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- Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 4/18 -


scattered copper wires all around pa's body, and fixed it so pa could touch a button and turn on a charge of electricity that would paralyze an elephant, and then I got some matches and took the phosphorus off and put it all over pa's face and hands and clothes and as it became dark and the phosphorus began to shine, Pa was a sight. He looked like moonlight on the lake, and I got the cowboy and the big game hunter and the educated Indian to get down on their knees around pa, and chant something that would sound terrible to the Indians. The only thing in the way of a chant that all of them could chant was the football tune, "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," and we were whooping it up over pa's illuminated remains when the Indians came out to put Pa on the fire, and when they saw the phosphorescent glow all over him, and, his face looking as though he was at peace with all the world, and us whites on our knees, making motions and singing that hot dirge, they all turned pale, and were scared, and they fell back reverently, and gazed fixedly at poor pa, who was winking at us, and whispering to us to keep it up, and we did.

The old chief was the first to recover, and he saw that something had to be done pretty quick, so he talked Indian to some of the braves, and I slipped away and put some phosphorus all over a squaw, and she looked like a lightning bug, and told her to go and fall on pa's remains and yell murder. The Indians had started to grab Pa and put him on the fire when Pa turned on the battery and the big chief got a dose big enough for a whole flock of Indians, and all who touched Pa got a shock, and they all fell back and got on their knees, and just then the squaw with the phosphorus on her system came running out, and she fell across pa's remains, and she shone so you could read fine print by the light she gave, and that settled it with the tribe, 'cause they all laid down flat and were at pa's mercy. Pa pushed the illuminated squaw away, and went around and put his foot on the neck of each Indian, in token of his absolute mastery over them, and then he bade them arise, and he told them he had only done these things to show them the power of the great father over his children, and now he would reveal to them his object in coming amongst them, and that was to engage 20 of the best Indians, and 20 of the best squaws, to join our great show, at an enormous salary, and be ready in two weeks to take the road. The Indians were delighted, and began to quarrel about who should go with the show, and to quiet them Pa said he wanted to shake hands with all of them, and they lined up, and Pa took the strongest wire attached to the battery in his pistol pocket, and let it run up under his coat and down his sleeve, into his right hand, and that was the way he shook hands with them. I thought I would die laughing. Pa took a position like a president at a New Year's reception, and shook hands with the tribe one at a time. The old chief came first, and Pa grasped his hand tight, and the chief stood on his toes and his knees knocked together, his teeth chattered, and he danced a cancan while Pa held on to his hand and squeezed, but he finally let go and the chief wiped his hand on a dog, and the dog got some of the electricity and ki yield to beat the band. Then Pa shook hands with everybody, and they all went through the same kind of performance, and were scared silly at the supernatural power Pa seemed to have. The squaws seemed to get more electricity than the buck Indians, 'cause Pa squeezed harder, and the way they danced and cut up didoes would make you think they had been drinking. Finally Pa touched them all with his magic wand, and then they prepared a feast and celebrated their engagement to go with the circus, and we packed up and got ready to go to a cattle round up the next day at a ranch outside the Indian reservation, where Pa was to engage some cowboys for the show. As we left the headquarters on the reservation the next morning all the Indians went with us for a few miles, cheering us, and Pa waved his hands to them, and said, "bless you, me children," and looked so wise, and so good, and great that I was proud of him. The squaws threw kisses at pa, and when we had left them, and had got out of sight, Pa said, "Those Indians will give the squaws a walloping when they get back to camp, but who can blame them for falling in love with the great father?" and then pa winked, and put spurs to his pony and we rode across the mesa, looking for other worlds to conquer.

[Illustration: "The Chief's Knees Knocked Together."]

On the way to the ranch where we were to meet the cowboys and engage enough to make the show a success, the cowboy Pa had along told Pa that it might be easy enough to fool Indians with the great father dodge, and the electric battery, and all that, but when he struck a mess of cowboys he would find a different proposition, 'cause he couldn't fool cowboys a little bit. He said if Pa was going to hire cowboys, he had got to be a cowboy himself, and if he couldn't rope steers he would have to learn, 'cause cowboys, if they were to be led in the show by pa, would want him to be prepared to rope anything that had four feet. Pa said while he didn't claim to be an expert, he had done some roping, and could throw a lasso, and while he didn't always catch them by the feet, when he tried to, he got the rope over them somewhere, and if the horse he rode knew its business he ultimately got his steer, and he would be willing to show the boys what he could do.

