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Mr Boggs Is Disgusted








From: Bar-20 Days

The herd gained twelve miles by dark and would pass through the northern
fence by noon of the next day, for Cook's axe and monkey wrench had been
put to good use. For quite a distance there was no fence: about a mile
of barb wire had been pulled loose and was tangled up into several large
piles, while rings of burned grass and ashes surrounded what was left
of the posts. The cook had embraced this opportunity to lay in a good
supply of firewood and was the happiest man in the outfit.

At ten o'clock that night eight figures loped westward along the
southern fence and three hours later dismounted near the first corral
of the 4X ranch. They put their horses in a depression on the plain and
then hastened to seek cover, being careful to make no noise.

At dawn the door of the bunk house opened quickly and as quickly slammed
shut again, three bullets in it being the reason. An uproar ensued and
guns spat from the two windows in the general direction of the
unseen besiegers, who did not bother about replying; they had given
notification of their presence and until it was necessary to shoot there
was no earthly use of wasting ammunition. Besides, the drive outfit
had cooled down rapidly when it found that its herd was in no immediate
danger and was not anxious to kill any one unless there was need. The
situation was conducive to humor rather than anger. But every time the
door moved it collected more lead, and it finally remained shut.

The noise in the bunk house continued and finally a sombrero was waved
frantically at the south window and a moment later Nat Boggs, foreman
of the incarcerated 4X outfit, stuck his head out very cautiously and
yelled questions which bore directly on the situation and were to the
point. He appeared to be excited and unduly heated, if one might judge
from his words and voice. There was no reply, which still further added
to his heat and excitement. Becoming bolder and a little angrier
he allowed his impetuous nature to get the upper hand and forthwith
attempted the feat of getting through that same window; but a sharp
pat! sounded on a board not a foot from him, and he reconsidered
hastily. His sombrero again waved to insist on a truce, and collected
two holes, causing him much mental anguish and threatening the loss of
his worthy soul. He danced up and down with great agility and no grace
and made remarks, thereby leading a full-voiced chorus.

"Ain't that a hell of a note?" he demanded plaintively as he paused for
breath. "Stick yore hat out, Cranky, an' see what you can do," he
suggested, irritably.

Cranky Joe regarded him with pity and reproach, and moved back towards
the other end of the room, muttering softly to himself. "I know it ain't
much of a bonnet, but he needn't rub it in," he growled, peevishly.

"Try again; mebby they didn't see you," suggested Jim Larkin, who had a
reputation for never making a joke. He escaped with his life and
checked himself at the side of Cranky Joe, with whom he conferred on the
harshness of the world towards unfortunates.

The rest of the morning was spent in snipe-shooting at random, trusting
to luck to hit some one, and trusting in vain. At noon Cranky Joe could
stand the strain no longer and opened the door just a little to relive
the monotony. He succeeded, being blessed with a smashed shoulder, and
immediately became a general nuisance, adding greatly to the prevailing
atmosphere. Boggs called him a few kinds of fools and hastened to nail
the door shut; he hit his thumb and his heart became filled with venom.

"Now look at what they went an' done!" he yelled, running around in a
circle. "Damned outrage!"

"Huh!" snorted Cranky Joe with maddening superiority. "That ain't
nothing--just look at me!"

Boggs looked, very fixedly, and showed signs of apoplexy, and Cranky Joe
returned to his end of the room to resume his soliloquy.

"Why don't you come out an' take them cows!" inquired an unkind voice
from without. "Ain't changed yore mind, have you?"

"We'll give you a drink for half a cent a head--that's the regular price
for watering cows," called another.

The faint ripple of mirth which ran around the plain was lost in
opinions loudly expressed within the room; and Boggs, tears of rage
in his eyes, flung himself down on a chair and invented new terms for
describing human beings.

John Terry was observing. He had been fluttering around the north
window, constantly getting bolder, and had not been disturbed. When he
withdrew his sombrero and found that it was intact he smiled to himself
and leaned his elbows on the sill, looking carefully around the plain.
The discovery that there was no cover on the north side cheered him
greatly and he called to Boggs, outlining a plan of action.

Boggs listened intently and then smiled for the first time since dawn.
"Bully for you, Terry!" he enthused. "Wait till dark--we'll fool 'em."

A bullet chipped the 'dobe at Terry's side and he ducked as he leaped
back. "From an angle--what did I tell you?" he laughed. "We'll drop
out here an' sneak behind the house after dark. They'll be watching the
door--an' they won't be able to see us, anyhow."

Boggs sucked his thumb tenderly and grinned. "After which--," he elated.

"After which--," gravely repeated Terry, the others echoing it with
unrestrained joy.

"Then, mebby, I can get a drink," chuckled Larkin, brightening under the
thought.

"The moon comes up at ten," warned a voice. "It'll be full to-night--an'
there ain't many clouds in sight."

"Ol' King Cole was a merry ol' soul," hummed McQuade, lightly.

