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good deal of hot weather lately and his brains have gone wrong.
Now hop in and we'll touch the breeze,' So I piled her trunk in
and away we flew.

"Bud and Dandy were a corking little team. They'd run the whole
distance from the railway to the ranch if you'd let 'em - and I
never interfered. A straight line and the keen jump hits me all
right when I'm going some place, although I can loaf with the next
man on occasion. So we missed most of the gulleys.

"The ponies were snorting and pulling grass, the buckboard bouncing
behind 'em like a rubber ball, and we were crowding into the teeth
of the northwest wind, which made it seem as if we were travelling
100 per cent. better than a Dutch clock would show.

"'Goodness gracious!' says the girl, 'do you always go like this in
this country? And aren't there any roads?'

"'Why, no,' says I. 'Hike!' and I snapped the blacksnake over the
ponies' ears, and they strung themselves out like a brace of
coyotes, nearly pulling the buckboard out from under us.
'Sometimes we travel like _this_,' I says. 'And as for roads, I
despise 'em. You're not afraid, are you?'

"'Indeed I'm not. I think it's glorious. Might I drive?'

"'If I can smoke,' says I, 'then _you_ can drive.' I'd heard about
young women who'd been brought up so tender that tobacker smoke
would ruin their morals or something, and I kind of wondered if she
was that sort.

"'That's a bargain,' says she prompt. 'But how you're going to
light a cigar in this wind I don't see.'

"'Cigarette,' says I. 'And if you would kindly hold my hat until I
get one rolled I'll take it kind of you.'

"'But what about the horses?' says she.

"'Put your foot on the lines and they'll make. That's the main and
only art of driving on the prairie - not to let the lines get under
the horses' feet - all the rest is just sit still and look at the

"She held my hat for a wind-break, and I got my paper pipe
together. And then - not a match. I searched every pocket. Not a
lucifer. That is more of what I got for being funny and changing
my clothes. And then she happened to think of a box she had for
travelling, and fished it out of her grip.

"'Young lady,' I says, 'until it comes to be your bad luck - which I
hope won't ever happen - to be very much in love with a man who
won't play back, you'll never properly know the pangs of a man
that's got all the materials to smoke with except the fire. Now,
if I have a chance to do as much for you sometime, I'm there.'

"She laughed and crinkled up her eyes at me. 'All right, Mr.
Saunders. When that obdurate man disdains me, I'll call for your

"'The place for the man that would disdain you is an asylum,' says
I. 'And the only help I'd give you would be to put him there.'
She blushed real nice. I like to see a woman blush. It's a trick
they can't learn.

"But I see she was put out by my easy talk, so I gave her a pat on
the back and says, 'Don't mind me, little girl. We fellers see an
eighteen-carat woman so seldom that it goes to our heads. There
wasn't no offence meant, and you'll be foolish if you put it there.
Let's shake hands.'

"So she laughed again and shook. I mean _shook_. It wasn't like
handing you so much cold fish - the way some women shake hands. And
Loys and me, we were full pards from date.

"I made one more bad break on the home trip.

"'Jonesy will be powerful glad to see you,' says I.

"'Jonesy!' says she, surprised. 'Jonesy! Oh, is that what you
call Uncle Albert?'

"'Well, it does sometimes happen that way," says I. And then my
anti-George Washington blood rose again. 'You see, he was kind of
lonesome out there at first, and we took to calling him Jonesy to
cheer him up and make him feel at home,' I says.

"'Oh!' says she. And I reckon she didn't feel so horribly awful
about it, for after looking straight towards the Gulf of Mexico for
a minute, suddenly she bust right out and hollered. It seems that
Jones cut a great deal of grass to a swipe when he was back home in
his own street. It's astonishing how little of a man it takes to
do that in the East. We had an argument once on the subject.
'It's intellect does it,' says Silver Tompkins. 'Oh, that's it,
eh?' says Wind-River Smith. 'Well, I'm glad I'm not troubled that
way. I'd rather have a forty-four chest than a number eight head
any day you can find in the almanac.' And I'm with Smithy. This
knowing so much it makes you sick ain't any better than being so
healthy you don't know nothing, besides being square miles less
fun. Another thing about the Eastern folks is they're so sot in
their views, and it don't matter to them whether the facts bear out
their idees or not.

