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SCOTT BURTON ON THE RANGE ***




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SCOTT BURTON ON THE RANGE




Books by
EDWARD G. CHEYNEY

WHAT TREE IS THAT?

Stories

SCOTT BURTON, FORESTER
SCOTT BURTON ON THE RANGE
SCOTT BURTON AND THE TIMBER THIEVES
SCOTT BURTON IN THE BLUE RIDGE
SCOTT BURTON’S CLAIM




[Illustration: SUDDENLY THE MASS SURGED DOWN THE CAÑON]




SCOTT BURTON ON THE RANGE

BY

EDWARD G. CHEYNEY
AUTHOR OF “SCOTT BURTON, FORESTER”

D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY
INCORPORATED
NEW YORK LONDON
1939




COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

All rights reserved. This book, or parts
thereof, must not be reproduced in any
form without permission of the publishers.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA




CONTENTS

I. Into a Far Country
II. Scott Gets Acquainted with Jed Clark
III. Scott Finds a New Home
IV. Something about a Horsethief
V. A Day with the Small Ranchers
VI. A Forest Fire
VII. Scott Estimates Some Sheep and Fights a New Friend
VIII. A Little Detective Work
IX. A Mystery of the Four Thousand Sheep
X. A Discovery
XI. The Tragedy in the Cañon
XII. The Intercepted Message
XIII. The Secret Conference
XIV. The Recounting of the Sheep
XV. The Man Hunt
XVI. At the Reservoir
XVII. An Attempt at Bribery
XVIII. A Storm and a Madman
XIX. The Bursting of the Dam
XX. The Rescue Party




SCOTT BURTON ON THE RANGE




CHAPTER I

INTO A FAR COUNTRY


Scott Burton leaned eagerly forward and searched the scenery which
rolled steadily past the Pullman window. The other occupants of the car,
worn out with the long journey and surfeited with scenery, centered
their attention on their books or tried to sleep away the weary miles.
They had seen it all, or at least too much of it. But to Scott Burton it
was a new country and to him a new country was of more absorbing
interest than anything else.

Born in a little Massachusetts town, he had lived a stay at home life
with the single exception of his trip to a college in the Middle West.
But even then, before he had any idea that he would ever really have a
chance to travel, it was always the tales of strange lands that
fascinated him. He had been looking out of that car window for three
solid days just as intently as he was looking now and there was not a
bump on the landscape which failed to interest him. He had laid over one
night in St. Louis that he might not miss anything by night travel, and
another one in Pueblo. And still he stared at the country with almost
unwinking eye.

A kindly old gentleman who had been watching him for some time, and
whose curiosity was piqued by the boy’s unusual alertness, dropped into
the seat beside him and opened a conversation.

“Pardon me,” he said. “Tell me if I annoy you, but it hurts my eyes to
read on the train, I have seen the country no end of times and I can’t
sleep in the daytime. That leaves me nothing to do but watch my
neighbors; and I have been watching you till I could not keep down my
curiosity any longer.”

Scott was glad to have some one to talk to and he liked the old man’s
manner. Moreover, he felt rather curious to know what had made the other
man curious.

“I suppose I am rather curious looking,” Scott laughed.

“No, no,” protested the old gentleman, “that is a very good pun, but it
is not at all what I meant.”

“I did not mean it either,” said Scott, “I shall be very glad of your
company, especially if you have seen the country so often.”

“Well,” said the old gentleman, hastening to satisfy his curiosity, “I
have been watching you stare out of that window for almost a whole day
now, and I simply could not wait any longer to learn what you were
hunting for.”

“I am afraid it will be horribly disappointing to you,” Scott smiled,
“but I am only looking at the country.”

“Looking at the country,” the old man echoed, “all day long.” He seemed
not only disappointed but also a little incredulous.

“Why, yes,” Scott said, “you see it is all new to me.”

“I don’t see what there is in this country that a man would want to look
at for a whole day,” the old man insisted.

