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Title: Black Treasure - Sandy Steele Adventures #1
Author: Barlow, Roger
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Black Treasure - Sandy Steele Adventures #1" ***

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                        SANDY STEELE ADVENTURES

                             Black Treasure
                       Danger at Mormon Crossing
                             Stormy Voyage
                            Fire at Red Lake
                        Secret Mission to Alaska
                            Troubled Waters

                        Sandy Steele Adventures
                            _BLACK TREASURE_

                            BY ROGER BARLOW

                           SIMON AND SCHUSTER
                            _New York, 1959_

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
                    IN WHOLE OR IN PART IN ANY FORM
                           NEW YORK 20, N. Y.

                             FIRST PRINTING

               BY H. WOLFF BOOK MFG. CO., INC., NEW YORK.


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  1 The Man in Blue Jeans                                              7
  2 Kit Carson Country                                                17
  3 A “Poor Boy” Outfit                                               33
  4 Learning the Ropes                                                46
  5 A Light in the Window Rock                                        61
  6 Cliff Dweller Country                                             75
  7 Back of Beyond                                                    90
  8 Cavanaugh Shows His Colors                                       103
  9 Fighting Fire with Fire                                          116
  10 Pepper Makes a Play                                             128
  11 Serendipity                                                     144
  12 Cavanaugh Makes a Mistake                                       154
  13 Think Like a Dog                                                165
  14 Showdown                                                        177
  15 The Fourth Touchdown                                            184

                              CHAPTER ONE
                         The Man in Blue Jeans

High jinks were in order as the Regional Science Fair drew to a close in
the big auditorium at Poplar City, California. A board of judges had
selected prize-winning exhibits entered by high-school students from
Valley View, Poplar City and other nearby communities. Now the winners
were blowing off steam while teachers who had supervised the fair sat in
quiet corners and fanned themselves wearily.

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen,” Pepper March whooped like a
circus barker as he strutted in front of his First Prize winner, a
glittering maze of electronic equipment. “Broadcast your voice over my
beam of light. The very newest thing in science. Built through the
co-operation of Valley View’s own Cavanaugh Laboratories. Step right
up.... Yes, miss?” A girl had approached the exhibit, wide-eyed. “Please
speak into this microphone.”

“What do I say?” As she spoke, a quivering pencil of light leaped from a
black box in the booth and her words thundered from a loudspeaker in the

“Oh, recite ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’” suggested the big blond boy, and

“‘Mary,’” boomed the girl’s voice from the rear of the hall as Pepper
twiddled a mirror that deflected the light beam to a second
loud-speaker, “‘had a little lamb.’” (Those words seemed to come out of
the floor.) “‘Its fleece was white as snow.’” (The last phrase blared
from a chandelier.)

“Good old Pepper! Grandstanding again!” muttered Sandy Steele as the
crowd cheered. Sandy stared glumly at a small sign reading Honorable
Mention that perched on the exhibit which he and his pal Quiz Taylor had
entered in the fair. It wasn’t fancy-looking like Pepper’s, he had to
admit. It was just a mound of wet cardboard sheets stuck full of pins,
plus a homemade control panel and some batteries. “Ours _was_ better,”
he added.

“I agree,” Quiz sighed. “After all the work we put into this thing!
Molding sheets of cardboard to the shape of underground rock layers.
Soaking them with salt water so they’ll carry electric currents that
imitate the direction in which oil deposits flow.” He hooked a wire to
one of the pins and pressed a button. A flashlight bulb on the control
panel winked at him mockingly. “We sure deserve something better than a

“Step this way, folks,” Quiz called halfheartedly to the passers-by.
“Learn how petroleum can be located, thousands of feet beneath the

Nobody paid any attention except one Valley View boy who was pushing his
way toward Pepper’s booth, a phonograph record under one skinny arm.

“Sour grapes,” jeered the boy. “You and Sandy better forget that mess.
Come over and watch Pepper play this stereo record over his beam. It’ll
be something!”

“Shall we?” Sandy looked at his friend miserably.

“Unh-uh,” answered the short, round-faced boy. “Here comes a customer—I

A suntanned little man in faded blue shirt and jeans had ambled up to
their booth and was studying the exhibit with his gray head tilted to
one side.

“A reservoir behavior analyzer, huh?” he said. “Represents the Four
Corners area. Right?”

“Why ... yes, sir.” Sandy stared at him, openmouthed. “We built it to
represent the geological structure of the country where the boundaries
of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. This map and card

“I know the Four Corners,” grunted the little man as he sized up the
tall, sandy-haired youngster. “Is your gadget accurate?”

“As accurate as we could make it with the survey maps we could find.”

“Hmmm.” Their visitor’s sharp eyes studied the gray mound. “What happens
if I should drill an oil well here, in the northwest corner of the
Navajo Indian reservation?” He pointed with a lean finger.

Sandy moved a pin to the spot he indicated, connected it to the control
panel with a length of wire, and pressed a switch.

Nothing happened!

Quiz groaned. Why couldn’t the thing show off when they wanted it to?

“If you drilled there, sir, you’d just have a dry hole,” Sandy said with
more confidence than he felt. “That location must be on the far fringe
of the oil pool.”

“Right!” The little man grinned from ear to ear, showing a fine white
set of false teeth. “I did drill a wildcat well there. She was dry as a
bone. My ninth duster in a row.... Now what happens if I drill here,
near the bed of the San Juan River?”

This time a bulb glowed brightly when they stuck their pin into the

“We can’t be sure, sir,” Sandy hesitated. “We don’t know too much about
geology. Besides, oil is like gold. It’s where you find it, and the only
way you find it is by drilling for it. But I’d guess that, in the
neighborhood you indicated, you’d stand a chance of hitting a thousand
barrels per day.”

“Eight hundred and fifty barrels,” corrected the man in the blue jeans.
“The well I drilled on the San Juan was the only thing that kept me out
of bankruptcy.”

A blare of jazz from Pepper’s loud-speakers, now working in unison, cut
off further conversation and gave the boys a chance to study their
strange acquaintance.

“Why don’t you go over and take in that beam-of-light exhibit?” Sandy
said when Pepper had brought the sound down to bearable levels. “It won
first prize.”

“That pile of expensive junk?” sniffed the little man. “All the kid did
was to borrow some apparatus from Red Cavanaugh’s Valley View
Laboratory. If I know Red—and I do know the big fourflusher well—he
didn’t make the boy do a lick of real research on it.... Oh!” Again that
wide grin. “You think I’m crazy and want to get rid of me, don’t you?

He dug into his jeans and came up with a greasy card which read:

                   The Four Corners Drilling Company
                          John Hall, President
                           Farmington, N. M.

“Guess I should have got dressed up for this shindig,” Hall apologized,
“but I just got in from Farmington. I read about your analyzer in the
_Valley View News_ when you won first prize at your high-school science
fair last month. Used to live there. That’s why I still get the paper.
Your dingus should have received first prize here too, instead of that
voice-cast thing.”

“Say! You came all this way just to see our exhibit? Thanks!” was all
Sandy could think of to say.

As the auditorium lights blinked to indicate that the fair was closing,
Hall added, “Got time for a bite? I have a proposition I’d like to sound
you out on.”

At a nearby diner, the oilman ordered full meals for all of them.

“Here’s my proposition,” he said when the boys couldn’t eat another
mouthful. “I’m a small wildcat operator. That means I hunt for oil in
places that are so wild and woolly that only wildcats can live there.
Once or twice I’ve struck it rich. Should have retired then, but there’s
something about oil exploration that gets in a feller’s blood. So I went
out, drilled some dry holes, and lost my shirt.

“Right now I’m strapped until my new field pays off—if it does. But I
think I’m onto something big in the Four Corners and I need help. You
boys must have a working knowledge of geology to build an analyzer as
good as that. How about working for me this summer?”

“Sandy’s the rock hound,” Quiz said and hesitated. “I ... I’ve only read
up on it in books.”

“All I know is what Dad has told me,” Sandy remarked. “I couldn’t have
built the exhibit without Quiz’s help.”

“Forget the mutual-admiration-society stuff,” said Hall. “Would you both
like to spend your vacations in the Four Corners, working as roustabouts
and helping me out wherever else you can? It won’t be easy. But when you
get through you’ll know a lot about oil, geology, how to get along with
Indians, and I don’t know what all.

“You’ll be out on the desert in all kinds of weather. You’ll chip rocks,
hold stadia rods, sharpen tools and dig the trucks out of holes on those
awful roads. Everything you learn will come in handy when you go to
college.... You are going, aren’t you?”

Sandy nodded but Quiz shook his head miserably.

“I doubt it,” he said, “unless things at Dad’s restaurant pick up.”

“Nonsense,” Hall snorted. “You can get a scholarship in geology if
you’ve had experience in the field. Tell you what: I know your father
slightly—he serves mighty good victuals. I’ll go over to Valley View
tomorrow and talk things over with him. I’ll bet we can work something
out for you.

“Here’s another thing, though,” he went on thoughtfully. “I’ve got
almost every cent I own tied up in oil leases right now. I can’t pay
either of you very much—say forty dollars a week. You probably can do
almost as well right at home.”

“I’d rather work with you than wait on table,” Quiz declared.

“Or cut lawns and things,” Sandy added.

“It’s settled then.” Hall shook hands gravely. “See you in Valley View.”

As they were leaving the diner, Pepper March came charging in with a
flock of admiring Valley Viewers behind him.

“Wait up,” Pepper whooped, grabbing his defeated rivals as they tried to
dodge past him. “My treat. Come have a Coke while I tell you about my
good luck.”

“_Another_ Coke!” Sandy groaned. He had practically lived on them during
the science fair. But curiosity got the better of him and he went back
to the counter, followed by Quiz. By the time he found a stool, Pepper
was holding forth.

“You know Mr. Cavanaugh, the man I got some of the stuff for my
voice-caster from?”

“The man from whom you borrowed _all_ your equipment,” Sandy corrected
between his teeth.

“That’s what _you_ think, Honorable Mention.” Pepper turned to his
admirers. “Anyway, he has a sideline: spends his summers hunting
uranium. Also, he’s the same Red Cavanaugh who was All-American
quarterback for State U. in 1930. He’s the fellow who ran three
touchdowns against California in the Thanksgiving game that year.”

“There was a Cavanaugh who made All-American,” Quiz agreed as he
scratched his round head, “but I thought....”

“See!” cried Pepper. “Quiz knows all there is to know about football.
He’s heard about Red. Well, Mr. Cavanaugh attends all the Valley View
games. Says he likes the way _I_ run touchdowns.” Pepper leered at
Sandy, who was not always the spectacular player that Pepper was. “Also,
Mr. Cavanaugh appreciates the plugs I gave to his laboratory whenever I
explained my voice-caster, so what do you think...?”

“He’s going to install you as a loud-speaker in one of his TV sets,”
Quiz suggested.

“Nah!” Pepper stopped the laughter with a lordly, upraised hand. “He’s
giving me a summer job. I’m going to help him hunt uranium.”

“Where?” Sandy gave his pal a stricken look.

“Where? Why, the place where there’s more uranium than almost anywhere
in the United States. But you wouldn’t know where that is.”

“Oh, no,” groaned Quiz. “Not the Four Corners. Not there! Ain’t there no

“What do you mean?” Pepper looked at him doubtfully.

“I mean Sandy and I have jobs there too, and Four Corners is going to be
awfully crowded this summer.”

“Oh.” Some of the wind went out of Pepper’s sails. Then he brightened.
“I’ll buy another round of Cokes if either of _you_ is going to get
sixty dollars a week,” he crowed.

                              CHAPTER TWO
                           Kit Carson Country

“This sure isn’t my idea of a boom town!” Sandy grumbled as he and Quiz
got off the eastbound Greyhound at Farmington, New Mexico, dropped their
dusty bags and stood watching the early morning bustle on the little
town’s wide streets.

“Yeah.” Quiz wagged his head. “The Wild West shore ain’t what she used
to be, pardner. No twenty-mule-team wagons stuck in Main Street
mudholes. No gambling dives in evidence. No false store fronts. No
sheriff in a white hat walkin’ slowlike down a wooden sidewalk to shoot
it out with the bad man in a black hat. Ah, for the good old days.”

“Oh, go fly a jet,” Sandy grinned. “Let’s look up Mr. Hall. Funny, his
giving us his home address. He must have an office in town.”

They strolled along, noticing the new stores and office buildings, the
modern high school. Farmington would never become a ghost town. It was
building solidly for the future.

Suddenly Quiz grabbed his friend’s arm.

“Look at that oilman who’s just made a strike,” he said. “We’ll ask him
if he knows Mr. Hall.”

“How do you know that he is, and has?” Sandy demanded as they approached
a lanky stranger.

“Because he’s wearing a brand-new Stetson and new shoes, of course,”
Quiz explained, as to a child. “Drillers always buy them when their well
comes in.”

“Trust you to know something like that,” Sandy said in mock admiration.

“Well now,” drawled the Farmingtonian when they put their question,
“you’d have to get up earlier than this to catch John Hall in town. John
keeps his office in his hat. Might as well spend the day seeing the
sights, and look him up at his motel when he gets back from the Regions

“What sights?” asked Sandy when the oilman, obviously a transplanted
Texan, had stumped away in high-heeled boots that must have hurt his
feet. “Those mountains, maybe? They look close enough to touch. Let’s
walk out to them.”

“Don’t let this clear, thin air fool you,” Quiz warned. “Those mountains
are probably twenty miles away. We’d need a car to—”

A great honking and squealing of brakes behind them made the boys jump
for safety. As they turned to give the driver what-for, Pepper March
stuck his curly head out the window of a new jeep that was towing an
equally new aluminum house trailer as big as a barn.

“Welcome to our fair city,” Pepper shouted. “Saw you get off the bus, so
I prepared a proper reception. How about a guided tour while I run this
trailer over to Red’s camp?”

“How long have you been here?” Sandy asked as they climbed aboard.

“Red flew me over last Friday in his Bonanza. I’ve got the hang of his
entire layout already. Nothing to it, really.”

As he headed the jeep for the mountains, Pepper kept up a monologue in
which skimpy descriptions of the countryside were mixed with large
chunks of autobiography.

“Every square mile of this desert supports five Indians, fifty sheep,
five hundred rattlesnakes and fifty thousand prairie dogs,” he joked as
they left the pavement for a winding dirt trail. They bounced madly
through clumps of sagebrush, prairie-dog colonies, and tortured hills
made of many-colored rock.

“These roads wear out a car in a year, and you have to put in new
springs every three months,” he added as they hit a chuckhole that made
their teeth rattle.

“Look at those crazy rock formations,” he said later while the boys
sweated and puffed to jack up the rear end of the trailer so it could
get around a particularly sharp hairpin turn in the trail. (_Now_ they
knew why Pepper had extended his invitation for a tour!) “No telling
what minerals you might find if you used electronic exploration methods
on scrambled geology like this. Why, only last night, while we were
sitting around the campfire at Elbow Rock, I said to Red: ‘Red,’ I said,
just like that—we’ve become real pals already, you know—‘Red,’ I said,
‘why don’t we branch out? Why don’t we look for oil as well as uranium,
now that we’re out here?’ And Red said to me: ‘Pepper,’ he said—”

“‘—when did you get your Ph.D. in geology?’” Sandy cut in.

“Nothing like that at all! ‘Pepper,’ he said, ‘you’re right on the
electron beam. We’ll organize the Red Pepper Oil Exploration and
Contracting Company and give John Hall and those other stick-in-the-muds
a run for their money.’ Oops! Hope we didn’t break anything that time!”

The jeep’s front wheel had dropped into a pothole with a terrific thump.

They found that the axle had wedged itself against a rock. Thirty
minutes later, while they were still trying to get it loose, a
rattletrap car pulled up beside them and an Indian stuck his flat,
mahogany-colored face through its window.

“Give us a hand—please,” Pepper ordered.

The newcomer started to get out. Then his black eyes settled on the
lettering on the side of the trailer:

                         Cavanaugh Laboratories
                  Farmington, N.M. & Valley View, Cal.

“Cavanaugh! Huh!” snorted the Indian. He slammed the door of his car and
roared off in a cloud of yellow dust.

“Those confounded Indians,” snarled Pepper, staring after him in
white-faced fury. “I’d like to.... Oh, well. Come on, fellows. Guess
we’ve got to do this ourselves.”

They finally got the jeep back on the trail and drove the twenty miles
to Elbow Rock without further mishap. There Pepper parked beside a
sparkling trout stream. They raided the trailer’s big freezer for
sandwich materials and ate lunch at a spot overlooking a thousand square
miles of yellow desert backed by blue, snowcapped peaks. Pepper was at
his best as a host. For once in their lives, Sandy and Quiz almost liked
him. At least here he seemed much pleasanter than he did at home,
lording it over everyone—or trying to.

In the cool of the afternoon—85 degrees in the sun instead of the 110
degrees the thermometer had shown at noon—they rode the jeep back to
Farmington by way of a wide detour that took them within sight of the
San Juan River gorge.

“I wanted to show you those two oil-well derricks over yonder,” Pepper
explained. “They’re a mile and a half apart, as the crow flies. But,
because they’re on opposite sides of the river, they were 125 long miles
apart by car until we got that new bridge finished a few months ago.
Shows you the problems we explorers face.”

“The San Juan runs into the Colorado, doesn’t it?” Quiz asked as he
studied the tiny stream at the bottom of its deep gorge, under the fine
new steel bridge.

“Yep. And thereby hangs a tale. Mr. Cavanaugh—Red, I mean—has found
state documents down at Santa Fe showing that the San Juan used to be
navigable. But the confounded dumb Indians swear it can’t be navigated.
If boats _can_ go down the stream, even during part of the year, the
river bed belongs to the Federal government. If the stream _can’t_ be
navigated, the Navajos own the bed. That’s the law! While the argument
continues, nobody can lease uranium or oil land near the river. Red says
that, one of these days, he’s going to prove that—oops! I’m talking too

Pepper clammed up for the first time they could remember. He said hardly
a word until he dropped them off at Hall’s motel.

“I don’t get it,” Quiz said to his chum as they walked up a graveled
path from the road to the rambling adobe building.

“Don’t get what?” Sandy wanted to know.

“This uranium hunting business Pepper’s got himself into. I read in
_Time_ a while back that the Federal government stopped buying uranium
from prospectors in 1957. Since then, it has bought from existing mills,
but it hasn’t signed a single new contract. Cavanaugh doesn’t own a
uranium mill. So why is he snooping around, digging into state documents
and antagonizing the Indians?”

“I only met him once, when he snooted our exhibit as a judge at the
regional science fair,” Sandy replied. “Can’t say I took to him, under
the circumstances.”

“There’s something phony about that man. If only I could remember ...
something to do with football, I think.” Quiz scratched his head, but no
more information came out.

They found Mr. Hall, dressed as usual in faded levis and denim shirt,
sitting with several other guests of the motel on a wide patio facing
the setting sun.

“Well, here are my roustabouts,” the little man cried with a flash of
those too-perfect teeth. “I was beginning to be afraid that you had lost
yourselves in the desert.”

He introduced them to the owners of the place, two maiden ladies from
Minnesota who plainly were having the time of their middle-aged lives
here on the last frontier. The Misses Emery, as alike as two wrinkled
peas, showed the boys to their room, a comfortable place complete with
fireplace and an air conditioner.

“Supper will be served in half an hour,” said one.

“Don’t be late,” said the other.

The newcomers scrubbed the sticky dust off their bodies and out of their
hair, changed into clothes that didn’t smell of jeep, and were heading
for the dining room when Mr. Hall overtook them.

“You may be wondering why I live out here on the edge of the desert,” he
said quietly. “One reason is that I like the silence of desert nights.
Another is the good cooking. The most important reason, though, is that
some of the Farmington places are pretty nasty to Indians and Mexicans.
Me, I like Indians and Mexes. Also, I learn a lot from them when they
let their hair down. Well, here we are. You’ll find that the Misses
Emery still cook like Mother used to. I’ll give you a tip. Don’t talk
during supper. It isn’t considered polite in the Southwest.”

“Why is that?” Sandy wondered.

“It’s a hang-over from cowpunching days. If a ranch hand stopped to
talk, somebody else grabbed his second helping.”

After a silent meal, the guests gathered on the patio to watch the stars
come out.

“Folks,” said Mr. Hall, “meet Sandy Steele and Quiz Taylor. They’re
going to join my crew this summer. Boys, meet Miss Kitty Gonzales, from
Window Rock, Arizona. She’s going north in the morning to teach school
in the part of the Navajo reservation that extends into Utah. Her
schoolhouse will be a big trailer. Too bad you can’t be her students,
eh? But sixteen is a mite old for Miss Kitty’s class.”

Kitty was slim, in her late teens, and not much over five feet tall. She
had an oval face, black hair and eyes, and a warm smile that made the
newcomers like her at once.

“This is Kenneth White,” Hall went on. “Ken works for the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. When he talks, you listen!”

The white-haired man gave the boys handshakes that they felt for an

“Chief John Quail, from the Arizona side of the Navajo reservation,”
Hall said next. “The chief is here to talk over an oil lease.”

Chief Quail, a dark, heavily muscled Indian, wore a light-gray business
suit that showed evidence of the best tailoring. He surprised the boys
by giving them the limpest of handshakes.

“And Ralph Salmon, boss of my drill crew,” Hall concluded. “Ralph’s a
southern Ute from Colorado. Do exactly as he says this summer if you
want to learn oil.”

The lithe, golden-skinned young Indian nodded, but did not shake hands.

“So you’re off to your great adventure in the morning, Kitty,” White
said to break the conversational ice. He lighted a pipe and leaned
against the patio railing where he could watch the changing evening
light as it stole over the desert.

“I’m so excited I won’t be able to sleep,” the girl answered in a rich
contralto voice. “It’s all so wonderful. The oil lease money pouring in
like this, after long lean years when starvation for the Navajos was
just around the corner and it looked as though their reservation might
be taken from them. Schools and hospitals being built all over. My
wonderful new trailer with books and maps and even a kitchen and a
shower for the children. Oh, my Navajos are going places at last.” She
gave an embarrassed laugh at her long speech.

“One place your Navajos can go is to Salt Lake City,” Hall growled. “Get
the state of Utah to settle that quarrel about who owns the land your
schools and hospitals are being built on. Then I can get my hands on
some leases up there.”

“I thought the Navajo reservation was in New Mexico and Arizona,” Sandy

“A small part of it is in southern Utah,” Hall explained. “That’s the
part bounded by the San Juan River.”

“The argument over school lands is less important than our other
disputes,” Chief Quail said carefully. He spoke good English but his
words seemed to be tied together with string. Plainly, he had learned
the white man’s language not many years ago. “The real problem—the one
that is, how do you say, tying up millions of dollars of lease money—is
to have a correct boundary drawn around the Hopi reservation.”

“The chief means,” Hall explained for the boys’ benefit, “that the
Navajo reservation forms a large rectangle that completely surrounds a
smaller square of land in Arizona where the Hopi Indians live.”

“Not a square, Mr. Hall,” Chief Quail objected. “The Hopis really own
only a small triangle. Those primitive, stupid cliff dwellers claim
thousands of Navajo acres to which they have no right. If I had my way
in our Council, I would....”

“The Navajos _and_ the Hopis are all grandmothers,” Salmon cut in
angrily. “Squabbling over money like palefaces! Spending their royalties
on things like schools and hospitals! When my tribe, the southern Utes,
got its first royalty check, the Council voted to have some fun with the
money. We spent it to build a race track for our fast horses!”

“Digger Indian!” The Navajo sneered at Salmon without moving a muscle of
his broad face. “Fish eater! Soon you will waste all your easy money.
When the oil runs out you will be running about naked again, living on
roots and fried caterpillars like you used to!”

