Wednesday, October 10, 2007



The ring around the sun had thickened all day long, and the
turquoise blue of the Arizona sky had filmed. Storms in the dry
countries are infrequent, but heavy; and this surely meant storm.
We had ridden since sun-up over broad mesas, down and out of
deep canons, along the base of the mountain in the wildest
parts of the territory. The cattle were winding leisurely toward
the high country; the jack rabbits had disappeared; the quail
lacked; we did not see a single antelope in the open.
"It's a case of hole up," the Cattleman ventured his opinion. "I
have a ranch over in the Double R. Charley and Windy Bill hold
it down. We'll tackle it. What do you think?"
The four cowboys agreed. We dropped into a low, broad
watercourse, ascended its bed to big cottonwoods and flowing
water, followed it into box canons between rim-rock carved
fantastically and painted like a Moorish facade, until at last in
a widening below a rounded hill, we came upon an adobe house, a
fruit tree, and a round corral. This was the Double R.
Charley and Windy Bill welcomed us with soda biscuits. We turned
our horses out, spread our beds on the floor, filled our pipes,
and squatted on our heels. Various dogs of various breeds
investigated us. It was very pleasant, and we did not mind the
ring around the sun.
"Somebody else coming," announced the Cattleman finally.
"Uncle Jim," said Charley, after a glance.
A hawk-faced old man with a long white beard and long white hair
rode out from the cottonwoods. He had on a battered broad hat
abnormally high of crown, carried across his saddle a heavy
"eight square" rifle, and was followed by a half-dozen lolloping
The largest and fiercest of the latter, catching sight of our
group, launched himself with lightning rapidity at the biggest of
the ranch dogs, promptly nailed that canine by the back of the
neck, shook him violently a score of times, flung him aside, and
pounced on the next. During the ensuing few moments that hound
was the busiest thing in the West. He satisfactorily whipped
four dogs, pursued two cats up a tree, upset the Dutch oven and
the rest of the soda biscuits, stampeded the horses, and raised a
cloud of dust adequate to represent the smoke of battle. We
others were too paralysed to move. Uncle Jim sat placidly on his
white horse, his thin knees bent to the ox-bow stirrups, smoking.
In ten seconds the trouble was over, principally because there
was no more trouble to make. The hound returned leisurely,
licking from his chops the hair of his victims. Uncle Jim shook
his head.
"Trailer," said he sadly, "is a little severe."
We greed heartily, and turned in to welcome Uncle Jim with a
fresh batch of soda biscuits.
The old man was ne of the typical"long hairs." He had come to
the Galiuro Mountains in '69, and since '69 he had remained in
the Galiuro Mountains, spite of man or the devil. At present he
possessed some hundreds of cattle, which he was reputed to water,
in a dry season, from an ordinary dishpan. In times past he had
That evening, the severe Trailer having dropped to slumber, he
held forth on big-game hunting and dogs, quartz claims and
"Did you ever have any very close calls?" I asked.
He ruminated a few moments, refilled his pipe with some awful
tobacco, and told the following experience:
In the time of Geronimo I was living just about where I do now;
and that was just about in line with the raiding. You see,
Geronimo, and Ju [1], and old Loco used to pile out of the
reservation at Camp Apache, raid south to the line, slip over
into Mexico when the soldiers got too promiscuous, and raid there
until they got ready to come back. Then there was always a big
medicine talk. Says Geronimo:
[1] Pronounced "Hoo."
"I am tired of the warpath. I will come back from Mexico with
all my warriors, if you will escort me with soldiers and protect
my people."
"All right," says the General, being only too glad to get him
back at all.
So, then, in ten minutes there wouldn't be a buck in camp, but
next morning they shows up again, each with about fifty head of
"Where'd you get those hosses?" asks the General, suspicious.
"Had 'em pastured in the hills," answers Geronimo.
"I can't take all those hosses with me; I believe they're
stolen!" says the General.
"My people cannot go without their hosses," says Geronimo.
So, across the line they goes, and back to the reservation. In
about a week there's fifty-two frantic Greasers wanting to know
where's their hosses. The army is nothing but an importer of
stolen stock, and knows it, and can't help it.
Well, as I says, I'm between Camp Apache and the Mexican line, so
that every raiding party goes right on past me. The point is
that I'm a thousand feet or so above the valley, and the
renegades is in such a devil of a hurry about that time that they
never stop to climb up and collect me. Often I've watched them
trailing down the valley in a cloud of dust. Then, in a day or
two, a squad of soldiers would come up, and camp at my spring for
a while. They used to send soldiers to guard every water hole in
the country so the renegades couldn't get water. After a while,
from not being bothered none, I got thinking I wasn't worth while
with them.
Me and Johnny Hooper were pecking away at the old Virginia mine
then. We'd got down about sixty feet, all timbered, and was
thinking of cross-cutting. One day Johnny went to town, and that
same day I got in a hurry and left my gun at camp.
I worked all the morning down at the bottom of the shaft, and
when I see by the sun it was getting along towards noon, I put in
three good shots, tamped 'em down, lit the fusees, and started to
climb out.
It ain't noways pleasant to light a fuse in a shaft, and then
have to climb out a fifty-foot ladder, with it burning behind
you. I never did get used to it. You keep thinking, "Now
suppose there's a flaw in that fuse, or something, and she goes
off in six seconds instead of two minutes? where'll you be
then?" It would give you a good boost towards your home on high,
So I climbed fast, and stuck my head out the top without
looking--and then I froze solid enough. There, about
fifty feet away, climbing up the hill on mighty tired hosses, was
a dozen of the ugliest Chiricahuas you ever don't want to meet,
and in addition a Mexican renegade named Maria, who was worse
than any of 'em. I see at once their bosses was tired out, and
they had a notion of camping at my water hole, not knowing
nothing about the Ole Virginia mine.
For two bits I'd have let go all holts and dropped backwards,
trusting to my thick head for easy lighting. Then I heard a
little fizz and sputter from below. At that my hair riz right up
so I could feel the breeze blow under my bat. For about six
seconds I stood there like an imbecile, grinning amiably. Then
one of the Chiricahuas made a sort of grunt, and I sabed that
they'd seen the original exhibit your Uncle Jim was making of
Then that fuse gave another sputter and one of the Apaches said
"Un dah." That means "white man." It was harder to turn my head
than if I'd had a stiff neck; but I managed to do it, and I see
that my ore dump wasn't more than ten foot away. I mighty near
overjumped it; and the next I knew I was on one side of it and
those Apaches on the other. Probably I flew; leastways I don't
seem to remember jumping.
That didn't seem to do me much good. The renegades were grinning
and laughing to think how easy a thing they had; and I couldn't
rightly think up any arguments against that notion--at least from
their standpoint. They were chattering away to each other in
Mexican for the benefit of Maria. Oh, they had me all
distributed, down to my suspender buttons! And me squatting
behind that ore dump about as formidable as a brush rabbit!
Then, all at once, one of my shots went off down in the shaft.
"Boom!" says she, plenty big; and a slather of rock, and stones
come out of the mouth, and began to dump down promiscuous on the
scenery. I got one little one in the shoulder-blade, and found
time to wish my ore dump had a roof. But those renegades
caught it square in the thick of trouble. One got knocked out
entirely for a minute, by a nice piece of country rock in the
"Otra vez!" yells I, which means "again."
"Boom!" goes the Ole Virginia prompt as an answer.
I put in my time dodging, but when I gets a chance to look, the
Apaches has all got to cover, and is looking scared.
"Otra vez!" yells I again.
"Boom!" says the Ole Virginia.
This was the biggest shot of the lot, and she surely cut loose.
I ought to have been half-way up the bill watching things from a
safe distance, but I wasn't. Lucky for me the shaft was a little
on the drift, so she didn't quite shoot my way. But she
distributed about a ton over those renegades. They sort of half
got to their feet uncertain.
"Otra vez!" yells I once more, as bold as if I could keep her
shooting all day.
It was just a cold, raw blazer; and if it didn't go through I
could see me as an Apache parlour ornament. But it did. Those
Chiricahuas give one yell and skipped. It was surely a funny
sight, after they got aboard their war ponies, to see them trying
to dig out on horses too tired to trot.
I didn't stop to get all the laughs, though. In fact, I give one
jump off that ledge, and I lit a-running. A quarter-hoss
couldn't have beat me to that shack. There I grabbed old
Meat-in-the-pot and made a climb for the tall country, aiming to
wait around until dark, and then to pull out for Benson. Johnny
Hooper wasn't expected till next day, which was lucky. From
where I lay I could see the Apaches camped out beyond my
draw, and I didn't doubt they'd visited the place. Along about
sunset they all left their camp, and went into the draw, so
there, I thinks, I sees a good chance to make a start before
dark. I dropped down from the mesa, skirted the butte, and
angled down across the country. After I'd gone a half mile from
the cliffs, I ran across Johnny Hooper's fresh trail headed
towards camp!
My heart jumped right up into my mouth at that. Here was poor old
Johnny, a day too early, with a pack-mule of grub, walking
innocent as a yearling, right into the bands of those hostiles.
The trail looked pretty fresh, and Benson's a good long day with
a pack animal, so I thought perhaps I might catch him before he
runs into trouble. So I ran back on the trail as fast as I could
make it. The sun was down by now, and it was getting dusk.
I didn't overtake him, and when I got to the top of the canon I
crawled along very cautious and took a look. Of course, I
expected to see everything up in smoke, but I nearly got up and
yelled when I see everything all right, and old Sukey, the
pack-mule, and Johnny's hoss hitched up as peaceful as
babies to the corral.
"THAT'S all right!" thinks I, "they're back in their camp, and
haven't discovered Johnny yet. I'll snail him out of there."
So I ran down the hill and into the shack. Johnny sat in his
chair--what there was of him. He must have got in about two
hours before sundown, for they'd had lots of time to put in on
him. That's the reason they'd stayed so long up the draw. Poor
old Johnny! I was glad it was night, and he was dead. Apaches
are the worst Injuns there is for tortures. They cut off the
bottoms of old man Wilkins's feet, and stood him on an
In a minute or so, though, my wits gets to work.
"Why ain't the shack burned?" I asks myself, "and why is the hoss
and the mule tied all so peaceful to the corral?"
It didn't take long for a man who knows Injins to answer THOSE
conundrums. The whole thing was a trap--for me--and I'd walked
into it, chuckle-headed as a prairie-dog!
With that I makes a run outside--by now it was dark--and listens.
Sure enough, I hears hosses. So I makes a rapid sneak back over
the trail.
Everything seemed all right till I got up to the rim-rock. Then
I heard more hosses--ahead of me. And when I looked back I could
see some Injuns already at the shack, and starting to build a
fire outside.
In a tight fix, a man is pretty apt to get scared till all hope
is gone. Then he is pretty apt to get cool and calm. That was
my case. I couldn't go ahead--there was those hosses coming
along the trail. I couldn't go back--there was those Injins
building the fire. So I skirmished around till I got a bright
star right over the trail head, and I trained old Meat-in-thepot
to bear on that star, and I made up my mind that when the
star was darkened I'd turn loose. So I lay there a while
listening. By and by the star was blotted out, and I cut loose,
and old Meat-in-the-pot missed fire--she never did it before nor
since; I think that cartridge--
Well, I don't know where the Injins came from, but it seemed as
if the hammer had hardly clicked before three or four of them
bad piled on me. I put up the best fight I could, for I wasn't
figuring to be caught alive, and this miss-fire deal had fooled
me all along the line. They surely had a lively time. I
expected every minute to feel a knife in my back, but when I
didn't get it then I knew they wanted to bring me in alive, and
that made me fight harder. First and last, we rolled and plunged
all the way from the rim-rock down to the canon-bed. Then one
of the Injins sung out:
And I thought of that renegade Mexican, and what I'd heard bout
him, and that made me fight harder yet.
But after we'd fought down to the canon-bed, and had lost most of
our skin, a half-dozen more fell on me, and in less than no time
they had me tied. Then they picked me up and carried me over to
where they'd built a big fire by the corral."
Uncle Jim stopped with an air of finality, and began lazily to
refill his pipe. From the open mud fireplace he picked a coal.
Outside, the rain, faithful to the prophecy of the wide-ringed
sun, beat fitfully against the roof.
"That was the closest call I ever had," said he at last.
"But, Uncle Jim," we cried in a confused chorus, "how did you get
away? What did the Indians do to you? Who rescued you?"
Uncle Jim chuckled.
"The first man I saw sitting at that fire," said he, "was
Lieutenant Price of the United States Army, and by
him was Tom Horn."
"'What's this?' he asks, and Horn talks to the Injins in Apache.
"'They say they've caught Maria,' translates Horn back again.
"'Maria-nothing!' says Lieutenant Price. 'This is Jim Fox. I know
"So they turned me loose. It seems the troops had driven off
the renegades an hour before."
"And the Indians who caught you, Uncle Jim? You said they were
"Were Tonto Basin Apaches," explained the old man--"government
scouts under Tom Horn."
After the rain that had held us holed up at the Double R over one
day, we discussed what we should do next.
"The flats will be too boggy for riding, and anyway the cattle
will be in the high country," the Cattleman summed up the
situation. "We'd bog down the chuck-wagon if we tried to get
back to the J. H. But now after the rain the weather ought to be
beautiful. What shall we do?"
"Was you ever in the Jackson country?" asked Uncle Jim. "It's
the wildest part of Arizona. It's a big country and rough, and
no one lives there, and there's lots of deer and mountain lions
and bear. Here's my dogs. We might have a hunt."
"Good!" said we.
We skirmished around and found a condemned army pack saddle with
aparejos, and a sawbuck saddle with kyacks. On these, we managed
to condense our grub and utensils. There were plenty of horses,
so our bedding we bound flat about their naked barrels by means
of the squaw-hitch. Then we started.
That day furnished us with a demonstration of what Arizona horses
can do. Our way led first through a canon-bed filled with
rounded boulders and rocks, slippery and unstable. Big
cottonwoods and oaks grew so thick as partially to conceal
the cliffs on either side of us. The rim-rock was mysterious
with caves; beautiful with hanging gardens of tree ferns and
grasses growing thick in long transverse crevices; wonderful in
colour and shape. We passed the little canons fenced off by the
rustlers as corrals into which to shunt from the herds their
choice of beeves.
The Cattleman shook his head at them. "Many a man has come from
Texas and established a herd with no other asset than a couple of
horses and a branding-iron," said he.
Then we worked up gradually to a divide, whence we could see a
range of wild and rugged mountains on our right. They rose by
slopes and ledges, steep and rough, and at last ended in the
thousand-foot cliffs of the buttes, running sheer and unbroken
for many miles. During all the rest of our trip they were to be
our companions, the only constant factors in the tumult of lesser
peaks, precipitous canons, and twisted systems in which we were
constantly involved.
The sky was sun-and-shadow after the rain. Each and every
Arizonan predicted clearing.
"Why, it almost never rains in Arizona," said Jed Parker. "And
when it does it quits before it begins."
Nevertheless, about noon a thick cloud gathered about the tops of
the Galiuros above us. Almost immediately it was dissipated by
the wind, but when the peaks again showed, we stared with
astonishment to see that they were white with snow. It was as
though a magician had passed a sheet before them the brief
instant necessary to work his great transformation. Shortly the
sky thickened again, and it began to rain.
Travel had been precarious before; but now its difficulties were
infinitely increased. The clay sub-soil to the rubble turned
slippery and adhesive. On the sides of the mountains it was
almost impossible to keep a footing. We speedily became wet, our
hands puffed and purple, our boots sodden with the water that had
trickled from our clothing into them.
"Over the next ridge," Uncle Jim promised us, "is an old shack
that I fixed up seven years ago. We can all make out to get in
Over the next ridge, therefore, we slipped and slid, thanking the
god of luck for each ten feet gained. It was growing cold. The
cliffs and palisades near at hand showed dimly behind the falling
rain; beyond them waved and eddied the storm mists through which
the mountains revealed and concealed proportions exaggerated into
unearthly grandeur. Deep in the clefts of the box canons the
streams were filling. The roar of their rapids echoed from
innumerable precipices. A soft swish of water usurped the world
of sound.
Nothing more uncomfortable or more magnificent could be imagined.
We rode shivering. Each said to himself, "I can stand
this--right now--at the present moment. Very well; I will do so,
and I will refuse to look forward even five minutes to what I may
have to stand," which is the true philosophy of tough times and
the only effective way to endure discomfort.
By luck we reached the bottom of that canon without a fall. It
was wide, well grown with oak trees, and belly deep in rich horse
feed--an ideal place to camp were it not for the fact that a thin
sheet of water a quarter of an inch deep was flowing over the
entire surface of the ground. We spurred on desperately,
thinking of a warm fire and a chance to steam.
The roof of the shack had fallen in, and the floor was six inches
deep in adobe mud.
We did not dismount--that would have wet our saddles--but sat on
our horses taking in the details. Finally Uncle Jim came to the
front with a suggestion.
"I know of a cave," said he, "close under a butte. It's a big
cave, but it has such a steep floor that I'm not sure as we could
stay in it; and it's back the other side of that ridge."
"I don't know how the ridge is to get back over--it was slippery
enough coming this way--and the cave may shoot us out into space,
but I'd like to LOOK at a dry place anyway," replied the
We all felt the same about it, so back over the ridge we went.
About half way down the other side Uncle Jim turned sharp to the
right, and as the "hog back" dropped behind us, we found
ourselves out on the steep side of a mountain, the perpendicular
cliff over us to the right, the river roaring savagely far down
below our left, and sheets of water glazing the footing we could
find among the boulders and debris. Hardly could the ponies keep
from slipping sideways on the slope, as we proceeded farther and
farther from the solidity of the ridge behind us, we experienced
the illusion of venturing out on a tight rope over abysses of
space. Even the feeling of danger was only an illusion, however,
composite of the falling rain, the deepening twilight, and the
night that had already enveloped the plunge of the canon below.
Finally Uncle Jim stopped just within the drip from the cliffs.
"Here she is," said he.
We descended eagerly. A deer bounded away from the base of the
buttes. The cave ran steep, in the manner of an inclined tunnel,
far up into the dimness. We had to dig our toes in and scramble
to make way up it at all, but we found it dry, and after a little
search discovered a foot-ledge of earth sufficiently broad for a
"That's all right," quoth Jed Parker. "Now, for sleeping places."
We scattered. Uncle Jim and Charley promptly annexed the slight
overhang of the cliff whence the deer had jumped. It was dry at
the moment, but we uttered pessimistic predictions if the wind
should change. Tom Rich and Jim Lester had a little tent, and
insisted on descending to the canon-bed.
"Got to cook there, anyways," said they, and departed with the
two pack mules and their bed horse.
That left the Cattleman, Windy Bill, Jed Parker, and me. In a
moment Windy Bill came up to us whispering and mysterious.
"Get your cavallos and follow me," said he.
We did so. He led us two hundred yards to another cave, twenty
feet high, fifteen feet in diameter, level as a floor.
"How's that?" he cried in triumph. "Found her just now while I
was rustling nigger-heads for a fire."
We unpacked our beds with chuckles of joy, and spread them
carefully within the shelter of the cave. Except for the very
edges, which did not much matter, our blankets and "so-guns,"
protected by the canvas "tarp," were reasonably dry. Every once
in a while a spasm of conscience would seize one or the other of
"It seems sort of mean on the other fellows," ruminated Jed
"They had their first choice," cried we all.
"Uncle Jim's an old man," the Cattleman pointed out.
But Windy Bill had thought of that. "I told him of this yere
cave first. But he allowed he was plumb satisfied."
We finished laying out our blankets. The result looked good to
us. We all burst out laughing.
"Well, I'm sorry for those fellows," cried the Cattleman. We
hobbled our horses and descended to the gleam of the fire, like
guilty conspirators. There we ate hastily of meat, bread and
coffee, merely for the sake of sustenance. It certainly amounted
to little in the way of pleasure. The water from the direct
rain, the shivering trees, and our hat brims accumulated in our
plates faster than we could bail it out. The dishes were thrust
under a canvas. Rich and Lester decided to remain with their
tent, and so we saw them no more until morning.
We broke off back-loads of mesquite and toiled up the hill,
tasting thickly the high altitude in the severe labour. At the
big cave we dumped down our burdens, transported our fuel
piecemeal to the vicinity of the narrow ledge, built a good fire,
sat in a row, and lit our pipes. In a few moments, the blaze was
burning high, and our bodies had ceased shivering. Fantastically
the firelight revealed the knobs and crevices, the ledges and the
arching walls. Their shadows leaped, following the flames,
receding and advancing like playful beasts. Far above us was a
single tiny opening through which the smoke was sucked as through
a chimney. The glow ruddied the men's features. Outside was
thick darkness, and the swish and rush and roar of rising
waters. Listening, Windy Bill was reminded of a story. We
leaned back comfortably against the sloping walls of the cave,
thrust our feet toward the blaze, smoked, and hearkened to the
tale of Windy Bill.
There's a tur'ble lot of water running loose here, but I've seen
the time and place where even what is in that drip would be
worth a gold mine. That was in the emigrant days. They used
to come over south of here, through what they called Emigrant
Pass, on their way to Californy. I was a kid then, about eighteen
year old, and what I didn't know about Injins and Agency cattle
wasn't a patch of alkali. I had a kid outfit of h'ar bridle,
lots of silver and such, and I used to ride over and be the
handsome boy before such outfits as happened along.
They were queer people, most of 'em from Missoury and
such-like southern seaports, and they were tur'ble sick of
travel by the time they come in sight of Emigrant Pass. Up to
Santa Fe they mostly hiked along any old way, but once there they
herded up together in bunches of twenty wagons or so, 'count of
our old friends, Geronimo and Loco. A good many of 'em had
horned cattle to their wagons, and they crawled along about two
miles an hour, hotter'n hell with the blower on, nothin' to
look at but a mountain a week way, chuck full of alkali, plenty
of sage-brush and rattlesnakes--but mighty little water.
Why, you boys know that country down there. Between the
Chiricahua Mountains and Emigrant Pass it's maybe a three or four
days' journey for these yere bull-slingers.
Mostly they filled up their bellies and their kegs, hoping to
last through, but they sure found it drier than cork legs, and
generally long before they hit the Springs their tongues was
hangin' out a foot. You see, for all their plumb nerve in comin'
so far, the most of them didn't know sic'em. They were plumb
innocent in regard to savin' their water, and Injins, and such;
and the long-haired buckskin fakes they picked up at Santa Fe for
guides wasn't much better.
That was where Texas Pete made his killing.
Texas Pete was a tough citizen from the Lone Star. He was about
as broad as he was long, and wore all sorts of big whiskers and
black eyebrows. His heart was very bad. You never COULD tell
where Texas Pete was goin' to jump next. He was a side-winder
and a diamond-back and a little black rattlesnake all rolled
into one. I believe that Texas Pete person cared about as little
for killin' a man as for takin' a drink--and he shorely drank
without an effort. Peaceable citizens just spoke soft and minded
their own business; onpeaceable citizens Texas Pete used to plant
out in the sagebrush.
Now this Texas Pete happened to discover a water hole right out
in the plumb middle of the desert. He promptly annexed said
water hole, digs her out, timbers her up, and lays for emigrants.
He charged two bits a head--man or beast--and nobody got a
mouthful till he paid up in hard coin.
Think of the wads he raked in! I used to figure it up, just for
the joy of envyin' him, I reckon. An average twenty-wagon
outfit, first and last, would bring him in somewheres about fifty
dollars--and besides he had forty-rod at four bits a glass. And
outfits at that time were thicker'n spatter.
We used all to go down sometimes to watch them come in. When
they see that little canvas shack and that well, they begun to
cheer up and move fast. And when they see that sign, "Water, two
bits a head," their eyes stuck out like two raw oysters.
Then come the kicks. What a howl they did raise, shorely. But
it didn't do no manner of good. Texas Pete didn't do nothin' but
sit there and smoke, with a kind of sulky gleam in one corner of
his eye. He didn't even take the trouble to answer, but his
Winchester lay across his lap. There wasn't no humour in the
situation for him.
"How much is your water for humans?" asks one emigrant.
"Can't you read that sign?" Texas Pete asks him.
"But you don't mean two bits a head for HUMANS!" yells the man.
"Why, you can get whisky for that!"
"You can read the sign, can't you?" insists Texas Pete.
"I can read it all right?" says the man, tryin' a new deal, "but
they tell me not to believe more'n half I read."
But that don't go; and Mr. Emigrant shells out with the rest.
I didn't blame them for raisin' their howl. Why, at that time
the regular water holes was chargin' five cents a head from the
government freighters, and the motto was always "Hold up Uncle
Sam," at that. Once in a while some outfit would get mad and go
chargin' off dry; but it was a long, long way to the Springs, and
mighty hot and dusty. Texas Pete and his one lonesome water hole
shorely did a big business.
Late one afternoon me and Gentleman Tim was joggin' along above
Texas Pete's place. It was a tur'ble hot day--you had to prime
yourself to spit--and we was just gettin' back from drivin' some
beef up to the troops at Fort Huachuca. We was due to cross the
Emigrant Trail--she's wore in tur'ble deep--you can see the ruts
to-day. When we topped the rise we see a little old outfit just
makin' out to drag along.
It was one little schooner all by herself, drug along by two poor
old cavallos that couldn't have pulled my hat off. Their tongues
was out, and every once in a while they'd stick in a chuck-hole.
Then a man would get down and put his shoulder to the wheel, and
everybody'd take a heave, and up they'd come, all a-trembling and
Tim and I rode down just to take a look at the curiosity.
A thin-lookin' man was drivin', all humped up.
"Hullo, stranger," says I, "ain't you 'fraid of Injins?"
"Yes," says he.
"Then why are you travellin' through an Injin country all alone?"
"Couldn't keep up," says he. "Can I get water here?"
"I reckon," I answers.
He drove up to the water trough there at Texas Pete's, me and
Gentleman Tim followin' along because our trail led that way.
But he hadn't more'n stopped before Texas Pete was out.
"Cost you four bits to water them hosses," says he.
The man looked up kind of bewildered.
"I'm sorry," says he, "I ain't got no four bits. I got my roll
lifted off'n me."
"No water, then," growls Texas Pete back at him.
The man looked about him helpless.
"How far is it to the next water?" he asks me.
"Twenty mile," I tells him.
"My God!" he says, to himself-like.
Then he shrugged his shoulders very tired.
"All right. It's gettin' the cool of the evenin'; we'll make
it." He turns into the inside of that old schooner.
"Gi' me the cup, Sue."
A white-faced woman who looked mighty good to us alkalis opened
the flaps and gave out a tin cup, which the man pointed out to
"How many of you is they?" asks Texas Pete.
"Three," replies the man, wondering.
"Well, six bits, then," says Texas Pete, "cash down."
At that the man straightens up a little.
"I ain't askin' for no water for my stock," says he, "but my wife
and baby has been out in this sun all day without a drop of
water. Our cask slipped a hoop and bust just this side of Dos
Cabesas. The poor kid is plumb dry."
"Two bits a head," says Texas Pete.
At that the woman comes out, a little bit of a baby in her arms.
The kid had fuzzy yellow hair, and its face was flushed red and
"Shorely you won't refuse a sick child a drink of water, sir,"
says she.
But Texas Pete had some sort of a special grouch; I guess he was
just beginning to get his snowshoes off after a fight with his
own forty-rod.
"What the hell are you-all doin' on the trail without no money at
all?" he growls, "and how do you expect to get along? Such plumb
tenderfeet drive me weary."
"Well," says the man, still reasonable, "I ain't got no money,
but I'll give you six bits' worth of flour or trade or an'thin' I
"I don't run no truck-store," snaps Texas Pete, and turns square
on his heel and goes back to his chair.
"Got six bits about you?" whispers Gentleman Tim to me.
"Not a red," I answers.
Gentleman Tim turns to Texas Pete.
"Let 'em have a drink, Pete. I'll pay you next time I come
"Cash down," growls Pete.
"You're the meanest man I ever see," observes Tim. "I wouldn't
speak to you if I met you in hell carryin' a lump of ice in your
"You're the softest _I_ ever see," sneers Pete. "Don't they have
any genooine Texans down your way?"
"Not enough to make it disagreeable," says Tim.
"That lets you out," growls Pete, gettin' hostile and handlin' of
his rifle.
Which the man had been standin' there bewildered, the cup hangin'
from his finger. At last, lookin' pretty desperate, he stooped
down to dig up a little of the wet from an overflow puddle lyin'
at his feet. At the same time the hosses, left sort of to
themselves and bein' drier than a covered bridge, drug forward
and stuck their noses in the trough.
Gentleman Tim and me was sittin' there on our hosses, a little to
one side. We saw Texas Pete jump up from his chair, take a quick
aim, and cut loose with his rifle. It was plumb unexpected to
us. We hadn't thought of any shootin', and our six-shooters was
tied in, 'count of the jumpy country we'd been drivin' the steers
over. But Gentleman Tim, who had unslung his rope, aimin' to
help the hosses out of the chuckhole, snatched her off the horn,
and with one of the prettiest twenty-foot flip throws I ever see
done he snaked old Texas Pete right out of his wicky-up, gun and
all. The old renegade did his best to twist around for a shot at
us; but it was no go; and I never enjoyed hog-tying a critter
more in my life than I enjoyed hog-tying Texas Pete. Then we
turned to see what damage had been done.
We were some relieved to find the family all right, but Texas
Pete had bored one of them poor old crow-bait hosses plumb
through the head.
"It's lucky for you you don't get the old man," says Gentleman
Tim very quiet and polite.
Which Gentleman Tim was an Irishman, and I'd been on the range
long enough with him to know that when he got quiet and polite it
was time to dodge behind something.
"I hope, sir" says he to the stranger, "that you will give your
wife and baby a satisfying drink. As for your hoss, pray do not
be under any apprehension. Our friend, Mr. Texas Pete, here, has
kindly consented to make good any deficiencies from his own
Tim could talk high, wide, and handsome when he set out to.
The man started to say something; but I managed to herd him to
one side.
"Let him alone," I whispers. "When he talks that way, he's mad;
and when he's mad, it's better to leave nature to supply the
lightnin' rods."
He seemed to sabe all right, so we built us a little fire and
started some grub, while Gentleman Tim walked up and down very
grand and fierce.
By and by he seemed to make up his mind. He went over and untied
Texas Pete.
"Stand up, you hound," says he. "Now listen to me. If you make
a break to get away, or if you refuse to do just as I tell you, I
won't shoot you, but I'll march you up country and see that
Geronimo gets you."
He sorted out a shovel and pick, made Texas Pete carry them right
along the trail a quarter, and started him to diggin' a hole.
Texas Pete started in hard enough, Tim sittin' over him on his
hoss, his six-shooter loose, and his rope free. The man and I
stood by, not darin' to say a word. After a minute or so Texas
Pete began to work slower and slower. By and by he stopped.
"Look here," says he, "is this here thing my grave?"
"I am goin' to see that you give the gentleman's hoss decent
interment," says Gentleman Tim very polite.
"Bury a hoss!" growls Texas Pete.
But he didn't say any more. Tim cocked his six-shooter.
"Perhaps you'd better quit panting and sweat a little," says he.
Texas Pete worked hard for a while, for Tim's quietness was
beginning to scare him up the worst way. By and by he had got
down maybe four or five feet, and Tim got off his hoss.
"I think that will do," says he.
"You may come out. Billy, my son, cover him. Now, Mr. Texas
Pete," he says, cold as steel, "there is the grave. We will
place the hoss in it. Then I intend to shoot you and put you in
with the hoss, and write you an epitaph that will be a comfort to
such travellers of the Trail as are honest, and a warnin' to
such as are not. I'd as soon kill you now as an hour from now,
so you may make a break for it if you feel like it."
He stooped over to look into the hole. I thought he looked an
extra long time, but when he raised his head his face had changed
"March!" says he very brisk.
We all went back to the shack. From the corral Tim took Texas
Pete's best team and hitched her to the old schooner.
"There," says he to the man. "Now you'd better hit the trail.
Take that whisky keg there for water. Good-bye."
We sat there without sayin' a word for some time after the
schooner had pulled out. Then Tim says, very abrupt:
"I've changed my mind."
He got up.
"Come on, Billy," says he to me. "We'll just leave our friend
tied up. I'll be back to-morrow to turn you loose. In the
meantime it won't hurt you a bit to be a little uncomfortable,
and hungry--and thirsty."
We rode off just about sundown, leavin' Texas Pete lashed tight.
Now all this knocked me hell-west and crooked, and I said so, but
I couldn't get a word out of Gentleman Tim. All the answer I
could get was just little laughs.
We drawed into the ranch near midnight, but next mornin' Tim had
a long talk with the boss, and the result was that the whole
outfit was instructed to arm up with a pick or a shovel apiece,
and to get set for Texas Pete's. We got there a little after
noon, turned the old boy out--without firearms--and then began to
dig at a place Tim told us to, near that grave of Texas Pete's.
In three hours we had the finest water-hole developed you ever
want to see. Then the boss stuck up a sign that said:
"Now you old skin," says he to Texas Pete, "charge all you want
to on your own property. But if I ever hear of your layin' claim
to this other hole, I'll shore make you hard to catch."
Then we rode off home. You see, when Gentleman Tim inspected
that grave, he noted indications of water; and it struck him that
runnin' the old renegade out of business was a neater way of
gettin' even than merely killin' him.
Somebody threw a fresh mesquite on the fire. The flames leaped
up again, showing a thin trickle of water running down the other
side of the cave. The steady downpour again made itself
prominent through the re-established silence.
"What did Texas Pete do after that?" asked the Cattleman.
"Texas Pete?" chuckled Windy Bill. "Well, he put in a heap of
his spare time lettin' Tim alone."
After Windy Bill had finished his story we began to think it time
to turn in. Uncle Jim and Charley slid and slipped down the
chute-like passage leading from the cave and disappeared in the
direction of the overhang beneath which they had spread their
bed. After a moment we tore off long bundles of the nigger-head
blades, lit the resinous ends at our fire, and with these torches
started to make our way along the base of the cliff to the other
Once without the influence of the fire our impromptu links cast
an adequate light. The sheets of rain became suddenly visible as
they entered the circle of illumination. By careful scrutiny of
the footing I gained the entrance to our cave without mishap. I
looked back. Here and there irregularly gleamed and spluttered
my companions' torches. Across each slanted the rain. All else
was of inky blackness except where, between them and me, a faint
red reflection shone on the wet rocks. Then I turned inside.
Now, to judge from the crumbling powder of the footing, that
cave had been dry since Noah. In fact, its roof was nearly a
thousand feet thick. But since we had spread our blankets, the
persistent waters had soaked down and through. The thousand-foot
roof had a sprung a leak. Three separate and distinct streams of
water ran as from spigots. I lowered my torch. The canvas
tarpaulin shone with wet, and in its exact centre glimmered a
pool of water three inches deep and at least two feet in
"Well, I'll be," I began. Then I remembered those three wending
their way along a wet and disagreeable trail, happy and peaceful
in anticipation of warm blankets and a level floor. I chuckled
and sat on my heels out of the drip.
First came Jed Parker, his head bent to protect the fire in his
pipe. He gained the very centre of the cave before he looked up.
Then he cast one glance at each bed, and one at me. His grave,
hawk-like features relaxed. A faint grin appeared under his long
moustache. Without a word he squatted down beside me.
Next the Cattleman. He looked about him with a comical
expression of dismay, and burst into a hearty laugh.
"I believe I said I was sorry for those other fellows," he
Windy Bill was the last. He stooped his head to enter,
straightened his lank figure, and took in the situation without
"Well, this is handy," said he; "I was gettin' tur'ble dry, and
was thinkin' I would have to climb way down to the creek in all
this rain."
He stooped to the pool in the centre of the tarpaulin and drank.
But now our torches began to run low. A small dry bush grew near
the entrance. We ignited it, and while it blazed we hastily
sorted a blanket apiece and tumbled the rest out of the drip.
Our return without torches along the base of that butte was
something to remember. The night was so thick you could feel the
darkness pressing on you; the mountain dropped abruptly to the
left, and was strewn with boulders and blocks of stone.
Collisions and stumbles were frequent. Once I stepped off a
little ledge five or six feet--nothing worse than a barked shin.
And all the while the rain, pelting us unmercifully, searched out
what poor little remnants of dryness we had been able to retain.
At last we opened out the gleam of fire in our cave, and a
minute later were engaged in struggling desperately up the slant
that brought us to our ledge and the slope on which our fire
"My Lord!" panted Windy Bill, "a man had ought to have hooks on
his eyebrows to climb up here!"
We renewed the fire--and blessed the back-load of mesquite we had
packed up earlier in the evening. Our blankets we wrapped around
our shoulders, our feet we hung over the ledge toward the blaze,
our backs we leaned against the hollow slant of the cave's
wall. We were not uncomfortable. The beat of the rain sprang up
in the darkness, growing louder and louder, like horsemen passing
on a hard road. Gradually we dozed off.
For a time everything was pleasant. Dreams came fused with
realities; the firelight faded from consciousness or returned
fantastic to our half-awakening; a delicious numbness overspread
our tired bodies. The shadows leaped, became solid, monstrous.
We fell asleep.
After a time the fact obtruded itself dimly through our stupor
that the constant pressure of the hard rock had impeded our
circulation. We stirred uneasily, shifting to a better position.
That was the beginning of awakening. The new position did not
suit. A slight shivering seized us, which the drawing closer of
the blanket failed to end. Finally I threw aside my hat and
looked out. Jed Parker, a vivid patch-work comforter wrapped
about his shoulders, stood upright and silent by the fire. I
kept still, fearing to awaken the others. In a short time I
became aware that the others were doing identically the same
thing. We laughed, threw off our blankets, stretched, and fed
the fire.
