Special complete story, taken from The Rover issue: 1315 September 9th 1950.
The School-Master Sheriff.
band of horsemen came thundering down the trail. Far ahead of them was a single
rider galloping for his life. The leader of the pursuers was a very strange
figure to see in the wild North-West of Canada. The group of horsemen were
deputy sheriffs from the town of
The Taming of Thick-Ear Donovan.
Up at the school things were happening. Usually when Thick-Ear was away he left Tom Wilson in charge. This week however, Tom was away from school with a bad cold, and Thick-Ear had left Trapper Jenks in charge. Now Trapper was quite a hefty lad, but he hadn’t the same control over the boys as Tom Wilson. Tom always managed to keep order when Thick-Ear was away. Trapper wasn’t quite so successful. All the morning there had been a regular hubbub in the schoolroom, and suddenly the trouble started. Silver kennedy had been swanking about a horse he had tamed. Hank Blaggs had listened to him for a while and then had told him bluntly that he wasn’t telling the truth. Whereupon Silver had lost his temper and had aimed a blow at Hank, with the result that a free fight had started. The fight was at its height when Thick-Ear entered the schoolroom. He started at the sight which met his gaze. The noise was deafening, and Thick-Ear passed a hand over his forehead in a dazed manner. “Boys,” he said quietly. “Boys what is the meaning of this/” A small boy suddenly turned round and saw him. Instantly all the colour drained from his face. “Look out!” he gasped. “Thick-Ear!” The fight stopped as if by magic. Every boy swung round and gazed at the teacher. They all looked scared stiff. Thick-Ear put a hand rather nervously to his mouth. Some of the boys noticed that it trembled slightly. “What – what is the meaning of this?” he asked. Silver Kennedy stepped forward. “He said I wasn’t telling the truth, sir,” he said, “so I punched him.” “And no wonder!” flashed Hank Blaggs. “He couldn’t break a horse to save his life.” “I tell you I broke it in,” cried Silver. “You say that again -” “OK,” rasped Hank. “You weren’t telling the truth, and I still say you couldn’t do it to save your life?” To everybody’s dismay, Silver jumped at Hank and once again the fight was in full swing. Everybody else stood terrified – they waited for the thunderbolt to fall. Thick-Ear wouldn’t half make the two pay for this now. But Thick-Ear looked as though he didn’t know what to do. “Boys! Boys!” he cried. “You mustn’t do this sort of thing in the classroom. Stop – stop at once!” Young Caleb Webster had been looking curiously at Thick-Ear. He suddenly grinned in a cheeky fashion. “It’s gone , sir,” he said. “Can we go now?” Thick-Ear looked at the school clock and a gasp of relief escaped him. “Yes, yes,” he said. “You can go now.” “Come on lads,” yelled Caleb. “They can finish the fight out in the yard. Come on!” Taking their cue from Caleb, the boys poured out of the schoolroom in a shouting, yelling mass. Never had such a scene of disorder occurred since Thick-Ear had first come to Moose Springs. In fact Thick-Ear’s queer behaviour was so startling that Silver Kennedy and Hank Blaggs actually forgot about their fight. “What on earth’s happened to him?” demanded Silver. I – I expected to be half killed.” Caleb Webster grinned. “If you ask me,” he said, “somebody’s scared Thick-Ear and he’s lost his nerve.” He suddenly gave a terrific whoop. “Oh boy!” he yelled. “What a time we’re going to have now! I’m looking forward to afternoon lessons. Gosh! If Thick-Ear’s lost his nerve, we’re going to be in clover.
boy at Moose Springs was early for school that afternoon, and when Thick-Ear
entered the schoolroom the place was packed. Never even in its worst days, had
The Real Donovan.
the drinks had been served, the big man called Thick-Ear over. “Sheriff,” he
said. “You’d better get hold of my name. I’m Squinter .Male and this is my pal,
Sam Short. From now on we’re going to run this town, so you’ll take your orders
from us. D’you understand?” Thick-Ear gulped. I understand.” He said. “That’s
fine,” chuckled Squinter Male. “We’ll paint this town burg red before we’re
through.” Thick-Ear looked round him. He seemed to the open-mouthed spectators
to have shrunk considerably. There was scorn in their eyes as they watched him.
“Can – can I go back to my school now?” he said. “I must carry on with the
boys’ lessons.” Squinter Male glared at him. “You’ll stay right here,” he
snapped. “You’re the Sheriff of this burg, and I’ll be needing you this
afternoon.” Thick-Ear almost wrung his hands. “But – but I must go back to my
boys,” he protested. “I -” Squinter Male glared. “Don’t argue with me,” he
rapped. “When I give an order, you jump to it pronto.” He swept Thick-Ear aside
with his arm. Sam Short was standing just behind Thick-Ear, and as the latter
reeled backwards, he deliberately stuck out his foot. Thick-Ear tripped over it
and as he fell his head crashed against a table. Thick-Ear rolled over, sat up,
and passed a hand in rather dazed fashion over his brow. The sticking-plaster had
been knocked away from the wound on his head, and it was bleeding again. He
rose slowly to his feet. “I believe somebody pushed me,” he said quietly. “I
pushed you,” said Squinter Male. “In future you won’t argue.” “Is that so?”
said Thick-Ear. The crowd in the saloon suddenly tensed. The look of scorn
disappeared from their faces, for this sounded like the old Thick-Ear Donovan.