“Oh, no, John.” The Ute’s grin was just visible in the gathering
darkness. “Maybe we’ll go on the warpath and take what we need from you
fat Navajo sheep herders, as we did in the good old days. Or—” he added
quickly as the chief lunged to his feet—“we’ll sing you to death. Like

Salmon began a wailing chant that set everyone’s teeth on edge. The
Navajo stopped his advance as if he had struck a wall. He clapped his
hands over his ears and, after a moment, stalked out into the night.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Ralph,” Hall said coldly. “Some day Chief
Quail is going to take you apart if you don’t stop baiting him.”

“Can you actually sing people to death, Mr. Salmon?” Sandy said to break
the tension.

“Of course not,” the Ute answered softly. “But the chief _thinks_ I can,
and I wouldn’t spoil his belief for anything. We have a set-to like this
every time we meet. Some of our medicine men can sing people _well_,
though. They chant awhile and then pull the pain right out of your
tooth, ear, or stomach.”

“What does a pain look like?” Quiz asked, half convinced.

“Looks just like a fingernail about two inches long,” the Ute answered.
“It’s bright red. If you strike it, it goes _tinnnggg_, like the reed of
a saxophone.”

“Stop your nonsense, Ralph,” White commanded, “while I go out and smooth
Quail’s ruffled feathers.” He followed the chief and brought him back
five minutes later to receive an oily apology from his ancestral enemy.

“You Indians will be broke again, one of these days, if you keep
quarreling among yourselves,” Hall said then. “Crooked white men are
hanging around the Four Corners. They’re just waiting for something like
that so they can trick you out of your oil and uranium rights, or even
your reservations.”

Everyone had to agree that this was true, so the little party settled
down in reasonable harmony to watch the giant stars come out. Salmon
produced a guitar after a while. Then he and Kitty sang Indian and
Mexican songs together. Sandy particularly liked one that went:

  _I wander with the pollen of dawn upon my trail._
  _Beauty surrounding me, with it I wander._

“That’s a Navajo song,” the Ute said, grinning. “We sing it in honor of
Chief Quail. Here’s one by a white man that I like:

  _Mañana is a lovely word we all would like to borrow._
  _It means ‘Don’t skeen no wolfs today wheech you don’t shoot
  _An’ eef you got some jobs to did, of which you do not wanna,_
  _Go ’head and take siesta now; tomorrow ees mañana!”_

“Guess that’s a hint we’d better take our siestas,” Hall said to the
boys. “Big day ahead mañana.”

“This country sort of grows on one,” Sandy said to Kitty as they shook
hands. “I’m beginning to feel at home already.”

“Oh, you haven’t really seen anything yet,” the girl answered. “If you
and Mr. Taylor get up in the neighborhood of my school, look me up. I’ll
show you some of the wildest and most beautiful country on earth.”

“Mother said I’d fall in love with the place.” Sandy took a last look
across the sleeping desert. “She was born not far from here. Met my
father when he was working for the U.S. Geological Survey.”

“How interesting,” cried the girl. “Maybe my folks know her. What was
her maiden name?”

“It was Ruth Carson.”

“Oh!” Kitty snatched her hand out of his. “She’s related to Kit Carson,
isn’t she?”

“The general was my great-uncle,” Sandy said proudly. “That’s why I’m so
interested in this part of—”

He stopped because Kitty had backed away from him until her back pressed
against the motel wall. As he stared, she spat into the dust of the
patio in a most unladylike fashion before turning and running toward her

“What did I do to her?” Sandy gasped, openmouthed.

“Kitty’s mother is a Navajo,” Chief Quail answered. “Back in Civil War
days, Kit Carson rounded up the Navajos to take us away from our
reservation. We went on the warpath and retreated into the mountains.
Carson followed. His soldiers shot several dozen of us, and slaughtered
all our sheep so we would either have to surrender or starve. Even
today, many of us would rather eat fish as the Utes do than touch one of
Kit Carson’s descendants!” He turned his back and marched off.

“Ouch!” Sandy groaned. “I certainly put my foot into it that time.”

“Don’t worry too much about it,” said White. “Fact of the matter is that
Kit Carson made a mighty good Indian Agent later on, and most Navajos
admit it. He was the man who insisted that they all be returned to the
reservation after the rebellion was over. He eventually died from
overwork in behalf of ‘his Indians.’ Except for a few diehards, the
Navajos won’t hold your mother’s name against you.”

“I certainly hope you’re right,” Sandy sighed as he and Quiz said good
night to the others and headed for their room.

“What a mess,” his friend said. “Navajos squabbling with Utes, Hopis and
the state of Utah. Crooks waiting to take advantage of them all. Pains
like fingernails! Cavalry heroes who turn into villains. I suppose
that’s why the biggest oil field in the Four Corners is called the
Paradox Basin!”

                             CHAPTER THREE
                          A “Poor Boy” Outfit

Hall routed Ralph Salmon and the boys out of bed before dawn the next
day. They ate a huge pancakes-and-sausage breakfast cooked by the
sleepy-eyed but cheerfully clucking Misses Emery and climbed into the
company jeep just as the sun was gilding the peaks of the mountains.
Soon their teeth were chattering in the morning cold as Salmon roared
off in a northwesterly direction toward the San Juan River lease.

“I wouldn’t have come down to Farmington at all this week,” Hall shouted
above the wind which made the jeep top pop and crack, “except that I
promised to pick up you boys, and Ralph had to get our core drill
repaired. That’s the drill you hear thumping under the seat. We’re down
a thousand feet with our second well and I should be riding herd on it
every minute.”

“You’re a worrywart, boss,” chuckled the Indian. “You know that Harry
Donovan’s on the job up there. He can handle things just as well as you

“You’re right,” Hall answered. “But somehow it doesn’t seem right to
have a geologist bossing the drill crew. That’s a hang-over from my days
with a big spit-and-polish producing company, I guess.

“Ours is what they call a ‘poor boy’ outfit here in the oil country,” he
explained to Sandy and Quiz. “We make do with secondhand drill rigs and
other equipment. Sometimes we dig our engines and cables out of junk

“Now, now, boss, don’t cry,” said their driver. “It’s not quite that

“It will be if this well doesn’t come in.” Hall grinned. “But we do have
to make every penny count, kids. We all pitch in on anything that needs
doing. What kind of jobs have you cooked up for our new roustabouts,

“There’s a new batch of mud to be mixed,” the Indian answered. “How
about that for a starter?”

“Mud!” Quiz exploded. “What’s mud got to do with drilling an oil well?”

“Plenty, my friend. Plenty,” Ralph answered. “Mud is forced down into a
well to cool the drill bit and to wash rock cuttings to the surface. You
use mud if you have water, that is. In parts of this country, water’s so
short, or so expensive to haul, that producers use compressed air for
those purposes. We’re lucky. We can pipe plenty of water from the

“Then you mix the water with all sorts of fancy chemicals to make
something that’s called mud but really isn’t,” said Sandy, remembering
tales of the oil country that his father had told him.

“You’re forgetting that we’re a ‘poor boy’ outfit,” said Hall.
“Chemicals cost money. We dig shale from the river bed and grind it up
and use it for a mix. You’ll both have a nice new set of blisters before
this day is over.”

They followed a good paved road to the little town of Shiprock, which
got its name from a huge butte that looked amazingly like a ship under
full sail. Crossing the San Juan over the new bridge that Pepper had
pointed out the day before, they turned northwest onto a badly rutted
trail. Here and there they saw flocks of sheep, watched by half-naked
Indian children and their dogs. Occasionally they passed a six-sided
Navajo house surrounded by a few plowed acres.

“Those huts are called hogans,” Ralph explained, placing the accent on
the last syllable. “Notice that they have no windows and that their only
doors always face toward the rising sun. Never knock on a hogan door.
That’s considered bad luck. Just walk in when you go to visit a Navajo.”

“Whe-e-ew!” Sandy panted when an hour had passed and he had peeled out
of his coat, shirt, and finally his undershirt. “How can it get so hot
at this altitude?”

“Call this hot?” jeered Salmon. “Last time I was down in Phoenix it was
125 degrees in the shade, and raining cats and dogs at the same time. I
had to park my car a block from the hotel, so I ran for it. But when I
got into the lobby my clothes were absolutely dry. The rain evaporated
as fast as it fell!”

“That,” said Hall, “is what I’d call evaporating the truth just a leetle

“Mr. Salmon....” Quiz hesitated. “Could I ask you a personal question?”

“You can if you call me Ralph,” answered the tall driller as he slowed
to let a Navajo woman drive a flock of goats across the trail. She was
dressed in a brightly colored blouse and long Spanish skirt, as if she
were going to a party instead of doing a chore, and she did not look up
as they passed.

“Well, how is it you don’t talk more—like an Indian?” Quiz asked.

“How do Indians talk?” A part of the Ute’s smile faded and his black
eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“Why, I dunno—” the boy’s face turned red with embarrassment—“like Chief
Quail, I guess. I mean ... I thought....”

“When you’ve served a hitch in the Navy, Quiz, you get to talking just
like everyone else, whether you’re an Indian or an Eskimo.”

“Were you in Korea, Ralph?” Sandy asked to break the tension.

“I was not! I served my time working as a roustabout on oil wells in one
of the Naval Reserves.”

“And, since that wasn’t enough punishment,” Hall said as he grinned,
“Ralph came home and took advantage of the GI bill to go to school in
Texas and became a driller.”

“Yep,” Salmon agreed. “And I soon found out that an Indian oil driller
is about as much in demand as a two-headed calf.” He threaded the car
through the narrow crevice between two tall buttes of red sandstone that
stuck up out of the desert like gnarled fingers. “I was just about down
to that fried caterpillar diet that Chief Quail keeps kidding me about
when a certain man whose name I won’t mention gave me my first job.”

“And you turned out to be the best all-round oilman I ever hired,” said
Hall as he slapped the other on his bronzed, smoothly muscled back. “I
figured that if Iroquois Indians make the finest steelworkers in the
construction business, a Ute should know how to run a drill rig. I
wasn’t mistaken.”

Salmon was at a loss for words for once. His ears turned pink and he
concentrated on the road, which was becoming almost impassable, even for
a jeep.

“That’s my reservation over there across the Colorado line,” he said at
last, turning his head and pointing with outthrust lips toward the north
and east.

“Nice country—for prairie dogs. Although the southern Utes are doing all
right these days from royalties on the big oil field that’s located just
over that ridge. They tell me, too, that the reservation holds one of
the biggest coal deposits in the western United States.”

“Why didn’t you stay on the reservation, then?” Quiz wanted to know.

“I like to move around. People ask me more questions that way.”

“Oh.” Quiz stopped his questioning.

“Up ahead and to the left,” Ralph went on, “is the actual Four Corners,
the only place in the country where the boundaries of four states meet.
It also is the farthest point from a railroad in the whole United
States—one hundred and eighty miles or so, I understand. How about
stopping there for lunch, boss, as soon as we cross into Utah? Nice and
quiet.” He winked at Quiz to take any sting out of his earlier words.

After they had eaten every one of the Misses Emery’s chicken and ham
sandwiches, Hall took over as their driver and guide.

“My lease is up near the village of Bluff, on the north side of the
river,” he explained. “I’m convinced, though, that most of the oil and
uranium is in Navajo and Hopi territory south of the San Juan. I’ve had
Donovan down there running seismographic surveys and he says the place
is rich as Croesus. That’s why I’ve been talking turkey to Chief
Quail—trying to get him to get the Navajo and Hopi councils together so
we can develop the area.”

“Is Quail chief of all the Navajos?” Sandy asked. “He didn’t seem to be
exactly....” He stammered to a stop while Ralph chuckled.

“Oh, no,” Hall answered. “Quail is just a chief of one of the many
Navajo clans, or families. The real power is held by the tribal council,
of which Paul Jones is chairman. But Chief Quail swings a lot of weight
on the reservation.”

“Hah!” Ralph snorted. “Chief Quail’s a stuffed shirt. They made a
uranium strike on his farm last year, so what does he do?... Buys
himself a new pickup truck! I’d have celebrated by getting a Jaguar.”

“A Jaguar is like a British Buick,” said Quiz, suddenly coming into his
element as the talk got around to cars. “A Bentley would have been

“I know, I know,” Ralph answered. “Or a Rolls Royce if he could afford a
chauffeur. I read the ads too.”

They followed the river, now deep in its gorge and getting considerably
wider, for another twenty miles. They were out of the reservation now
and passed a number of prosperous farms. The road remained awful,
however, being a long string of potholes filled to the brim with yellow
dust. The holes couldn’t be seen until the jeep was right on top of
them. Hall had to keep slamming on his brakes at the risk of dislocating
his passengers’ necks.

“You should travel through this country when it rains,” he said
cheerfully. “Cars sink into the mud until all you can see is the tips of
their radio antennas.”

“We’d get to the well before sunset if you drove as well as you tell
tall stories,” Ralph commented dryly.

They finally made the field headquarters of the Four Corners Drilling
Company with two hours of sunlight to spare. The boys looked at the
place in disappointment. An unpainted sheet-iron shack with a sign
reading Office over its only door squatted close to the top of the San
Juan gorge. Not far from it was an odd-looking contraption of pipes,
valves and dials about as big as a home furnace. There was no sign of a
well derrick as far as they could see across deserted stretches of sand,
sagebrush, and rust-colored rock.

“There she is—Hall Number One,” said their employer. He walked over to
the contraption, patted it as though it was his best friend, and stood,
thumbs hooked in the armholes of his worn vest, while he studied the
dials proudly. “This is my discovery well. It’s what buys the baby new

“But where are the derricks and everything?” Quiz tried unsuccessfully
to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

“Shhh!” whispered Sandy. “They’ve skidded the derrick to the new well
site. This thing’s called a Christmas tree. It controls the flow of oil
out of the ground.”

“Smart boy,” said Hall. “We’ve got our wildcat hogtied and hooked into
this gathering line.” He pointed to a small pipe that snaked southward
across the desert. “The gathering line connects with the big new
pipeline to the West Coast that passes a few miles from here. Number One
is flowing a sweet eight hundred and fifty barrels a day.”

“But I don’t see any other well,” Quiz persisted.

“It’s over behind that butte.” Hall pointed again. “Oh, I know what’s
bothering you. You’re remembering those old pictures that show derricks
in an oil field standing shoulder to shoulder, like soldiers. We don’t
do things that way any longer. We’ve got plenty of room out here, so we
space our wells. Only drill enough of them to bring up the oil without
waste. Come on. I’ll take you over and introduce you to the gang.”

A short ride brought them to a scene of whirlwind activity. Drilling had
stopped temporarily on Hall’s second well so that a worn bit could be
pulled out of the hole and replaced with a sharp one. But that didn’t
mean work had stopped!

The boys watched, spellbound, while dripping lengths of pipe were snaked
out of the ground by a cable which ran through a block at the top of the
tall derrick and was connected to a powerful diesel engine. As every
three lengths arrived at the surface, two brawny men wielding big iron
tongs leaped forward and disconnected them from the pipe remaining in
the well. Then the 90-foot “stand” was gently maneuvered, with the help
of another man, wearing a safety belt, who stood on a platform high up
on the derrick. When a stand had been neatly propped out of the way, the
next one was ready to be pulled out of the well.

The crew worked at top speed without saying a word until the mud-covered
drill finally came in sight. They unscrewed the bit from the end of the
last stand of pipe, and replaced it with a sharp one. Then the process
was reversed. Stand after stand of pipe was reconnected and lowered
until all were back in the well. Then the engine began to roar steadily.
A huge turntable under the derrick started spinning the pipe at high
speed. Down at the bottom of the hole the bit resumed chewing into the

“Nice teamwork, Ralph,” said Hall. “You certainly have trained as good a
crew as can be found in the Regions.”

“Nice team to work _with_,” answered the driller as he looked proudly at
his men, who were about equally divided between Indians and whites. “Now
let’s see if there’s any work for our two tenderfeet before it’s time to
knock off for supper. Come on, fellows. The mud pit is slurping for

Two hours later, when the cook began hammering on his iron triangle,
Sandy and Quiz looked like mud puppies.

“You’re a howling fright,” said the tall boy as he climbed out of the
big pit where a new batch of goo was swirling and settling. He plastered
down his unruly cowlick with a slimy hand. For once the hair stayed in

“And you look like a dirty little green man from the swamps of the
planet Venus.” Quiz spat out a bit of mud and roared with laughter.
“Lucky thing we don’t have to get this muck off with compressed air.
Come on. I’ll race you to the showers.”

Dinner was eaten in the same dogged quiet that they had noted at the
motel. It was a good dinner, too, although it came mostly out of cans.

The boys were introduced all around after the apple pie had been
consumed to the last crumb, but they were too tired and sleepy to sort
out names and faces. They did gather that four-man shifts—or “towers,”
as they seemed to be called—kept the drill turning day and night until
the drill struck oil or the well had to be abandoned as a “duster.”

The only person present who made a real impression was Harry Donovan,
Hall’s geologist. He was an intense, bald, wiry fellow in his thirties
who kept biting his lips, as though he was just about to impart a deep
secret. But all he seemed to talk about were mysterious things like
electronic log readings, core analyses, and the distance still to be
drilled before something called the “Gallup Pay” would be reached.

Hall and Salmon were intensely interested in Donovan’s report. Try as
they would to follow it, Sandy and Quiz soon found themselves nodding.
Finally they leaned their elbows on the oilcloth-covered dinner table
and snored gently.

Ralph shook them partially awake and showed them their beds in a
battered trailer. They slept like logs despite the fact that, bathed in
brilliant white light provided by a portable electric generator, the rig
roared and clanked steadily throughout the night as its bit “made hole”
more than a thousand feet underground.

                              CHAPTER FOUR
                           Learning the Ropes

Sandy and Quiz spent the next two weeks picking up a working knowledge
of drilling, getting acquainted with Hall’s outfit, and learning to keep
out from under the feet of the crew. Ralph saw to it that their jobs
varied from day to day as they grew lean and brown under the desert sun.

“Used to have a lot of trouble keeping fellows on the job out here next
to nowhere,” he explained with a grin. “The boys would get fed up after
a few weeks. Then they’d quit, head for town, and I’d have to spend
valuable time rounding up replacements. Now I switch their work around
so they don’t have so much chance to become bored. Let’s see ... you
mixed mud yesterday, didn’t you? Well, today I want you to help Jack
Boyd keep his diesel running.” Whereupon the boys would spend a “tower”
cleaning the engine room, or oiling and polishing the powerful but
over-age motor that Boyd nursed like a sick child to make it keep the
bit turning steadily.

On other days they were assigned to drive to Shiprock or Farmington for
supplies, to help Ching Chao in the cookhouse, or to learn the abc’s of
oil geology from Donovan. Sandy preferred to do chores around the
derrick and was very proud when he finally was allowed to handle one of
the huge tongs used to grip the stands of pipe so that they could be
removed from the well or returned to it.

Quiz, on the other hand, never tired of studying the wavering lines
marked on strips of paper by the electric log that Donovan lowered into
the well at regular intervals. He soon got so that he could identify the
different kinds of rock layers through which the bit was drilling, by
the slight changes in the shapes of those lines. Or he would train a
microscope on thin slices of sandstone sawed from the yard-long cores
that were hauled out of the well from time to time. With his usual
curiosity, he had read up enough about geology to recognize the
different marine fossils that the cores contained. He would become as
excited as Donovan did when the geologist pointed to a group of minute
shells in a slice of core and whispered, “Those are Foraminifera, boys!
We must be getting close to the oil.” And he would become as discouraged
as his teacher when careful study of another core showed no indication
of ancient sea creatures.

“I don’t get it,” Sandy would mutter on such occasions. “How come those
shells got thousands of feet underground in the first place? And what
have they got to do with finding oil?”

Then the geologist would mop his bald head with a bandanna handkerchief,
take off his thick horn-rimmed glasses and use them as a pointer while
he lectured the boys on his beloved science.

“All of this country has been deep under water several times during the
last few million years,” he would explain patiently. “In fact, most of
the center of the North American continent has been submerged at one
time or another. When the Four Corners region was a sea bottom back in
the Carboniferous era, untold generations of marine plants and animals
died in the water and sank to the bottom.

“As the ages passed, those life forms were buried by mud and silt
brought down from surrounding mountains by the raging rivers of those
days. The weight of the silt caused it to turn into sandstone or
limestone layers hundreds of feet thick. This pressure generated a great
deal of heat. Geologists think that pressure and heat compressed the
dead marine creatures into particles of oil and gas.

“Every time the land rose to the surface and sank again, another layer
or stratum of dead fish and plants would form. All this heaving and
twisting of the earth formed traps or domes, called anticlines, into
which the oil and gas moved. That’s why we find oil today at different
depths beneath the surface.”

“I understand that water and gas pressure keeps pushing oil toward the
surface,” Sandy said on one occasion, “but then why doesn’t it escape?”

“Usually it gets caught under anticlines where the rock is too thick and
hard for it to move any farther,” Quiz cut in, eager to show off his new
knowledge of geology. “But it does escape in some places, Sandy. You’ve
heard of oil springs. George Washington owned one of them. And the
Indians used to sop crude petroleum from such springs with their
blankets and use it as a medicine or to waterproof their canoes.
Sometimes the springs catch fire. Some of those still exist in parts of
Iran. I read an article once which said that Jason really was looking
for a cargo of oil when he sailed the _Argo_ to the Caucasus Mountains
in search of the Golden Fleece. The fleece was just a flowery Greek term
for a burning spring, maybe.”

“Maybe,” Donovan agreed as he stoked his pipe and sent clouds of smoke
billowing through the laboratory. “There’s also a theory that Job was an
oilman. The Bible has him saying that ‘the rock poured me forth rivers
of oil,’ you remember. If you read the Book of Job carefully, it almost
sounds as if the poor fellow’s troubles started when his oil field
caught fire. However that may be, we know that the Greeks of Jason’s
time used quite a bit of oil. The Arabs even refined petroleum and
lighted the streets of their cities with something resembling kerosene
almost a thousand years ago.”

“Golly,” said Sandy. “It’s all too deep for me—several thousand feet too
deep. I think I’ll go help Chao get dinner ready! I _do_ know how to

The one job around the derrick that the boys never got a chance to
handle was that of Peter Sanchez, the platform man who worked on their
shift, or “tower.” Whenever the time came to replace a bit, Peter would
climb to his perch halfway up the rig, snap on a safety belt, and guide
the upper ends of the ninety-foot stands of pipe into their rack. There
they would stand upright in a slimy black bunch until it was time to
return them to the well.

Peter, who boasted that he had been an oilman for a quarter of a
century, worked effortlessly. He never lost his footing on the narrow
platform, even when the strongest wind blew. Platform men on the other
shifts were equally sure-footed—and very proud of their ability to
“walk” strings of pipe weighing several tons. And they took things easy
whenever they climbed down from their dizzy perches.

Peter, in particular, was fond of amusing the other crew members by
telling them stories about the oil fields in the “good old days.” His
favorite character was a driller named Gib Morgan. Gib, he said, had
come down originally from the Pennsylvania regions when the first big
strikes were being made in Texas and Oklahoma, around 1900.

“You never heard of Gib?” Peter said one night as the off-duty crews
were sitting around a roaring campfire after dinner. “Well, I’ll tell
you....” He rolled a cigarette with one hand, cowboy fashion, while
studying the young greenhorns out of the corner of his eye. “Gib was a
little feller with a big mustache but he could put Davy Crockett and
Paul Bunyan in the shade when he had a mind to. When he first came to
Texas he had a run of bad luck. Drilled almost a hundred dry holes
without hitting a single gusher. Got down to his last silver dollar.
Then do you know what he did to make a stake?”

“No. What?” Quiz leaned forward eagerly.

“He pulled up all those dusters, sawed ’em into four-foot lengths, and
sold ’em to the ranchers for postholes. That’s how it happens that all
the Texas ranges got fenced in with barbed wire, son.”

