The Parowan Bonanza - B.M. Bower - ebook

The Parowan Bonanza ebook

B.M. Bower

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B. M. Bower was the first woman to make a career of writing popular westerns. Her works, featuring cowboys and cows of the Flying U Ranch in Montana, reflected „an interest in ranch life, the use of working cowboys as main characters, the occasional appearance of eastern types for the sake of contrast, a sense of western geography as simultaneously harsh and grand, and a good deal of factual attention to such matters as cattle branding and bronc busting. „The Parowan Bonanza” is one of her stories. This short but engaging novel contains all of the elements that made B. M. Bower’s books a mainstay of the genre of classic Westerns.

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Liczba stron: 322

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Contents

I. HOPEFUL BILL DALE

II. MUSIC HATH CHARMS

III. LUELLA ANNOUNCES

IV. GOOD, LIVELY PROSPECT

V. STRANGERS IN CAMP

VI. BILL GROWS SENTIMENTAL

VII. WHAT DRIVES PROSPECTORS CRAZY

VIII. "MONTE CRISTO WOULD ENJOY THIS!"

IX. A "HINT" FROM DORIS

X. "WE'RE RICH, BILL, DEAR"

XI. MR. RAYFIELD GIVES ADVICE

XII. A MAN SHOULDN'T MIX BUSINESS WITH LOVE

XIII. BILL LEARNS ABOUT WOMEN FROM 'ER

XIV. BAKER COLE

XV. "MARY'S GOING TO HAVE A HOME!"

XVI. SO BILL GOES BACK

XVII. BILL GIVES THE PUBLIC MIND A LIFT

XVIII. THE YARN AL FREEMAN TOLD

XIX. "THERE'LL BE MORE TO COME OF IT"

XX. LUELLA ENTERTAINS

XXI. BILL AND THE TAME BANDITS

XXII. BILL BUYS PAROWAN

XXIII. BILL IS BACK WHERE HE STARTED

XXIV. THE TOWN THAT WAS

XXV. HOPELESS BILL DALE

XXVI. BILL ACQUIRES A COOK

I. HOPEFUL BILL DALE

TO those who do not know the desert, the word usually conjures a picture of hot, waterless wastes of sand made desolate by sparse, withered gray sage more depressing than no growth at all; blighted by rattlesnakes and scorpions and the bleached bones of men from which lean coyotes go skulking away in the brazen heat that comes with the dawn; a place where men go mad with thirst and die horribly, babbling the while of mountain brooks and the cool blur of lakes shining blue in the distance, painted treacherously there by the desert mirage.

Sometimes the desert is like that in certain places and at certain seasons of the year, but the men who know it best forgive the desert its trespasses, and love it for its magnificent distances, always beautiful, always changing their panorama of lights and shadows on uptilted mesas and deep, gray-green valleys. Such men yield to the thrall of desert sorcery that paints wonderful, translucent tints of blue, violet and purple on all the mountains there against the sky. They love the desert nights when the stars come down in friendly fashion to gaze tranquilly upon them as they sit beside their camp fires and smoke and dream, and see rapturous visions of great wealth born of that mental mirage which is but another bit of desert enchantment.

Bill Dale was such a man. Hopeful Bill, men called him, with the corners of their mouths tipped down. Bill loved the desert, loved to wander over it with his two burros waddling under full packs of grub and mining tools and dynamite. He loved to pry and peck into some mineral outcropping in a far canyon where no prospector had been before him. And though he sometimes cursed the heat and the wind and brackish water, where he expected a clear, cold spring, he loved the desert, nevertheless, and called it home.

Men jibed at his unquenchable optimism and mistook the man behind his twinkling eyes for a rainbow chaser, mirage-mad in a mild way. For even in Nevada, where the hills have made many a man a millionaire, they laugh at the seeker and call failure after him until he has found what he seeks. Then they want his friendship and a share in his good fortune; and this merely because Nevada is peopled–very thinly–with human beings and not by gods or saints.

Occasionally, when Bill Dale came to town for fresh supplies and mail, some one would wonder why a great, strapping fellow like Hopeful didn’t go to work. Perhaps that was because Hopeful carried a safety razor in his pack, and had the knack of looking well-groomed on a pint of water, a clean shirt, an aluminum comb and six inches of mirror. Your orthodox prospector (at least in fiction) promises himself a bath and a clean shave when he strikes it rich, and frequently is made to forego the luxury for years.

Men liked Hopeful Bill, but they thought he was a shiftless cuss who would never amount to anything, since he had taken to the burro trail. A few remembered that Hopeful’s father had been unlucky in a boom when Hopeful was just a kid. They thought it was a bad thing to have the legend of a gold mine in the family. Personally they called him a good scout,–and that was because they could borrow money from him, if he had any, and need not fear the embarrassment of being asked to repay it. They could tell their private troubles to Bill and be sure that he would never betray the confidence. But it never occurred to any man that knew him that Hopeful Bill Dale might now and then need money, or sympathy, or some one besides his menagerie to tell his troubles to.

