Part 4 out of 12
"A towerist!" wheezed the fat man. "Say, you're too early. Nothing doing
in the mountains yet. Who sent you this early, anyway?"
"No tourist; permanent inhabitant," said Bob. "I'm with Welton."
"Timber, by God!" exploded the fat man. "Well, you and I are like to
have friendly doings. Your road goes through us, and you got to toe the
mark, young fellow, let me tell you! I'm a hell of a hard man to get on
"You look it," said Bob. "You own some timber?"
The fat man exploded again.
"Hell, no!" he roared. "Why, you don't even know me, do you? I'm Plant,
Henry Plant. I'm Forest Supervisor."
"My name's Orde," said Bob. "If you're after Forest Rangers, there's
three in there."
"The rascals!" cried Plant. He raised his voice to a bellow. "Oh, you
The door was darkened.
"Say, Jim," said Plant. "They tell me there's a fire over Stone Creek
way. Somebody's got to take a look at it. You and Joe better ride over
in the morning and see what she looks like."
The man stretched his arms over his head and yawned. "Oh, hell!" said he
with deep feeling. "Ain't you got any of those suckers that _like_ to
ride? I've had a headache for three days."
"Yes, it's hard luck you got to do anything, ain't it," said Plant.
"Well, I'll see if I can find old John, and if you don't hear from me,
you got to go."
The Supervisor gathered up his reins and was about to proceed when down
through the fading twilight rode a singular figure. It was a thin, wiry,
tall man, with a face like tanned leather, a clear, blue eye and a
drooping white moustache. He wore a flopping old felt hat, a faded
cotton shirt and an ancient pair of copper-riveted blue-jeans overalls
tucked into a pair of cowboy's boots. A time-discoloured cartridge belt
encircled his hips, supporting a holster from which protruded the shiny
butt of an old-fashioned Colt's 45. But if the man was thus nondescript
and shabby, his mount and its caparisons were magnificent. The horse was
a glossy, clean-limbed sorrel with a quick, intelligent eye. The bridle
was of braided rawhide, the broad spade-bit heavily inlaid with silver,
the reins of braided and knotted rawhide. Across the animal's brow ran
three plates of silver linked together. Below its ears were wide silver
_conchas_. The saddle was carved elaborately, and likewise ornamented
with silver. The whole outfit shone--new-polished and well kept.
"Oh, you John!" called Plant.
The old man moved his left hand slightly. The proud-stepping sorrel
instantly turned to the left, and, on a signal Bob could not
distinguish, stopped to statue-like immobility. Then Bob could see the
Forest Ranger badge pinned to one strap of the old man's suspender.
"John," said Plant, "they tell me there's a fire over at Stone Creek.
Ride over and see what it amounts to."
"All right," replied the Ranger. "What help do I get?"
"Oh, you just ride over and see what it amounts to," repeated Plant.
"I can't do nothing alone fighting fire."
"Well I can't spare anybody now," said Plant, "and it may not amount to
nothing. You go see."
"All right," said John. "But if it does amount to something, it'll get
an awful start on us."
He rode away.
"Old California John," said Plant to Bob with a slight laugh. "Crazy old
fool." He raised his voice. "Oh, you Jim! John, he's going to ride over.
You needn't go."
Bob nodded a good night, and walked back up the street. At the store he
found the sorrel horse standing untethered in the road. He stopped to
examine more closely the very ornate outfit. California John came out
carrying a grain sack half full of provisions. This he proceeded to tie
on behind the saddle, paying no attention to the young man.
"Well, Star, you got a long ways to go," muttered the old man.
"You aren't going over those mountains to-night, are you?" cried Bob.
The old man turned quite deliberately and inspected his questioner in a
manner to imply that he had committed an indiscretion. But the answer
was in a tone that implied he had not.
"Certain sure," he replied. "The only way to handle a fire is to stick
to it like death to a dead nigger."
Bob returned to the hotel very thoughtful. There he found Mr. Welton
seated comfortably on the verandah, his feet up and a cigar alight.
"This is pretty good medicine," he called to Bob. "Get your feet up, you
long-legged stork, and enjoy yourself. Been exploring?"
"Listening to the band on the plaza," laughed Bob. He drew up a chair.
At that moment the dim figure of California John jingled by. "I wouldn't
like that old fellow's job. He's a ranger, and he's got to go and look
up a forest fire."
"Alone?" asked Welton. "Couldn't they scare up any more? Or are they
over there already?"
"There's three playing poker at the saloon. Looked to me like a fool
way to do. He's just going to take a look and then come back and
"Oh, they're heavy on reports!" said Welton. "Where is the fire; did you
"Stone Creek--wherever that is."
"Stone Creek!" yelled Welton, dropping the front legs of his chair to
the verandah with a thump. "Why, our timber adjoins Stone Creek! You
come with me!"
Welton strode away into the darkness, followed closely by Bob. He made
his way as rapidly as he could through the village to an attractive
house at the farther outskirts. Here he turned through the picket gate,
and thundered on the door.
It was almost immediately opened by a meek-looking woman of thirty.
"Plant in?" demanded Welton.
The meek woman had no opportunity to reply.
"Sure! Sure! Come in!" roared the Supervisor's great voice.
They entered to find the fat man, his coat off, leaning luxuriously back
in an office chair, his feet up on another, a cigar in his mouth. He
waved a hospitable hand.
"Sit down! Sit down!" he wheezed. "Glad to see you."
"They tell me there's a fire over in the Stone Creek country," said
"So it's reported," said Plant comfortably. "I've sent a man over
already to investigate."
"That timber adjoins ours," went on Welton. "Sending one ranger to
investigate don't seem to help the old man a great deal."
"Oh, it may not amount to much," disclaimed Plant vaguely.
"But if it does amount to much, it'll be getting one devil of a start,"
persisted Welton. "Why don't you send over enough men to give it a
"Haven't got 'em," replied Plant briefly.
"There's three playing poker now, down in the first saloon," broke in
Plant looked at him coldly for ten seconds.
"Those men are waiting to tally Wright's cattle," he condescended,
naming one of the most powerful of the valley ranch kings.
But Welton caught at Bob's statement.
"All you need is one man to count cattle," he pointed out. "Can't you do
that yourself, and send over your men?"
"Are you trying to tell me my business, Mr. Welton?" asked the
Welton laughed one of his inexpressible chuckles.
"Lord love you, no!" he cried. "I have all I can handle. I'm merely
trying to protect my own. Can't you hire some men, then?"
"My appropriation won't stand it," said Plant, a gleam coming into his
eye. "I simply haven't the money to pay them with." He paused
"How much would it take?" inquired Welton.
Plant cast his eyes to the ceiling.
"Of course, I couldn't tell, because I don't know how much of a fire it
is, or how long it would take to corral it. But I'll tell you what I'll
do: suppose you leave me a lump sum, and I'll look after such matters
hereafter without having to bother you with them. Of course, when I have
rangers available I'll use 'em; but any time you need protection, I can
rush in enough men to handle the situation without having to wait for
authorizations and all that. It might not take anything extra, of
"How much do you suppose it would require to be sure we don't run
short?" asked Welton.
"Oh, a thousand dollars ought to last indefinitely," replied Plant.
The two men stared at each other for a moment. Then Welton laughed.
"I can hire a heap of men for a thousand dollars," said he, rising.
Plant rumbled something. The two went out, leaving the fat man chewing
his cigar and scowling angrily after them.
Once clear of the premises Welton laughed loudly.
"Well, my son, that's your first shy at the government official, isn't
it? They're not all as bad as that. At first I couldn't make out whether
he was just fat and lazy. Now I know he's a grafter. He ought to get a
nice neat 'For Sale' sign painted. Did you hear the nerve of him? Wanted
a thousand dollars bribe to do his plain duty."
"Oh, that was what he was driving at!" cried Bob.
"Yes, Baby Blue-eyes, didn't you tumble to that? Well, I don't see a
thousand in it whether he's for us or against us."
"Was that the reason he didn't send over all his men to the fire?" asked
"Partly. Principally because he wanted to help old Simeon Wright's men
in with the cattle. Simeon probably has a ninety-nine year lease on his
fat carcass--with the soul thrown in for a trading stamp. It don't take
but one man to count cattle, but three extra cowboys comes mighty handy
in the timber."
"Would Wright bribe him, do you suppose?"
Welton stopped short.
"Let me tell you one thing about old Simeon, Bob," said he. "He owns
more land than any other man in California. He got it all from the
government. Eight sections on one of his ranches he took up under the
Swamp Act by swearing he had been all over them in a boat. He had. The
boat was drawn by eight mules. That's just a sample. You bet Simeon owns
a Supervisor, if he thinks he needs one; and that's why the cattle
business takes precedence over the fire business."
"It's an outrage!" cried Bob. "We ought to report him for neglect of
"I didn't tell you this to get you mad, Bobby," he drawled with his
indescribable air of good humour; "only to show you the situation. What
difference does it make? As for reporting to Washington! Look here, I
don't know what Plant's political backing is, but it must be 99.84 per
cent. pure. Otherwise, how would a man as fat as that get a job of
Forest Supervisor? Why, he can't ride a horse, and it's absurd to
suppose he ever saw any of the Reserve he's in charge of."
