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Title: No Cowherders Wanted
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608671.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

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No Cowherders Wanted
Robert E. Howard



I HEAR A GANG OF buffalo hunters got together recently in a saloon
in Dodge City to discuss ways and means of keeping their sculps onto
their heads whilst collecting pelts, and purty soon one of 'em riz and
said, "You mavericks make me sick. For the last hour you been chawin'
wind about the soldiers tryin' to keep us north of the Cimarron, and
belly-achin' about the Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches which yearns for
our hair. You've took up all that time jawin' about sech triflin'
hazards, and plannin' steps to take agen 'em, but you ain't makin' no
efforts whatsoever to pertect yoreselves agen the biggest menace they
is to the entire buffalo-huntin' clan--which is Breckinridge Elkins!"

That jest show's how easy prejudiced folks is. You'd think I had a
grudge agen buffalo hunters, the way they takes to the bresh whenever
they sees me coming. And the way they misrepresents what happened at
Cordova is plumb disgustful. To hear 'em talk you'd think I was the
only man there which committed any vi'lence.

If that's so I'd like to know how all them bullet holes got in the
Diamond Bar saloon which I was using for a fort. Who throwed the mayor
through that board fence? Who sot fire to Joe Emerson's store, jest to
smoke me out? Who started the row in the first place by sticking up
insulting signs in public places? They ain't no use in them fellers
trying to ack innercent. Any unbiased man which was there, and
survived to tell the tale, knows I acted all the way through with as
much dignity as a man can ack which is being shot at by forty or fifty
wild-eyed buffalo skinners.

I had never even saw a buffalo hunter before, because it was the
first time I'd ever been that far East. I was taking a pasear into New
Mexico with a cowpoke by the name of Glaze Bannack which I'd met in
Arizona. I stopped in Albuquerque and he went on, heading for Dodge
City. Well, I warn't in Albuquerque as long as I'd aimed to be,
account of going broke quicker'n I expected. I had jest one dollar
left after payin' for having three fellers sewed up which had somehow
got afoul of my bowie knife after criticizing the Democratic party. I
ain't the man to leave my opponents on the public charge.

Well, I pulled out of town and headed for the cow camps on the
Pecos, aiming to git me a job. But I hadn't went far till I met a
waddy riding in, and he taken a good look at me and Cap'n Kidd, and
says: "You must be him. Wouldn't no other man fit the description he
gimme."

"Who?" I says.

"Glaze Bannack," says he. "He gimme a letter to give to
Breckinridge Elkins."

So I says, "Well, all right, gimme it." So he did, and it read as
follers:

Dere Breckinridge:

I am in jail in Panther Springs for nothin all I done was kind of
push the deperty sheriff with a little piece of scrap iron could I
help it if he fell down and fracktured his skull Breckinridge. But
they say I got to pay $Ten dolars fine and I have not got no sech
money Breckinridge. But old man Garnett over on Buck Creek owes me ten
bucks so you colleck from him and come and pay me out of this hencoop.
The food is terrible Breckinridge. Hustle.

Yore misjedged frend.

Glaze Bannack, Eskwire.

Glaze never could stay out of trouble, not being tactful like me,
but he was a purty good sort of hombre. So I headed for Buck Creek and
collected the money off of Old Man Garnett, which was somewhat
reluctant to give up the dough. In fact he bit me severely in the hind
laig whilst I was setting on him prying his fingers loose from that
there ten spot, and when I rode off down the road with the dinero, he
run into his shack and got his buffalo gun and shot at me till I was
clean out of sight.

But I ignored his lack of hospitality. I knowed he was too dizzy
to shoot straight account of him having accidentally banged his head
on a fence post which I happened to have in my hand whilst we was
rassling.

I left him waving his gun and howling damnation and destruction,
and I was well on the road for Panther Springs before I discovered to
my disgust that my shirt was a complete rooin. I considered going back
and demanding that Old Man Garnett buy me a new one, account of him
being the one which tore it. But he was sech a onreasonable old cuss I
decided agen it and rode on to Panther Springs, arriving there shortly
after noon.

The first critter I seen was the purtiest I gal I'd saw in a
coon's age. She come out of a store and stopped to talk to a young
cowpuncher she called Curly. I reined Cap'n Kidd around behind a corn
crib so she wouldn't see me in my scare-crow condition. After a while
she went on down the street and went into a cabin with a fence around
it and a front porch, which showed her folks was wealthy, and I come
out from behind the crib and says to the young buck which was smirking
after her and combing his hair with the other hand, I says: "Who is
that there gal? The one you was jest talkin' to."

