_Prison Visitor:_ "Am I right in presuming that it was your passion for strong drink that brought you here?" _Prisoner:_ "I don't think you can know this place, guv'nor. It's the last place on earth I'd come to if I was looking for anything t... Read more of He Was Wrong at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Lawful Improvements








From: The Flying U's Last Stand

Florence Grace Hallman must not be counted a woman without principle or
kindness of heart or these qualities which make women beloved of men.
She was a pretty nice young woman, unless one roused her antagonism. Had
Andy Green, for instance, accepted in good faith her offer of a position
with the Syndicate, he would have found her generous and humorous and
loyal and kind. He would probably have fallen in love with her before
the summer was over, and he would never have discovered in her nature
that hardness and that ability for spiteful scheming which came to the
surface and made the whole Happy Family look upon her as an enemy.

Florence Grace Hillman was intensely human, as well as intensely loyal
to her firm. She had liked Andy Green better than anyone--herself
included--realized. It was not altogether her vanity that was hurt when
she discovered how he had worked against her--how little her personality
had counted with him. She felt chagrined and humiliated and as though
nothing save the complete subjugation of Andy Green and the complete
thwarting of his plans could ease her own hurt.

Deep in her heart she hoped that he would eventually want her to forgive
him his treachery. She would give him a good, hard fight--she would
show him that she was mistress of the situation. She would force him to
respect her as a foe; after that--Andy Green was human, certainly. She
trusted to her feminine intuition to say just what should transpire
after the fight; trusted to her feminine charm also to bring her
whatever she might desire.

That was the personal side of the situation. There was also the
professional side, which urged her to do battle for the interests of her
firm. And since both the personal and the professional aspects of the
case pointed to the same general goal, it may be assumed that Florence
Grace was prepared to make a stiff fight.

Then Andy Green proceeded to fall in love with that sharp-tongued
Rosemary Allen; and Rosemary Allen had no better taste than to let
herself be lost and finally found by Andy, and had the nerve to show
very plainly that she not only approved of his love but returned it.
After that, Florence Grace was in a condition to stop at nothing--short
of murder--that would defeat the Happy Family in their latest project.

While all the Bear Paw country was stirred up over the lost child,
Florence Grace Hillman said it was too bad, and had they found him yet?
and went right along planting contestants upon the claims of the Happy
Family. She encouraged the building of claim-shacks and urged firmness
in holding possession of them. She visited the man whom Irish had
knocked down with a bottle of whisky, and she had a long talk with him
and with the doctor who attended him. She saw to it that the contest
notices were served promptly upon the Happy Family, and she hurried in
shipments of stock. Oh, she was very busy indeed, during the week that
was spent in hunting the Kid. When he was found, and the rumor of
an engagement between Rosemary Allen and that treacherous Andy Green
reached her, she was busier still; but since she had changed her methods
and was careful to mask her real purpose behind an air of passive
resentment, her industry became less apparent.

The Happy Family did not pay much attention to Florence Grace Hallman
and her studied opposition. They were pretty busy attending to their own
affairs; Andy Green was not only busy but very much in love, so that
he almost forgot the existence of Florence Grace except on the rare
occasions when he met her riding over the prairie trails.

First of all they rounded up the stock that had been scattered, and
they did not stop when they crossed Antelope Coulee with the settlers'
cattle. They bedded them there until after dark. Then they drove them
on to the valley of Dry Lake, crossed that valley on the train traveled
road and pushed the herd up on Lonesome Prairie and out as far upon the
benchland as they had time to drive them.

They did not make much effort toward keeping it a secret. Indeed Weary
told three or four of the most indignant settlers, next day, where they
would find their cattle. But he added that the feed was pretty good back
there, and advised them to leave the stock out there for the present.

"It isn't going to do you fellows any good to rear up on your hind legs
and make a holler," he said calmly. "We haven't hurt your cattle. We
don't want to have trouble with anybody. But we're pretty sure to have a
fine, large row with our neighbors if they don't keep on their own side
the fence."

That fence was growing to be more than a mere figure of speech The Happy
Family did not love the digging of post-holes and the stretching of
barbed wire; on the contrary they hated it so deeply that you could not
get a civil word out of one of them while the work went on; yet they put
in long hours at the fence-building.

They had to take the work in shifts on account of having their own
cattle to watch day and night. Sometimes it happened that a man tamped
posts or helped stretch wire all day, and then stood guard two or three
hours on the herd at night; which was wearing on the temper. Sometimes,
because they were tired, they quarreled over small things.

