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Title: Jack the Young Cowboy - An Eastern Boy's Experiance on a Western Round-up
Author: Grinnell, George Bird
Language: English
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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.

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                                 JACK
                           THE YOUNG COWBOY



                         _By the same Author_


                    JACK THE YOUNG COWBOY
                    JACK THE YOUNG TRAPPER
                    JACK THE YOUNG CANOEMAN
                    JACK THE YOUNG EXPLORER
                    JACK IN THE ROCKIES
                    JACK AMONG THE INDIANS
                    JACK THE YOUNG RANCHMAN
                    PAWNEE HERO STORIES AND FOLK TALES
                    BLACKFOOT LODGE TALES
                    THE STORY OF THE INDIAN
                    THE INDIANS OF TO-DAY
                    THE PUNISHMENT OF THE STINGY
                    AMERICAN DUCK SHOOTING
                    AMERICAN GAME BIRD SHOOTING
                    TRAILS OF THE PATHFINDERS



         [Illustration: COWBOY STARTING FOR THE ROUND-UP CAMP.
  _Photo by the Morris Art Studio, Chinook, Mont._]



                                 JACK
                           THE YOUNG COWBOY

                   _An Eastern Boy's Experience on a
                           Western Round-up_

                                  BY
                         GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL


              _WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS_


                            [Illustration]


                               NEW YORK
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
                              PUBLISHERS



                         _Copyright, 1913, by_
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

   _All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
                languages, including the Scandinavian_

                    Ninth Printing, August 12, 1935


               _Printed in the United States of America_



                             INTRODUCTION


Jack's cowboy life began just as a great change was sweeping over the
cattle range. Cattle had first been brought into the country only a few
years before--old-fashioned long-horns driven up over the trail from
Texas.

In those days the people in the West were not many. Towns were small,
farms almost unknown, wagon roads few. Except about the pastures of the
larger ranches, there were no fences. Over most of the land the cowboy
roamed alone.

His seemed a life of romance. Free as the birds, he wandered over the
wide range, going when and where he pleased. But this romance was only
apparent. No man worked harder than he, or for less reward. His toilful
days and short broken nights; his small pay and his poor food were
recorded in the songs that he sang as he rode about the cattle. This
was in the early days of the cattle industry.

A little later, on the plains came a change from pioneer conditions to
those approaching luxury.

The earlier cattlemen in the North--those who ranged their stock on the
Platte and the various forks of the Loup River--made great profits. Yet
as time went on they saw competition constantly growing sharper and
ranges being overstocked. As the news of their profits drifted eastward
many young men, allured by the romance of the cowboy's life, and
ignorant of its actual conditions, came into the cattle country. These
believed that success with cattle was to be attained by riding about
and watching the cattle increase and grow, and shipping them to market
when they had grown. They were glad to be interested in a business at
once so agreeable and so profitable; and many a one exchanged his money
for a herd, a brand and some log buildings, and rode over the range
awaiting the advent of his riches. Many of the early cattlemen sold
their herds to the newcomers, who, somewhat later, discovered that with
the cattle they had bought also much experience.

These changes were in operation when Jack entered on his cowboy life.



                               CONTENTS


        CHAPTER                                  PAGE

              I THE TRAGEDY AT POWELL'S             1

             II A ROBBER TURNED LOOSE              13

            III TO THE ROUND-UP CAMP               24

             IV OLD FRIENDS                        34

              V CUTTING AND BRANDING               42

             VI RIDING CIRCLE                      55

            VII A BULL FIGHT                       66

           VIII A BUFFALO STORY                    78

             IX VICENTE, COWHAND                   88

              X THE FENCELESS LAND                 98

             XI TANNING A BUCKSKIN                110

            XII INDIAN STORIES                    120

           XIII BIG WOLVES                        133

            XIV A BAD MAN                         144

             XV AN ENGLISHMAN IN CAMP             155

            XVI A LESSON IN ROPING                165

           XVII DRIFTING                          176

          XVIII A STAMPEDE                        187

            XIX COW HORSES AND THEIR WORK         200

             XX ROPING A BEAR                     211

            XXI A CALIFORNIA BEAR HUNT            221

           XXII HUNTING WITH A SIX-SHOOTER        230

          XXIII A LOAD OF MEAT                    240

           XXIV FLAGGING AN ANTELOPE              252

            XXV THE DANCE AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE      266



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


  Cowboy starting for the round-up camp      _Frontispiece_

                                                FACING PAGE

  "The cow started straight off over the prairie"        48

  Branding in the corral                                170

  Gentling a wild one                                   250



                        JACK, THE YOUNG COWBOY



                               CHAPTER I

                        THE TRAGEDY AT POWELL'S


"Well, Jack," said Mr. Sturgis, "I do not know where you'll find them,
but possibly somewhere over on the Little Medicine. If I were you, I'd
ride over to Powell's. They are sure to know where the outfit is, and
if you can't reach camp to-night, you can stop at Powell's."

"All right, Uncle Will; I'll go over there and probably get to camp
to-night."

Jack shook hands with his uncle, and stepping back to his horse threw
the reins over Pawnee's head, and swung into the saddle. With a final
wave of his hand, he trotted off toward where his string of horses were
feeding on the meadow before the house, and riding to and fro behind
the scattered bunch, gathered them together and started on down the
road.

Mr. Sturgis stood in front of the corral filling his pipe, and watching
his nephew grow smaller and smaller, as he moved along down the road
close to the pasture fence. It seemed to him a long time since he had
first brought Jack out from far New York to the Swift Water Ranch, a
little slip of a lad, thin and pale. He remembered their first drive
from the railroad: how he had killed a bear crossing the road, and how
Jack had seen what he supposed to be an Indian dog, which, of course,
was a coyote.

"My!" said Mr. Sturgis to himself, "certainly the years slip by! Then
I could have lifted that little fellow and held him out with one hand;
and now he is big enough to lift me!"

Jack had risen that morning soon after daylight, and had gone out to
get his horses together. The night before, Joe had brought in and put
in the small pasture the few saddle horses left at the ranch. That
morning they had been driven into the corral, and Jack, aided by Joe's
knowledge of the animals, had selected six for his string to ride on
the round-up, taking along his old favorite Pawnee for a regular riding
horse, but not for a cow horse. Good saddle animal as Pawnee was, Jack
thought too much of him to be willing to use him in the long rough work
of riding circle or branding calves, or throwing big cows, if any old
mavericks should be found. For the most part Pawnee should travel in
the _cávaya_,[A] though sometimes he might be used on night herd. Jack
made up his mind that hard work Pawnee should not do. "Give him just
enough exercise to make him enjoy his victuals," Joe had said that
morning when they were talking the string over.

The horses had been brought into the corral, and one after another of
those chosen had been cut out and sent out through the big gate, all
except the one that was to carry Jack's bed. That one had been roped
and taken out and tied up to the fence. Then Jack had gone up to the
house and brought down his blankets and a few extra clothes, and
having wrapped them up in his "tarp," the bundle had been put on the
horse with the regular cowboy hitch, and the animal had been set free
to feed with its fellows. Then had come breakfast, and he was ready.

It was nearly a year since Jack had crossed a horse, and it seemed very
pleasant to be trotting along over the prairie, the bunch going nicely
ahead of him. They were fat and frisky and every now and then one of
them would lay back his ears and nip at his neighbor, and perhaps the
sudden motion would start the little bunch into a gallop, from which
they would almost at once come down again to the steady trot.

There had been rain enough--so they said at the ranch--during April,
May and the first few days of June, but now the prairie was dry and a
little cloud of dust rose from under the horses' hoofs. The bottoms and
the high hills were brightly green. Moreover, they were dotted with
many beautiful flowers--which of course Jack could not see, because he
was moving along swiftly--and down on one of the wet meadows the purple
iris, already in bloom, had colored the ground blue in spots.

It was a couple of years now since Jack had been to the ranch, and a
good many things had happened; for when a boy is from seventeen to
nineteen years of age, things are likely to happen to him pretty fast.
He receives many new impressions, has new experiences, and certainly
picks up knowledge of one sort or another at a rapid rate. Since
Jack had last seen these prairies and mountains he had passed his
examinations, entered college, and spent nearly two years there. He had
certainly had a good time while he was in New Haven. The toughness and
endurance that he had picked up during his summers on the plains and in
the mountains had stood him in good stead in athletics and he had won
a place on one of the football teams. During a part of his sophomore
year, he had had the bad fortune to have a long and tiresome illness
from which he was only now convalescing, and since he had lost much
time, it had been thought best for him to go out to his uncle's ranch
before the end of the college year and to spend the vacation there in
getting well.

When he reached the Swift Water Ranch two days before, the round-up
had already started and now was in full swing; and Mr. Sturgis, after
satisfying himself that Jack was strong enough to do the work, had
told him that the best thing for him would be to go out and find the
round-up, and work with it. Nothing could have suited Jack better. Hugh
was along as a sort of camp-keeper. Mr. Powell and Charley Powell were
sure to be there, and so were half a dozen other men whom Jack knew
very well, and with whom he would be glad to work. He felt that he was
going to have a good time. In fact, he was having a good time now. The
air was fresh and cool, the sun bright; far off on the green hills he
could see here and there a little white speck which he knew was an
antelope; from the fence posts along which he passed sounded the clear
whistle of the western meadow lark; and everywhere the air was full
of sweet songs of birds, though of them all the meadow lark's was the
loudest and clearest.

Jack's outfit was that commonly used by the cow puncher. He wore a
flannel shirt and woolen trousers, gloves, and shaps--heavy leather
trousers without any seat, to protect the legs when riding through
underbrush or thorns. About his waist was his pistol-belt filled with
cartridges, while the six-shooter hung well down on his right hip.

It must not be supposed that Jack carried a gun with any purpose of
using it against his fellow men, but in those old days of wild prairie
and wild cattle a pistol was almost a necessity. While sometimes it
was used to kill game, or perhaps against dangerous animals, it often
came in play to frighten an angry cow, or to turn a bunch of stampeding
cattle.

Before long Jack had left behind him the pasture fence, and when
he looked back could no longer see the ranch buildings which, low
themselves, and placed in a sheltered hollow, were now cut off by the
points of the rounded hills. His course lay southeast across the basin.
Now and then the horses, uncertain as to the direction they should
take, veered to one side or the other, so that the driver had to ride
out on the side toward which they turned and shout at them to head them
back.

The miles passed quickly. Occasionally, on some nearby hill Jack saw
a little bunch of antelopes--old males with long black horns, and
yearlings, both males and females. They looked at him as he drew near,
and if he approached too close, ran up to the top of some rise and
watched him long after he had passed.

It was after he had crossed the valley, and was riding up through the
low foothills that stretched out from the bluffs on the other side,
that an old doe antelope burst suddenly from a little coulée close to
the bunch of horses, and passing in front of them galloped up the hill
on the other side. Almost immediately behind her was a coyote running
hard. When it saw the horses it checked itself, and an instant later as
it saw the rider, turned and ran. The old doe had done her best, but
except for the incident of the horses' being there, she would soon have
been pulled down. Her black tongue hung far out of her mouth, and she
staggered as she ran.

Jack understood very well what was happening. Evidently two or more
coyotes had started this doe, and were taking turns chasing her, one
relieving the other which, by cutting off the corners, could save
itself, and after it had regained its wind, take up the chase again. So
the race might have kept up for an hour or more, until finally, the old
doe would have been overtaken, pulled down, and devoured.

To Jack all this was a matter of common knowledge, for more than once
he had seen almost that very thing happen. It took him only a moment,
therefore, to whirl his horse. Giving him a jab with the spurs, he
was close upon the coyote almost before it had started to run. He had
jerked out his six-shooter, and as two or three balls knocked up puffs
of dust about the coyote, the beast put on a tremendous spurt of speed.
It was impossible to take aim from the back of the galloping horse,
but one ball passing over the coyote's head caused it to whirl and run
broadside for a jump or two, and as it did this, it came in collision
with another ball, which quickly ended its career.

"Good enough!" said Jack to himself. "That is better luck than I
deserved. I didn't hope to do more than scare the beast, and now I have
got it." He rode over and sat on his horse looking down at the coyote,
from whose hide great patches of fur had been lost, for the animals
were now just shedding their winter coats. Evidently the hide was not
worth taking off, and so Jack dismounted and cut off the coyote's
head, for in those days there was a bounty on these beasts, and the
bounty was worth having. He tied the head to the saddle, remounted, and
started down toward his horses. They had stopped and were now feeding,
but before long he had them moving again.

Riding steadily and fast across the plateau, he saw to his left
something moving, and watching it for a few moments saw that it was a
badger digging its hole. Every now and then the badger would sit up and
look about him, and then again would put its forefeet on the ground and
begin to dig. When he had got as close to the badger as the trail would
bring him, Jack suddenly turned Pawnee and galloped toward the creature
at a good rate. The badger at once noticed the change of direction, and
set to work digging harder. By the time Jack had reached the hole, the
animal was already twelve or fifteen inches under ground, and was quite
covered by the loosened earth of the hole. For a moment Jack was going
to shoot down through the earth, which was heaving and moving from the
struggles of the beast below, but then it occurred to him that there
was no especial reason for doing this, since the badger could not be
used in any way. Its hide would be useless, and there was no reason
for killing it. Moreover, badgers kill a good many prairie dogs which
eat grass, and gophers which destroy gardens, and every badger killed
means an increase in the dog and gopher population. There came to him,
too, the memory of what Hugh more than once had said to him--that there
was no sense in killing things unless you could make some use of them.
He watched the moving earth for two or three minutes. If he had had a
stick he would have poked it down in the hole, to feel the badger, but
he had seen too many badgers to be willing to put his hand down in this
hole, even though the hand were protected by a stout glove.

Presently he was on his horse again, and the bunch was once more
started on the road toward Powell's ranch. The horses, which had been
going all day, were now very willing to stop, and were eager at any
moment to get a bite of grass. Jack kept them to their work, however,
and a little later, when he came to the edge of the plateau, he was
glad to see the valley below him and Powell's ranch buildings in the
distance. He rode down toward the houses, following the little sag; but
as he went down the hill the Powell buildings were no longer in sight,
for they were hidden by the ridges on either side the road.

                   *       *       *       *       *

At the Powell ranch it was long after noon; dinner was over; the
dishes had been put away and Mrs. Powell and Bess were sewing in the
living-room. All the men had gone off on the round-up, and these two
were left here alone, as so often they had been left alone before.
Presently Bess glanced through one of the windows which looked over the
road leading from the valley.

"Here come some people--a couple of men and a pack horse," she said to
her mother.

A little later the riders drew up in front of the house, and one of
them dismounting came to the kitchen door and knocked. Bess went to the
door and saw there a tall, spare, middle-aged man. There was nothing
especially noticeable about him except that he had rather keen, fierce
eyes, a hooked nose, and a black, drooping mustache. As she opened the
door he nodded and said to her:

"How do you do, ma'am? We men are traveling south to go to the
railroad. We've got to get to Cheyenne. We've come quite a way from the
north, and we've run plumb out of grub. We haven't any money, more'n
just enough for our tickets, and I was wondering if you would give us a
meal. If we can get something to eat, we can go in comfortably to town
and catch the east-bound passenger to-night."

"Why, certainly!" said Bess. "We'll be glad to give you something to
eat. Tie up your horses and come in and sit down. It won't take long to
get you some dinner."

Leaving the door open, she went back to her mother and told her what
the riders wanted, and the two women went into the kitchen and began to
start the fire and to prepare a meal. Meantime the men tied up their
horses and seated themselves just outside the kitchen door. Mrs. Powell
asked once if they would not come in, and sit in the living-room, but
they said no, they were comfortable there.

Presently dinner was ready and the men, called in, ate hungrily of
bacon, potatoes and bread and butter, and seemed especially to enjoy
the coffee. The young man had nothing to say; but the older one, after
he had satisfied his hunger, talked a little about matters up north,
told of things that were happening at Buffalo, and spoke of having
passed a round-up camp early that morning.

"That's where our men folks are," said Mrs. Powell. "They're all off
riding the country, and won't be back until the round-up is over."

When the men had finished their meal, the older one thanked Mrs.
Powell; and going outside, the two sat down by the door and lighting
their pipes talked in low tones. Mrs. Powell and Bess cleared off the
table, washed and put away the dishes, and returned to the living-room.

Presently the older of the two men rose to his feet and said to the
younger:

"Come on, now! We may as well try it! It'll be a big help to us if we
can get a little money; and we can get on the train, and be well out of
the country before anybody knows anything about it."

"Aw, Bill, don't do it," said the younger man; "these people have been
good to us. It'll be mighty mean to frighten 'em, or take anything from
'em."

"Hold your yawp!" growled the man called Bill. "If they've got
anything, I'm going to have it; and you've got to back me up and stand
half the blame!" He rested his hands on his hips, and looked fiercely
at his companion, who dolefully got up on his feet and followed Bill
into the house. At the door of the living-room Bill stopped.

"I told you, ma'am," he said, "that we're going to the railroad, and
that we're going to Cheyenne, but we ain't got any money to pay the
railroad fares, and I thought I'd ask you if you wouldn't give us what
we need?"

"Is the man crazy!" cried Mrs. Powell, angrily. "I'm not a bank; and
if you've been any time in this country you must know that people on
ranches don't keep money. What would we spend money for here?"

"I reckon that's so, ma'am," said Bill; "but I reckon too that your man
didn't go away and leave you without a cent, and whatever you've got,
I'll take, and take it quick!"

He stepped into the room toward Mrs. Powell, and she saw at once that
the man meant what he said and that asking for money was no longer a
request but a demand.

"Honestly," she protested, "I have no money. When Mr. Powell went away
he didn't expect us to leave the ranch, and he knew we didn't need any
money here. You'll have to try to borrow some in town when you get to
the railroad."

"Well," said the man, "if you haven't any money you've got a watch
there, and I'll take that, and maybe when I get to town I can borrow
two or three dollars on it."

He stepped forward and reached out to take from her belt a little watch
whose ring he could see above her apron strings; but Mrs. Powell drew
back.

"You shan't have that watch!" she cried. "I've had that ever since I
was married, and I won't give it to you!"

The man caught her arm with his left hand and reached for the watch
with his right hand; and Mrs. Powell screamed.

"Hold on!" said Bessie. "Let go my mother! I've got some money, and
I'll give it to you."

"You've got some money, have you?" said Bill, releasing Mrs. Powell's
arm.

"Yes; I have twenty-two dollars I was saving up to buy a saddle, and if
you will clear out right off, I'll give it to you."

"All right," agreed Bill. "We'll go. Let's have it. But don't try to
play any tricks, young woman."

"I'll get it for you right away," Bessie said; "it's here in my
bedroom."

"All right," repeated Bill. "Be quick about it!"

Bessie ran into the bedroom and was heard to pull open a drawer, and a
few seconds later a shot sounded. Bill staggered a little, felt for his
pistol, and then turned around and fell to the floor; while the young
man who had stood in the door ran out through the kitchen, jumped on
his horse, and galloped off.

[Footnote A: _Cávaya_ from the Spanish word _caballada_, the horse
herd.]



                              CHAPTER II

                         A ROBBER TURNED LOOSE


As Jack rounded a low point of hill only half a mile from the house, he
saw the buildings again. The sun was getting low, and he decided that
he would put the animals in Powell's pasture and ask Mrs. Powell to
keep him over night at the house. He wondered if she would know him,
for since she had last seen him he had grown, as it seemed to him, a
foot or two. As he came in sight of the house he noticed, hitched to
the fence near the door, two riding horses and a loaded pack horse.
Evidently there were visitors at the house. They were travelers, not
cow punchers, for the pack animal carried a sawbuck pack-saddle and a
very small pack.

These thoughts had just passed through Jack's head, when to his
amazement he heard a shot which seemed to come from the house, and an
instant later the door flew open and a man burst out, rushed to the
horses, jumped on one of them and galloped fast down the road toward
him. Jack could not conceive what this meant--shooting in Powell's
house. He did not know the man who was approaching. He was young,
fair-haired, rode like one accustomed to the saddle, and had a good
horse, though it looked as though it had gone a long way. The rider
was coming directly toward him, and, as he rode, he looked back at the
house two or three times, as though fearing pursuit.

Jack did not know what all this meant, and yet one thing seemed
certain--he must stop this man and find out what he had been doing.
Yet to stop a man on the road he knew was pretty serious business,
and might very likely lead to shooting. He had traveled enough on the
prairie and had associated enough with older men to be cautious about
getting into trouble; but here was a case where trouble seemed to be
coming toward him so straight that he could not avoid it. For the first
two or three moments the rider seemed not to notice Jack, but when he
did so, he checked the speed of his horse, and looked uncertainly to
right and left, as though seeking some way of escape. By this time
Jack had stuck his spurs into Pawnee, and was riding fast toward the
approaching man. He had his hand on his six-shooter, ready to draw
it at the least sign of trouble. As they drew near to each other the
young man made a motion as if to put his hand on his pistol butt, but
Jack called to him sharply, "Hands up!" and drew his pistol. The young
fellow's hands flew up in the air, while he stopped his horse. Jack
rode around and coming up behind him on the right side, still holding
his pistol ready, reached over and took the young man's gun out of his
holster, and then ordered him sharply to turn around and ride in front
of him toward the house. He watched him closely, for it was possible
that somewhere about his person the man might have another pistol, but
the young fellow seemed to have no desire to do anything save what he
was told. His nerve had wholly left him.

They trotted up to the door of the ranch, and Jack called out for Mr.
Powell, Charley and Mrs. Powell, and a moment later a tall, handsome,
brown-haired girl appeared at the door, holding a six-shooter in her
hand. Jack instantly recognized her as his old friend Bessie, but
Bessie grown out of all likeness to the slim-legged little girl that he
had known half a dozen years before.

"Hello, Bessie!" called Jack. "You don't know me, I guess, but I am
Jack Danvers, just over from Mr. Sturgis' ranch. I heard a shot and
saw this man running away from the house, and stopped him. What has
happened? Do you want him, or shall I let him go?"

"I don't know, Jack," Bessie answered; "we'll have to think about that.
He ought to be tied up for a while anyhow, until we can tell you what
has happened, and can decide what to do."

"Well," said Jack, "the first thing is to take his weapons if he has
any. Here is the six-shooter he had when I stopped him. Will you hold
it, and keep an eye on him while I search him? You used to be able to
shoot when you were a little girl."

"I guess you will think I can yet, Jack," said Bessie. Jack now noticed
that she looked very white. "That man's partner is in here, and we will
have to do something with him."

Jack said nothing, but dismounted, went to the young rider, unbuckled
and took off his belt and felt him all over to see whether he had
another pistol. Nothing was found on him more dangerous than a
pocket-knife, which Jack took. He had the young man dismount and sit
down on the ground, and asked Bessie to stand guard over him. Then with
a rope taken off one of the horses he tied the man's hands and feet
securely, and passing the rope from his wrists, which were tied behind
his back, over a bar of the fence four feet from the ground, drew up
the hands so as to keep the man's body bent forward, and to give him
very little freedom of motion. Then he tied the horses to the fence and
went to the door where Bessie stood.

"Tell me all about it now, Bessie," he said.

"No, Jack, I can't talk now," she replied. "Go in and speak to mother,
and talk it over with her."

He passed through the kitchen and into the living-room, and the first
thing that caught his eye there was a man lying on the floor, on his
back, with one arm stretched out. Stepping up to him, Jack saw that he
was dead, and apparently he had been moved a little, for on the boards
was a smear of blood, leading to the man's body, which seemed to show
that an effort had been made to drag him toward the door. Mrs. Powell
was not there, but when Jack called her by name she opened a bedroom
door and came out. Jack began to tell her who he was, but she knew him
at once, and grasping both his hands began to cry and to tell him how
glad she was to see him.

"Don't cry, Mrs. Powell," said Jack. "Tell me what all this is about,
for of course I don't understand it at all. I heard a shot, and met a
man riding hard away from the house. I stopped him and brought him back
and now he is outside tied up, with Bessie watching him."

"Oh, Jack!" moaned Mrs. Powell, "to think that anything like this
could happen in this country! We have plenty of bad men here, but I
never thought that any of them would be bad enough to attack a woman;
and I never supposed that Bessie would have to kill one." The poor
woman had great difficulty in speaking, and it was hard for Jack to
understand what she was talking about; but some ideas he got. He patted
her shoulder and told her that the trouble was all over now, and she
need not worry about it, and that he would look after everything, if
she would only tell him the whole story so that he could understand it.
Then Mrs. Powell told him what had happened.

"Well, well," declared Jack, "this is certainly bad business--that
anybody in this country should start in and rob women and children.
However, it is mighty lucky that Bessie is so quick with her wits, and
so quick with her gun. Now what shall we do with this man's partner?"

Mrs. Powell began to cry again.

"Dear me! dear me! I don't know what to say to you, Jack. If our men
come back and find him here, he surely will never get off the place;
they'll hang him on the gate-post; and I don't want that to happen.
We've had trouble enough with this dead man here, and I don't want
Charley or his father to get mixed up in any lynching."

"Well, Mrs. Powell," Jack replied, "this young fellow ought to be
killed and killed quick. He surely has no business in this country. But
I can understand how you feel. It wouldn't be very pleasant for you to
have him hung right in your dooryard, as you might say. Let me go out
and talk to Bessie, and see what she thinks. I have an idea from the
way she looks and from what you tell me that she has pretty good sense;
but first, it seems to me, we ought to get rid of this carcass here.
I'll open the front door and drag him out."

Jack opened the door, and then going back to where the man lay, and
moving the furniture out of the way, took him by the two wrists and
dragged him out of the door and left the body lying on the ground.

Going back to the kitchen door, he saw Bessie leaning against the fence
watching the young man who was seated on the ground, and who apparently
had not changed his position since he was tied up.

"Come over here, Bessie," Jack requested, and she walked with him to a
place fifteen or twenty yards from the young man, and there in a low
voice they talked over the situation. Jack told her that her mother had
explained what had happened, and of Mrs. Powell's fear lest some of the
people now off on the round-up should come back and find the prisoner
at the house, and should hang him without ceremony.

"That is what I am afraid of, Jack. I want to have this thing ended
now, as quickly as possible. It seems terrible that I should have had
to kill that man; but I didn't know what else I could do to protect
mother, and nobody knows where he would have stopped if something had
not been done."

"Well," suggested Jack, "what's the matter with giving this young man
his horse, or horses, and turning him loose now without any weapons?"

"I wish with all my heart you would do that. It seems to me that is
the easiest way, and the best way, and it will certainly keep out of
trouble any of the boys that may turn up here in the next few days."

"All right," said Jack, "we'll do that. But first I've got to use him
for a little while, and you must come along too, I am afraid, to stand
guard over him."

"I'll do anything I can that you say is right," agreed Bessie.

Jack went over to the prisoner, and untying the ropes turned him loose.

"Now, young fellow," Jack said, "rub your arms and wrists and get the
stiffness out of them, and then come down to the barn and help me hitch
up a wagon."

They went to the barn and found there a couple of work horses, and
harnessing them, hitched them to the wagon, into which they threw a
pick and a couple of shovels. Driving up to the house, they stopped by
the body of the man who had been shot, and lifted it into the wagon,
covering it with a piece of an old tent. They then drove off up a
ravine a mile or more from the house, where they stopped the wagon;
and here in the side of a bank the two men dug a hole, and buried
the would-be robber. Jack searched his pockets for some means of
identification, but found in them nothing except a pipe, some tobacco,
matches and a pocket-knife. His belt and cartridges were taken off to
be carried back to the house.

The sun was close to the western horizon when they reached the house
again. Jack left the young man unhitching the horses, and Bess watching
him, while he returned to the house to tell Mrs. Powell what they had
decided to do, and to ask her approval.

"That is the very best thing that can be done," she said. "Start him
off for the railroad, and try to see that he gets there."

"I mean to ride with him for a mile or two," said Jack; "and I shall
say to him that to-morrow morning I am going over to the round-up camp
to tell them there what has happened, and that there is likely to be a
hunt for him, and he had better quit the country as fast as he knows
how."

"Good!" approved Mrs. Powell. "Ride with him over to the big hill, and
from there watch him as far as you can, and then come back. We'll have
supper ready by dark and we'll look for you then."

"All right," replied Jack. "Before I go, though, I'll turn my horses
into the pasture, if you will let me, and take my bed off the pack
horse."

It took scarcely five minutes to do this, for the hungry horses were
still feeding close to the house. Then Jack went to the young man,
who had returned to the place where he had been tied, and had seated
himself on the ground there.

"You've got yourself into a place that will mean hanging for you, if
you don't get out of the country quick," said Jack. "I am going to give
you a chance for your life, and let you get to the railroad, where
maybe you can strike a freight, or a passenger-train, that will take
you away. If any of the people that belong in this part of the country
come back and hear what you and your partner have done, they will start
out and hunt you as long as they can find your tracks, and if they get
hold of you, you'll swing. Who was this man that you came down here
with, and where did you come from?"

"I don't know what his name was," answered the young man, "but up there
we called him Bill Davis. We came down from just south of Buffalo.
Davis had a little place up there with a few head of cattle and horses
on it, but the stockmen thought he was branding too many calves, and
they told him that he would have to get out of the country. When he
saw they meant it, he came to me, for I had been living on a little
place I had taken up not far from him, and said that he had to get out,
and proposed to me to go somewhere and make a stake, and come back
with something to put on our places. He persuaded me, and I went with
him. I never knew he was going to try to rob these people here; they
treated us awful white; but he said to me that if I didn't come with
him to speak to the women, he and I would quarrel. I wish I had never
seen him! I never got into trouble like this before. You can see for
yourself that I ain't bad. Didn't I give up just as soon as you told me
to?" The young man whimpered and looked as if he were going to cry.

"Well," admitted Jack, "you don't look to me like a fellow who would
willingly be mixed up in robbing women and children, and I am going to
let you go; but if I do, you've got to get out of the country quick,
for if the men around here find you, they won't stop to talk to you,
the way I have. The best thing for you to do is to ride into the
railroad and get on a train and get out of reach as quickly as you can.
Have you any money?"

"Yes, I have a five-dollar bill and some nickels."

"What about these horses? Who owns them?" asked Jack.

"One saddle horse and the pack horse belonged to Bill; and the horse I
ride is mine, and so is the saddle."

"Well," said Jack, "you'd better get on your horse now and pull your
freight for the railroad as quick as you can. I expect your horse isn't
in very good shape to make the ride, and maybe I'd better lend you one
of mine to go in with. Do you know anybody at the railroad that would
buy your horse and saddle?"

"Nary a person," was the answer. "I have never been down here before.
The only thing that I can do is to leave the horse and saddle in town
at some livery stable, or else turn him loose on the range."

"I will tell you what I'll do," said Jack; "if you want to sell that
saddle for twenty dollars, I will buy it from you, and give you five
dollars on account. You can leave it with Brown, at Medicine Bow, and
if I hear that you have done so, and you will write to me, I will
send you the fifteen dollars by mail. I think I'll keep Davis' horses
and saddle here until somebody calls for them, and maybe your horse.
You can take one of my string to ride into the railroad, and when you
get there with it, either leave it at Brown's, or turn it loose on
the range. It will come back to our ranch sooner or later. Now go and
change your saddle to that gray horse you see feeding out there, just
inside the pasture gate. I'll ride with you a little way."

The boy went over to his horse and mounted and Jack followed on Pawnee.
In a moment a rope was on the gray, the saddles were changed and the
two young men rode off in the direction of the railroad.

When they reached the top of the hill a couple of miles from the ranch,
Jack pointed out to the man the way he should go to strike the main
road leading into the town, and told him to go ahead. The young man
hesitated for a moment.

"I don't rightly know how to thank you for turning me loose in this
way," he said. "I swear that I never had any idea of hurting those two
women, and I hope some day I'll be able to make you believe that. Will
you tell me how I may call you?"

"I am Jack Danvers; and you can always reach me by writing to the Swift
Water Ranch, near Carbon. If you write me, I'll send you the fifteen
dollars. What is your name?"

"I'm Sam Williams, I'm from Michigan; and I wish't I was back there
now. Have you got a piece of paper? I'd like to have your address
written down, so that I'll remember it."

Jack tore a scrap from an old envelope in his pocket, and writing the
address, handed it over to the young man.

"Good-by, and thank you again," the latter said; and turning his
horse's head rode to the south.

The sun had set, and it would soon be too dark to see far, but Jack
drew back from the crest of the hill and, riding around a short
distance, dismounted. Walking up, he peered over the ridge and watched
the horseman, riding fast, until dusk had fairly settled down over the
valley. Then turning, he mounted Pawnee, and in a short time was at the
Powell's barn, where he unsaddled and turned his horse into the hay
corral.



                              CHAPTER III

                         TO THE ROUND-UP CAMP


Supper smelled good to Jack as he entered the house on his return, for
he had had nothing to eat since breakfast, and the ride had sharpened
his appetite. Mrs. Powell and Bess were putting the food on the table,
and Jack was sent to Charley's room to wash his hands. He noticed as he
passed through the sitting-room that all was in order, and that here
and there the floor was damp, showing that it had been scrubbed after
he left.

When they sat down to the table, Jack's first words were:

"Well, he got off all right, and I watched him for a mile or two. He
was going fast toward town, and I reckon we won't see him again in this
part of the country. What did you do with the other horses, Bess?"

"I took the saddles off, and turned them into the pasture with your
string. The two saddle horses are good ones, but I don't know what we
ought to do with them."

During the evening much of the talk was about the exciting events of
the day, though several times the women tried to get away from the
subject by asking Jack about his life in the East and his studies, or
by discussing the daily happenings of ranch life.

It was getting late, and Jack was thinking about excusing himself and
going to bed, when he noticed that Bessie was holding her head to one
side and apparently listening; and in a few seconds Jack heard the
faint tramp of a galloping horse, which presently stopped at the barn.

"I'll just go out and see who that is," said Jack.

"You needn't bother, Jack; I know that gallop," Bessie replied. "That's
old Kate; and probably father riding her."

"Good!" exclaimed Jack. "All the same I'll just go out and make sure."

He stepped out of the front door and walking around the unlighted side
of the house stopped near the kitchen door and looked toward the barn.
In a moment he heard footsteps and the clinking of spurs, with the
sound of shaps rasping as a man walked, and a moment later recognized
Mr. Powell, and stepped forward to speak to him.

"I don't suppose you know me, Mr. Powell, but I'm Jack Danvers from
over at Mr. Sturgis' place and I want to say a word to you before you
go to the house."

"Why sure I know you, Jack! That is, I know your voice; but I don't
believe I'd know your body. Maybe when I get a chance to see your face,
I'll recognize that. Are you out here for the summer?"

"Yes, Mr. Powell," was the reply; "but I want to speak to you now
before you go in. There has been trouble here at the house; bad
business, but no great harm done. It's all over now. Mrs. Powell will
tell you the whole story."

The two shook hands and went into the house. Powell kissed his wife
and hugged his daughter in a way that showed how glad he was to
see them again. Then he sat down and looked about, as if expecting
something. Mrs. Powell spoke at once.

"I don't know if Jack told you about what happened here, Henry; but I
was badly scared, and I guess Bess was, too, only she didn't show it."

"Well," said Powell, "tell me the story. There's no use in beating
about the bush."

Mrs. Powell told him what had happened, and as her story went on,
Powell's face took on a stern, hard look that promised badly for
the criminals, if one of them should fall into his hands. When the
narrative was ended, he turned to his daughter.

"Well, Bess," he said, "you certainly did the right thing: and I feel
proud that you were so ready and so plucky. You did well, too," he said
to Jack; "but, as I understand it, the thing was all over when you
stopped the man who was running away. What's become of him?"

Then Jack took up the story, and told the decision that had been
reached and how it had been carried out.

"Well," said Powell, "I believe on the whole you did the right thing. I
don't quite think it's what I'd have done, if I'd been here; but if I'd
been here I should have been mad clear through and would probably have
killed the young fellow offhand."

"That would have been the natural thing to do," Jack replied; "but of
course it wouldn't have been the pleasantest thing for Mrs. Powell and
Bessie, and I felt that they had both had a pretty hard time, and that
what they said ought to go."

"Yes," declared Powell, slowly, as if considering the thing, "you did
the right thing. I can see that now, and I'll feel a good deal surer
in the morning. I'm glad that neither Charley nor any of those young
fellows came on with me from the round-up camp. If they had, I know
they would have caught up fresh horses and followed that fellow to the
railroad, and very likely caught him before he got on the train.

"Well," he went on, "you've all had a pretty exciting day, and I expect
you women had better go to bed. I'll sit up here and smoke a pipe or
two, and talk with Jack, and then we'll go to bed too. I'm going back
to the camp in the morning, and I expect you'll want to go along too,
won't you, Jack? I judge that you're headed for the round-up camp."

"That's where I want to go," agreed Jack. "I came here because I had an
idea the camp would be somewhere in this neighborhood, and I thought I
could get directions to find it."

After the two women had gone to bed, Powell filled his pipe and then
drawing his chair close to Jack they talked together for a little while
in a low tone. Jack told his host all that he had learned about the man
who had been killed, and when he mentioned his name, Powell exclaimed:

"Why, that might have been the Bill Davis that was mixed up in that
train robbing business nearly ten years ago, the one the miners hung
Big-Nose George for in Rawlins. If that's the man, he surely was bad,
and deserved all he got."

"Well," said Jack, "I went through his clothes but couldn't find any
papers. The young fellow gave him the name of Davis. He was a man, I
should think, between forty and fifty, just beginning to get gray, a
hooked-nosed man, with black hair and mustache."

"I never saw Davis," said Henry Powell; "only heard of him."

"The young fellow," Jack went on, "didn't seem to be bad. He seemed to
be worthless, and no account. He had no great amount of sand, and was
always looking around to find some way to get out of the difficulty."

"I've an idea, then, that he was not mixed up in the thing any farther
than being in bad company."

"That's just what I thought," said Jack, "and I believe I'm right.
Why, when he talked to me when I turned him loose, he came pretty near
crying. I don't think he's a fellow of any force at all, and I don't
believe that he will ever get back into this part of the country again."

"Could he get off on the railroad?" asked Powell. "Did he have any
money?"

"Yes, he had five dollars of his own, and I gave him five more for his
saddle, which he said he would leave at Brown's, and then if he lets me
know his address, I will send him fifteen more by mail. Besides that,
he left his horse here, and it's a better one than the gray I gave him
to ride on. If he gets off on the railroad he's to leave the horse at
Brown's, or turn it loose on the range. Of course, ten dollars will
carry him some distance, but will leave him afoot wherever he stops.
Still, that's a whole lot better than being hanged."

"Well," decided Powell, "I guess you did just right; and I'm glad it
all happened as it did. It's a mighty lucky thing for the women and me
that you rode up here just as you did. I shouldn't have been afraid of
anything more happening to them, but it would have been pretty bad for
them to have to get rid of that carcass. Well, let's go to bed."

He stretched out his hand and gave Jack a grip that made the boy wince,
and they went to their rooms.

Early the next morning Jack and Powell looked over the horses left
there by the strangers the day before. The men had been well mounted,
and the saddle and bridle belonging to Davis were new, good and strong.
The pack horse was also a good animal, and looked as if it might have
speed and endurance.

"Nice horses, aren't they, Mr. Powell?" said Jack. "But I don't know
who owns them now."

"Yes," answered Powell; "they are nice horses. You'll find, if you live
long enough in this country--maybe you've found it out already--that
these rustlers and bad men always do have good horses. They've always
got to be ready to skip off when any one gets after them, and they
always try to be fixed so as to ride a little faster and a little
farther than the man who is chasing them. So they always have good
horses and good saddles. As to who owns these horses now, you and I
can't say, but I guess nobody has a better title to them than we two,
so we'll just hold them until somebody comes along and claims them and
proves property. I don't know the brands of any of them. That one on
the brown horse might be old Missouri John's "beer mug," blotted. If it
is, he'll be along some day and likely know the horse. Now I've got to
get Bessie to write some letters for me this morning, and then I want
to get some grub and put it on a horse, and after dinner we can start
back to the round-up camp and get there before dark. Will that suit
you?"

"Yes," replied Jack, "that will suit me to a T; and I am certainly glad
to wait for you, to have company on the road over."

"Well," said Powell, "that will be good; then we can turn my pack horse
loose and drive him with your _remuda_, and we can get along pretty
fast."

As he said this, a call from the house told them that breakfast was
ready, and they started back.

"By the way," asked Powell, as they were approaching the house, "what
about those guns that you took away from the men yesterday?"

"Why," Jack answered, "you may as well keep them here. I have my own
and don't need any more. I think the pair that Davis wore ought to
belong to Bess."

Powell smiled.

"Well, maybe they ought to. I guess we'll keep those here, but the one
you took from the young man you might as well keep."

"All right," said Jack, "I will; but of course I don't want to pack it
around with me now. This one I am carrying came from a horse thief. Do
you remember that time four or five years ago when we ran into a bunch
of stolen stock on the Sweet Water, and Hugh killed black Bob Dowling?
Hugh gave me his pistols, and ever since then I have worn one of them
whenever I was in a place where I carried a pistol."

The house this morning looked more cheerful than it had the afternoon
before. Mrs. Powell and Bess were bright and smiling, and the breakfast
was very good. Soon after the meal was over, Powell began the work of
writing his letters by his daughter's hand. Jack went out and strolled
about the barns and corrals, and killed time for several hours, and
then coming back to the house, interrupted the letter writing by asking
Powell if he could not get out the grub that was to be taken to the
camp.

"I wish you would," said Powell, "if you haven't anything to do.
Mrs. Powell will show you where the stuff is, and all I want to take
is a couple of sacks of flour and two slabs of bacon. You will find
pack-saddles and riggings hanging up in the storeroom where the grub
is, and if you feel like doing it, you might catch up that sorrel horse
that you'll find in the pasture, the one with two white feet, and
either tie him in the barn, or put him in the small corral, so that we
can get him quick when we are ready to pack."

"All right," answered Jack, "I'll do that. First I'll get out the grub
and then I'll fix the saddle, and along just before dinner time I'll go
down and get the horses and bring them up and put them in the corral. I
don't know what horse you're going to ride."

"I'll ride old Kate back again. You know her. She is the brown, with a
bald face and one white hind foot. Bring them all up to the corral just
before dinner, and then they'll be handy."

It took Jack but a little time to get together the load for the pack
horse and set it outside the storehouse; then he went to the barn,
saddled up Pawnee and rode into Powell's small pasture where he got
together the required horses, and drove them up to the corral.