"'Here, take a cigar,' says one of the Board of Directors to me - a
little fat old man, who had to draw in his breath before he could
cross his legs - 'them cigarettes'll ruin your health,' says he.
Mind you, he was always kicking and roaring about his liver or
stummick, or some of his works. I'm a little over six-foot-three
in my boots when I stand up straight, and I stood up straight as
the Lord would let me and gazed down at that little man.
'Pardner,' says I, 'I was raised on cigarettes. When I was two
years old I used to have a pull at the bottle, and then my
cigarette to aid digestion. It may be conceit on my part,' I says,
'but I'd rather be a wreck like me than a prize-fighter like you.'
They're queer; you'd think that that little fat man would have
noticed the difference without my pointing it out to him.

"Well, I don't have to mention that Loys stirred things up
considerable around the Chanta Seechee and vicinity. Gee! What a
diving into wannegans and a fetching out of good clothes there was.
And trading of useful coats and things for useless but decorating
silk handkerchers and things! And what a hair cutting and whisker

"But Kyle was the man from the go in. And it was right it should
be so. If ever two young people were born to make trouble for each
other it was Kyle and Loys.

"A nice, decent fellow was Kyle. Nothing remarkable, you could
say, and that was one of his best points. Howsomever, he had a
head that could do plain thinking, a pair of shoulders that
discouraged frivoling, and he was as square a piece of furniture as
ever came out of a factory. More'n that; he had quite a little
education, saved his money, never got more than good-natured
loaded, and he could ride anything that had four legs, from a
sawhorse to old tiger Buck, who would kick your both feet out of
the sturrups and reach around and bite you in the small of the back
so quick that the boys would be pulling his front hoofs out of your
frame before you'd realize that the canter had begun. Nice horse,
Buck. He like to eat Jonesy up one morning before Sliver and me
could get to the corral. Lord! The sounds made my blood run cold!
Old Buck squealing like a boar-pig in a wolf trap, and Jonesy
yelling, 'Help! Murder! Police!' Even that did not cure Jones
from sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted. Why, once - but
thunder! It would take me a long while to tell you all that
happened to Jones.

"One thing that didn't hurt Kyle any in the campaign was that he
was 'most as good-looking for a man as she was for a woman. They
made a pair to draw to, I tell you, loping over the prairie, full
of health and youngness! You wouldn't want to see a prettier sight
than they made, and you could see it at any time, for they were
together whenever it was possible. Loys was so happy it made you
feel like a boy again to see her. She told me in private that it
was wonderful how the air out here agreed with her, and I said it
was considered mighty bracing, and never let on that they
proclaimed their state of mind every time they looked at each
other. I reckon old smart-Aleck Jonesy was the only party in the
township who didn't understand. Kyle used to put vinegar in his
coffee and things like that, and if you'd ask him, 'What's that
fellow's name that runs the clothing store in town?' he'd come out
of his trance and say 'Yes,' and smile very amiable, to show that
he thoroughly admitted you were right.

"Well, things went as smooth and easy as bob-sledding until it came
time for Loys to be moseying back to college again.

"Then Kyle took me into his confidence. I never was less
astonished in my whole life, and I didn't tell him so. 'Well, what
are you going to do about it?' says I.

"He kind of groaned and shook his head. 'I dunno,' says he. 'Do
you think she likes me, Red?' I felt like saying, 'Well, if you
ain't got all the traits but the long ears, I miss my guess,' but I
made allowances, and says I, 'Well, about that, I don't think I
ought to say anything; still, if I had only one eye left I could
see plain that her education's finished. She don't want any more
college, that girl don't.'

"'Think not?' says he, bracing up. And then, by-and-by, they went
out to ride, for Jonesy was good to the girl, I'll say that for
him. He was willing to do anything for her in reason, according to
his views. But Kyle wasn't in them views; he was out of the
picture as far as husbands went.

"They came back at sunset, when the whole world was glowing red the
same as they were. I reached for the field glasses and took a
squint at them. There was no harm in that, for they were
well-behaved young folks. One look at their faces was enough.
There were three of us in the bull-pen - Bob, and Wind-River Smith,
and myself. We'd brought up a herd of calves from Nanley's ranch,
and we were taking it easy. 'Boys,' says I, under my breath,
'they've made the riffle.'

"'No!' says they, and then everybody had to take a pull at the

"'Well, I'm glad,' says Smithy. And darn my buttons if that old
hardshell's voice didn't shake. 'They're two of as nice kids as
you'd find in many a weary day,' says he. 'And I wish 'em all the
luck in the world.'

"'So do I,' says I, 'and I really think the best we could do for
'em would be to shoot Jones.'

