The Last of the Plainsmen
Part 1 out of 4
Etext scanned by Mary Starr
THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN
Buffalo Jones needs no introduction to American sportsmen, but to
these of my readers who are unacquainted with him a few words may
not be amiss.
He was born sixty-two years ago on the Illinois prairie, and he
has devoted practically all of his life to the pursuit of wild
animals. It has been a pursuit which owed its unflagging energy
and indomitable purpose to a singular passion, almost an
obsession, to capture alive, not to kill. He has caught and
broken the will of every well-known wild beast native to western
North America. Killing was repulsive to him. He even disliked the
sight of a sporting rifle, though for years necessity compelled
him to earn his livelihood by supplying the meat of buffalo to
the caravans crossing the plains. At last, seeing that the
extinction of the noble beasts was inevitable, he smashed his
rifle over a wagon wheel and vowed to save the species. For ten
years he labored, pursuing, capturing and taming buffalo, for
which the West gave him fame, and the name Preserver of the
As civilization encroached upon the plains Buffalo Jones ranged
slowly westward; and to-day an isolated desert-bound plateau on
the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Arizona is his home. There
his buffalo browse with the mustang and deer, and are as free as
ever they were on the rolling plains.
In the spring of 1907 I was the fortunate companion of the old
plainsman on a trip across the desert, and a hunt in that
wonderful country of yellow crags, deep canyons and giant pines.
I want to tell about it. I want to show the color and beauty of
those painted cliffs and the long, brown-matted bluebell-dotted
aisles in the grand forests; I want to give a suggestion of the
tang of the dry, cool air; and particularly I want to throw a
little light upon the life and nature of that strange character
and remarkable man, Buffalo Jones.
Happily in remembrance a writer can live over his experiences,
and see once more the moonblanched silver mountain peaks against
the dark blue sky; hear the lonely sough of the night wind
through the pines; feel the dance of wild expectation in the
quivering pulse; the stir, the thrill, the joy of hard action in
perilous moments; the mystery of man's yearning for the
As a boy I read of Boone with a throbbing heart, and the silent
moccasined, vengeful Wetzel I loved.
I pored over the deeds of later men--Custer and Carson, those
heroes of the plains. And as a man I came to see the wonder, the
tragedy of their lives, and to write about them. It has been my
destiny--what a happy fulfillment of my dreams of border
spirit!--to live for a while in the fast-fading wild environment
which produced these great men with the last of the great
1. THE ARIZONA DESERT
2 THE RANGE
3. THE LAST HERD
4. THE TRAIL
5. OAK SPRING
6. THE WHITE MUSTANG
7. SNAKE GULCH
8. NAZA! NAZA! NAZA!
9. THE LAND OF THE MUSK-OX
10. SUCCESS AND FAILURE
11. ON TO THE SIWASH
12. OLD TOM
13. SINGING CLIFFS
14. ALL HEROES BUT ONE
15. JONES ON COUGARS
CHAPTER 1. THE ARIZONA DESERT
One afternoon, far out on the sun-baked waste of sage, we made
camp near a clump of withered pinyon trees. The cold desert wind
came down upon us with the sudden darkness. Even the Mormons, who
were finding the trail for us across the drifting sands, forgot
to sing and pray at sundown. We huddled round the campfire, a
tired and silent little group. When out of the lonely, melancholy
night some wandering Navajos stole like shadows to our fire, we
hailed their advent with delight. They were good-natured Indians,
willing to barter a blanket or bracelet; and one of them, a tall,
gaunt fellow, with the bearing of a chief, could speak a little
"How," said he, in a deep chest voice.
"Hello, Noddlecoddy," greeted Jim Emmett, the Mormon guide.
"Ugh!" answered the Indian.
"Big paleface--Buffalo Jones---big chief--buffalo man,"
introduced Emmett, indicating Jones.
"How." The Navajo spoke with dignity, and extended a friendly
"Jones big white chief--rope buffalo--tie up tight," continued
Emmett, making motions with his arm, as if he were whirling a
"No big--heap small buffalo," said the Indian, holding his hand
level with his knee, and smiling broadly.
Jones, erect, rugged, brawny, stood in the full light of the
campfire. He had a dark, bronzed, inscrutable face; a stern mouth
and square jaw, keen eyes, half-closed from years of searching
the wide plains; and deep furrows wrinkling his cheeks. A strange
stillness enfolded his feature the tranquility earned from a long
life of adventure.
He held up both muscular hands to the Navajo, and spread out his
"Rope buffalo--heap big buffalo--heap many--one sun."
The Indian straightened up, but kept his friendly smile.
"Me big chief," went on Jones, "me go far north--Land of Little
Sticks--Naza! Naza! rope musk-ox; rope White Manitou of Great
Slave Naza! Naza!"
"Naza!" replied the Navajo, pointing to the North Star; "no--no."
"Yes me big paleface--me come long way toward setting sun--go
cross Big Water--go Buckskin--Siwash--chase cougar."
The cougar, or mountain lion, is a Navajo god and the Navajos
hold him in as much fear and reverence as do the Great Slave
Indians the musk-ox.
"No kill cougar," continued Jones, as the Indian's bold features
hardened. "Run cougar horseback--run long way--dogs chase cougar
long time--chase cougar up tree! Me big chief--me climb
tree--climb high up--lasso cougar--rope cougar--tie cougar all
The Navajo's solemn face relaxed
"White man heap fun. No."
"Yes," cried Jones, extending his great arms. "Me strong; me rope
cougar--me tie cougar; ride off wigwam, keep cougar alive."
"No," replied the savage vehemently.
"Yes," protested Jones, nodding earnestly.
"No," answered the Navajo, louder, raising his dark head.
"Yes!" shouted Jones.
"BIG LIE!" the Indian thundered.
Jones joined good-naturedly in the laugh at his expense. The
Indian had crudely voiced a skepticism I had heard more
delicately hinted in New York, and singularly enough, which had
strengthened on our way West, as we met ranchers, prospectors and
cowboys. But those few men I had fortunately met, who really knew
Jones, more than overbalanced the doubt and ridicule cast upon
him. I recalled a scarred old veteran of the plains, who had
talked to me in true Western bluntness:
"Say, young feller, I heerd yer couldn't git acrost the Canyon
fer the deep snow on the north rim. Wal, ye're lucky. Now, yer
hit the trail fer New York, an' keep goint! Don't ever tackle the
desert, 'specially with them Mormons. They've got water on the
brain, wusser 'n religion. It's two hundred an' fifty miles from
Flagstaff to Jones range, an' only two drinks on the trail. I
know this hyar Buffalo Jones. I knowed him way back in the
seventies, when he was doin' them ropin' stunts thet made him
famous as the preserver of the American bison. I know about that
crazy trip of his'n to the Barren Lands, after musk-ox. An' I
reckon I kin guess what he'll do over there in the Siwash. He'll
rope cougars--sure he will--an' watch 'em jump. Jones would rope
the devil, an' tie him down if the lasso didn't burn. Oh! he's
hell on ropin' things. An' he's wusser 'n hell on men, an'
hosses, an' dogs."
All that my well-meaning friend suggested made me, of course,
only the more eager to go with Jones. Where I had once been
interested in the old buffalo hunter, I was now fascinated. And
now I was with him in the desert and seeing him as he was, a
simple, quiet man, who fitted the mountains and the silences, and
the long reaches of distance.
"It does seem hard to believe--all this about Jones," remarked
Judd, one of Emmett's men.
"How could a man have the strength and the nerve? And isn't it
cruel to keep wild animals in captivity? it against God's word?"
Quick as speech could flow, Jones quoted: "And God said, 'Let us
make man in our image, and give him dominion over the fish of the
sea, the fowls of the air, over all the cattle, and over every
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth'!"
"Dominion--over all the beasts of the field!" repeated Jones, his
big voice rolling out. He clenched his huge fists, and spread
wide his long arms. "Dominion! That was God's word!" The power
and intensity of him could be felt. Then he relaxed, dropped his
arms, and once more grew calm. But he had shown a glimpse of the
great, strange and absorbing passion of his life. Once he had
told me how, when a mere child, he had hazarded limb and neck to
capture a fox squirrel, how he had held on to the vicious little
animal, though it bit his hand through; how he had never learned
to play the games of boyhood; that when the youths of the little
Illinois village were at play, he roamed the prairies, or the
rolling, wooded hills, or watched a gopher hole. That boy was
father of the man: for sixty years an enduring passion for
dominion over wild animals had possessed him, and made his life
an endless pursuit.
Our guests, the Navajos, departed early, and vanished silently in
the gloom of the desert. We settled down again into a quiet that
was broken only by the low chant-like song of a praying Mormon.
Suddenly the hounds bristled, and old Moze, a surly and
aggressive dog, rose and barked at some real or imaginary desert
prowler. A sharp command from Jones made Moze crouch down, and
the other hounds cowered close together.
"Better tie up the dogs," suggested Jones. "Like as not coyotes
run down here from the hills."
The hounds were my especial delight. But Jones regarded them with
considerable contempt. When all was said, this was no small
wonder, for that quintet of long-eared canines would have tried
the patience of a saint. Old Moze was a Missouri hound that Jones
had procured in that State of uncertain qualities; and the dog
had grown old over coon-trails. He was black and white, grizzled
and battlescarred; and if ever a dog had an evil eye, Moze was
that dog. He had a way of wagging his tail--an indeterminate,
equivocal sort of wag, as if he realized his ugliness and knew he
stood little chance of making friends, but was still hopeful and
willing. As for me, the first time he manifested this evidence of
a good heart under a rough coat, he won me forever.
To tell of Moze's derelictions up to that time would take more
space than would a history of the whole trip; but the enumeration
of several incidents will at once stamp him as a dog of
character, and will establish the fact that even if his
progenitors had never taken any blue ribbons, they had at least
bequeathed him fighting blood. At Flagstaff we chained him in the
yard of a livery stable. Next morning we found him hanging by his
chain on the other side of an eight-foot fence. We took him down,
expecting to have the sorrowful duty of burying him; but Moze
shook himself, wagged his tail and then pitched into the livery
stable dog. As a matter of fact, fighting was his forte. He
whipped all of the dogs in Flagstaff; and when our blood hounds
came on from California, he put three of them hors de combat at
once, and subdued the pup with a savage growl. His crowning feat,
however, made even the stoical Jones open his mouth in amaze. We
had taken Moze to the El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, and finding
it impossible to get over to the north rim, we left him with one
of Jones's men, called Rust, who was working on the Canyon trail.
Rust's instructions were to bring Moze to Flagstaff in two weeks.
