Read CHAPTER VI of Buffalo Roost, free online book, by F. H. Cheley, on ReadCentral.com.

A Stage Road Journey

“Well, if you haven’t any more brains than to be starting out on a mountain trip on a wet, stormy day like this, why I haven’t anything more to say to you; but remember, I’m not one whit responsible for you,” said Mr. Williams, as he arose from the breakfast table and passed out into the hall.

It had been a stormy night. The rainfall had been heavy and the lightning sharp. It had been a typical electric storm of the mountains. Old Sol had tried in vain to force his way through the heavy rain-clouds earlier in the morning, but by breakfast time he seemed to have given up entirely, and to have withdrawn from the contest. At any rate, he was nowhere to be seen. Willis was visibly disappointed. He pushed his chair back restlessly and went to the window. The heavy, black clouds hung low on the ridge, and Pike’s Peak was entirely hidden in the mists. Willis was thinking of the conversation he had had with his uncle that morning at the breakfast table.

“Mother,” he turned to Mrs. Thornton, who was still seated at the breakfast table, “why is Uncle Joe so positive about it being a mistake for me to take this trip? Either he just wants to show his authority or he has some special reason. According to his talk, there isn’t a more dangerous place on this earth of ours than around an old prospector’s cabin. Rats! I don’t believe a word of it. It’s all bosh and, as far as cabins go, how could disease live in an old, open mountain shanty? Anyhow, you might go for weeks in the mountains without even seeing a cabin. He thinks I’m a child and haven’t any judgment of my own. My! I’m glad he isn’t my father. He’s just a blamed old hypocrite, that’s what I think about him, anyway.”

“Well, you won’t be going if it stays so stormy, will you?” asked his mother.

“No, but it’s going to clear up, mother; this is just a little summer shower we weren’t counting on starting until after dinner, though, anyway,” replied Willis. Toward noon the clouds broke and melted away as if by magic. Their lifting was like the raising of some majestic curtain on a wonderful stage. The moisture from the recent storm still glistened on every twig and leaf, and the fresh-bathed air was as clear as crystal. The summit of Pike’s Peak was decked in a new covering of snow which sparkled like beautiful gems. The robins chirped gayly as they fed on the worms that had come to the surface during the night’s rain.

Was there ever such a happy crowd of fellows’ setting forth on any expedition? High boots, slouch hats, soft shirts, a rifle, a shotgun, two cameras, and a plenteous supply of food. Each fellow was equipped with a haversack, in which were his eating tools and other necessary articles, such as bachelor buttons, cartridges, films, and other things. They carried their frying-pans, small buckets, and tincups suspended from their belts. The handles of their safety axes extended from hip-pockets, making their pockets bulge suspiciously.

Mr. Allen took the lead through Stratton Park, and headed for the short cut that joined the old Stage Road just as it sneaked around the base of Cheyenne Mountain on its way to the top of the Continental Divide; then downward through mountain passes and clinging close to canyon walls until it reached that most wonderful of all gold camps, the Cripple Creek District.

“It’s just two o’clock,” said Chuck, in answer to an inquiry as to the time. “And we will have to do some rapid walking if we are to get on top of Cheyenne Mountain to-night. We ought to make three miles an hour from here to the old road house. We’ll have to rest there a little and have a drink from Daddy Wright’s spring. That’s the best spring in the Rocky Mountains, I do believe.”

“Hope Dad’s home to-day,” said Mr. Allen. “I haven’t seen him since early spring. I certainly do enjoy getting the old gentleman to telling some of his stories. You know he is an old, old timer in these parts. He came here years before gold was first discovered in Cripple Creek, and he has lived up in his little gulch ever since. In the early days, when the only outside connection the gold camp had was this old wagon road, there were a great many interesting happenings at Dad’s little inn. It was really the only road house on the Stage Road, and was burned down years ago. Haven’t you ever heard that story? I’ll tell it to you some time. They used to say that Dad had any quantity of money I don’t know how true it was. At any rate, he hasn’t much now. After the old inn burned, he built himself a log cabin down by the spring, and there has lived ever since. He can tell some great old tales, too. You can’t name a single prospector of the Rocky Mountain region but what Dad can tell you all about him. He lives a lonely life up here all by himself, shut in all winter by heavy snows. In the summer he sees a few people passing by, and that helps some. He’s a very friendly old man, and if you treat him right there isn’t anything in the world he won’t tell you or do for you if he can. He loves to talk politics, and can tell you about every Presidential election back as far as the war. He was a Confederate soldier in his day, and if there is one thing above another that he loves to talk about, it’s the ‘Gov’ment,’ as he calls it. ‘Uncle Sammy an’ me ain’t jest zackly the best o’ pards yit, by crackey,’ he says, with a twinkle in his eye.”

