Pigment.ca - Download the EBook ColoursInformational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

When Greek Meets Greek

From: The Outlet

It was late that night when I reached the herd. Before I parted with
my employer we had carefully reviewed the situation in its minutest
details. Since the future could not be foreseen, we could only watch
and wait. The Texan may have his shortcomings, but lack of fidelity to
a trust is not one of them, and relying on the metal of my outfit, I at
once put them in possession of the facts. At first their simple minds
could hardly grasp the enormity of the injustice to our employer, but
once the land lay clear, they would gladly have led a forlorn hope in
Don Lovell's interests. Agitation over the matter was maintained
at white heat for several days, as we again angled back towards the
Cimarron. Around the camp-fires at night, the chicanery of The Western
Supply Company gave place to the best stories at our command. "There
ought to be a law," said Runt Pickett, in wrathy indignation, "making it
legal to kill some people, same as rattlesnakes. Now, you take a square
gambler and I don't think anything of losing my money against his game,
but one of these sneaking, under-dealing, top-and-bottom-business
pimps, I do despise. You can find them in every honest calling, same as
vultures hover round when cattle are dying. Honest, fellows, I'd just
dearly love to pull on a rope and watch one of the varmints make his
last kick."

Several days of showery weather followed. Crossing the Cimarron, we
followed up its north slope to within thirty miles of the regular
western trail. Not wishing to intercept it until necessity compelled us,
when near the Kansas line we made our last tack for Dodge. The rains had
freshened the country and flushed the creeks, making our work easy, and
early in the month of June we reached the Mulberry. Traveling at random,
we struck that creek about twenty miles below the trail, and moved up
the stream to within a short distance of the old crossing. The presence
of a dozen other herds holding along it forced us into a permanent camp
a short half-day's ride from the town. The horse-wrangler was pressed
into service in making up the first guard that night, and taking Morg
Tussler with me, I struck out for Dodge in the falling darkness.
On reaching the first divide, we halted long enough to locate the
camp-fires along the Mulberry to our rear, while above and below and
beyond the river, fires flickered like an Indian encampment. The lights
of Dodge were inviting us, and after making a rough estimate of the
camps in sight, we rode for town, arriving there between ten and eleven
o'clock. The Dodge House was a popular hostelry for trail men and cattle
buyers, and on our making inquiry of the night clerk if a Mr. Siringo
was stopping there, we were informed that he was, but had retired. I put
up a trivial excuse for seeing him, the clerk gave me the number of his
room, and Tussler and I were soon closeted with him. The detective was
a medium-sized, ordinary man, badly pock-marked, with a soft, musical
voice, and apparently as innocent as a boy. In a brief preliminary
conversation, he proved to be a Texan, knowing every in and out of
cattle, having been bred to the occupation. Our relations to each other
were easily established. Reviewing the situation thoroughly, he informed
me that he had cultivated the acquaintance of the parties holding the
assignment of the Buford award. He had represented to them that he was
the fiscal agent of some six herds on the trail that year, three of
which were heavy beeves, and they had agreed to look them over, provided
they arrived before the 15th of the month. He further assured me that
the parties were mere figureheads of The Supply Company; that they were
exceedingly bearish on the market, gloating over the recent depreciation
in prices, and perfectly willing to fatten on the wreck and ruin of

It was long after midnight when the consultation ended. Appointing an
hour for showing the herd the next day, or that one rather, Tussler and
I withdrew, agreeing to be out of town before daybreak. But the blaze
of gambling and the blare of dance-halls held us as in a siren's embrace
until the lights dimmed with the breaking of dawn. Mounting our horses,
we forded the river east of town and avoided the herds, which were just
arising from their bed-grounds. On the divide we halted. Within the
horizon before us, it is safe to assert that one hundred thousand cattle
grazed in lazy contentment, all feeding against the morning breeze. Save
for the freshness of early summer, with its background of green and the
rarified atmosphere of the elevated plain, the scene before us might be
compared to a winter drift of buffalo, ten years previous. Riding down
the farther slope, we reached our camp in time for a late breakfast, the
fifteen-mile ride having whetted our appetites. Three men were on herd,
and sending two more with instructions to water the cattle an hour
before noon, Tussler and I sought the shade of the wagon and fell
asleep. It was some time after midday when, on sighting the expected
conveyance approaching our camp, the cook aroused us. Performing a
rather hasty ablution, I met the vehicle, freshened, and with my wits on
tap. I nearly dragged the detective from the livery rig, addressing him
as "Charley," and we made a rough ado over each other. Several of the
other boys came forward and, shaking hands, greeted him with equal
familiarity. As two strangers alighted on the opposite side, the
detective took me around and they were introduced as Mr. Field and Mr.
Radcliff, prospective beef buyers. The boys had stretched a tarpaulin,
affording ample shade, and Parent invited every one to dinner. The two
strangers were rather testy, but Siringo ate ravenously, repeatedly
asking for things which were usually kept in a well-stocked chuck-wagon,
meanwhile talking with great familiarity with Tussler and me.

