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Captain Timber

By: Roy E. Hare


"Yes Mark."

"Mu-um, you know that pile of old floorboards and joists, that dad threw out, when he replaced the lounge floor."


"Well, can Robbie and I have them?"

"Daddy did say he would take it all to the tip, that was six months ago. I don't suppose he would mind, it depends what you are going to do with all that wood."

"Build a tree house."

"We haven't got a tree."

"I know, but Freddy Jones has a great big conker tree in his garden, his dad said he can have one. If he saves up to buy the wood."

"Ah! Now I think you had better ask daddy when he comes home, he might not like the idea of you climbing trees."

"Mum, I've climbed it hundreds of times, thousands even. Robbie has climbed up it as well."

"You've done what! How many times do you have to be told, it is dangerous to climb trees."

"But mum, we have ropes to help us climb, Fred's dad said that Fred is like a little monkey, the way he goes up that tree. He said when he gets older he was going to get him a job as a steeplejack."

"Oh, I wish my children had been girls. Wait till you can speak to daddy, then perhaps…"

"Will you help us persuade him?"

"I'll see."

After some deep thought and friendly argument, the boys got permission, and a bonus, both their father and Freddy's agreed to help build it.

It was a superb building, erected with only a few cuts, grazes, and the wrong nails hit by hammers. Odd amounts of brown and green paint were brushed on in various patterns. Two rope ladders provided a means of entry and exit.

"Just like an army hut." Said Robbie.

The furniture was odd chairs and a folding table, was well as shelves to hold something, nobody had any idea what, as yet. The final touch, a large notice on the door, which stated, 'KEEP OUT'.

"Can we sleep in it, in the summer, mum?"

Mark had almost packed a duvet and some cereal for his breakfast.

"We shall have to see, there's all sorts of little jobs that need doing around the house."

"Me and Robbie will do 'em mum, won't we Rob?"

"I suppose so." Robbie was not very enthusiastic.

One day, the three boys were sitting comfortably in the tree house, discussing what they might do for future amusement, when a deep, dark brown voice, interrupted their conversation.

"Er…Er excuse me."

Mark looked at his companions, and noted that they both had the same quizzical look, as he imagined he must have had.

Robbie squeaked first.

"What --- what was that. I thought I heard a voice."

"You did, it was me."

Freddy managed to find his voice, after a noisy clearing of his throat.

"Who --- what --- where are you?"

"I'm all round you."

"But I can't see you, are you small that I can't see you?"

"You can see me. I am your hut, will I am the timber. I started life as a tree, sawn into timber to make a ship. The owner, an old sea captain, had me broken up when he retired, then put me into his house as floorboards, stairs, and cupboards. Over the years, I have been ripped, recycled or burnt. Now thanks to you boys, I have returned to my roots, so to speak and started a new life."

Three pairs of eyes popped out from their sockets, surveying every nook and cranny, looking for a face or something they could identify with.

Mark managed to speak.

"I'm out of here! Quick lower the ladder."

The boys scrambled for the door.

"Avast there me hearties, the ship ain't a sinking yet. I only want to thank you kindly, for saving me from that stinking tip. I hate the thought of rotting away in all that rubbish, them horrible wood lice crawling all over me. Eating me innards."

Mark turned and stared, hoping to catch sight of something human.

"I bet it's my father playing a trick on us. Look round and see if there are any loud speakers or wires."

The boys searched the hut thoroughly, Mark even climbed higher in the tree and scrambled over the roof of the hut, finding nothing, they returned to their chairs for a discussion, to try and solve the mystery.

"Welcome back lads. Nothing to be frightened of. This old timber never hurt nothing in his life."

Mark, taking the responsibility of leader of the gang, hesitated as he spoke.

"Er--- er, if you promise not to hurt us, we'll stay."

"Course I won't hurt you, I want to thank you for helping me to live a bit longer. Do you know it's quite comfortable in this tree, shaded from the hot sun, a gentle breeze and three young companions. I think I shall last quite a few years yet. What more could an old wood want?"

A gentle sigh whispered round the hut, the strips of wood shook gently, like settling into a comfortable armchair. A sound like a snore echoed around the hut.

The three boys sat open mouthed and stared at each other, hardly daring to move. Robbie broke the silence.

"I - I want to go home."

"It will be all right Rob. After all, how many times has a hut threatened you with violence?"

Mark's words were braver than his body felt, "What do you think Fred, shall we stay some more, or go home?"

"I feel like going home. After all the hard work we have done on this hut, why should we be frightened of it? Think of what we could tell them at school."

"Tell them at school! You must be daft. Tell them we have a talking hut, they'll think we're crackers. We must not tell anybody, not even our parents."

"You're right there my boy."

The voice interrupted.

"We thought you were asleep."

