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David Lannarck, Midget An Adventure Story by GEORGE S. HARNEY David was small, but Oh my! Circus life was exciting enough, but young David Lannarck was tired of being stared at and bullied because of his small size. So when a tall Westerner saved his life in Cheyenne, and David and he became friends, why, the circus midget decided to make his home in the wide open space. With big, rangy Sam Welborn, David started out to become a rancher and live out his days in peace and quiet. But excitement seemed to follow the circus midget wherever he went. The big man and the little one ran into gunman, thieves and rustlers, and where big Sam's strength was not enough, David's wit had to get them out alive. Circus life and Western adventure are a highly unusual as well as a delightful combination, but the author George S. Harney has a first-hand authentic knowledge of both. As a young man in Indiana, he was a personal friend of Lew Graham, the circus announcer for the Big Show, Barnam & Bailey's Circus. Lew Graham, handsomely dressed, told the big audience what came next on the program. During the long winter lay-ups, they would swap yarns in the unique circus lingo, which Harney has recorded in David Lannarck, Midget. Later, Mr. Harney served in the Spanish-American War. After the war, "Cap" Harney became active in the development of southern Idaho, and although he sold his holdings there 1945, he confesses that he is still "haunted by the wild isolation of that district west of Cheyenne." Mr. Harney is a native Hoosier, a resident of Crawfordsville, Indiana.
David Lannarck, Midget
AN ADVENTURE STORY
by GEORGE S. HARNEY
EXPOSITION PRESS . NEW YORK
Copyright, 1951, by George S. Harney
All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form
Published by the Exposition Press Inc. 386 Fourth Avenue, New York 16, N.Y. Manufactured in the United States of America Consolidated Book Producers, Inc. Designed by Morry M. Gropper
It is very true, that the small things in life are sometimes the most important. —CHURCHILL
In all her days of presenting the spectacular, Cheyenne had never witnessed a more even contest than was now being staged this day in the early autumn of 1932, at the circus grounds in the city's suburbs. It was a race between a midget and a lout.
The little man ducked under the garish banners portraying the wonders of the Kid Show, raced the interval to the "big top" of the Great International, then back again, closely followed by a lanky oaf whose longer strides evened the contest.
"I'll cut yer ears off," the pursuer snarled, as the midget swung around the pole supporting the snake banner, thus gaining a distance on his enemy. "En I'll cut yer heart out," the big one yelled as he stumbled and almost fell.
As evidence that he would make good his terrifying threat, the lout flourished a clasp-knife in his right hand; with his left, he made futile grabs at the midget's coat tail.
The crowd that watched this contest was not of the circus. It was a gathering of those who came to the lot at an early hour to watch the Circus City set up shop for the one-day stand in this western metropolis. Some of the onlookers were railroad men, off duty; some were cow hands from nearby ranches; a few Indians from the reservation beyond the willow-fringed Lodgepole Creek, lent their stoical presence, while several soldiers from the newly christened Fort Warren with or without official sanction, were on hand to witness the setup.
It was the accepted judgment of those present that the midget and the lout were staging a ballyhoo—a "come-on"—preliminary to the opening of the Kid Show. There was no applause as the little man outwitted his follower by an adroit dodge under the ticket wagon. No one tripped the lout as the race led through the assembled crowd. If the contest was a part of the day's program, no spectator seemed willing to play "stooge" in this preliminary performance.
Some distance to the north where the two great tents of the main show came together, a group of workmen were operating a stake driver. In this gang the midget knew he would find understanding friends. If he could gain sufficient distance to undertake this straightaway, he would find help. He dived between a spectator's legs, turned to the right, and ran for this haven of hope.
Two things interrupted his plans. A ramshackle auto moved across his path. To avoid collision, the midget veered his course to step in a hole and fall sprawling at the feet of the man clambering out of the machine. His pursuer was on him in an instant. "I tole ye I would cut yer heart out," he panted as he brandished the knife. But before he could execute the threat, the knife was struck from his uplifted hand.
The lout screamed with pain as he grabbed his wrist. "Yu've broke my arm," he shouted as he danced around the big man. "Why don't ye pick on one of yer size?" The stranger took in the situation at a glance. The slanting forehead and the evil though childish face revealed a moron with whom words of reason would have little effect. He said nothing.
It was the midget who took charge. He scrambled to his feet, took a few deep breaths, brushed the dust off his coat, and ordered the moron back to the side show. "Go back to your mother," he commanded. "Go right back to Mamie and tell her what you've been doing, and tell her all of it. Don't look for your knife; I'll get that for you when you get over your tantrum."
The midget watched the retreating figure. "His mother is a fine woman," he explained to the stranger. "Has charge of costumes and assists in makeup. That dunce is with her on a few days vacation from a school for the feeble-minded.
"And now, Mister, I want to thank you for your timely help. You probably saved my life, for you can't tell what a half-wit will do, when in a tantrum and armed with a knife. All my life I've had the enmity of half-wits. The big ones tease 'em and they take it out on the little fellow.
"Well, that's that, as dear Marie Dressler says. I certainly am indebted to you, Mister. What's your name, Mister? I surely ought to know the name of the man that probably saved my life."
"My name is Welborn, Sam Welborn. I live quite a distance back in the hills."
"And my name is David Lannarck, and I've got a score of other names besides, to include Shorty, Prince, Runt, Half-Pint, and others. I'm with the Kid Show. I was getting my stuff in shape for the opening when Alfred decided to work on me with that knife. And he about got it done, because there were none of the show people around to take him off me. The spectators thought it was some sort of a pre-exhibition.
"And now, Mr. Welborn, let's go down to the cook tent and get a cup of coffee, and then you can look around the lot until the shows open. I want you to be my guest for the day. I feel that I can never repay you for what you have done. If you ever want any help or aid that a little fellow like me can give, call on me; there are a few things that I can do."
"Well I do need some help, right now," said Welborn. "I want to dispose of a couple of bears."
"Bears? What kind of bears?"
"Two black bear cubs, fat and fine and just ready to be trained. I caught them up in the hills, and find that I have about as much use for them as I would have for a yacht, or a case of smallpox. I've tried turning them loose, but they won't go. Knowing that the show was to be here today, I brought them down in the trailer, hoping some one wanted two healthy cubs to fit into an act or exhibition."
"Bears, bears," mused the midget. "Truth is, Mr. Welborn, I'm not posted on the bear market. Offhand, I would say that they were not worth much to a show that was losing money by the bale. You see, this good old year of '32 is a bust. A depression hits a circus first and hardest. Just now, we are cutting the season and have planned a straightaway back to winter quarters. Instead of going down through Fort Collins, Greeley, Denver, Pueblo, with a swing through Texas, we have canceled everything. We play this Union Pacific right through to Omaha and thence back home by direct rails. So a pair of bear cubs wouldn't be much of an asset right now."
"Anyhow, let's look 'em over while I think up a plan." The midget recovered Alfred's knife from the dust and walked over to the trailer that he noted had a wooden coop of slats aboard. He climbed up on the wheel where he could see two black, wooly objects, scarcely a foot high, and nearly that size in length and breadth.
"They do look fat and in good fur," he commented, "and from the way they are working on the slat on yon side, you won't have them long. They would be out of the pen in another half-hour."
"That's the point to the whole matter. You just can't keep 'em penned in, and you can't keep 'em barred out. They have reached the pest stage and are incorrigible. Now I didn't expect to get much out of them anyhow," continued Welborn. "If I could find a home for them, where they would earn their keep, I would be willing to give them to such a party. Oh, I know it sounds sort of mushy," he hastened to explain as he noted the questioning look on David's countenance, "but I killed their mother for raiding our truckpatch and hogpen and I found these little fellows up near the den, starving and unable to fend for themselves. I took them home, fed them milk and bread and sugar and brought them up to where they are. But they have reached the stage where something must be done. As you see, they are hard to pen up and it's worse to turn them loose. Life to them is one continuous round of wrestling, scrapping, knocking over anything that's loose, and tearing up anything in reach. Whipping them does no good. They cry and beg until you are sorry and then it's to do all over again. I just couldn't kill them; it would be like killing a pet dog. So I just thought that if I could find someone to take them and care for them, it would be good riddance and give me time to go back to my work."
"Well, that solves the problem," said the midget, gleefully. "I've got your party. He's old Fisheye Gleason right here with the show. We can deal with that old buzzard as freely and as profitably as if we were in a cutthroat pawnshop. Hey, you fellows," he called to some passing laborers, "have any of you seen old Fisheye in the last hour?"
"Fisheye is linin' up the wagons in the menag," said one of the men.
"Er he may be up at the marquee tellin' the boss where to route the show," said another. "Maybe he's got Beatty cornered, tellin' him a new plan fer workin' the cats this afternoon," leered another. The leader pointed to the far end of the big animal tent.
"I've got him located," said David. "Now you fix that slat so the bears won't leave for the next hour and we'll work on Fisheye. He has been with this plant ever since Uncle Ben took it out as a wagon show. Hear him tell it, he set Barnum up in business and loaned the Ringling boys their first money. Fisheye is a romancer, unhampered by facts. But he's a wise old man at that.
"Fisheye Gleason still has his first dollar. He wears the same corduroy pants that Uncle Ben gave him on his twenty-first birthday. If we had the time he would tell us his personal experiences with every celebrity in the circus world. We haven't the time, and we've got to work fast and cautious.
"Now Fisheye would balk and walk away on us if we offered him these bears for nothing; he just wouldn't understand it. He dickers in animals a little; trains 'em and has 'em doing things right away. He likes 'em and they like old Fisheye. Why, he can take these little bears and have 'em turning somersaults, dancing, and climbing to their perches in no time. Then he sells 'em into some big act.
