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Full text of "Ranch life and the hunting-trail"

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JOHNA.SEAVERNS 



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Webster Family Library of Veterinary Medicine 

Cummings School c^ Votennary Medicine at 

Tufts University 

200 Westboro Road 

North Grafton, MA 01536 



RANCH LIFE 



AND 



THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



RANCH LIFE 



AND 



THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



THEODORE ROOSEVELT 

AUTHOR OF "hunting TRIPS OF A RANCHMAN," 
PRESIDENT OF THE BOONE AND CROCKETT CLUB OF NEW-YORK, 
HONORARY MEMBER OF THE LONDON ALPINE CLUB, ETC., ETC. 



ILLUSTRATED BY 

FREDERIC REMINGTON 




l?r,.,a.. 



NEW YORK 

THE CENTURY CO. 

1899 



Copyright, 1888, by The Century Co. 



The OeVihhe Press. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



Frontispiece, the round-up. 



I. The Cattle Country of the Far West 



Illustrations : a study from life— initial— an exploring outfit— the mid- 
day MEAL— THE OUTLYING CAMP— COWBOY FUN— IN A BOG-HOLE— TAIL-PIECE. 



II. Out on the Range 15 

Illustrations: the branding chute— initial — pulling a coiv out of the 

MUD — A dispute OVER A BRAND — BRONCO-BUSTERS SADDLING.-TAIL-PIECE. 



III. The Home Ranch 25 

Illustrations: ponies pawing in the snow— initial — elk horn ranch 
buildings — roping in a horse-corral — a deep ford — a hard trail— in 
with the horse herd — a bucking bronco — cruising for stock— tail- 
piece, old-style texan cowman. 



IV. The Round-Up 45 

Illustrations: broncos and timber wolves — initial — driving to the 
round-up— saddling fresh horses —trailing cattle— the rope corral 
— cutting out a steer - branding a calf— branding a horse— the herd 
at night— in a stampede —tail-piece, roped.' — a texan pony. 



V. Winter Weather 73 

Illustrations: line riding jn winter — initial — cattle drifting before 
the storm— tail-piece — horse of the canadian northwest. 



VI. Frontier Types 



Illustrations : the fugitive— initial, a Mexican vaquero—a french-cana- 
dian trapper — a fight in the street— making a tenderfoot dance - 
painting the town red — a row in a cattle town— the magic of the 
drop— tail-piece, which is the bad man? 



Vll. Red and White on the Border 10 1 

Illustrations: sign language— initial, the peace sign— standing off In- 
dians— an EPISODE IN THE OPENING UP OF A CATTLE COUNTRY— TAIL-PIECE, 
one OF THE BOYS— THE INDIAN PONY. 



\'III. Sheriff's Work ox a Ranch 



III 



Illustrations: ax old-time mouxtain man with his ponies -initial — the 
caftcre of the german: -'hands up.'"— the capture of finnigan—" take 
off your boots.'" — doivn-stream— on guard at night— "a sharp prelim- 
inary tussle" — on the road to dickinson — tail-piece, a texan cowboy 
— an agenci' policeman. 



IX. The Ranchman's Rifle on Crag and Prairie 131 

Illustrations: an elk— i-xitial — bringing home the game— a prong-horn 
buck risits camp— the buck overtaken— tail-piece, our camp — mountain 
lions at the deer cache. 



X. The Wapiti, or Round-Horned Elk 147 

Illustrations: our elk outfit at the ford — i ail-piece — heralding the 

SUNRISE. 



XI. The Big-Horn Sheep 153 

Illustrations : a mountain hunter— shot/— tail-piece, a Montana cowboy. 



XII. The Game of the High Peaks: The White Goat .... 171 
Illustrations: a pony of the northern rockies — initial— in a canon of 

the CCEUR D'ALiNE — DOWN BRAKES/— THE INDIANS WE MET— THE FIRST SHOT 
— STALKING GOATS— THE WHITE GOAT AT HOME —TAIL-PIECE, ADIOS. 




1 ,/-' 



'•Ob, our manhood's prime vigor ! No ^ir it feels Wcnte, 
Not a mwscle is stopped in its ptaying nor sinew unbraced. 
Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock. 
The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver shock 
Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt of the bear, 
And the sleep in the dried river- channel where bulrushes tell 
That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well. 
How good is man's life, the mere living." 



BROWNING. 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 




A STUDY FROM LIFE. 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 




V The Cattle Country of the Far West 




-■i^"i HE trreat prazine lands of the West lie in what is known 
-^ as the arid belt, which stretches from British America on 
the north to Mexico on the south, through the middle of the 
United States. It includes New Mexico, part of Arizona, 
Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and the western portion of 
Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Dakota. It must not be understood by 
this that more cattle are to be found here than elsewhere, for the contrary 
is true, it being a fact often lost sight of that the number of cattle raised 
on the small, thick-lying farms of the fertile Eastern States is actually 
many times greater than that of those scattered over the vast, barren 
ranches of the far West; for stock will always be most plentiful in districts 
where corn and other winter food can be grown. But in this arid belt, 
and in this arid belt only, — save in a few similar tracts on the Pacific 
slope, — stock-raising is almost the sole industry, except in the mountain 
districts where there is mining. The whole region is one vast stretch of 
grazing country, with only here and there spots of farm-land, in most 
places there being nothing more like agriculture than is implied in the 
cutting of some tons of wild hay or the planting of a garden patch for 
home use. This is especially true of the northern portion of the region, 
which comprises the basin of the Upper Missouri, and with which alone I 
am familiar. Here there are no fences to speak of, and all the land north 
of the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountains and between the Rockies 
and the Dakota wheat-fields might be spoken of as one gigantic, unbroken 
pasture, where cowboys and branding-irons take the place of fences. 



2 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

The country throughout this great Upper Missouri basin has a won- 
derful sameness of character ; and the rest of the arid belt, lying to the 
southward, is closely akin to it in its main features. A traveler seeing it 
for the first time is especially struck by its look of parched, barren desola- 
tion ; he can with difhculty believe that it will support cattle at all. It is 
a region of light rainfall ; the grass is short and comparatively scanty; there 
is no timber except along the beds of the streams, and in many places 
there are alkali deserts where nothing grows but sage-brush and cactus. 
Xow the land stretches out into level, seemingly endless plains or into 
rolling prairies ; again it is broken by abrupt hills and deep, winding val- 
leys ; or else it is crossed by chains of buttes, usually bare, but often clad 
with a dense growth of dwarfed pines or gnarled, stunted cedars. The 
muddy rivers run in broad, shallow beds, which after heavy rainfalls are 
filled to the brim by the swollen torrents, while in droughts the larger 
streams dwindle into sluggish trickles of clearer water, and the smaller 
ones dry up entirely, save in occasional deep pools. 

All through the region, except on the great Indian reservations, there 
has been a scanty and sparse settlement, quite peculiar in its character. 
In the forest the woodchopper comes first; on the fertile prairies the 
granger is the pioneer ; but on the long, stretching uplands of the far 
West it is the men who guard and follow the horned herds that prepare 
the way for the settlers who come after. The high plains of the Upper 
Missouri and its tributary rivers were first opened, and are still held, by 
the stockmen, and the whole civilization of the region has received the 
stamp of their marked and individual characteristics. They were from 
the South, not from the East, although many men from the latter region 
came out along the great transcontinental railway lines and joined them 
in their northern migration. 

They were not dwellers in towns, and from the nature of their indus- 
try lived as far apart from each other as possible. In choosing new ranges, 
old cow-hands, who are also seasoned plainsmen, are invariably sent ahead, 
perhaps a year in advance, to spy out the land and pick the best places. 
One of these may go by himself, or more often, especially if they have to 
penetrate little known or entirely unknown tracts, two or three will go 
together, the owner or manager of the herd himself being one of them. 
Perhaps their herds may already be on the border of the wild and unin- 
habited country : in that case they may have to take but a few days' jour- 
ney before finding the stretches of sheltered, long-grass land that they 
seek. For instance, when I wished to move my own elkhorn steer brand 
on to a new ranch I had to spend barely a week in traveling north among 



THE CATTLE COUNTRY OF THE FAR WEST 3 

the Little Missouri Bad Lands before finding what was then untrodden 
ground far outside the range of any of my neighbors' cattle. But if a 
large outfit is going to shift its quarters it must go much farther ; and both 




AN EXPLORING OUTFIT. 



the necessity and the chance for long wanderings were especially great 
when the final overthrow of the northern Horse Indians opened the whole 
Upper Missouri basin at one sweep to the stockmen. Then the advance- 
guards or explorers, each on one horse and leading another with food and 
bedding, were often absent months at a time, threading their way through 
the trackless wastes of plain, plateau, and river-bottom. If possible they 
would choose a country that would be good for winter and summer alike ; 
but often this could not be done, and then they would try to find a well- 
watered tract on which the cattle could be summered, and from which they 



1 RANCH Lll'E AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

could be driven in tall to their sheltered winter range — for the cattle in 
winter eat snow, and an entirely waterless region, if broken, and with 
good pasturage, is often the best possible winter ground, as it is sure not 
to have been eaten off at all during the summer; while in the bottoms the 
grass is always cropped down soonest. Many outfits regularly shift their 
herds every spring and fall ; but with us in the Bad Lands all we do, when 
cold weather sets in, is to drive our beasts off the scantily grassed river- 
bottom back ten miles or more among the broken buttes and plateaus of 
the uplands to where the brown hay, cured on the stalk, stands thick in the 
winding coulees. 

These lookouts or forerunners having returned, the herds are set in 
motion as early in the spring as may be, so as to get on the ground in 
time to let the travel-worn beasts rest and tjain flesh before winter sets in. 
Each herd is accompanied by a dozen, or a score, or a couple of score, of 
cowboys, according to its size, and beside it rumble and jolt the heavy 
four-horse wagons that hold the food and bedding of the men and the few 
implements they will need at the end of their journey. As long as possi- 
ble they follow the trails made by the herds that have already traveled in 
the same direction, and when these end they strike out for themselves. 
In the Upper Missouri basin, the pioneer herds soon had to scatter out 
and each find its own way among the great dreary solitudes, creeping 
carefully along so that the cattle should not be overdriven and should have 
water at the halting-places. An outfit might thus be months on its lonely 
journey, slowly making its way over melancholy, pathless plains, or down 
the valleys of the lonely rivers. It was tedious, harassing work, as the 
weary cattle had to be driven carefully and quietly during the day and 
strictly guarded at night, with a perpetual watch kept for Indians or white 
horse-thieves. Often they would skirt the edges of the streams for days 
at a time, seeking for a ford or a good swimming crossing, and if the 
water was up and the quicksand deep the danger to the riders was serious 
and the risk of loss among the cattle very great. 

At last, after days of excitement and danger and after months of weary, 
monotonous toil, the chosen ground is reached and the final camp pitched. 
The footsore animals are turned loose to shift for themselves, outlying 
camps of two or three men each being established to hem them in. 
Meanwhile the primitive ranch-house, out-buildings, and corrals are built, 
the unhewn cottonwood logs being chinked with moss and mud, while the 
roofs are of branches covered with dirt, spades and axes being the only 
tools needed for the work. Bunks, chairs, and tables are all home-made, 
and as rough as the houses they are in. The supplies of coarse, rude food 



THE CATTLE COUNTRY OF THE FAR WEST 




THE MIDDAY MEAL. 



are carried perhaps two or three hundred miles from the nearest town, 
either in the ranch-wagons or else by some regular freighting outfit, the 
huge canvas-topped prairie schooners of which are each drawn by several 
yoke of oxen, or perhaps by six or eight mules. To guard against the 
numerous mishaps of prairie travel, two or three of these prairie schooners 
usually go together, the brawny teamsters, known either as "bull-whack- 
ers " or as " mule-skinners," stalking beside their slow-moving teams. 

The small outlying camps are often tents, or mere dug-outs in the 
ground. But at the main ranch there will be a cluster of log buildings, 
including a separate cabin for the foreman or ranchman ; often another 
in which to cook and eat ; a long house for the men to sleep in ; stables, 
sheds, a blacksmith's shop, etc., — the whole group forming quite a little 
settlement, with the corrals, the stacks of natural hay, and the patches of 
fenced land for gardens or horse pastures. This little settlement may be 
situated right out in the treeless, nearly level open, but much more often 
is placed in the partly wooded bottom of a creek or river, sheltered by the 
usual background of somber brown hills. 



6 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

When the northern plains began to be settled, such a ranch would 
at first be absolutely alone in the wilderness, but others of the same sort 
were sure soon to be established within twenty or thirty miles on one side 
or the other. The lives of the men in such places were strangely cut off 
trom the outside world, and, indeed, the same is true to a hardly less 
extent at the present day. Sometimes the wagons are sent for provisions, 
and the beef-steers are at stated times driven off for shipment. Parties 
ot hunters and trappers call now and then. More rarely small bands of 
emigrants go by in search of new homes, impelled by the restless, aimless 
craving for change so deeply grafted in the breast of the American bor- 
derer : the white-topped wagons are loaded with domestic goods, with 
sallow, dispirited-looking women, and with tow-headed children; while 
the gaunt, moody frontiersmen slouch alongside, rifle on shoulder, lank, 
homely, uncouth, and yet with a curious suggestion of grim strength under- 
lying it all. Or cowboys from neighboring ranches will ride over, looking 
lor lost horses, or seeing if their cattle have strayed off the range. But 
this is all. Civilization seems as remote as if we were living in an age 
long past. The whole existence is patriarchal in character : it is the life 
of men who live in the open, who tend their herds on horseback, who go 
armed and ready to guard their lives by their own prowess, whose wants 
are very simple, and who call no man master. Ranching is an occupation 
like those of vigorous, primitive pastoral peoples, having little in common 
with the humdrum, workaday business world of the nineteenth century ; 
and the free ranchman in his manner of life shows more kinship to an 
Arab sheik than to a sleek city merchant or tradesman. 

By degrees the country becomes what in a stock-raising region passes 
tor well settled. In addition to the great ranches smaller ones are estab- 
lished, with a few hundred, or even a few score, head of cattle apiece ; 
and now and then miserable farmers straggle in to fight a losing and 
desperate battle with drought, cold, and grasshoppers. The wheels of 
the heavy wagons, driven always over the same course from one ranch to 
another, or to the remote frontier towns from which they get their goods, 
wear ruts in the soil, and roads are soon formed, perhaps originally follow- 
ing the deep trails made by the vanished buffalo. These roads lead down 
the river-bottoms or along the crests of the divides or else strike out 
fairly across the prairie, and a man may sometimes journey a hundred miles 
along one without coming to a house or a camp of any sort. If they lead 
to a shipping point whence the beeves are sent to market, the cattle, 
traveling in single file, will have worn many and deep paths on each side 
of the wheel-marks ; and the roads between important places which are 



THE CATTLE COUNTRY OF THE FAR WEST 7 

regularly used either by the United States Government, by stage-coach 
lines, or by freight teams become deeply worn landmarks — as, for in- 
stance, near us, the Deadvvood and the old Fort Keogh trails. 

Cattle-ranching can only be carried on in its present form while the 
population is scanty; and so in stock-raising regions, pure and simple, there 
are usually few towns, and these are almost always at the shipping points 
for cattle. But, on the other hand, wealthy cattlemen, like miners who 
have done well, ahvays spend their money freely ; and accordingly towns 
like Denver, Cheyenne, and Helena, where these two classes are the most 
influential in the community, are far pleasanter places of residence than 
cities of five times their population in the exclusively agricultural States 
to the eastward. 

A true "cow town" is worth seeing, — such a one as Miles City, for 
instance, especially at the time of the annual meeting of the great Mon- 
tana Stock-raisers' Association. Then the whole place is full to over- 
flowing, the importance of the meeting and the fun of the attendant frolics, 
especially the horse-races, drawing from the surrounding ranch country 
many hundreds of men of every degree, from the rich stock-owner worth 
his millions to the ordinary cowboy who works for forty dollars a month. 
It would be impossible to imagine a more typically American assemblage, 
for although there are always a certain number of foreigners, usually 
English, Irish, or German, yet they have become completely American- 
ized; and on the whole it would be difficult to gather a finer body of men, 
in spite of their numerous shortcomings. The ranch-owners differ more 
from each other than do the cowboys ; and the former certainly compare 
very favorably with similar classes of capitalists in the East. Anything 
more foolish than the demagogic outcry against "cattle kings" it would 
be difficult to imagine. Indeed, there are very few businesses so abso- 
lutely legitimate as stock-raising and so beneficial to the nation at large ; 
and a successful stock-grower must not only be shrewd, thrifty, patient, 
and enterprising, but he must also possess qualities of personal bravery, 
hardihood, and self-reliance to a degree not demanded in the least by any 
mercantile occupation in a community long settled. Stockmen are in the 
West the pioneers of civilization, and their daring and adventurousness 
make the after settlement of the region possible. The w^hole country 
owes them a great debt. 

The most successful ranchmen are those, usually South-westerners, 
who have been bred to the business and have grown up with it; but many 
Eastern men, including not a few college graduates, have also done 
excellently by devoting their w^hole time and energy to their work, — 



8 RANCH LIFE AND THK HUNTING-TRAIL 

although Easterners who invest their money in cattle without knowing 
anything of the business, or who trust all to their subordinates, are natu- 
rally enough likel)- to incur heavy losses. Stockmen are learning more 



THE OUTL\ i;,i. LAMl', 



and more to act together ; and certainly the meetings of their associations 
are conducted with a dignity and good sense that would do credit to any 
parliamentary body. 

But the cowboys resemble one another much more and outsiders 
much less than is the case even with their employers, the ranchmen. A 
town in the cattle country, when for some cause it is thronged with men 
from the neighborhood, always presents a picturesque sight. On the 
wooden sidewalks of the broad, dusty streets the men who ply the various 
industries known only to frontier existence jostle one another as they 
saunter to and fro or lounge lazily in front of the straggling, cheap-look- 
ing board houses. Hunters come in from the plains and the mountains, 
clad in buckskin shirts and fur caps, greasy and unkempt, but with resolute 
faces and sullen, watchful eyes, that are ever on the alert. The teamsters, 
surly and self-contained, wear slouch hats and great cowhide boots ; 
while the stage-drivers, their faces seamed by the hardship and exposure 
of their long drives with every kind of team, through every kind of 



THE CATTLE COUNIRY OF rilK FAR WEST n 

country, and in every kind of weather, proud of their really wonderful 
skill as reinsmen and conscious of their high standing in any frontier 
community, look down on and sneer at the "skin hunters" and the 
plodding drivers of the white-topped prairie schooners. Besides these 
there are trappers, and wolfers, whose business is to poison wolves, with 
shaggy, knock-kneed ponies to carry their small bales and bundles of 
furs — beaver, wolf, fox, and occasionally otter; and silent sheep-herders, 
with cast-down faces, never able to forget the absolute solitude and 
monotony of their dreary lives, nor to rid their minds of the thought 
of the woolly idiots they pass all their days in tending. Such are the 
men who have come to town, either on business or else to frequent the 
flaunting saloons and gaudy hells of all kinds in search of the coarse, 
vicious excitement that in the minds of many of them does duty as 
pleasure — the only form of pleasure they have ever had a chance to 
know. Indians too, wrapped in blankets, with stolid, emotionless faces, 
stalk silently round among the whites, or join in the gambling and horse- 
racing. If the town is on the borders of the mountain country, there will 
also be sinewy lumbermen, rough-looking miners, and packers, whose 
business it is to guide the long mule and pony trains that go where 
wagons can not and whose work in packing needs special and peculiar 
skill ; and mingled with and drawn from all these classes are desperadoes 
of every grade, from the gambler up through the horse-thief to the mur- 
derous professional bully, or, as he is locally called, ''bad man" — now, 
however, a much less conspicuous object than formerly. 

But everywhere among these plainsmen and mountain-men, and more 
important than any, are the cowboys, — the men who follow the calling 
that has brought such towns into being. Singly, or in twos or threes, 
they gallop their wiry little horses down the street, their lithe, supple fig- 
ures erect or swaying slightly as they sit loosely in the saddle; while 
their stirrups are so long that their knees are hardly bent, the bridles not 
taut enough to keep the chains from clanking. They are smaller and 
less muscular than the wielders of ax and pick ; but they are as hardy 
and self-reliant as any men who ever breathed — with bronzed, set faces, 
and keen eyes that look all the world straight in the face without flinch- 
ing as they flash out from under the broad-brimmed hats. Peril and 
hardship, and years of long toil broken by weeks of brutal dissipation, 
draw haggard lines across their eager faces, but never dim their reckless 
eyes nor break their bearing of defiant self-confidence. They do not 
walk well, partly because they so rarely do any work out of the saddle, 
partly because their chaperajos or leather overalls hamper them when on 



IQ RAXril LIFE AND THE HUNTING- TRAIL 

the ground ; but their appearance is striking for all that, and picturesque 
too, w ith their jingling spurs, the big revolvers stuck in their belts, and 
bright silk handkerchiefs knotted loosely round their necks over the open 
collars of the flannel shirts. When drunk on the villainous whisky of the 
frontier towns, they cut mad antics, riding their horses into the saloons, 
firing their pistols right and left, from boisterous light-heartedness rather 
than from any viciousness, and indulging too often in deadly shooting 
affrays, brought on either by the accidental contact of the moment or on 
account of some long-standing grudge, or perhaps because of bad blood 
between two ranches or localities ; but except while on such sprees they 
are quiet, rather self-contained men, perfectly frank and simple, and on 
their own ground treat a stranger with the most whole-souled hospitality, 
doing all in their power for him and scorning to take any reward in return. 
Although prompt to resent an injury, they are not at all apt to be rude 
to outsiders, treating them with what can almost be called a grave court- 
esy. They are much better fellow^s and pleasanter companions than small 
farmers or agricultural laborers ; nor are the mechanics and workmen of 
a great city to be mentioned in the same breath. 

The bulk of the cowboys themselves are South-westerners ; but there 
are also many from the Eastern and the Northern States, who, if they begin 
young, do quite as well as the Southerners. The best hands are fairly 
bred to the work and follow it from their youth up. Nothing can be more 
foolish than for an Easterner to think he can become a cowboy in a few 
months' time. Many a young fellow comes out hot with enthusiasm for 
life on the plains, only to learn that his clumsiness is greater than he 
could have believed possible ; that the cowboy business is like any other 
and has to be learned by serving a painful apprenticeship ; and that this 
apprenticeship implies the endurance of rough fare, hard living, dirt, 
exposure of every kind, no little toil, and month after month of the dull- 
est monotony. For cowboy work there is need of special traits and 
special training, and young Easterners should be sure of themselves 
before trying it: the struggle for existence is very keen in the far West, 
and it is no place for men who lack the ruder, coarser virtues and physical 
qualities, no matter how intellectual or how refined and delicate their 
sensibilities. Such are more likely to fail there than in older communities. 
Probably during the past few years more than half of the young Eastern- 
ers who have come West with a little money to learn the cattle business 
have failed signally and lost what they had in the beginning. The West, 
especially the far West, needs men who have been bred on the farm or in 
the workshop far more than it does clerks or college graduates. 



THE CATTLE COUNTRY OF THE FAR WEST 



I I 




COWBOY FUN. 



Some of the cowboys are Mexicans, who generally do the actual work 
well enough, but are not trustworthy ; moreover, they are always regarded 
with extreme disfavor by the Texans in an outfit, among whom the intol- 
erant caste spirit is very strong. Southern-born whites will never work 
under them, and look down upon all colored or half-caste races. One 
spring I had with my wagon a Pueblo Indian, an excellent rider and 
roper, but a drunken, worthless, lazy devil; and in the summer of 1886 
there were with us a Sioux half-breed, a quiet, hard-working, faithful 
fellow, and a mulatto, who was one of the best cow-hands in the whole 
round-up. 



12 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



Cowboys, like most Westerners, occasionally show remarkable versa- 
tilit)- in their tastes and pursuits. One whom I know has abandoned his 
regular occupation tor the past nine months, during which time he has 
been in succession a bartender, a school-teacher, and a probate judge ! 
Anodicr. wiioin 1 once employed for a short while, had passed through 
even more varied experiences, including those ot a barber, a sailor, an 
apothecary, and a buftalo-hunter. 

As a rule the cowboys are known to each other only by their first 
names, with, perhaps, as a prefix, the title of the brand for which they are 
working. Thus I remember once overhearing a casual remark to the 
effect that "Bar Y Harry" had married "the Seven Open A girl," the 
latter being the daughter of a neighboring ranchman. Often they receive 




IN A HUG-HuLK. 



nicknames, as, for instance, Dutch Wannigan, Windy Jack, and Kid 
Williams, all of whom are on the list of my personal acquaintances. 

No man traveling through or living in the country need fear molesta- 
tion from the cowboys unless he himself accompanies them on their drink- 
ing-bouts, or in other ways plays the fool, for they are, with us at any 
rate, very good fellows, and the most determined and effective foes of 
real law-breakers, such as horse and cattle thieves, murderers, etc. Few 



THE CATTLE COUNTRY OF THE FAR WEST 1 -. 

of the outrages quoted in Eastern papers as their handiwork are such in 
reahty, the average Easterner apparently considering every individual who 
wears a broad hat and carries a six-shooter a cowboy. These outrages 
are, as a rule, the work of the roughs and criminals who always gather on 
the outskirts of civilization, and who infest every frontier town until the 
decent citizens become sufficiently numerous and determined to take the 
law into their own hands and drive them out. The old buffalo- hunters, 
who formed a distinct class, became powerful forces for evil once they had 
destroyed the vast herds of mighty beasts the pursuit of which had been 
their means of livelihood. They were absolutely shiftless and improvident ; 
they had no settled habits ; they were inured to peril and hardship, but 
entirely unaccustomed to steady work ; and so they afforded just the ma- 
terials from which to make the bolder and more desperate kinds of crim- 
inals. When the game was gone they hung round the settlements for 
some little time, and then many of them naturally took to horse-stealing, 
cattle-killing, and highway robbery, although others, of course, went into 
honest pursuits. They were men who died off rapidly, however ; for it is 
curious to see how many of these plainsmen, in spite of their iron nerves 
and thews, have their constitutions completely undermined, as much by 
the terrible hardships they have endured as by the fits of prolonged and 
bestial revelry with which they have varied them. 

The "bad men," or professional fighters and man-killers, are of a 
different stamp, quite a number of them being, according to their light, 
perfectly honest. These are the men who do most of the killing in fron- 
tier communities ; yet it is a noteworthy fact that the men who are killed 
generally deserve their fate. These men are, of course, used to brawling, 
and are not only sure shots, but, what is equally important, able to "draw" 
their weapons with marvelous quickness. They think nothing whatever 
of murder, and are the dread and terror of their associates ; yet they are 
very chary of taking the life of a man of good standing, and will often 
weaken and back down at once if confronted fearlessly. With many of 
them their courage arises from confidence in their own powers and knowl- 
edge of the fear in which they are held ; and men of this type often show 
the white feather when they get in a tight place. Others, however, will 
face any odds without flinching; and I have known of these men fighting, 
when mortally wounded, with a cool, ferocious despair that was terrible. 
As elsewhere, so here, very quiet men are often those who in an emer- 
gency show themselves best able to hold their own. These despera- 
does always try to "get the drop" on a foe — that is, to take him at a 
disadvantage before he can use his own weapon. I have known more 



14 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

men killed in this way, when the affair was wholly one-sided, than I have 
known to be shot in fair fight ; and I have known fijlly as many who 
were shot by accident. It is wonderfiil, in the event of a street fight, how 
few bullets seem to hit the men they are aimed at. 

During the last two or three years the stockmen have united to 
put down all these dangerous characters, often by the most summary 
exercise of lynch law. Notorious bullies and murderers have been 
taken out and hung, while the bands of horse and cattle thieves have 
been regularly hunted down and destroyed in pitched fights by parties 
of armed cowboys ; and as a consequence most of our territory is now 
perfectly law-abiding. One such fight occurred north of me early last 
spring. The horse-thieves were overtaken on the banks of the Missouri ; 
two of their number were slain, and the others were driven on the ice, 
which broke, and two more were drowned. A few months previously 
another gang, whose headquarters were near the Canadian line, were 
surprised in their hut ; two or three were shot down by the cowboys as 
they tried to come out, while the rest barricaded themselves in and fought 
until the great log-hut was set on fire, when they broke forth in a body, 
and nearly all were killed at once, only one or two making their escape. 
A little over two years ago one committee of vigilantes in eastern Mon- 
tana shot or hung nearly sixty — not, however, with the best judgment 
in all cases. 




OUT ON THE RANGE 




I' . ■ , I 



THE BRANDING CHUTK. 



II 



Out on the Range 



STRANGER in the North-western cattle country is 
especially struck by the resemblance the settlers show- 
in their pursuits and habits to the Southern people. 
Nebraska and Dakota, east of the Missouri, resem- 
ble Minnesota and Iowa and the States farther east, 
l)ut Montana and the Dakota cow country show 
more kinship with Texas ; for while elsewhere in 
America settlement has advanced along the paral- 
lels of latitude, on the great plains it has followed 
meridians of longitude and has gone northerly rather 
than westerly. The business is carried on as it is in the 
South. The rough-rider of the plains, the hero of rope and 
revolver, is first cousin to the backwoodsman of the south- 
ern Alleghanies, the man of the ax and the rifle; he is only a 
unique offshoot of the frontier stock of the South-west. The 
very term "round-up" is used by the cowboys in the exact 
sense in which it is employed by the hill people and mount- 
aineers of Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, with whom also 
labor is dear and poor land cheap, and whose few cattle are consequently 
branded and turned loose in the woods exactly as is done with the great 
herds on the plains. 

But the ranching industry itself was copied from the Mexicans, of 
whose land and herds the South-western frontiersmen of Texas took 
forcible possession; and the traveler in the North-west will see at a 
glance that the terms and practices of our business are largely of Spanish 
origin. The cruel curb-bit and heavy stock-saddle, with its high horn 
and cande, prove that we have adopted Spanish- American horse-gear; 
and the broad hat, huge blunt spurs, and leather chaperajos of the rider, 
as well as the corral in which the stock are penned, all alike show the 
same ancestry. Throughout the catde country east of the Rocky Mount- 




l6 RANCH LIFE AM) IHE HUNTING-TRAIL 

ains, from the Rio Grande to the Saskatchewan, the same terms are in 
use and the same system is followed ; but on the Pacific slope, in Califor- 
nia, there are certain small differences, even in nomenclature. Thus, we 
of the great plains all use the double cinch saddle, with one girth behind 
the horse's fore legs and another farther back, while Californians prefer 
one with a single cinch, which seems to us much inferior for stock-work. 
Again. Californians use the Spanish word "lasso," which with us has been 
entirely dropped, no plainsman with pretensions to the title thinking of 
anv word but "rope," either as noun or verb. 

The rope, whether leather lariat or made of grass, is the one essential 
feature of every cowboy's equipment. Loosely coiled, it hangs from the 
horn or is tied to one side of the saddle in front of the thigh, and is used 
for every conceivable emergency, a twist being taken round the stout 
saddle- horn the second the noose settles over the neck or around the legs 
of a chased animal. In helping pull a wagon up a steep pitch, in drag- 
ging an animal by the horns out of a bog-hole, in hauling logs for the 
fire, and in a hundred other ways aside from its legitimate purpose, the 
rope is of invaluable service, and dexterity with it is prized almost or 
quite as highly as good horsemanship, and is much rarer. Once a cow- 
boy is a good roper and rider, the only other accomplishment he values is 
skill with his great army revolver, it being taken for granted that he is 
already a thorough plainsman and has long mastered the details of cattle- 
work ; for the best roper and rider alive is of little use unless he is hard- 
working, honest, keenly alive to his employer's interest, and very careful 
in the management of the cattle. 

All cowboys can handle the rope with more or less ease and precision, 
but great skill in its use is only attained after long practice, and for its 
highest development needs that the man should have begun in earliest 
)Outh. Mexicans literally practice from infancy; the boy can hardly tod- 
dle before he gets a string and begins to render life a burden to the hens, 
goats, and pigs, A really first-class roper can command his own price, 
and is usually fit for little but his own special work. 

It is much the same with riding. The cowboy is an excellent rider in 
his own way, but his way differs from that of a trained school horseman 
or cross-country fox-hunter as much as it does from the horsemanship of 
an Arab or of a Sioux Indian, and, as with all these, it has its special 
merits and special defects — schoolman, fox-hunter, cowboy, Arab, and 
Indian being all alike admirable riders in their respective styles, and each 
cherishing the same profound and ignorant contempt for every method but 
his own. The flash riders, or horse-breakers, always called "bronco 



OUT ON THE RANGE 



busters," can perform really marvelous feats, riding with ease the most 
vicious and unbroken beasts, that no ordinary cowboy would dare to 
tackle. Although sitting seemingly so loose in the saddle, such a rider 
cannot be jarred out of it by the wildest plunges, it being a favorite feat 

to sit out the antics of a buck- 
ing horse with silver half-dollars 
under each knee or in the stirrups 
under each foot. But their method 
of breaking is very rough, consist- 




PULLING A COW OUT OF THE MUD. 



ing only in saddling and bridling 
a beast by main force and then 
riding him, also by main force, 
until he is exhausted, when he is 
turned over as "broken." Later 
on the cowboy himself may train 
his horse to stop or wheel instantly at a touch of the reins or bit, to start at 
top speed at a signal, and to stand motionless when left. An intelligent 
pony soon picks up a good deal of knowledge about the cow business on 
his own account. 

All cattle are branded, usually on the hip, shoulder, and side, or on 
any one of them, with letters, numbers, or figures, in every combination, 
the outfit being known by its brand. Near me, for instance, are the Three 
Sevens, the Thistle, the Bellows, the OX, the VI., the Seventy-six Bar 
(— ), and the Quarter Circle Diamond (^) outfits. The dew-lap and the 
ears may also be cut, notched, or slit. All brands are registered, and are 
thus protected against imitators, any man tampering with them being 
punished as severely as possible. Unbranded animals are called niavci'icks, 



l8 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

and when found on the round-up are either branded by the owner of the 
range on which they are, or else are sold for the benefit of the association. 
At every shipping point, as well as where the beef cattle are received, there 
are stock inspectors who jealously examine all the brands on the live ani- 
mals or on the hides of the slaughtered ones, so as to detect any foul 
pla\-, which is immediately reported to the association. It becomes sec- 
ond nature with a cowboy to inspect and note the brands of every bunch 
of animals he comes across. 

Perhaps the thing that seems strangest to the traveler who for the first 
time crosses the bleak plains of this Upper Missouri grazing country is 
the small number of cattle seen. He can hardly believe he is in the great 
stock region, where for miles upon miles he will not see a single head, 
and will then come only upon a straggling herd of a few score. As a 
matter of fact, where there is no artificial food put up for winter use cattle 
always need a good deal of ground per head ; and this is peculiarly the 
case with us in the North-west, where much of the ground is bare of 
vegetation and where what pasture there is is both short and sparse. It 
is a matter of absolute necessity, where beasts are left to shift for them- 
selves in the open during the bitter winter weather, that they then should 
have grass that they have not cropped too far down ; and to insure this it 
is necessary with us to allow on the average about twenty- five acres of 
ground to each animal. This means that a range of country ten miles 
square will keep between two and three thousand head of stock only, and 
if more are put on, it is at the risk of seeing a severe winter kill off half 
or three-quarters of the whole number. So a range may be in reality 
overstocked when to an Eastern and unpracticed eye it seems hardly to 
have on it a number worth taking into account. 

Overstocking is the great danger threatening the stock-raising indus- 
try on the plains. This industry has only risen to be of more than local 
consequence during the past score of years, as before that time it was 
confined to Texas and California; but during these two decades of its 
existence the stockmen in different localities have again and again suffered 
the most ruinous losses, usually with overstocking as the ultimate cause. 
In the south the drought, and in the north the deep snows, and everywhere 
unusually bad winters, do immense damage ; still, if the land is fitted tor 
stock at all, they will, averaging one year with another, do very well so 
long as the feed is not cropped down too close. 

But, of course, no amount of feed will make some countries worth any- 
thing for cattle that are not housed during the winter ; and stockmen in 
choosing new ranges for their herds pay almost as much attention to the 



OUT ON THE RANGE ig 

capacity of the land for yielding shelter as they do to the abundant and 
good quality of the grass. High up among the foot-hills of the moun- 
tains cattle will not live through the winter ; and an open, rolling prairie 
land of heavy rainfall, where in consequence the snow lies deep and 
there is no protection from the furious cold winds, is useless for winter 
grazing, no matter how thick and high the feed. The three essentials for 
a range are grass, water, and shelter : the water is only needed in summer 
and the shelter in winter, while it may be doubted if drought during the 
hot months has ever killed off more cattle than have died of exposure 
on shelterless ground to the icy weather, lasting from November to April. 

The finest summer range may be valueless either on account of its 
lack of shelter or because it is in a region of heavy snowfall — portions of 
territory lying in the same latitude and not very far apart often differing 
widely in this respect, or extraordinarily severe weather may cause a heavy 
death-rate utterly unconnected with overstocking. This was true of the 
loss that visited the few herds which spent the very hard winter of 1880 
on the northern cattle plains. These were the pioneers of their kind, and 
the grass was all that could be desired ; yet the extraordinary severity 
of the weather proved too much for the cattle. This was especially the 
case with those herds consisting of " pilgrims," as they are called — that 
is, of animals driven up on to the range from the south, and therefore in 
poor condition. One such herd of pilgrims on the Powder River suffered 
a loss of thirty-six hundred out of a total of four thousand, and the sur- 
vivors kept alive only by browsing on the tops of cottonwoods felled for 
them. Even seasoned animals fared very badly. One great herd in the 
Yellowstone Valley lost about a fourth of its number, the loss falling mainly 
on the breeding cows, calves, and bulls, — always the chief sufferers, as the 
steers, and also the dry cows, will get through almost anything. The 
loss here would have been far heavier than it was had it not been for a 
curious trait shown by the cattle. They kept in bands of several hundred 
each, and during the time of the deep snows a band would make a 
start and travel several miles in a straight line, plowing their way 
through the drifts and beating out a broad track ; then, when stopped 
by a frozen water-course or chain of buttes, they would turn back and 
graze over the trail thus made, the only place where they could get at 
the grass. 

A drenching rain, followed by a severe snap of cold, is even more 
destructive than deep snow, for the saturated coats of the poor beasts are 
turned into sheets of icy mail, and the grass-blades, frozen at the roots as 
well as above, change into sheaves of brittle spears as uneatable as so 



20 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUiNTING-TRAH. 



many icicles. Entire herds have perished in consequence of such a storm. 
Mere cold, however, will kill only very weak animals, which is fortunate 
for us, as the spirit in the thermometer during winter often sinks to fifty 
degrees below zero, the cold being literally arctic ; yet though the cattle 
become thin during such a snap of weather, and sometimes have their 
ears, tails, and even horns frozen off, they nevertheless rarely die from the 
cold alone. But if there is a blizzard blowing at such a time, the cattle 




A DISPUTE OVER A BRAND. 



need shelter, and if caught in the open, will travel for scores of miles 
before the storm, until they reach a break in the ground, or some stretch 
of dense woodland, which will shield them from the blasts. If cattle trav- 
eling in this manner come to some obstacle that they cannot pass, as, for 
instance, a wire fence or a steep railway embankment, they will not try to 
make their way back against the storm, but will simply stand with their 
tails to it until they drop dead in their tracks ; and, accordingly, in some 
parts of the country — but luckily far to the south of us — the railways 
are fringed with countless skeletons of beasts that have thus perished, 
while many of the long wire fences make an almost equally bad showing. 



OUT ON THE RANGE 21 

In some of the very open country of Kansas and Indian Territory, many 
of the herds during the past two years have suffered a loss of from sixty 
to eighty per cent., although this was from a variety of causes, including 
drought as well as severe wuiter weather. Too much rain is quite as bad 
as too little, especially if it falls after the ist of August, for then, though 
the growth of grass is very rank and luxuriant, it yet has little strength 
and does not cure well on the stalk ; and it is only possible to winter 
cattle at large at all because of the way in which the grass turns into 
natural hay by this curing on the stalk. 

But scantiness of food, due to overstocking, is the one really great 
danger to us in the north, who do not have to fear the droughts that 
occasionally devastate portions of the southern ranges. In a fairly good 
country, if the feed is plenty, the natural increase of a herd is sure shortly 
to repair any damage that may be done by an unusually severe winter — 
unless, indeed, the latter should be one such as occurs but two or three times 
in a century. When, however, the grass becomes cropped down, then the 
loss in even an ordinary year is heavy among the weaker animals, and if 
the winter is at all severe it becomes simply appalling. The snow covers 
the shorter grass much quicker, and even when there is enough, the 
cattle, weak and unfit to travel around, have to work hard to get it; their 
exertions tending to enfeeble them and to render them less able to cope 
with the exposure and cold. The large patches of brushwood, into which 
the cattle crowd and which to a small number afford ample shelter and 
some food, become trodden down and yield neither when the beasts become 
too plentiful. Again, the grass is, of course, soonest eaten off where there is 
shelter; and, accordingly, the broken ground to which the animals cling 
during winter may be grazed bare of vegetation though the open plains, 
to which only the hardiest will at this season stray, may have plenty ; and 
insufficiency of food, although not such as actually to starve them, weak- 
ens them so that they succumb readily to the cold or to one of the 
numerous accidents to which they are liable — as slipping off an icy 
butte or getting cast in a frozen washout. The cows in calf are those 
that suffer most, and so heavy is the loss among these and so light the 
calf crop that it is yet an open question whether our northern ranges are 
as a whole fitted for breeding. When the animals get weak they will 
huddle into some nook or corner and simply stay there till they die. An 
empty hut, for instance, will often in the spring be found to contain the 
carcasses of a dozen weak cows or poor steers that have craw'led into it 
for protection from the cold, and once in have never moved out. 

Overstocking may cause little or no harm for two or three years, but 



22 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



sooner or later there comes a winter which means ruin to the ranches that 
have too many cattle on them ; and in our country, which is even now 
getting" crowded, it is merely a question of time as to when a winter will 
come that will understock the ranges by the summary process of killing 
oft' about half of all the cattle throughout the North-west.* The herds 
that have just been put on suffer most in such a case; if they have come 
on late and are composed of weak animals, very few indeed, perhaps 
not ten per cent., will survive. The cattle that have been double or 
single wintered do better; while a range-raised steer is almost as tough 
as a buffalo. 