“That certainly is a great view,” explained Ham. “I’m going to unload my cargo and rest here a bit, for I like this spot. Right up yonder in that heavy belt of timber is where we used to come so often to stay all night. There is a great granite boulder up there in the ‘Graveyard,’ as we used to call it, that’s just as good as a house any day. It leans away out on one side, and we built a big bed of balsam boughs under it. Right behind the great rock, to the west, we found a tiny spring, hardly big enough to be called a spring; but we dug it out and stoned up a small reservoir to catch the water. We used to come up in the evening, cook our supper, get our beds ready for the night, then climb on the big rock and watch the lights of the city come on. When they were all lighted it looked like a big, illuminated checker board out there on the plain. We’d get up early in the morning, then, and climb to the Devil’s Horn to see the sunrise. My! but it’s a gorgeous sight on a cloudy morning. The last time we were there we sure did have a mighty queer experience

“Come on, fellows, let’s travel along, or we’ll not get anywhere to-night. Ham, you can tell us your story while we are walking. We’ve got to reach Dad’s by four o’clock, or we’ll never get to the Park by night,” said Phil, as he arose and adjusted his blanket roll preparatory to starting.

“Go on, Ham,” urged Fat, who was always ready for a story, especially a mountain story. “Let’s have that tale of yours. I expect we’ll need a little salt with it won’t we?”

“There isn’t much to it, after all, when you tell it, for it was the night and the surroundings that made it so impressive. We had just finished supper and were all sitting up on the big rock looking out over the lighted city. As we sat there, every now and then we would hear the strangest sound. It came from the timber away up behind the camp. At first it sounded like a human voice a kind of a long, sad sob. The night was as dark as pitch, and as we sat listening the cold shivers began to run up and down our backs. Sometimes the sound seemed to be answered from far out in the dark valley. We speculated a good deal as to what it could be, for it was such a sad, wailing call. Then suddenly way down the valley a light appeared, not a large one, just a tiny, flickering, ever-moving light. It seemed to me to be in the air just over the center of the canyon, but the rest declared it was on the road below us. Then the sad call came again and again. It seemed to be nearer this time. Then came a far-away, dull, muffled sound, such as a horse would make on stony road. The light came directly toward us, now, up the canyon. It resembled a lantern being swung by some one, as if to give signals. We sat and watched it for a long time, everybody talking in low whispers; and many were the opinions as to what it really was. No one noticed just when, but some time, without a second’s notice, the light disappeared. We heard the faraway sound of rolling stones, then all was quiet for a long time. Two of us sat and listened far into the night. Several times we heard that long, sad wail a sort of hoo-oo-oo. A night breeze had risen, and you fellows know how the wind moans in these pines. It was a mighty lonesome night just sitting there with your every nerve alert and as wide-awake as you could ever get, just listening and watching. As soon as it was light enough to see, we started for the summit of Cheyenne, up through that mountain of granite boulders and mighty crags. I think we were about half-way up, when some one noticed an immense black bird, swinging in great circles, high in the air. Soon we smelled smoke, so hurried on. The first long rays of light began to streak the sky, and we knew we would have to hustle if we reached the summit by sunrise. The crowd was pretty well strung out down the side of the mountain. Keller and I were in the lead. The smell of smoke grew stronger and stronger. The air was heavy that morning, and so forced the smoke down to us, from somewhere on the summit. At last we came to a little plot of ground surrounded on three sides with great rocks. From this pit-like nook the smoke was slowly rising into the morning air. We climbed one side of the great crags, then cautiously peered over. I was pretty excited, for I was thinking just then of the awful tragedy that had occurred on Mount Cutler the year before. What if we should find a dead man? Well, what do you suppose we did find? I was dumbfounded. There below us were the dying embers of a log-fire. The flames had long since died, and now it was just smoldering and smoking. On either side of the fire lay a man, well-wrapped in his blanket. A gun that for some reason looked very familiar to me was leaning against the rock near their heads. We could not see their faces from where we were, but like a flash I remembered the gun by the leather-covered stock. The two men were Old Ben and a young fellow who often went with him into the mountains. I never shall forget how they looked when we waked them by dropping small pebbles from above. As soon as they would stir a little, we would drop back out of sight and listen. At last the young fellow muttered something and reached for his gun. Then Old Ben awoke, sat up, and asked what was the trouble.

