Devil-Ride

Recording the thrills and spills of a duel between the Fanning Kid and “that horse, Funeral”

ROLLIN BROWN September 1 1929

Devil-Ride

Recording the thrills and spills of a duel between the Fanning Kid and “that horse, Funeral”

ROLLIN BROWN September 1 1929

Devil-Ride

Recording the thrills and spills of a duel between the Fanning Kid and “that horse, Funeral”

ROLLIN BROWN

THE day they brought that black two-year-old into the Crowfoot T. corrals was like any other spring day down there in Texas. Except that it happened to be the Kid’s thirteenth birthday. Old Man Tully had bought the Kid his first man’s size saddle as a present, chaps and spurs to go with it. I can still see the Kid, how cocky he was, wearing those brand-new chaps around the yards, and resting a shiny spur shank on a rail of the corral to show them off.

As I remember, it was Slim Tilton who got the big idea. Slim had lassoed the black, snubbed its head, and was making to toss the Kid’s new saddle up before Old Tully bellowed:

“Whass th’ idear, there?”

“Aw,” explained Slim, “I just figured th’ new hand might be wantin’ to take a ride today.”

It was Slim’s joke, you see—but the Kid’s eyes were suddenly bright as a kit fox’s. He clenched his fists and for a moment or two couldn’t say anything. He turned to the Old Man.

“Pa, that’s right.”

The black was skinny from the winter-range feed, and only a two-year-old. He looked gentle, too, like one of those knot-heads that never make the first jump, and are doomed to be spiritless circle nags before they feel the bit. Maybe that was what made the Old Man nod, and maybe it was just pride in his son. Anyhow, the Kid, trembling like one of the little leaves that the spring had brought out on the cottonwoods by the water trough, climbed aboard in his new saddle.

For the space of ten seconds the black stood motionless. Then Slim gave a big whoop-ee, to make the Kid think he was riding to hell and back. It was all a joke, you see. Slim would have been the last person in the world to want really to see anything happen.

But it did.

They picked the Kid up, all in his new regalia, and the Kid had a broken arm and a smashed collar bone. Somehow that skinny, black two-year-old tore the Kid’s saddle off before anyone had come down to the corrals again; somehow he smashed three corral rails in a weak spot and ran free to the range.

TT wasn’t bad. The Kid’s bones mended faster than any grown man’s would, and in a month he was up to all the usual devilment again. But Old Man Tully had had a scare, and he loved that boy of his more than heaven and earth, or even the Crowfoot T, I reckon.

“Son,” I heard him say one day, “I ain’t raised you to be no bronc-twister. I can get all that kind I want for $60 and feed. Understand? You got a bigger job, son. One of these days I’m goin’ to be needin’ help here on th’ Crowfoot an’ needin’ it bad. That’s where you come in.”

But it seemed to me that I saw a funny look come into the Kid’s eyes, while he didn’t say anything for a minute or two. His eyes looked like they were kind of gazing in upon himself. And I guess the Old Man had forgotten when the Kid finally asked:

“Pa, you wouldn’t be wantin’ a quitter for a partner on the Crowfoot, would you?”

The Kid was full of questions like that. The Old Man, too, was already busy at something else, and he answered out of the corner of his mouth:

“Not on your life, son.”

But the Kid wasn’t anybody’s quitter. He was like the Old Man in that. As stubborn, too.

I believe it was three summers later that the Old Man sent him up to ride line with Slim Tilton in the Orojanas, and keep the stock from straying north through the passes and beyond. The Kid had entered the Basin Junction High School that year, you see, but he was back on the ranch as soon as vacation came. He’d grown a lot, in a weedy, immature way, despite the fact that he still wasn’t very big. He never did grow to be a big man like his Dad.