Thick-Ear took a step forward. “I don’t know who you are,” he said, “but your
face annoys me. I’m going to alter its shape a little.” Thick-Ear’s fist
flashed out, it took Squinter Male clean on the point of the jaw, lifted him
right off his feet, and stretched him flat on his back. In an instant Thick-Ear
had whirled on Sam Short. Sam Short snarled viciously and his hand streaked for
his gun. At the same moment Thick-Ear’s hand darted under his gown, where he
usually kept a cane hanging from a loop. Crack! Crack! Thick-Ear flung himself
to one side as both Sam Short’s guns flamed. There came the crash of
splintering glass as the bullets smashed through a window, and Thick-Ear
bounded forward, his cane swishing downwards. Sam Short screamed when the cane
cut across his wrists, his smoking guns dropped to the floor, and an uppercut
from Thick-Ear sent him reeling against Squinter Male, who was in the act of
scrambling to his feet. The battling schoolmaster went into a fighting crouch
rolling back his sleeves, and waving the crowd away. Sam Short came to his feet
first. Immediately Thick-Ear knocked him down again. Squinter Male scrambled
up, trying to pull his guns as he did so. Thick-Ear caught him just in time.
Five minutes later, two wrecks were lying in the corner of the saloon. They
were both out to the wide. Thick-Ear looked at them grimly then turned to the
crowd. “I’m in a bit of a fog,” he said. “I don’t seem to remember what’s been
happening this afternoon. He dabbed at the wound on his forehead as he spoke.
“I think I can explain,” said Old Man Webster. “That wound you received in the
forehead this morning must have played some queer trick on you. It sort of made
you lose your memory and your nerve at the same time. When you fell over and
hit the table just now the second shock must have brought you back to normal.”
Thick-Ear suddenly started. “That reminds me,” he said. “I’ve got a queer
feeling that things are wrong up at the school, and I’ve got to make sure.
Don’t worry, I’ll see these two birds into their cells.” Having seen his
prisoners safe, Thick-Ear went top speed for the school. As he pulled up
outside, a tremendous hubbub came to his ears. Opening the door, he saw that
none of the boys was seated. They were standing in a group in front of the
blackboard and watching Trapper Jenks pin up a sheet of paper on the board.
Thick-Ear crept up behind him. “And what are you doing?” he said quietly.
Trapper Jenks pointed to the notice. We didn’t expect you back so soon,” he
said. “We were just leaving you this note, to let you know what had happened.”
Thick-Ear looked at the notice. This is what he read: - “Dear Teacher, - It’s
too fine an afternoon to stop in the classroom, so we’ve all decided to go for
a swim. We hope you won’t mind. See you in the morning.” Thick-Ear turned to
Trapper Jenks. “So you’re going to take the boys for a swim, are you?” he
demanded. Trapper shivered a little, Thick-Ear’s manner seemed to be queerer
than ever. “Yes, sir,” he said. “It’ll be much better than sitting in the
classroom. We know you won’t mind. We’ll get away pronto.” “I don’t think,”
said Thick-Ear. Reaching out, he grasped Trapper by the scruff of the neck. Now
Trapper was a big youth, but Thick-Ear lifted him over the desk as easily as
though he had been a feather. No sooner was Trapper across the desk than
Thick-Ear’s cane came into action. It began to rise and fall steadily. Thick-Ear
finished with Trapper at last. “And now,” he said, “are there any other boys
who wish to go swimming?” “No, sir.” The answer came in a chorus. Thick-Ear
shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but after seeing that notice on the
board I can’t believe it. I must teach you that there’s no time for swimming in
the afternoon. There’s not space for me to teach you in this room, so you will
all line up and march out into the yard.” They marched out with trembling
knees. When they were standing in two long lines, Thick-Ear looked at them.
“Now,” he barked, “bend down and touch your toes.” As one man, the boys bent
down. Thick-Ear swished his cane ominously. He walked up and down the line and
as he walked his cane rose and fell. Thus did the boys of
Thick-Ear Donovan 3 episodes appeared in The Hotspur issues 318 - 320 (1939)
Thick-Ear Donovan Complete story appeared in The Hotspur issue 328 (1939)
Thick-Ear Donovan 12 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1294 - 1305 (1950)
Thick-Ear Donovan Complete story appeared in The Rover issue 1315 (1950)
Thick-Ear Donovan 11 episodes appeared in The Hotspur issues 1115 - 1125 (1958)
The above list is not complete as Thick-Ear Donovan also appeared in The Wizard.
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2003