The Young Eagle Must Fly
"You're of age," said Bob Birnie, sucking hard at his pipe. "You've had
your schooling as your mother wished that you should have it. You've
got the music in your head and your fingers and your toes, and that's as
your mother wished that you should have.
"Your mother would have you be all for music, and make tunes out of your
own head. She tells me that you have made tunes and written them down on
paper, and that there are those who would buy them and print copies to
sell, with your name at the top of the page. I'll not say what I think
of that--your mother is an angel among women, and she has taught you the
things she loves herself.
"But my business is with the cattle, and I've had you out with me since
you could climb on the back of a horse. I've watched you, with the rope
and the irons and in the saddle and all. You've been in tight places
that would try the mettle of a man grown--I mind the time ye escaped
Colorou's band, and we thought ye dead 'til ye came to us in Laramie.
You've showed that you're able to hold your own on the range, lad. Your
mother's all for the music--but I leave it to you.
"Ten thousand dollars I'll give ye, if that's your wish, and you can go
to Europe as she wishes and study and make tunes for others to play. Or
if ye prefer it, I'll brand you a herd of she stock and let ye go your
ways. No son of mine can take orders from his father after he's a man
grown, and I'm not to the age where I can sit with the pipe from morning
to night and let another run my outfit. I've talked it over with your
mother, and she'll bide by your decision, as I shall do.
"So I put it in a nutshell, Robert. You're twenty-one to-day; a man
grown, and husky as they're made. 'Tis time you faced the world and
lived your life. You've been a good lad--as lads go." He stopped there
to rub his jaw thoughtfully, perhaps remembering certain incidents
in Buddy's full-flavored past. Buddy--grown to plain Bud among his
fellows--turned red without losing the line of hardness that had come to
"You're of legal age to be called a man, and the future's before ye.
I'll give ye five hundred cows with their calves beside them--you can
choose them yourself, for you've a sharp eye for stock--and you can go
where ye will. Or I'll give ye ten thousand dollars and ye can go to
Europe and make tunes if you're a mind to. And whatever ye choose it'll
be make or break with ye. Ye can sleep on the decision, for I've no wish
that ye should choose hastily and be sorry after."
Buddy--grown to Bud--lifted a booted foot and laid it across his other
knee and with his forefinger absently whirled the long-pointed rower on
his spur. The hardness at his lips somehow spread to his eyes, that were
bent on the whirring rower. It was the look that had come into the face
of the baby down on the Staked Plains when Ezra called and called after
he had been answered twice; the look that had held firm the lips of the
boy who had lain very flat on his stomach in the roof of the dugout and
had watched the Utes burning the cabin.
"There's no need to sleep on it," he said after a minute. "You've raised
me, and spent some money on me--but I've saved you a man's wages ever
since I was ten. If you think I've evened things up, all right. If you
don't, make out your bill and I'll pay it when I can. There's no reason
why you should give me anything I haven't earned, just because you're my
father. You earned all you've got, and I guess I can do the same. As you
say, I'm a man. I'll go at the future man fashion. And," he added with a
slight flare of the nostrils, "I'll start in the morning."
"And is it to make tunes for other folks to play?" Bob Birnie asked after
a silence, covertly eyeing him.
"No, sir. There's more money in cattle. I'll make my stake in the
cow-country, same as you've done." He looked up and grinned a little.
"To the devil with your money and your she-stock! I'll get out all
right--but I'll make my own way."
"You're a stubborn fool, Robert. The Scotch now and then shows itself
like that in a man. I got my start from my father and I'm not ashamed of
it. A thousand pounds--and I brought it to America and to Texas, and got
Bud laughed and got up, hiding how the talk had struck deep into the
soul of him. "Then I'll go you one better, dad. I'll get my own start."
"You'll be back home in six months, lad, saying you've changed your
mind," Bob Birnie predicted sharply, stung by the tone of young Bud.
"That," he added grimly, "or for a full belly and a clean bed to crawl
Bud stood licking the cigarette he had rolled to hide an unaccountable
trembling of his fingers. "When I come back I'll be in a position to buy
you out! I'll borrow Skate and Maverick, if you don't mind, till I get
located somewhere." He paused while he lighted the cigarette. "It's the
custom," He reminded his father unnecessarily, "to furnish a man a horse
to ride and one to pack his bed, when he's fired."
