“Well, he’s a tough bird,” said Jed.
“Looks like a harmless old cuss—but mean,” says I.
“About this trip,” said Jed, after I’d saddled and coiled my rope—“don’t, and say you did.”
I didn’t answer this, but led my horse to the gate.
“Well, don’t say as how I didn’t tell you all about it,” said Jed, going back to the bunk house.
Miserable old coot! I suppose he thought he had
told me all about it!
Jed was always too loquacious!
But I hadn’t racked along more than two miles before a man cantered up who was perfectly able to express himself. He was one of our outfit and was known as Windy Bill. Nuff said!
“Hear you’re goin’ up to stay the night at Hooper’s,” said he. “Know Hooper?”
“No, I don’t,” said I, “are you another of these Sunbirds with glad news?”
“Know about Hooper’s boomerang?”
“Boomerang!” I replied, “what’s that?”
“That’s what they call it. You know how of course we all let each other’s strays water at our troughs in this country, and send ’em back to their own range at round up.”
“Brother, you interest me,” said I, “and would you mind informing me further how you tell the dear little cows apart?”
“Well, old Hooper don’t, that’s all,” went on Windy, without paying me any attention. “He built him a chute leading to the water corrals, and half way down the chute he built a gate that would swing across it and open a hole into a dry corral. And he had a high platform with a handle that ran the gate. When any cattle but those of his own brands came along, he had a man swing the gate and they landed up into the dry corral. By and by he let them out on the range again.”
“Sure! And of course back they came into the chute. And so on. Till they died, or we came along and drove them back home.”
“Windy,” said I, “you’re stuffing me full of tacks.”
“I’ve seen little calves lyin’ in heaps against the fence like drifts of tumbleweed,” said Windy, soberly; and then added, without apparent passion, “The old——!”
Looking at Windy’s face, I knew these words for truth.
“He’s a bad hombre,” resumed Windy Bill after a moment. “He never does no actual killing himself, but he’s got a bad lot of oilers[A] there, especially an old one named Andreas and another one called Ramon, and all he has to do is to lift one eye at a man he don’t like and that man is as good as dead—one time or another.”
This was going it pretty strong, and I grinned at Windy Bill.
“All right,” said Windy, “I’m just telling you.”
“Well, what’s the matter with you fellows down here?” I challenged. “How is it he’s lasted so long? Why hasn’t someone shot him? Are you all afraid of him or his Mexicans?”
“No, it ain’t that, exactly. I don’t know. He drives by all alone, and he don’t pack no gun ever, and he’s sort of runty—and—I do’no why he ain’t been shot, but he ain’t. And if I was you, I’d stick home.”