cup up to Scott’s room.

Johnny had gone upstairs and helped Scott sit up in bed. All Teresa could see were the bandages across his shoulder and around his chest. She looked surprised to not see a bandage around his head, like she would have given him. His splinted leg under the covers sat high on a pillow. Teresa finally smiled as her scrutiny of Scott found him looking better than she expected.

“Scott, how are you feeling?”

“A little sore. Is that more of that tea? I really don’t think I need anymore.”

“Scott Lancer, I can tell by the look on your face you’re still in pain.” Teresa handed him the cup before sitting in Johnny’s chair that he’d vacated when she arrived.

“Thanks, Teresa. I do appreciate your help.” He begrudgingly accepted the cup, took a small sip and grimaced. Sam added honey to help the taste.

“Well, I’m sure I can find some work to do around here. Take it easy, Scott.” Johnny patted him on his good arm as he started to exit the room, but stopped to add, “Do you want the ledgers to update?”

“Johnny, Scott isn’t going to do anything but rest until Murdoch gets home tomorrow.”

The brothers side glanced at each other with the reminder that their father would be home tomorrow.

Teresa removed the cup from Scott’s grasp and set it on the bedside table. “I think you need to lie down and get some rest.” She removed the extra pillow from behind his back and helped him recline, also adjusting his leg on the pillow under the blanket.

Scott felt a little uncomfortable having Teresa fuss over him. He shooed her away telling her he felt tired and wanted to sleep.


Johnny took it upon himself to meet Murdoch at the stage. He’d retrieved his father’s horse from the livery before waiting in front of the depot.

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” Murdoch exclaimed as he climbed down from the stage. “Were you and Scott in town already or did you make a special trip?”

“I just came on my own.” Johnny attempted a smile before dropping his chin to his chest.

Murdoch noticed the clues and took a deep breath before asking, “Did something happen?”

Johnny picked up his father’s bag and walked toward the horses. Murdoch followed with his anxiety starting to increase.

Johnny mounted Barranca and watched Murdoch climb onto his horse. “Pa, I’ll tell you all about it on the way home.”

“Is Scott, Teresa, the ranch all right?” Murdoch, worried with Johnny’s use of ‘Pa,’ blurted.

Johnny nodded, “Everyone is OK and Lancer, too.” Johnny spent the next few miles explaining what had happened, leaving nothing out.

Murdoch rode quietly without saying a word and with very little expression. He knew this had been hard on Johnny to tell and felt relieved that he’d be prepared for Scott’s injuries before they reached the ranch.

Johnny couldn’t stand it anymore. “Say something, Old Man!”

Murdoch didn’t appreciate Johnny’s tone, but simply answered, “Accidents happen. Hopeful you’ve both learned something from this incident.”

They spied Sam’s buggy in front of the hacienda as they rode in.

“Sam said he’d check on Scott again this afternoon,” Johnny explained.

“Good.” Murdoch set his bag down on the entry table before heading to Scott’s room.

“Murdoch, welcome home!” Teresa rushed to hug her guardian.

“Sam, how’s Scott doing?”

“His headache is lessening, his leg fracture isn’t too severe, and his shoulder should heal nicely as long as there’s no infection. He’ll need to stay in bed for a least a week.”

Scott tried to interrupt several times, but waited until the good doctor finished. “Welcome home, sir. I’m feeling better today than I did yesterday.” He attempted a smile. “I guess you’re wondering what happened.”

“No, your brother already filled me in on the ride home and you will stay in bed until Sam says you’re well enough. Understood?”

Johnny dropped Murdoch’s bag in his room before joining the family in Scott’s room. He stood by the door and listened. After Teresa led Murdoch and Sam to the kitchen, Johnny sat on the side of the bed.

“Well, I think that went well.” Scott smiled. “Thank you for explaining it all to him.”

“Sure, brother.” Johnny stood to leave the room. “I’ll let you rest for a while. I’ll check back in on you later.”

“Johnny,” Scott’s voice halted him in the doorway. “I won the bet.”



February 2023



Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or Email Patricia directly.

8 thoughts on “Shiftless Behaviour by PatriciaG

  1. Ciao Patricia, nice and funny story. Our boys always could find troubles.
    Thank you for writing and sharing.


  2. Patricia,

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    You know whenever the boys scheme/plan something, there will be trouble. LOl.

    I enjoy a good story about the brothers and especially one with some humor. Poor Scott and his injuries. Guess Johnny will be pulling extra duty to cover for his brother.

    Loved the last line, but I bet Johnny will present an argument later, that is, if Murdoch doesn’t interfere.

    Thanks again for sharing this.



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