FLYING U RANCH
FLYING U RANCH
B. M. BOWER
CHAPTER I. The Coming of a Native Son
The Happy Family waiting for the Sunday supper call were
grouped around the open door of the bunk-house gossiping idly of
things purely local when the Old Man returned from the Stock
Association at Helena; beside him on the buggy seat sat a
stranger. The Old Man pulled up at the bunk-house the stranger
sprang out over the wheel with the agility which bespoke youthful
muscles and the Old Man introduced him with a quirk of the lips:
"This is Mr. Mig-u-ell Rapponi boys--a peeler straight from the
Golden Gate. Throw out your war-bag and make yourself to home
Mig-u-ell; some of the boys'll show you where to bed down."
The Old Man drove on to the house with his own luggage and Happy
Jack followed to take charge of the team; but the remainder of
the Happy Family unobtrusively took the measure of the foreign
element. From his black-and-white horsehair hatband with tassels
that swept to the very edge of his gray hatbrim to the crimson
silk neckerchief draped over the pale blue bosom of his shirt;
from the beautifully stamped leather cuffs down to the
exaggerated height of his tan boot-heels their critical eyes
swept in swift appraising glances; and unanimous disapproval was
the result. The Happy Family had themselves an eye to picturesque
garb upon occasion but this passed even Pink's love of display.
"He's some gaudy to look at" Irish murmured under his breath to
"All he lacks is a spot-light and a brass band" Cal returned in
much the same tone with which a woman remarks upon a last
season's hat on the head of a rival.
Miguel was not embarrassed by the inspection. He was tall
straight and swarthily handsome and he stood with the
complacence of a stage favorite waiting for the applause to cease
so that he might speak his first lines; and while he waited he
sifted tobacco into a cigarette paper daintily with his little
finger extended. There was a ring upon that finger; a ring with a
moonstone setting as large and round as the eye of a startled
cat and the Happy Family caught the pale gleam of it and drew a
long breath. He lighted a match nonchalantly by the artfully
simple method of pinching the head of it with his fingernails
leaned negligently against the wall of the bunk-house and
regarded the group incuriously while he smoked.
"Any pretty girls up this way?" he inquired languidly after a
moment fanning a thin smoke-cloud from before his face while he
The Happy Family went prickly hot. The girls in that neighborhood
were held in esteem and there was that in his tone which gave
"Sure there's pretty girls here!" Big Medicine bellowed
unexpectedly close beside him. "We're all of us engaged to `em
Miguel shot an oblique glance at Big Medicine examined the end
of his cigarette and gave a lift of shoulder which might mean
anything or nothing and so was irritating to a degree. He did
not pursue the subject further and so several belated retorts
were left tickling futilely the tongues of the Happy Family--
which does not make for amiability.
To a man they liked him little in spite of their easy
friendliness with mankind in general. At supper they talked with
him perfunctorily and covertly sneered because he sprinkled his
food liberally with cayenne and his speech with Spanish words
pronounced with soft slurred vowels that made them sound
unfamiliar and against which his English contrasted sharply with
its crisp American enunciation. He met their infrequent glances
with the cool stare of absolute indifference to their opinion of
him and their perfunctory civility with introspective calm.
The next morning when there was riding to be done and Miguel
appeared at the last moment in his working clothes even Weary
the sunny-hearted had an unmistakable curl of his lip after the
Miguel wore the hatband the crimson kerchief tied loosely with
the point draped over his chest the stamped leather cuffs and
the tan boots with the highest heels ever built by the cobbler
craft. Also the lower half of him was incased in chaps the like
of which had never before been brought into Flying U coulee.
Black Angora chaps they were; long-haired crinkly to the very
hide with three white diamond-shaped patches running down each
leg of them and with the leather waistband stamped elaborately
to match the cuffs. The bands of his spurs were two inches wide
and inlaid to the edge with beaten silver and each concho was
engraved to represent a large wild rose with a golden center. A
dollar laid upon the rowels would have left a fringe of prongs
He bent over his sacked riding outfit and undid it revealing a
wonderful saddle of stamped leather inlaid on skirt and cantle
with more beaten silver. He straightened the skirts carefully
ignoring the glances thrown in his direction and swore softly to
himself when he discovered where the leather had been scratched
through the canvas wrappings and the end of the silver scroll
ripped up. He drew out his bridle and shook it into shape and
the silver mountings and the reins of braided leather with
horsehair tassels made Happy Jack's eyes greedy with desire. His
blanket was a scarlet Navajo and his rope a rawhide lariat.
