The Kid Learns Some Things About Horses

The Kid--Chip's Kid and the Little Doctor's--was six years old and big

for his age. Also he was a member in good standing of the Happy Family

and he insisted upon being called Buck outside the house; within it the

Little Doctor insisted even more strongly that he answer to the many

endearing names she had invented for him, and to the more formal one of

Claude, which really belonged to Daddy Chip.

Being six years old and big for his age, and being called Buck by

his friends, the Happy Family, the Kid decided that he should have a

man's-sized horse of his own, to feed and water and ride and proudly

call his "string." Having settled that important point, he began to cast

about him for a horse worthy his love and ownership, and speedily he

decided that matter also.

Therefore, he ran bareheaded up to the blacksmith shop where Daddy Chip

was hammering tunefully upon the anvil, and delivered his ultimatum from

the door way.

"Silver's going to be my string, Daddy Chip, and I'm going to feed him

myself and ride him myself and nobody else can touch him 'thout I say

they can."

"Yes?" Chip squinted along a dully-glowing iron bar, laid it back upon

the anvil and gave it another whack upon the side that still bulged a


"Yes, and I'm going to saddle him myself and everything. And I want you

to get me some jingling silver spurs like Mig has got, with chains that

hang away down and rattle when you walk." The Kid lifted one small foot

and laid a grimy finger in front of his heel by way of illustration.

"Yes?" Chip's eyes twinkled briefly and immediately became intent upon

his work.

"Yes, and Doctor Dell has got to let me sleep in the bunk-house with the

rest of the fellers. And I ain't going to wear a nightie once more! I

don't have to, do I, Daddy Chip? Not with lace on it. Happy Jack says

I'm a girl long as I wear lace nighties, and I ain't a girl. Am I, Daddy


"I should say not!" Chip testified emphatically, and carried the iron

bar to the forge for further heating.

"I'm going on roundup too, tomorrow afternoon." The Kid's conception

of time was extremely sketchy and had no connection whatever with the

calendar. "I'm going to keep Silver in the little corral and let him

sleep in the box stall where his leg got well that time he broke it.

I 'member when he had a rag tied on it and teased for sugar. And the

Countess has got to quit a kickin' every time I need sugar for my

string. Ain't she, Daddy Chip? She's got to let us men alone or there'll

be something doing!"

"I'd tell a man," said Chip inattentively, only half hearing the

war-like declaration of his offspring--as is the way with busy fathers.

"I'm going to take a ride now on Silver. I guess I'll ride in to Dry

Lake and get the mail--and I'm 'pletely outa the makings, too."

"Uh-hunh--a--what's that? You keep off Silver. He'll kick the daylights

out of you, Kid. Where's your hat? Didn't your mother tell you she'd tie

a sunbonnet on you if you didn't keep your hat on? You better hike back

and get it, young man, before she sees you."

The Kid stared mutinously from the doorway. "You said I could have

Silver. What's the use of having a string if a feller can't ride it? And

I CAN ride him, and he don't kick at all. I rode him just now, in the

little pasture to see if I liked his gait better than the others. I rode

Banjo first and I wouldn't own a thing like him, on a bet. Silver'll do

me till I can get around to break a real one."

Chip's hand dropped from the bellows while he stared hard at the Kid.

"Did you go down in the pasture and--Words failed him just then.

"I'd TELL a man I did!" the Kid retorted, with a perfect imitation

of Chip's manner and tone when crossed. "I've been trying out all the

darned benchest you've got--and there ain't a one I'd give a punched

nickel for but Silver. I'd a rode Shootin' Star, only he wouldn't stand

still so I could get onto him. Whoever broke him did a bum job. The

horse I break will stand, or I'll know the reason why. Silver'll stand,

all right. And I can guide him pretty well by slapping his neck. You did

a pretty fair job when you broke Silver," the Kid informed his father


Chip said something which the Kid was not supposed to hear, and sat

suddenly down upon the stone rim of the forge. It had never before

occurred to Chip that his Kid was no longer a baby, but a most

adventurous man-child who had lived all his life among men and whose

mental development had more than kept pace with his growing body. He had

laughed with the others at the Kid's quaint precociousness of speech and

at his frank worship of range men and range life. He had gone to some

trouble to find a tractable Shetland pony the size of a burro, and had

taught the Kid to ride, decorously and fully protected from accident.

He and the Little Doctor had been proud of the Kid's masculine traits as

they manifested themselves in the management of that small specimen of

horse flesh. That the Kid should have outgrown so quickly his content

with Stubby seemed much more amazing than it really was. He eyed the Kid

doubtfully for a minute, and then grinned.

"All that don't let you out on the hat question," he said, evading the

real issue and laying stress upon the small matter of obedience, as is

the exasperating habit of parents. "You don't see any of the bunch going

around bareheaded. Only women and babies do that."

