The Flying U's Last Stand
B. M. Bower
Part 2 out of 5
"Well, by golly, the sooner we go the better," Slim declared
fussily. "That fencin' kin wait. We gotta go and git back
before Chip wants to start out the wagons, too."
"Listen here, hombres," called the Native Son from the
window, where he had been studying the well-thumbed pamphlet
containing the homestead law. "If we want to play dead safe
on this, we all better quit the outfit before we go. Call for
our time. I don't like the way some of this stuff reads."
"I don't like the way none of it reads," grumbled Happy Jack.
"I betche we can't make it go; they's some ketch to it. We'll
never git a patent. I'll betche anything yuh like."
"Well, pull out of the game, then!" snapped Andy Green, whose
nerves were beginning to feel the strain put upon them.
"I ain't in it yet," said Happy Jack sourly, and banged the
door shut upon his departure.
Andy scowled and returned to studying the map. Finally he
reached for his hat and gloves in the manner of one who has
definitely made up his mind to some thing.
"Well, the rest of you can do as you darned please," he
delivered his ultimatum from the doorway. "I'm going to catch
up my horse, draw a month's wages and hit the trail. I can
catch the evening train to the Falls, easy, and be ready to
file on my chunk first thing in the morning."
"Ain't in any rush, are yuh?" Pink inquired facetiously. "If
I had my dinner settled and this cigarette smoked, I might go
along--provided you don't take the trail with yuh."
"Hold on, boys, and listen to this," the Native Son called
out imperatively. "I think we better get a move on, too; but
we want to get a fair running start, and not fall over this
hump. Listen here! We've got to swear that it is not for the
benefit of any other person, persons or corporation, and so
on; and farther along it says we must not act in collusion
with any person, persons or corporation, to give them the
benefit of the land. There's more of the same kind, too, but
"Well, who's acting in collusion? What's collusion mean
anyhow?" Slim demanded aggressively.
"It means what we're aiming to do--if anybody could prove it
on us," explained the Native Son. "My oldest brother's a
lawyer, and I caught some of it from him. And my expert,
legal advice is this: to get into a row with the Old Man,
maybe--anyway, quit him cold, so we get our time. We must let
that fact percolate the alleged brains of Dry Lake and
vicinity--and if we give any reason for taking claims right
under the nose of the Flying U, why, we're doing it to spite
the Old Man. Sabe? Otherwise we're going to have trouble--
unless that colony scheme is just a pipe dream of Andy's."
The Happy Family had learned to respect the opinions of the
Native Son, whose mixture of Irish blood with good Castilian
may have had something to do with his astuteness. Once, as
you may have heard, the Native Son even scored in a battle of
wits with Andy Green, and scored heavily. And he had helped
Andy pull the Flying U out of an extremely ticklish
situation, by his keen wit saving the outfit much trouble and
money. Wherefore they heeded now his warning to the extent of
unsmilingly discussing the obstacle he had pointed out to
them. One after another they read the paragraph which they
had before passed over too hastily, and sensed the
possibilities of its construction. Afterward they went into
serious consultation as to ways and means, calling Happy Jack
back so that he might understand thoroughly what must be
done. For the Happy Family was nothing if not thorough, and
their partisanship that had been growing insensibly stronger
through the years was roused as it had not been since Dunk
Whittaker drove sheep in upon the Flying U.
The Old Man, having eaten a slice of roast pork the size of
his two hands, in defiance of his sister's professional
prohibition of the indulgence, was sitting on the sunny side
of the porch trying to ignore the first uneasy symptoms of
indigestion. The Little Doctor had taken his pipe away from
him that morning, and had badgered him into taking a certain
decoction whose taste lingered bitterly. The paper he was
reading was four days old and he disagreed with its political
policy, and there was no telling when anyone would have time
to go in after the mail and his favorite paper. Ranch work
was growing heavier each year in proportion to the lightening
of range work. He was going to sow another twenty acres of
alfalfa, and to do that he must cut down the size of his
pasture--something that always went against the grain. He had
not been able to renew his lease of government land,--which
also went against the grain. And the Kid, like the last
affliction which the Lord sent unto Job--I've forgotten
whether that was boils or the butchery of his offspring--came
loping down the length of the porch and kicked the Old Man's
bunion with a stubby boot-toe.
Thus was born the psychological moment when the treachery of
the Happy Family would cut deepest.
They came, bunched and talking low-voiced together with
hatbrims hiding shamed eyes, a type-true group of workers
bearing a grievance. Not a man was absent--the Happy Family
saw to that! Even Patsy, big and sloppy and bearing with him
stale kitchen odors, limped stolidly in the rear beside Slim,
who looked guilty as though he had been strangling somebody's
The Old Man, bent head-foremost over his growing paunch that
he might caress his outraged bunion, glared at them with
belligerent curiosity from under his graying eyebrows. The
group came on and stopped short at the steps--and I don't
suppose the Happy Family will ever look such sneaks again
whatever crime they may commit. The Old Man straightened with
a grunt of pain because of his lame back, and waited. Which
made it all the harder for the Happy Family, especially for
Andy Green who had been chosen spokesman--for his sins
"We'd like our time," blurted Andy after an unpleasant
silence, and fixed his eyes frigidly upon the lowest rung of
the Old Man's chair.
"Oh, you would, hunh? The whole bunch of yuh?" The Old Man
eyed them incredulously.
"Yes, the whole bunch of us. We're going to quit."
The Old Man's jaw dropped a little, but his eyes didn't waver
from their Hangdog faces. "Well, I never coaxed a man to stay
yet," he stated grimly, "and I'm gittin' too old in the
business to start coaxin' now. Dell!" He turned stiffly in
his chair so that he faced the open door. "Bring me my time
and check books outa the desk!"
A gray hardness came slowly to the Old Man's face while he
waited, his seamed hands gripping the padded arms of his
chair. A tightness pulled at his lips behind the grizzled
whiskers. It never occurred to him now that the Happy Family
might be perpetrating one of their jokes. He had looked at
their faces, you see. They meant to quit him--quit him cold
just as spring work was beginning. They were ashamed of
themselves, of course; they had a right to be ashamed, he
thought bitterly. It hurt--hurt so that he would have died
before he would ask for excuse, reason, grievance,
explanation--for whatever motive impelled them. So he waited,
and he gripped the arms of his chair, and he clamped his
mouth shut and did not speak a word.
The Happy Family had expected him to swear at them stormily;
to accuse them of vile things; to call them such names as his
memory could seize upon or his ingenuity invent. They had
been careful to prepare a list of plausible reasons for
leaving then. They had first invented a gold rumor that they
hoped would sound convincing, but Andy had insisted upon
telling him straightforwardly that they did not favor fence-
building and ditch-digging and such back-breaking toil; that
they were range men and they demanded range work or none;
that if they must dig ditches and build fences and perform
like menial tasks, they preferred doing it for themselves.
"That," said Andy, "makes us out such dirty, low-down sons-
of-guns we'd have to climb a tree to look a snake in the eye,
but it's got the grain of truth that'll make it go down. We
DON'T love this farming graft, and the Old Man knows it. He's
heard us kicking often enough. That's where it'll git him.
He'll believe this last stretch of fence is what made us
throw him down, and he'll be so mad he'll cuss us out till
the neighbors'll think the smoke's a prairie fire. We'll get
our time, all right' and the things he'll say will likely
make us so hot we can all talk convincing when we hit town.
Keep a stiff upper lip, boys. We got to do it, and he'll make
us mad, so it won't be as hard as you imagine."
The theory was good, and revealed a knowledge of human nature
that made one cease to wonder why Andy was a prince of
convincing liars. The theory was good--nothing in the world
was the matter with it, except that in this particular
instance it did not work. The Old Man did not ask for their
reasons, excuses or explanations. Neither did he say anything
or do anything to make them mad. He just sat there, with his
face gray and hard, and said nothing at all.
The Little Doctor appeared with the required books and a
fountain pen; saw the Happy Family standing there like
condemned men at the steps; saw the Old Man's face, and
trembled wide-eyed upon the verge of speech. Then she decided
that this was no time for questioning and hurried, still wide
of eye, away from sight of them. The Happy Family did not
look at one another--they looked chiefly at the wall of the
The Old Man reckoned the wages due each one, and wrote a
check for the exact amount. And he spoke no word that did not
intimately concern the matter in hand. He still had that
gray, hard look in his face that froze whatever explanation
they would otherwise have volunteered. And when he handed the
last man--who was Patsy--his check, he got up stiffly and
turned his back on them, and went inside and closed the door
while yet they lingered, waiting to explain.
At the bunk-house, whence they walked silently, Slim turned
suddenly upon their leader. His red face had gone a sallow
white, and the whites of his eyes were veined with red.
"If that there land business falls down anywhere because you
lied to us, Andy Green' I'll kill you fer this" he stated
"If it Does, Slim, I'll stand and let yuh shoot me as full of
lead as you like," Andy promised, in much the same tone. Then
he strove to shake off the spell of the Old Man's stricken
silence. "Buck up, boys. He'll thank us for what we aim to
do--when he knows all about it."
"Well, it seems to me," sighed Weary lugubriously, "we mighta
managed it without hitting the Old Man a wallop in the back,
"How'n hell did I know he'd take it the way he did?" Andy
questioned sharply, and began throwing his personal
belongings into his "war-bag" as if he had a grudge against
his own clothes.
"Aw, looks to me like he was glad to git shet of us!"
grumbled Happy Jack. "I betche he's more tickled than sorry,
It was an exceedingly unhappy Family that rode up the Hog's
Back upon their private mounts, and away from the Flying U;
in spite of Chip's assurance that he would tell the Old Man
all about it as soon as he could, it was an ill-humored
Family that rode into Dry Lake and cashed their several
checks at the desk of the General store which also did an
informal banking business, and afterwards took the train for
The news spread through the town that old J. G. Whitmore had
fired the Happy Family in a bunch for some unforgivable crime
against the peace and dignity of the outfit, and that the
boys were hatching up some scheme to get even. From the
gossip that was rolled relishfully upon the tongues of the
Dry Lake scandal lovers, the Happy Family must have been more
than sufficiently convincing.