A thick acrid smoke filled the air. The Cattleman, rising, left
a trail of incandescent footprints. We investigated hastily, and
discovered that the supposed earth on the slant of the cave was
nothing more than bat guano, tons of it. The fire, eating its
way beneath, had rendered untenable its immediate vicinity. We
felt as though we were living over a volcano. How soon our
ledge, of the same material, might be attacked, we had no means
of knowing. Overcome with drowsiness, we again disposed our
blankets, resolved to get as many naps as possible before even
these constrained quarters were taken from us.
This happened sooner and in a manner otherwise than we had
expected. Windy Bill brought us to consciousness by a wild yell.
Consciousness reported to us a strange, hurried sound like the
long roll on a drum. Investigation showed us that this cave,
too, had sprung a leak; not with any premonitory drip, but all at
once, as though someone had turned on a faucet. In ten seconds a
very competent streamlet six inches wide had eroded a course down
through the guano, past the fire and to the outer slope. And by
the irony of fate that one--and only one--leak in all the roof
expanse of a big cave was directly over one end of our tiny
ledge. The Cattleman laughed.
"Reminds me of the old farmer and his kind friend," said he.
"Kind friend hunts up the old farmer in the village.
"'John,' says he, 'I've bad news for you. Your barn has burned
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your cow was burned, too.'
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your horses were burned.'
"'My Lord!' says the farmer.
"'But, that ain't the worst. The barn set fire to the house, and
it was burned--total loss.'
"'My Lord!' groans the farmer.
"'But that ain't the worst. Your wife and child were killed,
"'At that the farmer began to roar with laughter.
"'Good heavens, man!' cries his friend, astonished, 'what in
the world do you find to laugh at in that?'
"'Don't you see?' answers the farmer. 'Why, it's so darn
"Well," finished the Cattleman, "that's what strikes me about
our case; it's so darn complete!"
"What time is it?" asked Windy Bill.
"Midnight," I announced.
"Lord! Six hours to day!" groaned Windy Bill. "How'd you like to
be doin' a nice quiet job at gardenin' in the East where you
could belly up to the bar reg'lar every evenin', and drink a
pussy cafe and smoke tailor-made cigareets?"
"You wouldn't like it a bit," put in the Cattleman with decision;
whereupon in proof he told us the following story:
Windy has mentioned Gentleman Tim, and that reminded me of the
first time I ever saw him. He was an Irishman all right, but he
had been educated in England, and except for his accent he was
more an Englishman than anything else. A freight outfit brought
him into Tucson from Santa Fe and dumped him down on the plaza,
where at once every idler in town gathered to quiz him.
Certainly he was one of the greenest specimens I ever saw in this
country. He had on a pair of balloon pants and a Norfolk jacket,
and was surrounded by a half-dozen baby trunks. His face was
red-cheeked and aggressively clean, and his eye limpid as a
child's. Most of those present thought that indicated
childishness; but I could see that it was only utter
It seemed that he was out for big game, and intended to go after
silver-tips somewhere in these very mountains. Of course he was
offered plenty of advice, and would probably have made
engagements much to be regretted had I not taken a strong fancy
to him.
"My friend," said I, drawing him aside, "I don't want to be
inquisitive, but what might you do when you're home?"
"I'm a younger son," said he. I was green myself in those days,
and knew nothing of primogeniture.
"That is a very interesting piece of family history," said I,
"but it does not answer my question."
He smiled.
"Well now, I hadn't thought of that," said he, "but in a manner
of speaking, it does. I do nothing."
"Well," said I, unabashed, "if you saw me trying to be a younger
son and likely to forget myself and do something without meaning
to, wouldn't you be apt to warn me?"
"Well, 'pon honour, you're a queer chap. What do you mean?"
"I mean that if you hire any of those men to guide you in the
mountains, you'll be outrageously cheated, and will be lucky if
you're not gobbled by Apaches."
"Do you do any guiding yourself, now?" he asked, most innocent of
But I flared up.
"You damn ungrateful pup," I said, "go to the devil in your
own way," and turned square on my heel.
But the young man was at my elbow, his hand on my shoulder.
"Oh, I say now, I'm sorry. I didn't rightly understand. Do
wait one moment until I dispose of these boxes of mine, and then
I want the honour of your further acquaintance."
He got some Greasers to take his trunks over to the hotel, then
linked his arm in mine most engagingly.
"Now, my dear chap," said he, "let's go somewhere for a B & S,
and find out about each other."
We were both young and expansive. We exchanged views, names,
and confidences, and before noon we had arranged to hunt
together, I to collect the outfit.
The upshot of the matter was that the Honourable Timothy Clare
and I had a most excellent month's excursion, shot several good
bear, and returned to Tucson the best of friends.
At Tucson was Schiefflein and his stories of a big strike down
in the Apache country. Nothing would do but that we should both
go to see for ourselves. We joined the second expedition; crept
in the gullies, tied bushes about ourselves when monumenting
corners, and so helped establish the town of Tombstone. We made
nothing, nor attempted to. Neither of us knew anything of
mining, but we were both thirsty for adventure, and took a
schoolboy delight in playing the game of life or death with the
In fact, I never saw anybody take to the wild life as eagerly as
the Honourable Timothy Clare. He wanted to attempt everything.
With him it was no sooner see than try, and he had such an
abundance of enthusiasm that he generally succeeded. The balloon
pants soon went. In a month his outfit was irreproachable. He
used to study us by the hour, taking in every detail of our
equipment, from the smallest to the most important. Then he
asked questions. For all his desire to be one of the country, he
was never ashamed to acknowledge his ignorance.
"Now, don't you chaps think it silly to wear such high heels to
your boots?" he would ask. "It seems to me a very useless sort
of vanity."
"No vanity about it, Tim," I explained. "In the first place, it
keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup. In the second
place, it is good to grip on the ground when you're roping
"By Jove, that's true!" he cried.
So he'd get him a pair of boots. For a while it was enough to
wear and own all these things. He seemed to delight in his
six-shooter and his rope just as ornaments to himself and horse.
But he soon got over that. Then he had to learn to use them.
For the time being, pistol practice, for instance, would absorb
all his thoughts. He'd bang away at intervals all day, and
figure out new theories all night.
"That bally scheme won't work," he would complain. "I believe if
I extended my thumb along the cylinder it would help that side
He was always easing the trigger-pull, or filing the sights. In
time he got to be a fairly accurate and very quick shot.
The same way with roping and hog-tying and all the rest.
"What's the use?" I used to ask him. "If you were going to be a
buckeroo, you couldn't go into harder training."
"I like it," was always his answer.
He had only one real vice, that I could see. He would gamble.
Stud poker was his favourite; and I never saw a Britisher yet who
could play poker. I used to head him off, when I could, and he
was always grateful, but the passion was strong.
After we got back from founding Tombstone I was busted and had to
go to work.
"I've got plenty," said Tim, "and it's all yours."
"I know, old fellow," I told him, "but your money wouldn't do for
Buck Johnson was just seeing his chance then, and was preparing
to take some breeding cattle over into the Soda Springs Valley.
Everybody laughed at him--said it was right in the line of the
Chiricahua raids, which was true. But Buck had been in there
with Agency steers, and thought he knew. So he collected a trail
crew, brought some Oregon cattle across, and built his home ranch
of three-foot adobe walls with portholes. I joined the trail
crew; and somehow or another the Honourable Timothy got
permission to go along on his own hook.
The trail was a long one. We had thirst and heat and stampedes
and some Indian scares. But in the queer atmospheric conditions
that prevailed that summer, I never saw the desert more
wonderful. It was like waking to the glory of God to sit up at
dawn and see the colours change on the dry ranges.
At the home ranch, again, Tim managed to get permission to stay
on. He kept his own mount of horses, took care of them, hunted,
and took part in all the cow work. We lost some cattle from
Indians, of course, but it was too near the Reservation for them
to do more than pick up a few stray head on their way through.
The troops were always after them full jump, and so they never
had time to round up the beef. But of course we had to look out
or we'd lose our hair, and many a cowboy has won out to the home
ranch in an almighty exciting race. This was nuts for the
Honourable Timothy Clare, much better than hunting silver-tips,
and he enjoyed it no limit.
Things went along that way for some time, until one evening as
I was turning out the horses a buckboard drew in, and from it
descended Tony Briggs and a dapper little fellow dressed all
in black and with a plug hat.
"Which I accounts for said hat reachin' the ranch, because it's
Friday and the boys not in town," Tony whispered to me.
As I happened to be the only man in sight, the stranger addressed
"I am looking," said he in a peculiar, sing-song manner I have
since learned to be English, "for the Honourable Timothy Clare.
Is he here?"
"Oh, you're looking for him are you?" said I. "And who might you
You see, I liked Tim, and I didn't intend to deliver him over
into trouble.
The man picked a pair of eye-glasses off his stomach where they
dangled at the end of a chain, perched them on his nose, and
stared me over. I must have looked uncompromising, for after a
few seconds he abruptly wrinkled his nose so that the glasses
fell promptly to his stomach again, felt his waistcoat pocket,
and produced a card. I took it, and read:
"A lawyer!" said I suspiciously.
"My dear man," he rejoined with a slight impatience, "I am not
here to do your young friend a harm. In fact, my firm have been
his family solicitors for generations."
"Very well," I agreed, and led the way to the one-room adobe that
Tim and I occupied.
If I had expected an enthusiastic greeting for the boyhood friend
from the old home, I would have been disappointed. Tim was
sitting with his back to the door reading an old magazine. When
we entered he glanced over his shoulder.
"Ah, Case," said he, and went on reading. After a moment he said
without looking up, "Sit down."
The little man took it calmly, deposited himself in a chair and
his bag between his feet, and looked about him daintily at our
rough quarters. I made a move to go, whereupon Tim laid down his
magazine, yawned, stretched his arms over his head, and sighed.
"Don't go, Harry," he begged. "Well, Case," he addressed the
barrister, "what is it this time? Must be something devilish
important to bring you--how many thousand miles is it--into such
a country as this."
"It is important, Mr. Clare," stated the lawyer in his dry
sing-song tones; "but my journey might have been avoided had you
paid some attention to my letters."
"Letters!" repeated Tim, opening his eyes. "My dear chap, I've
had no letters."
"Addressed as usual to your New York bankers."
Tim laughed softly. "Where they are, with my last two quarters'
allowance. I especially instructed them to send me no mail. One
spends no money in this country." He paused, pulling his
moustache. "I'm truly sorry you had to come so far," he
continued, "and if your business is, as I suspect, the old one of
inducing me to return to my dear uncle's arms, I assure you the
mission will prove quite fruitless. Uncle Hillary and I could
never live in the same county, let alone the same house."
"And yet your uncle, the Viscount Mar, was very fond of you,"
ventured Case. "Your allowances--"
"Oh, I grant you his generosity in MONEY affairs--"
"He has continued that generosity in the terms of his will, and
those terms I am here to communicate to you."
"Uncle Hillary is dead!" cried Tim.
"He passed away the sixteenth of last June."
A slight pause ensued.
"I am ready to hear you," said Tim soberly, at last.
The barrister stooped and began to fumble with his bag.
"No, not that!" cried Tim, with some impatience. "Tell me in
your own words."
The lawyer sat back and pressed his finger points together over
his stomach.
"The late Viscount," said he, "has been graciously pleased to
leave you in fee simple his entire estate of Staghurst, together
with its buildings, rentals, and privileges. This, besides the
residential rights, amounts to some ten thousands pounds sterling
per annum."
"A little less than fifty thousand dollars a year, Harry," Tim
shot over his shoulder at me.
"There is one condition," put in the lawyer.
"Oh, there is!" exclaimed Tim, his crest falling. "Well, knowing
my Uncle Hillary--"
"The condition is not extravagant," the lawyer hastily
interposed. "It merely entails continued residence in England,
and a minimum of nine months on the estate. This provision is
absolute, and the estate reverts in its discontinuance, but may I
be permitted to observe that the majority of men, myself among
the number, are content to spend the most of their lives, not
merely in the confines of a kingdom, but between the four walls
of a room, for much less than ten thousand pounds a year. Also
that England is not without its attractions for an Englishman,
and that Staghurst is a country place of many possibilities."
The Honourable Timothy had recovered from his first surprise.
"And if the conditions are not complied with?" he inquired.
"Then the estate reverts to the heirs at law, and you receive an
annuity of one hundred pounds, payable quarterly."
"May I ask further the reason for this extraordinary condition?"
"My distinguished client never informed me," replied the lawyer,
"but"--and a twinkle appeared in his eye--"as an occasional
disburser of funds--Monte Carlo--"
Tim burst out laughing.
"Oh, but I recognise Uncle Hillary there!" he cried. "Well, Mr.
Case, I am sure Mr. Johnson, the owner of this ranch, can put you
up, and to-morrow we'll start back."
He returned after a few minutes to find me sitting' smoking a
moody pipe. I liked Tim, and I was sorry to have him go. Then,
too, I was ruffled, in the senseless manner of youth, by the
sudden altitude to which his changed fortunes had lifted him.
He stood in the middle of the room, surveying me, then came
across and laid his arm on my shoulder.
"Well," I growled, without looking up, "you're a very rich man
now, Mr. Clare."
At that he jerked me bodily out of my seat and stood me up in the
centre of the room, the Irish blazing out of his eyes.
"Here, none of that!" he snapped. "You damn little fool! Don't
you 'Mr. Clare' me!"
So in five minutes we were talking it over. Tim was very much
excited at the prospect. He knew Staghurst well, and told me all
about the big stone house, and the avenue through the trees; and
the hedge-row roads, and the lawn with its peacocks, and the
round green hills, and the labourers' cottages.
"It's home," said he, "and I didn't realise before how much I
wanted to see it. And I'll be a man of weight there, Harry, and
it'll be mighty good."
We made all sorts of plans as to how I was going to visit him
just as soon as I could get together the money for the passage.
He had the delicacy not to offer to let me have it; and that
clinched my trust and love of him.
The next day he drove away with Tony and the dapper little
lawyer. I am not ashamed to say that I watched the buckboard
until it disappeared in the mirage.
I was with Buck Johnson all that summer, and the following
winter, as well. We had our first round-up, found the natural
increase much in excess of the loss by Indians, and extended our
holdings up over the Rock Creek country. We witnessed the start
of many Indian campaigns, participated in a few little brushes
with the Chiricahuas, saw the beginning of the cattle-rustling.
A man had not much opportunity to think of anything but what he
had right on hand, but I found time for a few speculations on
Tim. I wondered how he looked now, and what he was doing, and
how in blazes he managed to get away with fifty thousand a year.
And then one Sunday in June, while I was lying on my bunk, Tim
pushed open the door and walked in. I was young, but I'd seen a
lot, and I knew the expression of his face. So I laid low and
said nothing.
In a minute the door opened again, and Buck Johnson himself came
"How do," said he; "I saw you ride up."
"How do you do," replied Tim.
"I know all about you," said Buck, without any preliminaries;
"your man, Case, has wrote me. I don't know your reasons, and I
don't want to know--it's none of my business--and I ain't goin'
to tell you just what kind of a damn fool I think you are--that's
none of my business, either. But I want you to understand
without question how you stand on the ranch."
"Quite good, sir," said Tim very quietly.
"When you were out here before I was glad to have you here as a
sort of guest. Then you were what I've heerd called a gentleman
of leisure. Now you're nothin' but a remittance man. Your
money's nothin' to me, but the principle of the thing is. The
country is plumb pestered with remittance men, doin' nothin', and
I don't aim to run no home for incompetents. I had a son of a
duke drivin' wagon for me; and he couldn't drive nails in a
snowbanks. So don't you herd up with the idea that you can come
on this ranch and loaf."
"I don't want to loaf," put in Tim, "I want a job."
"I'm willing to give you a job," replied Buck, "but it's jest an
ordinary cow-puncher's job at forty a month. And if you don't
fill your saddle, it goes to someone else."
"That's satisfactory," agreed Tim.
"All right," finished Buck, "so that's understood. Your friend
Case wanted me to give you a lot of advice. A man generally has
about as much use for advice as a cow has for four hind legs."
He went out.
"For God's sake, what's up?" I cried, leaping from my bunk.
"Hullo, Harry," said he, as though he had seen me the day before,
"I've come back."
"How come back?" I asked. "I thought you couldn't leave the
estate. Have they broken the will?"
"No," said he.
"Is the money lost?"
"Then what?"
"The long and short of it is, that I couldn't afford that estate
and that money."
"What do you mean?"
"I've given it up."
"Given it up! What for?"
"To come back here."
I took this all in slowly.
"Tim Clare," said I at last, "do you mean to say that you have
given up an English estate and fifty thousand dollars a year to
be a remittance man at five hundred, and a cow-puncher on as much
"Exactly," said he.
"Tim," I adjured him solemnly, "you are a damn fool!"
"Maybe," he agreed.
"Why did you do it?" I begged.
He walked to the door and looked out across the desert to where
the mountains hovered like soap-bubbles on the horizon. For a
long time he looked; then whirled on me.
"Harry," said he in a low voice, "do you remember the camp we
made on the shoulder of the mountain that night we were caught
out? And do you remember how the dawn came up on the big snow
peaks across the way--and all the canon below us filled with
whirling mists--and the steel stars leaving us one by one? Where
could I find room for that in English paddocks? And do you
recall the day we trailed across the Yuma deserts, and the sun
beat into our skulls, and the dry, brittle hills looked like
papier-mache, and the grey sage-bush ran off into the rise of the
hills; and then came sunset and the hard, dry mountains grew
filmy, like gauze veils of many colours, and melted and glowed
and faded to slate blue, and the stars came out? The English
hills are rounded and green and curried, and the sky is near, and
the stars only a few miles up. And do you recollect that dark
night when old Loco and his warriors were camped at the base of
Cochise's Stronghold, and we crept down through the velvet dark
wondering when we would be discovered, our mouths sticky with
excitement, and the little winds blowing?"
He walked up and down a half-dozen times, his breast heaving.
"It's all very well for the man who is brought up to it, and
who has seen nothing else. Case can exist in four walls; he
has been brought up to it and knows nothing different. But a
man like me--
"They wanted me to canter between hedge-row,--I who have ridden
the desert where the sky over me and the plain under me were
bigger than the Islander's universe! They wanted me to oversee
little farms--I who have watched the sun rising over half a
world! Talk of your ten thou' a year and what it'll buy! You
know, Harry, how it feels when a steer takes the slack of your
rope, and your pony sits back! Where in England can I buy that?
You know the rising and the falling of days, and the boundless
spaces where your heart grows big, and the thirst of the desert
and the hunger of the trail, and a sun that shines and fills
the sky, and a wind that blows fresh from the wide places!
Where in parcelled, snug, green, tight little England could I
buy that with ten thou'--aye, or an hundred times ten thou'?
No, no, Harry, that fortune would cost me too dear. I have
seen and done and been too much. I've come back to the Big
Country, where the pay is poor and the work is hard and the
comfort small, but where a man and his soul meet their Maker face
to face."
The Cattleman had finished his yarn. For a time no one spoke.
Outside, the volume of rain was subsiding. Windy Bill reported
a few stars shining through rifts in the showers. The chill that
precedes the dawn brought us as close to the fire as the
smouldering guano would permit.
"I don't know whether he was right or wrong," mused the
Cattleman, after a while. "A man can do a heap with that much
money. And yet an old 'alkali' is never happy anywhere else.
However," he concluded emphatically, "one thing I do know: rain,
cold, hunger, discomfort, curses, kicks, and violent deaths
included, there isn't one of you grumblers who would hold that
gardening job you spoke of three days!"
Dawn broke, so we descended through wet grasses to the canon.
There, after some difficulty, we managed to start a fire, and
so ate breakfast, the rain still pouring down on us. About
nine o'clock, with miraculous suddenness, the torrent stopped.
It began to turn cold. The Cattleman and I decided to climb to
the top of the butte after meat, which we entirely lacked.
It was rather a stiff ascent, but once above the sheer cliffs we
found ourselves on a rolling meadow tableland a half-mile broad
by, perhaps, a mile and a half in length. Grass grew high;
here and there were small live oaks planted park-like; slight and
rounded ravines accommodated brooklets. As we walked back, the
edges blended in the edges of the mesa across the canon. The
deep gorges, which had heretofore seemed the most prominent
elements of the scenery, were lost. We stood, apparently, in
the middle of a wide and undulating plain, diversified by little
ridges, and running with a free sweep to the very foot of the
snowy Galiuros. It seemed as though we should be able to ride
horseback in almost any given direction. Yet we knew that ten
minutes' walk would take us to the brink of most stupendous
chasms--so deep that the water flowing in them hardly seemed to
move; so rugged that only with the greatest difficulty could a
horseman make his way through the country at all; and yet so
ancient that the bottoms supported forests, rich grasses, and
rounded, gentle knolls. It was a most astonishing set of double
We succeeded in killing a nice, fat white-tail buck, and so
returned to camp happy. The rain, held off. We dug ditches,
organised shelters, cooked a warm meal. For the next day we
planned a bear hunt afoot, far up a manzanita canon where
Uncle Jim knew of some "holing up" caves.
But when we awoke in the morning we threw aside our coverings
with some difficulty to look on a ground covered with snow; trees
laden almost to the breaking point with snow, and the air filled
with it.
"No bear today" said the Cattleman.
"No," agreed Uncle Jim drily. "No b'ar. And what's more, unless
yo're aimin' to stop here somewhat of a spell, we'll have to make
out to-day."
We cooked with freezing fingers, ate while dodging avalanches
from the trees, and packed reluctantly. The ropes were frozen,
the hobbles stiff, everything either crackling or wet. Finally
the task was finished. We took a last warming of the fingers and
climbed on.
The country was wonderfully beautiful with the white not yet
shaken from the trees and rock ledges. Also it was wonderfully
slippery. The snow was soft enough to ball under the horses'
hoofs, so that most of the time the poor animals skated and
stumbled along on stilts. Thus we made our way back over ground
which, naked of these difficulties, we had considered bad enough.
Imagine riding along a slant of rock shelving off to a bad
tumble, so steep that your pony has to do more or less expert
ankle work to keep from slipping off sideways. During the
passage of that rock you are apt to sit very light. Now cover it
with several inches of snow, stick a snowball on each hoof of
your mount, and try again. When you have ridden it--or its
duplicate--a few score of times, select a steep mountain side,
cover it with round rocks the size of your head, and over that
spread a concealing blanket of the same sticky snow. You are
privileged to vary these to the limits of your imagination.
Once across the divide, we ran into a new sort of trouble. You
may remember that on our journey over we had been forced to
travel for some distance in a narrow stream-bed. During our
passage we had scrambled up some rather steep and rough slopes,
and hopped up some fairly high ledges. Now we found the
heretofore dry bed flowing a good eight inches deep. The steep
slopes had become cascades; the ledges, waterfalls. When we
came to them, we had to "shoot the rapids" as best we could,
only to land with a PLUNK in an indeterminately deep pool at the
bottom. Some of the pack horses went down, sousing again our
unfortunate bedding, but by the grace of fortune not a saddle
pony lost his feet.
After a time the gorge widened. We came out into the box canon
with its trees. Here the water spread and shoaled to a depth of
only two or three inches. We splashed along gaily enough, for,
with the exception of an occasional quicksand or boggy spot, our
troubles were over.
Jed Parker and I happened to ride side by side, bringing up the
rear and seeing to it that the pack animals did not stray or
linger. As we passed the first of the rustlers' corrals, he
called my attention to them.
"Go take a look," said he. "We only got those fellows out of
here two years ago."
I rode over. At this point the rim-rock broke to admit the
ingress of a ravine into the main canon. Riding a short
distance up the ravine, I could see that it ended abruptly in a
perpendicular cliff. As the sides also were precipitous, it
became necessary only to build a fence across the entrance into
the main canon to become possessed of a corral completely
closed in. Remembering the absolute invisibility of these
sunken canons until the rider is almost directly over them, and
also the extreme roughness and remoteness of the district, I
could see that the spot was admirably adapted to concealment.
"There's quite a yarn about the gang that held this hole," said
Jed Parker to me, when I had ridden back to him "I'll tell you
about it sometime."
We climbed the hill, descended on the Double R, built a fire in
the stove, dried out, and were happy. After a square meal--and a
dry one--I reminded Jed Parker of his promise, and so, sitting
cross-legged on his "so-gun" in the middle of the floor, he told
us the following yarn:
There's a good deal of romance been written about the "bad man,"
and there's about the same amount of nonsense. The bad man is
justa plain murderer, neither more nor less. He never does get
into a real, good, plain, stand-up gunfight if he can possibly
help it. His killin's are done from behind a door, or when he's
got his man dead to rights. There's Sam Cook. You've all heard
of him. He had nerve, of course, and when he was backed into a
corner he made good; he was sure sudden death with a gun. But
when he went for a man deliberate, he didn't take no special
chances. For a while he was marshal at Willets. Pretty soon it
was noted that there was a heap of cases of resisting arrest,
where Sam as marshal had to shoot, and that those cases almost
always happened to be his personal enemies. Of course, that
might be all right, but it looked suspicious. Then one day he
killed poor old Max Schmidt out behind his own saloon. Called
him out and shot him in the stomach. Said Max resisted arrest on
a warrant for keepin' open out of hours! That was a sweet
warrant to take out in Willets, anyway! Mrs. Schmidt always
claimed that she say that deal played, and that, while they were
talkin' perfectly peacable, Cook let drive from the hip at about
two yards' range. Anyway, we decided we needed another marshal.
Nothin' else was ever done, for the Vigilantes hadn't been
formed, and your individual and decent citizen doesn't care to be
marked by a gun of that stripe. Leastwise, unless he wants to go
in for bad-man methods and do a little ambusheein' on his own
The point is, that these yere bad men are a low-down, miserable
proposition, and plain, cold-blood murderers, willin' to wait for
a sure thing, and without no compunctions whatsoever. The bad
man takes you unawares, when you're sleepin', or talkin', or
drinkin', or lookin' to see what for a day it's goin' to be,
anyway. He don't give you no show, and sooner or later he's
goin' to get you in the safest and easiest way for himself.
There ain't no romance about that.
And, until you've seen a few men called out of their shacks for a
friendly conversation, and shot when they happen to look away; or
asked for a drink of water, and killed when they stoop to the
spring; or potted from behind as they go into a room, it's pretty
hard to believe that any man can he so plumb lackin' in fair play
or pity or just natural humanity.
As you boys know, I come in from Texas to Buck Johnson's about
ten year back. I had a pretty good mount of ponies that I knew,
and I hated to let them go at prices they were offerin' then, so
I made up my mind to ride across and bring them in with me. It
wasn't so awful far, and I figured that I'd like to take in what
New Mexico looked like anyway.
About down by Albuquerque I tracked up with another outfit headed
my way. There was five of them, three men, and a woman, and a
yearlin' baby. They had a dozen hosses, and that was about all I
could see. There was only two packed, and no wagon. I suppose
the whole outfit--pots, pans, and kettles--was worth five
dollars. It was just supper when I run across them, and it
didn't take more'n one look to discover that flour, coffee,
sugar, and salt was all they carried. A yearlin' carcass,
half-skinned, lay near, and the fry-pan was, full of meat.
"Howdy, strangers," says I, ridin' up.
They nodded a little, but didn't say nothin'. My hosses fell to
grazin', and I eased myself around in my saddle, and made a
cigareet. The men was tall, lank fellows, with kind of sullen
faces, and sly, shifty eyes; the woman was dirty and generally
mussed up. I knowed that sort all right. Texas was gettin' too
many fences for them.
"Havin' supper?" says I, cheerful.
One of 'em grunted "Yes" at me; and, after a while, the biggest
asked me very grudgin' if I wouldn't light and eat, I told them
"No," that I was travellin' in the cool of the evenin'.
"You seem to have more meat than you need, though," says I. "I
could use a little of that."
"Help yourself," says they. "It's a maverick we come across."
I took a steak, and noted that the hide had been mighty well cut
to ribbons around the flanks and that the head was gone.
"Well," says I to the carcass, "No one's going to be able to
swear whether you're a maverick or not, but I bet you knew the
feel of a brandin' iron all right."
I gave them a thank-you, and climbed on again. My hosses acted
some surprised at bein' gathered up again, but I couldn't help
"It looks like a plumb imposition, cavallos," says I to them,
"after an all-day, but you sure don't want to join that outfit
any more than I do the angels, and if we camp here we're likely
to do both."
I didn't see them any more after that until I'd hit the Lazy Y,
and had started in runnin' cattle in the Soda Springs Valley.
Larry Eagen and I rode together those days, and that's how I got
to know him pretty well. One day, over in the Elm Flat, we ran
smack on this Texas outfit again, headed north. This time I was
on my own range, and I knew where I stood, so I could show a
little more curiosity in the case.
"Well, you got this far," says I.
"Yes," says they.
"Where you headed?"
"Over towards the hills."
"What to do?"
"Make a ranch, raise some truck; perhaps buy a few cows."
They went on.
"Truck" says I to Larry, "is fine prospects in this country."
He sat on his horse looking after them.
"I'm sorry for them" says he. "It must he almighty hard
Well, we rode the range for upwards of two year. In that time we
saw our Texas friends--name of Hahn--two or three times in
Willets, and heard of them off and on. They bought an old brand
of Steve McWilliams for seventy-five dollars, carryin' six or
eight head of cows. After that, from time to time, we heard of
them buying more--two or three head from one man, and two or
three from another. They branded them all with that McWilliams
iron--T 0--so, pretty soon, we began to see the cattle on the
Now, a good cattleman knows cattle just as well as you know
people, and he can tell them about as far off. Horned critters
look alike to you, but even in a country supportin' a good many
thousand head, a man used to the business can recognise most
every individual as far as he can see him. Some is better than
others at it. I suppose you really have to be brought up to it.
So we boys at the Lazy Y noted all the cattle with the new T 0,
and could estimate pretty close that the Hahn outfit might own,
maybe, thirty-five head all told.
That was all very well, and nobody had any kick comin'. Then one
day in the spring, we came across our first "sleeper."
What's a sleeper? A sleeper is a calf that has been ear-marked,
but not branded. Every owner has a certain brand, as you know,
and then he crops and slits the ears in a certain way, too. In
that manner he don't have to look at the brand, except to
corroborate the ears; and, as the critter generally sticks his
ears up inquirin'-like to anyone ridin' up, it's easy to know the
brand without lookin' at it, merely from the ear-marks. Once in
a great while, when a man comes across an unbranded calf, and it
ain't handy to build a fire, he just ear-marks it and let's the
brandin' go till later. But it isn't done often, and our outfit
had strict orders never to make sleepers.
Well, one day in the spring, as I say, Larry and me was ridin',
when we came across a Lazy Y cow and calf. The little fellow was
ear-marked all right, so we rode on, and never would have
discovered nothin' if a bush rabbit hadn't jumped and scared the
calf right across in front of our hosses. Then we couldn't help
but see that there wasn't no brand.
Of course we roped him and put the iron on him. I took the
chance to look at his ears,, and saw that the marking had been
done quite recent, so when we got in that night I reported to
Buck Johnson that one of the punchers was gettin' lazy and
sleeperin'. Naturally he went after the man who had done it;
but every puncher swore up and down, and back and across, that
he'd branded every calf he'd had a rope on that spring. We put
it down that someone was lyin', and let it go at that.
And then, about a week later, one of the other boys reported a
Triangle-H sleeper. The Triangle-H was the Goodrich brand, so we
didn't have nothin' to do with that. Some of them might be
sleeperin' for all we knew. Three other cases of the same kind
we happened across that same spring.
So far, so good. Sleepers runnin' in such numbers was a little
astonishin', but nothin' suspicious. Cattle did well that
summer, and when we come to round up in the fall, we cut out
maybe a dozen of those T 0 cattle that had strayed out of that
Hahn country. Of the dozen there was five grown cows, and seven
"My Lord, Jed," says Buck to me, "they's a heap of these
youngsters comin' over our way."
But still, as a young critter is more apt to stray than an old
one that's got his range established, we didn't lay no great
store by that neither. The Hahns took their bunch, and that's
all there was to it.
Next spring, though, we found a few more sleepers, and one day we
came on a cow that had gone dead lame. That was usual, too, but
Buck, who was with me, had somethin' on his mind. Finally he
turned back and roped her, and threw her.
"Look here, Jed," says he, "what do you make of this?"
I could see where the hind legs below the hocks had been burned.
"Looks like somebody had roped her by the hind feet," says I.
"Might be," says he, "but her heels lame that way makes it look
more like hobbles."
So we didn't say nothin' more about that neither, until just by
luck we came on another lame cow. We threw her, too.
"Well, what do you think of this one?" Buck Johnson asks me.
"The feet is pretty well tore up," says I, "and down to the
quick, but I've seen them tore up just as bad on the rocks when
they come down out of the mountains."
You sabe what that meant, don't you? You see, a rustler will
take a cow and hobble her, or lame her so she can't follow, and
then he'll take her calf a long ways off and brand it with his
iron. Of course, if we was to see a calf of one brand followin'
of a cow with another, it would be just too easy to guess what
had happened.
We rode on mighty thoughtful. There couldn't be much doubt that
cattle rustlers was at work. The sleepers they had ear-marked,
hopin' that no one would discover the lack of a brand. Then,
after the calf was weaned, and quit followin' of his mother, the
rustler would brand it with his own iron, and change its ear-mark
to match. It made a nice, easy way of gettin' together a bunch
of cattle cheap.
But it was pretty hard to guess off-hand who the rustlers might
be. There were a lot of renegades down towards the Mexican
line who made a raid once in a while, and a few oilers [2] livin'
near had water holes in the foothills, and any amount of little
cattle holders, like this T 0 outfit, and any of them wouldn't
shy very hard at a little sleeperin' on the side. Buck Johnson
told us all to watch out, and passed the word quiet among the big
owners to try and see whose cattle seemed to have too many calves
for the number of cows.
[2] "Oilers"--Greasers--Mexicans.
The Texas outfit I'm tellin' you about had settled up above in
this Double R canon where I showed you those natural corrals
this morning. They'd built them a 'dobe, and cleared some land,
and planted a few trees, and made an irrigated patch for alfalfa.
Nobody never rode over his way very much, 'cause the country was
most too rough for cattle, and our ranges lay farther to the
southward. Now, however, we began to extend our ridin' a little.
I was down towards Dos Cabesas to look over the cattle there, and
they used to send Larry up into the Double R country. One
evenin' he took me to one side.
"Look here, Jed," says he, "I know you pretty well, and I'm not
ashamed to say that I'm all new at this cattle business--in fact,
I haven't been at it more'n a year. What should be the
proportion of cows to calves anyhow?"
"There ought to be about twice as many cows as there're calves,"
I tells him.
"Then, with only about fifty head of grown cows, there ought not
to be an equal number of yearlin's?"
"I should say not," says I. "What are you drivin' at?"
"Nothin' yet," says he.
A few days later he tackled me again.
"Jed," says he, "I'm not good, like you fellows are, at knowin'
one cow from another, but there's a calf down there branded T 0
that I'd pretty near swear I saw with an X Y cow last month. I
wish you could come down with me."
We got that fixed easy enough, and for the next month rammed
around through this broken country lookin' for evidence. I saw
enough to satisfy me to a moral certainty, but nothin' for a
sheriff; and, of course, we couldn't go shoot up a peaceful
rancher on mere suspicion. Finally, one day, we run on a
four-months' calf all by himself, with the T 0 iron onto him--a
mighty healthy lookin' calf, too.
"Wonder where HIS mother is!" says I.
"Maybe it's a 'dogie,'" says Larry Eagen--we calls calves whose
mothers have died "dogies."
"No," says I, "I don't hardly think so. A dogie is always under
size and poor, and he's layin' around water holes, and he always
has a big, sway belly onto him. No, this is no dogie; and, if
it's an honest calf, there sure ought to be a T 0 cow around
So we separated to have a good look. Larry rode up on the edge
of a little rimrock. In a minute I saw his hoss jump back,
dodgin' a rattlesnake or somethin', and then fall back out of
sight. I jumped my hoss up there tur'ble quick, and looked
over, expectin' to see nothin' but mangled remains. It was only
about fifteen foot down, but I couldn't see bottom 'count of some
"Are you all right?" I yells.
"Yes, yes!" cries Larry, "but for the love of God, get down here
quick as you can."
I hopped off my hoss and scrambled down somehow.
"Hurt?" says I, as soon as I lit.
"Not a bit--look here."
There was a dead cow with the Lazy Y on her flank.
"And a bullet-hole in her forehead," adds Larry. "And, look
here, that T 0 calf was bald-faced, and so was this cow."
"Reckon we found our sleepers," says I.
So, there we was. Larry had to lead his cavallo down the
barranca to the main canon. I followed along on the rim, waitin'
until a place gave me a chance to get down, too, or Larry a
chance to get up. We were talkin' back and forth when, all at
once, Larry shouted again.
"Big game this time," he yells. "Here's a cave and a mountain
lion squallin' in it."
I slid down to him at once, and we drew our six-shooters and went
up to the cave openin', right under the rim-rock. There, sure
enough, were fresh lion tracks, and we could hear a little faint
cryin' like woman.
"First chance," claims Larry, and dropped to his hands and knees
at the entrance.
"Well, damn me!" he cries, and crawls in at once, payin' no
attention to me tellin' him to be more cautious. In a minute he
backs out, carryin' a three-year-old goat.
"We seem to he in for adventures to-day," says he. "Now, where
do you suppose that came from, and how did it get here?"
"Well," says I, "I've followed lion tracks where they've carried
yearlin's across their backs like a fox does a goose. They're
tur'ble strong."
"But where did she come from?" he wonders.
"As for that," says I, "don't you remember now that T 0 outfit
had a yearlin' kid when it came into the country?"
