A little background:
Despite the now-familiar format of half-hour mysteries with the Mystery Inc. gang, aka those meddling kids and their dog, the Scooby Doo cartoons underwent a variety of changes throughout the 80s. After the successful introduction of Scooby’s young nephew Scrappy, the show evolved into a series of ten-minute shorts that had no mystery, not all of the gang, and barely a whiff of plot.
In the midst of this came a short-lived series of cartoons featuring Yabba Doo, Scooby’s Wild West brother, owned by Deputy Dusty and accompanied by Scrappy. In the town of Tumbleweed, they faced cattle rustlers and other less supernatural villains, though a Martian and vampire turned up on separate occasions. Unlike Scooby, Yabba was gung-ho to tackle problems and so make a more fitting role model for Scrappy, though the dog’s clumsiness battled with his common sense.
The cartoons are available on Boomerang and handful of clips can be found on Youtube. As of 2020, some of the cartoons are available on the Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo Complete Season One dvd.
Here, we have the story of a “lost cartoon” I wish had been made! All characters are copyright Hanna-Barbera. No infringement is intended, but all hopes are that one day Yabba will return to grace our screens. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for ...
YABBA’S PARADE PANDEMONIUM
A “Lost” Yabba Doo Cartoon
By Captain Furry
The last census taker of the residents in Tumbleweed had a sense of humor, as evidenced by the wooden sign beside the main road leading into town. Underneath the rickety sign depicting the name of the cluster of rustic buildings was the legend, “Population = 601 1⁄2.” The “one half” citizen presumably referred to one of the smaller residents of Tumbleweed, and one of smallest was Scrappy Doo, a Great Dane puppy with a small, burly body, a large head, and a shrill voice louder than any dog three times his size. Scrappy utilized those powerful vocal cords as he rushed into the living quarters of the Sheriff’s Office waving an envelope wildly in the air over his over-sized head.
“Hey, we got a letter from Uncle Scooby!”
“Oh yeah?” replied Yabba Doo, plucking the letter from Scrappy’s paws and looking over the crooked handwriting on the front. “Well, let’s see what ol’ city boy has to say!”
Scrappy hopped excitedly at the feet of his uncle, who was of similar proportions to the more famous dog of the Doo family, though Yabba was thicker and sturdier. Unlike Scooby, however, Yabba’s rough and unkempt fur was a light gray, having lost its white sheen from years of work in the Western sun. Around his neck was tied a red bandana damp with sweat, and atop his head was a battered brown cowboy hat with the brim flipped sharply upwards.
The canine fumbled with the letter, finally using a broken claw on one of the thick fingers on his hand paw to tear it open. He unfolded the crumpled sheet of paper and read aloud: “Rear Rappy, Rabba, and Rusty ...” Simultaneously, the two cocked their heads to one side until Yabba smirked and looked down at his nephew. “Feller’s writin’ like he talks! Never did figger out where he got his weird speakin’ lingo,” Yabba wondered aloud, and below him Scrappy giggled at his uncle’s lack of understanding regarding who it was who had an accent.
Straightening up and with a haughty cough, he continued reading, correcting as he went. Upon finishing, he and Scrappy exchanged a whoop of glee and clasped paws, dancing in a circle, Yabba’s long tail flicking and Scrappy’s small tail ticking in delight.
“What’s going on in there?” came a whiny, angst-ridden shout from the next room. “Yabba, you better not have gotten into those Chili Snacks again!”
Instantly, the big dog’s senses were engaged, his super-sniffer on full alert. “There are Chili Snacks in here?” He began lurching around the room, looking though the meager kitchen cabinets and checking the old, pot-bellied iron stove for the hidden booty. The snacks were hot and spicy, powerful enough for Yabba to turn red, blow steam out of his ears, and breathe fire, though the scorching results were not enough to keep him from gobbling them down whenever he found them.
Scrappy hollered back, “Deputy Dusty, Shaggy and Uncle Scooby are coming for the anniversary parade! I haven’t seen them for years!”
The announcement brought the deputy into the room. Dusty was a painfully thin man in his twenties who looked just out of puberty. The blue denim jacket and jeans were something he might one day grow into, and the brown cowboy boots and oversized gray Stetson hat more child-like than fitting. A pair of round glasses and a high, warbling voice completed his underwhelming appearance.
“The fact that Yabba has relatives is kinda scary in and of itself,” Dusty commented out loud, earning him a glare from the two canines that had him hastily adding, “But the more the merrier, you know?” A sheepish grin was apparently apology enough to earn him a reprieve.
Turning to resume his search for the elusive Chili Snacks, Yabba smacked his face into the ice box, letting out a yelp of surprise. As he backed up and faced them, Dusty gasped upon seeing the dog’s muzzle flat and wide, Yabba’s eyes spinning for a second. Yabba looked down, stuck his thumb into his mouth and blew, popping his face back into shape.
“Whew!” He grinned, red-faced in a rare moment of self-awareness.
Dusty shook his head. “I swear Yabba, you must be made of rubber.” The amount of times his fellow law enforcer had literally been bent out of shape was numerous. It was like living with a cartoon character. “Now you two listen up,” the deputy said in his attempt at a commanding voice, “the sheriff’s gonna be here before too long, and I expect us to get some
serious work to get ready for the anniversary parade.” He straightened up some, a smile on his face. “Probably crowd control, ‘cause I’m so intimidatin’ and all.” The giggles that comment elicited from Yabba and Scrappy were not encouraging, earning them a glare. “What’s so funny?”
Yabba winked at Scrappy and they both stood to attention and mockingly saluted. “You betcha, Mr. Deputy Dusty Underwood, sir!” the two dogs barked in unison, unable to keep the derisive smirks from their furry faces.
“That’s more like it,” said Dusty. Hitching his thumbs on his belt and looking down his nose at the pair, he added, “When I speak, people listen.”
“Deputy Dusty, front and CENTER!” Sheriff Underwood’s deep voice bellowed through the Sheriff’s Office with the force of a tractor trailer horn, and many would bet folks in the next township took notice of it. Underwood was a tall, broad-shouldered man, so tall that when wearing his hat he had to duck though doors, as he did now. Above his bushy mustache was a pair of piercing gray eyes that had made many a lawbreaker think twice about their actions and on occasion turn themselves in just to avoid the potential confrontation with such an imposing figure. He had the same effect on his nephew and that pair of dumb dogs, the larger of the two being too dopey to realize when they were all in hot water. Dusty scrambled to him at a run and then stood trembling before him.
“Yes, sir, Uncle, er, sheriff sir, I mean ...”
Underwood brushed off his deputy’s fawning and jerked a thumb toward the door behind him. “The parade supplies are here. Banners, boxes of confetti, and other stuff. Make sure this town is decorated and ready for the parade by five o’clock.”
“Yessir, I’ll get it done and be ready, sir,” Dusty replied, attempting to quell the knocking in his knees and add a modicum of bravado to his voice. The tarnished, gold deputy’s badge on his jacket chose that moment to fall to the floor, and the boy quickly scooped it up, stabbing himself on the pin before hurriedly re-fastening it back in place and grinning awkwardly.
“And no screw-ups!” Underwood hollered. “Mayor McKay himself will be there, and if this celebration goes downhill, there’s gonna be heck ta pay.” The sheriff leaned forward into his nephew-deputy’s face, blocking out the light and exposing Dusty to the full glare of his penetrating gaze. “So get it right!”
With an audible gulp and a whimpering, “Yessir, you can count on me,” Dusty watched as his uncle whirled and exited the building, muttering something about all of them needing new jobs if things went sour. Someday, I gotta find enough nerve to show a little gumption in front of him, Dusty thought fleetingly, before the thought but not today followed it.
“Well, the sheriff sure was listenin’ to ya,” Yabba said, though it was a toss up to decide if the dog was being serious or sarcastic. Mostly, Yabba was supportive of his buddy, but there were times ...
“Decoratin’ duty!” Dusty hollered. “I’m the deputy, not some half-wit! How come I get stuck with the dumb jobs! He knows how many criminals we done brought in.”
Yabba laid a big paw on his friend’s shoulder and patted him consolingly. “Now, now, decoratin’s a big job, and I bet you can use that commandin’ voice o’ yours ta get folks out there to help do the work with us.” Gotta keep him on track, Yabba thought, or we’ll be eatin’ cacti for dinner out in the desert next week.
“Yeah,” the young man said. “I bet they will. We can have that job done in no time!”
“Oh boy! Let’s get started!” Scrappy was already high-tailing it out the door with his customary puppy enthusiasm. The trio made their way from the living quarters through the front office and emerged onto the town’s main drag, where the mayor’s long, black Cadillac convertible was parked, its distinguishing feature being a large set of steer horns taking the place of a hood ornament. Its seats were loaded with boxes and bags. A few minute’s worth of sorting and they found themselves with more work than anticipated. In addition to ribbons, streamers, and signs, there were two heavy metal helium tanks and a large parcel labeled, “Bull Balloon,” with the red and gold McKay Ranch logo on the side.
