Harold Bindloss.

The Boy Ranchers of Puget Sound



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"No," replied Mr. Oliver after a moment's reflection. "It might be wiser to let him see the worst of it. If he stands a week's logging there's no doubt that he'll do." He paused a moment and looked down at Frank again. "I don't think he'll back down on it. He's very much like his father, as I remember him a good many years ago."

Then he laid his hand on Frank's shoulder.

"Get up, boy. Supper's ready."

CHAPTER IV
TARGET PRACTICE

The two boys spent most of the following week rolling logs and they were busy among them one hot afternoon when Mr. Oliver walked out of the bush nearby. As they did not immediately see him, he stopped and stood watching them in the shadow for a few minutes. Frank was feeling more cheerful by this time, though his hands were still very sore and, as a good many of the logs were burned on the outside, he was more or less blackened all over. He was getting used to the work, and Jake, who had arrived with the sloop in the meanwhile, relieved him and his companion of the heaviest part of it. Turning around presently at a sound, Frank saw Mr. Oliver smiling at him.

"If I were as grimy as you I think I'd go in for a swim," he said. "It's hot enough, and there's a nice beach not far away. I dare say Harry will go along with you while Jake and I put up these logs."

Harry lost no time in throwing down his handspike, and they set out together down a narrow trail through the woods, which led them out by and by upon a head above the cove in which the sloop lay moored. Standing on the edge of the crag, Frank looked down upon the clear, green water which lapped smooth as oil upon a belt of milk-white shingle and broke into little wisps of foam beneath the gray rocks at the mouth of the cove. Beyond this the sea flashed silver in the sunlight like a great mirror, except where a faint, fitful breeze traced dark blue streaks across it. Dim smudges of islands and headlands broke the gleaming surface here and there, and high above it all was a cold white gleam of eternal snow.

In a few minutes they had scrambled down a winding path, and Frank, stripping off his clothes, waded into the water abreast of the sloop which lay swinging gently about a dozen yards from the beach.

"Can you swim off to her?" shouted Harry.

Frank said that he thought he could, and set about it with a jerky breast stroke, for he was not very proficient in the art. The water was decidedly cold and he was glad when he reached the sloop. Clutching her rail where it was lowest amidships he endeavored to pull himself out. To his disgust he found that his feet would shoot forward under the bottom of her, with the result that he sank back to the neck after each effort. When he had made two or three attempts he heard a shout:

"Hold on! You'll never do it that way."

Harry shot toward him, his limbs gleaming curiously white through the shining green water, though his face and neck showed a coffee-brown, as did his lower arms, which he swung out above his head, rolling from side to side at every stroke.

He grasped Frank's shoulder and pushed him toward the stern of the sloop.

"Now," he said when he clutched it, "there are just two ways of getting out of the water into a boat. If she has a flat stern you make for there and get your hands on the top of it spread a little apart. Then you heave yourself up by a handspring – though that isn't very easy."

Frank smiled at these instructions, but said nothing. It was easy for him, because he had learned the trick in a gymnasium. Suddenly jerking down his elbows, which ever since he had grasped the stern were as high as his head, he shot his body up until his hands were down at his hips. Then, as his waist was level with the sloop's transom, he quietly crawled on board. Harry, however, had to make two or three attempts before he succeeded, and then he looked at his companion with undisguised astonishment.

"I've never done it right away yet," he said admiringly. "Say, do you know how to dive?"

"No," replied Frank; "that is, I've scarcely tried."

Harry led him forward where the boat's sheer was higher and he could stand a couple of feet or so above the water.

"You only get half the fun out of swimming unless you can dive," he said. "Let's see what kind of a show you make."

Frank stiffened himself and jumped. At least, that was what he meant to do, but as it happened, he merely threw himself flat upon the water, and the result was rather disconcerting. He felt as though all the breath had been knocked out of him, and in addition to this all the front of his body was smarting. He was about to swim toward the stern again when Harry stopped him.

"Hold on!" he called. "You may as well learn the other way of getting out, and if she's a sailing craft with a bowsprit it's much the easiest one. Swim forward to the bow."

Frank did so and saw that a wire ran from the end of the bowsprit, dipping a little below the water where it was attached to the boat. He had no difficulty in getting his foot upon it, and after that it was a simple matter to crawl on board. His chest and limbs were still smarting and were very red when he joined Harry. The latter regarded him with a look of amusement.

