Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up (BAR-20)
Clarence Edward Mulford
Part 3 out of 4
Montana, `bout twenty years back?"
"Shore! Him and Frenchy McAllister punched all over that country an'
they used to paint Cheyenne, too," replied Hopalong, eagerly.
"I knows him, then. I used to know Frenchy, too. Are they comin' up
"Yes," responded Hopalong, struggling with another can while waiting
for the fire to catch up. "Better have some grub with me-don't like to
eat alone," invited the cowboy, the reaction of his late rage swinging
him to the other extreme.
When their tobacco had got well started at the close of the meal and
content had taken possession of them Hopalong laughed quietly and
"Did yu ever know Aristotle Smith when yu was up in Montana?"
"Did I! Well, me an' Aristotle prospected all through that country
till he got so locoed I had to watch him fer fear he'd blow us both
up. He greased th' fryin' pan with dynamite one night, an' we shore
had to eat jerked meat an' canned stuff all th' rest of that trip.
What made yu ask? Is he comin' up too?"
"No, I reckons not. Jimmy, th' bartender, said that he cashed in up
at Laramie. Wasn't he th' cuss that built that boat out there on th'
Arizona desert because he was scared that a flood might come? Th' sun
shore warped that punt till it wasn't even good for a hencoop."
"Nope. That was Sister-Annie Tompkins. He was purty near as bad as
Aristotle, though. He roped a puma up on th' Sacramentos, an' didn't
punch no more fer three weeks. Well, here comes my pardner an' I
reckons I'll amble right along. If yu needs any referee or a side
pardner in any ruction yu has only got to warble up my way. So long."
The next ten days passed quietly, and on the afternoon of the
eleventh Hopalong's miner friend paid him a visit.
"Jake recommends yore peaches," he laughed as he shook Hopalong's
hand. "He says yu boosted another of that crowd. That bein' so I
thought I would drop in an' say that they're comin' after yu to-night,
shore. Just heard of it from yore friend Jimmy. Yu can count on us
when th' rush comes. But why didn't yu say yu was a pard of Buck
Peters'? Me an' him used to shoot up Laramie together. From what yore
friend James says, yu can handle this gang by yore lonesome, but if yu
needs any encouragement yu make some sign an' we'll help th' event
along some. They's eight of us that'll be waitin' up to get th'
returns an' we're shore goin' to be in range."
"Gee, it's nice to run across a friend of Buck's! Ain't he a son-of-
a-gun?" Asked Hopalong, delighted at the news. Then, without waiting
for a reply, he went on: "Yore shore square, all right, an' I hates to
refuse yore offer, but I got eighteen friends comin' up an' they ought
to get here by tomorrow. Yu tell Jimmy to head them this way when they
shows up an' I'll have th' claim for them. There ain't no use of yu
fellers gettin' mixed up in this. Th' bunch that's comin' can clean
out any gang this side of sunup, an' I expects they'll shore be
anxious to begin when they finds me eatin' peaches an' wastin' my time
shootin' bums. Yu pass th' word along to yore friends, an' tell them
to lay low an' see th' Arory Boerallis hit this town with its tail up.
Tell Jimmy to do it up good when he speaks about me holdin' th' claim-
I likes to see Buck an' Red fight when they're good an' mad."
The miner laughed and slapped Hopalong on the shoulder. "Yore all
right, youngster! Yore just like Buck was at yore age. Say now, I
reckons he wasn't a reg'lar terror on wheels! Why, I've seen him do
more foolish things than any man I knows of, an' I calculate that if
Buck pals with yu there ain't no water in yore sand. My name's Tom
Halloway," he suggested.
"An' mine's Hopalong Cassidy," was the reply. "I've heard Buck speak
"Has yu? Well, don't it beat all how little this world is? Somebody
allus turnin' up that knows somebody yu knows. I'll just amble along,
Mr. Cassidy, an' don't yu be none bashful about callin' if yu needs
me. Any pal of Buck's is my friend. Well, so long," said the visitor
as he strode off. Then he stopped and turned around. "Hey, mister!" he
called. "They are goin' to roll a fire barrel down agin yu from
behind," indicating by an outstretched arm the point from where it
would start. "If it burns yu out I'm goin' to take a band from up
there," pointing to a cluster of rocks well to the rear of where the
crowd would work from, "an' I don't care whether yu likes it or not,"
he added to himself.
Hopalong scratched his head and then laughed. Taking up a pick and
shovel, he went out behind the cabin and dug a trench parallel with
and about twenty paces away from the rear wall. Heaping the excavated
dirt up on the near side of the cut, he stepped back and surveyed his
labor with open satisfaction. "Roll yore fire barrel an' be dogged,"
he muttered. "Mebby she won't make a bully light for pot shots,
though," he added, grinning at the execution he would do.
Taking up his tools, he went up to the place from where the gang
would roll the barrel, and made half a dozen mounds of twigs, being
careful to make them very flimsy. Then he covered them with earth and
packed them gently. The mounds looked very tempting from the view-
point of a marksman in search of earth-works, and appeared capable of
stopping any rifle ball that could be fired against them. Hopalong
looked them over critically and stepped back.
"I'd like to see th' look on th' face of th' son-of-a-gun that uses
them for cover-won't he be surprised" and he grinned gleefully as he
pictured his shots boring through them. Then he placed in the center
of each a chip or a pebble or something that he thought would show up
well in the firelight.
Returning to the cabin, he banked it up well with dirt and gravel,
and tossed a few shovelfuls up on the roof as a safety valve to his
exuberance. When he entered the door he had another idea, and fell to
work scooping out a shallow cellar, deep enough to shelter him when
lying at full length. Then he stuck his head out of the window and
grinned at the false covers with their prominent bull's-eyes.
"When that prize-winnin' gang of ossified idiots runs up agin'
these fortifications they shore will be disgusted. I'll bet four dollars
an' seven cents they'll think their medicine-man's no good. I
hopes that puff-eyed marshal will pick out that hump with th' chip on
it," and he hugged himself in anticipation.
He then cut down a sapling and fastened it to the roof and on it he
tied his neckerchief, which fluttered valiantly and with defiance in
the light breeze. "I shore hopes they appreciates that," he remarked
whimsically, as he went inside the hut and closed the door.
The early part of the evening passed in peace, and Hopalong, tired
of watching in vain, wished for action. Midnight came, and it was not
until half an hour before dawn that he was attacked. Then a noise sent
him to a loophole, where he fired two shots at skulking figures some
distance off. A fusillade of bullets replied; one of them ripped
through the door at a weak spot and drilled a hole in a can of the
everlasting peaches. Hopalong set the can in the frying pan and then
flitted from loophole to loophole, shooting quick and straight.
Several curses told him that he had not missed, and he scooped up a
finger of peach juice. Shots thudded into the walls of his fort in an
unceasing stream, and, as it grew lighter, several whizzed through the
loopholes. He kept close to the earth and waited for the rush, and
when it came sent it back, minus two of its members.
As he reloaded his Colts a bullet passed through his shirt sleeve
and he promptly nailed the marksman. He looked out of a crack in the
rear wall and saw the top of an adjoining hill crowned with
spectators, all of whom were armed. Some time later he repulsed
another attack and heard a faint cheer from his friends on the hill.
Then he saw a barrel, blazing from end to end, roll out from the place
he had so carefully covered with mounds. It gathered speed and bounded
over the rough ground, flashed between two rocks and leaped into the
trench, where it crackled and roared in vain.
"Now," said Hopalong, blazing at the mounds as fast as he could fire
his rifle, "we'll just see what yu thinks of yore nice little covers."
Yells of consternation and pain rang out in a swelling chorus, and
legs and arms jerked and flopped, one man, in his astonishment at the
shot that tore open his cheek, sitting up in plain sight of the
marksman. Roars of rage floated up from the main body of the
besiegers, and the discomfited remnant of barrel-rollers broke for
Then he stopped another rush from the front, made upon the
supposition that he was thinking only of the second detachment. A
hearty cheer arose from Tom Halloway and his friends, ensconced in
their rocky position, and it was taken up by those on the hill, who
danced and yelled their delight at the battle, to them more humorous
This recognition of his prowess from men of the caliber of his
audience made him feel good, and he grinned: "Gee, I'll bet Halloway
an' his friends is shore itchin' to get in this," he murmured, firing
at a head that was shown for an instant. "Wonder what Red'll say when
Jimmy tells him-bet he'll plow dust like a cyclone," and Hopalong
laughed, picturing to himself the satiation of Red's anger. "Old red-
headed son-of-a-gun," murmured the cowboy affectionately, "he shore
As he squinted over the sights of his rifle his eye caught sight of
a moving body of men as they cantered over the flats about two miles
away. In his eagerness he forgot to shoot and carefully counted them.
"Nine," he grumbled. "Wonder what's th' matter? "Fearing that they
were not his friends. Then a second body numbering eight cantered into
sight and followed the first.
"Whoop! There's th' Red-head!" he shouted, dancing in his joy.
"Now," he shouted at the peach can joyously, "yu wait about thirty
minutes an' yu'll shore reckon Hades has busted loose!"
He grabbed up his Colts, which he kept loaded for repelling rushes,
and recklessly emptied them into the bushes and between the rocks and
trees, searching every likely place for a human target . Then he
slipped his rifle in a loophole and waited for good shots, having
worked off the dangerous pressure of his exuberance.
Soon he heard a yell from the direction of the "Miner's Rest," and
fell to jamming cartridges into his revolvers so that he could sally
out and join in the fray by the side of Red.
The thunder of madly pounding hoofs rolled up the trail, and soon a
horse and rider shot around the corner and headed for the copse. Three
more raced close behind and then a bunch of six, followed by the rest,
spread out and searched for trouble.
Red, a Colt in each hand and hatless, stood up in his stirrups and
sent shot after shot into the fleeing mob, which he could not follow
on account of the nature of the ground. Buck wheeled and dashed down
the trail again with Red a close second, the others packed in a solid
mass and after them. At the first level stretch the newcomers swept
down and hit their enemies, going through them like a knife through
cheese. Hopalong danced up and down with rage when he could not find
his horse, and had to stand and yell, a spectator.
The fight drifted in among the buildings, where it became a series
of isolated duels, and soon Hopalong saw panic-stricken horses
carrying their riders out of the other side of the town. Then he went
gunning for the man who had rustled his horse. He was unsuccessful and
returned to his peaches.
Soon the riders came up, and when they saw Hopalong shove a peach
into his powder-grimed mouth they yelled their delight.
"Yu old maverick! Eatin' peaches like yu was afraid we'd git some!"
shouted Red indignantly, leaping down and running up to his pal as
though to thrash him.
Hopalong grinned pleasantly and fired a peach against Red's eye. "I
was savin' that one for yu, Reddie," he remarked, as he avoided Buck's
playful kick. "Yu fellers git to work an' dig up some wealth-I'm
hungry." Then he turned to Buck: "Yore th' marshal of this town, an'
any son-of-a-gun what don't like it had better write. Oh, yes, here
comes Tom Halloway-'member him?"