"Judith Granger," says he. "Her folks lives over to Sheba, but her
old man brung her over here account of all the fellers over there was
about to cut each other's throats over her. He's makin' her stay a
spell with her Aunt Henrietta, which is a war-hoss if I ever seen one.
The boys is so scairt of her they don't dast try to spark Judith.
Except me. I persuaded the old mudhen to let me call on Judith and I'm
goin' over there for supper."

"That's what you think," I says gently. "Fact is, though, Miss
Granger has got a date with me."

"She didn't tell me--" he begun scowling.

"She don't know it herself, yet," I says. "But I'll tell her you
was sorry you couldn't show up."

"Why, you--" he says bloodthirsty, and started for his gun, when a
feller who'd been watching us from the store door, he hollered: "By
golly, if it ain't Breckinridge Elkins!"

"Breckinridge Elkins?" gasped Curly, and he dropped his gun and
keeled over with a low gurgle.

"Has he got a weak heart?" I ast the feller which had recognized
me, and he said, "Aw, he jest fainted when he realized how clost he
come to throwin' a gun on the terror of the Humbolts. Drag him over to
the hoss trough, boys, and throw some water on him. Breckinridge, I
owns that grocery store there, and yore paw knows me right well. As a
special favor to me will you refrain from killin' anybody in my
store?"

So I said all right, and then I remembered my shirt was tore too
bad to call on a young lady in. I generally has 'em made to order, but
they warn't time for that if I was going to eat supper with Miss
Judith, so I went into the general store and bought me one. I dunno
why they don't make shirts big enough to fit reasonable sized men like
me. You'd think nobody but midgets wore shirts. The biggest one in the
store warn't only eighteen in the collar, but I didn't figger on
buttoning the collar anyway. If I'd tried to button it it would of
strangled me.

So I give the feller five dollars and put it on. It fit purty
clost, but I believed I could wear it if I didn't have to expand my
chest or something. Of course, I had to use some of Glaze's dough to
pay for it with but I didn't reckon he'd mind, considering all the
trouble I was going to gitting him out of jail.

I rode down the alley behind the jail and come to a barred winder,
and said, "Hey!"

Glaze looked out, kinda peaked, like his grub warn't setting well
with him, but he brightened up and says, "Hurray! I been on aidge
expectin' you. Go on around to the front door, Breck, and pay them
coyotes the ten spot and let's go. The grub I been gitten' here would
turn a lobo's stummick!"

"Well," I says, "I ain't exactly got the ten bucks, Glaze. I had
to have a shirt, because mine got tore, so--"

HE GIVE A YELP LIKE a stricken elk and grabbed the bars
convulsively.

"Air you crazy?" he hollered. "You squanders my money on linens
and fine raiment whilst I languishes in a prison dungeon?"

"Be ca'm," I advised. "I still got five bucks of yore'n, and one
of mine. All I got to do is step down to a gamblin' hall and build it
up."

"Build it up!" says he fiercely. "Lissen, blast your hide! Does
you know what I've had for breakfast, dinner and supper, ever since I
was throwed in here? Beans! Beans! Beans!"

Here he was so overcome by emotion that he choked on the word.

"And they ain't even first-class beans, neither," he said
bitterly, when he could talk again. "They're full of grit and
wormholes, and I think the Mex cook washes his feet in the pot he
cooks 'em in."

"Well," I says, "sech cleanliness is to be encouraged, because I
never heard of one before which washed his feet in anything. Don't
worry. I'll git in a poker game and win enough to pay yore fine and
plenty over."

"Well, git at it," he begged. "Git me out before supper time. I
wants a steak with ernyuns so bad I can smell it."

So I headed for the Golden Steer saloon.

They warn't many men in there jest then, but they was a poker game
going on, and when I told 'em I craved to set in they looked me over
and made room for me. They was a black whiskered cuss which said he
was from Cordova which was dealing, and the first thing I noticed, was
he was dealing his own hand off of the bottom of the deck. The others
didn't seem to see it, but us Bear Creek folks has got eyes like
hawks, otherwise we'd never live to git grown.

So I says, "I dunno what the rules is in these parts, but where I
come from we almost always deals off of the top of the deck."

"Air you accusin' me of cheatin'?" he demands passionately,
fumbling for his weppins and in his agitation dropping three or four
extra aces out of his sleeves.

"I wouldn't think of sech a thing," I says. "Probably them marked
kyards I see stickin' out of yore boot-tops is merely soovernears."

For some reason this seemed to infuriate him to the p'int of
drawing a bowie knife, so I hit him over the head with a brass
cuspidor and he fell under the table with a holler groan.

Some fellers run in and looked at his boots sticking out from
under the table, and one of 'em said, "Hey! I'm the Justice of the
Peace. You can't do that. This is a orderly town."

