The night was well advanced, and the
boys, despite their fine physique, felt the effects
of the prolonged ride. They had come a goodly
distance since morning, the tough little ponies most
of the time maintaining a sweeping canter, which placed
many miles behind them. Jack and Fred were stiffened,
tired and hungry, for no halt was made for supper,
it being the intention of the guide to take that meal
at the ranch, which he meant to reach before drawing
In the midst of the monotonous gallop
of the animals the youths were startled by the sound
of a laugh, which suddenly rang out on the still air.
It was brief and hearty, such as a man emits who is
highly pleased over something said by a companion.
There was no moon in the sky, but the starlight was
as bright as on the previous evening. Peering
ahead in the gloom, nothing was to be seen that explained
the singular sound.
“Did you hear that?” asked Jack of Hazletine.
“I s’pose you mean that
laugh? Not being deaf, it would have been cur’us
if the same hadn’t reached my ears.”
“What was the meaning of it?”
“It meant, I s’pose, that somebody was
The lads had to be satisfied with
this indefinite answer, but they did not have to wait
long for the explanation. Suddenly, from the obscurity
ahead, loomed the outlines of a building. It was
long, low, and flat, consisting of a single story,
like most of the structures in that section of the
At the same moment that it was observed,
a tiny point of light shone through the gloom, and
some one called to them:
“Is that you, Hank?”
“I reckon,” was the reply.
At the same moment a tall man, rising
from the stool on which he had been seated, came forward.
He was smoking a pipe, and the gleam of the fire in
the bowl was what had been noted before he became visible.
“These are the younkers we expected,”
explained Hazletine, “and, if I ain’t
mistook, they’ve brought a purty healthy appetite
“I’ve heard of such things afore.
The man, who was known as “Kansas
Jim,” his full name being James Denham, extended
his hand to each boy in turn, and they dismounted.
“I’ll look after the animals,”
he explained. “Go inside, and I reckon
Ira can give you some medicine fur that appetite Hank
Hazletine led the way to the small
covered porch where Ira Garrison, another cattleman,
rose to his feet and shook hands with the boys, expressing
his pleasure at receiving a visit from them. All
three of the arrivals sat down at the front, while
Ira passed inside and lighted an oil-lamp. It
seemed that he was not absent ten minutes when he called
out that the meal was ready-a most welcome
announcement to our young friends. The three
were quickly seated at the pine table and feasting
with keen enjoyment. While they were thus engaged,
Ira Garrison sat on a stool a few paces away, smoking
his pipe, and was soon joined by Kansas Jim, who brought
the saddles and belongings of the ponies that he had
turned loose to look after their own wants.
Jack and Fred found their new acquaintances
typical cowboys, dressed similarly to Hazletine, though
neither wore as much beard as he. Both had long
hair, pushed behind their ears, while Jim displayed
a luxuriant tawny mustache and goatee, had fine blue
eyes, and was thin almost to emaciation. Garrison
was short and stockily built, with a powerful physique.
His hair, eyes and mustache were as black as coal.
He had a fine set of even white teeth, and was so
full of jest and humor that it was safe to conclude
it was something said by him that had caused Jim to
break into laughter.
The structure, as has been said, was
a low, flat building, similar to the majority found
in that part of the country. It was made wholly
of wood, with only a single door at the front, where
was a shaded porch, provided with seats, most of which
were occupied at times by the cowmen through the day
and late into the night.
There were five men employed at the
ranch in looking after the immense herd of cattle
grazing over the surrounding country and acquiring
the plumpness and physical condition which fitted
them for the Eastern market. Hank Hazletine was
in charge of the four men, and would so remain until
the task was finished and the stock disposed of.
Barton Coinjock and Morton Blair were absent looking
after the animals, whose wanderings in quest of food
sometimes took them fifteen or twenty miles from the
house. Most of the time, however, the cattle obtained
their grazing on the ranch, a half of which belonged
to Mr. Dudley, and which extended into the foot-hills
of the Wind River Mountains.
