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Blister As Deus Ex Machina








From: The Fighting Edge

Blister Haines found an old pair of chaps for Bob Dillon and lent him a
buckskin bronco. Also, he wrote a note addressed to Harshaw, of the Slash
Lazy D, and gave it to the boy.

"He'll put you to ridin', Ed will. The rest's up to you. D-don't you
forget you're made in the l-likeness of God. When you feel like crawlin'
into a hole s-snap that red haid up an' keep it up."

Bob grew very busy extricating a cockle burr from the mane of the
buckskin. "I'll never forget what you've done for me, Mr. Haines," he
murmured, beet red.

"Sho! Nothin' a-tall. I'm always lookin' for to get a chance to onload
advice on some one. Prob'ly I was meant to be a grandma an' got mixed in
the shuffle. Well, boy, don't weaken. When in doubt, hop to it."

"Yes, sir. I'll try."

"Don't w-worry about things beforehand. Nothin's ever as bad as you
figure it's goin' to be. A lickin' don't last but a few minutes, an' if
you get b-busy enough it's the other fellow that's liable to absorb it.
Watch that r-rampageous scalawag Dud Hollister an' do like he does."

"Yes, sir."

"An' don't forget that every m-mornin' begins a new day. Tha's all,
son."

Bob jogged down the road on this hazard of new fortune.

It chanced that Dud was still in town. Blister found him and half a dozen
other punchers in front of the hotel.

"Betcha! Drinks for the crowd," the justice heard him say.

"Go you," Reeves answered, eyes dancing. "But no monkey business. It's to
be a straight-away race from the front of the hotel clear to the
blacksmith shop."

"To-day. Inside of ten minutes, you said," Shorty of the Keystone
reminded Hollister. "An' this Sunday, you recollect."

Dud's gaze rested on a figure of a horseman moving slowly up the road
toward them. The approaching rider was the Reverend Melanchthon T.
Browning, late of Providence, Rhode Island. He had come to the frontier
to teach it the error of its ways and bring a message of sweetness and
light to the unwashed barbarians of the Rockies. He was not popular. This
was due, perhaps, to an unfortunate manner. The pompous little man
strutted and oozed condescension.

"W-what's up?" asked Blister.

"Dud's bettin' he'll get the sky pilot to race him from here to Monty's
place," explained Reeves. "Stick around. He'll want to borrow a coupla
dollars from you to buy the drinks."

It was Sunday afternoon. The missionary was returning from South Park,
where he had been conducting a morning service. He was riding Tex
Lindsay's Blue Streak, borrowed for the occasion.

"What deviltry you up to now, Dud?" Blister inquired.

"Me?" The young puncher looked at him with a bland face of innocence.
"Why, Blister, you sure do me wrong."

Dud sauntered to the hitching-rack, easy, careless, graceful. He selected
a horse and threw the rein over its head. The preacher was just abreast
of the hotel.

The puncher swung to the saddle and brought the pony round. A wild whoop
came from his throat. The roan, touched by a spur, leaped to a canter.
For an instant it was side by side with Blue Streak. Then it shot down
the road.

Blue Streak was off in an eyeflash. It jumped to a gallop and pounded
after the roan. The Reverend Melancthon T. Browning was no rider. His
feet lost the stirrups. A hymn-book went off at a wild tangent.
Coat-tails flew into the air. The exponent of sweetness and light leaned
forward and clung desperately to the mane, crying, "Whoa! Stop! Desist!"

But Blue Streak had no intention of desisting as long as the roan was in
front. Tex Lindsay's horse was a racer. No other animal was going to pass
it. The legs of the dark horse stretched for the road. It flew past the
cowpony as though the latter had been trotting. The Reverend Melancthon
stuck to the saddle for dear life.

At the blacksmith shop Dud pulled up. He rode back at a road gait to the
hotel. His companions greeted him with shouts of gayety.

"Where's the parson?" some one asked.

"Between here an' 'Frisco somewheres. He was travelin' like he was in a
hurry when I saw him last. Who pays for the drinks?"

"I do, you darned ol' Piute," shouted Reeves joyously. "I never will
forget how the sky pilot's coat-tails spread. You could 'a' played
checkers on 'em. D'you reckon we'd ought to send a wreckin' crew after
Melancthon T. Browning?"

"Why, no. The way he was clamped to that Blue Streak's back you couldn't
pry him loose with a crowbar."

"Here he c-comes now," Blister announced.

When the home missionary reached the hotel he found a grave and decorous
group of sympathizers.

"I was surely right careless, sir, to start thataway so onexpected," Dud
apologized. "I hope you didn't get jounced up much."