And another'n said, "I'm the sheriff. If you cain't keep the peace
I'll have to arrest you!"

This was too much even for a mild-mannered man like me.

"Shet yore fool heads!" I roared, brandishing my fists. "I come
here to pay Glaze Bannack's fine, and git him outa jail, peaceable and
orderly, and I'm tryin' to raise the dough like a #$%&*! gentleman!
But by golly, if you hyenas pushes me beyond endurance, I'll tear down
the cussed jail and snake him out without payin' no blasted fine."

The J.P. turnt white. He says to the sheriff: "Let him alone! I've
already bought these here new boots on credit on the strength of them
ten bucks we gits from Bannack."

"But--" says the sheriff dubiously, and the J.P. hissed fiercely,
"Shet up, you blame fool. I jest now reckernized him. That's
Breckinridge Elkins!"

The sheriff turnt pale and swallered his adam's apple and says
feebly, "Excuse me--I--uh--I ain't feelin' so good. I guess it's
somethin' I et. I think I better ride over to the next county and git
me some pills."

But I don't think he was very sick from the way he run after he
got outside the saloon. If they had been a jackrabbit ahead of him he
would of trompled the gizzard out of it.

Well, they taken the black whiskered gent out from under the table
and started pouring water on him, and I seen it was now about supper
time so I went over to the cabin where Judith lived.

I WAS MET AT THE DOOR by a iron-jawed female about the size of a
ordinary barn, which give me a suspicious look and says "Well, what's
_you_ want?"

"I'm lookin' for yore sister, Miss Judith," I says, taking off my
Stetson perlitely.

"What you mean, my sister?" says she with a scowl, but a much
milder tone. "I'm her aunt."

"You don't mean to tell me!" I says looking plumb astonished.
"Why, when I first seen you, I thought you was her herself, and
couldn't figger out how nobody but a twin sister could have sech a
resemblance. Well, I can see right off that youth and beauty is a
family characteristic."

"Go 'long with you, you young scoundrel," says she, smirking, and
giving me a nudge with her elbow which would have busted anybody's
ribs but mine. "You cain't soft-soap me--come in! I'll call Judith.
What's yore name?"

"Breckinridge Elkins, ma'am," I says.

"So!" says she, looking at me with new interest. "I've heard tell
of you. But you got a lot more sense than they give you credit for.
Oh, Judith!" she called, and the winders rattled when she let her
voice go. "You got company."

Judith come in, looking purtier than ever, and when she seen me
she batted her eyes and recoiled vi'lently.

"Who--who's that?" she demanded wildly.

"Mister Breckinridge Elkins, of Bear Creek, Nevader," says her
aunt. "The only young man I've met in this whole dern town which has
got any sense. Well, come on in and set. Supper's on the table. We was
jest waitin' for Curly Jacobs," she says to me, "but if the varmint
cain't git here on time, he can go hongry."

"He cain't come," I says. "He sent word by me he's sorry."

"Well, I ain't," snorted Judith's aunt. "I give him permission to
jest because I figgered even a bodacious flirt like Judith wouldn't
cotton to sech a sapsucker, but--"

"Aunt Henrietta!" protested Judith, blushing.

"I cain't abide the sight of sech weaklin's," says Aunt Henrietta,
settling herself carefully into a rawhide-bottomed chair which groaned
under her weight. "Drag up that bench, Breckinridge. It's the only
thing in the house which has a chance of holdin' yore weight outside
of the sofie in the front room. Don't argy with me, Judith! I says
Curly Jacobs ain't no fit man for a gal like you. Didn't I see him
strain his fool back tryin' to lift that there barrel of salt I wanted
fotched to the smoke house? I finally had to tote it myself. What
makes young men so blame spindlin' these days?"

"Pap blames the Republican party," I says.

"Haw! Haw! Haw!" says she in a guffaw which shook the doors on
their hinges and scairt the cat into convulsions. "Young man, you got
a great sense of humor. Ain't he, Judith?" says she, cracking a beef
bone betwixt her teeth like it was a pecan.

Judith says yes kind of pallid, and all during the meal she eyed
me kind of nervous like she was expecting me to go into a war-dance or
something. Well, when we was through, and Aunt Henrietta had et enough
to keep a tribe of Sioux through a hard winter, she riz up and says,
"Now clear out of here whilst I washes the dishes."

"But I must help with 'em," says Judith.

Aunt Henrietta snorted. "What makes you so eager to work all of a
sudden? You want yore guest to think you ain't eager for his company?
Git out of here."

So she went, but I paused to say kind of doubtful to Aunt
Henrietta, "I ain't shore Judith likes me much."