Dinner was not so cheerful a meal as breakfast had been. It seemed to
Jack that the women felt a little nervous about losing their men folk,
and before the meal was over this was so obvious that Powell spoke
about it.

"You women," he said, "don't want to get scared over nothing. It's my
belief that you might rake this country over with a fine-tooth comb
and not find another man that would act as mean as that Davis did.
You've both of you got good pluck, and have shown it, and I want you
to keep on showing it now. All the same, if I were you I wouldn't let
any strangers come into the house. People that you know, of course,
are all right, but strangers you had best keep off. If they ask what's
the matter, tell them you were badly treated once by some strangers,
and that you won't risk it again. You, Bess, had better wear your
six-shooter all the time, unless you see somebody coming that you know;
then I expect you would want to shed it. Somebody will be coming in
from the round-up every two or three days; and in the course of a day
or two, when this scare you've had wears off, things will go on just
as they've always gone on, and you'll have a real good time. Now," he
added, as he pushed back his chair, "Jack and me'll go down and pack
them animals, and then we'll roll."

The saddling and packing of the horses took but a short time, and after
the animals had been turned out, and were feeding on the flat in front
of the house, the men went up to say good-bye. The women clung to
Powell, and seemed loath to let him go, and they shook hands with Jack
in an earnest, cordial fashion that greatly pleased him.

"I don't know what we'd have done, Jack Danvers, if it hadn't been for
you," Mrs. Powell said. "We folks will never forget how you helped us
out."

Powell waved his hand, and Jack lifted his hat, and they rode off.



                              CHAPTER IV

                              OLD FRIENDS


It was almost sunset when Powell and Jack rode over the hill and saw
the round-up camp in the valley, far below them. There was a big bunch
of cattle still scattered out and feeding, but about them were the four
or five riders who were keeping them together, and who a little later,
and before dark, would bring them up into a close bunch, to bed them
down. Off to one side was the cávaya, or horse bunch, which contained
the strings of the different riders, six or seven or eight horses to a
man, and the work horses that were used on the chuck and bed wagons.
Lounging around the camp were the men, apparently waiting for supper,
which the cook announced just before Powell and Jack reached the camp.
The men hurried up to the tent; each one supplied himself with plate,
cup, knife, fork and spoon, and went over to the cook-stove and helped
himself to food. When Powell and Jack stopped close to the camp, it
was a boisterous crowd of full-mouthed men who shouted and waved their
hats to them. Every one knew Powell, and half a dozen recognized Jack,
who as a little fellow had been known to most of them. Jack was glad
to see them all, but his eye roved about, looking especially for Hugh,
who, after the first outbreak, rose from the ground, where he had been
sitting filling his pipe, and walked over to Jack and gave him a
cordial hand-clasp.

"Well, son," drawled Hugh, "I'm sure glad to see you again. It's a
long time since we've met, and I reckon we'll have lots to say to each
other, now that we've got together again."

"You bet we will, Hugh," cried Jack; "and we can't begin too soon,
according to my notion."

A moment later their talk was interrupted by Charley Powell, who,
slapping Jack vigorously on the back, told him to take off his saddle
and turn his horse loose, for he was going to take the horses over and
turn them into the cávaya. Jack unsaddled and let his horse go, and
then Hugh said to him:

"Go get your supper now, and after you've eaten, or while you're
eating, come out here and set down. I want to see you and talk to you,
even if your mouth is full and you can't talk to me."

Jack hurried to the cook's tent and presently returned with a plate
heaped high with food, and a cup of coffee brimming over, so that the
steaming fluid dripped from it at every step. He sat down and began to
eat, while Hugh, whose pipe was now going well, began to talk.

"Well, son, you've surely growed a heap since we saw each other last.
You're taller now, I reckon, than I am; but you ain't nigh so thick;
the fact is, it looks as if it was about time for you to stop growing
long, and begin to grow broad, but then I reckon there's time enough
for that, maybe. Do you remember that last trip we made, when we went
up over the ice in those high mountains in the main range? Do you
remember the time Tony Beaulieu and his partners shot holes in the
tent? And do you remember that Indian that stopped us over by the
crossing of St. Mary's River and wanted whisky?"

"You bet I remember it all, Hugh," said Jack; "but I think what I
remember best of all is the way you held Tony Beaulieu and how he burst
out crying when he couldn't get away; and the way old Calf Robe quirted
those Indians that had stopped us."

"Yes, that sure was a good trip," replied Hugh; "but, then, I don't
know as it was better than a whole lot of other trips we made. That
first time, when we went up to the Piegan country, when you counted a
_coup_, and you and Joe found that sack of gold; that must have been
a dandy trip for you, because you were so much younger, and because
everything that you saw was new and strange and exciting.

"Now this summer you're going to have a mighty quiet time, I reckon,
with plenty of hard work; nothing to see, except ride circle, getting
in at night feeling as if your feet belonged a yard apart; then maybe
going out on night herd, and serenading these cattle, if a storm comes
up and they get anyways uneasy. No, you can't expect to have much
happen in a cow camp."

"Oh, I don't know, Hugh," laughed Jack; "there are lots of things that
can happen out in this country yet. Of course, there's not much except
hard work and grief that happens in a cow camp, and yet there's some
excitement in riding and roping, and there's always a chance that we
may run across a bear and have some fun with him."

"Well," Hugh replied, "the country is getting pretty quiet now. Maybe
it's because I'm getting old, and maybe it's because I've seen a good
many things happen, but I certainly don't get excited the way I used
to."

By this time Jack had finished eating. Putting his things together, he
carried them back to the cook's tent, and then returned to Hugh, and
sat down close beside him.

"Well, Hugh," he said, "there was something happened yesterday that I
want to tell you about; though I shouldn't say anything about it to
anybody else, unless it gets to be talked about. You speak about the
country being in a bad way and no good any more, and sometimes I think
you're right. Now something happened yesterday over at Powell's that I
wouldn't have believed could have taken place in a country where there
are men, and American men at that! It isn't a thing I want to talk
about, but I do want to tell you about it, and to ask you whether you
think what I did was right. I am not doubtful about it myself, but I'd
like to have your opinion, too."

With that Jack opened his heart and told Hugh all the events of the day
before.

The story finished, Hugh sat for some time without speaking, looking at
his pipe which had gone out while he listened. At last he raised his
eyes.

"Well, son, I think that what you did was the wisest possible thing
to have done. Of course you didn't have much choice in the matter.
You were bound to do whatever Mrs. Powell and little Bess said that
they wanted done, but as it happens what they wanted done was the best
thing that could have been done. It surely would have been mighty
uncomfortable for those two women--as nice women as I ever saw--to
have a man lynched on their account, as you might say, right close to
the house. It was up to you to help them out of that scrape, and you
did it sensibly and well. I'm not a mite surprised at Bessie's killing
that man. She's a mighty smart little girl; thinks quick and acts
quick. I expect if she hadn't shot as she did, there's no telling what
amount of deviltry those two men might have been up to."

"You're right, Hugh, she's plucky and a good shot, and she must have
been mighty quick to think what to do; but, I tell you, it made her
feel mighty bad to be obliged to do it, and for a while after she had
shot she looked as white as a ghost."

"Davis?" reflected Hugh. "I am trying to see if I can't recollect that
name. What sort of looking fellow was the one that got killed?"

"He looked like 'most anybody else, except that he had a more or less
hooked nose, and a black mustache. Mrs. Powell said that his eyes
looked sharp and snappy, and sort of cruel; but of course I didn't see
his eyes."

"I was wondering," said Hugh. "Years ago, down in old Nebraska, I used
to know a cow puncher named Bill Davis, and he might have been this
man. The description fits him well enough, but I don't know as it makes
much difference, seeing he's dead. You say you didn't find any letters
or papers on him."

"Nothing; nothing except a pipe and tobacco and matches, and a little
small change."

"Of course, you don't know anything of what become of the other fellow?"

"Nothing more than what I have told you," said Jack. "He started for
the railroad, and that's the last I saw of him."

"I don't believe you ever will see him; unless he writes you for the
fifteen dollars you owe him. He may do that; but, somehow, I think
likely he'll be too scared even to do that."

"I don't know," replied Jack; "he seemed mightily afraid of the
business end of the six-shooter, but he didn't seem very much afraid
of me; he seemed kind of sorry rather than afraid. Well, it's Powell's
business, and not mine, and I am not going to say anything about it. If
he wants to speak of it, all right."

"I've heard of mighty few people getting into trouble by keeping their
mouths shut," said Hugh, "but of a whole lot that have come to grief
from talking too much. You'll be all right, I think, to keep quiet."

Jack stood up.

"I guess I'll go over and speak to Mr. McIntyre, and get my work laid
out for the next two or three days," he said. "He may want me to go on
night herd to-night. I suppose there are plenty of fellows who will be
mighty glad to get off."

Jack's guess was a good one. The round-up foreman was glad to see him,
of course--glad to get a new hand, and a fresh hand. He told Jack
that the best thing he could do now would be to go out and catch up a
horse and take his turn at night herd until 10 o'clock. Then he could
come in and get five or six hours' sleep before they started to ride
in the morning. The cávaya had just been brought in; and Jack, taking
his rope, went out and caught one of his string and brought it in and
saddled it. Pawnee would have been the horse chosen, but Pawnee had
already carried him from Powell's to the round-up, and Jack thought
the horse entitled to a little rest.

The night was calm and pleasant, and there seemed no reason to suppose
that anything would disturb the cattle, so only two boys were sent out
to ride around them at present, relieving the four or five who had had
charge of them during the latter part of the day, who had now brought
them together and waited until they had finally lain down and were
peacefully chewing the cud under the stars, just then coming out.

Tulare Joe was Jack's companion: a new acquaintance, but a nice looking
fellow, whose name suggested that he came from somewhere in California.
He was a man eight or ten years older than Jack, quiet, pleasant,
soft-voiced, and apparently a rider. As the two approached the cattle
they separated and began to ride around them; and one by one the other
riders, as they met them, exchanged a word or two and turned their
horses in the direction of the camp. Presently from the other side of
the herd, Jack caught the sound of Joe's voice droning out a song, the
words of which he could not hear; but later, when they were relieved by
other boys, and were riding back to camp, he asked Joe to teach him the
song. Joe said that he knew only one verse, which ran like this:

    "Oh! the cowboy's life is a dreary one,
     He works from dawn till the setting of the sun,
     And then his work is left undone,
     For his night herding then comes on.

    "Sing, who-o, who-o, whoop; cows away;
     He works all night and he works all day.
     Whoop-i-wo; whoop-i-way;
     For very poor chuck and darned poor pay;
     Sing, whoop-i-whoa who-ay."

After a few days Jack caught the air of this, and thereafter often sang
it when on night herd.

"I don't know why it keeps the cattle quiet," said Joe, "it certainly
ain't the sentiment; and I don't believe it's the tune. I suppose
like as not it gives them something to think about and keeps them
from looking around, hunting for things to get scared at. Maybe, too,
it gives them confidence when they think that the men and the horses
are right close to 'em all the time. Anyhow, I've always heard about
singing to the cattle ever since I first forked a horse, and I've seen
sometimes, when cattle were mighty nervous and uneasy, when the singing
seemed to keep them from breaking away."

Jack slept soundly that night and the call to grub came all too soon
the next morning.



                               CHAPTER V

                         CUTTING AND BRANDING


The sun was just getting ready to look over the hills the next morning
and the men were hastily bolting their breakfast, when the horse
wrangler brought up the cávaya to the camp. Before this, some of the
men had driven into the ground five stakes, four of them marking the
four corners of a square of considerable size, with one stake between
two of the corners, or on one side of this square. A sixth stake was
driven out on the prairie a few yards from one end of the three stakes
in line, and at right-angles to that line, thus

                                 *
                                 * * *

                                 *   *

To the tops of these stakes, which were only three feet high, were tied
ropes which when pulled tight would make a rope enclosure, complete on
three and one-half of its sides, but with an opening between one of the
corner stakes and the one standing between the two corners. From one of
the corner stakes to the one standing alone on the prairie, ran another
rope, making a sort of wing which would stop animals tending to walk
by the corner, and would turn them into the opening.

Down on the plains in old times rope corrals were often made by tying
ropes to the front and hind wheels of a wagon, and stretching them out
at right angles to the length of the wagon. The horses were driven into
this corral and then caught there. The Texas ponies of those earlier
days were cunning little rascals and many of them had learned to put
the nose down close to the ground and get the head under the rope and
then raising the head to push out. Of course when one had got out and
rushed away, the others would follow, pushing down the rope and getting
free. Often the man who was holding the end of the rope, seeing a horse
about to push under, would slacken the rope until it was under the
pony's nose, and then, giving the rope a quick jerk, it would spring up
and hit the horse, making him throw up his head. In the mountains such
corrals were sometimes used, but as often those made with the stakes.

The cávaya was driven very slowly toward this rope corral and some of
the boys ran out to it, one handling the rope which was to act as a
wing and the others the ropes which ran from corner to corner of the
corral. The horse wrangler drove his animals along at a walk and turned
them into the opening of the corral, the men at the ropes raising them
as the horses entered. The horses stopped and made no attempt to push
against the ropes. After the whole bunch had entered the corral, the
man at the wing rope walked around and stood by the middle one of the
three stakes in line, thus completely closing the corral. Ducking under
the ropes, the boys now went slowly and quietly into the enclosure,
and caught the gentle horses, which, one by one, they led out and tied.
Over the heads of any horses that were not willing to be caught, ropes
were quietly tossed, and the horses led out.

Jack, who was taking part in all this work, was interested, as he had
been so many times before, in seeing the remarkable change of demeanor
in a horse, just as soon as it feels a rope on it. The animal may be
wild and frisky--apparently untamable--in the corral, but let the rope
drop over its head, and it is at once transformed into the meekest and
most commonplace of animals.

Of course, this is not true of young colts that have not been broken,
but the horse that has had a few falls, and has learned the power of
the rope, always fears it.

When all the men had caught up their horses, and the ropes had been
taken from the corral, the rest of the bunch were allowed to wander
off, while the horse wrangler went to the cook tent to get his
breakfast.

Now followed a scene more or less amusing and exciting, or irritating
and tiresome, as one happened to look at it. Many cow horses, even
though well broken, always object to being saddled, while some
object both to being saddled and to being mounted. Now and then was
found a horse that had to be blinded before he could be saddled; and
occasionally one that refused to be bridled. The younger men shouted
and made much fun of their fellows who had horses that were disposed to
be nervous, or to object to the saddle.

The older men, when after some trouble they had succeeded in getting
the saddles on their horses, and the cinches drawn, were likely to
lead the animals up and down by a rope, and let them buck with the
empty saddle.

The horse selected this morning by Tulare Joe was young, skittish and
rather disposed to make trouble. When Joe approached him, carrying the
blanket in his hand, he reared and sometimes came forward on his hind
legs striking with his forefeet. The young man was cool and quick, and
showed no impatience whatever, but after a few minutes' fruitless work
of this sort he called to Jack, who was standing looking on, having
saddled his own quiet horse, and asked him to bring his rope. As Jack
approached, Joe called to him:

"The next time this horse goes up in the air catch him and throw him
for me."

The opportunity came a moment or two later. Jack threw the rope, from
a little behind the horse, caught it and gave a sidewise tug while the
horse was on its hind legs. The animal fell heavily. Joe jumped on
its head, while Jack quickly looped the lariat around its hind legs
and tied the horse fast. Without the slightest sign of impatience,
Joe lifted the horse's head, and bridled him, while Jack brought the
saddle; and a moment later, having had the rope loosed which bound its
feet, the half dazed animal stood up and in a few seconds was saddled.

"Much obliged, Jack," said Joe. "You saved me a little time, and have
cut those fellows out of a whole lot of the joshing they would have
given me while I was fooling with this horse alone. Then, too, you had
added some to McIntyre's peace of mind. He thinks the horses brought on
a round-up ought to be gentled before the round-up starts, and hates
to see time wasted with a horse that is hard to handle."

"Well, Joe," was the response, "I like the way you handle your horse.
Most of us lose our patience and kick and swear and pound a horse with
a quirt; and that is something that does no good. I know years ago,
when I was a little fellow, and was first out here, Hugh used to tell
me that the main reason why a man was better than a horse was that
he had sense, and if he didn't use his sense, why he wasn't of much
account."

Joe laughed.

"You take it from me," he said, "that old man knows a heap, and if
you've been traveling around with him for some years, like you say you
have, I reckon that you know that a heap sight better than I can tell
you."

By this time most of the men had already started out toward the large
bunch of cattle now scattered over the prairie, feeding. McIntyre,
the foreman, had given orders to the men as to where the various
bunches were to be held, and the representatives of the different
brands were talking with each other about this. In this bunch of
cattle there were four principal brands, which must now be separated
and divided into four herds, each one of which would be driven off by
the representatives of the brand. Besides the cattle bearing these
four brands, there were, of course, in the large bunch a number of
strays--cattle that perhaps had wandered on to the range from a
distance, or that had been dropped by some one driving a herd through
the country, or that were owned by small people, the size of whose
bunch did not justify them in sending a representative with the
round-up. Of these strays many would be recognized by the cow men
present. Those would be turned into the bunch of cut cattle that would
pass nearest to the ranch of the owner, while others bearing brands
unknown to any of the cow punchers would be kept with the biggest herd,
turned out on the home range of that bunch, and perhaps watched for a
while in the hope that an owner would turn up. If none was found, the
stock association would be notified and the animal turned over to it.

As Jack and Joe drew near the big bunch, half a dozen men were
circling around it, bringing it together in a close, compact mass,
while two or three other riders were urging their horses among the
cattle, scrutinizing the brand which each bore. Most of the cattle had
completely shed their winter coats and were short-haired and smooth,
so that the brands showed up well and could be read at a considerable
distance.

It was interesting to Jack, as it is to every one who witnesses it, to
see the trained cow horse follow an animal. There, for example, was a
blue roan cow pushing her way through the thick mass of the herd, just
ahead of the horse ridden by Rube. The horse was going at a trot and
was close to the heels of the cow, which seemed to push always toward
the place where the cattle were crowded thickest. Presently Rube got
her out from the center of the herd and over toward the edge, and every
time that she turned to go back toward the center the little horse,
with ears pricked forward, dodged more quickly and got in her way. So,
little by little, she was edged out to the border of the bunch; and
then it was seen that, running close by her side and almost under her
belly, was a strong and sturdy calf that must have been born in March
or early April. As soon as the cow had reached the edge of the herd
the little pony galloped forward, driving straight toward her except
when she tried to break back, and then always getting in her way. Rube
now swung his quirt over his head and presently the cow, giving up the
struggle to return, started straight off over the prairie to a little
bunch of the Sturgis' cattle that had already been brought together and
that Hugh and another man were keeping by themselves. Just as the cow
reached the edge of this little bunch, a cow puncher threw his rope and
caught the calf's hind legs; the horse wheeled instantly and started on
a quick gallop, dragging the calf over the prairie to a fire in which
the branding irons were heating. Here two of the boys jumped down and
held the calf; another snatched a hot iron from the fire and swiftly
put the Sturgis brand on it. Then, it was turned loose, and hurried
back to the little bunch from which its anxious mother trotted out with
threatening calls, and after nosing it all over walked back into the
crowd.

    [Illustration: "THE COW STARTED STRAIGHT OFF OVER THE PRAIRIE."
                                                        --_Page 48_
   _Photo by Harry Mintz, Binghamton, N. Y._ ]

McIntyre had detailed Jack to act through the day as one of the calf
branders, and all day long he was busy roping calves, dragging them up
to the fire and helping to hold them down, while some one clapped on
the iron. It was not pleasant work--the smoke of singed hair rose from
the animal's side, and the poor creature bawled piteously; but, after
all, a great many painful and disagreeable things have to be done,
and this was one of them.

As the day went by, and Jack got hotter and more thirsty and more dusty
and more tired, he derived a little amusement from wondering what
some of those eastern pilgrims, who had talked to him of the romance
of the cowboy's life would think of that life if for one day they
had to do the work that the cowboy has to do every day. No one can
imagine the weary monotony of doing this work over and over again; the
strength that it may take to hold the calf; the heat from the fires;
the cloud of dust, grime and ashes among which one works; the constant
trifling annoyances of being burned by a hot iron, being kicked by a
frisky calf, or having one's hands hurt by the rope. All these things,
combined with the physical force that is constantly called into play,
make the work laborious and tiresome. The romance of the cowboy's
life exists only in the imagination. Of course the boys are cheerful
and merry, laughing and joking all the time, making fun of their own
mishaps, or of those of their neighbors, and this constant flow of good
spirits makes the work far lighter than it otherwise would be.

Now and then during the day, a little variety was offered by some cow
that, pestered beyond endurance, at last refused to run any longer and
turned to fight. Such a cow becomes at once a dangerous animal; and to
get her calf away from her, unless it can be frightened into leaving
its mother for a short distance, is sometimes difficult.

Jack met with such a cow, which, after wasting a little energy in
charging him, contented herself with standing still and threatening
with her horns, while the calf stuck close to her side. Two or three
times Jack rode swiftly by her and threw his rope at the calf, but the
little beast stood so close under its mother's side that in no case did
the rope catch it. Jack tried to ride near enough to the calf to lash
it with his rope, in the hope that this would start it out from its
position of safety, but the attempt was a failure, and the second time
he did this the cow charged him viciously. He wheeled his horse and got
away, but the long horns swept so close that it gave him a moment's
uneasiness lest his horse should be harmed. He whirled quickly to get
back to the cow, thinking that possibly the calf might have been left
behind, but this had not happened: it was still close to its mother.

About this time, Joe swept by him dragging a calf at the end of his
rope, and a few moments later, after the calf had been turned loose,
Joe returned.

"Why, here's my chance to pay you off for what you did for me this
morning," he said to Jack. "Rope the old cow's horns and I'll take her
hind feet and we'll stretch her."

No sooner said than done. In a moment Jack's rope settled over the
cow's horns, and as she at first pulled back and then started forward,
Joe very cleverly picked up both her hind feet and turned his horse the
other way; instantly the cow was stretched out helpless on the prairie.
Jack made his rope fast to the horn of his saddle, and left his horse
to hold the cow while he ran back to her. Joe in the meantime rode
forward toward the cow's head, thus bringing her hind feet up under
her breast; and in a moment she was securely tied. The calf had run off
a few yards, and stood there bewildered.

"There's your calf," said Joe, as he swung into the saddle again. "Go
and brand him."

Jack freed his rope from the cow's head, rode over and caught the calf,
and when it was branded, dragged it back to its mother. Then he untied
the cow and, hopping into the saddle before she regained her feet, was
soon off after another calf.

So the day went on: a long day filled with fun, jollity, laughter,
provoking incidents and irritating happenings; so that at night when
the men returned to camp they were all weary and enormously hungry.
The representatives of each one of the four different brands drove off
their cattle to some distance from the main herd, and watched them
while they fed and drank, filling their bellies for the night.

A little later these representatives would be relieved by the night
herders who now, with several herds to watch instead of one as the
night before, would ride about and keep apart the different bunches.

Hungry and tired as they were, a number of the punchers, instead of
going directly to camp, rode down in the stream-bed well below the camp
and there stripping off their upper clothing whipped the dirt out of it
as best they could, and scrubbed their white healthy bodies free from
the dust that had sifted through their shirts. The effort to get the
grime and sand from their hair was hopeless, except for those men who
had been thoughtful enough before starting out on the round-up to have
their hair clipped short, and of these there were only two or three.

By the time they reached camp, supper was ready, and it was a ravenous
lot of cow punchers who scrambled for plates, cups, and knives and
forks, and enjoyed the hearty, wholesome food that simmered on the fire.

At length, stuffed to repletion, Jack threw himself on the ground near
Hugh.

"I feel like a boa-constrictor that has eaten an ox," he laughed.

"Well," replied Hugh, "I guess you're stuffed pretty full. It's hard
work branding calves, and it's work that you ain't used to right now.
It won't be so hard on you a week or two from this, when you've got
more into the run of things."

"Of course you're right," said Jack. "I have not done any work just
like this for a good while, and it does seem hard and tiresome now, but
it's like 'most everything else: we'll get used to it after a while."

"I reckon you didn't see Vicente get chucked to-day, did you?" asked
Hugh. "No," he went on, "I'm sure you didn't, because you were over
there by the fire when it happened. He tried to throw a cow, and when
he stopped his horse the saddle cinch broke and he went a-flyin'. It
didn't hurt him none, but he was pretty mad."

"Why, how did it come to break?" asked Jack.

"That was the funny part of it. You know he only came in day before
yesterday, and coming down through the mountains the night before he
got here, they camped, and along in the night Vicente was waked up by
hearing a porcupine walking around camp. Of course, he thought of his
saddle at once, and got up out of his blankets. It was bright moonlight
and in a minute he saw the porcupine close to his saddle. He grabbed
up a stick of firewood--he had got in late and cooked his supper with
just a few odds and ends of brush and limbs that he had picked up
around camp--and with one of these sticks he went for the porcupine.
The stick was no good and broke the first time he hit the animal, and
it ran off into the brush.

"Vicente knew it would come back, and he got a stout club so as to kill
it if it bothered him. Then he took his saddle to bed with him and
tried to stay awake; but he didn't stay awake. Presently he heard the
porcupine whimpering about his bed, and he jumped up and mighty soon
pounded the life out of the beast. He looked at his saddle the next
morning, and it seemed to him to be all right, and he rode down the
hill with it and didn't have occasion to use it hard until to-day.

"When he looked at it, after he got chucked, he found that that blasted
porcupine had just taken a nip or two at the string that tied the
latigo to the ring of the saddle. Maybe there was a little salt in that
string from the horse sweat, or maybe it was just an accident. Anyhow,
the string was cut enough so that when a pull came the saddle flew, and
Vicente with it."

"Well, I am glad that he killed the porcupine," said Jack. "They are
pretty useless beasts, according to my way of thinking."

"I don't think much more of them than you do; but up in some parts of
the North the Indians think they are about the finest eating there is,
and I reckon the Indians' clothing in old times wouldn't have been
half as fancy as it used to be if it hadn't been for porcupine quills.
You know in old times, before the Indians got glass beads by trading
with the white folks, they used to use quills and feathers and hair,
and sometimes black roots, to ornament their clothes, and their lodges.
Of course, they dyed the quills or feathers, and the roots too, all
sorts of colors, and made their moccasins and leggings and shirts and
robes real pretty."

"Yes," said Jack; "I have seen buffalo robes that were handsomely
worked with quills; and up there in the Piegan country pretty nearly
half the shirts, and a good part of the pipe stems, were ornamented
with quills."

"That's so," said Hugh. "The Piegans are great fellows to use quills,
and so are the Cheyennes."

"That's one thing I want to ask you about, Hugh: how they colored all
these different things yellow and red. Of course they didn't have to
dye the quills black, because most of them are part black already."

"Well," Hugh promised, "we'll have a talk about that sometime; but I
reckon that just now, as my pipe is out, I'm going to bed. I've not
much hard work to do on this round-up, and McIntyre isn't going to
put me on night herd, but I reckon I need all the sleep I can get
to-night."



                              CHAPTER VI

                             RIDING CIRCLE


By the end of the following day the cutting of the cattle--that is
the work of separating the different brands into the four bunches, or
herds--had pretty well been completed. McIntyre, therefore, determined
to send off to their home ranges, which were not far away, the cattle
bearing the Sturgis and Powell brands, while the rest of the outfit
would keep on and work the remaining territory. It would take only
three or four days for the cattle that were now being sent off to reach
their home ranges, where they could be turned loose, and probably held
by one man with only a little watching. As soon as the cattle had
reached their ranges and been turned over to the people at the ranch,
the men who had been sent back with those brands would at once return
to the camp and continue the round-up work. Powell and his hired man
were to take the Powell cattle, while Hugh and Rube were chosen to take
back the Sturgis cattle. McIntyre very wisely kept with him the younger
men, like Charley Powell and Jack, well understanding that they would
work harder and longer and would be fresher every day than the older
men.

The cattle started at daylight the next morning, and Jack rode a few
miles with the Sturgis cattle, which were going directly across
country, and not around by way of Powell's ranch.

The cows moved very deliberately and were constantly stopping to feed;
and by the time Jack had ridden four or five miles back and forth
behind the herd, pushing on the lagging ones and breathing the dust
kicked up by the feet of the cattle, he was glad that the task of
driving the bunch back to the ranch had fallen to others.

Finally he turned about, to go back to the round-up camp.

"I reckon you'll see us again in about four days," Hugh said. "It'll
take us pretty nearly three days to get to the ranch with these cows,
and a day to get back to camp. We'll strike it down close to the
Platte, likely on Sand Creek. I don't suppose you have any message for
your uncle?"

"Just tell him I am all right and having a good time. You might tell
him, too, what happened over at Powell's. And, of course, if there's
any mail for me, bring it back with you. I don't expect to hear
anything from that man I bought the saddle from. Maybe, instead of
leaving the saddle at Brown's, he just took it with him on the train;
but if he did, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he sent me back my five
dollars."

"Well," said Hugh, "it will be all guessing for a while yet; but I'll
bring any mail there is."

"So long," called Rube; and Jack turned and rode back toward the camp.
The distance that had seemed so very long when driving the herd, now
seemed surprisingly short, for he rode fast. He did not ride back to
the old camp because they were going to move that morning, and when
he rode down out of the hills he could see, a couple of miles away on
the prairie, the two wagons and the cávaya crawling along over the
sage-brush flat toward the next camp, which was to be on Box Elder
Creek.

When he overtook the wagons, Frank, the cook, who was driving the chuck
wagon, told him that McIntyre had left word that Jack should start out
and make a short circle to the eastward, taking in the low hills on the
edge of the basin, but not going far back, and should turn anything
that he found down into the flat country, where it could be readily
gathered the next day. Jack accordingly rode on to the cávaya, roped a
fresh horse, and turned loose Pawnee, and then rode back to the cook's
wagon, where he begged from Frank a chunk of bread and some bacon.
Having disposed of that, he rode off toward the low hills to the east.

When he had gone a short distance into the hills he saw fresh tracks of
horses and of cattle running, and from this he concluded that riders
had passed over this ground the day before and gathered what cattle
had been feeding there; and presently, coming across a trail of a good
many head, with horse tracks following the trail and on top of the cow
tracks, he made sure that his conclusion was right.

After riding a mile or two farther, however, he came across a little
bunch of cattle feeding on the steep hillsides of a ravine, and going
around them he pushed them down the hill and in the direction in which
he was riding. The cattle were not wild, and it would have been easy
to drive them in any direction; but of course they went slowly, and if
Jack simply drove them into the round-up camp he could not cover much
country; on the other hand, if he drove them down into the valley he
knew that at this time of the day they would at once turn about and
return to the hills where there was water and, in the ravines, the
green grass that the cattle like.

While he was mulling over this, and wondering what he would better do,
the cattle ahead of him passed over a ridge and down the steep sides
of another ravine, and two or three yearlings in play ran down the
hill and through a thick patch of low brush that grew at the bottom of
the ravine. As they rushed into that, from its upper end a small black
animal, which was unmistakably a bear cub, ran out.

Jack was riding a good quick horse, and almost without thinking he
turned and galloped along the steep hillside to try to head off the
cub, which kept on up the bottom of the ravine. The ground was very
steep, and broken every now and then by little washouts, and two or
three times Jack held his breath as he wondered whether the horse
would get across them or not. But the animal was sure-footed, besides
being swift. It did not even stumble; and before long Jack was bearing
down well toward the bottom of the ravine and was a little ahead of
the bear. When the two were pretty close together, the bear suddenly
turned and began to scramble up the hill, away from Jack. Two or three
jumps of the active horse, however, quickly brought it within roping
distance, and in a moment the noose was over the bear's head. The horse
had turned, and with a mighty pluck the little bear flew out from the
hillside and seemed to land on its head in the middle of the ravine.
Jack kept the rope tight for a moment, but seeing that there was no
movement at the other end, he dismounted and walked back to the bear.
The little beast--hardly larger than a setter dog--was quite dead. Jack
could not tell whether the pull of the rope had broken its neck, or it
had been killed by its fall.

The work of dressing the cub took but a few moments; but to get it on
the saddle was more difficult, for the horse regarded the carcass with
suspicion and declined to stand when the bear was put on it. Jack was
finally obliged to blind the animal with his coat until the load was
firmly tied behind the saddle. Then--being unwilling to take risks
in this rough country--he led the animal down the ravine. It did not
pitch, though it shied and several times tried to rid itself of the
saddle by prolonged kicking. At length, however, when Jack reached a
place where the ravine was wider and the ground more or less level, he
mounted, and the horse went well enough.

Then Jack went back to look for his cattle. He soon found them, and
after following them over three or four ridges, came on another much
larger group. Gathering them all together, he started down toward the
prairie with about seventy-five head of cattle before him. He took
good note of the point where he left the hills, intending to drive his
cattle into camp and then, if daylight lasted, to come back and resume
his search for others.

He pushed the cattle pretty hard, and about the middle of the afternoon
had brought them within a mile of camp, where he left them and, getting
a fresh horse, returned to the hills.

During the afternoon he found two or three more little bunches of
cattle, and shortly before sundown started in with about thirty head.
As he was riding toward camp, he met the bunch that he had driven in
that afternoon working back toward the hills; so he finally brought in
and delivered at camp about one hundred head.

The other parties that had been riding circle during the day had
gathered a good many cattle; so that there was again a good-sized herd
being held near the camp, to be taken on the next day and to be added
to daily, until enough had been gathered for another cutting.

Jack's roping of the little bear was interesting to the camp chiefly
because of the variety that it would give to the daily fare of beef and
bacon; but another one of the cowboys had had an adventure that had not
turned out so comfortably as Jack's.

Juan, a Mexican, who had drifted into the country from the southwest,
and who was a most skilful cow hand, in riding along a steep
mountain-side, rough with rocks, had startled from his bed beneath an
old cedar tree a big bull elk with thick, growing horns just beginning
to branch. Juan, of course, rode after him as hard as he could go.
The roughness of the ground and the great rocks that lay everywhere
scattered along the mountain-side offered no impediment to the elk's
speed, but the horse could not do its best on this ground, and had
difficulty in overtaking the elk. At length a little patch of smoother
ground was reached. Juan pushed his horse up within throwing distance
and made a good throw which settled around the animal's head and neck.
The loop was so large, however, that it fell down against the brute's
chest; and just at that moment pursued and pursuer came to a piece of
ground so rough with great rocks that even Juan did not dare to ride
into it. He tried to stop and throw the elk; but there was not time
for him to turn; and the steady pull of the elk's chest on the rope
dragged the horse staggering onward for a few feet, when Juan, to save
his mount, was obliged to free his rope from the horn of the saddle.
The elk sailed up the mountain-side, the rope dragging behind it, while
Juan sat there on his panting horse and uttered Mexican maledictions.
That evening the cowboys had a good deal of fun with Juan.

After supper, Jack saw Tulare Joe sitting on the ground working at
something a little way from the camp, and walking over to him saw
that he was taking off bits of flesh from a small deer hide which was
entirely fresh.

"Where did you get your hide, Joe?" asked Jack.

"Why," said Joe, "some of the boys started the deer to-day out of a
little patch of brush. It ran from them up over the hill and met me
just on top. I happened to have my rope in my hand and I caught it. I'm
going to keep it and get two or three others, if I can, and make me
a buckskin shirt for winter. They say they're the warmest things you
can wear when you're riding in a cold wind, and they don't muffle you
up the way a coat does--they leave you free. I'd like to stretch this
hide, if I could; but I won't have time to do it on the round-up. If I
could stretch it and get it dried flat it would make it easier to pack
and easier to handle when it comes to tanning it; but of course on the
round-up I haven't the time to peg the hide out, and no time to do the
tanning while it's fresh, the way it really ought to be done."

"I didn't know," said Jack, "that it's better to tan a hide right fresh
than after it is dried."

"Yes," said Joe, "it is; at least, that's what I've been told. All I
know about tanning was taught me by the Navajos down south, and they
make awful good soft buckskin."

"I have never done any tanning; but I have seen a heap of robes
dressed by women in the Blackfeet country. They tan a buffalo robe in
a wonderful way, so that it is as soft as a piece of cloth; but they
don't make good buckskin. According to all I have heard, the mountain
Indians make the best buckskin."

"That's what they say," answered Joe. "I've seen some wonderful
buckskin made by the Utes, and by the Navajos too."

"You have been down among the Navajos, have you?" Jack asked, as he
sat down on the ground and, taking out his pocket-knife, began to work
on the skin. "I'm interested in them, for when I was a little fellow
I used to read Mayne Reid's books, and they had lots to say about the
Navajos, and about the raids they used to make down in Mexico."

"Yes," replied Joe, "they were certainly great raiders; and they've got
lots of men and women and children there in the camp that are as white
as I am. Most of them, they say, were captured down in Mexico as little
children and brought up and raised in the tribe, and now, so far as
their feelings go, are just as pure Navajo as anybody could be."

"I guess that's so. There isn't anything in blood or race that makes
a white man different from an Indian, if he is brought up in an Indian
way."

"Not much. Those Navajos, too, are mighty handy with tools and with
their fingers. I reckon you've seen lots of Navajo blankets, and
likely, too, you may have seen some of the silversmith work they do.
They make fine rings and sort of pins, like the women wear at their
throats, and they're pretty handy about setting bits of turquoise in
silver. They make a whole lot of real pretty ornaments."

"I've heard something about that," said Jack; "though I've never seen
any of their work, except maybe a blanket or two. And you say they're
tanners, too?"

"Yes. I had a kind of friend in the camp once when I stayed down there,
and he showed me his way of tanning; and he certainly did make nice
buckskin."

"I wish you would tell me how to do it; or, better still, let me see
you tan this hide," said Jack. "But the first thing you want to do with
this hide is to try to stretch it flat, and that you can't do in the
common way. Why don't you treat it the way the trappers treat beaver
skins?"

"Well, if I knew how, maybe I would; but I don't know how. I never saw
anybody trap beaver."

"Why," exclaimed Jack, "I can show you how in a minute and a half if
we can get some willows that will bend right, and I'm pretty sure we
can, for there's a bunch down there close to the creek. Come on down
with me and we'll cut some shoots; and then if you've got a piece of
twine we'll stretch the hide on a hoop. Very likely it will be set by
morning, and you can get Frank to carry it inside his chuck wagon tied
to the bows."

"I'll go with you," said Joe, "if you'll just show me what to do."

Along the border of the stream was a growth of rather tall willows two
or three years old, and Jack soon cut half a dozen long and rather
slender shoots. Then the boys returned to the place where the deer hide
had been left. Here Jack trimmed the willow shoots in the proper way,
leaving many twigs at the smaller ends, and, showing Joe how to do it,
they soon made an oblong hoop somewhat longer and wider than the fresh
deer hide stretched out on the ground.

"Now," explained Jack, "if you've got a piece of twine we'll sew the
edges of this hide just inside the hoop, stretching the hide all we
can, and the hoop will keep it perfectly flat and stretched till it's
dry."

"That's a new one on me," declared Joe. "I never knew any way of
stretching a deer hide except to peg it out flat on the ground, or
maybe to nail it on the side of a barn. That's mighty cute, though, the
way you made the hoop by just tying the slender willow twigs around the
main piece of wood. It seems firm, too, as if it were going to hold."

"Oh, it will hold all right; and it will do the work it's intended to
do. You see there isn't much strain coming on any particular part of
the hoop. It's evenly distributed all around, and it gives a straight
outward pull to the hide. That's the way we always used to dry our
beaver skins; but of course they are pretty nearly round, so that we
made those hoops in the shape of a circle."

Joe went over to his bed and from his war-sack fished out a piece of
twine; and before long the deer hide was nicely stretched on the hoop,
carried over to the cook wagon, and put in charge of Frank, and, for
safety's sake, tied to the bows at the top of the wagon.

"Well," said Joe, as they walked over to the fire, "I'm mightily
obliged to you for that. If you want me to, I'd like to show you how
to tan a deer hide Navajo fashion. Maybe I'll get a chance to do that
before the round-up is over--that is, if you'd like to know how."

"I sure would, Joe," answered Jack. "I don't know anything about
tanning myself, though I have seen a whole lot of hides dressed. It
would be pretty nice to be able to make good buckskin."

About the fire almost the whole camp was gathered, the men smoking
their last pipes or cigarettes, before turning in, while those who were
soon to go out on night herd had already brought up their horses, which
were standing saddled not far from the fire. As Jack and Tulare Joe
strolled up, McIntyre called to them:

"You two kids had better get your horses now, and be ready to go out on
the last relief. Do you think you can wake up at two o'clock, Jack?"

"I don't believe I can, Mr. McIntyre," Jack replied. "I'll have to get
one of the boys to come in and call me."

"Well," said McIntyre, "if you're going to get up at that time, you'd
better turn in quick, or else you'll be short of sleep."



                              CHAPTER VII

                             A BULL FIGHT


Jack was slow to respond to the call the next morning, but after a
minute or two he reluctantly rolled out of bed, and putting on his
shoes--and his coat, for the morning seemed cold--he rolled up and
roped his bed. When he reached his horse he could hear Joe not far off
drawing the latigo of his saddle and whistling softly to himself, and
in a few minutes the two were riding off toward the cattle. The night
was black and the stars sparkled in the clear air, but off to the
eastern horizon the light grew constantly stronger as they rode along.

"That can't be day coming, is it, Joe?" Jack remarked. "It seemed to me
that I got up as soon as I was called, and if I did it won't be getting
light for an hour yet."

"No," said Joe, "that's a little bit of the old moon left, and we'll
see it before long."

And just before they reached the herd, the small moon, now a crescent,
showed itself over the hill in the east, and for a moment the trees
that crowned the hill were outlined sharply against the light.

The boys whom Jack and Joe were relieving said that the cattle had been
quiet ever since they came on. The animals were tired from the drive
that they had had during the day, and the night was clear, calm and
still, so there was no reason for their being uneasy. Now followed a
couple of hours of monotonous riding around the herd, while one boy or
the other droned out a song, and occasionally spoke as they passed.
Presently the east showed gray, and then yellow, changing to orange;
and at length the sun, with a bound, as it seemed, cleared the hilltop
that hid it and began its journey across the sky. By this time the
cattle had risen to their feet and were beginning to feed, and the
herders, instead of trying to keep them in a bunch, rode out on either
side, merely to prevent their straying too far.