CHAPTER 7. THE COMING OF THE COLONY
If you would see northern Montana at its most beautiful best,
you should see it in mid-May when the ground-swallows are
nesting and the meadow larks are puffing their throats and
singing of their sweet ecstasy with life; when curlews go
sailing low over the green, grassy billows, peering and
perking with long bills thrust rapier-wise through the sunny
stillness, and calling shrilly, "Cor-r-ECK, cor-r-eck!"--
which, I take it, is simply their opinion of world and
weather given tersely in plain English. You should see the
high prairies then, when all the world is a-shimmer with
green velvet brocaded brightly in blue and pink and yellow
flower-patterns; when the heat waves go quivering up to meet
the sun, so that the far horizons wave like painted drop-
scenes stirred by a breeze; when a hypnotic spell of peace
and bright promises is woven over the rangeland--you should
see it then, if you would love it with a sweet unreason that
will last you through all the years to come.
The homeseekers' Syndicate, as represented by Florence Grace
Hallman--she of the wheat-yellow hair and the tempting red
lips and the narrow, calculating eyes and stubborn chin--did
well to wait for the spell of the prairies when the wind
flowers and the lupines blue the hillsides and the new grass
paints green the hollows.
There is in us all a deep-rooted instinct to create, and
never is that instinct so nearly dominant as in the spring
when the grass and the flowers and the little, new leaves and
the birds all sing the song of Creation together. Then is
when case-hardened city dwellers study the bright array of
seed-packets in the stores, and meditate rashly upon the
possibilities of back-yard gardening. Then is when the
seasoned country-dwellers walk over their farms in the sunset
and plan largely for harvest time. Then is when the salaried-
folk read avidly the real-estate advertisements, and pore
optimistically over folders and dream of chicken ranches and
fruit ranches and the like. Surely, then, the homeseekers'
Syndicate planned well the date of their excursion into the
land of large promise (and problematical fulfillment) which
lay east of Dry Lake.
Rumors of the excursion seeped through the channels of gossip
and set the town talking and chuckling and speculating--after
the manner of very small towns.
Rumors grew to definite though erroneous statements of what
was to take place. Definite statements became certified facts
that bore fruit in detailed arrangements.
Came Florence Grace Hallman smilingly from Great Falls, to
canvass the town for "accommodations." Florence Grace Hallman
was a capable woman and a persuasive one, though perhaps a
shade too much inclined to take certain things for granted--
such as Andy's anchored interest in her and her project, and
the probability of the tract remaining just as it had been
when last she went carefully over the plat in the land
office. Florence Grace Hallman had been busy arranging the
details of the coming of the colony, and she had neglected to
visit the land office lately. Since she cannily represented
the excursion as being merely a sight-seeing trip--or some
such innocuous project--she failed also to receive any
inkling of recent settlements.
On a certain sunny morning in mid-May, the Happy Family stood
upon the depot platform and waited for the westbound
passenger, that had attached to it the special car of the
homeseekers' Syndicate. The Happy Family had been very busy
during the past three weeks. They had taken all the land they
could, and had sighed because they could still look from
their claims upon pinnacles as yet unclaimed save by the
government. They had done well. From the south line of
Meeker's land in the very foothills of the Bear Paws, to the
north line of the Flying U, the chain of newly-filed claims
remained unbroken. It had taken some careful work upon the
part of the Happy Family to do this and still choose land not
absolutely worthless except from a scenic viewpoint. But they
had managed it, with some bickering and a good deal of
maneuvering. Also they had hauled loads of lumber from Dry
Lake, wherewith to build their monotonously modest ten-by-
twelve shacks with one door and one window apiece and a round
hole in the roof big enough for a length of stove-pipe to
thrust itself aggressively into the open and say by its smoke
signal whether the owner was at home. And now, having heard
of the mysterious excursion due that day, they had come to
see just what would take place.
"She's fifteen minutes late," the agent volunteered,
thrusting his head through the open window. "Looking for
"Andy is," Pink informed him cheerfully. "The rest of us are
just hanging around through sympathy. It's his girl coming."
"Well, I guess he thinks he needs a housekeeper now," the
agent grinned. "Why don't you fellows get busy now and rustle
"Girls don't like to cook over a camp-fire," Cal Emmett told
him soberly. "We kinda thought we ought to build our shacks
"You can pick you out some when the train gets in," said the
agent, accepting a match from Weary. "There's a carload of--"
He pulled in his head hurriedly and laid supple fingers on
the telegraph key to answer a call, and the Happy Family
moved down to the other end of the platform where there was
The agent presently appeared pushing the truck of outgoing
express, a cheap trunk and a basket "telescope" belonging to
one of the hotel girls--who had quit her job and was sitting
now inside waiting for the train and seeing what she could of
the Flying U boys through the window--and the mail sack. He
placed the truck where the baggage car would come to a halt,
stood for a minute looking down the track where a smudge of
smoke might at any moment be expected to show itself over the
low ridge of a hill, glanced at the lazy group in the patch
of shade and went back into the office.
"There's her smoke," Cal Emmett announced in the midst of an
Weary looked up from whittling a notch in the end of a
platform plank and closed his jack-knife languidly.
Andy pushed his hat backward and then tilted it forward over
one eyebrow and threw away his cigarette.
"Wonder if Florence Grace will be riding point on the bunch?"
he speculated aloud. "If she is, I'm liable to have my hands
full. Florence Grace will sure be sore when she finds out how
I got into the game."
"Aw, I betche there ain't no such a person," said Happy Jack,
doubter to the last.
"I wish there wasn't," sighed Andy. "Florence Grace is kinda
getting on my nerves. If I done what I feel like doing, I'd
crawl under the platform and size up the layout through a
crack. Honest to gracious, Boys, I hate to meet that lady."
They grinned at him heartlessly and stared at the black
smudge that was rolling toward them. "She's sure hittin' her
up," Pink vouchsafed with a certain tenseness of tone. That
train was not as ordinary trains; dimly they felt that it was
relentlessly bringing them trouble, perhaps; certainly a
problem--unless the homeseekers hovered only so long as it
took them to see that wisdom lay in looking elsewhere for a
"If this was August instead of May, I wouldn't worry none
about them pilgrims staying long," Jack Bates voiced the
thought that was uppermost in their minds.
"There comes two livery rigs to haul 'em to the hotel," Pink
pointed out as he glanced toward town. And there's another
one. Johnny told me every room they've got is spoke for, and
two in every bed."
"That wouldn't take no crowd," Happy Jack grumbled,
remembering the limitations of Dry Lake's hotel. "Here come
Chip and the missus. Wonder what they want?"
The Little Doctor left Chip to get their tickets and walked
quickly toward them.
"Hello, boys! Waiting for someone, or just going somewhere?"
"Waiting. Same to you, Mrs. Chip," Weary replied.
"To me? Well, we're going up to make our filings. Claude
won't take a homestead, because we'll have to stay on at the
Flying U, of course, and we couldn't hold one. But we'll both
file desert claims. J. G. hasn't been a bit well, and I
didn't dare leave him before--and of course Claude wouldn't
go till I did. That the passenger coming, or a freight?"
"It's the train--with the dry-farmers," Andy informed her
with a glance at the nearing smoke-smudge.
"Is it? We aren't any too soon then, are we? I left Son at
home--and he threatened to run away and live with you boys. I
almost wish I'd brought him along. He's been perfectly awful.
So have the men Claude hired to take your places, if you want
to know, boys. I believe that is what made J. G. sick--having
those strange men on the place. He's been like a bear."
"Didn't Chip tell him--"
"He did, yes. He told him right away, that evening. But--
J. G. has such stubborn ideas. We couldn't make him believe
that anyone would be crazy enough to take up that land and
try to make a living farming it. He--" She looked sidewise at
Andy and pursed her lips to Keep from smiling.
"He thinks I lied about it, I suppose," said that young man
"That's what he says. He pretends that you boys meant to
quit, and just thought that up for an excuse. He'll be all
right--you mustn't pay any attention--"
"Here she comes!"
A black nose thrust through a Deep cut that had a curve to
it. At their feet the rails began to hum. The Little Doctor
turned hastily to see if Chip were coming. The agent came out
with a handful of papers and stood waiting with the rest.
Stragglers moved quickly, and the discharged waitress
appeared and made eyes covertly at Pink, whom she considered
the handsomest one of the lot.
The train slid up, slowed and stopped. Two coaches beyond the
platform a worried porter descended and placed the box-step
for landing passengers, and waited. From that particular
coach began presently to emerge a fluttering, exclaiming
stream of humanity--at first mostly feminine. They hovered
there upon the cindery path and lifted their faces to watch
for others yet to come, and the babble of their voices could
be, heard above the engine sounds.
The Happy Family looked dumbly at one another and drew back
closer to the depot wall.
"Aw, I knowed there was some ketch to it!" blurted Happy Jack
with dismal satisfaction. "That there ain't no colony--It's
nothin' but a bunch of schoolma'ams!"
"That lady ridin' point is the lady herself," Andy murmured,
edging behind Weary and Pink as the flutter came closer.
"That's Florence Grace Hallman, boys."
"Well, by golly, git out and speak your little piece, then!"
muttered Slim, and gave Andy an unexpected push that sent him
staggering out into the open just as the leaders were coming
"Why, how de do, Mr. Green!" cried the blonde leader of the
flock. "This is an unexpected pleasure, I'm sure."
"Yes ma'am, it is," Andy assented mildly, with an eye cocked
sidewise in search of the guilty man.
