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- The Pony Rider Boys in the Rockies - 2/35 -


"No, that won't do, either. It's as bad as the other name. Father'd never let me go out at all if we called ourselves the Wild Riders, because he would think it meant we were going to be too much like cowboys. I guess we shall have to think it over some more. But here comes Tad back. Suppose we ask him? He'll know what to call the club."

Tad reigned in alongside of them and pulled the pony up sharply, patting its sleek neck approvingly, still loath to dismount.

"It's great, fellows. Wish I had a pony like him."

"So do I," echoed Chunky.

"Why, you don't have to touch the reins at all. I could ride him without just as well as with them. All you have to do is to press your knee against his side and he will turn, just as if you were pulling on the rein. He's a trained pony, Walter. Did you know that?"

"That's what the man said when father bought him. Jo-Jo can walk on his hind legs, too. But father said I mustn't try to make him do any tricks, for fear I might get hurt."

"Hurt nothing! He wouldn't hurt a baby," objected Tad in the little animal's defence. "I'll show you--I won't hurt him, don't be afraid," he exclaimed leaping to the ground, stripping the rein over the animal's head and holding it at arm's length. "If he knows how to stand up I can make him do it. I've seen them do that in the circus. Let me have your whip."

"I don't know about that," answered Walter doubtfully. "Yes, you may try," he decided finally, extending the whip that he had been idly tapping against his legging. "But don't hit him, will you?"

"Not I," grinned the freckle-faced boy, leading the pony further out into the street. "He doesn't need to be struck."

Tad first coaxed the pony by patting it gently on the side of the head, to which the intelligent animal responded by brushing his cheek softly with its nose.

"See, he knows a thing or two," cried Tad. "Now, watch me!"

Standing off a few feet, the boy tapped the animal gently under the chin with the whip.

"Up, Jo-Jo! Up!" he urged, lifting the whip into the air insistently. At first, Jo-Jo only swished his tail rebelliously, shaking his head until the bit rattled between his teeth.

But Tad persisted, gently yet firrnly urging with voice and whip. Jo-Jo meanwhile pawed the dirt up into a cloud of dust that settled over the boys, finally causing a chorus of sneezes, until Tad felt sure he observed a twinkle of amusement in the eyes of the knowing little animal.

"Up, Jo-Jo!" he commanded almost sternly, bringing the whip sharply against the side of his own leg.

The pony, recognizing the voice of a master, hesitated no longer. Half folding its slender forelegs back, it rose slowly, up and up.

"Walter Perkins and Stacy Brown broke into a cheer. But Tad, never for an instant removing his gaze from Jo-Jo, held up a warning hand, leaned slightly forward and fixed the pony with impelling eyes.

Then Tad backed away slowly. To the amazement of the others, Jo-Jo, balancing himself beautifully on his hind legs, followed his new-found master in short, cautious steps, the animal's head now high in the air, its nostrils dilated, and every nerve strained to the task in hand.

"Beautiful," breathed Walter and Chunky in chorus.

"He's a regular brick," added Chunky.

"How'd you do it, Tad!"

Before replying, the boy lowered the whip to his side, motioning to the pony that his task was done. Jo-Jo dropped quickly on all fours, and, walking up to Tad, rubbed his nose against the lad's cheek again.

"Good boy," soothed Tad, returning the caress, his eyes swimming with happiness.

But as Tad stepped back Jo-Jo insistently followed, alternately pushing his nose against the boy's face and tugging at his shirt.

"He wants to do it again, Tad," cried Chunky, enthusiastically.

The freckle-faced boy grinned knowingly.

"Got any sugar, Walter?" he asked.

Walter thrust a hand into a trousers pocket, bringing up a handful of lumps that were far from being their natural color. But Tad grabbed them, and an instant later Jo-Jo's quivering upper lip had closed greedily over the handful of sweets.

"That's what the little rascal wanted," breathed Tad with a pleased smile. "I could teach that pony to do 'most anything but talk, fellows. I'm not so sure that he couldn't do that in his own way, after a little time. What did you give for him?"

"Father paid the man a hundred and fifty dollars."

Tad uttered a long-drawn whistle; his face sobered. It was more money than he ever had seen at one time in his life. Would he ever have as much as that? The freckle-faced boy doubted it.

"We fellows were talking about getting up a club," spoke up Walter.

"Club? What kind of a club?" asked Tad absently.

"Oh, some sort of a riding club. Chunky is going to ask his uncle to buy him a pony; then we are going out with my tutor on long rides in the country.

Tad eyed them steadily.

"Somehow we can't just decide on the name for the new club. I thought maybe we would call ourselves the Bough Riders. Chunky doesn't like that name. We had an idea that, perhaps, you could give us one. What do you say, Tad?"

"Chunky's uncle is going to get him a pony?" asked Tad a bit unsteadily.

"We hope so," nodded Walter. "And that's not all. We are going to get Ned Rector to join the club. He already has a pony. Wish you might come in with us, Tad."

"Wish I might," answered Tad wistfully.

"Of course, we know you can't really, but you belong to us just the same. You can be a sort of--of honorary member. We will let you ride our ponies sometimes when we are in town, though, of course, when we go out for long trips we can't take you along very well. You understand that, don't you, Tad?"

Tad inclined his head.

"And now about the name. Got anything to suggest?"

The freckle-faced boy walked over to the pony and laid his cheek against its nose, which he patted softly, his head averted so that the others might not see the pain in his eyes.

"You--you might call yourselves 'The Pony Rider Boys,'" suggested Tad, controlling his voice with an effort.

CHAPTER II

THE PONY RIDER BOYS' CLUB ORGANIZBD

The Pony Rider Boys, as a club, met for the purpose of organization, with headquarters under a tent in Banker Perkins's orchard. It was the tent in which Walter, under orders from the family physician, had been sleeping during the spring. Over the entrance the boys pinned a strip of canvas on which they had printed in red letters, "Headquarters Pony Rider Boys' Club."

"Now they will know who we are," explained Walter, standing off to view their handiwork. "You see, people can read that from the street. Everybody who passes will see it."

"Yes," replied Ned Rector, who already had been enrolled as a charter member. "But I hope they won't think it's a blacksmith shop over here, and drive in to get their horses shod."

The boys laughed heartily.

"The next question is, whom shall we have for president of the club?" asked Walter. "I suppose we ought to elect one to-day so we can be regularly organized."

"Yes, that's so," agreed Chunky. "What's the matter with having Tad Butler for president? He knows all about horses, even if he has none himself."

"But he's not a member of the club," objected Ned.

"No," agreed Walter, "but I had thought we might make him an honorary member. We ought to take him in, someway, for I know he's anxious to join us."

"Then, I would suggest that we organize first," advised Ned, who possessed some slight knowledge of parliamentary law. "You can choose one of us for temporary chairman, and then we will go ahead and form our organization just like a regular club."

"That's a good plan. Will you be the chairman, Ned?"

"No, Walt. I think I should prefer to be on the floor, where I can talk. Neither the chairman nor president has the right to argue, you know. I'm afraid I shouldn't be of much use to the club if I couldn't talk," laughed Ned. "I propose Mr. Stacy Brown, otherwise known as 'Chunky, ' for temporary chairman. Chunky is fat, and can appear very dignified when he wants to, even if he doesn't feel that way."


The Pony Rider Boys in the Rockies - 2/35

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