Slim Tilton told us about it later. It seems none of the boys had run into that black again since the day of the Kid’s thirteenth birthday. But the Kid found him one day, up there in the Orojanas; slapped a rope on him somehow and tied him up until Slim could come over and help. They took the black down to the little line shack corral. Slim figured he’d work that big black devil over and use him in his own string, I reckon, because the horse was a beautiful creature—a good fifteen and a half hands high, slim and yet sturdy, muscled with the lithe, powerful grace of a mountain cat. And as wicked—I saw him later.

Slim figured wrong. He figured the horse wrong for a second time, and also the Kid. The next morning the Kid rode the black that was a five-year-old now. He lasted maybe thirty seconds, and despite that, Slim, who knew, said it was one of the best rides he’d ever seen put up. The black was born to be a bucker and that was all there was to it. He was bad, as vicious and black at heart as he was of color. He had the muscle, size and body to carry it through.

The Kid was unhurt. He got to his feet and tried it again, for all that Slim tried to talk him out of it. The result was the same. The third time he fell, the black swung on him, eyes glassy with hate, jaws open, fore hoofs slashing the dust. Slim, who was astride a fast little cutting horse, just managed to save murder from being done that morning.

There was a moment of silence while the Kid, dizzy from the fall, got to his feet. Neither of them had seen the Old Man ride up; neither knew he was there till he spoke over the top rail of the corral. The Old Man’s voice was quiet, Slim said, but it had the sting of a whip lash in it. I know just how the Old Man could speak, if something moved him enough.

“Son,” he said, “how about it? Haven’t I made my views plain to you in th’ past?”

The Kid knew well enough what the Old Man was talking about. So did Slim. The Kid merely nodded and said:

“Yeah, pa, you’ve made yourself plain, I guess.”

“I didn’t raise you to be no sixty-a-month bronctwister. I ain’t sendin’ you to school over at th’ Junction jist so you’ll have eddycation to ride broncs with an’ get smashed up. I need a partner here on th’ Crowfoot; that’s been th’ idear. I been trainin’ you for that.” “Yeah, I know, pa,” said the Kid.

“What excuse you got to offer for this, if any? That black ain’t one of th’ string I sent you up here with.” “No,” said the Kid. “That’s th’ black I tried to ride on my thirteenth birthday. But I ain’t got no excuse, pa, I reckon.”

“All right,” said the Old Man between tight lips. He turned to Slim Tilton. “Slim, you take that black down to th’ home ranch. There’s an outfit there wantin’ to buy hosses, wild or gentle. When you’ve finished that, Slim, I’ll have your time made out.”

That’s the way Slim Tilton came to leave the Crowfoot T. I saw him two years later, and he was working for Jake Dailey then, over in Grass Valley. But it was that night at the home ranch that he told us all this about the Old Man and the Kid. I wouldn’t have believed the story except for what came of it.

“Son,” said the Old Man, dismounting, “come with me.” The Old Man never carried a quirt, but he found one on the saddle rack and picked it up. “Son, come on.” “Pa,” said the Kid, “you got no right to hide me any more. I’m gettin’ too old. I’m sixteen now.”

“I’m hidin’ you till you learn to obey.” And the Old Man’s lips were tight as drawn látigo leather.

Slim said there wasn’t a sound from over in the shack, later, except for the sound of that horse quirt lash. Slim said he would have hated to have anybody work out on him that way.

I SAW that big, wicked devil of a black in the corrals next morning and he was a handsome brute. George Shire bought him for $20, and they say Shire got $150 for him the next spring, from a rodeo buyer. A lot of wild riders had practised on the black in the meanwhile, and what badness he wasn’t born with he had learned. A first-rate bucking horse will bring a lot of money these days because he’s worth a lot to the big shows. This black bucked in the Chicago Rodeo that year under the name of Funeral. They say he lived up to the name. Yes, I know he did. He killed two men finally, and one of them was Johnny Oakey who had become the Kid’s pal.

But to come back to the home ranch and Old Man Tully. Three days later he asked me to ride up to the line shack, and I knew what he wanted. He wanted to hear some word and he was too proud and stiff to go up himself. I think he realized, too, that he shouldn’t have licked the Kid the way he did that day.