“Gosh,” Yabba declared. “There sure are a lotta banners in this here box.” He pulled out a roll of silky yellow material the width of a yardstick from the container and let it unroll like a long carpet, large black letters spelling out, “Happy 50th Anniversary TUMBLEWEED.”
Scrappy’s head popped up from the box of confetti he had dived into. “Wowee! I didn’t know Tumbleweed had been around for so long!”
“And how long we’ll be here depends on how quickly we can get all these decorations up and ready,” Dusty lamented, fussing over the sheer amount of work this was going to take. He would indeed need more than just the help of his doggie duo in order to meet the afternoon deadline, avoid the ire of his uncle, and keep his job. He held up a red bow, one of what must have been a hundred from the massive bag he pulled free of the car. “The town may have been here for fifty years, but it might take us another fifty to get all this done!”
Unknown to the deputy and his trusted furry friends, it was going to take a lot longer than they thought. From atop Hal’s Hotel a pair of men looked down with envious eyes.
Tumbleweed itself had existed well beyond fifty years, though in a different incarnation. Originally, it had been the Old West town it now resembled, but had become a ghost town in the early 1900s. It was a wealthy business tycoon Don McKay who had resurrected the meager piece of land when he took an interest in the various Western television shows that had become a staple of American television in the 1950s and ‘60s. His desire to live out the fantasy of being a cattle rancher was realized in picking up the property cheaply and dumping some capital into the abandoned buildings, making his own minor tourist attraction in the process. A few more of his associates decided to join in and live out their own fantasies as well, leading to Tumbleweed’s restoration, though it bore more resemblance to the kind of Western town one expected to see on television than a functioning town in its own right, though it become more of a true town before long. It soon attracted a number of folks who were happy to leave behind the confusion and chaos of the big cities and adopt a less hectic and more simplistic lifestyle.
The carefully recreated buildings were set into a large U shape, the asphalt of the highway’s tributary fading into a hard-packed dirt road as one entered the Wild West atmosphere McKay had paid well for his privately-owned town to emulate. Wooden walkways, horse hitches, and water troughs fronted such buildings as Fred’s Feed Store, the Wagon Wheel Café, Bill’s Barber Shop, and a Gassy Horse gas station. Toward the end of the street, beside the U.S. Post Office was the Sheriff’s building and jail, while at the terminus was a large open square before the mayor’s office and the Town Hall. Despite the old-fashioned feel of the place, there were telephone lines and various vehicles, older cars and battered pickup trucks mixed amongst the horses. Rumor had it wi-fi was coming, but for the moment there were only some rusting television aerials in evidence. The few permanent residents desired to live as much in the past as possible and keep the temptations of the modern world at bay.
Underneath the blazing glare of the afternoon sun, Deputy Dusty’s attempt to be commanding turned eventually into pleading, and it took both some convincing from Yabba and Scrappy to enlist several members of the town wandering the streets to join in what became a decorating “party.” It also took what was left of Dusty’s meager savings to purchase drinks and other refreshments, such as nachos and tamales, something he was hesitant to put his hard-earned salary toward until Yabba pointed out that he might not have a job unless the town was duly decked out for the afternoon’s anniversary events. Soon, long yellow banners and red bows were being hung and strung by the likes of bewhiskered and leather-vested townsfolk who took pity on the diminutive deputy. Even Widder Winnie joined in, eyeing up the available men, making them nervous enough work hard toward finishing early.
No one spotted the two figures watching from atop the ramshackle hotel who observed the activities below with keen interest. Ned Knicker was a tall, slim figure, his garments like that of an English gentleman; black suit with floppy ribbon tie and bowler hat. Hooked over his elbow was a cane-handled umbrella and under his hooked beak of nose was a well-trimmed mustache, just short of being long enough to twirl.
“Pete,” he said nasally, “just look at them. Simpletons. I do share this world with such folk, but only in the tolerance that they at least acknowledge my presence as a benefactor in their minuscule lives.” His attempt at a British accent would have been irritating had his companion bothered to care.
Peter Thompkins, aka “Pesky Pete,” was tall, broad, and the owner of a perpetual five o’clock shadow on his wide chin. He nodded as he always did when Mr. Knicker was talking. Doing so made it appear as though he understood what his employer was saying and kept the man pleased and the paychecks coming. He scratched his side with a hairy hand and looked down from the roof uncaringly.
“Looks like they’re having fun, Mr. Knicker sir.”
“FUN?!” Ned fumed. “How dare they do so when my name does not grace the guest list of V.I.P.s and no invitation materializes in my mailbox. Me! Have I not put just as much into this town as McKay? Why does his name reside in the minds of these, these peasants moreso than mine own?”
Pete shrugged. “So whatter you gonna do about it, Mr. Knicker?” he asked, feeling a small thrill run though his barrel chest as he anticipated some action. His employer was not referred to as “Nefarious Ned” without reason. His business dealings were suspect, and his haughty attitude and bad temper leant themselves toward the occasional act of malice that Pete one day hoped would blossom into full villainhood if he was lucky. The law in the larger cities was too much of a challenge for Pete, but out here Sheriff Underwood was usually occupied and his wimpy nephew and dippy dogs were chumps. Or so it appeared. How the lightweight deputy and his posse of fleabag misfits managed to bag as many underhanded criminals as they had was a mystery. Probably luck, and luck didn’t last forever.
Ned nodded toward the street below, which looked nearly ready for the evening’s festivities. While looking through the pair of gold-plated opera glasses perched on his nose, Ned outlined his plan. “I observe in the rear of that vehicle is a floating contrivance and two containers of compressed helium. We shall plunder what’s left of their festival’s festoonings and thereby ruin any chance for a successful celebration.”
Maybe I need to speak in crayon, Ned thought to himself. “We’ll steal the mayor’s car and the balloon and ruin it all for them. Because I feel like it.”
“Now here’s what I want you to do ...” As Nefarious Ned outlined his plan, Pete smiled widely, and Ned remembered why he liked the man so much – not only did he follow orders well, but he didn’t mind a bit of violence, either.
Perched atop a ladder leaning against the feed store, Yabba used the staple gun to begin anchoring the final banner to the building. As he worked, his tail waggled behind him and his thoughts wandered. It would have been easy to believe the gray dog had always been an upbeat, positive go-getter with nary a thought toward anything but the next Chili Snack on his mind. Truth be told, he was in some ways more self-conscious then he let on. Certainly, his family was full of good-natured relatives and litter mates, but Scooby had been the only one to go on to any kind of real success. Popular and a celebrity, the brown dog had become a household name and raised the bar too high for any of the rest of the family members to reach. Scooby, of course, was either modestly taken aback or was cutesy and star-like about it, which could also be irritating. While not exactly jealous, Yabba did feel a twinge of envy when Scooby was mentioned or when his brother’s popularity soared on screen or elsewhere. Good fer him, but you’d think some of the rest of us could have a little limelight once in a while.
However, a few things had entered into his life that made up for any despondent feelings. The first had been Dusty Underwood, who had adopted him – or the other way around – and the move into the career as a law enforcement officer. Well, “assistant deputy,” if such a position officially existed. Catching low-down polecats and underhanded, despicable lawbreakers had appealed to his sense of justice strongly, and the Wild West repeats on television and in the movies had excited his interest at a young age. Both Dusty and the town of Tumbleweed had allowed him to live out the dreams of puppyhood, as well as helping out Dusty. Good feller, but he really needs some self-confidence and some of his uncle’s manliness. That Brut aftershave ain’t makin’ him git any more manly. Yabba’s own lasso skills still needed some work, but he was confident it would come to him eventually, though hopefully before he wore out the patience of anyone who made the mistake of coming within range of his rope-flinging. Just ‘cause other folks git in the way ain’t exactly my fault, he decided.
Another blessing had been the arrival of Scrappy. The feisty little guy had arrived by train at a nearby depot, and Yabba had been ecstatic. Whatever it was that had separated him from the Mystery Inc. gang was not something Scrappy elaborated upon, and the tall tales he told of ghosts and other supernatural creatures he’d encountered with Scooby and Shaggy were at first dismissed as fantasy, especially the so-called “Chest of Demons” and the nutty-named Vincent Van Ghoul. Yabba’s skepticism, however, ended upon encountering the alien Zylon, whose spaceship had crashed just outside of town, and when Yabba himself had dug up the coffin containing the vampire, Count Zarko. Suddenly the puppy’s incredible stories became much more credible. For Scrappy, everything was black and white – bad guys were bad, every danger a chance to rush into battle, and Yabba and Dusty were his best-est best friends. Thankfully, Scrappy’s hero-worship of Scooby had abated over time, something that Yabba had found annoying in the beginning. Now though, Scrappy was a valued member of the team, at least to me, one who was honest, capable, reliable, and fun. I just hope he decides to stay. The imminent arrival of Scooby and Shaggy to the parade had initially been good news, but now that
he had time to think about it, there was the question of what the pup would do. If they offer the young’un a chance to go with ‘em ...