Buck turned and faced the miner and his hand went out with a jerk.
"Well, I'll be locoed if I didn't punch with yu on th' Tin-Cup!" he
"Yu shore did an' yu was purty devilish, but that there Cassidy of
yourn beats anything I ever seen."
"He's a good kid," replied Buck, glancing to where Red and Hopalong
were quarreling as to who had eaten the most pie in a contest held
some years before.
Johnny, nosing around, came upon the perforated and partially
scattered piles of earth and twigs, and vented his disgust of them by
kicking them to pieces. "Hey! Hoppy! Oh, Hoppy!" he called, "what are
Hopalong jammed Red's hat over that person's eyes and replied: "Oh,
them's some loaded dice I fixed for them."
"Yu son-of-a-gun!" sputtered Red, as he wrestled with his friend in
the exuberance of his pride. "Yu son-of-a-gun! Yu shore ought to be
ashamed to treat `em that way!"
"Shore," replied Hopalong. "But I ain't!"
The Hospitality of Travennes
Mr. Buck Peters rode into Alkaline one bright September morning and
sought refreshment at the Emporium. Mr. Peters had just finished some
business for his employer and felt the satisfaction that comes with
the knowledge of work well done. He expected to remain in Alkaline for
several days, where he was to be joined by two of his friends and
punchers, Mr. Hopalong Cassidy and Mr. Red Connors, both of whom were
at Cactus Springs, seventy miles to the east. Mr. Cassidy and his
friend had just finished a nocturnal tour of Santa Fe and felt
somewhat peevish and dull in consequence, not to mention the sadness
occasioned by the expenditure of the greater part of their combined
capital on such foolishness as faro, roulette and wet-goods.
Mr. Peters and his friends had sought wealth in the Black Hills,
where they had enthusiastically disfigured the earth in the fond
expectation of uncovering vast stores of virgin gold. Their hopes were
of an optimistic brand and had existed until the last canister of
cornmeal flour had been emptied by Mr. Cassidy's burro, which waited
not upon it's master's pleasure nor upon the ethics of the case. When
Mr. Cassidy had returned from exercising the animal and himself over
two miles of rocky hillside in the vain endeavor to give it his
opinion of burros and sundry chastisements, he was requested, as owner
of the beast, to give his counsel as to the best way of securing
Remembering that the animal was headed north when
he last saw it and that it was too old to eat, anyway, he suggested a
plan which had worked successfully at other times for other ends,
namely, poker. Mr. McAllister, an expert at the great American game,
volunteered his service in accordance with the spirit of the occasion
and, half an hour later, he and Mr. Cassidy drifted into Pell's poker
parlors, which were located in the rear of a Chinese laundry, where
they gathered unto themselves the wherewithal for the required
breakfasts. An hour spent in the card room of the "Hurrah" convinced
its proprietor that they had wasted their talents for the past six
weeks in digging for gold. The proof of this permitted the departure
of the outfits with their customary elan.
At Santa Fe the various individuals had gone their respective ways,
to reassemble at the ranch in the near future, and for several days
they had been drifting south in groups of twos and threes and, like
chaff upon a stream, had eddied into Alkaline, where Mr. Peters had
found them arduously engaged in postponing the final journey. After he
had gladdened their hearts and soothed their throats by making several
pithy remarks to the bartender, with whom he established their credit,
he cautioned them against letting any one harm them and, smiling at
the humor of his warning, left abruptly.
Cactus Springs was burdened with a zealous and initiative
organization known as vigilantes, whose duty it was to extend the
courtesies of the land to cattle thieves and the like. This organization
boasted of the name of Travennes' Terrors and of a muster
roll of twenty. There was also a boast that no one had ever escaped
them which, if true, was in many cases unfortunate. Mr. Slim
Travennes, with whom Mr. Cassidy had participated in an extemporaneous
exchange of Colt's courtesies in Santa Fe the year before, was the
head of the organization and was also chairman of the committee on
arrivals, and the two gentlemen of the Bar-20 had not been in town an
hour before he knew of it.
Being anxious to show the strangers every attention and having a keen
recollection of the brand of gun-play commanded by Mr. Cassidy, he
planned a smoother method of procedure and one calculated to permit
him to enjoy the pleasures of a good old age. Mr. Travennes knew that
horse thieves were regarded as social enemies, that the necessary proof
of their guilt was the finding of stolen animals in their possession, that
death was the penalty and that every man, whether directly concerned
or not, regarded, himself as judge, jury and executioner.
He had several acquaintances who were bound to him by his knowledge
of crimes they had committed and would could not refuse his slightest wish.
Even if they had been free agents they were not above causing the death of an
innocent man. Mr. Travennes, feeling very self-satisfied at his cleverness,
arranged to have the proof placed where it would do the most harm
and intended to take care of the rest by himself.
Mr. Connors, feeling much refreshed and very hungry, arose at
daylight the next morning, and dressing quickly, started off to feed
and water the horses. After having several tilts with the landlord
about the bucket he took his departure toward the corral at the rear.
Peering through the gate, he could hardly believe his eyes. He climbed
over it and inspected the animals at close range, and found that those
which he and his friend had ridden for the last two months were not to
be seen, but in their places were two better animals, which concerned
him greatly. Being fair and square himself, he could not understand
the change and sought enlightenment of his more imaginative and
"Hey, Hopalong!" he called, "come out here an' see what th' blazes
Mr. Cassidy stuck his auburn head out of the wounded shutter and
complacently surveyed his companion. Then he saw the horses and looked
"Quit yore foolin', yu old cuss," he remarked pleasantly, as he
groped around behind him with his feet, searching for his boots.
"Anybody would think yu was a little boy with yore fool jokes. Ain't
yu ever goin' to grow up?"
"They've got our bronch," replied Mr. Connors in an injured tone.
Honest, I ain't kiddin' yu," he added for the sake of peace.
"Who has?" Came from the window, followed immediately by, "Yu've got
"I ain't-they're under th' bunk," contradicted and explained Mr.
Connors. Then, turning to the matter in his mind he replied, "I don't
know who's got them. If I did do yu think I'd be holdin' hands with
"Nobody'd accuse yu of anything like that," came from the window,
accompanied by an overdone snicker.
Mr. Connors flushed under his accumulated tan as he remembered the
varied pleasures of Santa Fe, and he regarded the bronchos in anything
but a pleasant state of mind.
Mr. Cassidy slid through the window and approached his friend,
looking as serious as he could.
"Any tracks?" He inquired, as he glanced quickly over the ground to
see for himself.
"Not after that wind we had last night. They might have growed there
for all I can see," growled Mr. Connors.
"I reckon we better hold a pow-wow with th' foreman of this shack
an' find out what he knows," suggested Mr. Cassidy. "This looks too
good to be a swap."
Mr. Connors looked his disgust at the idea and then a light broke in
upon him. "Mebby they was hard pushed an' wanted fresh cayuses," he
said. "A whole lot of people get hard pushed in this country. Anyhow,
we'll prospect th' boss."
They found the proprietor in his stocking feet, getting the
breakfast, and Mr. Cassidy regarded the preparations with open
approval. He counted the tin plates and found only three, and,
thinking that there would be more plates if there were others to feed,
glanced into the landlord's room. Not finding signs of other guests,
on whom to lay the blame for the loss of his horse, he began to ask
"Much trade?" He inquired solicitously.
"Yep," replied the landlord.
Mr. Cassidy looked at the three tins and wondered if there had ever
been any more with which to supply his trade. "Been out this morning?"
"Talks purty nigh as much as Buck," thought Mr. Cassidy, and then
said aloud, "Anybody else here?"
Mr. Cassidy lapsed into a painful and disgusted silence and his
friend tried his hand.
"Who owns a mosaic bronch, Chinee flag on th' near side, Skillet
brand?" asked Mr. Connors.
"Gosh, he can nearly keep still in two lingoes," thought Mr.
"Who owns a bob-tailed pinto, saddle-galled, cast in th' near eye,
Star Diamond brand, white stockin' on th' off front prop, with a habit
of scratchin' itself every other minute?" went on Mr. Connors.
"Slim Travennes," replied the proprietor, flopping a flapjack. Mr.
Cassidy reflectively scratched the back of his hand and looked
innocent, but his mind was working overtime.
"Who's Slim Travennes?" Asked Mr. Connors, never having heard of
that person, owing to the reticence of his friend.
"Captain of th' vigilantes."
"What does he look like on th' general run?" Blandly inquired Mr.
Cassidy, wishing to verify his suspicions. He thought of the trouble
he had with Mr. Travennes up in Santa Fe and of the reputation that
gentleman possessed. Then the fact that Mr. Travennes was the leader
of the local vigilantes came to his assistance and he was sure that
the captain had a hand in the change. All these points existed in
misty groups in his mind, but the next remark of the landlord caused
them to rush together and reveal the plot.
"Good," said the landlord, flopping another flapjack, "and a warnin'
to hoss thieves.
"Ahem," coughed Mr. Cassidy and then continued, "is he a tall,
lanky, yaller-headed son-of-a-gun, with a big nose an' lots of ears?"
"Mebby so," answered the host.
"Urn, slopping over into bad Sioux," thought Mr. Cassidy, and then
said aloud, "How long has he hung around this here layout?" At the
same time passing a warning glance at his companion.
The landlord straightened up. "Look here, stranger, if yu hankers
after his pedigree so all-fired hard yu had best pump him."
"I told yu this here feller wasn't a man what would give away all he
knowed," lied Mr. Connors, turning to his friend and indicating the
host. "He ain't got time for that. Anybody can see that he is a
powerful busy man. An' then he ain't no child."
Mr. Cassidy thought that the landlord could tell all he knew in
about five minutes and then not break any speed records for
conversation, but he looked properly awed and impressed. "Well, yu
needn't go an' get mad about it! I didn't know, did I?"
"Who's gettin' mad?" Pugnaciously asked Mr. Connors. After his
injured feelings had been soothed by Mr. Cassidy's sullen silence he
again turned to the landlord.
"What did this Travennes look like when yu saw him last?" Coaxed Mr.
"Th' same as he does now, as yu can see by lookin' out of th'
window. That's him down th' street," enlightened the host, thawing to
the pleasant Mr. Connors.
Mr. Cassidy adopted the suggestion and frowned. Mr. Travennes and
two companions were walking toward the corral and Mr. Cassidy once
again slid out of the window, his friend going by the door.
When Mr. Travennes looked over the corral fence he was much
chagrined to see a man and a Colt both paying strict attention to
"Mornin', Duke," said the man with the gun. "Lose anything?"
Mr. Travennes looked back at his friends and saw Mr. Connors sitting
on a rock holding two guns. Mr. Travennes' right and left wings were
the targets and they pitted their frowns against Mr. Connors' smile.