When the laughter had died down and Quiz’s ears had returned to their
normal color, the platform man went on: “That wasn’t the only time that
Gib helped out his fellow man. Back around 1900, just before the big
Spindletop gusher came in, oilmen in these parts were having a lot of
trouble with whickles—you know what a whickle is, don’t you, Sandy?”

“It’s a cross between a canary bird and a bumblebee, isn’t it?” Sandy
was dimly remembering a story that his father had told him.

“Well! Well!” Peter looked at him with more respect. “That’s exactly
right. Pretty little varmints, whickles, but they developed a powerful
taste for crude oil. Soon as a well came in, they’d smell it from miles
away. That’s no great feat, I’ll admit, for crude oil sure has a strong
odor. Anyway, they’d descend on the well in swarms so thick that they’d
darken the sky. And they’d suck it plumb dry before you could say Jack
Robinson, unless you capped it quick.

“Well, Gib got one of his big ideas. He went out to one of his dusters
that he hadn’t pulled up yet, poured several barrels of oil down it, and
‘salted’ the ground with more oil. Pretty soon, here came the whickles.
They lapped up all the oil on the ground. Then a big whickle, probably
the boss, rose up in the air and let out a lot of whickle talk about how
he personally had discovered the biggest oil highball on earth. After
that he dived into the well, and all the others followed him, like the
animals that went into the ark. Soon as the last one was down the hole,
Gib grabbed a big wooden plug and capped the well. We haven’t had any
whickle trouble since.”

“Then all the poor whickles died?” Quiz rose to the bait.

“Oh, no,” Peter answered with a straight face. “They’re still buzzing
around in that hole, mad as hops. Some day a greenhorn like you will
come along and let ’em out.”

“Wonder what ever became of Gib,” said Donovan, between puffs on his

“Last I heard he was up Alaska way,” Ralph said. “Here’s a story about
him that you may want to add to your repertoire, Pete. Gib was drilling
near Moose Jaw in December when it got so cold the mercury in the
thermometer on the derrick started shivering and shaking so hard that it
knocked a hole right through the bottom of the tube. During January it
got colder yet and the joints on the drill pipe froze so they couldn’t
be unscrewed.

“Now Gib had a bet he could finish that well in four months and he
wasn’t going to let Jack Frost faze him. He just rigged up a pile driver
that drove that frozen pipe on down into the ground as pretty as you
please. Soon as one stand of pipe was down, the crew would weld on
another and keep driving. Course the pipe got compressed a lot from all
that hammering, but Gib couldn’t see any harm in that.

“Time February came around it got real chilly—a hundred or so below
zero. He was using a steam engine by that time because the diesel fuel
was frozen solid, but no sooner would the smoke from the fire box come
out of the chimney than it would freeze and fall back on the snow.
Wading through that black stuff was like pushing through cotton wool,
and besides, the men tracked it all over the clean bunkhouse floor. So
Gib had to get out a bulldozer and shove it into one corner of the
clearing where he had his rig set up.

“They were down about four miles on March 15 when an early spring thaw
set in. First thing that happened was that the smoke melted and spread
all over the place. Couldn’t see your nose on your face. Fire wardens
came from miles around thinking the forest was ablaze. Gib was in a
tight spot so he did something he had never done before—he looked up his
hated rival, Bill McGee, who was in the Yukon selling some refrigerators
to the Eskimos. He had to give skinflint McGee a half interest in the
well to get him to help out. McGee just borrowed those refrigerators,
stuffed the smoke into them, and refroze it.

“No sooner was the smoke under control than all that compressed drill
pipe down the well started to thaw out. It began shooting out of the
hole like a released coil spring. First it humped up under the derrick
and pushed it a hundred feet into the air. Then it toppled over and
squirmed about the clearing like a boa constrictor.

“That was where Bill McGee made his big mistake. Gib had told him the
drill bit, which had been dragged out of the well by the thrashing pipe,
had cuttings on it which showed there was good oil sand only a few feet
farther down. But Bill figured that with the derrick a wreck, the well
was a frost. So he sold his half interest back to Gib, who didn’t
object, for a plug of good chewing tobacco.

“Soon as McGee was out of sight, Gib headed for the nearest U.S. Assay
Office. He got the clerk to lend him about a quart of the mercury that
assay men use to test the purity of gold nuggets.

“Morgan went back to camp, sat down beside the derrick, lit his pipe and
waited for the freeze-up which he knew was bound to come before spring
actually set in. It came all right! Puffing his pipe to keep warm Gib
watched the new alcohol thermometer he had bought in town go down, down,
and down until it hit a hundred and ten below. Right then he dropped his
quart of solidified mercury into the well.

“Just as he figured, it acted the way the mercury in the old thermometer
had done—went right to the bottom and banged and banged trying to escape
from that awful cold. Yes, sir, that hunk of mercury smashed right
through to the oil sand. Pretty soon there was a rumble and a roar. Up
came a thick black column of oil.”

“Wait a minute,” cried Sandy, thinking he had caught the storyteller out
on a limb. “Why didn’t the oil freeze too?”

“It did, Sandy. It did,” Ralph answered blandly. “Soon as it hit the
air, it froze solid. But it was slippery enough so it kept sliding out
of the ground a foot at a time. Gib got his men together and, until
spring really came, they kept busy sawing hunks off that gusher and
shipping them out to the States on flatcars!”

“You win, Ralph,” sighed the platform man as he heaved himself to his
feet. “I can’t even attempt to top that tall one, so I guess I’d better
go to bed. Your story should keep us cool out here for at least a week.”

After that mild hazing session, Sandy and Quiz found themselves accepted
as full-fledged members of the gang. The crew members, who had kept
their distance up to that point, now treated them like equals. Each boy
soon was doing a man’s work around the rig and glorying in his hardening

As the end of June approached, Hall, Donovan and Salmon got ready for
their monthly trip to Window Rock, Arizona, to submit bids for several
leases in the Navajo reservation.

“There’s room in the jeep, so you might as well go along and learn
something more about the oil business,” Hall told the boys. “I’m pretty
sure our bids won’t be accepted, but the only thing we can do is try.”

At that point trouble descended on the camp in the form of a Bonanza
bearing Red Cavanaugh and Pepper March.

The husky electronics man clambered out of his machine and came forward
at a lope. He was dressed only in shorts, and the thick red hair on his
brawny chest glinted in the sunlight. Pepper trotted behind him like an
adoring puppy.

“Howdy, Mr. Hall. Howdy, Donovan,” Cavanaugh boomed as he reached the
rig. “Heard you’d been exploring down in the Hopi butte section. Thought
I’d bounce over and sell you some equipment that has seismographs,
magnetometers and gravimeters beat three ways from Sunday. The very
latest thing. You can’t get along without it.”

“Can’t I?” said Donovan mildly.

“Of course you can’t!” Cavanaugh clapped the little man on the back so
hard that he almost dislodged Donovan’s glasses. “This is terrific! The
biggest thing that’s happened to me since I ran those three touchdowns
for State back in 1930. I developed it in my own lab. You know how a
Geiger counter works...?”

“Well, faintly,” answered the geologist, who had three of them in his
own laboratory. “I wasn’t born yesterday, _Mr._ Cavanaugh.”

“Well, don’t get sore, _Mr._ Donovan.” Cavanaugh bellowed with laughter.
“All I wanted to say was that my new device uses scintillation counters,
which are—”

“—a thousand times more sensitive to atomic radiation than Geiger
counters,” Donovan interrupted. “And you’re going on to tell me that you
can take your doodlebug up in an airplane and spot a radiation halo
surrounding any oil deposit. Right? I read the trade papers, too, you
know. May I ask you a question?”

“Why, of course.” Cavanaugh’s chest and neck had begun to sweat.

“Do you have a Ph.D. degree in electronic engineering?”

“Why, uh, naturally.”

“Well, I don’t, unfortunately, Mr. Cavanaugh. But I know enough about
the science to understand that the gadget you are selling isn’t worth a
plugged nickel unless it’s operated by an expert, and unless it’s used
in connection with other methods of exploration. I have told you several
times at Farmington that this outfit can’t afford another scientist at
present, so I wish you would please go away.”

“Now, Mr. Hall—” Cavanaugh turned to the grinning oilman—“can’t you make
your man listen to reason?”

“He’s not my man. He’s my partner,” Hall answered mildly. “What he says
goes. Now, if you and your, ah, man will have a bite of lunch with us,
I’d be mighty pleased, providing you stop this high-pressure

“Well ...” Cavanaugh seemed on the verge of an explosion. “Well, thanks
for your invitation, but Mr. March and I are due up at Cortez in half an
hour. We’re delivering several of my gadgets, as you call them, to smart
oilmen. Come on, Pepper.”

“John,” said Donovan after they had watched Cavanaugh’s plane roar away,
“I think I’ll have to sock that big lug the next time I meet him.”

“He’d make mincemeat of you,” Mr. Hall warned.

“I doubt it. He’s soft as mush. Anyway, I don’t like him and I’ll have
nothing to do with the equipment he peddles. He knows that, so I think
the real reason he came here was to spy on us—to find out whether our
well had come in yet.”

“Oh, he’s not that bad,” Hall objected. “Boys, you know something about
him. What’s his reputation in Valley View?”

“He acts rich,” Sandy answered after a moment of deep thought.

“The people who work in his lab say he’s not as smart as he makes out,”
Quiz added. “I agree with Mr. Donovan. There’s something phony about
him. I’ve a hunch it’s connected with those three touchdowns he’s always
bragging about. If I could only remember.... Some day I will, I bet.”

“Well, let’s all simmer down and forget him,” said Hall. “It’s time for

                              CHAPTER FIVE
                       A Light in the Window Rock

The morning after Cavanaugh’s unwelcome visit, Hall, Donovan, Salmon and
the boys set out on their 150-mile drive south to the town of Window
Rock. The jeep wallowed and bounced as usual over the dusty trail to
Shiprock. There Ralph turned right onto US 666, pushed the accelerator
toward the floor board and relaxed.

“We don’t have a Bonanza, boss,” he said, “but a loaded jeep on a good
paved road is the next best thing.”

“I’d prefer a helicopter, equipped with a supercharger that could lift
it over the ranges,” Hall answered. “Maybe, if Number Two comes in, we
can buy a whirlybird, along with a portable drill rig truck.”

“A portable rig sure would come in handy for drilling test wells,” Ralph
agreed. “Maybe we could make it come true by putting an offering on that
Navajo wishing pile.” He nodded toward a mound of small brightly colored
stones that stood where an Indian trail crossed the highway.

“Nuh uh,” the oilman said sharply. “And don’t _you_ ever try that stunt,
boys. The Navajos don’t want white men thinning out their luck by
putting things on their wishing piles. By the same token, never take any
object from the piles that you will see scattered through the
reservation. If you’re caught doing that, you’ll be in for real

“Yep. The braves will get mad as wet hens,” Salmon said, chuckling.

“Ralph,” said Quiz, “why do you poke fun at the Navajos?”

“Well, pardner, did you ever hear a UCLA man say anything good about the
Stanford football team?”

“Oh, but that’s different. It’s just school rivalry,” Sandy objected as
he crossed his long legs the other way in an effort to keep his knees
from banging against the dash.

“Well, you might say that the Navajos and Utes have been traditional
rivals since the beginning of time. Nothing very serious, you
understand. We’ve raided each other’s cattle, and taken a few scalps now
and then, when a Navajo stepped on a Ute’s shadow, or vice versa. The
Navajos are Athapascans, you see. They’re related to the Apaches, and
think they’re the lords of creation. But Utes are Shoshoneans. We belong
to one of the biggest Indian ‘families’ in North America. The state of
Utah is named in our honor and there are Shoshones living as far north
as Alaska. Maybe you’ve heard of Sacagawea, the Shoshone ‘Bird Woman,’
who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition all the way to the Pacific

“The Hopis are our brothers, and the Piutes are our poor relations. The
Piutes _did_ eat fried caterpillars and roots in the old days, I guess,
but that was only because they lived out in the western Utah desert
where there wasn’t much else to eat. We southern Utes lived mostly on
buffalo meat. We were great hunters. Our braves would creep right into
the middle of a herd of buffalo and kill as many as they wanted with
their long knives, without causing the animals to take fright and

“How could they do that?” Sandy asked.

“When they went on a hunt, they dressed in buffalo hides, and made
themselves smell like, walk like and even think like buffalo. The
animals didn’t believe they were men.”

“Can you still do that—think like a buffalo, I mean?” Quiz gasped.

“Oh, sure. Just find me a herd of wild ones and I’ll prove it.”

“Ralph’s talents sure are being wasted on drilling for oil,” Donovan
said, knocking out his pipe against the jeep’s side for emphasis.

“All very amusing,” Hall grunted. “But crooked white men have taken
advantage of your sporting rivalry with the Navajo to rob both of you
blind during the past century. The same thing will happen again, I warn
you, if you don’t stop playing Indian and begin working at it.”

“Yes, boss,” Ralph agreed shamefacedly. “You’re absolutely right. But—I
forget everything you’ve said when that Quail character starts getting
under my buffalo hide!”

The car whined merrily down the road past the little towns of Newcomb
and Tohatchi while Ralph sulked and Hall and Donovan talked shop which
the boys couldn’t understand. They turned left on Route 68 in the middle
of the hot afternoon, crossed the line from New Mexico into Arizona, and
a few minutes later pulled into Window Rock.

The town, made up mostly of low, well-kept adobe and stone buildings,
lay in a little valley almost surrounded by red sandstone cliffs. It had
received its name, obviously, from one huge cliff that had a round hole
in it big enough to fly a plane through. One of its largest buildings
was occupied by the Indian Service. Another, built like a gigantic
hogan, was the Navajo Tribal Council, Hall told the boys. They passed a
brand-new hospital and a school and pulled up at a motel where a large
number of Cadillacs and less imposing vehicles were parked.

“Looks as if everybody in the Southwest had come to bid on or sell
equipment,” said Mr. Hall as he studied the array of cars and trucks.
Some of the latter bore the names of well-known companies such as Gulf,
Continental, Skelly and Schlumberger. Others belonged to smaller oil and
uranium firms that Sandy had never heard of.

“Donovan, Ralph, and I had better go in and chew the rag with them
awhile,” the oilman continued. “Why don’t you fellows look the town over
until it’s time for dinner? You’d just get bored sitting around.”

The boys were drifting over toward the Council Hall for a better look at
the many Navajos in stiff black hats and colorful shirts who clustered
around its doorway when they heard a familiar shout.

“Wait up!” Pepper March dashed across the dusty street and pounded them
on their backs as if they were his best friends. “Gee, it’s good to see
a white man you know.”

“You saw us only yesterday,” Sandy pointed out rather coldly.

“Oh, but that was business. Come on. I’ll buy a Coke. What have you been
up to? How do you like working for an old crank? What’s biting Hall’s
geologist? Boy, isn’t it hot? Did you know that I’m learning to fly
Red’s Bonanza? How’s your well coming along?”

“Whoa!” cried Quiz. “Relax! We’ve been working like sin. We like Mr.
Hall. His geologist is going to bite your Mr. Cavanaugh pretty soon, I’m
thinking. It is exactly 110 degrees in the shade. We did not know you
were learning to fly a plane. And the situation at the well is strictly
our own affair.”

“Uh—” said Pepper, “you’re not sore about what happened yesterday, are
you? Red was only trying to make a sale.”

“Nope. We’re not sore,” Sandy answered. “But we’re beginning to take a
dim view of your boss.”

“Why, Red’s the grandest guy you ever met. Do you know what he’s got me

“There you go again, asking personal questions,” said Quiz.

“I’m helping him set up a string of light beam transceivers that will
keep his camps here and at Shiprock in constant communication with his
agent down at Gallup.”

“What on earth for?” Sandy almost choked on his Coke in amazement.
“What’s the matter with the telephone, telegraph and short-wave radio
stations that are scattered all over this territory? And how come
Cavanaugh has to have a permanent camp at Window Rock, and an agent in

“Now who’s asking the questions?” Pepper said smugly. “Have another

“No, but we’ll buy you one,” Quiz replied, and added with a wink at his
pal, “It must be quite a job, setting up one of your stations.”

“Sure is!” The blond boy expanded at this implied praise. “It’s never
been done before over such long distances, Red says. You have to focus
the beam perfectly, or it’s no good. But, after you do that, nobody can
eavesdrop on you unless....” He stopped short, and jumped off the diner
stool as though it had suddenly become hot. “Well, so long, fellows.
I’ve got to be getting back to camp. See you around.” And he departed as
abruptly as he had come.

“Now what kind of business was that?” Sandy asked as he paid the entire

“Monkey business, I guess,” Quiz answered. “I think Mr. Hall ought to
know about those stations, and maybe Mr. White, the Indian Agent, should
be told too.” He kicked at the dust thoughtfully as they walked slowly
down Window Rock’s main street.

“Hmmm. You have to get a license from the government to operate a
short-wave station,” said Sandy. “But I don’t suppose you need one yet
for a light-beam job. Now, just supposing that Cavanaugh wanted to—”

“Wanted to what?”

“That’s what I don’t know. But I sure would like to find out. Let’s be
getting back to the motel.”

They found themselves in the middle of a tense scene when they entered
the motel patio. Twenty or thirty oil and uranium men were gathered
there, their chairs propped comfortably against the adobe walls, while
they listened to Cavanaugh and Donovan argue the merits of the big man’s
electronic explorer.

“You all know, my friends, that uranium ore can be, and has been, found
with a one-tube Geiger,” Red was booming. “But that’s like throwing a
lucky pass in a football game. To win the game, you need power in the
line—power that will let your ball carrier cross the line again, and
again, and again, the way I became an All-American by scoring those
three touchdowns against California back in 1930.”

“Oh, no!” Quiz whispered as he and Sandy founds seats in a far corner.
“This is where we came in last time.”

“In searching for oil, or even for uranium under a heavy overburden of
rock,” Cavanaugh went on, “you need at least the simplest scintillation
counter because it is sixty times as sensitive as a one-tube Geiger.
Better yet is the really professional counter—as much as 600 times more
sensitive than the best Geiger built. Best of all is my multiple
scintillator—100 times more sensitive than the best single tube. Even
you won’t disagree with that, will you, _Mr._ Donovan?”

“Not at all,” answered the bald man after several furious puffs on his
pipe. “I only say that, in addition to the best possible electronic
instrument, you need an operator who thoroughly understands radiation
equipment. Also, you should have a crew of geologists and geophysicists
who know how to balance radiation findings against those established by
other methods.”

“Nonsense,” shouted the ex-football player. “Many of my customers have
located oil-containing faults and stratigraphic traps with my detector
where all other instruments had failed. You’re just old-fashioned.”

“Maybe I am,” said Donovan, “and then maybe I just don’t like to have
wool pulled over my eyes, or the eyes of men I consider to be my

“I’m not pulling wool. Halos or circles of radiation can be detected on
the surface of the earth around the edges of every oil deposit. That’s a
proven fact.” Cavanaugh pounded on the arm of his chair with a fist as
big as a ham.

“Is it?” Donovan asked gently. “Jakosky, who is an authority on
exploration geophysics, says, and I quote his exact words: ‘Atomic
exploration is still in its infancy.’ Let me tell you a story:

“Back in the early days of the oil business, a number of people made
fortunes by charging big fees to locate petroleum deposits with the help
of split willow wands. They’d walk around with the split ends of the
wands between their hands until, they said, some mysterious force pulled
the big end downward until it pointed to oil. A man who helped Colonel
Drake promote his original oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, back in
1859, actually located several profitable fields with the ‘help’ of a
spiritualist medium.”

“He could hardly have failed,” one of the onlookers spoke up. “In those
days, oil was literally bursting out of the ground along many
Pennsylvania creek beds.”

“That’s right, Tom,” Donovan agreed. “Oil was everywhere, so those
dowsers, or ‘creekologists’ as they often were called, did very well
until the search for oil moved west where deposits were scarcer and much
deeper underground.

“Around 1913, geologists had to be called in to do the exploration.
They’ve been responsible for finding practically all the fields
discovered since then. But the creekologists didn’t give up easily. They
built pseudo-scientific gadgets called doodlebugs and equipped them with
lots of fancy dials and flashing lights. One doodlebug even had a
phonograph in it. As it was carried across a field, a ghostly voice
would be heard saying, ‘Your sainted Aunt Minnie bids me tell you to
drill right here and you will bring in a second Spindletop.’”

“You can’t call me a crook!” Cavanaugh, his face scarlet with rage,
lunged to his feet and advanced on his tormentor.

“I’m not calling you a crook—yet.” Donovan stood up too, knocked out his
pipe and put it into his pants pocket. “If you would just stop making
all of those wild-eyed claims for your detector, though, you would make
out better out here.”

As Cavanaugh continued to advance he added mildly, “I suppose I ought to
warn you that I studied judo when I was in college.”

“Excuse me for interrupting your fun, gentlemen,” a quiet voice broke
in. “Is there anyone here named Quincy Taylor? An urgent telegram for
him was just relayed down from Farmington.” Kenneth White, the Indian
Agent, stood in the motel doorway holding a yellow envelope.

Nobody answered for a moment, but Cavanaugh took the opportunity to
stomp out of the room while Donovan sat down quietly and started stoking
his pipe.

“Hey, Quiz!” Sandy exploded at last. “Don’t you recognize your own name?
It’s for you!”

His friend blushed with embarrassment as he accepted the wire, but his
round face turned pale as he read it.

“Mr. Hall,” he choked at last. “It’s from Dad. He slipped and broke his
leg in two places. I’m to come home immediately and run the restaurant
while he’s laid up. Gee whiz!” He bit his lips to keep back the tears.

“That’s tough, Quiz.” The oilman came over and slipped a fatherly arm
around the boy’s shoulders. “Your father will be all right soon, I’m
sure, but we certainly will miss you up at the well. Now the problem is
to get you back to Farmington quick so you can catch the midnight bus.
I’ll send your things on, soon as we get back.”

“One of my trucks is returning to Farmington after supper,” spoke up the
oilman named Tom. “You can go in that.”

“Thanks,” gulped Quiz.

The ban about talking at mealtime was broken that night. All the oil and
uranium men were agreed that Cavanaugh was a bad-mannered blusterer, but
they differed sharply about the value of his electronic detector.

“He has made several good uranium strikes with the thing,” a bearded
prospector insisted, “though what good they’re going to do him I can’t
imagine, with the government not buying except from established mills.
But don’t sell Red Cavanaugh short. He has made millions out of
electronics, they say. He knows electronics. He’s a smart operator. You
keep an eye on the bids he makes tomorrow and you’ll see what I mean.”

“Well, I’m not throwing my seismograph away for a while yet,” Tom
retorted. “I’ll put my money on Don’s opinion any day.”

The boys tried to follow the conversation, but Quiz’s heart was not in
it, and he only picked at his food. Finally he excused himself and
headed for the dining-room door with Sandy after him.

“It’s a tough break,” he said half an hour later while he and his pal
stood at the edge of town and stared upward at that amazing natural
bridge called the Window Rock.

“It sure is,” Sandy agreed glumly. “Maybe you can come back, though.”

“Not a chance. Dad will be laid up most of the summer, and he can’t
afford to hire a manager, the way things are. There’s nothing I can—
Hey! Look!” He grabbed Sandy’s arm and pointed. “See that point of light
twinkling ’way up on top of the Window Rock? That isn’t a star, is it?”

“Nuh-uh!” Sandy watched the faint flicker a thousand feet above them.
“That must be where Cavanaugh has pitched his camp. He’s sending a
message of some kind over light beam. If it were a heliograph
transmitting in Morse code I could read it. But that’s a modulated
beam.... Say, we’d better be moseying back to the motel. Must be about
time for your truck to leave.”

“Sandy,” Quiz said half an hour later after they had shaken hands
solemnly, “I’m going to do everything I can, when I get home, to do some
detective work on Cavanaugh. If anything turns up, I’ll let you know

“Do that, Quiz.” Sandy swallowed and his voice broke. “Be seeing you.”

