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ed 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! Nike Outlet ” he wheezed. “Glad to see you.”
“They tell me there’s a fire over in the Stone Creek country,” said Welton.
“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 fight?”
“Haven’t got ’em,” replied Plant briefly.
“There’s three playing poker now, down in the first saloon,” broke in Bob.
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 caug cheap nike air max ht 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 Supervisor formally.
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 significantly.
“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 matt nike air max 90 ers 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 course.”
“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. “Goodnight.”
Plant rumbled something. The two went out, leaving the fat man chewing his cigar and scow nike air max 95 ling 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 Bob.
“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 hi nike air max 1 m, 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 duty.”
Welton chuckled.
“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 hou rs 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 moon.
“There,” said the lumberman with satisfaction. “That isn’t going to cost much, and we’ll feel safe. Now let’s turn in.”
Part 3 Chapter 3
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 e cheap nike air max astern 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 hund nike air max red 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 nike air max classic 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 a cheap nike air max trainers nd 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 nike air max 90 sale 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 spreadin nike outlet store g, 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 g nike air max sale limpses 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 Welton.
“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 it.
The buckboard stood at the head of a long, gentle slope descending, perhaps fifty feet, to a plateau; w Nike Outlet UK hich, 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.

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