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- Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 5/18 -
him he was a wonder, and that Buffalo Bill couldn't hold a candle to him as an all-around rough rider and cowboy combined. So pa hired about a dozen of the cowboys to go with our show, and then we went into camp for the night, and the cowboys told of a place about 20 miles away, where some scientists had a camp, where they were excavating to dig out petrified bone of animals supposed to be extinct, like the dinosaurus and the hoday, and Pa wanted to go there and see about it, and the next day we took half a dozen of the cowboys Pa had hired, and we rode to the camp.
Gee, but I never believed that such animals ever did exist in this country, but the scientists had one animal picture that showed the dinosaurus as he existed when alive, an animal over 70 feet long, that would weigh as much as a dozen of our largest elephants, with a neck as long as 15 giraffes, and then they showed us bones of these animals that they dug out and put together, and the completed mess of bones showed that the dinosaurus could eat out of a six-story window, and pa's circus instinct told him that if he could find such an animal alive, and capture it for the show, our fortunes would be made.
We stayed there all night, and Pa asked questions about the probability of there being such animals alive at this day, and the scientists promptly told Pa these animals only existed ages and ages ago, when the country was covered with water and was a part of the ocean, and that the animals lived on the high places, but when the water receded, and the ocean became a desert, the dinosaurus died of a broken heart, and all we had to show for it was these petrified bones.
Pa ought to have believed the scientists, 'cause they know all about their business, but after the scientists had gone to bed the cowboys began to string pa. They told him that about a hundred miles to the north, in a valley in the mountains, the dinosaurus still existed, alive, and that no man dare go there. One cowboy said he was herding a bunch of cattle in a valley up there once, and the bunch got into a drove of dinosauruses, and the first thing he knew a big dinosaurus reached out his neck and picked up a steer, raised it in the air about 80 feet, as easy as a derrick would pick up a dog house, and the dinosaurus swallowed the steer whole, and the other dinosauruses each swallowed a steer. The cowboy said before he knew it his whole bunch of steers was swallowed whole, and they would have swallowed him and his horse if he hadn't skinned out on a gallop. He said he could hear the dinosauruses for miles, making a noise like distant thunder, whether from eating the steers, giving them a pain, or whether bidding defiance to him and his horse, he never could make out but he said nothing but money could ever induce him to go into that valley again.
[Illustration: A Boy Dinosaurus Reached Out His Neck and Picked Up a Steer.]
Pa asked the other cowboys if they had ever been to that dinosaurus valley, and they winked at each other and said they had heard of it, but there was not money enough to hire them to go there, 'cause they had heard that a man's life was not safe a minute. Bill, who had told the story, was the only man who had ever been there, and the only man living that had seen a live dinosaurus.
Then we turned in, and Pa never slept a wink all night, thinking of the rare animals, or insects, or reptiles, or whatever they are, that he expected to land for the show. He whispered to me in the night and said: "Hennery, I am on the trail of the dinosaurus, and while I am not prepared to capture one alive, at this time, I am going to that valley and see the animals alive, and make plans for their capture, and report to the management of the show. What do you think about it?"
I told Pa that I thought that cowboy, Bill, was the worst liar that we had ever run up against, and I knew by studying geography in school that the dinosaurus was extinct, and had been for thousands of years. Pa said: "So they say the buffalo is extinct, but you can find 'em, if you have got the money. Lots of thing are extinct, till some brave explorer penetrates the fastnesses and finds them. The mastodon is extinct, according to the scientists, but they are alive in Alaska. The north pole is extinct, but some dub in a balloon will find it all right. I tell you, I am going to see a live dinosaurus, or bust. You hear me?" and Pa heard them cooking breakfast, and we got up.
Before noon Pa had organized a pack train and hired three cowboys, and got some diagrams and pictures of dinosauruses from the scientists, and we started north on the biggest fool expedition that ever was, but Pa was as earnest and excited as Peary planning a north pole expedition, and as busy as a boy killing snakes. After the cowboys and the scientists had tried to get Pa to make his will before he went, and got the addresses where Pa wanted our remains sent to in case of our being found dried up on the prairie, and our bones polished by wolves, we were on the move, and Pa was so happy you would think he had already found a live dinosaurus, and had him in a cage.
