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The continuing Saga of the Toenail Ridge Shortline.

Chapter 13

To Serve & Protect.

Written 16 June, 1998 Uploaded 20 June,1998


Every town needs law enforcement.

This is a truism, dating back to the days when Roman emperors chucked miscreants to the lions in the Coloseum just for crossing against the lights. Throughout the centuries, those in power have devised more and better ways to protect the better classes (read richer) from intrusions on their liberty, property, and sensibilities by the rest of the local inhabitants, especially if the rest of the local inhabitants were a different colour, of different ethnic background, had a strange accent, or just hit the law enforcement officer wrong on the day.

Selbyville's law enforcement officer was named Dillon Matthews, although he was know generally in the valley just as Matt.

Dillon Matt had come to Selbyville at the express invitation of the Toenail Ridge Shortline Directors, who had had the fear of God put into them when a hint of train robbers had appeared in the Toenail Ridge Examiner.

True, the hint was contained in a fictional story by an itinerant journalist name of Sam Clements, but, where there's smoke there's fire, if you don't take care they'll take your house away, and anyway who are these 'they' anyway?

So 'they ' decided that the valley needed protection against evil forces.

And since the definition of evil forces lies with those most able to pay for their control, the Directors of the Shortline got the evil forces controller that they wanted.

Dillon Matt was a man's man.

In a later age this would mean he was gay.

In this age it meant that he drank hard, smoked hard, swore hard and .....

that's probably enough hard references.

Needless to say, he was a popular man with the former seamstresses, at least those who chose to keep a hand in on their former occupation. In a manner of speaking.

Dillon Matt took over the former premises of an itinerant baker, Dick Sexton, and where the bread ovens used to be, Dillon had holding cells built. The walls were already thick enough and it didn't take too much work to enlarge the doors to admit miscreants instead of just loaves of bread. A vagrant arrested for being a loafer knew he was in for a hot time in Dillon Matt's jail.

Children seem to have a natural affiliation for purveyors of the law, they either follow the peace officer around with adoration and admiration in their eyes and hearts, or they plot endlessly to waste his time and generally make a damn nuisance of themselves with him.

Thus it was that Matt found himself at loggerheads with a number of the juveniles who attended Dora's school.

(Isn't it interesting that kids are kids until they become a pain in the ass to authority and then they metamorphise into juveniles?)

Now for a change the major miscreant was not Bart Shay.

Bart had decided to lay low for a while, for although he didn't actually get the blame for the coconut kisses episode, his father Clay had hurt his knuckles on Michael Cotton's jaw, and Bart had been semi-blamed for the contusions and abrasions on the paternal parent's distal arm extremities.

This time the chief purveyor of mischief was a young man name of Wayne. Wayne was the son of the brakeman, Tiny, who got paid a living wage for sleeping in the bobber caboose whenever No.9 took a train over the Toenail Ridge trackage.

Like father, like son, Wayne was huge.

At age 12 he stood 5 feet 11 inches and weighed 200 pounds. So naturally, he was, like his Dad, called by everybody, Tiny.

Tiny Jr. was an easy-going fun-loving bruiser, he hung out with the guys down by the lake in summer and haunted the railyards the rest of the time.

Organized sports hadn't really taken a hold in the valley, but anywhere else in the United States, Tiny would have been a line-backer on the football team in Fall, and served as the bleachers in summer. Instead, he and the other boys had to invent their own ways to dissipate excess energy.

No.8 and varnish passing
the sand-house

A continuous source of entertainment in the Selbyville yards of the Toenail Ridge Shortline was the sand-house.

Steam locomotives have a dome on the top of the boiler that is filled with fine sand when the engine is serviced.

This sand is piped to the front of the driving wheels and can be released under the treads as an aid to traction if the smooth steel wheels slip on the smooth steel rails, such as when pulling away with a heavy train or when running on wet or icy track.

The sand was brought in in gondolas pulled by the little Porter and transfered to the sand house by hand.

One of Grant Alexander's long range plans was to build an elevated track to facilitate dumping of the sand straight from the gondolas, but this was in the future, so the transfer remained one of the most detested and back-breaking jobs on the railway.

