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The next morning, Tim and his father are up and at 'em again, hitting the road with their wagon full of goods.
The ground is covered with snow, but at least it's not continuously snowing, so that's good. And they'll just have to cross their fingers that no cowboys show up. To keep watch on the cowboys, Tim and his dad work out a nifty system.
Tim tends to the oxen, making sure they keep pulling the wagon with all its goodies forward.
Meanwhile, Mr. Meeker will ride up ahead to keep an eye out for cowboys, and occasionally come back to check on his son. And for a while, this system works out just great. They even make it through that rough Ridgebury area without any cowboy troubles. But later on, Tim realizes he hasn't seen his dad in quite a long time.
Soon after he comes across a patch of ground with lots of hoof-prints and mud mixed into the snow. Tim just knows what has happened to his father: "The cowboys had […] taken him away someplace" (9.17).
Tim is scared out of his wits at first. What on earth is he supposed to do? Should he go after his dad, even though he doesn't know where he is? Or should he try to get the goods home?
Eventually, Tim realizes that his father would want him to take the supplies back to his mom. Without these supplies, they won't make it through the winter.
So that's exactly what Tim decides to do. Turns out Tim has got his wits about him. He realizes that not only should he head home as quickly as possible, but he should also be prepared to run into the cowboys along the way. And he should also have a story figured out for when he runs into those cattle-stealers.
Soon, there they are up ahead: three cowboys waiting for him in the middle of the road.
But Tim keeps his cool. In fact, he asks these jerks if they are his "escort" (9.29). Sounds like Tim has a plan in mind.
The cowboys are a little confused about this whole "escort" thing, but Tim keeps up with his story. He tells the cowboys that his dad told him to expect an escort and that whenever the shooting starts, his job is to fall to the ground as fast as possible.
This talk of shooting has the cowboys getting worried. Some of them start wondering if there's an ambush set up, with an escort waiting for the cowboys to attack the boy.
Lucky for Tim, enough of these cowboys get scared so they decide to ride away. Way to go, Tim!
All it took was a good story and he was able to trick them into leaving him alone.
Now he makes it all the way home with all his goods. That is seriously impressive stuff.