"Not that I knows of," replied Mr. Travennes, shifting his feet
"Find anything?" Came from Mr. Cassidy as he sidled out of the gate.
"Nope," replied the captain of the Terrors, eying the Colt. "Are yu
in the habit of payin' early mornin' calls to this here corral?"
persisted Mr. Cassidy, playing with the gun.
"Ya-as. That's my business-I'm th' captain of the vigilantes."
"That's too bad," sympathized Mr. Cassidy, moving forward a step.
Mr. Travennes looked put out and backed off. "What yu mean, stickin'
me up this-away?" He asked indignantly.
"Yu needn't go an' get mad," responded Mr. Cassidy. "Just business.
Yore cayuse an' another shore climbed this corral fence last night an'
ate up our bronchs, an' I just nachurly want to know about it."
Mr. Travennes looked his surprise and incredulity and craned his
neck to see for himself. When he saw his horse peacefully scratching
itself he swore and looked angrily up the street. Mr. Connors, behind
the shack, was hidden to the view of those on the street, and when two
men ran up at a signal from Mr. Travennes, intending to insert
themselves in the misunderstanding, they were promptly lined up with
the first two by the man on the rock.
"Sit down," invited Mr. Connors, pushing a chunk of air out of the
way with his guns. The last two felt a desire to talk and to argue the
case on its merits, but refrained as the black holes in Mr. Connors'
guns hinted at eruption. "Every time yu opens yore mouths yu gets
closer to th' Great Divide," enlightened that person, and they were
childlike in their belief.
Mr. Travennes acted as though he would like to scratch his thigh
where his Colt's chafed him, but postponed the event and listened to
Mr. Cassidy, who was asking questions.
"Where's our cayuses, General?"
Mr. Travennes replied that he didn't know. He was worried, for he
feared that his captor didn't have a secure hold on the hammer of the
"Where's my cayuse?" Persisted Mr. Cassidy.
"I don't know, but I wants to ask yu how yu got mine," replied Mr.
"Yu tell me how mine got out an' I'll tell yu how yourn got in,"
countered Mr. Cassidy.
Mr. Connors added another to his collection before the captain
"Out in this country people get in trouble when they're found with
other folks' cayuses," Mr. Travennes suggested.
Mr. Cassidy looked interested and replied: "Yu shore ought to borrow
some experience, an' there's lots floating around. More than one man
has smoked in a powder mill, an' th' number of them planted who looked
in th' muzzle of a empty gun is scandalous. If my remarks don't
perculate right smart I'll explain."
Mr. Travennes looked down the street again, saw number five added to
the line-up, and coughed up chunks of broken profanity, grieving his
host by his lack of courtesy.
"Time," announced Mr. Cassidy, interrupting the round. "I wants them
cayuses an' I wants `em right now. Yu an' me will amble off an' get
`em. I won't bore yu with tellin' yu what'll happen if yu gets
skittish. Slope along an' don't be scared; I'm with yu," assured Mr.
Cassidy as he looked over at Mr. Connors, whose ascetic soul pined for
the flapjacks of which his olfactories caught intermittent whiffs.
"Well, Red, I reckons yu has got plenty of room out here for all yu
may corral; anyhow there ain't a whole lot more. My friend Slim an' I
are shore going to have a devil of a time if we can t find them cussed
bronchs. Whew, them flapjacks smell like a plain trail to payday. Just
think of th' nice maple juice we used to get up to Cheyenne on them
"Get out of here an' lemme alone! `What do yu allus want to go an'
make a feller unhappy for? Can't yu keep still about grub when yu
knows I ain't had my morning's feed yet?" Asked Mr. Connors, much
"Well, I'll be back directly an' I'll have them cayuses or a scalp.
Yu tend to business an' watch th' herd. That shorthorn yearling at th'
end of th' line"-pointing to a young man who looked capable of taking
risks-"he looks like he might take a chance an' gamble with yu,"
remarked Mr. Cassidy, placing Mr. Travennes in front of him and
pushing back his own sombrero. "Don't put too much maple juice on them
flapjacks, Red," he warned as he poked his captive in the back of the
neck as a hint to get along. Fortunately Mr. Connors' closing remarks
are lost to history.
Observing that Mr. Travennes headed south on the quest, Mr. Cassidy
reasoned that the missing bronchos ought to be somewhere in the north,
and he postponed the southern trip until such time when they would
have more leisure at their disposal. Mr. Travennes showed a strong
inclination to shy at this arrangement, but quieted down under
persuasion, and they started off toward where Mr. Cassidy firmly
believed the North Pole and the cayuses to be.
"Yu has got quite a metropolis here," pleasantly remarked Mr.
Cassidy as under his direction they made for a distant corral. "I can
see four different types of architecture, two of `em on one
residence," he continued as they passed a wood and adobe hut. "No
doubt the railroad will put a branch down here some day an' then yu
can hire their old cars for yore public buildings. Then when yu gets a
post-office yu will shore make Chicago hustle some to keep her end up.
Let's assay that hollow for horse-hide; it looks promisin'.
The hollow was investigated but showed nothing other than cactus and
baked alkali. The corral came next, and there too was emptiness. For
an hour the search was unavailing, but at the end of that time Mr.
Cassidy began to notice signs of nervousness on the part of his guest,
which grew less as they proceeded. Then Mr. Cassidy retraced their
steps to the place where the nervousness first developed and tried
another way and once more returned to the starting point.
"Yu seems to hanker for this fool exercise," quoth Mr. Trayennes
with much sarcasm. "If yu reckons I'm fond of this locoed ramblin' yu
shore needs enlightenment."
"Sometimes I do get these fits," confessed Mr. Cassidy, "an' when I
do I'm dead sore on objections. Let's peek in that there hut," he
"Huh; yore ideas of cayuses are mighty peculiar. Why don't you look
for `em up on those cactuses or behind that mesquite? I wouldn't be a
heap surprised if they was roostin' on th' roof. They are mighty
knowing animals, cayuses. I once saw one that could figger like a
schoolmarm," remarked Mr. Travennes, beginning sarcastically and
toning it down as he proceeded, out of respect for his companion's
"Well, they might be in th' shack," replied Mr. Cassidy. "Cayuses
know so much that it takes a month to unlearn them. I wouldn't like to
bet they ain't in that hut, though."
Mr. Travennes snickered in a manner decidedly uncomplimentary and
began to whistle, softly at first. The gentleman from the Bar-20
noticed that his companion was a musician; that when he came to a
strong part he increased the tones until they bid to be heard at
several hundred yards. When Mr. Travennes had reached a most
passionate part in "Juanita" and was expanding his lungs to do it
justice he was rudely stopped by the insistent pressure of his guard's
Colt's on the most ticklish part of his ear.
"I shore wish yu wouldn't strain yoreself thataway," said Mr.
Cassidy, thinking that Mr. Travennes might be endeavoring to call
assistance. "I went an' promised my mother on her deathbed that I
wouldn't let nobody whistle out loud like that, an' th' opery is
hereby stopped. Besides, somebody might hear them mournful tones an'
think that something is th' matter, which it ain't."
Mr. Travennes substituted heartfelt cursing, all of which was
As they approached the hut Mr. Cassidy again tickled his prisoner
and insisted that he be very quiet, as his cayuse was very sensitive
to noise and it might be there. Mr. Cassidy still thought Mr.
Travennes might have friends in the hut and wouldn't for the world
disturb them, as he would present a splendid target as he approached
The Tale of a Cigarette
The open door revealed three men asleep on the earthen floor, two of
whom were Mexicans. Mr. Cassidy then for the first time felt called
upon to relieve his companion of the Colt's which so sorely itched
that gentleman's thigh and then disarmed the sleeping guards.
"One man an' a half," murmured Mr. Cassidy, it being in his creed
that it took four Mexicans to make one Texan.
In the far corner of the room were two bronchos, one of which tried
in vain to kick Mr. Cassidy, not realizing that he was ten feet away.
The noise awakened the sleepers, who sat up and then sprang to their
feet, their hands instinctively streaking to their thighs for the
weapons which peeked contentedly from the bosom of Mr. Cassidy's open
shirt. One of the Mexicans made a lightning-like grab for the back of
his neck for the knife which lay along his spine and was shot in the
front of his neck for his trouble. The shot spoiled his aim, as the
knife flashed past Mr. Cassidy's arm, wide by two feet, and thudded
into the door frame, where it hummed angrily.
"The only man who could do that right was th' man who invented it,
Mr. Bowie, of Texas," explained Mr. Cassidy to the other Mexican. Then
he glanced at the broncho, that was squealing in rage and fear at the
shot, which sounded like a cannon in the small room, and laughed.
"That's my cayuse, all right, an' he wasn't up no cactus nor
roostin' on th' roof, neither. He's th' most affectionate beast I ever
saw. It took me nigh onto six months afore I could ride him without
fighting him to a standstill," said Mr. Cassidy to his guest. Then he
turned to the horse and looked it over. "Come here! What d'yu mean,
acting thataway? Yu ragged end of nothin' wobbling in space! Yu wall-
eyed, ornery, locoed guide to Hades! Yu won't be so frisky when yu've
made them seventy hot miles between here an' Alkaline in five hours,"
he promised, as he made his way toward the animal.
Mr. Travennes walked over to the opposite wall and took down a pouch
of tobacco which hung from a peg. He did this in a manner suggesting
ownership, and after he had deftly rolled a cigarette with one hand he
put the pouch in his pocket and, lighting up, inhaled deeply and with
much satisfaction. Mr. Cassidy turned around and glanced the group
over, wondering if the tobacco had been left in the hut on a former
"Did yu find yore makings?" He asked, with a note of congratulations
in his voice.
"Yep. Want one?" Asked Mr. Travennes.
Mr. Cassidy ignored the offer and turned to the guard whom he had
"Is that his tobacco?" He asked, and the guard, anxious to make
everything run smoothly, told the truth and answered:
"Shore. He left it here last night," whereupon Mr. Travennes swore
and Mr. Cassidy smiled grimly.
"Then yu knows how yore cayuse got in an' how mine got out," said
the latter. "I wish yu would explain," he added, fondling his Colts.
Mr. Travennes frowned and remained silent.
"I can tell yu, anyhow," continued Mr. Cassidy, still smiling, but
his eyes and jaw belied the smile. "Yu took them cayuses out because
yu wanted yourn to be found in their places. Yu remembered Santa Fe
an' it rankled in yu. Not being man enough to notify me that yu'd
shoot on sight an' being afraid my friends would get yu if yu plugged
me on th' sly, yu tried to make out that me an' Red rustled yore
cayuses. That meant a lynching with me an' Red in th' places of honor.
Yu never saw Red afore, but yu didn't care if he went with me. Yu
don't deserve fair play, but I'm going to give it to yu because I
don't want anybody to say that any of th' Bar-20 ever murdered a man,
not even a skunk like yu.
