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[Illustration: His Whole Appearance Suggested Dyspepsia.]
and other stories
Lives of the Hunted
Ernest Thompson Seton
His Whole Appearance Suggested Dyspepsia
But Johnny Wanted to See
A Syrup-tin Kept Him Happy for a Long Time
TITO: THE STORY OF THE COYOTE THAT LEARNED HOW
Coyotito, the Captive
They Considered Themselves Acquainted
Their Evening Song
Tito and her Brood
Tito's Race for Life
WHY THE CHICKADEE GOES CRAZY ONCE A YEAR
Johnny was a queer little bear cub that lived with Grumpy, his mother,
in the Yellowstone Park. They were among the many Bears that found a
desirable home in the country about the Fountain Hotel.
The steward of the Hotel had ordered the kitchen garbage to be dumped in
an open glade of the surrounding forest, thus providing throughout the
season, a daily feast for the Bears, and their numbers have increased
each year since the law of the land has made the Park a haven of
refuge where no wild thing may be harmed. They have accepted man's
peace-offering, and many of them have become so well known to the Hotel
men that they have received names suggested by their looks or ways. Slim
Jim was a very long-legged thin Blackbear; Snuffy was a Blackbear that
looked as though he had been singed; Fatty was a very fat, lazy Bear
that always lay down to eat; the Twins were two half-grown, ragged
specimens that always came and went together. But Grumpy and Little
Johnny were the best known of them all.
Grumpy was the biggest and fiercest of the Blackbears, and Johnny,
apparently her only son, was a peculiarly tiresome little cub, for he
seemed never to cease either grumbling or whining. This probably meant
that he was sick, for a healthy little Bear does not grumble all the
time, any more than a healthy child. And indeed Johnny looked sick;
he was the most miserable specimen in the Park. His whole appearance
suggested dyspepsia; and this I quite understood when I saw the awful
mixtures he would eat at that garbage-heap. Anything at all that he
fancied he would try. And his mother allowed him to do as he pleased;
so, after all, it was chiefly her fault, for she should not have
permitted such things.
Johnny had only three good legs, his coat was faded and mangy, his limbs
were thin, and his ears and paunch were disproportionately large. Yet
his mother thought the world of him. She was evidently convinced that
he was a little beauty and the Prince of all Bears, so, of course, she
quite spoiled him. She was always ready to get into trouble on his
account, and he was always delighted to lead her there. Although such
a wretched little failure, Johnny was far from being a fool, for he
usually knew just what he wanted and how to get it, if teasing his
mother could carry the point.
It was in the summer of 1897 that I made their acquaintance. I was in
the park to study the home life of the animals, and had been told that
in the woods, near the Fountain Hotel, I could see Bears at any time,
which, of course, I scarcely believed. But on stepping out of the back
door five minutes after arriving, I came face to face with a large
Blackbear and her two cubs.
I stopped short, not a little startled. The Bears also stopped and sat
up to look at me. Then Mother Bear made a curious short _Koff Koff_, and
looked toward a near pine-tree. The cubs seemed to know what she meant,
for they ran to this tree and scrambled up like two little monkeys, and
when safely aloft they sat like small boys, holding on with their hands,
while their little black legs dangled in the air, and waited to see what
was to happen down below.
The Mother Bear, still on her hind legs, came slowly toward me, and I
began to feel very uncomfortable indeed, for she stood about six feet
high in her stockings and had apparently never heard of the magical
power of the human eye.
I had not even a stick to defend myself with, and when she gave a low
growl, I was about to retreat to the Hotel, although previously assured
that the Bears have always kept their truce with man. However, just at
this turning point the old one stopped, now but thirty feet away, and
continued to survey me calmly. She seemed in doubt for a minute, but
evidently made up her mind that, "although that human thing might be all
right, she would take no chances for her little ones."
She looked up to her two hopefuls, and gave a peculiar whining _Er-r-r
Er-r,_ whereupon they, like obedient children, jumped, as at the word
of command. There was nothing about them heavy or bear-like as commonly
understood; lightly they swung from bough to bough till they dropped to
the ground, and all went off together into the woods. I was much tickled
by the prompt obedience of the little Bears. As soon as their mother
told them to do something they did it. They did not even offer a
suggestion. But I also found out that there was a good reason for it,
for had they not done as she had told them they would have got such a
spanking as would have made them howl.
This was a delightful peep into Bear home life, and would have been well
worth coming for, if the insight had ended there. But my friends in the
Hotel said that that was not the best place for Bears. I should go to
the garbage-heap, a quarter-mile off in the forest. There, they said, I
surely could see as many Bears as I wished (which was absurd of them).
Early the next morning I went to this Bears' Banqueting Hall in the
pines, and hid in the nearest bushes.
Before very long a large Blackbear came quietly out of the woods to
the pile, and began turning over the garbage and feeding. He was very
nervous, sitting up and looking about at each slight sound, or running
away a few yards when startled by some trifle. At length he cocked his
ears and galloped off into the pines, as another Blackbear appeared. He
also behaved in the same timid manner, and at last ran away when I shook
the bushes in trying to get a better view.
At the outset I myself had been very nervous, for of course no man is
allowed to carry weapons in the Park; but the timidity of these Bears
reassured me, and thenceforth I forgot everything in the interest of
seeing the great, shaggy creatures in their home life. [Illustration]
Soon I realized I could not get the close insight I wished from that
bush, as it was seventy-five yards from the garbage-pile. There was none
nearer; so I did the only thing left to do: I went to the garbage-pile
itself, and, digging a hole big enough to hide in, remained there all
day long, with cabbage-stalks, old potato-peelings, tomato-cans, and
carrion piled up in odorous heaps around me. Notwithstanding the
opinions of countless flies, it was not an attractive place. Indeed, it
was so unfragrant that at night, when I returned to the Hotel, I was not
allowed to come in until after I had changed my clothes in the woods.
It had been a trying ordeal, but I surely did see Bears that day. If
I may reckon it a new Bear each time one came, I must have seen over
forty. But of course it was not, for the Bears were coming and going.
And yet I am certain of this: there were at least thirteen Bears, for I
had thirteen about me at one time.
All that day I used my sketch-book and journal. Every Bear that came was
duly noted; and this process soon began to give the desired insight into
their ways and personalities.
Many unobservant persons think and say that all Negroes, or all
Chinamen, as well as all animals of a kind, look alike. But just as
surely as each human being differs from the next, so surely each animal
is different from its fellow; otherwise how would the old ones know
their mates or the little ones their mother, as they certainly do?
These feasting Bears gave a good illustration of this, for each had its
individuality; no two were quite alike in appearance or in character.
This curious fact also appeared: I could hear the Woodpeckers pecking
over one hundred yards away in the woods, as well as the Chickadees
chickadeeing, the Blue-jays blue-jaying, and even the Squirrels
scampering across the leafy forest floor; and yet I _did not hear one of
these Bears come_. Their huge, padded feet always went down in exactly
the right [Illustration: But Johnny Wanted to See.] spot to break no
stick, to rustle no leaf, showing how perfectly they had learned the art
of going in silence through the woods.
All morning the Bears came and went or wandered near my hiding-place
without discovering me; and, except for one or two brief quarrels, there
was nothing very exciting to note. But about three in the afternoon it
became more lively.
There were then four large Bears feeding on the heap. In the middle
was Fatty, sprawling at full length as he feasted, a picture of placid
ursine content, puffing just a little at times as he strove to save
himself the trouble of moving by darting out his tongue like a long red
serpent, farther and farther, in quest of the titbits just beyond claw
Behind him Slim Jim was puzzling over the anatomy and attributes of
an ancient lobster. It was something outside his experience, but the
principle, "In case of doubt take the trick," is well known in Bearland,
and it settled the difficulty.
The other two were clearing out fruit-tins with marvellous dexterity.
One supple paw would hold the tin while the long tongue would dart again
and again through the narrow opening, avoiding the sharp edges, yet
cleaning out the can to the last taste of its sweetness.
This pastoral scene lasted long enough to be sketched, but was ended
abruptly. My eye caught a movement on the hilltop whence all the Bears
had come, and out stalked a very large Blackbear with a tiny cub. It was
Grumpy and Little Johnny.
The old Bear stalked down the slope toward the feast, and Johnny hitched
alongside, grumbling as he came, his mother watching him as solicitously
as ever a hen did her single chick. When they were within thirty yards
of the garbage-heap, Grumpy turned to her son and said something which,
judging from its effect, must have meant: "Johnny, my child, I think you
had better stay here while I go and chase those fellows away."
Johnny obediently waited; but he wanted to _see_, so he sat up on his
hind legs with eyes agog and ears acock.
Grumpy came striding along with dignity, uttering warning growls as she
approached the four Bears. They were too much engrossed to pay any heed
to the fact that yet another one of them was coming, till Grumpy, now
within fifteen feet, let out a succession of loud coughing sounds, and
charged into them. Strange to say, they did not pretend to face her,
but, as soon as they saw who it was, scattered and all fled for the
Slim Jim could safely trust his heels, and the other two were not far
behind; but poor Fatty, puffing hard and waddling like any other very
fat creature, got along but slowly, and, unluckily for him, he fled in
the direction of Johnny, so that Grumpy overtook him in a few bounds
and gave him a couple of sound slaps in the rear which, if they did not
accelerate his pace, at least made him bawl, and saved him by changing
his direction. Grumpy, now left alone in possession of the feast, turned
toward her son and uttered the whining _Er-r-r Er-r-r Er-r-r-r,_ Johnny
responded eagerly. He came "hoppity-hop" on his three good legs as fast
as he could, and, joining her on the garbage, they began to have such a
good time that Johnny actually ceased grumbling.
He had evidently been there before now, for he seemed to know quite well
the staple kinds of canned goods. One might almost have supposed that he
had learned the brands, for a lobster-tin had no charm for him as long
as he could find those that once were filled with jam. Some of the tins
gave him much trouble, as he was too greedy or too clumsy to escape
being scratched by the sharp edges. One seductive fruit-tin had a hole
so large that he found he could force his head into it, and for a few
minutes his joy was full as he licked into all the farthest corners.
But when he tried to draw his head out, his sorrows began, for he found
himself caught. He could not get out, and he scratched and screamed like
any other spoiled child, giving his mother no end of concern, although
she seemed not to know how to help him. When at length he got the tin
off his head, he revenged himself by hammering it with his paws till it
was perfectly flat.
A large syrup-can made him happy for a long time. It had had a lid, so
that the hole was round and smooth; but it was not big enough to admit
his head, and he could not touch its riches with his tongue stretched
out its longest. He soon hit on a plan, however. Putting in his little
black arm, he churned it around, then drew out and licked it clean; and
while he licked one he got the other one ready; and he did this again
and again, until the [Illustration: A Syrup-tin Kept Him Happy for
a Long Time] can was as clean inside as when first it had left the
A broken mouse-trap seemed to puzzle him. He clutched it between his
fore paws, their strong inturn being sympathetically reflected in his
hind feet, and held it firmly for study. The cheesy smell about it was
decidedly good, but the thing responded in such an uncanny way, when he
slapped it, that he kept back a cry for help only by the exercise of
unusual self-control. After gravely inspecting it, with his head first
on this side and then on that, and his lips puckered into a little
tube, he submitted it to the same punishment as that meted out to the
refractory fruit-tin, and was rewarded by discovering a nice little bit
of cheese in the very heart of the culprit.
Johnny had evidently never heard of ptomaine-poisoning, for nothing came
amiss. After the jams and fruits gave out he turned his attention to the
lobster- and sardine-cans, and was not appalled by even the army beef.
His paunch grew quite balloon-like, and from much licking, his arms
looked thin and shiny, as though he was wearing black silk gloves.
It occurred to me that I might now be in a really dangerous place. For
it is one thing surprising a Bear that has no family responsibilities,
and another stirring up a bad-tempered old mother by frightening her
"Supposing," I thought, "that cranky Little Johnny should wander over to
this end of the garbage and find me in the hole; he will at once set up
a squall, and his mother, of course, will think I am hurting him, and,
without giving me a chance to explain, may forget the rules of the Park
and make things very unpleasant."
Luckily, all the jam-pots were at Johnny's end; he stayed by them, and
Grumpy stayed by him. At length he noticed that his mother had a better
tin than any he could find, and as he ran whining to take it from her he
chanced to glance away up the slope. There he saw something that made
him sit up and utter a curious little _Koff Koff Koff Koff._
His mother turned quickly, and sat up to see "what the child was looking
at." I followed their gaze, and there, oh, horrors! was an enormous
Grizzly Bear. He was a monster; he looked like a fur-clad omnibus coming
through the trees.
