Read CHAPTER XIX - IN THE SADDLE of The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch The Cowboys' Double Round-Up , free online book, by Edward Stratemeyer, on ReadCentral.com.

The two boys located the three men without any trouble.  They were seated near the end of the car where there was a water cooler, and here the two lads stopped to fumble for a minute or two over the paper drinking cups and then to take their time getting a drink.

“Yes, we ought to make a lot of money on that deal, Noxley,” they heard Bud Haddon say.  “That is, provided we mind what we’re doin’.”

“Oh, there’ll be no trip-up this time,” answered the man called Noxley.

“I’ve been wonderin’ how many horses there would be that we could sell,” put in the third man of the group.

“I heard we could get at least twenty, Jenks.  Of course, I can’t tell exactly until I’ve looked over the ground.”

“Well, twenty head of horses and two hundred head of cattle are not to be sneezed at,” answered the man called Jenks.  “A fine piece of business, I’ll say,” and he laughed shrewdly.

“How long do you expect to stay at Arrow Junction before you go out to Bimbel’s Ranch?” questioned Noxley.

“Not more ‘n three or four days.  I’m expectin’ word from Bimbel as soon as I reach the Junction, and then I’ll know just what he wants us to do.”

“One thing I want understood,” went on Jenks crossly.  “This time I get all that’s comin’ to me - no holdin’ back!”

“And I want the same, remember that,” put in Noxley sourly.

“You’ll get your full share - no fear of that,” said Haddon reassuringly.  “Only remember, you’ve got to do your full share of the work, too.  No shirkin’ at the last minute!”

“Well, we don’t want to be takin’ too many chances,” and Jenks shook his uncombed head dubiously.

“You’ve got to take chances in this game, Jenks.  You can’t expect the hens to lay eggs right in your hands,” and Haddon chuckled at his little joke.

After that the men talked about a good time they had had in Albany the evening before.  They said nothing further of what they expected to do in the West nor did Haddon mention Haven Point or Brassy Bangs.

“We might as well go back,” whispered Jack to Fred, after they had remained as long at the water cooler as they dared.  The men had glanced at them carelessly, but had evidently given them scant attention.

When the two lads returned to the others they held a consultation, and then laid the whole case before Fred’s father.  Sam Rover listened with interest, and his face became a study.

“It is just possible that your guess may be correct and this fellow Haddon may be guilty of robbing Colby Hall.  But it would be sheer foolishness to accuse the fellow unless you had sufficient evidence against him.  This talk about horses and cattle may be a perfectly legitimate affair.  However, when we get to the ranch we can look into the matter further and find out what sort of place this Bimbel’s ranch is and what the men really intend to do while there.  That may give us a better line on this Bud Haddon and the others.”

“I’m going to watch that crowd as long as they travel with us,” said Jack, and the other lads said they would do the same.

A night was spent on the train, all the boys sleeping soundly, and in the middle of the forenoon they rolled into the great station at Chicago.  Here the lads kept their eyes wide open and saw Haddon and his two companions walk away, dresssuit-cases in hand.  Nor did they reappear when the Rovers, an hour later, hurried for the train which was to take them further westward.  Evidently the three men were going to take some other train to Montana.

“Here they are!  We’ve been waiting for you folks!” came the cry, and Spouter rushed up to the Rovers, followed by Gif.

“Ho for the glorious West!” put in Gif.  “Aren’t you fellows anxious to get there?” he questioned.

“Anxious doesn’t express it!” answered Andy.  “Why, all night long I was riding broncos and lassoing wild cattle!” and he grinned.

Sleeping-car accommodations had been reserved for all of the crowd, and they were soon making themselves at home.  Then, as the train sped westward, the Rovers told their chums about Bud Haddon.

“That certainly is interesting,” said Gif.  “Just the same, I can’t think that Brassy Bangs is a thief.  Why, if you’ll remember, he said he had been robbed himself!”

“He might have said that just to throw dust in the eyes of the public,” answered Spouter.  “To my mind it will certainly be a good thing to keep our eyes open for this fellow Haddon.”

The trip to Montana took the best part of three days, and every one in the party enjoyed the journey thoroughly.  They often went out to the observation end of the train, there to view the endless panorama of prairies and mountains, forests and streams, as they sped swiftly past.  The magnificent view impressed Spouter as much as anybody.

“It’s sublime - stupendously sublime,” he murmured over and over again.  “The thoughts that well up in my bosom at such a sight as this are beyond the power of words to express.  When I view these immense plains, these mountain tops fading away in the distance, these wild and weird torrents rushing over the rocks, and these trackless forests with often not a human abode in sight, I cannot but think - ”

“That there is room here for every man, woman and child in the city of New York and then some,” finished Andy.  “Gee, how can they stick in one or two miserable cubby-holes of rooms when we have all this land to draw on!”

“That’s what gets me,” put in Gif.  “But they do it.  And I’m told that a whole lot of ’em would rather die huddled together than live out here where neighbors are miles apart.”

The through train took them only as far as Arrow Junction.  Here they alighted and then boarded a little side line, running through the hills to a dozen small stations, including Four Rocks.