Altogether his splendor when he was mounted so disturbed the
fine mental poise of the Happy Family that they left him jingling
richly off by himself while they rode closely grouped and
discussed him acrimoniously.
"By gosh a man might do worse than locate that Native Son for a
silver mine" Cal began eyeing the interloper scornfully. "It's
plumb wicked to ride around with all that wealth and fussy stuff.
He must 'a' robbed a bank and put the money all into a riding
"By golly he looks to me like a pair uh trays when he comes
bow-leggin' along with them white diamonds on his legs" Slim
"And I'll gamble that's a spot higher than he stacks up in the
cow game" Pink observed with the pessimism which matrimony had
given him. "You mind him asking about bad horses last night?
That Lizzie-boy never saw a bad horse; they don't grow 'em where
he come from. What they don't know about riding they make up for
with a swell rig--"
"And oh mamma! It sure is a swell rig!" Weary paid generous
tribute. "Only I will say old Banjo reminds me of an Irish cook
rigged out in silk and diamonds. That outfit on Glory now--" He
"Well I've gone up against a few real ones in my long and varied
career" Irish remarked reminiscently "and I've noticed that a
hoss never has any respect or admiration for a swell rig. When he
gets real busy it ain't the silver filigree stuff that's going to
help you hold connections with your saddle and a silver-mounted
bridle-bit ain't a darned bit better than a plain one."
"Just take a look at him!" cried Pink with intense disgust.
"Ambling off there so the sun can strike all that silver and
bounce back in our eyes. And that braided lariat--I'd sure love
to see the pieces if he ever tries to anchor anything bigger than
"Why you don't think for a minute he could ever get out and rope
anything do yuh ?" Irish laughed. "That there Native Son throws
on a-w-l-together too much dog to really get out and do
"Aw" fleered Happy Jack "he ain't any Natiff Son. He's a dago!"
"He's got the earmarks uh both" Big Medicine stated
authoritatively. "I know 'em by cripes and I know their ways."
He jerked his thumb toward the dazzling Miguel. "I can tell yuh
the kinda cow-puncher he is; I've saw 'em workin' at it. Haw-haw-
haw! They'll start out to move ten or a dozen head uh tame old
cows from one field to another and there'll be six or eight
fellers rigged up like this here tray-spot ridin' along
important as hell drivin' them few cows down a lane with peach
trees on both sides by cripes jingling their big silver spurs
all wearin' fancy chaps to ride four or five miles down the road.
Honest to grandma they call that punchin' cows! Oh he's a
Native Son all right. I've saw lots of 'em only I never saw one
so far away from the Promised Land before. That there looks queer
to me. Natiff Sons--the real ones like him--are as scarce
outside Calyforny as buffalo are right here in this coulee."
"That's the way they do it all right" Irish agreed. "And then
they'll have a 'rodeo'--"
"Haw-haw-haw!" Big Medicine interrupted and took up the tale
which might have been entitled "Some Cowpunching I Have Seen."
"They have them rodeos on a Sunday mostly and they invite
everybody to it like it was a picnic. And there'll be two or
three fellers to every calf all lit up like Mig-u-ell over
there in chaps and silver fixin's fussin' around on horseback
in a corral and every feller trying to pile his rope on the same
calf by cripes! They stretch 'em out with two ropes--calves
remember! Little weenty fellers you could pack under one arm!
Yuh can't blame 'em much. They never have more'n thirty or forty
head to brand at a time and they never git more'n a taste uh
real work. So they make the most uh what they git and go in
heavy on fancy outfits. And this here silver-mounted fellow
thinks he's a real cowpuncher by cripes!"
The Happy Family laughed at the idea; laughed so loud that Miguel
left his lonely splendor and swung over to them ostensibly to
borrow a match.
"What's the joke?" he inquired languidly his chin thrust out and
his eyes upon the match blazing at the end of his cigarette.
The Happy Family hesitated and glanced at one another. Then Cal
"You're it" he said bluntly with a secret desire to test the
temper of this dark-skinned son of the West.