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- The Pony Rider Boys in Montana - 2/37 -
"Will you let us think it over, Mr. Simms!" asked Walter.
"Why, certainly. You will have plenty of time to visit the Rosebud Mountains as well. I have arranged for a guide. You will find him at the edge of the foothills where he lives. You can't miss him. When do you plan to start?" asked the banker.
"We thought we should like to get away today," replied Tad.
"I see you are not losing any time, young men. We may be able to fix you up so you can start this afternoon. You will want to camp out, I imagine, and not make the journey in one day."
"Oh, yes, we are used to that," interjected Ned. "We have slept out of doors so long now that we should not feel comfortable in a real bed."
"I understand. I have been a cowboy as well as sheepman, and have spent many weeks on the open range. It was different then," he added reminiscently. "We will drive out to my brother's ranch now, if you are ready."
The boys rose instantly. They were looking forward to having their new ponies, with keen anticipation.
After a short drive they reached the ranch, and a herd of half wild ponies was driven into a corral where the lads might look them over and make their choice.
"I think that little bay there, with the pink eyes "will suit me," decided Tad. "Is he saddle broken?"
"After a fashion, yes. He's been out a few times. But he's full of ginger," announced the cowboy who was showing the horses to them.
"That's what I want. Don't like to have to use the spur to keep my mount from going to sleep," laughed the boy.
"You won't need the irons to keep this pony awake or yerself either."
"You may give me the most gentle beast on the premises," spoke up the Professor. "I have had quite enough of wild horses and their pranks," a speech at which the boys all laughed heartily.
"Me too," agreed Chunky.
"You'll take what you get. You couldn't stay on any kind of horse for long at a time. Why, you'd fall off one of those wooden horses that they have in harness shops," announced Ned Rector witheringly.
"I can ride as well as you can," retorted the fat boy, looking his tormentor straight in the eyes.
"Chunky means business when he looks at you that way," laughed Walter. "Better keep away from him, Ned."
"Think I'll take the pink-eyed one," decided Tad. "Pink-eye. That will be a good name for him. Got a rope?"
"Yes, kin you rope him?"
"I'll try if you will stir them up a bit," answered the freckle-faced boy.
"You might as well pick out our ponies, too," observed the Professor. "You are the only one of our party who is a competent judge of horse flesh."
Tad nodded. His rope was held loosely in his hand, the broad loop lying on the ground a few feet behind him, while the cowboy began milling the biting, kicking animals about the corral.
Now Pink-eye's head was raised above the back of his fellows so that Tad got a good roping sight. The lariat began curving in the air, then its great loop opened, shot out and dropped neatly over the head of the pink-eyed pony. Tad drew it taut before it settled to the animal's shoulder, at the same time throwing his full weight on the rawhide.
He would have been equally successful in trying to hold a steam engine. Before the lad had time to swing the line and throw the pony from its feet, the muscular little animal had leaped to one side.
The sudden jerk hurled the boy through the air.
"Look out!" warned the cowboy.
His warning came too late.
Tad was thrown with great force full against the heels of another broncho.
"He'll be killed!" cried Professor Zepplin.
Up went the pony's hind feet and with them Tad Butler. The pony came down as quickly as it had gone up, but Tap kept on going. He had been near the wire corral when he was jerked against the animal's feet.
The pony kicked a clean goal and Tad was projected over the wire fence, landing in a heap several feet outside the corral.
The lad was on his feet almost instantly. When they saw that be had not been seriously injured the boys set up a defiant yell.
"Hurt you any?" grinned the cowboy.
"Only my pride," answered Tad, with a sheepish smile. "I never had that happen to me before."
"Other ponies got in your way so you couldn't throw your rope down on the pink-eyed one and trip him. I'll get him out for you."
"You will do nothing of the sort. I can rope my own stock."
After having obtained another lariat, Tad, not deeming it wise to attempt to try to pick up the rope that the animal was dragging about the corral, once more took his station, while the cowman began milling them around the enclosure by sundry shouts and prods.
There was much kicking and squealing.
"Now cut him out!" shouted Tad.
The cowboy did so. Pink-eye was beating a tattoo in the air with his heels. He was occupying a little open space all by himself at that moment.
The rope again curled through the air. Tad gave it a quick undulating motion after feeling the pull on the pony's neck, and the next moment the little animal fell heavily to his side.
"Woof!" said the pony.
"Come out of here!" commanded the lad, jerking the animal to its feet and starting for the exit.
The pink-eyed broncho followed its new master out as if he had been doing so every day for a long time.
Tad picked out a spotted roan for Stacy Brown, to which he gave the appropriate name of "Painted-squaw". Bad-eye, was considered an appropriate name for Ned Rector's broncho, while Walter drew a dapple gray which he decided to call Buster.
After choosing a well broken animal for the Professor, and picking out a suitable pack horse, the boys announced that they were ready for the start. An hour or so was spent in getting provisions enough to last them for a few days, all of which, together with their camp equipment, was strapped to the backs of the ponies.
It was now three o'clock in the afternoon. Ahead of them was a thirty mile journey over an unknown trail.
"I think we had better have a guide to take us out to the foothills until we shall have found our permanent guide," said the Professor.
"No, please don't," urged Tad.
"We are plainsmen enough now to he able to find our own way," added Ned. "It's a clear trail. We can see the Rosebud Range from here. That's it over there, isn't it, Mr. Simms?"
"Yes," replied the banker. "All you will have to do will be to get your direction by your compass before you start, and hold to it. You will not be able to see the mountains all the time, as the country is rolling and there are numerous buttes between here and there."
"Any Indians?" asked Stacy apprehensively.
"You may see some, but they will not bother you," laughed the banker. "I shall hope to have you all spend next Sunday with us at my ranch; then we can discuss our plans for your joining my outfit."
"How far is it from where we are bound?" asked the Professor.
"Not more than twenty miles. Just a few hours' ride."
Filled with joyful anticipations the little party set out, headed for the mountain ranges that lay low in the southwest, some thirty miles distant. Contrary to their usual practice, they had taken no cook with them, having decided to rely wholly on their own resources for a time at least, which they felt themselves safe in doing after their many experiences thus far on their summer vacation.
The little western village was soon left behind them. Turning in their saddles, they found that it had sunk out of sight. They could not tell behind which of the endless succession of high and low buttes the town was nestling. Tad consulted his compass, after which the lads faced the southwest and pressed cheerfully on.
The Pony Rider Boys were fairly started now on what was to prove the most exciting and eventful journey of their lives.
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