At length the boys who were to relieve them came out, and Jack and Joe
raced their horses back to camp, caught up fresh horses, unsaddled
those that they had been using, and presently sat down to breakfast.
All the outfit had started to work, and Frank had his wagon packed,
ready to roll as soon as these last two had finished breakfast.

"McIntyre told me to tell you," he said, "that you two had better go
along and help move the herd to the next camp. That's what you get for
going on night herd--an easy job for the rest of the day."

"That suits me well enough," laughed Joe. "We'll take it easy to-day,
Jack, and I'll bet McIntyre will make it up to us in the next few days,
and we'll have plenty of riding to do."

"I hope we will," replied Jack.

When they returned to the herd they found that the cattle had about
finished feeding, and had been driven down to a little stream to drink.
Now came the work of pushing them along over the ten or twelve miles
to the next camp. It was a slow and more or less wearisome task; but,
as Joe said, it was all in the day's work. The cattle were full and
lazy and unwilling to move. Each one would go on just as long as it was
being driven, but all the others stopped. It was constantly necessary
to ride up behind the little groups and urge them on, and the time of
two men was spent in riding backward and forward at the tail of the
herd pushing on the laggards. One man rode ahead of the herd, at a
slow walk; and there was one at either side, to keep the cattle from
scattering.

After the herd had been moving along for two or three hours, Bill
Duncan, the man in the lead, called back something to the others; but
they did not hear what he said, and, as he went on, paid no particular
attention to it. A few moments later there was quite an excitement
among the leading cattle. They were lowing and clustering together in a
thick bunch, and as the cow punchers pushed up toward them they could
see that they were pawing the ground and some of them were kneeling
and thrusting their horns into the soil, and there was much commotion.
Quietly, but very steadily the boys urged the cattle along and at
length broke up the gathering; but the animals were excited, and the
yearlings and young stock ran ahead, kicking their heels in the air and
striking at each other with their horns.

After they had passed the place, the explanation of the excitement was
seen. Some animal had recently been killed there, and its blood and
other remains smelled by the cattle had greatly excited them.

"That must have been what Bill was talking about when he called back
to us," Joe said to the others. "We ought to have sent some one up to
find out what he was saying."

"That's so," agreed Jack; "but, say, Joe, you know more about cattle
than I do, what is it that makes stock stampede? Of course, it's easy
enough to see why they might get frightened at the smell of blood,
but I understand that sometimes they start off without any reason
whatever--any reason we can see, at least."

"Well," Joe answered slowly, "you'll have to ask somebody who knows
more than I do. I've seen cattle start off without any cause at all
that I could see, and they 'most always start off without any reason.
On a stormy night I've seen them stampede at a flash of lightning, and
then again, one still night I saw a bunch start when one of the boys
lighted a match for his cigarette. One fall I was helping drive a bunch
of beef to the railroad; they went down into a little valley and when
they got close to the stream a big flock of blackbirds flew up in a
thick cloud, making, of course, some noise with their wings, and them
fat beef just turned and ran for half a day. Some of the cattle we
never did find, and those that we got I guess had lost fifty pounds to
the head."

"I suppose," said Jack, "that it is just panic, and, of course, in a
panic nothing ever stops to reason."

"I guess that's about the size of it. I've read in the papers stories
about people getting scared and stampeding, just exactly the way cattle
or horses do, and I reckon that all animals are a good deal alike in
this, whether they go on two legs or on four."

"Why, yes," said Jack; "some of the stories I've read told about people
getting scared in a theater when it took fire, and they all seemed
to lose their senses, and sometimes the firemen would find the bodies
all piled up in a corner or against the wall, the under ones dead from
suffocation, just the way scared sheep will pile up sometimes in the
corner of the shed, when you are catching them to dip them. The men are
just as bad as the women and children, and seem to try to fight with
them, trying to get out first."

"Down South I once saw a bunch of mules stampede. They didn't seem to
have any idea where they were going, and a part of the bunch ran right
slam into a freight-car, and, of course, killed themselves."

"Well, it surely is not easy to explain these things," declared Jack.
"I would like mighty well to have some of these professors who are
always studying about the way the mind works tell me how the mind of a
horse or a cow acts when it is stampeding."

Joe laughed.

"Hold on there," he said. "You want to get straight on that, I reckon.
I never heard, and I don't believe anybody else ever did, of a horse
or a cow stampeding. To have a stampede you've got to have a lot of
animals together, and they act on each other and make each other
more and more scared all the time. You can frighten a single horse,
or a single cow, and it will run away, but it won't run far; but you
stampede a bunch of stock and it will run and run and keep on running,
and for a while it keeps running harder and harder, all the time."

"I see what you mean; and I guess you're right about it," conceded Jack.

One of the other boys had come up while they were talking.

"Yes," he said, "Joe has got it straight, all right; and I never have
been able to find out anything more about it than he has. I've heard
old cow men talk about it, too, but I've never heard one of them say
that he could understand it. Joe's telling about seeing a bunch of
stock start when a boy lit a match, reminds me of a time when I saw a
bunch run just because a fellow threw down his cigarette. If a bunch of
cattle is ready to run, it seems as if 'most anything would start 'em.
You talk to any old cow man about this and you'll get a whole lot of
facts, but mighty few reasons."

All day long the cattle moved on over the rolling hills. Often the
wagons and _cávaya_ could be seen at no very great distance; and at
last, late in the afternoon, the camp was sighted and the boys took the
stock down below it on the creek, let them drink, and then feed slowly
back into the hills. They were kept pretty well together all the time,
but would not, of course, be bedded down until near sunset. Jack and
Joe stopped here with the herd, while the other boys went into camp
to get their supper. They would then come out again to bed down the
cattle, and be relieved a little later by the regular night herders.
The cattle were hungry, and were feeding greedily. They needed little
or no looking after; and the boys, riding to the top of a hill, got
off their horses and, throwing down their reins and holding the ends
of their ropes, let the saddle horses feed about them. As they sat
there talking about various things, Joe happened to speak of southern
California, and the way the Mexicans rode and handled cattle, and as
they talked he told Jack something of his past life.

"My father," he said, "came out with one of the early emigrant
trains with his brothers and sisters, his father and mother having
a nice little outfit of their own. Somehow or other, when they were
crossing through the mountains in the late fall, just before reaching
California, they got separated from the main train, and got off in a
little pocket by themselves, and didn't seem to be able to find their
way out of it. I never rightly understood how it was, for my father
died when I was a little fellow, but it seems that they got up there
and the snow was so deep that they could not get out. Their stock
was getting poor and they didn't have enough provisions to last them
through the winter. I've heard my grandmother tell how grandfather
worried about what he ought to do, and how at last he made up his mind
that he had to go down to the main trail and get help, or else they
would all starve to death. He made himself a pair of snowshoes, left
his rifle with his wife, took one day's grub, and started to try to
find the trail. My grandmother didn't want him to go a bit; she was
afraid that he would get lost, and then they'd be worse off than ever.
If they had to die, she wanted all of them to die together.

"He started off and did get lost, but, somehow or other, he managed to
get down near to the trail, and was found by a man who was hunting deer
for a little train that was coming along. That train was all right.
It went into camp and the men started out and broke a way up into the
little valley where my grandmother was, and brought down the whole
outfit and took them on to California. There my grandfather got work
and did pretty well, and when my father grew up he went down near Los
Angeles, and took up a ranch there, and we have always been comfortably
off. But I always wanted to ride a horse rather than go to school, and
as soon as I was big enough I got work with one of the cattle companies
down there, and I've been punching cows ever since. Of course I was a
big fool not to go to school and get a good education instead of just
being able to read and write, as I am now; but I've seen a lot of work
with cows, and, I tell you, some of those greasers down there can stay
with a horse and handle a rope better than any man you ever see in this
country."

"I expect they're mighty fine riders, Joe; and in the old times, when
there were cattle all over the country there, 'most all the men must
have been great cow hands, just as I suppose they are now in Mexico.
Every fellow was put on a horse as soon as he was able to toddle, and I
suppose he stayed with it until he was an old man."

"Yes, if he didn't get killed before he grew old. Hold on, Jack! Watch
those bulls down there!" Joe exclaimed. "I think we're going to have a
scrap!"

For some time Jack had heard low rumblings coming from the bunch of
cattle but had paid no attention to them; but now he saw that a couple
of big bulls seemed to be making preparations for a fight. One of them
was a white-faced red and white animal which might be a grade Durham
or Hereford, while the other, solid red in color, looked more like one
of the old-fashioned long-horned Texans, or at least what they used to
call out in that country a Cherokee.

Fifteen years earlier, as Jack had often been told, almost all the
cattle in the country were Texas cattle driven up from the south to
the plains, and there purchased by the northern cattlemen, taken out to
their ranches, fed for a year or two, and then shipped to market. The
excellent grazing and the cold winters seemed to make these cattle grow
larger and fatter than the Texas cattle were, and they brought good
prices in Chicago. Moreover, the calves raised on the northern range
were bigger and better than those brought up from the south, and it was
not long before the northern cattle owners got into the way of buying
herds of Texas cows and grading them up with more or less well-bred
bulls. This course made a very great change in the cattle. They grew
larger in body, shorter in limb, lost their long horns and became far
more like real beef steers than the old Texas long-horns ever were. It
was now getting to be almost unusual to see an animal that looked like
a Texas long-horn, or even like a Cherokee steer.

One of these bulls, however, was of the old type, while the other
seemed to represent the new. The two stood facing each other, not very
far apart, muttering, moaning, pawing up the dust and throwing it high
in the air to fall on their broad backs and roll back to the ground.
Presently the short-horned bull went down on his knees and thrust his
horns into the earth, and then rose and shook the dirt from his head.
The other bull did the same thing, his long horns tearing up a great
mass of soil, and when he rose to his feet his shaggy face and head
were covered with dirt and sticks picked up from the ground. Slowly the
bulls drew nearer to each other, and at length, when but a few feet
apart, the red bull sprang forward; the other bent down and lunged to
meet him, and their horns came together with a sharp clash. The shock
affected neither bull; neither gave back; and for some moments they
pushed and pushed against each other, their feet plowing up the soil
and the tense corded muscles standing out like ridges on their great
hams.

The remainder of the herd had drawn off a little to one side. Most of
the animals were still feeding or looking off over the prairie, heeding
the battle not at all, but a little fringe of cows and young stock on
the edge of the herd faced the fighting bulls and looked at them with
mild interest.

Jack and Joe watched the fight eagerly.

"The chances are all in favor of the big bull," declared Joe. "He's got
the weight and he'll win out."

"I don't know," said Jack. "It looks to me as if he were going to push
the red bull all over the prairie; but, on the other hand, the little
one is twice as quick and twice as active. What's more, I'll bet the
red fellow has twice the wind of the other, and if he can tire out that
big fat bull he'll make him run."

"Yes," agreed Joe, "there's no doubt that if he's got the wit to work
the fight right, he'll be able to drive the big bull; but if the big
bull is smart, he won't let himself be tired out."

"Well, let's see. Look at the way the big fellow is pushing back the
little fellow now!"

And certainly it seemed as if weight were beginning to tell, for,
little by little, the red bull moved backward, and appeared to be quite
unable to hold his opponent. In the meantime, the horns of both bulls
began to show red as if smeared with blood.

Farther and farther the red bull was pushed back. Presently he stopped
resisting; by a nimble bound he sprang off to one side and, quickly
circling, returned to the attack, as if trying to gore the big bull in
the neck or shoulders. The big one had turned, however, and received
the shock on his horns; and this time without much delay he pushed his
enemy back. The red bull again jumped and again made a circle, and the
big bull, seeing what was intended, faced to receive the charge on
his horns. The two came together hard, and the sound of the shock was
plainly heard. By this time both were weary and winded, and their long
tongues hung out of their mouths and almost reached to the ground.

It seemed now as if the red bull were trying to do precisely what
Jack had spoken of a little while before--to tire out his stronger
opponent--and it soon began to look as if he were succeeding. The big
bull turned more slowly to receive the charge; and, while he had not
as yet received any noticeable wound, he looked as if he would like to
stop fighting, and to call the battle a draw. He began to look from one
side to the other, and at last it was evident that he was trying to get
away.

"By gosh! the little fellow has got him whipped!" Joe cried.

A moment or two later the big bull, when he had the opportunity, turned
tail and trotted heavily off over the prairie away from the herd. The
little one followed him, of course, and butted him in the hips with
great force but his wide-spread horns did not cut the flesh. Each time
the red bull hit his opponent, the big bull roared with fear, and the
sight greatly amused the cowboys.

"Come on," Joe said at last; "we mustn't let those fellows go too far.
They've got to be brought back to the bunch."

Jumping on their horses they followed the two, first turning the red
bull, which was loath to leave the pursuit. Joe hurried him back to the
herd, while Jack rode on a little way, turned the big bull, and slowly
drove him to the bunch.

Soon after this, and long before they had finished talking over the
fight, the other men came back from camp, and Joe and Jack went in to
get their supper.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                            A BUFFALO STORY


Two days later Jack, pretty tired and riding a tired horse, came into
camp after a long day, and was delighted to see Hugh standing by the
cook fire, as usual smoking his pipe. Jack shouted a greeting and Hugh
waved his pipe in salutation, and a moment later when the saddle had
been thrown on the ground, and the tired horse was rolling, the two
shook hands.

"Well," exclaimed Jack, "what's the news? Did anything happen to you on
your way back with the cattle?"

"No," answered Hugh; "we just pushed 'em along as fast as we
comfortably could, brought 'em to camp late at night, pretty tired, and
didn't bother to bed 'em down or watch 'em. They got in hungry, and
as soon as they had eaten a plenty they lay down and stayed down all
night. When we got within five or six miles of the ranch I sent Rube in
ahead and pushed the cattle on myself, and before very long your Uncle
and Joe came out and we drove the herd down below the little lake and
turned 'em loose there. That was yesterday afternoon pretty early. Rube
and I went up to the bunk-house and gossiped a while with Mr. Sturgis,
and then after we had had something to eat, we turned around and rode
until dark and then camped, and came on here to-day."

"That was a good quiet trip," said Jack. "I am glad that nothing bad
happened. There was no reason why anything should happen, for these
cattle are almost on their own range; and they shouldn't be wild or
uneasy. What's the news back at the ranch, Hugh? Did Uncle Will, or
Joe, have anything special to talk about?"

"Not a thing," was the reply. "It's just as quiet there as can be.
Joe's 'tending to his stock, what little of it there is there, and Mr.
Sturgis, I reckon, just reads and writes. By the way, though, he did
tell me that he went up on the mountains back of the house the other
day and killed a yearling for meat. He said there were lots of elk
there--big bunches of cows and calves. When I told him I was coming
right back here, he sat down and wrote to you and asked me to take the
letter along with two or three others that had come for you. You see,
he sent Joe into the railroad for mail only two or three days ago."

Jack took the letters, and presently went off to read them. Two were
from his father and mother, in New York, and one from his uncle. By the
time he had finished reading them, supper was ready and the boys were
crowding around the fire, filling their plates and cups.

After supper, Hugh, Joe and Jack were sitting together near the cook
fire, Hugh smoking and the boys slapping viciously at the mosquitoes,
which were pretty bad.

"I saw one thing to-day, son," said Hugh, "that interested me a little,
and that was a buffalo carcass."

"Why, Hugh," exclaimed Jack, "I didn't know there were any buffalo
about here. Of course, I've heard that there is a little bunch up in
the Rattlesnake Mountains, but I've never seen any sign down this way."

"No," returned Hugh; "I don't guess there are any buffalo around here.
The carcass to-day is the first I've seen for six or seven years. I
remember about the time you first came out to the ranch we ran across
a buffalo that had been killed not very long before. I figured that it
had wandered out from the Rattlesnake Mountains and crossed the Platte,
but I never knew what had killed it. I don't know what killed this one
that I found to-day. It was killed this spring sometime, but had been
dead too long for me to find out much about it. I wouldn't be surprised
if there were a very few buffalo up in the Rattlesnake hills; and every
now and then, if one comes out and goes down to the Platte River,
somebody takes a shot or two at it, and it gets killed. I haven't heard
of anybody killing a buffalo around here for a good many years.

"I reckon I've told you, son, about what Uncle Jack Robinson used to
say about buffalo on the Laramie Plains, and in this high country,
away back long before I came out here, and in fact I guess when Uncle
Jack was quite a young man--anyway, not more than a middle-aged man.
He said that in his young days, when he first came into the country,
the Laramie Plains and all this high country was full of buffalo, but
that one winter there came a terrible snowstorm without any wind, and
the snow lay four or five feet deep on the ground. After this snow
came a change of weather, either a big thaw or a warm rain, and then
a freeze, and the whole country was crusted over so that none of the
animals could get down to the grass to feed. That winter, Uncle Jack
said, killed just about everything in the country and, among the other
things, the buffalo. He said that since that time there never had been
any buffalo on the Laramie Plains, or in this high country. I always
figured from what he told me that this big storm must have come in the
winter of 1839-40. Uncle Jack said that for years after that it was
hard to find any game up in this country, but, of course, as time went
on the deer and the elk and the antelope got plentiful again, but the
buffalo never came back."

"I suppose the fact is, Hugh," said Jack, "that by that time the people
on the plains were killing them so that they had no chance to work back
into the mountains."

"Likely that was so," assented Hugh.

"There's another thing about buffalo I want to ask you," said Jack;
"though I think you've told me about it before. Some of the old books
talk, as I remember it, about buffalo spending the summer up in the
north, and then migrating south in the fall, spending the winter down
in Texas or Mexico, and then going back again when spring came. I'm
pretty sure you told me once that there was never anything like this."

"No," answered Hugh, "there never was; and if you'll think about it
a little bit you'll see there couldn't be. It's a long way from the
Canada line down to Mexico, and just as far back again. If the buffalo
made journeys like that spring and fall, they'd never have time to do
anything else, and they sure would never be fat. Of course buffalo
shifted their ranges more or less, spring and fall. They'd move up
into the high country on the flanks of the mountains, and often up
mountain valleys in summer, and then in fall they'd drift east on to
the prairie and get into breaks or broken country of one kind and
another, and stop there. Sometimes they'd make quite long journeys and
it would be hard for the Indians to find them, but they never started
off to travel a thousand miles or so to avoid cold weather, and then
turned round and came back to avoid hot weather.

"The buffalo didn't mind the cold very much; on the other hand, they
like shelter in the worst weather. I've seen places on the flanks of
the mountains in the broken country where the buffalo wintered--places
they used to go to for shelter in the worst storms--where you would
find the dung four or five feet deep. I remember one such place in a
little side ravine running into a draw that goes down into the Rosebud,
where I took the trouble to dig down into the dry dung, and I made a
hole half as deep as I am tall, and didn't get to the bottom then. This
was a sheltered place under thick pine trees, and all the signs showed
that the buffalo used to gather there to get out of the wind and snow,
and stand there pretty nearly as warm as they would be in a barn. Right
within half a mile there was the best kind of feed."

"Don't you remember, Hugh," interrupted Jack, "that year we went up to
the head of the St. Mary's River, how you showed me the place where the
sheep used to come down and stand in winter?"

"Sure," said Hugh. "That's another sort of an animal, but it shows
what I've said to you before, that all animals, except those that
are hunting other animals, are very likely to live in a small range
of country, and not to get away from it except at some change of the
seasons, or when they are driven away. It's just the same with range
stock--cows or horses. You ask Joe here, and I reckon he'll tell you
the same thing."

"That's so," asserted Joe. "Everybody knows that a few horses will stop
in a particular place and live there all through the summer, or all
through the winter; they always drink at the same stream; they always
feed about the same place; they go up on the same high point to stand
and look. It's something like that, too, with the cattle; and I reckon
it's that way with all animals."

"That's what I believe," said Hugh; "and I can tell you a story about
something that I saw once, and that plenty of other people saw too,
that seems to me to prove it.

"In the fall of 1866 I was working for the government, sort of half
scout and half general handy man, and went with Lieutenant Stouch--a
mighty fine officer he was--down into Kansas to build up old Fort
Fletcher, which was on the north fork of Big Creek, and about sixteen
miles below Fort Hayes.

"It was nice, bright, cool fall weather, and when we got to the place
that had been picked out for the Fort, and went into camp, we saw quite
a bunch of buffalo feeding in the stream bottom, hardly more than half
a mile above us. Of course the country then was full of buffalo, and
this was one of their great ranges. I suppose there must have been
eight or nine hundred in this bunch.

"When Lieutenant Stouch saw this herd, he had what always struck me
as a mighty smart thought, and a thought too that showed that he knew
a whole lot about animals, and about the plains country; and yet he
hadn't been out there very long, because the war was only just over
and he'd fought through the war. It occurred to him not to meddle with
these buffalo and that just as long as they stopped where they were, he
could get fresh meat for his command with mighty little trouble. So he
gave orders to the soldiers not to hunt up the creek, but to do their
hunting downstream, and especially not to do anything to frighten these
buffalo.

"He picked out a man and sent him to go up the creek to kill a buffalo,
but told him not to show himself before he shot, nor after; just to
kill the cow and then stay there hid, until a wagon came up for the
meat. The man obeyed orders. When he fired, the buffalo he had shot at
ran a few steps, and then stopped and lay down. Those nearest to it
gave a jump or two and looked around, but as they saw no one they went
on feeding.

"They were watching in camp, and when they saw what had happened they
sent out a wagon to bring in the meat, and as it drove up slowly to the
place, the buffalo near it just walked out of the way. The dead animal
was butchered and loaded into the wagon and brought back to camp.

"This happened every day. Nothing occurred to scare the buffalo. They
got used to seeing the people at work on the buildings and got used to
the wagons.

"After a while, a couple more companies of soldiers came to the post;
one company of cavalry and one of infantry. Lieutenant Stouch told
the officers what he had been doing, and asked them to follow out the
same plan. They did so, and the buffalo stopped right there. This went
on until well into the winter, when one day in the morning Lieutenant
Stouch sent for me and told me that a sergeant who had just come in
from a scout had reported that he had met our buffalo herd traveling
up the creek about fifteen miles distant. The Lieutenant told me he
believed that these buffalo could be brought back, and asked me what I
thought about it. I told him I didn't know, but they ought to be mighty
tame, and I believed that they could just quietly be driven back.

"'Well, Johnson,' he said to me, 'I believe so too, and we're going to
try it.'

"He took about twenty-five soldiers, and three or four of the officers
went along, and we rode off up the creek, and after a while passed the
herd and went down into the valley above it. There we scattered out
all the way across the bottom like skirmishers, and commenced to walk
slowly toward the buffalo. When they first saw us they stood and looked
for quite a long time, and I thought it was mighty uncertain whether
they would drive or whether they would run off over the bluffs, but
after a little those that were nearest to us turned around and began to
feed down the valley, working back the way they had come, and before
night we had the bunch back on its old feeding ground just above the
post, and when it got there we rode out of the valley and round over
the hills to camp.

"That bunch of buffalo stayed there for two months longer, and for all
I know they would have been there yet, if it hadn't been that, along in
April, the Seventh Cavalry, under General Custer, came into the post
for supplies, and some of his command ran into those buffalo and chased
them to kill meat for the command, and they scattered out and never
came back again.

"That bunch of buffalo stayed there in that one place for about six
months, not scared, although animals enough were killed out of it to
supply a hundred and fifty officers and men with fresh meat during all
that time. I reckon there was an animal killed every day or two; only
they were killed in a sensible way and the herd was never frightened."

"Well, well," said Joe; "that seems to me one of the strangest things I
ever heard of; and it just shows how near buffalo are to being cattle.
You can imagine a thing of that kind happening to a bunch of cows, but
it's new to me that it could happen to buffalo."

"It seems to me," replied Hugh, "that it shows that wild animals don't
spend all their time wandering over the country, as most people think
they do, but each set of animals has some little range of country
that's like home to them."

"Yes," said Jack, "I guess that's the fact; and yet I believe most
people don't understand it at all. I've heard my uncle say the same
thing about wild animals, and about some kinds of birds. I mean birds
like partridges and quail, that don't go south in winter, the way most
birds do."

"Well," exclaimed Hugh, "the fact is that most people don't know
anything at all about how wild animals live, and of course they can't
have right ideas about 'em. But here I've taken a whole lot of sleeping
time talking to you boys about animals! We'd better quit now and turn
in."



                              CHAPTER IX

                           VICENTE, COW HAND


It was plain daylight, but the sun had not risen, when Vicente, Tulare
Joe and Jack set out from the camp to ride circle through the rough
hills to the northeast. They would gather whatever cattle they could
find and bring them to the camp, which would be moved a short distance
farther during the day.

Vicente was a Mexican, of at least middle age. His hair and mustache
were jet black, but his side-whiskers were gray. With his stiff conical
black hat and a little military cape which he often wore, sitting
erect in his saddle, with an air of great dignity, he looked more like
a Spanish hidalgo than an everyday cowboy of the plains. No one knew
Vicente's history, nor where he came from. This was not especially
because he was a silent man, for in fact he often talked quite freely,
but however much he talked, he himself was never the subject of his
conversation.

Notwithstanding his dignity, his unusual clothing and his more or less
precise and elaborate manner, Vicente was a wonderful cow hand. If
anything especially difficult had to be done, he was usually called
upon to do it. If some steers had to be handled in a small corral,
Vicente was likely to ride into the corral on his favorite gray roping
horse, and to pick out one animal after another, throw and tie it, and
then when all hands on foot had gotten through with it, and had bolted
for the fence, Vicente would untie the steer and dodge it until it
wearied of the effort to fight him and went back to crowd in among the
other animals.

The younger cowboys stood somewhat in awe of Vicente, and never tried
to play jokes on him, nor made fun of him as they did of each other;
though of course they cheered and shouted if by chance he mounted a
horse which bucked with unusual ferocity. No horse, however vicious,
energetic or long-winded had as yet been found, so far as any one on
this round-up knew, that was able to stir Vicente from his saddle.

Hugh once said that only once in his life had he seen a man who rode
as well and as certainly as Vicente. This was an old Mexican known
as "One-Eyed Juan" who used to live down at Bent's Old Fort on the
Arkansas. It was said that if a particularly bad horse had to be ridden
down there at Bent's Fort--one that none of the Mexicans or Indians
could do anything with--Juan would mount it, and putting a silver
dollar between the sole of each foot and the stirrup, would ride the
beast to a standstill, and when he dismounted the silver dollars were
always found in the stirrups. One who saw Vicente ride a bad horse
could believe this story. He rode in quite a different way from the
American cow punchers, even those who were never thrown. Some of them
lopped about on the horse, riding on one thigh or the other, and some
seemed wholly unconcerned as to what the horse did; but, while they
rode well, and were never shaken from their seats, they did not ride
gracefully, firmly and steadily as did Vicente.

The three men rode fast to the edge of the hills, and had little to
say to each other, but when they reached the point where they must
separate to look for the cattle, Joe and Jack, by common consent,
turned to the older man and asked him for instructions. Vicente's
English was extraordinary and, until one was familiar with it, not
easy to understand; but, brokenly as he spoke, every one in this cow
camp understood him, as indeed did every one in all the region round
about, for he had lived here for a long time, and on all the range was
a well-known personage.

"How shall we work, Vicente?" asked Joe. "You tell us and we'll try to
do as you say."

"It looks to me best," Vicente answered, "that Joe rides along the edge
of the hills looking up the valleys; and you, Jack, ride a mile or two
back from the edge; and I'll go still farther back toward the divide,
maybe up on the divide--anyhow, so as to see the heads of all the
coulées. What cattle Joe finds and what cattle I find we'll drive along
and turn down to Jack, and Jack will push along the bunch, while we try
to get all the cows that are feeding in these ravines."

"We'll do that," said Joe; "and that means that I turn off now before
we've gone very far, and take in these lower hills."

After they had ridden a mile farther, Joe turned to the north or
northwest, while Jack and Vicente kept on until the Mexican pointed out
a place where he said Jack had better start north by himself, while he
went farther on.

Jack sat for a moment watching the little horse swinging easily along
up the hill under the erect military figure; and then, turning to his
left, he started to gallop over the ridges and ravines that cut the
slopes. It was killing work for a horse, up and down, up and down, up
and down. As much as he could, Jack tried to save his animal by taking
the hills at an angle, but even at best it was such hard work that Jack
felt obliged often to stop, to let the horse rest and breathe.

For some time he rode on without seeing any cattle, but presently in a
narrow valley, where evidently water had stood late into the spring, he
saw ten or a dozen cows and young stock feeding on a little flat from
which they had nipped off all the tall grass, so that at a distance the
green carpet looked as if it had been gone over by a lawn-mower.

The cattle saw him almost as soon as he saw them, and seemed wilder
than any he had previously come across. In a moment their heads were
down, and their tails up and they were bolting across the ridges at a
lively gait. Their direction was just that which Jack was taking, or
perhaps they bore off a little to the left, which would bring them down
more toward Joe's line. At all events, there was no reason to hurry
after them, for they would certainly be gathered by one of the three
men.

As Jack looked up toward the hill he could occasionally see Vicente
crossing an open space, going at a good rate and apparently thinking
nothing of his horse. Yet, oddly enough--and Jack as well as others
of the round-up boys had often wondered at it--Vicente's horses, even
though he had a string of only six and seemed to work them twice as
hard as any other horses on the round-up, were always in good spirits,
fat and springy. Now and then on the hillside above, and always in
advance of Vicente, he could see little bunches of cattle hurrying
along. He kept a sharp lookout to his right, thinking that possibly
some of those being driven by the Mexican might turn off and drift down
the hill in his direction, and if they did so he did not wish to go so
far, or so carelessly, as to leave them behind.

Keeping his eye out warily, both up and down the hill, he presently
saw above him, rushing diagonally to the front, five black-tail deer,
none of them with horns--apparently an old doe, two yearlings and two
spotted fawns. They had been startled either by Vicente or by the
cattle he was driving, and now were making great time down the hill
and toward safety. Even for them the work of crossing these ridges was
tiring, and before long Jack could see that the old doe's tongue was
hanging out of her mouth and that she was beginning to lose her wind.
Jack had no cattle immediately in front of him, and he was riding down
into a rather wide valley with a flat bottom. As the deer were drawing
near, and would apparently cross in front of him, he put his horse into
a fast gallop in order to reach the top of the next ridge about the
time the deer got there. This he succeeded in doing, and as he rode up
on top of the ridge and drew rein just below some scrubby pine trees,
he could see the deer coming at a gallop along the top of this ridge,
apparently intending to follow it down to the lower country, instead
of continuing their way across the ravines. Jack was partly hidden
by the trees, and was making no movement. The deer kept on along the
ridge, slackening their pace as they got near to him, until just before
they reached the pine trees the two leading does were trotting, the two
fawns had almost stopped and the old doe was coming along heavily in
the rear. By the pines they all stopped and looked back up the hill, as
if to try to learn what had become of the cause of their alarm. They
were so close to Jack that he could readily have thrown a rope over the
head of any one of them. Their red flanks were heaving and the old doe
was quite tired. The little fawns, which could not have been more than
six weeks or two months old, were the embodiment of grace and lightness.

After looking back for a moment or two, the deer seemed to feel that
there was nothing more to fear from the enemy that had frightened them
up the hill. Two or three times they looked at Jack, but neither he nor
his horse moved, and after a stare or two the deer looked unconcernedly
away. Presently, with a slow, almost slouching, gait, they started to
walk on down the ridge toward some underbrush on the hillside; and in
doing this they crossed the wind which was blowing from the southeast,
and so, in their changed position, blew from Jack to them. As each deer
walked into this tainted current it bounded into the air as if shot
up by a gigantic spring, and coming down again, the headlong flight
was resumed with every appearance of terror. It was not the first time
that Jack had seen something of this sort, and Hugh had more than once
spoken to him of the effect of the scent of man on wild animals; but
to-day Jack wondered at it as much as he had ever done before. The
deer had looked squarely at him without recognizing him as anything
dangerous or hostile, but the instant that their noses told them that
he was there, they raced off in headlong flight.

A few more ridges surmounted, and Jack came again upon the little
bunch of cattle that he had started in the morning. Though still wild,
they did not rush off in the same alarm that they had shown earlier
in the day. Above them on the hillside and near the head of the same
ravine were other cattle lying on the steep side hill, and Jack, riding
up, started them on their way. These animals had evidently just lain
down after feeding, and were not at all wild. It seemed probable to
Jack that he might have to do some literal cow punching with these
logy beasts, and he took them down the hill with him and started them
forward about in the line that he was riding.

All through the morning this went on, and Jack had gathered forty or
fifty head of cattle, while from what he could see on the hillside
above him Vicente had a still larger bunch. It was impossible to get
any idea of what Joe was doing, because the slope here was too gradual.

In the early afternoon it was evident that Vicente had turned his
cattle down the hill toward Jack. Many of them showed themselves
working down ahead of him, and now and then he could hear the whistles
and calls by which Vicente was urging them on.

It was not long after this that Vicente was seen hurrying along the
hillside up and down, gathering the cattle into a more or less close
bunch, and then starting them down a ridge ahead of Jack. A little
later, too, Jack began to see cattle coming from his left--from down
the hill. He therefore stopped where he was, and getting up on as high
a point as possible, looked over the ground to get an idea of the
situation. Evidently this had been a pretty fruitful gather, for there
must have been more than three hundred cattle brought along by Vicente
and by Joe, and as yet it was only a little after noon.

After a time, as the animals got together in a fairly close bunch ahead
of Jack, Vicente rode up to him; and presently Joe appeared from a
ravine. The three stopped and got off and sat down on the ground, and
Joe and Vicente rolled cigarettes. The tired horses panted and the
sweat dropped from their saddle cinches.

"Lots of cattle here," said Vicente. "We bring in big bunch to-night;
hard on the horses, though. Lots of places in this rough country where
cattle can hide."

"Yes," agreed Joe, "that's sure so. I ought to have a fresh horse now;
mine's near give out."

"Well," said Jack, "I've been having an easy time, I reckon. I haven't
done much of anything except to keep right straight ahead. My horse is
tired too, but not so tired as those you two have been riding."

"Suppose we get lot more cattle," said Vicente; "we'll have a bunch too
big for you to handle; then we'll have to take 'em out of the hills and
drive 'em to camp; but we've not much farther to go now."

"No," answered Jack; "I suppose it's not much farther, and I guess we
can keep these going all right; but I'll have my work cut out for me if
any of these cattle should be mean and try to break back, as they are
liable to. I'll have to do some riding myself."

"Some of these cattle are pretty wild," said Vicente. "I started three
or four bunches that tried hard to break back, but now that they're
together in a big bunch they'll be easier to handle. Only, Jack, look
out and don't lose any in these ravines."

"All right; I'll try," Jack promised.

A little later, the three mounted again and Jack rode down toward
the cattle and put the bunch in motion. It was slow work to get them
started, but as Jack went along he could see from the tops of the
ridges he crossed that the range of hills along which they had been
working bent away to the east just ahead of him, and that before long
he would have the cattle on smoother ground where it would be easier to
watch them and to keep them traveling straight. Now the ravines began
to grow wider and shallower. Joe joined him with a few more head, and
at length they got the bunch out into fairly flat country. A little
later, Vicente was seen off to the right coming with a few more cows;
and presently the herd with the three riders guiding it was traveling
slowly along under its cloud of dust toward the camp, which they could
now see ahead of them.

The sun was still pretty high above the western horizon when they drove
the cattle down to the stream to drink, and after that began to work
them over to where the main herd was feeding.

"I suppose," Jack said to Vicente, "that now we have got so many cattle
we'll have to spend a day or two cutting and branding calves."

"Yes," replied Vicente; "I think so. Seems to me I saw a big lot of
strays in this bunch that we've got ahead of us. Not many brands of
people around here. I don't know where they come from. Some of the
brands I don't know."

"That's right," put in Joe. "I've seen plenty of brands that are new to
me. Say, Vicente," he went on, "there's a big fat maverick heifer among
those that I gathered. I wonder if McIntyre wouldn't like to kill her
for beef?"

"You sure she's got no brand on?" asked Vicente.

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Suppose you ride to camp and ask McIntyre, and maybe we can cut her
out before we get to the herd."

"All right," said Joe; and galloped off in the direction of the camp.

Before long he returned, riding a fresh horse.

"McIntyre says to bring that maverick over to the camp, and we'll kill
her there," he reported.

No sooner said than done. Vicente and Joe pushed their horses into the
bunch of cattle and before long had cut out the unbranded heifer, which
was very fat, and were driving her back to the camp. A little later the
herd Jack was driving mingled with the main herd, and he also turned
toward camp; but before he got there he heard a shot, and as he rode
into the camp he could see two of the boys dressing the young cow.



                               CHAPTER X

                          THE FENCELESS LAND


The next day Jack was ordered to travel with the herd in company with
Jack Mason and Rube. Mason was a man who had not been long in this
part of the country. He was not a pilgrim, for he had been born among
the mountains of the West, and had spent all his life in the fenceless
country. As a very young man he had worked his way up to the north, and
for several years had lived on or near the Blackfeet Reservation, and
Hugh knew him well. When he found him in the round-up camp Hugh had
spoken of him to Jack in high terms.

"He's harum-scarum," he had said, "but he's a good prairie man, and I
don't think he's afraid of anything that wears hair or feathers. He
does not always believe in obeying laws that he does not approve of,
and I've heard he has been in trouble once or twice on that account;
but he's a square man, and a man that it's safe for you to know, and
to tie to under ordinary conditions. Sometimes, however, he goes off
half-cocked, and when he does that I shouldn't want you to tie to him.
He's a man that's growing better every day, but he needs experience and
balance, and I don't believe there's any way for Jack Mason to get
that, except by living in the world and finding out for himself a whole
lot of things that he don't know yet.

"There's another thing about Mason," Hugh went on; "he's terrible
stout, quick with his hands, and quite a wrestler. I mind the only time
I ever saw him wrestle. The fellow that tackled him got a handful. It
was at the Blackfeet Agency. A big husky chap came over from Canada
and went around blowing about how good he could wrestle. He threw the
blacksmith, who was pretty stout, and a big Indian that was persuaded
to try him, and after he had done that he talked louder than ever. He
was an Englishman that had been in the mounted police. Finally somebody
who had seen Mason in a scuffle told the man that he couldn't throw
Mason, and the Englishman wanted to bet he could, and at last got all
worked up about it. Mason kept refusing and dodging and putting off,
until the Englishman was about crazy to make a match, and at last Mason
said he would go him. They put up five dollars a side to wrestle on the
flat out in front of the stockade. When they got hold of each other,
the Englishman started in to throw Mason quick, but however hard he
tried, he didn't seem to stir him out of his tracks. But suddenly,
while they were all watching and wondering what was going to happen,
Mason give a kind of a twist and threw the Englishman over his head,
and he lit on his back three or four steps away, with the wind all
knocked out of him. It took five or ten minutes to bring him to, and
then he was only just able to walk, and had to be helped back into the
stockade. He didn't talk much about wrestling after that, and left in
the course of two or three days.

"You notice Mason sometime when he's in swimming and see his arms and
shoulders, and the pins he's got under him. He's stout, I tell you."

Mason was a good cow hand and a most cheery, delightful fellow. No
matter how gloomy the situation, how hard the rain poured or the cold
wind blew, he whistled and sang in hearty fashion, made jokes and
laughed at those of others, and altogether got out of life a great deal
of enjoyment.

Those who were to drive the herd went out early to relieve the night
herders. They were in no haste to start the cattle, which were given
some time to feed before being pushed along to the next camp. While
the cattle were feeding they needed no special attention for they were
not likely to try to wander until they had eaten their fill. So the
three herders got together on a knoll from which a good view of the
country could be had, and sat there watching the stock as it fed. Rube
whittled tobacco, and time and again filled his old black pipe; but the
two Jacks, being non-smokers, looked over the wide plain before them,
and noted, as one may note if one sits down and stares at a landscape,
the various things that were happening among the wild dwellers of that
landscape.

Scarcely half a mile to the north was an old doe antelope which in
the early morning light had seemed much interested in the cattle and
trotted down toward them on a tour of inspection. Those who saw her
felt pretty sure that hidden somewhere in the neighborhood she had
a couple of little kids; and sure enough after the old mother had
satisfied herself that there was no danger in those great groups of
dark animals, her two tiny young ones came out from their hiding-place
and played around her.

Along a distant hillside off to the south, Jack Mason's keen eye
detected a moving object, and after watching it for a while he turned
to Jack.

"There goes a wolf, traveling back after his night's hunting to find a
place to lie by during the day," he said.

After it had been pointed out, they could see the great beast trotting
smoothly along over the prairie toward some bushy ravines higher up on
the hill.

"Except for the cattle and the wild animals," Mason said, "there's not
much to be seen here."

"Not much," answered Jack. "It's lonely; but I like the very
lonesomeness of it."

"Yes," responded Mason; "so do I. I don't know anything much better
than to ride along over the prairie, or to sit alone on top of the
hill and just see what goes on all about you. Most people wouldn't see
anything, but the man that has got his eyes open sees a whole lot."

"Ho!" put in Rube, "you fellows talk as if you had never before been
where it was lonely. I have; and there's too much loneliness out here
for me. I'm getting to be like the fellow I heard of who was riding
fence down in Texas on one of those big fenced ranches. He never saw
anybody from week-end to week-end, and one time when he came into a
ranch to get his supplies, he said it was so darned lonely out there
that he'd got into the habit of taking off his hat and saying 'Howdy'
to every fence post that he passed."

"Well," laughed Mason, "he must have suffered for lack of company; but
I would never have that complaint."

"Hugh tells me that you've lived up in the Piegan country," said Jack,
addressing Mason. "Were you up there long?"

"Three or four years. I expect I'll go back there before long. Six or
eight years ago I drifted up from the south through this country, and
finally brought up among the Piegans. I've been across the line a few
times to the British, and have stopped a little while with the Bloods
and the north Piegans. You know that in old times, when the first
treaties were made, the Piegans split up on the question of where they
should live. Some of them liked the country to the south of the line,
and some that to the north. Originally all the three tribes of the
Blackfeet came from way up north on the Red Deer River, or maybe still
farther, to the east of that. I've heard old John Monroe--maybe you
know him--"

"I should say so!" exclaimed Jack. "I lived in his lodge all one
summer."

"Well," continued Mason, "I've heard old John Monroe tell a mighty good
story about the way the Blackfeet came down from the northeast, and how
they first met the white people."