Quiz climbed slowly into the cab of the big tool truck. As it roared off
into the starlit desert night he kept waving a forlorn farewell.

                              CHAPTER SIX
                         Cliff Dweller Country

Sandy had expected that the opening of bids for leases on thousands of
acres in the Navajo reservation would be an exciting occasion, something
like a country auction. Instead, he found it a great bore.

Scores of bidders in their shirt sleeves lounged on hard straight-backed
chairs in the stuffy meeting room of the Indian Service building, or
chatted, smoked and told jokes in the corridors. Kenneth White and other
representatives of the Indian Service sat behind a long redwood table,
opened piles of envelopes, compared bids, held long whispered
conferences with grave, leather-faced members of the Navajo Council and
their advisers, and very occasionally handed down decisions.

“The bid of $3,900 per acre made for 200 Navajo acres in San Juan
County, northeast, southeast of Section 27-24 N-8 is accepted,” White
then would drone. Or: “A bid of $318 per acre for 125 acres of Section
18, 42 north, 30 east is rejected by the Council because it’s too low.
Another bid may be made at the August meeting, if desired.”

After an hour of this, Sandy was counting the cracks in the floor,
watching flies buzzing against the windowpanes, and wondering whether he
dared ask Mr. Hall to be excused. He hesitated about doing this because
the oilman was following the bidding with tense interest and making
endless notes on the backs of old envelopes that he kept dragging out of
his vest pockets.

“Ssst!” Ralph whispered from the seat behind him. “This is murder. How
about having a second breakfast with me?

“We never should have come down here this month when our well needs
watching every minute,” the young Indian added after they had entered a
nearly empty diner and ordered ham and eggs which neither of them really
wanted. “The big companies have the big money, so they’ll gobble up the
best of the acreage, as usual. We poor boys will get some small tracts,
if we’re lucky. And I don’t think John Hall’s outfit is going to be
lucky today.”

“Why is that?” Sandy asked.

“Because most of our bids are for land that’s under dispute between the
Navajos and Hopis. They can’t be accepted until some sort of settlement
is reached between the tribes. I don’t know why John keeps putting them
in. Well—” Ralph finished his coffee and slid off the stool and onto his
feet in one motion, like a big cat—“let’s go back and learn the worst.”

There was a strange tenseness in the meeting room when they entered.
Cavanaugh and White were standing facing each other across the table.
All eyes were riveted on them and not a sound was being made by the

“Mr. Cavanaugh,” the Indian Agent was saying, “neither the Service nor
the Council can understand the meaning of the bids you have submitted.
Some of them are for small tracts around the Pinta Dome area in Apache
country where there has never been the slightest show of uranium-bearing
ore. I don’t want to tell you your business, but....”

“Thank you for that, Mr. White,” the redhaired giant growled. “Let the
bids stand.”

“Very well. They are accepted. But this other bid—for a thousand acres
in the bed of the San Juan River. You must have made an error. It is
submitted directly to the United States government, instead of to the
Navajo Council. Do you wish to correct it?”

“I do not,” snapped Cavanaugh.

“But it cannot be accepted, since the stream is not navigable.”

“I challenge that statement, Mr. White. Under the law it cannot be
rejected until the stream is _proved_ not to be navigable. If you won’t
accept it, let it stand as a prior claim. Is there anything else?”

“Nothing else whatsoever,” White answered mildly, but between stiff

“That suits me fine.” Cavanaugh lit a long black cigar in defiance of a
NO SMOKING sign, and strutted out. All heads turned to watch him go and
a buzz of conversation started.

“Wheeuw!” Ralph said in Sandy’s ear. “That Pinta Dome area had a big
helium strike some years back. Wells in that region are all closed in
now, and the government is very hush-hush about the whole thing. What’s
Cavanaugh up to?”

White picked up another bunch of bids and called Hall to the table.

“You know, John, that bids on land in the disputed Navajo-Hopi area
can’t be accepted. I’ve told you so again and again. So has Chairman
Paul Jones of the Navajo Council. Why do you keep submitting them?”

“Because I’m a stubborn man, Ken.” Hall grinned, tilting his gray head
as he always did when he was being stubborn. “And because I think
there’s oil under those lands. And because I also think the tribes will
get together soon. You just let my bids stand and tell me where I can
locate Jones.”

“Hosteen Sandez, do you know where Mr. Jones is today?” White asked a
lean old Indian who sat next to him.

“Gone to Chinle,” was the reply. “Two families there having dispute—with
shotguns—about irrigation water. He trying to settle it before Navajo
police come.”

“Thank you,” said Hall. “I think we’ll just mosey on up Chinle way.”

The jeep followed a good paved road as far west as Ganado, but when it
turned north toward Chinle it got back once more on a trail made of
stones from which none of the corners had been removed. They were
driving through a wild country of mesas, washes and canyons which made
conversation almost impossible.

“What do you expect to gain by talking to Jones, John?” Donovan asked
once when the road became smoother for a few miles.

“I’ve been reading so much about summit conferences,” Hall answered,
“that it just occurred to me we might set one up out here. I want to
suggest to Jones that we get some of the more important chiefs of the
two tribes to meet out here in the desert somewhere, where there are no
reporters or members of the Land Resources Association hanging around.
I’ll bet we could accomplish something.”

“Good idea,” Donovan agreed. “If the tribes weren’t continually stirred
up by white men with axes to grind they’d soon be able to agree on that
boundary line.”

“Don’t mind me, palefaces,” said Ralph as he spun the wheel to avoid a
particularly hard-looking stone. “But I doubt it. I know both tribes,

Crash! The jeep bucked like a pinto pony and the motor roared.

“There goes the second muffler in three months,” Ralph shouted, pointing
backward to a heap of junk on the trail.

After that, all conversation was impossible until they pulled into the
little town of Chinle—and learned at the trading post that Jones had
already departed for Tuba City!

“Say, John,” Ralph said, as they were standing around waiting for a
“shade tree mechanic” to dig a muffler that would fit out of a rusty
pile of spare parts that leaned against his hogan, “we can’t possibly
drive back to the well tonight. Why don’t we put up at the Canyon de
Chelly camp so I can show Sandy where his great-uncle fit the Navajos?”

“Good idea,” said his employer. “You’ll have time to show Sandy the
cliff dwellings tomorrow, too. Chief Quail lives over in the Canyon de
Chelly neighborhood. I want to sound him out on my idea for a summit

The sun was sinking in golden glory behind thousand-foot-high red
sandstone buttes when they drove up to the Thunderbird guest ranch at
the entrance of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument area. There they
obtained two pleasant double rooms furnished after the rugged style of
the Old West. When they had showered most of the dust off themselves,
they gathered for a fine meal in the timbered mess hall. Then, in the
cool of the mountain evening, they went over to a big campfire where a
National Park Service Ranger was lecturing to a group of tourists.

“These canyons housed one of the great centers of the Anasazi, or Basket
Maker, civilization,” the Ranger was explaining. “During the first
several centuries of what we call the Christian era, Basket Makers
occupied the whole drainage basin of the San Juan River. In addition to
baskets, they made fine pottery and woven sandals, but they used dart
throwers instead of the later bows and arrows. They built peculiar
circular homes with floors sunk a foot or more into the ground. You’ll
see one of those tomorrow when you visit Mummy Cave.

“When the Basket Makers vanished early in the eighth century, Pueblo
Indians occupied the canyons. They built many-storied cliff dwellings
over the old caves. They were farmers, but they also made beautiful
pottery, cloth, stone tools, and ornaments of copper and gold.

“Coronado, the Spanish Conquistador, may have been looking for this
place when he came up from Mexico in 1540 to search for the fabulous
riches of El Dorado and the Seven Cities of Cibola. He never found
anything but thirst and death.”

“Were the Pueblos and Basket Makers related?” someone asked.

“Yes, they were both Shoshones, like the modern Hopis,” answered the
Ranger as he threw more wood on the fire.

“More distinguished ancestors for us Utes,” Ralph whispered to Sandy.

“Seven or eight centuries ago,” the Ranger went on, “the Pueblos grouped
their cliff dwellings into large ‘apartment houses’ situated on sites
that could easily be defended. Tomorrow you’ll visit White House,
Antelope House, and Standing Cow, which are their finest structures. Let
me warn you, though, that only people accustomed to conditions in the
canyons should drive cars into them. The spring rains are late this
year. There is very grave danger from flash floods and quicksand. In
past years, many covered wagons and other vehicles drove into the
canyons, got caught in a sudden storm, and were never found. I suggest
you rent a car and guide from the Thunderbird Ranch operator.”

“What became of the Pueblos?” a tourist asked in an awed voice.

“Nobody knows. Some people think a great drought hit this part of the
country and they had to move to an area where there was more rainfall.
Others believe that an enemy—possibly the fierce Aztecs—came up from
Mexico and killed all the inhabitants. Terrible battles were fought
here, we know, before the end. Sometimes Pueblo mummies with weapons
still in their hands are found when a new cliff dwelling is explored.
The Navajos say the whole place was deserted when they moved in, more
than 200 years ago. Now, I want to tell you about the troubles that
_they_ had with the Spaniards and Kit Carson.”

“We’d better go to bed, I think,” Hall said to the others in his group.
“Ralph knows a lot more about recent history than this fellow does.
He’ll tell you all about it in the morning.”

Sandy and Ralph crawled out of their bunks shortly after sunrise, but
they found that Hall had already departed. A note under their door read:

“Have located Chief Quail. Don and I have him cornered and are trying to
talk him over to our side. You can use the jeep to explore the canyons
this morning but be back by lunchtime, so we can hunt for Hopi Chief
Ponytooth. He’s up in this neighborhood, Chief Quail says. Happy

After a brief argument with the Ranger, who repeated his warnings about
flash floods and quicksand, Sandy and Ralph got under way.

“I know this territory like the palm of my hand,” the driller said as he
drove carefully into dark gorges where the sun shone only around noon.
“There really are four separate canyons, you’ll notice. From right to
left they’re Monument Canyon, the Canyon de Chelly proper, Black Rock,
and the famous Canyon del Muerto, which means Death Canyon. That’s the
one where the Navajos made their last stand against Kit Carson.”

“How did he ever drive them out of a place like this?” Sandy marveled as
he stared up at towering cliffs that rose almost straight up from the
grass-covered canyon floor. “One man on a cliff should have been able to
stand off a regiment by rolling rocks down on their heads.”

“That’s where your great-uncle was smarter than General Custer,”
answered his guide. “He didn’t try to attack. If he had, the Navajos
would have massacred his troops. Instead, Kit sent small raiding parties
of cavalrymen down the centers of the canyons where they were fairly
safe from rocks and arrows. They had orders to shoot every sheep, goat
and cow in sight. After they did that, they retreated and blocked all
exits to the canyons.”

“And the braves and their families just stayed inside and starved?”
Sandy was really shocked.

“What else could they do? See that big blue-and-white picture of a cow
drawn on the canyon wall over the cliff dwelling to your left? That’s a
sort of monument which the poor old Navajos made to remind them of their
slaughtered herds. After they finished it, they all came out and

“Gee whiz!” was all that Sandy could think of to say.

“We have time to explore just one cliff house,” Ralph continued. “It
might as well be Standing Cow. Come on.”

They climbed a swaying ladder to reach one of the dwellings. This had
been restored by archaeologists and looked as though its Indian
inhabitants had departed the night before, instead of a long 400 years
ago. There was the loom on which they had woven their cloth. Graceful
pottery with decorations in glaze was stacked in a corner. A bedboard
rested on two timbers cemented into the rear wall.

“These were de luxe apartments, probably occupied by the chief,” Ralph
explained. “They have one big drawback—no hallways. You have to go
through the living quarters to get to the other rooms. Come back here
and I’ll show you one of their kivas, or ceremonial rooms.”

He led the way into a much larger cave that had a balcony overlooking a
round hole some twenty feet across by six feet deep. Light filtered into
the gloomy place through one small window in the cliff face.

The driller turned a flashlight beam into the hole. Sandy saw that its
bottom could be reached by steep stone stairways. A wide bench ran
around the sides of this strange pit. In its center stood several stone
tanks about the size of bathtubs.

“When the cliff dwellers wanted to talk to their gods,” said Ralph,
“they climbed down into a kiva hole like this and stayed for days
without eating, drinking or sleeping. They practiced a kind of
self-hypnotism, I guess.”

“Maybe,” Sandy guessed, “they just went down there to take their
Saturday-night baths. I don’t see any gods—idols, I mean.”

“These people didn’t have idols—just those tub things,” Ralph answered.
For a long time he stood staring down into the kiva, as though he were
trying to picture his dead-and-forgotten ancestors there, conducting
their silent worship. “We’d better be getting back to the ranch,” he
said at last, shaking his handsome head as though to clear it of dreams.

“That was a pretty grim thing Carson did to the Indians,” Sandy said as
they drove back to Thunderbird.

“It was better than a massacre. Only twenty or so Navajos were actually
killed by his troops, remember. And you should not forget, either, that
Kit was acting under orders from Washington.”

“Those Nazi officers who killed innocent people in German concentration
camps said they were acting under orders too,” Sandy pointed out grimly.

“Oh, but Carson never tried to excuse his actions. At first, he thought
he was doing the right thing to move the tribe onto a fine new
reservation. But as soon as he had herded several thousand of them over
to Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River, he changed his mind. Bosque
Redondo means Round Forest in Spanish, but he found there weren’t more
than half a dozen trees on the whole place, while good grazing grass was
almost as rare. It was a hellhole and the Navajos hated it. They ran
away or, if they weren’t able to do that, they just sat down and pined.
A thousand of them died there from hunger and homesickness.

“So Carson climbed on a train, went to Washington, and told the Great
White Father just what was happening. When he warned that all the
Navajos at Bosque Redondo would be dead in a few years, nobody seemed to
mind very much. ‘Good Indian: dead Indian,’ you know. When he added that
the government was spending a million dollars a year just to help them
die, a few ears pricked up. But when he said that half the Navajos had
never left Arizona and that they were threatening to go on the warpath
to help their imprisoned brothers, Carson got action. He was ordered to
return the tribe to its original reservation—this one—and was given
money to help them get a new start.”

“I’d like to tell Miss Gonzales what you just told me,” said Sandy. “I
don’t want her to dislike me because she thinks my great-uncle was a

“Well, why don’t you? Her school trailer is located only about twenty
miles from our well. Drop in on her when you get a day off.”

“Gee, I’d like to, Ralph,” said Sandy as they approached the ranch gate
where Hall, Donovan and Chief Quail were waiting for them, “but she
seemed pretty angry that night at the motel.”

“Kitty’s a fine girl,” Ralph answered slowly, “even though she tries to
be more Navajo than the Navajos. Fact is, I’ll let you in on a secret:
My last oil royalty check from the wells in the Southern Ute reservation
amounted to $12,000. When I get a few more of them in my bank account,
so I can give her a big marriage gift, I’m going to ask my uncle to ask
_her_ uncle if she’ll have me for a husband.”

“What have uncles got to do with marriage?” Sandy stared at Ralph in
amazement, realizing for the first time that he really was an Indian and
had ways of doing things that were hard to understand.

“It’s just an old Navajo custom.” Ralph grinned uncomfortably. “And that
reminds me: If Kitty gets uppity about Carson again, you tell her I said
to be nice or I’ll ask my great-uncle to step on her great-uncle’s
shadow. That will make her behave!”

                             CHAPTER SEVEN
                             Back of Beyond

After a hurried lunch that ended with flabby apple pie, as Sandy had
discovered most lunches usually did in the Southwest, the five men
climbed into Quail’s pickup truck. (The Chief insisted that the jeep
couldn’t possibly travel the trails they would have to follow.) Then
they set out for the wild Dot Klish Canyon area, to the northwest of
Chinle, where the Navajo thought Chief Ponytooth and his wife were
“squatting,” as he put it.

Ralph chose to sit on a box in the bed of the truck because, as he said
frankly, “If I’m in the cab with the Chief, we’ll quarrel.”

Sandy joined the driller on another box that was scantily padded with a
piece of blanket. Soon both of them were hanging onto the truck body for
dear life as they bumped and blundered over a road that made previous
ones they had traveled seem like superhighways.

Sometimes their way led through tall thickets of mesquite and briars
that threatened to tear the clothes off their backs. Then they would
ford a stream so deep that water splashed over them. The machine, though
still fairly new, groaned and knocked like a Model T at the torture it
was undergoing.

“This territory is what Australians call ‘back of beyond,’” Ralph
shouted at one point as he dodged low-hanging tree branches. “We need a
covered wagon.”

At another, when they all had to get out and push the machine from a
gully into which it had slid, he made sarcastic remarks about the
driving abilities of all unprintable Navajos.

Once he wiped the streaming perspiration from his face and neck, pointed
to a mass of black clouds in the west and muttered, “Thunderstorm
weather. A good day to lie under a tree and take siesta.” Mostly,
though, the Ute gritted his teeth and kept silent as the pickup fought
its lonely way across the fringes of the Painted Desert.

It was midafternoon and the sticky heat was stifling when they reached
the great box canyon where the Hopis were supposed to be living.

“I don’t like the feel of this place,” Quail said as he stopped the
truck on a high bank that overlooked the trout stream pouring out of a
narrow cleft between two buttes. “Look at those thunder clouds piling
up. I should not wish to lose my car in there.”

“_We_ don’t matter, of course,” Ralph grunted. “How far is it to
Ponytooth’s place?”

“About half a mile, I think,” the Navajo answered.

“Then let’s leave your precious hunk of junk out here and walk in.”
Ralph set off down a faint trail at a fast lope that the others found
hard to match.

Around a sharp bend in the canyon they came at last to a heap of
sandstone ruins. The little group of circular pueblos looked as old as
the surrounding hills. Most of the walls had crumbled or been knocked
apart in some strange manner. Only one had a roof of pine or cottonwood
beams, light poles and bunch grass. In front of it a tiny old woman sat
smoking a long pipe.

Her face, brown as chocolate, was a mass of wrinkles. But her black
eyes, which peered out of the folds of a heavy wool blanket, or manta,
were sharp with intelligence.

She made no answer to their questions in English and Navajo. When Ralph
spoke to her in the basic Shoshonean language, however, she pursed her
lips and pointed up the canyon with them.

“Ponytooth is probably up there hunting somewhere,” Chief Quail said.
“We’d better find him before it gets too dark.”

Half a mile farther up the stream they found the old Chief. He was
stalking a jack rabbit with, of all things, a bow and arrows. Slanting
rays of sunshine that broke through the gathering clouds showed that he
was dressed in the ancient Hopi costume. It consisted of a woolen
poncho, or blanket, with a hole cut in the center, through which he had
thrust his white head, baggy trousers slit up to the knees on the sides,
deerskin leggings wrapped round and round his spindly shanks, and
beautifully woven sandals. Only his belt, which was mounted with large
silver discs, showed that he was a person of importance.

“I didn’t know that clothing like that existed any more, except in
museums,” Ralph said softly.

The Hopi shot the jack rabbit through the heart, retrieved his arrow,
and came toward them, carrying the animal by its long ears. When Hall
went forward, with outstretched hand, the Hopi showed no surprise

“No spikum English mush,” he said gravely in return to the oilman’s

Chief Quail tried him in Navajo—and got a cold stare in return.

“I think I can make him understand what we want, if it’s O.K. with you,
John,” said the driller.

At a nod from Hall he spoke at great length in Shoshone clicks and

Chief Ponytooth listened, at first politely, then with a growing frown.
At last he held up a hand and replied with a torrent of words. As he
spoke, thunder rolled in the far distance.

“He says,” Ralph translated, “that he is an old man. Soon his body will
be placed in a crevice in the rocks, and his spirit will go northward to
join those of his ancestors at a place called Sipapu. Meanwhile,
however, he has been ordered by the Hopi Council to live here in the
ruins of Awatobi, a pueblo or village that was destroyed by the
Spaniards hundreds of years ago because the tribe had killed all of
their Christian missionaries.

“Although he knows that the Navajos claim this territory as part of
their reservation, he declares that it is part of Tusayan, an ancient
province belonging to the Hopi and their cousins, the Moqui. So long as
he stays here, he believes, neither Navajos nor palefaces will dare to
steal this land.”

“Tell him we don’t want his confounded desert,” Hall said impatiently.
“Tell him we won’t kill a single jack rabbit or harm a piece of
sagebrush. Try to make him understand that all we want to do is to
remove oil from far beneath the ground. In exchange we will give his
people money so they may build schools and hospitals.”

When this was translated, Ponytooth straightened his bent back and
glared at them defiantly. His face, under its broad white hairband, took
on a haughty grandeur. Then he spoke again, waving his skinny arms and
beating his breast for emphasis.

And the thunder rolled nearer with every sentence he uttered.

“He says—” Ralph shrugged—“that neither the Navajos nor the palefaces
have ever given his people anything. They have always taken things
away—cattle, wheat, the spirits of young warriors. They are his enemies
until the end of the world. He is weak and old now, but you can only
take this land by killing him.”

A spatter of cold rain emphasized the Chief’s meaning.

“We had better leave this place,” Quail said as he gripped Hall’s arm.
“It must be raining hard farther up the canyon.”

“Not yet,” Hall snapped. “Ralph, tell the Chief that we understand how
he feels and that we will go, if he wishes. But warn him that if he does
not accept the fair offer we wish to make him, other men may come and
take this land from him, as they took other things from his ancestors.
Try to make him understand that we are his friends.”

The Chief understood the last English word.

“Frens!” he screamed. “Frens! Frens! Frens!” In the rapidly gathering
darkness the canyon walls echoed with his shouts. “Paleface, Navajo,
never frens to Hopi!”

Chief Ponytooth, last of the Pony Clan, burst into wild whoops of
sarcastic laughter. At the same moment, thunder rolled deafeningly above
their heads, lightning danced about the canyon walls like angry spirits,
and the rain began coming down in bucketfuls.

“Out!” yelled Chief Quail. In his excitement he forgot his careful
grammar. “Water come. We die!”

He spoke too late. A roaring sound had begun far up the canyon. Before
they could move, it grew deafening. At the same time a five-foot wall of
yellow water swept down upon them like an express train.

After that, things happened too fast to be described. As he ran madly
toward the canyon wall with the idea of climbing out of reach of the
flash flood, Sandy slipped on a bank of wet clay and fell headlong.
Ralph grabbed him by the collar and barely managed to drag him to

Hall let out a wild yell as the dry sandbank on which he had been
standing a moment before absorbed water like a sponge, turned to
quicksand, and began to suck at his legs. Just before the wall of water
struck, Donovan snatched up a long branch and held it out. Hall grasped
it and, in turn, was pulled to comparative safety.

By this time the little trout stream had turned into a raging torrent. A
great pine tree in its bed, roots torn loose by the tremendous sudden
push of the water wall, came crashing down. A branch caught Ponytooth
across the thighs and dragged him from sight beneath the flood.

Chief Quail, who was nearest to the Hopi, acted instinctively. He
plunged into the frothing, rock-filled water and fought it with all the
power of his massive shoulders. A moment later he was tumbling
downstream with the old man held tightly in his arms.

While the others watched spellbound in the gathering darkness, the
Navajo fought the cloudburst. Fifty yards downstream, he managed to hook
a leg around a rock that still held firm. His face purple with effort,
he finally succeeded in pulling his apparently lifeless burden to the
top of a dry ledge.

Almost as quickly as it had come, the flood subsided. Dripping, cold and
shaken, the little party headed back toward the pueblo ruins. Chief
Quail walked ahead, carrying the Hopi in his arms.

An hour later Donovan rose from examining the Chief and looked across a
campfire at the rest of them with a worried frown. The geologist had
found Ponytooth’s only apparent injury—a broken leg—and had set it with
expert fingers. But the old man failed to return to full consciousness
thereafter. He threw his arms about and shouted wildly. His cheeks
burned with sudden fever. When his little brown wife crept to his side,
he ordered her away in a frenzy.