"Don't pay no attention to her whims," says Aunt Henrietta,
picking up the water barrel to fill her dish pan. "She's a flirtatious
minx. I've took a likin' to you, and if I decide yo're the right man
for her, yo're as good as hitched. Nobody couldn't never do nothin'
with her but me, but she's learnt who her boss is--after havin' to eat
her meals off of the mantel-board a few times. Gwan in and court her
and don't be backward!"

So I went on in the front room, and Judith seemed to kind of warm
up to me, and ast me a lot of questions about Nevada, and finally she
says she's heard me spoke of as a fighting man and hoped I ain't had
no trouble in Panther Springs.

I told her no, only I had to hit one black whiskered thug from
Cordova over the head with a cuspidor.

AT THAT SHE JUMPED UP like she'd sot on a pin.

"That was my uncle Jabez Granger!" she hollered. "How dast you,
you big bully! You ought to be ashamed, a, great big man like you
pickin' on a little feller like him which don't weigh a ounce over two
hundred and fifteen pounds!"

"Aw, shucks," I said contritely. "I'm sorry Judith."

"Jest as I was beginnin' to like you," she mourned. "Now he'll
write to pap and prejudice him agen you. You jest got to go and find
him and apologize to him and make friends with him."

"Aw, heck," I said.

But she wouldn't listen to nothing else, so I went out and clumb
onto Cap'n Kidd and went back to the Golden Steer, and when I come in
everybody crawled under the tables.

"What's the matter with you all?" I says fretfully. "I'm lookin'
for Jabez Granger."

"He's left for Cordova," says the barkeep, sticking his head up
from behind the bar.

Well, they warn't nothing to do but foller him, so I rode by the
jail and Glaze was at the winder, and he says eagerly, "Air you ready
to pay me out?"

"Be patient, Glaze," I says. "I ain't got the dough yet, but I'll
git it somehow as soon as I git back from Cordova."

"What?" he shrieked.

"Be ca'm like me," I advised. "You don't see _me_ gittin' all het
up, do you? I got to go catch Judith Granger's Uncle Jabez and
apolergize to the old illegitimate for bustin' his conk with a
spittoon. I be back tomorrer or the next day at the most."

Well, his langwidge was scandalous, considering all the trouble I
was going to jest to git him out of jail, but I refused to take
offense. I headed back for the Granger cabin and Judith was on the
front porch.

I didn't see Aunt Henrietta, she was back in the kitchen washing
dishes and singing: "They've laid Jesse James in his grave!" in a
voice which loosened the shingles on the roof. So I told Judith where
I was going and ast her to take some pies and cakes and things to the
jail for Glaze, account of the beans was rooining his stummick, and
she said she would. So I pulled stakes for Cordova.

It laid quite a ways to the east, and I figgered to catch up with
Uncle Jabez before he got there, but he had a long start and was on a
mighty good hoss, I reckon. Anyway, Cap'n Kidd got one of his hellfire
streaks and insisted on stopping every few miles to buck all over the
landscape, till I finally got sick of his muleishness and busted him
over the head with my pistol. By this time we'd lost so much time I
never overtaken Uncle Jabez at all and it was gitting daylight before
I come in sight of Cordova.

Well, about sun-up I come onto a old feller and his wife in a
ramshackle wagon drawed by a couple of skinny mules with a hound dawg.
One wheel had run off into a sink hole and the mules so pore and good-
for-nothing they couldn't pull it out, so I got off and laid hold on
the wagon, and the old man said, "Wait a minute, young feller, whilst
me and the old lady gits out to lighten the load."

"What for?" I ast. "Set still."

So I h'isted the wheel out, but if it had been stuck any tighter I
might of had to use both hands.

"By golly!" says the old man. "I'd of swore nobody but
Breckinridge Elkins could do that!"

"Well, I'm him," I says, and they both looked at me with
reverence, and I ast 'em was they going to Panther Springs.

"We aim to," says the old woman, kind of hopeless. "One place is
as good as another'n to old people which has been robbed out of their
life's savin's."

"You all been robbed?" I ast, shocked.

"WELL," SAYS THE OLD man, "I ain't in the habit of burdenin'
strangers with my woes, but as a matter of fact, we has. My name's
Hopkins. I had a ranch down on the Pecos till the drouth wiped me out
and we moved to Panther Springs with what little we saved from the
wreck. In a ill-advised moment I started speculatin' on buffler-hides.
I put in all my cash buyin' a load over on the Llano Estacado which I
aimed to freight to Santa Fe and sell at a fat profit--I happen to
know they're fetchin' a higher price there now than they air in Dodge
City--and last night the whole blame cargo disappeared into thin air,
as it were.

