The Rules of the Game
Stewart Edward White
Part 6 out of 12
One of the inspiring things in the later history of the great West is
the faith and insight, the devotion and self-sacrifice of some of the
rough mountain men in some few of the badly managed reserves to truths
that were but slowly being recognized by even the better educated of the
East. These men, year after year, without leadership, without
encouragement, without the support and generally against the covered or
open hostility of their neighbours, under most disheartening official
conditions kept the torch alight. They had no wide theory of forestry to
sustain their interest; they could certainly have little hope of
promotion and advancement to a real career; their experience with a
bureaucratic government could not arouse in their breasts any
expectation of a broad, a liberal, or even an enlightened policy of
conservation or use. They were set in opposition to their neighbours
without receiving the support of the power that so placed them.
Nevertheless, according to their knowledge they worked faithfully. Five
times out of ten they had little either of supervision or instruction.
Turned out in the mountains, like a bunch of stock, each was free to do
as much or as little of whatever he pleased. Each improved his district
according to his ideas or his interests. One cared most for building
trails; another for chasing sheep trespassers; a third for construction
of bridges, cabins and fences. All had occasionally to fight fires. Each
was given the inestimable privilege of doing what he could. Everything
he did had to be reported on enormous and complicated forms. If he made
a mistake in any of these, he heard from it, and perhaps his pay was
held up. This pay ran somewhere about sixty or seventy-five dollars a
month, and he was required to supply his own horses and to feed them.
Most rangers who were really interested in their profession spent some
of this in buying tools with which to work.[A] The Government supplied
next to nothing. In 1902 between the King's River and the Kaweah, an
area of somewhere near a million acres, the complete inventory of
fire-fighting tools consisted of two rakes made from fifty cents' worth
of twenty-penny nails.
But these negative discouragements were as nothing compared to the petty
rebuffs and rulings that emanated from the Land Office itself.
One spring Ross Fletcher, following specific orders, was sent out after
twenty thousand trespassing sheep. It was early in the season. His
instructions took him up into the frozen meadows, so he had to carry
barley for his horses. He used three sacks and sent in a bill for one.
Item refused. Feed was twenty dollars a thousand. Salary seventy-five
One of Simeon Wright's foremen broke down government fences and fed out
all the ranger horse feed. Tom Carroll wrote to Superintendent Smith;
later to Washington. The authorities, however, refused to revoke the
cattleman's licence. At Christmas time, when Carroll was in White Oaks
the foreman and his two sons jeered at and insulted the ranger in regard
to this matter until the latter lost his temper and thrashed all three,
one after the other. For this he was severely reprimanded by Washington.
Charley Morton was ordered to Yosemite to consult with the military
officers there. He was instructed to do so in a certain number of days.
To keep inside his time limit he had to hire a team. Item refused.
California John fought fire alone for two days and a night, then had to
go outside for help. Docked a day for going off the reserve.
Why did these men prefer to endure neglect and open hostility to the
favour of their neighbours and easier work? Bob, with a growing wonder
and respect, tried to find out.
He did not succeed. There certainly was no overwhelming love for the
administration of Henry Plant; nor loyalty to the Land Office. Indeed
for the latter, one and all entertained the deep contempt of the
out-of-door man for the red-tape clerk.
"What do you think is the latest," asked California John one day, "from
them little squirts? I just got instructions that during of the fire
season I must patrol the whole of my district every day!" The old man
grinned. "I only got from here to Pumice Mountain! I wonder if those
fellows ever saw a mountain? I suppose they laid off an inch on the map
and let it go at that. Patrol every day!"
"How long would it take you?" asked Bob.
"By riding hard, about a week."
Rather the loyalty seemed to be gropingly to the idea back of it all, to
something broad and dim and beautiful which these rough, untutored men
had drawn from their native mountains and which thus they rendered back.
As Bob gradually came to understand more of the situation his curiosity
grew. The lumberman's instinctive hostility to government control and
interference had not in the slightest degree modified; but he had begun
to differentiate this small, devoted band from the machinery of the
Forest Reserves as they were then conducted. He was a little inclined to
the fanatic theory; he knew by now that the laziness hypothesis would
not apply to these.
"What is there in it?" he asked. "You surely can't hope for a boost in
salary; and certainly your bosses treat you badly."
At first he received vague and evasive answers. They liked the work;
they got along all right; it was a lot better than the cattle business
just now, and so on. Then as it became evident that the young man was
genuinely interested, California John gradually opened up. One strange
and beautiful feature of American partisanship for an ideal is its
shyness. It will work and endure, will wait and suffer, but it will not
go forth to proselyte.
"The way I kind of look at it is this," said the old man one evening.
"I always did like these here mountains--and the big trees--and the
rocks and water and the snow. Everywhere else the country belongs to
some one: it's staked out. Up here it belongs to me, because I'm an
American. This country belongs to all of us--the people--all of us. We
most of us don't know we've got it, that's all. I kind of look at it
this way: suppose I had a big pile of twenty-dollar gold pieces lying
up, say in Siskiyou, that I didn't know nothing whatever about; and some
fellow come along and took care of it for me and hung onto it even when
I sent out word that anybody was welcome to anything I owned in
Siskiyou--I not thinking I really owned anything there, you
understand--why--well, you see, I sort of like to feel I'm one of those
"What good is there in hanging onto a lot of land that would be better
developed?" asked Bob.
But California John refused to be drawn into a discussion. He had his
faith, but he would not argue about it. Sometime or other the people
would come to that same faith. In the meantime there was no sense in
tangling up with discussions.
"They send us out some reading that tells about it," said California
John. "I'll give you some."
He was as good as his word. Bob carried away with him a dozen government
publications of the sort that, he had always concluded, everybody
received and nobody read. Interested, not in the subject matter of the
pamphlets, but in their influence on these mountain men, he did read
them. In this manner he became for the first time acquainted with the
elementary principles of watersheds and water conservation. This was
actually so. Nor did he differ in this respect from any other of the
millions of well-educated youth of the country. In a vague way he knew
that trees influence climate. He had always been too busy with trees to
bother about climate.
The general facts interested him, and appealed to his logical common
sense. He saw for the first time, because for the first time it had been
presented to his attention, the real use and reason for the forest
reserves. Hitherto he had considered the whole institution as
semi-hostile, at least as something in potential antagonism. Now he was
willing fairly to recognize the wisdom of preserving some portion of the
mountain cover. He had not really denied it; simply he hadn't considered
Early in this conviction he made up to Ross Fletcher for his brusqueness
in ordering the ranger off the mill property.
"I just classed you with your gang, which was natural," said Bob.
"I am one of my gang, of course," said Fletcher.
"Do you consider yourself one of the same sort of dicky bird as Plant
and that crew?" demanded Bob.
"There ain't no humans all alike," replied the mountaineer.
Although Bob was thus rebuffed in immediately getting inside of the
man's loyalty to his service and his superiors, he was from that moment
made to feel at his ease. Later, in a fuller intimacy, he was treated
Welton laughed openly at Bob's growing interest in these matters.
"You're the first man I ever saw read any of those things," said he in
regard to the government reports. "I once read one," he went on in
delightful contradiction to his first statement. "It told how to cut
timber. When you cut down a tree, you pile up the remains in a neat pile
and put a little white picket fence around them. It would take a
thousand men and cost enough to buy a whole new tract to do all the
monkey business they want you to do. I've only been in the lumber
business forty years! When a college boy can teach me, I'm willing to
listen; but he can't teach me the A B C of the business."
Bob laughed. "Well, I can't just see us taking time in a short season
to back-track and pile up ornamental brush piles," he admitted.
"Experimental farms, and experimental chickens, and experimental
lumbering are all right for the gentleman farmer and the gentleman
poultry fancier and the gentleman lumberman--if there are any. But when
it comes to business----"
Bob laughed. "Just the same," said he, "I'm beginning to see that it's a
good thing to keep some of this timber standing; and the only way it can
be done is through the Forest Reserves."
"That's all right," agreed Welton. "Let'em reserve. I don't care. But
they are a nuisance. They keep stepping on my toes. It's too good a
chance to annoy and graft. It gives a hard lot of loafers too good a
chance to make trouble."
"They are a hard lot in general," agreed Bob, "but there's some good men
among them, men I can't help but admire."
Welton rolled his eyes drolly at the younger man.
"Who?" he inquired.
"Well, there's old California John."
"There's three or four mossbacks in the lot that are honest," cut in
Welton, "but it's because they're too damn thick-headed to be anything
else. Don't get kiddish enough to do the picturesque mountaineer act,
Bobby. I can dig you up four hundred of that stripe anywhere--and
holding down just about as valuable jobs. Don't get too thick with that
kind. In the city you'll find them holding open-air meetings. I suppose
our friend Plant has been pinched?"
"Not yet," grinned Bob, a trifle shamefacedly.
"Don't get the reform bug, Bob," said Welton kindly, "That's all very
well for those that like to amuse themselves, but we're busy."
[Footnote A: The accounts of one man showed that for a long period he
had so disbursed from his own pocket an average of thirty dollars a
month. His salary was sixty dollars.]
The following spring found Plant still in command. No word had come from
the silence of political darkness. His only concession to the state of
affairs had been an acknowledgment under coercion that the cattle ranges
had been overstocked, and that outside cattle would not be permitted to
enter, at least for the coming season. This was just the concession to
relieve the immediate pressure against him, and to give the Supervisor
time to apply all his energies to details within the shades.
Details were important, in spite of the absence of surface indications.
