The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks
By Frank Gee Patchin
A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
There was no response to the imperative summons.
Professor Zepplin sat up in his cot, listening intently. Something
had awakened him suddenly, but just what he was unable to decide.
"Be quiet over there, young men," he admonished, adding in a lower
tone, "I'm sure I heard some one moving about."
The camp of the Pony Rider Boys lay wrapped in darkness, the camp-fire
having long since died out. Not a sound disturbed the stillness of
the night save the soft murmurings of the foliage, stirred in a gentle
breeze that was drifting in from the southwest.
The Professor climbed from his cot, and, without waiting to draw on
his clothes, stepped outside. He stood listening in front of his tent
for several minutes, but heard nothing of a disturbing nature.
"I believe those young rascals are up to some of their pranks - either
that, or I have been having bad dreams. While I'm up I might as well
make sure," he decided, tip-toeing to the tent occupied by Tad Butler
and Walter Perkins.
Both were apparently sleeping soundly, while in an adjoining tent Ned
Rector and Stacy Brown were breathing regularly, sleeping the sleep
that naturally comes after a day in the saddle over the rugged, uneven
slopes of the Ozark Mountains.
Professor Zepplin uttered something that sounded not unlike an
Indian's grunt of disgust.
"Dreams!" he decided sharply. "I should not have eaten that pie last
night. Pie doesn't seem to trouble those boys in the least, but it
certainly has a bad effect on my digestive apparatus."
Having thus delivered himself of his opinion on the value of pie as a
bedtime food, the scientist trotted back to his tent, his teeth
chattering and shoulders shrugging, for the mountain air was chill and
the Professor was clad only in his pajamas.
No sooner had he settled himself between his comforting blankets,
however, than he suddenly started up again with a muttered
"I knew it! I told you so!"
This time there could be no doubt. He plainly heard a dry twig snap
near by; whether it were under the weight of man or beast, he did not
"There is something out there. It couldn't have been the pie after
all. I'm going to find out what it is before I get back into this bed
again," he decided firmly, slipping quietly from under the covers and
peering out through the half closed flap of his tent.
As before, all was silence, the drowsy, indistinct voices of the night
passing almost without notice.
But Professor Zepplin instead of waiting where he was, reached for his
revolver and then strode boldly out into the open space in front of
the tents, determined to solve the mystery, and, if possible, without
waking the boys.
The reader no doubt already has recognized in the four boys sleeping
in the little weather-beaten tents the same lads who some time before
had started off for a vacation in the mountains where they hunted the
cougar and the bobcat, the thrilling adventures met with on that
journey having been related in a former volume entitled, "THE PONY
RIDER BOYS IN THE ROCKIES."
They will be remembered, too, as the lads who, in "THE PONY RIDER BOYS
IN TEXAS," crossed the plains on a cattle drive, during the course of
which Tad Butler bravely saved the life of the Chinese cook, by
plunging into a swollen torrent; and later, saved a large part of the
great herd, himself being nearly trampled to death in a wild stampede
of the cattle.
It will be recalled also, how Tad Butler and his companions, after
many strange and startling experiences, solved the veiled riddle of
the plains and laid the ghost of the old church of San Miguel, for all
The stirring adventures of "THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN MONTANA," too, are
still fresh in the minds of those who have followed the fortunes of
the four lads since they first started out on their journeyings.
It will he recalled that in the latter story the lads experienced the
thrill of being in a real battle between the cowboys and the sheep
herders on the free-grass range of the north; how Tad Butler was
captured by the Blackfeet Indians, and how, with the help of an Indian
maiden, he managed to make his escape.
It will also be remembered that Tad was able to rescue another lad
who, like himself, had been taken by the Blackfeet, and to return the
boy to his father, none the worse for his exciting experiences. It
will be recalled as well, how Tad Butler through his own efforts
solved the mystery of the old Custer trail - a mystery that had
perplexed and annoyed the ranchers along the historic trail for many
And now they were once more in the saddle, having chosen the Ozark
Mountains in southwestern Missouri as the scene of their next
With them they carried a pack train of four mules, these being best
adapted to packing the boys' belongings over the rugged mountains.