Johnny set up a whine at once and got behind his mother. She uttered a
deep growl, and all her back hair stood on end. Mine did too, but I kept
as still as possible.
With stately tread the Grizzly came on. His vast shoulders sliding
along his sides, and his silvery robe swaying at each tread, like
the trappings on an elephant, gave an impression of power that was
Johnny began to whine more loudly, and I fully sympathized with him now,
though I did not join in. After a moment's hesitation Grumpy turned to
her noisy cub and said something that sounded to me like two or three
short coughs--_Koff Koff Koff_. But I imagine that she really said: "My
child, I think you had better get up that tree, while I go and drive the
At any rate, that was what Johnny did, and this what she set out to do.
But Johnny had no notion of missing any fun. He wanted to _see_ what was
going to happen. So he did not rest contented where he was hidden in the
thick branches of the pine, but combined safety with view by climbing to
the topmost branch that would bear him, and there, sharp against the
sky, he squirmed about and squealed aloud in his excitement. The branch
was so small that it bent under his weight, swaying this way and that as
he shifted about, and every moment I expected to see it snap off. If it
had been broken when swaying my way, Johnny would certainly have fallen
on me, and this would probably have resulted in bad feelings between
myself and his mother; but the limb was tougher than it looked, or
perhaps Johnny had had plenty of experience, for he neither lost his
hold nor broke the branch.
Meanwhile, Grumpy stalked out to meet the Grizzly. She stood as high as
she could and set all her bristles on end; then, growling and chopping
her teeth, she faced him.
The Grizzly, so far as I could see, took no notice of her. He came
striding toward the feast although alone. But when Grumpy got within
twelve feet of him she uttered a succession of short, coughy roars,
and, charging, gave him a tremendous blow on the ear. The Grizzly was
surprised; but he replied with a left-hander that knocked her over like
a sack of hay.
Nothing daunted, but doubly furious, she jumped up and rushed at him.
Then they clinched and rolled over and over, whacking and pounding,
snorting and growling, and making no end of dust and rumpus. But above
all then: noise I could clearly hear Little Johnny, yelling at the top
of his voice, and evidently encouraging his mother to go right in and
finish the Grizzly at once.
Why the Grizzly did not break her in two I could not understand. After a
few minutes' struggle, during which I could see nothing but dust and
dim flying legs, the two separated as by mutual consent--perhaps the
regulation time was up--and for a while they stood glaring at each
other, Grumpy at least much winded.
The Grizzly would have dropped the matter right there. He did not wish
to fight. He had no idea of troubling himself about Johnny. All he
wanted was a quiet meal. But no! The moment he took one step toward the
garbage-pile, that is, as Grumpy thought, toward Johnny, she went at him
again. But this time the Grizzly was ready for her. With one blow he
knocked her off her feet and sent her crashing on to a huge upturned
pine-root. She was fairly staggered this time. The force of the blow,
and the rude reception of the rooty antlers, seemed to take all the
fight out of her. She scrambled over and tried to escape. But the
Grizzly was mad now. He meant to punish her, and dashed around the root.
For a minute they kept up a dodging chase about it; but Grumpy was
quicker of foot, and somehow always managed to keep the root between
herself and her foe, while Johnny, safe in the tree, continued to take
an intense and uproarious interest.
[Illustration] At length, seeing he could not catch her that way, the
Grizzly sat up on his haunches; and while he doubtless was planning a
new move, old Grumpy saw her chance, and making a dash, got away from
the root and up to the top of the tree where Johnny was perched.
Johnny came down a little way to meet her, or perhaps so that the tree
might not break off with the additional weight. Having photographed this
interesting group from my hiding-place, I thought I must get a closer
picture at any price, and for the first time in the day's proceedings I
jumped out of the hole and ran under the tree. This move proved a great
mistake, for here the thick lower boughs came between, and I could see
nothing at all of the Bears at the top.
I was close to the trunk, and was peering about and seeking for a chance
to use the camera, when old Grumpy began to come down, chopping her
teeth and uttering her threatening cough at me. While I stood in doubt I
heard a voice far behind me calling: "Say, Mister! You better look out;
that ole B'ar is liable to hurt you."
I turned to see the cow-boy of the Hotel on his Horse. He had been
riding after the cattle, and chanced to pass near just as events were
"Do you know these Bears?" said I, as he rode up.
"Wall, I reckon I do," said he. "That there little one up top is Johnny;
he's a little crank. An' the big un is Grumpy; she's a big crank. She's
mighty onreliable gen'relly, but she's always strictly ugly when Johnny
hollers like that."
"I should much like to get her picture when she comes down," said I.
"Tell ye what I'll do: I'll stay by on the pony, an' if she goes to
bother you I reckon I can keep her off," said the man.
He accordingly stood by as Grumpy slowly came down from branch to
branch, growling and threatening. But when she neared the ground she
kept on the far side of the trunk, and finally slipped down and ran into
the woods, without the slightest pretence of carrying out any of her
dreadful threats. Thus Johnny was again left alone. He climbed up to his
old perch and resumed his monotonous whining: _Wah! Wah! Wal!_! ("Oh,
dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!")
I got the camera ready, and was arranging deliberately to take his
picture in his favourite and peculiar attitude for threnodic song, when
all at once he began craning his neck and yelling, as he had done during
I looked where his nose pointed, and here was the Grizzly coming on
straight toward me--not charging, but striding along, as though he meant
to come the whole distance.
I said to my cow-boy friend: "Do you know this Bear?"
He replied: "Wall! I reckon I do. That's the ole Grizzly. He's the
biggest B'ar in the Park. He gen'relly minds his own business, but he
ain't scared o' nothin'; an' to-day, ye see, he's been scrappin', so
he's liable to be ugly."
"I would like to take his picture," said I; "and if you will help me, I
am willing to take some chances on it."
"All right," said he, with a grin. "I'll stand by on the Horse, an' if
he charges you I'll charge him; an' I kin knock him down once, but I
can't do it twice. You better have your tree picked out."
As there was only one tree to pick out, and that was the one that Johnny
was in, the prospect was not alluring. I imagined myself scrambling up
there next to Johnny, and then Johnny's mother coming up after me, with
the Grizzly below to catch me when Grumpy should throw me down.
The Grizzly came on, and I snapped him at forty yards, then again at
twenty yards; and still he came quietly toward me. I sat down on
the garbage and made ready. Eighteen yards--sixteen yards--twelve
yards--eight yards, and still he came, while the pitch of Johnny's
protests kept rising proportionately. Finally at five yards he stopped,
and swung his huge bearded head to one side, to see what was making that
aggravating row in the tree-top, giving me a profile view, and I snapped
the camera. At the click he turned on me with a thunderous
and I sat still and trembling, wondering if my last moment had come. For
a second he glared at me and I could note the little green electric
lamp in each of his eyes. Then he slowly turned and picked up--a large
"Goodness!" I thought, "is he going to throw that at me?" But he
deliberately licked it out, dropped it, and took another, paying
thenceforth no heed whatever either to me or to Johnny, evidently
considering us equally beneath his notice.
I backed slowly and respectfully out of his royal presence, leaving him
in possession of the garbage, while Johnny kept on caterwauling from his
What became of Grumpy the rest of that day I do not know. Johnny, after
bewailing for a time, realized that there was no sympathetic hearer of
his cries, and therefore very sagaciously stopped them. Having no mother
now to plan for him, he began to plan for himself, and at once proved
that he was better stuff than he seemed. After watching with a look of
profound cunning on his little black face, and waiting till the Grizzly
was some distance away, he silently slipped down behind the trunk, and,
despite his three-leggedness, ran like a hare to the next tree, never
stopping to breathe till he was on its topmost bough. For he was
thoroughly convinced that the only object that the Grizzly had in life
was to kill him, and he seemed quite aware that his enemy could not
climb a tree.
Another long and safe survey of the Grizzly, who really paid no heed to
him whatever, was followed by another dash for the next tree, varied
occasionally by a cunning feint to mislead the foe. So he went dashing
from tree to tree and climbing each to its very top,--although it might
be but ten feet from the last, till he disappeared in the woods. After,
perhaps, ten minutes, his voice again came floating on the breeze, the
habitual querulous whining which told me he had found his mother and had
resumed his customary appeal to her sympathy.
It is quite a common thing for Bears to spank their cubs when they need
it, and if Grumpy had disciplined Johnny this way, it would have saved
them both a deal of worry. Perhaps not a day passed, that summer,
without Grumpy getting into trouble on Johnny's account. But of all
these numerous occasions the most ignominious was shortly after the
affair with the Grizzly.
I first heard the story from three bronzed mountaineers. As they were
very sensitive about having their word doubted, and very good shots
with the revolver, I believed every word they told me, especially when
afterward fully endorsed by the Park authorities.
It seemed that of all the tinned goods on the pile the nearest to
Johnny's taste were marked with a large purple plum. This conclusion he
had arrived at only after most exhaustive study. The very odour of those
plums in Johnny's nostrils was the equivalent of ecstasy. So when it
came about one day that the cook of the Hotel baked a huge batch of
plum-tarts, the tell-tale wind took the story afar into the woods, where
it was wafted by way of Johnny's nostrils to his very soul.
Of course Johnny was whimpering at the time. His mother was busy
"washing his face and combing his hair," so he had double cause for
whimpering. But the smell of the tarts thrilled him; he jumped up, and
when his mother tried to hold him he squalled, and I am afraid--he
bit her. She should have cuffed him, but she did not. She only gave a
disapproving growl, and followed to see that he came to no harm.
With his little black nose in the wind, Johnny led straight for the
kitchen. He took the precaution, however, of climbing from time to time
to the very top of a pine-tree look-out to take an observation, while
Grumpy stayed below.
Thus they came close to the kitchen, and there, in the last tree,
Johnny's courage as a leader gave out, so he remained aloft and
expressed his hankering for tarts in a woebegone wail.
It is not likely that Grumpy knew exactly what her son was crying for.
But it is sure that as soon as she showed an inclination to go back into
the pines, Johnny protested in such an outrageous and heart-rending
screeching that his mother simply could not leave him, and he showed no
sign of coming down to be led away.
Grumpy herself was fond of plum-jam. The odour was now, of course, very
strong and proportionately alluring; so Grumpy followed it somewhat
cautiously up to the kitchen door.
There was nothing surprising about this. The rule of "live and let live"
is so strictly enforced in the Park that the Bears often come to the
kitchen door for pickings, and on getting something, they go quietly
back to the woods. Doubtless Johnny and Grumpy would each have gotten
their tart but that a new factor appeared in the case.
That week the Hotel people had brought a new cat from the East. She was
not much more than a kitten, but still had a litter of her own, and at
the moment that Grumpy reached the door, the Cat and her family were
sunning themselves on the top step. Pussy opened her eyes to see this
huge, shaggy monster towering above her.
The Cat had never before seen a Bear--she had not been there long
enough; she did not know even what a Bear was. She knew what a Dog was,
and here was a bigger, more awful bob-tailed black dog than ever she had
dreamed of coming right at her. Her first thought was to fly for her
life. But her next was for the kittens. She must take care of them. She
must at least cover their retreat. So like a brave little mother, she
braced herself on that door-step, and spreading her back, her claws, her
tail, and everything she had to spread, she screamed out at that Bear an
unmistakable order to
The language must have been "Cat," but the meaning was clear to the
Bear; for those who saw it maintain stoutly that Grumpy not only
stopped, but she also conformed to the custom of the country and in
token of surrender held up her hands.
However, the position she thus took made her so high that the Cat seemed
tiny in the distance below. Old Grumpy had faced a Grizzly once, and was
she now to be held up by a miserable little spike-tailed skunk no bigger
than a mouthful? She was ashamed of herself, especially when a wail from
Johnny smote on her ear and reminded her of her plain duty, as well as
supplied his usual moral support.
So she dropped down on her front feet to proceed.
Again the Cat shrieked, "STOP!" But Grumpy ignored the command. A scared
mew from a kitten nerved the Cat, and she launched her ultimatum, which
ultimatum was herself. Eighteen sharp claws, a mouthful of keen teeth,
had Pussy, and she worked them all with a desperate will when she landed
on Grumpy's bare, bald, sensitive nose, just the spot of all where the
Bear cold not stand it, and then worked backward to a point outside the
sweep of Grumpy's claws. After one or two vain attempts to shake the
spotted fury off, old Grumpy did just as most creatures would have done
under the circumstances: she turned tail and bolted out of the enemy's
country into her own woods.
