Lottie E Jones.

History of Vermilion County, Illinois : a tale of its evolution, settlement, and progress for nearly a century (Volume 1) online

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Made in the United State* of America












I. The Line-Rider . . . . . • . S

II. "I'll be Seventeen, coming Grass" . . 12

III. Tex takes an Interest 18

IV. Tex Grandstands 26

V. Captain Ellison hires a Hand ... 38

VI. Clint Wadley's Messenger .... 44

VII. The Dance 54

VIII. Rutherford makes a Mistake .... 62

IX. Murder in the Chaparral .... 69

X. "A Damned Poor Apology for a Man" . V6

XI. One to Four . . 79

XII. Tex rearranges the Seating .... 89

XIII. "Only One Mob, ain't there?" ... 99

XIV. Jack serves Notice 108

XV. A Close Shave 113

XVI. Wadley goes Home in a Buckeoard . .122

XVII. Old-Timers 132

XVIII. A Shot out of the Night 138

XIX. Trapped 146


XXI. Tex takes a Long Walk 166

XXII. The Test 174

XXIII. A Shy Young Man dines 179

XXIV. Tex borrows a Blacksnake .... 184
XXV. "They're runnin' me outa Town" . . 191



XXVI. For Professional SERvitJES


XXVni. On a Cold Trail


XXIX. Burnt Brands

. . 213


XXXI. A Pair of Deuces . •

, . 237

XXXII. The Hold-Up .......


XXXIII. The Man with the Yellow Sebeai

. . 251

XXXIV. Ramona goes Duck-Hunting .

. 258

XXXV. The Desert


XXXVI. Homer Dinsmore escorts Ramona .

. 272

XXXVII On a Hot Trail


XXXVIH. Dinsmore to the Rescue .

. 287

XXXLX. A Cry out of the Night .

. 292



XLH. A Difference of Opinion .

. . 310

XLDX Tex resigns •

. . 319

XLTV. Dinsmore gives Information .

. . 328

XLV. Ramona deserts her Fathxs •

► . 332

XL VI. Loose Threads ......

, o 338





Day was breaking in the Panhandle. The line-
rider finished his breakfast of buffalo-hump,
coffee, and biscuits. He had eaten heartily, for
it would be long after sunset before he touched
food again.

Cheerfully and tunelessly he warbled a cow-
boy ditty as he packed his supplies and prepared
to go.

"Oh, it's bacon and beans most every day,
I'd as lief be eatin' prairie hay."

While he washed his dishes in the fine sand
and rinsed them in the current of the creek he
announced jocundly to a young world glad with

"I'll sell my outfit soon as I can,
Won't punch cattle for no damn' man.'*

The tin cup beat time against the tin plate to
accompany a kind of shuffling dance. Jack Rob-
erts was fifty miles from nowhere, alone on the
desert, but the warm blood of youth set his feet
to moving. Why should he not dance? He was
one and twenty, stood five feet eleven in his

4 Oh, You Tex!

socks, and weighed one hundred and seventy
pounds of bone, sinew, and well-packed muscle.
A son of blue skies and wide, wind-swept spaces,
he had never been ill in his life. Wherefore the
sun-kissed world looked good to him.

He mounted a horse picketed near the camp
and rode out to a remuda of seven cow-ponies
grazing in a draw. Of these he roped one and
brought it back to camp, where he saddled it with
deft swiftness.

The line-rider swung to the saddle and put his
pony at a jog-trot. He topped a hill and looked
across the sunlit mesas which rolled in long swells
far as the eye could see. The desert flowered
gayly with the purple, pink, and scarlet blos-
soms of the cacti and with the white, lilylike
buds of the Spanish bayonet. The yucca and
the prickly pear were abloom. He swept the
panorama with trained eyes. In the distance a
little bunch of antelope was moving down to
water in single file. On a slope two miles away
grazed a small herd of buffalo. No sign of human
habitation was written on that vast solitude of

The cowboy swung to the south and held a
steady road gait. With an almost uncanny accu-
racy he recognized all signs that had to do with
cattle. Though cows, half hidden in the brush,
melted into the color of the hillside, he picked
them out unerringly. Brands, at a distance so

Oh, You Tex! 5

great that a tenderfoot could have made of them
only a blur, were plain as a primer to him.

