And Gil, if you would believe me, did not remember, either. He had driven the cattle half a mile or more, had helped to "steal" two calves out of the little herd, and yet he could not recall the mark of their owner.
So the proprietor of the hotel, an old cowman who had sold out and gone into the hotel business when the barbed-wire came by carloads into the country, pulled a newspaper towards him, borrowed a pencil from Burns, and sketched all the cattle brands in that part of the country. While he drew one after the other, he did a little thinking.
"Must have been the Bar Nothing, or else the Lazy A cattle you got hold of," he concluded, pointing to the pencil marks on the margin of the paper. "They range down in there, and Jean Douglas answers your description of the girl,--as far as looks go. She ain't all that wild and dangerous, though. Swing a loop with any man in the country and ride and all that,-- been raised right out there on the Lazy A. Say! Why don't you go out and see Carl Douglas, and see if you can't get the use of the Lazy A for your pictures? Seems to me that's just the kinda place you want. Don't anybody live there now. It's been left alone ever since--the trouble out there. House and barns and corrals,--everything you want." He leaned closer with a confidential tone creeping into his voice, for Robert Grant Burns and his company were profitable guests and should be given every inducement to remain in the country.
"It ain't but fifteen miles out there; you could go back and forth in your machine, easy. You go out and see Carl Douglas, anyway; won't do no harm. You offer him a little something for the use of the Lazy A; he'll take anything that looks like money. Take it from me, that's the place you want to take your pictures in. And, say! You want a written agreement with Carl. Have the use of his stock included, or he'll tax you extra. Have everything included," advised the old cowman, with a sweep of his palm and his voice lowered discreetly. "Won't need to cost you much,-- not if you don't give him any encouragement to expect much. Carl's that kind,--good fellow enough,--but he wants--the--big--end. I know him, you bet! And, say! Don't let on to Carl that I steered you out there. Just claim like you was scouting around, and seen the Lazy A ranch, and took a notion to it; not too much of a notion, though, or it's liable to come kinda high.
"And, say!" Real enthusiasm for the idea began to lighten his eyes. "If you want good range dope, right out there's where you can sure find it. You play up to them Bar Nothing boys--Lite Avery and Joe Morris and Red. You ought to get some great pictures out there, man. Them boys can sure ride and rope and handle stock, if that's what you want; and I reckon it is, or you wouldn't be out here with your bunch of actors looking for the real stuff."
They talked a long while after that. Gradually it dawned upon Burns that he had heard of the Lazy A ranch before, though not by that euphonious title. It seemed worth investigating, for he was going to need a good location for some exterior ranch scenes very soon, and the place he had half decided upon did not alto- gether please him. He inquired about roads and distances, and waddled off to the hotel parlor to ask Muriel Gay, his blond leading woman, if she would like to go out among the natives next morning. Also he wanted her to tell him more about that picturesque place she and Lee Milligan had stumbled upon the day before, --the place which he suspected was none other than the Lazy A.
That is how it came to pass that Jean, riding out with big Lite Avery the next morning on a little private scouting-trip of their own, to see if that fat moving- picture man was making free with the stock again, met the man unexpectedly half a mile from the Bar Nothing ranch-house.
Along every trail which owns certain obstacles to swift, easy passing, there are places commonly spoken of as "that" place. In his journey to the Bar Nothing, Robert Grant Burns had come unwarned upon that sandy hollow which experienced drivers approached with a mental bracing for the struggle ahead, and with tightened lines and whip held ready. Even then they stuck fast, as often as not, if the load were heavy, though Bar Nothing drivers gaged their loads with that hollow in mind. If they could pull through there without mishap, they might feel sure of having no trouble elsewhere.