He brought the dog a little ahead time, and roared his
appreciation of the relief it to get the responsibility off his
hands. And he related many strange things. most striking of which
was how Moze had broken his chain and plunged into the raging
Colorado River, and tried to swim it just above the terrible
Sockdolager Rapids. Rust and his fellow-workmen watched the dog
disappear in the yellow, wrestling, turbulent whirl of waters,
and had heard his knell in the booming roar of the falls. Nothing
but a fish could live in that current; nothing but a bird could
scale those perpendicular marble walls. That night, however, when
the men crossed on the tramway, Moze met them with a wag of his
tail. He had crossed the river, and he had come back!
To the four reddish-brown, high-framed bloodhounds I had given
the names of Don, Tige, Jude and Ranger; and by dint of
persuasion, had succeeded in establishing some kind of family
relation between them and Moze. This night I tied up the
bloodhounds, after bathing and salving their sore feet; and I
left Moze free, for he grew fretful and surly under restraint.
The Mormons, prone, dark, blanketed figures, lay on the sand.
Jones was crawling into his bed. I walked a little way from the
dying fire, and faced the north, where the desert stretched,
mysterious and illimitable. How solemn and still it was! I drew
in a great breath of the cold air, and thrilled with a nameless
sensation. Something was there, away to the northward; it called
to me from out of the dark and gloom; I was going to meet it.
I lay down to sleep with the great blue expanse open to my eyes.
The stars were very large, and wonderfully bright, yet they
seemed so much farther off than I had ever seen them. The wind
softly sifted the sand. I hearkened to the tinkle of the cowbells
on the hobbled horses. The last thing I remembered was old Moze
creeping close to my side, seeking the warmth of my body.
When I awakened, a long, pale line showed out of the dun-colored
clouds in the east. It slowly lengthened, and tinged to red. Then
the morning broke, and the slopes of snow on the San Francisco
peaks behind us glowed a delicate pink. The Mormons were up and
doing with the dawn. They were stalwart men, rather silent, and
all workers. It was interesting to see them pack for the day's
journey. They traveled with wagons and mules, in the most
primitive way, which Jones assured me was exactly as their
fathers had crossed the plains fifty years before, on the trail
All morning we made good time, and as we descended into the
desert, the air became warmer, the scrubby cedar growth began to
fail, and the bunches of sage were few and far between. I turned
often to gaze back at the San Francisco peaks. The snowcapped
tips glistened and grew higher, and stood out in startling
relief. Some one said they could be seen two hundred miles across
the desert, and were a landmark and a fascination to all
I never raised my eyes to the north that I did not draw my breath
quickly and grow chill with awe and bewilderment with the marvel
of the desert. The scaly red ground descended gradually; bare red
knolls, like waves, rolled away northward; black buttes reared
their flat heads; long ranges of sand flowed between them like
streams, and all sloped away to merge into gray, shadowy
obscurity, into wild and desolate, dreamy and misty nothingness.
"Do you see those white sand dunes there, more to the left?"
asked Emmett. "The Little Colorado runs in there. How far does it
look to you?"
"Thirty miles, perhaps," I replied, adding ten miles to my
"It's seventy-five. We'll get there day after to-morrow. If the
snow in the mountains has begun to melt, we'll have a time
That afternoon, a hot wind blew in my face, carrying fine sand
that cut and blinded. It filled my throat, sending me to the
water cask till I was ashamed. When I fell into my bed at night,
I never turned. The next day was hotter; the wind blew harder;
the sand stung sharper.
About noon the following day, the horses whinnied, and the mules
roused out of their tardy gait. "They smell water," said Emmett.
And despite the heat, and the sand in my nostrils, I smelled it,
too. The dogs, poor foot-sore fellows, trotted on ahead down the
trail. A few more miles of hot sand and gravel and red stone
brought us around a low mesa to the Little Colorado.
It was a wide stream of swiftly running, reddish-muddy water. In
the channel, cut by floods, little streams trickled and meandered
in all directions. The main part of the river ran in close to the
bank we were on. The dogs lolled in the water; the horses and
mules tried to run in, but were restrained; the men drank, and
bathed their faces. According to my Flagstaff adviser, this was
one of the two drinks I would get on the desert, so I availed
myself heartily of the opportunity. The water was full of sand,
but cold and gratefully thirst-quenching.
The Little Colorado seemed no more to me than a shallow creek; I
heard nothing sullen or menacing in its musical flow.
"Doesn't look bad, eh?" queried Emmett, who read my thought.
"You'd be surprised to learn how many men and Indians, horses,
sheep and wagons are buried under that quicksand."
The secret was out, and I wondered no more. At once the stream
and wet bars of sand took on a different color. I removed my
boots, and waded out to a little bar. The sand seemed quite firm,
but water oozed out around my feet; and when I stepped, the whole
bar shook like jelly. I pushed my foot through the crust, and the
cold, wet sand took hold, and tried to suck me down.
"How can you ford this stream with horses?" I asked Emmett.
"We must take our chances," replied he. "We'll hitch two teams to
one wagon, and run the horses. I've forded here at worse stages
than this. Once a team got stuck, and I had to leave it; another
time the water was high, and washed me downstream.
Emmett sent his son into the stream on a mule. The rider lashed
his mount, and plunging, splashing, crossed at a pace near a
gallop. He returned in the same manner, and reported one bad
place near the other side.
Jones and I got on the first wagon and tried to coax up the dogs,
but they would not come. Emmett had to lash the four horses to
start them; and other Mormons riding alongside, yelled at them,
and used their whips. The wagon bowled into the water with a
tremendous splash. We were wet through before we had gone twenty
feet. The plunging horses were lost in yellow spray; the stream
rushed through the wheels; the Mormons yelled. I wanted to see,
but was lost in a veil of yellow mist. Jones yelled in my ear,
but I could not hear what he said. Once the wagon wheels struck a
stone or log, almost lurching us overboard. A muddy splash
blinded me. I cried out in my excitement, and punched Jones in
the back. Next moment, the keen exhilaration of the ride gave way
to horror. We seemed to drag, and almost stop. Some one roared:
"Horse down!" One instant of painful suspense, in which
imagination pictured another tragedy added to the record of this
deceitful river--a moment filled with intense feeling, and
sensation of splash, and yell, and fury of action; then the three
able horses dragged their comrade out of the quicksand. He
regained his feet, and plunged on. Spurred by fear, the horses
increased their efforts, and amid clouds of spray, galloped the
remaining distance to the other side.
Jones looked disgusted. Like all plainsmen, he hated water.
Emmett and his men calmly unhitched. No trace of alarm, or even
of excitement showed in their bronzed faces.
"We made that fine and easy," remarked Emmett.
So I sat down and wondered what Jones and Emmett, and these men
would consider really hazardous. I began to have a feeling that I
would find out; that experience for me was but in its infancy;
that far across the desert the something which had called me
would show hard, keen, perilous life. And I began to think of
reserve powers of fortitude and endurance.
The other wagons were brought across without mishap; but the dogs
did not come with them. Jones called and called. The dogs howled
and howled. Finally I waded out over the wet bars and little
streams to a point several hundred yards nearer the dogs. Moze
was lying down, but the others were whining and howling in a
state of great perturbation. I called and called. They answered,
and even ran into the water, but did not start across.
"Hyah, Moze! hyah, you Indian!" I yelled, losing my patience.
"You've already swum the Big Colorado, and this is only a brook.
This appeal evidently touched Moze, for he barked, and plunged
in. He made the water fly, and when carried off his feet,
breasted the current with energy and power. He made shore almost
even with me, and wagged his tail. Not to be outdone, Jude, Tige
and Don followed suit, and first one and then another was swept
off his feet and carried downstream. They landed below me. This
left Ranger, the pup, alone on the other shore. Of all the
pitiful yelps ever uttered by a frightened and lonely puppy, his
were the most forlorn I had ever heard. Time after time he
plunged in, and with many bitter howls of distress, went back. I
kept calling, and at last, hoping to make him come by a show of
indifference, I started away. This broke his heart. Putting up
his head, he let out a long, melancholy wail, which for aught I
knew might have been a prayer, and then consigned himself to the
yellow current. Ranger swam like a boy learning. He seemed to be
afraid to get wet. His forefeet were continually pawing the air
in front of his nose. When he struck the swift place, he went
downstream like a flash, but still kept swimming valiantly. I
tried to follow along the sand-bar, but found it impossible. I
encouraged him by yelling. He drifted far below, stranded on an
island, crossed it, and plunged in again, to make shore almost
out of my sight. And when at last I got to dry sand, there was
Ranger, wet and disheveled, but consciously proud and happy.
After lunch we entered upon the seventy-mile stretch from the
Little to the Big Colorado.
Imagination had pictured the desert for me as a vast, sandy
plain, flat and monotonous. Reality showed me desolate mountains
gleaming bare in the sun, long lines of red bluffs, white sand
dunes, and hills of blue clay, areas of level ground--in all, a
many-hued, boundless world in itself, wonderful and beautiful,
fading all around into the purple haze of deceiving distance.
Thin, clear, sweet, dry, the desert air carried a languor, a
dreaminess, tidings of far-off things, and an enthralling
promise. The fragrance of flowers, the beauty and grace of women,
the sweetness of music, the mystery of life--all seemed to float
on that promise. It was the air breathed by the lotus-eaters,
when they dreamed, and wandered no more.
Beyond the Little Colorado, we began to climb again. The sand was
thick; the horses labored; the drivers shielded their faces. The
dogs began to limp and lag. Ranger had to be taken into a wagon;
and then, one by one, all of the other dogs except Moze. He
refused to ride, and trotted along with his head down.
Far to the front the pink cliffs, the ragged mesas, the dark,
volcanic spurs of the Big Colorado stood up and beckoned us
onward. But they were a far hundred miles across the shifting
sands, and baked day, and ragged rocks. Always in the rear rose
the San Francisco peaks, cold and pure, startlingly clear and
close in the rare atmosphere.
We camped near another water hole, located in a deep,
yellow-colored gorge, crumbling to pieces, a ruin of rock, and
silent as the grave. In the bottom of the canyon was a pool of
water, covered with green scum. My thirst was effectually
quenched by the mere sight of it. I slept poorly, and lay for
hours watching the great stars. The silence was painfully
oppressive. If Jones had not begun to give a respectable
imitation of the exhaust pipe on a steamboat, I should have been
compelled to shout aloud, or get up; but this snoring would have
dispelled anything. The morning came gray and cheerless. I got up
stiff and sore, with a tongue like a rope.