Cows that carried on their flanks the A T O,
he turned and started northward. As he re-
turned, he would gather up these strays and
drive them back tc their own range. For in those
days, before the barbed wire had reached Texas
and crisscrossed it with boundary lines, the cow-
boy was a fence more mobile than the wandering

It was past noon when Roberts dropped into a
draw where an immense man was lying sprawled
under a bush. The recumbent man was a moun-
tain of flesh; how he ever climbed to a saddle was
a miracle; how a little cow-pony carried him was
another. Yet there was n better line-rider in the
Panhandle than Jumbo Vtilkins.

" 'Lo, Texas," the fat man greeted.

The young line-rider had won the nickname of
"Texas" in New Mexico a year or two before by
his aggressive championship of his native State.
Somehow the sobriquet had clung to him even
after his return to the Panhandle.

'"Lo, Jumbo," returned the other. "How?"

"Fat like a match. I'm sure losin' flesh. Took
up another notch in my belt yestiddy."

Roberts shifted in the saddle, resting his
weight on the horn and the ball of one foot for
ease. He was a slim, brown youth, hard as nails
and tough as whipcord. His eyes were quick and

6 Oh, You Tex!

wary. In spite of the imps of mischief that just
now lighted them, one got an impression of
strength. He might or might not be, in the phrase
of the country, a "bad hombre," but it was safe
to say he was an efficient one.

"Quick consumption, sure," pronounced the
younger man promptly. "You don't look to me
like you weigh an ounce over three hundred an'
fifty pounds. Appetite kind o' gone?"

"You're damn whistlin'. I got an ailment, I
tell you, Tex. This mo'nin' I did n't eat but a few
slices of bacon an' some liT steaks an' a pan or
two o' flapjacks an' mebbe nine or ten biscuitSo
Afterward I felt kind o' bloated like. I need
some sa'saparilla. Now, if I could make out to
get off for a few days — "

"You could get that sarsaparilla across the
bar at the Bird Cage, couldn't you, Jumbo?"
the boy grinned.

The whale of a man looked at him reproach-
fully. "You never seen me shootin' up no towns
or raisin' hell when I was lit up. I can take a
drink or leave it alone."

"That's right too. Nobody lets it alone more
than you do when it can't be got. I've noticed

"You cayn't devil me, boy. I was punchin'
longhorns when yore mammy was paddlin' you
for stealin' the sugar. Say, that reminds me. I 'm
plumb out o' sugar. Can you loan me some till

Oh, You Tex! 7

Pedro gits around? I got to have sugar or I begin
to fall off right away," the big man whined.

The line-riders chatted casually of the topics
that interest men in the land of wide, empty
frontiers. Of Indians they had something to say,
of their diminishing grub supply more. Jumbo
mentioned that he had found an A T O cow dead
by a water-hole. They spoke incidentally of the
Dinsmore gang, a band of rustlers operating in
No Man's Land. They had little news of people,
since neither of them had for three weeks seen
another human being except Quint Sullivan, the
line-rider who fenced the A T O cattle to the east
of Roberts.

Presently Roberts nodded a good-bye and
passed again into the solitude of empty spaces.
The land- waves swallowed him. Once more he
followed draws, crossed washes, climbed cow-
backed hills, picking up drift-cattle as he rode.

It was late afternoon when he saw a thin spiral
of smoke from a rise of ground. Smoke meant
that some human being was abroad in the land,
and every man on the range called for investiga-
tion. The rider moved forward to reconnoiter.

He saw a man, a horse, a cow, a calf, and a fire.
When these five things came together, it meant
that somebody was branding. The present busi-
ness of Roberts was to find out what brand was on
the cow and what one was being run on the flank
of the calf. He rode forward at a slow canter.

8 Oh, You Tex!

The man beside the fire straightened. He took
off his hat and swept it in front of him in a semi-
circle from left to right. The line-rider under-
stood the sign language of the plains. He was
being " waved around." The man was serving no-
tice upon him to pass in a wide circle. It meant
that the dismounted man did not intend to let
himself be recognized. The easy deduction was
that he was a rustler.

The cowboy rode steadily forward. The man
beside the fire picked up a rifle lying at his feet
and dropped a bullet a few yards in front of the
advancing man.

Roberts drew to a halt. He was armed with a
six-shooter, but a revolver was of no use at this
distance. For a moment he hesitated. Another
bullet lifted a spurt of dust almost at his horse's

The line-rider waited for no more definite
warning. He waved a hand toward the rustler
and shouted down the wind: "Some other day."
Quickly he swung his horse to the left and van-
ished into an arroyo. Then, without an instant's
loss of time, he put his pony swiftly up the draw
toward a "rim-rock" edging a mesa. Over to the
right was Box Canon, which led to the rough
lands of a terrain unknown to Roberts. It was a
three-to-one chance that the rustler would disap-
pear into the canon.

