The Roping at Pasco's

by Ray Stannard Baker

... Little groups of people were drifting by to the grand stand. Here and there, from the corner of his eye, as he bent to adjust the saddle-cinches, Turk McGlory caught the glint of a white skirt or of a flowing ribbon. Sometimes the girls stopped to discuss the contestants; he heard them talking of Bud Oliver, and Mason, and Buster Graham. Suddenly, as he tightened a latigo strap, a saucy, smiling face looked up at him. Her sister was evidently trying to pull her away, but she said, half teasingly:

"I'm wearing your colors, Mr. Texas. You must win."

He saw nothing but deep black eyes, and he felt the blood in his face. He couldn't have spoken if he had known that it was to save his life, and he knew that he was smiling foolishly....

"We're betting on you, Bud Oliver," came other shouts. The Texas men were not over-popular in Arizona, and yet it was a sportsmanlike crowd.

The babel of voices ceased sharply. A wiry little steer, red and white, shot into the field as if catapulted. Turk McGlory observed how like an antelope it ran—long-legged and as easily as the wind blows. The flag fell, and Bud was off; the judges riding after him were blurred in his dust. There was no roper like Bud. He waited long before raising his rope, bending close to his saddle and riding hard; then in what curious, loose, slow coils he swung it! Would he ride clean over his steer? There! he had reached out as if to catch the steer by the tail, and the rope had gone over his head like a hoop, horns and all. Now he was paying out to trip up the steer. How they were running! Turk McGlory rose suddenly in his saddle.

"Look out for the fence," he roared.

But Bud had seen it, too, and the little roan squatted like a rabbit. The steer, reaching the rope's end, doubled up and fell—but fell against the fence. There had not been quite room enough. Bud was off saddle, and the little roan, knowing well what was going on, walked away like a man, pulling hard on the rope to keep the steer down. If it had been a larger steer or a fatter one, there would have been no trouble; but this one fought like a cat, now on its knees, now on its feet. Bud seized it by the tail, and with a single fierce toss he laid it flat, then he tied—and arms up. Turk McGlory waited with hands clenched to hear the time.

"Fifty seconds."

So Bud was beaten by a second, and beaten because he didn't have a fair field. How the crowd howled for the Arizona champion. Bud came up smiling and unconcerned.

"Now, McGlory," he said, "you must make a showing for Texas."

"What am I offered on Turk McGlory against the field?" shouted the pool-seller. "Now's your last chance."

"Hurrah for the kid from Texas!" shouted other voices.

Turk McGlory was at the line, astonished to find himself coiling his rope with so much ease. He felt that he wasn't doing it himself, but that some one else was working in him. The sun blazed hot on the field, but everything seemed dim and indistinct. To him all the voices kept shouting:

"Turk McGlory, Turk McGlory, Turk McGlory."

"Hurrah for Texas and the calico horse," came a shout from the grand stand.

"Wait till they see you run, Pinto," Turk said between his teeth, and the pinto stirred nervously under him.

"Ready," called Turk McGlory, though not in Turk McGlory's voice. He gave one glance behind him. The grand stand was a picture of a girl in blue and white; she was the picture, all the rest was frame.

There was a clatter at the pen, and the steer shot past him. Instantly he saw all its points—horns, legs, tail—and they spoke to him with the meaning of familiarity. So might the old knight have looked for the points of his adversary's armour. Now that he was off, Turk's head cleared to his work. The steer ran with hind feet swinging sideways, hog-like. He remembered a steer in the Lazy A outfit that had the same habit, and a bad one it was, too. How strange that he should think of such things at such a time! The steer was swerving swiftly to the left. The pinto, nose forward and dilating, instantly slackened pace, swerving in the same direction and cutting off distance. It was much to have a horse, pinto though he be, that knew his business. Turk's rope began to swing, but he was wholly unconscious of it. He seemed now to see only the legless body of a steer swimming on a billow of dust. The fence! He saw it with a throb, and he was yet too far off to throw. And there was the grand stand above it, the men rising, half in terror, and a color of women. The steer had swung almost round. It was a low rail fence, and between it and the grand stand lay the racing track. Dimly McGlory heard shouts of warning. Would the steer plunge into the stand? Dimly, too, glancing back, he saw the other cow-men charging after him to the rescue. There was a crash; the steer had gone through the fence as if it were pasteboard, and the pinto was now close behind. There was all too little room here in the track. The steer would evidently plunge full into the crowd. Turk McGlory's arm shot forward and the rope sped. The pinto sat sharply back, throwing McGlory well over the pommel. To those in the grand stand it seemed as if the steer, all horns and eyes, was plucked out of their faces. When they looked again, McGlory was tying, and the judges and the other punchers were swarming through the gap in the fence. Hands up; and the pinto easing away on the rope! It was all lost, McGlory felt. The fence had been in the way. Why couldn't they provide an open field, as in Texas? These Arizona men couldn't conduct a contest. The timer lifted his hand, and the shouting stopped.

"Thirty-six seconds," he announced.

"What a fool of a timer," thought Turk McGlory. "It can't be so."

Then he saw Bud Oliver stride up with outstretched hand, and a lump came in his throat.

"Good boy!" said Bud. "You've saved the day for Texas."

And then the crowd pounced on him and hooted and shouted, "McGlory! McGlory!" until he was dizzy with it all. It was not as he thought it would be. Two hundred dollars won! And he, Turk McGlory!

And then a saucy, flushed face looking up at him.

"I knew you would do it, Mr. Texas," she said.

And with that she pinned a blue and white ribbon on his vest, and he looked off over her head, and trembled.