The Flying U's Last Stand
B. M. Bower
Part 1 out of 5
This etext was prepared by Mary Starr.
THE FLYING-U'S LAST STAND
B. M. BOWER
1. OLD WAYS AND NEW
2. ANDY GREEN'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE
3. THE KID LEARNS SOME THINGS ABOUT HORSES
4. ANDY TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME
5. THE HAPPY FAMILY TURN NESTERS
6. THE FIRST BLOW IN THE FIGHT
7. THE COMING OF THE COLONY
8. FLORENCE GRACE HALLMAN SPEAKS PLAINLY
9. THE HAPPY FAMILY BUYS A BUNCH OF CATTLE
10. WHEREIN ANDY GREEN LIES TO A LADY
ll. THE MOVING CHAPTER IN EVENTS
12. SHACKS, LIVESTOCK AND PILGRIMS PROMPTLY AND PAINFULLY
13. IRISH WORKS FOR THE CAUSE
14. JUST ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER
15. THE KID HAS IDEAS OF HIS OWN
16. "A RELL OLD COWPUNCHER"
17. "LOST CHILD"
18. THE LONG WAY ROUND
19. HER NAME WAS ROSEMARY
20. THE RELL OLD COWPUNCHER GOES HOME
21. THE FIGHT GOES ON
22. LAWFUL IMPROVEMENTS
23. THE WATER QUESTION AND SOME GOSSIP
24. THE KID IS USED FOR A PAWN IN THE GAME
25. "LITTLE BLACK SHACK'S ALL BURNT UP!"
26. ROSEMARY ALLEN DOES A SMALL SUM IN ADDITION
27. "IT'S AWFUL EASY TO GET LOST"
28. AS IT TURNED OUT
THE FLYING U'S LAST STAND
CHAPTER 1. OLD WAYS AND NEW
Progress is like the insidious change from youth to old age,
except that progress does not mean decay. The change that is
almost imperceptible and yet inexorable is much the same,
however. You will see a community apparently changeless as
the years pass by; and yet, when the years have gone and you
look back, there has been a change. It is not the same. It
never will be the same. It can pass through further change,
but it cannot go back. Men look back sick sometimes with
longing for the things that were and that can be no more;
they live the old days in memory--but try as they will they
may not go back. With intelligent, persistent effort they may
retard further change considerably, but that is the most that
they can hope to do. Civilization and Time will continue the
march in spite of all that man may do.
That is the way it was with the Flying U. Old J. G. Whitmore
fought doggedly against the changing conditions--and he
fought intelligently and well. When he saw the range
dwindling and the way to the watering places barred against
his cattle with long stretches of barbed wire, he sent his
herds deeper into the Badlands to seek what grazing was in
the hidden, little valleys and the deep, sequestered
canyons. He cut more hay for winter feeding, and he sowed his
meadows to alfalfa that he might increase the crops. He
shipped old cows and dry cows with his fat steers in the
fall, and he bettered the blood of his herds and raised
bigger cattle. Therefore, if his cattle grew fewer in number,
they improved in quality and prices went higher, so that the
result was much the same.
It began to look, then, as though J. G. Whitmore was
cunningly besting the situation, and was going to hold out
indefinitely against the encroachments of civilization upon
the old order of things on the range. And it had begun to
look as though he was going to best Time at his own game, and
refuse also to grow old; as though he would go on being the
same pudgy, grizzled, humorously querulous Old Man beloved of
his men, the Happy Family of the Flying U.
Sometimes, however, Time will fill a four-flush with the
joker, and then laugh while he rakes in the chips. J. G.
Whitmore had been going his way and refusing to grow old for
a long time--and then an accident, which is Time's joker,
turned the game against him. He stood for just a second too
long on a crowded crossing in Chicago, hesitating between
going forward or back. And that second gave Time a chance to
play an accident. A big seven-passenger touring car mowed him
down and left him in a heap for the ambulance from the
nearest hospital to gather on its stretcher.
The Old Man did not die; he had lived long on the open range
and he was pretty tough and hard to kill. He went back to his
beloved Flying U, with a crutch to help him shuffle from bed
to easy chair and back again.
The Little Doctor, who was his youngest sister, nursed him
tirelessly; but it was long before there came a day when the
Old Man gave his crutch to the Kid to use for a stick-horse,
and walked through the living room and out upon the porch
with the help of a cane and the solicitous arm of the Little
Doctor, and with the Kid galloping gleefully before him on
Later he discarded the help of somebody's arm, and hobbled
down to the corral with the cane, and with the Kid still
galloping before him on "Uncle Gee Gee's" crutch. He stood
for some time leaning against the corral watching some of the
boys halter-breaking a horse that was later to be sold--when
he was "broke gentle"--and then he hobbled back again,
thankful for the soft comfort of his big chair.
That was well enough, as far as it went. The Flying U took it
for granted that the Old Man was slowly returning to the old
order of life, when rheumatism was his only foe and he could
run things with his old energy and easy good management. But
there never came a day when the Old Man gave his cane to the
kid to play with. There never came a day when he was not
thankful for the soft comfort of his chair. There never came
a day when he was the same Old Man who joshed the boys and
scolded them and threatened them. The day was always coming--
of course!--when his back would quit aching if he walked to
the stable and back without a long rest between, but it never
So, imperceptibly but surely, the Old Man began to grow old.
The thin spot on top of his head grew shiny, so that the Kid
noticed it and made blunt comments upon the subject. His
rheumatism was not his worst foe, now. He had to pet his
digestive apparatus and cut out strong coffee with three
heaping teaspoons of sugar in each cup, because the Little
Doctor told him his liver was torpid. He had to stop giving
the Kid jolty rides on his knees,--but that was because the
Kid was getting too big for baby play, the Old Man declared.
The Kid was big enough to ride real horses, now, and he ought
to be ashamed to ride knee-horses any more.
To two things the Old Man clung almost fiercely; the old
regime of ranging his cattle at large and starting out the
wagons in the spring just the same as if twenty-five men
instead of twelve went with them; and the retention of the
Happy Family on his payroll, just as if they were actually
needed. If one of the boys left to try other things and other
fields, the Old Man considered him gone on a vacation and
expected him back when spring roundup approached.
True, he was seldom disappointed in that. For the Happy
Family looked upon the Flying U as home, and six months was
about the limit for straying afar. Cowpunchers to the bone
though they were, they bent backs over irrigating ditches and
sweated in the hay fields just for the sake of staying
together on the ranch. I cannot say that they did it
uncomplainingly--for the bunk-house was saturated to the
ridge-pole with their maledictions while they compared
blistered hands and pitchfork callouses, and mourned the days
that were gone; the days when they rode far and free and
scorned any work that could not be done from the saddle. But
they stayed, and they did the ranch work as well as the range
work, which is the main point.
They became engaged to certain girls who filled their dreams
and all their waking thoughts--but they never quite came to
the point of marrying and going their way. Except Pink, who
did marry impulsively and unwisely, and who suffered himself
to be bullied and called Percy for seven months or so, and
who balked at leaving the Flying U for the city and a
vicarious existence in theaterdom, and so found himself free
quite as suddenly as he had been tied.
They intended to marry and settle down--sometime. But there
was always something in the way of carrying those intentions
to fulfillment, so that eventually the majority of the Happy
Family found themselves not even engaged, but drifting along
toward permanent bachelorhood. Being of the optimistic type,
however, they did not worry; Pink having set before them a
fine example of the failure of marriage and having returned
with manifest relief to the freedom of the bunk-house.
CHAPTER 2. ANDY GREEN'S NEW ACQUAINTANCE
Andy Green, chief prevaricator of the Happy Family of the
Flying U--and not ashamed of either title or connection--
pushed his new Stetson back off his untanned forehead,
attempted to negotiate the narrow passage into a Pullman
sleeper with his suitcase swinging from his right hand, and
butted into a woman who was just emerging from the
dressingroom. He butted into her so emphatically that he was
compelled to swing his left arm out very quickly, or see her
go headlong into the window opposite; for a fullsized
suitcase propelled forward by a muscular young man may prove
a very efficient instrument of disaster, especially if it
catches one just in the hollow back of the knee. The woman
tottered and grasped Andy convulsively to save herself a
fall, and so they stood blocking the passage until the porter
arrived and took the suitcase from Andy with a tip-inviting
Andy apologized profusely, with a quaint, cowpunchery
phrasing that caused the woman to take a second look at him.
And, since Andy Green would look good to any woman capable of
recognizing--and appreciating--a real man when she saw him,
she smiled and said it didn't matter in the least.
That was the beginning of the acquaintance. Andy took her by
her plump, chiffon-veiled arm and piloted her to her seat,
and he afterward tipped the porter generously and had his own
belongings deposited in the section across the aisle. Then,
with the guile of a foreign diplomat, he betook himself to
the smoking-room and stayed there for three quarters of an
hour. He was not taking any particular risk of losing the
opportunity of an unusually pleasant journey, for the dollar
he had invested in the goodwill of the porter had yielded the
information that the lady was going through to Great Falls.
Since Andy had boarded the train at Harlem there was plenty
of time to kill between there and Dry Lake, which was his
The lady smiled at him rememberingly when finally he seated
himself across the aisle from her, and without any serious
motive Andy smiled back. So presently they were exchanging
remarks about the journey. Later on, Andy went over and sat
beside her and conversation began in earnest. Her name, it
transpired, was Florence Grace Hallman. Andy read it engraved
upon a card which added the information that she was engaged
in the real estate business--or so the three or
four words implied. "Homemakers' Syndicate, Minneapolis and
St. Paul," said the card. Andy was visibly impressed thereby.
He looked at her with swift appraisement and decided that she
was "all to the good."
