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Title: Home Ranch (1945)
Author: Will James
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700931.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: July 2007
Date most recently updated: July 2007


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Title: Home Ranch (1945)
Author: Will James

Illustrated by The Author



TO THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER




PREFACE


This is the story of a regular ranch and cow outfit and of
regular range folks and cowboys. It's of one ranch and holdings
from the start of it when the range was free up till now in 1935
when the range land is still mighty open in parts but no longer
free.

In this writing I might be doubted by some as to there being any
more such ranches as I tell of, of the range men and women and
honest to God cowboys that are in these pages. But them that do
have a very narrow backyard or a well travelled route and never
get out of it, and partly for that reason I have such people who
invite themselves to this perticular ranch, and they find out a
lot of things they didn't learn in their trips "abroad."

But they don't take the book, the work goes on on ranch and
range, and the ideals, plays, works and worries, and loves of the
range people.

I've never hunted, or used any others' material for my writings.
If I write of things that are of before my time it's from riding
a considerable with old timers that rode at them times, and now
it seems to me like I've always known. I write of what I've seen
and lived and thought out, and shaped the life into my work as
that. But I'll be frank to say that, in this story I've had some
help in correct English, for some of the people in this story are
supposed to speak correct English, and there I was stumped.

I've never been to school, and I of course make some mistakes in
my writing, but the reader can feel sure they re not made a
purpose. It's just the way things come to me and I put 'em down
that way, the same as it is of the life I'm writing about. It's
all I know and I do the best I can, and if my readers can follow
me I'm satisfied.

I always figured you can see more and further when you say "I
seen." That's the way it comes to me and that's the way I put it
down. "I saw" seems to stop right there and as tho nothing had
been or was seen.

I don't know what is meant by "lingo" as some call my writing. It
seems to me that mine is only natural writing of any man that
don't live in a dictionary. I've never had one. And I think if my
writing or talk is classed as lingo that it should be the same
with any man in any other profession. The aviator's talk should
also be lingo then, when he talks of his flying and his plane,
and the sailor too with his sailing and his ship, and that way
with any man in any profession he lives. I should think that the
mincy talk in tea rooms is more of a lingo.

As far as cowboy lingo, what I've read that's called such makes
me think more of coming from the slums, which I've seen none of
but imagine, anyhow it's sure not cowboy talk.

It seems to me like people has fell into a hard set idea of
cowboy talk, his work and actions, maybe from some popular
western books of long ago, also some of today. I guess very good
books but away off the trail. I've read a few of 'em myself in
scattered cow camps, and I liked 'em too because they was
romantic. But the writer didn't know anything about cows.

I claim to know something about cows, herds of 'em, and cow
horses and the folks that's in the country they range in, and if
you'll excuse my way of writing you can be sort of repaid by
being sure that there's no mistakes in what the writing is about.


CONTENTS


I.     RIDING BOG
II.    FIRST HERDS AND NEW RANGES
III.   COWBOYS OLD AND NEW
IV.    HARD WINTERS AND DRY SUMMERS
V.     SPRING AND ROUND-UPS
VI.    LONGHORNS FOR KEEPS
VII.   STRANGERS TO CAMP
VIII.  ANTS IN THE SYRUP
IX.    HOLD YOUR HORSES
X.     CLOUDY IN THE WEST
XI.    HELL AND HIGH WATER
XII.   "WHEN THE COWS COME HOME"
XIII.  "A DIFFERENT KIND OF THE SAME BREED"
XIV.   "ONE UP AND THREE TO Go"
XV.    "REGULAR RANCH vs. DUDE RANCH"
XVI.   HOME RANCH




CHAPTER I - Riding Bog


"Who in samhill was it said how the cowboy's life was so grand
and glorious?"

"I don't know, but I think it was the same feller who said
something about beautiful snow."

"Well, whoever it was has never pulled bog * and never rode in
wet snow."

* Getting cattle out of bog holes.

This kind of talk was going on between two cowboys. There was
about thirty feet of rope between em. One was on his horse at
one end of the rope and the other, the loop end in his hand, was
knee deep in sucking slushy black mud trying to find the horns of
a cow that had bogged down.

He wanted to put his loop end of the rope around them horns. The
cow had been fighting in trying to get out after having her
drink, and the sucking mud had got her deeper as she fought, till
only about half of her body showed. The cow being on the "prod"
(fight) as they usually are when bogged down that way had fought
at the sight of the two riders and tried to get at em, with the
result that she got on her side, throwed her head until, in her
struggling, she'd throwed it back and there she layed breathing
hard, both her horns stuck deep in the mud.

There wasn't a part of her showed where a loop could be throwed
so it would catch a hold. So there was nothing to do but for one
of the cowboys to wade in the mud, get her horns and place the
loop around em. Then as her head was straightened and she
struggled some more to get at the cowboy who was near her, the
other cowboy on the bank pulled with his horse, and all together
she was soon brought to solid ground, there to show her gratitude
only by trying to hook the men and horse that had saved her life.

But that's the nature of the range critter and the cowboys didn't
pay much attention to that, there'd been such doings all day
long. The cowboy who'd pulled her out rode safe of her horns
reach, left the slack of his rope drag, and as she run into it he
speeded his horse and the mad cow soon found herself upside down
to lay.

By that time the other cowboy had got on his horse, rode to where
the cow had been layed, took the rope off her head and rode on.
As the two looked back after they'd rode a ways, they seen that
the cow was up and shaking her horns at 'em but they was now too
far away for her to bother taking after 'em.

"Doggone it, Sol," says the cowboy who'd took the rope off the
cow, "I been in the mud three times today and here you are riding
high and dry as a mesquite bean."

The cowboy, Sol, grinned, "Shows that you re a better hand on
foot than you are on a horse," he says.

The two, riding along the creek, was headed for the ranch. Their
day's work was about done, for about half a mile ahead of 'em em
was the first fence surrounding the ranch and they didn't think
there'd be any more bogged cattle on the way to that fence, from
there on "inside" riders was doing the work.

It was early spring, heavy clouds hung low, a cold wind was
blowing over a blanket of four inches of snow which come sudden
after a couple of weeks of summer-like weather. It had been cold
before, and the cattle being hardened to it had weakened when the
warm weather came. Snows melted, and the watering places that had
been solid footing along the creeks and water holes had turned
soft and boggy and many weaker cattle layed in the bogs until
riders come to pull 'em out. If none came they would stay there.

That's what such riders as Sol and the other had been doing for
the past two weeks, riding every day and "pulling bog." Then come
the spring snow and more cold, but the bogs was still mighty
soft, and the cold made the work all the harder.

Sol looked at the shivering rider alongside of him.

"Try and keep your eye-teeth in, Gat," he says, "you'll soon be
alongside of some fire."

Gat just grinned a little and says, "nice weather, ain't it?" and
kept his horse on a stiff trot (riding at a trot is more warming
than riding at a lope, especially against a cold wind).

The heat of home fires wasn't bothering Gat much, nothing ever
bothered him much, for it was all in a day's riding. He'd done
many of em, and when he'd remarked, while at the bog and up to
his knees in mud, "Who in samhill was it said the cowboy's life
was so grand and glorious," it wasn't with the feeling that he
was disgusted or tired with the life, it was the joke of it that
struck his funny bone, and if it'd been a lot worse he'd grinned
and most likely passed some other such like remark. For, with the
true cowboy, the old saying is "if you don't like it pick up and
quit." Gat hadn't quit in all his life of riding.

But even tho Gat and Sol took it all as in a day's riding, they'd
figured they'd done that day's riding well, and the sight of the
top poles of the corral gates over a low ridge sure looked mighty
good to em. For the top poles of the corral gates they was
seeing was the first signs, from that direction, of the
headquarters of the outfit they was riding for, the Home Ranch of
the old Seven Xs.

Topping the low ridge a spread of corrals and buildings come to
sight, and sort of stringing along the big cottonwoods that
growed natural along the near river-size creek was a row of low
dirt-roofed log buildings, some scattered here and there, and to
one side, sort of by itself was the low, rambling main ranch
house where old John B. Mitchell, the builder and owner of the
outfit, lived with his wife and little family of a grown daughter
and son, and the son's family of a wife and little boy of ten.
There was also a very full grown female cook. The whole gathering
of buildings and all was the size and had the appearance of a
small town.

Gat and Sol rode on in, into a big corral and to a long log
stable where they fed their horses good hay and unsaddled. They'd
feed 'em grain later, for these was "winter horses," and being
there was only two for each rider, one horse for one day and the
other for the next, and plenty of hard riding every day they had
to be hardened in, kept under good shelter and well fed.

They was better taken care of than the cowboys, who worked just
as hard as they did, with no day's rest between, and took many
chances besides, for when Sol and Gat rode it was, as with about
every day, middle afternoon when they got back and they would
have to wait till supper time before they would get anything to
eat. Their horses would be filling up on good blue joint hay in
the meantime.

But a cowboy sure never begrudges that, and as Gat and Sol walked
into the cold bunk house and started a fire it was with the
contented feeling that their horses was storing up feed and
resting for when they'd need 'em again. As for themselves, the
going without the noon meal didn't bother them any. They was used
to that, for while riding from the ranch or different line and
cow camps they started of mornings for a certain work to do and
didn't return till that work was done. The average day's work
from ranches or cow camps is from sun up till middle afternoon,
and the cowboy don't pack no lunch nor canteen; if one did he'd
just as well ride bare headed, roll his sleeves, and say "my
gracious" when he's mad. He'd be snickered at and look as out of
place as an orchid amongst cactus blossoms.

As riders are very much cut down in numbers during winter months
there was only four other riders at the home ranch besides Gat
and Sol, two riding bog on the outside and two sort of old
pensioners riding the big pastures that went to make up the
ranch. There was, of course, a few more riders scattered at
different winter camps over the range, also at ranches where hay
was put up and where the riders culled out weaker stock and
brought 'em in for hay shovelers to feed.

The two old cowboys who rode the pastures wouldn't be back till
near supper time, for their daily rides didn't take 'em many
miles away and they could be at the ranch for their noon meal and
siesta, so they rode later. The other two outside riders would
ride zig zag and pull bog on to a near winter camp, fifteen miles
away, where they'd stay for the night and then ride back to the
ranch, covering every bog hole again on the way.

The ranch hands would also be out at their work with teams and
hay forks till about supper time, so Gat and Sol was alone in the
cowboys bunk house and warming it up. There was another bunk
house for the ranch hands. A hunk of pitchy pine in the box-stove
and it wasn't long when the two riders turned their backs and
took a step away from it. Gat's water soaked boots was oozing
muddy water and he'd liked to change to another pair, but he
didn't have another pair, he'd overdrawed on his wages when he'd
went to town and celebrated the fall before and then he'd bought
a new saddle which set him back so that the old boots, most
always wrapped in gunnysack while riding, had to do for the
winter. But wages or no wages he'd have to have a new pair of
boots before round up started, and being, like all cowboys, he
wore made to order hand made boots and it would take a month to
get them, so he decided that late afternoon, while his feet was
cold and wet, that he would write out an order right after supper
and hand it to old John B. to have it mailed when the first
chance come. Another half a month's wages shot.

On account that the cook house, which was held down by the round-up
cook, was quite a few hundred yards away, Gat had never
thought of pulling his boots off. It would of been quite a job
anyway, being they was so wet, specially putting 'em back on, and
he sure didn't want to walk thru the snow to the cook house and
back in his stocking feet. That might be all right for them who
dive in icy pools during winters but the cowboy wouldn't see much
sense to that, he gets plenty of weather anyway without hunting
for it.

The order for the new pair of boots was made up after supper that
evening, and being the two old riders was around by then and with
their usual joking remarks to keep the air from getting stale one
of em, after watching Gat taking his foot measurements with a
tape, asks:

"What size do you wear, Gat?"

"I don't know," says Gat. "I don't put down the size when I order
boots, just measurements, you know that. But I bought a pair of
shoes once, daggone 'em anyhow, I was in town for a winter, and I
think they was six and a half."

"Yeh," the old cowboy says, sort of dry, "six hides and a half a
keg of nails."

Regular good bunk house joking went on for a while and till the
order was about made up, then the other old rider chirps up:

"Expect you'll be ordering fancy inlaid tops on 'em and wearing
 'em outside your pants so's you can show 'em off to June when she
gets back from her school learning."

"You bet," says Gat, looking up from his order, "and there won't
be no cock-ankled broomsticks inside of 'em either."

The old rider couldn't let that pass. "Well," he says, looking
down at his legs, "it's better to be a has-been than a never-been,
and if your legs ever get around as many tough horses as
these have you'll wonder how come they ain't plum gone or all
twisted up." He went on before Gat could say a word to that.
"Anyway, you won't be here when June gets back, you'll most
likely be with the wagon (riding on round up outfit) and the
pretty tops of your boots will get all dirty. What a shame that
will be."

"Yeh, maybe that's all so," says Gat, "but she don't like things
that's new and pretty, she likes what's been around some, had
experience and knows something and where the beauty lays deep. Of
course," he adds on, "I have some of that on the surface too."

He stuck his nose to the order blank and didn't try to compete
with the remarks he'd brought on to himself.

They came three ways, for Sol had joined in with the old cowboys,
and they fitted to where he was about as beautiful and useful as
the shadow of a burro on a pile of tin cans.

Gat could only grin, and he didn't say a word till one of the old
riders sort of changed the subject a bit by saying how John B.
didn't want his girl galivanting around with no cowboys anyhow.
He'd heard him say so, how he wanted her to be refined and
fitting to refined company.

Gat was kind of surprised and got hot under the collar of a
sudden and he didn't want to hear no more of that. "Yeh," he
says, sarcastic, "I've seen some of such refinery, all combed and
slicked up and trained to manners, but the manners I've seen some
of 'em use with wimmen if they ever get 'em to one side would
either make you want to hunt a hole for shame or perforate their
slick hides with a forty-five, but cartridges are sort of
expensive to waste on such land."

"Now, now," Sol chips in, half grinning at Gat's peeved talk,
"Don't let yourself get away from yourself. What does June care
what you think of the kind that's been curried below the knees?
Besides you know yourself there's some mighty fine fellers
amongst the stiff collared gentry, as fine as you'll find
anywhere."

"Sure," says Gat, cooling down some, "but I'm afraid of the
skunks among em, for her sake. Because June is a mighty fine
girl and I don't give a good godamighty doggone if she wouldn't
even spit or look at me, I'd always think the same of her and act
according."

"Them's mighty fine sentiments, cowboy," says one of the old
riders, "and I hope no woman ever spoils em."

The talk getting kind of sentimental and serious that way didn't
set so well with the other old rider and he kind of mumbled to
the stove during a quiet space of time. "What's the use of Gat
worrying about June, he's got less chance with her than I have
with the moon. Just imagine, a forty-dollar-a-month bog rider
with no eddication, never even a school book and learned to read
only by brands on hides of critters, having the nerve to even
think of that young lady, June, the daughter of old John B
hisself. Why old John B would shoot any cowboy on sight if he
thought for one second that cowboy had any inkling that way
concerning that daughter of his. Besides," he went on, like it
had just come to him, "you might never see her again, because
John B. said something not so long ago about sending her to some
place in Europe to finish her, or have her finished or something
like that, whatever that means."

Gat lost his peeved feeling as the old rider talked. He knowed
that it all was to stir him up and that about the girl going to
Europe was most likely made up, so he hardly listened to what was
said. He seen that, from past experiences, the only way to fight
such talk was with the same, and with a grin. He raised his eyes
to the smoked up ceiling and putting a hand over his heart he
done his best to look soulful while he said "Love will find a
way."

That near bucked the old rider off his chair, for he'd looked for
Gat to get peeved again. But Gat did get half serious after his
piece of acting, and as he sealed his boot order he turned to the
old rider.

"What is old John B. to be so huffed up about so he don't want a
cowboy to look at his daughter? The old son of a sea cook had
nothing but a saddle and a 'long rope * when he started, and even
tho he's been good since he come north and built this spread, you
all know that he don't dare go back to Texas and pack the same
name he did there."

*Term for cattle rustling, long rope, reaching out of his
territory for somebody else's cattle.

That was all agreeable, but there was another opening.

"Well," says one of the old riders, "he done hisself proud
anyway, and I sure don't blame him for not wanting his daughter
to take interest in any reckless and drifting cowboy like he was
at one time." As a good dig to Gat he went on to remark, "not
many cowboys ever amount to anything anyway."

Gat wasn't slow taking up that opening and he aimed at both the
old riders as he spoke.

"Like you two for instance," he says. "Here you are, you old
decrepits, four times old enough to vote, all stove up, and you
still ain't got nothing but wore out saddles and still wearing
five and a half size hats."

That sort of riled the old boys up some, and Gat and Sol sort of
leaned back to enjoy the show of emotion they knowed would come
The old riders realized, but too late, that they'd left Gat too
good an opening, and now it took 'em a spell to get their wits
stringing out for a good come back. When they spoke their first
words come together.

But one of 'em finally got the lead on the other, and after
calling Gat a few cuss names and winding up on such as "pigeon-toed
scorpion" and the like he went on. "Why I had three good
holdings in my time. Two of them holdings was saloons, and
goldern good ones too. I made a good stake and went back to cows,
bought me a good outfit, then a hard winter come and cleaned me
out."

"Overgrazed your range, I bet," Gat managed to edge

The old rider didn't seem to hear him. "I mortgaged my ranch and
what little stock I had left to the hilt then and stocked up
again, and bought more cattle on shipment payment. I done fine
for a few years and got to running up to five thousand head when
another hard winter come on the tail of a mighty dry summer, and
I was cleaned out again. We didn't cut or stack up any hay in
them days, but we done a lot of riding."

Another good opening for Gat. "Yep, rode all winter with your
feet against the stove."

The old cowboy flared up a little at that, even tho he knowed
well that Gat was only egging him on. "No, by gad," he says, "I
rode every daggone day that winter and some nights too, when
sometimes I couldn't see my horse's ears for sixty mile an hour
winds pushing thick hard snow.

"My men worked hard too, but, well, when spring come I just
turned my outfit over to the bank. I'd only paid off a little of
the mortgage on account I'd been stocking up instead of paying on
it. I wanted to count my cattle on my ten fingers, one thousand
head to the finger. I'd been satisfied then and be a-sitting near
as good as old John B. is sitting to day."

"And then you'd wanted ten thousand more," from Gat again.

"But," the old rider went on as a wind up, "if there'd been a
daughter in my married life I wouldn't of let her marry a cowboy
either if I could help it, they re born too durn free."

"Well," says Gat, getting to reason a bit on the subject,
"there's cowboys and cowboys. You had about the same chance old
John B. did, and then," he went on, "who is our governor and
senator but a couple of born-in-the-leather cowboys who didn't
know there was anything but cattle and horses on this earth till
they was near thirty!"

That sort of stumped the old rider. He rolled a cigarette and all
was quiet for a spell, a quiet that hinted for the other old
rider that now was his chance to start telling what he'd done for
hisself. But what all had just been said had got him to thinking
things over, he'd got to thinking he didn't do so well with the
chances he had either, and he wondered if he should tell of  'em.

It was Sol that finally spoke up and started him out. "Well, Lou,
how many cows* did you steal in your time?" he asks.

* "Cow" is the common and general name for all cattle of all ages
and sexes in the cow country.

The old rider, Lou, didn't smile when he said, "Just enough for
beef," and he went on from there. "But I have made some pretty
good stakes, boys, and that's no corral dust. Mine was on horses,
good horses. I'd picked up a few good bunches during a stretch of
years when times was mighty hard, during a panic, and a dollar
wasn't worth two bits, you couldn't sell or give a horse away and
few bothered with branding  'em, but I figured there'd be a need
of  'em some day and I gathered me some for keeps.

"Well, as I'd figured, it wasn't so very many years when the East
begin to swarm over parts of the West, and by japers I got to
selling some three-year-old unbroke colts for $400 a span. Of
course they was big horses, and by that time I was running close
onto eight hundred head of  'em.

"I sold out in fine shape and took a few years' time doing that.
I didn't keep a hoof because I figured again that horses would go
down in prices soon as the emigrating rush was over, and they
did.

"Well, boys, I sure made me a stake, the biggest one I thought
I'd ever make and big enough for any man, yes, any man with two
families and for two life times. But I never was a family man. I
went into horses again then, not good big draft horses like I had
before and which run on the range the year around, but slim-bodied,
spindle-legged, mesquito-looking daggone things that had
to have private apartments, had to be washed and rubbed and
coaxed to eat, and they'd pass a cow without seeing 'er, but boys
how they could pass, pass most anything. They was race horses.

"I took my horses to wherever there was big races, in U. S. A.
here, Mexico, the Island, and even England. I made fifteen
thousand on one of my horses in one race and turned around and
sold him for twenty thousand. I figured I had others coming up
that was just as good or maybe better. It turned out that I did
have.

"I done better than well for some years, my stake swelled up and
I made so much money that it got to mean nothing to me. I had
good stables and trainers and raised good fast horses. Them
horses and me was well known with all the racy folks, and there
was plenty of doings set up for me wherever I went, society
circles and all kinds of circles and capers. It was sure a steady
round of pleasure, and being I don't like to do things half
ways, I didn't over-look none.

"But my most satisfying pleasures was being with my horses and I
was with them as much as I could. But again, with the steady
rounds of doings which I felt sort of obliged to take on on
account they'd be in my honor and so on, I didn't get to do many
things I really wanted to, and even tho I got sort of bloated on
all of that and tried to squirm out many times there was many
such doings I couldn't squirm out of.

"I was raised a horse's height from the ground, not on hardwood
floors, and as I got to hitting the 'soogan'* at about the end of
the grave-yard shift * every night, year after year or doings
after doings, that begin to tell on me, because I'd already spent
thirty years or so with the habit of crawling in during cocktail
hours *. Cocktail hours have a different meaning with race horse
folks, or any other folks for that matter, than ours have. It can
be any hour in the twenty-four, all depending on your craving and
capacity."

* Quilts, bedding.

* From midnight till two A. M.

* Between five and eight in the evening, before first guard on
night herd. These terms are used when with round-up wagons, which
are out on the range eight months in the year with some big
outfits, and the year around with some others.


"Well, as I already said, that begin telling on me. I'd chopped
off too quick on plenty of action and hard riding, went to riding
the easy overstuffed riggings instead, and to using my rope arm
to hoist a glass in place of a rope.

"Finally come a time when I didn't care to be with my horses or
see how they was being trained any more, and when a cowboy gets
that far gone he's sure far gone. I got to where I didn't want to
do anything but go galivanting around and play nighthawk in
swallow tails. I done that well and got to thinking I was some
smart because my horses kept a-winning pretty steady, then I
figured I wasn't needed at the stables any more.

"That went well with me at the time. I went on to betting on my
horses, and drinking the way I was, I naturally thought I was
wise when I really didn't know what the samhill I was doing.
Consequences is I was gypped right and left, my jockeys was
bought to pull my horses to lose, and I was gypped out of some of
my horses too.

"Then come the big bet, covering every horse, stables and all I
had. I hadn't seen my horse, the one I'd staked everything on,
for months. I went to see him, but I don't remember seeing him. I
guess I just sort of identified him in my mind and, being it was
him, felt sure I would win.

"Well I didn't."

The old cowboy was quiet for a spell, he just sat and stared at
the stove, then he raised his head, and looking at the three
other riders he added on, "and by gad I'm durned glad I didn't."

Somehow, thru Lou's talk, neither Gat nor Sol looked or thought
for any opening to chip in a joking dig at him. Maybe it was
because the story had to do with horses. Besides, even tho the
old cowboy was mighty sincere in the telling of making and losing
his big stake, he seemed too ready to take on a joke good-natured
if one came his way. That had taken the hanker to joke out of
 'em.

But, according to them, the story hadn't ended quite right as to
their idea of how it should. Old Lou sort of sensed that as he
looked at  'em, and he just about figured what remark to expect
from either of  'em. He grinned.

"About the old race track loser's saying, 'slow horses and fast
wimmen,' that combination has sure enough ruined many a man. Some
of them fast ticks stuck around me aplenty too, they got a lot of
fun out of me and I got a lot of fun out of them, it was a fifty-fifty
break there. But I'll tell you what did buck me off, boys,
and made me lose my stake, the only thing that did. It was old
John Barleycorn."

Well, that was more of an ending, and, as old Lou figured, a sort
of warning to Gat and Sol. Them two riders took it that way too,
but they wasn't worried much about that or losing any stakes, for
they hadn't made nothing but wages so far and they'd never
thought of hitting on the trail of making a big stake. That could
come later, and all they cared about for the time being was to
perfect themselves in their riding and roping and knowing of the
cattle game, which all always leaves room for more learning and
improving, no matter how experienced a man a cowboy might be.

The talk got to thinning down, remarks got further apart as wits
begin to dull. Gat yawned a couple of times, rolled another smoke
and begin pulling his boots off. His first try proved that that
was going to be a hard job on account of them being wet and soggy
and sticking to his instep and heels like they was his own hide.

The cowboy don't bother making boot jacks or packing one around
with him. His regular boot jack is his spurs which he keeps on
his boots steady, and by pressing down on the shank with one foot
he can usually get his boots off pretty well.

But that didn't work with Gat on days when his boots got wet, and
no boot jack of any kind would of worked. At such times, Sol
would help him out, straddle one of his boots, and grabbing it
with both hands, Gat would push on his hind quarters till, with a
lot of straining and twisting, the boot would come off.

When that was finally done that night, all of the four riders was
ready to hit the soogans. Sol went outside, the whole ranch was
dark, a wet snow was falling and the cold wind of that day was
still blowing.

"Br-r-r-r," Sol shivered as he came back in and closed the door
tight. "I'd hate to be bogged down to night You'd ought to've
kept your boots on, Gat, because they re going to be hard to put
on in the morning and mighty hard to pull off again tomorrow
night, and with this fresh wet snow, I'm thinking there'll be
some slippery bogs to pull tomorrow."

But it was only an average March night, and the next day would
only be an average March day on the old Seven X range, average,
all but for the unexpected which sometimes comes and happens
mighty fast, any time, anywhere.



CHAPTER II - First Herds and New Ranges


It had snowed and blowed pretty well all day along, and Gat and
Sol and all of John B.'s riders, including John B.'s son, Austin,
who rode from and to ranches and camps and kept two good eyes on
cattle and range conditions and had a slippery wet day of it. But
old John B. himself had been warm and dry, and even tho he
sometimes rode with Austin and his men in much rougher weather,
he'd stayed inside that day, all on account of that when he
walked into a room he used as his office he noticed a slip of
paper, yellowed with age, sticking out of some old ledger.

He'd smiled as he seen that against his wishes, his wife Mae had
again been cleaning and arranging things "so it takes me a month
to find anything again" as he'd say. He'd pulled out the slip of
paper and, squinting hard at the paled writing on it he seen it
was his own. There was no date on the paper, but by the writing
and brands and earmarks that was put down on it, and after
scratching under his hat brim a few times while looking up at the
ceiling and then down at the paper again, it finally came to his
memory, and all at once.

He'd then remembered the year, the month, and even the day and
place, when and where he'd wrote what was on the slip of paper he
was holding. He remembered he'd been a-horseback, and with the
same slip of paper, which had then been in a tally book, he'd
rode thru a herd of longhorns, all of which was resting and
grazing. It had been that herd's first night's drive from their
starting point, and as he rode thru the cattle he'd marked down
the brands, earmarks, wattles, and all such which would identify
every head in the herd. That herd, many long months later, had
turned out to be John B.'s foundation herd and start of the Seven
Xs, now called the old Seven Xs.

John B. was old now too, bordering seventy-five, but the rough
life he'd led had hardened him so that years hardly bent him,
only some in the legs, and his hide was leathered and scarred.
But his eyes was still good and young, his heart was the same and
he still et beef and potatoes and coffee three times a day. He
always claimed that he had indigestion only once in his life and
that was on account somebody had slipped mutton in his stew while
in town one day.

Holding the yellowed slip of paper in his hand, Old John B. had
stood by the window of his office room, and as he fingered the
paper there was a whole lot of them times with the gathering of
his first herd came back to his mind, from the range away to the
south to the range away to the north he was now settled on, and
looking out at the wet falling snow he'd mumbled:

"By Golly, fifty-four years. Fifty-four years since I left there
and first unsaddled here. Sure don't seem that long."

He'd been ready to go out that day but the slip of paper had
brought recollections to him which put him in the past again and
he'd forgot the present. Soon he'd got in the thick of the old
books the piece of paper had been sticking out of. They hadn't
been disturbed, only to be dusted, for more than thirty years,
and amongst scraps of papers and writings he'd went to living on
the back-trail of the past.

It was near the end of the "seventies," and John B. was close to
his twenties when he was chased out of Texas for appropriating
one or two herds too quick. They'd of rather caught him but he
chased better, for John B. figured there was always too many at a
time on his trail. But he'd come back, worked slower, safer and
quieter, and gathered another herd before he left that territory
It was John B.'s ambition, seemed like as soon as he could ride,
which was before he could walk, to have a good cow outfit of his
own and he wasn't going to waste no time getting it.

He'd already went as far north as the Canadian line a couple of
times with the first big herds that had been pointed in that
direction, and he figured he knowed the country well enough then
so he could pick out his own trail, and when he finally left
Texas with the last herd he'd done well in appropriating, he'd
also took along some good horses which he thought he'd feel
better riding if they was a few states to the north.

He had to have some help too with all his stock, and the cowboys
that rode along with him had also took some stock for themselves.

It had been a spooky outfit of men, who drove their stock by
night for the first few hundred miles and dodged the main trails.
They'd had mighty tough times on long dry stretches and at river
crossings that was new to all trail drivers. They'd have
"palavez" with the Indians too and had their horses stolen a few
times, their cattle stampeded and bunches of them come up
missing. But that outfit of riders was no home guards, they was
wild and tough as a cross between wild cats and wolverines, and
when, months later, they got to the country of tall grass and
plenty water, they had more horses and cattle than what they'd
started out with.

But even tho kind of free with their appropriating stock, they
was good men and honest in their makeups, only the country they
was in was wild, the cattle was wild, the horses was wild, and so
was they, and the ambition of each of them men was to start an
outfit of their own from the hundreds of thousands of cattle,
many unbranded, which run in the southern plains, regardless of
who all they belonged to.

They did get their start, but they sure had to drift with that
start, and the further north they drifted the better, they
thought. They drifted plenty far and into an out of the way
country from where the big herds came thru or scattered, and then
in their out of the way country they found ranges where creeks,
grass, shelter, and timber was aplenty and settled down with
their herds, each on his own particular range, each with his own
outfit and all as neighbors.

John B. had the biggest herd and, as trail boss of the outfit, of
course took the best range, but there was lots of it and there
was no arguments as to that among  'em. They couldn't think of
arguing anyway because they'd been thru enough hell, fire, and
high water getting the cattle, and driving  'em the long trail to
the north to sort of bind  'em together, and even tho they was
thirty miles or more apart as neighbors, it was later believed
that one could of hollered once and the others would of heard him
and come a-running.

There'd been no trail brand put on the cattle as John B. and his
riders, or pardners, started from the south. Them boys was in too
big a hurry to be on the move anyway. Besides, a trail brand
would of only implicated  'em more if they'd been caught up with.
John B. ranged his cattle, and a year afterwards his thousand
head came out of his corrals with a fresh.

It went well from the start, cattle accumulated and soon enough
good beef shipments was loaded for the East. It was a six-hundred
mile trailing south to the railroad shipping point but there was
plenty grass and water along the way and that made it good. Some
years went by with things going well and averaging that way, good
log buildings and pole corrals was built at the home ranch, also
line camps over the range, and then, when John B. went to Chicago
again one year with a special trainload of steers, he came back
with a long haired pardner. Mrs. John B. Mitchell.

Things went well some more, but like with anything else, even if
they go well there's always other things mixing along to make a
feller appreciate the things that do go well. Like for instance,
there was long hard winters which made John B. and his cowboys
ride all day and sometimes most of the night with turning the
drifting herds off windy long ridges towards shelter, then the
breaking of trails thru drifts to free snowbound cattle, and all
such work which goes to make it a hard winter, hard for both man
and stock.

Along with the hard winters off and on, there was such other
things as the crowding of ranges that came and sure wasn't so
well, but John B. didn't pack his 45 as ballast, besides many of
his riders were getting fighting wages. They was the kind that
was glad to fight, specially for John B. and the wages he was
giving them. He held his range.

He held his cattle too when the rustlers got thick and sort of
organized, and when the rustler war broke out he wasn't in it, so
there was no wondering nor mixing of him with the rustlers or
honest cattlemen. He was just John B. Mitchell, and that year
young John B. was born. The year of the rustler war.

Young John B. didn't know about that war, and didn't care right
then, but later, with that big outfit, he was going to see
another war when him and his dad had to fight a considerable so
as to hold all of their range. In the meantime blatting bands of
sheep was covering the country like woodticks. John B. fought
well against  'em and lost only one man, but he never would
believe that man was killed because his horse and saddle had
never been found.

"He was just riding a daggone good horse of mine," John B. had
said, "and he just got to hankering for new territory of a
sudden, that's all."

But there'd been some bands of sheep found wandering and
scattering without herders, bands of sheep somehow run over steep
cliffs and piled up, wagon tongues was tied to tops of sheep
wagons and given a push down steep countries, 30-30's spoke, and
even tho not all of that was on John B.'s range nor was of John
B.'s, or his riders doings he held his range against the weed
packers' sheep.

A man's range is pretty well respected amongst cowmen but other
breeds don't seem to have such respects. Well, the country was
free and wide open, and then the nester came in, some even before
the sheep did. John B. couldn't fight them very much because he
knowed that according to law they had as much right to the land
as he did, all excepting some few hundred acres here and there
which him and some squatters he'd hired could hold with buildings
on the land, but what was a few thousand acres when there was
fifteen thousand head of cattle to range? About the same as one
peanut to an elephant.

But, as usual, John B. had been wise, he'd hired more riders to
"squat" * on the most valuable parts of his range and the nesters
that drifted in to look it over sort of found poor pickings.
Still, nesters have a way of edging in, and some mighty good
parts of John B.'s range was lost to  'em. They'd located on creek
bottoms, farmed a little and run little bunches of cattle. That
sure didn't help John B.'s range any.

* "Squatter," first on property, giving right of ownership of
land buildings are on, 160 acres.

He had to cut his herds down some, for John B. was careful not to
overgraze his range, he wanted tall winter feed for his stock.
Things went on pretty well for some years and he scared the
nesters to eating their own beef pretty well instead of his.

Then came another cloud over his holdings. The end of free range.
The land was being surveyed. But if John B.'s first sight of the
cloud struck him as another calamity to prepare against, it
didn't take him very long to see thru that cloud, and as he
figured and planned, he welcomed it as tho his range was parched
and it was bringing rain. It was bringing security and peace.

John B. was a few miles ahead of others once more. He hired a man
that was handy with pencil and figures and could ride a little,
and sent him out with a surveyor. They was out for months,
quartering and putting down figures on John B.'s range, and when
some years later it come that all lands had to be leased in order
to run stock on them, John B. was there with his figures and the
first bidder. Consequences was the nesters that had crowded in on
his range found themselves sitting on only three hundred and
twenty acres, just enough to run a few milk cows and chickens on,
and starve to death. John B. had leased all the good land around
 'em and pinched  'em in.

He soon bought most of  'em out at his own price, and now he could
control his range. He'd also leased all the lands along the
creeks and wherever there was water, and didn't bother much with
bench land. No sheep could bother him now for they'd have to
water and he sure wouldn't let them have a drop of his. He had
plenty of riders to see to that.

John B. felt mighty satisfied with himself, and everything in
general. But sometimes, sitting with his wife by the big
fireplace and all was quiet and he got to thinking of how he'd
squeezed the nesters out off his range, that bothered him a
little. It wasn't his conscience that bothered him, it was that
he might be kind of hoggish, as tho he was giving nobody else a
chance to live, and nobody likes a hog.

It was at one of these times that he got up off his comfortable
chair and begin pacing the floor. Then of a sudden turning to his
wife who'd been peacefully sewing on something, he begins without
a warning.

"Why dammit, they had no business here. This is my range, by
rights of all rights. They had the same chance of getting this
range as I did but their hat brims was too low over their eyes
and they couldn't see it. If they had they'd crowded me out the
same as I did them, only maybe worse, I might of stole a few
cattle in my time but I'd have more respect for a man's holdings
than to set up my chicken coops by his doorstep and turn my horse
in his garden." (By doorstep he meant anywheres to within thirty
miles of it, and garden meant good parts of his range.)

"I wonder," he went on, "how many of  'em, if they'd been in my
place would of loaned me a wagon if I was nesting on their
range? I've loaned  'em wagons, harnesses and horses, and by God
there was many a time I had to send a man out to get  'em back.
Most of  'em et my beef too, and I didn't care so much with them
that had families and few cattle, but most of them had plenty of
cattle, and they let  'em accumulate right here on my range, my
country, which by laws of right belongs to me, as much as any
discovered country belongs to any man that discovers it, and I
was the first to make use of it. None of my people can say I'm
not treating  'em right and every man of  'em is ready to fight for
me any time, any place. I take good care of my little country,
raise good cattle on it, and I'm helping furnish the outside with
the best that goes on their table, good beef."

John B. felt relieved now and like he'd done unloaded well. He'd
smiled at his wife and rolled a cigarette while she'd smiled back
at him, she'd more than agreed in all he'd said.

But John B. had forgot to mention a few important facts why his
little country should be his by all rights. By a lot more rights
than it should be any other man's or men s. He'd blazed a trail
all the way up from Texas to get to it, a trail that'd been
followed afterwards and where a few men never come thru at the
river crossings and two herds was lost to thirst in the desert.
It never was tried again. He'd forgot to mention his fighting
start from Texas, and how he had to hide till things cooled down
before he gathered his cattle and put  'em on trail, his fights
along the way with Indian parties, and all. It had been some kind
of a fight all the way.

He didn't mention his squabbles with bands of Indians that'd
jumped the reservation during the first years on his range, nor
the fighting against the crowding of his country. He didn't
mention the rustler war, and even tho he didn't get into it, he
done just as well by getting them who crossed his line. He'd held
it against  'em, against sheepmen and finally against nesters, and
by all laws of right that country belonged to no man nor men but
John B. Mitchell.

John B. never stopped to think why it should belong to him but he
sure felt that it did, and, to him, it was all that was
necessary. He'd hold it.

When the railroad cut thru the country going from East to West
and went by to within sixty miles of John B.'s range, that didn't
interest him much. He'd rather trailed his beef further and not
had the railroad so close. John B. wasn't against progress but he
figured the country was stocked up to full capacity as it was,
and the railroad would only bring in more nesters to edge in on
range already being used, and overgraze it to dust beds and
weeds.

There was a rush come sure enough, but by more good maneuvering,
John B. still held his range, and right on.



CHAPTER III - Cowboys Old and New


John B. had got so he liked fighting and maneuvering to hold his
range, and even tho he rode with his heart in his throat once in
a while, the pleasure he'd got to be one mile ahead in turning
what would have swarmed him down, sort of made up for that.

With the end of the free range, and when he maneuvered to hold
his country some more and all the safer, came a blow to him that
he couldn't fight against or maneuver around. It was the sickness
and death of his wife. Austin was only a youngster of eight at
the time, and of course, John B. took great consolation in him,
but it was quite a few years and the fuzz on Austin's face was
beginning to stiffen to whiskers before he begin to laugh with
his riders again.

It was along about then, and when Austin got to thinking he could
ride anything on four, or any amount of legs, when a new brand of
locust more dangerous than any of the others before, begin to
threaten to eat up John B.'s little country. There'd been
boosting for farmers to "COME WEST WHERE OPPORTUNITY LIES IN RICH
PRAIRIE SOIL" and such like advertising in the papers, with
strips of writing on each side telling how the eastern and
foreign farmer, all the way from Russia, would soon be migrating
west by the trainload.

John B. shivered as he read some of the papers. He had visions of
ranges being tore up, cattle disappearing, and farmers starving
to death in a country that should of been left to cattle, instead
of to weeds. He'd had no idea how them visions of his would come
true, and he didn't at first prepare against the attack of sod-busting
weed growers, for being that the nearest line of his range
to the railroad was sixty miles and a lot of rough country
between, no sod buster would be fool enough, he thought, to come
to his country to farm the big benches that was on his range; it
would be too far to the railroad to haul grain and make the
raising of it pay.

He felt sort of safe that way, also mighty sorry for other good
ranges that happened to be near the railroad.

"With all this boosting," John B. had said to one of his Texan
neighbors, "them sod busters'll come and plow up anything. It's a
disease with  'em anyway."

John B. rode and watched, and as he went to town every few months
he seen where the sod busters had sure enough come and was
spreading fast, like a bunch of hungry stock on new range. He'd
grinned and remarked as he'd got near to town once how he was
surprised they hadn't already plowed of that flat topped rocky
butte which was on the outskirts of it. But he didn't grin when a
couple of years later he seen some patches of land plowed up on
his way to the ranch and thirty miles from town, bum roads in
between and the country fit only for cayote runs, as far as
farming it was concerned.

But for a couple of years that seemed to be as far as they would
get, and then the next year some corporation jumped forty miles
from town to a long wide strip of bench land and started tearing
it up with tractors and repeating plows. The north rim of that
bench was only to within a few miles of the edge of John B.'s
range and on one of his neighbors' ranges; one of the cowboys
who'd come up trail with him from the south.

Another year or so, and John B. heard the first of a rumor that
made him saddle up and hit for town in a high lope. The rumor,
from good authorities, was that a spur was to be added to the
railroad which would reach to within a few miles of the big bench
land strip where the farming corporation was tearing things up.
More sod busters had joined in here and there, and old John B.
didn't wait for the echo of that railroad spur coming in over
half ways to his range, nor for the rumor to start spreading.

He hunted up the man who years before had gone with the surveyor
when the range was first squared up and numbered, and with him he
went over the plat of the range he knowed so well and marked Xs
on quarter sections, halves and whole sections, until he'd took
up most all farmable lands and where there was creeks or springs,
and told the man who was handy with pen and figures to start
right in and get the deed for all that land marked with the Xs,
he could, such as every odd numbered section of state land on the
south border of his range, also railroad lands and scripts, then
there was his squatters, lands.

The land was cheap because it had been classed as only grazing
land, but there was good strips of bench and rolling lands there
too, where the grass was near stirrup high, and being there was
another long and wide strip of bench land on John B.'s range not
so many miles to the north of the bench where the farming
corporation was tearing up the sod, and also being that leasing
couldn't hold that land against farmers, he proceeded to buy it,
right quick, and before the rumor of the railroad spur begin to
spread.

With deeds to most all farmable lands to the south of his range
he made a mighty barrier to all invading sod busters. For, with
that strip of deeded land and the rough country beyond which
couldn't be farmed, the invader would have to jump twenty-five
miles from the farming corporation's lands to other bench lands
on John B.'s range. That was to the north and John B. wasn't
afraid of them doing that. It would have been too much of a jump
and there was too much rough country, with two high ranges of
mountains in between.

He wasn't afraid of any invasion for that north either, because
it was a hundred and fifty miles to the first railroad and town
in that direction. It was near twice that distance to any
railroad or town in the east and west directions, so he sure was
safe there.

John B. felt pretty well fortified and able to hold his range,
and the two, now old pensioner cowboys, Lou and Hie, who had
started riding for him before then, and ever since, figured that
he'd done mighty neat and fast work.

But one of John B.'s neighbors that come up from Texas with him
didn't do so well. John B. had warned him but he hadn't acted,
and consequences was he was pretty well cleaned out of his range,
like over night, soon as the rumor about the railroad spur to be
built begin to spread. John B. came to his rescue then, also the
other Texans whose ranges connected and turned slices of their
range over to him so he could still run a pretty fair spread.

But the sod busters also got a scare, for with John B.'s quick
acting and closing the land to the north, the railroad spur come
near not being built and, as it was, the Texan's land connecting
to the west and other lands to the east is all that made the
building go on, sort of half-hearted.

There was satisfied years as all was quiet once more, and
shipping another train-load of prime beef, John B. came back to
the ranch sporting a brand new top buggy and a pretty black
driving team. In the buggy beside him was the second Mrs. John B.
Mitchell. Mae. She was a native of the state, her dad being a
cowman himself, and when John B. and her married and figured on
ways of getting back to the ranch, he was for trying one of these
new fangled gasoline wagons. She decided a good saddle horse
would be better, but John B. had only his own with him, and
knowing it would please her he decided on the buggy and team. The
saddle horse was tied behind and that went well.

Austin liked his new mother, everybody that knowed her in the
whole country liked her, and many wondered how come she hadn't
been tied to long before, and how come John B. to be the lucky
man when there was so many others after her. But that last wasn't
news to none, for John B. had long ago been known with the good
reputation of always being a mile ahead.

John B. and Mae was married a couple of years and then a child
was born. It was a girl, and to sort of follow up after Mae she
was named June. John B. thought it was a right pretty name, but
Austin only cussed the luck when he heard it was a girl and took
his feelings out on an ornary bronc.

Outside of some rough weather and some dry spells which any
country can be afflicted with, things went on smooth with the
Seven Xs. The sod busters hadn't crawled an inch on John B.'s
range from any direction. There'd been a time, when the railroad
spur was first opened that things looked threatening for the
north of John B.'s range on account that there was a few good and
extraordinary wet years about that time and everything growed
over size, better than it ever had in the home state or Russia,
and that had brought on more emigrants from such thereabouts to
look at John B.'s southern barrier of bench land with envy.

"How they'd like to tear that up," John B. had often said.

But the wet years was only freakish, and after that, year after
year the sod busters only made average labor wages for the hard
labor and worries of seeding and harvesting (if there was no
hail), hauling and selling their grain. Some years they didn't
make average wages, some years they'd do well enough and then
again there'd be some years where what little money they might of
made was spent for seed grain and grub, and no crop came. With
some few such dry years, many finally left their farms, and after
losing what savings they might of had on the farm and going in
debt afterwards to keep it seeded, live and so on, many didn't
have the price to get out of the town they'd walked into.

