Part 2 out of 3
home to the stable.
At last things came to such a pass that whenever he felt like taking
a little exercise, or had a few minutes of spare time, or even
happened to think of it, Bingo would sally forth at racing speed
over the plain and a few minutes later return, driving the unhappy
yellow cow at full gallop before him.
At first this did not seem very bad, as it kept the cow from straying
too far; but soon it was seen that it hindered her feeding. She
became thin and gave less milk; it seemed to weigh on her mind
too, as she was always watching nervously for that hateful dog,
and in the mornings would hang around the stable as though afraid
to venture off and subject herself at once to an onset.
This was going too far. All attempts to make Bingo more moderate
in his pleasure were failures, so he was compelled to give it up
altogether. After this, though he dared not bring her home, he
continued to show his interest by lying at her stable door while she
was being milked.
As the summer came on the mosquitoes became a dreadful plague,
and the consequent vicious switching of Dunne's tail at
milking-time was even more annoying than the mosquitoes.
Fred, the brother who did the milking, was of an inventive as well
as an impatient turn of mind, and he devised a simple plan to stop
the switching. He fastened a brick to the cow's tail, then set
blithely about his work assured of unusual comfort while the rest
of us looked on in doubt,
Suddenly through the mist of mosquitoes came a dull whack and
an outburst of 'language.' The cow went on placidly chewing till
Fred got on his feet and funously attacked her with the
milking-stool. It was bad enough to be whacked on the ear with a
brick by a stupid old cow, but the uproarious enjoyment and
ridicule of the bystanders made it unendurable,
Bingo, hearing the uproar, and divining that he was needed,
rushed in and attacked Dunne on the other side. Before the affair
quieted down the milk was spilt, the pail and stool were broken,
and the cow and the dog severely beaten.
Poor Bingo could not understand it at all. He had long ago learned
to despise that cow, and now in utter disgust he decided to forsake
even her stable door, and from that time be attached himself
exclusively to the horses and their stable.
The cattle were mine, the horses were my brother's, and in
transferring his allegiance from the cow-stable to the horse-stable
Bingo seemed to give me up too, and anything like daily
companionship ceased, and yet, whenever any emergency arose
Bingo turned to me and I to him, and both seemed to feel that the
bond between man and dog is one that lasts as long as life.
The only other occasion on which Bingo acted as cowherd was in
the autumn of the same year at the annual Carberry Fair, Among
the dazzling inducements to enter one's stock thcre was, in
addition to a prospect of glory, a cash prize of 'two dollars' for the
'best collie in training,'
Misled by a false friend, I entered Bingo, and early on the day
fixed, the cow was driven to the prairie just outside of the village.
When the time came she was pointed out to Bingo and the word
given--'Go fetch the cow.' lt was the intention, of course, that he
should bring her to me at the judge's stand.
But the animals knew better. They hadn't rehearsed all summer for
nothing. When Dunne saw Bingo's careering form she knew that
her only hope for safety was to get into her stable, and Bingo was
equally sure that his sole mission in life was to quicken her pace in
that direction. So off they raced over the prairie, like a wolf after
a deer, and heading straight toward their home two miles way,
they disappeared from view.
That was the last that judge or jury ever saw of dog or cow. The
prize was awarded to the only other entry.
Bingo's loyalty to the horses was quite remarkable; by day he
trotted beside them, and by night he slept at the stable door. Where
the team went Bingo went, and nothing kept him away from them.
This interesting assumption of ownership lent the greater
significance to the following circumstance.
I was not superstitious, and up to this time had had no faith in
omens, but was now deeply impressed by a strange occurrence in
which Bingo took a leading part. There were but two of us now
living on the De Winton Farm. One morning my brother set out for
Boggy Creek for a load of hay. It was a long day's journey there
and back, and he made an early start. Strange to tell, Bingo for
once in his life did not follow the team. My brother called to him,
but still he stood at a safe distance, and eyeing the team askance,
refused to stir. Suddenly he raised his nose in the air and gave vent
to a long, melancholy howl. He watched the wagon out of sight,
and even followed for a hundred yards or so, raising his voice from
time to time in the most doleful howlings.
All that day he stayed about the barn, the only time that be was
willingly separated from the horses, and at intervals howled a very
death dirge. I was alone, and the dog's behavior inspired me with
an awful foreboding of calamity, that weighed upon use more and
more as the hours passed away.
About six o'clock Bingo's howlings became unbearable, so that for
lack of a better thought I threw something at him, and ordered him
away. But oh, the feeling of horror that filled m& Why did I let my
brother go away alone? Should I ever again see him alive? I might
have known from the dog's actions that something dreadful was
about to happen.
At length the hour for his return arrived, and there was John on his
load. I took charge of the horses, vastly relieved, and with an air of
assumed unconcern, asked, "All right?"
"Right," was the laconic answer.
Who now can say that there is nothing in omens.
And yet when, long afterward, I told this to one skilled in the
occult, he looked grave, and said, "Bingo always turned to you in a
"Then do not smile. It was you that were in danger that day; he
stayed and saved your life, though you never knew from what."
Early in the spring I bad begun Bingo's education. Very shortly
afterward he began mine.
Midway on the two-mile stretch of prairie that lay between our
shanty and the village of Carberry, was the corner-stake of the
farm; it was a stout post in a low mound of earth, and was visible
I soon noticed that Bingo never passed without minutely
examining this mysterious post. Next I learned that it was also
visited by the prairie wolves as well as by all the dogs in the
neighborhood, and at length, with the aid of a telescope, I made a
number of observations that helped me to an understanding of the
matter and enabled me to enter more fully into Bingo's private life.
The post was by common agreement a registry of the canine
tribes. Their exquisite sense of smell enabled each individual to
tell at once by the track and trace what other had recently been at
the post. When the snow came much more was revealed. I then
discovered that this post was but one of a system that covered the
country; that, in short, the entire region was laid out in signal
stations at convenient intervals. These were marked by any
conspicuous post, stone, buffalo skull, or other object that chanced
to be in the desired locality, and extensive observation showed that
it was a very complete system for getting and giving the news.
Each dog or wolf makes a point of calling at those stations that are
near his line of travel to learn who has recently been there, just as
a man calls at his club on returning to town and looks up the
I have seen Bingo approach the post, sniff, examine the ground
about, then growl, and with bristling mane and glowing eyes,
scratch fiercely and contemptuously with his hind feet, finally
walking off very stiffly, glancing back from time to time. All of
which, being interpreted, said:
"Grrrh! woof! there's that dirty cur of McCarthy's.
Woof! I'll 'tend to him tonight. Woof! woof!" On another occasion,
after the preliminaries, be became keenly interested and studied a
coyote's track that came and went, saying to himself, as I afterward
"A coyote track coming from the north, smelling of dead cow.
Indeed? Pollworth's old Brindle must be dead at last. This is worth
At other times he would wag his tail, trot about the vicinity and
come again and again to make his own visit more evident, perhaps
for the benefit of his brother Bill just back from Brandon! So that
it was not by chance that one night Bill turned up at Bingo's home
and was taken to the hills, where a delicious dead horse afforded a
chance to suitably celebrate the reunion.
At other times he would be suddenly aroused by the news, take up
the trail, and race to the next station for later information.
Sometimes his inspection produced only an air of grave attention,
as though he said to himself, "Dear me, who the deuce is this?" or
"It seems to me I met that fellow at the Portage last summer."
One morning on approaching the post Bingo's every hair stood on
end, his tail dropped and quivered, and he gave proof that he was
suddenly sick at the stomach, sure signs of terror. He showed no
desire to follow up or know more of the matter, but returned to the
house, and half an hour afterward his mane was still bristling and
his expression one of hate or fear.
I studied the dreaded track and learned that in Bingo's language the
half-terrified, deep-gurgled 'grr-wff' means 'timber wolf.'
These were among the things that Bingo taught me. And in the
after time when I might chance to see him arouse from his frosty
nest by the stable door, and after stre.tching himself and shaking
the snow from his shaggy coat, disappear into the gloom at a
steady trot, trot, trot, I used to think:
"Ahh! old dog, I know where you are off to, and why you eschew
the shelter of the shanty. Now I know why your nightly trips over
the country are so well timed, and how you know just where to go
for what you want, and when and how to seek it."
In the autumn of 1884, the shanty at De Winton farm was closed
and Bingo changed his home to the establishment--that is, to the
stable, not the house--of Gordon Wright, our most intimate
Since the winter of his puppyhood he had declined to enter a house
at any time excepting during a thunderstorm. Of thunder and guns
he had a deep dread--no doubt the fear of the first originated in the
second, and that arose from some unpleasant shot-gun experiences,
the cause of which will be seen. His nightly couch was outside the
stable, even during the coldest weather, and it was easy to see he
enjoyed to the full the complete nocturnal liberty entailed. Bingo's
midnight wanderings extended across the plains for miles. There
was plenty of proof of this. Some farmers at very remote points
sent word to old Gordon that if he did not keep his dog home
nights, they would use the shot-gun, and Bingo's terror of firearms
would indicate that the threats were not idle. A man living as far
away as Petrel said he saw a large black wolf kill a coyote on the
snow one winter evening, but afterward he changed his opinion
and 'reckoned it must 'a' been Wright's dog.' Whenever the body of
a winter-killed ox or horse was exposed, Bingo was sure to repair
to it nightly, and driving away the prairie wolves, feast to
Sometimes the object of a night foray was merely to maul some
distant neighbor's dog, and notwithstanding vengeful threats, there
seemed no reason to fear that the Bingo breed would die out. One
man even avowed that he had seen a prairie wolf accompanied by
three young ones which resembled the mother, excepting that they
were very large and black and had a ring of white around the
True or not as that may be, I know that late in March, while we
were out in the sleigh with Bingo trotting behind, a prairie wolf
was started from a hollow. Away it went with Bingo in full chase,
but the wolf did not greatly exert itself to escape, and within a
short distance Bingo was close up, yet strange to tell, there was no
grappling, no fight!
Bingo trotted amiably alongside and licked the wolf's nose.
We were astounded, and shouted to urge Bingo on. Our shouting
and approach several times started the wolf off at speed and Bingo
again pursued until he had overtaken it, but his gentleness was too
"It is a she-wolf, he won't harm her," I exclaimed as the truth
dawned on me. And Gordon said: "Well, I be darned."
