Riders In The Background

: The Heritage Of The Sioux

Luck, as explained elsewhere, was sweating and swearing at the heat

in Bear Canon. The sun had crept around so that it shone full into a

certain bowlder-strewn defile, and up this sunbaked gash old Applehead

was toiling, leading the scrawniest burro which Luck had been able to

find in the country. The burro was packed with a prospector's outfit

startlingly real in its pathetic meagerness. Old Applehead was picking

ay among rocks so hot that he could hardly bear to lay his bare

hand upon them, tough as that hand was with years of exposure to heat

and cold alike. Beads of perspiration were standing on his face, which

was a deep, apoplectic crimson, and little trickles of sweat were

dropping off his lower jaw.

He was muttering as he climbed, but the camera fortunately failed to

record the language that he used. Now and then he turned and yanked

savagely at the lead rope; whereupon the burro would sit down upon its

haunches and allow Applehead to stretch its neck as far as bone and

tough hide and tougher sinew would permit Someone among the group

roosting in the shade across the defile and well out of camera range

would laugh, and Luck, standing on a ledge just behind and above the

camera, would shout directions or criticism of the "business."

"Come on back, Applehead," Luck yelled when the "prospectorp" had turned

a corner of rock and disappeared from sight of the camera. "We'll do

that scene over once more before the sun gets too far around."

"Do it over, will ye?" Applehead snarled as he came toiling obediently

back down the gulch. "Well, now, I ain't so danged shore about that

there doin' over--'nless yuh want to wait and do it after sundown. Ain't

nobody but a danged fool It would go trailin' up that there gulch this

kinda' day. Them rocks up there is hot enough to brile a lizard--now,

I'm tellin' ye!"

Luck covered a smile with his moist palm. He could not afford to be

merciful at the expense of good "picture-stuff," however, so he called

down grimly:

"Now you're just about fagged enough for that close-up I want of you,

Applehead. You went up that gulch a shade too brisk for a fellow that's

all in from traveling, and starved into the bargain. Come back down here

by this sand bank, and start up towards camera. Back up a little, Pete,

so you can 'pam' his approach. I want to get him pulling his burro

up past that bank--sabe? And the close-up of his face with all those

sweat-streaks will prove how far he's come--and then I want the detail

of that burro and his pack which you'll get as they go by. You see what

I mean. Let's see. Will it swing you too far into the sun, Pete, if you

pick him up down there in that dry channel?"

"Not if you let me make it right away," Pete replied after a squint or

two through the viewfinder. "Sun's getting pretty far over--"

"Ought to leave a feller time to git his wind," Applehead complained,

looking up at Luck with eyes bloodshot from the heat. "I calc'late mebby

you think it's FUN to drag that there burro up over them rocks?"

"Sure, it isn't fun. We didn't come out here for fun. Go down and wait

behind that bank, and come out into the channel when I give the word.

I want you coming up all-in, just as you look right now. Sorry, but I

can't let you wait to cool off, Applehead."

"Well now," Applehead began with shortwinded sarcasm, "I'm s'posed to be

outa grub. Why didn't yuh up In' starve me fer a week or two, so'st I'd

be gaunted up realistic? Why didn't yuh break a laig fer me, sos't I kin

show some five-cent bunch in a pitcher-show how bad I'm off? Danged if

I ain't jest about gettin' my hide full uh this here danged fool REELISM

you're hollerin' fur all the time. 'F you send me down there to come

haulin' that there burro back up here so's the camery kin watch me sweat

'n' puff my danged daylights out--before I git a drink uh water, I'll

murder ye in cold blood, now I'm tellin' ye!"

"You go on down there and shut up!" Luck yelled inexorably. "You can

drink a barrel when I'm through with this scene--and not before. Get

that? My Lord! If you can't lead a burro a hundred yards without setting

down and fanning yourself to sleep, you must be losing your grip for

fair. I'll stake you to a rocking-chair and let you do old grandpa

parts, if you aren't able to--"

"Dang you, Luck, if you wasn't such a little runt I'd come up there and

jest about lick the pants off you! Talk that way to ME, will ye? I'll

have ye know I kin lead burros with you or any other dang man, heat er

no heat Ef yuh ain't got no more heart'n to AST it of me, I'll haul this

here burro up 'n' down this dang gulch till there ain't nothin' left of

'im but the lead-rope, and the rocks is all wore down to cobble-stone!

Ole grandpa parts, hey? You'll swaller them words when I git to ye,

young feller--and you'll swaller 'em mighty dang quick, now I'm tellin'


He went off down the gulch to the sand bank. The Happy Family, sprawled

at ease in the shade, took cigarettes from their lips that they might

chortle their amusement at the two. Like father and son were Applehead

and Luck, but their bickerings certainly would never lead one to suspect

their affection.

"Get that darned burro outa sight, will you?" Luck bawled impatiently

when Applehead paused to send a murderous glance back toward camera.

