Steve Mason and his partner Shorty Smith, were in the corral on their Little Bar 4 spread which they had bought the month before. They were trying out some horses they had bought from the T Bar M, a big outfit ten miles west of the Bar 4. It had once run stock on what was now the Bar 4 and the partners suspected them of wanting it again.
All the horses were broke as they were supposed to be. At least, until they came to a beautiful, big blaze-faced sorrel. He was long legged and well muscled, with a beautiful intelligent looking head held high. He showed some signs of speed and endurance. Anyone could see that if he was broken right he would be a top saddle horse. Each one had picked his own string of saddle horses as they were tried out. They took turns choosing. The sorrel fell to Shorty. He roped him and didn't have to snub him to saddle him, he just trotted up like he had been ridden every day.
"Reckon I got the best hoss in the whole string right here. Look at those muscles, legs, and feet" said Shorty as he saddled him.
Steve said, "Wait til you've rode him before you start braggin!" although he did think Shorty was right.
Shorty finished saddling the sorrel and swung to the saddle lightly. He hardly hit the saddle when the horse seemed to explode. He went off the ground with all four feet and bucked high in the air. Every time the sorrel jumped, Shorty grunted. The horse came down and went up again and again and again. Every time he hit the ground, there was a jar that shook Shorty's whole body so he thought he would fall apart. Then in one of these lunges he lost a stirrup. Then he went whirling through space high in the air and when he hit the ground he saw the sorrel above him, its sharp hooves flying and its mouth wide open ready to trample him to death. But Steve dashed up on his horse and caught the sorrel by the hackamore rope and wheeled him around before his hooves could plow into Shorty's flesh.
Shorty got up from the ground and climbed up the fence in a moment while Steve was holding the rearing, plunging, and squealing sorrel. Shorty sat on the top rail of the fence. His nose began to bleed from the jolting he had got and he pulled his soiled red handkerchief from his pocket and began to apply it to his nose. Steve coaxed him to try again.
Shorty said, "No! That hoss is a killer! No man can ride him. Turn him loose, sell him, shoot him, get rid of him some way, afore he kills somebody!"
Steve saw that he couldn't persuade Shorty to try to ride him again. So he decided to ride him. He put his own saddle on him. Then he swung lightly to the saddle and the sorrel sprung high in the air bucking furiously. He bucked harder now than he had with Shorty, because hadn't he just thrown one man? Wasn't he master of men? But Steve rode him and kept cropping him with his quirt. Steve thought he would have to make the horse think he was riding him easily and was punishing him for bucking.
Then Steve hardly knew what was going on. All he could feel was that jarring, jolting demon under him. Then suddenly, he heard Shorty yell.
"Look out! He's throwing himself back!"
But Steve was out of the saddle before he struck the ground and was back in it and up with the horse. Then he began to regain his senses and felt the bucks grow easier. He became conscious that the horse was no longer bucking but merely crowhopping. Steven began to hit him harder with his quirt.
"Buck, dang ya!" He almost sobbed it.
Then he yelled at Shorty to open the gate. He swung the sorrel, that now seemed to be bridlewise, and went out of the corral across the range. This was the fastest horse Steve had ever been on and he had been on some good ones. He went for about a half mile, then swung the sorrel sharply and the horse turned so sharply and quickly that he nearly sent Steve out of the saddle.
Steve said, "He's a cuttin' hoss!"
Then he went back to the corral and dismounted. The horse rubbed his head against Steve's shoulder. Steve opened the gate and led him inside and began to unsaddle him when Shorty came over.
"Ya. Ya rode him! Best ride I ever seen!"
Steve said, "Yeah, I'd like to ketch the gent that spoiled this cayuse. Best hoss I ever forked!
Shorty shook his head."Yeah, the darn thing spilled me so hard my head ain't clear yet. An if you hadn't been so handy, I wouldn't be standin' here!"
Steve said, "He's the fastest horse on the range."
Shorty had a bay bronc he figured was one of the fastest in Montana. They decided to race the next day. They bet five dollars a piece on a mile stretch. Steve finished unsaddling and hung the saddle on the corral fence. The horse followed him. Steve and Shorty started to the house. The sorrel followed Steve to the gate. Steve stopped and stroked the velvety muzzle and the proudly arched neck.
He said to Shorty, "I got a horse, an' whadda horse!"
Shorty said, "Yeah, he's a mighty fine animal."
Steve said, "Somebody abused this hoss and made him hate men and I just had to show him who is boss and I'd shore like to ketch the hombre that spoiled him. He's the finest piece of horseflesh I can ever remember seeing!"
Then the two men went out the gate and the horse put his head over the gate and whickered.
"I reckon you'll have to get along without me for awhile, ol' boy," Steve said.