I happened to meet the Kid on the trail and he was riding. Behind his saddle there was a single roll blanket and a little grub.

“What’s it all about, Kid?” I asked, knowing.

There wasn’t the ghost of a smile line on his usually cheerful face. “Well,” he said slowly, “pa didn’t have no right to do that. I’m sixteen now, a man. You tell him that, tell him I’ve thought it all over.”

“Well now, Kid,” I began, “I don’t quite see no reason ...”

But the Kid was riding on, his back stiff and rigid as a ramrod above the saddle’s cantle.

Still, I guess his decision hadn’t come so easy as it might seem. I guess he was fighting a battle with himself and didn’t want any interference just then.

A week later one of the Marsh Creek boys returned the horse and saddle that the Kid had gone away on. I saw the Old Man stare at the rider, nod finally, and, wordless, turn away.

You’d have thought, just from the looks of it, that the Kid meant no more to him than Slim Tilton, say. But I saw more.

For instance, the Old Man never was a reader, the stock yard receipts and the current beef prices marking the extent of his interest in newspapers. Yet, by spring he had six dailies coming to him, and he spent the better part of every evening scanning these, from the personals on to the headlines. He read that way, back forward. Then I remember the summer night when he happened on a little news filler in one of the big papers. It wasn’t much, just a couple of thin paragraphs. The Old Man’s lips turned kind of white.

He showed it to me, and my eyes, running down the printing, caught words:

Fanning Kid, from Texas . . . horse named

Funeral broken leg . . Omaha hospital

I tried to laugh the Old Man out of it, but I guess he had a hunch. The Fanning Kid, from Texas, was his kid. I tried to tell him that there would be plenty of bucking horse riders from Texas and every other State at the Omaha Rodeo. But he only shook his head.

Little by little after that, we began to hear things. That was when Shire told us they’d named the big black Funeral. The horse was spectacular and drew comment. I read the account of the first rider he killed—bucked the man off before they’d left the shute, trampled him under. A drifter one day told us about seeing the Fanning Kid ride in some show or other, and said he was good. He said the Kid gave the age of twenty, but that actually there wasn’t hardly a growth of down on his cheeks. Too bad about the broken leg, at Omaha, because it kept the Fanning Kid out of the later shows where the money would have been best. Yes, the Kid was in the money now and then. He had a running mate, chap by the name of Johnny Oakey. Good rider, too.

I can still see the Old Man soaking it in. He was proud of that boy, despite himself. You could see it in his eyes.

rT'HE following winter was hard on stock, a bad year L for the cowman, and the Crowfoot T. didn’t escape unscathed. The Old Man hit the saddle from dawn until dark. We all did, every day. It was like a perpetual bad dream, in which you wake up half-frozen and find you’ve kicked the covers off. Only we didn’t wake up until spring. By that time the Old Man had copies of half the important papers in the United States coming to him at Basin Junction. We used to drive down in the buckboard to be able to carry the load back. And he knew what he was looking for now—the Fanning Kid from Texas.

In the late spring we read the account of Johnny Oakey’s death. The Old Man looked at it for moments, silent.

“Johnny Oakey,” he said finally. “He was my kid’s—the Fanning Kid’s partner, wasn’t he? That’s what . . .”

I nodded.

“The horse that killed him,” said the Old Man slowly, “was called Funeral.”

That was the last newspaper account we ever got of a horse named Funeral, or of a young rider known as the Fanning Kid. There were other horses, of course — Dynamite, Broken Box, Undertaker, Keno, Sure-Shot, a score of famous buckers and riders. But no Fanning Kid from Texas.

A month went by. It seemed that about the only thing the Old Man ever did any more was to drive down for the mail every morning and spend the afternoon and night reading the papers. He had a tired, worn look about him, which he blamed on the work of the winter past; but by now any of the boys could have told you different.