Florence Grace Hallman was tall and daintily muscular as to
figure. Her hair was a light yellow--not quite the shade
which peroxide gives, and therefore probably natural. Her
eyes were brown, a shade too close together but cool and calm
and calculating in their gaze, and her eyebrows slanted
upward a bit at the outer ends and were as heavy as beauty
permitted. Her lips were very red, and her chin was very
firm. She looked the successful business woman to her
fingertips, and she was eminently attractive for a woman of
that self-assured type.
Andy was attractive also, in a purely Western way.
His gray eyes were deceivingly candid and his voice
was pleasant with a little, humorous drawl that matched
well the quirk of his lips when he talked. He was
headed for home--which was the Flying U--sober
and sunny and with enough money to see him through.
He told Florence Hallman his name, and said that he
lived "up the road a ways" without being too definite.
Florence Hallman lived in Minneapolis, she said; though she
traveled most of the time, in the interests of her firm.
Yes, she liked the real estate business. One had a chance to
see the world, and keep in touch with people and things. She
liked the West especially well. Since her firm had taken up
the homeseekers' line she spent most of her time in the West.
They had supper--she called it dinner, Andy observed--
together, and Andy Green paid the check, which was not so
small. It was after that, when they became more confidential,
that Florence Hallman, with the egotism of the successful
person who believes herself or himself to be of keen interest
to the listener spoke in greater detail of her present
Her firm's policy was, she said, to locate a large tract of
government land somewhere, and then organize a homeseekers'
colony, and settle the land-hungry upon the tract--at so much
per hunger. She thought it a great scheme for both sides of
the transaction. The men who wanted claims got them. The firm
got the fee for showing them the land--and certain other
perquisites at which she merely hinted.
She thought that Andy himself would be a success at the
business. She was quick to form her opinions of people whom
she met, and she knew that Andy was just the man for such
work. Andy, listening with his candid, gray eyes straying
often to her face and dwelling there, modestly failed to
agree with her. He did not know the first thing about the
real estate business, he confessed, nor very much about
ranching. Oh, yes--he lived in this country, and he knew THAT
pretty well, but--
"The point is right here," said Florence Grace Hallman,
laying her pink fingertips upon his arm and glancing behind
her to make sure that they were practically alone--their
immediate neighbors being still in the diner. "I'm speaking
merely upon impulse--which isn't a wise thing to do,
ordinarily. But--well, your eyes vouch for you, Mr. Green,
and we women are bound to act impulsively sometimes--or we
wouldn't be women, would we?" She laughed--rather, she gave a
little, infectious giggle, and took away her fingers, to the
regret of Andy who liked the feel of them on his forearm.
"The point is here. I've recognized the fact, all along, that
we need a man stationed right here, living in the country,
who will meet prospective homesteaders and talk farming; keep
up their enthusiasm; whip the doubters into line; talk
climate and soil and the future of the country; look the
part, you understand."
"So I look like a rube, do I?" Andy's lips quirked a half
smile at her.
"No, of course you don't!" She laid her fingers on his sleeve
again, which was what Andy wanted--what he had intended to
bait her into doing; thereby proving that, in some respects
at least, he amply justified Hiss Hallman in her snap
judgment of him.
"Of course you don't look like a rube! I don't want you to.
But you do look Western--because you are Western to the bone
Besides, you look perfectly dependable. Nobody could look
into your eyes and even think of doubting the truth of any
statement you made to them." Andy snickered mentally at that
though his eyes never lost their clear candor. "And," she
concluded, "being a bona fide resident of the country, your
word would carry more weight than mine if I were to talk
myself black in the face!"
"That's where you're dead wrong," Andy hastened to correct
"Well, you must let me have my own opinion, Mr. Green. You
would be convincing enough, at any rate. You see, there is a
certain per cent of--let us call it waste effort--in this
colonization business. We have to reckon on a certain number
of nibblers who won't bite--" Andy's honest, gray eyes
widened a hair's breadth at the frankness of her language--"
when they get out here. They swallow the folders we send out,
but when they get out here and see the country, they
can't see it as a rich farming district, and they won't
invest. They go back home and knock, if they do anything.
"My idea is to stop that waste; to land every homeseeker that
boards our excursion trains. And I believe the way to do that
is to have the right kind of a man out here, steer the
doubtfuls against him--and let his personality and his
experience do the rest. They're hungry enough to come, you
see; the thing is to keep them here. A man that lives right
here, that has all the earmarks of the West, and is not known
to be affiliated with our Syndicate (you could have rigs to
hire, and drive the doubtfuls to the tract)--don't you see
what an enormous advantage he'd have? The class I speak of
are the suspicious ones--those who are from Missouri. They're
inclined to want salt with what we say about the resources of
the country. Even our chemical analysis of the soil, and
weather bureau dope, don't go very far with those hicks. They
want to talk with someone who has tried it, you see."
"I--see," said Andy thoughtfully, and his eyes narrowed a
trifle. "On the square, Miss Hallman, what are the natural
advantages out here--for farming? What line of talk do you
give those come-ons?"
Miss Hallman laughed and made a very pretty gesture with her
two ringed hands. "Whatever sounds the best to them," she
said. "If they write and ask about spuds we come back with
illustrated folders of potato crops and statistics of average
yields and prices and all that. If it's dairy, we have dairy
folders. And so on. It isn't any fraud--there ARE sections of
the country that produce almost anything, from alfalfa to
strawberries. You know that," she challenged.
"Sure. But I didn't know there was much tillable land left
lying around loose," he ventured to say.
Again Miss Hallman made the pretty gesture, which might mean
much or nothing. "There's plenty of land 'lying around
loose,' as you call it. How do you know it won't produce,
till it has been tried?"
"That's right," Andy assented uneasily. "If there's water to
put on it--"
"And since there is the land, our business lies in getting
people located on it. The towns and the railroads are back of
us. That is, they look with favor upon bringing settlers into
the country. It increases the business of the country--the
traffic, the freights, the merchants' business, everything."
Andy puckered his eyebrows and looked out of the window upon
a great stretch of open, rolling prairie, clothed sparely in
grass that was showing faint green in the hollows, and with
no water for miles--as he knew well--except for the rivers
that hurried through narrow bottom lands guarded by high
bluffs that were for the most part barren. The land was
there, all right. But--
"What I can't see," he observed after a minute during which
Miss Florence Hallman studied his averted face, "what I can't
see is, where do the settlers get off at?"
"At Easy street, if they're lucky enough," she told him
lightly. "My business is to locate them on the land. Getting
a living off it is THEIR business. And," she added
defensively, "people do make a living on ranches out here."
"That's right," he agreed again--he was finding it very
pleasant to agree with Florence Grace Hallman. "Mostly off
"Yes, and we encourage our clients to bring out all the young
stock they possibly can; young cows and horses and--all that
sort of thing. There's quantities of open country around
here, that even the most optimistic of homeseekers would
never think of filing on. They can make out, all right, I
guess. We certainly urge them strongly to bring stock with
them. It's always been famous as a cattle country--that's one
of our highest cards. We tell them--"
"How do you do that? Do you go right to them and TALK to
"Yes, if they show a strong enough interest--and bank
account. I follow up the best prospects and visit them in
person. I've talked to fifty horny-handed he-men in the past
"Then I don't see what you need of anyone to bring up the
drag," Andy told her admiringly. "If you talk to 'em, there
oughtn't be any drag!"
"Thank you for the implied compliment. But there IS a 'drag,'
as you call it. There's going to be a big one, too, I'm
afraid--when they get out and see this tract we're going to
work off this spring." She stopped and studied him as a chess
player studies the board.
"I'm very much tempted to tell you something I shouldn't
tell," she said at length, lowering her voice a little.
Remember, Andy Green was a very good looking man, and his
eyes were remarkable for their clear, candid gaze straight
into your own eyes. Even as keen a business woman as Florence
Grace Hallman must be forgiven for being deceived by them."
I'm tempted to tell you where this tract is. You may know
"You better not, unless you're willing to take a chance," he
told her soberly. "If it looks too good, I'm liable to jump
Miss Hallman laughed and twisted her red lips at him in what
might be construed as a flirtatious manner. She was really
quite taken with Andy Green. "I'll take a chance. I don't
think you'll jump it. Do you know anything about Dry Lake, up
above Havre, toward Great Falls--and the country out east of
there, towards the mountains?"
The fingers of Andy Green closed into his palms. His eyes,
however, continued to look into hers with his most guileless
"Y-es--that is, I've ridden over it," he acknowledged simply.
"Well--now this is a secret; at least we don't want those
mossback ranchers in there to get hold of it too soon, though
they couldn't really do anything, since it's all government
land and the lease has only just run out. There's a high
tract lying between the Bear Paws and--do you know where the
Flying U ranch is?"
"About where it is--yes."
"Well, it's right up there on that plateau--bench, you call
it out here. There are several thousand acres along in there
that we're locating settlers on this spring. We're just
waiting for the grass to get nice and green, and the prairie
to get all covered with those blue, blue wind flowers, and
the meadow larks to get busy with their nests, and then we're
going to bring them out and--" She spread her hands again. It
seemed a favorite gesture grown into a habit, and it surely
was more eloquent than words. "These prairies will be a dream
of beauty, in a little while," she said. "I'm to watch for
the psychological time to bring out the seekers. And if I
could just interest you, Mr. Green, to the extent of being
somewhere around Dry Lake, with a good team that you will
drive for hire and some samples of oats and dry-land spuds
and stuff that you raised on your claim--" She eyed him
sharply for one so endearingly feminine. "Would you do it?
There'd be a salary, and besides that a commission on each
doubter you landed. And I'd just love to have you for one of
"It sure sounds good," Andy flirted with the proposition, and
let his eyes soften appreciably to meet her last sentence and
the tone in which she spoke it. "Do you think I could get by
with the right line of talk with the doubters?"
"I think you could," she said, and in her voice there was a
cooing note. "Study up a little on the right dope, and I
think you could convince--even me."
"Could I?" Andy Green knew that cooing note, himself, and one
a shade more provocative. "I wonder!"
