Riding Back

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Riding Back  (1924) 
by Raymond S. Spears
Extracted from Adventure magazine, New York & London, pp. 151-158. Accompanying title illustration omitted.

West—they doped the horse; and then——

Riding Back

Raymond S. Spears

Author of “Taking Hold,” “Through Fire,” etc.

MR. ROLAND HAWTHORN, alias Tierail, despised sheep, tolerated cattle and worked, when he was inspired, on some horse-ranch or other. Like some poets and artists, he needed real inspiration if he was moved to toil. But with the mood in its full glory, no man ever had much edge on Tierail. He rode horses the way a canoe rides white water rapids. He sat a saddle the way a rogue cougar sits a tree-trunk over a deer runway. By his touch and his low, competing voice he soothed the maddest sunfisher, and had even quieted a nervous wreck of horse-flesh down wind from a big cinnamon bear.

Mr. Roland Hawthorn—he was always listed that way on announcements of rodeos—had several faults of his own. They spoiled not only the high opinion with which people regarded him, but they hurt his own self-pride; unhappily, however, he felt powerless to overcome any of his bad habits. The list was so formidable that it did seem to a good many of the Red Desert inhabitants that he might have dispensed with some of his unforgivable evil ways.

He had a quick, mean temper toward humans. He had killed three men—dragging one with a lasso. If he loved a horse that belonged to some other man, he would steal it if he couldn’t buy it. He would ride into town, and, having drunk too much strong liquor, would put his horse through performances that included taking it into the leading hotel, or to the railroad restaurant, or—on one memorable occasion—going into the Tabernacle of Saints and Missions. He killed one interrupting town marshal, and would have been hanged but for the fact that his temporary employer was a power in public opinion, as well as in the raising of horse-flesh. Tierail was just plumb careless.

As if these disturbances of the peace were not sufficient, he put himself in the way of suspicion of pestering sheep-herders. In fact, one night he brought suspicion on himself of having herded sheep at some time by coming into town with a hundred head of the woolies, which he sold. Now anybody who can drive sheep from horseback just has to know how. He needs experience. When, afterward, it was discovered that Tierail had actually stolen those sheep—well, people rejoiced when he was jailed for six months on the charge. He could have stolen cattle, which he probably did, and horses, which he surely did, without falling so low in public opinion. Incidentily, he associated with trifling members of the old Hole-in-the-Wall hangers on—mean waysiders, trifling trash.

But, come riding day, Mr. Roland Hawthorn actually could walk out of jail, without even his word of honor, to take part in the proceedings. The sheep-men, the cattle-men, the horsemen, whatever their personal ideas about one another, joined in allowing Tierail to ride—for the joy of mankind. They wouldn’t even send him to jail for thirty days, a week before a rodeo, except to be sure and have him sitting pretty, ready for the occasion. All were at pains to keep Tierail good-natured, lest he in a temper withdraw his name, Mr. Roland Hawthorn, from the large announcements of what was to take place—with no insurance as to what might actually happen on the dates specified.

Garden Gate, the settlement built at the sweet spring in the great pass through which one looks out of the mountains down into the vast, wind-worn, water-gashed, sage-freckled plains of the Red Desert, was in an exuberant mood. Cattle loss, grazing down those strong-grass slopes and areas, had been well below ten per cent, for several years. All hands were growing wealthy. Many were rich beyond their own dreams. They had staggered under burdens, till this Autumn when they could cash in on fat beef.

The desire to celebrate possessed the region long before the people realized what the emotion was. They had been carrying so much for so long that some thought they were still fighting on, when as a matter of fact, they had won through with the triumph of brave souls that never know when they are whipped, and to whom the thrill of victory is so rare, or unknown, that it comes unsuspected, unlooked for—as an exuberance of immeasurable joy. Some even regarded the delight of having won through, when it came, as a questionable heart-ache, something dubious, a hurt as it twisted through the unaccustomed play-ways of heart and soul.