Many considerations were marshalled. On one side were arrayed plain
affidavits of fraud. In the lower ranks of the Land Office it was
necessary to corrupt men, by one means or another. These lesser
officials in the course of routine would come face to face with the
damaging affidavits, and must be made to shut their eyes deliberately to
what they know. The cases of the higher officials were different. They
must know of the charges, of course, but matters must be so arranged
that the evidence must never meet their eyes, and that they must adopt
en bloc the findings of their subordinates. Bribery was here impossible;
but influence could be brought to bear.
Chairman Gay upheld his cousin, Henry Plant, because of the
relationship. This implied a good word, and personal influence. After
that Chairman Gay forgot the matter. But a great number of people were
extremely anxious to please Chairman Gay. These exerted themselves. They
came across evidence that would have caused Chairman Gay to throw his
beloved cousin out neck and crop, but they swallowed it and asked for
more simply because Gay possessed patronage, and it was not to their
interest to bring disagreeable matters before the great man. Nor was the
Land Office unlikely to listen to reason. A strong fight was at that
time forward to transfer control of the Forest Reserves from a
department busy in other lines to the Bureau of Forestry where it
logically belonged. This transfer was violently opposed by those to whom
the distribution of supervisorships, ranger appointments and the like
seemed valuable. The Land Office adherents needed all the political
backing they could procure; and the friends of Chairman Gay epitomized
political backing. So the Land Office, too, was anxious to please the
At the same time Simeon Wright had bestirred himself. There seems to be
no good and valid reason for owning a senator if you don't use him.
Wright was too shrewd to think it worth while to own a senator from
California. That was too obvious. Few knew how closely affiliated were
the Wright and the Barrow interests. Wright dropped a hint to the
dignified senator; the senator paid a casual call to an official high up
in the Land Office. Senators would by their votes ultimately decide the
question of transfer. The official agreed to keep an eye on the
recommendations in this case.
Thus somebody submerged beneath the Gay interests saw obscurely somebody
equally submerged beneath the Wright and Barrow interests. In due course
all Thorne's careful work was pigeonholed. An epitome of the charges was
typed and submitted to the High Official. On the back of them had been
"I find the charges not proved."
This was signed by the very obscure clerk who had filed away the Thorne
affidavits and who happened to be a friend of the man to whom in devious
ways and through many mouths had come an expression of the Gay wishes.
It was O.K.'d by a dozen others. The High Official added his O.K. to
the others. Then he promptly forgot about it, as did every one else
concerned, save the men most vitally interested.
In due time Thorne, then in Los Angeles, received a brief communication
from Stafford, the obscure clerk.
"In regard to your charges against Supervisor H.M. Plant, the Department
begs to advise you that, after examining carefully the evidence for the
defence, it finds the charges not proven."
Thorne stared at the paper incredulously, then he did something he had
never permitted himself before; he wrote in expostulation to the Higher
"I cannot imagine what the man's defence could be," he wrote, in part,
"but my evidence a mere denial could hardly controvert. The whole
countryside knows the man is crooked; they know he was investigated;
they are now awaiting with full confidence the punishment for
well-understood peculation. I can hardly exaggerate the body blow to the
Service such a decision would give. Nobody will believe in it again."
On reading this the Higher Official called in one of his subordinates.
"I have this from Thorne," said he. "What do you think of it?"
The subordinate read it through.
"I'll look it up," said he.
"Do so and bring me the papers," advised the Higher Official.
The Higher Official knew Thorne's work and approved it. The inspector
was efficient, and throughout all his reforming of conditions in the
West, the Department had upheld him. The Department liked efficiency,
and where the private interests of its own grafters were not concerned,
it gave good government.
In due time the subordinate came back, but without the papers.
"Stafford says he'll look them up, sir," said he. "He told me to tell
you that the case was the one you were asking Senator Barrow about."
"Ah!" said the Higher Official.
He sat for some time in deep thought. Then he called through the open
door to his stenographer.
"_In re_ your's 21st," he dictated, "I repose every confidence in Mr.
Stafford's judgment; and unless I should care to supersede him, it would
hardly be proper for me to carry any matter over his head."
Thorne immediately resigned, and shortly went into landlooking for a
lumbering firm in Oregon. Chairman Gay wrote a letter advising Plant to
"adopt a policy of conciliation toward the turbulent element."
Shortly after Bob's return in the early spring, George Pollock rode to
Auntie Belle's in some disorder to say that the little girl, now about a
year old, had been taken sick.
"Jenny has a notion it's something catching," said he, "so she won't let
Jim send Mary over. There's too many young-uns in that family to run any
"How does she seem?" called Auntie Belle from the bedroom where she was
preparing for departure.
"She's got a fever, and is restless, and won't eat," said George
anxiously. "She looks awful sick to me."
"They all do at that age," said Auntie Belle comfortably; "don't you
worry a mite."
Nevertheless Auntie Belle did not return that day, nor the next, nor the
next. When finally she appeared, it was only to obtain certain supplies
and clothes. These she caused to be brought out and laid down where she
could get them. She would allow nobody to come near her.
"It's scarlet fever," she said, "and Lord knows where the child got it.
But we won't scatter it, so you-all stay away. I'll do what I can. I've
been through it enough times, Lord knows."
Three days later she appeared again, very quietly.
"How's the baby?" asked Bob. "Better, I hope?"
"The poor little thing is dead," said Auntie Belle shortly, "and I want
you or somebody to ride down for the minister."
The community attended the funeral in a body. It was held in the open
air, under a white oak tree, for Auntie Belle, with unusual caution and
knowledge for the mountains, refused to permit even a chance of
spreading the contagion. The mother appeared dazed. She sat through the
services without apparent consciousness of what was going on; she
suffered herself to be led to the tiny enclosure where all the Pollocks
of other generations had been buried; she allowed herself to be led away
again. There was in the brief and pathetic ceremony no meaning and no
pain for her. The father, on the other hand, seemed crushed. So broken
was his figure that, after the services, Bob was impelled to lay his
hand on the man's shoulder and mutter a few incoherent but encouraging
words. The mountaineer looked up dully, but sharpened to comprehension
and gratitude as his eyes met those of the tall, vigorous young man
leaning over him.
"I mean it," said Bob; "any time--any place."
On the way back to Sycamore Flats Auntie Belle expressed her mind to the
"Nobody realizes how things are going with those Pollocks," said she.
"George sold his spurs and that Cruces bit of his to get medicine. He
wouldn't take anything from me. They're proud folks, and nobody'd have a
chance to suspect anything. I tell you," said the good lady solemnly,
"it don't matter where that child got the fever; it's Henry Plant, the
old, fat scoundrel, that killed her just as plain as if he'd stuck a gun
to her head. He has a good deal to answer for. There's lots of folks
eating their own beef cattle right now; and that's ruinous. I suppose
Washington ain't going to do anything. We might have known it. I don't
suppose you heard anything outside about it?"
"Only that Thorne had resigned."
"That so!" Auntie Belle ruminated on this a moment. "Well, I'm right
glad to hear it. I'd hate to think I was fooled on him. Reckon 'resign'
means fired for daring to say anything about His High-and-mightiness?"
Bob shook his head. "Couldn't say," said he.
The busy season was beginning. Every day laden teams crawled up the
road bringing supplies for the summer work. Woodsmen came in twos, in
threes, in bunches of a dozen or more. Bob was very busy arranging the
distribution and forwarding, putting into shape the great machinery of
handling, so that when, a few weeks later, the bundles of sawn lumber
should begin to shoot down the flume, they would fall automatically into
a systematic scheme of further transportation. He had done this twice
before, and he knew all the steps of it, and exactly what would be
required of him. Certain complications were likely to arise, requiring
each their individual treatments, but as Bob's experience grew these
were becoming fewer and of lesser importance. The creative necessity was
steadily lessening as the work became more familiar. Often Bob found his
eagerness sinking to a blank; his attention economizing itself to the
bare needs of the occasion. He caught himself at times slipping away
from the closest interest in what he had to do. His spirit, although he
did not know it, was beginning once more to shake itself restlessly, to
demand, as it had always demanded in the past from the time of his toy
printing press in his earliest boyhood, fresh food for the creative
instinct that was his. Bobby Orde, the child, had been thorough. No
superficial knowledge of a subject sufficed. He had worked away at the
mechanical difficulties of the cheap toy press after Johnny English, his
partner in enterprise, had given up in disgust. By worrying the problem
like a terrier, Bobby had shaken it into shape. Then when the commercial
possibilities of job printing for parents had drawn Johnny back ablaze
with enthusiasm, Bobby had, to his partner's amazement, lost completely
all interest in printing presses. The subject had been exhausted; he had
no desire for repetitions.
So it had gone. One after another he had with the utmost fervour taken
up photography, sailing, carpentry, metal working--a dozen and one
occupations--only to drop them as suddenly. This restlessness of
childhood came to be considered a defect in young manhood. It indicated
instability of character. Only his mother, wiser in her quiet way, saw
the thoroughness with which he ransacked each subject. Bobby would read
and absorb a dozen technical books in a week, reaching eagerly for the
vital principles of his subject. She alone realized, although but dimly,
that the boy did not relinquish his subject until he had grasped those
"He's learning all the time," she ventured.
"'Jack of all trades: master of none,'" quoted Orde doubtfully.
The danger being recognized, little Bobby's teaching was carefully
directed. He was not discouraged in his varied activities; but the
bigger practical principles of American life were inculcated. These may
be very briefly stated. An American must not idle; he must direct his
energies toward success; success means making one's way in life; nine
times out of ten, for ninety-nine men out of a hundred, that means the
business world. To seize the business opportunity; to develop that
opportunity through the business virtues of attention to detail,
industry, economy, persistence, and enthusiasm--these represented the
plain and manifest duty of every citizen who intended to "be somebody."