It came out one night like an explosion. “Wick,” he said to me, “you’re goin’ north. You’re goin’ north to find th’ Kid an’ bring him home.”

“Where am I goin’ to find him?” I asked. “It’s been over a month now since . . .”

The Old Man’s eyes flashed with something of their old fire. “That’s your job,” he snapped. “He’s somewhere north an’ he can be found.”

But the Old Man must have had it all thought out beforehand, because he had a thousand dollars in bills ready, and he handed the wad over to me that night without more words.

He’d given me a job all right. I found that out soon enough. The Fanning Kid, from Texas, had just dropped from sight, as all mention of him had dropped from the newspapers. But I had one clue to work on. If I couldn’t locate the Fanning Kid himself, I wanted to know where that big black killer named Funeral had gone. I figured the Kid had followed him.

It’s funny how things will work out. I’d been gone from the Crowfoot about two weeks, I guess, when I met a trick rider named Tommy Wire. He had known the Fanning Kid and Johnny Oakey, both. But he didn’t know what had happened to the Kid.

“This big black named Funeral . . .” I began.

“What’s happened to that devil horse?”

Tommy Wire made a grimace. “Dead,” he said.

“Dead? How come?”

He smiled wryly, and explained: “He’d killed two of th’ boys. Johnny Oakey was th’ second.”

“I know. But . .”

“Y’see,”.he continued, “th’ boys got together an’ asked that it be done. They liked Johnny Oakey a lot, an’ after a horse has killed a couple of your pards—well, y’see. It ain’t that th’ boys was scared, but—it was murder. I saw it happen.”

That finished the single clue I had to work on. I wired the Old Man, and the reply came: “Stay with it. When you need more money I’ll put it up.” Of course, I didn’t need more money yet. I finished out the summer, following the rodeos here and there across country. Maybe you think I didn’t get sick of this stuff the restaurants hand out and call grub, hotels, trains. I guess it was just plain homesickness that made me wire the Old Man a second time. I got the same sort of a reply, naturally. Finally I decided that the Fanning Kid had quit the show-riding business and gone to work at something else. There was another thought that came, too. I wondered if the Kid could have made his last ride somewhere, in some show or other out in the sticks which we would never have heard of. Such a thing might have happened easily enough.

At early fall, the various county fairs and the like began to open through the Middle West. Lots of these fairs featured a rodeo as the big drawing card, along with the prize pumpkins, chickens and hogs. They were small-time stuff where the day money wouldn’t be over $25, likely. But occasionally the professionals would hit them, having nothing better to do at the moment. I saw Tommy Wire again, and he laughed.

‘‘Say,’’ he began, “this ridin’ business used to be a good, clean game, but today—• pah! I’m thinkin’ Continued on of quittin’, an’ I’m supposed to be one of the first-rate trick men who can double, also, an’ in fact do about anything to turn an honest dollar.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“You remember a horse you was askin’ me about once—a bad nag named Funeral? He’d killed Johnny Oakey.”

I could only nod.

“Well, last week over at the Newtown Fair,” continued Tommy, “I took my turn in the saddle, an’ drew this Funeral. He’s called Easy Money now. How’s that for a joke? They’ve clipped th’ big devil an’ it’s made his coat a sort of dirty brown-black, like it will sometimes; they’ve roached his mane and foretop an’ smeared over a Crowfoot T.brand.” Tommy Wire laughed without humor. “Y’see,” he said, “a first-rate bucking horse is worth money. Money is money, an’"not to be thrown away—at request. Of all th’ dirty, double-crossin’ tricks !”

“You’re sure about this?” I asked.

“It’s th’ gospel,” he vouched. “An’ what can you do about it? Funeral will be gettin’ his third man one of these days. He’s a murderer, if ever there was such a thing in horseflesh.”

I took the first train over to Newtown, and eased into the stable that had handled the show stock.

“Listen! How about a big black killer in this show last week? He’s called Funeral, renamed Easy Money. Where’s he gone?”

