The blond express rider watched from behind the wood pile as his friend moved toward the barn. This was good; Kid had no idea what was coming! Cody tried not to laugh as Kid opened the barn door, then SPLAT! Kid was drenched!
"What...how...why..." Kid spluttered, caught completely by surprise. The bucket that had overturned when the door was opened was hanging by its rope above him. He narrowed his eyes as he observed it; someone had pulled a prank on him! Now he would have to go back to the bunkhouse to change, and he barely had time to saddle Katy before his run as it was. Now he would be late leaving, and Rachel would probably be mad.
Cody circled around behind the bunkhouse and made it inside just as Kid reached the porch. None of the other boys were around to see that he was sneaking in, so when Kid walked in Cody was lying on his bunk reading a book as if he had been there the whole time.
"Whoa, what happened to you?" he asked as Kid began to change into dry clothes.
"Someone thought it would be funny to rig a bucket to dump water on me when I opened the barn door." Kid narrowed his eyes at Cody. "You wouldn't happen to know who it is would you?" he asked accusingly.
"Nope." Cody replied. "But if I happen to find out, I'll let you know."
"Rider up!" Rachel yelled from her porch. "Kid, where are you?"
"Great," Kid muttered, pulling on his boots. "I'm supposed to be leaving right now, and Katy isn't even saddled yet. Rachel's gonna kill me."
Kid ran to the barn as Lou rode up. She led Lightning into the barn and watched as Kid saddled Katy.
"Why aren't you ready yet, Kid," she asked him.
"I had to change clothes," he replied, telling her what had happened.
"Well, you'd better hurry, or Rachel will kill you."
Kid just glared at her as she smiled innocently at him. Rachel walked into the barn just then, ready to scold Kid for not being ready. Kid jumped in before she could even start, telling her about the trick. He finished saddling Katy as he told the story, and grabbing the pouch from Lou, he led the horse outside, and with a yell, mounted and took off.
"How was your run," Rachel turned to Lou, noticing for the first time how terrible she looked. "What happened?!"
Lou was covered in dirt and looked as if she hadn't slept in days, even though her run was only overnight. "Well, I ran into a dust storm, the rider from Seneca was late getting to Fern Creek so I was late getting to the next station and got chewed out, and as if that wasn't enough, somebody decided it would be funny to take all my food out of my saddlebags."
"What? Are you sure?" Rachel couldn't believe it. "So you haven't eaten in how long?"
"Since supper yesterday. I packed my bags right before I left yesterday afternoon and ate supper at the Lone Tree station. This morning when I went to get breakfast, all my food was gone! At first I thought someone at Lone Tree was playing jokes on me, but after what just happened to Kid, I'm not so sure."
"Did you leave your stuff anywhere between the time you packed them and the time you left?"
"I guess I did when I went to saddle Lightning. I left the bags lying on the table in the bunkhouse."
"Who else was in there?"
"All of the boys, except Noah. He was the only one out on a run."
"So any of them could have done it without the others seeing."
"What about Kid? He couldn't be the prankster. Why would he pull a trick on himself?"
Rachel nodded. "You're right. So that leaves only Jimmy, Cody, Buck, or Jesse."
"Were they all here today?"
"Yeah, and they all could have had an opportunity to rig the bucket."
"Well, I'm sure we'll find out who it is. And when we do, you'd better bet I'm gonna get him back."
Rachel just laughed as she pushed Lou toward the shower. "Why don't you go get cleaned up, and I'll fix you something to eat."
"Thanks Rachel. That sounds great."
"Hey Lou," Cody looked up as she walked into the bunkhouse. "What happened to you?"
Lou looked at him suspiciously. "You wouldn't happen to know who took all the food out of my saddlebags would you?"
"No, did somebody do that to you?"
"No, Cody. I was just asking because I felt like making up a stupid story." Lou was in a bad mood. "Would you tell me if you find out?" Cody nodded as she grabbed some clean clothes and headed toward the shower.
Lunch that afternoon was unusually quiet for the riders. Jimmy, Buck, Noah and Jesse had been helping Teaspoon with some repairs for some of the widows in town all morning, and they were extremely tired. Lou, worn out from her hard ride could barely keep her eyes open, and Rachel was content to just eat in peace for once. Cody was the only one who kept up his usual chatter.