"'Man! Won't he sizz!' says Bob. And you can't blame us old
codgers if we had a laugh at that, although it was such a powerful
serious matter to the youngsters.

"'Let's go out and meet 'em,' says I. And away we went. They
weren't a particle surprised. I suppose they thought the whole
universe had stopped to look on. We pump-handled away and laughed,
and Loys she laughed kind of teary, and Kyle he looked red in the
face and proud and happy and ashamed of himself, and we all felt
loosened up considerable, but I told him on the quiet, 'Take that
fool grin off your face, unless you want Uncle Jones to drop the
moment he sees you.'

"Now they only had three days left to get an action on them, as
that was the time set for Loys to go back to college.

"Next day they held a council behind the big barn, and they called
in Uncle Red - otherwise known as Big Red Saunders, or Chanta
Seechee Red, which means 'Bad-heart Red' in Sioux language, and
doesn't explain me by a durn sight - to get the benefit of his
valuable advice.

"'Skip,' says I. 'Fly for town and get married, and come back and
tell Jonesy about it. It's a pesky sight stronger argument to tell
him what you have done than what you're going to do.'

"They couldn't quite agree with that. They thought it was sneaky.

"'So it is,' says I. 'The first art of war is understanding how to
make a grand sneak. If you don't want to take my advice you can
wait.' That didn't hit 'em just right either.

"'What will we wait for?' says Kyle.

"'Exercise - and the kind you won't take when you get as old and as
sensible as me. You're taking long chances, both of you; but it's
just like playing cards, you might as well put all your money on
the first turn, win or lose, as to try and play system. Systems
don't work in faro, nor love affairs, nor any other game of chance.
Be gone. Put your marker on the grand raffle. In other words take
the first horse to town and get married. Ten chances to one Jonesy
will have the laugh on you before the year is out.'

"'I don't think you are a bit nice to-day, Red,' says Loys.

"'He's jealous,' says Kyle.

"'That's what I am, young man,' says I. 'If I had ten years off my
shoulders, and a little of the glow off my hair, I'd give you a run
for your alley that would leave you breathless at the wind-up.'

"'I think your hair is a beautiful color, Red,' says Loys. 'Many a
woman would like to have it.'

"'Of course they would,' I answered. 'But they don't get it. I'm
foxy, I am.' Still I was touched in a tender spot. That young
woman knew Just the right thing to say, by nature. 'Well, what are
you young folks going to do?' I asked them.

"They decided that they'd think it over until next day, but that
turned out to be too late, for what must Kyle do but get chucked
from his horse and have his leg broke near the hip. You don't want
to take any love affairs onto the back of a bad horse, now you mark
me! There was no such thing as downing that boy when he was in his
right mind.

"Now here was a hurrah! Loys, she dasn't cry, for fear of uncle,
and Kyle, he used the sinfullest language known to the tongue of
man. 'Twas the first time I'd ever heard him say anything much,
but he made it clear that it wasn't because he couldn't.

"'What will we do, Red? What will we do?' says he.

"'Now,' says I, 'don't bile over like that, because it's bad for
your leg.'

"He cussed the leg.

"'Go on and tell me what we can do,' says he.

"'When you ask me that, you've pulled the right bell,' says I.
'I'll tell you exactly what we'll do. I go for the doctor. Savvy?
Well, I bring back the minister at the same time. Angevine, he
loses the Jersey cow over in the cane-break, and uncle and Angevine
go hunting her, for not even Loys is ace high in uncle's mind
alongside that cow. The rest is easy.'

"'Red, you're a brick - you're the best fellow alive,' says Kyle,
nearly squeezing the hand off me.

"'I've tried to conceal it all my life, but I knew it would be
discovered some day,' says I. 'Well, I suppose I'd better break
the news to Loys - 'twouldn't be any more than polite.'

"'Oh, Lord! I wonder if she'll be willing?' says he.

"'No reason I shouldn't turn an honest dollar on the
transaction - I'll bet you a month's wages she is,' says I. He
wanted to do it, thinking I was in earnest, but I laughed at him.

"She was willing all right - even anxious. There's some women, and
men, too, for that matter, who go through life like a cat through a
back alley, not caring a cuss for either end or the middle. They
would have been content to wait. Not so Loys. She wanted her
Kyle, her poor Kyle, and she wanted him quick. That's the kind of
people for me! Your cautious folk are all the time falling down
wells because their eyes are up in the air, keeping tabs so that
they can dodge shooting stars.

