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The Heritage of the Sioux

B. M. Bower

  Produced by Dianne Bean


  By B.M. Bower




  Old Applehead Furrman, jogging home across the mesa from Albuquerque,sniffed the soft breeze that came from opal-tinted distances and feltpoignantly that spring was indeed here. The grass, thick and greenin the sheltered places, was fast painting all the higher ridgesand foot-hill slopes, and with the green grass came the lank-bodied,big-kneed calves; which meant that roundup time was at hand. Appleheaddid not own more than a thousand head of cattle, counting every hoofthat walked under his brand. And with the incipient lethargy of oldage creeping into his habits of life, roundup time was not with him theimportant season it once had been; for several years he had been contentto hire a couple of men to represent him in the roundups of the largeroutfits--men whom he could trust to watch fairly well his interests. Bythat method he avoided much trouble and hurry and hard work--and escapedalso the cares which come with wealth.

  But this spring was not as other springs had been. Something--whether anawakened ambition or an access of sentiment regarding range matters, hedid not know--was stirring the blood in Applehead's veins. Never, sincethe days when he had been a cowpuncher, had the wide spaces called tohim so alluringly; never had his mind dwelt so insistently upon theapproach of spring roundup. Perhaps it was because he heard somuch range talk at the ranch, where the boys of the Flying U wereforegathered in uneasy idleness, their fingers itching for the feelof lariat ropes and branding irons while they gazed out over the widespaces of the mesa.

  So much good rangeland unharnessed by wire fencing the Flying U boys hadnot seen for many a day. During the winter they had been content to rideover it merely for the purpose of helping to make a motion picture ofthe range, but with the coming of green grass, and with the reactionthat followed the completion of the picture that in the making hadfilled all their thoughts, they were not so content. To the inevitablereaction had been added a nerve racking period of idleness anduncertainty while Luck Lindsay, their director, strove with the GreatWestern Film Company in Los Angeles for terms and prices that would makefor the prosperity of himself and his company.

  In his heart Applehead knew, just as the Happy Family knew, that Luckhad good and sufficient reasons for over-staying the time-limit he hadgiven himself for the trip. But knowing that Luck was not to be blamedfor his long absence did not lessen their impatience, nor did it stiflethe call of the wide spaces nor the subtle influence of the winds thatblew softly over the uplands.

  By the time he reached the ranch Applehead had persuaded himself thatthe immediate gathering of his cattle was an imperative duty and that hehimself must perform it. He could not, he told himself, afford to waitaround any longer for luck. Maybe when he came Luck would have nothingbut disappointment for them, Maybe--Luck was so consarned stubborn whenhe got an idea in his head--maybe be wouldn't come to any agreement withthe Great Western. Maybe they wouldn't offer him enough money, or leavehim enough freedom in his work; maybe he would "fly back on the rope"at the last minute, and come back with nothing accomplished. Applehead,with the experience gleaned from the stress of seeing luck produce onefeature picture without any financial backing whatever and without halfenough capital, was not looking forward with any enthusiasm to anothersuch ordeal. He did not believe, when all was said and done, that theFlying U boys would be so terribly eager to repeat the performance.He did believe--or he made himself think he believed--that the onlysensible thing to do right then was to take the boys and go out andstart a roundup of his own. It wouldn't take long--his cattle weren't sobadly scattered this year.

  "Where's Andy at?" he asked Pink, who happened to be leaning boredlyover the gate when he rode up to the corral. Andy Green, having beenleft in nominal charge of the outfit when Luck left, must be consulted,Applehead supposed.

  "Andy? I dunno. He saddled up and rode off somewhere, a while ago," Pinkanswered glumly. "That's more than he'll let any of us fellows do; theway he's close-herding us makes me tired! Any news?"

  "Ain't ary word from Luck--no word of NO kind. I've about made up mymind to take the chuck-wagon to town and stock it with grub, and hitout on roundup t'morrer or next day. I don't see as there's any sensein setting around here waitin' on Luck and lettin' my own work slide.Chavez boys, they started out yest'day, I heard in town. And if I don'tgit right out close onto their heels, I'll likely find myself witha purty light crop uh calves, now I'm tellin' yuh!" Applehead, socompletely had he come under the spell of the soft spring air and thelure of the mesa, actually forgot that he had long been in the habit ofattending to his calf crop by proxy.

