Longhorn Empire

Longhorn Empire by Bradford Scott

Book: Longhorn Empire by Bradford Scott Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bradford Scott
     to get your saddle off, anyhow.”
    He walked to where the horse lay. A little later he returned, carrying the saddle and bridle.
    “Busted his neck,” he said. “It was a good thing, though. Chances are you would have had to shoot him. He was bad hurt. That
     slug hit him in the flank.” His eyes were coldly gray as he spoke, his face bleak.
    “I’d sure like to line sights with those sidewinders,” he said. “If that slug had been a little higher—” he broke off without
     finishing the sentence. But Verna Loring understood what was implied, and shuddered. She glanced up fearfully at the growth
     fringed lip of the draw.
    “You—you don’t think they might come— looking for us?” she asked.
    “Wish they would—I’d like to get a look at them,” Brant replied. “No chance, though. Reckon they hightailed in a hurry as
     soon as they slid their ropes off that critter. Well, I’ve a notion this draw peters out up to the north and we can get topside
     again. Reckon we might as well be moving.”
    He lashed Verna’s rig behind his own saddle. Then he mounted Smoke and held the girl in front of him. Smoke offered no objections
     to the double load and Verna appeared content to travel that way. Brant was eminently satisfied with the arrangement and let
     Smoke take his time. With the result that it was well along in the afternoon when they at last reached the Bar O ranch house.
    Old Nate Loring gave Brant a warm welcome. He swore luridly when acquainted with the day’s happenings.
    “I’m beginnin’ to wonder if I was so smart, after all, to come to this section,” he growled. “Oklahoma was gettin’ bad enough,
     but this ’pears to be worse and gettin’ no better fast. There was a bad shootin’ over to town the other night. Two jiggers
     planted in Boot Hill and another one in a bad way.”
    Brant nodded soberly. “I’m afraid this is just the beginning,” he said. “We’re in for more troubleand soon. The ranges are too crowded down in the skillet. The Panhandle is the natural outlet. They’re headed this way from
     the Brazos country, from the Nueces, the Trinity, the Colorado rainsheds. Right now the real big spreads are in central and
     south Texas. But soon the Panhandle is going to see such outfits as have never been known in Texas before. Things are going
     to boom, but it isn’t going to last. Nesters and small owners and homesteaders and grangers are already beginning to come.
     More and more of them will come. The big spreads will be cut up into farms and townships. And everywhere you look there’ll
     be wire.”
    “You really believe it?” old Nate asked, skeptically.
    “Yes,” Brant replied, “I do. The oldtimers don’t. They say the grassland will never change. They’re wrong. The change is taking
     place right under their noses, only they can’t see it. But in the end it’ll be a change for the better. There’ll be law and
     order, homes, better cows, and better markets. But there’ll be hell a-plenty first.”
    Old Nate shook his grizzled head. He glanced at his niece who was listening, wide-eyed.
    “Scairt I shouldn’t have brought you inter such a section, younker,” he said.
    “I’m glad you did,” the girl returned sturdily. “This is a growing country, and I want to grow with it. I like it here.”
    “It’s sure getting to be a nicer and nicer country to be in, all the time,” Brant declared heartily. Old Nate chuckled. For
     some reason, Verna blushed.
    Included among the comfortable furnishings of the Bar O ranch house was, to Brant’s surprise, a small piano.
    “Packed it all the way here by wagon,” old Nate chuckled. “Verna insisted on bringin’ it. Had one dickens of a time keepin’
     it from gettin’ wet and spiled crossin’ the rivers, but there she is, all roped and hawgtied. I’m goin’ out to the kitchen
     to help the cook stir his stumps. Mebbe Verna’ll play you some music.”
    So Verna Loring played for him,

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