(Rover Homepage)


Special complete story, taken from The Rover issue: 1315 September 9th 1950.

The School-Master Sheriff.

A 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 Moose Springs, and the man in front of them was the temporary Sheriff of the town. Strangely enough, however, he was clad in a schoolmaster’s gown, and rammed firmly on his head was a mortar-board. The Sheriff was none other than Thick-Ear Donovan, the British schoolmaster of Moose Springs. Suddenly Thick-Ear uttered a shout. “Look!” he yelled. “He’s over!” The others had already seen the incident. The horse in front of them had suddenly gone down in a heap, and its rider went flying over its head. He scrambled to his feet, bent over the horse for a moment, and then ran away from the trail. The bandit’s horse had fallen just in front of the entrance to a small canyon. It was into this canyon that the fugitive disappeared. Thick-Ear and his men swept into the entrance, and ducked suddenly as a rifle cracked. A bullet whistled unpleasantly close to Thick-Ear’s head. In a flash the men were out of their saddles and running for cover. The bandit was strongly entrenched behind a large boulder. There wasn’t any cover at all for a good thirty yards all around. “Shall we rush him?” whispered a man lying next to Thick-Ear. Thick-Ear shook his head. “No sense in doing that,” he said. “I don’t want to lose any men if I can help it. We’ll have to play a waiting game until he runs out of ammunition.” It seemed, however, that the bandit had plenty of ammunition. No sooner did any of the men show themselves than he fired. Thick-Ear began to get impatient. “I’ve got to get him somehow,” decided Thick-Ear, “and I’ve got to get quickly.” As he studied the bandit’s hiding-place, he noticed that a narrow gully was situated at the point where the canyon wall began to rise sheer towards the top. If Thick-Ear could get into this gully he could creep upon the bandit unobserved. The trouble was, that in order to reach it, he had to cross about ten yards of open space. He bit his lip in perplexity, then his eyes shone when he caught sight of a bush nearby. “It’s a chance,” he muttered. “I’ll risk it.” He took off his cap and gown, and placed his mortar-board so that the corner of it showed round the rock behind which he was hiding. Then lying flat, Thick-Ear wriggled away. Five minutes later, he was lying behind a small bush. Taking a knife from his pocket, he quickly hacked through the thin stem of the bush. Then he held the bush tightly in one hand so that it only quivered slightly. From that moment, the bush began to move – an inch at a time. Nearer and nearer it went towards the gully. Knowing what Thick-Ear was up to, his men kept up a brisk fire so that the bandit’s attention was kept fully occupied. Thick-Ear crawled slowly forward until he was in the gully. Moving a little faster, he came to within two yards of the unsuspecting bandit. As he pulled himself upright, however, ready to make a leap, a piece of rock broke away underneath his feet. With a snarl the bandit whirled round and fired. Thick-Ear was conscious of a severe blow on his head, and knew he had been hit. He had already started to jump however, and a second after the shot, his fist, with all his tremendous weight behind it, crashed home on the bandit’s jaw. The bandit somersaulted over the protecting boulder, slid downwards for a few yards and then lay still. He was out to the world. Thick-Ear’s men swooped on him, and lost no time in disarming him and trussing him up. Then they turned to Thick-Ear and found him lying on the ground nearby. Bending over him, they saw a thin trickle of blood from a wound on his forehead. “Only a scratch,” said one of them. “It knocked him out. A bit of sticking plaster will stop the bleeding, and he’ll come round in a few minutes. By the time the wound had been washed and the sticking-plaster placed in position, Thick-Ear had recovered. He still appeared to be slightly dazed, however. “What – what happened?” he demanded. He was told that he had had a narrow escape, but that the bandit had been captured. As they rode back to Moose Springs, Thick-Ear was strangely quiet. He saw the bandit safely lodged in the cells and then he looked at his watch. “I must get back to the school,” he said. It’s nearly twelve o’clock.

