Rodeo - B.M. Bower - ebook

Rodeo ebook

B.M. Bower

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Opis

Claude „Kid” Bennett is a young man starting to carve a place for himself in the world. His mom wants him to go to college and earn his M. D., but his dad thinks he could turn the boy into a useful man if he’d stay on the Montana ranch, and learn to work hard. Kid gets a thorn under his saddle and sets out with his three horses to a six day Rodeo in Chicago. Along the way he meets J.N. Harlan, and his free-spoken daughter Dulcie who is a Chicago businessman with plenty of pull. Trailblazing female Western writer Bertha Muzzy Bower wrote a series of pulse-pounding novels about the grizzled vaqueros and cowpokes who populated the Flying U Ranch.

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Liczba stron: 298

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Contents

I. THE HAPPY FAMILY RETURNS

II. CHIP'S KID

III. "WHY, THEY'RE GETTING OLD!"

IV. THE KID REBELS

V. PARTS UNKNOWN

VI. ONE OF THOSE COWBOYS

VII. THE KID MAKES HIMSELF AT HOME

VIII. CONTESTANT NUMBER ONE

IX. DULCIE HARLAN LOOKS AROUND

X. RODEO

XI. "YOU'D MAKE A DOCTOR OF HIM?"

XII. THE KID GOES AFTER HIS SHIRT

XIII. ROBBERY

XIV.THE TRAIL OF THE SHIRT

XV. "IT WASN'T ANYTHING"

XVI. "MRS. BENNETT—MONTANA KID!"

XVII. FAME BUT FEEDS THE FEUD

XVIII. BEATEN, BUT NOT WHIPPED

XIX. THE KID PLUMBS THE DEPTHS

XX. SCRAPS OF PAPER HELP

XXI. TROUBLES MULTIPLY

XXII. WHAT'S A CHAMPION ANYWAY?

I. THE HAPPY FAMILY RETURNS

TWO days before the Fourth of July a small procession of three automobiles lifted a ribbon of fine gray dust from the road that wound eastward along the edge of the Bear Paw foothills. Far back toward Dry Lake the haze was still slowly settling to earth when the last car passed through the high gate of the Flying U fence and a small, slight man got out and pulled the gate shut, hooked the chain around the post and into a link worn smooth with much use and climbed back beside the driver.

“Same identical chain, hooked the same way as when I came through here years ago,” he observed pensively to his companion. “Don’t it seem like yesterday we hit out for California, Weary?”

“It sure does when I look at these hills,” Weary replied. “I miss a few chucks in the road, though. They been doing some work on it lately, looks like. We’ll be in sight of the coulee in a minute.”

Even as he spoke the lead car, a long, low-slung roadster of a famous foreign make, slid up to the very brow of the hill and stopped with a sudden flash of the warning red light seen rather dimly through its coating of dust. The driver, capped and goggled and otherwise bearing the earmarks of a tourist de luxe, twisted his slim body so that he faced to the rear, though his gauntleted hand pointed dramatically down into the valley.

“My God, boys, they’ve built a red barn!” he cried in the tragic voice of one unexpectedly confronted with the worst that can befall. “Can you feature it? A red barn, and it’s trimmed in white like a million other barns in a dozen States!” He sank down into the seat again, shaking his head in mournful acceptance of the sacrilege. “They might as well put up a windmill and a silo and finish the job!”

Heads craned out of the following limousine. The driver flapped a hand forward in the gesture of dismissal.

“Hey, cut the agony scene and drive on, Mig! Or else pull outa the road to do your wailing, and let me past.”

“What’s wrong?” Weary shouted from the rear car. “Mig stalled in that tin toy of his? Lemme past, Andy, and I’ll give him a tow.”

But even while he was speaking the yellow roadster slid on down the steep hill, took the narrow Hogsback trail like a darting lizard and swept at a reckless speed down the last slope and across the creek on a bridge that, like the red barn, was a late improvement, leaving the two cars to bore through the thick curtain of dust at their leisure. As he passed through the big gate he remembered so well, the driver slowed and came to a stand before the bunk house where he had slept through many a bitter night when he was only a poor cowboy working for the Flying U.