My friends have treated me too square for that. Yu can take this gun
an yu can do one of three things with it, which are: walk out in th' open
a hundred paces an' then turn an walk toward me-after you face me yu
can set it a-going whenever yu want to; the second is, put it under yore
hat an' I'll put mine an' th' others back by the cayuses. Then we'll toss up
an' th' lucky man gets it to use as he wants. Th' third is, shoot yourself."
Mr. Cassidy punctuated the close of his ultimatum by handing the
weapon, muzzle first, and, because the other might be an adept at
"twirling," he kept its recipient covered during the operation. Then,
placing his second Colt's with the captured weapons, he threw them
through the door, being very careful not to lose the drop on his now
Mr. Travennes looked around and wiped the sweat from his forehead,
and being an observant gentleman, took the proffered weapon and walked
to the east, directly toward the sun, which at this time was halfway
to the meridian. The glare of its straight rays and those reflected
from the shining sand would, in a measure, bother Mr. Cassidy and
interfere with the accuracy of his aim, and he was always thankful for
Mr. Travennes was the possessor of accurate knowledge regarding the
lay of the land, and the thought came to him that there was a small
but deep hole out toward the east and that it was about the required
distance away. This had been dug by a man who had labored all day in
the burning sun to make an oven so that he could cook mesquite root in
the manner he had seen the Apaches cook it. Mr. Travennes blessed
hobbies, specific and general, stumbled thoughtlessly and disappeared
from sight as the surprised Mr. Cassidy started forward to offer his
Upon emphatic notification from the man in the hole that
his help was not needed, Mr. Cassidy wheeled around and in great haste
covered the distance separating him from the hut, whereupon Mr.
Travennes swore in self-congratulation and regret. Mr. Cassidy's shots
barked a cactus which leaned near Mr. Travennes' head and flecked
several clouds of alkali near that person's nose, causing him to
sneeze, duck, and grin.
"It's his own gun," grumbled Mr. Cassidy as a bullet passed through
his sombrero, having in mind the fact that his opponent had a whole
belt full of .44'S. If it had been Mr. Cassidy's gun that had been
handed over he would have enjoyed the joke on Mr. Travennes, who would
have had five cartridges between himself and the promised eternity, as
be would have been unable to use the .44'S in Mr. Cassidy's .45, while
the latter would have gladly consented to the change, having as he did
an extra .45. Never before had Mr. Cassidy looked with reproach upon
his .45 caliber Colt's, and he sighed as he used it to notify Mr.
Travennes that arbitration was not to be considered, which that person
indorsed, said indorsement passing so close to Mr. Cassidy's ear that
he felt the breeze made by it.
"He's been practicin' since I plugged him up in Santa Fe," thought
Mr. Cassidy, as he retired around the hut to formulate a plan of
Mr. Travennes sang "Hi-le, hi-lo," and other selections, principally
others, and wondered how Mr. Cassidy could hoist him out. The slack of
his belt informed him that he was in the middle of a fast, and
suggested starvation as the derrick that his honorable and disgusted
adversary might employ.
Mr. Cassidy, while figuring out his method of procedure, absent-
mindedly jabbed a finger in his eye, and the ensuing tears floated an
idea to him. He had always had great respect for ricochet shots since
his friend Skinny Thompson had proved their worth on the hides of
Sioux. If he could disturb the sand and convey several grains of it to
Mr. Travennes' eyes the game would be much simplified. While planning
for the proposed excavation, a la Colt's, he noticed several stones
lying near at hand, and a new and better scheme presented itself for
his consideration. If Mr. Travennes could be persuaded to get out of-
well, it was worth trying.
Mr. Cassidy lined up his gloomy collection and tersely ordered them
to turn their backs to him and to stay in that position, the
suggestion being that if they looked around they wouldn't be able to
dodge quickly enough. He then slipped bits of his lariat over their
wrists and ankles, tying wrists to ankles and each man to his
neighbor. That finished to his satisfaction, he dragged them in the
hut to save them from the burning rays of the sun.
Having performed this act of kindness, he crept along the hot sand,
taking advantage of every bit of cover afforded, and at last he
reached a point within a hundred feet of the besieged. During the trip
Mr. Travennes sang to his heart's content, some of the words being
improvised for the occasion and were not calculated to increase Mr.
Cassidy's respect for his own wisdom if he should hear them. Mr.
Cassidy heard, however, and several fragments so forcibly intruded on
his peace of mind that he determined to put on the last verse himself
and to suit himself.
Suddenly Mr. Travennes poked his head up and glanced at the hut. He
was down again so quickly that there was no chance for a shot at him
and he believed that his enemy was still sojourning in the rear of the
building, which caused him to fear that he was expected to live on
nothing as long as he could and then give himself up. Just to show his
defiance he stretched himself out on his back and sang with all his
might, his sombrero over his face to keep the glare of the sun out of
He was interrupted, however, forgot to finish a verse as he
had intended, and jumped to one side as a stone bounced off his leg.
Looking up, he saw another missile curve into his patch of sky and
swiftly bear down on him. He avoided it by a hair's breadth and
wondered what had happened. Then what Mr. Travennes thought was a
balloon, being unsophisticated in matters pertaining to aerial
navigation, swooped down upon him and smote him on the shoulder and
also bounced off.
Mr. Travennes hastily laid music aside and took up
elocution as he dodged another stone and wished that the mesquite-
loving crank had put on a roof. In evading the projectile he let his
sombrero appear on a level with the desert, and the hum of a bullet as
it passed through his head-gear and into the opposite wall made him
wish that there had been constructed a cellar, also.
"Hi-le, hi-lo" intruded upon his ear, as Mr. Cassidy got rid of the
surplus of his heart's joy. Another stone the size of a man's foot
shaved Mr. Travennes' ear and he hugged the side of the hole nearest
"Hibernate, blank yu!" derisively shouted the human catapult as he
released a chunk of sandstone the size of a quail. "Draw in yore laigs
an' buck," was his God-speed to the missile.
"Hey, yu!" indignantly yowled Mr. Travennes from his defective storm
cellar. "Don't yu know any better'n to heave things thataway?"
"Hi-le, hi-lo," sang Mr. Cassidy, as another stone soared aloft in
the direction of the complainant. Then he stood erect and awaited
results with a Colt's in his hand leveled at the rim of the hole. A
hat waved and an excited voice bit off chunks of expostulation and
asked for an armistice. Then two hands shot up and Mr. Travennes, sore
and disgusted and desperate, popped his head up an blinked at Mr.
"Yu was fillin' th' hole up," remarked Mr. Travennes in an accusing
tone, hiding the real reason for his evacuation. "In a little while
I'd a been th' top of a pile instead of th' bottom of a hole," he
announced, crawling out and rubbing his head.
Mr. Cassidy grinned and ordered his prisoner to one side while be
secured the weapon which lay in the hole. Having obtained it as
quickly as possible be slid it in his open shirt and clambered out
"Yu remind me of a feller I used to know," remarked Mr. Travennes,
as he led the way to the hut, trying not to limp. "Only he throwed
dynamite. That was th' way he cleared off chaparral-blowed it off. He
got so used to heaving away everything he lit that he spoiled three
pipes in two days."
Mr. Cassidy laughed at the fiction and then became grave as he
pictured Mr. Connors sitting on the rock and facing down a line of
men, any one of whom was capable of his destruction if given the
interval of a second.
When they arrived at the hut Mr. Cassidy observed that the prisoners
had moved considerably. There was a cleanly swept
trail four yards long where they had dragged themselves, and they
sat in the end nearer the guns. Mr. Cassidy smiled and fired close to
the Mexican's ear, who lost in one frightened jump a little of what he
had so laboriously gained.
"Yu'll wear out yore pants," said Mr. Cassidy, and then added
grimly, "an' my patience."
Mr. Travennes smiled and thought of the man who so ably seconded Mr.
Cassidy's efforts and who was probably shot by this time. The outfit
of the Bar-20 was so well known throughout the land that he was aware
the name of the other was Red Connors. An unreasoning streak of
sarcasm swept over him and he could not resist the opportunity to get
in a stab at his captor.
"Mebby yore pard has wore out somebody's patience, too," said Mr.
Travennes, suggestively and with venom.
His captor wheeled toward him, his face white with passion, and Mr.
Travennes shrank back and regretted the words.
"I ain't shootin' dogs this here trip," said Mr. Cassidy, trembling
with scorn and anger, "so yu can pull yourself together. I'll give yu
another chance, but yu wants to hope almighty hard that Red is O. K.
If he ain't, I'll blow yu so many ways at once that if yu sprouts
yu'll make a good acre of weeds. If he is all right yu'd better
vamoose this range, for there won't be no hole for yu to crawl into
next time. What friends yu have left will have to tote yu off an'
plant yu," he finished with emphasis. He drove the horses outside,
and, after severing the bonds on his prisoners, lined them up.
"Yu," he began, indicating all but Mr. Travennes, "yu amble right
smart toward Canada," pointing to the north. "Keep a-going till yu
gets far enough away so a Colt won't find yu." Here he grinned with
delight as he saw his Sharp's rifle in its sheath on his saddle and,
drawing it forth, he put away his Colts and glanced at the trio, who
were already industriously plodding northward. "Hey!" he shouted, and
when they sullenly turned to see what new idea he had found he
gleefully waved his rifle at them and warned them further: "This is a
Sharp's an' it's good for half a mile, so don't stop none too soon.
Having sent them directly away from their friends so they could not
have him "potted" on the way back, he mounted his broncho and
indicated to Mr. Travennes that he, too, was to ride, watching that
that person did not make use of the Winchester which Mr. Connors was
foolish enough to carry around on his saddle. Winchesters were Mr.
Cassidy's pet aversion and Mr. Connors' most prized possession, this
difference of opinion having upon many occasions caused hasty words
between them. Mr. Connors, being better with his Winchester than Mr.
Cassidy was with his Sharp's, had frequently proved that his choice
was the wiser, but Mr. Cassidy was loyal to the Sharp's and refused to
be convinced. Now, however, the Winchester became pregnant with
possibilities and, therefore, Mr. Travennes rode a few yards to the
left and in advance, where the rifle was in plain sight, hanging as it
did on the right of Mr. Connors' saddle, which Mr. Travennes graced so
The journey back to town was made in good time and when they came to
the buildings Mr. Cassidy dismounted and bade his companion do
likewise, there being too many corners that a fleeing rider could take
advantage of. Mr. Travennes felt of his bumps and did so, wishing hard
things about Mr. Cassidy.
While Mr. Travennes had been entertained in the manner narrated, Mr.
Connors had passed the time by relating stale jokes to the uproarious
laughter of his extremely bored audience, who had heard the aged
efforts many times since they had first seen the light of day, and
most of whom earnestly longed for a drink. The landlord, hearing the
hilarity, had taken advantage of the opportunity offered to see a free
show. Not being able to see what the occasion was for the mirth, he
had pulled on his boots and made his way to the show with a flapjack
in the skillets which, in his haste, he had forgotten to put down. He
felt sure that he would be entertained, and he was not disappointed.