"Fisheye is our meat for this play, but don't sell out too quick."
Leaving the cubs to the further destruction of their cage, the prospective salesmen wended their way through a maze of sidewalls, poles, unplaced wagons, cages. On past the refreshment booth that was setting up in the central area; past a score of elephants, swaying in contentment over the morning hay; past camels, llamas, zebras, and other luminaries, to the far end of the big tent where a group of laborers were aiding two elephants to line up the last of the cages and vans in a proper circle around the enclosure.
It was all confusing enough to the big Westerner, but the little man knew where to go. He pressed forward to where a little, old, dried up "razorback" was regaling two of the workmen with words of experience if not wisdom.
"'En I told Shako," he declared with emphasis, "that he never could win back old Mom's confidence, till he got a big armload of sugarcane en doled hit out to her. En shore enough when we got to Little Rock and Shako got holt of some sugarcane, he win that old elephant's respect instanter. En that ain't all! When we got to Memphis en hit into that big storm, why ole Mom—" But the audience died away to one man as the midget's voice interrupted.
"Say, Fisheye, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Mr. Welborn. Meet Mr. Welborn, Mr. Gleason. Mr. Welborn here dickers a little in native animals and has a couple of the slickest, fattest, neatest bear cubs I've seen in years. He's got too much business to give any time to training them and I told him of your success with animals and he wants to make a deal with you."
"What kind of a deal? And where's yer bars?" Fisheye was alert to the business up to knowing the full import of the deal.
"They are out here in a coop—on a trailer. He brought them down out of the mountains this morning."
"Did ye ketch 'em this mornin'?" queried Fisheye as he followed the two salesmen to the truck.
"Naw, he's had 'em in training for two months. Best of all, he knows how to take care of their hair, how to feed 'em. Look, there they are, alike as two peas and ready to climb a pole or turn a somersault."
Fisheye was peering through the slats. "I wish we had 'em out whar I could see 'em better. Now what's yer deal, Prince? Ye said somethin' about a deal?"
"Well, it's like this, Fisheye. Mr. Welborn could go right on training these bruins and peddle them through an ad in Billboard for a sure two hundred smackers, surely by Thanksgiving—"
"Two hundred nothin's," retorted the wary Fisheye, who was not to let a fancy price go by without protest. "Thar's no bar in the world wuth a hundred dollars. Why up in the Yallerstone, they offer to give 'em away!"
"Sure they do, or did last year. They are the old mangy bears that bother tourists, Jesse James bears, that they want to get rid of. But they wouldn't sell you a cub for love or money. Bears are scarce this year. They hint of a bear famine up there.
"And anyhow, you didn't let me finish. Why if you owned these bears and had 'em climbing an injun ladder right up to their perch in the animal act, had 'em dancing, turning somersaults, you would ask a half grand for them and never bat an eye. They would be worth it, and you know it. But rather than go through the work of getting them ready, Mr. Welborn is willing to take an even hundred for the two. Better still, he'll let you make a note for the hundred due in ninety days—or say Christmas. By that time you've got the bears sold and your note paid, and jingling the difference."
Fisheye was squinting through the slats. "I wish we had 'em out whar a man could see what he's buying."
"Haven't you got an empty cage where we could turn them out in the daylight?" asked the sales manager.
"Shore I have. I jist got pie Rip's cage all cleaned out an ready fer what come."
"Well, get it open. Cut loose the trailer, Mr. Welborn, and we will back it in by hand. Here, Happy, you and Joe help push this trailer in to where Fisheye shows you. These cubs need initiating anyhow."
The trailer was unhooked and carefully backed in through a passage laid out by the versatile Fisheye. A door was opened in one of the unplaced cages and the little bears pushed out into a new world. They scrambled to a far corner, faced about, and waited for the next move.
"There they are," cried the midget enthusiastically, "black as midnight, fat as butterballs and ready for work." To be sure, the little salesman could not see up to the level of the cage floor, but his sales talk never ceased. "How much am I offered, men," he called out in a voice simulating an auctioneer. "How much for the two?"
"Now you jist cut out yer comedy until I can squint 'em over," said Fisheye impatiently. "Kin ye move 'em around a little, Mister?"
Welborn reached his hand through the bars and clucked to the little scared bruins. Hesitatingly they crept up to the extended hand and then sat up. They were surely butterballs as the midget proclaimed.
"You can't tell which is Amos and which is Andy. Can you, Fisheye?" challenged the salesman.
"Naw! I don't know 'em by name but that un is the oldest. In twins or even litters thar's one that's oldest. That un is the oldest, he starts to doin things fust. Now you jist tell me all over again, what's yer proposition about me owning these little b'ars?"
"Well, it is as I said. Mr. Welborn here will take your note for an even hundred for both bears. The note will be due Christmas. We can go right over to the ticket wagon and have Lew draw the note, payable at the Wabash Valley Trust Company for an even hundred, and the cubs are yours. And here's another thing," David motioned Fisheye over to another wagon and out of Mr. Welborn's hearing. "Here's the rest of the plan. I am going to offer this man Welborn ninety dollars for your note. He won't be bothered by having to send it to the bank, and he'll take my offer. There's where I come in; I make a ten spot without any investment."
"How come?" squawked the amazed Fisheye. "Ye don't own no bars, ye ain't out no cash, en ye draw a sawbuck. Now jist why can't this mountain man take ninety dollars in folding money offen me and cut out all this bankin' stuff. I don't want any note at the Wabash Valley nohow. They'd jist harass me into payin' it. Jist cut all that out and let him take the foldin' money."
"Well, maybe he will," sighed the super salesman. "But I thought as cheap as they were, I ought to have a ten spot out of it. But I resign in your favor. It's all among us folks anyhow. Just you go over and spot him the ninety and see if you win."
Fisheye went back of a neighboring cage to search himself for the needed cash. The salesman turned to Welborn who in the whole deal had said never a word. "It worked out all right," chuckled the midget. "Fisheye is saying spells over his bankroll and is kissing some of the tens and twenties a fond and reluctant farewell. He will offer you ninety dollars and you take it. It's better than I'd hoped. You see, Fisheye has his money sewed to him and it makes it hard to acquire. Some of it will be plastered together, for Fisheye hasn't taken a bath since part of the Barnum-Jenny Lind Special went off the bridge at Wheeling. The little bears will always know their Fisheye, day or night."
At this juncture Fisheye returned and counted down the cash. Two of the twenties and one ten, were printed in the early twenties.
"And now, Mister Welborn, we will have that cup of coffee and I must go to work. I want you to see the Kid Show and the Big Show as my guest. I'll have the boys park your machine and trailer right back of our show where it will be safe until you want it. After the main performance we will have dinner, say about four o'clock and we will call it a day."
"I think you should have this money," said Welborn as they drank their coffee. He handed Fisheye's keepsakes to David. "I did not expect anything and I am satisfied that the bears are in good hands."
"Not a cent," said David, waving the money aside. "I still owe you more than I can ever repay. Besides all this, we've done Fisheye a good turn. He'll have those cubs doing things before snow flies."
"He has always wanted a Happy Family Act, and now he's got a start. From time to time he will add native animals like foxes, raccoons, badgers, and maybe a porky or two and label them 'Native Americans' and sell them to someone, cage and all, before next season."
"Fisheye is versatile. Every winter he has a bunch of misfit dogs, and out of the outfit he'll get some smart ones that will train well. He is good, too, on a dog and pony act. Once a zebra got its leg broke in swinging one of the big poles in place. It looked like there was nothing to do but shoot it. But Fisheye salvaged the cripple; he taught it to get up and down with the leg in splints; cured him, except for a slight limp, and finally sold the beast as the only zebra that was ever broken to harness. Fisheye is a grand old liar but he's a fine animal man."
Circuses—the big ones, with menageries—have a tradition: "the show must go on." Storms, fires, rail disasters, major accidents—even death—shall not deter. The show must go on. The Great International had lived fully up to this tradition. In all of its growing years, it had met and overcome any and all obstacles that might hinder its progress and promises. In the years past, a versatile routing agent could and did avoid many minor financial losses by routing the show to other fields. If a mine strike prevailed in one section, that district was missed by careful routings; if the boll weevil prevailed, the cotton belt was a closed field; if wheat failed in the Northwest, or mills were closed in Gary, the bookings were deflected to other marts.
But the year 1932 was different; fertile fields there were not. It was not a case of dodging; it was a plain case of trying to hit. And there was no place.
The Great International was making a brave effort to stem the tide of depression. Its great spread of canvas billowed over many new and novel attractions. It boasted of the largest herd of tame elephants in all the world. Its aerial acts were new to the circus lovers of America. Its grand opening was a riot of splendid colorings and beauty, never surpassed in all pageantry. Yet old Depression was winning at every stand. Historic Cheyenne, with its years of background in gathering humanity to its playdays, was little better than the rest. Business prudence dictated the routings from here on, and the route led to winter quarters. It was as David Lannarck said: "We play the U.P. to Omaha and then home."
Sam Welborn, the man from the mountains, enjoyed the Kid Show, immensely. The trained cockatoos, the big snakes, the many freak people, the brief but snappy minstrel show, were some of the varied features. But best of all, Welborn watched the antics of his little friend of the morning adventure. He came on the little stage, first as a swaggering general, then as an admiral, last as a real doughboy of the United States Army. Dancing, bowing, and waving the flag, he won generous applause. Later, he came on as Cupid with bow and arrow, and made some fine shots into a target representing a heart. His song number was appropriate to this act.
Following this performance, David conducted his friend to the marquee of the Big Show and passed him in to greater glories. "I will see you before the performance is over," he said in parting.
