"WHO'S MINDING THE MINE?"
by
LEE M. WITHERS
(An Original Looney Tunes®/Tiny Toon Adventures© Fanfic...more or less.)

CHAPTER TWO:
A HORSE IS A HORSE, OF COURSE,
OF COURSE...UNLESS IT'S A...

"Watch yer step, dere, ma'am, dey're making dese runways outta pretty hard stuff dese days, ya know..." Bugs joked as he helped Honey out of the plane. She had to laugh at that. It made a very nice change from the less-than-jovial Bugs of a scant hour ago. Meanwhile, Sam was trying his best to pry a still-nauseous Buster Bunny from the death grip he had on the armrests.

"Aww, come on, ya idjit rabbit, we've LANDED already!" Sam yelled.

At the sound of that miraculous word, an immediate change overcame Buster. "IhateflyingIhateflyingIhate...'landed'?" He literally leaped out of the seat and into Sam's arms. "YES! PRAISE THE LIVING LORD!!!" he shouted, kissing Sam full on the lips. "MmmmWAH!"

Yosemite Sam was less than impressed. "BLECHHH!" he shouted. Then turning toward Honey, he asked, "Ya ever been kissed by a rabbit with 'puke breath'?"

"Not within living memory, I haven't," she laughed, slipping a grateful Buster a package of Certs® from her blouse pocket.

"All right, we can laugh later," Bugs said. "We got serious business here."

"Yeah," Sam agreed, wiping his mouth with his shirt sleeve, then adding, "ya never DID tell me jus' whut kinda trouble Ol' Buck is in, varmint."

"Okay, here's da deal. A couple o' weeks back, 'Unk' was doin' some prospectin', as he usually does..."

Buster interrupted his mentor. "Your uncle ever strike it rich?"

"Nah, not'in major...at least, not until a couple o'weeks back, like I was sayin'. Dat's when he struck da mother of all lodes!"

"Buck finally hit paydirt?" Honey asked excitedly.

"DID he? Ya ever hear of da 'Lost Rabbit Mine', Duchess?"

Honey thought for a moment. "No...I don't think so..."

"Wa'al, AH have," Sam declared, "but that there's just a campfire legend some of th' old-timers tell around these parts..."

"No it AIN'T!" Bugs replied, "'cause 'Unk's' da one dat finally FOUND it! One of da richest concentrated natural deposits of both silver and gold in da whole wild, wild West!"

"Silver AND gold?," Buster asked. "Wow! I'm sure glad Plucky isn't here to hear that!..." He and Honey laughed at his private dig at his green-feathered pal--until they noticed that Bugs wasn't laughing.

"It ain't no jokin' matter, Buster!" Bugs said seriously. "'Unk' wired me dat a couple o' scoundrels somehow got wind of his strike and have been making trouble for him ever since!"

"Yuh mean...claim jumpers?!?" Sam asked incredulously. "In 1996?"

"Aw, come on, Bugs, that sort of thing doesn't happen these days," Buster asserted.

"Wrong, squoit! It IS happenin', and da claim dat's bein' jumped is 'Unk's'!" Bugs then passed the telegram he'd mentioned around to the small group. Honey read it with more concern than the others; after all, she considered Buck practically family, just as Buck considered her the daughter he'd never got around to having, had he ever bothered to get married. Finally, she spoke, and when she did, Bugs could see there was a question in her eyes.

"If I'm reading this right, Bugsy, this was sent to you yesterday morning..."

"Dat's right, Hon, and I ain't hoid a woid from him or been able to contact him since! He's in trouble, I just know it!"

"No wonder you stood me up last night," Honey mused. "But under the circumstances, I forgive you. So, what's our first move?"

Bugs didn't mince any words. "YOUR foist move is for you to grab yer purse, take Buster, and da twos of youse check into a local motel and wait for me..."

Honey raised a defiant eyebrow in Bugs's general direction. "Oh, no you _don't!_ I know Buster and I weren't invited, but we're here, and if Buck's in trouble, then I want to come along, too. You might be able to use the extra help, and besides...Buster threw up on my money."

Buster gave an embarrased laugh. "Heh-heh...you mean that WASN'T an airsick bag? I'm sorry..."

"Ohhhh...all right," Bugs griped, admitting defeat for the time being. "Maybe you two can be of help at dat."

"Yeah," Sam chipped in. "Ah'm sure Honey can cook up some grub come chow time, or at least wash the mess kits..."

