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- The Pony Rider Boys in Montana - 1/37 -


** transcription by Kent Fielden

THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN MONTANA

BY FRANK GEE PATCHIN

CHAPTER I

FITTING OUT FOR THE JOURNEY

"Forsythe!" announced the trainman in a loud voice.

"That is where we get off, is it not!" asked Tad Butler.

"Yes, this is the place," answered Professor Zepplin.

"I don't see any place," objected Stacy Brown, peering from the car window. "Where is it?"

"You'll see it in a minute," said Walter Perkins.

"Chunky, we are too busy to bother answering all your silly questions. Why don't you get a railroad guide? Town's on the other side. It's one of those one-sided towns. Use your eyes more and your tongue less," added Ned Rector impatiently.

With this injunction, Ned rose and began pulling his belongings from the rack over his head, which action was followed by the three other boys in the party. Professor Zepplin had already risen and was walking toward the car door.

The Northern Pacific train on which they were riding, came to a slow, noisy stop. From it, alighted the four boys, sun-burned, clear-eyed and springy of step. They were clad in the regulation suits of the cowboy, the faded garments giving evidence of long service on the open plains.

Accompanying the lads was a tall, athletic looking man, his face deeply bronzed from exposure to wind, sun and storm, his iron gray beard standing out in strong contrast, giving to his sun burned features a ferocious appearance that was not at all in keeping with the man's real nature.

A man dressed in a neat business suit, but wearing a broad brimmed sombrero stepped up to the boys without the least hesitation, the moment they reached the platform.

"Are you the Pony Rider Boys?" he asked smilingly.

"We are, sir," replied Tad, lifting his hat courteously.

"Glad to know you, young man. I am Mr. Simms the banker here. I was requested by banker Perkins of Chillicothe, Missouri, to meet you young gentlemen. Funds for your use while here are deposited in my bank ready for your order. Where is Professor--Professor----"

"Zepplin?"

"Yes, that's the name." "This is he," Tad informed him, introducing the Professor.

"If you and the young men will come up to the bank we will talk matters over. I would ask you to my house, but my family is spending the summer at my ranch out near Gracy Butte."

"It is just as well," said the Professor. "We are not exactly up here on a social mission. The boys are crowding all the time possible into their life during their vacation. I presume they are anxious to get started again."

Leaving their baggage at the railroad station, the party set off up the street with the banker, to make final arrangements for the journey to which they looked forward with keen anticipation.

Readers of this series will remember how, in "THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN THE ROCKIES," the four lads set off on horseback to spend part of their summer vacation in the mountains. The readers will remember too, the many thrilling experiences that the boys passed through on that eventful trip, between hunting big game in hand to hand conflict, fighting a real battle with the bad men of the mountains, and how in the end they discovered and took possession of the Lost Claim.

Readers will also remember how the lads next joined in a cattle drive, and their adventures and exciting trip across the plains in "THE PONY RIDER BOYS IN TEXAS."

It will be recalled that on this expedition they became cowboys in reality, living the life of the cattle men, sharing their duties and their hardships, participating in wild, daring night rides, facing appalling storms, battling with swollen torrents, bravely facing many perils, and tow eventually Tad Butler and his companions solved the Veiled Riddle of the Plains, thus bringing great happiness to others as well as keen satisfaction to themselves.

After having completed their eventful trip in Texas, the boys had expressed a desire to next make a trip of exploration to the north country. Arrangements had therefore been made by the father of Walter Perkins for a journey into the wilder parts of Montana.

None of the details, however, had been decided upon. The boys felt that they were now experienced enough to be allowed to make their own arrangements, always, of course, with the approval of their companion, Professor Zepplin.

As a result they arrived in Forsythe one hot July day, about noon. Their ponies had been shipped home, the little fellows having become a bit too docile to suit the tastes of the lads, who had been riding bucking bronchos during their trip on a cattle drive in southern Texas. They knew they would have little difficulty in finding animals to suit them up in the grazing country.

"And now what are your plans, young men?" smiled the hanker, after all had taken seats in his office in the rear of the bank.

The lads waited for Professor Zepplin to speak.

"Tell Mr. Simms what you have in mind," he urged.

"We had thought of going over the old Custer trail," spoke up Walter.

"Where, down in the Black Hills?"

"No, not so far down as that. We should like to go over the trail he followed and visit the scene of his last battle and get a little mountain trip as well----"

"Are there any mountains around here?" asked Stacy innocently.

Mr. Simms laughed, in which he was joined by the boys.

"My lad, there's not much else up here. You'll find all the mountains you want and some that you will not want----"

"Any Indians?" asked Chunky.

"State's full of them."

"Good Indians, of course," nodded the Professor.

"Well, you know the old saying that 'the only good Indian is a dead Indian.' They're good when they have to be. We have very little trouble with the Crows, but sometimes the Black feet and Flat Heads get off their reservations and cause us a little trouble."

Chunky was listening with wide open eyes. "I--I don't like Indians," he stammered. "None of us are overfond of them, I guess. Since you arrived I have been thinking of something that may interest you."

"We are in your hands," smiled the Professor.

"As I said a short time ago, I have a ranch out near Gracy Butte."

"Cattle?" asked Tad, with quickened interest.

"No, sheep. I have another up on the Missouri River. I am getting in five thousand more sheep that some of my men are bringing in on a drive. They should be along very shortly now."

"You deal in large numbers in this country," smiled the Professor.

"Yes, we have to if we expect to make a profit. I intend to send these five thousand new sheep to the Missouri River ranch. It will be a long, hard drive and we shall need some extra men. How would you boys like to join the outfit and go through with them? I promise you you will get all the outdoor life you want."

"Well, I don't know," said Tad doubtfully. "I don't just like sheep."

Mr. Simms laughed.

"You've been with a cattle outfit. I can see that. You have learned to hate sheep and for no reason--no good reason whatever. Sheep are a real pleasure to manage. Besides, they are wholesome, intelligent little animals. The cattle men resent their being on the range for the reason that the sheep crop down the grass so close that the cattle are unable to get enough. They try to drive us off."

"By what right?" interrupted the Professor.

"Right of strength, that's all. On free grass we have as much right as the cattle men. Have you your own ponies?"

"No; we expect to purchase some here. Can you recommend us to a ranch where we can fit ourselves out? We have our saddles and camp outfit, of course," said Tad.

"Yes; I'll take you out to my brother's ranch just outside the town. He has some lively little bronchos there. He won't ask you any fancy price, either. If you buy, why, you can give him an order on my bank and I will settle with him. You know you have funds here for your requirements. What do you say to the sheep idea?"


The Pony Rider Boys in Montana - 1/37

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