He rounded the corner and was enthusiastically welcomed by the hungry
Mr. Connors, whose ubiquitous guns coaxed from the skillet its
"Th' saints be praised!" ejaculated Mr. Connors as a matter of form,
not having a very clear idea of just what saints were, but he knew
what flapjacks were and greedily overcame the heroic resistance of the
one provided by chance and his own guns. As he rolled his eyes in
ecstatic content the very man Mr. Cassidy had warned him against
suddenly arose and in great haste disappeared around the corner of the
corral, from which point of vantage he vented his displeasure at the
treatment he had received by wasting six shots at the mortified Mr.
"Steady!" sang out that gentleman as the line-up wavered. "He's a
precedent to hell for yu fellers! Don't yu get ambitious, none
whatever." Then he wondered how long it would take the fugitive to
secure a rifle and return to release the others by drilling him at
His thoughts were interrupted by the vision of a red head that
climbed into view over a rise a short distance off and he grinned his
delight as Mr. Cassidy loomed up, jaunty and triumphant. Mr. Cassidy
was executing calisthenics with a Colt in the rear of Mr. Travennes'
neck and was leading the horses.
Mr. Connors waved the skillet and his friend grinned his
congratulations at what the token signified.
"I see yu got some more," said Mr. Cassidy, as he went down the
line-up from the rear and collected nineteen weapons of various makes
and conditions, this number being explained by the fact that all but
one of the prisoners wore two. Then he added the five that had kicked
against his ribs ever since he had left the hut, and carefully
threaded the end of his lariat through the trigger guards.
"Looks like we stuck up a government supply mule, Red," he remarked,
as he fastened the whole collection to his saddle. "Fourteen colts,
six Merwin-Hulbert's, three Prescott, an' one puzzle," he added,
examining the puzzle. "Made in Germany, it says, and it shore looks
like it. It's got little pins stickin' out of th' cylinder, like you
had to swat it with a hammer or a rock, or somethin' to make it go
off. Must be damn dangerous, to most anybody around. Looks more like a
cactus than a six-shooter-gosh, it's a ten-shooter! I allus said them
Dutchmen was bloody-minded cusses. Think of bein' able to shoot
yoreself ten times before th' blame thing stops!" Then looking at the
line-up for the owner of the weapon, he laughed at the woeful
countenances displayed. "Did they sidle in by companies or squads?" He
"By twos, mostly. Then they parade-rested an' got discharged from
duty. I had eleven, but one got homesick, or disgusted, or something,
an' deserted. It was that cussed flapjack," confessed and explained
"What!" said Mr. Cassidy in a loud voice. "Got away! Well, we'll
have to make our get-away plumb sudden or we'll never go.
At this instant the escaped man again began his bombardment from the
corner of the corral and Mr. Cassidy paused, indignant at the
fusillade which tore up the dust at his feet. He looked reproachfully
at Mr. Connors and then circled out on the plain until he caught a
glimpse of a fleeing cow-puncher, whose back rapidly grew smaller in
the fast-increasing distance.
"That's yore friend, Red," said Mr. Cassidy as he returned from his
reconnaissance. "He's that short-horn yearling. Mebby he'll come back
again," he added hopefully. "Anyhow, we've got to move. He'll collect
reinforcements an' mebby they all won't shoot like him. Get up on yore
Clarinda an' hold th' fort for me," he ordered, pushing the farther
horse over to his friend. Mr. Connors proved that an agile man can
mount a restless horse and not lose the drop, and backed off three
hundred yards, deftly substituting his Winchester for the Colts. Then
Mr. Cassidy likewise mounted with his attention riveted elsewhere and
backed off to the side of his companion.
The bombardment commenced again from the corral, but this time Mr.
Connors' rifle slid around in his lap and exploded twice. The
bellicose gentleman of the corral yelled in pain and surprise and
"Purty good for a Winchester," said Mr. Cassidy in doubtful
"That's why I got him," snapped Mr. Connors in brief reply, and then
he laughed. "Is them th' vigilantes what never let a man get away?" He
scornfully asked, backing down the street and patting his Winchester.
"Well, Red, they wasn't all there. They was only twelve all told,"
excused Mr. Cassidy. "An' then we was two," he explained, as he wished
the collection of six-shooters was on Mr. Connors' horse so they
wouldn't bark his shin.
"An we still are," corrected Mr. Connors, as they wheeled and
galloped for Alkaline.
As the sun sank low on the horizon Mr. Peters finished ordering
provisions at the general store, the only one Alkaline boasted, and
sauntered to the saloon where he had left his men. He found diem a few
dollars richer, as they had borrowed ten dollars from the bartender on
their reputations as poker players and had used the money to stake Mr.
McAllister in a game against the local poker champion.
"Has Hopalong an' Red showed up yet?" Asked Mr. Peters, frowning at
the delay already caused.
"Nope," replied Johnny Nelson, as he paused from tormenting Billy
At that minute the doorway was darkened and Mr. Cassidy and Mr.
Connors entered and called for refreshments. Mr. Cassidy dropped a
huge bundle of six-shooters on the floor, making caustic remarks
regarding their utility.
"What's th' matter?" Inquired Mr. Peters of Mr. Cassidy. "Yu looks
mad an' anxious. An' where in blazes did yu corral them guns?"
Mr. Cassidy drank deep and then reported with much heat what had
occurred at Cactus Springs and added that he wanted to go back and
wipe out the town, said desire being luridly endorsed by Mr. Connors.
"Why, shore," said Mr. Peters, "we'll all go. Such doings must be
stopped instanter." Then he turned to the assembled outfits and asked
for a vote, which was unanimous for war.
Shortly afterward eighteen angry cowpunchers rode to the east, two
red-haired gentlemen well in front and urging speed. It was 8 P.M.
when they left Alkaline, and the cool of the night was so delightful
that the feeling of ease which came upon them made them lax and they
lost three hours in straying from the dim trail. At eight o'clock the
next morning they came in sight of their destination and separated
into two squads, Mr. Cassidy leading the northern division and Mr.
Connors the one which circled to the south. The intention was to
attack from two directions, thus taking the town from front and rear.
Cactus Springs lay gasping in the excessive heat and the vigilantes
who had toed Mr. Connors' line the day before were lounging in the
shade of the "Palace" saloon, telling what they would do if they ever
faced the same man again. Half a dozen sympathizers offered gratuitous
condolence and advice and all were positive that they knew where Mr.
Cassidy and Mr. Connors would go when they died.
The rolling thunder of madly pounding hoofs disturbed their
post-mortem and they arose in a body to flee from half their number,
who, guns in hands, charged down upon them through clouds of sickly
white smoke. Travennes' Terrors were minus many weapons and they
could not be expected to give a glorious account of themselves. Windows
rattled and fell in and doors and walls gave off peculiar sounds as
they grew full of holes. Above the riot rattled the incessant crack of
Colt's and Winchester, emphasized at close intervals by the assertive
roar of buffalo guns. Off to the south came another rumble of hoofs
and Mr. Connors, leading the second squad, - arrived to participate
in the payment of the debt.
Smoke spurted from windows and other points of vantage and hung
wavering in the heated air. The shattering of woodwork told of heavy
slugs finding their rest, and the whines that grew and diminished in
the air sang the course of .45s.
While the fight raged hottest Mr. Nelson sprang from his horse and
ran to the "Palace," where he collected and piled a heap of tinder like
wood, and soon the building burst out in flames, which, spreading,
swept the town from end to end.
Mr. Cassidy fired slowly and seemed to be waiting for something. Mr.
Connors laid aside his hot Winchester and devoted his attention to his
Colts. A spurt of flame and smoke leaped from the window of a `dobe
hut and Mr. Connors sat down, firing as he went. A howl from the
window informed him that he had made a hit, and Mr. Cassidy ran out
and dragged him to the shelter of a near-by bowlder and asked how much
he was hurt.
"Not much-in the calf," grunted Mr. Connors. "He was a bad shot-must
have been the cuss that got away yesterday," speculated the injured
man as he slowly arose to his feet. Mr. Cassidy dissented from force
of habit and returned to his station.
Mr. Travennes, who was sleeping late that morning, coughed and
fought for air in his sleep, awakened in smoke, rubbed his eyes to
make sure and, scorning trousers and shirt, ran clad in his red woolen
undergarments to the corral, where he mounted his scared horse and
rode for the desert and safety.
Mr. Cassidy, swearing at the marksmanship of a man who fired at his
head and perforated his sombrero, saw a crimson rider sweep down upon
him, said rider being heralded by a blazing .44.
"Gosh!" ejaculated Mr. Cassidy, scarcely believing his eyes. "Oh,
it's my friend Slim going to hades," he remarked to himself in audible
and relieved explanation. Mr. Cassidy's Colts cracked a protest and
then he joined Mr. Peters and the others and with them fought his way
out of the flame-swept town of Cactus Springs.
An hour later Mr. Connors glanced behind him at the smoke
silhouetted on the horizon and pushed his way to where Mr. Cassidy
rode in silence. Mr. Connors grinned at his friend of the red hair,
who responded in the same manner.
"Did yu see Slim?" Casually inquired Mr. Connors, looking off to the
Mr. Cassidy sat upright in his saddle and felt of his Colts. "Yes,"
he replied, "I saw him."
Mr. Connors thereupon galloped on in silence.
Rustlers on the Range
The affair at Cactus Springs had more effect on the life at the Bar-
20 than was realized by the foreman. News travels rapidly, and certain
men, whose attributes were not of the sweetest, heard of it and swore
vengeance, for Slim Travennes had many friends, and the result of his
passing began to show itself. Outlaws have as their strongest defense
the fear which they inspire, and little time was lost in making
reprisals, and these caused Buck Peters to ride into Buckskin one
bright October morning and then out the other side of the town. Coming
to himself with a start he looked around shamefacedly and retraced his
course. He was very much troubled, for, as foreman of the Bar-2o, he
had many responsibilities, and when things ceased to go aright he was
expected not only to find the cause of the evil, but also the remedy.
That was what he was paid seventy dollars a month for and that was
what he had been endeavoring to do. As yet, however, he had only
accomplished what the meanest cook's assistant had done. He knew the
cause of his present woes to be rustlers (cattle thieves), and that
Riding down the wide, quiet street, he stopped and dismounted before
the ever-open door of a ramshackle, one-story frame building. Tossing
the reins over the flattened ears of his vicious pinto he strode into
the building and leaned easily against the bar, where he drummed with
his fingers and sank into a reverie.
A shining bald pate, bowed over an open box, turned around and
revealed a florid face, set with two small, twinkling blue eyes, as
the proprietor, wiping his hands on his trousers, made his way to
Buck's end of the bar.
"Mornin', Buck. How's things?`
The foreman, lost in his reverie, continued to stare out the door.
