Hopalong cassidy, p.10
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.10
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER X

  BUCK VISITS MEEKER

  As Buck rode south he went over the boundary trouble in all itsphases, and the more he thought about it the firmer his resolutiongrew to hold the line at any cost. He had gone to great expense andlabor to improve the water supply in the valley and he saw no reasonwhy the H2 could not do the same; and to him an agreement was anagreement, and ran with the land. What Meeker thought about it was notthe question--the point at issue was whether or not the H2 could takethe line and use the valley, and if they could they were welcome toit.

  But while there was any possibility for a peaceable settlement itwould be foolish to start fighting, for one range war had spread toalarming proportions and had been costly to life and property. Thenthere was the certainty that once war had begun, rustling woulddevelop. But, be the consequences what they might, he would fight tothe last to hold that which was rightfully his. He was not going toMeeker to beg a compromise, or to beg him to let the valley alone; hewas riding to tell the H2 foreman what he could expect if he forcedmatters.

  When he rode past the H2 corrals he was curiously regarded by a groupof punchers who lounged near them, and he went straight up to themwithout heeding their frowns.

  "Is Meeker here?"

  "No, he ain't here," replied Curley, who was regarded by hiscompanions as being something of a humorist.

  "Where is he?"

  "Since you asks, I reckon he's in th' bunk house," Curley replied."Where he ought to be," he added, pointedly, while his companionsgrinned.

  "That's wise," responded Buck. "He ought to stay there more often. Ihope his cows will take after him. Much obliged for th' information,"he finished, riding on.

  "His cows an' his punchers'll do as they wants," asserted Curley,frowning.

  "Excuse me. I reckoned _he_ was boss around here," Buck apologized, agrim smile playing about his lips. "But you better change that 'will'to 'won't' when you mean th' valley."

  "I mean _will_!" Curley retorted, leaping to his feet. "An' what'smore, I ain't through with that game laig puncher of yourn, neither."

  Buck laughed and rode forward again. "You have my sympathy, then," hecalled over his shoulder.

  Buck stopped before the bunk house and called out, and in response tohis hail Jim Meeker came and stood in the door.

  The H2 foreman believed he was right, and he was too obstinate toadmit that there was any side but his which should be considered. Hewanted water and better grass, and both were close at hand. Where hehad been raised there had been no boundaries, for it had been freegrass and water, and he would not and could not see that it was anydifferent on his new range. He had made no agreement, and if one hadbeen made it did not concern him; it concerned only those who had madeit. He did not buy the ranch from the old owners, but from asyndicate, and there had been nothing said about lines orrestrictions. When he made any agreements he lived up to them, but hedid not propose to observe those made by others.

  "How'dy, Meeker," said Buck, nodding.

  "How'dy, Peters; come in?"

  "I reckon it ain't worth while. I won't stay long," Buck replied. "Icame down to tell you that some of yore cows are crossing our line.They're gettin' worse every day."

  "That so?" asked Meeker, carelessly.

  "Yes."

  "Um; well, what's th' reason they shouldn't? An' what is that 'line,'that we shouldn't go over it?"

  "Dawson, th' old foreman of th' Three Triangle, told you all aboutthat," Buck replied, his whole mind given to the task of reading whatsort of a man he had to deal with. "It's our boundary; an' yourn."

  "Yes? But I don't recognize no boundary. What have they got to do withme?"

  "It has this much, whether you recognize it or not: It marks th' northlimit of yore grazin'. _We_ don't cross it."

  "Huh! You don't have to, while you've got that crick."

  "We won't have th' crick, nor th' grass, either, if you drive yorecows on us. That valley is our best grazing, an' it ain't in th'agreement that you can eat it all off."

  "What agreement?"

  "I didn't come down here to tell you what you know," Buck replied,slowly. "I came to tell you to keep yore Greasers an' yore cows onyore own side, that's whatever."

  "How do you know my cows are over there?"

  "How do I know th' sun is shining?"

  "What do you want me to do?" Meeker asked, leaning against the houseand grinning.