"That's right," says he. "It's only a mile down the canon. I'll
take it home. They must be most distracted about it."
So I scratched up to the top where my pony was waitin'. It was a
tur'ble hard climb, and I 'most had to have hooks on my eyebrows
to get up at all. It's easier to slide down than to climb back.
I dropped my gun out of my holster, and she went way to the
bottom, but I wouldn't have gone back for six guns. Larry picked
it up for me.
So we went along, me on the rim-rock and around the barrancas,
and Larry in the bottom carryin' of the kid.
By and by we came to the ranch house, stopped to wait. The
minute Larry hove in sight everybody was out to once, and in two
winks the woman had that baby. Thy didn't see me at all, but I
could hear, plain enough, what they said. Larry told how he had
found her in the cave, and all about the lion tracks, and the
woman cried and held the kid close to her, and thanked him about
forty times. Then when she'd wore the edge off a little, she
took the kid inside to feed it or somethin'.
"Well," says Larry, still laughin', "I must hit the trail."
"You say you found her up the Double R?" asks Hahn. "Was it that
cave near the three cottonwoods?"
"Yes," says Larry.
"Where'd you get into the canyon?"
"Oh, my hoss slipped off into the barranca just above."
"The barranca just above," repeats Hahn, lookin' straight at him.
Larry took one step back.
"You ought to be almighty glad I got into the canyon at all,"
says he.
Hahn stepped up, holdin' out his hand.
"That's right," says he. "You done us a good turn there."
Larry took his hand. At the same time Hahn pulled his gun and
shot him through the middle.
It was all so sudden and unexpected that I stood there paralysed.
Larry fell forward the way a man mostly will when he's hit in the
stomach, but somehow he jerked loose a gun and got it off twice.
He didn't hit nothin', and I reckon he was dead before he hit the
ground. And there he had my gun, and I was about as useless as a
pocket in a shirt!
No, sir, you can talk as much as you please, but the killer is a
low-down ornery scub, and he don't hesitate at no treachery or
ingratitude to keep his carcass safe.
Jed Parker ceased talking. The dusk had fallen in the little
room, and dimly could be seen the recumbent figures lying at
ease on their blankets. The ranch foreman was sitting bolt
upright, cross-legged. A faint glow from his pipe barely
distinguished his features.
"What became of the rustlers?" I asked him.
"Well, sir, that is the queer part. Hahn himself, who had done
the killin', skipped out. We got out warrants, of course, but
they never got served. He was a sort of half outlaw from that
time, and was killed finally in the train hold-up of '97. But
the others we tried for rustling. We didn't have much of a case,
as the law went then, and they'd have gone free if the woman
hadn't turned evidence against them. The killin' was too much
for her. And, as the precedent held good in a lot of other
rustlin' cases, Larry's death was really the beginnin' of law and
order in the cattle business."
We smoked. The last light suddenly showed red against the grimy
window. Windy Bill arose and looked out the door.
"Boys," said he, returning. "She's cleared off. We can get back
to the ranch tomorrow."
A cry awakened me. It was still deep night. The moon sailed
overhead, the stars shone unwavering like candles, and a chill
breeze wandered in from the open spaces of the desert. I raised
myself on my elbow, throwing aside the blankets and the canvas
tarpaulin. Forty other indistinct, formless bundles on the
ground all about me were sluggishly astir. Four figures passed
and repassed between me and a red fire. I knew them for the two
cooks and the horse wranglers. One of the latter was grumbling.
"Didn't git in till moon-up last night," he growled. "Might as
well trade my bed for a lantern and be done with it."
Even as I stretched my arms and shivered a little, the two
wranglers threw down their tin plates with a clatter, mounted
horses and rode away in the direction of the thousand acres or so
known as the pasture.
I pulled on my clothes hastily, buckled in my buckskin shirt, and
dove for the fire. A dozen others were before me. It was
bitterly cold. In the east the sky had paled the least bit in
the world, but the moon and stars shone on bravely and
undiminished. A band of coyotes was shrieking desperate
blasphemies against the new day, and the stray herd, awakening,
was beginning to bawl and bellow.
Two crater-like dutch ovens, filled with pieces of fried beef,
stood near the fire; two galvanised water buckets, brimming
with soda biscuits, flanked them; two tremendous coffee pots
stood guard at either end. We picked us each a tin cup and a tin
plate from the box at the rear of the chuck wagon; helped
ourselves from a dutch oven, a pail, and a coffee pot, and
squatted on our heels as close to the fire as possible. Men who
came too late borrowed the shovel, scooped up some coals, and so
started little fires of their own about which new groups formed.
While we ate, the eastern sky lightened. The mountains under the
dawn looked like silhouettes cut from slate-coloured paper; those
in the west showed faintly luminous. Objects about us became
dimly visible. We could make out the windmill, and the adobe of
the ranch houses, and the corrals. The cowboys arose one by one,
dropped their plates into the dishpan, and began to hunt out
their ropes. Everything was obscure and mysterious in the faint
grey light. I watched Windy Bill near his tarpaulin. He stooped
to throw over the canvas. When he bent, it was before daylight;
when he straightened his back, daylight had come. It was just
like that, as though someone had reached out his hand to turn on
the illumination of the world.
The eastern mountains were fragile, the plain was ethereal, like
a sea of liquid gases. From the pasture we heard the shoutings
of the wranglers, and made out a cloud of dust. In a moment the
first of the remuda came into view, trotting forward with the
free grace of the unburdened horse. Others followed in
procession: those near sharp and well defined, those in the
background more or less obscured by the dust, now appearing
plainly, now fading like ghosts. The leader turned
unhesitatingly into the corral. After him poured the stream of
the remuda--two hundred and fifty saddle horses--with an
unceasing thunder of hoofs.
Immediately the cook-camp was deserted. The cowboys entered the
corral. The horses began to circle around the edge of the
enclosure as around the circumference of a circus ring. The men,
grouped at the centre, watched keenly, looking for the mounts
they had already decided on. In no time each had recognised
his choice, and, his loop trailing, was walking toward that part
of the revolving circumference where his pony dodged. Some few
whirled the loop, but most cast it with a quick flip. It was
really marvellous to observe the accuracy with which the noose
would fly, past a dozen tossing heads, and over a dozen backs, to
settle firmly about the neck of an animal perhaps in the very
centre of the group. But again, if the first throw failed, it
was interesting to see how the selected pony would dodge, double
back, twist, turn, and hide to escape second cast. And it was
equally interesting to observe how his companions would help him.
They seemed to realise that they were not wanted, and would push
themselves between the cowboy and his intended mount with the
utmost boldness. In the thick dust that instantly arose, and
with the bewildering thunder of galloping, the flashing change of
grouping, the rush of the charging animals, recognition alone
would seem almost impossible, yet in an incredibly short time
each had his mount, and the others, under convoy of the
wranglers, were meekly wending their way out over the plain.
There, until time for a change of horses, they would graze in a
loose and scattered band, requiring scarcely any supervision.
Escape? Bless you, no, that thought was the last in their minds.
In the meantime the saddles and bridles were adjusted. Always in
a cowboy's "string" of from six to ten animals the boss assigns
him two or three broncos to break in to the cow business.
Therefore, each morning we could observe a half dozen or so men
gingerly leading wicked looking little animals out to the sand
"to take the pitch out of them." One small black, belonging to a
cowboy called the Judge, used more than to fulfil expectations of
a good time.
"Go to him, Judge!" someone would always remark.
"If he ain't goin' to pitch, I ain't goin' to make him", the
Judge would grin, as he swung aboard.
The black would trot off quite calmly and in a most matter of
fact way, as though to shame all slanderers of his lamb-like
character. Then, as the bystanders would turn away, he would
utter a squeal, throw down his head, and go at it. He was a very
hard bucker, and made some really spectacular jumps, but the
trick on which he based his claims to originality consisted in
standing on his hind legs at so perilous an approach to the
perpendicular that his rider would conclude he was about to fall
backwards, and then suddenly springing forward in a series of
stiff-legged bucks. The first manoeuvre induced the rider to
loosen his seat in order to be ready to jump from under, and the
second threw him before he could regain his grip.
"And they say a horse don't think!" exclaimed an admirer.
But as these were broken horses--save the mark!--the show was all
over after each had had his little fling. We mounted and rode
away, just as the mountain peaks to the west caught the rays of a
sun we should not enjoy for a good half hour yet.
I had five horses in my string, and this morning rode "that C S
horse, Brown Jug." Brown Jug was a powerful and well-built
animal, about fourteen two in height, and possessed of a vast
enthusiasm for cow-work. As the morning was frosty, he felt
At the gate of the water corral we separated into two groups.
The smaller, under the direction of Jed Parker, was to drive the
mesquite in the wide flats. The rest of us, under the command of
Homer, the round-up captain, were to sweep the country even as
far as the base of the foothills near Mount Graham. Accordingly
we put our horses to the full gallop.
Mile after mile we thundered along at a brisk rate of speed.
Sometimes we dodged in and out among the mesquite bushes,
alternately separating and coming together again; sometimes we
swept over grassy plains apparently of illimitable extent,
sometimes we skipped and hopped and buck-jumped through and over
little gullies, barrancas, and other sorts of malpais--but always
without drawing rein. The men rode easily, with no thought to
the way nor care for the footing. The air came back sharp
against our faces. The warm blood stirred by the rush flowed
more rapidly. We experienced a delightful glow. Of the morning
cold only the very tips of our fingers and the ends of our noses
retained a remnant. Already the sun was shining low and level
across the plains. The shadows of the canons modelled the
hitherto flat surfaces of the mountains.
After a time we came to some low hills helmeted with the outcrop
of a rock escarpment. Hitherto they had seemed a termination of
Mount Graham, but now, when we rode around them, we discovered
them to be separated from the range by a good five miles of
sloping plain. Later we looked back and would have sworn them
part of the Dos Cabesas system, did we not know them to be at
least eight miles' distant from that rocky rampart. It is always
that way in Arizona. Spaces develop of whose existence you had
not the slightest intimation. Hidden in apparently plane
surfaces are valleys and prairies. At one sweep of the eye you
embrace the entire area of an eastern State; but nevertheless the
reality as you explore it foot by foot proves to be infinitely
more than the vision has promised.
Beyond the hill we stopped. Here our party divided again, half
to the right and half to the left. We had ridden, up to this
time, directly away from camp, now we rode a circumference of
which headquarters was the centre. The country was pleasantly
rolling and covered with grass. Here and there were clumps of
soapweed. Far in a remote distance lay a slender dark line
across the plain. This we knew to be mesquite; and once entered,
we knew it, too, would seem to spread out vastly. And then this
grassy slope, on which we now rode, would show merely as an
insignificant streak of yellow. It is also like that in Arizona.
I have ridden in succession through grass land, brush land,
flower land, desert. Each in turn seemed entirely to fill the
space of the plains between the mountains.
From time to time Homer halted us and detached a man. The
business of the latter was then to ride directly back to camp,
driving all cattle before him. Each was in sight of his rightand
left-hand neighbour. Thus was constructed a drag-net whose
meshes contracted as home was neared.
I was detached, when of our party only the Cattleman and Homer
remained. They would take the outside. This was the post of
honour, and required the hardest riding, for as soon as the
cattle should realise the fact of their pursuit, they would
attempt to "break" past the end and up the valley. Brown
Jug and I congratulated ourselves on an exciting morning in
Now, wild cattle know perfectly well what a drive means, and they
do not intend to get into a round-up if they can help it. Were
it not for the two facts, that they are afraid of a mounted man,
and cannot run quite so fast as a horse, I do not know how the
cattle business would be conducted. As soon as a band of them
caught sight of any one of us, they curled their tails and away
they went at a long, easy lope that a domestic cow would stare at
in wonder. This was all very well; in fact we yelled and
shrieked and otherwise uttered cow-calls to keep them going, to
"get the cattle started," as they say. But pretty soon a little
band of the many scurrying away before our thin line, began to
bear farther and farther to the east. When in their judgment
they should have gained an opening, they would turn directly back
and make a dash for liberty. Accordingly the nearest cowboy
clapped spurs to his horse and pursued them.
It was a pretty race. The cattle ran easily enough, with long,
springy jumps that carried them over the ground faster than
appearances would lead one to believe. The cow-pony, his nose
stretched out, his ears slanted, his eyes snapping with joy of
the chase, flew fairly "belly to earth." The rider sat slightly
forward, with the cowboy's loose seat. A whirl of dust,
strangely insignificant against the immensity of a desert
morning, rose from the flying group. Now they disappeared in a
ravine, only to scramble out again the next instant, pace
undiminished. The rider merely rose slightly and threw up his
elbows to relieve the jar of the rough gully. At first the
cattle seemed to hold their, own, but soon the horse began to
gain. In a short time he had come abreast of the leading animal.
The latter stopped short with a snort, dodged back, and set out
at right angles to his former course. From a dead run the pony
came to a stand in two fierce plunges, doubled like a shot, and
was off on the other tack. An unaccustomed rider would here have
lost his seat. The second dash was short. With a final shake of
the head, the steers turned to the proper course in the direction
of the ranch. The pony dropped unconcernedly to the shuffling
jog of habitual progression.
Far away stretched the arc of our cordon. The most distant
rider was a speck, and the cattle ahead of him were like maggots
endowed with a smooth, swift onward motion. As yet the herd had
not taken form; it was still too widely scattered. Its units, in
the shape of small bunches, momently grew in numbers. The
distant plains were crawling and alive with minute creatures
making toward a common tiny centre.
Immediately in our front the cattle at first behaved very well.
Then far down the long gentle slope I saw a break for the upper
valley. The manikin that represented Homer at once became even
smaller as it departed in pursuit. The Cattleman moved down to
cover Homer's territory until he should return--and I in turn
edged farther to the right. Then another break from another
bunch. The Cattleman rode at top speed to head it. Before long
he disappeared in the distant mesquite. I found myself in sole
charge of a front three miles long.
The nearest cattle were some distance ahead, and trotting along
at a good gait. As they had not yet discovered the chance left
open by unforeseen circumstance, I descended and took in on my
cinch while yet there was time. Even as I mounted, an impatient
movement on the part of experienced Brown Jug told me that the
cattle had seen their opportunity.
I gathered the reins and spoke to the horse. He needed no
further direction, but set off at a wide angle, nicely
calculated, to intercept the truants. Brown Jug was a powerful
beast. The spring of his leap was as whalebone. The yellow
earth began to stream past like water. Always the pace increased
with a growing thunder of hoofs. It seemed that nothing could
turn us from the straight line, nothing check the headlong
momentum of our rush. My eyes filled with tears from the wind of
our going. Saddle strings streamed behind. Brown Jug's mane
whipped my bridle band. Dimly I was conscious of soapweed,
sacatone, mesquite, as we passed them. They were abreast and
gone before I could think of them or how they were to be dodged.
Two antelope bounded away to the left; birds rose hastily from
the grasses. A sudden chirk, chirk, chirk, rose all about me.
We were in the very centre of a prairie-dog town, but before I
could formulate in my mind the probabilities of holes and broken
legs, the chirk, chirk, chirking had fallen astern. Brown Jug
had skipped and dodged successfully.
We were approaching the cattle. They ran stubbornly and well,
evidently unwilling to be turned until the latest possible
moment. A great rage at their obstinacy took possession of us
both. A broad shallow wash crossed our way, but we plunged
through its rocks and boulders recklessly, angered at even the
slight delay they necessitated. The hardland on the other side
we greeted with joy. Brown Jug extended himself with a snort.
Suddenly a jar seemed to shake my very head loose. I found
myself staring over the horse's head directly down into a
deep and precipitous gully, the edge of which was so cunningly
concealed by the grasses as to have remained invisible to my
blurred vision. Brown Jug, however, had caught sight of it at
the last instant, and had executed one of the wonderful stops
possible only to a cow-pony.
But already the cattle had discovered a passage above, and were
scrambling down and across. Brown Jug and I, at more sober pace,
slid off the almost perpendicular bank, and out the other side.
A moment later we had headed them. They whirled, and without the
necessity of any suggestion on my part Brown Jug turned after
them, and so quickly that my stirrup actually brushed the ground.
After that we were masters. We chased the cattle far enough to
start them well in the proper direction, and then pulled down to
a walk in order to get a breath of air.
But now we noticed another band, back on the ground over which we
had just come, doubling through in the direction of Mount
Graham. A hard run set them to rights. We turned. More had
poured out from the hills. Bands were crossing everywhere,
ahead and behind. Brown Jug and I went to work.
Being an indivisible unit, we could chase only one bunch at a
time; and, while we were after one, a half dozen others would be
taking advantage of our preoccupation. We could not hold our
own. Each run after an escaping bunch had to be on a longer
diagonal. Gradually we were forced back, and back, and back; but
still we managed to hold the line unbroken. Never shall I forget
the dash and clatter of that morning. Neither Brown Jug nor I
thought for a moment of sparing horseflesh, nor of picking a
route. We made the shortest line, and paid little attention to
anything that stood in the way. A very fever of resistance
possessed us. It was like beating against a head wind, or
fighting fire, or combating in any other of the great forces of
nature. We were quite alone. The Cattleman and Homer had
vanished. To our left the men were fully occupied in marshalling
the compact brown herds that had gradually massed--for these
antagonists of mine were merely outlying remnants.
I suppose Brown Jug must have run nearly twenty miles with only
one check. Then we chased a cow some distance and into the dry
bed of a stream, where she whirled on us savagely. By luck her
horn hit only the leather of my saddle skirts, so we left her;
for when a cow has sense enough to "get on the peck," there is no
driving her farther. We gained nothing, and had to give ground,
but we succeeded in holding a semblance of order, so that the
cattle did not break and scatter far and wide. The sun had by
now well risen, and was beginning to shine hot. Brown Jug still
ran gamely and displayed as much interest as ever, but he was
evidently tiring. We were both glad to see Homer's grey showing
in the fringe of mesquite.
Together we soon succeeded in throwing the cows into the main
herd. And, strangely enough, as soon as they had joined a
compact band of their fellows, their wildness left them and,
convoyed by outsiders, they set themselves to plodding
energetically toward the home ranch.
As my horse was somewhat winded, I joined the "drag" at the rear.
Here by course of natural sifting soon accumulated all the lazy,
gentle, and sickly cows, and the small calves. The difficulty
now was to prevent them from lagging and dropping out. To that
end we indulged in a great variety of the picturesque cow-calls
peculiar to the cowboy. One found an old tin can which by the
aid of a few pebbles he converted into a very effective rattle.
The dust rose in clouds and eddied in the sun. We slouched
easily in our saddles. The cowboys compared notes as to the
brands they had seen. Our ponies shuffled along, resting, but
always ready for a dash in chase of an occasional bull calf or
yearling with independent ideas of its own.
Thus we passed over the country, down the long gentle slope to
the "sink" of the valley, whence another long gentle slope ran to
the base of the other ranges. At greater or lesser distances we
caught the dust, and made out dimly the masses of the other herds
collected by our companions, and by the party under Jed Parker.
They went forward toward the common centre, with a slow
ruminative movement, and the dust they raised went with them.
Little by little they grew plainer to us, and the home ranch,
hitherto merely a brown shimmer in the distance, began to take on
definition as the group of buildings, windmills,and corrals we
knew. Miniature horsemen could be seen galloping forward to the
open white plain where the herd would be held. Then the mesquite
enveloped us; and we knew little more, save the anxiety lest we
overlook laggards in the brush, until we came out on the edge of
that same white plain.
Here were more cattle, thousands of them, and billows of dust,
and a great bellowing, and slim, mounted figures riding and
shouting ahead of the herd. Soon they succeeded in turning the
leaders back. These threw into confusion those that followed.
In a few moments the cattle had stopped. A cordon of horsemen
sat at equal distances holding them in.
"Pretty good haul," said the man next to me; "a good five
thousand head."
It was somewhere near noon by the time we had bunched and held
the herd of some four or five thousand head in the smooth, wide
flat, free from bushes and dog holes. Each sat at ease on his
horse facing the cattle, watching lazily the clouds of dust and
the shifting beasts, but ready at any instant to turn back the
restless or independent individuals that might break for liberty.
Out of the haze came Homer, the round-up captain, on an easy
lope. As he passed successively the sentries he delivered to
each a low command, but without slacking pace. Some of those
spoken to wheeled their horses and rode away. The others settled
themselves in their saddles and began to roll cigarettes.
"Change horses; get something to eat," said he to me; so I swung
after the file traveling at a canter over the low swells beyond
the plain.
The remuda had been driven by its leaders to a corner of the
pasture's wire fence, and there held. As each man arrived he
dismounted, threw off his saddle, and turned his animal loose.
Then he flipped a loop in his rope and disappeared in the eddying
herd. The discarded horse, with many grunts, indulged in a
satisfying roll, shook himself vigorously, and walked slowly
away. His labour was over for the day, and he knew it, and took
not the slightest trouble to get out of the way of the men with
the swinging ropes.
Not so the fresh horses, however. They had no intention of being
caught, if they could help it, but dodged and twisted, hid and
doubled behind the moving screen of their friends. The latter,
seeming as usual to know they were not wanted, made no effort to
avoid the men, which probably accounted in great measure for the
fact that the herd as a body remained compact, in spite of the
cowboys threading it, and in spite of the lack of an enclosure.
Our horses caught, we saddled as hastily as possible; and then at
the top speed of our fresh and eager ponies we swept down on the
chuck wagon. There we fell off our saddles and descended on the
meat and bread like ravenous locusts on a cornfield. The ponies
stood where we left them, "tied to the ground", the
cattle-country fashion.
As soon as a man had stoked up for the afternoon he rode away.
Some finished before others, so across the plain formed an
endless procession of men returning to the herd, and of those
whom they replaced coming for their turn at the grub.
We found the herd quiet. Some were even lying down, chewing
their cuds as peacefully as any barnyard cows. Most, however,
stood ruminative, or walked slowly to and fro in the confines
allotted by the horsemen, so that the herd looked from a distance
like a brown carpet whose pattern was constantly changing--a
dusty brown carpet in the process of being beaten. I relieved
one of the watchers, and settled myself for a wait.
At this close inspection the different sorts of cattle showed
more distinctly their characteristics. The cows and calves
generally rested peacefully enough, the calf often lying down
while the mother stood guard over it. Steers, however, were more
restless. They walked ceaselessly, threading their way in and
out among the standing cattle, pausing in brutish amazement at
the edge of the herd, and turning back immediately to endless
journeyings. The bulls, excited by so much company forced on
their accustomed solitary habit, roared defiance at each other
until the air fairly trembled. Occasionally two would clash
foreheads. Then the powerful animals would push and wrestle,
trying for a chance to gore. The decision of supremacy was a
question of but a few minutes, and a bloody topknot the worst
damage. The defeated one side-stepped hastily and clumsily out
of reach, and then walked away.
Most of the time all we had to do was to sit our horses and watch
these things, to enjoy the warm bath of the Arizona sun, and to
converse with our next neighbours. Once in a while some
enterprising cow, observing the opening between the men, would
start to walk out. Others would fall in behind her until the
movement would become general. Then one of us would swing his
leg off the pommel and jog his pony over to head them off. They
would return peacefully enough.
But one black muley cow, with a calf as black and muley as
herself, was more persistent. Time after time, with infinite
patience, she tried it again the moment my back was turned. I
tried driving her far into the herd. No use; she always
returned. Quirtings and stones had no effect on her mild and
steady persistence.
"She's a San Simon cow," drawled my neighbour. "Everybody knows
her. She's at every round-up, just naturally raisin' hell."
When the last man had returned from chuck, Homer made the
dispositions for the cut. There were present probably thirty men
from the home ranches round about, and twenty representing owners
at a distance, here to pick up the strays inevitable to the
season's drift. The round-up captain appointed two men to hold
the cow-and-calf cut, and two more to hold the steer cut.
Several of us rode into the herd, while the remainder retained
their positions as sentinels to hold the main body of cattle in
Little G and I rode slowly among the cattle looking everywhere.
The animals moved sluggishly aside to give us passage, and closed
in as sluggishly behind us, so that we were always closely hemmed
in wherever we went. Over the shifting sleek backs, through the
eddying clouds of dust, I could make out the figures of my
companions moving slowly, apparently aimlessly, here and there.
Our task for the moment was to search out the unbranded J H
calves. Since in ranks so closely crowded it would be physically
impossible actually to see an animal's branded flank, we depended
entirely on the ear-marks.
Did you ever notice how any animal, tame or wild, always points
his ears inquiringly in the direction of whatever interests or
alarms him? Those ears are for the moment his most prominent
feature. So when a brand is quite indistinguishable because, as
now, of press of numbers, or, as in winter, from extreme length
of hair, the cropped ears tell plainly the tale of ownership. As
every animal is so marked when branded, it follows that an uncut
pair of ears means that its owner has never felt the iron.
So, now we had to look first of all for calves with uncut ears.
After discovering one, we had to ascertain his ownership by
examining the ear-marks of his mother, by whose side he was sure,
in this alarming multitude, to be clinging faithfully.
Calves were numerous, and J H cows everywhere to be seen, so in
somewhat less than ten seconds I had my eye on a mother and son.
Immediately I turned Little G in their direction. At the slap of
my quirt against the stirrup, all the cows immediately about me
shrank suspiciously aside. Little G stepped forward daintily,
his nostrils expanding, his ears working back and forth, trying
to the best of his ability to understand which animals I had
selected. The cow and her calf turned in toward the centre of
the herd. A touch of the reins guided the pony. At once he
comprehended. From that time on he needed no further directions.
Cautiously, patiently, with great skill, he forced the cow
through the press toward the edge of the herd. It had to be done
very quietly, at a foot pace, so as to alarm neither the objects
of pursuit nor those surrounding them. When the cow turned back,
Little G somehow happened always in her way. Before she knew it
she was at the outer edge of the herd. There she found herself,
with a group of three or four companions, facing the open plain.
Instinctively she sought shelter. I felt Little G's muscles
tighten beneath me. The moment for action had come. Before the
cow had a chance to dodge among her companions the pony was upon
her like a thunderbolt. She broke in alarm, trying desperately
to avoid the rush. There ensued an exciting contest of dodgings,
turnings,and doublings. Wherever she turned Little G was before
her. Some of his evolutions were marvellous. All I had to do
was to sit my saddle, and apply just that final touch of judgment
denied even the wisest of the lower animals. Time and again the
turn was so quick that the stirrup swept the ground. At last the
cow, convinced of the uselessness of further effort to return,
broke away on a long lumbering run to the open plain. She was
stopped and held by the men detailed, and so formed the nucleus
of the new cut-herd. Immediately Little G, his ears working in
conscious virtue, jog-trotted back into the herd, ready for
After a dozen cows had been sent across to the cut-herd, the
work simplified. Once a cow caught sight of this new band, she
generally made directly for it, head and tail up. After the
first short struggle to force her from the herd, all I had to do
was to start her in the proper direction and keep her at it until
her decision was fixed. If she was too soon left to her own
devices, however, she was likely to return. An old cowman knows
to a second just the proper moment to abandon her.
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts a cow succeeded in
circling us and plunging into the main herd. The temptation was
then strong to plunge in also, and to drive her out by main
force; but the temptation had to be resisted. A dash into the
thick of it might break the whole band. At once, of his own
accord, Little G dropped to his fast, shuffling walk, and again
we addressed ourselves to the task of pushing her gently to the
This was all comparatively simple--almost any pony is fast enough
for the calf cut--but now Homer gave orders for the steer cut to
begin, and steers are rapid and resourceful and full of natural
cussedness. Little G and I were relieved by Windy Bill, and
betook ourselves to the outside of the herd.
Here we had leisure to observe the effects that up to this moment
we had ourselves been producing. The herd, restless by reason of
the horsemen threading it, shifted, gave ground, expanded, and
contracted, so that its shape and size were always changing in
the constant area guarded by the sentinel cowboys. Dust arose
from these movements, clouds of it, to eddy and swirl, thicken
and dissipate in the currents of air. Now it concealed all but
the nearest dimly-outlined animals; again it parted in rifts
through which mistily we discerned the riders moving in and out
of the fog; again it lifted high and thin, so that we saw in
clarity the whole herd and the outriders and the mesas far away.
As the afternoon waned, long shafts of sun slanted through this
dust. It played on men and beasts magically, expanding them to
the dimensions of strange genii, appearing and effacing
themselves in the billows of vapour from some enchanted bottle.
We on the outside found our sinecure of hot noon-tide filched
from us by the cooler hours. The cattle, wearied of standing,
and perhaps somewhat hungry and thirsty, grew more and more
impatient. We rode continually back and forth, turning the slow
movement in on itself. Occasionally some particularly
enterprising cow would conclude that one or another of the
cut-herds would suit her better than this mill of turmoil. She
would start confidently out, head and tail up, find herself
chased back, get stubborn on the question, and lead her pursuer a
long, hard run before she would return to her companions. Once
in a while one would even have to be roped and dragged back. For
know, before something happens to you, that you can chase a cow
safely only until she gets hot and
winded. Then she stands her ground and gets emphatically "on the
I remember very well when I first discovered this. It was after I
had had considerable cow work, too. I thought of cows as I had
always seen them--afraid of a horseman, easy to turn with the
pony, and willing to be chased as far as necessary to the work.
Nobody told me anything different. One day we were making a
drive in an exceedingly broken country. I was bringing in a
small bunch I had discovered in a pocket of the hills, but was
excessively annoyed by one old cow that insisted on breaking
back. In the wisdom of further experience, I now conclude that
she probably had a calf in the brush. Finally she got away
entirely. After starting the bunch well ahead, I went after her.
Well, the cow and I ran nearly side by side for as much as half a
mile at top speed. She declined to be headed. Finally she fell
down and was so entirely winded that she could not get up.
"Now, old girl, I've got you!" said I, and set myself to urging
her to her feet.
The pony acted somewhat astonished, and suspicious of the job.
Therein he knew a lot more than I did. But I insisted, and, like
a good pony, he obeyed. I yelled at the cow, and slapped my bat,
and used my quirt. When she had quite recovered her wind, she
got slowly to her feet--and charged me in a most determined
Now, a bull, or a steer, is not difficult to dodge. He lowers
his head, shuts his eyes, and comes in on one straight rush. But
a cow looks to see what she is doing; her eyes are open every
minute, and it overjoys her to take a side hook at you even when
you succeed in eluding her direct charge.
The pony I was riding did his best, but even then could not avoid
a sharp prod that would have ripped him up had not my leather
bastos intervened. Then we retired to a distance in order to
plan further; but we did not succeed in inducing that cow to
revise her ideas, so at last we left her. When, in some chagrin,
I mentioned to the round-up captain the fact that I had skipped
one animal, he merely laughed.
"Why, kid," said he, "you can't do nothin' with a cow that gets
on the prod that away 'thout you ropes her; and what could you do
with her out there if you DID rope her?"
So I learned one thing more about cows.
After the steer cut had been finished, the men representing the
neighbouring ranges looked through the herd for strays of their
brands. These were thrown into the stray-herd, which had been
brought up from the bottom lands to receive the new accessions.
Work was pushed rapidly, as the afternoon was nearly gone.
In fact, so absorbed were we that until it was almost upon us we
did not notice a heavy thunder-shower that arose in the region of
the Dragoon Mountains, and swept rapidly across the zenith.
Before we knew it the rain had begun. In ten seconds it had
increased to a deluge, and in twenty we were all to leeward of
the herd striving desperately to stop the drift of the cattle
down wind.
We did everything in our power to stop them, but in vain.
Slickers waved, quirts slapped against leather, six-shooters
flashed, but still the cattle, heads lowered, advanced with slow
and sullen persistence that would not be stemmed. If we held our
ground, they divided around us. Step by step we were forced to
give way--the thin line of nervously plunging horses sprayed
before the dense mass of the cattle.
"No, they won't stampede," shouted Charley to my question.
"There's cows and calves in them. If they was just steers or
grown critters, they might."
The sensations of those few moments were very vivid--the blinding
beat of the storm in my face, the unbroken front of horned heads
bearing down on me, resistless as fate, the long slant of rain
with the sun shining in the distance beyond it.
Abruptly the downpour ceased. We shook our hats free of water,
and drove the herd back to the cutting grounds again.
But now the surface of the ground was slippery, and the rapid
manoeuvring of horses had become a matter precarious in the
extreme. Time and again the ponies fairly sat on their haunches
and slid when negotiating a sudden stop, while quick turns meant
the rapid scramblings that only a cow-horse could accomplish.
Nevertheless the work went forward unchecked. The men of the
other outfits cut their cattle into the stray-herd. The latter
was by now of considerable size, for this was the third week of
the round-up.
Finally everyone expressed himself as satisfied. The largely
diminished main herd was now started forward by means of shrill
cowboy cries and beating of quirts. The cattle were only too
eager to go. From my position on a little rise above the
stray-herd I could see the leaders breaking into a run, their
heads thrown forward as they snuffed their freedom. On the mesa
side the sentinel riders quietly withdrew. From the rear and
flanks the horsemen closed in. The cattle poured out in a steady
stream through the opening thus left on the mesa side. The
fringe of cowboys followed, urging them on. Abruptly the
cavalcade turned and came loping back. The cattle continued ahead
on a trot, gradually spreading abroad over the landscape, losing
their integrity as a herd. Some of the slower or hungrier
dropped out and began to graze. Certain of the more wary
disappeared to right or left.
Now, after the day's work was practically over, we had our first
accident. The horse ridden by a young fellow from Dos Cabesas
slipped, fell, and rolled quite over his rider. At once the
animal lunged to his feet, only to he immediately seized by the
nearest rider. But the Dos Cabesas man lay still, his arms and
legs spread abroad, his head doubled sideways in a horribly
suggestive manner. We hopped off. Two men straightened him out,
while two more looked carefully over the indications on the
"All right," sang out one of them, "the horn didn't catch him."
He pointed to the indentation left by the pommel. Indeed five
minutes brought the man to his senses. He complained of a very
twisted back. Homer set one of the men in after the bed-wagon,
by means of which the sufferer was shortly transported to camp.
By the end of the week he was again in the saddle. How men
escape from this common accident with injuries so slight has
always puzzled me. The horse rolls completely over his rider,
and yet it seems to be the rarest thing in the world for the
latter to be either killed or permanently injured.
Now each man had the privilege of looking through the J H cuts to
see if by chance steers of his own had been included in them.
When all had expressed themselves as satisfied, the various bands
were started to the corrals.
From a slight eminence where I had paused to enjoy the evening I
looked down on the scene. The three herds, separated by generous
distance one from the other, crawled leisurely along; the riders,
their hats thrust back, lolled in their saddles, shouting
conversation to each other, relaxing after the day's work;
through the clouds strong shafts of light belittled the living
creatures, threw into proportion the vastness of the desert.
It was dark night. The stay-herd bellowed frantically from one
of the big corrals; the cow-and-calf-herd from a second. Already
the remuda, driven in from the open plains, scattered about the
thousand acres of pasture. Away from the conveniences of fence
and corral, men would have had to patrol all night. Now,
however, everyone was gathered about the camp fire.
Probably forty cowboys were in the group, representing all types,
from old John, who had been in the business forty years, and had
punched from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, to the Kid, who would
have given his chance of salvation if he could have been taken
for ten years older than he was. At the moment Jed Parker was
holding forth to his friend Johnny Stone in reference to another
old crony who had that evening joined the round-up.
"Johnny," inquired Jed with elaborate gravity, and entirely
ignoring the presence of the subject of conversation, "what is
that thing just beyond the fire, and where did it come from?"
Johnny Stone squinted to make sure.
"That?" he replied. "Oh, this evenin' the dogs see something run
down a hole, and they dug it out, and that's what they got."
The newcomer grinned.
"The trouble with you fellows," he proffered "is that you're so
plumb alkalied you don't know the real thing when you see it."
"That's right," supplemented Windy Bill drily. "HE come from New
"No!" cried Jed. "You don't say so? Did he come in one box or in
Under cover of the laugh, the newcomer made a raid on the dutch
ovens and pails. Having filled his plate, he squatted on his
heels and fell to his belated meal. He was a tall, slab-sided
individual, with a lean, leathery face, a sweeping white
moustache, and a grave and sardonic eye. His leather chaps were
plain and worn, and his hat had been fashioned by time and
wear into much individuality. I was not surprised to hear him
nicknamed Sacatone Bill.
"Just ask him how he got that game foot," suggested Johnny Stone
to me in an undertone, so, of course, I did not.
Later someone told me that the lameness resulted from his refusal
of an urgent invitation to return across a river. Mr. Sacatone
Bill happened not to be riding his own horse at the time.
The Cattleman dropped down beside me a moment later.
"I wish," said he in a low voice, "we could get that fellow
talking. He is a queer one. Pretty well educated apparently.
Claims to be writing a book of memoirs. Sometimes he will open
up in good shape, and sometimes he will not. It does no good to
ask him direct, and he is as shy as an old crow when you try to
lead him up to a subject. We must just lie low and trust to
A man was playing on the mouth organ. He played excellently
well, with all sorts of variations and frills. We smoked in
silence. The deep rumble of the cattle filled the air with its
diapason. Always the shrill coyotes raved out in the mesquite.
Sacatone Bill had finished his meal, and had gone to sit by Jed
Parker, his old friend. They talked together low-voiced. The
evening grew, and the eastern sky silvered over the mountains in
anticipation of the moon.
Sacatone Bill suddenly threw back his head and laughed.
"Reminds me f the time I went to Colorado!" he cried.
"He's off!" whispered the Cattleman.
A dead silence fell on the circle. Everybody shifted position
the better to listen to the story of Sacatone Bill.