“I can’t understand it,” said Donovan. “So far as I can tell, he has no
internal injuries. But the life is running out of him like water out of
a sack. I’m afraid he may be dying.”

“He _is_ dying,” Ralph spoke up softly. “I’ve been listening to his
ravings. He thinks he has offended the water spirits by even talking to
palefaces and a Navajo and a Ute about the tribe’s sacred boundary line.
He thinks he must die to make his peace with the spirits. And so, he
_will_ die before the night is out.”

“Hosteen Quail,” said Hall, “Navajo chiefs are medicine men as well,
aren’t they? Can’t you paint a sand picture or something, and cure
Ponytooth of his delusion?”

“No,” the Chief answered sadly. “Navajo magic works only for Navajos.”

“Let me try,” Ralph said suddenly. He gripped the Hopi’s shoulder to get
his dazed attention, and spoke to him for a long time in Shoshonean. The
old man shook his head back and forth in disagreement, but he stopped
picking at the moth-eaten buffalo robe which Donovan had thrown over

“I told him that the water spirits were not angry,” the Ute said at
last. “He said I lied. I told him we are all his friends. He said to
prove it. So I told him I would prove it by singing him well.” Ralph
stood up slowly and paced around the fire three times in a
counterclockwise direction. “My father was a medicine man,” he went on.
“As a boy I watched him sing people well, but I never was allowed to try
it, of course.... Well, here goes.... Wish me luck, Hosteen Quail.”

He leaned his head back against the ruined pueblo wall for a moment, as
though gathering strength from the ancient building. Then he began to
sing in his rich baritone.

At first the chant went slowly, slowly, like the beat of buffalo hoofs
on the open prairie. Then, as Sandy held his breath to listen, the
rhythm became faster. The words meant nothing to the boy, but somehow
they painted pictures in his mind: A wild charge of naked Indian
horsemen, dying in a hopeless effort to capture a fort from which white
rifle smoke wreathed. The thundering rapids of some great northern
river. Chirping of treetoads in the spring. A love song on some distant
mesa. A bird call. The silence of a summer night....

“There!” Ralph whispered at last, his broad face dripping sweat.

He reached under Ponytooth’s robe and fumbled there for several moments.
Almost, he seemed to be withdrawing some object from the old man’s
body—something red and wet—like a fingernail!

The Hopi gave a long sigh. “Frens,” he murmured as he sank into peaceful

“He’ll be all right now,” said the Ute, “providing we take him to the
hospital at Lukachukai quick to get that compound fracture fixed.”

He stumbled out into the darkness, which now was spangled with stars.

Her eyes round with faith and wonder, the little brown woman followed
him. She was carrying a pot of steaming coffee.

The less said about that awful midnight drive to Lukachukai, the better.
Hall got them there somehow, while Chief Quail and Ralph held Ponytooth
in their arms during the entire journey to protect his leg.

Then they had to go all the way back to Chinle for the jeep, but not
before Chief Quail had made a detour to toss a piece of yellow carnotite
ore on the wishing pile which stood near the entrance to Canyon de

“It’s not that I like Hopis any better than I do Utes,” he said
shamefacedly. “It’s just that I want Ponytooth’s leg to get well quick
so we can settle the boundary dispute.”

“Well, here, I’ll chuck something on your silly pile, too.” Ralph
twisted a ring off his finger and tossed it onto the big mound of
stones. “Me Boy Scout. Always do good turn.” But he turned away so the
others couldn’t see his face.

They got a few hours’ sleep at Thunderbird, but a much-relayed telegram
dragged them out of bed before sunup. It was from Jack Boyd, the diesel
engine man at the well, and it read:


More dead than alive, they pulled onto Hall’s property to find that
things had calmed down. Drilling was proceeding as usual, in fact, and
Boyd was covered with embarrassment.

As Ralph and Sandy stood outside the bunk trailer, almost too tired to
go in and take their clothes off, the driller said lazily, “See that big
mountain there to the north? What does it remind you of?”

Sandy blinked the sleep out of his eyes and stared. The mountain in
question had a big round cliff at one end, a long high ridge in its
center, two branching ridges farther along, and sharply pointed cliffs
at its other end.

“Why,” he said at last, “it looks like a man lying on his back.”

“Good boy. That’s what it is.” Ralph grinned. “That mountain is called
the Sleeping Ute. It’s supposed to be a great warrior who will awake
some day, to unite all the Indians.... And do you know what?”

“What?” Sandy yawned mightily.

“I thought I saw his big toe wiggle just a minute ago.”

                             CHAPTER EIGHT
                       Cavanaugh Shows His Colors

Long before sunup, the screaming of a siren on the rig brought off-duty
crewmen pouring out of their bunks in all stages of undress. When Sandy
arrived at the brightly lighted well, the night foreman was already
halfway through his report to Hall, Salmon and Donovan.

“She started rumblin’ an’ kickin’ at the drillpipe just like she did
yesterday.” The fat, oil-smeared man was puffing. “I stepped up the mud
pressure an’ pulled the siren. She’s calmed down now, but the blowout
preventers are having all they can do to hold her.”

“Good boy,” said Hall. “If you had pulled the siren and waited for
orders we might have a gusher on our hands and pieces of derrick flying
in all directions. How far down are we?”

“Little over 5,500 feet, last time I checked.”

“That’s the Gallup Pay.” Donovan was dancing with excitement. “I knew
we’d hit it. Let’s take a sample and see what we’ve got.”

The big old diesel roared for a moment. It dragged a bar of iron called
a “kelly” out of the square hole in the turntable until the top of the
first section of drillpipe appeared.

After the pipe had been securely locked in the turntable so that it
could neither fall back into the well nor shoot upward if the
underground pressure increased suddenly, two floormen clamped their
six-foot-long tongs, or monkey wrenches, around the kelly and unscrewed
it from the pipe with great care.

They had eased it off only two or three turns when a frothy mixture with
the foul odor of rotten eggs began to squirt from between kelly and

Donovan caught some of this in his cupped hands. He smelled it, rubbed
it between his fingers and then _tasted_ it.

“Beautiful!” the geologist crooned. “This is good, high-gravity oil. The
sulphur content is high, as you can smell, but refiners know how to take
that out. I’ll tell you more when I’ve run a full analysis, but it sure
looks as if we’ve licked the law of averages. Two flowing wells in two
tries is ’way above par.”

The crewmen, who had been holding their breaths for his verdict, let out
wild rebel yells and spun their battered hats into the air. Jack Boyd
and the night foreman hoisted Hall on their shoulders and marched him
around the derrick in triumph.

“All right, fellows,” the oilman shouted to stop the riot. “You all get
new hats, new shoes and bonuses!” As they started another cheer he
mounted the drill platform and held up his hand for attention.

“But I’m going to ask you not to wear those hats and shoes, or bank your
bonuses, for a few weeks yet. This has got to be a tight well.”

“Glory, Mr. Hall,” somebody called from the edge of the crowd. “No
celebration? That’s a lot to ask.”

“I know it is, Bill. But look at it this way: With this well under my
belt, I can get a big bank loan and hire several more rigs to work this
property. That will take me at least a month. If news gets out about
this strike in the meantime, what will happen?”

“Cavanaugh and the oil companies that hold adjoining leases will rush in
and drill offset wells just outside your boundaries before you can get
started,” Bill answered glumly. “They’ll drain most of the oil out from
under your land, like they did up at Cortez last year.”

“Right!” said Hall. “I know things have been tough these last few
months. I’ve had to hold up your pay several times, to make ends meet.
But you all hold stock in our company. If you hang on a little longer,
we’ll all be in clover. So I’m sure you’ll keep your mouths shut when
the spies come prowling, as they will.”

A roar of agreement went up, but then someone said, “How about the kid?
He don’t own no stock, does he?”

“I know Sandy, and I know his dad,” Hall answered. “Also, his bonus is
going to be twenty shares of stock. I’ll vouch for him.” He slapped the
surprised boy on the back and added, “All right, gang. Back to work.
We’ll pull the string and get the well cemented and closed in. Then
we’ll shut down here till I get that bank loan arranged. Some of you
have vacations coming. Take them now. Don will put the rest of you to
work running surveys and drilling test wells on our downriver lease.
Tell any snoopers that John Hall ran out of cash—which is no lie. I
closed out my balance at Farmington last week so I could meet the

After the drillpipe was withdrawn and stacked, the combined crews spent
the rest of the day mixing an untold number of bags of cement with
water. This mixture was pumped down the well to replace the mud that had
filled it to the brim.

Once, when they heard a plane approaching, most of the men faded into
the trailers while the others tried to look as unbusy as possible. The
ship was Cavanaugh’s Bonanza! It circled twice and roared away.

When Salmon estimated that the hole was full of cement, the diesel began
pumping mud again. This forced the cement out of the well and up to the
surface between the earth walls and the heavy steel casing inside which
the drillpipe had rotated.

“How do you ever reach the oil again?” Sandy asked when the operation
was completed.

“Easy.” Ralph yawned tiredly. “After the cement has hardened, we’ll pump
out the mud. That will leave a cement plug twenty feet or so thick in
the well bottom to keep the pressure under control. When we want to
start producing, we just drill through the plug and away we go. Say, why
don’t you go to bed instead of asking foolish questions? You look as if
you had been dragged through a dustbin.”

“I was just thinking, Ralph. Since we’ll be having some time off, why
don’t we visit Miss Gonzales’ school?”

“You go,” yawned the driller. “I’ve got to get this well capped good and
tight tomorrow and then drive to Farmington and try to rent a portable
test rig—on the cuff. I’m going to act so poor-boyish that it will break
your heart. Casehardened drillers will weep in their beer when they hear
my tale of woe.”

“Is that exactly honest?” Sandy tried to smooth down his cement-whitened
cowlick, as he always did when he was thinking hard. “I mean—we _have_
struck oil.”

“We’ll have struck it for somebody else’s benefit if we don’t play our
cards close to our chests and keep a close guard over our well _and_ our
tongues.” Ralph looked at him shrewdly. “You’ll see what I mean in a day
or two. And here’s some good advice: Watch your step, Sandy. There are
some mighty curly wolves in this oil game. Don’t try playing Red Riding
Hood with them.”

Learning that Jack Boyd was one of the men assigned to guard the well
from all intruders, Sandy borrowed the engine man’s car the next day and
headed in the direction of Kitty’s school. The going was rough, as
usual, but the machine was equipped with a heavy-duty transmission and
rear axle, double shock absorbers, an oversized gasoline tank and other
features which defied the chuckholes. He made good time and found the
school trailer during the noon recess.

Twenty Navajo children of all ages were playing what looked like a fast
game of baseball as he drove up. They flew into the trailer like a flock
of frightened chickens, and came out trying to hide behind their
teacher’s skirts.

Kitty greeted her visitor with considerable reserve, but when he told
her that Ralph had asked him to come, she became much more friendly and
invited him to share her lunch.

He found that the roomy trailer was well equipped for its purpose, with
plenty of desks, books, a blackboard and other facilities. It was parked
under tall pine trees near the first brook that he had found since he
left the well.

“A good place to study,” he said to make conversation as he looked out
of the big windows at the nearby Chuska Mountains.

“But it’s the shower that attracts the children at first,” she admitted.
“I have a little pump in the creek, you see, so we have all the water in
the world. They’ve never seen anything like it. Most of them live in
gloomy hogans where the only light comes through the door and the smoke
hole in the center of the room, and where water has to be brought in in
buckets. _Hot_ water is the greatest luxury they’ve ever known. They’d
stay under the shower all day long, except that they are so eager to
learn their lessons.”

“Navajos really like to study?” He tried to keep the surprise out of his

“Of course they do. They’re bright as silver dollars. Now that they have
schools, they’re going to surprise everybody with the speed at which
they learn.”

“Do you ever teach them about Kit Carson?” he took the plunge.

“Why ...” she stared at him uncertainly. “I mention his name when I have

“I think you’re being prejudiced.” Sandy smoothed his cowlick
desperately. Would she throw him out of the trailer for being so bold?

“So that’s why you came!” She startled him by bursting into a merry peal
of laughter. “That was brave, after the—after the nasty way I treated
you at Farmington. Very well, teacher. Tell me why you think Great-uncle
Kit was a friend of the Navajos.”

Sandy began haltingly, but soon warmed to his subject while the Navajo
children came in from their play, gathered around him, and listened
intently. Remembering old stories his mother had told him, Sandy related
how Kit, an undersized, sickly boy of fifteen, had learned to make
saddles so he could get a job with a wagon train that was heading west
from his home town in Missouri.

He went on to tell how his great-uncle had overcome endless hardships to
become famous as a hunter, trapper and scout with Frémont’s expedition.
He described how Kit had driven a flock of 6,500 sheep across the
Rockies to prevent a famine that threatened the early settlers in
California. He explained the happy ending to the blockade of the Navajos
in the Canyon de Chelly, and wound up by telling how Carson had left his
deathbed to go to Washington and make one more plea for government help
for “his Indians.”

“That’s about all,” he concluded, “except that a town and a river in
Nevada, and an oil field in New Mexico are named after Kit Carson. He
_must_ have been a good man.”

“Perhaps he was,” the girl said softly while her pupils smiled and
nodded their dark heads. “I’ll be kinder to him when I teach a history
lesson after this. He sounds a lot nicer than some of the people I have
met recently. That Mr. Cavanaugh, for instance....” She turned up her
snub nose and let her voice trail off.

“Cavanaugh!” Sandy cried. “Has he been prowling around here too?”

“Yes. He drove through here this morning in a truck. Said he was making
some sort of ax minerals survey of school lands. Also said he’d stop by
again after school. Will you stay here until he has gone, Mr. Cars—Mr.
Steele? I can’t bear him.”

“I will if you’ll call me Sandy,” the boy said bashfully.

“All right, Sandy. And you may call me Kitty.”

“Cavanaugh certainly gets around,” Sandy said. “Did he have anyone with

“Yes, a young man who seemed to worship the ground he walked on. _He_
was nice enough, but, well, sort of dewy-eyed, if you know what I mean.”

“I know,” Sandy grunted, “and not quite dry behind the ears, either.
That was Pepper March.”

“Well, time to get classes started.” Kitty jumped up with a flutter of
skirts and shooed her children to their desks. For the next two hours,
while Sandy listened admiringly, she was an efficient, understanding
schoolma’am. As he followed the recitation he had to admit that, as she
had said, the Navajo children were “bright as silver dollars.” They
displayed an eagerness to learn that almost frightened him. Very few
youngsters showed that hunger for knowledge back at Valley View High.

That got him to thinking about poor old Quiz. How he would have enjoyed
this visit. What tough luck! But maybe he’d have a chance to get some
sort of line on Cavanaugh, the big lug.

The roar of an approaching truck jerked him out of his reverie. Kitty
quickly dismissed her pupils and she and Sandy were alone in the trailer
when Cavanaugh strode in, closely pursued by Pepper.

“Oh!” The big man frowned at the unexpected visitor until Pepper rushed
forward, shouting Sandy’s name, and shook hands as though his school
rival were the best friend he had in the world.

Then Cavanaugh turned on a smile as bright as a neon sign and insisted
on shaking hands too.

“I’ve heard a lot about you from Pepper,” he boomed. “Wish you were on
my team instead of John Hall’s. Say! I heard you had a bit of luck at
your well. Is that right?”

“Luck?” Sandy stammered, wondering how on earth he was going to get out
of this one.

“Oh, sure. Everybody knows about the telegram that brought you all
tearing back from Chinle. Did the well come in?”

“It.... We....” Sandy almost swallowed his Adam’s apple and his face
went white under its tan. What on earth could he say?

Cavanaugh misunderstood the reason for his hesitation and lost his
momentary advantage by rushing on.

“Oh, come on, son.” He pounded the boy’s shoulder with a great show of
affection. “You don’t owe a thing to that old skinflint Hall. Give me
the real lowdown on the well and I’ll make it very much worth your

Sandy jerked away, his fists clenched in fury, but Kitty stepped quickly
between him and his tormentor.

“Mr. Cavanaugh,” she said in a voice that dripped ice water, “you’re new
around the oil regions, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” The electronics man pulled in his dimpled chin as
though the girl had slapped him.

“Out here in the Southwest,” she said slowly, “folks don’t pry into
other folks’ business if they know what’s good for them.”

“Well.... I.... You....” His face turned scarlet. “You can’t talk to

“I can, and will.” Her black eyes flashed fire. “Your truck is
trespassing on school property belonging to the state of Utah. Remove it
at once!”

Cavanaugh opened and closed his mouth several times, like a fish out of

“You’ll both be sorry for this,” he gritted like a stage villain. “Come
along, Pepper.”

“Do you....” Sandy spoke through a dry throat after Cavanaugh’s truck
had thundered away. “Kitty, do you live here in the trailer?”

“Why, of course.” She looked at him oddly. “There’s not the slightest

“I’m not so sure, now. Couldn’t you stay with one of the Navajo families
in the neighborhood for a while?”

“Then who would protect the school? It’s more important than I am.”


“Don’t you worry, Sandy Carson Steele.” She patted his arm. “The Navajos
are my friends, and they’re no friends of Cavanaugh. I’ll tell them
what’s happened and they’ll take good care of me. Now you had better get
back to the well as fast as you can. The roads are completely impossible
after dark.”

                              CHAPTER NINE
                        Fighting Fire with Fire

When he got back to the well Sandy found that Hall had already set out
on his fund-raising campaign while Donovan had locked himself in his
trailer laboratory and was running analyses on oil samples he had taken
before the cement was poured. Ralph had just finished welding a heavy
cap to the top of the casing.

“I defy anybody to find out what’s down there until we’re ready to let
them know,” he said as he grinned at the tired and dirty boy. The grin
changed to a frown. “What have you been up to this time, Sandy? You look
like something the cat refused to drag in!”

When he learned about the events at Kitty’s school, the driller nodded

“I warned you about the curly wolves,” he said. “Go get cleaned up and
have some supper. Then come over to the lab. We’ll talk to Don about

The geologist smoked thoughtfully while Sandy reported. Then he knocked
out his pipe and said, “He’s impossible.”

“Who’s impossible?” Ralph asked.

“This man Cavanaugh. No man can spread himself as thin as he has been
doing. Look at it this way.” He held up a long finger stained with
chemicals. “First, he’s bidding for helium leases on land where he
wouldn’t be allowed to drill. Second—” another finger went up—“he’s
bidding for uranium leases although the government isn’t buying ore from
companies that don’t have mills. Third, he’s spying on our well. Fourth,
he’s trying to lease land in the disputed San Juan River bed. Fifth,
he’s prospecting on school lands without asking anyone’s permission.
Hmmm! I’ll run out of fingers pretty soon. Sixth, he’s peddling
electronic exploration equipment that isn’t worth a hoot when used by
itself. Seventh, he’s operating an unlicensed light beam communications
network. Eighth—and here’s something I learned when I drove over to
Farmington with John and we called Lukachukai to find out how Chief
Ponytooth is getting on—Cavanaugh flew down there yesterday and almost
pulled the hospital apart trying to get permission to talk to the old

“That means he hopes to get in on the ground floor if the Navajos and
Hopis settle their dispute,” said Ralph.

“Either that or he wants to hurt John by convincing the Chief that the
tribes shouldn’t get together.”

“How is the Chief feeling?” Sandy asked.

“Just fine, the nurse told me. He’s tough as shoe leather. Now, is there
anything else about Cavanaugh’s activities that we should consider?”

“Why does he work day and night to convince people that he’s a heel?”
Ralph contributed.

“Quiz thinks there’s something wrong with the football stories he’s
always telling,” said Sandy.

“All right,” Donovan went on thoughtfully. “I suggest that a lot of the
things Cavanaugh is doing are meant to be camouflage. He’s throwing up
some sort of smoke screen to get people confused about his true
intentions. And, since we’re the ones most likely to get hurt by
whatever he’s really up to, I also think we had better do a little
investigating. Does either of you have any suggestions?”

“If he were sending up smoke signals instead of talking on a light beam,
I’ll bet I could soon find out,” the Indian said.

“That’s an excellent idea, Ralph.” The geologist fired up his pipe and
sent clouds of smoke billowing through the crowded lab. “Eavesdroppers
never hear anything good about themselves, they say. Nevertheless, I
think we should fight fire with fire by listening in on him and learning
the worst.”

“But how _can_ we listen in?” Sandy objected. “Even if we got high
enough to intercept his beam—in a helicopter, let’s say—he would know
something had gone wrong when his receiving station didn’t reply. He’d
stop talking.”

“There’s another way to go about it,” Donovan replied. “I’m a pretty
good geophysicist as well as a geologist, Sandy. I have to be out here,
where I may go out looking for oil and find a uranium lode if I keep my
eyes peeled and my Geiger counter turned on.

“Over on that table—” he nodded toward a small electric furnace and a
collection of retorts, chemicals and test tubes on one corner of his
work bench—“I have equipment so sensitive that I can burn the branch of
a pine tree, or even a bunch of loco weed and find out whether the roots
of that tree or weed reach down into a uranium ore deposit. With it, I
can detect in the ash as little as one part in a million of any
radioactive ore the plant has sucked up from underground in its sap.
Which reminds me that any time you run across a patch of loco weed, let
me know immediately. The poisonous stuff seems to like to grow on ground
in the vicinity of uranium.

“All right. Any physicist understands the principles of electronics, the
properties of light, and so on, doesn’t he?”

Sandy nodded with growing excitement.

“Also, you may have heard that the FBI has an electronic gadget so
sensitive that it can eavesdrop on the conversations of crooks, even
though they may be sitting in a boat half a mile from shore.”

“I’ll bet the Shoshonean water spirits take a dim view of that,” said
Ralph, grinning.

Donovan waved him to silence with his pipe and continued.

“Now my guess is that Cavanaugh is using a lot of power from a portable
generator to produce a beam bright enough to be seen a hundred or so
miles away. And it’s a lot easier for him to modulate that current so it
will modulate the beam than to use revolving mirrors or some other
mechanical means to do the job. There is bound to be considerable
leakage in a circuit of that kind. I think I can go to one of the radio
supply stores in Farmington tomorrow and pick up enough parts to make an
electronic ‘ear’ that can tune in on that leakage if we get it within a
hundred feet of Cavanaugh’s transmitter.”

“Sherlock Donovan,” said Ralph, “I take off my hat to you.”

The haywire “ear” that Donovan built during the next several days with
what little assistance Sandy was able to supply didn’t look like much.
It was just a collection of transistors, fixed and variable condensers,
coils and verniers mounted on an old breadboard. But it had the
advantage of being light and portable. And, when they tried it out with
the help of their radio receiving set, it worked!

They found that, with the set’s loudspeaker disconnected, they could
place their gadget several hundred feet away and hear the programs
perfectly, either on the short-wave or regular broadcasting channels.

“That does it,” Donovan finally said after a careful series of night
tests. “We don’t know the frequency that Cavanaugh is using as a
modulator, but this thing is flexible enough to tune in on practically
any wave band. Now the question becomes, when do we try it out?”

“Why not right now?” Ralph asked.

“Boyd has gone in to town, so I’m in charge of keeping an eye on the
well,” said the geologist. “I can’t go with you tonight.”

“Sandy and I can handle it,” said the driller. “We’ll take the jeep. If
we get in a jam we’ll send up a rocket or something.”

On the slow, twenty-mile drive to Elbow Rock, Ralph spun old tales about
Ute scouting expeditions and buffalo hunts, but Sandy scarcely listened.
He was feeling miserable, and wished for the first time that he was back
home in Valley View.

“You don’t like what we’re doing, do you?” Ralph said at last.

“Well, gee. Eavesdropping seems sort of sneaking.”

“I know it does, but don’t forget that we’re dealing with a sneak. Tell
you what: you stay in the car. I’ll take the ear in.”