“‘I’d bet a dollar that rock just dropped on me from above.’ Then he turned his head and looked up into the sky. ’Great Scott, man, what a place to sleep! A stone might have tumbled on us any minute.’ Then he scrambled to his feet and cried out, ’Man alive! take a look at that eagle; what an immense bird!’ We boys had forgotten the eagle on finding the men, but we, too, looked upward, and there, not more than a hundred feet in the air, directly over us, was the biggest bird I ever hope to see. He seemed to be fixed, motionless, in the air, with wings outstretched. Just then some of the rest of the boys came shouting up to where we were. Ben heard them and shouted back. In a few minutes we were all up on the rocks watching the bird. Ben wanted to shoot, but the other man wouldn’t let him, for he declared he was going to find the nest. It must have been the smoke from the fire that first attracted the bird, for it seemed to keep circling directly above the column of smoke. To this day we never told who dropped the stones I suppose they think the eagle did it.

“Well, as we sat there watching the eagle, the sun came up. There never was such a sunrise before, I don’t believe. There was a layer of fluffy, fuzzy clouds, stretched out over the city as far as we could see. Then the sun came slowly up a great crimson ball of fire, the long, yellow rays lighting up that sea of clouds and the pale-blue sky above, until the scene looked like a great, boiling pot of gold. Then, far above us, that immense black bird, wings still outstretched, just winging itself round and round in great, even circles. I’ve seen many a choice bit of mountain scenery, and many a sunrise and sunset, but never one just like that. It isn’t at all strange to me why the savages were nature worshipers. How could they help it?

“As we sat watching the ever-changing panorama of colored clouds, there came to our ears, faintly but surely, that same sad call of the night before. The great eagle paused a moment in his circling then my heart came into my mouth, for as we watched he folded his great wings, tipped his head forward, and began to drop. I held my breath. Down, down he came. I thought he must surely be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. He was falling directly toward the great dead spruce, and it seemed that nothing could save him from being torn to pieces. As suddenly as he had begun to drop he spread his mighty black wings and swooped down to the very tree we thought must be his death. He perched for a second on a dead limb, then flew into a Douglas spruce, emerging in a second with something in his talons. As he began to rise again, in long, spiral flights, we heard the cry of distress from the unfortunate bird in his claws. It was the same cry that we had heard in the night.”

“What was the light in the night? Did you ever find out?” ventured Phil.

“O yes, I forgot to tell you. It was Daddy Wright on horseback, swinging a lantern. He had been to the city, and was returning home. He passed Ben and his friend and nearly frightened them to death. He was singing as he came up the road, and was keeping time to his song with the lighted lantern.”

“Twenty-five minutes to reach Dad’s! Come, you fellows loosen up your joints. The climb up the gulch to the Park is a real one, and there isn’t a place in the canyon to camp,” called Mr. Allen, as he started forward at a more rapid gait.

When they reached the farthest point of the big Horseshoe Bend, they stopped to rest a moment before starting up the last long incline to Daddy Wright’s.

“Isn’t it really wonderful when you think of the obstacles men have overcome just to accomplish their desired ends?” asked Mr. Allen as he stood gazing out over the mountains. “Men have risked their very lives just for the privilege of climbing into these old hills to look for gold. Many were the narrow escapes from death by starvation or wild beasts that these hills could tell of if they could speak. Did you ever stop to think that if it hadn’t been for the gold that God hid away here in this Continental Divide, that perhaps the men in the old Eastern colonies would never have crossed over and taken possession of the wonderful Westland. It was the gold that was hidden under the snow and ice of Alaska that beckoned men northward. This has always been true. The prospectors of the Nation have always been its best explorers certainly they were its real frontiersmen. They led and civilization followed. Think of the thousands of people who endured hardships of which we can not even imagine just to follow westward that trail, blazed by such sturdy old men as Dad Wright and others like him. I’ve heard Dad tell many a time of that caravan of forty-niners, all their earthly possessions packed in one of those old prairie schooners, drawn by slow, patient oxen. I’ve heard him tell of the time gold was discovered in Cripple Creek. Cripple Creek was just a part of the great wilderness, and was only accessible by a series of uncertain trails. Yes, gold is a precious metal, to be sure; but it is magical, too, for no sooner is it discovered than a wave of industry is created. Upon a bleak and barren spot a city is built in a week a miracle of human energy. The Midland Railroad kept great gangs of men working day and night, in order to connect that great gold field with the outer world. Before long there was a tremendous demand for a common wagon road ‘to civilization,’ as they put it; and this very road that we are walking on came into being an outlet, if you please for some of that wonderful, teeming, bubbling life and industry created by the mere discovery of gold.