About ten year ago I got plumb sick of punchin' cows around my
part of the country. She hadn't rained since Noah, and I'd
forgot what water outside a pail or a trough looked like. So I
scouted around inside of me to see what part of the world I'd
jump to, and as I seemed to know as little of Colorado and minin'
as anything else, I made up the pint of bean soup I call my
brains to go there. So I catches me a buyer at Henson and turns
over my pore little bunch of cattle and prepared to fly. The
last day I hauled up about twenty good buckets of water and threw
her up against the cabin. My buyer was settin' his hoss waitin'
for me to get ready. He didn't say nothin' until we'd got down
about ten mile or so.
"Mr. Hicks," says he, hesitatin' like, "I find it a good rule in
this country not to overlook other folks' plays, but I'd take it
mighty kind if you'd explain those actions of yours with the
pails of water."
"Mr. Jones," says I, "it's very simple. I built that shack five
year ago,and it's never rained since. I just wanted to settle in
my mind whether or not that damn roof leaked."
So I quit Arizona, and in about a week I see my reflection in the
winders of a little place called Cyanide in the Colorado
Fellows, she was a bird. They wasn't a pony in sight, nor a
squar' foot of land that wasn't either street or straight up. It
made me plumb lonesome for a country where you could see a long
ways even if you didn't see much. And this early in the evenin'
they wasn't hardly anybody in the streets at all.
I took a look at them dark, gloomy, old mountains, and a sniff at
a breeze that would have frozen the whiskers of hope, and I made
a dive for the nearest lit winder. They was a sign over it that
just said:
I was glad they labelled her. I'd never have known it. They had
a fifteen-year old kid tendin' bar, no games goin', and not a
soul in the place.
"Sorry to disturb your repose, bub," says I, "but see if you can
sort out any rye among them collections of sassapariller of
I took a drink, and then another to keep it company--I was
beginnin' to sympathise with anythin' lonesome. Then I kind of
sauntered out to the back room where the hurdy-gurdy ought to be.
Sure enough, there was a girl settin' on the pianner stool,
another in a chair, and a nice shiny Jew drummer danglin' his
feet from a table. They looked up when they see me come in, and
went right on talkin'.
"Hello, girls!" says I.
At that they stopped talkin' complete.
"How's tricks?" says I.
"Who's your woolly friend?" the shiny Jew asks of the girls.
I looked at him a minute, but I see he'd been raised a pet, and
then, too, I was so hungry for sassiety I was willin' to pass a
bet or two.
"Don't you ADMIRE these cow gents?" snickers one of the girls.
"Play somethin', sister," says I to the one at the pianner.
She just grinned at me.
"Interdooce me," says the drummer in a kind of a way that made
them all laugh a heap.
"Give us a tune," I begs, tryin' to be jolly, too.
"She don't know any pieces," says the Jew.
"Don't you?" I asks pretty sharp.
"No," says she.
"Well, I do," says I.
I walked up to her, jerked out my guns, and reached around both
sides of her to the pianner. I run the muzzles up and down the
keyboard two or three times, and then shot out half a dozen keys.
"That's the piece I know," says I.
But the other girl and the Jew drummer had punched the breeze.
The girl at the pianner just grinned, and pointed to the winder
where they was some ragged glass hangin'. She was dead game.
"Say, Susie," says I, "you're all right, but your friends is
tur'ble. I may be rough, and I ain't never been curried below
the knees, but I'm better to tie to than them sons of guns."
"I believe it," says she.
So we had a drink at the bar, and started out to investigate the
wonders of Cyanide.
Say, that night was a wonder. Susie faded after about three
drinks, but I didn't seem to mind that. I hooked up to another
saloon kept by a thin Dutchman. A fat Dutchman is stupid, but a
thin one is all right.
In ten minutes I had more friends in Cyanide than they is
fiddlers in hell. I begun to conclude Cyanide wasn't so
lonesome. About four o'clock in comes a little Irishman about
four foot high, with more upper lip than a muley cow,and enough
red hair to make an artificial aurorer borealis. He had big red
hands with freckles pasted onto them, and stiff red hairs
standin' up separate and lonesome like signal stations. Also his
legs was bowed.
He gets a drink at the bar, and stands back and yells:
"God bless the Irish and let the Dutch rustle!"
Now, this was none of my town, so I just stepped back of the end
of the bar quick where I wouldn't stop no lead. The shootin'
didn't begin.
"Probably Dutchy didn't take no note of what the locoed little
dogie DID say," thinks I to myself.
The Irishman bellied up to the bar again, and pounded on it with
his fist.
"Look here!" he yells. "Listen to what I'm tellin' ye! God
bless the Irish and let the Dutch rustle! Do ye hear me?"
"Sure, I hear ye," says Dutchy, and goes on swabbin' his bar with
a towel.
At that my soul just grew sick. I asked the man next to me why
Dutchy didn't kill the little fellow.
"Kill him! " says this man. "What for?"
"For insultin' of him, of course."
"Oh, he's drunk," says the man, as if that explained anythin'.
That settled it with me. I left that place, and went home,and it
wasn't more than four o'clock, neither. No, I don't call four
o'clock late. It may be a little late for night before last, but
it's just the shank of the evenin' for to-night.
Well, it took me six weeks and two days to go broke. I didn't
know sic em, about minin'; and before long I KNEW that I didn't
'know sic 'em. Most all day I poked around them mountains---not
like our'n--too much timber to be comfortable. At night I got to
droppin' in at Dutchy's. He had a couple of quiet games goin',
and they was one fellow among that lot of grubbin' prairie dogs
that had heerd tell that cows had horns. He was the wisest of
the bunch on the cattle business. So I stowed away my
consolation, and made out to forget comparing Colorado with God's
About three times a week this Irishman I told you of--name
O'Toole--comes bulgin' in. When he was sober he talked minin'
high, wide, and handsome. When he was drunk he pounded both
fists on the bar and yelled for action, tryin' to get Dutchy on
the peck.
"God bless the Irish and let the Dutch rustle!" he yells about
six times. "Say, do you hear?"
"Sure," says Dutchy, calm as a milk cow, "sure, I hears ye!"
I was plumb sorry for O'Toole. I'd like to have given him a run;
but, of course, I couldn't take it up without makin' myself out a
friend of this Dutchy party, and I couldn't stand for that. But
I did tackle Dutchy about it one night when they wasn't nobody
else there.
"Dutchy," says I, "what makes you let that bow-legged cross
between a bulldog and a flamin' red sunset tromp on you so? It
looks to me like you're plumb spiritless."
Dutchy stopped wiping glasses for a minute.
"Just you hold on" says he. "I ain't ready yet. Bimeby I make
him sick; also those others who laugh with him."
He had a little grey flicker in his eye, and I thinks to myself
that maybe they'd get Dutchy on the peck yet.
As I said, I went broke in just six weeks and two days. And I
was broke a plenty. No hold-outs anywhere. It was a heap long
ways to cows; and I'd be teetotally chawed up and spit out if I
was goin' to join these minin' terrapins defacin' the bosom of
nature. It sure looked to me like hard work.
While I was figurin' what next, Dutchy came in. Which I was
tur'ble surprised at that, but I said good-mornin' and would he
rest his poor feet.
"You like to make some money?" he asks.
"That depends," says I, "on how easy it is."
"It is easy," says he. "I want you to buy hosses for me."
"Hosses! Sure!" I yells, jumpin' up. "You bet you! Why, hosses
is where I live! What hosses do you want?"
"All hosses," says he, calm as a faro dealer.
"What?" says I. "Elucidate, my bucko. I don't take no such
blanket order. Spread your cards."
"I mean just that," says he. "I want you to buy all the hosses in
this camp, and in the mountains. Every one."
"Whew!" I whistles. "That's a large order. But I'm your meat."
"Come with me, then," says he. I hadn't but just got up, but I
went with him to his little old poison factory. Of course, I
hadn't had no breakfast; but he staked me to a Kentucky
breakfast. What's a Kentucky breakfast? Why, a Kentucky
breakfast is a three-pound steak, a bottle of whisky, and a
setter dog. What's the dog for? Why, to eat the steak, of
We come to an agreement. I was to get two-fifty a head
commission. So I started out. There wasn't many hosses in that
country, and what there was the owners hadn't much use for unless
it was to work a whim. I picked up about a hundred head quick
enough, and reported to Dutchy.
"How about burros and mules?" I asks Dutchy.
"They goes," says he. "Mules same as hosses; burros four bits a
head to you."
At the end of a week I had a remuda of probably two hundred
animals. We kept them over the hills in some "parks," as these
sots call meadows in that country. I rode into town and told
"Got them all?" he asks.
"All but a cross-eyed buckskin that's mean, and the bay mare that
Noah bred to."
"Get them," says he.
"The bandits want too much," I explains.
"Get them anyway," says he.
I went away and got them. It was scand'lous; such prices.
When I hit Cyanide again I ran into scenes of wild excitement.
The whole passel of them was on that one street of their'n,
talkin' sixteen ounces to the pound. In the middle was Dutchy,
drunk as a soldier-just plain foolish drunk.
"Good Lord!" thinks I to myself, "he ain't celebratin' gettin'
that bunch of buzzards, is he?"
But I found he wasn't that bad. When he caught sight of me, he
fell on me drivellin'.
"Look there!" he weeps, showin' me a letter.
I was the last to come in; so I kept that letter--here she is.
I'll read her.
Dear Dutchy:--I suppose you thought I'd flew the coop, but I
haven't and this is to prove it. Pack up your outfit and hit the
trail. I've made the biggest free gold strike you ever see. I'm
sending you specimens. There's tons just like it, tons and tons.
I got all the claims I can hold myself; but there's heaps more.
I've writ to Johnny and Ed at Denver to come on. Don't give this
away. Make tracks. Come in to Buck Canon in the Whetstones and
Yours truly,
Henry Smith
Somebody showed me a handful of white rock with yeller streaks in
it. His eyes was bulgin' until you could have hung your hat on
them. That O'Toole party was walkin' around, wettin' his lips
with his tongue and swearin' soft.
"God bless the Irish and let the Dutch rustle!" says he. "And
the fool had to get drunk and give it away!"
The excitement was just started, but it didn't last long. The
crowd got the same notion at the same time, and it just melted.
Me and Dutchy was left alone.
I went home. Pretty soon a fellow named Jimmy Tack come around a
little out of breath.
"Say, you know that buckskin you bought off'n me?" says he, "I
want to buy him back."
"Oh, you do," says I.
"Yes," says he. "I've got to leave town for a couple of days,
and I got to have somethin' to pack."
"Wait and I'll see," says I.
Outside the door I met another fellow.
"Look here," he stops me with. "How about that bay mare I sold
you? Can you call that sale off? I got to leave town for a day
or two and--"
"Wait," says I. "I'll see."
By the gate was another hurryin' up.
"Oh, yes," says I when he opens his mouth. "I know all your
troubles. You have to leave town for a couple of days, and you
want back that lizard you sold me. Well, wait."
After that I had to quit the main street and dodge back of the
hog ranch. They was all headed my way. I was as popular as a
snake in a prohibition town.
I hit Dutchy's by the back door.
"Do you want to sell hosses?" I asks. "Everyone in town wants to
Dutchy looked hurt.
"I wanted to keep them for the valley market," says he, "but--How
much did you give Jimmy Tack for his buckskin?"
"Twenty," says I.
"Well, let him have it for eighty," says Dutchy; "and the others
in proportion."
I lay back and breathed hard.
"Sell them all, but the one best hoss," says he--"no, the TWO
"Holy smoke!" says I, gettin' my breath. "If you mean that,
Dutchy, you lend me another gun and give me a drink."
He done so, and I went back home to where the whole camp of
Cyanide was waitin'.
I got up and made them a speech and told them I'd sell them
hosses all right, and to come back. Then I got an Injin boy to
help, and we rustled over the remuda and held them in a blind
canon. Then I called up these miners one at a time, and made
bargains with them. Roar! Well, you could hear them at Denver,
they tell me, and the weather reports said, "Thunder in the
mountains." But it was cash on delivery, and they all paid up.
They had seen that white quartz with the gold stickin' into it,
and that's the same as a dose of loco to miner gents.
Why didn't I take a hoss and start first? I did think of it--for
about one second. I wouldn't stay in that country then for a
million dollars a minute. I was plumb sick and loathin' it, and
just waitin' to make high jumps back to Arizona. So I wasn't
aimin' to join this stampede, and didn't have no vivid emotions.
They got to fightin' on which should get the first hoss; so I
bent my gun on them and made them draw lots. They roared some
more, but done so; and as fast as each one handed over his dust
or dinero he made a rush for his cabin, piled on his saddle and
pack, and pulled his freight on a cloud of dust. It was sure a
grand stampede, and I enjoyed it no limit.
So by sundown I was alone with the Injin. Those two hundred head
brought in about twenty thousand dollars. It was heavy, but I
could carry it. I was about alone in the landscape; and there
were the two best hosses I had saved out for Dutchy. I was sure
some tempted. But I had enough to get home on anyway; and I
never yet drank behind the bar, even if I might hold up the
saloon from the floor. So I grieved some inside that I was so
tur'ble conscientious, shouldered the sacks, and went down to
find Dutchy.
I met him headed his way, and carryin' of a sheet of paper.
"Here's your dinero," says I, dumpin' the four big sacks on the
He stooped over and hefted them. Then he passed one over to me.
"What's that for?" I asks.
"For you," says he.
"My commission ain't that much," I objects.
"You've earned it," says he, "and you might have skipped with the
whole wad."
"How did you know I wouldn't?" I asks.
"Well," says he, and I noted that jag of his had flew. "You see,
I was behind that rock up there, and I had you covered."
I saw; and I began to feel better about bein' so tur'ble
We walked a little ways without sayin' nothin'.
"But ain't you goin' to join the game?" I asks.
"Guess not," says he, jinglin' of his gold. "I'm satisfied."
"But if you don't get a wiggle on you, you are sure goin' to get
left on those gold claims," says I.
"There ain't no gold claims," says he.
"But Henry Smith--" I cries.
"There ain't no Henry Smith," says he.
I let that soak in about six inches.
"But there's a Buck Canon," I pleads. "Please say there's a Buck
"Oh, yes, there's a Buck Canon," he allows. "Nice limestone
formation--make good hard water."
"Well, you're a marvel," says I.
We walked n together down to Dutchy's saloon.
We stopped outside.
"Now," says he, "I'm goin' to take one of those hosses and go
somewheres else. Maybe you'd better do likewise on the other."
"You bet I will," says I.
He turned around and taked up the paper he was carryin'. It was
a sign. It read:
"Nice sentiment," says I. "It will be appreciated when the crowd
comes back from that little pasear into Buck Canon. But why
not tack her up where the trail hits the camp? Why on this
particular door?"
"Well," said Dutchy, squintin' at the sign sideways, "you see I
sold this place day before yesterday--to Mike O'Toole."
All that night we slept like sticks of wood. No dreams visited
us, but in accordance with the immemorial habit of those who live
out--whether in the woods, on the plains, among the mountains, or
at sea--once during the night each of us rose on his elbow,
looked about him, and dropped back to sleep. If there had been a
fire to replenish, that would have been the moment to do so; if
the wind had been changing and the seas rising, that would have
been the time to cast an eye aloft for indications, to feel
whether the anchor cable was holding; if the pack-horses had
straggled from the alpine meadows under the snows, this would
have been the occasion for intent listening for the faintly
tinkling hell so that next day one would know in which direction
to look. But since there existed for us no responsibility, we
each reported dutifully at the roll-call of habit, and dropped
back into our blankets with a grateful sigh.
I remember the moon sailing a good gait among apparently
stationary cloudlets; I recall a deep, black shadow lying before
distant silvery mountains; I glanced over the stark, motionless
canvases, each of which concealed a man; the air trembled with
the bellowing of cattle in the corrals.
Seemingly but a moment later the cook's howl brought me to
consciousness again. A clear, licking little fire danced in the
blackness. Before it moved silhouettes of men already eating.
I piled out and joined the group. Homer was busy distributing
his men for the day. Three were to care for the remuda; five
were to move the stray-herd from the corrals to good feed; three
branding crews were told to brand the calves we had collected in
the cut of the afternoon before. That took up about half the
men. The rest were to make a short drive in the salt grass. I
joined the Cattleman, and together we made our way afoot to the
branding pen.
We were the only ones who did go afoot, however, although the
corrals were not more than two hundred yards' distant. When we
arrived we found the string of ponies standing around outside.
Between the upright bars of greasewood we could see the cattle,
and near the opposite side the men building a fire next the
fence. We pushed open the wide gate and entered. The three
ropers sat their horses, idly swinging the loops of their ropes
back and forth. Three others brought wood and arranged it
craftily in such manner as to get best draught for heatin,--a
good branding fire is most decidedly a work of art. One stood
waiting for them to finish, a sheaf of long JH stamping irons in
his hand. All the rest squatted on their heels along the fence,
smoking cigarettes ad chatting together. The first rays of the
sun slanted across in one great sweep from the remote mountains.
In ten minutes Charley pronounced the irons ready. Homer,
Wooden, and old California John rode in among the cattle. The
rest of the men arose and stretched their legs and advanced. The
Cattleman and I climbed to the top bar of the gate, where we
roosted, he with his tally-book on his knee.
Each rider swung his rope above his head with one hand, keeping
the broad loop open by a skilful turn of the wrist at the end of
each revolution. In a moment Homer leaned forward and threw. As
the loop settled, he jerked sharply upward, exactly as one would
strike to hook a big fish. This tightened the loop and prevented
it from slipping off. Immediately, and without waiting to
ascertain the result of the manoeuvre, the horse turned and began
methodically, without undue haste, to walk toward the branding
fire. Homer wrapped the rope twice or thrice about the horn, and
sat over in one stirrup to avoid the tightened line and to
preserve the balance. Nobody paid any attention to the calf.
The critter had been caught by the two hind legs. As the rope
tightened, he was suddenly upset, and before he could realise
that something disagreeable was happening, he was sliding
majestically along on his belly. Behind him followed his anxious
mother, her head swinging from side to side.
Near the fire the horse stopped. The two "bull-doggers"
immediately pounced upon the victim. It was promptly flopped
over on its right side. One knelt on its head and twisted back
its foreleg in a sort of hammer-lock; the other seized one hind
foot, pressed his boot heel against the other hind leg close to
the body, and sat down behind the animal. Thus the calf was
unable to struggle. When once you have had the wind knocked out
of you, or a rib or two broken, you cease to think this
unnecessarily rough. Then one or the other threw off the rope.
Homer rode away, coiling the rope as he went.
"Hot iron!" yelled one of the bull-doggers.
"Marker!" yelled the other.
Immediately two men ran forward. The brander pressed the iron
smoothly against the flank. A smoke and the smell of scorching
hair arose. Perhaps the calf blatted a little as the heat
scorched. In a brief moment it was over. The brand showed
cherry, which is the proper colour to indicate due peeling and a
successful mark.
In the meantime the marker was engaged in his work. First, with
a sharp knife he cut off slanting the upper quarter of one ear.
Then he nicked out a swallow-tail in the other. The pieces he
thrust into his pocket in order that at the completion of the
work he could thus check the Cattleman's tally-board as to the
number of calves branded.[3] The bull-dogger let go. The calf
sprang up, was appropriated and smelled over by his worried
mother, and the two departed into the herd to talk it over.
[3] For the benefit of the squeamish it might be well to note
that the fragments of the ears were cartilaginous, and therefore
not bloody.
It seems to me that a great deal of unnecessary twaddle is
abroad as to the extreme cruelty of branding. Undoubtedly it is
to some extent painful, and could some other method of ready
identification be devised, it might be as well to adopt it in
preference. But in the circumstance of a free range, thousands
of cattle, and hundreds of owners, any other method is out of the
question. I remember a New England movement looking toward small
brass tags to be hung from the ear. Inextinguishable laughter
followed the spread of this doctrine through Arizona. Imagine a
puncher descending to examine politely the ear-tags of wild
cattle on the open range or in a round-up.
But, as I have intimated, even the inevitable branding and
ear-marking are not so painful as one might suppose. The
scorching hardly penetrates below the outer tough skin--only
enough to kill the roots of the hair--besides which it must be
remembered that cattle are not so sensitive as the higher nervous
organisms. A calf usually bellows when the iron bites, but as
soon as released he almost invariably goes to feeding or to
looking idly about. Indeed, I have never seen one even take the
trouble to lick his wounds, which is certainly not true in the
case of the injuries they inflict on each other in fighting.
Besides which, it happens but once in a lifetime, and is over in
ten seconds; a comfort denied to those of us who have our teeth
In the meantime two other calves had been roped by the two other
men. One of the little animals was but a few months old, so the
rider did not bother with its hind legs, but tossed his loop over
its neck. Naturally, when things tightened up, Mr. Calf entered
his objections, which took the form of most vigorous bawlings,
and the most comical bucking, pitching, cavorting, and bounding
in the air. Mr. Frost's bull-calf alone in pictorial history
shows the attitudes. And then, of course, there was the gorgeous
contrast between all this frantic and uncomprehending excitement
and the absolute matter-of-fact imperturbability of horse and
rider. Once at the fire, one of the men seized the tightened
rope in one hand, reached well over the animal's back to get a
slack of the loose hide next the belly, lifted strongly, and
tripped. This is called "bull-dogging." As he knew his
business, and as the calf was a small one, the little beast went
over promptly, bit the ground with a whack, and was pounced upon
and held.
Such good luck did not always follow, however. An occasional and
exceedingly husky bull yearling declined to be upset in any such
manner. He would catch himself on one foot, scramble vigorously,
and end by struggling back to the upright. Then ten to one he
made a dash to get away. In such case he was generally snubbed
up short enough at the end of the rope; but once or twice he
succeeded in running around a group absorbed in branding. You
can imagine what happened next. The rope, attached at one end to
a conscientious and immovable horse and at the other to a
reckless and vigorous little bull, swept its taut and destroying
way about mid-knee high across that group. The brander and
marker, who were standing, promptly sat down hard; the
bull-doggers, who were sitting, immediately turned several most
capable somersaults; the other calf arose and inextricably
entangled his rope with that of his accomplice. Hot irons, hot
language, and dust filled the air.
Another method, and one requiring slightly more knack, is to
grasp the animal's tail and throw it by a quick jerk across the
pressure of the rope. This is productive of some fun if it
By now the branding was in full swing. The three horses came and
went phlegmatically. When the nooses fell, they turned and
walked toward the fire as a matter of course. Rarely did the
cast fail. Men ran to and fro busy and intent. Sometimes three
or four calves were on the ground at once. Cries arose in a
confusion: "Marker" "Hot iron!" "Tally one!" Dust eddied and
dissipated. Behind all were clear sunlight and the organ roll of
the cattle bellowing.
Toward the middle of the morning the bull-doggers began to get a
little tired.
"No more necked calves," they announced. "Catch 'em by the hind
legs, or bull-dog 'em yourself."
And that went. Once in a while the rider, lazy, or careless, or
bothered by the press of numbers, dragged up a victim caught by
the neck. The bull-doggers flatly refused to have anything to do
with it. An obvious way out would have been to flip off the loop
and try again; but of course that would have amounted to a
confession of wrong.
"You fellows drive me plumb weary," remarked the rider, slowly
dismounting. "A little bit of a calf like that! What you all
need is a nigger to cut up your food for you!"
Then he would spit on his hands and go at it alone. If luck
attended his first effort, his sarcasm was profound.
"There's yore little calf," said he. "Would you like to have me
tote it to you, or do you reckon you could toddle this far with
yore little old iron?"
But if the calf gave much trouble, then all work ceased while the
unfortunate puncher wrestled it down.
Toward noon the work slacked. Unbranded calves were scarce.
Sometimes the men rode here and there for a minute or so before
their eyes fell on a pair of uncropped ears. Finally Homer rode
over to the Cattleman and reported the branding finished. The
latter counted the marks in his tally-book.
"One hundred and seventy-six," he announced.
The markers, squatted on their heels, told over the bits of ears
they had saved. The total amounted to but an hundred and
seventy-five. Everybody went to searching for the missing bit.
It was not forth-coming. Finally Wooden discovered it in his hip
"Felt her thar all the time," said he, "but thought it must
shorely be a chaw of tobacco."
This matter satisfactorily adjusted, the men all ran for their
ponies. They had been doing a wrestler's heavy work all the
morning, but did not seem to be tired. I saw once in some crank
physical culture periodical that a cowboy's life was physically
ill-balanced, like an oarsman's, in that it exercised only
certain muscles of the body. The writer should be turned loose
in a branding corral.
Through the wide gates the cattle were urged out to the open
plain. There they were held for over an hour while the cows
wandered about looking for their lost progeny. A cow knows her
calf by scent and sound, not by sight. Therefore the noise was
deafening, and the motion incessant.
Finally the last and most foolish cow found the last and most
foolish calf. We turned the herd loose to hunt water and grass
at its own pleasure, and went slowly back to chuck.
About a week later, in the course of the round-up, we reached the
valley of the Box Springs, where we camped for some days at the
dilapidated and abandoned adobe structure that had once been a
ranch house of some importance.
Just at dusk one afternoon we finished cutting the herd which our
morning's drive had collected. The stray-herd, with its new
additions from the day's work, we pushed rapidly into one big
stock corral. The cows and unbranded calves we urged into
another. Fifty head of beef steers found asylum from dust, heat,
and racing to and fro, in the mile square wire enclosure called
the pasture. All the remainder, for which we had no further use
we drove out of the flat into the brush and toward the distant
mountains. Then we let them go as best pleased them.
By now the desert bad turned slate-coloured, and the brush was
olive green with evening. The hard, uncompromising ranges,
twenty miles to eastward, had softened behind a wonderful veil of
purple and pink, vivid as the chiffon of a girl's gown. To the
south and southwest the Chiricahuas and Dragoons were lost in
thunderclouds which flashed and rumbled.
We jogged homewards, our cutting ponies, tired with the quick,
sharp work, shuffling knee deep in a dusk that seemed to
disengage itself and rise upwards from the surface of the desert.
Everybody was hungry and tired. At the chuck wagon we threw off
our saddles and turned the mounts into the remuda. Some of the
wisest of us, remembering the thunderclouds, stacked our gear
under the veranda roof of the old ranch house.
Supper was ready. We seized the tin battery, filled the plates
with the meat, bread, and canned corn, and squatted on our heels.
The food was good, and we ate hugely in silence. When we could
hold no more we lit pipes. Then we had leisure to notice that
the storm cloud was mounting in a portentous silence to the
zenith, quenching the brilliant desert stars.
"Rolls" were scattered everywhere. A roll includes a cowboy's
bed and all of his personal belongings. When the outfit includes
a bed-wagon, the roll assumes bulky proportions.
As soon as we had come to a definite conclusion that it was going
to rain, we deserted the camp fire and went rustling for our
blankets. At the end of ten minutes every bed was safe within
the doors of the abandoned adobe ranch house, each owner
recumbent on the floor claim he had pre-empted, and every man
hoping fervently that he had guessed right as to the location of
Ordinarily we had depended on the light of camp fires, so now
artificial illumination lacked. Each man was indicated by the
alternately glowing and waning lozenge of his cigarette fire.
Occasionally someone struck a match, revealing for a moment
high-lights on bronzed countenances, and the silhouette of a
shading hand. Voices spoke disembodied. As the conversation
developed, we gradually recognised the membership of our own
roomful. I had forgotten to state that the ranch house included
four chambers. Outside, the rain roared with Arizona ferocity.
Inside, men congratulated themselves, or swore as leaks developed
and localised.
Naturally we talked first of stampedes. Cows and bears are the
two great cattle-country topics. Then we had a mouth-organ solo
or two, which naturally led on to songs. My turn came. I struck
up the first verse of a sailor chantey as possessing at least the
interest of novelty:
Oh, once we were a-sailing, a-sailing were we,
Blow high, blow low, what care we;
And we were a-sailing to see what we could see,
Down on the coast of the High Barbaree.
I had just gone so far when I was brought up short by a
tremendous oath behind me. At the same instant a match flared.
I turned to face a stranger holding the little light above his
head, and peering with fiery intentness over the group sprawled
about the floor.
He was evidently just in from the storm. His dripping hat lay at
his feet. A shock of straight, close-clipped vigorous hair stood
up grey above his seamed forehead. Bushy iron-grey eyebrows
drawn close together thatched a pair of burning, unquenchable
eyes. A square, deep jaw, lightly stubbled with grey, was
clamped so tight that the cheek muscles above it stood out in
knots and welts.
Then the match burned his thick, square fingers, and he dropped
it into the darkness that ascended to swallow it.
"Who was singing that song?" he cried harshly. Nobody answered.
"Who was that singing?" he demanded again.
By this time I had recovered from my first astonishment.
"I was singing," said I.
Another match was instantly lit and thrust into my very face. I
underwent the fierce scrutiny of an instant, then the taper was
thrown away half consumed.
"Where did you learn it?" the stranger asked in an altered voice.
"I don't remember," I replied; "it is a common enough deep-sea
A heavy pause fell. Finally the stranger sighed.
"Quite like," he said; "I never heard but one man sing it."
"Who in hell are you?" someone demanded out of the darkness.
Before replying, the newcomer lit a third match, searching for a
place to sit down. As he bent forward, his strong, harsh face
once more came clearly into view.
"He's Colorado Rogers," the Cattleman answered for him; "I know
"Well," insisted the first voice, "what in hell does Colorado
Rogers mean by bustin' in on our song fiesta that way?"
"Tell them, Rogers," advised the Cattleman, "tell them--just as
you told it down on the Gila ten years ago next month."
"What?" inquired Rogers. "Who are you?"
"You don't know me," replied the Cattleman, "but I was with Buck
Johnson's outfit then. Give us the yarn."
"Well," agreed Rogers, "pass over the 'makings' and I will."
He rolled and lit a cigarette, while I revelled in the memory of
his rich, great voice. It was of the sort made to declaim
against the sea or the rush of rivers or, as here, the fall of
waters and the thunder--full, from the chest, with the caressing
throat vibration that gives colour to the most ordinary
statements. After ten words we sank back oblivious of the storm,
forgetful of the leaky roof and the dirty floor, lost in the
story told us by the Old Timer.
I came from Texas, like the bulk of you punchers, but a good
while before the most of you were born. That was forty-odd years
ago--and I've been on the Colorado River ever since. That's why
they call me Colorado Rogers. About a dozen of us came out
together. We had all been Texas Rangers, but when the war broke
out we were out of a job. We none of us cared much for the
Johnny Rebs, and still less for the Yanks, so we struck overland
for the West, with the idea of hitting the California diggings.
Well, we got switched off one way and another. When we got down
to about where Douglas is now, we found that the Mexican
Government was offering a bounty for Apache scalps. That looked
pretty good to us, for Injin chasing was our job, so we started
in to collect. Did pretty well, too, for about three months, and
then the Injins began to get too scarce, or too plenty in
streaks. Looked like our job was over with, but some of the boys
discovered that Mexicans, having straight black hair, you
couldn't tell one of their scalps from an Apache's. After that
the bounty business picked up for a while. It was too much for
me, though, and I quit the outfit and pushed on alone until I
struck the Colorado about where Yuma is now.
At that time the California immigrants by the southern route used
to cross just there, and these Yuma Injins had a monopoly on the
ferry business. They were a peaceful, fine-looking lot, without
a thing on but a gee-string. The women had belts with rawhide
strings hanging to the knees. They put them on one over the
other until they didn't feel too decollotey. It wasn't until the
soldiers came that the officers' wives got them to wear
handkerchiefs over their breasts. The system was all right,
though. They wallowed around in the hot, clean sand, like
chickens, and kept healthy. Since they took to wearing clothes
they've been petering out, and dying of dirt and assorted
They ran this ferry monopoly by means of boats made of tules,
charged a scand'lous low price, and everything was happy and
lovely. I ran on a little bar and panned out some dust, so I
camped a while, washing gold, getting friendly with the Yumas,
and talking horse and other things with the immigrants.
About a month of this, and the Texas boys drifted in. Seems they
sort of overdid the scalp matter, and got found out. When they
saw me, they stopped and went into camp. They'd travelled a heap
of desert, and were getting sick of it. For a while they tried
gold washing, but I had the only pocket--and that was about
skinned. One evening a fellow named Walleye announced that he
had been doing some figuring, and wanted to make a speech. We
told him to fire ahead.
"Now look here," said he, "what's the use of going to California?
Why not stay here?"
"What in hell would we do here?" someone asked. "Collect Gila
monsters for their good looks?"
"Don't get gay," said Walleye. "What's the matter with going
into business? Here's a heap of people going through, and more
coming every day. This ferry business could be made to pay big.
Them Injins charges two bits a head. That's a crime for the only
way across. And how much do you suppose whisky'd be worth to
drink after that desert? And a man's so sick of himself by the
time he gets this far that he'd play chuck-a-luck, let alone faro
or monte."
That kind of talk hit them where they lived, and Yuma was founded
right then and there. They hadn't any whisky yet, but cards were
plenty, and the ferry monopoly was too easy. Walleye served
notice on the Injins that a dollar a head went; and we all set to
building a tule raft like the others. Then the wild bunch got
uneasy, so they walked upstream one morning and stole the Injins'
boats. The Injins came after them innocent as babies, thinking
the raft had gone adrift. When they got into camp our men opened
up and killed four of them as a kind of hint. After that the
ferry company didn't have any trouble. The Yumas moved up river
a ways, where they've lived ever since. They got the corpses and
buried them. That is, they dug a trench for each one and laid
poles across it, with a funeral pyre on the poles. Then they put
the body on top, and the women of the family cut their hair off
and threw it on. After that they set fire to the outfit, and,
when the poles bad burned through, the whole business fell into
the trench of its own accord. It was the neatest, automatic,
self-cocking, double-action sort of a funeral I ever saw. There
wasn't any ceremony--only crying.
The ferry business flourished at prices which were sometimes hard
to collect. But it was a case of pay or go back, and it was a
tur'ble long ways back. We got us timbers and made a scow; built
a baile and saloon and houses out of adobe; and called her
Yuma, after the Injins that had really started her. We got our
supplies through the Gulf of California, where sailing boats
worked up the river. People began to come in for one reason or
another, and first thing we knew we had a store and all sorts of
trimmings. In fact we was a real live town.
At this moment the heavy beat of the storm on the roof ceased
with miraculous suddenness, leaving the outside world empty of
sound save for the DRIP, DRIP, DRIP of eaves. Nobody ventured
to fill in the pause that followed the stranger's last words, so
in a moment he continued his narrative.
We had every sort of people with us off and on, and, as I was
lookout at a popular game, I saw them all. One evening I was on
my way home about two o'clock of a moonlit night, when on the
edge of the shadow I stumbled over a body lying part across the
footway. At the same instant I heard the rip of steel through
cloth and felt a sharp stab in my left leg. For a minute I
thought some drunk had used his knife on me, and I mighty near
derringered him as he lay. But somehow I didn't, and looking
closer, I saw the man was unconscious. Then I scouted to see
what had cut me, and found that the fellow had lost a hand. In
place of it he wore a sharp steel hook. This I had tangled up
with and gotten well pricked.
I dragged him out into the light. He was a slim-built young
fellow, with straight black hair, long and lank and oily, a lean
face, and big hooked nose. He had on only a thin shirt, a pair
of rough wool pants, and the rawhide home-made zapatos the
Mexicans wore then instead of boots. Across his forehead ran a
long gash, cutting his left eyebrow square in two.
There was no doubt of his being alive, for he was breathing hard,
like a man does when he gets hit over the head. It didn't sound
good. When a man breathes that way he's mostly all gone.
Well, it was really none of my business, as you might say. Men
got batted over the head often enough in those days. But for
some reason I picked him up and carried him to my 'dobe shack,
and laid him out, and washed his cut with sour wine. That
brought him to. Sour wine is fine to put a wound in shape to
heal, but it's no soothing syrup. He sat up as though he'd been
touched with a hot poker, stared around wild-eyed, and cut loose
with that song you were singing. Only it wasn't that verse.
It was another one further along, that went like this:
Their coffin was their ship, and their grave it was the sea,
Blow high, blow low, what care we;
And the quarter that we gave them was to sink them in the sea,
Down on the coast of the High Barbaree.
It fair made my hair rise to hear him, with the big, still,
solemn desert outside, and the quiet moonlight, and the shadows,
and him sitting up straight and gaunt, his eyes blazing each side
his big eagle nose, and his snaky hair hanging over the raw cut
across his head. However, I made out to get him bandaged up and
in shape; and pretty soon he sort of went to sleep.
Well, he was clean out of his head for nigh two weeks. Most of
the time he lay flat on his back staring at the pole roof, his
eyes burning and looking like they saw each one something a
different distance off, the way crazy eyes do. That was when he
was best. Then again he'd sing that Barbaree song until I'd go
out and look at the old Colorado flowing by just to be sure I
hadn't died and gone below. Or else he'd just talk. That was
the worst performance of all. It was like listening to one end
of a telephone, though we didn't know what telephones were in
those days. He began when be was a kid, and he gave his side of
conversations, pausing for replies. I could mighty near furnish
the replies sometimes. It was queer lingo--about ships and
ships' officers and gales and calms and fights and pearls and
whales and islands and birds and skies. But it was all little
stuff. I used to listen by the hour, but I never made out
anything really important as to who the man was, or where he'd
come from, or what he'd done.
At the end of the second week I came in at noon as per usual to
fix him up with grub. I didn't pay any attention to him, for he
was quiet. As I was bending over the fire he spoke. Usually I
didn't bother with his talk, for it didn't mean anything, but
something in his voice made me turn. He was lying on his side,
those black eyes of his blazing at me, but now both of them saw
the same distance.
"Where are my clothes?" he asked, very intense.
"You ain't in any shape to want clothes," said I. "Lie still."
I hadn't any more than got the words out of my mouth before he
was atop me. His method was a winner. He had me by the throat
with his hand, and I felt the point of the hook pricking the back
of my neck. One little squeeze--Talk about your deadly weapons!