“Yabba, I think it’s going to hold now,” Dusty called from the bottom of the ladder.
The dog realized his staple gun was empty, due to the fact that he’d put at least thirty-five staples into the banner while lost inside his own head. Guess I was more worked up than I thought.
“And you can get your big tail outta my face,” Dusty exclaimed, backing up from the ladder. For that comment, he was nearly struck by the staple gun, which fell from the sky and landed in the dirt inches from the deputy’s foot.
“Whoopsie!” Yabba called with about as much sincerity as a rattlesnake biting a mongoose. Big tail! He’d a better been talkin’ about my tail and not my backside. Dogs naturally came with wider hips and thicker thighs – that was just how it worked. Clothes were not something canines wore, but curiosity had one day led him to secretly try on a pair of Dusty’s jeans only to find them impossibly tight, which wouldn’t have been an issue had he not been caught in the act by their owner. The jibes from the young man had been good natured and few, but they still were a bit of a sore point. Since when did I git so doggone self-conscious? He shook his head and took a step down the ladder when his keen eyes took in a sight that sent his battered brown hat jumping from his head in surprise.
“HEY! What’re them no-good varmints doin’ with the mayor’s car?” He pointed to where, across the street and down in front of the Sheriff’s office, two figures were climbing into the big black Caddy.
Dusty was squinting through his glasses and saying, “That’s Pesky Pete and Nefarious Ned!” when Yabba scrambled down the ladder and shot past him, making a headlong dash toward the car. He spotted Scrappy on the move as well, alerted by his uncle’s cry, but it looked like neither was going to make it in time until the car’s engine, instead of roaring to life, coughed and died.
Pete felt at his best when he was damaging something, whether it be dislocating someone’s jaw or forcibly rearranging a room’s finely laid out furnishings. There was a certain satisfaction in destruction, a kind of adrenaline surge that wasn’t found elsewhere. Take now, for instance, as his survival knife was jammed repeatedly into the tires of Deputy Dusty Underwood’s three-wheeled motorcycle parked behind the Sheriff’s Office. The two larger wheels in the rear of the vehicle needed only to be stabbed until they expended their air and slumped out of shape, but the smaller front wheel needed special attention. It had to be sliced. Lovingly, Pete slid the blade into the rubber, carving the offending circular wheel’s mud- encrusted treads into thick, floppy chunks. Stashing his knife back into his boot holster, the big man clapped the dust off his meaty hands and smiled approvingly at his work before entering the back door to the Sheriff’s office and making his way into the reception area, where Mr. Knicker was rifling through a large, roll-top desk.
“Job’s done,” Pete announced. “They ain’t goin’ ta be followin’ us nowhere.” Gotta hand it to Mr. Knicker; he thought of the idea to make sure they didn’t wind up as another name on the list of bad guys apprehended by the lucky Dusty and his noisy sidekicks.
“And I have just located the key to McCay’s mayoral conveyance. Without their automobile and whatever decorative items remain, their celebratory parade will well and truly have a hole in it, which will not be easily patched.” Ned waved the keys with a smile and their eyes locked, each connecting to the other through their devotion toward sabotaging the joy of others. A match made in the netherworld, some might say.
“All we need do now is abscond with the carriage of our beloved, self-appointed Mayor McKay and our deeds will end in validated victory!” Unable to resist an evil snicker of delight, he turned with a flourish, waving his umbrella. “Come, Peter, and let us make a satisfying end to this most delightful of days!”
Pete followed dutifully, swallowing the gist if not the words themselves. Stealing the car wasn’t what the big man saw as a huge dent in the festivities, but Knicker dished out the dough and called the shots. If he said what they were doing was damage, Pete was in. Besides, that car was a nice ride and worth a pretty penny. With luck, it had an FM radio ... in stereo!
After checking to see if they could surreptitiously make off with the vehicle unobserved, the two piled in, though the possibility of a clean getaway dissolved when the car stalled shortly after Ned attempted to put it in gear. “Bloody ...!” the man cursed, but it quickly became apparent that “Nefarious Ned” was incapable of driving anything that was stick-shift. Pete gave the man a chance to try again, but only out of respect for the man’s paychecks. When a cry of alarm went up behind them, Pete made his move.
“You want me to drive, Mr, Knicker?”
In a combination of embarrassment and rage, Ned thumped the steering wheel and blustered, “Either that or get out and push!”
As appealing as that sounded, Pete seized his employer by the scruff of his jacket and lifted the smaller man over him while he slid behind the wheel. A moment later and the Caddy purred to life, but hopping up between the steer horns mounted to the front bumper was a puppy, attempting to look intimidating as he walked toward them along the hood, pretending to roll up imaginary sleeves. It would have been arresting had he been taller than two feet and probably cute had he not been a member of the deputy’s canine crew.
“You get out of the mayor’s car this instant, or I’m gonna SPLAT ya!”
Ned and Pete blinked, both perplexed as to what getting “splatted” was, and somewhat struck by the audacity of what looked like a talking wind-up toy waving fists the size of walnuts at them. “Something on the windshield, Mr. Knicker,” Pete said. He stood up on the convertible’s seat, leaned forward, and with a mighty slap of his hand rid them of the offensive little mutt, who ended up lying in the middle of the road, stunned.
“SCRAPPY!” With a thump, something landed on the car’s trunk, and Ned and Pete turned to find another of the deputy’s dogs crouched there, angry and looking like a crazed coyote in a bad hat. “You no-good Cadillac rustlers are gonna pay fer that!”
“Does all the dogs in this town walk and talk, Mr. Knicker?” Pete wondered rhetorically.
“Just the annoying ones,” Ned replied. “I’ll handle this loathsome beast, Peter. Kindly get us out of this dog pound of a town.” With that, Ned stood in his seat, drawing forth his umbrella and brandishing it like a fencing foil. Yabba’s eyes followed the tip, which Ned waved in a circle until the dirty mutt took a step within range, earning him a stiff poke in the belly. While that didn’t dislodge the animal, opening the umbrella in his face did, and Ned closed his brolly and slipped back into his seat, tipping his bowler hat as the black Cadillac shot forward, leaving the fallen and disgraced not-so-Great Danes in a cloud of exhaust fumes and dust.
A snicker rose in Ned’s chest, finally building to a rising cackle of laughter that Pete would have found disturbing had he not been chuckling along with it himself. Nothing like breaking the law to put a smile on a man’s face.
Yabba pulled himself up from the undignified position in which he’d landed after being thrown from the car and rubbed his wounded pride. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing if I do got a little padding back there, he thought. Painfully, he headed to where Scrappy was. Already there and kneeling, Dusty checked on the little dog, who was stirring and looked up with shame.
“I didn’t get ‘em, Uncle Yabba,” he said mournfully.
“Aw, Scrappy,” Deputy Dusty said in his nasal voice, “you coulda been seriously hurt! I’m just glad you’re all right.” He set the small dog up on his legs and patted him on the head.
“Yeah,” Yabba echoed with feeling, “as long as yer alright, partner; that’s all that matters.” He put a paw on his nephew’s shoulder sympathetically, nearly in tears with relief and feeling his rage building again over the way the brave little relative had been treated. “Them guys are gonna wish they’d messed with someone else when I git my paws on ‘em!”
Dusty looked down the street and gulped audibly. “You might just get your chance, Yabba – look!” He pointed to where the dark car had made its way down the road toward the town hall, only to find the people milling about to be an obstacle. The car had turned back and was now roaring toward them like a bull, the horns mounted to the front making the vehicle almost as dangerous as the real thing.
“We gotta stop ‘em, Uncle Yabba!” Scrappy bleated.
“No problem, little feller! I gotta plan!” Quickly, Yabba scooped up Scrappy and tossed the little pooch into Dusty’s arms, giving them a shove that sent the young man stumbling backward and out of danger. Yabba himself twisted in the air and ran toward the other side of the street, making toward a coil of rope slung over horse post. Time ta show ‘em all how a real lasso master works! A moment after he had it in his paws, the rope was tied into a noose and was being waved over his head. “Ya ain’t gettin’ away this time, ya robbin’ roughnecks!”
As the Caddy shot by, Ned tipping his hat once again and smiling smugly, Yabba let loose with the lasso and, miraculously, it caught. “Gotcha!” the hound hollered in delight, only to find that while he’d hooked the car, there was no way to land a fish this big. He made a futile effort to dig his heels into the dirt, and the thought occurred to him too late that he should have secured the rope to something heavy – like a maybe bulldozer – before he was yanked off his feet and sent sailing through the air, his hat left hovering in his place before falling to the ground.
The doggone varmints tricked me! As soon as the thought entered into his mind, he found himself facing the law of gravity. The initial yank had sent him airborne, but revisiting the earth was about to be painful. The first touchdown was thankfully one that landed him briefly in a horse trough, soaking himself and the two horses left neighing in fright behind him. A brief moment in the air and then he found himself striking a bale of hay with enough force to make it seem as though it had exploded.