All day long we ran the gauntlet of the hot, flying sand. Night
came again, a cold, windy night. I slept well until a mule
stepped on my bed, which was conducive to restlessness. At dawn,
cold, gray clouds tried to blot out the rosy east. I could hardly
get up. My lips were cracked; my tongue swollen to twice its
natural size; my eyes smarted and burned. The barrels and kegs of
water were exhausted. Holes that had been dug in the dry sand of
a dry streambed the night before in the morning yielded a scant
supply of muddy alkali water, which went to the horses.
Only twice that day did I rouse to anything resembling
enthusiasm. We came to a stretch of country showing the wonderful
diversity of the desert land. A long range of beautifully rounded
clay stones bordered the trail. So symmetrical were they that I
imagined them works of sculptors. Light blue, dark blue, clay
blue, marine blue, cobalt blue--every shade of blue was there,
but no other color. The other time that I awoke to sensations
from without was when we came to the top of a ridge. We had been
passing through red-lands. Jones called the place a strong,
specific word which really was illustrative of the heat amid
those scaling red ridges. We came out where the red changed
abruptly to gray. I seemed always to see things first, and I
cried out: "Look! here are a red lake and trees!"
"No, lad, not a lake," said old Jim, smiling at me; "that's what
haunts the desert traveler. It's only mirage!"
So I awoke to the realization of that illusive thing, the mirage,
a beautiful lie, false as stairs of sand. Far northward a clear
rippling lake sparkled in the sunshine. Tall, stately trees, with
waving green foliage, bordered the water. For a long moment it
lay there, smiling in the sun, a thing almost tangible; and then
it faded. I felt a sense of actual loss. So real had been the
illusion that I could not believe I was not soon to drink and
wade and dabble in the cool waters. Disappointment was keen. This
is what maddens the prospector or sheep-herder lost in the
desert. Was it not a terrible thing to be dying of thirst, to see
sparkling water, almost to smell it and then realize suddenly
that all was only a lying track of the desert, a lure, a
delusion? I ceased to wonder at the Mormons, and their search for
water, their talk of water. But I had not realized its true
significance. I had not known what water was. I had never
appreciated it. So it was my destiny to learn that water is the
greatest thing on earth. I hung over a three-foot hole in a dry
stream-bed, and watched it ooze and seep through the sand, and
fill up--oh, so slowly; and I felt it loosen my parched tongue,
and steal through all my dry body with strength and life. Water
is said to constitute three fourths of the universe. However that
may be, on the desert it is the whole world, and all of life.
Two days passed by, all hot sand and wind and glare. The Mormons
sang no more at evening; Jones was silent; the dogs were limp as
At Moncaupie Wash we ran into a sandstorm. The horses turned
their backs to it, and bowed their heads patiently. The Mormons
covered themselves. I wrapped a blanket round my head and hid
behind a sage bush. The wind, carrying the sand, made a strange
hollow roar. All was enveloped in a weird yellow opacity. The
sand seeped through the sage bush and swept by with a soft,
rustling sound, not unlike the wind in the rye. From time to time
I raised a corner of my blanket and peeped out. Where my feet had
stretched was an enormous mound of sand. I felt the blanket,
weighted down, slowly settle over me.
Suddenly as it had come, the sandstorm passed. It left a changed
world for us. The trail was covered; the wheels hub-deep in sand;
the horses, walking sand dunes. I could not close my teeth
without grating harshly on sand.
We journeyed onward, and passed long lines of petrified trees,
some a hundred feet in length, lying as they had fallen,
thousands of years before. White ants crawled among the ruins.
Slowly climbing the sandy trail, we circled a great red bluff
with jagged peaks, that had seemed an interminable obstacle. A
scant growth of cedar and sage again made its appearance. Here we
halted to pass another night. Under a cedar I heard the
plaintive, piteous bleat of an animal. I searched, and presently
found a little black and white lamb, scarcely able to stand. It
came readily to me, and I carried it to the wagon.
"That's a Navajo lamb," said Emmett. "It's lost. There are Navajo
Indians close by."
"Away in the desert we heard its cry," quoted one of the Mormons.
Jones and I climbed the red mesa near camp to see the sunset. All
the western world was ablaze in golden glory. Shafts of light
shot toward the zenith, and bands of paler gold, tinging to rose,
circled away from the fiery, sinking globe. Suddenly the sun
sank, the gold changed to gray, then to purple, and shadows
formed in the deep gorge at our feet. So sudden was the
transformation that soon it was night, the solemn, impressive
night of the desert. A stillness that seemed too sacred to break
clasped the place; it was infinite; it held the bygone ages, and
More days, and miles, miles, miles! The last day's ride to the
Big Colorado was unforgettable. We rode toward the head of a
gigantic red cliff pocket, a veritable inferno, immeasurably hot,
glaring, awful. It towered higher and higher above us. When we
reached a point of this red barrier, we heard the dull rumbling
roar of water, and we came out, at length, on a winding trail cut
in the face of a blue overhanging the Colorado River. The first
sight of most famous and much-heralded wonders of nature is often
disappointing; but never can this be said of the blood-hued Rio
Colorado. If it had beauty, it was beauty that appalled. So
riveted was my gaze that I could hardly turn it across the river,
where Emmett proudly pointed out his lonely home--an oasis set
down amidst beetling red cliffs. How grateful to the eye was the
green of alfalfa and cottonwood! Going round the bluff trail, the
wheels had only a foot of room to spare; and the sheer descent
into the red, turbid, congested river was terrifying.
I saw the constricted rapids, where the Colorado took its plunge
into the box-like head of the Grand Canyon of Arizona; and the
deep, reverberating boom of the river, at flood height, was a
fearful thing to hear. I could not repress a shudder at the
thought of crossing above that rapid.
The bronze walls widened as we proceeded, and we got down
presently to a level, where a long wire cable stretched across
the river. Under the cable ran a rope. On the other side was an
old scow moored to the bank.
"Are we going across in that?" I asked Emmett, pointing to the
"We'll all be on the other side before dark," he replied
I felt that I would rather start back alone over the desert than
trust myself in such a craft, on such a river. And it was all
because I had had experience with bad rivers, and thought I was a
judge of dangerous currents. The Colorado slid with a menacing
roar out of a giant split in the red wall, and whirled, eddied,
bulged on toward its confinement in the iron-ribbed canyon below.
In answer to shots fired, Emmett's man appeared on the other
side, and rode down to the ferry landing. Here he got into a
skiff, and rowed laboriously upstream for a long distance before
he started across, and then swung into the current. He swept down
rapidly, and twice the skiff whirled, and completely turned
round; but he reached our bank safely. Taking two men aboard he
rowed upstream again, close to the shore, and returned to the
opposite side in much the same manner in which he had come over.
The three men pushed out the scow, and grasping the rope
overhead, began to pull. The big craft ran easily. When the
current struck it, the wire cable sagged, the water boiled and
surged under it, raising one end, and then the other.
Nevertheless, five minutes were all that were required to pull
the boat over.
It was a rude, oblong affair, made of heavy planks loosely put
together, and it leaked. When Jones suggested that we get the
agony over as quickly as possible, I was with him, and we
embarked together. Jones said he did not like the looks of the
tackle; and when I thought of his by no means small mechanical
skill, I had not added a cheerful idea to my consciousness. The
horses of the first team had to be dragged upon the scow, and
once on, they reared and plunged.
When we started, four men pulled the rope, and Emmett sat in the
stern, with the tackle guys in hand. As the current hit us, he
let out the guys, which maneuver caused the boat to swing stern
downstream. When it pointed obliquely, he made fast the guys
again. I saw that this served two purposes: the current struck,
slid alongside, and over the stern, which mitigated the danger,
and at the same time helped the boat across.
To look at the river was to court terror, but I had to look. It
was an infernal thing. It roared in hollow, sullen voice, as a
monster growling. It had voice, this river, and one strangely
changeful. It moaned as if in pain--it whined, it cried. Then at
times it would seem strangely silent. The current as complex and
mutable as human life. It boiled, beat and bulged. The bulge
itself was an incompressible thing, like a roaring lift of the
waters from submarine explosion. Then it would smooth out, and
run like oil. It shifted from one channel to another, rushed to
the center of the river, then swung close to one shore or the
other. Again it swelled near the boat, in great, boiling, hissing
"Look! See where it breaks through the mountain!" yelled Jones in
I looked upstream to see the stupendous granite walls separated
in a gigantic split that must have been made by a terrible
seismic disturbance; and from this gap poured the dark, turgid,
I was in a cold sweat when we touched shore, and I jumped long
before the boat was properly moored.
Emmett was wet to the waist where the water had surged over him.
As he sat rearranging some tackle I remarked to him that of
course he must be a splendid swimmer, or he would not take such
"No, I can't swim a stroke," he replied; "and it wouldn't be any
use if I could. Once in there a man's a goner."
"You've had bad accidents here?" I questioned.
"No, not bad. We only drowned two men last year. You see, we had
to tow the boat up the river, and row across, as then we hadn't
the wire. Just above, on this side, the boat hit a stone, and the
current washed over her, taking off the team and two men."
"Didn't you attempt to rescue them?" I asked, after waiting a
"No use. They never came up."
"Isn't the river high now?" I continued, shuddering as I glanced
out at the whirling logs and drifts.
"High, and coming up. If I don't get the other teams over to-day
I'll wait until she goes down. At this season she rises and
lowers every day or so, until June then comes the big flood, and
we don't cross for months."
I sat for three hours watching Emmett bring over the rest of his
party, which he did without accident, but at the expense of great
effort. And all the time in my ears dinned the roar, the boom,
the rumble of this singularly rapacious and purposeful river--a
river of silt, a red river of dark, sinister meaning, a river
with terrible work to perform, a river which never gave up its
CHAPTER 2. THE RANGE
After a much-needed rest at Emmett's, we bade good-by to him and
his hospitable family, and under the guidance of his man once
more took to the wind-swept trail. We pursued a southwesterly
course now, following the lead of the craggy red wall that
stretched on and on for hundreds of miles into Utah. The desert,
smoky and hot, fell away to the left, and in the foreground a
dark, irregular line marked the Grand Canyon cutting through the
The wind whipped in from the vast, open expanse, and meeting an
obstacle in the red wall, turned north and raced past us. Jones's
hat blew off, stood on its rim, and rolled. It kept on rolling,
thirty miles an hour, more or less; so fast, at least, that we
were a long time catching up to it with a team of horses.
Possibly we never would have caught it had not a stone checked
its flight. Further manifestation of the power of the desert wind
surrounded us on all sides. It had hollowed out huge stones from
the cliffs, and tumbled them to the plain below; and then,
sweeping sand and gravel low across the desert floor, had cut
them deeply, until they rested on slender pedestals, thus
sculptoring grotesque and striking monuments to the marvelous
persistence of this element of nature.