For their guide they had engaged a full-blooded Shawnee Indian named
Joe Hawk, known among his people as Eagle-eye, making a party of six,
with eight head of stock in all.
At the time of the beginning of this narrative the Pony Riders were
encamped on a fork of the White River some three days out from
Springfield. Joe Hawk had asked permission to leave the party for the
night to pay a visit to a fellow-tribesman who lived somewhere in the
mountains to the west of them.
On second thought it occurred to Professor Zepplin that perhaps it
might have been Joe, or Eagle-eye, as the boys had decided to call the
Indian, whom he had heard skulking about the camp.
"Eagle-eye," he called softly.
There was no response, so the Professor, gripping his gun resolutely,
crept along toward the opposite side of the camp where the noise had
seemed to come from. So quietly had he moved that he made scarcely a
sound, until suddenly there came a commotion that more than made up
for the noise he had so successfully avoided before.
Stacy Brown, with his usual forgetfulness, had left his saddle in the
middle of the camp. The Professor caught his toe on the obstruction,
measuring his length on the ground instantly, where he floundered
about for a few seconds.
"Instead of discovering the other fellow, I think I am discovering
myself," he growled, scrambling to his feet, gingerly rubbing a knee.
Now the Professor walked with a distinct limp, while his bare feet
seemed to pick up every sharp pebble in camp, all of which added to
"I'd make a nice sort of scout," he muttered. "Everybody within a
mile of me would know I was coming even before I got started, I
guess - "
The Professor suddenly cut short his words, and crouched down close to
the ground. He thought he heard something ahead and a little to the
right of him.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
No answer being made to his inquiry, he gripped his gun more firmly
and crawled cautiously toward the spot where he thought he had heard
some one moving. The night was so dark that he could make nothing out
of the shadows about him, being obliged therefore to trust entirely to
his sense of hearing.
Now he was certain that some one was in camp who had no business
there, for the sound of footsteps was plainly borne to his
ears - cautious, catlike steps, as if the intruder were seeking to get
away without attracting attention.
The Professor, determined to capture the intruder, getting down on all
fours to avoid possible detection, made a wide detour so as to come up
behind where the fellow seemed to be at that moment. After much labor
he managed to reach the desired position.
The Professor straightened up to listen. He must be close upon the
other by this time. But what was his chagrin to hear those same
footsteps on the opposite side of the camp. Professor Zepplin by much
effort had just come from the other side himself.
"Stupid!" he muttered. "I'll take no roundabout way this time. I'll
go straight ahead and be as quiet about it as I can."
He did so. He moved straight across the camp ground, not forgetting
the saddle which he carefully avoided, but narrowly missing falling
over it a second time.
By the time he had crossed to his former position, the intruder had
done likewise. Professor Zepplin dodged behind a tree.
By this time the scientist was beginning to feel a little worried. He
could not understand what the other fellow's object might be. If it
were robbery, the fellow certainly would desire to get away as quickly
as possible, rather than remain when he knew that efforts were being
made to capture him. If not plunder, what could be his purpose?
With suddenly formed determination, Professor Zepplin strode out from
his hiding place, starting for the other side on a run.
The other man did the same, and the only result of the move was that
their positions were exchanged.
Once more the Professor decided to try strategy and see if he could
not come up behind his opponent.
At the same moment the visitor apparently decided to resort to the
same tactics. They went in opposite directions, however, to carry out
their purpose, and when each arrived at the place it was to find that
the other was opposite him again.
The Professor's bare feet were in a sad state by this time, his
pajamas were torn and his hands were worn tender from using them for
feet when running along on all fours. At the same time his temper was
wearing to a point of dangerous thinness. It was likely to break down
the slender barrier that held it at almost any time.
Suddenly he realized that the intruder had been silent for some
minutes, and the Professor decided that it was time he ceased thinking
over his own troubles and paid more attention to what the other man
"Now, I wonder what he is up to," growled the scientist. "I believe
he has given me the slip and gotten away. Here I've been dreaming for
minutes. I'll slip some myself and see if I can't surprise him if
he's there yet."
Once again he started across the camp ground, without resorting to any
of his former tactics, other than to proceed with extreme caution,
covering the intervening space with long, careful strides.
