Ernest Thompson Seton.

Krag and Johnny Bear, with pictures online

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Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonKrag and Johnny Bear, with pictures → online text (page 1 of 7)
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This volume bears the same relation to " The
Lives of the Hunted'' that " Lobo, Rag and
Vixen" does to " Wild Animals I Have Known."

Krag is somewhat shortened. The last half is
told with little change, as I got it from Scotty
and his friends. The adventures described in
the first part really happened to other Mountain

Randy the Troubadour is a composite charac-
ter. In the stories of Chink and Johnny Bear
there is hardly any deviation from the facts.


Wyndygoul, Coscob, Conn.
February 10, 1902

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KRAG ....... Frontispiece







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A GREAT broad web of satin, shining
white, and strewn across, long clumps
and trailing wreaths of lilac almost
white wistaria bloom pendant, shining, and
so delicately wrought in palest silk that still
the web was white ; and in and out and trailed
across, now lost, now plain, two slender twin-
ing intertwining chains of golden thread.

I see a broken upland in the far Northwest.
Its gray and purple rocks are interpatched
with colors rich and warm, the new-born colors
of the upland spring, the greatest springtime
in the world ; for where there is no winter
there can be no spring. The gloom is measure
of the light. So, in this land of long, long win-
ter night, where nature stints her joys for six


4 Krag

hard months, then owns her debt and pays it
all at once, the spring is glorious compensation
for the past. Six months' arrears of joy are
paid in one great lavish outpour. And latest
May is made the date of payment. Then
spring, great, gorgeous, six-fold spring holds
carnival on every ridge.

Even the sullen Gunder Peak, that pierces
the north end of the ridge, unsombres just a
whit. The upland beams with all the flowers
it might have grown in six lost months ; yet
we see only one. Here, by our feet and farther
on, and right and left and onward far away, in
great, broad acre beds, the purple lupin bloom-
ing. Irregular, broken, straggling patches
near, but broader, denser farther on ; till on
the distant slopes they lie, long, devious belts,
like purple clouds at rest.

But late May though it be, the wind is cold ;
the pools tell yet of frost at night. The White
Wind blows. Broad clouds come up, and
down comes driving snow. Over the peaks,
over the upland and over the upland flowers.
Hoary, gray, and white the landscape grows in
turn ; and one by one the flowers are painted
out. But the lupins on their taller, stiffer stems,
can fight the snow for long, they bow their
whitened heads beneath its load, then, thanks

Krag 5

no little to the wind itself, shake free and stand
up defiantly straight, and as fits their royal
purple. And when the snowfall ends as sud-
denly as it began, the clouds roll by and the
blue sky sees an upland shining white, but
streaked and patched with blots and belts of
lovely purple bloom.

And wound across, and in and out, are two
long trails of track.


Late snow is good trailing, and Scotty Mao
dougall took down his rifle, and climbed the
open hill behind his shanty on Tobacco Creek
toward the well-known Mountain Sheep range.
The broad white upland, with its lupin bands
and patches, had no claim on Scotty's notice,
nor was his interest aroused until he came on
the double trail in the new snow. At a glance
he read it two full-grown female Mountain
Sheep, wandering here and there across the
country, with their noses to the wind. Scotty
followed the prints for a short time and learned
that the Sheep were uneasy, but not alarmed,
and less than an hour ahead. They had wan-
dered from one sheltered place to another.
Once or twice had laid down for a minute, only

6 Krag

to rise and move on, apparently not hungry, as
the abundant food was untouched.

Scotty pushed forward cautiously, scanning
the distance and keeping watch on the trail
without following it, when, all at once, he
swung round a rocky point into view of a little
lupin-crowded hollow and from the middle of
it leaped the two Sheep.

Up went his rifle, and in a moment one or
both would have fallen, had not Scotty's eye,
before he pulled, rested on two tiny new-born
Lambs that got up on their long wobbly legs,
in doubt, for a moment, whether to go to the
new-comer, or to follow their mothers.

The old Sheep bleated a shrill alarm to their
young and circled back. The Lambs' moment
of indecision was over, they felt that their
duties lay with the creatures that looked and
smelt like themselves, and coolly turned their
uncertain steps to follow their mothers.

Of course Scotty could have shot any or all
of the Sheep, as he was within twenty yards of
the farthest, but there is in man an unreasoning
impulse, a wild hankering to catch alive ; and
without thinking of what he could do with
them afterward, Scotty, seeing them so easily
in his power, leaned his gun in a safe place and
ran after the Lambs. But the distressed moth-

Krag 7

ers had by now communicated a good deal of
their alarm to their young, the little things
were no longer in doubt that the} 7 should avoid
the stranger, and when he rushed forward, his
onset added the necessary final touch and for
the first time in their brief lives they knew
danger and instinctively sought to escape it.
They were not yet an hour old, but nature had
equipped them with a set of valuable instincts
And though the Lambs were slow of foot com-
pared with the man, they showed at once a
singular aptitude at dodging, and Scotty failed
to secure them at once as he had expected.