Now Bob realized perfectly well that here he was more fortunate than
most. A great many of his friends had to begin on small salaries in
indoor positions of humdrum and mechanical duty. He had started on a
congenial out-of-door occupation of great interest and picturesqueness,
one suited to his abilities and promising a great future. Nevertheless,
he had now been in the business five years. He was beginning to see
through and around it. As yet he had not lost one iota of his enthusiasm
for the game; but here and there, once in a while, some of the necessary
delays and slow, long repetitions of entirely mechanical processes left
him leisure to feel irked, to look above him, beyond the affairs that
surrounded him. At such times the old blank, doped feeling fell across
his mind. It had always been so definite a symptom in his childhood of
that state wherein he simply could not drag himself to blow up the
embers of his extinguished enthusiasm, that he recoiled from himself in
alarm. He felt his whole stability of character on trial. If he could
not "make good" here, what excuse could there be for him; what was there
left for him save the profitless and honourless life of the dilettante
and idler? He had caught on to a big business remarkably well, and it
was worse than childish to lose his interest in the game even for the
fraction of a second. Of course, it amounted to nothing but that. He
never did his work better than that spring.
A week after the burial of the Pollock baby, Mrs. Pollock was reported
seriously ill. Bob rode up a number of times to inquire, and kept
himself fully informed. The doctor came twice from White Oaks, but then
ceased his visits. Bob did not know that such visits cost fifty dollars
apiece. Mary, Jim's wife, shared the care of the sick woman with George.
She was reported very weak, but getting on. The baby's death, together
with the other anxieties of the last two years, had naturally pulled her
Before the gray dawn one Sunday morning Bob, happening to awaken, heard
a strange, rumbling, distant sound to the west. His first thought was
that the power dam had been opened and was discharging its waters, but
as his senses came to him, he realized that this could not be so. He
stretched himself idly. A mocking bird uttered a phrase outside. No
dregs of drowsiness remained in him, so he dressed and walked out into
the freshness of the new morning. Here the rumbling sound, which he had
concluded had been an effect of his half-conscious imagination, came
clearer to his ears. He listened for a moment, then walked rapidly to
the Lone Pine Hill from whose slight elevation he could see abroad over
the low mountains to the west. The gray light before sunrise was now
strengthening every moment. By the time Bob had reached the summit of
the knoll it had illuminated the world.
A wandering suction of air toward the higher peaks brought with it the
murmur of a multitude. Bob topped the hill and turned his eyes to the
west. A great cloud of dust arose from among the chaparral and oaks,
drifting slowly but certainly toward the Ranges. Bob could now make out
the bawling, shouting, lowing of great herds on the march. In spite of
pledges and promises, in spite of California John's reports, of Thorne's
recommendations, of Plant's assurances, Simeon Wright's cattle were
again coming in!
Bob shook his head sadly, and his clear-cut young face was grave. No one
knew better than himself what this must mean to the mountain people,
for his late spring and early fall work had brought him much in contact
with them. He walked thoughtfully down the hill.
When just on the outskirts of the little village he was overtaken by
George Pollock on horseback. The mountaineer was jogging along at a foot
pace, his spurs jingling, his bridle hand high after the Western
fashion. When he saw Bob he reined in, nodding a good morning. Bob
noticed that he had strapped on a blanket and slicker, and wore his
"You look as though you were going on a journey," remarked Bob.
"Thinking of it," said Pollock. Bob glanced up quickly at the tone of
his voice, which somehow grated unusually on the young man's ear, but
the mountaineer's face was placid under the brim of his floppy old hat.
"Might as well," continued the cattleman after a moment. "Nothin'
special to keep me."
"I'm glad Mrs. Pollock is better," ventured Bob.
"She's dead," stated Pollock without emotion. "Died this morning about
Bob cried out at the utterly unexpected shock of this statement. Pollock
looked down on him as though from a great height.
"I sort of expected it," he answered Bob's exclamation. "I reckon we
won't talk of it. 'Spose you see that Wright's cattle is coming in
again? I'm sorry on account of Jim and the other boys. It wipes me out,
of course, but it don't matter as far as I'm concerned, because I'm
going away, anyway."
Bob laid his hand on the man's stirrup leather and walked alongside,
thinking rapidly. He did not know how to take hold of the situation.
"Where are you thinking of going?" he asked.
Pollock looked down at him.
"What's that to you?" he demanded roughly.
"Why--nothing--I was simply interested," gasped Bob in astonishment.
The mountaineer's eyes bored him through and through. Finally the man
dropped his gaze.
"I'll tell you," said he at last, "'cause you and Jim are the only
square ones I know. I'm going to Mexico. I never been there. I'm going
by Vermilion Valley, and Mono Pass. If they ask you, you can tell 'em
different. I want you to do something for me."
"Gladly," said Bob. "What is it?"
"Just hold my horse for me," requested Pollock, dismounting. "He stands
fine tied to the ground, but there's a few things he's plumb afraid of,
and I don't want to take chances on his getting away. He goes plumb off
the grade for freight teams; he can't stand the crack of their whips.
Sounds like a gun to him, I reckon. He won't stand for shooting
While talking the mountaineer handed the end of his hair rope into Bob's
"Hang on to him," he said, turning away.
George Pollock sauntered easily down the street. At Supervisor Plant's
front gate, he turned and passed within. Bob saw him walk rapidly up the
front walk, and pound on Plant's bedroom door. This, as usual in the
mountains, opened directly out on the verandah. With an exclamation Bob
sprang forward, dropping the hair rope. He was in time to see the
bedroom door snatched open from within, and Plant's huge figure,
white-robed, appear in the doorway. The Supervisor was evidently angry.
"What in hell do you want?" he demanded.
"You," said the mountaineer.
He dropped his hand quite deliberately to his holster, flipped the
forty-five out to the level of his hip, and fired twice, without looking
at the weapon. Plant's expression changed; turned blank. For an
appreciable instant he tottered upright, then his knees gave out beneath
him and he fell forward with a crash. George Pollock leaned over him.
Apparently satisfied after a moment's inspection, the mountaineer
straightened, dropped his weapon into the holster, and turned away.
All this took place in so short a space of time that Bob had not moved
five feet from the moment he guessed Pollock's intention to the end of
the tragedy. As the first shot rang out, Bob turned and seized again the
hair rope attached to Pollock's horse. His habit of rapid decision and
cool judgment showed him in a flash that he was too late to interfere,
and revealed to him what he must do.
Pollock, looking neither to the right nor the left, took the rope Bob
handed him and swung into the saddle. His calm had fallen from him. His
eyes burned and his face worked. With a muffled cry of pain he struck
spurs to his horse and disappeared.
Considerably shaken, Bob stood still, considering what he must do. It
was manifestly his duty to raise the alarm. If he did so, however, he
would have to bear witness to what he knew; and this, for George
Pollock's sake, he desired to avoid. He was the only one who could know
positively and directly and immediately how Plant had died. The sound of
the shots had not aroused the village. If they had been heard, no one
would have paid any attention to them; the discharge of firearms was too
common an occurrence to attract special notice. It was better to let the
discovery come in the natural course of events.
However, Bob was neither a coward nor a fool. He wanted to save George
Pollock if he could, but he had no intention of abandoning another plain
duty in the matter. Without the slightest hesitation he opened Plant's
gate and walked to the verandah where the huge, unlovely hulk huddled in
the doorway. There, with some loathing, he determined the fact that the
man was indeed dead. Convinced as to this point, he returned to the
street, and looked carefully up and down it. It was still quite
His mind in a whirl of horror, pity, and an unconfessed, hidden
satisfaction, he returned to Auntie Belle's. The customary daylight
breakfast for the teamsters had been omitted on account of the Sabbath.
A thin curl of smoke was just beginning to rise straight up from the
kitchen stovepipe. Bob, his mouth suddenly dry and sticky, went around
to the back porch, where a huge _olla_ hung always full of spring water.
He rounded the corner to run plump against Oldham, tilted back in a
chair smoking the butt of a cigar.
In his agitation of mind, Bob had no stomach for casual conversation. By
an effort he smoothed out his manner and collected his thoughts.
"How are you, Mr. Oldham?" he greeted the older man; "when did you get
"About an hour ago," replied Oldham. His spare figure in the gray
business suit did not stir from its lazy posture, nor did the expression
of his thin sardonic face change, but somehow, after swallowing his
drink, Bob decided to revise his first intention of escaping to his
"An hour ago," he repeated, when the import of the words finally
filtered through his mental turmoil. "You travelled up at night then?"
"Yes. It's getting hot on the plains."
"Got in just before daylight, then?"
"Just before. I'd have made it sooner, but I had to work my way through
"Where's your team?"
"I left it down at the Company's stables; thought you wouldn't mind."
"Sure not," said Bob.
The Company's stables were at the other end of the village. Oldham must
have walked the length of the street. He had said it was before
daylight; but the look of the man's eyes was quizzical and cold behind
the glasses. Still, it was always quizzical and cold. Bob called himself
a panicky fool. Just the same, he wished now he had looked for
footprints in the dust of the street. While his brain was thus busy with
swift conjecture and the weighing of probabilities, his tongue was
making random conversation, and his vacant eye was taking in and
reporting to his intelligence the most trivial things. Generally
speaking, his intelligence did not catch the significance of what his
eyes reported until after an appreciable interval. Thus he noted that
Oldham had smoked his cigar down to a short butt. This unimportant fact
meant nothing, until his belated mind told him that never before had he
seen the man actually smoking. Oldham always held a cigar between his
lips, but he contented himself with merely chewing it or rolling it
about. And this was very early, before breakfast.