But Puss's fighting blood was up. She was not content with repelling the
enemy; she wanted to inflict a crushing defeat, to achieve an absolute
and final rout. And however fast old Grumpy might go, it did not count,
for the Cat was still on top, working her teeth and claws like a little
demon. Grumpy, always erratic, now became panic-stricken. The trail of
the pair was flecked with tufts of long black hair, and there was even
bloodshed (in the fiftieth degree). Honour surely was satisfied, but
Pussy was not. Round and round they had gone in the mad race. Grumpy was
frantic, absolutely humiliated, and ready to make any terms; but Pussy
seemed deaf to her cough-like yelps, and no one knows how far the Cat
might have ridden that day had not Johnny unwittingly put a new idea
into his mother's head by bawling in his best style from the top of his
last tree, which tree Grumpy made for and scrambled up.
This was so clearly the enemy's country and in view of his
reinforcements that the Cat wisely decided to follow no farther.
She jumped from the climbing Bear to the ground, and then mounted
sentry-guard below, marching around with tail in the air, daring that
Bear to come down. Then the kittens came out and sat around, and enjoyed
it all hugely. And the mountaineers assured me that the Bears would have
been kept up the tree till they were starved, had not the cook of the
Hotel come out and called off his Cat--although this statement was not
among those vouched for by the officers of the Park.
The last time I saw Johnny he was in the top of a tree, bewailing his
unhappy lot as usual, while his mother was dashing about among the
pines, "with a chip on her shoulder," seeking for someone--anyone--that
she could punish for Johnny's sake, provided, of course, that it was not
a big Grizzly or a Mother Cat.
This was early in August, but there were not lacking symptoms of change
in old Grumpy. She was always reckoned "onsartin," and her devotion to
Johnny seemed subject to her characteristic. This perhaps accounted for
the fact that when the end of the month was near, Johnny would sometimes
spend half a day in the top of some tree, alone, miserable, and utterly
The last chapter of his history came to pass after I had left the
region. One day at grey dawn he was tagging along behind his mother
as she prowled in the rear of the Hotel. A newly hired Irish girl was
already astir in the kitchen. On looking out, she saw, as she thought, a
Calf where it should not be, and ran to shoo it away. That open kitchen
door still held unmeasured terrors for Grumpy, and she ran in such alarm
that Johnny caught the infection, and not being able to keep up with
her, he made for the nearest tree, which unfortunately turned out to be
a post, and soon--too soon--he arrived at its top, some seven feet from
the ground, and there poured forth his woes on the chilly morning air,
while Grumpy apparently felt justified in continuing her flight alone.
When the girl came near and saw that she had treed some wild animal, she
was as much frightened as her victim. But others of the kitchen staff
appeared, and recognizing the vociferous Johnny, they decided to make
him a prisoner.
A collar and chain were brought, and after a struggle, during which
several of the men got well scratched, the collar was buckled on
Johnny's neck and the chain made fast to the post.
When he found that he was held, Johnny was simply too mad to scream. He
bit and scratched and tore till he was tired out. Then he lifted up his
voice again to call his mother. She did appear once or twice in
the distance, but could not make up her mind to face that Cat, so
disappeared, and Johnny was left to his fate.
He put in the most of that day in alternate struggling and crying.
Toward evening he was worn out, and glad to accept the meal that was
brought by Norah, who felt herself called on to play mother, since she
had chased his own mother away.
When night came it was very cold; but Johnny nearly froze at the top of
the post before he would come down and accept the warm bed provided at
During the days that followed, Grumpy came often to the garbage-heap,
but soon apparently succeeded in forgetting all about her son. He was
daily tended by Norah, and received all his meals from her. He also
received something else; for one day he scratched her when she brought
his food, and she very properly spanked him till he squealed. For a few
hours he sulked; he was not used to such treatment. But hunger subdued
him, and thenceforth he held his new guardian in wholesome respect. She,
too, began to take an interest in the poor motherless little wretch, and
within a fortnight Johnny showed signs of developing a new character. He
was much less noisy. He still expressed his hunger in a whining _Er-r-r
Er-r-r Er-r-r,_ but he rarely squealed now, and his unruly outbursts
By the third week of September the change was still more marked. Utterly
abandoned by his own mother, all his interest had centred in Norah, and
she had fed and spanked him into an exceedingly well-behaved little
Bear. Sometimes she would allow him a taste of freedom, and he then
showed his bias by making, not for the woods, but for the kitchen where
she was, and following her around on his hind legs. Here also he made
the acquaintance of that dreadful Cat; but Johnny had a powerful
friend now, and Pussy finally became reconciled to the black, woolly
As the Hotel was to be closed in October, there was talk of turning
Johnny loose or of sending him to the Washington Zoo; but Norah had
claims that she would not forgo.
When the frosty nights of late September came, Johnny had greatly
improved in his manners, but he had also developed a bad cough. An
examination of his lame leg had shown that the weakness was not in the
foot, but much more deeply seated, perhaps in the hip, and that meant a
feeble and tottering constitution.
He did not get fat, as do most Bears in fall; indeed, he continued to
fail. His little round belly shrank in, his cough became worse, and one
morning he was found very sick and shivering in his bed by the post.
Norah brought him indoors, where the warmth helped him so much that
henceforth he lived in the kitchen.
For a few days he seemed better, and his old-time pleasure in _seeing
things_ revived. The great blazing fire in the range particularly
appealed to him, and made him sit up in his old attitude when the
opening of the door brought the wonder to view. After a week he lost
interest even in that, and drooped more and more each day. Finally not
the most exciting noises or scenes around him could stir up his old
fondness for seeing what was going on.
He coughed a good deal, too, and seemed wretched, except when in Norah's
lap. Here he would cuddle up contentedly, and whine most miserably when
she had to set him down again in his basket.
A few days before the closing of the Hotel, he refused his usual
breakfast, and whined softly till Norah took him in her lap; then he
feebly snuggled up to her, and his soft _Er-r-r Er-r-r_ grew fainter,
till it ceased. Half an hour later, when she laid him down to go about
her work, Little Johnny had lost the last trace of his anxiety to see
and know what was going on.
TITO THE STORY OF THE COYOTE THAT LEARNED HOW
Raindrop may deflect a thunderbolt, or a hair may ruin an empire, as
surely as a spider-web once turned the history of Scotland; and if it
had not been for one little pebble, this history of Tito might never
That pebble was lying on a trail in the Dakota Badlands, and one hot,
dark night it lodged in the foot of a Horse that was ridden by a tipsy
cow-boy. The man got off, as a matter of habit, to know what was laming
his Horse. But he left the reins on its neck instead of on the ground,
and the Horse, taking advantage of this technicality, ran off in the
darkness. Then the cow-boy, realizing that he was afoot, lay down in
a hollow under some buffalo-bushes and slept the loggish sleep of the
The golden beams of the early summer sun were leaping from top to top of
the wonderful Badland Buttes, when an old Coyote might have been seen
trotting homeward along the Garner's Creek Trail with a Rabbit in her
jaws to supply her family's breakfast.
Fierce war had for a long time been waged against the Coyote kind by
the cattlemen of Billings County. Traps, guns, poison, and Hounds had
reduced their number nearly to zero, and the few survivors had learned
the bitter need of caution at every step. But the destructive ingenuity
of man knew no bounds, and their numbers continued to dwindle.
The old Coyote quit the trail very soon, for nothing that man has made
is friendly. She skirted along a low ridge, then across a little hollow
where grew a few buffalo-bushes, and, after a careful sniff at a very
stale human trail-scent, she crossed another near ridge on whose sunny
side was the home of her brood. Again she cautiously circled, peered
about, and sniffed, but, finding no sign of danger, went down to
the doorway and uttered a low _woof-woof._ Out of the den, beside a
sage-bush, there poured a procession of little Coyotes, merrily tumbling
over one another. Then, barking little barks and growling little puppy
growls, they fell upon the feast that their mother had brought, and
gobbled and tussled while she looked on and enjoyed their joy.
Wolver Jake, the cow-boy, had awakened from his chilly sleep about
sunrise, in time to catch a glimpse of the Coyote passing over the
ridge. As soon as she was out of sight he got on his feet and went
to the edge, there to witness the interesting scene of the family
breakfasting and frisking about within a few yards of him, utterly
unconscious of any danger.
But the only appeal the scene had to him lay in the fact that the county
had set a price on every one of these Coyotes' lives. So he got out
his big .45 navy revolver, and notwithstanding his shaky condition, he
managed somehow to get a sight on the mother as she was caressing one of
the little ones that had finished its breakfast, and shot her dead on
The terrified cubs fled into the den, and Jake, failing to kill another
with his revolver, came forward, blocked up the hole with stones,
and leaving the seven little prisoners quaking at the far end, set off
on foot for the nearest ranch, cursing his faithless Horse as he went.
In the afternoon he returned with his pard and tools for digging. The
little ones had cowered all day in the darkened hole, wondering why
their mother did not come to feed them, wondering at the darkness and
the change. But late that day they heard sounds at the door. Then light
was again let in. Some of the less cautious young ones ran forward to
meet their mother, but their mother was not there--only two great rough
brutes that began tearing open their home.
After an hour or more the diggers came to the end of the den, and here
were the woolly, bright-eyed, little ones, all huddled in a pile at the
farthest corner. Their innocent puppy faces and ways were not noticed
by the huge enemy. One by one they were seized. A sharp blow, and each
quivering, limp form was thrown into a sack to be carried to the nearest
magistrate who was empowered to pay the bounties.
Even at this stage there was a certain individuality of character among
the puppies. Some of them squealed and some of them growled when dragged
out to die. One or two tried to bite. The one that had been slowest to
comprehend the danger, had been the last to retreat, and so was on top
of the pile, and therefore the first killed. The one that had first
realized the peril had retreated first, and now crouched at the bottom
of the pile. Coolly and remorselessly the others were killed one by
one, and then this prudent little puppy was seen to be the last of the
family. It lay perfectly still, even when touched, its eyes being half
closed, as, guided by instinct, it tried to "play possum." One of the
men picked it up. It neither squealed nor resisted. Then Jake, realizing
ever the importance of "standing in with the boss," said: "Say, let's
keep that 'un for the children." So the last of the family was thrown
alive into the same bag with its dead brothers, and, bruised and
frightened, lay there very still, understanding nothing, knowing only
that after a long time of great noise and cruel jolting it was again
half strangled by a grip on its neck and dragged out, where were a lot
of creatures like the diggers.
These were really the inhabitants of the Chimneypot Ranch, whose brand
is the Broad-arrow; and among them were the children for whom the cub
had been brought. The boss had no difficulty in getting Jake to accept
the dollar that the cub Coyote would have brought in bounty-money,
and his present was turned over to the children. In answer to their
question, "What is it?" a Mexican cow-hand, present said it was a
Coyotito--that is, a "little Coyote,"--and this, afterward shortened to
"Tito," became the captive's name.
Tito was a pretty little creature, with woolly body, a puppy-like
expression, and a head that was singularly broad between the ears.
But, as a children's pet, she--for it proved to be a female--was not a
success. She was distant and distrustful. She ate her food and seemed
healthy, but never responded to friendly advances; never [Illustration:
Coyotito, the Captive] even learned to come out of the box when called.
This probably was due to the fact that the kindness of the small
children was offset by the roughness of the men and boys, who did not
hesitate to drag her out by the chain when they wished to see her. On
these occasions she would suffer in silence, playing possum, shamming
dead, for she seemed to know that that was the best thing to do. But as
soon as released she would once more retire into the darkest corner of
her box, and watch her tormentors with eyes that, at the proper angle,
showed a telling glint of green.
Among the children of the ranchmen was a thirteen-year-old boy.
The fact that he grew up to be like his father, a kind, strong, and
thoughtful man, did not prevent him being, at this age, a shameless
Like all boys in that country, he practised lasso-throwing, with a view
to being a cow-boy. Posts and stumps are uninteresting things to catch.