“No,” Sandy said firmly. “I’ll do anything I can to help Mr. Hall.
Besides, I helped build the ear and know just how it works. I’ll carry

They parked as close to Cavanaugh’s brightly lighted trailer as they
dared. Then Sandy strapped the detector on his chest and walked slowly
up the mountain in darkness so intense and silent that it could almost
be felt. Remembering the lay of the land from the time that he and Quiz
had visited the spot with Pepper, he managed to stay mostly on the

He was still several hundred yards from the trailer when the night
exploded in a blare of savage noise. Several large dogs had started
baying furiously near the trailer. A door opened. Cavanaugh shouted
angrily at a pack of long-legged animals that leaped and whined in the
shaft of light.

When quiet had been restored, Sandy inched forward once more. But it was
no use. The chorus of barks rose louder than before and several of the
dogs started in his direction. With mixed emotions of annoyance and
relief, he returned to the jeep and reported.

“Dogs!” Ralph growled. “That means Cavanaugh really has something to
hide. What did they look like?”

“They had long legs, sharp noses and big white teeth.”

“Doberman pinschers, I’ll bet. Say! Tim Robbins breeds Dobermans over in
Bluff. They make better sheep tenders than shepherds, he claims. Let’s
pay him a visit, even if it is late.” He started the jeep.

“What are you planning to do?” Sandy asked sharply.

“If Utes could behave like buffalo, there’s no reason why I can’t be a
dog,” Ralph answered.

“But you don’t have a dog skin,” Sandy objected.

“I’m going to get one.”

Old man Robbins was in bed when they arrived at his home on the
outskirts of the little mining town. He came downstairs in his
nightshirt when he recognized Ralph’s voice, made coffee for his
visitors, and listened to their request without surprise.

“Why, sure, I’ve got a few skins,” he said. “Here’s one that belonged to
poor Maisie. She died of distemper last year. I was going to upholster a
chair with her, but you can have her for a dollar.”

“Mind if I take a look around your runways and kennels, Dad?” Ralph

“Go ahead, but don’t get yourself bit, young feller.” The old man shook
his head at the strange ways of all Indians.

Five minutes later they were headed back toward Elbow Rock.

“Phooey!” said Sandy. “You smell like dog, all right.”

“I rolled around a bit in the kennels.” Ralph’s grin was just visible in
the light from the dash bulb. “Now I’ve got to start thinking like a
dog. Don’t bother me, human!”

When they arrived at their destination the driller took a brief lesson
in the operation of the ear, slipped its harness over his shoulders, and
draped Maisie’s hide around his hips.

“Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer to the water spirits,” he
whispered just before he faded into the velvety darkness.

For long moments Sandy held his breath, expecting a renewal of that wild
barking. But it didn’t come. High on the Elbow Rock the aluminum trailer
glowed undisturbed in the soft light pouring from its picture windows.

A trout, leaping in the stream nearby, caused the boy to start
violently. He tried to relax but that only made him listen harder. Once
he thought he heard a strain of music coming from the trailer. Hours
later, it seemed, an owl’s hoot made his hair stir on his scalp. He
smoothed down his cowlick and then gripped the wheel of the car with
both hands to stop their trembling. What if Dobermans didn’t always bark
before they attacked? What if Ralph was up there....

“I’m back.”

Sandy almost yelled with relief as his friend materialized out of
nowhere and climbed nonchalantly into the car. “Wha ... what happened?”
gasped the boy, gripping the Indian’s arm to see if he really was real.
“You fooled the dogs?”

“Nothing happened. And your little friends never batted an eyelash. I’m
good, I guess.” He removed the skin and tossed it into the rear of the

“What do you mean, nothing happened? Didn’t the ear work?”

“It worked perfectly.” He started the motor and jammed the car into

“What did you hear?”

“Music,” said the Ute disgustedly. “Highbrow music. Bach and stuff.”

“Was it code of some kind?”

“Nah!” Ralph spat into the night. “Your friend Pepper would say, ‘Come
in, Gallup. I’ve got something here that you’d like: the umpteenth
symphony by so-and-so.’ Then he’d play a record and say, ‘How did that
sound, Gallup?’ And Gallup would answer, ‘Clear as a bell, kid. Keep it
up.’ Or Window Rock trailer would come in, ask for a Belafonte number,
and then say it was fuzzy and to sharpen up the beam. Craziest
performance I ever heard.”

“Maybe they’re just lonesome, way up here,” Sandy said with great

“Maybe. But it’s a mighty expensive way to be lonesome.”

“Or they could be testing,” the boy went on with less assurance.

“That sounds more like it.”

“Or they’re killing time while they wait for a message of some kind?”

“Now you’re cooking with LP gas. The question remains: where is that
message going to come from? I don’t like this business, Sandy. It gets
screwier. I wish we could monitor his station every night, but that’s
impossible, of course. Well, at least we know our ear works and that
Cavanaugh keeps a kennel. I wonder what John and Don will make of this

“When will Mr. Hall be back?” Sandy was glad for a chance to change the

“Next week, I think. Keep this under your hat, but he has got his loan,
and has flown down to Houston to put some more rigs under contract.
Also, I wangled a portable drill rig when I was in Farmington today.
That means we’ll soon be heading for the other lease to run some
surveys. And _that’s_ a job that separates the men from the boys, I can
tell you.”

“After what happened tonight I feel as if I’d already been separated.”
Sandy yawned. “Gee, don’t oilmen ever get any sleep?”

                              CHAPTER TEN
                          Pepper Makes a Play

A huge truck carrying a light folding drill rig and motor rumbled into
camp from Farmington two days after the Elbow Rock episode. Donovan then
set about organizing an exploration crew. Since the need for secrecy had
lessened, only five of the older men were selected to act as a token
guard for the property. Ten others, who had had experience in survey
work, were directed to take tarpaulins off the long-unused instrument
and “shooting” trucks, tune up their motors, and get the trailers set
for travel. After Ralph had checked every item on the rented truck and
Donovan had made sure that his seismograph, magnetometer, gravimeter and
other scientific apparatus were all in perfect working order, the little
caravan rolled westward toward Hall’s other San Juan River lease.

“We may be going on a wild-goose chase,” the geologist told Sandy, who
was riding with him in the jeep that now had the laboratory in tow. “I
had an aerial survey run on the property last fall. It shows one
anticline that _may_ contain oil, but I’ll have to do a lot of surface
work before I recommend that John spends money on a wildcat well.”

“How do you make an aerial survey, Mr. Donovan?”

“I’d like you to call me Don, if you will, Sandy,” the geologist said.
“And you ought to call John by his first name, too. Oilmen don’t go in
for formality after they get acquainted.”

“Yes, sir ... Mr.—Don, I mean.” Sandy felt a warm glow at this mark of

“One method of making an aerial survey is by means of photographs taken
from a plane or helicopter,” the geologist explained. “A stereoscopic
color camera is used to provide a true three-dimensional picture of the
area in which you are interested. Such photographs show the pitch and
strike of surface rock strata and give you some idea of what formations
lie beneath them. In addition, prospectors use an airborne magnetometer.
You know what a magnetometer is, don’t you?”

“It measures small differences in the earth’s magnetic field.”

“Right! I see that you listened when your dad talked about geology.
Well, you fly a magnetometer back and forth in a checkerboard pattern
over any area where photographs have shown rock formations favorable for
oil deposits. Heavy basement strata are more magnetic than the
sedimentary rocks that cover them. So, when those igneous basement rocks
bulge toward the surface of the earth, your magnetometer reading goes
up. That gives you a double check because, if the basement bulges, the
sedimentary rocks that may contain oil have to bulge too. And such a
bulge, or anticline, may trap that oil in big enough quantities to make
it worth your while to drill for it.

“Then, if your money holds out—aerial surveys cost a young fortune—you
may run a triple check with a scintillation counter to see whether
there’s a radiation halo around the anticline. One complication with
that is that you have to remove the radium dials from the instrument
panel of your plane to keep leakage from interfering with your
scintillation readings.”

A loud honking from the rear of the column caused Donovan to stop the
jeep. Going back, they found that the new drill truck had slipped into a
ditch and was teetering dangerously.

Although they had been traveling through such wild and arid country that
it seemed impossible that even prairie dogs could live there, quite a
crowd collected while they struggled and sweated for half an hour to get
the machine back on what passed for a road. First came a wagon pulled by
two scrawny horses and carrying a whole Navajo family—father, mother,
two children and a goat. An ancient truck with three more Indians aboard
pulled up in a cloud of dust. Then came two Navajos on horseback.

Ralph recognized one of the riders and gravely offered him a cigarette
which he held crosswise between his first and second fingers.

“Hosteen Buray, we need your help,” said the driller after his gift had
been accepted.

The rider said a few words to the other bystanders and things began to
happen. The riders galloped away and came back dragging a small tree
trunk that could be used to raise the truck axle. The children gathered
sagebrush to stuff under the wheels. The woman milked her goat into a
pan and presented the steaming drink to the thirsty oilmen. Finally,
everyone got behind the machine and pushed with many shouts and grunts.

With Ralph’s expert hand at the wheel, the truck struggled back onto the

After receiving “thank yous” from all concerned, the Navajos stood aside
and waved in silence as the column drove away.

This time, Sandy asked to ride with the driller because, as he
explained, “I’ve got a lot of questions about things.”

“Shoot,” said Ralph.

“Why didn’t anyone offer to pay those people for helping us?”

“They would have been insulted. That’s how Cavanaugh got in bad with
them in the first place—by insisting that they take money for
everything. Navajos are proud. Next question.”

“Why did you hand out cigarettes in that funny way, instead of just
offering your pack?”

“You never point anything at an Indian. It might be a gun.”


“Anything else on your mind, Sandy?”

“Are all Navajos named Hosteen something-or-other?”

“Hosteen means ‘Mister.’ Most white men don’t use the term. The Navajos
resent that, too.”

“I guess I’ve got a lot to learn,” the boy sighed.

“You’re doing all right.” Ralph slapped him on the knee.

They made camp in a forest of pines not far from a dry wash that ran
into the San Juan River gorge, and started work at once. Donovan split
the party into two groups. One, which he headed, loaded the heavy
magnetometer and gravimeter equipment into a truck and set out to check
formations revealed by the aerial studies. Ralph and Sam Stack, a burly
surveyor who had arrived with the portable drill rig, took charge of a
transit, plane table and Brunton compass. They named Sandy and three
others to carry stadia rods and help them make a careful surface survey
of the vicinity where the oil anticline was believed to be.

Then began one of the hardest weeks of grinding labor that Sandy had
ever put in. All day long he climbed over rocks and fought briary
thickets while moving his rod to spots where it could be seen from the
various transit positions. His experience on Boy Scout geology field
trips kept him from getting lost and enabled him to chip a number of
rock formations for analysis. But it was only after he returned to camp
at night and propped his tired eyes open with his fingers while watching
Don, Ralph and Stack plot lines on a topographical map of the region,
that he could form any idea of what was being done.

Hall joined them on the third evening and watched without comment as the
work went on. He looked gray and tired.

“You seem bushed, John,” said Donovan after they had added the day’s
data to the map. “Any trouble?”

“Plenty, Don. At the last minute the bank refused a loan. It said that
two wells didn’t make a profitable field, out here in the middle of
nowhere. I had to trade a two-thirds interest in the other lease to
Midray before I got my money!”

“That’s the way the oil squirts,” Ralph said philosophically. “So we’re
in partnership with a big company.”

“I’m solvent, anyway.” Hall shrugged. “But we won’t make our fortunes
unless that first lease turns out to have the largest field in San Juan
County. Of course, if this one pays off, too....” His voice trailed

“I don’t know about that, John.” Donovan bit his thin lips. “We’re
finding some underground anomalies, but, confound it, I don’t feel right
about the situation. For one thing, the plants that usually grow in the
neighborhood of a deposit just aren’t in evidence. We’ve found an
anticline, all right, but I have a hunch there’s mighty little oil in

“Excuse me,” Sandy interrupted from his seat at the end of the map
table, “but if you find a dome, or anticline, doesn’t it just have to
hold oil?”

“Not at all,” the geologist answered with a wave of his pipe. “The oil
might have escaped before the bulge was formed by movements of the
earth’s crust. Or perhaps the top of the anticline had a crack, or
fault, through which the oil seeped to the surface ages ago.”

“You are going to run a seismic survey, aren’t you?” Hall asked.

“Yes, we’ll start tomorrow if the weather holds out. The radio says
thunderstorms are brewing, though.”

“Do the best you can.” Hall rose and stretched. “I’m going to turn in
now. I feel lousy.”

Sandy didn’t sleep well, although he, too, was so tired that his bones
ached. He was up at sunrise—except that there was no sunrise. The sky
looked like a bowl of brass and the heat was the worst he had met with
since his arrival in the Southwest.

After a hurried breakfast they drove the portable drill rig, instrument
truck and shooting truck to the anticline which lay, circled by tall
yellow buttes, about three miles from the camp site.

Once there, Ralph used a small diamond drill to make a hole through
surface dirt and rubble. The rest of the crew dug a line of shallow pits
with their spades. These were evenly spaced from “ground zero” near the
hole Ralph had drilled to a distance from it of about 2,000 feet. While
two men tamped a dynamite charge into the “shot hole,” other crew
members buried small electronic detectors called geophones in the pits,
and connected them, with long insulated wires, to the seismograph in the
instrument truck.

Just as the job was finished, a roaring squall sent everyone dashing for

“We’re going to set off a man-made earthquake in a moment, Sandy,”
Donovan said when the dripping boy climbed into the instrument truck.
“Watch carefully. When I give the word, Ralph will explode the dynamite.
The shock will send vibrations down to the rock layers beneath us. Those
vibrations will bounce back to the line of geophones and be relayed to
the seismograph here. Since shock waves travel through the ground at
different speeds and on different paths, depending on the strata that
they strike, they will trace different kinds of lines on this strip of
sensitized paper. I can interpret those lines and get a pretty good
picture of what the situation is down below.”

“You mean you can make an earthquake with dynamite?” Sandy cried.

“A mighty little one. But it will be big enough for our purposes. This
seismograph measures changes of one millionth of an inch in the position
of the earth’s surface.” He started the wide tape rolling, and picked up
a field telephone that connected the three trucks.

“All ready, Ralph?” he asked. “Fine! I’ll give you a ten-second
countdown. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

There was a subdued roar deep underground. A geyser of earth and
splintered rock spouted from the shot hole. The seismograph pens, which
had been tracing steady parallel lines on the paper, began tracing
jagged lines instead.

“All right, Ralph,” Donovan spoke into the phone. “If the rain lets up,
have the boys string another line of geophones and we’ll cross-check.”

They got in one more shot before the increasing thunderstorm made
further work impossible. Then Ralph and Hall sprinted over from the
shooting truck and spent the next hour listening while Donovan explained
the squiggles on the graph.

“So you’re not too happy about the situation, Don?” the producer asked
at last.

“I hate to say so, John,” the geologist answered, “but things don’t look
too good. We’ve found a dome, all right, but I’m afraid it has a crack
in its top. Look at this.” He put away his magnifying glass, lighted up,
and pointed his pipe stem at a sharp break in the inked lines. “I can’t
take the responsibility for telling you to spend a hundred thousand
dollars or so drilling five thousand feet into a cockeyed formation like

“Once a poor boy, always a poor boy, I guess.” Hall shrugged.

“Oh, I haven’t given up yet,” said Donovan grimly. “The aerial survey
shows another possible anomaly about three miles west of here. I’ll do
some work on that before we call it quits.”

“Take your time,” said his employer.

“Hey!” Ralph, who had been standing at the trailer window, staring
glumly into the sheets of rain that swept toward them across the San
Juan gorge, spoke up sharply. “Take a look at that river, will you?”

They joined him at the window and found that the stream had doubled in
size since the rain had started. Now it was a raging yellow torrent that
filled the gorge from border to border.

“It beats me,” said Hall, “how it can rain cats and dogs in this country
one day and flood everything, but be dry as dust the next. When the
government finishes building its series of dams around here and all this
water is impounded for irrigation, you’ll see the desert blossom like
the rose, I’ll bet.”

“The rain all runs off and does no good now, that’s a sure thing,”
Donovan agreed.

“Look,” Ralph interrupted. “There’s a boat or barge or something coming
down the river.”

“You’re crazy,” said Donovan. “Nothing could live in that—Say!” He
rubbed mist off the window and peered out into the downpour. “Something
_is_ coming down. You’re right!”

They stood shoulder to shoulder and stared in horror. Around a bend in
the stream a heavily laden homemade barge had plunged into view. A vivid
flash of lightning showed one man standing upright in the stern. Blond
hair flying, he was struggling to steer the bucking craft with a long

“That’s Pepper March!” Sandy shouted as another flash spotlighted the
craft. “He must be trying to prove that the San Juan is navigable.”

“He won’t last five miles,” Ralph snapped. “I’ve got to go after the
young fool. Grab some rope, Sandy, and come along.”

There was no rope in the truck, so Sandy snatched up a coil of heavy
wire cable used to lower electric logs into test wells. With it over his
shoulder, he tore out into the storm after the driller.

They got the jeep going after considerable cranking and headed
downstream. It was a nip and tuck race since there was no trail along
the gorge. But Ralph put the car in four-wheel drive and tore along over
rocks and through flooded washes while Sandy hung onto the windshield
frame for dear life. Finally they managed to pull ahead of the tossing

“There’s a rapids about five miles downstream,” Ralph shouted above the
thunder that rolled back and forth like cannon shots among the buttes
and cliffs. “He’ll never go farther than that. The only thing I can do
is to stand by there and try to throw him a line. It’s a long chance.
Thank heaven and the water spirits that I learned to rope horses when I
was a kid.”

They reached the rapids with only seconds to spare. The Indian fastened
one end of the cable to the power takeoff at the rear of the jeep and
coiled the rest of it with great care at the edge of the gorge. Then he
stood, braced against the howling wind, swinging the heavy log in his
right hand.

“Here he comes,” Ralph said. “What a shame that damned fools often look
like heroes. Your friend is probably thinking he’s Lewis, Clark and Paul
Revere rolled into one. Stand by to start the takeoff and reel him in if
I hook him, Sandy.... There he goes. There he goes! Stand by!”

Pepper was fighting the rapids now, like some yellow-haired Viking out
of the past. It was no use. Halfway through, the awkward barge hit a
submerged rock. Slowly its bow reared into the air. The heavy pipe with
which it had been loaded started cascading into the boiling water.

Pepper had enough presence of mind to drop the useless sweep, and
scramble out of the path of the lengths of pipe as they flew like
jackstraws. As he managed to grab the uptilting rail, Ralph’s mighty arm
swung back and forward. The end of the cable carrying the log paid out
smoothly. Out and down it sped in a long arc.

It struck the boat and slid slowly along the rapidly sinking rail. After
one wild look upward, Pepper understood what had happened. He snatched
the wire as it went by and looped it twice around his waist.

“Haul away,” Ralph whooped to Sandy. “We’ve caught our fish.”

As the jeep’s motor roared and the takeoff spun, Pepper was snatched
from his perch and dragged helter-skelter through the wild waters.
Minutes later Ralph dragged him over the edge of the cliff, choking and
half drowned.

“No real damage except a few nasty bruises,” the driller grunted after
he had applied artificial respiration with more vigor than was really
needed. “How do you feel, bud?”

“Awful!” Pepper groaned. Then he amazed them by sitting up and glaring
at them.

“That was ... a stinking trick,” he croaked after he had spat out a
mouthful of dirty water. “Stringing cable ... capsizing my barge ... I’d
have made it.”

“Whaaat?” Sandy hardly believed his ears.

“I’d have made it, I tell you! I would have!” Pepper wailed
hysterically. “Then you ... then you ...” He retched miserably.

“Listen, kid,” Ralph snapped as he half-carried the boy to the jeep.
“Your Red Cavanaugh ought to be strung up for egging you on to try a
stunt like that.”

“No!” Tears dripped down Pepper’s dirty cheeks. “My idea. He didn’t

“Bunk! You mean he didn’t know you had built a barge and loaded it with
pipe? Don’t lie! Your boss is a stinking, no-good, lowdown louse.”

“Oh, no!” Pepper tried to pull free, then leaned against the side of the
car and clung there like a half-drowned monkey. “Red’s best boss a man
ever had. He’s ... he’s wonderful.... Likes good music ... dogs ...
Indians. I’d die for Red.”

“That’s the point.” Ralph rummaged in the back of the jeep, found
Maisie’s mangy hide, and wrapped it around the shivering boy. “You
almost did die. Cavanaugh’s next door to a murderer.”

Pepper stared at them as if he were waking from a dream.

“You really believe that, Sandy?” he gulped weakly.

“I know it, Pepper.” Torn between pity and anger, Sandy gripped the
blond boy’s arm. “Cavanaugh’s a crook!”

“Crook?” Pepper babbled. “No, no!” His knees sagged and they just
managed to catch him as he fell.

“A strange boy,” said Ralph as they drove back to camp with the would-be
Viking sleeping the sleep of exhaustion between them. “He’s in trouble,
some way. Maybe he was trying to prove himself, like young Indians once
did before they could become braves.”

                             CHAPTER ELEVEN

Pepper was black, blue, stiff and somewhat chastened when he ate
breakfast with Ralph and Sandy the next morning. Also, he was disturbed
by the fact that Cavanaugh’s plane had come over at dawn, circled the
wrecked barge in the rapids for several minutes, and then scooted
eastward without landing.

“He must have known I planned to run the river,” the blond boy admitted.
“But why do you suppose he didn’t stop to ask whether you folks had seen

“Probably was afraid to.” Ralph attacked a big plate of ham and
scrambled eggs. “Figures he may be blamed for letting you drown, so he’s
gone home to frame an alibi. Won’t he be surprised when you show up in
one of our supply trucks!”

“Gee whiz! Do you really think he’s that bad, Mr. Salmon?”

“I think he’s worse. See here, kid. Why don’t you stop working for that
heel and come over here? I’m sure John will give you a roustabout job.”

“No.” Pepper shook his head stubbornly. “I signed a contract and I can’t
go back on my word. Besides, I haven’t seen him do anything really bad.
I’ll admit that some of the things he does seem, well, sort of queer.
But maybe you’re just too suspicious.”

“Maybe.” Ralph washed down a hunk of Ching Chao’s good apple pie with
half a cup of steaming coffee. “Well, it’s your funeral.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open after this.” Pepper rose as a honk from the
truck told him it was time to get going. “Thanks for everything. And I
really do mean for everything.”

The Indian stood up and stretched like a lazy panther as he watched
their visitor depart. “Crazy kid,” he said. “Well, it’s time for us to
be getting back to the mines, Sandy. Don’s staying here for a few days
to run some final tests. He has assigned our group to start surveying
the other structure. So pick up your rock hammer and stadia rod. Hike!”

The new location proved to be several miles north of the river in a
tumbled and desolate region of weathered buttes and washes that already
were dry as bone.

“Geologists call those buttes ‘diatremes,’” Stack, the surveyor,
explained to the crew as they unloaded equipment at a central spot.
“They stick up like sore thumbs because they’re really vents from
ancient volcanoes. The lava they’re made of doesn’t erode much although
the surrounding sedimentary rocks have been worn away in the course of
ages. There are at least 250 diatremes scattered through this Colorado
Plateau area, and some of them are rich in minerals. So keep your eyes
open while you’re prowling.”

“Prowling” was exactly the word for what the crew did, Sandy decided
after a few days in the broiling sun. He had to admit that the territory
was beautiful, in its wild way, but he decided that it was more fit for
mountain goats than human beings. More and more, as he slowly worked his
way from one rod location to another, measured the slope of exposed
strata with his Brunton compass, or chipped rock samples for analysis
back at camp, he began to dream of the soft green hills and winding
streams near Valley View.

His homesickness grew worse when Hall brought him a letter from Quiz.