That was the vision come true that John B. had had many years
before. Good range sod that cattle growed fat on had been turned
over and left to weeds, frame shacks was left to pack rats and
prairie mice, expensive implements for chipmunks to play on,
fences down and barb wire stringing everywhere for good range
horses to get into and cut sometimes to the heart, or crippled
for life with cut muscles on the legs.

Some of that wire was gradually picked up by the stockmen, coiled
and throwed into ravines where no horses would get into it. All
this time the winds and snows was scattering buffalo grass seeds
over the weedy fields and it was gradually taking root again. But
it was slow.

"And," says one of John B.'s Texan neighbors one time, as he and
another Texan looked over a strip of abandoned range land that'd
been tore up and left to barb wire entanglements and weeds,
"Uncle Sam will never know and appreciate how much good range
John B. and a few of us saved him from ruin."

Buffalo grass was half way back to its own when the railroad spur
to the main line wasn't used no more, and a short while later the
rails and ties was carted away, and even that grade would in time
be covered with buffalo grass again. The booming to come west and
farm on the rich prairie lands had long ago died down. The sod
busters that did stay and done well was them that moved down to
the river bottoms and farmed under irrigation and where they
belonged, not on range land.

John B. wasn't afraid no more of any sod busters crowding in on
him in anyway, they was cured. But to protect himself against  'em
he had a lot of deeded land which he had to pay taxes on and now
could of leased without fear of anybody edging in. To that, John
B. figured that the protection he'd had was well worth the price
of the taxes. For without that deeded land his range might of
been tore up and left to weeds plum up to his door step, like the
country to the south of him. As it was he had good range, as
nature intended it to be and he'd kept it that way, no time
over-grazing it.

But now there was more expenses besides taxes to hold his range
in the good shape it was. Other ranges being in poorer condition
on account of the crowding sod busters, cattle got to drifting on
his, and he seen that instead of putting on more line riders to
keep  'em off, the only thing to do would be to build line and
drift fences. There was miles and miles of them built, some as
long as twenty miles at a stretch, and he had to keep the line
riders just the same, to keep the fences up and to bring back or
take out any stock that broke thru.

It was about then when Austin begin to take holt on the Seven
Xs. He'd gone to school of winters and then, for the fun of it,
he let his dad send him to college, but he couldn't learn to read
brands there, how much percent of a calf crop he could expect on
different conditions and ranges, how much a steer weighed on the
hoof by a glance at him, nor a lot of other things he was
interested to perfect himself at. So, when he got back to the
ranch one spring he gave one more college yell and told his dad
that that was the last of it. From then on he put on chaps and
spurs and rode.

He rode and roped reckless for a couple of years and then he got
to his senses and settled down to real cow work, like graduating
from a fighting bronc to a useful cowhorse. He begin to notice
the drift and line fences, tallied up the expenses on that along
with taxes, wages, and all expenses of running the ranch. He seen
that the outfit was doing fine but that with more expense, for
the time, he could near double the returns on the cattle in a
couple of years, and keep that up, not that that was necessary at
all, but Austin had took a holt and he figured on making things
hum still better, if his dad would let him.

John B., being mighty pleased to see Austin take a holt the way
he did without a word from him, was glad to let him "go to it."
Austin went to it. First he bought two carloads of registered
white faced bulls to take the place of the most average bulls
that had been with herds, then he hired a ranch foreman that
would have nothing to do but ride from one Seven X ranch to
another and see other foremen with men under  'em about putting up
the hay and keeping the ranches up in shape and in good running
order. The ranch foreman had no say about the handling of the
cattle, just the ranches. Austin, with his straw-bosses, took
care of the cattle.

With that going on, and while John B. shook his head and grinned,
Austin layed out a plan for cross fences in parts of the range.
Some more big expense, but with the cross fences there'd be more
than double use of the range, at the right times of the year and
so it'd be less apt to be overgrazed in one place and not touched
in another. The cattle could be graded and divided as to where
they ought to be, and that way more stock could be run at less
risk and, of course, to a bigger profit.

For a couple of years, John B. rode like he was afoot. Everywhere
he went on his range was something new and sort of strange. Some
things looked kind of unnecessary and even foolish to him, like
for instance damming the creeks at so many places and running
ditches along good side hills to carry water on the flats so more
hay would grow. He'd always had plenty of hay excepting for a
winter or two, besides he didn't believe in feeding range stuff
much, they get too fat and don't breed so good. They ain't used
to it anyhow and once they are used to it they beller at the
first snowflake and run for a haystack, sure spoils  'em from
rustling.

"Well," Austin would say to that, kind of cheerful-like, "I'm not
going to raise all horns like yours used to be and some still
are, I'm going to raise very little horn and all beef."

"Yeh," John B. came back at him once, "there might of been lots
of horn to my cattle, but they come thru places and times where
these things you re going to raise and which look more like a
cross between a hog and a rhinoceros than cattle, could take a
first step thru. Besides," he went on, "them long horns built
this outfit."

John B. was mighty sensitive about his longhorn cattle, just as
sensitive as Austin was proud of his thick bodied herefords. They
still showed the longhorn strain but that would in time disappear
with straight breeds of hereford bulls, and once in a while a
little durham. But with all the arguments John B. and Austin
would have about the old time cattle and the modern and different
ways of handling  'em and doing this and that, John B.'s
sensitiveness was only on the surface for Austin, and underneath
there was only great pride and gratefulness for his boy. It was
only hard sometimes for him to change from the old which he'd
made such a good go of, to the new which sort of left him a
stranger in the cow game, and to wondering. But he had confidence
in Austin.

Austin, too, was mighty proud of his dad, and in his arguments
with him he'd only smile down deep at his sensitiveness and
admire him for the stand he'd take. Austin would of liked mighty
well to 've run the cattle the way his dad had, but there was no
more free range now and a man couldn't take his herds and drift
to any country, find a likely range and say "I'll locate here."
The range was all taken up and controlled, the holdings marked
down in black and white and in the recorder's office. Range
boundaries wasn't guessed at by miles as in John B.'s time, but
marked down to within an inch by surveyor's monuments. There was
some big ranges, some taking in a hundred miles at a stretch, but
the owner knowed to within that inch where his boundary line was,
and inside of that line was his own.

It was up to the owner then, like in John B. s, or Austin's fix
to get the best out of what they controlled. There was taxes, and
to take care of on their range there was fences to build, hay to
put up and wages to pay, and so, to meet the higher cost of
raising cattle, the cattle had to be of a better grade, with more
beef on the hoof, and handled according.

There'd been no hay put up or fed to the cattle when John B.
first turned his first herd loose to range, nor for many years
afterwards, no fences, nor ranches, just a few cow camps, and no
ranch hands to pay wages to. The land was free to take or leave,
none to buy and pay taxes on, and none needed to be leased. It
was open free land, as free to the stockman as it was to the
Indian. John B.'s only expense was for a few riders and grub, and
if he sold his steers for ten dollars a head he made big money.
Now, with all the expenses on land, machinery and men, it cost at
least fifty dollars to raise a four-year-old steer, and to make a
little money, by the time that animal was delivered and sold to
market, it would have to sell for eighty dollars.

That was the way things was when Austin took a holt. John B.'s
four-year-old steers was only bringing eighty dollars. John B.
had a lot of money cached away and all was going well and he was
satisfied but Austin wanted to raise cattle for more than the fun
of it. It wasn't always fun.

But Austin liked it any way it come. It was his life, with the
spirit inherited from his dad and a natural born instinct at the
game. He would make a go of raising cattle the same as his dad
did of getting  'em and holding the range they run on. There
wouldn't be so many hardships for him maybe but he would have to
be a cowboy all the way thru just the same, know cattle and range
well, and his hardships would come with the times, which is often
worse than facing blizzards. He'd have to face blizzards too.



CHAPTER IV - Hard Winters and Dry Summers


There was good white faced stock on the Seven X range and
three-year-olds was selling up a hundred dollars and over when comes a
dark cloud heavy with rumors of war, the World War. Austin was
too busy riding to think of war or going away acrost the waters
only to get a black eye, but he was called, and turning the reins
of his horse over to his dad, he went to report. He hoped he
could take along his 30-30 carbine and 45 six-shooter with him
instead of having to use the awkward contraptions he figured he'd
be handed.

But the first awkward contraptions handed him was a pair of
brogans, fatigue shoes, stiff as wooden shoes and which fitted
him so he nearly had to step a yard ahead to feel the toe. Quite
a contrast to his neat fitting hand made boots. He bore the
uniform along, even if it did bind at the wrong places, like at
the knees for instance and where a feller needs the most freedom.
The wrapping and unwrapping of yards of cloth around the legs had
him grinning. "What," he often thought, "if a feller got real
scared and one of them wrappings come undone? he'd sure get
tangled up in the slack."

Austin didn't get to get acquainted with the army rifle much. The
first couple of weeks was only of him being herded with other
recruits to get shots in the arm, learning discipline, how to
salute, peel potatoes, and sing "Over There" of evenings. A few
weeks of drilling and target practice, and just about when he got
used to being only one in a herd, like the cattle he'd handled at
home, and herd-broke to turn or swap ends at a command, he was
switched over to Headquarters as a mounted scout. He was on
horseback again and some happier. But he was still happier and
near his real self when, as he heard that they was short of
riders to break horses at the remount and he applied to be
transferred there, his application was accepted.

Breaking horses with other good cowboys there (they had to be
good) struck him just fine to pass the time away. That's all he
cared about while there, to just pass the time away, for he had
no ambition to get anywhere in the army. His ambition was on the
range and amongst the herds he'd started building up.

He didn't get to go "across," he hadn't lost no cattle over
there. So, when the armistice was signed and, after near a year
in the army, it was finally time for him to go back to where he
came from, there was no medals or war decorations on his chest
for him to strut about, and even tho he should of been decorated
for riding some of the outlaw horses he did at the remount he
sure wasn't worried about that, all he wanted was to be turned
free and to be loose on the Seven X range.

The Seven X outfit and goings on there was about the same as
they'd been when he left. The folks all looked fine and was glad
to see him, and they hadn't changed, none but the youngest of the
outfit, June, who'd shot up some and was now riding on her sixth
year, freckles and all.

The war hadn't made as much of a dent on the Seven Xs as it had
with other outfits, but John B. had lost two of his best cowboys
to the cause.

"Damn shame, too," he'd said, "to have such good men and so
necessary to the nation go and get shot. You might get along
without gold but you sure can't get along without beef."

Austin erased one year out of his life and went on from where he
left off. He grinned some when he seen some bulls that should of
been culled out and replaced. His dad wasn't so strong for
breeding up a herd. But cattle prices was up, looked like they
was going to stay up for a long time and so Austin decided to
build up a thoroughbred herd and raise his own bulls. That was
another big expense. So was two percheron stallions for breeding
good work horses, and three morgan stallions to cross with light
mares and raise better saddle horses.

John B. shook his head a bit at that but his confidence wasn't
shaken any, and when three or four years later, Austin sold
enough bulls to make up for what he'd put out on the thoroughbred
herd, and some fine percheron colts took to the collar, and fine
morgan threes and fours lined out under the saddle, John B. felt
proud of his son's good judgment and ways of handling things. He
knowed that with his old time ways he couldn't of done near as
well.

Without a word from his dad, Austin had took it onto himself to
be superintendent of the Seven Xs, over every one there but his
dad, and went to work that way without any thought of wages or
what it might lead to. He kept what money he wanted from the
stock he sold, and used that money for what he needed, on the
outfit. He'd made it a point to ask for none that had been put
away and to spend no more in his buying registered stock and
improving the outfit than the returns from the sale of beef
steers would allow him. He was crimped some at first but it
wasn't many years when he handed his dad a big cheek every fall,
which was the over of what he needed. John B. would grin and
cache it away with some of the money he'd got from his very first
shipment and which had been accumulating ever since with every
shipment. His cache had been his cartridge belt at first, then a
tin box at the ranch, and now a big bank in a big town.

There was a string of years when all went as well with the Seven
Xs as could be expected with any outfit. One full round-up crew
of sometimes twenty riders and remuda of two hundred saddle
horses worked the range from eight to nine months every year.
There, Austin was wagon-boss and relieved by John B. when
sometimes he would have to be at some other parts of the range or
in town and taking care of things in general.

John B. liked them times when he was boss over his own men and
cattle again, and again sometimes he'd also welcome the sight of
Austin riding into camp when some new ways of handling the high
priced "hot house stock," as he called the well bred herefords,
stumped him. Then he was glad to ride to one side, roll a smoke
and watch.

But there was still more times, when Austin was left alone with
the round-up works that he was also glad to see his dad ride
back. For cattle, after all, is only cattle, and the sound advice
of John B. often came mighty handy, even with the bred up herds.

"I wonder if it'd hurt the little dears to dab a line on  'em,"
he'd often grin and ask Austin during calf brandings, "and gently
bring  'em to the fire to be marked with the Seven X on the left
ribs? not brand  'em, mind you, just burn the hide a little so we
can see the iron again next year."

John B. was always on hand with his rope whenever any such thing
was to be done, either roping or cutting out or riding circle. He
wouldn't hold a herd or a "cut" (cut out cattle) or stand day
herd, but he would get on night guard with the rest of the boys
if the herd was big and hard to hold, if it was stormy and the
shifts was doubled and long.

The old cow-boy was never lonesome while on round-up with his men
and herds, not even, as he'd often remark, "that he'd lost his
job." He was with the wagon from the time it pulled out in the
spring most always, excepting for short spells now and again,
until it pulled in late in the fall.

The routine of the outfit was so even along with the everyday
goings on that years rolled on, seemed like, without ruffling, or
graying a hair. The only marker of time was June who kept a-shooting
up rough and not getting any better looking. She'd been
sent to school a few winters and she didn't like that much, so
when she'd get back to the ranch she'd more than make up for it.
She'd be wearing overalls and boots, and on horseback or afoot
she'd be apt to bob up most anywhere, hair a-flying, a happy grin
on her face and looking sometimes like she'd rolled in the
corral.

She was thirteen when Austin near had to tie her down to take her
to school again when fall come, and he had to do a lot of talking
to make her realize that after all she was a girl, that it might
be all right for a man to be ignorant but wouldn't set so well
with a girl, and she'd better take her medicine.

June had started to take her medicine but not without making a face.

She'd stood it along all right but Austin come near upsetting the
cart when he come to town a month or so later and took her pet
school teacher away to make her Mrs. Austin Mitchell. That
teacher had been the only one that had made school bearable.
She'd only been teaching school two years and hadn't got to
strict ways as yet, and her and June had got along in fine shape.

June had near kicked over the traces when she thought of her
teacher going to the ranch and she'd have to stay in school and
study under a new teacher. She wouldn't like that new teacher,
she was sure of that, she wouldn't like her on a bet. But the new
teacher, very wise, and understanding June's spirit, soon enough
found a way to get a holt on the girl's heart strings. It was
with leather.

For June's weakness, specially while away from the home ranch,
was to cut up on leather and make things, and the teacher finding
that out had her play with different leathers and teached her to
make designs in carvings and such like at times while other
pupils was learning how to use the needle or hammer and saw. June
took to the carving pretty well, she learned to braid rawhide
too, while at the saddle shop after school, and by the time
spring come she'd made herself a pair of hand carved saddle
pockets, two belts, a headstall, a pair of spur straps and a
hackamore.

She'd got along fine with the new teacher that way, and in other
ways got to liking her a whole lot and listen to her well, so
well that when she went back to the ranch it came to her that she
might try to be more of a lady when next school term come. Some
dresses, she'd got to thinking, did look kind of nice, so did
high heel slippers, but high heel slippers wouldn't do so good,
because she'd ought to wear silk socks with them, and her long
winter underwear would bunch up at the ankles and show. Maybe she
could cut the long underwear off at the knee.

But she didn't worry no more about that when she got back to the
ranch. When she first got there she pranced around her ex-teacher,
now her happy sister-in-law, called her just plain Dot,
short for Dorothy, and proceeded to raise perticular heck in
general, and as before, around the old home ranch.

She stacked her school books in a dark corner of her bedroom and
picking up the leather work she'd done at school, she was soon
down to the stables and corrals, fitting her things on her horse
and saddle. And Dot, laughing most of the time at June's actions,
kept well beside her.

John B. and Austin was on round-up, but they'd make it for one
and then the other to be at the ranch more than usual, specially
Austin, and then specially John B., for that daughter of his was
a lot of pleasure to him and his wind scarred face always cracked
up into a grin the second he'd see her, or even when he thought
of her, most always with leather or a rope in her hands and a
horse at the other end of it. He was only afraid that she might
be trying to ride some horse some day that she shouldn't. He
caught her speculating that way a few times, and a couple of
times with her rope on horses that had to be snubbed to a corral
post before it could be taken off of  'em.

"You'll never be no lady acting that way," he told her once as
she was slapping the corral dirt off herself after a yearling
steer which she'd been trying to ride had throwed her off. "You
ought to be more like your mother and have manners and be sort of
refined, or like your sister, Dot, and act like you have
something else in your head besides horses and rawhide." He
somehow looked at Dot as more than a sister-in-law to June.

"I haven't got time and am having too much fun to be a lady just
yet, Dad," she'd laughed. "There'll be more than plenty of time
when that time comes."

June had a great time all that summer. She even took her one pole
teepee, and her and Dot went and joined the round-up wagon off
and on for a few days at a time. That went well with John B. and
Austin but kind of tough on the cowboys with their natural way of
talking, also tough on the soap, and the cook remarked he'd never
seen it disappear as it did that summer, nor had he ever seen so
many clean shirts.

Time for school, and June begin to recollect the intentions she'd
had the winter before, how to become a lady. She didn't know how
she'd like any teaching on that but the new teacher had seemed to
be interested and thought she should learn. So had her dad and
mother, and maybe everybody else too if they only could of said
so. Anyway, June figured, that learning manners and how to be a
lady wouldn't be any worse than the rest of the schooling, and if
she was going to take one she'd just as well take all and have it
over with.

Her dad took her to school that fall, and leaving her in the care
of Mae's sister he drove back to the ranch feeling that June had
seriously thought on the subject of being a lady. At least she'd
talked that way, and John B. was pleased.

When he got back to his range and then joined the round-up again
a few days later he found Austin busy cutting out good beef
steers for shipments. There was a kind of sorrowful look on
Austin's face.

"Dammit, Dad," he said after the cutting was done out of the
day's drive, "there's some two and three-year-olds in that cut I
sure hate to ship. All they need is one more year and we'd near
double the money on  'em. But I've got to ship all I can because
I'm sure getting overstocked. It's either ship or get more
range."

"ain't there some old or barren fat cows that you can ship in the
place of  'em?" asks John B., acting as tho he didn't know.

Austin looked at the herd, all well bred and uniform cattle and
not a barren or old cow amongst  'em. For he'd been getting rid of
them steady the last years so as to make room for the good young
stuff that came to replace them. They'd multiplied fast, and it
was hard to get rid of good young she stuff when it was near a
cinch all was in calf.

John B. looked at Austin and in a dry way says, "Yep. That's just
the way I've seen outfits spread plum down to Mexico, or either
overgraze and lose half their stock during winters, by hating to
sell young she stuff and overstocking."

"But it's the same thing about the young steers, they need
another year and I don't know whether to let them or some of the
fat heifers go."

"Let  'em both go. Cut down to the size your range can handle and
you'll have a heap less worry and a lot better cattle, also make
more money in the long run."

But, as many a good cowman has done, Austin took a chance. He'd
rather worry than ship any of the young heifers, and he also cut
back many of the two and three-year-old steers.

That winter was a good lesson for Austin. He worried a-plenty and
wished long before spring come that he'd listened to his dad's
advice. The summer before had been dry, the usual amount of hay
hadn't been put up and, as often happens, a pretty hard winter
followed. The winter and deep snows alone took ten percent of his
cattle, the bogs took another five percent, and the calf crop was
five percent lower than the average. Besides he had not a spear
of hay left over in reserve and in case the following summer was
also dry.

But the herds was cut down now, cut down twenty percent and to
where they should of been cut the fall before, at a profit then
instead of a total loss and worry. And that goes to show, Austin
had said to himself in remembering what his dad often said, that
no matter how much you know about the cattle game there's always
plenty more to learn. Other cattlemen had made the same mistake
that winter, but it wasn't altogether a mistake, it was more of a
gamble, like it is with most everything.

John B. didn't let on anything or say any "I told you so" as he
seen how things wound up when spring come. He had sort of
predicted it the fall before, and now he figured that the loss of
the cattle was well worth the lesson for time to come.

The lesson had went home with Austin in fine shape, and for fear
of another dry summer and then a hard winter following he
dickered for a good hay ranch and range adjoining the Seven Xs.
The price was high on account that cattle was high and hay was
scarce, and even tho the owner wanted to sell, figuring there'd
be no better time, he wanted to sell for all he could get. Austin
bought it and even tho the price was steep he felt better.

"And the first thing you know," John B. had said to that, "you'll
be spreading out with more ranches, maybe making more money but
only bringing you more troubles and cares and you'll be riding a
desk chair and getting gray headed figuring out things instead of
riding a good horse and airing your brain."

But Austin wasn't going to spread. He'd grinned and said he
wanted that ranch for his boy.

John B. had squinted at him. "How do you know it's going to be a
boy?" he'd said.

And it was a boy. It came and let out its first holler just a
little while before it was time for June to go to school again
and there was great rejoicing on the Seven X home ranch. John B.
was now a granddad and he was as proud of the little parcel of
humanity as Austin and Dot was, and made more so when the couple
decided to call him John B. John Byron Mitchell, right after his
own self.

"But what do you want to buy a ranch for the boy for?" John B.
had asked Austin afterwards, "ain't there enough room and range
on the old Seven Xs for him to romp on?"

"Yes," Austin had answered, "there sure is, but there's calves
that need room to romp on too. I want to keep the cattle to the
number they are now and I wanted to make double sure I could do
that by getting that extra ranch and range."

Austin made mighty good use of the ranch he'd bought, and being
the summer had not been much better in moisture than the summer
before the hay that was cut off the place helped considerable.
He'd had the thoroughbred herd held on the range there too, also
some steers to be shipped that fall. It was also a good place to
hold and feed weaners (weaned calves) thru the winter, and all
put together the place would pay for itself in a few years if the
prices of cattle held up and Austin didn't overstock.

Austin didn't overstock. He kept the herd to the size it had been
cut down to, and regardless of a little sacrifice he shipped good
cows and heifers, and even a few steers that should of been held
another year in order to hold the herds down to the size to fit
the range.

It helped him some too when he begin to ship his steers when they
was long yearlings (year and a half old) instead of three and
four years old. There wasn't so many steers to hold over from
year to year then, and he realized he should of done that sooner
but it was hard for him to get to that. For he liked nothing
better them to see big four-year-olds, and he'd been just as hard
headed in wanting to hold steers over that way as his dad had
been in hanging onto his longhorns and cross breeds. The other
stockmen had been shipping their steers when long yearlings for
quite a few years.

Austin done that gradually, and when the time come he was
shipping straight yearlings his she stuff had accumulated until
the herds numbered the same as it was before, and with the high
price of land and the raising of cattle, he done better by
feeding his weaner calves during one winter and shipping  'em the
following fall, than he would of by holding  'em until they was
three and four.

Austin was lucky. The prices of cattle held up and even went
higher for two or three years more, and he figured that the ranch
he'd bought, as he'd said for his boy, had well paid for itself
in many ways, and he still had it, like to the good.

Then come the year when Wall Street met its Waterloo and the
crash come (1929). Cattle went down, but not so low until the
next year. They was to come down still more a couple of years
later, and yearling steers that had brought ninety and a hundred
dollars per head was doing well to sell at thirty.

That was the doings of the depression after the crash of course,
but the stockman had to contend with more than that. There was
three dry years in John B.'s country, and then come the drought
(1934), a real dry year with swarms of grasshoppers and crickets,
and when what little grass come curled up and went back into the
ground, if the insects didn't get it first.

Springs dried up that John B. and other old timers had never seen
dry and thought never would dry. Cattle died by the thousands
from thirst and starvation in most every range state, and with
the prices of them being so low the stockman felt pretty
discouraged, for stock cattle that couldn't be bought for sixty
dollars per head only a very few years before, now couldn't be
sold for twenty. Nobody had any feed to give  'em.

The government stepped in then, the first time, it seemed like to
the cowmen, that it had ever gave them a thought. It had before
thought only of and been for the sheepman and farmer or anybody
that cut into their range. When finally come the cowman's turn to
get help, the government bought millions of cattle out of the
drought stricken states at an average of thirteen dollars a head,
good cattle and needing water only and grass. There was
government slaughter and packing houses put up here and there and
the cattle was put into cans for keeps.

The cowman was helpless. He couldn't fight the hot winds and keep
the springs from drying, nor the swarms of insects from covering
his range, and rather than see his cattle die he sold out for
what he could get, and the government was the only buyer.

Some sold more than they should of for fear of the coming winter,
with no grass and no hay up. For, excepting in irrigated parts
there was hardly one ton could be cut on the same land that
twenty tons had been cut off of only a few years before. Some
cowmen practically sold everything and took a chance of keeping
only enough she stock to start a new herd. It was a good thing
they did.

Many dryland farmers which had somehow raked up a living before
had to turn tail and quit too. Then come rumors that a lot of
such farmers was going to be put in regular farming country where
they belong, and the country they'd tore up and left to weeds was
to be turned back to grazing land.

That sounded good, mighty right and sensible, said many a cowman.
It should of been done thirty years before and the farmer not
allowed to come on the range in the first place. But better late
than never, and it's good that the value of range is at last
appreciated as valuable for range only, and not worth anything
for farming.

The Seven X range didn't suffer as much as most ranges, and not
at all as compared to some ranges of other states. No cattle
starved or suffered from thirst on it, and instead they stayed in
good shape and made beef, Austin was glad that he'd kept his
herds down to the size his range could handle, also glad again
he'd bought the ranch and range adjoining. As it was, he seen
where he could winter his stock without fear of much loss. He had
quite a bit of hay from the years before and some grass, and when
fall come he cut his herds down some more, shipping all of his
yearling steers and even some fat cows which he hated to part
with. The price he got for them was like giving them away as
compared to what he'd got for the same stuff just a few years
before, but he didn't want to be caught with so many cattle and
so little grass and hay if a severe winter come. He'd had one
lesson that way.

It felt good to skins and hides when finally fall come with its
cooler weather. The Seven X riders was busy shifting herds so as
to make use of what feed there was before winter come, and June,
at the home ranch, was piling things in her wardrobe trunk
preparing to go to school some more, college now, and in some big
city a couple of days ride on the train.

John B. and Mae hadn't given up on her education. They was bound
to make a refined lady of her in spite of herself, and being game
to what all her parents wished, she made a hand of herself and
took her medicine.

But June was now a lady, as perfect a little lady as one could
be. She'd long ago lost her spindle legged kid ways, and even tho
she was still married to saddle leather and horses and sort of
made her home in the stable and corrals, she'd manage to come to
the table at meal time without too much corral dust sticking to
her. She'd even quit saying "Goldern," "dadgum it" and such
words, when there was anybody around, and even tho she still rode
reckless and happy she carried herself like an all around little
lady, and rider.

And to the surprise and pride of all, she growed to be a good
looking girl too, a mighty good looking girl. It seemed a
miracle, like she'd stuck her face in a perfect mask form and
come out with it all regular that way, freckles and rough skin
all smoothed out, and with her boughten manners she could of sit
down as a queen where all other queens would of had to stand and
pay honor.

But she didn't lead or break no records at any special thing
while at school or college. She just sort of skipped over things
and barely managed to make time grade at times so she'd be
allowed under the roofs of education. The last year or two, and
to kind of get her interested in sort of elevating things, Mae
had talked her into taking fashion designing. That would get her
in higher circles maybe, and to mingling with that kind.

Mae had talked to John B. of her secret ambition that sometime
June would meet up with some nice young man of good family and
high standing and then marrying that kind. That ought to be easy
enough with a girl like her, she thought.

It would of been easy enough, June had said when she got the hint
of that, but she couldn't get interested. "Take  'em away from
their parents, care," she'd said, "and they re like a new calf
away from its mammy, only more helpless."

The talk and education of such kind was of abroad, everything was
of abroad, and June would say when she'd get peeved "what the
hell is the matter with the U. S.? It's good enough for them to
make their money in. But they don't even know their own country.
Some think the West is still wild and woolly, as they call it,
and over-run with buffalo and Indians, and others say that it's
all cut up in little plots and farmed, and that there's no more
range or cowboys. What ignorance for educated people. They might
know a Rembrandt or a Whistler or a Poe, and all about Vienna or
Monte Carlo and foreign lands but they don't know much of Mark
Twain, and never seen the sun rise on the bad lands. They ve
never been deep in our Rockies and still they say that the Alps
has got them beat, because it's only fashionable to go there.

"Give  'em a horse and point to a herd and they wouldn't know 'sic
 'em but give  'em a straw in a glass and some cake and they can
sure make a hand of themselves."

"But they re not all like that," her mother had interrupted.

"No. I will say that there's some good and worth while young men.
I've met and got to know some, but, I don't know, they just don't
seem to know or talk my language. They re not my breed, and I
can't get interested."

Mae had just looked at John B. at that. She hadn't said anything
but her eyes had done that a-plenty in hopelessness. John B. had
just shook his head and grinned to himself.

"But you like fashion designing, don't you?" her mother had
finally asked.

June had laughed a little. "Fairly well," she'd said. "I have
made some good designs for riding skirts and jackets."

Then John B. sort of cleared his throat. "Too bad," he'd said,
doing his best to look serious. "Here your mother and me had
planned on sending you to Europe to really finish up on your
education and carry on with your designing and sort of see the
world."

That had near took the pins out from under June. She'd sat down
on the edge of the porch, and without saying a word looked away
acrost the valley to the mountain ranges. When she'd finally
spoke she didn't look happy.

"What am I," she'd said, "that I have to be sent away to places I
don't care for and stuffed with education that don't mean two
burned beans to me? Then to be exiled in moth-eaten foreign
countries when I want to be here, where I belong and amongst all
that's my life?"

She'd stopped for a minute, then looked straight at her dad. "My
heart is as much here as yours is, Dad, and how would you of
liked to 've been sent away to college, let alone foreign parts,
when at my age and as you started to build this outfit? I have
something to build too, my life."

"But you re a lady, June."

"That's no fault of mine," she'd said, "and that's no reason why
I should be made to suffer for it."

There'd been no more said on the subject, and when June went to
college again that fall, John B. and Mae hoped that with the
simmering of all that had been discussed she would see things
their way and agree with  'em. John B. wasn't so strong for
punishing his daughter that way, but Mae had made him think it
would be best and most worth while for her, and that in time she
would get to like more refined things and ways of living and
would thank them for what they now was doing for her.

John B. was of course mighty anxious to see her have the best in
life and he would do all he could towards that, but he was mighty
doubtful of any highfaluting refinery ever taking her away from
her home on the range. He couldn't picture her mincing words and
cookies and doing a lot of nothings.

June had been gone only a few days when a good rain come. It
lasted for days, then cleared up warm for a couple of weeks, then
come two more rains separated only by a day, and when it cleared
and turned warm again the country greened up and grass growed
till it looked as good as it had the spring before. It was a fine
long warm fall and the ranges came to life and relieved the
stockmen of considerable worry for the winter to come. Trees
begin to bud and leafed out some in middle November and there was
a few spring flowers blossomed out.

John B. had never seen such a fall, and he warned his wife not to
mention anything of the weather when she wrote to June, or that
girl might be apt to quit the college flats and hit for the ranch
on a high lope.

The round-up wagon stayed out until December that fall. The
weather kept clear and the grass growed some till near Christmas,
then it come cold, with a little snow. The coldest of the winter
didn't come until after New Year's, and then, when it usually was
thirty below it only got down to fifteen. There was little
flurries of snow but no stock had been fed on the Seven Xs as
yet and there was still quite a bit of standing feed (grass).

The winter stayed open that way, and even tho the stockmen was
relieved of a hard winter they now feared a following dry hot
summer and crickets. The Seven Xstock was in good shape and some
near prime beef could of been shipped out of the herds right at
that time. February was good and warm. Then March come along,
like a lamb at first but it soon turned out like a lion. One
heavy snowstorm come and covered up the range with a white
twelve-inch blanket. Austin done his first feeding of the winter.
Then the snow melted away and another storm come, and before it
melted there come another one. And Austin kept on a-feeding, for
there was hardly any more grass left and what there was was
buried under snow.

But he was happy to see the ranch hands feeding the stock good
hay. For with the storms there was promises of a good moist
spring and summer ahead and the long drought being broken. The
ranges of Western and middle Western states being all cleaned out
of surplus cattle the summer before threatened a shortage of beef
and stock cattle and prices had already gone up to near double of
what they'd been the year before.

"And," John B. had said, "they re going to go up some more too,
I'm thinking. Stock cattle can hardly be bought right now, and
lucky is the man who was able to hang on to his. People has got
to eat, and there's nothing can take the place of beef when
you re hungry and when you re not."

That's the way things was with the Seven Xs, now the old Seven
Xs, as we first seen the two cowboys, Sol and Gat pulling bog,
and the day's work and their talk of the evening in the bunk
house was the average goings on of that time with them. Still
riding the old range that many a cowboy had rode before  'em, and
that old range still in one piece after it had been disputed for,
and fought for, from the time of Indian spears, and other breeds
to the plow share. Old John B. had held it against all. Now him
and Austin would hold it against drought and depression, strikes,
floods, and rumors of wars. People would have to eat beef to
stand up, even if they did mill around like a crazy herd, and
with his seventy-five years, John B. could still ride a-plenty
and keep on producing cattle, minding his own business and
letting the rest of the world go by. He was a lot more than doing
his duty by that world.



CHAPTER V - Spring and Round-Ups


It was another middle afternoon and it was a fine day this time
as Sol and Gat was returning to the ranch from their daily ride
of the bogs. The skies had cleared just a couple of days before,
and even tho there was still snow on the ground it was melting
fast under the warm sun, and the cowboys got their first whiffs
of what really smelled like spring air. It was April.

"You'd better sniff good while you ve got the chance," says Sol,
seeing Gat sticking his nose up in the air, "because I'm thinking
we'll be sniffing some more snow again before long. I feel like
we re going to have a wet spring."

"I hope so," says Gat, "and that you have to pull bog and get in
the mud every day for talking like that when it's weather like
this."

The two had been pulling bog for over three weeks, not a job that
any cowboy likes much, but on this day it had all been fair, the
bogs like with the weather, and Gat didn't have to get off his
horse and get in the mud to help or pull a critter out, not once.
There was few cattle bogging down now because most of  'em was
being fed and away from boggy places.

The ground was slippery under snow. The horses slipped and slid
on and off trails, up the low rise near the ranch and down into
the swollen creek near the corrals. The swift running water was
near to the saddle skirts at the crossing there.

Riding into the corrals and to the long stable, Old John B. was
there, just a-tinkering around with a marlin spike and some whang
leather and looking down country over the corral bars every once
in a while.

"Haven't seen anything of that boy of mine anywhere, have you?"
he asks as Sol and Gat rode near.

By "that boy of mine" the riders well knowed who he meant. It was
that little light haired boy of Austin's, young John B. He was
now called just Johnnie, and along with other names which went
according to his actions he was also called "the spoiled colt of
the outfit" by old John B.

Young Johnnie, now near ten years old, had gone out riding just a
couple of hours before noon time, that is, his saddle and the
horse he used had disappeared about then, like it often would,
for he'd sometimes take a streak of going riding by himself and
without saying a word to anybody. Nobody worried much about that
because Johnnie was a good little rider for his age and he was
too wise and used to the country and stock to get into any jack
pot or mix-ups of any kind.

But he was usually pretty good getting in at mealtime, and this
day he hadn't showed up. Now it was middle afternoon and he still
hadn't showed up. Old John B. was getting fidgety.

"Want me to go hunt for him?" Gat asked.

"No. I'll just wait a while. He'll most likely show up any time now."

The riders unsaddled, turned their horses in the feed corral, and
went to the bunk house, to stretch out and prepare to even up for
the noon meal they'd missed. Old John B. stuck around the stables
and fidgeted and kept a-looking down country where he figured
Johnnie had went.

He'd just about decided to saddle up and go hunt for him when,
taking another look around, he seen a small figure coming slowly
acrost the cow pasture and packing something. After a while he
seen it was Johnnie packing his saddle, and Old John B. felt
relieved even tho wondering some how come the boy to be afoot.

As Johnnie came nearer, John B., peeking thru the corral bars,
noticed that the boy was sobbing, and in a very much hurt way.

"Well, what the samhill now, Son?" says John B., climbing over
the corral to meet him.

Johnnie, sort of caught by surprise, stopped his sobbing. He
didn't want to be seen doing that. He didn't seem to want to
answer either, or talk in any way.

Old John B. left him be. He knowed what had happened but he
wanted to know how it come about, but as he heard the boy sobbing
again in a dark corner of the stable he just waited his time and
thought of ways to soon make him forget his hurt.

After a while, Johnnie, red eyed but over with his sobbing, came
near his granddad who'd been waiting for him by the stable door.
John B. didn't ask no questions, just squinted at the boy and
smiled like in sympathy. Johnnie could talk now.

"Old Badger," he says, getting straight to the point. "He died."

"Just like that?" asks John B.

"Yes, just like that," says Johnnie as he snapped his fingers.

"Well. I'm glad to hear of that in a way. I was afraid he might
of broke a leg or got crippled up somehow. I'd sure hated to had
to shoot that old pony."

"No. I was just riding him along at a walk and looking around
when he just sort of quivered a bit and went right down under me.
I think he was dead before he hit the ground."

Johnnie came near breaking to sobbing again, but he caught
himself and after a while went on.

"I stayed with him a couple of hours thinking maybe he'd come to,
but he didn't move a muscle from the time he went down. It was of
no use I know because his eyes was glassy, he hadn't drawed a
breath and his ears was cold. But it surprised me so that I
couldn't believe it. He'd felt so good all this morning and till
he dropped."

As Johnnie stopped talking, John B. asked him, "You didn't over-run
him or get him too hot, did you, Son?"

"No," says Johnnie, "I hardly took him out of a walk. I did run
him a little to move a few head of cattle that had broke into the
horse pasture but that didn't turn a hair on him."

"Well," says John B. after a while, "he was a pretty old horse,
over twenty, I know, and he died just like the good cowhorse he
was, packing his rider well till the last minute. He had to go,
his old heart just quit, and I'm glad to see him go that way,
fat, sound as a cricket and feeling good to his last breath and
no hurt when the end came.

"And now," he went on, trying to ease Johnnie's hurt, "don't you
feel bad, that pony is in horse heaven now, on tall grass, plenty
of shade and water and with no work to do, not even pestering
flies to swish his tail at." Then, to turn all thoughts away from
Badger, he says, "And I suppose you forgot all about that little
black horse I was going to have broke for you this spring."

Johnnie came to life at that and his eyes brightened. "Oh no I
haven t," he says, "I sure haven t."

"That's good," says John B. "I'm going to have him started right
soon now and you better be thinking of a name for him, because
you'll have to name him yourself, you know. In the meantime you
can ride Chub. He's good and gentle now and a young enough horse,
and even if he don't savvy the cow as some horses do, I think
you'll get along with him and like him fine."

That pleased Johnnie very much. He'd long ago wanted that horse
and once asked his dad for him, but his dad had said that the
horse wasn't safe, that he'd buck.

That would of been all right with Johnnie but his dad couldn't
see it that way. The buck had been taken out of Chub since, and
now his granddad said he could have him. That was all that was
necessary, for he figured his granddad, John B., to be the
supreme boss of the outfit in everything and everybody concerning
it, and Johnnie was happy.

April wore on with Sol and Gat and Lou and Hie and other Seven X
riders riding bog while ranch hands played nurse and carted hay
and water to the stock that had been chilled in bogs before being
pulled out on high and solid ground. A few would never get up,
then some that did would go right back, like the fool cattle they
are, and bog right down again in near the same place they'd been
pulled out of.

But, considering the wide marshes on creeks and big springs, not
many cattle was lost to the bogs, and soon enough, with rains
that come, water got to running instead of standing to seep in
marshy places and there was a solider bottom where the cattle
come to drink. The snow had all gone, grass was growing and
cattle was strong. Riding bog was over for that year.

Cowboys was getting restless all over the range from staying in
one camp every night and riding the same country every day, and
they was glad to quit riding bog and gather at the home ranch to
start on horse round-up. Half a dozen riders from different Seven
X winter camps and ranches gathered there, the others would stay
at their camps and go on riding line on the cattle that had been
turned back on the range until the round-up wagon pulled out for
calf branding.

The old home ranch was very busy preparing for the spring works.
The head ranch foreman and his foremen was around with their
ranch hands and right on hand with the divvying up of the work
horses that was run in off the range for the summer's work. The
horses had run on the range and not not been fed one pound of hay
during the whole winter. No horses was ever fed or needed to be
fed hay or grain on the Seven Xs, none but the few winter horses
that was kept up and used steady, and many old saddle and work
horses didn't know what grain was. But there was many horses,
none was overworked, and living natural as they was, always
outside and most of the time free on the range, they lived to old
ages and stayed sound and in good shape the year around.

Hundreds of horses was run in, and even tho it was always planned
to turn the horses out in the fall so the saddle and work horses
would run separate and not mix with the stock horses (mares and
colts), the range they run on was open and being it was more
fitted for horses than cattle on account of it being rough and
rocky and kept pretty well for horses, they would naturally hit
for where they spent their colthood days and was raised, and
there they all mixed up pretty well. When the mound-up work and
shipping would be all done in the fall and the remuda was turned
loose on good range to winter, most of the horses would hit back
for their country. Broncs and well broke cow horses would get
there to find their mammies with another colt which had been born
while they'd been away and run in for work on spring roundup.
Some old saddle horses would sometimes find their mammies getting
decrepit and with no colts, and sometimes they'd be missing,
their bones gone back into earth.

It was the same with the heavier work horses, of course, and with
all the kinds of horses mixed up that way, big bunches had to be
run in in order to separate the saddle and work horses from the
stock horses That can't be done on the range like with cattle,
for it would take a lot of running to single a horse out of a
bunch, and if it could be done, he couldn't be held separated.
He'd be sure to break back, so they had to be run in by whole
bunches and corralled where they was separated from one corral to
another and another, then each bunch had to be taken out one at a time.

Few of the saddle and work horses would stay on the range they
was turned onto when the summer's work was done, for, on account
that over half of the Seven X range was still open, without cross
fences and very little drift fences, they was free to roam to
where their instinct called  'em inside of that range They didn't
care or try to get outside of it, for on that range was where
they was born and raised. Besides, all the natural runs out or
into that range was pretty well closed with line fences.

But sometimes bunches of outside horses would stray in over
mountain ridges or acrost deep washes and down steep rims. There
was quite a few such stray bunches amongst the horses that was
gathered. There would also be many stray cattle seen when round-up
started, and Austin figured strong on sometime fencing the
whole range around tight, also putting in some cross fences to
keep the horses on their right good ranges during winters, and
from mixing.

Austin had already done quite a bit of such fencing, but it was
mostly around the ranches and on meadows, and he figured he
should do quite a bit more, and acrost the range.

The only thing that had kept him from doing that was the size of
the range and the big expense of the work. For the Seven X range
was no little one, and with the ranch and range he'd bought ten
years or more before, it was now sixty miles long and over forty
miles wide, taking in big creeks, two ranges of mountains,
foothills with a spring in near every draw, rolling country, big
strips of bench land, and flats ten to fifteen miles at a
stretch. A big river cut deep and acrost one end of the range,
leaving about one-fourth of it on the other side. That river made
a good cross fence, but it was more of an impassable barrier at
times when it was high and ice floated down it during spring, and
at its lowest, all stock wanted on either side would have to be
swum across. The closest bridge was a couple of hundred miles away.

There hadn't been much thought as to the size of the range when
John B. first brought his herd to the country. He only wanted
plenty of room and there was plenty of it at the time. It wasn't
until other cattle and horse men come that he begin to line out a
boundary and to holding the range inside of it. His herd had
multiplied so that according to range laws, made on the range and
without interference of politicians, he had a right to it.

Now there was more cattle run on the Seven X range than John B.
ever run before, but the putting up of hay by the hundreds of
tons and quartering the range so as to get full benefit of it, is
what made that possible. There was now near twenty thousand
cattle on the Seven X range and close to a thousand horses. That
was the number Austin and John B. had decided to keep running,
and being now that they was shipping steers and yearlings, and
holding  'em over only one winter instead of three or four as
before, there was more cows, and the calf branding averaged up to
about eight thousand head a year.

So the old Seven Xs is a pretty fair sized outfit and keeping
right busy pretty well the year around. Austin was more than busy
himself and seen the time when he had to put one of the old boys
as cow-boss over the whole herds, also a bookkeeper that could
ride and keep tab of things on ranches and range, and mark  'em
down on books, and for income taxes. Austin had plenty to do just
overseeing the whole spread. He was near as much in a car going
here and there as he was on horseback, and when he went on
horseback he now rode good sensible cow horses and not wild-eyed
snorty broncs like he used to like to ride. He'd long ago got
over that stage and he'd sometimes shudder at the thought of the
horses he'd rode. But there was work for him to do now, and that
couldn't be done along with wild and reckless riding.

And old John B. had had it sort of easy as a fairly well silent
owner. About his only comments on running the outfit was when his
advice was asked or when, seldom, he seen thru his long years of
experience, that a mistake was being made.

He didn't go to jumping around from here to there in no
automobiles. He'd leave the crazy speed to the young folks, as
he'd say. He hadn't missed them contraptions in his life, a good
horse had been plenty fast enough and a lot could be done with
him. And you'd be sure to get there too, rain or shine, mud or dust.

So, he sort of lived his life the way he was used to and like
the king he was. He was happy with the little kingdom he'd built
and which his son was adding touches onto. He was happy with Mae
and the whole family, comfortable and still mighty hale and
hearty, and even tho there was little, very little, ruffles now
and again with June or Austin that was life and all interesting,
and he was mighty proud of them and the good spirit they showed.