It has already been made clear that
little was to be apprehended from the hostility of
the red men in Wyoming. Rarely is anything of
the kind known north of Arizona and New Mexico, and
in those Territories it seldom manifests itself since
the conquest of the Apaches. There have been
fierce collisions of late years between the cowmen
and rustlers of the West, and at one time there was
considerable bloodshed, but the quarrel seems to have
The reader need hardly be told that
in the new States, where grazing has become so important
an industry, a perfect system prevails among the cattlemen.
Large associations, with their enormous herds of cattle,
have their own peculiar brands by which their stock
is stamped with their sign of ownership. All
these brands are registered, and the cattleman who
uses the same, or is found in possession of cattle
with the brand of another, is subject to a severe
Comparatively slight friction, therefore,
takes place in those sections. It is a stirring
time when the wonderful horsemen are engaged for days
in branding the calves that have been added to their
herds during the previous months. Sometimes some
of the branded cattle wander off while grazing, but
if a cattleman from Central Wyoming came upon an animal
hundreds of miles north in Montana, bearing his brand,
he would promptly cut out the brute from another herd,
whose owner would not think of making objection.
It happens now and then that some
of the cattle stray off before they are branded.
The difficulty of their owners identifying them will
be understood. Such cattle are mavericks, and
whoever comes upon them loses little time in scorching
his brand into their shoulders or hips, after which
no one cares to dispute their ownership.
The cowmen whose duty it was to look
after the large herd browsing over the thousands of
acres composing Bowman’s ranch had two annoyances
to guard against. It was their duty, as may be
said, to keep the animals well in hand. But for
this precaution hundreds of them would gradually drift
apart until, when the time came for rounding them up,
they would be gone beyond recovery. Great loss,
therefore, was averted by looking after them.
A more aggravating annoyance, however,
brings loss to the owners of the herds. Despite
the stringent law, there is always a certain number
of desperate men who take perilous chances in stealing
cattle and running them off beyond recovery by their
owners. This practice is not so prevalent as
formerly, for since the brands are registered, and
the agents well known at Cheyenne, Helena, and other
shipping-points, the thieves find it hard to explain
their possession of the carcasses thus marked and
escape the arrest and imprisonment provided as a penalty.
One feature of this annoyance comes
from the Indians. By far the greater majority
of those on the reservations are law-abiding.
Under the patient and skilful tutorship of the Government
agents they are advancing in civilization, and in
a knowledge of the trades and of agriculture.
Rarely is there any trouble with them; but it would
be strange indeed if, among these people not yet fairly
emerged from barbarism, there were not a number sullen
because of the change, and who cling to the traditions
and practices when the Indian looked upon every white
man as his enemy, whom it was his duty to kill upon
the first opportunity. The watchfulness of the
authorities prevents grave crimes, but no vigilance
can keep the dusky thieves from stealthily raiding
upon the cattle and property of their white neighbors.
One of the tasks, therefore, of the
cowmen of Bowman’s ranch was to guard against
aboriginal thieves. Since those fellows were sure
to have the same trouble as white pilferers in disposing
of their stolen stock, they were fond of stampeding
the cattle when not under the eyes of their caretakers.
About all that resulted from this amusement was extra
exasperation and work on the part of the cowmen.
A more serious mischief was that of
killing the animals. Having satisfied themselves
that they were safe from detection, three or four
Indians would entertain themselves for an hour or two
in shooting down cattle in pure wantonness, and then
making off before they were seen. True, this
brought the dusky scamps no gain, but it served as
a partial outlet for their enmity of the white man,
and that sufficed.
That this peculiar feature of ranch
life sometimes assumed grave phases was proved by
several narrations made by the cowmen to the boys on
their first night at the ranch. Less than a year
previous, Kansas Jim shot from his horse an Indian
whom he caught killing his cattle; and, not many months
previous, the five cowmen, under the leadership of
Hank Hazletine, had a running fight for half an afternoon
with a dozen Bannocks, engaged in the same sport.