"You'll get hurt every time, if you dive like that," he said. "Look here," and he stood up on the boat's deck. "You want to get your weight on the fore part of your feet all ready to shove off before you go. Then you must shoot as far forward as you can – falling on it won't do – and hollow your back and stiffen yourself once you're under. That is, when you want to skim along just below the surface. Watch me."

Leaning forward a little he sprang out from the boat, a lithe, tense figure, with hands flung straight forward over his head. They struck the water first, and he went in with an impetus which swept him along scarcely a foot beneath the top. Then his speed slowly slackened and he had stopped altogether about a length of the boat away when he raised his head and swam back to her.

"You don't want to try that in less than four feet until you're sure you can do it right," he said when he had climbed on board. "The other kind of diving's different." Then, taking up a galvanized pin, he threw it in. "See whether you can fetch it. There's about eight or nine feet of water here. You can open your eyes as soon as your head's in, and you won't have any trouble in coming up again. Jump, and throw your legs straight up as you go."

Frank managed this time not to drop in a heap as he had done before. He also opened his eyes under water for the first time and found it perfectly easy to see. It was like looking through green glass. He could make out the pin lying a long way down beneath him. It was, however, impossible to reach it. The water seemed determined on forcing him back to the top, and when he abandoned the struggle to get down he seemed to reach the surface with a bound.

"How far did I go?" he gasped.

"About six feet. It's quite as far as I expected."

Harry plunged, and Frank, who had climbed out in the meanwhile, saw him striking upward with his feet until he turned and came up with a rush, holding the pin in one hand. Flinging it on board he headed for the beach and was standing on the shingle rubbing himself with his hands when Frank joined him.

"I guess you had two towels when you went swimming back East?" he laughed.

Frank looked up inquiringly, acknowledging that he usually had taken one.

"Well," said Harry, "we have them at the homestead, but there are ranches in this country where you wouldn't get even one."

"No towels!" exclaimed Frank in some astonishment. "What do they use instead?"

"Some of them cut a very little bit off of a cotton flour bag. Those bags are valuable because they keep them to mend their shirts with. I've a notion that the other fellows sit in the sun."

Frank laughed and scrambled into his clothes after rubbing himself with his hands. He was commencing to realize that whether Harry was joking with him or not it was unavoidable that they should have different ways in different parts of so big a country. Indeed, now that he was some four thousand miles from Boston, he felt that instead of its being curious that the people were slightly different it was wonderful that they were so much the same. If one measured four thousand miles across Europe and Asia one would get Frenchmen at the one end and wild Cossacks or nomad Tartars at the other, with perhaps a score of wholly different nations, speaking different languages, between.

They had an excellent appetite for supper when they went back to the ranch, and after the meal was over, Mr. Oliver took down a rifle from the wall.

"You can bring yours along, Harry," he said, and then turned to Frank. "In a general way, a rancher doesn't get much time for hunting, and he seldom goes out for the fun of the thing, but an odd deer or grouse comes in handy now and then. Anyway, before you can hunt at all you must learn to shoot and you may as well begin."

"Dad's a pot-hunter," chuckled Harry. "At least, that's what the two smart sports we had round here last fall said he was."

A gleam of amusement crept into his aunt's eyes, but Mr. Oliver's face contracted into a slight frown.

"Harry knows my views, but you had better hear them, too," he said to Frank. "I'm certainly what those fellows called a pot-hunter, though they very foolishly seemed to think that one ought to be ashamed of it. Most of the ranchers in this district take down the rifle only when they want something to eat, and that's the best excuse there is for shooting. Is it a desirable thing to destroy a dozen harmless beasts for the mere pleasure of killing, and leave them in the bush for the wolves and eagles?"

"Don't the game laws prevent that, sir?" Frank asked.

"They limit a man to so many head of this and that, and in a general way he brings no more out with him, but it doesn't by any means follow that he hasn't killed a bear or a deer that he doesn't mention in some lonely ravine. The sport who hasn't a conscience is as big a pest in a game country as the horn and hide hunter used to be, and we have to thank him for practically exterminating several of the finest beasts in North America."

"Wouldn't the clearing of virgin country and the way the farms and ranches spring up account for it?"

"Only to some extent. It's my opinion that there are more deer and bears about the smaller ranches than you could find anywhere else. All this is no reason why you shouldn't learn to shoot; that is, to hit your game just where you want to and kill it there and then."

He walked out with his rifle and the boys followed him across the clearing. Here Harry fixed a piece of white paper about two feet square with a black dab in the middle of it on the trunk of a big fir, after which he came back to where the others were standing.