Mark, having taken on the position of leader, felt he should appear braver than the other two, even if he felt a little queasy inside.

"Now hut, I can't keep calling you that, I think that Mister Timber or even Captain Timber. I think that will be a good name."

"Captain Timber…Captain Timber, yes I like that, and you are Mark, Robbie and Fred. Pleased to meet you boys."

The hut shook as he laughed with a jolly, "Ho, Ho, Ho."

The boys relaxed and joined in the merry moment.

"Now, members of the crew of the good ship… good ship. What are we going to call her?"

Silence descended as three brains started to turn over.

"How about the Adventurer…"

"The Beano…"

"What about…"

Suggestions flew about the air, but none seemed suitable, 'til Freddy came up with the best name which was approved by all.

"HMS Conker! Well it is my tree and it's a conker, so that settles it."

"We shall have to launch it properly. Have we any champagne?"

"Don't be silly Rob, where can we get that? I'm afraid it will have to be lemonade. Fred, you can do the honours."

Freddy picked up the bottle from the table.

"Not much in here, and I wouldn't like to hurt Captain Timber, smashing this bottle against him."

"Well, splash what's left over the outside."

Freddy took the lemonade, climbed to a higher branch, as he poured the dregs from the bottle he intoned, in his best vicars' voice.

"I name this ship, The Conker, God bless her, and all who sail in her."

Back in the hut, Captain Timber joined in as they all gave three rousing cheers.

Settled once more in their chairs, they listened as Captain Timber told them how he planned to express his thanks.

"I have been blessed with a strong power, which allows me to grant wishes. Have you anything that you would like to do? Don't be put off, thinking the impossible, I can usually do that in a trice."

Robbie was warming to the captain, and decided to give him a test.

"I'm feeling a little peckish, can we have some cake, lemonade and ice cream?"

Before he could finish speaking, on the table appeared six bottle of lemonade, a very large chocolate cake and a big tub of ice cream, knives, forks, spoons and some large coloured plastic mugs.

"WOW and double WOW. "

Robbie was so surprised, he let Fred and Mark beat him to the first slice of cake.

Mark, mouth full of cake, spitting crumbs in all directions, cried "Thank you Captain, thank you very much."

"That's all right lads, when you have demolished that lot, let us go on a little trip. You name anywhere in the world, any period in time and off we go."


"Truly. North, South, East or West. AD or BC, you choose."

The boys got their heads together, after their feed, and decided that the place they would like to visit, was the land of Cowboys and Indians.

The Wild West, please Captain.

"So be it my lads, just close your eyes, before you can say 'weigh the anchor' we'll be there. Don't worry if you feel a few bumps, traveling through time, one meets many time zones that don't like being opened. There is one other thing, if at any time you want to return to the hut, you have to say 'Conker', are you ready?"

"Yessir, Captain Timber."

The bumps and thumps were not as bad as they thought they might be. Suddenly, the boys heard a sound of galloping hooves, creaking leather, the crack of a whip.

"Huuyaaaaah, geddup huyaaah. Come on you horses, we have ta be in Twin Forks, 'fore dark."

"Wow, wow, double wow, did you hear that, we are in the Wild West, wonder if we'll see any Indian's?"

"Shut up Robbie, if there are any about, they will probably take your scalp."

"No they wouldn't Mark, I read in a book, they would let me live and raise me as an Indian brave."

"Well let's hope we don't meet any. It's great how the Captain has turned our hut into a stagecoach.

What… What's happening?"

The stagecoach had started to come to a halt rather quickly they could hear the driver shouting, "Whooooah…whooow, Annie, whoow."

Squealing and creaking, with clouds of dust, the coach skidded to a halt.

The boys scrambled back to their seats.

"They should have safety belts fixed in these coaches."

Freddy shouted. As he went to look out of the window, his face almost collided with another face. This one was partly covered by a large scarf.

Freddy felt a little frightened, as he stared into the two dark brown eyes that twitched from side to side. He almost laughed when he saw the face shaded by a battered top hat.

"Git down."

The order snapped out, in the still quiet air.

"Hurry it up, we ain't got all night."

The boys climbed down as quickly as they could and stood beside the driver. The man in the top hat started to laugh.

"See what we got this time fellahs? Ain't likely to have a great deal of cash in their pockets."

Two other men rode up, where the boys and the driver were standing. The largest and fattest of the pair spoke.

"What you got in the mail box, driver?"

"Not a lot, jest a few letters and a small parcel."

"We heard that before. Jake, you get on up there and throw it down."

The top hated man carried out the order. The box hit the ground with a thump and burst open. Inside was a small bundle of letters and a parcel.

"Hell, is that all we got? Thought you said a gold shipment was coming through on this stage."