"Mornin'," repeated the man behind the bar. "How's things?"
"Oh!" ejaculated the foreman, smiling, "purty cussed."
"Th' C-80 lost another herd last night."
His companion swore and placed a bottle at the foreman's elbow, but
the latter shook his head. "Not this mornin'-I'll try one of them vile
"Them cigars are th' very best that-" began the proprietor,
executing the order.
"Oh, heck!" exclaimed Buck with weary disgust . "Yu don't have to
palaver none: I shore knows all that by heart."
"Them cigars-" repeated the proprietor.
"Yas, yas; them cigars-I know all about them cigars. Yu gets them
for twenty dollars a thousand an' hypnotizes us into payin' yu a
hundred," replied the foreman, biting off the end `of his weed. Then
he stared moodily and frowned. "I wonder why it is?" He asked. "We
punchers like good stuff an' we pays good prices with good money. What
do we get? Why, cabbage leaves an' leather for our smokin' an' alcohol
an' extract for our drink. Now, up in Kansas City we goes to a
sumptious layout, pays less an' gets bang-up stuff. If yu smelled one
of them K. C. cigars yu'd shore have to ask what it was, an' as for
the liquor, why, yu'd think St. Peter asked yu to have one with him.
It's shore wrong somewhere."
"They have more trade in K. C.," suggested the proprietor.
"An' help, an' taxes, an' a license, an' rent, an' brass, cut glass,
mahogany an' French mirrors," countered the foreman.
"They have more trade," reiterated the man with the cigars.
"Forty men spend thirty dollars apiece with yu every month. "The
proprietor busied himself under the bar. "Yu'll feel better to-morrow.
Anyway, what do yu care, yu won't lose yore job," he said, emerging.
Buck looked at him and frowned, holding back the words which formed
in anger. What was the use, he thought, when every man judged the
world in his own way.
"Have yu seen any of th' boys?" He asked, smiling again.
"Nary a boy. Who do yu reckon's doin' all this rustlin'?"
"I'm reckonin', not shoutin'," responded the foreman.
The proprietor looked out the window and grinned: "Here comes one of
The newcomer stopped his horse in a cloud of dust, playfully kicked
the animal in the ribs and entered, dusting the alkali from him with a
huge sombrero. Then he straightened up and sniffed: "What's burnin'?"
he asked, simulating alarm. Then he noticed the cigar between the
teeth of his foreman and grinned: "Gee, but yore a brave man, Buck."
"Hullo, Hopalong," said the foreman. "Want a smoke?" Waving his hand
toward the box on the bar.
Mr. Hopalong Cassidy side-stepped and began to roll a cigarette:
"Shore, but I'll burn my own-I know what it is."
"What was yu doin' to my cayuse afore yu come in?" Asked Buck.
"Nothin'," replied the newcomer. "That was mine what I kicked in th'
"How is it yore ridin' the calico?" Asked the foreman. "I thought yu
was dead stuck on that piebald."
"That piebald's a goat; he's beein livin' off my pants lately,"
responded Hopalong. "Every time I looks th' other way he ambles over
and takes a bite at me. Yu just wait `til this rustler business is
roped, an' branded, an' yu'll see me eddicate that blessed scrapheap
into eatin' grass again. He swiped Billy's shirt th' other day-took it
right off th' corral wall, where Billy's left it to dry. "Then, seeing
Buck raise his eyebrows, he explained: "Shore, he washed it again.
That makes three times since last fall."
The proprietor laughed and pushed out the ever-ready bottle, but
Hopalong shoved it aside and told the reason: "Ever since I was up to
K. C. I've been spoiled. I'm drinkin' water an' slush."
"For Pete's sake, has any more of yu fellers been up to K. C.?"
queried the proprietor in alarm.
"Shore: Red an' Billy was up there, too." responded Hopalong. "Red's
got a few remarks to shout to yu about yore pain-killer. Yu better
send for some decent stuff afore he comes to town," he warned.
Buck swung away from the bar and looked at his dead cigar. Then he
turned to Hopalong. "What did you find?" He asked.
"Same old story: nice wide trail up to th' Staked Plain-then
"It shore beats me," soliloquized the foreman. "It shore beats me."
"Think it was Tamale Jose's old gang?" Asked Hopalong.
"If it was they took th' wrong trail home-that ain't th' way to
Hopalong tossed aside his half-smoked cigarette. "Well, come on
home; what's th' use stewin' over it? It'll come out all O.K. in th'
wash." Then he laughed: "There won't be no piebald waitin' for it."
Evading Buck's playful blow he led the way to the door, and soon
they were a cloud of dust on the plain. The proprietor, despairing of
customers under the circumstances, absent-mindedly wiped oil on the bar,
and sought his chair for a nap, grumbling about the way his trade had
fallen off, for there were few customers, and those who did call were
heavy with loss of sleep, and with anxiety, and only paused long
enough to toss off their drink. On the ranges there were occurrences
which tried men's souls.
For several weeks cattle had been disappearing from the ranges and
the losses had long since passed the magnitude of those suffered when
Tamale Jose and his men had crossed the Rio Grande and repeatedly
levied heavy toll on the sleek herds of the Pecos Valley. Tamale Jose
had raided once too often, and prosperity and plenty had followed on
the ranches and the losses had been forgotten until the fall round-ups
clearly showed that rustlers were again at work.
Despite the ingenuity of the ranch owners and the unceasing
vigilance and night rides of the cow-punchers, the losses steadily
increased until there was promised a shortage which would permit no
drive to the western terminals of the railroad that year. For two
weeks the banks of the Rio Grande had been patrolled and sharp-eyed
men searched daily for trails leading southward, for it was not
strange to think that the old raiders were again at work,
notwithstanding the fact that they had paid dearly for their former
The patrols failed to discover anything out of the
ordinary and the searchers found no trails. Then it was that the
owners and foremen of the four central ranches met in Cowan's saloon
and sat closeted together for all of one hot afternoon.
The conference resulted in riders being dispatched from all the
ranches represented, and one of the couriers, Mr. Red Connors, rode
north, his destination being far-away Montana. All the ranches within
a radius of a hundred miles received letters and blanks and one week
later the Pecos Valley Cattle-Thief Elimination Association was
organized and working, with Buck as Chief Ranger.
One of the outcomes of Buck's appointment was a sudden and marked
immigration into the affected territory. Mr. Connors returned from
Montana with Mr. Frenchy McAllister, the foreman of the Tin-Cup, who
was accompanied by six of his best and most trusted men. Mr.
McAllister and party were followed by Mr. You-bet Somes, foreman of
the Two-X-Two of Arizona, and five of his punchers, and later on the
same day Mr. Pie Willis, accompanied by Mr. Billy Jordan and his two
brothers, arrived from the Panhandle. The O-Bar-O, situated close to
the town of Muddy Wells, increased its payroll by the addition of nine
men, each of whom bore the written recommendation of the foreman of
the Bar-20. The C-8o, Double Arrow and the Three Triangle also
received heavy reinforcements, and even Carter, owner of the Barred
Horseshoe, far removed from the zone of the depredations, increased
his outfits by half their regular strength.
Buck believed that if a thing was worth doing at all that it was worth
doing very well, and his acquaintances were numerous and loyal.
The collection of individuals that responded to the call were noteworthy
examples of "gun-play" and their aggregate value was at par with twice their
numbers in cavalry.
Each ranch had one large ranch-house and numerous line-houses
scattered along the boundaries. These latter, while intended as camps
for the outriders, had been erected in the days, none too remote, when
Apaches, Arrapahoes, and even Cheyennes raided southward, and they had
been constructed with the idea of defense paramount. Upon more than
one occasion a solitary line-rider had retreated within their adobe
walls and had successfully resisted all the cunning and ferocity of a
score of paint-bedaubed warriors and, when his outfit had rescued him,
emerged none the worse for his ordeal.
On the Bar-20, Buck placed these houses in condition to withstand
seige. Twin barrels of water stood in opposite corners, provisions
were stored on the hanging shelves and the bunks once again reveled in
untidiness. Spare rifles, in pattern ranging from long-range Sharp's
and buffalo guns to repeating rifles, leaned against the walls, and
unbroken boxes of cartridges were piled above the bunks. Instead of
the lonesome outrider, he placed four men to each house, two of whom
were to remain at home and hold the house while their companions rode
side by side on their multi-mile beat.
There were six of these houses and, instead of returning each night to the
same line-house, the outriders kept on and made the circuit, thus keeping
every one well informed and breaking the monotony. These measures were
expected to cause the rustling operations to cease at once, but the effect was to
shift the losses to the Double Arrow, the line-houses of which boasted
only one puncher each. Unreasonable economy usually defeats its
The Double Arrow was restricted on the north by the Staked Plain,
which in itself was considered a superb defense. The White Sand Hills
formed its eastern boundary and were thought to be second only to the
northern protection. The only reason that could be given for the
hitherto comparative immunity from the attacks of the rustlers was
that its cattle clung to the southern confines where there were
numerous springs, thus making imperative the crossing of its territory
to gain the herds.
It was in line-house No. 3, most remote of all, that Johnny Redmond
fought his last fight and was found face down in the half ruined house
with a hole in the back of his head, which proved that one man was
incapable of watching all the loop holes in four walls at once. There
must have been some casualties on the other side, for Johnny was
reputed to be very painstaking in his "gunplay," and the empty shells
which lay scattered on the floor did not stand for as many ciphers, of
that his foreman was positive.
He was buried the day he was found, and the news of his death ran quickly
from ranch to ranch and made more than one careless puncher arise and
pace the floor in anger. More men came to the Double Arrow and its
sentries were doubled. The depredations continued, however, and one night
a week later Frank Swift reeled into the ranch-house and fell exhausted across
the supper table. Rolling hoof-beats echoed flatly and died away on the plain,
but the men who pursued them returned empty handed. The wounds of the
unfortunate were roughly dressed and in his delirium he recounted the
fight. His companion was found literally shot to pieces twenty paces
from the door. One wall was found blown in, and this episode, when
coupled with the use of dynamite, was more than could be tolerated.
When Buck had been informed of this he called to him Hopalong
Cassidy, Red Connors and Frenchy McAllister, and the next day the
three men rode north and the contingents of the ranches represented in
the Association were divided into two squads, one of which was to
remain at home and guard the ranches; the other, to sleep fully
dressed and armed and never to stray far from their ranch-houses and
horses. These latter would be called upon to ride swiftly and far when
the word came.
Mr. Trendley Assumes Added Importance
That the rustlers were working under a well organized system was
evident. That they were directed by a master of the game was
ceaselessly beaten into the consciousness of the Association by the
diversity, dash and success of their raids. No one, save the three men
whom they had destroyed, had ever seen them. But, like Tamale Jose,
they had raided once too often.