The strangers said little, but were amused at the lightness of our
dinner chat. I could see at a glance that they were not cowmen. They
were impatient to see the cattle; and when dinner was over, I explained
to them that the men on herd would be relieved for dinner by those in
camp, and orders would be given, if it was their wish, to throw the
cattle compactly together. To this Siringo objected. "No, Mac," said he,
"that isn't the right way to show beeves. Here, Morg, listen to me; I'm
foreman for the time being. When you relieve the other lads, edge in
your cattle from an ordinary loose herd until you have them on two or
three hundred acres. Then we can slowly drive through them for an hour
or so, or until these gentlemen are satisfied. They're not wild, are
they, Mac?"

I assured every one that the cattle were unusually gentle; that we
had not had a run so far, but urged caution in approaching them with a
conveyance. As soon as the relief started, I brought in the livery team
off picket, watered, and harnessed them into the vehicle. It was my
intention to accompany them on horseback, but Siringo hooted at the
idea, and Mr. Radcliff and I occupied the back seat, puffing splendid
cigars. We met the relieved men coming in, who informed us that the herd
was just over the hill on the south side of the creek. On reaching the
gentle rise, there below us grazed the logy, lazy beeves, while the boys
quietly rode round, silently moving them together as instructed. Siringo
drove to their lead, and halting, we allowed the cattle to loiter past
us on either side of the conveyance. It was an easy herd to show, for
the pounds avoirdupois were there. Numerous big steers, out of pure
curiosity, came up near the vehicle and innocently looked at us as if
expecting a dole or sweetmeat. A snap of the finger would turn them,
showing their rounded buttocks, and they would rejoin the guard of
honor. If eyes could speak, the invitation was timidly extended, "Look
at me, Mr. Buyer." We allowed the herd to pass by us, then slowly
circled entirely around them, and finally drove back and forth through
them for nearly two hours, when the prospective buyers expressed
themselves as satisfied.

But the fiscal agent was not. Calling two of the boys, he asked for the
loan of their horses and insisted that the buyers ride the cattle
over and thoroughly satisfy themselves on the brands. The boys gladly
yielded, and as Mr. Field and Mr. Radcliff mounted to ride away, the
detective halted them long enough to say: "Now, gentlemen, I wish to
call your attention to the fact that over one half the herd are in the
single Marshall ranch brand. There are also some five hundred head in
the '8=8,' that being an outside ranch, but belonging to the estate. I
am informed that the remainder of nearly a thousand were turned in by
neighboring ranchmen in making up the herd, and you'll find those in
various mixed brands. If there's a hoof among them not in the 'Open A'
road, we'll cut them out for fear of trouble to the buyer. I never
sold a man cattle in my life who wasn't my customer ever afterward. You
gentlemen are strangers to me; and for that reason I conceal
nothing. Now look them over carefully, and keep a sharp lookout for
strays--cattle not in the road brand."

I knew there were about twenty strays in the herd, and informed Siringo
to that effect, but the cattle buyers noticed only two, a red and a
roan, which again classed them as inexperienced men among cattle. We
returned to camp, not a word being said about trading, when the buyers
suggested returning to town. Siringo looked at his watch, asked if there
was anything further they wished to see or know, and expressed himself
like a true Texan, "that there was ample time." I was the only one who
had alighted, and as they started to drive away, I said to Siringo:
"Charley, let me talk to you a minute first. You see how I'm situated
here--too many neighbors. I'm going to ride north of town to-morrow, and
if I can find a good camp on Saw Log, why I'll move over. We are nearly
out of supplies, anyhow, and the wagon can go by town and load up.
There's liable to be a mix-up here some night on the Mulberry, and I'd
rather be excused than present."

"That's all right, Mac; that's just what I want you to do. If we trade,
we'll make the deal within a day or two, and if not you can start right
on for Ogalalla. I've been selling cattle the last few years to the
biggest feeders in Nebraska, and I'm not a little bit afraid of placing
those 'Open A's.' About four months full feed on corn will fit those
steers to go to any market. Drop into town on your way back from the Saw
Log to-morrow."