His little brothers and sisters were under special protection of the
Home Government. The Dogs ran far away whenever they saw him coming with
the rope in his hands. So he must needs practise on the unfortunate
Coyotito. She soon learned that her only hope for peace was to hide in
the kennel, or, if thrown at when outside, to dodge the rope by lying as
flat as possible on the ground. Thus Lincoln unwittingly taught the
Coyote the dangers and limitations of a rope, and so he proved a
blessing in disguise--a very perfect disguise. When the Coyote had
thoroughly learned how to baffle the lasso, the boy terror devised a new
amusement. He got a large trap of the kind known as "Fox-size." This he
set in the dust as he had seen Jake set a Wolf-trap, close to the
kennel, and over it he scattered scraps of meat, in the most approved
style for Wolf-trapping. After a while Tito, drawn by the smell of the
meat, came hungrily sneaking out toward it, and almost immediately was
caught in the trap by one foot. The boy terror was watching from a near
hiding-place. He gave a wild Indian whoop of delight, then rushed
forward to drag the Coyote out of the box into which she had retreated.
After some more delightful thrills of excitement and struggle he got his
lasso on Tito's body, and, helped by a younger brother, a most promising
pupil, he succeeded in setting the Coyote free from the trap before the
grown-ups had discovered his amusement. One or two experiences like this
taught her a mortal terror of traps. She soon learned the smell of the
steel, and could detect and avoid it, no matter how cleverly Master
Lincoln might bury it in the dust while the younger brother screened the
operation from the intended victim by holding his coat over the door of
One day the fastening of her chain gave way, and Tito went off in an
uncertain fashion, trailing her chain behind her. But she was seen by
one of the men, who fired a charge of bird-shot at her. The burning,
stinging, and surprise of it all caused her to retreat to the one place
she knew, her own kennel. The chain was fastened again, and Tito added
to her ideas this, a horror of guns and the smell of gunpowder; and this
also, that the one safety from them is to "lay low."
There were yet other rude experiences in store for the captive.
Poisoning Wolves was a topic of daily talk at the Ranch, so it was not
surprising that Lincoln should privately experiment on Coyotito. The
deadly strychnine was too well guarded to be available. So Lincoln hid
some Rough on Rats in a piece of meat, threw it to the captive, and
sat by to watch, as blithe and conscience-clear as any professor of
chemistry trying a new combination.
Tito smelled the meat--everything had to be passed on by her nose.
Her nose was in doubt. There was a good smell of meat, a familiar but
unpleasant smell of human hands, and a strange new odour, but not the
odour of the trap; so she bolted the morsel. Within a few minutes began
to have fearful pains in stomach, followed by cramps. Now in all the
Wolf tribe there is the instinctive habit to throw up anything that
disagrees with them, and after a minute or two of suffering the Coyote
sought relief in this way; and to make it doubly sure she hastily
gobbled some blades of grass, and in less than an hour was quite well
Lincoln had put in poison enough for a dozen Coyotes. Had he put in less
she could not have felt the pang till too late, but she recovered and
never forgot that peculiar smell that means such awful after-pains. More
than that, she was ready thenceforth to fly at once to the herbal cure
that Nature had everywhere provided. An instinct of this kind grows
quickly, once followed. It had taken minutes of suffering in the first
place to drive her to the easement. Thenceforth, having learned, it
was her first thought on feeling pain. The little miscreant did indeed
succeed in having her swallow another bait with a small dose of poison,
but she knew what to do now and had almost no suffering.
Later on, a relative sent Lincoln a Bull-terrier, and the new
combination was a fresh source of spectacular interest for the boy, and
of tribulation for the Coyote. It all emphasized for her that old idea
to "lay low"--that is, to be quiet, unobtrusive, and hide when danger
is in sight. The grown-ups of the household at length forbade these
persecutions, and the Terrier was kept away from the little yard where
the Coyote was chained up.
It must not be supposed that, in all this, Tito was a sweet, innocent
victim. She had learned to bite. She had caught and killed several
chickens by shamming sleep while they ventured to forage within the
radius of her chain. And she had an inborn hankering to sing a morning
and evening hymn, which procured for her many beatings. But she learned
to shut up, the moment her opening notes were followed by a rattle of
doors or windows, for these sounds of human nearness had frequently been
followed by a "_bang_" and a charge of bird-shot, which somehow did no
serious harm, though it severely stung her hide. And these experiences
all helped to deepen her terror of guns and of those who used them. The
object of these musical outpourings was not clear. They happened usually
at dawn or dusk, but sometimes a loud noise at high noon would set her
going. The song consisted of a volley of short barks, mixed with doleful
squalls that never failed to set the Dogs astir in a responsive uproar,
and once or twice had begotten a far-away answer from some wild Coyote
in the hills.
There was one little trick that she had developed which was purely
instinctive--that is, an inherited habit. In the back end of her kennel
she had a little _cache_ of bones, and knew exactly where one or two
lumps of unsavoury meat were buried within the radius of her chain, for
a time of famine which never came. If anyone approached these
hidden treasures she watched with anxious eyes, but made no other
demonstration. If she saw that the meddler knew the exact place, she
took an early opportunity to secrete them elsewhere.
After a year of this life Tito had grown to full size, and had learned
many things that her wild kinsmen could not have learned without losing
their lives in doing it. She knew and feared traps. She had learned to
avoid poison baits, and knew what to do at once if, by some mistake,
she should take one. She knew what guns are. She had learned to cut her
morning and evening song very short. She had some acquaintance with
Dogs, enough to make her hate and distrust them all. But, above all, she
had this idea: whenever danger is near, the very best move possible is
to lay low, be very quiet, do nothing to attract notice. Perhaps the
little brain that looked out of those changing yellow eyes was the
storehouse of much other knowledge about men, but what it was did not
The Coyote was fully grown when the boss of the outfit bought a couple
of thoroughbred Greyhounds, wonderful runners, to see whether he could
not entirely extirpate the remnant of the Coyotes that still destroyed
occasional Sheep and Calves on the range, and at the same time find
amusement in the sport. He was tired of seeing that Coyote in the yard;
so, deciding to use her for training the Dogs, he had her roughly thrown
into a bag, then carried a quarter of a mile away and dumped out. At the
same time the Greyhounds were slipped and chivvied on. Away they went
bounding at their matchless pace, that nothing else on four legs could
equal, and away went the Coyote, frightened by the noise of the men,
frightened even to find herself free. Her quarter-mile start quickly
shrank to one hundred yards, the one hundred to fifty, and on sped the
flying Dogs. Clearly there was no chance for her. On and nearer they
came. In another minute she would have been stretched out--not a doubt
of it. But on a sudden she stopped, turned, and walked toward the Dogs
with her tail serenely waving in the air and a friendly cock to her
ears. Greyhounds are peculiar Dogs. Anything that runs away, they are
going to catch and kill if they can. Anything that is calmly facing them
becomes at once a non-combatant. They bounded over and past the Coyote
before they could curb their own impetuosity, and returned completely
nonplussed. Possibly they recognized the Coyote of the house-yard as
she stood there wagging her tail. The ranchmen were nonplussed too.
Every one was utterly taken aback, had a sense of failure, and the real
victor in the situation was felt to be the audacious little Coyote.
The Greyhounds refused to attack an animal that wagged its tail and
would not run; and the men, on seeing that the Coyote could _walk_ far
enough away to avoid being caught by hand, took their ropes (lassoes),
and soon made her a prisoner once more. The next day they decided to try
again, but this time they added the white Bull-terrier to the chasers.
The Coyote did as before. The Greyhounds declined to be party to any
attack on such a mild and friendly acquaintance. But the Bull-terrier,
who came puffing and panting on the scene three minutes later, had no
such scruples. He was not so tall, but he was heavier than the Coyote,
and, seizing her by her wool-protected neck, he shook her till, in a
surprisingly short time, she lay limp and lifeless, at which all the
men seemed pleased, and congratulated the Terrier, while the Greyhounds
pottered around in restless perplexity.
A stranger in the party, a newly arrived Englishman, asked if he might
have the brush--the tail, he explained--and on being told to help
himself, he picked up the victim by the tail, and with one awkward chop
of his knife he cut it off at the middle, and the Coyote dropped, but
gave a shrill yelp of pain. She was not dead, only playing possum, and
now she leaped up and vanished into a near-by thicket of cactus and
With Greyhounds a running animal is the signal for a run, so the two
long-legged Dogs and the white broad-chested Dog dashed after the
Coyote. But right across their path, by happy chance, there flashed a
brown streak ridden by a snowy powder-puff, the visible but evanescent
sign for Cottontail Rabbit. The Coyote was not in sight now. The Rabbit
was, so the Greyhounds dashed after the Cottontail, who took advantage
of a Prairie-dog's hole to seek safety in the bosom of Mother Earth, and
the Coyote made good her escape.
She had been a good deal jarred by the rude treatment of the Terrier,
and her mutilated tail gave her some pain. But otherwise she was all
right, and she loped lightly away, keeping out of sight in the hollows,
and so escaped among the fantastic buttes of the Badlands, to be
eventually the founder of a new life among the Coyotes of the Little
Moses was preserved by the Egyptians till he had outlived the dangerous
period, and learned from them wisdom enough to be the saviour of his
people against those same Egyptians. So the bobtailed Coyote was not
only saved by man and carried over the dangerous period of puppyhood:
she was also unwittingly taught by him how to baffle the traps, poisons,
lassoes, guns, and Dogs that had so long waged a war of extermination
against her race.
Thus Tito escaped from man, and for the first time found herself face to
face with the whole problem of life; for now she had her own living to
A wild animal has three sources of wisdom:
First, _the experience of its ancestors_, in the form of instinct, which
is inborn learning, hammered into the race by ages of selection and
tribulation. This is the most important to begin with, because it guards
him from the moment he is born.
Second, _the experience of his parents and comrades_, learned chiefly by
example. This becomes most important as soon as the young can run.
Third, _the personal experience_ of the animal itself. This grows in
importance as the animal ages.
The weakness of the first is its fixity; it cannot change to meet
quickly changing conditions. The weakness of the second is the animal's
inability freely to exchange ideas by language. The weakness of the
third is the danger in acquiring it. But the three together are a strong
Now, Tito was in a new case. Perhaps never before had a Coyote faced
life with unusual advantages in the third kind of knowledge, none
at all in the second, and with the first dormant. She travelled rapidly
away from the ranchmen, keeping out of sight, and sitting down once in a
while to lick her wounded tail-stump. She came at last to a Prairie-dog
town. Many of the inhabitants were out, and they barked at the intruder,
but all dodged down as soon as she came near. Her instinct taught her
to try and catch one, but she ran about in vain for some time, and then
gave it up. She would have gone hungry that night but that she found a
couple of Mice in the long grass by the river. Her mother had not taught
her to hunt, but her instinct did, and the accident that she had an
unusual brain made her profit very quickly by her experience.
In the days that followed she quickly learned how to make a living;
for Mice, Ground Squirrels, Prairie-dogs, Rabbits, and Lizards were
abundant, and many of these could be captured in open chase. But open
chase, and sneaking as near as possible before beginning the open chase,
lead naturally to stalking for a final spring. And before the moon had
changed the Coyote had learned how to make a comfortable living.
Once or twice she saw the men with the Greyhounds coming her way. Most
Coyotes would, perhaps, have barked in bravado, or would have gone up to
some high place whence they could watch the enemy; but Tito did no such
foolish thing. Had she run, her moving form would have caught the eyes
of the Dogs, and then nothing could have saved her. She dropped where
she was, and lay flat until the danger had passed. Thus her ranch
training to lay low began to stand her in good stead, and so it came
about that her weakness was her strength. The Coyote kind had so long
been famous for their speed, had so long learned to trust in their legs,
that they never dreamed of a creature that could run them down. They
were accustomed to play with their pursuers, and so rarely bestirred
themselves to run from Greyhounds, till it was too late. But Tito,
brought up at the end of a chain, was a poor runner. She had no reason
to trust her legs. She rather trusted her wits, and so lived.
During that summer she stayed about the Little Missouri, learning the
tricks of small-game hunting that she should have learned before she
shed her milk-teeth, and gaining in strength and speed. She kept far
away from all the ranches, and always hid on seeing a man or a strange
beast, and so passed the summer alone. During the daytime she was not
lonely, but when the sun went down she would feel the impulse to sing
that wild song of the West which means so much to the Coyotes. It is not
the invention of an individual nor of the present, but was slowly built
out of the feelings of all Coyotes in all ages. It expresses their
nature and the Plains that made their nature. When one begins it, it
takes hold of the rest, as the fife and drum do with soldiers, or the
ki-yi war-song with Indian braves. They respond to it as a bell-glass
does to a certain note the moment that note is struck, ignoring other
sounds. So the Coyote, no matter how brought up, must vibrate at the
night song of the Plains, for it touches something in himself.