Welton bestirred himself to good purpose. Inside of two hours a
half-dozen men, well-mounted and provisioned, bearing the usual tools of
the fire-fighter, had ridden off into the growing brightness of the
"There," said the lumberman with satisfaction. "That isn't going to cost
much, and we'll feel safe. Now let's turn in."
The next morning Bob was awakened to a cold dawn that became still more
shivery when he had dressed and stepped outside. Even a hot breakfast
helped little; and when the buckboard was brought around, he mounted to
his seat without any great enthusiasm. The mountain rose dark and
forbidding, high against the eastern sky, and a cold wind breathed down
its defiles. When the wiry little ponies slowed to the first stretches
of the tiresome climb, Bob was glad to walk alongside.
Almost immediately the pines began. They were short and scrubby as yet,
but beautiful in the velvet of their dark green needles. Bob glanced at
them critically. They were perhaps eighty to a hundred feet high and
from a foot to thirty inches in diameter.
"Fair timber," he commented to his companion.
Welton snorted. "Timber!" he cried. "That isn't timber; it's weeds.
There's no _timber_ on this slope of the mountain."
Slowly the ponies toiled up the steep grade, pausing often for breath.
Among the pines grew many oaks, buckthorns, tall manzanitas and the
like. As the valley dropped beneath, they came upon an occasional
budding dogwood. Over the slopes of some of the hills spread a mantle of
velvety vivid green, fair as the grass of a lawn, but indescribably soft
and mobile. It lent those declivities on which it grew a spacious,
well-kept, park appearance, on which Bob exclaimed with delight.
But Welton would have none of it.
"Bear clover," said he, "full of pitch as an old jack-pine. Burns like
coal oil, and you can't hardly cut it with a hoe. Worst stuff to carry
fire and to fight fire in you ever saw. Pick a piece and smell it."
Bob broke off one of the tough, woody stems. A pungent odour exactly
like that of extract of hamamelis met his nostrils. Then he realized
that all the time he had been aware of this perfume faintly disengaging
itself from the hills. In spite of Mr. Welton's disgust, Bob liked its
clean, pungent suggestion.
The road mounted always, following the contour of the mountains. Thus it
alternately emerged and crept on around bold points, and bent back into
the recesses of ravines. Clear, beautiful streams dashed and sang down
the latter; from the former, often, Bob could look out over the valley
from which they had mounted, across the foothills, to the distant,
yellowing plains far on the horizon, lost finally in brown heat waves.
Sycamore Flats lay almost directly below. Always it became smaller, and
more and more like a coloured relief-map with tiny, Noah's-ark houses.
The forest grew sturdily on the steep mountain. Bob's eyes were on a
level with the tops of trees growing but a few hundred feet away. The
horizon line was almost at eleven o'clock above him.
"How'd you handle this kind of a proposition?" he inquired. "Looks to me
like hard sledding."
"This stuff is no good," said Welton. "These little, yellow pines ain't
worth cutting. This is all Forest Reserve stuff."
Bob glanced again down the aisles of what looked to him like a noble
forest, but said nothing. He was learning, in this land of surprises, to
keep his mouth shut.
At the end of two hours Welton drew up beside a new water trough to
water the ponies.
"There," he remarked casually, "is the first sugar pine."
Bob's eye followed the indication of his whip to the spreading, graceful
arms of a free so far up the bed of the stream that he could make out
only its top. The ponies, refreshed, resumed their methodical plodding.
Insensibly, as they mounted, the season had changed. The oaks that, at
the level of Sycamore Flats, had been in full leaf, here showed but the
tender pinks and russets of the first foliage. The dogwoods were quite
dormant. Rivulets of seepage and surface water trickled in the most
unexpected places as though from snow recently melted.
Of climbing there seemed no end. False skylines recurrently deceived Bob
into a belief that the buckboard was about to surmount the top. Always
the rise proved to be preliminary to another. The road dipped behind
little spurs, climbed ravines, lost itself between deep cuts. Only
rarely did the forest growths permit a view, and then only in glimpses
between the tops of trees. In the valley and against the foothills now
intervened the peaceful and calm blue atmosphere of distance.
"I'd no idea from looking at it this mountain was so high," he told
"You never do," said Welton. "They always fool you. We're pretty nigh
the top now."
Indeed, for a little space the forest had perforce to thin because of
lack of footing. The slope became almost a precipice, ending in a bold
comb above which once more could be glimpsed the tops of trees. Quite
ingeniously the road discovered a cleft up which it laboured mightily,
to land breathless after a heart-breaking pull. Just over the top Welton
drew rein to breathe his horses--and to hear what Bob had to say about
The buckboard stood at the head of a long, gentle slope descending,
perhaps fifty feet, to a plateau; which, in turn, rose to another crest
some miles distant. The level of this plateau, which comprised, perhaps,
thirty thousand acres all told, supported a noble and unbroken forest.
Mere statistics are singularly unavailing to convey even an idea of a
California woodland at its best. We are not here dealing with the
so-called "Big Trees," but with the ordinary--or extraordinary--pines
and spruces. The forest is free from dense undergrowths; the individual
trees are enormous, yet so symmetrical that the eye can realize their
size only when it catches sight of some usual and accustomed object,
such as men or horses or the buildings in which they live. Even then it
is quite as likely that the measures will appear to have been struck
small, as that the measured will show in their true grandeur of
proportion. The eye refuses to be convinced off-hand that its education
has been faulty.
"Now," said Welton decidedly. "We may as well have it over with right
now. How big is that young tree over there?"
He pointed out a half-grown specimen of sugar pine.
"About twenty inches in diameter," replied Bob promptly.
Welton silently handed him a tape line. Bob descended.
"Thirty-seven!" he cried with vast astonishment, when his measurements
were taken and his computations made.
"Now that one," commanded Welton, indicating a larger tree.
Bob sized it up.
"No fair looking at the other for comparison," warned the older man.
"Forty," hesitated Bob, "and I don't believe it's that!" he added. "Four
feet," he amended when he had measured.
"Climb in," said Welton; "now you're in a proper frame of mind to listen
to me with respect. The usual run of tree you see down through here is
from five to eight feet in diameter. They are about all over two hundred
feet tall, and some run close to three hundred."
Bob sighed. "All right. Drive on. I'll get used to it in time." His face
lighted up with a grin. "Say, wouldn't you like to see Roaring Dick
trying to handle one of those logs with a peavie? As for driving a
stream full of them! Oh, Lord! You'd have to send 'em down one at a
time, fitted out with staterooms for the crew, a rudder and a gasoline
The ponies jogged cheerfully along the winding road. Water ran
everywhere, or stood in pools. Under the young spruces were the last
snowbanks. Pushing up through the wet soil, already showed early
snowplants, those strange, waxlike towers of crimson. After a time they
came to a sidehill where the woods thinned. There still stood many
trees, but as the buckboard approached, Bob could see that they were
cedars, or spruce, or smaller specimens of the pines. Prone upon the
ground, like naked giants, gleamed white and monstrous the peeled bodies
of great trees. A litter of "slash," beaten down by the winter, cumbered
the ground, and retained beneath its faded boughs soggy and melting
"Had some 'fallers' in here last year," explained Welton briefly.
"Thought we'd have some logs on hand when it came time to start up."
"Wait a minute," requested Bob. He sprang lightly from the vehicle, and
scrambled over to stand alongside the nearest of the fallen monsters. He
could just see over it comfortably. "My good heavens!" said he soberly,
resuming his seat. "How in blazes do you handle them?"
Welton drove on a few paces, then pointed with his whip. A narrow trough
made of small peeled logs laid parallel and pegged and mortised together
at the ends, ran straight over the next hill.
"That's a chute," he explained briefly. "We hitch a wire cable to the
log and just naturally yank it over to the chute."
"How yank it?" demanded Bob.
"By a good, husky donkey engine. Then the chute poles are slushed, we
hitch cables on four or five logs, and just tow them over the hill to
Bob's enthusiasm, as always, was growing with the presentation of this
new and mighty problem of engineering so succinctly presented. It
sounded simple; but from his two years' experience he knew better. He
was becoming accustomed to filling in the outlines of pure theory. At a
glance he realized the importance of such things as adequate anchors for
the donkey engines; of figuring on straight pulls, horse power and the
breaking strain of steel cables; of arranging curves in such manner as
to obviate ditching the logs, of selecting grades and routes in such
wise as to avoid the lift of the stretched cable; and more dimly he
guessed at other accidents, problems and necessities which only the
emergency could fully disclose. All he said was:
"So that's why you bark them all--so they'll slide. I wondered."
But now the ponies, who had often made this same trip, pricked up their
ears and accelerated their pace. In a moment they had rounded a hill and
brought their masters into full view of the mill itself.