“YIIIIIII!!! DUSTY!!!” he shouted, spitting out strands of dry yellow hay. The automobile, pulling him along like a parasailer behind a speedboat, make a sharp right turn as it left the small town, and Yabba had time to make out the red letters painted on the side of Carl’s Construction building before he braced for impact and met his fate.
The mad scramble to follow Yabba saw Dusty and Scrappy divided. Scrappy nipped over to his uncle’s battered hat and turned to see the black Cadillac dragging Yabba behind it. Dusty had dashed in the other direction, toward the Sheriff’s Office. The younger dog might have chastised the deputy for not immediately pursuing the thieves, but the skinny man appeared moments later, explaining, “The trike’s tires have been cut to ribbons! We’ll never catch up with ‘em now!”
“Well, we gotta try,” the puny puppy cried and took off at speed.
Gotta give him credit, Dusty thought, he’s as headstrong as Yabba ... if that’s a good thing. Scrappy was also quicker than he seemed, and Dusty was hard pressed to keep up. They made it to the end of the row of buildings that signified the end of town and could see the light brown desert countryside beyond, as well as the distant, ramshackle remains of a few buildings that had been left to rot after Tumbleweed had been restored. The cloudy trail of the car seemed to be headed down the side road leading to them. Dusty squinted, but against the glare of the sun, he could make out no more.
“Can you see Uncle Yabba?” Scrappy asked worriedly, clutching the crumbled cowboy hat in his paws.
“No, I can’t,” the deputy replied. “Dang fool. You’d of thought he’d been smart enough to just leggo of the rope.” Or not. IQ points were not high on the list of gifts the heavens had bestowed upon the Great Dane. Looking down as much to hide his face from the sun as to think, he spotted a large silver cylinder lying in the road, which upon further examination was one the two helium tanks that had come with the inflatable steer for the parade. Tied around the gauges at the top was a line of rope. Yabba’s lasso! Turning, he followed the trail, which led him to the side of the construction company’s building, where he stopped with a look of shock on his face.
Babbling bravado to cover up his concern, Scrappy followed. “I bet my Uncle Yabba’s gonna stop ‘em! I bet he’ll splat ‘em!”
“Um, Scrappy ...” Dusty got out as they both stared at the side of the structure.
A muffled voice, that of Yabba, replied, “Oh ... I think I’m the one who got splatted ...” There on the wall was the gray Great Dane, slightly wider and taller, but definitely flatter. Spread-eagled and a foot or two off the ground, he had smacked into the wall face-first, looking like someone had run a steamroller up the wall after him. As the two watched, the dog’s head peeled back and hung upside down, eyes rolling. “Think ya could peel me offa here?” he asked shakily.
Dusty came forward, pulling on his dog’s shoulders and wishing he had a spatula. A little gentle tugging and the canine broke free, peeling loose and flopping to the ground with a moan. They dragged the misshapen member of the team out of the shadow of Carl’s building and into the sunlight, where Yabba’s head and shoulders started to curl up as if he were a roll of carpet. “Whoa!” he managed to get out before his nephew skipped onto his chest to hold him down.
“Gee, Uncle Yabba, you’re flatter than a flapjack!”
“Well, I been feelin’ a mite depressed!” The dog’s cheeks colored, showing he was more embarrassed than anything.
Dusty shook his head. He wasn’t sure how painful his friend’s condition was, but apparently not bad enough to keep him from cracking jokes, nor was the wound fatal to anything but the canine’s hubris. This kind of flexibility had been a life saver for this bizarre breed of dog, and more than once the deputy had found himself having to fix up his rubber Rover. This time, however, things were much worse off than ever before.
“What are we gonna do now?” he wailed. His gold deputy star slipped free of his jacket again and landed in the sand, looking dull and tarnished. Dusty saw his future there, a piece of tin left on the road to be run over and ground into the earth, crushed beyond recovery. “Uncle Underwood is gonna kill me, then fire me! Them two bandits made off with the mayor’s car and we ain’t got no way of followin’ them!” He sniffled and cast his gaze downward even further. “We’re done for,” he announced sullenly.
For a moment, it seemed as if Dusty’s words had been chiseled into stone. Then Yabba had an idea. “Not to worry,” he said from his prone position on the ground. One of his flat arms bent upward. “I gotta plan!”
“The only thing scarier than my uncle,” whined Dusty, “is one of your plans ...”
Without any kind of conveyance, there was no way to catch Nefarious Ned and Pesky Pete. The three-wheeled motorcycle the trio normally employed was irreparable in the limited time they had, and no horses could complete with the car they were chasing. Yabba’s plan then, was to make their own vehicle, one without wheels, one that could take to the skies, and one that the evil partners would never see coming.
“You sure you wanna do this, Yabba?” Dusty asked, carrying over the silver cylinder of helium.
“It’s gonna have to be done anyways,” the pancaked pooch mumbled, “Might as well take advantage of it!” His flattened form had, with Scrappy’s help, been flipped over and he positioned himself on his bent arms, looking up with his distorted face. The pup had giggled that the task of turning him over would have been easier with a flapjack flipper, and Yabba had given a laugh of camaraderie, but the next comment earned the smaller dog a sharp look.
“This used to happen to Uncle Scooby once in a while, too.”
Uncle Scooby, Uncle Scooby, Uncle Scooby! Was there anything that dog hadn’t done first? I know he’s my brother and all, but sheesh! Maybe he’s just on the kid’s mind, seein’ as how Scooby’s gonna be here today. He kept himself from saying anything, lest it push the young dog away. If he isn’t already planning leave with Scooby and Shaggy anyway.
“You ready?” Dusty’s reedy voice pulled the crushed canine’s thoughts to the present as the deputy planted the helium tank’s hose into the dog’s mouth and gently began twisting the release valve. Yabba knew sooner or later he’d have to be inflated back into shape somehow, especially after how hard he’d been smooshed, but the plan wasn’t to stop immediately after he’d been restored to his normal size and shape, not if they were going to catch up to those villains and survive the day.
The gray dog’s thickness increased as the helium hissed away, and there was a series of muted popping sounds as Yabba’s muzzle, head, neck and torso resumed their normal form, followed by his arms, legs and tail.
“I’m not sure how much you can take,” said Dusty, looking concerned. His uncertainty showed in his face, though the thought of why he couldn’t have normal dogs like everyone else did flitter through his mind. Scrappy came forward to return Yabba’s hat, but Dusty waved him back and slipped Yabba’s red bandana from the dog’s neck lest it choke him as the plan continued. Scrappy took charge of the items, donning the hat and tying the bandana over his collar.
Yabba continued to expand. He grew as if he was taking a huge breath, trembled, and rose from the ground, instinctively fighting the pressure inside of him until the gas flowed into his extremities, making his limbs stick straight out from his widening body, stiff and full like a pool toy. After giving a muffled whine, his middle enlarged and he grew thicker and fatter, with a round, furry belly and a double-wide backside, his tail straight up behind his behind. He rose further up from the soil, wobbling in the air.
“Better catch him, Dusty!” Scrappy called.
Dusty planted a hand on his inflated friend’s muzzle to keep him from floating up any farther. “That enough, Yabba? Your belly’s bigger than a rain barrel!”
“Mmph!” was all the hound could manage, and tried unsuccessfully to nod with his puffed-out head and round cheeks.
Now I know what them hippity-hopper toys feels like, he thought, and tried to wave his arms and legs in an attempt to convince Dusty that he was done.
“A little more, Deputy Dusty, so we can ride him!” Scrappy advised, and Yabba’s eyes darted toward his nephew briefly before he stretched out a bit further, gave a moan, and waggled his bloated body.
“I think that’s enough,” the young man said, mercifully turning off the flow from the cylinder. “We just need to float over to those buildings over there, not fly to the moon!” Removing the hose, he picked up Scrappy and swung himself over the canine’s back as he would a stallion, though the difficulty lay in finding a comfortable and safe spot on Yabba’s wider body. He couldn’t see his friend’s expression as he said, “I think that’s about as much as your inflated ego can handle!” Yabba’s moan earned a chuckle from the deputy.
“Let’s go!” Scrappy urged, jumping up and down from his spot in front of Dusty. “Those bad guys are gettin’ away!”
The method of locomotion involved Dusty removing the hose attachment from the helium tank, which rendered it akin to a fire extinguisher. Pointing the emitter behind them and using short, controlled bursts sent them shooting through the air, Yabba’s expanded, lighter-than- air body keeping them high enough to see in through a second story window had they been passing one. Instead, they were making their way across the barren desert terrain more quickly than if the Desert Chopper trike had been available, for they weren’t constricted to the roads but could fly as straight as a crow to their targeted destination.
The dilapidated, tilted buildings that lay over a mile away from Tumbleweed grew in size, jutting from the ground like broken teeth. Baked from the sun and neglected, they were little more than washed-out skeletons made of wood, bleached of color and fragile with dry rot.
The journey was a series of jerky jumps forward as Dusty did his best to steer with the unwieldy and nearly empty tank.