“But I have never seen a mountain before,” Scott answered, “and right
over there is the Great Divide. I have always been crazy to see a
mountain.”

“They are a grand sight,” said the old gentleman. “Those old peaks up
there are like brothers to me. Yes, they must look pretty fine to a
stranger. They look pretty good to me when I have been away for a while.
Mountains are a good deal like home folks, you don’t think much about
them when you are with them all the time, but when you go away you are
crazy to get back to them.”

“You live here then?” Scott asked politely.

“Live here,” exclaimed the old man indignantly, “wouldn’t live anywhere
else. I reckon I have been living here longer than most anything else
except those old mountains there. Why, I used to start out at the
Mexican border with a herd of cattle every spring and graze ’em right
north to Montana in time for the fall market. Right straight through we
drove ’em and never seen a settler the whole summer. I knew every water
hole from the Big Bend to Miles City.”

“I’ve read about that,” said Scott becoming really interested. “It must
have been great sport.”

“Sport! You bet it was. And there was money in cattle, too, in the good
old days before the settler and the sheep men came. Can’t chase a jack
rabbit now,” he added a little bitterly, “without scratching your
horse’s nose on a barbed wire fence.”

“Don’t the cattle men make any money now?” Scott asked.

“Some, but it’s mostly sheep in here now. Had to go into sheep myself,”
he grinned. “I fought ’em for a long time but I saw it wasn’t any use,
so I bought some myself, and I’ve made my pile out of ’em. There’s some
that’s fighting them yet, but they’ll never get anywhere.”

“I suppose you had some pretty bitter fights,” Scott said encouragingly.

“I should remark. When I went into sheep, all the cattle men looked on
me as a traitor. The sheep men were mostly greasers then and I was one
of the first white men in this section to go into it. I remember when I
rode up from San Rosario with my first band of sheep and met old Tom
Butler on the plain he tried to pull his gun on me, but I had the drop
on him and I made him set there while I told him what I thought of the
situation. He did a lot of cussin’ and spittin’, but it soaked into him
all right and when I beat him onto the summer range in the spring, he
sold out his cattle and bought him a band of sheep. That’s where we had
the fights, for the summer range, up there on those old mountains.”

The old man looked dreamily toward the towering mountains and Scott knew
that he was living over a story that would be good to hear.

“You had to race for the summer range, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Race for it? Lord, yes! The whole caboodle of us would live as
peaceable as a bunch of kittens down on the plains all winter, but when
spring was coming we all got sort of offish and nervous. Each man was
scared to start too early for fear there would not be any feed in the
mountains, and he was scared to wait too long for fear the other fellow
would beat him to it. I remember one time when old Tim Murphy tied a
sheep bell on his dog and led him by old José’s place in the night going
towards the mountains. It was two weeks sooner than any one would have
dared to move, but José was so scared that he started his whole band
before daylight and drove ’em ten miles before he found out that Tim had
fooled him.”

“I suppose the government regulation of the range has spoiled all that
now?” Scott suggested.

“Spoiled it!” the old man exclaimed, “Yes, they’ve spoiled it, and it’s
a mighty good thing, too. There were lots of lambs lost in that spring
race for the grass, many an acre of range spoiled, and many a small
rancher ruined. Even when you succeeded in beating the other fellow to
the range you never knew how long it would be ’til some bigger fellow
would come along and crowd you off. Now you know a year ahead just what
you are going to get, how many head you can hold over, and that the
grass will be there whenever you want to go.”

“But I thought the sheep men were opposed to the government regulation,”
Scott protested.

“Humph,” grunted the old man contemptuously, “some of ’em are. They are
the fellows who want to hog the whole thing and crowd out the little
fellow. The government will not let them do that and they are sore.
Still think they are bigger than Uncle Sam. I knew better right from the
first and took my medicine like a man and now I like it.”

“It is certainly building up the range,” Scott said; “they are
supporting more sheep now than under the old system and doing it
better.”

“Certainly they are,” agreed the old gentleman. “You seem to know a good
deal about this country, young man, for any one who has never seen a
mountain before,” he added suspiciously.