"Pass the salt please," Rachel said. Buck passed it to her and she sprinkled a small amount on her food. "Cody," she turned to the chattering rider. "Did you fix the fence like I asked you?"
"Yes, Rachel. Hopefully Jimmy will get that new horse broken soon. I'm tired of fixing the fence all the time."
Rachel laughed as she took a bite of her stew. Her laughter soon faded, and a disgusted look came over her face.
"What is it Rachel," Lou asked, concerned.
"Something's wrong with this stew. It tastes really sweet!"
"Mine's fine," Buck said. The others nodded in agreement.
"What's different in yours?"
"The salt!" Rachel realized. She picked up the salt shaker and sprinkled a little on her finger. Tasting it she realized what had happened. "Its sugar!"
"It looks like our prankster has struck again," Lou said, getting up to fix Rachel another bowl of stew.
"You have to admit Rachel, that was a good trick," Jimmy said as he began to sprinkle pepper into his stew. He looked so pathetic when the top fell off, that the others began to laugh.
"Now that was a good trick," Noah said.
"Okay, I've had it!" Lou glared at the boys. "Which one of you have been doing this?"
They all looked at her innocently. "Oh, come on. I know it was one of you, and I want to know who! Right now!"
"It wasn't me," Noah said.
"Me either," Buck, Jimmy, Cody, and Jesse quickly replied.
"Well, whoever it was, you'd better watch out," Lou threatened. "When I get you back, it won't be nice!"
The other boys just grinned at her as if to say, "You couldn't do anything that bad to us."
"I warned you. If I find out who it is, you'd better be watching out!"
After lunch the boys returned to town to help Teaspoon with more repairs. There sure were a lot of widows in Rock Creek! Buck and Noah were working on fixing the porch steps at Mrs. Gray's house. They had cut boards to replace the old steps, and now were busy nailing them to the stair frame. Noah pounded the last nail into place, and they stood back to view their handiwork. Mrs. Gray came out on the porch holding a tray with glasses and a pitcher on it.
"That looks real nice boys. Thank you," she said. "Would you care for some cold lemonade?"
"That sounds real good, Ma'am," Buck replied.
"Well, I'll just leave it here on the porch, and as soon as you wash your hands at the pump, you can come get it. I've got to get back to my baking." She turned and went back into the house.
Buck and Noah quickly washed their hands, and walked up the steps to the porch. Noah, who was ahead of Buck, wasn't prepared when the top step collapsed beneath him. He started to fall and grabbed Buck to balance himself. The force was too hard however, and both boys found themselves on the ground. Noah's foot was caught in the broken step, and it felt like he had twisted his ankle somehow. Buck felt like he would probably have a bruise on his forehead the next day, but otherwise, he was fine.
"Noah, I thought you replaced that top step!"
"Didn't you check the wood to make sure it was sturdy?"
"Don't blame me. Blame the prankster." Noah held up a piece of the broken step. "Its broken clean through."
Buck took the wood from him and examined it. "It looks like he cut almost all the way through the bottom, with just enough left uncut to look normal. We didn't notice when we nailed it on, but when you stepped on it, it collapsed."
Noah listened to Buck's explanation and had to agree with him. The prankster had cut the board in two places, so when he stepped on it, the middle of the step broke.
"Buck, are you sure you're not the prankster?" Noah accused him. "You were the only other one around here."
"Of course not! Do you think I wanted you to fall on me? Besides, you know I would never play a trick that dangerous. What if you had never walked on the step. Mrs. Gray could have been seriously hurt!" Buck was angry that Noah would even think he had done such a thing.
"I'm sorry, you're right," Noah apologized. "But who could it have been then?"
Buck shook his head. "I have no idea. We should talk to the others and try to figure it out from the facts we know."
"Well, let's go home then."
Buck and Noah returned to the station to find Kid just returning from his run. Lou and Rachel were there also, and Jimmy rode up a few minutes later.
"Where's Cody and Jesse?" Buck asked Rachel. "We need to talk about all these pranks." He told them what had happened to him and Noah.