For four days we rode along up and down foothills, and divides, and small mountains, and all the time Pa was telling the boys how, after we had located our dinosauruses, we would go back east and organize an expedition with derricks and cages as big as a house, and come back and drive the animals in. And when we got them with the show people we would run trains hundreds of miles to see the rarest animals any show ever exhibited to a discriminating public, and we could charge five dollars for tickets, and people would mob each other to get up to the ticket wagon. Then the boys would wink at each other, and tap their foreheads with their fingers, and look at Pa as though they expected he would break out violently insane any minute.
Finally we got up on a high ridge, and a beautiful, fertile valley was unfolded to our view, and Bill, the cowboy who had had his herd of steers eaten by the dinosaurus, said that was the place, and he began to shiver like he had the ague. He said he wouldn't go any farther without another hundred dollars, and Pa asked the other cowboys if they were afraid, too, and they said they were a little scared, but for another hundred dollars they would forget it, forget their families, and go down into the death valley.
Pa paid them the money, and we went down into the valley, and rode along, expecting to jump a flock of dinosauruses any minute, but the valley was as still as death, and Pa said to Bill: "Why don't you bring on your dinosauruses," and Bill said he guessed by the time we got up to the far end of the valley we would see something that would make us stand without hitching.
We went on towards where the valley came to a point where there seemed to be a hole in the side of the mountain, when all of a sudden four or five gun shots were heard, and four of our horses dropped dead in their tracks, and about a dozen men come out of the hole in the wall and told us to hold up our hands, and when we did so they took our guns away and told us to come in out of the wet.
[Illustration: We Were Captured by the Curry's Gang.]
We went into a cave and found that we had been captured by Curry's gang of train robbers, who made their headquarters in the hole in the wall. The leader searched Pa and took all his money, and told us to make ourselves at home. Pa protested, and said he was an old showman who had come to the valley looking for the supposed-to-be- extinct dinosaurus, to capture one for the show, and the leader of the gang said he was the only dinosaurus there was, but he hadn't been captured. Then the leader slapped our cowboys on the shoulders and told them they had done a good job to bring into camp such a rich old codger as Pa was, and then we found that the cowboys belonged to Curry's gang, and had roped Pa in in order to get a ransom.
The leader asked Pa about how much he thought his friends at the east could raise to get him out, and when Pa found he was in the hands of bandits, and that the dinosaurus mine was salted, and he had been made a fool of, he said to me: "Hennery, now, honest, between man and man, wouldn't this skin you?"
I began to cry and said: "Pa, both of us are skun. How are we going to get out of this?" and Pa said: "Watch me."
Pa and the Bad Boy Among the Train Robbers--Pa Tries to Persuade the Head Bandit to Become a Financier--The Bandit Prefers Train Robbery and Puts Up a Good Argument.
I used to think I would like to be a train robber, and have a nice gang of boys to do my bidding. I have often pictured my gang putting a red light on the track and stopping a train laden with gold, holding a revolver to the head of the engineer, and compelling him to go and dynamite the express car. Then we would fill our pockets and haversacks with rolls of bills that would choke a hippopotamus, and ride away to our shack in the mountains, divide up the swag, go on a trip to New York, bathe in champagne, dress like millionaires, go to theaters morning, noon and night, eat lobster until our stomachs would form an anti- lobster union, and be so gay the people would think we were young Vandergoulds. Since Pa and I were captured by the Hole-in-the-Wall gang I have found that all is not glorious in the train-robbing and capturing-for-ransom business, and that robbers are never happy except when a robbery is safely over, and the gang gets good and drunk.
The first day or two after Pa and I and the traitorous cowboys were captured, we had a pretty nice time, eating canned stuff and elk meat, and Pa was kept busy telling the gang of what had happened in the outside world for several months, as the gang did not read the daily papers. When they robbed a train they let the newsboy alone for fear he would get the drop on them.
[Illustration: Pa Told Them About the Wave of Reform.]
Pa told them about the wave of reform that was going over the country, and how the politicians were taking the railroads and monopolists by the neck, and shaking them like a terrier would shake a rat; how the insurance companies that had been for years tying the policy holders hand and foot, and searching their pockets for illicit gains had been caught in the act, and how the presidents and directory were liable to have to serve time in the penitentiary. Pa told the Hole-in-the-Wall gang all the news until he got hoarse.
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