So we called our unwilling dog and drove on.
For weeks after this we were annoyed by the depredations of a
prairie wolf who killed our chickens, stale pieces of pork from the
end of the house, and several times terrified the children by
looking into the window of the shanty while the men were away.
Against this animal Bingo seemed to be no safeguard. At length
the wolf, a female, was killed, and then Bingo plainly showed his
hand by his lasting enmity toward Oliver, the man who did the
It is wonderful and beautiful how a man and his dog will stick to
one another, through thick and thin. Butler tells of an undivided
Indian tribe, in the Far North which was all but exterminated by an
internecine feud over a dog that belonged to one man and was
killed by his neighbor; and among ourselves we have lawsuits,
fights, and deadly feuds, all pointing the same old moral, 'Love me,
love my dog.'
One of our neighbors had a very fine hound that he thought the
best and dearest dog in the world. I loved him, so I loved his dog,
and when one day poor Tan crawled home terribly mangled and
died by the door, I joined my threats of vengeance with those of
his master and thenceforth lost no opportunity of tracing the
miscreant, both by offering rewards and by collecting scraps of
evidence. At length it was clear that one of three men to the
southward had had a hand in the cruel affair. The scent was
warming up, and soon we should have been in a position to exact
rigorous justice, at least, from the wretch who had murdered poor
Then something took place which at once changed my mind and
led me to believe that the mangling of the old hound was not by
any means an unpardonable crime, but indeed on second thoughts
was rather commendable than otherwise.
Gordon Wright's farm lay to the south of us, and while there one
day, Gordon Jr., knowing that I was tracking the murderer, took
me aside and looking about furtively, he whispered, in tragic tones:
"It was Bing done it."
And the matter dropped right there. For I confess that from that
moment I did all in my power to baffle the justice I had previously
striven so hard to further. I had given Bingo away long before, but
the feeling of ownership did not die; and of this indissoluble
fellowship of dog and man he was soon to take part in another
Old Gordon and Oliver were close neighbors and friends; they
joined in a contract to cut wood, and worked together
harmoniously till late on in winter. Then Oliver's old horse died,
and he, determining to profit as far as possible, dragged it out on
the plain and laid poison baits for wolves around it. Alas for poor
Bingo! He would lead a wolfish life, though again and again it
brought him into wolfish misfortunes.
He was as fond of dead horse as any of his wild kindred. That very
night, with Wright's own dog Curley, he visited the carcass. It
seemed as though Bing had busied himself chiefly keeping off the
wolves, but Curley feasted immoderately. The tracks in the snow
told the story of the banquet; the interruption as the poison began
to work, and of the dreadful spasms of pain during the erratic
course back home where Curley, falling in convulsions at Gordon's
feet, died in the greatest agony.
'Love me, love my dog,' No explanations or apology were
acceptable; it was useless to urge that it was accidental; the
long-standing feud between Bingo and Oliver was now
remembered as an important sidelight. The wood-contract was
thrown up, all friendly relations ceased, and to this day there is no
county big enough to hold the rival factions which were called at
once into existence and to arms by Curley's dying yell.
It was months before Bingo really recovered from the poison. We
believed indeed that he never again would be the sturdy old-time
Bingo. But when the spring came he began to gain strength, and
bettering as the grass grew, he was within a few weeks once more
in full health and vigor to be a pride to his friends and a nuisance
to his neighbors.
Changes took me far away from Manitoba, and on my return in
1886 Bingo was still a member of Wright's household. I thought
he would have forgotten me after two years' absence, but not so.
One day early in the winter, after having been lost for forty-eight
hours, he crawled home to Wright's with a wolf-trap and a heavy
log fast to one foot, and the foot frozen to stony hardness. No one
had been able to approach to help him, he was so savage, when I,
the stranger now, stooped down and laid hold of the trap with one
hand and his leg with the other. Instantly he seized my wrist in his
Without stirring I said, "Bing, don't you know me?"
He had not broken the skin and at once released his hold and
offered no further resistance, although he whined a good deal
during the removal of the trap. He still acknowledged me his
master in spite of his change of residence and my long absence,
and notwithstanding my surrender of ownership I still felt that he
was my dog.
Bing was carried into the house much against his will and his
frozen foot thawed out. During the rest of the winter he went lame
and two of his toes eventually dropped off. But before the return of
warm weather his health and strength were fully restored, and to a
casual glance he bore no mark of his dreadful experience in the
During that same winter I caught many wolves and foxes who did
not have Bingo's good luck in escaping the traps, which I kept out
right into the spring, for bounties are good even when fur is not.
Kennedy's Plain was always a good trapping ground because it was
unfrequented by man and yet lay between the heavy woods and the
settlement. I had been fortunate with the fur here, and late in April
rode in on one of my regular rounds.
The wolf-traps are made of heavy steel and have two springs, each
of one hundred pounds power. They are set in fours around a
buried bait, and after being strongly fastened to concealed logs are
carefully covered in cotton and in fine sand so as to be quite
invisible. A prairie wolf was caught in one of these. I killed him
with a club and throwing him aside proceeded to reset the trap as I
had done so many hundred times before. All was quickly done. I
threw the trap-wrench over toward the pony, and seeing some fine
sand nearby, I reached out for a handful of it to add a good finish
to the setting.
Oh, unlucky thought! Oh, mad heedlessness born of long
immunity! That fine sand was on the next wolftrap and in an
instant I was a prisoner. Although not wounded, for the traps have
no teeth, and my thick trapping gloves deadened the snap, I was
firmly caught across the hand above the knuckles. Not greatly
alarmed at this, I tried to reach the trap-wrench with my right foot.
Stretching out at full length, face downward, I worked myself
toward it, making my imprisoned arm as long and straight as
possible. I could not see and reach at the same time, but counted
on my toe telling me when I touched the little iron key to my
fetters. My first effort was a failure; strain as I might at the chain
my toe struck no metal. I swung slowly around. my anchor, but
still failed. Then a painfully taken observation showed I was much
too far to the west. I set about working around, tapping blindly
with my toe to discover the key. Thus wildly groping with my right
foot I forgot about the other till there was a sharp 'clank' and the
iron jaws of trap No. S closed tight on my left foot.
The terrors of the situation did not, at first, impress me, but I soon
found that all my struggles were in vain. I could not get free from
either trap or move the traps together, and there I lay stretched out
and firmly staked to the ground.
What would become of me now? There was not much danger of
freezing for the cold weather was over, but Kennedy's Plain was
never visited by the winter wood-cutters. No one knew where I had
gone, and unless I could manage to free myself there was no
prospect ahead but to be devoured by wolves, or else die of cold
As I lay there the red sun went down over the spruce swamp west
of the plain, and a shorelark on a gopher mound a few yards off
twittered his evening song, just as one had done the night before at
our shanty door, and though the numb pains were creeping up my
arm, and a deadly chill possessed me, I noticed how long his little
ear-tufts were. Then my thoughts went to the comfortable
supper-table at Wright's shanty, and I thought, now they are frying
the pork for supper, or just sitting down. My pony still stood as I
left him with his bridle on the ground patiently waiting to take me
home. He did not understand the long delay, and when I called, he
ceased nibbling the grass and looked at me in dumb, helpless
inquiry. If he would only go home the empty saddle might tell the
tale and bring help. But his very faithfulness kept him waiting hour
after hour while I was perishing of cold and hunger.
Then I remembered how old Girou the trapper had been lost, and
in the following spring his comrades found his skeleton held by the
leg in a bear-trap. I wondered which part of my clothing would
show my identity. Then a new thought came to me. This is how a
wolf feels when he is trapped. Oh! what misery have I been
responsible for! Now I'm to pay for it.
Night came slowly on. A prairie wolf howled, the pony pricked up
his ears and, walking nearer to me, stood with his head down.
Then another prairie wolf howled and another, and I could make
out that they were gathering in the neighborhood. There I lay prone
and helpless, wondering if it would not be strictly just that they
should come and tear me to pieces. I heard them calling for a long
time before I realized that dim, shadowy forms were sneaking
near. The horse taw them fIrst, and his terrified snort drove them
back at first, but they came nearer next time and sat around me on
the prairie. Soon one bolder than the others crawled up and tugged
at the body of his dead relative. I shouted and he retreated
growling. The pony ran to a distance in terror. Presently the wolf
returned, and after after two or three of these retreats and returns,
the body was dragged off and devoured by the rest in a few
After this they gathered nearer and sat on their haunches to look at
me, and the boldest one smelt the rifle and scratched dirt on it. He
retreated when I kicked at him with my free foot and shouted, but
growing bolder as I grew weaker he came and snarled right in my
face. At this several others snarled and came up closer, and I
realized that I was to be devoured by the foe that I most despised;
when suddenly out of the gloom with a guttural roar sprang a great
black wolf. The prairie wolves scattered like chaff except the bold
one, which, seized by the black new-corner, was in a few moments
a draggled corpse, and then, oh horrors! this mighty brute bounded
at me and--Bingo--noble Bingo, rubbed his shaggy, panting sides
against me and licked my cold face.
"Bingo--Bing--old--boy---Fetch me the trap wrench!" Away he
went and returned dragging the rifle, for he knew only that I
"No--Bing--the trap-wrench." This time it was my sash, but at last
he brought the wrench and wagged his tail in joy that it was right.
Reaching out with my free hand, after much difficulty I unscrewed
the pillar-nut. The trap fell apart and my hand was released, and a
minute later I was free. Bing brought the pony up, and after slowly
walking to restore the circulation I was able to mount. Then slowly
at first but soon at a gallop, with Bingo as herald careering and
barking ahead, we set out for home, there to learn that the night
before, though never taken on the trapping rounds, the brave dog
had acted strangely, whimpering and watching the timber-trail; and
at last when night came on, in spite of attempts to detain him he
had set out in the gloom and guided by a knowledge that is beyond
us had reached the spot in time to avenge me as well as set me
Stanch old Bing--he was a strange dog. Though his heart was with
me, he passed me next day with scarcely a look, but responded
with alacrity when little Gordon called him to a gopher-hunt. And
it was so to the end; and to the end also he lived the wolfish life
that he loved, and never failed to seek the winter-killed horses and
found one again with a poisoned bait, and wolfishly bolted that;
then feeling the pang, set out, not for Wright's but to find me, and
reached the door of my shanty where I should have been. Next day
on returning I found him dead in the snow with his head on the sill
of the door--the door of his puppyhood's days; my dog to the last in
his heart of hearts--it was my help he sought, and vainly sought,
in the hour of his bitter extremity.