That evening my brother Bob rode into camp. He had seen our employer
at Supply, and accordingly understood the situation. The courier had
returned from Fort Elliott and reported his mission successful; he had
met both Forrest and Sponsilier. The latter had had a slight run in the
Panhandle during a storm, losing a few cattle, which he recovered
the next day. For fear of a repetition, Forrest had taken the lead
thereafter, and was due at Supply within a day or two. Flood and Priest
had passed Abilene, Texas, in safety, but no word had reached our
employer since, and it was believed that they had turned eastward and
would come up the Chisholm Trail. Bob reported the country between
Abilene and Doan's Crossing as cut into dust and barren of sustenance,
many weak cattle having died in crossing the dry belt. But the most
startling news, seriously disturbing us both, was that Archie Tolleston
was stationed at Doan's Crossing on Red River as a trail-cutter. He had
come up from the south to Wichita Falls by train with trail cattle, and
finding no opening as a foreman, had accepted the position of inspector
for some Panhandle cattle companies. He and Bob had had a friendly chat,
and Archie admitted that it was purely his own hot-headedness which
prevented his being one of Lovell's foremen on the present drive.
The disturbing feature was, that after leaving headquarters in Medina
County, he had gone into San Antonio, where he met a couple of strangers
who partially promised him a job as trail boss, in case he presented
himself in Dodge about June 15. They had intimated to him that it was
possible they would need a foreman or two who knew the trail from the
Arkansaw to the Yellowstone and Missouri River country. Putting this and
that together, the presence of Archie Tolleston in Dodge was not at all
favorable to the working out of our plans. "And Arch isn't the man to
forget a humiliation," concluded Bob, to which I agreed.

The next morning I rode across to the Saw Log, and up that creek
beyond all the herds. The best prospect for a camp was nearly due north
opposite us, as the outfit lowest down the stream expected to start for
the Platte the next morning. Having fully made up my mind to move camp,
I rode for town, taking dinner on Duck Creek, which was also littered
with cattle and outfits. I reached town early in the afternoon, and
after searching all the hotels, located the fiscal agent in company with
the buyers at the Lone Star saloon. They were seated around a table, and
Mr. Field, noticing my entrance, beckoned me over and offered a chair.
As I took the proffered seat, both strangers turned on me, and Mr.
Radcliff said: "McIndoo, this agent of yours is the hardest man I ever
tried to trade with. Here we've wasted the whole morning dickering, and
are no nearer together than when we started. The only concession which
Mr. Siringo seems willing to admit is that cattle are off from three to
five dollars a head, while we contend that heavy beeves are off seven

"Excuse me for interrupting," said the fiscal agent, "but since you have
used the words HEAVY BEEVES, either one of you ask Mac, here, what those
'Open A's' will dress to-day, and what they ought to gain in the next
three months on good grass and water. There he sits; ask him."

Mr. Field explained that they had also differed as to what the herd
would dress out, and invited my opinion. "Those beeves will dress off
from forty-five to fifty per cent.," I replied. "The Texan being a gaunt
animal does not shrink like a domestic beef. Take that 'Open A' herd
straight through and they will dress from four fifty to six hundred
pounds, or average better than five hundred all round. In three months,
under favorable conditions, those steers ought to easily put on a
hundred pounds of tallow apiece. Mr. Radcliff, do you remember pointing
out a black muley yesterday and saying that he looked like a native
animal? I'll just bet either one of you a hundred dollars that he'll
dress out over five hundred pounds; and I'll kill him in your presence
and you can weigh his quarters with a steelyard."

They laughed at me, Siringo joining in, and Mr. Field ordered the
drinks. "Mac," said the detective, "these gentlemen are all right, and
you shouldn't take any offense, for I don't blame them for driving a
hard bargain. I'd probably do the same thing if I was the buyer instead
of the seller. And remember, Mac, if the deal goes through, you are to
drive the herd at the seller's risk, and deliver it at any point the
buyer designates, they accepting without expense or reserve the cattle
only. It means over three months' further expense, with a remuda thrown
back on your hands; and all these incidentals run into money fast.
Gentlemen, unless you increase the advance cash payment, I don't see how
you can expect me to shade my offer. What's your hurry, Mac?"

As it was growing late, I had arisen, and saying that I expected to move
camp to-morrow, invited the party to join me at the bar. I informed the
buyers, during the few minutes' interim, that if they wished to look the
cattle over again, the herd would cross the river below old Fort Dodge
about noon the next day. They thanked me for the information, saying it
was quite possible that they might drive down, and discussing the matter
we all passed into the street. With the understanding that the prospect
of making a deal was not hopeless, Siringo excused himself, and we
strolled away together. No sooner was the coast clear than I informed
the detective of the arrival of my brother, putting him in possession
of every fact regarding Archie Tolleston. He readily agreed with me
that the recent break between the latter and his former employer was a
dangerous factor, and even went so far as to say that Tolleston's posing
as a trail-cutter at Doan's Crossing was more than likely a ruse. I was
giving the detective a detailed description of Archie, when he stopped
me and asked what his special weaknesses were, if he had any. "Whiskey
and women," I replied. "That's good," said he, "and I want you to send
me in one of your best men in the morning--I mean one who will drink
and carouse. He can watch the trains, and if this fellow shows up, we'll
keep him soaked and let him enjoy himself. Send me one that's good for
a ten days' protracted drunk. You think the other herds will be here
within a few days? That's all I want to know."

