« PreviousContinue »
He was out on a hunt for antelope. The sage-brush in which he was concealing himself was so low that he had to crawl along flat on his breast, pushing himself forward with hands and feet as best he could.
He was almost on the antelope when he heard a warning whirr close at his side, and glancing hastily in that direction, saw the reptile but a few feet away, coiled up and ready to attack.
It was a thrilling and critical moment, and had the young hunter leaped up he might have been dangerously if not fatally struck. But by instinct he backed away silently and moved off in another direction through the brush. The rattlesnake did not follow, although it kept its piercing eyes on the hunter as long as possible. After the antelope stalk was over, Roosevelt came back to the spot, made a careful search, and, watching his chance, fired on the rattlesnake, killing it instantly.
In those days Theodore Roosevelt met Colonel William Cody, commonly known as “Buffalo Bill,” and many other celebrated characters of the West. He never grew tired of listening to the stories these old
trappers, hunters, scouts, and plainsmen had to tell, and some of these stories he afterward put into print, and they have made excellent reading.
During many of his hunting expeditions at that time Theodore Roosevelt was accompanied by his foreman, a good shot and all-round ranchman named Merrifield. Merrifield had been in the West but five years, but the life fitted him exactly, and in him Roosevelt the ranchman and hunter found a companion exactly to his liking, fearless and self-reliant to the last degree.
As perhaps most of my young readers know, wild geese are generally brought down with a shot-gun, but in the Bad Lands it was not unusual to bring them down with a rifle, provided the hunter was quick and accurate enough in his aim. One morning, just before dawn, Theodore Roosevelt was riding along the edge of a creek when he heard a cackling that he knew must come from some geese, and he determined if possible to lay one low.
It was easy work to dismount and crawl to the edge of the creek. But a fog lay over the water, and he could see the geese but in
distinctly. Leaving the creek bank, he ran silently to where the watercourse made a turn and then crawled forward in the brush. Soon the fog lifted once more, and he saw the geese resting on the water close to the bend. He fired quickly and brought down the largest of the flock, while the others lost no time in disappearing. It was a good fat goose and made excellent eating.
GROUSE AND OTHER SMALL GAME - THE SCOTCHMAN
AND THE SKUNK -CAUGHT IN A HAILSTORM ON THE PRAIRIE — BRINGING DOWN BLACK-TAIL DEER
It cannot be said that Theodore Roosevelt's venture as a ranchman was a very successful one, and it is doubtful if he expected to make much money out of it. He lost nothing in a financial way, and there is no doubt but that the experience was of great benefit to him. In this semi-wilderness he met all sorts and conditions of men, and
grew to know them thoroughly. In the past his dealings had been almost entirely with people of large cities and towns, and with men of learning and large business affairs; here he fell in with the wildest kind of cowboys and frontiersmen. Some he soon found were not fit to be associated with, but the majority proved as honest and hard-working fellows as could be met with anywhere. Many of these loved the young “boss” from the start, and when, years
later, the war with Spain broke out, and there was a call to arms, not a few of them insisted upon joining the Rough Riders just to be near Theodore Roosevelt once more.
Around the ranches owned by Theodore Roosevelt there were more or less grouse of the sharp-tailed variety. As this sort of game made excellent eating, ranchmen and regular hunters did not hesitate to bring them down at every opportunity.
One afternoon Theodore Roosevelt left his rarch to visit the shack of one of his herders, about thirty-five miles down the river. It was a cold, clear day, and he was finely mounted on a well-trained pony. He writes that he was after grouse, hoping to get quite a number of them.
He had trusted to reach the shack long before sundown, but the way was bad, over bottoms covered with thin ice and snow, and soon darkness came on, leaving him practically lost in the cottonwoods that lined the watercourse.
What to do the young ranchman did not know, and it is safe to say that he wished
elf heartily out of the difficulty. It was so dark he could not see three yards