"Ye've horses of yer own," Bob Birnie retorted, "and you've no need to
Bud stood looking down at his father, plainly undecided. "I don't know
whether they're mine or not," he said after a minute. "I don't know what
it cost you to raise me. Figure it up, if you haven't already, and count
the time I've worked for you. Since you've put me on a business basis,
like raising a calf to shipping age, let's be businesslike about it. You
are good at figuring your profits--I'll leave it to you. And if you find
I've anything coming to me besides my riding outfit and the clothes I've
got, all right; I'll take horses for the balance."
He walked off with the swing to his shoulders that had always betrayed
him when he was angry, and Bob Birnie gathered his beard into a handful
and held it while he stared after him. It had been no part of his plan
to set his son adrift on the range without a dollar, but since Bud's
temper was up, it might be a good thing to let him go.
So Bob Birnie went away to confer with his wife, and Bud was left alone
to nurse his hurt while he packed his few belongings. It did hurt him to
be told in that calm, cold-blooded manner that, now he was of legal age,
he would not be expected to stay on at the Tomahawk. Until his father
had spoken to him about it, Bud had not thought much about what he would
do when his school days were over. He had taken life as it was presented
to him week by week, month by month. He had fulfilled his mother's hopes
and had learned to make music. He had lived up to his father's unspoken
standards of a cowman. He had made a "Hand" ever since his legs were
long enough to reach the stirrups of a saddle. There was not a better
rider, not a better roper on the range than Bud Birnie. Morally he
was cleaner than most young fellows of his age. He hated trickery, he
reverenced all good women; the bad ones he pitied because he believed
that they sorrowed secretly because they were not good, because they
had missed somehow their real purpose in life, which was to be wife and
mother. He had, in fact grown up clean and true to type. He was Buddy,
grown to be Bud.
And Buddy, now that he was a man, had been told that he was not expected
to stay at home and help his father, and be a comfort to his mother. He
was like a young eagle which, having grown wing-feathers that will bear
the strain of high air currents, has been pecked out of the nest. No
doubt the young eagle resents his unexpected banishment, although in
time he would have felt within himself the urge to go. Leave Bud alone,
and soon or late he would have gone--perhaps with compunctions against
leaving home, and the feeling that he was somehow a disappointment to
his parents. He would have explained to his father, apologized to his
mother. As it was, he resented the alacrity with which his father was
pushing him out.
So he packed his clothes that night, and pushed his guitar into its case
and buckled the strap with a vicious yank, and went off to the bunkhouse
to eat supper with the boys instead of sitting down to the table where
his mother had placed certain dishes which Buddy loved best--wanting to
show in true woman fashion her love and sympathy for him.
Later--it was after Bud had gone to bed--mother came and had a long talk
with him. She was very sweet and sensible, and Bud was very tender with
her. But she could not budge him from his determination to go and make
his way without a Birnie dollar to ease the beginning. Other men had
started with nothing and had made a stake, and there was no reason why
he could not do so.
"Dad put it straight enough, and it's no good arguing. I'd starve before
I'd take anything from him. I'm entitled to my clothes, and maybe a
horse or two for the work I've done for him while I was growing up. I've
figured out pretty close what it cost to put me through the University,
and what I was worth to him during the summers. Father's Scotch--but
he isn't a darned bit more Scotch than I am, mother. Putting it all
in dollars and cents, I think I've earned more than I cost him. In the
winters, I know I earned my board doing chores and riding line. Many a
little bunch of stock I've saved for him by getting out in the foothills
and driving them down below heavy snowline before a storm. You remember
the bunch of horses I found by watching the magpies--the time we tied
hay in canvas and took it up to them 'til they got strength enough to
follow the trail I trampled in the snow? I earned my board and more,
every winter since I was ten. So I don't believe I owe dad a cent, when
it's all figured out.
"But you've done for me what money can't repay, mother. I'll always be
in debt to you--and I'll square it by being the kind of a man you've
tried to teach me to be. I will, mother. Dad and the dollars are a
different matter. The debt I owe you will never be paid, but I'm going
to make you glad I know there's a debt. I believe there's a God, because
I know there must have been one to make you! And no matter how far away
I may drift in miles, your Buddy is going to be here with you always,
mother, learning from you all there is of goodness and sweetness." He
held her two hands against his face, and she felt his cheeks wet beneath
her palms. Then he took them away and kissed them many times, like a
"If I ever have a wife, she's going to have her work cut out for her,"
He laughed unsteadily. "She'll have to live up to you, mother, if she
wants me to love her."
"If you have a wife she'll be well-spoiled, young man! Perhaps it is
wise that you should go--but don't you forget your music, Buddy--and be
a good boy, and remember, mother's going to follow you with her love and
her faith in you, and her prayers."