And in his tinkering around, as he called it, riding when he
wanted to and doing what he wanted to do, seeing calves grow into
beef, grass greening up and good herds grazing in good feed, it
all seemed mighty complete and to his liking. He couldn't ask for more.

The horse round-up took the riders to different camps and ranches
on the Seven X range. John B. and Johnnie went along, one by
force of habit and interest, and the other by force of curiosity,
also a heap of interest, and when that round up was over, the
work horses divided to the different ranches and stock horses
turned loose again, the remuda was put into a big pasture, there
to stay on good feed for a while and until cattle round up and
spring branding started.

Getting back to the home ranch, the round-up cook now had given
up his job to another at the cook house. He had the chuck wagon
close by and with brush and broom and a bucketful of hot lye
water, he was scouring away at the chuck box and cleaning it up
after the winter's accumulation of dust and dirt. He was making
it ready for the round-up works which would soon start. Kettles,
dutch ovens, skillets, tin dishes and all was scoured, put where
they belonged and made ready, also all parts in the wagon where
grub and beef would be kept for the hungry cowboys that would
come a-riding in between rides on circle and work on branding.

Such a sight as the round-up cook puttering around and getting
the chuck wagon ready that way is always a sight to gladden the
cowboy's heart. The cowboys might be just as glad to see the home
ranch buildings and corrals when fall comes and the last herds
are being handled under cloudy and snowy skies, and all on the
ground is muddy and stiff with cold, socks are frozen and bedding
is damp, after standing long night guards and all. But somehow
with the sight of the chuck wagon being made ready there's a call
to drift. It means spring, the topping off of the horses that
haven't been rode since the fall before and now shied off slick
with green grass. It means the rounding up of big herds, the
branding with the whistling of ropes and the smell of burning
hair, the bellering of the cattle mixing in with the riders
joking, while the showing of skill in riding and roping goes on,
for every once in a while some horse "breaks in two" (goes to
bucking) while roping, some bronc.*

* Unbroke range horse or one just started.

Anyhow, with all the goings on with the round-up wagon and outfit
and works, the company of many other riders, the happenings, most
always on new range every day and new camp by night, all go
mighty well with the spirit that's in the makeup of every cowboy,
and it takes long months of that, averaging three changes of
horses and sixteen hours of riding out of every twenty-four, and
the fall storms to come down a-howling around him, before his
thoughts begin to meander towards the shelter of the long bunk
house at the home ranch or some dirt-roofed log-walls of the cow
camps.

May come and "the wagon" was ready to pull out. "The wagon" was
made up of three wagons, one for grub and kettles and all that
goes for the round-up cook's uses, along with his roll of bedding
and belongings, also maybe the round up boss, bed roll, and a
mess tent. The cook drove the four horse team on that. Then there
was the bed wagon which carried not much more than the cowboys
bed rolls and few belongings, also the big coiled cable for use
as rope corral. That was drove by the "nighthawk," the rider who
herds the remuda at night. The moves of camp are pretty quick,
not often taking over a couple of hours, and the nighthawk can
sleep all the rest of the day. A move of ten and fifteen miles
would be made in that couple of hours, for the wagon teams was
put to a trot when possible, and sometimes to a lope.

The third wagon was the wood and water wagon. It comes in
necessary when making dry camp on the middle of some big flat
where no wood or water can be had for the cook and men. Such
camps are made pretty well on the move. The cook's flunky drives
that wagon.

With what's called "The wagon" also takes in the remuda (the
saddle horses) which is drove from camp to camp and taken care
of, herded and corralled by the wrangler during the day. There's
an average of ten horses to each rider and that's what goes to
make up the "remuda," or "cavvy" (caviada) as it's called in some
states. The horses are corralled three times a day, at meal times
and for a change to fresh horses for the riders.

So, when a cowboy says he's going to join such and such a wagon,
that's the kind of an outfit and works he's getting into, amongst
plenty of other riders, horses, cattle and work, day and night,
and where there's no unions or strikes. A cowboy just has to be a
cowboy to fill the place, that's all.

With the starting out of "the wagon" from the home ranch there
was quite a bit of goings on. Horses and cowboys was in every
corral, the spooky teams was harnessed and hooked up by the
cowboys, the cook handled the "ribbons" (lines), and as the
pilot, the rider taking the lead to the camp grounds, gave a sign
the whole outfit started out like it'd been held down too long.
The three wagons followed one another, then came the remuda of
two hundred saddle horses hazed by the wrangler to follow the
last wagon, and flanking the whole outfit was eighteen riders,
some still having it out with the fresh and kinky horses they was
riding.

Old John B. watched the outfit go. A right pretty sight, he
thought. He was proud of that outfit, and he had a right to be,
for there wasn't anything half ways or barb-wiry about it. The
men, horses, wagons and all was sound and true, and he could of
put it up with any outfit on any range for works and looks and
not took second. He'd kept the outfit up to old time standards
and when the cow game was adjusted and in running order, and when
the cowmen got to really knowing what all would be needed, not
over the necessary, to make up a real round-up spread. All was in
place and there was a place for everything on the wagons. The men
had the rules with their work which they would know if they ever
worked for a well run "wagon" on any outfit, John B. had that
kind, and not a word of an order needed to be told  'em.

Things seemed mighty quiet, dead quiet all of a sudden as "the
wagon" left. There'd been the bustling of getting everything and
horses together for the start, then all at once, it seemed like
"the wagon" topped the low rise on the way out of the ranch and
all disappeared over it.

John B. rolled a smoke and looked around, like as if he'd of a
sudden woke up alone and in the middle of the desert. Looking
towards the corrals he seen Gat there fooling around with a
little black horse, and Johnnie by the stable watching.

He then looked towards the house. The women folks had been
standing on the porch there while the outfit started out, but now
they was all inside, and but for the smoke coming out of two
chimneys the house looked deserted. Austin had also gone in the
lead with "the wagon."

But old John B. felt all at peace. He would join the wagon later,
and now there was something for him to attend to at the ranch.
There was the breaking of horses to be started, and then, being
there was considerable stock around the ranch which would need to
be handled, and some shoved to other ranges, him and his two old
pensioners, as he called Lou and Hie, and who had stayed behind,
would be busy for quite a spell. By that time maybe June would be
back, it would be June by then.

And that reminded him. He'd have to send Gat after a certain
cowboy by the name of Rod Sothern to help with the breaking of
horses, and if he remembered right, June had acted as tho she a
little more than liked that cowboy when he'd been at the ranch to
break a few horses a couple of years before. John B. liked
Sothern and he would of kept him at the ranch more if it hadn't
been for that. But that couldn't be helped now, for many of the
horses in the remuda was getting old, some would have to be
pensioned and replaced, and being there was many good young
horses now of age to be broke that would have to be done, and
Sothern would be needed for that.

There would be a good bunch, more than had been broke in one
summer on the Seven Xs. There'd be near a hundred from four-year-olds
on up, and he figured on Sothern and Gat of doing the job breaking
 'em. Sol had gone with the wagon.

The good reason John B. wanted Sothern was that he'd never seen
any man break horses as much to his liking as he had. That cowboy
had long ago done his wild riding on broncs and settled down to
teaching  'em something instead of trying to find out how hard
they could buck, and the broncs he'd started a couple of years
before had most all "finished" (broke in) as well behaving
horses, some of  'em getting to be top cowhorses.

Now, with this bunch of good broncs corning up, the makings of as
fine a bunch of saddle horses as any man could want, John B.
wanted good men to start  'em, and there's where Sothern would be
very necessary. Gat would be a good man too, they'd be a good
team. Besides, as John B. got to figuring, he would like to see
if June had changed the last two years, and it would be a good
chance to find out with Sothern around and in the corrals.

Sothern had rode for John B. off and on for quite a few years,
sometimes hitting plum down to the Mexican border of winters and
then coming back in the spring. Besides knowing how to break
horses well, and being from New Mexico, there was other things
John B. liked about Sothern, he was always on the job on time and
a good all around cowboy. "Too bad too," John B. often thought,
"if he was the right good man he is and not a cowboy, I might let
him look at June, but, as old Lou would say, cowboys are born so
derned free. It's hard for  'em to settle down in one place and
make a home, and that way it's also hard on the woman that
marries one sometimes."

Gat was gone for a couple of days, found Sothern at one of the
Seven X cow camps and came hack with him and his bed and "thirty
years, gatherings" (belongings) on a pack horse. Sothern was glad
to get the summer's work of breaking horses, for he liked that
better than any, he didn't think of the bigger wages it would pay.

The broncs to be broke had already been gathered and separated
from the others during the horse round-up and they now was in a
handy pasture with only a few broke saddle horses, and there was
work going on again as the first bunch of broncs was run in to be
broke.

Little Johnnie had very much wanted to go with the wagon when it
started out, but that would be a mighty busy outfit and no place
for kids, nor anybody else that don't know the work, for no
matter how a feller, new to that work, might try to keep out of
the way, he's most always doing something to be in it, and he's
of no use in any way. Johnnie was sort of lonesome while Gat was
gone. He didn't care to ride with his granddad and old Lou and
Hie, they was too finicky about ways of handling cattle and all
they talked about while riding was old times. If he could of rode
with his granddad alone that would of been different.

But he was made happy again when, after Gat got back with
Sothern, they went to work at breaking horses. The little black
which his granddad had given him was of course the one first
caught again, and being that Gat had already started him and
broke him to lead he went with breaking him from there on.

Sothern had caught another horse, the first one he looked at
before he let his loop sail, and Gat helped throw him. A strong
halter was slipped on that bronc's head, then he was let up to be
hazed into another corral where he was tied high enough so he
couldn't paw over the rope that held him. That was the start of
breaking  'em to lead, and all of the twelve horses in the corral
was tied up that way to get their head fighting over with. Later
on they'd be taken one at a time and pulled on one way, then
another, till they would get to understand what was wanted of  'em
and would lead up.

The first saddling came on another day, after all the twelve
horses got to leading well, and at that first saddling is where
Johnnie was "Johnny on the spot" in watching the goings on.

Gat took Johnnie's little black and started to take the rough off of
him, and that black, even tho little but still plenty big enough for any
good man, was mighty wild and so wiry as to make it interesting for the
cowboy. He was quick as a flash and bounced here and there like an
antelope.

But ropes, in the hands of a man who savvies how to handle  'em,
have a way of holding such horses down to earth, and soon enough,
Gat had the little black's front feet tied together. Then a big
soft rope was tied around his neck, loose like a collar, a loop
was made with the rest of that rope and as the horse stepped in
it with a left hind foot that foot was drawed up ahead and raised
just a couple of inches off the ground and so he couldn't kick
much with it, or put on too much action with the others, then the
hobbles was taken off his front feet.

Gat took more pains with that little black horse than he would of
with an ordinary bronc. He wanted him to turn out good for
Johnnie and he'd grin sometimes as he'd see that kid watch his
and the horse's every move like a hawk.

First he proceeded to "sack him." With a gunny sack in his hand
he came towards the little black, and holding his head so as to
face him, he begin to wave and swish the gunny sack around that
pony's front legs. That little horse liked to blowed up at the
first swishing of the gunny sack around his front legs. It was a
mighty scary looking thing to him, and about all that kept him
from slamming into the side of the corral and maybe jerking away
from Gat was his hind foot being tied up and hindering his
action.

Gat kept a swishing the gunny sack kind of easy like and come a
time when the little black, seeing there was no hurt to it, sort
of stood his ground and only flinched. Then the sack was
gradually brought up to swish on his chest, up along his
shoulder, that way along his back till finally the swishing of
that sack around his hind legs didn't faze him much. He seemed to
even get to enjoy it, like the swishing of his own tail.

After a while the saddle was brought on. The little black spooked
at that some more, but the education of the "sacking" had sort of
helped that way. Gat let him smell of the saddle good, then,
along with the gunny sack, like as to let him know the saddle
wouldn't do him no more harm than the sack did. He slipped it up
on his back without a saddle blanket underneath. There's seldom a
saddle blanket used on first saddling because the bronc is not
rode long enough.

With the gunny sack still playing, like a sort of a blind, Gat
reached for the cinch, and as the little horse felt it come up
under his belly he put on some more action. But Gat knowed that
would come and he held the saddle in place. For a bronc can easy
be spoiled by having him throw a saddle off at first saddlings.

By easy moves the cinch was brought up again, the black had
quieted down after his last acting up, and then the latigo (cinch
strap) was put thru the cinch ring and drawed up, not tight, just
tight enough to hold the saddle in place.

Gat tightened it up some more later as he prepared to ride, and
as he did is when the little black bogged his head and sudden,
and even tho handicapped with one hind foot tied up, he done his
at bucking. What he couldn't do in action he done in bellering.

That over with, Gat let the foot-rope loose, and while the horse
still didn't know he was free on all fours, he stuck his foot in
the stirrup and eased in the saddle, so easy and light that the
horse hardly spooked at him a-setting up there on top of him. Gat
got down off of him and then back in the saddle again without the
horse moving, just watching. So was Johnnie.

Gat looked at Johnnie as he got off the horse once more. That boy
was tense and his eyes was plum round. The cowboy pulled up his
chaps a little, pulled his hat down hard, and grinning at
Johnnie, he says, "I'm going to move him out of his tracks now.
You watch close and see how much you can see of him after that."

Gat eased in the saddle again, the little black stood still, just
looking back at him, then reaching along one of the hackamore
reins he pulled the horse's head to one side.

That seemed to act like a match to fire works. The little black
didn't turn to the pull of the rein, he just jerked his head plum
down near to the ground, let out a beller, and at the same time
his body came up like as tho he'd been standing over a back
firing pile driver which shot him up and sort of twisted him out
of shape up there.

As Johnnie had been told to watch and see how much of the horse
he could see, it come to him afterwards that he'd seen all of
that horse in every shape and every angle, up high and spinning
and down low, squatting, but that he hadn't really seen the horse
at all. It was only a whirling, snapping, too-quick-for-the-eye-to-see
mixture of steel coils wrapped in black horse hide, then
chap and jacket leather which sure must of helped some in
keeping Gat together. How that cowboy wasn't scattered all over
the corral was past Johnnie.

That was the first saddling. After the little hunk of black
dynamite held his head up again, went to trotting around the
corral, and Gat stopped him and got off and on him a few times to
make sure of no more bucks in him for that time, he got off of
him, unsaddled him and tied him up in another corral. He would
picket him out on grass later.

"Well," he says to Johnnie as he rolled a smoke, "I wanted to get
the buck out of that horse, that's why I didn't move him out of
his tracks before I got on him, and I guess that some buck came
out sure enough. But I think he's got plenty more where that came from."

"And I just thought of a name for him, too," says Johnnie,
grinning a little "Whirlwind."

"Whirlwind?" says Gat, also grinning. "Why you couldn't of
thought of a better name for him. That sure fits and identifies him."

In another corral, Sothern was on his first saddling on a second
bronc. That cowboy hadn't checked up on his work only when Gat
and the black was having it out, and he'd grinned satisfied at
such fine work from both horse and rider.

He hadn't had no more trouble with saddling and riding the first
bronc as could be expected with any ordinary bronc The second
one, and as horses do, acted a little different but no more
wicked, just a good natural amount of fighting and bucking. They
was good broncs, and with such men as Sothern and Gat to break
 'em they would turn out to be fine horses, the likes of which
would tally up mighty well with any good judge of such.

The horse breaking went on in fine shape, and to John B.'s great
satisfaction. Johnnie's little Whirlwind horse had never bucked
no more after that first saddling. "Queer about some horses that
way," Gat had said, "but I guess he must of got it out of his
system all at once." And as it was the little black had took to
the rein like a natural one, and the same with what little cow
work was done with him. "He's a whirlwind in everything he does,"
Gat had said.

The first string of broncs well started, a cowboy rode in from
the wagon and took them away to be divided up amongst the cowboys
there and go on "finishing up" on round-up and with cow work.
Then another string of fresh broncs was run in for Sothern and
Gat to go to work on.

The cowboy from the wagon said everything was fine over the
range, cattle all in good shape and new calves was showing their
little white faces most everywhere. There would be a lot of  'em.

John B. sent a note to Austin by the rider that he might be along
to join the wagon in a few weeks, that all was going fine at the
home ranch, how him and Lou and Hie was riding steady enough, and
the stock was all where they belonged around and outside the
ranch. That Johnnie would soon have a new horse and all the
wimmin folks was getting fat and sassy.

So, all was going well that way one fine day, and as John B. and
Johnnie was on their way from the house to the corral after a
good noon meal, and too much pudding for Johnnie, a long streak
of dusk soaring high, and looking like it was being stirred a
mile a minute, appeared over the little rise on the way into the
ranch. John B.'s natural thoughts was that of a bunch of fast
running horses. Then he heard the purr of an automobile and about
that time a long nosed blue roadster showed up on the rise, came
down and hit the creek with a big splash which scared all the
broncs in the corral.

The car stayed there, in the middle of the creek. For the creek
was still high and the fast pulse of the motor had been stopped
sudden by the water.

There was two persons in the car, and as it was stalled it didn't
stop one person who, letting out a glad war whoop, jumped knee
high into the water and splashed the rest of the way acrost to
come up a-running and laughing to where John B. and little
Johnnie was standing, too surprised to move. That splashing and
happy person was June, June herself, and home quite a few days
before she had been expected.



CHAPTER VI - Longhorns for Keeps


Somehow the old home ranch sort of woke up from its sleepy peace
and came to life with a quiet and happy smile as June first
splashed in on it at the creek crossing.

John B. was just surprised and derned happy all over to see her,
and he didn't stop to wonder about her coming home ahead of the
time she was supposed to until his wife, Mae, sort of brought up
the subject a couple of days later, only in a smiling and
interested way. She'd kind of suspected and hoped that June had
come home earlier so as to maybe prepare for a long trip abroad.

But June hadn't no more than got wind of that from Dot when she
put a stop to her parents, high ambitions and worries as to her
future, and one fine evening, as she found her mother alone with
her dad in his office room, she couldn't of found a better place
and time to speak her mind and ease theirs once and for all time.

They both looked as tho they expected her to speak as she came in
the room. That made it still easier, and smiling, she started in
without any preliminaries.

"I just as well have it out," she begins. "I just packed up my
things and left college without waiting to hear that I would not
qualify for a diploma this year, and I'm not going back there
again nor to any other college. I'm not going to Europe either. I
can eat frankfurters and spaghetti right here if I want  'em, and
be comfortable doing it, but I'd rather have beef any time, and
if I'm going foreign I'll take to tamales and tortillas as my
first choice.

"But I doubt if I'll even go to our little one horse town unless
I get hungry for a bowl of chile and need some winter underwear."
She kept on smiling and went on, mighty serious under her smiles,
"I'm going to stay right here on these grounds. You won't need
any fences to hold me in and I won't drive off, or be bought off,
or bribed off, with any crown. My crown is going to be a high
crown with a wide brim that can take honest sweat and stand the
weather. So you'd better forget about making any plans for me,
and instead get used to having me around, because I feel that my
city contracted bones and brain need relaxing and I will have to
be here a life time to get back to normal and stay that way."

With that she bowed an ending and walked out, like a colt that's
just shed off a saddle and going thru an open corral gate to open
country.

Mae watched her daughter walk out. She'd been so surprised she
hadn't been able to speak. She'd just sort of stared, unbelieving
and now, after June had gone and she turned to look at John B.,
his head was down, seeming mighty intent on rolling a smoke. He'd
seldom ever looked at a cigarette as he rolled  'em before, and
she suspicioned a smile on his face.

"What do you think now, John?" she asked, feeling alone and like
needing sympathy and help.

John B. looked up, and only had to laugh at his wife's worried
look. "Why," he says, "I think it's goldurned fine."

Mae come near crying or getting peeved at that or both, then John
B. came near her.

"Yes," he says, serious, "we ve both done our best and failed.
We ve failed in one way but we ve won more than we ve failed in
every other way, Mae. She's happy here, we have her with us and I
think we should be very happy too."

"I guess so," says Mae, trying to smile. "But she could be so
much and she has such a great chance, it's a shame to waste it
all."

"But she's not wasting anything at all," says John B. "Happiness
and contentment is what counts. That alone is the greatest
success any person can have, I think. It's not medals or diplomas
or gold that makes a person happy, it's the every day life the
way that person wants to live it, and that person is successful
if he or she succeeds in doing that whether that he or she is in
the limelight and swamped with laurels, or a so-called nobody."

"Why, John B.," says Mae surprised, "how you can talk."

John B. laughed. "Yes," he says, "I figured that out long ago and
from watching big fat four-year-old steers. You don't see them
getting gray headed over any worldly worries."

Mae also laughed then. "No, but they miss a lot in life."

"So do we. We all ought to know a heap more than we do. But I do
know one thing. I might have a few millions, yachts, limousines
and mansions, swallow tails and evening doings every evening, but
I would only starve at that, shrivel up and blow away, starve for
just what I've got right here, and the life I'm living. The same
with you too, Mae, and I think we ought to understand and admire
June's stand more and be very happy about it. She's happy enough
here to be classed as what might be called right successful, and
let's not spoil that."

Mae didn't spoil that. The more she thought of what John B. had
said about what all went to make up success, the more she got to
realizing how true that was. She also thought of worth while
success along with a person being happy and contented but, there
again, she got right back to where she started because first a
person, according to John B., would have to be happy and
contented to be successful and other successes would have to jibe
along with that, if not there wouldn't be no real success.

It all simmered down to one thing, that a person who is happy and
contented is really a successful person any way you looked at it,
with or without brains, ability or ambition. June had a full
share of all them, and they was with a strong leaning to the
ranch, as much so, if not more, than was with Austin Her love was
for the life of it, and nature which she admired and wanted to be
in the thick of whether it was sleet and slush or sunshine and
blossoms She would be happy, very happy.

And now that it was all settled and June had made herself plain,
Mae seen for sure that it would only cause disagreements to bring
up anything beyond the boundaries of the home range, and as she
resigned herself to that she somehow felt relieved, and then also
happy. It came to her how she'd missed her daughter and how she'd
looked for her letters, how she'd sacrificed her love and sent
her away to try and make her what wasn't in her to be, an admired
and successful young lady on a pedestal. June was an admired and
successful young lady on a pedestal, but her pedestal was most
always a saddle or corral bars, and even tho there wasn't many on
hand to admire her, them few made up for thousands of others with
their appreciation of her and understanding.

It had made June very happy to see the attitude her dad and
mother had taken after her straight to the point talk with them.
That had surprised her too, for she'd expected  'em to act at
least a little disappointed with her, but it had been just the
opposite and they seemed to think more of her than ever before.
There was no more feeling of chasing her off, instead it was all
for holding her now, and keeping her near them.

June didn't stop to wonder at why their attitude, she accepted
and enjoyed for all it was worth and went her way free and happy.
John B. had just went to his work with a satisfied look on his
face and said to the breeze, "Well, that's settled," and rode on
also happy.

As he rode on now and again, he'd seen her down at the corrals
pretty often, watching Sothern and Gat at breaking horses, and
he'd at first wondered about her and Sothern again, but he gave
that up with a grin and shrug of his shoulders.

"What the samhill is wrong with her liking Sothern?" he asked
himself. "I guess I ought to be glad she takes up to his kind
because he's sure not worthless. He's of her breed and both have
a religion which sure don't need no preaching to."

Everybody thought it was fine to have June around, and to stay,
and wherever she showed up faces somehow broke into smiles. Her
and Dot having some same likings and ideas, was often seen riding
together or, while in the house, worked on things together when
Mae would often join them.

The cook, Isabel, would even sometimes join in at whatever might
be going on. But as she'd get in the kitchen and sometimes hear
them laughing and enjoying themselves, she'd get to feeling
unnecessary there with three women, two much younger than herself
and one about her own age, doing nothing much but a little house
work and enjoying themselves while she done the cooking for all.
And now that she'd heard that June would be at the ranch to stay,
that made her feel all the more unnecessary there, with them
three women that could easy do all the work.

She kept a-thinking on the subject until she sometimes layed
awake at night. Then one day, while the three women was out on
the lawn and she heard John B. come into the house and going to
his office room, she headed him off and cleared her mind on the
subject.

"I've been working here a long time, Mr. Mitchell," she begins,
"ever since your first wife died. I took good care of Austin and
everything in general about the house. I was needed then, but I
got to thinking lately that since June is here to stay and
there's three healthy women here now, you won't be needing me any more."

John B., sort of surprised, didn't get no chance to speak before
she went on.

"Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Mitchell," she says, placing her hands
on her hips. "I'm not quitting and you won't fire me. I've been
here too darned long and I'd be lost if I was to go away any
place. Besides I have no place to go to. You can cut off my wages
if you want to, but I'm staying right here, and I thought I'd
just tell you in case you have other ideas in mind."

John B., relieved, begin to grin. "Are you thru now?" he asked.

"Yes," she says, sort of waiting to hear what he'd have to say
about it.

"Well, that's good. But it's too bad you had to worry about being let
go. That wasn't at all necessary, even if there was ten women around
here. You was hired to cook and take care of things that way, and it
shouldn't be any of your worries as to who is in the house and what goes
on. Your work is in the kitchen and minding your own business there, and
taking interest is what I appreciate. That's what you re working for and
not to wonder about our doings, and as long as you get your wages you
should worry only about your work. You'll get a heap further that way.

"Now forget about me letting you go, I have no such idea in mind.
Just don't burn the roast or put salt in the sugar bowl and
everything will be fine."

Isabel now sort of wished she hadn't said anything, but she was
glad to have things off her chest and settled. "Thanks, Mr.
Mitchell," she says, "and I'll do my usual best."

She turned and went back to the kitchen, and as John B. looked
after her he rubbed his chin, and grinning, says to himself,
"Daggone these wimmen. I think I'll hit out for the wagon for a
while."

Austin rode into the ranch a few days later and that gave John B.
a good excuse. He'd take his place till he got back and he would
tell him not to rush back.

Another day and he'd caught up with the wagon. The work was going
on right along, and the outfit had just well started with calf
branding. There's where old John B. was happy, at roping and
bringing calves to the wrasslers to be throwed and held down for
the branding. The time seemed like no time and it was good to be
on roundup again. He'd seen a lot of house Since the last time
he'd unrolled his bed on the ground when night come, to feel the
cool night air playing around his ears, see the twinkling stars
and the depth of the sky, all in cahoots, seemed like, to make a
feller feel mighty little also glad and peaceful to be just that
and alive.

After all winter at the home ranch or under a roof every night
wherever he might go, John B.'s first night at the round-up camp
was always more than enjoyed. The good old usual talk of the
riders that was kept up near the fire until dark, then the
gradual dwindling away of  'em till only two or three of  'em was
left to talk low for a spell, and them also getting up after a
last cigarette to find their tarpaulin covered soogans for a
quick sound sleep. Then all quiet excepting maybe for a coyote's
howl or the hoot of an owl, a critter bellering away off in
the distance, the nicker of a horse from the remuda along with
the faint sound of bells on a few of the horses.

On his first night with the wagon that way, that all would always
stir John B.'s memory to thinking many years back, of happenings
and goings on, even to the times when he was in Texas and rode
with the first herds, when he'd left his home down there at the
age of fourteen just to be a-roaming, and many things from such
times on up until such as that night when he'd be laying there on
the sod, looking up at the stars, and listening to little
soothing familiar sounds.

He's laid awake on his first night with the wagon, enjoying the
backtrail of his memory that way until riders got up, went to
their picketed horses and rode out to stand their guard on
"graveyard shift" (midnight) around the herd that was being held
to be shoved on to other ranges for the summer. There was always
herds being held and moved along with the round-up and there was
guard to be stood most every night from the time the wagon pulled
out in the spring till it pulled in late in the fall.

John B. heard the relieved riders ride back from the herd and hit
for their soogans for the rest of the night. That reminded him of
a lot of things too, and he finally went to sleep thinking of  'em.

The nights was short, but it was not daybreak yet when he was
woke up by the sound of the cook grinding coffee in the coffee
grinder fastened to the chuckwagon. Most cowboys always heard
that, and even tho it was a mighty early sound, it sounded good
to them, because it meant that they could sleep some more, for
over half an hour, and there'd be strong and hot coffee for  'em
when they got up.

John B. then heard the crackling of the cook's fire and he turned
over in his bed to look at it, and the light on the busy cook,
the chuck wagon and pots. It was sure good to look at and the
sight reminded him of many days of hard riding that had been
ahead, now past. He'd seen them fires when it was quiet-like and
warm as it was that morning, then a wild "norther" would come a
few hours later and freeze some cattle and horses before night
come. That had been in Texas. He'd seen them fires quiet-like
again when the men in camp slept with their boots and cartridge
belts on, six-shooters handy and a hand on their rifles, ready
for raiding Indians and other breeds. Then again he'd seen them
fires when sleet or rain or snow would pound the blaze into the
earth or scatter it over the country. But there'd be another
built, and he didn't remember when there was no coffee so long as
there was coffee beans in the sack.

The fire reminded him of a lot of happenings that way, some sad
and many funny. It reminded him of a lot of riders too that he'd
knowed, like with the sound of frying meat and potatoes, the
grating of dutch oven lids, the pot hook dropped on the rack and
all, made them riders parade to his vision as with tin plate and
cup they made the round from one pot to another and then to the
chuck box to season their grub more, and then scatter out for a
place where they squatted cross legged, there to talk very little
because there's so many points towards a cowboy to be the first
thru eating, to catch his horse and be ready to go, specially of
mornings.

It was just getting daybreak when the cook broke thru John B.'s
thoughts with his morning's holler. "Roll out. Roll out, you beef
guzzlers, and come and get it before I burn it up."

There was stirrings here and there and rustlings of canvas on the
scattered tarpaulin covered beds, mumblings and snorting, and
hollers from the livelier. It was only a short while when the
cowboys begin to hit for the creek, there to splash good cold
water on their faces, rub dry and then amble for the chuck box,
coffee pot and victuals.

Old John B. was right along with the "drags" (slow ones). He was
taking his time, for he'd done a life time of riding and now he
could afford the time to breathe and take in what he enjoyed.

The remuda was drove in and corralled by the nighthawk as the
riders was having the first meal of the day. Then the wrangler
relieved him soon as he was thru eating and took charge of the
horses for the day.

Soon the cowboys, thru eating, about fifteen minutes time for a
good cowboy, was headed to catch their "circle horses" for the
morning's ride. (Circle horses are not good cow horses, they re
mostly just good tough drifters, a few reprobates and some broncs
just started, as Sothern and Gat was doing at the home ranch.)

According to John B.'s good old time round-up rules of well run
"wagons" only two riders was allowed in the cable rope corral at
a time to catch their horses. The orneriest broncs was roped from
the outside of the corral by a rider already on his horse, and
brought out with the help of the saddle horn where the cable was
let down, the gate which the wrangler manipulated.

John B. always keeping a few good horses with the remuda, as well
as at the home ranch, and them horses being very much respected
that way by the cowboys, wasn't short on good horseflesh when he
dabbed his "line" (rope) on a little brown bald-faced horse which
he called Cortez, one of the few southern blooded horses which
he'd managed to keep breeding in spite of Austin's idea of better
saddle stock, which, according to John B.'s ideas, wasn't as good
and didn't get to savvy the cow so natural. The little bay,
Cortez, was sired by a strain of the first horse that hit Mexico
and then America, and which had been brought over on a boat from
Spain by a Spanish conqueror by the name of Cortez. John B. was
mighty proud of riding horses that was of the blood of the first
ones that touched Texas and American soil.

He wasn't much in the drags to roping and saddling his little
bay, and not at all in the drags to be on him and ready to go.
But most of the cowboys had anything but gentle horses to saddle
and top off, and John B. just sat in his saddle and watched the
goings on.

That's about all he'd do on his first day at the wagon, just
watch the goings on. He would go along when the wagon-boss would
take the lead for the morning's circle (round up of cattle), and
he might even take the "inside circle" (shortest ride, and for
men on broncs not as yet hardened in). He just wanted to sort of
enjoy the feeling of not doing anything only what he wanted to do
and maybe make a fair hand of himself while just moseying and
turn a few bunches of wild-eyed critters to "drives" * headed for
the "cutting grounds." *

* Driven herds.

* Where the herds are held for cutting out or branding.

John B. wasn't to giving any orders to the wagon-boss. He was
there as just one of the boys, only with the privilege to do as
he durned pleased, and if he did say a word as to the works, it
was when the wagon-boss asked him, for it's never wise to meddle
with a foreman's work if he knows that work. If he doesn t, fire
him or keep him for a pet and get one that does.

There was the usual bronc fighting with the early morning
saddling up, just daylight. There was some broncs that would
never gentle, and with them always a few older reprobates that
sort of livened things up in good shape with the starting out on
the circle. The boss started out with John B. alongside of him,
and then the riders coming along in rows of three or four. Nobody
riding in front of one another excepting on narrow trails, for
that's bad range riding manners to cross or ride in front of
another rider. It's more so while driving a herd.

The riders was quite a few miles away from camp when the sun came
up over far away ridges. A few more miles and the boss and John
B. rode up on a high pinnacle overlooking quite a bit of country,
and there he stopped his horse and looking around him begin
"scattering the riders." Most of the riders got off their horses,
as is usual at that time, and reset their saddles, aired their
ponies'* backs and cinched up again, prepared for the ride to be
done.

*All horses are called ponies by cowboys in some countries, even
tho some of them "ponies" might stand up to six feet at the
withers and weigh over twelve hundred pounds. The average good
sized saddle horse on the range weighs ten-fifty or eleven
hundred pounds.

"You, Idaho and you, Triangle Dot take to the upper Squaw Creek and the
Wild Horse Springs above there." The wagon-boss was scattering his
riders, by twos and to comb that country and shove all cattle there to
the cutting grounds near the round-up camp. The cowboys on the wagon was
pretty well all named after the states or locality they came from or by
their actions and appearance, like Spooky, Hungry, Hippy or such like
names. There was no questions asked as to a man's name or past, all that
counted was how good a hand he was, and the present, and that's how come
the nicknames was fastened onto  'em, like Sothern. He went along by the
name of Soapy for a long time on account that the first day he rode for
the Seven Xs there was dry soap in his ears which he hadn't got to wash
out. Another went by the nickname of Highpockets on account of him being
long legged and the height of his hip pockets being so high off the
ground. One went by the name of "Splafoon," a made up name for feet, on
account of his feet being big. Something kind of rare amongst cowboys.

The "reps" (representative riders for neighboring outfits who
joined the wagon to gather and get their outfit's stock back to
their own range) went pretty well by the names of the outfits
they worked for. In John B.'s earlier times the reps wore
"blabs," a piece of stiff leather tied to their necks, something
acting the same as the "dog tag" for our soldiers during the
World 'War, and on that piece of leather was cut or burned the
main brand of the outfit they represented. That being in plain
sight they would be called by the name of the brands they was
packing, some sort of cut short. There was Lazy Two and the name
was cut to Lazy whether that cowboy was lazy or not. There was
Mill for Mill Iron, Ox for Ox Yoke, Bear for Bear Paw Pool
outfit, and so on. Of course, this was with different northern
outfits but the names of the Seven X riders and reps went along
about the same that way. The reps was seldom ever known by any
other name than the brand on the blab they was packing, and the
Seven X men was also seldom known by their regular names until
time a check was made out to them when fall come and round-ups
was over. Then it was of course necessary for the bookkeeper to
ask for their names so the checks could be properly marked down
and cashed. But in the books their nicknames was also entered and
their regular names seldom got out.

The Seven X wagon-boss himself was named after a horse. The horse
wore a hat brand and being he was on that horse when he first
rode onto the Seven X range he was called after the brand his
horse wore, Hat, and Hatty later on. His regular name, according
to the time books, was Halleck Jones but after twenty years on
the Seven Xs he was still known only as Hatty to the country and
the riders there.

Hatty scattered his riders by twos until all of the eighteen of
 'em had their territory to ride and comb down to the cutting
grounds. Then watching 'em go, some of 'em topping off their
ponies a second time, he turned and looked around at John B., the
only rider he hadn't "scattered."

"Well," he says, getting off his horse and looking at his saddle,
"I don't know where to send you, John B., unless it's back to the
shade of the chuck box at camp and rest your old bones."

"Old bones yourself," says John B., snorting out a cigarette and
rolling another one. "Why, you old hat rack, I'll ride the
outside circle with you any time and get to camp to bring you
stretchers to ride on the rest of the way."

"All right then, you old buzzard," says Hatty, grinning as he
pulled up on his latigo, "go fall to pieces and mosey around any
daggone way you please. I'll ride acrost the drives a bit and
I'll see you with a plate on your knee near the chuck wagon, if
you can ride that far back."

"You'll be there ahead of me and still there after I'm thru
eating, you old drag," says John B., as Hatty got on his horse.

He grinned as he watched the old cowboy ride away. "Durn his hide
anyway," he says to the breeze after him. "I couldn't duplicate
him in a thousand years."

John B. got off his horse and squatted down on the knoll. The
little bay, Cortez, smelled of his hat brim and looked acrost
country, like the conquistador he was named after.

Circles are made mighty fast, on high lopes and runs, and soon
enough there begin to appear dark dots of cattle in bunches and
coming out of coulees, draws, and timbers to show up on ridges
and run down onto "sags" (slopes), where the bunches get into
drives to be turned by riders there and headed for the cutting
grounds. Every once in a while John B. would hear shots in the
still morning air. The shots was from the cowboys, forty-fives,
they was "Smoking" the cattle out, scaring 'em out of their
hiding places in the brush, and Cortez, his ears perked towards
the sounds, snorted sort of low, as tho to say he'd like to be
there to "pop" the cattle out of the brush. He would stick his
nostrils close to John B.'s hat brim at such times and no words
was ever made any plainer.

Outside of appreciating the low snorts, John B. didn't pay much
attention to Cortez, for his was just good cow-horse talk asking
him to ride on. John B. wasn't wanting to ride on, and he sort of
pacified the little bay by reaching back and putting a hand on
his ankle. Them was understanding nerves.

As the cattle, bunch after bunch, was smoked out and their tails
popped in hitting for other bunches and then drives, like for
protection in numbers, John B. just hardly puffing on a cigarette
for watching, Cortez snorting on his hat brim and looking on, it
all looked like too pretty a sight to spoil with a stir. John B.
sat on his spurs and watched. He seen Hatty's dust cut thru above
the drives, make a big circle and take the outside. "A cowman,"
says John B. to Cortez.

The dust of stirring up the cattle from bunches to drives soared
high, the soaring of it and all headed for the cutting grounds.
John B., knowing the works so well and how that dust had been
stirred and how it come to settle on the tails of the drags, just
sat on his spurs some more.

When the dust of the drives had gone with 'em, John B. looked
back at the country that had been rode and combed out of cattle,
and as pretty and green as it was, it gave him a sort of desolate
feeling, for, to a cowboy, a good cow country without any cattle
in sight strikes him like a ghost country, something dead.
He seen a coyote trotting along at a distance and that animal
sort of made John B. feel more that way, as tho that animal was
making a sure cleaning up of the leavings in that country.

But that was just a thought, for most of the cattle rounded up
would be turned back on the same range after the calf branding
was done. He stood up. He would catch up to one of the drives and
ride on into camp with it. Then as he looked the country over
once more his farseeing eyes spotted two dark specks, looked like
critters, but acting wild and which had been wise enough to hide
at the sight of the first rider and sounds of shots and then came
out to investigate when all quieted down.

They'd come out of a brushy ravine, and as John B. watched their
actions he got to wondering as to what they was. They reminded
him some of the wild stock which he'd run on this range many many
years ago, and the watching of their actions set him back to them
times.

With such good old time spirit in him, John B. thought of playing
it to the limit and get the most out of it he could. He didn't
get on his horse on the tall pinnacle because, while happy in
playing the part that them two specks was really wild cattle,
they would see him from that distance and hightail it for the
brush again. So, he led Cortez down on the blind side of the
pinnacle. Then he got on him, skirting around the pinnacle and
towards where the specks of what he played to be sure enough wild
stock was, being careful of not having them see him first.

John B. didn't ride on in the lower foothill country, he rode up
a long draw to where the first timber took root, and amongst
that, to where he could see well below. He was well hid from
there, and he rode on till he figured he was just above the "wild
cattle." Then, as he came to a clearing and there was only a
narrow strip of scrub pine to a good view of the country below he
rode into that, and looking thru the last of the piney branches
he seen a sight that made him doubt his eyes.

For below him and as he'd judged the "wild cattle" would be was
two of sure enough wild cattle and holding up the finest heads he
had ever hoped to see, even in the years while he was in the
thick of such kind. They was the longhorns, and a better spread
and color with the shape that packed them long snaky like horns
would more than match any imagination of such kind. And seeing
such kind, after his trying to get used to the modern white faced
stock was like a miracle had just been performed, like the dead
and what was history come back to life.

The little bay, Cortez, seen the cattle thru the pine limbs as
quick as John B. did, and he stood in his tracks, as quiet and
watching as John B. sat in the saddle. The sight of the longhorns
was new to Cortez but there was a sense of kin to them, for them
cattle was descendants of the same breed that had been brought
along with the horses of his breed and all together dumped
overboard to swim ashore from the ship that had brought them from
Spain to Mexico some four hundred years ago. They was the start
of the first cattle in America. They'd got wild and spread north
into the Texas prairies and there's where our longhorns came
from, the same breed of cattle as the two John B. was now staring
at, unbelieving. They re what's called the "Mossy horn" or "Moss
back" of the brush countries of the south and they re mighty wild
looking when coming out of the thick thorny brush and as cutting
thru little clearings they head on for more thick brush with
filmy long strips of moss a-streaming from their long horns and
onto their backs. They'd get that moss going thru the thick brush
and from the low hanging live oak limbs. To the north, the Texans
who'd took 'em up trail sometimes called 'em Yaks (Yaguis),
Sonora Reds, or buckskins.

It was like being in a dream for John B. to see the two
longhorns. He'd heard some of his riders say how they'd seen such
cattle now and again, but like ghosts, and for only a mighty
short glance, and he'd only half believed it. For he figured that
with Austin's upbreeding of Herefords, and his and the cowboys
steady riding, there'd sure be no more of his kind, John B.'s,
left, the longhorns.

From where him and his horse was hid in the jack pines he was
less than a quarter of a mile from the critters, and the air
being clear and the sun being bright, he could near tell how many
rings was on their horns. From their size and well developed
shapes of the animals he figured they was at least ten years old,
and how they missed being brought in on round-up in all that time
was now no mystery to him. For, looking at that steep, rocky, and
brushy country they was running in he seen that a big herd of
them could scatter out and hide, and if they was wild and wise
enough nothing of them could be seen but their tracks by watering
places. The two John B. was now watching had been plenty wild and
wise enough and dodged roundups, or Austin would had shipped 'em
long ago.

And John B. wouldn't of seen 'em now, only they'd come out of
hiding to look around and satisfy themselves that the rounding-up
cowboys had done their work for that time and wouldn't have much
fear of seeing any more riders for a long time to come. And no
rider had ever hung back and just sat on his spurs and watched as
John B. had.

Any other time they would never showed themselves in the open,
but at such scary times when riders would pop into their country
and after hiding till they figured they was safe, sometimes
hardly breathing as they hid and while a rider passed within only
a few feet of 'em, it sure was no more than natural and of a
great relief to them to make sure afterwards that the riders had
gone with the cattle they'd rounded up.

Them wise wild cattle even knowed at what time of the year they
could expect riders rounding-up in their country and would act
according. But as a rule they grazed in open country only at
night. Even moonlight nights would make 'em keep close to the
brush, and in day time they hid in cool shades or shelter of
rocky crags and heavy brush.

John B. savvied them well, and he figured as he often did, that
it often pays for a feller to take his time; for if always in a
rush there's many good things being missed, like with this one
instance he'd never seen these wild cattle if he'd of rode on in
trying to make the biggest circle, getting the most cattle and in
the shortest time.

And his "playing" at the first sight of them, from a long
distance, they was wild cattle, and then the good surprise that
they really was, pleased him to where he'd gladly missed many a
day not to have missed seeing them.

Looking down thru the pines at 'em, the watching of their every
move, took him many years back. "How they'd make a rope sing," he
says to Cortez's ears, and in that time of happy reminiscing it
was more time added on that kept him from aging.

As he watched, and at the distance he was from them, he seen that
one was a deep red in body, a mighty wiry looking longhorn, just
fat enough and plenty stronger, a picture of freedom. The deep
red of the center of the body run to dark brown at the shoulders
and hip bones, then to near black along the neck and head, and
from hip to tail bone. The nose and the tail was pure black. It
went the same with the legs, running to pure black at the toes,
and John B. figured there couldn't be a blotch of a white hair on
him nowheres.

The other critter was a mottled mixture of all the colors of the
rainbow, like a half done Spanish omelet well splashed on a dobie
wall and bordered with bluish-green tortillas. The horns was
ivory white, one swooping down to about level of the nose and the
other soaring up to the skies, a wicked and good right horn.

The sun was shining just right, and John B. could faintly see
stiff hairs stand out on their slick sides. They was from the
scar of his brand. And watching them close he'd mumbled thru his
white mustache at Cortez's ears:

"Well, there's still a few of us left, ain't there, Cortez?"

If John B. had been like some stockmen, or like most men that's
all for riches and what they can get out of the earth, he'd got
all riled up at the sight of the two longhorned wild ones, hit
for camp, got his 30-30, rode back on a fresh horse and shot 'em
down. For such cattle don't bring no prices at the market and
they lead young stock to stray wild, as wild as them longhorns
themselves was.

John B. thought of that as he looked at the two staggy animals
and mumbled to Cortez's ears again, "That's what makes cowboys
good."

He then unlimbered his forty-five, seven-inch barrel six-shooter.
It was down country from where he was, there was no wind and a
bullet would carry if he aimed right.

He aimed right, and even tho the bullet landed on good green
earth, there was a dust stirred off the top which wasn't any too
far from the nose of the dark red steer, and then the report of
the forty-five coming along sure put him and the other on the
move, and a bunch of antelope or as good and fast a cowhorse as
Cortez was would of been slow as compared to them when they hit
for the deep brush of the ravine and rough country they'd come
out of.