I reached camp a little before dark, and learned that Bob's herd had
dropped in just below us on the Mulberry. He expected to lie over a
few days in passing Dodge, and I lost no time in preparing to visit his
camp. While riding out that evening, I had made up my mind to send in
Dorg Seay, as he was a heady fellow, and in drinking had an oak-tan
stomach. Taking him with me, I rode down the Mulberry and reached
the lower camp just as my brother and his outfit were returning from
bedding-down the cattle. Bob readily agreed that the detective's plans
were perfectly feasible, and offered to play a close second to Seay if
it was necessary. And if his own brother does say so, Bob Quirk never
met the man who could drink him under the table.

My herd started early for the Saw Log, and the wagon for town. Bob had
agreed to go into Dodge in the morning, so Dorg stayed with our outfit
and was to go in with me after crossing the river. We threaded our way
through the other herds, and shortly before noon made an easy ford about
a mile below old Fort Dodge. As we came down to the river, a carriage
was seen on the farther bank, and I dropped from the point back to
the drag end. Sure enough, as we trailed out, the fiscal agent and the
buyers were awaiting me. "Well, Mac, I sold your herd last night after
you left," said Siringo, dejectedly. "It was a kind of compromise trade;
they raised the cash payment to thirty thousand dollars, and I split the
difference in price. The herd goes at $29 a head all round. So from now
on, Mac, you're subject to these gentlemen's orders."

Mr. Field, the elder of the two buyers, suggested that if a convenient
camp could be found, we should lie over a few days, when final
instructions would be given me. He made a memorandum of the number of
head that I claimed in our road brand, and asked me if we could hold
up the herd for a closer inspection. The lead cattle were then nearly
a mile away, and galloping off to overtake the point, I left the party
watching the saddle horses, which were then fording in our rear. But
no sooner had I reached the lead and held up the herd, than I noticed
Siringo on the wrangler's horse, coming up on the opposite side of
the column of cattle from the vehicle. Supposing he had something of a
private nature to communicate, I leisurely rode down the line and met

"Did you send that man in this morning?" he sternly demanded. I
explained that my brother had done, properly coached, and that Seay
would go in with me in the course of an hour.

"Give him any money you have and send him at once," commanded the
detective. "Tolleston was due on the ten o'clock train, but it was
an hour late. Those buyers wanted me to wait for it, so he could come
along, but I urged the importance of catching you at the ford. Now, send
your man Seay at once, get Tolleston beastly drunk, and quarter him in
some crib until night."

Unobserved by the buyers, I signaled Seay, and gave him the particulars
and what money I had. He rode back through the saddle stock, recrossed
the river, and after rounding the bend, galloped away. Siringo
continued: "You see, after we traded, they inquired if you were a safe
man, saying if you didn't know the Yellowstone country, they had a man
in sight who did. That was last night, and it seems that this morning
they got a letter from Tolleston, saying he would be there on the next
train. They're either struck on him, or else he's in their employ. Mark
my words."

When we had showed the herd to the satisfaction of the purchasers, they
expressed themselves as anxious to return to town; but the fiscal agent
of the Marshall estate wished to look over the saddle horses first.
Since they were unsold, and amounted to quite an item, he begged for
just a few minutes' time to look them over carefully. Who could refuse
such a reasonable request? The herd had started on for the Saw Log,
while the remuda had wandered down the river about half a mile, and
it took us nearly an hour to give them a thorough inspection. Once by
ourselves, the detective said, with a chuckle: "All I was playing for
was to get as large a cash payment as possible. Those mixed brands were
my excuse for the money; the Marshall estate might wait for theirs, but
the small ranchmen would insist on an immediate settlement the moment
the cattle were reported sold. If it wasn't for this fellow Tolleston,
I'd sell the other two Buford herds the day they arrive, and then we
could give The Western Supply Company the laugh. And say, when they
drew me a draft for thirty thousand dollars on a Washington City bank, I
never let the ink dry on it until I took it around to Wright, Beverly &
Co., and had them wire its acceptance. We'll give Seay plenty of time,
and I think there'll be an answer on the check when we get back to

Next: En Passant

Previous: Camp Supply

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 638