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courage, but the implacable rapidity with which assault followed assault ended by shaking him into a sort of confusion. His horse snorted, pricking its ears backward and forward, dancing from side to side. The lightning seemed fairly to spring into being all about them, from the substance of the murk in which they rode.
“Isn’t this likely to hit us?” he yelled at California John.
“Liable to,” came back the old man’s reply across the roar of the tempest.
Bob looked about him uneasily. The ranger bent his head to the wind. Star, walking more rapidly, outpaced Bob’s horse, until they were nike air max 1 black proceeding single file some ten feet apart.
Suddenly the earth seemed to explode directly ahead. A blinding flare swept the ground, a hissing crackle was drowned in an overwhelming roar of thunder. Bob dodged, and his horse whirled. When he had mastered both his animal and himself he spurred back. California John had reined in his mount. Not twenty feet ahead of him the bolt had struck. California John glanced quizzically over his shoulder at the sky.
“Old Man,” he remarked, “you’ll have to lower your sights a little, if you want to git me.”
Part 3 Chapter 14
At Christmas Bob took a brief trip East, returning to California about the middle of January. The remainder of the winter was spent in outside business, and in preparatory arrangements for the next season’s work. The last of April he returned to the lower mountains.
nike air max 1 leopard He found Sycamore Flats in a fever of excitement over the cattle question. After lighting his post-prandial pipe he sauntered down to chat with Martin, the lank and leisurely keeper of the livery, proprietor of the general store, and clearing house of both information and gossip.
“It looks like this,” Martin answered Bob’s question. “You remember P nike air max 1 ebay lant sent back old California John to make a report on the grazing. John reported her over-stocked, of course; nobody could have done different. Plant kind of promised to fix things up; and the word got around pretty definite that the outside stock would be reduced.”
“Wasn’t it?”
“Not so you’d notice. When the permits was published for this summer, they read good for the same old number.”
“Then Wright’s cattle will be in again this year.”
“That’s the worst of it; they _are_ in. Shelby brought up a thousand head a week ago, and was going to push them right in over the snow. The feed’s _just_ starting on the low meadows in back, and it hasn’t woke up a mite in the higher meadows. You throw cattle in on that mushy, soft ground and new feed, and they tromp down and destr air max 1 oy more’n they eat. No mountain cattleman goes in till the feed’s well started, never.”
“But what does Shelby do it for, then?”
Martin spat accurately at a knothole.
“Oh, he don’t care. Those big men don’t give a damn what kind of shape cattle is in, as long as they stay alive. Same with humans; only they ain’t so particular about the staying alive part.”
“Couldn’t anything be done to stop them?”
“Plant could keep them out, but he won’t. Jim and George Pollock, and Tom Carroll and some of the other boys put up such a kick, though, th nike air max 1 grey at they saw a great light. They ain’t going in for a couple of weeks more.”
“That’s all right, then,” said Bob heartily.
“Is it?” asked Martin.
“Isn’t it?” inquired Bob.
“Well, s nike air max 1 ome says not. Of course they couldn’t be expected to drive all those cattle back to the plains, so they’re just naturally spraddled out grazing over this lower country.”
“Why, what becomes of the winter feed?” cried Bob aghast, well aware that in these lower altitudes the season’s growth was nearly finished and the ripening about to begin.
“That’s just it,” said Martin; “where, oh, where?”
“Can’t anything be done?” repeated Bob, with some show of indignation.
“What? This is all government land. The mountain boys ain’t got any real exclusive rights there. It’s public property. The regulations a cheap air max 1 re pretty clear about preference being given to the small owner, and the local man; but that’s up to Plant.”
“It’ll come pretty hard on some of the boys, if they keep on eating off their winter feed and their summer feed too,” hazarded Bob.
“It’ll drive ’em out of business,” said Martin. “It’ll do more; it’ll close out settlement in this country. There ain’t noth nike air max 1 sale ing doing _but_ cattle, and if the small cattle business is closed up, the permanent settlement closes up too. There’s only lumber and power and such left; and they don’t mean settlement. That’s what the Government is supposed to look out for.”
“Government!” said Bob with contempt.
“Well, now, there’s a few good ones, even at that,” stated Martin argumentively. “There’s old John, and Ross Fletcher, and one or two more that are on the square. It may be these little grafters have got theirs coming yet. Now and then an inspector comes along. He looks over the books old Hen Plant or the next fellow has fixed up; asks a few questions about trails and such; writes out a nice little recommend on his pocket typewriter, and moves cheap nike air max 1 on. And if there’s a roar from some of these little fellows, why it gets lost. Some clerk nails it, and sends it to Mr. Inspector with a blue question mark on it; and Mr. Inspector passes it on to Mr. Supervisor for explanation; and Mr. Supervisor’s strong holt is explanations. There you are! But it only needs one inspector _who inspects_ to knock over the whole apple-cart. Once get by your clerk to your chief, and you got it.”
Whether Martin made this prediction in a spirit of hope and a full knowledge, or whether his shot in the air merely chanced to hit the mark, it would be impossible to say. As a matter of fact w nike air max 1 premium ithin the month appeared Ashley Thorne, an inspector who inspected.
By this time all the cattle, both of the plainsmen and the mountaineers, had gone back. The mill had commenced its season’s operations. After the routine of work had been well established, Bob had descended to attend to certain grading of the lumber for a special sale of uppers. Thus he found himself on the scene.
Ashley Thorne was driven in. He a rrived late in the afternoon. Plant with his coat on, and a jovial expression illuminating his fat face, held out both hands in greeting as the vehicle came to a stop by Martin’s barn. The Inspector leaped quickly to the ground. He was seen to be a man between thirty and forty, compactly built, alert in movement. He had a square face, aggressive gray eyes, and wore a small moustache clipped at the line of the lips.
“Hullo! Hullo!” roared Plant in his biggest voice. “So here we are, hey! Kind of dry, hot travel, but we’ve got the remedy for that.”
“How are you?” said Thorne crisply; “are you Mr. Plant? Glad to meet you.”
“Leave your truck,” said Plant. “I’ll send some one after it. Come right along with me.”
“Thanks,” said Thorne, “but I think I’ll take a wash and clean up a bit, first.”
“That’s all right,” urged Plant. “We nike air max 1 red can fix you up.”
“Where is the hotel?” asked Thorne.
“Hotel!” cried Plant, “ain’t you going to stay with me?”
“It is kind of you, and I appreciate it,” said Thorne briefly, “but I never mix official business with social pleasure. This is an invariable rule and has no personal application, of course. After my official work is done and my report written, I shall be happy to avail myself of your hospitality.”
“Just as you say, of course,” said Plant, quite good-humouredly. To him this was an extraordinarily shrewd, grand-stand play; and he approved of it.
“I shall go to your office at nine to-morrow,” Thorne advised him. “Please have your records ready.”
“Always ready,” said Plant.
Thorne was assigned a room at Auntie Belle’s, washed away the dust of travel, and appeared promptly at table when the bell rang. He wore an ordinar nike air max 1 sale y business suit, a flannel shirt with white collar, and hung on the nail a wide felt hat. Nevertheless his general air was of an out-of-door man, competent and skilled in the open. His manner was self-contained and a trifle reserved, although

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