The Big Show was not cut or curtailed. From the grand opening to the closing number the full production was given without a hitch. Sam Welborn, seated in the reserve section was back to boyhood days. He watched the many features of the bewildering panorama with childish enthusiasm. It was a great show. Just before the finale, he was joined by his little friend.
"Our next stop will be the dining car," said Davy as they followed the crowd out the main entrance. "I have something I want to talk over with one of you Westerners and I think you are the man."
"Maybe I am not a Westerner," said Welborn quietly.
"Why you live out here, don't you?" retorted Davy.
"Yes, I live out here, a great ways out, clear out to the rim of things. If it wasn't for the mountains hemming the horizon, our 'wide open spaces' would be without limit. I live beyond the Medicine Bow Mountains over next to North Park. My nearest neighbor is two miles away. I am fifteen miles from a filling station."
"Why, I didn't know there was a place in America that was fifteen miles from a filling station. The oil companies are surely overlooking a bet. Anyhow, every word you speak confirms my opinion that you live at the right place." The two had arrived at the dining tent where a head waiter was assigning the guests to their places among the many tables.
"We'll sit here, Tony, if you don't mind," said Davy as he ushered his guest to a table apart from the rest. He carried a high chair from another table and signaled a waiter. "This is what I have in mind, Mr. Welborn; I want to run away—run away from the yaps and yokels and the gawkers and get out where nobody can see me and where I can act just like a man. I am twenty-nine years old. For fifteen years I have been the 'objective' of the gawking squad. I'm sick of it. I want to run away when I see a crowd coming. When I am on the platform, I see nothing but dumb faces; if I am on the ground, I see nothing but legs. It's too tough a lifetime assignment. You understand I am not complaining of my lot as a midget, but I am fed up on the role. I want a rest—a change. And just now, is a good time to make the change from a game where I've grown stale. My financial affairs are in good shape, thanks to one of the finest men in all America, and I want to lay off this freak business until I can look on it without vomiting.
"Two things woo me to this country: your wide open spaces, where seeing a human being is reduced to the very lowest limit; and second, I find that in playing vaudeville houses in the winter time, I develop a sinus trouble that sticks with me until I get back here to the mountains where it disappears entirely. Yes sir! When I hit the table lands of Denver, Pocatello, Casper, Rawling, Laramie, or this town, old Sinus passes right out of the system. For the last five years I have been planning to come to these Highlands and dig in—where humanity is the scarcest. Just awhile ago, you described the exact spot of my dreams. Now what's your reaction? Can I do it?"
"Do you mean that you would want to spend the winter with me, back in the hills?" The big man's question was quietly put but he stopped eating, awaiting the answer.
"Sure, that's what I mean. Next winter, next summer, and then some. I want to get away from this," waving his hand in a circle to include the showgrounds. "And get to that," and he pointed west. "I want to get out where I can wear overalls; have a dog—or maybe five dogs—out where I can ride a hoss and chaw scrap-tobacco and spit like a man. I want to get away from being gawked at during all my waking hours. This thing here, is getting on my nerves. I feel like I want to commit murder when a simpering Jane looks at me, snickers and says, 'ain't he cute?' I want a ball bat to club every country jake doctor that looks me over and asks about my pituitary gland. Gee, gosh, but I do want to get away from that. I want to exchange these human nitwits for cows, calves, sheep, hosses,—broncho hosses, pintos—but not little round-bellied shetlands. I want to boss around among chickens, geese, turkeys, pigs—"
"How about a couple of burros?" interrupted the listener.
"That's it! Burros! I hadn't thought of burros—me on one of 'em—slapping with my hat to get two miles to the gallon! That's it, burros! Two of them is better!"
"And how about snows? There may be a snow yet this month that is deeper than you are tall."
"Whoopee for the snow!" yelled the midget. "Me with a mackinaw and boots, and mittens and a shovel. Snow! Clean white snow! I love it! But I haven't seen any clean snow for years. All that you ever see now is the dirty slush that they scrape off the streetcar tracks. I sure would be disappointed, Mister Welborn, if you didn't have a lot of clean snow. And you have some sort of a shack, don't you? And we can cut a lot of wood, and have plenty of blankets—en books and magazines. And we can haul out a lot of grub, and a first-aid kit and such. And you don't have a big family, do you, Mister Welborn, and I wouldn't be much in the way, would I?"
"No, I am all alone," said Welborn trying as best he could to answer the many questions. "I have no family and I do have a shack that is very comfortable. It has a fireplace and a stove. I have plenty of blankets and wood and grub. But what about sickness—home-sickness! What about the terrors of loneliness that sometimes drive people mad! The wide open spaces have their handicaps, as I well know. For a year or more I have had just that experience. I have suffered, along with the joys of being wholly alone. Truly, I went into it with a bigger aversion to human society than you have, and I have not escaped.
"Yes, I have a shack, a good one, and a few score acres, but it's not a ranch. It's not stocked, has no barn or stables, and no crop but the native grass. It was a dreamer's plaything and I bought it with scant savings that should have been spent on another project. But it looked like I just had to own it in order to carry on."
"What's your other project?" asked Davy, curious to know why a man with a ranch would not be ranching.
"Mining," replied Welborn. "Placer mining back in a canyon or gulch that never felt a human footfall before I stumbled into it. It's a limited thing—limited to this ravine that is not more than fifty feet wide and a half a mile long. It was probably the old stream bed back before the Tertiary ages, but when the troubled mountain took another surge, it was left high and dry, twenty feet above water. I was working it this summer but the little bear cubs took most of my time. It takes a full day to lug enough water up to the canyon levels to wash out a pan of gravel. It takes the big part of the day to lower a sack of gravel down to the water, but at that, I have made wages. Now, I have an old rocker that was abandoned in the stream bed, but I need a pump so I can use the rocker right on the gravel bar. As it is a one-man job, it should be a force pump with a gasoline engine. All this costs money and it takes a long time to pan out enough dust to pay the bill. Really I had the money, but I just had to spend it in buying the cabin and land that was the only entrance to the placer bed. I just couldn't work the one without owning the other. Then too, I will have to blast a hole in the rock wall to get the pump located, after that, one year is all I want. One year's work will clean up all that one man ought to have. Of course I have practically lost this summer on account of the bear cub capers, and winter is at hand, but the outlook is better, thanks to your diplomacy and aid. With the money, I can live this winter and accomplish many things. By spring, I should be under full production."
"But you wouldn't stay up there in that solitude with no person around but an old grouch that probably would not have a word to say for days at a time?"
"Yes I think I would," said Davy slowly but firmly. "I think I can risk my case as to care and friendship with a man who is considerate to little bears."
Some of the circus people had finished the meal and were filing out of the tent, but Davy stayed, grimly determined to win his point. "About what would be the cost of this proposed mine equipment, and could I do some ranching around there while this was going on?"
"I figure it will take three hundred dollars to buy the pump, pump-jack and engine; these, with a few lengths of hose and some dynamite, are all that's required. Of course there will be some labor costs in getting the pump installed, but three hundred will pay all bills."
"Is that all? Why we can get that amount from Lew up at the ticket wagon. He will cash my check for that amount and be glad to do it. Holdups, you know, pass up checks. Therefore, Lew likes checks. When do you want it? Let's get it now while there is a lull in business, and you can take the pump and pipe and other gadgets right back with you in the truck."
"Do you mean that you will go with me—now—on the truck? It's more than a hundred miles to Carter's filling station and fully twenty miles more over the roughest roads—or rather no roads—to the Gillis place and then two miles more. Why, it's an all-night trip if we were to start right now!"
"No, I am to stick with the show to Omaha. We are to be in North Bend, tomorrow; Grand Island, Friday; Omaha, Saturday; and then the payoff. I will have some things to do in Omaha. I want to telephone home and ask about some friends; I will talk to my financial boss and learn if he is still weathering the financial storm and then I am ready for the big jump out to your place. Can you meet me here with this truck-trailer outfit, say about Wednesday? I will have about three hundred pounds of baggage, and we must stock up with grub against getting snowed in. Can you meet me here Wednesday? Or, if you are too busy, can you send someone?"
"Why sure I'll meet you—Wednesday or any other day—here or any other place you say." The man of the mountains was absorbing some of the little man's enthusiasm. "Sure I'll meet you, but you work so fast and drive right through that I can hardly keep up. Why, we hardly drive through with one thing until you have another. If I seem indifferent and not very responsive, it's because I haven't caught up yet. Think of it! Ten hours ago I was coming out of the hills with a serious problem that was hindering my work. Now, I am rid of the problem, have ninety dollars in cash; have the offer of all the funds I need, and prospects of a fine companion all through the dreaded winter. The change from poverty to riches has been so rapid that it's more like a dream than a reality. And here's the worst feature of the whole business," continued Welborn as the two made their way to the ticket wagon. "Here's the fly in the ointment. My side of the equation has been nothing but plus, plus. I am fearful that yours will be more than minus. You are tired of the mob; you want to get away from the crowds. You have a mental picture of the ranching business; horses, cattle, cowboys, knee-deep grass billowing through the great open spaces. It's your dream to land right in the midst of such surroundings, and your disappointments will be terrible to endure. I have no such ranch and there's none nearer than ten miles of my place. Most of the cattle nowadays are purebred; the cowboys are cow hands, feeders, and care-takers—without a mount—and many of them never saw a pair of chaps and few wear ten gallon hats like the picture books show. That stuff belongs to the rodeos and dude ranches. Why the Diamond A Ranch over on Mad Trapper Fork is a model for any manufacturing plant. It has bookkeepers, salesmen, feeders from 'aggy' schools. You won't like that; it's not up to the standards of your dream. Of course you will like old Jim Lough of the B-line Ranch. He's ninety and used to be a tough hombre of the old school. But now he's out of the picture, his son Larry runs the ranch, and he is soon to give way to a young college girl who is up on foreign markets and the like.