Top Hat was a little upset. His words were directed at the fat man.

"This is the third stage we've held up this week, and what have we got to show for it? Ten lousy dollars, that's all, who tells you these tall stories?"

Mark, Freddy and Robbie started to laugh, just about the worst thing they could do. Top Hat turned and snarled and pointed his gun at Robbie.

"Stop that laughing. It ain't funny. If one of you as much as smiles, I'll blow their brains out."

Fat Man spat a stream of tobacco juice, which landed on top hat's gun hand.

"We ain't in the business of killing kids. You boys back in the coach. Driver git up on that stage, and hightail it outa here."

Looking back, Mark managed to find his voice.

"I nearly shouted 'Conker' that time. Look, my hands are shaking."

"So are mine, and everywhere else." Said Robbie.

Freddy, white as a sheet, was unable to speak at the moment.

The stage pulled up in a cloud of dust outside the Sheriff's office. The driver jumped down, and rushed into the ramshackle building.

"Sheriff, Sheriff, I just been held up. Seems they thought I was carrying a gold shipment."

The sheriff grinned and nodded to his deputy.

"Well they never found it then, that was a good idea Mister Fargo thought up."

Mark, who had soon recovered from their ordeal, had followed the driver into the office. The deputy looked down at him.

"What you doing in there kid? Clear off, no business…"

"He's OK, he and the two other kids were on the stage. I don't think I would have made it back if they hadn't been with me."

The sheriff rubbed his stubbled chin.

"How come?"

"Well this big fat guy, must have been the leader, he stopped this fellah in a top hat from shooting us. Didn't he kid?"

"Yep he sure did."

Mark was mimicking his elders.

A puzzled look came on the sheriff's face.

"You ain't from these parts are you son? You gotta funny way of talking. Where yah all from?"


"Heard of it, long ways ain't it?"

"Yes, miles across the sea."

"Where yah all headed?"

Mark had to think on his feet quick. He had no idea where he was, let alone where he was going. He had read somewhere about Houston in Texas.

"Houston, my uncle has a ranch down there, so my brother and my friend are going to visit."

"Aintcha got no folks traveling with you?"

"They will be coming in a couple of days time. They were delayed because my father had to attend to some business."

Telling lies did not come easy to Mark, but who would believe him. If he had said that one minute he had been sitting in a tree house, and the next, he was in a stagecoach, somewhere on the prairie? Next time they asked the Captain if they could take a trip, they would have to concoct a story for situations like this. He thought he would try and change the subject to get out of the spotlight.

"Sheriff, where did you hide the gold?"

"Well, seeing as how you won't be around these parts much longer, I'll show you. You mustn't tell anybody though, keep it a secret."

"I can keep a secret, but I am not sure about my little brother."

"Don't suppose it'll matter. Come on round to the stable."

At the stable they met up with the driver and the deputy, Robbie and Freddy had stayed aboard the coach, not knowing what to do 'till Mark came back.

"Get a crowbar Slim, and prise the top off that seat."

The deputy jammed the crowbar under the cloth covered seat, and put his weight onto the bar, after a few grunts and groans, the sound of nails being creaked out of the woodwork. The top of the seat flew up revealing the shiny gold coins.

"Wow, wow, double wow, pieces of eight."

"That's pirate gold Rob, this is American."

The sheriff picked up a handful and ran it through his fingers.

"Yessiree, it's good old American gold, we have to get it into the bank, before any more thieving skunks try to get their hands on it. Slim, get them sacks and start filling them."

The boys helped, before long all the coins has been bagged up, and sealed by the Sheriff and then deposited in the bank.

"Bet you little fellahs are hungry now. Let's get something to eat."

During the meal of pork and beans washed down with thick, black coffee, which almost burnt the roof from their mouths, the boys felt part of the Wild West.

Mark and Freddy bluffed their way through all the sheriff's awkward questions. They were booked into the hotel for the night. So they would be refreshed for their journey the next day.

The boys said their good-byes to the sheriff and the coach got underway.

"I think we should return home now Mark. It seems we have been away for a long time."

"Yes, I think we have had a fair bit of excitement, and it is getting a bit awkward, thinking up stories, so people will not get suspicious.

"Next time we shall have to have cover story like spies have."

"I don't want to go home."

"We know that Rob, neither do we, but all good things must end sometime."

Robbie pulled a face but shouted 'Conker' with the other two.

Next thing they heard was," Freddy, Mark, where are you? If you are hiding you had better come out now or you will miss your tea."

Freddy recognised his mother's voice, and answered sleepily.

"It's all right mum, we must have fallen asleep."

Mark looked at an old alarm clock that they had acquired.

"It's only five, we've been out to the Wild West, had an adventure and it's only taken an hour."

"Wow, wow and wow again," said Robbie.

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