  Pink's face brightened briefly. Then he remembered why they were beingkept so close to the ranch, and he grew bored again.

  "What if Luck pulled in before we got back, and wanted us to start workon another picture?" he asked, discouraging the idea reluctantly. Pinkhad himself been listening to the call of the wide spaces, and the meremention of roundup had a thrill for him.

  "Well, now, I calc'late my prope'ty is might' nigh as important asLuck's pitcher-making," Applehead contended with a selfishness born ofhis newly awakened hunger for the far distances. "And he ain't sent aryword that he's coming, or will need you boys immediate. The chances iswe could go and git back agin before Luck shows up. And if we don't," heargued speciously, "he can't blame nobody for not wantin' to set aroundon their haunches all spring waiting for 'im. I'd do a lot fer luck;I've DONE a lot fer 'im. But it ain't to be expected I'd set aroundwaitin' on him and let them danged Mexicans rustle my calves. They'll doit if they git half a show--now I'm tellin' yuh!"

  Pink did not say anything at all, either in assent or argument; but oldApplehead, now that he had established a plausible reason for his suddenimpulse, went on arguing the case while he unsaddled his horse. By thetime he turned the animal loose he had thought of two or three otherreasons why he should take the boys and start out as soon as possible toround up his cattle. He was still dilating upon these reasons when AndyGreen rode slowly down the slope to the corral.

  "Annie-Many-Ponies come back yet?" he asked of Pink, as he swung downoff his horse. "Annie? No; ain't seen anything of her. Shunky's beensitting out there on the hill for the last hour, looking for her."

  "Fer half a cent," threatened old Applehead, in a bad humor becausehis arguments had not quite convinced him that he was not meditating adisloyalty, "I'd kill that danged dawg. And if I was runnin' this bunch,I'd send that squaw back where she come from, and I'd send her quick.Take the two of 'em together and they don't set good with me, now I'mtellin' yuh! If I was to say what I think, I'd say yuh can't nevertrust an Injun--and shiny hair and eyes and slim build don't make 'em notrustier. They's something scaley goin' on around here, and I'd gambleon it. And that there squaw's at the bottom of it. What fur's she ridin'off every day, 'n' nobody knowin' where she goes to? If Luck's got thesense he used to have, he'll git some white girl to act in his pitchers,and send that there squaw home 'fore she double-crosses him some way orother."

  "Oh, hold on, Applehead!" Pink felt constrained to defend the girl."You've got it in for her 'cause her dog don't like your cat. Annie'sall right; I never saw anything outa the way with her yet."

  "Well, now, time you're old as I be, you'll have some sense, mebby,"Applehead quelled. "Course you think Annie's all right. She's purty,'n'purtyness in a woman shore does cover up a pile uh cussedness--to afeller under forty. You're boss here, Andy. When she comes back, you ask'er where she's been, and see if you kin git a straight answer. She'lllie to yuh--I'll bet all I got, she'll lie to yuh. And when a woman liesabout where she's been to and what she's been doin', you can bet there'ssomething scaley goin' on. Yuh can't fool ME!"

  He turned and went up to the small adobe house where he had lived insolitary contentment with his cat Compadre until Luck Lindsay, seeking acheap headquarters for his free-lance company while he produced the bigWestern picture which filled all his mind, had taken calm and unheraldedpossession of the ranch. Applehead did not resent the invasion; onthe contrary, he welcomed it as a pleasant change in his monotonousexistence. What he did resent was the coming, first, of the little blackdog that was no more than a tramp and had no right on the ranch, andthat broke all the laws of decency and gratitude by making the life ofthe big blue cat miserable. Also he resented the uninvited arrival ofAnnie-Many-Ponies from the Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

  Annie-Many-Ponies had not only come uninvited--she had remained indefiance of Luck's perturbed insistence that she should go back home.The Flying U boys might overlook that fact because of her beauty, butApplehead was not so easily beguiled--especially when she proceededto form a violent attachment to the little black dog, which she calledShunka Chistala in what Applehead considered a brazen flaunting of herIndian blood and language, Between the mistress of Shunka Chistala andthe master of the cat there could never be anything more cordial thanan armed truce. She had championed that ornery cur in a way to makeApplehead's blood boil. She had kept the dog in the house at night,which forced the cat to seek cold comfort elsewhere. She had pilferedthe choicest table scraps for the dog--and Compadre was a cat offastidious palate and grew thin on what coarse bits were condescendinglyleft for him.