Late that afternoon, as we reached the height of the plateau,
Jones woke up and shouted: "Ha! there's Buckskin!"
Far southward lay a long, black mountain, covered with patches of
shining snow. I could follow the zigzag line of the Grand Canyon
splitting the desert plateau, and saw it disappear in the haze
round the end of the mountain. From this I got my first clear
impression of the topography of the country surrounding our
objective point. Buckskin mountain ran its blunt end eastward to
the Canyon--in fact, formed a hundred miles of the north rim. As
it was nine thousand feet high it still held the snow, which had
occasioned our lengthy desert ride to get back of the mountain. I
could see the long slopes rising out of the desert to meet the
As we bowled merrily down grade I noticed that we were no longer
on stony ground, and that a little scant silvery grass had made
its appearance. Then little branches of green, with a blue
flower, smiled out of the clayish sand.
All of a sudden Jones stood up, and let out a wild Comanche yell.
I was more startled by the yell than by the great hand he smashed
down on my shoulder, and for the moment I was dazed.
"There! look! look! the buffalo! Hi! Hi! Hi!"
Below us, a few miles on a rising knoll, a big herd of buffalo
shone black in the gold of the evening sun. I had not Jones's
incentive, but I felt enthusiasm born of the wild and beautiful
picture, and added my yell to his. The huge, burly leader of the
herd lifted his head, and after regarding us for a few moments
calmly went on browsing.
The desert had fringed away into a grand rolling pastureland,
walled in by the red cliffs, the slopes of Buckskin, and further
isolated by the Canyon. Here was a range of twenty-four hundred
square miles without a foot of barb-wire, a pasture fenced in by
natural forces, with the splendid feature that the buffalo could
browse on the plain in winter, and go up into the cool foothills
of Buckskin in summer.
From another ridge we saw a cabin dotting the rolling plain, and
in half an hour we reached it. As we climbed down from the wagon
a brown and black dog came dashing out of the cabin, and promptly
jumped at Moze. His selection showed poor discrimination, for
Moze whipped him before I could separate them. Hearing Jones
heartily greeting some one, I turned in his direction, only to he
distracted by another dog fight. Don had tackled Moze for the
seventh time. Memory rankled in Don, and he needed a lot of
whipping, some of which he was getting when I rescued him.
Next moment I was shaking hands with Frank and Jim, Jones's
ranchmen. At a glance I liked them both. Frank was short and
wiry, and had a big, ferocious mustache, the effect of which was
softened by his kindly brown eyes. Jim was tall, a little
heavier; he had a careless, tidy look; his eyes were searching,
and though he appeared a young man, his hair was white.
"I shore am glad to see you all," said Jim, in slow, soft,
"Get down, get down," was Frank's welcome--a typically Western
one, for we had already gotten down; "an' come in. You must be
worked out. Sure you've come a long way." He was quick of speech,
full of nervous energy, and beamed with hospitality.
The cabin was the rudest kind of log affair, with a huge stone
fireplace in one end, deer antlers and coyote skins on the wall,
saddles and cowboys' traps in a corner, a nice, large, promising
cupboard, and a table and chairs. Jim threw wood on a smoldering
fire, that soon blazed and crackled cheerily.
I sank down into a chair with a feeling of blessed relief. Ten
days of desert ride behind me! Promise of wonderful days before
me, with the last of the old plainsmen. No wonder a sweet sense
of ease stole over me, or that the fire seemed a live and
joyously welcoming thing, or that Jim's deft maneuvers in
preparation of supper roused in me a rapt admiration.
"Twenty calves this spring!" cried Jones, punching me in my sore
side. "Ten thousand dollars worth of calves!"
He was now altogether a changed man; he looked almost young; his
eyes danced, and he rubbed his big hands together while he plied
Frank with questions. In strange surroundings--that is, away from
his Native Wilds, Jones had been a silent man; it had been almost
impossible to get anything out of him. But now I saw that I
should come to know the real man. In a very few moments he had
talked more than on all the desert trip, and what he said, added
to the little I had already learned, put me in possession of some
interesting information as to his buffalo.
Some years before he had conceived the idea of hybridizing
buffalo with black Galloway cattle; and with the characteristic
determination and energy of the man, he at once set about finding
a suitable range. This was difficult, and took years of
searching. At last the wild north rim of the Grand Canyon, a
section unknown except to a few Indians and mustang hunters, was
settled upon. Then the gigantic task of transporting the herd of
buffalo by rail from Montana to Salt Lake was begun. The two
hundred and ninety miles of desert lying between the home of the
Mormons and Buckskin Mountain was an obstacle almost
insurmountable. The journey was undertaken and found even more
trying than had been expected. Buffalo after buffalo died on the
way. Then Frank, Jones's right-hand man, put into execution a
plan he had been thinking of--namely, to travel by night. It
succeeded. The buffalo rested in the day and traveled by easy
stages by night, with the result that the big herd was
transported to the ideal range.
Here, in an environment strange to their race, but peculiarly
adaptable, they thrived and multiplied. The hybrid of the
Galloway cow and buffalo proved a great success. Jones called the
new species "Cattalo." The cattalo took the hardiness of the
buffalo, and never required artificial food or shelter. He would
face the desert storm or blizzard and stand stock still in his
tracks until the weather cleared. He became quite domestic, could
be easily handled, and grew exceedingly fat on very little
provender. The folds of his stomach were so numerous that they
digested even the hardest and flintiest of corn. He had fourteen
ribs on each side, while domestic cattle had only thirteen; thus
he could endure rougher work and longer journeys to water. His
fur was so dense and glossy that it equaled that of the unplucked
beaver or otter, and was fully as valuable as the buffalo robe.
And not to be overlooked by any means was the fact that his meat
Jones had to hear every detail of all that had happened since his
absence in the East, and he was particularly inquisitive to learn
all about the twenty cattalo calves. He called different buffalo
by name; and designated the calves by descriptive terms, such as
"Whiteface" and "Crosspatch." He almost forgot to eat, and kept
Frank too busy to get anything into his own mouth. After supper
he calmed down.
"How about your other man--Mr. Wallace, I think you said?" asked
"We expected to meet him at Grand Canyon Station, and then at
Flagstaff. But he didn't show up. Either he backed out or missed
us. I'm sorry; for when we get up on Buckskin, among the wild
horses and cougars, we'll be likely to need him."
"I reckon you'll need me, as well as Jim," said Frank dryly, with
a twinkle in his eye. "The buffs are in good shape an' can get
along without me for a while."
"That'll be fine. How about cougar sign on the mountain?"
"Plenty. I've got two spotted near Clark Spring. Comin' over two
weeks ago I tracked them in the snow along the trail for miles.
We'll ooze over that way, as it's goin' toward the Siwash. The
Siwash breaks of the Canyon--there's the place for lions. I met a
wild-horse wrangler not long back, an' he was tellin' me about
Old Tom an' the colts he'd killed this winter."
Naturally, I here expressed a desire to know more of Old Tom.
"He's the biggest cougar ever known of in these parts. His tracks
are bigger than a horse's, an' have been seen on Buckskin for
twelve years. This wrangler--his name is Clark--said he'd turned
his saddle horse out to graze near camp, an' Old Tom sneaked in
an' downed him. The lions over there are sure a bold bunch. Well,
why shouldn't they be? No one ever hunted them. You see, the
mountain is hard to get at. But now you're here, if it's big cats
you want we sure can find them. Only be easy, be easy. You've all
the time there is. An' any job on Buckskin will take time. We'll
look the calves over, an' you must ride the range to harden up.
Then we'll ooze over toward Oak. I expect it'll be boggy, an' I
hope the snow melts soon."
"The snow hadn't melted on Greenland point," replied Jones. "We
saw that with a glass from the El Tovar. We wanted to cross that
way, but Rust said Bright Angel Creek was breast high to a horse,
and that creek is the trail."
"There's four feet of snow on Greenland," said Frank. "It was too
early to come that way. There's only about three months in the
year the Canyon can be crossed at Greenland."
"I want to get in the snow," returned Jones. "This bunch of
long-eared canines I brought never smelled a lion track. Hounds
can't be trained quick without snow. You've got to see what
they're trailing, or you can't break them."
Frank looked dubious. "'Pears to me we'll have trouble gettin' a
lion without lion dogs. It takes a long time to break a hound off
of deer, once he's chased them. Buckskin is full of deer, wolves,
coyotes, and there's the wild horses. We couldn't go a hundred
feet without crossin' trails."
"How's the hound you and Jim fetched in las' year? Has he got a
good nose? Here he is--I like his head. Come here, Bowser--what's
"Jim named him Sounder, because he sure has a voice. It's great
to hear him on a trail. Sounder has a nose that can't be fooled,
an' he'll trail anythin'; but I don't know if he ever got up a
Sounder wagged his bushy tail and looked up affectionately at
Frank. He had a fine head, great brown eyes, very long ears and
curly brownish-black hair. He was not demonstrative, looked
rather askance at Jones, and avoided the other dogs.
"That dog will make a great lion-chaser," said Jones, decisively,
after his study of Sounder. "He and Moze will keep us busy, once
they learn we want lions."
"I don't believe any dog-trainer could teach them short of six
months," replied Frank. "Sounder is no spring chicken; an' that
black and dirty white cross between a cayuse an' a barb-wire
fence is an old dog. You can't teach old dogs new tricks."
Jones smiled mysteriously, a smile of conscious superiority, but
"We'll shore hev a storm to-morrow," said Jim, relinquishing his
pipe long enough to speak. He had been silent, and now his
meditative gaze was on the west, through the cabin window, where
a dull afterglow faded under the heavy laden clouds of night and
left the horizon dark.
I was very tired when I lay down, but so full of excitement that
sleep did not soon visit my eyelids. The talk about buffalo,
wild-horse hunters, lions and dogs, the prospect of hard riding
and unusual adventure; the vision of Old Tom that had already
begun to haunt me, filled my mind with pictures and fancies. The
other fellows dropped off to sleep, and quiet reigned. Suddenly a
succession of queer, sharp barks came from the plain, close to
the cabin. Coyotes were paying us a call, and judging from the
chorus of yelps and howls from our dogs, it was not a welcome
visit. Above the medley rose one big, deep, full voice that I
knew at once belonged to Sounder. Then all was quiet again. Sleep
gradually benumbed my senses. Vague phrases dreamily drifted to
and fro in my mind: "Jones's wild range--Old Tom--Sounder--great
name--great voice--Sounder! Sounder! Sounder--"
Next morning I could hardly crawl out of my sleeping-bag. My
bones ached, my muscles protested excruciatingly, my lips burned
and bled, and the cold I had contracted on the desert clung to
me. A good brisk walk round the corrals, and then breakfast, made
me feel better.