The blonde leader paused, her flock coming to a fluttering,
staring stand behind her. The nostrils of the astonished
Happy Family caught a mingled odor of travel luncheons and
"Well, where have you been, Mr. Green? Why didn't you come
and see me?" demanded Florence, Grace Hallman in the tone of
one who has a right to ask leading questions. Her cool,
brown, calculating eyes went appraisingly over the Happy
Family while she spoke.
"I've been right around here, all the time," Andy gave meek
account of himself. "I've been busy."
"Oh. Did you go over the tract, Mr. Green?" she lowered her
"Yes-s--I went over it."
"And what do you think of it--privately?"
"Privately--it's pretty big." Andy sighed. The bigness of
that tract had worried the Happy Family a good deal.
"Well, the bigger the better. You see I've got 'em started."
She flicked a glance backward at her waiting colony. "You men
are perfectly exasperating! Why didn't you tell me where you
were and what you were doing?" She looked up at him with
charming disapproval. "I feel like shaking you! I could have
made good use of you, Mr. Green."
"I was making pretty good use of myself," Andy explained, and
wished he knew who gave him that surreptitious kick on the
ankle. Did the chump want an introduction? Well! In that
"Miss Hallman, if you don't mind I'd like to introduce some
men I rounded up and brought here," he began before the Happy
Family could move out of the danger zone of his imagination.
"Representative citizens, you see. You can sic your bunch
onto 'em and get a lot of information. This is Mr. Weary
Davidson, Miss Hallman: He's a hayseed that lives out that
way and he talks spuds better than anything else. And here's
Slim--I don't know his right name--he raises hogs to a fare-
you-well. And this is Percy Perkins"--meaning Pink--"and
he's another successful dryfarmer. Goats is his trade. He's
got a lot of 'em. And Mr. Jack Bates, he raises peanuts--or
he's trying 'em this year--and has contracts to supply the
local market. Mr. Happy Jack is our local undertaker. He
wants to sell out if he can, because nobody ever dies in this
country and that makes business slow. He's thinking some of
starting a duck-ranch. This man--" indicating Big Medicine--"
has got the finest looking crop of volunteer wild oats in the
country. He knows all about 'em. Mr. Emmett, here, can put
you wise to cabbage-heads; that's his specialty. And Mr.
Miguel Rapponi is up here from Old Mexico looking for a
favorable location for an extensive rubber plantation. The
natural advantages here are simply great for rubber.
"I've gone to some trouble gathering this bunch together for
you, Miss Hallman. I don't reckon you knew there was that
many dry-farmers in the country. They've all got ranches of
their own, and the prettiest folders you ever sent under a
four-cent stamp can't come up to what these men can tell you.
Your bunch won't have to listen to one man, only--here's half
a dozen ready and waiting to talk."
Miss Hallman was impressed. A few of the closest homeseekers
she beckoned and introduced to the perspiring Happy Family--
mostly feminine homeseekers, of whom there were a dozen or
so. The men whom the hotel had sent down with rigs waited
impatiently, and the unintroduced male colonists stared at
the low rim of Lonesome Prairie and wondered if over there
lay their future prosperity.
When the Happy Family finally made their escape, red-faced
and muttering threats, Andy Green had disappeared, and no one
knew when he went or where. He was not in Rusty Brown's place
when the Happy Family went to that haven and washed down
their wrongs in beer. Pink made a hurried trip to the livery
stable and reported that Andy's horse was gone.
They were wondering among themselves whether he would have
the nerve to go home and await their coming--home at this
stage of the game meaning One Man coulee, which Andy had
taken as a homestead and desert claim and where the Happy
Family camped together until such time as their claim shacks
were habitable. Some thought that he was hiding in town, and
advised a thorough search before they took to their horses.
The Native Son--he of mixed Irish and Spanish blood--told
them with languid certainty that Andy was headed straight for
the camp because he would figure that in camp was where they
would least expect to find him.
The opinions of the Native Son were usually worth adopting.
In this case, however, it brought them into the street at the
very moment when Florence Grace Hallman and two homeseekers
had ventured from the hotel in search of them. Slim and Jack
Bates and Cal Emmett saw them in time and shied across the
street and into the new barber shop where they sat themselves
down and demanded unnecessary hair-cuts and a shampoo apiece,
and spied upon their unfortunate fellows through the window
while they waited; but the others met the women fairly since
it was too late to turn back without making themselves
"I was wondering," began Miss Hallman in her brisk, business
tone, "if some of you gentlemen could not help us out in the
matter of conveyances. I have made arrangements for most of
my guests, but we simply can't squeeze another one into the
rigs I have engaged--and I've engaged every vehicle in town
except a wheelbarrow I saw in the back yard of the hotel."
"How many are left out?" asked Weary, since no one else
showed any symptoms of speech.
"Oh, not many, thank goodness. Just us three here. You've met
Miss Allen, Mr. Davidson--and Miss Price. And so have you
other gentlemen, because I introduced you at the depot. I
went blandly ahead and told everybody just which rig they
were to ride in, and put three in a seat, at that, and in
counting noses I forgot to count our own--"
"I really don't see how she managed to overlook mine," sighed
Miss Allen, laying a dainty, gloved finger upon a nose that
had the tiniest possible tilt to it. "Nobody ever overlooked
my nose before; it's almost worth walking to the tract."
Irish, standing close beside Weary and looking enough like
him to be a twin instead of a mere cousin, smiled down at her
with traitorous admiration. Miss Allen's nose was a nice
nose, and above it twinkled a pair of warm brown eyes with
humorous little wrinkles , around them; and still above them
fluffed a kinky-curly mass of brown hair. Weary looked at her
also, but he did not smile, because she looked a little like
his own schoolma'am, Miss Ruty Satterly--and the resemblance
hurt a sore place in his heart.
"--So if any of you gentlemen could possibly take us out to
the tract, we'd be eternally grateful, besides keeping our
independence intact with the usual payment. Could you help us
"We all came in on horseback," Weary stated with a gentle
firmness that was intended to kill their hopes as painlessly
"Wouldn't there be room on behind?" asked Miss Allen with
hope still alive and flourishing.
"Lots of room," Weary assured her. "More room than you could
"But isn't there any kind of a rig that you could buy, beg,
borrow or steal?" Miss Hallman insisted. "These girls came
from Wisconsin to take up claims, and I've promised to see
that they get the best there is to be had. They are hustlers,
if I know what the word means. I have a couple of claims in
mind, that I want them to see--and that's why we three hung
back till the rest were all arranged for. I had a rig
promised that I was depending on, and at the last minute
discovered it was not to be had. Some doctor from Havre came
and got it for a trip into the hills. There's no use talking;
we just must get out to the tract as soon as the others do--a
little sooner wouldn't hurt. Couldn't you think of some way?"
"We'll try," Irish promised rashly, his eyes tying to meet
Miss Allen's and succeeding admirably.
"What has become of Mr. Green?" Miss Hallman demanded after
she had thanked Irish with a smile for the qualified
"We don't know,," Weary answered mildly. "We were trying to
locate him ourselves."
"Oh, were you? He seems a rather uncertain young man. I
rather counted on his assistance; he promised--"
"Mr. Irish has thought of a rig he can use, Miss Hallman,"
said the Allen girl suddenly. "He's going to drive us out
himself. Let's hurry and get ready, so we can start ahead of
the others. How many minutes will it take you, Mr. Irish, to
have that team here, for us?"
Irish turned red. He HAD thought of a rig, and he had thought
of driving them himself, but he could not imagine how Miss
Allen could possibly; have known his thoughts. Then and there
he knew who would occupy the other half of the front seat, in
case he did really drive the team he had in mind.
"I told you she's a hustler," laughed Miss Hallman. "She'll
be raising bigger crops than you men--give her a year to get
started. Well, girls, come on, then."
They turned abruptly away, and Irish was left to his
accounting with the Happy Family. He had not denied the
thoughts and intentions imputed to him by the twinkling-eyed
Miss Allen. They walked on toward the livery stable--where
was manifested an unwonted activity--waiting for Irish to
clear himself; which he did not do.
"You going to drive them women out there?" Pink demanded
after an impatient silence.
"Why not ? Somebody'll have to."
"What team are you going to use!" asked Jack Bates.
"Chip's" Irish did not glance around, but kept striding down
the middle of the road with his hands stuck deep in his
"Don't you think you need help, amigo?" the Native Son
insinuated craftily. "You can't talk to three girls at once;
I could be hired to go along and take one off your hands.
That should help some."
"Like hell you will!" Irish retorted with characteristic
bluntness. Then he added cautiously, "Which one?"
"That old girl with the blue eyes should not be permitted to
annoy the driver," drawled the Native Son. "Also, Florence
Grace might want some intelligent person to talk to."
"Well, I got my opinion of any man that'll throw in with that
bunch," Pink declared hotly. "Why don't you fellows keep your
own side the fence. What if they are women farmers? They can
do just as much harm--and a darn sight more. You make me
"Let 'em go," Weary advised calmly. "They'll be a lot sicker
when the ladies discover what they've helped do to that
bench-land. Come on, boys--let's pull out, away from all
these lunatics. I hate to see them get stung, but I don't see
what we can do about it--only, if they come around asking me
what I think of that land, I'm going to tell 'em."
"And then they'll ask you why you took claims up there, and
you'll tell 'em that, too--will you?" The Native Son turned
and smiled at him ironically.
That was it. They could not tell the truth without harming
their own cause. They could not do anything except stand
aside and see the thing through to whatever end fate might
decree. They thought that Irish and the Native Son were
foolish to take Chip's team and drive those women fifteen
miles or so that they might seize upon land much better left
alone; but that was the business of Irish and the Native Son,
who did not ask for the approval of the Happy Family before
doing anything they wanted to do.
The Happy Family saddled and rode back to the claims, gravely
discussing the potentialities of the future. Since they rode
slowly while they talked, they were presently overtaken by a
swirl of dust, behind which came the matched browns which
were the Flying U's crack driving team, bearing Irish and
Miss Allen of the twinkling eyes upon the front seat of a two
seated spring-wagon that had seen far better days than this.