Reaching the rock, he paused to listen, but could hear nothing.
Gun ready for instant use, Professor Zepplin dashed around the corner
of the rock, running plump into the arms of the fellow whom he had
been so successfully dodging for the past twenty minutes.
So startled was the scientist that he dropped his revolver, throwing
both arms about his antagonist. He was surprised at the slenderness
of the fellow, though he quickly discovered that what the other lacked
in bulk he easily made up for by his lithe, supple body and muscular
Almost before Professor Zepplin had collected his wits sufficiently to
make any sort of defense he found himself lying flat on his back, with
his opponent sitting on top of him, both wrists pinioned to the ground
in an iron grip.
There seemed to the Professor something strangely familiar about the
figure that was holding him down so firmly, but he did not try to
analyze the impression. He had other things to think of at that
"I'll wait a second until he lets up ever so little, then, with my
superior weight, I ought to be able to throw him - "
"I've got you this time. What do you mean by prowling about our camp
at this time of the - "
"Wha - what - who - who - " exclaimed the Professor.
"What!" fairly shouted the other. "Who - who are you?"
"I'm Professor Zepplin. Who are you?"
"Oh, shucks! I'm Tad Butler," answered the boy, hastily releasing his
prisoner, and, more crestfallen than he would have cared to admit,
assisting the Professor to his feet.
"What do you mean, you young rascal?" demanded the Professor, grasping
the boy by the shoulders and shaking him vigorously. "I say, what do
you mean by playing such pranks on me as this? Why, I might have shot
you. I - "
"You are wrong, Professor; I have not intentionally played pranks on
you - "
"Yes you have - yes you have," fumed the Professor.
"I might accuse you of doing the same thing to me, only I know you
didn't get up in the middle of the night to play hide and seek with a
boy - "
"Then what does this mean? Answer me instantly!"
"I can do so easily. The fact is, I heard somebody prowling around.
The slight noise awakened me - "
"I should think it might," snarled Professor Zepplin.
"And, without waiting to dress, I slipped out - "
"And led me a nice chase. Look at me. There isn't a spot on my body
that isn't black and blue. And to think I've been running around here
in my bare feet trying to catch you - "
"You haven't entirely. You were chasing the same thing that I was,"
answered Tad thoughtfully.
"What's that? What's that you say?"
"I mean that somebody was here - somebody who had no business to be
"You mean - "
"Yes, I mean that after I had been out here a few moments I distinctly
heard two men. One of them, it appears, was yourself. Who the other
was I don't know. He evidently got away. As I couldn't follow both
of them, I chose you. You seemed to be the easiest one to catch. I
was right, wasn't I?" laughed the boy, at the thought of the game they
had been playing with each other.
"Somebody else here? I knew it, I knew it," exclaimed the Professor.
"When I first came out you were sound asleep. I must have awakened
you when I fell over the saddle out there. Who left that thing there
for me to nearly break my neck on?" he demanded angrily.
"I guess it must be Chunky's saddle."
"Of course. I'll talk to him in the morning. I'm going to bed. I'll
catch my death of cold."
A PACK MULE GOES OVER A CLIFF
Next morning the boys, assisted by Eagle-eye, had prepared the
breakfast by the time the Professor had awakened. They took keen
satisfaction in calling him for breakfast. Ordinarily they slept so
late that the Professor had to turn them out by physical force.
"Anybody'd think you'd been keeping late hours, Professor," laughed
"Perhaps I have," answered the scientist good naturedly. "But if so,
I am not the only one of this party who has."
That the Professor's words held some meaning unknown to them the boys
were fully aware. Tad had said nothing of his experiences of the
previous night, so they did not think to turn to him for an
"I might as well tell you, young gentlemen, that there was some one
prowling about this camp after we all were asleep last night - "
"What!" cried the Pony Riders in sudden surprise.
"Yes, that is true. Thaddeus and myself chased him around for nearly
half an hour, but - "
All eyes were now turned on Tad, who was bending over his plate that
they might not observe the grin that was spreading over his face
despite the lad's effort to keep it down.
"O Tad, tell us all about it," urged Walter Perkins. "What was he, a
bold robber or what?"