THE SPRINGFIELD FOX
THE HENS had been mysteriously disappearing for over a month;
and when I came home to Springfield for the summer holidays it
was my duty to find the cause. This was soon done. The fowls
were carried away bodily one at a time, before going to roost or
else after leaving,
which put tramps and neighbors out of court; they were not taken
from the high perches, which cleared all coons and owls; or left
partly eaten, so that weasels, skunks, or minks were not the guilty
ones, and the blame, therefore, was surely left at Reynard's door.
The great pine wood of Erindale was on the other bank of the
river, and on looking carefully about the lower ford I saw a few
fox-tracks and a barred feather from one of our Plymouth Rock
chickens. On climbing the farther bank in search of more dews, I
heard a great outcry of crows behind me, and turning, saw a
number of these birds darting down at something in the ford. A
better view showed that it was the old story, thief catch thief, for
there in the middle of the ford was a fox with something in his
jaws--he was returning from our barnyard with another hen. The
crows, though shameless robbers themselves, are ever first to cry
'Stop thief,' and yet more than ready to take 'hush-money' in the
form of a share in the plunder.
And this was their game now. The fox to get back home must cross
the river, where he was exposed to the full brunt of the crow mob.
He made a dash for it, and would doubtless have gotten across
with his booty had I not joined in the attack, whereupon he
dropped the hen, scarce dead, and disappeared in the woods.
This large and regular levy of provisions wholly carried off could
mean but one thing, a family of little foxes at home; and to find
them I now was bound.
That evening I went with Ranger, my hound, across the river into
the Erindale woods. As soon as the hound began to circle, we
heard the short, sharp bark of a fox from a thickly wooded ravine
close by. Ranger dashed in at once, struck a hot scent and went off
on a lively straight-away till his voice was lost in the distance away
over the upland.
After nearly an hour he came back, panting and warm, for it was
baking August weather, and lay down at my feet.
But almost immediately thc same foxy 'Yap yurrr' was heard close
at hand and off dashed the dog on another chase.
Away he went in the darkness, baying like a foghorn, straight away
to the north. And the loud 'Boo, boo,' became a low 'oo,oo,' and
that a feeble 'o-o' and then was lost. They must have gone some
miles away, for even with ear to the ground I heard nothing of
them though a mile was easy distance for Ranger's brazen voice.
As I waited in the black woods I heard a sweet sound of dripping
water: 'Tink tank tenk tink, Ta tink tank tenk tonk.'
I did not know of any spring so near, and in the hot night it was a
glad find. But the sound led me to the bough of a oak-tree, where I
found its source. Such a soft sweet song; full of delightful
suggestion on such a night:
Tonk tank tenk tink
Ta tink a tonk a tank a tink a
Ta ta tink tank ta ta tonk tink
Drink a tank a drink a drunk.
It was the 'water-dripping' song of the saw-whet owl.
But suddenly a deep raucous breathing and a rustle of leaves
showed that Ranger was back. He was cornpletely fagged out. His
tongue hung almost to the ground and was dripping with foam, his
flanks were heaving and spume-flecks dribbled from his breast and
sides. He stopped panting a moment to give my hand a dutiful lick,
then flung himself flop on the leaves to drown all other sounds
with his noisy panting.
But again that tantilizing 'Yap yurrr' was heard a few feet away,
and the meaning of it all dawned on me. We were close to the den
where the little foxes were, and the old ones were taking turns in
trying to lead us away.
It was late night now, so we went home feeling sure that the
problem was nearly solved.
It was well known that there was an old fox with his family living
in the neighborhood, but no one supposed them so near.
This fox had been called 'Scarface,' because of a scar reaching
from his eye through and back of his ear; this was supposed to
have been given him by a barbed-wire fence during a rabbit hunt,
and as the hair came in white after it healed it was always a strong
The winter before I had met with him and had had a sample of his
craftiness. I was out shooting, after a fall of snow, and had crossed
the open fields to the edge of the brushy hollow back of the old
mill. As my head rose to a view of the hollow I caught sight of a
fox trotting at long range down the other side, in line to cross my
course. Instantly I held motionless, and did not even lower or turn
my head lest I should catch his eye by moving, until he went on
out of sight in the thick cover at the bottom. As soon as he was
hidden I bobbed down and ran to head him off where he should
leave the cover on the other side, and was there in good time
awaiting, but no fox came forth. A careful look showed the fresh
track of a fox that had bounded from the cover, and following it
with my eye I saw old Scarface himself far out of range behind me,
sitting on his haunches and grinning as though much amused.
A study of the trail made all clear. He had seen me at the moment I
saw him, but he, also like a true hunter, had concealed the fact,
putting on an air of unconcern till out of sight, when he had run for
his life around behind me and amused himself by watching my still
In the springtime I had yet another instance of Scarface's cunning.
I was walking with a friend along the road over the high pasture.
We passed within thirty feet of a ridge on which were several gray
and brown boulders. When at the nearest point my friend said:
"Stone number three looks to me very much like a fox curled up."
But I could not see it, and we passed. We had not gone many yards
farther when the wind blew on this boulder as on fur.
My friend said, "I am sure that is a fox, lying asleep."
"We'll soon settle that," I replied, and turned back, but as soon as I
had taken one step from the road, up jumped Scarface, for it was
he, and ran. A fire had swept the middle of the pasture, leaving a
broad belt of black; over this he scurried till he came to the
unburnt yellow grass again, where he squatted down and was lost
to view. He had been watching us all the time, and would not have
moved had we kept to the road. The wonderful part of this is, not
that be resembled the round stones and dry grass, but that he knew
he did, and was ready to profit by it.
We soon found that it was Scarface and his wife Vixen that had
made our woods their home and our barnyard their base of
Next morning a search in the pines showed a great bank of earth
that had been scratched up within a few months. It must have
come from a hole, and yet there was none to be seen. It is well
known that a really cute fox, on digging a new den, brings all the
earth out at the first hole made, but carries on a tunnel into some
distant thicket. Then closing up for good the first made and too
well-marked door, uses only the entrance hidden in the thicket.
So after a little search at the other side of a knoll, I found the real
entry and good proof that there was a nest of little foxes inside.
Rising above the brush on the hillside was a great hollow
basswood. It leaned a good deal and had a large hole at the bottom,
and a smaller one at top.
We boys had often used this tree in playing Swiss Family
Robinson, and by cutting steps in its soft punky walls had made it
easy to go up and down in the hollow. Now it came in handy, for
next day when the sun was warm I went there to watch, and from
this perch on the roof, I soon saw the interesting family that lived
in the cellar near by. There were four little foxes; they looked
curiously like little lambs, with their woolly coats, their long thick
legs and innocent expressions, and yet a second glance at their
broad, sharp-nosed, sharp-eyed visages showed that each of these
innocents was the makings of a crafty old fox.
They played about, basking in the sun, or wrestling with each other
till a slight sound made them scurry under ground. But their alarm
was needless, for the cause of it was their mother; she stepped
from the bushes bringing another hen--number seventeen as I
remember. A low call from her and the little fellows came
tumbling out. Then began a scene that I thought charming, but
which my uncle would not have enjoyed at all.
They rushed on the hen, and tussled and fought with it, and each
other, while the mother, keeping a sharp eye for enemies, looked
on with fond delight. The expression on her face was remarkable.
It was first a grinning of delight, but her usual look of wildness and
cunning was there, nor were cr~1ty and nervo~isuess lAcklng, hut
over all was the unmistakable look of the mother's pride and love.
The base of my tree was hidden in bushes and much lower than the
knoll where the den wash So I could come and go at will without
scaring the foxes.
For many days I went there and saw much of the training of the
young ones. They early learned to turn to turn to statuettes sound,
and then on hearing it again or finding other cause for fear, to run
Some animals have so much mother-love that it over flows and
benefits outsiders. Not so old Vixen it would seem. Her pleasure in
the cubs led to most refined cruelty. For she often brought home to
them mice and birds alive, and with diabolic gentleness would
avoid doing them serious hurt so that the cubs might have larger
scope to torment them.
There was a woodchuck that lived over in the hill orchard. He was
neither handsome nor interesting, but he knew how to take care of
himself. He had dug a den between the roots of an old pine stump,
so that the foxes could not follow him by digging. But hard work
was not their way of life; wits they believed worth more then
elbowgrease. This woodchuck usually sunned himself on the
stump each morning. If he saw a fox near he went down in the
door of his den, or if the enemy was very near he went inside and
stayed long enough for the danger to pass.
One morning Vixen and her mate seemed to decide that it was
time the children knew something about the broad subject of
Woodchucks, and further that this orchard woodchuck would serve
nicely for an object-lesson. So they went together to the
orchard-fence unseen by old Chuckie on his stump. Scarface then
showed himself in the orchard and quietly walked in a line so as to
pass by the stump at a distance, but never once turned his head or
allowed the ever-watchful woodchuck to think himself seen. When
the fox entered the field the woodchuck quietly dropped down to
the mouth of his den: here he waited as the fox passed~ but
concluding that after all wisdom is the better part, went into his
This was what the foxes wanted. Vixen had kept out of sight, but
now ran swiftly to the stump and hid behind it. Scarface had kept
straight on, going very slowly. The woodchuck had not been
frightened, so before long his head popped up between the roots
and he looked around. There was that fox still going on, farther
and farther away. The woodchuck grew bold as the fox went, and
came out farther, and then seeing the coast clear, he scrambled
onto the stump, and with one spring Vixen had him and shook him
till he lay senseless. Scarface had watched out of the corner of his
eye and now came running back. But Vixen took the chuck in her
jaws and made for the den, so he saw he wasn't needed,
Back to the den came Vix, and carried the chuck so carefully that
he was able to struggle a little when she got there. A low 'woof' at
the den brought the little fellows out like schoolboys to play. She
threw the wounded animal to them and they set on him like four
little furies, uttering little growls and biting little bites with all the
strength of their baby jaws, but the woodchuck fought for his life
and beating them off slowly hobbled to the shelter of a thicket.