As they traveled, Yabba was glad he was facing forward so the others would not see the mixture of emotions that either his eyes or face might betray. Never been so big in my life! True, his size was the result of a self-inflicted case of gas, but then he hadn’t given thought to how it might feel or how he might feel about it; there had only been the need for a quick solution. Maybe I oughta think out my plans a bit more before suggestin’ ‘em. His belly was churning with the helium, and his entire body felt full and fat without the heaviness of a meal. Like eatin’ too much chili and holding it all in! The feeling, he hated to admit, wasn’t entirely bad, and certainly the sensation of flight was a thrill. I bet I’ll get couple a smart-mouth comments when it’s all over, but at least only Dusty and Scrappy will ever see me this way. he thought with an inner sigh of relief.
“I think I see ‘em!” Scrappy said excitedly, bouncing up and down and pointing.
Dusty fumbled with the tank, only find it empty. “Our rocket’s out go-juice,” he announced, then slapped his mount on big behind. “C’mon, Yabba! Git along, little, er, big doggie!” About the time that Yabba could hold it in no longer and emitted some gas of his own, propelling them to the edge of one of the collapsed buildings, where Yabba hooked one of his bloated paws and swung them so they could all see around the corner and down the road that led between the row of dying structures. There in the middle of the street was the Caddy. Ned and Pete were rustling through the remaining parade decorations and pulling the brown bovine balloon from its box.
“Well,” Dusty whispered, “we found ‘em. Now what do we do?”
“I gotta plan,” Yabba said as quietly as he could while holding in as much gas as he possible, for his tactic would require him to remain as he was for a short time more. He frowned angrily as both the young man and young pup covered their mouths to stifle their laughter. “What’s so funny, ya grinnin’ galoots?”
“You sound funny, Uncle Yabba,” Scrappy managed to say between laughs.
Dusty patted his pooch on the back of the head. “That helium does wonders for your singin’ voice, Yabba. Not that it was much to being with.”
What was supposed to be a humph of derision came out as a high-pitched squeak, which was frustrating. Ain’t nobody able to carry a tune like me on washday, he thought. Certainly he’d been told folks would pay money to hear him sing, though apparently Dusty misheard and was of the obviously inaccurate opinion that those within range of his melodious voice were offering money to make him shut up. Old Man McClusky’s just tone deaf is all.
“So what’s the plan, Uncle Yabba?” Scrappy asked.
“How come no one ever asks me about any plans?” Dusty opined, and got a look from both of his canine compatriots. “Not that I got one or anything, just that no one does me the courtesy of askin’!”
After a sigh from both dogs, Yabba outlined his plan. To his consternation, both Dusty and Scrappy could not hold back their giggling when Yabba’s voice continued to sound like a munchkin from the Lolly Pop Brigade.
Although the box had been clearly labeled and had a black and white diagram on it, Ned had insisted on pulling the brown bovine balloon from its container and checking to see if it had a red and gold McKay Ranch logo emblazoned on it. Pete had found this action unnecessary, mainly because he was sure he would the one tasked with packing away all the rubber when the inspection was over. His dandified employer smiled hugely and clapped his hands together with delight upon finding the bull to be generic and unmarked.
“Easily stored until needed,” he crowed, “to be brought out later and advertise my own ranch once everyone’s forgotten about the theft.” Ned took a few steps back from where the uninflated balloon had been spread out like a massive picnic blanket beside the car and noted the second, unused helium tank resting like an upright pontoon in the vehicle’s back seat. “Helium included, no less!” With a gesture, he indicated the distasteful thing before him which looked like heavy lifting. “You may re-fold it and re-encapsulate my newfound booty, Peter.”
Pete sighed, his huge shoulders slumping. The words were alien, but the intent was obvious and foreseen. “Yes, Mr. Knicker,” he mumbled and resignedly began to flip up the limp bull’s likeness, figuring he could chuck the thing in the vehicle’s back seat easily enough. Like almost any toy, once removed from the packaging it was virtually impossible to return it to the original state without some frustration, damage, and a liberal dose of foul language.
Inappropriate language then graced Pete’s lips as he caught sight of two figures making their way toward him on either side of the street, attempting to remain in the shadows of the leaning husks of the dead buildings. The dippy deputy was tip-toeing in a pantomime fashion and the puppy was making a poor showing of running from a dark doorway to behind a rusting water pump with a long handle. Probably think they’re bein’ sneaky, he thought, rolling his eyes at their ineffective antics. “Got company, Mr. Knicker,” he announced loudly, making the two law enforcers freeze in place and cast a look at each other from their positions on opposite sides of the road.
“Yes, Peter,” Ned said wearily, “I see them. It would be impossible not to see them.” The slim Ned drew himself up tall and straightened his suit, hooking his umbrella in the crook of his elbow and grasping the lapels of his jacket. “You two imbeciles,” he shouted, “are the embodiment of idiocy. How you managed to catch anything other than a cold in your misbegotten excuse for a career in law enforcement is quite beyond my impressive imagination. Kindly come out here, prostrate yourselves, and beg for clemency before I unleash the unkindly talents of my muscular associate upon your unwitting persons.”
There was a long pause.
“Say what?” called the deputy as he emerged, confused, into the harsh afternoon light.
Scrappy, scratching his head, also made himself visible. “What’d he say?”
Pete didn’t understand the multisyllabic words, but decided to move on. “Can I just pound ‘em now, Mr. Knicker?” he asked, rolling up a sleeve.
“Yes, Peter, that is what I pay you for. Enjoy your work.” Ned smiled viciously in synch with Pete, and there was an audible gulp from the skinny twig of a man, while the puny pooch smiled and looked up at ...?
A shadow fell over Ned Knicker, and it dawned on him that he had yet to spot the third member of the drippy deputies, the mangy mongrel who had dared confront him earlier. Whirling, the astonished man found himself confronting a Great Dane of great size blocking out the sun and descending from the sky, falling in slow motion as if he were landing from a jump on the moon. Looking larger than before, the gray-colored hound was expelling a blast of foul dog breath and shrinking as he did so. Upon touchdown, Ned found himself seized by the beast in a bear hug, nose-to-nose with the bizarre creature, who smiled widely and shouted, “Gotcha, ya no-good thievin’ varmint!”
Ned reeled and turned his head sharply. Dear lord, the animal stunk like old, used sweat socks! Someone missed a few washdays, he thought, nearly gagging. His own perfumed person had never encountered such uncleanliness, excepting perhaps Pete. Or any other of the local peasants. Remaining in the grasp of this wretched thing simply would not do.
The knee he brought up forcefully found its mark, and he was rewarded with a look of hunched, cross-eyed pain from the disgusting dog, who exhaled extensively with a whoosh and a moan, releasing him and flopping to the ground senselessly.
Dusting himself down, he found at his feet a startling sight. The canine creature looked somewhat less than himself, like a discarded, half-emptied rag doll. Dizzily, the brute looked up and raised a saggy paw, looking at it wonder. “Musta deflated a bit too much,” he said weakly.
A surge of natural nastiness bloomed inside Ned’s ribcage and an evil smile blossomed across his mustachioed face. He reached behind him into the rear of the Caddy and drew forth a long tube attached to the silver canister of helium there. As Ned loomed over the flaccid beast, Yabba’s eyes widened in horror at what was coming and he scrabbled backwards limply, only to find his softened muzzle grabbed harshly and the hose inserted forcefully down his throat.
Ned Knicker let loose a chilling chuckle of cruel delight as he twisted the tank’s release valve. “If you’re feeling a bit down, allow me to lift your spirits!”
Deputy Dusty Underwood had been threatened by many men (and women) larger than himself (and some pets, too), including the neanderthal Big Bad Bucko and the huge Horrible Homer. He’d even helped to bring down the malignant magician Mysto, but at the moment he could not recall exactly what he had done to incapacitate, placate, or avoid any of them. Am I that worthless? If it wasn’t for Yabba and Scrappy, would I be sweepin’ streets and workin’ at the Gassy Horse Gas Station for peanuts? He shook himself. No! I’m a daggone deputy of the law, and a man to boot! And I don’t need no one to save my hide every time trouble comes a callin’!
“Stop right where you are, you big bully!” His attempt to muster a steady voice faltered as Pete drew closer, marching over the flat, tarp-like expanse of the uninflated bull balloon. Mustering his gumption, Dusty stood as tall and straight as he could, narrowed his eyes and hollered with all the might he could summon. “I said HALT, or you’re gonna end up serving yer jail time in a hospital bed!”
Pesky Pete froze, looking at him curiously.
Did that just work? Dusty wondered. His voice had been more commanding, deeper, and charged with something he’d thought about before, but never truly felt deep down inside. He was not a cowardly boy anymore, but a man charged with dispensing justice, charged with the power of the law, and charged with the force of righteousness. In his back pocket he could feel the handcuffs waiting for use and on his chest was the golden star of Tumbleweed’s trust, entitling him to handle the situations that required a lawman to do his sworn duty.
“Now come quietly or there’s gonna be a rough ride ahead of you!” There. That sounded pretty stern. And then he was sitting on his backside five feet from where he had been, his shoulder smarting from the bruise that was forming and hoping the one in the hospital bed at the end of the day wasn’t himself.
