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THE LONG DIM TRAIL

By FORRESTINE C. HOOKER


A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York

Published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf

COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
FORRESTINE COOPER HOOKER

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


LOVINGLY DEDICATED
TO
MY FATHER,
BRIGADIER-GENERAL CHARLES L. COOPER, U. S. A.
MY BROTHER, MAJOR HARRY L. COOPER, U. S. A.
AND
MY UNCLE, CAPTAIN LOUIS R. CHESTER. U. S. N.
OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN.
WITHOUT FEAR AND WITHOUT REPROACH

F. C. H.




PART ONE




CHAPTER ONE


"Everything all right, Limber?" asked Allan Traynor, boss of the Diamond
H ranch, as a cowboy with jingling spurs reined his pony before the
closed gates of the corral.

Doctor Powell, standing beside Traynor, scrutinized the rider, whose
broad-brimmed Stetson, caught by the wind, flapped from his face,
exposing the sun-brown skin, firm chin and grey eyes. It needed no
student of psychology to decide that Limber was not a man who would
flinch when facing a six-shooter held by a rustler.

The cowboy nodded answer to Traynor's query. Limber's eyes scanned the
herd, then, satisfied, he leaned across the neck of his pinto pony, and
said, "Paddy Lafferty wants to sell out."

"Who told you?" Traynor spoke with undisguised surprise.

"Dillon. Paddy tol' him he was gettin' too old, that the rheumatiz is
botherin' again, an' he's goin' to quit because he won't trust no one to
run his herd when he can't get 'round to it hisself."

"Did Paddy say how much he wanted?"

"Nope," was the laconic reply. "I'll find out. It's a mighty good bunch
of stuff. Lots of three-year steers, an' thar ain't many three-year-olds
left in these parts, now."

"It's worth looking up," commented Traynor. "I'm glad you spoke of it.
How soon will you be ready to hit the trail?"

"'Bout ten minutes."

"Keep the boys out of mischief this trip, if you can."

There was a twinkle in Traynor's eyes that was reflected in the grey
ones of the cowboy, who said soberly, "I'll do my best. But when they
get to mixin' in things they're slipperier than a bunch of quicksilver.
You think you got hold of it and you find you ain't."

Limber turned his pony toward the corrals, twisting in his saddle as
Traynor called after him, "Tell some one to saddle my pony and Doctor
Powell's. We'll ride out with you."

As the cowboy disappeared, Traynor said, "It will give you a faint idea
of the work. You'll find it mighty different from the cowpuncher's life
of moving pictures."

The doctor laughed. "I feel like a small boy about to wriggle under the
canvas of a circus tent. I never dreamed that Arizona was such a
wonderland."

The eyes of the two men swept across the Sulphur Spring Valley that
undulated twenty miles from the Galiuro Mountains on the west to the
Grahams on the east; starting sixty miles north of the Diamond H in the
narrow Aravaipa CaƱon, it gradually broadened into a great plain that
terminated at the Mexican border.

"Of course," continued the doctor, "I had a vague idea of its mineral
wealth and cattle interests, but I must confess that until I reached
here the name of Arizona conjured visions of burning desert, Gila
monsters, rattlesnakes, horn-toads and Apaches. Even when I stepped from
the train and met you, the impression of a 'No-Man's Land' was strong
upon me. Yet now that I have been here a month I feel as though I shall
never want to leave it."

"You can make sure of that," retorted Traynor, "if you will go to the
Hasayampa River, kneel on the brink and drink of the water. You must be
very careful, though, to kneel above the crossing. This will keep you
from ever wishing to leave Arizona and you will receive the gift of
absolute truthfulness; but, should you drink while kneeling below the
crossing, truth and you will be divorced the balance of your life."

"Did you drink below the crossing or above?" challenged the doctor with
an amused smile.

"There is only one case on record where a man acknowledged that he drank
the water below the crossing. His name was Hasayampa Bill. He died a
year ago. Hasayampa Bill was a victim of circumstances, not intention.
He said that he was drinking above the crossing when he lost his balance
and fell into the stream which carried him far below. Though Hasayampa
swore solemnly that he kept his mouth shut - for the first time on
record - his reputation was thoroughly established. A letter addressed to
the 'Biggest Liar in Arizona' was accorded him by popular vote."