It may have been that Buddy's baby memory of going north whenever the
trail herd started remained to send Bud instinctively northward when he
left the Tomahawk next morning. It had been a case of stubborn father
and stubborn son dickering politely over the net earnings of the son
from the time when he was old enough to leave his mother's lap and climb
into a saddle to ride with his father. Three horses and his personal
belongings had been agreed upon between them as the balance in Bud's
favor; and at that, Bob Birnie dryly remarked, he had been a better
investment as a son than most young fellows, who cost more than they
were worth to raise.
Bud did not answer the implied praise, but roped the Tomahawk's best
three horses out of the REMUDA corralled for him by his father's riders.
You should have seen the sidelong glances among the boys when they
learned that Bud, just home from the University, was going somewhere
with all his earthly possessions and a look in his face that meant
Two big valises and his blankets he packed on Sunfish, a deceptively
raw-boned young buckskin with much white showing in his eyes--an ornery
looking brute if ever there was one. Bud's guitar and a mandolin in
their cases he tied securely on top of the pack. Smoky, the second
horse, a deep-chested "mouse" with a face almost human in its
expression, he saddled, and put a lead rope on the third, a bay
four-year-old called Stopper, which was the Tomahawk's best rope-horse
and one that would be missed when fast work was wanted in branding.
"He sure as hell picked himself three top hawses," a tall puncher
murmured to another. "Wonder where he's headed for? Not repping--this
late in the season."
Bud overheard them, and gave no sign. Had they asked him directly he
could not have told them, for he did not know, except that somehow
he felt that he was going to head north. Why north, he could not have
explained, since cow-country lay all around him; nor how far north,--for
cow-country extended to the upper boundary of the States, and beyond
He left his horses standing by the corral while he went to the house to
tell his mother good-by, and to send a farewell message to Dulcie,
who had been married a year and lived in Laramie. He did not expect to
strike Laramie, he told his mother when she asked him.
"I'm going till I stop," He explained, with a squeeze of her shoulders
to reassure her. "I guess it's the way you felt, mother, when you left
Texas behind. You couldn't tell where you folks would wind up. Neither
can I. My trail herd is kinda small, right now; a lot smaller than it
will be later on. But such as it is, it's going to hit the right range
before it stops for good. And I'll write."
He took a doughnut in his hand and a package of lunch to slip in his
pocket, kissed her with much cheerfulness in his manner and hurried out,
his big-rowelled spurs burring on the porch just twice before he stepped
off on the gravel. Telling mother good-by had been the one ordeal he
dreaded, and he was glad to have it over with.
Old Step-and-a-Half hailed him as he went past the chuck-house, and came
limping out, wiping his hands on his apron before he shook hands and
wished him good luck. Ezra, pottering around the tool shed, ambled up
with the eyes of a dog that has been sent back home by his master.
"Ah shoah do wish yo' all good fawtune an' health, Marse Buddy," Ezra
quavered. "Ah shoah do. It ain' goin' seem lak de same place--and Ah
shoah do hopes yo' all writes frequent lettahs to yo' mothah, boy!"
Bud promised that he would, and managed to break away from Ezra without
betraying himself. How, he wondered, did everyone seem to know that he
was going for good, this time? He had believed that no one knew of it
save himself, his father and his mother; yet everyone else behaved as
if they never expected to see him again. It was disconcerting, and Bud
hastily untied the two led horses and mounted Smoky, the mouse-colored
horse he himself had broken two years before.
His father came slowly up to him, straight-backed and with the gait of
the man who has ridden astride a horse more than he has walked on his
own feet. He put up his hand, gloved for riding, and Bud changed the
lead-ropes from his right hand to his left, and shook hands rather
"Ye've good weather for travelling," said Bob Birnie tentatively. "I
have not said it before, lad, but when ye own yourself a fool to take
this way of making your fortune, ten thousand dollars will still be
ready to start ye right. I've no wish to shirk a duty to my family."
Bud pressed his lips together while he listened. "If you keep your ten
thousand till it's called for, you'll be drawing interest a long time on
it," He said. "It's going to be hot to-day. I'll be getting along."
He lifted the reins, glanced back to see that the two horses were
showing the proper disposition to follow, and rode off down the
deep-rutted road that followed up the creek to the pass where he had
watched the Utes dancing the war dance one night that he remembered
well. If he winced a little at the familiar landmarks he passed,
he still held fast to the determination to go, and to find fortune
somewhere along the trail of his own making; and to ask help from no
man, least of all his father who had told him to go.
Next: Bud Flips A Coin With Fate
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