They sing it after sundown, when it becomes the rallying cry of their
race and the friendly call to a neighbour; and, they sing it as one boy
in the woods holloas to another to say, "All's well! Here am I. Where
are you?" A form of it they sing to the rising moon, for this is the
time for good hunting to begin. They sing when they see the new camp-
fire, for the same reason that a Dog barks at a stranger. Yet another
weird chant they have for the dawning before they steal quietly away
from the offing of the camp--a wild, weird, squalling refrain: Wow-wow-
wow-wow-wow-w-o-o-o-o-o-o-w. again and again; and doubtless with many
another change that man cannot distinguish any more than the Coyote can
distinguish the words in the cowboy's anathemas.
Tito instinctively uttered her music at the proper times. But sad
experiences had taught her to cut it short and keep it low. Once or
twice she had got a far-away reply from one of her own race, whereupon
she had quickly ceased and timidly quit the neighbourhood.
One day, when on the Upper Garner's Creek, she found the trail where
a piece of meat had been dragged along. It was a singularly inviting
odour, and she followed it, partly out of curiosity. Presently she came
on a piece of the meat itself. She was hungry; she was always hungry
now. It was tempting, and although it had a peculiar odour, she
swallowed it. Within a few minutes she felt a terrific pain. The memory
of the poisoned meat the boy had given her, was fresh. With trembling,
foaming jaws she seized some blades of grass, and her stomach threw off
the meat; but she fell in convulsions on the ground.
The trail of meat dragged along and the poison baits had been laid the
day before by Wolfer Jake. This morning he was riding the drag, and on
coming up from the draw he saw, far ahead, the Coyote struggling. He
knew, of course, that it was poisoned, and rode quickly up; but the
convulsions passed as he neared. By a mighty effort, at the sound of the
Horse's hoofs the Coyote arose to her front feet. Jake drew his revolver
and fired, but the only effect was fully to alarm her. She tried to run,
but her hind legs were paralysed. She put forth all her strength,
dragging her hind legs. Now, when the poison was no longer in the
stomach, will-power could do a great deal. Had she been allowed to lie
down then she would have been dead in five minutes; but the revolver
shots and the man coming stirred her to strenuous action. Madly she
struggled again and again to get her hind legs to work. All the force of
desperate intent she brought to bear. It was like putting forth tenfold
power to force the nervous fluids through their blocked-up channels as
she dragged herself with marvellous speed downhill. What is nerve but
will? The dead wires of her legs were hot with this fresh power,
multiplied, injected, blasted into them. They had to give in. She felt
them thrill with life again. Each wild shot from the gun lent vital
help. Another fierce attempt, and one hind leg obeyed the call to duty.
A few more bounds, and the other, too, fell in. Then lightly she loped
away among the broken buttes, defying the agonizing gripe that still
kept on inside.
Had Jake held off then she would yet have laid down and died; but he
followed and fired and fired, till in another mile she bounded free from
pain, saved from her enemy by himself. He had compelled her to take the
only cure, so she escaped.
And these were the ideas that she harvested that day: That curious smell
on the meat stands for mortal agony. Let it alone! And she never forgot
it; thenceforth she knew strychnine.
Fortunately, Dogs, traps, and strychnine do not wage war at once, for
the Dogs are as apt to be caught or poisoned as the Coyotes. Had there
been a single Dog in the hunt that day Tito's history would have ended.
When the weather grew cooler toward the end of Autumn Tito had gone far
toward repairing the defects in her early training. She was more like an
ordinary Coyote in her habits now, and she was more disposed to sing the
sundown song. One night, when she got a response, she yielded to the
impulse again to call, and soon afterward a large, dark Coyote appeared.
The fact that he was there at all was a guarantee of unusual gifts, for
the war against his race was waged relentlessly by the cattlemen. He
approached with caution. Tito's mane bristled with mixed feelings at
the sight of one of her own kind. She crouched flat on the; ground and
waited. The newcomer came stiffly forward, nosing the wind; then up the
wind nearly to her. Then he walked around so that she should wind him,
and raising his tail, gently waved it. The first acts meant armed
neutrality, but the last was a distinctly friendly signal. Then he
approached and she rose up suddenly and stood as high as she could to
be smelled. Then she wagged the stump of her tail, and they considered
The newcomer was a very large Coyote, half as tall again as Tito, and
the dark patch on his shoulders was so large and black that the cow-boys
when they came to know him, called him Saddleback. From that time
these two continued more or less together. They were not always
close together, often were miles apart during the day, but toward
[Illustration: They Considered Themselves Acquainted] night one or the
other would get on some high open place and sing the loud
and they would forgather for some foray on hand.
The physical advantages were with Saddleback, but the greater cunning
was Tito's, so that she in time became the leader. Before a month a
third Coyote had appeared on the scene and become also a member of this
loose-bound fraternity, and later two more appeared. Nothing succeeds
like success. The little bobtailed Coyote had had rare advantages of
training just where the others were lacking: she knew the devices of
man. She could not tell about these in words, but she could by the aid
of a few signs and a great deal of example. It soon became evident that
her methods of hunting were successful, whereas, when they went without
her, they often had hard luck. A man at Boxelder Ranch had twenty Sheep.
The rules of the county did not allow anyone to own more, as this was a
Cattle-range. The Sheep were guarded by a large and fierce Collie. One
day in winter two of the Coyotes tried to raid this flock by a bold
dash, and all they got was a mauling from the Collie. A few days later
the band returned at dusk. Just how Tito arranged it, man cannot tell.
We can only guess how she taught them their parts, but we know that she
surely did. The Coyotes hid in the willows. Then Saddleback, the bold
and swift, walked openly toward the Sheep and barked a loud defiance.
The Collie jumped up with bristling mane and furious growl, then, seeing
the foe, dashed straight at him. Now was the time for the steady nerve
and the unfailing limbs. Saddleback let the Dog come near enough
_almost_ to catch him, and so beguiled him far and away into the woods,
while the other Coyotes, led by Tito, stampeded the Sheep in twenty
directions; then following the farthest, they killed several and left
them in the snow. In the gloom of descending night the Dog and his
master laboured till they had gathered the bleating survivors; but next
morning they found that four had been driven far away and killed, and
the Coyotes had had a banquet royal.
[Illustration] The shepherd poisoned the carcasses and left them. Next
night the Coyotes returned. Tito sniffed the now frozen meat, detected
the poison, gave a warning growl, and scattered filth over the meat, so
that none of the band should touch it. One, however, who was fast and
foolish, persisted in feeding in spite of Tito's warning, and when they
came away he was lying poisoned and dead in the snow.
Jake now heard on all sides that the Coyotes were getting worse. So he
set to work with many traps and much poison to destroy those on the
Garner's Creek, and every little while he would go with the Hounds and
scour the Little Missouri south and east of the Chimney-pot Ranch; for
it was understood that he must never run the Dogs in country where traps
and poison were laid. He worked in his erratic way all winter, and
certainly did have some success. He killed a couple of Grey Wolves, said
to be the last of their race, and several Coyotes, some of which, no
doubt, were of the Bobtailed pack, which thereby lost those members
which were lacking in wisdom.
Yet that winter was marked by a series of Coyote raids and exploits; and
usually the track in the snow or the testimony of eye-witnesses told
that the master spirit of it all was a little Bobtailed Coyote.
One of these adventures was the cause of much talk. The Coyote challenge
sounded close to the Chimney-pot Ranch after sundown. A dozen Dogs
responded with the usual clamour. But only the Bull-terrier dashed away
toward the place whence the Coyotes had called, for the reason that he
only was loose. His chase was fruitless, and he came back growling.
Twenty minutes later there was another Coyote yell close at hand. Off
dashed the Terrier as before. In a minute his excited yapping; told that
he had sighted his game and was in full chase. Away he went, furiously
barking, until his voice was lost afar, and nevermore was heard. In the
morning the men read in the snow the tale of the night. The first cry
of the Coyotes was to find out if all the Dogs were loose; then, having
found that only one was free, they laid a plan. Five Coyotes hid along
the side of the trail; one went forward and called till it had decoyed
the rash Terrier, and then led him right into the ambush. What chance
had he with six? They tore him limb from limb, and devoured him, too, at
the very spot where once he had worried Coyotito. And next morning,
when the men came, they saw by the signs that the whole thing had been
planned, and that the leader whose cunning had made it a success was a
little Bob-tailed Coyote.
The men were angry, and Lincoln was furious; but Jake remarked: "Well, I
guess that Bobtail came back and got even with that Terrier."
When spring was near, the annual love-season of the Coyotes came on.
Saddleback and Tito bad been together merely as companions all winter,
but now a new feeling was born. There was not much courting. Saddleback
simply showed his teeth to possible rivals. There was no ceremony. They
had been friends for months, and now, in the light of the new feeling,
they naturally took to each other and were mated. Coyotes do not give
each other names as do mankind, but have one sound like a growl and
short howl, which stands for "mate" or "husband" or "wife." This they
use in calling to each other, and it is by recognizing the tone of the
voice that they know who is calling.
The loose rambling brotherhood of the Coyotes was broken up now, for
the others also paired off, and since the returning warm weather was
bringing out the Prairie-dogs and small game, there was less need to
combine for hunting. Ordinarily Coyotes do not sleep in dens or in any
fixed place. They move about all night while it is cool, then during the
daytime they get a few hours' sleep in the sun, on some quiet hillside
that also gives a chance to watch out. But the mating season changes
this habit somewhat.
As the weather grew warm Tito and Saddleback set about preparing a den
for the expected family. In a warm little hollow, an old Badger abode
was cleaned out, enlarged, and deepened. A quantity of leaves and grass
was carried into it and arranged in a comfortable nest. The place
selected for it was a dry sunny nook among the hills, half a mile west
of the Little Missouri. Thirty yards from it was a ridge which commanded
a wide view of the grassy slopes and cottonwood groves by the river. Men
would have called the spot very beautiful, but it is tolerably certain
that that side of it never touched the Coyotes at all.
Tito began to be much preoccupied with her impending duties. She stayed
quietly in the neighbourhood of the den, and lived on such food as
Saddleback brought her, or she herself could easily catch, and also on
the little stores that she had buried at other times. She knew every
Prairie-dog town in the region, as well as all the best places for Mice
Not far from the den was the very Dog-town that first she had
crossed, the day she had gained her liberty and lost her tail. If she
were capable of such retrospect, she must have laughed to herself to
think what a fool she was then. The change in her methods was now shown.
Somewhat removed from the others, a Prairie-dog had made his den in the
most approved style, and now when Tito peered over he was feeding on the
grass ten yards from his own door. A Prairie-dog away from the others
is, of course, easier to catch than one in the middle of the town, for
he has but one pair of eyes to guard him; so Tito set about stalking
this one. How was she to do it when there was no cover, nothing but
short grass and a few low weeds? The White-bear knows how to approach
the Seal on the flat ice, and the Indian how to get within striking
distance of the grazing Deer. Tito knew how to do the same trick, and
although one of the town Owls flew over with a warning chuckle, Tito set
about her plan. A Prairie-dog cannot see well unless he is sitting up
on his hind legs; his eyes are of little use when he is nosing in
the grass; and Tito knew this. Further, a yellowish-grey animal on a
yellowish-grey landscape is invisible till it moves. Tito seemed to
know that. So, without any attempt to crawl or hide, she walked gently
up-wind toward the Prarie-dog. Upwind, not in order to prevent the
Prairie-dog smelling her, but so that she could smell him, which came to
the same thing. As soon as the Prairie-dog sat up with some food in his
hand she froze into a statue. As soon, as he dropped again to nose in
the grass, she walked steadily nearer, watching his every move so that
she might be motionless each time he sat up to see what his distant
brothers were barking at. Once or twice he seemed alarmed by the calls
of his friends, but he saw nothing and resumed his feeding. She soon
cut the fifty yards down to ten, and the ten to five, and still was
undiscovered. Then, when again the Prairie-dog dropped down to seek more
fodder, she made a quick dash, and bore him off kicking and squealing.
Thus does the angel of the pruning-knife lop off those that are heedless
and foolishly indifferent to the advantages of society.
[Illustration: Their Evening Song.]
