The Lonesome Trail - B.M. Bower - ebook

The Lonesome Trail ebook

B.M. Bower

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B. M. Bower, was an American author who wrote novels, fictional short stories, and screenplays about the American Old West. This is one of her stories. In her prolific career as a writer of many classic Westerns, the most beloved characters ever created by author B. M. Bower were the happy but hardscrabble crew of the Flying U ranch. „The Lonesome Trail” catches up with the band of cowhands and ranchers as some of them have grown weary of range life and have decided to forge a path for themselves in the big city. Here we meet Will ’Weary’ Davidson, his co-workers (known collectively as „The Happy Family”) and his horse Glory. Glory has a major role to play in this story.

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Liczba stron: 258

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Contents

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

PART FOUR

PART FIVE

PART SIX

FIRST AID TO CUPID

WHEN THE COOK FELL ILL

THE LAMB

THE SPIRIT OF THE RANGE

THE REVELER

THE UNHEAVENLY TWINS

PART ONE

A MAN is very much like a horse. Once thoroughly frightened by something he meets on the road, he will invariably shy at the same place afterwards, until a wisely firm master leads him perforce to the spot and proves beyond all doubt that the danger is of his own imagining; after which he will throw up his head and deny that he ever was afraid–and be quite amusingly sincere in the denial.

It is true of every man with high-keyed nature, a decent opinion of himself and a healthy pride of power. It was true of Will Davidson, of the Flying U–commonly known among his associates, particularly the Happy Family, as “Weary.” As to the cause of his shying at a certain object, that happened long ago. Many miles east of the Bear Paws, in the town where Weary had minced painfully along the streets on pink, protesting, bare soles before the frost was half out of the ground; had yelled himself hoarse and run himself lame in the redoubtable base-ball nine which was to make that town some day famous–the nine where they often played with seven “men” because the other two had to “bug” potatoes or do some other menial task and where the umpire frequently engaged in throwing lumps of dried mud at refractory players,–there had lived a Girl.

She might have lived there a century and Weary been none the worse, had he not acquired the unfortunate habit of growing up. Even then he might have escaped injury had he not persisted in growing up and up, a straight six-feet-two of lovable good looks, with the sunniest of tempers and blue eyes that reflected the warm sweetness of that nature, and a smile to tell what the eyes left unsaid.

Such being the tempting length of him, the Girl saw that he was worth an effort; she took to smoking the chimney of her bedroom lamp, heating curling irons, wearing her best hat and best ribbons on a weekday, and insisting upon crowding number four-and-a-half feet into number three-and-a-half shoes and managing to look as if she were perfectly comfortable. When a girl does all those things, and when she has a good complexion and hair vividly red and long, heavy-lidded blue eyes that have a fashion of looking side-long at a man, it were well for that man to travel–if he would keep the lightness of his heart and the sunny look in his eyes and his smile.

Weary traveled, but the trouble was that he did not go soon enough. When he did go, his eyes were somber instead of sunny, and he smiled not at all. And in his heart he carried a deep-rooted impulse to shy always at women–and so came to resemble a horse.

He shied at long, blue eyes and turned his own uncompromisingly away. He never would dance with a woman who had red hair, except in quadrilles where he could not help himself; and then his hand-clasp was brief and perfunctory when it came to “Grand right-and-left.” If commanded to “Balance-swing„ the red-haired woman was swung airily by the finger-tips–; which was not the way in which Weary swung the others.

And then came the schoolma’am. The schoolma’am’s hair was the darkest brown and had a shine to it where the light struck at the proper angle, and her eyes were large and came near being round, and they were a velvety brown and also had a shine in them.

Still Weary shied consistently and systematically.

At the leap-year ball, given on New Year’s night, when the ladies were invited to “choose your pardners for the hull dance, regardless of who brought yuh,” the schoolma’am had forsaken Joe Meeker, with whose parents she boarded, and had deliberately chosen Weary. The Happy Family had, with one accord, grinned at him in a way that promised many things and, up to the coming of the Fourth of July, every promise had been conscientiously fulfilled.

They brought him many friendly messages from the schoolma’am, to which he returned unfriendly answers. When he accused them openly of trying to “load” him; they were shocked and grieved. They told him the schoolma’am said she felt drawn to him–he looked so like her darling brother who had spilled his precious blood on San Juan Hill. Cal Emmett was exceedingly proud of this invention, since it seemed to “go down” with Weary better than most of the lies they told.

It was the coming of the Fourth and the celebration of that day which provoked further effort to tease Weary.

“Who are you going to take, Weary?” Cal Emmett lowered his left eyelid very gently, for the benefit of the others, and drew a match sharply along the wall just over his head.

“Myself,” answered Weary sweetly, though it was becoming a sore subject.

“You’re sure going in bum company, then,” retorted Cal.

“Who’s going to pilot the schoolma’am?” blurted Happy Jack, who was never consciously ambiguous.

“You can search me,” said Weary, in a you-make-me-tired tone. “She sure isn’t going with Yours Truly.”

“Ain’t she asked yuh yet?” fleered Cal. “That’s funny. She told me the other day she was going to take advantage of woman’s privilege, this year, and choose her own escort for the dance. Then she asked me if I knew whether you were spoke for, and when I told her yuh wasn’t, she wanted to know if I’d bring a note over. But I was in a dickens of a hurry, and couldn’t wait for it; anyhow, I was headed the other way.”

“Not toward Len Adams, were you?” asked Weary sympathetically.

“Aw, she’ll give you an invite, all right,” Happy Jack declared. “Little Willie ain’t going to be forgot, yuh can gamble on that. He’s too much like Darling Brother–”

At this point, Happy Jack ducked precipitately and a flapping, four-buckled overshoe, a relic of the winter gone, hurtled past his head and landed with considerable force upon the unsuspecting stomach of Cal, stretched luxuriously upon his bunk. Cal doubled like a threatened caterpillar and groaned, and Weary, feeling that justice had not been defeated even though he had aimed at another culprit, grinned complacently.

