Chapter XXV BRUISING MR. DEXTER

0LD Pony McPherson ran the Sawbuck as a cow ranch.

There were no frills about Old Pony. He was a Texan of the old school, a cowman from the soles of his Kansas City boots to the top of his high-peaked Carlsbad. But young Pony was different and it was through young Pony that the Sawbuck saw its first dude.

Young Pony had taken a chunk of the roll which his father had wangled out of the Texas brush and after a preliminary whirl at the El Paso high school had gone east to college. While there he found that lots of folks think there is something wonderful and exciting about a cattle ranch, which was news to Young Pony. But being of a retentive turn of mind he filed away the idea for future reference.

College eventually turned Young Pony loose, branded with a degree, and shipped him back to the home range. Old Pony, secretly proud but outwardly sarcastic as to the advantages of "schoolin',"  breathed a sigh of relief and prepared to let Young Pony do the work while he himself took some time off for the first time in forty years. He thought some of catching up on his poker playing.

Young Pony shucked his campus clothes, dug up some Levi Strauss overalls, his boots and chaps and went to work. College had not interfered with his ability in that line for he had acquired his unforgettable cow technique from his dad.

He had not been exercising it long before he got a letter from a school-mate introducing him to Wyndham Warren Dexter. Mr. Dexter, according to the letter, was a nice young fellow born and raised in the best circles in Philadelphia but now obsessed by the idea that he must visit the West, particularly some part of the West which still had hair on its chest.

The letter added that Mr. Dexter was willing and well able to pay for his accommodations and that the less frills those accommodations carried the better pleased would be Mr. Dexter.

Young Pony tapped the letter tentatively against his chin, looked off into the distance and asked himself, "Why not?"

About three weeks later, just prior to the arrival of Mr. Dexter at Alpine -- from which railroad station the trip to the Sawbuck would be made either in a buckboard or car, Young Pony rounded up his hired hands including the cook and discussed  the one phase of the impending visit that was making him a little nervous.

"Now listen you cow nurses," he began, "this young fella that's getting in here from the East may look funny to you but not near as funny as you'll look to him. So that's a stand-off. I don't mind you running a few sandy ones on him, telling him yarns and telling them scary, but the first one of you that bruises that boy up -- I'll personally take his scalp."

Young Pony being six feet in his socks, thin in the middle and weighing one hundred seventy-five pounds, was listened to with the measure of respect due that set-up, plus a willingness and ability to back up his arguments.

Such was the setting into which Wyndham Warren Dexter, Philadelphia, Pa., came with several trunks, a friendly smile and an immense curiosity.  Although no weakling, he was as curious as a magpie, as inquisitive as a mountain jay and as willing to believe anything and everything as a bachelor girl in her late thirties listening to her first proposal.

Jack Van Ryder drawing of a bronco bucking its rider

He was as manna to the cow hands, who had told one another their best yarns so many times that none of them knew who had owned the stories in the first place. They were glad that Mr. Dexter wanted to learn to ride, to shoot, to brand calves and in every detail known to fiction to become a real sure-‘nough cowboy.

His good-humored acceptance of several spills and his continued efforts to stay in the middle of a bronc, even a gentle one, soon had the cowboys calling him Windy, which pleased him very much. Through preference he slept in the bunk-house and ate with the boys.

Young Pony, deciding that all was well, quit worrying about Mr. Dexter.

Soon Mr. Dexter was the special charge of Pinto Davis, a cowboy who owned the largest freckles and the largest stock of tall stories in the Big Bend country. These stories had long palled on Pinto's pals but to Mr. Dexter they were fresh, and Pinto, having at last found a receptive audience, was grimly resolved to keep it.

Pinto's best stock-in-trade was road agents. His stick-up men were big and brawny, quick on the trigger, sensitive as to temper. They always shot first and asked questions afterward. Many times he had described them to Mr. Dexter, many times the other cowboys had heard him, and so the train was laid.

The explosion came one afternoon when Pinto and Mr. Dexter, both unarmed, had gone to Alpine.

As they jogged along on their way home, with Pinto still spouting yarns, they rode into the entrance to Pisano Pass. There as they rounded a point of rock in the narrow trail they were startled by the sudden appearance of a masked man who rode out in front of them and gruffly ordered, "Hands up!"

No sooner had Mr. Dexter and Pinto obeyed this command than the bandit issued another. "Get off those broncs," he directed. Pinto beat Mr. Dexter to the ground by a long breath.

Menacing them with his revolver the hold-up man dismounted and advanced upon his frightened victims. First he searched Pinto, took from him everything he had including his chewing-tobacco, then turned to Mr. Dexter.

The face of the young man from Philadelphia was pale; his knees were shaking and so were his hands, which he still held aloft.

As the hold-up man poked his pistol into Mr. Dexter's ribs preparatory to going through Mr. Dexter's pockets the latter came to life. One of his hands slapped downward at the weapon, knocking it away from his side while the other, clenched into a fist, drove into the bandit's mask-covered nose. Down went the road agent.

Piling into the saddle the young man from Philadelphia lashed his astonished pony down the ribs with his reins and, yelling to Pinto to come along, headed for the Sawbuck. He went so fast that he heard neither the groans of the bloody-faced victim of his wildly swung punch nor the shrieks of glee from the top of the rocks near the trail.

Next morning when Young Pony had heard Dexter and Pinto give a circumstantial account of their adventure he drifted over to the ranch blacksmith-shop. Here he found his cowboys, including one who was nursing a swollen nose and a split lip while the others with profane enthusiasm were advising him as to treatment. It was the battered cowboy to whom Young Pony addressed himself. "So you're the bold bad hold-up man, are you?" he suavely insinuated. "Didn't I say something to you quite a while ago about not bruising up Wyndham Warren Dexter?"

Continue with Chapter XXVI CHUNKY SWAPS SOME COWS