“No, he can’t,” the Ramblin’ Kid remarked quietly, “—you’d lose your money. There’s only one animal on th’ Kiowa range that can outrun that Vermejo horse.”
“What animal is that?” Charley asked.
“She’s in th’ circular corral,” the Ramblin’ Kid answered laconically.
“The Gold Dust maverick?” Bert questioned.
“That’s the one I mean,” the Ramblin’ Kid replied in a low voice, “for two miles—or five—there ain’t nothin’ in western Texas, or Mexico either, that can catch her.”
“Why don’t you take her in when the Rodeo is on and run her in the sweepstakes then?” Chuck asked eagerly. “I ain’t caring what Kiowa horse gets the money just so that Y-Bar outfit is taken down a notch or two. Ever since they got that Thunderbolt horse and beat Old Heck’s Quicksilver with him they’ve been crowing over the Quarter Circle KT and I’m getting plumb sick of it—”
“Old Heck lost three thousand dollars on that race!” Bert interrupted rather triumphantly.
“I didn’t neither,” Old Heck corrected sullenly, “it was only twenty-five hundred!”
“Well, that Vermejo crowd has got a hundred of mine,” Chuck said vindictively, “but I don’t give a darn for that—I’d be willing to lose twice that much again just to set that Thunderbolt horse of theirs back in second place!”
“Why don’t you run the outlaw filly?” Charley asked coaxingly of the Ramblin’ Kid.
“Yes, go on and put her in,” Skinny urged, “—you ought to!”
The Ramblin’ Kid remained silent, seemingly indifferent to the teasing of the others.
Carolyn June leaned over and said, in a voice audible only to him, while her eyes grew mellow with a look that tested his composure to the uttermost but which wrung no sign from him:
“Please, race the maverick—I—want you to—Ramblin’ Kid!”
It was the first time she had used his name in speaking directly to him and the tone in which it was spoken made him tremble in spite of himself. For a moment he returned her gaze. Her words and manner were so different that by their very difference they reminded him of what she had called him yesterday—“an ignorant, savage, stupid brute”—when he had refused to interfere with the cat when its head was caught in the can. He started to make a cynical reply. Then he remembered her sympathy for Old Blue, her apology later for the harsh words—anyhow he knew or felt in his heart they were true—and suddenly he seemed to see the pink satin garter he still carried in his pocket. The look that came into his eyes made Carolyn June lower her own. He smiled a whimsical but hopeless smile, as, replying apparently to the pleading of Charley and Skinny, he said, softly, the single word:
Old Heck had forgotten the annual Rodeo held in Eagle Butte, for some days each summer, around the Fourth of July. His sudden determination and eagerness to have the beef round-up begin earlier than usual in order to get Parker away from the widow had driven all else but that one idea from his mind. The protests reminded him of his oversight. He had not intended to deprive the cowboys of the opportunity to enjoy the one big event happening yearly in the Kiowa country and which temporarily turned Eagle Butte, for a few days each summer, into a seething metropolis of care-free humanity.