OFF yonder, somewhere, was a horse whose fame reached Garden Gate. The reputation of Waltzing Jupiter spread across the Red Desert on account of his superlative wickedness. The year before Garden Gate discovered its wish to celebrate, Waltzing Jupiter was going to be carried, willynilly, to Rawlins to participate, and later to Cheyenne to edify in the big business of being happy and exercizing in that prairie metropolis.

They started with Waltzing Jupiter from the Bird-Brand ranch. Five men brought him and nine other horses to the corral, and after some discussion it was decided to truck the bad horse down to the railroad, and ship him in a stall car with a passing rodeo outfit. They spent two days accustoming Waltzing Jupiter to the big truck, and then dragged him to the deck with ropes. They started with him for the hundred-mile drive over the ranch-country trail. At intervals, when the animal became nervous, they stopped to quiet him, soothingly. Twenty miles from the railroad he jumped over the side bars, landed running like an antelope, and returned whence he started in something like eight hours flat.

Waltzing Jupiter was bony at his best—long, lank, saw-range back and spurknobbed over his hips.

“An’ that hoss has so much nerve he naturally runs to ribs and hollow flanks!” riders remarked of his appearance, which was full of anxiety and cussedness.

He was yellow, with a rusty red tail and a red mane. A hue and shade difference would have made Waltzing Jupiter a California sorrel, beautiful to look upon, but despite the exuberance of his wonderful health, he was a sorry-looking horse at his liveliest, and his temper was mean and surly, full of treachery and ill-will—ungentled and proud of it.

The Bird-Brand boys determined to take their prize to Garden Gate, if they had to kill him to do it. They knew that the combination of this brute and Mr. Roland Hawthorn, alias Tierail, would be wonderfully fine to see, merely as an exhibition. Knowing both the horse and man, they wished those two scoundrel characters to meet. They performed a haying operation, on their way down to Garden Gate. They went out with jack-knives in the scrub and whittled off, with much back-breaking labor, several arms full of a low, slightly gummy, rather pretty posy-bearing crop of fodder. The posies were some of them white, some pale violet, and some rather pinkish. The feed was compressed into burlap bags, and used to give additional packing around Waltzing Jupiter, who was hog-tied, this time, and loaded like a dead elk into the ranch truck.

Waltzing Jupiter was indignant, but helpless. He was shaken loose from his fetters, and released into a pen, just within the Garden Gate fair-grounds. He was given water, imported alfalfa and other luxuries. In two days, on the date of the rodeo, he had come to be acclimated, localized and was just rearing to go. That morning, before any one was around, Jim Fallsy, of the Bird-Brands, fed Waltzing Jupiter some of those pretty flowered reapings. That horse didn’t particularly care for the stuff, but lacking alfalfa that morning, he ate of the strange feed. He had oats, too, afterward. He was sure stepping right when his number came on the program.

Waltzing Jupiter had listened for two days to the countless varieties of sound that permeate fair-grounds, when the music is playing, the crowd is on the move, and some countless automobiles are around with open cutouts. The horse was only too glad to go out into the open, to stretch and extend himself, and to see what was going on—with eyes that were swelling and standing out—and to do his share.

So now, Waltzing Jupiter sidled forth into the field at the Garden Gate county fair rodeo, with Tierail up. The rider was older than he had been. Waltzing Jupiter was seven years old, full prime and feeling not only his own proud strength—but more, too.

The riders who keep up year after year come at last to their biggest day. That is when they meet their match. Tierail had never known a qualm of doubt when exhibiting his skill whether to crowds or to the crystalline sky of some far-back pasture, forty miles from the nearest human. He had shown his fancies to hosts of people, and then he had by dark night-gloom performed for his own edification. He was simply a wild rider, one of those magnificent riding fools who have been valorous for valor’s own sake, regardless of rewards. Half the truth about him never would be known—perhaps would bring him the joy unspeakable simply because if he was thoughtless and reckless, he was also unselfish as regards his pocket or his future. Never once had he looked beyond that hour when he should meet the inevitable.