"My fears are that what you see and experience will not be the picture of beauty and action that you had dreamed about. My poor little place, without livestock or feed—or action—will be a terrible disappointment."
"Well we will make a ranch out of it. The building of a ranch will be more pleasure than the possession of the finished product," rejoined Davy stoutly. "We will raise some feed, buy a few sheep and from there on, watch us grow! But early in this venture, I must get me a pony—a pinto, preferably—small enough for me to ride and big enough to go places. Then I'm all set. Hi, Lew!" The midget had climbed up on the wheel of the ticket wagon and was tapping on the window. "Cash my check for three hundred dollars and meet my podner, Mister Welborn."
"Your partner in what?" queried the accommodating Lew, as he slid back the window and began to count out the cash. "What's your racket now, Prince? Have you hooked up with Ben-a-Mundi in that Crystal Readings graft, or is it a short-change racket?" Lew aided Davy up to the shelf where he could sign the check. "Better look out, Mister Welborn, your partner here is a slicker—a regular city grafter. He skins his friends just to keep in practice. Paying you this little lump is just a bait. Later, he'll spring the trap for the big money." Lew slipped a rubber band around the money and handed it to Davy.
"You had better look 'em over for counterfeit bills," retorted Davy as he handed the money to Welborn. "This bird puts out more counterfeit money than he does genuine. And say, Lew, you and Jess think of me when you are huddled around the stove this winter with a lot of razorbacks—me out in the great open spaces feeling fine, and clear of mobs and nitwits. You fellows will have the razorbacks throw another basket of cobs in the old smoky stove, and I and Mr. Welborn here, will be toasting our feet before a log fire in the big fireplace—"
"Oh ho, it's that ranch thing that you have been chinning about for the last five years," chuckled the treasurer of the Great International. "How many calves will you brand next year? And where's your chaps and your spurs? And say, that three hundred won't buy your bridle, let alone a ranch and a hoss. You remember Carter, don't you, Prince? The broncho-buster that we had in the grand opening last year. Why his saddle cost an even grand and he paid fifty per for his Stetsons. Where's your outfit, kid?"
"Why my outfit is still in the supply house in Omaha," countered the midget. "I am to take it out when you and Jess come back through here with the Adkins-Helstrom Great Congress of Living Wonders. I'll meet you here on that date in my full regalia. Anyhow, much obliged, Lew, and Mr. Welborn I will help you out with the car and trailer so that you can load out tonight." Down at the edge of the lot where the city streets pointed to the business district of the city, the ancient model paused for the final conference between the new partners.
"Now what's your address, Mr. Welborn?" asked Davy, searching about for pencil and paper. "If any of our plans go haywire, I would want to let you know."
"And that's just another inconvenience in the business," replied Welborn in a cautious manner. "My mail address is Adot. I get—"
"Adot? Adot? Where? What?" interposed the midget. "A dot on what?" "The post office is Adot," replied the miner. "Capital A-d-o-t, Adot. It was probably so named from its importance on the map. It's just a wide spot in the road and a dirt road. We get mail twice a week and I am fifteen miles away. Neither will the telegraph lines help; there's no station nearer than this town. I have no telephone. The only way I could be reached, would be for you to go to the broadcasting station in Omaha and put through an S.O.S. on Tuesday night, as I have a radio. But you would have to put the call in early as I am going to be in this town bright and early Wednesday morning."
"That's the spirit," crowed the little man. "Both of us, right here in Cheyenne, Wednesday morning. I will be here unless this Union Pacific folds up and quits. Why when you come to think of it, I wouldn't want to be where there was mail deliveries, telephones, and such; that's what I am running away from, that and the mob. Good-by, Sam," he called out, as the car took the green lights. "I'll meet you here on the A-Dot."
"Good-by, Prince," said the big man as the car got under way.
That night, an ancient model T followed by a ramshackle, home-made trailer, pulled away from the shipping platforms of the Cheyenne Outfitting & Supply Company loaded to the guards with pump, pump jack, pipe, lag-screws, wrenches, hand drills, dynamite, fuses and caps, and a hundredweight of groceries. Cramped under the wheel, driving as carefully as his cargo would warrant, sat Sam Welborn, the second happiest man west of the Missouri. The happiest man west of the big river was flouncing around in his berth on the third section of the Great International Circus trains bound for North Bend, Nebraska, planning his outfit to be purchased in a few days at Omaha.
An hour in advance of the arrival of the Pacific Limited, Sam Welborn paced the platform of the Union Pacific passenger station at Cheyenne, awaiting the arrival of his little partner from Omaha. He was a different man in appearance from the one who, the week before, had come down from the mountains in charge of two obstreperous bear cubs. On that occasion, he had worn overalls, a sheepskin jacket, heavy, clumsy shoes, and an eared cap of ancient vintage. On the day of his appointment, he was dressed as the ordinary business man about to take the train for Ogden or points west. His fairly well-worn, black, pin-striped suit, neatly pressed, fitted his six-foot-two frame as if built by a professional clothier; a rolled-collar shirt, a blue polka dot tie, freshly shined shoes, and a soft crush hat completed the outfit. Over his arm he carried an overcoat. Other prospective travelers wore their topcoats, but Sam Welborn was of the outdoors.
He had parked the Ford with its trailer attachment at the west end of the platform. If his partner's impedimentia was not too bulky, the ancient model was ready for another trek to the hills. Back and forth along the long brick platform he strode in the bright autumn sun. It was no sloven's gait. An observer would have said that somewhere, sometime, in his career of maybe thirty years, he had faced a hardboiled old topper who insisted with piratical invectives that "heads up, shoulders back, stomachs in" was the proper posture for humans who were eating government grub and drawing government pay.
Very true, Welborn was not in immediate need of exercise. In the last week he had worked, and worked hard, during every daylight hour. He had not slept in the last thirty hours. But these were figments, incidents, to be disregarded now that success was just back of the curtain. Now he was to meet the little man who had made this prospect of success possible. Now his greetings must be cordial and appreciative. Nothing should be left undone to overcome the disappointments the midget must endure. In his first meeting with Davy, Welborn had tried to discourage the plan of "holing up" in a remote section, far removed from the things to which he was accustomed. He pictured himself as an old grouch, soured on the world, and surely uncompanionable. He dwelt on the lonely hours, the big snows, and other bad features but it was of no avail. Davy was on his way. In other days, in vastly different surroundings, Sam Welborn had known the tactful duties of a genial host; now he would revert to that role.
David Lannarck was the first passenger to alight as number twenty-one came thundering in from the east. The porter helped with his grips. Davy searched the platform for his friend.
"Why, why, I didn't know you! You look like another fellow!" he exclaimed, as Welborn reached for his grips. "You are younger, better looking, different."
"I am younger, but not different," chuckled Welborn. "I've been taking a tonic—the tonic of hard work. I've nearly completed my big job, and I've located your horse for you."
"Hurray!" yelled Davy, "And can I get him right away?"
"There you go, jumping the gun again. Why that little horse is a hundred miles from here. He's not broken to ride. He might not suit your fancy, and it might take a lot of diplomacy to get him. He belongs to a girl."
The baggage—two trunks, a showman's keyster, two suitcases, a big duffle bag and handbags—was loaded on trailer and backseat. "Well, I don't see much room for groceries," said Davy, as he climbed in. "We've got to have pickles and beans, and plenty of vitamins and calories to balance the ration. Really, before starting, I should have consulted Admiral Byrd on outfitting a polar expedition. Aren't we to stock up on food—here—or somewhere?" He questioned, as he noted that Welborn drove across the tracks and away from the city.
"The eating question is practically solved," said Welborn. "Solved through the providence and frugality of good neighbors. They are overstocked and it's up to us to reduce the surplus. I took out rice, sugar, salt, and a lot of extras on my last trip, and with their surplus of meat, fish, fowl, flour, fruits—canned and preserved, vegetables—canned and raw, we should live like pigs at a full trough. However, if you need tobacco, chewing gum, toothpaste, any special kind of medicine, we can get that at the Last Chance, further down the road."
"No, I'll not need any such sidelines for many a week, but I thought you said we did not have any neighbors? Who runs this fine market and canning factory out in the wide open spaces?"
Welborn laughed. "Wait till we get out of this traffic and on a straightaway; there's much to tell and we've got a lot of time. I have arranged for dinner about twenty miles down this road, and we will push things pretty hard this afternoon so that we can eat a late supper right at this Market and then you will understand.
"You see, this old car, loaded like she is, and pulling a trailer, can do about twenty-five miles per, on this federal road, but it's not all federal road, and the last fifteen miles will take a lot of good luck and fully two hours to make the grade. I would like to get home in daylight."
The general direction of the national roadway, was west. The traffic to and from Cheyenne at this noon hour was not heavy. Tourists were still touring, notwithstanding the fact that this section of the country might be snowed under at any time; truckloads of livestock, were encountered, and far down the highway, where the traffic thinned down, the partners met a big band of sheep that required care and diplomacy in passing. Presently, Welborn turned the car into a driveway at a neat farm home.
"Hungry?" he asked.
"Yes, I am always hungry, although I had breakfast somewhere this side of Julesburg."
"Well, I arranged for dinner here, and we will also stock up on gas and oil for the long trek. Of course I carry an extra five gallons in the can on the running board, but this is about our last place to stock up on eats."
A woman came to the door. "You are right on time," she said. "I hope you have brought your appetites, as the lunch is just ready."
Somebody was thoughtful; there was a high chair at the dining table. After a very satisfying meal, Welborn shoved back his chair. He found a piece of wrapping paper that he spread in front of Davy and drew a rough map.