"We was stoppin' at Cordova for the night, and the old lady was
sleepin' in the hotel and I was camped at the aidge of town with the
wagon, and sometime durin' the night somebody snuck up and hit me over
the head. When I come to this mornin' hides, wagon and team was all
gone, and no trace. When I told the city marshal he jest laughed in my
face and ast me how I'd expect him to track down a load of buffalo
hides in a town which was full of 'em. Dang him! They was packed and
corded neat with my old brand, the Circle A, marked on 'em in red
paint.

"Joe Emerson, which owns the saloon and most all the town, taken a
mortgage on our little shack in Panther Springs and loaned me enough
money to buy this measly team and wagon. If we can git back to Panther
Springs maybe I can git enough freightin' to do so we can kind of
live, anyway."

"Well," I said, much moved by the story, "I'm goin' to Cordova,
and I'll see if I cain't find yore hides."

"Thankee kindly, Breckinridge," says he. "But I got a idee them
hides is already far on their way to Dodge City. Well, I hopes you has
better luck in Cordova than we did."

So they driv on west and I rode east, and got to Cordova about a
hour after sun-up. As I come into the aidge of town I seen a sign-
board about the size of a door stuck up which says on it, in big
letters, "No cowherders allowed in Cordova."

"What the hell does that mean?" I demanded wrathfully of a feller
which had stopped by it to light him a cigaret. And he says, "Jest
what it says! Cordova's full of buffler hunters in for a spree and
they don't like cowboys. Big as you be, I'd advise you to light a
shuck for somewhere else. Bull Croghan put that sign up, and you ought
to seen what happened to the last puncher which ignored it!"

"#$%&*!" I says in a voice which shook the beans out of the
mesquite trees for miles around. And so saying I pulled up the sign
and headed for main street with it in my hand. I am as peaceful and
mild-mannered a critter as you could hope to meet, but even with me a
man can go too damned far. This here's a free country and no derned
hairy-necked buffalo-skinner can draw boundary lines for us
cowpunchers and git away with it--not whilst I can pull a trigger.

They was very few people on the street and sech as was looked at
me surprized-like.

"Where the hell is them fool buffalo hunters?" I roared, and a
feller says, "They're all gone to the race track east of town to race
hosses, except Bull Croghan, which is takin' hisself a dram in the
Diamond Bar."

So I lit and stalked into the Diamond Bar with my spurs ajingling
and my disposition gitting thornier every second. They was a big hairy
critter in buckskins and moccasins standing at the bar drinking
whiskey and talking to the bar-keep and a flashy-dressed gent with
slick hair and a diamond hoss-shoe stickpin. They all turnt and gaped
at me, and the hunter reched for his belt where he was wearing the
longest knife I ever seen.

"Who air you?" he gasped.

"A cowman!" I roared, brandishing the sign. "Air you Bull
Croghan?"

"Yes," says he. "What about it?"

So I busted the sign-board over his head and he fell onto the
floor yelling bloody murder and trying to draw his knife. The board
was splintered, but the stake it had been fastened to was a purty
good-sized post, so I took and beat him over the head with it till the
bartender tried to shoot me with a sawed-off shotgun.

I grabbed the barrel and the charge jest busted a shelf-load of
whiskey bottles and I throwed the shotgun through a nearby winder. As
I neglected to git the bartender loose from it first, it appears he
went along with it. Anyway, he picked hisself up off of the ground,
bleeding freely, and headed east down the street shrieking, "Help!
Murder! A cowboy is killin' Croghan and Emerson!"

WHICH WAS A LIE, BECAUSE Croghan had crawled out the front door on
his all-fours whilst I was tending to the bar-keep, and if Emerson had
showed any jedgment he wouldn't of got his sculp laid open to the
bone. How did I know he was jest trying to hide behind the bar? I
thought he was going for a gun he had hid back there. As soon as I
realized the truth I dropped what was left of the bung starter and
commenced pouring water on Emerson, and purty soon he sot up and
looked around wild-eyed with blood and water dripping off of his head.

"What happened?" he gurgled.

"Nothin' to git excited about," I assured him knocking the neck
off of a bottle of whiskey. "I'm lookin' for a Gent named Jabez
Granger."

It was at this moment that the city marshal opened fire on me
through the back door. He grazed my neck with his first slug and would
probably of hit me with the next if I hadn't shot the gun out of his
hand. He then run off down the alley. I pursued him and catched him
when he looked back over his shoulder and hit a garbage can.

"I'm a officer of the law!" he howled, trying to git his neck out
from under my foot so as he could draw his bowie. "Don't you dast
assault no officer of the law."

