At that instant a man, clad in the
dress of a cowboy, leaped from the sidewalk.
He caught the angry cowman by the collar. From
the way in which the newcomer swung the fellow around
it was evident that he was possessed of great strength.
“Stop it!” he thundered.
Tad’s assailant turned on the
newcomer with an angry snarl, his rage now beyond
“Let me alone! Let me get
at the cub!” he cried, making a vicious pass
at the man.
The cowboy’s blow was neatly
parried and a mighty fist was planted squarely between
his eyes, sending him to earth in a heap.
“Get up!” commanded the man who had felled
The cowboy struggled to his feet,
standing sullenly before his conqueror.
“Look at me, Lumpy! Didn’t
I tell you that I’d ‘fire’ you if
you got into any trouble in town to-day?”
The cowboy nodded.
“Is this the way you obey orders?
What sort of recommend do you suppose Boss Miller
will give you when I tell him I found you trying to
shoot up a kid?”
“I don’t care. I
ain’t askin’ any recommends. Besides,
he he got in ”
“Never mind what he did.
I saw it all. Get your pony and back to the camp
for yours. Let Bert come in your place. You
get no more lay-offs till I see fit to let you.
Thoroughly subdued, but with angry
muttered protests, the cowboy, walked down the street,
jerking his pony’s head about and swinging himself
into the saddle.
“Don’t be rough on the fellow. Let
The newcomer turned to Tad, glancing up at the boy
“Young fellow, you’ve got nerve more
nerve than sense.”
“Thank you. But I asked
you to let the man stay. He won’t do it
again,” urged Tad.
“I’m the best judge of
that. And as for you, young fellow, I would advise
you to ride your pony away from here. First thing
I know you will be mixing it up with some of the rest
of the bunch. I may not be around to straighten
things out then, and you’ll get hurt.”
“Thank you, sir. I think
I have as much right here as anyone else. If
those are your men I should think you might be able
to teach them to respect other people’s rights.”
“What, teach a cowboy?”
laughed the other. “You don’t know
the breed. Take my advice and skip.”
Tad’s rescuer strode away.
The lad’s introduction to cowboy
life had not been of an encouraging nature, though
it was difficult for him to believe that all cowboys
were like the one he had just encountered.
“Well, you made a nice mess
of it, didn’t you?” chuckled Ned Rector,
riding up beside his companion a few minutes later.
“I didn’t see it, but I heard all about
it from Bob Stallings.”
“Stallings? Who’s he?”
“The foreman of the cowboys with whom we are
“And were those the fellows that tried to crowd
me off the street?”
“I reckon those were the boys,” said Ned
“Then, I can see a nice time
when we join them. They will have no love for
me after what has happened this morning. Where
is the camp?”
“I don’t know. Professor
Zepplin says it’s about four miles to the west
“When do we join them?”
“Some time to-night. The
foreman says they are going to start at daylight.
He’s over at the hotel talking with the Professor
now. He was telling the Professor about your
mix-up with Lumpy Bates. That’s the name
of the cowboy who ran into you. And how he did
laugh when I told him you belonged to our crowd,”
“What did he say?”
“Said he thought you’d
do. He says we can’t use our ponies on the
“Why not?” asked Tad, looking up quickly.
“Because they are not trained on cattle work.”
“Pshaw! I’m sorry. Have we got
to leave them here?”
“No. He says we may turn
them in with their herd, and use them for anything
we care to, except around the cattle. We shall
have to ride some of the bronchos when we are on duty.”
“I think I see somebody falling
off,” laughed Tad. “Ever ride one
of them, Ned?”
“Well, you’ll know more about them after
“I think I should like to go over and see Mr.
Stallings,” declared Tad.
“All right, come along, then.”
They found the foreman of the outfit
discussing the plans for their journey with Professor
Zepplin, while Stacy Brown and Walter Perkins were
listening with eager attention.
“This is Master Tad Butler, Mr. Stallings,”
announced the Professor.
“I think I have met the young
man before,” answered the foreman, with a peculiar
“Tad, I am surprised that you
should involve yourself in trouble so soon after getting
out of my sight. I ”
“The boy was not to blame, Mr.
Professor. My cowpunchers were wholly in the
wrong. But you need have no fears of any future
trouble. The bunch will be given to understand
that the young gentlemen are to be well treated.
