THE STAMPEDE

Marjorie and Ethel were awake the next morning long before the other
scouts opened their eyes. Dressing cautiously in their riding breeches
and flannel shirts, they hurried out to meet the Hilton boys at the
appointed place.

“I have a horse for each of you,” said Bob, “as you see. But if you
don’t like them, you don’t need to keep them. There are certainly
plenty of horses.”

“I think they are fine!” remarked Ethel, stepping up to stroke them.
“Come, let’s mount them, Marj!”

“My, what long stirrups!” said Marjorie, as she got up on her horse.

“Yes, they all ride that way out here,” said Bob. “It’s more
comfortable than the English fashion–if you are riding a long
distance.”

“Oh, we’ll have to learn to ride all over again, I guess,” said
Marjorie. “But please be sure to tell us any little pointers you can.
We want to ride like Westerners, don’t we, Ethel?”

“Indeed we do!” agreed the other girl.

“Well, I think you both ride remarkably well,” said Bob, who had been
watching them with admiration. “There are a lot of Eastern girls who
come out here who hardly have an idea how to sit on a horse.”

The day was clear and beautiful, and the girls breathed in the pure,
dry air with a feeling of exhilaration that they never experienced in
the East. How good it was to be on a horse again, away from every care
in the world! The blood tingled in their veins; it was joy just to be
alive! Marjorie decided that she could not have given this up for a
whole summer with John Hadley at a poky little seashore or mountain
resort.

As they rode along, the girls kept their eyes alert to see everything.
The elevation of the land, the clearness of the atmosphere, and the
absence of trees made it possible for them to get a good view of the
country for miles around. The vastness of it all impressed them, as
nothing had ever done in the East.

“We’ll ride out and encircle the farthest horse,” explained Bob, “and
gradually drive them towards the ranch.”

“I should think you’d lose your horses all the time,” remarked Ethel;
“when there are no fences to keep them in. They might so easily wander
to another ranch, and get mixed up with the horses there.”

“Yes, but all horses out here are branded,” explained Arthur; “so if
they do get lost, they usually are sent back. Of course we do have
horse-thieves here, just the same as anywhere else.”

“What I’d like to see,” said Marjorie, after a few minutes of silence,
“is some genuine horse-breaking. Just imagine making animals that have
never been used to anything like that, learn to obey the reins!”

“That is an interesting sight,” said Bob; “and you’ll surely see some
of it before you go home.”

The girls stayed out until after eight o’clock, enjoying the exercise
and the novelty of the adventure exceedingly. If it had not been for
their ever increasing hunger, they would willingly have kept on riding
all morning.

When they entered the dining-room, they found the rest of the party
already seated, most of them half through their meal. The girls stood
upon no ceremony, but plunged immediately into the business of the
moment.

“Did you have a good time?” asked Alice, enviously. She wished that she
had had the moral courage to get up so early in the morning to go with
them.

“Fine!” cried Marjorie, her eyes sparkling.

“But you haven’t heard the news yet!” exclaimed Florence. “We’re all
going to a Stampede!”

“Where? When?” demanded both girls in the same breath.

“We drive over to Crider–a distance of about forty miles–this
afternoon,” said Mr. Hilton, “and get our rooms at the hotel. The
Stampede begins there tomorrow, and lasts three days.”

“Oh, how thrilling!” cried Marjorie. “I’m so glad we’re going to see
one.”

“Is there anything on the program for this morning?” asked Florence,
rising from the table.

“Yes, a ride for anybody who wants to go, and a swim afterwards.”

Marjorie and Ethel, who felt a little stiff from their strenuous
exercise that morning, decided to remain at home, although all the rest
of the scouts wanted to go. Marjorie went into her cabin, and selected
some scout literature which she had received from headquarters, to take
over with her to the porch, where she would examine it at her leisure.
Ethel followed her with some writing materials, and both girls spent
their time quietly and profitably until the party returned.

“Come on now! Cut out the study!” cried Bob Hilton, riding right up to
the porch. “Time for a swim!”