"Well, Jesse's at school, and Cody is still helping Teaspoon I guess."
"Well, we can't wait for them. We have to figure this out before anymore tricks are played on us."
Lou went over what they already knew. "Let's see, Buck and Noah and the step, Jimmy and the pepper, Rachel and the salt, Kid's bath, and my food."
Realization dawned on her and she looked at the others. "You know who hasn't had any tricks played on him?"
"Hmm..." Kid replied. "Buck, Noah, You, Me, Rachel, Jimmy. The only one's who haven't are Teaspoon, Cody and Jesse."
"And who was here every time a trick was played?" Lou continued.
Just then Jesse ran into the yard, returning from school. "Rachel, I gotta write a letter to the territorial governor for school. I have to ask him a question or tell him my opinion about some important issue. My teacher says the letter has to be done right. I have to put everything a special way. What's the date?" He said this all in one breath, anxious to get the boring task done.
"Thanks Rachel." Jesse ran into the bunkhouse to write his letter.
"April first, huh?" Lou said.
"What about it?" Buck asked. He had never heard of April Fool's Day, so Lou explained it for all of them.
"I can't believe Cody would do this though," she finished.
"How do you know it was Cody?" Kid asked her.
"Well, Jesse's been at school all day, and this is definitely not the kind of thing Teaspoon would do, so it had to have been Cody."
Jimmy nodded. "I think you're right Lou."
"Well," she said with a mischievous grin. "I say let's teach him a lesson!"
The others quickly agreed, and a plan was developed.
Cody returned to the station just before supper time that night. "Rachel, Teaspoon had me working so hard, I thought I was just going to die! I'm starving; is supper gonna be ready soon?"
"Oh, Cody, I'm sorry," Rachel looked at him. "We all got hungry early today, so we already ate. I don't think there was any stew left either." She looked at him, truly sorry that he had missed the meal.
"What?" Cody was amazed. Rachel had never failed to save him some food before. "Oh well, I'm really too tired to eat anyway. I think I'll just go to bed."
"Uh, Cody, you've been working hard all afternoon, and you're kind of dirty. I would suggest that you take a shower before you get into bed. I just washed those sheets," Rachel commanded.
Cody grumbled, but grabbed a towel and headed for the shower anyway. He washed as fast as he could then turned around to grab his towel to dry off. It was gone! His clothes were all gone too!
"Okay, this isn't funny!" He called. "Whoever took my clothes better bring them back right now!" No one answered.
Cody stood on his toes to look over the top of the shower wall. He saw his towel hanging on a tree branch about ten feet away. "Guess I'm gonna have to make a run for it," he muttered, summoning up his courage. He only hoped Lou or Rachel wouldn't see him!
He ran as fast as he could toward the tree and grabbed the towel. Wrapping it around him, he heard the boys laughing.
"Okay, who did this?" he asked threateningly. But he just didn't look very dangerous with his wet hair and a towel wrapped around his waist, and the boys only laughed harder.
"I don't know," Kid said. "But it sure was a good trick!"
Cody just threw him an evil glance as he walked into the bunkhouse. Finding it empty, he quickly put some clothes on and crawled into bed. Or he tried to crawl into bed anyway. He found that he could not stretch his legs out very far. Someone had short-sheeted his bunk!
"Okay, this is really not funny at all," he glared at the boys as they came in, followed by Lou and Rachel.
"What's the matter Cody?" Lou asked sweetly.
"Somebody's been playing tricks on me!"
"Well, maybe it was the same person whose been playing tricks on all of us," Buck said, as if maybe Cody could help them figure out who it was.
"That's impossible, I played those tricks on you guys..." Cody's voice trailed off as he realized that he'd been had.
"Yep. April Fool's," Lou said, and they all burst into laughter at his expense. Cody just crawled into bed and covered up with his blanket. He turned his back toward them, obviously not pleased with the way his tricks had turned out.
"I guess some people just can't take a joke," Noah commented, and they all laughed again.
Aimee, thank you for writing this great story...fitting for this national day of pranks. It was a wonderful surprise to find waiting for me on the morning of April 1st! :)