“Soon this very road became the most important highway in the State. Great wagon loads of food and tools went up, and bags of precious ore came back. Stores were opened, schools were built, churches erected, and homes founded. Civilization had found another desolate mountain wilderness, and with her magic wand added it to her ever-widening domain all because some one had discovered gold.

“Then came the first stage-coach. Daddy has often told me all about it. A great, cumbersome affair, rolling and pitching on its leathers as it came lunging and bumping along the rough, stony, mountain road. The driver was seated high above the dashboard, nearly buried in boxes, bags, and bundles, while the baggage till behind resembled a railroad truck piled high with every kind and description of trunks. As it came to a sudden stop in front of the little postoffice, its great, swinging side-doors opened and the passengers scrambled out, each one handing the jovial and loquacious driver a five-dollar note.

“Soon it took four stages to satisfy the demand, one going each way night and morning. It was at this stage of the game that Daddy built the famous Road House. Here the horses were relayed, and here the passengers stepped out to stretch their cramped limbs or, perhaps, to drink at Dad’s spring. Sometimes, on stormy nights, both stages, the one going up and the one coming down, would be tied up for the night at Dad’s. Then such times as there would be in that old log house! Prospectors from every gold camp on earth, promoters and mining brokers, surveyors and engineers, old-timers and tenderfeet all brought together by one single impulse the craze for gold.

“Many were the mining claims that passed over the poker table there; many were the conspiracies that were talked over and determined upon. Many were the stories of the old Santé Fe trail and of the Pony Express, or perhaps strange tales of Kit Carson as he roamed the great Westland from Texas to Wyoming, trapping for fur and killing every treacherous Indian that crossed his trail. You know Old Ben at Bruin Inn was for many years a stage driver for Dad on this very road, and he is chuck full of stories.”

“When are you going to tell us the story of the burning of the Road House?” interrupted Ham.

“Well,” replied Mr. Allen, “if I don’t succeed in getting Dad to tell it to you himself, I’ll tell it when we stop on top of that hogsback to rest,” pointing to a great, round hill in the canyon.

“Do you think Dad will really tell us any of his stories?” queried Willis. “My father used to know him, and he has stopped at this very place. I’m sure he made many trips to Cripple Creek in those old stages.” Turning to Mr. Allen, he continued, “Wouldn’t father think it awfully strange if he knew I was tramping over the very road he used to travel so often?”

Mr. Allen and Willis dropped to the rear of the line, and Willis went on:

“I’ve been thinking I’d ask Daddy Wright if he remembered my father, and he might know where the mine is; and O, I’d so like to see it. I never want to be a miner, but I’d just like to know all about mines, so I could understand father better.”

“Well, it all depends on how Dad is feeling,” returned Mr. Allen. “If he is well he will be as glad to see us and as loquacious as a happy child; but if not, he will hardly notice us at all. Leave the talking all to me. He and I are old friends, and I always have some little treat in my pocket for him. He will be looking for it if he is home, but sometimes he is up at the mine.”

“O, he doesn’t work a mine now, does he?” exclaimed Willis.

“No, he doesn’t exactly work it, but he owns one up in the gulch here behind his cabin, and sometimes there is a man up there at work. I don’t know who he is.”

As they rounded a great boulder that jutted out into the road, the little cabin of Daddy Wright came into view. A dog began to bark loudly, and somewhere up in the canyon that runs at right angles to the road there came the deep, muffled boom of a mine blast.

“Guess they must be working the mine, after all; still, it might be one of the others. There are half a dozen in this canyon, all of which have been worked more or less. The owners work in the city until they can get enough money to buy powder and grub stakes, then they work the mine for a season on their earnings,” remarked Mr. Allen. He was carefully surveying the cabin and hill behind it. The dog had now come out from its shelter and stood in the middle of the road, doing his utmost to wake the dead. He evidently disliked visitors.

