“This here is a dry climate, and a cigar burns up right quick, if you don’t moisten it a little,” said the cattleman. “I ’most always moisten mine.”
Bartley grinned. “I think the occasion calls for it, Senator.”
“Oh, shucks! Just call me Steve—Steve Brown. And just give us a little Green River Tom.”
A few minutes later Bartley and his stout companion were seated on the veranda of the hotel, gazing out across the mesas. They were both comfortable, and quite content to watch the folk go past, out there in the heat. Bartley wondered if the title “Senator” were a nickname, or if the portly gentleman placidly smoking his cigar and gazing into space was really a politician.
A dusty cow-puncher drifted past the hotel, waving his hand to the Senator, who replied genially. A little later a Navajo buck rode up on a quick-stepping pony. He grunted a salutation and said something in his native tongue. The Senator replied in kind. Bartley was interested. Presently the Navajo dug his heels into his pony’s ribs, and clattered up the road.
The Senator turned to Bartley. “Politics and cattle,” he said, smiling.
Having learned the Senator’s vocation, Bartley gave his own as briefly. The Senator nodded.
“It is as obvious as all that, then?” queried Bartley.
“I wouldn’t say that,” stated the Senator carefully. “But after you bumped into me, and then stepped into the agent, and then turned around and took in my scenery, noticin’ the set of my legs, I says to myself, ‘painter-man or writer.’ It was kind of in your eye. I figured you wa’n’t no painter-man when you looked at the oil paintin’ over the bar.
“A painter-man would ‘a’ looked sad or said somethin’, for that there paintin’ is the most gosh-awful picture of what a puncher might look like after a cyclone had hit him. I took a painter-man in there once, to get a drink. He took one look at that picture, and then he says, kind of sorrowful: ‘Is this the only place in town where they serve liquor?’ I told him it was. ‘Let’s go over and tackle the pump,’ he says. But we had our drink. I told him just to turn his back on that picture when he took his.”
“I might be anything but a writer,” said Bartley.
“That’s correct. But you ain’t.”
“You hit the nail on the head. However, I can’t just follow your line of reasoning it out.”
“Easy. Elimination. Now a tourist, regular, stares at folks and things. But a painter or writer he takes things in without starin’. There’s some difference. I knew you were a man who did things. It’s in your eye.”
“Well,” laughed Bartley, “I took you for a cattleman the minute I saw you.”
“Which was a minute too late, eh?”
“I don’t know about that. Since I’ve been sitting here looking at the mesa and those wonderful buttes over there, and watching the natives come and go, I have begun to feel that I don’t care so much about that train, after all. I like this sort of thing. You see, I planned to visit California, but there was nothing definite about the plan. I chose California because I had heard so much about it. It doesn’t matter much where I go. By the way, my name is Bartley.”