The young man rode fast, putting his bronco

Oh, You Tex! 9

at the hills with a rush. He was in a treeless coun-
try, covered with polecat brush. Through this he
plunged recklessly, taking breaks in the ground
without slackening speed in the least.

Near the summit of the rise Roberts swung
from the saddle and ran forward through the
brush, crouching as he moved. With a minimum
of noise and a maximum of speed he negotiated
the thick shrubbery and reached the gorge.

He crept forward cautiously and looked down.
Through .the shin-oak which grew thick on the
edge of the bluff he made out a man on horse-
back driving a calf. The mount was a sorrel with
white stockings and a splash of white on the nose.
The distance was too great for Roberts to make
out the features of the rider clearly, though he
could see the fellow was dark and slender.

The line-rider watched him out of sight, then
slithered down the face of the bluff to the sandy
wash. He knelt down and studied intently the
hoofprints written in the soil. They told him that
the left hind hoof of the animal was broken in an
odd way.

Jack Roberts clambered up the steep edge of
the gulch and returned to the cow-pony waiting
for him with drooping hip and sleepy eyes.

"Oh, you Two Bits, we'll amble along and see
where our friend is headin' for."

He picked a way down into the canon and fol-
lowed the rustler. At the head of the gulch the

10 Oh, You Tex!

man on the sorrel had turned to the left. The
cowboy turned also in that direction. A sign bjr
the side of the trail confronted him.


"The plot sure thickens," grinned Jack,
"Reckon I won't take Pete's advice to-day. It
don't listen good."

He spoke aloud, to himself or to his horse or to
the empty world at large, as lonely riders often
do on the plains or in the hills, but from the
heavens above an answer dropped down to him
in a heavy, masterful voice :

"Git back along that trail pronto!"

Roberts looked up. A flat rock topped the bluff
above. From the edge of it the barrel of a rifle
projected. Behind it was a face masked by a
bandana handkerchief. The combination was
a sinister one.

If the line-rider was dismayed or even sur-
prised, he gave no evidence of it.

"Just as you. say, stranger. I reckon you're
callin' this dance," he admitted.

"You'll be lucky if you don't die of lead-poi-
sonin' inside o' five minutes. No funny business!

The cowboy got. He whirled his pony in its
tracks and sent it jogging down the back trail. A
tenderfoot would have taken the gulch at break-

Oh, You Tex! n

neck speed. Most old-timers would have found a
canter none too fast. But Jack Roberts held to
a steady road gait. Not once did he look back —
but every foot of the way till he had turned a
bend in the canon there was an ache in the small
of his back. It was a purely sympathetic sensa-
tion, for at any moment a bullet might come
crashing between the shoulders.

Once safely out of range the rider mopped a
perspiring face.

"Wow! This is your lucky day, Jack. Ain't
you got better sense than to trail rustlers with no
weapon but a Sunday-School text? Well, here's
hopin' ! Maybe we '11 meet again in the sweet by
an' by. You never can always tell."


"i'll be seventeen, coming grass"

The camper looked up from the antelope steak
he was frying, to watch a man cross the shallow
creek. In the clear morning light of the South-
west his eyes had picked the rider out of the sur-
rounding landscape nearly an hour before. For
at least one fourth of the time since this discov-
ery he had been aware that his approaching vis-
itor was Pedro Menendez, of the A T O ranch.

"Better 'light, son," suggested Roberts.

The Mexican flashed a white-toothed smile at
the sizzling steak, took one whiff of the coffee
and slid from the saddle. Eating was one of the
things that Pedro did best.

"The ol' man — he sen' me," the boy ex-
plained. "He wan' you at the ranch."

Further explanation waited till the edge of
Pedro's appetite was blunted. The line-rider
lighted a cigarette and casually asked a question.

" Whyfor does he want me?"

It developed that the Mexican had been sent
to relieve Roberts because the latter was needed
to take charge of a trail herd. Not by the flicker
of an eyelash did the line-rider show that this
news meant anything to him. It was promotion
— better pay, a better chance for advancement,

Oh, You Tex! 13

an easier life. But Jack Roberts had learned to
take good and ill fortune with the impassive face
of a gambler.

"Keep an eye out for rustlers, Pedro," he ad-
vised before he left. "You want to watch Box
Canon. Unless I 'm 'way off, the Dinsmore gang
are operatin' through it. I 'most caught one red-
handed the other day. Lucky for me I did n't.
You an' Jumbo would 'a' had to bury me out on
the lone prairee."