“Is the water deep?” asked Alice, whose horse was just behind his.

“No, it really isn’t any wonderful swimming hole,” replied the young
man. “So don’t get your hopes up too high.”

“Well, just as long as it’s nice and cool,” said Florence. “This sun is
getting pretty hot.”

“Oh, it will cool you off, all right!” said Arthur, with a sly wink at
his brother.

The girls found to their dismay that the water was much colder than
they had expected. Doris and Alice jumped in and out again in a flash,
but the others decided to brave it a little longer, and get warmed up
by the exercise of swimming. All five of the Academy boys, the Hiltons,
and the Melvilles were among the party; but Kirk Smith and the Judson
girls were absent.

“I thought you said Kirk Smith liked swimming,” remarked Marjorie to
Bob Hilton, after she began to feel a little more comfortable. “Why
isn’t he in?”

“Oh, he goes in every day, but never with the crowd. He prefers his own
company.”

“Well, I’m sure nobody’s grieving,” replied the girl. “Come, let’s
start a game, Bob. We’ve got to do something to keep warm.”

But none of the girls wanted to stay long, and in a few minutes they
were all on their way back to their cabins.

“That’s my first out-door bath this summer,” announced Doris, “and my
last!” She shivered, and drew her poncho about her shoulders. “I don’t
want to be as cold as that again!”

“Oh, you’ll go in again!” laughed Bob. “We always force the girls to go
in once in a while. If they refuse, we carry ’em in!”

“Oh, but you surely wouldn’t be so cruel to me!” pleaded Doris, in a
tone so serious that Bob burst out laughing.

“And often when you’re riding, the horse has to go through pretty deep
water,” he added, in the effort to tease her still further. “Of course
you can tuck your feet up under you, but still you have to get wet!”

“I see there is no help for me!” sighed the girl.

“By the way,” asked Marjorie, “what time do we start this afternoon?”

“Right after dinner!” replied the young man.

The cars were ready at two o’clock, and the whole party got in.
Marjorie was surprised to see that Kirk was going; she thought he would
not care to accompany the crowd, since he was so exclusive. To her
amazement, she saw him making for the car in which she and Lily and
Daisy were already seated, with Bob Hilton at the wheel. But not caring
for his society, she hastily called to Alice to come occupy the vacant
seat.

The long ride was interesting, if it was dangerous. The cars wound
around narrow roads, up steep, rocky inclines, and beside precipices
which made the girls giddy to contemplate. No one talked much, for the
drivers were completely absorbed in their tasks, and the rest of the
party were too much thrilled with the scenery to think of ordinary
conversation. It was six o’clock when they finally drove into Crider,
and saw everywhere the big posters announcing the Stampede.

“This is quite a large place, isn’t it?” observed Marjorie, surprised
at the number of houses in the streets through which they passed.

“And those stores look rather prosperous,” added Alice. “Perhaps we
can come over here before we go home and buy some presents for our
families.”

They drove up to the hotel, and Mr. Hilton gathered the party about him
for directions. He and most of the boys were to sleep in tents, but
Mrs. Hilton and the girls, he decided, had better occupy rooms in the
hotel.

“Leave your things as soon as possible,” he said, “and come down to the
dining-room. We don’t want to miss any of the fun.”

“What sort of fun?” asked Doris, apprehensively. But, as if for an
answer, before Mr. Hilton had time to reply, three loud shots were
heard.

“Oh, shooting and riding, and lots of excitement,” replied the man,
carelessly. “Now do hurry, girls. Be back inside of five minutes.”

The girls ran off as he directed. They were to have two large rooms,
each equipped with two double beds, and with a communicating door
between.

“Well, some people may like it,” said Doris, nervously, as she took off
her hat and arranged her hair-net, “but I wouldn’t want to live in the
West!”

“Then you had better not fall in love with any man out here,”
admonished Mae.

“Yes,” added Alice, “you must not allow yourself to be so crazy about
Kirk, Doris. He–”

“I–crazy about _Kirk Smith!_” repeated Doris, in a puzzled tone. Then,
catching sight of the gleam in Alice’s eye, she joined in the general
laughter at the absurdity of the idea.