The little ones pursued like a pack of hounds and dragged at his
tail and flanks, but could not hold him back. So Vixen overtook
him with a couple of bounds and dragged him again into the open
for the children to worry. Again and again this rough sport went on
till one of the little ones was badly bitten, and his squeal of pain
roused Vix to end the woodchuck's misery and serve him up at
Not far from the den was a hollow overgrown with coarse grass,
the playground of a colony of field-mice. The earliest lesson in
woodcraft that the little ones took, away from the den, was in this
hollow. Here they had their first course of mice, the easiest of all
game. In teaching, the main thing was example, aided by a
deep-set instinct. The old fox, also, had one or two signs meaning
"lie still and watch," "come, do as I do," and so on, that were much
So the merry lot went to this hollow one calm evening and Mother
Fox made them lie still in the grass. Presently a faint squeak
showed that the game was astir. Vix rose up and went on tiptoe
into the grass--not crouching but as high as she could stand,
sometimes on her hind legs so as to get a better view. The runs that
the mice follow are hidden under the grass tangle, and the only
way to know the whereabouts of a mouse is by seeing the slight
shaking of the grass, which is the reason why mice are hunted only
on calm days.
And the trick is to locate the mouse and seize him first and see him
afterward. Vix soon made a spring, and in the middle of the bunch
of dead grass that she grabbed was a field-mouse squeaking his
He was soon gobbled, and the four awkward little foxes tried to do
the same as their mother, and when at length the eldest for the first
time in his life caught game, he quivered with excitement and
ground his pearly little milk-teeth into the mouse with a rush of
inborn savageness that must have surprised even himself.
Another home lesson was on the red-squirrel. One of these noisy,
vulgar creatures, lived close by and used to waste part of each day
scolding the foxes, from some safe perch. The cubs made many
vain attempts to catch him as he ran across their glade from one
tree to an other, or spluttered and scolded at them a foot or so out
of reach. But old Vixen was up in natural history--she knew
squirrel nature and took the case in hand when the proper time
came. She hid the children and lay down flat in the middle of the
open glade. The saucy low-minded squirrel came and scolded as
usual. But she moved no hair. He came nearer and at last right over
head to chatter:
"You brute you, you brute you."
But Vix lay as dead. This was very perplexing, so the squirrel
came down the trunk and peeping about made a nervous dash
across the grass, to another tree, again to scold from a safe perch.
"You brute you, you useless brute, scarrr-scarrrr."
But flat and lifeless on the grass lay Vix. Ths was most tantilizing
to the squirrel. He was naturally curious and disposed to be
venturesome, so again he came to the ground and scurried across
the glade nearer than before. Still as death lay Vix, "surely she was
dead." And the little foxes began to wonder if their mother wasn't
But the squirrel was working himself into a little craze of
foolhardy curiosity. He had dropped a piece of bark on Vix's head,
he had used up his list of bad words and he had done it all over
again, without getting a sign of life. So after a couple more dashes
across the glade he ventured within a few feet of the really
watchful Vix, who sprang to her feet and pinned him in a
"And the little ones picked the bones e-oh."
Thus the rudiments of their education were laid, and afterward as
they grew stronger they were taken farther afield to begin the
higher branches of trailing and scenting.
For each kind of prey they were taught a way to hunt, for every
animal has some great strength or it could not live, and some great
weakness or the others could not live. The squirrel's weakness was
foolish curiosity; the fox's that he can't climb a tree. And the
training of the little foxes was all shaped to take advantage of the
weakness of the other creatures and to make up for their own by
defter play where they are strong.
From their parents they learned the chief axioms of the fox world.
How, is not easy to say. But that they learned this in company with
their parents was clear.
Here are some that foxes taught me, without saying a word: --
Never sleep on your straight track.
Your nose is before your eyes, then trust it first.
A fool runs down the wind.
Running rills cure many ills.
Never take the open if you can keep the cover.
Never leave a straight trail if a crooked one will do.
If it's strange, it's hostile.
Dust and water burn the scent.
Never hunt mice in a rabbit-woods, or rabbits in a henyard.
Keep off the grass.
Inklings of the meanings of these were already entering the little
ones' minds--thus, 'Never follow what you can't smell,' was wise,
they could see, because if you can't smell it, then the wind is so
that it must smell you.
One by one they learned the birds and beasts of their home woods,
and then as they were able to go abroad with their parents they
learned new animals. They were beginning to think they knew the
scent of everything that moved. But one night the mother took
them to a field where there was a strange black flat thing on the
ground. She brought them on purpose to smell it, but at the first
whiff their every hair stood on end, they trembled, they knew not
why--it seemed to tingle through their blood and fill them with
instinctive hate and fear.
And when she saw its full effect she told them--
"That is man-scent."
Meanwhile the hens continued to disappear. I had not betrayed the
den of cubs. Indeed, I thought a good deal more of the little rascals
than I did of the hens; but uncle was dreadfully wrought up and
made most disparaging remarks about my woodcraft. To please
him I one day took the hound across to the woods and seating
myself on a stump on the open hillside, I bade the dog go on.
Within three minutes he sang out in the tongue all hunters know so
well, "Fox! fox! fox! straight away down the valley."
After awhile I heard them coming back. There I saw the
fox--Scarface--loping lightly across the river-bottom to the stream.
In he went and trotted along in the shallow water near the margin
for two hundred yards, then came out straight toward me. Though
in full view, he saw me not but caIne up th~ hill wakhhsg over his
shoulder for the hound. Within ten feet of me he tiitned and sat
with his back to me while he craned his neck and showed an eager
interest in the doings of the hound. Ranger came bawling along the
trail till he came to the running water, the killer of scent, and here
he was puzzled; but there was only one thing to do; that was by
going up and down both banks find where the fox had left the
The fox before me shifted his position a little to get a better view
and watched with a most human interest all the circling of the
hound. He was so close that I saw the hair of his shoulder bristle a
little when the dog came in sight. I could see the jumping of his
heart on his ribs, and the gleam of his yellow eye. When the dog
was wholly baulked by the water trick, it was comical to see:--he
could not sit still, but rocked up and down in glee, and reared on
his hind feet to get a better view of the slow-plodding hound. With
mouth opened nearly to his ears, though not at all winded, he
panted noisily for a moment, or rather he laughed gleefully, just as
a dog laughs by grinning and panting.
Old Scarface wriggled in huge enjoyment as the hound puzzled
over the trail so long that when he did find it, it was so stale he
could barely follow it, and did not feel justified in tonguing on it at
As soon as the hound was working up the hill, the fox quietly went
into the woods. I had been sitting in plain view only ten feet away,
but I had the wind and kept still and the fox never knew that his
life had for twenty minutes been in the power of the foe he most
Ranger also would have passed me as near as the fox, but I spoke
to him, and with a little nervous start he quit the trail and looking
sheepish lay down by my feet.
This little comedy was played with variations for several days, but
it was all in plain view from the house across the river. My uncle,
impatient at the daily loss of hens, went out himself, sat on the
open knoll, and when old Scarface trotted to his lookout to watch
the dull hound on the river fiat below, my uncle remorselessly shot
him in the back, at the very moment when he was grinning over a
But still the hens were disappearing. My uncle was wrathy. He
determined to conduct the war himself, and sowed the woods with
poison baits, trusting to luck that our own dogs would not get
them. He indulged in contemptuous remarks on my by-gone
woodcraft, and went out evenings with a gun and the two dogs, to
see what he could destroy,
Vix knew right well what a poisoned bait was; she passed them by
or else treated them with active contempt, but one she dropped
down the hole of an old enemy, a skunk, who was never afterward
seen. Formerly old Scarface was always ready to take charge of the
dogs, and keep them out of mischief. But now that Vix had the
whole burden of the brood, she could no longer spend time in
breaking every track to the den, and was not always at hand to
meet and mislead the foes that might be coming too near.
The end is easily foreseen. Ranger followed a hot trail to the den,
and Spot, the fox-terrier, announced that the family was at home,
and then did his best to go in after them.
The whole secret was now out, and the whole family doomed. The
hired man came around with pick and shovel to dig them out,
while we and the dogs stood by. Old Vix soon showed herself in
the near woods, and
led the dogs away off down the river, where she shook them off
when she thought proper, by the simple device of springing on a
sheep's back. The frightened animal ran for several hundred yards,
then Vix got off, knowing that there was now a hopeless gap in the
scent, and returned to the den. But the dogs, baffled by the break in
the trail, soon did the same, to find Vix hanging about in despair.
vainly trying to decoy us away Irom her treasures.
Meanwhile Paddy plied both pick and shovel with vigor and effect.
The yellow, gravelly sand was heaping on both sides, and the
shoulders of the sturdy digger were sinking below the level. After
an hour~s digging, enlivened by frantic rushes of the dogs after the
old fox, who hovered near in the woods, Pat called:
"Here they are, sot!"
It was the den at the end of the burrow, and cowering as far back
as they could, were the four little woolly cubs.
Before I could interfere, a murderous blow from the shovel, and a
sudden rush for the fierce little terrier, ended the lives of three.
The fourth and smallest was barely saved by holding him by his
tail high out of reach of the excited dogs.
He gave one short squeal, and his poor mother came at the cry, and
circled so near that she would have been shot but for the accidental
protection of the dogs, who somehow always seemed to get
between, and whom she once more led away on a fruitless chase.
The little one saved alive was dropped into a bag, where he lay
quite still. His unfortunate brothers were thrown back into their
nursery bed, and buried under a few shovelfuls of earth.
We guilty ones then went back into the house, and the little fox
was soon chained in the yard. No one knew just why he was kept
alive, but in all a change of feeling had set in, and the idea of
killing him was without a supporter.
He was a pretty little fellow, like a cross between a fox and a lamb.
His woolly visage and form were strangely lamb-like and innocent,
but one could find in his yellow eyes a gleam of cunning and
savageness as unlamb-like as it possibly could be.
As long as anyone was near he crouched sullen and cowed in his
shelter-box, and it was a full hour after being left alone before he
ventured to look out.
My window now took the place of the hollow bass wood. A
number of hens of the breed he knew so well were about the cub in
the yard. Late that afternoon as they strayed near the captive there
was a sudden rattle of the chain, and the youngster dashed at the
nearest one and would have caught him but for the chain which
brought him up with a jerk. He got on his feet and slunk back to
his box, and though he afterward made several rushes he so gauged
his leap as to win or fail within the length of the chain and never
again was brought up by its cruel jerk.