Waltzing Jupiter came out with a slithering cougar, twisting rush, switching his tail low, instead of sticking it in the air. He weaved for twenty catty jumps, and then bucked as unexpectedly as a bear’s side swipe, or a shot to a grazing deer. In that flash of sunshine, quick eyes on the side lines, and the long-practised scrutiny of Jim Fallsy, especially, as he rode hard-by off to the right, riding a gentled older brother of Waltzing Jupiter, saw an expression of amazed bewilderment cross the countenance of Tierail. Jim stood in his stirrup to yell on the instant:

“Thataboy, Jupiter! Yo’ got ’im!”

Tierail was not gone. He still had the fight in him. He made the struggle of his life—for life against that wicked, stone-climber from the high pastures. He fought Waltzing Jupiter up and down—but every wrench twisted the rider’s back, and every turn made his muscles stretch and crack, so that the sun in the sky lost its individuality, becoming a widening, multitudinous glare, that grew to him darker and darker. The shade began to fall slowly on the scene. The uproar of the standing mob, yelling their heads off, grew fainter and fainter. Cheers and jeers alike subsided into low murmurings—and still Tierail rode. Still he sat that saddle, but no longer in that easy, graceful, swaying, cigaret-rolling poise. He was riding for the first time with all his might, summoning every muscle to his help—knowing that he was going.

He wasn’t afraid. He was surprized. He would be double ——ed if he would squeal. He had a dozen chances to give up, to swing himself clear, but out of the glory of a hard man’s life, one who had never said he would give up, he refused his chance to quit.

The crowd saw a curious exhibition of facing fate in the man-fashion. The keen observers, long experienced, realized that Tierail was defeated before they saw daylight between him and his saddle. Those who had seen him ride before recognized the hair-breadth differences between the sure winner and the loser going down, fighting, to his humbling.

Tierail had many enemies there. He had a crowd who hated his fame and disliked his ability. Scores longed to see him brought to his supreme hour of his life when he couldn’t save himself—when only Fortune could retrieve him from disaster. He was done for as he sat in the saddle. The crowd recognized that Waltzing Jupiter had the count on him. They sure liked that rearing, hateful, plunging, treacherous old outlaw.

But in admiration of a brave man, struggling, and going down in the struggle, they grew slowly quiet. The voices died down. The honking of the auto horns ended abruptly. The guards on horseback drew back, to give them all the room. Then the placking, the thumping, the scraping, the heavy pounding, and through it all, the hissing of breaths and the grunts, the groans, and more and more audible, the sharp, involuntary cries of deep pain, of thrusts of anguish were heard as the horse filled his lungs—and Tierail gave the sure indications of his hurts, his rising tide of pain.

Now and then some shrill voice of an unconscious bystander rose—

“Ride ’im!” And again, “Oh! Ride him!”

These cries but intensified the raw, deep silence of the wide sage plains, of the rolling desert, disturbed but hardly interrupted by the scuffling and the smashing body blows, as a man went down to the crazed onslaught—barehanded and, even in his defeat, winning friendships and admirations that had never come to him while he was great in his unconquered strength.

The crowd began to have its doubts. The man stayed up long after he should have fallen. A yelping of encouragement began to well up. Then, with a lightning-leap, Waltzing Jupiter doubled his motion. Easing himself against a terrific jerk, Tierail for the first time missed his guess, and left the saddle. He lost his fork-grip. His knee caught and he was upended; something cracked, like a pistol shot in the staccato roll of yelps, and breathless silence again spread over the grand-stand and along the side-lines.

“He’s gone! He’s gone!” somebody wailed, in quick sympathy.

Mr. Roland Hawthorne, alias Tierail, himself now uttered no sound. With a broken thigh-bone, he made a magnificent effort, his last, tremendous display of the courage, of the man, of the spirit of his years’ unflinching and uncomplaining devotion to the greatness of unwhipped soul, no matter what the price, and then all gone—everything paid in with unstinted determination, he collapsed.