"We are near the line of two states," he said. "The Medicine Bow Mountains are here. Geologists point out that this range so interrupted the route of the Continental Divide that it turned it back to the north in a big curve and made it hard to find. We go through a pass in the range. On this side, we run into the little streams that form the Laramie River. On yon side is the North Platte. Both run north and both find sources in the North Park. Those who know, say that for beauty and grandeur no section of the world beats the North Park country. Personally I do not know, as my contacts have been limited. It is said, too, that this is the northern limits of gold. At this point, the mountains seemed to have changed their content, or else those to the north were made at a different era. All these things are speculative and have their exceptions, as I well know.
"North Park, however, is a great grazing country. Its grass wealth may be greater than its mineral. The government owns the land, except tracts here and there suitable for farming. Our destination is the Silver Falls Project, a fine body of rolling land, suitable for either grazing or farming. It was laid out in convenient tracts for homesteads. Each parcel was a half section. If there was rough land adjoining a tract, that was included for good measure. It was opened for settlers and many came, but none stayed. There was no central organization to hold them—no church to rally around—no one established a central trading post—no outstanding personage to collect and hold, as is always the case in community building in America. Then, too, there were no roads; therefore no market outlet. The road over which we are going, is the only inlet and there's no outlet. A half mile of blasting and building would have made an entrance to the Tranquil Meadows district and to trails and highways that led to market towns in two states, but the blasting and building was never done. The Silver Falls Project never grew big enough to make its decline noticeable.
"Of those who came to try it out, only four stuck to a final deed. Two of these are at this end of the project. Carter runs a filling station at the forks of the road and Withrow, next to him, hunts, traps, and plays a fiddle. I acquired the two tracts at the far end of the project and Gillis, our enterprising neighbor, owns two parcels next to me and operates the abandoned tracts under grazing allotments. This is a real ranch; small, as compared to others, but modeled as a farm in the East, for Gillis is a real farmer. I make the guess that when you grow homesick and tired of the loneliness at my place you will headquarter at the Gillis place, in fact I have made that kind of arrangement with them. They have a telephone, a radio, a phonograph, and take plenty of newspapers and magazines, and, best of all, there is a kindly, enterprising woman there to manage, to cook and can the fruits and vegetables, and do the homey things that makes life fit to live.
"They have cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and raise plenty of feed. But they are an oasis in a desert. Except for our place, they have no neighbors within fifteen miles. Mrs. Gillis is a worker and a planner. She sells pigs, turkeys and calves, in Laramie and Cheyenne, more than one hundred miles away; she has a working arrangement with the filling station down at the roadside, whereby they sell quite a lot of her canned stuff and preserves. She's always got something to sell and sells it, market or no market.
"I depend on them for almost everything. Even the car and trailer out there belongs to them. I bought a stock of chickens off of them, and I rent a cow and calf from them. Really, while you have come out here to my place, you will subsist for the most part off the Gillis family."
"Well the outlook gets better and better each time you add a chapter," said Davy as they walked out to the car. "How many in the Gillis family?"
"Just two, Jim and his wife. But staying with them is Landy—Landy Spencer, Mrs. Gillis' brother. He's older, is an oldtime cow hand that has retired, when Mrs. Gillis will let him. He's been in the West since boyhood and knows the game, but doesn't play it. He just putters around, when Mrs. Gillis isn't after him to do something, and that's the reason he stays up at our place most of the time. You will like Landy. He is the one that located your horse over at Lough's B-line Ranch. I had told him of your wanting a little horse, and this week, while Gillis and I were blasting out the rock and setting the pump, Landy strayed over to Lough's and located the nag. Landy says as soon as he sees you, he can tell instantly if the horse will fit."
"I've got a saddle in that keyster, and he can measure by that," said Davy, "and anyhow I don't want a little, low-headed, round-bellied hoss that can't go places. If he is a cowboy, he will know the kind."
For five or more miles, the route led over a national highway. Then Welborn turned to the right, drove a few hundred feet and stopped. "Look out here to the left" he said. "See that big mound with its head in the clouds? That's Longs Peak, the highest in the country. On a clear day, it can be seen from Cheyenne. From here on, you are to see mountains and more mountains, but Longs Peak is the daddy of them all."
Now the roadway was not so good, but the ancient car labored on in full vigor. Fences had disappeared; the roadway no longer held to section lines but took the course of least resistance, generally following the stream bed which it crossed and re-crossed many times. The direction was generally west and up. Twice on the trip, Welborn took a bucket out of the car, dipped water from the stream, and cooled the heated engine. On one of these occasions, he washed his face in the cooling waters, explaining that he did this to overcome drowsiness.
Davy saw everything. This was his country. Except for meeting a lone herder in charge of a band of sheep, they had not met a human being in the last fifty miles. Yet there was plenty of life. They were never out of sight of cattle—not the big herds as Davy thought it would be—just a few here and there. There were some horses around the little pole barns off the roadway. High up on distant hills, bands of sheep were grazing.
Overhead, but not too high, hawks skimmed the levels or tilted over knolls and hills in search of a quarry; larks gathered in flights for a final powwow before beginning the long trip southward. Magpies flitted through the shrubbery of the creek banks. In crossing a little wooden bridge near a waterfall, Davy saw an object in the water, then in the air, and then in the water where the spray fell and where foam formed. Later, he was to know this little slate-colored bird as the water ouzel, a bird that was neither wader nor swimmer, yet took his subsistence from the foam and spray.
"That road leads to Laramie," said Welborn pointing out a trail to the right. "Laramie is closer to our place, and one less mountain range to cross."
"Why didn't we come that way?" asked Davy.
"Well, the big circus didn't show in Laramie, and I had to get to Cheyenne for contact. There I met a fellow who freighted me down with pump tools and I had to take back some of the wrenches I borrowed. Then this fellow made an appointment for Cheyenne, and I would not have missed the appointment for anything."
"Oh yeah," said Davy, "I suppose out here, the matter of a few mountain ranges is all in a day's work. Anyhow, we are seeing some country, and the lizzie is going fine."
For several miles it was downhill and around many hairpin turns. Then many small streams were crossed and followed. Several times the sun seemed to set, only to reappear again through a cleft in the hills. Where the terrain was level enough, hundreds of jack rabbits were seen. They were not the nervous, string-halt jacks of the prairies, but the smaller black-tailed variety.
And then they came to a store and filling station. "Well of all the places for a filling station," exclaimed Davy. "Many times I've seen 'em located at places where there was little business, but I never before saw one located where there was absolutely no business. What's the big idea?"
"He is probably like another fellow I know," answered Welborn. "He wanted to get somewhere, where he wouldn't see anyone. But at that, he does some business, seemingly as much as he wants."
More gas was taken on, and the reserve tank filled.
"Adot is on ahead about eight miles, but we turn here for the final dash."
The final dash was but a creep. Except for the bridge over Ripple Creek, the roadway was just a trail. The sun had gone down for good. The lights, none too good, revealed little of the hazards. It was a long, steady grind, mostly uphill. At last a light appeared ahead. A dog barked. A lantern shone. Welborn turned the car through a gate. "Gillis Station," he called out to the midget who had remained very quiet.
"Have them drive up next to the house," a woman's voice called from within. "We will throw a canvas over the trailer. They will stay here tonight. It's too cold to stay in a house that has had no fire."
"There's your orders, Welborn. Drive right over here next to the chimney. Howdy, Mr. Lannarck, you and Welborn get out and limber up for there's prospect for a fine supper." It was Gillis speaking as he aided Davy out of the cab.
"I am Davy to you folks," said the little man as he stamped around to limber up from the long confinement. "You are Mrs. Gillis, I know, and you are Landy, aren't you? Will I fit that hoss that the girl owns?"
"You are about a half-hand short right now," the old man chuckled, "but after a few hikes up to Pinnacle Point, you should fit that little hoss jist like a clothespin fits the line."
It was a fine supper. There was also a home-made high chair that just fit Davy's needs.
"Before I go to bed," said Davy earnestly and firmly, "I am going to write down that supper menu and send it to poor old Lew and Jess, who are wearing out shoe leather trying to find a restaurant where the steaks aren't made out of saddle skirts and the potatoes and the candle grease have parted company. Lemme see, there was fried chicken and the best cream gravy I ever tasted, mashed potatoes, creamed peas, fluffier biscuits than those birds ever saw, two kinds of jelly, strawberry preserves, some other preserves, and apple pie with whipped cream on it.
"A long time ago—it was my first year in vaudeville—Mr. Singer gave his midget performers a dinner at one of the celebrated New York restaurants, I think they called the place Shanley's, a swell place with a private dining-room, lots of waiters, food in courses. Well, that big feed would be a tramp's handout compared with this dinner tonight." Davy was either talking to himself or was trying to interest Welborn in the conversation as the two were undressing by the light of the kerosene lamp in Mrs. Gillis' spare room. Welborn seemed not interested. He was soon in bed and snoring.
"Feathers, by golly," muttered Davy as he snuggled down deep in the bed.
The Gillis menage was well managed. Mrs. Gillis saw to that. Jim, aged fifty, slim of build, sinewy, even-tempered, quiet, willing, was the farmer and handyman. Crops grew, orchards bloomed, vines bore a full vintage, and bushes yielded because he made them do so. Without splutter or fuss, he did his work, and liked to do it.
The teamwork of Mrs. Gillis was equally effective. One could not say however that her work was done as quietly. Landy, the cow hand brother was wont to say—not in her presence however—that "as a child, Alice was sorta tongue-tied, and she has to ketch up somehow."
And Landy—well, Landy made his contributions. As a young cowboy, Landy had had his fling. He came into the game as the cattle-sheep wars were at their peak and he played it strenuously. But with it all, Landy Spencer kept his moral slate fairly clean. Then as the sober days of manhood came, and Landy witnessed the finish of the improvident and foolish, he began to save and skimp. "Hit's the pore house fer a cow hand," was his terse aphorism on the subject, and Landy had never seen a "fitten" poor house.
