Lorry, itching to enter the roping contest, was checked by a suggestion from the genial Bud.
“I’ve heard you was top-hand with a rope. But you’re a ranger, by the grace of God and me and John Torrance. Let the boy’s play, but don’t play with ’em yet. Keep ’em guessin’ just how good you are. Let ’em get to know you slow—and solid.”
Lorry accepted Bud’s advice, and made himself popular with the various outfits by maintaining a silence when questioned as to how he “put High-Chin Bob out of business.” The story of that affair had had a wide circulation, and gained interest when it became known that High Chin and his men were present. Their excuse for coming was only legitimate in that a barbecue draws no fine lines of distinction. Any one who has a horse and an appetite is welcome. The Starr riders were from the northern county, but they would have been quite as welcome had they come from Alaska.
Bud Shoop was present in a suit of religiously severe black, his pants outside his boots. He had donned a white shirt and knotted a black silk bandanna round his short neck.
The morning was noisy with pony races, roping contests, and the riding of pitching horses. The events were not tabulated, but evolved through the unwritten law of precedent.
After the noon feast there was talk of a shooting-match. Few of the local men packed guns, and none of them openly. The Starr riders were the only exception. This fact was commented upon by some of the old-timers, who finally accosted Bud with the suggestion that he “show that Starr outfit what a gun was made for.” Bud declined.
“I ain’t had a gun in my hand, except to clean it, since I quit punchin’,” he told them. “And, anyhow, I’m no fancy gun sharp.”
“High Chin and his outfit is sure handin’ it to us,” complained the old-timers. “And you’re about the only man here who could show ’em.”
“No use provin’ it to ’em when they know it,” Bud said.
The committee retired and consulted among themselves. Bud was talking with a cattleman when they again accosted him.
“Say, Bud, them Starr boys has cleaned us out on ropin’ and racin’. We trimmed ’em on ridin’. Now that makes two to one, and we’re askin’ you as a old-timer if we’re goin’ to let them fellas ride north a-tellin’ every hay-tosser atween here and Stacey that we’re a bunch of jays?”
“Oh, shucks!” was all Bud had to say.
“And that High-Chin Bob says he aims to hang young Adams’s scalp on his belt afore he gits through,” asserted a townsman.
“I’ll set in the game,” said Bud.
And he waddled across the street to his office. In a few minutes he came back and mingled with the crowd. The Starr boys were pitching dollars at a mark when Bud and a companion strolled past. High Chin invited Shoop to join in the game. Shoop declined pleasantly.
“Things is runnin’ slow,” said a Starr man. “Wish I’d ‘a’ fetched my music along. Mebby I could git somebody to sing me to sleep.”