But he'd been too sick and too long abed. He turned dizzy and
keeled over, and I dumped him back on the bunk. Then I put my
six-shooter on.
In a minute or so he came to.
"Now you're a nice, sweet proposition," said I, as soon as I was
sure he could understand me. "Here I pick you up on the street
and save your worthless carcass, and the first chance you get you
try to crawl my hump.
"Where's my clothes?" he demanded again, very fierce.
"For heaven's sake," I yelled at him, "what's the matter with you
and your old clothes? There ain't enough of them to dust a
fiddle with anyway. What do you think I'd want with them?
They're safe enough."'
"Let me have them," he begged.
"Now, look here," said I, "you can't get up to-day. You ain't
"I know," he pleaded, "but let me see them."
Just to satisfy him I passed over his old duds.
"I've been robbed," he cried.
"Well," said I, "what did you expect would happen to you lying
around Yuma after midnight with a hole in your head?"
"Where's my coat?" he asked.
"You had no coat when I picked you up," I replied.
He looked at me mighty suspicious, but didn't say anything more--
he wouldn't even answer when I spoke to him. After he'd eaten a
fair meal he fell asleep. When I came back that evening the bunk
was empty and he was gone.
I didn't see him again for two days. Then I caught sight of him
quite a ways off. He nodded at me very sour, and dodged around
the corner of the store.
"Guess he suspicions I stole that old coat of his," thinks I; and
afterwards I found that my surmise had been correct.
However, he didn't stay long in that frame of mind. It was along
towards evening, and I was walking on the banks looking down over
the muddy old Colorado, as I always liked to do. The sun had
just set, and the mountains had turned hard and stiff, as they do
after the glow, and the sky above them was a thousand million
miles deep of pale green-gold light. A pair of Greasers were
ahead of me, but I could see only their outlines, and they didn't
seem to interfere any with the scenery. Suddenly a black figure
seemed to rise up out of the ground; the Mexican man went down as
though he'd been jerked with a string, and the woman screeched.
I ran up, pulling my gun. The Mex was flat on his face, his arms
stretched out. On the middle of his back knelt my one-armed
friend. And that sharp hook was caught neatly under the point of
the Mexican's jaw. You bet he lay still.
I really think I was just in time to save the man's life.
According to my belief another minute would have buried the hook
in the Mexican's neck. Anyway, I thrust the muzzle of my Colt's
into the sailor's face.
"What's this?" I asked.
The sailor looked up at me without changing his position. He was
not the least bit afraid.
"This man has my coat," he explained.
"Where'd you get the coat?" I asked the Mex.
"I ween heem at monte off Antonio Curvez," said he.
"Maybe," growled the sailor.
He still held the hook under the man's jaw, but with the other
hand he ran rapidly under and over the Mexican's left shoulder.
In the half light I could see his face change. The gleam died
from his eye; the snarl left his lips. Without further delay he
arose to his feet.
"Get up and give it here!" he demanded.
The Mexican was only too glad to get off so easy. I don't know
whether he'd really won the coat at monte or not. In any case,
he flew poco pronto, leaving me and my friend together.
The man with the hook felt the left shoulder of the coat again,
looked up, met my eye, muttered something intended to be
pleasant, and walked away.
This was in December.
During the next two months he was a good deal about town, mostly
doing odd jobs. I saw him off and on. He always spoke to me as
pleasantly as he knew how, and once made some sort of a bluff
about paying me back for my trouble in bringing him around.
However, I didn't pay much attention to that, being at the time
almighty busy holding down my card games.
The last day of February I was sitting in my shack smoking a pipe
after supper, when my one-armed friend opened the door a foot,
slipped in, and shut it immediately. By the time he looked
towards me I knew where my six-shooter was.
"That's all right," said I, "but you better stay right there."
I intended to take no more chances with that hook.
He stood there looking straight at me without winking or offering
to move.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"I want to make up to you for your trouble," said he. "I've got
a good thing, and I want to let you in on it."
"What kind of a good thing?" I asked.
"Treasure," said he.
"H'm," said I.
I examined him closely. He looked all right enough, neither
drunk nor loco.
"Sit down," said I--"over there; the other side the table." He
did so. "Now, fire away," said I.
He told me his name was Solomon Anderson, but that he was
generally known as Handy Solomon, on account of his hook; that he
had always followed the sea; that lately he had coasted the west
shores of Mexico; that at Guaymas he had fallen in with Spanish
friends, in company with whom he had visited the mines in the
Sierra Madre; that on this expedition the party had been attacked
by Yaquis and wiped out, he alone surviving; that his
blanket-mate before expiring had told him of gold buried in a
cove of Lower California by the man's grandfather; that the man
had given him a chart showing the location of the treasure; that
he had sewn this chart in the shoulder of his coat, whence his
suspicion of me and his being so loco about getting it back.
"And it's a big thing," said Handy Solomon to me, "for they's not
only gold, but altar jewels and diamonds. It will make us rich,
and a dozen like us, and you can kiss the Book on that."
"That may all be true," said I, "but why do you tell me? Why
don't you get your treasure without the need of dividing it?"
"Why, mate," he answered, "it's just plain gratitude. Didn't you
save my life, and nuss me, and take care of me when I was nigh
"Look here, Anderson, or Handy Solomon, or whatever you please to
call yourself," I rejoined to this, "if you're going to do
business with me--and I do not understand yet just what it is you
want of me--you'll have to talk straight. It's all very well to
say gratitude, but that don't go with me. You've been around
here three months, and barring a half-dozen civil words and twice
as many of the other kind, I've failed to see any indications of
your gratitude before. It's a quality with a hell of a hang-fire
to it."
He looked at me sideways, spat, and looked at me sideways again.
Then he burst into a laugh.
"The devil's a preacher, if you ain't lost your pinfeathers,"'
said he. "Well, it's this then: I got to have a boat to get
there; and she must be stocked. And I got to have help with the
treasure, if it's like this fellow said it was. And the Yaquis
and cannibals from Tiburon is through the country. It's money I
got to have, and it's money I haven't got, and can't get unless I
let somebody in as pardner."
"Why me?" I asked.
"Why not?" he retorted. "I ain't see anybody I like better."
We talked the matter over at length. I had to force him to each
point, for suspicion was strong in him. I stood out for a larger
party. He strongly opposed this as depreciating the shares, but
I had no intention of going alone into what was then considered a
wild and dangerous country. Finally we compromised. A third of
the treasure was to go to him, a third to me, and the rest was to
be divided among the men whom I should select. This scheme did
not appeal to him.
"How do I know you plays fair?" he complained. "They'll be four
of you to one of me; and I don't like it, and you can kiss the
Book on that."
"If you don't like it, leave it," said I, "and get out, and be
damned to you."
Finally he agreed; but he refused me a look at the chart, saying
that he had left it in a safe place. I believe in reality he
wanted to be surer of me, and for that I can hardly blame him.
At this moment the cook stuck his head in at the open door.
"Say, you fellows," he complained, "I got to be up at three
o'clock. Ain't you never going to turn in?"
"Shut up, Doctor!" "Somebody kill him!" "Here, sit down and
listen to this yarn!" yelled a savage chorus.
There ensued a slight scuffle, a few objections. Then silence,
and the stranger took up his story.
I had a chum named Billy Simpson, and I rung him in for
friendship. Then there was a solemn, tall Texas young fellow,
strong as a bull, straight and tough, brought up fighting Injins.
He never said much, but I knew he'd be right there when the gong
struck. For fourth man I picked out a German named Schwartz. He
and Simpson had just come back from the mines together. I took
him because he was a friend of Billy's, and besides was young and
strong, and was the only man in town excepting the sailor,
Anderson, who knew anything about running a boat. I forgot to
say that the Texas fellow was named Denton.
Handy Solomon had his boat all picked out. It belonged to some
Basques who had sailed her around from California. I must say
when I saw her I felt inclined to renig, for she wasn't more'n
about twenty-five feet long, was open except for a little sort of
cubbyhole up in the front of her, had one mast, and was pointed
at both ends. However, Schwartz said she was all right. He
claimed he knew the kind; that she was the sort used by French
fishermen, and could stand all sorts of trouble. She didn't look
We worked her up to Yuma, partly with oars and partly by sails.
Then we loaded her with grub for a month. Each of us had his own
weapons, of course. In addition we put in picks and shovels, and
a small cask of water. Handy Solomon said that would be enough,
as there was water marked down on his chart. We told the gang
that we were going trading.
At the end of the week we started, and were out four days. There
wasn't much room, what with the supplies and the baggage, for the
five of us. We had to curl up 'most anywheres to sleep. And it
certainly seemed to me that we were in lots of danger. The waves
were much bigger than she was, and splashed on us considerable,
but Schwartz and Anderson didn't seem to mind. They laughed at
us. Anderson sang that song of his, and Schwartz told us of the
placers he had worked. He and Simpson had made a pretty good
clean-up, just enough to make them want to get rich. The first
day out Simpson showed us a belt with about an hundred ounces of
dust. This he got tired of wearing, so he kept it in a
compass-box, which was empty.
At the end of the four days we turned in at a deep bay and came
to anchor. The country was the usual proposition--very
light-brown, brittle-looking mountains, about two thousand feet
high; lots of sage and cactus, a pebbly beach, and not a sign of
anything fresh and green.
But Denton and I were mighty glad to see any sort of land.
Besides, our keg of water was pretty low, and it was getting
about time to discover the spring the chart spoke of. So we
piled our camp stuff in the small boat and rowed ashore.
Anderson led the way confidently enough up a dry arroyo, whose
sides were clay and conglomerate. But, though we followed it to
the end, we could find no indications that it was anything more
than a wash for rain floods.
"That's main queer," muttered Anderson, and returned to the
There he spread out the chart--the first look at it we'd had--and
set to studying it.
It was a careful piece of work done in India ink, pretty old, to
judge by the look of it, and with all sorts of pictures of
mountains and dolphins and ships and anchors around the edge.
There was our bay, all right. Two crosses were marked on the
land part--one labelled "oro" and the other "agua."
"Now there's the high cliff," says Anderson, following it out,
"and there's the round hill with the boulder--and if them
bearings don't point due for that ravine, the devil's a
We tried it again, with the same result. A second inspection of
the map brought us no light on the question. We talked it over,
and looked at it from all points, but we couldn't dodge the
truth: the chart was wrong.
Then we explored several of the nearest gullies, but without
finding anything but loose stones baked hot in the sun.
By now it was getting towards sundown, so we built us a fire of
mesquite on the beach, made us supper, and boiled a pot of beans.
We talked it over. The water was about gone.
"That's what we've got to find first," said Simpson, "no question
of it. It's God knows how far to the next water, and we don't
know how long it will take us to get there in that little boat.
If we run our water entirely out before we start, we're going to
be in trouble. We'll have a good look to-morrow, and if we don't
find her, we'll run down to Mollyhay[4] and get a few extra
[4] Mulege - I retain the Old Timer's pronunciation.
"Perhaps that map is wrong about the treasure, too," suggested
"I thought of that," said Handy Solomon, "but then, thinks I to
myself, this old rip probably don't make no long stay here--just
dodges in and out like, between tides, to bury his loot. He
would need no water at the time; but he might when he came back,
so he marked the water on his map. But he wasn't noways
particular AND exact, being in a hurry. But you can kiss the
Book to it that he didn't make no such mistakes about the swag."
"I believe you're right," said I.
When we came to turn in, Anderson suggested that he should sleep
aboard the boat. But Billy Simpson, in mind perhaps of the
hundred ounces in the compass-box, insisted that he'd just as
soon as not. After a little objection Handy Solomon gave in, but
I thought he seemed sour about it. We built a good fire, and in
about ten seconds were asleep.
Now, usually I sleep like a log, and did this time until about
midnight. Then all at once I came broad awake and sitting up in
my blankets. Nothing had happened--I wasn't even dreaming--but
there I was as alert and clear as though it were broad noon.
By the light of the fire I saw Handy Solomon sitting, and at his
side our five rifles gathered.
I must have made some noise, for he turned quietly toward me, saw
I was awake, and nodded. The moonlight was sparkling on the hard
stony landscape, and a thin dampness came out from the sea.
After a minute Anderson threw on another stick of wood, yawned,
and stood up.
"It's wet," said he; "I've been fixing the guns."
He showed me how he was inserting a little patch of felt between
the hammer and the nipple, a scheme of his own for keeping damp
from the powder. Then he rolled up in his blanket. At the time
it all seemed quite natural--I suppose my mind wasn't fully
awake, for all my head felt so clear. Afterwards I realised what
a ridiculous bluff he was making: for of course the cap already
on the nipple was plenty to keep out the damp. I fully believe
he intended to kill us as we lay. Only my sudden awakening
spoiled his plan.
I had absolutely no idea of this at the time, however. Not the
slightest suspicion entered my head. In view of that fact, I
have since believed in guardian angels. For my next move, which
at the time seemed to me absolutely aimless, was to change my
blankets from one side of the fire to the other. And that
brought me alongside the five rifles.
Owing to this fact, I am now convinced, we awoke safe at
daylight, cooked breakfast, and laid the plan for the day.
Anderson directed us. I was to climb over the ridge before us
and search in the ravine on the other side. Schwartz was to
explore up the beach to the left, and Denton to the right.
Anderson said he would wait for Billy Simpson, who had overslept
in the darkness of the cubbyhole, and who was now paddling
ashore. The two of them would push inland to the west until a
high hill would give them a chance to look around for greenery.
We started at once, before the sun would be hot. The hill I had
to climb was steep and covered with chollas, so I didn't get
along very fast. When I was about half way to the top I heard a
shot from the beach. I looked back. Anderson was in the small
boat, rowing rapidly out to the vessel. Denton was running up
the beach from one direction and Schwartz from the other. I slid
and slipped down the bluff, getting pretty well stuck up with the
cholla spines.
At the beach we found Billy Simpson lying on his ace, shot
through the back. We turned him over, but he was apparently
dead. Anderson had hoisted the sail, had cut loose from the
anchor, and was sailing away.
Denton stood up straight and tall, looking. Then he pulled his
belt in a hole, grabbed my arm, and started to run up the long
curve of the beach. Behind us came Schwartz. We ran near a
mile, and then fell among some tules in an inlet at the farther
"What is it?" I gasped.
"Our only chance--to get him-- said Denton. "He's got to go
around this point--big wind--perhaps his mast will bust--then
he'll come ashore--" He opened and shut his big brown hands.
So there we two fools lay, like panthers in the tules, taking our
only one-in-a-million chance to lay hands on Anderson. Any
sailor could have told us that the mast wouldn't break, but we
had winded Schwartz a quarter of a mile back. And so we waited,
our eyes fixed on the boat's sail, grudging her every inch, just
burning to fix things to suit us a little better. And naturally
she made the point in what I now know was only a fresh breeze,
squared away, and dropped down before the wind toward Guaymas.
We walked back slowly to our camp, swallowing the copper taste of
too hard a run. Schwartz we picked up from a boulder, just
recovering. We were all of us crazy mad. Schwartz half wept,
and blamed and cussed. Denton glowered away in silence. I
ground my feet into the sand in a help less sort of anger, not
only at the man himself, but also at the whole way things had
turned out. I don't believe the least notion of our predicament
had come to any of us. All we knew yet was that we had been done
up, and we were hostile about it.
But at camp we found something to occupy us for the moment. Poor
Billy was not dead, as we had supposed, but very weak and sick,
and a hole square through him. When we returned he was
conscious, but that was about all. His eyes were shut, and he
was moaning. I tore open his shirt to stanch the blood. He felt
my hand and opened his eyes. They were glazed, and I don't think
he saw me.
"Water, water!" he cried.
At that we others saw all at once where we stood. I remember I
rose to my feet and found myself staring straight into Tom
Denton's eyes. We looked at each other that way for I guess it
was a full minute. Then Tom shook his head.
"Water, water!" begged poor Billy.
Tom leaned over him.
"My God, Billy, there ain't any water!" said he.
The Old Timer's voice broke a little. We had leisure to notice
that even the drip from the eaves had ceased. A faint, diffused
light vouchsafed us dim outlines of sprawling figures and
tumbled bedding. Far in the distance outside a wolf yelped.
We could do nothing for him except shelter him from the sun, and
wet his forehead with sea-water; nor could we think clearly for
ourselves as long as the spark of life lingered in him. His
chest rose and fell regularly, but with long pauses between.
When the sun was overhead he suddenly opened his eyes.
"Fellows," said he, "it's beautiful over there; the grass is so
green, and the water so cool; I am tired of marching, and I
reckon I'll cross over and camp."
Then he died. We scooped out a shallow hole above tide-mark,
and laid him in it, and piled over him stones from the wash.
Then we went back to the beach, very solemn, to talk it over.
"Now, boys," said I, "there seems to me just one thing to do, and
that is to pike out for water as fast as we can."
"Where?" asked Denton.
"Well," I argued, "I don't believe there's any water about this
bay. Maybe there was when that chart was made. It was a long
time ago. And any way, the old pirate was a sailor, and no
plainsman, and maybe he mistook rainwater for a spring. We've
looked around this end of the bay. The chances are we'd use up
two or three days exploring around the other, and then wouldn't
be as well off as we are right now."
"Which way?" asked Denton again, mighty brief.
"Well," said I, "there's one thing I've always noticed in case of
folks held up by the desert: they generally go wandering about
here and there looking for water until they die not far from
where they got lost. And usually they've covered a heap of
actual distance."
"That's so," agreed Denton.
"Now, I've always figured that it would be a good deal better to
start right out for some particular place, even if it's ten
thousand miles away. A man is just as likely to strike water
going in a straight line as he is going in a circle; and then,
besides, he's getting somewhere."
"Correct," said Denton,
"So," I finished, "I reckon we'd better follow the coast south
and try to get to Mollyhay."
"How far is that?" asked Schwartz.
"I don't rightly know. But somewheres between three and five
hundred miles, at a guess."
At that he fell to glowering and grooming with himself, brooding
over what a hard time it was going to be. That is the way with a
German. First off he's plumb scared at the prospect of suffering
anything, and would rather die right off than take long chances.
After he gets into the swing of it, he behaves as well as any
"We took stock of what we had to depend on. The total assets
proved to be just three pairs of legs. A pot of coffee had been
on the fire, but that villain had kicked it over when he left.
The kettle of beans was there, but somehow we got the notion they
might have been poisoned, so we left them. I don't know now why
we were so foolish--if poison was his game, he'd have tried it
before--but at that time it seemed reasonable enough. Perhaps
the horror of the morning's work, and the sight of the
brittle-brown mountains, and the ghastly yellow glare of the sun,
and the blue waves racing by outside, and the big strong wind
that blew through us so hard that it seemed to blow empty our
souls, had turned our judgment. Anyway, we left a full meal
there in the beanpot.
So without any further delay we set off up the ridge I had
started to cross that morning. Schwartz lagged, sulky as a muley
cow, but we managed to keep him with us. At the top of the ridge
we took our bearings for the next deep bay. Already we had made
up our minds to stick to the sea-coast, both on account of the
lower country over which to travel and the off chance of falling
in with a fishing vessel. Schwartz muttered something about its
being too far even to the next bay, and wanted to sit down on a
rock. Denton didn't say anything, but he jerked Schwartz up by
the collar so fiercely that the German gave it over and came
We dropped down into the gully, stumbled over the boulder wash,
and began to toil in the ankle-deep sand of a little sage-brush
flat this side of the next ascent. Schwartz followed steadily
enough now, but had fallen forty or fifty feet behind. This was
a nuisance, as we bad to keep turning to see if he still kept up.
Suddenly he seemed to disappear.
Denton and I hurried back to find him on his hands and knees
behind a sagebrush, clawing away at the sand like mad.
"Can't be water on this flat," said Denton; "he must have gone
"What's the matter, Schwartz?" I asked.
For answer he moved a little to one side, showing beneath his
knee one corner of a wooden box sticking above the sand.
At this we dropped beside him, and in five minutes had uncovered
the whole of the chest. It was not very large, and was locked.
A rock from the wash fixed that, however. We threw back the lid.
It was full to the brim of gold coins, thrown in loose, nigh two
bushels of them.
"The treasure!" I cried.
There it was, sure enough, or some of it. We looked the rest
through, but found nothing but the gold coins. The altar
ornaments and jewels were lacking.
"Probably buried in another box or so," said Denton.
Schwartz wanted to dig around a little.
"No good," said I. "We've got our work cut out for us as it is."
Denton backed me up. We were both old hands at the business, had
each in our time suffered the "cotton-mouth" thirst, and the
memory of it outweighed any desire for treasure.
But Schwartz was money-mad. Left to himself he would have staid
on that sand flat to perish, as certainly as had poor Billy. We
had fairly to force him away, and then succeeded only because we
let him fill all his pockets to bulging with the coins. As we
moved up the next rise, he kept looking back and uttering little
moans against the crime of leaving it.
Luckily for us it was winter. We shouldn't have lasted six hours
at this time of year. As it was, the sun was hot against the
shale and the little stones of those cussed hills. We plodded
along until late afternoon, toiling up one hill and down another,
only to repeat immediately. Towards sundown we made the second
bay, where we plunged into the sea, clothes and all, and were
greatly refreshed. I suppose a man absorbs a good deal that way.
Anyhow, it always seemed to help.
We were now pretty hungry, and, as we walked along the shore, we
began to look for turtles or shellfish, or anything else that
might come handy. There was nothing. Schwartz wanted to stop
for a night's rest, but Denton and I knew better than that.
"Look here, Schwartz," said Denton, "you don't realise you're
entered against time in this race--and that you're a damn fool to
carry all that weight in your clothes."
So we dragged along all night.
It was weird enough, I can tell you. The moon shone cold and
white over that dead, dry country. Hot whiffs rose from the
baked stones and hillsides. Shadows lay under the stones like
animals crouching. When we came to the edge of a silvery hill we
dropped off into pitchy blackness. There we stumbled over
boulders for a minute or so, and began to climb the steep shale
on the other side. This was fearful work. The top seemed always
miles away. By morning we didn't seem to have made much of
anywhere. The same old hollow-looking mountains with the sharp
edges stuck up in about the same old places.
We had got over being very hungry, and, though we were pretty
dry, we didn't really suffer yet from thirst. About this time
Denton ran across some fishhook cactus, which we cut up and
chewed. They have a sticky wet sort of inside, which doesn't
quench your thirst any, but helps to keep you from drying up and
blowing away.
All that day we plugged along as per usual. It was main hard
work, and we got to that state where things are disagreeable, but
mechanical. Strange to say, Schwartz kept in the lead. It
seemed to me at the time that he was using more energy than the
occasion called for--just as man runs faster before he comes to
the giving-out point. However, the hours went by, and he
didn't seem to get any more tired than the rest of us.
We kept a sharp lookout for anything to eat, but there was
nothing but lizards and horned toads. Later we'd have been glad
of them, but by that time we'd got out of their district. Night
came. Just at sundown we took another wallow in the surf, and
chewed some more fishhook cactus. When the moon came up we went
I'm not going to tell you how dead beat we got. We were pretty
tough and strong, for all of us had been used to hard living, but
after the third day without anything to eat and no water to
drink, it came to be pretty hard going. It got to the point
where we had to have some REASON for getting out besides just
keeping alive. A man would sometimes rather die than keep alive,
anyway, if it came only to that. But I know I made up my mind I
was going to get out so I could smash up that Anderson, and I
reckon Denton had the same idea. Schwartz didn't say anything,
but he pumped on ahead of us, his back bent over, and his clothes
sagging and bulging with the gold he carried.
We used to travel all night, because it was cool, and rest an
hour or two at noon. That is all the rest we did get. I don't
know how fast we went; I'd got beyond that. We must have crawled
along mighty slow, though, after our first strength gave out.
The way I used to do was to collect myself with an effort, look
around for my bearings, pick out a landmark a little distance
off, and forget everything but it. Then I'd plod along, knowing
nothing but the sand and shale and slope under my feet, until I'd
reached that landmark. Then I'd clear my mind and pick out
But I couldn't shut out the figure of Schwartz that way. He used
to walk along just ahead of my shoulder. His face was all
twisted up, but I remember thinking at the time it looked more as
if he was worried in his mind than like bodily suffering. The
weight of the gold in his clothes bent his shoulders over.
As we went on the country gradually got to be more mountainous,
and, as we were steadily growing weaker, it did seem things were
piling up on us. The eighth day we ran out of the fishhook
cactus, and, being on a high promontory, were out of touch with
the sea. For the first time my tongue began to swell a little.
The cactus had kept me from that before. Denton must have been
in the same fix, for he looked at me and raised one eyebrow kind
of humorous.
Schwartz was having a good deal of difficulty to navigate. I
will say for him that he had done well, but now I could see that
his strength was going on him in spite of himself. He knew it,
all right, for when we rested that day he took all the gold coins
and spread them in a row, and counted them, and put them back in
his pocket, and then all of a sudden snatched out two handfuls
and threw them as far as he could.
"Too heavy," he muttered, but that was all he could bring himself
to throw away.
All that night we wandered high in the air. I guess we tried to
keep a general direction, but I don't know. Anyway, along late,
but before moonrise--she was now on the wane--I came to, and
found myself looking over the edge of a twenty-foot drop. Right
below me I made out a faint glimmer of white earth in the
starlight. Somehow it reminded me of a little trail I used to
know under a big rock back in Texas.
"Here's a trail," I thought, more than half loco; "I'll follow
At least that's what half of me thought. The other half was
sensible, and knew better, but it seemed to be kind of standing
to one side, a little scornful, watching the performance. So I
slid and slipped down to the strip of white earth, and, sure
enough, it was a trail. At that the loco half of me gave the
sensible part the laugh. I followed the path twenty feet and
came to a dark hollow under the rock, and in it a round pool of
water about a foot across. They say a man kills himself drinking
too much, after starving for water. That may be, but it didn't
kill me, and I sucked up all I could hold. Perhaps the fishhook
cactus had helped. Well, sir, it was surprising how that drink
brought me around. A minute before I'd been on the edge of going
plumb loco, and here I was as clear-headed as a lawyer.
I hunted up Denton and Schwartz. They drank, themselves full,
too. Then we rested. It was mighty hard to leave that spring--
Oh, we had to do it. We'd have starved sure, there. The trail
was a game trail, but that did us no good, for we had no weapons.
How we did wish for the coffeepot, so we could take some away.
We filled our hats, and carried them about three hours, before
the water began to soak through. Then we had to drink it in
order to save it.
The country fairly stood up on end. We had to climb separate
little hills so as to avoid rolling rocks down on each other. It
took it out of us. About this time we began to see mountain
sheep. They would come right up to the edges of the small cliffs
to look at us. We threw stones at them, hoping to hit one in the
forehead, but of course without any results.
The good effects of the water lasted us about a day. Then we
began to see things again. Off and on I could see water plain as
could be in every hollow, and game of all kinds standing around
and looking at me. I knew these were all fakes. By making an
effort I could swing things around to where they belonged. I
used to do that every once in a while, just to be sure we weren't
doubling back, and to look out for real water. But most of the
time it didn't seem to be worth while. I just let all these
visions riot around and have a good time inside me or outside me,
whichever it was. I knew I could get rid of them any minute.
Most of the time, if I was in any doubt, it was easier to throw a
stone to see if the animals were real or not. The real ones ran
We began to see bands of wild horses in the uplands. One day
both Denton and I plainly saw one with saddle marks on him. If
only one of us had seen him, it wouldn't have counted much, but
we both made him out. This encouraged us wonderfully, though I
don't see why it should have. We had topped the high country,
too, and had started down the other side of the mountains that
ran out on the promontory. Denton and I were still navigating
without any thought of giving up, but Schwartz was getting in bad
shape. I'd hate to pack twenty pounds over that country even
with rest, food, and water. He was toting it on nothing. We
told him so, and he came to see it, but he never could persuade
himself to get rid of the gold all at once. Instead he threw
away the pieces one by one. Each sacrifice seemed to nerve him
up for another heat. I can shut my eyes and see it now--the
wide, glaring, yellow country, the pasteboard mountains, we three
dragging along, and the fierce sunshine flashing from the
doubloons as one by one they went spinning through the air.
"I'd like to have trailed you fellows," sighed a voice from the
"Would you!" said Colorado Rogers grimly.
It was five days to the next water. But they were worse than the
eight days before. We were lucky, however, for at the spring we
discovered in a deep wash near the coast, was the dried-up skull
of a horse. It had been there a long time, but a few shreds of
dried flesh still clung to it. It was the only thing that could
be described as food that had passed our lips since breakfast
thirteen days before. In that time we had crossed the mountain
chain, and had come again to the sea. The Lord was good to us.
He sent us the water, and the horse's skull, and the smooth hard
beach, without breaks or the necessity of climbing hills. And we
needed it, oh, I promise you, we needed it!
I doubt if any of us could have kept the direction except by such
an obvious and continuous landmark as the sea to our left. It
hardly seemed worth while to focus my mind, but I did it
occasionally just by way of testing myself. Schwartz still threw
away his gold coins, and once, in one of my rare intervals of
looking about me, I saw Denton picking them up. This surprised
me mildly, but I was too tired to be very curious. Only now,
when I saw Schwartz's arm sweep out in what had become a
mechanical movement, I always took pains to look, and always I
saw Denton search for the coin. Sometimes he found it, and
sometimes he did not.
The figures of my companions and the yellow-brown tide sand under
my feet, and a consciousness of the blue and white sea to my
left, are all I remember, except when we had to pull ourselves
together for the purpose of cutting fishhook cactus. I kept
going, and I knew I had a good reason for doing so, but it seemed
too much of an effort to recall what that reason was.
Schwartz threw away a gold piece as another man would take a
stimulant. Gradually, without really thinking about it, I came
to see this, and then went on to sabe why Denton picked up the
coins; and a great admiration for Denton's cleverness seeped
through me like water through the sand. He was saving the coins
to keep Schwartz going. When the last coin went, Schwartz would
give out. It all sounds queer now, but it seemed all right
then--and it WAS all right, too.
So we walked on the beach, losing entire track of time. And
after a long interval I came to myself to see Schwartz lying on
the sand, and Denton standing over him. Of course we'd all been
falling down a lot, but always before we'd got up again.
"He's give out," croaked Denton.
His voice sounded as if it was miles away, which surprised me,
but, when I answered, mine sounded miles away, too, which
surprised me still more.
Denton pulled out a handful of gold coins.
"This will buy him some more walk," said he gravely, "but not
I nodded. It seemed all right, this new, strange purchasing
power of gold--it WAS all right, by God, and as real as buying
"I'll go on," said Denton, "and send back help. You come after."
"To Mollyhay!" said I.
This far I reckon we'd hung onto ourselves because it was
serious. Now I began to laugh. So did Denton. We laughed and
"A damn long way
To Mollyhay."
said I. Then we laughed some more, until the tears ran down our
cheeks, and we had to hold our poor weak sides. Pretty soon we
fetched up with a gasp.
"A damn long way
To Mollyhay,"
whispered Denton, and then off we went into more shrieks. And
when we would sober down a little, one or the other of us would
say it again;
"A damn long way
To Mollyhay,"
and then we'd laugh some more. It must have been a sweet sight!
At last I realised that we ought to pull ourselves together, so I
snubbed up short, and Denton did the same, and we set to laying
plans. But every minute or so one of us would catch on some
word, and then we'd trail off into rhymes and laughter and
"Keep him going as long as you can," said Denton.
"And be sure to stick to the beach."
That far it was all right and clear-headed. But the word "beach"
let us out.
"I'm a peach
Upon the beach,"
sings I, and there we were both off again until one or the other
managed to grope his way back to common sense again. And
sometimes we crow-hopped solemnly around and around the prostrate
Schwartz like a pair of Injins.
But somehow we got our plan laid at last, slipped the coins into
Schwartz's pocket, and said good-bye.
"Old socks, good-bye,
You bet I'll try,"
yelled Denton, and laughing fit to kill, danced off up the beach,
and out into a sort of grey mist that shut off everything beyond
a certain distance from me now.
So I kicked Schwartz, he felt in his pocket, threw a gold piece
away, and "bought a little more walk."
My entire vision was fifty feet or so across. Beyond that was
grey mist. Inside my circle I could see the sand quite plainly
and Denton's footprints. If I moved a little to the left, the
wash of the waters would lap under the edge of that grey curtain.
If I moved to the right, I came to cliffs. The nearer I drew to
them, the farther up I could see, but I could never see to the
top. It used to amuse me to move this area of consciousness
about to see what I could find. Actual physical suffering was
beginning to dull, and my head seemed to be getting clearer.
One day, without any apparent reason, I moved at right angles
across the beach. Directly before me lay a piece of sugar cane,
and one end of it had been chewed.
Do you know what that meant? Animals don't cut sugar cane and
bring it to the beach and chew one end. A new strength ran
through me, and actually the grey mist thinned and lifted for a
moment, until I could make out dimly the line of cliffs and the
tumbling sea.
I was not a bit hungry, but I chewed on the sugar cane, and made
Schwartz do the same. When we went on I kept close to the cliff,
even though the walking was somewhat heavier.
I remember after that its getting dark and then light again, so
the night must have passed, but whether we rested or walked I do
not know. Probably we did not get very far, though certainly we
staggered ahead after sun-up, for I remember my shadow.
About midday, I suppose, I made out a dim trail leading up a
break in the cliffs. Plenty of such trails we had seen before.
They were generally made by peccaries in search of cast-up fish--
I hope they had better luck than we.
But in the middle of this, as though for a sign, lay another
piece of chewed sugar cane.
I had agreed with Denton to stick to the beach, but Schwartz
could not last much longer, and I had not the slightest idea how
far it might prove to be to Mollyhay. So I turned up the trail.
We climbed a mountain ten thousand feet high. I mean that; and I
know, for I've climbed them that high, and I know just how it
feels, and how many times you have to rest, and how long it
takes, and how much it knocks out of you. Those are the things
that count in measuring height, and so I tell you we climbed that
far. Actually I suppose the hill was a couple of hundred feet,
if not less. But on account of the grey mist I mentioned, I
could not see the top, and the illusion was complete.
We reached the summit late in the afternoon, for the sun was
square in our eyes. But instead of blinding me, it seemed to
clear my sight, so that I saw below me a little mud hut with
smoke rising behind it, and a small patch of cultivated ground.
I'll pass over how I felt about it: they haven't made the
Well, we stumbled down the trail and into the hut. At first I
thought it was empty, but after a minute I saw a very old man
crouched in a corner. As I looked at him he raised his bleared
eyes to me, his head swinging slowly from side to side as though
with a kind of palsy. He could not see me, that was evident, nor
hear me, but some instinct not yet decayed turned him toward a
new presence in the room. In my wild desire for water I found
room to think that here was a man even worse off than myself.
A vessel of water was in the corner. I drank it. It was more
than I could hold, but I drank even after I was filled, and the
waste ran from the corners of my mouth. I had forgotten
Schwartz. The excess made me a little sick, but I held down what
I had swallowed, and I really believe it soaked into my system as
it does into the desert earth after a drought.
In a moment or so I took the vessel and filled it and gave it to
Schwartz. Then it seemed to me that my responsibility had ended.
A sudden great dreamy lassitude came over me. I knew I needed
food, but I had no wish for it, and no ambition to search it out.
The man in the corner mumbled at me with his toothless gums. I
remember wondering if we were all to starve there peacefully
together--Schwartz and his remaining gold coins, the man far gone
in years, and myself. I did not greatly care.
After a while the light was blotted out. There followed a slight
pause. Then I knew that someone had flown to my side, and was
kneeling beside me and saying liquid, pitying things in Mexican.
I swallowed something hot and strong. In a moment I came back
from wherever I was drifting, to look up at a Mexican girl about
twenty years old.
She was no great matter in looks, but she seemed like an angel to
me then. And she had sense. No questions, no nothing. Just
business. The only thing she asked of me was if I understood
Then she told me that her brother would be back soon, that they
were very poor, that she was sorry she had no meat to offer me,
that they were VERY poor, that all they had was calabash--a sort
of squash. All this time she was bustling things together. Next
thing I know I had a big bowl of calabash stew between my knees.
Now, strangely enough, I had no great interest in that calabash
stew. I tasted it, sat and thought a while, and tasted it again.
By and by I had emptied the bowl. It was getting dark. I was
very sleepy. A man came in, but I was too drowsy to pay any
attention to him. I heard the sound of voices. Then I was
picked up bodily and carried to an out-building and laid on a
pile of skins. I felt the weight of a blanket thrown over me--
I awoke in the night. Mind you, I had practically had no rest at
all for a matter of more than two weeks, yet I woke in a few
hours. And, remember, even in eating the calabash stew I had
felt no hunger in spite of my long fast. But now I found myself
ravenous. You boys do not know what hunger is. It HURTS. And
all the rest of that night I lay awake chewing on the rawhide of
a pack-saddle that hung near me.
Next morning the young Mexican and his sister came to us early,
bringing more calabash stew. I fell on it like a wild animal,
and just wallowed in it, so eager was I to eat. They stood and
watched me--and I suppose Schwartz, too, though I had now lost
interest in anyone but myself--glancing at each other in pity
from time to time.
When I had finished the man told me that they had decided to
kill a beef so we could have meat. They were very poor, but God
had brought us to them--
I appreciated this afterward. At the time I merely caught at the
word "meat." It seemed to me I could have eaten the animal
entire, hide, hoofs, and tallow. As a matter of fact, it was
mighty lucky they didn't have any meat. If they had, we'd
probably have killed ourselves with it. I suppose the calabash
was about the best thing for us under the circumstances.
The Mexican went out to hunt up his horse. I called the girl
"How far is it to Mollyhay?" I asked her.
"A league," said she.