Tito had many adventures in which she did not come out so well. Once she
nearly caught an Antelope fawn, but the hunt was spoiled by the sudden
appearance of the mother, who gave Tito a stinging blow on the side of
the head and ended her hunt for that day. She never again made that
mistake--she had sense. Once or twice she had to jump to escape the
strike of a Rattlesnake. Several times she had been fired at by hunters
with long-range rifles. And more and more she had to look out for the
terrible Grey Wolves. The Grey Wolf, of course, is much larger and
stronger than the Coyote, but the Coyote has the advantage of speed, and
can always escape in the open. All it must beware of is being caught in
a corner. Usually when a Grey Wolf howls the Coyotes go quietly about
their business elsewhere.
Tito had a curious fad, occasionally seen among the Wolves and Coyotes,
of carrying in her mouth, for miles, such things as seemed to be
interesting and yet were not tempting as eatables. Many a time had she
trotted a mile or two with an old Buffalo-horn or a cast-off shoe, only
to drop it when something else attracted her attention. The cow-boys who
remark these things have various odd explanations to offer: one,
that it is done to stretch the jaws, or keep them in practice, just as a
man in training carries weights. Coyotes have, in common with Dogs and
Wolves, the habit of calling at certain stations along their line of
travel, to leave a record of their visit. These stations may be a stone,
a tree, a post, or an old Buffalo-skull, and the Coyote calling there
can learn, by the odour and track of the last comer, just who the caller
was, whence he came, and whither he went. The whole country is marked
out by these intelligence depots. Now it often happens that a Coyote,
that has not much else to do will carry a dry bone or some other useless
object in its mouth, but sighting the signal-post, will go toward it to
get the news, lay down the bone, and afterwards forget to take it along,
so that the signal-posts in time become further marked with a curious
collection of odds and ends.
This singular habit was the cause of a disaster to the Chimney-pot
Wolf-hounds, and a corresponding advantage to the Coyotes in the war.
Jake had laid a line of poison baits on the western bluffs. Tito knew
what they were, and spurned them as usual; but finding more later, she
gathered up three or four and crossed the Little Missouri toward the
ranch-house. This she circled at a safe distance; but when something
made the pack of Dogs break out into clamour, Tito dropped the baits,
and next day, when the Dogs were taken out for exercise they found and
devoured these scraps of meat, so that in ten minutes, there were four
hundred dollars' worth of Greyhounds lying dead. This led to an edict
against poisoning in that district, and thus was a great boon to the
Tito quickly learned that not only each kind of game must be hunted in a
special way, but different ones of each kind may require quite different
treatment. The Prairie-dog with the outlying den was really an easy
prey, but the town was quite compact now that he was gone. Near the
centre of it was a fine, big, fat Prairie-dog, a perfect alderman, that
she had made several vain attempts to capture. On one occasion she had
crawled almost within leaping distance, when the angry _bizz_ of a
Rattlesnake just ahead warned her that she was in danger. Not that the
Ratler cared anything about the Prairie-dog, but he did not wish to
be disturbed; and Tito, who had an instinctive fear of the Snake, was
forced to abandon the hunt. The open stalk proved an utter, failure with
the Alderman, for the situation of his den made every Dog in the town
his sentinel; but he was too good to lose, and Tito waited until
circumstances made a new plan.
All Coyotes have a trick of watching from a high look-out whatever
passes along the roads. After it has passed they go down and examine its
track. Tito had this habit, except that she was always careful to keep
out of sight herself.
One day a wagon passed from the town to the southward. Tito lay low and
watched it. Something dropped on the road. When the wagon was out of
sight Tito sneaked down, first to smell the trail as a matter of habit,
second to see what it was that had dropped. The object was really an
apple, but Tito saw only an unattractive round green thing like a
cactus-leaf without spines, and of a peculiar smell. She snuffed it,
spurned it, and was about to pass on; but the sun shone on it so
brightly, and it rolled so curiously when she pawed, that she picked it
up in a mechanical way and trotted back over the rise, where are found
herself at the Dog-town. Just then two great Prairie-hawks came skimming
like pirates over the plain. As soon as they were in sight the Prairie-
dogs all barked, jerking their tails at each bark, and hid below. When
all were gone Tito walked on toward the hole of the big fat fellow whose
body she coveted, and dropping the apple on the ground a couple of feet
from the rim of the crater that formed his home, she put her nose down
to enjoy the delicious smell of Dog-fat. Even his den smelled more
fragrant than those of the rest. Then she went quietly behind a
greasewood bush, in a lower place some twenty yards away, and lay flat.
After a few seconds some venturesome Prairie-dog looked out, and seeing
nothing, gave the "all's well" bark. One by one they came out, and in
twenty minutes the town was alive as before. One of the last to come out
was the fat old Alderman. He always took good care of his own precious
self. He peered out cautiously a few times, then climbed to the top of
his look-out. A Prairie-dog hole is shaped like a funnel, going straight
down. Around the top of this is built a high ridge which serves as a
look-out, and also makes sure that, no matter how they may slip in their
hurry, they are certain to drop into the funnel and be swallowed up by
the all-protecting earth. On the outside the ground slopes away gently
from the funnel. Now, when the Alderman saw that strange round thing at
his threshold he was afraid. Second inspection led him to believe that
it was not dangerous, but was probably interesting. He went cautiously
toward it, smelled it, and tried to nibble it; but the apple rolled
away, for it was round, and the ground was smooth as well as sloping.
The Prairie-dog followed and gave it a nip which satisfied him that the
strange object would make good eating. But each time he nibbled, it
rolled farther away. The coast seemed clear, all the other Prairie-dogs
were out, so the fat Alderman did not hesitate to follow up the dodging,
This way and that it wriggled, and he followed. Of course it worked
toward the low place where grew the greasewood bush. The little tastes
of apple that he got only whetted his appetite. The Alderman was more
and more interested. Foot by foot he was led from his hole toward that
old, familiar bush and had no thought of anything but the joy of eating.
And Tito curled herself and braced her sinewy legs, and measured the
distance between, until it dwindled to not more than three good jumps;
then up and like an arrow she went, and grabbed and bore him off at
It will never be known whether it was accident or design that led to the
placing of that apple, but it proved important, and if such a thing were
to happen once or twice to a smart Coyote,--and it is usually clever
ones that get such chances,--it might easily grow into a new trick of
After a hearty meal Tito buried the rest in a cold place, not to get rid
of it, but to hide it for future use; and a little later, when she was
too weak to hunt much, her various hoards of this sort came in very
useful. True, the meat had turned very strong; but Tito was not
critical, and she had no fears or theories of microbes, so suffered no
The lovely Hiawathan spring was touching all things in the fairy
Badlands. Oh, why are they called Badlands? If Nature sat down
deliberately on the eighth day of creation and said, "Now work is done,
let's play; let's make a place that shall combine everything that is
finished and wonderful and beautiful--a paradise for man and bird and
beast," it was surely then that she made these wild, fantastic hills,
teeming with life, radiant with gayest flowers, varied with sylvan
groves, bright with prairie sweeps and brimming lakes and streams. In
foreground, offing, and distant hills that change at every step, we find
some proof that Nature squandered here the riches that in other lands
she used as sparingly as gold, with colourful sky above and colourful
land below, and the distance blocked by sculptured buttes that are built
of precious stones and ores, and tinged as by a lasting and unspeakable
sunset. And yet, for all this ten tunes gorgeous wonderland enchanted,
blind man has found no better name than one which says, _the road to it
The little hollow west of Chimney Butte was freshly grassed. The
dangerous-looking Spanish bayonets, that through the bygone winter
had waged war with all things, now sent out their contribution to the
peaceful triumph of the spring, in flowers that have stirred even the
chilly scientists to name them _Gloriosa_; and the cactus, poisonous,
most reptilian of herbs, surprised the world with a splendid bloom as
little like itself as the pearl is like its mother shell-fish. The sage
and the greasewood lent their gold, and the sand-anemone tinged the
Badland hills like bluish snow; and in the air and earth and hills on
every hand was felt the fecund promise of the spring. This was the end
of the winter famine, the beginning of the summer feast, and this I
was the time by the All-mother, ordained when first the little Coyotes
should see the light of day.
A mother does not have to learn to love her helpless, squirming brood.
They bring the love with them--not much or little, not measurable, but
perfect love. And in that dimly lighted warm abode she fondled them and
licked them and cuddled them with heartful warmth of tenderness, that
was as much a new epoch in her life as in theirs.
But the pleasure of loving them was measured in the same measure as
anxiety for their safety. In bygone days her care had been mainly for
herself. All she had learned in her strange puppyhood, all she had
picked up since, was bent to the main idea of self-preservation. Now she
was ousted from her own affections by her brood. Her chief care was to
keep their home concealed, and this was not very hard at first, for she
left them only when she must, to supply her own wants.
She came and went with great care, and only after spying well the land
so that none should see and find the place of her treasure. If it were
possible for the little ones' idea of their mother and the cow-boys'
idea to be set side by side they would be found to have nothing in
common, though both were right in their point of view. The ranchmen
[Illustration: Tito and her Brood.] knew the Coyote only as a pair
of despicable, cruel jaws, borne around on tireless legs, steered by
incredible cunning, and leaving behind a track of destruction. The
little ones knew her as a loving, gentle, all-powerful guardian. For
them her breast was soft and warm and infinitely tender. She fed and
warmed them, she was their wise and watchful keeper. She was always at
hand with food when they hungered, with wisdom to foil the cunning of
their foes, and with a heart of courage tried to crown her well-laid
plans for them with uniform success.
A baby Coyote is a shapeless, senseless, wriggling, and--to every one
but its mother--a most uninteresting little lump. But after its eyes are
open, after it has developed its legs, after it has learned to play in
the sun with its brothers, or run at the gentle call of its mother when
she brings home game for it to feed on, the baby Coyote becomes one of
the cutest, dearest little rascals on earth. And when the nine that
made up Coyotito's brood had reached this stage, it did not require the
glamour of motherhood to make them objects of the greatest interest.
The summer was now on. The little ones were beginning to eat flesh-meat,
and Tito, with some assistance from Saddleback, was kept busy to supply
both themselves and the brood. Sometimes she brought them a Prairie-dog,
at other times she would come home with a whole bunch of Gophers
and Mice in her jaws; and once or twice, by the clever trick of
relay-chasing, she succeeded in getting one of the big Northern
Jack-rabbits for the little folks at home.
After they had feasted they would lie around in the sun for a time. Tito
would mount guard on a bank and scan the earth and air with her keen,
brassy eye, lest any dangerous foe should find their happy valley; and
the merry pups played little games of tag, or chased the Butterflies, or
had apparently desperate encounters with each other, or tore and worried
the bones and feathers that now lay about the threshold of the home.
One, the least, for there is usually a runt, stayed near the mother and
climbed on her back or pulled at her tail. They made a lovely picture as
they played, and the wrestling group in the middle seemed the focus
of it all at first; but a keener, later look would have rested on the
mother, quiet, watchful, not without anxiety, but, above all, with a
face full of motherly tenderness. Oh, she was so proud and happy, and
she would sit there and watch them and silently love them till it was
time to go home, or until some sign of distant danger showed. Then, with
a low growl, she gave the signal, and all disappeared from sight in a
twinkling, after which she would set off to meet and turn the danger, or
go on a fresh hunt for food.
Oliver Jake had several plans for making a fortune, but each in turn was
abandoned as soon as he found that it meant work. At one time or other
most men of this kind see the chance of their lives in a poultry-farm.
They cherish the idea that somehow the poultry do all the work. And
without troubling himself about the details, Jake devoted an unexpected
windfall to the purchase of a dozen Turkeys for his latest scheme. The
Turkeys were duly housed in one end of Jake's shanty, so as to be well
guarded, and for a couple of days were the object of absorbing interest,
and had the best of care--too much, really. But Jake's ardour waned
about the third day; then the recurrent necessity for long celebrations
at Medora, and the ancient allurements of idle hours spent lying on the
tops of sunny buttes and of days spent sponging on the hospitality
of distant ranches, swept away the last pretence of attention to his
poultry-farm. The Turkeys were utterly neglected--left to forage for
themselves; and each time that Jake returned to his uninviting shanty,
after a few days' absence, he found fewer birds, till at last none but
the old Gobbler was left.
Jake cared little about the loss, but was filled with indignation
against the thief.