At one point, there had been hope. If I can just get a hold on the greasy critter ...Yabba’s body had straightened and regained his normal physique briefly – in fact, he felt as if he had just taken a deep, energizing breath – but that precious moment passed quickly as his arms and legs snapped out to his sides and his inflating furry form stiffened into immobility for a second time that day. His entire body trembled as he filled with helium ... and then he expanded far more quickly than before. Hope this don’t become a habit! His nose and muzzle widened, his cheeks puffed out, and his head enlarged.
Gaining just as quickly was his torso, which grew rounder and stretched out in all directions until he was bigger than a truck tire. He caught sight of his fattening fingers and hand paws over the round shoulders he’d grown, and the dog toppled forward on his fattened foot paws, but he did not fall. Suspended by the lighter gas that filled his growing, expanding form, he floated head high over the ground. If I could just spit out this hose before I blow up too big ...
Eyeing his work with satisfaction, Nefarious Ned reached out and mockingly patted his ballooned and helpless prey on the nose. “I see your earlier aspirations regarding your size have been reached and surpassed, but I suspect you are capable of so much more.” With a flourish, he whipped his belt from his pants and quickly tied it around the mutt’s muzzle, thereby trapping the helium tube in place. “Can’t have you lose that fat head of yours anytime soon, can we?”
Relishing his captive audience, Ned made a show of pulling the heavy, silver tank from the car and setting it upright so that Yabba could see the gauge, the indicator reading that less than a quarter of the contents had been deployed. With a smug smile, Ned gripped the release valve, casting a maniacal grin up at the bobbing Yabba. “Glad to see you’re celebrating Tumbleweed’s anniversary in style – I’m sure it will all end with a bang.”
Aw, heck! The feller’s gonna try and pop me! His eyes grew huge and he made a pleading Mmmph!
Trying to flap his huge, useless arms succeeded only in rocking him from side to side. The frustration and embarrassment he felt turned into terror as the hissing of the tank resumed in full force and then he really began to expand.
Scrappy hesitated. His previous encounter with Pesky Pete had left him smarting and defeated. Rarely had he acknowledged that his own diminutive size left him at a disadvantage, but looking up at the giant remembering the pain now made him reconsider his options. Running from a foe had been the forte of Shaggy and his Uncle Scooby, but that was just a ploy to lure the monster or other threat into following so they could spring a trap. They were just clever; they weren’t really frightened.
Were they? Not Uncle Scooby. He couldn’t believe that. He wouldn’t.
And Uncle Yabba was just as brave, if not braver. Deputy Dusty, however, was another matter. Some time ago, the young man had literally packed a bag and been planning to flee Tumbleweed on the afternoon train upon hearing that Big Bad Bucko was returning for revenge upon those who had sent him to prison. Scrappy and Yabba had to literally and physically make Dusty face his fear, and it had become apparent that Dusty Underwood was not the fearless
lawman Scrappy wanted to see him as being. So does that mean that I’ve been wrong about everyone else, too?
Worst of all was the thought that followed while he was looking up at the massive monster of a man who had slapped him aside like a pesky insect: Am I a coward? The thought was paralyzing, and he watched frozen in place as the towering hulk of Pete advanced on the fallen deputy.
But as Dusty looked up, the golden badge on his jacket caught the afternoon sun and gleamed brightly, blasting directly into Pete’s eyes. When the big man threw his arms up to block the light, Dusty jumped to his feet and seized the edge of the rubber bovine Pete had been traversing and yanked hard. The unbalanced Pete tumbled backward and Dusty shot forward, throwing a canopy of brown rubber over the desperado and rolling him up in it like a human enchilada.
“Scrappy! Quick!” Dusty called. “Gimmie a hand, er paw!”
It was a trick! Dusty was just fooling the guy into falling for his trap! Doubts dispelled, Scrappy darted forward, tooting an imaginary horn and shouting, “Puppy power!” as he slammed himself into Pete’s legs. Pete, who had been trying to stand, fell backward onto the Cadillac’s hood, the rubber encasing him catching on the steer horns mounted to the vehicle’s hood and tearing badly, the flopping fake bull head ripping off in the process and falling to the ground like a discarded Halloween mask.
“We got ‘im!” Scrappy shouted in triumph. “You sure are smart, Deputy D.!” “Yeah,” Dusty said, sounding surprised himself. “I guess I am!”
“Yes,’ came a smooth voice behind them, “smart as paint, aren’t you?”
Dusty looked up in time to feel a point at his throat, the cold metal tip of Nefarious Ned’s umbrella looking to skewer him where he stood. His backpedaling landed him against a groaning wooden support beam holding up the remains of an old saloon’s porch. Ned, glaring eyes dark under the brim of his black bowler, held him in place with the brolly held horizontally against the defenseless deputy’s neck. Dusty’s hands found the offending instrument, and he discovered his own strength was enough to keep him from being choked into unconsciousness, but not enough to free himself.
“Your persistence is most annoying, you bothersome boy, but rest assured you have found yourself outclassed!”
“You low-down dirty crook!” Dusty blurted. “Aincha’ gotta car of your own?”
“That’s what you think? That this was a simple case of vehicular abduction? Dear lad, you lack the intelligence of a table lamp! Tumbleweed’s illustrious Mayor McKay may have snubbed one of the town’s most influential investors for this ceremony, but he will soon learn there is a price to pay for his malignant attitude!”
It was not easy for the deputy to decipher Ned’s oracular gymnastics, but he put two and two together easily enough. “So you’re all up in tizzy ‘cause you didn’t get a special invite?” Fury building, Dusty managed to push the trembling umbrella from his neck long enough to shout, “Sounds like someone’s got a big HEAD!”
“You might be minus one in a moment, Deputy Dunderhead,” Ned growled. “and when I’m done with you, I’ll get your little dog, too!”
“Boss!” Pesky Pete, calling from his confinement, gave his warning too late. Scrappy Doo had picked up on his superior’s hint and scooped up the severed balloon bull’s head and leapt into the air, pulling the rubber down over Ned’s eyes, head, and shoulders.
Whatever Ned was shouting was thankfully nothing more than a muffled jumble of sounds. “Got tired of his highfalutin way of talkin’ anyway,” Dusty mumbled, thinking the man must eat confounding Shakespearean crossword puzzles for breakfast. “Good work, Scrappy!” They clapped a quick high five and then a short cut with his pocket knife in the big rubber head meant the encapsulated and incapacitated Ned Knicker would not suffocate before he was relocated to the Tumbleweed jail. The two of them rolled him over to join Pesky Pete and Dusty removed his grey Stetson and wiped his brow. As he gazed down at the little Great Dane, still bedecked in his uncle’s battered hat and red bandana, he could not help but notice the resemblance. Little feller’s gonna make a great deputy himself one day, if he sticks with it. If that’s what he wants.
“That was some quick thinking there, Deputy Dusty,” Scrappy congratulated him.
“Well, you were the one that done the work, Scrappy. Yer Uncle Yabba’s gonna be really proud of you. Speakin’ of Yabba, what do you suppose he got up to?”
A shadow fell over them and upon looking up, they both realized exactly what Yabba had gotten up to. Getting him down would be the problem.
For a moment or two, Yabba’s mind flickered though a series of thoughts.
Years ago, Yabba Doo had been active and unselfconscious. As Scrappy was now, so he had been then, playing cowboys and Indians, jumping into things head first, and using his instincts instead of his brains. He’d thought Scooby would one day turn out to be fat considering the dog’s humongous appetite, but his brother had a metabolism faster than a greyhound zapped by a cattle prod. His own ability to keep off weight had seemed natural, though it might have had something to do with ingesting more Chili Snacks and spicy foods than any stomach should have to suffer through. It wasn’t until the more recent years that age had loaned him some weight, though not much more than to fill him out a bit. The comment from Dusty during the laundry incident had stung, and he’d had his eye on a rugged leather vest in a shop window that would cover up his middle somewhat and still leave him feeling free and loose. The minor twinge of self-consciousness had grown earlier when he’d decided to sacrifice his dignity for an airborne method of traversing the desert to the remnants of this forsaken town in pursuit of the two low-down law breakers, but this new predicament was something else.
After Ned’s actions had bloated his already expanded form into an overfilled version of a doggy Michelin Man, he’d hoped that the hose might either pop free or he’d find some way of expelling enough gas to keep him from getting bigger. No such luck. Then he had grown, bloating up and out, expanding and enlarging, growing taller and wider, his grey furry body stretching out to a size that rivaled the Cadillac below him. Haven’t felt this bloated since that time I ate a whole plate of Chili Snacks with all that soda pop. That particular case of gas had been nothing compared to this.