The site was in a wide, natural clearing occupied originally by a green
meadow perhaps a dozen acres in extent. From the borders of this park
the forest had drawn back to a dark fringe. Now among the trees at the
upper end gleamed the yellow of new, unpainted shanties. Square against
the prospect was the mill, a huge structure, built of axe-hewn timbers,
rough boards, and the hand-rived shingles known as shakes. Piece by
piece the machinery had been hauled up the mountain road until enough
had been assembled on the space provided for it by the axe men to begin
sawing. Then, like some strange monster, it had eaten out for itself at
once a space in the forest and the materials for its shell and for the
construction of its lesser dependents, the shanties, the cook-houses,
the offices and the shops. Welton pointed out with pride the various
arrangements; here the flats and the trestles for the yards where the
new-sawn lumber was to be stacked; there the dump for the sawdust and
slabs; yonder the banking ground constructed of great logs laid close
together, wherein the timber-logs would be deposited to await the saw.
From the lower end of the yard a trestle supporting a V-shaped trough
disappeared over the edge of a hill. Near its head a clear stream
cascaded down the slope.
"That's the flume," explained the lumberman. "Brought the stream around
from the head of the meadow in a ditch. We'll flume the sawn lumber down
the mountain. For the present we'll have to team it out to the railroad.
Your friend Baker's figuring on an electric road to meet us, though, and
I guess we'll fix it up with him inside a few years, anyway."
"Where's Stone Creek from here?" asked Bob.
"Over the farther ridge. The mountain drops off again there to Stone
Creek three or four thousand feet."
"We ought to hear from the fire, soon."
"If we don't, we'll ride over that way and take a look down," replied
They drove down the empty yards to a stable where already was
established their old barn-boss of the Michigan woods. Four or five big
freight wagons stood outside, and a score of powerful mules rolled and
sunned themselves in the largest corral. Welton nodded toward several
horses in another enclosure.
"Pick your saddle horse, Bob," said he. "Straw boss has to ride in this
"Make it the oldest, then," said Bob.
At the cookhouse they were just in time for the noon meal. The long,
narrow room, fresh with new wood, new tables and new benches in
preparation for the crew to come, looked bare and empty with its handful
of guests huddled at one end. These were the teamsters, the stablemen,
the caretakers and a few early arrivals. The remainder of the crew was
expected two days later.
After lunch Bob wandered out into the dazzling sunlight. The sky was
wonderfully blue, the trees softly green, the new boards and the tiny
pile of sawdust vividly yellow. These primary colours made all the
world. The air breathed crisp and bracing, with just a dash of cold in
the nostrils that contrasted paradoxically with the warm balminess of
the sunlight. It was as though these two opposed qualities, warmth and
cold, were here held suspended in the same medium and at the same time.
Birds flashed like spangles against the blue. Others sang and darted and
scratched and chirped everywhere. Tiny chipmunks no bigger than
half-grown rats scampered fearlessly about. What Bob took for larger
chipmunks--the Douglas Squirrels--perched on the new fence posts. The
world seemed alive--alive through its creatures, through the solemn,
uplifting vitality of its forests, through the sprouting, budding spring
growths just bursting into green, through the wine-draught of its very
air, through the hurrying, busy preoccupied murmur of its streams. Bob
breathed his lungs full again and again, and tingled from head to foot.
"How high are we here?" he called to Welton.
"About six thousand. Why? Getting short-winded?"
"I could run ten miles," replied Bob. "Come on. I'm going to look at the
"Not at a run," protested Welton. "No, sir! At a nice, middle-aged,
dignified, fat _walk_!"
They sauntered down the length of the trestle, with its miniature steel
tracks, to where the flume began. It proved to be a very solidly built
V-trough, alongside which ran a footboard. Welton pointed to the
telephone wire that paralleled it.
"When we get going," said he, "we just turn the stream in here, clamp
our sawn lumber into bundles of the right size, and 'let her went!'
There'll be three stations along the line, connected by 'phone, to see
that things go all right. That flume's six mile long."
Bob strode to the gate, and after some heaving and hauling succeeded in
throwing water into the flume.
"I wanted to see her go," he explained.
"Now if you want some real fun," said Welton, gazing after the foaming
advance wave as it ripped its way down the chute. "You make you a sort
of three-cornered boat just to fit the angle of the flume; and then you
lie down in it and go to Sycamore Flats, in about six minutes more or
"You mean to say that's done?" cried Bob.
"Often. It only means knocking together a plank or so."
"Doesn't the lumber ever jump the flume?"
"Once in a great while."
"Suppose the boat should do it?"
"Then," said Welton drily, "it's probable you'd have to begin learning
to tune a harp."
"Not for mine," said Bob with fervour. "Any time I yearn for Sycamore
Flats real hard, I'll go by hand."
He shut off the water, and the two walked a little farther to a bold
point that pressed itself beyond the trees.
Below them the cliff dropped away so steeply that they looked out above
the treetops as from the summit of a true precipice. Almost directly
below them lay the wooded valley of Sycamore Flats, maplike, tiny. It
was just possible to make out the roofs of houses, like gray dots. Roads
showed as white filaments threading the irregular patches of green and
brown. From beneath flowed the wide oak and brush-clad foothills, rising
always with the apparent cup of the earth until almost at the height of
the eye the shimmering, dim plains substituted their brown for the dark
green of the hills. The country that yesterday had seemed mountainous,
full of canons, ridges and ranges, now showed gently undulating,
flattened, like a carpet spread before the feet of the Sierras. To the
north were tumbled, blue, pine-clad mountains as far as the eye could
see, receding into the dimness of great distance. At one point, but so
far away as to be distinguishable only by a slight effort of the
imagination, hovered like soap-bubbles against an ethereal sky the forms
of snow mountains. Welton pointed out the approximate position of
They returned to camp where Welton showed the clean and painted little
house built for Bob and himself. It was quite simply a row of rooms with
a verandah in front of them all. But the interiors were furnished with
matting for the floors, curtains to the windows, white iron bedsteads,
running water and open fireplaces.
"I'm sick of camping," said Welton. "This is our summer quarters for
some time. I'm going to be comfortable."
"This is the bulliest place I ever saw!" he cried boyishly.
"Well, you're going to have time enough to get used to it," said Welton
The Stone Creek fire indeed proved not to amount to much, whereby sheer
chance upheld Henry Plant. The following morning the fire fighters
returned; leaving, however, two of their number to "guard the line"
until the danger should be over. Welton explained to Bob that only the
fact that Stone Creek bottom was at a low elevation, filled with brush
and tarweed, and grown thick with young trees rendered the forest even
inflammable at this time of year.
"Anywhere else in this country at this time of year it wouldn't do any
harm," he told Bob, "and Plant knew it couldn't get out of the basin. He
didn't give a cuss how much it did there. But we've got some young stuff
that would easy carry a top fire. Later in the season you may see some
tall rustling on the fire lines."
But before noon of that day a new complication arose. Up the road came a
short, hairy man on a mule. His beard grew to his high cheek bones, his
eyebrows bristled and jutted out over his black eyes, and a thick shock
of hair pushed beneath the rim of his hat to meet the eyebrows. The hat
was an old black slouch, misshapen, stained and dusty. His faded shirt
opened to display a hairy throat and chest. As for the rest he was
short-limbed, thick and powerful.
This nondescript individual rode up to the verandah on which sat Welton
and Bob, awaiting the lunch bell. He bowed gravely, and dismounted.
"Dis ees Meestair Welton?" he inquired with a courtesy at strange
variance with his uncouth appearance.
"I am Peter Lejeune," said the newcomer, announcing one of those hybrid
names so common among the transplanted French and Basques of California.
"I have de ship."
"Oh, yes," said Welton rising and going forward to offer his hand. "Come
up and sit down, Mr. Leejune."
The hairy man "tied his mule to the ground" by dropping the end of the
reins, and mounted the two steps to the verandah.
"This is my assistant, Mr. Orde," said Welton. "How are the sheep coming
on? Mr. Leejune," he told Bob, "rents the grazing in our timber."
"Et is not coming," stated Lejeune with a studied calm. "Plant he
riffuse permit to cross."
"Permit to what?" asked Welton.
"To cross hees fores', gov'ment fores'. I can' get in here widout cross
gov'ment land. I got to get permit from Plant. Plant he riffuse."
Welton rose, staring at his visitor.
"Do you mean to tell me," he cried at last, "that a man hasn't got a
right to get into his own land? That they can keep a man out of his own
"Da's right," nodded the Frenchman.
"But you've been in here for ten years or so to my knowledge."
Abruptly the sheepman's calm fell from him. He became wildly excited.
His black eyes snapped, his hair bristled, he arose from his chair and
"Every year I geev heem three ship! Three ship!" he repeated, thrusting
three stubby fingers at Welton's face. "Three little ship! I stay all
summer! He never say permit. Thees year he kip me out."
"Give any reason?" asked Welton.
"He say my ship feed over the line in gov'ment land."
"Mebbe so, little bit. Mebbe not. Nobody show me line. Nobody pay no
'tention. I feed thees range ten year."
"Did you give him three sheep this year?"
"I can't go down and tend to this," said he. "My foremen are here to be
consulted, and the crews will begin to come in to-morrow. You'll have to
go and see what's eating this tender Plant, Bob. Saddle up and ride down
with Mr. Leejune."