Mr. Trendley, more familiarly known to men as "Slippery," was the
possessor of a biased conscience, if any at all. Tall, gaunt and
weather-beaten and with coal-black eyes set deep beneath hairless
eyebrows, he was sinister and forbidding. Into his forty-five years of
existence he had crowded a century of experience, and unsavory rumors
about him existed in all parts of the great West. From Canada to
Mexico and from Sacramento to Westport his name stood for brigandage.
His operations had been conducted with such consummate cleverness that
in all the accusations there was lacking proof.
Only once had he erred, and then in the spirit of pure deviltry and in the
days of youthful folly, and his mistake was a written note. He was even
thought by some to have been concerned in the Mountain Meadow
Massacre; others thought him to have been the leader of the band of
outlaws that had plundered along the Santa Fe Trail in the late `60's.
In Montana and Wyoming he was held responsible for the outrages of the
band that had descended from the Hole-in-the-Wall territory and for
over a hundred miles carried murder and theft that shamed as being
weak the most assiduous efforts of zealous Cheyennes. It was in this
last raid that he had made the mistake and it was in this raid that
Frenchy McAllister had lost his wife.
When Frenchy had first been approached by Buck as to his going in
search of the rustlers he had asked to go alone. This had been denied
by the foreman of the Bar-20 because the men whom he had selected to
accompany the scout were of such caliber that their presence could not
possibly form a hindrance. Besides being his most trusted friends they
were regarded by him as being the two best exponents of "gun-play"
that the West afforded. Each was a specialist: Hopalong, expert beyond
belief with his Colt's six-shooters, was only approached by Red, whose
Winchester was renowned for its accuracy. The three made a perfect
combination, as the rashness of the two younger men would be under the
controlling influence of a man who could retain his coolness of mind
under all circumstances.
When Buck and Frenchy looked into each other's eyes there sprang
into the mind of each the same name-Slippery Trendley. Both had spent
the greater part of a year in fruitless search for that person, the
foreman of the Tin-Cup in vengeance for the murder of his wife, the
blasting of his prospects and the loss of his herds; Buck, out of
sympathy for his friend and also because they had been partners in the
Double Y. Now that the years had passed and the long-sought-for
opportunity was believed to be at hand, there was promised either a
cessation of the outrages or that Buck would never again see his
When the three mounted and came to him for final instructions Buck
forced himself to be almost repellent in order to be capable of
coherent speech. Hopalong glanced sharply at him and then understood,
Red was all attention and eagerness and remarked nothing but the
"Have yu ever heard of Slippery Trendley?" Harshly inquired the
They nodded, and on the faces of the younger men a glint of hatred
showed itself, but Frenchy wore his poker countenance.
Buck continued: "Th' reason I asked yu was because I don't want yu
to think yore goin' on no picnic. I ain't shore it's him, but I've had
some hopeful information. Besides, he is th' only man I knows of who's
capable of th' plays that have been made. It's hardly necessary for me
to tell yu to sleep with one eye open and never to get away from yore
guns. Now I'm goin' to tell yu th' hardest part: yu are goin' to
search th' Staked Plain from one end to th' other, an' that's what no
white man's ever done to my knowledge.
"Now, listen to this an' don't forget it. Twenty miles north from
Last Stand Rock is a spring; ten miles south of that bend in Hell
Arroyo is another. If yu gets lost within two days from th' time yu
enters th' Plain, put yore left hand on a cactus sometime between sun-
up an' noon, move around until yu are over its shadow an' then ride
straight ahead-that's south. If you goes loco beyond Last Stand Rock,
follow th' shadows made before noon-that's th' quickest way to th'
Pecos. Yu all knows what to do in a sand-storm, so I won't bore you
with that. Repeat all I've told yu," he ordered and they complied.
"I'm tellin' yu this," continued the foreman, indicating the two
auxiliaries, "because yu might get separated from Frenchy. Now I
suggests that yu look around near the' Devils Rocks: I've heard that
there are several water holes among them, an' besides, they might be
turned into fair corrals. Mind yu, I know what I've said sounds damned
idiotic for anybody that has had as much experience with th' Staked
Plain as I have, but I've had every other place searched for miles
around. Th' men of all th' ranches have been scoutin' an' th' Plain is
th' only place left. Them rustlers has got to be found if we have to
dig to hell for them. They've taken th' pot so many times that they
reckons they owns it, an' we've got to at least make a bluff at
drawin' cards. Mebby they're at th' bottom of th' Pecos," here he
smiled faintly, "but wherever they are, we've got to find them. I want
to holler `Keno."
"If you finds where they hangs out come away instanter," here his
face hardened and his eyes narrowed, "for it'll take more than yu
three to deal with them th' way I'm a-hankerin' for. Come right back
to th' Double Arrow, send me word by one of their punchers an' get all
the rest you can afore I gets there. It'll take me a day to get th'
men together an' to reach yu. I'm goin' to use smoke signals to call
th' other ranches, so there won't be no time lost. Carry all th' water
yu can pack when yu leaves th' Double Arrow an' don't depend none on
cactus juice. Yu better take a pack horse to carry it, an' yore grub-
yu can shoot it if yu have to hit th' trail real hard."
The three riders felt of their accouterments, said "So long," and
cantered off for the pack horse and extra ammunition. Then they rode
toward the Double Arrow, stopping at Cowan's long enough to spend some
money, and reached the Double Arrow at nightfall. Early the next
morning they passed the last line-house and, with the profane well-
wishes of its occupants ringing in their ears, passed onto one of
Nature's worst blunders- the Staked Plain.
The Search Begins
As the sun arose it revealed three punchers riding away from
civilization. On all sides, stretching to the evil-appearing horizon,
lay vast blotches of dirty-white and faded yellow alkali and sand.
Occasionally a dwarfed mesquite raised its prickly leaves and rustled
mournfully. With the exception of the riders and an occasional Gila
monster, no life was discernible. Cacti of all shapes and sizes reared
aloft their forbidding spines or spread out along the sand. All was
dead, ghastly; all was oppressive, startlingly repellent in its
sinister promise; all was the vastness of desolation.
Hopalong knew this portion of the desert for ten miles inward-he had
rescued straying cattle along its southern rim- but once beyond that
limit they would have to trust to chance and their own abilities.
There were water holes on this skillet, but nine out of ten were death
traps, reeking with mineral poisons, colored and alkaline. The two
mentioned by Buck could not be depended on, for they came and went,
and more than one luckless wanderer had depended on them to allay his
thirst, and had died for his trust.
So the scouts rode on in silence, noting the half-buried skeletons of cattle
which were strewn plentifully on all sides. Nearly three per cent, of the cattle be-
longing to the Double Arrow yearly found death on this tableland, and
the herds of that ranch numbered many thousand heads. It was this
which made the Double Arrow the poorest of the ranches, and it was
this which allowed insufficient sentries in its line-houses. The
skeletons were not all of cattle, for at rare intervals lay the sand-
worn frames of men.
On the morning of the second day the oppression increased with the
wind and Red heaved a sigh of restlessness. The sand began to skip
across the plain, in grains at first and hardly noticeable. Hopalong
turned in his saddle and regarded the desert with apprehension. As he
looked he saw that where grains had shifted handfuls were now moving.
His mount evinced signs of uneasiness and was hard to control.
A gust of wind, stronger than the others, pricked his face and grains of sand
rolled down his neck. The leather of his saddle emitted strange noises
as if a fairy tattoo was being beaten upon it and he raised his hand
and pointed off toward the east. The others looked and saw what had
appeared to be a fog rise out of the desert and intervene between them
and the sun. As far as eye could reach small whirlwinds formed and
broke and one swept down and covered them with stinging sand. The day
became darkened and their horses whinnied in terror and the clumps of
mesquite twisted and turned to the gusts.
Each man knew what was to come upon them and they dismounted,
hobbled their horses and threw them bodily to the earth, wrapping a
blanket around the head of each. A rustling as of paper rubbing
together became noticeable and they threw themselves flat upon the
earth, their heads wrapped in their coats and buried in the necks of
their mounts. For an hour they endured the tortures of hell and then,
when the storm had passed, raised their heads and cursed Creation.
Their bodies burned as though they had been shot with fine needles and
their clothes were meshes where once was tough cloth. Even their shoes
were perforated and the throat of each ached with thirst.
Hopalong fumbled at the canteen resting on his hip and gargled his
mouth and throat, washing down the sand which wouldn't come up. His
friends did likewise and then looked around. After some time had
elapsed the loss of their pack horse was noticed and they swore again.
Hopalong took the lead in getting his horse ready for service and then
rode around in a circle half a mile in diameter, but returned empty
handed. The horse was gone and with it went their main supply of food
Frenchy scowled at the shadow of a cactus and slowly rode toward the
northeast, followed closely by his friends. His hand reached for his
depleted canteen, but refrained-water was to be saved until the last
"I'm goin' to build a shack out here an' live in it, I am!" exploded
Hopalong in withering irony as he dug the sand out of his ears and
also from his sixshooter. "I just nachurally dotes on this, I do!"
The others were too miserable to even grunt and he neatly severed
the head of a Gila monster from its scaly body as it opened it
venomous jaws in rage at this invasion of its territory. "Lovely
place!" he sneered.
"You better save them cartridges, Hoppy," interposed Red as his
companion fired again, feeling that he must say something.
"An' what for?" blazed his friend. "To plug sand storms? Anybody
what we find on this God-forsaken lay-out won't have to be shot-they
will commit suicide an' think it's fun! Tell yu what, if them rustlers
hangs out on this sand range they're better men than I reckons they
are. Anybody what hides up here shore earns all he steals. "Hopalong
grumbled from force of habit and because no one else would. His
companions understood this and paid no attention to him, which
increased his disgust.
"What are we up here for?" He asked, belligerently. "Why, because
them Double Arrow idiots can't even watch a desert! We have to do
their work for them an' they hangs around home an' gets slaughtered!
Yes, sir!" he shouted, "they can't even take care of themselves when
they're in line-houses what are forts. Why, that time we cleaned out
them an' th' C-80 over at Buckskin they couldn't help runnin' into
"Yes," drawled Red, whose recollection of that fight was vivid.
"Yas, an' why?" He asked, and then replied to his own question.
"Because yu sat up in a barn behind them, Buck played his gun on th'
side window, Pete an' Skinny lay behind a rock to one side of Buck, me
an' Lanky was across th' Street in front of them, an' Billy an' Johnny
was in th' arroyo on th' other side. Cowan laid on his stummick on th'
roof of his place with a buffalo gun, an' the whole blamed town was
agin them. There wasn't five seconds passed that lead wasn't rippin'
through th' walls of their shack. Th' Houston House wasn't made for no
fort, an' besides, they wasn't like th' gang that's punchin' now.