"Stay wild, you old moss-headed, line-backed reprobates,"
hollered old John B. out of the jack pines, "and don't let me
catch you showing yourselves in such careless ways again or I'll
burn the tails off of yez." That came with the report and echo of
his forty-five.

John B. watched 'em go. They'd stay wild if he would have
anything to do with if, and he made that to cinch tight when he
mode down out of the pines on a high lope, caught up with one of
the drives, rode on thru three or four more of them and found
Hatty squatted in the shade of the chuck wagon with a plate on
his lap and eating.

"Thought I'd catch you at it, you old wolf," was his first words.
"Always eating, and stuffing yourself up till you spring your
stirrups."

"ain't seen you do anything Today," says Hatty, as he lifted a
hunk of good beef off his tin plate, "and I got to eat to have
strength to catch up on some of the things you don't do nor see."

Right then was a made-to-order time for the two longhorns to be
brought up. Something that Hatty didn't see. "And understand
now," says John B. telling about 'em mighty serious, and feeling
right in giving an order, "I don't want none of the boys taking a
shot at 'em or trying to run 'em down or salt 'em to traps. I
want them steers left as they be, and I'll tell Austin the same."

Hatty more than appreciated that, and all he said in answer was:
"I'm remembering. Grab yourself a plate and squat close to my
grass. We ve got to make another circle and then brand this
afternoon."

John B. gathered his victuals and squatted. His words had been
well heard, and they would be well heeded.



CHAPTER VII - Strangers to Camp


John B. had been with the wagon a couple of weeks. After his
first day with the spread, riding his short circle, and his spree
of seeing and watching the two wild longhorned stags he settled
down to riding a little and making more of a hand of himself.
He'd some days start out on inside circles and wind up away on
the outside, all depending as to how he might of felt like doing,
and a few times, as he caught up with Hatty or Hatty caught up
with him, the two would have a sort of a duel as to which one had
done the biggest ride and how one was going to get into camp
without the other having to drag him in or get stretchers. That
duel most always would up at the chuck wagon where the two would
contest as to how much they could eat in how little time and
catch fresh horses and be ready to work again.

Sometimes, at such contests, John B. would tell Hatty he wasn't
trying, and he would show up at the round-up grounds quite a
while afterwards for roping at calf branding, after Hatty and a
couple of his ropers had already brought many a calf to the fire.
And at the sight of John B. grinning and shaking a loop like he
was going to show him up, there'd be another duel started or
going on.

"One leg don't count," Hatty would say.

"Then you don't count," John B. would answer, "because you can't
catch two."

That was only a starter, and the two, with long, full of
confidence grins on their faces, would try to outrope one another
and bringing the husky calves to the wrasslers with both hind
legs drawed tight in their loops. If the calf jerked one leg out
in his wild scramble to get away, that would count against the
roper as "no catch" and the calf would be turned loose for
another throw at him to catch both his hind legs.

The duel would go on that way all thru every branding, which
lasted some hours most every day. But the duels really started
from the time the early morning sun broke thru the skies, made
its high circle thru the day, and hit for the western ridges when
evening come. It went on some more even after that, and by the
evening fire for a while.

But with all the duelling the two kept up for the fun of show of
skill and knowledge, there was no tally kept as to which one won
or lost, and if one was too much the winner at any certain thing
he'd be apt to renig on himself so as to make things more equal.
And with all this play, joking and duelling there was many
serious talks and understandings; and one certain look on either
John B.'s or Hatty's face and the two would sudden get down to
hard facts and face whatever problem come up together, strong and
with mighty serious minds when necessary.

As the days went past and run to a week, John B. begin to look
for Austin back at the wagon most any time, and as it run on and
another week went by, he got to thinking it was high time Austin
should be back. Things was going fine with the round-up works and
John B. was happy in making a hand of himself as he durned
pleased, and even tho Austin wasn't needed there right then, he
sort of wondered about him staying away so long. Maybe he was
taking advantage of his being told not to rush. But, anyway, he
should of been back to the wagon before then. Something was most
likely holding him and he just naturally wondered what it was.

The two weeks was hardly more than up when, in a surprising way,
he found out. The wagon had moved camp every day in covering the
range until it was only thirty miles from the Home Ranch on that
day. It was near middle afternoon, and John B. was riding on a
second circle on another one of his southern blooded horses which
he'd named Comet, after one of the Spanish conquistador, Cortez's
stallions. "Butcher knife would of been a better name for him,"
Hatty had said, on account of the horse being so narrow chested.
But there was few better and more natural born cowhorses, either
at cutting or roping, than Comet was. He was near an equal to the
little bay, Cortez, and either one of them was too good a horse
to be rode on circle where a horse don't have to know very much
so long as he was a good drifter. Such good horses as Comet and
Cortez should of been kept for cutting out or roping, and such
work as calls for knowing horses with handling the herds at the
cutting grounds.

But in his private string of ten horses which he'd always kept
and renewed on there was no such other kind of horses as Comet
and Cortez. They was all good ones that way, and it was with the
older horses that he gave the lighter work at the cutting
grounds. When some got old, and even tho they was still sound, he
pensioned 'em on good range for the rest of their many days still
to come, and not a horse out of his string would he ever sell.
When they died they died fat and of good old age, not from any
overwork. For John B. never liked to ride a tired horse, and
since his first herd was left go to range he seldom had to,
because he had plenty of horses and a change could most always be
had.

And now, with riding of good cowhorses as he was, on circle or on
cutting grounds he wasn't depriving his men of any such like, nor
skimmed the remuda of the best for himself. There was plenty more
good cowhorses in the Seven X remuda and John B. kept his own
string built up by taking on well behaving good young horses with
the makings of good cowhorses in 'em and finished 'em up to a
turn. He'd been careful to keep a stud bunch* of the southern
horses, so as to never run short of the breed, that was so much
to his liking, like Cortez and Comet.

* Bunch of mares and colts that a stallion herds and holds, in
one bunch, averaging twenty head.


"Besides," he'd often said while riding one of his good cowhorses
on circle, "I like to ride horses that know something wherever I
be or with whatever I do. Let the young fellers ride the road
runners."

On Comet, that day of his wondering about Austin, he was near to
the cutting grounds with a drive when he seen a dust off at a
distance and then a fast coming car making it. It was coming on
an old wagon road used to haul logs and wood from the mountains
to the home ranch, and that road was right by where the round-up
wagon was camped, in a little creek bottom.

The car came on, at regular boulevard speed, and Comet, sighting
it at the same time John B. had, got behind the drive and in the
dust it was making. John B. was agreeable. He didn't want to see
no automobile rushing in on his peace either.

In a short while the drive was run in with others and all to
milling at the cutting grounds. John B. seen Hatty thru the dust,
and riding alongside of him he just said, "I'll stay for one and
hold herd."

Hatty took one glance at John B. and understood. John B. just
didn't want to meet the car he'd seen coming. There'd been some
curious tourists and town folks bothering on the Seven X range
lately, leaving gates open and stock to mix, fishing out the
streams, starting fires with their long burning tailor made,
cigarettes or camp fires not being put out, littering places with
papers and cans and bottles, and doing no good to the country in
any way.

He'd fed and sheltered many of 'em off and on during the last
twenty years and sent men and teams to pull their cars out when
some storm would catch 'em there. Then, he'd given gas and oil to
many more so they could get back to town, car broke down, or they
didn't think they'd gone so far, and so on. So a speed burning
automobile wasn't much of a welcome sight no time.

Hatty rode around the milling but quieting herd, looked at one
rider and another holding 'em, and that look along with a slight
move of the hand to every rider went the same as to say either
"come or hold." When he rode away from the big herd of bawling
cows and calves and mixed stuff there was eleven riders alongside
of him, all headed for the rope corral and a change of horses
from the remuda the wrangler had run in for them there. He'd left
four riders to hold herd with John B. until the change of horses
was made.

The eleven men that rode into the little creek bottom and towards
the rope corral along with Hatty was a mighty fine bunch of
cowboys, the kind that was of the first breed of 'em and hadn't
got to know much of railroads or planes, paved highways or tailor
made cigarettes, chewing gum or hair lotions. But they did know
their game and many things that makes a man worth while being
called a man.

They seen the car stopped by the chuck wagon. They seen the
people standing out of it and gawking at 'em like they was wild
animals, and even heard such words as "picturesque" floating
along the breeze. The cowboys had seen them long before the motor
travelers had, but there was no sign being showed that they had,
and when one of the boys happened to catch the word "picturesque"
he grinned and said to another one alongside of him without a
look to give himself away as he talked, "Yes, ain't she a
picture? the one by the fat heifer." The other cowboy had already
spotted that one, and looking straight ahead at the rope corral
he mumbled back, "I seen her first."

The cowboys, a wild looking outfit to the people who'd drove in,
rode on to the rope corrals. Hatty was a little by himself
peacefully unsaddling for a change to another horse and not at
all thinking or interested of the people by the car, when his
horse scared at something. He looked around, and there a few feet
from him was the smiling fatty figure of a man in tan britches
and puttees.

"I beg your pardon," says that feller, "but are you Mr.
Mitchell?"

Hatty grinned a howdedo to him. "Not by a damsight, mister," he
says, turning back to his unsaddling. "I wouldn't be that ornery
gun fighting cuss for anything I could wish for."

The stranger reared back a little at that, surprised. "Why I'm
sorry," he says, then went on, "It's very strange I've heard so
much good of him."

"Well, I'll be doggoned if I ever could find any in him," says
Hatty, "and I ought to know too because I been trying to teach
him how to punch cows for the last fifty years, and he still
ain't worth a whoop."

The stranger didn't know what to do. Hatty went to unsaddling his
horse, led him into the rope corral where he let him go, roped a
fresh one out of his string and when he came back to where he'd
laid his saddle to saddle up again, the stranger was still there
where he'd left him. Hatty noticed a very puzzled look on his
face but never let on as he grinned to himself.

"I hardly believe what you said about Mr. Mitchell," says the
stranger as Hatty went to saddling his horse.

Hatty sort of liked him for that, but his gruff answer sure
didn't give no such a hint. "You don't have to," he says. "Find
him out for yourself."

"But where can I find him?"

"Durned if I know. He's most likely with the herd, if he didn't
get in the way of 'em. He's most always in the way of something
or other."

The stranger didn't know how to digest that, and he didn't try
to. Instead he just reached in his vest pocket and pulled out a
card and handed it to Hatty who took it as he cinched up. Then he
read it and he was surprised, for, according to the card, that
fat feller was the president of some corporation of some kind
which represented many millions of dollars. Hatty had heard of
him somewhere, maybe thru the radio at the home ranch the winter
before. But as he looked at the card and even at the blank back
as tho he couldn't make out the meaning of it, no stranger could
ever guessed that he knew.

He handed the card back and asked, "What's that for?"

"Why that's my name and business card," says the stranger, all in
wonder at such primitive ignorance.

"Well, I sure wouldn't advertise it," says Hatty, acting
unconcerned and getting on his horse. "Sometimes you might do
something that ain't quite right and you might want to change
that name, and as for your business, you better keep that to
yourself and mind it well. That always pays."

The stranger had never been talked to that way before, and being
that Hatty seemed so natural, sincere and ignorant in what all he
said, he couldn't help but laugh to himself. He would tell that
as a joke on wild cowboys when he'd get back to the city. That
would bring a laugh at the club.

"Here," the stranger says as Hatty started to ride away. "I have
a note here I wish you would deliver to Mr. Mitchell. It's from
his daughter, June."

Hatty perked up his ears at that but there was no twitch in 'em
that the stranger could notice. He took the note and sticking it
in his shap pocket rode away just saying, "It will be delivered,
sir," leaving the stranger scratching his head and wondering.

Broncs and good cowhorses had been roped and saddled, and all
popped ready for work, the broncs ready for education, as Hatty
rode away from the rope corral and towards the herd. The sudden
action that took place right then sort of took the stranger's
thoughts away from wondering about Hatty or any cowboy. His car
was not so far away and he figured he could make it there before,
as he feared, he would be tromped down by hoofs.

After the broncs was topped off and then sort of hazed to line
out by riders on good cowhorses, Hatty rode on with his men to
the bench acrost the creek and where the herd was being held. The
herd had quieted down and the cows having found their calves
after they'd lost 'em during the driving, was now sort of
settled. A fire had been started with the wood the wrangler had
"snaked" (dragged with saddle horse) over for that purpose and
the branding irons was getting hot.

Hatty seeing John B. on the far side of the herd rode straight
for him and handed him the note the stranger had given him. "I
done my best to make that feller think you wasn't worth seeing or
talking to," he says, "but I thought he was just one of them
cruising leaches. Now he hands me this note from June to you and
I guess he'll be all right. But he'll bump into you when you go
change horses. You won't have to look for him."

John B., wondering, opened the envelope and glanced at the note
from June. It read: "This will introduce Mr. Samuel Graften and
family, people I met while at college last year. The West is all
new to them and they came to visit us for a while. Austin says he
will come to the wagon when you come back to the ranch with
them."



CHAPTER VIII - Ants in the Syrup


John B. sitting on his horse near the herd read the note which
Hatty had handed him. He read it twice and then grunted, for he
seen by the note from June that the people she introduced in it
wasn't hers or any one of the family's perticular friends. If
they was, June would of sure come along with 'em, and then there
was Austin's words added on in the note, like saying that he
wouldn't come back to the wagon while they was there. So he
wasn't hankering for their company either, and him and June had
shoved 'em off onto him, most likely to get rid of 'em at the
home ranch.

"The scalawags," John B. mumbled at the note. He could near hear
them laughing as to how he would feel about it, and he grinned at
that.

But there was nothing for him to do but go and meet the strangers
and do the best he could. He had to go to the corral and change
horses anyway.

He started to ride away from the herd to do that, so as to be on
hand for branding, when he heard the car start up at camp. He
couldn't see it from where he was but he heard it cross the creek
on the old wood road crossing and then come up the bank on the
same side the herd was on. It came up to sight so sudden and so
close to the herd that that herd just spooked into a quick run
and they left the cutting grounds to the automobile.

The cowboys riding hard to turn 'em, John B. rode towards the car
waving a hand for the driver to stop and then riding on close he
says to him: "You'll have to go back somewhere out of sight of
these cattle, this is not automobile parking grounds but grounds
to handle cattle on."

The car was turned and headed back down acrost the creek and to
camp again, John B. following and feeling like he shouldn't of
spoke the way he had. But it had made him sort of peeved at the
ignorance of the people to bust in towards a herd the way they
had. The herd had been nicely settled too, every calf was by its
mother's side and so that when it would be roped to be branded,
the roper could see the mother's brand and the calf branded the
same. For there was other cattle in the herds rounded up besides
Seven Xs, and the only way it could be told as to what brand to
put on the calf was by checking up on the one the calf's mother
wore. But the calf would have to be near its mother so the
checking up could be done.

As it was now the whole herd, in running, being turned to milling
and then drove back to the grounds again, had got all mixed up,
and it would take some little time before the cows would find
their calves again, holding up the branding and riling things up
in general for a spell.

The car was drove back to the round-up camp not far from the
chuck wagon, too durned close for the wimmin folks to be, thought
the cook, and when John B. rode near the corral to change horses
the stranger, Graften, was there waiting for him.

"I'm sorry about scaring the cattle," said Graften, after John B.
sort of nodded a howdedo. "I had no idea they could be so wild,
very different from the cattle we have in the East."

"Yes, they are," says John B.

"I presume you re Mr. Mitchell," Graften says. And when John B.
said yes, and yes again when he was asked if the note had been
delivered to him, he went on to remark about Hatty, "Sort of a
rough and coarse person," he says, "most likely one of your
roustabouts."

John B. squinted at him and surprised him a considerable by
saying, "No. He's one of my best men."

That made Graften wonder as to what the others would be like, and
as John B. went to turn his horse loose and catching a fresh one,
he wondered if it would be well for his wife and daughter to be
near the camp of such men. But he would see. They'd wanted to
come and see the wild West and now that they was there and had a
good chance, they would make the best of it.

As John B. came back to saddle his fresh horse, Graften sort of
opened up on him. "You have a very fine daughter," he begins,
speaking of June. "My son is very fond of her and we had the
pleasure of meeting her at a couple of college socials. It's
unfortunate that my son couldn't come with us, but as much as he
wanted to, he had to go to Europe again this year. He insisted we
should come, and being we'd never been in our West we decided to
come and surprise your daughter June with a visit. Your daughter
then suggested our coming to see you here while at this
interesting work, and here we are."

If gall was cash, thought John B., some people would sure be
rich. He wondered how Graften would like it and how he would act
if he, a plum stranger, was to drop in at his office while he was
at his busiest, lay his bed roll on the floor and say he'd come
to visit for a while, "while at his interesting work."

"Well," was about all John B. could say to Graften's self-invitation,
then he added on afterwards, "that's fine, glad to see you, make
yourself to home."

"Thanks," says Graften. "We have our tents and blankets and we'll
be quite comfortable I'm sure, but," he sort of hesitated, "we
have none for the chauffeur, and I'm wondering if--"

John B. was wondering too. Every cowboy had their own bed rolls
and none like to double up. Then he thought of the night-hawk who
used his bed only in daytime, maybe he would let the chauffeur
use it at night. John B. thought he would and Graften was
satisfied at that.

"You must sort of excuse us," says John B., as he got on his
horse. "We won't be much for company. We re right busy while
we re out on round-up," he grinned, "and our style is more
cramped with work than it is with social functions, such as June
tells us of having to attend a few times. No work no beef, no
beef no eat."

There wasn't the usual joking grin on John B.'s face as he rode
up to the herd and unlimbered his rope for his steady contest
with Hatty. The herd was restless and still milling around some
and many cows and calves hadn't as yet found one another. Hatty,
riding along the edge of the herd and close enough to John B. to
notice the look on his face remarked as he went to ride by,

"It's going to storm."

John B. was quick in catching the meaning of the remark, most
likely about the dark look on his face. "Go on and tend to your
knitting, you old roustabout," he says. He had to grin at the
thought of the last word.

"Well, well, such fancy words," says Hatty, stopping his horse.
"Is that what the punch bowl called you?"

"No," says John B. grinning some more. "That's what he thought
you was."

Hatty acted sarcastic: "I suppose you straightened him up on
that."

"I sure did," lied John B. "I told him you was just a crazy lost
sheepherder."

The two went on sparring that way until their spirits was again the same
as it had been before the interruption of the automobile. They both
shook out loops and went to roping calves that had found their mothers,
and soon the wrasslers and men with hot irons was kept busy.

In the creek bottom the newcomers was busy setting up their tents
and cots, blowing up their air mattresses and getting things all
set to make their "roughing it" comfortable. At the advice of the
cook who'd seen 'em start at that, they'd picked a spot where
their camp would be a good ways from the chuck wagon and sort of
hid by a clump of willows, and there they went to work to settle
themselves as tho they would be camped at that one spot for maybe
a month. The chauffeur was put to work doing this and that, and
there being no big enough trees around for good shade, he was
also put to work at building a frame of willows and with leafy
limbs of the same on the top to make a shade big enough for a
camp table and three folding chairs.

While the chauffeur was busy at that, Graften and his wife and daughter
went to moseying around afoot, just to get a close-to-the-earth
acquaintance with this untamed country. They walked along a little
clearing of the creek bottom. The grass was green and of a good length
and many kinds of wildflowers was everywhere, flowers of all shapes and
sizes, and with colorings to fit any taste or imagination. They could
hardly believe their eyes at seeing such flowers outside of flower
shops. Some was even prettier than they'd ever seen there.

Graften's wife and daughter both picked a big bouquet each in a
short time, while Graften went along the creek. He'd seen a few
trout dodging here and there and that had stirred his interest.
He'd fished for big fish off yachts in the deep waters of the
ocean but he'd never thought of small fish in mountain streams,
and that it might be any sport catching 'em, and now, as he seen
good sized speckled and rainbow trout dodging between the rocks
in the clear water, he wished he'd brought some fishing tackle
with him.

His wife and daughter having picked all the flowers they wanted,
Graften took the lead down the creek and towards the chuck wagon.
He would ask the cook about some fishing outfit he could borrow,
but there he was only grinned at when he asked.

"I've been cooking on this spread for quite a few years now,"
says the cook, "but I've never seen a fish hook nor a cowboy
fishing in all the time I've been here. Not much time for that."

"Well, that's surprising," says Graften, "not much sport going on
around here then, eh?"

The cook looked up from a batter he was mixing. "I don't know
just what you call sport," he says, "but I think if you'd drop
your rope on a mad cow while you re riding a spooky bronc, that
you'd find plenty of excitement, and need a heap more skill in
playing your line so's it won't get round you and cut you in two,
than any skill needed to land a poor fish."

Graften's wife laughed. She couldn't get the full meaning of what
the cook had said but just enough so she could see the difference
between roping mad cows on wild horses and catching a poor fish,
as the cook had called it, and landing it. The only likeness of
the two would be of both men catching something with a line, one
with a hook on the end of it and the other with a loop. But the
both was sports.

"I'm afraid, Samuel," she says to her husband, "that that would
be too wild and dangerous to be called sport, don't you think?"

"I would like to see some of that being done," said Graften. "I
often had the chance to go to rodeos. There's one held in our
town every year, but I never went because I thought there was no
more cowboys and that the performers would be only actors playing
cowboy. For that reason I didn't think it would be interesting to
see, but I will certainly go and see the next one I hear about."

"We can see some of that now, Father," says his daughter,
pointing towards the sounds where the herd was being held and the
branding going on, "better than can be seen at any rodeo and
right in its own setting. More cattle, out in the open and the
cowboys at their regular work."

"Yes," Graften says, "I never thought of that. Let's go and watch
them for a while."

But the cook hearing that advised mighty strong against their
going.

"I sure wouldn't get in sight of the herd if I was you folks," he
says. "Not on foot, because these cattle ain't used to seeing
anybody afoot and that would spook 'em and make 'em hard to hold,
and what's more some of them might be on the prod and would sure
like to see somebody afoot that way."

"What would they do?" asks the daughter, disappointed.

"They'd do enough to make you wish there was a tree close to
climb up on."

"You mean they'd charge a person?"

"Yes, and catch up with it quick and scatter the carcass till
there'd be no remains to be found," says the cook, half peeved at
such ignorant questions, even if they was from a pretty fair
looking young lady.

Well, there was nothing much they could do now. They walked away
and sort of talked of the cook's and others, ways of expressing
themselves. They sure done that well, they thought, mighty plain
and short and leaving no doubts as to what was meant. But, they
also come to figure out, it was all for their own good.

Mother and daughter went to their tents to put away the flowers
they'd picked. That seemed unnecessary to do with so many all
around 'em. Then with Samuel they walked around some more. They
walked past where the cowboys, beds was rolled up or laid spread
out for sunning, and they wondered how they could sleep in them
on the ground. It must be hard and uncomfortable, and then
shivers run along their spines as they talked of bugs and spiders
and snakes maybe crawling in between the blankets. The thought of
that was enough without them talking about it, so they walked on
and changed the subject, glad they wasn't cowboys.

They walked on to the rope corral and there wondered how one
single cable about three feet above the ground and held up by
forked sticks could hold such wild and mean acting horses as some
they'd seen the cowboys saddle that day. They'd of given that up
as a mystery if it hadn't been for the horse wrangler who came
along about then. He'd come to get the horses that would soon be
rode in and turned loose from the afternoon's work, just to be
sure they'd get with the remuda that was grazing around the point
of a ridge not far away.

The wrangler was just a young feller of about sixteen and taking
more to listening than he was to talking, specially with
strangers from towns, and when Graften asked him to explain about
the corral he just said, "Why, on account that the gentler horses
don't like to be crowded, they stay close to the rope and they
won't jump over, and the broncs, being wild, like to stay in the
center and sort of hide amongst the others in there." That over
with he rode on to the chuck wagon, leaving Graften and family
not much the wiser, for they didn't know horse nature.

They walked on, not much more to see, they thought, but what they
had already seen, the spread of the camp, the cowboys, a glimpse
of the herd and the country around. Soon they started walking
back towards their camp and as they went around that way they got
up on bench land and on a level to where they could see the herd
on the other bench land acrost the creek. They was plenty far
enough away so the cattle wouldn't notice 'em and so they could
also see the cowboys at work fairly well.

The branding was near over, and after that there come the cutting
out of dry stuff and some cows and calves to be shifted to other
ranges, also mixed strays which the reps would take out when near
their range. The ones cut out from the day's round-up would be
put into the "main herd," the herd that's being loose herded by
shifts of two or three riders during the day and held close on
"bed grounds" by nightguard shifts during the night. With such
work thru the long spring and summer days the cowboy seldom gets
over six hours of sleep out of twenty-four, and even that is
split with the couple of hours shifts on nightguard. Outside of a
couple of hours for eating, most of that spent for a little
sitting around of evenings, all of the other fourteen or fifteen
hours are well spent in the saddle and with enough riding for the
cowboy to tire three or four changes of horses a day, good tough
horses.

But Graften and his family had no idea of the cowboy's work as
they sat and watched 'em from their safe distance and, as Gat had
said in his remark at the bog, they thought it grand and
glorious. The cowboy also thinks it's all right or he wouldn't be
living the life, but it takes a cowboy at heart to do that. For
the every day work is not so rosy and sunshiny as it was that day
while Graften and his family watched.

The three enjoyed watching the cutting out of the cattle by ones
and twos from the drive, the dodging, twisting and running of the
critter not wanting to be cut out from the drive, then the
dodging and twisting to get back while the good cowhorse done his
fast work to out-dodge and outtwist and outrun the critter from
the drive, and head 'er for the "cut,"* that all was very
interesting and remarkable in action to the folks sitting on the
edge of the bench land. The daughter, sort of excited, once
remarked that she wished she had one of the horses she rode at
the academy at home so she could be close to the herd and watch
everything, she would ask for one tomorrow. Her dad and mother
had shook their heads at that. Their daughter could go riding if
she wanted to, but they wanted to be delivered from riding on any
such horses as they seen the cowboys line out to work on that
afternoon. Even the gentlest was a long ways from gentle.

* Cut out cattle being held a short distance from the herd.

The cutting out of the cattle over with the biggest part of the
herd was turned back to the range where they'd been rounded up
from that day, shoved a ways, and there left to scatter. The
"cut" was then shoved on another direction and put in with the
main herd near a mile from camp to be held by the three riders on
dayherd shift. That done, the cowboys rode back for camp. It was
time for the evening meal.

The family came down from the bench at the sight of them riding
back, and was on hand not far from the corral when the cowboys
rode in to unsaddle. John B. and Hatty rode in side by side and
unsaddled side by side, the cowboys along with 'em, and when all
the saddles was pulled off there was a good row of 'em laying on
their sides close to the outside of the corral. The horses was
turned loose to be watched by the wrangler, and then all the
riders started for the chuck wagon to do justice to whatever the
cook had for them there.

John B. seeing the stranger folks, stayed behind and went towards
 'em. He was made acquainted to the woman folks and then he went
on to say,

"You folks pitch right in at the chuck wagon and gather
yourselves something to eat any time you want now, and if you
want to get along with the cook like we all have to" he grinned a
little "you better eat while it's ready. There's no tables and
nobody waits on one another here unless it's somebody with a
couple of broken legs and arms. So get right to it and don't be
bashful."

There was some thanks from the family, and as they said something
about going to wash up first, John B. left 'em and went to join
the boys that was making the rounds from the chuck box to the
ovens and coffee pot.

"Sure queer stuff to handle," he says to Hattie as he grabbed
himself a plate. "A feller don't know what the samhill to do for
 'em or how to act near 'em."

About half of the riders had got thru eating when the family and
their chauffeur got there. John B. was thru and when he seen 'em
coming he went to show 'em where and what everything was, and
then him and the cook even rolled up their own bed rolls for the
ladies to sit on while they et.

"Not so bad at waiting on ladies," says Hatty as John B. caught
up with him at the corral afterwards.

"Yes, you old crowbait, you'd been there a mile ahead of me if
you wasn't so stiff in the joints and could of got up from under
your plate."

The remuda was being drove into the corral by the wrangler. It
was their fourth corralling for that day. It had been a big day,
two circles and a branding, and now the night horses was to be
caught and picketed out to graze thru the night, all excepting
for the time when rode on nightguard.

Graften and his family would of liked to 've been near the corral instead
of sitting where they was while the roping and the picketing of the
horses was going on. Of course the horses the cowboys caught for the
night was much gentler than the ones for the day, but it would all be
interesting to watch close, they thought, and hearing different remarks.
They could of been there if they'd come to eat on time. But they was
also very much satisfied to be eating, in such a new and interesting
way, and what was in their plates wasn't near as hard to take as they'd
imagined it would be. The grub, to their surprise, was "delicious," and
being "out of doors" as they had that day, they was "simply ravenous."
So being they couldn't be both at the corral and near the chuck box at
the same time, they made out fairly well where they was. They helped
themselves to quite a few helpings of steak and potatoes and canned
corn, and it was remarked that they'd never before tasted such good
"morsels" of beef.

It was young beef raised natural, and on all the grass and their
mothers, milk they wanted, not veal nor corn fed baby beef, but
good four and five month old calves. The kind that's not on the
market and of course can't be bought in butcher shops.

The Graften family, all appetites well satisfied now, looked
forward for an interesting evening with John B. and the "queer"
Hatty and the cowboys. The few cowboys that had been still eating
when they first came near the chuck wagon had got thru and left
soon after they'd got there, caught their horses, and picketed
 'em. Three riders had rode away from the corral on a high lope
and the family wondered where they was going. Graften asked the
cook, who answered that they was going to relieve the men on
dayherd.

"Relieve?" the girl wondered. "Are they suffering?"

"Yes, mam," says the cook, grinning, "from empty stomachs."

It wasn't so long afterwards when the three "relieved" riders loped up
at the corrals, unsaddled, caught their night horses, picketed 'em and
headed for the chuck wagon. They seemed to be three mighty carefree and
happy men, and the family remarked about 'em as they came along. They
hadn't seen them before and they looked like they'd be more company and
livelier than the others. Then the three riders, coming around the chuck
wagon, of a sudden noticed the two women a-sitting on the bed rolls in
the shadows of willows and just a little ways off, and no cowboys ever
lost their carefree or happy looks any quicker than them three did at
the sight of them. They just stiffened up, tipped their hats and said
howdedo and felt as tho they was on cactus as they went to get plates
and cups and to gathering their victuals. That done they went a ways,
sat cross legged on the ground and begin to eat, hardly looking at 'em.

Graften and his family was puzzled and a little disappointed.
They'd never seen such people as these cowboys, just the opposite
and so different in every way from the people in their home
country. For there, the family's main trouble had been to keep
people from tagging at their heels and making a fuss over them,
specially with the daughter. There didn't seem to be no
introduction needed for men to talk to her and gather around her
at whatever party or place to visit she went to. Most young
ladies liked that. She did too, but there was times when she
wished they would leave her alone. There was many times when her
dad and mother also wished people wouldn't bother 'em so.

But they didn't get to wish that at the round-up camp. They got
to sort of wishing just the opposite there and would liked to
mixed company, even tho they might all be in an average of what
Graften thought Hatty to be. That would at least satisfy their
curiosity and it might be interesting to know them.

They seen John B. and Hatty sitting with a few of the cowboys by
the bed wagon by the rope corral, John B. not at all acting the
part of a host, they thought, and like he'd forgot all about 'em.
They didn't realize that John B. had no reason to ever think
about 'em. He didn't invite 'em there and would rather they
hadn't come. For he didn't like to be bothered either, much less
by strangers who invite themselves, with no respect to a man's
rights of private home and range and with no thought but what it
was perfectly all right.

There'd been quite a few of such kind since the coming of the
automobile. People coming out by the car loads and making free of
everything on ranches, as tho all the stockman owned had been
given to him and for them to go ahead and help themselves, take
his hospitality to the limit, ride his horses, eat his grub which
they don't figure cost him anything to raise, but which all cost
him twice as much as to the town man because he has to haul it
many miles, and gas and tires and time is not free. The eggs and
cream and beef are not free either, not with the price of the
lands, buildings, wages and all that it takes to grow so as to
raise them.

When an automobile load of them self invited people come to a
stockman's place they'll stay for days and sometimes weeks and
enjoy themselves plum content, but when the stockman comes to
town he stays in a hotel and eats there, and it's might seldom
that the people who invite themselves to his home and make
themselves very much at home there will ever invite him to even
one meal with them, and more seldom when a room and bed is
offered even for one night.

The stockman wouldn't of course accept such invitations because
he feels as tho he's putting somebody to extra trouble if he did.
Besides he wouldn't be interested to visit. For when he comes to
town it's to get some business attended to, get whatever supplies
he wants, have his fun the way he wants to if he's inclined that
way, and then get back to the ranch with no strings on him, no
obligations to nobody.

That was the way with John B. But he was a real host, and his
home and horses and range was, to the people he or his family
invited. He only tolerated the uninvited strangers, like with the
Graften family, and he couldn't think much of 'em for doing to
him exactly what they would never tolerate him doing at their own
home, uninvited and making himself to home there, not as a
stranger, like they was to him.

John B. wasn't thinking of that as he stood up amongst his men by
the bed wagon, stretched, and then came towards the lone Graften
family. He was thinking of his daughter June. He hadn't seen her
for quite a while now, and being a little lonesome for her he
thought it'd be nice to talk about some of her days while at
college with the folks who claimed to 've knowed her there.

He was greeted with smiles as he got near and invited to sit on
his own ground, and before he'd got to sit, Graften and his wife
both begin to tell him of the "beautiful and rugged invigorating
country" his was, of "the pure air and clear skies, all so big
and open and so wonderful and inviting to the weary." John B. had
heard that same kind of talk many times and till he near knowed
the words by heart. He stuck and had to hear it again and when
they'd come to about the end of their ropes on the subjects and
getting short of breath he edged in a few words about June.

"Oh, June is simply divine," the girl blurts out before her dad
and mother could speak. "Of course I didn't get to know her very
well, only met her a couple of times while with my brother Rodney
at parties. But all of us wanted so to know her more." She
giggled, "especially poor Rodney who tried his best to see her
time and again afterwards, and with no success."

No meaning looks nor hinting coughs could stop the girl. She'd
wanted to talk, which she sure did, and let the cat out of the
bag in fine shape. And John B. even tho a little peeved at
Graften for giving him the idea that his gamily knowed June some,
had to laugh to himself how he'd been made a liar out of by his
daughter's words.

He was more pleased as to how Graften's son, Rodney, didn't get
such a stand in with June, and he figured that Rodney didn't at
all insist or even know about his folks coming to the ranch where
June lived or he'd sure tagged along. The girl's talk gave a good
hint to that.

Thinking them things over quick, John B. hardly heard Graften's
smoothing over his daughter's talk about their knowing June. Then
the subject was changed sudden by a question from Mrs. Graften.
John B. didn't hear it at first and it had to be repeated. There
was more questions come right along after that and of the usual
kind that's asked from most people not familiar with the cow
country. There was such questions as what makes the horses so
wild, the cattle too. What do you do with them when it storms.
Why do you brand them. Why the ropes on the saddles, and such
queer saddles. Why the high heels on the cowboys boots, the
"leather pants." And many such questions which are asked more for
plain curiosity than thru any real interest.

John B. had answered many such questions many times before. It
always had been hard and aggravating work for him because he
knowed that most all that was asked could only be found out by
living the life, and not only for a few months. The questions
would fill many books to give an understanding hint in answer to
them. It would take time, and so he wasted few words as he
answered the questions because few people would understand much
of 'em after he'd explained. His length of answers depended a
whole lot on what kind of questions was asked him, how much sense
there was to them.

The answering of questions about the cowboys, the stock and the
work soon begin to tell on John B. He got fidgety and got to
looking for a break when he could politely get away and without
having to make a run for it. For it seemed like there was nothing
coming from the Graftens but questions, and on account of their
lives being so different than his no other subjects could be
brought up and discussed so as to make an interesting conversation,
not from John B.'s side.

It was getting near sundown, and John B. seeing Hatty and a
couple of the boys going to their saddled night horses figured
that a good excuse to break away. He stood up.

"Well," he says, "I've got to go help the boys on cocktail and
get the herd on bedground."

He didn't get away so easy there, for he'd left himself open for
more questions.

Graften had smiled, like from a joke. "Cocktail," he says,
"that's a new one on me for out here."

"But it's an old one on round-up," says John B. "This kind of
cocktail comes in an hour glass, meaning the evening hours from
supper time till time for first guard, about three hours and
while the herd is still held out to graze. There it's brought to
the bedground to be bedded for the night."

That last brought another surprise and a question.
"Bedded? bedded with what?" asks Mrs. Graften, "and what kind of
ground is a bedground?"

John B. had to grin at that. "Just good grassy sod," he says.
"What we call a bedground is just a good open place to hold the
herd on at night so they can't get away into brakes and brush
during the night and before you can see or hear 'em. Bedding 'em
down is just holding the herd close in one spot and riding around
 'em quiet until they settle down. If the weather is good and the
cattle are not hungry or thirsty, and all is quiet, many of them
will be laying down about the time the first guard shift comes
on," and he started to walk away when the last of the Graftens
spoke up, the girl.

"Why do you have to stand guard over them?" she asks. "Is there
danger of something getting them?"

"Yes. Boogaboos," snorted John B. Then he added on more serious,
"We stand guard on the herd because we don't want to lose any.
The herd is of cattle that's picked out from every day's round-ups
and to be drove, and then left on other ranges more fitting
to that kind, as we go along. By that time we have another herd
picked out from more round-ups to be shoved on to other ranges,
and so on."

While nobody interrupted with another question he went on as a
wind up, "And that reminds me," he says, "we re moving camp in
the morning. Breakfast is at three-thirty and we'll be getting
out of here a little after four o clock. Just thought I'd tell
you."

With that he turned and went before any more questions came his
way, leaving the Graften family, only to wondering what the
cowboys do for sleep, for it seemed like they rode all day and
all night.



CHAPTER IX - Hold Your Horses


The cook's special warbling and loud holler of that early morning
sounded mighty unearthly to the Graften family. They jumped up in
their beds, stared in the spooky pitch of darkness and realizing
where they was, in a flimsy tent instead of the thick and solid
walls they was so used to, in the thick of wilderness, amongst
wild cowboys, and maybe panthers and wolves prowling around, they
dodged back under the covers, there to shiver and try to figure
out just what kind of ghost or wild animal that unearthly holler
could of come from. It sounded like anything, from a panther's
scream to the choking beller of a bull calf. There'd been no
human tone to it they could of recognized.

There was some rustling and moving around outside the tent. The
Graftens shivered some more. They'd liked to spoke to one another
but they was afraid to do that for fear of attracting the
monster, but Samuel being the bravest finally spoke up, sort of
quiet like. "Is that you Jeffers?"

"Yes, sir." Jeffers was their chauffeur. "The cook has just said
something about come and get it," he says. "I guess he means
breakfast is ready."

It was a great relief for the Graften family to hear Jeffers
voice, even if there was signs of scare in it. Then Samuel asked
him,

"What do you mean, Jeffers, about the cook saying something and
breakfast being ready? Do you mean it was him who made that awful
noise just a minute ago?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sure, sir. I was closer and I could make out a few
words. As tho he was going to burn something up if we didn't come
and get it. He said something about hungry catamounts too, sir.
So I thought I'd better get up, sir."

"All right, Jeffers." There was an uneasy tone to Graften's
voice. Could there be hungry catamounts prowling around? Then his
wife managed to ask, "but what time could it be, Samuel? It's so
dark." She didn't know what a catamount was.

Samuel reached for his flash light and looking at his watch it
said twenty minutes after three. "What an ungodly hour to get
up," he says. "It seems as if I'd just got to sleep."

His daughter had come back to her wits by then and to agree with
him. "And what," she says, "if you'd had to get up and ride a
couple of hours thru the night on guard around the cattle?" She
shivered some more, and added on, "Excuse me, but I'll take the
beach for mine."

The Graftens, well awake now by the scare the cook's "holler" had
given 'em, got up and dressed by a couple of flash lights, the
mother and daughter muttering about the inconvenience of things
and unnecessity of roughing it just to see this old wild west.
They'd rather been in Naples or the Riviera. Their spirits was
sort of low and they had no ears for the chirping of hundreds of
birds greeting the coming of the new day.

Excepting for a very faint streak to the east it was still dark
as they came out of their tent. But thru the willows they seen
the cheerful blaze of the cook's fire. They heard the voices of
the cowboys and then, away off, the bells of the remuda. The
nighthawk was bringing in the horses, and to the Graftens it
seemed that the cowboys had never quit work.

Jeffers had gone to join them, and the Graftens decided not to
wait either. A busy bunch of men was helping themselves out of
the ovens and skillets around the fire as they got there, and the
cowboys seeing 'em, gave 'em plenty of room and calmed down some
on their joking remarks at one another. John B. greeted the
family with a nod and a grin as he was heading out with a
plateful of fried beef and potatoes and told 'em to "dig in."

They dug in, and made good hands of themselves at all the
skillets and ovens that was there, the cook replacing the lids
they'd left off, and soon settled down to get away with all
they'd gathered on their plates. They balanced 'em well and they
didn't miss the fruit juices or napkins, nor look to see if their
tin plates and cups had been well cleaned, and they didn't mince
around much either. They just et, et like they never et before or
enjoyed it as much.

By the time they'd got away with about half of what was on their
plates and washed that down with good strong coffee, the ladies
begin to perk up some and their spirits to liven up. They got to
looking around a little at the cowboys scattered here and there,
two and three together sitting cross-legged and talking low. Then
one and another got up, dropped plates and cups and utensils in
the "round-up pan" (wash tub) and rolling smokes went to get
their picketed night horses to unsaddle and turn loose. For it
was getting near daylight, and the remuda, after being held near
the creek to drink, was being drove in the corral.

Soon all the riders, along with John B. and Hatty, was thru
eating, dropped their plates in the round-up pan and gone to the
corral, and it was a wonder to the Graftens how little time it
took 'em to do that. They was just getting well started with
their breakfast and there was the cowboys, at the corral and
already catching their horses.

Well, there was no hurry for them that they could see, so they
went on enjoying their meal and also enjoying watching all the
camp's busy goings on at the same time. They'd forgot about the
moving of camp until they seen some of the cowboys leading bigger
horses than their saddle horses and coming to different wagons
where the harnesses hung on the tongues of 'em and started to
harness 'em from there. Spooky, wild acting big ponies.

But the Graftens hadn't really forgot about the moving of camp,
they just hadn't given it any thought, like it made no difference
to them. They'd just go along and enjoy themselves all they
could. That's what they'd come west for.

After the saddle horses was caught and saddled, and the harness
horses all harnessed and tied up, the remuda was left loose to
graze, then the rope corral was let down, coiled up and put in
the bed wagon. All the riders pitched in at that and whatever
there was to be done to break camp and get it going to the next
as fast as possible. The feller that gawked around while that
goes on is no cowboy, and so is not wanted around round-up camps.

Each rider helped the other get his bed roll loaded in the bed
wagon and helped others do the same, and everything that went to
make up the camp was picked up that way and put in the right
place in the right wagon in short time. Even the nighthawk and
wrangler helped, and with all hands that way the outfit is soon
ready to move on.

While the cowboys was at that, the cook and flunky was busy with
pots and pans and grub at the chuck wagon and putting that all
away. That was their territory and nobody helped 'em there.

Their work was done in good time too, but the cook and flunky
didn't have to bother with catching, harnessing and hooking up
the six horse team. Two cowboys done that for the cook and when
he'd jump up on his wagon seat, the lines would be handed to him
with a grin of joking respect by a cowboy, while another one or
two held some of the spookiest horses. For the Seven Xs had a
fast moving round-up outfit, and from the time of the cook's
holler at twenty minutes after three, there'd been the eating,
the catching and saddling and harnessing of many horses, the
breaking up of camp and all, and now the outfit was ready to move
for another camp site at four o clock, forty minutes from the
time the cook hollered.

The Seven X outfit often broke camp, the wagons going acrost
country at near runaway speed for ten miles or more to the next
camp site where the camp would be set up again and the cook would
have his fire going and pots boiling before the sun would come up.

There's only four men at setting up a camp, the pilot, the cook,
the nighthawk and the flunky, the riders all being out on circle
starting from the last camp site and would be at the new camp
with drives from the morning's circle by ten or eleven o clock,
which is the noon meal time during round-up.

That's the average speed of good round-up works and no laggard or
anybody in the way is allowed around such outfits. Every man is
up on his toes, knows what to do and none wants to be the last in
anything that's done.

The cook had always prided himself to be the first on the wagon
seat and ready to take the "ribbons" (lines) of his six horse
team.* But that morning he wasn't there as he always had been
when the cowboy was ready to hand him the ribbons. Something had
sure gone wrong, and the cook was going around the wagon madder
than a hornet and with a cuss word for every blade of grass he
tromped under, and when the cowboys found out the cause they near
had fits for laughing, which made the cook all the madder.
Besides, the other two wagons was now ready to start and waiting
on the cook to take the lead, as the cook always does. The pilot
was also waiting to scout him acrost the range for good
crossings, and all the other riders was waiting for the ones
holding the horses and lines, even old John B. and Hatty who sat
their horses, wondering. The whole outfit was held up and waiting
for the cook to get on The wagon seat and take his lines and
start.

* Round-up cooks have to be good four or six horse skinners as
well as cooks, and they re usually mighty good outside cooks.

And the cause of all this breaking the set rules of the round-up
works, holding up the whole outfit of riders and wagons and
disgracing the cook for being the last one ready, was none other
than the society elites, the Graften family. For they was still
eating, and plum ignorant of what a stir they was causing.

The cook had been good enough to tell the flunky to hold off
washing the skillets and such as had hot grub in until the folks
was thru eating, but he seen what was coming and after asking the
folks if they wanted another helping he pitched in with the
flunky to wash and put 'em away, all but the coffee pot and a few
things on the chuck box's drop board such as canned milk and
sugar.

And while the Graften family went on eating (they always took an
hour for breakfast, you know), all interest at watching and
talking about how odd and interesting this and that, the cook had
stomped away to where he could cuss well without being heard by
them. But the cowboys, laughs hadn't helped him much there.