In our northern country we have "free grass"; that is, the stockmen 
rarely own more than small portions of the land over which their cattle 
range, the bulk of it being unsurveyed and still the property of the Na- 
tional Government — for the latter refuses to sell the soil except in small 
lots, acting on the wise principle of distributing it among as many owners 
as possible. Here and there some ranchman has acquired title to narrow 
strips of territory peculiarly valuable as giving water-right ; but the 
amount of land thus occupied is small with us, — although the reverse is 
the case farther south, — and there is practically no fencing to speak ol. 
As a consequence, the land is one vast pasture, and the man who over- 
stocks his own range damages his neighbors as much as himself. These 
huge northern pastures are too dry and the soil too poor to be used lor 
agriculture until the rich, wet lands to the east and west are occupied ; 
and at present we have little to fear from grangers. Of course, in the end 
much of the ground will be taken up for small farms, but the farmers that 
so far have come in have absolutely failed to make even a living, except 
now and then by raising a few vegetables for the use of the stockmen ; 
and we are inclined to welcome the incoming of an occasional settler, if 
he is a decent man, especially as, by the laws of the Territories in which 
the great grazing plains lie, he is obliged to fence in his own patch of 
cleared ground, and we do not have to keep our cattle out of it. 

At present we are far more afraid of each other. There are always 
plenty of men who for the sake of the chance of gain they themselves 
run are willing to jeopardize the interests of their neighbors by putting 
on more cattle than the land will support — for the loss, of course, falls as 
heavily on the man who has put on the right number as on him who has 
put on too many; and it is against these individuals that we have to 
guard so far as we are able. To protect ourselves completely is impossi- 
ble, but the very identity of interest that renders all of us liable to suffer 

* Written in the fall of 18H6; the ensuing winter exactly fulfilled the prophecy. 



24 RANCH LibE AM) I'HE HU Nl'lNG -TRAIL 

for the fault of a few also renders us as a whole able to take some rough 
measures to guard against the wrong-doing of a portion of our number ; 
for the fact that the cattle wander intermixed over the rangfes forces all the 
ranchmen of a locality to combine if they wish to do their work effectively. 
Accordingl)-, the stockmen of a neighborhood, when it holds as many 
cattle as it safely can, usually unitedly refuse to work with any one who 
puts in another herd. In the cow country a man is peculiarly dependent 
upon his neighbors, and a small outfit is wholly unable to work without 
their assistance when once the cattle have mingled completely with those 
of other brands. A large outfit is much more master of its destiny, and 
can do its own work quite by itself; but even such a one can be injured 
in countless ways if the hostility of the neighboring ranchmen is incurred. 
The best days of ranching are over ; and though there are many 
ranchmen who still make money, yet during the past two or three years 
the majorit)- have certainly lost. This is especially true of the numerous 
Easterners who went into the business without any experience and trusted 
themselves entirely to their Western representatives ; although, on the 
other hand, many of those who have made most money at it are East- 
erners, who, however, have happened to be naturally fitted for the work 
and who have deliberately settled down to learning the business as they 
would have learned any other, devoting their whole time and energy to it. 
Stock-raising, as now carried on, is characteristic of a young and wild 
land. As the country grows older, it will in some places die out, and in 
others entirely change its character ; the ranches will be broken up, will 
be gradually modified into stock-farms, or, if on good soil, may even fall 
under the sway of the husbandman. 

In its present form stock-raising on the plains is doomed, and can 
hardly outlast the century. The great free ranches, with their barbarous, 
picturesque, and curiously fascinating surroundings, mark a primitive 
stage of existence as surely as do the great tracts of primeval forests, and 
like the latter must pass away before the onward march of our people ; 
and we who have felt the charm of the life, and have exulted in its abound- 
ing vigor and its bold, restless freedom, will not only regret its passing 
for our own sakes, but must also feel real sorrow that those who come 
after us are not to see, as we have seen, what is perhaps the pleasantest, 
healthiest, and most exciting phase of American existence. 




THE HOME RANCH 




PONIES PAWING IN THE SNOW. 



Ill 



The Home Ranch 




Y home ranch Hes on both sides of the Little Missouri, 
the nearest ranchman above me being about twelve, 
and the nearest below me about ten, miles distant. 
The general course of the stream here is northerly, 
but, while flowing through my ranch, it takes a great westerly reach of 
some three miles, walled in, as always, between chains of steep, high bluffs 
half a mile or more apart. The stream twists down through the valley 
in long sweeps, leaving oval wooded bottoms, first on one side and then 
on the other ; and in an open glade among the thick-growing timber 
stands the long, low house of hewn logs. 

Just in front of the ranch veranda is a line of old cottonwoods that 
shade it during the fierce heats of summer, rendering it always cool and 
pleasant. But a few feet beyond these trees comes the cut-off bank of 
the river, through whose broad, sandy bed the shallow stream winds as if 
lost, except when a freshet fills it from brim to brim with foaming yellow 
water. The bluffs that wall in the river-valley curve back in semicircles, 
rising from its alluvial bottom generally as abrupt cliffs, but often as steep, 
grassy slopes that lead up to great level plateaus ; and the line is broken 
every mile or two by the entrance of a coulee, or dry creek, whose head 
branches may be twenty miles back. Above us, where the river comes 
round the bend, the valley is very narrow, and the high buttes bounding it 
rise, sheer and barren, into scalped hill-peaks and naked knife-blade ridges. 
The other buildings stand in the same open glade with the ranch 
house, the dense growth of cottonwoods and matted, thorny underbrush 
making a wall all about, through which we have chopped our wagon roads 
and trodden out our own bridle-paths. The cattle have now trampled 
down this brush a little, but deer still lie in it, only a couple of hundred 
yards from the house ; and from the door sometimes in the evening one 



2b 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



can see them peer out into the open, or make their way clown, timidly 
and cautiously, to drink at the river. The stable, sheds, and other out- 
buildings, with the hayricks and the pens for such cattle as we bring in 
during winter, are near the house ; the patch of fenced garden land is 
on the edoe of the woods ; and near the middle of the sflade stands the 
high, circular horse-corral, with a snubbing-post in the center, and a wing 
built out from one side of the gate entrance, so that the saddle-band can 
be driven in without trouble. As it is very hard to work cattle where 
there is much brush, the larger cow-corral is some four miles off on an 
open bottom. 

A ranchman's life is certainly a very pleasant one, albeit generally 
varied with plenty of hardship and anxiety. Although occasionally he 
passes days of severe toil, — for example, if he goes on the round-up he 
works as hard as any of his men, — yet he no longer has to undergo the 
monotonous drudgery attendant upon the tasks of the cowboy or of the 
apprentice in the business. His fare is simple ; but, if he chooses, it is 
good enough. Many ranches are provided with nothing at all but salt 
pork, canned goods, and bread; indeed, it is a curious fact that in traveling 
through the cow country it is often impossible to get any milk or butter ; 
but this is only because the owners or managers are too lazy to take 
enough trouble 
to insure their 
own comfort. 
We ourselves 
always keep up 




two or three cows, choos- 
ing such as are naturally 
tame, and so we invari- 
ably have plenty of milk 
and, when there is time for churning, a good deal of butter. We also 
keep hens, which, in spite of the damaging inroads of hawks, bob-cats, 
and foxes, supply us with eggs, and in time of need, when our rifles have 
failed to keep us in game, with stewed, roast, or fried chicken also. From 
our garden we get potatoes, and unless drought, frost, or grasshoppers 



THE HOME RANCH 



27 



interfere (which they do about every second year), other ve<jetables as 
well. For fresh meat we depend chiefly upon our prowess as hunters. 

During- much of the time we are away on the different round-ups, that 
''wheeled house," the great four-horse wagon, being then our home; but 
when at the ranch our routine of life is always much the same, save dur- 
ing the excessively bitter weather of midwinter, when there is little to do 
except to hunt, if the days are fine enough. We breakfast early — before 
dawn when the nights have grown long, and rarely later than sunrise, 
even in midsummer. Perhaps before this meal, certainly the instant it is 
over, the man whose duty it is rides off to hunt up and drive in the saddle- 
band. Each of us has his own string of horses, eight or ten in number, 
and the whole band usually split up into two or three companies. In 
addition to the scattered groups of the saddle-band, our six or eight 
mares, with their colts, keep by themselves, and are rarely bothered by 
us, as no cowboy ever rides anything but horses, because mares give 
great trouble where all the animals have to be herded together. Once 
every two or three days somebody rides round and finds out where each 
of these smaller bands is, but the man who goes out in the morning 
merely gathers one bunch. He drives these into the corral, the other men 
(who have been lolling idly about the house or stable, fixing their saddles 
or doing any odd job) coming out with their ropes as soon as they hear 
the patter of the unshod hoofs and the shouts of the cowboy driver. 
Going into the corral, and standing near the center, each of us picks out 
some one of his own string from among the animals that are trotting and 
running in a compact mass round the circle ; and after one or miore trials, 
according to his skill, ropes it and leads it out. When all have caught 
their horses the rest are again turned loose, together with those that have 
been kept up overnight. Some horses soon get tame and do not need 
to be roped ; my pet cutting pony, little Muley, and good old Manitou, 
my companion in so many hunting trips, will neither of them stay with 
the rest of their fellows that are jamming and jostling each other as they 
rush round in the dust of the corral, but they very sensibly walk up and 
stand quietly with the men in the middle, by the snubbing-post. Both 
are great pets, Manitou in particular; the wise old fellow being very fond 
of bread and sometimes coming up of his own accord to the ranch house 
and even putting his head into the door to beg for it. 

Once saddled, the men ride off on their different tasks ; for almost 
everything is done in the saddle, except that in winter we cut our fire- 
wood and quarry our coal. — both on the ranch, — and in summer attend 
to the garden and put up what wild hay we need. 



28 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

If any horses have strayed, one or two of the men will be sent off to 
look for them ; for hunting lost horses is one of the commonest and most 
irksome of our duties. Every outfit always has certain of its horses at 
large; and if they remain out long enough they become as wild and wary 
as deer and have to be regularly surrounded and run down. On one 
occasion, when three of mine had been running loose for a couple of 
months, we had to follow at full speed for at least fifteen miles before 
exhausting them enough to enable us to get some control over them and 
head them towards a corral. Twice I have had horses absent nearly a 
year before they were recovered. One of them, after being on the ranch 
nine months, went off one night and traveled about two hundred miles in 
a straight line back to its old haunts, swimming the Yellowstone on the 
way. Two others were at one time away nearly eighteen months, during 
which time we saw them twice, and on one occasion a couple of the men 
fairly ran their horses down in following them. We began to think they 
were lost for good, as they were all the time going farther down towards 
the Sioux country, but we finally recovered them. 

If the men do not go horse-hunting they may ride off over the range; 
for there is generally some work to be done among the cattle, such as 
driving in and branding calves that have been overlooked by the round- 
up, or getting some animal out of a bog-hole. During the early spring 
months, before the round-up begins, the chief work is in hauling out 
mired cows and steers ; and if we did not keep a sharp lookout, the 
losses at this season would be very serious. As long as everything is 
frozen solid there is, of course, no danger from miring; but when the 
thaw comes, along towards the beginning of March, a period of new 
danger to the cattle sets in. When the ice breaks up, the streams are 
left with an edging of deep bog, while the quicksand is at its worst. As 
the frost goes out of the soil, the ground round every little alkali-spring 
changes into a trembling quagmire, and deep holes of slimy, tenacious 
mud form in the bottom of all the gullies. The cattle, which have had 
to live on snow for three or four months, are very eager for water, and 
are weak and in poor condition. They rush heedlessly into any pool and 
stand there, drinking gallons of the icy water and sinking steadily into 
the mud. When they try to get out they are already too deep down, 
and are too weak to make a prolonged struggle. After one or two fits of 
desperate floundering, they resign themselves to their fate with dumb 
apathy and are lost, unless some one of us riding about discovers and 
hauls them out. They may be thus lost in wonderfully small mud-holes ; 
often they will be found dead in a gulch but two or three feet across, or 



THE HOME RANCH 



29 



in the quicksand of a creek so narrow that it could ahnost be jumped. 
An alkah-hole, where the water oozes out through the thick clay, is the 
worst of all, owing to the ropy tenacity with which the horrible substance 
sticks and clings to any unfortunate beast that gets into it. 

In the spring these mud-holes cause very serious losses among the 
cattle, and are at all times fruitful sources of danger ; indeed, during an 




nemmtlhifi- 



ROPING IN A HORSE-COKKAL. 



ordinary year more cattle die from getting mired than from any other 
cause. In addition to this they also often prove very annoying to the 
rider himself, as getting his steed mired or caught in a quicksand is one 
of the commonest of the accidents that beset a horseman in the far West. 
This usually happens in fording a river, if the latter is at all high, or else 
in crossing one of the numerous creeks ; although I once saw a horse and 
rider suddenly engulfed while leisurely walking over what appeared to be 
dry land. They had come to an alkali mud-hole, an old buffalo-wallow, 
which had filled up and was covered with a sun-baked crust, that let them 
through as if they had stepped on a trap-door. There being several of 
us along, we got down our ropes and dragged both unfortunates out in 
short order. 



30 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

When the river is up it is a very common thing for a horseman to 
have great difficulty in crossing, for the swift, brown water runs over a 
bed of deep quicksand that is ever shifting. An inexperienced horse, or 
a mule, — for a mule is useless in mud or quicksand, — becomes mad with 
fright in such a crossing, and, after speedily exhausting its strength in 
wild struo-ofles, will throw itself on its side and drown unless the rider 
gets it out. An old horse used to such work will, on the contrary, take 
matters quietly and often push along through really dangerous quicksand. 
Old Manitou never loses his head for an instant ; but, now resting a few 
seconds, now feeling his way cautiously forward, and now making two or 
three desperate plunges, will go on wherever a horse possibly can. It is 
really dangerous crossing some of the creeks, as the bottom may give 
way where it seems hardest ; and if one is alone he may work hours in 
vain before getting his horse out, even after taking off both saddle and 
bridle, the only hope being to head it so that every plunge takes it an 
inch or two in the right direction. 

Nor are mud-holes the only danger the horseman has to fear; for in 
much of the Bad Lands the buttes are so steep and broken that it needs 
genuine mountaineering skill to get through them, and no horse but a 
Western one, bred to the business, could accomplish the feat. In many 
parts of our country it is impossible for a horseman who does not know 
the land to cross it, and it is difficult enough even for an experienced 
hand. For a stretch of nearly ten miles along the Little Missouri above 
my range, and where it passes through it, there are but three or four 
l^laces where it is possible for a horseman to get out to the eastern prairie 
through the exceedingly broken country lying back from the river. In 
places this very rough ground comes down to the water; elsewhere it lies 
back near the heads of the creeks. In such very bad ground the whole 
country seems to be one tangled chaos of canyon-like valleys, winding 
gullies and washouts with abrupt, unbroken sides, isolated peaks of sand- 
stone, marl, or "gumbo" clay, which rain turns into slippery glue, and hill 
chains the ridges of which always end in sheer cliffs. After a man has 
made his way with infinite toil for half a mile, a point will be reached 
around which it is an absolute impossibility to go, and the adventurer has 
nothing to do but painfully retrace his steps and try again in a new direc- 
tion, as likely as not with the same result. In such a place the rider dis- 
mounts and leads his horse, the latter climbing with cat-like agility up 
seemingly inaccessible heights, scrambling across the steep, sloping 
shoulders of the bluffs, sliding down the faces of the clay cliffs with all 
four legs rigid, or dropping from ledge to ledge like a goat, and accept- 



THE HOME RANCH 



31 



ing with unruffled composure an occasional roll from top to bottom. But, 
in spite of the climbing abilities of the ponies, it is difficult, and at 
times — for our steeds, at any rate — dangerous work to go through such 
places, and we only do it when it cannot be avoided. Once I was over- 
taken by darkness while trying to get through a great tract of very rough 
land, and, after once or twice nearly breaking my neck, in despair had to 
give up all attempts to get out, and until daybreak simply staid where i 
was, in a kind of ledge or pocket on the side of the cliff, luckily sheltered 
from the wind. It was midsummer and the nights were short, but this 
particular one seemed quite long enough ; and though I was on the move 
by dawn, it was three hours later before I led the horse, as hungry, numb, 
and stiff as myself, out on the prairie again. 

Occasionally it is imperatively necessary to cross some of the worst 
parts of the Bad Lands with a wagon, and such a trip is exhausting 
and laborious beyond belief. Often the wagon will have to be taken to 
pieces every few hundred yards in order to get it over a ravine, lower it 
into a valley, or drag it up a cliff. One outfit, that a year ago tried to 
take a short cut through some of the Bad Lands of the Powder River, 
made just four miles in three days, and then had to come back to their 
starting-point after all. But with only saddle-horses we feel that it must 
be a very extraordinary country indeed if, in case of necessity, we cannot 
go through it. 

The long forenoon's work, with its attendant mishaps to man and 
beast, being over, the men who have been out among the horses and 
cattle come riding in, to be joined by their fellows — if any there be — who 
have been hunting, or haying, or chopping wood. The midday dinner is 
variable as to time, for it comes when the men have returned from their 
work ; but, whatever be the hour, it is the most substantial meal of the 
day, and we feel that we have little fault to find with a table on the 
clean cloth of which are spread platters of smoked elk meat, loaves of 
good bread, jugs and bowls of milk, saddles of venison or broiled antelope 
steaks, perhaps roast and fried prairie chickens, with eggs, butter, wild 
plums, and tea or coffee. 

The afternoon's tasks are usually much the same as the morning's, but 
this time is often spent in doing the odds and ends ; as, for instance, 
it may be devoted to breaking-in a new horse. Large outfits gener- 
ally hire a bronco-buster to do this ; but we ourselves almost always 
break our own horses, two or three of my men being pretty good riders, 
although none of them can claim to be anything out of the common. A 
first-class flash rider or bronco-buster receives hieh waores. and deserves 



32 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

them, lor he follows a most dangerous trade, at which no man can hope to 
grow old ; his work being infinitely harder than that of an Eastern horse- 
breaker or rough-rider, because he has to do it in such a limited time. A 
good rider is a good rider all the world over ; but an Eastern or English 
horse-breaker and Western bronco-buster have so Httle in common with 
each other as regards style or surroundings, and are so totally out of 
place in doing each other's work, that it is almost impossible to get either 
to admit that the other has any merits at all as a horseman, for neither 
could sit in the saddle of the other or could without great difficulty per- 
form his task. The ordinary Eastern seat, which approaches more or less 




A OK El' FORD. 



the seat of a cross-country rider or fox- hunter, is nearly as different from 
the cowboy's seat as from that of a man who rides bareback. The stir- 
rups on a stock saddle are much farther back than they are on an 
ordinary English one (a difference far more important than the high horn 
and cantle of the former), and the man stands nearly erect in them, 
instead of having his legs bent; and he grips with the thighs and not with 
the knees, throwing his feet well out. Some of the things he teaches his 
horse would be wholly useless to an Eastern equestrian : for example, one 
of the first lessons the newlv-cautrht animal has to learn is not to "run on 



THE HOME RANCH 



33 



a rope " ; and he is taught this by being violently snubbed up, probably 
turnino^ a somersault, the first two or three times that he feels the noose 
settle round his neck, and makes a mad rush for liberty. The snubbing- 
post is the usual adjunct in teaching such a lesson ; but a skillful man can 
do without any help and throw a horse clean over by holding the rope tight 
against the left haunch, at the same time leaning so far back, with the legs 
straight in front, that the heels dig deep into the ground when the strain 
comes, and the horse, running out with the slack of the rope, is brought 
up standing, or even turned head over heels by the shock. Cowboys are 
probably the only working-men in the world who invariably wear gloves, 
buckskin gauntlets being preferred, as otherwise the ropes would soon take 
every particle of skin off their hands. 

A bronco-buster has to work by such violent methods in consequence 
of the short amount of time at his command. Horses are cheap, each out- 
fit has a great many, and the wages for breaking an animal are but five 
or ten dollars. Three rides, of an hour or two each, on as many consecu- 
tive days, are the outside number a bronco-buster deems necessary before 
turning an animal over as " broken." The average bronco-buster, how- 
ever, handles horses so very rudely that we prefer, aside from motives of 
economy, to break our own ; and this is always possible, if we take enough 
time. The best and quietest horses on the ranch are far from being 
those broken by the best riders ; on the contrary, they are those that have 
been handled most gently, although firmly, and that have had the greatest 
number of days devoted to their education. 

Some horses, of course, are almost incurably vicious, and must be con- 
quered by main force. One pleasing brute on my ranch will at times rush 
at a man open-mouthed like a wolf, and this is a regular trick of the 
range-stallions. In a great many — indeed, in most — localities there are 
wild horses to be found, which, although invariably of domestic descent, 
being either themselves runaways from some ranch or Indian outfit, or 
else claiming such for their sires and dams, yet are quite as wild as the 
antelope on whose domain they have intruded. Ranchmen run in these 
wild horses whenever possible, and they are but little more difficult to 
break than the so-called "tame" animals. But the wild stallions are, 
whenever possible, shot ; both because of their propensity for driving off 
the ranch mares, and because their incurable viciousness makes them 
always unsafe companions for other horses still more than for men. A 
wild stallion fears no beast except the grizzly, and will not always flinch 
from an encounter with it ; yet it is a curious fact that a jack will almost 
always kill one in a fair fight. The particulars of a fight of this sort were 

7 



34 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



related to me by a cattle man who 
was engaged in bringing out blood- 
ed stock from the East. Anion o- 
the animals under his charge were 
two great stallions, one gray and 
one black, and a fine jackass, not 
much over half the size of either of 
the former. The animals were 
kept in separate pens, but one da) 
both horses got into the same in- 
closure. next to the jack-pen, and 
began to fight as only enraged 
stallions can, striking like boxers 




with their fore feet, and biting with 
their teeth. The gray was getting 
the best of it ; but while clinched 
with his antagonist in one tussle 
they rolled against the jack-pen, 
breaking it in. No sooner was the 
jack at liberty than, with ears laid 
back and mouth wide open, he 
made straight for the two horses, 
who had for the moment separated. 



A HARU IKAIL. 



THE HOME RANCH 



35 



The gray turned to meet him, rearing on his hind legs and striking at 
him with his tore feet ; but the jack shpped in, and in a minute grasped 
his antagonist by the throat with his wide-open jaws, and then held on 
like a bull-dog, all four feet planted stiffly in the soil. The stallion made 
tremendous efforts to shake him off: he would try to whirl round and kick 
him, but for that the jack was too short ; then he would rise up, lifting the 
jack off the ground, and strike at him with his fore feet ; but all that he 
gained by this was to skin his foe's front legs without making him loose 
his hold. Twice they fell, and twice the stallion rose, by main strength 
dragging the jack with him ; but all in vain. Meanwhile the black horse 
attacked both the combatants, with perfect impartiality, striking and kick- 
ing them with his hoofs, while his teeth, as they slipped off the tough 
hides, met with a snap like that of a bear-trap. Undoubtedly the jack 
would have killed at least one of the horses had not the men come up, 
and with no small difficulty separated the maddened brutes. 

If not breaking horses, mending saddles, or doing something else of 
the sort, the cowboys will often while away their leisure moments by prac- 
ticing with the rope. A man cannot practice too much with this if he 
wishes to attain even moderate proficiency ; and as a matter of fact he 
soon gets to wish to practice the whole time. A cowboy is always 
roping something, and it especially delights him to try his skill at game. 
A friend of mine, a young ranchman in the Judith basin, about four years 
ago roped a buffalo, and by the exercise of the greatest skill, both on his 
own part and on his steed's, actually succeeded, by alternate bullying and 
coaxing, in getting the huge brute almost into camp. I have occasionally 
known men on fast horses to rope deer, and even antelope, when circum- 
stances all joined to favor them ; and last summer one of the cowboys on 
a ranch about thirty miles off ran into and roped a wounded elk. A forty- 
foot lariat is the one commonly used, for the ordinary range at which a 
man can throw it is only about twenty-five feet. Few men can throw forty 
feet ; and to do this, taking into account the coil, needs a sixty-foot rope. 

When the day's work is over we take supper, and bed-time comes soon 
afterward, for the men who live on ranches sleep well and soundly. As a 
rule, the nights are cool and bracing, even in midsummer ; except when 
we occasionally have a spell of burning weather, with a steady, hot wind 
that blow^s in our faces like a furnace blast, sending the thermometer far 
up above a hundred and making us gasp for breath, even at night, in the 
dry-baked heat of the air. But it is only rarely that we get a few days of 
this sort ; generally, no matter how^ unbearable the heat of the day has 
been, we can at least sleep pleasantly at night. 



^5 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

A ranchman's work is, of course, tree from much of the sameness 
attendant upon that of a mere cowbo)-. One day he will ride out with 
his men among the cattle, or after strayed horses ; the next he may hunt, 
so as to keep the ranch in meat ; then he can make the tour of his out- 
lying camps ; or, again, may join one of the round-ups for a week or two, 
perhaps keeping with it the entire time it is working. On occasions he 
will have a good deal of spare time on his hands, which, if he chooses, he 
can spend in reading or waiting. If he cares for books, there will be many 
a worn volume in the primitive little sitting-room, with its log walls and 
huge fire-place ; but after a hard day's work a man will not read much, 
but will rock to and fro in the flickering firelight, talking sleepily over his 
success in the day's chase and the difficulty he has had with the cattle ; or 
else may simply lie stretched at full length on the elk-hides and wolf-skins 
in front of the hearthstone, listening in drowsy silence to the roar and 
crackle of the blazing logs and to the moaning of the wind outside. 

In the sharp fall weather the riding is delicious all day long; but even 
in the late spring, and all through the summer, we try, if we can, to do our 
work before the heat of the day, and if going on a long ride, whether to 
hunt or for other purposes, leave the ranch house by dawn. 

The early rides in the spring mornings have a charm all their own, for 
they are taken when, for the one and only time during the year, the same 
brown landscape of these high plains turns to a vivid green, as the new 
grass sprouts and the trees and bushes thrust forth the young leaves ; 
and at dawn, with the dew glittering everywhere, all things show at their 
best and freshest. The flowers are out and a man may gallop for miles at 
a stretch with his horse's hoofs sinking at every stride into the carpet of 
prairie roses, whose short stalks lift the beautiful blossoms but a few 
inches from the ground. Even in the waste places the cactuses are 
blooming ; and one kind in particular, a dwarfish, globular plant, with 
its mass of splendid crimson flow^ers glows against the sides of the gray 
buttes like a splash of flame. 

The ravines, winding about and splitting into a labyrinth of coulees, 
wdth chains of rounded hills to separate them, have groves of trees in their 
bottoms, along the sides of the water courses. In these are found the 
blacktail deer, and his cousin, the w^hitetail, too, with his flaunting flag; 
but in the spring-time, when we are after antelope only, we must go out 
farther to the flat prairie land on the divide. Here, in places, the level, 
grassy plains are strewn with mounds and hillocks of red or gray scoria, 
that stand singly or clustered into little groups, their tops crested, or their 
sides covered, by queer detached masses of volcanic rock, wrought into 



THE HOME RANCH 



Z1 



strange shapes by the dead forces whose bHnd, hidden strength long ago 
called them into beinor. The road our wa^fons take, when the water is too 
high for us to come down the river bottom, stretches far ahead — two dark. 




IN WITH THE HORSE HERD. 



straight, parallel furrows which merge into one in the distance. Quaint 
little horned frogs crawl sluggishly along in the wheel tracks, and 
the sickle -billed curlews run over the ground or soar above and around 
the horsemen, uttering their mournful, never-ceasing clamor. The grass- 
land stretches out in the sunlight like a sea, every wind bending the 
blades into a ripple, and flecking the prairie with shifting patches of a 
different green from that around, exactly as the touch of a light squall or 
wind-gust will fleck the smooth surface of the ocean. Our Western plains 
differ widely in detail from those of Asia ; yet they always call to mind 



3S RANCH LIFE AND THK HUNTING- TRAIL 

. . . . The Scythian 
On the wide steppe, unharnessing 
His wheel'd house at noon. 

He tethers his beast down, and makes his meal — 
Mares' milk, and bread 
Baked on the embers ; — all around 
The boundless, waving grass-plains stretch . . . 

. ; before him, for long miles, 
Alive witli bright green lizards 
And the springing bustard fowl. 
The track, a straight black line. 
Furrows the rich soil ; here and there 
Clusters of lonely mounds 
Topp'd with rough hewn. 
Gray, rain-blear'd statues, overpeer 
The sunny waste. 

In the spring mornings the rider on the plains will hear bird songs 
tmknown in the East. The Missouri skylark sings while soaring above 
the great plateaus so high in the air that it is impossible to see the bird ; 
and this habit of singing while soaring it shares with some sparrow-like 
birds that are often found in company with it. The white-shouldered 
lark-bunting, in its livery of black, has rich, full notes, and as it sings on 
the wing it reminds one of the bobolink ; and the sweet-voiced lark-finch 
also utters its song in the air. These birds, and most of the sparrows of 
the plains, are characteristic of this region. 

But many of our birds, especially those found in the wooded river bot- 
toms, answer to those of the East ; only almost each one has some marked 
point of difference from its Eastern representative. The bluebird out 
West is very much of a blue bird indeed, for it has no "earth tinge" on 
its breast at all ; while the indigo-bird, on the contrary, has gained the 
ruddy markings that the other has lost. The flicker has the shafts of its 
wing and tail quills colored orange instead of yellow. The towhee has 
lost all title to its name, for its only cry is a mew like that of a cat-bird ; 
while, most wonderful of all, the meadow-lark has found a rich, strong 
voice, and is one of the sweetest and most incessant singers we have. 

Throughout June the thickets and groves about the ranch house are 
loud with bird music from before dawn till long after sunrise. The 
thrashers have suno- all the ni£{ht throuQrh from anions: the thorn-bushes 
if there has been a moon, or even if there has been bright starlight ; and 
before the first glimmer of gray the bell-like, silvery songs of the shy 
woodland thrushes chime in ; while meadow-lark, robin, bluebird, and 
song sparrow, together with many rarer singers, like the grosbeak, join in 



THE HOME RANCH 



39 



swellinpf the chorus. There are some would-be sinorers whose intention is 
better than their execution. Blackbirds of several kinds are plenty round 
the house and stables, walking about with a knowing air, like so many 
dwarf crows; and now and then a flock of yellow-heads will mix for a 
few days with their purple or rusty-colored brethren. The males of these 
yellow-headed grakles are really handsome, their orange and yellow 
heads contrasting finely with the black of the rest of their plumage ; but 
their voices are discordant to a degree. When a flock has done feeding 
it will often light in straggling order among the trees in front of the 
veranda, and then the males will begin to sing, or rather to utter the most 
extraordinary collection of broken sounds — creakings, gurglings, hisses, 
twitters, and every now and then a liquid note or two. It is like an 
accentuated representation of the noise made by a flock of common black- 
birds. At nightfall the poor-wills begin to utter their boding call from the 
wooded ravines back in the hills; not "whip-poor-will," as in the East, but 
with two syllables only. They often come round the ranch house. Late 
one eveninor I had been sitting motionless on the veranda, looking out 
across the water and watching the green and brown of the hill-tops 
change to purple and umber and then fade off into shadowy gray as the 
somber darkness deepened. Suddenly a poor-wall lit on the floor beside 
me and stayed some little time ; now and then uttering its mournful cries, 
then ceasing for a few moments as it flitted round after insects, and again 
returning to the same place to begin anew. The little owls, too, call to 
each other with tremulous, quavering voices throughout the livelong 
night, as they sit in the creaking trees that overhang the roof. Now and 
then we hear the wilder voices of the wilderness, from animals that in the 
hours of darkness do not fear the neighborhood of man : the coyotes 
wail like dismal ventriloquists, or the silence may be broken by the 
strident challenge of a lynx, or by the snorting and stamping of a deer 
that has come to the edge of the open. 

In the hot noontide hours of midsummer the broad ranch veranda, 
always in the shade, is almost the only spot where a man can be com- 
fortable ; but here he can sit for hours at a time, leaning back in his rock- 
ing-chair, as he reads or smokes, or with half-closed, dreamy eyes gazes 
across the shallow, nearly dry river-bed to the wooded bottoms opposite, 
and to the plateaus lying back of them. Against the sheer white faces of 
the cliffs, that come down without a break, the dark green tree-tops stand 
out in bold relief. In the hot, lifeless air all objects that are not near by 
seem to sway and waver. There are few sounds to break the stillness. 
From the upper branches of the cottonwood trees overhead, whose shim- 



40 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAH. 



mering. tremulous leaves are hardly ever quiet, but If the wind stirs at all, 
rustle and quiver and sigh all day long, comes every now and then the 
soft, melancholy cooing of the mourning dove, whose voice always seems 




.^A 






i^m^' ''-'''' 



A BU( KING KRONCO. 



far away and expresses more than any other sound in nature the sadness 
of gentle, hopeless, never-ending grief. The other birds are still; and 
very few animals move about. Now and then the black shadow of a 



THE HOME RANCH 41 

wheeling vulture falls on the sun-scorched ground. The cattle, that have 
strung down in long files from the hills, lie quietly on the sand-bars, 
except that some of the bulls keep traveling up and down, bellowing and 
routing or giving vent to long, surly grumblings as they paw the sand 
and toss it up with their horns. At times the horses, too, will come 
down to drink, and to splash and roll in the water. 

The prairie-dogs alone are not daunted by the heat, but sit at the 
mouths of their burrows with their usual pert curiosity. They are both- 
ersome little fellows, and most prolific, increasing in spite of the perpetual 
war made on them by every carnivorous bird and beast. One of their 
worst foes is the black-footed ferret, a handsome, rather rare animal, 
somewhat like a mink, with a yellow-brown body and dark feet and 
mask. It is a most bloodthirsty little brute, feeding on all small animals 
and ground birds. It will readily master a jack-rabbit, will kill very 
young fawns if it finds them in the mother's absence, and works extraor- 
dinary havoc in a dog town, as it can follow the wretched little beasts 
down into the burrows. In one instance, I knew of a black-footed ferret 
making a succession of inroads on a ranchman's poultry, killing and car- 
rying off most of them before it was trapped. Coyotes, foxes, swifts, 
badeers, and skunks also like to lurk about the do^ towns. Of the 
skunks, by the way, we had last year altogether too much ; there was a 
perfect plague of them all along the river, and they took to trying to get 
into the huts, with the stupid pertinacity of the species. At every ranch 
house dozens were killed, we ourselves bagging thirty-three, all slain near 
the house, and one, to our unspeakable sorrow, in it. 

In making a journey over ground we know, during the hot weather 
we often prefer to ride by moonlight. The moon shines very brightly 
through the dry, clear night air, turning the gray buttes into glimmering 
silver ; and the horses travel far more readily and easily than under the 
glaring noonday sun. The road between my upper and lower ranch 
houses is about forty miles long, sometimes following the river-bed, and 
then again branching off inland, crossing the great plateaus and winding 
through the ravines of the broken country. It is a five-hours' fair ride ; 
and so, in a hot spell, we like to take it during the cool of the night, 
starting at sunset. After nightfall the face of the country seems to alter 
marvelously, and the clear moonlight only intensifies the change. The 
river gleams like running quicksilver, and the moonbeams play over the 
grassy stretches of the plateaus and glance off the wind-rippled blades as 
they would from water. The Bad Lands seem to be stranger and wilder 
than ever, the silvery rays turning the country into a kind of grim fairy- 



42 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

land. The grotesque, fantastic outlines of the higher cliffs stand out with 
startling clearness, while the lower buttes have become formless, mis- 
shapen masses, and the deep gorges are in black shadow ; in the dark- 
ness there will be no sound but the rhythmic echo of the hoof-beats of the 
horses, and the steady, metallic clank of the steel bridle-chains. 

But the fall is the time for riding ; for in the keen, frosty air neither 
man nor beast will tire, though out from the dawn until the shadows have 
again waxed long and the da)light has begun to wane, warning all to 
push straight for home without drawing rein. Then deer-saddles and 
elk-haunches hano; from the trees near the house ; and one can have Pfood 
sport right on the sand of the river-bed, for we always keep shot-gun or 
rifle at hand, to be ready for any prairie chickens, or for such of the pass- 
ing water-fowl as light in the river near us. Occasionally we take a shot 
at a flock of waders, among which the pretty avocets are the most strik- 
ing in looks and manners. Prairie fowl are quite plenty all round us, and 
occasionally small flocks come fairly down into the yard, or perch among 
the trees near by. At evening they fly down to the river to drink, and as 
they sit on the sand-bars offer fine marks for the rifles. So do the geese 
and ducks when they occasionally light on the same places or paddle 
leisurely down stream in the middle of the river ; but to make much of a 
bag of these we have to use the heavy No. lo, choke-bore shot-gun, 
while the little i6-bore fowling-piece is much the handiest for prairie 
fowl. A good many different kinds of water-fowl pass, ranging in size 
trom a teal duck to a Canada goose, and all of them at times help to eke 
out our bill of fare. Last fall a white-fronted goose lighted on the river 
in front of the ranch house, and three of us, armed with miscellaneous 
weapons, went out after him ; we disabled him, and then after much bad 
shootinor, and more violent runninof througrh thick sand and thick under- 
brush, finally overtook and most foully butchered him. The snow geese 
and common wild geese are what we usually kill, however. 

Sometimes strings of sandhill cranes fly along the river, their gut- 
tural clangor being heard very far off. They usually light on a plateau, 
where sometimes they form rings and go through a series of queer antics, 
dancing and posturing to each other. They are exceedingly wide-awake 
birds, and more shy and wary than antelope, so that they are rarely shot ; 
yet once I succeeded in stalking up to a group in the early morning, and 
firing into them rather at random, my bullet killed a full-grown female. 
Its breast, when roasted, proved to be very good eating. 

Sometimes we vary our diet with fish — wall-eyed pike, ugly, slimy 
catfish, and other uncouth finny things, looking very fit denizens of the 



THE HOME RANCH 



43 



mud-choked water ; but they are good eating- withal, in spite of their 
uncanny appearance. We usually catch them with set lines, left out over- 
night in the deeper pools. 




CRUISING FUR STOCK. 



The cattle are fattest and in best condition during the fall, and it is 
then that the bulk of the beef steers are gathered and shipped — lour- 
year-olds as a rule, though some threes and fives go along with them. 
Catde are a nuisance while hunting on foot, as they either take fright and 
run off when they see the hunter, scaring all game within sight, or else, 
what is worse, follow him, blustering and bullying and pretending that 



44 



RANCH LIFE AND IHK HUNTINC.-TRAIL 



they are on the point of cliarginy, but rarely actually doing so. Still, they 
are occasionally really dangerous, and it is never entirely safe for a man to 
be on foot when there is a chance of meeting the droves of long-horned 
steers. But they will always bluster rather than fight, whether with men 
or beasts, or with one another. The bulls and some of the steers are for- 
ever traveling and challenging each other, never ceasing their hoarse 
rumbling and moaning and their long-drawn, savage bellowing, tearing 
up the banks with their horns and sending little spurts of dust above 
their shoulders with their fore hoofs ; yet they do not seem especially 
fond of real fighting, although, of course, they do occasionally have most 
desperate and obstinate set-tos with one another. A large bear will make 
short work of a bull : a few months ago one of the former killed a very 
big bull near a ranch house a score of miles or so distant, and during one 
night tore up and devoured a large part of his victim. The ranchman 
poisoned the carcass and killed the bear. 




OLD-STYLE TEXAN COWMAN. 



THE ROUND-UP 




IV 



The Round-Up 



JURING the winter-time there is ordinarily but httle work 
done among the cattle. There is some line riding, and 
a continual lookout is kept for the very weak animals, — 
usually cows and calves, who have to be driven in, fed, 
and housed ; but most of the stock are left to shift for them- 
selves, undisturbed. Almost every stock-growers' association 
forbids branding any calves before the spring round-up. If 
great bands of cattle wander off the range, parties may be fitted 
out to go after them and bring them back ; but this is only done when 
absolutely necessary, as when the drift of the cattle has been towards an 
Indian reservation or a settled granger country, for the weather is very 
severe, and the horses are so poor that their food must be carried along. 

The bulk of the work is done durino- the summer, including- the late 
spring and early fall, and consists mainly in a succession of round-ups, 
beginning, with us, in May and ending towards the last of October. 

But a good deal may be done in the intervals by riding over one's 
range. Frequently, too, herding will be practiced on a large scale. 

Still more important is the "trail" work; cattle, while driven from one 
range to another, or to a shipping point for beef, being said to be "on the 
trail." For years, the over-supply from the vast breeding ranches to the 
south, especially in Texas, has been driven northward in large herds, 
either to the shipping towns along the great railroads, or else to the 
fattening ranges of the North-west ; it having been found, so far, that 
while the calf crop is larger in the South, beeves become much heavier in 
the North. Such cattle, for the most part, went along tolerably well- 
marked routes or trails, which became for the time being of great impor- 
tance, flourishing — and extremely lawless — towns growing up along them; 
but with the growth of the railroad system, and above all with the filling- 



46 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

up of the northern ranges, these trails have steadily become of less and 
less consequence, though many herds still travel them on their way to the 
alread)- crowded ranges of western Dakota and Montana, or to the Can- 
adian regions beyond. The trail work is something by itself. The herds 
ma)- be on the trail several months, averaging fifteen miles or less a day. 
1 he cowboys accompanying each have to undergo much hard toil, of a 
peculiarly same and wearisome kind, on account of the extreme slowness 
with which everything must be done, as trail cattle should never be hur- 
ried. The foreman of a trail outfit must be not only a veteran cowhand, 
but also a miracle of patience and resolution. 

Round-up work is far less irksome, there being an immense amount of 
dash and excitement connected with it ; and when once the cattle are on 
the range, the important work is done during the round-up. On cow 
ranches, or wherever there is breeding stock, the spring round-up is the 
great event of the season, as it is then that the bulk of the calves are 
branded. It usually lasts six weeks, or thereabouts; but its end by no 
means implies rest for the stockman. On the contrary, as soon as it is 
over, wagons are sent to work out-of-the-way parts of the country that 
have been passed over, but where cattle are supposed to have drifted ; and 
by the time these have come back the first beef round-up has begun, and 
thereafter beeves are steadily gathered and shipped, at least from among 
the larger herds, until cold weather sets in ; and in the fall there is another 
round-up, to brand the late calves and see that the stock is got back on 
the range. As all of these round-ups are of one character, a description 
of the most important, taking place in the spring, will be enough. 

In April we begin to get up the horses. Throughout the winter very 
few have been kept for use, as they are then poor and weak, and must be 
given grain and hay if they are to be worked. The men in the line camps 
need two or three apiece, and each man at the home ranch has a couple 
more ; but the rest are left out to shift for themselves, which the tough, 
hardy little fellows are well able to do. Ponies can pick up a living where 
cattle die ; though the scanty feed, which they may have to uncover by 
pawing off the snow, and the bitter weather often make them look very 
gaunt by spring-time. But the first warm rains bring up the green grass, 
and then all the live-stock gain flesh with wonderful rapidity. When the 
spring round-up begins the horses should be as fat and sleek as possible. 
After running all winter free, even the most sober pony is apt to betray an 
inclination to buck ; and, if possible, we like to ride every animal once or 
twice before we begin to do real work with him. Animals that have 
escaped for any length of time are almost as bad to handle as if they had 



THE ROUx\I)-UP 



47 



never been broken. One of the two horses mentioned in a former chap- 
ter as having been gone eighteen months has, since his return, been sug- 
gestively dubbed " Dynamite Jimmy," on account of the incessant and erup- 
tive energy with which he bucks. Many of our horses, by the way, are 
thus named from some feat or pecuHarity. Wire Fence, when being broken, 
ran into one of the abominations after which he is now called ; Hacka- 
more once got away and remained out for three weeks with a hackamore, 
or breaking-halter, on him ; Macaulay contracted the habit of regularly 
getting rid of the huge Scotchman to whom he was intrusted ; Bulberry 
Johnny spent the hour or two after he was first mounted in a large patch 
of thorny bulberry bushes, his distracted rider unable to get him to do any- 
thing but move round sidewise in a circle ; Fall Back would never get to 
the front ; Water Skip always jumps mud-puddles ; and there are a dozen 
others with names as purely descriptive. 