But that didn't stop the boys from enjoying every little grain of it. Piles of sand can be slid down, burrowed in, thrown in handfulls, king-of-the-castled, wrestled down the side of and rubbed vigorously into the face of whoever is small enough to pick on on the day.

Problem with sand is, to the despair of ecologists the world over, sand in piles rapidly becomes sand in spreads when it is disturbed sufficiently, so that while Alexander, the yard boss didn't mind the lads having fun, he objected mightily to finding his traction resource disseminated over an acre and a half when the stuff was needed.

Initially he tried to do what all men that don't have kids of their own try to do when faced with a confrontation with children.

He tried to be reasonable.

Now explaining logically to a bunch of people who are just starting to experience the first hints of non-head hair growth, the subtle blossoming of testosterone, the occasional warble and fracture in the voice, is like trying to talk a mountain out of your way. It's like trying to explain Calculus to your dog, which has a concentration span of "One, Two, Supper-time."

So after a few futile attempts to dissuade the boys from spreading his sand all over, Grant got angry.

"Grant got angry."

This is like saying about anybody else "They leapt into the air, flew gracefully over the station, perched on top of the water tower and sang the arias from a Puccini opera."

It's about as likely.

But angry Grant got.

Now some kids, if you put the wind up them, will do as they're told, but there is always at least one who will take any criticism as a direct affront, and dig in their heels. And when your heels are as big as Tiny's it takes more than a subtle hint to move them.

Every turn Grant made, Tiny was there to frustrate him.

Grant put a fence around the sandhouse.

Tiny swiped some boltcutters from Cotton's General Store and cut his way in.

Grant posted signs.

Tiny chucked rocks through them.

Grant chased Tiny from one end of the yard to the other, shouting imprecations all the way.

Tiny, with the wind and the stamina that only a pubescent can have, laughed and laughed and escaped through a hole in the fence and circled back through the woods and beat Grant back to the sandhouse and threw more rocks through the signs.

Well, frustration finally got the better of Grant, so he approached Sheriff Dillon to intervene.

Dillon took it upon himself to have a chat with Tiny Snr. regarding the antics of the son, but Tiny Snr. was made in the mould of Clay Shay and cast a benevolent eye on his offspring, so the sheriff tackled the confrontation head-on.

He waited for Tiny outside the schoolhouse one Tuesday afternoon, and when Miss Daykey allowed her charges to regain their freedom at 3 o'clock, Tiny found himself, right outside the school gate, in front of his peers, hoist by his left ear until he was stretched on his tiptoes and being gently but firmly informed that if the nose wasn't kept extremely clean in regards to the Selbyville railyards, further action would follow, very likely accompanied by a size 10 boot applied to the place where the sun does not shine. (Which is, incidentally, located 17 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska).

Most kids, of course, after the usual resentment and mumbling that is mandatory to the age-group, would have taken this little bit of friendly advice to heart and found other distractions with which to fill their spare time.

Common sense would have been equally mixed with natural caution and the miscreant would have turned their energies to stamp collecting or hunting until girl-awareness cut in at age 13.

But while Tiny was a big lad for his age group, his intellect goofed off in the back row with its feet on the desk. So with the natural keeness of wit that would allow him to grow up to be a henchman, Tiny Jr. set to becoming a damn nuisance to the sheriff and the town in general.

The main street of Selbyville had a number of necessary businesses along its length. Mr. Butcher ran the produce shop, next door to Mr. Baker the butcher. Over the road was George Farrier the clothier and Steven Tailor the blacksmith. The hub of retail commerce was of course the General Store, situated next door to the old brick bank building.

Tiny took it upon himself to terrorise the merchants at the heart of the Selbyville economy.

He began by teaching himself the rudiments of shop-lifting.

Now for a young fella who stands nearly six feet tall and outweighs five of his class mates to appear casual and un-noteworthy in a store is a major achievement.

One which Tiny completely failed to accomplish.

A successful shop-lifter needs to be long gone from the scene of his crime when the goods involved are discovered missing. Tiny's record was eleven feet, and that wasn't even through the front door. But he was physically big enough that he was able to barge his way to escape, dropping his ill-gotten goods on the way.

Because the store-keeper concerned recovered his merchandise he didn't bother reporting the attempted larceny, just muttered under his breath about some kids and went back to his business.