Finally he couldn't stand it any longer, and if it had been John
B.'s most liked kin or the President he'd of done the same as he
proceeded to do, for there was no excuse, he figured. Nobody was
high enough to break the rules of the round-up works, much less
the cook's.

He stomped over to the fire, grabbed the coffee pot and doing his
best to hold his temper went to the Graften family.

"Here, folks," he says, holding up the coffee pot, "hold your
cups and I'll fill 'em up."

They done that without thinking if they wanted any more or not,
or right at that time. He filled their cups to the brim then
throwed the rest of the coffee on the fire and put the pot away
as it was. Then brushing everything off the drop board into the
chuck box he closed it tight, went to the front of the wagon,
jumped up on the seat, grabbed the ribbons the laughing cowboy
handed him, and kicking the brake loose at the same time he let
out a war whoop.

The six spooky horses started all as in one and hit the creek
crossing on the jump, the chuck wagon whipping and dancing behind
on one wheel and then another. The cook sure took the lead and
made the pilot ride to get out of his way. The bed wagon then
come a-trying to follow, then the wood wagon, all in the dust the
chuck wagon had stirred, acrost the creek, up on the bench land
and then down country towards the next camp site.

John B. and Hatty, watching the cook take the lead and then
disappear over the bench, looked at one another and grinned.
"Something sure must of bit him," says Hatty.

The two and their riders didn't cross the creek but angled off
for rolling hills on the side they was, to ride on the morning circle.

It seemed no time since the cook got up on his wagon seat till
the whole outfit of wagons and riders disappeared, and there
wasn't a sight of 'em nowheres when the Graften family sort of
come to and realized they was still standing where the cook had
poured coffee to 'em and left 'em, still holding their plates and cups.

They looked around in wonder at the sudden disappearance of what
a minute before had been a busy round-up camp. It all was so
still now, the disappearance was so quick, and not a movement
nowhere in sight. They finally looked at one another with a
vacant stare, then sort of foolishly at the plate and cup they
was holding. The round-up outfit had moved so sudden that at the
sight of plate and cup in his hand, Graften come near hollering
for the cook. He waved 'em in the air as tho he was still near,
and then realizing, he looked all the more foolish and just said,
"He forgot the dishes."

But the cook hadn't forgot the dishes. As far as he was concerned
they could eat them, and right about that time he was a mile away
from them and not at all thinking about the dishes, nor them
either. For his six-horse team was running away. When he started
the team, his being on the peck and starting 'em on the jump made
 'em spookier than they already was, and after crossing the creek
and going down country he'd let 'em run on as they pleased, not
caring how fast they went. He was that peeved. And such round-up
teams, always fat and spooky and being broke to moving wagons at
good speeds, was always ready to run, and a good runaway and
scattering of the wagon all over the country and then the
breaking up of harnesses, was all to their hearts, content and
ways of enjoyment.

The cook let 'em run at good speed for a ways, crowding the
pilot, who was enjoying it all, and leaving the other two wagons
away behind. Then the breeze begin to cool him down and he drawed
up on the ribbons to steady the team down to a slower gait. That,
right then, seemed to act only as a signal with the spooky good
feeling horses, for instead of slowing down, they tore loose from
there and with everything they had in 'em. He was now thinking
very much of something else besides the dishes and the Graftens.
The team was running away and it looked like it would be a good
runaway if he could head 'em right. But some of 'em had got
tangled up in the traces from the start and he could no more hold
 'em than fly, or not as much. Then right ahead he seen a turn
he'd have to make or the team and wagon would go right down the
steep banks of a ravine that run crossways from the hills and
towards the creek, and even if he could turn the team, he more
than doubted if the wagon wouldn't upset and roll over into the
ravine anyway, at the speed it was going.

It wound up just about like that only even better than the cook
expected, for there was a lot of swing and snap to it. Thanks to
the help of the pilot for that, because if it hadn't been for him
it would of been a straight down drop, a stacking up of horses
one on top of the other and the wagon on top of 'em, for the cook
hadn't been able to turn the team.

As it was, and when the pilot seen that the team was sure enough
serious in their running away, seen that the cook couldn't hold
or turn 'em and also seen the wash ahead, he let the team pass
him a bit, then caught up to the "nigh" (left) leader, grabbed
the heavy line, and taking a couple of turns around his saddle
horn went to try and point him and the other leader up the draw
and to one side of the ravine.

All would of been well, maybe, if the wash had been twenty feet
further on. But it wasn't, and when the pilot sort of jerked the
leaders off their feet and turned off the ravine the swing team
didn't follow so well and the wheelers hardly any, but all just
enough to make a whip lash out of the fast running teams and a
popper out of the wagon.

It popped high and over the bank, the wheel team having no ground
under 'em went down too, turning over the swing team and dragging
the leaders down after 'em, also the pilot and his horse, for it
seemed like that rider hadn't been able to get away on account of
the team coming so fast and all going so fast after that.

When the dust cleared a little there was only one left on the
bank and that one was the cook, just laughing at the rider
scrambling away from his horse in the brush below while that
horse was fighting to get his footing. The team was just as
they'd been hooked up and as they belonged but in all positions
excepting right side up. The wagon was the only part of the
outfit that was right side up, and after it had turned over a
couple of times it looked ready for the cook to come to as in
camp and start cooking. That's what had made him laugh, along
with the sight of the scrambling rider.

It was about a fifteen foot drop to the bottom of the ravine and
where the outfit had landed, and the cook sliding down to the
bottom, begin untangling his team, and the pilot, after
untangling his horse and leaving him to where he could stand up,
came along to help him.

"Well," says that rider as he stuck his grinning head thru the
brush, "that wasn't a bad runaway."

"Couldn't of been done in better style," says the cook, now good
natured, "you swung 'em just right so they'd lay good."

Unhooking and untangling the horses one by one they pulled each
one around to where he could get some footing so as to get up and
stand. The brush had saved 'em from hard falls and none was hurt,
only sort of shaky and more spooky than ever.

The two other wagons had pulled up above 'em before then, and the
nighthawk leaving his four horse team in the care of the flunky
who drove only two, slid down the ravine to also help in
straightening up the outfit.

It was good that the wagon was right side up, for that would of
been a mighty awkward and heavy contraption to handle in the
narrow space. And that wagon didn't seem to be much worse for the
tumble. Everything had been well tied down in it on account of
runaways to always look forward to, and fast going even at
regular speed. So the bows to hold up the canvas cover and the
seat is all that was broke.

Now, getting the wagon out was the next problem, and there was
only one way to that, pull it down the ravine to the creek bottom
and where the wood road went thru. They could get back on bench
land on that same road and then branch off to the camp site they
was headed for.

But getting the wagon down that ravine would be some job. The
ravine was narrow and brushy and big boulders was along it and
there was near a quarter of a mile of that to go thru to get to
the creek bottom. Besides, the wagon was headed up the ravine and
it would have to be pulled backwards for quite a ways before it
could be turned around.

The cook and the other two didn't fret or study the situation
long, they just went to it without wasting any time, for that
wagon had to be up at camp, and grub ready when the cowboys rode
in. That cook had never failed with the chuck wagon yet, not with
all the runaways he'd had, and now that he'd been the last one
ready to pull out of camp that morning, and for the first time,
that had been enough disgrace to do him for one day, or any
amount of days. He'd never once been late in having the grub
ready when it was time for it to be ready, and that once wasn't
going to happen now, not if he could help it.

The cook, like most all round-up cooks, had been a good cowboy in
his younger days and savvied how to handle any kind of horses
well. He picked out the gentlest two of his team, big rangy
horses, and with the help of the pilot and nighthawk, soon had
 'em hooked onto the back end of the wagon. And with him handling
the ribbons and the other two on the tongue to steer the wagon,
he started the team over brush and boulders down the steep ravine.

It was a good thing the ravine was steep because the two horses,
even tho big and strong, couldn't of pulled it. Over brush and
boulders the wagon went, sometimes tipping over till it upset,
then the team would be hooked on the side to straighten it up
again. Wheels had to be tied to act as locks in some places on
account of the going being so steep, then other places where it
was still steeper the wagon had to be snubbed to a tree or
boulder and slack gradually given to let it go down easier, all
the while the two men on the wagon tongue being whipped back and
forth as a front wheel would come against rocks or washed out
places. There was brush to be cut in some places, boulders to be
moved with the team, and all put together the three was having
more than a busy time.

"I sure don't mind a good runaway," says the cook once, while
wiping the sweat of his brow, "but I sure hate the picking up of
the pieces afterwards and the patching things up."

It was some relief when a place was finally reached where the
wagon could be turned around and the team hooked on the tongue
where it belonged, and as the cook seen by the hills that the sun
was now up, he worked all the harder to keep the wagon moving and
down towards the creek bottom. He should be at the camp site
right now, he thought, and things started to cooking.

"Goldern them pilgrims anyhow," he'd said once, meaning the
Graftens. He blamed the fix he was in on them, for, as he
figured, if they hadn't held him from getting his start from camp
he wouldn't of got on the peck, and if he hadn't got on the peck
he wouldn't of got so careless maybe and let his team run away
and be in such a fix. And now if he didn't get in camp in time
he'd blame that onto 'em too.

With a lot of figuring, straining, sweating and some cussing, the
wagon was finally got down in a little clearing in the creek
bottom. It would now be fair going from there to the road, and
tying the team to a tree they all started back up the ravine to
get the other horses. The nighthawk knowing the way to the camp
site went on with his wagon, the flunky following him, and with
orders from the cook to get a good fire going and have some good
coals ready when he got there because there'd be no time to waste
getting the chuck to cooking. Then the cook and pilot started
down the ravine leading the horses in single file.

They made it back down to the wagon in good time and the team was soon
hooked up and ready to go again. The pilot held the leaders while the
cook got up in the wagon with his six lines. He missed his seat there,
for it would be hard to handle the six horses while sitting on nothing
much to give him any leverage, then it would be hard to handle his
brakes. So he stacked up his and John B.'s bed roll, tied 'em to stay,
and straddling 'em like on a horse and bracing his feet against the dash
board, he figured he could ride fairly well and handle his team the
same. But he would have no more runaways now if he could help it, no
more foolishness that way because he had to get to the camp site now and
have the grub ready.

The cook all set, the pilot let the leaders go. They started like
a good fresh stage team, and then the pilot getting on his horse
went in the lead again, and to piloting the best way out thru or
around clumps of trees and marshes to the wood road. That was
made in fine shape and then the going being pretty good, the cook
let his team ramble along in a lope for a ways. Time had to be made up.

All was going along fine that way, and the team, now sort of
satisfied from their play and running away, was rambling along
good and with no other intentions but to get to the other end,
have the harness pulled off of 'em and turned loose to roll.

And the cook was even whistling a tune, when, of a sudden, and like
right in his ear came the loud scream of an automobile horn. At the same
time he was near bucked off his bed roll seat and a-hanging on the
ribbons for all he was worth. For at the sudden noise of the horn the
team had jumped as tho they'd been stuck with electric prods, all as in
one and to near jerking the gear out from under the wagon box.

The team lit to running again, and worse than they had the first
time because there was not just rough play in this runaway and no
kicking over the traces, they was scared plum out of their wits
and they was running to get away, and at the speed they was
running they could get away from most anything, even the
automobile that had come up so close behind the wagon and scared
 'em with its sudden scream.

The cook not wanting any more runaways that morning handled his
ribbons like he never had before, and even tho handicapped by not
having his regular wagon seat to brace himself from, he done well
on the bed roll and rode it like he was on some old bucker and
where it was a case of either ride or walk a long ways. He rode,
and with one foot on the brake lever and the other on the dash
board, he handled his ribbons like a master stage driver and kept
his team in line and on the road.

That road, even tho winding a considerable, was a good thing
because horses, either scared or just drifting, will take to a
trail or road and stay with it rather than hit cross country. And
as good luck would have it there was no very sharp turns on that
road and none ahead that he could see as yet.

The team had run for over a mile and they wasn't yet under
control, but there was a straight stretch for a ways and the cook
took a chance to looking back on trying to get a glance of the
car that had spooked his team. He wanted to see that car so he
could recognize it. He was lucky there and it took him just a
glance to do that, and even the car was near half a mile behind.
He'd looked as the car showed up near broadside in making a turn
and he recognized the color and build of it. It was the Graften car.

"Why, the daggone pot licking jinxes," he says, gritting his
teeth as he turned back to his runaway team. He was too peeved
for more words, and enough so he now again enjoyed the clatter
and rumble of the running team and swaying wagon. He even hardly
paid much attention when he seen a sharp turn ahead and where the
road left the creek bottom to wind up on bench land again, and he
hardly noticed the fast riding pilot up ahead waving him a
warning.

So it was with only little reasoning that he kept his team on the
road instead of letting 'em go straight on at the turn and bang
up into the creek and heavy brush. The wagon swayed, hardly in
the road half of the time, and when it come to the turn it was a
miracle to the watching pilot how the wagon ever kept on its
wheels. It whipped off the road there by many yards to land on
only one wheel, when a breath would of tipped it over to rolling,
then to be straightened up by a jerk from the team and to do near
the same wild whipping on the other side of the road.

By another miracle, the pilot thought, the team stuck to the road
and took to the climb like good ones, the wagon still whipping
mighty dangerous behind 'em on the sidling road. How the cook
stuck to his bed roll seat was more miracles, one right after
another, for there was plenty of times when the front or back
wheels of the wagon was a couple of feet off the ground and
landed crooked, and at that speed the pilot figured it would be
easier to ride a bucking horse any time.

It was a relief to see the team take to the climb and stick to
the road there, for that would wind 'em some and maybe quiet 'em
down so they'd quit their running out of control. They did slow
down, and by the time the level of the bench land was reached
they was just at a good lope. They could of been brought down to
a trot, the pilot figured, but the cook hadn't seemed to try, and
when they was on bench land again and headed for rolling country,
they went to running some more and that cook still wasn't seeming
to try and hold 'em down. Just sort of steadying 'em so there'd
be no mixup, and letting 'em line out.

But they wasn't running as fast nor was they near as scared as
they'd been when they first started. They was now running more to
sort of ease their feelings that way, than from scare or for the
fun of it.

Once the pilot caught the cook as he was looking back over his
shoulder to see if the automobile was still coming. No such was
in sight, and he'd grinned to himself in realizing he was trying
to get away from it. So, to help him, he piloted off the wood
road and headed for hilly country, a rougher and straighter cut
to the camp site, and there was no road. That had seemed to suit
the cook fine and he'd let his team follow the lead of the pilot
at a high lope.

Getting into the first low hills the team slowed down in their
lope some, and the cook easy had control of 'em, for they wasn't
running away no more. He let 'em ramble as they pleased, and when
they got deeper into the hills and climbing along long draws and
coulees, they soon settled down to a trot and then a walk, before
they'd get to the top. But they was ready to ramble on some more
after reaching the top, and getting their wind while going
downhill, they soon lined out into a trot, then a lope and
finally to pretty good running again.

It was that way all the way into the camp site, without any more
trouble, and the cook still riding his bed roll and handling the
ribbons. He'd lost his peeved look as he drove his team there and
stopped in the same spot where the wagon had been stopped many
times for many years before, and a long grin spread over his face
as he seen that the nighthawk and flunky hadn't got in with their
wagons yet. For he'd went quite a ways around from where he left
the ravine, near twice as far as the nighthawk and flunky had to
go, and still he'd beat 'em to the camp site.

That made him some happy, like kind of making up for being the
last one ready that morning. He turned his lines over to the
pilot, and as that rider went to unhooking the team, he got busy
to building a fire out of the wood that was already there from
the last time, and as that burned down to coals he got a couple
of buckets of water from a closed in spring close by, dug his
kettles out, layed the cover board of the chuck box flat on its
one leg and soon was in the thick of his cooking.

Kettles and pots and pans was a little more dented and sort of
mixed up some. A few things was broke, and some leaked, and
others shook out in the wild and rough ride and as the wagon
turned over, but there was few things carried along in the chuck
wagon that would break or leak or shake out and such things was
always pretty well packed and tied down to stay. So the cook had
no trouble much in finding everything he wanted to use, and still
in good shape, and even tho there'd been a couple of hours spent
in getting the chuck wagon out of the ravine, besides getting to
the camp site in a round about way, he still had made good time
and he could have a fair bait cooked up and ready by the time the
riders came in from the morning's circle.

That's all he cared about, and now he could near forgive the
Graftens for holding him back that morning, also for the second
runaway they was all the cause of, for, after all, with that
second runaway he now figured that only boosted him to get to
camp quicker, and to getting the grub ready on time. He didn't
think of how near he come to turning the wagon over a few times
on the way.

His fire had burned down to a long bed of good cooking coals and
the water in a couple of his kettles and coffee pot was near
boiling as he heard the two wagons coming. They'll be surprised,
he thought. And the nighthawk and flunky was surprised as they
drove in. More than that, for they hardly believed their eyes
when they seen the chuck wagon there, the team all unhooked and
unharnessed and the cook with his fire going and busy at the
chuck box, like he'd been there all the time.

The nighthawk drove the bed wagon along the same grounds where
the rope corral had always been stretched, unhooked his team and
tied 'em up, and went to unloading his bed roll and dragging it
where there'd be shade for all the day. Then he came to the chuck
wagon for a bite of whatever might be handy, and some of the
coffee the cook always had ready first. He looked into the coffee
pot and seeing it had already boiled and was now simmering on a
few coals, he says, "Must of been rambling some."

"Rambling wasn't in it," says the cook, cutting on a hunk of
beef, "I just touched the blue ridges getting over here, and they
was far apart ridges too."

After taking on a couple of hunks of "huckydummy" (baking powder
raisin bread) and as many cups of black coffee, the nighthawk
rolled a cigarette and talked to the cook a while. He'd kind of
missed out on his sleep that day on account of helping with the
wagon in the ravine, but he'd catch that up before the day was over.

He looked at the sky as he rolled a second cigarette. "Sure looks
like rain," he says.

The cook hardly glancing up answered, "Let 'er come. We was here first."

"Well," the nighthawk went on, "it's been quite a spell since we
had a good rain, and another one right now would sure do the
range good."

"Yes, it would, and I'd sooner it'd come while we re here on
account there's plenty of good wood and shelter."

"There is that," says the nighthawk, "and I wouldn't mind if the
wagon stayed here for a month. It's sure a good country and easy
to hold horses in. I think this is one of the prettiest and best
spots on this range, and I'm. glad we always stay a couple of
days every time we come to this spot."

It was, as the nighthawk said, a pretty spot, and the country
around was just as pretty and as good as it was to look at. Below
where the wagon was camped was a clear mountain stream tumbling
over boulders and fringed on one side with a narrow strip of
pines, then along the stream was big cottonwoods and groves of
quakers and willows. The ground was a thick carpet of grass with
boulders scattered here and there, and as high as a man on
horseback. Then there was high solid reddish rock rims shooting
up thru the green earth, which the eye could follow plum up to a
high range of timber covered mountains not far away.

The timber being heavier in that part of the range made it harder
to get the cattle rounded up, and that's why the wagon camped
there longer than at most other places. And sometimes, when the
work wasn't too rushing, the outfit would also stay there longer
than usual or necessary so as all could catch up at washing a few
clothes, resting some and shoeing a few horses.

The nighthawk went to where he'd left his bed roll, looked around
some and then lifted it on his shoulder. He'd seen a cool and
shady spot by a rimrock and under a pine, and took it there where
he would be out of the way of coming or going riders and where
the sound of their voices wouldn't reach. There under the tall
pine and on pine needles, he unrolled his bed, unsnapped the
tarpaulin and opened it up to air out good, for he'd let
Graften's chauffeur sleep in it the night before, and being the
bed had no rest that way, he figured it needed an airing.

He spread the bed out well, then stretching out on one end of it
he smoked another cigarette while looking up at the sky and
watching clouds roll by thru the far reaching limbs of the pine.
They was heavy dark clouds, coming along slow and with a light
cool breeze that made the nighthawk feel he would sleep well. He
got up, took all of his clothes off but his shirt and underwear.
layed 'em inside the tarp, and getting under one blanket, he
brought the other part of the tarp over to cover himself and his
clothes and belongings with the waterproof canvas. If it rained
there was nothing of his out to get wet, nothing but his two
private horses, backs, and that would do them good. He'd already
throwed his saddle on high ground and covered it with his
slicker.

The flunky, a young feller, after taking care of his two horse
team the same way the nighthawk had, was now doing his best in
helping the cook, cleaning and straightening things up in that
pot box, taking the dents out of some with a hammer and
straightening handles on others.

"Sure is a good thing you wasn't among these," he says to the
cook once as he held a battered heavy tin kettle.

The cook looked at it and grinned. "Yes," he says, "I don't think
the boys would like me for hash."

The young feller had come from parts east with strong intentions
of becoming a cowboy, and confident as most young fellers of his
age are, that he could be a good one. He'd come to the town where
the Mitchells done their trading and stuck around there, mostly
at the saddle shop until he made a sort of nuisance of himself
there while waiting for some cowman to come in that would give
him a job. He'd had no success that way because at first he'd
wanted a job as a rider, or a cowboy, as he'd said, and none of
the cowmen that came could see any cowboy in him. He soon
realized that he was taking on a heap too much territory in
asking for a job as a cowboy from the start, for when a cowman
hires a cowboy, that's just what he wants, not one that thinks he
is or just wants to be one. Realizing that, he then changed his
tactics and decided he would go out and do anything for a
starter, even wash dishes, just so he could get out on a ranch.

So when Austin came into town one day and the saddle man gave the
young feller a wink and he struck Austin for a job, he was very
mild in talking of his ability as a rider. Instead he'd said he'd
do anything, "even wash dishes," and that got him a job, for
Austin did want a flunky, and even tho he'd bumped into some
other young fellers wanting jobs on ranches, he'd picked on this
one because he'd seemed honest in telling of what little he could
do but wanted to work and learn.

The young feller was called "Suds" soon as he washed his first
kettle on the Seven Xs, and he hadn't been with that outfit over
a day when he was glad he didn't get hired as a cowboy, not when
he seen the kind of horses he'd had to ride and the work that had
to be done with 'em. He seen he'd have to know a considerable
more about horses before he'd start to handle a half rough one,
and do a lot of watching so as to get onto the ropes. He done
plenty of watching, and in the meantime he dug in his work like a
good one and made a hand of himself right from the start, even if
it was at peeling potatoes, washing pots and pans and dishes, and
helping the cook in general. His hankering to be with the cowboys
and riding didn't keep him from doing that work well, and if he
was at the corral often or mixing with the cowboys while they was
roping and saddling horses, he didn't neglect what was to be done
around the chuck wagon.

The cook, usually cranky, liked him for that. He liked him better
than most any flunky he'd ever had, and one day he told Hatty
about him.

"Yes," he'd went on to say, "that kid's got the makings of a good
hand in him I think. He's sure a willing little cuss and he makes
a hand of himself at whatever he does, even if he hates the job,
and since he got that saddle he had me order for him, and got to
riding around some with the wrangler, he shows that he has the
knack and catches on quick."

"What are you trying to do," Hatty had acted suspicious and said,
"shove him on to me? I've got to have cowboys, besides I'm more
than full handed."

"Don't worry, old timer. I'm not trying to shove Suds on anybody,
and you'd better not try and get him before the wagon pulls in
this fall either."

"I agrees not to, old boy, yourself," Hatty had said, acting
pleased. Then he'd went on like he meant it, "I noticed that boy
too, and can't help but like him the way he goes at things. Again
like around the corral, he's never in the way nor asks fool
questions, but just quiet-like and watching. I might put him on
at some winter camp this fall if too many of the boys hit south,
maybe with some old hand like yourself that ain't no good no more
but puttering around and giving advice. That is if he'll stay
that long."

"He'll stay that long, and if he takes any advice from me and
hands it to you, you'll know something."

The cook, sort of keeping up with the runaway pace of that
morning, had things cooked up so he was satisfied all would be
ready by the time the riders came in. The wrangler had come in,
left the remuda to graze on, turned all the wagon horses loose
and hazed 'em in with it. Later on there was the dust and far
away bellers of the main herd to be held to graze, and in an hour
or so now the drives from the morning's circle could be expected
in to the cutting grounds, and the cowboys to ride in at the
wagon.

But ten o clock come, then eleven o clock, and no dust of drives
showed up anywhere, and then the cook began to fret and get
peevish again, for, to sort of make up for being the last one
ready that morning, he'd went to some extra trouble to fix up an
extra good bait. He'd even made a batch of son-of-a-gun-in-a-sack
(dried fruit rolled in dough, sewed in flour sack and boiled) and
other things the boys liked, just to show all around that he
could be late to start out, have two runaways and a turn over,
besides going in a round about way, and still have a lot of good
chuck hot and ready in time. And now the outfit was late getting
in.

"Must of went away high on the mountain," says the wrangler who'd
left the remuda to graze, not far from the corral.

He'd hardly spoke when strings of dust begin to spurt up along
one timbered mountain ridge and then another, and by the look of
them dusts the cattle was sure travelling. Them cattle was pretty
wild. It wasn't long when the dusts made by the drives blended
into one at the point of the ridges and the cattle now all in one
herd was drove to a big open park where the cutting grounds was.

A short while afterwards all the riders on that morning's circle,
excepting the few left to hold the herd, rode in to the corral on
a high lope, unsaddled and turned their horses loose, and when
they come along to the chuck wagon and begin to fill their
plates, the cook was ready for the first joking remark he figured
would come on account of his being late to start out that
morning. It did come, in the way of how he sure showed a guilty
conscience and must be wanting forgiveness bad by putting out
such a good spread of grub as he had.

"But I at least show some sense of self-preservation," says the
cook to that. "I might be late going out but would never be late
when grub's ready."

That was of course just opposite of the cook's caliber, and the
riders knowed it. But it had its turn on 'em for being late when
grub was ready. He well realized that they couldn't drop their
herd or whatever they was doing just to be on time for meals, and
that cowpunching can't mix with clock punching. It was only his
way to quiet the remarks some.

But the joking went along pretty well that way as the riders et,
and as all was still for a minute, like the stillness before a
storm, there come sudden tearing commotion from the corral. The
whole remuda had spooked and picked up like a bunch of quail, and
stampeded thru and out of the corral, leaving the big cable all
twisted up as they took it along with 'em a ways. Every rider at
the wagon dropped his plate to the ground and jumped up at the
commotion and some started running for the corral, wondering.
Then the dust stirred by the stampeded remuda cleared, and there
near about where the corral had been, shining and as big as life,
was the Graften car.



CHAPTER X - Cloudy in the West


All hands stood stock still and like petrified at the sight of
the car, and where the remuda had just been, but there was plenty
of action in their minds as they digested the surprise, specially
in John B. s, and the cook's and Hatty s.

The car had stopped where it was first seen, and the cook was the
first to break the stillness. It was with a loud laugh that kept
a-running, ringing and echoing as he slapped the top of the wagon
table with the flat of his hand and made things dance there.

That laugh more than broke the tense stillness. It got to be
catching and all hands got to laughing, even John B. and Hatty,
who'd been pretty peeved at their first surprise, had got to
grinning.

They'd all somehow got the cook's angle of looking at the fresh
and sudden appearance of the Graften outfit. Sort of always
butting in with a bang and disturbing things, or doing other
things they hadn't ought to. Like with their first appearance in
stirring up the herd, making the cook late the next morning, the
runaway they'd partly caused, then the second one where they was
all at fault, all thru their ignorance. And Suds, as little as
he'd got to know about range etiquette, and even tho the Graftens
was from his own part of the world, had only contempt for their
making such a nuisance of themselves and upsetting things in such
a busy place as a round-up camp, the last place where they ought
to be. But he'd had a laugh too.

And now here they'd busted in again and stirred another rumpus,
scattering the remuda by coming into sight too quick and too
close.

The laughs came in with the folks, sudden and stirring
appearances that way, like they might pop up most any place and
do anything at the wrongest times. There was no dodging 'em, the
road and rough country they'd just come over sort of proved that,
and they sure hadn't been invited or was expected to follow. But
here they was, like the jinx, to stay and stir up the outfit and
make it pop. That's what had struck the cook's funny bone at the
sight of the car, them people with blank faces, meaning no harm
but always creating a commotion in their ignorance of the range
and its life. They struck him like awkward clowns getting into
something that's not on the program for 'em to get into, and
that's the angle the riders had caught from the cook, and which
had got the whole outfit to laughing. It was so useless to do
anything else.

But the unnecessary stirring, running or corralling of saddle
horses don't go with a well run round-up outfit, for their
strength is kept as much as possible for the work that's to be
done, and Hatty, priding himself on his running that wagon,
couldn't see as much to laugh about as others did.

He soon got serious and then started for the automobile, and John
B. seeing by the look on his face what he was up to, warned him a
little to hold on.

Hatty turned on him, and mighty peeved, he says, "Who in
tarnation is running this outfit?"

Knowing that his feelings was against the Graftens, John B. only
grinned a little. "I wouldn't go talk to any strangers with a
face like you re packing," he says. "You'll scare the folks to
death. You ve even got me shaking in my boots."

Hatty stopped and gave up at that. "Why goldern their hides," he
says, squatting down and reaching for his plate again, "what in
the samhill are they pesticating round here for anyhow? This
ain't no dude outfit."

All hands went back to eating and paid no more attention to the
car. But it didn't take 'em long to finish up on the cook's good
meal. A few more bites, the coffee drunk up, and they was done.
John B. was the first thru and he headed for the car that was
still where it had stopped. The folks there was now out of it,
watching the running horses and all interested, like not at all
seeming to realize that they'd been the cause of them breaking away.

John B. didn't say anything about that when he come near them.
All he said was that dinner was ready and they'd better go and
get it while it was still hot. "And get your car out of here and
hide it somewhere," he'd added on.

Some of the cowboys had gone to get the corral by then and soon
Hatty and the rest had it up and ready again. Then the spooked up
remuda was brought in by the wranglers and corralled once more.
But riders had to be around on the outside, and they took turns
to catching their horses and watching, because the horses would
of broke out again at any spooky sound, and it took 'em a while
to quiet down. The cowboys, having all caught fresh horses and
rode out to the cutting grounds for the work of branding and
cutting out, the wrangler tied the corral rope and went to finish
his interrupted meal. The Graftens wasn't at the chuck wagon as
yet, they was at their car which was hid as they'd been told to
do with it, and washing and cleaning up.

But they came soon enough, with Graften in the lead and Jeffers
bringing up the drags, and the wrangler had to laugh when Graften
came to the cook with a howdedo and handed him the dirty plates
and cups and says, "You forgot these, I believe."

The cook looked only at the tin dishes. "No. I don't believe I
did," he says. "I just thought you wanted to keep 'em as
souvenirs."

"Tin plates as souvenirs?" and Graften laughed. So did the cook
grin, to himself.

Then Graften seen the wrangler a-sitting off a ways. "Well, young
man," he says to him, getting to feel like he could joke some, "I
see your corral didn't hold the horses very good today."

The wrangler looked at him for a long spell, then he says, "I
don't think you'd stay in a tent either if a grizzly walked in on
you, not even if the tent was warm and it was sixty below
outside."

Graften laughed. "What has that got to do with the horses not
staying in the corral?"

"The same as it would have to do with you not staying in the tent
if a bear came in. That automobile of yours coming a-busting
around scared 'em as much as a bear would of scared you, and it
would of took a good pole corral to hold 'em."

"I never thought of that," says Graften.

And he didn't seem to care as him and his family went on to
helping themselves with dishes and filling them up. They also
helped themselves to the cook's and John B.'s bed roll to sit on
while they et, and as the cook kept a-getting compliments as to
how good this and that was, he figured it a good joke on himself
for cooking the extra good meal, like for them, because with
their interruption the cowboys sure didn't get to enjoy it.

The relieved riders on the herd from cutting grounds, also the
others on the dayherd rode in, et, caught fresh horses and rode
on out again, and the Graftens was still eating, making the cook
wonder if they'd be done by supper time. Then Suds, not waiting
for their dishes, went to snaking in limb wood on one of the
wrangler's horses. He liked to do that, anything to be riding or
handling a rope, and he was also helping the wrangler out, for
bringing in wood is part of the wrangler's work.

He'd brought in quite a few jags of limbs before he noticed that
the Graftens had finally got thru eating and left, all but the
girl, who watched him ride in with another jag, and then, as he'd
got off his horse to get the rope off of 'em, the girl came up,
remarked about how heavy looking and odd the western saddles was,
and asked if she could ride his horse for a while and try it.

The way she'd went ahead and took the bridle reins and started to
get on went to show that she'd seldom if ever been refused of
anything by anybody. The wrangler might of let her on his horse,
but Suds was used to girls and their ways. He'd come from where
there was plenty of 'em.

"You can't ride that horse," he says, "the wrangler'll hang you."

She kept one foot in the stirrup, and looking at Suds as tho he
was very nervy and only a cook's helper after all, she stuck her
nose up, and saying that she could ride him if he could, she
climbed in the saddle.

That made Suds mighty peeved and quick, and he acted according.
He picked up one long limb, and the girl was just about to sit in
the saddle when he drug the small end of that dry stiff limb
under the horse's belly, and that done the work well. The girl
didn't get to set in the saddle, the cantle came up and met her
with a bang as the horse made a scared and quick buck jump and
she was boosted over his head to sprawl on the ground.

Before she'd got to looking around, Suds had caught hold of the
horse and climbed into the saddle, and as she sat on the ground
and then turned, wondering what had happened, he stuck his nose
up at her as she had at him and says, "I told you you couldn't
ride this horse," and he rode on unconcerned.

The cook, having heard and watched the whole proceedings had to
laugh at the way the girl looked at Suds as he was riding away.
He seen that she'd learned something, and as she turned quick and
caught him laughing, he had to laugh all the more at her
expressions. He'd been caught laughing anyway and excusing
himself would only made things worse right then, he thought.

"I don't think it's a bit funny," she says, getting up and
brushing herself.

"Well, you didn't see it the way I did." Then he got serious and
added on as she started to walk away, "You got to excuse me. When
anybody gets throwed off I have to laugh even if they was to
break their necks."

Cooled down some at the apology she stopped. "Why I haven't seen
anyone thrown off here yet," she says, "and I've seen a few of
the horses buck."

"You just ain't been here long enough. It happens once in a
while, and the best of riders get throwed sometimes."

Well how is a person going to know if a horse will buck?"

"Getting on 'em is the surest way to find out," he says, laughing again.

She thought for a while, and then she says, "But I would like to
ride while I'm here. I will ask Mr. Mitchell for a good horse."

The cook had plenty of thoughts as to that but no answers, and as
Graften and his wife showed up from the direction of their camp
about then, he figured that the talking they'd do would be plenty
enough. He just kept busy at his work.

Mrs. Graften started it as she came to join her daughter. She
didn't get no hint of what had just happened.

"What a gorgeous country this is," she begins. "It reminds me of
Switzerland, and what a lovely camping place. I could stay here forever."

"Wait a while," says the cook pointing a spoon at the dark clouds
still piling up.

"Why, do you think it's going to rain and spoil this beautiful
weather?"

"Rain is what makes this weather beautiful, and this country
beautiful too."

"Does it rain much here?"

"Yes, quite a bit, and when she starts she's liable to last for a month."

"Why, my gracious," she says looking up at the sky, "how could we
get back to civilization if it does?"

"Get going before it starts is all I can advise. This country
here sure gets mucky and soft after it rains on it for a spell,
and an automobile can't get nowheres in it. It'll even bog down a
saddle blanket."

About then Graften edges in. "We could get back with a team and
wagon," he says, smiling.

His wife sort of reared up at that, gave him a stare and just
said, "Why, impossible."

"Sure you can," he went on, "and in quick time too. Didn't you
see the cook here this morning? He made better time than we did
even on the road, and after he left it we couldn't see him to
keep up."

"Yes," says Mrs. Graften, raising her eyebrows, "but who would
care to ride in a wagon?"

Graften didn't seem to hear the remark and went on to ask the
cook, "Do you always travel from one place to another at that speed?"

"Yep," says the cook, feeling he was cornered to answering
questions. "Sometimes worse."

"But what's the hurry?"

"To get to the other end and get things to cooking, the noon meal
comes early."

"Do all round-up outfits travel that fast?"

"No, but most good ones travel pretty fast, all depends to the
ways of the country. Some outfits take half a day to break camp,
move fifteen miles and set up camp again. But this ain't that
kind of a outfit."

"Well, well, how interesting," says Graften. "Do you know this is
quite an experience for us. Our friends back home won't believe
us when we tell them that horses hitched to wagons left us in
their dust. Jeffers is a good driver too, and he tried to keep up
with you but he simply couldn t. Then the experience of following
your wagon tracks up and down such steep places as they took us
was very thrilling, scary in the least in some places and we had
to go around them. We burned the brakes badly but it was worth
the experience, indeed."

"You was trying to follow me, eh?" says the cook, pounding away
at what he was mixing. "I wouldn't try to do that any more if I
was you, specially honking that horn at a team, any team."

"Why?"

"Oh, it might cause runaways, and besides you might get hurt."

"Hurt. How?"

The cook just looked at him at that. There was no use of
answering.

After a few more questions the family went to strolling along to
look at the "beautiful" country. It was more than that but they
could see only the surface and not at all the heart, for they'd
never lived in the depth of it. There w as flowers there too,
more than there had been at the last place and of different kinds
again, and they wandered around the big granite rocks, picking
 em, and noticed where horses and cattle had tromped some down.
They thought it was a shame. They didn't know that some of the
prettiest flowers they picked was very poisonous to stock. But
even tho stock would eat flowers along with the grass, they
wouldn't usually touch the poisonous ones unless the feed was
short and they was the only thing standing.

They'd had quite a bouquet gathered up, and Graften, moseying
along by the bigger and deeper pooled streams, was now wishing
again that he'd brought his fishing tackle, when he felt a big
rain drop splatter on his hand, then another, and as he looked up
he seen that the sky was over half covered with dark heavy clouds
and near to the sun that was on its clown circle to the western
ridges, his wife and daughter also felt a few drops, and when
they looked up towards the mountains, they couldn't see them for
the heavy sheet of rain that was coming, and about then there was
a flash of lightning that near blinded 'em and scared 'em bad.
They'd never been in the open that way and amongst all that
nature hands out, and what little lightning they'd ever seen had
been far away and thru windows of steel and stone buildings, and
dimmed by smoke.

But now it seemed right before em, at their very feet, and if
they was scared then, it was only a starter, for there come an
ear splitting thunder clap that made the earth under 'em shake,
and they covered their heads with their hands like as if the
heavens was going to fall on 'em. When the rumbling thunder sort
of faded away and they opened their eyes, it had got near dark
and there was a spooky look to everything around 'em, like as if
the end of the world had come sure enough.

They dropped their bouquets of flowers and started to run for
their camp, and they'd just got started when the sheet of rain
come over 'em, and so heavy that it was near like swimming as
they run on. There was no stopping for breath in that, for
they felt they'd drown if they did, and to speed 'em on there
come another blinding streak of lightning followed by an earth
shaking, deafening roar of thunder. Then the rain got even heavier.

The three was soaked thru long before they reached their camp.
The marcelles had straightened out on the ladies, and Graften
having lost his hat was getting a good rain water soaking on the
few hairs on his head. If their camp hadn't been along the stream
they'd most likely lost their way, but there again, if their camp
hadn't been so close to that stream they'd found a dryer camp
when they got there, for with the sudden and near cloudburst the
stream had already raised so as to cover the ground the camp was
on by quite a few inches of muddy churning water, and there was
more coming.

With gusts of wind backed by heavy rain, the tent had been blowed
down, and as the family got there, Jeffers, also soaking wet, was
pulling the tent pegs loose to move it and camp outfit on higher
ground. It was lucky for them that the bedding was on cots or it
would also got wet thru. They had no tarps.

That was the wet sight that greeted the family. But they didn't
ponder long as to what to do, for a string of lightning flashes
like all around 'em spooked 'em to move before the thunder come,
and there was only one way to move, that was to help Jeffers get
the tent up on higher ground and get in the shelter of it. That
was the only shelter they could think of besides the car, but the
car didn't look safe, for the water was already lapping over the
running board of it.

The rain had let up some but it was still a-pouring down when the
tent was finally set up again. All had been in the way of one
another, and trying to do the same thing. The bedding and other
things got wet a considerable, with packing that out of the tent
and leaving it out till it was set up again. Then in their hurry
and excitement everybody, even Jeffers, had forgot about the car,
and when Jeffers looked at it the water was near to the top of
the wheels, and up to the cushions inside. There would be no
starting it now to move it out of there, that would have to be
done with a team, later.

The Graftens, at last in the shelter of their tent, and shivering
as much from fear of thunder and lightning as from being wet and
cold, got busy and to digging into their bags for the dry clothes
which they was mighty thankful to have, and Jeffers, now
wondering for a place of shelter, decided to go to the round-up
camp. There would be some shelter there, he thought, even if it
would be under a leaky wagon.

Neither Jeffers nor the Graften family had thought of watching
the skies and preparing for the rain, nor of making camp in a
safe place, and when it begin to pour, none thought of the
natural shelters that was all around 'em in the rim rocks close
by, and where the winds and snows of ages had made caves big
enough there to shelter a dozen head of stock (in some of the
caves). A few dry limbs grabbed on the run towards one of them
caves, and a fire built in the shelter there, would of been
comfortable and cheerful until the worst of the rain was over,
where a tent was only dreary damp and cold.

But they'd been used to man-made shelters and that's what they
hunted for at the break of the storm, the tent or the automobile.

But there was no thoughts of such shelters for the cowboys on the
cutting grounds with the herd. They'd seen the storm long before
it come and had prepared for it, with man-made things of course,
but they was only their long yellow slickers. They'd kept on
branding until the hair got too wet on the hides, cooled the
irons quick, and there was danger of blotching the brands and
making 'em unreadable afterwards by the irons slipping or
scalding. Then the branding had to be stopped, but the herd still
had to be held. So the riders untied their slickers from behind
their saddles and put 'em on, ready for the storm that came, and
prepared to ride some more. The herd had of course got spooky and
hard to hold when the heavy rains and thunder and lightning come,
but it had to be held because the branding wasn't all done, and
there was also the cutting out. The cowboys stood the worst of
the storm in the saddle and to holding the fidgety herd, while to
within a few hundred yards of 'em was the shelter of the dry
caves in the rims. Even John B., who was free to do as he
pleased, stayed with the herd and his men, partly as a force of
habit to "never quit the herd," and again feeling that he had no
right to hunt for shelter while the men he was with rode in the storms.

The few men on dayherd had it easier. They grazed the cattle to a
long sheltered coulee where they wouldn't be wanting to drift
from when the storm come, and when the storm did come they was
holed up in crags and caves in other rims of that country, and
from where they could see the herd. The main herd was easier to
hold than the herd made up the day's round-up, for the cattle in
the main herd are more used to being held and herded, and being a
little tired from being trailed on from camp to camp and to other
ranges, are more satisfied to stay wherever there's grass and
water, and shelter during storms.

The horse wrangler, also being watchful for storms, was prepared
when it came. He didn't bring the remuda near camp for him to
shelter there, he done the same as the men on dayherd had, drove
his horses to good shelter from the hard hitting rain, and also
holed up high and dry there, and where he could watch his horses
rump to shelter and graze.

The cowboy seldom gets under pines or any pitchy tree during a
thunder storm, for them are the likeliest trees for lightning to
hit. The nighthawk had got under a pine to take his day's sleep
but he'd figured the dark clouds he'd seen when first crawling
into his bed that morning might bring only rain, and no
lightning. And as the first loud crack of thunder woke him up and
he felt the earth shaking, the first thing that came to his mind
was that he was under a pine tree, and right then he figured that
he'd had enough sleep for that day. He might of slept a little
longer if the thunder had sounded far enough away, but as it was
he could tell by the sound of it and the vibrations of the earth
under him that the lightning was playing too close for comfort,
for a man under a pine tree.

The rain was pouring down at its best by then. He put on his
boots and dressed under the protection of his tarp, coat, hat and
all, then he jumped out, rolled his bed up quick as he could and
drug it on dry ground and up against the rimrock where very
little rain would touch it. That done, he hightailed it for the
chuck wagon where he figured shelter had been put up.

Shelter had been put up there, but it wasn't for the cowboys to
pesticate around under, it was for the cook, and where he could
mix his mixtures without them being diluted with half rain water.
The shelter was a wide canvas fly that spread from the top of the
chuck box, over the drop board of it which made a table when
opened, and on near halfways to the fire.

The fire was being put out and soaked by the heavy rain, but the
heavy lidded cast iron kettles and ovens that held the grub there
didn't let in a drop and they'd keep warm until another fire was
started, when the heaviest rain would pass on. There was dry
pitch wood beside the wagon and under the fly, and it takes a
mighty heavy rain to put such a fire out. The first rain was that
heavy.

The nighthawk didn't stop to grab his slicker as he went past his
saddle on his way to the shelter of the chuck wagon. He had a
short leather jacket on which would shed a lot of rain, and he
figured the slicker would do more good on his saddle right then,
so the lining and the saddle tree wouldn't get wet to warp up
when drying, causing sore backs on horses and twisting the saddle
skirting. In time it would do that.

But he got some wet on the way to the chuck wagon, plum to the
hide below his leather jacket, and when he hit for under the
shelter of the fly he was on a high lope. He shook himself and
stomped there a bit as the cook passed a grinning remark that no
dogs was allowed there. Then there come flashes of lightning
which the cook said afterwards mixed right in with the biscuit
dough he was working on, then a crash of thunder that made the
pots and pans rattle and near made the handle of the coffee
grinder spin around. At the same time there was another crash
which sounded right close, and the wrangler and the cook and Suds
all three looked the direction it came. But there was no use
looking, for it was so dark like and the sheets of rain was so
heavy that just the little ways to the pots by the dead fire was
as far as they could see.

"Old man weather sure must be dropping everything up there," says
the nighthawk pointing up towards the sky's ceiling.

"Yeh," says the cook. "Sounds like he'd dropped his gun belt and
the gun exploded and he throwed his boots after it."