"Some one had ought to work you over for bein' so plumb wooden-haided,
Dud," the puncher from the Keystone reproved him. "Here was Mr. Browning
ridin' along quiet an' peaceable, figurin' out how he could improve us
Rio Blanco savages, an' you come rip-rarin' along an' jar up all his
geography by startin' that fool horse of his'n."

Dud hung his head. "Tha's right. It was sure enough thoughtless of me,"
he murmured.

The preacher looked at the offender severely. He did not yet feel quite
equal to a fitting reprimand. "You see the evil effects of letting that
vile stuff pass your lips. I hope this will be a lesson to you, young
man. If I had not kept my presence of mind I might have been thrown and
severely injured."

"Yes, sir," agreed Dud in a small, contrite voice.

"Makin' the preacher race on Sunday, too," chided Reeves. "Why, I
shouldn't wonder but what it might get out an' spread scandalous. We'll
all have to tell folks about it so's they'll get the right of it."

Melancthon squirmed. He could guess how the story would be told. "We'll
say no more about it, if you please. The young man is sorry. I forgive
him. His offense was inadvertent even though vexatious. If he will profit
by this experience I will gladly suffer the incommodious ride."

After the missionary had gone and the bet been liquidated, Blister drew
Hollister to one side. "I'm guessin' that when you get back to the ranch
you'll find a new rider in the bunkhouse, Dud."

The puncher waited. He knew this was preliminary matter.

"That young fellow Bob Dillon," explained the fat man.

"If you're expectin' me to throw up my hat an' shout, Blister, I got to
disappoint you," Dud replied. "I like 'em man-size."

"I'm p-puttin' him in yore charge."

"You ain't either," the range-rider repudiated indignantly.

"To m-make a man of him."

"Hell's bells! I'm no dry nurse to fellows shy of sand. He can travel a
lone trail for all of me."

"Keep him kinda encouraged."

"Why pick on me, Blister? I don't want the job. He ain't there, I tell
you. Any fellow that would let another guy take his wife away from him
an' not hang his hide up to dry--No, sir, I got no manner o' use for him.
You can't onload him on me."

"I've been thinkin' that when you are alone with him some t-time you'd
better devil him into a fight, then let him whale the stuffin' outa you.
That'll do him a l-lot of good--give him confidence."

Hollister stared. His face broke slowly to a grin. "I got to give it to
you, Blister. I'll bet there ain't any more like you at home. Let him
lick me, eh? So's to give him confidence. Wallop me good an' plenty, you
said, didn't you? By gum, you sure enough take the cake."

"Won't hurt you any. You've give an' took plenty of 'em. Think of him."

"Think of me, come to that."

"L-listen, Dud. That boy's what they call c-c-constitutionally timid.
There's folks that way, born so a shadow scares 'em. But he's
s-s-sensitive as a g-girl. Don't you make any mistake, son. He's been
eatin' his h-heart out ever since he crawled before Houck. I like that
boy. There's good s-stuff in him. At least I'm makin' a bet there is.
Question is, will it ever get a chance to show? Inside of three months
he'll either win out or he'll be headed for hell, an' he won't be
travelin' at no drift-herd gait neither."

"Every man's got to stand on his own hind laigs, ain't he?" Hollister
grunted. He was weakening, and he knew it.

"He needs a friend, worst way," Blister wheezed. "'Course, if you'd
rather not--"

"Doggone yore hide, you're always stickin' me somehow," stormed the
cowboy. "Trouble with me is I'm so soft I'm always gettin' imposed on. I
done told you I didn't like this guy a-tall. That don't make no more
impression on you than a cold runnin'-iron would on a cow."

"M-much obliged, Dud. I knew you'd do it."

"I ain't said I'd do it."

"S-some of the boys are liable to get on the prod with him. He'll have to
play his own hand. Tha's reasonable. But kinda back him up when you get a
chance. That notion of lettin' him lick you is a humdinger. Glad you
thought of it."

"I didn't think of it, an' I ain't thinkin' of it now," Dud retorted.
"You blamed old fat skeezicks, you lay around figurin' out ways to make
me trouble. You're worse than Mrs. Gillespie for gettin' yore own way.
Hmp! Devil him into a fight an' then let him hand me a lacin'. I reckon
not."

"He'll figure that since he can lick you, he can make out to look after
himself with the other boys."

"He ain't licked me yet, an' that's only half of it. He ain't a-goin'
to."

Fuming at this outrageous proposition put up to him, the puncher jingled
away and left his triple-chinned friend.

Blister grinned. The seed he had scattered might have fallen among the
rocks and the thorns, but he was willing to make a small bet with himself
that some of it had lit on good ground and would bear fruit.





Next: The Back Of A Bronc

Previous: A Scandal Scotched



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