It was the menagerie that belittled Hopeful Bill Dale in the eyes of his fellows. Commonplace souls they were, their brains dust-dry in that cranny where imagination should flourish. They could not see why any grown man should carry a green parrot and a great, gray, desert turtle around with him wherever he went. They were willing to concede the harmlessness of the fuzzy-faced Airedale, since any man is entitled to own a dog if he wants one. But they could not understand a man who would call a dog Hezekiah; which was not a dog’s name at all. The mournful, hairy-chopped Hezekiah was therefore a walking proof of Hopeful Bill Dale’s eccentricity. And as all the world knows, a man must be rich before he dare be different from his fellows.

Of course, they argued in Goldfield, any grown man that would keep a turtle on a string–tied firmly through a hole bored in the tail of its shell–might be expected to call it Sister Mitchell and claim that it had a good Methodist face. Who ever heard of a turtle having a face? And there was the parrot, that cooed lovingly against Bill’s cheek and made little kissing sounds with its beak,–the same beak that had taken a chunk out of a stranger’s hand, swearing volubly at her victim afterward. Even if Goldfield could overlook the parrot, there was its name to damn Hopeful Bill Dale finally and completely. Couldn’t call it Polly, which is the natural, normal name for a parrot! No, he had to name the thing Luella. Add to that Bill’s burros, that answered gravely to the names Wise One and Angelface. Could any man know these things and still take Bill Dale seriously?

Goldfield shook its head–behind Bill’s back–and said he was a nice, likable fellow, but–a little bit “off” in some ways.

So there you have him, according to the estimate of his acquaintances: A great, good-natured, fine-looking man in his early thirties; a man always ready to listen to a tale of woe or to put his hand in his pocket and give of what he had, nor question the worthiness of the cause; but a man who seemed content to wander through the hills prospecting, when he might have made a success of some business more certain of yielding a good living–and mediocrity; a man with a queer kink somewhere in his make-up that prevented his taking life seriously.

Prospectors were usually men who, having failed, through age or other cause, to make good at anything else, took to burrowing in the hills and pecking at rocks and dreaming. If the habit fixed itself upon them they became plain desert rats, crack-brained and useless for any other vocation. Hopeful Bill Dale was too young, too vigorous to have the name “desert rat” laid upon him,–yet. But it was tacitly agreed that he was in a fair way to become a desert rat, if he did not pull up short and turn his mind to something else. The purposeless life he was leading would “get” him in a few more years, they prophesied sagely.

One day in spring Bill Dale walked behind his burros into Goldfield and outfitted for a long trip. Had any one examined closely Bill’s pack loads, he would have guessed that Hopeful Bill had a camp established somewhere in the wilderness and was in for all the grub his two burros and a borrowed one could carry.

The storekeeper knew, as he weighed out sugar, rice, beans, dried fruit (prunes, raisins and apricots mostly), that Bill was buying with a careful regard for the maximum nourishment coupled with the minimum weight. For instance, Bill bought five pounds of black tea, though he loved coffee with true American fervor. Rolled oats he also bought,–a twenty-five pound sack. There was a great deal of nourishment in rolled oats, properly cooked. And when Bill called for two large cans of beef extract, the storekeeper looked at him knowingly.

“Goin’ to develop something you’ve struck, hey?” he guessed with unconscious presumption.

“Going to stay till the grub’s low, anyway,” Bill drawled imperturbably. “Hazing burros over the trail is going to be hot work, from now on until fall. It’s cooler in the hills. I’m taking out a rented burro that will come back alone. I figure this grubstake ought to run me until cool weather.”

“Got a pretty good claim?” Storekeepers in mining towns are likely to be inquisitive.

“Can’t say as I have,” Bill grinned. “Open for engagements with old Dame Fortune, though. Kinda hoping, too, that she don’t send her daughter, instead, to make a date with me.”

“Her daughter?” The storekeeper was one of those who had desert dust in the folds of his brain. “Who’s she?”

Bill looked at him soberly, rolling a smoke with fingers smoother and better kept than prospectors usually could show.

“Mean to tell me you never met Miss Fortune yet?” His lips were serious; as for his eyes, one never could tell. His eyes always had a twinkle. “She can sure keep a man guessing,” he added. “I like her mother better, myself.”

“Oh. Er–he-he! Pretty good,” testified the storekeeper dubiously. Something queer about a fellow that springs things you never heard of before, he was thinking. The storekeeper liked best the familiar jokes he had heard all his life. He didn’t have to think out their meaning.

“Hey! Cut that out! Bill! Take a look at that!” A voice outside called imperiously, and Bill swung toward the door.

“What is it, Luella?”

“Take a look at that! Git a move on!”

