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A Texas Matchmaker

XIX. Horse Brands
Before gathering the fillies and mares that spring, and while riding the range,
locating our horse stock, Pasquale brought in word late one evening that a
_ladino_ stallion had killed the regular one, and was then in possession of the
_manada_. The fight between the outlaw and the ranch stallion had evidently
occurred above the mouth of the Ganso and several miles to the north of the
home river, for he had accidentally found the carcass of the dead horse at a
small lake and, recognizing the animal by his color, had immediately scoured the
country in search of the band. He had finally located the _manada_, many miles
off their range; but at sight of the vaquero the _ladino_ usurper had deserted the
mares, halting, however, out of gunshot, yet following at a safe distance as
Pasquale drifted them back. Leaving the _manada_ on their former range,
Pasquale had ridden into the ranch and reported. It was then too late in the day
to start against the interloper, as the range was fully twenty-five miles away, and
we were delayed the next morning in getting up speedy saddle horses from
distant and various _remudas_, and did not get away from the ranch until after
dinner. But then we started, taking the usual pack mules, and provisioned for a
week's outing.
Included in the party was Captain Frank Byler, the regular home crowd, and
three Mexicans. With an extra saddle horse for each, we rode away merrily to
declare war on the _ladino_ stallion. "This is the third time since I've teen
ranching here," said Uncle Lance to Captain Frank, as we rode along, "that I've
had stallions killed. There always have been bands of wild horses, west here
between the Leona and Nueces rivers and around Espontos Lake. Now that
country is settling up, the people walk down the bands and the stallions escape,
and in drifting about find our range. They're wiry rascals, and our old stallions
don't stand any more show with them than a fat hog would with a _javaline_.
That's why I take as much pride in killing one as I do a rattlesnake."
We made camp early that evening on the home river, opposite the range of the
_manada_. Sending out Pasquale to locate the band and watch them until dark,
Uncle Lance outlined his idea of circling the band and bagging the outlaw in the
uncertain light of dawn. Pasquale reported on his return after dark that the
_manada_ were contentedly feeding on their accustomed range within three
miles of camp. Pasquale had watched the band for an hour, and described the
_ladino_ stallion as a cinnamon-colored coyote, splendidly proportioned and
unusually large for a mustang.
Naturally, in expectation of the coming sport, the horses became the topic around
the camp-fire that night. Every man present was a born horseman, and there was
a generous rivalry for the honor in telling horse stories. Aaron Scales joined the
 
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