Suds wasn't so much for joking about the lightning and the way it
acted. It struck him mighty serious and dangerous, but there was
nothing could be done about it, and the joking of the cook and
nighthawk more than eased the helpless and spooky feeling he had.
He felt that lightning was so close he could dig some out of his
ears and pockets.

And it had been close. For when the rain went on, like a heavy
curtain, and the three could see some distance from their canvas
fly, the nighthawk pointed to where he'd been sleeping that day
and says, "Don't tell me there ain't some supreme power watching
over the ignorant and the dumb."

The cook and Suds looked the direction the nighthawk pointed, and
there the big pine tree that had stood so tall over his bed was
smashed down to splinters like squashed by a giant sledge hammer,
plum down to a man's height off the ground and where the trunk
was three feet thru. The upper part of the tree was split and
scattered to lengths, and along with the heavy limbs, covered the
ground where the bed had been by quite a few feet of the heavy timber.

The cook had studied the pile of twisted timbers for a spell and
then looking at the nighthawk he says, "Why you ain't only
ignorant and dumb, but you re dead. Just wait till you walk
around a bit and you'll find yourself missing."

"Yeh," says the nighthawk, serious like, "I guess I'll need the
ax to dig myself out and give me a decent burial. I'll need my
bed too."

It had been some time later when Jeffers, some scared and plenty
wet, came in under the shelter of the fly and joined the three
there, and the cook couldn't help but pick on him a little as he did.

"Why don't you honk your horn when you come in?" he says.

Jeffers, even tho cold and shivering, had to laugh at that. "I'm
afraid there's no spark there right now," he says. "The water is
halfways up the car."

"Too bad," says the cook, joking some more. "It should be all the
way up and over it."

The thunder and lightning had got more and more distant and
followed along to wear itself out with the heavy clouds, and the
rain thinned down quite a bit as the afternoon wore on, but it
didn't show no sign of stopping, and what kept a-coming steady
was very wetting. The Graftens, having brought only light rain
coats, didn't go out of their tent. There was no place to go
anyway, not in this "miserable" weather, and Graften had only
looked out the tent flap a couple of times to see if his car was
still there or if it had been carried on down in the stream that
had swelled to be near a high raging river. The swollen waters
had gone down to half when he looked a second time, and the once
shiny car was still there, but now coated with mud and badly
dented by drifting timbers that had butted against it. One of the
heavy timbers had crashed thru one of the side windows, stuck out
there and had collected more limbs and such from the swirling
muddy waters.

Mrs. Graften, feeling a little chilly and very uncomfortable at
everything being wet and clammy around her, wasn't in the best of
humor, and when she got to see the car, the once fine big black
limousine, now looking like it had been washed down the muddy
mountain side, then to sit there as tho to catch all the drift
wood, that all put another damp weight on her already low
spirits, and they went down to bedrock.

She relieved her feelings some by putting all the blame on her
husband for ever thinking of coming West. "To this wild country
of wild animals and wild people."

"Yes, and even wild flowers," Graften interrupted.

"And wild people," she went on, "when we could have gone to so
many interesting and civilized place and mingled with our class."

That went on for quite a while, seeming to take little effect on
Graften, and it wasn't until she wound up by deciding to be
leaving the awful country as soon as possible, and Graften
agreeing to that, that she sort of let up on the subject.

"And my supply of cigarettes is getting low also," the daughter
had added on.

Their civilization was fast calling them.



CHAPTER XI - Hell and High Water


Out on the wet and slippery cutting grounds, John B. and Hatty
had started working the herd again, for, with the rain thinning
down as it had, they could now see well enough to cut out what
stock was to be throwed in the main herd, and being there could
no more branding be done that day, the unbranded calves and their
mothers that was left was also cut out to be throwed in the main
herd and to be held till next branding time.

It was muddy and slippery work for such quick action as the cut
horses had to use so as to get the dodging critters out of the
herd and headed for the cut. It was slippery for every animal
that moved fast, some horses slid and fell and many cattle too,
broadside and to slide on a ways. But the work was done, the herd
was throwed back to the range they'd been rounded up from to
scatter again, and the cut was drove to be put in the main herd.
The day's work was over until relief for men on cocktail and
night-guard come, and the yellow slickered riders wiping the rain
off their faces headed for camp.

"I wonder if that Graften feller walks in his sleep?" Hatty asks
John B. as the two was riding together, and knowing John B.
wouldn't answer such a foolish question, he went on, "The reason
I wondered," he says, "was on account that the herd is likely to
be pretty spooky tonight and hard to hold, and if Graften was to
show up near and wearing them loud pijammers which I figures he
wears, and a streak of lightning come along about then to show
him up plain why we wouldn't have no herd, cowboys or no cow-boys."

"Sure enough," says John B. grinning straight ahead. "Maybe you
better tie him down before first guard, if he ain't already
drownded by now."

Getting into camp the boys didn't go straight to the corral,
instead they went to looking for dead standing timber, and
putting their ropes on trees they could pull down by the saddle
horn, they each come to center of camp, halfways between the
chuck wagon and the corral, with some wood for a big fire to warm
up and dry by, and eat and drink coffee until time for their
shifts, or to crawl into their beds for the night.

The remuda had just been brought into the corral, and rumps to
the rain and wind stood plum still until the cowboys come near to
unsaddle and then catch and saddle their night horses and picket
 'em out in sheltered grassy spots. Then they lined out for the
chuck wagon to crowd the cook in his shelter there, while they
filled their plates with all the necessaries. It was past the
average supper hour but the cowboys made up for that, and after
getting their supply of victuals and coffee, they hightailed it
to their own and big fire which had been started and blazed high,
and there, making sure to push their hats back a little so the
rain water in the wide rolled brims wouldn't run in their plates,
they squatted on their heels and inside their long yellow
slickers on the wet sod.

It was a wet and rainy supper at the round-up camp. But it was
cheerful around the big popping and blazing fire. It kept things
warm and to dry even tho the rain kept a-falling, and the joking
that went the rounds as the boys et showed that their spirits
wasn't at all dampened.

John B. eating along with his riders, passed the joking to going
right on as it come his way. That was his life and he was his
usual happy self, even tho his boots was soaking wet and rain
pattered into the black coffee by his side.

Thru eating, he rolled a cigarette mind stuck it between his lips
without wetting it. He never wetted a cigarette and many of the
younger cowboys tried to do the same without much success. While
smoking, he looked around like something was missing but couldn't
figure out what, and Hatty, noticing him, pointed a thumb while
saying, "Better go see if they re drownded."

John B. grinned, stood up, and taking his plate and cup to the
round-up pan on the way, he went to the Graften camp.

"Supper's ready, folks," he says, standing outside.

There was an "Oh, thank you," from inside the tent and John B.
went back to the chuck wagon for another cup of coffee, soon to
be followed by the family. As they come he noticed their light
rain coats, mighty pretty but not much good when it rained, and
getting under the shelter of the fly with his coffee, he took off
his and offered it to Mrs. Graften Then the cook followed suit
and offered his to the girl, and after they'd been made sure that
the long yellow ones was the only thing, they both accepted, with
many thanks. Then John B. told 'em to hit for the fire when they
had their plates filled, that it wasn't half bad there.

And to their surprise, it wasn't half bad there. It was "really
grand," and of much comfort in this beastly weather, also, isn't
it thrilling?

They stood up to eat their meal this time, everything was so wet,
and as they talked in trying to join in with the cowboys
conversation, or having the cowboys join in with theirs, that
talk didn't get to mix and make the rounds with the cowboys, talk
much. For the cowboys couldn't make much out of it, like with
such as their remarking about the fire being grand, which was
good, the weather being beastly, which was bad and then the whole
thing being thrilling, which mixed everything up as a puzzle to
them. There was also such remarks as they et, about this or that
being "terribly good," and the cowboys couldn't figure out how
anything could be terrible and still be good.

Their whole line of conversation was sort of that way, and even
tho the cowboys would of liked to 've took the leads that was
given 'em to get in the conversation, them leads didn't give 'em
nothing to follow up on. It'd be strange and headed for nowheres
in perticular, like riding a horse without a head or a tail. So
they usually kept quiet or talked low amongst themselves, with
the result that the Graftens thought 'em stuck up, snobbish and
inclined to liking themselves a whole lot, like as if nobody
else was as good as them.

 The average tenderfoot gets that idea from the real cowboy when
first coming west. He doesn't seem to realize that the cowboy's
life is very different than his, that there's no colleges or
clubs or steady mixing with thousands of people each day and all
talking the same language, a language of near the same that the
cowboy uses only the difference in the life and what is talked
about is what makes it different. And that life being so
different is what makes the cowboy care very little to speak when
near some people, for when he does, there's a bunch of questions
comes his way. Questions from wise people in their own life but
which sometimes make the cowboy wonder if the person asking them
is full grown only in body, for some of them questions sound like
they re from two-year-olds.

Of course such questions asked are only on account that the life
is so strange and maybe interesting to the tenderfoot, and the
cowboy wouldn't mind so much answering them if they was only
understood afterwards. The most aggravating tenderfoot to the
cowboy is the one who has a little idea of the West and thinks he
really knows all about it, making the folks back home think he
sure enough does, and twisting things in his stories so he's got
folks believing he's got it all over the cowboy, in his own
territory, and of course that bragging goes on only in the home
parlors.

Graften struck the cowboys as being a little of that kind, and
for that reason they didn't care to talk to him much even if he
did make a stab at conversation with 'em. He'd be the kind, they
figured, who would go back home and tell his friends at clubs how
the cow business could be improved and how his suggestions had
helped in many ways as to how this and that should be done and
handled on ranch and range. He'd seen just enough of the life to
be able to speak a little about it, he could also add on plenty
more, and his friends not knowing anything at all about it, would
swallow it all, hook and sinker.

As to the ladies, their talk struck 'em as about an inch deep,
just good big words being wasted to float on without any meaning
for them to catch onto.

They often wondered what the samhill they was talking about, and
when questions come, they sometimes had a hard time keeping
serious faces at the queer uselessness of 'em. Like Mrs. Graften
asking one of the cowboys that evening, "What do you do for
pastime?"

The cowboy who'd been the target couldn't help but laugh at that,
because there was no such thing as just passing time away, but
he'd answered, "We play polo when we have the chance."

"Why, how surprising, and what do you call your team?"

Not expecting to be believed, he was caught without knowing how
to answer. He looked at the boys around him but they was only
looking at the fire and laughing at his predicament. Finally,
thinking of a way out, he says.

"Well, you see, we don't play regular polo. We use ropes instead
of them long handled hammers, and--"

"You mean to say you lasso the ball?"

"No, mam," says the cowboy, "steers."

So, with such as that it was no wonder that the cowboys kept
their conversation amongst themselves pretty well. But some
conversation went on between them and the Graftens, kind of jerky
and with spaces of time in between, and being that none of the
cowboys asked any questions or knowed anything about their game
and ways of living or ideas on anything, and couldn't discuss
things with 'em very well, they never opened up on any subject.
They figured it was best all around to keep their talk to
themselves and not have the Graftens make wrong of what they
might say, and there's where the Graftens made the mistake of
thinking 'em "snobbish" and not at all sociable. They'd had to
give the leads to all starts at conversation and that didn't get
 'em nowheres, and the cowboys didn't return any leads of their
own to keep that conversation going. They done that well amongst
themselves, and the Graftens would of liked to been brought into
their joking but they didn't know how that could be done, no more
than the cowboys knowed how to get into theirs.

So there was a kind of a wall between the two classes that way,
one class as good as the other maybe, and both as wise and smart
in their own interests, only they each had very different kinds
of teachings and bringing ups and beliefs, and both kinds led
such different lives that neither could find much in common to
talk about to stir and keep the interest of the other. It was all
the hardest for the Graftens because they was the ones interested
in the cowboys, lives. The cowboys wasn't at all interested in
the Graftens, lives.

But if the Graftens had got to know the ways of the cow country
people and acted according, it wouldn't of mattered at all how
much and where they'd been educated or traveled, or if they made
their living amongst millions of starch collared people. They'd
of felt at home and been took in as one of them. But, then again,
if they'd known the ways of the cow country, they wouldn't of
invited themselves to the home ranch and to the busy round-up
camp in the first place, let alone making nuisances of themselves.
Graften wouldn't have thought of going to a busy man's
office and taking his time and upsetting the ink bottle,
but with the thought of the big Seven Xs, he felt free to come
there and do that very thing, and as he pleased. Like it would be
perfectly all right there.

John B. was generous and hospitable to all people, but the lack
of consideration and respect for the privacy of his home and
range showed by most people, had him to wishing sometimes that
the Indian fighting days was back. He'd preferred that to gawking
strangers and campers starting fires. But it wasn't so often that
he was pestered, and even tho it wasn't so often, he'd rather a
whole lot it was none at all, for he hated to be disappointed and
having to see wrong in any man that way.

He of course wasn't at all pestered by tourists (the Graftens was
a big exception) because them tourists stuck pretty well to the
highways and stopped at tourist camps. It was the people from
neighboring little towns that done the pestering, the ones who
knowed of the good fishing and hunting in the pretty Seven X
country. They'd come out by families to spend time end of the
week and make themselves to home there, and John B. and his men
didn't try to keep them out, only warned the careless about their
fires.

At the round-up camp the fire kept a-blazing as good sized dead
trees was burned in two, and then the ends picked up and throwed
on when necessary to keep the blaze up. It was now near dark,
soon time for first guard, and a steady drizzle kept a-falling.
The Graftens used to staying late of nights, was still by the
fire and sort of given up keeping a conversation going with the
cowboys that kept going and coming.

All but four of 'em had been there for a spell after the herd had
been bedded down. They'd brought a full pot of coffee and many
cups by the big fire and all went to drinking cup after cup of
the strong black coffee, even the Graftens. But the talk that
went on from there was pretty well only amongst the cowboys, and
being there was seldom times when the Graftens, talks would of
fitted in, the three listened and remarked about this and that
amongst themselves, sometimes wanting to ask questions about what
they'd hear, but hardly daring to.

They got to wondering finally, as the cowboys begin leaving for
their beds, where John B. and the cook was, not at all realizing
that they had their slickers and couldn't very well come and
enjoy the fire without 'em, for they'd sure get wet. So the two
had stayed under the fly by the chuck wagon and got some heat
from the fire there. Then Hatty had joined 'em, laughed at 'em
for loaning their slickers to the ladies and leaving the provider
to go unprotected, and then the talk went from there to more
serious subjects, like with the work of that day and for the days
to come, also other things which would of surprised the well
learned and traveled Graftens.

Then, as the talk slowed down and the cook's alarm clock said
eight-thirty, the three decided to go unroll their beds and get
between the soogans and blankets which the heavy tarps had
protected and kept dry from the rain. It was chilly so high up in
the hills and close to the mountains, and they would keep warmer
in their beds.

Soon the whole camp had hit for the soogans, all but the Graftens
who stayed close to the fire for quite a while longer. They
stayed until the men on second guard got up and rode away to
relieve the men on the first guard, who soon rode in, picketed
their horses, and then hit for their beds. Graften looked at his
wrist watch. It was ten o clock.

"I guess we had better retire," he says, "if we re to get up in
time for breakfast and get out of here. You know they move very
early."

"Yes," says his wife, "this camping out, as you call it, is
killing me."

Then the daughter added on, "There's nothing to do here anyway,"
she says, "excepting walking around and getting in the way, but
it would be fun if I could get a horse to ride, and it's very
peculiar when one can't borrow or hire one here, where they have
so many."

She'd asked John B. for one that evening as he'd loaned her
mother his slicker, and all he'd said to that was that he was
sorry but that the horses was all being used pretty steady, and
besides, there wasn't an extra saddle on the outfit. The girl
didn't know that the cowboys, string of horses is carefully made
up of different kinds necessary for each man's work. That to the
cowboy such a string is the same as his own, while he's riding
for the outfit. He has the say over them, and taking one horse
out of his string would he the same as hinting for him to quit,
or he'd be fired. John B. could of course asked one of the boys
to loan a horse to the cause, and that would of been all right if
the cowboy liked the person the horse was borrowed for, but,
anyway, John B. didn't want to do that. As for his own string, he
wouldn't of let his own daughter, June, ride any of them, not
unless she was afoot and she had a long ways to walk. The average
cowboy would hesitate more to loaning his horses than the town
man would his new automobiles, for they re all necessary to him
and not for pleasure. And the horse is not a machine, and with
strangers he'd feel peeved at the ignorance of 'em for asking.
It's not selfishness with the cowboy it's necessity and
sentiment. Besides a good horse can be spoiled in a short while
by the wrong person riding him sometimes, or crippled.

As to the saddles, that's the cowboy's own, ordered to suit and
fit him, stirrup leathers to right lengths and mighty hard to
change, not just a strap and buckle as ranch and contest saddles
are and where all hands uses 'em, but laced tight and more to
stay, and whether using 'em steady or not, the cowboy doesn't
care to loan it, for he makes his living on that rig and it means
as much to him in that respect as the private desk does to the
busy business man.

The night had turned warm as the Graftens started for their camp.
It had near quit raining, the air had got heavy and still, and as
they opened the flap of their tent, the girl seen and remarked
about some lightning flashes away off down country and lighting
up the heavy dark clouds above and around.

"It must be this afternoon's storm going on," she says. "Thank
goodness it's far away."

But the storm wasn't going on, and even tho it was far away it
was corning back, and the rumble of thunder slowly and gradually
got louder.

It was still far away and the lightning flashes was hardly
noticed as the Graftens got into their beds, and being tired from
the day's action, excitement, fresh and plenty rainy air, it
didn't take 'em long to get to sleep, satisfied that the storm
was over and gone, and all was restful. Even the scare the cook's
holler had given 'em the night before had been forgotten, and as
the cook had said that there was no wild animals or anything to
be afraid of, nothing excepting of sleeping too long, they felt
pretty well at ease to rest for the night.

The lightning flashes got closer and brighter as the three slept
on, the rumbling of the thunder got louder and louder, and they
slept on some more. All the time, the clouds was piling up
instead of thinning down, and the closer they come to the
mountain, the bigger and darker they got, and lightning played
pretty steady among 'em up there.

Then it seemed that the lightning jumped some few miles all at
once, a long crooked streak flashed near over the camp, and the
loud report of the thunder that followed sat the Graftens up in
their beds as tho they'd been laying on steel coils released
sudden. They was scared and trembling before they was really
awake and it took another bright lightning flash which lit up
every shadow in the tent, to wake 'em enough so they could see
that the world was coming to an end, sure this time.

Graften had started to pass a remark as the crash of thunder come
and his voice, chopped off by the loud report, sounded as from
one already departed. Then Mrs. Graften screamed with fright, and
that didn't help things any.

The girl throwed the covers back at that, snapped a spot light
and trembling with fear begin to dress. She wasn't going to be
caught dead in bed, it would be better to get under it, think up
of a way of escape if possible, and be ready if one showed up.
But she couldn't think much as lightning flashes which made the
spot light look like a candle in the sun kept a-flashing, and the
roar of thunder kept a-repeating like a string of cannons close
to her ears, and it was more with instinct and fear, than
thought, that she wanted to get under something or deep into a
hole as she crawled under the cot, making herself as little as
possible there and trembling on the wet grass and earth.

The older Graftens wasn't much braver, for it also was their
first close acquaintance with mother nature when she turned loose
and went wild, and they never felt closer and more in the thick
of anything as they did to Mother Nature right then. The earth
quivered with every crash of thunder and it felt to the Graftens
as tho the tall mountain was crumbling. They could easy imagine
big boulders tumbling along with the mountain side and coming
down to crush and bury them. It was all a deafening confusion of
roaring thunder and crashes, and with the lightning playing
steady, it all made things ghostly with light that was as bright
as day. Then a heavy rain come, sudden, and with the wind that
was with it, it sounded like heavy waves dropped from the skies,
drift wood and rocks mixed with 'em.

The tent seemed mighty flimsy against all of that, and to the
Graftens, so used to sound proof and solid walls, it seemed as
tho they was near without shelter and protection. The ridge pole
bent scary in holding the sagging and flapping canvas against the
pressure of the storm, and it was a good thing, Graften thought,
that the tent had been moved into shelter and pegged down as good
as was possible. But as Mrs. Graften once looked at the straining
tent well lit up by lightning, she screamed again and didn't look
no more, for the next second she'd stuck her head under her
pillow, pulled the blankets over it, and closing her eyes tight
and sticking a finger in each ear, she done her best to bury
herself from all sights and sounds.

Graften done a little better. He laid with his eyes wide open and
only flinched once in a while, and then he, like his daughter,
also got up and dressed, made ready for any emergency, and went
to smoking on a cigar to sort of quiet his nerves. He would also
be ready to quit the flats and start back for civilization as
soon as possible. And then, when he looked at his daughter's
empty cot, that spooked him some more, and it was only with the
same instinct as hers that made him look under it to find her
there.

He reached under and touched and spoke to her, and all he got in
answer was to leave her alone, that she was all right and felt
safer there.

So, puffing hard on his cigar between lightning flashes and
thunder claps, he sat up, feeling alone, and prayed some.



CHAPTER XII - "When the Cows Come Home"


Right in the country surrounding the camp is where Mother Nature
sort of turned loose that night and let the elements run free to
play, with the dark heavy clouds that had sort of piled up to
meet at the top of the mountain, seeming like from all
directions, and there to bump and pull off the fireworks.

That's at least the way it looked like to the cowboys on
nightguard and at the first sign of the storm, they'd prepared to
hold the herd for anything that might come, even to deciding on
the direction to try and turn the herd if they started to run.
The storm come fast and furious, and split like all at once, with
the first close flash of lightning. That was during the graveyard
shift, between midnight and two o clock, the spookiest time of
the night, and instead of four riders coming to relieve the four
on guard, the whole outfit turned out, John B. right along with
 em, and the four riders on guard stayed on to to help hold the
herd.

For, as Hatty had said the evening before, the herd would be hard
to hold. It had already started to run once, but the leaders had
been turned to bump against a tall rimrock, and by good
manouvering they'd be held to mill there, scared stiff and not a
beller out of 'em. They'd be apt to pick up and turn loose at a
wink any time, and as the herd numbered to upwards of fifteen
hundred head of mostly yearling steers, that would be a mean herd
to hold, for there's no critter easier spooked and ready to run
than a good feeling yearling steer.

For fear of the loud echo of the thunder against the rimrock
wall, the herd was being moved away from it, when, maybe from the
heavy rain and wind or the shaking of the earth, some few pebbles
got loose from the top of the rimrock, hit here and there acrost
the face of it and made an echoing noise that sounded like a
landslide, and along with the lightning and thunder and
everything seeming like tearing loose, that's all the spooky
cattle needed to get to moving. A quiver run thru the whole herd,
and the ones fartherest from the rimrock moved as quick as the
ones close to it, all like a flash of the lightning that played
above 'em and on the run in one jump.

The riders caught in the lead of 'em had to run right with 'em,
for there was cattle on both sides and all around 'em before they
knowed it, and they had to run to keep the herd from splitting
and having two or three herds to try and handle instead of one.

Lightning, and then pitchy darkness, both blinding men and stock,
the roar of the thunder mixing with the rumble of the stampede,
sparks of electricity playing along horns and stiff hairs of neck
and withers, all made a fine combination to spook any animal, and
even some of the cowboys, horses went to stampeding under 'em. It
was scary for the men too, for the wet soddy earth was as
slippery as soap on ice, and horses was very apt to fall or slide
down to turn over in the bottom of a ravine. Then there was the
rims here and there with from twenty to fifty foot drops that
couldn't be seen until close to the edge, and when no lightning
played, there was no telling when the whole herd and riders would
come to one and plunge down.

With the help of the lightning flashes, the riders went to try
and turn the leaders the direction they'd decided on in case of a
stampede. In that direction was a box canyon, wide at the mouth
and rimrocked at the head, and there was enough brush and
boulders up along it to check the herd so they would slow down
and get to milling before they'd get to the end.

But there was quite an incline getting up to the mouth of that
canyon, and being that, in stampeding, the cattle always take to
a downhill run when there is any, they'd took to that from the
first jump. There was a rim which the whole herd barely missed
going over the edge of, but as the herd turned to run alongside
of it, it was seen by flashes of lightning that a few of the
cattle had been crowded over the edge, looked like a rider had
gone down with 'em too. But there was no chance to make sure
right then nor make a count of the riders by the lightning
flashes, for everybody had to ride.

The bunch left the edge of the rim and headed for another, and as
the rims sort of formed a big stairway-like up the mountain, that
rim was up like a wall and then's when the leaders was crowded so
as to get 'em to milling if possible. But a streak of lightning
spoiled all attempts of that as it seemed to land right in the
middle of the herd. (Cattle heated from running and sweaty horses
draw lightning.) The cattle seemed to squat with hoofs in mid air
as the lightning struck, and when they lit to running again they
was plum past handling. All the riders could do was stay to the
side and try to hold 'em together, and that wasn't easy, for
they'd wanted to scatter, and each head hit out by itself.

But by letting the herd run to where it wanted to, that was
finally done, and then it was stampeding for the timber and brush
by the swollen stream. There was no chance of turning 'em, for
the country was against the riders and all for the herd, and even
with John B. and some of the riders shooting close to the leaders
to scare 'em to turning, the herd got in the edge of the timber
along the stream and where the lead couldn't be crowded to turn.
And there they run on, headed down country and right for the
Graften and round-up camp.

The Graftens having heard the shooting between thunder claps and
then the crashing of timber and rumbling of hoofs above the
beating of rain and churning waters, more than now wondered as to
what was up. They could only figure one thing, and that was that
the noises was from men and animals, that they was earthly and
not from the heavens. But the sounds of that wasn't at all
reassuring. It was as tho everything alive had picked up and was
running away, running away from and amongst destruction, and they
was more scared than ever, if that was possible.

It didn't take long for the rumbling of hoofs and crashing of
brush to get close to them, just a minute seemed like, and then
they felt like they was hemmed in the middle of the herd. They
could hear the heavy breathing of cattle crowding and running
against one another and like to within a couple of feet of 'em,
and near dead with fright the Graftens was stary eyed and
couldn't budge, for it was as tho the whole herd was on 'em.

Then they recognized the sounds of running horses, heard the
jingling of spurs and a cowboy swore, so close that it seemed
inside the tent, and the swearing sounded like the most wonderful
music they'd ever heard right then. The human voice so full of
life and with no fear in it sort of snapped 'em out of their
fright and like to bring 'em back amongst the living again.

Graften started up at the sound of the voice, and like to go to
the flapping tent flap when there was a tearing sound and the
corner of the tent went down over his head. He put his hands out
to hold it away from him and he shrunk back with more fright as
his hand brushed the body of a wild running critter as it went
by, and then he seen where hoofs was pounding away on the corner
where the tent was down. He thought of his wife and daughter, one
covered with blankets and the other still under the cot, but he
couldn't speak. Then there was another tearing sound, at the
other corner of the tent, but the tent didn't go down there. For,
with some of the crowded cattle getting their legs tangled up in
the tent ropes, them ropes was jerked loose and the wind picked
the tent to send it a sailing upwards the scary soaring sheet
scared the stampeding cattle to more desperate crowding away from
it, and in a lightning flash Graften seen a solid bank of wild-eyed
horned heads coming down on him, looking a heap more scary
than a ten-foot wall of cloudburst waters rushing down a wash.

He put his arms up over his face like for protection, for there
was no use running. He let out a squeak like it'd be his last one
and then a heavy body bumped against him and he didn't see no
more lightning flashes.

The lights went out for Mrs. Graften too, and as her bed was
turned over by one scared critter which struck as tho it was a
thousand, she laid there under the protection of the bed and in bliss.

The daughter was the only one that stayed to, but the lights was
so dim with her that they'd just as well snuffed out because she
hardly realized what went on for fright. Mud was splashed all
over her under the cot by critters that checked up to crowd away
from the sudden and scary sight of the cot and camp. The ones too
crowded jumped over the cot to splash mud on her from the other
side, and that way she was well plastered on both sides.

But as scared and plastered as she was, she was the first one to
realize it when the conglomeration of whatever all it was, had
passed over, around and under, and that it was now maybe safe to
squirm out from under the cot and take a look around. Another
flash of lightning come as she stuck her head up over the
wrecked, mudded-up camp, and as she was past blinking at the
lightning, she looked down country in time to see the last of the
stampeding herd hightailing it away from the stream and around
the point of a rock rimmed ridge. It had just missed the round-up camp.

With the going of the herd also went the storm which soared above
and kept a-pouring down rain along with the fireworks, thunder
and wind keeping pace, and it was now still and quiet at the
Graften camp and it had quit raining there, but, excepting for
the lightning flashes that was fast getting dimmer with distance,
it was very dark, and the spot lights was scattered in the mud
around the open camp somewhere.

The girl, now being sure she was still alive and all together,
begin looking for one of the spot lights. With the help of more
flashes of distant lightning she finally found one, and then as
she begin looking around with it, and seen the form of her dad
laying on the muddy ground, she come near screaming at the sight
of him, for he was nothing pretty to look at. She didn't know
what to do, then thinking of her mother she turned to look at the
upturned and mussed up bed and that wasn't a cheerful sight
either. She jumped over to pull it right side up and her spot
light flared right into mighty scared looking but still seeing
eyes. The girl spoke and the mother at that just said, "What
happened?"

About then Graften stirred and raised a muddy face and the
Graften family, not much the worse for wear, came to life and was
united again.

And when the cook come a-rushing up just a couple of minutes
later, to see what was left of the Graften outfit as soon as he
could, he found 'em all a-standing up, the girl holding the spot
light and all huddled together a-comparing notes on the just past
awful experience. Getting into the light and seeing that
everybody was up on their own feet and not needing any care, only
maybe a little cheering up, he says, "Well, it wasn't a bad
little stampede, was it?" That was better, he thought, than
asking a lot of foolish questions.

But the Graftens had nothing to say to that, for they couldn't
understand the cook saying that it wasn't a bad little stampede,
as tho it was only a little excitement to look forward to once in
a while. To them it was a "terrifying experience" and Graften
finally managed to say so.

The cook laughed. "Why this is just like hot peppers on your
grub," he says, "makes things good. But you re lucky it was only
a little slice of the herd that touched you."

Then he went on to tell of a stampede that was a real one, where
two cowboys and their horses got killed and near half a herd
stacked up to broken carcasses as they run over a high cliff.

That was not as well listened to by the Graftens as it would of
been other times. They was still mighty shaky and hadn't felt of
themselves yet to see if they was all together, besides they
figured the cook to be making up the story to make 'em feel that
their last experience wasn't worth mentioning, maybe only to make
'em forget it.

But the story was sure enough true, only the Graftens couldn't
picture any worse experience than the one they just had,

The cook didn't stay long, and turning to go, he says, "It'll be
daybreak in another hour or so. I'll be starting a fire and
putting on some coffee right away and you all better come and dry
and warm up after a while."

None of the three had any words of thanks as to that. They hadn't
got their wits to running smooth as yet and they was far from
over their fright. For with their thoughts of the experience that
kept a-reacting on 'em, they could only mumble and tremble, and
with only the spot light for light, camp all mud and scattered
and the roaring of the swollen stream waters, they wasn't in any
atmosphere of calm and peace, and their nerves wasn't at all for
quieting.

They stood there in the center of their wrecked camp, just
a-mumbling, shaky and not caring to move, and they might of stood
there that way until daylight, with no thoughts of doing anything
to break the spell if it hadn't been for the sound of the
crackling of a big fire by the round-up camp and seen the blazes
a-shooting high. Then Graften spoke up for his wife to try and
find something dry and get dressed, they would go to that fire.

Being it all had been so still and peaceful the evening before,
the cases had been left open, and now most all the clothes that
had been in 'em was pretty well scattered and tramped in the mud,
some even hanging in the bushes where it'd been carried on some
steers, horns. But with Graften helping some fairly dry "outing"
clothes was found. The daughter, as mudded up as she was, didn't
bother to change, she wasn't interested right then and neither
was Graften, who was also covered with mud.

All but for Mrs. Graften the three made quite a muddy appearance
at the big fire. The cook wanted to laugh but he didn't have
time, and the wrangler, who kept up no night horse, and the
flunky, was the only two there to grin a wink at one another.
Then Jeffers came into the light of the fire, and Graften seeing
him looking so fresh and dry, and kind of resenting that, asked
him where he'd been, like as tho he should of been up to help, at
he didn't know what, but he also should of got mussed up somehow.

"I was in bed, of course, sir," says Jeffers. "I've just been to
your camp and found it somewhat disturbed then came here to look
for you. Quite a storm we had, sir."

Graften only grunted and says, "We'll prepare to leave and start
back as soon as possible."

"Yes, sir," says Jeffers, standing stiff.

The wrangler, watching the chauffeur, grinned and whispered to
Suds, "That feller sure neckreins well."

"Yes," says Suds, "there ain't a buck in him. But that's the
breed of 'em." He snickered, "I wonder how long Graften would
last as a wagon boss."

In a short while the coffee came to a boil and then the cook let
it be known. Graften was the first one there, and filling three
cups to the brim, he came back to the fire and handed his wife
and daughter each a cup of the black stimulant. That went well,
well enough for another cup, and then they felt a little better.
The three was sitting on the stump end of a dead tree that'd been
drug up and sipping on some more coffee, when the yellow
slickered figure of a cowboy come walking up to the fire. In one
hand he held a boot, and he supported himself from too much
weight on one bleeding and muddy bare foot, by using a piece of
dry limb like a crutch.

The wrangler who'd also been drinking coffee by the fire took one
look at him and hightailed it for the chuck wagon to come back
soon enough with a pan of warm water, a bottle of "dip" (creolin)
and a cup of hot coffee, while the Graftens, all full of
curiosity again, only thought of asking questions, as to what all
and how it happened and the rider answered with only one word,
"Lightning." Then he looked at the wrangler as he came back,
winked and stuck the bleeding muddy foot in the water, some dip
was diluted into it, and while his foot soaked he went to
drinking his coffee and talking to the wrangler and Suds.

"Ain't none of the boys got back yet?" he asks, and when he was
told that none had, he went on. "Maybe the herd is still going,
they sure wanted to ramble. But we pretty near had 'em to milling
a couple of times. The second time is when I got hit."

He pulled his slicker back a little and showed where the
lightning hit. It had started at the shap belt and followed the
front seam of the angora shaps all the way to the bottom, cutting
the threads like with a razor edge knife, then it went thru his
foot, riddling it. He held up the boot and it looked like it'd
been hit with shots from a shotgun.

"And you walked in," says Suds. "Did your horse get hurt too?"

"Yes, the lightning killed him," he says. "I had to walk about
two miles."

The Graften girl, listening, shivered. "Weren't you scared?" she asks.

"No, I didn't have time," says the cowboy.

The cowboy, after washing his foot and greasing it with melted
carbolated tallow, was having the wrangler wrap it with clean
strips of flour sacks when some of the cowboys rode into camp.
John B. and Hatty rode up to the fire. They didn't get off their
horses, and as the white bandaging was the first thing to draw
their attention, Hatty asked the rider getting bandaged up, "A
fall, or lightning?"

"Both," says the cowboy, "and a dead horse."

"Hurt bad?"

"Nope, about a week on the bed wagon." *

* The bed wagon is what the crippled cowboys ride on when moving
camp and lay in the shade of during the days to mend and
recuperate. "A week on the bed wagon" means that he wouldn't be
able to ride for about that long. No cowboy takes advantage of
"riding the bed wagon," laying off.

"We got the herd held up about four miles down the creek. Sure
gave us a run, about a hundred got away and there's one boy
missing, Sol. Hasn't showed up here, has he?"

When he was told "no" to that, Hatty remarked that he knowed just
about where to find him, where some of the cattle had been
crowded over the edge of the rim, and him and John B., taking the
lead once more, was followed by the cowboys to scatter out and
search for Sol. It was getting near daybreak by then, and it was
good daylight when they found him, not so far from camp and not
by the rims where Hatty thought he'd be, but at the bottom of a
wash in a deep brushy ravine, and pinned under his horse there.
Both was very much alive and kicking, specially the horse, but
neither could of got out of there without plenty of help, for the
horse was wedged in the narrow wash on his back and the rider had
one leg twisted under him to near breaking and he was also wedged
so he couldn't budge.

In that cramped position, Sol had been in great pain. Not a
pleasant kind of death to face, he'd thought, as he'd laid wedged
in there, hardly able to breathe or to holler. So it was lucky
that he was found so soon or at all in the thick brush and by so
early light of the day. The horse would of died in a couple of
more hours too because a horse will die in three or four hours
laying on his back that way.

They'd been there near two hours, and the way their predicament
come about was easy enough. Sol had rode too close to the edge of
the ravine while trying to turn the stampeding herd, and the
ground being slippery and giving no footing, the horse had
slipped over the edge, and at the speed he'd been going, had
rolled over to come down in the bottom of the wash that way. Sol,
thinking the horse would land on his feet had stuck, for no
cowboy quits his horse unless he has to, specially during a
stampede when all riders are needed.

A few shots was fired soon as Sol was found and then, before all
the other searching riders gathered there, two ropes was placed
on the horse, one on his head and the other on his hind feet,
then he was pulled out of the wash by two strong night horses.
Sol made faces for a while as he was freed and straightened his
cramped leg, then he peg-legged around some, while his horse done
the same. But being right end up the both was soon in shape again,
and it wasn't long afterwards when Sol, riding the horse he'd
spent part of the night upside down and in the wash with, reached
camp, both as good as new, one craving coffee and the other a good
roll and grass.

All hands was now accounted for as the nighthawk came in with the
remuda and corralled it. The horses had spooked and run too
during the night, and the nighthawk had to do some tall riding to
keep 'em together, but as horses don't stampede as bad as cattle
do, don't run as long, and are easier checked, he'd lost only one
bunch out of the remuda and he'd found it at daybreak that
morning.

On that account he was a little late getting the horses to camp,
but everything was a little late that morning, by about half an hour.

The first meal of the day went on as quick as usual, only the
coffee pots got more punishment than usual. There was two of the
big ones being hoisted pretty steady by one rider and then
another, and little talk went on about the night's stampede, some
recollecting of wild ones they'd been in the thick of. There'd
been a few falls, and John B. had a good one when his horse and
him slid broadside for quite a ways, as his horse slipped and
fell while at full speed on the slippery earth. But as it is with
most stampedes, it was a wonder that during such a night there
wasn't more men and horses hurt.

The sky was still cloudy and threatening and there was smell of
more rain or heavy showers in the air. The Graftens, sniffing at
the air and with scary looks at the skies, didn't enjoy their
breakfast so well that morning. Things that might of been
delicious was hardly tasted, and they didn't think so much of
asking questions as the cowboys talked, for their talk while kind
of "fascinating" was scary, and that and the skies above made 'em
feel sort of numb and fidgety at the same time. Their thoughts
went to one mighty important and pressing thing as they nibbled,
looked and listened, and that was to get back to civilization
before they perished in this wilderness.

They was about thru eating, and in much shorter time than ever,
when Jeffers came to Graften to report that the automobile was a
wreck.

"It looks like all the cattle went over it last night, sir," he
says, "and it will have to be towed in to a garage for repairs.
The oil has been washed out of the crank case and is nearly
filled with dirt, also other parts of the engine, then there's a
jagged hole in the gas tank, made by a floating timber I
presume."

Well, that was that, and Graften couldn't eat any more. Mrs.
Graften also dropped her plate like it was hot. "But we must get
out of here some way and as soon as possible," she says, all
spooked up.

"Yes, but how?" says Graften. "We have to get the car in too."

They both looked at Jeffers for help that way, and all that
feller could do was spread his hands and shrug his shoulders in a
helpless way. Then he says to Graften, "I would say, sir, that
the only and best way would be to borrow a team to get us back at
the ranch, then from there we could telephone for a tow car to
come out and get us."

After some thought, Graften agreed that would be the best and
only way all around. He looked up and towards the corral, and
seeing John B. saddling a horse there, he started that way, a
rain drop on his cheek speeded him on as he went.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Mitchell," he begins as he stopped near John B.
"But we ve decided to leave, if we can. The weather hasn't been
very pleasant and besides I have a lot of work calling me back to
my office and I would like to go as soon as possible."

John B. went on saddling. "Well, it's too bad you have to go," he
says, acting also sorry, "but business before pleasure is what
sticks."

"Yes," says Graften, "but we are in a predicament. My automobile
is practically wrecked from the high water and mud of the stream
and it can't get out on its own power. We will have to be pulled
out, with a team I suppose, as far as the ranch, and I wonder if--"

"Why, sure," interrupts John B. "I'll see that you get back to
the ranch in good time. I don't know where you left your car or I
could of told you of a better place for it maybe. Anyway, you get
your stuff together and ready to load. I'll have a team ready to
take you in in a few minutes."

Graften smiled his thanks and hot-footed it back to his family,
there to stir 'em into action, and what action they put on so
sudden more than surprised the cook and Suds who looked at one
another in grinning wonder. Even Jeffers had to step some to keep
in pace with 'em.

John B. then rode to the chuck wagon and told the cook to make up
a list of what grub he needed from the commissary at the ranch.
The wood wagon was being emptied and that would be used to hook
the team onto to pull the Graftens, car in and haul the grub back.

"We re going to have to camp here for a few days anyway," says
John B., "so there won't be no time or use of team lost. I'm
going to use one of your teams for leaders because it'll need six
good horses to go to the ranch and pull that heavy car on in, but
you don't need to worry about 'em because I'm going to have Slick
do the driving."

Slick was a good old cowboy who was proud of the fact that for
two winters he drove six on a stage in the roughest and wildest
stage line in the Rockies, and that he'd been rated as the best
driver that stage line ever had. "Feed 'em the ribbons" was his
motto.

The way the Graftens went to work at breaking up camp and packing
things, it looked more like they was exterminating it. But there
wasn't much use in trying to fold things in packing 'em, for
everything was wet, muddy and scattered, and there was no sorting
of things. Jeffers was given orders until he didn't know which
way to jump, then he finally hightailed it with the good excuse
that he had to clean up the automobile.

The stream was now back to near natural size and it left the car
to stand axle deep into fresh oozy mud. Jeffers waded into that,
and when he got to the car and opened the doors, there was a
layer of sifted mud which reached halfways up to the seats, there
was also some of that onto the seats along with pieces of drift
wood, which all made a mighty plain water mark on the fine
upholstery. The way it all looked, Jeffers wouldn't of been
surprised to 've found a couple of steers in there, or a mess of
trout.

Borrowing the cook's shovel, he done his best to clean out what
he could of the mud, then he wound up with a whisk broom and some
rags, until a person could get in the car but not without getting
some mud on 'em, for there was no getting it out of the cushions
and upholstery, and like with the bumps and dents, mud filled
engine, broken glasses and all other things, that all would have
to be done at a good garage.

The Graftens came along with some luggage to put into the car but
they changed their minds as they stood ankle deep in fresh mud
and looked inside it, and they was disappointed again, because
they'd natural-like figured on riding back in the car and as
they'd come.

They was standing there in the mud, holding their luggage and
wondering where they was going to put it and where they was going
to ride, when there was the clatter of a wagon and harness and
sounds of running hoofs, and into their sight came a good six-horse
team making the wagon they was hooked onto dance like a toy
trailer. The team was brought to make a good turn, but shying at
the automobile and people, the wagon couldn't be brought closer
than to within fifty yards of the car, and there was no backing
such a team because all they knowed was to go ahead, run wild and
plenty fast.

But now there come most of the cowboys, and getting off their
horses, one took to each two horses and the others at the wagon
wheels to pull it back near enough to the car so as to fasten a
chain onto it.

That was now a little exciting to watch, and the Graftens got on
dry ground to do that. Hatty rode near 'em there as the work went
on and told 'em they'd best put their stuff in the wagon when all
was ready to go.

"But where are we going to ride?" asks Mrs. Graften. "It's
impossible to ride in the car because it's all muddy inside."

"Well, I guess you'll have to ride in the wagon then too and just
let your driver steer the car and handle the brakes."

So the wagon would have to be it. "But I don't see only one
seat," says Mrs. Graften.

"You can sit on your bundles there if you want," says Hatty,
pointing to their luggage, "but you know there's no springs to a
wagon, and I think you'll find that standing up is the most
comfortable."

"Why that will be so rough and tiresome."

"Sure, so is walking."

The girl had to giggle a little at that. "But," she says, more
serious, "how is the cowboy with the hurt foot going to stand it?
He will have to come in town and have it taken care of, won't
he?"

"You mean Mac, the boy that got struck by lightning? Why no, he
ain't going to town. He'll be riding again in a few days."

"But isn't it swollen and doesn't it hurt him?"

"Yes, but it's only his right foot and he uses his left to get on
a horse with. Besides there's a spring up the mountain here a
ways that'll cure and heal anything. It's called Medicine Spring
and it'll cure and heal T. B. s, D. T. s, gun wounds and cuts,
and even broken hearts. It's better than any town doctoring a
feller can get, and he'll be riding up there this morning to give
his foot a good soaking."

It only took a few minutes by all hands to get the team and wagon
back so the chain would reach to the car, then it was fastened,
and Jeffers taking his place by the steering wheel, the team was
left to Slick on the wagon seat, then things moved. For as the
six horse team was let go by the riders, they hit the collar all
at once and not slow and easy like the old farm work horse, and
even tho Slick tried to make the start easy, there was no holding
 'em back, and wagon and heavy automobile was brought up on dry
ground with a jerk. Then the team was stopped and held while the
loading of the Graftens and their belongings went on, and soon
enough the outfit was ready to go.

Graften, standing in the wagon box with his family and
belongings, looked around for John B. Then seeing Hatty close, he
asked him where he was, that him and his family wanted to say
goodby and how they appreciated his hospitality.

"I don't know where he can be," says Hatty to that. "He's always
kind of shy at saying goodby to folks, he misses 'em so. But I'll
tell him what you said, and that'll do just as well."

He waved a hand as all final and Slick shook the ribbons,
starting the outfit with another jerk and making everybody grab
something. The chauffeur grinned at all hands as the car was
pulled on by reliable and good six horse power, and the whole
outfit was on its way.