Bob took his first lesson in Western riding behind Lejeune and his
stolid mule. He had ridden casually in the East, as had most young men
of his way of life, but only enough to make a fair showing on a gentle
and easy horse. His present mount was gentle and easy enough, but Bob
was called upon to admire feats of which a Harlem goat might have been
proud. Lejeune soon turned off the wagon road to make his way directly
down the side of the mountain. Bob possessed his full share of personal
courage, but in this unaccustomed skirting of precipices, hopping down
ledges, and sliding down inclines too steep to afford a foothold he
found himself leaning inward, sitting very light in the saddle, or
holding his breath until a passage perilous was safely passed. In the
next few years he had occasion to drop down the mountainside a great
many times. After the first few trips he became so thoroughly accustomed
that he often wondered how he had ever thought this scary riding. Now,
however, he was so busily occupied that he was caught by surprise when
Lejeune's mule turned off through a patch of breast-high manzanita and
he found himself traversing the gentler slope at the foot of the
mountain. Ten minutes later they entered Sycamore Flats.
Then Bob had leisure to notice an astonishing change of temperature. At
the mill the air had been almost cold--entirely so out of the direct
rays of the sun. Here it was as hot as though from a furnace. Passing
the store, Bob saw that the tall thermometer there stood at 96 degrees.
The day was unseasonable, but later, in the August heats, Bob had often,
to his sorrow, to test the difference between six thousand and two
thousand feet of elevation. From a clear, crisp late-spring climate he
would descend in two hours to a temperature of 105 degrees.
Henry Plant was discovered sprawled out in an armchair beneath a
spreading tree in the front yard. His coat was off and his vest
unbuttoned to display a vast and billowing expanse of soiled white
shirt. In his hand was a palm-leaf fan, at his elbow swung an _olla_,
newspapers littered the ground or lay across his fat knees. When Bob and
Lejeune entered, he merely nodded surlily, and went on with his reading.
"Can I speak to you a moment on business?" asked Bob.
By way of answer the fat man dropped his paper, and mopped his brow.
"We've rented our sheep grazing to Mr. Lejeune, here, as I understand
we've been doing for some years. He tells me you have refused him
permission to cross the Forest Reserve with his flocks."
"That's right," grunted Plant.
"I believe, young man, granting permits is discretionary with the
Supervisor," stated that individual.
"I suppose so," agreed Bob. "But Mr. Lejeune has always had permission
before. What reason do you assign for refusing it?"
"Wilful trespass," wheezed Plant. "That's what, young man. His sheep
grazed over our line. He's lucky that I don't have him up before the
United States courts for damages as well."
Lejeune started to speak, but Bob motioned him to silence.
"I'm sure we could arrange for past damages, and guarantee against any
future trespass," said he.
"Well, I'm sure you can't," stated Plant positively. "Good day."
But Bob was not willing to give up thus easily. He gave his best efforts
either to arguing Plant into a better frame of mind, or to discovering
some tangible reason for his sudden change of front in regard to the
"It's no use," he told Lejeune, later, as they walked down the street
together. "He's undoubtedly the right to refuse permits for cause; and
technically he has cause if your sheep got over the line."
"But what shall I do!" cried Lejeune. "My ship mus' have feed!"
"You pasture them or feed them somewhere for a week or so, and I'll let
you know," said Bob. "We'll get you on the land or see you through
He mounted his horse stiffly and rode back up the street. Plant still
sat in his armchair like a bloated spider. On catching sight of Bob,
however, he heaved himself to his feet and waddled to the gate.
"Here!" he called. Bob drew rein. "It has been reported to me that your
firm has constructed a flume across 36, and a wagon road across 14, 22,
28, and 32. Those are government sections. I suppose, of course, your
firm has permits from Washington to build said improvements?"
"Naturally," said Bob, who, however, knew nothing whatever of those
"Well, I'll send a man up to examine them to-morrow," said Plant, and
turned his back.
Bob took supper at Auntie Belle's, and rode up the mountain after dark.
He did not attempt short cuts, but allowed his horse to follow the plain
grade of the road. After a time the moon crept over the zenith, and at
once the forest took on a fairylike strangeness, as though at the touch
of night new worlds had taken the place of the vanished old. Somewhere
near midnight, his body shivering with the mountain cold, his legs stiff
and chafed from the long, unaccustomed riding, but his mind filled with
the wonder and beauty of the mountain night, Bob drew rein beside the
corrals. After turning in his horse, he walked through the bright
moonlight to Welton's door, on which he hammered.
"Hey!" called the lumberman from within.
"It's I, Bob."
Welton scratched a match.
"Why in blazes didn't you come up in the morning?" he inquired.
"I've found out another and perhaps important hole we're in."
"Can we do anything to help ourselves out before morning?" demanded
Welton. "No? Well, sleep tight! I'll see you at six."
Next morning Welton rolled out, as good-humoured and deliberate as ever.
"My boy," said he. "When you get to be as old as I am, you'll never stir
up trouble at night unless you can fix it then. What is it?"
Bob detailed his conversation with Plant.
"Do you mean to tell me that that old, fat _skunk_ had the nerve to
tell you he was going to send a ranger to look at our permit?" he
"Yes. That's what he said."
"The miserable hound! Why I went to see him a year ago about crossing
this strip with our road--we had to haul a lot of stuff in. He told me
to go ahead and haul, and that he'd fix it up when the time came. Since
then I've tackled him two or three times about it, but he's always told
me to go ahead; that it was all right. So we went ahead. It's always
been a matter of form, this crossing permit business. It's _meant_ to be
a matter of form!"
After breakfast Welton ordered his buckboard and, in company with Bob,
drove down the mountain again. Plant was discovered directing the
activities of several men, who were loading a light wagon with
provisions and living utensils.
"Moving up to our summer camp," one of them told Bob. "Getting too hot
Plant received them, his fat face expressionless, and led them into the
stuffy little office.
"Look here, Plant," said Welton, without a trace of irritation on his
weatherbeaten, round countenance. "What's all this about seeing a permit
to cross those government sections? You know very well I haven't any
"I have been informed by my men that you have constructed or caused to
be constructed a water flume through section 36, and a road through
sections 14, 22, 28 and 32. If this has been done without due
authorization you are liable for trespass. Fine of not less than $200 or
imprisonment for not less than twelve months--or both." He delivered
this in a voice absolutely devoid of expression.
"But you told me to go ahead, and that you'd attend to the details, and
it would be all right," said Welton.
"You must have misunderstood me," replied Plant blandly. "It is against
my sworn duty to permit such occupation of public land without due
conformity to law. It is within my discretion whether to report the
trespass for legal action. I am willing to believe that you have acted
in this matter without malicious intent. But the trespass must cease."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Welton.
"You must not use that road as a highway, nor the flume, and you must
remove the flume within a reasonable time. Or else you may still get a
"How long would that take?" asked Welton. "Could it be done by wire?"
Plant lifted a glazed and fishy eye to survey him.
"You would be required to submit in writing specifications of the length
and location of said road and flume. This must be accompanied by a
topographical map and details of construction. I shall then send out
field men to investigate, after which, endorsed with my approval, it
goes for final decision to the Secretary of the Interior."
"Good Lord, man!" cried Welton, aghast. "That would take all summer! And
besides, I made out all that tomfoolery last summer. I supposed you must
have unwound all that red tape long ago!"
Plant for the first time looked his interlocutor square in the eye.
"I find among my records no such application," he said deliberately.
Welton stared at him a moment, then laughed.
"All right, Mr. Plant, I'll see what's to be done," said he, and went
In silence the two walked down the street until out of earshot. Then Bob
"I'd like to punch his fat carcass!" he cried. "The old liar!"
"It all goes to show that a man's never too old to learn. He's got us
plain enough just because this old man was too busy to wake up to the
fact that these government grafters are so strong out here. Back our
way when you needed a logging road, you just built it, and paid for the
unavoidable damage, and that's all there was to it."
"You take it cool," spluttered Bob.
"No use taking it any other way," replied Welton. "But the situation is
serious. We've got our plant in shape, and our supplies in, and our men
engaged. It would be bad enough to shut down with all that expense. But
the main trouble is, we're under contract to deliver our mill run to
Marshall & Harding. We can't forfeit that contract and stay in
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Bob.
"Get on the wires to your father in Washington," replied Welton. "Lucky,
your friend Baker's power project is only four miles away; we can use
But at the edge of town they met Lejeune.
"I got de ship in pasture," he told Bob. "But hees good for not more dan
"Look here, Leejune," said Welton. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to look
up another range for this summer. Of course, we'll pay any loss or
damage in the matter. It looks impossible to do anything with Plant."
The Frenchman threw up both hands and broke into voluble explanations.
From them the listeners gathered more knowledge in regard to the sheep
business than they could have learned by observation in a year. Briefly,
it was necessary that the sheep have high-country feed, at once; the
sheepmen apportioned the mountains among themselves, so that each had
his understood range; it would now be impossible to find anywhere
another range; only sometimes could one trade localities with another,
but that must be arranged earlier in the season before the flocks are in
the hills--in short, affairs were at a critical point, where Lejeune
must have feed, and no other feed was to be had except that for which he
had in all confidence contracted. Welton listened thoughtfully, his eyes
between his horses.
"Can you run those sheep in, at night, or somehow?"
The Frenchman's eyes sparkled.
"I run ship two year in Yosemite Park," he bragged. "No soldier fin'
"That's no great shakes," said Welton drily, "from what I've seen of
Park soldiers. If you can sneak these sheep across without getting
caught, you do it."