Nearly .ten hours later Jack Roberts dis-
mounted in front of the whitewashed adobe
house that was the headquarters of the A T O
ranch. On the porch an old cattleman sat slouched
in a chair tilted back against the wall, a rundown
heel of his boot hitched in the rung. The wrinkled
coat he wore hung on him like a sack, and one
leg of his trousers had caught at the top of the
high boot. The owner of the A T O was a heavy-
set, powerful man in the early fifties. Just now he
was smoking a corncob pipe.

The keen eyes of the cattleman watched lazily
the young line-rider come up the walk. Most
cowboys walked badly; on horseback they might
be kings of the earth, but out of the saddle they
rolled like sailors. Clint Wadley noticed that the
legs of this young fellow were straight and that
he trod the ground lightly as a buck in mating-

"He'll make a hand," was Wadley's verdict,

14 Oh, You Tex!

one he had arrived at after nearly a year of
shrewd observation.

But no evidence of satisfaction in his employee
showed itself in the greeting of the "old man."
He grunted what might pass for " Howdy!" if
one were an optimist.

Roberts explained his presence by saying;
"You sent for me, Mr. Wadley."

"H'm! That durned fool York done bust his
laig. Think you can take a herd up the trail to

"Yes, sir."

"That's the way all you brash young colts
talk. But how many of 'em will you lose on the
way? How sorry will they look when you deliver
the herd? That's what I'd like to know."

Jack Roberts was paying no attention to the
grumbling of his boss — for a young girl had
come out of the house. She was a slim little thing,
with a slender throat that carried the small head
like the stem of a rose. Dark, long-lashed eyes,
eager and bubbling with laughter, were fixed on
Wadley. She had slipped out on tiptoe to sur-
prise him. Her soft fingers covered his eyes.

"Guess who!" she ordered.

"Quit yore foolishness," growled the cattle-
man. "Don't you-all see I'm talkin* business?"
But the line-rider observed that his arm encir-
«ied the waist of the girl.

With a flash of shy eyes the girl caught sight

Oh, You Tex! 15

of Roberts, who had been half hidden from her
behind the honeysuckle foliage.

"Oh! I did n't know," she cried.

The owner of the A T O introduced them.
"This is Jack Roberts, one of my trail foremen.
Roberts — my daughter Ramona. I reckon you
can see for yoreself she's plumb spoiled."

A soft laugh welled from the throat of the girl.
She knew that for her at least her father was all
bark and no bite.

"It's you that is spoiled, Dad," she said in the
slow, sweet voice of the South. "I've been away
too long, but now I 'm back I mean to bring you
up right. Now I'll leave you to your business."

The eyes of the girl rested for a moment on
those of the line-rider as she nodded good-bye.
Jack had never before seen Ramona Wadley, nor
for that matter had he seen her brother Ruther-
ford. Since he had been in the neighborhood, both
of them had been a good deal of the time in Ten-
nessee at school, and Jack did not come to the
ranch-house once in three months. It was hard
to believe that this dainty child was the daughter
of such a battered hulk as Clint Wadley. He was
what the wind and the sun and the tough South-
west had made him. And she — she was a daugh-
ter of the morning.

But Wadley did not release Ramona. "Since
you're here you might as well go through with
it," he said. "What do you want?"

16 Oh, You Tex!

"What does a woman always want?" she
asked sweetly, and then answered her own ques-
tion. "Clothes — and money to buy them — ■
lots of it. I'm going to town to-morrow, yoa

"H'm!" His grunt was half a chuckle, half a
growl. "Do you call yoreself a woman — a little
bit of a trick like you? Why, I could break you
in two."

She drew herself up very straight. "I'll be
seventeen, coming grass. And it's much more
likely, sir, that I'll break you — as you'll find
out when the bills come in after I've been to

With that she swung on her heel and vanished
inside the house.

The proud, fond eyes of the cattleman followed
her. It was an easy guess that she was the apple
of his eye.

But when he turned to business again his man-
ner was gruffer than usual. He was a trifle crisper
to balance the effect of his new foreman having
discovered that he was as putty in the hands of
this slip of a girl.

"Well, you know where you're at, Roberts.
Deliver that herd without any loss for strays,
fat, an' in good condition, an' you won't need to
go back to line-ridin'. Fall down on the job, an'
you'll never get another chance to drive A T O

Oh, You Tex! 17

"That's all I ask, Mr. Wadley," the cowboy
answered. "An' much obliged for the chance."

