From the books, there should be two thousand three hundred cattle, or thereabouts, in the herd. A few cattle more or less would not have been surprising, for a great herd of cattle will, like a magnet, draw to it all the individual strays in the country roundabout.
It was well in the afternoon before the count was finished, and the boys rode into camp to count up and compare with the books. Ted totaled the figures, while the boys hung eagerly over him to learn the result.
“Well, what d’yer make it?” asked Bud, as Ted, with an expression of perplexity on his face, looked up from his work.
“The count is seventeen hundred and fifty,” answered Ted slowly.
“Gee! And that’s how many shy?”
“Five hundred and fifty. Bud, you have a good eye.”
“Orter hev. I’ve been runnin’ my eye over herds fer many a year. So, we’ve been done out o’ more’n five hundred head, eh? Well, Stella comes fust, an’ then ther man what thinks he kin rustle cattle from the broncho boys had better take a runnin’ jump outer this man’s country.”
Little Dick in trouble.
Little Dick Fosdick had been forgotten by Ted and the broncho boys in their anxiety over the absence of Stella.
They had seen him around the camp, but as it was impossible for him to accompany them on their hard rides, he had been left to his own devices.
He spent his days riding with one of the cowboys on the herd, and grieving in his own way for Stella.
He was a sensible little chap, and seldom complained at his loneliness. His life alone had made him patient, and he took it out in thinking.
He was now well able to take care of himself, although Stella insisted in “mothering” him when she was in camp.
Little Dick, as most of the boys called him, felt himself quite a man, for he could now catch his own pony and saddle it whenever he wanted to ride, and no one paid any attention to him as he came and went.
Ted had bought for him a little, wiry bay cayuse, and both he and Stella had taught him to ride, and Dick could now throw a rope with reasonable accuracy and speed.
Ted had given him a small revolver, and they had had great fun learning to shoot at a target, which was usually a bleached skull of a cow that had died long since on the prairie, and its bones picked clean by the coyotes.
Dick’s revolver was only of thirty-two caliber, as befitted his strength, but the youngster had a good eye and the steady nerves of youth, and he soon got so that he could hit the skull with reasonable accuracy.
“Putting the shot through the eye” was one of the jokes of these shooting tournaments, in which Stella, and sometimes Bud, joined.
One day when they were shooting at a skull target, Bud missed—probably intentionally, for Bud was a crack shot.