Here Rube interrupted.

"I think we had better start these cows along. A lot of 'em have quit
feeding and the first thing we know they'll be lying down, and then
we'll have a hard time to get them to move. Better come on and start
'em now. The longer we put it off the harder work and slower it'll be."

"That's gospel," said Jack Mason. "We've got to whoop these cows up,
and we haven't any time for writing ancient history now."

"Yes," agreed Jack, "I suppose we've got to move; but look here, Mason,
I want to get you to tell me that story, if you will. I've an idea
that I've heard bits of it up North, but if you can give it to me in a
connected fashion I wish you would."

"Why sure," Mason answered. "I'd like to tell it to you the best I
can; but you know very well that I can't tell it the way old John
Monroe could. He's half Indian and that means that he's a natural sign
talker; and then he's got a dash of French in him, that makes him
willing to talk, and he talks well; and then I expect the Scotch--for
old Hugh Monroe's father must have been Scotch, if the name counts
for anything--gives him a sense of humor. So he's a rattling good
story-teller. Of course, for me, and maybe for you, he's sometimes
a little hard to understand, because he talks a language made up of
English, French, Cree and Blackfeet. Sometimes I miss the connection,
but his stories are always good. The best ones that I ever heard,
though, were those that he told in Cree to Billy Jackson, and that
Billy Jackson interpreted for me, for Jackson is no slouch of a
story-teller himself."

As they talked, the men rode over toward the cattle and going about
them started those that were lying down and at last got the whole bunch
moving very slowly in the direction they wished them to go. Among
the cattle were three or four partially crippled animals that had
been lamed either by the horns of other cows in the crowding, or by
falling in bad places. Most of the hurts were trifling and would soon
pass away, but there was one two-year-old steer that had a very bad
shoulder and could use only one foreleg. He could get along very slowly
and with difficulty. As Rube and Jack passed each other, riding to and
fro to keep the stock going, Rube pointed to the steer.

"I hate to drive that cripple," he said; "and I'd leave him in a minute
if I wasn't afraid that the wolves or coyotes would kill him to-night."

"Yes," answered Jack; "I am afraid if he were left behind he would
never see the morning light; even a bunch of coyotes could kill him
without any trouble, for just as soon as they crippled his hind legs,
he would fall over and they would eat him alive."

"I reckon," decided Rube, "the best that we can do is to keep him
going, and if we get him into camp to-night, we'll let McIntyre say
what shall be done with him."

About noon the boys came to a stream and, driving the cattle down to
it, made up their minds that they would give them an hour or two of
rest. When Mason came up, Jack spoke to him about the crippled steer
and asked what he thought about it, repeating what he and Rube had said
a little while before.

"You're right about that," said Mason. "I don't believe he'd last out
the night; for, as you say, the coyotes would kill him. If he were
well, he could stand off a bunch of coyotes, but as he is, he wouldn't
last long. You talk about crippling up his hind legs. Do you savvy,
Jack, how it is that a buffalo or a steer, or a cow, gets hamstrung?"

"I always supposed that a wolf just bit through that big tendon that
runs down from the ham to the hock, and, of course, if that's cut or
broken that cripples that leg entirely."

"Right you are," said Mason, "up to a certain point; but did it ever
occur to you how big and tough that tendon is, and did you ever stop to
think whether a wolf could bite through it with one snap of his jaws?"

"No; I confess that I never did. But now that you speak of it, it looks
to me like a pretty good-sized contract for any animal to bite through
that tendon at a single snap."

"That's what it is," answered Mason. "If you ever get a chance to try
a knife on that tendon you'll find that unless the knife is sharp like
a razor you'll have to put in a good deal of force, and do some little
sawing to get the blade through the tendon. We all know that a wolf is
big and strong and that he can bite tremendously hard, and that he's
got sharp teeth. I believe that maybe a wolf has force enough in his
jaws to break a man's wrist, if he caught it just at the right point,
but I don't believe that there ever was a wolf whelped that was able
to cut through that tendon at a single snap, unless by accident. Of
course, he might partly cut through it, and the animal's struggles
might break it, but I don't believe that would happen once in a
thousand times. The way the wolves hamstring these animals, so far as
I've been able to see, is by biting that tendon over and over again,
and before long it gets all bruised and more or less shredded, and
swells up and stiffens, and the animal is not able to use his leg. If
this happens to one or both legs, the first thing you know the animal
is down and that's the end of it."

"Well, that's news to me," declared Jack. "I never thought of that
before. I always just took it for granted that a wolf, because he is
big and strong, could and did cut through that tendon by a snap of his
jaws; but the way you put it, it looks to me as if that would not be
possible."

"I've seen a number of cases," Mason continued, "where animals have
been killed by wolves and I've always been interested in hearing about
this hamstringing, so I've paid particular attention to the condition
of that part of the leg, trying to see whether the tendon was ever cut,
and I never have seen a case when it was cut."

"That's a new idea to me," repeated Jack. "I'd like to get more light
on it. Did you ever talk about it to Hugh? He's been on the prairie an
awful long time."

"No; I don't think that I ever talked about it to anybody at all; but
I'm like you, I'd like to know whether it is gospel or not. At all
events, it's what I've seen, and I think it's reason, too."

"It does seem reasonable," said Jack. "Let's ask Hugh when we get
in to-night. Meantime we'll try to push along this cripple and let
McIntyre decide what's to be done with him."

It was late in the afternoon when the herd was turned out to feed near
the camp; and at night, soon after McIntyre got in, Jack told him the
story of the crippled steer, and asked what should be done with it.

"Whose is it?" asked McIntyre.

"One of the Sturgis steers."

"Well," said McIntyre, "you and old man Johnson can decide what's to
be done with it; and whatever you say goes."

Hugh, when consulted, thought that the best thing was to leave it
behind them on the prairie, and that it must take its chances of living
or dying. With rest and feed it would probably recover, but if driven
along with the herd it would be sure to get worse and finally would
have to be killed.

"All right," McIntyre consented; "when we move from here we'll leave
it, and let it take its chance. We'll stop over here to-morrow, and cut
and brand."

That night as they sat around the fire, Jack asked Mason to tell Hugh
what he thought took place when an animal is hamstrung, and then asked
Hugh what his beliefs were about the matter.

"Why," replied Hugh, as he stuffed down the fire in his pipe with
a callous forefinger, "of course, Mason is dead right. I supposed
everybody knew that. Hamstringing buffalo and stock means, I suppose,
crippling them by hurting that big tendon above the hock. I've heard
that in old days sometimes the Mexicans, and maybe the Indians too,
used to ride up behind a buffalo with a right sharp saber or machete
and by making a strong downward stroke did actually cut the hamstring
and hurt the buffalo so that it had only three legs to go on; but I
never supposed that anybody thought a wolf could really cut a hamstring
through in that way. It's just the way Jack Mason says, in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred, and you'll find that most mountain men and most
Indians who have seen anything will tell you just the same thing.

"I expect you read a whole lot in books that's written by men who never
saw the things happen that they describe: they've read of them perhaps
a good many times, and sort of take it for granted that what they've
read is all right; but, really, they don't know what it means. I guess
this hamstringing business is one of those things. As Mason says, it
might happen now and then that a wolf's jaws that hit that tendon just
right would partly cut it in two, and then the animal might break it in
struggling, but that wouldn't happen often."

"There's another thing, Hugh," Jack said, "that I want Mason to tell
you--about some things he's heard from old John Monroe--some stories
about how the Piegans came from their old home in the North down to
where they live now. I want to get him to tell us about that."

"Why, yes," replied Hugh, "those are right good stories. I've often
heard old John Monroe and other old men talk about that. I supposed
maybe I'd told you about it, but I don't know as I have."

"No; I don't think you ever told me the whole story, though I've heard
you and other people up there talk about it as something that was
perfectly well known."

"Oh, yes," answered Hugh; "it's well known all right. All the old men
know about it, but lots of the young men don't know anything at all
about it. They don't care much about those old stories. All they want
to do is to be riding horses; or maybe some of them, if they should
have a dollar or so, go off down to the Birch Creek and buy some whisky
with it."

"Well, I suppose it's too late to hear the story to-night; but
to-morrow night, if you feel like it, I'd like to have you tell us
those stories, Mason. You would like to hear them over again, wouldn't
you, Hugh?"

"Sure," said Hugh; "I'd like to mighty well."

"Me, too," said Tulare Joe, as he threw the stump of his cigarette into
the fire and rose to go to his blankets.



                              CHAPTER XI

                          TANNING A BUCKSKIN


When Joe learned that the camp was not to move the next day he told
Jack that here was his opportunity to tan his deer hide, and that after
the work of cutting and branding was over he would speak to McIntyre
about doing this job of tanning. There were men enough to do herd duty,
and the boys thought that in the few hours of daylight that remained
after the day's work was done they could get the skin in fair shape.

"Of course," said Joe, "we can't make a good job of it; an Indian has
all the time there is, and he does his tanning slowly and does it well.
We'll have to be satisfied with a rough job, but anyhow we can get the
hide fairly soft, and it can be worked on again later."

As soon as the outfit had got into camp in the afternoon, Joe went to
the cook tent and borrowed Frank's spade, and going down near to the
stream and choosing a place where the grass grew fairly thick, he began
to dig a hole considerably larger than a water bucket. When he had made
the hole a foot and a half deep, he got into it and tramped down the
soil on the bottom, scraping up anything that was loose and finally
leaving a fairly smooth and hard surface. While working at this, he
asked Jack to go to the wagon and bring the skin, and also the skull
of the deer, which was tied to one of the bows of the wagon near the
hide. Jack presently returned with both.

"I didn't know you had saved the skull, Joe," he said; "it looks as if
it had been partly cooked. Did you save it for the brains?"

"Just for that," was the reply. "You know, of course, that the brains
is a pretty important part of the operation of tanning. I did think I
might get the brains of a beef from some animal that we'd kill, but of
course we never could be sure of having a chance to do our tanning just
after the beef had been killed, so I thought I'd save this skull; and
to keep it from spoiling I stuck it in the ashes that night we skinned
the deer, and hauled some coals over it, and asked Frank not to throw
it away if he found it. It sort of cooked and dried during the night,
and doesn't seem to have spoiled a bit."

By this time the hole seemed to suit Joe. He took the deer's hide and
cut the string which bound it to the willow hoop, then began to fold
it--taking care not to break the skin--until he made it into a more or
less square package, flesh side out, somewhat less in size than the
bottom of the hole. He placed it in the bottom of the hole, and put on
it a rather heavy stone to hold it in position. Then, taking a bucket,
he went down to the stream and brought two or three bucketfuls of water
which he poured into the hole until it was almost full.

"This hole is close to the camp, and nothing is likely to disturb the
skin during the night," he said; "but the coyotes might find it, and
I don't mean to take any chances, so I'm going to cover it up. Maybe
Frank will lend us the tail gate of his wagon to put over it. I'll ask
him, anyhow."

The cook, on being appealed to, declined to lend the tail gate of the
cook wagon.

"Why don't you get the tail gate of the bed wagon and use that?" he
suggested.

Joe at once did so. He carried the end gate out and placed it over the
hole, and the boys put two or three heavy stones on it.

"Now," said Joe, "I need a sort of beam to use in scraping the hair off
this hide, and I reckon one of these young cottonwoods will do. I wish
we had a tree right here to rest it against."

"What's the matter with that box elder over there with the low fork? If
you make your pole long enough you can rest it in that fork."

"Right you are," said Joe. "I'll go down and get one of those young
trees and you'd better come along, because that green wood is pretty
heavy, and if we cut a long pole it'll take us both to pack it over."

The grove was only fifty yards away, and Joe soon felled a young tree,
which was six or eight inches through at the butt. Cutting fifteen feet
off the larger end, he and Jack carried it over and soon wedged it in
the fork of the box elder, only a short distance from the hole where
the hide was soaking.

"Now," Joe explained, "I've got to peel this stick, because any little
lumps on the bark are likely to make us cut the hide."

They set to work and in a few minutes the lower five or six feet of the
pole was free from its bark and shone white in the sun. They looked
over the wood, and shaved down one or two little lumps until the
surface of the peeled wood was quite smooth.

"There," exclaimed Joe; "that's all we can do to-night. My scraper is
in my bed. I tied that up to the bows of the wagon until it got dry;
and to-morrow, after our work is done, it won't take long to scrape the
hair from the hide and to put on the brains. I'd like to have a day
more to work on the thing, but we've got to do the best we can in the
time we have."

The next day, after the work was over and the horses turned out, Joe
repaired to the hole where the hide was soaking, and Jack went with
him. Again they had recourse to the cook, who, after some grumbling,
gave them half a dozen nails.

When the tail gate of the wagon was removed, the boys discovered that
much of the water in the hole had soaked away into the soil, and the
top of the stone on the deer hide was above the water. The hide,
however, was still covered. After the stone had been removed and the
hide taken out, they found it perfectly soft and pliable.

Joe carried it down to the stream and thoroughly rinsed it there,
thus removing all the earth which clung to it. When he took it from
the water he squeezed from it all the moisture that he could, then
carried it up and hung it over the leaning pole, hair side out, and
head toward the upper end. Now, with a stone, he drove a couple of
nails into the pole and to them he fastened the head of the hide. Then
he produced his scraper. Jack at once recognized it as a part of the
deer's foreleg--the double bone that runs down from the elbow to meet
the deer's wrist--what is usually called the knee. Of course Jack
knew that in the hoofed animals the bone of the upper arm, which is
called the humerus, is altogether hidden within the body and that the
joint of the foreleg close to the body corresponds with man's elbow.
Joe's scraper was the bone running from this elbow down to the deer's
knee, and Jack was interested and somewhat astonished--for he had never
before thought about the matter--to see what a splendid natural scraper
this bone made. He said as much to Joe.

"Didn't you ever notice," asked Joe, "how often an Indian uses some
natural and common thing for a tool in his work? I've seen that often,
and it always made me wonder. Now you see this tool, in its curved
shape and with that thin edge there of one of the bones, makes a great
scraper. It's almost like a drawing-knife; and then look at the two
handles on the ends--ain't that fine? The Indian that showed me how to
tan, scraped the edge of his bone and made it a little sharper than
this one is; but I reckon this will do all right; anyhow, we'll try. Of
course, if we hadn't saved this bone from the deer's leg, we could have
used a beef rib, or even the back of a knife; but this is the best and
handiest thing I know of."

"That seems to me about a perfect tool for this work," declared Jack;
"and I wonder at it too."

Joe took the leg bone of the deer and standing before the skin which
hung over the pole, flesh side to the wood, began with long even
strokes to scrape the hair from it. To Jack's surprise this came away
readily and evenly, leaving the naked hide smooth and white. From time
to time Joe shifted the skin, and gradually removed the hair from the
whole hide down to the very edges, though on the head and ears the
work was more raggedly done than on the neck, back and sides. Before
very long, though, the skin was absolutely hairless, and as white on
the hair side as it was white on the flesh side when Joe turned it
over. It was quite free from superfluous tissue, for the boys had
cleaned it well before stretching it.

After the hair had all been removed, Joe took the hide down to the
stream and gave it a thorough washing, kneading it together as if to
get out of it all the animal matter that had been left on it, and
finally, weighing it down with stones, left it there to soak. Meanwhile
he sent Jack back to the cook tent to bring a wash basin with a little
warm water; and when Jack returned, he found that Joe had split the
deer's skull. In a moment the brains of the animal were turned into the
warm water, where they were crushed and pulverized by the boys' fingers
until the water was all whitish and looked like soapsuds with a few
white particles floating in it.

"Really, these brains ought to be heated for a while over the fire,"
explained Joe; "but we haven't much time to fuss, and maybe the hot
water will answer just as well. What we want to do is to get these
brains as fine as we can, and then we must build a little fire and warm
the mixture again, and then put it on the skin."

They got together a few small sticks and chips and built a little fire;
and then set the basin on it, having a bucket partly full of water
close by.

Then Joe went down to the stream where he had left the hide soaking,
and after shaking it about in the water to free it from any sediment
that might have caught on it, he lifted it up and brought it to the
grass near the fire, and then folded it over to make a long narrow
piece. He took hold of one end, and Jack of the other, and they twisted
it and wrung out almost all the water. It was surprising to Jack now
how little the hide looked like the deer skin of an hour before. Two or
three times the hide was unfolded and stretched out and then doubled
again and the boys put all the power of their arms into the wringing
process.

"The best way," said Joe, "would be to knot the skin around the limb of
a tree and twist it just as hard as a man can twist; but we can't do
that now."

When all the water possible had been wrung from the skin, it was
unfolded, and Joe told Jack to help him stretch it and get it again to
something like its natural shape. They worked for some time at this,
pulling against each other, across and sidewise of the skin, and one
hand pulling against the other at the edges; then, when the skin had
again taken somewhat the shape of the dried hide of the day before, it
was spread on the grass as flat as possible.

Now Joe added water to the brains in the basin which were just
steaming, until he had increased the quantity of the mixture about
three times; and carrying the basin over to where the hide lay, he
began to take the fluid in his hand and to spread it smoothly over the
hair side of the skin, rubbing it in as he did so.

When Jack saw what was being done, he took hold also, and soon the
whole skin was covered with the mixture, which was rubbed in and
kneaded with the knuckles, especially near the edges of the hide and
about the head and neck.

"They say," explained Joe, "that the main part of the tanning is
the way you put the brains on, and the way you work the thing dry
afterward."

By this time the sun was getting low.

"I don't know whether we'll be able to finish this chore to-night or
not," Joe said. "After the brains have been put on, it ought to be
left in the sun to be set up and then it ought to be dried; but I'm
afraid we can't do that. We'll have to quit now before very long."

After the brains had been thoroughly applied, Joe began to fold and
roll up the skin until it was in a tight ball; and then he sat down and
made a cigarette.

"That's about as far," he said, "as we'll be able to go to-night.
Before we go to bed I'll spread the skin out, and to-morrow we'll have
to let it dry in the wagon. I'm afraid it won't be much of a job of
tanning: it's had to be done too fast and spread out over too much
time. If we were going to lie over here to-morrow, I'd give it a good
soaking in water and then start in to work it soft and dry; but that's
something that'll have to wait."

This was what had to be done; and the next morning when Jack looked
into the cook wagon where the hide was again tied to the bows, he saw
that it had greatly shrunk, and though it had the color of buckskin, it
looked almost like a piece of rawhide.

A few days later, Jack and Joe, having two or three hours which they
could devote to finishing their tanning, again set to work at the
hide. As soon as they came into camp, Joe looked up a place in the
shade where the water was deep, and put the hide there to soak. Then,
when they were able to get at it, they gave it a thorough washing and
rinsed it many times in the water, and then took it over to a nearby
tree which had low branches on it. Here one end of the hide was doubled
about a branch and the other fastened to a short stout stick, and first
Joe, later relieved by Jack, twisted the hide rope against the branch
until the water was again all out of it. Once more it was taken down
as before and pulled and stretched on its edges until it was brought
back nearly to its natural shape. Then Joe, taking off his shoes and
stockings, sat down on the ground and began to pull the hide this way
and that, often throwing the hide over his feet and slowly dragging it
over the feet toward the body. He rubbed the hide between his hands,
shifting the hands constantly, and with a motion as if he wished to
break up the fiber of the skin. Jack watched him and when he saw the
purpose of this manipulation sat down beside him and helped.

"The northern Indians, Joe," he said, "have what seems to me a better
plan than that--they have a rope running from the top of a pole down to
a pin in the ground and pull the hide back and forth over that. Or I've
seen them tie up a buffalo shoulder-blade with a big hole cut in it to
a pole, and, passing the deer skin right through the hole in the bone,
they pull it backward and forward through that. It's a labor-saving
scheme; I guess very likely it doesn't make quite as good buckskin as
your way, but it saves a whole lot of elbow-grease."

"I should think it would," answered Joe; "and what's the matter with
trying that rope scheme right now? I'll go to my saddle and get my rope
and we can drive a pin in the ground here; and between you and me I
believe we can soften that thing in pretty short order."

While Joe had gone for the rope, Jack whittled a long sharp pin notched
at the larger end; and after Joe had fastened the rope to a branch
above, they drew it tight down to the pin and fixed it there securely,
and in a few moments were hard at work softening the hide by pulling
it backward and forward against the rope. It was extraordinary how
soft and limp the hide became and how soon it began to look like real
buckskin. When the hide was quite dry and they took it off and felt it,
Jack congratulated Joe on having done a mighty good job of tanning.

That night in camp he showed the buckskin to Hugh, who praised it
highly, and said that when smoked it would make part of a good shirt.

"You've got to smoke it, though," said Hugh, "or else every time it
gets wet it will stiffen up and be just like a board, and will have to
be rubbed soft again."

"Oh, I know, of course, it's no good until it has been smoked," replied
Joe; "but in this camp we've got to do our tanning when we can, and
there won't be any chance to smoke it until the next time we lie over
somewhere."

"Well," suggested Hugh, "why don't you wait until you get your other
buckskin? Then you can sew them together to make a kind of bag, and
build a small smoke and fix your bag up over the fire so that the smoke
will go into the mouth of the bag."

"That would be a good idea," said Joe. "I guess we'll wait for our
other buckskin first."



                              CHAPTER XII

                            INDIAN STORIES


The next day was one of hard work--cutting cattle and branding
calves; but as the number of cows in this bunch was small, the work
of separating the brands and branding the calves was not so great as
might have been expected from the number of cattle to be worked. There
was an unusual number of strays, as the boys had noticed for several
days past, and these were all turned into the big bunch which McIntyre
proposed to send over to the home range on the Pick Ranch.

So it happened that night that the boys were less tired than after
an ordinary day's work. Supper came early and they lounged about the
fire talking and smoking, for the evening was cool and the warmth of
the fire pleasant. A sharp shower of rain had fallen in the middle of
the night before, more or less rousing the sleepers, who had hurried
about looking up their slickers which they spread over their blankets.
The early morning was clear and bright, but cool, and the higher hills
in the distance showed that there the rain had been snow, for they
were white for a long distance below their summits. The cool weather
contributed something to the ease of the day's work, and during the
morning there was less dust than usual, although by midday all the
moisture had dried, and the powdery clouds of dust were as suffocating
as they usually are when cattle are being handled.

Jack had not forgotten Mason's promise to tell him John Monroe's story
of the movements of the Blackfeet tribes in early days; and not long
after supper he spoke to him about this. Mason was slow to respond,
declaring that Hugh Johnson probably knew the story better than he, and
could tell it if he would. But after some persuasion Mason began.

"Well, according to old John Monroe, the way I remember what he told
me, it was like this:

"The old men say that a long time ago, in the time of our grandfathers,
or great-grandfathers, or even back before that, the Blackfeet
people used to live out in the timber country away east of the Rocky
Mountains. In that land they were at war with people, who fought with
them and troubled them. Game was hard to get, for their only weapons
were arrows pointed with bits of stone and with these weapons it was
hard for them to kill food. They had never been a people that ate fish,
but believed that all animals and all birds were fit for food and could
be eaten.

"John said that the attacks of their enemies and the difficulty of
getting food were the things that made them move from that lower
country up closer to the mountains. He says that when he was a little
boy, and afterward when he was larger, he used to hear in the lodge
the talks between his mother and an old Blood Indian named Su' ta ne.
This old man may have been some sort of relation to John, but about
that I don't know. At all events, Su' ta ne was then very old, and the
time he used to talk about was when he was a little boy. Su' ta ne had
heard his father speak of the trouble that they used to have down in
the timber country, and said that it was in his father's boyhood that
they began to move westward, traveling up the Saskatchewan or some of
the rivers that flow into it. Su' ta ne said that it was when he was
a little boy that they first saw the Rocky Mountains; this, according
to John, must have been a long time ago. John must be now sixty or
sixty-five years old, and he said that Su' ta ne was very old when he
used to hear him talk about this. If we say that John heard it fifty
years ago and that Su' ta ne was born when his father was thirty, it
carries the beginning of the movement back a hundred and thirty or a
hundred and forty years, which, according to my guess, would be about
1745 or 50, and I reckon that was a long time before any white man got
into the country where those people used to live. Maybe, though, it was
a good deal longer ago than that. I guess all John meant was that it
was long, long ago, and when Su' ta ne said that it was in his father's
time that they began to move toward the mountains, he may have meant
only that this move was before he knew anything."

"I guess you're right there, Jack," said Hugh. "Indians are mighty
weak on dates, after they get back farther than they themselves can
remember."

"Yes," went on Mason, "I don't believe it's any use to try to fix a
date. It's bound to be guesswork. Anyhow, old John said that Su' ta
ne, when he described the country that they lived in, said it was
mostly timbered, with stretches of prairie among the timber--something
like big parks, I reckon.

"It was in Su' ta ne's time, in his young days, as I understood, that
the Blackfeet, who had been slowly drifting westward, at last reached
the mountains. When they got to the rough country they found there
lots of game of all kinds, and found it very much easier to get close
to than it ever had been before. So they thought that the change they
had made was a mighty good one; and that's the way they changed from
a timber living people to a mountain people. It was a good while
after this that they got horses and began to travel around out on
the prairie. The old men used to tell John that the time they first
ventured out on the prairie was when they began to travel along the old
trail which still runs north and south along the mountains. Of course,
you know the old Red River cart trail, Hugh, and very likely you too,
Jack."

"Yes," replied Hugh, "I know it; but I don't believe son here has ever
been on it."

"Old John Monroe believes thoroughly in this story, and he naturally
would, because it comes from his mother, and his relations, but he says
that all the old Indians in that northern country believe in it just
the same as he does. He believes that the Crees and the Blackfeet are
relations, though he doesn't pretend that they are very close relations.

"Well, according to old John, a while after the Indians got up close
to the mountains there, up North, the white man came into the country;
and when the white men came, the Indians began to get guns. Before that
they had begun to get horses, maybe through the Kutenais on the other
side of the mountains; and when they got guns and horses they began
to take courage and to venture out on the prairie. They began to find
out that they could fight their enemies and take care of themselves.
Besides this, they had learned that while there were no horses north of
them, the tribes to the south had horses; and of course that led to
their going more and more to war, because everybody wanted horses. They
were about the most valuable things that a man could get hold of. These
journeys to war and their fightings led to the Indians moving south
along the foot of the mountains, and out on the prairie.

"Now of course I'm just telling you what John Monroe told me. I don't
know anything about it myself."

"Well," said Hugh, "I guess that's gospel; and it always seemed to me
that the names that the Blackfeet have for the different points of the
compass were very good evidence that the Blackfeet did come from the
north. The Blackfeet word for north means back, or behind, direction;
while the word for south means ahead, or before, direction. It seems to
me mighty natural that if people were traveling they should call the
direction that they had come from, behind direction, and the one that
they were going to, ahead direction. Of course the two words for east
and west they called down direction and up direction. That doesn't mean
anything more than that the streams that they crossed were flowing down
hill toward the lower land; while they were flowing from the higher
land which lay to the west."

"I never heard that before," said Mason. "That's mighty funny; and it
certainly seems to back up John Monroe's story about their having come
from the north."

"Did John tell you," asked Hugh, "about the story of the people getting
separated?"

"Yes," Mason answered. "He told me that all the Piegans believe that
somewhere off in the southern country, there's a tribe of Piegans--at
least a tribe of people who speak the same language that the Piegans
talk--and they believe that those people are a part of the Piegan
tribe. I don't just remember how they got separated, but I do recall
that it was when they were crossing a big water that the separation
took place. Do you remember it, Hugh?"

"Yes," said Hugh. "This was the story, as I heard it. A long time ago
a big camp of people, the whole Piegan tribe, were traveling south
and they came to a big river and started to cross it on the ice. Of
course, in those days the tribe was a big one, and when they marched
they were strung out over a long distance. Some of the people had
already crossed the river; some were yet on the ice; but most of them
had not yet come to the stream. As they were going along, a child saw
frozen in the ice a buffalo horn that was shiny and pretty and cried
for it. Some old woman began to knock it loose, and while she was doing
that, suddenly the ice in the river broke up. Pretty much all the
Indians on the ice were drowned; and now there was a big wide swollen
stream full of running ice separating the two portions of the tribe.
Of course the people could not sit down on the bank and wait for the
stream to go down, and starve to death. Each party had to start out and
look for food, and the two parties never met again. So it is that the
north Indians still believe that somewhere off to the south there are
a lot of Blackfeet living as a tribe. Men say that in their travels,
either on the war-path or visiting other tribes, they have met people
who speak a language so much like their own that they could understand
them. Nobody really knows anything about it."

"Well," said Jack, "that's a great story. Wouldn't it be fun to go
around among the Indian tribes and try to hunt up those Blackfeet and
tell them about their relations up North?"

"Yes," added Mason, "that's a good story. I remember now that that's
just about what John Monroe told me; but I couldn't have told it the
way Hugh did."

"It's a good story," said Hugh, "but it's a story that a good many
tribes of Indians tell. I've heard the Cheyennes tell the same story;
and the Sarcees, and the Crows. Now I wonder if it isn't just some old
legend founded on something that maybe really did happen once, but that
has been adopted by half a dozen tribes that don't seem to be any kin
to each other, as far as we know?

"One time, when I was younger and heard this same story told by two
tribes, I thought maybe I'd found the people that used to belong to the
Blackfeet; but I reckon that's not so. You know, if you've traveled
around, that you'll find lots of different tribes that have the same
story and each tribe thinks the story belongs to it. Nobody knows where
that story originally came from, nor to whom it actually belongs."

"Say, Hugh," Mason asked, "did you ever hear that story told by John
Monroe, about the first time the north Indians saw the white people?"

"Yes," replied Hugh, "I've heard that story; but a good while ago, and
I don't feel sure that I could tell it. Do you remember it well enough
to give it to us?"

"Well, I don't know that I do; but, if you'd like, I'll try it."

"Pitch in," said Hugh; and McIntyre added, "Go it, Mason."

"This happened a long time ago, old John Monroe said, but how long, of
course, I can't tell, any more than he could; but, according to the
story, this was the first time the Blackfeet ever saw any white people.
John said that old Su' ta ne told him the story and Su' ta ne said that
his grandfather was one of the Blackfeet people. It happened when the
Blackfeet were living up North, as I've just told you about. Here's the
story:

"A party of Indians were traveling south, and while they were going
through a big patch of timber on the north of some big river, they saw
something that they could not understand. It looked like beaver work
where beavers had been cutting down trees, but when they looked at the
stumps and the cuttings they could see that no beaver that they knew
anything about could possibly have opened its mouth wide enough to cut
such chips. They talked and wondered about this and finally concluded
that the tree must have been cut down by some mysterious animal. You
know the Blackfeet are great fellows for believing that there are
strange animals and people living under the water, and they thought
that this work must have been done by under-water animals.

"Presently they came to a place where one of the trees that had been
cut down, after having its branches lopped off, had been dragged along
the ground. They followed the trail, anxious to find out what was
happening, and as they followed it they saw that all through the timber
there were many other trails like this, and that presently they all
came together in one big trail, and in this trail they found tracks
that looked like the tracks of people, but they were not shaped like
the track of a human foot, and besides that, at the back of this track
there was a deep mark.

"Well, they followed the trail which was now getting to be a big one,
and presently they came to where they could see that the timber ended
and there was an open spot beyond, and as they looked out through the
timber they saw some animals walking around on their hind legs. For a
minute they thought that they were bears playing with sticks, but then
they saw that these looked like people, and that they were lifting up
logs and putting them in a great pile. As they looked, they saw that
some of these animals had a great deal of hair or wool on their faces;
they seemed to be naked, for they wore no robes. Some had red bodies
and some black ones. So they saw that they could not be people. As
they talked about it, they concluded that these were certainly some
under-water animals, but they wondered what they could be doing with
these sticks.

"They were frightened by what they saw, and fearing that these animals
might discover them and hurt them, they finally started away and went
back to their own country without being seen. When they reached home
they told their story and the people who heard it could not understand
it, for they were told of something that was wholly outside of their
own experiences. Here were people who were naked, who had red bodies,
or again were dark colored everywhere, except for a red stripe around
the body and a red tail.

"The story was so strange that pretty much all the men in the camp
wanted to know more about it--to see this wonderful sight for
themselves; and so quite a party started back to the place. When they
reached the open part of the timber, these mysterious animals were
still at work there. The head man of the Blackfeet must have been a
pretty plucky fellow, for he ordered all his party to stay where they
were, and said that he would go out and meet these animals and try
to find out something about them. But he told his men that if these
strange creatures attacked him, they must come out and help him.

"That Indian sure had plenty of sand. He walked down toward these
people; and when they saw him, one of them walked up to him and stuck
out his hand and took the Indian's hand and moved it up and down. The
Indian looked at the white man and at the white man's hand, but he had
no idea what this meant, and did nothing. Presently other white men
came up to him, and the Indian discovered that they were people like
himself, except that they had different voices and different colored
skin and hair.

"After a while, when the Indians in the timber saw no harm had come to
their chief, they came out a few at a time and went down toward the
white people. The white people talked to them and made signs to them,
but the Indians could not understand what they meant. At last, however,
the whites managed to make some of the Indians understand that they
wanted them to go into the house with them, and a number of them went
in; and as some time went by without anything terrible happening, all
the Indians began to take courage.

"In this house there were a great many wonderful things. The white
people carried knives in their belts and showed the Indians how these
would cut. The Indians were nearly tickled to death with the knives.
Then a great big white man showed them an ax, and while they stood by
he cut a big log in two in a very short time; and when the Indians saw
the chips fly they began to understand the strange beaver work that
they had seen.

"One of the white men took down from the wall something that the
Indians thought was a long, straight stick but when the man showed it
to them they could see that while part of it was made of wood a part
was made of a hard black stone. The white man kept making signs about
this stick, but they didn't know what he meant. Pretty soon the man
took a white cow's horn, and out of it poured some black sand into
his hand and poured this into a hole at the end of the stick. Then he
made a little ball of grass and pushed this into the hole with another
stick; then out of a bag he took something that was round and heavy
and put that into the hole, and pushed down some more grass; then he
poured some of the black sand into the side of the stick. The Indians
watched him do all these things, and of course had no idea as to what
it all meant. After he had finished doing these things, the white man
made signs to the Indians and made a great noise with his mouth, and
pointed to the stick. He put the stick to his shoulder, holding it out
in front of him, and made motions of many kinds. Presently he gave the
stick to one of the Indians, and put his finger on a little piece of
stone sticking out from beneath it. When the Indian touched this under
part, the stick made a terrible noise and a big smoke, and flew out of
the Indian's hands, and he nearly fell down.

"All the Indians were very much scared, and some of them fell down, but
all the white men laughed and nodded, and made signs, but of course the
Indians did not understand them.

"Now the white man picked up the stick from the ground where it had
fallen and again took the horn of black sand and did the same things
to the stick as before, but this time the Indians all stood away from
him. They didn't know what was going to happen. After the white man
had finished doing these things, he persuaded them to come out of
doors with him. Then he sat down on the ground and put the stick to
his shoulder, pointing it toward a log that was lying on the ground.
Again the terrible noise was heard, but the white man didn't let go the
stick. He held it in his hand. Then he got up and walked over to the
log and showed the bullet hole, and pushed a little stick into it. Then
he loaded the gun again.

"By this time the Indians were beginning to understand the power of
this stick; and at last, after the white man had loaded the gun again
and encouraged the Indians, he took one of them close to the log and
showed him how to point the gun and how to pull the trigger. The Indian
fired and hit the log. I reckon when he found that he had hit it he
thought that he was one of the biggest men in the country.

"Well, after a while the Indians and the white men got to be pretty
friendly. The Indians could see that knives and axes and copper cups,
to say nothing of guns, were a heap better than anything they had; and
the white men on the other hand wanted the furs and dresses that the
Indians wore. They traded for them, and after a while the Indians and
the white people got to know each other pretty well, and commenced to
trade regularly.

"And that's the story as I heard it."

"You told that mighty well, Mason," commented Hugh; "a great deal
better than anybody else could tell it, except perhaps old John Monroe,
or some of those old Piegans."

"But I want a lot of explanation," said Joe. "What about those fellows
with the red tails? I don't savvy that a bit. I can understand about
the red bodies, because I suppose that means they wore red shirts, but
what about the red tails?"

"Well, Joe," replied Hugh, "you've never been out in that northern
country or else you wouldn't ask a question like that. The old
voyageurs and people in the North always used to wear a red sash tied
around their waist with the long ends hanging down in front. When they
were working, to get these ends out of the way, they used to pass them
around their body, and then under the sash, so that they hung down
behind."

"Well," laughed Joe, "that certainly is the limit."

"And," Jack said, "just think of their taking a tree chopped down
with an ax for one cut down by a beaver; and their not knowing the
foot-prints of a person wearing a shoe!"

"Sho," drawled Hugh; "haven't I told you time and again that we all
of us measure up things by what we ourselves have seen, and we find
it hard to believe anything that's outside the range of our own
experience. If there was any way of proving it, I'd be willing to bet a
good horse and saddle and bridle that if we'd been there we'd all have
acted just the way those Indians did."



                             CHAPTER XIII

                              BIG WOLVES


It happened the next day that Jack was riding circle on the far side
of the ground that was being covered. Almost all day he rode without
seeing any cattle, and it was well along in the afternoon when he came
up to the top of a ridge and stopped his horse just before he reached
its crest. Here he dismounted and, walking up, peeped over to see what
there might be on the other side. This of course was not at all what
most cowboys would have done, but the habits of caution taught Jack by
Hugh in the early days of his travels in the West were too firmly fixed
to be overcome, and when alone Jack always looked over a hill in this
way.

Rather to his surprise he saw down in a little flat, five hundred yards
away, a small bunch of cattle--perhaps eighteen or twenty head. This
was a surprise, partly because he had seen none during the day, but
chiefly because the cattle were close bunched, as if brought together
by a herder. For an instant he did not comprehend what this meant, but
then his eye caught two gray animals--big wolves--which were slowly
walking about the herd. Evidently the cattle had come together for
protection, and were standing there, heads out, ready to repel an
attack if it should be made on them. Jack felt that he ought to ride
down and drive off the wolves and bring the cattle in, but, on the
other hand, he was very curious to see what the wolves would do. More
than once he had seen coyotes trying to take from a cow a young calf
that was by her side, but this was the first time he had seen big
wolves round up cattle. He waited, therefore, to see what would happen,
thinking that after a little while the wolves would probably give up
the job and go off in search of some single animal which they could
run down and kill, as he had once seen them do on his way out from the
railroad to his uncle's ranch.

For two or three minutes nothing happened, and the wolves continued
to walk around the bunch. Then, suddenly, one of them made a dash at
the bunch of cattle, going so close to them that Jack expected to see
the wolf caught on a steer's horns and thrown into the air. When the
wolf rushed up, the bunch of cattle seemed to tremble; that is to say,
there was apparently a slight movement by every individual in the herd,
and Jack recalled similar movements which he had seen years before in
British Columbia among a school of salmon far below the surface of the
water, when some one darted down toward the fish a spear which nearly
reached them. It seemed to him that every animal yielded a little, yet
no one of them perhaps moved more than six or eight inches.

A moment or two later one of the wolves made another rush, which was
followed by a similar slight movement of the bunch; and then the wolves
continued their slow march about the cattle. This happened several
times, but at last when the wolf dashed toward the bunch, one animal--a
full-grown one--burst out of the herd and started to run. In an instant
the wolf was behind it, between it and the other cattle; and a moment
later the second wolf had joined the first one, and they loped quietly
along after the single animal. Presently, running side by side, they
drew up close to its heels, and then, separating, one of them made a
vicious snap at the cow's leg while the other sprang and caught it in
the flank; and in an instant, too quickly for Jack to see how it was
done, the beast was on its side and the wolves were tearing at its
belly. Jack jumped to his horse and rode over the ridge, charging down
toward the wolves. They paid no attention to him until he was within
less than a hundred yards, and then, suddenly looking up, they galloped
away. He fired four or five shots after them, but without result.

The animal that they had pulled down was a two-year-old heifer, big,
strong and fat. Her whole flank was torn out, and she was dead. There
was nothing to be done with her. The brand was not one with which Jack
was familiar, and he thought she was a stray from some distant ranch.
He drove the remaining cattle slowly toward camp, and after a time met
some of the other boys bringing in another bunch, and turned his in
with theirs.

That night, after supper, he talked with Hugh about the wolves and the
harm they did, and also about the tremendous power that seemed to be
wrapped up in one of those not very large hides. Hugh had seen wolves
pull down cattle, and had a great respect for the way in which these
animals were able to supply themselves with food.

"You know more about big wolves, son, than most men do," said Hugh.
"You've picked up what we can all see on the prairie here; and, besides
that, you've had a tame wolf of your own. I reckon that you found,
after you got to know him well, that your wolf was just nothing but a
big dog--bigger and stronger, and ten times more enduring, of course,
than any dog you ever saw, but still just pretty nearly plain dog. Of
course he and his father and grandfathers for a good many generations
had always been wild dogs, but up to within a few generations wolves
were no more afraid of people--in this country, I mean--than they were
of any other animals. You see in old times Indians never chased wolves,
or frightened them at all. They did kill some, but they didn't kill 'em
in a way to scare 'em. I reckon I've told you already--if not I, the
Blackfeet have told you--about how the Indians used to catch wolves in
old times. If the Blackfeet haven't described it to you, you surely
must have had some stories told you that explained how they caught 'em."

"Why, yes, Hugh," Jack replied, "I remember one such story; but I never
thought to ask much about how they caught wolves--they spoke about
setting snares around the _pis'kun_ and catching the wolves in this
way, but I didn't ask much about it."

"That's just what they used to do. You see, there were always holes
left in the _pis'kun_ walls, mostly small holes, and through
these holes the wolves and coyotes used to go into the _pis'kun_
to feed on the carcasses or the offal that was left there after the
butchering. Well, the people liked wolf skins: they used them for
robes, or for hats, or to cut up into wide strips to sew on the edges
of a buffalo robe to make it look nice; and so around these holes they
used to set loops of sinew with a running knot. When the wolf was
squeezing through a hole he would put his head through one of these
nooses and, drawing it up, would choke to death in no time at all.
Catching wolves in this way didn't scare 'em and they were always very
tame."

"But, Hugh, I should think that after a while all the wolves in a
certain section of the country would have been killed off."

