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The Call

From: Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-up

At three o'clock the next morning a long line of men slowly filed
into the cottonwood grove, being silently swallowed up by the dark.
Dismounting, they left their horses in the care of three of their
number and disappeared into the brush. Ten minutes later forty of the
force were distributed along the edge of the grove fringing on the
bank of the river and twenty more minutes gave ample time for a
detachment of twenty to cross the stream and find concealment in the
edge of the woods which ran from the river to where the corral made an
effective barrier on the south.

Eight crept down on the western side of the camp and worked their way
close to Mr. Trendley's cabin door, and the seven who followed this
detachment continued and took up their positions at the rear of the corral,
where, it was hoped, some of the rustlers would endeavor to
escape into the woods by working their way through the cattle in the corral
and then scaling the stockade wall. These seven were from the Three
Triangle and the Double Arrow, and they were positive that any such attempt
would not be a success from the view-point of the rustlers.

Two of those who awaited the pleasure of Mr. Trendley crept forward,
and a rope swished through the air and settled over the stump which
lay most convenient on the other side of the cabin door. Then the
slack moved toward the woods, raised from the ground as it grew taut
and, with the stump for its axis, swung toward the door, where it
rubbed gently against the rough logs. It was made of braided
horsehair, was half an inch in diameter and was stretched eight inches
above the ground.

As it touched the door, Lanky Smith, Hopalong and Red stepped out of
the shelter of the woods and took up their positions behind the cabin,
Lanky behind the northeast corner where he would be permitted to swing
his right arm. In his gloved right hand he held the carefully arranged
coils of a fifty-foot lariat, and should the chief of the rustlers
escape tripping he would have to avoid the cast of the best roper in
the southwest.

The two others took the northwest corner and one of
them leaned slightly forward and gently twitched the tripping-rope.
The man at the other end felt the signal and whispered to a companion,
who quietly disappeared in the direction of the river and shortly
afterward the mournful cry of a whip-poor-will dirged out on the early
morning air. It had hardly died away when the quiet was broken by one
terrific crash of rifles, and the two camp guards asleep at the fire
awoke in another world.

Mr. Trendley, sleeping unusually well for the unjust, leaped from
his bed to the middle of the floor and alighted on his feet and wide
awake. Fearing that a plot was being consummated to deprive him of his
leadership, he grasped the Winchester which leaned at the head of his
bed and, tearing open the door, crashed headlong to the earth. As he
touched the ground, two shadows sped out from the shelter of the cabin
wall and pounced upon him. Men who can rope, throw and tie a wild
steer in thirty seconds flat do not waste time in trussing operations,
and before a minute had elapsed he was being carried into the woods,
bound and helpless. Lanky sighed, threw the rope over one shoulder and
departed after his friends.

When Mr. Trendley came to his senses he found himself bound to a
tree in the grove near the horses. A man sat on a stump not far from
him, three others were seated around a small fire some distance to the
north, and four others, one of whom carried a rope, made their way
into the brush. He strained at his bonds, decided that the effort was
useless and watched the man on the stump, who struck a match and lit a
pipe. The prisoner watched the light flicker up and go out and there
was left in his mind a picture that he could never forget. The face
which had been so cruelly, so grotesquely revealed was that of Frenchy
McAllister, and across his knees lay a heavy caliber Winchester. A
curse escaped from the lips of the outlaw; the man on the stump spat
at a firefly and smiled.

From the south came the crack of rifles, incessant and sharp. The
reports rolled from one end of the clearing to the other and seemed to
sweep in waves from the center of the line to the ends. Faintly in the
infrequent lulls in the firing came an occasional report from the rear
of the corral, where some desperate rustler paid for his venture.

Buck went along the line and spoke to the riflemen, and after some
time had passed and the light had become stronger, he collected the
men into groups of five and six. Taking one group and watching it
closely, it could be seen that there was a world of meaning in this
maneuver. One man started firing at a particular window in an opposite
hut and then laid aside his empty gun and waited. When the muzzle of
his enemy's gun came into sight and lowered until it had nearly gained
its sight level, the rifles of the remainder of the group crashed out
in a volley and usually one of the bullets, at least, found its
intended billet. This volley firing became universal among the
besiegers and the effect was marked.