Hopalong became cheerful again, for here was a chance to differ from
his friend. The two loved each other the better the more they
"Yas!" responded Hopalong with sarcasm. "Yas!" he reiterated,
drawling it out. "Yu was in front of them, an' with what? Why, an'
old, white-haired, interfering Winchester, that's what! Me an' my
"Yu and yore Sharp's!" exploded Red, whose dislike for that rifle
was very pronounced. "Yu and yore Sharp's."
"Me an' my Sharp's, as I was palaverin' before bein' interrupted,"
continued Hopalong, "did more damage in five min-"
"Says yu!" snapped Red with heat. "All yu an yore Sharp's could do
was to cut yore initials in th' back door of their shack, an' -"
"Did more damage in five minutes," continued Hopalong, "than all th'
blasted Winchesters in th' whole damned town. Why-"
"An' then they was cut blamed poor. Every time that cannon of yourn
exploded I shore thought th'-"
"Why, Cowan an' his buffalo did more damage (Cowan was reputed to be
a very poor shot) than yu an-"
"I thought th' artillery was comin' into th' disturbance. I could
see yore red head-"
"MY red head!" exclaimed Hopalong, sizing up the crimson warlock of
his companion. "MY red head!" he repeated, and then turned to Frenchy:
"Hey, Frenchy, who's got th' reddest hair, me or Red?"
Frenchy slowly turned in his saddle and gravely scrutinized them.
Being strictly impartial and truthful, he gave up the effort of
differentiating and smiled. "Why, if the tops of yore heads were poked
through two holes in a board an' I didn't know which was which, I'd
shore make a mistake if I tried to name `em"
But Red had the last word. "Anyhow, you didn't have a Sharp's in
that fight-you bad a .45-70 Winchester, just like mine!"
Thereupon the discussion was directed at the judge, and the forenoon
passed very pleasantly, Frenchy even smiling in his misery.
Shortly after noon, Hopalong, who had ridden with his head bowed low
in meditation, looked up and slapped his thigh. Then he looked at Red
"Look ahere, Red," he began, "there ain't no rustlers with their
headquarters on this God-forsaken sand heap, an' there never was. They
have to have water an' lots of it, too, an' th' nearest of any account
is th' Pecos, or some of them streams over in th' Panhandle. Th'
Panhandle is th' best place. There are lots of streams an' lakes over
there an' they're right in a good grass country. Why, an' army could
hide over there an' never be found unless it was hunted for blamed
good. Then, again, it's close to the railroad. Up north aways is th'
south branch of th' Santa Fe Trail an' it's far enough away not to
bother anybody in th' middle Panhandle. Then there's Fort Worth purty
near, an' other trails. Didn't Buck say he had all th' rest of th'
country searched? He meant th' Pecos Valley an th' Davis Mountains
country. All th' rustlers would have to do if they were in th'
Panhandle would be to cross th' Canadian an th' Cimarron an' hit th'
trail for th' railroad. Good fords, good grass an' water all th' way,
cattle fat when they are delivered an plenty of room. Th' more I
thinks about it th' more I cottons to the Panhandle."
"Well, it shore does sound good," replied Red, reflectively.
"Do yu mean th' Cunningham Lake region or farther north?"
"Just th' other side of this blasted desert: anywhere where there's
water," responded Hopalong, enthusiastically. "I've been doin' some
hot reckonin' for th' last two hours an' this is th' way it looks to
me: they drives th' cows up on this skillet for a ways, then turns
east an' hits th' trail for home an' water. They can get around th'
ca on near Thatcher's Lake by a swing of th' north. I tell yu that's
th' only way out'n this. Who could tell where they turned with th'
wind raisin' th' deuce with the trail? Didn't we follow a trail for a
ways, an' then what? Why, there wasn't none to follow. We can ride
north `till we walk behind ourselves an' never get a peek at them. I
am in favor of headin' for th' Sulphur Spring Creek district. We can
spend a couple of weeks, if we has to, an' prospect that whole region
without havin' to cut our' water down to a smell an' a taste an live
on jerked beef. If we investigates that country we'll find something
else than sand storms, poisoned water holes an' blisters."
"Ain't th' Panhandle full of nesters (farmers)?" Inquired Red,
"Along th' Canadian an' th' edges, yas; in th' middle, no,"
explained Hopalong. "They hang close together on account of th' war-
whoops, an' they like th' trails purty well because of there allus
bein' somebody passin'."
"Buck ought to send some of th' Panhandle boys up there," suggested
Red. "There's Pie Willis an' th' Jordans-they knows th' Panhandle like
yu knows poker."
Frenchy had paid no apparent attention to the conversation up to
this point, but now he declared himself. "Yu heard what Buck said,
didn't yu?" He asked. "We were told to search th' Staked Plains from
one end to th' other an' I'm goin' to do it if I can hold out long
enough. I ain't goin' to palaver with yu because what yu say can't be
denied as far as wisdom is concerned. Yu may have hit it plumb center,
but I knows what I was ordered to do, an' yu can't get me to go over
there if you shouts all night. When Buck says anything, she goes. He
wants to know where th' cards are stacked an' why he can't holler
`Keno,' an' I'm goin' to find out if I can. Yu can go to Patagonia if
yu wants to, but yu go alone as far as I am concerned."
"Well, it's better if yu don't go with us," replied Hopalong, taking
it for granted that Red would accompany him. "Yu can prospect this end
of th' game an' we'll be takin' care of th' other. It's two chances
now where we only had one afore."
"Yu go east an' I'll hunt around as ordered," responded Frenchy.
"East nothin'," replied Hopalong. "Yu don't get me to wallow in hot
alkali an' lose time ridin' in ankle-deep sand when I can hit th'
south trail, skirt th' White Sand Hills an' be in God's country again.
I ain't goin' to wrastle with no ca on this here trip, none whatever.
I'm goin' to travel in style, get to Big Spring by ridin' two miles to
where I could only make one on this stove. Then I'll head north along
Sulpher Spring Creek an' have water an' grass all th' way, barrin' a
few stretches. While you are bein' fricasseed I'll be streakin'
through cottonwood groves an' ridin' in the creek."
"Yu'll have to go alone, then," said Red, resolutely. "Frenchy ain't
a-goin' to die of lonesomeness on this desert if I knows what I'm
about, an' I reckon I do, some. Me an' him'll follow out what Buck
said, hunt around for a while an' then Frenchy can go back to th'
ranch to tell Buck what's up an' I'll take th' trail yu are a-scared
of an' meet yu at th' east end of Cunningham Lake three days from
"Yu better come with me," coaxed Hopalong, not liking what his
friend had said about being afraid of the trail past the ca on and
wishing to have some one with whom to talk on his trip. "I'm goin' to
have a nice long swim to-morrow night," he added, trying bribery.
"An' I'm goin' to try to keep from hittin' my blisters," responded
Red. "I don't want to go swimmin' in no creek full of moccasins-I'd
rather sleep with rattlers or copperheads. Every time I sees a cotton-
mouth I feels like I had just sit down on one.
"I'll flip a coin to see whether yu comes or not," proposed
"If yu wants to gamble so bad I'll flip yu to see who draws our pay
next month, but not for what you said," responded Red, choking down
the desire to try his luck.
Hopalong grinned and turned toward the south. "If I sees Buck afore
yu do, I'll tell him yu an' Frenchy are growin' watermelons up near
Last Stand Rock an' are waitin' for rain. Well, so long," he said.
"Yu tell Buck we're obeyin' orders!" shouted Red, sorry that he was
not going with his bunkie.
Frenchy and Red rode on in silence, the latter feeling strangely
lonesome, for he and the departed man had seldom been separated when
journeys like this were to be taken. And when in search of pleasure
they were nearly always together. Frenchy, while being very friendly
with Hopalong, a friendship that would have placed them side by side
against any odds, was not accustomed to his company and did not notice
Red looked off toward the south for the tenth time and for the tenth
time thought that his friend might return. "He's a son-of-a-gun," he
His companion looked up: "He shore is, an' he's right about this
rustler business, too. But we'll look around for a day or so an' then
yu raise dust for th' Lake. I'll go back to th' ranch an' get things
primed, so there'll be no time lost when we get th' word."
"I'm sorry I went an' said what I did about me takin' th' trail he
was a-scared of," confessed Red, after a pause. "Why, he ain't
a-scared of nothin'."
"He got back at yu about them watermelons, so what's th'
difference?" Asked Frenchy. "He don't owe yu nothin'."
An hour later they searched the Devil's Rocks, but found no
rustlers. Filling their canteens at a tiny spring and allowing their
mounts to drink the remainder of the water, they turned toward Hell
Arroyo, which they reached at nightfall. Here, also, their search
availed them nothing and they paused in indecision. Then Frenchy
turned toward his companion and advised him to ride toward the Lake in
the night when it was comparatively cool.
Red considered and then decided that the advice was good. He rolled
a cigarette, wheeled and faced the east and spurred forward: "So
long," he called.
"So long," replied Frenchy, who turned toward the south and departed
for the ranch.
The foreman of the Bar-20 was cleaning his rifle when he heard the
hoof-beats of a galloping horse and he ran around the corner of the
house to meet the newcomer, whom he thought to be a courier from the
Double Arrow. Frenchy dismounted and explained why he returned alone.
Buck listened to the report and then, noting the fire which gleamed
in his friend's eyes, nodded his approval to the course. "I reckon
it's Trendley, Frenchy-I've heard a few things since yu left. An' yu
can bet that if Hopalong an' Red have gone for him he'll be found. I
expect action any time now, so we'll light th' signal fire." Then he
hesitated; "Yu light it-yu've been waiting a long time for this."
The balls of smoke which rolled upward were replied to by other
balls at different points on the plain, and the Bar-20 prepared to
feed the numbers of hungry punchers who would arrive within the next
Two hours had not passed when eleven men rode up from the Three
Triangle, followed eight hours later by ten from the O-Bar-O. The
outfits of the Star Circle and the Barred Horseshoe, eighteen in all,
came next and had scarcely dismounted when those of the C-80 and the
Double Arrow, fretting at the delay, rode up. With the sixteen from
the Bar-20 the force numbered seventy-five resolute and pugnacious
cowpunchers, all aching to wipe out the indignities suffered.
A Problem Solved
Hopalong worried his way out of the desert on a straight line, thus
cutting in half the distance he had traveled when going into it. He
camped that night on the sand and early the next morning took up his
journey. It was noon when he began to notice familiar sights, and an
hour later he passed within a mile of line-house No. 3, Double Arrow.
Half an hour later he espied a cow-puncher riding like mad. Thinking
that an investigation would not be out of place, he rode after the
rider and overtook him, when that person paused and retraced his
"Hullo, Hopalong!" shouted the puncher and he came near enough to
recognize his pursuer. "Thought yu was farmin' up on th' Staked
"Hullo, Pie," replied Hopalong, recognizing Pie Willis. "What was yu
chasin' so hard?"
"Coyote-damn `em, but can't they go some? They're gettin' so thick
we'll shore have to try strichnine an' thin `em out."
"I thought anybody that had been raised in th' Panhandle would know
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