Ranch at the Wolverine (Chapter 7, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 7

Then, in April, he left Junkins and drove home a nice little bunch of ten cows and a two-year-old and two yearlings. One of the cows had a week-old calf, and there would be more before long. Ward sang the whole of Chisholm Trail at the top of his voice, as he drifted the cattle slowly up the long hill to the top of the divide, from where he could look down over lower hills into his own little creek-bottom.

"With my knees in the saddle and my seat in the sky, I'll quit punching cows in the sweet by-and-by," he finished exuberantly and promised himself that he would ride down to the Wolverine the very next day "and see how the folks came through the winter." He wanted to tell William Louisa that he was some cowman himself, these days. He thought he had made a pretty good showing in the last twelve months; for when he first met her, at the Cedar Creek ford, he hadn't owned a hoof except the four which belonged to Rattler, his horse. He thought that maybe, if the play came right and he didn't lose his nerve, he might tell William Louisa something else! It seemed to him that he had earned the right now.

He rode three miles oblivious to his surroundings, while he went carefully over his acquaintance--no, his friendship--with Billy Louise and tried to guess what she would say when he told her what he had wanted to tell her for a year; what he had been hungry to tell her. Sometimes he smiled a little, and sometimes he looked gloomy. He ended by hurrying the cattle down the canyon so that he might ride on to the Wolverine that night. It would be tough on Rattler, but then, what's a range cayuse made for, anyway? Rattler had had a snap, all winter; he could stand a hard deal once, for a change. It would do the old skate good to lift himself over fifty miles once more.

Whether it did Rattler any good or not, it put new heart into Ward to ride down the bluff and see the wink of the cabin window once more. He smiled suddenly to himself, threw back his shoulders, and lifted up his voice in the doggerel that had come to be a sort of bond between the two.

"I'm on my best horse and a-comin' on the run, Best blamed cowboy that ever pulled a gun," he shouted gleefully. A yellow square opened in the cabin's side, and a figure stood outlined against the shining background. Ward laughed happily.

"Coma ti yi youpy, youpy-a, youpy-a," he sang uproariously.

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