At two-forty a special exhibition of “Cossack Riding”—participated in by Lute Larsen, of Idaho; Jack Haines, from Texas, and Curly Piper, a Colorado cowboy, finished in front of the grandstand.
The announcer trained his megaphone on the vast crowd:
“The next event,” he bellowed, “two-mile sweepstakes! Purse one thousand dollars! Five entries! Naming them in their order from the pole: Thunderbolt, black Y-Bar stallion, Flip Williams, rider; Say-So, roan gelding, from the Pecos River, Box-V outfit, Jess Curtis, rider; Ophelia, Gold Dust filly, the Cimarron outlaw from the Quarter Circle KT, th’ Ramblin’ Kid, rider; Prince John, sorrel gelding, from Dallas, Texas, ‘Snow’ Johnson, rider; Dash-Away, bay mare, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Slim Tucker, rider. Race called at three o’clock sharp! Horse failing to score on the dot will be ruled out! Range saddles to be used. Entries for the two-mile sweepstakes will show at once on the track!”
Dead silence ensued during the announcer’s drawling oration.
It was followed by the hum of five thousand voices as they chattered in eager expectancy.
The band crashed out Dixie and a medley of southern melodies.
Chuck and Bert reined their bronchos up to Parker.
“We’re going over and see how th’ Ramblin’ Kid is making it,” Chuck said. “He might need that filly herded a little to get her through this jam.” And they galloped their horses across the track toward the stables.
Carolyn June and Skinny decided to watch the sweepstakes from the car, with Old Heck and Ophelia. They rode Pie Face and Red John over to the Clagstone “Six.” Carolyn June dismounted and stepped up on the running-board of the car, holding Red John loosely by the bridle rein.
“Gee,” she laughed, “but I’m nervous!”
Old Heck reached over and patted her hand.
“Wait till they start to run before you get hysterical,” he chuckled. “There’ll be time enough then for excitement!” One could never have told, by his actions, that within the next few moments he would lose or win fifty thousand dollars.
Chuck pulled Silver Tip to a stop in front of the stall where Captain Jack and the Gold Dust maverick were standing.
“They’re getting ready for the sweepstakes!” he called, thinking the Ramblin’ Kid was in the compartment with the horses. “You’d better be putting your rigging on the filly,” as he slid from his broncho and stepped to the door of the stall.
There was no answer. He peered into the half-gloom of the place.
It was empty save for the two horses.
“That’s funny as thunder,” he said, puzzled, to Bert. “Where’d you reckon th’ Ramblin’ Kid is?”
“Darned if I know—ain’t he there?” Bert answered, riding up so he could look into the door.
“Look around a little,” Chuck said anxiously. “Maybe he’s just stepped away for a minute—Hey!” he called to an attendant of a stall a short distance down the stable street, “have you seen anything of th’ Ramblin’ Kid—the feller that has these horses?”