I might have used more tact, I reckon. It would have saved me a thousand-mile trip or better, going and coming. But maybe the stableman didn’t know anything; maybe he just made a mistake. It doesn’t matter. ’Way south, in another State, I wasted four days trying to locate Easy Money in a country where he’d never been heard of. I remembered, too, that Tommy Wire hadn’t seen the Fanning Kid even if he had found that Funeral horse. The two hadn’t been together. I was lower than sea level in spirit that night when I wired a long night letter to the Old Man down in Texas, explaining everything. The gist of the thing was that I was coming home on the first train.

Twenty minutes before train time, the next morning, a reply came:

Easy Money bucking in Tolville, Kansas, Rodeo this week. Meet me there, best hotel. Tully.

I’d forgotten the Old Man’s newspapers.

OLD MAN TULLY came into Tolville not fifteen minutes behind me, because I’d just been up to the hotel room, washed and come down again when I bumped into him in the lobby. It was a Saturday, mid-afternoon, and a queer sultry' kind of a day for fall weather to bring. Outside, it was half cloudy, and just the feel of the air made a man nervous inside himself somehow. There might be a sticky hot lightning storm before sundown, or a blizzard—you couldn’t tell which. But something was brewing in the air, and you knew it.

“Wick, find something to carry us to th’ fair grounds,” snapped the Old Man. “An’ quick!” He wasn’t bothering with hellos and how-are-you’s at the moment. He was dressed as he had left the home ranch—old wilted Stetson, overalls, boots that were run down at the heels. Two small boys, who had evidently been forbidden to go to the fair, were waiting in the street, watching for him to reappear. Before I could hail a taxi he was back at my side.

All the way out to the county fair grounds he sat in mute silence. Once I tried to talk, but I could see he didn’t hear me. At the fair ground gates he went bursting through, and it took two uniformed cops to turn him. There was a kind of a dumb, stunned look on his face when he finally understood that he couldn’t get below the stands now, couldn’t see any of the riders until the afternoon show was over.

“But—but,” he said, “there’s a chance my boy’s ridin’. It might be too late then. There’s a horse called Funeral, a big black killer. Two men have got it under his hoofs already.”

“No horse by the name of Funeral in this show,” said a smart-Alec gatekeeper.

The Old Man tried to explain, but it was no use. In a stunned, silent way he followed me into the stands. The Tolville fair grounds are a permanent thing, a half-mile race track, bleachers and the like. The Old Man sat down on a board seat like an automaton, staring before him. The show was going on, trick roping at the moment. But he didn’t see it. His eyes were centred on the makeshift corral that had been built just inside the inner track rail before the stands. There was a great, tall, muscled black in there. I saw the horse, too.

It was Funeral. I didn’t doubt that for a moment, even if his clipped coat was a kind of dirty brown-black now. I know the Old Man didn’t.

It must have been moments before I looked at a programme. Something about the way this all had happened, the Old Man there beside me, the horse called Funeral out in the buckers’ corral—well, these things somehow made me afraid to look. It seemed that the first name that would strike my eye would be that of the Fanning Kid from Texas. I was afraid. I sat with the paper there in my hands, folding and unfolding the sheet. Finally I made myself read.

But I was wrong. The Fanning Kid’s name wasn’t there among the entries. I scanned the list through twice. I was ready to tell the Old Man when my eye settled on another name:

Johnny Oakey.

Say, you could have knocked me out with a straw! Johnny Oakey, the Kid’s pal, remember, had been dead two or three months now ! Longer, I guess . . . But there had to be an explanation somewhere. Then I knew what it was.

Maybe I would never have recognized the Kid any other way. He had changed so much. Eighteen now—but to look at him, you would have said twenty-five. There was a streak of gold in one side of his mouth, where the white had been knocked out. He had a limp—from the Omaha fall, probably—and his face was set and hard. Kind of like the Old Man’s in that, but it nevertheless looked old. He wore a pair of grimy fawn show britches and a big pearl-grey hat. He hadn’t grown much since I’d seen him last, that day when he was riding away.