So we bad been near our journey's end after all, and Denton was
probably all right.
The Mexican went away horseback. The girl fed us calabash. We
About one o'clock a group of horsemen rode over the hill. When
they came near enough I recognised Denton at their head. That
man was of tempered steel--
They had followed back along the beach, caught our trail where we
had turned off, and so discovered us. Denton had fortunately
found kind and intelligent people.
We said good-bye to the Mexican girl. I made Schwartz give her
one of his gold pieces.
But Denton could not wait for us to say "hullo" even, he was so
anxious to get back to town, so we mounted the horses he had
brought us, and rode off, very wobbly.
We lived three weeks in Mollyhay. It took us that long to get
fed up. The lady I stayed with made a dish of kid meat and
stuffed olives--
Why, an hour after filling myself up to the muzzle I'd be hungry
again, and scouting round to houses looking for more to eat!
We talked things over a good deal, after we had gained a little
strength. I wanted to take a little flyer at Guaymas to see if I
could run across this Handy Solomon person, but Denton pointed
out that Anderson would be expecting just that, and would take
mighty good care to be scarce. His idea was that we'd do better
to get hold of a boat and some water casks, and lug off the
treasure we had stumbled over. Denton told us that the idea of
going back and scooping all that dinero up with a shovel had
kept him going, just as the idea of getting even with Anderson
had kept me going. Schwartz said that after he'd carried that
heavy gold over the first day, he made up his mind he'd get the
spending of it or bust. That's why he hated so to throw it away.
There were lots of fishing boats in the harbour, and we hired
one, and a man to run it for next to nothing a week. We laid a
course north, and in six days anchored in our bay.
I tell you it looked queer. There were the charred sticks of the
fire, and the coffeepot lying on its side. We took off our hats
at poor Billy's grave a minute, and then climbed over the
cholla-covered hill carrying our picks and shovels, and the
canvas sacks to take the treasure away in.
There was no trouble in reaching the sandy flat. But when we got
there we found it torn up from one end to the other. A few
scattered timbers and three empty chests with the covers pried
off alone remained. Handy Solomon had been there before us.
We went back to our boat sick at heart. Nobody said a word. We
went aboard and made our Greaser boatman head for Yuma. It took
us a week to get there. We were all of us glum, but Denton was
the worst of the lot. Even after we'd got back to town and
fallen into our old ways of life, he couldn't seem to get over
it. He seemed plumb possessed of gloom, and moped around like a
chicken with the pip. This surprised me, for I didn't think the
loss of money would hit him so hard. It didn't hit any of us
very hard in those days.
One evening I took him aside and fed him a drink, and
expostulated with him.
"Oh, HELL, Rogers," he burst out, "I don't care about the loot.
But, suffering cats, think how that fellow sized us up for a lot
of pattern-made fools; and how right he was about, it. Why all
he did was to sail out of sight around the next corner. He knew
we'd start across country; and we did. All we had to do was to
lay low, and save our legs. He was BOUND to come back. And we
might have nailed him when he landed."
"That's about all there was to it," concluded Colorado Rogers,
after a pause, "--except that I've been looking for him ever
since, and when I heard you singing that song I naturally thought
I'd landed."
"And you never saw him again?" asked Windy Bill.
"Well," chuckled Rogers, "I did about ten year later. It was in
Tucson. I was in the back of a store, when the door in front
opened and this man came in. He stopped at the little cigar-case
by the door. In about one jump I was on his neck. I jerked him
over backwards before he knew what had struck him, threw him on
his face, got my hands in his back-hair, and began to jump his
features against the floor. Then all at once I noted that this
man had two arms; so of course he was the wrong fellow. "Oh,
excuse me," said I, and ran out the back door."
It was Sunday at the ranch. For a wonder the weather bad been
favourable; the windmills were all working, the bogs had dried
up, the beef had lasted over, the remuda had not strayed--in
short, there was nothing to do. Sang had given us a baked
bread-pudding with raisins in it. We filled it--in a wash basin
full of it--on top of a few incidental pounds of chile con, baked
beans, soda biscuits, "air tights," and other delicacies. Then
we adjourned with our pipes to the shady side of the blacksmith's
shop where we could watch the ravens on top the adobe wall of the
corral. Somebody told a story about ravens. This led to
road-runners. This suggested rattlesnakes. They started Windy
"Speakin' of snakes," said Windy, "I mind when they catched the
great-granddaddy of all the bullsnakes up at Lead in the Black
Hills. I was only a kid then. This wasn't no such tur'ble long
a snake, but he was more'n a foot thick. Looked just like a
sahuaro stalk. Man name of Terwilliger Smith catched it. He
named this yere bullsnake Clarence, and got it so plumb gentle it
followed him everywhere. One day old P. T. Barnum come along and
wanted to buy this Clarence snake--offered Terwilliger a thousand
cold--but Smith wouldn't part with the snake nohow. So finally
they fixed up a deal so Smith could go along with the show. They
shoved Clarence in a box in the baggage car, but after a while
Mr. Snake gets so lonesome he gnaws out and starts to crawl back
to find his master. Just as he is half-way between the baggage
car and the smoker, the couplin' give way--right on that heavy
grade between Custer and Rocky Point. Well, sir, Clarence wound
his head 'round one brake wheel and his tail around the other,
and held that train together to the bottom of the grade. But it
stretched him twenty-eight feet and they had to advertise him as
a boa-constrictor."
Windy Bill's story of the faithful bullsnake aroused to
reminiscence the grizzled stranger, who thereupon held forth as
Wall, I've see things and I've heerd things, some of them ornery,
and some you'd love to believe, they was that gorgeous and
improbable. Nat'ral history was always my hobby and sportin'
events my special pleasure and this yarn of Windy's reminds me of
the only chanst I ever had to ring in business and pleasure and
hobby all in one grand merry-go-round of joy. It come about like
One day, a few year back, I was sittin' on the beach at Santa
Barbara watchin' the sky stay up, and wonderin' what to do with
my year's wages, when a little squinch-eye round-face with big
bow spectacles came and plumped down beside me.
"Did you ever stop to think," says he, shovin' back his hat,
"that if the horsepower delivered by them waves on this beach in
one single hour could be concentrated behind washin' machines, it
would be enough to wash all the shirts for a city of four hundred
and fifty-one thousand one hundred and thirty-six people?"
"Can't say I ever did," says I, squintin' at him sideways.
"Fact," says he, "and did it ever occur to you that if all the
food a man eats in the course of a natural life could be gathered
together at one time, it would fill a wagon-train twelve miles
"You make me hungry," says I.
"And ain't it interestin' to reflect," he goes on, "that if all
the finger-nail parin's of the human race for one year was to be
collected and subjected to hydraulic pressure it would equal in
size the pyramid of Cheops?"
"Look yere," says I, sittin' up, "did YOU ever pause to
excogitate that if all the hot air you is dispensin' was to be
collected together it would fill a balloon big enough to waft you
and me over that Bullyvard of Palms to yonder gin mill on the
He didn't say nothin' to that--just yanked me to my feet, faced
me towards the gin mill above mentioned, and exerted considerable
pressure on my arm in urgin' of me forward.
"You ain't so much of a dreamer, after all," thinks I. "In
important matters you are plumb decisive."
We sat down at little tables, and my friend ordered a beer and a
chicken sandwich.
"Chickens," says he, gazin' at the sandwich, "is a dollar apiece
in this country, and plumb scarce. Did you ever pause to ponder
over the returns chickens would give on a small investment? Say
you start with ten hens. Each hatches out thirteen aigs, of
which allow a loss of say six for childish accidents. At the end
of the year you has eighty chickens. At the end of two years
that flock has increased to six hundred and twenty. At the end
of the third year--"
He had the medicine tongue! Ten days later him and me was
occupyin' of an old ranch fifty mile from anywhere. When they
run stage-coaches this joint used to be a roadhouse. The outlook
was on about a thousand little brown foothills. A road two miles
four rods two foot eleven inches in sight run by in front of us.
It come over one foothill and disappeared over another. I know
just how long it was, for later in the game I measured it.
Out back was about a hundred little wire chicken corrals filled
with chickens. We had two kinds. That was the doin's of
Tuscarora. My pardner called himself Tuscarora Maxillary. I
asked him once if that was his real name.
"It's the realest little old name you ever heerd tell of," says
he. "I know, for I made it myself--liked the sound of her.
Parents ain't got no rights to name their children. Parents
don't have to be called them names."
Well, these chickens, as I said, was of two kinds. The first was
these low-set, heavyweight propositions with feathers on their
laigs, and not much laigs at that, called Cochin Chinys. The
other was a tall ridiculous outfit made up entire of bulgin'
breast and gangle laigs. They stood about two foot and a half
tall, and when they went to peck the ground their tail feathers
stuck straight up to the sky. Tusky called 'em Japanese Games.
"Which the chief advantage of them chickens is," says he, "that
in weight about ninety per cent of 'em is breast meat. Now my
idee is, that if we can cross 'em with these Cochin Chiny fowls
we'll have a low-hung, heavyweight chicken runnin' strong on
breast meat. These Jap Games is too small, but if we can bring
'em up in size and shorten their laigs, we'll shore have a
That looked good to me, so we started in on that idee. The
theery was bully, but she didn't work out. The first broods we
hatched growed up with big husky Cochin Chiny bodies and little
short necks, perched up on laigs three foot long. Them chickens
couldn't reach ground nohow. We had to build a table for 'em to
eat off, and when they went out rustlin' for themselves they had
to confine themselves to sidehills or flyin' insects. Their
breasts was all right, though--"And think of them drumsticks for
the boardinghouse trade!" says Tusky.
So far things wasn't so bad. We had a good grubstake. Tusky and
me used to feed them chickens twict a day, and then used to set
around watchin' the playful critters chase grasshoppers up an'
down the wire corrals, while Tusky figgered out what'd happen if
somebody was dumfool enough to gather up somethin' and fix it in
baskets or wagons or such. That was where we showed our
ignorance of chickens.
One day in the spring I hitched up, rustled a dozen of the
youngsters into coops, and druv over to the railroad to make our
first sale. I couldn't fold them chickens up into them coops at
first, but then I stuck the coops up on aidge and they worked all
right, though I will admit they was a comical sight. At the
railroad one of them towerist trains had just slowed down to a
halt as I come up, and the towerist was paradin' up and down
allowin' they was particular enjoyin' of the warm Californy
sunshine. One old terrapin, with grey chin whiskers, projected
over, with his wife, and took a peek through the slats of my
coop. He straightened up like someone had touched him off with a
red-hot poker.
"Stranger," said he, in a scared kind of whisper, "what's them?"
"Them's chickens," says I.
He took another long look.
"Marthy," says he to the old woman, "this will be about all! We
come out from Ioway to see the Wonders of Californy, but I can't
go nothin' stronger than this. If these is chickens, I don't
want to see no Big Trees."
Well, I sold them chickens all right for a dollar and two bits,
which was better than I expected, and got an order for more.
About ten days later I got a letter from the commission house.
"We are returnin' a sample of your Arts and Crafts chickens with
the lovin' marks of the teeth still onto him," says they. "Don't
send any more till they stops pursuin' of the nimble grasshopper.
Dentist bill will foller."
With the letter came the remains of one of the chickens. Tusky
and I, very indignant, cooked her for supper. She was tough, all
right. We thought she might do better biled, so we put her in
the pot over night. Nary bit. Well, then we got interested.
Tusky kep' the fire goin' and I rustled greasewood. We cooked
her three days and three nights. At the end of that time she was
sort of pale and frazzled, but still givin' points to
three-year-old jerky on cohesion and other uncompromisin' forces
of Nature. We buried her then, and went out back to recuperate.
There we could gaze on the smilin' landscape, dotted by about
four hundred long-laigged chickens swoopin' here and there after
"We got to stop that," says I.
"We can't," murmured Tusky, inspired. "We can't. It's born in
'em; it's a primal instinct, like the love of a mother for her
young, and it can't be eradicated! Them chickens is constructed
by a divine providence for the express purpose of chasin'
grasshoppers, jest as the beaver is made for buildin' dams, and
the cow-puncher is made for whisky and faro-games. We can't
keep 'em from it. If we was to shut 'em in a dark cellar, they'd
flop after imaginary grasshoppers in their dreams, and die
emaciated in the midst of plenty. Jimmy, we're up agin the
Cosmos, the oversoul--" Oh, he had the medicine tongue, Tusky
had, and risin' on the wings of eloquence that way, he had me
faded in ten minutes. In fifteen I was wedded solid to the
notion that the bottom had dropped out of the chicken business.
I think now that if we'd shut them hens up, we might have--still,
I don't know; they was a good deal in what Tusky said.
"Tuscarora Maxillary," says I, "did you ever stop to entertain
that beautiful thought that if all the dumfoolishness possessed
now by the human race could be gathered together, and lined up
alongside of us, the first feller to come along would say to it
'Why, hello, Solomon!'"
We quit the notion of chickens for profit right then and there,
but we couldn't quit the place. We hadn't much money, for one
thing, and then we, kind of liked loafin' around and raisin' a
little garden truck, and--oh, well, I might as well say so, we
had a notion about placers in the dry wash back of the house you
know how it is. So we stayed on, and kept a-raisin' these
long-laigs for the fun of it. I used to like to watch 'em
projectin' around, and I fed 'em twict a day about as usual.
So Tusky and I lived alone there together, happy as ducks in
Arizona. About onc't in a month somebody'd pike along the road.
She wasn't much of a road, generally more chuckholes than bumps,
though sometimes it was the other way around. Unless it happened
to be a man horseback or maybe a freighter without the fear of
God in his soul, we didn't have no words with them; they was too
busy cussin' the highways and generally too mad for social
One day early in the year, when the 'dobe mud made ruts to add to
the bumps, one of these automobeels went past. It was the first
Tusky and me had seen in them parts, so we run out to view her.
Owin' to the high spots on the road, she looked like one of these
movin' picters, as to blur and wobble; sounded like a cyclone
mingled with cuss-words, and smelt like hell on housecleanin'
"Which them folks don't seem to be enjoyin' of the scenery," says
I to Tusky. "Do you reckon that there blue trail is smoke from
the machine or remarks from the inhabitants thereof?"
Tusky raised his head and sniffed long and inquirin'.
"It's langwidge," says he. "Did you ever stop to think that all
the words in the dictionary stretched end to end would reach--"
But at that minute I catched sight of somethin' brass lyin' in
the road. It proved to be a curled-up sort of horn with a rubber
bulb on the end. I squoze the bulb and jumped twenty foot over
the remark she made.
"Jarred off the machine," says Tusky.
"Oh, did it?" says I, my nerves still wrong. "I thought maybe it
had growed up from the soil like a toadstool."
About this time we abolished the wire chicken corrals, because we
needed some of the wire. Them long-laigs thereupon scattered all
over the flat searchin' out their prey. When feed time come I
had to screech my lungs out gettin' of 'em in, and then sometimes
they didn't all hear. It was plumb discouragin', and I mighty
nigh made up my mind to quit 'em, but they had come to be sort of
pets, and I hated to turn 'em down. It used to tickle Tusky
almost to death to see me out there hollerin' away like an old
bull-frog. He used to come out reg'lar, with his pipe lit, just
to enjoy me. Finally I got mad and opened up on him.
"Oh," he explains, "it just plumb amuses me to see the dumfool
at his childish work. Why don't you teach 'em to come to that
brass horn, and save your voice?"
"Tusky," says I, with feelin', "sometimes you do seem to get a
glimmer of real sense."
Well, first off them chickens used to throw back-sommersets over
that horn. You have no idee how slow chickens is to learn
things. I could tell you things about chickens--say, this yere
bluff about roosters bein' gallant is all wrong. I've watched
'em. When one finds a nice feed he gobbles it so fast that the
pieces foller down his throat like yearlin's through a hole in
the fence. It's only when he scratches up a measly one-grain
quick-lunch that he calls up the hens and stands noble and
self-sacrificin' to one side. That ain't the point, which is,
that after two months I had them long-laigs so they'd drop
everythin' and come kitin' at the HONK-HONK of that horn. It was
a purty sight to see 'em, sailin' in from all directions twenty
foot at a stride. I was proud of 'em, and named 'em the
Honk-honk Breed. We didn't have no others, for by now the
coyotes and bob-cats had nailed the straight-breds. There wasn't
no wild cat or coyote could catch one of my Honk-honks, no, sir!
We made a little on our placer--just enough to keep interested.
Then the supervisors decided to fix our road, and what's more,
THEY DONE IT! That's the only part in this yarn that's hard to
believe, but, boys, you'll have to take it on faith. They
ploughed her, and crowned her, and scraped her, and rolled her,
and when they moved on we had the fanciest highway in the State
of Californy.
That noon--the day they called her a job--Tusky and I sat smokin'
our pipes as per usual, when way over the foothills we seen a
cloud of dust and faint to our cars was bore a whizzin' sound.
The chickens was gathered under the cottonwood for the heat of
the day, but they didn't pay no attention. Then faint, but
clear, we heard another of them brass horns:
"Honk! honk!" says it, and every one of them chickens woke up,
and stood at attention.
"Honk! honk!" it hollered clearer and nearer.
Then over the hill come an automobeel, blowin' vigorous at every
"My God!" I yells to Tusky, kickin' over my chair, as I springs
to my feet. "Stop 'em! Stop 'em!"
But it was too late. Out the gate sprinted them poor devoted
chickens, and up the road they trailed in vain pursuit. The last
we seen of 'em was a mingling of dust and dim figgers goin'
thirty mile an hour after a disappearin' automobeel.
That was all we seen for the moment. About three o'clock the
first straggler came limpin' in, his wings hangin', his mouth
open, his eyes glazed with the heat. By sundown fourteen had
returned. All the rest had disappeared utter; we never seen 'em
again. I reckon they just naturally run themselves into a
sunstroke and died on the road.
It takes a long time to learn a chicken a thing, but a heap
longer to unlearn him. After that two or three of these yere
automobeels went by every day, all a-blowin' of their horns, all
kickin' up a hell of a dust. And every time them fourteen
Honk-honks of mine took along after 'em, just as I'd taught 'em
to do, layin' to get to their corn when they caught up. No more
of 'em died, but that fourteen did get into elegant trainin'.
After a while they got plumb to enjoyin' it. When you come right
down to it, a chicken don't have many amusements and relaxations
in this life. Searchin' for worms, chasin' grasshoppers, and
wallerin' in the dust is about the limits of joys for chickens.
It was sure a fine sight to see 'em after they got well into the
game. About nine o'clock every mornin' they would saunter down
to the rise of the road where they would wait patient until a
machine came along. Then it would warm your heart to see the
enthusiasm of them. With, exultant cackles of joy they'd trail
in, reachin' out like quarter-horses, their wings half spread
out, their eyes beamin' with delight. At the lower turn they'd
quit. Then, after talkin' it over excited-like for a few
minutes, they'd calm down and wait for another.
After a few months of this sort of trainin' they got purty good
at it. I had one two-year-old rooster that made fifty-four mile
an hour behind one of those sixty-horsepower Panhandles. When
cars didn't come along often enough, they'd all turn out and
chase jack-rabbits. They wasn't much fun at that. After a
short, brief sprint the rabbit would crouch down plumb terrified,
while the Honk-honks pulled off triumphal dances around his
shrinkin' form.
Our ranch got to be purty well known them days among
automobeelists. The strength of their cars was horse-power, of
course, but the speed of them they got to ratin' by
chicken-power. Some of them used to come way up from Los Angeles
just to try out a new car along our road with the Honk-honks for
pace-makers. We charged them a little somethin', and then, too,
we opened up the road-house and the bar, so we did purty well.
It wasn't necessary to work any longer at that bogus placer.
Evenin's we sat around outside and swapped yarns, and I bragged
on my chickens. The chickens would gather round close to listen.
They liked to hear their praises sung, all right. You bet they
sabe! The only reason a chicken, or any other critter, isn't
intelligent is because he hasn't no chance to expand.
Why, we used to run races with 'em. Some of us would hold two or
more chickens back of a chalk line, and the starter'd blow the
horn from a hundred yards to a mile away, dependin' on whether it
was a sprint or for distance. We had pools on the results, gave
odds, made books, and kept records. After the thing got knowed
we made money hand over fist.
The stranger broke off abruptly and began to roll a cigarette.
"What did you quit it for, then?" ventured Charley, out of the
hushed silence.
"Pride," replied the stranger solemnly. "Haughtiness of spirit."
"How so?" urged Charley, after a pause.
"Them chickens," continued the stranger, after a moment, "stood
around listenin' to me a-braggin' of what superior fowls they was
until they got all puffed up. They wouldn't have nothin'
whatever to do with the ordinary chickens we brought in for
eatin' purposes, but stood around lookin' bored when there wasn't
no sport doin'. They got to be just like that Four Hundred you
read about in the papers. It was one continual round of
grasshopper balls, race meets, and afternoon hen-parties. They
got idle and haughty, just like folks. Then come race suicide.
They got to feelin' so aristocratic the hens wouldn't have no
Nobody dared say a word.
"Windy Bill's snake--" began the narrator genially.
"Stranger," broke in Windy Bill, with great emphasis, "as to
that snake, I want you to understand this: yereafter in my
estimation that snake is nothin' but an ornery angleworm!"
Buck Johnson was American born, but with a black beard and a
dignity of manner that had earned him the title of Senor. He had
drifted into southeastern Arizona in the days of Cochise and
Victorio and Geronimo. He had persisted, and so in time had come
to control the water--and hence the grazing--of nearly all the
Soda Springs Valley. His troubles were many, and his
difficulties great. There were the ordinary problems of lean and
dry years. There were also the extraordinary problems of
devastating Apaches; rivals for early and ill-defined range
rights--and cattle rustlers.
Senor Buck Johnson was a man of capacity, courage, directness of
method, and perseverance. Especially the latter. Therefore he
had survived to see the Apaches subdued, the range rights
adjusted, his cattle increased to thousands, grazing the area of
a principality. Now, all the energy and fire of his
frontiersman's nature he had turned to wiping out the third
uncertainty of an uncertain business. He found it a task of some
For Senor Buck Johnson lived just north of that terra incognita
filled with the mystery of a double chance of death from man or
the flaming desert known as the Mexican border. There, by
natural gravitation, gathered all the desperate characters of
three States and two republics. He who rode into it took good
care that no one should ride behind him, lived warily, slept
light, and breathed deep when once he had again sighted the
familiar peaks of Cochise's Stronghold. No one professed
knowledge of those who dwelt therein. They moved, mysterious as
the desert illusions that compassed them about. As you rode, the
ranges of mountains visibly changed form, the monstrous, snaky,
sea-like growths of the cactus clutched at your stirrup, mock
lakes sparkled and dissolved in the middle distance, the sun beat
hot and merciless, the powdered dry alkali beat hotly and
mercilessly back--and strange, grim men, swarthy, bearded,
heavily armed, with red-rimmed unshifting eyes, rode silently out
of the mists of illusion to look on you steadily, and then to
ride silently back into the desert haze. They might be only the
herders of the gaunt cattle, or again they might belong to the
Lost Legion that peopled the country. All you could know was
that of the men who entered in, but few returned.
Directly north of this unknown land you encountered parallel
fences running across the country. They enclosed nothing, but
offered a check to the cattle drifting toward the clutch of the
renegades, and an obstacle to swift, dashing forays.
Of cattle-rustling there are various forms. The boldest consists
quite simply of running off a bunch of stock, hustling it over
the Mexican line, and there selling it to some of the big Sonora
ranch owners. Generally this sort means war. Also are there
subtler means, grading in skill from the re-branding through a
wet blanket, through the crafty refashioning of a brand to the
various methods of separating the cow from her unbranded calf.
In the course of his task Senor Buck Johnson would have to do
with them all, but at present he existed in a state of warfare,
fighting an enemy who stole as the Indians used to steal.
Already be had fought two pitched battles and had won them both.
His cattle increased, and he became rich. Nevertheless he knew
that constantly his resources were being drained. Time and again
he and his new Texas foreman, Jed Parker, had followed the trail
of a stampeded bunch of twenty or thirty, followed them on down
through the Soda Springs Valley to the cut drift fences, there to
abandon them. For, as yet, an armed force would be needed to
penetrate the borderland. Once he and his men bad experienced
the glory of a night pursuit. Then, at the drift fences, he had
fought one of his battles. But it was impossible adequately to
patrol all parts of a range bigger than some Eastern States.
Buck Johnson did his best, but it was like stepping with sand the
innumerable little leaks of a dam. Did his riders watch toward
the Chiricahuas, then a score of beef steers disappeared from
Grant's Pass forty miles away. Pursuit here meant leaving cattle
unguarded there. It was useless, and the Senor soon perceived
that sooner or later he must strike in offence.
For this purpose he began slowly to strengthen the forces of his
riders. Men were coming in from Texas. They were good men,
addicted to the grass-rope, the double cinch, and the ox-bow
stirrup. Senor Johnson wanted men who could shoot, and he got
"Jed," said Senor Johnson to his foreman, "the next son of a gun
that rustles any of our cows is sure loading himself full of
trouble. We'll hit his trail and will stay with it, and we'll
reach his cattle-rustling conscience with a rope."
So it came about that a little army crossed the drift fences and
entered the border country. Two days later it came out, and
mighty pleased to be able to do so. The rope had not been used.
The reason for the defeat was quite simple. The thief had run
his cattle through the lava beds where the trail at once became
difficult to follow. This delayed the pursuing party; they ran
out of water, and, as there was among them not one man well
enough acquainted with the country to know where to find more,
they had to return.
"No use, Buck," said Jed. "We'd any of us come in on a gun play,
but we can't buck the desert. We'll have to get someone who
knows the country."
"That's all right--but where?" queried Johnson.
"There's Pereza," suggested Parker. "It's the only town down
near that country."
"Might get someone there," agreed the Senor.
Next day he rode away in search of a guide. The third evening he
was back again, much discouraged.
"The country's no good," he explained. "The regular inhabitants
're a set of Mexican bums and old soaks. The cowmen's all from
north and don't know nothing more than we do. I found lots who
claimed to know that country, but when I told 'em what I wanted
they shied like a colt. I couldn't hire'em, for no money, to go
down in that country. They ain't got the nerve. I took two days
to her, too, and rode out to a ranch where they said a man lived
who knew all about it down there. Nary riffle. Man looked all
right, but his tail went down like the rest when I told him what
we wanted. Seemed plumb scairt to death. Says he lives too
close to the gang. Says they'd wipe him out sure if he done it.
Seemed plumb SCAIRT." Buck Johnson grinned. "I told him so and
he got hosstyle right off. Didn't seem no ways scairt of me. I
don't know what's the matter with that outfit down there.
They're plumb terrorised."
That night a bunch of steers was stolen from the very corrals of
the home ranch. The home ranch was far north, near Fort Sherman
itself, and so had always been considered immune from attack.
Consequently these steers were very fine ones.
For the first time Buck Johnson lost his head and his dignity.
He ordered the horses.
"I'm going to follow that -- -- into Sonora," he shouted to Jed
Parker. "This thing's got to stop!"
"You can't make her, Buck," objected the foreman. "You'll get
held up by the desert, and, if that don't finish you, they'll
tangle you up in all those little mountains down there, and
ambush you, and massacre you. You know it damn well."
"I don't give a --" exploded Senor Johnson, "if they do. No man
can slap my face and not get a run for it."
Jed Parker communed with himself.
"Senor," said he, at last,"it's no good; you can't do it. You
got to have a guide. You wait three days and I'll get you one."
"You can't do it," insisted the Senor. "I tried every man in the
"Will you wait three days?" repeated the foreman.
Johnson pulled loose his latigo. His first anger had cooled.
"All right," he agreed, "and you can say for me that I'll pay
five thousand dollars in gold and give all the men and horses he
needs to the man who has the nerve to get back that bunch of
cattle, and bring in the man who rustled them. I'll sure make
this a test case."
So Jed Parker set out to discover his man with nerve.
At about ten o'clock of the Fourth of July a rider topped the
summit of the last swell of land, and loped his animal down into
the single street of Pereza. The buildings on either side were
flat-roofed and coated with plaster. Over the sidewalks extended
wooden awnings, beneath which opened very wide doors into the
coolness of saloons. Each of these places ran a bar, and also
games of roulette, faro, craps, and stud poker. Even this early
in the morning every game was patronised.
The day was already hot with the dry, breathless, but
exhilarating, beat of the desert. A throng of men idling at the
edge of the sidewalks, jostling up and down their centre, or
eddying into the places of amusement, acknowledged the power of
summer by loosening their collars, carrying their coats on their
arms. They were as yet busily engaged in recognising
acquaintances. Later they would drink freely and gamble, and
perhaps fight. Toward all but those whom they recognised they
preserved an attitude of potential suspicion, for here were
gathered the "bad men" of the border countries. A certain
jealousy or touchy egotism lest the other man be considered
quicker on the trigger, bolder, more aggressive than himself,
kept each strung to tension. An occasional shot attracted little
notice. Men in the cow-countries shoot as casually as we strike
matches, and some subtle instinct told them that the reports were
As the rider entered the one street, however, a more definite
cause of excitement drew the loose population toward the centre
of the road. Immediately their mass blotted out what had
interested them. Curiosity attracted the saunterers; then in
turn the frequenters of the bars and gambling games. In a very
few moments the barkeepers, gamblers, and look-out men, held
aloof only by the necessities of their calling, alone of all the
population of Pereza were not included in the newly-formed ring.
The stranger pushed his horse resolutely to the outer edge of the
crowd where, from his point of vantage, he could easily overlook
their heads. He was a quiet-appearing young fellow, rather
neatly dressed in the border costume, rode a "centre fire," or
single-cinch, saddle, and wore no chaps. He was what is known as
a "two-gun man": that is to say, he wore a heavy Colt's revolver
on either hip. The fact that the lower ends of his holsters were
tied down, in order to facilitate the easy withdrawal of the
revolvers, seemed to indicate that he expected to use them. He
had furthermore a quiet grey eye, with the glint of steel that
bore out the inference of the tied holsters.
The newcomer dropped his reins on his pony's neck, eased himself
to an attitude of attention, and looked down gravely on what was
taking place. He saw over the heads of the bystanders a tall,
muscular, wild-eyed man, hatless, his hair rumpled into staring
confusion, his right sleeve rolled to his shoulder, a
wicked-looking nine-inch knife in his hand, and a red bandana
handkerchief hanging by one corner from his teeth.
"What's biting the locoed stranger?" the young man inquired of
his neighbour.
The other frowned at him darkly.
"Dare's anyone to take the other end of that handkerchief in his
teeth, and fight it out without letting go."
"Nice joyful proposition," commented the young man.
He settled himself to closer attention. The wild-eyed man was
talking rapidly. What he said cannot be printed here. Mainly
was it derogatory of the southern countries. Shortly it became
boastful of the northern, and then of the man who uttered it.
He swaggered up and down, becoming always the more insolent as
his challenge remained untaken.
"Why don't you take him up?" inquired the young man, after a
"Not me!" negatived the other vigorously. "I'll go yore little
old gunfight to a finish, but I don't want any cold steel in
mine. Ugh! it gives me the shivers. It's a reg'lar Mexican
trick! With a gun it's down and out, but this knife work is too
slow and searchin'."
The newcomer said nothing, but fixed his eye again on the raging
man with the knife.
"Don't you reckon he's bluffing? "be inquired.
"Not any!" denied the other with emphasis. "He's jest drunk
enough to be crazy mad."
The newcomer shrugged his shoulders and cast his glance
searchingly over the fringe of the crowd. It rested on a Mexican.
"Hi, Tony! come here," he called.
The Mexican approached, flashing his white teeth.
"Here," said the stranger, "lend me your knife a minute."
The Mexican, anticipating sport of his own peculiar kind, obeyed
with alacrity.
"You fellows make me tired," observed the stranger, dismounting.
"He's got the whole townful of you bluffed to a standstill. Damn
if I don't try his little game."
He hung his coat on his saddle, shouldered his way through the
press, which parted for him readily, and picked up the other
corner of the handkerchief.
"Now, you mangy son of a gun," said he.
Jed Parker straightened his back, rolled up the bandana
handkerchief, and thrust it into his pocket, hit flat with his
hand the touselled mass of his hair, and thrust the long hunting
knife into its sheath.
"You're the man I want," said he.
Instantly the two-gun man had jerked loose his weapons and was
covering the foreman.
"AM I!" he snarled.
Not jest that way," explained Parker. "My gun is on my hoss, and
you can have this old toad-sticker if you want it. I been
looking for you, and took this way of finding you. Now, let's go
The stranger looked him in the eye for nearly a half minute
without lowering his revolvers.
"I go you," said he briefly, at last.
But the crowd, missing the purport, and in fact the very
occurrence of this colloquy, did not understand. It thought the
bluff had been called, and naturally, finding harmless what had
intimidated it, gave way to an exasperated impulse to get even.
"You -- -- -- bluffer!" shouted a voice, "don't you think you can
run any such ranikaboo here!"
Jed Parker turned humorously to his companion.
"Do we get that talk?" he inquired gently.
For answer the two-gun man turned and walked steadily in the
direction of the man who had shouted. The latter's hand strayed
uncertainly toward his own weapon, but the movement paused when
the stranger's clear, steel eye rested on it.
"This gentleman," pointed out the two-gun man softly, "is an old
friend of mine. Don't you get to calling of him names."
His eye swept the bystanders calmly.
"Come on, Jack," said be, addressing Parker.
On the outskirts be encountered the Mexican from whom he bad
borrowed the knife.
"Here, Tony," said he with a slight laugh, "here's a peso.
You'll find your knife back there where I had to drop her."
He entered a saloon, nodded to the proprietor, and led the way
through it to a boxlike room containing a board table and two
"Make good,"he commanded briefly.
"I'm looking for a man with nerve," explained Parker, with equal
succinctness. "You're the man."
"Do you know the country south of here?"
The stranger's eyes narrowed.
"Proceed," said he.
"I'm foreman of the Lazy Y of Soda Springs Valley range,"
explained Parker. "I'm looking for a man with sand enough and
sabe of the country enough to lead a posse after cattle-rustlers
into the border country."
"I live in this country," admitted the stranger.
"So do plenty of others, but their eyes stick out like two raw
oysters when you mention the border country. Will you tackle
"What's the proposition?"
"Come and see the old man. He'll put it to you."
They mounted their horses and rode the rest of the day. The
desert compassed them about, marvellously changing shape and
colour, and every character, with all the noiselessness of
phantasmagoria. At evening the desert stars shone steady and
unwinking, like the flames of candles. By moonrise they came to
the home ranch.
The buildings and corrals lay dark and silent against the
moonlight that made of the plain a sea of mist. The two men
unsaddled their horses and turned them loose in the wire-fenced
"pasture," the necessary noises of their movements sounding
sharp and clear against the velvet hush of the night. After a
moment they walked stiffly past the sheds and cook shanty, past
the men's bunk houses, and the tall windmill silhouetted against
the sky, to the main building of the home ranch under its great
cottonwoods. There a light still burned, for this was the third
day, and Buck Johnson awaited his foreman.
Jed Parker pushed in without ceremony.
"Here's your man, Buck," said he.
The stranger had stepped inside and carefully closed the door
behind him. The lamplight threw into relief the bold, free lines
of his face, the details of his costume powdered thick with
alkali, the shiny butts of the two guns in their open holsters
tied at the bottom. Equally it defined the resolute countenance
of Buck Johnson turned up in inquiry. The two men examined each
other--and liked each other at once.
"How are you," greeted the cattleman.
"Good-evening," responded the stranger.
"Sit down,"invited Buck Johnson.
The stranger perched gingerly on the edge of a chair, with an
appearance less of embarrassment than of habitual alertness.
"You'll take the job?" inquired the Senor.
"I haven't heard what it is," replied the stranger.
"Parker here--?"
"Said you'd explain."
"Very well," said Buck Johnson. He paused a moment, collecting
his thoughts. "There's too much cattle-rustling here. I'm going
to stop it. I've got good men here ready to take the job, but no
one who knows the country south. Three days ago I had a bunch of
cattle stolen right here from the home-ranch corrals, and by one
man, at that. It wasn't much of a bunch--about twenty head--but
I'm going to make a starter right here, and now. I'm going to
get that bunch back, and the man who stole them, if I have to go
to hell to do it. And I'm going to do the same with every case
of rustling that comes up from now on. I don't care if it's only
one cow, I'm going to get it back--every trip. Now, I want to
know if you'll lead a posse down into the south country and bring
out that last bunch, and the man who rustled them?"
"I don't know--" hesitated the stranger.
"I offer you five thousand dollars in gold if you'll bring back
those cows and the man who stole 'em," repeated Buck Johnson.
"And I'll give you all the horses and men you think you need."
"I'll do it,"replied the two-gun man promptly.
"Good!" cried Buck Johnson, "and you better start to-morrow."
"I shall start to-night--right now."
"Better yet. How many men do you want, and grub for how long?"
"I'll play her a lone hand."
"Alone!" exclaimed Johnson, his confidence visibly cooling.
"Alone! Do you think you can make her?"
"I'll be back with those cattle in not more than ten days."
"And the man," supplemented the Senor.
"And the man. What's more, I want that money here when I come
in. I don't aim to stay in this country over night."
A grin overspread Buck Johnson's countenance. He understood.
"Climate not healthy for you?" he hazarded. "I guess you'd be
safe enough all right with us. But suit yourself. The money
will be here."
"That's agreed?" insisted the two-gun man.
"I want a fresh horse--I'll leave mine--he's a good one. I want
a little grub."
"All right. Parker'll fit you out."
The stranger rose.
"I'll see you in about ten days."
"Good luck," Senor Buck Johnson wished him.
The next morning Buck Johnson took a trip down into the "pasture"
of five hundred wire-fenced acres.