"The bunch goes bareheaded when they get their hats blowed off in the

creek," the Kid pointed out unmoved. "I've seen you lose your hat mor'n

once, old timer. That's nothing." He sent Chip a sudden, adorable smile

which proclaimed him the child of his mother and which never failed to

thrill Chip secretly,--it was so like the Little Doctor. "You lend me

your hat for a while, dad," he said. "She never said what hat I had to

wear, just so it's a hat. Honest to gran'ma, my hat's in the creek and

I couldn't poke it out with a stick or anything. It sailed into the

swimmin' hole. I was goin' to go after it," he explained further,

"but--a snake was swimmin--and I hated to 'sturb him."

Chip drew a sharp breath and for one panicky moment considered

imperative the hiring of a body-guard for his Kid.

"You keep out of the pasture, young man!" His tone was stern to match

his perturbation. "And you leave Silver alone--"

The Kid did not wait for more. He lifted up his voice and wept in

bitterness of spirit. Wept so that one could hear him a mile. Wept so

that J. G. Whitmore reading the Great Falls Tribune on the porch, laid

down his paper and asked the world at large what ailed that doggoned kid


"Dell, you better go see what's wrong," he called afterwards through the

open door to the Little Doctor, who was examining a jar of germ

cultures in her "office." "Chances is he's fallen off the stable or

something--though he sounds more mad than hurt. If it wasn't for my

doggoned back--"

The Little Doctor passed him hurriedly. When her man-child wept, it

Needed no suggestion from J. G. or anyone else to send her flying to the

rescue. So presently she arrived breathless at the blacksmith shop' and

found Chip within, looking in urgent Need of reinforcements, and the Kid

yelling ragefully beside the door and kicking the log wall with vicious


"Shut up now or I'll spank you!" Chip was saying desperately when his

wife appeared. "I wish you'd take that Kid and tie him up, Dell," he

added snappishly. "Here he's been riding all the horses in the little

pasture--and taking a chance on breaking his neck! And he ain't

satisfied with Stubby--he thinks he's entitled to Silver!"

"Well, why not? There, there, honey--men don't cry when things go


"No--because they can take it out in cussing!" wailed the Kid. "I

wouldn't cry either, if you'd let me swear all I want to!"

Chip turned his back precipitately and his shoulders were seen to shake.

The Little Doctor looked shocked.

"I want Silver for my string!" cried the Kid, artfully transferring his

appeal to the higher court. "I can ride him--'cause I have rode him, in

the pasture; and he never bucked once or kicked or anything. Doggone it,

he likes to have me ride him! He comes a-runnin' up to me when I go down

there, and I give him sugar. And then he waits till I climb on his back,

and then we chase the other horses and play ride circle. He wants to

be my string!" Something in the feel of his mother's arm around his

shoulder whispered hope to the Kid. He looked up at her with his most

endearing smile. "You come down there and I'll show you," he wheedled.

"We're pals. And I guess YOU wouldn't like to have the boys call you Tom

Thumb, a-ridin' Stubby. He's nothing but a five-cent sample of a horse.

Big Medicine says so. I--I'd rather walk than ride Stubby. And I'm

going on roundup. The boys said I could go when I get a real horse under

me--and I want Silver. Daddy Chip said 'yes' I could have him. And now

he's Injun-giver. Can't I have him, Doctor Dell?"

The gray-blue eyes clashed with the brown. "It wouldn't hurt anything

to let the poor little tad show us what he can do," said the gray-blue


"Oh--all right," yielded the brown, and their owner threw the iron bar

upon the cooling forge and began to turn down his sleeves. "Why don't

you make him wear a hat?" he asked reprovingly. "A little more and he

won't pay any attention to anything you tell him. I'd carry out that

sunbonnet bluff, anyway, if I were you."

"Now, Daddy Chip! I 'splained to you how I lost my hat," reproached the

Kid, clinging fast to the Little Doctor's hand.

"Yes--and you 'splained that you'd have gone into that deep hole and

drowned--with nobody there to pull you out--if you hadn't been scared of

a water snake," Chip pointed out relentlessly.

"I wasn't 'zactly scared," amended the Kid gravely. "He was havin' such

a good time, and he was swimmin' around so--comf'table--and it wasn't

polite to 'sturb him. Can't I have Silver?"

"We'll go down and ask Silver what he thinks about it," said the Little

Doctor, anxious to make peace between her two idols. "And we'll see if

Daddy Chip can get the hat. You must wear a hat, honey; you know what

mother told you--and you know mother keeps her word."

"I wish dad did," the Kid commented, passing over the hat question. "He

said I could have Silver, and keep him in a box stall and feed him my

own self and water him my own self and nobody's to touch him but me."

