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   Chapter 22 A PICNIC

Six Little Bunkers at Cowboy Jack's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 7460

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


Rose had now been so long alone that she was beginning to fear she never would see Mother Bunker and daddy and her brothers and sisters again. And this was an awful thought.

But she had already cried so much that it was an effort for her to squeeze out another tear. So she just sat on a stump and sniffed, watching the lame coyote.

Rose pitied that coyote. If he was as thirsty as she was hungry, the little girl feared the poor animal must be suffering greatly. For it was long past noon and breakfast at the ranch house was served early.

"I guess I'll have to begin to eat leaves and grass," murmured Rose Bunker. "I suppose I can wash them down with water, and there is plenty of water in the brook. Only the poor, doggy can't get to it."

While she was thinking these things, and feeling very miserable indeed, she suddenly heard the ring of horses' hoofs on the stones in the brook. Rose sprang up in great excitement, for she did not know what this new trouble might be.

Then--

"Oh, Daddy Bunker! Russ!" she shrieked, and began to hobble toward the cavalcade that had ridden down from the other side of the stream of water.

"Rose!" cried daddy. "Are you hurt, child?"

"Well, I was hurt. But my foot's pretty near well now. Only Pinky ran away and left me after I tumbled out of the saddle-Oh! Wait! Look out and don't scare off the poor lame doggy."

This last she cried when she looked back at the coyote trying to scramble farther into the bushes. But the chain hitched to the trap had caught over a stub, and the poor brute could not get far. Cowboy Jack drew from his saddle holster the pistol he usually carried when he was out on the range; but Rose screamed out again when she saw that.

"Don't hurt the poor doggy, Mr. Cowboy Jack! He can't get away."

"Jumping grasshoppers!" muttered the ranchman, "does she think that coyote is a dog?"

"She evidently does," Black Bear replied. "He can't get away. I'll tell Little Elk to stay back and fix him. No use scaring the child. Lucky the brute was fast in that trap. He might have done her harm."

Rose did not hear this, but Russ did. And he was quite old enough to understand his sister had been in danger while she remained here near the coyote. Besides, it would have been cruel to have left the wounded animal to die miserably alone. He could not be cured, so he would have to be shot.

This incident of the coyote made a deeper impression upon the mind of Russ than it did on his sister's. He quite understood that, had the animal been more savage or had it been free of the trap, it might have seriously injured Rose. There were perils out here on the open ranges that they must never lose sight of-possibilities of getting into trouble that at first Russ Bunker had not dreamed about. It made Russ feel as though never again would he let any of the younger children go anywhere alone while they remained at Cowboy Jack's.

Rose prattled a good deal to Daddy Bunker about the "lame dog" as they all rode back to the ranch house. But Russ was more interested in hearing about the moving picture company's camp and what they were doing. Black Bear told the little boy some things he wished to know, including the fact that the Indians and the other actors were making a picture about olden times on the plains, and that it was called "A Romance of the Santa Fé Trail."

"I should think it would be a lot of fun to make pictures," Russ said. "Do you think we Bunkers could get a chance to act in it, Chief Black Bear?"

"I don't know about that," laughed the Indian. "I shall have to ask Mr. Habback, the director. Maybe he can use you children in the scene at the old fort where the soldiers and frontiersmen are hemmed in

by the Indians. Of course, there were children in the fort at the time of the attack."

"It-it isn't going to be a real fight, is it?" asked Russ, rather more doubtfully.

"It has got to look like a real fight, or Mr. Habback will not be satisfied, I can tell you."

"But suppose-suppose," stammered Russ, "your Indians should forget and really turn savage?"

"Not a chance of that," laughed Black Bear. "I have hard enough work making them take their parts seriously. They are more likely to think it is funny and spoil the shot."

"Then they don't ever feel like turning savage and fighting the white folks in earnest?" asked Russ.

"You don't feel like turning savage and fighting red men do you?" asked Black Bear, with a serious face.

"Oh, no!" cried Russ, shaking his head.

"Then, why should we red people want to fight you? You will be perfectly safe if you come down to see us make the fort scene," the Indian chief assured him.

So Russ got back to the ranch house full to the lips with the idea of acting in the moving picture. Rose's ankle had only been twisted a little, and she was perfectly able to walk the next day. But Mother Bunker would not hear to the children going far from the house after that without daddy or herself being with them.

"I believe our six little Bunkers can get into more adventures than any other hundred children," she said earnestly. "To think of that coyote being there with Rose for hours!"

"If he had not been in the trap he would have run away from her fast enough," returned Daddy Bunker.

Just the same he, too, felt that the children would better not get far out of their sight. They could play with the ponies about the house, for the fields were mostly unfenced. And the ponies were certainly great play-fellows. Laddie was sure that Pinky was a most intelligent horse.

"If we had known just how to talk to him," declared Laddie, "I am sure he would have told us all about Rose and where he had left her that day."

"Maybe he would," said Rose, though she spoke rather doubtfully. "But I slipped right out of that saddle, and I am not going to ride him any more. I would rather drive Brownie hitched to the cart."

"You mean Dinah, don't you?" asked Margy.

"I guess she means Cute," said Vi.

"Oh, no! Oh, no!" cried Mun Bun. "Let me name that pony. I want to call him Jerry. I want to call him after our Jerry Simms at home in Pineville."

And this was finally agreed upon. All the Bunker children liked Jerry Simms, who had been the very first person to tell them stories about the army and about this great West that they had come to.

"I guess Jerry Simms would have known all about this moving picture the soldiers and Mr. Black Bear's Indians are making," Russ remarked. "And mayn't we all go and act in it, Daddy?"

Russ talked so much about this that finally Mrs. Bunker agreed to go with the children to see the representation of the Indian attack on the fort. The six little Bunkers looked forward to this exciting proposal for several days, and when Mr. Habback sent word that the scene was ready to "shoot," as he called it, the children could scarcely contain themselves until the party started from the ranch house.

It was to be a grand picnic, for they took cooked food and a tent for Mother Bunker and the children to sleep in. Russ and Laddie rode their ponies, and all the rest of the party crowded into one of Cowboy Jack's big blue automobiles when they set out for a distant part of the ranch.

"I know we'll have just a bully time," declared Russ Bunker. "It will be the best adventure we've ever had."

But even Russ did not dream of all the exciting things that were to happen on that picnic.

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