A man came down the aisle at that moment, gave Andy a keen
glance and went on with a cigar between his fingers. Andy
scowled frankly, sighed and straightened his shoulders.
"That's what I call hard luck," he grumbled got to see that
man before he gets off the train--and the h--worst of it is,
I don't know just what station he'll get off at." He sighed
again. "I've got a deal on," he told her confidentially,
"that's sure going to keep me humping if I pull loose so as
to go in with you. How long did you say?"
"Probably two weeks, the way spring is opening out here. I'd
want you to get perfectly familiar with our policy and the
details of our scheme before they land. I'd want you to be
familiar with that tract and be able to show up its best
points when you take seekers out there. You'd be so much
better than one of our own men, who have the word 'agent'
written all over them. You'll come back and--talk it over
won't you?" For Andy was showing unmistakable symptoms of
leaving her to follow the man.
"You KNOW it," he declared in a tone of "I won't sleep nights
till this thing is settled--and settled right." He gave her a
smile that rather dazzled the lady, got up with much
reluctance and with a glance that had in it a certain element
of longing went swaying down the aisle after the man who had
Andy's business with the man consisted solely in mixing
cigarette smoke with cigar smoke and of helping to stare
moodily out of the window. Words there were none, save when
Andy was proffered a match and muttered his thanks. The
silent session lasted for half an hour. Then the man got up
and went out, and the breath of Andy Green paused behind his
nostrils until he saw that the man went only to the first
section in the car and settled there behind a spread
newspaper, invisible to Florence Grace Hallman unless she
searched the car and peered over the top of the paper
to see who was behind.
After that Andy Green continued to stare out of the
window, seeing nothing of the scenery but the flicker
of telegraph posts before his eyes that were visioning
The Flying U ranch hemmed in by homesteaders from the East,
he saw; homesteaders who were being urged to bring all the
stock they could, and turn it loose upon the shrinking range.
Homesteaders who would fence the country into squares, and
tear up the grass and sow grain that might never bear a
harvest. Homesteaders who would inevitably grow poorer upon
the land that would suck their strength and all their
little savings and turn them loose finally to forage a
living where they might. Homesteaders who would ruin the land
that ruined them.... It was not a pleasing picture, but it
was more pleasing than the picture he saw of the Flying U
after these human grass hoppers had settled there.
The range that fed the Flying U stock would feed no more and
hide their ribs at shipping time. That he knew too well. Old
J. G. Whitmore and Chip would have to sell out. And that was
like death; indeed, it IS death of a sort, when one of the
old outfits is wiped out of existence. It had happened
before--happened too often to make pleasant memories for Andy
Green, who could name outfit after outfit that had been
forced out of business by the settling of the range land; who
could name dozens of cattle brands once seen upon the range,
and never glimpsed now from spring roundup until fall.
Must the Flying U brand disappear also? The good old Flying
U, for whose existence the Old Man had fought and schemed
since first was raised the cry that the old range was
passing? The Flying U that had become a part of his life?
Andy let his cigarette grow cold; he roused only to swear at
the porter who entered with dust cloth and a deprecating
After that, Andy thought of Florence Grace Hallman--and his
eyes were not particularly sentimental. There was a hard line
about his mouth also; though Florence Grace Hallman was but a
pawn in the game, after all, and not personally guilty of
half the deliberate crimes Andy laid upon her dimpled
shoulders. With her it was pure, cold-blooded business, this
luring of the land-hungry to a land whose fertility was at
best problematical; who would, for a price, turn loose the
victims of her greed to devastate what little grazing ground
The train neared Havre. Andy roused himself, rang for the
porter and sent him after his suitcase and coat. Then he
sauntered down the aisle, stopped beside Florence Grace
Hallman and smiled down at her with a gleam behind the clear
candor of his eyes.
"Hard luck, lady," he murmured, leaning toward her. "I'm just
simply loaded to the guards with responsibilities, and here's
where I get off. But I'm sure glad I met yuh, and I'll
certainly think day and night about you and--all you told me
about. I'd like to get in on this land deal. Fact is, I'm
going to make it my business to get in on it. Maybe my way of
working won't suit you--but I'll sure work hard for any boss
and do the best I know how."
"I think that will suit me," Miss Hallman assured him, and
smiled unsuspectingly up into his eyes, which she thought she
could read so easily. "When shall I see you again? Could you
come to Great Falls in the next ten days? I shall be stopping
at the Park. Or if you will leave me your address--"
"No use. I'll be on the move and a letter wouldn't get me.
I'll see yuh later, anyway. I'm bound to. And when I do,
we'll get down to cases. Good bye."
He was turning away when Miss Hallman put out a soft,
jewelled hand. She thought it was diffidence that made Andy
Green hesitate perceptibly before he took it. She thought it
was simply a masculine shyness and confusion that made him
clasp her fingers loosely and let them go on the instant. She
did not see him rub his palm down the leg of his dark gray
trousers as he walked down the aisle, and if she had she
would not have seen any significance in the movement.
Andy Green did that again before he stepped off the train.
For he felt that he had shaken hands with a traitor to
himself and his outfit, and it went against the grain. That
the traitor was a woman, and a charming woman at that, only
intensified his resentment against her. A man can fight a man
and keep his self respect; but a man does mortally dread
being forced into a position where he must fight a woman.
CHAPTER 3. THE KID LEARNS SOME THINGS ABOUT HORSES
The Kid--Chip's Kid and the Little Doctor's--was six years
old and big for his age. Also he was a member in good
standing of the Happy Family and he insisted upon being
called Buck outside the house; within it the Little Doctor
insisted even more strongly that he answer to the many
endearing names she had invented for him, and to the more
formal one of Claude, which really belonged to Daddy Chip.
Being six years old and big for his age, and being called
Buck by his friends, the Happy Family, the Kid decided that
he should have a man's-sized horse of his own, to feed and
water and ride and proudly call his "string." Having settled
that important point, he began to cast about him for a horse
worthy his love and ownership, and speedily he decided that
Therefore, he ran bareheaded up to the blacksmith shop where
Daddy Chip was hammering tunefully upon the anvil, and
delivered his ultimatum from the door way.
"Silver's going to be my string, Daddy Chip, and
I'm going to feed him myself and ride him myself and
nobody else can touch him 'thout I say they can."
"Yes?" Chip squinted along a dully-glowing iron
bar, laid it back upon the anvil and gave it another
whack upon the side that still bulged a little.
"Yes, and I'm going to saddle him myself and everything. And
I want you to get me some jingling silver spurs like Mig has
got, with chains that hang away down and rattle when you
walk." The Kid lifted one small foot and laid a grimy finger
in front of his heel by way of illustration.
"Yes?" Chip's eyes twinkled briefly and immediately became
intent upon his work.
"Yes, and Doctor Dell has got to let me sleep in the
bunk-house with the rest of the fellers. And I ain't
going to wear a nightie once more! I don't have to, do I,
Daddy Chip? Not with lace on it. Happy Jack says I'm a girl
long as I wear lace nighties, and I ain't a girl. Am I, Daddy
"I should say not!" Chip testified emphatically, and carried
the iron bar to the forge for further heating.
"I'm going on roundup too, tomorrow afternoon." The Kid's
conception of time was extremely sketchy and had no
connection whatever with the calendar. "I'm going to keep
Silver in the little corral and let him sleep in the box
stall where his leg got well that time he broke it. I 'member
when he had a rag tied on it and teased for sugar. And the
Countess has got to quit a kickin' every time I need sugar
for my string. Ain't she, Daddy Chip? She's got to let us men
alone or there'll be something doing!"
"I'd tell a man," said Chip inattentively, only half hearing
the war-like declaration of his offspring--as is the way
with busy fathers.
"I'm going to take a ride now on Silver. I guess I'll ride in
to Dry Lake and get the mail--and I'm 'pletely outa the
"Uh-hunh--a--what's that? You keep off Silver. He'll kick
the daylights out of you, Kid. Where's your hat? Didn't your
mother tell you she'd tie a sunbonnet on you if you didn't
keep your hat on? You better hike back and get it, young man,
before she sees you."
The Kid stared mutinously from the doorway. "You said I could
have Silver. What's the use of having a string if a feller
can't ride it? And I CAN ride him, and he don't kick at all.
I rode him just now, in the little pasture to see if I liked
his gait better than the others. I rode Banjo first and I
wouldn't own a thing like him, on a bet. Silver'll do me till
I can get around to break a real one."
Chip's hand dropped from the bellows while he stared hard at
the Kid. "Did you go down in the pasture and--Words failed
him just then.
"I'd TELL a man I did!" the Kid retorted, with a perfect
imitation of Chip's manner and tone when crossed. "I've been
trying out all the darned benchest you've got--and there
ain't a one I'd give a punched nickel for but Silver. I'd a
rode Shootin' Star, only he wouldn't stand still so I could
get onto him. whoever broke him did a bum job. The horse I
break will stand, or I'll know the reason why. Silver'll
stand, all right. And I can guide him pretty well by slapping
his neck. You did a pretty fair job when you broke Silver,"
the Kid informed his father patronizingly.
Chip said something which the Kid was not supposed to hear,
and sat suddenly down upon the stone rim of the forge. It had
never before occurred to Chip that his Kid was no longer a
baby, but a most adventurous man-child who had lived all his
life among men and whose mental development had more than
kept pace with his growing body. He had laughed with the
others at the Kid's quaint precociousness of speech and at
his frank worship of range men and range life. He had gone to
some trouble to find a tractable Shetland pony the size of a
burro, and had taught the Kid to ride, decorously and fully
protected from accident.
He and the Little Doctor had been proud of the Kid's
masculine traits as they manifested themselves in the
management of that small specimen of horse flesh. That the
Kid should have outgrown so quickly his content with Stubby
seemed much more amazing than it really was. He eyed the Kid
doubtfully for a minute, and then grinned.