"Of course you can ride?" queried Frank.
My answer was not given from an overwhelming desire to be
truthful. Frank frowned a little, as it wondering how a man could
have the nerve to start out on a jaunt with Buffalo Jones without
being a good horseman. To be unable to stick on the back of a
wild mustang, or a cayuse, was an unpardonable sin in Arizona. My
frank admission was made relatively, with my mind on what cowboys
held as a standard of horsemanship.
The mount Frank trotted out of the corral for me was a pure
white, beautiful mustang, nervous, sensitive, quivering. I
watched Frank put on the saddle, and when he called me I did not
fail to catch a covert twinkle in his merry brown eyes. Looking
away toward Buckskin Mountain, which was coincidentally in the
direction of home, I said to myself: "This may be where you get
on, but most certainly it is where you get off!"
Jones was already riding far beyond the corral, as I could see by
a cloud of dust; and I set off after him, with the painful
consciousness that I must have looked to Frank and Jim much as
Central Park equestrians had often looked to me. Frank shouted
after me that he would catch up with us out on the range. I was
not in any great hurry to overtake Jones, but evidently my
horse's inclinations differed from mine; at any rate, he made the
dust fly, and jumped the little sage bushes.
Jones, who had tarried to inspect one of the pools--formed of
running water from the corrals--greeted me as I came up with this
"What in thunder did Frank give you that white nag for? The
buffalo hate white horses--anything white. They're liable to
stampede off the range, or chase you into the canyon."
I replied grimly that, as it was certain something was going to
happen, the particular circumstance might as well come off
We rode over the rolling plain with a cool, bracing breeze in our
faces. The sky was dull and mottled with a beautiful cloud effect
that presaged wind. As we trotted along Jones pointed out to me
and descanted upon the nutritive value of three different kinds
of grass, one of which he called the Buffalo Pea, noteworthy for
a beautiful blue blossom. Soon we passed out of sight of the
cabin, and could see only the billowy plain, the red tips of the
stony wall, and the black-fringed crest of Buckskin. After riding
a while we made out some cattle, a few of which were on the
range, browsing in the lee of a ridge. No sooner had I marked
them than Jones let out another Comanche yell.
"Wolf!" he yelled; and spurring his big bay, he was off like the
A single glance showed me several cows running as if bewildered,
and near them a big white wolf pulling down a calf. Another white
wolf stood not far off. My horse jumped as if he had been shot;
and the realization darted upon me that here was where the
certain something began. Spot--the mustang had one black spot in
his pure white--snorted like I imagined a blooded horse might,
under dire insult. Jones's bay had gotten about a hundred paces
the start. I lived to learn that Spot hated to be left behind;
moreover, he would not be left behind; he was the swiftest horse
on the range, and proud of the distinction. I cast one
unmentionable word on the breeze toward the cabin and Frank, then
put mind and muscle to the sore task of remaining with Spot.
Jones was born on a saddle, and had been taking his meals in a
saddle for about sixty-three years, and the bay horse could run.
Run is not a felicitous word--he flew. And I was rendered
mentally deranged for the moment to see that hundred paces
between the bay and Spot materially lessen at every jump. Spot
lengthened out, seemed to go down near the ground, and cut the
air like a high-geared auto. If I had not heard the fast rhythmic
beat of his hoofs, and had not bounced high into the air at every
jump, I would have been sure I was riding a bird. I tried to stop
him. As well might I have tried to pull in the Lusitania with a
thread. Spot was out to overhaul that bay, and in spite of me, he
was doing it. The wind rushed into my face and sang in my ears.
Jones seemed the nucleus of a sort of haze, and it grew larger
and larger. Presently he became clearly defined in my sight; the
violent commotion under me subsided; I once more felt the saddle,
and then I realized that Spot had been content to stop alongside
of Jones, tossing his head and champing his bit.
"Well, by George! I didn't know you were in the stretch," cried
my companion. "That was a fine little brush. We must have come
several miles. I'd have killed those wolves if I'd brought a gun.
The big one that had the calf was a bold brute. He never let go
until I was within fifty feet of him. Then I almost rode him
down. I don't think the calf was much hurt. But those
blood-thirsty devils will return, and like as not get the calf.
That's the worst of cattle raising. Now, take the buffalo. Do you
suppose those wolves could have gotten a buffalo calf out from
under the mother? Never. Neither could a whole band of wolves.
Buffalo stick close together, and the little ones do not stray.
When danger threatens, the herd closes in and faces it and
fights. That is what is grand about the buffalo and what made
them once roam the prairies in countless, endless droves."
From the highest elevation in that part of the range we viewed
the surrounding ridges, flats and hollows, searching for the
buffalo. At length we spied a cloud of dust rising from behind an
undulating mound, then big black dots hove in sight.
"Frank has rounded up the herd, and is driving it this way. We'll
wait," said Jones.
Though the buffalo appeared to be moving fast, a long time
elapsed before they reached the foot of our outlook. They
lumbered along in a compact mass, so dense that I could not count
them, but I estimated the number at seventy-five. Frank was
riding zigzag behind them, swinging his lariat and yelling. When
he espied us he reined in his horse and waited. Then the herd
slowed down, halted and began browsing.
"Look at the cattalo calves," cried Jones, in ecstatic tones.
"See how shy they are, how close they stick to their mothers."
The little dark-brown fellows were plainly frightened. I made
several unsuccessful attempts to photograph them, and gave it up
when Jones told me not to ride too close and that it would be
better to wait till we had them in the corral.
He took my camera and instructed me to go on ahead, in the rear
of the herd. I heard the click of the instrument as he snapped a
picture, and then suddenly heard him shout in alarm: "Look out!
look out! pull your horse!"
Thundering hoof-beats pounding the earth accompanied his words. I
saw a big bull, with head down, tail raised, charging my horse.
He answered Frank's yell of command with a furious grunt. I was
paralyzed at the wonderfully swift action of the shaggy brute,
and I sat helpless. Spot wheeled as if he were on a pivot and
plunged out of the way with a celerity that was astounding. The
buffalo stopped, pawed the ground, and angrily tossed his huge
head. Frank rode up to him, yelled, and struck him with the
lariat, whereupon he gave another toss of his horns, and then
returned to the herd.
"It was that darned white nag," said Jones. "Frank, it was wrong
to put an inexperienced man on Spot. For that matter, the horse
should never be allowed to go near the buffalo."
"Spot knows the buffs; they'd never get to him," replied Frank.
But the usual spirit was absent from his voice, and he glanced at
me soberly. I knew I had turned white, for I felt the peculiar
cold sensation on my face.
"Now, look at that, will you?" cried Jones. "I don't like the
looks of that."
He pointed to the herd. They stopped browsing, and were uneasily
shifting to and fro. The bull lifted his head; the others slowly
"Storm! Sandstorm!" exclaimed Jones, pointing desert-ward. Dark
yellow clouds like smoke were rolling, sweeping, bearing down
upon us. They expanded, blossoming out like gigantic roses, and
whirled and merged into one another, all the time rolling on and
blotting out the light.
"We've got to run. That storm may last two days," yelled Frank to
me. "We've had some bad ones lately. Give your horse free rein,
and cover your face."
A roar, resembling an approaching storm at sea, came on puffs of
wind, as the horses got into their stride. Long streaks of dust
whipped up in different places; the silver-white grass bent to
the ground; round bunches of sage went rolling before us. The
puffs grew longer, steadier, harder. Then a shrieking blast
howled on our trail, seeming to swoop down on us with a yellow,
blinding pall. I shut my eyes and covered my face with a
handkerchief. The sand blew so thick that it filled my gloves,
pebbles struck me hard enough to sting through my coat.
Fortunately, Spot kept to an easy swinging lope, which was the
most comfortable motion for me. But I began to get numb, and
could hardly stick on the saddle. Almost before I had dared to
hope, Spot stopped. Uncovering my face, I saw Jim in the doorway
of the lee side of the cabin. The yellow, streaky, whistling
clouds of sand split on the cabin and passed on, leaving a small,
dusty space of light.
"Shore Spot do hate to be beat," yelled Jim, as he helped me off.
I stumbled into the cabin and fell upon a buffalo robe and lay
there absolutely spent. Jones and Frank came in a few minutes
apart, each anathematizing the gritty, powdery sand.
All day the desert storm raged and roared. The dust sifted
through the numerous cracks in the cabin burdened our clothes,
spoiled our food and blinded our eyes. Wind, snow, sleet and
rainstorms are discomforting enough under trying circumstances;
but all combined, they are nothing to the choking stinging,
"Shore it'll let up by sundown," averred Jim. And sure enough the
roar died away about five o'clock, the wind abated and the sand
Just before supper, a knock sounded heavily o the cabin door. Jim
opened it to admit one of Emmett's sons and a very tall man whom
none of us knew. He was a sand-man. All that was not sand seemed
a space or two of corduroy, a big bone-handled knife, a prominent
square jaw and bronze cheek and flashing eyes.
"Get down--get down, an' come in, stranger, said Frank cordially.
"How do you do, sir," said Jones.
"Colonel Jones, I've been on your trail for twelve days,"
announced the stranger, with a grim smile. The sand streamed off
his coat in little white streak. Jones appeared to be casting
about in his mind.
"I'm Grant Wallace," continued the newcomer. "I missed you at the
El Tovar, at Williams and at Flagstaff, where I was one day
behind. Was half a day late at the Little Colorado, saw your
train cross Moncaupie Wash, and missed you because of the
sandstorm there. Saw you from the other side of the Big Colorado
as you rode out from Emmett's along the red wall. And here I am.
We've never met till now, which obviously isn't my fault."
The Colonel and I fell upon Wallace's neck. Frank manifested his
usual alert excitation, and said: "Well, I guess he won't hang
fire on a long cougar chase." And Jim--slow, careful Jim, dropped
a plate with the exclamation: "Shore it do beat hell!" The hounds
sniffed round Wallace, and welcomed him with vigorous tails.
Supper that night, even if we did grind sand with our teeth, was
a joyous occasion. The biscuits were flaky and light; the bacon
fragrant and crisp. I produced a jar of blackberry jam, which by
subtle cunning I had been able to secrete from the Mormons on
that dry desert ride, and it was greeted with acclamations of
pleasure. Wallace, divested of his sand guise, beamed with the
gratification of a hungry man once more in the presence of
friends and food. He made large cavities in Jim's great pot of
potato stew, and caused biscuits to vanish in a way that would
not have shamed a Hindoo magician. The Grand Canyon he dug in my
jar of jam, however, could not have been accomplished by
Talk became animated on dogs, cougars, horses and buffalo. Jones
told of our experience out on the range, and concluded with some
"A tame wild animal is the most dangerous of beasts. My old
friend, Dick Rock, a great hunter and guide out of Idaho, laughed
at my advice, and got killed by one of his three-year-old bulls.