At that chauvinistic remark, Honey's ears flattened out at the sides of her head like the rabbit version of airplane wings, and her whiskers stiffened with a wooden-like "sproing" sound effect. Her soft eyes narrowed with a harsh glare, and through clenched teeth she got in Sam's face until she was nose-to-nose with him. "WHO'S gonna cook and wash WHAT?" she asked slowly and deliberately.

Sam gulped. There was something in Honey's tone of voice that told him he'd better amend that last statement.

"Uhh...wa'al...that is, er...ah LIKES havin' dishpan hands! Oh, really ah DOES, Honey Gal!...helps build a man's character, yessir... ooooOOOOOoooh!"

Honey smiled, kissing Sam on the cheek. "That's better," she said, while at the same time thinking, "Hey, I CAN bluff this guy!"

Buster was helpless with laughter. "You been taking lessons from Fifi?" he finally asked.

"Sorry, can't tell, matters of national security and stuff like that there," she grinned.

"All right, you two, break up da breakin' up," Bugs cautioned, although he was secretly pleased with the way Honey had handled Sam. "We got woik to do. Foist, we're gonna need some horses..."

"Bugs," Buster asked his mentor, "where are we going to get horses at an airport?"

"At da rental counter, where else?"

"Oh, right," Buster replied as if he'd just learned another not- very-useful bit of trivia on "Gyp-Parody!", "silly of me to have even asked."

000000

As Bugs and crew made their way to the rental counter, Buster had another question. "I don't get it, Bugs. If we're in such a hurry, why don't we just rent a car?"

"Because, junior, da terrain out here ain't exactly 'vehicle friendly,' dat's why. An' besides, in a Western-type adventure, it's better with horses."

"Ah think ah saw that on a bumperty-sticker oncet," Sam mused.

Within minutes, the foursome had arrived at a small building with a Western motif, complete with adjacent corral and a fine selection of new and used horses of all kinds, all reasonably priced to move.

"A horse rental counter at an airport, who'd have thunk it?" Buster asked to no one in particular.

"Nice looking place, Bugsy. What did you say it was called?" Honey asked her beau.

Without the slightest hesitation, or the least bit of shame, Bugs replied, "'Get A Horse.'"

A wry smile appeared on Honey's face as she began singing, "Of course, of course..."

Bugs raised a gloved paw. "Honey, as much as I love your singin'... an' I _do_...if you so much as start in wit' dat crummy 'Mr. Ed' theme..."

Buster suddenly appeared hopeful. "Hey, maybe this is where taking Sam's 'Trick Riding" class will finally come in handy!"

"We didn't come all this way out heres just so you could show off, ya fur-bearin' pipsqueak!" Sam growled.

In no time at all, the foursome had their horses. Bugs had chosen for himself a majestic black stallion, while Sam had selected a white charger. Honey had taken an immediate liking to a beautiful Palomino mare with the name "Goldengirl", with a mane and tail the color of spun gold, while Bugs had saddled Buster with...

"A Shetland Pony?!?" Buster railed incredulously. "What kind of horse is THAT?"

"Okay, Randolph Scott," Bugs challenged. "Ya wanna try MY horse for size, hmmmm?" The black stallion snorted and stared the liitle blue bunny down fiercely.

Buster gulped and ran immediately to the pony's side, throwing his arms around the horse's neck. "Short is good," he said weakly, "that way I don't have that far to fall..."

Honey was busy giving her horse the once-over when Bugs asked, "Ya gonna go ridin' in DAT outfit?" It was true, Honey really wasn't dressed for the occasion, wearing her favorite form-fitting lavender dress (which, while sensible, also managed to highlight her figure beautifully), with her now-famous matching bow (or "hare ribbon", as she liked to call it) tied to the small tuft of white fur between her ears.

"Oh, thanks for reminding me," she said, and before the group's startled eyes, went into a spin-change worthy of Babs Bunny herself, finally emerging wearing a blue Western blouse with a polished stone bolo tie, matching blue denim jeans, and--where her "hare ribbon" had once been--a matching cowgirl hat. "Is this what you had in mind, Mr. Blister?" she asked, a sly smile on her face.

Bugs was momentarily speechless, but when he finally did find his voice, he asked, "Where in da heck did you loin to do DAT?...oh, I get it!" he said suspiciously. "Babsie taught ya dat trick, right?"

"Wrong," Honey replied matter-of-factly. "It's a girl thing. You guys will NEVER get it."

"Ummm...yeah," Bugs said, not sure if Honey was putting him on or not. As she began to place her foot in the stirrup, Bugs decided to be helpful. "Now, Honey, before ya get on a horse for da foist time..."