"Never saw you smoke before," he remarked abruptly, as this bubble of
irrelevant thought came to the surface.
"No?" said Oldham, politely.
"It would make me woozy all day to smoke before I ate," said Bob, his
voice trailing away, as his inner ear once more took up its listening
for the hubbub that must soon break.
As the moments went by, the suspense of this waiting became almost
unbearable. A small portion of him kept up its semblance of conversation
with Oldham; another small portion of him made minute and careful notes
of trivial things; all the rest of him, body and soul, was listening, in
the hope that soon, very soon, a scream would break the suspense. From
time to time he felt that Oldham was looking at him queerly, and he
rallied his faculties to the task of seeming natural.
"Aren't you feeling well?" asked the older man at last. "You're mighty
pale. You want to watch out where you drink water around some of these
Bob came to with a snap.
"Didn't sleep well," said he, once more himself.
"Well, that wouldn't trouble me," yawned Oldham; "if it hadn't been for
cigars I'd have dropped asleep in this chair an hour ago. You said you
couldn't smoke before breakfast; neither can I ordinarily. This isn't
before breakfast for me, it's after supper; and I've smoked two just to
"Why keep awake?" asked Bob.
"When I pass away, it'll be for all day. I want to eat first."
There, at last, it had come! A man down the street shouted. There
followed a pounding at doors, and then the murmur of exclamations,
questions and replies.
"It sounds like some excitement," yawned Oldham, bringing his chair down
with a thump. "They haven't even rung the first bell yet; let's wander
out and stretch our legs."
He sauntered off the wide back porch toward the front of the house. Bob
followed. When near the gate Bob's mind grasped the significance of one
of the trivial details that his eyes had reported to it some moments
before. He uttered an exclamation, and returned hurriedly to the back
porch to verify his impressions. They had been correct. Oldham had
stated definitely that he had arrived before daylight, that he had been
sitting in his chair for over an hour; that during that time he had
smoked two cigars through.
_Neither on the broad porch, nor on the ground near it, nor in any
possible receptacle were there any cigar ashes._
The hue and cry rose and died; the sheriff from the plains did his duty;
but no trace of the murderer was found. Indeed, at the first it was not
known positively who had done the deed; a dozen might have had motive
for the act. Only by the process of elimination was the truth come at.
No one could say which way the fugitive had gone. Jim Pollock, under
pressure, admitted that his brother had stormed against the door, had
told the awakened inmates that his wife was dead and that he was going
away. Immediately on making this statement, he had clattered off. Jim
steadfastly maintained that his brother had given no inkling of whither
he fled. Simeon Wright's cattle, on their way to the high country, filed
past. The cowboys listened to the news with interest, and a delight
which they did not attempt to conceal. They denied having seen the
fugitive. The sheriff questioned them perfunctorily. He knew the breed.
George Pollock might have breakfasted with them for all that the denials
There appeared shortly on the scene of action a United States marshal.
The murder of a government official was serious. Against the criminal
the power of the nation was deployed. Nevertheless, in the long run,
George Pollock got clean away. Nobody saw him from that day--or nobody
would acknowledge to have seen him.
For awhile Bob expected at any moment to be summoned for his testimony.
He was morally certain that Oldham had been an eye-witness to the
tragedy. But as time went on, and no faintest indication manifested
itself that he could have been connected with the matter, he concluded
himself mistaken. Oldham could have had no motive in concealment, save
that of the same sympathy Bob had felt for Pollock. But in that case,
what more natural than that he should mention the matter privately to
Bob? If, on the other hand, he had any desire to further the ends of the
law, what should prevent him from speaking out publicly? In neither case
was silence compatible with knowledge.
But Bob knew positively the man had lied, when he stated that he had for
over an hour been sitting in the chair on Auntie Belle's back porch. Why
had he done so? Where had he been? Bob could not hazard even the wildest
guess. Oldham's status with Baker was mysterious; his occasional
business in these parts--it might well be that Oldham thought he had
something to conceal from Bob. In that case, where had the elder man
been, and what was he about during that fatal hour that Sunday morning?
Bob was not conversant with the affairs of the Power Company, but he
knew vaguely that Baker was always shrewdly reaching out for new rights
and privileges, for fresh opportunities which the other fellow had not
yet seen and which he had no desire that the other fellow should see
until too late. It might be that Oldham was on some such errand. In the
rush of beginning the season's work, the question gradually faded from
Forest Reserve matters locally went into the hands of a receiver. That
is to say, the work of supervision fell to Plant's head-ranger, while
Plant's office was overhauled and straightened out by a clerk sent on
from Washington. Forest Reserve matters nationally, however, were on a
different footing. The numerous members of Congress who desired to leave
things as they were, the still more numerous officials of the interested
departments, the swarming petty politicians dealing direct with small
patronage--all these powerful interests were unable satisfactorily to
answer one common-sense question; why is the management of our Forest
Reserves left to a Land Office already busy, already doubted, when we
have organized and equipped a Bureau of Forestry consisting of trained,
enthusiastic and honest men? Reluctantly the transfer was made. The
forestry men picked up the tangle that incompetent, perfunctory and
often venal management had dropped.
To most who heard of it this item of news was interesting, but not
especially important; Bob could not see where it made much difference
who held the reins three thousand miles away. To others it came as the
unhoped-for, dreamed-of culmination of aspiration.
California John got the news from Martin. The old man had come in from a
"You got to take a brace now and be scientific," chaffed Martin. "You
old mossback! Don't you dare fall any more trees without measuring out
the centre of gravity; and don't you split any more wood unless you
calculate first the probable direction of riving; and don't you let any
doodle-bug get away without looking at his teeth."
California John grinned slowly, but his eyes were shining.
"And what's more, you old grafters'll get bounced, sure pop," continued
Martin. "They won't want you. You don't wear spectacles, and you eat too
many proteids in your beans."
"You ain't heard who's going to be sent out for Supervisor?" asked old
"They haven't found any one with thick enough glasses yet," retorted
California John made some purchases, packed his mule, and climbed back
up the mountain to the summer camp. Here he threw off his saddle and
supplies, and entered the ranger cabin. A rusty stove was very hot. Atop
bubbled a capacious kettle. California John removed the cover and peered
"Chicken 'n' dumpling!" said he.
He drew a broken-backed chair to the table and set to business. In ten
minutes his plate contained nothing but chicken bones. He contemplated
them with satisfaction.
"I reckon that'll even up for that bacon performance," he remarked in
reference to some past joke on himself.
At dusk three men threw open the outside door and entered. They found
California John smoking his pipe contemplatively before a clean table.
"Now, you bowlegged old sidewinder," said Ross Fletcher, striding to the
door, "we'll show you something you don't get up where you come from."
"What is it?" asked California John with a mild curiosity.
"Chicken," replied Fletcher.
He peered into the kettle. Then he lit a match and peered again. He
reached for a long iron spoon with which he fished up, one after
another, several dumplings. Finally he swore softly.
"What's the matter, Ross?" inquired California John.
"You know what's the matter," retorted Ross shaking the spoon.
California John arose and looked down into the kettle.
"Thought you said you had chicken," he observed; "looks to me like
"I did have chicken," replied the man. "Oh, you Miles!--Bob!--come here.
This old wreck has gone and stole all our chicken."
The boys popped in from the next room.
"I never," expostulated California John, his eyes twinkling. "I never
stole nothin'. I just came in and found a poor old hen bogged down in a
mess of dough, so I rescued her."
The other man said nothing for some time, but surveyed California John
from head to toe and from toe to head again.
"Square," said he at last.
"Square," replied California John with equal gravity. They shook hands.
While the newcomers ate supper, California John read laboriously his
accumulated mail. After spelling through one document he uttered a
"What is it?" asked Ross, suspending operations.
"They've put me in as Supervisor to succeed Plant," replied California
John, handing over the official document. "I ain't no supervisor."
"I'd like to know why not," spoke up Miles indignantly. "You know these
mountains better'n any man ever set foot in 'em."
"I ain't got no education," replied California John.
"Damn good thing," growled Ross.
California John smoked with troubled brow.
"What's the matter with you, anyhow?" demanded Ross impatiently, after a
while; "ain't you satisfied?"
"Oh, I'm satisfied well enough, but I kind of hate to leave the service;
I like her."
"Quit!" cried Ross.
"No," denied California John, "but I'll get fired. First thing," he
explained, "I'm going after Simeon Wright's grazing permits. He ain't no
right in the mountains, and the ranges are overstocked. He can't trail
in ten thousand head while I'm supposed to be boss, so it looks as
though I wasn't going to be boss long after Simeon Wright comes in."
"Oh, go slow," pleaded Ross; "take things a little easy at first, and
then when you get going you can tackle the big things."
"I ain't going to enforce any regulations they don't give me," stated
California John, "and I'm going to try to enforce all they do. That's
what I'm here for."
"That means war with Wright," said Ross.
"Then war it is," agreed California John comfortably.
"You won't last ten minutes against Wright."
"Reckon not," agreed old John, "reckon not; but I'll last long enough to
make him take notice."
By end of summer California John was fairly on his road. He entered
office at a time when the local public sentiment was almost unanimously
against the system of Forest Reserves. The first thing he did was to
discharge eight of the Plant rangers. These fell back on their rights,
and California John, to his surprise, found that he could not thus
control his own men. He wagged his head in his first discouragement. It
was necessary to recommend to Washington that these men be removed; and
California John knew well by experience what happened to such
recommendations. Nevertheless he sat him down to his typewriter, and
with one rigid forefinger, pecked out such a request. Having thus
accomplished his duty in the matter, but without hope of results, he
went about other things. Promptly within two weeks came the necessary
authority. The eight ornamentals were removed.