Native Son helped to crowd the back seat uncomfortably, and
waved a hand with reprehensible cheerfulness as they went
The Happy Family stared after them with frowning disapproval,
and Weary turned in the saddle and looked ruefully at his
"Things won't ever be the same around here," he predicted
soberly. "There goes the beginning of the end of the Flying
U, boys--and we ain't big enough to stop it."
CHAPTER 8. FLORENCE GRACE HALLMAN SPEAKS PLAINLY
Andy Green rode thoughtfully up the trail from his cabin in
One Man coulee, his hat tilted to the south to shield his
face from the climbing sun, his eyes fixed absently upon the
yellow soil of the hillside. Andy was facing a problem that
concerned the whole Happy Family--and the Flying U as well.
He wanted Weary's opinion, and Miguel Rapponi's, and Pink's--
when it came to that, he wanted the opinion of them all.
Thus far the boys had been wholly occupied with getting their
shacks built and in rustling cooking outfits and getting
themselves settled upon their claims with an air of
convincing permanency. Also they had watched with keen
interest--which was something more vital than mere
curiosity--developments where the homeseekers were concerned,
and had not given very much thought to their next step,
except in a purely general way.
They all recognized the fact that, with all these new
settlers buzzing around hunting claims where there was some
promise of making things grow, they would have to sit very
tight indeed upon their own land if they would avoid trouble
with "jumpers." Not all the homeseekers were women. There
were men, plenty of them; a few of them were wholly lacking
in experience it is true, but perhaps the more greedy for
land because of their ignorance. The old farmers had looked
askance at the high, dry prairie land, where even drinking
water must be hauled in barrels from some deep-set creek
whose shallow gurgling would probably cease altogether when
the dry season came on the heels of June. The old farmers had
asked questions that implied doubt. They had wanted to know
about sub-soil, and average rainfall, and late frosts, and
markets. The profusely illustrated folders that used blue
print for emphasis here and there, seemed no longer to
The Happy Family did not worry much about the old farmers who
knew the game, but there were town men who had come to see
the fulfillment of their dreams; who had burned their
bridges, some of them, and would suffer much before they
would turn back to face the ridicule of their friends and the
disheartening task of getting; a fresh foothold in the wage-
market. These the Happy Family knew for incipient enemies
once the struggle for existence was fairly begun. And there
were the women--daring rivals of the men in their
fight for independence--who had dreamed dreams and raised up
ideals for which they would fight tenaciously. School-
teachers who hated the routine of the schools, and who wanted
freedom; who were willing to work and wait and forego the
little, cheap luxuries which are so dear to women; who would
cheerfully endure loneliness and spoiled complexions and
roughened hands and broken nails, and see the prairie winds
and sun wipe the sheen from their hair; who would wear
coarse, heavy-soled shoes and keep all their pretty finery
packed carefully away in their trunks with dainty sachet pads
for month after month, and take all their pleasure in
dreaming of the future; these would fight also to have and to
hold--and they would fight harder than the men, more
dangerously than the men, because they would fight
The Happy Family, then, having recognized these things and
having measured the fighting-element, knew that they were
squarely up against a slow, grim, relentless war if they
would save the Flying U. They knew that it was going to be a
pretty stiff proposition, and that they would have to obey
strictly the letter and the spirit of the land laws, or there
would be contests and quarrels and trouble without end.
So they hammered and sawed and fitted boards and nailed on
tar-paper and swore and jangled and joshed one another and
counted nickels--where they used to disdain counting anything
but results--and badgered the life out of Patsy because he
kicked at being expected to cook for the bunch just the same
as if he were in the Flying U mess-house. Py cosh, he
wouldn't cook for the whole country just because they were
too lazy to cook for themselves, and py cosh if they wanted
him to cook for them they could pay him sixty dollars a
month, as the Old Man did.
The Happy Family were no millionaires, and they made the fact
plain to Patsy to the full extent of their vocabularies. But
still they begged bread from him, a loaf at a time, and
couldn't see why he objected to making pie, if they furnished
the stuff. Why, for gosh sake, had they planted him in the
very middle of their string of claims, then? With a dandy
spring too, that never went dry except in the driest years,
and not more than seventy-five yards, at the outside, to
carry water. Up hill? Well, what of that? Look at Pink--had
to haul water half a mile from One Man Creek, and no trail.
Look at Weary--had to pack water twice as far as Patsy. And
hadn't they clubbed together and put up his darned shack
first thing, just so he COULD get busy and cook? What did the
old devil expect, anyway?
Well--you see that the Happy Family had been fully occupied
in the week since the arrival of the homeseekers' excursion.
They could not be expected to give very much thought to their
next steps. But there was Andy, who had only to move into the
cabin in One Man coulee, with a spring handy, and a stable
for his horse, and a corral and everything. Andy had not been
harassed with the house-building and settling, except as he
assisted the others. As fast as the shacks were up, the Happy
Family had taken possession, so that now Andy was alone,
stuck down there in the coulee out of sight of everybody.
Pink had once named One Man coulee as the lonesomest hole in
all that country, and he had not been far wrong. But at any
rate the lonesomeness had served one good purpose, for it had
started Andy to thinking out the details of their so called
land-pool. Now the thinking had borne fruit to the extent
that he felt an urgent need of the Happy Family in council
upon the subject.
As he topped at last the final rise which put him on a level
with the great undulating bench-land gashed here and there
with coulees and narrow gulches that gave no evidence of
their existence until one rode quite close, he lifted his
head and gazed about him half regretfully, half proudly. He
hated to see that wide upland dotted here and there with new,
raw buildings, which proclaimed themselves claim-shacks as
far a one could see them. Andy hated the sight of claim-
shacks with a hatred born of long range experience and the
vital interests of the cattleman. A claim-shack stuck out on
the prairie meant a barbed wire fence somewhere in the
immediate vicinity; and that meant a hindrance to the easy
handling of herds. A claim-shack meant a nester, and a nester
was a nuisance, with his plowed fields and his few head of
cattle that must be painstakingly weeded out of a herd to
prevent a howl going up to high heaven. Therefore, Andy Green
instinctively hated the sight of a shack on the prairie. On
the other hand, those shacks belonged to the Happy Family--
and that pleased him. From where he sat on his horse he could
count five in sight, and there were more hidden by ridges and
tucked away in hollows.
But there were others going up--shacks whose owners he did
not know. He scowled when he saw, on distant hilltops, the
yellow skeletons that would presently be fattened with boards
and paper and made the dwellingplace of interlopers. To be
sure, they had as much right to take government land as had
he or any of his friends--but Andy, being a normally selfish
person, did not think so.
From one partially built shack three quarters of a mile away
on a bald ridge which the Happy Family had passed up because
of its barrenness and the barrenness of the coulee on the
other side, and because no one was willing to waste even a
desert right on that particular eighty-acres, a team and
light buggy came swiftly toward him. Andy, trained to quick
thinking, was puzzled at the direction the driver was taking.
That eighty acres joined his own west line, and unless the
driver was lost or on the way to One Man coulee, there was no
reason whatever for coming this way.
He watched and saw that the team was comin' straight toward
him over the uneven prairie sod, and at a pace that
threatened damage to the buggy-springs. Instinctively Andy
braced himself in the saddle. At a half mile he knew the
team, and it did not require much shrewdness to guess at the
errand. He twitched the reins, turned his spurred heels
against his horse and went loping over the grassland to meet
the person who drove in such haste; and the probability that
he was meeting trouble halfway only sent him the more eagerly
Trouble met him with hard, brown eyes and corn yellow hair
blown in loose strands across cheeks roughened by the spring
winds and sun-glare of Montana. Trouble pulled up and twisted
sidewise in the seat and kicked the heads off some wild
larkspurs with her whip while her tongue flayed the soul of
Andy Green with sarcasm.
"Well, I have found out just how you helped me colonize this
tract, Mr. Green," she began with a hard inflection under the
smoothness of her voice. "I must compliment you upon your
promptness and thoroughness in the matter; for an amateur you
have made a remarkable showing--in--in treachery and deceit.
I really did not suppose you had it in you."
"Remember, I told you I might buy in if it looked good to
me," Andy reminded her in the mildest tone of which he was
capable--and he could be as mild as new milk when he chose.
Florence Grace Hallman looked at him with a lift of her full
upper lip at the left side. "It does look good, then? You
told Mr. Graham and that Mr. Wirt a different story, Mr.
Green. You told them this land won't raise white beans, and
you were at some pains, I believe, to explain why it would
not. You convinced them, by some means or other, that the
whole tract is practically worthless for agricultural
purposes. Both Mr. Wirt and Mr. Graham had some capital to
invest here, and now they are leaving, and they have
persuaded several others to leave with them. Does it really
look good to you--this land proposition?"
"Not your proposition--no, it don't." Andy faced her with a
Keen level glance as hard as her own. One could get the truth
straight from the shoulder if one pushed Andy Green into a
corner. "You know and I know that you're trying to cold-deck
this bunch. The land won't raise white beans or anything else
without water, and you know it. You can plant folks on the
land and collect your money and tell 'em goodbye and go to
it--and that settles your part of it. But how about the poor
devils that put in their time and money?"
Florence Grace Hallman spread her hands in a limited gesture
because of the reins, and smiled unpleasantly. "And yet, you
nearly broke your neck filing on the land yourself and
getting a lot of your friends to file," she retorted. "What
was your object, Mr. Green--since the land is worthless?"
"My object don't matter to anyone but myself." Andy busied
himself with his smoking material and did not look at her.
"Oh, but it Does! It matters to me, Mr. Green, and to my
company, and to our clients."
"I'll have to buy me a new dictionary," Andy observed
casually, reaching behind him to scratch a match on the skirt
of his saddle. "The one I've got don't say anything about
'client' and 'victim' meaning the same thing. It's getting
all outa date."