It was an hour or so later when John B. and Hatty and all the
riders, excepting the three on dayherd and two to locate the
hundred head that had got away during the stampede, rode up on a
long ridge of the mountain and stopped there to let their horses
breathe. They was out on their morning's circle, to make another
round-up for a good afternoon's branding and work, along with the
branding of the calves which had been throwed in the dayherd the
afternoon before and wasn't branded on account of the wet. The
hides would now be dry. It had been a hard climb to where the
riders now was and from there they could well see the country
spreading below for a long ways.

The heavy clouds of the early morning had broke and was moving on
to the west, leaving a clear blue sky and a bright sun shining on
the freshened country. All was mighty clear, sweet and chirping.
It was as good to be in the deep of Mother Nature's bright mood,
and to the cowboys, such wild elements as she'd turned loose on
 'em that night before was only a break so as calm and sunshine on
all the hills could be appreciated.

John B., looking down country to a strip of bench land some miles
away seen a long winding object following the wood road and
stringing along towards the ranch. It was the six horse team,
wagon, and Graften automobile. He grinned as he looked at the
winding outfit, and then looking at the far away and fast
disappearing dark clouds he remarked to Hatty who was close by,
"I've seen things made to order and I overheard of godsends, but what
them there clouds done has all such beat to a frazzle. Yep, the
storm them clouds brought was a mighty good relief all around,
it freshened the range, filled the water holes, and washed away
the scum."



CHAPTER XIII - "A Different Kind of the Same Breed"


The storm was clearing, heavy clouds drifting away like dark
curtains pulled back to let the warm sun shine on the fresh green
earth, grass, wild flowers and leaves sparkling with rain drops
still on 'em, meadow larks and all birds singing and chirping,
and all of Mother Nature's wonders showing off to the limit
wasn't much appreciated by the Graftens on their way back to the
ranch. Their minds was all with visions outlined with skyscrapers
and windowed canyons and herds of two-legged white faces and to
getting amongst all of that, where they belonged.

Glances of the dark clouds in the distance only made 'em shiver
with the thoughts of the awful night before. They would never
forget that dreadful night, and with the steady fear that them
clouds might come back and play over 'em again as they had
before, they had no eyes nor admiration for what all spread
around 'em to see, hear, and inhale. A handy taxicab and a noisy
exhaust smelling and crowded street would of looked a heap better
and safer to 'em right then.

So the ride back to the ranch, in a mighty rough going wagon,
wasn't at all enjoyed and they only wanted to get there as quick
as was safely possible and still all together. For it was
impossible to sit down in the wagon and be in any way
comfortable, and they felt like they'd be shook to pieces even
while standing up. They would of liked to got up on the seat, as
Slick had invited 'em to, but there was room only for one besides
him there, and none wanted to take it on account of being setting
so high up and scary to look over the backs of so many horses.

They kept looking hack at the car which rolled so smooth behind
the wagon and the older Graftens finally decided to ride inside
of it, mud or no mud. That would be better than falling apart.
So, as Slick slowed his team down for a creek crossing, they
asked him to stop until they removed themselves to the
automobile, and spreading a couple of damp blankets on the muddy
seats they had it so they was fairly off the mud there. All they
feared now as the team started again was that the car might ram
into the wagon when going down a rough and steep place, for the
brakes had been badly burned out and didn't hold very much. Then
again, when there was slack in the chain and the team pulled up
sudden, that would cause a jerking the Graftens got to fear, and
with watching the rough road, the wagon ahead and the slack in
the chain, their already shook up nerves done everything but
quiet down. Jeffers, doing his best in handling the car, was also
made some nervous by the two back seat drivers who kept
exclaiming and harping, and he wished they'd stayed in the wagon.

The girl had stayed in the wagon, and she'd seemed to even enjoy
things there, it was all so strange and new to her, only Slick
drove mighty fast and reckless, she thought, and sometimes she
was real scared, and after hours of that traveling she was also
mighty tired and shook up, and glad when finally, in the middle
of the afternoon the little knoll overlooking the Seven X home
ranch was reached.

The spread of the ranch buildings looked mighty good to 'em, for
it was at least an outpost of civilization, where they could
recuperate from the hardships they'd gone thru, and where they
wouldn't be at the mercy of the elements and bugs. Graften
himself couldn't hide his pleasure at being there, like one who'd
been out on a rough sea hanging onto a plank and finally being
washed to port.

Mae was the only one to come out of the big house onto the lawn
to greet them, for June and Dot and a new visitor, a young man
from college, was out riding, and as Mae seen the mud-spattered
Graftens there was nothing for her to do but invite 'em in and
give them the two spare rooms. She expected a visit from her
folks who she hadn't seen for many months, but other
accommodations would have to be made for them until the Graftens
left, for she seen by their clothes and muddy bedding and
belongings that they couldn't very well camp out in their tent,
which was also all muddied up and tore.

The Graftens dropped everything the minute they landed on the
home ranch lawn, like they'd just got to their own home from a
long hard cruise, and they took on the two rooms Mae gave 'em,
packing mud in 'em and without a thought of tracks they made over
the house, leaving doors open like a butler would attend to them,
and Jeffers to packing in the luggage.

"I don't know what we re going to do," says Mrs. Graften, after
she'd tried to fix up some, and coming back out on the lawn where
Mae was attending some flowers. "Practically everything we have
is soiled and unfit to wear and we must have a change of linens
and things before we can go to town."

The going to town part cheered Mae up some. "Why that's easy,"
she says. "There's a wash house by the kitchen and you can wash
and iron everything there. I will show you inside."

But Mrs. Graften just sort of throwed up her hands. "Why I ve
never washed clothes in my life," she says. "Neither has my
daughter and we wouldn't know how to begin. Haven't you a
laundress?"

"No," says Mae, surprised. "It's easy to wash clothes, just rub
 'em in good suddy water until they re clean, hang 'em out to dry
and then iron them."

Graften came up about then, remarking to his wife that he'd sure
like to take a bath and have a change of clothes. Then the girl
came a-trotting along with about the same remark.

Mrs. Graften looked at Mae sort of helpless like at that, and all
Mae could say after looking 'em over was that she was sorry but
there was no clothes on the ranch that would fit 'em in width,
not unless it was some from the ranch hands. The cook, Isabel,
might have something that would fit Mrs. Graften, and June would
most likely have an outfit for the girl, but as for Graften
himself, there was no clothes in the house that was bigger than
thirty-four at the waist and he was forty-two, so that left him
out.

The daughter broke in on Mae's wondering there by saying that she
was plenty hungry and that she thought the bathing or changing of
clothes could wait until after they'd et something.

Mae sort of excused herself saying that it was so close to supper
time she hadn't thought of having anything fixed for 'em. She
started for the house and Mrs. Graften made a bluff at stopping
her, that she shouldn't bother, and so on, but with that talk
there was as much as to say "please do," and the looks on
Graften's and the girl's faces meaning about the same, she went
on to the kitchen.

While they was eating, Jeffers was doing his best to wash the car
with a hose from the piped spring. He'd been plum forgot by the
Graftens and he wondered if they'd thought of telephoning to some
garage for a tow car. They had forgot, and it wasn't until
Graften, after eating, and full as a tick, came out of the house
again, and then seeing Jeffers busy with the car down below the
lawn, that he thought of it.

He looked around for Mae, and with the coaching of the cook,
Isabel, he found her in the wash house showing Mrs. Graften and
his daughter the works in there and how to manipulate 'em. They
wasn't very interested but they seen where they had to face such
things and make use of 'em if they wanted clean clothes. Such
inconvenience, no laundress, and when Graften asked for the use
of the telephone there was another inconvenience, for there was
no telephone.

"The closest one is at The Spur," says Mae, "the railroad spur,
and that's forty miles away."

Graften was very much put out. He then told her what he wanted to
phone for and, Mae glad to hear of that, was very obliging and
said she would have one of the boys ride over on the next day and
telephone for a tow car, or maybe Austin would go over in his car
and the tow car would be at the ranch on that same day. That
would be better.

Graften only thought of the inconvenience of that as he walked
away without a word, leaving his women folks to feeling very
common and ordinary at having to wash clothes, and they didn't
like the idea of even Mae knowing about it. Then Isabel came
along to coach 'em a bit and break 'em in to the work, and that
didn't go well with their initiation of such, for Isabel wasn't
backward in telling 'em what to do and what not to do, and they
felt like they was taking orders from a servant. But the clothes
had to be cleaned before they dared show themselves away from the
ranch, so they swallowed sweaty drops along with their pride and
worked for once in their lives.

Isabel had to laugh as she finally left 'em, remarking to herself
that this world wasn't divided right, that it was all work with
one part and none at all with the other. "But," she says out loud
as she walked into the kitchen. "I'd hate to 've done so little
work so's to be as helpless as them two crethures. God deliver me."

Graften, walking along in the fine late afternoon and going
acrost the lawn to where Jeffers was working on the car, kind of
forgot about the inconvenience of things as he walked slow and
looked around at all that was so pretty and homy everywhere he
looked. The lawn and the fine big trees, shrubbery and flowers,
would grace any mansion he'd ever seen. Of course a little
landscaping would help some but he felt a homyness about it all
that he never experienced in all the fine landscaped lawns he'd
ever walked onto.

Like the long and rambling log house near in the center of the
big lawn and backed by a piney hill, it had the room and took the
space of a fair sized mansion, but it wasn't so uppity stiff and
cold looking. It made a stranger feel welcome and at home with no
dodging around for fear of breaking things or spilling a few
cigar ashes.

And now that his stomach was full, that he'd seen there would be
a good comfortable bed for the night, under a good roof and
between four solid walls, there would be no fear nor discomforts
of the two nights before. It came sort of sudden to him that he
liked it here and he didn't care much right then if the telephone
was forty miles away. Everything was being taken care of at his
offices as usual and he liked this better, for a change, than the
steady round of social doings his wife and daughter kept
a-leading him to. He wouldn't of course care for any more of such
as it was while with the round-up wagon, but here at the home
ranch it was different, he felt safe, comfortable and contented,
and he could well get the atmosphere and life of the West right
from where he was. He heard the rumbling of the running waters of
the big creek, and here he could also maybe find some fishing
tackle. Surely someone must of come here at one time and brought
some, a few hooks would do.

Lighting a fresh cigar he walked along to where Jeffers was still
working on the car and trying to clean it up as much as he could.
It was good to watch somebody work in a good day like this, like
industry and peace arm in arm. Then looking up and past the
corrals, he seen three riders coming, and as they got off at a
corral gate he recognized June and Dot. He'd never met the third
rider but he figured him to be that young man from college which
Mae had spoke about, and he was kind of anxious to meet him
because Mae had said he came from the same state he did. Graften
would have somebody to talk to now who understood his language.

But he was a little disappointed when some time later he got to
meeting the college man. June had introduced him. Dale Warmer was
his name, and Graften right soon recognized him as one of the big
favorites of a steady winning football team. He'd seen his
picture and name in the papers many times as one near as popular
with his touchdowns as Babe Ruth was with his home runs.

But that didn't make no perticular hit with Graften, for he felt
as important and popular in his own game, and the way he was
disappointed a little was that Warmer was so professional in his
football that he couldn't or wouldn't talk much of anything else,
and even tho Graften was from his state and the both was now far
West, that didn't stir no brotherly love of far away from home
strangers in Warmer. Instead he seemed a heap more interested in
these Westerners and that aggravated him some.

But Graften couldn't let any little thing like that worry him for
long, if he had he wouldn't of invited himself to the Seven Xs
in the first place, nor stuck so long afterwards. So, after some
little talk with him and June and Dot on the lawn, just long
enough, and till the three scattered and each went their own way,
he then strolled back by Jeffers and the car and on down to the
blacksmith shop. There he was made happy, for the blacksmith was
of a blond fish eating nation and seen that he got his fish as
often as he could. He had rough but good fishing tackle and
Graften got to borrow some from him.

He fished until supper time, with pretty fair luck, and then,
after another good meal, as tho he hadn't eaten just a couple of
hours before, he hit back to his fishing, for the evenings was
long and he enjoyed that time there until near dark.


There was more than the usual hustling around at the home ranch
when the next morning come. Slick, his wagon loaded up at the
commissary the day before, was hooking up his six horses, Sothern
and Gat helping him. Austin would leave that same morning and be
at the round-up camp that day too, and he would take another
bunch of broncs that Sothern and Gat had took the rough off of
and now was ready for work. The ranch hands was also busy
catching and hooking up their teams, Old Lou and Hi, who'd take
turns to wrangling and had brought all the horses in before
breakfast as usual, was saddling up for the forenoon's ride, and
even little Johnnie had caught up his horse, Chub, planning as
always, on a thousand things to do that day, and all around the
ranch was a busy place.

Under the roofs the Mitchell women was busy cleaning up,
arranging and dusting the big house, and Isabel was scrubbing in
her kitchen. Down in the cook house near the bunk houses there
that cook was busy with his pots and pans, and then by the stable
and cowbarn the choreman was at his work with milk cows, pigs and
chickens, and helping him at that like for his morning exercise,
was Dale Warmer, the football star. That was all he could be
trusted to do on the ranch and he had to be watched a-plenty at
doing that. But that was what he wanted f or the time being,
plenty of work to keep in training, and he done that grinning.

With all the busy goings on and the pretty morning it was, the
Graftens was the only ones still very much asleep, and they would
still be very much asleep for a couple of hours longer. Maybe
they could be excused on account of their scary experiences at
the round-up camp, also maybe that they hadn't been brought up to
such hours as was kept at the ranch, but, anyway, if any of the
three blinked an eye at the crow of the roosters or the beller of
cows that morning, they sure never woke up to it, not even the
noise that Isabel made a purpose with pots and pans and slamming
of doors to wake 'em had any effect. They slept on.

Her small share of the house work done, June hit out for the
corrals and stables. She wasn't much of a hand for house work as
yet, and about all she took charge and care of was her bed room.
If she was to do any puttering around after that she'd do it
outside, and there, in taking care of things in many ways, like
closing gates that careless ranch hands would leave open, running
stock back that had gone thru, and so on, she more than made up
for what she didn't do in the house. Mae and Dot realizing that,
would often joke and tell her to get out so they could take care
of it and do things right, that she was more extra work around
there than help. They liked to putter and change things around,
make curtains and sew on a thousand things, also taking care of
the many flowers and such like outside.

Dot often went riding with June but seldom unless her important
work inside was done. She didn't take interest to doing things
that June did. When she rode she just rode, and couldn't see much
fun when June would go thru one bunch of cattle after another and
go to counting 'em to seeing how a cow lost her calf or how a
calf lost its mother, and all that goes with the caring of stock.

June would notice slack wires and leaning posts while riding
along a fence and do all she could about that, and she'd never
pass up a hole where stock might go thru without patching it up
in some way. Old Lou and Hie rode to do all of that around the
big ranch pastures and meadows, and they done that well, but no
matter how hard a man works there's most always some things
overlooked, and June had a knack of running onto such things.

But June wasn't riding to be fault finding, it was just that she
was interested and wanted to have something to ride for, and
there's always plenty such reasons on any big ranch. She liked to
hunt up missing stock best, and being that the stock kept around
the ranch was the most valuable, it made the hunting worth while,
and all the more interesting when some stock would break out to
open range, for then there'd be tracking to be done, or figuring
out which way they went, also good riding to find 'em.

And she wasn't short of good horses to do that riding with. She
had four, one of 'em she'd picked out of Austin's string and
which he'd hated to part with, and now she was having Sothern
break out two fine colts for her, a bay and a blaze-faced black.
Both of them colts she'd picked out of John B.'s southern blooded
stud bunch, and John B. couldn't do nothing but agree to that and
call her a little horsethief.

"Yep," she'd smiled in answer, "just a chip off the old block."

But she wasn't thinking of horses or riding as she hit for the
corrals and stables this busy morning. She had some thing sort of
pressing on her mind and she went there to find Dale. She looked
quite a while and when she finally found him he wasn't at all, as
she thought, in a place and position his fans would ever dream of
seeing their football hero. He was in a pig pen, and on all
fours, facing to within a few feet of a big boar he'd got to one
dry corner, and there, all set for a tackle.

June just stood where she was, very still, and she wondered
afterwards how it was she didn't scream out with a laugh, for it
was sure in her chest and aching to come out. But she'd caught
herself just in time as she seen that what was to come would be
at least as funny as the first sight of him there all crouched.

The big boar, weighing about four hundred pounds and very active,
had seemed just the thing for Dale to keep up his tackling
practice on, and no more than thought of than tried. The boar
finding himself cornered, was just still for a few seconds as
June came up on the scene, like puzzled about the human on all
fours in front of him, and he was ready for a break out of his
corner, either around or thru the human, and that was just the
kind of practice Dale wanted to keep up on, good, quick and tough
work.

He got it. The boar, seeing he was blocked at every move he made,
just whoofed in Dale's face and came on, and Dale tackled.

June just had to laugh from there as she seen Dale spring to meet
the boar. Dale didn't find no shoulders nor legs to tackle, just
the long snout of the boar which uprooted him, stood him up on
end and, as Dale circled his arms around the thick jaws with all
his strength, he was carried wrong end up that way for a few fast
yards to "low bridge." The low bridge was the opening into the
shed in the corner of the pen. It wasn't any too big for the boar
alone, and when he wooshed full speed into the opening his
tackler slambanged on the shed and was left there to come down to
earth with a bump.

He'd no more than landed when June hollered, "Look out, he's
coming right out again."

Dale jumped at June's voice and scrambled away from the shed
door. Then looking back for the boar and seeing he'd been made
fun of he stood up, brushed himself some, and then coming towards
her says, grinning, "Well, it was worth trying anyhow."

"You bet it was," says June, hardly able to speak for laughing.
"It was worth the price of two good shows to see you trick ride
on that boar."

"I wasn't trying to trick ride, Miss Snoop, I was practicing
tackle."

"Well you better tackle on something else," June says, "a bear or
a stack of wild cats." Then she went on, more serious, "Don't you
know that that boar could have ripped you wide open very easy
with his tusks? I don't think any animal would dare attack him,
only fools and strangers."

"I'll have you know I'm no stranger, Miss Mitchell," Dale acted
very uppish.

June laughed. "All right," she says, "you win." Then thinking of
what she'd wanted to see him for, she went on. "I've got
something for you to tackle this morning if you will, and that's
to take the small car and drive Mr. Graften to The Spur. Mother
said last night that he wanted to telephone to town for a wrecker
to come out and get his car to repair. I think you can tackle
that without hurting yourself."

Dale bowed. "With the greatest of pleasure," he says, "and won't
you, fair lady, consent to accompany me there and back? Your
gracious presence would be most inspiring to your lowly servant
on this lonely voyage."

"Begone, swine tackler," says June acting haughty. "I have other
missions. Besides," she laughed, "that's about all you re good
for around these diggings, is driving a truck."

She turned and walked away towards the horse corrals before Dale
could think up an answer to what she'd just said. And Dale wasn't
trying to think up no answer as he shook his head, smiled and
watched her go.

* * * * *

Dale had come to the ranch a couple of days before, uninvited,
but his coming uninvited somehow didn't twist any ropes on the
Seven Xs. Him and June had had perfect understandings while at
college, where they'd met quite a bit and got to know one another
well thru the many friendly arguments they'd had. He didn't like
girls, as he'd said, to him they was only head shaking, necking
or posing females and a man shouldn't waste a heart on 'em. If he
ever growed a heart he'd plant it where it would grow, on a rock,
that would at least be something solid.

June'd had many returns as to that, with such as that his head
was only a big football, needed a good kick so it'd crack like a
cocoanut and leave it air out. "It's hide bound," she'd said, "I
can tell that by your low foretop."

That was in some of the ways the two had got acquainted. Dale
liked June for her square give and take, right off the shoulder
and with enough sarcasm along for spice, and June liked him for
his reckless and still so thoughtful ways. He near reminded her
of the cowboys at home, and the arguments the two could bring up,
both halfways grinning, about nothing in perticular made the both
of 'em laugh with just the first glance at one another.

Dale would joke her about the cowboys. "Just something in
flopping pants," he'd say, and June would come back at the
football men. "Just a lot of beef wrapped up in pads, afraid to
get bruised."

With things going on that way, and Dale whistling away to himself
after each meeting, he'd got to thinking about these cowboys, for
the way June bristled up every time anything was mentioned
against 'em, he'd got to thinking something of 'em. Her attitude
that way, in one word, meant a heap more than all the co-eds
could ever said, diploma or no diploma.

So one day, coming acrost to where June was looking at only lawn
grass, very thoughtful, he figured he'd catch her off her guard
and he asked, acting very serious, "Where can I find some of
these cowboys? I thought they'd all gone with Buffalo and Bill."

June had looked up from imagining she was on good prairie sod.
"You'll find plenty of 'em if you re not afraid to lose
connection with the railroad," was all she'd said.

June being so serious at that time, and him thinking so much of
her opinion, specially at such a time, hunted up some circulars
pointing West. He'd found dude ranches advertised, and they'd all
struck him too close to the railroad and with too many
accommodations, and when he'd asked June about them on another
day she'd said, "You can get as rough or gentle as you want there
and there'll be good cowboys to take care of you, if you go to a
good dude ranch."

Dale had gone to a dude ranch that spring and enjoyed himself to
the limit, and then he was so interested that after June had got
home from her last winter "at any college," as she'd said, he
wrote to her and said in his letter, "Now I want to go to a real
ranch, not a dude ranch."

June's answer made him ponder a while as she wrote back, "Don't
you know that you re making a dude ranch out of a real ranch the
minute you put a foot on it? Other people will come along, see
you, and certainly say, why this is a dude ranch."

There was no way of coming back at that, not by letter, and
knowing June as he did, he went her one better and a few days
later he arrived at the Seven Xs as big as life.

"Well, here's your dude," he says to the surprised June as he
stepped out of the car that had brought him from town, "and this
is now a dude ranch."



CHAPTER XIV - "One Up and Three to Go"


Dale had been at the ranch only a couple of days when he
overheard hints, without his listening for 'em, how the Graftens
wasn't wanted on the ranch, and why. And when June came to ask
him that morning to drive Graften to The Spur so he could
telephone, he was mighty glad to help that way.

The sun was high and the forenoon was half gone before the
Graftens stirred and had their breakfast over with, and then Dale
took it on his shoulders to inform Graften that he was ready to
take him to the nearest telephone. He done that with his first
peek of him as he showed himself on the lawn and lit a fresh
cigar, and the first thing Graften knowed he was sitting in the
small car besides Dale and on his way to The Spur.

Mae, hearing the sound of the motor and looking up from watering
some plants, seen the car and the two in it and smiled. Now she
would see to the ladies, how they'd got along with the washing of
their clothes. They should be ironing them this morning.

Graften didn't get to talk much on the road to The Spur. The road
was rough, the grades was mighty steep and the wicked speed Dale
was going over it, with the light and open car such as Graften
wasn't at all used to, about all he done was watch the road, the
same as he'd done while Slick was driving the six horse team, and
now he wasn't enjoying the ride any more.

Dale didn't talk much either, and when he did it was something
about the coming football season, which didn't at all interest
Graften right then. Then in time the car come in front of the
General Store at The Spur, the phone was located there, and
Graften went on using it to locate the garage he wanted, while
Dale bought a few things, and a box of candy for June.

It was while Dale was shopping that way and sort of looking
around at everything in general, that he overheard a few words
Graften said over the phone which made him do his looking at
things closer to where the phone was so he could overhear some
more. Graften had talked of the condition of the car and what
would have to be done to it, then he repeated the words the
garage man had said.

"Over a week to get the job done? Why that will be all right. I'm
in no special hurry. I'll send my chauffeur in with you and he
will come out and get us when the job is done All right. G'bye."

He hung up all satisfied, seen Dale examining some things on a
counter, went to him and told him he would be ready to go as soon
as he got a supply of cigars and cigarettes. Dale looked up.

"Fine," he says, "I'll be at the car waiting for you."

He had the engine running as Graften came out with a few bundles.
It looked like he'd bought some clothes too, and rubber boots and
what looked like a fishing outfit.

"Sure you haven't forgot anything?" Dale asked as he looked at
the bundles.

"No. I'm sure," says Graften smiling.

Dale put the car in gear and started out, and then after he'd
drove a little ways, and without a word to Graften, he turned the
car in the middle of the deserted street and went back to the
store.

"But I forgot something," he says to him as he got out. "You wait
here a minute and watch the natives and I'll be right back."

Graften waited more than five minutes, and when Dale came back
there was a satisfied smile on his face also.

"All set," he says.

Dale kept a-grinning every once in a while on the way back to the
ranch, and Graften noticing that and while the driving was low
and up a steep grade, asked him what was the joke.

"Too good to give away right now," Dale says. "I've got to do a
little polishing on it first."

Graften didn't fret so much as to Dale's driving on the way back.
He'd figured him to be a good driver by then, and the thoughts of
the good peaceful times with his fishing tackle had him also
grinning with the coming pleasure.

It was just a little after noon when the ranch was reached. The
women folks was just coming out on the lawn after the noon meal,
and as Graften got out of the car with his bundles and came
towards the house, Mae told him that Isabel was keeping things
warm for him and that he'd better go on in and eat right away
before things got dry. That gave him a good excuse to rush on
past his wife who seemed inquisitive about the bundles. He
smiled, mysterious like and went on. Dale had put the car away
and gone to the cook house.

With the help of Mae and Dot, Mrs. Graften and her daughter had
got their ironing started and finished that forenoon, just the
most necessary things. Mae had seen that they would have to be
helped because neither of 'em seemed to know which end of an iron
should go first. They'd already scorched some clothes and they
was about to give up when Mae and Dot came. Isabel had refused to
help, saying she wasn't the one to encourage helplessness, and
being that June was gone to her usual riding, Mae and Dot had to
do the work.

Mrs. Graften was very grateful, of course, and jabbered along
about how "marvelous" Mae and Dot could do such "intricate" work
as ironing, as wonderful as it was in making Spanish lace, she
thought.

Mae and Dot listened to that and went on ironing, looking at the
lace on smaller things and wondering how they wasn't stretched
some places. Then come a time when Mrs. Graften, figuring that
her compliments would have some effect as to a foundation of what
more she wanted to say, went on talking some more, feeling on
solid footing, as to what quality lady she was. She talked of her
friends, her clubs, her social functions and all, just to make
Mae and Dot understand how superior she was, and that she
couldn't be expected to know anything about ironing.

The daughter had run out of the wash house before then and hit
for the corrals. She was glad to escape by the help of her
mother's talking and sort of romp, careless from work. She'd went
down to the corrals, a dust had attracted her down there and as
she found her way to it, going thru and over corral poles to
where the dust had been stirred (there was no dust but the parts
of earth that was sent up a-flying seemed like dust) she seen two
cowboys, Sothern and Gat, hard at work on fresh broncs, and as
she got into the corral to watch she'd stuck around plenty long
enough to learn, to her surprise, that her blond curls,
straighter now, had no wiles in ways of cornering these cowboys,
even in the corral. It wasn't at all according to what she
thought simple country boys should act, and these being wild
cowboys, she'd figured they'd be easier.

But all they'd done as she showed her head into the corral was
hang on to their ropes and keep on handling their broncs, and
when they did glance her way a few times as they worked, it was
as tho she was a pole that'd just fell off the top of the corral
and spooked the broncs. They'd looked at her only as a
disturbance and not at all as a grace to femininity.

As she'd stuck around she'd wondered what was the matter with
 em, paying so little attention to her. She'd never been treated
that way before, and then, she got to wondering what might be the
matter with her.

There'd been one time when Gat, after shoving back the shirt tail
that had worked out, glanced at the girl and he took just a
little time away from ropes and broncs to roll a smoke near where
she was standing, apologizing for ways shirt tails have of
crawling out.

She didn't mind seeing high or low bathing suits, she was used to
that, but she couldn't stand the sight of a shirt tail showing,
and before Gat got to finishing his smoke she'd got back out of
the corral.

"It's your personality, Gat," says Sothern, as Gat come by him,
"the sight of you scares 'em."

"Well," says Gat, grinning as he picked up his hackamore rope,
"that's why I like horses best. Break a horse and you ve got
something."

* * * * *

Up at the ranch house, Graften was "devouring" what Isabel had
kept warm for him, and while she wondered what scraps she'd have
left for the pet hen, cat, and dog, all mothering young ones,
Graften thought of how much grub he could get away with and of
the trout he would catch that afternoon.

Out on the big lawn the women folks had gathered and was
discussing women folks, things until Graften got thru eating. It
took him a long time to get thru, and in that time there was many
things discussed. But sort of one-sided. Mrs. Graften had got
over the disgrace of having to even try to do a washing and
ironing by then, changed to clean clothes, thanks to Mae and
Dot's help on 'em, and even the daughter sat up stiff and prim as
any good debutante. Mae and Dot didn't have no chance, all they
was was themselves and targets for questions. June had
disappeared again, and the only break in the talk was Isabel's
slamming of the kitchen door while Graften was there. Mae figured
new hinges would have to be put on that door, while Mrs. Graften
thought something sure should be done about that servant.

One of the main noises in the discussions, or talk, started with
Mrs. Graften asking Mae, "But what do you do to pass the time
away, away out here on a solitary ranch?"

Mae couldn't answer for a while, it struck her as such a blank
question. Then she says, shrugging her shoulders, "I don't know,
only that the day always ends too soon."

Mrs. Graften looked at her daughter and smirked some, she'd of
winked if she'd thought she wouldn't of got caught at it. Then
she turned to Mae again.

"But what about the clubs and societies," she says, "but I expect
there's no such organizations away out here." Then she went on,
"It seems such a waste of time and it must be very lonesome to be
so isolated from civilization. There certainly must be some high
ideals stirring your hearts," she asked looking at Mae then at
Dot.

"There certainly is," says Dot, looking acrost the valley to high
peaks. "These hills are our elevation, and they would get a lot
of people out of muck if their ideals was to that altitude and as
open."

Dot smiled at Mae, then looking straight at Mrs. Graften,
"There's gold in them thar hills," she says, using an old time
prospector's remark, "and they don't bow to riches nor foolish
things."

The kitchen door slammed again, and out of another door onto the
porch, Graften came out, lit his cigar and went to unwrapping his
bundles, satisfied with the world. In a short while he
interrupted the women folks, conversation by coming on the lawn
all rigged up in his fishing outfit and rod.

"Why, Samuel," Mrs. Graften greeted him. "How ridiculous. We re
prepared to leave."

Samuel stopped long enough on his way to the creek to smile and
just say, "We can't very well leave for a while, my dear, the car
will have to be fixed first."

"These men," says Mrs. Graften, looking after him and sort of
apologizing to Mae, hardly looking at Dot, "all they seem to
think of is fishing the minute they get away from the office."

"And with their women it's clubs and bridge, and no office," says
Dot. "And no home."

Dot was kind of on the warpath and wished June was with her, Mae
was so dern kind and obliging.

Then June come into sight, but down by the corrals, and with Lou
and Hie, bringing in a bunch of cattle. Dot went into the house
and a few minutes later came out dressed in her riding skirt and
boots and spurs, headed for the corrals.

"Can I go with you?" says the Graften daughter as Dot went by.

"Sure you can," says Dot without looking at her, and the
debutante followed at her heels. Then later on Mae and Mrs.
Graften came, Mrs. Graften asking something about what the
excitement was. To which Mae only said that some cattle had been
brought in and some calves to be branded and that was all.

Down by the corrals, Sothern and Gat had let up on the new
broncs. Sothern had caught one of the two colts he was breaking
for June, and Gat the little black he was breaking for Johnnie,
and sitting on them two ponies the riders was going to give them
a little education with the ways of a rope.

For there would be some roping to be done that afternoon, some
calves that'd been born the fall and winter before, and which
with their mothers had been culled out of the main herds and held
close to the ranch, and now they was good sized. John B. and
Austin was plum against their cattle winter calving but that
happens with the best of regulated herds, and the Seven Xs had
mighty few as compared to most outfits.

Lou and Hie figured it was high time to brand 'em, before the
flies got bad and that with the help of Sothern and Gat the work
could easy be done. June and Johnnie had helped gather and bring
them in and now the outfit was set to go to work. The branding
fire was good and the irons was getting hot. June was filling the
vaccine syringe* and would do her work with it, besides tallying
up on what was being branded. She would rope too once in a while.
Johnnie was the "iron boy," packing the branding irons to the
wrestlers and packing 'em back afterwards, also keeping the fire
going good.

* To vaccinate against "blackleg" disease which affects cattle.

Of course Lou and Hie both wanted to rope, so did Sothern and Gat
so as to get their broncs used to the ways of them ropes, and
there's where some hitch came in. They couldn't all rope,
somebody would have to do the wrassling and branding, so, it was
while the l880's and the 1900's was discussing over the subject
that Dale vaulted over the corral, real athletic and just says,
"I'll do the wrassling."

Well, that come near knocking four cowboys off their horses right
then, but they hung on to themselves for all they was worth, and
finally old Lou says in his dry way, "Sure. You can wrassle us a
water bucket, that would help some."

Dale wasn't going to be set back at that, but seeing that he
wasn't being paid no attention to, he finally figured it would be
best to just wait and see for a spell, and a glance at June by
the branding fire made him feel that he'd better because she
looked like she was ready to laugh at him again.

"Another thing," old Lou says, as Dale was going to one side of
the corral, "it'd be a dirty shame for that awning you re wearing
to get dirty." Dale was wearing a kind of white and sporty
outfit. He'd put it on that morning after he got thru with his
boar tackling and to go to The Spur with Graften.

The cowboys went on with their discussing, and finally, it came
to a draw where one 80 and one 1900 would rope while the other
80 and 1900 would do the wrassling and branding, and change
about that way every so often.

To end the argument and start things going, Gat got off his colt
and says to Hie, "Come on Pop, let's you and me take the first
shift at wrassling and I'll bet we can beat the other team at
that and at roping too."

That was agreeable to Hie, and that way the outfit started to
work, just about when Dot came into the corral.

Her coming kind of stopped things for a while. The ropers held
their ropes and the wrasslers looked around. Dot came to June,
brushed an elbow against hers, said "Damn" and went on to the
side of Dale. Dale, wondering why such a lady should say such a
word, looked back of him thru the corral poles, and seeing
Graften and his daughter there he just grinned and remarked, "I'd
be mad too." Graften had lost his interest for fishing for the
time and stopped to watch the roping.

The roping started. Lou caught the first calf and brought it to
the fire while Sothern brought his rope to play, educating June's
bronc as to the tricks of it. Gat took the lead in wrassling the
calf that had just been brought in. He knowed which side of the
calf to get, and before Hie could blink, that calf was on his
back and with all four feet stiff in the air, then hanging onto a
front leg, Hie run on to put a figure eight on his two hind ones.
That calf was a husky, not of the dairy kind.

June was on the spot to inject the vaccine and Johnnie trailed
her up with white hot branding iron. Lou took it while Gat held
the calf down, and right quick there was the smell of burning
hair and a thick smoke come up.

"Why they re burning the poor animal," says Mrs. Graften, who by
then had got to the corral with Mae and was watching from the
outside.

Mae laughed. "That's mostly hair burning." Then the calf let out
a loud beller. "Terrible," says Mrs. Graften, shuddering, "it
must hurt the poor beast something awful. There should be a stop
to such cruelty."

"I guess it doesn't feel good," says Mae, "but I don't think it
hurts them any more than us having a tooth pulled, and they have
the best of us because they have no imagination. I think the
dread of pain is as bad as the pain itself."

"But does this awful branding have to be done? It's so cruel."

"This branding is not awful, Mrs. Graften," says Mae, a little
stiff like at such ignorance and her making a mountain of a mole
hill. "It's only awful necessary, and as for cruelty, it's only
that it's so strange to you."

"Indeed," says Mrs. Graften.

A little ways along the outside of the corral, Mrs. Graften seen
her husband and daughter and went to them, leaving Mae alone, and
Mae was glad of the chance to get away. She went into the corral
and joined Dot and June.

Sothern, on June's bronc, brought another husky calf to the fire
by the time one Lou had brought in was branded, earmarked,
vaccinated, and turned loose. June's bronc, with the handling of
Sothern, worked fine and took to the rope like a good one.
Sothern and Lou would be a hard team for Gat and Hie to beat when
it come their turn to rope.

Calves was roped and brought to the fire in plenty fast enough
time so there was always another calf ready for the wrasslers
when they turned one loose, and that way the work was going
smooth.

Dale, watching Gat throw calf after calf, wanted to get in on the
wrassling of 'em. He watched so as to get onto the hang of it,
and then when he figured he had it down pat, he came up as Lou
brought in another calf and says to Gat, "Let me have that one."

Gat grinned as he said, "Sure," and watched Dale go after the
calf, like he was going to eat him up. Dale went to reach for the
calf as he'd seen Gat do, figuring on twisting him down simple as
Gat had done, but he must not of applied the right twist because
the calf just went by him, bucking and bellering, and kicked him
as he went past, leaving an initiating smear on his light colored
pants.

"Careful of them Palm Beaches there, young feller," Lou hollered
at him.

Dale grinned and went after the calf some more. He tried Gat's
ways a few times without any more success than the first, then
seeing that wouldn't work he dropped all tactics and went to
tacking and catch as catch can. He was going to get that calf
down or eat him up right there.

But the calf seemed to have a heap more say about that than Dale
did, for right soon Dale was tangled up with more calves and
ropes than he'd ever seen in his life, and found himself twisted
up in the shape of a pretzel while the calf bucked and bellered
and jumped all over him. It looked like the calf would soon make
hamburger out of Dale. But the calf was only trying to get away,
and all that kept him at that one place was the rope that was
around his neck and tied hard to Lou's saddle horn.

Dale squirmed out of the entangling rope once and out of the
reach of the calf's pounding hoofs, and by then his light sporty
outfit was all the colors of the corral.

"My gawd, man," says old Lou bending over his saddle with
laughing, "let up a little, will you, till I get my breath."

Dale looked at him, he wasn't grinning so much this time and he
wanted some breath too. Then glancing around and seeing that
everybody was laughing near as much as Lou, June even more, he
was now determined more than ever to wrap that calf around his
thumb and shake him. The calf about six months old didn't look so
big, and Dale couldn't of guessed that there was four hundred
pounds wrapped up in his slippery red hide and all on four legs,
which he didn't stand on, but used to all advantages to move on.
Dale could of handled a three hundred pound man easier than he
could of handled that calf, and as he dived into him again he
realized some more that atheletics didn't help much in this case.
He found out the same thing one time when Sothern let him try to
handle a half way spoilt bronc, and now he was finding out some
more, that this cowboy's work called for a lot different action
than with atheletics. A cowboy couldn't maybe jump two feet off
the ground, but a champion pole vaulter couldn't begin to get on
one of his spooky broncs. Both men could be champions at their
own game but neither could compete at the other's game, not
without they trained for such, and then the cowboy would still be
a cowboy and the athelete an athelete, the cowboy an athelete in
his own way.

Dale, as short a while as he'd been at the ranch, soon found that
out and to respect that cowboy's way. It had all looked so easy
to him, and him being powerful and mighty active, he'd figured
that what they done would be only child's play to him, but his
opinion got to changing about men in high heel boots, tall
crowned hats and wearing batwing shaps, and that it took a good
man to have the right to wear such outfits. Clothes didn't make
the man there.

With his determination to get the calf down, and Dale realizing
that he'd sure tackled something again this time, he seen that
there was nothing for him to do but stay with it and do it with a
grin, or else crawl away and give it up as a bad job. He stuck
and grinned, when he could, and all the while the calf done a
good job of making him the laughing stock. Gat would of come and
helped him but the show was too good to spoil and he wouldn't
make a step that way until June quit laughing. June wasn't
quitting, and then finally, Dale got the calf down.

Dale got the calf down but he was underneath the calf, and there
he laid, out of breath, but grinning and hanging on the calf for
dear life. He wasn't going to let that calf get up, even if he
was underneath. But he'd have to manage around somehow so he
could hold the calf down and still get out from under him.

Gat, seeing how much it meant for Dale to hold the calf down, and
that the calf would be sure to squirm and kick himself free again
if Dale loosened a hold to get himself out from under, stepped up
to the calf, took one front leg, stuck his knee on the calf's
neck, and holding him down to stay, he announced the bout over
and named the winner. "Underneath," he says.

Gat thought the show had gone far enough, and Dale feeling sort
of at ease that he'd got the calf down, squirmed out of under,
not all proud, but satisfied and grinning.

He was quite a sight as he stood up, his sporty outfit made to
look all the funnier by the condition it was, tore here and there
as tho he'd been drug thru the corral in it and turned over a few
times the while. His face wasn't much cleaner, nor his hair,
which would sure need a cleaning and combing. Outside of that he
was all right, and after getting his breath and taking the jokes
that come his way while he brushed himself some, he was ready to
tackle another calf. He couldn't look any worse anyway, and now
he could have some fun.

That's what the boys liked about Dale, there was no quitting in
him and the rougher things come the better he seemed to like it,
and there was no whining no time nor looking for help nor favors.
If he got in the way sometimes a holler from one of the boys
would send him scrambling, and with him and them there was a good
friendly feeling, spiced with plenty of joking. Some of the jokes
would kind of stump him on account of their witty odd style, but
he'd always come back for more and with some of his own.

When he was ready for more calf wrassling he didn't take it on
single handed no more. He wanted to get onto the hang of that,
and with Gat to take the lead and coach him at times he got to
doing pretty well. When half the calves was branded and Gat and
Hie got on their horses to take their turns to roping, and
Sothern and Lou came to take theirs at wrassling, Dale was right
on hand to work with Sothern. That was just the kind of practice
he wanted and even tho he made hard work of it, there was no
tiring him. That would get him later, in stiff muscles.

The afternoon was over half gone, the branding work was going on
smooth and soon would be done. Graften, watching, interested in
the branding as well as the joking, had stuck around and forgot
all about his fishing. His daughter had stuck by him and both had
climbed on the corral to sit on the top pole and watched from
there. Sometimes Graften would have one of his witty remarks to
pass which didn't get nowheres much and his daughter a question
that didn't get no further.

Jeffers, after he'd done all he could with the car and his
clothes, had also come to the corrals and watched thru the bars.
He didn't think nor cared to come into the corral and pitch in on
the calf wrassling as Dale was doing, and it was just as well all
around that he didn't if the branding was to be done that
afternoon. One tenderfoot at a time is a plenty.

Mae had gone back to the house after a spell of watching, and
Mrs. Graften had soon followed her there, joined her where she
sat on the lawn, remarking that she'd seen enough branding for
the rest of her life, and how restful it was on the lawn.

Over half of the afternoon had wore on that way when the purr of
an automobile was heard, then near the corral came a heavy tow
car, then back of it a ways came another automobile, it was a big
passenger car. The driver of the tow car, seeing the people at
the corral, drove close to there as he dared and stopped, and
Graften, seeing it was the tow car he had phoned for, got down
off his perch to meet the driver. But he didn't expect the tow
car that afternoon.

He didn't expect the passenger car either, none at all, but there
it was, and he wondered. Dale had quit his learning at wrassling
calves the minute Graften went to meet the driver of the tow car,
and close to the corral he listened to the conversation of the two.

Graften went on to say to the driver that it was all right about
the tow car to come out and that he could take the limousine back
any time. But he hadn't expected it until the next day, and as
for the big passenger sedan, he hadn't expected nor ordered it,
that he wouldn't be ready to go until his own car was fixed and
fit to travel. "You told me," says Graften, "that the car
wouldn't be ready for a week or ten days and I said I'd stay here
and send my chauffeur with you to bring it back when it was
ready. I didn't say anything about bringing a passenger car to
take us out."

"Well, I might of misunderstood you," says the driver, "but I'm
sure you said afterwards for me to bring a passenger car along to
take you and your family back. You said you wanted to get back to
town as soon as possible, that you wanted to do that at any cost
and for me not to pay any attention to you if you seemed to
change your mind, to take you and your family in regardless." The
driver spit out his chew of tobacco, "and I'm here to collect,"
he says.

"But I'm not ready to go," says Graften, wondering, and then
getting a little hostile, "I ordered the tow car but I didn't
order the other. If you misunderstood that's your misunderstanding."

Graften was going to go on some more, and the driver was ready
for his say when here come Mrs. Graften all smiles and a-flutter
with joy.

"Why, Samuel," she says, "how thoughtful of you to have that
sedan brought along to take us back." Then she turned to the
driver, still smiling, "And how soon would you be ready to take
us back?"

"Any time you say, mam," says the driver, now wondering.

She started back for the house at the same pace she came, and
then stopped short in her tracks and turned to ask the driver,
"What time do you think we can be in town?"

"It all depends how soon we leave here," he says. "If we leave in
half an hour we can easy be in town by eight."

"Good," says Mrs. Graften. Then to her husband:

"Now, Samuel, pick up your fishing things and put them in the
car, and you, Jeffers," she says to the chauffeur who was close
by, "you can get our luggage in a few minutes." Then she looked
around for her daughter. She was in the corral by Dot.

"Alexandrina," she hollered high, "Alexandrina."

"Alex," says Dale, "your mother wants you." The daughter scared
the cattle getting out of the corral, but she got out, and
joining her mother the two went to the house to pack their things
up. The daughter was near as agreeable to that as the mother.

Graften had throwed up his hands at the whole goings on, they'd
been going so fast. Then he asked of the driver, "Are you trying
to break a record? I had no intentions of going back today and
for many days." He pointed at his high boots and fishing tackle
for proof.

The driver grinned. "I'm sorry but them was the orders, Mister."
Graften throwed up his hands again, picked up his fishing tackle
and started for the car with 'em.

In a short enough while the sedan was loaded, Jeffers packed case
after case to it, loaded 'em in and stood by. He had orders to
drive the sedan on in, for the Graftens was cured of other
drivers, besides the limousine wouldn't need any. The branding
went on unflurried in the corral, and even tho Dale seemed
interested with the goings on outside of it nobody noticed it but
June. Mae, at the house, was taken by surprise and the only way
she showed it was by surprising Mrs. Graften and daughter by
helping them with their packing, and sort of getting back at 'em
by saying how sorry she was they was leaving so soon.

