A DUEL OF ENDURANCE
When the storm broke over the Quarter Circle KT the Ramblin’ Kid was twenty miles away following the Gold Dust maverick. Old Heck’s surmise that he had gone in search of the outlaw filly was but half correct. It was not with the definite purpose of trying for the renegade mare that he had mounted Captain Jack and headed him toward the Narrows at the moment Carolyn June Dixon and Ophelia Cobb arrived at the ranch. Nor was it to escape meeting the women. Their coming meant nothing to the Ramblin’ Kid.
He simply wanted to be alone.
The ride with Parker and the boys to the North Springs meant talk. The Ramblin’ Kid did not want to talk. He wanted to be with his thoughts, his horse and silence.
Should he happen on to the maverick he might give her a run. Since her first appearance on the Kiowa, the Ramblin’ Kid had seen her many times. More than once, from a distance, he had watched the mare, getting a line on her habits. Sooner or later he expected to test Captain Jack’s endurance and skill against the filly’s speed and cunning. Without success other riders of the Kiowa had tried to corral the outlaw or get within roping throw of her shapely head. So far she had proved herself faster and more clever than any horse ridden against her. The Ramblin’ Kid believed Captain Jack was master of the beautiful mare, that in a battle of nerve and muscle and wind the roan stallion could run her down. Some day he would prove it.
At the Narrows the trail forked. One branch turned sharply to the right and followed a coulee out on to the divide between the Cimarron and the lower Una de Gata; the other swung toward the river, slipped into it, crossed the stream, and was lost in the sand-hills beyond.
The broncho, of his own will, at the prongs of the road wheeled up the coulee and climbed out on the level bench south of the Cimarron. A half-dozen miles away Sentinel Mountain rose abruptly out of the plain. Toward the lone butte Captain Jack turned. He knew the place. On the north slope there was a tiny spring, fenced with wire to keep the stock from trampling it into a bog; near by was a duster of pinon trees; below the seep in the narrow gorge was a thin strip of willows. It was a favorite rendezvous sought by the Ramblin’ Kid when in moods such as now possessed him. Silently he rode to the group of pinons and dismounted.
The Ramblin’ Kid stretched himself under the trees while Captain Jack drank at the little water course. Then, with his bridle off, the broncho fed contentedly on the bunch grass along the hillside. After a time Captain Jack quit feeding and came into the shade of the pinons. The Ramblin’ Kid, flat on his back, stared through the scant foliage of the trees into the sky—overcast now with a dim haze, forerunner of the storm gathering above the Costejo peaks. Thousands of feet in the air a buzzard, merely a black speck, without motion of wings, wheeled in great, lazy, ever-widening circles.