He was now installed as wolver to the Broadarrow outfit. That is, he was
supplied with poison, traps, and Horses, and was also entitled to all he
could make out of Wolf bounties. A reliable man would have gotten pay in
addition, for the ranchmen are generous, but Jake was not reliable.
Every wolver knows, of course, that his business naturally drops into
several well-marked periods.
In the late whiter and early spring--the love-season--the Hounds will
not hunt a She-wolf. They will quit the trail of a He-wolf at this time
--to take up that of a She-wolf, but when they do overtake her, they,
for some sentimental reason, invariably let her go in peace. In August
and September the young Coyotes and Wolves are just beginning to run
alone, and they are then easily trapped and poisoned. A month or so
later the survivors have learned how to take care of themselves, but in
the early summer the wolver knows that there are dens full of little
ones all through the hills. Each den has from five to fifteen pups, and
the only difficulty is to know the whereabouts of these family homes.
One way of finding the dens is to watch from some tall butte for a
Coyote carrying food to its brood. As this kind of wolving involved much
lying still, it suited Jake very well. So, equipped with a Broadarrow
arrow Horse and the boss's field-glasses, he put in week after week at
den-hunting--that is, lying asleep in some possible look-out, with an
occasional glance over the country when it seemed easier to do that than
to lie still.
The Coyotes had learned to avoid the open. They generally went homeward
along the sheltered hollows; but this was not always possible, and one
day, while exercising his arduous profession in the country west of
Chimney Butte, Jake's glasses and glance fell by chance on a dark spot
which moved along an open hillside. It was grey, and it looked like
this: and even Jake knew that that meant Coyote. If it had been a grey
Wolf it would have been so: with tail up. A Fox would have looked so:
the large ears and tail and the yellow colour would have marked it. And
a Deer would have looked so: That dark shade from the front end meant
something in his mouth--probably something being carried home--and that
would mean a den of little ones.
He made careful note of the place, and returned there next day to watch,
selecting a high butte near where he had seen the Coyote carrying the
food. But all day passed, and he saw nothing. Next day, however, he
descried a dark Coyote, old Saddleback, carrying a large Bird, and by
the help of the glasses he made out that it was a Turkey, and then he
knew that the yard at home was quite empty, and he also knew where the
rest of them had gone, and vowed terrible vengeance when he should find
the den. He followed Saddleback with his eyes as far as possible, and
that was no great way, then went to the place to see if he could track
him any farther; but he found no guiding signs, and he did not chance on
the little hollow the was the playground of Tito's brood.
Meanwhile Saddleback came to the little hollow and gave the low call
that always conjured from the earth the unruly procession of the nine
riotous little pups, and they dashed at the Turkey and pulled and
worried till it was torn up, and each that got a piece ran to one side
alone and silently proceeded to eat, seizing his portion in his jaws
when another came near, and growling his tiny growl as he showed the
brownish whites of his eyes in his effort to watch the intruder. Those
that got the softer parts to feed on were well fed. But the three that
did not turned all then energies on the frame of the Gobbler, and over
that there waged a battle royal. This way and that they tugged and
tussled, getting off occasional scraps, but really hindering each other
feeding, till Tito glided in and deftly cut the Turkey into three or
four, when each dashed off with a prize, over which he sat and chewed
and smacked his lips and jammed his head down sideways to bring the
backmost teeth to bear, while the baby runt scrambled into the home den,
carrying in triumph his share--the Gobbler's grotesque head and neck.
Jake felt that he had been grievously wronged, indeed ruined, by that
Coyote that stole his Turkeys. He vowed he would skin them alive when he
found the pups, and took pleasure in thinking about how he would do it.
His attempt to follow Saddleback by trailing was a failure, and all his
searching for the den was useless, but he had come prepared for any
emergency. In case he found the den he had brought a pick and shovel; in
case he did not he had brought a living white Hen.
The Hen he now took to a broad open place near where he had seen
Saddle-back, and there he tethered her to a stick of wood that she could
barely drag. Then he made himself comfortable on a look-out that was
near, and lay still to watch. The Hen, of course, ran to the end of the
string, and then lay on the ground flopping stupidly. Presently the log
gave enough to ease the strain, she turned by mere chance in another
direction, and so, for a time, stood up to look around.
The day went slowly by, and Jake lazily stretched himself on the blanket
in his spying-place. Toward evening Tito came by on a hunt. This was not
surprising, for the den was only half a mile away. Tito had learned,
among other rules, this, "Never show yourself on the sky-line." In
former days the Coyotes used to trot along the tops of the ridges for
the sake of the chance to watch both sides. But men and guns had taught
Tito that in this way you are sure to be seen. She therefore made a
practice of running along near the top, and once in a while peeping
This was what she did that evening as she went out to hunt for the
children's supper, and her keen eyes fell on the white Hen, stupidly
stalking about and turning up its eyes in a wise way each time a
harmless Turkey-buzzard came in sight against a huge white cloud.
Tito was puzzled. This was something new. It _looked_ like game, but
she feared to take any chances. She circled all around without showing
herself, then decided that, whatever it might be, it was better let
alone. As she passed on, a fault whiff of smoke caught her attention.
She followed cautiously, and under a butte far from the Hen she found
Jake's camp. His bed was there, his Horse was picketed, and on the
remains of the fire was a pot which gave out a smell which she well knew
about men's camps--the smell of coffee. Tito felt uneasy at this proof
that a man was staying so near her home, but she went off quietly on her
hunt, keeping out of sight, and Jake knew nothing of her visit.
About sundown he took in his decoy Hen, as Owls were abundant, and went
back to his camp.
Next day the Hen was again put out, and late that afternoon Saddleback
came trotting by. As soon as his eye fell on the white Hen he stopped
short, his head on one side, and gazed. Then he circled to get the wind,
and went cautiously sneaking nearer, very cautiously, somewhat puzzled,
till he got a whiff that reminded him of the place where he had found
those Turkeys. The Hen took alarm, and tried to run away; but Saddleback
made a rush, seized the Hen so fiercely that the string was broken, and
away he dashed toward the home valley.
Jake had fallen asleep, but the squawk of the Hen happened to awaken
him, and he sat up in time to see her borne away in old Saddleback's
As soon as they were out of sight Jake took up the white-feather trail.
At first it was easily followed, for the Hen had shed plenty of plumes
in her struggles; but once she was dead in Saddleback's jaws, very few
feathers were dropped except where she was carried through the brush.
But Jake was following quietly and certainly, for Saddleback had gone
nearly in a straight line home to the little ones with the dangerous
tell-tale prize. Once or twice there was a puzzling delay when the
Coyote had changed his course or gone over an open place; but one white
feather was good for fifty yards, and when the daylight was gone, Jake
was not two hundred yards from the hollow, in which at that very moment
were the nine little pups, having a perfectly delightful time with the
Hen, pulling it to pieces, feasting and growling, sneezing the white
feathers from their noses or coughing them from their throats.
If a puff of wind had now blown from them toward Jake, it might have
carried a flurry of snowy plumes or even the merry cries of the little
revellers, and the den would have been discovered at once. But, as luck
would have it, the evening lull was on, and all distant sounds were
hidden by the crashing that Jake made in trying to trace his feather
guides through the last thicket.
About this time Tito was returning home with a Magpie that she had
captured by watching till it went to feed within the ribs of a dead
Horse, when she ran across Jake's trail. Now, a man on foot is always
a suspicious character in this country. She followed the trail for a
little to see where he was going, and that she knew at once from the
scent. How it tells her no one can say, yet all hunters know that it
does. And Tito marked that it was going straight toward her home.
Thrilled with new fear, she hid the bird she was carrying, then followed
the trail of the man. Within a few minutes she could hear him in the
thicket, and Tito realized the terrible danger that was threatening. She
went swiftly, quietly around to the den hollow, came on the heedless
little roisterers, after giving the signal-call, which prevented them
taking alarm at her approach; but she must have had a shock when she
saw how marked the hollow and the den were now, all drifted over with
feathers white as snow. Then she gave the danger-call that sent them all
to earth, and the little glade was still.
Her own nose was so thoroughly and always her guide that it was not
likely she thought of the white-feathers being the telltale. But now she
realized that a man, one she knew of old as a treacherous character, one
whose scent had always meant mischief to her, that had been associated
with all her own troubles and the cause of nearly all her desperate
danger, was close to her darlings; was tracking them down, in a few
minutes would surely have them in his merciless power.
Oh, the wrench to the mother's heart at the thought of what she could
foresee! But the warmth of the mother-love lent life to the mother-wit.
Having sent her little ones out of sight, and by a sign conveyed to
Saddleback her alarm, she swiftly came back to the man, then she crossed
before him, thinking, in her half-reasoning way, that the man _must_
be following a foot-scent just as she herself would do, but would, of
course, take the stronger line of tracks she was now laying. She did not
realize that the failing daylight made any difference. Then she trotted
to one side, and to make doubly sure of being followed, she uttered the
fiercest challenge she could, just as many a time she had done to make
the Dogs pursue her:
and stood still; then ran a little nearer and did it again, and then
again much nearer, and repeated her bark, she was so determined that the
wolver should follow her.
Of course the wolver could see nothing of the Coyote, for the shades
were falling. He had to give up the hunt anyway. His understanding of
the details was as different as possible from that the Mother Coyote
had, and yet it came to the same thing. He recognized that the Coyote's
bark was the voice of the distressed mother trying to call him away. So
he knew the brood must be close at hand, and all he now had to do was
return in the morning and complete his search. So he made his way back
to his camp.
Saddleback thought they had won the victory. He felt secure, because the
foot-scent that he might have supposed the man to be following would be
stale by morning. Tito did not feel so safe. That two-legged beast was
close to her home and her little ones; had barely been turned aside;
might come back yet.
The wolver watered and repicketed his Horse, kindled the fire anew, made
his coffee and ate his evening meal, then smoked awhile before lying
down to sleep, thinking occasionally of the little woolly scalps he
expected to gather in the morning.
He was about to roll up in his blanket when, out of the dark distance,
there sounded the evening cry of the Coyote, the rolling challenge of
more than one voice. Jake grinned in fiendish glee, and said: "There you
are all right. Howl some more. I'll see you in the morning."
It was the ordinary, or rather _one_ of the ordinary, camp-calls of the
Coyote. It was sounded once, and then all was still. Jake soon forgot it
in his loggish slumber.
The callers were Tito and Saddleback. The challenge was not an empty
bluff. It had a distinct purpose behind it--to know for sure whether the
enemy had any dogs with him; and because there was no responsive bark
Tito knew that he had none.
Then Tito waited for an hour or so till the flickering fire had gone
dead, and the only sound of life about the camp was the cropping of the
grass by the picketed Horse. Tito crept near softly, so softly that the
Horse did not see her till she was within twenty feet; then he gave a
start that swung the tightened picket-rope up into the air, and snorted
gently. Tito went quietly forward, and opening her wide gape, took the
rope in, almost under her ears, between the great scissor-like back
teeth, then chewed it for a few seconds. The fibres quickly frayed, and,
aided by the strain the nervous Horse still kept up, the last of the
strands gave way, and the Horse was free. He was not much alarmed; he
knew the smell of Coyote; and after jumping three steps and walking six,
The sounding thumps of his hoofs on the ground awoke the sleeper. He
looked up, but, seeing the Horse standing there, he went calmly off to
sleep again, supposing that all went well.
Tito had sneaked away, but she now returned like a shadow, avoided the
sleeper, but came around, sniffed doubtfully at the coffee, and then
puzzled over a tin can, while Saddleback examined the frying-pan full of
"camp-sinkers" and then defiled both cakes and pan with dirt. The bridle
hung on a low bush; the Coyotes did not know what it was, but just for
luck they cut it into several pieces, then, taking the sacks that held
Jake's bacon and flour, they carried them far away and buried them in
Having done all the mischief she could, Tito, followed by her mate, now
set off for a wooded gully some miles away, where was a hole that had
been made first by a Chipmunk, but enlarged by several other animals,
including a Fox that had tried to dig out its occupants. Tito stopped
and looked at many possible places before she settled on this. Then she
set to work to dig. Saddleback had followed in a half-comprehending way,
till he saw what she was doing. Then when she, tired with digging, came
out, he went into the hole, and after snuffing about went on with the
work, throwing out the earth between his hind legs; and when it was
piled up behind he would come out and push it yet farther away.
And so they worked for hours, not a word said and yet with a sufficient
comprehension of the object in view to work in relief of each other. And
by the time the morning came they had a den big enough to do for their
home, in case they must move, though it would not compare with the one
in the grassy hollow.
