Rowdy Hires A New Boss
From: Rowdy Of The Cross L
Next morning, after breakfast, Mr. Rodway followed Vaughan out to the
stable, and repeated Bill Brown's question.
"I'd like to know where yuh got this horse," he began, with an
apologetic sort of determination in his tone. "He happens to belong to
me. He was run off with a bunch three years ago, and this is the first
trace anybody has ever got of 'em. I see the brand's been worked. It was
a Roman four--that's my brand; now it looks like a map of Texas; but I'd
swear to the horse--raised him from a colt."
Rowdy had expected something of the sort, and he knew quite well what he
was going to do; he had settled that the night before, with the memory
of Miss Conroy's eyes fresh in his mind.
"I got him in a deal across the line," he said. "I was told he came from
east Oregon. But last night, when he piloted us straight to your corral
gate, I guessed he'd been here before. He's yours, all right, if you say
"Uh course he ain't worth such a pile uh money," apologized Rodway, "but
the kids thought a heap of him. I'd rather locate some of the horses
that was with him--or the man yuh got him of. They was some mighty good
horses run out uh this country then, but they was all out on the range,
so we didn't miss 'em in time to do any good. Do yu know who took 'em
across the line?"
"No," said Rowdy deliberately. "The man I got Chub from went north, and
I heard he got killed. I don't know of any other in the deal."
Rodway grunted, and Vaughan began vigorously brushing Dixie's roughened
coat. "If you don't mind," he said, after a minute, "I'd like to borrow
Chub to pack my bed over to the Cross L. I can bring him back again."
"Why, sure!" assented Rodway eagerly. "I hate to take him from yuh, but
"Oh, that's all right," interrupted Rowdy cheerfully. "It's all in the
game, and I should 'a' looked up his pedigree, for I knew--. Anyway, was
worth the price of him to have him along last night. We'd have milled
around till daylight, I guess, only for him."
"That's what," agreed Rodway. "Jessie's horse is one she brought from
home lately, and he ain't located yet; I dunno as he'd 'a' piloted her
home. Billy--that's what the kids named him--was born and raised here,
yuh see. I'll bet he's glad to get back--and the kids'll be plumb wild."
Rowdy did not answer; there seemed nothing in particular to say, and he
was wondering if he would see Miss Conroy before he left. She had not
eaten breakfast with the others; from their manner, he judged that
no one expected her to. He was not well informed upon the subject
of schoolma'ams, but he had a hazy impression that late rising was a
distinguishing characteristic--and he did not know how late. He
saddled leisurely, and packed his bed for the last time upon Chub. The
red-and-yellow Navajo blanket he folded tenderly, with an unconscious
smile for the service it had done, and laid it in its accustomed place
in the bed. Then, having no plausible excuse for going back to the
house, he mounted and rode away into the brilliant white world, watching
wistfully the house from the tail of his eye.
She might have got up in time to see him off, he thought discontentedly;
but he supposed one cowpuncher more or less made little difference to
her. Anyway, he didn't know as he had any license to moon around her.
She probably had a fellow; she might even be engaged, for all he knew.
And--she was Harry Conroy's sister; and from his experience with the
breed, good looks didn't count for anything. Harry was good-looking, and
he was a snake, if ever there was one. He had never expected to lie for
him--but he had done it, all right--and because Harry's sister happened
to have nice eyes and a pretty little foot!--
He had half a mind to go back and tell Rodway all he knew about those
horses; it was only a matter of time, anyway, till Harry Conroy overshot
the mark and got what was coming to him. He sure didn't owe Harry
anything, that he had need to shield him like he had done. Still,
Rodway would wonder why he hadn't told it at first; and that little girl
believed in Harry, and said he was "splendid!" Humph! He wondered if she
really meant that. If she did--
He squared his back to the house--and the memory of Miss Conroy's
eyes--and plodded across the field to the gate. Now the sun was shining,
and there was no possibility of getting lost. The way to the Cross L lay
straight and plain before him.
