Pink, because he knew well the country and because Irish, who also knew it well, refused pointblank to go into it again even as a rep, rode alone except for his horses down into the range of the Rocking R. General roundup was about to start, down that way, and there was stock bought by the Flying U which ranged north of the Bear Paws.
It so happened that the owner of the Rocking R was entertaining a party of friends at the ranch; it also happened that the friends were quite new to the West and its ways, and they were intensely interested in all pertaining thereto. Pink gathered that much from the crew, besides observing much for himself. Hence what follows after.
Sherwood Branciforte was down in the blacksmith shop at the Rocking R, watching one Andy Green hammer a spur-shank straight. Andy was what he himself called a tamer of wild ones, and he was hard upon his riding gear. Sherwood had that morning watched with much admiration the bending of that same spur-shank, and his respect for Andy was beautiful to behold.
“Lord, but this is a big, wild country,” he was saying enthusiastically, “and the people in it are big and—”
“Wild,” supplied Andy. “Yes, you’ve just about got us sized up correct.” He went on hammering, and humming under his breath, and thinking that, while admiration is all right in its time and place, it is sometimes a bit wearisome.
“Oh, but I didn’t mean that,” the young man protested. “What I meant was breezy and picturesque. Things can happen, out here. Life and men don’t run in grooves.”
“No, nor horses,” assented Andy. “Leastways, not in oiled ones.” He was remembering how that spur-shank had become bent.
“You did some magnificent riding, this morning. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything like it. Strange that one can come out here into a part of the country absolutely new and raw, and see things—”
“Oh, it ain’t so raw as you might think,” Andy defended jealously, “nor yet new.”
“Of course it is new! A commonwealth in the making. You can’t,” he asserted triumphantly, “point to anything man-made that existed a hundred years ago; scarcely fifty, either. Your civilization is yet in the cradle—a lusty infant, and a—er—vociferous one, but still an infant in swaddling clothes.” Sherwood Branciforte had given lectures before the Y.M.C.A. of his home town, and young ladies had spoken of him as “gifted,” and he had come to hear of it, and to believe.
Andy Green squinted at the shank before he made reply. Andy, also, was “gifted,” in his modest Western way.
“A country that can now and then show the papers for a civilization old as the Phenixes of Egypt,” he said, in a drawling tone that was absolutely convincing, “ain’t what I’d call raw.” He decided that a little more hammering right next the rowel was necessary, and bent over the anvil solicitously. Even the self-complacency of Sherwood Branciforte could not fail to note his utter indifference to the presence and opinions of his companion. Branciforte was accustomed to disputation at times—even to enmity; but not to indifference. He blinked. “My dear fellow, do you realize what it is that statement might seem to imply?” he queried haughtily.