As the wreck of a man was flung like a limp bagful into the ascending convolutions of tawny dust, the watchful guards as one dashed in with their ropes whirling, hissing, but not till Waltzing Jupiter had swirled in midair and, infuriated, maddened, doped brute that he was, dived to make the kill.

The horse managed to land home with one pounce of his forehoofs. Then the lariats whistled in to ensnare him as he lifted, and the cutting ponies turned as quickly as he did, and threw him unceremoniously all clear of his victim, snatching him from over the prostrate Tierail in midair, tangled of legs and neck and stretched in five directions while somebody ran to make sure by a tail-hold, too.

THE rider, when three months later he emerged from the Garden Gate hospital was an especially good recommendation of the skill and attentiveness of the institution’s surgical and nursing force. He looked good, he limped hardly at all, he was sturdy—but his skill was gone; or rather something of his personality had faded from him. The bold impudence, the fire had departed from his pale-blue eyes. He stepped along, a bit dumpily after the habit of a rider, with some vim in his gait. But when he passed a horse he shied out and looked nervously, with obvious expectancy, at the animal’s jaws and heels.

The wild rider was tamed. The fool rider had, some might say, come to his senses. Waltzing Jupiter had broken him. Tierail was done for as the principal exhibit at rodeos. His pride was utterly humbled. Those who had most longed to see this day of Tierail’s life, when he would be afraid, now pitied him in the hiding-places of their hearts. They were not proud of it. The Bird-Brand boys did not rejoice in the fact that they had fed Tierail to a loco-doped horse of the high pastures. For a time they kept the secret. Indeed, it was to their interest to keep that fact dark. They immediately returned Waltzing Jupiter far into the mountains to turn him out. All hands chipped in. The day Tierail walked out of the hospital, all expenses paid by the fair association, one of the nurses slipped him a purse which the boys had made up—six hundred dollars in good gold. He had that, and no more, to show for his years of riding, for the reputation—now gone—and out yonder, beyond the corrals he sat staring at the cash.

The big brute of a horse went into the high pastures. He had not quite killed his man, but he might as well have done so, it seemed. He was ugly, mean, treacherous, and lived by himself apart from the herd. More and more he wandered off alone, keeping out of sight for weeks at a time. When he showed up, his shaggy, crawling gait betokened a bad actor and at last he disappeared from his own country.

“I expect that hoss is daid!” Jim Fallsy remarked on the absence, and with the fervency of an uneasy conscience, added with expletives, that he wished before heaven and earth, that he was—such is the duplicity and shamelessness of mankind!

No one ever keeps track of broken riders, or outlaw horses of the range. The rider is likely to appear, a shuffling, nervous and watchful spectator at rodeos. In such places, perhaps a good has-been is pointed out as one who did something in the other days. Tierail went off down east, and worked for a time washing cars in a garage. Then he became sweeper-out in a ladies’ notions store, and then he returned from Nebraska and the homestead country through Cheyenne into the high sage pastures again.

Really, he didn’t look so different. The hospital had cured his body. Just his spirit was broken, and he couldn’t keep away from the mountain sage. In three years, he was back on the plains, those high rolling green sage-plains. Then he worked down into the Red Desert, his old country. He clipped sheep, one Spring. He didn’t become a shepherd, however. He did almost worse than that, from his old associates’ view point. He opened a little butcher-shop right there in Garden Gate. Nervous thrift had added to, rather than diminished his six hundred dollar stake.

He did his own killing. He stuck sheep, beeves, and even pigs. He knew meat. He built up a good business among the people of the coming city; he contracted with miner’s boarding-houses; tourists heard of the low prices and high quality meats he sold and stopped in his shop for steaks, pot-roasts and chops. Tierail had a bank account!