As night came down the little fellow became very uneasy,
sneaking out of his box, but going back at each slight alarm,
tugging at his chain, or at times biting it in fury while he held it
down with his fore paws. Suddenly he paused as though listening,
then raising his little black nose he poured out a short quavering
cry. Once or twice this was repeated, the time between being
occupied in worrying the chain and running about. Then an answer
came. The far-away Yap-yurrr of the old fox. A few minutes later a
shadowy form appeared on the wood-pile. The little one slunk into
his box, but at once returned and ran to meet his mother with all
the gladness that a fox could show. Quick as a flash she seized him
and turned to bear him away by the road she came. But the
moment the end of the chain was reached the cub was rudely
jerked from the old one's mouth, and she, scared by the opening of
a window, fled over the wood-pile.
An hour afterward the cub had ceased to run about or cry. I peeped
out, and by the light of the moon saw the form of the mother at full
length on the ground by the little one, gnawing at something--the
clank of iron told what, it was that cruel chain. And Tip, the little
one, meanwhile was helping himself to a warm drink.
On my going out the fled Into the dark woods, but there by the
shelter-box were two little mice, bloody and still warm, food for
the cub brought by the de~otcd mother. And in the morning I
found the chain was very bright for a foot or two next the little
On walking across the woods to the ruined den, I again found signs
of Vixen. The poor heart-broken mother had come and dug out the
bedraggled bodies of her little ones.
There lay the three little baby foxes all licked smooth now, and by
them were two of our hens fresh killed. The newly heaved earth
was printed all over with telltale signs--signs that told me that here
by the side of her dead she had watched like Rizpah. Here she had
brought their usual meal, the spoil of her nightly hunt. Here she
had stretched herself beside them and vainly offered them their
natural drink and yearned to feed and warm them as of old, but
only stiff little bodies under their soft wool she found, and little
cold noses still and unresponsive.
A deep impress of elbows, breasts, and hocks showed where she
had laid in silent grief and watched them for long and mourned as
a wild mother can mourn for its young. But from that time she
came no more to the ruined den, for now she surely knew that her
little ones were dead. Tip the captive, the weakling of the brood,
was now the heir to all her love. The dogs were loosed to guard
the hens. The hired man had orders to shoot the old fox on
sight--so had I but w~s resolved never to see her. Chicken-heads,
that a fox loves and a dog will not touch, had been poisoned and
scattered through the woods; and the only way to the yard where
Tip was tied, was by climbing the wood-pile after braving all other
And yet each night old Vix was there to nurse her baby and bring it
fresh-killed hens and game. Again and again I saw her, although
she came now without awaiting the querulous cry of the captive.
The second night of the captivity I heard the rattle of the chain,
and then made out that the old fox was there, hard at work digging
a hole by the little one's kennel. When it was deep enough to half
bury her, she gathered into it all the slack of the chain, and filled it
again with earth. Then in triumph thinking she had gotten rid of
the chain, she seized little Tip by the neck and turned to dash off
up the wood-pile, but alas! only to have him jerked roughly from
Poor little fellow, he whimpered sadly as he crawled into his box.
After half an hour there was a great out cry among the dogs, and
by their straight-away tonguing through the far wood I knew they
were chasing Vix. Away up north they went in the direction of the
railway and their noise faded from hearing. Next morning the
hound had not come back. We soon knew why. Foxes long ago
learned what a railroad is; they soon devised several ways of
turning it to account. One way is when hunted to walk the rails for
a long distance just before a train comes. The scent, always poor
on iron, is destroyed by the train and there is always a chance of
hounds being killed by the engine. But another way more sure, but
harder to play, is to lead the hounds straight to a high trestle just
ahead of the train, so that the engine overtakes them on it and they
are surely dashed to destruction.
This trick was skilfully played, and down below we found the
mangled remains of old Ranger and learned that Vix was already
wreaking her revenge.
That same night she returned to the yard before Spot's weary limbs
could bring him back and killed another hen and brought it to Tip,
and stretched her panting length beside him that he might quench
his thirst. For she seemed to think he had no food but what she
It was that hen that betrayed to my uncle the nightly visits.
My own sympathies were all turning to Vix, and I would have no
hand in planning further murders. Next night my uncle himself
watched, gun in hand, for an hour. Then when it became cold and
the moon clouded over he remembered other important business
elsewhere, and left Paddy in his place.
But Paddy was "onaisy" as the stillness and anxiety of watching
worked on his nerves. And the loud bang! bang! an hour later left
us sure only that powder had been burned.
In the morning we found Vix had not failed her young one. Again
next night found my uncle on guards for another hen had been
taken. Soon after dark a single shot was heard, but Vix dropped the
game she was bringing and escaped. Another attempt made that
night called forth another gunshot. Yet next day it was seen by the
brightness of the chain that she had come again and vainly tried for
hours to cut that hateful bond.
Such courage and stanch fidelity were bound to win respect, if not
toleration. At any rate, there was no gunner in wait next night,
when all was still. Could it be of any use? Driven off thrice with
gunshots, would she make another try to feed or free her captive
young one? Would she? Hers was a mother's love. There was
but one to watch them this time, the fourth night, when the
quavering whine of the little one was followed by that shadowy
form above the wood pile.
But carrying no fowl or food that could be seen. Had the keen
huntress failed at last? Had she no head of game for this her only
charge, or had she learned to trust his captors for his food?
No, far from all this. The wild-wood mother's heart and hate were
true. Her only thought had been to set him free. All means she
knew she tried, and every danger braved to tend him well and help
him to be free. But all had failed.
Like a shadow she came and in a moment was gone, and Tip
seized on something dropped, and crunched and chewed with
relish what she brought. But even as he ate, a knife-like pang shot
through and a scream of pain escaped him. Then there was a
momentary struggle and the little fox was dead.
The mother's love was strong in Vix, but a higher thought was
stronger. She knew right well the poison's power; she knew the
poison bait, and would have taught him had he lived to know and
shun it too. But now at last when she must choose for him a
wretched prisoner's life or sudden death, she quenched the mother
in her breast and freed him by the one remaining door.
It is when the snow is on the ground that we take the census of the
woods, and when the winter came it told me that Vix no longer
roamed the woods of Erindale. Where she went it never told, but
only this, that she was gone.
Gone, perhaps, to some other far-off haunt to leave behind the sad
remembrance of her murdered little ones and mate. Or gone, may
be, deliberately, from the scene of a sorrowful life, as many a
wild-wood mother has gone, by the means that she herself had
used to free her young one, the last of all her brood.
THE PACING MUSTANG
JO CALONE threw down his saddle on the dusty ground, turned
his horses loose, and went clanking into the ranchhouse.
"Nigh about chuck time?" he asked.
"Seventeen minutes," said the cook glancing at the Waterbury,
with the air of a train starter, though this show of precision had
never yet been justified by events.
"How's things on the Perico?" said Jo's pard.
"Hotter'n hinges," said Jo. "Cattle seem 0. K.; lots of calves."
"I seen that bunch o' mustangs that waters at Antelope Springs;
couple o' colts along; one little dark one, a fair dandy; a born
pacer. I run them a mile or two, and be led the bunch, an' never
broke his pace. Cut loose, an' pushed them jest for fun, an' darned
if I could make him break,"
"You didn't have no reefreshments along?" said Scarth,
"That's all right, Scarth. You had to crawl on our last bet, an' you'll
get another chance soon as you're man enough."
"Chuck," shouted the cook, and the subject was dropped. Next day
the scene of the roundup was changed, and the mustangs were
A year later the same corner of New Mexico was worked over by
the roundup, and again the mustang bunch was seen. The dark colt
was now a black yearling, with thin, clean legs and glossy flanks;
and more than one of the boys saw with his own eyes this
oddity--the mustang was a born pacer. Jo was along, and the idea
now struck him that that colt was worth having. To an Easterner
this thought may not seem startling or original, but in the West,
where an unbroken horse is worth $5, and where an ordinary
saddlehorse is worth $15 or $20, the idea of a wild mustang being
desirable property does not occur to the average cowboy, for
mustangs are hard to catch, and when caught are merely wild
animal prisoners, perfectly useless and untamable to the last, Not a
few of the cattle-owners make a point of shooting all mustangs at
sight, they are not only useless cumberers of the feeding-grounds,
but commonly lead away domestic horses, which soon take to wild
life and are thenceforth lost.
Wild Jo Calone knew a 'bronk right down to subsoil.' "I never secn
a white that wasn't soft, nor a chestnut that wasn't nervous, nor a
bay that wasn't good if broke right, nor a black that wasn't hard as
nails, an' full of the old Harry. All a black bronk wants is claws to
be wus'n Daniel's hull outfit of lions.'
Since, then, a mustang is worthless vermin, and a black mustang
ten times worse than worthless, Jo's pard "didn't see no sense in
Jo's wantin' to corral the yearling," as he now seemed intent on
doing. But Jo got no chance to try that year.
He was only a cow-puncher on $25 a month, and tied to hours.
Like most of the boys, he always looked forward to having a ranch
and an outfit of his own. His brand, the hogpen, of sinister
suggestion, was already registered at Santa Fe, but of horned stock
it was borne by a single old cow, so as to give him a legal right to
put his brand on any maverick (or unbranded animal) he might
chance to find.
Yet each fall, when paid off, Jo could not resist the temptation to
go to town with the boys and have a good time 'while the stuff held
out.' So that his property consisted of little more than his saddle,
his bed, and his old cow. He kept on hoping to make a strike that
would leave him well fixed with a fair start, and when the thought
came that the Black Mustang was his mascot, he only needed a
chance to 'make the try.'
The roundup circled down to the Canadian River, and back in the
fall by the Don Carlos Hills, and Jo saw no more of the Pacer,
though he heard of him from many quarters, for the colt, now a
vigorous, young horse, rising three, was beginning to be talked of.
Antelope Springs is in the middle of a great level plain. When the
water is high it spreads into a small lake with a belt of sedge
around it; when it is low there is a wide flat of black mud,
glistening white with alkali in places, and the spring a water-hole
in the middle. It has no flow or outlet and is fairly good water, the
only drinking-place for many miles.