The doctor was about to reply, when the air was filled with
ear-splitting whistles and staccato cries. Then the big gates of the
corral swung open, and an avalanche of cattle tumbled madly through and
headed in a wild rush down the road that led south toward
Willcox - excited bellows and plaintive lowing of calves seeking their
mothers, mingled with the voices of invisible men, completely
obliterated by the clouds of alkali dust.

Traynor led the way into the stable where two saddled ponies twisted
nervously. The men looked at each other and smiled as the doctor
approached the pinto pony. Its eyes showed whites, its ears went back.
It sheered nervously, but Powell gained the saddle and, with Traynor
close beside him, they reached the moving herd.

Through the haze of dust a shadowy rider would loom momentarily, then
disappear. Traynor rode on the outer edge of the herd. Doctor Powell
became aware that Limber had materialized at his side, and forgot
everything else in his admiration of the cowpuncher's unconscious grace
as his lithe, swaying figure adjusted itself to each movement of the
wiry, dancing pony.

"Head off that buckskin," shouted Limber, rising in his stirrups and
waving his quirt at a cow that was making a wild dash for freedom.

Bronco's pony emerged from the haze and tore madly after the cow,
reaching her side just as she made up her bovine mind that she had no
intention of deserting. Her expression of injured innocence as she
ambled quietly back roused Doctor Powell's mirth and Bronco's ire.

The cowpuncher reined his pony beside Powell's, muttering imprecations
that finally ended in a verbal explosion.

"Durn her! Whenever you turn an old buckskin cow like that loose in the
herd it's as bad as sickin' a mother-in-law on a happy family. She won't
rest till she gets 'em millin' and stampedes everything in sight, and
then she picks up her knittin' and looks innercent and says she never
allowed to start nothin' noways! Gee! I wish I could strike a ranch
where there warn't nothin' but steers. The minute you mix up with a
female critter, cow or petticoats, you're roundin' up trouble for
yourself and lots of others."

He paused long enough, to jerk out a sack of tobacco and cigarette
papers, letting the reins fall on his pony's neck as he glared at the
cow. She was slowly dropping to the rear of the herd, but Bronco and his
pony did not relax their vigilance.

"Mebbe you thought I didn't know you, you old buckskin bag o' bones,"
apostrophized Bronco. "I'd know that derned twisted horn if I was dead
twenty years!"

Holy Dick galloped up, grinning broadly.

"Hello, Bronc! Ain't that your ol' buckskin friend?"

Bronco snorted. "Yep! An' you bet she's goin' to keep movin' until she's
loaded in the car and headed for trouble somewhar else. Arizona ain't
big enough to hold her an' me."

Holy rode off, turning in his saddle and screaming in a shrill nasal
whine that he fondly imagined was singing:

"'Tis ye-a-a-rs since las-s-s-st we-e-ee met
An' we ma-a-aa-ay not me-ee-et agin.
I stru-ug-gle to-o-oo forgit
But I stru-ug-g-g-gg-g-ll-l-ll-le aa-aal in va-aa a-in."

Holy's pony contributed to the tremolo effect by its short, nervous
trot.

"I'm glad she's a gittin' offen the range," soliloquized Bronco, "but
I'll always be sorry we didn't butcher her on the ranch so's I could
help chaw her up. If ever I get to Heaven all I'll ask is to eat
buckskin cows for everlastin'."

As he uttered the last words Bronco raced ahead, leaving Doctor Powell
at liberty to laugh and wonder what the mystery of the buckskin hoodoo
might be. Then his eyes wandered from the dust-cloud ahead of him to the
purple-blue peaks that reached thousands of feet upward as if striving
to pierce the brilliant sky; across the valley clumps of greyish brown
saccaton grass, slender tufts of waving gietta interspersed by tall
spikes of Spanish Dagger formed a typical Arizona landscape.

"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Traynor, riding up to him.

Powell's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. "It's a wonderful country! How
far away is Hasayampa River? I'm ready to start now for that drink!"

They laughed together as their ponies' heads were reined toward the
ranch, but Powell could not resist a backward glance at the herd which
had now settled down to a steady amble. The sunlight filtering through
the dust formed a golden mist in which the cowpunchers and their ponies
were dimly silhouetted.