Then he hired men to do his killing, and selling. He went out in an automobile to buy cattle. He began to ship cattle, and sheep. He knew everybody. His courage in making a success in a new field of endeavor won him in town consideration. But out on the ranges, among the riders, he would never come back. How could he?

THE Spring seemed to be early, the second year after Tierail began to put his fist to checks. The roads dried up, the skies cleared, and the grass sprang forth green as the snow melted from the high ranges. Needing some mutton, Tierail started out on the Divide road, toward the west. He located a flock of sheep he could buy, by telephoning into the valleys where they had wintered, waxing fat. But his route was across sage-land, where cattle were spreading over the early pasture.

Out there, thirty miles from the nearest house, or shelter, Tierail looked toward the north and saw that the sky was gray instead of blue. He glanced around, startled. Surely, the south, the east, the west skies were blue! The sun was brilliant, fairly sparkling in the radiant crystaline sky! But the north was dimmed, growing grayer every second.

The pale shade swept out of the high ranges. It veiled and then hid the mountains. It spread wider, till suddenly the sun itself was dimmed. For a few minutes the sun struggled against the veil, but be came a mere whitish disk in the sky, moon-like.

Tierail Hawthorn turned his automobile around, opened wide the throttle and headed for town, thirty miles back along the trail. Five minutes later needle-flakes of snow came behind him, hissed past him, and the wind screamed around the top of his old touring-car. With a lift, the top was torn to shreds, and the frame bent aslant. The car was jumping and bounding over the chunks and cobbles in the trail. Then he lost the ruts.

Suddenly, the front wheels dropped and the car shot into a dry wash, already filling with snow. The machine hit the opposite bank, and Tierail was thrown, like a blanket, over the steering wheel, but his arms held him clear.

“Hi-i!” he exclaimed with spirit. “Blizzard!”

Tierail stood up to smell the storm. He glanced quickly up and down the shallow dry wash. He figured his chances in seconds. He caught up the heavy old Indian blanket that he carried as a robe in his car, and when he did so, his hand closed on a long rope, a lariat that he used as a tow-line. The line gave him a bit of thrill, echoing out of the past. He had picked it up, perhaps a thousand times, while working around the old machine. Now he felt something not of automobiles nor of butcher-shops, not even of profits and making a money-barrier against future hurts.

He looked into the eye of the storm, squinting for a minute, and then turned to drift down wind through the rolling sage. He trotted along, stumbling more or less. The old cowboy instinct was with him. He would go on down until he arrived at a shelter of some kind. He wanted a high bluff bank behind which he would be out of the wind, where he could roll up in the goat-hair blanket. He might under the snow come through. He knew his chances were doubtful. The storm was a bad one, screaming, howling, moaning, and the cold stung through his sheepskin jacket, through his woolens and into his flesh. He wrapped the heavy blanket around his head and body, stalking down wind like an Indian, hurried by the gale.

How far he had gone, how long he had been on the way he could not tell. The sun had vanished, and now daylight seemed to be departing, as if night was falling. Then he saw passing him a shadow, a steer also drifting before the driving crystal flakes, with head down, stepping fast. Other cattle came by. Horses, too, appeared, and one of these drew alongside Tierail, stumbling dejectedly as if afraid, alone.

Tierail shied from the animal. He felt his old fear of a horse. But he drew back to the animal on the instant, a stronger impulse than his nervous reaction conquering. The horse was company in the common peril. The old rider reached out his hand, stroking the dangling mane. The horse jerked back at the touch, but immediately crowded in again. Outlaw horse and Tierail went walking on together.

The horse cringed to the bitterness of that storm. He felt the horror of that raw cold. He had long run wild on the range, but he harked back to the times when humans had sheltered him, cared for him, fed him when the snow was deep over the grazing-ground. He had come upon a man out there in the wind-swept sage, to walk with him as the wind raged stinging through rough hair and scantily fleshed bones.