The stock-growers of Montana, of the western part of Dakota, and 
even of portions of extreme northern Wyoming, — that is, of all the grazing 
lands lying in the basin of the Upper Missouri, — have united, and formed 
themselves into the great Montana Stock-growers' Association. Among 
the countless benefits they have derived from this course, not the least has 
been the way in which the various round-ups work in with and supple- 
ment one another. At the spring meeting of the association, the entire 
territory mentioned above, including perhaps a hundred thousand square 
miles, is mapped out into round-up districts, which generally are changed 
but slightly from year to year, and the times and places for the round-ups to 
begin refixed so that those of adjacent districts may be run with a view to 
the best interests of all. Thus the stockmen along the Yellowstone have 
one round-up ; we along the Little Missouri have another ; and the 
country lying between, through which the Big Beaver flows, is almost 
equally important to both. Accordingly, one spring, the Litde Missouri 
round-up, beginning May 25, and working down-stream, was timed so as 
to reach the mouth of the Big Beaver about June i, the Yellowstone round- 
up beginning at that date and place. Both then worked up the Beaver 
together to its head, when the Yellowstone men turned to the west and 
we bent back to our own river ; thus the bulk of the strayed catde of 
each were brought back to their respective ranges. Our own round-up 
district covers the Bior and Litde Beaver creeks, which rise near each 
other, but empty into the Little Missouri nearly a hundred and fifty miles 
apart, and so much of the latter river as lies between their mouths. 

The captain or foreman of the round-up. upon whom very much of its 
efficiency and success depends, is chosen beforehand. He is, of course. 



48 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

an expert cownian, thoroughly acquainted with the country ; and he must 
also be able to command and to keep control of the wild rough-riders 
he has under him — a feat needing both tact and firmness. 

At the appointed day all meet at the place from which the round-up is 
to start. Each ranch, of course, has most work to be done in its own 
round-up district, but it is also necessary to have representatives in all 
those surrounding it. A large outfit may employ a dozen cowboys, or 
over, in the home district, and yet have nearly as many more represent- 
ing its interest in the various ones adjoining. Smaller outfits generally 
club together to run a wagon and send outside representatives, or else go 
along with their stronger neighbors, they paying part of the expenses. 
A large outfit, with a herd of twenty thousand cattle or more, can, if 
necessary, run a round-up entirely by itself, and is able to act independ- 
ently of outside help ; it is therefore at a great advantage compared with 
those that can take no step effectively without their neighbors' consent 
and assistance. 

If the starting-point is some distance off, it may be necessary to leave 
home three or four days in advance. Before this we have got everything 
in readiness ; have overhauled the wagons, shod any horse whose fore- 
feet are tender, — as a rule, all our ponies go barefooted, — and left things 
in order at the ranch. Our outfit may be taken as a sample of every one 
else's. We have a stout four-horse wagon to carry the bedding and the 
food ; in its rear a mess-chest is rigged to hold the knives, forks, cans, 
etc. All our four team-horses are strong, willing animals, though of no 
great size, being originally just "broncos," or unbroken native horses, 
like the others. The teamster is also cook : a man who is a really first- 
rate hand at both driving and cooking — and our present teamster is 
both — can always command his price. Besides our own men, some cow- 
boys from neighboring ranches and two or three representatives from 
other round-up districts are always along, and we generally have at least 
a dozen "'riders," as they are termed, — that is, cowboys, or "cow- 
punchers," who do the actual cattle-work, — with the wagon. Each of 
these has a string of eight or ten ponies ; and to take charge of the 
saddle-band, thus ccnsistino; of a hundred odd head, there are two 
herders, always known as "horse-wranglers" — one for the day and one 
for the night. Occasionally there will be two wagons, one to carry the 
bedding and one the food, known, respectively, as the bed and the mess 
wagon ; but this is not usual. 

While traveling to the meeting-point the pace is always slow, as it is 
an object to bring the horses on the ground as fresh as possible. Accord- 



THE ROUND-UP 



49 



ingly we keep at a walk almost all day, and the riders, having nothing 
else to do, assist the wranglers in driving the saddle-band, three or four 
going in front, and others on the side, so that the horses shall keep on a 
walk. There is always some trouble with the animals at the starting out, 
as they are very fresh and are restive under the saddle. The herd is 




1)R1\'IN(, I <J IHE KOlM)-L'l' 



likely to stampede, and any beast that is frisky or vicious is sure to show 
its worst side. To do really effective cow-work a pony should be well 
broken ; but many even of the old ones have vicious traits, and almost 
every man will have in his string one or two young horses, or broncos, 
hardly broken at all. Thanks to the rough methods of breaking in 
vogue on the plains many even of the so-called broken animals retain 
always certain bad habits, the most common being that of bucking. Ot 
the sixty odd horses on my ranch all but half a dozen were broken by 
ourselves ; and though my men are all good riders, yet a good rider is 
not necessarily a good horse-breaker, and indeed it was an absolute 



-O RANCH LIFE AND IHE HUNTING-TRAIL 

impossibility properly to break so many animals in the short time at our 
command — for we luul to use them almost immediately after they were 
bought. In consequence, very many of my horses have to this day traits 
not likely to set a timid or a clumsy rider at his ease. One or two run 
away and cannot be held by even the strongest bit ; others can hardly 
be bridled or saddled until they have been thrown ; two or three have a 
tendency to fall over backward ; and half of them buck more or less, 
some so hard that only an expert can sit them ; several I never ride 
myself save from dire necessity. 

In riding these wild, vicious horses, and in careering over such very 
bad ground, especially at night, accidents are always occurring. A man 
who is merely an ordinary rider is certain to have a pretty hard time. On 
my first round-up I had a string of nine horses, four of them broncos, only 
broken to the extent of having each been saddled once or twice. One of 
them it was an impossibility to bridle or to saddle single-handed ; it was 
very difficult to get on or off him, and he was exceedingly nervous if a 
man moved his hands or feet ; but he had no bad tricks. The second 
soon became perfectly quiet. The third turned out to be one of the worst 
buckers on the ranch : once, when he bucked me off, I managed to fall on 
a stone and broke a rib. The fourth had a still worse habit, for he would 
balk and then throw himself over backward : once, when I was not quick 
enough, he caught me and broke something in the point of my shoulder, 
so that it was some weeks before I could raise the arm freely. My hurts 
were far from serious, and did not interfere with my riding and working as 
usual through the round-up ; but I was heartily glad when it ended, and 
ever since have religiously done my best to get none but gentle horses in 
my own string. However, every one gets falls from or with his horse now 
and then in the cow country ; and even my men, good riders though they 
are, are sometimes injured. One of them once broke his ankle ; another 
a rib ; another was on one occasion stunned, remaining unconscious for 
some hours ; and yet another had certain of his horses buck under him so 
hard and long as finally to hurt his lungs and make him cough blood. 
Fatal accidents occur annually in almost every district, especially if there 
is much work to be done among stampeded cattle at night ; but on my 
own ranch none of my men have ever been seriously hurt, though on one 
occasion a cowboy from another ranch, who was with my wagon, was 
killed, his horse falling and pitching him heavily on his head. 

For bedding, each man has two or three pairs of blankets, and a tar- 
paulin or small wagon-sheet. Usually, two or three sleep together. 
Even in June the nights are generally cool and pleasant, and it is chilly 



THE ROUND-UP 



51 



in the earl)- mornings ; although this is not always so, and when the 
weather stays hot and mosquitoes are plenty, the hours of darkness, even 
in midsummer, seem painfull)' long. In the Bad Lands proper we are 
not often bothered very seriously by these winged pests ; but in the low 
bottoms of the Big Missouri, and beside many of the reedy ponds and 
great sloughs out on the prairie, they are a perfect scourge. During the 
very hot nights, when they are especially active, the bed-clothes make 
a man feel absolutely smothered, and yet his only chance for sleep is 
to wrap himself tightly up, head and all ; and even then some of the 
pests will usually force their way in. At sunset I have seen the mos- 
quitoes rise up from the land like a dense cloud, to make the hot, stifling 
night one long torture ; the horses would neither lie down nor graze, 
traveling restlessly to and fro till daybreak, their bodies streaked and 
bloody, and the insects settling on them so as to make them all one color, 
a uniform gray ; wdiile the men, after a few hours' tossing about in the 
vain attempt to sleep, rose, built a little fire of damp sage brush, and thus 
endured the misery as best they could until it was light enough to work. 

But if the weather is fine, a man will never sleep better nor more 
pleasantly than in the open air after a hard day's work on the round-up ; 
nor will an ordinary showier or gust of wind disturb him in the least, for 
he simply draws the tarpaulin over his head and goes on sleeping. But 
now and then we have a wind-storm that might better be called a whirl- 
wind and has to be met very differently ; and tw'O or three days or nights 
of rain insure the wetting of the blankets, and therefore shivering dis- 
comfort on the part of the would-be sleeper. For two or three hours all 
goes well ; and it is rather soothing to listen to the steady patter of the 
great raindrops on the canvas. But then it will be found that a corner has 
been left open through which the water can get in, or else the tarpaulin 
will begin to leak somewhere ; or perhaps the water will have collected 
in a hollow underneath and have begun to soak through. Soon a little 
stream trickles in, and every effort to remedy matters merely results in a 
change for the worse. To move out of the way insures getting wet in a 
fresh spot ; and the best course is to lie still and accept the evils that 
have come with what fortitude one' can. Even thus, the first night a man 
can sleep pretty w ell ; but if the rain continues, the second night, wdien 
the blankets are already damp, and when the water comes through more 
easily, is apt to be most unpleasant. 

Of course, a man can take little spare clothing on a round-up ; at the 
very outside two or three clean handkerchiefs, a pair of socks, a change 
of underclothes, and the most primitive kind of wa.shing-apparatus, all 



--, RANCH LIFE AND FHE H U N 11 NCi - TKAIL 

wrapped up in a stout jacket which is to be worn when night-herding. 
The inevitable "shcker," or oil-skin coat, which gives complete protection 
from the wet. is alwavs carried behind the saddle. 




SAnni.ING FRESH HOKSES. 



At the meeting-place there is usually a delay of a day or two to let 
every one come in ; and the plain on which the encampment is made 
becomes a scene of great busde and turmoil. The heavy four-horse 
wagons jolt in from different quarters, the horse-wranglers rushing madly 
to and fro in the endeavor to keep the different saddle-bands from min- 
gling, while the "riders," or cowboys, with each wagon jog along in a 
body. The representatives from outside districts ride in singly or by 
twos and threes, every man driving before him his own horses, one of 
them loaded with his bedding. Each wagon wheels out of the way into 
some camping- place not too near the others, the bedding is tossed out on 
the ground, and then every one is left to do what he wishes, while the dif- 
ferent wagon bosses, or foremen, seek out the captain of the round-up 
to learn what his olans are. 



THE ROUND-UP 



53 



There is a good deal of rough but effective discipHne and method in 
the way in which a round-up is carried on. The captain of the whole has 
as lieutenants the various wagon foremen, and in making demands for men 
to do some special service he will usually merely designate some foreman 
to take charge of the work and let him parcel it out among his men to suit 
himself. The captain of the round-up or the foreman of a wagon may 
himself be a ranchman ; if such is not the case, and the ranchman never- 
theless comes along, he works and fares precisely as do the other cowboys. 

While the head men are gathered in a little knot, planning out the 
work, the others are dispersed over the plain in every direction, racing, 
breaking rough horses, or simply larking with one another. If a man has 
an especially bad horse, he usually takes such an opportunity, when he 
has plenty of time, to ride him ; and while saddling he is surrounded by a 
crowd of most unsympathetic associates who greet with uproarious mirth 
any misadventure. A man on a bucking horse is always considered fair 
game, every squeal and jump of the bronco being hailed with cheers of 
delighted irony for the rider and shouts to " stay with him." The antics of 
a vicious bronco show infinite variety of detail, but are all modeled on one 
general plan. When the rope settles round his neck the fight begins, and 
it is only after much plunging and snorting that a twist is taken over his 
nose, or else a hackamore — a species of severe halter, usually made of 
plaited hair — slipped on his head. While being bridled he strikes 
viciously with his fore feet, .and perhaps has to be blindfolded or thrown 
down ; and to get the saddle on him is quite as difficult. When saddled, 
he may get rid of his exuberant spirits by bucking under the saddle, or 
may reserve all his energies for the rider. In the last case, the man keep- 
ing tight hold with his left hand of the cheek-strap, so as to prevent the 
horse from getting his head down until he is fairly seated, swings himself 
quickly into the saddle. Up rises the bronco's back into an arch ; his head, 
the ears laid straight back, goes down between his forefeet, and, squealing 
savagely, he makes a succession of rapid, stiff-legged, jarring bounds. 
Sometimes he is a " plunging " bucker, who runs forward all the time wdiile 
bucking; or he may buck steadily in one place, or "sun-fish," — that is, 
bring first one shoulder down almost to the ground and then the other, — 
or else he may change ends while in the air. A first-class rider will sit 
throughout it all without moving from the saddle, quirting* his horse all 
the time, though his hat may be jarred off his head and his revolver out of 
its sheath. After a few jumps, however, the average man grasps hold of 

* Quirt is the name of the short flexible riding-whip used throughout cowboy land. The term 
is a Spanish one. 



"4 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

the horn oi the saddle — the dehghted onlookers meanwhile earnestly 
advising- him not to "go to leather " — and is contented to get through the 
atiair in any shape provided he can escape without being thrown off. An 
accident is of necessity borne with a broad grin, as any attempt to resent 
the raillery of the bystanders — which is perfectly good-humored — would 
be apt to result disastrously. Cowboys are certainly extremely good 
riders. As a class they have no superiors. Of course, they would at first 
be at a disadvantage in steeple-chasing or fox-hunting, but their average 
of horsemanship is without doubt higher than that of the men who take 
part in these latter amusements. A cowboy would learn to ride across 
country in a quarter of the time it would take a cross-country rider to 
learn to handle a vicious bronco or to do good cow-work round and in 
a herd. 

On such a day, when there is no regular work, there will often also be 
horse-races, as each outfit is pretty sure to have some running pony which 
it believes can outpace any other. These contests are always short-dis- 
tance dashes, for but a few hundred yards. Horse- racing is a mania 
with most plainsmen, white or red. A man with a good racing pony 
will travel all about with it, often winning large sums, visiting alike cow 
ranches, frontier towns, and Indian encampments. Sometimes the race is 
"pony against pony," the victor taking both steeds. In racing the men 
ride bareback, as there are hardly any light saddles in the cow country. 
There will be intense excitement and very heavy betting over a race 
between two well-known horses, together with a good chance of blood 
being shed in the attendant quarrels. Indians and whites often race 
against each other as well as among themselves. I have seen several 
such contests, and in every case but one the white man happened to win. 
A race is usually run between two thick rows of spectators, on foot and on 
horseback, and as the racers pass, these rows close in behind them, every 
man \elling and shouting with all the strength of his lungs, and all waving 
their hats and cloaks to encourage the contestants, or firing off their revolv- 
ers and saddle guns. The little horses are fairly maddened, as is natural 
enough, and run as if they were crazy : were the distances longer some 
would be sure to drop in their tracks. 

Besides the horse-races, which are, of course, the main attraction, the 
men at a round-up will often get up wrestling matches or foot-races. In 
fact, every one feels that he is off for a holiday ; for after the monotony of 
a long winter, the cowboys look forward eagerly to the round-up, where 
the work is hard, it is true, but exciting and varied, and treated a good 
deal as a frolic. There is no eight-hour law in cowboy land : during 



THE ROUND-UP 



55 



round-up time we often count ourselves lucky if we get off with much less 
than sixteen hours ; but the work is done in the saddle, and the men are 
spurred on all the time by the desire to outdo one another in feats of daring 
and skillful horsemanship. There is very little quarreling or fighting; and 
though the fun often takes the form of rather rough horse-play, yet the prac- 
tice of carrying dangerous weapons makes cowboys show far more rough 
courtesy to each other and far less rudeness to strangers than is the case 
among, for instance. Eastern miners, or even lumbermen. When a quarrel 
may very probably result fatally, a man thinks twice before going into it: 




IkAlLlNG CATTLE. 



warlike people or classes always treat one another with a certain amount 
of consideration and politeness. The moral tone of a cow-camp, indeed, 
is rather high than otherwise. Meanness, cowardice, and dishonesty are 
not tolerated. There is a high regard for truthfulness and keeping one's 
word, intense contempt for any kind of hypocrisy, and a hearty dislike for 
a man who shirks his work. Many of the men gamble and drink, but 
many do neither; and the conversation is not worse than in most bodies 
composed wholly of male human beings. A cowboy will not submit tamely 
to an insult, and is ever ready to avenge his own wrongs ; nor has he an 



^6 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

overwrought fear of shedding blood. He possesses, in fact, few of the 
emasculated, milk-and-water moralities admired by the pseudo-philan- 
thropists ; but he does possess, to a very high degree, the stern, manly 
qualities that are invaluable to a nation. 

The method of work is simple. The mess-wagons and loose horses, 
after breaking camp in the morning, move on in a straight line for some 
few miles, going into camp again before midday ; and the day herd, con- 
sisting of all the cattle that have been found far off their range, and which 
are to be brought back there, and of any others that it is necessary to 
gather, follows on afterwards. Meanwhile the cowboys scatter out and 
drive in all the cattle from the country round about, going perhaps ten or 
fifteen miles back from the line of march, and meeting at the place where 
camp has already been pitched. The wagons always keep some little dis- 
tance from one another, and the saddle-bands do the same, so that the 
horses may not get mixed. It is rather picturesque to see the four-horse 
teams filing down at a trot through a pass among the buttes — the sad- 
dle-bands being driven along at a smart pace to one side or behind, the 
teamsters cracking their whips, and the horse-wranglers calling and shout- 
ing as they ride rapidly from side to side behind the horses, urging on the 
stragglers by dexterous touches with the knotted ends of their long lariats 
that are left trailing from the saddle. The country driven over is very 
rough, and it is often necessary to double up teams and put on eight horses 
to each wagon in going up an unusually steep pitch, or hauling through a 
deep mud-hole, or over a river crossing where there is quicksand. 

The speed and thoroughness with which a country can be worked 
depends, of course, very largely upon the number of riders. Ours is prob- 
ably about an average round-up as regards size. The last spring I was 
out, there were half a dozen wagons along ; the saddle-bands numbered 
about a hundred each ; and the morning we started, sixty men in the 
saddle splashed across the shallow ford of the river that divided the plain 
where we had camped from the valley of the long winding creek up which 
we were first to work. 

In the morning the cook is preparing breakfast long before the first 
glimmer of dawn. As soon as it is ready, probably about 3 o'clock, he 
utters a long-drawn shout, and all the sleepers feel it is time to be up on 
the instant, for they know there can be no such thing as delay on the 
round-up, under penalty of being set afoot. Accordingly, they bundle out, 
rubbing their eyes and yawning, draw on their boots and trousers, — if 
they have taken the latter off, — roll up and cord their bedding, and usually 
without any attempt at washing crowd over to the little smoldering fire, 



THE ROUND-UP 



57 



which is placed in a hole dug in the ground, so that there may be no risk 
of its spreading. The men are rarely very hungry at breakfast, and it is 
a meal that has to be eaten in shortest order, so it is perhaps the least 
important. Each man, as he comes up, grasps a tin cup and plate from 
the mess-box, pours out his tea or coffee, with sugar, but, of course, no 
milk, helps himself to one or two of the biscuits that have been baked in a 
Dutch oven, and perhaps also to a slice of the fat pork swimming in the 
grease of the frying-pan, ladles himself out some beans, if there are any, 
and squats down on the ground to eat his breakfast. The meal is not an 
elaborate one ; nevertheless a man will have to hurry if he wishes to eat it 
before hearing the foreman sing out, "Come, boys, catch your horses"; 
when he must drop everything and run out to the wagon with his lariat. 
The night wrangler is now bringing in the saddle-band, which he has been 
up all night guarding. A rope corral is rigged up by stretching a rope 
from each wheel of one side of the wagon, making a V-shaped space, into 
which the saddle-horses are driven. Certain men stand around to keep 
them inside, while the others catch the horses: many outfits have one man 
to do all the roping. As soon as each has caught his horse — usually 
a strong, tough animal, the small, quick ponies being reserved for the work 
round the herd in the afternoon — the band, now in charge of the day 
wrangler, is turned loose, and every one saddles up as fast as possible. It 
still lacks some time of being sunrise, and the air has in it the peculiar 
chill of the early morning. When all are saddled, many of the horses 
bucking and dancing about, the riders from the different wagons all 
assemble at the one where the captain is sitting, already mounted. He 
waits a very short time — for laggards receive but scant mercy — before 
announcing the proposed camping-place and parceling out the work 
among those present. If, as is usually the case, the line of march is along 
a river or creek, he appoints some man to take a dozen others and drive 
down (or up) it ahead of the day herd, so that the latter will not have to 
travel through other cattle ; the day herd itself being driven and guarded 
by a dozen men detached for that purpose. The rest of the riders are 
divided into two bands, placed under men who know the country, and 
start out, one on each side, to bring in every head for fifteen miles back. 
The captain then himself rides down to the new camping-place, so as to be 
there as soon as any cattle are brought in. 

Meanwhile the two bands, a score of riders in each, separate and make 
their way in opposite directions. The leader of each tries to get such a 
"scatter" on his men that they will cover completely all the land gone 
over. This morning work is called circle riding, and is peculiarly hard 



58 



RAXCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAIL 



in the Bad Lands on account of the remarkably broken, rugged nature of 
the country. The men come in on lines that tend to a common center — 
as if the sticks of a fan were curved. As the band oroes out, the leader 




THE ROPE CORRAL. 



trom time to time detaches one or two men to ride down through certain 
sections of the country, making the shorter, or what are called inside, 
circles, while he keeps on ; and finally, retaining as companions the two 
or three whose horses are toughest, makes the longest or outside circle 
himself, going clear back to the divide, or whatever the point may be that 
marks the limit of the round-up work, and then turning and working 
straight to the meeting-place. Each man, of course, brings in every head 
of cattle he can see. 

These long, swift rides in the glorious spring mornings are not soon 
to be forgotten. The sweet, fresh air, with a touch of sharpness thus 
early in the day, and the rapid motion of the fiery little horse combine to 
make a man's blood thrill and leap with sheer buoyant light-heartedness 
and eager, exultant pleasure in the boldness and freedom of the life he is 
leading. As we climb the steep sides of the first range of buttes, wisps 
of wavering mist still cling in the hollows of the valley ; when we come 
out on the top of the first great plateau, the sun flames up over its edge, 
and in the level, red beams the galloping horsemen throw long fantastic 



THE ROUND-UP 59 

shadows. Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough ; 
at any rate, not when he tirst feels the horse move under him. 

Sometimes we trot or pace, and again we lope or gallop ; the few 
who are to take the outside circle must needs ride both hard and last. 
Although only grass-fed, the horses are tough and wiry ; and, moreover, 
are each used but once in four days, or thereabouts, so they stand the 
work well. The course out lies across great grassy plateaus, along knite- 
like ridge crests, among winding valleys and ravines, and over acres ol 
barren, sun-scorched buttes, that look grimly grotesque and forbidding, 
while in the Bad Lands the riders unhesitatingly go down and over 
places where it seems impossible that a horse should even stand. The 
line of horsemen will quarter down the side of a butte, where every pony 
has to drop from ledge to ledge like a goat, and will go over the shoulder 
of a soapstone cliff, when wet and slippery, with a series of plunges and 
scrambles which if unsuccessful would land horses and riders in the bot- 
tom of the canon-like washout below. In descending a clay butte after 
a rain, the pony will put all four feet together and slide down to the bot- 
tom almost or quite on his haunches. In very wet weather the Bad 
Lands are absolutely impassable ; but if the ground is not slippery, it is a 
remarkable place that can shake the matter-of-course confidence felt by 
the rider in the capacity of his steed to go anywhere. 

When the men on the outside circle have reached the bound set 
them, — whether it is a low divide, a group of jagged hills, the edge 
of the rolling, limitless prairie, or the long, waste reaches of alkali and 
sage brush, — they turn their horses' heads and begin to work down the 
branches of the creeks, one or two riding down the bottom, while the 
others keep off to the right and the left, a little ahead and fairly high up 
on the side hills, so as to command as much of a view as possible. On 
the level or rolling prairies the cattle can be seen a long way off, and it is 
an easy matter to gather and to drive them ; but in the Bad Lands every 
little pocket, basin, and coulee has to be searched, every gorge or ravine 
entered, and the dense patches of brushwood and spindling, wind-beaten 
trees closely examined. All the cattle are carried on ahead down the 
creek; and it is curious to watch the different behavior of the different 
breeds. A cowboy riding off to one side of the creek, and seeing a num- 
ber of lonor-horned Texans crrazingr in the branches of a set of coulees, 
has merely to ride across the upper ends of these, uttering the drawn-out 
"ei-koh-h-h," so familiar to the cattle-men. and the long-horns will stop 
grazing, stare fixedly at him, and then, wheeling, strike off down the 
coulees at a trot, tails in air, to be carried along by the center riders 



6o RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

when they reach the main creek into which the coulees lead. Our own 
range cattle are not so wild, but nevertheless are easy to drive ; while 
Eastern-raised beasts have little fear of a horseman, and merely stare 
stupidly at him until he rides directl)' towards them. Every little bunch 
of stock is thus collected, and all are driven along together. At the place 
where some large fork joins the main creek another band may be met, 
driven by some of the men who have left earlier in the day to take one of 
the shorter circles; and thus, before coming down to the bottom where 
the wagons are camped and where the actual "round-up" itself is to take 
place, this one herd may include a couple of thousand head ; or, on the 
other hand, the longest ride may not result in the finding of a dozen 
animals. As soon as the riders are in, they disperse to their respective 
wagons to get dinner and change horses, leaving the cattle to be held by 
one or two of their number. If only a small number of cattle have been 
gathered, they will all be run into one herd ; if there are many of them, 
however, the different herds will be held separate. 

A plain where a round-up is taking place offers a picturesque sight. 
I well remember one such. It was on a level bottom in a bend of the 
river, which here made an almost semicircular sweep. The bottom was 
in shape a long oval, hemmed in by an unbroken line of steep bluffs so 
that it looked like an amphitheater. Across the faces of the dazzling 
white cliffs there were sharp bands of black and red, drawn by the coal 
seams and the layers of burned clay : the leaves of the trees and the 
grass had the vivid green of spring-time. The wagons were camped 
among the cottonwood trees fringing the river, a thin column of smoke 
rising up from beside each. The horses were grazing round the out- 
skirts, those of each wagon by themselves and kept from going too near 
the others by their watchful guard. In the great circular corral, towards 
one end, the men were already branding calves, while the whole middle 
of the bottom was covered with lowing herds of cattle and shouting, gal- 
loping cowboys. Apparently there was nothing but dust, noise, and con- 
fusion ; but in reality the work was proceeding all the while with the 
utmost rapidity and certainty. 

As soon as, or even before, the last circle riders have come in and 
have snatched a few hasty mouthfuls to serve as their midday meal, we 
begin to work the herd — or herds, if the one herd would be of too 
unwieldy size. The animals are held in a compact bunch, most of the 
riders forming a ring outside, while a couple from each ranch successively 
look the herds through and cut out those marked with their own brand. 
It is difficult, in such a mass of moving beasts, — for they do not stay still, 



THE ROUND-UP 



6l 



but keep weaving in and out among each other, — to find all of one's own 
animals: a man must have natural gifts, as well as great experience, 
before he becomes a good brand-reader and is able really to "clean up a 
herd " — that is, be sure he has left nothing of his own in it. 




CUTTING OUT A STEER. 



To do good work in cutting out from a herd, not only should the rider 
be a good horseman, but he should also have a skillful, thoroughly trained 
horse. A good cutting pony is not common, and is generally too valuable 
to be used anywhere but in the herd. Such an one enters thoroughly 
into the spirit of the thing, and finds out immediately the animal his mas- 



62 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

ter is after ; he will then follow it closely of his own accord through every 
wheel and double at top speed. When looking through the herd, it is 
necessary to move slowly ; and when any animal is found it is taken to 
the outskirts at a walk, so as not to alarm the others. Once at the out- 
side, however, the cowboy has to ride like lightning ; for as soon as the 
beast he is after finds itself separated from its companions it endeavors to 
break back among them, and a young, range- raised steer or heifer runs 
like a deer. In cutting- out a cow and a calf two men have to work 
together. As the animals of a brand are cut out they are received and 
held apart by some rider detailed for the purpose, who is said to be 
" holding the cut." 

All this time the men holding the herd have their hands full, for some 
animal is continually trying to break out, when the nearest man flies at it 
at once and after a smart chase brings it back to its fellows. As soon as 
all the cows, calves, and whatever else is being gathered have been cut 
out. the rest are driven clear off the ground and turned loose, being 
headed in the direction contrary to that in which we travel the following 
day. Then the riders surround the next herd, the men holding cuts move 
them up near it, and the work is begun anew. 

If it is necessary to throw an animal, either to examine a brand or lor 
any other reason, half a dozen men will have their ropes down at once; 
and then it is spur and quirt in the rivalry to see which can outdo the 
other until the beast is roped and thrown. A first-class hand will, 
unaided, rope, throw, and tie down a cow or steer in wonderfully short 
time ; one of the favorite tests of competitive skill among the cowboys is 
the speed with which this feat can be accomplished. Usually, however, 
one man ropes the animal by the head and another at the same time gets 
the loop of his lariat over one or both its hind legs, when it is twisted 
over and stretched out in a second. In following an animal on horse- 
back the man keeps steadily swinging the rope round his head, by a dex- 
terous motion of the wrist only, until he gets a chance to throw it ; when 
on foot, especially if catching horses in a corral, the loop is allowed to 
drag loosely on the ground. A good roper will hurl out the coil with 
marvelous accuracy and force ; it fairly whistles through the air, and set- 
tles round the object with almost infallible certainty. Mexicans make the 
best ropers ; but some Texans are very little behind them. A good horse 
takes as much interest in the work as does his rider, and the instant the 
noose settles over the victim wheels and braces himself to meet the shock, 
standing with his legs firmly planted, the steer or cow being thrown with 
a jerk. An unskillful rider and untrained horse will often themselves be 
thrown when the strain comes. 



THE ROUND-UP 



63 



Sometimes an animal — usually a cow or steer, but, strangely enough, 
very rarely a bull — will get fighting mad, and turn on the men. If on 
the drive, such a beast usually is simply dropped out ; but if they have 
time, nothing delights the cowboys more than an encounter of this sort, 
and the charging brute is roped and tied down in short order. Often 
such an one will make a very vicious fight, and is most dangerous. Once 
a fighting cow kept several of us busy for nearly an hour ; she gored two 
ponies, one of them, which was, luckily, hurt but slightly, being my own 
pet cutting horse. If a steer is hauled out of a mud-hole, its first act is 
usually to charge the rescuer. 

As soon as all the brands of cattle are worked, and the animals that 
are to be driven along have been put in the day herd, attention is turned 
to the cows and calves, which are already gathered in different bands, con- 
sisting each of all the cows of a certain brand and all the calves that are 
following- them. If there is 
a corral, each band is in turn 
driven into it; if there is -Y^L^r°?^ 

none, a ringr of riders does 
duty in its place. A fire is 




^<^r,<r 7^-^^^^ 



BRANDING A CALF. 



built, the irons heated, and a dozen men dismount to, as it is called, 
"wrestle" the calves. The best two ropers go in on their horses to catch 
the latter; one man keeps tally, a couple put on the brands, and the others 
seize, throw, and hold the little unfortunates. A first-class roper invari- 
ably catches the calf by both hind feet, and then, having taken a twist with 
his lariat round the horn of the saddle, drags the bawling little creature, 
extended at full-length, up to the fire, where it is held before it can make 



64 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



a struggle. A less skillful roper catches round the neck, and then, if the 
calf is a large one, the man who seizes it has his hands full, as the bleat- 
ing, bucking animal develops astonishing strength, cuts the wildest capers, 




BRANDING A HOKSE. 



and resists frantically and with all its power. If there are seventy or eighty 
♦ calves in a corral, the scene is one of the greatest confusion. The ropers, 
spurring and checking the fierce little horses, drag the calves up so quickly 
that a dozen men can hardly hold them ; the men with the irons, black- 
ened with soot, run to and fro ; the calf-wrestlers, grimy with blood, dust, 
and sweat, work like beavers ; while with the voice of a stentor the tally- 
man shouts out the number and sex of each calf The dust rises in clouds, 
and the, shouts, cheers, curses, and laughter of the men unite with the low- 
ing of the cows and the frantic bleating of the roped calves to make a per- 
fect babel. Now and then an old cow turns vicious and puts every one 
out of the corral. Or a 7naverick bull, — that is, an unbranded bull, — a 
yearling or a two-years-old, is caught, thrown, and branded ; when he is 
let up there is sure to be a fine scatter, Down goes his head, and he bolts 
at the nearest man, who makes out of the way at top speed, amidst roars 
of laughter from all of his companions ; while the men holding down calves 
swear savagely as they dodge charging mavericks, trampling horses, and 
taut lariats with frantic, plunging little beasts at the farther ends. 



THE ROUND-UP 65 

Every morning certain riders are detached to drive and to guard the 
day herd, which is most monotonous work, the men being on from 4 in 
the morning till 8 in the evening, the only rest coming at dinner-time, 
when they change horses. When the herd has reached the camping- 
ground there is nothing to do but to loll listlessly over the saddle-bow in 
the blazing sun watching the cattle feed and sleep, and seeing that they do 
not spread out too much. Plodding slowly along on the trail through the 
columns of dust stirred up by the hoofs is not much better. Cattle travel 
best and fastest strung out in long lines ; the swiftest taking the lead in 
single file, while the weak and the lazy, the young calves and the poor 
cows, crowd together in the rear. Two men travel along with the leaders, 
one on each side, to point them in the right direction ; one or two others 
keep by the flanks, and the rest are in the rear to act as "drag-drivers" 
and hurry up the phalanx of reluctant weaklings. If the foremost of the 
string travels too fast, one rider will go along on the trail a few rods ahead, 
and thus keep them back so that those in the rear will not be left behind. 

Generally all this is very tame and irksome ; but by fits and starts there 
will be little flurries of excitement. Two or three of the circle riders may 
unexpectedly come over a butte near by with a bunch of cattle, which at 
once start for the day herd, and then there will be a few minutes' furious 
riding hither and thither to keep them out. Or the cattle may begin to 
run, and then get "milling" — that is, all crowd together into a mass like 
a ball, wherein they move round and round, trying to keep their heads 
towards the center, and refusing to leave it. The only way to start them 
is to force one's horse in among them and cut out some of their number^*-* 
which then begin to travel off by themselves, when the others will prob- 
ably follow. But in spite of occasional incidents of this kind, day-herd- 
ing has a dreary sameness about it that makes the men dislike and seek 
to avoid it. 

From 8 in the evening till 4 in the morning the day herd becomes a 
night herd. Each wagon in succession undertakes to guard it for a night, 
dividing the time into watches of two hours apiece, a couple of riders tak- 
ing each watch. This is generally chilly and tedious ; but at times it is 
accompanied by intense excitement and danger, when the cattle become 
stampeded, whether by storm or otherwise. The first and the last watches 
are those chosen by preference ; the others are disagreeable, the men hav- 
ing to turn out cold and sleepy, in the pitchy darkness, the two hours of 
chilly wakefulness completely breaking the night's rest. The first guards 
have to bed the cattle down, though the day-herders often do this them- 
selves : it simply consists in hemming them into as small a space as pos- 



66 



RANCH LIFE AxND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 




THE HERD AT NIGHT. 



sible, and then ridin^^ round them until they He down and fall asleep. 
Often, especially at first, this takes some time — the beasts will keep rising 
and lying down again. When at last most become quiet, some perverse 
brute of a steer will deliberately hook them all up ; they keep moving in 
and out among one another, and long strings of animals suddenly start out 
from the herd at a stretching walk, and are turned back by the nearest 



THE ROUNU-UP 67 

cowboy only to break forth at a new spot. When finally they have lain 
down and are chewing their cud or slumbering, the two night guards 
begin riding round them in opposite ways, often, on very dark nights, 
calling or singing to them, as the sound of the human voice on such occa- 
sions seems to have a tendency to quiet them. In ink)' black weather, espe- 
cially when rainy, it is both difficult and unpleasant work ; the main trust 
must be placed in the horse, which, if old at the business, will of its own 
accord keep pacing steadily round the herd, and head off any animals that, 
unseen by the rider's eyes in the darkness, are trying to break out. Usually 
the watch passes off without incident, but on rare occasions the cattle 
become restless and prone to stampede. Anything may then start them 
— the plunge of a horse, the sudden approach of a coyote, or the arrival of 
some outside steers or cows that have smelt them and come up. Every 
animal in the herd will be on its feet in an instant, as if by an electric 
shock, and off with a rush, horns and tail up. Then, no matter how rough 
the ground nor how pitchy black the night, the cowboys must ride for all 
there is in them and spare neither their own nor their horses' necks. 
Perhaps their charges break away and are lost altogether ; perhaps, by 
desperate galloping, they may head them off, get them running in a circle, 
and finally stop them. Once stopped, they may break again, and possibly 
divide up, one cowboy, perhaps, following each band. I have known six 
suqh stops and renewed stampedes to take place in one night, the cowboy 
staying with his ever-diminishing herd of steers until daybreak, when he 
managed to get them under control again, and, by careful humoring of his 
jaded, staggering horse, finally brought those that w^ere left back to the 
camp, several miles distant. The riding in these night stampedes is wild 
and dangerous to a degree, especially if the man gets caught in the rush 
of the beasts. It also frequently necessitates an immense amount of work 
in collecting the scattered animals. On one such occasion a small party of 
us were thirty-six hours in the saddle, dismounting only to change horses 
or to eat. We were almost worn out at the end of the time ; but it must 
be kept in mind that for a long spell of such work a stock-saddle is far 
less tiring than the ordinary Eastern or English one, and in every way 
superior to it. 

By very hard riding, such a stampede may sometimes be prevented. 
Once we were bringing a thousand head of young cattle down to my 
lower ranch, and as the river was high were obliged to take the inland 
trail. The third night we were forced to make a dry camp, the cattle hav- 
ing had no water since the morning. Nevertheless, we got them bedded 
down without difficulty, and one of the cowboys and myself stood first 



68 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

guard. But very soon after nightfall, when the darkness had become com- 
plete, the thirsty brutes of one accord got on their feet and tried to break 
out. The only salvation was to keep them close together, as, if they once 
got scattered, we knew they could never be gathered ; so I kept on one 
side, and the cowboy on the other, and never in my life did I ride so hard. 
In the darkness I could but dimly see the shadowy outlines of the herd, as 
with whip and spurs I ran the pony along its edge, turning back the beasts 
at one point barely in time to wheel and keep them in at another. The 
ground was cut up by numerous little gullies, and each of us got several 
falls, horses and riders turning complete somersaults. We were dripping 
with sweat, and our ponies quivering and trembling like quaking aspens, 
when, after more than an hour of the most violent exertion, we finally got 
the herd quieted again. 

On another occasion while with the round-up we were spared an 
excessively unpleasant night only because there happened to be two or 
three great corrals not more than a mile or so away. All day long it 
had been raining heavily, and we were well drenched ; but towards even- 
ing it lulled a little, and the day herd, a very large one, of some two thou- 
sand head, was gathered on an open bottom. We had turned the horses 
loose, and in our oilskin slickers cowered, soaked and comfortless, under 
the lee of the wagon, to take a meal of damp bread and lukewarm tea, 
the sizzling embers of the fire having about given up the ghost after a 
fruitless struggle with the steady downpour. Suddenly the wind began 
to come in quick, sharp gusts, and soon a regular blizzard was blowing, 
driving the rain in stinging level sheets before it. Just as we were pre- 
paring to turn into bed, with the certainty of a night of more or less 
chilly misery ahead of us, one of my men, an iron-faced personage, whom 
no one would ever have dreamed had a weakness for poetry, looked 
towards the plain where the cattle were, and remarked, "I guess there's 
'racing and chasing on Cannobie Lea' now, sure." Following his gaze, I 
saw^ that the cattle had begun to drift before the storm, the night guards 
being evidently unable to cope with them, while at the other wagons 
riders were saddling in hot haste and spurring off to their help through 
the blinding rain. Some of us at once ran out to our own saddle-band. 
All of the ponies were standing huddled together, with their heads down 
and their tails to the wind. They were wild and restive enough usually ; 
but the storm had cowed them, and we were able to catch them without 
either rope or halter. We made quick work of saddling ; and the second 
each man was ready, away he loped through the dusk, splashing and slip- 
ping in the pools of water that studded the muddy plain. Most of the 



THE ROUND-UP 



69 








m 






'ixmsmsv 



IN A STAMPEDE. 



frMwc Wmj-h 






riders were already out when we arrived. The cattle were gathered in a 
compact, wedge-shaped, or rather fan -shaped mass, with their tails to the 
wind — that is, towards the thin end of the wedge or fan. In front of this 
fan-shaped mass of frightened, maddened beasts was a long line of cow- 



-jQ RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

boys, each muffled in his sHcker and with his broad hat pulled down over 
his eyes, to shield him from the pelting" rain. When the cattle were quiet 
for a moment every horseman at once turned round with his back to the 
wind, and the whole line stood as motionless as so many sentries. Then, 
if the cattle began to spread out and overlap at the ends, or made a rush 
and broke through at one part of the lines, there would be a change into 
wild activity. The men, shouting and swaying in their saddles, darted to 
and fro with reckless speed, utterly heedless of danger — now racing to 
the threatened point, now checking and wheeling their horses so sharply 
as to bring them square on their haunches, or even throw them flat down, 
while the hoofs plowed long furrows in the slippery soil, until, after some 
minutes of this mad galloping hither and thither, the herd, having drifted 
a hundred yards or so, would be once more brought up standing. We 
always had to let them drift a little to prevent their spreading out too 
much. The din of the thunder was terrific, peal following peal until they 
mingled in one continuous, rumbling roar; and at every thunder-clap 
louder than its fellows the cattle would try to break away. Darkness had 
set in, but each flash of lightning showed us a dense array of tossing 
horns and staring eyes. It grew always harder to hold in the herd ; but 
the drift took us along to the corrals already spoken of, whose entrances 
were luckily to windward. As soon as we reached the first we cut off 
part of the herd, and turned it within ; and after again doing this with the 
second, we were able to put all the remaining animals into the third. The 
instant the cattle were housed five-sixths of the horsemen started back at 
full speed for the wagons ; the rest of us barely waited to put up the bars 
and make the corrals secure before galloping after them. We had to ride 
right in the teeth of the driving storm ; and once at the wagons we made 
small delay in crawling under our blankets, damp though the latter were, 
for we were ourselves far too wet, stiff, and cold not to hail with grateful 
welcome any kind of shelter from the wind and the rain. 