"Of course there are annoyances, unpleasant people to encounter at
times, bad seasons to offset the good ones," - Traynor deftly rolled a
cigarette with his right hand as he spoke, his left resting lightly on
the high pommel of his saddle. "Taking it all in all, though, when I
ride across the valley or reach a high peak and look down where
thousands of cattle graze undisturbed by the in-roads of civilization, I
feel it is a royal heritage. Do you think I would barter it, like Esau,
even though my menu might read, 'Pottage a la champagne and truffles'?"

"Is the role of Prodigal Son necessary to qualify for a fatted calf in
Arizona?" queried Powell. "I'm as hungry as the proverbial bear. Oh,
that reminds me. Bronco was bewailing the fact that a certain buckskin
cow had not been butchered at the ranch. He seems a bit sensitive
regarding buckskins. What's the trouble?"

Traynor's mouth twitched as he answered, "Ask him. It's too good a story
for any one else to spoil in the telling."

They reached the stables and left the ponies with the Mexican stableman.
As they entered the large court-yard which formed the center of the
house, they were greeted by the welcome sound of the lunch bell and
Fong, in immaculate white and with neatly coiled queue, smiled amiably
from the dining room door.

After lunch the two men sat smoking and chatting in the deep porch
between the dining room and living room, where easy chairs, a hammock, a
table littered with newspapers and magazines, tempted one to loiter. The
stable boy interrupted them, speaking in Mexican, and Traynor explained
that there was some trouble with the acetelyn plant.

"I always take care of that myself, and unless I do so we will have to
resort to coal-oil lamps. I'll be back shortly. Make yourself
comfortable."

Powell leaned back lazily in his chair, trying to reconcile Traynor who
had just spoken with the Traynor he once knew; a young chap fresh from
college, unlucky enough to lose his last remaining relative at the same
time he inherited a fairly good-sized fortune.

It had been the usual story of "wild oats." Then Traynor's revulsion had
been complete, though not in time to avoid a quarrel with the girl to
whom he was engaged. Exaggerated stories of various episodes, exploited
by a Sunday paper, caused her to return his ring and refuse absolutely
to see him or listen to his explanations.

Traynor thrashed the reporter, paid a heavy fine for that privilege and
started on a trip West with no definite idea except to get as far as
possible from a place filled with bitter memories.

During the journey he met a young army officer returning from leave of
absence, and the lieutenant's invitation to visit Fort Grant had been
accepted by Traynor. Some months later Traynor, disposing of all his
Eastern interests, had purchased the Diamond H ranch, the owner of which
had recently died.

In the seven years after this purchase, Cuthbert Powell was the only one
of Traynor's former acquaintances who ever heard from the young rancher.
Powell had promised to visit the ranch, but not until now had that
promise been fulfilled. It was not easy to recognize the tanned, alert
chap who grasped his hands as he alighted from the Pullman. As days went
by, it was a constant source of surprise to the doctor to note that the
mental change in his friend was more marked than the physical. It was as
though the breadth and strength of the country had been absorbed by the
owner of the "Diamond H."

Traynor returned and slipped into the chair he had vacated.

"You see, on a ranch one becomes blacksmith, veterinarian, doctor,
cowpuncher, carpenter, farmer - . In fact, a veritable jack of all
trades. No one cares what your family is, how much money you own or what
your social status elsewhere, past, present or future, may be. It is
yourself that is judged. There is no court of appeal if you are
condemned. You've got to look a man in the eyes, grip his hand as a
comrade, shoot as quickly as the other chap, roll in your blanket and
take any weather that comes, without growling. If you can do these
things the life will suit you and the vastness of the place sinks into
your soul. It mends one's broken faith in humanity."

Powell, watching his friend, saw the lines about his mouth harden and
knew that the memory of the past was burning like a corroding acid. Then
the mood passed and Traynor turned with a half-smile.

"Well, what do you think of your first experience as a cowhand?"

"I'm thankful that I knew how to ride before I came here," laughed
Powell. "That was rather a gay little nag I had this morning."

"That animal's name is Hot Tamale. The boys wanted to try you out a bit.
I knew you could take care of yourself, so did not say anything. The
joke is on them now; but you have won their respect and will be free
from other pranks."

"I think I'll insist on riding Hot Tamale hereafter," asserted Powell.
"By the way, when Limber spoke to you about that bunch of cattle, I
thought I would like to buy them, provided you, yourself, did not intend
to do so. Of course, I realize that I am a tenderfoot, ignorant of the
first rudiments of the cattle business, but what would you advise about
my locating in this section?"