"I ain't," I snarled, kicking the knife out of his hand, and kind
of casually swiping my spur acrost his whiskers. "But a officer which
lets a old man git robbed of his buffalo hides, and then laughs in his
face, ain't deservin' to be no officer. Gimme that badge! I demotes
you to a private citizen!"

I then hung him onto a nearby hen-roost by the seat of his
britches and went back up the alley, ignoring his impassioned
profanity. I didn't go in at the back door of the saloon, because I
figgered Joe Emerson might be laying to shoot me as I come in. So I
went around the saloon to the front and run smack onto a mob of
buffalo hunters which had evidently been summoned from the race track
by the bar-keep. They had Bull Croghan at the hoss trough and was
trying to wash the blood off of him, and they was all yelling and
cussing so loud they didn't see me at first.

"Air we to be defied in our own lair by a #$%&*! cowsheperd?"
howled Croghan. "Scatter and comb the town for him! He's hidin' down
some back alley, like as not. We'll hang him in front of the Diamond
Bar and stick his sculp onto a pole as a warnin' to all his breed!
Jest lemme lay eyes onto him again--"

"Well, all you got to do is turn around," I says. And they all
whirled so quick they dropped Croghan into the hoss trough. They gaped
at me with their mouths open for a second. Croghan riz out of the
water snorting and spluttering, and yelled, "Well, what you waitin'
on? Grab him!"

It was in trying to obey his instructions that three of 'em got
their skulls fractured, and whilst the others was stumbling and
falling over 'em, I backed into the saloon and pulled my six-shooters
and issued a defiance to the world at large and buffalo hunters in
particular.

They run for cover behind hitch racks and troughs and porches and
fences, and a feller in a plug hat come out and says, "Gentlemen! Le's
don't have no bloodshed within the city limits! As mayor of this fair
city, I--"

It was at this instant that Croghan picked him up and throwed him
through a board fence into a cabbage patch where he lay till somebody
revived him a few hours later.

The hunters then all started shooting at me with .50 caliber
Sharps' buffalo rifles. Emerson, which was hiding behind a Schlitz
sign-board, hollered something amazing account of the holes which was
being knocked in the roof and walls. The big sign in front was shot to
splinters, and the mirror behind the bar was riddled, and all the
bottles on the shelves and the hanging lamps was busted. It's plumb
astonishing the damage a bushel or so of them big slugs can do to a
saloon.

They went right through the walls. If I hadn't kept moving all the
time I'd of been shot to rags, and I did git several bullets through
my clothes and three or four grazed some hide off. But even so I had
the aidge, because they couldn't see me only for glimpses now and then
through the winders and was shooting more or less blind because I had
'em all spotted and slung lead so fast and clost they didn't dast show
theirselves long enough to take good aim.

BUT MY CA'TRIDGES BEGUN to run short so I made a sally out into
the alley jest as one of 'em was trying to sneak in the back door. I
hear tell he is very bitter toward me about his teeth, but I like to
know how he expects to git kicked in the mouth without losing some
fangs.

So I jumped over his writhing carcase and run down the alley,
winging three or four as I went and collecting a pistol ball in my
hind laig. They was hiding behind board fences on each side of the
alley but them boards wouldn't stop a .45 slug. They all shot at me,
but they misjedged my speed. I move a lot faster than most folks
expect.

Anyway, I was out of the alley before they could git their wits
back. And as I went past the hitch rack where Cap'n Kidd was champing
and snorting to git into the fight, I grabbed my Winchester .45-90 off
of the saddle, and run acrost the street. The hunters which was still
shooting at the front of the Diamond Bar seen me and that's when I got
my spurs shot off, but I ducked into Emerson's General Store whilst
the clerks all run shrieking out the back way.

As for that misguided hunter which tried to confiscate Cap'n Kidd,
I ain't to blame for what happened to him. They're going around now
saying I trained Cap'n Kidd special to jump onto a buffalo hunter with
all four feet after kicking him through a corral fence. That's a lie.
I didn't have to train him. He thought of it hisself. The idjit which
tried to take him ought to be thankful he was able to walk with
crutches inside of ten months.

Well, I was now on the same side of the street as the hunters was,
so as soon as I started shooting at 'em from the store winders they
run acrost the street and taken refuge in a dance hall right acrost
from the store and started shooting back at me, and Joe Emerson
hollered louder'n ever, because he owned the dance hall too. All the
citizens of the town had bolted into the hills long ago, and left us
to fight it out.

Well, I piled sides of pork and barrels of pickles and bolts of
calico in the winders, and shot over 'em, and I built my barricades so
solid even them buffalo guns couldn't shoot through 'em. They was
plenty of Colt and Winchester ammunition in the store, and whiskey, so
I knowed I could hold the fort indefinite.