All animals were benumbed by the violence of this gale of cold rain : 
a prairie chicken rose from under my horse's feet so heavily that, thought- 
lessly striking at it, I cut it down with my whip ; while when a jack rabbit 
got up ahead of us, it was barely able to limp clumsily out of our way. 

But though there is much work and hardship, rough fare, monotony, 
and exposure connected with the round-up, yet there are few men who do 
not look forward to it and back to it with pleasure. The only fault to be 
found is that the hours of work are so long that one does not usually have 
enough time to sleep. The food, if rough, is good: beef, bread, pork. 



THE ROUND-UP -I 

beans, coffee or tea, always canned tomatoes, and often rice, canned corn, 
or sauce made from dried apples. The men are good-humored, bold, 
and thoroughly interested in their business, continually vying with one 
another in the effort to see which can do the work best. It is superbly 
health-giving, and is full of excitement and adventure, calling for the 
exhibition of pluck, self-reliance, hardihood, and dashing horsemanship ; 
and of all forms of physical labor the easiest and pleasantest is to sit 
in the saddle. 




ROPED ! 



12 




A TEXAN PONY. 



WINTER WEATHER 



?"-' ■■'■>■**: 





S^HESSM-'. 



LINE HIDING IN W I 



^. 



V 

Winter Weather 



^ THEN the days have dwindled to their shortest, and 

; / the nights seem never ending, then all the great 

f/\/ northern plains are changed into an abode of iron 
i M desolation. Sometimes furious gales blow out of the 
^ north, driving before them the clouds of blinding snow- 
'"C^dust, wrapping the mantle of death round every unshel- 
^^^^j'-tered being that faces their unshackled anger. They 
roar in a thunderous bass as they sweep across the prairie 
or whirl through the naked canons ; they shiver the great brittle cotton- 
woods, and beneath their rough touch the icy limbs of the pines that 
cluster in the gorges sing like the chords of an yEolian harp. Again, in 
the coldest midwinter weather, not a breath of wind may stir ; and then 
the still, merciless, terrible cold that broods over the earth like the shadow 
of silent death seems even more dreadful in its gloomy rigor than is the 
lawless madness of the storms. All the land is like eranite; the ereat 
rivers stand still in their beds, as if turned to frosted steel. In the lono- 
nights there is no sound to break the lifeless silence. Under the ceaseless, 
shifting play of the Northern Lights, or lighted only by the wintry brill- 
iance of the stars, the snow-clad plains stretch out into dead and endless 
wastes of g-limmerinof white. 

Then the great fire-place of the ranch house is choked with blazing- 
logs, and at night we have to sleep under so many blankets that the 
weight is fairly oppressive. Outside, the shaggy ponies huddle together 
in the corral, while long icicles hang from their lips, and the hoar-frost 
whitens the hollow backs of the catde. For the ranchman the winter is 
occasionally a pleasant holiday, but more often an irksome period of 
enforced rest and gloomy foreboding. 



74 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



In the winter there is much less work than at any other season, but 
what there is involves great hardship and exposure. Many of the men 
are discharged after the summer is over, and during much of the cold 
weather there is little to do except hunt now and then, and in very bitter 
days lounge listlessly about the house. But some of the men are out in 
the line camps, and the ranchman has occasionally to make the round of 
these ; and besides that, one or more of the cowboys who are at home 
ought to be out every day when the cattle have become weak, so as to pick 
up and drive in any beast that will otherwise evidently fail to get through 
the season — a cow that has had an unusually early calf being particularly 
apt to need attention. The horses shift for themselves and need no help. 
Often, in winter, the Indians cut down the cottonwood trees and feed the 
tops to their ponies ; but this is not done to keep them from starving, but 
only to keep them from wandering off in search of grass. Besides, the 
ponies are very fond of the bark of the young cottonwood shoots, and it is 
healthy for them. 

The men in the line camps lead a hard life, for they have to be out in 
every kind of weather, and should be especially active and watchful during 
the storms. The camps are established along some line which it is pro- 
posed to make the boundary of the cattle's drift in a given direction. For 
example, we care very little whether our cattle wander to the Yellow- 
stone ; but we strongly object to their drifting east and south-east 
towards the granger country and the Sioux reservation, especially as 
when they drift that way they come out on flat, bare plains where there 
is danger of perishing. Accordingly, the cowmen along the Little 
Missouri have united in establishing a row of camps to the east of the 
river, along the line where the broken ground meets the prairie. The 
camps are usually for two men each, and some fifteen or twenty miles 
apart ; then, in the morning, its two men start out in opposite ways, each 
riding till he meets his neighbor of the next camp nearest on that side, 
when he returns. The camp itself is sometimes merely a tent pitched in 
a sheltered coulee, but ought to be either made of logs or else a dug-out 
in the ground. A small corral and horse-shed is near by, with enough 
hay for the ponies, of which each rider has two or three. In riding over 
the beat each man drives any cattle that have come near it back into the 
Bad Lands, and if he sees by the hoof-marks that a few have strayed out 
over the line very recently, he will follow and fetch them home. They 
must be shoved well back into the Bad Lands before a great storm strikes 
them ; for if they once begin to drift in masses before an icy gale it is 
impossible for a small number of men to hold them, and the only thing is 



WINTER WEATHER 



75 



to let them go, and then to organize an expedition to follow them as soon 
as possible. Line riding is very cold work, and dangerous too, when the 
men have to be out in a blinding snow-storm, or in a savage blizzard that 
takes the spirit in the thermometer far down below zero. In the worst 
storms it is impossible for any man to be out. 

But other kinds of work besides line riding necessitate exposure to 
bitter weather. Once, while spending a few days over on Beaver Creek 
hunting up a lost horse, I happened to meet a cowboy who was out on 
the same errand, and made friends with him. We started home together 
across the open prairies, but were caught in a very heavy snow-storm 
almost immediately after leaving the ranch where we had spent the night. 
We were soon completely turned round, the great soft flakes — for, luckily, 
it was not cold — almost blinding us, and we had to travel entirely by 
compass. After feeling our way along for eight or nine hours, we finally 
got down into the broken country near Sentinel Butte and came across 
an empty hut, a welcome sight to men as cold, hungry, and tired as we 
were. In this hut we passed the night very comfortably, picketing our 
horses in a sheltered nook near by, with plenty of hay from an old stack. 
To while away the long evening, I read Hamlet aloud, from a little 
pocket Shakspere. The cowboy, a Texan, — one of the best riders I have 
seen, and also a very intelligent as well as a thoroughly good fellow in 
every way, — was greatly interested in it and commented most shrewdly 
on the parts he liked, especially Polonius's advice to Laertes, which he 
translated into more homely language with great relish, and ended with 
the just criticism that ''old Shakspere saveyed human natur' some " — 
savey being a verb presumably adapted into the limited plains' vocabulary 
from the Spanish. 

Even for those who do not have to look up stray horses, and who are 
not forced to ride the line day in and day out, there is apt to be some 
hardship and danger in being abroad during the bitter weather; yet a 
ride in midwinter is certainly fascinating. The great white country 
wrapped in the powdery snow-drift seems like another land ; and the 
familiar landmarks are so changed that a man must be careful lest he lose 
his way, for the discomfort of a night in the open during such weather is 
very great indeed. When the sun is out the glare from the endless white 
stretches dazzles the eyes ; and if the gray snow-clouds hang low and 
only let a pale, wan light struggle through, the lonely wastes become 
fairly appalling in their desolation. For hour after hour a man may go 
on and see no sign of life except, perhaps, a big white owl sweeping 
noiselessly by, so that in the dark it looks like a snow-wreath ; the cold 



76 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAU. 



gradually chilling the rider to the bones, as he draws his fur cap tight 
over his ears and muffles his face in the huge collar of his wolf-skin coat, 
and making the shaggy little steed drop head and tail as it picks its way 
over the frozen soil. There are few moments more pleasant than the 
home-coming, when, in the gathering darkness, after crossing the last 
chain of ice-covered l)uttes, or after coming round the last turn in the 
wind-swept valley, we see, through the leafless trees, or across the frozen 
river, the red gleam of the firelight as it shines through the ranch win- 
dows and flickers over the trunks of the cottonwoods outside, warming a 
man's blood by the mere hint of the warmth awaiting him within. 

The winter scenery is especially striking in the Bad Lands, with their 
queer fantastic formations. Among the most interesting features are the 
burning mines. These are formed by the coal seams that get on fire. 
They vary greatly in size. Some send up smoke-columns that are visible 
miles away, while others are not noticeable a few rods off. The old ones 
gradually burn away, while new ones unexpectedly break out. Thus, last 
fall, one suddenly appeared but half a mile from the ranch house. We 
never knew it was there until one cold moonlight night, when we were 
riding home, we rounded the corner of a ravine and saw in our path a tall 
white column of smoke rising from a rift in the snowy crags ahead of us. 
As the trail was over perfectly familiar ground, we were for a moment 
almost as startled as if we had seen a ghost. 

The burning mines are uncanny places, anyhow. A strong smell of 
sulphur hangs round them, the heated earth crumbles and cracks, and 
through the lone clefts that form in it we can see the lurid orlow of the 
subterranean fires, with here and there tongues of blue or cherry colored 
flame dancing up to the surface. 

The winters vary greatly in severity with us. During some seasons 
men can go lightly clad even in January and February, and the cattle 
hardly suffer at all ; during others there will be spells of bitter weather, 
accompanied by furious blizzards, which render it impossible for days and 
weeks at a time for men to stir out-of-doors at all, save at the risk of 
their lives. Then line rider, ranchman, hunter, and teamster alike all 
have to keep within doors. I have known of several cases of men freez- 
ing to death when caught in shelterless places by such a blizzard, a 
strange fact being that in about half of them the doomed man had evi- 
dently gone mad before dying, and had stripped himself of most of his 
clothes, the body when found being nearly naked. On our ranch we have 
never had any bad accidents, although every winter some of us get more 
or less frost-bitten. My last experience in this line was while returning 



WINTER WEATHER 



n 



mf/'kiiiiiif 

BLLi lAiJiaBkii 




'' -^ t.h liilL 



f\4l- -^k*^" 



I 01. 



'■"^m^i 



'flsS'''''ilMi 




CATTLE DRIFTING BEFORE THE STORM. 



by moonlight from a successful hunt after mountain sheep. The ther- 
mometer was 26° below zero, and we had had no food for twelve hours. 
I became numbed, and before I was aware of it had frozen my face, one 
foot, both knees, and one hand. Luckily, I reached the ranch before 
serious damagfe was done. 

About once every six or seven years we have a season when these 
storms follow one another almost without interval throughout the winter 
months, and then the loss among the stock is frightful. One such win- 
ter occurred in 1880-81. This was when there were very few ranchmen 
in the country. The grass was so good that the old range stock escaped 
pretty well ; but the trail herds were almost destroyed. The next severe 
winter was that of 1886-87, when the rush of incoming herds had over- 
stocked the ranges, and the loss was in consequence fairly appalling, 
especially to the outfits that had just put on cattle. 

The snow-fall was unprecedented, both for its depth and for the way it 
lasted ; and it was this, and not the cold, that caused the loss. About the 
13 



-S RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTINCi-TRAIL 

middle oi November the storms began. Day after day the snow came 
down, thawing and then freezing and piling itself higher and higher. By 
January the drifts had filled the ravines and coulees almost level. The snow 
la\- in great masses on the plateaus and river bottoms ; and this lasted 
until the end of Februar\-. The preceding summer we had been visited by 
a prolonged drcnight, so tliat the short, scanty grass was already well 
cropped down ; the snow covered what pasturage there was to the depth 
of several feet, and the cattle could not get at it at all, and could hardly 
move round. It was all but impossible to travel on horseback — except 
on a few well-beaten trails. It was dangerous to attempt to penetrate the 
Bad Lands, whose shape had been completely altered by the great white 
mounds and drifts. The starving cattle died by scores of thousands 
before their helpless owners' eyes. The bulls, the cows who were suck- 
ling calves, or who were heavy with calf, the weak cattle that had just been 
driven up on the trail, and the late calves suffered most ; the old range 
animals did better, and the steers best of all ; but the best was bad 
enough. Even many of the horses died. An outfit near me lost half its 
saddle-band, the animals having been worked so hard that they were very 
thin when fall came. 

In the thick brush the stock got some shelter and sustenance. They 
gnawed every twig and bough they could get at. They browsed the bitter 
sag^e brush down to where the branches were the thickness of a man's 
finger. When near a ranch they crowded into the outhouses and sheds 
to die, and fences had to be built around the windows to keep the wild- 
eyed, desperate beasts from thrusting their heads through the glass panes. 
In most cases it was impossible either to drive them to the haystacks or to 
haul the hay out to them. The deer even were so weak as to be easily run 
down ; and on one or two of the plateaus where there were bands of 
antelope, these wary creatures grew so numbed and feeble that they could 
have been slaughtered like rabbits. But the hunters could hardly get out, 
and could bring home neither hide nor meat, so the game went unharmed. 

The way in which the cattle got through the winter depended largely 
on the different localities in which the bands were caught when the first 
heavy snows came, A group of animals in a bare valley, without under- 
brush and with steepish sides, would all die, weak and strong alike ; they 
could get no food and no shelter, and so there would not be a hoof left. 
On the other hand, hundreds wintered on the great thickly wooded bot- 
toms near my ranch house with little more than ordinary loss, though a 
skinny sorry-looking crew by the time the snow melted. In intermediate 
places the strong survived and the weak perished. 



WINTER WEATHER 



79 



It would be impossible to imagine any sight more dreary and melan- 
choly than that offered by the ranges when the snow went off in March. 
The land was a mere barren waste ; not a green thing could be seen ; the 
dead grass eaten off till the country looked as if it had been shaved with a 
razor. Occasionally among the desolate hills a rider would come across a 
band of gaunt, hollow-flanked cattle feebly cropping the sparse, dry past- 
urage, too listless to move out of the way ; and the blackened carcasses 
lay in the sheltered spots, some stretched out, others in as natural a posi- 
tion as if the animals had merely lain down to rest. It was small wonder 
that cheerful stockmen were rare objects that spring. 

Our only comfort was that we did not, as usual, suffer a heavy loss 
from weak cattle getting mired down in the springs and mud-holes when 
the ice broke up — for all the weak animals were dead already. The truth 
is, ours is a primitive industry, and we suffer the reverses as well as enjoy 
the successes only known to primitive peoples. A hard winter is to us in 
the north what a dry summer is to Texas or Australia — what seasons of 
famine once were to all peoples. We still live in an iron age that the old 
civilized world has long passed by. The men of the border reckon upon 
stern and unending struggles with their iron-bound surroundings ; against 
the grim harshness of their existence they set the strength and the abound- 
ing vitality that come with it. They run risks to life and limb that are 
unknown to the dwellers in cities ; and what the men freely brave, the 
beasts that they own must also sometimes suffer. 





J^.Em'r r'ur 



HORSE OF THE CANADIAN NORTH-WEST. 



FRONTIER TYPES 



VI 



Frontier Types 




iHE old race of Rocky Mountain hunters and trap- 
pers, of reckless, dauntless Indian fighters, is now fast 
dying out. Yet here and there these restless wander- 
ers of the untrodden wilderness still linger, in wooded 
fastnesses so inaccessible that the miners have not yet 
explored them, in mountain valleys so far off that no 
ranchman has yet driven his herds thither. To this day many 
of them wear the fringed tunic or hunting-shirt, made of buck- 
skin or homespun, and belted in at the waist, — the most pic- 
turesque and distinctively national dress ever worn in America. 
It was the dress in which Daniel Boone was clad when he 
first passed through the trackless forests of the Alleghanies and 
penetrated into the heart of Kentucky, to enjoy such hunting 
as no man of his race had ever had before; it was the dress 
worn by grim old Davy Crockett when he fell at the Alamo. 
The wild soldiery of the backwoods wore it when they marched 
;^;^ to victory over Ferguson and Pakenham, at King's Moun- 
'j^f<^ tain and New Orleans; when they conquered the French 
A MEXICAN vAQUERo. towus of the HHnois; and when they won at the cost of Red 
Eagle's warriors the bloody triumph of the Horseshoe Bend. 

These old-time hunters have been the forerunners of the white advance 
throughout all our Western land. Soon after the beginning of the pres- 
ent century they boldly struck out beyond the Mississippi, steered their 
way across the flat and endless seas of grass, or pushed up the valleys 
of the great lonely rivers, crossed the passes that wound among the tow- 
ering peaks of the Rockies, toiled over the melancholy wastes of sage 
brush and alkali, and at last, breaking through the gloomy woodland that 



8| 



82 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

belts the coast, the\- looked out on the heavin*'- waves of the grreatest of all 
the oceans. They lived for months, often for years, among the Indians, 
now as friends, now as foes, warring, hunting, and marrying with them; 
they acted as guides for exploring parties, as scouts for the soldiers who 
trom time co time were sent against the different hostile tribes. At long 
intervals they came into some frontier settlement or some fur company's 
fort, posted in the heart ot the wilderness, to dispose of their bales of furs, 
or to replenish their stock of ammunition and purchase a scanty supply of 
coarse food and clothing. 

From that day to this they have not changed their way of life. But 
there are not man) oi them left now. The basin of the Upper Missouri 
was their last stronghold, beingr the last oreat huntingr- around of the 
Indians, with whom the white trappers were always fighting and bicker- 
ing, but who nevertheless by their presence protected the game that gave 
the trappers their livelihood. My cattle were among the very first to come 
into the land, at a time when the buffalo and beaver still abounded, and 
then the old hunters were common. Many a time I have hunted with 
them, spent the night in their smoky cabins, or had them as guests at my 
ranch. But in a couple of years after the inrush of the cattle-men the last 
herds of the buffalo were destroyed, and the beaver were trapped out of 
all the plains' streams. Then the hunters vanished likewise, save that 
here and there one or two still remain in some nook or out-of-the-way 
corner. The others wandered off restlessly over the land, — some to 
join their brethren in the Cceur d'Alene or the northern Rockies, others 
to the coast ranges or to far-away Alaska. Moreover, their ranks were 
soon thinned by death, and the places of the dead were no longer taken 
by new recruits. They led hard lives, and the unending strain of their 
toilsome and dangerous existence shattered even such iron frames as 
theirs. They were killed in drunken brawls, or in nameless fights with 
roving Indians ; they died by one of the thousand accidents incident to 
the business of their lives, — by flood or quicksand, by cold or starvation, 
by the stumble of a horse or a footslip on the edge of a cliff; they perished 
by diseases brought on by terrible privation, and aggravated by the savage 
orgies with which it was varied. 

Yet there was not only much that was attractive in their wild, free, 
reckless lives, but there was also very much good about the men them- 
selves. They were — and such of them as are left still are — frank, bold, and 
self-reliant to a degree. They fear neither man, brute, nor element. They 
are generous and hospitable; they stand loyally by their friends, and 
pursue their enemies with bitter and vindictive hatred. For the rest, they 



FRONTIER TYPES g 



o 



differ among themselves in their good and bad points even more mark- 
edly than do men in civilized life, for out on the border virtue and wicked- 
ness alike take on very pronounced colors. A man who in civilization 
would be merely a backbiter becomes a murderer on the frontier ; and, on 
the other hand, he who in the city would do nothing more than bid you a 
cheery good-morning, shares his last bit of sun -jerked venison with you 
when threatened by starvation in the wilderness. One hunter may be a 
dark- browed, evil-eyed ruffian, ready to kill cattle or run off horses with- 
out hesitation, who if game fails will at once, in Western phrase, "take to 
the road," — that is, become a highwayman. The next is perhaps a quiet, 
kindly, simple-hearted man, law-abiding, modestly unconscious of the 
worth of his own fearless courage and iron endurance, always faithful to 
his friends, and full of chivalric and tender loyalty to women. 

The hunter is the arch-type of freedom. His well-being rests in no 
man's hands save his own. He chops down and hews out the logs for his 
hut, or perhaps makes merely a rude dug-out in the side of a hill, with a 
skin roof, and skin flaps for the door. He buys a little flour and salt, and 
in times of plenty also sugar and tea; but not much, for it must all be 
carried hundreds of miles on the backs of his shaggy pack-ponies. In one 
corner of the hut, a bunk covered with deer-skins forms his bed; a kettle 
and a frying-pan may be all his cooking-utensils. When he can get no 
fresh meat he falls back on his stock of jerked venison, dried in long strips 
over the fire or in the sun. 

Most of the trappers are Americans, but they also include some 
Frenchmen and half-breeds. Both of the last, if on the plains, occasion- 
ally make use of queer wooden carts, very rude in shape, with stout 
wheels that make a most doleful squeaking. In old times they all had 
Indian wives ; but nowadays those who live among and intermarry with 
the Indians are looked down upon by the other frontiersmen, who con- 
temptuously term them "squaw men." All of them depend upon their 
rifles only for food and for self-defense, and make their living by trapping, 
peltries being very valuable and yet not bulky. They are good game 
shots, especially the pure Americans ; although, of course, they are very 
boastful, and generally stretch the truth tremendously in telling about 
their own marksmanship. Still they often do very remarkable shooting, 
both for speed and accuracy. One of their feats, that I never could learn 
to copy, is to make excellent shooting after nightfall. Of course all this 
applies only to the regular hunters ; not to the numerous pretenders 
who hang around the outskirts of the towns to try to persuade unwary 
strangers to take them for guides. 

H 



84 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



On one of nix- trips to the mountains I happened to come across sev- 
eral old-style hunters at the same time. Two were on their way out of the 
woods, after having- been all winter and spring without seeing a white 




^E-rrunCtUr, 



A FRENCH-CANADIAN TRAPPER. 



face. They had been lucky, and their battered pack-saddles carried bales 
of valuable furs — fisher, sable, otter, mink, beaver. The two men, though 
fast friends and allies for many years, contrasted oddly. One was a short, 
square-built, good-humored Kanuck, always laughing and talking, who 
interlarded his conversation with a singularly original mixture of the most 
villainous French and English profanity. His partner was an American, 
gray-eyed, tall and straight as a young pine, with a saturnine, rather 
haughty face, and proud bearing. He spoke very little, and then in low 
tones, never using an oath ; but he showed now and then a most unex- 
pected sense of dry humor. Both were images of bronzed and rugged 
strength. Neither had the slightest touch of the bully in his nature; they 
treated others with the respect that they also exacted for themselves. They 



FRONTIER TYPES 85 

bore an excellent reputation as being not only highly skilled in woodcraft 
and the use of the rifle, but also men of tried courage and strict integrity, 
whose word could be always implicitly trusted. 

I had with me at the time a hunter who, though their equal as marks- 
man or woodsman, was their exact opposite morally. He was a pleasant 
companion and useful assistant, being very hard-working, and possessing a 
temper that never was ruffled by anything. He was also a good-looking fel- 
low, with honest brown eyes ; but he no more knew the difference between 
right and wrong than Adam did before the fall. Had he been at all con- 
scious of his wickedness, or had he possessed the least sense of shame, he 
would have been unbearable as a companion ; but he was so perfectly pleas- 
ant and easy, so good-humoredly tolerant of virtue in others, and he so 
wholly lacked even a glimmering suspicion that murder, theft, and adultery 
were matters of anything more than individual taste, that I actually grew 
to be rather fond of him. He never related any of his past deeds of wicked- 
ness as matters either for boastfulness or for regret ; they were simply 
repeated incidentally in the course of conversation. Thus once, in speak- 
ing of the profits of his different enterprises, he casually mentioned making 
a good deal of money as a Government scout in the South-west by buying 
cartridges from some negro troops at a cent apiece and selling them to the 
hostile Apaches for a dollar each. His conduct was not due to sympathy 
with the Indians, for it appeared that later on he had taken part in mas- 
sacring some of these same Apaches when they were prisoners. He 
brushed aside as irrelevant one or two questions which I put to him : matters 
of sentiment were not to be mixed up with a purely mercantile specula- 
tion. Another time we were talkino^ of the curious angrles bullets sometimes 
fly off at when they ricochet. To illustrate the matter he related an experi- 
ence which I shall try to give in his own words. " One time, when I was 
keeping a saloon down in New Mexico, there was a man owed me a grudge. 
Well, he took sick of the small-pox, and the doctor told him he 'd sure die, 
and he said if that was so he reckoned he 'd kill me first. So he come 
a-riding in with his gun [in the West a revolver is generally called a 
gun] and begun shooting ; but I hit him first, and away he rode. I 
started to get on my horse to follow him ; but there was a little Irishman 
there who said he 'd never killed a man, and he begged hard for me to 
give him my gun and let him go after the other man and finish him. So 
I let him go ; and when he caught up, blamed if the little cuss did n't get 
so nervous that he fired off into the ground, and the darned bullet struck a 
crowbar, and glanced up, and hit the other man square in the head and 
killed him ! Now, that was a funny shot, was n't it ? " 



86 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

The fourth member of our party round the camp-fire that night was a 
powerfully built trapper, partly French by blood, who wore a gayly col- 
ored capote, or blanket-coat, a greasy fur cap, and moccasins. He had 
grizzled hair, and a certain uneasy, half-furtive look about the eyes. 
Once or twice he show^ed a curious reluctance about allowing a man to 
approach him suddenly from behind. Altogether his actions were so odd 
that I felt some curiosity to learn his history. It turned out that he had 
been through a rather uncanny experience the winter before. He and 
another man had gone into a remote basin, or inclosed valley, in the 
heart oi the mountains, where game was very plentiful ; indeed, it was so 
abundant that they decided to pass the winter there. Accordingly they 
put up a log-cabin, working hard, and merely killing enough meat for 
their immediate use. Just as it was finished winter set in with tremen- 
dous sno\v-storms. Going out to hunt, in the first lull, they found, to their 
consternation, that every head of game had left the valley. Not an ani- 
mal was to be found therein ; they had abandoned it for their winter 
haunts. The outlook for the two adventurers was appalling. They were 
afraid of trying to break out through the deep snow-drifts, and starvation 
stared them in the face if they staid. The man I met had his dog with 
him. They put themselves on very short commons, so as to use up their 
flour as slowly as possible, and hunted unweariedly, but saw nothing. 
Soon a violent quarrel broke out between them. The other man, a fierce, 
sullen fellow, insisted that the dog should be killed, but the owner was 
exceedingly attached to it, and refused. For a couple of weeks they spoke 
no word to each other, though cooped in the little narrow pen of logs. 
Then one night the owner of the dog was wakened by the animal crying 
out; the other man had tried to kill it with his knife, but failed. The pro- 
visions were now almost exhausted, and the two men were glaring at each 
other with the rage of maddened, ravening hunger. Neither dared to sleep, 
for fear that the other would kill him. Then the one who owned the dog 
at last spoke, and proposed that, to give each a chance for his life, they 
should separate. He would take half of the handful of flour that was left 
and start off to try to get home ; the other should stay where he was; and 
if he tried to follow the first, he was warned that he would be shot without 
mercy. A like fate was to be the portion of the wanderer if driven to 
return to the hut. The arrangement was agreed to and the two men 
separated, neither daring to turn his back while they were within rifle- 
shot of each other. For two days the one who went off toiled on with 
weary weakness through the snow-drifts. Late on the second afternoon, 
as he looked back from a high ridge, he saw in the far distance a black 



FRONTIER TYPES 



87 



SKINNER &-OUNI\i. 









A FIGHT IN THE STREET. 



speck against the snow, coming along on his trail. His companion was 
dogging his footsteps. Immediately he followed his own trail back a 
little and lay in ambush. At dusk his companion came stealthily up, 
rifle in hand, peering cautiously ahead, his drawn face showing the 
starved, eager ferocity of a wild beast, and the man he was hunting shot 
him down exactly as if he had been one. Leaving the body where it fell, 
the wanderer continued his journey, the dog staggering painfully behind 
him. The next evening he baked his last cake and divided it with the 
dog. In the morning, with his belt drawn still tighter round his skeleton 
body, he once more set out, with apparently only a few hours of dull misery 
between him and death. At noon he crossed the track of a huge timber- 
wolf; instantly the dog gave tongue, and, rallying its strength, ran along 
the trail. The man struggled after. At last his strength gave out and he 
sat down to die; but while sitting still, slowly stiffening with the cold, he 
heard the dog baying in the woods. Shaking off his mortal numbness, 
he crawled towards the sound, and found the wolf over the body of a deer 
that he had just killed, and keeping the dog from it. At the approach of 
the new assailant the wolf sullenly drew off, and man and dotr tore the raw 
deer-flesh with hideous eagerness. It made them very sick for the next 



88 RAXCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

twenty-ibur hours ; but. lying by the carcass for two or three days, they 
recovered strength. A week afterwards the trapper reached a miner's 
cabin in safety. There he told his tale, and the unknown man who 
alone might possibly have contradicted it lay dead in the depths of the 
wolf-haunted forest. 

The cowboys, who have supplanted these old hunters and trappers as 
the typical men of the plains, themselves lead lives that are almost as full 
oi hardship and adventure. The unbearable cold of winter sometimes 
makes the small outlying camps fairly uninhabitable if fuel runs short ; 
and if the line riders are caught in a blizzard while making their way to 
the home ranch, they are lucky if they get off with nothing worse than 
frozen feet and faces. 

They are, in the main, hard-working, faithful fellows, but of course are 
frequently obliged to get into scrapes through no fault of their own. 
Once, while out on a wagon trip, I got caught while camped by a spring 
on the prairie, through my horses all straying. A few miles off was the 
camp of two cowboys, who were riding the line for a great Southern 
cow-outfit. I did not even know their names, but happening to pass by 
them I told of my loss, and the day after they turned up with the missing 
horses, which they had been hunting for twenty- four hours. All I could 
do in return was to give them some reading matter — something for which 
the men in these lonely camps are always grateful. Afterwards I spent a 
day or two with my new friends, and we became quite intimate. They 
were Texans. Both were quiet, clean-cut, pleasant-spoken young fellows, 
who did not even swear, except under great provocation, — and there can 
be no greater provocation than is given by a " mean " horse or a refractory 
steer. Yet, to my surprise, I found that they were, in a certain sense, 
fugitives from justice. They were complaining of the extreme severity of 
the winter weather, and mentioned their longing to go back to the South. 
The reason they could not was that the summer before they had taken 
part in a small civil war in one of the wilder counties of New Mexico. It 
had originated in a quarrel between two great ranches over their respect- 
ive water rights and range rights, — a quarrel of a kind rife among pastoral 
peoples since the days when the herdsmen of Lot and Abraham strove 
together for the grazing lands round the mouth of the Jordan. There 
were collisions between bands of armed cowboys, the cattle were harried 
from the springs, outlying camps were burned down, and the sons of the 
rival owners fought each other to the death with bowie-knife and revol- 
ver when they met at the drinking-booths of the squalid towns. Soon 
the smoldering jealousy which is ever existent between the Americans 
and Mexicans of the frontier was aroused, and when the original cause 



FRONTIER TYPES 



89 



of quarrel was adjusted, a fierce race struggle took its place. It was soon 
quelled by the arrival of a strong sheriff's posse and the threat of inter- 
ference by the regular troops, but not until after a couple of affrays, each 
attended with bloodshed. In one of these the American cowboys of a 
certain range, after a brisk fight, drove out the Mexican vaqiicros from 
among them. In the other, to avenge the murder of one of their num- 
ber, the cowboys gathered from the country round about and fairly stormed 
the ''Greaser" (that is, Mexican) village where the murder had been 
committed, killing four of the inhabitants. My two friends had borne a 
part in this last affair. They were careful to give a rather cloudy account 
of the details, but I gathered that one of them was "wanted" as a par- 
ticipant, and the other as a witness. 

However, they were both good fellows, and probably their conduct was 
justifiable, at least according to the rather fitful lights of the border. Sitting 
up late with them, around the sputtering fire, they became quite confidential. 
At first our conversation touched only the usual monotonous round of sub- 
jects worn threadbare in every cow-camp. A bunch of steers had been 
seen traveling over the scoria buttes to the head of Elk Creek ; they were 
mostly Texan doughgies (a name I have never seen written ; it applies to 
young immigrant cattle), but there were some of the Hash-Knife four-year- 
olds among them. A stray horse with a blurred brand on the left hip had 
just joined the bunch of saddle-ponies. The red F. V. cow, one of whose 
legs had been badly bitten by a wolf, had got mired down in an alkali spring, 
and when hauled out had charged upon her rescuer so viciously that he 
barely escaped. The old mule, Sawback, was getting over the effects of 
the rattlesnake bite. The river was going down, but the fords were still 
bad, and the quicksand at the Custer Trail crossing had worked along so 
that wagons had to be taken over opposite the blasted cottonwood. One 
of the men had seen a Three-Seven- B rider who had just left the Green 
River round-up, and who brought news that they had found some cattle on 
the reservation, and were now holding about twelve hundred head on the 
big brushy bottom below Rainy Butte. Bronco Jim, our local flash rider, 
had tried to ride the big, bald-faced sorrel belonging to the Oregon horse- 
outfit, and had been bucked off and his face smashed in. This piece of 
information of course drew forth much condemnation of the unfortunate 
Jim's equestrian skill. It was at once agreed that he "wasn't the sure- 
enough bronco-buster he thought himself" and he was compared very 
unfavorably to various heroes of the quirt and spurs who lived in Texas and 
Colorado; for the best rider, like the best hunter, is invariably either dead 
or else a resident of some other district. 

These topics having been exhausted, we discussed the rumor that the 



90 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



vigilantes had given notice to quit to two men who had just built a shack 
at the head of the Little Dry, and whose horses included a suspiciously 
large number of different brands, most of them blurred. Then our con- 
versation became more personal, and they asked if I would take some 
letters to post for them. Of course I said yes, and two letters — evidently 
the product of severe manual labor — were produced. Each was directed 
to a girl ; and my companions, now very friendly, told me that they both 
had sweethearts, and for the next hour I listened to a full account of their 
charms and virtues. 

But it is not often that plainsmen talk so freely. They are rather 
reserved, especially to strangers ; and are certain to look with dislike on 
any man who, when they first meet him, talks a great deal. It is always a 
good plan, if visiting a strange camp or ranch, to be as silent as possible. 

Another time, at a ranch not far from my own, I found among the cow- 
boys gathered for the round-up two Bible-reading Methodists. They 
were as strait-laced as any of their kind, but did not obtrude their 
opinions on any one else, and were first-class workers, so that they had no 
trouble with the other men. Associated with them were two or three 
blear-eyed, slit-mouthed ruffians, who were as loose of tongue as of life. 

Generally some form of stable government is provided for the counties 
as soon as their population has become at all fixed, the frontiersmen 
showing their national aptitude for organization. Then lawlessness is put 
down pretty effectively. For example, as soon as we organized the 
government of Medora — an excessively unattractive little hamlet, the 
county seat of our huge, scantily settled county — we elected some good 
officers, built a log jail, prohibited all shooting in the streets, and 
enforced the prohibition, etc., etc. 

Up to that time there had been a good deal of lawlessness of one kind 
or another, only checked by an occasional piece of individual retribution 
or by a sporadic outburst of vigilance committee work. In such a soci- 
ety the desperadoes of every grade flourish. Many are merely ordinary 
rogues and swindlers, who rob and cheat on occasion, but are dangerous 
only when led by some villain of real intellectual power. The gambler, 
with hawk eyes and lissome fingers, is scarcely classed as a criminal ; 
indeed, he may be a very public-spirited citizen. But as his trade is so 
often plied in saloons, and as even if, as sometimes happens, he does 
not cheat, many of his opponents are certain to attempt to do so, he 
is of necessity obliged to be skillful and ready with his weapon, and gam- 
bling rows are very common. Cowboys lose much of their money to 
gamblers ; it is with them hard come and light go, for they exchange the 



FRONTIER TYPES 



91 



wages of six months' grinding toil and lonely peril for three days' whoop- 
ing carousal, spending their money on poisonous whisky or losing it over 
greasy cards in the vile dance-houses. As already explained, they are in 
the main good men ; and the disturbance they cause in a town is done 
from sheer rough light-heartedness. They shoot off boot-heels or tall hats 
occasionally, or make some obnoxious butt " dance " by shooting round his 
feet ; but they rarely meddle in this way with men who have not themselves 








MAKING A TF:NDERF00T DANCE. 



played the fool. A fight in the streets is almost always a duel between 
two men who bear each other malice ; it is only in a general melee in a 
saloon that outsiders often get hurt, and then it is their own fault, for they 
have no business to be there. One evening at Medora a cowboy spurred 
his horse up the steps of a rickety "hotel " piazza into the bar-room, where 
he began firing at the clock, the decanters, etc., the bartender meanwhile 
taking one shot at him, which missed. When he had emptied his revolver 
he threw down a roll of bank-notes on the counter, to pay for the damage 
he had done, and galloped his horse out through the door, disappearing in 
the darkness with loud yells to a rattling accompaniment of pistol shots 
interchanged between himself and some passer-by who apparently began 
firing out of pure desire to enter into the spirit of the occasion, — for it was 
the night of the Fourth of July, and all the country round about had come 
into town for a spree. 
15 



92 



RAN'CH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-'J'RAIL 




-^R^rTunJ^fDi^ 



PAINTING THE TOWN KED. 



All this is mere horse-play ; it is the cowboy's method of "painting the 
town red," as an interlude in his harsh, monotonous life. Of course there 
are plenty of hard characters among cowboys, but no more than among 
lumbermen and the like ; only the cowboys are so ready with their 
weapons that a bully in one of their camps is apt to be a murderer instead 
of merely a bruiser. Often, moreover, on a long trail, or in a far-off camp, 
where the men are for many months alone, feuds spring up that are in the 
end sure to be slaked in blood. As a rule, however, cowboys who 
become desperadoes soon perforce drop their original business, and are no 
longer employed on ranches, unless in counties or territories where there is 
very little heed paid to the law, and where, in consequence, a cattle-owner 
needs a certain number of hired bravos. Until within two or three years 
this was the case in parts of Arizona and New Mexico, where land claims 
were "jumped" and cattle stolen all the while, one effect being to insure 



FRONTIER TYPES 93 

high wages to every individual who combined murderous proclivities with 
skill in the use of the six-shooter. 

Even in much more quiet regions different outfits vary greatly as 
regards the character of their employes : I know one or two where the 
men are good ropers and riders, but a gambling, brawling, hard-drinking 
set, always shooting each other or strangers. Generally, in such a case, the 
boss is himself as objectionable as his men ; he is one of those who have 
risen by unblushing rascality, and is always sharply watched by his neigh- 
bors, because he is sure to try to shift calves on to his own cows, to 
brand any blurred animal with his own mark, and perhaps to attempt 
the alteration of perfectly plain brands. The last operation, however, has 
become very risky since the organization of the cattle country, and the 
appointment of trained brand-readers as inspectors. These inspectors 
examine the hide of every animal slain, sold, or driven off, and it is won- 
derful to see how quickly one of them will detect any signs of a brand 
having been tampered with. Now there is, in consequence, very little of 
this kind of dishonesty ; whereas formerly herds were occasionally stolen 
almost bodily. 

Claim-jumpers are, as a rule, merely blackmailers. Sometimes they 
will by threats drive an ignorant foreigner from his claim, but never an old 
frontiersman. They delight to squat down beside ranchmen who are 
themselves trying to keep land to which they are not entitled, and who 
therefore know that their only hope is to bribe or to bully the intruder. 

Cattle-thieves, for the reason given above, are not common, although 
there are plenty of vicious, shiftless men who will kill a cow or a steer for 
the meat in winter, if they get a chance. 

Horse-thieves, however, are always numerous and formidable on the 
frontier; though in our own country they have been summarily thinned 
out of late years. It is the fashion to laugh at the severity with which 
horse-stealing is punished on the border, but the reasons are evident. 
Horses are the most valuable property of the frontiersman, whether cow- 
boy, hunter, or settler, and are often absolutely essential to his well-being, 
and even to his life. They are always marketable, and they are very easily 
stolen, for they carry themselves off, instead of having to be carried. 
Horse-stealing is thus a most tempting business, especially to the more 
reckless ruffians, and it is always followed by armed men ; and they can 
only be kept in check by ruthless severity. Frequently they band 
together with the road agents (highwaymen) and other desperadoes into 
secret organizations, which control and terrorize a district until overthrown 
by force. After the civil war a great many guerrillas, notably from Ar- 



g^ RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

kansas and Missouri, went out to the plains, often drifting northward. 
They took naturally to horse-stealing and kindred pursuits. Since I have 
been in the northern cattle country 1 have known of half a dozen former 
members of Ouantrell's gang being hung or shot. 

The professional man-killers, or "bad men," may be horse-thieves or 
highwaymen, but more often are neither one nor the other. Some of 
them, like some of the Texan cowboys, become very expert in the use of 
the revolver, their invariable standby ; but in the open a cool man with a 
rifle is alwa) s an overmatch for one of them, unless at very close quarters, 
on account of the superiority of his weapon. Some of the " bad men " are 
quiet, good fellows, who have been driven into their career by accident. 
One of them has perhaps at some time killed a man in self-defense; he 
acquires some reputation, and the neighboring bullies get to look on him 
as a rival whom it would be an honor to slay ; so that from that time on 
he must be ever on the watch, must learn to draw quick and shoot straight, 
— the former being even more important than the latter, — and probably 
has to take life after life in order to save his own. 

Some of these men are brave only because of their confidence in their 
own skill and strength ; once convince them that they are overmatched 
and they turn into abject cowards. Others have nerves of steel and will 
face any odds, or certain death itself, without flinching a hand's breadth. 
I was once staying in a town where a desperately plucky fight took place. 
A noted desperado, an Arkansas man, had become involved in a quarrel 
wuth two others of the same ilk, both Irishmen and partners. For several 
days all three lurked about the saloon-infested streets of the roaring 
little board-and-canvas "city," each trying to get "the drop," — that is, 
the first shot, — the other inhabitants looking forward to the fight with 
pleased curiosity, no one dreaming of interfering. At last one of the 
partners got a chance at his opponent as the latter was walking into a 
gambling hell, and broke his back near the hips ; yet the crippled, 
mortally wounded man twisted around as he fell and shot his slayer dead. 
Then, know^ing that he had but a few moments to live, and expecting that 
his other foe would run up on hearing the shooting, he dragged himself by 
his arms out into the street ; immediately afterwards, as he anticipated, the 
second partner appeared, and was killed on the spot. The victor did not 
live twenty minutes. As in most of these encounters, all of the men who 
w^ere killed deserved their fate. In my own not very extensive experience 
I can recall but one man killed in these fights whose death was regretted, 
and he was slain by a European. Generally every one is heartily glad to 
hear of the death of either of the contestants, and the only regret is that 
the other survives. 



