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she was in the timber, and came toward Merrifield, but he gave her the death-wound by firing into her chest, and then shot at the young one, knocking it over. When I came up he was just walking toward the latter to finish it with 5 the revolver, but it suddenly jumped up as lively as ever and made off at a great pace—for it was nearly fullgrown. It was impossible to fire where the tree trunks were so thick, but there was a small opening across which
it would have to pass, and collecting all my energies I 10 made a last run, got into position, and covered the open
ing with my rifle. The instant the bear appeared I fired, and it turned a dozen somersaults down-hill, rolling over and over; the ball had struck it near the tail and had
ranged forward through the hollow of the body. Each of 15 us had thus given the fatal wound to the bear into which
the other had fired the first bullet. The run, though short, had been very sharp, and over such awful country that we were completely fagged out, and could hardly speak
for lack of breath. The sun had already set, and it was 20 too late to skin the animals; so we merely dressed them,
caught the ponies—with some trouble, for they were frightened at the smell of the bear's blood on our handsand rode home through the darkening woods. Next day
we brought the teamster and two of the steadiest pack25 horses to the carcasses, and took the skins into camp.
GETTING CHRISTMAS DINNER ON A RANCH 1
ONE December, while I was out on my ranch, so much work had to be done that it was within a week of Christmas before we were able to take any thought for the Christmas dinner. The winter set in late that year, and there had been comparatively little cold weather, but 5 one day the ice on the river had been sufficiently strong to enable us to haul up a wagonload of flour, with enough salt pork to last through the winter, and a very few tins of canned goods, to be used at special feasts. We had some bushels of potatoes, the heroic victors of a struggle 10 for existence in which the rest of our garden vegetables had succumbed to drought, frost, and grasshoppers; and we also had some wild plums and dried elk venison. But we had no fresh meat, and so one day my foreman and I agreed to make a hunt on the morrow.
Accordingly one of the cowboys rode out in the frosty afternoon to fetch in the saddleband from the plâteau three miles off, where they were grazing. It was after sunset when he returned. I was lounging out by the corral, my wolf-skin cap drawn down over my ears, and 20 my hands thrust deep into the pockets of my fur coat, gazing across the wintry landscape. Cold red bars in the winter sky marked where the sun had gone down behind a row of jagged, snow-covered buttes.
Turning to go into the little bleak log house, as the 25 dusk deepened, I saw the horses trotting homeward in a long file, their unshod hoofs making no sound in the
1 Reprinted by permission from Everybody's Magazine, vol. ix, page 851.
light snow which covered the plain, turning it into a glimmering white waste wherein stood dark islands of leafless trees, with trunks and branches weirdly distorted. The cowboy, with bent head, rode behind the 5 line of horses, sometimes urging them on by the shrill cries known to cattlemen; and as they neared the corral they broke into a gallop, ran inside, and then halted in a mass. The frost lay on their shaggy backs, and little icicles hung from their nos Is.
Choosing out two of the strongest and quietest, we speedily roped them and led them into the warm log stable, where they were given a plentiful supply of the short, nutritious buffalo-grass hay, while the rest of the
herd were turned loose to shift for themselves. Then 15 we went inside the house to warm our hands in front of
the great pile of blazing logs, and to wait impatiently until the brace of prairie chickens I had shot that afternoon should be fixed for supper. Then our rifles and
cartridge belts were looked to, one of the saddles which 20 had met with an accident was overhauled, and we were ready for bed.
It was necessary to get to the hunting grounds by sunrise, and it still lacked a couple of hours of dawn when
the foreman wakened me as I lay asleep beneath the 25 buffalo robes. Dressing hurriedly and breakfasting on
a cup of coffee and some mouthfuls of bread and jerked elk meat, we slipped out to the barn, threw the saddles on the horses, and were off.
The air was bitterly chill; the cold had been severe 30 for two days, so that the river ice would again bear horses.
Beneath the light covering of powdery snow we could feel the rough ground like wrinkled iron under the horses' hoofs. There was no moon, but the stars shone beautifully down through the cold, clear air, and our willing horses galloped swiftly across the long bottom on which the ranch-house stood, threading their way deftly among the clumps of sprawling sagebush.
5 A mile off we crossed the river, the ice cracking with noises like pistol shots as our horses picked their way gingerly over it. On the opposite side was a dense jungle of bullberry bushes, and on breaking through this we found ourselves galloping up a long, winding 10 valley, which led back many miles into the hills. The crannies and little side ravines were filled with brushwood and groves of stunted ash. By this time there was a faint flush of gray in the east, and as we rode silently along we could make out dimly the tracks made 15 by the wild animals as they had passed and repassed in the snow.
Several times we dismounted to examine them. A couple of coyotes, possibly frightened by our approach, had trotted and loped up the valley ahead of us, leaving a trail like that of two dogs; the sharper, more 20 delicate footprints of a fox crossed our path; and outside one long patch of brushwood a series of round imprints in the snow betrayed where a bobcat-as plainsmen term the small lynx—had been lurking around to try to pick up a rabbit or a prairie fowl.
As the dawn reddened, and it became light enough to see objects some little way off, we began to sit erect in our saddles and to scan the hillsides sharply for sight of feeding deer. Hitherto we had seen no deer tracks save inside the bullberry bushes by the river, and we 30 knew that the deer that lived in that impenetrable jungle were cunning whitetails which in such a place
could be hunted only by aid of a hound. But just before sunrise we came on three lines of heart-shaped footmarks in the snow, which showed where as many deer had just crossed a little plain ahead of us. They were 5 walking leisurely, and from the lay of the land we believed that we should find them over the ridge, where there was a brush coulee.
Riding to one side of the trail, we topped the little ridge just as the sun flamed up, a burning ball of 10 crimson, beyond the snowy waste at our backs. Almost
immediately afterward my companion leaped from his horse and raised his rifle, and as he pulled the trigger I saw through the twigs of a brush patch on our left the erect,
startled head of a young black-tailed doe as she turned 15 to look at us, her great mule-like ears thrown forward.
The ball broke her neck, and she turned a complete somersault downhill, while a sudden smashing of underbrush told of the flight of her terrified companions.
We both laughed and called out “dinner” as we sprang 20 down toward her, and in a few minutes she was dressed
and hung up by the hind legs on a small ash tree. The entrails and viscera we threw off to one side, after carefully poisoning them from a little bottle of strychnine
which I had in my pocket. Almost every cattleman 25 carries poison and neglects no chance of leaving out wolf
bait, for the wolves are sources of serious loss to the unfenced and unhoused flocks and herds. In this instance we felt particularly revengeful because it was but a few
days since we had lost a fine yearling heifer. The tracks 30 on the hillside where the carcass lay when we found it,
told the story plainly. The wolves, two in number, had crept up close before being discovered, and had then raced