Somewhat encouraged, California John next undertook the sheep problem.
That, under Plant, had been in the nature of a protected industry.
California John and his delighted rangers plunged neck deep into a sheep
war. They found themselves with a man's job on their hands. The
sheepmen, by long immunity, had come to know the higher mountains
intimately, and could hide themselves from any but the most
conscientious search. When discovered, they submitted peacefully to
being removed from the Reserve. At the boundaries the rangers' power
ceased. The sheepmen simply waited outside the line. It was manifestly
impossible to watch each separate flock all the time. As soon as
surveillance was relaxed, over the line they slipped, again to fatten
on prohibited feed until again discovered, and again removed. The
rangers had no power of arrest; they could use only necessary force in
ejecting the trespassers. It was possible to sue in the United States
courts, but the process was slow and unsatisfactory, and the damages
awarded the Government amounted to so little that the sheepmen
cheerfully paid them as a sort of grazing tax. The point was, that they
got the feed--either free or at a nominal cost--and the rangers were
powerless to stop them.
Over this problem California John puzzled a long time.
"We ain't doing any good playing hide and coop," he told Ross; "it's
just using up our time. We got to get at it different. I wish those
regulations was worded just the least mite different!"
He produced the worn Blue Book and his own instructions and thumbed them
over for the hundredth time.
"'Employ only necessary force,'" he muttered; "'remove them beyond the
confines of the reserve.'" He bit savagely at his pipe. Suddenly his
tension relaxed and his wonted shrewdly humorous expression returned to
his brown and lean old face. "Ross," said he, "this is going to be plumb
amusing. Do you guess we-all can track up with any sheep?"
"Jim Hutchins's herders must have sneaked back over by Iron Mountain,"
"Jim Hutchins," mused California John; "where is he now? Know?"
"I heard tell he was at Stockton."
"Well, that's all right then. If Jim was around, he might start a
shootin' row, and we don't want any of that."
"Well, I don't know as I'm afraid of Jim Hutchins," said Ross Fletcher.
"Neither am I, sonny," replied California John; "but this is a
grand-stand play, and we got to bring her off without complications. You
get the boys organized. We start to-morrow."
"What you got up your sleeve?" asked Ross.
"Never you mind."
"Who's going to have charge of the office?"
"Nobody," stated California John positively; "we tackle one thing to a
Next day the six rangers under command of their supervisor disappeared
in the wilderness. When they reached the trackless country of the
granite and snow and the lost short-hair meadows, they began scouting.
Sign of sheep they found in plenty, but no sheep. Signal smokes over
distant ranges rose straight up, and died; but never could they discover
where the fire had been burned. Sheepmen of the old type are the best of
mountaineers, and their skill has been so often tested that they are as
full of tricks as so many foxes. The fires they burned left no ash. The
smokes they sent up warned all for two hundred miles.
Nevertheless, by the end of three days young Tom Carroll and Charley
Morton trailed down a band of three thousand head. They came upon the
flock grazing peacefully over blind hillsides in the torment of
splintered granite. The herders grinned, as the rangers came in sight.
They had been "tagged" in this "game of hide and coop." As a matter of
course they began to pack their camp on the two burros that grazed among
the sheep; they ordered the dogs to round up the flock. For two weeks
they had grazed unmolested, and they were perfectly satisfied to pay the
inconvenience of a day's journey over to the Inyo line.
"'llo boys," said their leader, flashing his teeth at them. "'Wan start
"These Jim Hutchins's sheep?" inquired Carroll.
But at that question the Frenchman suddenly lost all his command of the
"They're Hutchins's all right," said Charley, who had ridden out to look
at the brand painted black on the animals' flanks. "No go to-night," he
told the attentive herder. "Camp here."
He threw off his saddle. Tom Carroll rode away to find California John.
The two together, with Ross Fletcher, whom they had stumbled upon
accidentally, returned late the following afternoon. By sunrise next
morning the flocks were under way for Inyo. The sheep strung out by the
dogs went forward steadily like something molten; the sheepherders
plodded along staff in hand; the rangers brought up the rear, riding.
Thus they went for the marching portions of two days. Then at noon they
topped the main crest at the broad Pass, and the sheer descents on the
Inyo side lay before them. From beneath them flowed the plains of Owen's
Valley, so far down that the white roads showed like gossamer threads,
the ranches like tiny squares of green. Eight thousand feet almost
straight down the precipice fell away. Across the valley rose the White
Mountains and the Panamints, and beyond them dimly could be guessed
Death Valley and the sombre Funeral Ranges. To the north was a lake with
islands swimming in it, and above it empty craters looking from above
like photographs of the topography of the moon; and beyond it tier after
tier, as far as the eye could reach, the blue mountains of Nevada. A
narrow gorge, standing fairly on end, led down from the Pass. Without
hesitation, like a sluggishly moving, viscid brown fluid, the sheep
flowed over the edge. The dogs, their flanking duties relieved by the
walls of dark basalt on either hand, fell to the rear with their
masters. The mountain-bred horses dropped calmly down the rough and
At the end of an hour the basalt gorge opened out to a wide steep slope
of talus on which grew in clumps the first sage brush of the desert.
Here California John called a halt. The line of the Reserve, unmarked as
yet save by landmarks and rare rough "monuments" of loose stones, lay
but just beyond.
"This is as far as we go," he told the chief herder.
The Frenchman flashed his teeth, and bowed with some courtesy. "Au
revoi'," said he.
"Hold on," repeated California John, "I said this is as far as we go.
That means you, too; and your men."
"But th' ship!" cried the chief herder.
"My rangers will put them off the Reserve, according to regulation,"
stated California John.
The Frenchman stared at him.
"W'at you do?" he gasped at last. "Where we go?"
"I'm going to put you off the Reserve, too, but on the west side," said
California John. The old man's figure straightened in his saddle, and
his hand dropped to the worn and shiny butt of his weapon: "No; none of
that! Take your hand off your gun! I got the right to use _necessary_
force; and, by God, I'll do it!"
The herder began a voluble discourse of mingled protestations and
exposition. California John cut him short.
"I know my instructions as well as you do," said he. "They tell me to
put sheep and herders off the Reserve without using unnecessary force;
but _there ain't nothing said about putting them off in the same
Ross Fletcher rocked with joy in his saddle.
"So that's what you had up your sleeve!" he fairly shouted. "Why, it's
as simple as a b'ar trap!"
California John pointed his gnarled forefinger at the herder.
"Call your dogs!" he commanded sharply. "Call them in, and tie them! The
first dog loose in camp will be shot. If you care for your dogs, tie
them up. Now drop your gun on the ground. Tom, you take their
shootin'-irons." He produced from his saddle bags several new pairs of
hand-cuffs, which he surveyed with satisfaction, "This is business,"
said he; "I bought these on my own hook. You bet I don't mean to have to
shoot any of you fellows in the back; and I ain't going to sit up nights
either. Snap 'em on, Charley. Now, Ross, you and Tom run those sheep
over the line, and then follow us up."
As the full meaning of the situation broke on the Frenchman's mind, he
went frantic. By the time he and his herders should be released, the
whole eighty-mile width of the Sierras would lie between him and his
flocks. He would have to await his chance to slip by the rangers. In the
three weeks or more that must elapse before he could get back, the
flocks would inevitably be about destroyed. For it is a striking fact,
and one on which California John had built his plan, that sheep left to
their own devices soon perish. They scatter. The coyotes, bears and
cougars gather to the feast. It would be most probable that the
sheep-hating cattlemen of Inyo would enjoy mutton chops.
California John collected his scattered forces, delegated two men to
eject the captives; and went after more sheep. He separated thus three
flocks from their herders. After that the sheep question was settled;
government feed was too expensive.
"That's off'n our minds," said he. "Now we'll tackle the next job."
He went at it in his slow, painstaking way, and accomplished it. Never,
if he could help it, did he depend on the mails when the case was within
riding distance. He preferred to argue the matter out, face to face.
"The Government _prefers_ friends," he told everybody, and then took his
stand, in all good feeling, according as the other man proved
reasonable. Some of the regulations were galling to the mountain
traditions. He did not attempt to explain or defend them, but simply
stated their provisions.
"Now, I'm swore in to see that these are carried out," said he, "always,
and if you ain't going to toe the mark, why, you see, it puts me in one
hell of a hole, don't it? I ain't liking to be put in the position of
fighting all my old neighbours, and I sure can't lie down on my job. It
don't _really_ mean much to you, now does it, Link? and it helps me out
"Well, I know you're square, John, and I'll do it," said the
mountaineer reluctantly, "but I wouldn't do it for any other blank of a
blank in creation!"
Thus California John was able, by personality, to reduce much friction
and settle many disputes. He could be uncompromising enough on occasion.
Thus Win Spencer and Tom Hoyt had a violent quarrel over cattle
allotments which they brought to California John for settlement. Each
told a different story, so the evidence pointed clearly to neither
party. California John listened in silence.
"I won't take sides," said he; "settle it for yourselves. _I'd just as
soon make enemies of both of you as of one_."
Then in the middle of summer came the trial of it all. The Service sent
notice that, beginning the following season, a grazing tax would be
charged, and it requested the Supervisor to send in his estimate of
grazing allotments. California John sat him down at his typewriter and
made out the required list. Simeon Wright's name did not appear therein.
In due time somebody wanted, officially, to know why not. California
John told them, clearly, giving the reasons that the range was
overstocked, and quoting the regulations as to preference being given to
the small owner dwelling in or near the Forests. He did this just as a
good carpenter might finish the under side of a drain; not that it would
do any good, but for his own satisfaction.