FRONTIER TYPES 



95 



One curious shooting scrape that took place in Medora was worthy of 
being chronicled by Bret Harte. It occurred in the summer of 1884, I 
believe, but it may have been the year following, I did not see the 
actual occurrence, but I saw both men immediately afterwards; and I 




A ROW IN A CA'fl I I, 



heard the shooting, which took place in a saloon on the bank, while I was 
swimming my horse across the river, holding my rifle up so as not to wet 
it. I will not give their full names, as I am not certain what has become of 
them ; though I was told that one had since been either put in jail or hung, 
I forget which. One of them was a saloon-keeper, familiarly called Welshy. 
The other man, Hay, had been bickering with him for some time. One day 
Hay, who had been defeated in a wrestling match by one of my own boys, 
and was out of temper, entered the other's saloon, and became very 
abusive. The quarrel grew more and more violent, and suddenly Welshy 
whipped out his revolver and blazed away at Hay. The latter staggered 
slightly, shook himself, stretched out his hand, and gaz'c back to his zvotild- 



96 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



be s/aycr tJic ball, saying', " Here, man, here 's the bullet," It had glanced 
along- his breast-bone, gone into the body, and come out at the point of 
the shoulder, when, being spent, it dropped down the sleeve into his hand. 
Next day the local paper, which rejoiced in the title of "The Bad 
Lands Cowboy," chronicled the event in the usual vague way as an 
"unfortunate occurrence" between "two of our most esteemed fellow- 
citizens." The editor was a good fellow, a college graduate, and a first- 
class base-ball player, who always stood stoutly up against any corrupt 
dealing ; but, like all other editors in small Western towns, he was intimate 
with both combatants in almost every fight. 

The winter after this occurrence I was away, and on my return began 
asking my foreman — a particular crony of mine — about the fates of my 
various friends. Among others I inquired after a traveling preacher who 
had come to our neighborhood ; a good man, but irascible. After a mo- 
ment's pause a gleam of remembrance came into my informant's eye: "Oh, 
the parson ! Well — he beat a man over the head with an ax, and they 
put him in jail ! " It certainly seemed a rather summary method of re- 
pressing a refractory parishioner. Another acquaintance had shared a like 
doom. " He started to go out of the country, but they ketched him at 
Bismarck and put him in jail" — apparently on general principles, for I did 
not hear of his having committed any specific crime. My foreman some- 
times developed his own theories of propriety. I remember his objecting 
strenuously to a proposal to lynch a certain French-Canadian who had 
lived in his own cabin, back from the river, ever since the whites came into 
the land, but wdio was suspected of being a horse-thief. His chief point 
against the proposal was, not that the man was innocent, but that "it did 
n't seem anyways right to hang a man who had been so long in the 
country." 

Sometimes we had a comic row. There was one huge man from Mis- 
souri called "The Pike," wdio had been the keeper of a wood-yard for 
steamboats on the Upper Missouri. Like most of his class he was a 
hard case, and, though pleasant enough when sober, always insisted on 
fighting when drunk. One day, when on a spree, he announced his 
intention of thrashing the entire population of Medora seriatim, and 
began to make his promise good with great vigor and praiseworthy 
impartiality. He was victorious over the first two or three eminent citi- 
zens whom he encountered, and then tackled a gentleman known as "Cold 
Turkey Bill." Under ordinary circumstances Cold Turkey, though an 
able-bodied man. was no match for The Pike ; but the latter was still 
rather drunk, and moreover was wearied by his previous combats. So 
Cold Turkey got him down, lay on him. choked him by the throat with 



FRONTIER TYPES 97 

one hand, and began pounding his face widi a triangular rock held in the 
other. To the onlookers the fate of the battle seemed decided ; but Cold 
Turkey better appreciated the endurance of his adversary, and it soon 
appeared that he sympathized with the traditional hunter who, having 
caught a wildcat, earnestly besought a comrade to help him let it go. 
While still pounding vigorously he raised an agonized wail : " Help me 
off, fellows, for the Lord's sake; he 's tiring me out!" There was no 
resisting so plaintive an appeal, and the bystanders at once abandoned 
their attitude of neutrality for one of armed intervention. 

I have always been treated with the utmost courtesy by all cowboys, 
whether on the round-up or in camp; and the few real desperadoes I 
have seen were also perfectly polite. Indeed, I never was shot at mali- 
ciously but once. This was on an occasion when I had to pass the night 
in a little frontier hotel where the bar-room occupied the whole lower 
floor, and was in consequence the place where every one, drunk or sober, 
had to sit. My assailant was neither a cowboy nor a bona fide "bad 
man," but a broad-hatted ruffian of cheap and commonplace type, who 
had for the moment terrorized the other men in the bar-room, these being 
mostly sheep- herders and small grangers. The fact that I wore glasses, 
together with my evident desire to avoid a fight, apparently gave him the 
impression — a mistaken one — that I would not resent an injury. 

The first deadly affray that took place in our town, after the cattle-men 
came in and regular settlement began, was between a Scotchman and a 
Minnesota man, the latter being one of the small stockmen. Both had 
" shooting" records, and each was a man with a varied past. The Scotch- 
man, a noted bully, was the more daring of the two, but he was much too 
hot-headed and overbearing to be a match for his gray-eyed, hard-featured 
foe. After a furious quarrel and threats of violence, the Scotchman 
mounted his horse, and, rifle in hand, rode to the door of the mud ranch, 
perched on the brink of the river-bluff, where the American lived, and was 
instantly shot down by the latter from behind a corner of the building. 

Later on I once opened a cowboy ball with the wife of the victor in this 
contest, the husband himself dancing opposite. It was the lanciers, and 
he knew all the steps far better than I did. He could have danced 
a minuet very well with a little practice. The scene reminded one of the 
ball where Bret Harte's heroine "danced down the middle with the man 
who shot Sandy Magee." 

But though there were plenty of men present each of whom had shot 
his luckless Sandy Magee, yet there was no Lily of Poverty Flat. There 
is an old and true border saying that " the frontier is hard on women and 
cattle." There are some striking exceptions ; but. as a rule, the grindmg 



98 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 




I.J. V- »'- »V 1 1 




THE MAGIC OF THE DROP. 



toil and hardship of a Hfe passed in the wilderness, or on its outskirts, drive 
the beauty and bloom from a woman's face long- before her youth has left 
her. By the time she is a mother she is sinewy and angular, with thin, 
compressed lips and furrowed, sallow brow. But she has a hundred 
qualities that atone for the grace she lacks. She is a good mother and a 
hard-working housewife, always putting things to rights, washing and 
cooking for her stalwart spouse and offspring. She is faithful to her 
husband, and, like the true American that she is, exacts faithfulness in 
return. Peril cannot daunt her, nor hardship and poverty appall her. 
Whether on the mountains in a log hut chinked with moss, in a sod or 
adobe hovel on the desolate prairie, or in a mere temporary camp, where 
the white-topped wagons have been drawn up in a protection-giving circle 
near some spring, she is equally at home. Clad in a dingy gown and a 
hideous sun-bonnet she goes bravely about her work, resolute, silent, 
uncomplaining. The children grow up pretty much as fate dictates. Even 
when very small they seem well able to protect themselves. The wife of 



FRONTIER TYPES gg 

one of my teamsters, who lived in a small outlying camp, used to keep the 
youngest and most troublesome members of her family out of mischief by 
the simple expedient of picketing them out, each child being tied by the 
leg, with a long leather string, to a stake driven into the ground, so that 
it could neither get at another child nor at anything breakable. 

The best buckskin maker I ever met was, if not a typical frontiers- 
woman, at least a woman who could not have reached her full development 
save on the border. She made first-class hunting-shirts, leggins, and 
gauntlets. When I knew her she was living alone in her cabin on mid- 
prairie, having dismissed her husband six months previously in an exceed- 
ingly summary manner. She not only possessed redoubtable qualities of 
head and hand, but also a nice sense of justice, even towards Indians, that 
is not always found on the frontier. Once, going there for a buckskin shirt, 
I met at her cabin three Sioux, and from their leader, named One Bull, 
purchased a tobacco-pouch, beautifully worked with porcupine quills. 
She had given them some dinner, for which they had paid with a deer- 
hide. Falling into conversation, she mentioned that just before I came up 
a white man, apparendy from Deadwood, had passed by, and had tried to 
steal the Indians' horses. The latter had been too quick for him, had run 
him down, and brouoht him back to the cabin. '* I told 'em to eo rio-ht on 
and hang him, and /would n't never cheep about it," said my informant; 
" but they let him go, after taking his gun. There ain't no sense in steal- 
ing from Indians any more than from white folks, and I 'm not going to 
have it round my ranch, neither. There ! I '11 give 'em back the deer-hide 
they give me for the dinner and things, anyway." I told her I sincerely 
wished we could make her sheriff and Indian agent. She made the Indians 
— and whites, too, for that matter — behave themselves and walk the 
straightest kind of line, not tolerating the least symptom of rebellion ; but 
she had a strong natural sense of justice. 

The cowboy balls, spoken of above, are always great events in the 
small towns where they take place, being usually given when the round- 
up passes near ; everybody round about comes in for them. They are 
almost always conducted with great decorum ; no unseemly conduct 
would be tolerated. There is usually some master of the ceremonies, 
chosen with due reo-ard to brawn as well as brain. He calls off the fio- 
ures of the square dances, so that even the inexperienced may get through 
them, and incidentally preserves order. Sometimes we are allowed to 
wear our revolvers, and sometimes not. The nature of the band, of 
course, depends upon the size of the place. I remember one ball that 
came near beino- a failure because our half-breed fiddler "went and o-ot 

himself shot," as the indignant master of the ceremonies phrased it. 
16 



lOO 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



But all these things are merely incidents in the cowboy's life. It is 
utterly unfair to judge the whole class by what a few individuals do in 
the course of two or three days spent in town, instead of by the long 
months of weary, honest toil common to all alike. To appreciate properly 
his fine, manly qualities, the wild rough-rider of the plains should be seen 
in his own home. There he passes his days, there he does his life-work, 
there, when he meets death, he faces it as he has faced many other evils, 
with quiet, uncomplaining fortitude. Brave, hospitable, hardy, and adven- 
turous, he is the grim pioneer of our race ; he prepares the way for the 
civilization from before whose face he must himself disappear. Hard and 
dangerous though his existence is, it has yet a wild attraction that strongly 
draws to it his bold, free spirit. He lives in the lonely lands where mighty 
rivers twist in long reaches between the barren bluffs ; where the prairies 
stretch out into billowy plains of waving grass, girt only by the blue hori- 
zon, — plains across whose endless breadth he can steer his course for days 
and weeks and see neither man to speak to nor hill to break the level; 
where the glory and the burning splendor of the sunsets kindle the blue 
vault of heaven and the level brown earth till they merge together in an 
ocean of flaming fire. 




WHICH IS THE BAD MAN ? 



RED AND WHITE ON THE BORDER 




THE SIGN LANGUAGE. 



VII 



Red and White on the Border 





P to t88o the countr}^ through which the Little 
Missouri flows remained as wild and almost as 
unknown as it was when the old explorers and 
fur traders crossed it in the early part of the 
century. It was the last great Indian hunting- 
ground, across which Grosventres and Mandans, 
Sioux and Cheyennes, and even Crows and Rees wandered in 
chase of game, and where they fought one another and plun- 
r^^l dcred the small parties of white trappers and hunters that 
"-^^ ' occasionally ventured into it. Once or twice generals like 
Sully and Custer had penetrated it in the course of the long, 
tedious, and bloody campaigns that finally broke the strength 
of the northern Horse Indians ; indeed, the trail made by 
Custer's baggage train is to this day one of the well-known 
landmarks, for the deep ruts worn by the wheels of the 
heavy wagons are in many places still as distinctly to be seen 

as ever. 

In 1883, a regular long-range skirmish took place just 
south of us between some Cheyennes and some cowboys, with bloodshed 
on both sides, while about the same time a band of Sioux plundered a 
party of buffalo hunters of everything they owned, and some Crows who 
attempted the same feat with another party were driven off with the loss of 
two of their number. Since then there have been in our neighborhood no 
stand-up fights or regular raids ; but the Indians have at different times 
proved more or less troublesome, burning the grass, and occasionally kill- 
ino- stock or carrying off horses that have wandered some distance away. 
They have also themselves suffered somewhat at the hands of white 
horse-thieves. '°' 



THE PEACE SIGN. 



I02 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

Bands of them, accompanied by their squaws and children, often come 
into the ranch country, either to trade or to hunt, and are then, of course, 
perfectly meek and peaceable. If they stay any time they build them- 
selves quite comfortable tepees (wigwams, as they would be styled in the 
East), and an Indian camp is a rather interesting, though very dirty, place 
to visit. On our ranch we get along particularly well with them, as it is a 
rule that they shall be treated as fairly as if they were whites : we neither 
wrong them ourselves nor allow others to wrong them. We have always, 
for example, been as keen in putting down horse-stealing from Indians 
as from whites — which indicates rather an advanced stage of frontier 
morality, as theft from the "redskins" or the "Government" is usually 
held to be a very trivial matter compared with the heinous crime of theft 
from " citizens." 

There is always danger in meeting a band of young bucks in lonely, 
uninhabited country — those that have barely reached manhood being the 
most truculent, insolent, and reckless. A man meeting such a party runs 
great risk of losing his horse, his rifle, and all else he has. This has hap- 
pened quite frequently during the past few years to hunters or cowboys 
who have wandered into the debatable territory where our country borders 
on the Indian lands; and in at least one such instance, that took place 
three years ago, the unfortunate individual lost his life as well as his 
belongings. But a frontiersman of any experience can generally "stand 
off" a small number of such assailants, unless he loses his nerve or is 
taken by surprise. 

jMy only adventure with Indians was of a very mild kind. It was in 
the course of a solitary trip to the north and east of our range, to what 
was then practically unknown country, although now containing many 
herds of cattle. One morning I had been traveling along the edge of the 
prairie, and about noon I rode Manitou up a slight rise and came out on a 
plateau that was perhaps half a mile broad. When near the middle, four 
or five Indians suddenly came up over the edge, directly in front of me. 
The second they saw me they whipped their guns out of their slings, 
started their horses into a run. and came on at full tilt, w^hooping and 
brandishing their weapons. I instantly reined up and dismounted. The 
level plain where we were was of all places the one on which such 
an onslaught could best be met In any broken country, or where there 
is much cover, a white man is at a great disadvantage if pitted against 
such adepts in the art of hiding as Indians ; while, on the other hand, the 
latter will rarely rush in on a foe who. even if overpowered in the end, 
will probably inflict severe loss on his assailants. The fury of an Indian 



RED AND WHITE ON THE BORDER 



lO 



charge, and the whoops by which it is accompanied, often scare horses so 
as to stampede them ; but in Manitou I had perfect trust, and the old 
fellow stood as steady as a rock, merely cocking his ears and looking 
round at the noise. I waited until the Indians were a hundred yards off, 
and then threw up my rifle and drew a bead on the foremost. The effect 



>\(f 





^ 



STANDING OFF INDIANS. 



was like magic. The whole party scattered out as wild pigeons or teal 
ducks sometimes do when shot at, and doubled back on their tracks, the 
men bending over alongside their horses. When some distance off they 
halted and gathered together to consult, and after a minute one came for- 
ward alone, ostentatiously dropping his rifle and waving a blanket over 
his head. When he came to within fifty yards I stopped him, and he 
pulled out a piece of paper — all Indians, when absent from their reserva- 
tions, are supposed to carry passes — and called out. "How! Me good 
Indian ! " I answered, " How," and assured him most sincerely I was very 
glad he was a good Indian, but I would not let him come closer; and when 
his companions began to draw near, I covered him with the rifle and made 
him move off. which he did with a sudden lapse into the most canonical 



I04 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



Anglo-Saxon profanity. I then started to lead my horse out to the 
prairie ; and after hovering round a short time they rode off, while I fol- 
lowed suit, but in the opposite direction. It had all passed too quickly for 
me to have time to get frightened ; but during the rest of my ride I was 
exceedingly uneasy, and pushed tough, speedy old Manitou along at a 
rapid rate, keeping well out on the level. However, I never saw the 
Indians again. They may not have intended any mischief beyond giving 
me a fright ; but I did not dare to let them come to close quarters, for 
they would have probably taken my horse and rifle, and not impossibly my 
scalp as well. Towards nightfall I fell in with two old trappers who lived 
near Killdeer Mountains, and they informed me that my assailants were 
some young Sioux bucks, at whose hands they themselves had just suffered 
the loss of two horses. 

A few cool, resolute whites, well armed, can generally beat back a much 
larger number of Indians if attacked in the open. One of the first cattle 
outfits that came to the Powder River country, at the very end of the last 
war with the Sioux and Cheyennes, had an experience of this sort. There 
were six or eight whites, including the foreman, who was part owner, and 
they had about a thousand head of cattle. These they intended to hold 
just out of the dangerous district until the end of the war. which was evi- 
dently close at hand. They would thus get first choice of the new grazing 
grounds. But they ventured a little too far, and one day while on the 
trail were suddenly charged by fifty or sixty Indians, The cattle were 
scattered in every direction, and many of them slain in wantonness, though 
most were subsequently recovered. All the loose horses were driven 
off. But the men themselves instantly ran together and formed a ring, 
fighting from behind the pack and saddle ponies. One of their num- 
ber was killed, as well as two or three of the animals composing their 
living breastwork ; but being good riflemen, they drove off their foes. The 
latter did not charge them directly, but circled round, each rider concealed 
on the outside of his horse ; and though their firing was very rapid, it was, 
naturally, very wild. The whites killed a good many ponies, and got one 
scalp, belonging to a young Sioux brave who dashed up too close, and 
whose body in consequence could not be carried off by his comrades, as 
happened to the two or three others who were seen to fall. Both the men 
who related the incident to me had been especially struck by the skill and 
daring shown by the Indians in thus carrying off their dead and wounded 
the instant they fell. 

The relations between the white borderers and their red-skinned foes 
and neighbors are rarely pleasant. There are incessant quarrels, and each 



RED AND WHITE ON THE BORDER 105 

side has to complain of bitter wrongs. Many of the frontiersmen are 
brutal, reckless, and overbearing ; most of the Indians are treacherous, 
revengeful, and fiendishly cruel. Crime and bloodshed are the only possi- 
ble results when such men are brought in contact. Writers usually pay 
heed only to one side of the story ; they recite the crimes committed by 
one party, whether whites or Indians, and omit all reference to the equally 
numerous sins of the other. In our dealings with the Indians we have 
erred quite as often through sentimentality as through willful wrong-doing. 
Out of my own short experience I could recite a dozen instances of white 
outrages which, if told alone, would seem to justify all the outcry raised on 
behalf of the Indian; and I could also tell of as many Indian atrocities 
which make one almost feel that not a single one of the race should be left 
alive. 

The chief trouble arises from the feeling alluded to in this last sen- 
tence^ — the tendency on each side to hold the race, and not the individual, 
responsible for the deeds of the latter. The skirmish between the cow- 
boys and the Cheyennes, spoken of above, offers a case in point. It was 
afterwards found out that two horse-thieves had stolen some ponies from 
the Cheyennes. The latter at once sallied out and attempted to take 
some from a cow camp, and a fight resulted. In exactly the same way I 
once knew a party of buffalo hunters, who had been robbed of their horses 
by the Sioux, to retaliate by stealing an equal number from some perfectly 
peaceful Grosventres. A white or an Indian who would not himself commit 
any outrage will yet make no effort to prevent his fellows from organizing 
expeditions against men of the rival race. This is natural enough where 
law is weak, and where, in consequence, every man has as much as he 
can do to protect himself without meddling in the quarrels of his neigh- 
bors. Thus a white community will often refrain from taking active steps 
against men who steal horses only from the Indians, although I have 
known a number of instances where the ranchmen have themselves 
stopped such outrages. The Indians behave in the same way. There is 
a peaceful tribe not very far from us which harbors two or three red horse- 
thieves, who steal from the whites at every chance. Recently, in our 
country, an expedition was raised to go against these horse-thieves, and 
it was only with the utmost difficulty that it was stopped : had it actually 
gone, accompanied as it would have been by scoundrels bent on plunder, 
as well as by wronged men who thought all redskins pretty much alike, 
the inevitable result would have been a bloody fight with all the Indians, 
both good and bad. 

Not only do Indians differ individually, but they differ as tribes. An 



RED AND WHITE ON THE BORDER lO- 

upper-class Cherokee is nowadays as good as a white. The Nez Perces 
differ from the Apaches as much as a Scotch laird does from a Calabrian 
bandit. A Cheyenne warrior is one of the most redoubtable foes in the 
whole world; a "digger" Snake one of the most despicable. The Pueblo 
is as thrift)', industrious, and peaceful as any European peasant , and no 
Arab of the Soudan is a lazier, wilder robber than is the Arapahoe. 

The frontiersmen themselves differ almost as widely from one another. 
But in the event of an Indian outbreak all suffer alike, and so all are 
obliged to stand together : when the reprisals for a deed of guilt are sure 
to fall on the innocent, the latter have no resource save to ally themselves 
with the guilty. Moreover, even the best Indians are very apt to have a 
good deal of the wild beast in them; when they scent blood they wish 
their share of it, no matter from whose veins it flows. I once had a Ger- 
man in my employ, who, when a young child, had lost all his relations b)- 
a fate so terrible that it had weighed down his whole after-life. His 
family was living out on the extreme border at the time of the great 
Sioux outbreak towards the end of the civil war. There were many 
Indians around, seemingly on good terms with them; and to two of these 
Indians they had been able to be of much service, so that they became 
great friends. When the outbreak occurred, the members of this famih 
were among the first captured. The two friendly Indians then endeav- 
ored to save their lives, doing all they could to dissuade their comrades 
from committing violence. Finally, after an angry discussion, the chief, 
who was present, suddenly ended it by braining the mother. The two 
former friends then, finding their efforts useless, forthwith turned round 
and joined with the others, first in violating the wretched daughters, and 
then in putting them to death with tortures that cannot even be hinted 
at. The boy alone was allowed to live. If he had been a native-born 
frontiersman, instead of a peaceful, quiet German, he probably would have 
turned into an inveterate Indian-slayer, resolute to kill any of the hated 
race wherever and whenever met — a type far from unknown on the 
border, of which I have myself seen at least one example. 

With this incident it is only fair to contrast another that I heard 
related while spending the night in a small cow ranch on the Beaver, 
whither I had ridden on one of our many tedious hunts after lost horses. 
Being tired, I got into my bunk early, and while lying there listened to 
the conversation of two cowboys — both strangers to me — who had also 
ridden up to the ranch to spend the night. They were speaking of 
Indians, and mentioned, certainly without any marked disapprobation, a 
jury that had just acquitted a noted horse-thief of the charge of stealing 



Io8 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

stock from some Piegans, though he himseh had openly admitted its 
truth. One, an unprepossessing, beetle-browed man, suddenly remarked 
that he had once met an Indian who was a pretty good fellow, and he pro- 
ceeded to tell the story. A small party of Indians had passed the wanter 
near the ranch at which he was employed. The chief had two particu- 
larly tine horses, which so excited his cupidity that one night he drove 
them oft" and "cached" — that is, hid — them in a safe place. The chief 
looked for them high and low, but without success. Soon afterwards one 
of the cowboy's own horses strayed. When spring came the Indians 
went awa}^ ; but three days afterwards the chief returned, bringing with 
him the strayed horse, wdiich he had happened to run across. 'T could n't 
stand that," said the narrator, "so I just told him I reckoned I knew 
where his own lost horses were, and I saddled up my bronch' and 
piloted him to them." 

Here and there on the border there is a certain amount of mixture 
with the Indian blood ; much more than is commonly supposed. One of 
the most hard-working and prosperous men in our neighborhood is a 
Chippewa half-breed ; he is married to a white wife, and ranks in every 
respect as a white. Two of our richest cattle-men are married to Indian 
women; their children are being educated in convents. In several of the 
most thriving North-western cities men could be pointed out, standing 
high in the community, who have a strong dash of Indian blood in their 
veins. Often, however, especially in the lower classes, they seem to feel 
some shame about admitting the cross, so that in a couple of generations 
it is forgotten. 

Indians are excellent fighters, though they do not shoot well — being 
in this respect much inferior not only to the old hunters, but also, nowa- 
days, to the regular soldiers, who during the past three or four years have 
improved wonderfully in marksmanship. They have a very effective 
discipline of their own, and thus a body of them may readily be an over- 
match for an equal number of frontiersmen if the latter have no leader 
whom they respect. If the cowboys have rifles — for the revolver is useless 
in long-range individual fighting — they feel no fear of the Indians, so long 
as there are but half a dozen or so on a side ; but, though infinitely quicker 
in their movements than regular cavalry, yet, owing to their heavy saddles, 
they are not able to make quite so wonderful marches as the Indians do, 
and their unruly spirit often renders them ineffective w^hen gathered in any 
number without a competent captain. Under a man like Forrest they 
would become the most formidable fighting horsemen in the world. 

In the summer of 1886, at the time of the war-scare over the " Cutting 
incident," we began the organization of a troop of cavalry in our district. 



RED AND WHITE ON THE BORDER 



109 



notifying the Secretary of War that we were at the service of the Govern- 
ment, and being- promised every assistance by our excellent chief execu- 
tive of the Territory, Governor Pierce. Of course the cowboys were all 
eager for war, they did not much care with whom ; they were very 
patriotic,* they were fond of adventure, and, to tell the truth, they were b)- 
no means averse to the prospect of plunder. News from the outside world 
came to us very irregularly, and often in distorted form, so that we began 
to think we might get involved in a conflict not only with Mexico, but 
with England also. One evening at my ranch the men began talking over 
the English soldiers, so I got down " Napier " and read them several extracts 
from his descriptions of the fighting in the Spanish peninsula, also 
recounting as well as I could the great deeds of the British cavalry from 
Waterloo to Balaklava, and finishing up by describing from memory the 
fine appearance, the magnificent equipment, and the superb horses of the 
Household cavalry and of a regiment of hussars I had once seen. 

All of this produced much the same effect on my listeners that the 
sight of Marmion's cavalcade produced in the minds of the Scotch moss- 
troopers on the eve of Flodden ; and at the end, one of them, who had been 
looking into the fire and rubbing his hands together, said with regretful 
emphasis, " Oh, how I luoiild like to kill one of them ! " 

* The day that the Anarchists were hung in Chicago, my men joined with the rest of the 
neighborhood in burning them in effigy. 




ONE OF THE BOVS. 




THE INDIAN PONY. 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 










.^, 



AN OLn-TIMK MOUNTAIN MAN WITH HIS PONIKS. 



VIII 



Sheriff's Work on a Ranch 




N our own immediate locality we have had 
more difficulty with white desperadoes than 
with the redskins. At times there has been a 
jlj good deal of cattle-killing and horse-stealing, 
and occasionally a murder or two. But as 
regards the last, a man has very little more to 
fear in the West than in the East, in spite of 
all the lawless acts one reads about. Undoubtedly a long-standing 
quarrel sometimes ends in a shooting-match ; and of course savage 
affrays occasionally take place in the bar-rooms ; in which, be it 
remarked, that, inasmuch as the men are generally drunk, and, further- 
more, as the revolver is at best a rather inaccurate weapon, outsiders 
are nearly as apt to get hurt as are the participants. But if a man 
minds his own business and does not q;o into bar-rooms, o-amblina- 
saloons, and the like, he need have no fear of being molested ; while a 
revolver is a mere foolish incumbrance for any but a trained expert, and 
need never be carried. Against horse-thieves, cattle-thieves, claim-jump- 
ers, and the like, however, every ranchman has to be on his guard ; and 
armed collisions with these gentry are sometimes inevitable. The fact 
of such scoundrels being able to ply their trade with impunity for any 
length of time can only be understood if the absolute wildness of our land 
is taken into account. The country is yet. unsurveyed and unmapped; 
the course of the river itself, as put down on the various Government 
and railroad maps, is very much a mere piece of guesswork, its bed 
being in many parts — as by my ranch — ten or fifteen miles, or more, away 
from where these maps make it. White hunters came into the land by 
1880; but the actual settlement only began in 1882, when the first cattle- 



18 



I 12 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



men drove in their herds, all of Northern stock, the Texans not passing 
north oi the country around the head-waters of the river until the follow- 
ing" \ear. while until 1885 the territory through which it ran for the final 
hundred and fifty miles before entering the Big Missouri remained as 
little known as ever. 

Some of us had always been anxious to run down the river in a boat 
during the time of the spring floods, as we thought we might get good 
duck and goose shooting, and also kill some beaver, while the trip would, 
in addition, have all the charm of an exploring expedition. Twice, so far 
as we knew, the feat had been performed, both times by hunters, and in 
one instance with very good luck in shooting and trapping. A third 
attempt, b)- two men on a raft, made the spring preceding that on which 
we made ours, had been less successful ; for, when a score or so of miles 
below our ranch, a bear killed one of the two adventurers, and the sur- 
vivor returned. 

We could onlv £ro down durino^ a freshet; for the Little Missouri, like 
most plains' rivers, is usually either a dwindling streamlet, a mere slender 
thread of sluggish water, or else a boiling, muddy torrent, running over a 
bed of shifting quicksand, that neither man nor beast can cross. It rises 
and falls with extraordinary suddenness and intensity, an instance of 
which has just occurred as this very page is being written. Last evening, 
when the moon rose, from the ranch veranda we could see the river-bed 
almost dry, the stream having shrunk under the drought till it was little 
but a string of shallow pools, with between them a trickle of water that 
was not ankle deep, and hardly wet the fetlocks of the saddle-band when 
driven across it; yet at daybreak this morning, without any rain having 
fallen near us, but doubtless in consequence of some heavy cloudburst near 
its head, the swift, swollen current was foaming brim high between the 
banks, and even the fords were swimming-deep for the horses. 

Accordingly we had planned to run down the river sometime towards 
the end of April, taking advantage of a rise ; but an accident made us 
start three or four weeks sooner than we had intended. 

In 1886 the ice went out of the upper river very early, during the first 
part of February; but it at times almost froze over again, the bottom ice 
did not break up. and a huge gorge, scores of miles in length, formed in 
and above the bend known as the Ox- bow, a long distance up-stream 
from my ranch. About the middle of March this great Ox-bow jam came 
down past us. It moved slowly, its front forming a high, crumbling wall, 
and creaming over like an immense breaker on the seashore : we could 
hear the dull roaring and crunching as it plowed down the river-bed long 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 1 13 

before it came in sight round the bend above us. The ice kept pihng and 
tossing up in the middle, and not only heaped itself above the level of the 
banks, but also in many places spread out on each side beyond them, 
grinding against the cottonwood trees in front of the ranch veranda, and 
at one moment bidding fair to overwhelm the house itself It did not, 
however, but moved slowly down past us with that look of vast, resistless, 
relentless force that any great body of moving ice, as a glacier, or an ice- 
berg, always conveys to the beholder. The heaviest pressure from the 
water that was backed up behind being, of course, always in the middle, 
this part kept breaking away, and finally was pushed on clear through, 
leaving the river so changed that it could hardly be known. On each 
bank, and for a couple of hundred feet out from it into the stream, was a 
solid mass of ice, edging the river along most of its length, at least as far 
as its course lay through lands that we knew ; and in the narrow channel 
between the sheer ice-walls the water ran like a mill-race. 

At night the snowy, glittering masses, tossed up and heaped into fan- 
tastic forms, shone like crystal in the moonlight ; but they soon lost their 
beauty, becoming fouled and blackened, and at the same time melted and 
settled down until it was possible to clamber out across the slippery 
hummocks. 

We had brought out a clinker-built boat especially to ferry ourselves 
over the river when it was high, and were keeping our ponies on the 
opposite side, where there was a good range shut in by some very broken 
country that we knew they would not be apt to cross. This boat had 
already proved very useful and now^ came in handier than ever, as 
without it we could take no care of our horses. We kept it on the bank, 
tied to a tree, and every day would carry it or slide it across the hither 
ice bank, usually with not a little tumbling and scrambling on our part, 
lower it gently into the swift current, pole it across to the ice on the far- 
ther bank, and then drag it over that, repeating the operation when we 
came back. One day w^e crossed and walked off about ten miles to a 
tract of wild and rugged country, cleft in every direction by ravines and 
cedar canons, in the deepest of which we had left four deer hanging a 
fortnight before, as game thus hung up in cold weather keeps indefinitely. 
The walking was very bad, especially over the clay buttes ; for the sun at 
midday had enough strength to thaw out the soil to the depth of a few 
inches only, and accordingly the steep hillsides were covered by a crust 
of slippery mud, with the frozen ground underneath. It w^as hard to keep 
one's footing, and to avoid falling while balancing along the knife-like 
ridge crests, or while clinging to the stunted sage brush as we went down 



1 14 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



into the valleys. 1 he deer had been hung in a thicket of dwarfed cedars; 
but when we reached the place we found nothing' save scattered pieces of 
their carcasses, and the soft mud was tramped all over with round, deeply 
marked footprints, some of them but a few hours old, showing that the 
plunderers of our cache were a pair of cougars — "mountain lions," as 
they are called by the Westerners. They had evidently been at work for 
some time, and had eaten almost every scrap of flesh ; one of the deer had 
been carried for some distance to the other side of a deep, narrow, chasm - 
like gnlly across which the cougar must have leaped with the carcass in 
its mouth. We followed the fresh trail of the cougars for some time, as it 
was well marked, especially in the snow still remaining in the bottoms of 
the deeper ravines ; finally it led into a tangle of rocky hills riven by 
dark cedar-clad gorges, in which we lost it, and we retraced our steps, 
intending to return on the morrow with a good track hound. 

But we never carried out our intentions, for next morning one of my 
men who was out before breakfast came back to the house with the start- 
ling news that our boat was gone — stolen, for he brought with him the 
end of the rope with which it had been tied, evidently cut off with a sharp 
knife ; and also a red woolen mitten with a leather palm, which he had 
picked up on the ice. We had no doubt as to who had stolen it ; for 
whoever had done so had certainly gone down the river in it, and the only 
other thing in the shape of a boat on the Little Missouri was a small 
flat-bottomed scow in the possession of three hard characters who lived in 
a shack, or hut, some twenty miles above us, and whom we had shrewdly 
suspected for some time of wishing to get out of the country, as certain of 
the cattle-men had begun openly to threaten to lynch them. They belonged 
to a class that always holds sway during the raw youth of a frontier com- 
munity, and the putting down of which is the first step towards decent gov- 
ernment. Dakota, west of the Missouri, has been settled very recently, and 
every town within it has seen strange antics performed during the past six 
or seven years. Medora, in particular, has had more than its full share 
of shooting and stabbing affrays, horse-stealing, and cattle-killing. But 
the time for such things w^as passing away ; and during the preceding fall 
the vigilantes — locally known as " stranglers," in happy allusion to their 
summary method of doing justice — had made a clean sweep of the cattle 
country along the Yellowstone and that part of the Big Missouri around 
and below its mouth. Be it remarked, in passing, that while the outcome 
of their efforts had been in the main wholesome, yet, as is always the case 
in an extended raid of vigilantes, several of the sixty odd victims had been 
perfectly innocent men who had been hung or shot in company with the 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



115 



real scoundrels, either through carelessness and misapprehension or on 
account of some personal spite. 

The three men we suspected had long been accused — justly or unjustly 
— of being implicated both in cattle-killing and in that worst of frontier 
crimes, horse-stealing : it was only by an accident that they had escaped the 
clutches of the vigilantes the preceding fall. Their leader was a well-built 
fellow named Finnigan, who had long red hair reaching to his shoulders, 
and always wore a broad hat and a fringed buckskin shirt. He was rather 
a hard case, and had been chief actor in a number of shooting scrapes. 
The other two were a half-breed, a stout, muscular man, and an old Ger- 
man, whose viciousness was of the weak and shiftless type. 

We knew that these three men were becoming uneasy and were anxious 
to leave the locality ; and we also knew that traveling on horseback, in the 
direction in which they would wish to go, was almost impossible, as the 
swollen, ice- fringed rivers could not be crossed at all, and the stretches of 
broken ground would form nearly as impassable barriers. So we had little 
doubt that it was they who had taken our boat ; and as they knew there 
was then no boat left on the river, and as the country along its banks was 
entirely impracticable for horses, we felt sure they would be confident 
that there could be no pursuit. 

Accordingly we at once set to work in our turn to build a flat-bottomed 
scow, wherein to follow them. Our loss was very annoying, and might 
prove a serious one if we were long prevented from crossing over to look 
after the saddle-band ; but the determining motive in our minds was 
neither chagrin nor anxiety to recover our property. In any wild country 
where the power of the law is little felt or heeded, and where every one 
has to rely upon himself for protection, men soon get to feel that it is in 
the highest degree unwise to submit to any wrong without making an 
immediate and resolute effort to avenge it upon the wrong-doers, at no 
matter what cost of risk or trouble. To submit tamely and meekly to 
theft, or to any other injury, is to invite almost certain repetition of the 
offense, in a place where self-reliant hardihood and the ability to hold one's 
own under all circumstances rank as the first of virtues. 

Two of my cowboys, Seawall and Dow, were originally from Maine, and 
were mighty men of their hands, skilled in woodcraft and the use of the 
ax, paddle, and rifle. They set to work with a will, and, as by good luck 
there were plenty of boards, in two or three days they had turned out 
a first-class flat-bottom, which was roomy, drew very little water, and 
was dry as a bone ; and though, of course, not a handy craft, was easily 
enough managed in going down-stream. Into this we packed flour, coflee. 



jl5 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

and bacon enough to last us a fortnight or so, plenty of warm bedding, and 
the mess kit ; and early one cold March morning slid it into the icy 
current, took our seats, and shoved off down the river. 

There could have been no better men for a trip of this kind than my 
two companions, Seawall and Dow. They were tough, hardy, resolute 
fellows, quick as cats, strong as bears, and able to travel like bull moose. 
We felt very little uneasiness as to the result of a fight with the men we 
were after, provided we had anything like a fair show ; moreover, we 
intended, if possible, to get them at such a disadvantage that there would 
not be any fight at all. The only risk of an)' consequence that we ran was 
that of being ambushed ; for the extraordinary formation of the Bad Lands, 
with the ground cut up into gullies, serried walls, and battlemented hill- 
tops, makes it the country of all others for hiding-places and ambuscades. 

For several days before we started the weather had been bitterly cold, 
as a furious blizzard was blowing ; but on the day we left there was a lull, 
and we hoped a thaw had set in. We all were most warmly and thickly 
dressed, with woolen socks and underclothes, heavy jackets and trousers, 
and great fur coats, so that we felt we could bid defiance to the weather. 
Each carried his rifle, and we had in addition a double-barreled duck gun, 
for water-fowl and beaver. To manage the boat, we had paddles, heavy 
oars, and long iron-shod poles, Seawall steering while Dow sat in the 
bow. Altogether we felt as if we were off on a holiday trip, and set to 
work to have as good a time as possible. 

The river twisted in every direction, winding to and fro across the 
alluvial valley bottom, only to be brought up by the rows of great barren 
buttes that bounded it on each edge. It had worn away the sides of these 
till they towered up as cliffs of clay, marl, or sandstone. Across their 
white faces the seams of coal drew sharp black bands, and they were else- 
where blotched and varied with brown, yellow, purple, and red. This 
fantastic coloring, together with the jagged irregularity of their crests, 
channeled by the weather into spires, buttresses, and battlements, as well 
as their barreness and the distinctness with which they loomed up through 
the high, dry air, gave them a look that was a singular mixture of the 
terrible and the grotesque. The bottoms were covered thickly with leal- 
less Cottonwood trees, or else with withered brown grass and stunted, 
sprawling sage bushes. At times the cliffs rose close to us on either hand, 
and again the valley would widen into a sinuous oval a mile or two long, 
bounded on every side, as far as our eyes could see, by a bluff line with- 
out a break, until, as we floated down close to its other end, there would 
suddenly appear in one corner a cleft through which the stream rushed 
out. As it grew dusk the shadowy outlines of the buttes lost nothing of 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



117 



their weirdness ; the twilight only made their uncouth shapelessness more 
grim and forbidding. They looked like the crouching figures of great 
ooblin beasts. 

o 

Those two hills on the right 
Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in tight — 
While to the left a tall scalped mountain. . . . 
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft : 
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay 
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay — 

might well have been written after seeing the strange, desolate lands lying 
in western Dakota. 

All through the early part of the day we drifted swiftly down between 
the heaped-up piles of ice, the cakes and slabs now dirty and unattractive 
looking. Towards evening, however, there came long reaches where the 
banks on either side were bare, though even here there would every now 
and then be necks where the jam had been crowded into too narrow a 
spot and had risen over the side as it had done up-stream, grinding the 
bark from the big cottonwoods and snapping the smaller ones short off 
In such places the ice- walls were sometimes eight or ten feet high, con- 
tinually undermined by the restless current ; and every now and then 
overhanging pieces would break off and slide into the stream with a loud 
sullen splash, like the plunge of some great water beast. Nor did we dare 
to go in too close to the high cliffs, as bowlders and earth masses, freed 
by the thaw from the grip of the frost, kept rolling and leaping down 
their faces and forced us to 

keep a sharp lookout lest our tJL > }'}VJ-^ 

boat should be swamped. 

At nightfall we landed, and 
made our camp on a point of 
wood-covered land jutting out 
into the stream. We had seen 
very little trace of life until late 
in the day, for the ducks had 
not yet arrived ; but in the 
afternoon a sharp-tailed prai- 
rie fowl flew across stream 
ahead of the boat, lighting on 
a low branch bv the water's 

■' IHK CAPTUKF, OF THE GERMAN. 

edge. Shooting him, we land- 
ed and picked off two others that were perched high up in leafless cotton- 
woods, plucking the buds. These three birds served us as supper ; and 




IlS RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

shortly afterward, as the cold grew more and more biting, we rolled in 
under our furs and blankets and were soon asleep. 

In the morning" it was evident that instead of thawing it had grown 
decidedly colder. The anchor ice was running thick in the river, and we 
spent the first hour or two after sunrise in hunting over the frozen swamp 
bottom for white-tail deer, of which there were many tracks ; but we saw 
nothing. Then we broke camp and again started down-stream — a simple 
operation, as we had no tent, and all we had to do was to cord up our 
bedding and gather the mess kit. It was colder than before, and for 
some time we went along in chilly silence, nor was it until midday that the 
sun warmed our blood in the least. The crooked bed of the current 
twisted hither and thither, but whichever way it went the icy north wind, 
blowing stronger all the time, drew steadily up it. One of us remarking 
that we bade fair to have it in our faces all day, the steersman announced 
that we could n't, unless it was the crookedest wind in Dakota ; and half 
an hour afterward we overheard him muttering to himself that it Zi'as the 
crookedest wind in Dakota. We passed a group of tepees on one bottom, 
marking the deserted winter camp of some Grosventre Indians, which 
some of my men had visited a few months previously on a trading expe- 
dition. It was almost the last point on the river with which we were 
acquainted. At midday we landed on a sand-bar for lunch — a simple 
enough meal, the tea being boiled over a fire of driftwood, that also fried 
the bacon, while the bread only needed to be baked every other day. 
Then we again shoved off. As the afternoon waned the cold grew still 
more bitter, and the wind increased, blowing in fitful gusts against us, 
until it chilled us to the marrow when we sat still. But we rarely did sit 
still ; for even the rapid current was unable to urge the light-draught 
scow down in the teeth of the strong blasts, and we only got her along by 
dint of hard work with pole and paddle. Long before the sun went down 
the ice had begun to freeze on the handles of the poles, and we were not 
sorry to haul on shore for the night. For supper we again had prairie 
fowl, having shot four from a great patch of bulberry bushes late in the 
afternoon. A man doing hard open-air work in cold weather is always 
hungry for meat. 