Scott laughed. “I don’t know nearly as much about it as I should like
to. I have been reading up on it because I am coming down here to work,
but it seems as though the very things a fellow wants to know most are
always left out of the books.”

“What are you going to do, if it is any of my business?”

“It may be some of your business,” Scott laughed. “I’m going to be a
patrolman with the Forest Service.”

“On what forest?”

“The Cormorant.”

“No, too far west, you will not get any of mine there. You don’t know
the west at all?” he asked musingly.

“Only what I have read,” Scott said. “I feel as though I know the timber
pretty well, but I’m afraid I don’t know the stock business at all.”

“Well, I’m leaving you at the next station. I get over your way once in
a while and shall probably see you again, if you stay there,” he added
with a grin. “If you study the stock business the way you have been
studying this country, and keep your eye on Jed Clark you will be all
right. Don’t let them bluff you.” With this advice he walked back to his
seat to collect his things.

Scott turned back to his examination of the country, but his mind was
busy with the old man’s last remarks. He had intimated that patrolmen
did not last very long in that particular section, and had warned him
specifically against one man. Evidently some of the former patrolmen had
been bluffed out. Well, he was willing to admit that he was a tenderfoot
with very little knowledge of the stock business, but he made up his
mind right there that no one was going to bluff him. He did not believe
in going out to meet trouble, but he never dreamed how often the old
man’s advice would stand him in good stead. Possibly if he had, he would
have thought about it a little longer.

The train skirted the edges of queer, flat-topped mesas which appeared
to be scattered carelessly about the plain; timber crowned and green
they were in the midst of the dark brown of the dried up plains.
Gradually the great mountains were closing in. Irregular saw-tooth
ranges took the place of the mesas, deep-cut gulches caused the track to
make long detours—twenty miles in one place—to get a mile across a
ravine. Far down in one of the narrow valleys he saw a flock of sheep,
the first time in his life he had ever seen more than twenty-five in any
one bunch.

He was now rapidly approaching the little town which was to be his
headquarters. As the train rounded the shoulder of a mountain which
jutted out into the valley, he saw it afar off. It looked very small and
insignificant in the center of that great flat plain, and also very bare
and treeless to a lad from a superbly elm-clad New England village. And
all about it the baked plain lay glaring in the late afternoon sun. It
seemed a queer place to pick for a town, but it was just like most of
the others he had seen in the last two hundred miles.

On either side of the plain, apparently walling it in with an unbroken
rim, were the mountains. In the clear atmosphere they seemed to rise
sheer from the valley like perpendicular walls. On them the pine forests
were draped like a mantle hanging down toward the valley in irregular
points and fringes, and between these points like great wedges driven up
into the slope from the valley, were triangular patches of aspen marking
the cañons.

At long intervals slender green threads extending down from the larger
cañons to the wiggling green line in the center of the plain traced the
more or less permanent water courses. It did not look very attractive to
Scott and he scanned the mountains with a good deal of satisfaction in
the thought that most of his work would be up there.

Scott was the only passenger to get off the train at the little town. He
was thoroughly inspected by the station loafers as he shouldered his
packsack and started boldly up the main street, almost the only street
in the town. Like so many western towns it was built like a string of
beads. To Scott’s eastern eyes the mixture of little ’dobe houses,
concrete block stores, cement sidewalks and electric street lights
presented a strange mixture. The complete absence of trees and the
consequent glare of light almost blinded him, it was such a contrast to
the darkened elm-lined streets of his old home town.

Scott did not see how he could very well get lost in a one-street town.
He trudged along as though he had known the place for years and
carefully inspected each building for some sign of the supervisor’s
office. In the fourth block he found it. The Stars and Stripes waving
from the roof caught his attention and painted on the second story
window he saw the sign, “Cormorant National Forest, Supervisor’s
Office.”

He ascended the stairs rather nervously, for he was entering upon his
first real job, and upon entering the office found himself confronted by
the clerk. The clerk sized him up, guessed who he was, but remained
contemptuously silent. It was the contempt of a native son for an
Eastern man.