In the doorway Bill stopped. Luella was walking pigeon-toed up and down the back of Wise One, where she usually perched while Bill traveled the desert. Three half-grown boys were crowding close, trying to reach the string of Sister Mitchell, who had crawled under the store steps. The string was fastened to the crotch of Wise One’s pack saddle, and Wise One was circling slowly, keeping his heels toward the enemy. Luella’s tail was spread fanwise, showing the red which even Nature seems to recognize as a danger signal. Her eyes were yellow flames, her neck feathers were ruffled. By all these signs Luella was not to be trifled with.

“Cut that out! Hez! Here, Hez! Where the hell is that dog? Hezekiah! Bill! Come alive, come alive!” Up and down, up and down, one foot lifted over the other, her eyes on the giggling boys, Luella expostulated and swore.

Bill stepped outside, throwing away the burnt stub of a match. The three boys looked at him and fled, though Bill was not half so dangerous as Luella or Wise One, either of which would have sent them yelping in another minute.

“Hez! Here, Hez! Where the hell’s that dog?” Luella called again impatiently and wheeled, stepping up relievedly upon Bill’s outstretched finger. “Lord, what a world!” she muttered pensively, and subsided under Bill’s caressing hand.

Bill dragged Sister Mitchell from under the steps and swung her, head down, to the porch. He sat down beside her, his knees drawn up, Luella perched upon one of them.

“Add two cartons of Durham, will you?” Bill called over his shoulder to the storekeeper and turned back to his perturbed pets.

Sister Mitchell thrust forth a cautious head and craned a skinny neck, looking for fresh alarms. Luella tilted her head and eyed the turtle speculatively. “Cut that out!” she commanded harshly, and Sister Mitchell drew in her head timorously before she realized that it was only parrot talk and not to be taken seriously.

The storekeeper asked Bill a question which necessitated Bill’s personal examination of two brands of bacon; wherefore, he placed Luella on the porch beside Sister Mitchell and went inside to finish making up his load of supplies. When he emerged with a sack of flour on his shoulder and three sides of bacon under one arm, Luella was riding up the platform on Sister Mitchell’s back and telling her to “git a move on.” At the other end of the porch a small audience stood laughing at the performance.

“What’ll you take for that parrot, Hopeful?” a man asked, grinning.

“Same price you ask for your oldest kid,” Bill retorted, and returned for another load from the store.

“Make that strike yet?” another called, as Bill came out with his arms full.

“You bet! Solid ledge of gold, Jim. Knock it off in chunks with a single-jack and gadget. Bring you a hunk next trip in–if I can think of it.”

“Hate to hang by the heels till you do,” Jim retorted.

“Hate to have you,” Bill agreed placidly, stepping over Luella and her mount that he might deposit his load on the edge of the porch.

“What yuh got out there, anyway?” Jim persisted curiously. “You aren’t packing all that grub out in the desert just to eat in the shade of a Joshuway tree. What yuh got?”

“Hopes.” Bill bent and slid a sack from his shoulder to the pile of supplies. “Outcropping of lively looking rock, Jim. Good indications. I’m hoping it’ll turn out something, maybe, when I get into it a ways.”

“Get an assay on it?” Jim’s curiosity was fading perceptibly. The same old story: lively looking rock, indications; desert rats all came in with that elusive encouragement.

“Trace of silver, two dollars in gold,” Hopeful Bill replied. “I’m hoping it’ll run into higher values when I hit the contact.”

“What contact you got?” Jim’s tone was plainly disparaging. “You can’t bank too strong on values at contact, Bill.”

“Well, this looks pretty fair,” Bill argued mildly. “A showing of quartzite,–if it’s in place; which I’m digging to find out. Nothing lost but a little sweat and powder, if I don’t hit it. I can eat as cheaply in the hills as I can here. Cheaper.” From under his dusty hat brim he sent a glance toward the restaurant across the street. “And I know it’s clean. I like to have eat a fly, this noon.”

“Why didn’t you try the Waffle Parlor? They’ve got screens.”

“My own cooking suits me just fine,” Bill returned amiably.

“All right, if you like that kinda life,” Jim carped. “I should think you’d want to get into something, Bill. You aren’t any has-been––”

“Nope, I’m a never-was,” Bill retorted shamelessly. “And a going-to-be,” he added with naïve assurance. “You mark that down in your book, Jim. Some day you’re going to brag about knowing Bill Dale. Some day your tone’s going to be hearty and your hand’ll be out when you see me coming. You guys will all of you be saying you knew me when.”

The group bent backward to let the laughs out full and free. Into the midst of their mirth Luella came scrabbling with her pigeon-toed walk, her tail spread wide and her throat ruffled.

“You cut that out!” she shrieked angrily. “Hez! Here, Hez! Where the hell’s that dog? Git outa here! Git a move on.”

Bill grabbed her before she succeeded in shedding blood.

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