During the night the thermometer went down to zero, and in the 
morning the anchor ice was running so thickly that we did not care to 
start at once, for it is most difficult to handle a boat in the deep frozen 
slush. Accordingly we took a couple of hours for a deer hunt, as there 
were evidently many white-tail on the bottom. We selected one long, 
isolated patch of tangled trees and brushwood, two of us beating through 



SHERIFFS WORK ON A RANCH 



119 



it while tlie other watched one end ; but ahiiost before we had begun four 
deer broke out at one side, loped easily off, evidently not much scared, 
and took refuge in a deep glen or gorge, densely wooded with cedars, that 
made a blind pocket in the steep side of one of the great plateaus bounding 
the bottom. After a short consultation, one of our number crept round to 
the head of the gorge, making a wide detour, and the other two advanced 
up it on each side, thus completely surrounding the doomed deer. They 




HANDS up!" — THE CAPTURE OF FINNIGAN. 



attempted to break out past the man at the head of the glen, who shot 
down a couple, a buck and a yearling doe. The other two made their 
escape by running off over ground so rough that it looked fitter to be 
crossed by their upland-loving cousins, the black-tail. 

This success gladdened our souls, insuring us plenty of fresh meat. 
We carried pretty much all of both deer back to camp, and, after a hearty 
breakfast, loaded our scow and started merrily off once more. The cold 
still continued intense, and as the day wore away we became numbed by 
it, until at last an Incident occurred that set our blood running freely 
again. 

We were, of course, always on the alert, keeping a sharp lookout 
ahead and around us, and making as little noise as possible. Finally our 
watchfulness was rewarded, for in the middle of the afternoon of this, the 
19 



I20 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

third da)- \vc had been gone, as we came around a bend, we saw in front 
of us the lost boat, together with a scow, moored against the bank, while 
from among the bushes some little way back the smoke of a camp-fire 
curled up through the frosty air. We had come on the camp of the thieves. 
As I glanced at the faces of my two followers I was struck by the grim, 
eager look in their eyes. Our overcoats were off in a second, and after 
exchanging a few muttered words, the boat was hastily and silently shoved 
towards the bank. As soon as it touched the shore ice I leaped out and 
ran up behind a clump of bushes, so as to cover the landing of the others, 
who had to make the boat fast. For a moment we felt a thrill of keen 
excitement, and our veins tingled as we crept cautiously towards the fire, 
for it seemed likely that there would be a brush ; but, as it turned out, this 
was almost the only moment of much interest, for the capture itself was as 
tame as possible. 

The men we were after knew they had taken with them the only craft 
there was on the river, and so felt perfectly secure ; accordingly, we took 
them absolutely by surprise. The only one in camp was the German, 
whose weapons were on the ground, and who, of course, gave up at once, 
his two companions being off hunting. We made him safe, delegating one 
of our number to look after him particularly and see that he made no noise, 
and then sat down and waited for the others. The camp was under the lee 
of a cut bank, behind which we crouched, and, after waiting an hour or 
over, the men we were after came in. We heard them a long way off and 
made ready, watching them for some minutes as they walked towards us, 
their rifles on their shoulders and the sunlight glinting on the steel 
barrels. When they were within twenty yards or so we straightened up 
from behind the bank, covering them with our cocked rifles, while I 
shouted to them to hold up their hands — an order that in such a case, in 
the West, a man is not apt to disregard if he thinks the giver is in earnest. 
The half-breed obeyed at once, his knees trembling as if they had been 
made of whalebone. Finnigan hesitated for a second, his eyes fairly 
wolfish ; then, as I walked up within a few paces, covering the center of 
his chest so as to avoid overshooting, and repeating the command, he saw 
that he had no show, and, with an oath, let his rifle drop and held his 
hands up beside his head. 

It was nearly dusk, so we camped where we were. The first thing to 
be done was to collect enough wood to enable us to keep a blazing fire all 
night long. While Seawall and Dow, thoroughly at home in the use of 
the ax, chopped down dead cottonwood trees and dragged the logs up 
into a huge pile, I kept guard over the three prisoners, who were huddled 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



121 




"TAKE OFF YOUR BOOTS ! 



into a sullen group some twenty yards off, just the right distance for the 
buckshot in the double-barrel. Having captured our men, we were in a 
quandary how to keep them. The cold was so intense that to tie them 
tightly hand and foot meant, in all likelihood, freezing both hands and feet 
off during the night ; and it was no use tying them at all unless we tied 
them tightly enough to stop in part the circulation. So nothing was left for 
us to do but to keep perpetual guard over them. Of course we had care- 
fully searched them, and taken away not only their firearms and knives, but 
everything else that could possibly be used as a weapon. By this time 
they were pretty well cowed, as they found out very quickly that they 
would be well treated so long as they remained quiet, but would receive 
some rough handling if they attempted any disturbance. 

Our next step was to cord their weapons up in some bedding, which w-e 
sat on while we took supper. Immediately afterward we made the men 
take off their boots — an additional safeguard, as it was a cactus country, 
in which a man could travel barefoot only at the risk of almost certainly 
laming himself for life — and go to bed, all three lying on one buffalo robe 
and being covered by another, in the full light of the blazing fire. We deter- 
mined to watch in succession a half-night apiece, thus each getting a full 



122 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

rest every third night. I took first watch, my two companions, revolver 
under head. roUing up in their blankets on the side of the fire opposite 
that on which the three captives lay ; while I, in fur cap, gantlets, and 
overcoat, took my station a little way back in the circle of firelight, in a 
position in which I could watch my men with the absolute certainty of 




UOWN-STKEAM. 



being able to stop any movement, no matter how sudden. For this night- 
watching we always used the double-barrel with buckshot, as a rifle is 
uncertain in the dark ; while with a shot-gun at such a distance, and with 
men lying down, a person who is watchful may be sure that they cannot 
get up, no matter how quick they are, without being riddled. The only 
danger lies in the extreme monotony of sitting still in the dark guarding 
men who make no motion, and the consequent tendency to go to sleep, 
especially when one has had a hard day's work and is feeling really tired. 
But neither on the first night nor on any subsequent one did we ever abate 
a jot of our watchfulness. 

Next morning we started down-stream, having a well-laden flotilla, 
for the men we had caught had a good deal of plunder in their boats, 
including some saddles, as they evidently intended to get horses as soon 
as they reached a part of the country where there were any, and where it 
was possible to travel. Finnigan, who was the ringleader, and the man I 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



123 



was especially after, I kept by my side in our boat, the other two being 
put in their own scow, heavily laden and rather leaky, and with only one 
paddle. We kept them just in front of us, a few yards distant, the river 
being so broad that we knew, and they knew also, any attempt at escape 
to be perfectly hopeless. 

For some miles we went swiftly down-stream, the cold being bitter 
and the slushy anchor ice choking the space between the boats ; then the 
current grew sluggish, eddies forming along the sides. We paddled on 
until, coming into a long reach where the water was almost backed up, 
we saw there was a stoppage at the other end. Working up to this, it 
proved to be a small ice jam, through which we broke our way only to 
find ourselves, after a few hundred yards, stopped by another. We had 
hoped that the first was merely a jam of anchor ice, caused by the cold of 
the last few days ; but the jam we had now come to was black and solid, 
and, running the boats ashore, one of us went off down the bank to find 
out what the matter was. On climbinof a hill that commanded a view of 
the valley for several miles, the explanation became only too evident — as 
far as we could see, the river was choked with black ice. The great 
Ox-bow jam had stopped, and we had come down to its tail. 

We had nothing to do but to pitch camp, after which we held a con- 
sultation. The Little Missouri has much too swift a current, — when it 
has any current at all, — with too bad a bottom, for it to be possible to 
take a boat up-stream ; and to walk meant, of course, abandoning almost 
all we had. Moreover we knew that a thaw would very soon start the 
jam, and so made up our minds that we had best simply stay where we 
were, and work down-stream as fast as we could, trusting that the spell 
of bitter weather would pass before our food gave out. 

The next eight days were as irksome and monotonous as any I ever 
spent : there is very little amusement in combining the functions of a 
sheriff with those of an arctic explorer. The weather kept as cold as 
ever. During the night the water in the pail would freeze solid. Ice 
formed all over the river, thickly along the banks ; and the clear, frosty 
sun gave us so little warmth that the melting hardly began before noon. 
Each day the great jam would settle down-stream a few miles, only to 
wedge again, leaving behind it several smaller jams, through which we 
would work our way until we were as close to the tail of the large one 
as we dared to go. Once we came round a bend and got so near that 
we were in a good deal of danger of being sucked under. The current 
ran too fast to let us work back against it, and we could not pull the boat 
up over the steep banks of rotten ice, which were breaking off and fall- 



1-4 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



ing in all the time. We could only land and snub the boats up with 
ropes, holding them there for two or three hours until the jam worked 
down once more — all the time, of course, having to keep guard over 
the captives, who had caused us so much trouble that w^e were bound to 
bring them in, no matter what else we lost. 

W e had to be additionally cautious on account of being in the Indian 
countrx , having worked down past Killdeer Mountains, where some of my 
cowboys had run across a band of Sioux — said to be Tetons — the year 
betore. Very probably the Indians would not have harmed us anyhow, 
but as we were hampered by the prisoners, we preferred not meeting 
them ; nor did we, though we saw plenty of fresh signs, and found, to our 
sorrow, that they had just made a grand hunt all down the river, and had 
killed or driven off almost every head of game in the country through 

which we were passing. 

As our stock of provisions grew scant- 
ier and scantier, we tried in vain to eke it out 
by the chase ; for we saw no game. Two of 
us would go out hunting at a time, while the 
third kept guard over the prisoners. The 
latter would be made to sit down together 
on a blanket at one side of the fire, wdiile 

the guard for 
the time being 
stood or sat 
some fifteen or 
twenty yards 
off The pris- 
oners being un- 
armed, and kept 
close together, 
there was no 
possibility of 
their escaping, 
and the guard 
kept at such a 
distance that they could not overpower him by springing on him, he hav- 
ing a Winchester or the double-barreled shot-gun always in his hands 
cocked and at the ready. So long as we kept wide-awake and watchful, 
there was not the least danger, as our three men knew^ us, and understood 
perfectly that the slightest attempt at a break would result in their being 




ON GUARD AT NIGHT. 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH jt25 

shot down ; but, although there was thus no risk, it was harassing-, tedious 
work, and the strain, day in and day out. without any rest or let up, 
became very tiresome. 

The days were monotonous to a degree. The endless rows of hills 
bounding the valley, barren and naked, stretched along without a break. 
When we rounded a bend, it was only to see on each hand the same 
lines of broken buttes dwindling off into the distance ahead of us as 
they had dwindled off into the distance behind. If, in hunting, we 
climbed to their tops, as far as our eyes could scan there was nothing 
but the great rolling prairie, bleak and lifeless, reaching off to the horizon. 
We broke camp in the morning, on a point of land covered with brown, 
leafless, frozen cottonwoods; and in the afternoon we pitched camp on 
another point in the midst of a grove of the same stiff, dreary trees. The 
discolored river, whose eddies boiled into yellow foam, flowed always 
between the same banks of frozen mud or of muddy ice. And what was, 
from a practical standpoint, even worse, our diet began to be as same as 
the scenery. Being able to kill nothing, we exhausted all our stock of 
provisions, and got reduced to flour, without yeast or baking-powder ; and 
unleavened bread, made with exceedingly muddy water, is not, as a steady 
thing, attractive. 

Finding that they were well treated and were also watched with the 
closest vigilance, our prisoners behaved themselves excellently and gave 
no trouble, though afterward, when out of our hands and shut up in jail, 
the half-breed got into a stabbing affray. They conversed freely with my 
two men on a number of indifferent subjects, and after the first evening no 
allusion was made to the theft, or anything connected with it; so that an 
outsider overhearing the conversation would never have guessed what our 
relations to each other really were. Once, and once only, did Finnigan 
broach the subject. Somebody had been speaking of a man whom we all 
knew, called " Calamity," who had been recently taken by the sheriff on a 
charge of horse-stealing. Calamity had escaped once, but was caught at 
a disadvantage the next time ; nevertheless, when summoned to hold his 
hands up, he refused, and attempted to draw his own revolver, with the 
result of having two bullets put through him. Finnigan commented on 
Calamity as a fool for "not knowing when a man had the drop on him " ; 
and then, suddenly turning to me, said, his weather-beaten face flushing 
darkly: " If I 'd had any show at all, you 'd have sure had to fight, Mr. 
Roosevelt ; but there was n't any use making a break when I 'd only have 
got shot myself, with no chance of harming any one else." I laughed 
and nodded, and the subject was dropped. 



126 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUN IING-TRAIL 

Indeed, if the time was tedious to us, it must have seemed never-end- 
ing- to our prisoners, who had nothing to do but to He still and read, 
or chew the bitter cud of their reflections, always conscious that some pair 
of eyes was watching them every moment, and that at least one loaded 
rifle was ever ready to be used against them. They had quite a stock of 
books, some of a rather unexpected kind. Dime novels and the inevitable 
" History of the James Brothers" — a book that, together with the "Police 
Gazette," is to be found in the hands of every professed or putative ruffian 
in the West — seemed perfectly in place ; but it was somewhat surprising 
to find that a large number of more or less drearily silly "society" novels, 
ranging from Ouida's to those of The Duchess and Augusta J. Evans, were 
most greedily devoured. As for me, 1 had brought with me "Anna Karen - 
ina," and my surroundings were quite gray enough to harmonize well 
with Tolstoi. 

Our commons grew shorter and shorter ; and finally even the flour was 
nearly gone, and we were again forced to think seriously of abandoning 
the boats. The Indians had driven all the deer out of the country ; 
occasionally we shot prairie fowl, but they were not plentiful. A flock of 
geese passed us one morning, and afterward an old gander settled down 
on the river near our camp ; but he was over two hundred yards off, and a 
rifle-shot missed him. Where he settled down, by the way, the river was 
covered with thick glare ice that would just bear his weight ; and it was 
curious to see him stretch his legs out in front and slide forty or fifty feet 
when he struck, balancing himself with his outspread wings. 

But w^hen the day was darkest the dawn appeared. At last, having 
worked down some thirty miles at the tail of the ice jam, we struck an 
outlying cow-camp of the C Diamond (C O) ranch, and knew that our 
troubles were almost over. There was but one cowboy in it, but w^e were 
certain of his cordial help, for in a stock country all make common cause 
against either horse-thieves or cattle-thieves. He had no wagon, but told 
us we could get one up at a ranch near Killdeer Mountains, some fifteen 
miles off, and lent me a pony to go up there and see about it — which I 
accordingly did, after a sharp preliminary tussle when I came to mount 
the wiry bronco (one of my men remarking in a loud aside to our cowboy 
host, "the boss ain't no bronco-buster "). When I reached the solitary 
ranch spoken of, I was able to hire a large prairie schooner and two 
tough little bronco mares, driven by the settler himself, a rugged old 
plainsman, who evidently could hardly understand why I took so much 
bother wath the thieves instead of hanging them off-hand. Returning to 
the river the next day, we walked our men up to the Killdeer Mountains. 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



12 



Seawall and Dow left me the followinsf mornin":, went back to the boats, 
and had no further difficulty, for the weather set in very warm, the ice 
went through with a rush, and they reached Mandan in about ten days, 
killing four beaver and five geese on the way, but lacking time to stop to 
do any regular hunting. 




"A SHARi' PRKLI.MINAKV 1 Ui.SLE. 



Meanwhile I took the three thieves into Dickinson, the nearest town. 
The going was bad, and the little mares could only drag the wagon at a 
walk ; so, though we drove during the daylight, it took us two days and a 
night to make the journey. It was a most desolate drive. The prairie 
had been burned the fall before, and was a mere bleak waste of blackened 
earth, and a cold, rainy mist lasted throughout the two days. The only 
variety was where the road crossed the shallow headwaters of Knife and 
Green rivers. Here the ice was hio^h alongf the banks, and the waeon had 
to be taken to pieces to get it over. My three captives were unarmed, but 
as I was alone with them, except for the driver, of whom I knew nothing, 
I had to be doubly on my guard, and never let them come close to me. 
The little mares went so slowly, and the heavy road rendered any hope of 
escape by flogging up the horses so entirely out of the question, that I 



128 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



soon found the safest plan was to put the prisoners in the wagon and 
myself walk behind with the inevitable Winchester. Accordingly 1 trudged 
steadily the whole time behind the wagon through the ankle-deep mud. 




ON THE ROAD TO DICKINSON. 



It was a gloomy walk. Hour after hour went by always the same, while 
I plodded along through the dreary landscape — hunger, cold, and fatigue 
struggling with a sense of dogged, weary resolution. At night, when we 
put up at the squalid hut of a frontier granger, the only habitation on our 
road, it was even worse. I did not dare to go to sleep, but making my 
three men get into the upper bunk, from which they could get out only 
with difficulty, I sat up with my back against the cabin-door and kept 
watch over them all night long. So, after thirty-six hours' sleeplessness, 
I was most heartily glad when we at last jolted into the long, straggling 
main street of Dickinson, and I was able to give my unwilling companions 
into the hands of the sheriff. 

Under the laws of Dakota I received my fees as a deputy sheriff for 
making the three arrests, and also mileage for the three hundred odd miles 
gone over — a total of some fifty dollars.* 

* One of the men wrote me from prison, giving me his reasons for taking the boat. Part of 
his letter is worth giving, not only because it contains his own story, but also for the sake of the deli- 



SHERIFF'S WORK ON A RANCH 



129 



cious sense of equality shown in the last few sentences. He had been explaining that he believed 1 
had accused him of stealing some saddles: " In the lirst place I did not take your boat Mr. Roosevelt 
because I wanted to steal something, no indeed, when 1 took that vessel I was labouring under the 

impression, die dog or eat the hachette When I was a couple of miles above your ranch the 

boat I had sprung a leak and I saw that I could not make the Big Missouri in it in the shape that it 
was in. I thought of asking assistance of you, but I supposed that you had lost some saddles and 
blamed me for taking them. Now there I was wiih a leaky boat and under the circumstances what 
was I two do, two ask you for help, the answer I expected two get was two look down the mouth of 
a Winchester. I saw your boat and made up my mind two get possession of it. I was bound two 
get out of that country cost what it might, when people talk lynch law and threaten a persons life, I 
think that it is about time two leave. I did not want to go back up river on the account that I 

feared a mob I have read a good many of your sketches of ranch life in the papers since 

I have been here, and they interested me deeply. 

" Yours sincerely, 
"&c. 
"P. S. Should you stop over at Bismarck this fall make a call to the Prison. I should be glad 
to meet you." 




A lEXAN COWBOY. 




Ai\ AGENCY POLICKMA.N. 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG 
AND PRAIRIE 



IX 




The Ranchman's Rifle on Crag and Prairie 

% 



*HE ranchman owes to his rifle not only the keen 



pleasure and strong excitement of the chase, but also 
much of his bodily comfort; for, save for his prowess 
g as a hunter and his skill as a marksman with this, his 
favorite weapon, he would almost always be sadly 
stinted for fresh meat. Now that the buffalo have gone, and the Sharps 
rifle by which they were destroyed is also gone, almost all ranchmen 
use some form of repeater. Personally I prefer the Winchester, using 
the new model, with a 45 -caliber bullet of 300 grains, backed by 90 
grains of powder, or else falling back on my faithful old stand-by, 
the 45-75. But the truth is that all good modern rifles are efficient 
weapons; it is the man behind the gun that makes the difference. An 
inch or two in trajectory or a second or two in rapidity of fire is as noth- 
ing compared to sureness of eye and steadiness of hand. 

From April to August antelope are the game we chiefly follow, killing- 
only the bucks ; after that season, black-tail and white-tail deer. Now and 
then we get a chance at mountain sheep, and more rarely at larger game 
still. As a rule, I never shoot anything but bucks. But in the rutting 
season, when the bucks' flesh is poor, or when we need to lay in a good stock 
of meat for the winter, this rule of course must be broken. 

The smoked venison stored away in the fall lasts us through the bitter 
weather, as well as through the even less attractive period covering the 
first weeks of spring. At that time we go out as little as possible. The 
roads are mere morasses, crusted after nightfall with a shell of thin ice, 
through which the shaggy horses break heavily. Walking is exceedingly 
tiresome, the boots becoming caked with masses of adhesive clay. The 
deer stay with us all the time; but they are now in poor condition, the 
does heavy with fawn and the bucks with ungrown antlers. 



1^2 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNT INC. -TRAIL 

Antelope gather together in great bands in the fall, and either travel 
south, leaving the country altogether, or else go to some out-of-the-way 
place where the)- are not likely to be disturbed. Antelope are queer, 
freaky beasts, and it is hard to explain why, when most of these great 
bands go off south, one or two always stay in the Bad Lands. Such a 
band liaving chosen its wintering ground, which is usually in a valley 
or on a range of wide plateaus, will leave it only with great reluctance, 
and if it is discovered by hunters most of its members will surely be 
butchered before the survivors are willing to abandon the place and seek 
new quarters. 

In April the prong-horned herds come back, but now all broken up 
into straggling parties. They have regular passes, through which they 
go every year: there is one such not far from my ranch, where they are 
certain to cross the Little Missouri in great numbers each spring on their 
return march. In the fall, when they are traveling in dense crowds, 
hunters posted in these passes sometimes butcher enormous numbers. 

Soon after they come back in the spring they scatter out all over the 
plains, and for four months after their return — that is, until August — they 
are the game we chiefly follow. This is because at that time we only 
hunt enough to keep the ranch in fresh meat, and kill nothing but the 
bucks ; and as antelope, though they shed their horns, are without them 
for but a very short time, and as, moreover, they are always seen at a 
distance, it is easy to tell the sexes apart. 

Antelope shooting is the kind in which a man most needs skill in the 
use of the rijle at long ranges ; for they are harder to get near than any 
other game — partly from their wariness, and still more from the nature 
of the ground they inhabit. Many more cartridges are spent, in propor- 
tion to the amount of game killed, in hunting antelope than is the case 
while after deer, elk, or sheep. Even good hunters reckon on using 
six or seven cartridges for every prong-horn that they kill ; for antelope 
are continually offering standing shots at very long distances, which, nev- 
ertheless, it is a great temptation to try, on the chance of luck favoring 
the marksman. Moreover, alone among plains' game, they must gen- 
erally be shot at over a hundred and fifty yards, and often at between 
two and three hundred. Over this distance a man will kill occasion- 
ally, — I have done so myself, — but at such long range it is mainly a mat- 
ter of accident. The best field-shot alive lacks a good deal of always 
killing, if the distance is much over two hundred yards ; and with every 
increase beyond that amount, the chances of failure augment in geometri- 
cal proportion. Exceptional individuals perform marvelous feats with the 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 



^33 



rifle, exactly as still more exceptional individuals perform marvelous feats 
with the revolver ; but even these men, when they have to guess their 
distances, miss very often when firing at game three hundred yards, or 
thereabouts, distant. 

As in all other kinds of big-game shooting, success in hunting ante- 
lope often depends upon sheer, downright luck. A man may make a 
week's trip over good ground and get nothing; and then again he may 
go to the same place and in two days kill a wagon-load of venison. 

In the fall the prairie fires ravage the land, for at the close of sum- 
mer the matted, sun-dried grass burns like tinder, and the fires are some- 
times so numerous as to cover whole counties beneath a pall of smoke, 
while at night they look very grand, burning in curved lines of wavering 
flame, now advancing fastest at one point, now at another, as if great red 
snakes were writhing sideways across the prairie. The land across which 
they have run remains a blackened, charred waste until the young grass 
begins to sprout in the spring. The short, tender blades at once change 
the cinder-colored desert into a bright emerald plain, and are so much 
more toothsome than the dry, withered winter grass that both stock and 
game forsake the latter and travel out to the tracts of burned land. The 
feed on these places is too sparse to support, of itself, horses or cattle, 
who accordingly do not penetrate far beyond the edges; but antelope are 
like sheep, and prefer scanty, short herbage, and in consequence at this 
time fairly swarm in the burned districts. Indeed, they are sometimes so 
numerous that they can hardly be stalked, as it is impossible to approach 
any animal without being seen by some of its countless comrades, which 
at once run off and give the alarm. 

While on these early spring trips we sometimes vary the sport, and 
our fare as well, by trying our rifles on the mallards in the reedy sloughs, 
or on the jack rabbits as they sit up on their haunches to look at us, 
eighty or a hundred yards off Now and then we creep up to and kill the 
cock prairie fowl, when they have gathered into their dancing rings to 
posture with outstretched neck and outspread wings as they shuffle 
round each other, keeping up a curious clucking and booming that accord 
well with their grotesque attitudes. 

Late in the season any one of us can usually get antelope in a day's 
hunt from the ranch by merely riding off alone, with a good hunting 
horse, to a great tract of broken, mound-dotted prairie some fifteen miles 
off, where the prong-horns are generall}^ abundant. 

On such a trip I leave the ranch house by dawn, the rifle across my 
saddle-bow, and some strips of smoked venison in the saddle-pockets. In 



T , , RAN'CH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

the cool air the horse lopes smartly through the wooded bottoms. The 
meadow-larks, with black crescents on their yellow breasts, sing all day 
long, but the thrushes only in the morning and evening ; and their melody 
is heard at its best on such a ride as this. By the time I get out of the 
last ravines and canter along the divide, the dark bluff-tops in the east 
have begun to redden in the sunrise, while in the flushed west the hills 
stand out against a rosy sky. The sun has been up some little time 
before the hunting-grounds are fairly reached; for the antelope stands 
alone in being a diurnal game animal that from this peculiarity, as well as 
from the nature of its haunts, can be hunted as well at midday as at any 
other hour. Arrived at the hunting-grounds I generally, but not ahvays, 
dismount and hunt on foot, leaving the horse tethered out to graze. 

Lunch is taken at some spring, which may be only a trickle of water 
at the base of a butte, where a hole must be dug out with knife and hands 
before the horse can drink. Once or twice I have enjoyed unusual deli- 
cacies at such a lunch, in the shape of the eggs of curlew or prairie fowl 
baked in the hot ashes. 

The day is spent in still-hunting, a much easier task among the ridges 
and low hills than out on the gently rolling prairies. Antelope see much 
better than deer, their great bulging eyes, placed at the roots of the horns, 
being as strong as twin telescopes. Extreme care must be taken not to 
let them catch a glimpse of the intruder, for it is then hopeless to attempt 
approaching them. On the other hand, there is never the least difficulty 
about seeing them ; for they are conspicuous beasts, and, unlike deer, they 
never hide^ being careless whether they are seen or not, so long as they 
can keep a good lookout. They trust only to their own alert watchfulness 
and quick senses for safety. The game is carried home behind the saddle ; 
and the bottom on which the ranch house stands is not often reached until 
the moon, showing crimson through the haze, has risen above the bluffs 
that skirt the river. 

Antelope are very tough, and will carry off a great deal of lead unless 
struck in exactly the right place ; and even when mortally hit they some- 
times receive the blow without flinching, and gallop off as if unharmed. 
They always should be followed up a little distance after being fired at, as 
if unhurt. Sometimes they show the rather curious trait of walking back- 
wards a number of steps just before falling in death. 

Although ordinarily harder to get at than deer, they are far more fre- 
quently killed in what may be called accidental ways. At times they seem 
to be heedless of danger, and they suffer from occasional panic fits of fear 
or curiosity, when it is no feat at all to slay them. Hunters can thus 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 



35 




h"- li'^--V'-V^' ^ -^//^)%/ y-^^^(^ ^H^.,n^tar^ 



'-^^ 




— -s-^f/l- 



'■\ 



occasionally rake very large bags of antelope, but a true sportsman who 
only shoots for peculiarly fine trophies, or to supply the ranch table, will 
not commit such needless butcheries. Often accidents have thrown it 
into my power to make a big killing ; but the largest number I have ever 
shot was on one day when I bagged four, all bucks, and then we were 
sorely in need of fresh meat, and it was an object to get as much as possible. 
This day's shooting was peculiar because it took place during a heavy 
rain storm, which, taken in connection with my own remarkable costume, 
apparently made the animals act with less than their usual shyness. I wore 
a great flapping yellow slicker, or oilskin overcoat, about as unlikely a 
garb as a hunter could possibly don ; but it seemed to fascinate the game. 



J. 5 RAXCH LIFE AXD THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

for more than once a band hiRlelleel up and stood g-azing at me, while I 
clambered awkwardly off the horse. The cold rain numbed my hng-ers 
and beat into my eyes, and I was hampered by the coat ; so 1 wasted a 
o-ood many cartridges to get my tour head. 

In some places they now seem to have learned wisdom, for the slaughter 
among them has been so prodigious that the survdvors have radically 
chansjed their character. Their senses are as keen as ever, and their 
wits much keener. They no longer give way to bursts of panic curiosity ; 
they cannot be attracted by any amount of flagging, or by the appearance 
of unknown objects, as formerly. Where they are still common, as with 
us. they refuse, under any stress of danger, to enter woodland or thickets, 
but keep to the flat or broken plains and the open prairies, which they 
have from time immemorial inhabited. But elsewhere their very nature 
seems to have altered. They have not only learned to climb and take to 
the hills, but, what is even more singular, have intruded on the domain of 
the elk and the deer, frequently making their abode in the thick timber, 
and there proving the most difficult of all animals to stalk. 

In INIay and June the little antelope kids appear: funny little fellows, 
odd and ungainly, but at an astonishingly early age able to run nearly as 
fast as their parents. They will lie very close if they think that they are 
unobserved. Once several of us were driving in a herd of cattle while on 
the round-up. The cattle, traveling in loose order, were a few paces ahead, 
when, happening to cast down my eyes, I saw, right among their hoofs, a 
little antelope kid. It was lying flat down with outstretched neck, and did 
not move, although some of the cattle almost stepped on it. I reined up, 
o-ot off my horse, and lifted it in my arms. At first it gave two or three con- 
vulsive struggles, bleating sharply, then became perfectly passive, stand- 
ing quietly by me for a minute or two when I put it down, after which it 
suddenly darted off like a flash. These litde antelope kids are very easily 
tamed, being then very familiar, amusing, and inquisitive — much more so 
than deer fawns, though they are not so pretty. Within a few days of their 
birth they stop seeking protection in hiding and adopt the habits of their 
parents, following them everywhere, or going off on their own account, 
being almost as swift, although, of course, not nearly so enduring. 

Three of us witnessed a rather curious incident last spring, showing 
how little the bringing forth of a fawn affects the does of either deer or 
antelope. We were walking through a patch of low brushwood, when up 
got a black-tail doe and went off at full speed. At the second jump she 
gave birth to a fawn ; but this did not alter her speed in the least, and she 
ran off quite as well and as fast as ever. We walked up to where she had 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 137 

been lying' and found in her bed another fawn, evidently but a few seconds 
old. We left the two sprawling-, unlicked little creatures where they were, 
knowing that the mother would soon be back to care for them. 

Although sometimes we go out to the antelope ground and back in 
one day, yet it is always more convenient to take the buckboard with us 
and spend the night, camping by a water hole in one of the creeks. The 
last time we took such a trip I got lost, and nearly spent the night in the 
open, I had been riding with one of my cowboys, while another acted as 
teamster and drove the buckboard and pair. We killed two antelope and 
went into camp rather early. After taking dinner and picketing out the 
four horses we found it still lacked an hour or two of sunset, and accord- 
ingly my companions and I started out on foot, leaving our teamster in 
camp, and paying no particular heed to our surroundings. We saw a herd 
of prong-horn and wounded one, which we followed in vain until dusk, 
and then started to go back to camp. Very soon we found that we had 
quite a task before us, for in the dim starlight all the hollows looked 
exactly alike, and the buttes seemed either to have changed form entirely 
or else loomed up so vaguely through the darkness that we could not 
place them in the least. We walked on and on until we knew that we 
must be far past the creek, or coulee, where our camp lay, and then 
turned towards the divide. The night had grown steadily darker, and 
we could hear the far-off mutter and roll that told of an approaching 
thunder-storm. Hour after hour we trudged wearily on, as fast as we 
could ofo without stumblino- the orloom and the routrhness of the unknown 
ground proving serious drawbacks to our progress. When on the top 
of a hillock, the blackness of the hollow beneath was so intense that w^e 
could not tell whether we were going to walk down a slope or over a cliff, 
and in consequence we met with one or two tumbles. At last we reached 
the top of a tall butte that we knew must be on the divide. The night 
was now as dark as pitch, and we were so entirely unable to tell where 
we were that we decided to give up the quest in despair and try to 
find some washout that would yield us at least partial shelter from the 
approaching rain storm. We had fired off our rifles several times without 
getting any response; but now, as we took one last look around, we sud- 
denly saw a flash of light, evidently from a gun, flare up through the 
darkness so far off that no sound came to our ears. We trotted towards 
it as fast as we could through the inky gloom, and wdien no longer sure 
of our direction climbed a little hill, fired off our rifles, and after a min- 
ute or two again saw the guiding flash. The next time we had occasion 
to signal, the answering blaze was accompanied by a faint report ; and 



I3S 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



in a few minutes more, when it was close on midnight, we were warm- 
ing" our hands at the great camp-fire, and hungrily watching the venison 
steaks as they sizzled in the frying-pan. 

The morning after this adventure I shot an antelope before breakfast. 
\\*e had just risen, and while sitting round the smoldering coals, listen- 




A PRONG-HORN BUCK VISITS CAMP. 



ing to the simmering of the camp-kettle and the coffee-pot, we suddenly 
caught sight of a large prong-horn buck that was walking towards us 
over the hill-crest nearly half a mile away. He stopped and stared fix- 
edly at us for a few minutes, and then resumed his course at a leisurely 
trot, occasionally stopping to crop a mouthful of grass, and paying no 
further heed to us. His course was one that w^ould lead him within a 
quarter of a mile of camp, and, grasping my rifle, I slipped off as soon as 
he was out of sight and ran up over the bluff to intercept him. Just as 
I reached the last crest I saw the buck crossing in front of me at a walk, 
and almost two hundred yards off. I knelt, and, as he halted and turned 
his head sharply towards me, pulled trigger. It was a lucky shot, and he 
fell over, with his back broken. He had very unusually good horns; as 
fine as those of any of his kind that I ever killed. 

Antelope often suffer from such freaks of apathetic indifference to 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 139 

danger, which are doubly curious as existing in an animal normall)- as 
wary as that wildest of game, the mountain sheep. They are fond of 
wandering too, and appear at times in very unlikely places. Thus once, 
while we were building the cow corral, in an open bottom, five antelope 
came down. After much snorting and stamping, they finally approached 
to within fifty yards of the men who were at work, and, as the latter had 
no weapons with them, retired unmolested. 

In winter the great herds consist of the two sexes; and this is true also 
of the straggling parties that come back to us in spring, soon to split up 
into smaller ones. During early summer the males may be found singly, 
or else three or four together, with possibly a barren doe or two; while 
two or three does, with their kids, and perhaps the last year's young, will 
form the nucleus of a little flock by themselves. With the coming of the 
rutting season they divide into regular bands, for they are polygamous. 
Every large, powerful buck gathers his little group of does, driving out 
all his rivals, though perhaps a yearling buck or two will hang round the 
outskirts at a respectful distance, every now and then rousing the older 
one to a fit of jealous impatience. More often the young bucks go 
in small parties by themselves, while those older ones that have been 
driven out by their successful rivals wander round singly. The old bucks 
are truculent and courageous, and do fierce battle with each other until it 
is evident which is master, when the defeated combatant makes off at top 
speed. One of these beaten bucks will occasionally get hold of a single 
doe, whom he promptly appropriates and guards with extreme watchful- 
ness ; and, not being overconfident in his own prowess, drives her off 
very rapidly if any other antelope show signs of coming near. A success- 
ful buck may have from four or five to ten or fifteen does in his harem. 
In such a band there is always an old doe that acts as leader, precisely 
as with deer and elk. This doe is ever on the alert, is most likely to take 
the alarm at the approach of danger, and always leads the flight. The 
buck, however, is prompt to take command, if he sees fit, or deems that 
the doe's fears have overpowered her judgment ; and frequently, when a 
band is in full flight, the buck may be seen deliberately to round it up and 
stop it, so that he may gaze on the cause of the alarm — a trait the exer- 
cise of which often costs him his life. The bucks occasionally bully the 
does unmercifully, if they show symptoms of insubordination. Individual 
antelope vary very widely in speed. Once I fairly rode one down, but this 
is generally an almost impossible feat. Among deer, the fat, heavy ant- 
lered bucks are usually slower than the does and the young males; but 
there seems to be little difference of this sort among prong-horns. 

With the first touch of sharp fall weather we abandon the chase of the 



l_|0 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAH. 

antelope for that oi' the deer. Then our favorite quarry is the noble black- 
tail, whose haunts are in the mountains and the high, craggy hills. We 
kill him by fair still-hunting, and to follow him successfully through the 
deep ravines and across the steep ridges of his upland home a man should 
be sound in wind and limbs, and a good shot with the rifle as well. Many 
a glorious fall morning 1 have passed in his pursuit ; often, moreover, I 
have slain him in the fading evening as I walked homeward through the 
still dim twilight — for all wild game dearly love the gloaming. 

Once on a frosty evening I thus killed one when it was so dark that 
mv aim was little but guess-work. I was walking back to camp through 
a winding valley, hemmed in by steep cedar-crowned walls of clay and 
rock. All the landscape glimmered white with the new-fallen snow, and 
in the west the sky was still red with the wintry sunset. Suddenly a 
ereat buck came out of a erove of snow-laden cedars, and walked with 
swift strides up to the point of a crag that overlooked the valley. There 
he stood motionless while I crouched unseen in the shadow beneath. As 
I fired he reared upright and then plunged over the cliff He fell a hun- 
dred feet before landing in the bushes, yet he did not gash or mar his 
finely molded head and shapely, massive antlers. 

On one of the last days I hunted, in November, 1887, I killed two 
black-tail, a doe and a buck, with one bullet. They were feeding in a glen 
high up the side of some steep hills, and by a careful stalk over rough 
o-round I got within fifty yards. Peering over the brink of the cliff-like 
slope up which I had clambered, I saw them standing in such a position 
that the neck of the doe covered the buck's shoulder. The chance was 
too tempting to be lost. My bullet broke the doe's neck, and of course 
she fell where she was ; but the buck went off, my next two or three shots 
missing him. However, we followed his bloody trail, through the high 
pass he had crossed, down a steep slope, and roused him from the brush- 
wood in a valley bottom. He soon halted and lay down again, making 
off at a faltering gallop when approached, and the third time we came up 
to him he was too weak to rise. He had splendid antlers. 

Sometimes we kill the deer by the aid of hounds. Of these we have 
two at the ranch. One is a rough-coated, pure-blood Scotch stag- hound, 
named Rob. The other. Brandy, is a track-hound, bell-mouthed, lop-eared, 
keen-nosed, and not particularly fast, but stanch as Death himself He 
comes of the old Southern strain ; and, indeed, all the best blooded packs 
of American deer-hounds or fox-hounds come from what was called the 
Southern Hound in early seventeenth century England. Thus he is kin 
to the hounds of Bellemeade, wherewith General Jackson follows the buck 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 



141 



and the gray fox over the beautiful fertile hills of middle Tennessee ; and 
some of the same blood runs in the veins of Mr. Wadsworth's Geneseo 
hounds, behind which I have ridden as they chased the red fox through 
the wooded glens and across the open fields of the farms, with their high 
rail fences. 

I often take Rob out when still-hunting black-tail, leading him along in 
a leash. He is perfectly quiet, not even whimpering ; and he is certain to 




THE BUCK OVERTAKEN. 



overhaul any wounded deer. A doe or a flying buck is borne to the ground 
with a single wrench, and killed out of hand ; but a buck at bay is a formi- 
dable opponent, and no dog can rush in full on the sharp prong points. 
If the two dogs are together, Rob does most of the killing ; Brandy's only 
function is to distract the attention of an angry buck and then allow Rob 
to pin him. Once a slightly wounded and very large black-tail buck, started 
just at nightfall, ran down to the river and made a running bay of nearly 
two hours, Rob steadily at him the whole time ; it was too dark for us to 
shoot, but finally, by a lucky throw, one of the men roped the quarry. 



1^2 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

Not only will a big black-tail buck beat off a clog or a wolf coming at him 
in front, but he is an awkward foe for a man. One of them nearly killed a 
cowboy in my employ. The buck, mortally wounded, had fallen to the shot, 
and the man rushed up to stick him ; then the buck revived for a moment, 
struck down the man, and endeavored to gore him, but could not, because 
of the despairing grip with which the man held on to his horns. Never- 
theless the man, bruised and cut by the sharp hoofs, was fast becoming too 
weak to keep his hold, when in the struggle they came to the edge of a 
washout, and fell into it some twelve or fifteen feet. This separated them. 
The dying buck was too weak to renew the attack, and the man crawled 
off; but it was months before he got over the effects of the encounter. 

Sometimes we kill the white-tail also by fair still-hunting, but more 
often we shoot them on the dense river bottoms by the help of the track- 
hound. We put the dogs into the woods with perhaps a single horseman 
to guide them and help them rout out the deer, while the rest of us, rifle 
in hand, ride from point to point outside, or else watch the passes through 
which the hunted animals are likely to run. It is not a sport of which I 
am very fond, but it is sometimes pleasant as a variety. The last time 
that we tried it I killed a buck in the bottom right below our ranch house, 
not half a mile off. The river was low, and my post was at its edge, with 
in front of me the broad sandy flat sparsely covered with willow-brush. 
Deer are not much afraid of an ordinary noisy hound ; they will play round 
in front of him, head and flag in air ; but with Rob it was different. The 
gray, wolfish beast, swift and silent, threw them into a panic of terror, and 
in headlong flight they would seek safety from him in the densest thicket. 