"How far do you make it?" his father asked.

"About a hundred yards."

Mr. Oliver now turned to Frank.

"As I think you told me you couldn't shoot, I'll give you a short lecture on the principles of the thing. When they're after birds most men use a scatter gun. It will spread an ounce of shot – several hundred pellets – over a six-foot circle at a distance of about forty yards; but the rifle is the great weapon of western America. Take this one and open the breach – now look up the barrel."

"I can see little grooves twisting round it like a screw," said Frank.

"That's the rifling. It serves two purposes. The bullet – you use only one – has to screw round and round to get out, and that gives the explosion time to act upon it. It increases the muzzle velocity. Then it gives the bullet a rotary motion, and anything spinning on its axis travels very much straighter than it would do otherwise. It's the twisting motion that keeps a top from falling over."

Frank could readily understand this, and he remembered what he had read about the gyroscope.

"Now," continued Mr. Oliver, "we have to consider the pull of the earth upon the bullet, which would bring it down, and to counteract this you have to direct it rather upward. The slight curve it makes before it reaches its mark is called the trajectory, and it naturally varies with the distance. You arrange it by the sights. There are two of them, one on the muzzle and one near the breach. The last one slides up and down like this. The farther off the mark is the higher it must go. As you have to get them both in line, it's evident that pushing the back one up will raise the muzzle. You can understand that?"

Frank said that he could, and Mr. Oliver pushed the rearsight down and snapped a lever.

"It's cocked, though it hasn't a shell in it. At a hundred yards or less the sight goes down about the limit." He handed Frank the rifle. "Stand straight, left foot a little to the left and forward – that will do. Now bring the rifle to your shoulder – left hand under the barrel near the rearsight, elbow well down, right hand round the small of the butt, thumb on the top. Try to hold it steady."

Frank found it difficult. The rifle was heavy and the muzzle seemed to want to drop, but Mr. Oliver stopped him when he let his left elbow fall in toward his side.

"Bring it down and wait a moment before you throw it up again," he advised.

Frank did so once or twice, and at length his instructor seemed satisfied.

"Now we'll aim," he said. "Drop your left cheek on the stock – you'd better shut your left eye. Try to see the target through the hollow of the rearsight, with the front one right in the middle of it."

It seemed singularly difficult. The square of paper now looked exceedingly small and the sights would wobble across it. After several attempts, however, Frank got them comparatively steady.

"Put your forefinger on the trigger," Mr. Oliver directed. "Don't pull, but squeeze it slowly and steadily, holding your breath in the meanwhile."

This was worst of all, for Frank found that he pulled the sight off the target when he tightened his forefinger. After he had made an attempt or two, Mr. Oliver told him to put the rifle down.

"See what you can do, Harry," he said.

"Standing?"

"Yes," said Mr. Oliver, turning to Frank again. "Standing's hardest, kneeling easier, and lying down easiest of all, but when you're hunting in thick bush you generally have to stand."

Harry slipped a shell into his rifle, and pitched it to his shoulder. It wobbled for a moment and then grew still. After that there was a spitting of red sparks from the muzzle, which suddenly jerked, followed by a sharp detonation. A second or two later there was a thud, and Harry laughed as he stood gazing at the mark while a little blue smoke curled out of the muzzle and the opened breach.

"It's well up on the left top corner," he said.

Frank was blankly astonished. He could certainly see the square of paper, but it seemed impossible that anybody could tell whether there was a mark on it. As a matter of fact, very few people who had not been taught how to use their eyes could have done so.

Then Mr. Oliver took up his rifle, and Frank noticed that his whole body and limbs seemed to fall into the best position for holding it steady without any visible effort on the man's part. The blue barrel did not seem to move at all until at length it jerked, and Harry grinned exultantly at Frank when a thin streak of smoke drifted past them.

"That's the pot-hunter's way. He's about two inches off the center."

Mr. Oliver gave Frank the rifle, and this time he slipped in a shell.

"If you can't get the sights right bring it down," he directed. "Don't dwell too long on your aim."

Frank held his breath and stiffened his muscles, but the foresight would wobble and the target seemed to dance up and down in a most exasperating manner. At length he pressed the trigger. He felt a sharp jar upon his shoulder, but to his astonishment he heard no report. After what seemed quite a long time there was a faint thud in the forest.

"You've got something, but I guess it's the wrong tree," laughed Harry.

After that Frank tried several shots, finally succeeding in hitting the tree a couple of feet above the mark. Mr. Oliver, who had taken out his pipe in the meanwhile, nodded at him encouragingly.

