October 7The way he bounds across the fading green grass of my lawn says he’s still a puppy. Yet, he’s well over 100 pounds with long white fur wet with morning frost. His tri-colored face looks like that of a St. Bernard. I just caught him and a chunky Dobernam Pincher lifting legs over my snap dragons.

I’ve never seen these dogs before, but here they are.

Dobie has a collar and I call. A sleepy voice acknowledges the one dog, but not the other. Thirty minutes later and the owner collects her dog. She lives across the highway and train tracks from us, on the hill. I cringe at the thought that these two crossed those deadly paths. Hunk stays behind and sprawls at my feet on the porch as I dial dispatch for the county sheriff.

Someone had reported a missing St. Bernard. Male. The dispatcher asks if my new dog is that gender. If she could see the long hair she might better understand my dilemma in answering! Maybe, I say. Then I remember he lifted his leg on my flowers. Yes! The missing dog was reported to be male, too so she gives me a phone number to call, but no one answers. For Hunk’s safety we house him in the garage with Bootsy. Somehow, the Hub knew he wouldn’t harm the cat. He doesn’t but eats all her morning kibble, then pokes his nose out the cat door.

About the time we — as in the Hub, his brother Gee, sister-in-law the Italian Cowgirl and me — wonder what to do, a truck pulls into our driveway. A small woman climbs out and in a worried tone, asks if we’ve seen a St. Bernard. Hunk’s real name is Doug and he’s only eight months old. He grins like a kid when we let him out and he sees his mama. She was worried he’d been stolen like her last dog. It broke her heart.

Thievery is on the rise in Elmira.

We tell Hunk’s mama that while we were gone a week to Nevada someone stole every last apple from our tree. I was devastated when we came home. No more apple pannekoeken for breakfast; no apple crisp or apple pie; no apples to sauce, dry or cider. We had shared with the bucks who munched nightly on the dropped apples. We gathered up fallen apples before we left and never considered that anyone would steal the entire crop in the tree.

Hunk’s mama tells us that the blueberry farmer on the hill above Elmira lost half her harvest in a night to thieves. Another neighbor has lost all her eggs. Someone is stealing food.

Never would I turn down a hungry person. In fact, I feed people; it’s in my nature. With family who followed us 16 hours from Nevada, the first thing I did when I got home was ready the kitchen. I’d happily share my garden harvests. Most of my neighbors are the giving sort. And most of us work hard to plant, hoe and harvest food. To have that stolen is a deep insult. It’s time and effort none of us can easily get back. It was to save us money and provide a treat for us and visitors in winter. Food is to be shared, neither hoarded nor filched.

The thought of having a dog stolen is just as unsettling. It’s like a family abduction. Most of us wear that worried face we saw on Hunk’s mama when she pulled in to ask about her dog. Missing is hard to take; stolen is unconscionable. When I posted Hunk on Facebook with my phone number, many people said keep him; he’s beautiful. Yes, he is. But he’s no object. Had he been abandoned or abused we would have done something to protect him. Never would I steal another family’s beloved four-paw.

This, of course, takes me to pondering Rock Creek. Thievery is an underlying theme. Cobb McCanles historically was accused of stealing tax-payers’ money in North Carolina and robbing pioneers on the immigrant trail past his ranch. Cobb was sheriff in North Carolina and once he arrived in Nebraska Territory he formally applied to be adjudicator of local crimes. The territorial governor denied his request because the population was too sparse in his county, but like Elmira, his ranch had a major thoroughfare. You never know  who wanders these roads anonymously. In the end, Cobb’s that is, he was the victim of theft. The Pony Express bought his Rock Creek Station without ever paying him. Yet, Sarah Shull returned home to North Carolina as an old woman where family and neighbors believed her to be in possession of “gold and silver” that Cobb had stole earlier.

My research shows that these myths are unfounded, though historians continue to repeat them. During the Civil War, the Watauga County courthouse and all its records burned to the ground. Those who claim that Cobb stole tax-payers’ money also claim that the evidence went up in smoke. Yet, I discovered an interesting way to explore the legal proceedings without court documents. Because Cobb McCanles left the area, any lawsuits or pending crimes had to be published in the legal notices of a newspaper. The only legal notices that mention Cobb relate to the sale of his own property in an elusive manner that avoided a creditor. The creditor is actually the one who scammed locals out of their property by selling big lots with homes used as credit. As sheriff, Cobb had to collect money due or serve notice of default. He could have stolen money had the locals any to take. Instead, he sold his property in succession to several buyers to avoid his creditor’s claim. It’s complicated, and it worked. He defaulted but was not a thief.

Perhaps it is a fine line between needs and wants; earning and taking; survival and thievery.

October 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a thief or a theft. Consider motives and repercussions. Is the act a matter of perception? Is it a daring maneuver or a desperate bid for survival? Think about different instances of stealing.

Respond by October 13, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Prairie Justice by Charli Mills

Joe’s body crumpled to the ground. Sarah held back Nancy Jane who trembled while they watched Cobb punish Nancy Jane’s father.

“Thieves get the third degree, Joe Holmes. You were caught with stolen goods.” Cobb hauled the old man to the thorny locust tree.

“No!” Nancy Jane screamed and Sarah lost her grip on the woman. She flung herself between her father and Cobb. Sarah flinched.

“This is interesting.” Hickok walked up to Sarah from the barn, arms folded, revolvers resting on both hips.

“Do something,” Sarah pleaded.

“A thief deserves a noose,” he drawled. “Joe’s getting off easy.”

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