The Kid passed close to us, before the stand. The Old Man’s fingers, clamped suddenly into the flesh of my arm, felt like the jaws of a steel trap. His mouth worked, but words didn’t come—only the thick sound of his breathing.

The trick roping was over. The announcer began to speak. He had some sort of a radio apparatus over him that magnified the words, so the crowd could get them. There was a sign underneath advertising the local radio dealer. But something was wrong with the machine, because the words buzzed and hissed. Maybe it was the day—sticky hot, with thin, grey clouds overhead that the sun shone through just enough to make shadow; I mean that maybe it was the electrical something in the day, the same thing that made the crowd nervous and the show stock erratic and fretful. The instrument squawked when the announcer tried to speak.

Two bronc men rode, and one of them was pretty good. It wasn’t a bad show, as the small money stuff goes.

Over in the makeshift corral they were getting that vicious black devil into the shute, putting the kack on him. I reckon there wasn’t the least bit more doubt in the Old Man’s mind as to who was going to climb aboard that black killer, than there was in mine. It would be the Kid. Whether he’d drawn the black, or whether he’d bribed one of the boys to trade with him, I never knew. I didn’t know then that the Kid had only been out of the hospital three days and that his ribs were still bandaged, but this was also true.

MINUTES seemed to follow each other a long, long way apart. The Old Man’s face looked like stone, carved white marble.

“Johnny Oakey riding Easy Money,” bawled the announcer. The words hissed, sputtered. We saw the Kid again, over beside the shute, feeling his cinch látigo. The announcer was one of those funny birds. “Johnny Oakey aboard the hurricane deck of Easy Money,” he bellowed, sputtering. “Easy Money! Watch close now, folks. Don’t let him steal any leather.”

The crowd in the stands twittered nervously because they knew it was meant for a joke. I heard later that the announcer was the mayor of Tolville, and people thought they should laugh if he meant for them to. But the Old Man didn’t know this. His face turned from white to red. He stood slowly up, shaking and lifted his two arms. The thing was more of a surprise to me than anybody else, I reckon.

“Easy Money!” he yelled, and his voice sounded louder than the radio apparatus and it didn’t hiss. “You lie, mister. That horse is Funeral! Funeral, I said! That’s my boy ridin’ him, too— th’ Fannin’ Kid, from Texas. He don’t steal leather, Mister . . Ride ’im, Kid!” he shouted.

Did the crowd laugh? They turned round in their seats and roared. Old Man Tully was dressed just like he’d come from the ranch, you know, and for him to yell a thing like that, call Tolville’s mayor a liar, in fact—well ! And in the roar of the stands the Kid came out of the shute, riding Funeral. I reckon he’d heard, too.

A kind of sob broke in the Old Man’s throat and he grabbed at me for support.

We’d heard the crowd laugh, heard them roar. We heard the stands go utterly silent now. So still and quiet that you heard just the thud, pound, smash of Funeral’s murderous hoofs slashing the dust. The pick-up man was riding close. A cowboy behind had his rope down, the loop free, ready.

The Kid might have been riding a hurricane deck; he might have been riding anything. Few men ever rode Funeral clean until the whistle blew. That horse was a vicious fury, big, powerful, as lithe and swift as the mountain cats in the Orojanas where he’d run wild from a twoto a five-year-old. He had every trick in the trade of outlaw horses trained to buck; and beside this, his heart was wicked. You could see the way his hoofs went at first—he meant to send a man off where they would catch and trample him.

A rodeo isn’t for this sort of thing, although I suppose the crowd often enough doesn’t see the difference. I’ve read about those old contests they once had, ’way back yonder, in Rome—gladiators, the tined fork and net fights, and such. Barbarous, they’re called. Well, all I can say is that a rodeo is for sport, and that horses like Funeral don’t belong in it.