Bugs never got a chance to finish the sentence. Honey was already in the saddle, feet firmly placed in the stirrups, looking for all the world like she belonged up there. She leaned forward and whispered a command to Goldengirl, who nodded as though she understood, and the two of them began going through their paces in the "Test Ride" corral. Slow trotting stuff at first, but then Buster, Sam and Bugs watched spellbound, as Honey began running the mare at a breakneck pace, handling the horse with the aplomb of an expert horsewoman. The guys just stood there at the railing, transfixed, as Honey and Goldengirl moved as one, with the hare-ess pushing the Palomino to the limits with grace and ease, Goldengirl obeying every single one of Honey's gently spoken commands as if it were the natural thing to be doing. She brought the horse to a momentary stop at the far end of the corral, opposite from where Bugs, Buster and Sam stood.

She turned the horse in their direction, smiled, and said, "And _this_ is what we do for an encore!" She leaned forward and whispered simply in her horse's ear:

"Jump."

The guys were still standing at the railing, mesmerized, then stunned, then terrified, as Honey and Goldengirl began charging in their direction. Before any of them had time to react, much less think about reacting, Honey and Goldengirl sailed effortlessly over their heads, coming to a stop just a few feet away from them. Turning the mare in their direction, Honey simply trotted up to them, reined the horse to a gentle stop, dismounted, and they both bowed to the guys.

"We also do weddings, bar mitzvahs, and rodeos," Honey smiled, to the applause and cheeering of Buster and Sam. Bugs, however, was still speechless, which was probably just as well. In the meantime, Honey was going over a mental checklist, giving herself a verbal assessment of the horse.

"Hmmm...takes to the reins very well, doesn't tire easily, excellent verbal command response, rides smoothly...I _like_ that in a horse!" Then turning to Bugs, she said, "Oh, by the way, in case the topic ever comes up for conversation, I grew up around horses before I ever met you, Bugsy."

Bugs regained his composure. "Oh, well, if you're gonna brag..."

Meanwhile, Sam was getting impatient. "Are you two just a-gonna stand there flappin' yer big teeth, or are we gonna head on out tuh Buck's place? Time's a-wastin'!"

"He's right, Bugs," Buster added. "The longer we stay here, the worse off your Uncle could be."

Bugs didn't have to consider that statement twice. "Right you are, kid," Bugs declared. "All right, everybody, what are we waitin' for? Mount up!..."

Bugs's order proved unneccesary, as Buster, Honey and Sam were already on their horses. They were just waiting for Bugs.

"Oh-kayyyy, so _dat's_ how dey wanna do dis, eh?" Bugs thought to himself. "Hey, Buster!" he shouted. "HERE'S somet'in' I'll bet ya didn't loin in Sam's 'Trick Ridin'' class!" With that, Bugs took a good running jump, and made a perfect dive over his horse, landing face first in the corral dirt.

"No...Sam didn't teach me THAT move," Buster smirked, as Sam tried-- not too successfully--to keep from laughing out loud.

Bugs looked up from the ground below, into the loving--and very amused--gaze of Honey Bunny. "I, uh, _meant_ to do dat," he said nonchalantly.

"Liar," she smiled, helping him up. She knew darned well that she shouldn't do what she was about to, but she couldn't resist, especially since she had an audience. Clearing her throat, and speaking so that Buster and Sam were sure to hear, she looked Bugs right in the eyes and said, "Now, Bugsy, before you get on a horse for the first time..."

"Quiet, lady," he grumbled, getting in the saddle as Buster and Sam were still doubled over with laughter.

The foursome began the long ride to Buck's isolated desert cabin. Well, three of them did, anyway; Buster, however, was having trouble getting his Shetland Pony motivated.

"Of all the things to be saddled with, why did Bugs stick me with _you_?" Then Buster noticed the pony's nametag, tied to the saddlehorn. "'Cyclone'?" Buster asked with disbelief. "That's a laugh! You're certainly misnamed, pal. You couldn't break the sound barrier if I said 'giddyap'..."

At the sound of that one word, Cyclone suddenly reared back and took off like his name. Buster was literally flying, holding on to the reins for dear life--his--in a horizontal position.

"Me and my big yap," he sighed, as he first caught up with, and then passed Bugs, Sam and Honey. "HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLPP!!!!" Buster yelled, as Honey, taking the initiative, rode after him.

"...(Sigh)...Quit showin' off, Buster," Bugs commented dryly.


Go to Chapter 3.

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