"Well, if daddy said all that--we'll have to think it over, and consult

Silver and see what he has to say about it."

Silver, when consulted, professed at least a willingness to own the Kid

for his master. He did indeed come trotting up for sugar; and when he

had eaten two grimy lumps from the Kid's grimier hand, he permitted

the Kid to entice him up to a high rock, and stood there while the Kid

clambered upon the rock and from there to his sleek back. He even waited

until the Kid gathered a handful of silky mane and kicked him on the

ribs; then he started off at a lope, while the Kid risked his balance

to cast a triumphant grin--that had a gap in the middle--back at his

astonished parents.

"Look how the little devil guides him!" exclaimed Chip surrenderingly.

"I guess he's safe enough, old Silver seems to sabe he's got a kid to

take care of. He sure would strike a different gait with me! Lord how

the time slides by; I can't seem to get it through me that the Kid's

growing up."

The Little Doctor sighed a bit. And the Kid, circling grandly on the far

side of the little pasture, came galloping back to hear the verdict. It

pleased him--though he was inclined to mistake a great privilege for a

right that must not be denied. He commanded his Daddy Chip to open the

gate for him so he could ride Silver to the stable and put him in the

box stall; which was a superfluous kindness, as Chip tried to point out

and failed to make convincing.

The Kid wanted Silver in the box stall, where he could feed him and

water him his own self. So into the box stall Silver reluctantly went,

and spent a greater part of the day with his head stuck out through the

window, staring enviously at his mates in the pasture.

For several days Chip watched the Kid covertly whenever his small feet

strayed stableward; watched and was full of secret pride at the manner

in which the Kid rose to his new responsibility. Never did a "string"

receive the care which Silver got, and never did rider sit more proudly

upon his steed than did the Kid sit upon Silver. There seemed to be

practically no risk--Chip was amazed at the Kid's ability to ride.

Besides, Silver was growing old--fourteen years being considered ripe

old age in a horse. He was more given to taking life with a placid

optimism that did not startle easily. He carried the Kid's light weight

easily, and he had not lost all his springiness of muscle. The Little

Doctor rode him sometimes, and loved his smooth gallop and his even

temper; now she loved him more when she saw how careful he was of the

Kid. She besought the Kid to be careful of Silver also, and was most

manfully snubbed for her solicitude.

The Kid had owned Silver for a week, and considered that he was

qualified to give advice to the Happy Family, including his Daddy Chip,

concerning the proper care of horses. He stood with his hands upon his

hips and his feet far apart, and spat into the corral dust and told

Big Medicine that nobody but a pilgrim ever handled a horse the way

Big Medicine was handling Deuce. Whereat Big Medicine gave a bellowing

haw-haw-haw and choked it suddenly when he saw that the Kid desired him

to take the criticism seriously.

"All right, Buck," he acceded humbly, winking openly at the Native Son.

"I'll try m'best, old-timer. Trouble with me is, I never had nobody to

learn me how to handle a hoss."

"Well, you've got me, now," Buck returned calmly. "I don't ride MY

string without brushing the hay out of his tail. There's a big long

hay stuck in your horse's tail." He pointed an accusing finger, and Big

Medicine silently edged close to Douce's rump and very carefully removed

the big, long hay. He took a fine chance of getting himself kicked, but

he did not tell the Kid that.

"That all right now, Buck?" Big Medicine wanted to know, when he had

accomplished the thing without accident.

"Oh, it'll do," was the frugal praise he got. "I've got to go and feed

my string, now. And after a while I'll water him. You want to feed your

horse always before you water him, 'cause eatin' makes him firsty. You

'member that, now."

"I'll sure try to, Buck," Big Medicine promised soberly, and watched the

Kid go striding away with his hat tilted at the approved Happy-Family

angle and his small hands in his pockets. Big Medicine was thinking of

his own kid, and wondering what he was like, and if he remembered his

dad. He waved his hand in cordial farewell when the Kid looked back

and wrinkled his nose in the adorable, Little-Doctor smile he had, and

turned his attention to Deuce.

The Kid made straight for the box stall and told Silver hello over the

half door. Silver turned from gazing out of the window, and came

forward expectantly, and the Kid told him to wait a minute and not be so

impatience Then he climbed upon a box, got down a heavy canvas nose-bag

with leather bottom, and from a secret receptacle behind the oats box he

brought a paper bag of sugar and poured about a teacupful into the bag.

Daddy Chip had impressed upon him what would be the tragic consequences

if he fed oats to Silver five times a day. Silver would die, and it

would be the Kid that killed him. Daddy Chip had not said anything about

sugar being fatal, however, and the Countess could not always stand

guard over the sugar sack. So Silver had a sweet taste in his mouth

twelve hours of the twenty-four, and was getting a habit of licking his

lips reminiscently during the other twelve.