"It would be a good move," responded Traynor. "Paddy's range lies
between my own and the Hot Springs country across the Galiuros. He has
permanent water, which is a gold mine, especially during a dry season.
The mountains between here and Hot Springs are rich in feed, so Paddy's
cattle work that way." He puffed silently on his cigar for a few
seconds, then turned suddenly to Powell. "Look here, Cuthbert, if you
are really serious about locating in this section, why don't you get in
touch with Doctor King who owns the Hot Springs? The place would
interest you professionally, for the water comes out of solid rock at a
temperature of 140 degrees and is the purest water I have ever tasted.
It is noted in the Territory as a cure for various complaints."

"I would certainly like to see it," answered the doctor
enthusiastically, "if you can arrange it for me."

"King only held Squatter's Right until recently. Under that, the
possessor loses title unless he stays on the ground. It is not under
government survey yet, so could not be patented like surveyed land. I
advised King to patent it under Indian Script and make his title
secure. He has just done this. King has been hoping to erect a
sanitarium at the Springs, but lack of funds, and his flat refusal to
consider anyone as a partner except a resident physician able to finance
the plans, has blocked his scheme."

"It might appeal to him to let me carry out my own idea of establishing
a sanitarium for tubercular children in Arizona. I don't mean wealthy
invalids, attended by a retinue of nurses and other impedimenta, but
poor children who otherwise would have no hope of health. The climate,
altitude and all conditions would be simply ideal. I should like to talk
to him myself."

"Do you know that you are setting forth the very ideas that King
discussed with me the last time I saw him? That was, a place for poor,
tubercular children. He loves every child that he sees. His own boy died
at the age of six. The mother died soon after. King gave me no details,
and I doubt whether anyone else besides myself, knows this much. I fancy
his thought was to make the place a memorial to the boy he lost."

"It would be a splendid idea to carry out with such a man!" exclaimed
Powell, deeply moved. "How soon do you think it could be arranged for me
to meet him?"

"It's a waste of time to write. No one but King and a family named
Glendon live in that section. Mail lies at the Willcox post-office until
one or the other happens to be in town. It's thirty-five miles from
Willcox to Hot Springs, and twenty-four across the Galiuro trail from
here. When Limber gets back, you and he could ride over the mountains,
have a look at the Springs and talk it over with Doctor King. I feel
very confident that you might join forces."

"Fine!" ejaculated Powell. "Now, what about that cattle deal?"

"You are determined to 'jump in with both feet' as the boys would say,"
laughed Traynor. "However, it would be wise to take that matter up as
soon as possible. Paddy is a queer character, so you had better stay
out of the deal until I get it arranged with him. If you make the buy
and at any time wish to sell out, I will take the herd and ranch at the
same price you pay for it, so you will not run any risk of being tied up
here if you wish to leave."

"I asked you to tell me how far it is to the Hasayampa River?" reminded
the doctor. "Even if I do not indulge in a drink from that historic
stream, I am here to stay."

"You'll make good," asserted Traynor, heartily. "The man who is a real
man wins out here in the end, if he lets whiskey and cards alone. Living
on ranches, miles away from civilization, one does not have the problem
of women. 'Cherchez la femme' does not apply to this section of the
country, thank the good Lord! That's why this place appealed most
strongly to me. Unless I go to Willcox I can forget there is such a
creature as woman in the universe."


"All women are not the same, Allan," protested Powell, placing his hand
on Traynor's arm and looking at him earnestly. "I hope the right one
will come into your life some day. One who can appreciate you as you
deserve, and who will be big enough and fine enough to be a wife in the
best sense of the word. Why, man! Think of the pride and pleasure you
would have in this place, knowing that it was the heritage of your son!"

Traynor rose hastily, turned abruptly from his friend and stood staring
through the open door of the porch across the wide pastures. His face
was white when he confronted Powell.

"What would you do if you found that the patient upon whom you are
operating has not succumbed to the anaesthetic, Cuthbert? Cut without
pity?"

"Yes," answered Powell, "if it meant life or death to waver or hesitate
a second."

"I thought I was numb; that it would not hurt any more; but when you
spoke of - a son - it cut into my heart. I've tried to forget - it's like
burying something that is alive. In the night I hear its voice; I see
its shadow even in the darkness."