Landy was working for the Crazy-Q outfit, at the time the government proposed to open the Silver Falls Project. He looked it over and filed on two of the homesteads. One for himself and one for James Gillis. Then he went to Illinois where his younger sister and her husband were share-cropping.
"Come out whar yu've got room, whar ye own it, whar you do it your way. I'll pay freight on yer car to Laramie, and keep up the supplies for three years. Then if you're not satisfied, I'll move ye back."
It was Landy too, that planned as to the cows and calves. He bought purebred cows from the B-line folks, and sold them the big, weaned calves. And in view of the fact that the calf sale in 1931 was larger than Alice's big turkey sale to the dealers in Laramie by fully two hundred dollars, Landy had a modicum of peace on finances. The Gillis menage was well managed. It made money in a depression.
Davy was awakened by what he thought was gunfire. He bounded out of bed and ran to the window. Day was breaking. In the dawnlight he saw Welborn and Landy tinkering with the old model that had brought them so valiantly through the mountains. She was backfiring her protests but presently settled down to her accustomed smoothness. Davy hustled into his clothes. Mrs. Gillis knocked on the door. "There is a pan and water right here on the bench," she said. "I told them fellers not to monkey with the old car, but Mr. Welborn is anxious to git started, he thought he'd tune her up before breakfast."
Gillis came from the barn with a brimming bucket of milk. "Howja rest, Davy?" he asked.
"Fine! I hit the feathers and never moved until I heard this bombardment that I thought was an uprising of the Utes."
"Breakfast is ready," called Mrs. Gillis. "How do you want your eggs, Davy?"
"I want them the way you fix 'em," the little man replied promptly. "After that supper last night, I wouldn't have the nerve to tell you anything about cooking."
Mrs. Gillis beamed her appreciation. "I hope you will tell that to Jim and Landy. To hear them complain, you would think I was serving their grub raw or burnt. Didn't the circus people feed ye?"
"A circus always hires good cooks. It buys the best meats in the local markets, and that's about as far as they can go. The vegetables are out of cans, except the potatoes and cabbage, and the fruits are either dried or canned. Preserves and jellies are factory made, so it gets pretty monotonous. I had a good breakfast on the diner yesterday morning. We had a fine lunch out this side of Cheyenne, but the supper last night was far beyond anything I have ever enjoyed. I jotted down some of the menu and as soon as I unpack I am going to write to a couple of those old circus razorbacks and tell 'em what they have missed." Davy was talking and eating; the men were eating.
"Now, Laddie, we are ready for the final dash," said Welborn, as he rose from the table. "The farther we go, the tougher it gets. And we are on the last leg."
"Landy and I had better go along," said Gillis. "Ye might get stuck, and we will be needed to help unload."
"You men come back here for dinner," called Mrs. Gillis from the doorway. "You will be too busy to stop and cook."
The old machine described a big curve in getting out of the enclosure, but was again headed west. Gillis rode in the front seat with Welborn. Landy and Davy found room on the trailer. "I want to see everything," said Davy as he climbed to a perilous perch on one of the trunks.
The mountains towered in the west, south, and southwest. The terrain was fairly level, but a spirit level would have shown a marked tilt to the east. There was a fringe of timberland on every side. Landy pointed out places of interest. "That's Ripple Creek off to the left. Ye crossed hit last night on the bridge, and we meet hit agin right up by the house. That's Brushy Fork over at the right. They 'most come together up here. Right up that canyon about two mile is whar Welborn found the b'ar cubs. Way 'round that timber-covered nose to the right is the B-line Ranch—hit's about ten miles. Right down that draw, in the timber and brush, I killed two wolves last year. And if yer on a hoss, ye can foller a trail down to brushy fork and out on yon side. That's a short cut to the B-line, else ye'd have to go cl'ar back to the fillin' station, then over to Adot and back across another bridge to git thar. It's twenty-five miles thataway. When ye git all settled, we'll sneak over to the B-line and take a squint at that little hoss."
Landy continued to point out the places of interest. "Right along about here is Welborn's line. He's got two homesteads—bought 'em off a crazy bird that had bought out both homesteaders. That's one of the shacks over there and the other one he uses for a cowshed. En thar's yer home a-settin' up on that bench of land."
Davy craned his neck as the trailer moved down hill. Perched up on a shelf, he saw a yellow dot against a gray wall that ran to the sky. As they neared the place he outlined a tiny cabin. Later it proved to be a two-roomed affair with a porch and lean to at the rear. This was to be his domicile—for how long, time would tell.
The car described a big curve that took them to the brink of the Ripple Creek Canyon. In second gear it labored and twisted off to the right, and then left again, and came to a stop right at the front porch of the yellow-brown log cabin.
Davy climbed down from his perch. He walked around the cabin, surveying it from three sides. "She's an Old Faithful," he announced at last. "Modeled, matched, and built by the man that built Old Faithful Inn. Why did he do it and when?"
"It was built the summer before last and it took all summer," explained Welborn. "The crazy galoot called himself the Count of Como. He came barging in here and bought out Clark and Stanley, the homesteaders, and brought in two men who had been building fancy cabins in Rocky Mountain Park and tourist camps. He left them here on the job while he drove the roads like a madman, in a big, black, powerful coupe to Laramie, to Cheyenne, to Denver, anywhere he could get whiskey and dope. He would come back, rave around, threaten everybody with a gun, but paid out money like he had the mint back of him, and finally got it done. You notice that the logs are "treated," stained or shellacked, to retain their first color. The mechanics did that, and the count was mightily pleased until he found out that it made the shack stand out so that it could be seen for a long distance, and then he threw a fit. He went wild, ran 'em off the job, then I came into the picture.
"I was prospecting down Ripple Creek Canyon and living in that shack that you can see from the rim over there. I was trying to locate a claim, mining claim. But from the homestead lines, this cabin was off the reservation, built off the edge of Stanley's claim and on the government's land where I wanted to stake off a mineral right.
"I came up out of the canyon on the day he had gotten the men back and explained the error and showed him his predicament and then bought him out...."
"Ah, tell hit right," growled Landy. "Tell him like them scairt men told hit to me." Landy took up the recitation of how the home was acquired. "He made that greasy counterfeit eat his gun that he whipped out from under his left arm. He kicked him in the ribs, he did, after he'd knocked him down a coupla times. Made him go down thar and look at the old survey stakes, he did, then made him drive his crazy car over to Adot, and old Squire Landry made out the deed and he signed hit and Welborn here paid him in a sack of gold dust that they weighed on the grocery scales. That's how 'twas done. Tell hit right, so's Davy here will know the story."
Welborn laughed at Landy's recitals. "No, I didn't intimidate him. I made him see the matter in the right light. The proposition to sell-out came from him. I didn't want to buy him out, I had nothing to buy with, but the dust that it took me all summer to acquire. Truth is, this drink-crazed madman was a hoodlum gunman from Chicago or Saint Louis, that had lost his nerve. A killer who couldn't take the finish that was due him. He had run from it, and like an ostrich, he thought he was hidden up here. He didn't want me as a neighbor and when he found out that he had infringed on government land he was so scared that he would have given the place to me or anyone that wanted it. In fact, he didn't want to take the dust. He was afraid that the government would run him down for selling something that he didn't own, and maybe then find out about some of his killings back East. At any rate, he showed more speed in getting away from Adot than he had ever shown before, and that's saying a lot, for he surely burnt up the roads. We will unload your plunder right here on the porch, and we can place them as you want them later."
Davy got his personal grip out of the car, but that was about as far as he could go in the matter of unloading the baggage. While the men were engaged in the task, he looked the house over carefully. One with artistic temperament would have turned his back to the house and looked on the tremendous spectacle that offered itself to view in the south, in the east, and north. A vast brown meadow, rimmed with the dark greenery of the ancient conifers; and high above, a blue arch that draped down curtains of white to hide the sombre shades of cliffs and hills and peaks innumerable. It was a wonderful sight.
But Davy's eyes were on this house. He looked it over carefully. The general plan was as if a crib of logs had been built up to a square of, say, nine feet. Then another crib of logs built fifteen feet away. These were connected by a log structure in the center that allowed a recess in the porch at the front, and by a log extension enclosure that made a kitchen at the rear. It had been roofed with gray-green shingles and the porch ornamented by sturdy log columns, with rustic rails at the side. The logs had been closely fitted so that there was no space between that needed the chinking of the cabins of the pioneer.
The floor was in narrow, rift-sawed planks. The walls and ceilings were covered with wallboard, properly paneled and carefully and tastefully decorated. There was a big fireplace in the east room. The west room was heated by a stove that found vent in the kitchen chimney. Entrance to any room was from the porch. The general plan of the structure was the same as that of many cabins being built in public parks and dude ranches. Davy had not seen these. His comparisons were with the fine, substantial inn, built at Old Faithful. There was little furniture in the cabin.
"Well, what's your reaction, Laddie?" asked Welborn kindly as he marked the serious look on Davy's face.
"Well, I don't know whether to sit out there on the porch and have a good cry or go in the spare room and put up a small dance. For five years I have been dreaming about this place, and now it's a reality. Outside of dreaming about it, and in sober moments, I just knew that there couldn't be such a place, so I contented myself with plans for a little shack, maybe a teepee, or a tent where I could spread out and rest up. But here it is—just like the dream said."
"Wal, jist wait till a good winter blizzard comes through here like they do," interrupted Landy. "Jist wait, ye'll be sorry that ye ever had a dream. Why, it's six thousand feet up here, and the wind don't monkey and dally around, hit gits right down to business. Last winter hit most took the leg off 'en one of them burros old Maddy brought in here, 'en mighty nigh whipped the fillin' outen his shirt."
