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Art and the Bronco
by [?]

“I heard a rumour during pie,” said the artist, “that the state is about to pay you two thousand dollars for this picture.”

“It’s passed the Senate,” said Lonny, “and the House rounds it up to-morrow.”

“That’s lucky,” said the pale man. “Do you carry a rabbit’s foot?”

“No,” said Lonny, “but it seems I had a grandfather. He’s considerable mixed up in the colour scheme. It took me a year to paint that picture. Is she entirely awful or not? Some says, now, that the steer’s tail ain’t badly drawed. They think it’s proportioned nice. Tell me.”

The artist glanced at Lonny’s wiry figure and nut-brown skin. Something stirred him to a passing irritation.

“For Art’s sake, son,” he said, fractiously, “don’t spend any more money for paint. It isn’t a picture at all. It’s a gun. You hold up the state with it, if you like, and get your two thousand, but don’t get in front of any more canvas. Live under it. Buy a couple of hundred ponies with the money–I’m told they’re that cheap–and ride, ride, ride. Fill your lungs and eat and sleep and be happy. No more pictures. You look healthy. That’s genius. Cultivate it.” He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes to three. Four capsules and one tablet at three. That’s all you wanted to know, isn’t it?”

At three o’clock the cowpunchers rode up for Lonny, bringing Hot Tamales, saddled. Traditions must be observed. To celebrate the passage of the bill by the Senate the gang must ride wildly through the town, creating uproar and excitement. Liquor must be partaken of, the suburbs shot up, and the glory of the San Saba country vociferously proclaimed. A part of the programme had been carried out in the saloons on the way up.

Lonny mounted Hot Tamales, the accomplished little beast prancing with fire and intelligence. He was glad to feel Lonny’s bowlegged grip against his ribs again. Lonny was his friend, and he was willing to do things for him.

“Come on, boys,” said Lonny, urging Hot Tomales into a gallop with his knees. With a whoop, the inspired lobby tore after him through the dust. Lonny led his cohorts straight for the Capitol. With a wild yell, the gang endorsed his now evident intention of riding into it. Hooray for San Saba!

Up the six broad, limestone steps clattered the broncos of the cowpunchers. Into the resounding hallway they pattered, scattering in dismay those passing on foot. Lonny, in the lead, shoved Hot Tamales direct for the great picture. At that hour a downpouring, soft light from the second-story windows bathed the big canvas. Against the darker background of the hall the painting stood out with valuable effect. In spite of the defects of the art you could almost fancy that you gazed out upon a landscape. You might well flinch a step from the convincing figure of the life-size steer stampeding across the grass. Perhaps it seemed thus to Hot Tamales. The scene was in his line. Perhaps he only obeyed the will of his rider. His ears pricked up; he snorted. Lonny leaned forward in the saddle and elevated his elbows, wing-like. Thus signals the cowpuncher to his steed to launch himself full speed ahead. Did Hot Tamales fancy he saw a steer, red and cavorting, that should be headed off and driven back to the herd? There was a fierce clatter of hoofs, a rush, a gathering of steely flank muscles, a leap to the jerk of the bridle rein, and Hot Tamales, with Lonny bending low in the saddle to dodge the top of the frame, ripped through the great canvas like a shell from a mortar, leaving the cloth hanging in ragged sheds about a monstrous hole.

Quickly Lonny pulled up his pony, and rounded the pillars. Spectators came running, too astounded to add speech to the commotion. The sergeant-at-arms of the House came forth, frowned, looked ominous, and then grinned. Many of the legislators crowded out to observe the tumult. Lonny’s cowpunchers were stricken to silent horror by his mad deed.

Senator Kinney happened to be among the earliest to emerge. Before he could speak Lonny leaned in his saddle as Hot Tamales pranced, pointed his quirt at the Senator, and said, calmly:

“That was a fine speech you made to-day, mister, but you might as well let up on that ‘propriation business. I ain’t askin’ the state to give me nothin’. I thought I had a picture to sell to it, but it wasn’t one. You said a heap of things about Grandfather Briscoe that makes me kind of proud I’m his grandson. Well, the Briscoes ain’t takin’ presents from the state yet. Anybody can have the frame that wants it. Hit her up, boys.”

Away scuttled the San Saba delegation out of the hall, down the steps, along the dusty street.

Halfway to the San Saba country they camped that night. At bedtime Lonny stole away from the campfire and sought Hot Tamales, placidly eating grass at the end of his stake rope. Lonny hung upon his neck, and his art aspirations went forth forever in one long, regretful sigh. But as he thus made renunciation his breath formed a word or two.

“You was the only one, Tamales, what seen anything in it. It /did/ look like a steer, didn’t it, old hoss?”