"I brought enough clients--" she emphasized the word--" to
settle every eighty acres of land in that whole tract. The
policy of the company was eminently fair. We guaranteed to
furnish a claim of eighty, acres to every person who joined
our homeseekers' Club, and free pasturage to all the stock
they wanted to bring. Failing to do that, we pledged
ourselves to refund the fee and pay all return expenses. We
could have located every member of this lot, and more--only
"Say, it'd be just as easy to swear as to say 'you' in that
tone uh voice," Andy pointed out placidly.
"You managed to gobble up just exactly four thousand acres of
this tract--and you were careful to get all the water and all
the best land. That means you have knocked us out of fifty
"Fifty wads of coin to hand back to fifty come-ons, and fifty
return tickets for fifty fellows glad to get back--tough
luck, ain't it?" Andy smiled sympathetically. "You oughta be
glad I saved your conscience that much of a load, anyway."
Florence Grace Hallman bit her lip to control her rage.
"Smart talk isn't going to help you, Mr. Green. You've simply
placed yourself in a position you can't' hold. You've put it
up to us to fight--and we're going to do it. I'm playing fair
with you. I'll tell you this much: I've investigated you and
your friends pretty thoroughly, and it's easy to guess what
your object is. We rather expected the Flying U to fight this
colonization scheme, so we are neither surprised nor
unprepared. Mr. Green, for your own interest and that of your
employer, let me advise you to abandon your claims now,
before we begin action in the matter. It will be simpler, and
far, far cheaper. We have our clients to look after, and we
have the law all on our side. These are bona fide settlers we
are bringing in; men and women whose sole object is to make
homes for themselves. The land laws are pretty strict, Mr.
Green. If we set the wheels in motion they will break the
Andy grinned while he inspected his cigarette. "Funny--I
heard a man brag once about how he'd break the Flying U, with
sheep," he drawled. "He didn't connect, though; the Flying U
broke him." He smoked until he saw an angry retort parting
the red lips of the lady, and then continued calmly:
"The Flying U has got nothing to do with this case. As a
matter of fact, old man Whitmore is pretty sore at us fellows
right now, because we quit him and turned nesters right under
his nose. Miss Hallman, you'll have one sweet time proving
that we ain't bona fide settlers. We're just crazy to make
homes for ourselves. We think it's time we settled down--and
we're settling here because we're used to this country. We're
real sorry you didn't find it necessary to pay your folks for
the fun of pointing out the land to us and steering us to the
land office--but we can't help that. We needed the money to
buy plows." He looked at her full with his honest, gray eyes
that could so deceive his fellow men--to say nothing of
women. "And that reminds me, I've got to go and borrow a
garden rake. I'm planting a patch of onions," he explained
engagingly. "Say, this farming is a great game, isn't it?
Well, good day, Miss Hallman. Glad I happened to meet you."
"You won't be when I get through with you!" predicted the
lady with her firm chin thrust a little forward. "You think
you've got everything your own way, don't you? Well, you've
just simply put yourself in a position where we can get at
you. You deceived me from the very start--and now you shall
pay the penalty. I've got our clients to protect--and besides
that I shall dearly love to get even. Oh, you'll squeal for
mercy, believe me!" She touched up the horses with her whip
and went bumping away over the tough sod.
"Wow!" ejaculated Andy, looking after her with laughter in
his eyes. "She's sure one mad lady, all right. But shucks!"
He turned and galloped off toward the farthest claim, which
was Happy Jack's and the last one to be furnished with a
He was lucky. The Happy Family were foregathered there,
wrangling with Happy Jack over some trifling thing. He joined
zealously in the argument and helped them thrash Happy Jack
in the word-war, before he came at his errand.
"Say, boys, we'll have to get busy now," he told them
seriously at last. "Florence Grace is onto us bigger'n a
wolf--and if I'm any judge, that lady's going to be some
fighter. We've either got to plow up a bunch of ground and
plant some darn thing, or else get stock on and pasture it.
They ain't going to over look any bets from now on. I met her
back here on the bench. She was so mad she talked too much
and I got next to their scheme--seems like we've knocked the
Syndicate outa quite a bunch of money, all right. They want
this land, and they think they're going to get it.
"Now my idea is this: We've got to have stock, or we can't
graze the land. And if we take Flying U cattle and throw 'em
on here, they'll contest us for taking fake claims, for the
outfit. So what's the matter with us buying a bunch from the
"I'm broke," began Pink promptly, but Andy stopped him.
"Listen here. ;We buy a bunch of stock and give him mortgages
for the money, with the cattle for security. We graze 'em
till the mortgage runs out--till we prove up, that means--and
then we don't spot up, and the Old Man takes the stock back.
see? We're grazing our own stock, according to law--but the
"Where do we git off at?" demanded Happy Jack suspiciously.
"We got to live--and it takes money to buy grub, these days."
"Well, we'll make out all right. We can have so many head of
cattle named for the mortgage; there'll be increase, and we
should get that. By the time we all prove up we'll have a
little bunch of stock of our own' d',uh see? And we'll have
the range--what there is left. These squatters ain't going to
last over winter, if you ask me. And it'll be a long, cold
day when another bunch of greenhorns bites on any colony
"How do you know the Old Man'll do that, though?" Weary
wanted to know. "He's pretty mad. I rode over to the ranch
last week to see Chip, and the Old Man wouldn't have anything
to say to me."
"Well, what's the matter with all of us going? He can't pass
up the whole bunch. We can put it up to him just the way it
is, and he'll see where it's going to be to his interest to
let us have the cattle. Why, darn it, he can't help seeing
now why we quit!" Pink looked ready to start then, while his
enthusiasm was fresh.
"Neither can Florence Grace help seeing why we did it," Andy
supplemented dryly. "She can think what she darn pleases--all
we got to do is deliver the goods right up to the handle, on
these claims and not let her prove anything on us."
"It'll take a lot uh fencing," Happy Jack croaked
pessimistically. "We ain't got the money to buy wire and
posts, ner the time to build the fence."
"What's the matter with rang-herding 'em?" Andy seemed to
have thought it all out, and to have an answer for every
objection. "We can take turns at that--and we must all be
careful and don't let 'em graze on our neighbors!"
Whereat the Happy Family grinned understandingly.
"Maybe the Old Man'll let us have three or four hundred head
uh cows on shares," Cal hazarded optimistically.
"Can't take 'em that way," said the Native Son languidly. "It
wouldn't be safe. Andy's right; the way to do is buy the
cattle outright, and give a mortgage on the bunch. And I
think we better split the bunch, and let every fellow buy a
few head. We can graze 'em together--the law can't stop us
from doing that."
"Sounds good--if the Old Man will come to the centre," said
Weary dubiously. The chill atmosphere of Flying U coulee,
with strangers in the bunk-house and with the Old Man
scowling at his paper on the porch, had left its effect upon
Weary, sunny-souled as he was.
"Oh, he'll come through," cried Cal, moving toward his horse.
"gee whiz, he's got to! Come on--let's go and get it done
with. As it stands now, we ain't got a thing to do but set
around and look wise--unless we go spoiling good grass with
plows. First thing we know our neighbors will be saying we
ain't improving our claims!"
"You improve yours every time you git off it!" stated Happy
Jack spitefully because of past wrongs. "You could improve
mine a whole lot that way, too," he added when he heard the
laugh of approval from the others.
They rung all the changes possible upon that witticism while
they mounted and rode away, every man of them secretly glad
of some excuse for making overtures to the Old Man. Spite of
the excitement of getting on to their claims, and of watching
strangers driving here and there in haste, and hauling loads
of lumber toilfully over the untracked grass and building
chickencoop dwellings as nearly alike as the buttons on a new
shirt--spite of all that they had felt keenly their exile
from Flying U ranch. They had stayed away, for two reasons:
one was a latent stubbornness which made them resent the Old
Man's resentment; the other was a matter of policy, as
preached by Andy Green and the Native Son. It would not do,
said these two cautious ones, to be running to the Flying U
outfit all the time.
So the Happy Family had steered clear since that afternoon
when they had simulated treachery to the outfit. And fate
played them a scurvy trick in spite of their caution, for
just as they rode down the Hog's Back and across the ford,
Florence Grace Hallman rode away from the White House and met
them fairly at the stable.
Florence Grace smiled a peculiar smile as she went past them.
A smile that promised she would not forget; a smile that told
them how sure she felt of having caught them fairly. With the
smile went a chilly, supercilious bow that was worse than a
direct cut, and which the Happy Family returned doubtfully,
not at all sure of the rules governing warfare with a woman.
CHAPTER 9. THE HAPPY FAMILY BUYS A BUNCH OF CATTLE
With the Kid riding gleefully upon Weary's shoulder they
trooped up the path their own feet had helped wear deep to
the bunk-house. They looked in at the open door and snorted
at the cheerlessness of the place.
"Why don't you come back here and stay?" the Kid demanded. "I
was going to sleep down here with you--and now Doctor Dell
won't let me. These hobees are no good. They're damn' bone-
head. Daddy Chip says so. I wish you'd come back, so I can
sleep with you. One man's named Ole and he's got a funny eye
that looks at the other one all the time. I wish you'd come
The Happy Family wished the same thing, but they did not say
so. Instead they told the Kid to ask his mother if he
couldn't come and visit them in their new shacks, and
promised indulgences that would have shocked the Little
Doctor had she heard them. So they went on to the house,
where the Old Man sat on the porch looking madder than when
they had left him three weeks before.
"Why don't yuh run them nesters outa the country?" he
demanded peevishly when they were close enough for speech.
"Here they come and accuse me to my face of trying to defraud
the gov'ment. Doggone you boys, what you think you're up to,
anyway? What's three or four thousand acres when they're
swarming in here like flies to a butcherin'? They can't make
a living--serve 'em right. What you doggone rowdies want
Not a cordial welcome, that--if they went no deeper than his
words. But there was the old twinkle back of the
querulousness in the Old Man's eyes, and the old pucker of
the lips behind his grizzled whiskers. "You've got that
doggone Kid broke to foller yuh so we can't keep him on the
ranch no more," he added fretfully. "Tried to run away twice,
on Silver. Chip had to go round him up. Found him last time
pretty near over to Antelope coulee, hittin' the high places
for town. Might as well take yuh back, I guess, and save time
running after the Kid."