"I guess he must have been an 'Or What,'" suggested Stacy Brown
"Don't mind him. He's dreaming still. It's only his appetite that's
here at the table. The rest of him is in bed asleep," jeered Ned
Rector, with such a funny grimace that the boys laughed.
"Yes," answered Tad, looking up, "we ran around here in our pajamas
until we found each other. Then we gave it up and went to bed."
"But who was it?" insisted Walter.
"It was an - "
"Now, never mind, Chunky. You are supposed to be asleep," admonished
Ned, with a superior wave of his hand.
"I cannot say as to that," answered Tad. "I really don't think it
amounted to so very much. Probably some prowler curious to know what
sort of camp he had stumbled upon. I didn't lose any sleep over it
after I got back to bed."
"Neither did Chunky," laughed Ned.
"Did you?" asked the fat boy sharply, turning the laugh on Ned.
"You remember what we were told in Springfield," said Walter.
"What was that?" asked the Professor.
"That a band of robbers had been causing considerable excitement in
the Ozarks for several months past."
"Yes, you are right. I had forgotten that," nodded Professor Zepplin.
"Stealing horses and other things."
"But it's all nonsense to think they would bother us," objected Ned.
"We haven't anything that they would want."
"No, nor do we want them," replied Walter, with emphasis. "I guess we
had better sleep on our rifles to-night."
"That will hardly be necessary," smiled the Professor.
"How about Eagle-eye?" asked Ned. "Didn't he hear anything?"
"Eagle-eye was away last night."
"Oh, yes, that's so. I had forgotten that."
"It might be a good idea to tell him about it," suggested Tad,
glancing over at the Professor.
Professor Zepplin nodded his head.
"Eagle-eye, will you come here, please?" called Tad.
The Shawnee, who had been pottering about the camp-fire, strode over
to them with his almost noiseless tread, and squatted on the ground
near the breakfast table.
"There was somebody here last night, Eagle-eye," Tad informed him in
an impressive voice.
The Shawnee nodded.
"Of course, you not having been here, you knew nothing about it, but
to-night you'd better sleep with one eye open.
"Joe Hawk know," answered the Indian.
"Know what?" demanded the Professor sharply.
"Know Indian come last night," was the startling announcement.
"What's that? What's that, Eagle-eye? You mean yourself, I presume.
You mean you came back. But that is not the point - "
The Indian shook his head with emphasis.
"Other Indian come."
Tad nodded at his companions as if to say, "I told you so."
Then the Shawnee did know more than he had seen fit to tell them?
"Tell us about it, Eagle-eye."
"Joe Hawk find trail of canoe on river at sun-up," answered the Indian
"A trail on the river?" demanded Stacy, suddenly breaking into
uproarious laughter, which died away in an indistinct gurgle when he
found the eyes of his companions fixed sternly upon him. "Funny place
to find a trail," he muttered, threatening to indulge in another fit
"I don't understand you, Eagle-eye," said the Professor. "You say you
found the trail of a canoe on the river?"
"That sounds peculiar. I agree with Master Stacy that it is a most
remarkable place to find a trail hours after. Perhaps you will
Eagle-eye rose to his feet.
"Come. I show you."
All rose from the table, forgetful that they were eating their
breakfast, and followed the guide down the steep bank to the river.
"There trail," he announced, pointing a long, bronzed finger at the
edge of the water.
Tad stooped over, examining the shore critically.
"The Shawnee is right," he said, turning to the Professor.
"How do you know? What have you found?"
"There. You can see for yourself. It is distinctly marked - "
"What's marked?" demanded Stacy, pressing forward.
"You can see where the keel of a canoe has rested in the dirt there.
The trail is ever so faint, but it is unmistakably there. See how it
broadens out as it extends backward until it reaches the gravel in the
"Moccasin tracks," grunted the guide.
"Where?" asked Walter, apprehensively.
"There," answered the Indian, pointing up the bank whence they had
The boys looked at each other in wondering silence.
"What do you think is the meaning of the visit, Eagle-eye?" asked the
The Shawnee shrugged his shoulders.
