Carolyn June and Ophelia exchanged sly winks as they guessed the thing that was in Old Heck’s mind.
Skinny, himself, was a bit worried as the time drew near for the return of the cowboys. He hoped Carolyn June wouldn’t spring another dance or similar opportunity for indiscriminate love-making.
Nor had Carolyn June forgotten that to-day was Saturday and Parker and the cowboys were expected back from the first half of the beef round-up. The week had been pleasant enough but she had missed the Ramblin’ Kid and the Gold Dust maverick more than she cared to confess. She wondered if the outlaw filly would remember her.
Saturday was a day of considerable tension for all at the Quarter Circle KT. Night came and Parker and the cowboys had not returned. Nor did they come on Sunday. Evidently the beef round-up had gone more slowly than was expected.
It was late Monday afternoon when the grub-wagon grumbled and creaked its way up the lane and stopped near the back-yard gate. Sing Pete climbed clumsily down from the high seat. Old Heck and Skinny unhitched Old Tom and Baldy while the Chinese cook chattered information about Parker, the cowboys and the round-up. He had left the North Springs early that morning. Two nights before the herd had run—it was a stampede—some sheep had been where the cattle were bedded. Maybe that was it. Chuck and Bert were on night guard and could not hold them. The steers mixed badly with the rangers. Nearly two days it took to gather them again. That was why they were late. Now everything was all right The cattle were being driven to the big pasture. Pedro would be along soon with the saddle cavallard. By dark maybe the others would be at the ranch.
It was midnight before Parker and the cowboys came in.
When Carolyn June stepped out on the porch Tuesday morning she glanced toward the circular corral, which for more than a week had been empty. Her heart gave a leap of delight.
Captain Jack was standing at the bars of the corral and behind him the early sunlight glinted on the chestnut sides of the Gold Dust maverick.
THE GRAND PARADE
Eagle Butte was a jam of humanity. It was Tuesday noon. At one o’clock the Grand Parade would circle the mile track at the “Grounds”—a hundred level acres enclosed by a high board fence lying at the west edge of Eagle Butte, between the Cimarron River and the road that led out to the Vermejo—swing down the main street of the town, return again to the enclosed area, flow once more past the grandstand, salute the judges of the coming events, and the Fifth Annual Independence Rodeo of Eagle Butte would be officially opened.
Special excursion rates had brought thousands from all parts of western Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Hundreds of tourists, sight-seeing the West, had so arranged their itineraries that they might be present at the big exhibition of riding, roping, racing, bull-dogging and other cow-country arts,—arts rapidly becoming mere memories of a day too quickly passing.