You will find no luxuries, but lots of hard work on
a cattle drive, young men ”
“Do do we get plenty
to eat?” interrupted Stacy Brown apprehensively.
All joined in the laugh at the lad’s expense.
“Chunky’s appetite is a wonderful thing,
Mr. Stallings,” said Tad.
“I think we shall be able to
satisfy it,” laughed the foreman. “Our
cook is a Chinaman. His name is Pong, but he
knows how to get up a meal. I believe, if he
had nothing but sage grass and sand, he could make
a palatable dish of them, provided he had the seasoning.
Have you boys brought your slickers with, you?”
“What’s a slicker?” demanded Chunky.
“A rubber blanket that ”
“Oh yes. We bought an outfit
of those at Austin,” answered Tad. “Anything
else that you wish us to get?”
“The boys don’t carry guns, do they?”
Professor Zepplin shook his head emphatically.
“Most certainly not. They
can get into enough trouble without them. We
have rifles in our kit, but I imagine there will be
little use for such weapons on this trip.”
“You can’t always tell
about that,” smiled the foreman. “I
remember in the old days, when we used to have to
fight the rustlers, that a rifle was a pretty good
thing to have.”
“Who were the rustlers?” asked Walter.
“Fellows who rustled cattle
that didn’t belong to them. But the old
days have passed. Such a drive as we are making
now hasn’t been done on so large a scale in
nearly twenty years.”
“Why not?” asked Ned.
“The iron trails have put the old cow trails
out of business.”
“Iron trails?” wondered Tad.
“Railroads. We men of the
plains refer to them as the iron trails. That’s
what they are in reality. Professor, do you wish
the boys to take their turns on the herd to-night?”
“As you wish, Mr. Stallings.
I presume they will be anxious to begin their life
as cowboys. I understand that’s an ambition
possessed by most of your American boys.”
“All right,” laughed the
foreman. “I’ll send them out as I
find I can, with some of the other cowpunchers, until
they learn the ropes. There is too great a responsibility
on a night man to trust the boys alone with that work
now. But they can begin if they wish. I’ll
see first how the bunch get back from their celebration
of the glorious Fourth. You’ll come out
and have supper with us?”
“No, I think not. We shall
ride out just after supper, if you will have some
one to show us the way,” answered the Professor.
“Sure, I’ll send in Big-foot
Sanders to pilot you out. You boys need not be
afraid of Big-foot. He’s not half so savage
as he looks, but he’s a great hand with cows.”
Big-foot Sanders rode up to the hotel
shortly after six o’clock. Leading his
pony across the sidewalk, he poked his shaggy head
just inside the door of the hotel.
“Ki-yi!” he bellowed,
causing everybody within hearing of his voice to start
up in alarm. “Where’s that bunch of
“Are you Mr. Sanders, from the
Miller outfit?” asked the Professor, stepping
“Donno about the Mister.
I’m Big-foot Sanders. I’m lookin’
for a bunch of yearlings that’s going on
with the outfit.”
“The young gentlemen will join
you in a moment, Mr. Sanders. They will ride
their ponies around from the stable and meet you in
front of the house.”
“You one of the bunch?”
“I am Professor Zepplin, a sort
of companion, you know, for the young men.”
“Huh!” grunted Big-foot.
“I reckon you’d better forget the hard
boiled hat you’re wearin’ or the boys’ll
be for shooting it full of holes. Take my advice drop
“Oh, you mean this,” laughed
the Professor, removing his derby hat. “Thank
you. I shall profit by your advice, and leave
it here when I start.”
“All the bunch got hard boiled ones?”
“Oh, no. The boys have their sombreros,”
answered the Professor.
Big-foot grunted, but whether in disapproval
or approval, Professor Zepplin did not know.
The cowpuncher threw himself into his saddle, on which
he sat, stolidly awaiting the arrival of the Pony Riders.
In a short time they came galloping
from the stable at the rear of the hotel, and pulled
up, facing the cowman.
“This, Mr. Sanders, is Tad Butler,”
announced the Professor.
“Huh!” grunted Big-foot
again. “Hello, Pinto!” he said after
a sharp glance into the freckled face. “Who’s
the gopher over there?”
“That’s Stacy Brown, otherwise
known as ‘Chunky,’” laughed Tad.
“This is Ned Rector, and the young gentleman
at your left is Walter Perkins, all members of the
Pony Rider Boys’ party. We are ready to
start whenever you are.”
