Read CHAPTER IX of Fred Fearnot's New Ranch and How He and Terry Managed It , free online book, by Hal Standish, on ReadCentral.com.

What happened to the cowboy who insisted on work or fight.

Fred called up one of his cowboys, introduced Hecker to him, and informed him that he was henceforth to be one of the force of cowboys, as he had been in his employ up in Colorado, and was a good fellow, trustworthy, and not afraid of either cattle thieves or long-horned cattle.

“Now, take him around to the stables and barns, and all the lots, and let him see everything on the place.”

“All right, boss,” and he and Tom went off together. Of course, Hecker had no end of questions to answer, for the Texas cowboy was more or less puzzled to understand his present employer.

Of course, Tom told him that Fearnot and Olcott were the best and bravest men whom he had ever known, and that the man who undertook to buck against them made the mistake of his life.

Fred and Terry then busied themselves about other matters, which had been called to their attention.

Terry suggested the feasibility of buying at least a thousand head of sheep and fencing off a portion of the ranch for their use.

They were talking over that when word was sent to them that dinner was ready. They went over to the house and found that Evelyn and the two girls, with the old black cook, who had been employed in Crabtree, had prepared a most savory meal, and they at once sat down to it.

They were about through with their meal, when they heard loud talking and the tramping of feet, and the next moment the door leading into the dining-room was burst in, and the big cowboy whose application for employment had been refused, stalked into the room, waving a branding iron over his head in a most ferocious manner.

The two young lady visitors sprang up, and rushing into the other room shut the door. But Evelyn knew that there could be no safer place for her than with Fred and Terry.

When she saw the big fellow with that formidable weapon in his hands she paled somewhat, and thought that Fred and her brother were in danger of being badly hurt, if not killed.

The man had evidently been drinking heavily, for his face was flushed.

“Mr. Fearnot,” he fairly roared, “you refused to give me work this morning, and yet an hour later you took on another man. Now I’ve got to have work or know the reason why, or else clean out the whole ranch!” and he flourished the branding-iron above his head in a most threatening manner.

“It’s work or fight,” he continued. “Which shall it be?”

Terry had his rifle hanging on a couple of pegs at the rear end of the kitchen, and he started for it.

Fred had bought, up in Crabtree, a few weeks before, a bulldog, which he was training for his own use, and the dog had come into the dining-room and sat in a place that had been assigned him in expectation of being fed when the dinner was finished.

As the burly cowboy burst open the door and rushed into the dining-room, brandishing a branding-iron above his head, and threatening dire destruction to everybody present, Fred dashed at him, and seized his upraised arm, while Terry reached for his rifle.

The burly cowboy aimed a blow at Fred’s head with the branding-iron, but Fred reached up and caught him by the wrist, while the dog ran around and attacked him in the rear.

The fellow evidently thought that it would be an easy matter to jerk loose from Fred’s grip, but to his amazement he found that his grip was like that of a steel vise, and to save his life he couldn’t pull loose from him.

Fred held him steadily, and with his left fist dealt him a blow on the right side of his chest.

Terry then ran up with his Winchester, holding it rather menacingly.

“Let him alone, Terry,” said Fred, “I’ll attend to him.”

Fred then gave him three or four blows while the fellow kept jerking and twisting to try to free himself, after a while giving vent to fierce imprecations and at the same time trying to avoid the fangs of the bulldog.

Fred then began pushing the villain back toward the door, through which he had entered.

Seeing that he couldn’t use the branding-iron on Fred, he tried to take it in his left hand for that purpose, but Fred’s left interfered, and the fellow felt as though his right arm would be broken.

Fred, pushed him out of the door, and he lost his balance as he went through, and so fell to the ground.

As the man fell to the ground, just outside the door, the branding-iron slipped from his hand. Then Fred jerked him up to his feet, and went at him like a cyclone. Four or five blows on the chest caused him to go down again.