"I snik ship across all right," said Lejeune. "But I can' stop hees
track. The ranger he know I cross all right."
"What's the penalty?" asked Welton.
"Mos'ly 'bout one hundred dollars," replied Lejeune promptly. "Mebbe
Welton sighed. "Is that the limit?" he asked. "Not more than five
"No. Dat all."
"Well, it'll take a good half of the rent to get you in, if they soak us
the limit; but you're up against it, and we'll stand back of you. If we
agreed to give you that grazing, by God, _you'll get it_, as long as
that land is ours."
He nodded and drove on, while Lejeune, the true sheepman's delight in
dodging the officers burning strong within his breast, turned his mule's
head to the lower country.
The full situation, as far as the wires could tell it, was laid before
Jack Orde in Washington. A detailed letter followed. Toward evening of
that day the mill crews began to come in with the four and six-horse
teams provided for their transportation. They were a dusty but hilarious
lot. The teams drew up underneath the solitary sycamore tree that gave
the place its name, and at once went into camp. Bob strolled down to
look them over.
They proved to be fresh-faced, strong farm boys, for the most part, with
a fair sprinkling of older mountaineers, and quite a contingent of half
and quarter-bred Indians. All these people worked on ranches or in the
towns during the off season when the Sierras were buried under winter
snows. Their skill at woodsmanship might be undoubted, but the
intermittent character of their work precluded any development of
individual type, like the rivermen and shanty boys of the vanished
North. For a moment Bob experienced a twinge of regret that the old,
hard, picturesque days of his Northern logging were indeed gone. Then
the interest of this great new country with its surging life and its new
problems gripped him hard. He left these decent, hard-working,
self-respecting ranch boys, these quiet mountaineers, these stolid,
inscrutable breeds to their flickering camp fire. Next morning the
many-seated vehicles filled early and started up the road. But within a
mile Welton and Bob in their buckboard came upon old California John
square in the middle of the way. Star stood like a magnificent statue
except that slowly over and over, with relish, he turned the wheel of
the silver-mounted spade-bit under his tongue. As the ranger showed no
indication of getting out of the way, Welton perforce came to a halt.
"Road closed to trespass by the Wolverine Company," the ranger stated
"That mean I can't get to my own property?" he asked.
"My orders are to close this road to the Wolverine Company."
"Well, you've obeyed orders. Now get out the way. Tell your chief he can
go ahead on a trespass suit."
But the old man shook his head.
"No, you don't understand," he repeated patiently. "My orders were to
_close_ the road to the Company, not just to give notice."
Without replying Welton picked up his reins and started his horses. The
man seemed barely to shift his position, but from some concealment he
produced a worn and shiny Colt's. This he laid across the horn of his
"Stop," he commanded, and this time his voice had a bite to it.
"Millions for defence," chuckled Welton, who recognized perfectly the
tone, "and how much did you say for tribute?"
"What say?" inquired the old man.
"What sort of a hold-up is this? We certainly can't do this road any
damage driving over it once. How much of an inducement does Plant want,
"This department is only doing its sworn duty," replied the old man. His
blue eyes met Welton's steadily; not a line of his weatherbeaten face
changed. For twenty seconds the lumberman tried to read his opponent's
"Well," he said at last. "You can tell your chief that if he thinks he
can annoy and harass me into bribing him to be decent, he's left."
By this time the dust and creek of the first heavily laden vehicle had
laboured up to within a few hundred yards.
"I have over a hundred men there," said Welton, "that I've hired to
work for me at the top of that mountain. It's damn foolishness that
anybody should stop their going there; and I'll bet they won't lose
their jobs. My advice to you is to stand one side. You can't stop a
hundred men alone."
"Yes, I can," replied the old man calmly. "I'm not alone."
"No?" said Welton, looking about him.
"No; there's eighty million people behind that," said California John,
touching lightly the shield of his Ranger badge. The simplicity of the
act robbed it of all mock-heroics.
Welton paused, a frown of perplexity between his brows. California John
was watching him calmly.
"Of course, the _public_ has a right to camp in all Forest
Reserves--subject to reg'lation," he proffered.
Welton caught at this.
"No, you got to turn back, and your Company's rigs have got to turn
back," said California John. "But I sure ain't no orders to stop no
Welton nodded briefly; and, after some difficulty, succeeding in turning
around, he drove back down the grade. After he had bunched the wagons he
addressed the assembled men.
"Boys," said he, "there's been some sort of a row with the Government,
and they've closed this road to us temporarily. I guess you'll have to
hoof it the rest of the way."
This was no great and unaccustomed hardship, and no one objected.
"How about our beds?" inquired some one.
This presented a difficulty. No Western camp of any description--lumber,
mining, railroad, cow--supplies the bedding for its men. Camp blankets
as dealt out in our old-time Northern logging camp are unknown. Each man
brings his own blankets, which he further augments with a pair of
quilts, a pillow and a heavy canvas. All his clothing and personal
belongings he tucks inside; the canvas he firmly lashes outside. Thus
instead of his "turkey"--or duffle-bag--he speaks of his "bed roll,"
and by that term means not only his sleeping equipment but often all his
"Can't you unhitch your horses and pack them?" asked Bob.
"Sure," cried several mountaineers at once.
"That sounds like it," he approved; "and remember, boys, you're all
innocent campers out to enjoy the wonders and beauties of nature."
The men made short work of the job. In a twinkling the horses were
unhitched from the vehicles. Six out of ten of these men were more or
less practised at throwing packing hitches, for your Californian brought
up in sight of mountains is often among them. Bob admired the dexterity
with which some of the mountaineers improvised slings and drew tight the
bulky and cumbersome packs. Within half an hour the long procession was
under way, a hundred men and fifty horses. They filed past California
John, who had drawn one side.
"Camping, boys?" he asked the leader.
The man nodded and passed on. California John sat at ease, his elbow on
the pommel, his hand on his chin, his blue eyes staring vacantly at the
silent procession filing before him. Star stood motionless, his head
high, his small ears pricked forward. The light dust peculiar to the
mountain soils of California, stirred by many feet, billowed and rolled
upward through the pines. Long rays of sunlight cut through it like
"Now did you ever see such utter damn foolishness?" growled Welton.
"Make that bunch walk all the way up that mountain! What on earth is the
difference whether they walk or ride?"
But Bob, examining closely the faded, old figure on the magnificent
horse, felt his mind vaguely troubled by another notion. He could not
seize the thought, but its influence was there. Somehow the irritation
and exasperation had gone from the episode.
"I know that sort of crazy old mossback," muttered Welton as he turned
down the mountain. "Pin a tin star on them and they think they're as
important as hell!"
Bob looked back.
"I don't know," he said vaguely. "I'm kind of for that old coon."
The bend shut him out. After the buckboard had dipped into the horseshoe
and out to the next point, they again looked back. The smoke of marching
rose above the trees to eddy lazily up the mountain. California John, a
tiny figure now, still sat patiently guarding the portals of an empty
Bob and Welton left the buckboard at Sycamore Flats and rode up to the
mill by a detour. There they plunged into active work. The labour of
getting the new enterprise under way proved to be tremendous. A very
competent woods foreman, named Post, was in charge of the actual
logging, so Welton gave his undivided attention to the mill work. All
day the huge peeled timbers slid and creaked along the greased slides,
dragged mightily by a straining wire cable that snapped and swung
dangerously. When they had reached the solid "bank" that slanted down
toward the mill, the obstreperous "bull" donkey lowered its crest of
white steam, coughed, and was still. A man threw over the first of these
timbers a heavy rope, armed with a hook, that another man drove home
with a blow of his sledge. The rope tightened. Over rolled the log, out
from the greased slide, to come, finally, to rest among its fellows at
the entrance to the mill.
Thence it disappeared, moved always by steam-driven hooks, for these
great logs could not be managed by hand implements. The sawyers, at
their levers, controlled the various activities. When the time came the
smooth, deadly steel ribbon of the modern bandsaws hummed hungrily into
the great pines; the automatic roller hurried the new-sawn boards to the
edgers; little cars piled high with them shot out from the cool dimness
into the dazzling sunlight; men armed with heavy canvas or leather
stacked them in the yards; and then----
That was the trouble; and then, nothing!
From this point they should have gone farther. Clamped in rectangular
bundles, pushing the raging white water before their blunt noses, as
strange craft they should have been flashing at regular intervals down
the twisting, turning and plunging course of the flume. Arrived safely
at the bottom, the eight-and twelve-horse teams should have taken them
in charge, dragging them by the double wagon load to the waiting yards
of Marshall & Harding. Nothing of the sort was happening. Welton did not
dare go ahead with the water for fear of prejudicing his own case. The
lumber accumulated. And, as the mill's capacity was great and that of
the yards small, the accumulation soon threatened to become
Bob acted as Welton's lieutenant. As the older lumberman was at first
occupied in testing out his sawyers, and otherwise supervising the
finished product, Bob was necessarily much in the woods. This suited him
perfectly. Every morning at six he and the men tramped to the scene of
operations. There a dozen crews scattered to as many tasks. Far in the
van the fellers plied their implements. First of all they determined
which way a tree could be made to fall, estimating long and carefully on
the weight of limbs, the slant of the trunk, the slope of ground, all
the elements having to do with the centre of gravity. This having been
determined, the men next chopped notches of the right depth for the
insertion of short boards to afford footholds high enough to enable them
to nick the tree above the swell of the roots. Standing on these springy
and uncertain boards, they began their real work, swinging their axes
alternately, with untiring patience and incomparable accuracy. Slowly,
very slowly, the "nick" grew, a mouth gaping ever wider in the brown
tree. When it had gaped wide enough the men hopped down from their
springboards, laid aside their axes, and betook themselves to the saw.