The Kid had watched the boys adjust nose bags ever since he could

toddle. He lugged it into the stall, set it artfully upon the floor and

let Silver thrust in his head to the eyes: then he pulled the strap over

Silver's neck and managed to buckle it very securely. He slapped the

sleek neck afterward as his Daddy Chip did, hugged it the way Doctor

Dell did, and stood back to watch Silver revel in the bag.

"'S good lickums?" he asked gravely, because he had once heard his

mother ask Silver that very question, in almost that very tone.

At that moment an uproar outside caught his youthful attention. He

listened a minute, heard Pink's voice and a shout of laughter, and ran

to see what was going on; for where was excitement, there the Kid was

also, as nearly in the middle of it as he could manage. His going would

not have mattered to Silver, had he remembered to close the half-door of

the stall behind him; even that would not have mattered, had he not left

the outer door of the stable open also.

The cause of the uproar does not greatly matter, except that the Kid

became so rapturously engaged in watching the foolery of the Happy

Family that he forgot all about Silver. And since sugar produces thirst,

and Silver had not smelled water since morning, he licked the last sweet

grain from the inside of the nose bag and then walked out of the stall

and the stable and made for the creek--and a horse cannot drink with

a nose bag fastened over his face. All he can do, if he succeeds in

getting his nose into the water, is to drown himself most expeditiously

and completely.

Silver reached the creek unseen, sought the deepest hole and tried to

drink. Since his nose was covered with the bag he could not do so but he

fussed and splashed and thrust his head deeper until the water ran into

the bag from the top. He backed and snorted and strangled, and in a

minute he fell. Fortunately he struggled a little, and in doing so he

slid backward down the bank so that his head was up the slope a and the

water ran out of the bag, which was all that saved him.

He was a dead horse, to all appearances at least, when Slim spied him

and gave a yell to bring every human being on the ranch at a run. The

Kid came with the rest, gave one scream and hid his face in the Little

Doctor's skirts, and trembled so that his mother was more frightened

for him than for the horse, and had Chip carry him to the house where he

could not watch the first-aid efforts of the Happy Family.

They did not say anything, much. By their united strength they pulled

Silver up the bank so that his limp head hung downward. Then they began

to work over him exactly as if he had been a drowned man, except that

they did not, of course, roll him over a barrel. They moved his legs

backward and forward, they kneaded his paunch, they blew into his

nostrils, they felt anxiously for heart-beats. They sweated and gave up

the fight, saying that it was no use. They saw a quiver of the muscles

over the chest and redoubled their efforts, telling one another

hopefully that he was alive, all right. They saw finally a quiver of the

nostrils as well, and one after another they laid palms upon his heart,

felt there a steady beating and proclaimed the fact profanely.

They pulled him then into a more comfortable position where the sun

shone warmly and stood around him in a crude circle and watched for

more pronounced symptoms of recovery, and sent word to the Kid that his

string was going to be all right in a little while.

The information was lost upon the Kid, who wept hysterically in his

Daddy Chip's arms listen to anything they told him. He had seen Silver

stretched out dead, with his back in the edge of the creek and his feet

sprawled at horrible angles, and the sight obsessed him and forbade

comfort. He had killed his string; nothing was clear in his mind save

that, and he screamed with his face hidden from his little world.

The Little Doctor, with anxious eyes and puckered eyebrows, poured

something into a teaspoon and helped Chip fight to get it down the Kid's

throat. And the Kid shrieked and struggled and strangled, as is the way

of kids the world over, and tried to spit out the stuff and couldn't, so

he screamed the louder and held his breath until he was purple, and his

parents were scared stiff. The Old Man hobbled to the door in the midst

of the uproar and asked them acrimoniously why they didn't make that

doggoned Kid stop his howling; and when Chip, his nerves already

strained to the snapping point, told him bluntly to get out and mind

his own business, he hobbled away again muttering anathemas against the

whole outfit.

The Countess rushed in from out of doors and wanted to know what under

the shinin' sun was the matter with that kid, and advised his frantic

parents to throw water in his face. Chip told her exactly what he had

told the Old Man, in exactly the same tone; so the Countess retreated,

declaring that he wouldn't be let to act that way if he was her kid, and

that he was plumb everlastingly spoiled.

The Happy Family heard the disturbance and thought the Kid was being

spanked for the accident, which put every man of them in a fighting

humor toward Chip, the Little Doctor, the Old Man and the whole world.

Pink even meditated going up to the White House to lick Chip--or

at least tell him what he thought of him--and he had plenty of

sympathizers; though they advised him half-heartedly not to buy in to

any family mixup.

It was into this storm centre that Andy Green rode headlong with his own

burden of threatened disaster.

The Kid Is Used For A Pawn In The Game The Killer facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail