The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico by Frank Gee Patchin
Chapter I. Something in the Wind
"What was that?"
"Only one of the boys in the seat behind us, snoring."
"Sure they're asleep?"
"Yes, but what if they're not? They are only kids. They wouldn't understand."
"Don't you be too sure about that. I've heard about those kids. Heard about 'em over in Nevada. There's four of them. They call themselves the Pony Rider Boys; and they're no tenderfeet, if all I hear is true. They have done some pretty lively stunts."
"Yes, that's all right, Bob, but we ain't going to begin by getting cold feet over a bunch of kids out for a holiday."
"Where they going?"
"Don't know. Presume they'll be taking a trip over the plains or heading for the mountains. They've got a stock car up ahead jammed full of stock and equipment."
"No. Good stock. Some of the slickest ponies you ever set eyes on. There's one roan there that I wouldn't mind owning. Maybe we can make a trade," and the speaker chuckled softly to himself.
A snore louder than those that had preceded it, caused the two men to laugh heartily.
The snore had come from Stacy Brown. Both he and Tad Butler were resting from their long journey on the Atlantic and Pacific train. Further to the rear of the car, their companions, Ned Rector and Walter Perkins, also were curled up in a double seat, with Professor Zepplin sitting very straight as if sleep were furthest from his thoughts. They were nearing their destination now, and within the hour would be unloading their stock and equipment at Bluewater.
"They're asleep all right," grinned one of the two men who occupied the seat just ahead of Stacy and Tad. "Is old man Marquand going to meet us at the station?"
"Oh, no. That wouldn't be a good thing. Might attract too much attention. Told him not to. We'll get a couple of ponies at Bluewater and ride across the mountains. But we've got to be slick. The old man is no fool. He'll hang on to the location of the treasure till the last old cat's gone to sleep for good."
"Any idea where the place is?"
"No. Except that it's somewhere south of the Zuni range."
A solitary eye in the seat behind, opened cautiously. The eye belonged to Stacy Brown. The last snore had awakened him, and he had lain with closed eyes listening to the conversation of the two men.
He gave Tad a gentle nudge, which was returned with a soft pressure on Stacy's right arm as a warning that he was to remain quiet.
"Do you know what the treasure consists of?"
"Maybe a mine, but as near as I could draw from Marquand's talk it is jewels and Spanish money which one of the old Franciscan monks had buried. The Pueblos knew where it was, but they sealed the place up after the Pueblo revolution in 1680, and it's been corked tight ever since."
"How'd Marquand get wise to it?"
"From an old Pueblo Chief whose life he saved a few months ago. The old chief died a little while afterwards, but before he went, he told Marquand about the treasure."
"Didn't suppose a redskin had so much gratitude under his tough skin. Does the old man know where the place is?"
"No, not exactly. That's where we come in," grinned the speaker. "We are going to help him find it."
"Oh, well. There's lots of ways to get rid of him."
"He might tumble off into a canyon, or something of the sort, in the night time. Here's the place."
The train was rounding a bend into the little town of Bluewater.
"Sit still," whispered Tad. "I want to get a look at those fellows so I'll know them next time I see them."
The Pony Rider boy left his seat, and hurrying to the forward end of the car, helped himself to a drink of water from the tank; then slowly retraced his steps.
As he walked down the car, he took in the two men in one swift, comprehensive glance, then swung his hands to his companions at the other end of the car, as a signal that they were arriving at their destination.
"Know 'em?" whispered Stacy as Tad began pulling his baggage from the rack.
"Never saw either before. Better get your stuff together. This train is fast only when it stops. It drags along over the country, but when it gets into a station it's always in a hurry to get away," laughed Tad.
A few minutes later the party of bronzed young men sprang from the car to the station platform, where they instantly became the center of a throng of curious villagers.
Readers of the preceding volumes of this series are already too well acquainted with the Pony Rider Boys to need a formal introduction. As told in "The Pony Rider Boys in the Rockies," the lads had set out from their homes in Missouri for a summer's vacation in the saddle. That first volume detailed how the lads penetrated the fastnesses of the Rockies, hunted big game and how they finally discovered the Lost Claim, which they won after fighting a battle with the mountaineers, thus earning for themselves quite a fortune.
In "The Pony Rider Boys in Texas," the boys were again seen to advantage. There they joined in a cattle drive across the state as cowboys. They played an exciting part in the rough life of the cowmen, meeting with many stirring adventures. It will be remembered how, in this story, Tad Butler saved a large part of the herd, besides performing numerous heroic deeds, including the saving of the life of a member of the party from a swollen river. At the end of their journey, they solved a deep mystery-- a mystery that had perplexed and worried the cattle men, besides causing them heavy financial loss.
In "The Pony Rider Boys in Montana," the scene shifted to the old Custer Trail, the battle ground of one of the most tragic events in American history. The story described how Tad Butler overheard a plot to stampede and kill a flock of many thousand sheep; how after experiencing many hardships, he finally carried the news to the owner of the herd; then later, participated in the battle between the cowmen and sheep herders, in which the latter emerged victorious.
It will be recalled too, how the Pony Rider Boy was captured by the Blackfeet Indians and taken to their mountain retreat, where with a young companion he was held until they made their escape with the assistance of an Indian maiden; how they were pursued by the savages, the bullets from whose rifles singing over the heads of the lads as they headed for a river into which they plunged, thus effectually throwing off the savage pursuers; and finally, how in time they made their way back to the camp of the Pony Riders, having solved the mystery of the old Custer Trail.
After these exciting adventures, the lads concluded to cut short their Montana trip and go on to the next stage of their journeyings, which was destined to be even more stirring than any that had preceded it. How Tad Butler and Stacy Brown proved themselves to be real heroes, was told in "The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks."
For a long time, an organized band of thieves had been stealing stock in the Ozark range, baffling all efforts to apprehend them. The boys had been warned to guard their own stock carefully, but despite this, their ponies were stolen from camp, one by one and in a most mysterious manner, until not an animal was left. Then, one by one, the Pony Rider Boys became lost until only Tad and Stacy remained. They were facing starvation, and it will be recalled how Tad Butler made a plucky trip to the nearest mining camp for assistance. There the boys were imprisoned underground by a mine explosion; escaping from which, they met with perils every bit as grave, and from which they were eventually rescued by Stacy himself.
Through the disaster, the lads solved the Secret of the Ruby Mountain, thus putting an end for good to the wholesale thieving in the Ozark range.
Though the Pony Rider Boys had suffered many hardships in their journeyings, those that lay before them were destined to try them even more. In "The Pony Rider Boys in the Alkali," they faced the perils of the baking alkali desert. It will be recalled how they fought desperately for water when all the usual sources of supply were found to have run dry; how Tad and Stacy Brown were captured by a desert hermit and thrown into a cave; how, after their escape, they were lost in the Desert Maze, and how after many hardships, they finally succeeded in making their way to camp, dragging behind them a wild coyote that Tad had roped when the boys were beset by the wild beasts in the dead of night.
Nothing daunted by their trying experiences the Pony Rider Boys set out on the concluding trip of the season-- a journey over the historic plains and mountains of New Mexico. After a long railroad ride, they had finally arrived at the town of Bluewater, from which they were to begin their explorations in the southwest.
A guide was to meet and conduct them across the mountains of the Zuni range and so on to the southern borders of the state.
By the time they reached the platform of the station, the stock car had been uncoupled and was being shifted to a side track where they might unload their belongings at their leisure.
"I wonder where that guide is," said Tad.
"He was told to be here," answered the Professor.
"Never mind; we can unload better without him," averred Ned, starting off at a brisk trot for their car which had been shunted alongside the platform at the rear of the station.
With joyous anticipation of the new scenes and experiences that lay before them, the lads set briskly to work, and within an hour had all the stock and equipment removed from the car.
There was quite an imposing collection, with their ponies, their burros, tents and other equipment, the latter lying strewn all over the open level space beyond the station.
"Looks as if a circus had just come to town," laughed Walter.
"We've got a side show, anyway," retorted Ned.
"What's our side show?"
"No; he's the clown. The rest of us are the animals, only we're not in cages."
"Hey, fellows, see that funny Mexican on the burro there," laughed Chunky. "Guess he never saw an outfit like ours before."
The lads could not repress a laugh as they glanced at the figure pointed out by Stacy.
The man was sitting on the burro, his feet extended on the ground before him, hands thrust deep into trousers pockets. He was observing the work of the boys curiously. The fellow's high, conical head was crowned by a peaked Mexican hat, much the worse for wear, while his coarse, black hair was combed straight down over a pair of small, piercing, dark eyes. The complexion, or such of it as was visible through the mask of wiry hair, was swarthy, his form thin and insignificant.
Stacy Brown strode over to him somewhat pompously.
"You speak English?" questioned the boy.
The Mexican's lips curled back, revealing two rows of gleaming, white teeth.
"I'm glad to hear it. I didn't think you could. We are looking for a guide who was to have met us here to conduct us over the mountains. His name is Juan. It'll be something else when he does show up. Do you know him?"
"Isn't he coming to meet us?"
"Well, I must say he's taking his time about getting here. Where is he?"
"Juan here, seņor."
"Here? I don't see him," answered the lad, looking about the place.
"Me Juan," grinned the Mexican. "You?"
"Never mind the seņor. I'll take for granted I'm a seņor, or whatever else you think. Say, fellows, come here," commanded Stacy.
"Well, what's the matter?" demanded Ned, approaching, followed by the other boys.
"This is it," announced Stacy, with a wave of his hand toward the Mexican.
"What is it?" sniffed Ned.
"Chunky, what are you getting at?" questioned Walter.
"Perhaps this gentleman will know where we may find our guide," interrupted the Professor, coming up. "Seņor, do you know one Juan--"
"Yes, he knows him," grinned Stacy. "He's very well acquainted with the gentleman."
"Then where may we find this Juan
"That's Juan-- that's your guide," Stacy informed the Professor.
"You-- are you the guide?"
The Professor opened his eyes in amazement. The burro, on the other hand, stood with nose to the ground sound asleep, oblivious to all that was taking place about him.
"Why didn't you make yourself known-- why haven't you helped us to unload?" demanded the Professor in an irritated tone.
"Me no peon. Me guide."
"He's a guide," explained Stacy. "Guides don't work, you know, Professor. They are just ornaments. He and the burro are going to pose for our amusement."
The boys laughed heartily. Professor Zepplin uttered an exclamation of impatience.
"Sir, if you are going with this outfit you will be expected to do your share of the labor. There are no drones in our hive."
"No; we all work," interposed Stacy.
"And some of us are eaters," added Ned.
Juan shrugged his shoulders and showed his pearly teeth.
At the Professor's command, however, Juan stepped off the burro without in the least disturbing that animal's dreams and lazily began collecting the baggage as directed by the Professor. After the equipment had been sorted into piles, the boys did it up into neat packs which they skillfully strapped to the backs of the burros of their pack train. Juan, lost in contemplation of their labors, forgot his own duties until reminded of them by Stacy, who gave the guide a violent poke in the ribs with his thumb.
Juan started; then, with a sheepish grin, became busy again.
It was no small task to get their belongings in packs preparatory to the journey; but late in the afternoon the boys had completed their task. They had had nothing to eat since early morning. But they were too anxious to be on their way to wait for dinner in town.
After making some necessary purchases in the village, the procession finally started away across the plain.
"You'll never get anywhere with that sleepy burro, Juan," decided the Professor, with a shake of the bead.
"Him go fast," grinned the Mexican.
"So can a crab on dry land," jeered Ned.
Just then the guide utter a series of shrill "yi-yi's," whereupon the lads were treated to an exhibition such as they never had seen before.
The sleepy burro projected his head straight out before him, while his tail, raised to a level with his back, stuck straight out behind him. The burro, seemingly imbued with sudden life, was off at a pace faster than a man could run.
It was most astonishing. The boys gazed in amazement; then burst out in a chorus of approving yells.
But it was the rider, even more than the burro, that excited their mirth. His long legs were working like those of a jumping jack, and though astride of the burro, Juan was walking at a lively pace. It reminded one of the way men propelled the old-fashioned velocipedes years before.
A cloud of dust rose behind the odd outfit as the party drew out on the plains. Their ponies were started at a gallop, which was necessary to enable them to keep up with the pace that Juan had set.
"Here! Here!" shouted the Professor.
Juan never looked back.
"We're leaving the pack train. Slow down!"
Laughingly the lads pulled their ponies down to a walk; then halted entirely to enable the burros to catch up with them. By this time the pack animals had become so familiar with their work that little attention was necessary on the part of the boys. Now and then one more sleepy than the rest would go to sleep and pause to doze a few minutes on the trail. This always necessitated all hands stopping to wait until the sleeper could be rounded up and driven up to the bunch.
Juan had disappeared. They were discussing the advisability of sending one of the boys out after him when he was seen returning. But at what a different gait! His burro was dragging itself along with close to the ground, while Juan himself was slouching on its back half asleep.
"You must have a motor inside that beast," grinned Tad.
"Him go some, seņor?"
"Him do," answered Stacy, his solemn eyes taking in the sleepy burro wonderingly.
"Better not waste your energy performing," advised the Professor. "We shall need what little you have. We will make camp here, as I see there is a spring near by. Help the boys unpack the burros."
"Si, seņor," answered the guide, standing erect and permitting his burro to walk from under him.
With shouts and songs the lads, in great good humor, went to work at once, pitching their camp for the first time on the plains of New Mexico. There was much to be done, and twilight was upon them before they had advanced far enough to begin cooking their evening meal.