“Dad can’t be very far away, for Knepp is always at his heels. He is nearly as old a timer as Dad himself, and as harmless. Hold on there, you fellows up ahead,” called Mr. Allen. “Let me do the introducing of this party.”

The cabin was a little log affair, well-banked around the base with dirt and moss to keep out the cold. To all appearances the only two openings in it were the front door and a double window. One of the window panes was covered over with the end of an old egg crate, and another, which was not so badly shattered, was repaired by a burlap sack, wadded into the opening. A big pine stood just outside the door and cast its shade over the roofless veranda. At one side of the house stood an ancient, moss-covered, hollow pine log, into which a pipe ran from the spring, a few paces back in the gulch. This was the old stage watering-trough, made by Dad himself when the big cabin was built. Directly up the road a hundred paces stood the old stone chimney, a famous landmark of the region.

Mr. Allen went to the watering-trough and, filling his cup, called out:

“Here, you fellows, do you want a drink of the greatest ale in the world? It’s the purest of Mother Nature’s brews.”

The old pine door squeaked on its rusty hinges as it slowly opened.

“Well, sir, I’ll be dummed. Howdy, young ‘uns! Whar d’ ye hail frum? Huntin’ bar, er jist a roundin’ up a bunch o’ jay-birds? Haw, haw, haw! Yer ‘bout the fightin’est bunch o’ young dandies I’ve seen sence the war.”

Daddy Wright stood in the doorway, taking in every detail of the group. He was a little, shriveled-up man, with small, watery eyes set well back under shaggy white eyebrows. His head was protected by a very disreputable and time-worn black hat that looked as if it might have been in active service for at least a half a century. His clothes were shabby and dirty, and his feet were bare. It was one of the peculiarities of the old man that he rarely ever wore shoes, except in the coldest of winter; then he preferred his old, home-made moccasins. His straggly, gray whiskers were badly stained with tobacco from his constant companion an old, corncob pipe. He was short and stout, and had of late years become very feeble, being just able to hobble about a little each day with the aid of a cane.

“Yew fellers with all yer fixin’s remind me a heap o’ some o’ the gangs o’ green city fellers I used to see when I was freightin’ on the old Spanish Trail all guns an’ blankets an’ fixin’s, but not much real explorin’ blood in ye. Hain’t that ’bout so? Say, Hallen, jist explain to me what yer ca’clatin’ to do with these yere young roosters. Explorin’, huh jist as I thought. Kick me fer a stick o’ dynamite if ye hain’t the beatenest bunch o’ explorers I’ve seed in many a moon. Lookin’ fer gold mines? Suthin’ bigger, I s’pose? I’d give half my grub stakes if Tad could see ye. Explorin’, eh? Yew remind me o’ the time me an’ Old Ben went explorin’ on Beaver Creek. We had ’nough truck ‘long t’ start a gold camp, an’ we walked an’ explored an’ explored. We must o’ walked fer well nigh onto three weeks, an’ all we ever seed in all that time was a pole-cat an’ we wished we hadn’t o’ seed him, fer Ben had t’ bury every livin’ last stitch o’ his duds an’ walk home in his bare hide. Haw, haw! I wisht Tad ’ud come ‘long now an’ take a squint at yew fellers he’d bust a bein’ tickled!”

“Dad, how is your good health these days?” inquired Mr. Allen, as he handed the old man a little package he had taken from his haversack. Dad took it, smelled it through the paper; then a pleased smile spread over his face.

“Smells like grains o’ gold, Mr. Hallen. Thank ye. As fer me health, never was no better sence I been here. A man can’t git sick a livin’ out in this yere country all his life. I’ll be ninety-five now, in jist a few weeks, an’ I’m as spry now as most any o’ yew fellers. I’ll live longer’n some o’ ye yit. Yep, I’m feelin’ mighty spry agin sence Tad’s got back. Kind o’ seems like the old days afore the shanty was burned. I ca’calate them there devils must o’ injoyed that performance.”

The fellows all stood at attention. Was the Road House story really coming, and from Dad’s very own lips?

“It must have been a sad sight, wasn’t it, Dad, to see your home demolished in that fashion?” quietly suggested Mr. Allen, by way of encouragement.