And when, at last, the wedges inserted in the saw-crack started the
mighty top, the men calmly withdrew the long ribbon of steel and stood
to one side.
[Illustration: The men calmly withdrew the long ribbon of steel and
stood to one side]
After the dust had subsided, and the last reverberations of that mighty
crash had ceased to reecho through the forest, the fellers stepped
forward to examine their work. They took all things into consideration,
such as old wind shakes, new decay, twist of grain and location of the
limbs. Then they measured off the prostrate trunk into logs of twelve,
fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, or even twenty feet, according to the best
expediency. The division points between logs they notched plainly, and,
shouldering their axes and their sledge and their long, limber saw,
pocketing their wedges and their bottle of coal oil, they moved on to
where the next mighty pine had through all the centuries been awaiting
Now arrived on the scene the "swampers" and cross-cut men, swarming over
the prostrate tree like ants over a piece of sugar. Some of them cut off
limbs; others, with axes and crowbars, began to pry away great slabs of
bark; still others, with much precaution of shovel, wedge and axe
against jamming, commenced the slow and laborious undertaking of sawing
apart the logs.
But most interesting and complicated of all were the further processes
of handling the great logs after they had been peeled and sawed.
The ends of steel cables were dragged by a horse to the prostrate tree,
where they were made fast by means of chains and hooks. Then the puffing
and snorting donkey engine near the chute tightened the cable. The log
stirred, moved, plunged its great blunt nose forward, ploughing up the
soil. Small trees and bushes it overrode. But sooner or later it
collided head on, with a large tree, a stump, or a boulder. The cable
strained. Men shouted or waved their arms in signal. The donkey engine
ceased coughing. Then the horse pulled the end of the log free. Behind
it was left a deep trough, a half cylinder scooped from the soil.
At the chutes the logs were laid end to end, like a train of cars. A
more powerful cable, endless, running to the mill and back again, here
took up the burden. At a certain point it was broken by two great hooks.
One of these, the one in advance, the men imbedded in the rear log of
the train. The other was dragged behind. Away from the chutes ten feet
the returning cable snapped through rude pulleys. The train of logs
moved forward slowly and steadily, sliding on the greased ways.
On the knoll the donkey engine coughed and snorted as it heaved the
mighty timbers from the woods. The drag of the logs was sometimes
heavier than the engine, so it had to be anchored by other cables to
strong trees. Between these opposing forces--the inertia of the rooted
and the fallen--it leaped and trembled. At its throttle, underneath a
canopy knocked together of rough boards, the engineer stood, ready from
one instant to another to shut off, speed up, or slow down, according to
the demands of an ever-changing exigence. His was a nervous job, and he
earned his repose.
At the rear of the boiler a boy of eighteen toiled with an axe, chopping
into appropriate lengths the dead wood brought in for fuel. Next year it
would be possible to utilize old tops for this purpose, but now they
were too green. Another boy, in charge of a solemn mule, tramped
ceaselessly back and forth between the engine and a spring that had been
dug out down the hill in a ravine. Before the end of that summer they
had worn a trail so deep and hard and smooth that many seasons of snow
failed to obliterate it even from the soft earth. On either side the
mule were slung sacks of heavy canvas. At the spring the boy filled
these by means of a pail. Returned to the engine, he replenished the
boiler, draining the sacks from the bottom, cast a fleeting glance at
the water gauge of the donkey engine, and hastened back to the spring.
He had charge of three engines; and was busy.
And back along the line of the chutes were other men to fill out this
crew of many activities--old men to signal; young men to stand by with
slush brush, axe, or bar when things did not go well; axe-men with
teams laying accurately new chutes into new country yet untouched.
Bob found plenty to keep him busy. Post, the woods foreman, was a good
chute man. By long experience he had gained practical knowledge of the
problems and accidents of this kind of work. To get the logs out from
the beds in which they lay, across a rugged country, and into the mill
was an engineering proposition of some moment. It is easy to get into
difficulties from which hours of work will not extricate.
But a man involved closely in the practical management of a saw log may
conceivably possess scant leisure to correlate the scattered efforts of
such divergent activities. The cross cutters and swampers may get ahead
of the fellers and have to wait in idleness until the latter have
knocked down a tree. Or the donkey may fall silent from lack of logs to
haul; or the chute crews may smoke their pipes awaiting the donkey. Or,
worst and unpardonable disgrace of all, the mill may ran out of logs!
When that happens, the Old Fellow is usually pretty promptly on the
Now it is obvious that if somewhere on the works ten men are always
waiting--even though the same ten men are not thus idle over once a
week--the employer is paying for ten men too many. Bob found his best
activity lay in seeing that this did not happen. He rode everywhere
reviewing the work; and he kept it shaken together. Thus he made himself
very useful, he gained rapidly a working knowledge of this new kind of
logging, and, incidentally, he found his lines fallen in very pleasant
The forest never lost its marvel to him, but after he had to some extent
become accustomed to the immense trees, he began to notice the smaller
affairs of the woodland. The dogwoods and azaleas were beginning to come
out; the waxy, crimson snow plants were up; the tiny green meadows near
the heads of streams were enamelled with flowers; hundreds of species of
birds sang and flashed and scratched and crept and soared. The smaller
animals were everywhere. The sun at noon disengaged innumerable and
subtle tepid odours of pine and blossom.
One afternoon, a little less than a week subsequent to the beginning of
work, Bob, riding home through the woods by a detour around a hill, came
upon sheep. They were scattered all over the hill, cropping busily at
the snowbush, moving ever slowly forward. A constant murmur arose, a
murmur of a silent, quick, minute activity. Occasionally some mother
among them lifted her voice. Bob sat his horse looking silently on the
shifting grays. In ten seconds his sight blurred; he experienced a
slight giddiness as though the substantial ground were shifting beneath
him in masses, slowly, as in a dream. It gave him a curious feeling of
instability. By an effort he focused his eyes; but almost immediately he
caught himself growing fuzzy-minded again, exactly as though he had been
gazing absently for a considerable period at a very bright light. He
"I don't wonder sheep herders go dotty," said he aloud.
He looked about him, and for the first time became aware of a tow-headed
youth above him on the hill. The youth leaned on a staff, and at his
feet crouched two long-haired dogs. Bob turned his horse in that
When he had approached, he saw the boy to be about seventeen years old.
His hair was very light, as were his eyebrows and eyelashes. Only a
decided tinge of blue in his irises saved him from albinism. His lips
were thick and loose, his nose flat, his expression vacant. In contrast,
the two dogs, now seated on their haunches, their heads to one side,
their ears cocked up, their eyes bright, looked to be the more
"Good evening," said Bob.
The boy merely stared.
"You in charge of the sheep?" inquired the young man presently.
The boy grunted.
"Where are you camped?" persisted Bob.
"Where's your boss?"
A faint gleam came into the sheep-herder's eyes. He raised his arm and
pointed across through the woods.
Bob reined his horse in the direction indicated. As he passed the last
of the flock in that direction, he caught sight of another herder and
two more dogs. This seemed to be a bearded man of better appearance than
the boy; but he too leaned motionless on his long staff; he too gazed
unblinking on the nibbling, restless, changing, imbecile sheep.
As Bob looked, this man uttered a shrill, long-drawn whistle. Like
arrows from bows the two dogs darted away, their ears flat, their bodies
held low to the ground. The whistle was repeated by the youth.
Immediately his dogs also glided forward. The noise of quick, sharp
barkings was heard. At once the slow, shifting movement of the masses of
gray ceased. The sound of murmurous, deep-toned bells, of bleating, of
the movement of a multitude arose. The flock drew to a common centre; it
flowed slowly forward. Here and there the dark bodies of the dogs
darted, eager and intelligently busy. The two herders followed after,
leaning on their long staffs. Over the hill passed the flock. Slowly the
sounds of them merged into a murmur. It died. Only remained the fog of
dust drifting through the trees, caught up by every passing current of
air, light and impalpable as powder.
Bob continued on his way, but had not proceeded more than a few hundred
feet before he was overtaken by Lejeune.
"You're the man I was looking for," said Bob. "I see you got your sheep
in all right. Have any trouble?"
The sheepman's teeth flashed.
"Not'tall," he replied. "I snik in ver' easy up by Beeg Rock."
At the mill, Bob, while luxuriously splashing the ice cold water on his
face and throat, took time to call to Welton in the next room.
"Saw your sheep man," he proffered. "He got in all right, sheep and
Welton appeared in the doorway, mopping his round, red face with a
"Funny we haven't heard from Plant, then," said he. "That fat man must
be keeping track of Leejune's where-abouts, or he's easier than I
thought he was."