It was nearly sunrise before the wolver awoke. With the true instinct
of a plainsman he turned to look for his Horse. _It was gone_. What his
ship is to the sailor, what wings are to the Bird, what money is to the
merchant, the Horse is to the plainsman. Without it he is helpless, lost
at sea, wing broken, crippled in business. Afoot on the plains is the
sum of earthly terrors. Even Jake realized this, and ere his foggy wits
had fully felt the shock he sighted the steed afar on a flat, grazing
and stepping ever farther from the camp. At a second glance Jake noticed
that the Horse was trailing the rope. If the rope had been left behind
Jake would have known that it was hopeless to try to catch him; he would
have finished his den-hunt and found the little Coyotes. But, with the
trailing rope, there was a good chance of catching the Horse; so Jake
set out to try.
Of all the maddening things there is nothing worse than to be almost,
but not quite, able to catch your Horse. Do what he might, Jake could
not get quite near enough to seize that short rope, and the Horse led
him on and on, until at last they were well on the homeward trail.
Now Jake was afoot anyhow, so seeing no better plan, he set out to
follow that Horse right back to the Ranch.
But when about seven miles were covered Jake succeeded in catching him.
He rigged up a rough _jaquima_ with the rope and rode barebacked in
fifteen minutes over the three miles that lay between him and the
Sheep-ranch, giving vent all the way to his pent-up feelings in cruel
abuse of that Horse. Of course it did not do any good, and he knew that,
but he considered it was heaps of satisfaction. Here Jake got a meal
and borrowed a saddle and a mongrel Hound that could run a trail, and
returned late in the afternoon to finish his den-hunt. Had he known it,
he now could have found it without the aid of the cur, for it was really
close at hand when he took up the feather-trail where he last had left
it. Within one hundred yards he rose to the top of the little ridge;
then just over it, almost face to face, he came on a Coyote, carrying in
its mouth a large Rabbit. The Coyote leaped just at the same moment that
Jake fired his revolver, and the Dog broke into a fierce yelling and
dashed off in pursuit, while Jake blazed and blazed away, without
effect, and wondered why the Coyote should still hang on to that Rabbit
as she ran for her life with the Dog yelling at her heels. Jake followed
as far as he could and fired at each chance, but scored no hit. So when
they had vanished among the buttes he left the Dog to follow or come
back as he pleased, while he returned to the den, which, of course, was
plain enough now. Jake knew that the pups were there yet. Had he not
seen the mother bringing a Rabbit for them?
So he set to work with pick and shovel all the rest of that day. There
were plenty of signs that the den had inhabitants, and, duly encouraged,
he dug on, and after several hours of the hardest work he had ever done,
he came to the end of the den--_only to find it empty_. After cursing
his luck at the first shock of disgust, he put on his strong leather
glove and groped about in the nest. He felt something firm and drew it
out. It was the head and neck of his own Turkey Gobbler, and that was
all he got for his pains.
Tito had not been idle during the time that the enemy was Horse-hunting.
Whatever Saddleback might have done, Tito would live in no fool's
paradise. Having finished the new den, she trotted back to the little
valley of feathers, and the first young one that came to meet her at the
door of this home was a broad-headed one much like herself. She seized
him by the neck and set off, carrying him across country toward the
new den, a couple of miles away. Every little while she had to put her
offspring down to rest and give it a chance to breathe. This made the
moving slow, and the labour of transporting the pups occupied all that
day, for Saddleback was not allowed to carry any of them, probably
because he was too rough. Beginning with the biggest and brightest, they
were carried away one at a time, and late in the afternoon only the runt
was left. Tito had not only worked at digging all night, she had also
trotted over thirty miles, half of it with a heavy baby to carry. But
she did not rest. She was just coming out of the den, carrying her
youngest in her mouth, when over the very edge of this hollow appeared
the mongrel Hound, and a little way behind him Wolver Jake.
Away went Tito, holding the baby tight, and away went the Dog behind
_Bang! bang! bang!_ said the revolver.
But not a shot touched her. Then over the ridge they dashed, where the
revolver could not reach her, and sped across a flat, the tired Coyote
and her baby, and the big fierce Hound behind her, bounding his hardest.
Had she been fresh and unweighted she could soon have left the clumsy
cur that now was barking furiously on her track and rather gaining than
losing in the race. But she put forth all her strength, careered along a
slope, where she gained a little, then down across a brushy flat where
the cruel bushes robbed her of all she had gained. But again into the
open they came, and the wolver, labouring far behind, got sight of them
and fired again and again with his revolver, and only stirred the dust,
but still it made her dodge and lose time, and it also spurred the Dog.
The hunter saw the Coyote, his old acquaintance of the bobtail, carrying
still, as he thought, the Jack-rabbit she had been bringing to her
brood, and wondered at her strange persistence.
"Why doesn't she drop that weight when flying for her life?" But on she
went and gamely bore her load over the hills, the man cursing his luck
that he had not brought his Horse, and the mongrel bounding in deadly
earnest but thirty feet behind her. Then suddenly in front of Tito
yawned a little cut-bank gully. Tired and weighted, she dared not try
the leap; she skirted around. But the Dog was fresh; he cleared it
easily, and the mother's start was cut down by half. But on she went,
straining to hold the little one high above the scratching brush and the
dangerous bayonet-spikes; but straining too much, for the helpless cub
was choking in his mother's grip. She must lay him down or strangle him;
with such a weight she could not much longer keep out of reach. She
tried to give the howl for help, but her voice was muffled by the cub,
now struggling for breath, and as she tried to ease her grip on him a
sudden wrench jerked him from her mouth into the grass--into the power
of the merciless Hound. Tito was far smaller than the Dog; ordinarily
she would have held him in fear; but her [Illustration: Tito's Race For
Life] little one, her baby, was the only thought now, and as the brute
sprang forward to tear it in his wicked jaws, she leaped between and
stood facing him with all her mane erect, her teeth exposed, and plainly
showed her resolve to save her young one at any price. The Dog was not
brave, only confident that he was bigger and had the man behind him.
But the man was far away, and balked in his first rush at the trembling
little Coyote, that tried to hide in the grass, the cur hesitated a
moment, and Tito howled the long howl for help--the muster-call:
and made the buttes around re-echo so that Jake could not tell where it
came from; but someone else there was that heard and did know whence it
came. The Dog's courage revived on hearing something like a far-away
shout. Again he sprang at the little one, but again the mother balked
him with her own body, and then they closed in deadly struggle. "Oh, if
Saddleback would only come!" But no one came, and now she had no further
chance to call. Weight is everything in a closing fight, and Tito soon
went down, bravely fighting to the last, but clearly worsted; and the
Hound's courage grew with the sight of victory, and all he thought of
now was to finish her and then kill her helpless baby in its turn. He
had no ears or eyes for any other thing, till out of the nearest sage
there flashed a streak of grey, and in a trice the big-voiced coward
was hurled back by a foe almost as heavy as himself--hurled back with a
crippled shoulder. Dash, chop, and staunch old Saddleback sprang on him
again. Tito struggled to her feet, and they closed on him together. His
courage fled at once when he saw the odds, and all he wanted now was
safe escape--escape from Saddleback, whose speed was like the wind,
escape from Tito, whose baby's life was at stake. Not twenty jumps away
did he get; not breath enough had he to howl for help to his master in
the distant hills; not fifteen yards away from her little one that he
meant to tear, they tore him all to bits.
And Tito lifted the rescued young one, and travelling as slowly as she
wished, they reached the new-made den. There the family safely reunited,
far away from danger of further attack by Wolver Jake or his kind.
And there they lived in peace till their mother had finished their
training, and every one of them grew up wise in the ancient learning of
the plains, wise in the later wisdom that the ranchers' war has forced
upon them, and not only they, but their children's children, too. The
Buffalo herds have gone; they have succumbed to the rifles of the
hunters. The Antelope droves are nearly gone; Hound and lead were too
much for them. The Blacktail bands have dwindled before axe and fence.
The ancient dwellers of the Badlands have faded like snow under the new
conditions, but the Coyotes are no more in fear of extinction. Their
morning and evening song still sounds from the level buttes, as it did
long years ago when every plain was a teeming land of game. They have
learned the deadly secrets of traps and poisons, they know how to baffle
the gunner and Hound, they have matched their wits with the hunter's
wits. They have learned how to prosper in a land of man-made plenty, in
spite of the worst that man can do, and it was Tito that taught them
WHY THE CHICKADEE GOES CRAZY ONCE A YEAR
Published September, 1893, in "Our Animal Friends," the organ of the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
A long time ago, when there was no winter in the north, the Chickadees
lived merrily in the woods with their relatives, and cared for nothing
but to get all the pleasure possible out of their daily life in the
thickets. But at length Mother Carey sent them all a warning that they
must move to the south, for hard frost and snow were coming on their
domains, with starvation close behind. The Nuthatches and other cousins
of the Chickadees took this warning seriously, and set about learning
how and when to go; but Tomtit, who led his brothers, only laughed and
turned a dozen wheels around a twig that served him for a trapeze.
"Go to the south?" said he. "Not I; I am too well contented here; and as
for frost and snow, I never saw any and have no faith in them."
But the Nuthatches and Kinglets were in such a state of bustle that at
length the Chickadees did catch a little of the excitement, and left off
play for a while to question their friends; and they were not pleased
with what they learned, for it seemed that all of them were to make a
journey that would last many days, and the little Kinglets were actually
going as far as the Gulf of Mexico. Besides, they were to fly by night
in order to avoid their enemies the Hawks, and the weather at this
season was sure to be stormy. So the Chickadees said it was all
nonsense, and went off in a band, singing and chasing one another
through the woods.
But their cousins were in earnest. They bustled about making their
preparations, and learned beforehand what it was necessary for them to
know about the way. The great wide river running southward, the moon at
height, and the trumpeting of the Geese were to be their guides, and
they were to sing as they flew in the darkness, to keep from being
scattered. The noisy, rollicking Chickadees were noisier than ever as
the preparations went on, and made sport of their relatives, who were
now gathered in great numbers, in the woods along the river; and at
length, when the proper time of the moon came, the cousins arose in a
body and flew away in the gloom. The Chickadees said that the cousins
all were crazy, made some good jokes about the Gulf of Mexico, and then
dashed away in a game of tag through the woods, which, by the by, seemed
rather deserted now, while the weather, too, was certainly turning
At length the frost and snow really did come, and the Chickadees were
in a woeful case. Indeed, they were frightened out of their wits, and
dashed hither and thither, seeking in vain for someone to set them
aright on the way to the south. They flew wildly about the woods, till
they were truly crazy. I suppose there was not a Squirrel-hole or a
hollow log in the neighbourhood that some Chickadee did not enter to
inquire if this was the Gulf of Mexico. But no one could tell anything
about it, no one was going that way, and the great river was hidden
under ice and snow.
About this time a messenger from Mother Carey was passing with a message
to the Caribou in the far north; but all he could tell the Chickadees
was that _he_ could not be their guide, as he had no instructions, and,
at any rate, he was going the other way. Besides, he told them they had
had the same notice as their cousins whom they had called "crazy"; and
from what he knew of Mother Carey, they would probably have to brave
it out here all through the snow, not only now, but in all following
winters; so they might as well make the best of it.
This was sad news for the Tomtits; but they were brave little fellows,
and seeing they could not help themselves, they set about making the
best of it. Before a week had gone by they were in their usual good
spirits again, scrambling about the twigs or chasing one another as
before. They had still the assurance that winter would end. So filled
were they with this idea that even at its commencement, when a fresh
blizzard came on, they would gleefully remark to one another that it was
a "sign of spring," and one or another of the band would lift his voice
in the sweet little chant that we all know so well:
[Illustration: Spring Soon]
Another would take it up and re-echo:
[Illustration: Spring coming]
and they would answer and repeat the song until the dreary woods rang
again with the good news, and people learned to love the brave little
Bird that sets his face so cheerfully to meet so hard a case. But to
this day, when the chill wind blows through the deserted woods, the
Chickadees seem to lose their wits for a few days, and dart into all
sorts of odd and dangerous places. They may then be found in great
cities, or open prairies, cellars, chimneys, and hollow logs; and the
next time you find one of the wanderers in any such place, be sure to
remember that Tomtit goes crazy once a year, and probably went into his
strange retreat in search of the Gulf of Mexico.