"Let her blow," retorted Davy. "I've been in two circus blow-downs, and we had to stake the elephants down to keep 'em from blowing over into Texas."
Landy was a good loser. He grinned, and began wrestling the trunks. All of Davy's plunder was moved into the fireplace room.
"We will live in here this winter, and when spring comes, we can expand into the other room or out on the porch," explained Welborn. "And now, before you begin to unpack, I want you to see what Jim and I have been doing this last week. Let's take a look at the pump and engine before a snow comes and covers it all." Welborn led the way down near the brink of the canyon. "Over on the other side of the creek, you can see a shack. I headquartered there for several months and panned out some dust. From there I could see this opening here that looked like it had a floor, and maybe some prospects. Well, I climbed those trees down by the creek, but could not quite see what I wanted. As the madman was working over here, I climbed and slipped, and cut steps in the rock face of the cliff, on yon side. I wormed and twisted around until I got up to that coulee, and sure enough, it was what I thought. The floor of the old stream bed that had been thrown out of line and out of use, by some secondary action in mountain-making.
"Ripple Creek has been noted for its placer workings. It has been panned and panned, many times, and always yields something. But here was a part of the stream bed that was virgin, that had never seen a miner or a pan. I walked over it and tested it. It stood the test. When it was the bed of the stream, gold was being ground out, washed out and carried down stream from the quartz-gold veins above. There it was! I couldn't get to it—couldn't work it without an entrance from this side of the creek. Landy has told you how I acquired the entrance, and a farm and a house with it." Still talking, Welborn led his guest back in the ravine back of the house, then through a tunnel in the razor-edge cliff, the party walked out on the floor of the old stream bed. "Jim and I made that tunnel. We dragged those logs through it, to make a foundation for the engine and pump. Now all we have to do, is blast out a sort of well-hole down at the creek so that the intake will be on the claim, and we are all set for production. We can do this today. Tomorrow, we will have water back on this old stream bed. Jim and I will take a hand drill, dynamite, fuse and caps into the gorge, and bust out a space about as big as a washtub, while you and Landy are unpacking your plunder. Build a fire, Landy, to take the chill off."
Unpacking suited Davy. While Landy brought in some pine knots and lighted a fire against the charred backlog, Davy wrestled the dufflebag open and began to take out the contents. It was a hodge-podge of parts of every old costume he had ever used. The trunks and suitcases yielded good property. "There," he pointed to a separate pile, "there is my notion of where I was going, without seeing the place. That's a sleeping bag and these are a pair of Hudson Bay blankets. You see, I didn't know if I was to sleep out of doors or sleep in a barn—surely, I didn't plan that it was a place like this! Here's my mackinaw, boots, and mittens, and here's my hardware." He produced a small rifle that had been packed between the blankets and handed it to Landy for his inspection. "She's a thirty caliber, carries two hundred yards at point blank and won't kick over a little fellow like me.
"And this is what I want you to see in particular." Davy fumbled in the keyster and brought out a small saddle with a fair leather bridle, to match. It was not a pad saddle such as jockey's ride, nor yet a civilian outfit without horn and only one web. It was a genuine western, with high horn and high cantle and two cinches, but much reduced in every dimension. "Will that fit the pony you saw over at the B-line?"
Landy looked the saddle over carefully. "Hit's made by a saddle-maker all right, and will fit that hoss to a tee. They used to have some fancy saddles back in the early days. I've seen 'em that cost a thousand—Chauchaua—made and covered with silver do dads, en maybe they'd have 'em flung on a hoss that wasn't wuth his feed. I mind the time when ole Lem Hawks made a right smart lot of change, a-sellin' ole saddles that he swore come out'n the Custer massacre. Lem finally got to believin' that he was a survivor of that carnage.
"They finally caught up with Lem however. He had sold more saddles than Custer had men, and the old cow saddles with their big horns and high cantles didn't look like an army saddle nohow. But Lem kept right on a-bein' a survivor—him en about a thousand others. Hit's like Lincoln's bodyguards—thar's been more of them folks died than Grant had in his whole army. Yer saddle is all right, son, and we shore ort to talk the B-line folks outa that little hoss."
"I want to take the saddle over when we go," said Davy enthusiastically. "They could see how it fit, and that might influence their decision. I could put it on one of the burros and ride it over."
Landy laughed uproarously. "Why son, ye wouldn't git thar by Febwary. A burro ain't geared to ride en go places. He will foller ye right up the side of a glacier, but he ain't mentally constructed to take the lead. Why, if ye was on one of 'em, backward, en paddlin' him with a clapboard, he'd back right up agin hit."
"Well, what do they keep them for? Who do they belong to, anyhow?"
"Them two a-roamin' around here, belong to ole Maddy, the ole miner gent. He left 'em here while he went romancin' around up Ripple Creek. He goes up thar, and has got a way out to the top. He goes in North Park, cl'ar over to Granby and Grand Lake. He swings 'round by Steamboat Springs and Hahns Peak, and comes a-driftin' back, mebbe from the north. He left 'em here three months ago. He'll git 'em when he gits 'em, en he won't lose much if he don't.
"Ole Maddy has been in the hills—so hit's told—since the days of Jim Beck with and Bridger. Some say he was in Virginia Vale when Slade rubbed out Jules, the Frenchman. They say too, that he knew Carson, but that ain't so! Yit I do know that he pardnered with Will Drannon, the boy that ole Kit raised, because I heard Maddy tell a lot about Drannon, and later I read Drannon's book en right in the book, was ole Maddy. Oh, he's an oldster all right. He jist projects around in the hills, pans a little gold en rambles around by himse'f. He's not 'gold mad,' he jist likes to roam. He's clean, don't talk much, en anybody will keep him until he gits ready to pull out."
"Well, I am sure disappointed about that burro thing," said Davy regretfully. "I wanted to ride that saddle over there and maybe they could see that the saddle, the hoss, and the midget ought not be separated."
"Don't worry. We'll lengthen the girths, en I'll put ye on ole Frosty. When they see ye, way up thar', they'll know by every law of mathematics en justice, that the boy and the saddle belong on the colt."
A roar reverberated out of the canyon. "Well, that's that," said Landy, "en now the next big job is to git Welborn out of the coulee fer dinner. If you leave him alone, he'd stay right thar messin' around till dark. I git provoked at his ways, but after I heard them decorators tell how he beat the gunman to the draw and busted him on the jaw en kicked him till he squawked like an ole hen, then I grew more tolerant. Welborn's all right, but he works too hard."
Presently Welborn and Jim came up from the coulee. The auto was started and headed for the Gillis place. The original Gillis cabin had been augmented by the addition of two rooms on the south, a porch on the west, and another and better cabin on the north. It was sufficient for the family needs. The farm was fenced for the most part, and the neighboring range was alloted by the grazing master to Gillis, Landy, and their co-homesteaders at the far limits of the tract. Except for a small forty-acre tract, the Gillis land was dry farmed. The forty was irrigated from a spring developed on the premises. It was in alfalfa. Other meadows raised timothy mixed with alsike. Even in unfavorable years, the ranch yielded more than a hundred and fifty tons of hay. Besides hay, a lot of oats and barley was produced.
"But thar's Jim's patent," Landy was showing Davy over the premises. "Jim keeps everything offen that big medder, en the grass comes on, en cures itse'f. Then hit snows, and the grass lays down like a carpet. Then hit blows the snow off en around, en stock can graze thar until near Christmas. Hit's a great savin' on hay. En a great saving on the hay feeder," Landy added with a grin.
Besides three score cows with their calves, a dozen horses and colts, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese galore, the Gillis ranch had three dogs, two collies, and a short-tailed sheep dog. The dogs followed Davy around like they had found a friend.
"They think I am a kid," Davy said. "Dogs sure like children."
After another sumptuous meal, Welborn went out to tinker with the Ford. Mrs. Gillis called Davy to the kitchen. "I want you to speak to Welborn," she said. "He works too hard. From daylight to dark, he does two men's work at that old mine. He'll kill himself before he gets the money out of it. You can talk to him—he likes you. Why, he sat up all night, the night before he went to Cheyenne after you, pressing his pants, making your chair, tying his tie, tinkering on the Ford. He cautioned all of us not to talk about your being smaller than common, being a midget. He said you were coming out here to get away from "the mob," the people who stared and commented. He wanted everything here to be different. He likes you, would do anything for you, but he's got something pushing him, driving him, faster and harder than one man can stand. He'll break if he don't stop and take things easier. If you get a chance, talk to him, tame him down, make him rest, change his mind to something different. He's a fine man, big and rugged and a gentleman. He never hints at what's eating his life out, and we don't know. But it ought to stop."
"I think you are right, Mrs. Gillis. Sam does work too hard and too long. I know nothing about his past, and I'll never ask him until he gets ready to tell it all. This I know, he's well educated, has trained in big business and is used to good society. I think he is rather hot-headed and maybe stubborn, if he thinks he's right. It will be a delicate thing to do, to try to switch him off from what he's doing and the way he's doing it, but I'll try, because I think it ought to be done."
Landy did not go in the return trip to "Pinnacle P'int" as he termed the mine and its environments. He had some "cipherin' around" to do. "With that pump a-goin' and the water a-flowin', hit don't resemble a place of rest to me," he said.
Mrs. Gillis brought a loaf of bread out to the car. "There's enough for your supper and breakfast, and you folks come back here for dinner tomorrow."
"En say, Jim, you bring the kid's little saddle back with yer," called Landy. "I want to lengthen the cinches to fit old Frosty. Me en the kid are aimin' to do a lot of romancin' eround—mebbe tomorry."