On the evening in question one of my cowboys went into the brush 
with the hounds. I had hardly ridden to my place and dismounted when 
I heard old Brandy giv^e tongue, the bluffs echoing back his long-drawn 
baying. Immediately afterwards a young buck appeared, coming along 
the sandy river-bed, trotting or cantering; and very handsome he looked, 
stepping with a light, high action, his glossy coat glistening, his head 
thrown back, his white flag flaunting. My bullet struck him too far 
back, and he went on, turning into the woods. Then the dogs appeared, 
old Brandy running the scent, while the eager gaze-hound made wide 
half-circles round him as he ran ; while the cowboy, riding a vicious 
yellow mustang, galloped behind, cheering them on. As they struck the 
bloody trail they broke into clamorous yelling, and tore at full speed into 
the woods. A minute or two later the sound ceased, and I knew that they 
had run into the quarry. 

Sometimes we use the hounds for other o-ame besides deer. A neio-h- 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 



143 



boring- ranchman had a half-breed fox-and-greyhound, who, single-handed, 
ran into and throttled a coyote. I have been very anxious to try my 
dogs on a big wolf, intending to take along a collie and a half-breed 
mastiff we have to assist at the bay. The mastiff is a good fighter, and 
can kill a wildcat, taking the necessary punishment well, as we found out 
when we once trapped one of these small lynxes. Shep, the collie, is an 
adept at killing badgers, grabbing them from behind and whirling them 
round, whereas Brandy always gets his great lop-ears bitten. But how 
they would do with a wolf I cannot say ; for one of these long-toothed 
wanderers is usually able to outrun and outfight any reasonable number 
of common hounds, and will kill even a big dog very quickly. 

A friend of mine, Mr. Heber Bishop, once coursed and killed a wolf 
with two Scotch deer-hounds. After a brisk run the dogs overtook and 
held the quarry, but could not kill it, and were being very roughly han- 
dled when Mr. Bishop came to their assistance. But a ranchman in the 
Indian Territory has a large pack of these same Scotch dogs trained 
especially to hunt the wolf; and four or five of the fleet, high-couraged 
animals can not only soon overhaul a wolf, but can collar and throttle 
even the largest. Accidents to the pack are, of course, frequent. They 
say that the worry is enough to make one's hair stand on end. 

Before leaving the subject, it is worth noting that we have with us the 
Canada lynx as well as his smaller brother ; and, more singular still, that 
a wolverine, usually found only in the northern forests, was killed two win- 
ters ago in a big woody bottom on the Little Missouri, about forty miles 
north of Medora. The skin and skull were unmistakable ; so there could 
be no doubt as to the beast's identity. 

I have had good sport on the rolling plains, near Mandan, in follow- 
ing a scratch pack of four fleet, long-legged dogs. One was a wire-haired 
Scotch deer-hound; his mate was a superb greyhound, the speediest of the 
set. Both were possessed of the dauntless courage peculiar to high-bred 
hunting dogs. The other two were mongrels, but, nevertheless, game fighters 
and swift runners : one was a lurcher, and the other a cross between a grey- 
hound and a fox-hound — the only one of the four that ever gave tongue. 
The two former had been used together often, and had slain five 
coyotes, two deer (white-tails), and an antelope. Both the antelope and 
the deer they had fairly run down, having come up close on them, so that 
they had good send-offs ; but there is a wide individual variation among 
game animals as regards speed, and those that they caught — at any rate 
the antelope — may not have been as fleet as most of their kind. They 
were especially fond of chasing coyotes, and these they easily overtook. 



l_^j^ RANXH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

When at bay the coyotes fought desperately but unavaiHngly, the two 
hounds kilHng their c^uarry ver\- quickly, one seizing it by the throat and 
the other by the tlanks, and then stretching it out in a trice. They occa- 
sionally received trifling injuries in these contests. The animal that gave 
them most trouble was a badger which they once found and only killed 
after prolonged efforts, its squat, muscular form and tough skin making 
it very difficult tor them to get a good hold. 

We did not have time to go far from Mandan, and so confined our 
coursing to jack rabbits, swifts, and foxes. Of the latter, the great red 
prairie fox, we saw but one, which got up so close to the dogs that it had 
no chance at all, and after a fine burst of a few hundred yards was over- 
taken and torn to pieces. The swifts are properly called swift foxes, 
being rather smaller than the southern gray fox. Ever since the days of 
the early explorers they have been reputed to possess marvelous speed, 
and their common name of "swift," by which they are universally known, 
perpetuates the delusion ; for a delusion it emphatically is, since they are, 
if anything, rather slow than otherwise. Once, in a snow storm, I started 
one up under my horse's feet while riding across the prairie, overtook 
him in a few strides, and killed him by a lucky shot with the revolver. 
The speed of the coyote also has been laughably exaggerated. Judging by 
the records of the hounds, the antelope is the fastest plains' animal, the 
white-tail deer and the jack rabbit coming next ; then follow, in order, 
the coyote, the fox, and the swift, which is the slowest of all. Individuals 
vary greatly, however ; thus a fast jack rabbit might well outrun a slow 
deer, and of course both coyote and fox will outlast the swifter jack rab- 
bits. Several dogs should run together, as otherwise a jack or a swift, 
although overtaken, may yet escape by its dexterity in dodging. The 
cactus beds often befriend the hunted animals, as the dogfs rush heed- 
lessly into them and are promptly disabled, while a rabbit or a fox wall slip 
through without injury. 

Two or three of us usually went out together. Our method of pro- 
cedure was simple. We scattered out, dogs and men, and rode in an 
irregular line across the country, beating with care the most likely looking 
places, and following at top speed any game that got up. Sometimes a 
jack rabbit, starting w^ell ahead, would run for two miles or over, nearly in 
a straight line, before being turned by the leading hound; and occasion- 
ally one would even get away altogether. At other times it would be over- 
hauled at once and killed instantly, or only prolong its life a few^ seconds 
by its abrupt turns and twists. One swift gave us several minutes' chase, 
although never getting thirty rods from the place where it started. The 



THE RANCHMAN'S RIFLE ON CRAG AND PRAIRIE 



145 



little fellow went off as merrily as possible, his handsome brush streaming 
behind him, and, though overtaken at once, dodged so cleverly that dog 
after dog shot by him. I do not think that a single dog could have killed 
him. 

Coursing is the sport of all sports for ranchmen, now that big animals 
are growing scarce ; and certainly there can be no healthier or more excit- 
ing pastime than that of following game with horse and hound over the 
great Western plains. 




OUR CAMP. 




MOUNTAIN LIONS AT THE DEER CACHE. 



THE WAPITI, OR ROUND-HORNED ELK 




OUR ELK OUTFIT AT THE FORD. 




X 

The Wapiti, or Round- Horxed Elk 



HIS stately and splendid deer, the lordliest of its kind throughout 
the world, is now fast vanishing. In our own neighborhood it is 
already almost a thing of the past. But a small band yet lingers round 
a great tract of prairie and Bad Lands some thirty-five miles from 
the ranch house. 

One fall I killed a good bull out of the lot, I was hunting on 
horseback, and roused the elk out of a deep, narrow coulee, heavily tim- 
bered, where he was lying by himself He went straight up the steep side 
directly opposite to where I stood, for I had leaped off my horse when I 
heard the crash of the underbrush. When on a level with me, he halted 
and turned half round to gaze at me across the ravine, and then I shot him. 
The next season, when we were sorely in need of meat for smoking and 
drying, we went after these elk again. At the time most of the ponies 
were off on one of the round-ups, which indeed I had myself just left. 
However, my two hunting-horses, Manitou and Sorrel Joe, were at home. 
The former I rode myself, and on the latter I mounted one of my men who 
was a particularly good hand at finding and following game. With much 
difficulty we got together a scrub wagon team of four as unkempt, dejected, 
and vicious-looking broncos as ever stuck fast in a quicksand or balked in 
pulling up a steep pitch. Their driver was a crack whip, and their load 
light, consisting of little but the tent and the bedding ; so we got out to 
the hunting-ground and back in safety; but as the river was high and the 
horses were weak, we came within an ace of being swamped at one cross- 
ing, and the country was so very rough that we were only able to get the 
wagon up the worst pitch by hauling from the saddle v/ith the riding- 
animals. 

We camped by an excellent spring of cold, clear water — not a common 
luxury in the Bad Lands. We pitched the tent beside it, getting enough 
timber from a grove of ash to make a large fire, which again is an appre- 

-3 147 



148 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



ciated blessiiii;- on the plains of the West, where we often need to carry 
along with us the wood for cooking our supper and breakfast, and some- 
times actually have to dig up our fuel, making the fire of sage-brush roots, 
eked out with buffalo chips. Though the days were still warm, the nights 
were frosty. Our camp was in a deep valley, bounded by steep hills with 
sloping, grassy sides, one of them marked by a peculiar shelf of rock. The 
country for miles was of this same character, much broken, but everywhere 
passable for horsemen, and with the hills rounded and grassy, except now 
and then for a chain of red scoria buttes or an isolated sugar-loaf cone of 
gray and brown clay. The first day we spent in trying to find the proba- 
ble locality of our game ; and after beating pretty thoroughly over the 
smoother country, towards nightfall we found quite fresh elk tracks leading 
into a stretch of very rough and broken land about ten miles from camp. 

We started next morning before the gray was relieved by the first faint 
flush of pink, and reached the broken country soon after sunrise. Here 
we dismounted and picketed our horses, as the ground we were to hunt 
through was very rough. Two or three hours passed before we came upon 
fresh signs of elk. Then we found the trails that two, from the size presum- 
ably cows, had made the preceding night, and started to follow them, care- 
fully and noiselessly, my companion taking one side of the valley in which 
we were and I the other. The tracks led into one of the wildest and most 
desolate parts of the Bad Lands. It was now the heat of the day, the 
brazen sun shining out of a cloudless sky, and not the least breeze stirring. 
At the bottom of the valley, in the deep, narrow bed of the winding 
water-course, lay a few tepid little pools, almost dried up. Thick groves 
of stunted cedars stood here and there in the glen-like pockets of the high 
buttes, the peaks and sides of which were bare, and only their lower, 
terrace-like ledges thinly clad with coarse, withered grass and sprawling 
sage-brush ; the parched hill-sides were riven by deep, twisted gorges, with 
brushwood in the bottoms; and the cliffs of coarse clay were cleft and 
seamed by sheer-sided, caiion-like gullies. In the narrow ravines, closed 
in by barren, sun-baked walls, the hot air stood still and sultry ; the only 
living- beinofs were the rattlesnakes, and of these I have never elsewhere 
seen so many. Some basked in the sun, stretched out at their ugly length 
of mottled brown and yellow ; others lay half under stones or twined in the 
roots of the sage-brush, and looked straight at me with that strange, sullen, 
evil gaze, never shifting or moving, that is the property only of serpents 
and of certain men ; while one or two coiled and rattled menacingly as I 
stepped near. 

Yet, though we walked as quietly as we could, the game must have 



THE WAPITI, OR ROUND- HORNED ELK l^n 

heard or smelt us ; for after a mile's painstaking search we came to a 
dense thicket in which were two beds, evidently but just left, for the t\vi<->-s 
and bent grass-blades were still slowly rising from the ground to which 
the bodies of the elk had pressed them. The long, clean hoof-prints told 
us that the quarry had started off at a swinging trot. We followed at once, 
and it was wonderful to see how such large, heavy beasts had gone up the 
steepest hill-sides without altering their swift and easy gait, and had 
plunged unhesitatingly over nearly sheer cliffs down which we had to 
clamber with careful slowness. 

They left the strip of rugged Bad Lands and went on into the smoother 
country beyond, luckily passing quite close to where our horses were 
picketed. We thought it likely that they would halt in some heavily tim- 
bered coulees six or seven miles off; and as there was no need of hurry, 
we took lunch and then began following them up — an easy feat, as 
their hoofs had sunk deep into the soft soil, the prints of the dew-claws 
showing now and then. At first we rode, but soon dismounted, and led 
our horses. 

We found the elk almost as soon as we struck the border of the ground 
we had marked as their probable halting-place. Our horses were unshod, 
and made but little noise ; and coming to a wide, long coulee filled with tall 
trees and brushwood, we as usual separated, I going down one side and 
my companion the other. When nearly half-way down he suddenly 
whistled sharply, and I of course at once stood still, with my rifle at the 
ready. Nothing moved, and I glanced at him. He had squatted down 
and was gazing earnestly over into the dense laurel on my side of the 
coulee. In a minute he shouted that he saw a red patch in the brush 
which he thought must be the elk, and that it was right between him and 
myself Elk will sometimes lie as closely as rabbits, even when not in 
very good cover ; still I was a little surprised at these not breaking out 
when they heard human voices. However, there they staid ; and I waited 
several minutes in vain for them to move. From where I stood it was 
impossible to see them, and I was fearful that they might go off down the 
valley and so offer me a very poor shot. Meanwhile, Manitou, who is not 
an emotional horse, and is moreover blessed with a large appetite, was feed- 
ing greedily, rattling his bridle-chains at every mouthful ; and I thought 
that he would act as a guard to keep the elk where they were until I 
shifted my position. So I slipped back, and ran swiftly round the head 
of the coulee to where my companion was still sitting. He pointed me 
out the patch of red in the bushes, not sixty yards distant, and I fired into 
it without delay, by good luck breaking the neck of a cow elk, when imme- 



15^ 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



diately another one rose up from beside it and made off. I had five 
shots at her as she ascended the liiU-side and the gentle slope beyond; 
and two of my bullets struck her close together in the flank, ranging for- 
ward — a very fatal shot. She was evidently mortally hit, and just as she 
reached the top of the divide she stopped, reeled, and fell over, dead. 

We were mucli pleased with our luck, as it secured us an ample stock 
of needed fresh meat ; and the two elk lay very handil)-, so that on the fol- 
lowing- day we were able to stop for them with the wagon on our way 
homeward, putting them in bodily, and leaving only the entrails for the 
vultures that were already soaring in great circles over the carcasses.^ 

Much the finest elk antlers I ever got, as a trophy of my owm rifie, 
were from a might)- bull that I killed far to the w^est of my ranch, in the 
eastern chains of the Rockies. I shot him early one morning, while still- 
hunting through the open glades of a great pine forest, where the frosty 
dew was still heavy on the grass. We had listened to him and his fel- 
lows challenging each other all night long. Near by the call of the bulls 
in the rutting season — their "whistling," as the frontiersmen term 
it — sounds harsh and grating; but heard in the depths of their own 
mountain fastnesses, ringing through the frosty night, and echoing across 
the ravines and under the silent archways of the pines, it has a grand, 
musical beauty of its own that makes it, to me, one of the most attractive 
sounds in nature. 

At this season the bulls fight most desperately, and their combats are 
far more often attended with fatal results than is the case wath deer. In 
the grov^ back of my ranch house, when we first took possession, we 
found the skulls of two elk with interlocked antlers ; one was a royal, the 
other had fourteen points. Theirs had been a duel to the death. 

In hunting, whether on the prairie or in the deep w^oods, a m.an ought 
to pay great heed to his surroundings, so as not to get lost. To an old 
hand, getting lost is not so very serious ; because, if he has his rifle and 
some matches, and does not lose his head, the worst that can happen to 
him is having to suffer some temporary discomfort. But a novice is in 
imminent dano^er of losing his wdts, and therefore his life. To a man 

* No naturalist ever described the way vultures gather with more scientific accuracy than 
Longfellow: 



•Never stoops the soaring vulture 
On his quarry in the desert. 
On the sick or wounded bison, 
But another vulture, watching 
From his high aerial looko ., 



Sees the downward plunge, and follows: 
And a third pursues the second, 
Coming from the invisible ether, 
First a speck, and then a vulture, 
Till the air is dark with pinions." 



THE WAPITI, OR ROUND -HORNED ELK 151 

totally unaccustomed to it the sense of utter "loneliness is absolutely 
appalling: the feeling of being lost in the wilderness seems to drive him 
into a state of panic terror that is frightful to behold, and that in the end 
renders him bereft of reason. When he realizes that he is lost he often will 
begin to travel very fast, and finally run until he falls exhausted — only to 
rise again and repeat the process when he has recovered his strength. If 
not found in three or four days, he is very apt to become crazy; he will then 
flee from the rescuers, and must be pursued and captured as if he were a 
wild animal. 

Since 1884, when I went to the Big Horn Mountains, I have killed no 
grizzlies. There are some still left in our neighborhood, but they are very 
shy, and live in such inaccessible places, that, though I have twice devoted 
several days solely to hunting them, I was unsuccessful each time. A 
year ago, however, two cowboys found a bear in the open, and after the 
expenditure of a great number of cartridges killed it with their revolvers, 
the bear charging gamely to the last. 

But this feat sinks into insignificance when compared with the deed of 
General W. H. Jackson, of Bellemeade, Tennessee, who is probably the 
only man living who ever, single-handed, killed a grizzly bear with a 
cavalry saber. It was many years ago, when he was a young officer in 
the United States service. He was with a column of eight companies 
of mounted infantry under the command of Colonel Andrew Porter, when 
by accident a bear was roused and lumbered off in front of them. Put- 
ting spurs to his thoroughbred, he followed the bear, and killed it with 
the saber, in sis^ht of the whole command. 





HERALDING THE SUNRISE. 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 

















y 



y^ t'v- 



A MOUNTAIN HUNTER. 




XI 

The Big -Horn Sheep 



T has happened that I have generally hunted big-horn during weather 
of arctic severity ; so that in my mind this great sheep is inseparably 
associated with snow- clad, desolate wastes, ice-coated crags, and the 
bitter cold of a northern winter ; whereas the sight of a prono--buck, 
the game that we usually hunt early in the season, always recalls to 
me the endless green of the midsummer prairies as they shimmer in 
the sunlight. 

Yet in reality the big-horn is by no means confined to any one 
climatic zone. Along the interminable mountain chains of the Great Divide 
it ranges south to the hot, dry table-lands of middle Mexico, as well as far 
to the northward of the Canadian boundary, among the towerino- and 
tremendous peaks where the glaciers are fed from fields of everlasting 
snow. There exists no animal more hardy, nor any better fitted to grap- 
ple with the extremes of heat and cold. Droughts, scanty pasturage, or 
deep snows make it shift its ground, but never mere variation of tempera- 
ture. The lofty mountains form its favorite abode, but it is almost equally 
at home in any large tract of very rough and broken ground. It is by no 
means an exclusively alpine animal, like the white goat. It is not only 
found throughout the main chains of the Rockies, as well as on the Sierras 
of the south and the coast ranges of western Oregon, Washington, and 
British Columbia, but it also exists to the east among the clusters of 
high hills and the stretches of barren Bad Lands that break the monoto- 
nous level of the great plains. 

Throughout most of its range the big-horn is a partly migratory 
beast. In the summer it seeks the highest mountains, often passing above 
timber-line ; and when the fall snows deepen it comes down to the lower 
spurs or foot-hills, or may even travel some distance southward. If there 
is a large tract of Bad Lands near the mountains, sheep may be plentiful 

-4 ir. 



154 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



in them throughout the severe weather, while in the summer not a single 
individual will be found in its winter haunts, all havino- then retired to the 
high peaks. 

Sometimes big-horn wander widely lor reasons unconnected with the 
weather : all of those in a district may suddenly leave it and perhaps not 
return for several years. Such is often the result of a district being settled, 
or being exposed to incessant hunting. After a certain number of sheep 
have been killed the remainder may all disappear, possibly one or two 
small bands onl)- staying behind ; but it is quite likely that two or three 
vears later the bulk of the vanished host will come back ao^ain. 

But where the region that they inhabit is cut off from the mountains 
by settled districts, or by great stretches of plain and prairie, then the 
sheep that dwell therein can make no such migrations. Thus they live 
all the year round in the Little Missouri Bad Lands ; and though the dif- 
ferent bands wander away and to and fro for scores of miles, especially in 
the fall, — for big-horn are far more restless than deer, — yet they do not 
shift their positions much on account of the season, and are often found in 
precisely the same places both summer and winter. They thus bear with 
indifference exposure to the extremes of heat and cold in a climate where 
the yearly variation reaches the utmost possible limit, the thermometer 
sometimes covering a range of a hundred and seventy degrees in the 
course of twelve months. There are few spots on earth much hotter than 
these Bad Lands during a spell of fierce summer weather, and, unlike the 
deer, the sheep cannot seek the shade of the dense thickets. In the glare 
of midday the naked angular hills yield no shelter whatever; the barren 
ravines between them turn into ovens beneath the brazen sun. The still, 
lifeless, burning air stifles those who breathe it, while the parched and 
heat-cracked canon walls are intolerable to the touch. 

But though the mountain sheep can stand this, and in fact do so with 
even less protection than the deer, yet they certainly dislike it more than 
do the latter. If mountains are near, they go up them far sooner and far 
higher than the deer. On the other hand, they bear the winter blizzards 
much better, caring less for shelter, and keeping their strength pretty well. 
Ordinarily when in the Bad Lands they do not shift their ground save to 
get on the lee side of the cliffs, though the deep snows of course drive 
them from the mountains. A very heavy fall of snow^ if they are high up 
on the hills, occasionally forces a band to enter the evergreen woods 
and make a regular yard, as deer do, beneath the overhanging cover-giv- 
ing branches ; then they subsist on the scanty browse until they can get 
back to pasture lands. But this is rare. Generally they stay in the 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 



155 



Open, and bid defiance to the elements ; yet, like other game, they often 
seem to have the knack of foretelling any storm or cold spell of unusual 
severity and length. On the eve of such a storm they frequently retreat 
to some secure haven of refuge. This may be a nook or cranny in the 
rocks, or merely a slight hollow to leeward of a little grove of stunted 
pines ; and there the band may have to stay without food for several days, 
until the storm is over. Occasionally they succumb to the deep snow ; but 
if they have any kind of chance for their lives, this happens less often than 
with either deer or antelope. 

The big-horn, or cimarron sheep, as the Mexicans call it, is the sole 
American representative of the different kinds of mountain sheep that are 
found in the Old World. It is fourfold the weight of the Mediterranean 
moufflon. Its nearest relative, from which it is with difficulty distinguished, 
is the huge argali, three or four varieties — some say species — of which 
are to be found in the high lands of central Asia. The American and 
Asiatic animals seem to grade into one another as regards size ; the 
north Asiatic argali is said to be no larger than the big-horn, but the giant 
Himalayan sheep, or nyan, averages heavier, both in body and horns, and 
especially in length of legs. The horns of the argali have more outward 
twist. The largest big-horn of which I have ever been able to get authentic 
record was one killed in Montana by a ranch friend of mine, and care- 
fully weighed and measured at the time. At the shoulder he stood just 
three feet eight inches; he weighed very nearly four hundred pounds; and 
his single unbroken horn was in girth nineteen inches, and in length along 
the curve forty-two. But such a ram is a giant. The largest I have 
myself shot I had no means of weighing: it was just after the rutting 
season, and he was as gaunt as a greyhound. At the shoulder he stood 
three feet five inches ; and his horns, which were thick for their length, 
were in girth sixteen and a half inches, and in length thirty. The 
nyan of Thibet, on the other hand, stands four feet high ; and exceptional 
rams have horns twenty-three inches round the base and upwards of fifty 
in length, while the average full-grown one will perhaps have them seven- 
teen inches by thirty-eight. The nyan thus certainly stands before the 
big-horn, although even among full-grown animals many heads of the latter 
would be above the average of the former. The difference in the habits 
of the two animals is very marked, for according to the English sports- 
men the nyan keeps exclusively to the high, open plains, or barren, gently 
sloping hills ; whereas the big-horn, like the Old World ibex, is a beast of 
the crags and precipices, and though sometimes venturing into the level 
country, yet at the first alarm It invariably dashes for the broken ground. 



156 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

Our American mountain sheep usually go in bands of from fifteen to 
thirt)- indivieluals, occasionall)- of many more ; while often small parties of 
two or three will sta)- b)- themselves. In the winter, or sometimes not 
until the early spring, the old rams separate. The oldest and finest are 
often found entirely alone, retiring- to the most inaccessible solitudes ; the 
\ ounger ones keep in little flocks of perhaps half a dozen or so. The 
main band then consists only of the ewes, the yearlings, and now and 
then a two-year-old ; and this also is soon broken up, leaving merely the 
yearlings and the barren ewes, for about the middle of May the ewes that 
are heavy with young leave the rest, each by herself Like the old rams, 
they now seek the most inaccessible and far-off places — high up the 
mountains, if possible ; otherwise, in the barren and unfrequented portions 
ot the Bad Lands, where the steep hills and abrupt valleys are twisted 
into a mere tangle of precipitous crests and canons. Here the ewe 
makes her lying-in bed — oval in shape, like that of a prong-horn or 
black-tail doe, but made by pawing out, or perhaps merely wearing out, 
a slight hollow in the bare soil ; whereas the doe crushes down with her 
weight the long grass of the prairie or thicket. This bed is usually made 
on the ledge of a cliff, on the side where there is most shelter from the 
prevailing winds ; perhaps it is beneath a great rock or clay bowlder, 
with not so much as a blade of grass around, or it may be partly screened 
by a few wind-beaten sage-bushes. Generally only one, but sometimes 
two, young are brought forth at a birth. The young lamb matches his 
surroundings wonderfully in color, and the ewe is very careful in going to 
him to be sure that she is unobserved. For the first day or two the lamb 
trusts for his safety solely to not being seen by the beasts and birds of 
prey. He crouches flat down, like an antelope fawn, and it is next to 
impossible for human eyes to discover him save by accident. Once only 
I stumbled across a newly born lamb. It was about the first of June, and 
I found him lying by the bed of the mother as I was going along a ledge, 
scantily covered with sage brush, in the heart of some high, wild hills, 
about fifteen miles from my ranch. The little fellow was too young to 
show much alarm when I handled and petted him and with much difii- 
culty persuaded him to stand up on his helplessly weak and awkward 
little legs. The mother was about two hundred yards distant, and was 
greatly frightened when I drew near her offspring ; she hung about in 
the distance for a short time and then dashed off. However, she must 
have returned when I left; for two or three days later, when from curi- 
osity I came back, the little fellow was gone. 

When the young are able to clamber about for short distances almost 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 157 

as well as the old, then the nursing ewes and their lambs rejoin the band, 
some time in July. The band now keeps in the neighborhood of water and 
where the feed is good — comparatively good, at least, for the scanty 
pasturage that grows on the mountains and barren hills haunted by the 
sheep would hardly please more luxury-loving animals. The flocks of 
ewes and lambs are at this time quite easily discovered, but of course no 
man but a game butcher would dream of molesting them. In September 
the young rams begin to join them, and soon afterwards the old patriarchs 
likewise come down from their remote fastnesses. 

The rams now fight desperately among themselves for the possession 
of the ewes, rushing together with a shock that would shatter their skulls 
were they less strong; while the battered horns, with splintered ends, 
bear witness to the violence of the contests. These contests are free from 
one danger, however; the horns do not get interlocked, and thus cause 
the death of both combatants. This is not only a common accident 
among deer and elk, but it even happens to antelope ; I knew of one 
instance where two prong-horn bucks, who had evidently been battling 
for a doe, were found dead, side by side, partly eaten by the coyotes. 
The right horn of one and the left horn of the other had become locked 
together so firmly, thanks to the prong and the hook at the end, that they 
could not be drawn apart, and the two beasts had died miserably in con- 
sequence. Each herd has some acknowledged master ram, but he may 
tolerate the presence of three or four others of lesser degree, together 
with the ewes, lambs, and yearlings that go to make up the rest of the 
flock ; or else, if a cross old fellow, the master ram may turn out all the 
others, or may content himself with a little bunch of merely three or four 
ewes. So that even at this season several young rams may be found by 
themselves ; or a morose old veteran, time-worn and battle-scarred, may 
keep entirely alone. As soon as the rutting season is over many of these 
exiles rejoin the band ; and at this time, when the rams are of course in 
very poor condition, they are all apt to come down on the levels more 
boldly than at any other season, to get at the good grass, although even 
now rarely venturing very far from the hills. While thus on the edges 
of the plains, their natural wariness seems to increase tenfold. 

But at all times their habits are very variable ; for they are restless, 
wandering beasts, with something whimsical in their tempers, and given 
at times to queer freaks. If the fit seize them, and especially if they have 
been alarmed or annoyed, they may at any time leave their accustomed 
dwelling-places, or act in a manner absolutely contrary to their usual 
conduct. About noon one hot midsummer day, three great rams crossed 



I-S RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAH. 

the river just below our ranch, stopping- to drink, and spending some time 
on the sand-bars, occasionally playfully butting at each other. They 
trotted oft' before they could be stalked. To get down to the river they 
had to pass over a level plain half a mile wide ; and once across, they went 
through a dense wood choked with underbrush for nearly half a mile 
more before again coming to the steep bluffs. On another occasion, in 
the rutting season, one of my cowboys encountered a mountain-ram cross- 
ing a broad, level river-bottom at midday. Occasionally a ram will join a 
Bock of ewes, or a ewe and a yearling, in the spring. Tw^o or three times 
I have known them to come boldly up to the blufts that overlook and 
skirt a little frontier town, and there to stay grazing or resting for several 
hours ; but they always made off in plenty of time to avoid the hunters 
who finally went after them. Once 1 shot one within a few hundred yards 
of my ranch house. I was returning home, weary and unsuccessful, after 
a long day's tramp over hills where black-tail usually were common. 
When nearly home I struck into a w^ell-beaten cattle-trail, leading down 
a deep, narrow ravine w4iich cleft in two a knot of jagged hills ; it was a 
favorite range for our horses, and so w^as frequently ridden over by the 
cowboys. On turning round a corner of the ravine, a sudden snort to one 
side and above me made me hastily look up, shifting my rifle from my 
shoulder. On my right the sheer w^all of clay rose up without a break for 
perhaps two hundred feet or so, its thin, notched crest showing against 
the sky-line as sharply as if cut with a knife; and on a little jutting pin- 
nacle w^as perched a mountain sheep, its four hoofs all together on a space 
no larger than the palms of a man's hands. It was facing me and staring 
down at me, so that the bullet went right into its chest, splitting its heart 
fairly open. Yet it did not fall forward over the cliff, but wheeled on its 
haunches and w^ent along the crest at a mad, plunging gallop, finally 
crossing out of sight. Almost as soon as it disappeared a column of 
dust rose from the other side of the ridge, making me think that it had 
fallen some distance, striking hard on the dry clay. The guess was a 
good one, and when, after a long circle and some climbing, I reached the 
spot, I found a fine young barren ewe lying dead at the foot of a high 
cut bank. 

But all such instances as these are wholly exceptional, and are chiefly 
interesting as showing that mountain sheep act more erratically and less 
according to rule than do most other kinds of game. They seem to have 
fits of restless waywardness, or even of panic curiosity ; and so at times 
wander into unlooked-for places, or betray a sudden heedlessness of dan- 
gers against which they on ordinary occasions carefully guard. This last 



THE BIG-HORx\ SHEEP 1 59 

freak, however, is generally shown onl)- in very wild localities or among 
young animals. Where hunters are scarce or almost unknown, all wild 
animals are very bold. I have seen deer in remote forests, and even in 
little-hunted localities near my ranch, so tame that they would stand look- 
ing at the hunter within fifty yards for several minutes before taking 
flight. Mountain sheep under similar circumstances show a lordly dis- 
regard for the human intruder, leaving his presence at a leisurely gait, in 
strong contrast to the mad gallop of their more sophisticated brethren 
when alarmed. 

In fact, much of the wariness among beasts of chase, as well as much 
of the courage shown by the more ferocious, depends upon the degree in 
which they have been harried by hunters, although much also depends 
upon the character of the species. European game is thus generally 
wilder than American ; but no animal could be more difficult to approach 
than a Maine moose. The deer of the Adirondacks and Alleghanies are 
almost as wary, and in those parts of the Rockies where they have been 
much molested, big-horn are as shy as the chamois of the Alps, or the ibex 
of the Pyrenees. So the sloth bear and leopard of India are now much 
more vicious and dangerous to man than are the black bear and cougar of 
the United States, simply because of the different race of human beings 
by whom they are surrounded. 

No animal seems to have been more changed by domestication than 
the sheep. The timid, helpless, fleecy idiot of the folds, the most foolish 
of all tame animals, has hardly a trait in common with his self-reliant wild 
relative who combines the horns of a sheep with the hide of a deer, whose 
home is in the rocks and the mountains, and who is so abundantly able to 
take care of himself Wild sheep are as good mountaineers as wild goats, 
or as mountain antelopes, and are to the full as wary and intelligent. 

A very short experience with the rifle-bearing portion of mankind 
changes the big-horn into a quarry whose successful chase taxes to the 
utmost the skill alike of still-hunter and of mountaineer. A solitary old 
ram seems to be ever on the watch. His favorite resting-place is a shelf 
or terrace-end high up on some cliff, from whence he can see far and wide 
over the country round about. The least sound — the rattle of a loose 
stone, a cough, even a heavy footfall on hard earth — attracts his atten- 
tion, making him at once clamber up on some peak to try for a glimpse 
of the danger. His eyes catch the slightest movement. His nose is as 
keen as an elk's, and gives him surer warning than any other sense ; the 
slightest taint in the air produces immediate flight in the direction away 
from the danger. But there is one compensation, from the hunter's stand- 



l5o RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

point, for his wonderfully developed smelling powers ; he lives in such 
very broken country that the currents of air often go over his head, so 
that it is at times possible to hunt him almost down wind. 

A band of sheep is, if anything, even more difficult to approach than 
is a single ram ; but, on the other hand, it is far easier to get on the track 
of and to find out, as there are always some young members guilty of 
indiscretions. All oi the flock are ever on the lookout. While the others 
are grazing there is always at least one with its head up ; and occasion- 
ally a particularly watchful ewe will jump up on some bowlder, or at least 
stand with her fore-legs against its side, so as to get a wider view. Any 
unexplained sight or sound is announced to the rest of the herd by a kind 
of hissing snort, or sometimes by a stamp of the forefoot on the ground. 
If the intruder is either smelt or seen, the whole herd instantly break 
into the strong but not particularly swift gallop which distinguishes the 
species, and go straight away from the danger towards the roughest 
ground that they can reach. If, however, only alarmed by a sound, or if 
the suspicious object is some distance off, the animals often run together 
into a bunch and stand gazing in its direction for a few seconds prior to 
making off Among cliffs and precipices the echoes are so confusing that 
if the hunter keeps out of sight the herd occasionally become utterly 
bewildered by the firing, and, as a result, spend several fatal minutes in a 
futile runninof to and fro, uncertain what course will take them out of dan- 
ger. One day my cousin. West Roosevelt, after a long and careful stalk, 
got close up to three sheep in a very deep and narrow ravine ; and 
althoueh, owinof to their beinor almost underneath him, he at first over- 
shot, yet all three of the startled and panic-struck animals were killed 
before the}- recovered their wits sufficiently to run out of range. 

But a chance like this may not happen once in a hunter's lifetime. 
Of all American game, this is the one in whose pursuit the successful 
hunter needs to show most skill, hardihood, and resolution. On ordinary 
occasions a big-horn, when menaced by danger, flees beyond its reach 
with instant decision and headlong speed, disappearing with incredible 
rapidity over ground where it needs an expert cragsman to so much as 
follow at a walk. Its wonderful feats of climbing have, as with the 
chamois and ibex of the Old World, given rise to many fables, the most 
widespread being the belief that the rams, in plunging down precipices, 
alight on their horns. So the chamois was said to hang over ledges by 
means of its short, hooked horns, and when cornered on the edge of a 
sheer precipice, where there was no escape from the hunter, of its own 
accord to thrust its body acrainst his outstretched knife — as we read 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 



l6l 



and see pictured in the German hunting-books of two or three centuries 
ago, such as the quaint old " Adeliche Weidwerke." 

The mountain sheep of America, when the choice is open to them, 




SHOT ! 



actually seem to prefer regions as wild and rugged as they are sterile. 
The tufts of grass between the rocks, the scanty blades that grow on the 
clay buttes, suffice for their wants, and the amount of climbing necessary 
to get at them is literally a matter of indifference to beasts whose muscles 
are like whipcord and whose tendons are like steel. A big-horn is a mar- 
velous leaper, perhaps even better when the jump is perpendicular than 
when it is horizontal. His poise is perfect; his eye and foot work 
together with unerring accuracy. One will unhesitatingly bound or drop 
a dozen feet on to a little rock pinnacle where there is scarce a hand's 
breadth on which to stand. The presence of the tiniest cracks in the 
otherwise smooth surface of a sheer rock wall enables a mountain sheep 
to go up it with ease. The proud, lordly bearing of an old ram makes 
him look exactly what he is, one of the noblest of game animals ; his port 
is the same whether at rest or in motion. Except when very badly fright- 
ened, his movements are all made with a certain self-confident absence of 
hurry, as if he were conscious of a vast reserve power of strength and 
activity on which to draw at need. As a mountaineer he is the embodi- 
25 



1 62 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

ment of elastic, sinewy strength and self-command rather than of mere 
nervous agility. He hardly ever makes a mistake, even when rushing at 
speed over the slipper)-, ice-coated crags in winter. 

The most difficult of all climbine is to eo over rocks when the ice has 
filled up all the chinks and crannies, and the flat slabs are glassy in their 
hard smoothness. A black-tail buck is no mean climber ; yet under such 
circumstances I have seen one lose his footing and tumble head over 
heels, scraping great handfuls of hair off his hide ; but I have never 
known a big-horn to make a misstep. This is undoubtedly largely owing 
to the difference between the two animals in the structure of their feet. 
A sheep's hoof is an elastic pad, only the rims and the toe-points being 
hard, and it thus gets a good grip on the slightest projection, or on any 
little roughness in the rock. The tracks are very different from deer 
tracks, being nearly square in form, instead of heart-shaped, the prints 
of the toes rather deep and wide apart, even when the animal has been 
walking. 

A band of sheep will often seem to court certain death by plunging 
off the brink of what looks like a perpendicular cliff, where there is not a 
ledge or a crack yielding foot-hold. In such cases, if the cliff is high, it 
will be found on examination that it is not quite perpendicular, and that 
the sheep, in making the fearful descent, from time to time touch or strike 
the cliff with their hoofs, thus going down in long bounds, keeping their 
poise all the time. The final bound is often made almost head first, as if 
they were diving. 

Narrow ledges, overlooking an abyss the fathomless depths of which 
would make even a trained cragsman giddy, are very favorite resorts. 
So are the crests of the ridges themselves. If in any patch of Bad Lands 
there is an unusually high chain of steep, bare clay buttes, mountain sheep 
are sure to select their tops as a regular parade-ground. After a rain the 
clay takes their hoof-prints as clearly as if it were sealing-wax, and all 
along the top of the crest they beat out a regular walk from one end to the 
other, with occasional little side-paths leading out to some overhanging 
shoulder or jutting spur, from whence there is a good view of the sur- 
rounding country. 

Generally the band is led by a ewe ; but in a case of immediate and 
pressing danger the ram assumes the headship. Aside from man, moun- 
tain sheep have fewer foes than most other game. Bears are too 
clumsy to catch them ; and lynx and fox, inveterate enemies of fawns, 
rarely get up to the high, breezy nurseries of the young lambs. Wolves 
and cougars, however, harass them greatly. A wolf will not attack an old 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 



163 



ram if he can help it, but sneaks after the ewes and lambs, waiting until 
they get on somewhat level ground, and then running one down by sheer 
speed before it can take refuge among the secure fastnesses of the 
precipices. 

The cougar relies on stealth, not on speed, and gets his game either b)- 
fair stalking or else by lying in wait. Sometimes he can creep up to a 
band while they are taking their siesta ; but generally they keep too sharp 
a lookout, and he has to approach them while they are feeding, or when 
they have come down to drink. Some fifteen miles from my ranch is a 
tract of very rough country, the sides of the hills falling off into precipices 
or into dark, cedar- clad gorges. This was a favorite resort of mountain 
sheep ; but one spring a couple of cougars took up their abode in the neigh- 
borhood, and soon killed several of the sheep and drove the others away. 
Judging by the tracks and by the position of the carcasses, they must have 
done the killing in the morning and evening, creeping up to the doomed 
animals as they fed on the lower slopes, or lurking round the spring-holes 
and little alkali pools where they drank. The great war eagle is one of 
the worst enemies of the young lambs. 

In the rutting season a ram will make a good fight if he has any chance 
at all, and at that time is very bold and pugnacious. If followed by a 
dog he will frequently decline to run, turning to bay at once. One hunter 
whom I knew killed several in this way by the aid of a collie. Of course 
it cannot be done when once the sheep have begun to realize that the dog 
is merely an ally of the man, for they then look out for the latter. 

Sheep are easily tamed, if taken young, and make amusing pets. A 
friend in Helena, Montana, once owned a tame ram. When young he was 
a great favorite. He was an inquisitive, mischievous creature, of marvel- 
ous activity. It was impossible to keep him out of the garden. A single 
hop would carry him over the high fence ; if an inmate of the house came 
to the rescue, another hop carried the intruder once more into outside 
safety, and a third took him back again the second the rescuer had 
turned around. Whenever he got the chance he would pull down the 
clothes that had been hung up to dry. When he could get inside the 
house he was fond of walking on the mantel-piece. He was the terror of 
the Chinese cook, whom he soon discovered to be afraid of him, and 
would lie in wait outside the kitchen door so as to butt him when he 
appeared. This was at first done in mere playfulness ; but as he grew 
older he became morose and quarrelsome, and had to be disposed of 

It is impossible to hunt big-horn successfully without some knowledge 
of their habits. They go down to drink in the very late evening, or some- 



1 64 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

times in the gra\- of the morning ; when the moon is full they may not 
go to the water until long after nightfall. Generally they drink later than 
any other game ; but all game vary their habits now and then in this 
regard. The prong-buck, though diurnal, sometimes comes to a water- 
ing-hole during the night ; and 1 have once or twice seen both deer and 
sheep drinking at midday. 

In ordinary weather they begin to feed early in the morning, and when 
the sun has risen some little distance above the horizon they start to graze 
their wa}' slowly up to the high spur or ridge crest where they intend to 
lie during the day. Here they stay until well on in the afternoon, and then 
again descend to their feeding-grounds on the lower slopes. In very cold 
weather, however, they are apt to be found grazing at midday. A raging 
snow blizzard may keep them lying close under cover for three days at a 
time : they naturally get ravenous, and when there is a lull, or especially 
if it is succeeded by a short spell of good weather, they come hastily out to 
feed, no matter what the time of day may be. 

As with almost all game except antelope, they can be best hunted 
in the morning and evening ; but, unlike deer, they can also be followed 
throughout the day, for whereas elk, black-tail, and white-tail have then all 
alike retired to the thickets, the big-horn take their noontide rest lying out 
in plain view. If the hunter means to catch them feeding he should 
make a very early start. A good pair of field-glasses is of great service, 
for the two essential requisites to success are the capacity to take long 
walks over rough ground and painstaking care in scanning the country 
far and wide, so as to see the game before it sees the hunter. There 
is then a chance to stalk up close, the broken ground frequently yielding 
good cover. 