At that time Barton Coinjock and Kansas Jim were severely
wounded, but three of the marauders were slain, and
the mischief nearly ended for a time.
But Jack and Fred were tired, and,
though interested in the reminiscences of the cowboys,
they longed for rest. The house consisted of
four rooms, one being generally reserved for visitors
or to serve as a spare apartment. This contained
a wooden bedstead and some simple furniture, for luxuries
are not popular on cattle-ranches. Surely no bed
ever felt more luxurious, however, than the blankets
upon which the wearied youths flung themselves, sinking
almost immediately into deep, dreamless sleep.
There were no wolves or dog Indians to guard against
now, and their sense of security was as strong as if
in their own beds at home.
The night was well past, when both
lads were awakened by the sound of rain pattering
upon the roof, which, although they were on the ground
floor, was but a brief space above their heads.
The storm foretold by Hank Hazletine had come.
There are few sounds more soothing
at night than the falling of rain-drops upon the shingles
over one’s head, but in the present instance
the music was anything but welcome to Jack and Fred.
It meant that there could be no hunting on the morrow,
and probably not for several days. Their time
in Wyoming was so limited that they begrudged an hour
of enforced idleness.
“But what’s the use of
kicking?” asked Fred, after they had fully discussed
the situation; “it can’t be helped.”
Nevertheless, they condoled with each
other for some time, until, lulled by the gentle patter,
they floated off once more into the land of Nod, from
which they did not emerge until morning.
The first doleful fact that impressed
them was that it was still raining. A peep through
the single front window with which their room was
provided showed the dull leaden sky, with its infinite
reservoir, from which the drops were descending in
streams that bid fair to last for days and weeks.
The air was chilly, and the wood fire burning in the
adjoining room was grateful.
The boys were surprised by a characteristic
fact. At some time previous to their emerging
from their sleeping-room Jim and Ira had departed to
take their turn in looking after the cattle, while
Bart and Mort, as they were called, had come in to
spend the day and night at the building. When
they saw the boys they greeted them pleasantly and
conversed for some time. Blair showed himself
a man of education, and it came out afterward that
he was a college graduate, who, having been threatened
with pulmonary trouble, had gone to Arizona and engaged
in the cattle business. The experiment wrought
a cure, and he was now one of the sturdiest of the
five men, not afraid to face the more rigorous climate
of the North and to expose himself to all sorts of
weather. It was a surprise, indeed, to Jack Dudley
and Fred Greenwood, in the course of the day, when
the conversation happened to drift to the subject of
higher mathematics, to find this cowboy could give
them instruction in the most abstruse problems they
had ever attempted to solve. Thus, although they
would have preferred to be away on a hunt, they found
the time less monotonous than anticipated.
“This will let up afore night,”
said Hank, much to the delight of his young visitors,
“and to-morrow will be clear.”
“I hope it will last several days,” ventured
“So it will,” remarked
the cowman, with that air of assurance which showed
he was more reliable than the Government in his forecasts
of the weather.
Hazletine examined the Winchester
repeating-rifles of the boys with great care.
He pronounced them excellent weapons, as were the Smith
& Wesson revolvers with which they were furnished.
“Your outfit is all right,”
he said, “but it remains to be seed whether
you know how to handle ’em.”
“We cannot claim to be skilful,”
was the modest remark of Jack, “but we have
had some experience at home, though when we hunted
there it was mostly with shotguns.”
“The main thing, younker, is
not to git rattled. Now, if you happen to see
old Ephraim sailing for you, all you have to do is
to make your aim sure and let him have it between
the eyes, or just back of the foreleg; or, if you
don’t have the chance to do that, plug him in
the chest, where there’s a chance of reaching
By “old Ephraim” the hunter
referred to the grizzly bear, as the boys knew.
“I have heard that it generally
takes several shots to kill a grizzly.”
“That’s ’cause the
bullets are not put in the right place. You see,
old Ephraim don’t take any trouble to give you
a better show than he has to, and you must look out
“There are other kinds of bears in Wyoming?”
