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Crook 'Em Cowboy

BY Wilfred McCormick and S. Omar Barker

The Circle Dot Outfit Hires a Baseball Coach for Its Game with the
Cross T and the Fun Begins

LONG Tom McGinnis and Shorty Woonmacher of the Circle Dot awaited the arrival of Pelota Junction's wheezy old onea-day choo-choo with all the patience of two unbusted grains of hot popcorn. When it finally limped in, one lone passenger got down, his hands full of sleek baggage. The two cowboys started toward him at a high lope. But as they drew near they put on the brakes, looked from him to each other, spit out their chawin' and let their jaws drop well down toward their briskets in token of surprised disappointment.

"That cain't be him!" Shorty shoved the words out to Long Tom in a whisper. "Why that ain't been weaned a week!"

Before Long Tom could answer, the stranger, as fresh and pink-cheeked as the first rose of summer, his pearl gray hat with the lavender band cocked down over his right eye, his equally pearl gray line- striped golf suit wrinkling jauntily as he moved, stepped forward. The left-hand corner of his mouth drew suddenly down to the southwestward, revealing one gold tooth among the white. From the scant opening thus developed, his words popped out like grasshoppers from a bait can. His round blue eyes, a little wrinkly at the corners, looked from Tom and Shorty to the lone station shack of Pelota Junction, on out to the gray expanse of sagebrush hillocks and back to the cowboys again.

"Greetings, gents!" he said. "Somebody pull a Houdini with the town—or was it a cyclone?"

Long Tom's pale eyes had been staring at the young man's baggage. From the top of a circular bag protruded the ends of several baseball bats. There was no getting around it, this unweaned yearling must be their man. Long Tom brought his lower jaw back up where it belonged.

"Mister Brune?" he questioned.

"You guessed it, colonel! Little George himself. Hottest little baseball coach in the catalogue! Excuse me if I seem to repeat, but who has run off with the town? Or is it hidin' somewhere?"

Long Tom grinned half apologetically.

"There ain't any town," he explained. "It's the Circle Dot ranch that's got the baseball team— fifteen miles out. We play the Cross T's from acrost the Creston. We drive out in the flivver. I'm Long Tom, catcher an' captin' fer the Circle Dots. This here's Shorty. He wrangles third base. We're right pleased to meet you, Mister Brune!"

Long Tom didn't sound right pleased. But he put out his hand. Jim Elliott, Big Auger of the Circle Dot, had written his old friend Steve Douglas back in K.C. to ship them the best baseball coach he could for the money. Well, if this pink- meat yearling with the sidewinder mouth was the best old Steve could do!

"Call me George!" said Mr. Brune, showing his gold tooth in what was meant to be a friendly grin as he shook hands. But in spite of the grin he looked disgusted. These bowlegged yips play baseball! Wow!

Long Tom started picking up the sleek baggage. Shorty Woonmacher shook hands, but he still looked sullenly belligerent. He yanked off a new chunk of chawin' and pocketed the plug without offering it to the new coach. Long Tom was already headed down the cinders toward the flivver with a load of baggage. Shorty picked up the rest of it.

"Say you," he growled suddenly back over the shoulder. "D'yuh reckin' yuh kin toddle down to the bus all by yer lonely-lonesome? We never thought to bring along a baby buggy!"

"One more strike like that, you cow herdin' yipyap," snapped the new Circle Dot coach, "and you're out!"

Silence, except for the trap drum music of a rambling flivver, ruled the fifteen mile jaunt from Pelota Junction to the Circle Dot ranch. A chorus of assorted whoops and whees from about a dozen impatient, whang-skinned cowpunchers greeted their arrival as they rattled over the last cattle guard into the shadow of the big cottonwoods that shaded the ranch house, only to die suddenly down to silence as they saw the passenger in the back seat.

"My gawd, lookit!" groaned Tex Elkins, the pitcher. "An' nary a nipple on the place!"

The others stood, for the most part, either gnawing their mustaches or rolling their cuds. Plainly they shared Tex's more vocal disappointment at the looks of the new coach.

"GREETINGS, gents!" side-mouthed Mr. Brune, climbing stiffly out of the flivver. He eyed them up and down sharply. Big Jim Elliott stepped forward uncertainly. The stranger gave him the twice over.

"Am I seein' cockeyed," he ventured, "or has Babe Ruth grown a mustache...

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