Often it may be necessary to lie for hours carefully concealed, watch- 
ing a flock that is in an unfavorable position, and waiting until it shifts 
its ground. This is not very comfortable on a cold day in November or 
December, the months in which I have usually hunted big-horn, devoting 
the early fall to the chase of elk and deer. But it is often the only way 
to secure success : patience and perseverance are two of the still-hunter's 
cardinal virtues. Personally I have always owed whatever success I have 
had to dogged perseverance and patient persistence, and on a lamentably 
large number of occasions have had to draw heavily on these qualities to 
make good a lack of skill, sometimes with the rifle, sometimes in moun- 
taineering. Among many hunting trips I can recall not a few where 
willingness to lie still two or three hours under trying circumstances in 
the end got me the game; and one such instance may serve as a sample 
of the rest. 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 165 

I was staying at the line camp of two of my cowboys, a small dug-out 
in the side of a butte that marked the edge of the Bad Lands, the rolling 
prairie coming up to its base. The quarters were cramped for three men, 
an entire side of the little hut being filled by the two bunks in which we 
slept, — I in the upper, my two companions in the lower, — while the fire- 
place occupied one end, the mess-box served as a table, and the earth- 
covered roof of logs was so low that we could hardly stand upright. Win- 
dow there was none ; but it was snug, and, for a line camp, clean. There 
was plenty of fire-wood, and, for a wonder, the chimney did not smoke ; so 
we were comfortable enough. The butte itself served for three out of the 
four walls. No other building is so warm as a dug-out, and in the terrible 
winter weather of Dakota and Montana warmth is the one thing for which 
all else must be sacrificed.* 

In such high latitudes the December sun rises late. Long before day- 
break we had finished our breakfast of bread, beans, and coffee. The two 
cowboys had saddled their shaggy ponies — which had spent the night in 
the rough log stable — and had ridden off in opposite directions along 
their lonely beat, muffled in their wolf-skin overcoats and heavy shaps ; 
while I strode off on foot towards the high hills that lay riverward, my 
rifle on my shoulder and my fur cap pulled down well over my ears. 

The cold was biting, for even at noon the sun had not power to thaw 
the frozen ground. But there was very little snow ; just enough to powder 
the hills and to lie in patches in the hollows. I walked rapidly up a long 
coulee, then climbed up a steep rounded hill and followed the divide back 
into the heart of the Bad Lands. By the time I was on my chosen hunting- 
grounds the sun had topped the horizon behind me, and his level rays lit 
up the peaks and crests. 

The next hour was spent in hard climbing and incessant watchfulness. 
The hills lay in isolated masses. I clambered painfully up their slippery 
sides, creeping along the narrow icy ledges that ran across the faces of the 
cliffs, and cautiously working my way over the smooth shoulders. From 
behind every ridge and spur I carefully examined the opposite hill-sides, 
using the field-glasses if there was scope for them. Sheep, standing still or 
lying down, are often very hard to see, their coats assimilating curiously 
with the neutral-tinted cliffs and bowlders ; but against snow they of course 
stand out much more distinctly. 

At last, as I lay peeping over the ragged crest of a clay butte, I made 
out a small dark object half way up a steep slope some six hundred yards 

* I have camped out when the thermometer showed 65 degrees of frost: not — 65°, as I see I 
once put it by a mistake in copying my rough field-notes. 



1 66 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUxNTING -TRAIL 

down the valley ; and another look showed me that it was a ram feeding 
leisurely up the hill-side. The wind was good for a direct approach. 1 
<JOt off the butte by carefully letting myself down from one little ledge or 
niche to another, and started along the valley towards the ram, only to 
tind ni)- way barred by a deep chasm whose straight, ice-coated sides 
yawned too far apart to permit of any attempt at crossing. There was no 
help for it but laboriously to retrace my steps and make my way round its 
head with what speed I could. This I did, the work making me thor- 
oughly warm for the first time that morning. Once across the walking- 
was better, and 1 went down the valley-side at a good pace, until I came 
to a shoulder some two hundred yards from where I had seen the sheep. 
I was a good deal higher than where he had stood ; but in the time I 
had been out of sight of him he must have gone up the hill quite a dis- 
tance, for when I looked round the shoulder I saw him about as far off 
as I expected, but above instead of below me. Slow though my move- 
ments had been when I cautiously looked round the edge, they had not 
escaped his quick eye ; for when I made him out he was standing motion- 
less, gazing in my direction. Before I could raise my rifle he gave a great 
jump sideways and galloped off, disappearing instantly behind a huge 
mass of detached sandstone, and I never saw him again. 

A little chagrined at my fruitless stalk I plodded on, doing much hard 
climbing but seeing no signs of game until nearly midday. Then in the 
snow at the head of a coulee I came across the tracks of a band evidently 
made that morning while returning from the feeding-grounds. I followed 
them until I became convinced that the animals had gone to a great table- 
land or plateau that I could see a good way ahead ; then, as the wind was 
behind me, I struck off to one side, made a circle through some very 
rough country, and clambered out along the knife-like crests of a line of 
high hills separated from the plateau by a broad valley. Every hundred 
paces or so I would stop and examine the country far and near with the 
glasses ; often I had to crawl on all-fours to avoid appearing against the 
sky-line on the ridge. 

At last I caught sight of the band. There were some fifteen or twenty 
of them, and they were lying at the point of a spur that was thrust out 
from the plateau, nearly opposite to me and half a mile off They were in 
a position which it was impossible to approach within six hundred yards 
without being observed, for they could see over the level plateau behind 
them, and from the brink of the lofty cliff on which they lay they looked 
up, down, and across the wild, deep valley beneath. 

With the glasses I could make out that there was no good head 



THE BKi-HORN SHEEP 167 

among them ; but I was out for meat rather than for sport. They were 
very watchful, ever on the lookout ; and as the afternoon wore on one of 
the more restless would now and then get up, walk off a few steps, or 
stand gazing intently into the far distance. There was nothing for me to 
do except to wait until they grew hungry and shifted their position to 
some place which there was a chance of my approaching unseen. So for 
three hours I lay on the iron ground, under the lee of a bowlder that but 
partly shielded me from the wind, munching the strip of jerked venison I 
had carried in my pocket, and peeping at the sheep through a tuft of 
tall, coarse grass that grew on top of the ridge. 

At last, when it wanted but little more than an hour of sunset, the 
sheep all got on their legs, one after another, and, led by an old ewe, 
began to descend into the valley. They went down the cliff by a sort of 
break or slide, hopping dexterously from rock to rock. On coming to the 
steep slope at its foot they struck into a trot, which merged into a fast 
gallop as they got nearly down. I feared that they would stop before 
coming to the canon at the bottom of the valley ; but they did not, cross- 
ing it without hesitation, for all its sheer-sided and slippery depth, and 
continuing their course towards the end of the chain of hills on which I 
was, where they halted to graze, after going up nearly to the top. It 
was excellent ground for a stalk. The ridge went down to the left in the 
steep, grassy slopes on which they were feeding, while on the right it 
broke abruptly off into a precipice, with a narrow ledge high up along 
its face. 

This ledge made the approach an easy one. The only difficult places 
were those where the ledge was interrupted, and I had either cautiously 
to make my way along the face of the cliff, — a very unpleasant task, as 
the slight hollows or knobs which served me as foot-holds were slip- 
pery with ice, the risk of a fall being thus enormously increased, — or else 
was forced to go to the top, and, sprawling flat on the smooth slope, drag 
myself along just to one side of the ridge. I had marked the position of 
the game by a dwarfed cedar that grew in a crevice on the very crest. It 
gave excellent cover, and on reaching it and peering out through the 
branches, I saw the sheep scattered out only some sixty yards below me, 
and, choosing out a fine young ram, I fired, breaking both shoulders. 
They all rushed together, and then without an instant's pause raced madly 
down the hill-side, neither of the two bullets that I sent after them taking 
effect. I had no time to lose ; so I dressed the ram hastily, tilted him up 
so that the blood would run out, and left him to be called for with the 
pony next day. Then I made the best use of the waning light to get 



1 68 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

to a long divide, furrowed by many buffalo trails, which I knew I could 
ibllow even when it grew dark, and which came out on the prairie not 
very far to one side of the line camp. 

The day on which I was lucky enough to shoot my largest and hnest 
ram was memorable in more ways than one. The shot was one of the 
best I ever made, — albeit the element of chance doubtless entered into it 
tar more largely than the element of skill, — and in coming home from the 
hunt I got quite badly frozen. 

The da)- before we had come back from a week's trip after deer ; for 
we were laying in the winter stock of meat. We had been camped far 
down the river, and had intended to take two days on the return trip, as 
the wagon was rather heavily loaded, for we had killed eight deer. The 
morning we broke camp was so mild that I did not put on my heaviest 
winter clothing, starting off in the same that I had worn during the past 
few days' still-hunting among the hills. Before we had been gone an 
hour, however, the sky grew overcast and the wind began to blow from 
the north with constantly increasing vigor. The sky grew steadily more 
gloomy and lowering, the gusts came ever harder and harder, and by 
noon the winter day had darkened and a furious gale was driving against 
us. The blasts almost swept me from my saddle and the teamster from 
his seat, while we were glad to wrap ourselves in our huge fur coats to 
keep out the growing cold. Soon after midday the wagon suddenly broke 
down while we were yet in mid-prairie. It was evident that we were on 
the eve of a furious snow-blizzard, which might last a few hours, or else, 
perhaps,^as~^many days. We were miles from any shelter that would per- 
mit us to liofht a fire in the face of such a storm ; so we left the wag-on as 
it was, hastily unharnessed the team horses, and, with the driver riding 
one and leading the other, struck off homeward at a steady gallop. Once 
fairly caught by the blizzard in a country that we only partly knew, it 
would have been hopeless to do more than to try for some ravine in which 
to cower till it was over ; so we pushed our horses to their utmost pace. 
Our object was to reach the head coulees of a creek leading down to the 
river but a few miles from the ranch. Could we get into these before 
the snow struck us we felt we would be all right, for we could then find 
our way home, even in pitch-darkness, with the wind in the quarter from 
which it was coming. So, with the storm on our backs, we rode at full 
speed through the gathering gloom, across the desolate reaches of prairie. 
The tough little horses, instead of faltering, went stronger mile by mile. 
At last the weird rows of hills loomed vaguely up in our front, and we 
plunged into the deep ravines for which we had been heading just as the 



THE BIG-HORN SHEEP 169 

whirling white wreaths struck us — not the soft, feathery flakes of a sea- 
board snow-storm, but fine ice-dust, driven level by the wind, choking us, 
blinding our eyes, and cutting our faces if we turned towards it The 
roar of the blizzard drowned our voices when we were but six feet apart : 
had it not been on our backs we could not have gone a hundred yards, for 
we could no more face it than we could face a frozen sand-blast. In an 
instant the stranee, wild outlines of the hiorh buttes between which we 
were riding were shrouded from our sight. We had to grope our way 
through a kind of shimmering dusk ; and when once or twice we were 
obliged by some impassable cliff or canon to retrace our steps, it was 
all that we could do to urge the horses even a few paces against the 
wind-blown snow-grains which stung like steel filings. But this extreme 
violence only lasted about four hours. The moon was lull, and its beams 
struesfled through scuddinof clouds and snow-drift, so that we reached 
the ranch without difficulty, and when we got there the wind had already 
begun to lull. The snow still fell thick and fast; but before we went to 
bed this also showed signs of stopping. Accordingly we determined that 
we would leave the wagon where it was for a day or two, and start early 
next morning for a range of high hills some ten miles oft', much haunted by 
sheep ; for we did not wish to let pass the chance of tracking the game 
offered by the first good snow of the season. 

Next morning we started by starlight. The snow lay several inches 
deep on the ground ; the whole land was a dazzling white. It was very 
cold. Within the ranch everything was frozen solid in spite of the thick 
log walls ; but the air was so still and clear that we did not realize how low 
the temperature was. Accordingly, as the fresh horse I had to take was 
young and wild, I did not attempt to wear my fur coat. I soon felt my 
mistake. The windless cold ate into my marrow ; and when, shortly after 
the cloudless winter sunrise, we reached our hunting-grounds and picketed 
out the horses, I was already slightly frost-bitten. But the toil of hunting 
over the snow-covered crags soon made me warm. 

All day we walked and climbed through a white wonderland. On every 
side the snowy hills, piled one on another, stretched away, chain after 
chain, as far as sight could reach. The stern and iron-bound land had 
been changed to a frozen sea of billowy, glittering peaks and ridges. At 
last, late in the afternoon, three great big-horn suddenly sprang up to our 
right and crossed the table-land in front of and below us at a strong, 
stretching gallop. The lengthening sunbeams glinted on their mighty 
horns ; their great supple brown bodies were thrown out in bold relief 
against the white landscape ; as they plowed with long strides through 
26 



i;o 



RANCH l.IFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



the powdery snow, their hoofs tossed it up in masses of white spray. On 
the left of the plateau was a ridge, and as they went up this I twice fired 
at the leading ram, my bullets striking under him. On the summit he 
stopped and stood for a moment looking back three hundred and fifty 
Nards oft","^ and nn- third shot went fairly through his lungs. He ran over 
the hill as if unharmed, but lay down a couple of hundred yards on, and 
was dead when we reached him. 

It was after nightfall when we got back to the horses, and we rode 
home by moonlight. To gallop in such weather insures freezing ; so the 
ponies shambled along at a single-foot trot, their dark bodies white with 
hoar-frost, and the long icicles hanging from their lips. The cold had 
increased steadily ; the spirit thermometer at the ranch showed 26*^ Fah- 
renheit below zero. We had worked all day without food or rest, and 
were very tired. On the ride home I got benumbed before I knew it and 
froze my face, one foot, and both knees. Even my companion, who had 
a great-coat, froze his nose and cheeks. Never was a sight more welcome 
than the gleam of the fire-lit ranch windows to us that night. But the 
great ram's head was a trophy that paid for all. 

* Actual pacing, not guesswork. 




A MONTANA COWBOY. 



THE GAME OF THE HIGH PEAKS 
THE WHITE GOAT 




THE PONY OF THE NORTHERN ROCKIES. 



XII 



The Game of the High Peaks: The Wihte Goat 




"Vs^^X 



N the fall of 1886 I went far west to the Rockies 
and took a fortnight's hunting trip among the 
northern spurs of the Coeur d'Alene, between 
the towns of Heron and Horseplains in Mon- 
tana. There are many kinds of game to be 
found in the least known or still untrodden 
parts of this wooded mountain wilderness — 
caribou, elk, ungainly moose with great 
shovel horns, cougars, and bears. But I 
did not have time to go deeply into the 
heart of the forest-clad ranges, and devoted 
my entire energies to the chase of but one 
animal, the white antelope-goat, then the 
least known and rarest of all American game. 

We started from one of those most dismal and forlorn of all places, a 
dead mining town, on the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. My fore- 
man, Merrifield, was with me, and for guide I took a tall, lithe, happy- 
go-lucky mountaineer, who, like so many of the restless frontier race, was 
born in Missouri. Our outfit was simple, as we carried only blankets, a 
light wagon sheet, the ever-present camera, flour, bacon, salt, sugar, and 
coffee : canned goods are very unhandy to pack about on horseback. Our 
rifles and ammunition, with the few cooking-utensils and a book or two, 
completed the list. Four solemn ponies and a ridiculous little mule named 
Walla Walla bore us and our belongings. The Missourian was an expert 
packer, versed in the mysteries of the " diamond hitch," the only arrange- 
ment of the ropes that will insure a load staying in its place. Driving a 
pack train through the wooded paths and up the mountain passes that we 



172 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 



had to traverse is hard work anyhow, as there are sure to be accidents 
happening to the animals all the time, while their packs receive rough 
treatment from jutting rocks and overhanging branches, or from the half- 
fallen tree-trunks under which the animals wriggle ; and if the loads are 
continually coming loose, or slipping so as to gall the horses' backs and 
make them sore, the labor and anxiety are increased tenfold. 

In a day or two we were in the heart of the vast wooded wilderness. 
A broad, lonely river ran through its midst, cleaving asunder the mountain 
chains. Range after range, peak upon peak, the mountains towered on 
every side, the lower timbered to the top, the higher with bare crests of 
gray crags, or else hooded with fields of shining snow. The deep valleys 
lay half in darkness, hemmed in by steep, timbered slopes and straight 
rock walls. The torrents, broken into glittering foam masses, sprang 
down through the chasms that they had rent in the sides of the high hills, 
lingered in black pools under the shadows of the scarred cliffs, and reach- 
ing the rank, tree-choked valleys, gathered into rapid streams of clear 
brown water, that drenched the drooping limbs of the tangled alders. 
Over the whole land lay like a shroud the mighty growth of the unbroken 
evergreen forest — spruce and hemlock, fir, balsam, tamarack, and lofty 
pine. 

Yet even these vast wastes of shadowy woodland were once pene- 
trated by members of that adventurous and now fast vanishing folk, the 
American frontiersmen. Once or twice, while walking silently over the 
spongy moss beneath the somber archways of the pines, we saw on a 
tree-trunk a dim, faint ax-scar, the bark almost grown over it, showing 
where, many years before, some fur-trapper had chopped a deeper blaze 
than usual in making out a "spotted line" — man's first highway in the 
primeval forest; or on some hill-side we would come to the more recent, 
but already half-obliterated, traces of a miner's handiwork. The trap- 
per and the miner w^ere the pioneers of the mountains, as the hunter 
and the cowboy have been the pioneers of the plains ; they are all of the 
same type, these sinewy men of the border, fearless and self-reliant, who 
are ever driven restlessly onward through the wilderness by the half- 
formed desires that make their eyes haggard and eager. There is no 
plain so lonely that their feet have not trodden it; no mountain so far ofi" 
that their eyes have not scanned its grandeur. 

We took nearly a week in going to our hunting-grounds and out from 
them again. This was tedious work, for the pace was slow, and it was 
accompanied with some real labor. In places the mountain paths were 
very steep and the ponies could with difficulty scramble along them ; 



THE GAME OF FHE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 17 



/o 




IN A CANON OF THE Ca-:i K U ALENE. 



and once or twice they got falls that no animals less tough could have 
survived, Walla Walla being the unfortunate that suffered most. Often, 
moreover, we would come to a windfall, where the fallen trees lay heaped 



174 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



crosswise on one another in the wildest confusion, and a road had to be 
cleared by ax work. It was marvelous to see the philosophy with which 
the wise litde beasts behaved, picking their way gingerly through these 
rough spots, hopping over fallen tree-trunks, or stepping between them 
in places where an Eastern horse would have snapped a leg short off, 
and walking composedly along narrow ledges with steep precipices 

below. They were tame and friend- 
ly, being turned loose at night, and 
not only staying near by, but also 
allowing themselves to be caught 
without difficulty in the morning ; 
industriously gleaning the scant 
food to be found in the burnt places 
or along the edges of the brooks, 
and often in the evening standing 
in a patient, solemn semicircle 
round the camp fire, just beyond 
where we were seated. Walla 
Walla, the little mule, was always 
in scrapes. Once we spent a morn- 
ing of awkward industry in wash- 
ing our clothes ; having finished, 
we spread the half-cleansed array 
upon the bushes and departed on a hunt. On returning, to our horror 
we spied the miserable Walla Walla shamefacedly shambling off from 
the neighborhood of the wash, having partly chewed up every individual 
garment and completely undone all our morning's labor. 

At first we did not have good weather. The Indians, of whom we 
met a small band, — said to be Flatheads or their kin, on a visit from the 
coast region, — had set fire to the woods not far away, and the smoke 
became so dense as to hurt our eyes, to hide the sun at midday, and to 
veil all objects from our sight as completely as if there had been a heavy 
fog. Then we had two days of incessant rain, which rendered our camp 
none too comfortable ; but when this cleared we found that it had put 
out the fire and settled all the smoke, leaving a brilliant sky overhead. 

We first camped in a narrow valley, surrounded by mountains so tall 
that except at noonday it lay in the shadow ; and it was only when we 
were out late on the higher foot-hills that we saw the sun sink in a flame 
behind the distant ranges. The trees grew tall and thick, the underbrush 
choking the ground between their trunks, and their branches interlacing 




DOWN BRAKES ! 



I 



THE GAME OF THE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 



175 



SO that the sun's rays hardly came through them. There were very few 
open glades, and these were not more than a dozen rods or so across. 
Even on the mountains it was only when we got up very high indeed, or 
when we struck an occasional bare spur, or shoulder, that we could get a 
glimpse into the open. Elsewhere we could never see a hundred yards 
ahead of us, and like all plainsmen or mountaineers we at times felt 
smothered under the trees, and longed to be where we could look out lar 
and wide on every side; we felt as if our heads were in hoods. A broad 
brook whirled and eddied past our camp, and a little below us was caught 
in a deep, narrow gorge, where the strangling rocks churned its switt 
current into spray and foam, and changed its murmurous humming and 
splashing into an angry roar. Strange little water wrens — the water- 
ousel of the books — made this brook their home. They were shaped 
like thrushes, and sometimes warbled sweetly, yet they lived right in the 
torrent, not only flitting along the banks and wading in the edges, but 
plunging boldly into midstream, and half walking, half flying along the 
bottom, deep under water, and perching on the slippery, spray-covered 
rocks of the waterfall or skimming over and through the rapids even 
more often than they ran along the margins of the deep, black pools. 

White-tail deer were plentiful, and we kept our camp abundantly sup- 
plied with venison, varying it with all the grouse that we wanted, and 
with quantities of fresh trout. But I myself spent most of my time after 
the quarry I had come to get — the white goat. 

White goats have been known to hunters ever since Lewis and Clarke 
crossed the continent, but they have always ranked as the very rarest and 
most difficult to get of all American game. This reputation they owe to the 
nature of their haunts, rather than to their own wariness, for they have been 
so little disturbed that they are less shy than either deer or sheep. They 
are found here and there on the highest, most inaccessible mountain peaks 
down even to Arizona and New Mexico ; but being fitted for cold climates, 
they are extremely scarce everywhere south of Montana and northern Idaho, 
and the great majority even of the most experienced hunters have hardly 
so much as heard of their existence. In Washington Territory, northern 
Idaho, and north-western Montana they are not uncommon, and are plenti- 
ful in parts of the mountain ranges of British America and Alaska. Their 
preference for the highest peaks is due mainly to their dislike of warmth, 
and in the north — even south of the Canadian line — they are found much 
lower down the mountains than is the case farther south. They are very 
conspicuous animals, with their snow-white coats and polished black horns, 

but their pursuit necessitates so much toil and hardship that not one in ten 

27 



Ijb RANCH MFK AND THP: HUNTINO-TRAIL 

of the professional hunters has ever killed one ; and I know of but one or 
two Eastern sportsmen who can boast a goat's head as a trophy. But 
this will soon cease to be the case ; for the Canadian Pacific Railway has 
opened the haunts where the goats are most plentiful, and any moderately 
adventurous and hardy rifleman can be sure of getting one by taking a 
little time, and that, too, whether he is a skilled hunter or not, since at 
present the game is not difficult to approach. The white goat will be 
common long after the elk has vanished, and it has already outlasted 
the buftalo. Few sportsmen henceforth — indeed, hardly any — will ever 
boast a buffalo head of their own killino^ ; but the number of riflemen who 
can place to their credit the prized white fleeces and jet-black horns will 
steadily increase. 

The Missourian, during his career as a Rocky Mountain hunter, had 
killed five white goats. The first he had shot near Canyon City, Colorado, 
and never having heard of any such animal before had concluded afterward 
that it was one of a flock of recently imported Angora goats, and accord- 
ingly, to avoid trouble, buried it where it lay ; and it was not until fourteen 
years later, when he came up to the Coeur d'Alene and shot another, that 
he became aware of what he had killed. He described them as being bold, 
pugnacious animals, not easily startled, and extremely tenacious of life. 
Once he had set a large hound at one which he came across while 
descending an ice-swollen river in early spring. The goat made no 
attempt to flee or to avoid the hound, but coolly awaited its approach and 
killed it with one wicked thrust of the horns ; for the latter are as sharp as 
needles, and are used for stabbing, not butting. Another time he caught 
a goat in a bear trap set on a game trail. Its leg was broken, and he had 
to pack it out on pony-back, a two-days' journey, to the settlement ; yet 
in spite of such rough treatment it lived a week after it got there, when, 
unfortunately, the wounded leg mortified. It fought most determinedly, 
but soon became reconciled to captivity, eating with avidity all the grass 
it was given, recognizing its keeper, and grunting whenever he brought it 
food or started to walk away before it had had all it wished. The goats 
he had shot lived in ground where the walking was tiresome to the last 
degree, and where it was almost impossible not to make a good deal of 
noise ; and nothing but their boldness and curiosity enabled him ever to 
kill any. One he shot while waiting at a pass for deer. The goat, an old 
male, came up, and fairly refused to leave the spot, walking round in the 
underbrush and finally mounting a great fallen log, where he staid snort- 
ing and stamping angrily until the Missourian lost patience and killed him. 

For three or four days I hunted steadily and without success, and it 



THE GAME OF THE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 



^11 



was as hard work as any that I had ever undertaken. Both Merrifield and 
I were accustomed to a life in the saddle, and although we had varied it with 
an occasional long walk after deer or sheep, yet we were utterly unable to 




THE INDIANS WE MET. 



cope with the Missourian when it came to mountaineering. When we had 
previously hunted, in the Big Horn Mountains, we had found stout moc- 
casins most comfortable, and extremely useful for still-hunting through the 
great woods and among the open glades ; but the multitudinous sharp 
rocks and sheer, cliff-like slopes of the Coeur d'x^lene rendered our moc- 
casins absolutely useless, for the first day's tramp bruised our feet till they 
were sore and slit our foot-gear into ribbons, besides tearing our clothes. 
Merrifield was then crippled, having nothing else but his cowboy boots ; 
fortunately, I had taken in addition a pair of shoes with soles thickly studded 
with nails. 

We would start immediately after breakfast each morning, carrying a 



178 RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING -TRAIL 

light lunch in our pockets, and go straight up the mountain sides for 
hours at a time, varying it by skirting the broad, terrace-like ledges, or 
by clambering along the cliff crests. The climbing was very hard. The 
slope was so steep that it was like going upstairs ; now through loose 
earth, then through a shingle of pebbles or sand, then over rough rocks, 
and again over a layer of pine needles as smooth and slippery as glass, 
w hile brittle, dry sticks that snapped at a touch, and loose stones that 
rattled down if so much as brushed, strewed the ground everywhere, the 
climber stumbling and falling over them and finding it almost absolutely 
impossible to proceed without noise, unless at a rate of progress too slow 
to admit of getting anywhere. Often, too, we would encounter dense 
underbrush, perhaps a thicket of little burnt balsams, as prickly and brittle 
as so much coral ; or else a heavy growth of laurel, all the branches point- 
ing downward, and to be gotten through only by main force. Over all 
grew the vast evergreen forest, except where an occasional cliff jutted 
out, or where there were great land-slides, each perhaps half a mile long 
and a couple of hundred yards across, covered with loose slates or granite 
bowlders. 

We always went above the domain of the deer, and indeed saw few 
evidences of life. Once or twice we came to the round foot-prints of cou- 
gars, which are said to be great enemies of the goats, but we never caught 
a glimpse of the sly beasts themselves. Another time I shot a sable from 
a spruce, up which the little fox-headed animal had rushed with the agility 
of a squirrel. There were plenty of old tracks of bear and elk, but no new 
ones ; and occasionally we saw the foot-marks of the great timber wolf. 

But the trails at which we looked with the most absorbed interest were 
those that showed the large, round hoof-marks of the white goats. They 
had worn deep paths to certain clay licks in the slides, which they must 
have visited often in the early spring, for the trails were little traveled 
when we were in the mountains during September. These clay licks 
were mere holes in the banks, and were in spring-time visited by other 
animals besides goats ; there were old deer trails to them. The clay 
seemed to contain something that both birds and beasts were fond of, for 
I frequently saw flocks of cross-bills light in the licks and stay there for 
many minutes at a time, scratching the smooth surface with their little 
claws and bills. The goat trails led away in every direction from the licks, 
but usually went up-hill, zigzagging or in a straight line, and continually 
growing fainter as they went farther off, where the animals scattered to 
their feeding-grounds. In the spring-time the goats are clad with a dense 
coat of long white wool, and there were shreds and tufts of this on all the 



I 



THE GAME OF THE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 



179 



twigs of the bushes under which the paths passed ; in the early fall the 
coat is shorter and less handsome. 

Although these game paths were so deeply worn, they yet showed very 
little fresh goat sign ; in fact, we came across the recent trails of but two of 
the animals we were after. One of these we came quite close to, but never 
saw it, for we must have frightened it by the noise we made ; it certainly, 
to judge by its tracks, which we followed for a long time, took itself straight 
out of the country. The other I finally got, after some heart-breaking work 
and a complicated series of faults committed and misfortunes endured. 

I had been, as usual, walking and clambering over the mountains all 
day long, and in mid-afternoon reached a great slide, with half-way across 
it a tree. Under this I sat down to rest, my back to the trunk, and had 
been there but a few minutes when my companion, the Missourian, sud- 
denly whispered to me that a goat was coming down the slide at its edge, 
near the woods. I was in a most uncomfortable position for a shot. Twist- 
ing my head round, I could see the goat waddling down-hill, looking just 
like a handsome tame billy, especially when at times he stood upon a 
stone to glance around, with all four feet close together. I cautiously tried 
to shift my position, and at once dislodged some pebbles, at the sound of 
which the goat sprang promptly up on the bank, his whole mien changing 
into one of alert, alarmed curiosity. He was less than a hundred yards 
off, so I risked a shot, all cramped and twisted though I was. But my 
bullet went low ; I only broke his left fore-leg, and he disappeared over 
the bank like a flash. We raced and scrambled after him, and the Missou- 
rian, an excellent tracker, took up the bloody trail. It went along the 
hill-side for nearly a mile, and then turned straight up the mountain, the 
Missourian leading with his long, free gait, while I toiled after him at a 
dogged trot. The trail went up the sharpest and steepest places, skirting 
the cliffs and precipices. At one spot I nearly came to grief for good and 
all, for in running along a shelving ledge, covered with loose slates, one 
of these slipped as I stepped on it. throwing me clear over the brink. 
However, I caught in a pine top, bounced down through it, and brought 
up in a balsam with my rifle all right, and myself unhurt except for the 
shaking. I scrambled up at once and raced on after my companion, whose 
limbs and wind seemed alike incapable of giving out. This work lasted 
for a couple of hours. 

The trail came into a regular game path and grew fresher, the goat 
having stopped to roll and wallow in the dust now and then. Suddenly, 
on the top of the mountain, we came upon him close up to us. He had just 
risen from rolling and stood behind a huge fallen log, his back barely 



I So 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



showing" above it as he turned his head to look at us. I was completely- 
winded, and had lost ni)- strength as well as my breath, while great bead- 
like drops of sweat stood in my eyes ; but I steadied myself as well as I 
could and aimed to break the backbone, the only shot open to me, and not 
a difhcult one at such a short distance. However, my bullet went just too 




THE FIRST SHOT. 



high, cutting the skin above the long spinal bones over the shoulders ; and 
the speed with which that three-legged goat went down the precipitous 
side of the mountain would have done credit to an antelope on the level. 
Weary and disgusted, we again took up the trail. It led straight 
down-hill, and we followed it at a smart pace. Down and down it went, 
into the valley and straight to the edge of the stream, but half a mile above 
camp. The goat had crossed the water on a fallen tree-trunk, and we took 
the same path. Once across, it had again gone right up the mountain. 
We followed it as fast as we could, although pretty nearly done out, until 
it was too dark to see the blood stains any longer, and then returned to 
camp, dispirited and so tired that we could hardly drag ourselves along, 
for we had been going at speed for five hours, up and down the roughest 
and steepest ground. 



THE GAME OF THE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT i8i 

But we were confident that the goat would not travel far with such a 
wound after he had been chased as we had chased him. Next morning 
at daybreak we again climbed the mountain and took up the trail. Soon 
it led into others and we lost it, but we kept up the hunt nevertheless for 
hour after hour, making continually wider and wider circles. At last, 
about midday, our perseverance was rewarded, for coming silently out on a 
great bare cliff shoulder, I spied the goat lying on a ledge below me and 
some seventy yards off. This time I shot true, and he rose only to fall 
back dead ; and a minute afterward we were standing over him, handling 
the glossy black horns and admiring the snow-white coat. 

After this we struck our tent and shifted camp some thirty miles to a 
wide valley through whose pine-clad bottom flowed a river, hurrying on 
to the Pacific between unending forests. On one hand the valley was 
hemmed in by an unbroken line of frowning cliffs, and on the other by 
chains of lofty mountains in whose sides the ravines cut deep gashes. 

The clear weather had grown colder. At night the frost skimmed 
with thin ice the edges of the ponds and small lakes that at long intervals 
dotted the vast reaches of woodland. But we were very comfortable, and 
hardly needed our furs, for as evening fell we kindled huge fires, to give 
us both light and warmth ; and even in very cold weather a man can 
sleep out comfortably enough with no bedding if he lights two fires and 
gets in between them, or finds a sheltered nook or corner across the 
front of which a single great blaze can be made. The long walks and our 
work as cragsmen hardened our thews, and made us eat and sleep as even 
our life on the ranch could hardly do : the mountaineer must always be 
more sinewy than the horseman. The clear, cold water of the swift 
streams too was a welcome change from the tepid and muddy currents of 
the rivers of the plains ; and we heartily enjoyed the baths, a plunge into 
one of the icy pools making us gasp for breath and causing the blood to 
tingle in our veins with the shock. 

Our tent was pitched in a little glade, which was but a few yards 
across, and carpeted thickly with the red kinnikinic berries, in their 
season beloved of bears, and from the leaves of which bush the Indians 
make a substitute for tobacco. Little three-toed woodpeckers with yellow 
crests scrambled about over the trees near by, while the great log- cocks 
hammered and rattled on the tall dead trunks. Jays that were dark blue 
all over came familiarly round camp in company with the ever-present 
moose-birds or whisky jacks. There were many grouse in the woods, of 
three kinds, — blue, spruce, and ruffed, — and these varied our diet and 
also furnished us with some sport with our rifles, as we always shot them 



lS2 RAXeH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

in rivalry. That is. each would take a shot in turn, aiming at the head 
of the bird, as it perched motionless on the limb of a tree or stopped for a 
second while running along the ground ; then if he missed or hit the bird 
an) where but in the head, the other scored one and took the shot. The 
resulting tally was a good test of comparative skill ; and rivalry always 
tends to keep a man's shooting up to the mark. 

Once or twice, when we had slain deer, we watched by the carcasses, 
hoping that they would attract a bear, or perhaps one of the huge timber 
wolves whose mournful, sinister howling we heard each night. But there 
were no bears in the valley ; and the wolves, those cruel, crafty beasts, 
were far too cunning to come to the bait while we were there. We saw 
nothing but crowds of ravens, whose hoarse barking and croaking filled 
the air as they circled around overhead, lighted in the trees, or quarreled 
over the carcass. Yet although we saw no game it was very pleasant to 
sit out. on the still evenings, among the tall pines or on the edge of a 
great gorge, until the afterglow of the sunset was dispelled by the beams 
ot the Irosty moon. Now and again the hush would be suddenly broken 
by the long howling of a wolf, that echoed and rang under the hollow 
woods and through the deep chasms until they resounded again, while it 
made our hearts bound and the blood leap in our veins. Then there 
would be silence once more, broken only by the rush of the river and the 
low moaning and creaking of the pines ; or the strange calling of the 
owls might be answered by the far-off, unearthly laughter of a loon, its 
voice carried through the stillness a marvelous distance from the little 
lake on which it was swimming. 

One day, after much toilsome and in places almost dangerous work, we 
climbed to the very top of the nearest mountain chain, and from it looked 
out over a limitless, billowy field of snow-capped ranges. Up above the 
timber line were snow-grouse and huge, hoary-white woodchucks, but no 
trace of the game we were after ; for, rather to our surprise, the few goat 
signs that we saw were in the timber. I did not catch another glimpse 
of the animals themselves until my holiday was almost over and we were 
preparing to break camp. Then I saw two. I had spent a most labo- 
rious day on the mountain as usual, following the goat paths, which were 
well-trodden trails leading up the most inaccessible places ; certainly the 
white goats are marvelous climbers, doing it all by main strength and 
perfect command over their muscles, for they are heavy, clumsy seeming 
animals, the reverse of graceful, and utterly without any look of light 
agility. As usual, towards evening I was pretty well tired out, for it 
w^ould be difficult to imagine harder work than to clamber unendingly 



THE GAME OE THE HIGH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 



183 



up and down the huge cHffs. I came down along a great jutting spur, 
broken by a series of precipices, with flat terraces at their feet, the ter- 
races being covered with trees and bushes, and running, with many 
breaks and interruptions, parallel to each other across the face of the 




STALKING GOATS. 



mountains. On one of these terraces was a space of hard clay ground 
beaten perfectly bare of vegetation by the hoofs of the goats, and, in the 
middle, a hole, two or three feet in width, that was evidently in the spring 
used as a lick. Most of the tracks were old, but there was one trail com- 
ing diagonally down the side of the mountain on which there were two or 
three that were very fresh. It was getting late, so I did not stay long, 
but continued the descent. The terrace on which the lick was situated 
lay but a few hundred yards above the valley, and then came a level, 
marshy plain a quarter of a mile broad, between the base of the mountain 

and the woods. Leading down to this plain was another old goat-trail, 

28 



i84 



RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 



which went to a small, boggy pool, which the goats must certainly have 
often visited in the spring ; but it was then unused. 

When I reached the farther side of the plain and was about entering 
the woods. I turned to look over the mountain once more, and my eye was 




THK WHIIK GOA I AT HOMK, 



immediately caught by two white objects which were moving along the ter- 
race, about half a mile to one side of the lick. That they were goats was 
evident at a glance, their white bodies contrasting sharply with the green 
vegetation. They came along very rapidly, giving me no time to get back 
ov^er the plain, and stopped for a short time at the lick, right in sight from 
where I was, although too far off for me to tell anything about their size. 
I think they smelt my footprints in the soil ; at any rate they were very 
watchful, one of them always jumping up on a rock or fallen log to mount 



THE GAME OF THE HICxH PEAKS: THE WHITE GOAT 185 

guard when the other halted to browse. The sun had just set; it was 
impossible to advance across the open plain, which they scanned at every 
glance ; and to skirt it and climb up any other place than the pass down 
which I had come — itself a goat-trail — would have taken till long after 
nightfall. All that I could do was to stay where I was and watch them, 
until in the dark I slipped off unobserved and made the best of my way to 
camp, resolved to hunt them up on the morrow. 

Shortly after noon next day we were at the terrace, having approached 
with the greatest caution, and only after a minute examination, with the 
field-glasses, of all the neighboring mountain. I wore moccasins, so as to 
make no noise. We soon found that one of the trails was evidently regu- 
larly traveled, probably every evening, and we determined to lie in wait by 
it, so as either to catch the animals as they came down to feed, or else to 
mark them if they got out on some open spot on the terraces where they 
could be stalked. As an ambush we chose a ledgfe in the cliff below a ter- 
race, with, in front, a breastwork of the natural rock some five feet high. 
It was perhaps fifty yards from the trail. I hid myself on this ledge, 
havang arranged on the rock breastwork a few pine branches through 
which to fire, and waited, hour after hour, continually scanning the moun- 
tain carefully with the glasses. There was very little life. Occasionally a 
chickaree or chipmunk scurried out from among the trunks of the great 
pines to pick up the cones which he had previously bitten off from the 
upper branches ; a noisy Clarke's crow clung for some time in the top of a 
hemlock; and occasionally flocks of cross-bill went by, with swift undula- 
ting flight and low calls. From time to time I peeped cautiously over the 
pine branches on the breastwork ; and the last time I did this I suddenh- 
saw two goats, that had come noiselessly down, standing motionless 
directly opposite to me, their suspicions evidently aroused by something. 
I gently shoved the rifle over one of the boughs ; the largest goat turned 
its head sharply round to look, as it stood quartering to me, and the bul- 
let went fairly through the lungs. Both animals promptly ran off along 
the terrace, and I raced after them in my moccasins, skirting the edge of the 
cliff, where there were no trees or bushes. As I made no noise and could 
run very swiftly on the bare cliff edge, I succeeded in coming out into the 
first little glade, or break, in the terrace at the same time that the goats 
did. The first to come out of the bushes was the big one I had shot at, 
an old she, as it turned out ; while the other, a yearling ram, followed. 
The big one turned to look at me as she mounted a fallen tree that lay 
across a chasm-like rent in the terrace ; the light red frothy blood covered 
her muzzle, and I paid no further heed to her as she slowly walked along 
the log, but bent my attention towards the yearling, which was galloping 



1 86 RANCH 1,1 KK AND THE HUNTING-TRAIL 

and scrambling" up an almost perpendicular path that led across the face of 
the clift' above. Holding my rifle just over it, I fired, breaking the neck 
of the goat, and it rolled down some fifty or sixty yards, almost to where 1 
stood. I then went after the old goat, which had lain down ; as I ap- 
proached she feebly tried to rise and show fight, but her strength was 
spent, her blood had ebbed away, and she fell back lifeless in the effort. 
They were both good specimens, the old one being unusually large, with 
fine horns. White goats are squat, heavy beasts ; not so tall as black-tail 
deer, but weighing more. 

Earl)- next morning I came back with my two men to where the goats 
were lying, taking along the camera. Having taken their photographs 
and skinned them we went back to camp, hunted up the ponies and mules, 
who had been shifting for themselves during the past few days, packed up 
our tent, trophies, and other belongings, and set off for the settlements, 
well pleased with our trip. 

All mountain game yields noble sport, because of the nerve, daring, and 
physical hardihood implied in its successful pursuit. The chase of the 
white goat involves extraordinary toil and some slight danger on account 
of the extreme roughness and inaccessibility of its haunts ; but the beast 
itself is less shy than the mountain sheep. How the chase of either com- 
pares in difficulty with that of the various Old World mountain game it 
would be hard to say. Men who have tried both say that, though there is 
not in Europe the chance to try the adventurous, wandering life of the 
wilderness so beloved by the American hunter, yet when it comes to com- 
paring the actual chase of the game of the two worlds, it needs greater 
skill, both as cragsman and still-hunter, to kill ibex and chamois in the 
Alps or Pyrenees — by fair stalking I mean ; for if they are driven to the 
guns, as is sometimes done, the sport is of a very inferior kind, not rising 
above the methods of killing white-tail in the Eastern States, or of driving 
deer in Scotland. I myself have had no experience of Old World moun- 
taineering, beyond two perfectly conventional trips up the Matterhorn and 
Jungfrau — on the latter, by the way, I saw three chamois a long way off 

My brother has done a good deal of ibex, mountain sheep, and mark- 
hoor shooting in Cashmere and Thibet, and I suppose the sport to be had 
among the tremendous mountain masses of the Himalayas must stand 
above all other kinds of hill shooting ; yet, after all, it is hard to believe 
that it can yield much more pleasure than that felt by the American hunter 
when he follows the lordly elk and the grizzly among the timbered slopes 
of the Rockies, or the big-horn and the white-fleeced, jet-horned antelope- 
goat over their towering and barren peaks. 







V> 




lOS 



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