"We will now listen to the roar of the lion," he told Ross Fletcher,
"after which I'll hand over my scalp to save 'em the trouble of
sharpening up their knives."
As a matter of fact the lion did roar, but no faintest echo reached the
Sierras. For the first time Simeon Wright and the influence Simeon
Wright could bring to bear failed of their accustomed effect at
Washington. An honest, fearless, and single-minded Chief, backed by an
enthusiastic Service, saw justice rather than expediency. California
John received back his recommendation marked "Approved."
The old man tore open the long official envelope, when he received it
from Martin's hand, and carried it to the light, where he adjusted
precisely his bowed spectacles, and, in his slow, methodical way,
proceeded to investigate the contents. As he caught sight of the word
and its initials his hand involuntarily closed to crush the papers, and
his gaunt form straightened. In his mild blue eye sprang fire. He turned
to Martin, his voice vibrant with an emotion carefully suppressed
through the nine long years of his faithful service.
"They've turned down Wright," said he, "and they've give us an
appropriation. They've turned down old Wright! By God, we've got a man!"
He strode from the store, his head high. As he went up the street a
canvas sign over the empty storehouse attracted his attention. He pulled
his bleached moustache a moment; then removed his floppy old hat, and
An old-fashioned exhorting evangelist was holding forth to three
listless and inattentive sinners. A tired-looking woman sat at a
miniature portable organ. At the close of the services California John
"I'm plumb busted," said he frankly, "and that's the reason I couldn't
chip in. I couldn't buy fleas for a dawg. I'm afraid you didn't win
The preacher looked gloomily at a nickle and a ten-cent piece.
"Dependin' on this sort of thing to get along?" asked California John.
"Yes," said the preacher. The woman looked out of the window.
California John said no more, but went out of the building and down the
street to Austin's saloon.
"Howdy, boys," he greeted the loungers and card players. "Saw off a
minute. There's goin' to be a gospel meetin' right here a half-hour from
now. I'm goin' to hold it and I'm goin' out now to rustle a
congregation. At the close we'll take up a collection for the benefit
of the church."
At the end of the period mentioned he placed himself behind the bar and
faced a roomful of grinning men.
"This is serious, boys. Take off your hat, Bud. Wipe them snickers off'n
your face. We're all sinners; and I reckon now's as good a time as any
to realize the fact. I don't know much about the Bible; but I do recall
enough to hold divine services for once, and I intend to have 'em
For fifteen minutes California John conducted his services according to
his notion. Then he stated briefly his cause and took up his collection.
"Nine-forty-five," said he thoughtfully, looking at the silver. He
carefully extracted two nickels, and dumped the rest in his pocket. "I
reckon I've earned a drink out of this," he stated; "any objections?"
There were none; so California John bought his drink and departed.
"That's all right," he told the astonished and grateful evangelist, "I
had to do somethin' to blow off steam, or else go on a hell of a drunk.
And it would have been plumb ruinous to do that. So you see, it's lucky
I met you." The old man's twinkling and humorous blue eyes gazed
quizzically at the uneasy evangelist, divided between gratitude and his
notion that he ought to reprobate this attitude of mind. Then they
softened. California John laid his hand on the preacher's shoulder.
"Don't get discouraged," said he; "don't do it. The God of Justice still
rules. I've just had some news that proves it."
From this moment the old man held his head high, and went about the work
with confidence. He built trails where trails had long been needed; he
regulated the grazing; he fought fire so successfully that his burned
area dropped that year from two per cent. to one-half of one per cent.;
he adjusted minor cases of special use and privilege justly. Constantly
he rode his district on the business of his beloved Forest. His
beautiful sorrel, Star, with his silver-mounted caparisons, was a
familiar figure on all the trails. When a man wanted his first Special
Privilege, he wrote the Supervisor. The affair was quite apt to bungle.
Then California John saw that man personally. After that there was no
more trouble. The countryside dug up the rest of California John's name,
and conferred on him the dignity of it. John had heard it scarcely at
all for over thirty years. Now he rather liked the sound of "Supervisor
Davidson." In the title and the simple dignities attaching thereunto he
took the same gentle and innocent pride that he did in Star, and the
silver-mounted bridle and the carved-leather saddle.
But when evening came, and the end of the month, Supervisor Davidson
always found himself in trouble. Then he sat down before his typewriter,
on which he pecked methodically with the rigid forefinger of his right
hand. Naturally slow of thought when confronted by blank paper, the
mechanical limitations put him far behind in his reports and
correspondence. Naturally awkward of phrase when deprived of his
picturesque vernacular, he stumbled among phrases. The monthly reports
were a nightmare to him. When at last they were finished, he breathed a
deep sigh, and went out into his sugar pines and spruces.
In August California John received his first inspector. At that time the
Forest Service, new to the saddle, heir to the confusion left by the
Land Office, knew neither its field nor its office men as well as it
does now. Occasionally it made mistakes in those it sent out. Brent was
one of them.
Brent was of Teutonic extraction, brought up in Brookline, educated in
the Yale Forestry School, and experienced in the offices of the Bureau
of Forestry before it had had charge of the nation's estates. He
possessed a methodical mind, a rather intolerant disposition, thick
glasses, a very cold and precise manner, extreme personal neatness, and
abysmal ignorance of the West. He disapproved of California John's
rather slipshod dress, to start with; his ingrained reticence shrank
from Davidson's informal cordiality; his orderly mind recoiled with
horror from the jumble of the Supervisor's accounts and reports. As he
knew nothing whatever of the Sierras, he was quite unable to appreciate
the value of trails, of fenced meadows, of a countryside of peace--those
things were so much a matter of course back East that he hardly noticed
them one way or another. Brent's thoroughness burrowed deep into office
failures. One by one he dragged them to the light and examined them
through his near-sighted glasses. They were bad enough in all
conscience; and Brent was not in the least malicious in the inferences
he drew. Only he had no conception of judging the Man with the Time and
He believed in military smartness, in discipline, in ordered activities.
"It seems to me you give your rangers a great deal of freedom and
latitude," said he one day.
"Well," said California John, "strikes me that's the only way. With men
like these you got to get their confidence."
Brent peered at him.
"H'm," said he sarcastically, "do you think you have done so?"
California John flushed through his tan at the implication, but he
This studied respect for his superior officer on the Supervisor's part
encouraged Brent to deliver from time to time rather priggish little
homilies on the way to run a Forest. California John listened, but with
a sardonic smile concealed beneath his sun-bleached moustache. After a
little, however, Brent became more inclined to bring home the personal
application. Then California John grew restive.
"In fact," Brent concluded his incisive remarks one day, "you run this
place entirely too much along your own lines."
California John leaned forward.
"Is that an official report?" he asked.
"What?" inquired Brent, puzzled.
"That last remark. Because if it ain't you'd better put it in writing
and make it official. Step right in and do it now!"
Brent looked at him in slight bewilderment.
"I'm willing to hear your talk," went on California John quietly. "Some
of it's good talk, even if it ain't put out in no very good spirit; and
I ain't kicking on criticism--that's what I'm here for, and what you're
here for. But I ain't here for no _private_ remarks. If you've got
anything to kick on, put it down and sign it and send it on. I'll stand
for it, and explain it if I can; or take my medicine if I can't. But
anything you ain't ready and willing to report on, I don't want to take
from you private. _Sabe?_"
Brent bowed coldly, turned his back and walked away without a word.
California John looked after him.
"Well, that wasn't no act of Solomon," he told himself; "but, anyway, I
After Brent's departure it took California John two weeks to recover his
equanimity and self-confidence. Then the importance of his work gripped
him once more. He looked about him at the grazing, the policing, the
fire-fighting, all the varied business of the reserves. In them all he
knew was no graft, and no favouritism. The trails were being improved;
the cabins built; the meadows for horse-feed fenced; the bridges built
and repaired; the country patrolled by honest and enthusiastic men. He
recalled the old days of Henry Plant's administration under the
Land-Office--the graft, the supineness, the inefficiency, the confusion.
"We're savin' the People's property, and keepin' it in good shape," he
argued to himself, "and that's sure the main point. If we take care of
things, we've done the main job. Let the other fellows do the heavy
figgerin'. The city's full of cheap bookkeepers who can't do nothing
But a month later, at the summer camp, California John had opportunity
to greet a visitor whom he was delighted to see. One morning a very
dusty man leaned from his saddle and unlatched the gate before
headquarters. As he straightened again, he removed his broad hat and
looked up into the cool pine shadows with an air of great refreshment.
"Why, it's Ashley Thorne!" cried California John, leaping to his feet.
"The same," replied Thorne, reaching out his hand.
He dismounted, and Charley Morton, grinning a welcome, led his horse
away to the pasture.
"I sure am glad to see you!" said California John over and over again;
"and where did you come from? I thought you were selling pine lands in
Thorne dropped into a chair with a sigh of contentment. "I was," said
he, "and then they made the Transfer, so I came back."
"You're in the Service again?" cried California John delighted.
"Couldn't stay out now that things are in proper hands."
"Good! I expect you're down here to haul me over the coals," California
"Oh, just to look around," said Thorne, biting at his close-clipped,
Next morning they began to look around. California John was overjoyed at
this chance to show a sympathetic and congenial man what he had done.
"I got a trail 'way up Baldy now," he confided as they swung aboard.
"It's a good trail too; and it makes a great fire lookout. We'll take a
ride up there, if you have time before you go. Well, as I was telling
you about that Cook cattle case--the old fellow says----"
At the end of the Supervisor's long and interested dissertation on the
Cook case, Thorne laughed gently.
