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The Barkley Boys
By Susan
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Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the TV program "Big Valley" are the creations of Four Star/Republic Pictures and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. No infringement is intended in any part by the author, however, the ideas expressed within this story are copyrighted to the author.

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A Poem


Format: Poem

The Barkley Boys On a chilly Autumn evening

when the coyotes gave a howl;

when the wind came from the outhouse

and carried a stench most foul;

when the buzzards circled overhead

some carrion seen from afar,

the Barkley boys came riding

up to the Stockton bar.

Over the sidewalk their boots clomp

and the swinging doors both creak;

" Mornin Jarrod," the Sheriff calls,

and he heard the eldest speak:

"Good morning, Fred. Im buying.

Would you like to have a beer?"

"No, thanks. I've got some news, boys,

and its something you need to hear.

Im sure you recall Dan Harper.

He worked out on your spread."

Nick nodded. "I fired him last year.

He swore hed see us dead."

"Whats he done?" Heath asked the Sheriff.

"Killed a man down in Monterey. . .

and hes swearin all kinds of vengeance;

says hell make the Barkleys pay."

"Pay for what?" Eugene asked, puzzled.

"I didnt bring any dough."

"Hes an idiot," Heath muttered, eyes rolling.

Nick sighed and said, "I know.

We think it dates from his birth day.

Doc dropped him on his head."

"That explains why theres so much loose in there."

"Will you listen to me?!" snapped Fred.

"Theres trouble coming up your back trail.

Dan Harpers been seen aroun.

Im here to deputize some men

and hunt the varmint down."

"We handle our own troubles,"

said Nick who was looking grim.

"Dont worry about Dan Harper,

cause well take care of him."

"Youd better leave him to the law,"

the Sheriff, Fred, replied,

and then he looked toward Jarrod

hoping hed take his side.

Before a sound could pass his lips

the saloon doors both flung wide,

and everyone was startled

when Audra ran inside.

"I knew Id find you all in here,"

she said to her oldest brother.

"Oh, Jarrod, we must do something!

Dan Harper has taken Mother!"

"Taken her where?" asked Eugene.

"Did she want to go to the mission?"

Audra glared and looked at Nick,

"Do something about his condition!"

"But I dont have a condition,"

said Eugene, a little slow.

"Yes, you do," snapped Audra. "Youre an idiot!"

Nick sighed, and said, "I know."

They sent Eugene to get some drinks --

and get him out of their way.

The rest gathered round pretty Audra

to hear what she had to say.

"Now tell us about Dan Harper,"

urged Heath, and then Audra said,

"He told me when the church bell rings

hes shooting Mother dead!"

"Why wait until the curfew bell

to kill her?" said Nick , then met

the eyes of his brother, Jarrod.

"Of course. He wants to make us sweat."

"The waiting will be sheer torture,

for us as well as Mother."

"For Mother most of all," added Heath,

and he looked from brother to brother.

"Were going to have to take her back.

We know he wont surrender."

He patted his sister on the back,

"Dont worry," he said, voice tender.

"Well get Mother back. I promise."

"I know you will," she said.

Nick nodded, "We wont let Harper

harm a hair on her precious head."

"But what about the rest of her?"

cried Eugene to Audras glare.

"Weve got to protect the rest of her.

Who cares about her hair?"

It was only the Sheriffs quick action

that stopped him from getting a blow.

"Hes an idiot!" was Freds explanation.

Nick sighed and said, "I know."

So the Sheriff got his posse;

went to hunt for nasty Dan,

but the Barkley boys remained behind.

Said Heath, "I have a plan."

He explained to both his brothers --

Nick and Jarrod, not Eugene --

exactly what he had in mind

and what it all would mean.

All could see they had a purpose,

cause their faces all were grim.

They turned to their youngest brother

and they all grabbed hold of him.

Out the door the three were walking,

dragging Eugene from the bar,

and the men of Stockton knew

the Barkley boys would save their Ma.

"Whatcha think theyre gonna do, boys?"

one old man said, eyes alight.

"I dont know, but Id bet money

curfew shall not ring this night!"

"I dont know bout that," his partner

said when all the room was still,

" Cause Dan Harpers sure determined,

and I kinda think it will."

"Youd bet money?" said a gambler.

"Just how much?" they heard him say.

And they all made bets, some saying

Mama Vic would not see day.

Others bet the boys would save her;

but some didnt go along,

and they bet Eugene would foul up

and make everything go wrong.

"Thats a sure thing," smirked a cowboy,

" cause he aint right in the head."

"Even broken clocks are right least

twice a day," another said.

Hours passed. The time crept slowly,

and all listened for the knell

of the ringing from the steeple

of the Stockton churchs bell.

"It will ring," a man said grimly.

"Mrs. Barkleys good as dead.

cause the sextons old and deaf, but

never fails his task," he said.

"Many years hes done his duty,

peeling in the close of day,

and once more hell pull that bell rope

though the Barkleys Ma will pay."

From the barroom men were watching

as the sexton went inside

and they waited for the bell sound

that would tell them Vic had died.

" Gonna miss her," said one cowboy,

sipping beer and looking sad.

"For an older white-haired broad, you know,

Victoria wasnt bad."

And they heard a sound at curfew,

and they all became aware,

of an odd, peculiar THUMP -- THUMP

sounding in the Stockton air.

"What the Devils that?" a man asked.

Though they listened, no one knew,

and again they heard the THUMP -- THUMP

strange and muffled -- one -- then two --.

"Not the curfew bell, for dang sure!

From the bell theres not a sound!"

As the winning betters realized that,

from them a cheer went round.

"Why the blazes aint it ringing?"

said another man at last.

"We can see the sexton pulling

on the bell rope hard and fast."

But the only sound was THUMP -- THUMP

as the heavy bell did swing,

and they knew somehow the Barkleys

made sure curfew did not ring.

Not long after came the posse

back to town with nasty Dan,

all tied up and with Victoria

safely back where she began.

And still on an Autumn night they say

when you hear the coyotes howl;

when the wind comes from the outhouse

and carries a stench most foul;

when the buzzards circle overhead

some carrion seen from afar,

the Barkley boys come riding,

up to the Stockton bar.

Their boots clomp on the sidewalk planks

and the swinging doors both creak;

inside their friends all greet them

and you hear the eldest speak:

"Good morning, boys. Im buying.

The drinks are all on me."

"Will you tell us how you did it?"

one friend asked timidly.

"Did what?" asked Jarrod and smiled,

but his eyes had a knowing light.

"How did you stop the curfew bell

from ringing that terrible night?"

"Ill tell you how we did it, boys --

saved Mother from sheer hell.

We tied our youngest brother

to the clapper of the bell!"

"Howd you get him to stand still for that?"

And another man breathed, "Tarnation!"

Heath grinned and said, "We told him

its required for Confirmation."

"He fell for that?" the man said.

Nick nodded, his eyes aglow.

The man shook his head, "Hes an idiot!"

Nick sighed and said, "I know."

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