“What horse are you going to take?” asked Chip, to turn the subject.

“Glory. I’m thinking of putting him up against Bert Rogers’ Flopper. Bert’s getting altogether too nifty over that cayuse of his. He needs to be walked away from, once; Glory’s the little horse that can learn ‘em things about running, if–”

“Yeah–if!” This from Cal, who had recovered speech. “Have yuh got a written guarantee from Glory, that he’ll run?”

“Aw,” croaked Happy Jack, “if he runs at all, it’ll likely be backwards–if it ain’t a dancing-bear stunt on his hind feet. You can gamble it’ll be what yuh don’t expect and ain’t got any money on; that there’s Glory, from the ground up.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Weary drawled placidly. “I’m not setting him before the public as a twin to Mary’s little lamb, but I’m willing to risk him. He’s a good little horse–when he feels that way–and he can run. And darn him, he’s got to run!”

Shorty quit snoring and rolled over. “Betche ten dollars, two to one, he won’t run,” he said, digging his fists into his eyes like a baby.

Weary, dead game, took him up, though he knew what desperate chances he was taking.

“Betche five dollars, even up, he runs backwards,” grinned Happy Jack, and Weary accepted that wager also.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with Glory–so to speak–and much coin was hazarded upon his doing every unseemly thing that a horse can possibly do at a race, except the one thing which he did do; which goes to prove that Glory was not an ordinary cayuse, and that he had a reputation to maintain. To the day of his death, it may be said, he maintained it.

Dry Lake was nothing if not patriotic. Every legal holiday was observed in true Dry Lake manner, to the tune of violins and the swish-swish of slippered feet upon a more-or-less polished floor. The Glorious Fourth, however, was celebrated with more elaborate amusements. On that day men met, organized and played a matched game of ball with much shouting and great gusto, and with an umpire who aimed to please.

After that they arranged their horseraces over the bar of the saloon, and rode, ran or walked to the quarter-mile stretch of level trail beyond the stockyards to witness the running; when they would hurry back to settle their bets over the bar where they had drunk to the preliminaries.

Bert Rogers came early, riding Flopper. Men hurried from the saloon to gather round the horse that held the record of beating a “real race-horse” the summer before. They felt his legs sagely and wondered that anyone should seem anxious to question his ability to beat anything in the country in a straightaway quarter-mile dash.

When the Flying U boys clattered into town in a bunch, they were greeted enthusiastically; for old Jim Whitmore’s “Happy Family” was liked to a man. The enthusiasm did not extend to Glory, however. He was eyed askance by those who knew him or who had heard of his exploits. If the Happy Family had not backed him loyally to a man, he would not have had a dollar risked upon him; and this not because he could not run.

Glory was an alien, one of a carload of horses shipped in from Arizona the summer before. He was a bright sorrel, with the silvery mane and tan and white feet which one so seldom sees–a beauty, none could deny. His temper was not so beautiful.

Sometimes for days he was lamblike in his obedience, touching in his muzzling affection till Weary was lulled into unwatchful love for the horse. Then things would happen.

Once, Weary walked with a cane for two weeks. Another time he walked ten miles in the rain. Once he did not walk at all, but sat on a rock and smoked cigarettes till his tobacco sack ran empty, waiting for Glory to quit sulking, flat on his side, and get up and carry him home.

Any man but Weary would have ruined the horse with harshness, but Weary was really proud of his deviltry and would laugh till the tears came while he told of some new and undreamed bit of cussedness in his pet.

On this day, Glory was behaving beautifully. True, he had nearly squeezed the life out of Weary that morning when he went to saddle him in the stall, and he had afterwards snatched Cal Emmet’s hat off with his teeth, and had dropped it to the ground and had stood upon it; but on the whole, the Happy Family regarded those trifles as a good sign.

When Bert Rogers and Weary ambled away down the dusty trail to the starting point, accompanied by most of the Flying U boys and two or three from Bert’s outfit, the crowd in the grand-stand (which was the top rail of the stockyard fence) hushed expectantly.

When a pistol cracked, far down the road, and a faint yell came shrilling through the quiet sunshine, they craned necks till their muscles ached. Like a summer sand-storm they came, and behind them clattered their friends, the dust concealing horse and rider alike. Whooping encouraging words at random, they waited till a black nose shot out from the rushing cloud. That was Flopper. Beside it a white streak, a flying, silvery mane–Glory was running! Happy Jack gave a raucous yell.

Lifting reluctantly, the dust gave hazy glimpses of a long, black body hugging jealously close to earth, its rider lying low upon the straining neck–that was Flopper and Bert.

Close beside, a sheeny glimmer of red, a tossing fringe of white, a leaning, wiry, exultant form above–that was Glory and Weary.

There were groans as well as shouting when the whirlwind had swept past and on down the hill toward town, and the reason thereof was plain. Glory had won by a good length of him.

Bert Rogers said something savage and set his weight upon the bit till Flopper, snorting and disgusted–for a horse knows when he is beaten–took shorter leaps, stiffened his front legs and stopped, digging furrows with his feet.

Glory sailed on down the trail, scattering Mrs. Jenson’s chickens and jumping clean over a lumbering, protesting sow. “Come on–he’s going to set up the drinks!” yelled someone, and the crowd leaped from the fence and followed.

But Glory did not stop. He whipped around the saloon, whirled past the blacksmith shop and was headed for the mouth of the lane before anyone understood. Then Chip, suddenly grasping the situation, dug deep with his spurs and yelled.

“He’s broken the bit–it’s a runaway!”

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