"Looks as if you had him," said he, "and I think the Chief will sustain
you. You like this work, don't you?"
"I sure just naturally love it," replied California John earnestly.
"I've got the chance now to straighten things out. What I say goes. For
upward of nine years I've been ridin' around seein' how things had ought
to be done. And I couldn't get results nohow. Somebody always had a
graft in it that spoiled the whole show. I could see how simple and easy
it would be to straighten everythin' all out in good shape; but I
couldn't do nothing."
"Hard enough to hold your job," suggested Thorne.
"That's it. And everybody in the country thought I was a damn fool. Only
damn fools and lazy men took rangers' jobs those days. But I hung on
because I believed in it. And now I got the best job in the bunch. In
place of being looked down on as that old fool John, I'm Mr. Davidson,
the Forest Supervisor."
"It's a matter for pride," said Thorne non-committally.
"It isn't that," denied the old man; "I'm not proud because I'm
Supervisor. Lord love you, Henry Plant was Supervisor; and I never heard
tell that any one was proud of him, not even himself. But I'm proud of
being a _good_ supervisor. They ain't a sorehead near us now.
Everybody's out for the Forest. I've made 'em understand that it's for
them. They know the Service is square. And we ain't had fires to amount
to nothing; nor trespass."
"You've done good work," said Thorne soberly; "none better. No one could
have done it but you. You have a right to be proud of it."
"Then you'll be sending in a good report," said California John, solely
by way of conversation. "I suspicion that last fellow gave me an awful
"I'm not an inspector," replied Thorne.
"That so? You used to be before you resigned; so I thought sure you must
be now. What's your job?"
"I'll tell you when we have more time," said Thorne.
For three days they rode together. The Supervisor was a very busy man.
He had errands of all sorts to accomplish. Thorne simply went along.
Everywhere he found good feeling, satisfactory conditions.
At the end of the third day as the two men sat before the rough stone
fireplace at headquarters, Thorne abruptly broke the long silence.
"John," said he, "I've got a few things to say that are not going to be
pleasant either for you or for me. Nevertheless, I am going to say them.
In fact, I asked the Chief for the privilege rather than having you hear
through the regular channels."
California John had not in the least changed his position, yet all at
once the man seemed to turn still and watchful.
"Fire ahead," said he.
"You asked me the other day what my job is. It is Supervisor of this
district. They have appointed me in your place."
"Oh, they have," said California John. He sat for some time, his eyes
narrowing, looking straight ahead of him. "I'd like to know why!" he
burst out at last. A dull red spot burned on each side his
"You had nothing to do with it," interrupted California John sharply; "I
know that. But who did? Why did they do it? By God," he brought his fist
down sharply, "I intend to get to the bottom of this! I've been in the
Service since she started. I've served honest. No man can say I haven't
done all my duty and been square. And that's been when every man-jack of
them was getting his graft as reg'lar as his pay check. And since I've
been Supervisor is the only time this Forest has ever been in any kind
of shape, if I do say it myself. I've rounded her up. I've stopped the
graft. I've fixed the 'soldiers.' I've got things in shape. They can't
remove me without cause--I know that--and if they think I'm goin' to lie
down and take it without a kick, they've got off the wrong foot good and
Thorne sat tight, nor offered a word of comment.
"You've been an inspector," California John appealed to him. "You've
been all over the country among the different reserves. Ain't mine up to
"Things are in better shape here than in any of them," replied Thorne
decisively; "your rangers have more _esprit de corps_, your neighbours
are better disposed, your fires have a smaller percentage of acreage,
your trails are better."
"Well?" demanded California John.
"Well," repeated Thorne leaning forward, "just this. What's the use of
"Use?" repeated California John vaguely.
"Yes. Of what you and all the rest of us are doing."
"To save the public's property."
"That's part of it; and that's the part you've been doing superlatively
well. It's the old idea, that: the idea expressed by the old name--the
Forest _Reserves_--to save, to set aside. It seemed the most important
thing. The forests had so many eager enemies--unprincipled land-grabbers
and lumbermen, sheep, fire. To beat these back required all our best
efforts. It was all we could think of. We hadn't time to think of
anything else. It was a full job."
"You bet it was," commented the old man grimly.
"Well, it's done. There will be attempts to go back to the old state of
affairs, but they will grow feebler from year to year. Things will never
slide back again. The people are awake."
"Think so?" doubted California John.
"I know it. Now comes the new idea. We no longer speak of Forest
Reserves, but of National Forests. We've saved them; now what are we
going to do with them? What would you think of a man who cleared a
'forty', and pulled all the stumps, and then quit work?"
"I never thought of that," said California John, "but what's that got to
do with these confounded whelps----"
"We are going to use these forests for the benefit of the people. We're
going to cut the ripe trees and sell them to the lumber manufacturer;
we're going to develop the water power; we're going to improve the
grazing; we're going to study what we have here, so that by and by from
our forests we will be getting the income the lumberman now gets, and
will not be injuring the estate. Each Forest is going to be a big and
complicated business, like railroading or wholesaling. Anybody can run
Martin's store down at the Flats. It takes a trained man to oversee even
a proposition like the Star at White Oaks."
"Oh, I see what you're drivin' at," said California John, "but I've made
good up to now; and until they try me out, they've no right to fire me.
I'll defy 'em to find anythin' crooked!!!"
"John, you're as straight as a string. But they have tried you out. Your
office work has been away off."
"Oh, that! What's those dinkey little reports and monkeydoodle business
amount to, anyhow? You know perfectly well it's foolish to ask a ranger
to fill out an eight-page blank every time he takes a ride. What does
that amount to?"
"Not very much," confessed Thorne. "But when things begin to hum around
here there'll be a thousand times as much of the same sort of stuff, and
it'll _all_ be important."
"They'd better get me a clerk."
"They would get you a clerk, several of them. But no man has a right to
even boss a job he doesn't himself understand. What do you know about
timber grading? estimating? mapping? What is your scientific
"I've give my soul and boot-straps to this Service for nine years--at
sixty and ninety a month," interrupted California John. "Part of that I
spent for tools they was too stingy to give me. Now they kick me out."
"Oh, no, they don't," said Thorne. "Not any! But you agree with me,
don't you, that you couldn't hold down the job?"
"I suppose so," snapped California John. "To hell with such a game. I
think I'll go over Goldfield way."
"No, you won't," said Thorne gently. "You'll stay here, in the Service."
"What!" cried the old man rising to his feet; "stay here in the Service!
And every mountain man to point me out as that old fool Davidson who got
fired after workin' nine years like a damn ijit. You talk foolish!"
Thorne arose too, and put one hand on the old man's shoulder.
"And what about those nine years?" he asked gently. "Things looked
pretty dark, didn't they? You didn't have enough to live on; and you got
your salary docked without any reason or justice; and you had to stand
one side while the other fellows did things dishonest and wrong; and it
didn't look as though it was ever going to get better. Nine years is a
long time. Why did you do it?"
"I don't know," muttered California John.
"It was just waiting for this time that is coming. In five years we'll
have the people with us; we'll have Congress, and the money to do
things; we'll have sawmills and water-power, and regulated grazing, and
telephone lines, and comfortable quarters. We'll have a Service
safeguarded by Civil Service, and a body of disciplined men, and
officers as the Army and Navy have. It's coming; and it's coming soon.
You've been nine years at the other thing--"
"It's humiliating," insisted California John, "to do a job well and get
"You'll still have just the job you have now--only you'll be called a
"My people won't see it that way."
Ashley Thorne hesitated.
"No, they won't," said he frankly at last. "I could argue on the other
side; but they won't. They'll think you've dropped back a peg; and
they'll say to each other--at least some of them will: 'Old Davidson bit
off more than he could chew; and it serves him right for being a damn
fool, anyway.' You've been content to play along misunderstood for nine
years because you had faith. Has that faith deserted you?"
California John looked down, and his erect shoulders shrunk forward a
"Old friend," said Thorne, "it's a sacrifice. Are you going to stay and
California John for a long time studied a crack in the floor. When he
looked up his face was illuminated with his customary quizzical grin.
"I've sure got it on Ross Fletcher," he drawled. "I done _told_ him I
wasn't no supervisor, and he swore I was."
When next Bob was able to visit the Upper Camp, he found Thorne fully
established. He rode in from the direction of Rock Creek, and so through
the pasture and by the back way. In the tiny potato and garden patch
behind the house he came upon a woman wielding a hoe.
Her back was toward him, and a pink sunbonnet, freshly starched,
concealed all her face. The long, straight lines of her gown fell about
a vigorous and supple figure that swayed with every stroke of the hoe.
Bob stopped and watched her. There was something refreshing in the
eagerness with which she attacked the weeds, as though it were less a
drudgery than a live interest which it was well to meet joyously. After
a moment she walked a few steps to another row of tiny beans. Her
movements had the perfect grace of muscular control; one melted, flowed,
into the other. Bob's eye of the athlete noted and appreciated this
fact. He wondered to which of the mountain clans this girl belonged.
Vigorous and breezy as were the maidens of the hills, able to care for
themselves, like the paladins of old, afoot or ahorse, they lacked this
grace of movement. He stepped forward.
"I beg pardon," said he.
The girl turned, resting the heel of her hoe on the earth, and both
hands on the end of its handle. Bob saw a dark, oval countenance, with
very red cheeks, very black eyes and hair, and an engaging flash of
teeth. The eyes looked at him as frankly as a boy's, and the flash of
teeth made him unaffectedly welcome.
"Is Mr. Thorne here?" asked Bob.
"Why, no," replied the girl; "but I'm Mr. Thorne's sister. Won't I do?"