After supper Steve went to the barn and took a measure of oats to the sorrel in the corral. He rubbed down his new found pet and apparently faithful horse. When he was through, he caught one horse and tied him and gave him some hay. He opened the gate to let the other horses out to pasture. Then he went to the house and went to bed.
Next morning both men were up early. Shorty made breakfast while Steve went out to bring in their small remuda. After breakfast, they decided they would have their race on the way out to look over their cattle. They were to race from the corral to a little creek that ran across the range one mile west of the ranch. The cattle were usually along the creek in the morning.
Steve saddled his sorrel while Shorty saddled the bay. They led their fine, highstrung horses out of the corral and mounted them. Both horses reared a little but they soon calmed down. Shorty's bay got started first, running hard. Shorty thought he had the race, but the sorrel passed him like a streak. Suddenly Steve reined the sorrel to a sliding halt and yelled to Shorty to stop. Steve dismounted and went over to a dead cow on the prairie beside him.
Shorty drew his bay to a halt and said, "What's this?"
Steve answered, "Can't you see somebody has been shootin' up our stock?"
They looked around and saw half a dozen more fine whitefaces lying around dead. All of them were shot.
The two men were examining the carcasses and looking for tracks when a man jumped up from behind a clump of sagebrush and yelled, "Hands up there, hombres, if you want to stay healthy!" The man was a short, stocky, with long black whiskers, small black eyes, and a mean scowl on his face. Steve and Shorty knew him as Clint Lister, owner of the T Bar M, whom they had bought the horses from. They raised their hands.
Clint said, "Pull their hardware off'n 'em, Jake."
A little man with a long bullet scar on one cheek and a crooked nose stepped up to the partners. They recognized him as Jake Bowen, foreman of the T Bar M.
Just as he was about to take Steve's guns, a sorrel streak passed Steve, hit Jake, sending him sprawling, and went on to Clint and grabbed him by the shoulder with his teeth, hurling him high in the air. He trampled him to death before Steve could reach him.
Steve and Shorty had already drawn their sixguns and Shorty had the little gent named Jake covered. Steve held the sorrel so he wouldn't attack Jake.
Steve mounted and rode to a little ravine where he found the T Bar M horses saddled. He brought them up and roped the dead man to one. They disarmed the other man and made him mount and headed for Leadville where they were going to turn the two men over to the sheriff.
When they got to Leadville, they turned the dead man and the prisoner over to the sheriff and told their story. The sheriff locked up the prisoner and took the corpse to the undertaker. Then the two Bar 4 men and some deputies went to look at the dead cows. As they started, the sheriff looked at the sorrel and asked, "How come you're riding that horse?"
Steve said, "Bought him from T Bar M."
"Yeah, but how come he let you ride him? Didn't he buck?"
"Yeah, he bucked."
Shorty said, "Yeah, he bucked worse than anything I ever seen before. He really made Steve set down in his saddle and ride!"
Steve said, "I can't figger out how I rode him. It musta been by accident!"
The sheriff said, "That horse is a killer! His name is Devil. Clint Lister's bronc peeler busted him two years ago. Clint saw how good he was and gave him to his son, Buck. Now Clint thought a lot of Buck and it was a good thing he did, cause nobody else ever did. Buck was the devil on horses 'specially when he was drinkin'. He liked to leave them torn to shreds from their flanks to shoulders. The T Bar M had a couple hundred horses then so Buck didn't care if he kilt one once in awhile. One day Buck Lister was found dead on the trail about a mile from town with his head trampled in. The sorrel was grazing nearby. Buck had been drinkin'".About a month later Newt Baker, another T Bar M waddy, was drunk in town an' he was gonna show the town that he could ride that horse. He got dumped an' trampled to death right there in the street with Clint and a bunch of hands watchin'. So Clint figgered when he sold him to ya, the sorrel would kill ya an' that would be a good way to get ya off the range."
"Well," said Steve, "I reckon he was purty surprised this mornin' when he seen me ridin' this hoss. An' it was this hoss that kilt him. By the way, where did Clint get him?"
"Caught him outa a wild bunch. His mother musta been a good mare in foal to a hot blood stud that got loose with a bunch a wild 'uns. Looks like he's mostly hot blood, with just enough bronc to make him tough an' stout an' give him that buckin' streak."
When they came to the place where the dead cattle were, the sheriff told the Bar 4 partners he thought he could handle the rest and clean the range of this rangehog outfit now that Lister and Bowen were out of the way. So the Bar 4 boys thanked him and rode home.
On the way, Shorty said, "I reckon ya got quite a hoss there, Steve. I guess he'll outrun my bay alright!"
"Yeah," Steve said, "an' I reckon I won't go drinkin' none while I'm ridin' him!"