I told him they knew him just well enough to kill him, and they
did. My friend, A. H. Cole, of Oxford, Nebraska, tried to rope a
Weetah that was too tame to be safe, and the bull killed him.
Same with General Bull, a member of the Kansas Legislature, and
two cowboys who went into a corral to tie up a tame elk at the
wrong time. I pleaded with them not to undertake it. They had not
studied animals as I had. That tame elk killed all of them. He
had to be shot in order to get General Bull off his great
antlers. You see, a wild animal must learn to respect a man. The
way I used to teach the Yellowstone Park bears to be respectful
and safe neighbors was to rope them around the front paw, swing
them up on a tree clear of the ground, and whip them with a long
pole. It was a dangerous business, and looks cruel, but it is the
only way I could find to make the bears good. You see, they eat
scraps around the hotels and get so tame they will steal
everything but red-hot stoves, and will cuff the life out of
those who try to shoo them off. But after a bear mother has had a
licking, she not only becomes a good bear for the rest of her
life, but she tells all her cubs about it with a good smack of
her paw, for emphasis, and teaches them to respect peaceable
citizens generation after generation.
"One of the hardest jobs I ever tackled was that of supplying the
buffalo for Bronx Park. I rounded up a magnificent 'king' buffalo
bull, belligerent enough to fight a battleship. When I rode after
him the cowmen said I was as good as killed. I made a lance by
driving a nail into the end of a short pole and sharpening it.
After he had chased me, I wheeled my broncho, and hurled the
lance into his back, ripping a wound as long as my hand. That put
the fear of Providence into him and took the fight all out of
him. I drove him uphill and down, and across canyons at a dead
run for eight miles single handed, and loaded him on a freight
car; but he came near getting me once or twice, and only quick
broncho work and lance play saved me.
"In the Yellowstone Park all our buffaloes have become docile,
excepting the huge bull which led them. The Indians call the
buffalo leader the 'Weetah,' the master of the herd. It was sure
death to go near this one. So I shipped in another Weetah, hoping
that he might whip some of the fight out of old Manitou, the
Mighty. They came together head on, like a railway collision, and
ripped up over a square mile of landscape, fighting till night
came on, and then on into the night.
"I jumped into the field with them, chasing them with my
biograph, getting a series of moving pictures of that bullfight
which was sure the real thing. It was a ticklish thing to do,
though knowing that neither bull dared take his eyes off his
adversary for a second, I felt reasonably safe. The old Weetah
beat the new champion out that night, but the next morning they
were at it again, and the new buffalo finally whipped the old one
into submission. Since then his spirit has remained broken, and
even a child can approach him safely--but the new Weetah is in
turn a holy terror.
"To handle buffalo, elk and bear, you must get into sympathy with
their methods of reasoning. No tenderfoot stands any show, even
with the tame animals of the Yellowstone."
The old buffalo hunter's lips were no longer locked. One after
another he told reminiscences of his eventful life, in a simple
manner; yet so vivid and gripping were the unvarnished details
that I was spellbound.
"Considering what appears the impossibility of capturing a
full-grown buffalo, how did you earn the name of preserver of the
American bison?" inquired Wallace.
"It took years to learn how, and ten more to capture the
fifty-eight that I was able to keep. I tried every plan under the
sun. I roped hundreds, of all sizes and ages. They would not live
in captivity. If they could not find an embankment over which to
break their necks, they would crush their skulls on stones.
Failing any means like that, they would lie down, will themselves
to die, and die. Think of a savage wild nature that could will
its heart to cease beating! But it's true. Finally I found I
could keep only calves under three months of age. But to capture
them so young entailed time and patience. For the buffalo fight
for their young, and when I say fight, I mean till they drop. I
almost always had to go alone, because I could neither coax nor
hire any one to undertake it with me. Sometimes I would be weeks
getting one calf. One day I captured eight--eight little buffalo
calves! Never will I forget that day as long as I live!"
"Tell us about it," I suggested, in a matter of fact,
round-the-campfire voice. Had the silent plainsman ever told a
complete and full story of his adventures? I doubted it. He was
not the man to eulogize himself.
A short silence ensued. The cabin was snug and warm; the ruddy
embers glowed; one of Jim's pots steamed musically and
fragrantly. The hounds lay curled in the cozy chimney corner.
Jones began to talk again, simply and unaffectedly, of his famous
exploit; and as he went on so modestly, passing lightly over
features we recognized as wonderful, I allowed the fire of my
imagination to fuse for myself all the toil, patience, endurance,
skill, herculean strength and marvelous courage and unfathomable
passion which he slighted in his narrative.
CHAPTER 3. THE LAST HERD
Over gray No-Man's-Land stole down the shadows of night. The
undulating prairie shaded dark to the western horizon, rimmed
with a fading streak of light. Tall figures, silhouetted sharply
against the last golden glow of sunset, marked the rounded crest
of a grassy knoll.
"Wild hunter!" cried a voice in sullen rage, "buffalo or no, we
halt here. Did Adams and I hire to cross the Staked Plains? Two
weeks in No-Man's-Land, and now we're facing the sand! We've one
keg of water, yet you want to keep on. Why, man, you're crazy!
You didn't tell us you wanted buffalo alive. And here you've got
us looking death in the eye!"
In the grim silence that ensued the two men unhitched the team
from the long, light wagon, while the buffalo hunter staked out
his wiry, lithe-limbed racehorses. Soon a fluttering blaze threw
a circle of light, which shone on the agitated face of Rude and
Adams, and the cold, iron-set visage of their brawny leader.
"It's this way," began Jones, in slow, cool voice; "I engaged you
fellows, and you promised to stick by me. We've had no luck. But
I've finally found sign--old sign, I'll admit the buffalo I'm
looking for--the last herd on the plains. For two years I've been
hunting this herd. So have other hunters. Millions of buffalo
have been killed and left to rot. Soon this herd will be gone,
and then the only buffalo in the world will be those I have given
ten years of the hardest work in capturing. This is the last
herd, I say, and my last chance to capture a calf or two. Do you
imagine I'd quit? You fellows go back if you want, but I keep on."
"We can't go back. We're lost. We'll have to go with you. But,
man, thirst is not the only risk we run. This is Comanche
country. And if that herd is in here the Indians have it
"That worries me some," replied the plainsman, "but we'll keep on
They slept. The night wind swished the grasses; dark storm clouds
blotted out the northern stars; the prairie wolves mourned
Day broke cold, wan, threatening, under a leaden sky. The hunters
traveled thirty miles by noon, and halted in a hollow where a
stream flowed in wet season. Cottonwood trees were bursting into
green; thickets of prickly thorn, dense and matted, showed bright
"What is it?" suddenly whispered Rude.
The plainsman lay in strained posture, his ear against the
"Hide the wagon and horses in the clump of cottonwoods," he
ordered, tersely. Springing to his feet, he ran to the top of the
knoll above the hollow, where he again placed his ear to the
Jones's practiced ear had detected the quavering rumble of
far-away, thundering hoofs. He searched the wide waste of plain
with his powerful glass. To the southwest, miles distant, a cloud
of dust mushroomed skyward. "Not buffalo," he muttered, "maybe
wild horses." He watched and waited. The yellow cloud rolled
forward, enlarging, spreading out, and drove before it a darkly
indistinct, moving mass. As soon as he had one good look at this
he ran back to his comrades.
"Stampede! Wild horses! Indians! Look to your rifles and hide!"
Wordless and pale, the men examined their Sharps, and made ready
to follow Jones. He slipped into the thorny brake and, flat on
his stomach, wormed his way like a snake far into the thickly
interlaced web of branches. Rude and Adams crawled after him.
Words were superfluous. Quiet, breathless, with beating hearts,
the hunters pressed close to the dry grass. A long, low, steady
rumble filled the air, and increased in volume till it became a
roar. Moments, endless moments, passed. The roar filled out like
a flood slowly released from its confines to sweep down with the
sound of doom. The ground began to tremble and quake: the light
faded; the smell of dust pervaded the thicket, then a continuous
streaming roar, deafening as persistent roll of thunder, pervaded
the hiding place. The stampeding horses had split round the
hollow. The roar lessened. Swiftly as a departing snow-squall
rushing on through the pines, the thunderous thud and tramp of
hoofs died away.
The trained horses hidden in the cottonwoods never stirred. "Lie
low! lie low!" breathed the plainsman to his companions.
Throb of hoofs again became audible, not loud and madly pounding
as those that had passed, but low, muffled, rhythmic. Jones's
sharp eye, through a peephole in the thicket, saw a cream-colored
mustang bob over the knoll, carrying an Indian. Another and
another, then a swiftly following, close-packed throng appeared.
Bright red feathers and white gleamed; weapons glinted; gaunt,
bronzed savage leaned forward on racy, slender mustangs.
The plainsman shrank closer to the ground. "Apache!" he exclaimed
to himself, and gripped his rifle. The band galloped down to the
hollow, and slowing up, piled single file over the bank. The
leader, a short, squat chief, plunged into the brake not twenty
yards from the hidden men. Jones recognized the cream mustang; he
knew the somber, sinister, broad face. It belonged to the Red
Chief of the Apaches.
"Geronimo!" murmured the plainsman through his teeth.
Well for the Apache that no falcon savage eye discovered aught
strange in the little hollow! One look at the sand of the stream
bed would have cost him his life. But the Indians crossed the
thicket too far up; they cantered up the slope and disappeared.
The hoof-beats softened and ceased.
"Gone?" whispered Rude.
"Gone. But wait," whispered Jones. He knew the savage nature, and
he knew how to wait. After a long time, he cautiously crawled out
of the thicket and searched the surroundings with a plainsman's
eye. He climbed the slope and saw the clouds of dust, the near
one small, the far one large, which told him all he needed to
"Comanches?" queried Adams, with a quaver in his voice. He was
new to the plains.
"Likely," said Jones, who thought it best not to tell all he
knew. Then he added to himself: "We've no time to lose. There's
water back here somewhere. The Indians have spotted the buffalo,
and were running the horses away from the water."
The three got under way again, proceeding carefully, so as not to
raise the dust, and headed due southwest. Scantier and scantier
grew the grass; the hollows were washes of sand; steely gray
dunes, like long, flat, ocean swells, ribbed the prairie. The
gray day declined. Late into the purple night they traveled, then
camped without fire.