She was leisurely laying aside her hoe, and drawing the fringed buckskin
gauntlets from her hands. Bob stepped gallantly forward to relieve her
of the implement.
"Do?" he echoed. "Why, of course you'll do!"
She stopped and looked him full in the face, with an air of great
"Did you come to see Mr. Thorne on business?" she asked.
"No," replied Bob; "just ran over to see him."
She laughed quietly.
"Then I'm afraid I won't do," she said, "for I must cook dinner. You
see," she explained, "I'm Mr. Thorne's clerk, and if it were business, I
might attend to it."
Bob flushed to the ears. He was ordinarily a young man of sufficient
self-possession, but this young woman's directness was disconcerting.
She surveyed his embarrassment with approving eyes.
"You might finish those beans," said she, offering the hoe. "Of course,
you must stay to dinner, and I must go light the fire."
Bob finished the beans, leaned the hoe up against the house, and went
around to the front. There he stopped in astonishment.
"Well, you have changed things!" he cried.
The stuffy little shed kitchen was no longer occupied. A floor had been
laid between the bases of four huge trees, and walls enclosing three
sides to the height of about eight feet had been erected. The affair had
no roof. Inside these three walls were the stove, the kitchen table, the
shelves and utensils of cooking. Miss Thorne, her sunbonnet laid aside
from her glossy black braids, moved swiftly and easily here and there in
this charming stage-set of a kitchen. About ten feet in front of it, on
the pine needles, stood the dining table, set with white.
[Illustration: "I beg pardon," said he. The girl turned]
The girl nodded brightly to Bob.
"Finished?" she inquired. She pointed to the water pail: "There's a
useful task for willing hands."
Bob filled the pail, and set it brimming on the section of cedar log
which seemed to be its appointed resting place.
"Thank you," said the girl. Bob leaned against the tree and watched her
as she moved here and there about the varied business of cooking. Every
few minutes she would stop and look upward through the cool shadows of
the trees, like a bird drinking. At times she burst into snatches of
song, so brief as to be unrecognizable.
"Do you like sticks in your food?" she asked Bob, as though suddenly
remembering his presence, "and pine needles, and the husks of pine nuts,
and other debris? because that's what the breezes and trees and naughty
little squirrels are always raining down on me."
"Why don't you have the men stretch you a canvas?" asked Bob.
"Well," said the girl, stopping short, "I have considered it. I no more
than you like unexpected twigs in my dough. But you see I do like
shadows and sunlight and upper air and breezes in my food. And you can't
have one without the other. Did you get all the weeds out?"
"Yes," said Bob. "Look here; you ought not to have to do such work as
"Do you think it will wear down my fragile strength?" she asked, looking
at him good-humouredly. "Is it too much exercise for me?"
"No--" hesitated Bob, "but--"
"Why, bless you, I like to help the babies to grow big and green," said
she. "One can't have the theatre or bridge up here; do leave us some of
the simple pleasures."
"Why did you want me to finish for you then?" demanded Bob shrewdly.
"Young man," said she, "I could give you at least ten reasons," with
which enigmatic remark she whipped her apron around her hand and whisked
open the oven door, where were displayed rows of beautifully browned
"Nevertheless----" began Bob.
"Nevertheless," she took him up, raising her face, slightly flushed by
the heat, "all the men-folks are busy, and this one woman-folk is not
harmed a bit by playing at being a farmer lassie."
"One of the rangers could do it all in a couple of hours."
"The rangers are in the employ of the United States Government, and this
garden is mine," she stated evenly. "How could I take a Government
employee to work on my property?"
"But surely Mr. Thorne--"
"Ashley, bless his dear old heart, takes beans for granted, as something
that happens on well-regulated tables."
She walked to the edge of the kitchen floor and looked up through the
trees. "He ought to be along soon now. I hope so; my biscuits are just
on the brown." She turned to Bob, her eyes dancing: "Now comes the
exciting moment of the day, the great gamble! Will he come alone, or
will he bring a half-dozen with him? I am always ready for the
half-dozen, and as a consequence we live in a grand, ingenious debauch
of warmed-ups and next-days. You don't know what good practice it is;
nor what fun! I've often thought I could teach those cooks of Marc
Antony's something--you remember, don't you, they used to keep six
dinners going all at different stages of preparation because they never
knew at what hour His High-and-mightiness might choose to dine. Or
perhaps you don't know? Football men don't have to study, do they?"
"What makes you think I'm a football man?" grinned Bob; "generally
"Not know the great Bob Orde!" cried the girl. "Why, not one of us but
had your picture, generally in a nice gilt shrine, but _always_ with
violets before it."
But on this ground Bob was sure.
"You have been reading a ten-cent magazine," he admonished her gravely.
"It is unwise to take your knowledge of the customs in girls' colleges
from such sources."
From the depths of the forest eddied a cloud of dust. Miss Thorne
appraised it carefully.
"Warmed-overs to-night," she pronounced. "There's no more than two of
The accuracy of her guess was almost immediately verified by the
appearance of two riders. A moment later Thorne and California John
dismounted at the hitching rail, some distance removed among the
azaleas, and came up afoot. The younger man had dropped all his dry,
official precision, his incisive abruptness, his reticence. Clad in the
high, laced cruisers, the khaki and gray flannel, the broad, felt hat
and gay neckerchief of what might be called the professional class of
out-of-door man, his face glowing with health and enthusiasm, he seemed
a different individual.
"Hullo! Hullo!" he cried out a joyous greeting as he drew nearer; "I
couldn't bring you much company to-day, Amy. But I see you've found
some. How are you, Orde? I'm glad to see you."
He and California John disappeared behind the shed, where the wash basin
was; while Amy, with deftness, rearranged the table to accord with the
numbers who would sit down to it.
The meal in the open was most delightful; especially to Bob, after his
long course of lumber-camp provender. The deep shadows shifted slowly
across the forest floor. Sparkles of sunlight from unexpected quarters
touched gently in turn each of the diners, or glittered back from glass
or linen. Occasionally a wandering breeze lifted a corner of the
tablecloth and let it fall, or scurried erratically across the table
itself. Occasionally, too, a pine needle, a twig, a leaf would zigzag
down through the air to fall in some one's coffee or glass or plate.
Birds flashed across the open vault of this forest room--brilliant
birds, like the Louisiana Tanager; sober little birds like the creepers
and nuthatches. Circumspect and reserved whitecrowns and brush tohees
scratched and hopped silently over the forest litter. Once a swift
falcon, glancing like a shadowy death, slanted across the upper spaces.
The food was excellent, and daintily served.
"I am proud of my blue and white enamel-ware," Miss Thorne told Bob;
"it's so much better than tin or this ugly gray. And that glass pitcher
I got with coupons from the coffee packages."
"You didn't get these with coupons?" said Bob, lifting one of the
massive silver forks.
"No," she admitted. "That is my one foolishness. All the rest does not
matter, but I can't get along without my silver."
"And a great nuisance it is to those who have to move as we move," put
in Ashley Thorne.
The forest officers took up their broken conversation. Bob found himself
a silent but willing listener. He heard discussion of policies, business
dealings, plans that widened the horizon of what the Forest had meant to
him. In these discussions the girl took an active and intelligent part.
Her opinion seemed to be accepted seriously by both the men, as one who
had knowledge, and indeed, her grasp of details seemed as comprehensive
as that of the men themselves.
Finally Thorne pushed his chair back and began to fill his pipe.
"Anybody here to-day?" he asked.
The girl ran over rapidly a half-dozen names, sketching briefly the
business they had brought. Then, one after the other, she told the
answers she had made to them. This one had been given blanks, forms and
instructions. That one had been told clearly that he was in the wrong,
and must amend his ways. The other had been advised but tentatively, and
informed that he must see the Supervisor personally. To each of these
Thorne responded by a brief nod, puffing, meanwhile, on his pipe.
"All right?" she asked, when she had finished.
"All right but one," said he, removing his pipe at last. "I don't think
it will be advisable to let Francotti have what he wants."
"Pull the string, then!" cried the girl gaily.
Thorne turned to California John in discussion of the Francotti affair.
"What do you mean by 'pull the string'?" Bob took the occasion to
"I settle a lot of these little matters that aren't worth bothering
Ashley with," she explained, "but I tie a string to each of my
decisions. I always make them 'subject to the Supervisor's approval.'
Then if I do wrong, all I have to do is to write the man and tell him
the Supervisor does not approve."
"I shouldn't think you'd like that," said Bob.
"Why, it sort of puts you in a hole, doesn't it? Lays all the blame on
She laughed in frank amusement.
"What of it?" she challenged.
"Any letters?" Thorne asked abruptly. "Morton brought mail this morning,
"Nothing wildly important--except that they're thinking of adopting a
"A uniform!" snorted California John, rearing his old head.
"Oh, yes, I've heard of that," put in Thorne instantly. "It's to be a
white pith helmet with a green silk scarf on it; red coat with gold
lace, and white, English riding breeches with leather leggins. Don't you
think old John would look sweet in that?" he asked Bob.
But the old man refused to be drawn out.
"Supervisors same; but with a gold pompon on top the helmet," he
observed. "What _is_ the dang thing, anyway, Amy?" he asked.
"Dark green whipcord, green buttons, gray hat, military cut."
"Not bad," said Thorne.
"About one fifty-mile ride and one fire would make that outfit look like
a bunch of mildewed alfalfa. Blue jeans is about my sort of uniform,"
"I don't believe we'd be supposed to wear it on range," suggested
Thorne. "Only in town and official business." He turned to the girl
again: "May have to go over Baldy to-morrow," said he, "so we'll run off
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