“Well, I hate a quitter; but I can’t do nothing, nohow,” mused the 4X foreman. He cleared his throat and turned to look at the house. “All right; when you get them cows you get out of here, an’ don’t never come back!”
Hopalong flung his arm with a shout to his men and the other kicked savagely at an inoffensive stick and slouched back to his bunk house, a beaten man.
TEX EWALT HUNTS TROUBLE
Not more than a few weeks after the Bar-20 drive outfit returned to the ranch a solitary horseman pushed on towards the trail they had followed, bound for Buckskin and the Bar-20 range. His name was Tex Ewalt and he cordially hated all of the Bar-20 outfit and Hopalong in particular. He had nursed a grudge for several years and now, as he rode south to rid himself of it and to pay a long-standing debt, it grew stronger until he thrilled with anticipation and the sauce of danger. This grudge had been acquired when he and Slim Travennes had enjoyed a duel with Hopalong Cassidy up in Santa Fe, and had been worsted; it had increased when he learned of Slim’s death at Cactus Springs at the hands of Hopalong; and, some time later, hearing that two friends of his, “Slippery” Trendley and “Deacon” Rankin, with their gang, had “gone out” in the Panhandle with the same man and his friends responsible for it, Tex hastened to Muddy Wells to even the score and clean his slate. Even now his face burned when he remembered his experiences on that never-to-be-forgotten occasion. He had been played with, ridiculed, and shamed, until he fled from the town as a place accursed, hating everything and everybody. It galled him to think that he had allowed Buck Peters’ momentary sympathy to turn him from his purpose, even though he was convinced that the foreman’s action had saved his life. And now Tex was returning, not to Muddy Wells, but to the range where the Bar-20 outfit held sway.
Several years of clean living had improved Tex, morally and physically. The liquor he had once been in the habit of consuming had been reduced to a negligible quantity; he spent the money on cartridges instead, and his pistol work showed the results of careful and dogged practice, particularly in the quickness of the draw. Punching cows on a remote northern range had repaid him in health far more than his old game of living on his wits and other people’s lack of them, as proved by his clear eye and the pink showing through the tan above his beard; while his somber, steady gaze, due to long-held fixity of purpose, indicated the resourcefulness of a perfectly reliable set of nerves. His low-hung holster tied securely to his trousers leg to assure smoothness in drawing, the restrained swing of his right hand, never far from the well-worn scabbard which sheathed a triggerless Colt’s “Frontier”—these showed the confident and ready gun-man, the man who seldom missed. “Frontiers” left the