"All that don't let you out on the hat question," he said,
evading the real issue and laying stress upon the small
matter of obedience, as is the exasperating habit of parents.
"You don't see any of the bunch going around bareheaded. Only
women and babies do that."
"The bunch goes bareheaded when they get their hats blowed
off in the creek," the Kid pointed out unmoved. "I've seen
you lose your hat mor'n once, old timer. That's nothing." He
sent Chip a sudden, adorable smile which proclaimed him the
child of his mother and which never failed to thrill Chip
secretly,--it was so like the Little Doctor. "You lend me
your hat for a while, dad," he said. "She never said what hat
I had to wear, just so it's a hat. Honest to gran'ma, my
hat's in the creek and I couldn't poke it out with a stick or
anything. It sailed into the swimmin' hole. I was goin' to go
after it," he explained further, "but--a snake was swimmin
--and I hated to 'sturb him."
Chip drew a sharp breath and for one panicky moment
considered imperative the hiring of a body-guard for his Kid.
"You keep out of the pasture, young man!" His tone was stern
to match his perturbation. "And you leave Silver alone--"
The Kid did not wait for more. He lifted up his voice and
wept in bitterness of spirit. Wept so that one could hear him
a mile. Wept so that J. G. Whitmore reading the Great Falls
Tribune on the porch, laid down his paper and asked the world
at large what ailed that doggoned kid now.
"Dell, you better go see what's wrong," he called afterwards
through the open door to the Little Doctor, who was examining
a jar of germ cultures in her "office." "Chances is he's
fallen off the stable or something--though he sounds more
mad than hurt. If it wasn't for my doggoned back--"
The Little Doctor passed him hurriedly. When her man-child
wept, it Needed no suggestion from J. G. or anyone else to
send her flying to the rescue. So presently she arrived
breathless at the blacksmith shop' and found Chip within,
looking in urgent Need of reinforcements, and the Kid yelling
ragefully beside the door and kicking the log wall with
"Shut up now or I'll spank you!" Chip was saying desperately
when his wife appeared. "I wish you'd take that Kid and tie
him up, Dell," he added snappishly. "Here he's been riding
all the horses in the little pasture--and taking a chance on
breaking his neck! And he ain't satisfied with Stubby--he
thinks he's entitled to Silver!"
"Well, why not? There, there, honey--men don't cry when
things go wrong--"
"No--because they can take it out in cussing!" wailed the
Kid." I wouldn't cry either, if you'd let me swear all I want
Chip turned his back precipitately and his shoulders were
seen to shake. The Little Doctor looked shocked.
"I want Silver for my string!" cried the Kid, artfully
transferring his appeal to the higher court. "I can ride
him--'cause I have rode him, in the pasture; and he never
bucked once or kicked or anything. Doggone it, he likes to
have me ride him! He comes a-runnin' up to me when I go down
there, and I give him sugar. And then he waits till I climb
on his back, and then we chase the other horses and play ride
circle He wants to be my string!" Something in the feel of
his mother's arm around his shoulder whispered hope to the
Kid. He looked up at her with his most endearing smile. "You
come down there and I'll show you," he wheedled. "We're pals.
And I guess YOU wouldn't like to have the boys call you Tom
Thumb, a-ridin' Stubby. He's nothing but a five-cent sample
of a horse. Big Medicine says so. I--I'd rather walk than
ride Stubby. And I'm going on roundup. The boys said I could
go when I get a real horse under me--and I want Silver. Daddy
Chip said 'yes' I could have him. And now he's Injun-giver.
Can't I have him, Doctor Dell?"
The gray-blue eyes clashed with the brown. "It wouldn't hurt
anything to let the poor little tad show us what he can do,"
said the gray-blue eyes.
"Oh--all right," yielded the brown, and their owner threw the
iron bar upon the cooling forge and began to turn down his
sleeves. "Why don't you make him wear a hat?" he asked
reprovingly. "A little more and he won't pay any attention to
anything you tell him. I'd carry out that sunbonnet bluff,
anyway, if I were you."
"Now, Daddy Chip! I 'splained to you how I lost my hat,"
reproached the Kid, clinging fast to the Little Doctor's
"Yes--and you 'splained that you'd have gone into that deep
hole and drowned--with nobody there to pull you out--if you
hadn't been scared of a water snake," Chip pointed out
"I wasn't 'zactly scared," amended the Kid gravely.
"He was havin' such a good time, and he was swimmin' around
so--comf'table--and it wasn't polite to 'sturb him. Can't I
"We'll go down and ask Silver what he thinks about it," said
the Little Doctor, anxious to make peace between her two
idols. "And we'll see if Daddy Chip can get the hat. You must
wear a hat, honey; you know what mother told you--and you
know mother keeps her word."
"I wish dad did," the Kid commented, passing over the hat
question. "He said I could have Silver, and keep him in a box
stall and feed him my own self and water him my own self and
nobody's to touch him but me."
"Well, if daddy said all that--we'll have to think it over,
and consult Silver and see what he has to say about it."
Silver, when consulted, professed at least a willingness to
own the Kid for his master. He did indeed come trotting up
for sugar; and when he had eaten two grimy lumps from the
Kid's grimier hand, he permitted the Kid to entice him up to
a high rock, and stood there while the Kid clambered upon the
rock and from there to his sleek back. Ho even waited until
the Kid gathered a handful of silky mane and kicked him on
the ribs; then he started off at a lope, while the Kid risked
his balance to cast a triumphant grin--that had a gap in the
middle--back at his astonished parents.
"Look how the little devil guides him!" exclaimed Chip
surrenderingly. "I guess he's safe enough old Silver seems to
sabe he's got a kid to take care of. He sure would strike a
different gait with me! Lord how the time slides by; I can't
seem to get it through me that the Kid's growing up."
The Little Doctor sighed a bit. And the Kid, circling grandly
on the far side of the little pasture, came galloping back to
hear the verdict. It pleased him--though he was inclined to
mistake a great privilege for a right that must not be
denied. He commanded his Daddy Chip to open the gate for him
so he could ride Silver to the stable and put him in the box
stall; which was a superfluous kindness, as Chip tried to
point out and failed to make convincing.
The Kid wanted Silver in the box stall, where he could feed
him and water him his own self. So into the box stall Silver
reluctantly went, and spent a greater part of the day with
his head stuck out through the window, staring enviously at
his mates in the pasture.
For several days Chip watched the Kid covertly whenever his
small feet strayed stableward; watched and was full of secret
pride at the manner in which the Kid rose to his new
responsibility. Never did a "string" receive the care which
Silver got, and never did rider sit more proudly upon his
steed than did the Kid sit upon Silver. There seemed to be
practically no risk--Chip was amazed at the Kid's ability to
ride. Besides, Silver was growing old--fourteen years being
considered ripe old age in a horse. He was more given to
taking life with a placid optimism that did not startle
easily. He carried the Kid's light weight easily, and he had
not lost all his springiness of muscle. The Little Doctor
rode him sometimes, and loved his smooth gallop and his even
temper; now she loved him more when she saw how careful he
was of the Kid. She besought the Kid to be careful of Silver
also, and was most manfully snubbed for her solicitude.
The Kid had owned Silver for a week, and considered that he
was qualified to give advice to the Happy Family, including
his Daddy Chip, concerning the proper care of horses. He
stood with his hands upon his hips and his feet far apart,
and spat into the corral dust and told Big Medicine that
nobody but a pilgrim ever handled a horse the way Big
Medicine was handling Deuce. Whereat Big Medicine gave a
bellowing haw-haw-haw and choked it suddenly when he saw that
the Kid desired him to take the criticism seriously.
"All right, Buck," he acceded humbly, winking openly at the
Native Son. "I'll try m'best, old-timer. Trouble with me is,
I never had nobody to learn me how to handle a hoss."
"Well, you've got me, now," Buck returned calmly. "I don't
ride MY string without brushing the hay out of his tail.
There's a big long hay stuck in your horse's tail." He
pointed an accusing finger, and Big Medicine silently edged
close to Douce's rump and very carefully removed the big,
long hay. He took a fine chance of getting himself kicked,
but he did not tell the Kid that.
"That all right now, Buck?" Big Medicine wanted to know,
when he had accomplished the thing without accident.
"Oh, it'll do," was the frugal praise he got. "I've
got to go and feed my string, now. And after a while I'll
water him. You want to feed your horse always
before you water him, 'cause eatin' makes him firsty.
You 'member that, now."
"I'll sure try to, Buck," Big Medicine promised soberly, and
watched the Kid go striding away with his hat tilted at the
approved Happy-Family angle and his small hands in his
pockets. Big Medicine was thinking of his own kid, and
wondering what he was like, and if he remembered his dad. He
waved his hand in cordial farewell when the Kid looked back
and wrinkled his nose in the adorable, Little-Doctor smile he
had, and turned his attention to Deuce.
The Kid made straight for the box stall and told Silver hello
over the half door. Silver turned from gazing out of the
window, and came forward expectantly, and the Kid told him to
wait a minute and not be so impatience Then he climbed upon a
box, got down a heavy canvas nose-bag with leather bottom,
and from a secret receptacle behind the oats box he brought a
paper bag of sugar and poured about a teacupful into the bag.
Daddy Chip had impressed upon him what would be the tragic
consequences if he fed oats to Silver five times a day.
Silver would die, and it would be the Kid that killed him.
Daddy Chip had not said anything about sugar being fatal,
however, and the Countess could not always stand guard over
the sugar sack. So Silver had a sweet taste in his mouth
twelve hours of the twenty-four, and was getting a habit of
licking his lips reminiscently during the other twelve.
The Kid had watched the boys adjust nose bags ever since he
could toddle. He lugged it into the stall, set it artfully
upon the floor and let Silver thrust in his head to the eyes:
then he pulled the strap over Silver's neck and managed to
buckle it very securely. He slapped the sleek neck afterward
as his Daddy Chip did, hugged it the way Doctor Dell did, and
stood back to watch Silver revel in the bag.