In the gray morning Jones climbed a high ride and scanned the
southwest. Low dun-colored sandhills waved from him down and
down, in slow, deceptive descent. A solitary and remote waste
reached out into gray infinitude. A pale lake, gray as the rest
of that gray expanse, glimmered in the distance.
"Mirage!" he muttered, focusing his glass, which only magnified
all under the dead gray, steely sky. "Water must be somewhere;
but can that be it? It's too pale and elusive to be real. No
life--a blasted, staked plain! Hello!"
A thin, black, wavering line of wild fowl, moving in beautiful,
rapid flight, crossed the line of his vision. "Geese flying
north, and low. There's water here," he said. He followed the
flock with his glass, saw them circle over the lake, and vanish
in the gray sheen.
"It's water." He hurried back to camp. His haggard and worn
companions scorned his discovery. Adams siding with Rude, who
knew the plains, said: "Mirage! the lure of the desert!" Yet
dominated by a force too powerful for them to resist, they
followed the buffalo-hunter. All day the gleaming lake beckoned
them onward, and seemed to recede. All day the drab clouds
scudded before the cold north wind. In the gray twilight, the
lake suddenly lay before them, as if it had opened at their feet.
The men rejoiced, the horses lifted their noses and sniffed the
The whinnies of the horses, the clank of harness, and splash of
water, the whirl of ducks did not blur out of Jones's keen ear a
sound that made him jump. It was the thump of hoofs, in a
familiar beat, beat, beat. He saw a shadow moving up a ridge.
Soon, outlined black against the yet light sky, a lone buffalo
cow stood like a statue. A moment she held toward the lake,
studying the danger, then went out of sight over the ridge.
Jones spurred his horse up the ascent, which was rather long and
steep, but he mounted the summit in time to see the cow join
eight huge, shaggy buffalo. The hunter reined in his horse, and
standing high in his stirrups, held his hat at arms' length over
his head. So he thrilled to a moment he had sought for two years.
The last herd of American bison was near at hand. The cow would
not venture far from the main herd; the eight stragglers were the
old broken-down bulls that had been expelled, at this season,
from the herd by younger and more vigorous bulls. The old
monarchs saw the hunter at the same time his eyes were gladdened
by sight of them, and lumbered away after the cow, to disappear
in the gathering darkness. Frightened buffalo always make
straight for their fellows; and this knowledge contented Jones to
return to the lake, well satisfied that the herd would not be far
away in the morning, within easy striking distance by daylight.
At dark the storm which had threatened for days, broke in a fury
of rain, sleet and hail. The hunters stretched a piece of canvas
over the wheels of the north side of the wagon, and wet and
shivering, crawled under it to their blankets. During the night
the storm raged with unabated strength.
Dawn, forbidding and raw, lightened to the whistle of the sleety
gusts. Fire was out of the question. Chary of weight, the hunters
had carried no wood, and the buffalo chips they used for fuel
were lumps of ice. Grumbling, Adams and Rude ate a cold
breakfast, while Jones, munching a biscuit, faced the biting
blast from the crest of the ridge. The middle of the plain below
held a ragged, circular mass, as still as stone. It was the
buffalo herd, with every shaggy head to the storm. So they would
stand, never budging from their tracks, till the blizzard of
sleet was over.
Jones, though eager and impatient, restrained himself, for it was
unwise to begin operations in the storm. There was nothing to do
but wait. Ill fared the hunters that day. Food had to be eaten
uncooked. The long hours dragged by with the little group huddled
under icy blankets. When darkness fell, the sleet changed to
drizzling rain. This blew over at midnight, and a colder wind,
penetrating to the very marrow of the sleepless men, made their
condition worse. In the after part of the night, the wolves
With a gray, misty light appearing in the east, Jones threw off
his stiff, ice-incased blanket, and crawled out. A gaunt gray
wolf, the color of the day and the sand and the lake, sneaked
away, looking back. While moving and threshing about to warm his
frozen blood, Jones munched another biscuit. Five men crawled
from under the wagon, and made an unfruitful search for the
whisky. Fearing it, Jones had thrown the bottle away. The men
cursed. The patient horses drooped sadly, and shivered in the lee
of the improvised tent. Jones kicked the inch-thick casing of ice
from his saddle. Kentuck, his racer, had been spared on the whole
trip for this day's work. The thoroughbred was cold, but as Jones
threw the saddle over him, he showed that he knew the chase
ahead, and was eager to be off. At last, after repeated efforts
with his benumbed fingers, Jones got the girths tight. He tied a
bunch of soft cords to the saddle and mounted.
"Follow as fast as you can," he called to his surly men. "The
buffs will run north against the wind. This is the right
direction for us; we'll soon leave the sand. Stick to my trail
and come a-humming."
From the ridge he met the red sun, rising bright, and a keen
northeasterly wind that lashed like a whip. As he had
anticipated, his quarry had moved northward. Kentuck let out into
a swinging stride, which in an hour had the loping herd in sight.
Every jump now took him upon higher ground, where the sand
failed, and the grass grew thicker and began to bend under the
In the teeth of the nipping gale Jones slipped close upon the
herd without alarming even a cow. More than a hundred little
reddish-black calves leisurely loped in the rear. Kentuck, keen
to his work, crept on like a wolf, and the hunter's great fist
clenched the coiled lasso. Before him expanded a boundless plain.
A situation long cherished and dreamed of had become a reality.
Kentuck, fresh and strong, was good for all day. Jones gloated
over the little red bulls and heifers, as a miser gloats over
gold and jewels. Never before had he caught more than two in one
day, and often it had taken days to capture one. This was the
last herd, this the last opportunity toward perpetuating a grand
race of beasts. And with born instinct he saw ahead the day of
At a touch, Kentuck closed in, and the buffalo, seeing him,
stampeded into the heaving roll so well known to the hunter.
Racing on the right flank of the herd, Jones selected a tawny
heifer and shot the lariat after her. It fell true, but being
stiff and kinky from the sleet, failed to tighten, and the quick
calf leaped through the loop to freedom.
Undismayed the pursuer quickly recovered his rope. Again he
whirled and sent the loop. Again it circled true, and failed to
close; again the agile heifer bounded through it. Jones whipped
the air with the stubborn rope. To lose a chance like that was
worse than boy's work.
The third whirl, running a smaller loop, tightened the coil round
the frightened calf just back of its ears. A pull on the bridle
brought Kentuck to a halt in his tracks, and the baby buffalo
rolled over and over in the grass. Jones bounced from his seat
and jerked loose a couple of the soft cords. In a twinkling; his
big knee crushed down on the calf, and his big hands bound it
Kentuck neighed. Jones saw his black ears go up. Danger
threatened. For a moment the hunter's blood turned chill, not
from fear, for he never felt fear, but because he thought the
Indians were returning to ruin his work. His eye swept the plain.
Only the gray forms of wolves flitted through the grass, here,
there, all about him. Wolves! They were as fatal to his
enterprise as savages. A trooping pack of prairie wolves had
fallen in with the herd and hung close on the trail, trying to
cut a calf away from its mother. The gray brutes boldly trotted
to within a few yards of him, and slyly looked at him, with pale,
fiery eyes. They had already scented his captive. Precious time
flew by; the situation, critical and baffling, had never before
been met by him. There lay his little calf tied fast, and to the
north ran many others, some of which he must--he would have. To
think quickly had meant the solving of many a plainsman's
problem. Should he stay with his prize to save it, or leave it to
"Ha! you old gray devils!" he yelled, shaking his fist at the
wolves. "I know a trick or two." Slipping his hat between the
legs of the calf, he fastened it securely. This done, he vaulted
on Kentuck, and was off with never a backward glance. Certain it
was that the wolves would not touch anything, alive or dead, that
bore the scent of a human being.
The bison scoured away a long half-mile in the lead, sailing
northward like a cloud-shadow over the plain. Kentuck,
mettlesome, over-eager, would have run himself out in short
order, but the wary hunter, strong to restrain as well as impel,
with the long day in his mind, kept the steed in his easy stride,
which, springy and stretching, overhauled the herd in the course
of several miles.
A dash, a swirl, a shock, a leap, horse and hunter working in
perfect accord, and a fine big calf, bellowing lustily, struggled
desperately for freedom under the remorseless knee. The big hands
toyed with him; and then, secure in the double knots, the calf
lay still, sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes, with the
coat of the hunter tucked under his bonds to keep away the
The race had but begun; the horse had but warmed to his work; the
hunter had but tasted of sweet triumph. Another hopeful of a
buffalo mother, negligent in danger, truant from his brothers,
stumbled and fell in the enmeshing loop. The hunter's vest,
slipped over the calf's neck, served as danger signal to the
wolves. Before the lumbering buffalo missed their loss, another
red and black baby kicked helplessly on the grass and sent up
vain, weak calls, and at last lay still, with the hunter's boot
tied to his cords.
Four! Jones counted them aloud, add in his mind, and kept on.
Fast, hard work, covering upward of fifteen miles, had begun to
tell on herd, horse and man, and all slowed down to the call for
strength. The fifth time Jones closed in on his game, he
encountered different circumstances such as called forth his
The herd had opened up; the mothers had fallen back to the rear;
the calves hung almost out of sight under the shaggy sides of
protectors. To try them out Jones darted close and threw his
lasso. It struck a cow. With activity incredible in such a huge
beast, she lunged at him. Kentuck, expecting just such a move,
wheeled to safety. This duel, ineffectual on both sides, kept up
for a while, and all the time, man and herd were jogging rapidly
to the north.
Jones could not let well enough alone; he acknowledged this even
as he swore he must have five. Emboldened by his marvelous luck,
and yielding headlong to the passion within, he threw caution to
the winds. A lame old cow with a red calf caught his eye; in he
spurred his willing horse and slung his rope. It stung the haunch
of the mother. The mad grunt she vented was no quicker than the
velocity with which she plunged and reared. Jones had but time to
swing his leg over the saddle when the hoofs beat down. Kentuck
rolled on the plain, flinging his rider from him. The infuriated
buffalo lowered her head for the fatal charge on the horse, when
the plainsman, jerking out his heavy Colts, shot her dead in her
Kentuck got to his feet unhurt, and stood his ground, quivering
but ready, showing his steadfast courage. He showed more, for his
ears lay back, and his eyes had the gleam of the animal that
The calf ran round its mother. Jones lassoed it, and tied it
down, being compelled to cut a piece from his lasso, as the cords
on the saddle had given out. He left his other boot with baby
number five. The still heaving, smoking body of the victim called
forth the stern, intrepid hunter's pity for a moment. Spill of
blood he had not wanted. But he had not been able to avoid it;
and mounting again with close-shut jaw and smoldering eye, he
galloped to the north.