"What's the matter--yuh PARALYZED down there? Haul him in behind that

bank! The moon'll be up before you get turned around, at that rate!"

"You shet yore haid!" Applehead retorted at the full capacity of his

lungs and with an absolute disregard for Luck's position as director of

the company. "Who's leadin' this here burro--you er me? Fer two cents

I'd come back and knock the tar outa you, Luck! Stand up there on a

rock and flop your wings and crow like a danged banty rooster--'n' I was

leadin' burros 'fore you was born! I'd like to know who yuh think you


Pete Lowry, standing feet-apart and imperturbably focussing the camera

while the two yelled insults at each other, looked up at Luck.

"Riders in the background," he announced laconically, and returned

to his squinting and fussing. "Maybe you can make 'em hear with the

megaphone," he hinted, looking again at Luck. "They're riding straight

up the canon, in the middle distance. They'll register in the scene, if

you can't turn 'em."

"Applehead!" Luck called through the megaphone to his irritated

prospector. "Get those riders outa the canon--they're in the scene!"

Applehead promptly appeared, glaring up at luck. "Well, now, if I've got

to haul this here dang jackass up this dang gulch, I cal'clate that'll

be about job enough for one man," he yelled. "How yuh expect me t' go

two ways 't once? Hey? Yuh figured that out yit?" He turned then for a

look at the interrupting strangers, and immediately they saw his manner

change. He straightened up, and his right hand crept back significantly

toward his hip. Applehead, I may here explain, was an ex-sheriff, and

what range men call a "go-getter." He had notches on the ivory handle of

his gun--three of them. In fair fights and in upholding the law he had

killed, and he would kill again if the need ever arose, as those who

knew him never doubted.

Luck, seeing that backward movement of the hand, unconsciously hitched

his own gun into position on his hip and came down off his rock ledge

with one leap. Just as instinctively the Happy Family scrambled out

of the shade and followed luck down the gulch to where Applehead stood

facing down the canon, watchfulness in every tense line of his lank

figure. Tommy Johnson, who never seemed to be greatly interested in

anything save his work, got up from where he lay close beside the camera

tripod and went over to the other side of the gulch where he could see


Like a hunter poising his shotgun and making ready when his trained

bird-dog points, Luck walked guardedly down the gulch to where Applehead

stood watching the horsemen who had for the moment passed out of sight

of those above.

"Now, what's that danged shurf want, prowlin' up HERE with a couple uh

depittys?" Applehead grumbled when he heard Luck's footsteps crunching

behind him. "Uh course," he added grimly, "he MIGHT be viewin' the

scenery--but it's dang pore weather fur pleasure-ridin', now I'm tellin'

ye! Them a comin' up here don't look good to ME, Luck--'n' if they


"How do you know it's the sheriff?" Luck for no reason whatever felt a

sudden heaviness of spirit.

"Hey? Think my eyes is failin' me?" Applehead gave him a sidelong glance

of hasty indignation. "I'd know ole Hank Miller a mile off with m' eyes


By then the three riders rode out into plain view. Perhaps the sight of

Luck and Applehead standing there awaiting their arrival, with the

whole Happy Family and Big Aleck Douglas and Lite Avery moving down in

a close-bunched, expectant group behind the two, was construed as

hostility rather than curiosity. At any rate the sheriff and his

deputies shifted meaningly in their saddles and came up sour-faced and

grim, and with their guns out and pointing at the group.

"Don't go making any foolish play, boys," the sheriff warned. "We

don't want trouble--we aren't looking for any. But we ain't taking any


"Well now, you're takin' a dang long chance, Hank Miller, when yuh come

ridin' up on us fellers like yuh was cornerin' a bunch uh outlaws,"

Applehead exploded. But Luck pushed him aside and stepped to the front.

"Nobody's making any foolish play but you," he answered the sheriff

calmly. "You may not know it, but you're blocking my scene and the

light's going. If you've got any business with me or my company, get it

over and then get out so we aim make this scene. What d'yuh want?"

"You," snapped the sheriff. "You and your bunch."

"Me?" Luck took a step forward. "What for?"

"For pulling off that robbery at the bank today." The sheriff could be

pretty blunt, and he shot the charge straight, without any quibbling.

Luck looked a little blank; and old Applehead, shaking with a very real

anger now, shoved Luck away and stepped up where he could shake his fist

under the sheriff's nose.

"We don't know, and we don't give a cuss, what you're aimin' at," he

thundered. "We been out here workin' in this brilin' sun sense nine

o'clock this mornin'. Luck ain't robbed no bank, ner he ain't the kind

that DOES rob banks, and I'm here to see you swaller them words 'fore I

haul ye off'n that horse and plumb wear ye out! Yuh wanta think twicet

'fore ye come ridin' up where I kin hear yuh call Luck Lindsay a thief,

now I'm tellin' ye! If a bank was robbed, ye better be gittin' out after

them that done it, and git outa the way uh that camery sos't we can git

t' work! Git!"

