Virginia MacNeil, daughter of Marshals Vincent and Patricia MacNeil and soon-to-be Prosperity Ranger, crept through the tall grass at the outskirts of the Prosperity Falls settlement. She wore her full gear–her mother’s full gear–of duster and boots despite the hot and heavy air of the place, even close to midnight.

By the moonlight, she could see Jeanette Rhodes creeping into position on her left and Dale Ward quietly parting the stalks on her right. She signaled for them to move ahead, taking care to keep tree and grass in between them and the firelight in the distance. Their quarry loitered about ahead of them, unaware without so much as a sentry posted.

Virginia’s ambush was coming off without a hitch.

Their first target was dead ahead, apparently totally unaware of the three youngsters sneaking up on it. Jeanette and Dale flanked it with Virginia taking the center position. At the prearranged signal, a snap of Virginia’s fingers, they charged.

The cow grunted quietly as Virginia, Jeanette, and Dale leaned into it.

“It’s not tipping!” Dale grunted. “You said it would tip!”

“I thought were were going to push on it and then step back!” Jeanette cried. “Then it’ll fall when we move away cuz it’s asleep!”

“Does it look asleep to you?” Virginia cried. “Push harder!”

As they redoubled their efforts, the cow decided that it didn’t much care for the squabbling, yowling creatures pushing it as hard as they could. It mooed–or brayed, it was hard to tell–loudly in response, an alarm cry that was taken up by its fieldmates.

A moment later, a lantern appeared at the farmhouse door. “Who’s out there?”

“It’s Morrison!” Virginia cried, all thoughts of tipping the whole field suddenly forgotten. “Scatter!”

She and her confederates split up and dashed for the fences. Behind them came the roar of a rock-salt shotgun charge. “You goddamn kids! Get out of my field!”

In retrospect, Virgina thought sullenly, it wasn’t quite as heroic an episode the great Prosperity Ride of 1866 or even the legendary Cowpie Prank the junior rangers had carried out in 1870.

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