They were trudging along when night fell, when the blackness came, while the storm blew worse than ever, and the temperature went lower. Two or three times, Tierail nearly lost his hold on the horse. He was afraid to lose the animal. He dreaded to walk alone in that terrific blast. The snow was already clogging his feet. He felt him self growing numb.

He did not really know what he was doing, but with a leap he went up astride the horse, and the familiar position, the warmth, gave him sudden joy—new hope, confidence. The horse, too, seemed to take heart in the fact of unity with that human burden. They kept plodding on steadily ahead. What the horse or man knew that night is a problem, for at the supreme crises of life who can tell what it is that inspires?

That blizzard made history along the north side of the Red Desert, and at Garden Gate, the gale swept between the two high range-ends that made the opening from the north, through the mountains into the vast plain beyond. Here the shacks, the bungalows, the old stone houses, and the new concrete buildings gave evidence of the city’s growth—and here the storm howled, while it threw great May snowdrifts high in the lees down the streets, choking alleys and covering the earth.

All night the wintery blasts howled while the storm raged. All night the gale’s voices rumbled and screamed in the pass through the mountains. At dawn the sun’s rays swarmed suddenly up out of the east, and shot through the crystal snow-dust that still flew, the tail of the sixteen-hour storm. The sparkling of the brilliant flying gems was radiant with all the colors of rubies, sapphires, yellow topaz and diamonds—and emerald was the glory of the shadow against the sheathing of crystalline royal purple. On the instant people looked out, fearing the sting of the cold. They felt, instead, a warm Chinook breeze! And they sprang out into it, unbelieving, preparing to shiver, but crinkling comfortably, instead, feeling like purring cats. The storm had gone by in its blizzard, zero wrath, leaving a sweet scent like roses and sharp colors of the bitter cold, changing and softening as the day waxed clear and warm.

“Hi-i!” somebody yelled. “Look’t!”

“Injun!” some one else grunted, disgustedly.

So it seemed as the peaked blanket wrapping was observed, but on second look, they saw the rider reeling as the blanket unfolded from about him. They saw a pale face, a ghostly white man’s countenance, and as he fell baglike, they saw the horse step carefully clear. Immediately ready hands dragged the prostrate figure to the Garden Gate hospital.

This was Mr. Roland Hawthorn, the local meat-market man, sure enough. He was badly frosted. Once more the hospital had a chance to show what it could do for a man, in the person of Tierail. They even saved his fingers and toes, his nose and his ears, which were all frozen white. He came through whole. They thawed him, renewed his circulation and brought him to par. But when he opened his eyes, he thought of none of his own affairs.

“Doc!” he exclaimed. “That hoss—Take care of him. He’s—he’s——

“Never mind, brother!” the doctor said. “He’s eating alfalfa, corn and oats in the Bon Ton garage this minute! The boys are nursing his ears, too—account of their being touched a bit, nipped!”

“Yeh! I know—I rubbed ’em. I rubbed em,” Tierail said, musing.

Some time later, something more than a week, Tierail was up and clumping around, with aching legs, and arms, and his ears and nose peeling, but with blood circulating, nevertheless, as the doctor assured him, his gait like that of an old plains rider.

“Now that hoss, doc,” Tierail demanded. “I want to know ’bout that hoss! I neveh rode no hoss jes’ like that, not in all my borned days! Why, say, he was jes’ a reg’lar he-hoss, spirited an’—an’ gritty, but keerful. You know—friendly—considerate! Why, you know, I bet if hit wa’n’t for that blizzard, they ain’t no blamed man could a rid that hoss! I could jes’ feel him, the way he set to hit—he wa’n’t no common hoss. He was right off’n the range, but sensible. He knowed we had to pull together, that hoss!”

THE snow was gone. The streets were dried up. The city of Garden Gate was once more in the beauty and splendor of a high-range May, with the flowers blooming over the plains, and the cattle that had survived the Winter were going out to feed on the strong grass of the great uplands.