He watched the battle between Dusty, Pesky Pete, and Scrappy with concern for his human pal, and then silently cheered him on when he toppled the bigger man. An attempt to warn them of Ned’s approach was stifled by the helium still roaring into his guts, but his best friend and little nephew had tackled that threat as well. Good on ya, fellers, he thought, and then groaned as his belly and middle expanded to the diameter of a mobile home. How big am I gonna get before I blow? How much more can I take? Already his shadow blocked the entirety of the car from the sun. He attempted to waggle his huge body and whined as loudly as he could, but it was still another moment before Dusty and Scrappy looked up and the shock registered on their faces.
Yabba’s tail shot straight up and out, filled and thicker than a telephone pole. An ominous creaking came from his overstretched, deforming body and he shook in alarm. The canine’s eyes crossed and his vision blurred as he reached his limit.
Hurry! The hose! Before I explode!
Dusty and Scrappy rushed to the helium tank, Scrappy leaping up to yank on the silver container’s valve, hoping to cut off the flow of gas. Acting on instinct instead of brains did not enable him to realize his mistake until his overstressed uncle’s ballooned body made a final expansion to a size comparable to a tractor trailer.
“Scrappy! Ya done turned it on full blast!” Dusty hollered and seized the long helium hose, giving it a powerful yank that popped it free of Yabba’s mouth, a short squeak of gas following it.
“Dusty!” Scrappy yelled, “Uncle Yabba’s floating away!”
I done figured that one out myself, he thought irritatedly as he quickly tied the helium hose into a lasso and expertly threw it over Yabba’s massive head. He then secured the other end to the bumper of the black Caddy, a few puzzle pieces coming together in his mind as he looked back to the ruined parade balloon that currently wrapped up his new prisoners.
Cupping his paws around his mouth, Scrappy called up, “Don’t worry Uncle Yabba, we’ll getcha down!” Tugging at the leg of Dusty’s pants, he animatedly pointed up at the huge, distorted form of his inflated uncle. “How’re we gonna get him deflated, Deputy Dusty?”
Deputy Dusty Underwood turned around, hooked his thumbs on the waistband of his blue jeans, and smiled smugly down at the little puppy, then up at the gigantic dog above. “We ain’t gonna,” he said decisively. “This time I’VE got a plan!”
It was four-thirty and Sheriff Underwood stood at the edge of Tumbleweed, alternately stomping boot prints into the soil and checking his watch. Mayor McKay watched him mildly.
“Sheriff, you’re going to wear a hole clear down to China if you carry on like that.”
Underwood continued to fume. “He’s done screwed it up! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him with anything this big. Kid can’t load a stapler without tacking somebody to the wall.”
“Now, now,” the mayor chided him. “Deputy Dusty has come through before, and the town itself looks lovely. Give him another minute or two.” Calmly, he brushed his bushy mustache with a finger and appeared unperturbed. As the man who literally owned the town, his word carried a lot of weight. He gazed peacefully forward at the others assembled and smiled.
In front of them was a parade float, a flat-bedded wagon trimmed with a yellow anniversary banner and displaying a paper Mache tumbleweed the size of a wagon wheel. Two costumed cowboys stood with the wagon, dressed in the regal red and gold that signified they were of the McKay Ranch, and in front of the wagon was the high school band. The band members played so badly that their cacophonous attempt at tuning up was one of their better numbers.
Grinding his teeth, Underwood growled out, “If that kid don’t show up in the next two minutes, he’s gonna be lookin’ for a job at the hospital - if he ever gets out of it!”
One minute and fifty-five seconds later, the toot of a car horn attracted the attention of the mayor and the sheriff, and they gazed in wonder at the sight that approached. The convertible came to a halt in a cloud of dusty red clay, sporting more passengers than anticipated and towing a most unorthodox-looking parade balloon.
Dusty wasn’t even out of the car before the sheriff bellowed, “You’re FIRED!”
“Now Uncle Underwood, gimmie a chance to explain ...” his nephew began, but was cut off by the raging man.
“You’re late, the mayor’s car is a mess, and whatever the heck that is up there ain’t no bull! I knew you couldn’t handle doing anything right, ‘cause you never done nothin’ right in your whole danged life!” I’ve about had enough of this whiny kid, he thought. Spineless as a bowl of jello. Any man in Tumbleweed would be less of an embarrassment and do a better job.
“Hey, you can’t talk to Deputy Dusty like that!” called the puppy as he hopped out of the Cadillac. Dang thing looks like the other big one, all done up in his hat and all. Be glad to rid of them mange-ridden fleabags, too.
“Shut up, Scrappy,” Dusty hollered, and wheeled to face his uncle, pushing his glasses back up his nose and trembling with controlled fury. “You ain’t got nothing to be all worked up about! I can’t be less than a minute late, and if it wasn’t for me, the mayor’s car and his property wouldn’t be here at all. These two thieves would be long gone. Not to mention the town is done up nice, and there ain’t no harm done to the parade. So go on and fire me! If doin’ my job is what gets me the boot, then the job ain’t worth it!”
At that, the young man yanked his badge from his jacket and slapped it into the palm of his uncle’s hand.
Shocked, Underwood took a step backward, then charged forward again, ready to raise a fist until Dusty stuck a finger up at him and shouted, “And if you was doin’ your job, you’d be asking questions and listening to your deputies like a real lawman instead of bellerin’ like a banshee with a bee up it’s bonnet!”
“A-HEM!” The mayor’s interruption made them both turn to face his quiet, steely gaze. “You will both wait here quietly until I’ve had a moment to investigate. As both mayor and judge of Tumbleweed, I’ll make the final call. Do you understand me, Sheriff?”
“Yessir.” The mayor’s tone brooked no dissension and he turned and spoke to the passengers in his car. Underwood noted it was fancy-pants Ned Knickers and his big lackey, Peter Thompkins. Been lookin’ to have them in jail for a while now. What they were doing wrapped up like walking tacos in – what was that? Brown rubber? Ned’s head poked out from the mouth of a big steer’s head. As the mayor and Ned conversed, Ned looked startled, then finally seem to hang his head in shame. Mayor McKay, like Mother Nature, was not one to fool with. As town judge, he could spot a lie and shoot it down like a sharpshooter, so few chose to make the mistake of doing anything but admit the truth under his grilling.
The mayor pulled a card of some kind from his jacket and tucked it into Ned’s mouth, then returned to his two waiting officers. “It seems you’ve done Deputy Dusty a disservice, Sheriff. Mr. Knicker has admitted to his actions due to a postal error on my part. I should have sent out my invitations sooner than this morning, so no harm done, really. He’s free to go.
As for your nephew here, he’s done a fine job doing up the town, and he actually delivered my car back almost undamaged and with no real complaints from me. Not to mention the number of crooks he and his ... dogs ... have captured in the past speaks well of his future.” The mayor looked Underwood in the eyes and said, clearly and distinctly, “You will return to him his badge and reinstate him ... or he can replace you as our new sheriff.”
After a moment of shocked, open-mouthed silence, Underwood stuck Dusty’s badge back onto the smaller man’s jacket. “Welcome back, Deputy.”
As the mayor smiled, Dusty faced him. “Mayor sir, I thank you and appreciate what you’ve done, but I gotta tell ya it sticks in my craw that Mr. Knicker and Pesky Pete get to walk away from this scot free. I insist they do some jail time for what they done. Stealin’ a car is like rustlin’ cattle, and they gotta pay for that.”
Underwood stiffened. Did he just stand up to me and the mayor? Maybe the kid’s got a spine in that skinny backside of his after all.
“I can see your point, Deputy. He can do some jail time after the festivities.” He took Dusty’s arm and led him aside. “Now, why don’t you drive my car in the parade,” he offered. “I think the town deserves to see a professional lawman at the wheel. Your dogs can join us as well. By the way,” he said, looking around, “don’t you normally have two of them with you? What happened to the other one?”
“Oh, you mean Yabba?” Apparently, no one had figured out that the Great Dane balloon floating above them was the genuine article. Dusty smiled crookedly and said loudly, “I’m sure he’s hanging around here somewhere.”
Thankfully, Tumbleweed was a small town and the parade route was short. A squad of energetic, short-skirted cheerleaders twirling batons was followed by the nearly tone-deaf marching band. The tumbleweed float chugged along behind them, and finally came the mayor’s huge aircraft carrier of a car, complete with McKay standing and waving, while bobbing along above them was the expanded form of one of the town’s deputized canines. The entire town had turned out, folks lining either side of the dirt road, dressed in their Western best. Widder Winnie clutched the arm of the man she’d claimed while helping put up banners and ribbons, and some of the happier men in evidence were those who’d escaped her manhunt. Children cheered, those on the rooftops tossed confetti, and cameras flashed.
Cameras! The whole dang town can see blown up like a dadgum blimp! Yabba, when bobbing forward, spotted Glenn, the newspaper man, clicking away and hoped the pictures taken would be in black and white or his red face would be all over the papers. I’ll git Dusty for this! It was all his doggone fault! The flight over the desert to capture Ned and Pete, he had to admit, had been his own choice, but the events that followed hadn’t been. Dusty could’ve explained about the ripped up bull balloon, he didn’t need to leave me the size of a house and drag my big butt through town! Probably the young man and Scrappy thought nothing of what they were doing to him, and he would have to pretend to be a good sport and all, but the humiliation of it was something he’d have to live with. Yabba was sure there would be quite a few wiseacre remarks coming in his future, but he also expected some reimbursement in one form or another.