"An'--a--merry--ol'--soul--was--he!--was--he!" thundered the chorus,
deep-toned and strong. "He had a wife for every toe, an' some toes
counted three!"

"Listen!" cried Meade, holding up his hand.

"An' every wife had sixteen dogs, an' every dog a flea!" shouted a
voice from the besiegers, followed by a roar of laughter.

The hilarity continued until dark, only stopping when John Terry slipped
out of the window, dropped to all-fours and stuck his head around the
corner of the rear wall. He saw many stars and was silently handed to
Pete Wilson.

"What was that noise?" exclaimed Boggs in a low tone. "Are you all
right, Terry?" he asked, anxiously.

Three knocks on the wall replied to his question and then McQuade went
out, and three more knocks were heard.

"Wonder why they make that funny noise," muttered Boggs.

"Bumped inter something, I reckon," replied Jim Larkin. "Get out of my
way--I'm next."

Boggs listened intently and then pushed Duke Lane back. "Don't like
that--sounds like a crack on the head. Hey, Jim! Say something!" he
called softly. The three knocks were repeated, but Boggs was suspicious
and he shook his head decisively. "To 'ell with the knocking--say
something!"

"Still got them twelve men?" asked a strange voice, pleasantly.

"An' every dog a flea," hummed another around the corner.

"Hell!" shouted Boggs. "To the door, fellers! To the door--quick!"

A whistle shrilled from behind the house and a leaden tattoo began
on the door. "Other window!" whispered O'Neill. The foreman got there
before him and, shoving his Colt out first to clear the way, yelled with
rage and pain as a pole hit his wrist and knocked the weapon out of his
hand. He was still commenting when Duke Lane pried open the door and,
dropping quickly on his stomach, wriggled out, followed closely by
Charley Beal and Tim. At that instant the tattoo drummed with greater
vigor and such a hail of lead poured in through the opening that the
door was promptly closed, leaving the three men outside to shift for
themselves with the darkness their only cover.

Duke and his companions whispered together as they lay flat and agreed
upon a plan of action. Going around the ends of the house was suicide
and no better than waiting for the rising moon to show them to the
enemy; but there was no reason why the roof could not be utilized. Tim
and Charley boosted Duke up, then Tim followed, and the pair on the roof
pulled Charley to their side. Flat roofs were great institutions they
decided as they crawled cautiously towards the other side. This roof was
of hard, sun-baked adobe, over two feet thick, and they did not care if
their friends shot up on a gamble.

"Fine place, all right," thought Charley, grinning broadly. Then he
turned an agonized face to Tim, his chest rising. "Hitch! Hitch!"
he choked, fighting with all his will to master it. "Hitch-chew!
Hitch-chew! Hitch-chew!" he sneezed, loudly. There was a scramble below
and a ripple of mirth floated up to them.

"Hitch-chew?" jeered a voice. "What do we want to hit you for?"

"Look us over, children," invited another.

"Wait until the moon comes up," chuckled the third. "Be like knocking
the nigger baby down for Red an' the others. Ladies and gents: We'll now
have a little sketch entitled 'Shooting snipe by moonlight.'"

"Jack-snipe, too," laughed Pete. "Will somebody please hold the bag?"

The silence on the roof was profound and the three on the ground tried
again.

"Let me call yore attention to the trained coyotes, ladies an' gents,"
remarked Johnny in a deep, solemn voice. "Coyotes are not birds; they do
not roost on roofs as a general thing; but they are some intelligent an'
can be trained to do lots of foolish tricks. These ani-mules were--"

"Step this way, people; on-ly ten cents, two nickels," interrupted Pete.
"They bark like dogs, an' howl like hell."

"Shut up!" snapped Tim, angrily.

"After the moon comes up," said Hopalong, "when you fellers get tired
dodging, you can chuck us yore guns an' come down. An' don't forget that
this side of the house is much the safest," he warned.

"Go to hell!" snarled Duke, bitterly.

"Won't; they're laying for me down there."

Johnny crawled to the north end of the wall and, looking cautiously
around the corner, funnelled his hands: "On the roof, Red! On the roof!"

"Yes, dear," was the reply, followed by gun-shots.

"Hey! Move over!" snapped Tim, working towards the edge furthest from
the cheerful Red, whose bullets were not as accurate in the dark as they
promised to become in a few minutes when the moon should come up.

"Want to shove me off?" snarled Charley, angrily. "For heaven's sake,
Duke, do you want the whole earth?" he demanded of his second companion.

"You just bet yore shirt I do! An' I want a hole in it, too!"

"Ain't you got no sense?"

"Would I be up here if I had?"

"It's going to be hot as blazes up here when the sun gets high,"
cheerfully prophesied Tim: "an' dry, too," he added for a finishing
touch.

"We'll be lucky if we're live enough to worry about the sun's
heat--say, that was a close one!" exclaimed Duke, frantically trying
to flatten a little more. "Ah, thought so--there's that blamed moon!"