"He means business," he confided to Jed Parker, on his return.
"That cavallo of his is a heap sight better than the Shorty horse
we let him take. Jed, you found your man with nerve, all right.
How did you do it?"
The two settled down to wait, if not with confidence, at least
with interest. Sometimes, remembering the desperate character of
the outlaws, their fierce distrust of any intruder, the wildness
of the country, Buck Johnson and his foreman inclined to the
belief that the stranger had undertaken a task beyond the powers
of any one man. Again, remembering the stranger's cool grey eye,
the poise of his demeanour, the quickness of his movements, and
the two guns with tied holsters to permit of easy withdrawal,
they were almost persuaded that he might win.
"He's one of those long-chance fellows," surmised Jed. "He likes
excitement. I see that by the way he takes up with my knife
play. He'd rather leave his hide on the fence than stay in the
"Well, he's all right," replied Senor Buck Johnson,"and if he
ever gets back, which same I'm some doubtful of, his dinero'll be
here for him."
In pursuance of this he rode in to Willets, where shortly the
overland train brought him from Tucson the five thousand dollars
in double eagles.
In the meantime the regular life of the ranch went on. Each
morning Sang, the Chinese cook, rang the great bell, summoning
the men. They ate, and then caught up the saddle horses for the
day, turning those not wanted from the corral into the pasture.
Shortly they jingled away in different directions, two by two, on
the slow Spanish trot of the cow-puncher. All day long thus they
would ride, without food or water for man or beast, looking the
range, identifying the stock, branding the young calves,
examining generally into the state of affairs, gazing always with
grave eyes on the magnificent, flaming, changing, beautiful,
dreadful desert of the Arizona plains. At evening when the
coloured atmosphere, catching the last glow, threw across the
Chiricahuas its veil of mystery, they jingled in again, two by
two, untired, unhasting, the glory of the desert in their
deep-set, steady eyes.
And all the day long, while they were absent, the cattle, too,
made their pilgrimage, straggling in singly, in pairs, in
bunches, in long files, leisurely, ruminantly, without haste.
There, at the long troughs filled by the windmill of the
blindfolded pump mule, they drank, then filed away again into the
mists of the desert. And Senor Buck Johnson, or his foreman,
Parker, examined them for their condition, noting the increase,
remarking the strays from another range. Later, perhaps, they,
too, rode abroad. The same thing happened at nine other ranches
from five to ten miles apart, where dwelt other fierce, silent
men all under the authority of Buck Johnson.
And when night fell, and the topaz and violet and saffron and
amethyst and mauve and lilac had faded suddenly from the
Chiricahuas, like a veil that has been rent, and the ramparts had
become slate-grey and then black--the soft-breathed night
wandered here and there over the desert, and the land fell under
an enchantment even stranger than the day's.
So the days went by, wonderful, fashioning the ways and the
characters of men. Seven passed. Buck Johnson and his foreman
began to look for the stranger. Eight, they began to speculate.
Nine, they doubted. On the tenth they gave him up--and he came.
They knew him first by the soft lowing of cattle. Jed Parker,
dazzled by the lamp, peered out from the door, and made him out
dimly turning the animals into the corral. A moment later his
pony's hoofs impacted softly on the baked earth, he dropped from
the saddle and entered the room.
"I'm late," said he briefly, glancing at the clock, which
indicated ten; "but I'm here."
His manner was quick and sharp, almost breathless, as though he
had been running.
"Your cattle are in the corral: all of them. Have you the
"I have the money here," replied Buck Johnson, laying his hand
against a drawer, "and it's ready for you when you've earned it.
I don't care so much for the cattle. What I wanted is the man
who stole them. Did you bring him?"
"Yes, I brought him," said the stranger. "Let's see that money."
Buck Johnson threw open the drawer, and drew from it the heavy
canvas sack.
"It's here. Now bring in your prisoner."
The two-gun man seemed suddenly to loom large in the doorway.
The muzzles of his revolvers covered the two before him. His
speech came short and sharp.
"I told you I'd bring back the cows and the one who rustled
them," he snapped. "I've never lied to a man yet. Your stock is
in the corral. I'll trouble you for that five thousand. I'm the
man who stole your cattle!"
The man of whom I am now to tell you came to Arizona in the early
days of Chief Cochise. He settled in the Soda Springs Valley,
and there persisted in spite of the devastating forays of that
Apache. After a time he owned all the wells and springs in the
valley, and so, naturally, controlled the grazing on that
extensive free range. Once a day the cattle, in twos and threes,
in bands, in strings, could be seen winding leisurely down the
deep-trodden and converging trails to the water troughs at the
home ranch, there leisurely to drink, and then leisurely to drift
away into the saffron and violet and amethyst distances of the
desert. At ten other outlying ranches this daily scene was
repeated. All these cattle belonged to the man, great by reason
of his priority in the country, the balance of his even
character, and the grim determination of his spirit.
When he had first entered Soda Springs Valley his companions had
called him Buck Johnson. Since then his form had squared, his
eyes had steadied to the serenity of a great authority, his
mouth, shadowed by the moustache and the beard, had closed
straight in the line of power and taciturnity. There was about
him more than a trace of the Spanish. So now he was known as
Senor Johnson, although in reality he was straight American
Senor Johnson lived at the home ranch with a Chinese cook, and
Parker, his foreman. The home ranch was of adobe, built with
loopholes like a fort. In the obsolescence of this necessity,
other buildings had sprung up unfortified. An adobe bunkhouse
for the cow-punchers, an adobe blacksmith shop, a long, low
stable, a shed, a windmill and pond-like reservoir, a whole
system of corrals of different sizes, a walled-in vegetable
garden--these gathered to themselves cottonwoods from the
moisture of their being, and so added each a little to the green
spot in the desert. In the smallest corral, between the stable
and the shed, stood a buckboard and a heavy wagon, the only
wheeled vehicles about the place. Under the shed were rows of
saddles, riatas, spurs mounted with silver, bits ornamented with
the same metal, curved short irons for the range branding, long,
heavy "stamps" for the corral branding. Behind the stable lay
the "pasture," a thousand acres of desert fenced in with wire.
There the hardy cow-ponies sought out the sparse, but nutritious,
bunch grass, sixty of them, beautiful as antelope, for they were
the pick of Senor Johnson's herds.
And all about lay the desert, shimmering, changing, many-tinted,
wonderful, hemmed in by the mountains that seemed tenuous and
thin, like beautiful mists, and by the sky that seemed hard and
polished like a turquoise.
Each morning at six o'clock the ten cow-punchers of the home
ranch drove the horses to the corral, neatly roped the dozen to
be "kept up" for that day, and rewarded the rest with a feed of
grain. Then they rode away at a little fox trot, two by two.
All day long they travelled thus, conducting the business of the
range, and at night, having completed the circle, they jingled
again into the corral.
At the ten other ranches this programme had been duplicated. The
half-hundred men of Senor Johnson's outfit had covered the area
of a European principality. And all of it, every acre, every
spear of grass, every cactus prickle, every creature on it,
practically belonged to Senor Johnson, because Senor Johnson
owned the water, and without water one cannot exist on the
This result had not been gained without struggle. The fact could
be read in the settled lines of Senor Johnson's face, and the
great calm of his grey eye. Indian days drove him often to the
shelter of the loopholed adobe ranch house, there to await the
soldiers from the Fort, in plain sight thirty miles away on the
slope that led to the foot of the Chiricahuas. He lost cattle
and some men, but the profits were great, and in time Cochise,
Geronimo, and the lesser lights had flickered out in the winds of
destiny. The sheep terror merely threatened, for it was soon
discovered that with the feed of Soda Springs Valley grew a burr
that annoyed the flocks beyond reason, so the bleating scourge
swept by forty miles away. Cattle rustling so near the Mexican
line was an easy matter. For a time Senor Johnson commanded an
armed band. He was lord of the high, the low, and the middle
justice. He violated international ethics, and for the laws of
nations he substituted his own. One by one he annihilated the
thieves of cattle, sometimes in open fight, but oftener by
surprise and deliberate massacre. The country was delivered.
And then, with indefatigable energy, Senor Johnson became a
skilled detective. Alone, or with Parker, his foreman, he rode
the country through, gathering evidence. When the evidence was
unassailable he brought offenders to book. The rebranding
through a wet blanket he knew and could prove; the ear-marking of
an unbranded calf until it could be weaned he understood; the
paring of hoofs to prevent travelling he could tell as far as he
could see; the crafty alteration of similar brands--as when a
Mexican changed Johnson's Lazy Y to a Dumb-bell Bar--he saw
through at a glance. In short, the hundred and one petty tricks
of the sneak-thief he ferreted out, in danger of his life. Then
he sent to Phoenix for a Ranger--and that was the last of the
Dumb-bell Bar brand, or the Three Link Bar brand, or the Hour
Glass Brand, or a half dozen others. The Soda Springs Valley
acquired a reputation for good order.
Senor Johnson at this stage of his career found himself dropping
into a routine. In March began the spring branding, then the
corralling and breaking of the wild horses, the summer
range-riding, the great fall round-up, the shipping of cattle,
and the riding of the winter range. This happened over and over
You and I would not have suffered from ennui. The roping and
throwing and branding, the wild swing and dash of handling stock,
the mad races to head the mustangs, the fierce combats to subdue
these raging wild beasts to the saddle, the spectacle of the
round-up with its brutish multitudes and its graceful riders, the
dust and monotony and excitement and glory of the Trail, and
especially the hundreds of incidental and gratuitous adventures
of bears and antelope, of thirst and heat, of the joy of taking
care of one's self--all these would have filled our days with the
glittering, changing throng of the unusual.
But to Senor Johnson it had become an old story. After the days
of construction the days of accomplishment seemed to him lean.
His men did the work and reaped the excitement. Senor Johnson
never thought now of riding the wild horses, of swinging the rope
coiled at his saddle horn, or of rounding ahead of the flying
herds. His inspections were business inspections. The country
was tame. The leather chaps with the silver conchas hung behind
the door. The Colt's forty-five depended at the head of the bed.
Senor Johnson rode in mufti. Of his cowboy days persisted still
the high-heeled boots and spurs, the broad Stetson hat, and the
fringed buckskin gauntlets.
The Colt's forty-five had been the last to go. Finally one
evening Senor Johnson received an express package. He opened it
before the undemonstrative Parker. It proved to contain a pocket
"gun"--a nickel-plated, thirty-eight calibre Smith & Wesson
"five-shooter." Senor Johnson examined it a little doubtfully.
In comparison with the six-shooter it looked like a toy.
"How do you, like her?" he inquired, handing the weapon to
Parker turned it over and over, as a child a rattle. Then he
returned it to its owner.
"Senor," said he, "if ever you shoot me with that little old gun,
AND I find it out the same day, I'll just raise hell with you!"
"I don't reckon she'd INJURE a man much," agreed the Senor, "but
perhaps she'd call his attention."
However, the "little old gun" took its place, not in Senor
Johnson's hip pocket, but inside the front waistband of his
trousers, and the old shiny Colt's forty-five, with its worn
leather "Texas style" holster, became a bedroom ornament.
Thus, from a frontiersman dropped Senor Johnson to the status of
a property owner. In a general way he had to attend to his
interests before the cattlemen's association; he had to arrange
for the buying and shipping, and the rest was leisure. He could
now have gone away somewhere as far as time went. So can a fish
live in trees--as far as time goes. And in the daily riding,
riding, riding over the range he found the opportunity for
abstract thought which the frontier life had crowded aside.
Every day, as always, Senor Johnson rode abroad over the land.
His surroundings had before been accepted casually as a more or
less pertinent setting of action and condition. Now he sensed
some of the fascination of the Arizona desert.
He noticed many things before unnoticed. As he jingled loosely
along on his cow-horse, he observed how the animal waded fetlock
deep in the gorgeous orange California poppies, and then he
looked up and about, and saw that the rich colour carpeted the
landscape as far as his eye could reach, so that it seemed as
though he could ride on and on through them to the distant
Chiricahuas. Only, close under the hills, lay, unobtrusive, a
narrow streak of grey. And in a few hours he had reached the
streak of grey, and ridden out into it to find himself the centre
of a limitless alkali plain, so that again it seemed the valley
could contain nothing else of importance.
Looking back, Senor Johnson could discern a tenuous ribbon of
orange--the poppies. And perhaps ahead a little shadow blotted
the face of the alkali, which, being reached and entered, spread
like fire until it, too, filled the whole plain, until it, too,
arrogated to itself the right of typifying Soda Springs Valley as
a shimmering prairie of mesquite. Flowered upland, dead lowland,
brush, cactus, volcanic rock, sand, each of these for the time
being occupied the whole space, broad as the sea. In the circlet
of the mountains was room for many infinities.
Among the foothills Senor Johnson, for the first time,
appreciated colour. Hundreds of acres of flowers filled the
velvet creases of the little hills and washed over the smooth,
rounded slopes so accurately in the placing and manner of tinted
shadows that the mind had difficulty in believing the colour not
to have been shaded in actually by free sweeps of some gigantic
brush. A dozen shades of pinks and purples, a dozen of blues,
and then the flame reds, the yellows, and the vivid greens.
Beyond were the mountains in their glory of volcanic rocks, rich
as the tapestry of a Florentine palace. And, modifying all the
others, the tinted atmosphere of the south-west, refracting the
sun through the infinitesimal earth motes thrown up constantly by
the wind devils of the desert, drew before the scene a delicate
and gauzy veil of lilac, of rose, of saffron, of amethyst, or of
mauve, according to the time of day. Senor Johnson discovered
that looking at the landscape upside down accentuated the colour
effects. It amused him vastly suddenly to bend over his saddle
horn, the top of his head nearly touching his horse's mane. The
distant mountains at once started out into redder prominence;
their shadows of purple deepened to the royal colour; the rose
veil thickened.
"She's the prettiest country God ever made!" exclaimed Senor
Johnson with entire conviction.
And no matter where he went, nor into how familiar country he
rode, the shapes of illusion offered always variety. One day the
Chiricahuas were a tableland; next day a series of castellated
peaks; now an anvil; now a saw tooth; and rarely they threw a
magnificent suspension bridge across the heavens to their
neighbours, the ranges on the west. Lakes rippling in the wind
and breaking on the shore, cattle big as elephants or small as
rabbits, distances that did not exist and forests that never
were, beds of lava along the hills swearing to a cloud shadow,
while the sky was polished like a precious stone--these, and many
other beautiful and marvellous but empty shows the great desert
displayed lavishly, with the glitter and inconsequence of a
dream. Senor Johnson sat on his horse in the hot sun, his chin
in his band, his elbow on the pommel, watching it all with grave,
unshifting eyes.
Occasionally, belated, he saw the stars, the wonderful desert
stars, blazing clear and unflickering, like the flames of
candles. Or the moon worked her necromancies, hemming him in by
mountains ten thousand feet high through which there was no pass.
And then as he rode, the mountains shifted like the scenes in a
theatre, and he crossed the little sand dunes out from the dream
country to the adobe corrals of the home ranch.
All these things, and many others, Senor Johnson now saw for the
first time, although he had lived among them for twenty years.
It struck him with the freshness of a surprise. Also it reacted
chemically on his mental processes to generate a new power within
him. The new power, being as yet unapplied, made him uneasy and
restless and a little irritable.
He tried to show some of his wonders to Parker.
"Jed," said he, one day, "this is a great country."
"You KNOW it," replied the foreman.
"Those tourists in their nickel-plated Pullmans call this a
desert. Desert, hell! Look at them flowers!"
The foreman cast an eye on a glorious silken mantle of purple, a
hundred yards broad.
"Sure," he agreed; "shows what we could do if we only had a
little water."
And again: "Jed," began the Senor, "did you ever notice them
"Sure," agreed Jed.
"Ain't that a pretty colour?"
"You bet," agreed the foreman; "now you're talking! I always,
said they was mineralised enough to make a good prospect."
This was unsatisfactory. Senor Johnson grew more restless. His
critical eye began to take account of small details. At the
ranch house one evening he, on a sudden, bellowed loudly for
Sang, the Chinese servant.
"Look at these!" he roared, when Sang appeared.
Sang's eyes opened in bewilderment.
"There, and there!" shouted the cattleman. "Look at them old
newspapers and them gun rags! The place is like a cow-yard. Why
in the name of heaven don't you clean up here!"
"Allee light," babbled Sang; "I clean him."
The papers and gun rags had lain there unnoticed for nearly a
year. Senor Johnson kicked them savagely.
"It's time we took a brace here," he growled, "we're livin' like
a lot of Oilers."[5]
[5] Oilers: Greasers--Mexicans
Sang hurried out for a broom. Senor Johnson sat where he was,
his heavy, square brows knit. Suddenly he stooped, seized one of
the newspapers, drew near the lamp, and began to read.
It was a Kansas City paper and, by a strange coincidence, was
dated exactly a year before. The sheet Senor Johnson happened to
pick up was one usually passed over by the average newspaper
reader. It contained only columns of little two- and three-line
advertisements classified as Help Wanted, Situations Wanted, Lost
and Found, and Personal. The latter items Senor Johnson
commenced to read while awaiting Sang and the broom.
The notices were five in number. The first three were of the
mysterious newspaper-correspondence type, in which Birdie
beseeches Jack to meet her at the fountain; the fourth advertised
a clairvoyant. Over the fifth Senor Johnson paused long. It
"WANTED.-By an intelligent and refined lady of pleasing
appearance, correspondence with a gentleman of means. Object
Just then Sang returned with the broom and began noisily to sweep
together the debris. The rustling of papers aroused Senor
Johnson from his reverie. At once he exploded.
"Get out of here, you debased Mongolian," he shouted; "can't you
see I'm reading?"
Sang fled, sorely puzzled, for the Senor was calm and unexcited
and aloof in his everyday habit.
Soon Jed Parker, tall, wiry, hawk-nosed, deliberate, came into
the room and flung his broad hat and spurs into the corner. Then
he proceeded to light his pipe and threw the burned match on the
"Been over to look at the Grant Pass range," he announced
cheerfully. "She's no good. Drier than cork legs. Th' country
wouldn't support three horned toads."
"Jed," quoth the Senor solemnly, "I wisht you'd hang up your hat
like I have. It don't look good there on the floor."
"Why, sure," agreed Jed, with an astonished stare.
Sang brought in supper and slung it on the red and white squares
of oilcloth. Then he moved the lamp and retired.
Senor Johnson gazed with distaste into his cup.
"This coffee would float a wedge," he commented sourly.
"She's no puling infant," agreed the cheerful Jed.
"And this!" went on the Senor, picking up what purported to be
plum duff: "Bog down a few currants in dough and call her
He ate in silence, then pushed back his chair and went to the
window, gazing through its grimy panes at the mountains, ethereal
in their evening saffron.
"Blamed Chink," he growled; "why don't he wash these windows?"
Jed laid down his busy knife and idle fork to gaze on his chief
with amazement. Buck Johnson, the austere, the aloof, the grimly
taciturn, the dangerous, to be thus complaining like a querulous
"Senor," said he, "you're off your feed."
Senor Johnson strode savagely to the table and sat down with a
"I'm sick of it," he growled; "this thing will kill me off. I
might as well go be a buck nun and be done with it."
With one round-arm sweep he cleared aside the dishes.
"Give me that pen and paper behind you," he requested.
For an hour he wrote and destroyed. The floor became littered
with torn papers. Then he enveloped a meagre result. Parker had
watched him in silence.
The Senor looked up to catch his speculative eye. His own eye
twinkled a little, but the twinkle was determined and sinister,
with only an alloy of humour.
"Senor," ventured Parker slowly, "this event sure knocks me
hell-west and crooked. If the loco you have culled hasn't
paralysed your speaking parts, would you mind telling me what in
the name of heaven, hell, and high-water is up?"
"I am going to get married," announced the Senor calmly.
"What!" shouted Parker; "who to?"
"To a lady," replied the Senor, "an intelligent and refined lady-
-of pleasing appearance."
Although the paper was a year old, Senor Johnson in due time
received an answer from Kansas. A correspondence ensued. Senor
Johnson enshrined above the big fireplace the photograph of a
woman. Before this he used to stand for hours at a time slowly
constructing in his mind what he had hitherto lacked--an ideal of
woman and of home. This ideal he used sometimes to express to
himself and to the ironical Jed.
"It must sure be nice to have a little woman waitin' for you when
you come in off'n the desert."
Or: "Now, a woman would have them windows just blooming with
flowers and white curtains and such truck."
Or: "I bet that Sang would get a wiggle on him with his little
old cleaning duds if he had a woman ahold of his jerk line."
Slowly he reconstructed his life, the life of the ranch, in terms
of this hypothesised feminine influence. Then matters came to an
understanding, Senor Johnson had sent his own portrait.
Estrella Sands wrote back that she adored big black beards, but
she was afraid of him, he had such a fascinating bad eye: no
woman could resist him. Senor Johnson at once took things for
granted, sent on to Kansas a preposterous sum of "expense" money
and a railroad ticket, and raided Goodrich's store at Willets, a
hundred miles away, for all manner of gaudy carpets, silverware,
fancy lamps, works of art, pianos, linen, and gimcracks for the
adornment of the ranch house. Furthermore, he offered wages more
than equal to a hundred miles of desert to a young Irish girl,
named Susie O'Toole, to come out as housekeeper, decorator, boss
of Sang and another Chinaman, and companion to Mrs. Johnson when
she should arrive.
Furthermore, he laid off from the range work Brent Palmer, the
most skilful man with horses, and set him to "gentling" a
beautiful little sorrel. A sidesaddle had arrived from El Paso.
It was "centre fire," which is to say it had but the single
horsehair cinch, broad, tasselled, very genteel in its suggestion
of pleasure use only. Brent could be seen at all times of day,
cantering here and there on the sorrel, a blanket tied around his
waist to simulate the long riding skirt. He carried also a sulky
and evil gleam in his eye, warning against undue levity.
Jed Parker watched these various proceedings sardonically.
Once, the baby light of innocence blue in his eye, he inquired if
he would be required to dress for dinner.
"If so," he went on, "I'll have my man brush up my low-necked
But Senor Johnson refused to be baited.
"Go on, Jed," said he; "you know you ain't got clothes enough to
dust a fiddle."
The Senor was happy these days. He showed it by an unwonted
joviality of spirit, by a slight but evident unbending of his
Spanish dignity. No longer did the splendour of the desert fill
him with a vague yearning and uneasiness. He looked upon it
confidently, noting its various phases with care, rejoicing in
each new development of colour and light, of form and illusion,
storing them away in his memory so that their recurrence should
find him prepared to recognise and explain them. For soon he
would have someone by his side with whom to appreciate them. In
that sharing be could see the reason for them, the reason for
their strange bitter-sweet effects on the human soul.
One evening he leaned on the corral fence, looking toward the
Dragoons. The sun had set behind them. Gigantic they loomed
against the western light. From their summits, like an aureola,
radiated the splendour of the dust-moted air, this evening a deep
umber. A faint reflection of it fell across the desert,
glorifying the reaches of its nothingness.
"I'll take her out on an evening like this," quoth Senor Johnson
to himself,"and I'll make her keep her eyes on the ground till we
get right up by Running Bear Knob, and then I'll let her look up
all to once. And she'll surely enjoy this life. I bet she never
saw a steer roped in her life. She can ride with me every day
out over the range and I'll show her the busting and the branding
and that band of antelope over by the Tall Windmill. I'll teach
her to shoot, too. And we can make little pack trips off in the
hills when she gets too hot--up there by Deerskin Meadows 'mongst
the high peaks."
He mused, turning over in his mind a new picture of his own life,
aims, and pursuits as modified by the sympathetic and
understanding companionship of a woman. He pictured himself as
he must seem to her in his different pursuits. The
picturesqueness pleased him. The simple, direct vanity of the
man--the wholesome vanity of a straightforward nature--awakened
to preen its feathers before the idea of the mate.
The shadows fell. Over the Chiricahuas flared the evening star.
The plain, self-luminous with the weird lucence of the arid
lands, showed ghostly. Jed Parker, coming out from the lamp-lit
adobe, leaned his elbows on the rail in silent company with his
chief. He, too, looked abroad. His mind's eye saw what his
body's eye had always told him were the insistent notes--the
alkali, the cactus, the sage, the mesquite, the lava, the choking
dust, the blinding beat, the burning thirst. He sighed in the
dim half recollection of past days.
"I wonder if she'll like the country?" he hazarded.
But Senor Johnson turned on him his steady eyes, filled with the
great glory of the desert.
"Like the country!" he marvelled slowly. "Of course! Why
shouldn't she?"
The Overland drew into Willets, coated from engine to observation
with white dust. A porter, in strange contrast of neatness,
flung open the vestibule, dropped his little carpeted step, and
turned to assist someone. A few idle passengers gazed out on the
uninteresting, flat frontier town.
Senor Johnson caught his breath in amazement. "God! Ain't she
just like her picture!" he exclaimed. He seemed to find this
For a moment he did not step forward to claim her, so she stood
looking about her uncertainly, her leather suit-case at her feet.
She was indeed like the photograph. The same full-curved,
compact little figure, the same round face, the same cupid's bow
mouth, the same appealing, large eyes, the same haze of doll's
hair. In a moment she caught sight of Senor Johnson and took two
steps toward him, then stopped. The Senor at once came forward.
"You're Mr. Johnson, ain't you?" she inquired, thrusting her
little pointed chin forward, and so elevating her baby-blue eyes
to his.
"Yes, ma'am," he acknowledged formally. Then, after a moment's
pause: "I hope you're well."
"Yes, thank you."
The station loungers, augmented by all the ranchmen and cowboys
in town, were examining her closely. She looked at them in a
swift side glance that seemed to gather all their eyes to hers.
Then, satisfied that she possessed the universal admiration, she
returned the full force of her attention to the man before her.
"Now you give me your trunk checks," he was saying, "and then
we'll go right over and get married."
"Oh!" she gasped.
"That's right, ain't it?" he demanded.
"Yes, I suppose so," she agreed faintly.
A little subdued, she followed him to the clergyman's house,
where, in the presence of Goodrich, the storekeeper, and the
preacher's wife, the two were united. Then they mounted the
buckboard and drove from town.
Senor Johnson said nothing, because he knew of nothing to say.
He drove skilfully and fast through the gathering dusk. It was a
hundred miles to the home ranch, and that hundred miles, by means
of five relays of horses already arranged for, they would cover
by morning. Thus they would avoid the dust and heat and high
winds of the day.
The sweet night fell. The little desert winds laid soft fingers
on their checks. Overhead burned the stars, clear, unflickering,
like candles. Dimly could be seen the horses, their flanks
swinging steadily in the square trot. Ghostly bushes passed
them; ghostly rock elevations. Far, in indeterminate distance,
lay the outlines of the mountains. Always, they seemed to
recede. The plain, all but invisible, the wagon trail quite so,
the depths of space--these flung heavy on the soul their weight
of mysticism. The woman, until now bolt upright in the buckboard
seat, shrank nearer to the man. He felt against his sleeve the
delicate contact of her garment and thrilled to the touch. A
coyote barked sharply from a neighbouring eminence, then
trailed off into the long-drawn, shrill howl of his species.
"What was that?" she asked quickly, in a subdued voice.
"A coyote--one of them little wolves," he explained.
The horses' hoofs rang clear on a hardened bit of the alkali
crust, then dully as they encountered again the dust of the
plain. Vast, vague, mysterious in the silence of night, filled
with strange influences breathing through space like damp winds,
the desert took them to the heart of her great spaces.
"Buck," she whispered, a little tremblingly. It was the first
time she had spoken his name.
"What is it?" he asked, a new note in his voice.
But for a time she did not reply. Only the contact against his
sleeve increased by ever so little.
"Buck," she repeated, then all in a rush and with a sob, "Oh, I'm
Tenderly the man drew her to him. Her head fell against his
shoulder and she hid her eyes.
"There, little girl," he reassured her, his big voice rich and
musical. "There's nothing to get scairt of, I'll take care of
you. What frightens you, honey?"
She nestled close in his arm with a sigh of half relief.
"I don't know," she laughed, but still with a tremble in her
tones. "It's all so big and lonesome and strange--and I'm so
"There, little girl," he repeated.
They drove on and on. At the end of two hours they stopped. Men
with lanterns dazzled their eyes. The horses were changed, and
so out again into the night where the desert seemed to breathe in
deep, mysterious exhalations like a sleeping beast.
Senor Johnson drove his horses masterfully with his one free
hand. The road did not exist, except to his trained eves. They
seemed to be swimming out, out, into a vapour of night with the
wind of their going steady against their faces.
"Buck," she murmured, "I'm so tired."
He tightened his arm around her and she went to sleep,
half-waking at the ranches where the relays waited, dozing again
as soon as the lanterns dropped behind. And Senor Johnson, alone
with his horses and the solemn stars, drove on, ever on, into the
By grey of the early summer dawn they arrived. The girl wakened,
descended, smiling uncertainly at Susie O'Toole, blinking
somnolently at her surroundings. Susie put her to bed in the
little southwest room where hung the shiny Colt's forty-five in
its worn leather "Texas-style" holster. She murmured incoherent
thanks and sank again to sleep, overcome by the fatigue of
unaccustomed travelling, by the potency of the desert air, by the
excitement of anticipation to which her nerves had long been
Senor Johnson did not sleep. He was tough, and used to it. He
lit a cigar and rambled about, now reading the newspapers he had
brought with him, now prowling softly about the building, now
visiting the corrals and outbuildings, once even the
thousand-acre pasture where his saddle-horse knew him and came to
him to have its forehead rubbed. The dawn broke in good earnest,
throwing aside its gauzy draperies of mauve. Sang, the Chinese
cook, built his fire. Senor Johnson forbade him to clang the
rising bell, and himself roused the cow-punchers. The girl slept
on. Senor Johnson tip-toed a dozen times to the bedroom door.
Once he ventured to push it open. He looked long within, then
shut it softly and tiptoed out into the open, his eyes shining.
"Jed," he said to his foreman, "you don't know how it made me
feel. To see her lying there so pink and soft and pretty, with
her yaller hair all tumbled about and a little smile on her--
there in my old bed, with my old gun hanging over her that
way--By Heaven, Jed, it made me feel almost HOLY!"
About noon she emerged from the room, fully refreshed and wide
awake. She and Susie O'Toole had unpacked at least one of the
trunks, and now she stood arrayed in shirtwaist and blue skirt.
At once she stepped into the open air and looked about her with
considerable curiosity.
"So this is a real cattle ranch," was her comment.
Senor Johnson was at her side pressing on her with boyish
eagerness the sights of the place. She patted the stag hounds
and inspected the garden. Then, confessing herself hungry, she
obeyed with alacrity Sang's call to an early meal. At the table
she ate coquettishly, throwing her birdlike side glances at the
man opposite.
"I want to see a real cowboy," she announced, as she pushed her
chair back.
"Why, sure!" cried Senor Johnson joyously. "Sang! hi, Sang!
Tell Brent Palmer to step in here a minute."
After an interval the cowboy appeared, mincing in on his
high-heeled boots, his silver spurs jingling, the fringe of his
chaps impacting softly on the leather. He stood at ease, his
broad hat in both hands, his dark, level brows fixed on his
"Shake hands with Mrs. Johnson, Brent. I called you in because
she said she wanted to see a real cow-puncher."
"Oh, BUCK!" cried the woman.
For an instant the cow-puncher's level brows drew together. Then
he caught the woman's glance fair. He smiled.
"Well, I ain't much to look at," he proffered.
"That's not for you to say, sir," said Estrella, recovering.
"Brent, here, gentled your pony for you," exclaimed Senor
"Oh," cried Estrella, "have I a pony? How nice. And it was so
good of you, Mr. Brent. Can't I see him? I want to see him. I
want to give him a piece of sugar." She fumbled in the bowl.
"Sure you can see him. I don't know as he'll eat sugar. He
ain't that educated. Think you could teach him to eat sugar,
"I reckon," replied the cowboy.
They went out toward the corral, the cowboy joining them as a
matter of course. Estrella demanded explanations as she went
along. Their progress was leisurely. The blindfolded pump mule
interested her.
"And he goes round and round that way all day without stopping,
thinking he's really getting somewhere!" she marvelled. "I think
that's a shame! Poor old fellow, to get fooled that way!"
"It is some foolish," said Brent Palmer, "but he ain't any worse
off than a cow-pony that hikes out twenty mile and then twenty
"No, I suppose not," admitted Estrella.
"And we got to have water, you know," added Senor Johnson.
Brent rode up the sorrel bareback. The pretty animal, gentle as
a kitten, nevertheless planted his forefeet strongly and snorted
at Estrella.
"I reckon he ain't used to the sight of a woman," proffered the
Senor, disappointed. "He'll get used to you. Go up to him
soft-like and rub him between the eyes."'
Estrella approached, but the pony jerked back his head with every
symptom of distrust. She forgot the sugar she had intended to
offer him.
"He's a perfect beauty," she said at last, "but, my! I'd never
dare ride him. I'm awful scairt of horses."
"Oh, he'll come around all right," assured Brent easily. "I'll
fix him."
"Oh, Mr. Brent," she exclaimed, "don't think I don't appreciate
what you've done. I'm sure he's really just as gentle as he can
be. It's only that I'm foolish."
"I'll fix him," repeated Brent.
The two men conducted her here and there, showing her the various
institutions of the place. A man bent near the shed nailing a
shoe to a horse's hoof.
"So you even have a blacksmith!" said Estrella. Her guides
laughed amusedly.
"Tommy, come here!" called the Senor.
The horseshoer straightened up and approached. He was a lithe,
curly-haired young boy, with a reckless, humorous eye and a
smooth face, now red from bending over.
"Tommy, shake hands with Mrs. Johnson," said the Senor. "Mrs.
Johnson wants to know if you're the blacksmith." He exploded in
"Oh, BUCK!" cried Estrella again.
"No, ma'am," answered the boy directly; "I'm just tacking a shoe
on Danger, here. We all does our own blacksmithing."
His roving eye examined her countenance respectfully, but with
admiration. She caught the admiration and returned it, covertly
but unmistakably, pleased that her charms were appreciated.
They continued their rounds. The sun was very hot and the dust
deep. A woman would have known that these things distressed
Estrella. She picked her way through the debris; she dropped her
head from the burning; she felt her delicate garments moistening
with perspiration, her hair dampening; the dust sifted up through
the air. Over in the large corral a bronco buster, assisted by
two of the cowboys, was engaged in roping and throwing some wild
mustangs. The sight was wonderful, but here the dust billowed in
"I'm getting a little hot and tired," she confessed at last. "I
think I'll go to the house."
But near the shed she stopped again, interested in spite of
herself by a bit of repairing Tommy had under way. The tire of a
wagon wheel had been destroyed. Tommy was mending it. On the
ground lay a fresh cowhide. From this Tommy was cutting a wide
strip. As she watched lie measured the strip around the
circumference of the wheel.
"He isn't going to make a tire of that!" she exclaimed,
"Sure," replied Senor Johnson.
"Will it wear?"
"It'll wear for a month or so, till we can get another from
Estrella advanced and felt curiously of the rawhide. Tommy was
fastening it to the wheel at the ends only.
"But how can it stay on that way?" she objected. "It'll come
right off as soon as you use it."
"It'll harden on tight enough."
"Why?" she persisted. "Does it shrink much when it dries?"
Senor Johnson stared to see if she might be joking. "Does it
shrink?" he repeated slowly. "There ain't nothing shrinks more,
nor harder. It'll mighty nigh break that wood."
Estrella, incredulous, interested, she could not have told why,
stooped again to feel the soft, yielding hide. She shook her
"You're joking me because I'm a tenderfoot," she accused
brightly. "I know it dries hard, and I'll believe it shrinks a
lot, but to break wood--that's piling it on a little thick."
"No, that's right, ma'am," broke in Brent Palmer. "It's awful
strong. It pulls like a horse when the desert sun gets on it.
You wrap anything up in a piece of that hide and see what
happens. Some time you take and wrap a piece around a potato and
put her out in the sun and see how it'll squeeze the water out of
"Is that so?" she appealed to Tommy. "I can't tell when they are
making fun of me."
"Yes, ma'am, that's right," he assured her.
Estrella passed a strip of the flexible hide playfully about her
"And if I let that dry that way I'd be handcuffed hard and fast,"
she said.
"It would cut you down to the bone," supplemented Brent Palmer.
She untwisted the strip, and stood looking at it, her eyes wide.
"I--I don't know why--" she faltered. "The thought makes me a
little sick. Why, isn't it queer? Ugh! it's like a snake!" She
flung it from her energetically and turned toward the ranch
The honeymoon developed and the necessary adjustments took place.
The latter Senor Johnson had not foreseen; and yet, when the
necessity for them arose, he acknowledged them right and proper.
"Course she don't want to ride over to Circle I with us," he
informed his confidant, Jed Parker. "It's a long ride, and she
ain't used to riding yet. Trouble is I've been thinking of doing
things with her just as if she was a man. Women are different.
They likes different things."
This second idea gradually overlaid the first in Senor Johnson's
mind. Estrella showed little aptitude or interest in the rougher
side of life. Her husband's statement as to her being still
unused to riding was distinctly a euphemism. Estrella never
arrived at the point of feeling safe on a horse. In time she
gave up trying, and the sorrel drifted back to cow-punching. The
range work she never understood.
As a spectacle it imposed itself on her interest for a week; but
since she could discover no real and vital concern in the welfare
of cows, soon the mere outward show became an old story.
Estrella's sleek nature avoided instinctively all that interfered
with bodily well-being. When she was cool and well-fed and not
thirsty, and surrounded by a proper degree of feminine
daintiness, then she was ready to amuse herself. But she could
not understand the desirability of those pleasures for which a
certain price in discomfort must be paid. As for firearms, she
confessed herself frankly afraid of them. That was the point at
which her intimacy with them stopped.