"Now, I had a minister friend up in town, Father Slade by name.
No, he was not a Catholic, I think. They called him 'Father'
because it fitted him. His church had a steeple on it, anyhow, so
it was no maverick. Just what particular kind of religion the old
man had I don't know, but I should say he was a homeopath on a
guess. He looked it. 'Twas a comfort to see him coming down the
street, his old face shining in his white hair like a shrivelled
pink apple in a snowdrift, God-blessing everything in sight - good,
bad, or indifferent. He had something pleasant to say to all. We
was quite friends, and every once in a while we'd have a chin about

"'Are you keeping straight, Red?' he'd ask when we parted.

"'Um,' I'd say, 'I'm afraid you'd notice a bend here and there, if
you Slid your eyes along the edge.'

"'Well, keep as straight as you can; don't give up trying, my boy,'
he'd tell me, mighty earnest, and I'd feel ashamed of myself clear
around the corner.

"I knew the old man would do me a favour if it could be done, so I
pulled out easy in my mind.

"First place, I stopped at the doctor's, because I felt they might
fix up the marrying business some other time, but if a leg that's
broke in the upper joint ain't set right, you can see a large
dark-complected hunk of trouble over the party's left shoulder for
the rest of his days. The doctor was out, so I left word for him
what was wanted, and to be ready when I got back, and pulled for
Father Slade's. The old gentleman had the rheumatism, and he
groaned when I come in. Rheumatism's no disease for people who
can't swear.

"'How are you, my boy?' says he; 'I'm glad to see you. Here am I,
an old man, nipped by the leg, and much wanting to talk to

"I passed the time of day to him, but felt kind of blue. This
didn't look like keeping my word with the kids. I really hated to
say anything to the old man, knowing his disposition; still I felt
I had to, and I out with my story.

"'Dear! dear!' says he. 'The hurry and skurry of young folks! How
idle it seems when you get fifty years away from it, and see how
little anything counts! For all that, I thank God,' says he, 'that
there's a little red left in my blood yet, which makes me
sympathise with them. But the girl's people object you say?'

"I made that all clear to him. The girl's _always_ all right,
Father,' says I, 'and as for the man in this case, my word for him.'

"Now it ain't just the right thing for me to say, but seeing as
I've never had anything in particular to be modest about, and I'm
proud of what the old gentleman told me, I'm going to repeat it.

"'Your word is good for me, Red,' says he. 'You're a mischievous
boy at times, but your heart and your head are both reliable; give
me your arm to the waggon.'

"Then I felt mighty sorry to think of lugging that poor old man all
that ways.

"'Here!' says I. 'Now you sit down again; don't you do anything of
the sort - you ain't fit.'

"He put his hand on my shoulder and hobbled his weight off the game

"'Reddy, I was sitting there thinking when you came in - thinking of
how comfortable it was to be in an easy-chair with my foot on a
stool, and then I thought, "If the Lord should send me some work to
do, would I be willing?" Now, thanks be to Him! I am willing, and
glad to find myself so, and I do not believe there's any work more
acceptable to Him than the union of young folk who love each other.
Ouch!' says he, as that foot touched the ground. 'Perhaps you'd
better pick me up and carry me bodily.'

"So I did it, the old housekeeper following us with an armful of
things and jawing the both of us - him for a fool and me for a
villain. She was a strong-minded old lady, and I wish I could
remember some of her talk - it was great.

"We went around and got the doctor.

"'Hoo!' says he. 'Is it as bad as that?' I winked at Father Slade.

"'It's a plenty worse than that,' says I; 'you won't know the half
of it till you get down there.'

"But of course we had to tell him, and he was tickled. Funny what
an interest everybody takes in these happenings. He wanted all the

"'By Jove!' says he, 'the man whose feelings ain't the least dimmed
by a broken leg - horse rolled on him, you said? Splintered it,
probably - that man is one of the right sort. He'll do to tie to.'

"When we reached the ranch the boys were lined up to meet us.
'Hurry along!' they called. 'Angey can't keep uncle amused all

"So we hustled. Kyle was for being married first, and then having
his leg set, but I put my foot down flat. It had gone long enough
now, and I wasn't going to have him cripping it all his life. But
the doctor worked like a man who gets paid by the piece, and in
less than no time we were able to call Loys in.

"Wind-River Smith spoke to get to give the bride away, and we let
him have it.

