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- The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico - 2/37 -
Nothing daunted by their trying experiences the Pony Rider Boys set out on the concluding trip of the season-- a journey over the historic plains and mountains of New Mexico. After a long railroad ride, they had finally arrived at the town of Bluewater, from which they were to begin their explorations in the southwest.
A guide was to meet and conduct them across the mountains of the Zuni range and so on to the southern borders of the state.
By the time they reached the platform of the station, the stock car had been uncoupled and was being shifted to a side track where they might unload their belongings at their leisure.
"I wonder where that guide is," said Tad.
"He was told to be here," answered the Professor.
"Never mind; we can unload better without him," averred Ned, starting off at a brisk trot for their car which had been shunted alongside the platform at the rear of the station.
With joyous anticipation of the new scenes and experiences that lay before them, the lads set briskly to work, and within an hour had all the stock and equipment removed from the car.
There was quite an imposing collection, with their ponies, their burros, tents and other equipment, the latter lying strewn all over the open level space beyond the station.
"Looks as if a circus had just come to town," laughed Walter.
"We've got a side show, anyway," retorted Ned.
"What's our side show?"
"No; he's the clown. The rest of us are the animals, only we're not in cages."
"Hey, fellows, see that funny Mexican on the burro there," laughed Chunky. "Guess he never saw an outfit like ours before."
The lads could not repress a laugh as they glanced at the figure pointed out by Stacy.
The man was sitting on the burro, his feet extended on the ground before him, hands thrust deep into trousers pockets. He was observing the work of the boys curiously. The fellow's high, conical head was crowned by a peaked Mexican hat, much the worse for wear, while his coarse, black hair was combed straight down over a pair of small, piercing, dark eyes. The complexion, or such of it as was visible through the mask of wiry hair, was swarthy, his form thin and insignificant.
Stacy Brown strode over to him somewhat pompously.
"You speak English?" questioned the boy.
The Mexican's lips curled back, revealing two rows of gleaming, white teeth.
"I'm glad to hear it. I didn't think you could. We are looking for a guide who was to have met us here to conduct us over the mountains. His name is Juan. It'll be something else when he does show up. Do you know him?"
"Isn't he coming to meet us?"
"Well, I must say he's taking his time about getting here. Where is he?"
"Juan here, seņor."
"Here? I don't see him," answered the lad, looking about the place.
"Me Juan," grinned the Mexican. "You?"
"Never mind the seņor. I'll take for granted I'm a seņor, or whatever else you think. Say, fellows, come here," commanded Stacy.
"Well, what's the matter?" demanded Ned, approaching, followed by the other boys.
"This is it," announced Stacy, with a wave of his hand toward the Mexican.
"What is it?" sniffed Ned.
"Chunky, what are you getting at?" questioned Walter.
"Perhaps this gentleman will know where we may find our guide," interrupted the Professor, coming up. "Seņor, do you know one Juan--"
"Yes, he knows him," grinned Stacy. "He's very well acquainted with the gentleman."
"Then where may we find this Juan
"That's Juan-- that's your guide," Stacy informed the Professor.
"You-- are you the guide?"
The Professor opened his eyes in amazement. The burro, on the other hand, stood with nose to the ground sound asleep, oblivious to all that was taking place about him.
"Why didn't you make yourself known-- why haven't you helped us to unload?" demanded the Professor in an irritated tone.
"Me no peon. Me guide."
"He's a guide," explained Stacy. "Guides don't work, you know, Professor. They are just ornaments. He and the burro are going to pose for our amusement."
The boys laughed heartily. Professor Zepplin uttered an exclamation of impatience.
"Sir, if you are going with this outfit you will be expected to do your share of the labor. There are no drones in our hive."
"No; we all work," interposed Stacy.
"And some of us are eaters," added Ned.
Juan shrugged his shoulders and showed his pearly teeth.
At the Professor's command, however, Juan stepped off the burro without in the least disturbing that animal's dreams and lazily began collecting the baggage as directed by the Professor. After the equipment had been sorted into piles, the boys did it up into neat packs which they skillfully strapped to the backs of the burros of their pack train. Juan, lost in contemplation of their labors, forgot his own duties until reminded of them by Stacy, who gave the guide a violent poke in the ribs with his thumb.
Juan started; then, with a sheepish grin, became busy again.
It was no small task to get their belongings in packs preparatory to the journey; but late in the afternoon the boys had completed their task. They had had nothing to eat since early morning. But they were too anxious to be on their way to wait for dinner in town.
After making some necessary purchases in the village, the procession finally started away across the plain.
"You'll never get anywhere with that sleepy burro, Juan," decided the Professor, with a shake of the bead.
"Him go fast," grinned the Mexican.
"So can a crab on dry land," jeered Ned.
Just then the guide utter a series of shrill "yi-yi's," whereupon the lads were treated to an exhibition such as they never had seen before.
The sleepy burro projected his head straight out before him, while his tail, raised to a level with his back, stuck straight out behind him. The burro, seemingly imbued with sudden life, was off at a pace faster than a man could run.
It was most astonishing. The boys gazed in amazement; then burst out in a chorus of approving yells.
But it was the rider, even more than the burro, that excited their mirth. His long legs were working like those of a jumping jack, and though astride of the burro, Juan was walking at a lively pace. It reminded one of the way men propelled the old-fashioned velocipedes years before.
A cloud of dust rose behind the odd outfit as the party drew out on the plains. Their ponies were started at a gallop, which was necessary to enable them to keep up with the pace that Juan had set.
"Here! Here!" shouted the Professor.
Juan never looked back.
"We're leaving the pack train. Slow down!"
Laughingly the lads pulled their ponies down to a walk; then halted entirely to enable the burros to catch up with them. By this time the pack animals had become so familiar with their work that little attention was necessary on the part of the boys. Now and then one more sleepy than the rest would go to sleep and pause to doze a few minutes on the trail. This always necessitated all hands stopping to wait until the sleeper could be rounded up and driven up to the bunch.
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