The natural level to which these waters fell is easily seen.
Quite simply, the Senor found that a wife does not enter fully
into her husband's workaday life. The dreams he had dreamed did
not come true.
This was at first a disappointment to him, of course, but the
disappointment did not last. Senor Johnson was a man of sense,
and he easily modified his first scheme of married life.
"She'd get sick of it, and I'd get sick of it," he formulated his
new philosophy. "Now I got something to come back to, somebody
to look forward to. And it's a WOMAN; it ain't one of these darn
gangle-leg cowgirls. The great thing is to feel you BELONG to
someone; and that someone nice and cool and fresh and purty is
waitin' for you when you come in tired. It beats that other
little old idee of mine slick as a gun barrel."
So, during this, the busy season of the range riding, immediately
before the great fall round-ups, Senor Johnson rode abroad all
day, and returned to his own hearth as many evenings of the week
as he could. Estrella always saw him coming and stood in the
doorway to greet him. He kicked off his spurs, washed and dusted
himself, and spent the evening with his wife. He liked the sound
of exactly that phrase, and was fond of repeating it to himself
in a variety of connections.
"When I get in I'll spend the evening with my wife." "If I don't
ride over to Circle I, I'll spend the evening with my wife," and
so on. He had a good deal to tell her of the day's discoveries,
the state of the range, and the condition of the cattle. To all
of this she listened at least with patience. Senor Johnson, like
most men who have long delayed marriage, was self-centred without
knowing it. His interest in his mate had to do with her
personality rather than with her doings.
"What you do with yourself all day to-day?" he occasionally
"Oh, there's lots to do," she would answer, a trifle listlessly;
and this reply always seemed quite to satisfy his interest in the
Senor Johnson, with a curiously instant transformation often to
be observed among the adventurous, settled luxuriously into the
state of being a married man. Its smallest details gave him
distinct and separate sensations of pleasure.
"I plumb likes it all," he said. "I likes havin' interest in some
fool geranium plant, and I likes worryin' about the screen doors
and all the rest of the plumb foolishness. It does me good. It
feels like stretchin' your legs in front of a good warm fire."
The centre, the compelling influence of this new state of
affairs, was undoubtedly Estrella, and yet it is equally to be
doubted whether she stood for more than the suggestion. Senor
Johnson conducted his entire life with reference to his wife.
His waking hours were concerned only with the thought of her, his
every act revolved in its orbit controlled by her influence.
Nevertheless she, as an individual human being, had little to do
with it. Senor Johnson referred his life to a state of affairs
he had himself invented and which he called the married state,
and to a woman whose attitude he had himself determined upon and
whom be designated as his wife. The actual state of affairs--
whatever it might be--he did not see; and the actual woman
supplied merely the material medium necessary to the reality of
his idea. Whether Estrella's eyes were interested or bored,
bright or dull, alert or abstracted, contented or afraid, Senor
Johnson could not have told you. He might have replied promptly
enough--that they were happy and loving. That is the way Senor
Johnson conceived a wife's eyes.
The routine of life, then, soon settled. After breakfast the
Senor insisted that his wife accompany him on a short tour of
inspection. "A little pasear," he called it, "just to get set
for the day." Then his horse was brought, and he rode away on
whatever business called him. Like a true son of the alkali, he
took no lunch with him, nor expected his horse to feed until his
return. This was an hour before sunset. The evening passed as
has been described. It was all very simple.
When the business hung close to the ranch house was in the bronco
busting, the rebranding of bought cattle, and the like--he was
able to share his wife's day. Estrella conducted herself
dreamily, with a slow smile for him when his actual presence
insisted on her attention. She seemed much given to staring out
over the desert. Senor Johnson, appreciatively, thought he could
understand this. Again, she gave much leisure to rocking back
and forth on the low, wide veranda, her hands idle, her eyes
vacant, her lips dumb. Susie O'Toole had early proved
incompatible and had gone.
"A nice, contented, home sort of a woman," said Senor Johnson.
One thing alone besides the deserts on which she never seemed
tired of looking, fascinated her. Whenever a beef was killed for
the uses of the ranch, she commanded strips of the green skin.
Then, like a child, she bound them and sewed them and nailed them
to substances particularly susceptible to their constricting
power. She choked the necks of green gourds, she indented the
tender bark of cottonwood shoots, she expended an apparently
exhaustless ingenuity on the fabrication of mechanical devices
whose principle answered to the pulling of the drying rawhide.
And always along the adobe fence could be seen a long row of
potatoes bound in skin, some of them fresh and smooth and round;
some sweating in the agony of squeezing; some wrinkled and dry
and little, the last drops of life tortured out of them. Senor
Johnson laughed good-humouredly at these toys, puzzled to explain
their fascination for his wife.
"They're sure an amusing enough contraption honey," said he, "but
what makes you stand out there in the hot sun staring at them
that way? It's cooler on the porch."
"I don't know," said Estrella, helplessly, turning her slow,
vacant gaze on him. Suddenly she shivered in a strong physical
revulsion. "I don't know!" she cried with passion.
After they had been married about a month Senor Johnson found it
necessary to drive into Willets.
"How would you like to go, too, and buy some duds?" he asked
"Oh!" she cried strangely. "When?"
"Day after tomorrow."
The trip decided, her entire attitude changed. The vacancy of
her gaze lifted; her movements quickened; she left off staring at
the desert, and her rawhide toys were neglected. Before
starting, Senor Johnson gave her a check book. He explained that
there were no banks in Willets, but that Goodrich, the
storekeeper, would honour her signature.
"Buy what you want to, honey," said he. "Tear her wide open. I'm
good for it."
"How much can I draw?" she asked, smiling.
"As much as you want to," he replied with emphasis.
"Take care"--she poised before him with the check book extended--
"I may draw--I might draw fifty thousand dollars."
"Not out of Goodrich," he grinned; "you'd bust the game. But
hold him up for the limit, anyway."
He chuckled aloud, pleased at the rare, bird-like coquetry of the
woman. They drove to Willets. It took them two days to go and
two days to return. Estrella went through the town in a cyclone
burst of enthusiasm, saw everything, bought everything, exhausted
everything in two hours. Willets was not a large place. On her
return to the ranch she sat down at once in the rocking-chair on
the veranda. Her hands fell into her lap. She stared out over
the desert.
Senor Johnson stole up behind her, clumsy as a playful bear. His
eyes followed the direction of hers to where a cloud shadow lay
across the slope, heavy, palpable, untransparent, like a blotch
of ink.
"Pretty, isn't it, honey?" said he. "Glad to get back?"
She smiled at him her vacant, slow smile.
"Here's my check book," she said; "put it away for me. I'm
through with it."
"I'll put it in my desk," said he. "It's in the left-hand
cubbyhole," he called from inside.
"Very well," she replied.
He stood in the doorway, looking fondly at her unconscious
shoulders and the pose of her blonde head thrown back against the
high rocking-chair.
"That's the sort of a woman, after all," said Senor Johnson. "No
blame fuss about her."
This, as you well may gather, was in the summer routine. Now the
time of the great fall round-up drew near. The home ranch began
to bustle in preparation.
All through Cochise County were short mountain ranges set down,
apparently at random, like a child's blocks. In and out between
them flowed the broad, plain-like valleys. On the valleys were
the various ranges, great or small, controlled by the different
individuals of the Cattlemen's Association. During the year an
unimportant, but certain, shifting of stock took place. A few
cattle of Senor Johnson's Lazy Y eluded the vigilance of his
riders to drift over through the Grant Pass and into the ranges
of his neighbour; equally, many of the neighbour's steers watered
daily at Senor Johnson's troughs. It was a matter of courtesy to
permit this, but one of the reasons for the fall round-up was a
redistribution to the proper ranges. Each cattle-owner sent an
outfit to the scene of labour. The combined outfits moved slowly
from one valley to another, cutting out the strays, branding the
late calves, collecting for the owner of that particular range
all his stock, that he might select his marketable beef. In turn
each cattleman was host to his neighbours and their men.
This year it had been decided to begin the circle of the round-up
at the C 0 Bar, near the banks of the San Pedro. Thence it would
work eastward, wandering slowly in north and south deviation, to
include all the country, until the final break-up would occur at
the Lazy Y.
The Lazy Y crew was to consist of four men, thirty riding horses,
a "chuck wagon," and cook. These, helping others, and receiving
help in turn, would suffice, for in the round-up labour was
pooled to a common end. With them would ride Jed Parker, to
safeguard his master's interests.
For a week the punchers, in their daily rides, gathered in the
range ponies. Senor Johnson owned fifty horses which he
maintained at the home ranch for every-day riding, two hundred
broken saddle animals, allowed the freedom of the range, except
when special occasion demanded their use, and perhaps half a
thousand quite unbroken--brood mares, stallions, young horses,
broncos, and the like. At this time of year it was his habit to
corral all those saddlewise in order to select horses for the
round-ups and to replace the ranch animals. The latter he turned
loose for their turn at the freedom of the range.
The horses chosen, next the men turned their attention to outfit.
Each had, of course, his saddle, spurs, and "rope." Of the
latter the chuck wagon carried many extra. That vehicle,
furthermore, transported such articles as the blankets, the
tarpaulins under which to sleep, the running irons for branding,
the cooking layout, and the men's personal effects. All was in
readiness to move for the six weeks' circle, when a complication
arose. Jed Parker, while nimbly escaping an irritated steer,
twisted the high heel of his boot on the corral fence. He
insisted the injury amounted to nothing. Senor Johnson however,
"It don't amount to nothing, Jed," he pronounced, after
manipulation, "but she might make a good able-bodied injury with
a little coaxing. Rest her a week and then you'll be all
"Rest her, the devil!" growled Jed; "who's going to San Pedro?"
"I will, of course," replied the Senor promptly. "Didje think
we'd send the Chink?"
"I was first cousin to a Yaqui jackass for sendin' young Billy
Ellis out. He'll be back in a week. He'd do."
"So'd the President," the Senor pointed out; "I hear he's had
some experience."
"I hate to have you to go," objected Jed. "There's the missis."
He shot a glance sideways at his chief.
"I guess she and I can stand it for a week," scoffed the latter.
"Why, we are old married folks by now. Besides, you can take
care of her."
"I'll try," said Jed Parker, a little grimly.
The round-up crew started early the next morning, just about
sun-up. Senor Johnson rode first, merely to keep out of the
dust. Then followed Torn Rich, jogging along easily in the
cow-puncher's "Spanish trot" whistling soothingly to quiet the
horses, giving a lead to the band of saddle animals strung out
loosely behind him. These moved on gracefully and lightly in the
manner of the unburdened plains horse, half decided to follow
Tom's guidance, half inclined to break to right or left. Homer
and Jim Lester flanked them, also riding in a slouch of apparent
laziness, but every once in a while darting forward like bullets
to turn back into the main herd certain individuals whom the
early morning of the unwearied day had inspired to make a dash
for liberty. The rear was brought up by Jerky Jones, the fourth
cow-puncher, and the four-mule chuck wagon, lost in its own dust.
The sun mounted; the desert went silently through its changes.
Wind devils raised straight, true columns of dust six, eight
hundred, even a thousand feet into the air. The billows of dust
from the horses and men crept and crawled with them like a living
creature. Glorious colour, magnificent distance, astonishing
illusion, filled the world.
Senor Johnson rode ahead, looking at these things. The
separation from his wife, brief as it would be, left room in his
soul for the heart-hunger which beauty arouses in men. He loved
the charm of the desert, yet it hurt him.
Behind him the punchers relieved the tedium of the march, each
after his own manner. In an hour the bunch of loose horses lost
its early-morning good spirits and settled down to a steady
plodding, that needed no supervision. Tom Rich led them, now, in
silence, his time fully occupied in rolling Mexican cigarettes
with one hand. The other three dropped back together and
exchanged desultory remarks. Occasionally Jim Lester sang. It
was always the same song of uncounted verses, but Jim had a
strange fashion of singing a single verse at a time. After a
long interval he would sing another.
"My Love is a rider
And broncos he breaks,
But he's given up riding
And all for my sake,
For he found him a horse
And it suited him so
That he vowed he'd ne'er ride
Any other bronco!"
he warbled, and then in the same breath:
"Say, boys, did you get onto the pisano-looking shorthorn at
Willets last week?
"He sifted in wearin' one of these hardboiled hats, and carryin'
a brogue thick enough to skate on. Says he wants a job drivin'
team--that he drives a truck plenty back to St. Louis, where he
comes from. Goodrich sets him behind them little pinto cavallos
he has. Say! that son of a gun a driver! He couldn't drive
nails in a snow bank." An expressive free-hand gesture told all
there was to tell of the runaway. "Th' shorthorn landed
headfirst in Goldfish Charlie's horse trough. Charlie fishes him
out. 'How the devil, stranger,' says Charlie, 'did you come to
fall in here?' 'You blamed fool,' says the shorthorn, just cryin'
mad, 'I didn't come to fall in here, I come to drive horses.'"
And then, without a transitory pause:
"Oh, my love has a gun
And that gun he can use,
But he's quit his gun fighting
As well as his booze.
And he's sold him his saddle,
His spurs, and his rope,
And there's no more cow-punching
And that's what I hope."
The alkali dust, swirled back by a little breeze, billowed up and
choked him. Behind, the mules coughed, their coats whitening
with the powder. Far ahead in the distance lay the westerly
mountains. They looked an hour away, and yet every man and beast
in the outfit knew that hour after hour they were doomed, by the
enchantment of the land, to plod ahead without apparently getting
an inch nearer. The only salvation was to forget the mountains
and to fill the present moment full of little things.
But Senor Johnson, to-day, found himself unable to do this. In
spite of his best efforts he caught himself straining toward the
distant goal, becoming impatient, trying to measure progress by
landmarks--in short acting like a tenderfoot on the desert, who
wears himself down and dies, not from the hardship, but from the
nervous strain which he does not know how to avoid. Senor
Johnson knew this as well as you and I. He cursed himself
vigorously, and began with great resolution to think of something
He was aroused from this by Tom Rich, riding alongside. "Somebody
coming, Senor," said he.
Senor Johnson raised his eyes to the approaching cloud of dust.
Silently the two watched it until it resolved into a rider loping
easily along. In fifteen minutes he drew rein, his pony dropped
immediately from a gallop to immobility, he swung into a graceful
at-ease attitude across his saddle, grinned amiably, and began to
roll a cigarette.
"Billy Ellis," cried Rich.
"That's me," replied the newcomer.
"Thought you were down to Tucson?"
"I was."
"Thought you wasn't comin' back for a week yet?"
"Tommy," proffered Billy Ellis dreamily, "when you go to Tucson
next you watch out until you sees a little, squint-eyed
Britisher. Take a look at him. Then come away. He says he don't
know nothin' about poker. Mebbe he don't, but he'll outhold a
But here Senor Johnson broke in: "Billy, you're just in time.
Jed has hurt his foot and can't get on for a week yet. I want
you to take charge. I've got a lot to do at the ranch."
"Ain't got my war-bag," objected Billy.
"Take my stuff. I'll send yours on when Parker goes."
"All right."
"Well, so long."
"So long, Senor." They moved. The erratic Arizona breezes
twisted the dust of their going. Senor Johnson watched them
dwindle. With them seemed to go the joy in the old life. No
longer did the long trail possess for him its ancient
fascination. He had become a domestic man.
"And I'm glad of it," commented Senor Johnson.
The dust eddied aside. Plainly could be seen the swaying wagon,
the loose-riding cowboys, the gleaming, naked backs of the herd.
Then the veil closed over them again. But down the wind,
faintly, in snatches, came the words of Jim Lester's song:
"Oh, Sam has a gun
That has gone to the bad,
Which makes poor old Sammy
Feel pretty, damn sad,
For that gain it shoots high,
And that gun it shoots low,
And it wabbles about
Like a bucking bronco!"
Senor Johnson turned and struck spurs to his willing pony.
Senor Buck Johnson loped quickly back toward the home ranch, his
heart glad at this fortunate solution of his annoyance. The home
ranch lay in plain sight not ten miles away. As Senor Johnson
idly watched it shimmering in the heat, a tiny figure detached
itself from the mass and launched itself in his direction.
"Wonder what's eating HIM!" marvelled Senor Johnson, "--and who
is it?"
The figure drew steadily nearer. In half an hour it had
approached near enough to be recognised.
"Why, it's Jed!" cried the Senor, and spurred his horse. "What
do you mean, riding out with that foot?" he demanded sternly,
when within hailing distance.
"Foot, hell!" gasped Parker, whirling his horse alongside.
"Your wife's run away with Brent Palmer."
For fully ten seconds not the faintest indication proved that the
husband had heard, except that he lifted his bridle-hand, and the
well-trained pony stopped.
"What did you say?" he asked finally.
"Your wife's run away with Brent Palmer," repeated Jed, almost
with impatience.
Again the long pause.
"How do you know?" asked Senor Johnson, then.
"Know, hell! It's been going on for a month. Sang saw them
drive off. They took the buckboard. He heard 'em planning it.
He was too scairt to tell till they'd gone. I just found it out.
They've been gone two hours. Must be going to make the Limited."
Parker fidgeted, impatient to be off. "You're wasting time," he
snapped at the motionless figure.
Suddenly Johnson's face flamed. He reached from his saddle to
clutch Jed's shoulder, nearly pulling the foreman from his pony.
"You lie!" he cried. "You're lying to me! It ain't SO!"
Parker made no effort to extricate himself from the painful
grasp. His cool eyes met the blazing eyes of his chief.
"I wisht I did lie, Buck," he said sadly. "I wisht it wasn't so.
But it is."
Johnson's head snapped back to the front with a groan. The pony
snorted as the steel bit his flanks, leaped forward, and with
head outstretched, nostrils wide, the wicked white of the bronco
flickering in the corner of his eye, struck the bee line for the
home ranch. Jed followed as fast as he was able.
On his arrival he found his chief raging about the house like a
wild beast. Sang trembled from a quick and stormy interrogatory
in the kitchen. Chairs had been upset and let lie. Estrella's
belongings had been tumbled over. Senor Johnson there found only
too sure proof, in the various lacks, of a premeditated and
permanent flight. Still he hoped; and as long as he hoped, he
doubted, and the demons of doubt tore him to a frenzy. Jed stood
near the door, his arms folded, his weight shifted to his sound
foot, waiting and wondering what the next move was to be.
Finally, Senor Johnson, struck with a new idea, ran to his desk
to rummage in a pigeon-hole. But he found no need to do so, for
lying on the desk was what he sought--the check book from which
Estrella was to draw on Goodrich for the money she might need.
He fairly snatched it open. Two of the checks had been torn out,
stub and all. And then his eye caught a crumpled bit of blue
paper under the edge of the desk.
He smoothed it out. The check was made out to bearer and signed
Estrella Johnson. It called for fifteen thousand dollars.
Across the middle was a great ink blot, reason for its rejection.
At once Senor Johnson became singularly and dangerously cool.
"I reckon you're right, Jed," he cried in his natural voice.
"she's gone with him. She's got all her traps with her, and
she's drawn on Goodrich for fifteen thousand. And SHE never
thought of going just this time of month when the miners are in
with their dust, and Goodrich would be sure to have that much.
That's friend Palmer. Been going on a month, you say?"
"I couldn't say anything, Buck," said Parker anxiously. "A man's
never sure enough about them things till afterwards."
"I know," agreed Buck Johnson; "give me a light for my
He puffed for a moment, then rose, stretching his legs. In a
moment he returned from the other room, the old shiny Colt's
forty-five strapped loosely on his hip. Jed looked him in the
face with some anxiety. The foreman was not deceived by the
man's easy manner; in fact, he knew it to be symptomatic of one
of the dangerous phases of Senor Johnson's character.
"What's up, Buck?" he inquired.
"Just going out for a pasear with the little horse, Jed."
"I suppose I better come along?"
"Not with your lame foot, Jed."
The tone of voice was conclusive. Jed cleared his throat.
"She left this for you," said he, proffering an envelope. "Them
kind always writes."
"Sure," agreed Senor Johnson, stuffing the letter carelessly into
his side pocket. He half drew the Colt's from its holster and
slipped it back again. "Makes you feel plumb like a man to have
one of these things rubbin' against you again," he observed
irrelevantly. Then he went out, leaving the foreman leaning,
chair tilted, against the wall.
Although he had left the room so suddenly, Senor Johnson did not
at once open the gate of the adobe wall. His demeanour was gay,
for he was a Westerner, but his heart was black. Hardly did he
see beyond the convexity of his eyeballs.
The pony, warmed up by its little run, pawed the ground,
impatient to be off. It was a fine animal, clean-built,
deep-chested, one of the mustang stock descended from the Arabs
brought over by Pizarro. Sang watched fearfully from the slant
of the kitchen window. Jed Parker, even, listened for the beat
of the horse's hoofs.
But Senor Johnson stood stock-still, his brain absolutely numb
and empty. His hand brushed against something which fell, to the
ground. He brought his dull gaze to bear on it. The object
proved to be a black, wrinkled spheroid, baked hard as iron in
the sunshine of Estrella's toys, a potato squeezed to dryness by
the constricting power of the rawhide. In a row along the fence
were others. To Senor Johnson it seemed that thus his heart was
being squeezed in the fire of suffering.
But the slight movement of the falling object roused him. He
swung open the gate. The pony bowed his head delightedly. He
was not tired, but his reins depended straight to the ground, and
it was a point of honour with him to stand. At the saddle born,
in its sling, hung the riata, the "rope" without which no cowman
ever stirs abroad, but which Senor Johnson had rarely used of
late. Senor Johnson threw the reins over, seized the pony's mane
in his left hand, held the pommel with his right, and so swung
easily aboard, the pony's jump helping him to the saddle. Wheel
tracks led down the trail. He followed them.
Truth to tell, Senor Johnson had very little idea of what he was
going to do. His action was entirely instinctive. The wheel
tracks held to the southwest so he held to the southwest, too.
The pony hit his stride. The miles slipped by. After seven of
them the animal slowed to a walk. Senor Johnson allowed him to
get his wind, then spurred him on again. He did not even take
the ordinary precautions of a pursuer. He did not even glance to
the horizon in search.
About supper-time he came to the first ranch house. There he
took a bite to eat and exchanged his horse for another, a
favourite of his, named Button. The two men asked no questions.
"See Mrs. Johnson go through?" asked the Senor from the saddle.
"Yes, about three o'clock. Brent Palmer driving her. Bound for
Willets to visit the preacher's wife, she said. Ought to catch
up at the Circle I. That's where they'd all spend the night, of
course. So long."
Senor Johnson knew now the couple would follow the straight road.
They would fear no pursuit. He himself was supposed not to
return for a week, and the story of visiting the minister's wife
was not only plausible, it was natural. Jed had upset
calculations, because Jed was shrewd, and had eyes in his head.
Buck Johnson's first mental numbness was wearing away; he was
beginning to think.
The night was very still and very dark, the stars very bright in
their candle-like glow. The man, loping steadily on through the
darkness, recalled that other night, equally still, equally dark,
equally starry, when he had driven out from his accustomed life
into the unknown with a woman by his side, the sight of whom
asleep had made him feel "almost holy." He uttered a short
The pony was a good one, well equal to twice the distance he
would be called upon to cover this night. Senor Johnson managed
him well. By long experience and a natural instinct he knew just
how hard to push his mount, just how to keep inside the point
where too rapid exhaustion of vitality begins.
Toward the hour of sunrise he drew rein to look about him. The
desert, till now wrapped in the thousand little noises that make
night silence, drew breath in preparation for the awe of the
daily wonder. It lay across the world heavy as a sea of lead,
and as lifeless; deeply unconscious, like an exhausted sleeper.
The sky bent above, the stars paling. Far away the mountains
seemed to wait. And then, imperceptibly, those in the east
became blacker and sharper, while those in the west became
faintly lucent and lost the distinctness of their outline. The
change was nothing, yet everything. And suddenly a desert bird
sprang into the air and began to sing.
Senor Johnson caught the wonder of it. The wonder of it seemed
to him wasted, useless, cruel in its effect. He sighed
impatiently, and drew his hand across his eyes.
The desert became grey with the first light before the glory. In
the illusory revealment of it Senor Johnson's sharp
frontiersman's eyes made out an object moving away from him in
the middle distance. In a moment the object rose for a second
against the sky line, then disappeared. He knew it to be the
buckboard, and that the vehicle had just plunged into the dry bed
of an arroyo.
Immediately life surged through him like an electric shock. He
unfastened the riata from its sling, shook loose the noose, and
moved forward in the direction in which he had last seen the
At the top of the steep little bank he stopped behind the
mesquite, straining his eyes; luck had been good to him. The
buckboard had pulled up, and Brent Palmer was at the moment
beginning a little fire, evidently to make the morning coffee.
Senor Johnson struck spurs to his horse and half slid, half fell,
clattering, down the steep clay bank almost on top of the couple
Estrella screamed. Brent Palmer jerked out an oath, and reached
for his gun. The loop of the riata fell wide over him,
immediately to be jerked tight, binding his arms tight to his
The bronco-buster, swept from his feet by the pony's rapid turn,
nevertheless struggled desperately to wrench himself loose.
Button, intelligent at all rope work, walked steadily backward,
step by step, taking up the slack, keeping the rope tight as he
had done hundreds of times before when a steer had struggled as
this man was struggling now. His master leaped from the saddle
and ran forward. Button continued to walk slowly back. The
riata remained taut. The noose held.
Brent Palmer fought savagely, even then. He kicked, he rolled
over and over, he wrenched violently at his pinioned arms, he
twisted his powerful young body from Senor Johnson's grasp again
and again. But it was no use. In less than a minute he was
bound hard and fast. Button promptly slackened the rope. The
dust settled. The noise of the combat died. Again could be
heard the single desert bird singing against the dawn.
Senor Johnson quietly approached Estrella. The girl had, during
the struggle, gone through an aimless but frantic exhibition of
terror. Now she shrank back, her eyes staring wildly, her hands
behind her, ready to flop again over the brink of hysteria.
"What are you going to do?" she demanded, her voice unnatural.
She received no reply. The man reached out and took her by the
And then at once, as though the personal contact of the touch had
broken through the last crumb of numbness with which shock had
overlaid Buck Johnson's passions, the insanity of his rage broke
out. He twisted her violently on her face, knelt on her back,
and, with the short piece of hard rope the cowboy always carries
to "hog-tie" cattle, he lashed her wrists together. Then he
arose panting, his square black beard rising and falling with the
rise and fall of his great chest.
Estrella had screamed again and again until her face had been
fairly ground into the alkali. There she had choked and
strangled and gasped and sobbed, her mind nearly unhinged with
terror. She kept appealing to him in a hoarse voice, but could
get no reply, no indication that he had even heard. This
terrified her still more. Brent Palmer cursed steadily and
accurately, but the man did not seem to hear him either.
The tempest bad broken in Buck Johnson's soul. When he had
touched Estrella he had, for the first time, realised what he had
lost. It was not the woman--her he despised. But the dreams!
All at once he knew what they had been to him--he understood how
completely the very substance of his life had changed in response
to their slow soul-action. The new world had been blasted--the
old no longer existed to which to return.
Buck Johnson stared at this catastrophe until his sight blurred.
Why, it was atrocious! He had done nothing to deserve it! Why
had they not left him peaceful in his own life of cattle and the
trail? He had been happy. His dull eyes fell on the causes of
the ruin.
And then, finally, in the understanding of how he had been
tricked of his life, his happiness, his right to well-being, the
whole force of the man's anger flared. Brent Palmer lay there
cursing him artistically. That man had done it; that man was in
his power. He would get even. How?
Estrella, too, lay huddled, helpless and defenseless, at his
feet. She had done it. He would get even. How?
He had spoken no word. He spoke none now, either in answer to
Estrella's appeals, becoming piteous in their craving for relief
from suspense, or in response to Brent Palmer's steady stream of
insults and vituperations. Such things were far below. The
bitterness and anger and desolation were squeezing his heart.
He remembered the silly little row of potatoes sewn in the green
hide lying along the top of the adobe fence, some fresh and
round, some dripping as the rawhide contracted, some black and
withered and very small. A fierce and savage light sprang into
his eyes.
First of all he unhitched the horses from the buckboard and
turned them loose. Then, since he was early trained in Indian
warfare, he dragged Palmer to the wagon wheel, and tied him so
closely to it that he could not roll over. For, though the
bronco-buster was already so fettered that his only possible
movement was of the jack-knife variety, nevertheless he might be
able to hitch himself along the ground to a sharp stone, there to
saw through the rope about his wrists. Estrella, her husband
held in contempt. He merely supplemented her wrist bands by one
about the ankles.
Leisurely he mounted Button and turned up the wagon trail,
leaving the two. Estrella had exhausted herself. She was
capable of nothing more in the way of emotion. Her eyes tight
closed, she inhaled in deep, trembling, long-drawn breaths, and
exhaled with the name of her Maker.
Brent Palmer, on the contrary, was by no means subdued. He had
expected to be shot in cold blood. Now he did not know what to
anticipate. His black, level brows drawn straight in defiance,
he threw his curses after Johnson's retreating figure.
The latter, however, paid no attention. He had his purposes.
Once at the top of the arroyo he took a careful survey of the
landscape, now rich with dawn. Each excrescence on the plain his
half-squinted eyes noticed, and with instant skill relegated to
its proper category of soap-weed, mesquite, cactus. At length he
swung Button in an easy lope toward what looked to be a bunch of
soap-weed in the middle distance.
But in a moment the cattle could be seen plainly. Button pricked
up his ears. He knew cattle. Now he proceeded tentatively,
lifting high his little hoofs to avoid the half-seen inequalities
of the ground and the ground's growths, wondering whether he were
to be called on to rope or to drive. When the rider had
approached to within a hundred feet, the cattle started.
Immediately Button understood that he was to pursue. No rope
swung above his head, so he sheered off and ran as fast as he
could to cut ahead of the bunch. But his rider with knee and
rein forced him in. After a moment, to his astonishment, he
found himself running alongside a big steer. Button had never
hunted buffalo--Buck Johnson had.
The Colt's forty-five barked once, and then again. The steer
staggered, fell to his knees, recovered, and finally stopped, the
blood streaming from his nostrils. In a moment he fell heavily
on his side--dead.
Senor Johnson at once dismounted and began methodically to skin
the animal. This was not easy for he had no way of suspending
the carcass nor of rolling it from side to side. However, he was
practised at it and did a neat job. Two or three times he even
caught himself taking extra pains that the thin flesh strips
should not adhere to the inside of the pelt. Then he smiled
grimly, and ripped it loose.
After the hide had been removed he cut from the edge, around and
around, a long, narrow strip. With this he bound the whole into
a compact bundle, strapped it on behind his saddle, and
remounted. He returned to the arroyo.
Estrella still lay with her eyes closed. Brent Palmer looked up
keenly. The bronco-buster saw the green hide. A puzzled
expression crept across his face.
Roughly Johnson loosed his enemy from the wheel and dragged him
to the woman. He passed the free end of the riata about them
both, tying them close together. The girl continued to moan, out
of her wits with terror.
"What are you going to do now, you devil?" demanded Palmer, but
received no reply.
Buck Johnson spread out the rawhide. Putting forth his huge
strength, he carried to it the pair, bound together like a bale
of goods, and laid them on its cool surface. He threw across
them the edges, and then deliberately began to wind around and
around the huge and unwieldy rawhide package the strip he had cut
from the edge of the pelt.
Nor was this altogether easy. At last Brent Palmer understood.
He writhed in the struggle of desperation, foaming blasphemies.
The uncouth bundle rolled here and there. But inexorably the
other, from the advantage of his position, drew the thongs
And then, all at once, from vituperation the bronco-buster fell
to pleading, not for life, but for death.
"For God's sake, shoot me!" he cried from within the smothering
folds of the rawhide. "If you ever had a heart in you, shoot me!
Don't leave me here to be crushed in this vise. You wouldn't do
that to a yellow dog. An Injin wouldn't do that, Buck. It's a
joke, isn't it? Don't go away and leave me, Buck. I've done you
dirt. Cut my heart out, if you want to; I won't say a word, but
don't leave me here for the sun--"
His voice was drowned in a piercing scream, as Estrella came to
herself and understood. Always the rawhide had possessed for her
an occult fascination and repulsion. She had never been able to
touch it without a shudder, and yet she had always been drawn to
experiment with it. The terror of her doom had now added to it
for her all the vague and premonitory terrors which heretofore
she had not understood.
The richness of the dawn had flowed to the west. Day was at
hand. Breezes had begun to play across the desert; the wind
devils to raise their straight columns. A first long shaft of
sunlight shot through a pass in the Chiricahuas, trembled in the
dust-moted air, and laid its warmth on the rawhide. Senor
Johnson roused himself from his gloom to speak his first words of
the episode.
"There, damn you!" said he. "I guess you'll be close enough
together now!"
He turned away to look for his horse.
Button was a trusty of Senor Johnson's private animals. He was
never known to leave his master in the lurch, and so was
habitually allowed certain privileges. Now, instead of remaining
exactly on the spot where he was "tied to the ground," he had
wandered out of the dry arroyo bed to the upper level of the
plains, where he knew certain bunch grasses might be found. Buck
Johnson climbed the steep wooded bank in search of him.
The pony stood not ten feet distant. At his master's abrupt
appearance he merely raised his head, a wisp of grass in the
corner of his mouth, without attempting to move away. Buck
Johnson walked confidently to him, fumbling in his side pocket
for the piece of sugar with which he habitually soothed Button's
sophisticated palate. His hand encountered Estrella's letter.
He drew it out and opened it.
"Dear Buck," it read, "I am going away. I tried to be good, but
I can't. It's too lonesome for me. I'm afraid of the horses and
the cattle and the men and the desert. I hate it all. I tried
to make you see how I felt about it, but you couldn't seem to
see. I know you'll never forgive me, but I'd go crazy here. I'm
almost crazy now. I suppose you think I'm a bad woman, but I am
not. You won't believe that. Its' true though. The desert
would make anyone bad. I don't see how you stand it. You've
been good to me, and I've really tried, but it's no use. The
country is awful. I never ought to have come. I'm sorry you are
going to think me a bad woman, for I like you and admire you, but
nothing, NOTHING could make me stay here any longer." She
signed herself simply Estrella Sands, her maiden name.
Buck Johnson stood staring at the paper for a much longer time
than was necessary merely to absorb the meaning of the words.
His senses, sharpened by the stress of the last sixteen hours,
were trying mightily to cut to the mystery of a change going on
within himself. The phrases of the letter were bald enough, yet
they conveyed something vital to his inner being. He could not
understand what it was.
Then abruptly he raised his eyes.
Before him lay the desert, but a desert suddenly and miraculously
changed, a desert he had never seen before. Mile after mile it
swept away before him, hot, dry, suffocating, lifeless. The
sparse vegetation was grey with the alkali dust. The heat hung
choking in the air like a curtain. Lizards sprawled in the sun,
repulsive. A rattlesnake dragged its loathsome length from under
a mesquite. The dried carcass of a steer, whose parchment skin
drew tight across its bones, rattled in the breeze. Here and
there rock ridges showed with the obscenity of so many skeletons,
exposing to the hard, cruel sky the earth's nakedness. Thirst,
delirium, death, hovered palpable in the wind; dreadful,
unconquerable, ghastly.
The desert showed her teeth and lay in wait like a fierce beast.
The little soul of man shrank in terror before it.
Buck Johnson stared, recalling the phrases of the letter,
recalling the words of his foreman, Jed Parker. "It's too
lonesome for me," "I'm afraid," "I hate it all," "I'd go crazy
here," "The desert would make anyone bad," "The country is
awful." And the musing voice of the old cattleman, "I wonder if
she'll like the country!" They reiterated themselves over and
over; and always as refrain his own confident reply, "Like the
country? Sure! Why SHOULDN'T she?"
And then he recalled the summer just passing, and the woman
who had made no fuss. Chance remarks of hers came back to him,
remarks whose meaning he had not at the time grasped, but which
now he saw were desperate appeals to his understanding. He had
known his desert. He had never known hers.
With an exclamation Buck Johnson turned abruptly back to the
arroyo. Button followed him, mildly curious, certain that his
master's reappearance meant a summons for himself.
Down the miniature cliff the man slid, confidently, without
hesitation, sure of himself. His shoulders held squarely, his
step elastic, his eye bright, he walked to the fearful, shapeless
bundle now lying motionless on the flat surface of the alkali.
Brent Palmer had fallen into a grim silence, but Estrella still
moaned. The cattleman drew his knife and ripped loose the bonds.
Immediately the flaps of the wet rawhide fell apart, exposing to
the new daylight the two bound together. Buck Johnson leaned
over to touch the woman's shoulder.
"Estrella," said he gently.
Her eyes came open with a snap, and stared into his, wild with
the surprise of his return.
"Estrella," he repeated, "how old are you?"
She gulped down a sob, unable to comprehend the purport of his
"How old are you, Estrella?" he repeated again.
"Twenty-one," she gasped finally.
"Ah!" said he.
He stood for a moment in deep thought, then began methodically,
without haste, to cut loose the thongs that bound the two
When the man and the woman were quite freed, he stood for a
moment, the knife in his hand, looking down on them. Then he
swung himself into the saddle and rode away, straight down the
narrow arroyo, out beyond its lower widening, into the vast
plains the hither side of the Chiricahuas. The alkali dust was
snatched by the wind from beneath his horse's feet. Smaller and
smaller he dwindled, rising and falling, rising and falling in
the monotonous cow-pony's lope. The heat shimmer veiled him for
a moment, but he reappeared. A mirage concealed him, but he
emerged on the other side of it. Then suddenly he was gone. The
desert had swallowed him up.

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