"You only need to practice steadily," he said. "For the rest, anything that tends toward a healthy life will make you shoot well. Whisky and tobacco most certainly won't."

Harry's eyes twinkled as he glanced at his father's pipe.

"One of them hasn't much effect on him. I don't know whether I told you about the bag the two sports who were round here last fall nearly made. I got the tale from Webster on the next ranch."

Frank said that he would like to hear it, and Harry laughed.

"Well," he began, "Webster was sitting on a log in the bush just outside his slashing, looking around kind of sorrowful at the trees. It seemed to him they looked so big and nice it would be a pity to spoil them. When I've been chopping until my hands are sore I sometimes feel like that."

"It doesn't lead to riches," interrupted his father dryly.

"By and by," Harry continued, "Webster heard a smashing in the underbrush. It kept coming nearer, but it wasn't in the least like the sound a bear makes or a jumping deer. You don't know they're around unless they're badly scared. Anyway, Webster sat still wondering what it could be, until he saw a man crawling on the ground. He was coming along very cautiously, but you couldn't have heard him more than half a mile away. By and by he disappeared behind a big tree, and as there hadn't been a deer about for a week Webster wondered if the man was mad, until there was a blaze of repeater firing in the bush. Then Fremont, his logging ox, came out of it like a locomotive and headed for the range so fast that Webster couldn't see how he went. He grabbed his logging handspike, and found a sport abusing another for missing in the bush.

"'What in the name of wonder are you after?' he asked.

"'We've been trailing a deer two hours,' one of them declared. 'A mighty big deer. Must have been an elk.'

"'An elk, sure. I saw it,' added the other.

"'There isn't a blamed elk in the country,' said Webster.

"'You'll see,' persisted the other. 'I tell you I pumped the cylinder full into him.'

"'Quite sure of that?' Webster asked.

"The other man said that he was, and Webster waved his handspike.

"'Then it's going to cost you sixty dollars, and I'll take a deposit now,' he said. 'It's my ox Fremont you've been after.'"

"Did they give it to him?" Frank broke in.

"Five dollars," Harry answered. "Webster looked big and savage, and they compromised on that."

"But had they hit the ox?"

Harry chuckled. "Give a man who isn't a hunter a repeater and he'll never hit anything – unless it's what he isn't shooting at."

"Anyway, it's better to stick to the single shot at first," Mr. Oliver remarked. "Then you take time and care, and it's more likely that when you shoot you kill. No humane person has any use for the man who leaves badly wounded beasts wandering about the woods."

He rose, and shook out his pipe.

"We'll be getting back," he added. "There's only one way of making it easy to rise at sun-up."

They walked toward the house together, and it seemed to Frank that there was a good deal to be said for this rancher's views. He did not tell tall stories and boast of what he had shot, but Frank had seen enough to realize that it was most unlikely that he left any sorely wounded animal to die in misery. It was not often that Mr. Oliver molested the beautiful wild creatures of the woods, but when he fixed the sights on one of them he killed it clean.

CHAPTER V
THE MYSTERIOUS SCHOONER

Three or four weeks slipped by uneventfully, and Frank was commencing to like the simple, laborious life at the ranch. He and Harry were standing together one evening on the shingle down in the cove. It was close upon high water and a long swell worked in, breaking noisily upon the pebbles, while they could see the blue undulations burst into snowy froth about the dark rocks at the entrance. The sun had just dipped; it was wonderfully fresh and cool, and a sweet resinous smell drifted out of the forest behind them.

Harry glanced at a canoe which lay close by. It was about fourteen feet long and just wide enough to sit in, and had been hollowed out of a cedar log by a Siwash Indian. The bow, which swept sharply upward, had been rudely cut into the likeness of a bird's head. The craft was kept there so that anybody who wished to reach the sloop could go off in her.

"I don't think it's quite high water yet, and the breeze is dropping," Harry was saying. "There's just enough to take us a mile or two down the beach over the tide with the spritsail set. Then we could lower the mast and paddle home."

"Wouldn't she sail back?" Ray asked.

"No," was the answer, "only with a fair wind. You can't beat a thing like that to windward. There's not enough of her in the water."

Frank said that he would like to go, and after running the canoe down they lifted the short mast into place and set the little sail. It filled when a few strokes of the paddle had driven them out of the cove, and they slid away, rising and falling smoothly, with the swell running after them. Harry took hold of the rope that held the foot of the sail fast to a peg.



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