Two men sprinted from the edge of the woods near Mr. Trendley's
cabin and gained the shelter of the storehouse, which soon broke out
in flames. The burning brands fell over the main collection of huts,
where there was much confusion and swearing. The early hour at which
the attack had been delivered at first led the besieged to believe
that it was an Indian affair, but this impression was soon corrected
by the volley firing, which turned hope into despair. It was no great
matter to fight Indians, that they had done many times and found more
or less enjoyment in it; but there was a vast difference between brave
and puncher, and the chances of their salvation became very small.
They surmised that it was the work of the cow-men on whom they had
preyed and that vengeful punchers lay hidden behind that death-fringe
of green willow and hazel.

Red, assisted by his inseparable companion, Hopalong, laboriously
climbed up among the branches of a black walnut and hooked one leg
over a convenient limb. Then he lowered his rope and drew up the
Winchester which his accommodating friend fastened to it. Settling
himself in a comfortable position and sheltering his body somewhat by
the tree, he shaded his eyes by a hand and peered into the windows of
the distant cabins.

"How is she, Red?" Anxiously inquired the man on the ground.

"Bully: want to come up?"

"Nope. I'm goin' to catch yu when yu lets go," replied Hopalong with
a grin.

"Which same I ain't goin' to," responded the man in the tree.

He swung his rifle out over a forked limb and let it settle in the
crotch. Then he slew his head around until he gained the bead he
wished. Five minutes passed before he caught sight of his man and then
he fired. Jerking out the empty shell he smiled and called out to his
friend: "One."

Hopalong grinned and went off to tell Buck to put all the men in

Night came on and still the firing continued. Then an explosion
shook the woods. The storehouse had blown up and a sky full of burning
timber fell on the cabins and soon three were half consumed, their
occupants dropping as they gained the open air. One hundred paces
makes fine pot-shooting, as Deacon Rankin discovered when evacuation
was the choice necessary to avoid cremation. He never moved after he
touched the ground and Red called out: "Two," not knowing that his
companion had departed.

The morning of the next day found a wearied and hopeless garrison,
and shortly before noon a soiled white shirt was flung from a window
in the nearest cabin. Buck ran along the line and ordered the firing
to cease and caused to be raised an answering flag of truce. A full
minute passed and then the door slowly opened and a leg protruded,
more slowly followed by the rest of the man, and Cheyenne Charley
strode out to the bank of the river and sat down. His example was
followed by several others and then an unexpected event occurred.
Those in the cabins who preferred to die fighting, angered at this
desertion, opened fire on their former comrades, who barely escaped by
rolling down the slightly inclined bank into the river. Red fired
again and laughed to himself. Then the fugitives swam down the river
and landed under the guns of the last squad. They were taken to the
rear and, after being bound, were placed under a guard. There were
seven in the party and they looked worn out.

When the huts were burning the fiercest the uproar in the corral
arose to such a pitch as to drown all other sounds. There were left
within its walls a few hundred cattle whose brands had not yet been
blotted out, and these, maddened to frenzy by the shooting and the
flames, tore from one end of the enclosure to the other, crashing
against the alternate walls with a noise which could be heard far out
on the plain. Scores were trampled to death on each charge and finally
the uproar subsided in sheer want of cattle left with energy enough to
continue. When the corral was investigated the next day there were
found the bodies of four rustlers, but recognition was impossible.

Several of the defenders were housed in cabins having windows in the
rear walls, which the occupants considered fortunate. This opinion was
revised, however, after several had endeavored to escape by these
openings. The first thing that occurred when a man put his head out
was the hum of a bullet, and in two cases the experimenters lost all
need of escape.

The volley firing had the desired effect, and at dusk there remained
only one cabin from which came opposition. Such a fire was
concentrated on it that before an hour had passed the door fell in and
the firing ceased. There was a rush from the side, and the Barred
Horseshoe men who swarmed through the cabins emerged without firing a
shot. The organization that had stirred up the Pecos Valley ranches
had ceased to exist.

Next: The Showdown

Previous: A Problem Solved

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