"Not a bit of it," declared Hugh. "Wolves were great travelers and used
to follow the buffalo around, especially in winter. When buffalo were
plenty they really didn't have to do any hunting to amount to anything;
they would just wait around the edge of the herd. Animals were
constantly getting hurt--bulls were fighting; calves getting trampled
on; buffalo of all sizes were getting drowned when crossing the stream,
or being mired down in some soap hole. I tell you, the wolves lived fat
in those days, especially along the Missouri River. Mr. Sturgis told me
one time about reading in the book that Lewis and Clark wrote, telling
the story of their trip up the Missouri River, that about one buffalo
pound they came to, wolves were so plenty and so gentle that one of the
men killed one with a kind of spear that they carried. The wolf let the
man walk right up to him."

"Yes, I remember that story," said Jack. "I remember it because the
book says that the man killed the wolf with an espontoon. I didn't know
what that was, and it took me quite a little time to find out. It seems
it's a kind of halberd--a sort of cross between a spear and an ax.
Anyhow, it had a long handle."

"Well, of course," commented Hugh, "when a man can get close enough to
an animal to stick a spear into it, the animal isn't what you'd call
shy."

"I should say not," answered Jack.

"Well," Hugh said, "I was talking about the wolf being a big dog. You
know, I reckon, that wolves and dogs will cross."

"Yes; I've read that in books a good many times; and the books talk
about Indian dogs being like wolves. I remember the first day I came
out to Swift Water, the time that Uncle Will killed the bear, I saw a
coyote, and when I saw him, I thought it was an Indian dog, and that
there must be a camp of Indians somewhere near."

"I remember," chuckled Hugh; "I remember that day well. You certainly
had a lot of excitement that day, considering how old you were, and
where you came from."

"Didn't I! I tell you, those early days were mighty exciting."

"More so than anything that's likely to happen to you again out in this
country," drawled Hugh.

"You were saying that the wolves were dogs; and I know that's just what
Swiftfoot always seemed to be. He would get scared like a dog; when
he was pleased he would wag his tail and lay back his ears and show
his teeth like a dog; if I took him out in the country and turned him
loose, he hunted like a dog; and finally, when he got lost and could
not see me, he became confused and lost his wits like a dog."

"Well, I've seen a lot of half-breed wolves, and if these half-breeds
get away, and become wild, they're worse than the wolves themselves;
they're a good deal smarter, and it seems as if they were hungrier,
and they certainly have plenty of courage. I never saw many of these
half-breeds that had gone wild, but I do remember one bunch down near
the Dismal River, in Nebraska, that certainly made a lot of trouble.
Old Lute North killed a number of 'em, and I got the story from him,
and got it straight, and if you'd care to hear it, I'll tell it to you."

"Sure, Hugh, I'd give anything to hear it."

"Well," said Hugh, "this is what Captain North told me. It didn't
happen so very long ago. It seems that one fall Major Frank North
brought up to the ranch at the head of the Dismal River a big mongrel
dog that some one in Columbus had given him. The dog was big and black,
that's about all you could say about him. His hair was longish--not so
long as that of a Newfoundland, but a good deal longer than that of a
Great Dane. In fact, he looked as if he might be a cross between those
two breeds.

"About the middle of that winter this dog went off from the ranch one
night with a big gray wolf, and the next morning Lute followed their
tracks in the snow for several miles, but could not find them. The dog
was never seen again, and Lute always believed that the wolves killed
him, for he saw places in the snow on the trail where the dog and a
wolf had fought.

"Next spring, Al Pratt, one of the cow punchers at the Cody and North
ranch, saw an old she-wolf traveling and seven puppies following her.
Four of these puppies were black, and three were gray. Al chased the
wolves and managed to get close enough to them to kill two of the black
ones. All through the summer the others were seen now and then, but
nobody could get near enough to get a shot at them. That fall Bill
Burke, another puncher, shot and killed one of the gray puppies, and
that winter a trapper poisoned the other gray ones. The only ones of
the family now left were the mother and two black puppies, but they
were a fearful trouble on the range. They would kill stock of all
kinds. They were just as ready to take a steer as a calf, and Lute told
me that one time he found where they'd killed a cow, a two-year-old and
a yearling in one day. They were very shy and always on the lookout,
and they seemed never to go back to the animal that they had killed for
a second meal, so it was impossible to poison them. Lute said, too,
that there was a band of six or eight coyotes traveling around behind
'em, and that after the wolves had eaten all they wanted when they
killed, then the coyotes had their chance.

"Lute told me that he hunted those wolves a good many days; and, of
course, bein' out riding all the time, and all the time on the lookout,
and bein' the kind of a shot he is, it seemed pretty sure that finally
he would get 'em.

"When he did get his shot, it was just by accident. He was hunting a
big black-tail deer, creeping along the ground and trying to get within
shot, when he saw one of the black half-breeds standing on a sand-hill
nearly a mile away. He watched him, and after a time the wolf lay down.
Then Lute began to hunt him, and I expect he did some mighty careful
hunting. Anyhow, he told me it took him a couple of hours to get to
the foot of the hill they were on. The hill was steep, and you may
guess something about what it is to climb one of those steep hills in
that sand. I reckon Lute was about out of wind when he stopped to get
his breath. He stood looking toward the top of the hill, when the old
mother wolf, who was lying in a sand blow-out, raised up and stood with
her fore feet on the bank looking down at him.

"There wasn't any time to think, and he jerked his rifle to his
shoulder and fired, and she disappeared. He scrambled up the hill as
fast as he could, and when he got to where he could look over, he could
see the two black wolves going down the side of the hill. They were
jumping up on their hind legs and looking back for their mother.

"As soon as Lute came in sight they began to run, and he shot at one
of them just as they were passing out of sight. A moment later one
of them came in sight again and Lute shot at him. That fellow kept
running for perhaps a quarter of a mile, and then settled down into a
walk, and Lute knew that he was hit. He sat and watched until the wolf
disappeared in some low sand-hills, and then went back to the blow-out
where he had seen the old wolf, and there she was. This hole was about
three feet deep and it was all Lute could do to lift her out. He said
she was the biggest wolf he'd ever seen. He now got his horse and went
after the wounded one. Finally he found him, and after running him a
couple of miles killed him. The other black one was never seen again
after that, and it's probable that Lute killed him with his second shot.

"Lute told me that he counted something like seventy head of cattle
that he knew they had killed that one winter. When Lute killed the old
mother and the black fellows, that bunch of coyotes was close to them.
He saw them run away from the hill. The black wolf looked just about
like a wolf, with a sharp nose and sharp ears. He measured seven feet
from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail."

"That's one of the most interesting stories I've ever heard, Hugh; and
people who don't know anything about animals, I expect, would hardly
believe it."

"That's so," said Hugh. "When you're talking to people about something
that they don't know anything about, they're likely to think that
you're stringing 'em. You see most of us measure up everything we hear
by what we've seen, or what we've heard and believe to be true; and
when we hear anything outside of that little narrow range, we're mighty
likely to think that people are lying to us."

"Of course, that's so," Jack assented. "I know sometimes back East I've
told about common everyday things that happened here, and the people
I was talking to thought at first that I was just inventing stories.
Have you seen a great many of these half-breed wolves? I mean crossed
between a dog and big wolves, not coyotes?"

"Yes," said Hugh; "in my time I've seen quite a number; but most of 'em
had been brought up at home with their mothers. They were always timid
and afraid of strangers, but they never did any particular harm around
the house, except maybe to kill chickens, or something like that. Of
course, a wolf--or a dog either, for the matter of that--always likes
to hunt; and if anything runs, it's bound to chase it. You recollect,
I reckon, some tame coyotes that Charley Powell had one while several
years ago, and don't you remember that he had to kill one of them
because it got into the way of killing his chickens?"

"That's so," answered Jack; "I remember that now. But I never heard
that those big wolves he and Bessie had ever did any harm."

"No," replied Hugh, "neither did I."

Tulare Joe, who had been sitting by listening to this talk, now asked a
question.

"Mr. Johnson, have you ever seen any black wolves in this country?"

"Not in this country; but way farther south I saw one once; and down
there they have red wolves, as you've probably seen yourself. I saw
black wolf skins out on the Coast."

"Yes," said Joe, "down in Texas I've seen red wolves myself, but it
didn't look to me as if they were as big as these gray wolves that we
have up in this country. Anyhow, down in the southern country most of
the animals like those we have up here seem much smaller: the deer are
smaller, and it seems to me that the wolves and the antelope don't run
so large. The jack-rabbits, though, are bigger; but then they're not
just like our jack-rabbits up here--they're some different."

By this time the fire was burning low and the boys were leaving it
to spread down their beds at different points on the prairie. The
discussion of wolves was given up. Hugh smoked a last pipe, and
presently they all went to bed.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                               A BAD MAN


As Jack and Joe and three or four of the older men lounged around the
fire a night or two after that, most of the younger boys having gone to
their blankets, McIntyre turned to Hugh.

"Who do you suppose I saw to-day on the range?" he asked.

Hugh looked up inquiringly.

"Claib Wood."

"What's he doing here?" asked Hugh. "I thought he'd been run out of the
country and had gone to stay."

"Oh, well," said McIntyre, "that's what most of us thought, I guess.
He got a warning from the people around here and from the stock
association that he'd do well to get out of the country; but I met him
to-day, and he said 'Howdy' to me as chirk as you please. I didn't have
any talk with him, and I watched him kind o' close, for I didn't know
what he might be up to. He never turned his head, though, after he
passed; just rode on across country, and I saw him going for a mile or
two before he got behind a hill."

"Well," drawled Hugh, "I reckon that this time he's not after calves.
Maybe he's come down here to go in to the railroad and see if he can't
get some money out of that wife of his. Since he quit home about
a year ago, she's been doing well, and has got quite a nice little
eating-house there in town. Maybe he's heard about that and has come
back to make her give up to him."

"If that's what he's after," said McIntyre, "it's an infernal shame.
I never had any use for these bad men that we used to have in the
country, but I do wish now that somebody a little worse than Claib
would come along and kill him off."

When Hugh and McIntyre had begun talking, Jack Mason was lying on the
ground close to the fire, seemingly asleep, but presently he opened his
eyes and then rose to his elbow and listened intently. After a time he
asked McIntyre if this was the Claib Wood who four or five years ago
used to be around Rawlins.

"Yes," said McIntyre; "he's the man--little, sawed-off fellow with
light brown hair and a brown mustache; good cow hand and mighty quick
with a gun."

"I reckon that's the man," returned Mason.

He said nothing more for a little while. Jack was about to ask some
question about the man, when Mason spoke again.

"I used to know Claib, but I haven't seen him for a good many years.
Which way did you say he was going, Mac?"

"Well," answered McIntyre, "when I saw him he was just riding across
the prairie, but from the way he was headed I judged that he was going
in to the railroad."

"What time was it you passed him?"

"About two or three o'clock this afternoon. If he was going to town
and rode fast, he'll be there by this time."

"Yes," Mason said, "so he will."

For a little while nothing more was said, and then Mason changed the
subject.

"Mac, I guess you'll have to give me my time," he said. "I've got to go
into town. I can't say sure when I'll be back, and I reckon maybe I'd
better quit."

"What's the matter with you?" asked McIntyre, severely. "Ain't you
satisfied? Ain't you bein' well treated? Anything wrong with the pay?"

"No; nothing wrong with the pay, nothing wrong with the treatment. Only
it just struck me that I've got some business to attend to in town, and
I reckon I'd better do it now than wait until the round-up's over."

"I hate to lose you, Jack," McIntyre said. "Can't you go in and attend
to your business and then come back? Take two or three days off. The
town ain't so big but what you can do everything you're likely to have
to do in the course of twenty-four or forty-eight hours."

"Well," Mason replied, "maybe that's better. I'd like it better, if it
suits you; only it don't seem just right for a man to take time off
right in the middle of the round-up, just to go into town after his
own affairs. So I thought, as I've got to go, maybe you'd rather have
me quit for good. Still, if you'll let me take three or four days off,
it'll be lots handier for me. I'll leave my horses here with the bunch,
and then come back when I get through."

"All right," agreed McIntyre. "Do it your own way."

"Good!" said Mason. "I may as well start now, and then I'll get into
town by daylight."

He rose from the fire and presently his cheery whistle was heard coming
over the prairie from the direction of the horse herd, and a little
later the men in the camp who were just dropping off to sleep heard him
throw the saddle on the horse and draw the latigos, and then came the
sound of hoofs, trotting off over the prairie and growing fainter and
fainter in the distance.

All night long Mason rode through the dark, under the clear stars. It
was nearly twenty miles to the wagon road, and after he had reached
that, it was more than twenty miles in to the railroad, but the sun
had not long risen when he trotted his tired horse down the straggling
street of the forlorn little town. As yet there was hardly a sign of
life there. Two or three pigs were rooting in piles of rubbish not far
from the road; and a starved-looking cayuse stood humped up at the end
of a picket-rope on a bit of prairie where once there had been grass
but which now was as bare as the palm of Mason's hand.

As Mason trotted along the street, the door of a house opened, and a
man came out carrying a bucket. Mason drew up his horse.

"Hello! Ross," he called.

"Why, hello! Jack," the man replied. "What are you doing down here? I
haven't seen you for a dog's age. Four or five years, isn't it, since
you were up in Rawlins?"

"Five years," said Mason; "and since then I've been away, up North, and
now I've drifted back again."

The two shook hands, and began to exchange news and experiences, each
telling the other more or less of what had happened to him since they
last parted.

"Well," said Ross, "how long are you going to be in town? I want to see
you before you go."

"I don't just know how long I'm going to be here; maybe for a day or
two. I've got some business I want to attend to here, and as soon as I
get through with that I'm liable to move out again. There ain't much to
hold me in this burgh."

"No," agreed Ross. "If I had any sort of a job in the open I'd tackle
that. By the way," he added, "did you know that Claib Wood was in town?
Seems to me your brother and Claib had some trouble at Rawlins that
winter we were all there."

Mason laughed.

"Sure they had some trouble; and just after it occurred Claib skipped.
I never had a chance to speak to him about it. I heard the other day
that he was in the country, but I didn't know that he was here in town."

"He is," said Ross; "and if I were you I'd look out for him. Claib was
drunk last night, and you know when he's drunk he's awful mean, and he
certainly is quick with a gun."

"So I always heard. He's quick with a gun, and he's mean; meaner, I
expect, when he's drunk, but mean enough at any time. Now when he shot
my brother in Rawlins, they hadn't had any words, or any quarrel. Rufe
told me when he got well that he never did know why Claib shot him, and
I always made up my mind that if I ever saw Claib I'd ask him."

"Well, Jack," cautioned Ross, "if I were you I wouldn't do that. I
wouldn't have any words with Claib Wood. You're too good a man to
quarrel with him, because if you do quarrel with him, you'll be liable
to get killed quick."

"Oh, I don't expect that it's time yet for me to pass in my checks; but
if I stay in town for twenty-four hours, and Claib is here, I can't
help running up against him somewhere, and I reckon he won't forget
whose brother I am."

"No," said Ross; "he won't; that's a sure thing. I'd like to have you
avoid him, if you can. Of course, you can't leave town because he's
here, and you can't hide because he's here; but I do hope you won't
quarrel with him, for he's mighty mean and mighty quick."

"I'll have to do the best I can," replied Mason. "I don't want to get
killed, and I don't want to have to kill anybody. See you later, Ross."

He swung into the saddle, and fifty yards farther on turned into the
livery barn where he unsaddled his horse, watered it, tied it in a
stall and gave it some hay.

At the little eating-place where he went for breakfast he had to wait
a long time before anything was cooked, but about the middle of the
morning he went back to Ross's house, where he had a pleasant and long
talk with him, renewing old times. It was nearly noon when he went up
the street again and entered the saloon. Half a dozen men were there.
One or two were sitting at card-tables poring over old newspapers;
two were playing a game of cards; and one was standing in front of the
counter talking to the bar-tender. A glass of liquor which seemed just
to have been filled rested on the counter directly in front of him. The
man standing there was Claib Wood. Mason walked quietly into the room
without receiving more than a casual glance from any one there, and was
standing close to the counter before Wood saw him.

"Well, I'm darned, if this ain't Jack Mason!" Wood exclaimed. "Where
did you come from?"

"Oh, I've been cutting little circles over the prairie between here
and the British line for five years now, Claib," Mason answered; "ever
since the last time I saw you in Rawlins, just before you shot Rufe. I
always wanted to ask you about that. How did you come to shoot him? You
didn't have any quarrel with him, so far as I heard."

"Say, now, what's the matter with you, Jack?" exclaimed Claib. "Are you
looking for some of the medicine that Rufe got?"

Mason laughed merrily.

"Not a bit, Claib. I'm not looking for anything, without it's a little
information. Of course I've heard of bad men that would shoot a fellow
down just for meanness; but I never saw one, and I was wondering if you
were that kind of man. I was wondering, for example, if I were to turn
around and walk to the door here, whether you would plug me before I
got there? Now, I don't know anybody who can tell me about that as well
as you."

Claib's eyes were bloodshot from his excesses of the night before, and
as Mason talked to him an ugly light seemed to glow in them and the
sneer of his face grew more pronounced. The two men were standing face
to face rather close together. Claib's right hand and Mason's left hand
toward the bar.

"See here, Jack," said Wood, "it looks to me like you're hunting for
trouble and trying to pick a quarrel with me, and I don't want nothing
of the kind. I come in here to attend to my own business, and I reckon
you'd better clear out and attend to yours, if you've got any."

"Sure, I've got some," replied Mason; "but when I saw you in here, I
thought we could have a little friendly talk, and maybe you'd tell me
why it was that you shot Rufe in Rawlins. As I say, I never could hear
that you had any quarrel."

"Well," said Claib--and his hand with a swiftness that the eye could
hardly follow, flew around to his hip; but it never reached the butt of
his pistol; for Mason with lightning speed shot forward his left hand
and caught Claib by the wrist, while with his right hand he seized the
glass of liquor resting on the bar and dashed it into Claib's face.
Then he wrapped both arms around him, and called to Ross who had just
stepped into the door.

"Take this man's gun and mine and keep them! This isn't going to be a
shooting-match."

Ross snatched both pistols from their holsters and stood back.

For a moment the men whirled around over the bare floor in a rapid
dance, and then Mason suddenly lifted Claib off the floor, held him for
an instant in the air above his head, and then threw him an astonishing
distance. The man's head and shoulder coming in contact with the
plastered wall burst a large hole in it and loosened some of the
weather-boarding on the outside of the building.

Several of the men hastened to Wood and picked him up, expecting to
find that his neck was broken. He was senseless and on feeling him they
found that his right arm and right collar-bone were broken and the
shoulder out of place. None seemed to feel much sympathy for him; he
was too well known.

"Now," said Jim Decker, the proprietor of the hotel, "who's going to
pay that man's doctor's bills, and who's going to pay for that plaster
that you've knocked off, Jack Mason?"

"Why," returned Mason, smiling, "there isn't any doctor in town, so
there can't be any doctor's bills; and as for that plaster, if you'll
take one of those old newspapers and tack it over the hole, that'll do
fine until cold weather comes. When cold weather comes, I'd put a board
over it, if I were you."

"Well," snorted Decker, "that's a great note! Coming in and breaking up
a man's furniture this way!"

Mason laughed.

"Charge it up to expenses," he said; "that's just one of the incidental
expenses of running a saloon."

Decker slouched away behind the counter, grumbling to himself.

By this time, applications of cold water had brought Wood to his
senses, but he was more or less dazed and confused. Jack Mason went
over and spoke to him.

"Claib, you've got some broken bones now, and you'll have to lie quiet
for a while. There isn't any doctor in town, but I reckon Ross and me
can fix you up so you'll be all right, if there's a place for you to
stay. Have you got any money?"

"Yes; I've got money enough. But what's the matter with you? Didn't you
just start a quarrel with me? And now I've got knocked out. Do you want
to mend me up again?"

"That's what," said Mason; "mend you up; and then if I ever have
trouble with you again, I won't stop at breaking your arm and
collar-bone. I'll break your neck and make it a sure thing that you
won't trouble this country any more; but don't let's talk about it now."

Three or four of the men carried Wood to the bedroom on the top floor
of the hotel, and Mason and Ross, with the help of the station-agent,
managed to set his arm in very good shape, to put the shoulder in
place and to bind the arm so that they would presumably do well. Then
Jack Mason had a long talk with Ross and the proprietor and made
arrangements for them to look after Wood until the railroad company's
surgeon could be got hold of.

During the afternoon, Claib had a good deal of fever, and at times
was delirious. Ross sat up with him during part of the night and was
relieved by Mason, and in the morning the patient was much better and
quite rational.

About the middle of the morning Mason came into the room, where Claib
was alone.

"Well, Claib," he said, "I see you're better and I reckon now that
you'll get along all right. It won't take long for your bones to knit.
I'm going off now, but I thought I'd come in and have a little talk
with you before I left. You're a pretty mean man, and you're pretty
quick with your gun, and a pretty good cowboy. After you shot Rufe in
Rawlins I always made up my mind that I'd have a talk with you if we
ever met up together, and now I've had it. You're mean, and I expect
that when you get well maybe you'll try to get me; but if I were you I
wouldn't do it. You're quick, but it isn't any ways likely that you're
the quickest man in the world, or even in Wyoming, or even in Medicine
Bow. You tried to draw yesterday, but you weren't quick enough. You may
lay for me and get me in that way sometime, but if we ever meet and you
try any of your tricks with me, I'm more likely to get you than you are
to get me; and I believe it would be a good idea for you to remember
that. I don't want to kill you, but if I have to I will.

"Now I've been to see your wife this morning and I've told her that
you're laid up, and she says she's willing to take care of you until
you're able to get around. You won't be able to move for a week or two
now, and I told her she had better leave you here and just kind o' keep
track of you, and see that you're comfortable, and not try to take you
to her house. She's a good woman, Claib, and if you were smart you'd be
good to her."

Claib made no reply to Mason's rather long speech, but his eyes
glittered with anger. As Mason turned to go out of the room, Claib
glared at him savagely.

"I'll git you yet, Jack Mason!" he cried.

"Better think it over, Claib," Mason called back cheerily.



                              CHAPTER XV

                         AN ENGLISHMAN IN CAMP


As Mason stepped out of the saloon, turning up the street toward the
stable, he saw Ross walking toward him with a tall, large, red-headed
young man, who was evidently an Englishman. As they met, Mason spoke.

"I'm going to start back now, Ross. I've finished up my business here
in town."

"Hold on a minute," said Ross. "Here's a man just come in on the
passenger this morning, who wants to go out into the country where
you're going, and I told him maybe you could help him. Mr. Donald, this
is Jack Mason."

"If I can help you, Mr. Donald, I'll be glad to," Mason said as the two
shook hands; "but I'm just going back to the round-up camp, forty miles
or so from here."

"Well," explained the young man, "I was thinking of going out to Mr.
Sturgis's ranch. He lives somewhere up North, about forty miles, I
think he told me, from the railroad. Is his place anywhere near your
camp?"

"No; but there are two or three of his men along with our outfit, and
if you want to come out there with me, some one of them may be going
over to his place before long, and could take you there. It's a
perfectly plain road from here out to the ranch, just as soon as a man
knows the road, but if he doesn't know it, he's liable to get lost a
good many times before he gets there."

"Yes," said Ross, "I told Donald that it was a plain road out to the
Sturgis ranch, but that there were about twenty roads turning off from
it, and it wouldn't be easy to take the right one."

"Have you got a horse to ride?" asked Mason.

"No," answered Donald, "I have no horse; but I was going to buy a horse
and saddle, or perhaps two horses, here in town. Mr. Ross says that he
has one that he would either sell or hire, and that he thinks he could
find another that I could use as a pack horse."

"Are you used to the saddle?"

"Yes; I have ridden a little."

"Let's go back to my house," said Ross, "and sit down and talk it over,
and I can soon find out what we can do about horses."

As they walked back up the street, Ross turned to Mason.

"So you've finished up all your business, have you, Jack?" he asked.

"Yes; I'm ready to pull my freight as soon as I can put the saddle on
my horse."

"Well," commented Ross, with a little twinkle of his eye, "it seems to
me you got through pretty quick."

"So, so," drawled Mason. "It didn't take me long after I once got at
it."

"Well," said Ross, "I don't want to quarrel with you, Jack Mason; but
you look to me like the biggest fool that I've seen since I come into
Wyoming Territory."

Mason laughed heartily.

"Come on, come on, Ross," he said. "What's your riddle? What do you
mean?"

"Why," Ross answered, "I believe you didn't come into this town for a
single thing except to find Claib Wood and break him all up, when the
chances were all in his favor that he'd kill you before you could bat
an eye."

"Oh, come, Ross," said Mason; "you're doing a lot of guessing. Didn't I
tell you when I first came into town that I didn't know that Claib Wood
was here?"

"Yes, you did say that, but I'll bet you a new suit of clothes that if
you didn't know he was here, you felt mighty sure that he was; and that
if you hadn't felt sure you wouldn't have come to town."

"If I had an imagination like yours, Ross," laughed Mason, "and could
use a pen a little better than I can, I'd have made a fortune long ago
writing for the newspapers."

"Oh, come off, Jack," returned Ross. "I've known you too long. Don't
give me any guff of that kind."

They reached the door of Ross's house, and Mason changed the subject.

"I understand that you've got a horse and saddle for Mr. Donald. Is
that so?"

"Right," answered Ross.

"Then, suppose you take him around and see if you can get a pack horse
and saddle on any terms that'll suit him, and come back here. I'll go
up and saddle the two horses, and we can put Mr. Donald's bed on the
one you get; then roll, and get to camp to-morrow morning."

The preparations for the journey did not take long, and the sun was yet
two or three hours high when Mason and the young Englishman trotted
off over the dry prairie. Mason led the pack horse and Donald rode
behind, to urge it on in case this should be necessary, but it went so
very well that before long, its hackamore was tied up, and it trotted
swiftly on behind or beside Jack Mason's horse, though Donald still
rode behind it as a precautionary measure.

About ten o'clock at night they reached the point where the road must
be left to go across the prairie to the camp. Here they stopped and
removed the saddles from the horses, allowing them to roll and to eat
a bite of grass. Then they saddled and started off again; and it was
getting light when Mason pointed out to Donald the white wagon covers
of the camp, and the cattle that dotted the hillsides not far from it.
Mason had told Donald that he would better turn his animals into the
cávaya the next day, in order that they might rest, and had suggested
that he himself might like to ride in the bed wagon and sleep during
the day, but the Englishman very quietly said that he thought he would
go along with some part of the outfit, if he had a horse which he could
ride.

As the new arrivals sat by the fire, waiting for the announcement of
breakfast, the sleepy cowboys rose one by one from their beds, and
after dousing their heads and arms in cold water, gathered around the
fire. Breakfast was soon over, and just as the men were saddling up,
Jack Danvers and Vicente, who had been on the last relief of the night
herd, came trotting into camp. Jack was introduced to Donald, who told
him he was headed for Swift Water Ranch when he could get there, and
the two young men shook hands cordially.

"I have been out in this western country two or three times," said
Donald, "but this is the first time I have stopped in a cow camp. It
must be very interesting and full of excitement, I should think."

"Well," said Jack, "that depends on what you call excitement. I can
tell you it is full of hard work; and just about as soon as the bloom
of novelty has worn off, hard work is all you see of it. I can remember
when I was a little fellow that I used to think it would be the
greatest fun in the world to have a string of horses and ride around
wearing shaps and clinking spurs, and maybe with a silver saddle-horn;
but I have seen too much of it to care for it greatly now. How is it
with you, Joe?" he asked, turning to Tulare Joe, who stood rolling a
cigarette by the fire, with his horse's bridle rein over his arm.

"Well, Jack, I guess you've been through some school and have learned
some lesson. Cow punching is awful good fun to read about, but reading
is the best part of it. Books don't ever tell you how thick the dust
is, nor how dry you get, nor how sore you become from riding, nor how
mean a horse or a cow or a steer can be. No, the books leave out all
that sort of thing."

"Well, Mr. Donald," said Jack, "you are going along with us for a few
days until you get a chance to go over to Uncle Will's, aren't you?"

"Yes," answered Donald; "that is what I should like to do. But if I
am going to stay in the camp, I should like to be of some use. I don't
want to just ride a horse up and down and nothing else. I'd like to
earn my grub, if I do nothing more."

"Mason says you have no horses to ride," said Jack; "and, of course, on
a round-up a man cannot do much without horses."

"No," admitted Donald; "but I was wondering whether I could not hire
three or four horses--say one from each of four or five men, so that I
could really do some riding. I would enjoy the experience; and, while I
do not know anything about the work, I fancy I could learn. Of course,
I am more or less used to the saddle."

"Of course you could learn," replied Jack. "It is just riding and being
able to put your string on an animal when you need to."

"There is where I am weak," Donald said. "I know nothing about roping.
Of course, if a horse is walking in a corral I can put a noose over his
head; but as for standing off and throwing it far, I cannot do that."

"That's easy to learn," explained Joe, as he threw down the end of the
brand with which he had lighted his cigarette. "Any of us could teach
you all you have to know about that in a mighty short while."

"What are you going to do to-day?" asked Jack.

"Why, Mason said that he would lend me a horse out of his string for
the day, as both of mine traveled all night, and I thought I would ride
along either with the cattle herd or the horse bunch, and use my eyes
as much as I could."

"That's a good idea," said Jack. "Now Joe and I are going out with
the cattle herd to-day, and if you want to come with us, you can see
something, and I think you can learn something too."

"Ripping," was Donald's answer.

"Well, I'll go over and see Mason and find out what horse he wants you
to ride and then we'll get started; but, hold on, here's Mason now;"
and a moment later Mason rode up to the fire and handed to Donald the
rope that was about the neck of a small but beautiful bay horse.

"Have you fixed on what you're going to do, Donald?" he asked; and
Donald told him what they had decided on.

"That's bully," said Mason. "I'm riding with the herd to-day, so we'll
be together again."

As they rode off toward the herd, Donald turned to Jack.

"It seems to me that Mason is a great man," he said.

"How do you mean?"

"Why, all last night as we rode along he was singing and whistling and
making jokes, and telling funny stories. Three or four times I nearly
fell off my horse from laughing at him; and yet the day before that,
according to the story, he beat up a man in town so that he will have
to be in bed for six weeks."

"Beat up a man!" exclaimed Jack. "That couldn't have been Mason."

"Why," said Donald, in some confusion, "I hope it is not a secret.
Everybody in town was talking about it. I was only there a few hours,
and five or six men spoke to me about it. It seems that a man there
tried to draw his gun on Mason, and Mason was too quick for him. He
picked him up and threw him pretty nearly through the side of the house
and almost broke his neck."

"Great Cæsar's ghost!" exclaimed Jack. "That will be news to everybody
in this camp."

"Hold on," said Donald; "I wish you would not say anything about it
until somebody else does. I do not want to be carrying gossip around
from one place to another; but, as I told you, it was the only thing
that they were talking about in town day before yesterday. I fancy it
is the most exciting thing that has happened there for a long time."

"Yes," assented Jack, "I guess it's quiet enough there most of the
time; but say, what was the name of this man that Mason got into a
quarrel with?"

"I cannot remember what the full name was, but almost everybody spoke
of him as 'Claib.' I do not know any such name as that, but I suppose
it may be a nickname."

"Good Lord!" cried Jack; "why that must be Claib Wood! They say he is
one of the worst men in the country--a regular killer. He was ordered
away from here because he was suspected of cattle stealing--and they
say that there is hardly anybody in the country as quick with a gun as
he is."

"Well, he was not quick enough for Mason, it seems," said Donald. "I
asked one of the men in the saloon how it happened, and he said it was
so quick he really did not know how it did happen. He said that the two
men seized hold of each other, and that Mason called out to somebody
to take away both guns, that there was not to be a shooting-match; and
then a minute or two later Mason lifted up Claib and threw him against
the side of the house and through the plaster and almost out through
the boards. I saw the place and it certainly did look as if something
very heavy had been thrown against the wall."

"I'd like to know just what happened," said Jack; "but one could not
very well ask Mason; and I suppose we will have to wait until somebody
comes out from town to tell us the news."

"If you don't mind, I'd rather not have you say anything about what
I have told you, to any one here, for, as I say, I do not want to be
carrying tales."

"All right," promised Jack; "I'll keep quiet. But say, it seems to me
that this thing is one of the biggest jokes that ever was. I think
a lot of Mason and it seems to me that he was in great danger if he
was quarreling with Claib Wood; but you seem to have brought him back
perfectly well and sound."

The young Englishman grinned.

"Oh, yes; I brought him back."

All day long the men kept with the herd, and all day long the young
Englishman was practising throwing the rope, so that toward evening he
had a good idea of how to handle it, though oftener than not he missed
the object at which he was throwing. At the same time he was learning
the eccentricities of the rope, and a little more practise was likely
to make him reasonably skilful. All the boys insisted that practise,
practise, practise was the only way in which he could become expert,
and Donald determined that he would devote much time to this work for
the next two or three days.

That night at the fire, Jack, with a grave face, and having warned
Donald to be careful, began to ply Hugh and McIntyre with questions
about Claib Wood, asking how bad he was, whether he had killed many
men, and other pointed and pertinent questions. He seemed most anxious
for all possible particulars as to Claib Wood.

All the time he was watching Jack Mason, who, sitting by the fire with
an awl and a piece of buckskin string, was mending a pair of ripped
shoes. Mason, however, gave not the slightest evidence of interest
in the conversation, and at last Jack was obliged to abandon his
examination of the two older men, feeling that he had wholly failed in
his efforts to make Mason respond.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          A LESSON IN ROPING


The next day was devoted to cutting cattle and branding calves, and
Jack told Donald that this was his chance to practise roping. Jack very
hospitably, since Donald was to be the guest of his uncle, gave him his
own rope which was in excellent condition, and provided himself with a
second one, which had been used only a few times and so was somewhat
hard and stiff. Donald was much interested in the work, and anxious to
see how it was done, and Jack promised that, so far as he could, he
would look after him, and coach him in the work of catching calves.

"But you'll have to look out for yourself and do the best you can,"
he added, "for there is no time for school-work on the round-up. Very
likely you'll make lots of breaks, and the fellows will make lots of
fun of you; but that you'll have to stand. They're all good-natured,
but everybody that makes a mistake or blunder gets laughed at in a cow
camp. It isn't likely that you'll be able to catch calves by their
feet. What you'd better do for a starter is to try and catch 'em by
their necks, and not throw 'em, but just sort of lead and drag 'em over
to where the boys are."

"All right," agreed Donald; "I suppose that's the best thing that I
can do. I don't understand this business of catching animals by their
feet, and you'll have to tell me about that, before long. I'll try to
catch them by the neck, and lead them over; but I haven't a great deal
of confidence that I'll do much with it."

The men who were cutting that morning were Charley Powell, Jack Danvers
and Jack Mason. Before long it happened that Jack drove a cow and calf
over toward the Sturgis bunch, and as Donald was nearby Jack beckoned
to him.

"Put your rope on the calf and lead it over to the fire," he called as
Donald rode up.

Donald made ready to catch the calf and, though a little slow, he made
a good throw before the calf was near the bunch; but unfortunately the
loop was so large that the calf jumped through it and was following its
mother into the Sturgis herd when Jack, shaking with laughter, threw
his rope, caught the calf by the feet and started it for the fire.
Donald, much mortified, slowly gathered up his rope and overtook Jack
before he had reached the fire.

"That must have seemed a pretty stupid thing to you, but what was the
matter?" he asked.

"Why," explained Jack, "your loop was too big, and the beast ran
through it. If you had had experience enough you would have seen that
your loop was too big, and that it was going beyond the calf's head,
and by jerking up your throwing hand you could have stopped the loop
so that it would have fallen just over the calf's head, and it would
have run against the noose with its chest and been caught. Usually
you can get right close to a calf and then throw with a small loop
and a rather short rope; but, as I tell you, this is all a matter of
practise."

"I am going to watch you," said Donald, "and the next time you cut a
calf out, I will try it over again."

"That's right," declared Jack. "If you stay with it you will certainly
get there."

But Donald had to learn the lessons of experience. With the next calf
that he tried to rope he did better, but, being unable to control his
rope properly, the calf's head and forefeet went through the loop. He
threw up his hand too late and caught the beast around the middle, and
it gave as lively an exhibition of bucking as a three-month-old calf
could furnish. The cow had gone on into the bunch and Jack was watching
her, and, fearing lest she should turn about and come out to fight, he
put his string over the calf's head and led and dragged it to the fire
while Donald meekly followed at the other end of his rope.

The boys at the fire shrieked with laughter when they saw what had
happened, and declared that they would not cast the rope loose; while
Donald did not know how to free it.

"Just put that rope under the iron here, and we'll mark it for keeps,"
one boy shouted.

Donald made no response except to smile and shake his head. He took it
all very good-naturedly, and when his rope was turned loose gathered it
up and again helped Jack drive the calf to the bunch.

"That's all right," said Jack. "You are improving; but you have got to
keep on practising. It does not take one day nor one year to make a man
a good roper. Now I am no roper myself, and yet I have been doing it
pretty nearly every summer for the last five or six years."

Donald's third trial was successful. He rode up pretty near to the calf
and threw with a short rope and, catching the beast, he turned his
horse and dragged the calf up to the fire. When he got there he was
received by the boys with more laughter and louder shouts than before.
They declared that this could not be Donald; that it must be some one
else disguised to resemble him, for it was perfectly well known that
Donald never caught calves except around the middle.

Jack, however, was greatly delighted with his new friend's success, and
congratulated him warmly on the progress that he was making.

All through the morning they worked hard and all were glad when dinner
time came and there was a chance for a little rest. Most of the men
saddled fresh horses and those holding the herds were relieved and had
an opportunity to get something to eat. Jack and Donald were sent out
to hold the Sturgis bunch, and while they were out there, and a little
later when they pushed the cattle off to one side to feed, Donald asked
Jack to tell him something more about the art of roping.

"You men here catch your calves by the feet, and I've heard," said
Donald, "that there are men who can catch any foot of a running animal,
if you ask them to. That seems perfectly impossible to me; and in
fact it seems to me impossible that anybody could catch the feet of a
running animal, but of course I've seen it done to-day."

"Yes," replied Jack, "it is done all the time. It is easy enough to
catch an animal by his fore feet, or his hind feet, or by one fore foot
or one hind foot, but I am not enough of a roper, and I don't believe I
ever shall be, to pick up any foot when I am asked to."

"Well, I can't expect you to tell me how to do things that you say you
cannot do yourself, but I would like to understand how to catch an
animal by the feet."

Jack laughed.

"Why, that's like most other things in the world: awful simple when you
know how to do it, or even how it is done. You just throw your rope so
that the animal steps into it either with his hind feet or with his
fore feet, as the case may be, but you've got to pull your rope just at
the right time. That is to say, if the beast puts his fore feet into
the noose lying on the ground, and you leave the noose lying there, why
the critter won't get caught. You've got to give a lift and pull on
your rope just at the right moment."

"That seems simple enough," declared Donald; "or at least it seems as
if it would be simple enough to a man who knows how to rope."

"Yes," said Jack, "but it takes some judgment. You've got to put your
rope in the right place, and then, as I said, you've got to pull on
it at the right time. You may see boys catching animals by any foot
before we get through this round-up, and it is constantly done on the
prairie with horses that are mean. If you want to learn how to rope,
and to see roping well done, you'd better watch Vicente, or Tulare
Joe, who was raised in California with the Mexicans there. He handles a
rope better than anybody else in the camp, except Vicente and Juan who
are Mexicans. As for Charley Powell and Jack Mason and myself, we are
just plain ordinary ropers that can catch horses and cows most of the
time but can't do any fancy tricks with a rope the way those Mexicans
can. I've seen one or two Mexicans do things with a rope that made my
eyes stick out about a foot; but some Americans are pretty good. They
tell of a man down on the plains--in Nebraska, I believe--who once when
roping calves in a corral, caught and took to the fire a hundred and
ten calves in a hundred and ten throws. He didn't miss a single throw."

"I should like to see something of that kind; but for the present I
guess plain roping will occupy my attention. There is another thing I
want to ask you. Are the Indians good ropers?"

"Fair," answered Jack, "but nothing to brag of--nothing great. They do
as well as any of us ordinary cowboys. There is an interesting thing
about that--something that Hugh once told me--that a good many years
ago, when Hugh first came into the country--that was in 1849--the
Indians could hardly rope at all. All the same they used to catch lots
of wild horses by just running them down. The country then was full of
wild horses. In the spring when the wild horses were poor and weak, the
Indians used to take their best horses and start out and find a bunch
of the wild horses and chase them as hard as they could, and finally
catch them. But they did not know how to rope them. They used to make
big hoops of willows and tie the noose of the rope to such a hoop
with small strings; then when they had run down an animal, so that they
could ride up alongside of it, they would pass the hoop over its head
and pull back on the rope; the strings which tied it to the hoop would
break, the noose would run up, and the animal could be choked down.

          [Illustration: BRANDING IN THE CORRAL.--_Page 170_
  _Photo by Mrs. A. C. Stokes, Lame Deer, Mont._]

"Of course, they could never catch good horses; those that they got
were mostly colts or mares heavy with foal, and animals that were
particularly weak from lack of food and the winter's cold.

"The Indians that I've seen did not appear to me to handle their
horses very well, and they have no more feeling for a horse than they
have for a saddle or a travois. They never consider that a horse has
any feelings: it is simply a tool to help them get about and to bear
burdens. The Indians are really kind-hearted, but my notion is they
just don't happen to think of the suffering they may cause the horse.
Indians are kind to each other and to their friends, but I don't think
you could call them kind to animals."

"I suppose that is a matter of education," suggested Donald.

"I suppose so," answered Jack. "Besides that, when you are all the time
struggling with an animal, or a lot of animals, and trying to make them
do something that you want them to do, and that they don't understand,
you get kind o' mad at them because they don't mind you. You forget
that they don't understand, and you are likely to be brutal to them.
Now, for example, I was thinking to-day that it would be a good idea
for you, after you get to know how to use a rope a little better, to
practise on some of these cows, catching them and throwing them, but I
don't suppose a cow very much enjoys being thrown, and it is a question
which is the more important, for you to have practise in throwing cows,
or to spare the cow the grief of being thrown. I don't suppose it is
very pleasant for an animal running at full speed to be checked up and
made to turn a somersault and hit the ground like a thousand of--beef
we'll say."

"No," Donald said slowly; "I guess not; and I think the question you
have suggested is rather a nice one."