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 twelve o’clock, 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.

Trembling Teacher.

Every 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 Moose Springs School been in such an uproar. Everybody was talking, laughing and shouting at the top of their voices. “I say,” yelled Caleb Webster to a group of his pals, did I tell you about the joke some of our cowboys played on the cook last night? It’s kept me laughing all the morning.” “Caleb,” said Thick-Ear, “you mustn’t talk during lesson time.” “Aw – shucks,” said Caleb. “It won’t take me long to tell the yarn.” Thick-Ear’s lips trembled. “Very well,” he said. “Please be as brief as you can.” For a moment there was complete silence. The boys gaped at their master as though they couldn’t believe their ears. The noise broke out again with re-doubled force, free fights were taking place all over the room, and the boys did just what they liked. All the time, Thick-Ear stood behind the desk appealing weakly for silence. At half-past two, the door of the schoolroom burst open and a cowboy entered. “Mr Donovan,” he said, “you’re wanted down in the town immediately.” A look of relief came into Thick-Ear’s eyes. “Certainly, certainly,” he said. “Jenks, will you please take charge during my absence?” He almost fled from the room. “What am I wanted for?” he asked, as they rode down the trail. “A tough-looking guy rode in a couple of hours ago,” the cowboy answered. “He started to make trouble. When I came away he had already shot up two men in the saloon. You’ll have to lock him up, Mr Donovan.” They dismounted outside the saloon. The cowboy led the way inside at once. “There he is,” he said, nodding at a tough-looking fellow, who was leaning against the bar. At that moment the big man turned round. He saw the Sheriff’s badge on Thick-Ear’s jacket. Instantly his eyebrows went up. Then tucking his thumbs into his belt, he came swaggering across to Thick-Ear. “So,” he rasped, “you’re the Sheriff?” Thick-Ear swallowed nervously. “Yes,” he said, “I’m the Sheriff. The big man laughed in sneering fashion. “Well, Mr Sheriff,” he grated. “I’ve gotta bone to pick with you. This morning you arrested a friend of mine on suspicion of holding up the stage-coach. “I’m telling you that he didn’t do it, because he was down at Pinehead with me at the time when the stage was held up. I’m suggesting that you set him free at once.” “I couldn’t do that,” said Thick-Ear. The other rolled his sleeves up. “All right, Mr Sheriff,” he said. “Either you set him free or you take a hiding from me. You can take your choice.” The men in the saloon looked at one another. They expected to see Thick-Ear jump into instant action. To their amazement, however, Thick-Ear backed away. The other jumped forward and grabbed him by the collar. “Now,” he yelled, “are you going to set Sam free or am I gonna knock daylight through you?” Thick-Ear gulped. “You’re sure he didn’t try to hold up the stage-coach?” he demanded. “Of course I’m sure,” was the answer. “Didn’t I tell you he was down at Pinehead with me?” “In that case,” said Thick-Ear weakly, “we must have got the wrong man. Very well – I’ll set him free at once.” The big man grinned. “Now you’re talking sense,” he said. “Lead the way.” He followed Thick-Ear out of the saloon. Several of the spectators grinned. “Thick-Ear’s fooling him,” said one of them. “When he gets that big bozo in his office he’ll sock him on the jaw and clap him in a cell.” They waited expecting Donovan to come back alone. In a very short time however, the door swung open and immediately the crowd gasped. For Thick-Ear came in, followed by the big man and the man they had arrested this morning. Both men were grinning, and the big man turned to the open-mouthed crowd. “Boys,” he cried. “I’m going to celebrate my pard’s release from the caboose. The drinks are on me, and the Sheriff’s going to serve them out.” Two minutes later Thick-Ear was carrying drinks to everybody in the saloon.

The Real Donovan.

After 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 Moose Springs School discover that Thick-Ear Donovan was himself again, and, as the strength of his right arm proved, he was just as tough as ever.


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