Them hunters could tell they warn't doing no damage so purty soon
I heard Croghan bellering, "Go git that cannon the soldiers loaned the
folks to fight the Apaches with. It's over behind the city hall. Bring
it in at the back door. We'll blast him out of his fort, by golly!"

"You'll ruin my store!" screamed Emerson.

"I'll rooin' your face if you don't shet up," opined Croghan.
"Gwan!"

Well, they kept shooting and so did I and I must of hit some of
'em, jedging from the blood-curdling yells that went up from time to
time. Then a most remarkable racket of cussing busted out, and from
the remarks passed, I gathered that they'd brung the cannon and
somehow got it stuck in the back door of the dance hall. The shooting
kind of died down whilst they rassled with it and in the lull I heard
me a noise out behind the store.

THEY WARN'T NO WINDERS in the back, which is why they hadn't shot
at me from that direction. I snuck back and looked through a crack in
the door and I seen a feller in the dry gully which run along behind
the store, and he had a can of kerosine and some matches and was
setting the store on fire.

I jest started to shoot when I recognized Judith Granger's Uncle
Jabez. I laid down my Winchester and opened the door soft and easy and
pounced out on him, but he let out a squawk and dodged and run down
the gully. The shooting acrost the street broke out again, but I give
no heed, because I warn't going to let him git away from me again. I
run him down the gully about a hundred yards and catched him, and
taken his pistol away from him, but he got hold of a rock which he
hammered me on the head with till I nigh lost patience with him.

But I didn't want to injure him account of Judith, so I merely
kicked him in the belly and then throwed him before he could git his
breath back, and sot on him, and says, "Blast yore hide, I apolergizes
for lammin' you with that there cuspidor. Does you accept my apology,
you pot-bellied hoss-thief?"

"Never!" says he rampacious. "A Granger never forgits!"

So I taken him by the ears and beat his head agen a rock till he
gasps, "Let up! I accepts yore apology, you #$%&*!"

"All right." I says, arising and dusting my hands, "and if you
ever goes back on yore word, I'll hang yore mangy hide to the--"

It was at that moment that Emerson's General Store blew up with a
ear-splitting bang.

"What the hell?" shrieked Uncle Jabez, staggering, as the air was
filled with fragments of groceries and pieces of flying timbers.

"Aw," I said disgustedly, "I reckon a stray bullet hit a barrel of
gunpowder. I aimed to move them barrels out of the line of fire, but
kind of forgot about it--"

But Uncle Jabez had bit the dust. I hear tell he claims I hit him
onexpected with a wagon pole. I didn't do no sech thing. It was a
section of the porch roof which fell on him, and if he'd been
watching, and ducked like I did, it wouldn't of hit him.

I clumb out of the gully and found myself opposite from the
Diamond Bar. Bull Croghan and the hunters was pouring out of the dance
hall whooping and yelling, and Joe Emerson was tearing his hair and
howling like a timber wolf with the belly ache because his store was
blowed up and his saloon was shot all to pieces.

But nobody paid no attention to him. They went surging acrost the
street and nobody seen me when I crossed it from the other side and
went into the alley that run behind the saloon. I run on down it till
I got to the dance hall, and sure enough, the cannon was stuck in the
back door. It warn't wide enough for the wheels to git through.

I HEARD CROGHAN ROARING acrost the street, "Poke into the debray,
boys! Elkins' remains must be here somewheres, unless he was plumb
dissolved! That--!"

_Crash!_

They was a splintering of planks, and somebody yelled, "Hey!
Croghan's fell into a well or somethin'!"

I heard Joe Emerson shriek, "Dammitt, stay away from there!
Don't--"

I tore away a section of the wall and got the cannon loose and run
it up to the front door of the dance hall and looked out. Them hunters
was all ganged up with their backs to the dance hall, all bent over
whilst they was apparently trying to pull Croghan out of some hole
he'd fell into headfirst. His cussing sounded kinda muffled. Joe
Emerson was having a fit at the aidge of the crowd.

Well, they'd loaded that there cannon with nails and spikes and
lead slugs and carpet tacks and sech like, but I put in a double
handful of beer bottle caps jest for good measure, and touched her
off. It made a noise like a thunder clap and the recoil knocked me
about seventeen foot, but you should of heard the yell them hunters
let out when that hurricane of scrap iron hit 'em in the seat of the
britches. It was amazing!