"Don't thank me. Thank York's busted laig,"
snapped his chief. "We'll make the gather for
the drive to-morrow an' Friday."



Jack Roberts was in two minds whether to stop
at the Longhorn saloon. He needed a cook in
his trail outfit, and the most likely employment
agency in Texas during that decade was the bar-
room of a gambling-house. Every man out of a
job naturally drifted to the only place of enter-

The wandering eye of the foreman decided the
matter for him. It fell upon a horse, and instantly
ceased to rove. The cow-pony was tied to a
hitching-rack worn shiny by thousands of reins.
On the nose of the bronco was a splash of white.
Stockings of the same color marked its legs. The
left hind hoof was gashed and broken.

The rider communed with himself. "I reckon
we'll 'light and take an interest, Jack. Them
that looks for, finds."

He slid from the saddle and rolled a cigarette,
after which he made friends with the sorrel and
examined carefully the damaged foot.

"It's a liT bit of a world after all," he com-
mented. "You never can tell who you're liable
to meet up with." The foreman drew from its
scabbard a revolver and slid it back into place to
make sure that it lay easy in its case. "You can't

Oh, You Tex! 19

guess for sure what 's likely to happen. I 'd a heap
rather be too cautious than have flowers sent me."

He sauntered through the open door into the
gambling-house. It was a large hall, in the front
part of which was the saloon. In the back the side
wall to the next building had been ripped out to
give more room. There was a space for dancing,
as well as roulette, faro, chuckaluck, and poker
tables. In one corner a raised stand for the musi-
cians had been built.

The Longhorn was practically deserted. Not
even a game of draw was in progress. The dance-
girls were making up for lost sleep, and the
patrons of the place were either at work or still
in bed.

Three men were lined up in front of the bar.
One was a tall, lank person, hatchet-faced and
sallow. He had a cast in his eye that gave him a
sinister expression. The second was slender and
trim, black of hair and eye and mustache. His
clothes were very good, and up to date. The one
farthest from the door was a heavy-set, un-
wieldy man in jeans, slouchy as to dress and
bearing. Perhaps it was the jade eyes of the man
that made Roberts decide instantly he was one
tough citizen.

The line-rider ordered a drink.

"Hardware, please," said the bartender curtly.

" Enforcin' that rule, are they? " asked Roberts
casually as his eyes swept over the other men.

20 Oh, You Tex!

"That's whatever. Y'betcha. We don't want
no 'gay cowboys shootin' out our lights. No re-
flections, y'understand."

The latest arrival handed over his revolver,
and the man behind the bar hung the scabbard
on a nail. Half a dozen others were on a shelf be-
side it. For the custom on the frontier was that
each rider from the range should deposit his
weapons at the first saloon he entered. They were
returned to him when he called for them just
before leaving town. This tended to lessen the
number of sudden deaths.

"Who you ridin' for, young fellow?" asked
the sallow man of Roberts.

"For the A T O."

The dark young man turned and looked at the

"So? How long have you been riding for

"Nine months."

"Don't think I've seen you before."

"I'm a line-rider — don't often get to the

"What ground do you cover?"

"From Dry Creek to the rim-rock, and south
past Box Canon."

Three pair of eyes were focused watchfully on
Roberts. The sallow man squirted tobacco at a
knot in the floor and rubbed his bristly chin with
the palm of a hand.

Oh, You Tex! 21

"Kinda lonesome out there, ain't it?" he ven-

"That's as how you take it. The country is
filled with absentees," admitted Roberts.

"Reckoned it was. Never been up that way
myself. A sort of a bad-lands proposition,
I 've heard tell — country creased with arroyos,
packed with rocks an' rattlesnakes mostly."

The heavy-set man broke in harshly. "Any-
body else run cattle there except old man Wad-

"Settlers are comin' in on the other side of the
rim-rock. Cattle drift across. I can count half a
dozen brands 'most any day."

"But you never see strangers."

"Don't I?"

"I'm askin', do you?" The voice of the older
man was heavy and dominant. It occurred to
Roberts that he had heard that voice before.

"Oh!" Unholy imps of mirth lurked in the
alert eyes of the line-rider. "Once in a while I do
— last Thursday, for instance."

The graceful, dark young man straightened as
does a private called to attention. "A trapper,
maybe? " he said.

The cowboy brought his level gaze back from
a barefoot negro washing the floor. "Not this
time. He was a rustler."

"How do you know?" The high voice of the
questioner betrayed excitement.

82 Oh, You Tex!

"I caught him brandin* a calf. He waved me

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