“Mr. Ramsey?” Scott asked.

“In the next room,” growled the clerk, nodding toward an open door.

Scott dropped his packsack in a corner and walked in, curious to see
what his chief would be like. He was surprised to see a man who looked
little older than himself. He was dark, of middle height, broad
shouldered and square of jaw. Scott noted the straight cut, thin lipped
mouth and was not very favorably impressed. Here would be a hard,
unsympathetic man to deal with. The supervisor looked up at the sound of
his step and the clear frank look reassured him a little.

“Mr. Ramsey?” Scott inquired again.

“Yes,” said the supervisor quietly.

“My name is Burton. I have been assigned to this forest and ordered to
report to you.”

The supervisor smiled cordially and lost his “hard” look at once. “I am
glad to meet you, Mr. Burton,” he said, rising to shake hands. “I have
been expecting you and hoping that you would come to-day. It is almost
time for the range to open up and we need you badly.” He closed the door
into the outer office. “I know that you have just landed from a long
trip and are probably tired, but there are one or two things that I want
to tell you now. It may save you trouble later. Have a seat.”

Scott was a little surprised at being pushed into the harness so soon,
but he was anxious to get to work, and the town, as he had seen it, did
not seem to offer any attractions. He sat down to get his first
instructions.

“I’ll be perfectly frank with you,” said Mr. Ramsey, “because if we are
going to get along together we have to understand each other. The job to
which you have been assigned is a hard and not altogether pleasant one.
The three men who have held it have been busted out one after the other
in rapid succession because they have either been ‘run out’ or ‘bought
up’ by the sheep men. The regulations are to be enforced in that
district.” His face looked hard enough now. “It is the only district in
this forest where they have not always been enforced in the past and I
am going to put them through there if I have to bust a patrolman every
week to do it.”

“You will have a particularly hard time because you are an Easterner.
These Westerners will all look on you with contempt until you make good
and will try to slip something over on you at every opportunity. As a
rule, we do not put an Easterner in as a patrolman for that reason. But
since the last man there seemed to be in the pay of the sheep men as
well as of the service I determined to try an Eastern man who would be a
stranger here.”

“I am afraid it will be only too plain that I am not connected with the
sheep men,” Scott laughed. “I am horribly green on the sheep business.”

“I am glad of it,” Mr. Ramsey replied. “Don’t let any of these fellows
here in town get you into a muss before you get out of town. They will
probably try it. They will guy you at every opportunity. Take it as well
as you can, but do not let any one walk over you.”

“Thank you,” Scott said, “I appreciate your advice and shall try to keep
out of trouble.”

The quiet answer which showed neither boastfulness nor a willingness to
be walked over seemed to please the supervisor. “Good,” he exclaimed,
“now I’ll take you over to the hotel and you can get some supper and a
little rest. To-morrow we’ll get you outfitted, and the next day I’ll
take you out to your headquarters and show you around a little.”

Mr. Ramsey introduced Scott to the clerk, Mr. Benson. The clerk shook
hands grouchily, and Scott understood that his reports and expense
accounts would have to be flawless if they were to get by this man who
seemed to have conceived a violent dislike for him at first sight. If he
could have seen him a few minutes before listening at the keyhole he
would have been even more certain of it.

The supervisor led the way up the street to a very comfortable looking
up-to-date hotel. Nearly every one spoke pleasantly to the supervisor
but looked Scott over with a rather amused and condescending smile. One
man especially, whom they passed just outside of the hotel, stared at
Scott with a malicious sneer of contempt that was hard to overlook; nor
did he make any pretense of speaking to Mr. Ramsey.

In the hotel Scott was introduced to Mr. McGoorty, the proprietor. “Put
him in the boys’ room, McGoorty,” the supervisor explained. “He is one
of the new patrolmen and will probably be in from time to time like the
rest of them. Well, so long, Burton. McGoorty will take care of you.
Come over in the morning at about eight.”