To my disgust, though, it didn't kill none of 'em. Seems like the
charge was too heavy for the powder, so all it done was knock 'em off
their feet and tear the britches off of 'em. However, it swept the
ground clean of 'em like a broom, and left 'em all standing on their
necks in the gully behind where the store had been, except Croghan
whose feet I still perceived sticking up out of the ruins.

Before they could recover their wits, if they ever had any, I run
acrost the street and started beating 'em over the head with a pillar
I tore off of the saloon porch. Some sech as was able ariz and fled
howling into the desert. I hear tell some of 'em didn't stop till they
got to Dodge City, having run right through a Kiowa war-party and
scairt them pore Injuns till they turnt white.

Well, I laid holt of Croghan's laigs and hauled him out of the
place he had fell into, which seemed to be a kind of cellar which had
been under the floor of the store. Croghan's conversation didn't
noways make sense, and every time I let go of him he fell on his neck.

So I abandoned him in disgust and looked down into the cellar to
see what was in it that Emerson should of took so much to keep it hid.
Well, it was plumb full of buffalo hides, all corded into neat
bundles! At that Emerson started to run, but I grabbed him, and
reached down with the other hand and hauled a bundle out. It was
marked with a red Circle A brand.

"So!" I says to Emerson, impulsively busting him in the snout.
"You stole old man Hopkins' hides yoreself! Perjuice that mortgage!
Where's the old man's wagon and team?"

"I got 'em hid in my livery stable," he moaned.

"Go hitch 'em up and bring 'em here," I says. "And if you tries to
run off, I'll track you down and sculp you alive!"

I went and got Cap'n Kidd and watered him. When I got back,
Emerson come up with the wagon and team, so I told him to load on them
hides.

"I'm a ruined man!" sniveled he. "I ain't able to load no hides."

"The exercize'll do you good," I assured him, kicking the seat
loose from his pants, so he give a harassed howl and went to work.
About this time Croghan sot up and gaped at me weirdly.

"It all comes back to me!" he gurgled. "We was going to run
Breckinridge Elkins out of town!"

He then fell back and went into shrieks of hysterical laughter
which was most hair raising to hear.

"The wagon's loaded," panted Joe Emerson. "Take it and git out and
be quick!"

"Well, let this be a lesson to you," I says, ignoring his hostile
attitude. "Honesty's always the best policy!"

I then hit him over the head with a wagon spoke and clucked to the
hosses and we headed for Panther Springs.

Old man Hopkins' mules had give out half way to Panther Springs.
Him and the old lady was camped there when I drove up. I never seen
folks so happy in my life as they was when I handed the team, wagon,
hides and mortgage over to 'em. They both cried and the old lady
kissed me, and the old man hugged me, and I thought I'd plumb die of
embarrassment before I could git away. But I did finally, and headed
for Panther Springs again, because I still had to raise the dough to
git Glaze out of jail.

I GOT THERE ABOUT SUN-UP and headed straight for Judith's cabin to
tell her I'd made friends with Uncle Jabez. Aunt Henrietta was
cleaning a carpet on the front porch and looking mad. When I come up
she stared at me and said, "Good land, Breckinridge, what happened to
you?"

"Aw, nothin'," I says. "Jest a argyment with them fool buffalo
hunters over to Cordova. They'd cleaned a old gent and his old lady of
their buffalo hides, to say nothin' of their hosses and wagon. So I
rid on to see what I could do about it. Them hairy-necked hunters
didn't believe me when I said I wanted them hides, so I had to
persuade 'em a leetle. On'y thing is they is sayin' now that I was to
blame fer the hull affair. I apologized to Judith's uncle, too. Had to
chase him from here to Cordova. Where's Judith?"

"Gone!" she says, stabbing her broom at the floor so vicious she
broke the handle off. "When she taken them pies and cakes to yore fool
friend down to the jail house, she taken a shine to him at first
sight. So she borrored the money from me to pay his fine--said she
wanted a new dress to look nice in for you, the deceitful hussy! If
I'd knowed what she wanted it for she wouldn't of got it--she'd of got
somethin' acrost my knee! But she paid him out of the jug, and--"

"And what happened then?" I says wildly.

"She left me a note," snarled Aunt Henrietta, giving the carpet a
whack that tore it into six pieces. "She said anyway she was afeared
if she didn't marry him I'd make her marry you. She must of sent you
off on that wild goose chase a purpose. Then she met him, and--well,
they snuck out and got married and air now on their way to Denver for
their honeymoon--Hey, what's the matter? Air you sick?"

"I be," I gurgled. "The ingratitude of mankind cuts me to the
gizzard! After all I'd did for Glaze Bannack! Well, by golly, this is
lesson to me! I bet I don't never work my fingers to the quick gittin'
another ranny out of jail!"



THE END



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