“He is hopeless,” said Lily. “Funny what Irene sees in him!”

“Yes, none of us feel much love for him,” put in Florence.

“Girls, I don’t think he’s so awful,” said Daisy. “At least, if you
leave him alone. He’s always been very courteous to me.”

“Oh, you like everybody!” remarked Doris, putting her arm through
Daisy’s. “Come, girls, that’s enough prinking. Let’s go down before
they fire off any more pistols.”

But hardly were they seated at their tables with the rest of the party,
when they received a greater surprise than before. Right through the
hall doorway, and down the center aisle of the dining-room, a cowboy
came riding on his horse, past their very table! And no sooner had he
gone than another, and then a third, followed. Doris said that she
never had time to draw her breath between.

“Oh!” she gasped, when there was quiet again, “are we to expect this at
all our meals–just like we have orchestras in the East?”

“No, they probably won’t do it again,” replied Bob. “It would be
tame the second time. But I must admit that you are getting a good
initiation into our life.”

Although the boys wanted to go out and see the town that night, the
girls all felt it would be nicer to stay at the hotel. But they were
warned that it would be no use to go to bed early; they might expect
pistol shots any time until midnight. And when they did finally turn
in, a little before twelve, they soon heard a cowboy ride about the
lower floor, firing off blanks at each door.

All this, however, was tame when compared with the Stampede itself.
None of the girls had ever seen a travelling Wild West show, so they
had no conception of what was about to take place. The town of Crider
had expended every effort to make the event a memorable one; and
among the many spectators, at least not one of the Girl Scouts was
likely to forget what she saw that day. The streets were thronged with
people and the scene of the festivities was already crowded when the
girls arrived. Through the efforts of Mr. Hilton they were fortunate
in securing places from which they could command a view of the entire
arena; and each scout–even Doris–had the determined air of intending
not to miss a thing. While waiting for the fun to begin, they watched
with interest the ever-increasing crowd of spectators, a happy,
care-free crowd, over which the spirit of holiday-making seemed to
prevail.

The show started by all the participants riding about the big arena in
a procession. They were mostly cowboys, ranchers, and cavalrymen of
the United States Army; but there were also a number of real Indians
who were there to take a special part in the performance. After they
had all passed in review, heartily applauded by the spectators, they
retired; and the especially prepared events took place, reviewing the
early history and the making of the West. A group on horse-back and in
covered wagons representing the early pioneers crossing the plains,
appeared; and one of the many dangers which were frequently encountered
on such journeys was graphically illustrated by an attack from Indians,
hideously painted, who came suddenly upon them uttering blood-curdling
war-whoops, and who rode wildly in a circle firing upon the travellers.
And just as the deadly circle was closing in, and the whites were
getting the worst of the fight, the crisp notes of a bugle sounding
“Charge” were heard in the distance, and a troop of United States
cavalrymen dashed gallantly to the rescue and drove off the Redskins.

Among other scenes there was given also the life of Pony Express
Rider, that courageous servant of the government who, before the days
of trains, delivered the mails on horseback, riding at top speed from
station to station, stopping only long enough to change to a fresh
horse, his path beset by all kinds of dangers from Indians and outlaws.

Then there were all sorts of contests in riding, shooting, roping,
and horse-racing, for which prizes were offered. With the prospect of
so much riding before them, it was natural for the girls to display a
greater interest in the feats of horsemanship which they witnessed,
than in anything else. And they never would have believed such riding
possible had they not seen it with their own eyes. The cavalrymen
gave an exhibition of what is known as the monkey-drill, or trick
riding, which, as one of the boys afterwards said, was better than a
circus. They ran beside their horses, and, with a leap, mounted without
touching the stirrups; dismounted, still holding to the rein with one
hand, and the saddle with the other, vaulted clear over the horses to
the other side, ran a short distance, and leaped to the saddle again.
Clinging to the sides of their mounts, they even crawled beneath
their necks while at a gallop, without ever touching the ground, and
scrambled up the other side and into the saddle again. One thrilling
feature was when the men stood upon their horses’ backs; next upon two
horses, with a foot upon each; then a third horse was placed between
the two; and finally when another was added, and the rider galloped
them around the arena four abreast, the spectators went wild with
excitement, and thundered their applause.