Tierail limped and clumped, but unassisted went down the hospital steps to the city taxi. He was heading around to see that horse. He was driven along Red Desert Street, out toward the fair-grounds. A lot of people were watching him go, covertly. In fact, a kind of parade was formed, surreptitiously, so to speak, and everybody sort of sauntered along in it to go down with him. They met another parade coming up, from the corrals and pens—from the big garage and adjacent livery barns.

The two parades opened wide their heads, in a manner, and Tierail stood up to see clearly. Sure! There was a horse, a sorry yellow horse, with scraggling tail and mane, with angular bones and a saw-tooth range along his back.

“Sho—doc!” Tierail stared at the animal, speaking to the man beside him. “Is that—is that there the hoss that brought me in—that what I actually rode?”

“Yes, sir, Tierail!”

“An’—an’ that’s the Bird-Brand—shore’s I’m borned!”

“Yes, sir, Tierail. That’s him. That’s Waltzing Jupiter!”

“Sho, I know!” Tierail nodded. “I know—I knew hit all along, but doggone, now I gotta b’lieve what I know. When I went up on that doggone back, I shore knowed hit was familiar. Huh! Nobody eveh knowed that back, them rolling-fat ribs like I knowed ’em! Nope! Um-m— The way he shuddered, that fastest moment. Course, I’d neveh forget that! Yas, suh! I ’lowed—I ’lowed neveh to know that feeling ag’in. But I did. Him! An’, doc. He brought me in. He brought me back. Way back! How come he done hit, doc?”

“Us boys have all been figuring on that, Tierail!” The doctor admitted. “Reckon we used up more dictionary language than on any other subject, not barring cattle, sheep or weather, and we don’t know nor agree yet.”

“Well, well, I know doc!” Tierail exclaimed lunging toward the horse with a low, exultant whoop, then talking as he approached.

Waltzing Jupiter tossed his head, in a kind of shamefaced, has-been way. The man threw his arms around the scrawny neck. He patted that sorry old yellow horse, the wreck of as wild and spirited a brute as ever made rodeo tradition. Tierail struggled against the emotions that filled him. He tried to talk in the old way, low and gentle, but he gave way to his feelings. Then the crowd, to a man, took off their hats; they understood. A man had come back, and knew it.

“Doc!” Tierail beckoned. “Come here!”

“Well, Tierail?”

“You know me, doc!” Tierail said, low and fiercely. “You know me. I have money in the bank. I run a big business. I own two blocks up town, theh! I ain’t no blamed old has-been! I’m—I’m—kind of a he-man, I am!”

“Sure—I know!” the physician looked puzzled, nevertheless.

“This hoss—look’t him! He’s wasted; he’s miserable; he’s all broke, now. You know what ’tis, too, doc’! Hit’s the scandal across these plains about Waltzing Jupiter! Them blamed Bird-Brand ranch fellers ain’t no proper people to take cyar of a hoss, nohow! Hear me, they ain't. Doggone! They fed up this old boy on loco-weed, when I was to ride him. They crazed him, those boys did, an’—an’ doggone, they ain’t held their haids up sinct! An’ now, doc! Say, you ain’t no hoss-doctor! Yo’s a human—don’t I know, but—but Waltzing Jupiter, now— Ain’t he most human—ain’t he human, too? C’mon, doc, be a sport! Give’m a chance to come back. Po’r blamed old loco-eatin’ hoss! He’s locoed, doc, but he brung me back! Now, yo’, doc—cure ’im? Won’t yo’ cure ’im, doc? Sho— Will yo’?”

“Why, sure, Tierail, I’ll try! We’ll all try!”

“All right, doc! No man can do more’n try!” Tierail nodded. “Lawse! An’ that old hoss—he brought me in! An’—an’ he brunged me back. I come back—bare-back an’ a r’aring! Sho! Old Waltzing Jupiter took me up, he let me ride! Doggone, he made me ride! An’—an’ I can ride again! Whooe-e-e! Whoop-e-e-e——

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1950, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.