  "Hold yore herds where they belong. Of course some are shore to strayover, but strays don't count--I ain't talkin' about them."

  "Well, I've punched a lot of cows in my day," replied Meeker, "an'over a lot of range, but I never seen no boundary lines afore. An'nobody ever told me to keep on one range, if they knowed me. I've runup against a wire fence or two in th' last few years, but they didn'tlast long when I hit 'em."

  "If you want to know what a boundary line looks like I can show you.There's a plain trail along it where my men have rode for years."

  "So you say; but I've got to have water."

  "You've got it; twenty miles of river. An' if you'll put down a wellor two th' Jumping Bear won't go dry."

  "I don't know nothing about wells," Meeker replied. "Natural water'sgood enough for me without fooling with wet holes in th' ground."

  "No; but, by G-d, yo're willin' enough to use them what I put down! Doyou think I spent good time an' money just to supply _you_ with water?Why don't you get yore own, 'stead of hoggin' mine!"

  "There's water enough, an' it ain't yourn, neither."

  "It's mine till somebody takes it away from me, an' you can gamble onthat."

  "Oh, I reckon you'll share it."

  "I reckon I won't!" Buck retorted. "Look here; my men have held thatrange for many years against all kinds of propositions an' didn't getpushed into th' discard once; an' they'll go right on holding it. Hellhas busted loose down here purty often during that time, but we'veallus roped an' branded it; an' we hain't forgot how!"

  "Well, I don't want no trouble, but I've got to use that water, an' mymen are some hard to handle."

  "You'll find mine worse to handle before you gets through," Buckrejoined. "They're restless now, an' once they start, all h--l can'tstop 'em." Meeker started to reply, but Buck gave him no chance. "Doyou know why I haven't driven you back by force? It wasn't because Ifiggered on what _you'd_ do. It was on account of th' rustling that'llblossom on this range just as soon as we get too busy to watch things.That's why, but if yo're willing to take a chance with cow thieves, Iam."

  "I'm willing. I've got to have water on my northwest corner," Meekerreplied. "An' I'm going to have it! If my cows get on yore privatereservation, it's up to you to drive 'em off; but I wouldn't be nonehasty doing it if I was you. You see, my men are plumb touchy."

  "That's final, is it?"

  "I ain't never swallered nothing I ever said."

  "All right. I can draw on forty men to fill up gaps, an' I'll do itbefore I let any range jumper cheat me out of what's mine. When youbuck that line, come ready for trouble."

  "Yore line'll burn you before you get through pampering it," retortedMeeker, angrily.

  "So? We'll pamper anybody that tries to keep us from pampering ourline. If there are any burns they'll not be salved in _our_ bunkhouse. So long."

  Meeker laughed, stretched, and slipped his thumbs in the arm-holes ofhis vest, watching the Bar-20 foreman ride away. Then he frowned andsnapped his fingers angrily. "We'll keep you busy on yore 'line' whenI get ready to play th' cards I'm looking for!" he exclaimed. "Th'gall of him! Telling me I can't pasture where I wants! By G-d, I'll betold I'm using his sunlight an' breathing his air!"

  He stepped forward. "Curley! Chick! Dan!"

  A moment later the three men stood before him.

  "What is it, Jim?" asked Curley.

  "You fellers drive north to-morrow. Pick up th' stragglers an' herd'em close to that infernal line. Don't drive 'em over till I tell you,but don't let none stray south again; savvy? If they want to straynorth it'
s none of our business."

  "Good!"

  "Fine!"

  "That's th' way to talk!"

  "Don't start nothing, but if trouble comes yore way take care ofyoreselves," Meeker remarked. "I'm telling you to herd up on our northrange, that's all."

  "Shore; we'll do it!" laughed Curley.

  "Is that house on th' peak guarded?" Meeker asked.

  "Somebody's there most of th' time," replied Dan Morgan.

  "Yes; it's their bunk house now," explained Chick.

  "All right; don't forget to-morrow."

 
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