"Well, we needn't worry about that. There will be plenty of chances for
you to practise on cows before long; and meantime you've got to learn
to catch calves."

The boys had an idle, easy time watching this bunch of cattle which was
constantly being added to by animals cut out from the big bunch. Before
evening all the cattle had been separated and Jack and Donald rode back
to the camp together.

Supper over, the boys sat about the fire lazily smoking and talking.
After a while there was a pause, which was presently broken by McIntyre.

"I met one of the boys from the Bar Lazy A to-day when I was riding. He
was going back to the ranch. Said he had been sent in with a message
and spent a day or two in town. I asked him if he had seen anything of
Claib Wood, and he said yes, he met him a couple of nights ago; that
Claib was full, and looked as if he were hunting trouble. Then he said
the next day they had quite a little excitement in town--let's see,
Mason, that must have been about the time you were there. Did you hear
of any excitement?"

Mason had looked up quickly when McIntyre began to speak and then
lowered his eyes and was looking at the fire.

"Why, no, Mac," he replied; "I didn't see anything that excited me very
much. The town seemed about as usual--dogs lying in the sun, asleep;
two or three men reading a month-old newspaper; lots of flies buzzing
in the windows; passenger comes in once a day going east, once a day
going west, and freight trains happen along occasionally. Not much
excitement in town."

At this answer, the usually grave McIntyre slapped his thigh and burst
into a loud guffaw.

"Bully for you, Jack Mason!" he cried. "You've got some sense of humor,
darned if you ain't. Why, boys," he went on, addressing the group,
"this is what Red Casey of the Bar Lazy A told me. He said that the
other morning--meaning the morning Jack Mason here got to town--he was
settin' in Jim Decker's saloon playin' a little game of poker with
Slim Jim Rutherford, when Jack here come into the saloon. Claib Wood
had been drunk all the night before, and had just come in for his
morning nip. Jack here walked up to him and they talked for two or
three minutes and then Claib tried to draw his gun. In a jiffy Jack
grabbed him and held him and called to Ross to take both guns away; and
then after a minute Jack picked Claib up and threw him across the room
so hard that when he hit the wall and fell on the floor his arm and
collar-bone were broken, and his shoulder was out of joint. Claib hit
the wall so hard that the boys thought he was dead; but it seems not,
and it's a darned pity too. Now, Jack Mason, why didn't you tell us all
this when you came back from town?"

The boys shouted with laughter, but Mason said nothing--only continued
to look at the fire.

When the tumult of cheers and jokes had somewhat died down, McIntyre
repeated his question, but without receiving an answer. Then he turned
and looked over toward Donald.

"Say, boys, there's another criminal here, it seems to me. Here's this
Britisher that came out the other night with Jack Mason. He must have
known all about the thing, and I would like to know why he didn't tell
us. He's tryin' to learn how to be a cowboy, but he sure will never
learn to be a good cowboy until he's ready to give the news, and to
make fun of any other puncher that he gets a chance to josh."

After a moment, Donald spoke.

"Well, Mr. McIntyre, I am new at the cowboy business," he said. "I
have only been trying to learn it for a day or two, and so I cannot be
expected to do my work very well. I did tell one boy when I got here,
and it made him laugh so much that I got a little scared and asked him
not to say anything about it until the news reached the boys in some
other way. Isn't that so, Jack Danvers?"

"Sure," vouched Jack. "Donald told me the whole story the morning he
got in, and I wanted to make a whoop and hurrah about it right off, but
he begged me not to, because he didn't want to be counted a gossip.
Don't you remember last night, when I was asking you men all those
questions about Claib Wood? I was watching Jack Mason all the time to
see if he would make any sign, but he never let on that he had even
seen Claib Wood when he was in town."

This speech of Jack's called forth a series of yells of delight from
the little company. Many jokes were made; and Jack Mason, becoming
somewhat embarrassed, finally rose and went to his blankets. The other
boys soon afterward dispersed to their beds.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                               DRIFTING


The next night Jack, Vicente and Tulare Joe went out on night herd for
the second relief. It was very dark, the sky was pitchy black and the
wind blew now and then in swift gusts.

"It's a mean night," Joe said as they rode along, "and I wouldn't be
surprised if we had trouble with the cattle."

"It sure looks as if it were going to storm," Jack agreed; "and nobody
can tell just what that will mean."

When they reached the herd, the men whom they were to relieve declared
that so far the cattle were all right, but feared that the threatening
storm would start them moving. Some of them decided that they would
stay with the cattle until the storm broke, or passed over. "It's
going to storm," they said, "and there's no use in going back to camp
and getting into our blankets, only to be called out again in a few
minutes." There was thus a double guard, and the men followed each
other at shorter intervals than usual, singing, talking and calling, in
the effort to give the cattle, which as yet were quiet, the confidence
which so often seems to come from the proximity of a human being.

Presently it began to rain a little, and the wind blew harder, and
in fierce gusts, with lulls between them. During such lulls, the wind
could be heard coming far off, and in the blasts of wind the men to
the windward of the cattle could not hear the sounds made by those to
leeward.

By this time the cattle had begun to rise to their feet and to walk
about, bawling. Then some of them, singly or by twos and threes,
started out from the main bunch to walk away to leeward, only to be
turned back by the men who came across them. Then, little by little,
the whole bunch began to move along, but still only at a walk.

Jack spoke to Vicente in what he thought was a loud tone of voice, but
the wind snatched his words away and Vicente, putting his hand up to
his ear, leaned over toward Jack, who repeated his question.

"Shall we try to hold them, or just let them drift, and stay with them?"

"Must let 'em drift," shouted Vicente, "but keep 'em together. Pretty
soon some boys from camp will come. Must let 'em drift until storm
stops, or they get shelter. The best thing is for three of us to get
ahead, and go slow with the wind, and one man get on each side."

Jack rode off to speak to such other men as he could find, and
presently from up the wind came the sound of galloping hoofs, which
then slowed down to a trot, and in a little while almost the whole
force of the camp except the cook and the night horse wrangler were
about the herd, moving along at the same pace with it, guarding it
carefully in front and carefully on either side, and leaving the rear
of the herd open.

The wind blew with the violence of a tornado and the occasional spits
of level rain which accompanied the storm stung the face. One or two
men who had been slow about tying on their hats lost them with little
prospect of ever recovering them. The cattle were uncomfortable and
moved along bellowing, but showed no disposition to run. On the sides
they sometimes tried to scatter, but the line of boys riding there kept
them turned back.

This went on for some hours, until Jack thought that daylight must
be near. His slicker was on his saddle, but at no time had it seemed
to rain hard enough to justify his stopping and putting it on, for
at every moment there had seemed either something to be done, or a
possibility that quick action might be required; so by this time he
was pretty wet and pretty cold, but he thought little of this in his
anxious watching of the cattle. Presently, however, he happened to turn
his eyes upward, and saw three or four bright stars looking down at him
from the sky, and he gave a whoop of joy for he knew that the storm
had about blown itself out. Soon the wind began to fall and then the
eastern horizon to lighten, and before very long the bright sun rose in
a clear sky, and their troubles for the time were over.

The weary cowboys turned the herd and drove the cattle back over the
trail they had followed, until they reached their old bed ground. There
they turned them loose under the charge of two or three men, and all
the others returned to camp for breakfast, which, as a matter of fact,
was now dinner, for it was high noon.

"Boys," said McIntyre while they were eating their meal, "we may as
well stop here now and rest up; but, Jack and Joe and Donald, as soon
as you've eaten, you three go out and relieve those fellows on herd,
and let them come in and get some dinner. After these boys have slept
two or three hours, I will send men out to relieve you."

The cattle, like the cow punchers, were tired, and as soon as they had
grazed a while they lay down, showing no disposition to move. The boys,
therefore, took a commanding position on a hill and holding the ropes
of their horses allowed them to feed about them.

"Of course, that was not a stampede, Joe?" asked Donald uncertainly.

"Not much," said Joe. "That was just plain ordinary drifting; but there
was one while, just before the cattle started, when I thought that it
was nip and tuck whether we would have a stampede or not. It would not
have taken much to start those cattle off, and it sure would have been
a bad night to ride in front of 'em and to turn 'em."

"I don't see how a man could ride fast over such a country as we
crossed," Donald said.

"Well," said Jack, "could, or could not, he'd just have had to. It's a
ground-hog case when a stampede is on."

"But I should think you'd break your neck; and kill all your horses."

"Well," declared Joe, "sometimes a man falls and breaks his neck, and
oftener still a horse falls and breaks his neck or a leg, but of course
the cattle have got to be turned. That's what we're hired for, and it's
our business to do our work."

"You spoke before about turning the cattle. Where do you want to turn
them to, and why do you want to turn them?"

"We want to turn 'em to get 'em to mill, and if we once get 'em
milling, the trouble is pretty well over."

"I am sorry to seem so dull," said Donald, "but what do you mean by
milling?"

"Why, we want to turn the cattle and get 'em running around in a
circle. The hind ones will follow the lead ones, and if you can turn
the lead ones, and keep 'em turning, after awhile they just keep
running around and around in a circle and the hind ones follow 'em, and
as you can understand, they don't get very far away."

"Now, certainly," exclaimed the Englishman, "that is very clever. I
never should have thought of that. But how do you manage to turn them?
Of course, you cannot go in front of them, because they would run over
you and kill you."

"You do go in front of 'em; and without you go in front of 'em, you
surely can't turn 'em. What a puncher does is to get right up even
with the head of the herd and maybe a little in front of it, and then
to keep edging over so as to push the head of the herd away from him.
Likely too he's got to make some gun play, because, of course, the
flash and noise of the shots close to 'em will tend to push the cattle
over. Sometimes men go right in front of 'em and try to stop 'em by
shooting, but I never saw much good done in that way.

"I reckon if you ask Vicente, or any of the older men here--McIntyre,
for example--he'll tell you that it counts for more to try to push the
cattle over from one side than it does to go in front of 'em and try
to stop 'em. If you do that they may turn; but what's just as likely to
happen is that they'll split and go off in two or three bunches--and
that's likely to mean that the whole country has got to be ridden again
to gather up these scattered cattle."

"It must require an extraordinary amount of courage on a black night
such as last night to ride in front of, or even up at the head of, a
herd of frightened cattle going as hard as they can," said Donald. "I
am sure that I could not have ridden fast last night and guided my
horse at all. I could not see my horse's ears, to say nothing of the
ground in front of him."

"No," Jack said; "I guess you couldn't. I've never been yet in a real
stampede, but I'd be willing to bet that the cow puncher who rode at
the head of a stampede and tried to look out and guide his horse on to
good ground would not be worth very much a month to his employer. How
is that, Joe?"

Joe laughed.

"I guess he'd be worth about seventy-five cents a month; and he'd have
to furnish his own grub, too."

"But what do you mean?" asked Donald.

"Why," explained Joe, "a man riding fast and at night don't try to pick
his ground--he can't try to pick the ground. He leaves that to his
horse; it's up to him to watch the cattle, and it's up to the horse to
keep on his four legs. If the rider doesn't watch the cattle and the
horse doesn't keep on his legs, why horse and rider both are out of it,
and of no use to anybody."

"That's just what I supposed," said Jack. "I remember once a good many
years ago Hugh gave me a lecture on horses, and the use they make of
their eyes; he told me about how many falls young stock have before
they are broken, and how much use horses must make of their eyes. You
can see that if you put a blind on a horse, he will stand perfectly
still, no matter how wild he is, and will let you do 'most anything
with him. Take the use of his eyes away from him, and a horse is pretty
nearly afraid to move."

"Sure thing," declared Joe, as he scratched a match to light a
cigarette that he had just finished rolling; "a prairie or a mountain
horse can go along in the dark without anybody guiding him a great deal
better than he could if driven by the sharpest-sighted man."

"Donald might like to see it, but I hope with all my heart that we
won't have a stampede on this round-up," Jack said.

"I hope not," replied Joe. "I have known of one man being killed and
several men being hurt in stampedes, and if I can keep out of 'em I
mean to do it. Now, look here, if one of you fellows will lend me his
watch I'll set here and look after these cattle for an hour, and you
two can go to sleep; then, after an hour, I'll call one of you and
sleep myself, and an hour later he can call the other. By that time
likely there'll be somebody out to relieve us."

"No," protested Donald; "you and Jack sleep, and let me watch. I have
done less work than any one since I came here, and I can sit on this
hill in the sun and see what the cattle are doing. If they make any
movement I can call one of you."

"All right," assented Joe; "that'll suit me, if you feel like it."

Jack and Joe stretched themselves out on the ground and with their hats
over their faces were soon breathing heavily in deep sleep. Donald sat
on the hill and watched the cattle, but as time passed he grew more and
more sleepy until finally he had almost made up his mind to stretch out
and close his eyes--not really to sleep but just to think. However, as
he looked at his watch just before this desire became overpowering, he
saw that only ten minutes remained of his vigil, and so kept himself
awake until it was time to call one of the others.

Joe on being roused shook himself, rose and walked a few yards back
and forth in either direction and then, thoroughly awake, sat down and
began to roll and smoke cigarettes.

Before the time came to call Jack, Mason and Charley Powell appeared
on the scene, saying that they would stay with the cattle until it was
time to bed them down. The other three gladly mounted their horses,
trotted into camp and threw themselves on the ground in the shade,
where they slept until the cook shouted the call for supper.

After the meal was over Jack sat down by the fire close to the Mexican.

"Vicente," he said, "I was mighty glad I bumped up against you last
night, for I had no idea what had to be done. Of course, when I
recognized your horse I knew that you could tell me."

"Yes," drawled Vicente between puffs of his cigarette, "last night,
most had cattle running, what you say _estampeda_. Pretty lucky the
other men got there. If once those cattle had started, we'd have had
to ride hard."

"There was one while," said Jack Mason, "that I was plumb lost. I was
riding that little whittley-dig pony of mine, and he stepped in a
hole and fell down and I rolled off. It was so black I couldn't see
anything. Reaching around I happened to feel the horse. I mounted, but
I was all turned around. I didn't have an idea which way the cattle
were, and I couldn't see nor hear 'em. Of course I knew the only thing
to do was to let my horse find the cattle; and that's what he did; but
until I got close to 'em I didn't know where they were, nor anything
about 'em."

"Mighty queer," commented Hugh, who was listening, "the way a man can
get turned around, if he can't use his eyes. I reckon I've told you,
son," he added, turning to Jack, "about the only time I ever got lost.
It was on pretty nearly level ground that I had never been on before,
and in a blinding snowstorm. Well, sir, I had no more idea of the
direction of the sun, moon or stars than just nothing at all. For a
little way I traveled by the wind, and then I stopped and made up my
mind that I'd wait until something happened; and I did have to wait for
twenty-four long hours before I got a glimpse of the sun."

"I had something like that happen to me once in thick timber that had
been burned over," Jack Mason said. "It was a cloudy day on a kind of
plateau, and every tall straight stick looked like every other tall
straight stick. A mighty mean situation to be in."

"It must be a terrible sensation," said Donald, "to lose all sense of
direction. Long ago, before I had ever been much out of doors, I used
to carry a compass and to consult it frequently, but of late years I
have rather abandoned that practise."

"When the sky is clear you don't need a compass or anything else," said
Jack, "because you can look at the sun or the stars; but, of course,
if it's cloudy, or rainy, or snowy, that's different. If a man is in a
country he knows, or knows anything about, and gets lost he can follow
the ravines and creeks down to the main stream."

"Well," put in Hugh, "a man isn't in much danger of being lost just as
long as he keeps his wits about him; but just as soon as he gets scared
and loses his wits and begins to think that the sun is in the wrong
place, or the compass is wrong, or the waters are running uphill, then
he's in a bad way, because he's pretty close to crazy. The main thing
is to keep your head, and then you'll come out all right; but in these
days, when there are so many fences and roads and railroads all over
the country it would be pretty hard to be lost, I expect."

"Yet back East," said Jack, "every now and then we hear about men and
women and children being lost in little pieces of swamp and woods
almost within hearing of their houses. Of course, these are people who
have never thought of taking care of themselves out of doors, and get
lost just as soon as they get where they can't see things that they
recognize."

"Such people ought not to be allowed to wander away," drawled Jack
Mason; "they ought to have people to look after them. But then I
suppose back East there are so many houses and so many people that
it's hard to get out of sight of 'em."

"No," laughed Jack; "there are a good many people there, but it isn't
quite so bad as you say."

Hugh knocked the ashes from his pipe, rose to his feet, and stretched.

"Well, good night, boys; I'm going to hunt my blankets," he said.

The others soon followed him and the fire was deserted.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                              A STAMPEDE


Jack was destined to be disappointed in his hope that he would not see
a real stampede.

Toward evening of the very next day the sky clouded over in the late
afternoon and there was a little rain. Night fell damp and drizzly,
but there was nothing to lead any one to believe that there would be
trouble. Jack went on night herd with the last relief, and with him
rode Charley Powell, Donald and Mason. The herd was quiet, and the boys
whom they relieved started back to camp, while the four who had come
out began to ride about the cattle at a walk. For an hour or more the
quiet continued, and there was no warning of any excitement.

Half asleep, Jack was riding along, when suddenly from the bed ground
came a drumming of hoofs and a rattling of horns, constantly growing
louder, and Jack knew that the whole herd were rushing directly toward
him. In an instant, everything that he had ever heard about stampedes
flashed through his memory, and he knew that the first thing he must do
would be to get out of the way of the rushing cattle, and then that he
must stay with the leaders.

The mind works quickly in such a case, and the horse, which often knows
as much about handling cattle as the rider, is ready to do the right
thing. With the first sound of the rushing herd, Jack's legs closed
on his horse and it felt the spurs, and a short dash to one side took
horse and rider out of the path of the dense mass of cattle which swept
close behind them. Automatically, as it seemed, the horse turned and
kept along with the bunch. Jack remembered that for a little while it
was useless to try to do anything except keep up; he must wait until
the cattle had become strung out, the swiftest ones leading and the
others following. To try to turn the closely packed herd as it started
would be hopeless. The only thing to do was to let them get well strung
out, and then to ride up close to the leaders and push them over to one
side.

In a short time Jack could tell from the sound that most of the bunch
was behind him. He began to swing over to his left, so as to get close
to the leaders. He thought that they must have run a mile.

Pushing up to the leaders, and constantly riding closer to them, he
shouted and began to shoot his pistol, and as he drew nearer he was
gratified to know that the cattle were crowding away from him. He was
right with the leading animals. It was pitch dark and nothing could be
seen, but the sound of the pounding hoofs, the clatter of horns as they
struck against one another, and the puffing and snorting, told him that
he was close among them.

Suddenly and without warning, Jack's horse turned a somersault. Jack
flew a long way, and alighted on his back with a thump that almost
knocked the breath out of him. Almost as he hit the ground, he heard
his horse scramble to his feet and gallop off. He had no time to think
about whether he had his breath or not, or whether his horse were
lost. He was thinking of the cattle that were following the leaders
he had just left, and realizing that in a few moments the whole bunch
might run over him. He ran a few steps in the hope that he could get
away, climbed a little bank and began to shout, to fire his gun and to
shake the skirts of his slicker. He could hear cattle passing on both
sides of him. Every now and then one would come near enough to be seen
as a dim shadow; and as the animal saw the dancing, shouting man it
would give a loud snort and jump sidewise, while Jack would jump the
other way, sometimes almost in front of another animal which perhaps
would snort and make a sweep of its horns or turn and kick at him. For
a little while Jack had more excitement than had ever been compressed
into a like space of time in his experience. He had no opportunity to
think much of the danger, or to get frightened. All he could think
about was to make all the noise he could, and to frighten away from
himself the already terrified cattle.

Presently the rush of the cattle ceased. Jack reloaded his six-shooter,
and then had time to collect his wits and to begin to wonder what had
happened. He had seen nothing to make the cattle start, and did not
know why they had done so. He had little or no idea why his horse had
fallen, but when he began to move about, it was apparent that the
animal had run into a shallow gulch which it had not seen, and thus
had tripped. It was lucky for Jack that he had not tried to stick to
the horse after it was evident that it must fall, but had let go and
tried to get away from it. It was lucky also that he had clung to his
six-shooter, for without doubt the shots that he fired after he was
afoot had helped to turn the cattle from him.

Jack knew that it could not be far to camp, but his tumble and the
excitement of the last few minutes had caused him wholly to lose his
sense of direction. He knew that the only thing for him to do was to
stay where he was until daylight broke, and then to make his way back
to camp on foot. As soon as he could see, and so get his bearings,
there would be no trouble in finding camp, where he could get a fresh
horse; and as soon as day came the boys would of course start out to
find the cattle.

It was still drizzling. Jack walked about a little to find some place
to sit down and presently stumbled over an elevation which his hand
told him was an ant-hill--one of those heaps of coarse sand a foot and
a half or two feet high, which the ants throw up in high country. On
this Jack sat down, for the ants would not be stirring until the hill
had dried off, and he knew that it would not dry until the sun came up.
Oddly enough he did not feel stiff or sore, and he concluded he must
have landed on some big clump of brush which had broken his fall.

He sat there a few minutes, meditating on what had happened, when
presently very faintly he heard the hoof-beats of a slowly jogging
horse, which was drawing nearer and nearer.

"I wonder," thought Jack, "if that's my horse going back to camp? It
would be great if I could catch him and ride in. The cattle are gone,
and they can't be found until day."

The hoof-beats drew nearer and nearer, and presently seemed to be
passing Jack, not very far off. He hurried toward the sound, calling
out as he did so:

"Whoa, lad! Whoa, lad!"

"Hello, who's that?" came Donald's voice.

"Come over here, Donald," called Jack. "My horse fell with me and has
gone off, and I'm waiting here for daylight to come to get back to
camp. Where have you been?"

"Why," explained Donald, "I tried to follow those cattle, but they all
ran away from me; and now I'm trying to get to camp, but my horse don't
want to--he seems to want to follow the cattle."

"Well, I've had more excitement here in the last half-hour than any man
is entitled to. When my horse fell I thought that whole bunch of cattle
was going to run over me, and I've been jumping around here as hard as
I could, trying to keep them off."

"I hope you didn't get hurt when your horse fell with you?"

"No," said Jack, "I must have hit a soft spot. I'm all right, but I'd
like to get back to camp, so as to start out with the boys when it gets
light, and try to find the cattle."

"I want to find camp, too," replied Donald; "but I don't know whether I
can. My horse doesn't seem to want to go that way."

"Do you know in which direction camp is?"

"Yes; it's off that way," Donald answered, pointing.

"I'm all turned around," admitted Jack, "and I don't know where the
camp is; but I'll tell you what I'd do if I wanted to go to camp--I'd
put my reins down on my horse's neck and let him go in the direction
he wants to go. The chances are that he knows where camp is a great
deal better than any of the rest of us."

"That may be true," replied Donald; "but suppose, on the other hand, he
takes me off four or five miles farther away; what then?"

"Well, if you're not willing to trust him, get down, and if we can find
my ant-hill again we can sit there until day comes. It certainly can't
be very far off." Jack looked around the horizon. "I believe that's day
coming now," he said, pointing to a place where the sky seemed a little
lighter than elsewhere. "If it is, we won't have long to wait before
getting our direction."

Donald dismounted, and they sat there on the ground waiting. Presently
the light grew, and it was now certain that this was the dawn; so the
east was found and the points of the compass were located. Gradually
it grew light. As soon as they could see a short distance, the boys
started back to the camp, Jack walking over the damp ground, of which
he picked up a few pounds on his shoes and spurs, so that at short
intervals he was obliged to stop and clean off the mud. By this time,
however, it had stopped raining, and the soil began to dry. Presently,
when it was good daylight, though before the sun had risen, they met
half a dozen men from the camp, starting out to look for the cattle.

McIntyre heard Jack's story with a broad grin; but he frowned as he
thought of the cattle scattered, no one knew where.

"Did you see anything of Jack Mason?" he asked.

"No," answered Jack; "nothing. Two or three times as I was pushing in
to turn the cattle, I thought I heard somebody yell behind me, but I
could not be sure, for I was making all the noise I could myself."

"Well," said McIntyre, as he turned his horse, "go in and get something
to eat and fresh horses, and then come on. It may take us a long time
to gather those cattle, or maybe Mason has 'em wound up somewhere now."

The cowboys rode off, and Jack and Donald were soon in camp eating
breakfast. Jack's slicker in his fall had been split from neck to skirt
and until mended would be useless. Hugh, who with the cook and horse
wrangler had remained in the camp, saw it, and told Jack to leave it
with him, and he would sew up the tear. "It won't be of much use," he
commented, "in real rainy weather, but it'll keep you dry in a drizzle."

Hugh had smiled at Jack's story of his attempts to dodge the stampeding
cattle, and had told him that he was mighty lucky to have got off as he
did.

A little later, Jack and Donald, mounted on fresh horses, rode out to
take the trail of the stampeded cattle, but they had gone only a short
distance, when from the top of a hill they saw, far off, a bunch of
cattle coming.

One of the first men they saw when they met the herd was Jack Mason,
and the two young men rode up beside him to ask an account of his
adventures, and to relate their own.

"I was following along not far behind you, Jack," said Mason. "You were
advertising your place by shooting and hollering, and I was trying hard
to get up to you, to try to help push over the lead cattle and get 'em
turned. All of a sudden, though, your light seemed to go out. There
were no more shots and no more yells, and I made up my mind something
had happened to put you out of business. Before very long I got up to
the leaders and managed to crowd 'em over and over until at last I got
'em running in a circle, and then before long, of course, the circle
got smaller and smaller until they all got packed together and then
they had to stop. They didn't get very far beyond where you left 'em,
not more than a mile and a half, I should think, and I didn't have any
trouble holding 'em there until daylight; and soon after that the boys
came up, and here we are again. But what happened to you? I suppose
your horse fell, because he was with the cattle when day come. One of
the boys has got him there now."

Jack told again of his fall, and as before the story was laughed at and
he was congratulated on his escape.

"Well," said McIntyre, as the party got into camp, "we seem to be
anchored to this place. We'd better move to-day. You boys go out and
ride a short circle and we'll camp to-night over on Sand Creek."

That night in camp the talk was all of stampedes; there was the usual
speculation as to what caused them, and all agreed that no one could
tell why cattle stampeded.

Jack Mason was asked whether anything had happened to start the cattle,
so far as he could see, and both he and Donald declared that they knew
of nothing that could have alarmed the cattle.

"I saw something funny a number of years ago, down on the prairie,"
said Hugh. "I was working for Cody and North, on the Dismal River,
and one time when we were taking some beeves into town south of the
range, near Cottonwood Creek, these beeves stampeded. It was a bright
moonlight night, and you could see quite a long way. I had been riding
around the beeves and had stopped my horse and was sitting quiet on
him, watching the cattle, when, suddenly, a little off to one side,
I saw an antelope. He must have seen me about the same time and have
wondered what I was. He trotted up pretty near me and then trotted
away again, and made a circle and came around near the cattle, and
when he got pretty close to 'em he whistled, and away the beeves went.
It didn't take 'em half a minute to get started, and they were headed
straight toward the tent and the wagon. I crowded 'em off so that they
missed the wagon. They were not much frightened, and ran only a little
way. I suppose they were just startled for a minute."

"I was in a beef stampede down there one time," said Tulare Joe. "These
were big beeves, ready for market and we were cutting 'em out to ship.
That was one of those black nights that you read about. You couldn't
see anything. We had the beeves bedded down on the side of a sand-hill,
one of those sand-hills that's terraced off in little benches. I never
knew what started those cattle, but they started and came down the
hill toward me, and I went down the hill in front of them, not knowing
whether I'd get out alive or not. The way their horns hit together
sounded like a company of cavalry firing their pistols. When we got
down on the flat, the cattle passed Jim Lawson and me, and we chased
'em down the valley for several miles, but finally we lost 'em all.
Later we gathered 'em--most of 'em at least. When we were rounding up
the country down on the middle Loup, we kept finding these cattle for
three or four days. We got 'em to the railroad at last."

"There was another stampede, and a queer one, at the Dismal Ranch,"
Hugh said. "A big bunch of yearlings stampeded in a corral. I never
understood how it was, for I wasn't there when they started, but was
coming down toward the ranch. Of course we had never thought of cattle
stampeding in the corral, and it happened that there were no horses up;
most of 'em were in a little pasture close to the house. The corral was
cut into four small pens and next to the outside fence there was a gate
in the wall of each pen, opening into the next pen. These gates were
open, and you'd think that if the cattle had stampeded in the corral
they'd all have run around one way, but instead of that these yearlings
must have split in two bodies, and one part run around the corral one
way, and one the other. Then they must have met and piled up there,
and the result was that they broke out two panels of the fence--great
strong cedar posts and poles. Some of 'em went over the fence, but most
of 'em went through, and the fence was at least seven feet high.

"I was going down to the ranch and was about a mile away when I heard
them start, and when I got down to the corral they were just going over
and through the fence. I followed 'em, and Buck and Bax Taylor came on
as soon as they could get horses. Those yearlings ran all night. Two
or three times we got 'em together and turned 'em until they'd stand
still, and then they'd keep perfectly quiet. For about fifteen minutes
after they'd stopped they were so quiet that you couldn't hear a sound;
you couldn't hear 'em breathe; and then they'd begin to step out a
little to get room, until they were pretty well spread out. They'd
stand still listening and not making a move; and then, all of a sudden,
off they'd go again. We lost about a hundred out of the bunch, but
got 'em later on another round-up. Several were killed going over the
fence, and two or three broke their legs, and there was about a wagon
load of horns on the ground there."

"That antelope story of yours is a pretty good one, Hugh, but I've got
another," spoke up Tom Smith. "I was on herd one bright moonlight night
and the cattle were all lying down. I'd been riding about 'em and had
stopped for a little time, and was sitting still on my horse. I was
about half asleep, with my face to the cattle, and my horse must have
gone altogether asleep. He must have been asleep, because he fell on
his knees, and when he fell the saddle-flaps squeaked. That started the
cattle. They jumped up and ran; but they didn't go far. I don't think
they really stampeded--they were just startled, not scared."

"I reckon everybody was kind o' surprised that time," chuckled Hugh.

"I know I was," admitted Tom.

"I don't call that stampede by the antelope, nor the one Tom just spoke
about, a real stampede," said Joe; "but that stampede of the yearlings,
and the one we had last night, were sure enough the real thing."

"Yes," said Hugh, "those yearlings were scared for keeps. That bunch
had just come over the trail from Texas, and the animals were tired and
thin. They'd just come in and hadn't been branded. I never would have
supposed that they could have stampeded, but they were scared; and they
were always afraid of that corral. We never got that bunch into that
corral afterward. We had to rope most of 'em out on the flat, and brand
'em that way. It was awful slow work, and before we got through we
tried separating 'em into little bunches of forty or fifty, and these
little bunches we could get into the corral."

"Wasn't it dark last night?" remarked Donald. "I do not remember ever
to have seen a blacker night."

"I guess so," said Joe. "We've all of us been out on some of those
black nights when you just can't see anything. Some nights maybe you
think it's just as dark as it can possibly get, and then all at once it
gets so much darker that you think it hadn't been at all dark before.
On some of those nights you can see the electricity on your horse, a
sort of blue light running up from your horse's ears and then maybe a
little blue flame running down the back of his neck toward your saddle.
I never saw cattle run in that kind of weather; though you'd think they
would.

"I remember one night of that kind. We were holding the cattle, but it
was blowing and raining some, and the herd was drifting along behind
us, like it did night before last. There were several of us in front of
the cattle; we could hear each other when we called, but we couldn't
see each other, nor anything else. There was some lightning--very
bright. I had just turned my horse to look back and try to see by the
lightning flashes if any of the cattle were slipping by us and getting
away, when all at once the lightning struck right in the middle of the
bunch. There was about seventeen hundred head of 'em, and for a second
it was just like day and I saw the whole bunch. I saw the bolt fall.
It seemed to me that the whole middle was knocked out of the herd.
I thought I saw two hundred head of cattle drop. They fell in every
direction. The cattle didn't run, but that lightning killed seven head.

"After the storm had passed, we turned the cattle and drove 'em back to
a bed ground, close to where they'd started from."

"Well, I've been handling cattle for a good while," said McIntyre, "and
I've no idea what makes cattle stampede. Anything may cause one, and
then again there are times when you couldn't stampede a bunch if you
tried."



                              CHAPTER XIX

                       COW HORSES AND THEIR WORK


The next day they were cutting again. Donald was active and tried
to help, though he accomplished but little because he lacked real
knowledge of the work. But if he did not himself do much, he at least
saw many things done.

Of these one of the most interesting was Vicente's handling of a
fighting steer. Charley Powell had cut out and was trying to drive the
animal, but it stopped to fight. It would not move but stood and faced
the horse and rider. Presently Vicente came up and, after a word or two
with Charley, rode around behind the steer while Charley ran his horse
close by the animal's head to try to make it charge. On his second
dash by it the steer put down its head and rushed after the horse, but
before it had made half a dozen jumps Vicente's rope had passed over
its horns. He wound the rope around his saddle-horn and as he drew the
rein his horse set its forelegs and braced itself in real picture-book
fashion; the rope tightened and the steer turned a somersault and
slammed down on the earth with tremendous force. Vicente sprang from
the saddle, leaving the little horse bearing back with all its weight
against the rope to hold the steer, ran forward to the animal and in a
moment, as it seemed, had hog-tied it. It was then left on the prairie
to think the matter over, while Vicente and Charley Powell went off to
their work.

That night about the fire, Donald could not say enough in praise of
the work of the cow horses and their seeming understanding of what
was required of them; and the others assented to his enthusiastic
declaration that a well-broken cow horse is interesting to watch and
shows great intelligence in doing its part of the work of handling
the cattle. Joe and Vicente, however, said little, but at length in
response to some direct appeal Joe said:

"Well, boys, there's no denying that these horses know a heap, and that
some of 'em do their work mighty well. I expect if it wasn't for the
horses there wouldn't be any cattle business; but honest, and without
wanting to blow off my country or any other country, you ought to see
the horses in the South, whether it's southern California, or Texas.
I think maybe they're not always as strong as the mountain horses up
here, but they're a whole lot quicker. What's more, it seems to me
they understand their work better and do it better; and if that's so,
here's one reason for it: The cattle down there are different--at
least they used to be in old times, and I reckon they are yet. Most
of you know what an old-fashioned Texas long-horn is: mostly head,
horns and legs--light, quick on his feet, and a great hand to dodge.
Now those Texas horses, and the southern California horses too, have
been broke to handle these cattle; and to be any good they've got to
be fast, quick to turn and ready to meet any move the steer makes. Up
here, you've got a great deal better class of cattle: they're heavier
and make better beef, and that means that they're slower--more like
barnyard cattle. They don't handle themselves anything like what those
Texans do. Texas cattle put the horse and his rider more on their
mettle than these grade cattle. They call for greater quickness and
readiness; and though I am a Wyoming cowboy now, I'm bound to say that
the best cow hands I've ever seen have been down in the South and
Southwest."

"I guess that's gospel," Hugh said. "I saw something of the cattle
business down on the plains when the cattle business was fairly new
there, and when all the cattle came up over the trail from Texas, and
they certainly did have good cow horses down there. As Joe says, they
were quicker, and readier, as it seems to me, than the horses we have
up here. Of course that don't mean that they were better horses, but I
suppose it does mean that the Texas horses had been, as you might say,
just raised on cattle. For generations that was all that they'd been
doing and they were quick as a cat on their feet. It's always seemed to
me that these mountain horses are much more awkward."

"I've never seen those Texas horses," said Powell; "but I didn't
suppose that they were nearly as strong as our horses here; and I
didn't suppose that they could hold cattle nearly as well."

"No," replied Joe, "they aren't as strong as these horses, but for any
work like cutting, where you need quickness, they can handle themselves
mighty well."

"Not all those horses," explained Vicente, "make good cow horses. Some
quick, some slow. But good horse, the more you ride him the better he
do his work. Seems to learn things."

"They used to tell about a wonderful cow horse they had down on the
North Platte a few years ago," said Hugh. "I heard about him one time
from some punchers I saw in North Platte City, when I was coming west
two or three years ago. They said he belonged to the Bosler outfit.
Maybe you've seen him, Joe?"

"Oh, well," answered Joe, "if you're going to talk about Old Blue, I
don't believe there ever was a horse to be compared with him. He was
in a class by himself. In those days he was known all through western
Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. I guess he was the most noted cow horse
there ever was in that country. He was a Texas horse and, I always
heard, came up with one of the drives. I don't suppose there was ever a
horse like him in all this northern country. I saw him many times and
I happened to be along on one of the round-ups when he did something
that was talked of for years and maybe is talked of yet down in that
country; I mean the time he cut out a steer all by his lonesome.

"Old Blue belonged to George Bosler, who was an active cow man and rode
the horse as one of his string. I reckon Bosler was prouder of that
horse than of anything else he had, and he never got tired of telling
about the horse and how much it knew and what it could do.

"You know Buffalo Bill had an interest in a bunch of cattle up north of
the Platte; CN was the brand. Cody and North owned the cattle and they
had places up on the Dismal River."

"Hold on," interrupted Hugh; "you can't tell me about that! I used to
work up there."

"Is that so?" said Joe. "That must have been before I worked up at
Bratt's.

"Well, Cody was along with us on one of the round-ups, and Bosler was
telling him all about Old Blue, and among other things he said that
Blue knew the Bosler brand. Of course, Cody laughed at him and so I
guess did most everybody else; but George Bosler said he'd prove it,
and he'd prove it by riding his horse into the bunch and cutting out
an animal without a bridle on his horse, so that he couldn't guide it.
Well, everybody thought he must be drunk when he said that. But he just
got on his horse and rode into the bunch of cattle, and as he rode in
among them, he reached forward and pulled the bridle off his horse. The
horse walked around among the cattle, looking at them with his ears
pricked forward, as though hunting for something, and pretty soon he
pointed his nose toward a big Texas steer and began to push him out to
the edge of the bunch. You'll hardly believe it, but that steer had the
Bosler brand on him!

"The steer did not want to go out of the bunch and kept trying to break
back, and the horse had a hard time to keep him going; but he kept
right after him, and did succeed in working him out to the edge of the
bunch, and all this without any guidance at all by the man, except what
Bosler may have given with his knees. It was a wonderful sight, and by
the time the steer was out of the bunch 'most all the men had stopped
their work and were watching.

"But this wasn't a patch on what came afterward. When the horse got
the steer outside, the steer turned to fight; and the two stood facing
each other. The steer wanted to get back among the cattle; the horse
wanted to drive him over to the Bosler bunch. All the time the steer
was threatening with his horns, and the horse kept moving around from
side to side to keep in front of the steer and yet not let it hook him.

"They maneuvered that way for quite a little while, and then, all of a
sudden when the horse saw his chance, he made a big jump--twenty feet
clear, I believe--and got his breast right against the steer's neck in
such a position that the steer could not hook him. Then he began to
push the steer over toward the other bunch of cattle, where he wanted
to take it. The steer did not want to go, and braced itself; and the
horse just pushed. It was fearful hard work. He would push and push and
push as far as he could, until he was tired out; then he'd stand and
rest for a few minutes, while the sweat dropped down; and then he'd
begin pushing the steer again, until finally he pushed him to the edge
of the other bunch of cattle. All the time the steer was trying to
twist around so as to use his horns, but the horse worked it so that he
never got touched.

"Long before this, all the round-up work had stopped, and all the
men--I guess there must have been two hundred and fifty of 'em--were
watching the horse and wondering at him. I reckon the oldest cow man
there had never seen anything like that before.

"After he'd got the steer over to the edge of the other bunch and where
he wanted it, of course Old Blue had to figure out some way to get away
from the steer without getting hurt. We were all wondering how he'd do
it, and before long we could see him getting ready, and could figure on
what he was going to do. He began to draw his hind feet up under him
like a cat, and at last, giving the steer a great push, he wheeled on
his hind feet and made a long spring--and struck the ground running.
The steer went for him, but did not come near catching him.

"That cow horse was in a class by himself. I never saw another like
him, and I've seen thousands of cow horses, in Texas and California and
up in this country."

"That's a wonderful story, Joe," exclaimed Donald; "almost beyond
belief if you hadn't seen it yourself."

"Well," said Joe, "it's a story about a wonderful horse."

"What sort of horse was he, Joe?" asked Jack. "Was he a big horse--a
half-breed?"

"No; he was a small Texas horse. I suppose he'd weigh eight hundred
and fifty or nine hundred pounds. He didn't seem to have any special
breeding; but his head showed a lot of intelligence."

"Nobody could tell, I suppose," Powell remarked, "whether this was a
horse of very great natural intelligence, or whether he'd been ridden
by a man of superior intelligence."

"No," said Joe; "I reckon that would be all guesswork. It might have
been both. At all events he was a natural wonder."

"What finally became of him?" asked Jack.

"I don't know. When I left there the Boslers were still running cattle,
and George Bosler owned Old Blue. The horse got to be so well known
after a while that plenty of men wanted to buy him; but of course
Bosler wouldn't sell him. At that time you could buy a first-class cow
horse in that country for fifty dollars, but I heard that a man named
Sheedy came to Bosler and offered him a check for a thousand dollars
for Old Blue. But Bosler just told him that he had no price to put on
the horse; he wasn't for sale."

"Were there any more horses like that down in that country?" asked Jack.

"No," said Joe, "I don't believe there was one. Good horses were
plenty, but nothing that you could talk of in the same day with Old
Blue. As I tell you, he was in a class by himself, and anybody that
ever saw him work or knew about him would tell you the same thing. A
man named Carter owned a horse--a white horse--that was said to be the
second-best horse in that round-up; but he wasn't in the same class
with Bosler's horse. He was a good horse and did his work well, but he
couldn't be talked of with Blue. Then, up on Cody and North's ranch
on the Dismal, they had an awful good horse--a short-coupled, strong
dun horse that Cody sent out once after he had lost one of the ranch
horses. The horse was branded JO on the left shoulder and they used to
call him Old Joe. Likely you remember him, Hugh?"

"Sure," said Hugh. "He was a good horse and there wasn't much to choose
between him and Carter's white horse. They were way ahead of the
ordinary cow horses."

"There's one thing you don't want to forget," put in McIntyre, "and
that's what Joe said a while ago. Down in that country at that time,
if I understand it, there were lots more cattle than we've ever had
up here, and because all these cattle were from Texas and were wild,
active and quick, they had to have quick horses down there. I've heard
men that have worked down there--men that came from up in this country
I mean--say that in those days their horses weren't as good for
cutting as the Texas horse. They were more awkward and lots slower."