New shipments of cattle, too, kept coming to Dry Lake. Invariably these
would be driven out towards Antelope Coulee--farther if the drivers
could manage it--and would have to be driven back again with what
patience the Happy Family could muster. No one helped them among the
settlers. There was every attitude among the claim-dwellers, from open
opposition to latent antagonism. None were quite neutral--and yet the
Happy Family did not bother any save these who had filed contests to
their claims, or who took active part in the cattle driving.

The Happy Family were not half as brutal as they might have been. In
spite of their no-trespassing signs they permitted settlers to drive
across their claims with wagons and water-barrels, to haul water from
One Man Creek when the springs and the creek in Antelope Coulee went
dry.

They did not attempt to move the shacks of the later contestants off
their claims. Though they hated the sight of them and of the owners who
bore themselves with such provocative assurance, they grudged the time
the moving would take. Besides that the Honorable Blake had told them
that moving the shacks would accomplish no real, permanent good. Within
thirty days they must appear before the register and receiver and file
answer to the contest, and he assured them that forbearance upon their
part would serve to strengthen their case with the Commissioner.

It goes to prove how deeply in earnest they were, that they immediately
began to practice assiduously the virtues of mildness and forbearance.
They could, he told them, postpone the filing of their answers until
close to the end of the thirty days; which would serve also to delay
the date of actual trial of the contests, and give the Happy Family more
time for their work.

Their plans had enlarged somewhat. They talked now of fencing the whole
tract on all four sides, and of building a dam across the mouth of a
certain coulee in the foothills which drained several miles of rough
country, thereby converting the coulee into a reservoir that would
furnish water for their desert claims. It would take work, of course;
but the Happy Family; were beginning to see prosperity on the trail
ahead and nothing in the shape of hard work could stop them from coming
to hang-grips with fortune.

Chip helped them all he could, but he had the Flying U to look after,
and that without the good team-work of the Happy Family which had kept
things moving along so smoothly. The team-work now was being used in a
different game; a losing game, one would say at first glance.

So far the summer had been favorable to dry-farming. The more
enterprising of the settlers had some grain and planted potatoes upon
freshly broken soil, and these were growing apace. They did not know
about these scorching August winds, that might shrivel crops in a day.
They did not realize that early frosts might kill what the hot winds
spared. They became enthusiastic over dry-farming, and their resentment
toward the Happy family increased as their enthusiasm waxed strong. The
Happy Family complained to one another that you couldn't pry a nester
loose from his claim with a crowbar.

In this manner did civilization march out and take possession of the
high prairies that lay close to the Flying U. They had a Sunday School
organized, with the meetings held in a double shack near the trail to
Dry Lake. The Happy family, riding that way, sometimes heard voices
mingled in the shrill singing of some hymn where, a year before, they
had listened to the hunting song of the coyote.

Eighty acres to the man--with that climate and that soil they never
could make it pay; with that soil especially since it was mostly barren.
The Happy Family knew it, and could find it in their hearts to pity the
men who were putting in dollars and time and hard work there. But for
obvious reasons they did not put their pity into speech.

They fenced their west line in record time. There was only one gate
in the whole length of it, and that was on the trail to Dry Lake. Not
content with trusting to the warning of four strands of barbed wire
stretched so tight that they hummed to the touch, they took turns in
watching it--"riding fence," in range parlance--and in watching the
settlers' cattle.

To H. J. Owens and his fellow contestants they paid not the slightest
attention, because the Honorable Blake had urged them personally to
ignore any and all claimants. To Florence Grace Hallman they gave no
heed, believing that she had done her worst, and that her worst was
after all pretty weak, since the contests she had caused to be filed
could not possibly be approved by the government so long as the Happy
Family continued to abide by every law and by-law and condition and
requirement in their present through-going and exemplary manner.

You should have seen how mild-mannered and how industrious the Happy
Family were, during these three weeks which followed the excitement of
the Kid's adventuring into the wild. You would have been astonished,
and you would have made the mistake of thinking that they had changed
permanently and might be expected now to settle down with wives and
raise families and hay and cattle and potatoes, and grow beards,
perhaps, and become well-to-do ranchers.

The Happy Family were almost convinced that they were actually leaving
excitement behind them for good and all. They might hold back
the encroaching tide of immigration from the rough land along the
river--that sounded like something exciting, to be sure. But they must
hold back the tide with legal proceedings and by pastoral pursuits, and
that promised little in the way of brisk, decisive action and strong
nerves and all these qualities which set the Happy Family somewhat apart
from their fellows.





Next: The Water Question And Some Gossip

Previous: The Fight Goes On



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