Even if it’s just extra Chili Snacks. But Dusty would prob’ly tell me I’d need ta lay off ‘em for a while. He could already hear the jokes about his “expanding waistline,” how it would give him a case of “bad gas,” or maybe something about his “inflated ego” again. Not my fault if’n I’m the one who comes up with the best plans. He sulked for a few moments, but couldn’t stop the internal comment from coming. Guess I’ll have to be “big enough” to handle it all.
He was trying to maintain a neutral expression and keep his eyes from looking around and giving the game away, but then he saw toward the end of the street a familiar green van with “Mystery Machine” emblazoned on it in stylized, orange letters. Oh no! I clean forgot! Standing there was Shaggy, the scraggly guy his brother hung out with, along with Scooby Doo himself. The big brown Great Dane was posing for some selfies with several children and putting his paw print on a few autograph books. Yabba sighed and hoped that he wasn’t turning green with envy.
Then the huge shadow of Yabba’s blimped-out body, stretching in front of him, fell over the knot of kids and Scooby and they all looked up at the doggy dirigible floating toward them. The younger ones were pointing and shouting.
“It’s a balloon of that Yabba Doo dog!”
“How’d they get one of him? He must be really famous!” “Isn’t he the one who caught all those bad guys?”
“And look, there’s Scrappy in the car!”
The youthful audience evaporated around Scooby, racing to take pictures or cheer on the new focus of their attention. Yabba, upon hearing the words, prayed he wasn’t literally swelling with pride. I’m big enough as it is! Still, he could not help but notice the warm feeling in his chest from being recognized. Some appreciation at last!
For just a moment, he and Scooby locked eyes. The brown dog cocked his head and raised an eyebrow, then looked on with wide eyes and a huge, open-mouthed smile. He knows! The Doo dog down below pointed and giggled, then tugged on Shaggy’s sleeve and whispered in the boy’s ear, making him also look on with surprise and let out a laugh. Over the din, he could hear Shaggy say, “Your brother must be BIG in this town! Ha ha! Geddit, Scoob?”
While they had a laugh below, Yabba’s thoughts were more about the well-desired cheers he felt he was receiving at long last.
After a tour around the small town square, the other parade participants broke up and merged into the gathering crowd to listen to Mayor McKay’s speech. Dusty drove the car towing his humongous hound behind the Town Hall and he and Scrappy got out, coming around to reel Yabba in. Yabba was begging and pleading with his eyes for release, his internals churning and twisting with helium. Gotta let it go!
“Guess it’s about time to let out some of that hot air yer always fulla!” Deputy Dusty quipped, and Yabba rolled his eyes. Ned’s belt was twisted and tight around the dog’s barrel- sized muzzle, and as his friend wrestled with it, Yabba briefly feared that even afterward he might not return to his normal form after being expanded into so large a balloon for so long.
Scrappy rolled up the hose and looked at his enormous, overinflated uncle. “Gosh, you were a huge hit during the parade!”
With a snap, the belt came free and Yabba let loose a massive blast of breath that sent him flying backward through the air, turning and corkscrewing, doing a complete figure eight in the sky and deflating while squeaking, “Yippty Yabbity Dooooooooo!” He came to splash down in a horse trough, sending his two compatriots running for cover. With arms, legs, and head hanging over the sides, he grunted and watched his round belly reduce as he let loose the remainder of the gas from his back door, making the water bubble and foam. Been holding that one in for a while, he thought while giving a sigh of relief. As he staggered, soaking, from the trough, he shook all over madly, making Scrappy and the deputy duck for cover behind the car again.
I’m back ta normal size again! He checked himself all over, ruffling his rough gray fur and glad to find that aside from a feeling of lightheadedness and a gurgling tummy he felt relatively decent. At least I’m not a big, floppy pancake! Still feeling a little shaky, he wandered over to lean on the Cadillac, the dizziness dissipating.
Scrappy leaped over the trunk of the black car and gave his uncle a big hug, then handed over Yabba’s bandana and tattered hat. As he put his vestments back on, Yabba looked down at the admiring eyes of his energetic nephew and felt the same touch of pride he’d felt during the last legs of the parade.
“Well Yabba,” Dusty said as he came around the bumper and gave his companion a slap on the back, “looks like ya got to be the star of the parade, ya big galoot! And you got to make up for the washday you missed last week!”
He was about to protest that he didn’t miss it when a familiar couple of faces rounded the corner.
“Shaggy! Uncle Scooby!” Scrappy was off, running to jump into the arms of Scooby Doo, who hugged him eagerly while Shaggy joined in, and all of them happily embraced. “It’s so good to see you! Did you see Uncle Yabba in the parade? How long have you been here?” As the young pup babbled on excitedly, Scooby giggled and nuzzled his small nephew. Yabba felt a lump growing in his throat as he watched, then Scooby beckoned him over eagerly and the two Doo brothers came together and did a jig that involved a paw slap, a hip bump, and ended with a big, hairy hug.
As the dogs danced, Shaggy came over and shook Dusty’s hand, the two men exchanging greetings and pleasantries, and chatting about what it was like to be the owners – well, caretakers – of such wild canines. “Yeah,” Dusty said. “Does it ever git on your nerves that they tend to shout their own names all the time?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Shaggy admitted. “But I guess it’s like, part of their charm, you know?”
Nodding in sympathy, Dusty smiled. “Been a long day. And it’s gonna be a long night, with the celebrations and all. You two stayin’?”
“Oh yeah!” Shaggy replied. “We’ve been looking forward to all that great Western hot food! I bet Scooby’s going to have a big tummy ache tomorrow morning. Me too, if it all goes right!”
“Well, just be aware that Yabba likes to spike the chili with hot sauce,” Dusty warned, having experienced it firsthand. “Bet Scooby’s gonna get mobbed by all the folks, seein’ as how he’s famous and all.”
As they watched, a gaggle of children came around the corner with a few watchful adults. Yabba took a few steps back to give his nephew and Scooby room, only to be surprised to find that he himself was their target. Delighted, Yabba happily posed for some pictures with the kids and put his pawprint on a few papers. One of the boys wanted his pawprint on a floating balloon, which he did with an embarrassed grin on his face.
“Like, your own dog there seems pretty famous himself,” Shaggy acknowledged. “Yeah,” said Dusty with a smile. “Yeah, he’s special, all right.”
Later that evening, Yabba wandered outside into the cool night air and sat on a large boulder, looking up at the multitude of stars shining down from the cloudless night sky. The celebrations had involved a lot of food, a lot of dancing, and some good omens. Deputy Dusty had been congratulated by his uncle, whose attitude seemed to have changed regarding the young man, and he was informed he would be receiving a letter of recommendation from the mayor along with a marginal pay raise. At least we still got jobs, too, and Sheriff Underwood might jest lay off Dusty for a while. Along with that good news came the dreaded notice that since he and his fellow deputies had done such a good job putting up the decorations, that they were also being conscripted to take them down tomorrow afternoon. Whatever goes up has gotta come down, I suppose.
A crescent moon hung on the far horizon, and Yabba’s thoughts swam in his head. After a hefty belch, he rubbed his stomach and found it was a little rounder than he remembered. Maybe I can git Dusty to buy me that nice leather vest with his some of his raise. He owes me somethin’ fierce for bein’ the parade balloon. No doubt a few of the pictures from tomorrow’s paper would wind up on the bulletin board, something he’d have to endure and pretend to laugh about with Dusty and Scrappy.
“Uncle Yabba? You all right?” The puppy, yawning, toddled over to the boulder and Yabba slid down it, landing on his rear and letting Scrappy sit down on the red clay beside him, where he put a protective arm around his sleepy youngling.
“Aw Scrappy, you oughta be inside getting’ some rest for tomorrow.” He gulped, though it didn’t relieve the lump in his throat. He decided to address the issue head on, like a bull. “You goin’ with Shaggy and yer Uncle Scooby tomorrow when they go?”
Scrappy stiffened at the words, then sighed. “I had a really good time traveling with Uncle Scooby and Shaggy a while ago,” the pup admitted. “I had a lot of fun with the gang and all, solving mysteries and catching all the ghosts from the Chest of Demons, but ... I don’t think some of them liked me as much as I liked them. And after catching all those bad guys and then coming here and arresting all those real bad guys with you and Deputy Dusty... I kinda got a taste for it.” He looked up at Yabba with his big, hopeful eyes. “Can I stay here? I wanna get my badge become a real lawman and catch crooks like you, Uncle Yabba.”
Yabba squeezed Scrappy on the shoulder affectionately and kissed him on the top of his big head. “Of course ya can stay. As long as ya want, and as long as it takes,” he said, trying to keep the warble out of his voice. Scrappy smiled hugely and they sat there under the sky as a falling star whizzed by silently overhead.
Got my wish already, he told the heavens, and held his nephew close.