As the sun dropped into the cloud bank in the west a band of mares and colts came from that direction and rounded a spur of Sentinel Mountain. At their heads was the most beautiful horse ever seen on the Kiowa range.
In color a coppery, almost golden, chestnut sorrel; flaxen mane and tail, verging on creamy white; short-coupled in the back and with withers that marked the runner; belly smooth and round; legs trim and neat as an antelope’s and muscled like a panther’s; head small, carried proudly erect and eyes full and wonderfully clear and brown.
“Th’ filly!” the Ramblin’ Kid breathed, “with a bunch of Tony Malush’s Anchor Bar mares and colts!”
Captain Jack saw the range horses and lifted his head.
“Psst!” the Ramblin’ Kid hissed and the neigh was stopped.
The rangers moved toward the east and over the crest of a ridge a quarter of a mile away. On the flat beyond the rise they stopped, the colts immediately teasing the mares to suck. The filly withdrew a short distance from the herd and stood alert and watchful.
For half an hour the Ramblin’ Kid studied the Gold Dust maverick.
He looked at the clouds climbing higher and higher in the west, then long and thoughtfully at Captain Jack.
“Let’s get her, Boy!” he murmured; “let’s go an’ get her!”
His mind made up, the Ramblin’ Kid slipped the bridle again on Captain Jack, removed the saddle and with the blanket wiped the sweat from the broncho’s back, smoothed the blanket, reset the saddle, carefully tightened front and rear cinches and mounting the little stallion guided him slowly down the ravine in the direction of the horses on the flat. A hundred yards away the mares and colts, alarmed by the sudden half-whinny, half-snort, from the filly, discovered the approaching horse and rider.
Instantly the wild horses crowded closely together and galloped toward the Una de Gata. Captain Jack leaped into a run, rushing them. The maverick wheeled quickly and dashed away to the south alone.
“Her pet trick!” the Ramblin’ Kid muttered as he headed Captain Jack after the nimble creature. “She absodamnedlutely will not bunch—seems to know a crowd means a corral, a rope and at last a rider on her shapely back!”
For two miles it was a race. The Ramblin’ Kid held Captain Jack to a steady run a couple of hundred yards in the rear of the speeding mare. At last he pulled the stallion down to a trot. The Gold Dust maverick answered by running another fifty yards and then herself settling into the slower stride. “Like I thought,” the Ramblin’ Kid said to himself, “it’s a case of wear her out—a case of seasoned old muscle against speedy young heels!”
It became a duel of endurance between Captain Jack, wiry, toughened and fully matured, with heavier muscles, and the nimble, lighter-footed Gold Dust mare.