Again Fred jerked the fellow up on his feet, and the second time beat him down, until the fellow didn’t have breath enough left in him to say anything.

Fred let him lie there for about one minute, and then said:

“You wanted work or fight. I’ll give you all the fight you want and charge you nothing for it,” and as soon as the fellow tried slowly to get up, Fred dealt him another blow that laid him out for about five minutes.

Hearing that the fight had ceased, Evelyn entered the other room to assure the girls that Fred and Terry could take care of the fellow, again came out, and looked at the scene going on outside.

“Brother,” said she, “you are not going to kill him, are you?”

“No, I’m just going to let Fred manage him in his own way.”

“Fred,” she asked, “what are you going to do to him?”

“Go into the house, dear, and quiet those girls. I’m not going to shed any blood or take a life.”

She didn’t follow his injunctions to go into the house, but she kept quiet a while and watched them.

“Fred, have you killed him?” she asked presently, as she saw the man lying like a dead man on the ground.

“No; I knocked him out, though, and am waiting for him to get his breath back.”

By and by the fellow began to breathe hard and groan.

Finally he opened his eyes and looked up at Fred.

“You wanted fight or work,” sad Fred. “What do you want now?”

“Mister, I want to go as far away from here as I can.”

“Well, why didn’t you go when you had the chance?”

“Boss, I didn’t know you then; but I do now.”

“Well, get up and leave, and don’t you waste a minute of time in getting away.”

The fellow got up and started off in the direction of the store.

His three companions had retreated to that place, and as soon as he started, Fred followed him and assisted him in leaving by administering kicks which raised him from the ground at least a foot at every kick.

Suddenly he drew a revolver from his pocket. It was strange that he hadn’t attempted to use it before.

He drew it and turned to face Fred; but just then Fred saw the weapon and kicked it out of his hand.

“Oh you’re not satisfied yet? You wanted to shoot, eh? Now, I’ll show you what shooting is,” and he sent Terry into the house to get his revolver and an apple.

There were a few green apples in the kitchen, which the cook intended to stew that afternoon.

Terry came out with one of the apples in one hand and the revolver in the other.

“Now, my good fellow, you take that apple and hold it between your thumb and forefinger. Hold it out straight at arm’s length, while I send a bullet through it.”

“Boss, I can’t hold it.”

“All right. If you don’t hold it between your thumb and forefinger I’ll shoot at your hand.”

“Boss, why don’t you let me go? I’ve got enough, and I’ll leave the State.”

“Hold out that apple,” said Fred.

The man held the apple out at arm’s length between his thumb and forefinger, but his hand was trembling so that Fred had to be very careful for fear that he would hit the hand and thus maim him for life: but the bullet went square through the apple, and it fell to the ground.

The fellow nearly had a fit. He picked up the pieces of the apple and looked at them.

“Now you want to leave this locality about as fast as your heels can carry you,” said Fred.

With that the fellow, without stopping to pick up his hat, turned around and left, and all he would say to his companions was:

“Come, boys, let’s get away from here. This is no place for us.”

He stopped at the well, took a dipper full of water, and then started off, while the other three followed him.

That big cowboy was never seen in that part of Texas afterward.

The storekeeper told the story to his customers as they came into the store, and it was soon known all over that county.

The facts of the lynching of the four Mexican cattle thieves had been published all over that part of the State, and Fred and Terry were relieved from the odium of having had anything to do with the affair, other than the capture of the men.

The sheriff and his deputies took charge of the bodies, as they were found hanging to the trees, and buried them by the road-side.

They were buried in one pit, and above them was a head-board, on which was painted in large letters the story of their fate.

Tom Hecker had written to four of his former cowboy companions that he had found a place with Fearnot and Olcott again, and that they wanted four more of them to join him.

They at once resigned their places with their employers, and soon reached their ranch.

They were each supplied with a Winchester and cartridges, and told to capture every cattle thief that they found on the range, even if they had to bring them down with a bullet.