"'S good lickums?" he asked gravely, because he had once
heard his mother ask Silver that very question, in almost
that very tone.
At that moment an uproar outside caught his youthful
attention. He listened a minute, heard Pink's voice and a
shout of laughter, and ran to see what was going on; for
where was excitement, there the Kid was also, as nearly in
the middle of it as he could manage. His going would not have
mattered to Silver, had he remembered to close the half-door
of the stall behind him; even that would not have mattered,
had he not left the outer door of the stable open also.
The cause of the uproar does not greatly matter, except that
the Kid became so rapturously engaged in watching the foolery
of the Happy Family that he forgot all about Silver. And
since sugar produces thirst, and Silver had not smelled water
since morning, he licked the last sweet grain from the inside
of the nose bag and then walked out of the stall and the
stable and made for the creek--and a horse cannot drink with
a nose bag fastened over his face. All he can do, if he
succeeds in getting his nose into the water, is to drown
himself most expeditiously and completely.
Silver reached the creek unseen, sought the deepest hole and
tried to drink. Since his nose was covered with the bag ho
could not do so but he fussed and splashed and thrust his
head deeper until the water ran into the bag from the top. He
backed and snorted and strangled, and in a minute he fell.
Fortunately he struggled a little, and in doing so he slid
backward down the bank so that his head was up the slope a
and the water ran out of the bag, which was all that saved
He was a dead horse, to all appearances at least, when Slim
spied him and gave a yell to bring every human being on the
ranch at a run. The Kid came with the rest, gave one scream
and hid his face in the Little Doctor's skirts, and trembled
so that his mother was more frightened for him than for the
horse, and had Chip carry him to the house where he could not
watch the first-aid efforts of the Happy Family.
They did not say anything, much. By their united strength
they pulled Silver up the bank so that his limp head hung
downward. Then they began to work over him exactly as if he
had been a drowned man, except that they did not, of course,
roll him over a barrel. They moved his legs backward and
forward, they kneaded his paunch, they blew into his
nostrils, they felt anxiously for heart-beats. They sweated
and gave up the fight, saying that it was no use. They saw a
quiver of the muscles over the chest and redoubled their
efforts, telling one another hopefully that he was alive, all
right. They saw finally a quiver of the nostrils as well, and
one after another they laid palms upon his heart, felt there
a steady beating and proclaimed the fact profanely.
They pulled him then into a more comfortable position where
the sun shone warmly and stood around him in a crude circle
and watched for more pronounced symptoms of recovery, and
sent word to the Kid that his string was going to be all
right in a little while.
The information was lost upon the Kid, who wept hysterically
in his Daddy Chip's arms listen to anything they told him. He
had seen Silver stretched out dead, with his back in the edge
of the creek and his feet sprawled at horrible angles, and
the sight obsessed him and forbade comfort. He had killed his
string; nothing was clear in his mind save that, and he
screamed with his face hidden from his little world.
The Little Doctor, with anxious eyes and puckered eyebrows,
poured something into a teaspoon and helped Chip fight to get
it down the Kid's throat. And the Kid shrieked and struggled
and strangled, as is the way of kids the world over, and
tried to spit out the stuff and couldn't, so he screamed the
louder and held his breath until he was purple, and his
parents were scared stiff. The Old Man hobbled to the door in
the midst of the uproar and asked them acrimoniously why they
didn't make that doggoned Kid stop his howling; and when
Chip, his nerves already strained to the snapping point, told
him bluntly to get out and mind his own business, he hobbled
away again muttering anathemas against the whole outfit.
The Countess rushed in from out of doors and wanted to know
what under the shinin' sun was the matter with that kid, and
advised his frantic parents to throw water in his face. Chip
told her exactly what he had told the Old Man, in exactly the
same tone; so the Countess retreated, declaring that he
wouldn't be let to act that way if he was her kid, and that
he was plumb everlastingly spoiled.
The Happy Family heard the disturbance and thought the Kid
was being spanked for the accident, which put every man of
them in a fighting humor toward Chip, the Little Doctor, the
Old Man and the whole world. Pink even meditated going up to
the White House to lick Chip--or at least tell him what he
thought of him--and he had plenty of sympathizers; though
they advised him half-heartedly not to buy in to any family
It was into this storm centre that Andy Green rode headlong
with his own burden of threatened disaster.
CHAPTER 4. ANDY TAKES A HAND IN THE GAME
Andy Green was a day late in arriving at the Flying U. First
he lost time by leaving the train thirty miles short of the
destination marked on his ticket, and when he did resume his
journey on the next train, he traveled eighty-four miles
beyond Dry Lake, which landed him in Great Falls in the early
morning. There, with the caution of a criminal carefully
avoiding a meeting with Miss Hallman, he spent an hour in
poring over a plat of a certain section of Chouteau County,
and in copying certain description of unoccupied land.
He had not slept very well the night before and he looked it.
He had cogitated upon the subject of land speculations and
the welfare of his outfit until his head was one great, dull
ache; but he stuck to his determination to do something to
block the game of the Homeseekers' Syndicate. Just what that
something would be he had not yet decided. But on general
principles it seemed wise to learn all he could concerning
the particular tract of land about which Florence Grace
Hallman had talked.
The day was past when range rights might be defended
honorably with rifles and six-shooters and iron nerved men to
use them--and I fear that Andy Green sighed because it was
so. Give him the "bunch" and free swing, and he thought the
Homeseekers would lose their enthusiasm before even the first
hot wind blew up from the southwest to wither their crops.
But such measures were not to be thought of; if they fought
at all they must fight with the law behind them--and even
Andy's optimism did not see much hope from the law; none, in
fact, since both the law and the moneyed powers were eager
for the coming of homebuilders into that wide land. All up
along the Marias they had built their board shacks, and back
over the benches as far as one could see. There was nothing
to stop them, everything to make their coming easy.
Andy scowled at the plat he was studying, and admitted to
himself that it looked as though the Home Seekers' Syndicate
were going to have things their own way; unless--There he
stuck. There must be some way out; never in his life had he
faced a situation which had been absolutely hopeless; always
there had been some chance to win, if a man only saw it in
time and took it. In this case it was the clerk in the office
who pointed the way with an idle remark.
"Going to take up a claim, are you?"
Andy looked up at him with the blank stare of preoccupation,
and changed expression as the question filtered into his
brain and fitted somehow into the puzzle. He grinned, said
maybe he would, folded the sheet of paper filled with what
looked like a meaningless jumble of letters and figures,
bought a plat of that township and begged some government
pamphlets, and went out humming a little tune just above a
whisper. At the door he tilted his hat down at an angle over
his right eye and took long, eager steps toward an obscure
hotel and his meagre baggage.
There was no train going east until midnight, and he caught
that train. This time he actually got off at Dry Lake, ate a
hurried breakfast, got his horse out of the livery stable and
dug up the dust of the lane with rapid hoof-beats so that he
rode all the way to the first hill followed by a rolling,
gray cloud that never quite caught him.
When he rode down the Hog's Back he saw the Happy Family
bunched around some object on the creek-bank, and he heard
the hysterical screaming of the Kid up in the house, and saw
the Old Man limping excitedly up and down the porch. A man
less astute than Andy Green would have known that some thing
had happened. He hurried down the last slope, galloped along
the creek-bottom, crossed the ford in a couple of leaps and
pulled up beside the group that surrounded Silver.
"What's been taking place here?" he demanded curiously,
skipping the usual greetings.
"Hell," said the Native Son succinctly, glancing up at him.
"Old Silver looked over the fence into Kingdom Come," Weary
enlarged the statement a little. "Tried to take a drink with
a nose bag on. I guess he'll come through all right."
"What ails the Kid?" Andy demanded, glancing toward the house
whence issued a fresh outburst of shrieks.
The Happy Family looked at one another and then at the White
"Aw, some folks hain't got a lick of sense when it comes to
kids," Big Medicine accused gruffly.
"The Kid," Weary explained, "put the nose bag on Silver and
then left the stable door open."
"They ain't--spanking him for it, are they?" Andy demanded
belligerently. "By gracious, how'd a kid know any better?
Little bit of a tad like that--"
"Aw, they don't never spank the Kid!" Slim defended the
parents loyally. "By golly, they's been times when I would-a
spanked him, if it'd been me. Countess says it's plumb
ridiculous the way that Kid runs over 'em--rough shod. If
he's gittin' spanked now, it's the first time."
"Well," said Andy, looking from one to another and reverting
to his own worry as he swung down from his sweating horse,
"there's something worse than a spanked kid going to happen
to this outfit if you fellows don't get busy and do
something. There's a swarm of dry-farmers coming in on us,
with their stock to eat up the grass and their darned fences
shutting off the water--"
"Oh, for the Lord's sake, cut it out!" snapped Pink. "We
ain't in the mood for any of your joshes. We've had about
enough excitement for once."
"Ah, don't be a damn' fool," Andy snapped back. "There's no
josh about it. I've got the whole scheme, just as they framed
it up in Minneapolis. I got to talking with a she-agent on
the train, and she gave the whole snap away; wanted me to go
in with her and help land the suckers. I laid low, and made a
sneak to the land office and got a plat of the land, and all
"Get any mail?" Pink interrupted him, in the tone that took
no notice whatever of Andy's ill news.
"Time I was hearing from them spurs I sent for." Andy
silently went through his pockets and produced what mail he
had gleaned from the post-office, and led his horse into the
shade of the stable and pulled off the saddle. Every movement
betrayed the fact that he was in the grip of unpleasant
emotions, but to the Happy Family he said not another word.
The Happy Family did not notice his silence at the time. But
afterwards, when the Kid had stopped crying and Silver had
gotten to his feet and wobbled back to the stable, led by
Chip, who explained briefly and satisfactorily the cause of
the uproar at the house, and the boys had started up to their
belated dinner, they began to realize that for a returned
traveler Andy Green was not having much to say.