As he pulled off his brown goggles and gazed reminiscently at the squat log building, the brown limousine and the blue coach that had trailed him from Dry Lake slid up and stopped with a squeal of brakes which brought a tall man to the door of the white house on the knoll beyond the cabin. Through a window beside him an old man looked out with the peering intentness of one whose sight is failing.

“Here come the boys, Dell!” the man in the doorway called over his shoulder and came hurrying down the porch steps. “Hey, you fellows, what’re you stopping down there for? Drive on up here. That you in the band wagon, Mig? Hello, Andy! Hello, Weary and Pink–everybody, hello!”

“Hello yourself!” Pink, the little fellow with dimples and eyes of a childlike candor, called exuberantly. “We’re running ahead of our schedule, Chip–and that’s more than you could expect with these bum cars and drivers.”

“The quicker the better. Say, you’re sure riding good stock these days, boys. Beats plugging along on a cayuse, don’t it?” Chip went from car to car, shaking hands and flinging personal jibes at them, affection turning them to compliments by the very look and tone of him.

“Get out and come in, all of you. J. G.’s been watching the road ever since we got your letter saying you could come. I don’t see how you got down the hill without him spotting you. Rosemary, Dell will want to murder you if you didn’t bring those two kids of yours along.”

“Oh, they’re here–asleep on cushions in the back of the car.” Mrs. Andy Green turned to glance in where they lay. “It’s a pretty long trip for little tads like them, and I hate to wake them up. Drive over there and park in the shade, can’t you, Daddy? They ought to sleep another hour or two. We needn’t take out the grips yet. We stopped in Dry Lake and cleaned up,” she explained to Chip, as they went up to the porch. “The same old hotel–it hasn’t changed a chair. Even the same paper on the wall! But we didn’t see a soul we knew.”

“No, the hotel has changed hands since you left. Here’s Dell–come on in, all of you.”

Eagerly, yet with a certain gravity hidden beneath the talk and laughter, they went trooping into the big living room of the Flying U ranch house where they had gone booted and spurred more times than they could remember. Eyes shining with something more than welcome, something of gratitude and a secret understanding, the Little Doctor greeted them each with a special significance in her warm handclasp.

It was because she had called them that they had dropped everything and come. She had told them that J. G., their beloved Old Man whose querulous but kindly rule had held them together on the ranch with a bond stronger than the blood tie, was failing with every day that passed. He had lost interest in life and would sit for hours brooding silently upon the past, scarcely hearing when they tried to rouse him to the present. Sometimes he would talk of the old days, though not often; frequently he would ask about various members of the Happy Family. Wouldn’t they try and come to spend the Fourth at the old ranch, with a real old-time reunion? Seeing them might pull J. G. back into life before he slipped too far out and away from them. There was no organic reason, she wrote, why he should not live for several years yet. His rheumatism troubled him a great deal, but aside from that, his health should be much better than it was. He was letting go on life. It might be his last Fourth of July, she had stated frankly. It would be, unless they could get hold of him somehow and pull him back.

So here they were, trying not to seem conscious of her appeal; trying not to betray the shock they felt at the change in the old man sitting there by the window in a wheel chair, a soft robe thrown across his knees on this hot midsummer day.

Shrunken, stooped through sheer lack of energy, he sat there staring at them with that remote look in his lusterless eyes which comes when the soul is beginning to loosen its hold upon the body. His handclasp lacked the old sturdy grip of the fingers; his voice was flat, expressionless, tired. He had the habit of repeating words vaguely and of asking the same question twice or even oftener, forgetting that it had been answered. Yet there were moments when he rallied and was the Old Man they remembered, probing their activities with something approaching real interest. These moments they clung to, sought to prolong.