This flat, or prairie as it would be called farther north, was the
favorite feeding-ground of the Black Stallion, but it was also the
pasture of many herds of range horses and cattle. Chiefly
interested was the 'L cross F' outfit. Foster, the manager and part
owner, was a man of enterprise. He believed it would pay to
handle a better class of cattle and horses on the range, and one of
his ventures was ten half-blooded mares, tall, clean-limbed,
deer-eyed creatures that made the scrub cow-ponies look like
pitiful starvelings of some degenerate and quite different species.
One of these was kept stabled for use, but the nine, after the
weaning of their colts, managed to get away and wandered off on
A horse has a fine instinct for the road to the best feed, and the
nine mares drifted, of course, to the prairie of Antelope Springs,
twenty miles to the southward, And when, later that summer Foster
went to round them up, he found the nine indeed, but with them
and guarding them with an air of more than mere comradeship was
a coal-black stallion, prancing around and rounding up the bunch
like an expert, his jet-black coat a vivid contrast to the golden
hides of his harem.
The mares were gentle, and would have been easily driven
homeward but for a new and unexpected thing. The Black Stallion
became greatly aroused. He seemed to inspire them too with his
wildness, and flying this way and that way drove the whole band at
full gallop where he would. Away they went, and the little
cow-ponies that carried the men were easily left behind.
This was maddening, and both men at last drew their guns and
sought a chance to drop that 'blasted stallion.' But no chance came
that was not 9 to 1 of dropping one of the mares. A long day of
manoeuvring made no change. The Pacer, for it was he, kept his
family together and disappeared among the southern sand-hills.
The cattlemen on their jaded ponies set out for home with the poor
satisfaction of vowing vengeance for their failure on the superb
cause of it.
One of the most aggravating parts of it was that one or two
experiences like this would surely make the mares as wild as the
Mustang, and there seemed to be no way of saving them from it.
Scientists differ on the power of beauty and prowess to attract
female admiration among the lower animals, but whether it is
admiration or the prowess itself, it is certain that a wild animal of
uncommon gifts soon wins a large following from the harems of
his rivals. And the great Black Horse, with his inky mane and tail
and his green-lighted eyes, ranged through all that region and
added to his following from many bands till not less than a score
of mares were in his 'bunch.' Most were merely humble
cow-ponies turned out to range, but the nine great mares were
there, a striking group by themselves. According to all reports, this
bunch was always kept rounded up and guarded with such energy
and jealously that a mare, once in it, was a lost animal so far as
man was concerned, and the ranchmen realized soon that they had
gotten on the range a mustang that was doing them more harm
than all other sources of loss put together.
It was December, 1893. I was new in the country, and was setting
out from the ranch-house on the Pi¤avetitos, to go with a wagon to
the Canadian River. As I was leaving, Foster finished his remark
by: "And if you get a chance to draw a bead on that accursed
mustang, don't fail to drop him in his tracks."
This was the first I had heard of him, and as I rode along I gathered
from Burns, my guide, the history that has been given. I was full of
curiosity to see the famous three-year-old, and was not a little
disappointed on the second day when we came to the prairie on
Antelope Springs and saw no sign of the Pacer or his band.
But on the next day, as we crossed the Alamosa Ar. royo, and were
rising to the rolling prairie again, Jack Burns, who was riding on
ahead, suddenly dropped flat on the neck of his horse, and swung
back to me in the wagon, saying:
"Get out your rifle, here's that--stallion."
I seized my rifle, and hurried forward to a view over the prairie
ridge. In the hollow below was a band of horses, and there at one
end was the Great Black Mustang. He had heard some sound of
our approach, and was not unsuspicious of danger. There he stood
with head and tail erect, and nostrils wide, an image of horse
perfection and beauty, as noble an animal as ever ranged the
plains, and the mere notion of turning that magnificent creature
into a mass of carrion was horrible. In spite of Jack's exhortation to
'shoot quick,' I delayed, and threw open the breach, whereupon he,
always hot and hasty, swore at my slowness, growled, 'Gi' me that
gun,' and as he seized it I turned the muzzle up, and accidentally
the gun went off.
Instantly the herd below was all alarm, the great black leader
snorted and neighed and dashed about. And the mares bunched,
and away all went in a rumble of hoofs, and a cloud of dust.
The Stallion careered now on this side, now on that, and kept his
eye on all and led and drove them far away. As long as I could see
I watched, and never once did he break his pace.
Jack made Western remarks about me and my gun, as well as that
mustang, but I rejoiced in the Pacer's strength and beauty, and not
for all the mares in the bunch would I have harmed his glossy hide.
There are several ways of capturing wild horses. One is by
creasing--that is, grazing the animal's nape with a rifle-ball so that
he is stunned long enough for hobbling.
"Yest I seen about a hundred necks broke trying it, but I never seen
a mustang creased yet," was Wild Jo's critical remark.
Sometimes, if the shape of the country abets it, the herd can be
driven into a corral; sometimes with extra fine mounts they can be
run down, but by far the commonest way, paradoxical as it may
seem, is to walk them down.
The fame of the Stallion that never was known to gallop was
spreading. Extraordinary stories were told of his gait, his speed,
and his wind, and when old Montgomery of the 'triangle-bar' outfit
came out plump at Well's Hotel in Clayton, and in presence of
witnesses said he'd give one thousand dollars cash for him safe in a
box-car, providing the stories were true, a dozen young
cow-punchers were eager to cut loose and win the purse, as soon
as present engagements were up. But Wild Jo had had his eye on
this very deal for quite a while; there was no time to lose, so
ignoring present contracts he rustled all night to raise the necessary
equipment for the game.
By straining his already overstrained credit, and taxing the already
overtaxed generosity of his friends, lie got together an expedition
consisting of twenty good saddle-horses, a mess-wagon, and a
fortnight's stuff for three men--himself, his 'pard,' Charley, and the
Then they set out from Clayton, with the avowed intention of
walking down the wonderfully swift wild horse. The third day they
arrived at Antelope Springs, and as it was about noon they were
not surprised to see the black Pacer marching down to drink with
all his band behind him. Jo kept out of sight until the wild horses
each and all had drunk their fill, for a thirsty animal always travels
better than one laden with water.
Jo then rode quietly forward. The Pacer took alarm at half a mile,
and led his band away out of sight on the soapweed mesa to the
southeast. Jo followed at a gailop till he once more sighted them,
then came back and instructed the cook, who was also teamster, to
make for Alamosa Arroyo in the south. Then away to the southeast
he went after the mustangs. After a mile or two he once more
sighted them, and walked his horse quietly till so near that they
again took alarm and circled away to the south. An hour's trot, not
on the trail, but cutting across to where they ought to go, brought
Jo again in close sight. Again he walked quietly toward the herd,
and again there was the alarm and ifight. And so they passed the
afternoon, but circled ever more and more to the south, so that
when the sun was low they were, as Jo had expected, not far from
Alamosa Arroyo. The band was again close at hand, and Jo, after
starting them off, rode to the wagon, while his pard, who had been
taking it easy, took up the slow chase on a fresh horse.
After supper the wagon moved on to the upper ford of the
Alamosa, as arranged, and there camped for the night.
Meanwhile, Charley followed the herd. They had not run so far as
at first, for their pursuer made no sign of attack, and they were
getting used to his company. They were more easily found, as the
shadows fell, on account of a snow-white mare that was in the
bunch. A young moon in the sky now gave some help, and relying
on his horse to choose the path, Charley kept him quietly walking
after the herd, represented by that ghost-white mare, till they were
lost in the night. He then got off, unsaddled and picketed his horse,
and in his blanket quickly went to sleep.
At the first streak of dawn he was up, and within a short half-mile,
thanks to the snowy mare, he found the band. At his approach, the
shrill neigh of the Pacer bugled his troop into a flying squad. But
on the first mesa they stopped, and faced about to see what this
persistent follower was, and what he wanted. For a moment or so
they stood against the sky to gaze, and then deciding that he knew
him as well as he wished to, that black meteor flung his mane on
the wind, and led off at his tireless, even swing, while the mares
came streaming after.
Away they went, circling now to the west, and after several
repetitions of this same play, flying, following, and overtaking, and
flying again, they passed, near noon, the old Apache look-out,
Buffalo Bluff. Anti here, on watch, was Jo. A long thin column of
smoke told Charley to come to camp, and with a flashing
pocket-mirror he made response. Jo, freshly mounted, rode across,
and again took up the chase, and back came Chancy to camp to eat
and rest, and then move on up stream.
All that day Jo followed, and managed, when it was needed, that
the herd should keep the great cirde, of which the wagon cut a
small chord. At sundown he came to Verde Crossing, and there
was Charley with a fresh horse and food, and Jo went on in the
same calm, dogged way. All the evening he followed, and far into
the night, for the wild herd was now getting somewhat used to the
presence of the harmless strangers, and were more easily followed;
moreover, they were thing out with perpetual traveling. They were
no longer in the good grass country, they were not grain.fed like
the horses on their track, and above all, the slight but continuous
nervous tension was surely telling. It spoiled their appetities, but
made them very thirsty. They were allowed, and as far as possible
encouraged, to drink deeply at every chance. The effect of large
quantities of water on a running animal is well known; it tends to
stiffen the limbs and spoil the wind. Jo carefully guarded his own
horse against such excess, and both he and his horse were fresh
when they camped that night on the trail of the jaded mustangs.
At dawn he found them easily close at hand, and though they ran at
first they did not go far before theydropped into a walk. The battle
seemed nearly won now, for the chief difficulty in the 'walk-down'
is to keep track of the herd the first two or three days when they
All that morning Jo kept in sight, generally in close sight, of the
band. About ten o'clock, Charley relieved him near Jos‚ Peak and
that day the mustangs walked only a quarter of a mile ahead with
much less spirit than the day before and circled now more north
again. At night Charley was supplied with a fresh horse and
followed as before.
Next day the mustangs walked with heads held low, and in spite of
the efforts of the Black Pacer at times they were less than a
hundred yards ahead of their pursuer.
The fourth and fifth days passed the same way, and now the herd
was nearly back to Antelope Springs. So far all had come out as
expected. The chase had been in a great circle with the wagon
following a lesser circle. The wild herd was back to its
starting-point, worn out; and the hunters were back, fresh and on
fresh horses. The herd was kept from drinking till late in the
afternoon and then driven to the Springs to swell themselves with
a perfect water gorge. Now was the chance for the skilful ropers on
the grain-fed horses to close in, for the sudden heavy drink was
ruination, almost paralysis, of wind and limb, and it would be easy
to rope and hobble them one by one.
