“Th’ Ramblin’ Kid don’t need to back the filly with his money, Dorsey,” Old Heck said slowly and in a voice audible in every part of the room; “I’m here to back her with mine! You’ve done a lot of talking—now, damn you, cover your chatter with coin or shut up!” the end of the sentence coming like the crack of a whip.
With a nervous laugh the Vermejo cattleman jerked a wallet from his pocket.
“Here’s a thousand that says Thunderbolt does the same thing to the Ramblin’ Kid’s filly that he done to Quicksilver!” Dorsey snapped.
Old Heck threw back his head and laughed scornfully.
“A thousand? I thought you were a sport, Dorsey!” he sneered. “Match this,” he continued, reaching for his check-book and fountain pen and quickly filling out a check payable to “Cash” for ten thousand dollars, which he laid on the hardwood bar. “Match that, or admit you’re a cheap, loud-howlin’ bluffer!”
Dorsey paused just an instant as he noted the amount of the check.
“I’ll match it!” he exclaimed, flushing angrily, drawing his own check-book from his pocket, and then, carried away by his passion added, throwing down the bars completely as Old Heck had hoped he would, “and go with you to the end of the trail!”
“Good!” Old Heck laughed, “now you are talking like a sport! Let’s see,” he added calculatingly, “how many Y-Bar cattle do you figure you’ve got running on the Vermejo range—five thousand?”
“There’s that many,” Dorsey started to say.
“Call it fifty-five hundred!” Old Heck flung at him. “Steer for steer, cow for cow, hoof for hoof—I’ll put Quarter Circle KT critters against every brute you own that th’ Ramblin’ Kid lands his horse tinder the wire ahead of Thunderbolt!”
Dorsey paled, then a purple-red of fury spread over his neck and face, and with an oath he cried:
“I’ll call you!”
Bills of sale were drawn and turned over to Judge Ivory, to be delivered, after the race, to the winner.
“Now,” Old Heck said with a hard laugh, “maybe you’d like to own the Quarter Circle KT ranch, Dorsey? It’s worth twice as much as your Vermejo holdings but I’ll just give you that percentage of odds and call it an even bet that your black stallion don’t outrun the little animal th’ Ramblin’ Kid has entered in the sweepstakes!”
But Dorsey did not answer except with a muttered: “Hell, a man’s crazy that—” He had gone his limit. He had suddenly come to his senses and grown suspicious.
Before Skinny and Old Heck left the pool-room the former managed to get a bet of five hundred dollars with Sabota.
The next afternoon the Ramblin’ Kid rode into Eagle Butte on Captain Jack. By his side he led the Gold Dust maverick. The noise and confusion in the streets filled the mare with nervousness and she crowded closely against the little roan stallion. Before he got the outlaw filly to the stables a half dozen cowboys had recognized the Cimarron maverick. Within an hour Dorsey and Sabota knew the identity of the Ramblin’ Kid’s entry in the big race that was to be run Friday afternoon and which was the big and closing event of the Rodeo.