“How many strays have you?” inquired Sargent of the foreman, as the quartette rode together.
“That’s so; there’s a steer and a heifer; we’ll throw them in for good measure. What’s your count?”
“Minus the strays, mine repeats yours at Ogalalla,” answered Sargent, turning to Joel.
“Thirty-one hundred and ten,” said the boy.
The trail foreman gave vent to a fit of laughter. “Young fellow,” said he, “I never allow no man to outdo me in politeness. If you bought these cattle on my old man’s word, I want you to be safe in receiving them. We’ll class them sixteen hundred twos, and fifteen hundred threes, and any overplus falls to the red-headed pilot. That’s about what Uncle Dud would call a Texas count and classification. Shake out your horses; dinner’s waiting.”
There were a few details to arrange. Manly must have an assistant, and an extra man was needed with the shipment, both of whom volunteered from the through outfit. The foreman was invited to move up to headquarters and rest to his heart’s content, but in his anxiety to report to his employer, the invitation was declined.
“We’ll follow up to-morrow,” said he, “and lay over on the railroad until you come in with our beeves. The next hard work I do is to get in touch with my Uncle Dudley.”
“Look here—how about it—when may we expect you home?” sputtered Manly, as the others hurriedly made ready to overtake the beef herd.
“When you see us again,” answered Joel, mounting his horse. “If this shipment strikes a good market, we may drop down to Trail City and pick up another herd. It largely depends on our bank account. Until you see or hear from us, hold the dead-line and locate your cattle.”
The trail outfit reached the railroad a day in advance of the beeves. Shipping orders were sent to the station agent in advance, and on the arrival of the herd the two outfits made short shift in classifying it for market and corralling the different grades of cattle.
Mr. Stoddard had been located at Trail City. Once the shipment was safely within the corral, notice was wired the commission firm, affording time for reply before the shipment would leave in the morning. An early call at the station was rewarded by receipt of a wire from the west. “Read that,” said the foreman, handing the telegram to Joel; “wants all three of us to come into the city.”
“Of course,” commented Joel, returning the message. “It’s clear enough. There’s an understanding between us. At the earliest convenience, after the delivery of the herd, we were to meet and draw up the final papers. We’ll all go in with this shipment.”
“And send the outfits across country to Trail City?”
“Throw the remudas together and let them start the moment the cattle train leaves. We can go back with Mr. Stoddard and meet the outfits at the new trail market.”