By CHRIS BATEMAN
They've been gone for months, holing up in some Tora Bora cave or bombed-out Baghdad bunker.
But they struck with a vengeance in Jamestown on Saturday, coming within a whiskey shot of kidnapping reigning Mother Lode Roundup Queen Kie Njirich and holding this year's big Western weekend hostage.
"They" are Coyote Sam's boys brash, loud, unshaven, unschooled and lacking in even the basic social graces.
Sidewinder Steve, Dastardly Dave, Rawhide Randy, Muley Don, Bad Seed Bob, Outlaw Audie and Junkyard Jim are Sam's Class of 2003. They are seven guys who paid a fortune to join Sam's Downward Bound Academy, which in six weeks purports to drive every gram of good out of aspiring criminals.
For these prospective grads, kidnaping Queen Kie would not only cancel the May 10 and 11 Roundup, but would bring instant membership on Downward Bound's coveted Dishonor Roll.
Plans were made: Storm Jimtown while Tuolumne County Sheriff's possemen and the 2003 queen candidates all still exhausted from riding in the Oakdale Rodeo Parade sold Roundup tickets, kissed babies and signed autographs.
Amid a hail of gunfire and bad breath, the rapscallions thundered down from hills, kicking dogs, snatching purses and telling scores of toddlers that the Easter Bunny is not real.
As a bawling cacophony mounted, the flyblown felons cut Queen Kie from her posse body guards like a knife scooping frosting from a cake.
In fact, the Redshirts seemed to disappear into Jimtown's antique stores, ice cream parlors, geegaw marts and taverns as Kie's cries grew ever more shrill.
So the 2003 queen candidates took matters into their own hands.
Talk about team roping! Princesses Valerie Lagattuta, Caity Smith, Mallory Wallace snagged Dastardly Dave and were reeling their catch in as Posse Captain John Egger stumbled out the swinging doors of a Main Street tavern with a half-drained bottle of bourbon.