Rowdy Promoted





Rowdy rode closer. "If you don't mind paying duty," he began

tentatively, "I can put you next to a range over the line, where I'll

guarantee feed and water the year round for every hoof you own."



Eagle Creek lifted his head and looked at him "Whereabouts?" he demanded

skeptically.



"Up in the Red Deer country. Pink knows the place. There's range

a-plenty, and creeks running through that never go dry; and the country

isn't stocked and fenced to death, like this is."



"And would we be ordered off soon as we got there?"



"Sure not--if you paid duty, which would only be about double what you

were going to pay for one year's pasture."



Eagle Creek breathed deeply, like a man who has narrowly escaped

suffocation. "Young man, I b'lieve you're a square dealer, and that yuh

savvy the cow business. I've thought it ever since yuh started t' work."

His keen old eyes twinkled at the memory of Rowdy's arrival, and Rowdy

grinned. "I take yuh at your word, and yuh can consider yourself in

charge uh this herd as it stands. Take it t' that cow heaven yuh tell

about--and damn it, yuh won't be none the worse for it!"



"We'll pass that up," said Rowdy quietly. "I'll take the herd through,

though; and I'd advise you to get the rest on the road as soon as they

can be gathered. It's a three-hundred-mile drive."



"All right. From now on it's up to you," Eagle Creek told him briskly.

"Take 'em back t' the Rockin' R field, and I'll send the wagons back

t' you. Old Mullen'll likely make a roar--but that's most all gove'ment

land he's got fenced, so I guess I can calm him down. Will yuh go near

the ranch?"



"I think so," said Rowdy. "It will be the shortest way."



"Well, I'll give yuh some blank checks, an' you can load up with grub

and anything else yuh need. I'll be over there by the time you are, and

fix up that duty business. Wooden Shoes'll have t' get another outfit

together, and get another bunch on the trail. One good thing--I got

thirty days t' get off what cattle is on there; and thirty days uh grass

and water'll put 'em in good shape for the trip. Wish this bunch was as

well fixed."



"That's what," Rowdy assented. "But I think they'll make it, all right."



"I'll likely want yuh to stay up there and keep cases on 'em. Any

objections?"



"Sure not!" laughed Rowdy. "Only I'll want Pink and the Silent One to

stay with me."



"Keep what men yuh want. Anything else?"



"I don't think of anything," said Rowdy. "Only I'd like to have

a--talk--with Conroy." Creek eyed him sharply. "Yuh won't be apt t'

meet him. Old Bill Brown, up home, would like to see him, too. Bill's

a perseverin' old cuss, and wants to see Conroy so bad he's got the

sheriff out lookin' for him. It's about a bunch uh horses that was run

off, three years ago. Yuh brought one of 'em back into the country last

spring, yuh mind."



Rowdy and Pink looked at one another, but said nothing.



"Old Bill, he follered your back trail and found out some things he

wanted t' know. Conroy got wind of it, though, and he left the agency

kind-a suddint. No use yuh lookin' for him."



"Then we're ready to hit the grit, I guess." Rowdy glanced again at Pink

who nodded.



"Well, I ain't stoppin' yuh," Eagle Creek drawled laconically. "S'-long,

and good luck t' yuh."



He waited while Pink and the Silent One swung the point back down the

hill, with Rowdy helping them, quite unmoved by his sudden promotion.

When the herd was fairly started on the backward march, Eagle Creek

nodded satisfaction the while he pried off a corner of plug-tobacco.



"He's all right," he asserted emphatically. "That boy suits me, from

the ground up. If he don't put that deal through in good shape, it'll be

becaus' it can't be did."



Wooden Shoes, with whom Rowdy had always been a prime favorite, agreed

with Dutch heartiness. Then, leaving the herd to its new guardian they

rode swiftly to overtake and turn back the wagons.



"Three hundred miles! And part of it across howling desert!" Rowdy drew

his brows together. "It's a big thing for me, all right, Pink; but it's

sure a big contract to take this herd through, if anybody should happen

to ask yuh."



"Oh, buck up! You'll make good, all right--if only these creeks wasn't

so bone dry!"



"Well, there's water enough in the Rocking R field for to-day; we'll

throw 'em in there till tomorrow. And I've a notion I can find a better

trail across to North Fork than the way we came. I'm going to strike

out this afternoon and see, anyway, if Quitter Creek hasn't got water

farther up. Once we get up north uh the home ranch, I can see my way

clear."