  Applehead had not approved of Luck's final consent thatAnnie-Many-Ponies should stay and play the Indian girl in his bigpicture. In the mind of Applehead there lurked a grudge that found allthe more room to grow because of the natural bigness and generosity ofhis nature. It irked him to see her going her calm way with that prouduptilt to her shapely head and that little, inscrutable smile when shecaught the meaning of his grumbling hints.

  Applehead was easy-going to a fault in most things, but his dislikehad grown in Luck's absence to the point where he considered himselfaggrieved whenever Annie-Many-Ponies saddled the horse which had beentacitly set aside for her use, and rode off into the mesa without a wordof explanation or excuse. Applehead reminded the boys that she had notacted like that when luck was home. She had stayed on the ranch whereshe belonged, except once or twice, on particularly fine days, when shehad meekly asked "Wagalexa Conka," as she persisted in calling Luck, forpermission to go for a ride.

  Applehead itched to tell her a few things about the social, moral,intellectual and economic status of an "Injun squaw"--but there wassomething in her eye, something in the quiver of her finely shapednostrils, in the straight black brows, that held his tongue quiet whenhe met her face to face. You couldn't tell about these squaws. Evenluck, who knew Indians better than most--and was, in a heathenish tribalway, the adopted son of Old Chief Big Turkey, and therefore Annie'sbrother by adoption--even Luck maintained that Annie-Many-Poniesundoubtedly carried a knife concealed in her clothes and would use it ifever the need arose. Applehead was not afraid of Annie's knife. It wassomething else, something he could not put into words, that held himback from open upbraidings.

  He gave Andy's wife, Rosemary, the mail and stopped to sympathize withher because Annie-Many-Ponies had gone away and left the hardest part ofthe ironing undone. Luck had told Annie to help Rosemary with the work;but Annie's help, when Luck was not around the place, was, Rosemaryasserted, purely theoretical.

  "And from all you read about Indians," Rosemary complained with a prettywrinkling of her brows, "you'd think the women just LIVE for the sakeof working. I've lost all faith in history, Mr. Furrman. I don't believesquaws ever do anything if they can help it. Before she went off ridingtoday, for instance, that girl spent a whole HOUR brushing her hair andbraiding it. And I do believe she GREASES it to make it shine the wayit does! And the powder she piles on her face--just to ride out onthe mesa!" Rosemary Green was naturally sweet-tempered and exceedinglycharitable in her judgements; but here, too, the cat-and-dog feud hadits influence. Rosemary Green was a loyal champion of the cat Compadre;besides, there was a succession of little irritations, in the way ofdishes left unwashed and inconspicuous corners left unswept, to warp heropinion of Annie-Many-Ponies.

  When he left Rosemary he went straight down to where the chuck-wagonstood, and began to tap the tires with a small rock to see if they wouldneed resetting before he started out. He decided that the brake-blockswould have to be replaced with new ones--or at least reshod with oldboot-soles. The tongue was cracked, too; that had been done last winterwhen Luck was producing The Phantom Herd and had sent old Dave Wiswelldown a rocky hillside with half-broken bronks harnessed to the wagon, ina particularly dramatic scene. Applehead went grumblingly in search ofsome baling wire to wrap the tongue. He had been terribly excited andfull of enthusiasm for the picture at the time the tongue was cracked,but now he looked upon it merely as a vital weakness in his roundupoutfit. A new tongue would mean delay; and delay, in his present mood,was tragedy.

  He couldn't find any old baling wire, though he had long been accustomedto tangling his feet in snarled bunches of it when he went forth inthe dark after a high wind. Until now he had not observed its unwontedabsence from the yard. For a long while he had not needed any wire tomend things, because Luck had attended to everything about the ranch,and if anything needed mending he had set one of the Happy Family at thetask.

  His search led him out beyond the corrals in the little dry wash thatsometimes caught and held what the high winds brought rolling that way.The wash was half filled with tumble-weed, so that Applehead was forcedto get down into it and kick the weeds aside to see if there wasany wire lodged beneath. His temper did not sweeten over the task,especially since he found nothing that he wanted.

  Annie-Many-Ponies, riding surreptitiously up the dry wash--meaning tocome out in a farther gully and so approach the corral from the westinstead of from the east--came upon Applehead quite unexpectedly. Shestopped and eyed him aslant from under her level, finely marked brows,and her eyes lightened with relief when she saw that Applehead lookedmore startled than she had felt. Indeed, Applehead had been calling Luckuncomplimentary names for cleaning the place of everything a man mightneed in a hurry, and he was ashamed of himself.