At the door he turned back suddenly and spoke to Scott aside. “Did you
notice that sour looking fellow just outside?”

“Yes, I wanted to punch him.”

“Don’t do it. That is Jed Clark, the worst sheep man in the country. He
is probably in town now to size you up. He seems to get all the news
somehow. Don’t mix with him, no matter what happens.”

Scott was not sure that he could resist it if he had another of those
sneering looks, and as he went up to his room he heard several
uncomplimentary remarks which made his blood boil. “These Westerners may
be hospitable and warm hearted,” he muttered to himself, “but they have
a mighty peculiar way of showing it.”




CHAPTER II

SCOTT GETS ACQUAINTED WITH JED CLARK


Scott came down to breakfast early. He wanted to be on time at the
office, but his real reason was to try to dodge some of his numerous
critics. He was only partially successful, for there were several others
in the dining room, and he caught scraps of conversation followed by
loud laughs which were so evidently meant for his ears that it was hard
to ignore them. He was almost at the end of his patience, and was glad
when the time came to go to the office.

The grouchy clerk was just coming in when Scott arrived, but the
supervisor was hard at work and had been for an hour. He greeted Scott
briskly. “Good morning,” he looked at Scott keenly. “Have you been able
to hold onto yourself?”

“So far,” Scott answered and added doggedly, “but I can’t keep it up
much longer. The sooner I get into the brush the better.”

“Maybe you are right,” said the supervisor thoughtfully. “If we can get
hold of a good pony this morning maybe we can start after dinner.”

“That will suit me,” Scott said. “I don’t want to start life here with a
fight but a man cannot stand this kind of thing forever.”

“Then we will get out as soon as possible,” said the supervisor with
decision. “Jed Clark and his crowd would like nothing better than to get
you into a fight.”

“Then why not have it and get it over with?” Scott asked. He had been
the champion boxer at college, and had many an hour’s training from an
old ex-prize fighter in his father’s stable. He was not naturally
pugnacious, but he felt confident that he could give a good account of
himself and the prospect of a fight did not worry him.

“That would work all right,” said the supervisor smiling, “if they
fought your way, but they don’t. They fight with guns in this country.
They figure that you know nothing about that and would make you
ridiculous if you started anything. That’s what they want.”

Scott had not thought of that. He could see now why Mr. Ramsey had been
so anxious to keep him out of a mix-up. He had never handled a pistol,
had never dreamed of shooting a man, and was somewhat dazed by this new
situation.

The supervisor saw his predicament and came to his rescue. “Have you the
money in hand to buy a horse and an outfit?” he asked, “or will we have
to buy it on ‘tick’?”

“I have three hundred dollars,” Scott answered absently, still
preoccupied with the gun problem.

“Oh, I guess that will be enough,” the supervisor laughed. “Let’s go
down to the corral and see what they have there in the way of horse
flesh.”

They started for the horse corral which was far out at one end of town.
The supervisor seemed a little thoughtful and they walked a block in
silence.

“Do you ride?” he asked suddenly as though following out his own train
of thought.

“Farm horses,” Scott replied. “I have never tried any bucking bronchos.”

Again the supervisor was thoughtful. “They never expect an Eastern man
to know how to ride,” he said. “They will have every bucking skate in
the country down there this morning and the boys will all be out to see
you thrown.”

Scott’s jaw squared perceptibly but he said nothing.

The supervisor misunderstood his silence and glanced at him out of the
corner of his eye. “Perhaps I can try them out for you and you can try
one later when there are not so many spectators.”

“Thanks,” Scott said, “that is very kind of you, and I do need your
judgment in picking a good one, for I do not know very much about a
horse myself, but I think that I had better do the riding. They will
probably throw me all right but I do not like the idea of side-stepping
it.”

The supervisor looked relieved. “Oh, they don’t all buck. The bad ones
are pretty well known and I can warn you off of them. The cowboys do not
like a bucking horse any better than you do except to play with.”

They reached the corral and as the supervisor had predicted there was a


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