The sheriff did not "git" exactly, but he did look considerably

embarrassed. His eyes went to Luck apologetically.

"Cashier come to and said you'd called him up on the phone about eleven,

claimin' you wanted to make a movin' pitcher of the bank being robbed,"

he explained--though he was careful not to lower his gun. "He swore it

was your men that done the work and took the gold you told him to pile

out on the--"

"I told him?" Luck's voice had the sharpened quality that caused

laggard actors to jump. "Be a little more exact in the words you use."

"Well-l--somebody on the phone 't he THOUGHT was you," the sheriff

amended obediently. "Your men--and they sure WAS your men, because

three or four fellers besides the cashier seen 'em goin' in and comin'

out--they gagged the cashier and took his keys away from him and cleaned

the safe, besides taking what gold he'd piled on the counter for y--for


"So," he finished vigorously, "I an' my men hit the trail fer the ranch

and was told by the women that you was out here. And here we are, and

you might just as well come along peaceable as to make a fuss--"

"That thar is shore enough outa YOU, Hank Miller!" Applehead exploded

again. "I calc'late you kin count ME in, when you go mixin' up with

Luck, here. I'm one of his men--and if he was to pull off a bank robbery

I calc'late I'd be in on that there performance too, I'm tellin' you!

Luck don't go no whars ner do nothin' that I AIN'T in on.

"I've had some considerable experience as shurf myself, if you'll take

the trouble to recolleck; and I calc'late my word'll go about as fur as

the next. When I tell ye thar ain't goin' to be no arrest made in Bear

Canon, and that you ain't goin' to take luck in fer no bank robbery, you

kin be dang shore I mean every word uh that thar!" He moved a step or

two nearer the sheriff, and the sheriff backed his horse away from him.

"Ef you kin cut out this here accusin' Luck, and talk like a white man,"

Applehead continued heatedly, "we'd like to hear the straight uh this

here robbery. I would, 'n' I know Luck would, seein' they've gone t'

work and mixed him into it. His bunch is all here, as you kin see fer

yourself. Now we're listenin' 's long's you talk polite--'n' you kin

tell us what men them was that was seen goin' in and comin' out--and all

about the hull dang business."

The sheriff had not ridden to Bear Canon expecting to be bullied into

civil speech and lengthy explanations; but he knew Applehead Furrman,

and he had sufficient intelligence to read correctly the character of

the group of men that stood behind Applehead. Honest men or thieves,

they were to, be reckoned with if any attempt were made to place Luck

under arrest; any fool could see that--and Hank Miller was not a fool.

He proceeded therefore to explain his errand and the robbery as the

cashier had described it to the clerks who returned after lunch to

finish their Saturday's work at the bank.

"Fifteen thousand they claim is what the fellers got. And one of your

men that runs the camera was keeping up a bluff of taking a pitcher of

it all the time--that's why they got away with it. Nobody suspicioned

it was anything more'n moving-pitcher acting till they found the cashier

and brought him toy along about one o'clock. It was that Chavez feller

that you had working for yuh, and Luis Rojas that done it--them and a

couple fellers stalling outside with the camera."

"I wonder," hazarded Pete Lowry, who had come down and joined the group,

"if that wasn't Bill Holmes with the camera? He was a lot more friendly

with Ramon than he tried to let on."

"The point is," Luck broke in, "that they took advantage of my holdup

scene to pull off the robbery. I can see how the cashier would fall

for a retake like that, especially since he don't know much about

picture-making. Gather up the props, boys, and let's go home. I'm going

to get the rights of this thing."

"You've got it now," the sheriff informed him huffily. "Think I been

loading you up with hot air? I was sent out to round you up--"

"Forget all that!" snapped luck. "I don't know as I enjoy having you

fellows jump at the notion I'm a bank-robber--or that if I had robbed a

bank I would have come right back here and gone to work. What kind of

a simp do you think I am, for gosh sake? Can you see where anyone but a

lunatic would go like that in broad daylight and pull off a robbery

as raw as that one must have been, and not even make an attempt at a

gateway? I'll gamble Applehead, here, wouldn't have fallen for a play as

coarse as that was if he was sheriff yet. He'd have seen right away that

the camera part was just the coarsest kind of a blind.

"My Lord! Think of grown men--officers of the law at that--being

simple-minded enough to come fogging out here to me, instead of getting

on the trail of the men that were seen on the spot! You say they came in

a machine to the bank and you never so much as tried to trace it, or to

get the license number even, I'll bet a month's salary you didn't! It

was a moving-picture stall, and so you come blundering out here to the

only picture company in the country, thinking, by gravy, that it was

all straight goods--oh, can you beat that for a boob?" He shook back his

heavy mane of gray hair and turned to his boys disgustedly.

"Pete and Tommy, you can drive the wagon back all right, can't you?

We'll go on ahead and see what there is at the bottom of this yarn."