’em. For instance, there’s the cinnamon,
which, in my ’pinion, is about as bad as Ephraim.
I’ve fit both kinds, and the one that left that
big scar down the side of my cheek and chawed a piece
out of my thigh was a cinnamon, while I never got
a scratch that ’mounted to anything from Ephraim.”
“What about the black bear?”
“He’s less dangerous than
any of ’em. A black bear ain’t much
more than a big dog. Last fall I killed one with
“What other kinds of game are we likely to meet?”
“Wal, it would be hard to name
’em all. There’s the deer and antelope,
of course, which you find in all parts of the West.
Then there’s the mountain lion, that is fond
of living on beef.”
“I never saw one of the creatures.”
“Have you ever seen the Eastern panther?”
“No; though they used to be
plentiful in the northern part of the State of New
“Well, the mountain lion is
the same animal. Our climate and conditions have
made some changes in his appearance and habits, but
there is no doubt the two are identical.”
“There’s one kind of game
that I wish we could meet,” resumed Hazletine,
“but they’ve got so scarce that I haven’t
seen one fur three years. That’s the big-horn
“He seems to be disappearing
from certain sections, like the buffalo from the country,”
“There’s plenty of ’em
in the mountains of Arizona and old Mexico, and I’ve
no doubt there’s thousands of ’em in the
Wind River and other parts of the Rockies, but it’s
mighty hard to find ’em. Then there’s
the black wolf.”
“Is he fiercer than the gray one?”
“He’s ten times worse.
Whenever he meets the gray wolf he tears him to smithereens.
You never seen a wolf of any kind that wasn’t
as hungry as you younkers was yesterday.”
“He couldn’t be any hungrier,” said
Fred, with a laugh.
“I have knowed one of them critters
to foller a steamboat down the upper Missouri fur
two days and nights, howling and watching fur a chance
to git something to eat.”
“The buffaloes have disappeared.”
“The right name of the animal
is the bison,” suggested Garrison; “they
have been slaughtered in pure wantonness. It is
a crime, the way in which they have been extirpated.”
“There are a few of ’em
left, deep among the mountains,” said Hazletine,
“where no one has happened to find ’em,
but it won’t be long afore they’ll all
be wiped out. Do you know,” he added, indignantly,
“that last year our boys found a herd of eighteen
buffaloes some miles back in the mountains. Wal,
sir, we was that tickled that we made up our minds
to watch ’em and see that they wasn’t interfered
with. We kept track of ’em purty well till
their number had growed to twenty-four. Then one
afternoon a party of gentlemen hunters, as they called
themselves, from the States, stumbled onto ’em.
Wal, as true as I’m a settin’ here, they
s’rounded that herd and never stopped shooting
till they killed every one of ’em!”
The cowman was so angry that he smoked
savagely at his pipe for a minute in silence.
His friends shared his feelings, and Kansas Jim remarked:
“Hank and me hunted two days
fur them folks, and if we’d have got the chance
to draw bead on ’em not all of ’em would
have got home. Why, the rapscallions just shot
the whole twenty-four, and left ’em laying on
the ground. They didn’t even take their
hides. If there ever was such a thing as murder
“Yes,” assented Garrison;
“and although the Government is doing all it
can to protect the few in Yellowstone Park, somebody
is continually shooting into the herd. The bison
will soon be an extinct animal.”
“It’s too bad, but I don’t
see that we can help it,” observed Hazletine,
rousing himself; “there’s plenty of other
game left, and it’ll last longer than any of
us, but it don’t make the killing of the buffaloes
any better. We’re likely to find a good
many animals that I haven’t told you ’bout
and that I don’t think of.”
“How is it, Hank, that you don’t keep
no use. The hunters from the East seem to think
they must have a dozen or more sniffing at their heels,
but I don’t like ’em. We had a big
hound a couple of years ago that I took with me on
a hunt. The first critter we scared up was a
cinnamon bear, and that dog hadn’t any more
sense than to go straight for him. Wal,”
grinned Hank, “we haven’t had any dog
since that time.”