There was only one weak spot in the programme, the Black
Stallion, the cause of the hunt, seemed made of iron, that ceaseless
swinging pace seemed as swift and vigorous now as on the
morning when the chase began. Up and down he went rounding up
the herd and urging them on by voice and example to escape. But
they were played out. The old white mare that had been such help
in sighting them at night, had dropped out hours ago, dead beat.
The half-bloods seemed to be losing all fear of the horsemen, the
band was clearly in Jo's power. But the one who was the prize of
all the hunt seemed just as far as ever out of reach.
Here was a puzzle. Jo's comrades knew him well and would not
have been surprised to see him in a sudden rage attempt to shoot
the Stallion down. But Jo had no such mind. During that long
week of following he had watched the horse all day at speed and
never once had he seen him gallop.
The horseman's adoration of a noble horse had grown and grown,
till now he would as soon have thought of shooting his best mount
as firing on that splendid beast.
Jo even asked himself whether he would take the handsome sum
that was offered for the prize. Such an animal would be a fortune
in himself to sire a race of pacers for the track.
But the prize was still at large--the time had come to finish up the
hunt. Jo's finest mount was caught. She was a mare of Eastern
blood, but raised on the plains. She never would have come into
Jo's possession but for a curious weakness. The loco is a poisonous
weed that grows in these regions. Most stock will not touch it; but
sometimes an animal tries it and becomes addicted to it.
It acts somewhat like morphine, but the animal, though sane for
long intervals, has always a passion for the herb and finally dies
mad. A beast with the craze is said to be locoed. And Jo's best
mount had a wild gleam in her eye that to an expert told the tale.
But she was swift and strong and Jo chose her for the grand finish
of the chase. It would have been an easy matter now to rope the
mares, but was no longer necessary. They could be separated from
their black leader and driven home to the corral. But that leader
still had the look of untamed strength. Jo, rejoicing in a worthy
foe, went bounding forth to try the odds. The lasso was flung on
the ground and trailed to take out every kink, and gathered as he
rode into neatest coils across his left palm. Then putting on the
spur the first time in that chase he rode straight for the Stallion a
quarter of a mile beyond. Away he went, and away went Jo, each
at his best, while the fagged-out mares scattered right and left and
let them pass. Straight across the open plain the fresh horse went at
its hardest gallop, and the
~' Stallion, leading off, still kept his start and kept his famous
It was incredible, and Jo put on more spur and shouted to his
horse, which fairly flew, but shortened up the space between by
not a single inch. For the Black One whirled across the flat and up
and passed a soap-weed mesa and down across a sandy treacherous
plain, then over a grassy stretch where prairie dogs barked, then
hid below, and on came Jo, but there to see, could he believe his
eyes, the Stallion's start grown longer still, and Jo began to curse
his luck, and urge and spur his horse until the poor uncertain brute
got in~to such a state of nervous fright, her eyes began to roll, she
wildly shook her head from side to side, no longer picked her
ground--a badger-hole received her foot and down she went, and
Jo went flying to the earth. Though badly bruised, he gained his
feet and tried to mount his crazy beast. But she, poor brute, was
done for--her off fore-leg hung loose.
There was but one thing to do. Jo loosed the cinch, put Lightfoot
out of pain, and carried back the saddle to the camp. While the
Pacer steamed away till lost to view.
This was not quite defeat, for all the mares were manageable now,
and Jo and Charley drove them carefully to the 'L cross F' corra' nd
claimed a good reward. But Jo was more than ever bound to own
the Stallion. He had seen what stuff he was made of, he prized him
more and more, and only sought to strike
some better plan to catch him. -
The cook on that trip was Bates--Mr. Thomas Bates, he called
himself at the post-office where he regularly went for the letters
and remittance which never came. Old Tom Turkeytrack, the boys
called him, from his cattle-brand, which he said was on record at
Denver, and which, according to his story, was also borne by
countless beef and saddle stock on the plains of the unknown
When asked to join the trip as a partner, Bates made some
sarcastic remarks about horses not fetching $12 a dozen, which
had been literally true within the year,
and he preferred to go on a very meagre salary. But no one who
once saw the Pacer going had failed to catch the craze.
Turkeytrack experienced the usual change of heart. He now
wanted to own that mustang. How this
was to be brought about he did not clearly see till one day there
called at the ranch that had 'secured his services,' as he put it, one,
Bill Smith, more usually known
as Horseshoe Billy, from his cattle-brand. While the excellent
fresh beef and bread and the vile coffee, dried
peaches and molasses were being consumed, he of the horsshoe
remarked, in tones which percolated through a huge stop-gap of
"Wall, I seen that thar Pacer to-day, nigh enough to put a plait in
"What, you didn't shoot?"
"No, but I come mighty near it."
"Don't you be led into no sich foolishness," said a 'double-bar H'
cow-puncher at the other end of the table. "I calc'late that maverick
'ill carry my brand before the moon changes."
"You'll have to be pretty spry or you'll find a 'triangle dot' on his
weather side when you get there."
"Where did you run across him?"
"Wail, it was like this; I was riding the flat by Antelope Springs
and I sees a lump on the dry mud inside the rush belt. 1 knowed I
never seen that before, so I rides up, thinking it might be some of
our stock, an' seen it was a horse lying plumb flat. The wind was
blowing like--from him to me, so I rides up close and seen it was
the Pacer, dead as a mackerel. Still, he didn't look swelled or cut,
and there wa'n't no smell, an' I didn't know what to think till I seen
his ear twitch off a fly and then I knowed he was sleeping. I gits
down me rope and coils it, and seen it was old and pretty shaky in
spots, and me saddle a single cinch, an' me pony about 700 again
a 1,200 lbs. stallion, an' I sez to meseif, sez I: 'Tain't no use, I'll
only break me cinch and git throwed an' lose me saddle.' So I hits
the saddle-horn a crack with the hondu, and I wish't you'd a seen
that mustang. He lept six foot in the air an' snorted like he was
shunting cars. His eyes fairly bugged out an' he lighted out lickety
split for California, and he orter be there about now if he kep'
on like he started--and I swear he never made a break the hull
The story was not quite so consecutive as given here. It was much
punctuated by present engrossments, and from first to last was
more or less infiltrated through the necessaries of life, for Bill was
a healthy young man without a trace of false shame. But the
account was cornplete and everyone believed it, for Billy was
known to be reliable. Of all those who heard, old Turkeytrack
talked the least and probably thought the most, for it gave him a
During his after-dinner pipe he studied it out and deciding that he
could not go it alone, he took Horseshoe Billy into his council and
the result was a partnership in a new venture to capture the Pacer;
that is, the $5,000 that was now said to be the offer for him safe in
Antelope Springs was still the usual watering-place of the Pacer.
The water being low left a broad belt of dry black mud between
the sedge and the spring. At two places this belt was broken by a
well-marked trail made by the animals coming to drink. Horses
and wild animals usually kept to these trails, though the horned
cattle had no hesitation in taking a short cut through the sedge.
In the most used of these trails the two men set to work with
shovels and dug a pit 15 feet long, 6 feet wide and 7 feet deep. It
was a hard twenty hours work for them as it had to be completed
between the Mustang's drinks, and it began to be very damp work
before it was finished. With poles, brush, and earth it was then
cleverly covered over and concealed. And the men went to a
distance and bid in pits made for the purpose.
About noon the Pacer came, alone now since the cap. ture of his
band. The trail on the opposite side of the mud belt was little used,
and old Tom, by throwing some fresh rushes across it, expected to
make sure that the Stallion would enter by the other, if indeed he
should by any caprice try to come by the unusual path.
What sleepless angel is it watches over and cares for the wild
animals? In spite of all reasons to take the usual path, the Pacer
came along the other. The suspicious-looking rushes did not stop
him; he walked calmly to the water and drank. There was only one
way now to prevent utter failure; when he lowered his head for the
second draft which horses always take, Bates and Smith quit their
holes and ran swiftly toward the trail behind him, and when he
raised his proud head Smith sent a revolver shot into the ground
Away went the Pacer at his famous gait straight to the trap.
Another second and he would be into it. Already he is on the trail,
and already they feel they have him, but the Angel of the wild
things is with him, that incomprehensible warning comes, and with
one mighty bound he clears the fifteen feet of treacherous ground
and spurns the earth as he fades away unharmed, never again to
visit Antelope Springs by either of the beaten paths.
Wild Jo never lacked energy. He meant to catch that Mustang, and
when he learned that others were be stirring themselves for the
same purpose he at once set about trying the best untried plan he
knew--the plan by which the coyote catches the fleeter jackrabbit,
and the mounted Indian the far swifter antelope--the old plan of
the relay chase.
The Canadian River on the south, its affluent, the Pinavetitos
Arroyo, on the northeast, and the Don Carlos Hills with the Ute
Creek Ca¤on on the west, formed a sixty-mile triangle that was the
range of the Pacer. It was believed that he never went outside this,
and at all times Antelope Springs was his headquarters.
Jo knew this country well, all the water-holes and canon crossings
as well as the ways of the Pacer.
If he could have gotten fifty good horses he could have posted
them to advantage so as to cover all points, but twenty mounts and
five good riders were all that proved available.
The horses, grain-fed for two weeks before, were sent on ahead;
each man was instructed how to play his part and sent to his post
the day before the race. On the day of the start Jo with his wagon
drove to the plain of Antelope Springs and, camping far off in a
little draw, waited.
At last he came, that coal-black Horse, out from the sand-hills at
the south, alone as always now, and walked calmly down to the
Springs and circled quite around it to sniff for any hidden foe.
Then he approached where there was no trail at all and drank.
Jo watched and wished that he would drink a hogs-head. But the
moment that he turned and sought the grass Jo spurred his steed.
The Pacer heard the hoofs, then saw the running horse, and did not
want a nearer view but led away. Across the flat he went down to
the south, and kept the famous swinging gait that made his start
grow longer. Now through the sandy dunes he went, and steadying
to an even pace he gained considerably and Jo's too-laden horse
plunged through the sand and sinking fetlock deep, he lost at every
bound. Then came a level stretch where the runner seemed to gain,
and then a long decline where Jo's horse dared not run his best, so
lost again at every step.
