“Charge, you coyotes! Charge!” shrieked Buck Johnson.
And at full speed, shrieking like fiends, we swept across flats.
There was no general resistance. We tumbled pell mell through the breach into the courtyard, encountering only terror-stricken wretches who cowered still dazed by the unexpectedness and force of the explosion. In the excitement order and command were temporarily lost. The men swarmed through the ranch buildings like locusts. Senor Buck Johnson and the other old timers let them go; but I noticed they themselves scattered here and there keeping a restraining eye on activities. There was to be no looting: and that was early made plain.
But before matters had a chance to go very far we were brought up all standing by the sound of shots outside. A rush started in that direction: but immediately Buck Johnson asserted his authority and took command. He did not intend to have his men shot unnecessarily.
By now it was pitch dark. A reconnaissance disclosed a little battle going on down toward the water corrals. Two of our men, straying in that direction, had been fired upon. They had promptly gone down on their bellies and were shooting back.
“I think they’ve got down behind the water troughs,” one of these men told me as I crawled up alongside. “Cain’t say how many there is. They shore do spit fire considerable. I’m just cuttin’ loose where I see the flash. When I shoot, you prepare to move and move lively. One of those horned toads can sure shoot some; and it ain’t healthy to linger none behind your own flash.”
The boys, when I crawled back with my report, were eager to pile in and rush the enemy.
“Just put us a hoss-back, senor,” pleaded Windy Bill, “and we’ll run right over them like a Shanghai rooster over a little green snake. They can’t hit nothing moving fast in the dark.”
“You’ll do just what I say,” rejoined Buck Johnson, fiercely. “Cow hands are scarce, and I don’t aim to lose one except in the line of business. If any man gets shot to-night, he’s out of luck. He’d better get shot good and dead; or he’ll wish he had been. That goes! There can’t be but a few of those renegades out there, and we’ll tend to them in due order. Watkins,” he addressed that old timer, “you tend to this. Feel around cautious. Fill up the place full of lead. Work your men around through the brush until you get them surrounded, and then just squat and shoot and wait for morning.”
Watkins sent out a dozen of the nearest men to circle the water troughs in order to cut off further retreat, if that were projected. Then he went about methodically selecting others to whom he assigned various stations.
“Now you get a-plenty of catteridges,” he told them, “and you lay low and shoot ’em off. And if any of you gets shot I’ll sure skin him alive!”