They asked him about his trip, and received brief answers.
Had he been anyone else they would have wanted to know
immediately what was eatin' on him; but since it was Andy
Green who sat frowning at his toes and smoking his cigarette
as though it had no comfort or flavor, the boldest of them
were cautious. For Andy Green, being a young man of vivid
imagination and no conscience whatever, had fooled them too
often with his lies. They waited, and they watched him
covertly and a bit puzzled.
Silence and gloom were not boon companions of Andy Green, at
any time. So Weary, having the most charitable nature of any
among them, sighed and yielded the point of silent
"What was all that you started to tell us about the dry-
farmers, Andy?" he asked indulgently.
"All straight goods. But there's no use talking to you bone-
heads. You'll set around chewing the rag and looking wise
till it's too late to do anything but holler your heads off."
He got up from where he had been lounging on a bench just
outside the mess house and walked away, with his hands thrust
deep into his pockets and his shoulders drooped forward.
The Happy Family looked after him doubtfully.
"Aw, it's just some darned josh uh his," Happy Jack declared.
"I know HIM."
"Look at the way he slouches along--like he was loaded to the
ears with trouble!" Pink pointed out amusedly. "He'd fool
anybody that didn't know him, all right."
"And he fools the fellows that do know him, oftener than
anybody else," added the Native Son negligently. "You're
fooled right now if you think that's all acting. That HOMBRE
has got something on his mind."
"Well, by golly, it ain't dry-farmers," Slim asserted boldly.
"If you fellows wouldn't say it was a frame-up between us
two, I'd go after him and find out. But . . ."
"But as it stands, we'd believe Andy Green a whole lot
quicker'n what we would you," supplemented Big Medicine
loudly. "You're dead right there."
"What was it he said about it?" Weary wanted to know. "I
wasn't paying much attention, with the Kid yelling his head
off and old Silver gaping like a sick turkey, and all. What
was it about them dryfarmers?"
"He said," piped Pink, "that he'd got next to a scheme to
bring a big bunch of dry-farmers in on this bench up here,
with stock that they'd turn loose on the range. That's what
he said. He claims the agent wanted him to go in on it."
"Mamma!" Weary held a match poised midway between his thigh
and his cigarette while he stared at Pink. "That would be
some mixup--if it was to happen." His sunny blue eyes--that
were getting little crow's-feet at their corners--turned to
look after the departing Andy. "Where's the josh?" he
questioned the group.
"The josh is, that he'd like to see us all het up over it,
and makin' war-talks and laying for the pilgrims some dark
night with our six-guns, most likely," retorted Pink, who
happened to be in a bad humor because in ten minutes he was
due at a line of post-holes that divided the big pasture into
two unequal parts. "He can't agitate me over anybody's
troubles but my own. Happy, I'll help Bud stretch wire this
afternoon if you'll tamp the, rest uh them posts."
"Aw, you stick to your own job! How was it when I wanted you
to help pull the old wire off that hill fence and git it
ready to string down here? You wasn't crazy about workin'
with bob wire then, I noticed. You said--"
"What I said wasn't a commencement to what I'll say again,"
Pink began truculently, and so the subject turned effectually
from Andy Green.
Weary smoked meditatively while they wrangled, and when the
group broke up for the afternoon's work he went unobtrusively
in search of Andy. He was not quite easy in his mind
concerning the alleged joke. He had looked full at the
possibilities of the situation--granting Andy had told the
truth, as he sometimes did--and the possibilities had not
pleased him. He found Andy morosely replacing some broken
strands in his cinch, and he went straight at the mooted
Andy looked up from his work and scowled. "This ain't any
joke with me," he stated grimly. "It's something that's going
to put the Flying U out of business if it ain't stopped
before it gets started. I've been worrying my head of[, ever
since day before yesterday; I ain't in the humor to take
anything off those imitation joshers up there--I'll tell yuh
"Well, but how do you figure it can be stopped?" Weary sat
soberly down on the oats box and absently watched Andy's
expert fingers while they knotted the heavy cotton cord
through the cinch-ring. "We can't stand 'em off with guns."
Andy dropped the cinch and stood up, pushing back his hat and
then pulling it forward into place with the gesture he used
when he was very much in earnest. "No, we can't. But if the
bunch is game for it there's a way to block their play--and
the law does all our fighting for us. We don't have to yeep.
It's like this, Weary counting Chip and the Little Doctor and
the Countess there's eleven of us that can use our rights up
here on the bench. I've got it all figured out. If we can get
Irish and Jack Bates to come back and help us out, there's
thirteen of us. And we can take homesteads along the creeks
and deserts back on the bench, and--say, do you know how much
land we can corral, the bunch of us? Four thousand acres and
if we take our claims right, that's going to mean that we get
a dead immortal cinch on all the bench land that's worth
locating, around here, and we'll have the creeks, and also
we'll have the breaks corralled for our own stock.
"I've gone over the plat--I brought a copy to show you
fellows what we can do. And by taking up our claims right, we
keep a deadline from the Bear Paws to the Flying U. Now the
Old Man owns Denson's ranch, all south uh here is fairly
safe--unless they come in between his south line and the
breaks; and there ain't room for more than two or three
claims there. Maybe we can get some of the boys to grab what
there is, and string ourselves out north uh here too.
"That's the only way on earth we can save what little feed
there is left. This way, we get the land ourselves and hold
it, so there don't any outside stock come in on us. If
Florence Grace Hallman and her bunch lands any settlers here,
they'll be between us and Dry Lake; and they're dead welcome
to squat on them dry pinnacles--so long as we keep their
stock from crossing our claims to get into the breaks. Savvy
"Yes-s--but how'd yuh KNOW they're going to do all this?
Mamma! I don't want to turn dry-farmer if I don't have to!"
Andy's face clouded. "That's just what'll block the game, I'm
afraid. I don't want to, either. None of the boys'll want to.
It'll mean going up there and baching, six or seven months of
the year, by our high lonesomes. We'll have to fulfill the
requirements, if we start in--because them pilgrims'll be
standing around like dogs at a picnic, waiting for something
to drop so they can grab it and run. It ain't going to be any
"And there's another thing bothers me, Weary. It's going to
be one peach of a job to make the boys believe it hard enough
to make their entries in time." Andy grinned wrily. "By
gracious, this is where I could see a gilt-edged reputation
for telling the truth!"
"You could, all right," Weary agreed sympathetically. "It's
going to strain our swallowers to get all that down, and
that's a fact. You ought to have some proof, if you want the
boys to grab it, Andy." His face sobered. "Who is this
Florence person? If you could get some kinda proof--a letter,
say . . ."
"Easiest thing in the world!" Andy brightened at the
suggestion. "She's stopping at the Park, in Great Falls, and
she wanted me to come up or write. Anybody going to town
right away? I'll send that foxy dame a letter that'll produce
proof enough. You've helped ma a lot, Weary."
Weary scrutinized him sharply and puckered his lips into a
doubtful expression. "I wish I knew for a fact whether all
this is straight goods, Andy," he "said pensively. "Chances
are you're just stringing me. But if you are, old boy, I'm
going to take it outa your hide--and don't you forget that."
He grinned at his own mental predicament. "Honest, Andy, is
this some josh, or do you mean it?"
"By gracious, I wish it was a josh! But it ain't, darn it. In
about two weeks or so you'll all see the point of this joke--
but whether the joke's on us or on the homeseekers' Syndicate
depends on you fellows. Lord! I wish I'd never told a lie!"
Weary sat knocking his heels rhythmically against the side of
the box while he thought the matter over from start to
hypothetical finish and back again. Meanwhile Andy Green went
on with his work and scowled over his well-earned reputation
that hampered him now just when he needed the confidence of
his fellows in order to save their beloved Flying U from slow
annihilation. Perhaps his mental suffering could not rightly
be called remorse, but a poignant regret it most certainly
was, and a sense of complete bafflement which came out in his
"Even if she wrote me a letter, the boys'd call it a frame-up
just the same. They'd say I had it fixed before I left town.
Doctor Cecil's up at the Falls. They'd lay it to her."
"I was thinking of that, myself. What's the matter with
getting Chip to go up with you? Couldn't you ring him in on
the agent somehow, so he can get the straight of it?"
Andy stood up and looked at Weary a minute. "How'd I make
Chip believe me enough to GO?" he countered. "Darn it,
everything looked all smooth sailing till I got back here to
the ranch and the boys come at me with that same old smart-
aleck brand uh talk. I kinda forgot how I've lied to 'em and
fooled 'em right along till they duck every time I open my
face." His eyes were too full of trouble to encourage levity
in his listener. "You remember that time the boys' rode off
and left me laying out here on the prairie with my leg
broke?" he went on dismally. "I'd rather have that happen to
me a dozen times than see 'em set back and give me the laugh
now, just when--Oh, hell!" He dropped the finished cinch and
walked moodily to the door. "Weary, if them dry-farmers come
flockin' in on us while this bunch stands around callin' me a
liar, I--" He did not attempt to finish the sentence; but
Weary, staring curiously at Andy's profile, saw a quivering
of the muscles around his lips and felt a responsive thrill
of sympathy and belief that rose above his long training in
Spite of past experience he believed, at that moment, every
word which Andy Green had uttered upon the subject of the
proposed immigration. He was about to tell Andy so, when Chip
walked unexpectedly out of Silver's stall and glanced from
Weary to Andy standing still in the doorway. Weary looked at
him enquiringly; for Chip must have heard every word they
said, and if Chip believed it--
"Have you got that plat with you, Andy?" Chip asked tersely
and with never a doubt in his tone.
Andy swung toward him like a prisoner who has just heard a
jury return a verdict of not guilty to the judge. "I've got
it, yes," he answered simply, with only his voice betraying
the emotions he felt--and his eye? "Want it?"