The week slipped by. Welton seemed to be completely immersed in the
business of cutting lumber. In due time Orde senior had replied by wire,
giving assurance that he would see to the matter of the crossing
"So _that's_ settled," quoth Welton. "You bet-you Jack Orde will make
the red tape fly. It'll take a couple of weeks, I suppose--time for
the mail to get there and back. Meantime, we'll get a cut ahead."
But at the end of ten days came a letter from the congressman.
"Don't know just what is the hitch," wrote Jack Orde. "It ought to be
the simplest matter in the world, and so I told Russell in the Land
Office to-day. They seem inclined to fall back on their technicalities,
which is all rot, of course. The man wants to be annoying for some
reason, but I'll take it higher at once. Have an appointment with the
Chief this afternoon...."
The next letter came by the following mail.
"This seems to be a bad mess. I can't understand it, nor get to the
bottom of it. On the face of the showing here we've just bulled ahead
without any regard whatever for law or regulations. Of course, I showed
your letter stating your agreement and talks with Plant, but the
department has his specific denial that you ever approached him. They
stand pat on that, and while they're very polite, they insist on a
detailed investigation. I'm going to see the Secretary this morning."
Close on the heels of this came a wire:
"Plant submits reports of alleged sheep trespass committed this spring
by your orders. Wire denial."
"My Lord!" said Welton, as he took this. "That's why we never heard from
that! Bobby, that was a fool move, certainly; but I couldn't turn
Leejune down after I'd agreed to graze him."
"How about these lumber contracts?" suggested Bob.
"We've got to straighten this matter out," said Welton soberly.
He returned a long telegram to Congressman Orde in Washington, and
himself interviewed Plant. He made no headway whatever with the fat man,
who refused to emerge beyond the hard technicalities of the situation.
Welton made a journey to White Oaks, where he interviewed the
Superintendent of the Forest Reserves. The latter proved to be a
well-meaning, kindly, white-whiskered gentleman, named Smith, who
listened sympathetically, agreed absolutely with the equities of the
situation, promised to attend to the matter, and expressed himself as
delighted always to have these things brought to his personal attention.
On reaching the street, however, Welton made a bee-line for the bank
through which he did most of his business.
"Mr. Lee," he asked the president, "I want you to be frank with me. I am
having certain dealings with the Forest Reserve, and I want to know how
much I can depend on this man Smith."
Lee crossed his white hands on his round stomach, and looked at Welton
over his eyeglasses.
"In what way?" he asked.
"I've had a little trouble with one of his subordinates. I've just been
around to state my case to Smith, and he agrees with my side of the
affair and promises to call down his man. Can I rely on him? Does he
mean what he says?"
"He means what he says," replied the bank president, slowly, "and you
can rely on him--until his subordinate gets a chance to talk to him."
"H'm," ruminated Welton. "Chinless, eh? I wondered why he wore long
As he walked up the street toward the hotel, where he would spend the
night before undertaking the long drive back, somebody hailed him. He
looked around to see a pair of beautiful driving horses, shying
playfully against each other, coming to a stop at the curb. Their
harness was the lightest that could be devised--no blinders, no
breeching, slender, well-oiled straps; the rig they drew shone and
twinkled with bright varnish, and seemed as delicate and light as
thistledown. On the narrow seat sat a young man of thirty, covered with
an old-fashioned linen duster, wearing the wide, gray felt hat of the
country. He was a keen-faced, brown young man, with snapping black eyes.
"Hullo, Welton," said he as he brought the team to a stand; "when did
you get out of the hills?"
"How are you, Mr. Harding?" Welton returned his greeting. "Just down for
"How are things going up your way?"
"First rate," replied Welton. "We're going ahead three bells and a
jingle. Started to saw last week."
"That's good," said Harding. "I haven't heard of one of your teams on
the road, and I began to wonder. We've got to begin deliveries on our
Los Angeles and San Pedro contracts by the first of August, and we're
depending on you."
"We'll be there," replied Welton with a laugh.
The young man laughed back.
"You'd better be, if you don't want us to come up and take your scalp,"
said he, gathering his reins.
"Guess I lay in some hair tonic so's to have a good one ready for you,"
returned Welton, as Harding nodded his farewell.
Matters stood thus dependent on the efforts of Jack Orde, at Washington,
when, one evening, Baker rode in to camp and dismounted before the low
verandah of the sleeping quarters. Welton and Bob sat, chair-tilted,
awaiting the supper gong.
"Thrice hail, noble chiefs!" cried Baker, cautiously stretching out
first one sturdy leg, then the other. "Against which post can I lean my
Baker was garbed to suit the role. His boots were very thick and very
tall, and most bristly with hobnails; they laced with belt laces through
forty-four calibre eyelets, and were strapped about the top with a broad
piece of leather and two glittering buckles. Furthermore, his trousers
were of khaki, his shirt of navy blue, his belt three inches broad, his
neckerchief of red, and his hat both wide and high.
In response to enthusiastic greetings, he struck a pose.
"How do you like it?" he inquired. "Isn't this the candy make-up for the
simple life--surveyor, hardy prospector, mountain climber, sturdy
pedestrian? Ain't I the real young cover design for the Out-of-door
He accepted their congratulations with a lofty wave.
"That's all right," said he; "but somebody take away this horse before I
bite him. I'm sore on that horse. Joke! Snicker!"
Bob delivered over the animal to the stableman who was approaching.
"Come up to see the tall buildings?" he quoted Baker himself.
"Not so," denied that young man. "My errand is philanthropic. I'm robin
redbreast. Leaves for yours."
"Pass that again," urged Bob; "I didn't get it."
"I hear you people have locked horns with Henry Plant," said Baker.
"Well, Plant's a little on the peck," amended Welton.
"Leaves for yours," repeated the self-constituted robin redbreast.
"Babes in the Woods!"
Beyond this he would vouchsafe nothing until after supper when, cigars
lighted, the three of them sprawled before the fireplace in quarters.
"Now," he began, "you fellows are up against it good and plenty. You
can't wish your lumber out, and that's the only feasible method unless
you get a permit. Why in blazes did you make this break, anyway?"
"What break?" asked Welton.
Baker looked at him and smiled slowly.
"You don't think I own a telephone line without knowing what little
birdies light on the wires, do you?"
"Does that damn operator leak?" inquired Welton placidly but with a
narrowing of the eyes.
"Not on your saccharine existence. If he did, he'd be out among the
scenery in two jumps. But I'm different. That's my _business_."
"Mighty poor business," put in Bob quietly.
Baker turned full toward him.
"Think so? You'll never get any cigars in the guessing contest unless
you can scare up better ones than that. Let's get back to cases. How did
you happen to make this break, anyway?"
"Why," explained Welton, "it was simply a case of build a road and a
flume down a worthless mountain-side. Back with us a man builds his road
where he needs it, and pays for the unavoidable damage. My head was full
of all sorts of details. I went and asked Plant about it, and he said
all right, go ahead. I supposed that settled it, and that he must
certainly have authority on his own job."
Baker nodded several times.
"Sure. I see the point. Just the same, he has you."
"For the time being," amended Welton. "Bob's father, here, is
congressman from our district in Michigan, and he'll fix the matter."
Baker turned his face to the ceiling, blew a cloud of smoke toward it,
and whistled. Then he looked down at Welton.
"I suppose you know the real difficulty?" he asked.
"One thousand dollars," replied Welton promptly--"to hire extra
fire-fighters to protect my timber," he added ironically.
"Well!" the lumberman slapped his knee. "I won't be held up in any such
"And your congressman will pull you out. Now let me drop a few pearls of
wisdom in the form of conundrums. Why does a fat man who can't ride a
horse hold a job as Forest Supervisor in a mountain country?"
"He's got a pull somewhere," replied Welton.
"Bright boy! Go to the head. Why does a fat man who is hated by every
mountain man, who grafts barefacedly, whose men are either loafers or
discouraged, _hold_ his job?"
Baker leaned forward, and his mocking face became grave.
"That pull comes from the fact that old Gay is his first cousin, and
that he seems to have some special drag with him."
"The Republican chairman!" cried Welton.
Baker leaned back.
"About how much chance do you think Mr. Orde has of getting a hearing?
Especially as all they have to do is to stand pat on the record. You'd
better buy your extra fire-fighters."
"That would be plain bribery," put in Bob from the bed.
"Fie, fie! Naughty!" chided Baker. "Bribery! to protect one's timber
against the ravages of the devouring element! Now look here," he resumed
his sober tone and more considered speech; "what else can you do?"
"Fight it," said Bob.
"Fight what? Prefer charges against Plant? That's been done a dozen
times. Such things never get beyond the clerks. There's a man in
Washington now who has direct evidence of some of the worst frauds and
biggest land steals ever perpetrated in the West. He's been there now
four months, and he hasn't even _succeeded in getting a hearing_ yet. I
tried bucking Plant, and it cost me first and last, in time, delay and
money, nearly fifty thousand dollars. I'm offering you that expensive
experience free, gratis, for nothing."
"Make a plain statement of the facts public," said Bob. "Publish them.
Arouse public sentiment."
Baker looked cynical.
"Such attacks are ascribed to soreheads," said he, "and public sentiment
_isn't interested_. The average citizen wonders what all the fuss is
about and why you don't get along with the officials, anyway, as long as
they are fairly reasonable." He turned to Welton: "How much more of a
delay can you stand without closing down?"
