Old Heck and Skinny helped with the trunks and then withdrew to the bunk-house.
Old Heck shaved and Skinny put on a clean shirt.
Skinny was not sure but this official love-making job was going to be interesting work and Old Heck himself was uncertain whether to cuss or rejoice—sometimes he was almost sorry to-morrow would be Parker’s day to love and entertain Ophelia.
THE UNUSED PLATE
At sundown, when Parker and the cowboys rode in from the northern hills, the Quarter Circle KT lay under a mantle of sullen, torturing heat. Not a breath of air fanned the poplars, straight and motionless, in front of the house. The sun buried itself in a solid wall of black that rose above the Costejo peaks, hidden now in the shadow of the coming storm. The horses were dripping with sweat—their coats as glossy and wet as if they had swum the river. At the corral the animals wearily tossed their heads, low hung with exhaustion, seeking to shift the sticky clutch of head-stall or hackamore, while their riders dismounted and quickly removed saddle and riding gear. Freed from their burdens the bronchos dragged tired heels through the dust as they whirled and trotted unsteadily away to the pasture, eager to roll and relax their aching muscles.
“Holy cats, but it’s hot!” Bert Lilly exclaimed as he slipped off his chaps and started toward the house, leaving saddle and outfit lying beside the gate of the corral.
“Better put them things in the shed,” Parker advised, “looks like a whale of a storm is coming.”
“Reckon that’s right,” Bert answered, turning back and carrying his riding gear into the shelter where the other cowboys already had taken theirs.
“Wonder if them women come?” Chuck Slithers queried as they moved toward the gate.
“More than likely—Bet Skinny and Old Heck have had a hell of a time making love to ’em,” Charley Saunders remarked.
“You want to be careful about cussin’,” Parker warned. “It ain’t polite when women are around!”
“Listen at him!” Bert said with a laugh, “practising already—Parker is getting polite—to-morrow is his day to be affectionate to the widow, Ophelia—”
“Which is she, Parker,” Charley asked soberly, “a grass or natural?”
“Shut up, you blamed fools, they’re liable to hear you,” Parker growled angrily. “Anyhow, it ain’t my fault they come!”
“Parker oughtn’t to kick,” Chuck chimed in, “look at poor old Skinny—he’s got a steady job lovin’ the other one!”
“Darned if I wouldn’t rather love both of them at once,” Charley observed, “than to take another ride like that was to-day. I’m kind of anxious to see what they look like,” he continued.
“Well, don’t go and get excited at the supper table and eat your pie with a spoon!” Chuck laughed.
“Aw, hell,” Charley retorted, “I guess I know how to act—”