"We've got to hold down our claims," Weary minded him
regretfully. In three weeks, he could see a difference the
Old Man, and the change hurt him.
Lines were deeper drawn, and the kind old eyes were a shade
"What's that amount to?" grumbled the Old Man, looking from
one to the other under his graying eye brows. "You can't stop
them dry-farmers from taking the country. Yuh might as well
try to dip the Missouri dry with a bucket. They'll flood the
country with stock--"
"No, they won't," put in Big Medicine, impatient for the real
meat of their errand. "By cripes, we got a scheme to beat
that--you tell 'im, Weary."
"We want to buy a bunch of cattle from you," Weary said
obediently. "We want to graze our claims, instead of trying
to crop the land. We haven't any fence up, so we'll have to
range-herd our stock, of course. I--don't hardly think any
nester stock will get by us, J. G. And seeing our land runs
straight through from Meeker's line fence to yours, we kinda
think we've got the nesters pretty well corralled. They're
welcome to the range between Antelope coulee and Dry Lake,
far as we're concerned. Soon as we can afford it," he added
tranquilly, "we'll stretch a fence along our west line
that'll hold all the darn milkcows they've a mind to ship out
"Huh!" The Old Man studied them quizzically, his chin on his
"How many yuh want?" he asked abruptly.
"All you'll sell us. We want to give mortgages, with the
stock for security."
"Oh, yuh do, ay? What if I have to foreclose on yuh?" The
pucker of his lips grew more pronounced." Where do you git
off at, then?"
"Well, we kinda thought we could fix it up to save part of
the increase outa the wreck, anyway."
"Oh. That's it ay?" He studied them another minute. "You'll
want all my best cows, too, I reckon--all that grade stock I
shipped in last spring. Ay?"
"We wouldn't mind," grinned Weary, glancing at the others
roosting at ease along the edge of the porch.
"Think you could handle five-hundred head--the pick uh the
"Sure, we could! We'd rather split 'em up amongst us,
though--let every fellow buy so many. We can throw in
together on the herding."
"Think you can keep the milk-cows between you and Dry Lake,
ay?" The Old Man chuckled--the first little chuckle since the
Happy Family left him so unceremoniously three weeks before.
"How about that, Pink?"
"Why, I think we can," chirped Pink cheerfully.
"Huh! Well, you're the toughest bunch, take yuh up one side
and down the other, I ever seen keep onta jail--I guess maybe
you can do it. But lemme tell you boys something--and I want
you to remember it: You don't want to git the idea in your
heads you're going to have any snap; you ain't. If I know B
from a bull's foot, you've got your work cut out for yuh.
I've been keeping cases pretty close on this dry-farm craze,
and this stampede for claims. Folks are land crazy. They've
got the idea that a few acres of land is going to make 'em
free and independent--and it don't matter much what the land
is, or where it is. So long as it's land, and they can git it
from the government for next to nothing, they're satisfied.
And yuh want to remember that. Yuh don't want to take it for
granted they're going to take a look at your deadline and
back up. If they ship in stock, they're going to see to it
that stock don't starve. You'll have to hold off men and
women that's making their last stand, some of 'em, for a home
of their own. They ain't going to give up if they can help
it. You get a man with his back agin the wall, and he'll
fight till he drops. I don't need to tell yuh that."
The Happy Family listened to him soberly, their eyes staring
broodily at the picture he conjured.
"Well, by golly, we're makin' our last stand, too," Slim
blurted with his customary unexpectedness. "Our back's agin
the wall right now. If we can't hold 'em back from takin'
what little range is left, this outfit's going under. We got
to hold 'em, by golly, er there won't be no more Flying U."
"Well," said Andy Green quietly, "that's all right. We're
going to hold 'em."
The Old Man lifted his bent head and looked from one to
another. Pride shone in his eyes, that had lately stared
resentment. "Yuh know, don't yuh, the biggest club they can
use?" He leaned forward a little, his lips working under his
"Sure, we know. We'll look out for that." Weary smiled
"We want a good lawyer to draw up those mortgages," put in
the Native Son lazily. "And we'll pay eight per cent.
"Doggonedest crazy bunch ever I struck," grumbled the Old Man
with grateful insincerity. "What you fellers don't think of,
there ain't any use in mentioning. Oh, Dell! Bring out that
jug Blake sent me! Doggoned thirsty bunch out here--won't
stir a foot till they sample that wine! Got to get rid of 'em
somehow--they claim to be full uh business as a jack rabbit
is of fleas! When yuh want to git out and round up them cows?
Wagon's over on Dry creek som'ers--or ought to be. Yuh might
take your soogans and ride ove' there tomorrow or next day
and ketch 'em. I'll write a note to Chip and tell 'im what's
to be done. And while you're pickin' your bunch you can draw
wages just the same as ever, and help them double-dutch
blisterin' milk-fed pilgrims with the calf crop."
"We'll sure do that," promised Weary for the bunch. "We can
start in the morning, all right."
"Take a taste uh this wine. None of your tobaccojuice stuff;
this comes straight from Fresno. Senator Blake sent it the
other day. Fill up that glass, Dell! What yuh want to be so
doggone stingy fer? Think this bunch uh freaks are going to
stand for that? They can't git the taste outa less'n a pint.
This ain't any doggone liver-tonic like you dope out."
The Little Doctor smiled understandingly and filled their
glasses with the precious wine from sunland. She did not know
what had happened, but she did know that the Old Man had
seized another hand-hold on life in the last hour, and she
was grateful. She even permitted the Kid to take a tiny sip,
just because the Happy Family hated to see him refused
anything he wanted.
So Flying U coulee was for the time being filled with the
same old laughter and the same atmosphere of care-free
contentment with life. The Countess stewed uncomplainingly in
the kitchen, cooking dinner for the boys. The Old Man
grumbled hypocritically at them from his big chair, and named
their faults in the tone that transmuted them into virtues.
The Little Doctor heard about Miss Allen and her three
partners, who were building a four-room shack on the four
corners of four claims, and how Irish had been caught more
than once in the act of staring fixedly in the direction of
that shack. She heard a good many things, and she guessed a
good many more.
By mid afternoon the Old Man was fifty per cent brighter and
better than he had been in the morning, and he laughed and
bullied them as of old. When they left he told them to clear
out and stay out, and that if he caught them hanging around
his ranch, and making it look as if he were backing them and
trying to defraud the government, he'd sic the dog onto them.
Which tickled the Kid immensely, because there wasn't any dog
CHAPTER 10. WHEREIN ANDY GREEN LIES TO A LADY
In the soft-creeping dusk came Andy Green, slouched in the
saddle with the weariness of riding since dawn; slouched to
one side and singing, with his hat far back on his head and
the last of a red sunset tinting darkly the hills above him.
Tip-toe on a pinnacle a great, yellow star poised and winked
at him knowingly. Andy's eyes twinkled answer as he glanced
up that way. "We've got her going, old-timer," he announced
lazily to the star.
Six miles back toward the edge of the "breaks" which are
really the beginning of the Badlands that border the Missouri
River all through that part of Montana, an even five hundred
head of the Flying U's best grade cows and their calves were
settling down for the night upon a knoll that had been the
bed-ground of many a herd. At the Flying U ranch, in the care
of the Old Man, were the mortgages that would make the Happy
Family nominal owners of those five hundred cows and their
calves. In the morning Andy would ride back and help bring
the herd upon its spring grazing ground, which was the
claims; in the meantime he was leisurely obeying an impulse
to ride into One Man coulee and spend the night under his own
roof. And, say what you will, there is a satisfaction not to
be denied in sleeping sometimes under one's own roof; and it
doesn't matter in the least that the roof is made of prairie
dirt thrown upon cottonwood poles. So he sang while he rode,
and his voice boomed loud in the coulee and scared long
stilled echoes into repeating the song:
"We're here because we're here, because we're here,
because we're here,
We're here because we're here, because we're here,
because we're here--"
That, if you please, is a song; there are a lot more verses
exactly like this one, which may be sung to the tune of Auld
Lang Syne with much effectiveness when one is in a certain
mood. So Andy sang, while his tired horse picked its way
circumspectly among the scattered rocks of the trail up the
"It's time you're here, it's time you're here,
It's time that you were here--"
mocked an echo not of the hills.
Andy swore in his astonishment and gave his horse a kick as a
mild hint for haste. He thought he knew every woman-voice in
the neighborhood--or had until the colony came--but this
voice, high and sweet and with a compelling note that stirred
him vaguely, was absolutely strange. While he loped forward,
silenced for the moment, he was conscious of a swift, keen
thankfulness that Pink had at the last minute decided to stay
in camp that night instead of accompanying Andy to One Man.
He was in that mood when a sentimental encounter appealed to
him strongly; and a woman's voice, singing to him from One
Man cabin, promised undetermined adventure.
He did not sing again. There had been something in the voice
that held him quiet, listening, expectant. But she also was
silent after that last, high note--like a meadow lark
startled in the middle of his song, thought Andy whimsically.
He came within sight of the cabin, squatting in the shadow of
the grove at its back. He half expected ,to see a light, but
the window was dark, the door closed as he had left it. He
felt a faint, unreasoning disappointment that it was so. But
he had heard her. That high note that lingered upon the word
"here" still tingled his senses. His eyes sent seeking
glances here and there as he rode up.
Then a horse nickered welcomingly, and someone rode out from
the deeper shadow at the corner of the cabin, hesitated as
though tempted to flight, and came on uncertainly. They met
full before the cabin, and the woman leaned and peered
through the dusk at Andy.
"Is this--Mr. Mallory--Irish?" she asked nervously. "Oh dear!
