Those riders who had come from the northern part of the State to Sterling were given transportation for themselves and their horses to The Junction. From there they rode to their respective homes. Among them were Bud Shoop, the giant sheepman, and Lorry, who seemed more anxious than did Shoop to stop at Stacey on their way to the reserve.
“Your maw don’t know you been to Sterling,” Shoop said as they rode toward Stacey.
“But she won’t care, now we’re back again. She’ll find out some time.”
“I’m willin’ to wait,” said Bud. “I got you into that hocus. But I had no more idee than a cat that we’d bump into what we did. They was a time when a outfit like ours could ‘a’ kep’ peace in a town by just bein’ there. Things are changin’—fast. If the Gov’ment don’t do somethin’ about allowin’ the scum of this country to get hold of guns and ca’tridges wholesale, they’s goin’ to be a whole lot of extra book-keepin’ for the recordin’ angel. I tell you what, son, allowin’ that I seen enough killin’ in my time so as just seein’ it don’t set too hard on my chest, that mess down to Sterling made me plumb sick to my stummick. I’m wonderin’ what would ‘a’ happened if Sterling hadn’t made that fight and the I.W.W. had run loose. It ain’t what we did. That had to be did. But it’s the idee that decent folks, livin’ under the American flag, has got to shoot their way back to the law, like we done.”
“Mebby the law ain’t right,” suggested Lorry.
“Don’t you get that idee, son. The law is all right. Mebby it ain’t handled right sometimes.”
“But what can anybody do about it?”
“Trouble is that folks who want to do the right thing ain’t always got the say. Or mebby if they have got the say they leave it to the other fella.
“What did the folks in Arizona do long back in eighty, when the sheep disease got bad. First off they doctored up the sick sheep, tryin’ to save ’em. That didn’t work, so they took to killin’ ’em to save the good sheep. But the disease had got into the blood of some of the good sheep. Then some of the big sheepmen got busy. Arizona made a law that no stock was to be shipped into any of her territory without bein’ inspected. That helped some. But inspectors is human, and some sick sheep got by.
“Then one day a fella that had some brains got up in the State House and spoke for the shuttin’ out of all stock until the disease was stomped out. You see, that disease didn’t start in this here country. But who downed that fella? Why, the sheepmen themselves. It would hurt their business. And the funny part of it is them sheepmen was willin’ enough to ship sick sheep anywhere they could sell ’em. But some States was wise. California, she put a inspection tax of twenty-five dollars on every carload of stock enterin’ her State—or on one animal; didn’t make no difference. That inspection tax had to be paid by the shipper of the stock, as I said, whether he shipped one head or a hundred. And the stock had to be inspected before loadin’.”