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   Chapter 17 OLD-TIMERS

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 6338

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

As soon as Captain Ellison heard of what had happened at Tascosa, he went over on the stage from Mobeetie to look at the situation himself. He dropped in at once to see his old friends the Wadleys. Ramona opened the door to him.

"Uncle Jim!" she cried, and promptly disappeared in his arms for a hug and a kiss.

The Ranger Captain held her off and examined the lovely flushed face.

"Dog it, you get prettier every day you live. I wisht I was thirty years younger. I'd make some of these lads get a move on 'em."

"I wish you were," she laughed. "They need some competition to make them look at me. None of them would have a chance then-even if they wanted it."

"I believe that. I got to believe it to keep my self-respect. It's all the consolation we old-timers have got. How's Clint?"

"Better. You should hear him swear under his breath because the doctor won't let him smoke more than two pipes a day, and because we won't let him eat whatever he wants to. He's worse than a sore bear," said Ramona proudly.

"Lead me to him."

A moment later the Ranger and the cattleman were shaking hands. They had been partners in their youth, had fought side by side in the Civil War, and had shot plains Indians together at Adobe Walls a few years since. They were so close to each other that they could quarrel whenever they chose, which they frequently did.

"How, old-timer!" exclaimed the Ranger Captain.

"Starved to death. They feed me nothin' but slops-soup an' gruel an' custard an' milk-toast. Fine for a full-grown man, ain't it? Jim, you go out an' get me a big steak an' cook it in boilin' grease on a camp-fire, an' I'll give you a deed to the A T O."

"To-morrow, Clint. The Doc says-"

"Ma?ana! That's what they all say. Is this Mexico or God's country? What I want, I want now."

"You always did-an' you 'most always got it too," said Ellison, his eyes twinkling reminiscently.

'Mona shook a warning finger at her father. "Well, he won't get it now. He'll behave, too, or he'll not get his pipe to-night."

The sick man grinned. "See how she bullies a poor old man, Jim. I'm worse than that Lear fellow in the play-most henpecked father you ever did see."

"Will she let you talk?"

"He may talk to you, Uncle Jim."

"What did I tell you?" demanded the big cattleman from the bed with the mock bitterness that was a part of the fun they both enjoyed. "You see, I got to get her permission. I'm a slave."

"That's what a nurse is for, Clint. You want to be glad you got the sweetest one in Texas." The Captain patted Ramona affectionately on the shoulder before he passed to the business of the day. "I want to know about all these ructions in Tascosa. Tell me the whole story."

They told him. He listened in silence till they had finished, asked a question or two, and made one comment.

"That boy Roberts of mine is sure some go-getter."

"He'll do," conceded the cattleman. "That lucky shot of his-the one that busted Dinsmore's arm-certainly saved my life later."

"Lucky shot!" exploded Ellison. "And you just through tellin' me how he plugged the dollars in the air! Doggone it, I want you to know there

was no darned luck about it! My boys are the best shots in Texas."

"I'll take any one of 'em on soon as I'm out-any time, any place, any mark," retorted Wadley promptly.

"I'll go you. Roberts is a new man an' hasn't had much experience. I'll match him with you."

"New man! H'mp! He's the best you've got, an' you know it."

"I don't know whether he is, but he's good enough to make any old-timer like you look like a plugged nickel."

The cattleman snorted again, disdaining an answer.

"Dad is the best shot in Texas," pronounced Ramona calmly, rallying to her father's support. For years she had been the umpire between the two.

The Captain threw up his hands. "I give up."

"And Mr. Roberts is just about as good."

"That's settled, then," said Ellison. "But what I came to say is that I'm goin' to round up the Dinsmore bunch. We can't convict 'em of murder on the evidence we have, but I'll arrest 'em for shootin' you an' try to get a confession out of one of 'em. Does that look reasonable, Clint?"

Wadley considered this.

"It's worth a try-out. The Dinsmores are game. They won't squeal. But I've a sneakin' notion Gurley is yellow. He might come through-or that other fellow Overstreet might. I don't know him. You want to be careful how you try to take that outfit, though, Jim. They're dangerous as rattlesnakes."

"That's the kind of outfit my boys eat up," answered the chipper little officer as he rose to leave. "Well, so long, Clint. Behave proper, an' mebbe this young tyrant will give you a nice stick o' candy for a good boy."

He went out chuckling.

The cattleman snorted. "Beats all how crazy Jim is about those Ranger boys of his. He thinks the sun rises an' sets by them. I want to tell you they've got to sleep on the trail a long time an' get up early in the mo'nin' to catch the Dinsmores in bed. That bird Pete always has one eye open. What's more, he an' his gang wear their guns low."

"I don't think Uncle Jim ought to send boys like Jack Roberts out against such desperadoes. It's not fair," Ramona said decisively.

"Oh, ain't it?" Her father promptly switched to the other side. "You give me a bunch of boys like young Roberts, an' I'd undertake to clean up this whole country, an' Lincoln County too. He's a dead shot. He's an A-1 trailer. He can whip his weight in wildcats. He's got savvy. He uses his brains. An' he's game from the toes up. What more does a man need?"

"I didn't know you liked him," his daughter said innocently.

"Like him? Jumpin' snakes, no! He's too darned fresh to suit me. What's likin' him got to do with it? I'm just tellin' you that no better officer ever stood in shoe-leather."

"Oh, I see."

Ramona said no more. She asked herself no questions as to the reason, but she knew that her father's words of praise were sweet to hear. They sent a warm glow of pride through her heart. She wanted to think well of this red-haired Ranger who trod the earth as though he were the heir of all the ages. In some strange way Fate had linked his life with hers from that moment when he had literally flung himself in her path to fight a mad bull for her life.

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