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Run To Earth








From: A Story Of The Outdoor West

When word came to Denver and the other punchers of the Lazy D that Reddy
had been pressed into service as a guide for the posse that was pursuing
the fugitives they gave vent to their feelings in choice profanity.

"Now, ain't that like him? Had to run around like a locoed calf telling
all he knowed and more till Burns ropes him in," commented the disgusted
Missou.

"Trouble with Reddy is he sets his mouth to working and then goes away
and leaves it," mourned Jim Henson.

"I'd hate to feel as sore as Reddy will when the boys get through
playing with him after he gets back to the ranch," Denver contributed,
when he had exhausted his vocabulary.

Meanwhile Reddy, unaware of being a cause of offense, was cheerfully
happy in the unexpected honor that had been thrust upon him. His will
was of putty, molded into the opinion of whomever he happened at the
moment to be with. Just now, with the ironic eye of Sheriff Burns upon
him, he was strong for law enforcement.

"A feller hadn't ought to be so promiscuous with his hardware. This
here thing of shooting up citizens don't do Wyoming no good these days.
Capital ain't a-going to come in when such goings-on occur," he sagely
opined, unconsciously parroting the sentiment Burns had just been
instilling into him.

"That's right, sir. If that ain't horse sense I don't know any. You got
a head on you, all right," answered the admiring sheriff.

The flattered Reddy pleaded guilty to being wiser than most men. "Jest
because I punch cows ain't any reason why I'm anybody's fool. I'll show
them smart boys at the Lazy D I don't have to take the dust of any of
the bunch when it comes to using my think tank."

"I would," sympathized Burns. "You bet they'll all be almighty jealous
when they learn how you was chosen out of the whole outfit on this job."

All day they rode, and that night camped a few miles from the Lazy D.
Early next morning they hailed a solitary rider as he passed. The man
turned out to be a cowman, with a small ranch not far from the one owned
by Miss Messiter.

"Hello, Henderson! y'u seen anything of Jim McWilliams and another
fellow riding acrost this way?" asked Reddy.

"Nope," answered the cowman promptly. But immediately he modified his
statement to add that he had seen two men riding toward Dry Creek a
couple of hours ago. "They was going kinder slow. Looked to me sorter
like one of them was hurt and the other was helping him out," he
volunteered.

The sheriff looked significantly at one of his men and nodded.

"You didn't recognize the horses, I reckon?"

"Come to think of it, one of the ponies did look like Jim's roan. What's
up, boys? Anything doing?"

"Nothing particular. We want to see Jim, that's all. So long."

What Henderson had guessed was the truth. The continuous hard riding had
been too much for Bannister and his wound had opened anew. They were at
the time only a few miles from a shack on Dry Creek, where the Lazy D
punchers sometimes put up. McWilliams had attended the wound as best
he could, and after a few hours' rest had headed for the cabin in the
hills. They were compelled to travel very slowly, since the motion kept
the sheepman's wound continually bleeding. But about noon they reached
the refuge they had been seeking and Bannister lay down on the bunk
with their saddle blankets under him. He soon fell asleep, and Mac took
advantage of this to set out on a foraging expedition to a ranch not
far distant. Here he got some bread, bacon, milk and eggs from a man he
could trust and returned to his friend.

It was dark by the time he reached the cabin. He dismounted, and with
his arms full of provisions pushed into the hut.

"Awake, Bann?" he asked in a low voice.

The answer was unexpected. Something heavy struck his chest and flung
him back against the wall. Before he could recover his balance he was
pinioned fast. Four men had hurled themselves upon him.

"We've got you, Jim. Not a mite o' use resisting," counseled the
sheriff.

"Think I don't savez that? I can take a hint when a whole Methodist
church falls on me. Who are y'u, anyhow?"

"Somebody light a lantern," ordered Burns.

By the dim light it cast Mac made them out, and saw Ned Bannister gagged
and handcuffed on the bed. He knew a moment of surprise when his eyes
fell on Reddy.

"So it was y'u brought them here, Red?" he said quietly.

Contrary to his own expectations, the gentleman named was embarrassed
"The sheriff, he summoned me to serve," was his lame defense.

"And so y'u threw down your friends. Good boy!"

"A man's got to back the law up, ain't he?"

Mac turned his shoulder on him rather pointedly. "There isn't any need
of keeping that gag in my friend's mouth any longer," he suggested to
Burns.

"That's right, too. Take it out, boys. I got to do my duty, but I don't
aim to make any gentleman more uncomfortable than I can help. I want
everything to be pleasant all round."

"I'm right glad to hear that, Burns, because my friend isn't fit to
travel. Y'u can take me back and leave him out here with a guard," the
foreman replied quickly.

"Sorry I can't accommodate you, Jim, but I got to take y'u both with
me."

"Those are the orders of the King, are they?"

Burns flushed darkly. "It ain't going to do you any good to talk that
way. You know mighty well this here man with you is Bannister. I ain't
going to take no chances on losing him now I've got my hand on him."

"Y'u ce'tainly deserve a re-election, and I'll bet y'u get it all right.
Any man so given over to duty, so plumb loaded down to the hocks with
conscience as y'u, will surely come back with a big majority next
November."

"I ain't askin' for YOUR vote, Mac."

"Oh, y'u don't need votes. Just get the King to O. K. your nomination
and y'u'll win in a walk."

"My friend, y'u better mind your own business. Far as I can make out y'u
got troubles enough of your own," retorted the nettled sheriff.

"Y'u don't need to tell me that, Tom Burns' Y'u ain't a man--nothing but
a stuffed skin worked by a string. When that miscreant Bannister pulls
the string y'u jump. He's jerked it now, so y'u're taking us back to
him. I can prove that coyote Morgan shot at me first, but that doesn't
cut any ice with you."

"What made you light out so sudden, then?" demanded the aggrieved Burns
triumphantly.

"Because I knew you. That's a plenty good reason. I'm not asking
anything for myself. All I say is that my friend isn't fit to travel
yet. Let him stay here under a guard till he is."

"He was fit enough to get here. By thunder, he's fit to go back!"

"Y'u've said enough, Mac," broke in Bannister. "It's awfully good of y'u
to speak for me, but I would rather see it out with you to a finish. I
don't want any favors from this yellow dog of my cousin."

The "yellow dog" set his teeth and swore vindictively behind them. He
was already imagining an hour when these insolent prisoners of his would
sing another tune.





Next: Playing For Time

Previous: Hunting Big Game



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