Rowdy rode leisurely up over the crest of a ridge beyond which lay the
home ranch of the Cross L. Whether it was henceforth to be his home he
had yet to discover--though there was reason for hoping that it would
be. Even so venturesome a man as Rowdy Vaughan would scarce ride a long
hundred miles through unpeopled prairie, in the tricky month of March,
without some reason for expecting a welcome at the end of his journey.
In this case, a previous acquaintance with "Wooden Shoes" Mielke,
foreman of the Cross L, was Rowdy's trump-card. Wooden Shoes, whenever
chance had brought them together in the last two or three years, was
ever urging Rowdy to come over and unroll his soogans in the Cross L
bed-tent, and promising the best string in the outfit to ride--besides
other things alluring to a cow-puncher. So that, when his relations with
the Horseshoe Bar became strained, Rowdy remembered his friend of the
Cross L and the promises, and had drifted south.
Just now he hoped that Wooden Shoes would be home to greet him, and
his eyes searched wishfully the huddle of low-eaved cabins and the
assortment of sheds and corrals for the bulky form of the foreman. But
no one seemed to be about--except a bigbodied, bandy-legged individual,
who appeared to be playfully chasing a big, bright bay stallion inside
the large enclosure where stood the cabins.
Rowdy watched them impersonally; a glance proved that the man was not
Wooden Shoes, and so he was not particularly interested in him or his
doings. It did occur to him, however, that if the fellow wanted to catch
that brute, he ought to have sense enough to get a horse. No one but
a plumb idiot would mill around in that snow afoot. He jogged down the
slope at a shuffling trot, grinning tolerantly at the pantomime below.
He of the bandy-legs stopped, evidently out of breath; the stallion
stopped also, snorting defiance. Rowdy heard him plainly, even at that
distance. The horse arched his neck and watched the man warily, ready
to be off at the first symptom of hostilities--and Rowdy observed that a
short rope hung from his halter, swaying as he moved.
Bandy-legs seemed to have an idea; he turned and scuttled to the nearest
cabin, returning with what seemed a basin of oats, for he shook it
enticingly and edged cautiously toward the horse. Rowdy could imagine
him coaxing, with hypocritically endearing names, such as "Good old
boy!" and "Steady now, Billy"--or whatever the horse's name might
be. Rowdy chuckled to himself, and hoped the horse saw through the
Perhaps the horse chuckled also; at any rate, he stood quite still,
equally prepared to bounce away on the instant or to don the mask of
docility. Bandy-legs drew nearer and nearer, shaking the basin briskly,
like an old woman sifting meal. The horse waited, his nostrils quivering
hungrily at the smell of the oats, and with an occasional low nicker.
Bandy-legs went on tiptoes--or as nearly as he could in the snow--the
basin at arm's length before. The dainty, flaring nostrils sniffed
tentatively, dipped into the basin, and snuffed the oats about
luxuriously--till he felt a stealthy hand seize the dangling rope. At
the touch he snorted protest, and was off and away, upsetting Bandy-legs
and the basin ignominiously into a high-piled drift.
Bandy-legs sat up, scraped the snow out of his collar and his ears, and
swore. It was then that Rowdy appeared like an angel of deliverance.
"Want that horse caught?" he yelled cheerfully.
Bandy-legs lifted up his voice and bellowed things I should not like to
repeat verbatim. But Rowdy gathered that the man emphatically did want
that so-and-so-and-then-some horse caught, and that it couldn't be done
a blessed minute too soon. Whereat Rowdy smiled anew, with his face
discreetly turned away from Bandy-legs, and took down his rope and
widened the loop. Also, he turned Chub loose.
The stallion evidently sensed what new danger threatened his stolen
freedom, and circled the yard with high, springy strides. Rowdy circled
after, saw his chance, swirled the loop twice over his head, and
hazarded a long throw.
Rowdy knew it for pure good luck that it landed right, but to this day
Bandy-legs looks upon him as a Wonder with a rope--and Bandy-legs would
insist upon the capital.