So Tiny tried it again.

And again.

And it got to the stage that when he made an appearance in the door of one of the local businesses, the shop-keeper concerned would immediately cease his normal activities and begin following the child around as this was lifted, that was sampled, the other was turned, sniffed, inspected and then invariably pocketed.

Finally the merchants had had their fill and they complained to Tiny's dad, but once again the father shrugged off the activities of his son, "Boys will be boys","Whats-a-matter, cain't you remember when you was that age?","Kid's just high-spirited, that's all".

Not real satisfactory when a big pain-in-the-ass is being a big pain-in-the-ass at your expense.

Well, working on that great motto of all great Western lawmen of "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" Sheriff Dillon Matthews arrested Tiny Jr. and charged him with creating a public nuisance, larcency, trespass, vandalism, painting on walls for which there wasn't a name invented yet, rape, sodomy, double-parking, smoking under age, in control of an illegal substance {to whit, himself}, being under 16, being over 11, seven unsolved murders from the state over the last twenty years, the assassination of Coolidge, importation of bootleg whiskey and numerous sundry other misdemeanors.

The sheriff knew that once New Jersey Jack Lazyacre was approached about Tiny's arrest and asked to represent him that most all of the charges would be thrown out by Judge Goodson (and what a crabby old curmudgeon and all around bad-tempered bastard was he!) but at least Dillon would have time to make an impression on the young nuisance.

And make an impression he began to do.

While Tiny was under the tender care of the sheriff in the lock-up, Matt introduced him to the push-broom.

And the scrubbing-brush, the feather-duster, the paint brush, the shovel, the garden hoe, the axe, the log-splitter, the window scrubber, the bars-polisher, the furniture wax, the dish-cloth, the laundry tub, in short, if it could be washed, polished, painted or even stood still for more than two minutes, Tiny was put to work on it one way or another.

And work he did.

From before sun-up, until he collapsed with fatigue at midnight.

He tried to resist at first, but Matt had a simple remedy for that.

No work = no eat.

He could get away with it too, because there were no interfering social workers or goody-twoshoes to protect the guilty at the expense of the innocent, and as far as objections from Tiny's parents were concerned, well, his dad was enjoying the peace and quiet for as long as it lasted, and his mom couldn't believe how much more food was available for the rest of them at suppertime, so she opined that a change of pace would do young Tiny good.

Well, a belligerent young adolescent is a hard-headed creature.

It is possible to change their minds but first you have to get their attention and to do this a 4 X 2 is the recommended tool of trade.

But within a couple of days, young Tiny was starting to feel a lot less sassy. He may have been big for his age but he became an awful small boy in that unheated cell with its board bed and single thin blanket.

He took to weeping into the board that was his pillow, regretting the cruel turns of fate that had put him in such a predicament.

He blamed the sheriff for his actions, he blamed his father for not rescuing him, he blamed his mother for turning away, he blamed Grant Alexander for...

Well, when he got to thinking about it, there wasn't really a hell of a lot that he could blame Grant Alexander for.

Or the sheriff.

Or his father.

Or even his mother.

There didn't seem to be anyone to blame for his predicament.

At least no-one outside that cold cell at three o'clock in the morning.

It's a hard lesson when a young fellow finally realizes that of all the rotten bastards and nasty swine in the world, the current record-holder is the person standing in that selfsame young fellow's boots.

Lying in the mud outside his General Store, Michael Cotton had reached a cross-roads in his life and had chosen to turn to a different path.

Shivering in self-pity in his cell, Tiny decided that if he ever got out of this one he would turn over a new leaf.

(Thank God that there were no television evangelists resident in the valley of the Toenail Ridge, the number of personal reformations would have been enough to make God put an extension onto Heaven.)

But at least, once sheriff Dillon Matthews let Tiny out of jail, with a sore ear, blisters on his hands from toil, blisters on his butt from the whooping he received, blisters on his feet from when Matt took him to Rowel on the train, stood him at the station and said "Either walk out of the valley for ever or behave yourself and walk home!", Tiny shaped up long enough for sufficient time to pass until he discovered girls.

Now THERE is another story!

The Next EXCITING Chapter the Saga of the Toenail Ridge Shortline!

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