"I'll take a look at it, if it's handy," said Chip.
Andy felt in his inside coat pocket, drew out a thin, folded
map of that particular part of the county with all the
government land marked upon it, and handed it to Chip without
a word. He singled out a couple of pamphlets from a bunch of
old letters such as men are in the habit of carrying upon
their persons, and gave them to Chip also.
"That's a copy of the homestead and desert laws," he said.
"I guess you heard me telling Weary what kinda deal we're up
against, here. Better not say anything to the Old Man till
you have to; no use worrying him--he can't do nothing." It
was amazing, the change that had come over Andy's face and
manner since Chip first spoke. Now he grinned a little.
"If you want to go in on this deal," he said quizzically,
"maybe it'll be just as well if you talk to the bunch
yourself about it, Chip. You ain't any tin, angel, but I'm
willing to admit the boys'll believe you; a whole lot quicker
than they would me."
"Yes--and they'll probably hand me a bunch of pity for
getting stung by you," Chip retorted. "I'll take a chance,
anyway--but the Lord help you, Andy if you can't produce
proof when the time comes."
CHAPTER 5. THE HAPPY FAMILY TURN NESTERS
Say, Andy, where's them dry-farmers?" Big Medicine inquired
at the top of his voice when the Happy Family had reached the
biscuit-and-syrup stage of supper that evening.
"Oh, they're trying to make up their minds whether to bring
the old fannin'-mill along or sell it and buy new when they
get here," Andy informed him imperturbably. "The women-folks
are busy going through their rag bags, cutting the buttons
off all the pants that ain't worth patching no more, and
getting father's socks all darned up."
The Happy Family snickered appreciatively; this was more like
the Andy Green with whom they were accustomed to deal.
"What's daughter doin', about now?" asked Cal Emmett, fixing
his round, baby-blue stare upon Andy.
"Daughter? Why, daughter's leaning over the gate telling him
she wouldn't never LOOK at one of them wild cowboys--the
idea! She's heard all about 'em, and they're too rough and
rude for HER. And she's promising to write every day, and
giving him a lock of hair to keep in the back of his dollar
watch. Pass the cane Juice, somebody."
"Yeah--all right for daughter. If she's a good looker we'll
see if she don't change her verdict about cowboys."
"Who will? You don't call yourself one, do yuh?" Pink flung
at him quickly.
"Well, that depends; I know I ain't any LADY broncho--hey,
cut it out!" This last because of half a biscuit aimed
accurately at the middle of his face. If you want to know
why, search out the history of a certain War Bonnet Roundup,
wherein Pink rashly impersonated a lady broncho-fighter.
"Wher'e they going to live when they git here?" asked Happy
Jack, reverting to the subject of dry farmers.
"Close enough so you can holler from here to their back door,
my boy--if they have their say about it," Andy assured him
cheerfully. Andy felt that he could afford to be facetious
now that he had Chip and Weary on his side.
"Aw, gwan! I betche there ain't a word of truth in all that
scarey talk," Happy Jack fleered heavily.
"Name your bet. I'll take it." Andy filled his mouth with hot
biscuit and stirred up the sugar in his coffee like a man who
is occupied chiefly with the joys of the table.
"Aw, you ain't going to git me that way agin," Happy Jack
declared. "They's some ketch to it."
"There sure is, Happy. The biggest ketch you ever seen in
your life. It's ketch the Flying U outfit and squeeze the
life out of it; that's the ketch." Andy's tone had in it no
banter, but considerable earnestness. For, though Chip would
no doubt convince the boys that the danger was very real,
there was a small matter of personal pride to urge Andy into
trying to convince, them himself, without aid from Chip or
any one else.
"Well, by golly, I'd like to see anybody try that there
scheme," blurted Slim. "That's all--I'd just like to see 'em
TRY it once!"
"Oh, you'll see it, all right--and you won't have to wait
long, either. Just set around on your haunches a couple of
weeks or so. That's all you'll have to do, Slim; you'll see
it tried, fast enough."
Pink eyed him with a wide, purple glance. "You'd like to make
us fall for that, wouldn't you?" he challenged warily.
Andy gave him a level look. "No, I wouldn't. I'd like to put
one over on you smart gazabos that think you know it all; but
I don't want to bad enough to see the Flying U go outa
business just so I could holler didn't-I-tell-you. There's a
limit to what I'll pay for a, josh."
"Well," put in the Native Son with his easy drawl, "I'm
coming to the centre with my ante, just for the sake of
seeing the cards turned. Deal 'em out, amigo; state your case
once more, so we can take a good, square look at these dry-
"Yeah--go ahead and tell us what's bustin' the buttons off
your vest," Cal Emmett invited.
"What's the use?" Andy argued. "You'd all just raise up on
your hind legs and holler your heads off. You wouldn't DO
anything about it--not if you knew it was the truth!" This,
of course, was pure guile upon his part.
"Oh, wouldn't we? I guess, by golly, we'd do as much for the
outfit as what you would--and a hull lot more if it come to a
show-down." Slim swallowed the bait.
"Maybe you would, if you could take it out in talking,"
snorted Andy. "My chips are in. I've got three-hundred-and-
twenty acres picked out, up here, and I'm going to file on
'em before these damned nesters get off the train. Uh course,
that won't be more'n a flea bite--but I can make it
interesting for my next door neighbors, anyway; and every
flea bite helps to keep a dog moving, yuh know."
"I'll go along and use my rights," Weary offered suddenly and
seriously. "That'll make one section they won't get, anyway."
Pink gave him a startled look across the table. "You ain't
going to grab it, are yuh?" he demanded disappointedly.
"I sure am--if it's three-hundred-and-twenty acres of land
you mean. If I don't, somebody else will." He sighed
humorously. "Next summer you'll see me hoeing spuds, most
likely--if the law says I GOT to."
"Haw-haw-haw-w!" laughed Big Medicine suddenly. "It'd sure be
worth the price, jest to ride up and watch you two marks down
on all fours weedin' onions." He laughed again with his big,
"We don't have to do anything like that if we don't want to,"
put in Andy Green calmly. "I've been reading up on the law.
There's one little joker in it I've got by heart. It says
that homestead land can be used for grazing purposes if it's
more valuable for pasture than for crops, and that actual
grazing will be accepted instead of cultivation--if it is
grazing land. So--"
"I betche you can't prove that," Happy lack interrupted him.
"I never heard of that before--"
"The world's plumb full of things you never heard of, Happy,"
Andy told him witheringly. "I gave Chip my copy of the
homestead laws, and a plat of the land up here; soon as he
hands 'em back I can show you in cold print where it says
that very identical thing.
"That's what makes it look good to me, just on general
principles," he went on, his honest, gray eyes taking in the
circle of attentive faces. "If the bunch of us could pool our
interests and use what rights we got, we can corral about
four thousand acres--and we can head off outsiders from
grazing in the Badlands, if we take our land right. We've
been overlooking a bet, and don't you forget it. We've been
fooling around, just putting in our time and drawing wages,
when we could be owning our own grazing land by now and
shipping our own cattle, if we had enough sense to last us
"A-course, I ain't crazy about turning nester, myself--but
we've let things slide till we've got to come through or get
outa the game. It's a fact, boys, about them dry-farmers
coming in on us. That Minneapolis bunch that the blonde lady
works for is sending out a colony of farmers to take up this
land between here and the Bear Paws. The lady tipped her
hand, not knowing where I ranged and thinking I wouldn't be
interested in anything but her. She's a real nice lady, too,
and goodlooking--but a grafter to her last eye winker. And
she hit too close home to suit me, when she named the place
where they're going to dump their colony."
"Where does the graft come in?" inquired Pink cautiously.
"The farmers get the land, don't they?"
"Sure, they get the land. And they pungle up a good-sized fee
to Florence Grace Hallman and her outfit, for locating 'em.
Also there's side money in it, near as I can find out. They
skin the farmers somehow on the fare out here. That's their
business, according to the lady. They prowl around through
the government plats till they spot a few thousand acres of
land in a chunk; they take a look at it, maybe, and then they
boom it like hell, and get them eastern marks hooked--them
with money, the lady said. Then they ship a bunch out here,
locate 'em on the land and leave it up to THEM, whether they
scratch a living or not. She said they urge the rubes to
bring all the stock they can, because there's plenty of range
left. She says they play that up big. You can see for
yourself how that'll work out, around here!"
Pink eyed him attentively, and suddenly his dimples stood
deep. "All right, I'm It," he surrendered.
"It'd be a sin not to fall for a yarn like that, Andy. I
expect you made it all up outa your own head, but that's all
right. It's a pleasure to be fooled by a genius like you.
I'll go raising turnips and cabbages myself."
By golly, you couldn't raise nothing but hell up on that dry
bench," Slim observed ponderously. "There ain't any water.
What's the use uh talking foolish?"
"They're going to tackle it, just the same," Andy pointed out
"Well, by golly, if you ain't just lyin' to hear yourself,
that there graftin' bunch had oughta be strung up!"
"Sure, they had. Nobody's going to argue about that. But
seeing we can't do that, the next best thing is to beat them
to it. If they came out here with their herd of pilgrims and
found the land all took up--" Andy smiled hypnotically upon
the goggling group.
"Haw-haw-haw-w!" bawled Big Medicine. "It'd be wuth it, by
"Yeah--it would, all right. If that talk Andy's been giving
us is straight, about grazing the land instead uh working
"You can mighty quick find out," Andy retorted. "Go up and
ask Chip for them land laws, and that plat. And ask him what
he thinks about the deal. You don't have to take my word for
it." Andy grinned virtuously and pushed back his chair. From
their faces, and the remarks they had made, he felt very
confident of the ultimate decision. "What about you, Patsy?"
he asked suddenly, turning to the bulky, bald German cook who
was thumping bread dough in a far corner. "You got any
homestead or desert rights you ain't used?"