"We'd just got settled to business when in comes Angevine, puffing
like a buffalo. 'For Heaven's sakes! Ain't you finished yet?' says
he; 'well, you want to be at it, for the old man ain't over two
minutes behind me, coming fast. I took the distance in ten-foot
steps. Just my luck! Foot slipped when I was talking to him, and
I dropped a remark that made him suspicious - I wouldn't have done
it for a ton of money - but it's too late now. I'll down him and
hold him out there if you say so.'

"Well, sir, at this old Father Slade stood right up, forgetting
that foot entirely.

"'Children, be ready,' says he, and he went over the line for a

"'Hurry there!' hollers old Bob from the outside, where he was on
watch; 'here comes uncle up the long coulee!'

"'What are your names?' says Father Slade. They told him, both

"'Do you, Kyle, take this woman, Loys, to have and keep track of,
come hell or high water, her heirs and assigns for ever?' - or such
a matter - says he, all in one breath, They both said they did.

"Things flew till we came to the ring. There was a hitch. We had
plumb forgotten that important article. For a minute I felt
stingy; then I cussed myself for a mean old long-horn, and dived
into my box.

"'Here, take this!' I says. 'It was my mother's!'

"'Oh, Red! You mustn't part with that!' cried Loys, her eyes
filling up.

"'Don't waste time talking; I put through what I tackle. Hurry,
please, Father.'

"'Has anybody any objections to these proceedings?' says he.

"'I have,' says I, 'but I won't mention 'em. Give them the

"'I pronounce you man and wife. Let us pray,' says he.

"'What's that?' screeches Uncle Jonesy from the doorway. And then
he gave us the queerest prayer you ever heard in your life. He
stood on one toe and clawed chunks out of the air while he
delivered it.

"He seemed to have it in for me in particular. 'You villain! You
rascal! You red-headed rascal! You did this! I know you did!'

"'Oh, uncle!' says I, 'forgive me!' With that I hugged him right
up to me, and he filled my bosom full of smothered language.

"'Cheese it, you little cuss!' I whispered in his ear, 'or I'll
break every rib in your poor old chest!' I came in on him a
trifle, Just to show him what I could do if I tried.

"'Nuff!' he wheezes. 'Quit. 'Nuff.'

"'Go up and congratulate 'em,' I whispered again.

"'I won't,' says he. 'Ouch! Yes, I will! I will!' So up he
goes, grinding his teeth.

"'I wish you every happiness,' he grunts.

"'Won't you forgive me, uncle?' begs Loys.

"'Some other time; some other time!' he hollers, and he pranced
out of the house like a hosstyle spider, the maddest little man in
the Territory.

"Loys had a hard time of it until Kyle got so he could travel, and
they went up to the Yellowstone with a team for a wedding trip.

"The rest of Loys's folks was in an unpleasant frame of mind, too.
They sent out her brother, and while I'd have took most anything
from Loys's brother, there comes a place where human nature is
human nature, and the upshot of it was I planked that young man
gently but firmly across my knees. Suffering Ike! But he was one
sassy young man! Howsomever, the whole outfit came round in
time - all except uncle and me. He used to grit his teeth together
till the sparks flew when he saw me. I was afraid he'd bust a
blood-vessel in one of them fits, so I quit. I hated to let go of
the old ranch, but I'm pretty well fixed - I'm superintendent here.
It's Kyle's ranch, you know. That's his brand - the queer-looking
thing on the left hip of that critter, over the vented hash-knife.
Loys's invention, that is. She says it's a cherublim, but we call
it the 'flying flap-jack.' There's a right smart lot of beef
critters toting that signal around this part of the country.
Kyle's one of the fellers that rises like a setting of bread - quiet
and gentle, but steady and sure. He's going to the State
Legislature next year. 'Twon't do no harm to have one honest man
in the outfit.

"Now, perhaps if I'd married some nice woman I might have had 1,000
steers of my own, and a chance to make rules and regulations for my
feller-citizens - and then again I might have took to gambling and
drinking and raising blazes, and broke my poor wife's broom-handle
with my hard head. So I reckon we'll let it slide as it is. Now
you straddle that cayuse of yours and come along with me and I'll
show you some rattling colts."

The Golden Ford

Reddy was on the station platform, walking up and down, looking
about him anxiously. We caught sight of each other at the same

"Hi, there!" said he and jumped for me. "Gad-dog your little
hide!" he cried as he put my right hand in line for a pension. "I

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Online LibraryHenry Wallace PhillipsRed Saunders → online text (page 2 of 9)