"Where shall I take him?" Rowdy asked, coming up with his captive, and
with nothing but his eyes to show how he was laughing inwardly.
Bandy-legs crawled from the drift, still scraping snow from inside his
collar, and gave many directions about going through a certain gate into
such-and-such a corral; from there into a stable; and by seeming devious
ways into a minutely described stall.
"All right," said Rowdy, cutting short the last needless details. "I
guess I can find the trail;" and started off, leading the stallion.
Bandy-legs followed, and Chub, observing the departure of Dixie, ambled
faithfully in the rear.
"Much obliged," conceded Bandy-legs, when the stallion was safely housed
and tied securely. "Where yuh headed for, young man?"
"Right here," Rowdy told him calmly, loosening Dixie's cinch. "I'm the
long-lost top hand that the Cross L's been watching the sky-line for,
lo! these many moons, a-yearning for the privilege of handing me forty
plunks about twice as fast as I've got 'em coming. Where's the boss?"
"Er--I'm him," confessed Bandy-legs meekly, and circled the two
dubiously. "I guess you've heard uh Eagle Creek Smith--I'm him. The
Cross L belongs to me."
Rowdy let out an explosive, and showed a row of nice teeth. "Well, I
ain't hard to please," he added. "I won't kick on that, I guess. I like
your looks tolerable well, and I'm willing to take yuh on for a boss. If
yuh do your part, I bet we'll get along fine." His tone was banteringly
patronizing "Anyway, I'll try yuh for a spell. You can put my name down
as Rowdy Vaughan, lately canned from the Horseshoe Bar."
"What for?" ventured Bandy-legs--rather, Eagle Creek--still circling
"What for was I canned?" repeated Rowdy easily. "Being a modest youth, I
hate t' tell yuh. But the old man's son and me, we disagreed, and one
of his eyes swelled some; so did mine, a little." He stood head and
shoulders above Eagle Creek, and he smiled down upon him engagingly.
Eagle Creek capitulated before the smile.
"Well, I ain't got any sons--that I know of," he grinned. "So I guess
yuh can consider yourself a Cross L man till further notice."
"Why, sure!" The teeth gleamed again briefly. "That's what I've been
telling you right along. Where's old Wooden Shoes? He's responsible for
me being here."
"Gone to Chinook. He'll be back in a day or two." Eagle Creek shifted
his feet awkwardly. "Say"--he glanced uneasily behind him--"yuh don't
want t' let it get around that yuh sort of--hired me--see?"
"Of course not," Rowdy assured him. "I was only joshing. If you don't
want me, just tell me to hit the sod."
"You stay right where you're at!" commanded Eagle Creek with returned
confidence in himself and his authority. Of a truth, this self-assured,
straight-limbed young man had rather dazed him. "Take your bed and
war-bag up to the bunk-house and make yourself t' home till the boys get
back, and--say, where'd yuh git that pack-horse?"
The laugh went out of Rowdy's tawny eyes. The question hit a spot that
was becoming sore. "I borrowed him this morning from Mr. Rodway," he
said evenly. "I'm to take him back to-day. I stopped there last night."
"Oh!" Eagle Creek coughed apologetically, and said no word, while Rowdy
led Chub back to the cabin which he had pointed out as the bunk-house;
he stood by while Rowdy loosened the pack and dragged it inside.
"I guess you can get located here," he said. "I ain't workin' more'n
three or four men just now, but there's quite a few uh the boys stopping
here; the Cross L's a regular hang-out for cow-punchers. You're a little
early for the season, but I'll see that yuh have something t' do--just
t' keep yuh out uh devilment."
Rowdy's brows unbent; it would seem that Eagle Creek was capable of
"joshing" also. "It's up t' you, old-timer," he retorted. "I'm strong
and willing, and don't shy at anything but pitchforks."
Eagle Creek grinned. "This ain't no blamed cowhospital," he gave as a
parting shot. "All the hay that's shoveled on this ranch needn't hurt
nobody's feelings." With that he shut the door, and left Rowdy to
acquaint himself with his new home.
Next: Pink As Chappyrone
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