He was death, this terrible black! A pounding, screaming monster of black fury and hate. Whoever had named him Funeral had been right.

You could see the elastic, curling snap he put into the peak of each plunge. He would land with forelegs stiff as hammering rams and crouch like a cat for the next leap. He knew the tricks and he was a devil inside himself. It looked like the Kid was suspended in air sometimes, over that arched, catapulting back; it looked like the Kid and the saddle were about to fly off into space together. I don’t see why they didn’t. That horse could roll in the air, shiver and double as fast as anything alive.

Somebody in the stands let out a cheer. But the crowd, as a whole, was too interested to cheer, too breathless. Old Man Tully didn’t move a straining muscle, a nerve. Only, big, lopsided, salty tears were running down his cheeks.

It couldn’t have been much over a minute until the whistle blew, even if it did seem like an hour. The Kid had made his ride, now; he could pull leather, jump clear, fall off, anything, and it wouldn’t affect the judges’ decision. The pick-up man spurred forward, ready to lift the Kid bodily from that torturing saddle. The whistle shrieked a second time. The pick-up man cut in, close.

I saw the Kid push the man away with one stiff, out-flung arm. Then the black was against the rail of the track. He doubled clear, screamed in anger. The pick-up man made a second attempt to lift the Kid bodily from the saddle. The whistle had gone wild. The announcer was bellowing something into that squawky horn.

Then the crowd suddenly got the idea. It suddenly realized that the Kid was riding the black to a standstill, whistles, pick-up men, ethics and all else be damned! It was a ride to the end, and the crowd went wild for a second.

The Kid didn’t pull leather. But I saw that his nose was bleeding, streaking his lips and spattering into his eyes. A man doesn’t want to ride much more after that happens. It’s mighty dangerous. It means that he’s been shook up so hard that things are breaking inside. It’s bad. But the Kid did ride.

I heard later that Funeral as far as it was known, had never been ridden to a standstill. He was tottering now. Only the black heart of the devil kept his muscles alive. He crow-hopped down the length of the bucking arena. The cowboy with the rope was afraid to throw, for fear the black would catch the Kid in the spill. The pick-up man made a third attempt to pull the Kid from the saddle, but he didn’t succeed. It was a ride to the end, weak as both were.

But it didn’t look like much now. Funeral was almost done. Yet anybody who’s rode knows what each of those spent jumps and plunges felt like to the Kid; each felt like it was pulling his body apart, muscle by muscle, shred on shred.

With a final great shudder of his body, the black reared. Deliberately, with a last ounce of strength, he threw himself backward, to crush the Kid under him. He stood suspended in the air, on his hindhoofs, for a split second, and his big brute body seemed to collapse from within as he went on over.

It was this, perhaps, that gave the Kid his chance, because he seemed too weak and stunned to fling himself free. He came out of the saddle, and the black fell away from him. Just a leg was pinned.

rT'HEY say the Old Man threw people

right and left as he went down through the stands. I don’t know, but I know we went through without any trouble. The black hadn’t moved. We had to get a rail to pry his body off the Kid’s leg.

That’s about all there is to the story. Officially, because the Kid had entered under that name in his last ride, it was Johnny Oakey astride a horse called Easy Money. But some crook lost the price of a large evening’s entertainment when Easy Money did get to his feet. They say that big spectacular brute brought $20 from a corn farmer. The buck was gone from him.

The Old Man, salty-eyed, grabbed the Kid’s shoulder. “I could hide the daylights out of you for this,” he bellowed.

“Yes sir,” mumbled the hard-faced Kid, who looked to be twenty-five. You could see the gold teeth under his bloody lips. He was quivering with weakness.

“You’re cornin’ home with me an’ Wick on th’ next train.”

“Yes sir, pa.”

“You’re stayin’ on th’ Crowfoot from now on. Hear me?”

“Yes sir, pa. Home will look right good.”