He rose and moved restlessly; his face white. "No one knows what it
meant to give her up. She believed those damned reports and gave me no
chance to prove the truth, and I - , why - it would not have mattered of
what she was accused; the blackest charges proved against her, - I would
have held her and fought the world for her, innocent or guilty. I
believed she loved me as I loved her - she refused to hear my story."

"Did she never know the truth?" asked Powell.

"Returned my ring, asked me to spare her the humiliation of talking to
me. Yet, after I came here, I wrote telling her that the man in my
automobile with that woman, was not myself. You remember the newspapers
spared the woman's name. She had a husband and child - eloping with that
cad, Brunton. Cheap machine broke down at two o'clock in the night. I
recognized them. Put 'em in my machine and told her to get back home
before it was too late. Oh, she was ready enough then to be decent.
Brunton took her to her door, then he went to his place, but that fool
reporter saw the number of the machine, and wrote the story. You know
it. Woman's name kept out, my name not mentioned outright, but
description sufficient to identify me beyond doubt. Couldn't sue the
paper, my lawyer said, and Brunton lit out for Europe. Rotten mess all
around.

"I wrote the full truth to Nell, begged a word from her as a man dying
of thirst begs for a drop of water. She never answered the letter. A
year later I wrote again, and that one was returned unclaimed."

"You say that the second letter came back unclaimed," spoke Powell,
"but, you have no proof that the first one ever reached her. Had you
thought of that?"

"Yes. Both letters had my Arizona address on the envelope as well as
inside. When I did not hear in reply to the first letter, and it was not
returned to me, I communicated with the Dead Letter Office, but no such
letter had been turned over to that department. The only logical
conclusion was that she did not wish to answer."

The doctor made no comment. Traynor's reasoning was too convincing for
suggestions.

"Yet, I made a second effort," went on the boss of the Diamond H. "After
that, there was nothing more to do but accept the situation. Now you
know the truth, Cuthbert. No other woman will ever fill her place in my
life, - but, I cannot keep her out of my thoughts, day or night."

"I'm sorry I spoke, old man," answered the doctor.

"I'm glad you did," replied Traynor. "Now, you understand."

As the shadows lengthened on the prairie the two friends smoked and
spoke of other things. And yet - both Traynor and Powell - and many
another - had read with the careless glance of the unscathed, the account
of a train wreck in Kansas, in which the loss of life had been
appalling, and the loss of mail had not been mentioned.




CHAPTER TWO


The cattle that Powell and Traynor had watched starting from the Diamond
H, constituted the first shipment of the season, contracted to an
Eastern buyer. Official inspection by the Live Stock Sanitary Board was
exacted, not only regarding the health of shipped cattle, but also to
protect cattlemen from rustlers on the miles of open range.

After reaching Willcox, the boys of the Diamond H drove the herd into
the shipping pens beside the railroad track, locked the gates and turned
with joyous expectation toward the main street of town. Limber parted
from the others a short distance from the corrals.

"I'll tell the inspector we'll be ready tomorrow mornin' soon as the
cars get in," he said, and without waiting reply rode toward the part of
town where the more pretentious houses were bunched.

Like schoolboys out for a holiday, Bronco, Holy and Roarer raced their
ponies to the Cowboys' Rest Corral. Here they were greeted vociferously
by Buckboard Bill, who had retired from driving a skeleton stage and
established the only place where horses or vehicles might be hired.

A few minutes elapsed before the three cowpunchers, afoot, made their
way along the street. Ponies standing with dangling reins and hoofs
buried fetlock deep in the fine, white alkali sand in front of the
stores, told that many other cowpunchers from other ranches were in
town. The Diamond H boys quickly identified the owner of each pony by
its brand.

A row of irregular buildings, consisting of three stores, a Chinese
restaurant, several saloons and a hotel, formed the principal street of
Willcox. Facing the stores across the dusty expanse, lay the Southern
Pacific depot which was the heart of the town, while radiating from it
east and west, like great arteries, ran the steel tracks of the
railroad. Pack burros, loaded with miners' supplies, shuffled out on the
road to Dos Cabezas. Many of these tiny animals were animated
woodpiles - only legs and wagging ears visible from beneath a canopy of
split wood destined for a camp where fuel was not procurable, otherwise.
The only break in the grey monotone of the landscape was the few



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