Kentuck snorted; the pursuing wolves shied off in the grass; the
pale sun began to slant westward. The cold iron stirrups froze
and cut the hunter's bootless feet.
When once more he came hounding the buffalo, they were
considerably winded. Short-tufted tails, raised stiffly, gave
warning. Snorts, like puffs of escaping steam, and deep grunts
from cavernous chests evinced anger and impatience that might, at
any moment, bring the herd to a defiant stand.
He whizzed the shortened noose over the head of a calf that was
laboring painfully to keep up, and had slipped down, when a
mighty grunt told him of peril. Never looking to see whence it
came, he sprang into the saddle. Fiery Kentuck jumped into
action, then hauled up with a shock that almost threw himself and
rider. The lasso, fast to the horse, and its loop end round the
calf, had caused the sudden check.
A maddened cow bore down on Kentuck. The gallant horse
straightened in a jump, but dragging the calf pulled him in a
circle, and in another moment he was running round and round the
howling, kicking pivot. Then ensued a terrible race, with horse
and bison describing a twenty-foot circle. Bang! Bang! The hunter
fired two shots, and heard the spats of the bullets. But they
only augmented the frenzy of the beast. Faster Kentuck flew,
snorting in terror; closer drew the dusty, bouncing pursuer; the
calf spun like a top; the lasso strung tighter than wire. Jones
strained to loosen the fastening, but in vain. He swore at his
carelessness in dropping his knife by the last calf he had tied.
He thought of shooting the rope, yet dared not risk the shot. A
hollow sound turned him again, with the Colts leveled. Bang! Dust
flew from the ground beyond the bison.
The two charges left in the gun were all that stood between him
and eternity. With a desperate display of strength Jones threw
his weight in a backward pull, and hauled Kentuck up. Then he
leaned far back in the saddle, and shoved the Colts out beyond
the horse's flank. Down went the broad head, with its black,
glistening horns. Bang! She slid forward with a crash, plowing
the ground with hoofs and nose--spouted blood, uttered a hoarse
cry, kicked and died.
Kentuck, for once completely terrorized, reared and plunged from
the cow, dragging the calf. Stern command and iron arm forced him
to a standstill. The calf, nearly strangled, recovered when the
noose was slipped, and moaned a feeble protest against life and
captivity. The remainder of Jones's lasso went to bind number
six, and one of his socks went to serve as reminder to the
"Six! On! On! Kentuck! On!" Weakening, but unconscious of it,
with bloody hands and feet, without lasso, and with only one
charge in his revolver, hatless, coatless, vestless, bootless,
the wild hunter urged on the noble horse. The herd had gained
miles in the interval of the fight. Game to the backbone, Kentuck
lengthened out to overhaul it, and slowly the rolling gap
lessened and lessened. A long hour thumped away, with the rumble
Once again the lagging calves dotted the grassy plain before the
hunter. He dashed beside a burly calf, grasped its tail, stopped
his horse, and jumped. The calf went down with him, and did not
come up. The knotted, blood-stained hands, like claws of steel,
bound the hind legs close and fast with a leathern belt, and left
between them a torn and bloody sock.
"Seven! On! Old Faithfull! We MUST have another! the last! This
is your day."
The blood that flecked the hunter was not all his own.
The sun slanted westwardly toward the purpling horizon; the
grassy plain gleamed like a ruffled sea of glass; the gray wolves
When next the hunter came within sight of the herd, over a wavy
ridge, changes in its shape and movement met his gaze. The calves
were almost done; they could run no more; their mothers faced the
south, and trotted slowly to and fro; the bulls were grunting,
herding, piling close. It looked as if the herd meant to stand
This mattered little to the hunter who had captured seven calves
since dawn. The first limping calf he reached tried to elude the
grasping hand and failed. Kentuck had been trained to wheel to
the right or left, in whichever way his rider leaned; and as
Jones bent over and caught an upraised tail, the horse turned to
strike the calf with both front hoofs. The calf rolled; the horse
plunged down; the rider sped beyond to the dust. Though the calf
was tired, he still could bellow, and he filled the air with
Jones all at once saw twenty or more buffalo dash in at him with
fast, twinkling, short legs. With the thought of it, he was in
the air to the saddle. As the black, round mounds charged from
every direction, Kentuck let out with all there was left in him.
He leaped and whirled, pitched and swerved, in a roaring,
clashing, dusty melee. Beating hoofs threw the turf, flying tails
whipped the air, and everywhere were dusky, sharp-pointed heads,
tossing low. Kentuck squeezed out unscathed. The mob of bison,
bristling, turned to lumber after the main herd. Jones seized his
opportunity and rode after them, yelling with all his might. He
drove them so hard that soon the little fellows lagged paces
behind. Only one or two old cows straggled with the calves.
Then wheeling Kentuck, he cut between the herd and a calf, and
rode it down. Bewildered, the tously little bull bellowed in
great affright. The hunter seized the stiff tail, and calling to
his horse, leaped off. But his strength was far spent and the
buffalo, larger than his fellows, threshed about and jerked in
terror. Jones threw it again and again. But it struggled up,
never once ceasing its loud demands for help. Finally the hunter
tripped it up and fell upon it with his knees.
Above the rumble of retreating hoofs, Jones heard the familiar
short, quick, jarring pound on the turf. Kentuck neighed his
alarm and raced to the right. Bearing down on the hunter,
hurtling through the air, was a giant furry mass, instinct with
fierce life and power--a buffalo cow robbed of her young.
With his senses almost numb, barely able to pull and raise the
Colt, the plainsman willed to live, and to keep his captive. His
leveled arm wavered like a leaf in a storm.
Bang! Fire, smoke, a shock, a jarring crash, and silence!
The calf stirred beneath him. He put out a hand to touch a warm,
furry coat. The mother had fallen beside him. Lifting a heavy
hoof, he laid it over the neck of the calf to serve as additional
weight. He lay still and listened. The rumble of the herd died
away in the distance.
The evening waned. Still the hunter lay quiet. From time to time
the calf struggled and bellowed. Lank, gray wolves appeared on
all sides; they prowled about with hungry howls, and shoved
black-tipped noses through the grass. The sun sank, and the sky
paled to opal blue. A star shone out, then another, and another.
Over the prairie slanted the first dark shadow of night.
Suddenly the hunter laid his ear to the ground, and listened.
Faint beats, like throbs of a pulsing heart, shuddered from the
soft turf. Stronger they grew, till the hunter raised his head.
Dark forms approached; voices broke the silence; the creaking of
a wagon scared away the wolves.
"This way!" shouted the hunter weakly.
"Ha! here he is. Hurt?" cried Rude, vaulting the wheel.
"Tie up this calf. How many--did you find?" The voice grew
"Seven--alive, and in good shape, and all your clothes."
But the last words fell on unconscious ears.
CHAPTER 4. THE TRAIL
"Frank, what'll we do about horses?" asked Jones. "Jim'll want
the bay, and of course you'll want to ride Spot. The rest of our
nags will only do to pack the outfit."
"I've been thinkin'," replied the foreman. "You sure will need
good mounts. Now it happens that a friend of mine is just at this
time at House Rock Valley, an outlyin' post of one of the big
Utah ranches. He is gettin' in the horses off the range, an' he
has some crackin' good ones. Let's ooze over there--it's only
thirty miles--an' get some horses from him."
We were all eager to act upon Frank's suggestion. So plans were
made for three of us to ride over and select our mounts. Frank
and Jim would follow with the pack train, and if all went well,
on the following evening we would camp under the shadow of
Early next morning we were on our way. I tried to find a soft
place on Old Baldy, one of Frank's pack horses. He was a horse
that would not have raised up at the trumpet of doom. Nothing
under the sun, Frank said, bothered Old Baldy but the operation
of shoeing. We made the distance to the outpost by noon, and
found Frank's friend a genial and obliging cowboy, who said we
could have all the horses we wanted.
While Jones and Wallace strutted round the big corral, which was
full of vicious, dusty, shaggy horses and mustangs, I sat high on
the fence. I heard them talking about points and girth and
stride, and a lot of terms that I could not understand. Wallace
selected a heavy sorrel, and Jones a big bay; very like Jim's. I
had observed, way over in the corner of the corral, a bunch of
cayuses, and among them a clean-limbed black horse. Edging round
on the fence I got a closer view, and then cried out that I had
found my horse. I jumped down and caught him, much to my
surprise, for the other horses were wild, and had kicked
viciously. The black was beautifully built, wide-chested and
powerful, but not heavy. His coat glistened like sheeny black
satin, and he had a white face and white feet and a long mane.
"I don't know about giving you Satan--that's his name," said the
cowboy. "The foreman rides him often. He's the fastest, the best
climber, and the best dispositioned horse on the range.
"But I guess I can let you have him," he continued, when he saw
my disappointed face.
"By George!" exclaimed Jones. "You've got it on us this time."
"Would you like to trade?" asked Wallace, as his sorrel tried to
bite him. "That black looks sort of fierce."
I led my prize out of the corral, up to the little cabin nearby,
where I tied him, and proceeded to get acquainted after a fashion
of my own. Though not versed in horse-lore, I knew that half the
battle was to win his confidence. I smoothed his silky coat, and
patted him, and then surreptitiously slipped a lump of sugar from
my pocket. This sugar, which I had purloined in Flagstaff, and
carried all the way across the desert, was somewhat disreputably
soiled, and Satan sniffed at it disdainfully. Evidently he had
never smelled or tasted sugar. I pressed it into his mouth. He
munched it, and then looked me over with some interest. I handed
him another lump. He took it and rubbed his nose against me.
Satan was mine!
Frank and Jim came along early in the afternoon. What with
packing, changing saddles and shoeing the horses, we were all
busy. Old Baldy would not be shod, so we let him off till a more
opportune time. By four o'clock we were riding toward the slopes
of Buckskin, now only a few miles away, standing up higher and
"What's that for?" inquired Wallace, pointing to a long, rusty,
wire-wrapped, double-barreled blunderbuss of a shotgun, stuck in
the holster of Jones's saddle.
The Colonel, who had been having a fine time with the impatient
and curious hounds, did not vouchsafe any information on that
score. But very shortly we were destined to learn the use of this
incongruous firearm. I was riding in advance of Wallace, and a
little behind Jones. The dogs--excepting Jude, who had been
kicked and lamed--were ranging along before their master.
Suddenly, right before me, I saw an immense jack-rabbit; and just
then Moze and Don caught sight of it. In fact, Moze bumped his
blunt nose into the rabbit. When it leaped into scared action,
Moze yelped, and Don followed suit. Then they were after it in
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