Arriving at the cabin, Welborn took a can of gasoline through the opening out to the pump. He tinkered with the engine and presently a steady "chug-chug-chug" reverberated down the valley. Mechanical mining was on at the Silver Falls Project.
Welborn laid the hose at a favorable place on a gravel-bar and scooped up a pan of dirt and sand that he held under the stream while he whirled it around in the pan. The contents took up the motion and spilled over the pan-brim until there was little left. The miner examined the remainder and then gave it more water and more swirling around in the pan. This process he repeated several times. Presently he held the pan where Davy and Jim could see a fifth of a thimble full of tiny flakes and two small dots not much larger than pinheads. "That's the object of the meeting, gentlemen," Welborn said grimly. "That's gold.... Tomorrow," he added, "we will get the old rocker going, but just now, I want to 'sample around' for good locations."
All this was nothing to Davy. He watched the men awhile and went back to the cabin to arrange his personal belongings. Pinnacle Point was a place of sudden sunsets and prolonged twilights. At near five o'clock, Davy built a fire in the little cook-stove and put several slices of bacon on to fry. He "set the table" as best he could and broke several eggs in the bacon grease. He set out a jar of jam, sliced the bread. Then he went to the tunnel and called: "Supper."
"Say, Laddie, I don't want you to do this," said Welborn as he surveyed the supper. "You are my guest, you know, and I'll do what cooking there's to be done. We'll eat our dinners at Gillis', we'll sleep here, and I will get breakfast and supper. The fine dinners will offset my poor cooking, and besides you ought to stay outdoors and look around as much as you can, before we get snowed in for the whole winter."
"Well, I do plan to go with Landy over to see about that colt," said Davy, "and I thought maybe you would want to go along."
Welborn laughed. "Not for me! If you and Landy can't skin those B-line people out of one little horse, you are no traders. I've got to get that rocker going tomorrow. Look what we did today!" Welborn showed a little canvas bag that he took out of his pocket. "There is fully an ounce of dust in there, and we didn't try, just sampled around. With the rocker going, I can take out ten ounces a day by myself. It's fairly well distributed all over the tract, but better if you can hit the potholes right in the old stream bed."
"And when you get it all out, then what?"
Welborn looked rather perplexed. He studied a moment. "Then what?" he asked slowly, "Why we'll stock that ranch, lay out a flying field, and visit a lot of places. Truly, I had never planned so far ahead as to get to the place where I wouldn't be doing anything excepting clipping coupons."
"Yes, the mine is a fine thing," Davy said earnestly. "Why, there is enough gold there to make a great fortune. But what's the use in taking it all out at once? It will keep. You can work awhile, rest awhile, play awhile, and still be just as rich as if you had worked yourself to death. You are young, strong, and healthy, just right to enjoy life. Why work so hard now?"
"Yes, I am healthy, feel pretty strong, but not so young. Right now, I would like to take a few thousand dollars out of that gulch before snow flies, for we are going to have a lot of enforced loafing. We are in good shape to loaf however, all bills are paid and I still have thirty-five dollars of your money!"
"That's fine. I have been wondering how I would pay for the colt, in the event we bought him. The B-line folks might not want to take my check, and it might take more cash than I have on me."
"Mrs. Gillis will take care of that, she has money, plenty of it. She will tell Landy what to do, and Landy's word is like a bond. They do a lot of trading with the B-line. Buy cows, sell calves, and trade paper back and forth. Mrs. Gillis is better than a bank. Since the banking situation went bad, she has been accumulating government bonds. She hardly ever comes back from town without at least a hundred-dollar bond. She's a wonder, that woman. She's not an isolated hill billy that goes to town on Saturdays and anchors herself in the doorway of the five-and-ten-cent store to visit and gawk around. She's full of business. Sells her stuff, buys what she needs, and hits the trail for home. I expect Mrs. Gillis has seven or eight thousand dollars in bonds and cash stowed around in their cabin."
"Now that's my notion of living," cried Davy as he edged his chair back from the cracking sticks that Welborn had added to the smouldering embers in the fireplace. "Own a fine little ranch, a decent run of livestock and poultry, raise plenty of feed, and have something to sell right along. They don't have to meet a daily schedule, don't have to spread canvas in the rain or look at a mob tittering yokels all the time. That's the life for me and the Gillis outfit is my pattern."
"They are fine people," said Welborn. "We will keep in close contact with them. We need them now. The time may come when they will need us."
"Jim stayed to milk the cows," Landy explained as he rode up to Pinnacle Point the next morning leading Frosty, a rangy bay with a diminutive new saddle on his back. "Alice don't like my milkin' methods. I jist turn the calves in with the cows and let nature take her course, so she lets Jim do the milkin'. Put on yer jacket, son, hit's crimpy around the edges, and let's git goin'."
Seated on Ole Gravy, a sturdy gray horse, Landy Spencer was like a picture page out of the book of the old west. His stubby, gray mustache, standing out under an aquiline nose and squinting eyes, failed to conceal a mouth much given to smiles and laughter. He had cautioned the little man that it was cool, yet his blue shirt was open at the neck. He wore a slouch hat, dented and battered to unconventional shape, a dingy knitted waistcoat, unbuttoned of course, gray jeans, tucked into high boots with long, pointed heels, and spurs of ancient pattern. Hung to the horn of his old, but generous saddle was a lariat.
The chuck-chuck-chuck of the gas engine told that Welborn was already on the job at the mine. Davy ran into the house and returned wearing his mackinaw and boots. "My, he's a giraffe," he said, as he looked over Frosty and his equipment.
Landy dismounted and lifted Davy to his saddle. "Did ye ever ride a hoss, son?"
"Sure, I've ridden some of the big fat ring-horses, but I either had to lie down or stand up, they were too big around for my legs. Once I was to ride a shetland in the Grand Entry, but they had a monkey on another pony and I walked out on 'em." Davy picked up the reins and Frosty began tiptoeing around and arching his back.
"Jist turn him loose, son," called Landy. "The old simpleton was expectin' some weight when ye got on, and he's disapp'inted."
Landy led the way down the hill and Frosty followed like a pack horse. The sun had pushed above the clouds. Frost was flying in the air. It jeweled the grass of the table land and sparkled amid the green of the conifers along Ripple Creek. Farther down the indistinct path they met Jim in the car.
"Are you fellers goin' to git back in time for dinner," he called to the horsemen.
"Mebbe not," replied Landy. "We are aimin' to bring back that little hoss, en he may not want to come."
Landy turned from the path and rode down a coulee that led to Brushy Fork. It was a winding way through brush and stunted hemlocks. Presently they came to the creek. "Thar's Steelheads en Rainbows up in them pools," said the leader. "These streams have been stocked en hit's good fishin', if ye know how."
They followed down the stream bed for a distance and then Landy turned up a draw on the left bank, that finally led out to level land. At first it was a narrow way between the stream and foothill, but presently the landscape broadened to a meadow similar to that on the right bank of the creek. At one place, where the way was narrow, there was the crumbling remnant of rough walls of rock.
"That's a relic of them ole wars in here, but I never could git the hang of the tale. Ole Jim Lough knows all about it but he's too shut-mouthed and contrary to tell the tale.
"Ye see, I'm not a native son," explained Landy, as they rode abreast on the widened road. "I got started in the cattle game over to the north on Crazy Woman Creek en the range betwixt that en Sun Dance on the Belle Fourche. I was romancin' round when Teddy Roosevelt made camp up thar. Teddy liked to listen in on some of them Paul Bunyans of the cattle game, en they shore told some tall ones. I think he encouraged 'em in their romancin' jist to git a line on their capacity. Ye see, we were located jist betwixt ole Fort Fetterman and the Little Big Horn, sorta betwixt Red Cloud en Sittin' Bull, en one massacre en another. Ours was a period jist follerin' these history-makin' times en every man had a right to tell hit his way as they were all unhampered by airy lick of facts.
"Therefore, I didn't git up here in the headwaters of the Platte until years after, but from what I ketch they had some right stirrin' time in here, 'twixt cattle rustlin' and sheep crowdin'. Ole Jim knows the whole story, but he don't broadcast none." Topping a swell of the meadow lands another stream basin was encountered. "Hit's a little Ranty," explained Landy. "That's a dam downstream aways en the B-line waters a couple o' hundred acres." In these meadows there were cattle—cows and calves and some scrub yearlings. Crossing the Ranty, the horsemen mounted to the levels again. Here, there were fences. Farther on, stables, sheds, and a cluster of houses. The B-line ranch.
Landy maneuvered the horses through the gates without dismounting and rode up to the central stable. "Whar's yer reception committee eround here?" he yelled. "Call out the guard en parade them colors," he commanded as he dismounted and assisted Davy down. He threw the reins over the horses' heads. A man came out of the stable-room, two more came from back of a shed.
"Well, if it haint the ole buzzard from Ripple Creek, a sailin' around lookin' fer his dinner. Nothin' dead around here Landy," said the short, stubby man that came from the stable room.
"Howdy, Potter. 'Lo, Flinthead. Howdy, Hickory. All you cimarrons wipe yer hands real clean en shake with my friend Mister Lannarck. We jist took time outen our busy lives to come over here en watch you birds loaf eround," said Landy after introductions had been acknowledged. "En my pardner here has a broken handled knife that he would trade for a little hoss."
"Well, it's a shame, Mister Lannarck," said Potter thoughtfully, "that ye have to carry sich a load as bein' introduced by sich a double-barreled, disreputable ole renegade of a crook like this. But we understand and will try to he'p ye live it down. Now, as to that little hoss. He belongs to Miss Adine. She's at the house. Flinthead, you move them hosses in here! Hickory, go tell Adine that the circus party that Landy told her about is here to see the colt."