"Wish I'd gone out the window instead," growled Charley, worming behind
Duke, to the latter's prompt displeasure.

"You fellers better come down, one at a time," came from below. "Send
yore guns down first, too. Red's a blamed good shot."

"Hope he croaks," muttered Duke. "That's closer yet!"

Tim's hand raised and a flash of fire singed Charley's hair. "Got to do
something, anyhow," he explained, lowering the Colt and peering across
the plain.

"You damned near succeeded!" shouted Charley, grabbing at his head.
"Why, they're three hundred, an' you trying for 'em with a--oh!" he
moaned, writhing.

"Locoed fool!" swore Duke, "showing 'em where we are! They're doing good
enough as it is! You ought--got you, too!"

"I'm going down--that blamed fool out there ain't caring what he
hits," mumbled Charley, clenching his hands from pain. He slid over the
edge and Pete grabbed him.

"Next," suggested Pete, expectantly.

Tim tossed his Colt over the edge. "Here's another," he swore, following
the weapon. He was grabbed and bound in a trice.

"When may we expect you, Mr. Duke?" asked Johnny, looking up.

"Presently, friend, presently. I want to--wow!" he finished, and
lost no time in his descent, which was meteoric. "That feller'll kill
somebody if he ain't careful!" he complained as Pete tied his hands
behind his back.


"You wait till daylight an' see," cheerily replied Pete as the three
were led off to join their friends in the corral.

There was no further action until the sun arose and then Hopalong
hailed the house and demanded a parley, and soon he and Boggs met midway
between the shack and the line.

"What d'you want?" asked Boggs, sullenly.

"Want you to stop this farce so I can go on with my drive."

"Well, I ain't holding you!" exploded the 4X foreman.

"Oh, yes; but you are. I can't let you an' yore men out to hang on our
flanks an' worry us; an' I don't want to hold you in that shack till you
all die of thirst, or come out to be all shot up. Besides, I can't fool
around here for a week; I got business to look after."

"Don't you worry about us dying with thirst; that ain't worrying us
none."

"I heard different," replied Hopalong, smiling. "Them fellers in the
corral drank a quart apiece. See here, Boggs; you can't win, an' you
know it. Yo're not bucking me, but the whole range, the whole country.
It's a fight between conditions--the fence idea agin the open range
idea, an' open trails. The fence will lose. You closed a drive trail
that's 'most as old as cow-raising. Will the punchers of this part of
the country stand for it? Suppose you lick us,--which you won't--can
you lick all the rest of us, the JD, Wallace's, Double-Arrow, C-80,
Cross-O-Cross, an' the others! That's just what it amounts to, an' you
better stop right now, before somebody gets killed. You know what that
means in this section. Yo're six to our eight, you ain't got a drink in
that shack, an' you dasn't try to get one. You can't do a thing agin us,
an' you know it."

Boggs rested his hands on his hips and considered, Hopalong waiting
for him to reply. He knew that the Bar-20 man was right but he hated to
admit it, he hated to say he was whipped.

"Are any of them six hurt?" he finally asked.

"Only scratches an' sore heads," responded Hopalong, smiling. "We ain't
tried to kill anybody, yet. I'm putting that up to you."

Boggs made no reply and Hopalong continued: "I got six of yore twelve
men prisoners, an' all yore cayuses are in my han's. I'll shoot every
animal before I'll leave 'em for you to use against me, an' I'll take
enough of yore cows to make up for what I lost by that fence. You've got
to pay for them dead cows, anyhow. If I do let you out you'll have to
road-brand me two hundred, or pay cash. My herd ain't worrying me--it's
moving all the time. It's through that other fence by now. An' if I have
to keep my outfit here to pen you in or shoot you off I can send to the
JD for a gang to push the herd. Don't make no mistake: yo're getting off
easy. Suppose one of my men had been killed at the fence--what then?"

"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"Stop this foolishness an' take down them fences for a mile each side
of the trail. If Buck has to come up here the whole thing'll go down.
Road-brand me two hundred of yore three-year-olds. Now as soon as you
agree, an' say that the fight's over, it will be. You can't win out; an'
what's the use of having yore men killed off?"

"I hate to quit," replied the other, gloomily.

"I know how that is; but yo're wrong on this question, dead wrong. You
don't own this range or the trail. You ain't got no right to close that
old drive trail. Honest, now; have you?"

"You say them six ain't hurt?"

"No more'n I said."

"An' if I give in will you treat my men right?"

"Shore."

"When will you leave."

"Just as soon as I get them two hundred three-year-olds."

"Well, I hate a quitter; but I can't do nothing, nohow," mused the 4X
foreman. He cleared his throat and turned to look at the house. "All
right; when you get them cows you get out of here, an' don't never come
back!"

Hopalong flung his arm with a shout to his men and the other kicked
savagely at an inoffensive stick and slouched back to his bunk house, a
beaten man.





Next: Tex Ewalt Hunts Trouble

Previous: The Fence



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