“This isn’t so nice,” sighed Martha, when all had piled into one of the two little cars which comprised the train.  Their baggage had been put in the other car, which was a combination baggage and smoking car.  There were but a few other passengers in the car, including one fat woman with two small and exceedingly dirty children.  There were also several cowboys, and a Chinaman who looked as if he might be a cook.

“I think dad has a Chink at our ranch,” said Spouter.  “Anyway, he wrote he thought he’d hire one.”

They had telegraphed ahead, so that there might be some one to meet them when they arrived at Four Rocks.

“It’s certainly an odd name for a railroad station,” remarked Mrs. Rover to her husband.

“Four Rocks sounds substantial enough,” he returned, with a smile.

“Is it much of a town?”

“Not likely to be any town at all.  Perhaps a little railroad station and possibly one store, which, of course, would also be the post-office.”

Sam Rover’s idea of Four Rocks proved to be correct.  Situated near a ridge of rocks was a small railroad station with a telegraph office and baggage room attached, a water tower, and opposite to the station were two low buildings, one a general store and the other a place where there had once been a saloon and dance hall, but which was now closed up.

“There’s my dad now!” cried Spouter excitedly, as he leaped off the train.  And the next minute he was running towards an automobile in which sat his parent.  “Where is ma?” he demanded.

“She remained at the house to see that everything was in readiness when you got there,” answered Songbird Powell, as he shook hands with his son.

Close to the automobile stood a number of horses, all saddled.  On one sat a bronzed cowboy, who grinned broadly at the boys and tipped his hat rather awkwardly to Mrs. Rover and the girls.

“This is my foreman, Joe Jackson,” said Songbird Powell.  “Joe, this is Mr. and Mrs. Rover, and these are the Rover boys and their sisters, and this is my son and another of his chums.  I guess you’ll get better acquainted a little later on,” and he smiled broadly.

“Who’s to ride on horseback?” questioned Andy quickly, “We can’t all get into that machine.”

“You boys can all ride with Joe,” answered Spouter’s father.  “I thought you’d rather do that than anything else.  The girls and the others can ride with me.”

“How do you know I don’t want to ride on horseback, Uncle John?” cried Martha gayly.  She often called this intimate chum of her father “uncle.”

“No, Martha, you’d better ride with us now,” put in Mrs. Rover hastily.  “You can do your horseback riding later on.”

“Oh, I was only fooling, Aunt Grace,” the girl replied.

“I’m just crazy to see Big Horn Ranch, Uncle John,” came from Mary.

“Well, I hope you’ll like it,” returned Songbird Powell.  “I want every one of you to have the best times ever while you’re here.”  His eyes glistened.  “We ought to have a regular old-fashioned reunion.”  And then, unable to control himself, he broke out into a bit of his old-time doggerel.

    “I’m glad you’re here. 
    I hope you’ll stay. 
    I’ll miss you much
    When you’re away.”

“Hurrah, Songbird, that certainly sounds natural!” cried Sam Rover, slapping his old chum on the shoulder.  “You’ll have to give us more of that later on.”

“I haven’t spent much time on verses the last few years, Sam,” answered Songbird.  “I’ve been too busy attending to business.  But maybe I’ll get back to it while loafing around the ranch,” he added.

“Are any other people coming to the ranch?”

“Yes, one other person.  And I think you’ll be very much surprised to see him.”

“Who is that?”

“Oh, you had better wait until he arrives,” returned Songbird Powell, and began to grin as though the thought of what was coming pleased him.

The older persons and the girls waited until all the boys were safely in the saddle, and then Songbird Powell started the automobile.

“I’m leaving them in your care, Joe,” he called back to his foreman, as he moved along.  “Bring ’em to the ranch in safety.”

“Trust me,” called out the foreman promptly.  “We’ll be at the ranch almost as soon as you.”

“Well, don’t ride the horses to death,” shouted back Songbird.  And then in a few minutes more the automobile disappeared in the distance.

“The boys will certainly enjoy that horseback riding,” said Mary.

“Glad of it,” answered Songbird Powell, and as the automobile rolled onward he murmured gaily: 

    “An elephant sat on a bamboo tree
    And he was as happy as he could be. 
    ‘To travel,’ said he, ’is awfully punk
    Unless you remember to take your trunk!’”

“Oh, what a funny rhyme!” giggled Martha.

“I’ll have to write that down in my scrap book,” returned her cousin, and at this remark Spouter’s father looked real pleased.

“Hurrah for Big Horn Ranch!” shouted Randy, waving his cap.  “Come on if you’re ready.”

“Don’t work your horses too hard at the start,” cautioned Joe Jackson.  “It’s a good five miles to the ranch, and part of it is rather tough climbing.”

“If it’s tough climbing how is the automobile going to get there?” questioned Jack quickly.

“Oh, they’ll go around by the river road.  But that is eight miles longer.  We’ll take the hills.”

“Then maybe we can get there first after all!” broke in Fred.

“Well, we can try, anyhow,” answered the foreman of the ranch.  “Do all of you boys know how to ride?”

“Sure we do!”

“Then forward it is!” And away rode the foreman with Jack and Spouter on either side of him and the others following close behind.