Old Joe sat hunched on his log. The early morning sun warmed his back through his originally-thick, but now very tired tweed coat. His muffler, faded jeans, and worn tan cowboy boots had seen better days - he'd acquired them from somewhere long ago, but where and when, he couldn't recall. These were his daily and, apparently, only clothes. He was whiskery and old - very old it seemed; some said he'd been around these parts longer than the railroad. He tried to reach round and scratch his back, which the sun was now making increasingly itchy.
Susan could hear him muttering, as he did every morning. 'Dang sun! Just cain't reach! Never used'a be like this!' She smiled as she pushed back the front bedroom red cotton drapes, leaning with her hands on the window sill, trying not to disturb the flaky paintwork too much. 'Mornin' Joe,' she called out, 'another fine day!'
He didn't look up, just screwed his eyes generally in her direction and interrupted his complaining, to respond to her with 'S'san!,' followed by 'Dang itchin'!' Mutter mutter, as he picked up his old cast-iron frying pan and put it on the cracklingly eager wood fire that was getting going on yesterday's ashes in the small circle of brick-ends in front of his log.
For the next few days, no matter how much Joe chased them, the strange birds just kept coming back. Before he could blow a gasket, John told him that he'd pay for some wire and stakes if Joe'd put them up. Which he did. As the summer wore on, the birds were still there, doing their best to get through the fence, but at least, they weren't in Joe's patch! At least, Joe thought of it as “his” patch, but in reality, of course, it was John and Susan's patch, which they paid Joe to tend.
John spoke to his boss at the hotel where he worked - “The Station Hotel”. It was small, but the only hotel for miles round. In any place other than the collection of houses that comprised Railend, it would have been called a “guest house”, but its owner, Mr Hatolsky, had optimism and great hopes for the future. Why not? After all, it was 1927 and things were booming; what could go wrong?
'Nope, they ain't, they's gone!' she said. 'Next day, after you'd went, they upped and were off - jus' like that. Didn't see 'em go; no-one did. But they'd gone. Thought Joe'd be happy as a lark, but no - jus' like Joe! Said he'd gotten used to 'em; gotten to know 'em, and now he wus missin' 'em. Men! If it ain't “dang this!” it's “dang that!” and if it ain't “dang that!” it's “dang this!” Never could figure 'em out - spesh'lly him!'
Later, as the heat of the day passed, John climbed out of their bed, leaving Sue sleeping, and looked out. Sure enough, there was Old Joe muttering complaints to himself. He was busy taking down the fence from round the vegetable patch and replacing it parallel to the railroad track, forming a boundary to the front yard. He smiled to himself. It had been quite a little adventure, going to the big city, but it felt good to be back home!