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A Responsible Citizen








From: The Fighting Edge

Dillon and Hollister were lounging on the bank of Elk Creek through the
heat of the day. They had been chasing a jack-rabbit across the mesa for
sport. Their broncos were now grazing close at hand.

"Ever notice how a jack-rabbit jumps high when it's crowded?" Dud asked
idly.

Bob nodded. "Like a deer. Crowd one an' he gets to jumpin' high. 'D you
see that jack turn a somersault just as I threw my rope the last time?"

Dud's keen eyes ranged the landscape. They were on the edge of the mesa
where it dipped down into the valley. Since he and Bob had decided to
preempt a quarter-section each, it had become a habit of his to study the
localities over which they rode.

"Country looks good round here," he suggested.

"Yes," agreed his friend.

"What we lookin' for anyhow, Bob?"

"Wood, grass, and water."

"Well, they're right here, ain't they?"

Bob had been thinking the same thing himself. They saddled and quartered
over the ground carefully. There was a wide stretch of meadow close to
the junction of Elk Creek and the river. Upon part of it a growth of
young willow had sprung up. But he judged that there was nearly one
hundred and fifty acres of prairie. This would need no clearing. Rich
wild grass already covered it luxuriously. For their first crop they
could cut the native hay. Then they could sow timothy. There would be no
need to plough the meadow. The seed could be disked in. Probably the land
never would need ploughing, for it was a soft black loam.

"How about roads?" Bob asked. "The old-timers claim we'll never get roads
here."

"Some one's going to take up all this river land mighty soon. That's a
cinch. An' the roads will come right soon after the settlers. Fact is,
we've got to jump if we're going to take up land on the river an' get a
choice location."

"My notion too," agreed Bob. "We'd better get a surveyor out here this
week."

They did. Inside of a month they had filed papers at the land office,
built cabins, and moved their few possessions to the claims. Their houses
were made of logs mud-chinked, with dirt floors and shake roofs instead
of the usual flat dirt ones. They expected later to whipsaw lumber for
the floors. A huge fireplace in one end of each cabin was used for
cooking as well as for heat until such time as they could get stoves.
Already they planned a garden, and in the evenings were as likely to talk
of turnips, beets, peas, beans, and potatoes as of the new Hereford bulls
Larson and Harshaw were importing from Denver.

For the handwriting was on the wall. Cattlemen must breed up or go out of
business. The old dogy would not do any longer. Already Utah stock was
displacing the poor southern longhorns. Soon these, too, would belong to
the past. Dud and Bob had vision enough to see this and they were making
plans to get a near-pedigreed bull.

Dud sighed in reminiscent appreciation of the old days that were
vanishing. He might have been seventy-two instead of twenty-two coming
February. Behind him lay apparently all his golden youth.

"We got to adopt ourselves to new ways, old Sure-Shot," he ruminated
aloud. "Got to quit hellin' around an' raisin' Cain. Leastways I have.
You never did do any o' that. Yes, sir, I got to be a responsible
citizen."

The partner of the responsible citizen leaned back in a reclining chair
which he had made from a plank sawed into five parts that were nailed
together at angles.

"You'll be raisin' little towheads right soon," he said through a cloud
of smoke.

"No, sir. Not me. Not Dud Hollister. I can boss my own se'f for a spell
yet," the fair-haired youth protested vehemently. "When I said we got to
adopt ourselves, I was thinkin' of barb-wire fences an' timothy hay. 'S
all right to let the dogies rough through the winter an' hunt the gulches
when the storms come. But it won't do with stock that's bred up. Harshaw
lost close to forty per cent of his cattle three years ago. It sure put
some crimp in him. He was hit hard again last winter. You know that. Say
he'd had valuable stock. Why, it would put him outa business. Sure
would."

"Yes," admitted Bob. "There's a schoolmarm down at Meeker was askin' me
about you. You know her--that snappin'-eyed brunette. Wanted to know all
about yore claim, an' was it a good one, an' didn't I think Mr. Hollister
a perfect gentleman, an'--"

Dud snatched a blanket from the bunk and smothered the red head. They
clinched, rolled on the floor, and kicked over the chair and stool.
Presently they emerged from battle feeling happier.

"No, we got to feed. Tha's the new law an' the gospel of the range," Dud
continued. "Got to keep our cattle under fence in winter an' look after
'em right. Cattle-raisin' as a gamble will be a losing bet right soon.
It's a business now. Am I right?"

"Sounds reasonable to me, Dud."

Bob's face was grave, but he smiled inwardly. The doctrine that his
friend had just been expounding was not new to him. He had urged it on
Dud during many a ride and at more than one night camp, had pointed to
the examples of Larson, Harshaw, and the other old-timers. Hollister was
a happy-go-lucky youth. The old hard-riding cattle days suited him
better. But he, too, had been forced at last to see the logic of the
situation. Now, with all the ardor of a convert, he was urging his view
on a partner who did not need to be convinced.

Dillon knew that stock-raising was entering upon a new phase, that the
old loose range system must give way to better care, attention to
breeding, and close business judgment. The cattleman who stuck to the old
ways would not survive.





Next: Bear Cat Asleep

Previous: A Hero Is Embarrassed



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