For answer, Big-foot touched his pony
with a spur, the little animal springing into a gallop
without further command. The Pony Riders followed
immediately, Tad riding up beside the big, muscular
looking cowboy, which position he held for half an
hour without having been able to draw a word from
Leaving the town due east of them,
the party galloped off across the country in a straight
line until finally the cowman pointed off across the
plain to indicate where their destination lay.
A slow moving mass of red and brown
and white met the inquiring gaze of the boys.
At first they were unable to make out what it was.
“Cows,” growled the guide,
observing that they did not understand.
“What are they doing, Mr. Sanders?” asked
me. I’m Big-foot. Never had a handle
to my name. Never expect to. They’re
grazing. Be rounding them up for bed pretty soon.
Ever been on a trail before?”
Tad shook his head.
“We have been up in the Rockies
on a hunting trip. This is my first experience
on the plains.”
“Huh! Got good and plenty coming to you,
“And I am ready for it,”
answered the lad promptly. “The rougher
“There’s the bunch waiting
for us. All of them got back from town. The
foreman don’t allow the fellows to hang out nights
when they’re on a drive like this.”
Now, the rest of the Pony Rider Boys,
understanding that they were nearing the camp of the
cowboys, urged their ponies into a brisk gallop and
drew up well into line with Tad and Big-foot.
That is, all did save Stacy Brown, who, as was his
habit lagged behind a few rods.
The cowboys were standing about watching
the approach of the new arrivals curiously, but not
with any great enthusiasm, for they did not approve
of having a lot of tenderfeet with the outfit on a
journey such as they were taking now. They were
bent on grim and serious business man’s
work the sort of labor that brings out all
that is in him. It was no place for weaklings,
and none realized this better than the cowmen themselves.
Yet, they did not know the mettle
that was in these four young American boys, though
they were to realize it fully before the boundaries
of the Lone Star State, had been left behind them.
The Pony Riders dashed up to the waiting
cowpunchers with a brave showing of horsemanship,
and sprang from their saddles their eyes glowing with
excitement and anticipation.
Bob Stallings, the foreman, was the first to greet
“Fellows, this is the bunch
I’ve been telling you about,” was Bob’s
introduction. “Where’s Lumpy?”
he demanded, glancing about him with a scowl.
“Lumpy’s over behind the
chuck wagon,” answered the cowboy of whom the
question had been asked.
“Lumpy!” bellowed the foreman.
The fellow with whom Tad Butler had
had such an unpleasant meeting, earlier in the day,
came forward reluctantly, a sudden scowl on his face.
“Lumpy, this is Tad Butler.
Stick out your fist and shake hands with him!”
Lumpy did so.
“Howd’y,” he growled, but scarcely
loud enough for any save Tad to hear.
The lad smiled up at him good-naturedly.
“You and I bumped ponies this
morning, I guess,” said Tad. “Maybe
I was to blame after all. I’ll apologize,
anyway, and I hope there will be no hard feelings.”
“Lumpy!” warned Stallings
when he noticed that the cowpuncher had made no reply
to Tad’s apology.
“No hard feelings,” grunted Lumpy Bates.
He was about to turn away and again
seek the seclusion of the chuck wagon, as the cook
wagon was called by the cow boys, when Chunky came
rolling along. In the excitement of the meeting
the boys had forgotten all about him. The Pony
Riders swung their sombreros and gave three cheers
for Chunky Brown as he dashed up.
Chunky took off his sombrero and waved it at them.
Just then Chunky met with one of those
unfortunate accidents that were always occurring to
him. His galloping pony put a forefoot into a
gopher hole, going down in a heap.
Chunky, however, kept on.
When the accident happened he was
almost upon the waiting cowboys, his intention having
been to pull his pony up sharply to show off his horsemanship,
then drop off and make them a sweeping bow.
Stacy Brown was possessed of the true
dramatic instinct, yet few things ever came off exactly
as he had planned them.
As he shot over the falling pony’s
head, his body described a half curve in the air,
his own head landing fairly in the pit of Lumpy Bates’s
Cowboy and Pony Rider went over in
a struggling heap, with the Pony Rider uppermost.
Stacy had introduced himself to the
cowboys in a most unusual manner, and to the utter
undoing of one of them, for the boy’s head had
for the moment, knocked all the breath out of the
surly Lumpy Bates.