"How soon must your deliveries begin?"
"If you default this contract you can't meet your notes."
"Don't do the baby blue-eyes. You can't start a show like this without
borrowing. Furthermore, if you default this contract, you'll never get
another, even if you do weather the storm."
"That's true," said Welton.
"Furthermore," insisted Baker, "Marshall and Harding will be
considerably embarrassed to fill their contracts down below; and the
building operations will go bump for lack of material, if they fail to
make good. You can't stand or fall alone in this kind of a game."
Welton said nothing, but puffed strongly on his cigar.
"You're still doing the Sister Anne toward Washington," said Baker,
pleasantly. "This came over the 'phone. I wired Mr. Orde in your name,
asking what prospects there were for a speedy settlement. There's what
he says!" He flipped a piece of scratch paper over to Welton.
"Deadlock," read the latter slowly. "No immediate prospect. Will hasten
matters through regular channels. Signed, Orde."
"Mr. Orde is familiar with the whole situation?" asked Baker.
"Well, there's what he thinks about it even there. You'd better see to
that fire protection. It's going to be a dry year."
"What's all your interest in this, anyway?" asked Bob.
Baker did not answer, but looked inquiringly toward Welton.
"Our interests are obviously his," said Welton. "We're the only two
business propositions in this country. And if one of those two fail,
how's the other to scratch along?"
"Correct, as far as you go," said Baker, who had listened attentively.
"Now, I'm no tight wad, and I'll give you another, gratis. It's strictly
under your hats, though. If you fellows bust, how do you think I could
raise money to do business up here at all? It would hoodoo the country."
Silence fell on the three, while the fire leaped and fell and crackled.
Welton's face showed still a trace of stubbornness. Suddenly Baker
leaned forward, all his customary fresh spirits shining in his face.
"Don't like to take his na'ty medicine?" said he. "Well, now, I'll tell
you. I know Plant mighty well. He eats out of my hand. He just loves me
as a father. If I should go to him and say; 'Plant, my agile sylph,
these people are my friends. Give them their nice little permit and let
them run away and play,' why, he'd do it in a minute." Baker rolled his
eyes drolly at Welton. "Can this be the shadow of doubt! You disbelieve
my power?" He leaned forward and tapped Welton's knee. His voice became
grave: "I'll tell you what I'll do. _I'll bet you a thousand dollars I
can get your permit for you!"_
The two men looked steadily into each other's eyes.
At last Welton drew a deep sigh.
"I'll go you," said he.
Baker laughed gleefully.
"It's a cinch," said he. "Now, honest, don't you think so? Do you give
up? Will you give me a check now?"
"I'll give you a check, and you can hunt up a good stakeholder," said
Welton. "Shall I make it out to Plant?" he inquired sarcastically.
"Make the check out to me," said Baker. "I'll just let Plant hold the
stakes and decide the bet."
"Bring out the fiery, untamed steed!" he cried. "I must away!"
"Not to-night?" cried Bob in astonishment.
"Plant's in his upper camp," said Baker, "and it's only five miles by
trail. There's still a moon."
"But why this haste?"
"Well," said Baker, spreading his sturdy legs apart and surveying first
one and then the other. "To tell you the truth, our old friend Plant is
getting hostile about these prods from Washington, and he intimated he'd
better hear from me before midnight to-day."
"You've already seen him!" cried Bob.
But Baker merely grinned.
As he stood by his horse preparing to mount, he remarked casually.
"Just picked up a new man for my land business--name Oldham."
"Never heard of him," said Welton.
"He isn't the _Lucky Lands_ Oldham, is he?" asked Bob.
"Same chicken," replied Baker; then, as Bob laughed, "Think he's phoney?
Maybe he'll take watching--and maybe he won't. I'm a good little
watcher. But I do know he's got 'em all running up the street with their
hats in their hands when it comes to getting results."
Baker must have won his bet, for Welton never again saw his check for
one thousand dollars, until it was returned to him cancelled. Nor did
Baker himself return. He sent instead a note advising some one to go
over to Plant's headquarters. Accordingly Bob saddled his horse, and
followed the messenger back to the Supervisor's summer quarters.
After an hour and a half of pleasant riding through the great forest,
the trail dropped into a wagon road which soon led them to a fine, open
"Where does the road go to in the other direction?" Bob asked his guide.
"She 'jines onto your road up the mountain just by the top of the rise,"
replied the ranger.
"How did you get up here before we built that road?" inquired Bob.
"Rode," answered the man briefly.
"Pretty tough on Mr. Plant," Bob ventured.
The man made no reply, but spat carefully into the tarweed. Bob
chuckled to himself as the obvious humour of the situation came to him.
Plant was evidently finding the disputed right of way a great
The meadow stretched broad and fair to a distant fringe of aspens. On
either side lay the open forest of spruce and pines, spacious, without
undergrowth. Among the trees gleamed several new buildings and one or
two old and weather-beaten structures. The sounds of busy saws and
hammers rang down the forest aisles.
Bob found the Supervisor sprawled comfortably in a rude, homemade chair
watching the activities about him. To his surprise, he found there also
Oldham, the real-estate promoter from Los Angeles. Two men were nailing
shakes on a new shed. Two more were busily engaged in hewing and sawing,
from a cross-section of a huge sugar pine, a set of three steps. Plant
seemed to be greatly interested in this, as were still two other men
squatting on their heels close by. All wore the badges of the Forest
Reserves. Near at hand stood two more men holding their horses by the
bridle. As Bob ceased his interchange with Oldham, he overhead one of
"All right. Now what do you want us to do?"
"Get your names on the pay-roll and don't bother me," replied Plant.
Plant caught sight of Bob, and, to that young man's surprise, waved him
a jovial hand.
"'Bout time you called on the old man!" he roared. "Tie your horse to
the ground and come look at these steps. I bet there ain't another pair
like 'em in the mountains!"
Somewhat amused at this cordiality, Bob dismounted.
Plant mentioned names by way of introduction.
"Baker told me that you were with him, but not that you were on the
mountain," said Bob. "Better come over and see us."
"I'll try, but I'm rushed to get back," replied Oldham formally.
"How's the work coming on?" asked Plant. "When you going to start
fluming 'em down?"
"As soon as we can get our permit," replied Bob.
"Well, you did get in a hole there, didn't you? I guess you better go
ahead. It'll take all summer to get the permit, and you don't want to
lose a season, do you?"
Astonished at the effrontery of the man, Bob could with difficulty
control his expression.
"We expect to start to-morrow or next day," he replied. "Just as soon
as we can get our teams organized. Just scribble me a temporary permit,
will you?" He offered a fountain pen and a blank leaf of his notebook.
Plant hesitated, but finally wrote a few words.
"You won't need it," he assured Bob. "I'll pass the word. But there you
"Thanks," said Bob, folding away the paper. "You seem to be comfortably
Plant heaved his mighty body to its legs. His fat face beamed with
"My boy," he confided to Bob, laying a pudgy hand on the young man's
shoulder, "this is the best camp in the mountains--without any
He insisted on showing Bob around. Of course, the young fellow,
unaccustomed as yet to the difficulties of mountain transportation,
could not quite appreciate to the full extent the value in forethought
and labour of such things as glass windows, hanging lamps, enamelled
table service, open fireplaces, and all the thousand and one
conveniences--either improvised or transported mule-back--that Plant
displayed. Nevertheless he found the place most comfortable and
They caught a glimpse of skirts disappearing, but in spite of Plant's
roar of "Minnie!" the woman failed to appear.
"My niece," he explained.
In spite of himself, Bob found that he was beginning to like the fat
man. There could be no doubt that the Supervisor was a great rascal;
neither could there be any doubt but that his personality was most
attractive. He had a bull-like way of roaring out his jokes, his orders,
or his expostulations; a smashing, dry humour; and, above all, an
invariably confident and optimistic belief that everything was going
well and according to everyone's desires. His manner, too, was hearty,
his handclasp warm. He fairly radiated good-fellowship and good humour
as he rolled about. Bob's animosity thawed in spite of his half-amused
realization of what he ought to feel.
When the tour of inspection had brought them again to the grove where
the men were at work, they found two new arrivals.
These were evidently brothers, as their square-cut features proclaimed.
They squatted side by side on their heels. Two good horses with the
heavy saddles and coiled ropes of the stockmen looked patiently over
their shoulders. A mule, carrying a light pack, wandered at will in the
background. The men wore straight-brimmed, wide felt hats, short
jumpers, and overalls of blue denim, and cowboy boots armed with the
long, blunt spurs of the craft. Their faces were stubby with a week's
growth, but their blue eyes were wide apart and clear.
"Hullo, Pollock," greeted Plant, as he dropped, blowing, into his chair.
The men nodded briefly, never taking their steady gaze from Plant's
face. After a due and deliberate pause, the elder spoke.
"They's a thousand head of Wright's cattle been drove in on our ranges
this year," said he.
"I issued Wright permits for that number, Jim," replied Plant blandly.
"But that's plumb crowdin' of our cattle off'n the range," protested the
"No, it ain't," denied Plant. "That range will keep a thousand cattle