Bob galloped into the canon and flung himself from the horse as he pulled it up in its stride.
“She’s jumpin’ outa the gulch above. Too late to head her off. We better get scrapers up and run a trail along the top o’ the ridge, don’t you reckon?” he said.
“Yes, son,” agreed Crawford. “We can just about hold her here. It’ll be hours before I can spare a man for the ridge. We got to get help in a hurry. You ride to town and rustle men. Bring out plenty of dynamite and gunnysacks. Lucky we got the tools out here we brought to build the sump holes.”
“Betcha! We’ll need a lot o’ grub, too.”
The cattleman nodded agreement. “And coffee. Cayn’t have too much coffee. It’s food and drink and helps keep the men awake.”
“And for the love o’ Heaven, don’t forget canteens! Get every canteen in town. Cayn’t have my men runnin’ around with their tongues hangin’ out. Better bring out a bunch of broncs to pack supplies around. It’s goin’ to be one man-sized contract runnin’ the commissary.”
The canon above them was by this time a sea of fire, the most terrifying sight Bob had ever looked upon. Monster flames leaped at the walls of the gulch, swept in an eyebeat over draws, attacked with a savage roar the dry vegetation. The noise was like the crash of mountains meeting. Thunder could scarce have made itself heard.
Rocks, loosened by the heat, tore down the steep incline of the walls, sometimes singly, sometimes in slides. These hit the bed of the ravine with the force of a cannon-ball. The workers had to keep a sharp lookout for these.
A man near Bob was standing with his weight on the shovel he had been using. Hart gave a shout of warning. At the same moment a large rock struck the handle and snapped it off as though it had been kindling wood. The man wrung his hands and almost wept with the pain.
A cottontail ran squealing past them, driven from its home by this new and deadly enemy. Not far away a rattlesnake slid across the hot rocks. Their common fear of man was lost in a greater and more immediate one.
Hart did not like to leave the battle-field. “Lemme stay here. You can handle that end of the job better’n me, Mr. Crawford.”
The old cattleman, his face streaked with black, looked at him from bloodshot eyes. “Where do you get that notion I’ll quit a job I’ve started, son? You hit the trail. The sooner the quicker.”
The young man wasted no more words. He swung to the saddle and rode for town faster than he had ever traveled in all his hard-riding days.
Sanders was in the office of the Jackpot Company looking over some blue-prints when Joyce Crawford came in and inquired where her father was.
“He went out with Bob Hart to the oil field this morning. Some trouble with the casing.”