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Injuns








From: The Fighting Edge

Bob swung down from the saddle in front of the bunkhouse.

Reeves came to the door and waved a hand. "'Lo, Sure-Shot! What's new in
Bear Cat?"

"Fellow thinkin' of startin' a drug-store. Jim Weaver is the happy dad of
twins. Mad dog shot on Main Street. New stage-line for Marvine planned.
Mr. Jake Houck is enjoyin' a pleasant visit to our little city. I reckon
that's about all."

Dud had joined Tom in the doorway. "Meet up with Mr. Houck?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Have any talk?"

"He had some, but he hadn't hardly got to goin' good when the mad dog
sashayed up the street. Mr. Houck he adjourned the meetin' immediate."

"More important business, I reckon," Dud grinned.

"He didn't mention it, but all those present were in a kinda hurry."

"So's some one else." Reeves nodded his head toward a small cloud of dust
approaching the ranch.

A rider galloped up and dragged his mount to a halt. "Utes have broke
out! Killed a trapper on Squaw Creek! Burned two nesters' houses!" His
voice was high and excited.

"Rumor?" asked Dud.

"No, sir. I talked with a fellow that seen the body. Met two families
that had lit out from Squaw Creek. They're sure enough on the warpath."

Harshaw took the matter seriously. He gave crisp orders to his riders to
cover the creeks and warn all settlers to leave for Bear Cat or Meeker.
Dud and Bob were assigned Milk Creek.

It was hard for the young fellows, as they rode through a land of warm
sunshine, to believe that there actually was another Indian outbreak. It
had been ten years since the Meeker massacre and the defeat of Major
Thornburg's troops. The country had begun to settle up. The Utes knew
that their day was done, though they still came up occasionally from the
reservation on illicit hunting trips.

This very country over which they were riding was the scene of the
Thornburg battle-field. The Indians had lain in ambush and waited for the
troops to come over the brow of the rise. At the first volley the
commander of the soldiers had fallen mortally wounded. The whites, taken
by surprise, fell back in disorder. The Utes moved up on them from both
sides and the trapped men fled.

"Must 'a' been right about here Thornburg was shot," explained Dud.
"Charley Mason was one o' the soldiers an' he told me all about it.
Captain Jack was in charge of this bunch of Utes. Seems he had signal
fires arranged with those at the agency an' they began their attacks at
the same time. Charley claimed they didn't know there was Injuns within
twenty miles when the bullets began to sing. Says he ran five miles
before he took a breath."

Bob looked around apprehensively. History might repeat itself. At this
very moment the Utes might be lying in the draw ready to fire on them. He
was filled with a sudden urgent desire to get through with their job and
turn the heads of their ponies toward Bear Cat.

"Makes a fellow feel kinda squeamish," Dud said. "Let's move, Bob."

They carried the word to the settlers on the creek and turned in the
direction of Bear Cat. They reached town late and found the place
bustling with excitement. Families of settlers were arriving in wagons
and on horseback from all directions. There were rumors that the Indians
were marching on the town. A company of militia had been ordered to the
scene by the Governor of the State and was expected to arrive on the
second day from this.

Camp-fires were burning in the park plaza and round them were grouped
men, women, and children in from the ranches. On all the roads leading to
town sentries were stationed. Others walked a patrol along the riverbank
and along the skirts of the foothills.

Three or four cowpunchers had been celebrating the declaration of war. In
the community was a general feeling that the Utes must be put down once
for all. In spite of the alarm many were glad that the unrest had come to
an issue at last.

Bob and Dud tied their horses to a hitching-rack and climbed the fence
into the park. Blister came out of the shadows to meet them.

"W-whad I tell you, Texas man?" he asked of Bob. "Show-down at last, like
I said."

Into the night lifted a startled yell. "Here come the Injuns!"

Taut nerves snapped. Wails of terror rose here and there. A woman
fainted. The sound of a revolver shot rang out.

One of the roisterers, who had been loud in his threats of what he meant
to do to the Indians, lost his braggadocio instantly. He leaped for the
saddle of the nearest horse and dug his spurs home. In his fuddled
condition he made a mistake. He had chosen, as a mount upon which to
escape, the fence that encircled the park.

"Gid ap! Gid ap!" he screamed.

"Yore bronc is some balky, ain't it, Jud?" Hollister asked. He had
already discovered that the panic had been caused by a false cry of
"Wolf" raised by one of the fence rider's companions.

"S-some one hitched it to a post," Blister suggested.

"Ride him, puncher," urged Bob. "Stick to yore saddle if he does buck."

Jud came off the fence sheepishly. "I was aimin' to go get help," he
explained.

"Where was you going for it--to Denver?" asked Blister.

The night wore itself out. With the coming of day the spirits of the less
hardy revived. The ranchers on the plaza breakfasted in groups, after
which their children were bundled off to school. Scouts rode out to learn
the whereabouts of the Utes and others to establish contact with the
approaching militia.

Harshaw organized a company of rangers made up mostly of cowpunchers from
the river ranches. During the day more of these drifted in. By dusk he
had a group of forty hard-riding young fellows who could shoot straight
and were acquainted with the country over which they would have to
operate. Blister was second in command. All of the Slash Lazy D riders
had enlisted except one who had recently broken a leg.

Scouts brought in word that the Utes had swung round Bear Cat and were
camped about thirty miles up the river. Harshaw moved out to meet them.
He suspected the Indians of planning to ambush the militia before the
soldiers could join forces with the rangers.

Bob had joined the rangers with no enthusiasm. He had enlisted because of
pressure both within and without. He would have been ashamed not to offer
himself. Moreover, everybody seemed to assume he would go. But he would
much rather have stayed at Bear Cat with the home guards. From what he
had picked up, he was far from sure that the Utes were to blame this
time. The Houck killing, for instance. And that was not the only outrage
they had endured. It struck him more like a rising of the whites. They
had provoked the young bucks a good deal, and a sheriff's posse had
arrested some of them for being off the reservation hunting. Wise
diplomacy might at least have deferred the conflict.

During the bustle of preparing to leave, Bob's spirits were normal even
though his nerves were a little fluttery. As they rode out of town he
caught sight for a moment of a slim, dark girl in a blue gingham at the
door of the hotel. She waved a hand toward the group of horsemen. It was
Dud who answered the good-bye. He had already, Bob guessed, said a
private farewell of his own to June. At any rate, his friend had met
Hollister coming out of the hotel a few minutes before. The cowpuncher's
eyes were shining and a blue skirt was vanishing down the passage. There
had been a queer ache in Bob Dillon's heart. He did not blame either of
them. Of course June would prefer Dud to him. Any girl in her senses
would. He had all the charm of gay and gallant youth walking in the
sunshine.

None the less it hurt and depressed him that there should be a private
understanding between his friend and June. A poignant jealousy stabbed
him. There was nothing in his character to attract a girl like June of
swift and pouncing passion. He was too tame, too fearful. Dud had a spice
of the devil in him. It flamed out unexpectedly. Yet he was reliable too.
This clean, brown man, fair-haired and steady-eyed, riding with such
incomparable ease, would do to tie to, in the phrase of the country.
Small wonder a girl's heart turned to him.





Next: A Recruit Joins The Rangers

Previous: June Is Glad



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