"Well," said Hugh, "it's good economy for a cattleman to have the best
cow horses he can get, and practically all the horses that they used
down in that prairie country came up over the trail from Texas. Why on
the Cody and North ranch they used to buy forty or fifty horses every
year; the poorest ones were culled out and sold and then the next year
another lot bought. It always seemed odd to me that so few Mexicans
came up over the trail with all those cattle that came. The country
down there was full of Texas cowboys, but mighty few of 'em were
Mexicans. I suppose the fact that a good many of 'em could not speak
English had something to do with it, and possibly in some places people
did not like 'em; though I never saw anything like that except where
a man was mean or had something bad about him. Pretty much all the
Mexicans that I've had to do with were as loyal and faithful as white
men--good workers. We've got a couple with us now and we all know what
they are."

"Yes," assented McIntyre, "they make the best kind of hands; but we
don't see very many of 'em in this country. I'd like it if we saw more."

For a little time nothing was said.

"Was the cattle business new in this northern country when you were
down in Nebraska, Hugh?" Jack asked presently.

"It wasn't what you could call new, son, but on the other hand it
hadn't been going very long. The country wasn't overstocked, and the
cow men were careful and worked hard. They made lots of money."

"Do you know when it was, Hugh, that cattle first came into the country
north of the Platte?"

"Well, it's hard to tell. I believe that there were cattle north of the
Platte in 1867. I guess likely they were Keith's cattle, but I'm not
sure. They were Texas cattle."

"And in those days," asked Donald, "was there much game in that
Nebraska country?"

"Yes," said Hugh, "a good deal. Lots of antelope and deer, a good many
elk and a few buffalo. I never happened to see any buffalo just there,
but I saw signs of 'em more than once."

"Why, when I was working down there," said Joe, "there were still quite
a lot of elk. I remember once seeing Buck Taylor come in to the CN
ranch dragging a big cow elk after him. I don't remember where they
caught her, but I do remember how she looked when she came. Buck was
snaking her along by the neck, and somebody had put a rope on one of
her hind feet, and she was dragging that. I remember, too, hearing
that one of the Oliffes roped an elk one time, but somehow or other he
couldn't handle him, and I believe he had to shoot him to get the rope
off him."

"Yes," repeated Hugh, "there was plenty of game there then, and quite a
little fur. Old Jim Carson used to make a living by trapping. Then in
those days there were still a few wild horses in the country. I don't
mean strays that had got away, but real wild horses, such as we used to
have in old times, thirty or forty years ago."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Donald. "I'd like to see them."

"Well," responded Hugh, "you can see pretty nearly the same thing,
only about a hundred per cent, better, any time you come across a bunch
of range horses on the prairie. These wild horses were of no account.
They looked as pretty as a picture when they were fat and slick, but a
number of 'em were caught, and not one of 'em was good for anything.
I chased a bunch once for six or eight miles, and came near killing
a good horse after 'em, and didn't get one. I'll bet the horse I was
riding was worth more than the whole bunch I was chasing. The romance
of the wild horse is a good deal like the romance of the cowboy's life:
there's nothin' to it."



                              CHAPTER XX

                             ROPING A BEAR


The round-up was drawing to its close. Most of the country to be ridden
had already been covered and, as Joe said, scraped of cattle as if they
had gone over it with a fine-tooth comb. McIntyre was an excellent
cow man, and besides keeping his men up to their work he himself had
covered much ground and had satisfied himself that his crew had been
faithful and thorough. Most of the cattle had been sent off in bunches
to their home ranges, and now only one day more of riding was to be
done, over a rolling country among the foothills of the low mountains.

On this last day, Jack, Donald, Vicente and Tulare Joe were covering
a stretch of country among the foothills. The ground was open, and
so rolling that the riders could see one another only occasionally,
yet still could keep track of one another's movements pretty well.
Donald, who still occupied the position of pupil, though he had made
good progress, rode pretty close to Jack and was often within hailing
distance of him. There were not many cattle here, and only a few had
been gathered, which Donald was driving along, trying to keep up with
the other riders and yet not to hurry his cattle.

As Jack rode up toward the crest of a ridge rather higher than most of
the hogbacks coming down from the hills, he looked off to the west and
saw something that made him rein in his horse. A rider, too far off to
be recognized, but whom he knew must be Vicente, was riding in a circle
and at the same time signaling with his hat.

Jack knew, of course, that this was a call to him to come, and he
started at once; on his way picking up Donald, whom he told to leave
his cattle and to come over to Vicente. Before they reached him, Joe
had joined Vicente, and the two waited for Jack and Donald.

When the four had got together, Vicente motioned toward the ridge
before them.

"Big bear over this hill; suppose we try catch him."

"Whoop!" cried Jack. "That will be more fun than a goat! But have we
got the ropes to tie him, if we do catch him?"

"I guess we can make out," said Joe. "Vicente and me have our macates,
and if we can get him fairly stretched, they ought to do for his hind
legs and his mouth. If we can catch him close to some timber there'll
be no trouble to tie him up, but if we get him in the flat country
where there's nothing to tie him to, we're liable to kill him. I've
heard how they used to catch bears in California, but I never saw it
done myself, though I've heard the story over and over again. Maybe
Vicente has seen it done. How's that, Vicente?"

"Yes," grinned Vicente, "in my country, sometimes they catch it
bear--make him fight bull. Suppose we had big rawhide here; no trouble
to catch it bear and take him to camp."

"You two fellows will have to tell Donald and me what to do," said
Jack. "We are green at this sort of thing; but if you will tell us, we
will do the best we can--eh, Donald?"

The young Englishman's eyes snapped as he nodded.

"Well," decided Joe, "I reckon the best thing to do is to charge the
bear together. I think that Vicente has the best horse and will get to
him first. Then, if he can catch him by the neck, I'll try to pick up
one or both of his hind feet, and then you two fellows will have to do
the rest. The main thing, of course, is to keep him from getting one of
the ropes in his mouth, for if he does that he'll just naturally chew
it off and we'll be short a man."

"But," asked Donald, "will these horses go up so close to a bear that
you can rope it?"

"I know that Vicente's will," answered Joe; "Vicente makes his horses
go wherever he wants them to; and I expect that my horse will be all
right, and so will Jack's. I don't know about yours, Donald. Guess
it will depend a great deal on its rider. Now before we get ready to
charge the bear, we must tighten our saddles, and see that everything
is in good shape; we don't want to have a saddle slip after we get our
ropes on the bear. Might be kind of unhandy for a man to be left afoot
there."

The boys dismounted, loosened their cinches, pulled forward the
blankets, tightened the cinches again, saw to it that their ropes were
well arranged, and then everything was ready. Vicente turned his horse
and rode toward the ridge, and the others followed a little behind him.

Presently Vicente took off his hat, checked his horse and, letting it
go forward only a step or two at a time, scanned the country before
him. After a few moments it was evident that he saw something. He bent
low and backed his horse down the slope, rode a few hundred yards
nearer to the higher hills on the right and then stopped.

"Bear pretty close now; just over ridge."

He started on a gallop toward the crest of the hill; the others
followed only a little behind him; and in a moment all of them were
sweeping down the gentle slope toward a great brown animal, which for
a moment stood on its hind legs looking at them. Almost at once it
dropped on all fours and raced off at great speed across the flat and
toward another ridge on which grew a few gnarled and stunted cedars.

The horses were now going at their best gait, down the slope, across
the dry wash near which the bear had been standing, and over the
level flat on the other side. Vicente's horse had put on a burst of
speed that astonished the other boys. It was rapidly overhauling the
bear, and by the time it had gone about three-quarters of the way up
on the opposite slope Vicente was swinging his rope. In a moment he
threw forward his hand and, checking his horse, the bear turned a
somersault and struck the ground with a sound heard by all of them. For
a moment the animal lay still, apparently stunned by the shock, and
then, springing to its feet, it charged furiously down the hill toward
Vicente, whose horse still stood there motionless. Jack saw Vicente
coolly shortening the rope, and then the little horse made a sidewise
rush and again the bear flew head over heels. At that moment Tulare Joe
caught the hind feet; and the bear, notwithstanding its great strength,
was fairly stretched out between the two little horses, which were
almost sitting down on the ground in their resistance to the pull of
the two ropes.

There was little time for observation. Quick action was needed now;
action which would render the bear powerless and would enable Vicente
to free the rope which was about the bear's neck and would soon choke
it to death.

"Try to catch the right fore leg, and I'll catch the left!" Jack called
to Donald; and riding close to the bear he caught the left foot, and
backing his horse away put a heavy pull on it. Donald had failed
to catch the bear's right fore foot, and was slowly recovering his
rope. He looked as if he did not know what to do. Meanwhile, the bear
was throwing its right fore leg up over its head and hooking it in
Vicente's rope in the effort to free its head, and Jack feared lest the
long claws might cut the rope or fray it so that it would break. If the
bear's head and one fore leg were free, it would be a difficult matter
to hold it, for it would readily cut the rope that held the left fore
leg. Vicente recognized this danger before any one, and every time the
bear hooked its right leg over the rope, Vicente slacked up a little,
so that the bear's leg and foot slipped off the rope, and as soon as
this happened Vicente quickly backed his horse away, until the rope was
taut again.

Seeing to it that his own rope was securely fastened to his
saddle-horn, Jack tumbled off his horse, and ran swiftly around by the
bear's head, jumped over Vicente's rope and came to the bear's right
side. He had beckoned to Donald, who rode up close to him. Seizing
the loop of Donald's rope, he waited until the bear's foot was free,
threw a small loop over it and told Donald to make the rope fast to
the saddle-horn and back away strongly. Donald was riding a good cow
horse, but it was evidently afraid of a bear and objected strongly to
coming close to this one. However, its rider at last drove it up close
enough to get his hands on the rope, and when the horse found that it
was holding something, it seemed to gain confidence. Though snorting
and uneasy, with pricked ears, it nevertheless remained quite still and
held the right fore leg so that the bear could not move it.

"There!" cried Jack, "I guess we have got him!"

All this had been done in a very short time. While it was happening,
Tulare Joe had left his horse and run around to the bear's head, and
now with Jack's assistance he made a sort of hackamore of his macate
and, binding the loose ends firmly around the bear's jaws, turned to
Vicente and threw up his hand. Vicente at once slacked up on his rope
and Joe loosened it. It had cut deep into the bear's neck.

For a moment or two the bear lay motionless. Donald supposed it was
dead until Joe, stepping around to one side, pressed his foot heavily
on the animal's chest close behind the outstretched fore leg and
the air from the lungs came whistling through the bear's mouth and
nostrils. A moment later the animal gasped for breath, and after two or
three intervals began to breathe regularly, and then to struggle. It
threw its head violently from side to side, and its little eyes snapped
with fury, while it uttered muffled grunts and groans. The boys stood
near its head watching its efforts to free itself from the ropes. It
could move only its head which it threw from side to side and up and
down, beating it against the ground in its impotent efforts.

"Hadn't we better get on our horses?" suggested Donald. "Suppose one of
these ropes breaks, or a horse yields a little."

"No danger," said Joe; "the ropes and the horses are all right."

Vicente sat on his horse looking down at the bear.

"Pretty soon he goin' die."

"Why will he die?" asked Jack. "What's going to kill him?"

"He get pretty mad," answered Vicente. "So mad can't live any longer.
You see."

The words were scarcely out of Vicente's mouth, when the bear gave a
great bawl and then lay still, except for a few convulsive quivers.
As Vicente had foretold, he had died of rage. The boys watched him
closely, and gradually they saw his eyes grow dull.

"Well," said Jack, "I'm sorry that the old fellow died. It seems as if
it would have been better for him to have been killed by a bullet than
to die in this way."

"Yes," responded Donald, "it does seem sort of an ignominious death
to be caught and stretched out on the prairie like this, perfectly
helpless. On the other hand, if he had ever gotten a wipe at one of our
horses with those paws of his, I am afraid that there would not have
been much left of the horse."

"We may as well get our ropes back again," said Joe, "and go ahead
about our business. Do you boys want to take off the hide? It'll make a
pretty good robe for one of you."

"I should like very much to have it, if nobody else wants it," said
Donald. "How do you feel about it, Jack?"

"Why," replied Jack, "if you want it, you had better have it, and Joe
and me here will help you take the hide off. It's no joke to skin a
bear. It takes a long time and is hard work, and you get covered with
grease while you're doing it. However, we may as well pitch in and get
it out of the way."

"Well," drawled Vicente; "me, I goin' off to look for cattle; when you
get ready, suppose you come along."

"All right," answered Jack. "It won't take us very long. We will put
the hide on Donald's horse, and then Joe and I will hurry on to catch
up with you."

Nevertheless, it was nearly an hour before the hide was freed from the
carcass and done up in as compact a bundle as possible; and then ten
or fifteen minutes more had to be devoted to the work of getting it
on Donald's horse, for the animal wholly objected to the smell of the
load. At last, however, the work was completed and Donald mounted; but
no sooner had the blind been lifted from the horse's eyes than it began
to pitch, and so furiously and long that the boys feared that Donald
might be thrown and hurt. They threw their ropes over the horse's head,
and called to Donald to dismount. He did not greatly care to do this,
but finally did so, and the boys advised him to turn about and go home,
leading his horse at least for a mile or two before attempting to mount
it. They would go on and finish their circle, and would then come
around to the camp.

Before he began his walk to camp Donald saw the other boys mount their
horses and ride off over the hills. As soon as he started, his horse
began to make trouble for him. It began by bucking hard at the end of
the rope, and Donald was somewhat uneasy lest either the strings which
bound the hide on the horse's back should stretch, or come loose, or
else the saddle should shift. In this case he would lose his hide,
for once on the ground it was not likely that one man could tie it on
the horse again. Fortunately, everything held, for Tulare Joe before
leaving him had carefully gone over all the fastenings. Even after the
horse had ceased bucking, it was very uneasy, looking back at its load
and trying to bolt, or occasionally swerving from side to side and
dragging Donald about on the end of the rope. He had not had sufficient
experience with a rope to understand how to hold a horse effectively,
and sometimes he was dragged along, with arms outstretched, for a
number of yards over the prairie, before the horse yielded to the pull
of the rope. A man of greater experience would readily have stopped
the horse in a number of its rushes by throwing his right hand behind
his hip and then leaning back against the rope, but Donald had not
yet learned how to do this and during his long walk back to camp he
suffered much discomfort because of his lack of knowledge.

Two or three times he thought that he would mount his horse; but each
time the beast threatened trouble, so that Donald feared he might lose
his bear skin off the saddle; and now, since he had worked so hard to
save it, he was determined that he would take no risks about it. It
occurred to him also that if his horse should get away from him and
should run to camp and in among the cávaya, the loose horses would be
certain to stampede, and might be scattered far over the prairie. It
seemed better to walk the whole way than to take a risk such as this.

So he kept walking; and it was a hot, dirty and weary young Englishman
who at length reached the camp. He tied his rope short to a wagon wheel
and took the bear skin from his horse, and then unsaddled and turned
loose the animal.

It was some hours later when Vicente, Jack and Tulare Joe reached camp
with a small bunch of cattle.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                        A CALIFORNIA BEAR HUNT


That evening in camp Jack and Donald were full of the exploits of the
day--the roping and death of the bear.

"What I can't understand yet," said Donald, "is why that bear died.
Vicente said that it died because it was so mad; and certainly we know
that it died, and without being hurt, except so far as it was choked
before we got it stretched out. Did you ever hear of anything of that
kind, Hugh? I suppose you know more about bears than anybody in the
camp."

"Well," replied Hugh, "of course, I've seen bears in my time, and
seen some of 'em killed, but I don't know anything more about whether
they'll die of anger than you do. I expect the only men that can tell
you much about that are Vicente here and Joe. I've heard more than once
something about grizzly bears dying because they were mad; but I don't
know anything about it."

"Come on, Joe," laughed Jack, "we've got to go back to you Californians
now for information. California is the only place I ever heard of where
they regularly roped grizzlies, and I suppose it's a long time since
they did much of that."

"Yes," answered Joe; "it's a long time ago. The big California
grizzlies had got to be mighty scarce long before I learned how to
throw a rope; but here's Vicente--he's seen it done, for he told me
so to-day. And I've heard a man, who did it before I was born, tell a
story of what he himself had seen in California in early days."

"Well, I reckon we'll have to squeeze a story or two out of you and
Vicente to-night," said Hugh; "but first I'd like to hear what you
know, or have heard, about bears dying of anger."

"I know just about as much about it as any of the rest of us here,"
responded Joe. "It used to be common talk out in California that bears
would die of anger; and the one we saw to-day certainly acted that way.
At the same time, I don't suppose all bears are alike in their temper
or feelings any more than all men are alike."

"I should say not," declared Hugh; "and that's what I've been trying to
tell the people for a good many years. Men say that deer, or antelope,
or coyotes, or jack-rabbits, always act in a certain way, under certain
circumstances; but I don't believe a word of it. There's just as much
difference in antelope and coyotes and jack-rabbits as there is in
horses and cattle and dogs. Some are fast, others slow; some gentle,
others wild; some are cross, others friendly; in other words, all the
animals of a certain kind are not exactly alike, and don't all act
alike."

"I guess everybody believes that, Hugh," said Powell, "if he stops to
think of it, but the trouble with most of us is that we don't stop to
think."

"That's sure what's the matter with most of the people in this
country," replied Hugh; "they don't stop to think. They've got sense
enough, if they'd only think. Well, Joe, tell us your story, the one
you heard; or let's hear the one Vicente has to tell."

"I'll give you mine easy enough," said Joe. "It happened just about the
time I was born, I suppose in the late '50s, and near a place called
San Pascual. It seems that bears had been making trouble killing colts,
and the men at the ranch made up their minds that they'd try to get
'em, or some of 'em; and if they got a bear, they'd take it to one of
the towns near by and have a bear fight by fastening the bear and a
bull together. Just about that time one of the men came in and reported
another colt killed, and its mother badly scratched up; so two or three
of the men, one of whom was supposed to know everything about bears,
went out and looked the ground over to decide what to do. Finally they
killed the old crippled mare on a low flat piece of prairie a mile
wide and about three miles long and then took her paunch and dragged
it, making a circuit of about ten miles, and finally came back to the
carcass. They found in the trails the tracks of an old bear and three
big cubs, and saw that they were traveling around pretty much all the
time. When the men dragged the paunch they crossed a good many of these
trails.

"While this was being done, other men went out and drove in the horses,
and the best broken ones were picked out for those who were going to
ride after the bear. Of course every man looked after his saddle. If
any of the latigo strings, or any of the strings of the saddle or the
bridle were worn a little, they were taken off and new strings put
there. It wouldn't do to have anything break when they were going to
try for a bear.

"The next morning early a man was sent out to go to the bait, and to
where the paunch had been dragged, so as to learn if the bears had
found it. He came back soon, and said it looked as if there had been a
thousand bears going over the trail where the paunch had been dragged.
He said that they had eaten considerable of the old mare.

"The men who were the leaders--the bear sharps--said the bears would
come back that night, and that all hands ought to be within earshot of
the bait by moonrise. So by dark all the horses were saddled, and about
ten o'clock the head man called the outfit and led 'em down toward the
bait. Before they got anywhere near it, they could hear the coyotes
yelping on the hills all around the bait, and they knew that the bears
were at work. If the bears had not been there the coyotes would be
eating and not yelling. When they began to get near the place, they all
stopped and tied up the chains and the tinklers on their spurs, so that
these wouldn't be heard, and then waited for the moon to rise. After a
while the moon came up over the mountains, and then very quietly they
jogged along until they got between the bait and the ravine out of
which the bears' trail had come the night before. Then, facing around
they rode in a line toward the bait.

"The leading man had told 'em that those who couldn't rope--and that
meant pretty much all the Americans in the bunch--had better stay
behind and either try to catch the cubs, or else to pound 'em with
their ropes and try to turn 'em. The leading man, Don Juan, was going
to rope the bear, and he was to be supported by two other good ropers,
both Californians.

"Well, according to the story, they got quite close to the bait before
anything happened, and then an enormous bear stood up and looked at
'em. The man who told me said that she looked to him as tall as a pine
tree; but I guess he wasn't used to seeing bears. At all events, even
if she did have her cubs with her, she put out across the flat making
for a big cañon that was quite a long way off.

"Don Juan and his partners kept after her and before very long caught
up and Don Juan put his rope around her neck. But before he knew it
she threw it off, and he had to slow down a little to gather his rope.
Another man drew up to try to rope her, but the bear gave a snort that
scared his horse so that it ran away. Finally the third man got up to
her and, roping her with a big loop, caught her around the neck and
behind her shoulder, and the rope stayed. She turned and charged on
three legs, one of her fore legs being held close to her neck, but she
never arrived, for Don Juan came up at that moment and caught both hind
feet and in a minute she was handsomely stretched. Garcia, the man who
had been on the frightened horse now came up. Taking his macate to hold
his horse with, he went up to Don Juan, who in the meantime had ridden
up within ten feet of the bear's hind legs, shortening his rope all the
time, and so leaving about twenty feet behind the horn of the saddle.
He passed this end to Garcia, who was now on foot, and Garcia, passing
the end of the rope through the loop that was about the bear's neck and
front foot, carried the end back to Don Juan and helped him hold the
bear's hind legs, while he took up the slack of the rope that had been
passed through the neck loop. When this was done and he got a pull on
the rope, the bear's hind feet came close up to its neck, and it was in
kind of a ball.

"They'd provided themselves with strings and ropes, and now that the
bear was helpless her mouth was tied up, and then the three men,
putting their ropes on her, dragged her to a tree, and, after a good
deal of work and fussing around, got one hind foot on either side of
the tree trunk, and tied the two together on the other side. The bear's
hind feet were thus useless to her. She could walk around on her fore
feet and dig holes in the ground with 'em, but it was impossible for
her to get at the lashing which held her hind feet.

"All the other ropes were then taken off and she was left there for the
night.

"Meantime, the cubs had been attacked by the Americans, and after a
whole lot of excitement all the three were captured and tied up.

"The next morning they got fresh horses and all went back there and
carried a beef hide with them. You heard Vicente say yesterday that if
we had a beef hide we could take the bear to camp, didn't you, Jack?"

"Yes; I heard him say that, but I didn't know what he meant."

"Well," said Joe, "you'll know if you'll listen to this story.

"When they got to the bear, Don Juan made a rough measurement of the
distance there'd be between the two front feet and the two hind feet of
the bear if she was lying stretched out on the ground, and then in the
beef hide he cut holes at different points.

"Now strong ropes, wound with sheep skin to keep the ropes from
cutting her, were put around the bear's fore feet and hind feet. The
beef hide was moved up close to her head, the ropes attached to the
fore feet were passed through the holes in the fore part of the beef
hide, and the bear was slid forward on to the hide and the ropes drawn
tight. Then the ropes on the hind legs were passed through the holes
cut at the back end of the beef hide and drawn tight and there lay the
old bear, stretched out flat with the beef hide under her and firmly
attached to it. They say it made the white men who had just come into
the country stare to see the way the Californians handled the ropes and
the bear.

"When the bear was fixed there to the hide, another rope was fastened
to the head of the beef hide; and then with three men ahead, each with
a turn of one of the ropes around his saddle-horn, and two men behind
to keep the hide properly stretched, the outfit set out for the ranch.

"The cubs were tied up and packed on horses, and the whole family,
except one cub that had died, successfully taken to the house.

"The next day, after they had put another hide under the bear, they
hauled her down along the road to the town. They say that they had lots
of fun on the way down, for every ox-team and burro train that they met
on the road, just as soon as it got a smell of the bear, started from
the road and took to the open country.

"There in the town they got a bull and brought the bear into the corral
and fastened bull and bear together by a long chain and then turned
both animals loose. Of course, it don't seem to have been half fair
to the bear, for she had been tied up for a couple of days and must
have been fearfully stiff. However, she was ready to fight. But it was
pretty short; the bull managed to stick his horns through her after a
little bit, and killed her."

Jack drew a long breath.

"Gee, wouldn't I like to have been there!" he exclaimed.

"They certainly were handy with the rope in those days," said Hugh.

"Yes," replied Joe; "they were. Vicente was telling me to-day about his
uncle's catching a bear and tying it up all alone. It seemed to me a
pretty good story. I don't believe you can understand more than half of
it if he tries to tell it in English. Suppose I get him to tell it to
me in Spanish, and tell you just what he says."

"Bully!" responded McIntyre; "that'll make it a whole lot plainer."

For a moment Joe and Vicente spoke together in Spanish, and then Joe
turned to the others.

"All right," he said; "here goes:

"It seems that Vicente's uncle was riding through some thick willows
in a wet place on a ranch in California, when suddenly he felt his
horse stagger and heard the sound of a slap. He knew that a bear had
hit at him and missed him, and hit the horse, and the horse went flying
out of the willows into the open grass with the bear charging at his
heels. His uncle slowed down a little and let the bear get pretty
close, bending off toward a low, stout willow that grew alone. When he
got nearly up to it he dodged a little to one side, stopped his horse,
and as the bear passed, roped him by one hind leg and, riding half a
dozen times around this willow, drew the bear up close to the tree. Of
course, the bear was biting at his hind foot all the time, trying to
get rid of the rope. Vicente's uncle tied the end of the rope to an
outside limb; then riding up close to the bear in front--of course it
was making desperate efforts to get at the man--he threw his hair rope
over the bear's neck, fastened it to his saddle-horn and backed his
horse off so as to hold the bear. Then the man got off his horse, took
off his silk sash, went around behind the bear which was held by the
horse, and tied his hind legs together behind the tree. That was all
there was to it."

"Gosh, that was enough!" exclaimed Jack Mason. "We don't know anything
about what those old fellows used to do with horses and cattle and
bears."

"That's so," drawled Vicente. "In those times they often sent out a
man alone to kill and butcher a steer and bring it in to camp. Pretty
dangerous, all of it; but the vaquero must not be afraid."



                             CHAPTER XXII

                      HUNTING WITH A SIX-SHOOTER


The round-up was over and the representatives of the various brands had
started off in different directions toward their home ranches, taking
with them the few cattle that had been gathered during these last days.
With the Sturgis party went also Jack Mason, whom McIntyre had engaged
only for the round-up, and who was beginning to get uneasy and to long
to resume his wandering life. When he paid him off, McIntyre said to
Mason that he would be glad to have him work on the ranch for the rest
of the season, and even hinted that he would give him a job for the
winter, but to these proposals Mason shook his head, laughingly, and
declared that his steady job had lasted long enough and that now he was
going to make a little trip.

There were thus five men in the party that was traveling toward Swift
Water Ranch. They had about fifty head of cattle and twenty-five horses
to drive. The distance was short, the weather fine, and they expected
to reach the ranch in three or four days, at the most.

The morning after the round-up outfits had separated, they started in
good season, traveling up a broad open valley between the mountains,
where in many places the grass stood well above the horses' knees. As
they drove along, antelope were constantly seen ahead of them, which,
though not shy, always moved off ahead, or ran up the open side valleys
which at short intervals emptied into the main one.

"Son," Hugh said to Jack, who was riding near him, "why don't you and
Donald go ahead and try to kill a buck antelope with your pistols? I'm
getting hungry for a piece of wild meat. I've had so much beef lately
that it seems to me I can pretty near feel my horns sprouting;" and he
rubbed his hand over the side of his head. "The buck antelope ought
to be in pretty fair order now, and I don't know why you shouldn't be
able to get up pretty close to 'em, if you work along close to the
side of the valley, and see the antelope before they see you. They're
great fellows, you know, to climb up and lie where they can look out
over the country. If you had rifles you'd be sure to get a shot or two.
I don't know what kind of a pistol shot you are. Most of us can't do
much with these short guns, though Major Frank North, down in Nebraska,
could kill game as well with a pistol as I could with a rifle. Many
a time I've seen him kill deer and antelope at a hundred yards, what
we'd think was a good rifle shot, and he was using just an ordinary
revolver."

"That's a good idea, Hugh. We'll do it. I'd like to give Donald a
chance. He hasn't had any show yet to hunt, and I expect that's what he
came out here for."

"Is it?" inquired Hugh. "I haven't seen him carry a rifle, and I didn't
know what he was out here for."

"Well," Jack admitted, "I don't know either; it's just my guess that
maybe he came out to have a hunt."

"Then take him along. You're not needed here, and I certainly would
like to have some wild meat hung up in camp."

Jack asked Donald if he wanted to go and see whether they could kill
an antelope with their pistols, and there was no doubt about Donald's
readiness; so it was not long before the two young fellows, riding out
well to one side of the little herd, galloped off up the valley and,
waving to Rube as they passed, were soon out of sight behind a point of
the hills.

When they were well beyond sight or sound of the herd, Jack drew in his
horse and, turning toward the edge of the valley, repeated to Donald
what Hugh had said.

"What we want to do," Jack went on, "is to keep as close as we can to
the edge of the valley and watch the ground ahead for antelope. Along
toward the middle of the morning they're likely to get up pretty high
and to lie down where they can have a good look over the open land. If
we can see one lying down, or can see one working toward a place where
it looks as if he might lie down, we may be able to get right close to
him. Now, I've used a pistol mighty little, and I don't feel at all
sure that I can hit anything with it. Have you ever used a pistol much?"

"In past years in England, and in New York, I have done some shooting
with a pistol at a target, but of course I have never shot at game;
and I fancy that to shoot at game is very different from shooting at a
target, in a quiet place with all the lights arranged just so."

"Yes," laughed Jack, "I should think it would be; but if you know how
to shoot a pistol, you'll have to do your best to kill the game. I tell
you, if we come in to-night without anything, I shall lay it up against
you."

"I'll do what I can," Donald promised, "if you will take me up close
enough to get a fair shot. You see in the shooting-galleries the
distances are short, scarcely ever over twenty yards; and what is more,
the people there shoot with special pistols, and often with special
ammunition. So if I flunk on killing game, you can see I will have
plenty of excuses. Besides that, I don't know anything about this
pistol--it's a new one I've just bought, and I can't tell anything
about how it's going to shoot."

The hills which bordered the valley on either side were low, but rough,
rocky ledges often thrust themselves out to the valley's edge, and from
these ledges great pink or reddish rocks, occasionally worn into queer
shapes, had fallen. Sometimes around such a great rock was a little
tangle of underbrush--cherry, currant and raspberries--while sometimes
there was no brush and the yellow grass grew close about the rocks. It
was up here on the higher land that Jack hoped to find antelope lying
down, and, under cover of rocks and brush and the inequalities of the
ground, to be able to get close enough to kill one with a pistol.

As they rode on, it became clear that Hugh had sent them to a good
hunting place for antelope. Groups of these animals, or sometimes old
bucks feeding singly, could be seen every few hundred yards for a long
distance ahead. Some of the bucks seemed to carry extraordinarily large
horns, which would make fine trophies to hang on the wall, and both
Jack and Donald regretted that they did not have their rifles.

Donald, whose experience in hunting was much less than Jack's, was
anxious to try to approach the first bunch of antelope they saw; but
Jack pointed out to him that this could not be done, because there
was little or no cover. He explained further that if they started the
antelope running along this valley, they would put every animal there
on the alert, and their hunting later in the day would be just so much
the more difficult.

"If we ride along close to the rocks here," he said, "the antelope
will pay little attention to us. Some of them will stand and look, and
perhaps walk off a little way, but when they see us go on about our
business they will begin to feed again. Along toward the middle of the
day, if we keep our eyes well open, we are pretty sure to find some of
these big bucks lying down close to the hills, and then we'll give you
a chance to see what you can do with your six-shooter."

"All right," agreed Donald; "all right; you're the hunter, and I am
perfectly willing to follow along behind and do what you tell me to."

"Oh, it's not that. But I've had more experience than you, and I know
better than you what animals will do under certain circumstances. Why,"
Jack laughed, "don't I remember the first antelope I ever killed! How
crazy I was to get up to it, and how I fell down two or three times on
the way to the top of the hill, and how I finally scared the antelope
out of the country! I believe that was one of the best lessons in
hunting I ever learned. I made such a complete fool of myself, that I
even saw it myself, and it humbled me and made me ask Hugh to put me on
the right road, and to keep me traveling there."

Donald was interested in all hunting matters, and he was anxious to
have Jack tell him the whole story of that hunt in detail. Somewhat
reluctantly, Jack told him something of his adventures during his first
visit to his uncle's ranch, when he was known as "Jack, the Young
Ranchman."

As the boys rode up the valley, new vistas of its yellow surface and
of the side ravines that came into it were constantly opening up, and
distant animals were often seen which Donald could not always identify,
and which he took for deer, or elk, or even cattle. Jack assured him,
however, that they were all antelope.

"How do you know?" Donald asked. "Now there's a beast far off that
looks black, and looks as if it had big horns. How do you know that
that's an antelope?"

"I can't tell you how I know, but I do know that it's an antelope. You
say it looks black; well, so it does, but on the other hand, look where
the sun is, and you'll see that the reason it looks black is because
the part of it that we see is mostly in the shadow, while everything
around about is in that bright sunlight. You say it looks as if it had
big horns, and I'll acknowledge that it does--but look at it now. Can
you see its horns?"

"No," said Donald; "it seems to have lost its horns."

"It has to our eyes," explained Jack, "because it has turned its head,
and we don't see the horns from the point of view that we did before.
It would be hard for me to say positively that any of those things
were not elk or cattle, but I'm dead sure that they are all antelope,
because at this time of the day there would not be any elk in this
place; that's one thing; another thing is, if they were cattle they
would look different. They would be squarer, broader, heavier. Hold on
there! Bend down slow, and slip off your horse!"

In a moment the boys were on the ground.

"Did you see him?" Jack whispered.

"No," answered Donald; "I didn't see anything."

"Why, there's a big buck antelope lying there, not seventy-five yards
away, and he didn't see us either. I believe we can crawl up close
enough to get a shot. Look here, you said just now that you didn't
know your pistol, and didn't know how you could shoot with it. Do you
want to take mine? I can tell you how it shoots, but I don't know that
that'll do much good. If you can get near enough to the buck and can
find a place to rest the pistol, you had better shoot at him from a
rest."

"Well, how are we going to get near him?" asked Donald. "I don't know
where he is. You will have to crawl up to him, and when you get to the
right place, call me up and I'll shoot."

"I think we can get up to him all right," said Jack. "He's lying up on
a little bench, and I believe we can crawl along under the bank right
close to him. The only danger is that he'll see you when you rise to
shoot; and I suppose if you have to shoot at him on the run, you'll
miss him."

"I'm sure I shall; but let's try, anyhow."

They threw down the reins of their horses, and turning toward the
valley crept very carefully down into a little sag. Jack pointed ahead
to where a great rock showed sixty or seventy yards away.

"He's lying right at the foot of that rock; between us and it. Now,
we'll have to crawl along this low place, sticking as flat to the
ground as we know how, and then when we get within thirty or forty
yards, you lift up your head and find him and kill him, if you can. If
you miss him, I may take a pop at him; but I'm certain I shan't hit him
when he's running. But, say," he cautioned in a whisper, "don't you
take your pistol out of your holster until you get ready to shoot, and
I won't take mine out either. I'm afraid that if we have them in our
hands we might kill each other instead of the antelope."

"All right," agreed Donald.

Jack threw off his hat and Donald did the same, and the boys crept
along very cautiously and slowly. As they advanced, the top of the rock
seemed to come nearer and nearer, and at length they were quite close
to it. Presently Jack stopped, looked back and motioned with his hand
for Donald to creep up beside him.

"Now you go up very slowly on your knees," he whispered, "and try to
find him. Remember that the first thing you will see is his black horns
sticking up. If you see them close together, his head will be turned
out toward the valley; if you see them wide spread he'll be looking
straight in our direction. Wait, if you can, until he looks out toward
the valley, and then rise and shoot. You'll have to shoot pretty
quickly, for he's almost certain to see us. Raise your head very
slowly."

Donald gathered his legs under him and very slowly rose to his knees,
at the same time feeling for his six-shooter. Gradually as his head
rose higher and higher, his hand went around to his hip; but when he
was standing on his knees it was evident that he saw nothing. He looked
at Jack, who motioned with his hand toward the rock, and Donald crept
forward a little way up the bank. This time when he raised his head, he
saw the animal. He drew his pistol and noiselessly cocked it, waited a
moment and then, raising his head and hand slowly, he fired.

Jack was on his knees behind Donald and had his pistol ready, but
nothing stirred.

"You must have got him!" Jack cried.

The boys quickly jumped to their feet and climbed up the bank, and
there was the antelope, his head stretched out before him.

"Let's get a knife into him!" exclaimed Jack. "He may be only creased."

A few steps brought the boys to him, and taking hold of the antelope's
horn Jack thrust in his knife at the point of the breast. Then he
saw that the ball had entered just below the head and had broken the
antelope's neck.

"By Jove!" he cried, "that was a good shot, and a quick shot! If that
wasn't an accident, it was certainly a way up shot. I'd give a good
deal to be able to shoot a pistol like that three times out of five."

"It was a lucky shot, sure enough," laughed Donald. "I can't do that
sort of thing three times out of five, nor three times out of ten. I
wish I could."

"Well, we'll have to have some pistol practise when we get back to the
ranch, for if you can do this thing often, I'll want you to give me
some lessons."

The boys dressed the antelope, which was a fine old buck with a pair of
long, spreading horns.

"This will tickle Hugh," said Jack, "for it's just what he asked for--a
good piece of wild meat."

They left the antelope where it lay, and riding out a short distance
from the hills so that they could see the whole valley, they took the
saddles and bridles from their horses and let them feed while they sat
there and talked until the slow traveling herd had come almost to where
they were. Then they saddled up again, went back to the antelope, and
putting it on Donald's horse rode down and joined the others.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                            A LOAD OF MEAT


The sun was hanging low in the western sky on the evening of the
second day after this when the little bunch of stock, having entered
the home valley and crossed the streams which ran down from the low
mountains back of the ranch, approached the corner of the pasture
and saw the lake. The low ranch buildings were still hidden behind
the hills, but all the surroundings were those of home. The cattle
were left by the lake to mingle with the others that within the past
few weeks had been brought to the home range, but the men drove the
horses along, intending to turn them into the big pasture until it had
been determined what saddle animals should be kept up. Most of them,
however, would be turned out, and would do no more work until the beef
round-up a couple of months later.

There was no especial work for any one to do, and Hugh asked Jack why
he and Donald did not ride on to the house and see Mr. Sturgis. When
this was suggested Donald said he would be very glad to do so.

"I have not said anything to you about it, Jack, but I have a letter of
introduction to Mr. Sturgis from my uncle, who is an old friend of his.
I think that they were in college together, a good many years ago."

"Well," said Jack, "you'll like Uncle Will all right, I know. If you
don't, you'll be different from most of the other people in this
country. Of course I like him because he's my uncle, and perhaps you
might say Hugh likes him because he works for him, but I think you'll
find that most people on the range and at the railroad think a good
deal of him. I once overheard a man say to another: 'What I like about
that man Sturgis is that he don't put on any airs; he's just as common
as you and me.' That sounds a little queer, of course, because back
East when anybody speaks of another person as common, it has a bad
sound; but I reckon out here they use the word in a sense that maybe we
have forgotten."

The boys started ahead, and turning the corner of the pasture fence
they galloped along toward the house which they could now see. No one
seemed to be stirring, until they were near enough to the blacksmith
shop to hear the ringing of hammer on anvil, and for the hoof-beats of
their horses to be heard in the shop. Then Joe, with a hammer in one
hand and a pair of tongs in the other, looked out of the door, and on
recognizing Jack shouted a greeting and waved his tools. The boys drew
up by the corral fence and tied their horses, and then, having shaken
hands with Joe, went up to the house to see Mr. Sturgis. He was found
writing in the sitting-room, and welcomed the boys cordially. When he
had read Donald's letter he gave him an extra handshake and told him
that he must stay there as long as he would. Donald's arrival had not
been altogether a surprise to Mr. Sturgis, for among the mail waiting
at the ranch were two or three letters for the young Englishman, as
well as for Jack; and after the first greetings were over the two boys
retired to read their mail.

Among Jack's was a letter from Sam Williams, saying that he was in
Cheyenne and had succeeded in getting work; that he had left the horse
and saddle at Brown's livery stable, as promised, and that when Jack
was ready, he would be glad to have him send him the fifteen dollars
still due him on the saddle and bridle. Jack felt that he must inquire
about this at once, and see that Williams got his money as soon as
possible.

When the reading of the letters was over, Mr. Sturgis looked up from
his writing.

"Jack," he said, "Hugh told me about the trouble over at Powell's
the day you started away from here, and a few days ago when Joe was
in town, Brown told him that some weeks before a man had left at his
stable that gray horse and a saddle and bridle which were to come out
to you here. Joe brought them out. He brought out Donald's trunk on the
same trip."

"Yes, Uncle Will; I have a letter here from the young fellow who left
the things at Brown's, saying that he had done so. I owe him some money
on that saddle, and must see that it goes to him the next time anybody
goes to town."

"Yes," said Mr. Sturgis, "don't neglect that. If you really owe money,
pay it as quickly as you can. How do you mean to send it to the man?
I can give you a check, of course, but that may not be the most
convenient way for him."

"No," replied Jack, "I guess it wouldn't be. It should be sent either
in currency in a registered letter, or by post-office order. I suppose
a money order would be the safest."

"I think so too, but of course it is a little more trouble. However, I
think I would send it in that way. You would not care to have to pay
the money twice. Speak to me about it the next time any one goes to
town. I think perhaps somebody will have to go before very long."

"There come the horses, Uncle Will," said Jack. "Don't you want to go
out and look at them? They're all in first-class shape, it seems to me,
considering the work that they have had to do; but between now and the
fall round-up they'll fatten up and be in splendid shape for that."

They walked down to the barn and saw the horses turned into the corral,
and Mr. Sturgis shook hands with Mason, whom until now he had never
met. The loads taken off the horses were dropped in front of the
bunk-house, for Jack and Donald had agreed that they would stop down
there; they would not sleep at the house. To this Mr. Sturgis at first
demurred a little, but assented when the boys had given him their
reasons.

