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From: Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-up

The town lay sprawled over half a square mile of alkali plain, its
main Street depressing in its width, for those who were responsible
for its inception had worked with a generosity born of the knowledge
that they had at their immediate and unchallenged disposal the broad
lands of Texas and New Mexico on which to assemble a grand total of
twenty buildings, four of which were of wood. As this material was
scarce, and had to be brought from where the waters of the Gulf lapped
against the flat coast, the last-mentioned buildings were a matter of
local pride, as indicating the progressiveness of their owners.

These creations of hammer and saw were of one story, crude and unpainted;
their cheap weather sheathing, warped and shrunken by the pitiless
sun, curled back on itself and allowed unrestricted entrance to alkali
dust and air. The other shacks were of adobe, and reposed in that
magnificent squalor dear to their owners, Indians and Mexicans.

It was an incident of the Cattle Trail, that most unique and
stupendous of all modern migrations, and its founders must have been
inspired with a malicious desire to perpetrate a crime against
geography, or else they reveled in a perverse cussedness, for within a
mile on every side lay broad prairies, and two miles to the east
flowed the indolent waters of the Rio Pecos itself. The distance
separating the town from the river was excusable, for at certain
seasons of the year the placid stream swelled mightily and swept down
in a broad expanse of turbulent, yellow flood.

Buckskin was a town of one hundred inhabitants, located in the
valley of the Rio Pecos fifty miles south of the Texas-New Mexico
line. The census claimed two hundred, but it was a well-known fact
that it was exaggerated. One instance of this is shown by the name of
Tom Flynn. Those who once knew Tom Flynn, alias Johnny Redmond, alias
Bill Sweeney, alias Chuck Mullen, by all four names, could find them
in the census list. Furthermore, he had been shot and killed in the
March of the year preceding the census, and now occupied a grave in
the young but flourishing cemetery. Perry's Bend, twenty miles up the
river, was cognizant of this and other facts, and, laughing in open
derision at the padded list, claimed to be the better town in all
ways, including marksmanship.

One year before this tale opens, Buck Peters, an example for the
more recent Billy the Kid, had paid Perry's Bend a short but busy
visit. He had ridden in at the north end of Main Street and out at the
south. As he came in he was fired at by a group of ugly cowboys from a
ranch known as the C 80. He was hit twice, but he unlimbered his
artillery, and before his horse had carried him, half dead, out on the
prairie, he had killed one of the group. Several citizens had joined
the cowboys and added their bullets against Buck. The deceased had
been the best bartender in the country, and the rage of the suffering
citizens can well be imagined. They swore vengeance on Buck, his
ranch, and his stamping ground.

The difference between Buck and Billy the Kid is that the former
never shot a man who was not trying to shoot him, or who had not been
warned by some action against Buck that would call for it. He minded
his own business, never picked a quarrel, and was quiet and pacific up
to a certain point. After that had been passed he became like a raging
cyclone in a tenement house, and storm-cellars were much in demand.

"Fanning" is the name of a certain style of gun play not unknown
among the bad men of the West. While Buck was not a bad man, he had to
rub elbows with them frequently, and he believed that the sauce for
the goose was the sauce for the gander. So be bad removed the trigger
of his revolver and worked the hammer with the thumb of the "gun hand"
or the heel of the unencumbered hand. The speed thus acquired was
greater than that of the more modern double-action weapon. Six shots
in a few seconds was his average speed when that number was required,
and when it is thoroughly understood that at least some of them found
their intended bullets it is not difficult to realize that fanning was
an operation of danger when Buck was doing it.

He was a good rider, as all cowboys are, and was not afraid of
anything that lived. At one time he and his chums, Red Connors and
Hopalong Cassidy, had successfully routed a band of fifteen Apaches
who wanted their scalps. Of these, twelve never hunted scalps again,
nor anything else on this earth, and the other three returned to their
tribe with the report that three evil Spirits had chased them with
"wheel guns" (cannons).

So now, since his visit to Perry's Bend, the rivalry of the two
towns had turned to hatred and an alert and eager readiness to
increase the inhabitants of each other's graveyard. A state of war
existed, which for a time resulted in nothing worse than acrimonious
suggestions. But the time came when the score was settled to the
satisfaction of one side, at least.

