The Adventures Of Ted And Josh No 4 - The Missing Caboose
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H W Shelton
The small town of Forest Hills, where Ted and Josh lived, had a long history with the railroad dating back almost 150 years.
The railroad was the reason the town was built in the first place way back then and was the only reason that it had survived all those years until the town could stand on its own as a tourist stop- off for the Great Smoky Mountains.
Each year, the town celebrated the railroad and the train with a week of music, food and of course, rides in one of the two open cars being pulled by the only steam driven locomotive still in operation this side of the Rockies.
One of the big drawing cards was the yellow caboose that always brought up the rear of the two car pull and you could buy tickets to ride in the caboose with the conductor and wave at the crowd as you pulled away from the old station depot on Railroad Street.
The kids loved it and would line up for hours sometimes, waiting for their turn to board that yellow caboose.
Only this year, something is wrong!
The folks who take care of the train, getting it all ready to go for next week's big party, are now standing at the station garage with the town council and Mayor saying something about, "it's missing and what do they do?"
The yellow caboose is missing!
"How in the world can a two ton caboose be missing?"
That's a fair question being raised by the townsfolk.
The shaking of heads by the railroad people are saying they don't know.
The last time they saw the caboose was a month ago when the mechanics came by to do their inspection of the equipment and they do remember seeing the caboose sitting there in the garage with the train.
"This won't do!" the Mayor is pointing out and they had a week to locate that caboose and get it back and ready to roll or there was going to be a problem.
I'd say that is about right, you can't have a train ride without that yellow caboose bringing up the rear and kids hanging out from every open window waving at their parents and all their friends, who drove miles in some cases, just for this ride. Problem indeed.
Now in a small town, news travels fast, also in a small town, it's really hard to keep a secret.
So, it didn't take very long for the word to get out about the missing yellow caboose.
Where loose lips talk, Ted and Josh are usually around somewhere to hear what the talk is about.
They were hanging out when these words reached their ears, and they didn't like it. "The caboose is missing?" Ted said as he and Josh walked towards home that afternoon, "isn't that a little hard to misplace?"
Josh laughed. "You would think so, but we've seen strange things go down."
"That's the truth," Ted continued, "but is there anything we can do to help find it?" he asked.
"I'm thinking," Josh answered, "just let me think on it. First, who would want a two ton yellow caboose?" he asked, turning to look at his friend.
"Not me!" Ted answered, "I wouldn't have any place to put it in my bedroom and I couldn't even take it in the first place, couldn't move it."
"Right," Josh said, "not many people could move that big thing around."
"Maybe," Ted said, "we would need to find out who would want such a thing and why."
"Good," Josh said, "we will have to do some searching around and sounds like we don't have a lot of time."
"You're right again," Ted said "let's face it, we both ride that silly thing every year and have a blast!"
Josh laughed. "It is a lot of fun. Let's go find that caboose."
As they walked past the old train depot they both stopped and looked at the pretty decorations that the town had started putting up and at all the smiling faces working, not one of them knew about the town's secret, at least not yet.
"These folks are going to be really disappointed when they find out the news," Ted said.
"I know," Josh answered, "maybe they won't find out."
"Yea," Ted said, "maybe we can find that big caboose and return it before anyone knows it's missing."
Josh looked at his friend and nodded his head. "Maybe we can."
They walked on home in silence, each boy thinking of what their next move might be, and just how to do what they wanted to do.
At Josh's house, he started up the walkway, "I'll see you tomorrow and keep thinking."
"I'm thinking so hard now, I'm afraid I'll burn my brain out," Ted answered with a smile, "see you tomorrow and early."
During the night, Josh did think of something and could hardly wait to tell Ted about it the next day.
"I can't believe it," Ted said after hearing Josh's story, "you really think old man Cans took the caboose?"
"Just hear me out now," Josh continued, "remember last year when they caught him stealing from the railroad and had to fire him, he said he'd get even with all of them?"
"I remember that, but how would he move that big machine?" Ted asked.
"He would have to get into the garage, unlock and open that back sliding door and have a key to do all of that plus," Ted continued, "he would have to have a push car to run that caboose back down the tracks toward his place."
"I know it sounds impossible," Josh said, "but he's the only one that would know any of that stuff and how to use it. He does have that old junk engine parked at his house, maybe, it's not so much junk after all."
"I guess, if he got that old piece running," Ted said almost to himself, "he could bring it up here and take that caboose back with him, but it's a long stretch to believe that."
"You have any better ideas?" Josh asked with a frown on his face, "he used to work on them".
"It's worth a shot," Ted said nodding his head, "let's go check it out. How many places can you hide a caboose anyway."
The boys started off down the road that paralleled the tracks and would take them right by old man Cans place.
As they got near to the house, Ted, looking around said; "Maybe we should go through the woods here so he won't see us coming."
"Good thinking," Josh said as he turned off the dirt road and the boys made their way through the weeds and light bush toward the back of the house.
Parting the branches and brush, the first thing that caught their eyes was the sight of that old piece of junk engine sitting quietly on the spur by the back of the house.
They couldn't tell if it ran or not, it looked like an old train engine to them.
Josh spoke in a whisper; "Look at the wheels, they sure do look shiny for a piece of junk that has been sitting here for a couple of years."
Ted, nodding his head, said; "they're not as rusty as you would think they should be, that's for sure."
"Get down, someone's coming!" Josh said.
Ted ducked down behind a small tree and looked out around it.
Out of the back door of the house, Mr. Cans stepped on the porch, looking around he walked down the steps and went around the side of the building, to an old barn.
"Let's go," whispered Josh as he moved closer to the edge of the tree line.