We got to the cow camp in time for dinner, and our cowboy introduced Pa to the cowboys around the chuck wagon, and told them Pa was an old cowboy who had traveled the Texas trail years ago, and was one of the best horsemen in the business, a manager of a show that was adding a wild west department and wanted to hire 40 or more of the best ropers and riders, at large salaries, to join the show, and that Pa considered himself the legitimate successor of Buffalo Bill, and money was no object. Well, the boys were tickled to meet pa, and some said they had heard of him when he was roping cattle on the frontier, and that tickled pa, and they smoked cigarettes, and finally saddled up and began to brand calves and rope cattle to get them where they belonged, each different brand of cattle being driven off in a different direction, and we had the most interesting free show of bucking horses and roping cattle I ever saw. Pa watched the boys work for a long time, and complimented them, or criticised them for some error, until the crazy spirit seemed to get into him, and he thought he could do it as well as any of the boys, and he told our cowboy that whenever the boys got tired he would like to get on a buckskin pony that one of the men was riding, and show that while a little out of practice he could stand a steer on its head, and get off his horse and tie the animal in a few seconds beyond the record time.

I told Pa he better hire a man to do it for him, but he said, "Hennery, here is where your Pa has got to make good, or these cowboys won't affiliate. You take my watch and roll, 'cause no one can tell where a fellow will land when he gets his steer," and I took pa's valuables and the boys brought up the buckskin horse, which smelled of Pa and snorted, and didn't seem to want Pa to get on, but they held the horse by the bridle, and Pa finally got himself on both sides of the horse, and took the lariat rope off the pommel of the saddle and began to handle it, kind of awkward, like a boy with a clothesline. I didn't like the way the cowboys winked around among themselves and guyed pa, and I told Pa about it, and tried to get him to give it up, but he said, "When I get my steer tied, and stand with my foot on his neck, these winking cowboys will take off their hats to me all right. I am Long Horn Ike, from the Brazos, and you watch my smoke."

Well, the boys tightened up the cinch on pa's saddle, and pointed out a rangy black steer in a bunch down on the flat, and told pa the game was to cut that steer out of the bunch and rope it, and tie it, and hold up his right hand for the time keeper to record it. Gee, but Pa spurred the horse and rode into that bunch of cattle like a whirlwind, and I was proud of him, and he cut out the black steer all right, and rode up near it, and swung his lariat, and sent it whizzing through the air, and the noose went out over the head and neck and fore feet of the steer, and the horse stopped and set itself back on its haunches, and the rope got around the belly of the steer, and when the rope became taut, and the steer ought to have been turned bottom-side up, the cinch of pa's saddle broke, the saddle came off with pa hugging his legs around it, and the black steer started due west for Texas, galloping and bellowing, and you couldn't see Pa and the saddle for the dust they made following the steer. If Pa had let go of the saddle, he would have stopped, but he hung to it, and the rope was tied to the saddle. The buckskin horse, relieved of the saddle, looked around at the cowboys as much as to say, "wouldn't that skin you," and went to grazing, the other cattle looked on as though they would say, "Another tenderfoot gone wrong," and as the black steer and Pa and the saddle went over a hill, Pa only touching the high places, the boss cowboy said, "Come on and help head off the steer, and send a wagon to bring back the remains of Long Horn Ike from the Brazos," and then I began to cry for pa.

[Illustration: "Pa Only Touched the High Places."]

CHAPTER IV.

Pa, the Bad Boy and a Band of Cowboys Go in Search of a Live Dinosaurus--The Expedition is Captured by a Gang of Train Robbers and Pa is Held for Ransom.

When I saw Pa clinging to the saddle, which had got loose from the horse that he was riding when he lassoed the black steer around the belly, and the steer was running away, dragging Pa and the saddle across the plains, I thought I never would see him alive again. But the cowboys said they would bring his remains back all right. When they rode away to capture the steer and release pa, I stopped crying and laid down under the chuck wagon with the dogs, to think over what I would do, alone in the world, and I must have fallen asleep, for the next thing I knew the dogs barked and woke me up, and I looked off to the south and the cowboys were coming back with pa's remains on a buckboard.

I went up to the wagon to see if Pa looked natural, and he raised up, like a corpse coming to, and said: "Hennery, did you notice how I roped the black steer?" and I said: "Yes, pa, I saw the whole business, and saw you start south, chasing the steer, armed only with a saddle, and what is the news from Texas?"

Pa said: "Look-a-here, I don't want to hear any funny business. I delivered the goods all right, and if the cinch of the saddle had held out faithful to the end, I would have tied the steer in record time, but man proposes and the rest you have to leave to luck. I was out of luck, that is all, but the ride I had across the prairie has given me some ideas about flying machines that will be worked into our show next year."

Pa got up off the buckboard and shook himself, and he was just as well and hearty as ever, and the cowboys got around him, and told


Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 4/18

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