  Dear Sandy,

  I sure do envy you, out there in God’s country. Things are mighty dull
  around here, although I do get some time for swimming and tennis, now
  that Dad is able to hobble around in his cast and help out at the

  Last Sunday we had a picnic out by the lake. The fishing was swell.
  And there was a dance at the pavilion afterward. I’m not much for
  dancing, but I know you like to. Still, you must be having plenty of
  fun out at the well.

“Fun!” Sandy exploded as he reread that paragraph. He was bathing his
blistered feet in the first spring he had found that day and batting at
deer flies that seemed determined to eat him alive. Then he read on:

  I haven’t forgotten about Cavanaugh. Dad says he’s a lone wolf and
  that nobody knows much about him. He came here about two years ago,
  flashed a lot of money around, and built his lab. Joined the Country
  Club, Rotary, and so on. Impressed a lot of people with his football
  talk. Makes good equipment and has several research contracts that
  take him to Washington quite frequently. His employees think he’s a
  stuffed shirt, too.

  I tried to look up his sports record at the library, but the
  newspapers that should tell about his big game are missing from the
  files. When Dad gets better, he says I can take a day or two off and
  see what I can find in the San Francisco library. I’ll let you know.
  Funny about those newspapers, isn’t it?

  Give my regards to the gang. I sure do wish I was there instead of
                                 As ever,

After he had finished reading Sandy sat for a long time with his chin in
his hands, thinking. The survey wasn’t going well, he knew. Yesterday,
Hall and Donovan had paid them a visit and shaken their heads at the map
that Ralph and Stack were drawing.

“This isn’t an anticline, John,” the geologist had said. “What we have
here is fault that has caused a stratigraphic trap. That is, layers of
rock on one side of the fault line have been lifted above those on the
other side of the crack by some old earthquake. The slip sealed off the
upper end of what may be an oil-bearing layer with the edge of a layer
of hard, impervious rock. If you drill here—” he pointed with his pipe
stem—“you may hit a small pool. Nothing spectacular, you understand, but
it ought to more than pay expenses.”

“I don’t know whether I should take the chance.” Hall had shaken his
gray head. “I need something better than this to gamble on, the way
things are. Tell you what, Don. There’s going to be a bid session at
Window Rock next Monday. Keep the crew working here for a few days
longer while I drive down and see if I can shake loose a better lease.
Ralph, you’d better come along. I hear that the Navajo and Hopi Councils
will have some sort of joint powwow at the Rock and I’ll want you to
keep an eye on it. You come along too, Sandy, and bring the ‘ear.’ I
have a hunch that a lot of things are about to pop.”

“Will we have room for Kitty?” Ralph asked. “I dropped over to see her
after work yesterday and she told me the school is closing Monday and
Tuesday because there’s going to be a big Squaw Dance in the
neighborhood. She wants to go home and get her best clothes to wear to
it. She could drive her own car, of course....”

“Kitty’s good company,” Hall had replied. “I’d be glad to have her

A distant hail jerked Sandy out of his reverie. He put on his shoes,
picked up his rod, hammer and compass, and started climbing over jagged
rocks to the top of a crumbling low butte that was to be the next survey
location. The going wasn’t too bad because one side of the cone had
collapsed, thus providing a slope of debris up which he could clamber
with fair speed.

When Stack’s transit came in sight, Sandy placed the stadia rod upright
so that it could be seen against the skyline and started the slow
business of moving it about in response to the surveyor’s hand signals.

Several times he stopped and listened intently. Off to his right, hidden
in the underbrush that choked the crater, he thought he heard some large
animal moving. A deer, probably, he tried to reassure himself, although
he remembered that one of the other crewmen had had a nasty brush with a
bobcat several days previously.

“That’s it, Sandy,” the surveyor in the valley bellowed through cupped
hands at last. “Call it a day.”

The boy was beating a quiet retreat down the slope when a tired bleat
stopped him in his tracks. The animal in there was either a sheep or a
calf, and it seemed to be in trouble.

“Better take a look,” said Sandy. (He had got into the habit of talking
to himself these last few lonely weeks. The noise seemed to keep the
homesickness away.)

It was a calf, he found, when he had fought his way into the thicket.
And it seemed to be sick. First it would nibble at some plants where it
stood, then, lifting its feet high and putting them down gingerly, it
would move slowly to another location and repeat the performance. Every
so often it let out that piteous bleat.

“Poor thing,” Sandy murmured. “Maybe I ought to take it back to camp.”

He fished a length of cord out of his knapsack, looped it around the
calf’s neck and tugged. The animal gave him a glassy stare and wobbled

“Probably a Navajo stray,” he said. “Its owners will be looking for it.”

When he reached the temporary camp half an hour later, Ralph took one
look at the calf and let out an astonished whoop.

“Loco,” he shouted. “Hey, gang! Come look what Sandy found.”

Men came running from all directions.

“Where did you find it?” Stack demanded.

“Up there. On top of that butte.” Sandy pointed.

“Was it eating anything at the time?” Ralph snapped.

“Yes. Some plants that looked sort of like ferns, only they had little
bell-like blossoms hanging from stalks in their centers.”

“Locoweed,” the Indian crowed. “_Astragalus Pattersoni_, Donovan calls
it. Sandy, you may have found just what the doctor ordered to get John
out of his pinch. I’ll get a Geiger counter. The rest of you round up
some flashlights, sacks and spades. We’d better take a look at this
right away.”

“What about my calf?” Sandy objected.

“Oh, stake it out somewhere and give it some water. It may recover. It’s
just drugged. Indians used to chew locoweed when they went down in their
kivas, you know. They said it made them see visions in which they talked
to the spirits. Eat too much of the stuff, though, and you’re a goner.”

Two hours later, after having dug up most of the crater, the men tramped
wearily back to camp in the light of the rising moon. The sacks they
carried on their backs bulged with loads of black earth mixed with
yellow carnotite crystals that made the Geiger chatter madly.

Hall was just driving into camp as they arrived.

“We’ve found a rich uranium lode or lens, I think, John,” Ralph shouted
to him. For once he had lost his Indian calm and was almost dancing with

“You don’t say,” yawned the producer as he dragged himself out of the

“Well!” Ralph stared, openmouthed, at this cool reception. “What’s the
matter, boss? Don’t you care?”

“Where are we going to sell the ore?” Hall asked gently.

“Oh!” Ralph wilted. “I hadn’t thought of that. The government only buys
from people who have mills.”

“Sure. A uranium strike these days is just like money in a safe for
which you have lost the combination.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Hall,” Stack interrupted, “but doesn’t Midray own an
interest in a uranium mill?”

“Oh, yes.” Hall smiled grimly at the surveyor. “Midray owns an interest
in most everything. It will be delighted to help me develop the lode—in
exchange for three-fourths of the profits.

“That’s better than nothing, though.” He straightened his shoulders. “A
uranium strike will shorten the odds enough so I can take a chance on
drilling a well here. Why, what am I grousing about? This could be a
real stroke of luck. How did you happen to find it?”

When he had heard the story, Hall slapped Sandy on the back.

“That’s what’s called serendipity,” he said, chuckling. “You remember
the three Princes of Serendip in the fairy story: on their travels they
always found things they weren’t looking for. Congratulations, Sandy.
You have the makings of a real wildcatter.”

But, as the boy went off to take care of his sick calf, he knew that his
employer had been putting on an act. Serendipity or no, John Hall was
still running a poor-boy outfit.

                             CHAPTER TWELVE
                       Cavanaugh Makes a Mistake

Hall had completely recovered his good spirits by the time that Ralph
brought Kitty to camp at dawn. Just as the sun rose the little party set
out for Window Rock in a holiday mood. Hall made one stop for a brief
conference with Donovan. Then he drove on to his base camp, arriving in
time for breakfast.

Sandy could hardly recognize the place where he had worked such a short
time before. Number Two well had been opened and connected to the feeder
pipeline through a Christmas tree, while its derrick had been moved to a
new location. Three big new Midray rigs were being erected at other
spots on the property. Still more derricks were going up on surrounding
leases. This was rapidly becoming an important field.

Hall had a short talk with the Midray superintendent, a big man who
reminded Sandy of Cavanaugh and who acted as if he owned the place. Then
they were on their way again.

“The lease looks like Times Square,” Hall grunted as he headed the jeep
toward Shiprock. “Makes me uncomfortable. I like to work where there’s
plenty of room to swing a wildcat.”

“I bet you still prefer to use a burro when you go prospecting, you old
sourdough,” Kitty teased him.

“Well, a burro never runs out of gas or breaks a spring, and it has a
better horn than a jeep,” Hall said, grinning. “When a burro brays, even
the mountains have to listen. That’s why he’s called a Rocky Mountain
canary, I suppose.”

They reached Route 666 in good time, turned south between Shiprock Peak
and Hogback Mountain, and sailed down through the picturesque Chuskas
past road signs that beckoned toward far-off, mysterious places like
Toadlena, Beautiful Mountain, Coyote Wash, Nakaibito, Pueblo Bonito
(Lovely Village) and Ojo Caliente (Hot Eye).

Kitty made the time pass quickly by singing the praises of the desert,
pointing out spots of historic interest, and telling them Navajo

“The Wind People, who ride the lightning, own all of these box canyons
and hilltops,” she said half seriously. “No Navajo will build his hogan
near such places, or where lightning has struck. If he did, he thinks
the Wind People would give him bad headaches.”

“It gives me a bad headache trying to understand why your Navajos love a
godforsaken place like this,” Ralph said.

“Your Utes live here too!” Kitty’s eyes flashed.

“Only because white men drove us off our good land farther north,” Ralph
snapped. “We put up a good fight before they expelled us, too. My
grandfather was one of Chief Douglas’ warriors, back in 1879, when the
Utes surrounded and almost destroyed an entire U.S. Army detachment that
invaded our White River reservation.”

“The Navajos got _their_ reservation back,” Kitty pointed out.

“Don’t squabble, children,” Hall said and added, to break the tension,
“I heard a rumor that you’re going to the Squaw Dance together next
week. Is that right?”

Kitty blushed and Ralph nodded.

“That’s the same as becoming engaged, isn’t it?”

“If our uncles approve,” Kitty admitted.

“Well, here’s a tip from an old bachelor: Don’t bicker about things that
happened long ago, and don’t hold grudges. We’re all Americans today, no
matter how our skins are colored.”

“I’ll be good,” Kitty promised. “And that reminds me. Will you all be
good and come to dinner with Mother and me tonight?”

When they pulled up to the motel at Window Rock, an Indian wearing a
Hopi hairband rose from where he had been squatting near the entrance
and handed Ralph a message. The driller read it and turned to the others
with a frown.

“It’s from Chief Ponytooth,” he explained. “He says the Hopis and
Navajos are having a session at the Council Hall tonight and he wants me
there as a representative of the Utes. Looks as if I’ll have to eat and

“Dinner will be early,” Kitty promised.

“Wait here till I make a quick visit to the Indian Agency,” Hall said.
“Then we’ll walk over to your house. I’m tired of riding.”

Sandy had expected that Kitty might live in an eight-sided wooden hogan
such as he had seen in other parts of the reservation. Instead, she took
them to a neat white cottage surrounded by palo-verde trees.

Mrs. Gonzales was an attractive widow who might have passed for Kitty’s
older sister, except that she was somewhat heavier and her skin was much
darker. She greeted the two older men as if they were members of the
family and made Sandy feel at home immediately. First, she showed them
around the tiny forge and workshop where she apparently earned a good
living by making lovely silver buckles and heavy medallions called
conchas which she sold to tourists. Then, after learning that Ralph had
to leave soon, she rushed dinner to the table. It featured several
highly spiced Mexican and Indian dishes and was delicious.

After coffee, they stood under the stars for a few minutes on a patio
looking toward the great black hole in Window Rock.

“What is the light that twinkles on the cliff these days?” Mrs. Gonzales
asked as she pointed upward with pursed lips.

“Bad man!” she sniffed after Hall explained that it was Cavanaugh’s
light beam.

“What do you know about him, Mother?” Ralph asked.

“Nothing good.” She crossed her arms in the wide sleeves of her
embroidered blouse to keep the evening chill away. “He came here in the
early ’50s, looking for uranium. Pablo, my poor husband, was a
prospector too in those days, and knew every foot of this reservation.
Cavanaugh went into partnership with him, but somehow, he never got
round to signing a contract.

“They made a strike too—one of the biggest. Cavanaugh sold the claim for
much money, just before the government stopped buying ore. He forgot all
his promises then, and went away. Pablo’s heart broke when the man he
thought was his friend betrayed him.” She sighed deeply.

“Now Cavanaugh has returned,” she went on at last, “like the Spaniards
who used to descend on us Indians like locusts when they needed more
money. He is not good for this country.”

“He certainly is riding a high horse today,” Hall agreed. “When I was at
the Agency he came stalking in with Pepper behind him, leading two of
his big dogs on leashes. He looked just like the cat that ate the canary
as he submitted a pile of sealed bids a foot high. I sure do wish I knew
what he was up to.”

“If I didn’t have to attend the Council meeting,” Ralph said
regretfully, “I could take the ‘ear’ up to his camp and find out,

Kitty insisted on walking them back to town. She and Ralph went
arm-in-arm until Hall met another oilman, got into a business
discussion, and called his driller back to take part in it. Sandy and
the girl continued on together.

Cavanaugh came out of the motel as they approached. Quite evidently, the
redhaired man had had a few drinks.

“Well!” he said as he recognized them. “If it isn’t the squaw who kicked
me out of school, with her little squaw man!” He stood in their path,
swaying ever so slightly.

“Get out of our way, please,” Sandy said, fighting down his fury at the

For answer, Cavanaugh swung a brawny arm and struck the boy across the
mouth with the back of a hairy hand.

Sandy staggered from the unexpected blow, then charged, fists flying. He
connected several times, but he might as well have hit a brick wall. His
155 pounds made no impression on Cavanaugh’s 200-plus.

“So you think you can fight the man who made three touchdowns against
California,” Cavanaugh bawled drunkenly. “Well, take this for being an
Injun lover!” He swung a short right to the jaw that snapped Sandy’s
head back. “And this for your Injun-loving boss!” He followed with a
stunning left. “And this for your snooty Ute!” He swung a haymaker that
smashed through the boy’s weakened guard and hit his solar plexus like a
bolt of lightning.

As he lay in the gutter, gasping desperately for breath, Sandy thought
he heard the sound of running feet.

“And this,” Cavanaugh said deliberately, “is just part of what I owe
Donovan for calling me a liar. Won’t he look like a fool tomorrow if my
high sign comes through?”

Through bleared eyes, Sandy saw his enemy push Kitty aside and swing a
heavy boot at his ribs.

At that moment, Ralph plunged into the little circle of lamplight. The
Indian gripped Cavanaugh by one beefy shoulder and spun him around.

“This,” he raged, “is for a skunk who picks on people half his size and
kicks them when they’re down!”

He dealt the bully a smashing blow under the ear.

“Fight! Fight!” somebody in the motel yelled. In an instant the building
poured forth a mob of oilmen. They gathered in a circle around the
combatants and shouted encouragement. A few of them egged Cavanaugh on,
but the majority were rooting for his opponent.

Sandy sat up groggily, dabbed at his bleeding lips, and watched the
battle with growing excitement. Ralph was many pounds lighter than the
redhead, but he made up for that by being fast as a rattler. He avoided
the big man’s efforts to go into a clinch that would give him time to
clear his head of that first murderous punch. He danced about as his
ancestors must have done at their buffalo ceremonials. He struck again
and again—short, stabbing blows that soon cut Cavanaugh’s face to
ribbons and closed his right eye.

The bully was no coward though, Sandy was surprised to discover. He
fought doggedly, and managed to get in some damaging blows to the body
that made his supporters cheer. But Ralph’s long reach held him too far
away. He could not use his great strength to advantage. And it was plain
that he was badly out of condition. Before three minutes had passed he
was becoming winded.

“Kill the big bum, Fisheater,” a Navajo whooped from the edge of the
crowd. “He asked for it. Kill ’im.”

“With pleasure,” Ralph answered. “Watch this, benighted Navajo. I
learned it in Uncle Sam’s Navy.”

He started a right, almost from the pavement. Up and up it came,
completely under Cavanaugh’s guard. It landed on the point of his chin
with a crack like that of a whip!

The big man threw out his arms wildly, rocked back on his heels, and
came crashing down, as a tree falls, into the gutter beside Sandy. He
scrabbled about there for a moment, managed to get halfway to his knees,
then slid forward on his face. Out!

The Navajo threw his big black cowboy hat on the street, jumped up and
down on it in utter joy, and sent warwhoop after warwhoop echoing
through the little town.

“Hand me my coat, John,” Ralph said to the producer, who had been
coaching him from the sidelines. “If I don’t hurry, I’ll be late for
that meeting.”

Kitty, who had stood close beside Sandy throughout the battle,
alternately wringing her hands and jumping up and down with excitement
as Ralph seemed to be getting the worst or best of it, now ran forward.
As the crowd cheered again, she hugged her man until he had to beg her
to spare his bruised ribs.

“Kitty,” said Hall, when Ralph had been carried away on the shoulders of
admiring Navajos and Hopis who had run over from the Council Hall to
witness the fracas, “will you take Sandy home and patch him up? He has a
pretty deep cut on his cheekbone. Better drive him over in the jeep, if
he feels like he looks.

“I’ve got to talk to Ken White about Cavanaugh. This situation is
getting out of hand. I’ll come over as soon as I can.”

Half an hour later, Sandy pushed aside the cold compresses that Mrs.
Gonzales had been applying to his face and sat bolt upright on the couch
where he had been lying.

“Kitty,” he gasped. “I just thought! What was it Cavanaugh said about a
high sign or something?”

“When he was getting ready to kick you, you mean?” she frowned.

“Yes. It had to do with Donovan, I think. I was pretty groggy at the

“Oh! He said something like ‘Won’t Donovan feel like a fool tomorrow if
my high sign comes through!’”

“That’s it! That’s it!” Sandy yelled as he pushed Mrs. Gonzales’
fluttering hands away and scrambled to his feet. “It could only mean
that he’s expecting some sort of message tonight over his light beam.
Ralph’s tied up, so I’ve got to go up there and try to find out what it

“Don’t be silly,” said Kitty. “You’ve taken a bad beating. You’re in no
condition to go anywhere.”

“But I’ve got to go,” he pleaded. “This may mean everything to John, and
Don, and, yes, to you and Ralph too. I’m the only one who knows how to
operate the ‘ear.’ I’m going right now. And you’re going to help me!”

                            CHAPTER THIRTEEN
                            Think Like a Dog

“But _how_ do I go about feeling like a dog?” Sandy groaned after he had
explained his plan of action.

“You shouldn’t have any trouble about that.” Kitty smiled tenderly as
she patted the last strip of bandage in place on his cheek. “You must
feel awful.”

“That’s not what I mean. When Ralph went into Cavanaugh’s camp at Elbow
Rock he wore a dog skin and made himself smell like a dog. But he said
that wasn’t enough. He also had to feel and think like one. There’s a
skin in the jeep. And you must know a kennel where I can roll around and
get the smell. But how about the rest of it?

“Of course I’ve read _The Call of the Wild_, but that’s only Jack
London’s _idea_ of how dogs think. What I’ve got to find out quick is
how they really feel.”

“I am an Indian,” Mrs. Gonzales spoke up suddenly. “Indians are wise in
the ways of animals. You have heard that Indians of the old days were
the world’s best horsemen, although they used no saddles, and sometimes
no bridles. Why? I say it was because they could talk with their horses.
Yes, and they honored their mounts as no other people have ever done by
printing what was called a pat hand on the rumps of those who helped
them win battles.” She held up the palm of her hand to show what she

“Then there are our totems. Animals, all of them. To be a member of the
buffalo clan, a young brave had to study the wild herds until he knew
their every thought—what frightened them, what pastures they preferred,
their mating habits. All that.

“What of the great cattle and sheep herds in which modern Navajos take
such pride? They thrive where it seems only jack rabbits could live
because their herdsmen understand their every need, care for them as if
they were children, and weep, as for children, when they are injured or

“And consider the Hopi snake dances. Why should the rattlers not bite
the dancers, except that they are friends? You do not believe me,

“Well,” he gulped, “it’s just that I am not an Indian....”

“But white men have been the friends of dogs since time began. You can
learn to remember how a cave man felt when he and his dog slept back to
back to protect themselves against the howling things outside in the
night. You want to be among dogs, Sandy? Very well, I will call them

She closed her black eyes and sat swaying slowly from side to side,
making an almost inaudible whining, snuffling noise through her nose.

A dog barked questioningly in the distance. Another answered, nearer.
Within minutes, three scrawny mutts were scratching at the screen door
of the cottage.

“You must remember that dogs are always hungry,” Mrs. Gonzales said as
she let the animals in and went to the kitchen to find scraps for them,
“so you must think of food at all times. You must remember that they are
loyal, even though their master beats them, so you must not let your
hatred or distrust of Cavanaugh into your mind when you approach his
camp. You must be sleepy ... oh so sleepy ... so that you do not wake
them from their dreams of chasing rabbits, or bigger game.

“Also,” she said thoughtfully, “it would be wise to remove all your
clothing except the dog skin before you approach. There will not be so
much man smell to overcome. Now play with these dogs for a time to get
their scent on you. Then Kitty will drive you as near the camp as she
dares. And may the blessings of the good Jesus and Mary, and the water
and wind people, ride with you.”

Kitty was at the wheel as the jeep skirted the town and headed up a
steep trail that had been chopped through the mesquite for the benefit
of tourists who liked to snap their everlasting cameras from the top of
the Rock. It was much too late for tourists to be out, however, so they
had the road to themselves. This was a good thing, since they dared not
use the car lights and had to depend on what little illumination was
provided by a half-moon.

Sandy sat fingering Maisie’s hide nervously and holding the “ear” on his
lap to protect it from bumps. From time to time, as they twisted and
turned, he got glimpses of Cavanaugh’s beam far above. It twinkled
without interruption and was hard to distinguish among the stars.

“Pepper must be playing music,” he said softly at last. “Ralph says the
beam fades up and down when a two-way conversation is going on. We’re
still in time.”

“Are you sure you ought to be doing this?” Kitty asked unhappily. “John
wouldn’t have let you go if he had known about it, I’m certain.”

“That’s why I was in such a hurry to start before he returned from the
Agency. Ralph isn’t here, so I’m the only person who knows how to
operate this gadget. I have to go through with it.”

“But why do you have to?” she demanded. “Why not leave it up to the
Agency and the Navajo police?”

“Because I have only a hunch to go on—the kind of hunch that Mother says
Kit Carson used to have. I haven’t any proof that Cavanaugh is planning
to play some sort of dirty trick on the Indians tomorrow, or that his
plans may depend on what comes over the beam. The police would laugh at
me. I’ve _got_ to do it my way.”

“I guess you do,” the girl agreed. “You’ll have to walk the rest of the
way,” she added, driving the car off the trail and into a thicket as the
lights shining from Cavanaugh’s trailer showed up on the skyline ahead.

When Sandy climbed out, strapped the “ear” to his chest and started
away, she called him back sharply.

“Take your clothes off here and put them in the back of the jeep,” she
commanded. “You’d never find them on the trail.”


“Do as I say, silly. And hurry. I’m scared.”

“I’m scareder than you are, I’ll bet,” Sandy said grumpily as he obeyed.

The cold night wind hit his bare skin and he started shivering.

Well, he thought as he started away through the darkness, that was all
to the good. Dogs shivered all the time, didn’t they? And the hide
offered some protection.

It seemed to take him an age to reach the vicinity of the trailer. Once
he stubbed his toe badly, and once he cut his foot on a sharp rock.
Confound that Kitty! He needed his shoes. Still, shoes did smell pretty
strong sometimes. He grinned in spite of himself.