Four ranches were also concerned in the trouble. Buckskin was
surrounded by two, the Bar 20 and the Three Triangle. Perry's Bend was
the common point for the C 80 and the Double Arrow. Each of the two
ranch contingents accepted the feud as a matter of course, and as a
matter of course took sides with their respective towns. As no better
class of fighters ever lived, the trouble assumed Homeric proportions
and insured a danger zone well worth watching.

Bar-20's northern line was C 80's southern one, and Skinny Thompson
took his turn at outriding one morning after the season's round-up. He
was to follow the boundary and turn back stray cattle. When he had
covered the greater part of his journey he saw Shorty Jones riding
toward him on a course parallel to his own and about long revolver
range away. Shorty and he had "crossed trails" the year before and the
best of feelings did not exist between them.

Shorty stopped and stared at Skinny, who did likewise at Shorty.
Shorty turned his mount around and applied the spurs, thereby causing
his indignant horse to raise both heels at Skinny. The latter took it
all in gravely and, as Shorty faced him again, placed his left thumb
to his nose, wiggling his fingers suggestively. Shorty took no
apparent notice of this but began to shout:

"Yu wants to keep yore busted-down cows on yore own side. They was
all over us day afore yisterday. I'm goin' to salt any more what comes
over, and don't yu fergit it, neither."

Thompson wigwagged with his fingers again and shouted in reply: "Yu
c'n salt all yu wants to, but if I ketch yu adoin' it yu won't have to
work no more. An' I kin say right here thet they's more C 80 cows over
here than they's Bar-20's over there."

Shorty reached for his revolver and yelled, "Yore a liar!"

Among the cowboys in particular and the Westerners in general at
that time, the three suicidal terms, unless one was an expert in
drawing quick and shooting straight with one movement, were the words
"liar," "coward," and "thief." Any man who was called one of these in
earnest, and he was the judge, was expected to shoot if he could and
save his life, for the words were seldom used without a gun coming
with them. The movement of Shorty's hand toward his belt before the
appellation reached him was enough for Skinny, who let go at long
range-and missed.

The two reports were as one. Both urged their horses nearer and
fired again. This time Skinny's sombrero gave a sharp jerk and a hole
appeared in the crown. The third shot of Skinny's sent the horse of
the other to its knees and then over on its side. Shorty very promptly
crawled behind it and, as he did so, Skinny began a wide circle,
firing at intervals as Shorty's smoke cleared away.

Shorty had the best position for defense, as he was in a shallow
coul e, but he knew that he could not leave it until his opponent had
either grown tired of the affair or had used up his ammunition. Skinny
knew it, too. Skinny also knew that he could get back to the ranch
house and lay in a supply of food and ammunition and return before
Shorty could cover the twelve miles he had to go on foot.

Finally Thompson began to head for home. He had carried the matter
as far as he could without it being murder. Too much time had elapsed
now, and, besides, it was before breakfast and he was hungry. He would
go away and settle the score at some time when they would be on equal

He rode along the line for a mile and chanced to look back. Two C 80
punchers were riding after him, and as they saw him turn and discover
them they fired at him and yelled. He rode on for some distance and
cautiously drew his rifle out of its long holster at his right leg.
Suddenly he turned around in the saddle and fired twice. One of his
pursuers fell forward on the neck of his horse, and his comrade turned
to help him. Thompson wig-wagged again and rode on, reaching the ranch
as the others were finishing their breakfast.

At the table Red Connors remarked that the tardy one had a hole in
his sombrero, and asked its owner how and where he had received it.

"Had a argument with C 80 out'n th' line."

"Go `way! Ventilate enny?"


"Good boy, sonny! Hey, Hopalong, Skinny perforated C 80 this

Hopalong Cassidy was struggling with a mouthful of beef. He turned
his eyes toward Red without ceasing, and grinning as well as he could
under the circumstances managed to grunt out "Gu-," which was as near
to "Good" as the beef would allow.