Have I gone and made a fool of myself again?"
"Not at all! Good evening, Miss Allen." Andy folded his hands
upon the saddle horn and regarded her with a little smile,
Keen for what might come next.
"But you're not Irish Mallory. I thought I recognized the
voice, or I wouldn't have--" She urged her horse a step
closer, and Andy observed from her manner that she was not
accustomed to horses. She reined as if she were driving, so
that the horse, bewildered, came sidling up to him. "Who are
you?" she asked him sharply.
"Me? Why, I'm a nice young man--a lot better singer than
Irish. I guess you never heard him, did you?" He kept his
hands folded on the horn, his whole attitude passive--a
restful, reassuring passivity that lulled her uneasiness more
than words could have done.
"Oh, are you Andy Green? I seem to connect that name with
your voice--and what little I can see of you."
"That's something, anyway." Andy's tone was one of gratitude.
"It's two per cent. better than having to tell you right out
who I am. I met you three different times, Miss Allen," he
"But always in a crowd," she defended, "and I never talked
with you, particularly."
"Oh, well, that's easily fixed," he said. "It's a nice
night," he added, looking up appreciatively at the
brightening star-sprinkle. "Are you living on your claim now?
We can talk particularly on the way over."
Miss Allen laughed and groped for a few loose hairs, found
them and tucked them carefully under her hatcrown. Andy
remembered that gesture; it helped him to visualize her
clearly in spite of the deepening night.
"How far have you ridden today, Mr. Green?" she asked
"Since daylight, you mean? Not so very far counting miles--We
were trailing a herd, you see. But I've been in the saddle
since sunrise, except when I was eating."
"Then you want a cup of coffee, before you ride any farther.
If I get down, will you let me make it or you? I'd love to.
I'm crazy to see inside your cabin, but I only rode up and
tried to peek in the window before you came. I have two
brothers and a cousin, so I understand men pretty well and I
know you can talk better when you aren't hungry."
"Are you living on your claim?" he asked again, without
"Why, yes. We moved in last week."
"Well, we'll ride over, then, and you can make coffee there.
I'm not hungry right now."
"Oh." She leaned again and peered at him, trying to read his
face. "You don't WANT me to go in!"
"Yes, I do--but I don't. If you stayed and made coffee,
tomorrow you'd be kicking yourself for it, and you'd be
blaming me." Which, considering the life he had lived, almost
wholly among men, was rather astute of Andy Green.
"Oh." Then she laughed. "You must have some sisters, Mr.
Green." She was silent for a minute, looking at him. "You're
right," she said quietly then. "I'm always making a fool of
myself, just on the impulse of the moment. The girls will be
worried about me, as it is. But I don't want you to ride any
farther, Mr. Green. What I came to say need not take very
long, and I think I can find my way home alone, all right."
"I'll take you home when you're ready to go," said Andy
quietly. All at once he had wanted to shield her, to protect
her from even so slight an unconventionality as making his
coffee for him. He had felt averse to putting her at odds
with her conventional self, of inviting unfavorable criticism
of himself; dimly, because instinct rather than cold analysis
impelled him. What he had told her was the sum total of his
"Well, I'm ready to go now, since you insist on my being
conventional. I did not come West with the expectation of
being tied to a book of etiquette, Mr. Green. But I find one
can't get away from it after all. Still, living on one's own
claim twelve miles from a town is something!"
"That's a whole lot, I should say," Andy assured her
politely, and refrained from asking her what she expected to
do with that eighty acres of arid land. He turned his tired
horse and rode alongside her, prudently waiting for her to
give the key.
"I'm not supposed to be away over here, you know," she began
when they were near the foot of the bluff up which the trail
wound seeking the easiest slopes and avoiding boulders and
deep cuts. "I'm supposed to be just out riding, and the girls
expected me back by sundown. But I've been trying and trying
to find some of you Flying U boys--as they call you men who
have taken so much land--on your claims. I don't know that
what I could tell you would do you a particle of good--or
anyone else. But I wanted to tell you, anyway, just to clear
my own mind."
"It does lots of good just to meet you," said Andy with
straightforward gallantry. "Pleasures are few and far
between, out here."
"You said that very nicely, I'm sure," she snubbed. "Well,
I'm going to tell you, anyway--just on the chance of doing
some good." Then she stopped.
Andy rode a rod or two, glancing at her inquiringly, waiting
for her to go on. She was guiding her horse awkwardly where
it needed only to be let alone, and he wanted to give her a
lesson in riding. But it seemed too early in their
acquaintance for that, so he waited another minute.
"Miss Hallman is going to make you a lot of trouble," she
began abruptly. "I thought perhaps it might be better for
you--all of you--if you knew it in advance, so there would be
no sudden anger and excitement. All the settlers are
antagonistic, Mr. Green--all but me, and one or two of the
girls. They are going to do everything they can to prevent
your land-scheme from going through. You are going to be
watched and--and your land contested--"
"Well, we'll be right there, I guess, when the dust settles,"
he filled in her thought unmoved.
"I--almost hope so," she ventured. "For my part, I can see
the side--your side. I can see where it is very hard for the
cattle men to give up their range. It is like the big
plantations down south, when the slaves were freed. It had to
be done, and yet it was hard upon those planters who depended
on free labor. They resented it deeply; deeply enough to shed
blood--and that is one thing I dread here. I hope, Mr. Green,
that you will not resort to violence. I want to urge you all
"I understand," said Andy softly. "A-course, we're pretty bad
when we get started, all right. We're liable to ride up on
dark nights and shoot our enemies through the window--I can't
deny it, Miss Allen. And if it comes right to a show-down, I
may as well admit that some of us would think nothing at all
of taking a man out and hanging him to the first three we
come to, that was big enough to hold him. But now that ladies
have come into the country, a-course we'll try and hold our
tempers down all we can. Miss Hallman, now--I don't suppose
there's a man in the bunch that would shoot her, no matter
what she done to us. We take pride in being polite to women.
You've read that about us, haven't you, Miss Allen? And
you've seen us on the stage--well, it's a fact, all right.
Bad as we are, and wild and tough, and savage when we're
crossed, a lady can just do anything with us, if she goes at
it the right way."
"Thank you. I felt sure that you would not harm any of us.
Will you promise not to be violent--not to--to--"
Andy sat sidewise in the saddle, so that he faced her. Miss
Allen could just make out his form distinctly; his face was
quite hidden, except that she could see the shine of his
"Now, Miss Allen," he protested with soft apology "You musta
known what to expect when you moved out amongst us rough
characters. You know I can make any promises about being mild
with the men that try to get the best of us. If you've got
friends--brothers--anybody here that you think a lot of Miss
Allen, I advise you to send 'em outa the country, before
trouble breaks loose; because when she starts she'll start a-
popping. I know I can't answer for my self, what I'm liable
to do if they bother me; and I'm about the mildest one in the
bunch. What the rest of the boys would do--Irish Mallory for
instance--I hate to think, Miss Allen. I--hate--to--think!"
Afterwards, when he thought it all over dispassionately, Andy
wondered why he had talked to Miss Allen like that. He had
not done it deliberately, just to frighten her--yet he had
frightened her to a certain extent. He had roused her
apprehension for the safety of her neighbors and the ultimate
well-being of himself and his fellows. She had been so
anxious over winning him to more peaceful ways that she had
forgotten to give him any details of the coming struggle.
Andy was sorry for that. He wished, on the way home, that he
knew just what Florence Grace Hallman intended to do.
Not that it mattered greatly. Whatever she did, Andy felt
that it would be futile. The Happy Family were obeying the
land laws implicitly, except as their real incentive had been
an unselfish one. He could not feel that it was wrong to try
and save the Flying U; was not loyalty a virtue? And was not
the taking of land for the preservation of a fine, fair
dealing outfit that had made itself a power for prosperity
and happiness in that country, a perfectly laudable
enterprise? Andy believed so.
Even though they did, down in their deepest thoughts, think
of the Flying U's interest, Andy did not believe that
Florence Grace Hallman or anyone else could produce any
evidence that would justify a contest for their land. Though
they planned among themselves for the good of the Flying U,
they were obeying the law and the dictates of their range-
conscience and their personal ideas of right and justice and
loyalty to their friends and to themselves. They were not
conspiring against the general prosperity of the country in
the hope of great personal gain. When you came to that, they
were saving fifty men from bitter disappointment--counting
one settler to every eighty acres, as the Syndicate
Still, Andy wondered why he had represented himself and his
friends to be such bloodthirsty devils. He grinned wickedly
over some of the things he had said, and over her womanly
perturbation and pleading that they would spare the lives of
their enemies. Oh, well--if she repeated half to Florence
Grace Hallman, that lady would maybe think twice before she
tackled the contract of boosting the Happy Family off their
claims. So at the last he managed to justify his lying to
her. He liked Miss Allen. He was pleased to think that at
least she would not forget him the minute he was out of her
He went to sleep worrying, not over the trouble which
Florence Grace Hallman might be plotting to bring upon him,
but about Miss Allen's given name and her previous condition
of servitude. He hoped that she was not a stenographer, and
he hoped her first name was not Mary; and if you know the
history of Andy Green you will remember that he had a reason
for disliking both the name and the vocation.
CHAPTER 11. A MOVING CHAPTER IN EVENTS
Having nothing more than a general warning of trouble ahead
to disturb him, Andy rode blithely back down the coulee and
met the herd just after sunrise. Dreams of Miss Allen had
left a pleasant mood behind them, though the dreams
themselves withdrew behind the veil of forgetfulness when he
awoke. He wondered what her first name was. He wondered how
far Irish's acquaintance with her had progressed, but he did
not worry much about Irish. Having represented himself to be
an exceedingly dangerous man, and having permitted himself to
be persuaded into promising reform and a calm demeanor--for
her sake--he felt tolerably sure of her interest in him. He
had heard that a woman loves best the taming of a dangerous
man, and he whistled and sang and smiled until the dust of
the coming herd met him full. Since he felt perfectly sure of
the result, he hoped that Florence Grace Hallman would start
something, just so that he might show Miss Allen how potent
was her influence over a bad, bad man who still has virtues
worth nurturing carefully.
