“Don’t you worry about us dying with thirst; that ain’t worrying us none.”
“I heard different,” replied Hopalong, smiling. “Them fellers in the corral drank a quart apiece. See here, Boggs; you can’t win, an’ you know it. Yo’re not bucking me, but the whole range, the whole country. It’s a fight between conditions—the fence idea agin the open range idea, an’ open trails. The fence will lose. You closed a drive trail that’s ’most as old as cow-raising. Will the punchers of this part of the country stand for it? Suppose you lick us,—which you won’t—can you lick all the rest of us, the JD, Wallace’s, Double-Arrow, C-80, Cross-O-Cross, an’ the others! That’s just what it amounts to, an’ you better stop right now, before somebody gets killed. You know what that means in this section. Yo’re six to our eight, you ain’t got a drink in that shack, an’ you dasn’t try to get one. You can’t do a thing agin us, an’ you know it.”
Boggs rested his hands on his hips and considered, Hopalong waiting for him to reply. He knew that the Bar-20 man was right but he hated to admit it, he hated to say he was whipped.
“Are any of them six hurt?” he finally asked.
“Only scratches an’ sore heads,” responded Hopalong, smiling. “We ain’t tried to kill anybody, yet. I’m putting that up to you.”
Boggs made no reply and Hopalong continued: “I got six of yore twelve men prisoners, an’ all yore cayuses are in my han’s. I’ll shoot every animal before I’ll leave ’em for you to use against me, an’ I’ll take enough of yore cows to make up for what I lost by that fence. You’ve got to pay for them dead cows, anyhow. If I do let you out you’ll have to road-brand me two hundred, or pay cash. My herd ain’t worrying me—it’s moving all the time. It’s through that other fence by now. An’ if I have to keep my outfit here to pen you in or shoot you off I can send to the JD for a gang to push the herd. Don’t make no mistake: yo’re getting off easy. Suppose one of my men had been killed at the fence—what then?”
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“Stop this foolishness an’ take down them fences for a mile each side of the trail. If Buck has to come up here the whole thing’ll go down. Road-brand me two hundred of yore three-year-olds. Now as soon as you agree, an’ say that the fight’s over, it will be. You can’t win out; an’ what’s the use of having yore men killed off?”
“I hate to quit,” replied the other, gloomily.
“I know how that is; but yo’re wrong on this question, dead wrong. You don’t own this range or the trail. You ain’t got no right to close that old drive trail. Honest, now; have you?”
“You say them six ain’t hurt?”
“No more’n I said.”
“An’ if I give in will you treat my men right?”
“When will you leave.”
“Just as soon as I get them two hundred three-year-olds.”