But on they went, and Jo spared neither spur nor quirt. A mile--a
mile--and another mile, and the far-off rock at Arriba loomed up
And there Jo knew fresh mounts were held, and on they dashed.
But the night-black mane out level on the breeze ahead was
gaining more and more.
Arriba Canon reached at last, the watcher stood aside, for it was
not wished to turn the race, and the Stallion passed--dashed down,
across and up the slope, with that unbroken pace, the only one he
And Jo came bounding on his foaming steed, and on the waiting
mount, then urged him dowh the slope and up upon the track, and
on the upland once more drove in the spurs, and raced and raced,
and raced, but not a single inch he gained.
Ga-lump, ga-lump, ga-lump. with measured beat he went--an
hour--an hour, and another hour--Arroyo Alamosa just ahead with
fresh relays, and Jo yelled at his horse and pushed him on and on.
Straight for the place the Black One made, but on the last two
miles some strange foreboding turned him to the left, and Jo
foresaw escape in this, and pushed his jaded mount at any cost to
head him off, and hard as they had raced this was the hardest race
of all, with gasps for breath and leather squeaks at every straining
bound. Then cutting right across, Jo seemed to gain, and drawing
his gun he fired shot after shot to toss the dust, and so turned the
Stallion's head and forced him back to take the crossing to the
Down they went. The Stallion crossed and Jo sprang to the ground.
His horse was done, for thirty miles had passed in the last stretch,
and Jo himself was worn out. His eyes were burnt with flying
alkali dust. He was half blind so he motioned to his 'pard' to "go
ahead and keep him straight for Alamosa ford."
Out shot the rider on a strong, fresh steed, and away they went--up
and down on the rolling plain--the Black Horse flecked with snowy
foam. His heaving ribs and noisy breath showed what he felt--but
on and on he Went.
And Tom on Ginger seemed to gain, then lose and lose, when in an
hour the long decline of Alamosa came.
And there a freshly mounted lad took up the chase and turned it
west, and on they went past towns of prairie dogs, through
soapweed tracts and cactus brakes by scores, and pricked and
wrenched rode on. With dust and sweat the Black was now a
dappled brown, but still he stepped the same. Young Carrington,
who followed, bad hurt his steed by pushing at the very start, and
spurred and urged him now to cut across a gulch at which the
Pacer shied. Just one misstep and down they went.
The boy escaped, but the pony lies there yet, and the wild Black
Horse kept on.
This was close to old Gallego's ranch where Jo himself had cut
across refreshed to push the chase. Within thirty minutes he was
again scorching the Pacer's trail.
Far in the west the Carlos Hills were seen, and there Jo knew fresh
men and mounts were waiting, and that way the indomitable rider
tried to turn, the race, but by a sudden whim, of the inner warning
born perhaps-- the Pacer turned. Sharp to the north he went, and
Jo, the skilful wrangler, rode and rode and yelled and tossed the
dust with shots, but down on a gulch the wild black meteor
streamed and Jo could only follow. Then came the hardest race of
all; Jo, cruel to the Mustang, was crueller to his mount and to
himself. The sun was hot, the scorching plain was dim in
shimmering heat, his eyes and lips were burnt with sand and salt,
and yet the chase sped on. The only chance to win would be if he
could drive the Mustang back to the Big Arroyo Crossing. Now
almost for the first time he saw signs of weakening in the Black.
His mane and tail were not just quite so high, and his short half
mile of start was down by more than half, but still he stayed ahead
and paced and paced and paced.
An hour and another hour, and still they went the same. But they
turned again, and night was near when Big Arroyo ford was
reached--fully twenty miles. But Jo was game, he seized the
waiting horse. The one he left went gasping to the stream and
gorged himself with water till he died.
Then Jo held back in hopes the foaming Black would drink. But he
was wise; he gulped a single gulp, splashed through the stream and
then passed on with Jo at speed behind him. And when they last
were seen the Black was on ahead just out of reach and Jo's horse
It was morning when Jo came to camp on foot. His tale was briefly
told:--eight horses dead--five men worn out--the matchless Pacer
safe and free.
"Tain't possible; it can't be done. Sorry I didn't bore his hellish
carcass through when I had the chance," said Jo, and gave it up.
Old Turkeytrack was cook on this trip. He had watched the chase
with as much interest as anyone, and when it failed he grinned into
the pot and said: "That mustang's mine unless I'm a darned fool."
Then falling back on Scripture for a precedent, as was his habit, he
still addressed the pot:
"Reckon the Philistines tried to run Samson down and they got
done up, an' would a stayed don ony for a nat'ral weakness on his
part. An' Adam would a loafed in Eden yit it ony for a leetle
failing, which we all onder stand. An' it aint $5,000 I'll take for
Much persecution had made the Pacer wilder than ever. But it did
not drive him away from Antelope Springs. That was the only
drinking-place with absolutely no shelter for a mile on every side
to hide an enemy. Here he came almost every day about noon, and
after thoroughly spying the land approached to drink.
His had been a lonely life all winter since the capture of his harem,
and of this old Turkeytrack was fully aware. The old cook's chum
had a nice little brown mare which he judged would serve his
ends, and taking a pair of the strongest hobbles, a spade, a spare
lasso, and a stout post he mounted the mare and rode away to the
A few antelope skimmed over the plain before him in the early
freshness of the day. Cattle were lying about in groups, and the
loud, sweet song of the prairie lark was' heard on every side. For
the bright snowless winter of the mesas was gone and the
springtime was at hand. The grass was greening and all nature
seemed turning to thoughts of love.
It was in the air, and when the little brown mare was picketed out
to graze she raised her nose from time to time to pour forth a long
shrill whinny that surely was her song, if song she had, of love.
Old Turkeytrack studied the wind and the lay of the land. There
was the pit he had labored at, now opened and filled with water
that was rank with drowned prairie dogs and mice. Here was the
new trail the animals were forced to make by the pit. He selected a
sedgy clump near some smooth, grassy ground, and first firmly
sunk the post, then dug a hole large enough to hide in, and spread
his blanket in it. He shortened up the little mare's tether, till she
could scarcely move; then on the ground between he spread his
open lasso, tying the long end to the post, then covered the rope
with dust and grass, and went into his hiding-place.
About noon, after long waiting, the amorous whinny of the mare
was answered from the high ground, away to the west, and there,
black against the sky, was the famous Mustang.
Down he came at that long swinging gait, but grown crafty with
much pursuit, he often stopped to gaze and whinny, and got answer
that surely touched his heart.
Nearer he came again to call, then took alarm, and paced all
around in a great circle to try the wind for his foes, and seemed in
doubt. The Angel whispered "Don't go." But the brown mare called
again. He circled nearer still, and neighed once more, and got reply
that seemed to quell all fears, and set his heart aglow.
Nearer still he pranced, till he touched Soiiy's nose with his own,
and finding her as responsive as he well could wish, thrust aside
all thoughts of danger, and abandoned himself to the delight of
conquest, until, as he pranced around, his hind legs for a moment
stood within the evil circle of the rope. One deft sharp twitch, the
noose flew tight, and he was caught.
A snort of terror and a bound in the air gave Tom the chance to
add the double hitch. The loop flashed up the line, and snake-like
bound those mighty hoofs.
Terror lent speed and double strength for a moment, but the end of
the rope was reached, and down he went a captive, a hopeless
prisoner at last. Old Tom's ugly, little crooked form sprang from
the pit to complete the mastering of the great glorious creature
whose mighty strength had proved as nothing when matched with
the wits of a little old man. With snorts and desperate bounds of
awful force the great beast dashed and struggled to be free; but all
in vain. The rope was strong.
The second lasso was deftly swung, and the forefeet caught, and
then with a skilful move the feet were drawn together, and down
went the raging Pacer to lie a moment later 'hog-tied' and helpless
on the ground. There he struggled till worn out, sobbing great
convulsive sobs while tears ran down his cheeks.
Tom stood by and watched, but a strange revulsion of feeling came
over the old cow-puncher. He trembled nervously from head to
foot, as he had not done since he roped his first steer, and for a
while could do nothing but gaze on his tremendous prisoner. But
the feeling soon passed away. He saddled Delilah, and taking the
second lasso, roped the great horse about the neck, and left the
mare to hold the Stallion's head, while he put on the hobbles. This
was soon done, and sure of him now old Bates was about to loose
the ropes, but on a sudden thought he stopped. He had quite
forgotten, and had come unprepared for something of importance.
In Western law the Mustang was the property of the first man to
mark him with his brand; how was this to be done with the nearest
branding-iron twenty miles away?
Old Tom went to his mare, took up her hoofs one at a time, and
examined each shoe. Yes! one was a little loose; he pushed and
pried it with the spade, and got it off. Buffalo chips and kindred
fuel were plentiful about the plain, so a fire was quickly made, and
he soon had one arm of the horse-shoe red hot, then holding the
other wrapped in his sock he rudely sketched on the left shoulder
of the helpless mustang a turkeytrack, his brand, the first time
really that it had ever been used. The Pacer shuddered as the hot
iron seared his flesh, but it was quickly done, and the famous
Mustang Stallion was a maverick no more.
Now all there was to do was to take him home. The ropes were
loosed, the Mustang felt himself freed, thought he was free, and
sprang to his feet only to fall as soon as he tried to take a stride.
His forefeet were strongly tied together, his only possible gait a
shuffling walk, or else a desperate labored bounding with feet so
unnaturally held that within a few yards he was inevitably thrown
each time he tired to break away. Tom on the light pony headed
him off again and again, and by dint of driving, threatening, and
manceuvring, contrived to force his foaming, crazy captive
northward toward the Pinavetitos Ca¤on. But the wild horse would
not drive, would not give in. With snorts of terror or of rage and
maddest bounds, he tried and tried to get away. It was one long
cruel fight; his glossy sides were thick with dark foam, and the
foam was stained with blood. Countless hard falls and exhaustion
that a long day's chase was powerless to produce were telling on
him; his straining bounds first this way and then that, were not
now quite so strong, and the spray he snorted as he gasped was
half a spray of blood. But his captor, relentless, masterful and cool,
still forced him on. Down the slope toward the ca¤on they had
come, every yard a fight, and now they were at the head of the
draw that took the trail down to the only crossing of the canon, the
northmost limit of the Pacer's andent range.
From this the first corral and ranch-house were in sight. The man
rejoiced, but the Mustang gathered his remaining strength for one