“I think it’s a darned shame to spring the beef hunt so it will interfere with the Rodeo,” Bert grumbled, “—and us have to be out on the hills wrangling steers while the celebration is going on!”
“I’m not-goin! to be out on th’ hills then,” the Ramblin’ Kid said quietly but with unchangeable finality.
“You can all go to the Rodeo,” Old Heck interposed, not feeling just right in his conscience about sending Parker away in advance of the time expected, and wishing to make amends,”—Parker and all of you. You can ‘break’ the round-up for a few days during the Rodeo and what cattle you’ve got gathered by then can be turned into the big pasture and held there till it’s over. That’ll let you all get into Eagle Butte for the Fourth—I’d like to see that blamed Thunderbolt horse beat myself! But we’ll start the beef hunt Monday the way I said in the first place—”
“Who’s going to cook, this year, on the round-up?” Charley queried. “You can’t take the Chink from here this time, can you?”
“I reckon Sing Pete’ll have to go along as usual,” Old Heck answered; “it’ll make it a little unhandy at the ranch, but—”
“Ophelia and I can ‘batch’ while you are gone,” Carolyn June suggested. “We won’t mind being alone and it will be fun to cook our own meals.”
“We will enjoy it,” Ophelia added agreeably.
“You ain’t going to be alone,” Old Heck said; “Skinny and me will be here. When it comes to the cooking maybe between the four of us we can get along some way!”
“Well, if the round-up’s got to start Monday,” Parker declared sullenly as they left the table, “I’ll have to go down to town again to-day and get me a new saddle. Mine was on Old Blue.”
“I’ll go with you,” Old Heck said in a conciliatory way. “Charley and the other boys can be working on them dead steers till we get back. We’ll go in the car and ought to make the round-trip by noon.”
The widow and Carolyn June were alone at the house. Old Heck and Parker went immediately from the breakfast table to the garage to get the car out to go to Eagle Butte. The cowboys were at the barn preparing to begin the day’s work. Skinny had excused himself, ostensibly to attend to some ranch chores, but in reality to get away to the bunk-house and “fix up” for the day’s courtship of Carolyn June. He planned, when the cowboys were gone, to put on the white shirt Parker brought, yesterday, from Eagle Butte.
“Ophelia,” Carolyn June said mysteriously as they stepped out on the front porch and filled their lungs with the clean air of the morning, “you made a ‘discovery’ yesterday, I believe?” pausing questioningly.
“Yes,” the widow smiled, recalling their conversation relative to Parker’s abrupt proposal of marriage.
“To-day,” Carolyn June continued impressively, “it is my turn—I have made one!”