“The sump holes are filling,” went on Sanders. “Soon the oil will the running to waste on the prairie. We need men, teams, tools, wagons, hundreds of slickers, tents, beds, grub. The wages will be one-fifty a day more than the run of wages in the camp until the emergency has been met, and Emerson Crawford will board all the volunteers who come out to dig.”
The speaker was lost again, this time in a buzz of voices of excited men. But out of the hubbub Dave’s shout became heard.
“All owners of teams and tools, all dealers in hardware and groceries, are asked to step to the right-hand side of the crowd for a talk with Mr. Crawford. Men willing to work till the gusher is under control, please meet Bob Hart in front of the fire-house. I’ll see any cooks and restaurant-men alive to a chance to make money fast. Right here at the steps.”
“Good medicine, son,” boomed Emerson Crawford, slapping him on the shoulder. “Didn’t know you was an orator, but you sure got this crowd goin’. Bob here yet?”
“Yes. I saw him a minute ago in the crowd. Sorry I had to make promises for you, but the fire chief wouldn’t let me keep the crowd waiting. Some one had to talk.”
“Suits me. I’ll run you for Congress one o’ these days.” Then, “I’ll send the grocery-men over to you. Tell them to get the grub out to-night. If the restaurant-men don’t buy it I’ll run my own chuck wagon outfit. See you later, Dave.”
For the next twenty-four hours there was no night in Malapi. Streets were filled with shoutings, hurried footfalls, the creaking of wagons, and the thud of galloping horses. Stores were lit up and filled with buyers. For once the Gusher and the Oil Pool and other resorts held small attraction for the crowds. The town was moving out to see the big new discovery that was to revolutionize its fortunes with the opening of a new and tremendously rich field. Every ancient rig available was pressed into service to haul men or supplies out to the Jackpot location. Scarcely a minute passed, after the time that the first team took the road, without a loaded wagon, packed to the sideboards, moving along the dusty road into the darkness of the desert.
Three travelers on horseback rode in the opposite direction. Their destination was Cottonwood Bend. Two of them were Emerson Crawford and David Sanders. The third was an oil prospector who had been a passenger on the stage when it was robbed.
Jackpot number three had come in with a roar that shook the earth for half a mile. Deep below the surface there was a hiss and a crackle, the shock of rending strata giving way to the pressure of the oil pool. From long experience as a driller, Jed Burns knew what was coming. He swept his crew back from the platform, and none too soon to escape disaster. They were still flying across the prairie when the crown box catapulted into the sky and the whole drilling superstructure toppled over. Rocks, clay, and sand were hurled into the air, to come down in a shower that bombarded everything within a radius of several hundred yards.