A hundred yards from the trailer he got down on hands and knees, started
to crawl forward, then stopped with a jerk.

Dogs usually didn’t take kindly to strangers of their own kind! How many
times had he seen them set upon an outsider and send him yipping for his
life. Maybe the foreigner had come looking for a fight, though! He,
Sandy, would be the friendliest doggy in seven states! He did his best
to imitate the low whimpering that Mrs. Gonzales had used as he crept
forward. If Ralph could get away with this, there was no reason why
Sandy Carson Steele couldn’t!

He was only a few feet from the trailer when three big brutes, who had
been sleeping under its wheels, rose and advanced toward him,
stiff-legged. This was it!

Desperately, Sandy tried to project the idea through his soft whining
that he was hungry, and cold, and wet with dew, and only wanted a quiet
place where he could spend the night under the protection of those
splendid humans, Cavanaugh and Pepper March.

For a moment, he thought he had got the idea across. The dogs hesitated.
They seemed to confer among themselves. But they were not quite
satisfied. The lead animal bared his long white teeth and barked a
tentative challenge. The others followed his example as they sidled
toward this strange creature who certainly smelled like a dog but who
looked—well, looked somewhat queer, to say the least.

A quotation his father once had repeated flashed through Sandy’s mind:
_The minds of dogs do not benefit by being treated as though they were
the minds of men._ As the barking grew louder, he gathered himself and
prepared to go away from that place as fast as his bare feet could carry

The trailer door banged open. A shaft of light illuminated the yard but
mercifully did not reach to the spot where Sandy crouched.

“Shut up, you idiotic mutts!” Cavanaugh yelled. Then to Pepper, who
appeared in the doorway behind him, “Can’t you make those confounded
dogs keep quiet? They’re driving me insane.”

“I’m sorry, Red,” Pepper answered. “You brought the dogs here to guard
the trailer.”

“‘Red. Red. Red,’” snarled the big man, who plainly was feeling the
effects of the beating Ralph had given him. “I’m sick of your crawling
and fawning. Why weren’t you at Window Rock tonight when the whole town
ganged up on me?”

“When Andy quit today, you told me to stay here and take care of the
beam, Red,” Pepper answered patiently. “I’m sorry, Red.”

“From now on, call me Mister Cavanaugh,” his boss raged.

“Yes, _Mister_ Cavanaugh ... sir.” Pepper’s voice still was soft but
Sandy could see his fists clench.

“And stop that confounded record. Highbrow music gives me the willies.
Always has! Call Elbow Rock and see if the message has come through.”

“Yes, sir. At once, sir.” The door slammed and the voices became a

Sandy tried to still the beating of his heart as he whined canine terror
at this outburst. The “other” dogs whimpered uncertainly. Finally they
crept back to their sleeping places. Evidently their master didn’t
approve of their warning. In that case.... Sandy could almost feel them
relax as they turned round and round in their nests, trying to find the
most comfortable spots for slumber.

Carefully he edged forward until he was lying among them. Then he turned
the switch that fed power from a series of flashlight batteries into the
transistors mounted on the “ear,” adjusted the headphones, and listened.

“Calling Elbow Rock. Calling Elbow Rock. Over,” he heard Pepper say.

There was no answer.

“Calling Elbow Rock. Window Rock calling Elbow Rock. Over,” Pepper

Still no answer.

“Come in, Elbow Rock!” Cavanaugh’s voice barked through the phones. “Why
don’t you answer, Elbow Rock?”

“I read you, Window Rock,” a faraway voice answered at last.
“Something’s coming in from Gallup. Stand by.”

“This is it!” Cavanaugh’s yell almost split Sandy’s ears. “Get out of
the way, can’t you, Pepper? I’ll take this. Go to bed or something. It
makes me sick just to look at your silly face.... All right, Elbow Rock.
I’m ready when you are.”

The minutes slid by while only the mutter of static filled Sandy’s
earphones. Beside him, he felt the Dobermans flinch and shiver in their
restless sleep. The cold night wind seeped under the bottom of the
trailer and set his teeth to chattering uncontrollably. Now he knew what
the phrase “a dog’s life” really meant.

“Elbow Rock calling Window Rock.” The phones clattered into life.

“I read you loud and clear, Elbow Rock,” Cavanaugh’s voice replied.
“What is the message from Gallup?”

“You want it coded, like it was relayed from Washington, or straight?”
the distant voice inquired.

“Straight, you fool. Nobody listens in on a light beam.”

“You never know,” said the man at Elbow Rock. “Well, here’s your
message, as well as I can dope it out. It’s from your ‘keyhole man,’ Mr.

“Never mind his name,” Cavanaugh snapped. “Just give me the message.”

“O.K.! O.K.! Take it easy, will you, boss? Here ’tis: Quote: Have picked
up leak from strictly official source. Next month U.S. government starts
buying uranium ore from all comers again. Expanding space ship and power
reactor program has increased demand for atomic fuels to such an extent
that existing mills no longer can supply it—Are you reading me all
right, boss?”

“Clear as a bell,” Cavanaugh crooned. “This is wonderful. Go on. Go on.”

“Here’s the rest of it: Quote: Announcement of policy change withheld
until middle of next month so it won’t upset bids to be opened tomorrow
at Window Rock and similar places. Happy hunting. Unquote. Over.”

“Whoopee!” Cavanaugh yelled the word into the microphone so loudly that
Sandy’s earphones rattled. “Boy! This came through just in time.
Otherwise, I’d have had to cancel all of those high bids I made today or
go bankrupt tomorrow. Now I’ll be in clover with most of the good leases
sewed up at rock-bottom prices before the boom starts. Thank you, Elbow
Rock. There’s a bonus for you in this. Over and out.”

“Roger!” came the delighted answer.

“Did you hear all of that, Pepper?” Cavanaugh asked.

“Was I supposed to, Mister Cavanaugh ... sir?” Pepper answered off-mike.
His voice was bitter.

“Oh, don’t be sore, boy.” Cavanaugh roared with laughter. “If you’d
taken the beating I took tonight from Hall’s gang of toughs, you’d have
been grouchy, too. And no more of that ‘Mister Cavanaugh’ stuff. Just
call me ‘Red.’ We’re pals.”

“Are we?”

“Sure we are. We’ll both get rich out of this. And even better, we’ll do
the Indian Agency and the whole Navajo nation in the eye. If they accept
my bids—and they’ll have to, because they’re higher than those of anyone
else—we’ll get those leases for a half, or even a third, of what’d
they’d sell for next month when the policy change is announced.”

In his hiding place under the trailer floor, Sandy was boiling with
fury. Momentarily he had forgotten all about being a dog. The Dobermans
sensed the difference instantly. Perhaps they caught a subtle change in
his body odor. His anger was making him perspire despite the cold.

The lead dog barked sharply and scrambled to its feet. The others
followed suit. Sandy tried to croon reassurance to them, but failed.
They were becoming thoroughly aroused and making an awful racket. He had
to get out of there—and quickly—before Cavanaugh came to investigate.

He scrambled from under the trailer and sprinted for the jeep. The dogs
broke into full cry now, and streaked after him. This was a human! And
an enemy human too! They were out to make him pay dearly for his deceit.

The trailer door banged open as the bedlam rose. Moments later, a
spotlight picked up the running boy and the dogs that leaped and snapped
at his bare heels.

“Stop, thief!” Cavanaugh yelled. “Stop or I’ll fire!”

                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN

At that moment, Sandy tripped over a branch, flung up his arms as he
fell headlong. The rifle bullet meant for his head merely creased him
instead, from shoulder to elbow.

He scrambled behind a large rock, managed to get to his feet, and faced
the gleaming eyes of the oncoming dogs. Something that Quiz once had
read to him out of a sports magazine flashed through his mind: “If
attacked by vicious dogs, hold out some object, such as your hat, at
waist height. They will hesitate while they decide whether to leap over
it or under it, thus giving you an advantage.”

His left arm was numb from the shock of the bullet, but he managed to
use it to rip the dog skin from around his waist and hold it forward. As
the dogs whined and tried to make up their minds as to the best method
of attack, he tore the board on which the “ear” was mounted from his
chest with his good hand. Thank heaven, one end of the plank had been
whittled down into a sort of handle, for easier carrying.

Then he charged, swinging the improvised club like a demon.

Luckily, his first blow landed squarely on the snout of a leaping dog!

Sparks flashed. Pieces of equipment flew in all directions. The animal
howled and rolled on the ground, holding its nose with both paws. Its
companions backed away.

Sandy followed up his advantage. He struck again and again. The dogs
fled, howling, to a safe distance.

To the right of him, the boy now heard the pounding of human feet.
Cavanaugh had abandoned a frontal attack for the moment and was
sprinting to cut him off from the road leading back to the village.

“Don’t kill him, Red,” Pepper was shouting. “It would be murder.”

“Nobody’s going to kill anybody—yet,” Cavanaugh yelled as he ran. “But
we can’t let him get away, after what he may have heard. Rig another
floodlight. Then come over here and help me.”

Forgetful of the thorns that tore his skin and the rocks that cut his
knees, Sandy wriggled, Indian fashion, into a darker spot. In his bare
feet, he had no chance of reaching the road ahead of Cavanaugh, or even
of staying out of his way. Keeping a wary eye on the dogs that still
followed, whining with uncertainty, he ripped Maisie’s hide into pieces
and bound them under his feet. There. That would be better!

He made a feint for the road now—and ducked as another bullet whispered
overhead and smacked into a nearby tree.

He was in a real spot! If he tried to cross the bare top of the natural
bridge that arched over the hole in Window Rock, he would make an ideal
target, silhouetted against the moon. (Thank all the little Navajo gods
and demons that Cavanaugh’s right eye must be swollen shut from the
beating Ralph had given him. He was in no condition to shoot accurately
even if he disregarded Pepper’s warning.)

Sandy decided that his best strategy lay in hiding among the mesquite
and sagebrush thickets under the pine trees that covered the side of the
rock nearest the village. Kitty must have heard the racket. Perhaps she
would understand what was happening and head for town to get help.

A whoop of delight, followed by several quick shots, made his heart

“That jeep will never move again,” he heard Cavanaugh yell. The next
words made him feel much better. “Come on out of the woods, driver, and
give yourself up. I’ve got you cut off from the road.”

Sandy dithered in his hiding place. He was feeling decidedly queer all
of a sudden. The fact that his left hand felt wet and slippery brought
him up short. He was bleeding steadily from that wound in his shoulder.
He tried dabbing sand on the crease, but it didn’t stop the flow.
Another fifteen or twenty minutes and he would be so weak, that he would
fall easy prey to his pursuers.

“Bring flashlights out here,” Cavanaugh was shouting to Pepper now.
“We’ll beat the woods for the driver first.”

Sandy bit his cold lips. Time was running out. He had to act, and act
fast, before he keeled over from loss of blood. Should he throw himself
on Pepper’s mercy? But, even granted that his old rival wouldn’t betray
him, what good would that do? Cavanaugh had the gun!

The sight of the blond boy walking reluctantly into the woods through
the floodlight glare, with a heavy flashlight in either hand, gave him
an idea.

Or was it Quiz who told him what to do? He shook his head dazedly.
Almost, he could hear Quiz saying: “Where would Professor Moriarty least
expect to find you, Sherlock Holmes?”

“Elementary, my dear Dr. Watson,” he whispered in reply. “In the
trailer, of course.”

Gripping the breadboard in both hands, he made a last weak lunge at the
circling Dobermans. They fled, yelping, from this blood-spattered

Then he crawled frantically toward the open trailer door.

Safe inside, and with the door locked behind him, he hung onto a table
and stared about him with eyes that were beginning to go out of focus.

He should find a cloth with which to bind up his wound, he knew. But he
had no time.

The glittering light-beam mechanism caught his attention. That was the
key to the whole situation! It must project a million candle-power, at
least, to be seen at Elbow Rock. If he could turn it on Window Rock it
would light up the village as bright as day.

There must be a wheel or something by which the light could be moved....
There it was! On the control board to the right!

He twisted the little chrome wheel frantically, watching through a
window as he did so. At first his aim was wild. Then, every street and
building in Window Rock leaped into view, as though outlined by a
lightning stroke.

There! That would tell them something was wrong up here.

He was sleepy and tired after all that effort. So sleepy! He sank into a
chair in front of the beam console and pillowed his head on his bloody

But something nagged him. What he had done wasn’t enough. Kitty was out
there alone in the woods. Cavanaugh might come pounding on the trailer
door at any moment. He had to tell them ... tell them ... tell them
what? Why, where he was, and what was happening, naturally!

He jerked himself upright and started tearing at the mass of wiring that
ran to the light beam modulator. Finally he got down to the heavy
insulated lead-in wires ... tore them loose.

The beam illuminating the village died away.

He slapped the leads together. The light blinked on.

“SOS,” he heliographed in Morse code remembered from Scouting field
trips. “SOS. May Day. May Day.”

Surely somebody at Window Rock would know the code. Certainly Ralph did.
He repeated the international distress calls again and again.

“SOS. May Day!” he spelled out, his cold fingers making many mistakes.
“Sandy Steele and Kitty on the Rock. Cavanaugh trying to kill us. Send
help. SOS. May Day! Sandy Steele and Kitty on the Rock. Cavanaugh....”

He fell forward across the console.

The smash of some heavy object against the door brought him back to

“Stop that!” Cavanaugh was yelling. “Stop it or I will kill you. Stop
it. Stop it!” The man sounded completely insane now.

The door bulged, then broke loose from its hinges under a rain of blows.

Cavanaugh stood in the entrance, his good eye wild and rolling, his
rifle pointed. Behind him, Pepper appeared, still holding one of the
heavy flashlights.

“An Injun,” Cavanaugh gloated without recognition as he took in Sandy’s
dirt-smeared, blood-caked body. “One of Hall’s dirty, stinking Injuns.
This will teach you!”

His finger tightened on the trigger.

“Pepper!” Sandy gasped with the last remnant of his strength. “Don’t let
him kill me, Pepper!”

He slid to the floor as the gun went off.

                            CHAPTER FIFTEEN
                          The Fourth Touchdown

Sandy fought his way up from unconsciousness like a diver rising from
the bottom of a dark sea. For a long time he lay without moving as he
tried to sort out the sounds around him. He was dead, of course, he
reasoned. Nevertheless, some of the voices he seemed to hear sounded

He opened one eye experimentally, prepared to snap it shut if he didn’t
like what he saw. Mrs. Gonzales was bending over him with one of her
eternal compresses. So was a man with a goatee who had a stethoscope
clipped around his neck.

Sandy opened the other eye and turned his head, which seemed to weigh a

He found that he was in bed and bandaged right up to his chin. Kitty,
her pretty face badly scratched, was watching him too. So were John Hall
and ... yes, it was Pepper!

“But I _ought_ to be dead,” Sandy whispered in great surprise. “What

“I conked Cavanaugh with his own flashlight,” Pepper said with pride.
“Knocked him out. His shot went wild.”

“Thanks a lot, Pepper. Shake.” Sandy tried to hold out his hand but
found he couldn’t quite make it.

“Easy,” said the doctor.

“Am I badly hurt?” Sandy managed to say.

“Nothing worse than loss of a lot of blood. I’ve pumped you full of
plasma. You’ll be all right in a few days, but you mustn’t exert
yourself for a while,” said the doctor as he started packing instruments
into his little black bag.

“But I’ve _got_ to know what happened,” Sandy said fretfully. “For
Pete’s _sake_!”

“I called Kitty out of the woods after I hit Cavanaugh,” Pepper
explained. “We got you into his car and brought you home as fast as we

“And you’re all right, Kitty?” Sandy persisted.

“Just a few scratches and bruises.” She came forward to prove it and
patted his bandaged shoulder.

“And ... and Cavanaugh?”

“The crazy fool is still up there,” Hall spoke up. “Look.” He pointed
through the bedroom window.

Sandy worked his head around in that direction. The great hump of the
Window Rock was lit up as bright as day.

“Floodlights,” Hall explained as he saw the boy’s surprise. “They’re set
up permanently to illuminate the Rock on Frontier Day and for other
tourist events.”


“The Navajo police turned them on. The whole force, as well as most of
the Indians who attended the joint Council meeting, are up there trying
to flush Cavanaugh out of hiding.”

“Ralph too?” Sandy’s eyes were shining.


“Did the Council meeting come to anything, Mr.—John?”

“It broke up before any formal agreement was signed when we got your
message, but....”

“Gee, I’m sorry about that.”

“Forget it. I only had the chance to say a few words to Ralph while they
were organizing the posse, but he told me the tribes understand each
other’s position now. It’s just a matter of ironing out details before
they agree to put those boundary-line leases up for bids.”

“That’ll be great for you,” Sandy said, “but I sure wish I hadn’t had

“Forget it, I said.” Hall patted his shoulder too. (Why did everybody
have to pat him as if he were a dog? Sandy wondered crossly. Then he
burst out laughing, although to do so hurt his face and chest. Why, he
almost _was_ a dog, wasn’t he?)

“Young man, you’re getting much too excited,” the doctor warned as he
approached the bed, hypodermic needle in hand. “I’d better put you to
sleep for a while.”

Sandy pushed him away.

“There’s something else,” he cried. “John, did Pepper tell you about the
message Cavanaugh received from Washington?”

“I told him there had been a message, and what Cavanaugh said to Elbow
Rock,” Pepper spoke up. “But I couldn’t hear the message itself.
Cavanaugh was wearing the earphones.”

“Better forget all this for a while and go to sleep, Sandy,” said Hall.
His face was gaunt with worry.

“No! You must listen now.”

Sandy wanted desperately to go to sleep, but he wouldn’t let himself
give in. Slowly, forcing each word out of his mouth as though it weighed
several pounds, he repeated the message to Cavanaugh as well as he could
remember it.

“Good Lord!” Hall gasped. “This changes the whole picture. I must call

He rushed to the telephone while Sandy’s eyelids closed in spite of his
efforts to keep them open. He just _had_ to have a few minutes’ sleep.

White’s arrival at the cottage jerked him awake again. The Agent was
wearing heavy boots and carried a pair of binoculars slung over his
pudgy shoulder.

“What’s all this, John?” he demanded. “I was just leaving from the Rock
when you called. I sent off an inquiry to the Department of Interior
immediately, of course. Then this message came in from San Francisco.
That’s what took me so long getting here. The message is for you,

“Read it to me, please,” the boy said. “I’m too weak to lift a finger.”

White ripped open the yellow envelope, got out his glasses, and read:


“Aw shucks,” Pepper said disgustedly. “That proves our Cavanaugh isn’t
an impostor after all.”

“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” Sandy dragged himself up on one elbow
despite Mrs. Gonzales’ efforts to make him lie still. “It proves no such

“But if he did make those three touchdowns he was always bragging
about....” Pepper started to protest.

“_Four_ touchdowns, the telegram says,” Sandy panted. “Now look, all of
you. Maybe a real football player might _add_ a touchdown to his record
if he thought no one would catch him at it. But who would _subtract_ a
touchdown? Nobody. That’s who!

“Cavanaugh is a phony, I tell you. Whoever he really is, he wanted to
impress people, and keep them from asking too many personal questions
when he went to Valley View and started building his lab with the money
he had stolen from Mr. Gonzales. He remembered that there was another
Cavanaugh on the State team, so he took his identity. But the game had
been played so many years ago that he got the details wrong, see? I’ll
bet that, if we start digging into his past, we’ll find lots of other
queer things.”

“We’ll need to do a lot of digging, too, to make any charges stick
against him after we catch him,” White said grimly.

“What do you mean?” Hall exploded. “He’s guilty of attempted homicide,
defrauding the Indians, disturbing the peace, and I don’t know what all

“Oh, he’s guilty all right,” the Agent agreed, “but could you prove that
to a jury, particularly out here where so many people still think that
the only good Indian is a dead Indian?”

“Oh, you’re being an old woman, Ken,” the oilman snapped.

“Maybe so, John. Maybe so. But I’ve been in this business a long time.
If Cavanaugh or whoever he is hadn’t lost his head, he would have come
right down here and given himself up. Then his lawyers could have
claimed that he was only defending his property from a prowler. No. No.
Shut up and listen to me. People are awful touchy about property rights
out here. Remember what they used to do to cattle rustlers—still do, for
that matter, on occasion.

“And now about this message that Sandy heard: Cavanaugh’s lawyers would
say ‘Prove it!’ And what real proof have we got? We’d be putting up the
word of a minor who _did_ prowl—I’m not blaming you, Sandy. You did the
only thing possible and your idea of using the light beam to call for
help was a stroke of pure genius—but, as I say, the word of a minor
against the word of an established businessman who has a lot of friends
in these parts.”

“Then you don’t think....” Hall was really shocked.

“I _think_ we have a chance of making our charges stick with the help of
the information Quiz has dug up, but I’m not even sure of that. Frankly,
if the government doesn’t act faster than it usually does, I’m afraid
all of Cavanaugh’s uranium lease bids may have to be accepted tomorrow.
He can claim, you see, that he put them in before the time that he is
even _accused_ of having received his illegal tip.”

“Wow!” Sandy stared at his employer with round eyes. “Well anyway,” he
added, “the change in policy will give you a chance to develop your own
uranium strike on the San Juan.”

“Fat lot of good that will do me if Cavanaugh ties us up with a libel
and defamation suit,” Hall grunted. “Well, Ken, it looks as if we’re all
in trouble unless ... what was that?”

They all whirled toward the window.

Far up near the top of Window Rock, pinpoints of light were flashing.
The clean, thin sound of rifle shots came down to them through the still
desert air.

White snatched at his binoculars and trained them on the mountain. Long
moments passed as he fiddled with the focus.

“The idiot!” he almost whispered at last. “The poor scared, hysterical
fool. He’s making a run for it across the top of the natural bridge!”

Hall snapped off the room light. Somehow, Sandy managed, with Kitty’s
help, to sit up where he could get a view of the bare slab of rock where
he had almost been tempted to do what Cavanaugh was now trying.

They all held their breath in the darkness as they strained their eyes.

There he was! A tiny black shadow, bent nearly double as he raced madly
through the floodlight glare.

“He’s going to make it. He’s going to make it!” Pepper shouted, his old
loyalty to his boss coming to the fore. “Run, Red. _Run!_”

The fleeing man stumbled. He threw up his arms and reeled to the edge of
the narrow rock bridge. Almost, he recovered his balance....

Then he fell, turning over and over slowly, for a thousand miles, it

Kitty and her mother screamed together.

“It’s better so,” White murmured at last as he put his glasses back in
their case. “A clean death. Cavanaugh made that fourth touchdown after

                        SANDY STEELE ADVENTURES

                           1. BLACK TREASURE

Sandy Steele and Quiz spend an action-filled summer in the oil fields of
the Southwest. In their search for oil and uranium, they unmask a
dangerous masquerader.

                      2. DANGER AT MORMON CROSSING

On a hunting trip in the Lost River section of Idaho, Sandy and Mike
ride the rapids, bag a mountain lion, and stumble onto the answer to a
hundred-year-old mystery.

                            3. STORMY VOYAGE

Sandy and Jerry James ship as deck hands on one of the “long boats” of
the Great Lakes. They are plunged into a series of adventures and find
themselves involved in a treacherous plot.

                          4. FIRE AT RED LAKE

Sandy and his friends pitch in to fight a forest fire in Minnesota. Only
they and Sandy’s uncle know that there is an unexploded A-bomb in the
area to add to the danger.

                      5. SECRET MISSION TO ALASKA

A pleasant Christmas trip turns into a startling adventure. Sandy and
Jerry participate in a perilous dog-sled race, encounter a wounded bear,
and are taken as hostages by a ruthless enemy.

                           6. TROUBLED WATERS

When Sandy and Jerry mistakenly sail off in a stranger’s sloop instead
of their own, they land in a sea of trouble. Their attempts to
outmaneuver a desperate crew are intertwined with fascinating sailing


                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

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