At the end, after a wild steer was led forth, saddled, and ridden for
the amusement of everybody, Marjorie had an opportunity to gratify her
desire to see real bronco-busting, or the riding of horses which had
never been broken. This was not done by the gradual method followed in
breaking highly-bred animals; the broncos were simply roped, saddled
and mounted. Of course, to make the contest more exciting, the most
vicious horses procurable had been obtained; and many would not submit
to being saddled until they were thrown and blindfolded. Then the
animal, when he felt a man upon his back for the first time, used every
ruse in his repertoire to throw him. The buck-jumpers, with their
heads between their fore-legs, their backs arched, sprung straight into
the air and came down again with their legs as rigid as iron bars,
striking the ground with such force that many of the riders–men who
had practically lived in the saddle–were sometimes shot like rockets
into the air, to land sprawling upon the ground. Even wilder than these
were the “weavers,” or horses which bucked with a peculiar writhing
motion, the forelegs at an angle to one side and the hind-legs to the
other side, and alternating them so quickly that unless the rider
were properly relaxed above the hips, he was in danger of having his
back-bone snapped by such quick, snake-like contortions. Only those of
the spectators who had ridden could fully appreciate how difficult it
was for the rider to keep his seat.

For some time Marjorie had been watching the business-like manner of a
tall, black-haired young man with very long legs, who sat as limp as
a rag in the saddle and appeared able to ride anything. Though hot,
flushed, and covered with dust from his exertions, his boyish face
looked familiar to the girl, and she turned to inquire about him of Mr.
Hilton, who had also been watching him intently.

“You’ve picked the prize-winner this time, Marjorie,” replied the
man. “Of course you remember him; he is Jonnie Owens, a professional
horse-breaker who works on my ranch. ‘Fly-paper Jonnie’ the boys call
him.”

“Oh, I’ve heard Bob speak of Flypaper, and I didn’t know what he
meant,” laughed Marjorie. “But why the name?”

“Because he can stick on any cayuse that ever drew a breath,” answered
Mr. Hilton, proudly. “Never saw anything that boy couldn’t ride; so I’m
betting on him today.”

And it certainly looked as though the rancher stood a good chance of
winning his bet. Horses were conquered and riders were thrown until,
by the process of elimination, there remained to fight it out between
them Jonnie Owens and a vicious buckskin horse, with wicked, blood-shot
eyes, who had thrown every man who attempted to ride him.

And fight they did! It was now a question of whether the horse or the
man should be the winner of the contest. From the moment that the man
touched the saddle, that horse reared, plunged, kicked, and bucked in
every way he knew; and finding that nothing he could do would unseat
the rider, he even tried rolling over upon him. But Jonnie leaped
in time, and avoiding the flying hoofs, was in the saddle again the
instant the horse regained his feet.

Meanwhile, the audience watched in breathless excitement, or else
cheered madly, depending on the way they were affected. Marjorie
was among the breathless ones, expecting every moment to see the man
thrown. Once, for a brief instant, it did look as though the horse had
actually won; for the rider was seen to leave his back; but the next
moment, with a gasp of amazement, the spectators were aware that the
cinch had broken, and Jonnie was sailing through the air, still seated
firmly in the saddle. Badly shaken, but undaunted, the man called for
another saddle, and the fight was resumed. But, true to his nickname,
Jonnie continued to stick like fly-paper in the saddle, until even
the horse began to realize that here at last was a rider whom it was
beyond his power to throw. Fagged, breathing hard, he came to a stand
with wide-spread, trembling legs. While the crowd was cheering madly,
“Fly-paper” put the spurs to him, and went tearing around the arena,
the master.

“Oh!” sighed Marjorie; “I wish I could ride like that!”

“So say we all!” replied Lily.