For two or three days now nothing seemed to happen at the ranch. The
saddle horses were turned into the big pasture, and the men who had
just come in from the round-up camp loafed about the house, reading or
talking, or sleeping. Very likely they were all a little tired from
their long hard work and enjoyed the days of idleness; but that could
not last. Their lives had been too active for them to settle down
into doing nothing. Therefore, when Mrs. Carter announced one day at
breakfast that the supply of fresh meat was running low, Mr. Sturgis
with a smile asked Jack and Donald whether they wished to go out and
kill a load of meat, or whether he should send out and have a beef
driven in.

The boys declared that they would make the hunt; and up on the mountain
back of the house, where the elk had their summer home, seemed the only
place to go. To be sure, there was a bunch of antelope over in the
big pasture, and a few mule deer lived in some of the ravines running
down from the hills; but Mr. Sturgis liked to see these animals near
the house and had requested his own people and their neighbors not to
disturb either the deer or the antelope.

Jack and Donald agreed therefore that the next morning they would climb
the mountain and try to find an elk; and when Jack Mason heard of it,
he said that he wanted to go along, if his job should be only to lead
the pack horse. He was already tired of loafing.

Mr. Sturgis had decided to send Hugh to town the next day, and that
evening Jack arranged with him to get a money order to send to Williams
at Cheyenne.

Soon after breakfast the following morning, the three started on their
hunt. To Jack the trail up the mountain was familiar enough, for he had
known it now since small boyhood. To the others it was new and full of
interest; and Donald, especially, looked down with great interest and
curiosity into the deep, narrow and dark ravines above which the trail
ran.

Suddenly Jack, who was in the lead, held up his hand, and then slowly
slipped off his horse on the upper side and came quietly back to Donald
and Mason.

"There are five bull elk," he said, "down here in this ravine, just a
little ahead of us. I don't think we want to kill them, but you might
like to see them, Donald. I don't know if you ever saw elk at this time
of the year, just when their horns are half grown. It's interesting to
see them go through the thick timber, and to notice how careful they
are to keep from knocking their horns against the trunks and branches
among which they travel. Of course, the horns are very tender at this
season, and the animals take the greatest care not to hit them against
anything."

"I'd greatly like to see them, Jack. Can we get a look at them?"

"Yes; slip off your horse, and we can go forward on foot and get a look
at them, I think. They were moving when I saw them, but I don't think
they saw me."

"Well," said Mason, "I'll stay back, and bring the horses on up to your
horse, Jack."

"All right," answered Jack; and he and Donald went forward. They had
passed Jack's horse only about twenty feet, when Jack stopped and
pointed, and in a moment Donald could see the yellow bodies of the elk
showing up in the shadow as they walked along the ravine.

"Shan't we kill one?" whispered Donald after a moment.

"It doesn't seem worth while. These fellows are growing their horns
now, and they'll be poor enough for a month longer. You know, those
horns grow about as fast as corn, and they're a terrible drain on the
animal. On the other hand, just as soon as they have got their growth,
and begin to harden, the bull elk lay on fat in a way to astonish
anybody, and by the end of August, or first of September, they are
fit to kill--hog fat. Besides that, even if these elk were in good
order now, we don't want to finish our hunt at the very beginning of
the day, and then have to go back to the ranch and stay around there
until night. If we keep on we can very likely find a yearling or a
two-year-old heifer that will make us good meat and be worth bringing
back."

For some time the boys watched the elk's slow progress up the ravine,
but at length the animals turned off into a side ravine and disappeared
among trees and brush and were seen no longer. Then the boys went back
to their horses, remounted and rode on up the trail.

After a time they came up out of the ravine into a narrow grassy valley
with little groves of quaking aspen and bordered on either side by high
ridges of weathered pink granite. Here the slope was gradual, until at
the head of the valley they reached a rolling plateau, with aspens here
and there, and farther off higher hills, crowned by pines. The country
they were entering was singularly picturesque. Donald was greatly
impressed, while the apparently practical Jack Mason declared that it
was as pretty a hunting country as he'd ever seen.

Everywhere in the bare soil of the plateau which showed among the tufts
of grass, already beginning to turn yellow, were seen the traces of
elk. Some of the tracks had been made in the spring when the soil was
wet; they had sunk deep in the soft mud, and showed the imprints of the
dew-claws. Other much later foot-prints had been made on dry earth,
but were dull, windworn, and covered with dust; while occasionally were
seen tracks fresh and glistening, made by animals which had passed
along only a short time before.

"There are certainly plenty of elk here," remarked Jack Mason to the
other Jack.

"Lots of them," was the reply. "Of course I don't claim to know much
about the whole West, but I have never been in any place where elk
seemed as plentiful as they are here. We may ride on to some at any
time, and for the present we don't need to hunt, because whenever we
want to kill something we can do it."

It was only a little later that Jack's prediction was verified. As they
rode across the opening of a little valley they saw, less than two
hundred yards away, several cow elk and heifers feeding at the edge of
the brush near the timber.

"There," said Jack, "what did I tell you?"

"There they are," returned Jack Mason; "sure enough."

Donald began to show some excitement.

"Shouldn't we go up there and try to kill them?" he asked eagerly.

"I think not," answered Jack. "We can get what we need going home. I
think it will be better fun for us to ride on a little, and then climb
up on some high peak and sit there and look over the country."

"All right," said Donald, resignedly; "go ahead; but I'd like to remind
you of the story about the girl who was sent into the woods to get a
straight stick, and kept rejecting pretty good sticks, hoping to get
one still straighter, until finally, when she got to the outside she
had to take one that was crooked."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Mason. "That's the way I've seen it done often with
hunters. But let's follow Jack, Donald. He's the boss, and if we don't
get any meat, we'll put the blame on him, and make lots of fun of him
when we get back to the ranch."

"Let it be so," acquiesced Donald.

Jack Danvers grinned.

"I'll accept it," he said.

For three quarters of an hour they rode on, constantly ascending by a
gentle slope. Two or three times they saw other elk near or far off,
and more than once Jack was warned by Donald of the humiliation of
being laughed at when they got back to the ranch. But Jack only laughed
and intimated that Donald was a British pilgrim.

At last Jack dismounted at a little grove of pine timber, at the foot
of a rocky hill, steep and broken.

"Let's stop here," he said, "and climb up to the top of this hill and
see what there is to look at. When we get up there, Donald can soothe
his feelings with the British pipe he carries and the rest of us will
study the landscape."

The horses were tied, and a short scramble brought the men to the
sharp peak of the hill--a rocky needle standing up several hundred
feet above the plateau. From this summit was had a wide view which
really justified Jack. To the south and east they looked out over the
basin where the ranch was, though the distance was so great that there
was no detail. Behind them, to the north and west, was a stretch of
plateau broken by groves and lines of pines and aspens, and in the
little parks among this timber were a number of animals, most of them
elk, though there were some antelope. On the plateau between the basin
from which they had come and the pinnacle on which they stood, in many
little parks and openings were elk and in one of the larger parks a
herd of antelope.

"Why," exclaimed Jack Mason, "this is a regular elk pasture! It seems
to me the elk are thicker here than the cattle on the prairie, where we
passed along only a few days ago."

"Well," replied Jack, "there are a great many elk up here, and very
few people come here to hunt them. A few of the ranch people round
about, when they need fresh meat, come here and kill it, and that is
all the hunting that is done here. But I'm afraid the place is getting
talked about. I heard last year of three or four settlers from down
in Colorado who came up to the Hole, where most of the elk winter,
and loaded up their wagons with their winter's meat. If three or four
people from Colorado did that last year, it's likely that a dozen or
twenty will do it this year, and two or three times that number the
year after. If they do that, that will be the end of the elk here; and
I guess they'll do it."

The boys sat there for an hour or two looking over this lovely mountain
prospect, and then Jack Danvers stood up.

"Well, I really hate to do it," he said, "but I suppose we've got to go
down and kill something, and take it back to the ranch."

They climbed down the steep hill and untied their horses.

"Now," Jack cautioned the boys, "we ought to go more carefully. Donald,
I expect you'd like to kill an elk, wouldn't you?"

"You bet I would!"

"All right then; let's go on and do it."

On the return they took a valley a little to the west of the one they
had followed up, and it was not very long before Jack halted and called
a council.

"Now it seems to me that just beyond this point of timber we saw from
the hill a little bunch of elk, and among them there's likely to be the
animal we want--a fat yearling. I don't suppose there'll be any trouble
in getting up to it--not half as much as there'd be in getting up to a
range cow on foot--but let's go on. We can ride until we see the elk,
and then get off to shoot."

They entered the green timber in single file, Jack in the lead and
Jack Mason bringing up the rear with the pack animal. It was all very
simple. Before they reached the edge of the timber on the other side,
Jack, who had been looking carefully, stopped and craned his neck to
one side and then slipped off his horse and beckoned to Donald.

            [Illustration: GENTLING A WILD ONE.--_Page 44_
  _Photo. by the Morris Art Studio, Chinook, Mont._]

Very quietly the two proceeded on foot, and before they reached the
edge of the timber Jack pointed out to Donald two or three elk lying
near the opening, but he motioned to him to wait before shooting. After
a little study Jack fixed on a fat yearling that lay slightly apart
from the others, and told Donald to shoot it behind the shoulder and
low down. When the shot rang out all the elk sprang to their feet,
except the one Donald had hit. This one partly raised itself and then
lay down again, and after a moment put its head on the ground. The
other elk stood about looking. The boys went back for their horses, and
when they came out from the timber toward the dead animal, the other
elk were hardly a hundred yards away and were walking up the little
park without showing any alarm.

To prepare the elk's carcass for transportation to camp and to load the
greater part of it on the pack horse took only a little time, and the
boys went on toward home.

Jack congratulated Donald on the shot.

"It was a good one," he said, "and I believe you're an older hunter
than I thought. The way you killed that antelope the other day, and
this elk, makes me think that you've done a lot of hunting. Of course,
I'm not much of a believer in this buck-fever that you read about in
the books, but it certainly is true that when pilgrims are shooting at
game for the first time, they don't always keep their heads. I reckon,
though, that you've hunted more than I supposed, and I believe that you
can shoot all right, and maybe can beat some of us out here who think
we can shoot pretty steadily."



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                         FLAGGING AN ANTELOPE


The days passed pleasantly and swiftly. It was not the season for
killing game, and except when fresh meat was required no hunting was
done. Nevertheless, there was work enough. Every day one man rode off
and made a long round of the basin looking carefully for the tracks of
cattle leading away from it. If fresh tracks were seen, the cattle were
followed, rounded up, and driven back to the home range.

The work on a ranch is never ended. The irrigating ditches had to be
looked after and the water from time to time turned on or off the
hay-fields or the garden-patch. Haying time would come before long,
and in that country hay was money, and worth more than a cent a pound.
When no work was pressing, Jack Danvers and Donald got on their horses
and rode down to the lake, and perhaps lay there on a little knoll and
with their glasses watched the young ducks swimming on the lake, or the
young plover, sandpipers and curlews that fed along its borders. The
first two or three times the boys went down there, all the young birds
hid, and the old ones made a great outcry, the curlews and plovers
flying over them and whistling shrilly as if to frighten them away;
but after a time the birds seemed to become accustomed to the boys and
to regard them as ordinary objects the landscape and no longer to be
feared.

One of Donald's early visits to the lake resulted in a situation
that gave him some discomfort and uneasiness, and cost him a pair of
boots and spurs. He saw a brood of young ducks in a little cove and,
intending to try to capture them, he ran into the water at the cove's
mouth to cut them off from going back into the lake. Almost before
he reached the edge of the water he sank so deep in the soft, soapy
mire that he wished to get back to firm ground, but found that he
could not stir. Jack had not seen what Donald was doing until he had
almost reached the water, and then he called to him to come back. He
now shouted to Donald to stand still. Then he ran back thirty or forty
yards to his horse and, mounting, rode to the edge of the firm ground,
and from there tossed his rope over Donald's head. Donald fixed it
about his chest, close under the arms, and Jack shortened the rope
and tried with his own strength to pull Donald out, but found that
impossible. He was fast in the mire and, while he did not sink, he
could move his legs not at all. Jack took a turn on the rope about the
saddle-horn and started the horse away gradually. This pulled Donald
over, but did not move his legs. Jack rode back again and got Donald's
horse, and threw that rope also over Donald's head; then, stripping off
his own coat, he tossed it to Donald and told him to wrap it around his
chest and so to make a pad against which the ropes could draw.

Having thus put in operation the precise thing that Hugh had done for
him five or six years before, Jack stood the two horses side by side
and slowly led them forward. The strain on Donald was severe. The pull
bowed him forward until his trunk was parallel with the sloping beach
and then suddenly, with a mighty pluck, he was drawn from the mud and
thrown heavily on the ground. Jack stopped the horses, and in a moment
the ropes were loosened and Donald recovered his breath. His legs were
uninjured, and Jack asked him how his chest felt.

"Whew! I feel as if a grizzly bear had been hugging me, and hugging
me tight! Honestly, I thought I heard my ribs crack just before I was
pulled out."

"Well, it's not very good fun. I had Hugh do that precise thing to me
once, when I was a little fellow, and I thought I was going to pull to
pieces."

"Do you mean to say that you ever did so foolish a trick as to walk
into a mud hole like that?"

Jack laughed.

"In my case it was quicksand, but the effect was the same. My feet and
legs from the knees downward were gripped fast and I couldn't get out.
I really don't suppose I ever came as near dying as I did that day. It
was just the accident of Hugh's coming into camp at the right moment,
and seeing and hearing me, that got me out of it. I think on that trip
I learned a couple of lessons about doing what I was told to that I
have never forgotten, and my instruction came in the shape of two huge
scares. Say, you seem to have shed your foot-gear in that mud."

"Yes," Donald replied. "If they had not let go, I would probably be
there still, or at least a part of me. You might have succeeded in
pulling the upper part of my body away, but my feet and legs would have
been down there yet."

"Well," said Jack, "there's no hope of recovering anything from that
mud. You'll have to get new shoes and spurs."

"Spurs I'll have to get, but I have shoes at the ranch."

It was two or three weeks after their elk hunt that the two boys, on
being told that fresh meat was again needed, decided that they would go
over to Willow Creek, twenty-five miles from home, where the Pick ranch
had an old cabin, and camping there would try to kill three or four
buck antelope. Donald was especially keen about that, for though in
previous trips to the United States he had killed one or two antelope
his experience with this curious and interesting animal was limited.

It was proposed that Jack Mason should go along. Each man would take
his saddle horse and while two would ride, the third would drive the
wagon, his saddle animal carrying the saddle being tied up to the hames
of one of the team horses. In the wagon they would take a tent and
three or four days' grub.

They started one morning in good season and were four or five miles
from the ranch before the sun showed its face over the high eastern
hills.

A little farther on, as Jack and Donald rode up on a low ridge, Jack
saw off to the left a yearling buck antelope, distant not more than
sixty or seventy yards, which gazed steadily at them. Jack pulled up
and motioned to Donald to get off his horse and kill the yearling,
which, notwithstanding their movements, stood looking at them. Donald
gave Jack his reins and stepped behind the horses, where he threw a
cartridge into his gun and fired at the antelope. At the report the
yearling trotted a few steps toward them, and Jack saw the ball strike
the prairie far beyond the animal. Again Donald fired, and again the
antelope advanced a few steps. Jack saw the second bullet knock up the
dust far toward the hillside.

"You're shooting too high!" he called to Donald; "you're seeing too
much of your foresight. Draw down a good deal finer and aim at the
point of his breast."

The third time Donald shot; and this time the antelope fell.

"Where did you hold for that last shot?" asked Jack, as the two rode up
to the fallen animal.

"Square for the breast," said Donald.

"Well, if that's the case, you must draw your sight still finer, for I
believe you hit that antelope in the neck, high up."

When they dismounted this proved to be the fact. The antelope's neck
was broken by a ball which had entered the throat only about three
inches beneath the head.

"Was this antelope insane?" Donald asked Jack, as they began the work
of dressing the animal. "Why did he not run away? Instead of doing that
he kept coming closer at each shot."

"That's easily explained. In the first place, the sun was shining
square in his eyes, and we were between him and the sun, therefore he
could not make out what we were. Besides that, you see he's a yearling,
and it's quite possible that he never before heard the sound of a gun.
Evidently it did not scare him at all."

"Well," said Donald, "I'm glad to have that explained. If you had not
told me how it was, I should certainly have believed that I had killed
a patient that had escaped from some antelope lunatic asylum."

"That conundrum was an easy one," laughed Jack. "One trouble with most
of us is that we look at things from our own little view-point, and
imagine that other creatures look at things as we do. You ought to talk
to Hugh about that. He's thought more about it than anybody I ever
talked to, and he's given me whatever ideas I may have."

By this time the antelope was dressed and the team had driven up close
to it. The carcass was loaded in and they went on again. About eleven
o'clock they crossed a little stream which was the last water they
would find until they reached camp at night, and they would have a long
drive of twelve or fifteen miles across a dry flat. Accordingly they
stopped here, unsaddled their horses and let them drink and feed, and
cooked themselves a cup of coffee. An hour later, hitching up again,
and with Jack in the wagon as driver, they started on; and an hour or
two before sundown reached the willow-grown bottom where their camp was
to be pitched.

As Jack and Donald were unhitching the team horses, Jack Mason, who had
been riding off to one side, galloped up and, dismounting and throwing
down his reins, jumped into the wagon and began rapidly to throw out
the beds, tent and tent-poles. Donald took the team horses down to
water, and the grub box and meat were lifted out. In a moment they had
picked out a place for the tent and were soon putting in the tent-poles.

"Before we unsaddle, Jack," Mason said, "you and I had better ride off
to take a look at some cattle that I see feeding on the prairie off to
the north. If they should happen to be Mr. Sturgis' cattle, we ought to
turn 'em back to the ranch. It seems to me I heard Rube speak the other
night of seeing some tracks leading off in this direction, but somehow
he lost the trail and couldn't find 'em. It may be that these are the
cattle, and if there's any beef among 'em they certainly ought to be
thrown back now."

"Right you are," said Jack. "Let's get the tent up and then we'll leave
Donald to pack wood and water and build the fire, and we'll go off and
look at the cattle."

Donald was ready to attend to the cooking so far as he could. There
really was not much to do, for they had brought some bread; and all
that was necessary was to cut and fry some meat, and boil the coffee.
Jack suggested that Donald might skin the antelope and get the meat
ready for frying. It would take the two Jacks only a short time to ride
over to the cattle, but if they proved to be Sturgis' cattle they ought
to be looked after. If they had located themselves up on the high bench
and were likely to stay there, there was no special reason for driving
them back into the Basin; on the other hand, if they were slowly
traveling away from the Basin they ought to be turned back.

When the boys reached the cattle--only fifteen or eighteen head--they
found that they were Sturgis' cattle, chiefly cows and young stock,
but with them four or five steers, some of which would be ready for
shipment that autumn. A careful look over the ground, and the discovery
of a more or less worn trail where the cattle seemed for several days
to have been going to water, made the men think that the animals were
not traveling, but would stay there, or thereabout, for some time.

"Well," said Jack Danvers, "I believe these cattle have stopped here.
Why not leave them alone, and keep an eye on them for the day or two
that we are hunting here, and then when we start back two of us can
drive them along to the ranch and turn them loose down by the lake?"

"I guess that's the thing to do," agreed Jack Mason. "Meantime, if they
should move away, one of us can pick up the trail and probably overtake
'em. I don't seem to remember any of these cows on the round-up, but of
course they were there."

"I remember that black and white cow and her calf, and that bob-tailed
bay steer over there. I think the day they were cut out was about the
time you went into town to interview your friend Claib Wood."

Mason laughed.

"I just envy you fellows the fun you had out of that little argument
that Claib and I had in town. I believe I've been better than a comic
paper to that round-up camp, and it didn't cost 'em anything, either."

When they returned to camp they found that Donald had been busy. The
beds were in the tent ready for unrolling; the antelope had been
skinned and meat cut for frying; the coffee had been boiled and was
standing in the ashes near the fire where it would keep hot. Donald had
unsaddled his horse and turned it loose with drag-rope, and had tied
the ropes of the two work horses to bunches of sage-brush.

"Bully for you!" called Jack. "This looks like business. Just as soon
as we picket our horses we can have supper."

The work of picketing the horses so that they could get as much grass
as possible and yet would not get tangled in one another's ropes was
soon over, and before the sun had set the simple meal was finished and
the dishes washed, ready for breakfast.

The night was clear and warm, with a full moon, and nothing disturbed
the rest of the hunters, though as they fell asleep they heard the
chorus of coyotes from the nearby hills.

It was not light the next morning when Jack Danvers heard Mason putting
on his shoes, and a moment later pushing aside the flap of the tent.
Jack also began to dress and in a very few minutes the two men were
preparing breakfast around the dancing fire. Dawn had come and was
swiftly spreading over the sky. Jack called to Donald, who groaned
a response but before long appeared at the fire just in time to be
saluted by Jack, who had returned from the stream with the bucket and
the coffee-kettle filled with water.

After breakfast, the three rode a little way to the north, where from
a high knoll they could see the cattle, placed just about as they had
been the night before; and then, turning east and passing through some
broken country, they came to a rolling plateau more or less interrupted
by ravines, where they saw not a few antelope. Most of these were
busily feeding on the higher ground and for a time the boys could see
no way of approaching any of them. Finally Donald and Jack Danvers,
leaving their horses, set out to crawl up a low swale which they hoped
might bring them within long shot of a herd of eight or ten antelope
guarded apparently by a big buck. They crawled and crawled under the
hot sun, and Donald thought that he had never been in any place where
it was so hot as this. Moreover, flies--small but very hungry--buzzed
about his head, and stung his neck and ears, and he seriously wondered
whether the antelope they were after were worth all this effort.

They were still a long way from the game when the little water-course
in which they were crawling spread out and became so shallow that it
was impossible to proceed farther without being seen.

"This seems to be our finish," Jack said, "unless you feel like
shooting at them at this distance; and if I were you, I wouldn't do it.
There's a possibility of hitting, but no more than that; and if you
miss, when these antelope run, everything that sees them will be on the
lookout and ready to run."

"It isn't likely that I could hit at this distance," answered Donald.
"I wish that they would come up nearer."

"I'm afraid wishing won't do you much good," laughed Jack.

"Say, I used to read about flagging antelope. Have you ever tried it?"

"No; I never have. I guess likely they used to do it in old times,
but I fancy in these days the antelope are too smart to be fooled by
anything like that. To be sure, I've seen antelope come back to look
a second time, or a third time, at something that they had seen but
couldn't make out; but I'm afraid the flagging business won't work."

"Well," suggested Donald, "why not try it anyhow? If we don't show
ourselves it isn't likely to scare them; and it's possible that they
may notice it."

"How are you going to work it?" Jack asked.

"This red handkerchief around my neck will do for a flag. But there's
nothing to tie it to except our two guns, and if it succeeds we ought
to use them for another purpose."

"Why, here," said Jack, "I'll take this rod from my rifle and we can
tie the flag to that."

Jack's rifle was fitted with tubes below the barrel and through these
ran the slender steel rod which might be used to drive out a shell, if
by any chance one should stick in the breech of the gun.

Jack took the rod from its place and tied Donald's handkerchief to one
end and then slowly raised it in the air and waved it in plain sight
of the antelope. For a short time they did not notice it, and then
an old doe faced around toward the boys and stood there looking; and
in a moment all of them were looking. Presently the old doe started
off on a canter to get nearer to the flag. She galloped for forty or
fifty yards, then stopped and looked. Then she turned and trotted off
a short distance, and turned and looked again; and then galloped up
still nearer. And what this old doe did all the others did. Presently
it seemed as if the buck took courage--as if perhaps he wanted to show
off before his family. He galloped up to within seventy-five or eighty
yards, and then, turning to the left, made as if he would circle around
this strange thing that fluttered to the wind.

"Now!" whispered Jack. "He may not come any nearer. If you can, hit him
when he is trotting; or, if you'll wait for him to stop, I believe you
can get him. I think I would wait; he'll probably stop before he has
gone far."

So it turned out. Before long the buck stopped and faced squarely
around, and Donald, with the memory of the previous night's shooting
in his mind, drew a very fine sight on the antelope's chest, low down,
and fired. The buck reared on his hind legs and, holding his fore legs
stiffly out before him, fell over backward. The does looked at him for
a moment and then scurried off like so many frightened rabbits, while
the boys, rising from the ground, stretched their cramped limbs and
stamped about to restore the circulation.

"That was another good shot, Donald. I'd like to know how you held, and
we'll see just where the ball hit."

"I drew the sight just as fine as I possibly could, and held on the
very lower edge of his breast. If the ball flew as high as last night
it seems to me it ought to have broken the lower part of his neck, but
if I held right, and the life line is as low as I fancy you say it is,
I believe that I must have hit his heart."

When they reached the buck, they found that Donald had done just that.
The ball had entered an inch and a half or two inches above the lower
level of the breast, and a little to one side of the breast-bone; had
pierced the heart and gone entirely through the antelope.

Jack shook hands with Donald.

"A good shot!" he exclaimed. "I shouldn't be surprised if you could
beat us all with the rifle."

The shot had so thoroughly bled the antelope that it was unnecessary
to cut its throat, and when it was ripped up all the blood in its body
seemed to have gathered in the visceral cavity.

Before the antelope was dressed Jack Mason came up with their horses.

"My!" he exclaimed, bending over and resting on the saddle-horn as he
watched the boys at work, "that's a fine head. You don't often see one
like that. Why don't you take it, Donald, and carry it back to the old
country to ornament the walls of your baronial hall?"

"I believe I will, Mason," said Donald; "and when I get it hung on
those walls, I'll invite you and Claib Wood to come over and give us
your little barroom act. We can have lots of Western color in the
village where I live, with just a few of the properties."

Mason laughed.

"I believe it would have been better if I'd killed Claib," he said.
"You fellow's wouldn't have so much to josh about then."

The two following days spent at this camp resulted in the capture of
three more buck antelope, and the next morning camp was broken and
the wagon started back to the basin. Donald drove, while Jack Mason
and Jack Danvers rode well out on the prairie and rounded up all the
cattle they could see and drove them slowly toward the ranch. In the
early part of the day the cattle were slow to move, but after the sun
got hotter and more directly overhead they seemed to work along better,
and shortly after noon had the appearance of really striking out after
water, which, of course, in due time they found.

At the place where the road crossed the water Donald had stopped,
unhitched his team, taken off the bridles and tied the animals out to
feed; and Mason and Jack were delighted when they came in sight of the
camp to see Donald fussing about the fire and to find a good meal just
about ready.

A few hours later the cattle were turned loose just outside the big
pasture beyond the lake, and the little hunting party rode up to the
ranch, its mission accomplished.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                     THE DANCE AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE


The weeks went by. Haying time came and all hands were busy cutting,
hauling and stacking. The winter had been one of heavy snows, and water
was plentiful in the irrigating ditches. Rains had been more frequent
than usual that spring and summer, and in many a little meadow, too
small for fencing, there was a growth of grass worth cutting. One of
the labors of the summer about which the men growled bitterly was the
never-ending work of keeping the range cattle away from these little
unfenced pieces, in order to protect the growing grass. The cattle
returned again and again to these patches of fresh green grass, and the
men were forced to exercise constant vigilance to keep them off the
meadows.

At last the haying was over. The stacks were all protected from the
wind and carefully fenced against ravages of the range stock. Now the
nights were growing shorter and cooler; sometimes there was a frost,
with a skim of ice. The leaves of the aspens began to turn yellow.
Down on the lake the broods of young ducks which had been reared there
were gradually being added to by the arrivals of early migrants from
the north. The last time Jack and Donald went out on the mountains
for fresh meat for the house, they had killed a bull elk whose horns,
though still wearing the velvet, were full-grown and hard, and the
animal was fat. September was at hand, and before many days Jack would
be obliged to turn his face eastward and get back to college and work.

"Well, boys," Mr. Sturgis said one morning at breakfast, "it's about
time for us to gather our beef and start it in to the railroad. We
ought to find it all pretty close at home, and I hope we can begin
to-morrow, and gather it and take it to the railroad in short order."

The day was devoted to getting up the horses and preparing the wagon
for the short trip, for early the next morning they were to start for
a little stream twelve or fifteen miles away, where there was a corral
and a good camping place. Hugh had declared that on this trip he would
drive the team and would cook, and Jack, Donald, Jack Mason, Rube and
Mr. Sturgis were to gather the beef.

Donald, who had become reasonably skilful with the rope and at home
on a cow horse, declared that if Hugh could cook he could wrangle the
horses, and that he would do that in addition to his riding. It was not
likely that there would be any night herding to be done. The beeves, as
they were cut out in considerable bunches, could be sent back to the
ranch and held in the pasture for a short time; while the horse bunch
would be likely to stay with the old bell mare that most of them knew
so well.

Long before sunrise, the riders set out, traveling to the northeast,
intending to ride circle of the basin and to turn in toward the camp
all the cattle found. These could be turned loose again after the beef
had been cut out; and possibly there would be time for another circle
to the south, when more cattle could be brought in the same night or
the next morning; when again the beef would be cut out, and the cows
and young stock turned loose.

Not long after the riders had gone, Hugh climbed into the wagon and,
chirruping to his team, soon disappeared down the valley.

It was a fine morning for riding, and all the men felt its invigorating
influence. The air was keen but dry, a light breeze just stirred the
tops of the sage and the taller grass stems, and from the bushes
everywhere sounded the sweet, melancholy, autumn whistle of the
meadow-lark.

Few cattle were found as the riders went north, but as soon as they
turned east and south they came on frequent groups, brought in not long
before from the round-up. The cattle were fat and logy, and the work
of pushing them along was slow, so that not nearly so much ground was
covered, nor so much accomplished as had been hoped. Nevertheless, it
was a respectable bunch of cattle that was driven up that afternoon
near the wagon, where the work of cutting began.

Some years before, Mr. Sturgis had built near this place a large and
stout corral of poles hauled from the mountains, and it was in this
that the beeves were to be put and held, until enough had been brought
together to drive up to the ranch.

The work of cutting went on rapidly, and before night all the steers
fit to ship had been put in the corral. Then two of the men set out and
drove the cows and the young stock up toward the mountains, throwing
them back as far as possible on to the ground from which they had
been brought that morning. This would leave the country to be ridden
the next day free from cattle until they started to make their circle
and would meet an entirely new lot. The steers were to be held in the
corral until morning, when two of the men would take them back to the
ranch and throw them into the pasture. While that was being done--for
the next twenty-four hours--there would be only three men to ride and
cut, instead of five, but Hugh said that he would help.

Long before daylight the next morning, Rube and Donald set out for the
ranch with the steers. The animals were hungry and thirsty. At first
the work of driving them was slow, but as the sun rose and the heat
increased the steers traveled faster, for most of them, knowing the
range, knew also that water was to be found six or eight miles ahead,
and they were anxious for water. After they had drunk, driving was
again slow; but in the afternoon they reached the ranch, where with
Joe's help the cattle were put in the big pasture. After a bite to eat,
the men started back to the wagon, and reached it some time after dark.

Here they found that, notwithstanding the shortness of riders, another
good gather of cattle had been made, and again there was a corral full
of beef. These Mr. Sturgis declared might as well wait there for a day,
when it was hoped that the rest of the country would be covered, the
beef cut out, and the whole herd taken to the ranch, to be sent to the
railroad a few days later for shipment.

So it turned out. By evening the whole Basin had been rounded up,
all the beef it was desired to ship turned into the corral, and the
round-up outfit was ready to start back. On the gather there had been
little that was exciting, but an abundance of hard work, although
there had been no riding night herd, for which the boys were devoutly
thankful.

The return to the ranch was deliberate, and it took them two days to
get there. The beeves were driven a short distance in the early morning
and allowed to feed and rest, and then another short drive in the
afternoon completed the day's travel; but the steers were herded at
night, and because of the small number of men the tours of duty were
long--instead of three reliefs there was only one. However, this was
for a single night only.

For two weeks the beef was left in the pasture and in this time
regained whatever weight it had lost in the round-up. The men who from
time to time rode into the pasture and around among the cattle were
proud of their quality--it was certainly a bunch to bring joy to its
owner.

At length Mr. Sturgis received word that in three days the cars for his
shipment would be on the railroad siding, and the beef was started to
town. The journey was unmarked by any special incident; but the herd
had not been long on the road before it was learned that another bunch
of beef was also on the way to the railroad and would reach there about
the same time as Mr. Sturgis' cattle. This was important news, for it
was not certain that the loading corrals were large enough to hold many
more cattle than those in Mr. Sturgis' gather, and if the other people
should by any chance get first to the railroad and occupy the corrals,
the matter might be a serious one, as there was no feed for the cattle
within six or eight miles of the town.

That night Mr. Sturgis asked Jack to ride over the next morning to
where the other cattle were being driven, and find out definitely whose
they were, how many, and when they expected to ship. Meantime the
Sturgis beeves would be driven on to the railroad; but if there should
be any likelihood that for any cause the shipment would be delayed, the
cattle would be turned off the road before the town was reached, and
held until it was possible to see what should be done.

It was late that night when Jack returned to the camp, and as soon as
he had turned out his horse he went to his uncle.

"It was a false alarm," he reported; "the cattle that are coming are
Mr. Powell's, and there are only about one hundred of them. He has
ordered cars and hopes to ship with you. He and Charley were proposing
to go on to Chicago with the cattle, and to help with ours as well as
theirs. That will make four or five men to the train."

"We shall certainly be glad to have the help of those extra men," said
Mr. Sturgis. "I've been wondering what we were going to do. There ought
to be at least four men with these cattle; and six would be better. I
may have to get Rube and Mason and Hugh to go; but Hugh is getting a
little bit old for work of that kind."

"I'd like to go," said Jack, "but I must get back, I suppose. I've lost
too much time, as it is. I can help load, but then I must take the
passenger. Another thing; I hear there is going to be a dance in town
two nights from now. Charley Powell brought the news when he came out
the other day, and Mrs. Powell and Bess are with the Powell outfit,
going to the dance."

"I suppose likely the whole country will be there. What do you know
about the Claib Wood and Mason trouble, Jack? Is that likely to be
renewed when we get into town? I don't think Mason is likely to make
any trouble; but Wood has rather a bad name. Suppose you speak to
Mason about it before we get in, and I'll try to find Wood there and
we'll see if we can't stop, or at least postpone, any renewal of this
quarrel."

Two days later the beeves were in the loading corrals, but the promised
cars had not yet made their appearance. Mr. Sturgis, knowing of old
the uncertainties of railroad promises, had provided against such a
contingency by arranging for a lot of hay, and the beeves were fed that
night and were to be fed again the next morning. It was hoped that
during the night the cars would come. Powell's cattle came in a little
later than the Sturgis herd, and they also had to be fed, and fed with
Mr. Sturgis' hay. The next day, if it were not possible to load, it
would be necessary to drive the beeves eight or ten miles over to the
banks of the Medicine Bow River and to hold them there.

Before they reached town, Jack spoke to Mason about the possibility of
further trouble with Claib Wood, and Mason declared that, so far as he
was concerned, he had got through with Wood, and had absolutely nothing
against him.

"Of course," said Mason, "I'll be on the lookout, and if Claib tries
any of his tricks on me, I'll have to be just a little bit quicker than
he is; but I've no quarrel with Claib, and don't want any."

Soon after they reached town Mr. Sturgis looked up Claib, and had quite
a talk with him. He was apparently fully recovered from his injuries,
but the weeks that he had spent under a roof had bleached away his
outdoor color and he looked pale and thin.

"I tell you, Mr. Sturgis," said Claib, "I've no very good feelings
toward Jack Mason, for he picked a quarrel with me, and hurt me just
for meanness."

"In one way, I suppose that's true," answered Mr. Sturgis; "but, on the
other hand, it's only fair for you to remember that you shot Rufe Mason
without any particular provocation or quarrel, and it's natural that
Jack should remember what you had done to his brother."

"Well," admitted Claib, "that's so. I never ought to have shot Rufe,
and I wouldn't have done it, only I was drunk and quarrelsome. I expect
it was natural for Jack Mason to want to get even with me. I've had
time during the last two months to do a whole lot of thinking, and I'll
say this, that if Jack Mason is willing to wipe it out, I'll say the
same and shake hands with him on it."

"I'm mighty glad to hear you say that, Claib," said Mr. Sturgis; "and
I'll be glad to see you two shake hands. You're both good men, and I'd
be sorry to see either killed. I feel sure that Mason is willing to
call it square, if you will. The next time you see Mason, go up to him,
man fashion, and tell him how you feel. I'm sure you'll find him ready
to make peace."

Early that day people from the neighboring ranches--men, women and
children--began to gather for the coming dance, and the town showed
unusual excitement. Women, young girls and children passed along the
streets, going from one store to another, tasting the delights of the
shopping tours that came to them so infrequently. In more than one
of the saloons were heard sounds of the fiddles to be played by the
musicians for the dance; but the master of ceremonies, dreading lest
these musicians should become too tipsy during the day to furnish the
music in the evening, had appointed a trustworthy person to go about
with each one and see that he did not drink.

Soon after dark, wagons began to drive up to the schoolhouse and to
unload their freight of laughing, chattering people, excited by the
prospect of the dance; and a little later the frequent pounding of
quick galloping hoofs told that the cowboys were gathering. Before long
the rail to which the horses were tied was crowded from end to end,
while their riders gathered on either side of the door, squatted on the
ground and smoked their pipes and cigarettes and discussed the events
of the range--the calf crop, the incidents of the round-ups, and the
piece of beef.

Presently from within the building came the sound of music, and a
number of the men rose to their feet, threw away their cigarettes and,
with rasping shaps and clinking spurs, entered the door. In the little
anteroom, each man paused to divest himself of spurs, shaps, belt and
six-shooter--all these things being tied together and placed in a
corner of the room.

In the ballroom the women and children sat on one side and the men,
rather shamefacedly, tiptoed over to the other side and seated
themselves. The costumes were those of everyday wear, though most of
the men were freshly shaven. Some of them wore coats and most of them
overalls, often turned up for eight or ten inches, so as to show the
trousers beneath. Almost all of them wore the high-heeled cowboy boots
of the period, and not one carried a weapon. The women and children
were dressed in their best; some of the younger girls wore white,
perhaps with a bright ribbon tied about the neck. Eyes shone bright
and faces were expectant.

The schoolhouse benches had been moved back close to the wall and
the extra ones put out through the windows and piled up outside the
building. At the end of the room, on a little platform where commonly
the teacher sat, were the musicians. Four oil lamps on the four sides
of the room gave abundant light.

Presently Jim Decker, master of ceremonies, walked over the floor
holding a candle in one hand and a jack-knife in the other, shaving wax
on the floor, and then trying with his foot to rub it into the wood;
and at length, when his candle was exhausted and he put his knife in
his pocket, a burst of music sounded from the two fiddlers and the
clarionet man.

"Take your partners for the quadrille!" Decker shouted in stentorian
tones.

A number of men at once crossed over, each bowing low or nodding before
the lady of his choice, and asking her to dance; and in a few minutes
the room was crowded with promenading couples.

It was only a moment before this that Jack and Donald, having come up
from the corral where they had been feeding and watering the stock, had
entered the room. Jack had told Donald about Bess Powell, and wanted
him to dance with her, but they were too late for the first dance. As
they lingered by the door, looking for Mrs. Powell, to whom Donald must
be presented, the sets were formed and the dance began. Jim Decker was
calling off the figures in a rude rhyme.

    "Adams all, swing your Eves,"

was soon followed by the direction,

    "Balance to your limberger cheese."

Donald nudged Jack.

"Great, isn't it?" he whispered.

Jack assented by making the Indian sign for "chief," raising the
upturned forefinger high above the head and turning it downward.

A few moments later they were speaking with Mrs. Powell.

"Why didn't you get here earlier, so that you could have danced the
first quadrille with Bess?" she said to Jack. "She hoped you would ask
her."

"Why, Mrs. Powell," he explained, "we were down at the corral feeding
and watering and only just got here. Mr. Donald and I both want some
dances with Bess."

"She'll be glad to dance," was the response; "but you'll have to wait a
while."

The dancers were enjoying themselves greatly. Though the men largely
outnumbered the women, there were at first some girls without partners.
The novelty of the surroundings struck terror to the hearts of some of
the most daring riders and ropers, and kept them glued to their seats.
Buck Wilson, Twenty-One Johnson, and Red Casey of the Bar Lazy A, whose
feats in broncho busting and roping had made them famous on the range,
felt their courage ooze away when it came to facing a girl and asking
her to dance. Their bashfulness was added to by the shouts of Jim
Decker and other older men, who tried to induce them to pluck up heart
and choose partners for the dance.

One by one timid men, who had not yet dared to come into the ballroom,
slipped through the door and, apparently trying to make themselves as
small as possible, sidled over to seats on the men's side, and sat down
to look on.

Most of those who danced did so with real feeling and great spirit. One
or two men were extremely expert in cutting pigeonwings, and jumping
high in the air; and some of them stamped in time to the music, so that
the air was full of dust. Most of the men, however, were extremely
quiet. At the end of each dance, the men took the girls to their seats
and, leaving them, either retired to their side of the room or slipped
out of the door to smoke a cigarette or talk with those who had not yet
dared to venture into the room.

About midnight came supper--pies, cakes and lemonade. Before this,
Jack had had two dances with Bess and Donald three, and Jack had
also succeeded in persuading Mrs. Powell to walk with him through a
quadrille.

It was at the dance that Jack Mason and Claib met. Claib had come in
while Mason was dancing, and had seated himself to look on. As soon as
Mason left his partner, he walked directly over to Claib.

"Well, Claib, how goes it?" he asked cheerily.

"All right now, Jack; and I'd like to shake hands with you, and call
bygones bygones."

"That'll suit me to death, Claib," said Mason, giving his former enemy
a hearty handshake.

A little later, Mr. Sturgis appeared in the ballroom. He shook hands
with Mrs. Powell and Bess and then looked about for the faces of his
own outfit. When he saw Mason, he told him that the cars had arrived,
and that he wanted all hands down to begin to load by daylight, and
asked him to tell the others.

Daylight had come before the dance ended, but when it broke up the
Sturgis outfit were down in the loading corrals, hard at work getting
the steers into the cars as fast as they could.

And the next morning Jack's heart-strings were stretched when he shook
hands with his friends and took the passenger for the Atlantic coast.


                                THE END



                          Transcriber's Note:


  Small capitals have been rendered in full capitals.

  Italics are indicated by _underscores_.

  Footnote is placed at the end of chapter.

  Apparent typographical errors have been corrected.

  On page 44 "Photo." corrected to "Photo"





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