Weary, riding point on the loitering herd, grinned a wordless
greeting. Andy passed with a casual wave of his hand and took
his place on the left flank. From his face Weary guessed that
all was well with the claims, and the assurance served to
lighten his spirits. Soon he heard Andy singing at the top of
his voice, and his own thoughts fell into accord with the
words of the ditty. He began to sing also, whenever he knew
the words. Farther back, Pink took it up, and then the others
joined in, until all unconsciously they had turned the
monotonous drive into a triumphal march.
"They're a little bit rough I must confess, the most of them
at least," prompted Andy, starting on the second verse alone
because the others didn't know the song as well as he. He
waited a second for them to join him, and went on extolling
the valor of all true cowboys:
"But long's you do not cross their trail you can live with
them at peace.
"But if you do they're sure to rule, the day you come to
"For they'll follow you up and shoot it out, and do it man to
"Say, Weary! They tell me Florence Grace is sure hittin' the
warpost! Ain't yuh scared?"
Weary shook his head and rode forward to ease the leaders
into a narrow gulch that would cut off a mile or so of the
"Taking 'em up One Man?" called Pink, and got a nod for
answer. There was a lull in the singing while they shouted
and swore at these stubborn cows who would have tried to
break back on the way to a clover patch, until the gulch
broadened into an arm of One Man Coulee itself. It was all
peaceful and easy and just as they had planned. The morning
was cool and the cattle contented. They were nearing their
claims, and all that would remain for them to do was the
holding of their herd upon the appointed grazing ground. So
would the requirements of the law be fulfilled and the
machinations of the Syndicate be thwarted and the land saved
to the Flying U, all in one.
And then the leaders, climbing the hill at a point half a
mile below Andy's cabin, balked, snorted and swung back.
Weary spurred up to push them forward, and so did Andy and
Pink. They rode up over the ridge shouting and urging the
reluctant cattle ahead, and came plump into the very dooryard
of a brand new shack. A man was standing in the doorway
watching the disturbance his presence had created; when he
saw the three riders come bulging up over the crest of the
bluff, his eyes widened.
The three came to a stop before him, too astonished to do
more than stare. Once past the fancied menace of the new
building and the man, the cattle went trotting awkwardly
across the level, their calves galloping alongside.
"Hello," said Weary at last, "what do you think you're doing
"Me? I'm holding down a claim. What are you doing?" The man
did not seem antagonistic or friendly or even neutral toward
them. He seemed to be waiting. He eyed the cattle that kept
coming, urged on by those who shouted at them in the coulee
below. He watched them spread out and go trotting away after
"Say, when did yuh take this claim?" Andy leaned negligently
forward and looked at him curiously.
"Oh, a week or so ago. Why?"
"I just wondered. I took it up myself, four weeks ago. Four
forties I've got, strung out in a line that runs from here to
yonder. You've got over on my land--by mistake, of course. I
just thought I'd tell yuh he added casually, straightening
up, "because I didn't think you knew it before."
"Thanks." The man smiled one-sidedly and began filling a pipe
while he watched them.
"A-course it won't be much trouble to move your shack," Andy
continued with neighborly interest. "A wheelbarrow will take
it, easy. Back here on the bench a mile or so, yuh may find a
patch of ground that nobody claims."
"Thanks." The man picked a match from his pocket and striking
it on the new yellow door-casing lighted his pipe.
Andy moved uneasily. He did not like that man, for all he
appeared so thankful for information. The fellow had a narrow
forehead and broad, high cheek bones and a predatory nose.
His eyes were the wrong shade of blue and the lids drooped
too much at the outer corners. Andy studied him curiously.
Did the man know what he was up against, or did he not? Was
he sincere in his ready thanks, or was he sarcastic? The man
looked up at him then. His eyes were clean of any hidden
meaning, but they were the wrong shade of blue--the shade
that is opaque and that you feel hides much that should be
revealed to you.
"Seems like there's been quite a crop of shacks grown up
since I rode over this way," Weary announced suddenly,
returning from a brief scurry after the leaders, that
inclined too much toward the south in their travel.
"Yes, the country's settling up pretty fast," conceded the
man in the doorway.
"Well, by golly!" bellowed Slim, popping up from below on a
heaving horse. Slim was getting fatter every year, and his
horses always puffed when they climbed a hill under his
weight. His round eyes glared resentfully at the man and the
shack and at the three who were sitting there so quietly on
their horses--just as if they had ridden up for a friendly
call. "Ain't this shack on your land?" he spluttered to Andy.
"Why, yes. It is, just right at present." Andy admitted,
following the man's example in the matter of a smoke, except
that Andy rolled and lighted a cigarette. "He's going to move
"Oh. Thanks." With the one-sided smile.
"Say, you needn't thank ME," Andy protested in his polite
tone. "YOU'RE going to move it, you know."
"You may know, but I don't," corrected the other.
"Oh, that's all right. You may not know right now, but don't
let that worry yuh. This is sure a great country for pilgrims
to wise up in."
Big Medicine came up over the hill a hundred feet or so from
them; goggled a minute at the bold trespass and came loping
across the intervening space. "Say, by cripes, what's this
mean?" he bawled. "Claim-jumper, hey? Say, young feller, do
you realize what you're doing--squattin' down on another
man's land. Don't yuh know claim-jumpers git shot, out here?
"Oh, cut out all that rough stuff!" advised the man wearily.
"I know who you are, and what your bluff is worth. I know you
can't held a foot of land if anybody is a mind to contest
your claims. I've filed a contest on this eighty, here, and
I'm going to hold it. Let that soak into your minds. I don't
want any trouble--I'm even willing to take a good deal in the
way of bluster, rather than have trouble. But I'm going to
stay. See?" He waved his pipe in a gesture of finality and
continued to smoke and to watch them impersonally, leaning
against the door in that lounging negligence which is so
irritating to a disputant.
"Oh, all right--if that's the way you feel about it," Andy
replied indifferently, and turned away. "Come on, boys--no
use trying to bluff that gazabo. He's wise."
He rode away with his face turned over his shoulder to see if
the others were going to follow. When he was past the corner
and therefore out of the man's sight, he raised his arm and
beckoned to them imperatively, with a jerk of his head to add
insistence. The four of them looked after him uncertainly.
Weary kicked his horse and started, then Pink did the same.
Andy beckoned again, more emphatically than before, and Big
Medicine, who loved a fight as he loved to win a jackpot,
turned and glared at the man in the doorway as be passed.
Slim was rumbling by-golly ultimatums in his fat chest when
he came up.
"Pink, you go on back and put the boys next, when they come
up with the drag they won't do anything much but hand out a
few remarks and ride on." Andy said, in the tone of one who
knows exactly what he means to do. "This is my claim-jumper.
Chances are I've got three more to handle--or will have.
Nothing like starting off right. Tell the boys just rag the
fellow a little and ride on, like we did. Get the cattle up
here and set Happy and Slim day-herding and the rest of us'll
"You wouldn't tell for a dollar, would yuh?" Pi asked him
with his dimples showing.
"I've got to think it out first," Andy evaded. feel all the
symptoms of an idea. You let me alone a while."
"Say, yuh going to tell him he's been found out and yuh know
his past," began Slim, "like yuh done Dunk? I'll bet, by
"Go on off and lay down!" Andy retorted pettishly. "I never
worked the same one off on you twice, did I? Think I'm
getting feeble-minded? It ain't hard to put his nibs on the
run--that's dead easy. Trouble is I went and hobbled myself.
I promised a lady I'd be mild."
"Mamma!" muttered Weary, his sunny eyes taking in the shack-
dotted horizon. "Mild!--and all these jumpers on our hands!"
"Oh, well--there's more'n one way to kill a cat," Andy
reminded them cheerfully. "You go on back and post the boys,
Pink, not to get too riled."
He galloped off and left them to say and think what they
pleased. He was not uneasy over their following his advice or
waiting for his plan. For Andy Green had risen rapidly to a
tacit leadership, since first he told them of the coming
colony. From being the official Ananias of the outfit, king
of all joke-makers, chief irritator of the bunch, whose
lightest word was suspected of hiding some deep meaning and
whose most innocent action was analysed, he had come to the
point where they listened to him and depended upon him to see
a way out of every difficulty. They would depend upon him
now; of that he was sure--therefore they would wait for his
Strange as it may seem, the Happy Family had not seriously
considered the possibility of having their claims "jumped" so
long as they kept valid their legal residence. They had
thought that they would be watched and accused of collusion
with the Flying U, and they intended to be extremely careful.
They meant to stay upon their claims at least seven months in
the year, which the law required. They meant to have every
blade of grass eaten by their own cattle, which would be
counted as improving their claims. They meant to give a
homelike air of permanency to their dwellings. They had
already talked over a tentative plan of bringing water to
their desert claims, and had ridden over the bench-land for
two days, with the plat at hand for reference, that they
might be sure of choosing their claims wisely. They had
prepared for every contingency save the one that had arisen--
which is a common experience with us all. They had not
expected that their claims would be jumped and contests filed
so early in the game, as long as they maintained their
However, Andy was not dismayed at the turn of events. It was
stimulating to the imagination to be brought face to face
with an emergency such as this, and to feel that one must
handle it with strength and diplomacy and a mildness of
procedure that would find favor in the eyes of a girl.
He looked across the waving grass to where the four roomed
shack was built upon the four corners of four "eighties" so
that four women might live together and yet be said to live
upon their own claims. That was drawing the line pretty fine,
of course; finer than the Happy Family would have dared to
draw it. But no one would raise any objection, on account of
their being women and timid about living alone. Andy smiled
sympathetically because the four conjunctive corners of the
four claims happened to lie upon a bald pinnacle bare of
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