And Isabel, hearing and seeing of the hustle and bustle, only
hummed a tune, plum content.

There was little good-byes and no tears as the Graftens got in
the sedan and Jeffers stood ready to take the wheel. When he did
take the wheel, it was with a wave of the hand at Dale and the
general direction of the corral. Graften was looking the
direction of the creek, the daughter was looking no special
direction and Mrs. Graften was looking straight ahead, smiling.



CHAPTER XV - "Regular Ranch vs. Dude Ranch"


The Graftens had been gone a couple of days when one fine evening
John B. rode into the home ranch. He'd left the round-up wagon
just to kind of visit around a bit, the calf branding was about
over with anyway and some of the boys would soon be going back to
their line camps, so, before that time come he just wanted to
visit some at the ranch, gad around with the wimmin folks, old
Lou and Hie, Sothern and Gat and just sort of perambulate here
and there on the old ranch sort of aimless like.

He was happy as he rode in that there was no sight of the
Graftens nor their car nowheres, for he sure didn't want them to
spoil his peace by their tagging at his heels, asking foolish
questions and bumping into 'em every move he made while he
perambulated. He wanted to be at home when he was home and with
his own kind of folks. He'd had enough of such as the Graftens to
do him for another life time.

He felt at peace that way when he rode into the corral by the
stable and went to unsaddling, for there'd been no signs of
anything strange. Then as he pulled the saddle off his horse and
swung around to take it in the stable he got sight of the strange
looking figure of Dale who'd happened to just come to the stable
door, and John B. near dropped his saddle at the sight of him.

But he didn't drop his saddle, he just held it stiff, and looking
hard at Dale he says, "What the hell are you doing here?"

Dale felt like he'd been tackled four ways at once by such a
sudden greeting, only worse, and he had no mind as to what to
say.

He just stood to one side of the door, and as there was no words
coming from him, John B. just brushed past and went on in to hang
his saddle, mumbling about laws against shooting some people,
when there ought to be a bounty on 'em instead.

John B. looked as tho he might easy of done that anyhow, and when
he came out of the stable again, Dale had vanished. He'd gone to
the bunk house. He was hurt bad and a little peeved. He couldn't
understand, and he would pack up and leave the first chance he
got. Maybe June would take him in as far as The Spur, if not he'd
walk.

If Dale was hurt and peeved that was easy as compared to the way
John B. felt. Here he'd all prepared to enjoy the peace and
comforts of his home for a few days, very glad the Graftens was
gone so he could do that, and the first thing he bumps into was
another of their breed gawking and there to make him feel
uncomfortable. That was enough to make any man see red if there
was any red in him. His home wasn't his, it was a museum for
anybody to come and use and pesticate the life out of him.

John B. had lost all the peaceful feelings he'd had when he first
rode in. He stuck around in the stable for a while to cool down
some, and when he went up to the house he was near his happy self
again. That is, he acted that way.

There was no Mae nor June nor any of the others as he came in the
house, and that was all right, it'd give him a chance to clean up
some before they did come. But he didn't have much chance there,
for soon, Mae, coming from the garden and hearing his footsteps
in the bedroom came in on him. He was changing shirts.

John B. didn't mention seeing Dale as she came in smiling,
surprised, and he only smiled right back at her in his old
natural way. He'd decided he wouldn't say anything about the
stranger, he'd let the wimmin speak, and he'd find out soon enough.

He did find out soon enough, and from June after her and Dot had
rode in that evening. She'd come up to her dad, hugged and kissed
him and after a while she'd asked, smiling a little,

"What did you do to Dale, Dad? I mean the young man you met as
you first rode in."

John B. squinted at his daughter. "Why nothing," he says, "I only
asked him who the samhill he was."

June laughed and let it go at that for the time being.

Then as cool showery clouds covered the sun after supper that
evening and the family gathered on the lawn, she brought up the
subject again.

"I know how you felt when you first saw him," she says, "after
meeting the Graftens, but he's really a nice young man."

"Sure," says John B. looking down towards the corrals. "I guess
he's a nice enough young man. But I've got a damn fine place
here, and if all the nice people came along on it I'd just have
to turn it over to 'em. There'd be no room for us." Then he added
on, "Why in samhill don't them kind of people go to dude ranches
and quit pesticating us."

"Oh, you know what they say, Dad. They want to go to a real ranch."

John B. snorted. "Why most dude ranches are real ranches. I don't
go to any stock sale or stockmen's convention, but what I run
acrost good old cow and horse men who run dude ranches. Some of
 'em run and own plenty of stock and range and run regular round-up
 wagons, they re real outfits. The only difference between them
and us is that they re prepared to have guests and we re not.
They have extra houses for 'em and entertainment and extra riders
to take care of their guests and plenty of good horses they can
ride. That's all looked out for with such outfits and they want
guests, where with us we re prepared for only stock and we don't
want guests only our own."

"That's all very true, Dad," says June, "but many don't seem to
know that. They say they want to rough it on a real ranch, live
like the cowboys do and not be pampered like they are on a dude ranch."

John B. grunted. "Why people that say that have only been to
resorts and riding academies. They might of seen some little one-horse
dude ranch with some would-be cowboy holding up a shingle
and selling pop on the side and called that a dude ranch,
figuring all was like that. But if they'd strike a real dude
ranch they could rough it as much as they want to and live like
the cowboys as much as they want to, and not be petted either if
they don't want to be. Then the good privilege at a real dude
ranch is they wouldn't have to hurt themselves at something they
don't know they can't do, and they could get all the care and
petting they wanted by just letting out a holler if the roughing
it got too rough, where here we'd just let 'em holler and go on
with our riding. We'd be busy with our stock."

"But a lot of people can't afford to go to a dude ranch."

"Well, and the regular ranches can't be running 'Poor Farms either."

"Dale has been to a dude ranch," says June. She laughed, "and I
guess he knows the difference by now. I think he realizes that
the difference between a regular ranch and a dude ranch is that
one is a private home and estate no matter how big it is and that
the other is open to paying guests and where they re welcome."

"What makes you think he knows that?" asks John B.

"He came to meet me at the corrals as I rode in, and he said he
was going back to one as soon as he could get somebody to drive
him to the railroad." He acted pretty much ashamed, said
something about that he should have gone to a dude ranch in the
first place, that he didn't realize he was imposing here, and so
on, and that's what made me think you'd run into him and maybe
spoke a little too quick."

"Maybe I did that," says John B. "But daggone it anyhow I thought
I was relieved of one carload and could have peace, and here he
pops up."

"Well, he won't bother you long," says June. "He said he'd be all
packed and ready to go by early morning, and I thought I'd have
one of the boys drive him in. Sothern can drive a car I think."

All was silent for a while. Mae hadn't said a word thru the whole
conversation, she'd just sat on her wicker chair and listened and
smiled, and Dot had done the same.

Then June spoke again. "But, as I've said before," she says,
serious like, "he's a nice young man, Dad, very different than
the other ones I've met at college, and he done you and us a big favor."

John B. turned to look at her. "A favor?" he asks. "What favor?"

"Well," June smiled, "if it hadn't been for him the Graften
family would still be here, and for at least another week." John
B. blinked, sort of unbelieving, and she after a while went on,
"Yes, he drove Mr. Graften to The Spur the day after they got
here from the wagon. Then when he'd overheard him talk on the
phone about getting a tow car, he understood that it would take a
week or ten days to fix the car and that that was perfectly all
right with Mr. Graften. He and his family would stay at the ranch
and only the chauffeur would go in.

"As Dale told me he had a good hunch that we wanted 'em to go,
and after Graften got thru telephoning he took a chance of
helping us out and telephoned right back to the same garage that
the tow car had to be out that very same day and to bring out a
sedan to take out the Graften family, and if they could be got
back to town by that night there would be a twenty-five dollar
bonus for him."

June laughed, and John B. started grinning. "Well, the cars came,
Graften protested, but the whole outfit went out that same
evening."

All was quiet for a while, then John B. turned to her and says,
"Did he tell you all that?"

"Yes, but I was already suspicious that he had a hand in the
Graftens going so sudden, and I made him tell. He thought it was
a good joke anyway, and when he saw I was pleased, why that made
it all the better. He also thought it was a pretty good joke on
us because, as he said, it took a dude like him to drive the
other dudes out. He said he wanted room for himself."

John B. grinned. "That's one on us as well as the Graftens," he
says. "That Dude Dale wins."

* * * * *

Somehow or other, as June said to Dale the next morning, there
wasn't anybody on the ranch who could drive a car. She couldn't
go herself because she would be very busy that day. Maybe she
could go the next day. In the meantime he'd better catch a horse
and come and help her drive out a bunch of cattle that had broke
in some big hay meadow. Dale had kind of fidgeted, remarking that
he would walk to the railroad, that he felt guilty of staying
where he hadn't been invited and wouldn't care to have her father
see him around.

June had laughed at that. "Why, Dad only thought you were a
patent medicine salesman," she lied. "He's bothered with them so
much every year."

Dale had to laugh at that too, then he'd said, "Then it makes a
difference that I'm a college man?"

"Not any. The last word of that will do with him."

Dale had flushed mighty pleased. That sure made a difference, and
even tho he'd felt that some excuses had been made, he was
pleased that they'd went to the trouble of making them. That was
proof enough they didn't want him to jump right out and go, and
that was enough to keep him from starting out afoot. He seen he'd
only be making a fool of himself doing that now.

He figured the best and only thing to do would be to stay and
watch for a first chance when a car went in, and now he would
take June's invitation to go riding with her and drive the cattle
off the meadow. That would show good reasoning, but he still
dreaded the thought of meeting John B. face to face again.

June had saddled her horse and gone up to the house, saying she'd
be back in a short while. Dale saddled his and proceeded to wait.
He was by his horse, thinking, when he seen John B. coming from
another corral. He felt a little like dodging him but he couldn't
now, he'd been seen. He would just act as tho the meeting of the
evening before hadn't been thought of.

But John B. had other ideas. He came straight to Dale and says
"Good morning, young man." There was a kind of a stern grin on
his face.

Dale, surprised, said, "Good morning, sir," and then John B. went on.

"I didn't know you was a friend of June's or I wouldn't of spoke
like I did last evening." Then the stern look went away. "I guess
I should be more polite to strangers, but my ornery nature has to
crop out once in a while."

Dale smiled, pleased. "Why I think I understand just how you
meant what you said last evening, Mr. Mitchell."

Then all serious, he went on, "And after thinking it over I
certainly don't blame you. I should have realized, and I'm sorry
I butted in here the way I did. I was not invited, and worse than
that, your daughter warned me not to come." He smiled again. "She
wrote me that she didn't want no dudes here, and that's what
decided me to come. We always played jokes on one another at
college and I couldn't let this one pass.

"But I see now it was no joke to begin with. I will be leaving as
soon as I have the opportunity."

John B. scratched his head and grinned to himself. He could play
jokes too. "I'm thinking it'll be a long time before that
opportunity comes," he says. "We re not much for going to town
out here, and it might be this fall, about shipping time, before
you'll have the chance."

Dale looked a little scared at that. He realized again that he
was on a regular ranch and not on a dude ranch where transportation
and other conveniences are always at hand.

John B. squinted at him under his long white eyebrows. "But if
it'll make you feel more comfortable," he says, like final words,
"I'm offering you my invitation now, and with pleasure, for you
to stay and make yourself to home."

With that he walked away, leaving Dale all puzzled and like up a
tree, but happy and grateful down deep.

* * * * *

It was a couple of hours later when Dale and June was riding in
the big meadow together to get all the cattle off that had broke
in on it, but there was no cattle nowheres in sight on the big
meadow, and as June rode on, not at all seeming surprised about
it, Dale got to wondering and then to finally understanding. It
had just been another trick to get him to forget about his going
and that way smooth over the hurt he'd felt the evening before.
He more than appreciated that, and he made no joke about there
being no cattle where there was supposed to be.

And as for his being accepted at the ranch and the invitation
from old John B. himself, Dale couldn't understand that. He sure
knowed it wasn't because he was a football star, a college man
and the son of a very well-to-do business man. He laughed when as
a last straw, he thought of his looks and personality and then he
gave the whole thing up.

John B. hadn't thought of none of them points as he gave Dale the
good invitation to stay at the ranch. June had known him and said
he was all right and that was good enough for him. On that
account he'd only been sorry for the way he'd greeted him the day
before. As for Dale getting rid of the Graftens, he appreciated
that, but he appreciated a heap more the fact that Dale had
noticed that the Graftens was only grievances to his family, and
how he'd took it on his shoulders to relieve his family of them.
John B. appreciated that a heap more than Dale could of
appreciated the invitation.

* * * * *

So, John B. was at peace again, and he went to moseying around
from one building to another, glancing at the machinery which was
all uninteresting to him and only as a modern necessity, on to
different sheds and bunk houses. He remembered the building of
every one of them, and each one was as a monument bringing
memories of different happenings and times. Austin was born while
the old bunk house, now a tool shed, was being built. June was
born a little while after the long addition to the horse stable
was finished, where she now kept her saddle and outfit. Johnnie
came while some of the corrals Sothern and Gat was now working
inside of was tore down and put up new, and all wherever he
looked at heavy logs or poles and stone reminded him of many
things of many years.

He went to talk to Ole, the blacksmith, for a while and greeted
him with the same remark he usually greeted him with, and that
was if he was still prophecising weather. Ole grinned as always
and came back with the same answer and shake of his head, just
"No." Ole had claimed to be quite a weather prophet when he first
come to the Seven Xs. He'd stuck it out for all he was worth for
one whole summer and he'd prophecised the weather so wrong most
always that towards the end he throwed up his hands and said,
"This fool Coontre, I no can tell it wedder." But nobody had let
him forget.

John B. then went to the feeding corrals and sheds and then on to
the corrals where Sothern and Gat was handling their broncs. He
talked to them a bit about this and that colt, and watched 'em do
their work for quite a while, then he went on seeming all at
peace. And he was, for everything was in order and as it should
be on a well run outfit.

He went out of the corral and to mosey on some more. Sothern and
Gat slid off their broncs to let them digest their saddling, and
went to a little shady part of the corral to roll a smoke and
rest for a spell.

"Old John B. sure acts like all the world was at peace with him
and he was at peace with it," says Gat, looking the direction he went.

"And why shouldn't he," says Sothern, "he's sure got it by the tail."

"Yep," agrees, Gat. "He sure has, and now he's even got a rich
man's son with a ready loop of gold for his daughter's finger any
time she says the word."

"I don't think it's that serious," says Sothern, grinning to
himself. He felt that Gat was up to his old tricks again, which
was often.

"Well, she sure don't seem to be hazing your broncs near as often
as she did before Dale come, and he sure manages to keep in her
way. They re both out riding right now and if that ain't putting
two and nothing else together I'd like to know what is."

"You do the worrying about that if you want to, Gat. I know June."

Gat near choked with a laugh at that, "Ye ladies, man ye," he
says, "how do you know you know so much about June, or any woman?"

"And you old woman hater that you ain t, how come you know so
much about women that you think none can be believed in? You sure
must of run acrost a few of the kind that tickled your chin, took
your purse at the same time and then tromped on you."

Gat had come to the end of his string there, for he couldn't
recollect of any woman that had treated him that way or in any
way bad. There'd been a few while in short stops in towns that
would of liked to, but he'd jumped too much from one another at
such times for any of 'em to get any holt on him.

"I hate to grieve you, old boy," he finally says, "but there's
never been no woman ever tromped on me. I'm too wild, and even
tho I'd like to linger for their kindness once in a while the
orneriness that's back of it keeps me on the jump." Then after a
while he added on, "But there is good women, I know of one."

"How do you know you know?" says Sothern, getting back at him.

"You lose," says Gat, "and I'll prove to you that I know. I'm
meaning June."

* * * * *

But if Sothern and Gat had seen June at the time they was talking
about her, they'd been mighty surprised and both felt very much
the losers, for under a big cottonwood tree and sitting very
close to her was Dale, and it looked like he was sure enough
making violent love to her. He was holding both her hands and she
seemed very happy and contented to have him hold them and listen
to what he was saying.

Once he was saying, "June, do you love me more than anyone else?"

The way that come about was while June seemed to be riding
aimless. There'd been no cattle to drive off the big meadow, and
she didn't seem to have any place in mind to ride to, nor any
reason to ride for, only to be riding. Dale took that all as a
soothing syrup for him and he appreciated June more than ever for
her consideration.

He liked to ride, more so with June than anyone he could think
of, but that morning he didn't care to ride so much, and coming
to a big cottonwood tree near the tumbling waters of the big
creek, he asked June if she'd care to sit down in the shade of
the tree with him. He'd like to talk to her.

She'd said something to the effect that that could very well be
done while they was riding, but with Dale remarking that the
jarring chopped his words she stopped her horse in the shade of
the big tree and dismounted.

She'd sat down on the grassy earth and Dale sat right close by
her. To June's surprise then he took both her hands like there
wasn't a second to be wasted and he said:

"June, I think I have a lot of nerve."

June, round-eyed, started to laughing, "I think so too," she says.

"Yes, holding your hands too. But what I mean is I had a lot of
nerve coming over here to your home and stay, uninvited, and I
see now that if it hadn't been for you I might have been kicked
out the first day I came."

"Oh, I don't think so," she says. "We might have suffered you along."

She tried to pull her hands away, "Wait a minute," he says, "I'm
not thru yet." He swallowed, and June prepared, then he says, "Do
you love me more than anyone else?"

June just smiled, sort of patiently. "Why, I don't love you at
all, Dale."

Dale still held her hands. "That makes a difference," he says,
"and I'm glad you don t, at this time. But I want you to know
this, that if I ever love anyone it will be you, June, and if
you'd said you loved me now I would love you now too. Right now
and with all my heart."

He pressed her hands and then let go of 'em. "I just wanted to
tell you this, June, so you would know."

The two was quiet for a spell, then June said, "I appreciate what
you told me, Dale, and I appreciate you as a very good friend. I
wish you would think the same of me, and never more than that."

"There's someone you already care for?" he asks, quiet like.

"Yes."

"Do I know him? Oh, yes, I know. Bill Sothern."

"Yes."

Dale prodded the earth with a stick for a while, then he says, "I
should of thought of him before. But there seemed to be so little
going on between you two that I don't think anyone else but me
would notice it."

"I've known him for three years and more," says June.

"And you ve cared for him all that time?"

"Yes, all that time."

"Well, it's no wonder you gave everybody the cold shoulder at
college and that you didn't care for diplomas. Your heart wasn't
there."

June, saying they'd better be riding back, started to get up, but
Dale asked her to wait a little while longer, that he wanted to
talk to her some more.

"I'll be leaving in a few days now, June, and I may not have the
chance to talk to you like this much more, specially now that I
know." Then he laughed a little. "But your dad said that I might
not be able to leave before fall shipment because nobody is
likely to go to town until then."

June also laughed at that, and that sort of broke the serious
tone of the talk. "Why, there's always someone going in at The
Spur at least once a week to get the mail, and I didn't tell you
before, but one of the ranch hands can drive the little car well
and he will take you in any day you say. But," she added quick,
"I hope you won't take advantage of that now."

"Thanks, June, I won t. But I will have to go in a few days and
start into serious work."

There was a little quiet spell when Dale prodded on some more
with his stick, then he went on sudden but quiet like. "I like
Sothern, June," he says looking at the ground and still poking
with his stick, "but has he got anything?"

June was sort of taken by surprise. "What difference does that
make?" she says. "I haven't got anything, nothing that I ve
earned."

"But that's not it. You should have the things you re accustomed
to and a home you could go to when you re married."

"You talk like I was a spoiled and pampered pet, Dale, or an old
lady that I should have the things I'm accustomed to. Why it's
everything to have something you ve worked for, no matter how
little it is. But Bill bought a little ranch, is stocking it up
with every cent he makes and he has an old cowboy take care of it
for him while he works. All I want is a little house and my
saddle horses. We'll be starting out better than my dad did, for
all he had was a few saddle horses that wasn't his, and a long
rope."

Dale smiled. "You re certainly fine, June, and Sothern is very
lucky to have a girl like you. When are you two going to get married?"

"I don't know," June smiled. "We haven't said anything about it yet."

"What?" Dale raised his head so quick it near popped. "You two
have all planned on this, and he's stocking up a ranch and fixing
a home for you and you don't know when you re going to get
married?"

"We never made any plans. He just told me what he was doing and
that he'd soon have a little ranch all stocked up and a good
little home on it."

"Well, I'll be How do you know he's doing all that for you?"

June smiled. "I know," she says.

Dale gave it up. He prodded at the earth all the harder, then he
says, "Has he ever made love to you, kissed you and said he loved you?"

"No, but he don't have to. I know, a woman feels such things, and
that's surer than words, such words are so easy said."

"Yes, but what's the matter with him? If I loved a woman I'd tell
her and be sure to let her know, regardless if I knew she loved
me a thousand years before. How does he know you love him?"

"He must know or he wouldn't be doing what he's doing for me. We
ride together often, and he tells me the grade of cattle he's
getting, what his range looks like and all such things. There was
only one time he asked me a question and that was--"

"What was that, quick," Dale interrupted, stopping his digging.

"That was," June went on, "if I like goat's milk. There's lots
of goats down in New Mexico you know. That's where our ranch is."

The simple and country-maid way June said that made Dale look at
her with mouth wide open, and unbelieving.

He throwed his stick away and scratched his head. Then June
laughed.

"Don't be alarmed," she says, "I think I'm all right. Besides he
hates goats."

"I hope that you are all right," he says, "please go on."

"Well, I'll tell you, Dale," she says, serious, "the reason he
hasn't spoke to me of love. He figured I would know and
understand, which I do. Besides he doesn't feel as tho he has a
right to because he has so little as compared to what my dad has.
He wants to have something to show before he'd feel right in
speaking of love to me. He's that way, very proud, and he would
never want to have it said that he wanted me for my share of my
dad's cattle or any money I might inherit."

"That's all very fine," says Dale, "but if he feels honest about
it I don't see where you should let thoughts of money stay
between you two. How do you think your father would feel about it?"

"I have no fear of any trouble from Dad because Dad likes Bill
very much and I think he would be happy to consent. The only
thing is he would not want me to go so far away as New Mexico.
Dad is getting pretty old you know, and Bill will of course want
to take me there."

"Why that's easy. That would give your father all the more excuse
to start him out here, have him sell down there and buy up here.
But it looks like the way things are going it will take a long
time. Do you want to wait that long?"

"I've thought of that, and I don't know," says June, standing up.
"But what can I do?"

"Why, hell, speak to him. It will tickle him to pieces, it would me."

"I may," June laughed, then she added on as he also stood up,
"You must not have wanted me very badly, Dale. You seem so
anxious to see me married."

Dale grinned. "The fact that I can't have you is the reason. I
want to have it over with and know that you re happy, June." He
took her hand and pressed it. "And here I am, the first to
congratulate and wish you happiness. You will be happy, June."

They got on their horses and started back for the ranch.



CHAPTER XVI - Home Ranch


A few days went by when Dale felt sort of lost as to what to do,
and a little lonesome. Nothing was so very interesting no more,
and he couldn't find anything to do or watch being done that
would take that lonely and restless feeling away from him. He
didn't look for anything tough to tackle any more, and the work
he'd done with pleasure and for exercise had turned out to be
just plain work. He'd go to the corrals once in a while and watch
Sothern and Gat at their horse breaking. The action put on there
was as good as always but he didn't appreciate the goings on
between fighting broncs and the two riders as he had before, and
when either Sothern or Gat sent some joking remarks his way there
was no ready returns from him much, only half-hearted grins.

It wasn't that Dale was down-hearted or gloomy, and it wasn't
that he wasn't made to feel at home and welcome by everybody.
June was as nice and nicer than ever and John B. had took him in
as one of the family, but with all of that, the bottom of the
Seven X home ranch had fell out for him, and for something he
couldn't account for as a reason but it was the reason just the
same. That was that he'd got to liking the folks there too well.

It begin when John B. made him conscious of his and other
people's lack of respect for a man's home and range. That had
been smoothed over in fine shape of course, but he was now more
conscious than ever in his appreciation. Then the sudden
knowledge that June didn't care for him only as a friend, when
before he never stopped to wonder if she cared or not, only
brought him to realize the fact that he cared for her, and had
cared for her for a long time.

She hadn't been with Sothern any more than usual since he'd had
the talk with her, but he felt that she was only being kind to
him and would wait until he was gone. That made him all the more
restless to go, and in the last few days he'd gone riding with
her only a couple of times, once when she'd asked him to. He felt
so conscious when he did, and even tho he tried, he wasn't quite
the happy Dale he'd been before.

Everybody was good to him at the ranch, even the cranky cook at
the cook house, but that didn't help things any, it only made him
feel worse and he sort of wished they would be sort of ornery
with him. It would make it easier, easier for him to leave.

He was ready to leave now, he'd been ready for a couple of days
but every time he'd mentioned going he'd been made to feel like a
criminal for just the mentioning. But he'd finally made up his
mind to go. He'd told June that day under the big cottonwood that
it was on account of some serious work that had to be done, but
there would be no serious work for him for a while yet. He'd
planned to go to a dude ranch as he'd told her before where he
would belong and be glad to pay for the privilege. He wouldn't
feel obligated then nor be stepping on a good will of people he
liked and admired. For, after all, he was still only a stranger
on the Seven Xs.

There'd been nobody gone to the Spur after the mail for quite a
few days, and being he didn't want a special trip made to take
him in, he was waiting until the time when a car was sent in.
Then a Sunday come, and that afternoon a light car drove in with
two men in it. They was men who'd been fishing the creeks since
the evening before and they'd stopped at the ranch for some tire
patching.

Dale was on the job at the sight of the car, and learning from
the men that they was on their way to town, that they had room
for him and his stuff and would take him in, he made a hurry
round of everybody he could find to say "good bye." There was no
time for explanations nor for demonstrations and he was glad of
that. He was also glad that June had gone riding as usual, with
Sothern this time. He'd write her a good long letter, he said,
and rushed out to get his stuff. A few minutes later he was on
his way and feeling a little more gay. With a change of scenery
he'd soon be himself again.

* * * * *

"Well, I guess the ranch is our own again," says John B. that
evening as him and his family gathered on the porch. "Nobody here
but the ones that belongs here. That seems kind of strange, and I
wonder how long it's going to last."

Mae shrugged her shoulders, afterwards she said, "But we ve not
been bothered so much tho, John. I don't expect any more such
interruptions for a long time. But I didn't mind that boy, Dale.
If anything I'm going to miss him."

"I got to liking him myself," says John B., "after I got to know him."

The conversation went on idle for a while and then, June who'd
been looking over the last papers, got up from her chair and went
to John B. "Look, Dad," she says, holding the paper for him to
see. "Here's a picture of Dale in his football uniform. It says
under it that he's out on some ranch in the wild West and
'Busting broncos as part menu of his training."

John B. took the paper from June and squinted at the picture.
"Looks fine there, don't he?"

"Yes, he does," says June.

John B. turned to squint at her. "You kind of liked him pretty
well, didn't you, June?"

"Why," she says, sort of embarrassed, "why, of course, who
wouldn t?"

"Didn't you just more than like him now?" he grinned.

"Of course not."

Then John B.'s grinning squint turned serious all at once. "Then
who in samhill is it you more than like, there must be somebody?"

"Yes, Dad, there is," she answered, smiling. "It's Bill."

John B. turned to stare at the paper. "I thought so," he says,
grinning to himself. "You would pick on the best man I've got."

To June's and Dot's surprise, John B. didn't say any more on the
subject. It was like he knew all the time only he wanted to hear
June say so. To himself he was mighty pleased. For he'd changed
his tune about not wanting June to marry a cowboy on account they
was born too free. He wasn't wanting Sothern to be anything else
no more now, only the good cowboy he was, he'd be a good cowman
some day. He'd been a little afraid her heart might of gone to
Dale. Dale was a good boy and he liked him, and he wouldn't of
said anything against June caring for him if such had been the
case because he had all confidence in his daughter's judgment.
But he couldn't see where she could of been near as happy with
Dale, living the way she didn't care to, as she would with a good
one of her own kind. Sothern was a good one of her own kind and
one who could help in making her happy.

Mae had had other ideas. She'd picked Dale as her choice for
June, so June would be "somebody," but that had been gone over
before, and since seeing such as Mrs. Graften and her daughter,
it was easy for her to forget about that, for she wouldn't want
June to have to mix with that kind. Of course there was plenty of
the good kind and real, but that other kind would have to be
taken along too, like the bitter with the sweet.

John B. rattled his paper. "The only thing I've got against a man
like Sothern getting married," he says, keeping his face inside
the paper, "is that it sure ruins 'em."

"How?" asks June, expecting what she was afraid might come.

"Well, his wife'll keep a-telling him to be careful every time he
gets on a bronc, be careful of this, be careful of that. Then
he's reminded of his responsibilities and the first thing you
know he is careful, so durn careful that he gets scared, scared
of his own shadow, and mention a bronc to him after that and
he'll hunt a hole. I'll sure hate to lose Sothern because he's
the best all around cowboy I ever had, specially at breaking
horses," he grinned behind his paper. "But thank the Lord I'll
still have Gat. I don't think any girl will ever want him."

"Don't be too sure, Dad," says June, relieved and smiling, "it
isn't always the looks that count you know."

"Yes, I know that." He looked at his wife and grinned, "So does Mae."

He went back to his paper, leaving June wondering, then rattling
it once more, and as tho to make it an end to the last
conversation and have it understood as settled for good, he spoke
again and on a very different subject. "It seems mighty queer,"
he says, "how people are kicking at the price of beef. There's a
piece about that in most every paper. The people don't seem to
realize that everything else went up in proportion. But they'll
kick and stinge on beef, and the most necessary and healthy part
of food, then they'll turn around and spend twice as much on durn
foolish things they don't need, and think nothing of it. Why, a
little hunk of good beef is worth more than everything else on
the table, and I think they re durn lucky and ought to be durn
thankful to have beef at any price after these last years
drouths."

Neither Mae nor June said anything to that. June was only still
surprised and puzzled at how he'd took the news of her caring for
Sothern. She'd dreaded mentioning that to him and expected a
little fuss when she did, but now it was done and all over,
settled and at peace like all at once, and her senses was running wild.

Another rustling of the paper near made her jump. John B.
grunted. "And what do you know about this?" he says, looking at
the paper. "They re building some big state building in the east
that's costing millions, and all out of imported marble. Them
gazabos sure must be ashamed of the marble and good materials we
have in our own country, and for one of our government buildings
too. I suppose we ought to be proud to look at that building and
say all the material that went to build it was from other soil,
like ours wasn't good enough."

He was quiet for a while, then he went on, "I wouldn't be
surprised to raise some of our American buildings and read under
 em, Made in Shangkoko or Fritzawiski or something like that.
Then they say 'Buy American. "

He snorted. "Good old adobe was plenty fine for the men who
fought at the Alamo. It was plenty fine for men of action, and
there was as many intelligent decisions made by them walls as
there'll ever be. It wasn't imported marble that inspired Lincoln
and others of his breed an4 made 'em the men they was."

"They might have had some reason for wanting that imported
marble," says Mae.

"They might of, but with this whole durn country on relief with
drought and dust storms and floods, it looks like our own marble
or dirt or logs would of been plenty good at this time, plenty
good any time, and it would of put our own people to work. But
that's only one small item, I guess."

He rattled the paper once more as a wind up on that, glanced
around at other queer things people do, such as, as he said,
"paying a hundred thousand dollars for a broken heart that was
steady palpitating to be broken again," and other things, and
then he had enough. He went to reading the comics for a rest and
maybe a laugh.

* * * * *

As usual, John B. was up at daybreak the next morning. It was
always the best part of the day to him, and he liked to be
standing and facing towards the sun as it first peeped over the
ridges. He felt like he was showing his appreciation of it as he
greeted it that way and that it wouldn't shine quite as well on
him and his for the day if he didn t.

He watched the first rays of it tip the mountain peaks and come
down amongst crags and timbers till the tops of the tall
cottonwoods he was standing amongst begin to sort of twinkle and
rustle at the light as the rays came down to them.

He felt mighty good to be up and alive and strong, and in the
thick of what all he loved. He stood and faced the sun as the
rays, line came down the cottonwoods and touched him, and he
stood like in prayer and salute, resting on one leg and rolling a
cigarette. For that was his way of praying and saluting, showing
peace and contentment. That, he figured, is what would please the
sun God to shine on him, not mourning nor begging.

Standing on the lawn, he looked at his shadow that stretched plum
acrost it to stand against the house, and for the thousandth time
he looked at that house for all it meant to him. From the first
part that was built, to the additions that was put on and made
the rambling house it was. The sight when he was in such a mood
as that morning, brought back many memories of what had gone on
inside them heavy log walls, with the first building and then the
additions.

It was peaceful looking that morning. It had been peaceful for
many years, but he well remembered the time when it was scary.
There'd been bands of Indians come on the porch he was looking
at, they'd leave their ponies where he was now standing. It was
no lawn then, just good virgin prairie sod covered with buffalo
grass. The Indians would be out for plunder, but he'd fed 'em
well and showed good sense by helping them help themselves to
what was in sight, but he always kept a cache and there was
seldom much in sight at them times. The Indians burned other
ranches, but no fires had been set to John B. s. When they'd
leave they wasn't so warlike, but for the reason that with his
show of friendliness there was no fear in him, and 'they felt
that at the wink of an eye he could have a bunch of hard riding
cowboys on their hides. That had happened to a few bands of the
renegades, other bands had soon got wind of it, and after a
while, John B.'s ranch and stock was pretty well left alone.

Looking at the main door of the house which entered what was now
the living room, he remembered when a dead man opened that door.
The man had been a stock detective and was shot dead while he
reached for the latch, and he'd opened the door as he fell and
slid down against it. Rustlers had shot him during the rustler
war.

There was another time, when two riders had met inside there.
There'd been a long grudge between 'em and it came to the top
when one bet the other that he could beat him to the draw. The
stake he put up was his life and his horse and saddle, and the
other put up the same. When the black powder smoke cleared, one
of 'em was dead and the other was dying. He lived only long
enough to tell John B., who came running in, the story of the
shooting.

There'd been other scrapes and near scrapes in that house and
John B. had been the center of some of 'em, protecting his
interests and his word, sometimes with his six-shooter but most
always with his pen.

It had been a ticklish job holding his outfit, and even tho now
it was all secure he was still in cow country and there was still
men free with the rope. It had been only a year or so before when
there was a good ring of rustlers operating around and partly on
his range. He knowed 'em all by sight, a few of 'em had little
outfits of their own, and it was only regular that they stop to
eat or rest their horses either at the home ranch or round-up
wagon. All was friendly, and it wasn't surprising to see one of
the rustler boys eating a meal right alongside of the stock
detective that was out to get evidence, on him. But all was
friendly while there was no evidence, and now, as John B. thought
of 'em, he shook his head, for most of them boys was now looking
at this bright morning thru prison bars. The few that had been
left of that ring had hit out for other range countries. But
there was still others.

No, the old West wasn't gone. There'd be many parts of it hold
out for another generation, regardless of what may come.

John B. wasn't for thinking so much of the happy events and every
day life that house reminded him of that morning. He felt good
enough as it was and he was more for harking back to the rough
side of what the house had been a witness to, inside and outside.

He was glad that house had been built on good stone foundation
and high from rot. It would be a long time, and little Johnnie
would be an older man than him before the heavy timbers of that
house would show any sign of crumbling.

By then why people might be living in. His thoughts was
interrupted by a young holler from one corner of the house, and
here come little Johnnie all washed up, hair combed and ready for
when breakfast would be ready.

"Well, how's my boy this morning?" John B. greeted him.

"Chirp as a chipmunk," says Johnnie, grinning up at him. Then he
went on, "I'm going to ride my horse, Whirlwind, today. Gat said
he'd be all right for me to try now."

"You want to more than try him, son. You want to ride him."

"I'll ride him all right," says Johnnie, feeling confident.

"That's better," grinned John B., looking down at him. He
wondered if he wished he could be that age again, the sight of
Johnnie often made him wonder that, and again he came to the same
conclusion, that he'd had a mighty full and good share of life
and there was plenty more to come. That would be good enough for
one man, and besides if he was to be so young again he'd have to
change to fit the times that was ahead. He'd been cut out for one
period, he'd used that period well and he didn't want to change
to fit another period, for he didn't think he could, and he
didn't see much of interest for what was ahead, not for another
period, and not unless he could find some new range country where
he would be the first one there. Then it would be different, but
as it was he was very satisfied to be just as he was.

He sometimes only felt sorry for the young fellers, for being
brought up into such an old world. But, he figured afterwards,
being they don't know of any other they'll be happy too.

John B. squatted on the lawn. "Have you ever thought of what you
want to be when you get big, Johnnie?"

Johnnie looked at him, wondering, then grinned. "Just like daddy,
I guess," he says. "He said I'd sure have to get in and ride
pretty soon."

"I know that, but what would you like to be if you didn't have
anything to do and could be anything you wanted to?"

Johnnie thought for quite a while. "Why I don't know," he finally
says, "but I think I would like to be an aviator, I would like to
fly and explore."

John B. grinned and thought to himself, he's sure fitted for the
times. Then he says, "How would you like to have a nice ranch and
a good bunch of cattle and horses of your own when you get
bigger?"

Johnnie's eyes lit up. "Gee, that'd be swell," he says, not at
all hesitating.

John B. grinned some more. He'll fit anywhere, but mostly here I guess.

"How do you like school?" he asks then.

"Oh, I like school fine. I'm in the fifth grade now and I've been
studying some since I come home so I can get to the sixth grade
soon after I go back to school this fall."

"What's all the ambition to learn so fast?"

"It's fun and I like it. I like geography and history the most."

Well, that was news to John B. the first Mitchell that ever liked
schooling. Maybe Johnnie took after his mother, anyway his mother
and Austin was mighty proud of that, and John B. was also proud
to know. He sort of wished that Austin and June had liked
schooling more, but they'd had enough.

What sort of stumped John B. was that Johnnie seemed to like most
everything. He liked to watch the tinkering around automobiles
when some was being done. He liked his horses very much, was good
to 'em and had the knack of handling 'em, also his rope. He liked
to work cattle, he took great interest in that and was good at
reading strange brands and guessing the age and weight of a
critter. John B. told him he could go to the wagon with him the
next time he went, and the boy was as pleased as any boy could be.

But what stumped John B. the most was the boy's craving for
education. He couldn't understand his studying his school books
when he didn't have to, and specially while on vacation at home
on the ranch. I guess he's just a live boy, that's all, is what
he finally come to decide.

Mae called from the house and the two went in to breakfast.

John B. spent his morning with Johnnie who tried out his little
sorrel and rode him. The two rode to the ranch where the
thoroughbred herd run, the ranch that Austin said he'd bought for
Johnnie. They rode thru the fine fat straight white faces, all
marked and looking as much alike as any one kind of thoroughbreds
can. Whirlwind acted like a top and Johnnie had no eyes for
cattle that day, only the little sorrel that was under him.

They got back by noon and then they seen that Austin had got in.
He'd been to one of the other ranches and come in driving one of
the big ranch trucks. His bookkeeper was with him to look over
the supply of grub and necessary machinery parts in the
commissary and he'd be driving on into town in the afternoon to
supply up on all the necessary, for the haying would soon be
starting at different ranches and he would need to be prepared.
He would have to hire more men too, a hay crew for all the
ranches, and the ranch superintendent would be going along.
Everything was fine on the range, Austin said, Hatty had sent
some of the riders to different line camps and he'd keep about
ten on the wagon for the summer. (All hands would be on round-up
again when fall come. There'd be the branding of the calves
that'd come since the spring round-up and missed during the
summer, then the driving of herds to different winter ranges, and
the gathering and shipping of fat steers.)

The calf crop would be a little short of normal, Austin thought,
maybe on account of the cows being on the late green grass the
fall before, then the green grass in the spring, and not a blade
of old grass mixed in to ease them to the new grass. But the
condition the range was now, after all the spring moisture and
more coming, would more than make that up in fat beef long before
fall. That spring was more like the ones that had been three or
four years before and sort of promised that grass would be
stirrup high all over the range by July. There would be plenty of
hay in the meadows too, and Austin was going to see that all of
that would be put up that could be and build up the reserve
stacks that had to be used the last two winters.

It was a very promising year all around, the long drouth was
broken and the prices of cattle was good, and, as John B.
noticed, everybody he seen seemed happier for the times, like the
weather, was getting normal.

Austin had kept with the times and handled the outfit according
and with hardly any loss. John B. was proud of the way he done
it, the same as he was proud the way he done everything in
meeting up with the change of things to modern ways of raising
and shipping cattle and handling the range and ranches.

John B. couldn't of pictured himself doing what Austin had done.
He'd of kept with the old styles and the old stock most likely,
at least for as long as he could, and he couldn't picture himself
riding in a truck, figuring ahead for a hay crew and all such.
He'd be with the round-up wagon, most likely, and had just a
plain ranch foreman take care of things.

But Austin was sure doing things right. There'd be no falling
down of the outfit with him, on the job, and it was necessary
things was done the way he done 'em. He smiled, as right after
the noon meal, Austin and Dot got in his sedan with his ranch
superintendent and bookkeeper and all hit for town. A ranch hand
drove the big truck on in.

Johnnie didn't want to go to town, he was going to ride Whirlwind
a little again that afternoon. June wasn't going to go riding
that afternoon. She said something about how it looked like it
might rain, and John B. had to grin to himself. Since when did
rain or sleet keep her from riding? But it seemed that she was
going to help Mae at something, or maybe Mae was going to help
her, anyway there was a lot of material piled up and some cut,
then some needles and yarns. It looked like a sewing bee was
going to take place.

"Going to make some more riding skirts?" asks John B. dubious.

Mae smiled. "Not this time," was all she said.

He couldn't get no information by looking at Mae, for all she
done was smile the same as June. He heard Isabel whistling and
humming in the kitchen. Then he went out, grinning and saying to
himself, "Too durn peaceful for me around here."

There was more fighting action down by the breaking corrals.
Sothern and Gat was each giving two fresh broncs a first
saddling, and even old Lou and Hie had stuck around a bit before
doing their afternoon's ride. He talked to them a while, listened
to the joking remarks between them and Sothern and Gat, pitched
in a few himself and then went to saddling one of his tops. It
was Cortez.

He hadn't rode Cortez for quite a few days now. That pony was
turning out to be about the best of his tops, and for that reason
he was saving him, saving him just because it was an old force of
habit of his to always save the best, for when there might be
ticklish work to be done.

But there wouldn't be no ticklish work for John B. that
afternoon. He was just going to mosey around the old home ranch
and enjoy everything, and he wanted a good horse to enjoy it on,
one that savvied.

He rode out in one of the big hay meadows feeling happy at the
stand of grass that was there, always a glad sight to a cowman.
John B. hadn't seen no such a stand for quite a few years now,
and it seemed quite a few years longer. Then he rode into an
irrigated meadow, and by the happy looks on the man who turned
the water over it from the ditches he must of been satisfied with
the amount of water he had to work with. That meadow was all
alfalfa, a couple of hundred acres in that patch of deep green
now knee high to Cortez. John B. had got to respect that as feed.

He rode thru meadow after meadow, field after field, seen the
ranch hands working here and there, fixing ditches and fences or
making new ones. There was no stock in the fields now, all was
out on the range and up the mountains for the summer. He rode up
one of the long ridges that led up a close mountain range. A good
thunder shower met him on the way, he put on his slicker and rode
on. He liked them showers, it made everything so fresh and clean,
the air so clear and sweet, the birds to singing and the growing
things to sparkle and reach for the sun as it comes thru the
clouds afterwards.

The shower passed on, and riding high up on the long ridge he
passed bunches of grazing fat cattle that run, bucked and
bellered and played, all slick and shiny and full of life. He
reached heavy timber, and coming to a high rocky ledge he circled
around until he got to the top of it. From there, away below him
spread the valley leading to the home ranch, the big creek
winding down thru the center and flanked by a strip of tall
cottonwoods. That big creek and a few other little creeks that
run into it here and there irrigated the meadows, watered the
stock and in some places down below flooded big scopes of range
when it was high, and filled water holes that lasted near thru
the summer.

On both sides of the valley and starting from the mountain was
low ranges of grass covered hills, patches of scrub cedar here
and there, brush and box elders and quakers in the coulees and
draws, and a running spring in near every one of 'em.

John B. felt mighty proud as he looked down on his main ranch,
his home ranch. He'd seen many ranches and many ranges but he
felt there was no better and prettier ranch and range in no land
as the one he was now gazing over. It was no wonder he fought to
hold and keep it. Now it was his and his family's for keeps, and
his heart was happy with the love of it and the love for it for
his family to enjoy always.

He could see the comfortable, homey and sheltered setting of the
buildings and corrals. He remembered when he first come there
with his first herd and there was no buildings. He'd turned that
herd loose in the valley he was now looking at the first night.
There'd been no guard stood on the cattle that night and for the
first time since they'd been started from Texas, and they'd
stayed well. They'd stayed in that valley the rest of the summer
and wintered there that winter, all coming out fat and wild in
the spring, when John B. put the Seven X on every one of 'em.
They hadn't strayed far from that country from then on.

Now the valley was all squared off in patches of meadows. John B.
had got used to that for the necessity of 'em and the change of
cattle from the longhorns he'd trailed up to the stocky white
faced herefords he was raising on it.

This was only a small part of his range he was looking at. He
could see a mountain forty miles away that was on his range.
There was his ranches, some near as big as the home ranch, here
and there to that mountain and one on the other side. The ledge
he was sitting on was his mountain, and like a king, but in
overalls and shaps and squatted on his spurred heels and not
afraid of being dethroned, he surveyed his domain with a proud
and satisfied smile.

He watched the shadow of the thunder cloud that had passed over
him play over his valley, over the home ranch, to make it dark
and then come to sight clear and bright again. The shadow played
over his range, making every hill it passed over stand sharp and
dark, and with every outline from the home ranch on there was
happy memories of the days that was. Then the shadow finally
disappeared over the far away mountain, and looking down at the
old home ranch again he was very happy, very happy for the days
that are.



THE END



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