Ted, hunched down, followed Josh.
They could see the old barn building and it had seen better days, but old man Cans went inside.
The boys noticed that an old spur track ran around the side of the barn and disappeared inside the building.
"Prefect place to hide a caboose, don't you think?" asked Josh turning to look at Ted.
"I couldn't have picked a better place myself," Ted answered, "but we need to see inside if we're going to tell the Sheriff about this."
"Okay, I guess we'd better do just that then," Josh answered, looking around and starting to move forward.
'What do you boys want here?" called out a voice.
The boys froze.
"I won't ask again," came the voice, closer this time.
"We're just poking around in the woods," Josh managed to say without turning around.
"You need to do your poking somewhere else, now get out!" the man said, his voice rising.
"Yes Sir!" Ted called out as the two boys made a dash for the woods and ran right into old man Cans.
Their mouths open and eyes big with surprise, the boys looked up into the face of an old man, not very happy at the present time.
"You two boys are from town, aren't you?" he asked as he grabbed both by the arm. "What do you want here?"
"Nothing Sir," Josh said, struggling to break free, "we're just out playing and ended up here."
"We don't mean any harm," Ted echoed as he too tried to get away from the old man's grip.
"What are you looking around for?" old man Cans said as he glanced at the woods.
"We were just going to look at your old train engine, that's all, really". Josh answered as he looked up into the old man's eyes.
Ted spoke, "It's really cool! Does it still run?"
The old man relaxed his grip some and looking over at the old engine, said; "It still runs some, I'm working on it. You boys like trains, do you?"
Ted and Josh glanced at each other and both answered at the same time' "We sure do like trains!"
Josh continued; "Could we just look inside the cab, please?"
Old man Cans looked from one boy to the other and then back up at the engine sitting there.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to just look at it, but don't touch anything, you hear"?
"Yes Sir, we won't," Ted said as Mr. Cans turned loose their arms.
"Thank you Sir, this is really great!" Josh said.
"Okay, come on then," old man Cans said as he pushed the boys on in front of him as he headed for the engine. "I don't get to see a lot of people out this way much," he said as he climbed up the steps to the cab.
The two boys each stepped up the steps behind him and entered into the cab.
Looking around, they noticed a coffee cup sitting by the driver's seat and a pair of driving gloves that an engineer would use.
Looking at each other, they nodded with their eyes more than their heads.
"This is really something," Josh said as he began to wander around looking.
"What do all these dials and levers do?" asked Ted as he looked around.
"Everything has a purpose," old man Cans said as he touched each dial with a light finger.
"This was the way trains were and they did a great job for a long time."
"What about the caboose?" Josh asked out of the blue.
"Caboose?" old man Cans answered, "those cars had their job like everything else did and everything worked together."
For some reason, Ted just felt something for the old man.
He couldn't explain it; he just acted on it like an 11 year old boy might do.
"We know you have the yellow caboose Sir," he started out.
"We also know that you didn't mean to do anything that would cause a problem. We've seen the way you touch and talk about this old engine and we know you love her."
"What in the world"....the old man started to say something but didn't finish the thought.
"I do have it," he continued as he stood up.
"I didn't mean to mess up anything for the town, just wanted to get back at the railroad for what they did to me. But once I got it out here, I didn't know how to get it back into town without being seen and blamed."
He hung his head.
"What if we could come up with a plan to get the caboose back into town without anyone blaming you?" Josh said, turning around and looking at Ted.
"We're all ears," Ted said.
"Please continue," old man Cans said, his eyes had a new glow in them.
'Well...." Josh said after thinking for a few seconds, "Gather round and let me tell you how this is going to go down."
The news of the missing caboose had made its way around town and by now a crowd of townsfolk had gathered around the depot office and had begun to get a little noisy.
They were all wanting to know what had happened, and what the Mayor was planning on doing to fix the problem.
The Mayor was making his way to the front of the porch to make a statement when all of a sudden someone in the crowd hollered out...."Here it comes!"
Everyone looked and sure enough, there came the yellow caboose down the track, and pushing it was an old steam engine which was blowing smoke as black as coal.
Everyone started cheering and yelling and forgot all about the Mayor and his speech (which wasn't necessary now).
Running alongside the caboose and engine, the folks could see old man Cans driving the engine and Ted and Josh hanging out of the window waving as if they were in a parade.
Once the caboose had been placed where it was supposed to be and everyone had calmed down, the story was told by the two boys.
How old man Cans had saved the caboose from some thieves and had kept it safe inside his barn until Ted and Josh had showed up to let him know it was time to return it, which was today.
Well, let me tell you folks, that once the story got out Mr. Cans and Ted and Josh were the toast of the town. The Mayor gave Mr. Cans the key to the town and made him honorary driver for the train rides on the big party day.
Ted and Josh were also honored; they were to ride inside the yellow caboose on the big day and be where everyone could see them and thank them for solving the missing caboose mystery.
The big day went off without a hitch and everyone was saying how they couldn't remember old man Cans looking better or smiling more than he did sitting up there in the driver's seat inside that big train.
As for Ted and Josh; they went about their business as usual, getting involved with everything that they could get into and telling folks that what they did was no big deal.
Ted thanked Josh for what he had done for Mr. Cans, and how that move meant a lot and how blaming the old man wouldn't have helped anyone.
"Just the way I had it planned out," Josh said, laughing.
"What's next?" Ted asked as the two boys walked home that evening after the big party.
"I'm thinking," Josh answered, "I'll come up with something."
"I just bet you will," Ted said as he punched Josh in the arm and the two boys starting running for home.
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