Young Sanders felt keenly his inexperience. They were taking advantage of him because he was a boy. He did not know what to do. He had a right to insist on a siding, but it was not his business to decide which one.
The train rolled past another siding and into the yards of the division town. At once Dave hurried to the station. The conductor about to take charge of the train was talking with the one just leaving. The range-rider saw them look at him and laugh as he approached. His blood began to warm.
“I want you to run this train onto a siding,” he said at once.
“You the train dispatcher?” asked the new man satirically.
“You know who I am. I’ll say right now that the cattle on this train are suffering. Some won’t last another hour. I’m goin’ to reload.”
“Are you? I guess not. This train’s going out soon as we’ve changed engines, and that’ll be in about seven minutes.”
“I’ll not go with it.”
“Suit yourself,” said the officer jauntily, and turned away to talk with the other man.
Dave walked to the dispatcher’s office. The cowpuncher stated his case.
“Fix that up with the train conductor,” said the dispatcher. “He can have a siding whenever he wants it.”
“But he won’t gimme one.”
“Not my business.”
“Whose business is it?”
The dispatcher got busy over his charts. Dave became aware that he was going to get no satisfaction here.
He tramped back to the platform.
“All aboard,” sang out the conductor.
Dave, not knowing what else to do, swung on to the caboose as it passed. He sat down on the steps and put his brains at work. There must be a way out, if he could only find what it was. The next station was fifteen miles down the line. Before the train stopped there Dave knew exactly what he meant to do. He wrote out two messages. One was to the division superintendent. The other was to Henry B. West.
He had swung from the steps of the caboose and was in the station before the conductor.
“I want to send two telegrams,” he told the agent. “Here they are all ready. Rush ’em through. I want an answer here to the one to the superintendent.”
The wire to the railroad official read:
Conductor freight number 17 refuses me siding to reload stock in my charge. Cattle down and dying. Serve notice herewith I put responsibility for all loss on railroad. Will leave cars in charge of train crew.
Representing West Cattle Company
The other message was just as direct.
Conductor refuses me siding to reload. Cattle suffering and dying. Have wired division superintendent. Will refuse responsibility and leave train unless siding given me.