"Py cosh, I got all der rights dere iss," Patsy returned
querulously. "I got more rights as you shmartys. I got
soldier's rights mit fightin'. Und py cosh, I use him too if
dem fellers coom by us mit der dry farms alreatty!"
"Well, you son-of-a-gun!" Andy smote him elatedly upon a fat
shoulder. "What do you know about old Patsy for a dead game
sport? By gracious, that makes another three hundred and
twenty to the good. Gee, it's lucky this bunch has gone along
turning up their noses at nesters and thinkin' they couldn't
be real punchers and hold down claims too. If any of us had
had sense enough to grab a piece of land and settle down to
raise families, we'd be right up against it now. We'd have to
set back and watch a bunch of down-east rubes light down on
us like flies on spilt molasses, and we couldn't do a thing."
"As it is, we'll all turn nesters for the good of the cause!"
finished Pink somewhat cynically, getting up and following
Cal and Slim to the door.
"Aw, I betche they's some ketch to it!" gloomed Happy Jack.
"I betche Andy jest wants to see us takin' up claims on that
dry bench, and then set back and laugh at us fer bitin' on
"Well, you'll have the claims, won't you. And if you hang
onto them there'll be money in the deal some day. Why, darn
your bomb-proof skull, can't you get it into your system that
all this country's bound to settle up?" Andy's eyes snapped
angrily. "Can't you see the difference between us owning the
land between here and the mountains, and a bunch of outsiders
that'll cut it all up into little fields and try to farm it.
If you can't see that, you better go hack a hole in your head
with an axe, so an idea can squeeze in now and then when you
"Well, I betche there ain't no colony comin' to settle that
there bench," Happy Jack persisted stubbornly.
"Yes there is, by cripes!" trumpeted Big Medicine behind him.
"Yes there is! And that there colony is goin' to be us, and
don't you forget it. It's time I was doin' somethin' fer that
there boy uh mine, by cripes! And soon as we git that fence
strung I'm goin' to hit the trail fer the nearest land
office. Honest to grandma, if Andy's lyin' it's goin' to be
the prof't'blest lie HE ever told, er anybody else. I don't
care a cuss about whether them dry-farmers is fixin' to light
here or not. That there land-pool looks good to ME, and I'm
comin' in on it with all four feet!"
Big Medicine was nothing less than a human land slide when
once he threw himself into anything, be it a fight or a
frolic. Now ho blocked the way to the door with his broad
shoulders and his big bellow and his enthusiasm, and his
pale, frog-like eyes fixed their protruding stare accusingly
upon the reluctant ones.
"Cal, you git up there and git that plat and bring it here,"
he ordered. "And fer criminy sakes git that table cleared
off, Patsy, so's't we kin have a place to lay it! What's
eatin' on you fellers, standin' around like girls to a party,
waitin' fer somebody to come up and ast you to dance! Ain't
you got head enough to see what a cinch we got, if we only
got sense enough to play it! Honest to grandma you make me
sick to look at yuh! Down in Conconino County the boys
wouldn't stand back and wait to be purty-pleased into a thing
like this. You're so scared Andy's got a josh covered up
somewheres, you wouldn't take a drink uh whisky if he ast yuh
up to the bar! You'd pass up a Chris'mas turkey, by cripes,
if yuh seen Andy washin' his face and lookin' hungry!
What further reproach he would have heaped upon them was
interrupted by Chip, who opened the door just then and bumped
Big Medicine in the back. In his hand Chip carried the land
plat and the pamphlets, and in his keen, brown eyes he
carried the light of battle for his outfit. The eyes of Andy
Green sent bright glances from him to Big Medicine, and on to
the others. He was too wise then to twit those others with
their unbelief. His wisdom went farther than that; for he
remained very much in the background of the conversation and
contented himself with answering, briefly and truthfully, the
questions they put to him about Florence Grace Hallman and
the things she had so foolishly divulged concerning her
Chip spread the plat upon an end of the table hastily and
effectually cleared by a sweep of Big Medicine's arm, and the
Happy Family crowded close to stare down at the checker-board
picture of their own familiar bench land. They did not doubt,
now--nor did they Hang back reluctantly. Instead they
followed eagerly the trail Chip's cigarette-yellowed finger
took across the map, and they listened intently to what he
said about that trail.
The clause about grazing the land, he said, simplified
matters a whole lot. It was a cinch you couldn't turn loose
and dry-farm that land and have even a fair chance of reaping
a harvest. But as grazing land they could hold all the land
along One Man Creek--and that was a lot. And the land lying
back of that, and higher up toward the foothills, they could
take as desert. And he maintained that Andy had been right in
his judgment: If they all went into it and pulled together
they could stretch a line of claims that would protect the
Badland grazing effectually.
"I wouldn't ask you fellows to go into this," said Chip,
straightening from his stooping over the map and looking from
one sober face to another, "just to help the outfit. But
it'll be a good thing for you boys. It'll give you a
foothold--something better than wages, if you stay with your
claims and prove up. Of course, I can't say anything about us
buying out your claims--that's fraud, according to Hoyle; but
you ain't simple-minded--you know your land won't be begging
for a buyer, in case you should ever want to sell.
"There's another thing. This will not only head off the dry-
farmers from overstocking what little range is left--it'll
make a dead-line for sheep, too. We've been letting 'em graze
back and forth on the bench back here beyond our leased land,
and not saying much, so long as they didn't crowd up too
close, and kept going. With all our claims under fence, do
you realize what that'll mean for the grass?"
"Josephine! There's feed for considerable stock, right over
there on our claims, to say nothing of what we'll cover,"
"I'd tell a man! And if we get water on the desert claims--"
Chip grinned down at him. "See what we've been passing up,
all this time. We've had some of it leased, of course--but
that can't be done again. There's been some wire-pulling, and
because we ain't politicians we got turned down when the Old
Man wanted to renew the lease. I can see now why it was,
maybe. This dry-farm business had something to do with it, if
you ask me."
"Gee whiz! And here we've been calling Andy a liar," sighed
"Aw, jest because he happened to tell the truth once, don't
cut no ice," Happy Jack maintained with sufficient ambiguity
to avert the natural consequences.
"Of course, it won't be any gold-mine," Chip added
dispassionately. "But it's worth picking up, all right; and
if it'll keep out a bunch of tight-fisted settlers that don't
give a darn for anything but what's inside their own fence,
that's worth a lot, too."
"Say, my dad's a farmer," Pink declared defiantly in his soft
treble." And while I think of it, them eastern farmers ain't
so worse--not the brand I've seen, anyway. They're narrow,
maybe--but they're human. Damn it, you fellows have got to
quit talking about 'em as if they were blackleg stock or
grasshoppers or something."
"We ain't saying nothing aginst farmers AS farmers, Little
One" Big Medicine explained forebearingly. "As men, and as
women, and as kids, they're mighty nice folks. My folks have
got an eighty-acre farm in Wisconsin," he confessed
unexpectedly, "and I think a pile of 'em. But if they was to
come out here, trying to horn in on our range, I'd lead 'em
gently to the railroad, by cripes, and tell 'em goodbye
so's't they'd know I meant it! Can't yuh see the difference?"
he bawled, goggling at Pink with misleading savageness in his
"Oh, I see," Pink admitted mildly. "I only just wanted to
remind you fellows that I don't mean anything personal and I
don't want you to. Say, what about One Man Coulee?" he asked
suddenly. "That's marked vacant on the map. I always
"Sure, you did!" Chip grinned at him wisely, "because we used
it for a line camp, you thought we owned a deed to it. Well,
we don't. We had that land leased, is all."
"Say, by golly, I'll file on that, then," Slim declared
selfishly. For One Man coulee, although a place of gruesome
history, was also desirable for one or two reasons. There was
wood, for instance, and water, and a cabin that was
habitable. There was also a fence on the place, a corral and
a small stable. "If Happy's ghost don't git to playin' music
too much," he added with his heavy-handed wit.
"No, sir! You ain't going to have One Man coulee unless Andy,
here, says he don't want it!" shouted Big Medicine. "I leave
it to Chip if Andy hadn't oughta have first pick. He's the
feller that's put us onto this, by cripes, and he's the
feller that's going to pick his claim first."
Chip did not need to sanction that assertion. The whole Happy
Family agreed unanimously that it should be so, except Slim,
who yielded a bit unwillingly.
Till midnight and after, they bent heads over the plat and
made plans for the future and took no thought whatever of the
difficulties that might lie before them. For the coming
colony they had no pity, and for the balked schemes of the
Homeseekers' Syndicate no compunctions whatever.
So Andy Green, having seen his stratagem well on the way to
success, and feeling once more the well-earned confidence of
his fellows, slept soundly that night in his own bed,
serenely sure of the future.
CHAPTER 6. THE FIRST BLOW IN THE FIGHT
Letters went speeding to Irish and Jack Bates, absent members
of the Happy Family of the Flying U; letters that explained
the situation with profane completeness, set forth briefly
the plan of the proposed pool, and which importuned them to
come home or make haste to the nearest land-office and file
upon certain quarter-sections therein minutely described.
Those men who would be easiest believed wrote and signed the
letters, and certain others added characteristic postscripts
best calculated to bring results.
After that, the Happy Family debated upon the boldness of
going in a body to Great Falls to file upon their claims, or
the caution of proceeding instead to Glasgow where the next
nearest land-office might be found. Slim and Happy Jack
favored caution and Glasgow. The others sneered at their
timidity, as they were wont to do.
"Yuh think Florence Grace Hallman is going to stand guard
with a six-gun?" Andy challenged at last." She's tied up
till her colony gets there. She can't file on all that land
herself, can she?" He smiled reminiscently. "The lady asked
me to come up to the Falls and see her," he said softly. "I'm
going. The rest of you can take the same train, I reckon--she
won't stop you from it, and I won't. And who's to stop you
from filing? The land's there, open for settlement. At least
it was open, day before yesterday.
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