“’T wan’t near as sad a sight as some I have seed,” replied the old man. “‘Bout the saddest sight I ever seed was of an old pard o’ mine a wanderin’ over these almighty hills a sorrowin’ out his life after he’d lost his right down best friend in a mine cave-in. Poor old boy, he took it mighty serious. He used to be the happiest prospector I ever swapped lies with, till that devilish old tunnel caved in an’ crushed the life out o’ the feller’s pardner. He hain’t never ben no ’count sence, till lately. Now an’ then he’d take a long, wanderin’ trip back into these yere gloomy ol’ gulches, an’ I’ve seed them as say they’ve heerd him away off in the hills at night a callin’ his pardner’s name, an’ a sobbin’ an’ a carryin’ on. He’s a strong man that’s why he gits out into God Almighty’s hills to open his troubled heart, ‘stead o’ tellin’ his lonesomeness to men as would make fun o’ him. That’s ’bout the sorriest sight I ever seed, an’ I’ve seed ’bout my share on ’em Indian killin’s, dynamite explosions, an’ sech like. ’T ain’t many fellers ever has as real a friend as that!”

“What finally happened to your friend, Dad did he get over his sorrow after a while?”

“No, no, my boy, he never got over it. He got on top of it. I mind now how he was gone a long spell in the timber; no grub, no duffel, no nothin’ only his ol’ gun. He lived off’n the bounty o’ these yere wooded hills, an’ he let the spell o’ God Almighty’s woods an’ crags an’ streams heal up his broken heart. Then he came back. I remember one mornin’ he come to my shanty, and a hungrier, starveder, wild-eyed feller ye never seed in yer born days than him; but shoot me fer a pole-cat if he didn’t come back a smilin’. I was skeered he’d lost his mind. I was a pannin’ mud in the gulch up back o’ the shanty when he come ’long the trail. I jist looked, then I knowed what had happened. He had licked that awful sorrow. He’s ben off down in civilization now fer these ten years, but now he’s back agin. The silent company is callin’ him, he says, an’ he jist has to have a free breath an’ a little more pasture, an’ this is the only place he can git it.”

“He must have had an extraordinary companion, if he had learned to care for him in that way,” remarked Mr. Allen.

“Extraordinary, yew say,” began Dad in a low, measured tone. “Bet the last button on your britches, he was that an’ more. He was a youngish feller, an’ quick as scat. Knowed more ’bout machinery ’n all the other fellers I ever knowed. Seems to me he growed up in Kankakee, or suthin’ like that, an’ he was a

“Where did you say he came from, Mr. Wright?” asked Willis in a voice that betrayed his excitement. Willis had been thinking very rapidly as Dad told his story. What was there in this strange tale that so fascinated him, and made him want to cry aloud? He had never felt so strange before.

“Why, I don’t ’zackly recollect,” replied Dad. “It was Kankakee or Kangaroo, er some sech name. Many’s the night he’s stopped with me in the big cabin an’ told me about all kinds o’ machinery. The night the big cabin burned he was here a showin’ me a lot o’ plans of machinery he had got up himself. They were ‘bout all he saved out o’ the fire, ’cept his hide, an’ that was some scorched.

“I never seed a man ’at went so plumb dumb crazy over a few gold nuggets as him. ‘T was here at the old cabin he met his pard, an’ they made plans fer a great minin’ company. Of all the fellers they was settin’ up machinery in the mines a dozen years ago, this feller was the best o’ the lot. Why, oncet he rigged up a

“O, Mr. Wright, were there lots of different men installing mine machinery here in the early days?” inquired Willis. A note of anxiety had crept into his voice.

“More’n one, do ye mean, lad? Well, I should snicker. I mind oncet they was five o’ them at the cabin one night, an’ every feller could prove that his machinery was the best. Sech a jamborees o’ arguatin’ I never heerd. I had to send ’em all t’ their bunks t’ keep ’em frum fightin’. Laws, yes, plenty o’ ’em, boy; but this one feller, I forgit his name, now my pard could say it quicker’n scat was wuth all the rest o’ the bunch put together. He was a reg’lar genius with machinery.”

Dad had been filling his pipe from the package Mr. Allen had given him. He now lighted it and began to smoke. Mr. Allen knew that there would be no more stories that day, so, bidding good-bye to the old man, he suggested to the boys that they make a start for the Park. After a last drink from the cool, bubbling spring, they turned up the gulch, and were soon lost from view.

“Well, I hope you’ll find explorin’ a plenty, young fellers,” called Dad. “Keep yer eye peeled fer pole-cats. They’s powerful friendly to strangers in these parts.”