Lanky Smith now chimed in as he repeatedly stuck his knife into a
reluctant boiled potato, "How'd yu do it, Skinny?"

"Bet he sneaked up on him," joshed Buck Peters; "did yu ask his
pardin, Skinny?"

"Ask nuthin'," remarked Red, "he jest nachurly walks up to C 80 an'
sez, `Kin I have the pleasure of ventilatin' yu?' an' C So he sez, `If
yu do it easy like,' sez he. Didn't he, Thompson?"

"They'll be some ventilatin' under th' table if yu fellows don't
lemme alone; I'm hungry," complained Skinny.

"Say, Hopalong, I bets yu I kin clean up C 80 all by my lonesome,"
announced Buck, winking at Red.

"Yah! Yu onct tried to clean up the Bend, Buckie, an' if Pete an'
Billy hadn't afound yu when they come by Eagle Pass that night yu
wouldn't be here eatin' beef by th' pound," glancing at the
hard-working Hopalong. "It was plum lucky fer yu that they was
acourtin' that time, wasn't it, Hopalong?" suddenly asked Red.
Hopalong nearly strangled in his efforts to speak. He gave it
up and nodded his head.

"Why can't yu git it straight, Connors? I wasn't doin' no courtin',
it was Pete. I runned into him on th' other side o' th' pass. I'd look
fine acourtin', wouldn't I?" asked the downtrodden Williams.

Pete Wilson skillfully flipped a potato into that worthy's coffee,
spilling the beverage of the questionable name over a large expanse of
blue flannel shirt. "Yu's all right, yu are. Why, when I meets yu, yu
was lost in th' arms of yore ladylove. All I could see was yore feet.
Go an' git tangled up with a two hundred and forty pound half-breed
squaw an' then try to lay it onter me! When I proposed drownin' yore
troubles over at Cowan's, yu went an' got mad over what yu called th'
insinooation. An' yu shore didn't look any too blamed fine, neither."

"All th' same," volunteered Thompson, who had taken the edge from
his appetite, "we better go over an' pay C 80 a call. I don't like
what Shorty said about saltin' our cattle. He'll shore do it, unless I
camps on th' line, which same I hain't hankerin' after."

"Oh, he wouldn't stop th' cows that way, Skinny; he was only
afoolin'," exclaimed Connors meekly.

"Foolin' yore gran'mother! That there bunch'll do anything if we
wasn't lookin'," hotly replied Skinny.

"That's shore nuff gospel, Thomp. They's sore fer mor'n one thing.
They got aplenty when Buck went on th' warpath, an they's hankerin' to
git square," remarked Johnny Nelson, stealing the pie, a rare treat,
of his neighbor when that unfortunate individual was not looking. He
had it halfway to his mouth when its former owner, Jimmy Price, a boy
of eighteen, turned his head and saw it going.

"Hi-yi! Yu clay-bank coyote, drap thet pie! Did yu ever see such a
son-of-a-gun fer pie?" he plaintively asked Red Connors, as he grabbed
a mighty handful of apples and crust. "Pie'll kill yu some day, yu
bob-tailed jack! I had an uncle that died onct. He et too much pie an'
he went an' turned green, an so'll yu if yu don't let it alone."

"Yu ought'r seed th' pie Johnny had down in Eagle Flat," murmured
Lanky Smith reminiscently. "She had feet that'd stop a stampede.
Johnny was shore loco about her. Swore she was the finest blossom that
ever growed." Here he choked and tears of laughter coursed down his
weather-beaten face as he pictured her. "She was a dainty Mexican,
about fifteen han's high an' about sixteen han's around. Johnny used
to chalk off when he hugged her, usen't yu, Johnny? One night when he
had got purty well around on th' second lap he run inter a feller jest
startin' out on his fust. They hain't caught that Mexican yet."

Nelson was pelted with everything in sight. He slowly wiped off the
pie crust and bread and potatoes. "Anybody'd think I was a busted grub
wagon," he grumbled. When he had fished the last piece of beef out of
his ear he went out and offered to stand treat. As the round-up was
over, they slid into their saddles and raced for Cowan's saloon at

Next: The Rashness Of Shorty

Previous: The Master

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