  "Can't find a foot of danged wire on the danged place!" Applehead kickeda large, tangled bunch of weeds under the very nose of the horse whichjumped sidewise. "Never seen such a maniac for puttin' things where afeller can't find 'em, as what Luck is." He was not actually speaking to Annie-Many-Ponies--or if he was he did not choose to point hisremarks by glancing at her.

  "Wagalexa Conka, he heap careful for things belong when they stay,"Annie-Many-Ponies observed in her musical contralto voice which alwaysirritated Applehead with its very melody. "I think plenty wire all foldup neat in prop-room. Wagalexa Conka, he all time clean this studio fromtrash lie around everywhere."

  "He does, hey?" Applehead's sunburnt mustache bristled like the whiskersof Compadre when he was snarling defiance at the little black dog.The feud was asserting itself. "Well, this here danged place ain't nostudio! It's a ranch, and it b'longs to ME, Nip Furrman. And any balin'wire on this ranch is my balin' wire, and it's got a right to lay aroundwherever I want it t' lay. And I don't need no danged squaw givin' mehints about 'how my p
lace oughta be kept--now I'm tellin' yuh!"

  Annie-Many-Ponies did not reply in words. She sat on her horse, straightas any young warchief that ever led her kinsmen to battle, and lookeddown at Applehead with that maddening half smile of hers, inscrutable asthe Sphinx her features sometimes resembled. Shunka Chistala (whichis Sioux for Little Dog) came bounding over the low ridge that hid theranch buildings from sight, and wagged himself dislocatingly up to her.Annie-Many-Ponies frowned at his approach until she saw that Appleheadwas aiming a clod at the dog, whereupon she touched her heels to thehorse and sent him between Applehead and her pet, and gave ShunkaChistala a sharp command in Sioux that sent him back to the house withhis tail dropped.

  For a full half minute she and old Applehead looked at each otherin open antagonism. For a squaw, Annie-Many-Ponies was remarkablyunsubmissive in her bearing. Her big eyes were frankly hostile; her halfsmile was, in the opinion of Applehead, almost as frankly scornful.He could not match her in the subtleties of feminine warfare. He tookrefuge behind the masculine bulwark of authority.

  "Where yuh bin with that horse uh mine?" he demanded harshly. "Purtynote when I don't git no say about my own stock. Got him all het up andheavin' like he'd been runnin' cattle; I ain't goin' to stand for havin'my horses ran to death, now I'm tellin' yuh! Fer a squaw, I must sayyou're gittin' too danged uppish in your ways around here. Next timeyou want to go traipsin' around the mesa, you kin go afoot. I'm goin' toneed my horses fer roundup."

  A white girl would have made some angry retort; but Annie-Many-Ponies,without looking in the least abashed, held her peace and kept thatlittle inscrutable smile upon her lips. Her eyes, however, narrowed intheir gaze.

  "Yuh hear me?" Poor old Applehead had never before attempted to browbeata woman, and her unsubmissive silence seemed to his bachelor minduncanny.

  "I hear what Wagalexa Conka tell me." She turned her horse and rodecomposedly away from him over the ridge.

  "You'll hear a danged sight more'n that, now I'm tellin' yuh!" ravedApplehead impotently. "I ain't sayin' nothin' agin Luck, but they'sgoin' to be some danged plain speakin' done on some subjects whenhe comes back, and given' squaws a free rein and lettin' 'em riderough-shod over everybody and everything is one of 'era. Things isgittin' mighty funny when a danged squaw kin straddle my horses and ride'em to death, and sass me when I say a word agin it--now I'm tellin'yuh!"

  He went mumbling rebellion that was merely the effervescing of amood which would pass with the words it bred, to the store-room whichAnnie-Many-Ponies had called the prop-room. He found there, piled upona crude shelf, many little bundles of wire folded neatly and with theouter end wound twice around to keep each bundle separate from theothers. Applehead snorted at what he chose to consider a finicky streakin his secret idol, Luck Lindsay; but he took two of the little bundlesand went and wired the wagon tongue. And in the work he found a salve ofanticipatory pleasure, so that he ended the task to the humming of thetune he had heard a movie theatre playing in town as he rode by on hisway home.