“They tell me you’re a movin’-pitcher man now,” he said accusingly to Andy Green, who was at that minute selecting a monogrammed cigarette from the Native Son’s silver case. “That so? And they say Mig-uell here is an actor, and Pink too. Somebuddy was tellin’ me Pink, here, puts on dresses and plays a woman’s part in the movies. What’s the straight of the story? Any truth in it?”

“I’m afraid so, J. G. Pink doubles for Minna Waska in all her stunt stuff and a lot of her straight drama. She’s that Indian princess that stars in Westerns. Pink’s about two thirds of Minna Waska. The girl in the close-ups and love scenes is a Pilack girl with a pair of wonderful eyes that get over big on the screen. It takes ‘em both to be Minna Waska, so I guess you could say Pink plays a woman’s part, all right.”

The Old Man grunted and eyed Pink dubiously.

“Any rider in Hollywood ‘d be tickled at the chance to do my work and draw down the salary I’m getting,” Pink defended himself, coloring a little under the look of disapproval. “There’s plenty can ride as well as I can, and if they get fifty a week they consider themselves lucky. They’re all too big to double for a girl, though. I get five hundred a week–that’s why I double for Minna Waska.”

“What’s doublin’?” demanded J. G. pettishly, having failed to grasp it all.

They explained to him again what doubling meant. They told him all about how the Native Son had suddenly found himself a favorite with the screen public because of his slim grace in the saddle and his face that photographed so well, so that now he was playing leads under his screen name of Luis Mendoza, with a salary of fifteen hundred a week and the prospect of getting twice that much when his present contract expired. They related their successes–how Andy was making good as a director of Westerns for Universal, and how Weary owned a fine lot of horses which he rented to different studios. Weary was making all the money he could spend and remain sober, he declared, with that sunny smile they remembered so well, that had carved deep lines around his eyes.

“Looks like the Flyin’ U is prospering too,” he added, swinging the subject away from himself as was his habit. “Mig almost took a fit and fell off the bluff up here when he got sight of that big red barn you’ve got now. He was looking for the silo that oughta go with it.”

“Well, we’ve been thinking of putting in a silo,” Chip confessed somewhat guiltily. “We’re raising nothing but blooded stock now, and a silo would certainly cut down the cost of winter feeding. You can’t turn a thousand-dollar cow out on the range to rustle through the winter, you know. Nor thoroughbred horses, either. We’re running everything under fence and we need better shelter than we did in the old days. So we had to have a big barn,” he finished in whimsical apology, looking at Miguel.

“You didn’t have to paint it red,” the Native Son retorted. “From the top of the hill this location could be duplicated in Iowa or Indiana or any one of a dozen States. You’ve killed the old range atmosphere, Chip. A two-story red barn is about as Western as a high board fence–and as picturesque. And you’re an artist too! And the Little Doctor here–I can’t seem to get that red barn in the picture at all.”

Her sudden laughter halted his whimsical, half-earnest diatribe.

“Even artists have to eat and wear clothes,” she reminded him. “One could starve in picturesque, thoroughly Western atmosphere, but we prefer to adapt ourselves to changing conditions and go on living, just as you boys have done. Big red barns are an economic necessity, these days. Perhaps not red–but it’s a good warm color that holds up well in all weathers. We’re like Pink; we do it because there’s more money in it than trying to patch up old sheds and letting our stock freeze.”

“You’re as bad as the Kid,” Chip grinned ruefully. “He thinks we ought to turn this blooded stock loose in the Badlands so we’d have to run a round-up outfit, same as we used to. Called me a hayseed the other day, the young whelp!”

“Oh, yeah–where’s the Kid?” Weary pulled his pitying glance away from the Old Man. “I was going to ask about him. Big as you are, Chip, I’ll bet!”

“Bigger,” Chip answered laconically. “A good inch taller; weighs about what I did when I was riding every day–“ He broke off abruptly, glancing involuntarily toward the Little Doctor.

“He’s home, ain’t he?”

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