Clark would be starting school the following week, and Jamie and Brad wanted to be there to support him until he felt comfortable, no matter how long it took. Any plans for a honeymoon were put off for the time being.
Mark had planned a mini rodeo at the ranch, and the whole family was looking forward to it. Almost everyone participating was a novice, so Jamie decided to sign up for the barrel racing event. Brad worked with her and she was getting better every day.
Everyone from the neighboring ranches would be there. All of the ladies would bring mountains of food to add to the fried chicken, potato salad, and pies, Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen were preparing.
There was at least one activity for every age group and even some calf roping for the more experienced cowboys.
At the end of the day, There would be a special performance by Clark and Katie. Mr. and Mrs. Langford had choreographed a regular hoedown and they were all working hard to make it a spectacular event. They would be performing under the stars on an amazing stage. It was the surprise Brad had promised them and they were thrilled. Brad had also planned another surprise and he was hoping it would work out.
Mr. Langford would be playing the piano and Mrs. Langford brushed up on her harmonica skills. It would be a night to be remembered.
Mark and Steve decorated ten little wagons and made a choo choo train for the kids Jake’s age. He had already tried it several times. The only way he would agree to get out of the wagon was to let him take a turn on the pony ride.
Arf: Annie and I weren’t quite sure what dogs do at a rodeo, so we planned to watch it and kind of guard things. I mean, we were just fine with that. We were better than fine. We were a’okay.
Annie: Earth to Arf. Your dog-talking to yourself again. What has you so upset?
Arf: I’m nervous about this rodeo thing. There will be a lot of people and animals we don’t know around here. We’re going to have to be very vigilant.
Annie: I’m pretty sure they only invited nice people who won’t try to kidnap anyone or steal valuables.
Arf: Now why did you have to go and say that? I hadn’t even thought about those things. Now I’m really nervous.
They had reason to suspect something was up…but it wasn’t what they thought it was.
Meet the rodeo clowns
The day was action packed and that evening Clark and Katie put on an amazing show at sunset.
They all went to bed tired but happy. It wasn’t until the next morning that the nightmare started.
“Jake was a tired little boy. He’s really sleeping in this morning,” Jamie said as she went into the adjacent room to check on him. “Brad, Jake’s not in his bed. You don’t suppose he went downstairs to the kitchen all by himself do you?”
“He must have. Where else would he be?”
They ran downstairs as fast as they could. Miss Bessie and Grandma Helen were in the kitchen having coffee, but Jake was nowhere to be found.
A few minutes later, Dina walked in and asked if anyone had seen Katie.
Clark came in and when he saw how panicked everyone was, he asked what was going on.
“Jake and Katie are missing,” Dina said. “How could this happen? Where could they possibly be?”
“Wherever they are, Arf and Annie must be on their trail, because they aren’t anywhere around here either.
Clark ran out the door. Steve and Brad were right behind him.
“You all stay here in case someone calls or they come home,” Brad told everyone else. “We’ll grab Mark and look for them anywhere they might be on the ranch….And Jamie…call the Sheriff.”
Annie: Can you see them Arf? Are they okay?
Arf: They’re getting out of that truck and going into the house. Let’s get closer so we can see what’s going on.
I’ve been to this house before when we were looking for Dina. Remember when she sprained her foot?
Annie: I know, I’ve been here, too. I was with Steve when he came to see some human that I don’t know. I do know one thing, though. This is the house where Steve and Dina lived when Katie was born. I’m getting to understand Steve-talk pretty good.
Arf: Let’s hide in the back of the truck. If they leave here we won’t have to chase them.
Annie: Good idea. I can’t see through the window. I hope they’re okay.
Just then someone came to the window and pulled the curtains shut. It was a woman.