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OLD Applehead Furrman, jogging home across the mesa from Albuquerque, sniffed the soft breeze that came from opal-tinted distances and felt poignantly that spring was indeed here. The grass, thick and green in the sheltered places, was fast painting all the higher ridges and foot-hill slopes, and with the green grass came the lank-bodied, big-kneed calves; which meant that roundup time was at hand. Applehead did not own more than a thousand head of cattle, counting every hoof that walked under his brand. And with the incipient lethargy of old age creeping into his habits of life, roundup time was not with him the important season it once had been; for


several years he had been content to hire a couple of men to represent him in the roundups of the larger outfits — men whom he could trust to watch fairly well his interests. By that method he avoided much trouble and hurry and hard work — and escaped also the cares which come with wealth.

But this spring was not as other springs had been. Something — whether an awakened ambition or an access of sentiment regarding range matters, he did not know — was stirring the blood in Applehead's veins. Never, since the days when he had been a cowpuncher, had the wide spaces called to him so alluringly; never had his mind dwelt so insistently upon the approach of spring roundup. Perhaps it was because he heard so much range talk at the ranch, where the boys of the Flying U were foregathered in uneasy idleness, their fingers itching for the feel of lariat ropes and branding irons while they gazed out over the wide spaces of the mesa.

So much good rangeland unharnessed by wire fencing the Flying U boys had not seen for many a day. During the winter they had been content


to ride over it merely for the purpose of helping to make a motion picture of the range, but with the coming of green grass, and with the reaction that followed the completion of the picture that in the making had filled all their thoughts, they were not so content. To the inevitable reaction had been added a nerve racking period of idleness and uncertainty while Luck Lindsay, their director, strove with the Great Western Film Company in Los Angeles for terms and prices that would make for the prosperity of himself and his company.

In his heart Applehead knew, just as the Happy Family knew, that Luck had good and sufficient reasons for over-staying the time-limit he had given himself for the trip. But knowing that Luck was not to be blamed for his long absence did not lessen their impatience, nor did it stifle the call of the wide spaces nor the subtle influence of the winds that blew softly over the uplands.

By the time he reached the ranch Applehead had persuaded himself that the immediate gathering of his cattle was an imperative duty and that he himself must perform it. He could not, he


told himself, afford to wait around any longer for Luck. Maybe when he came Luck would have nothing but disappointment for them. Maybe — Luck was so consarned stubborn when he got an idea in his head — maybe he wouldn't come to any agreement with the Great Western. Maybe they wouldn't offer him enough money, or leave him enough freedom in his work; maybe he would ' fly back on the rope ' at the last minute, and come back with nothing accomplished. Applehead, with the experience gleaned from the stress of seeing Luck produce one feature picture without any financial backing whatever and without half enough capital, was not looking forward with any enthusiasm to another such ordeal. He did not believe, when all was said and done, that the Flying TJ boys would be so terribly eager to repeat the performance. He did believe — or he made himself think he believed — that the only sensible thing to do right then was to take the boys and go out and start a roundup of his own. It wouldn't take long — his cattle weren't so badly scattered this year.

' Where's Andy at ? ' he asked Pink, who hap-4


pened to be leaning boredly over the gate when he rode up to the corral. Andy Green, having been left in nominal charge of the outfit when Luck left, must be consulted, Applehead supposed.

'Andy? I dunno. He saddled up and rode off somewhere, a while ago,' Pink answered glumly. ' That's more than he'll let any of us fellows do; the way he's close-herding us makes me tired! Any news ? '

' Ain't ary word from Luck — no word of no kind. I've about made up my mind to take the chuck-wagon to town and stock it with grub, and hit out on roundup t'morrer or next day. I don't see as there's any sense in setting around here waitin' on Luck and lettin' my own work slide. Chavez boys, they started out yest'day, I heard in town. And if I don't git right out close onto their heels, I'll likely find myself with a purty light crop uh calves, now I'm tellin' yuh!' Applehead, so completely had he come under the spell of the soft spring air and the lure of the mesa, actually forgot that he had long been in the habit of attending to his calf crop by proxy.

Pink's face brightened briefly. Then he re-5


membered why they were being kept so close to the ranch, and he grew bored again.

' What if Luck pulled in before we got back, and wanted us to start work on another picture ? ' he asked, discouraging the idea reluctantly. Pink had himself been listening to the call of the wide spaces, and the mere mention of roundup had a thrill for him.

' Well, now, I calc'late my prope'ty is might' nigh as important as Luck's pitcher-making,' Applehead contended with a selfishness born of his newly awakened hunger for the far distances. ' And he ain't sent ary word that he's coming, or will need you boys immediate. The chances is we could go and git back agin before Luck shows up. And if we don't,' he argued speciously, ' he can't blame nobody for not wantin' to set around on their haunches all spring waiting for 'im. I'd do a lot fer Luck; I've done a lot fer 'im. But it ain't to be expected I'd set around waitin' on him and let them danged Mexicans rustle my calves. They'll do it if they git half a show — now I'm telliii' yuh! '

Pink did not say anything at all, either in 6

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