"That is a sensible explanation of the visit," decided Professor
Zepplin. "What other motive could an Indian have for a visit at that
hour? There is no cause for alarm. But I wish if any more hungry
ones pay us a visit, they would do so in the day time, so as not to
interrupt my sleep."
"And mine," laughed Tad.
"Yah-hum," yawned Stacy, sleepily.
"I told you you weren't awake yet," growled Ned. "Let's all go back
to our breakfast."
"I second the motion," laughed the Professor. "We are forgetting all
about the inner man. And it is time we were getting on our way if we
are to make any great progress to-day."
Anxious to be in the saddle again, the boys bounded up the bank and
hastily finished their breakfast. While they were doing so the guide
stoically busied himself with packing the cooking kits and loading the
pack mules, so that by the time the lads were ready all save their own
belongings had been stowed away.
It was the work of a few minutes only to strike their tents, fold
blankets and pack their personal belongings. They had now been
roughing it long enough so that they had become really expert in the
work. And, besides, they had learned to get together a fairly
satisfying meal out of not much of anything. They had learned many
other things that were to prove useful to them in after years, but
which at the time was making little or no impression upon them.
Fairly radiating health and spirits, the boys threw themselves into
their saddles with a shout. The guide led the way, leading the mule
train, and his pace was so rapid that the pack animals were put to
their best to keep up with him. Most of the time he appeared to be
dragging the led mule, instead of leading it.
"A wonderful country," breathed the Professor, as they finally came
out on a high elevation that gave them a glimpse of the eastern slope
of the mountains.
They halted to take in the magnificent view.
"This is what is known as the 'Ozark Uplift,'" the Professor informed
"I should call it a downfall," answered Ned, gazing off at the deep
gorges and jagged precipices. "Why do you call it that?"
The Professor waxed eloquent.
"From the earliest time, young gentlemen, this region has been subject
to uprising or downsinking. In all sections of its area it has
experienced the effects of powerful dynamic forces - "
"Dynamite - did they use dynamite to blow the mountains up into such
shapes as that?" asked Stacy innocently.
"I said nothing about dynamite. Dynamic was the word I used," replied
Professor Zepplin, casting a withering glance at the fat boy.
"Oh," Stacy exclaimed.
"It is therefore called the 'Ozark Uplift.'"
"That is interesting," answered Ned solemnly, though it is doubtful if
he understood what the Professor was really talking about.
"There is still another of tremendous import connected with this
region. You will all be interested in it," announced the Professor
The boys gathered about him in a circle, meantime allowing their
ponies to nibble at the green leaves.
"Yes," urged Tad.
"The region where is now located the Ozark Uplift is said to have been
the first land to appear above the waters of the continental ocean."
"You - you mean - " stammered Ned.
"He means this was the first land to appear above the water when this
continent was all an ocean," spoke up Tad, with quick understanding.
Stacy urged his pony further into the circle. His face was flushed
and he evidently was filled with some sudden new thought.
"What is it, Master Stacy?" asked the Professor.
"You - you say this was the first land to - "
"Yes, so it has been said."
"Then - then this - then this must have been where the Ark landed,"
exploded the fat boy.
For a few seconds a profound silence greeted this announcement. Then
the lads broke out into a shout of laughter. Even Professor Zepplin
threw his head back and laughed immoderately.
"I am afraid, my young friend, that the place where the ancient craft
ran aground was some distance from this rugged spot - "
"But why not?" persisted the boy.
"In the first place, this continent came to life some time after the
event you speak of is supposed to have taken place."
"Oh," muttered the lad.
"And now we had better be pressing on."
"When do we reach the Red Star Mine?" asked Ned.
"You will have to ask Eagle-eye. I don't know."
The Indian, when questioned on this point, said the Red Star Mine lay
three suns to the southwest of them.
The country seemed to be getting more rough as they proceeded, and it
had now become necessary to move with extreme caution for fear of
plunging over one of the many abrupt cliffs that now and then appeared
almost under the feet of the advancing train.
But the Indian seemed to feel no concern over these. He merely
changed his course, skirting the canyon until a turn in its winding
course enabled him to head straight into the southwest again.
Not even in the Rockies had the boys met with such peculiar formations
as now appeared on all sides of them.