"Go to it, boss," Pink cried heartily. "I don't see how I'm goin t'

keep from sassing yuh, once in a while, though. That's what bothers me.

What'll happen if I turn loose on yuh, some time?"



"You'll get fired, I expect," laughed Rowdy, and rode off to announce

the news to the rest of the outfit, who were very unhappy in their

mystification.



If their reception of the change of plans and foreman was a bit profane,

and their manner toward him a bit familiar, Rowdy didn't mind. He knew

that they did not grudge him his good luck, even while they hated

the long drive. He also knew that they watched him furtively; for

nothing--not even misfortune--is as sure a test of a man's character

as success. They liked Rowdy, and they did not believe this would spoil

him; still, every man of them was secretly a bit anxious.



On the trail, he rode in his accustomed place, and, so far as

appearances went, the party had no foreman. He went forward and helped

Pink take down the fence that had been so carefully put up a few hours

before, and he whistled while he put it in place again, just as if

he had no responsibility in the world. Then the cattle were left to

themselves, and the men rode down to their old campground, marked by

empty tin-cans and a trodden place where had been the horse corral.



Rowdy swung down and faced the men gravely. Instinctively they stood at

attention, waiting for what he had to say; they felt that the situation

was so far out of the ordinary that a few remarks pertaining to their

new relations would not be out of place.



He looked them over appraisingly, and met glances as grave as his own.

Straight, capable fellows they were, every man of them.



"Boys," he began impressively, "you all know that from to-day on you're

working under my orders. I never was boss of anything but the cayuse I

happened to have under me, and I'm going to extract all the honey there

is in the situation. Maybe I'll never be boss again--but at present I'm

it. I want you fellows to remember that important fact, and treat me

with proper respect. From now on you can call me Mr. Vaughan; 'Rowdy'

doesn't go, except on a legal holiday.



"Furthermore, I'm not going to get out at daylight and catch up my own

horse; I'll let yuh take turns being flunky, and I'll expect yuh

to saddle my horse every morning and noon, and bring him to the

cook-tent--and hold my stirrup for me. Also, you are expected, at

all times and places, to anticipate my wants and fall over yourselves

waiting on me. You're just common, ordinary, forty-dollar cow-punchers,

and if I treat yuh white, it's because I pity yuh for not being up where

I am. Remember, vassals, that I'm your superior, mentally, morally,

socially--"



"Chap him!" yelled Pink, and made for him "I'll stand for a lot, but

don't yuh ever think I'm a vassal!"



"Mutiny is strictly prohibited!" he thundered. "Villains, beware!

Gadzooks--er--let's have a swim before the wagons come!"



They laughed and made for the creek, feeling rather crestfallen and a

bit puzzled.



"If I had an outfit like this to run, and a three hundred-mile drive to

make," Bob Nevin remarked to the Silent One, "blessed if I'd make a josh

of it! I'd cultivate the corrugated brow and the stiff spine--me!"



"My friend," the Silent One responded, "don't be too hasty in your

judgment. It's because the corrugated brow will come later that he

laughs now. You'll presently find yourself accomplishing the impossible

in obedience to the flicker of Rowdy Vaughan's eyelids. Man, did you

never observe the set of his head, and the look of his eye? Rowdy

Vaughan will get more out of this crowd than any man ever did; and if he

fails, he'll fail with the band playing 'Hot Time.'"



"Maybe so," Bob admitted, not quite convinced; "but I wonder if he

realizes what he's up against." At which the Silent One only smiled

queerly as he splashed into the water.



After dinner Rowdy caught up the blue roan, which was his favorite for

a hard ride--he seemed to have forgotten his speech concerning

"flunkies"--and rode away up the coulee which had brought them into the

field the night before. The boys watched him go, speculated a lot, and

went to sleep as the best way of putting in the afternoon.



Pink, who knew quite well what was in Rowdy's mind, said nothing at all;

it is possible that he was several degrees more jealous of the dignity

of Rowdy's position than was Rowdy himself, who had no time to think of

anything but the best way of getting the herd to Canada. He would like

to have gone along, only that Rowdy did not ask him to. Pink assured

himself that it was best for Rowdy not to start playing any favorites,

and curled down in the bed-tent with the others and went to sleep.



It was late that night when Rowdy crept silently into his corner of

the tent; but Pink was awake, and whispered to know if he found water.

Rowdy's "Yes" was a mere breath, but it was enough.



At sunrise the herd trailed up the Rocking R coulee, and Pink and the

Silent One pointed them north of the old trail.





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