Meanwhile the mothers circled about, bleat-
ing piteously and urging the little ones to es-
cape. Scott} 7 , plunging around in his attempt,
alarmed them more and more, and they put
forth all the strength of their feeble limbs in
the effort to go to their mothers. The man
slipping and scrambling after them was un-
able to catch either, although more than once
he touched one with his hand. But very
soon this serious game of tag was adroitly
steered by the timid mothers away from the
lupin bed, and once on the smooth, firmer
ground, the Lambs got an advantage that quite
offset the weariness they began to feel, and
Scotty, dashing and chasing first this way and

8 Krag

then that, did not realize that the whole thing
was being managed by the old ones, till they
reached the lowest spur of the Guilder Peak, a
ragged, broken, rocky cliff, up which the moth-
ers bounded. Then the little ones felt a new
sense, just as a young duck must when first he
drops in the water. Their little black rubber
hoofs gripped the slippery rocks as no man's
foot can do it, and they soared on their new-
found mountain wings, up and away, till led by
their mothers out of sight.

It was well for them that Scotty had lain
aside his rifle, for a Sheep at 100 yards was
as good as dead when he pulled on it. He
now rushed back for his weapon, but before he
could harm them, a bank of fog from the Peak
came rolling between. The same White Wind
that brought the treacherous trailing snow that
had betrayed them to their deadliest foe, now
brought the fog that screened them from his

So Scotty could only stare up the cliff and,
half in admiration, mutter "the little divils, the
little divils, too smart for me, and them less'n
an hour old."

For now he fully knew the meaning of the
restless wandering of the old ones, and the
sudden appearance of two new tiny trails.

Krag 9

He spent the rest of the day in bootless hunt-
ing and at night went home hungry, to dine off
a lump of fat bacon.


The rugged peaks are not the chosen home,
but rather the safe and final refuge of the
Sheep. Once there the mothers felt no fear,
and thenceforth, in the weeks that followed,
they took care that in feeding, they should
never wander far on the open away from their
haven on the crags.

The Lambs were of a sturdy stock and grew
so fast that within a week they were strong
enough to keep up with their mothers when
the sudden appearance of a Mountain Lion
forced them all to run for their lives.

The snow of the Lambs' birthday had gone
again within a few hours and all the hills were
now carpeted with grass and flowers, the
abundant food for the mothers meant plenty of
the best for the little ones and they waggled
their tails in satisfaction as they helped them-

One of the little fellows, whose distinguish-
ing mark was a very white nose, was stockily
built, while his playmate, slightly taller and

io Krag

more graceful, was peculiar in having little
nubbins of horns within a few days of his birth.

They were fairly matched and frisked and
raced alongside their mothers or fought to-
gether the live-long day. One would dash
away and the other behind him try to butt
him; or if they came on an inviting hillock
they began at once the world-old, world-wide
game of King of the Castle. One would
mount and hold his friend at bay. Stamping
and shaking his little round head, he would
give the other to understand that he was
" King of the Castle ' -and then back would
go their pretty pink ears, the round woolly
heads would press together and the innocent
brown eyes roll as the} 7 tried to look terribly
fierce and push and strive till one, forced to
his knees, would wheel and kick up his heels
as though to say : " I didn't want your old cas-
tle, anyway," but would straightway give him-
self the lie by seeking out a hillock for himself
and, posing on its top with his fiercest look,
would stamp and shake his head, after the way
that in their language stands for the rhyming
challenge in ours, and the combat scene would
be repeated.

In these encounters Whitenose generally
had the best of it because of his greater

Krag 1 1

weight, but in the races, Nubbins was easily
first. His activity was tireless. From morn-
ing till evening he seemed able to caper and

At night they usually slept close against
their mothers in some sheltered nook, where
they could see the sunrise, or rather where
they could feel it, for that was more important,
and Nubbins, always active, was sure to be up
first of the lambs. Whitenose was inclined to
be lazy, and would stay curled up, the last of
the family to begin the day of activity. His
snowy nose was matched by a white patch be-
hind, as in all Bighorn Sheep, only larger and
whiter than usual, and this patch afforded so
tempting a mark that Nubbins never could re-
sist a good chance to charge at it. He was
delighted if, in the morning, he could waken
his little friend by what he considered a tre-
mendous butt on his beautiful patch of white.

Mountain Sheep usually go in bands ; the
more in the band the more eyes for danger.
But the hunter had been very active in the
Kootenay country, Scotty in particular had
been relentless in the hunting. His shanty
roof was littered over with horns of choice
Rams, and inside it was half filled with a great
pile of Sheepskins awaiting a market. So the

1 2 Krag

droves of Bighorn were reduced to a few scat-
tering bands, the largest of which was less
than thirty, and many, like that of which I
speak, had but three or four in it.

Once or twice during the first fortnight of
June old Scotty had crossed the sheep-range
with his rifle ready, for game was always in
season for him, but each time one or the other
of the alert mothers saw him afar, and either
led quickly away, or by giving a short, pe-
culiar " sniff" had warned the others not to
move ; then all stood still as stones, and so es-
caped, when a single move might easily have
brought sure death. When the enemy was
out of sight they quickly changed to some dis-
tant part of the range.

One day they had wandered downward
toward the piney valley, tempted by the rich
grasses. As they reached the edge of the
woods, Nubbins's mother held back ; she had
a deep-laid distrust of the lower levels, espe-
cially where wooded. But Whitenose's moth-
er, cropping eagerly at the mountain clover
that was here in profusion, was led farther on
till she passed under some rocks among the
pines. A peculiar smell caused her to start,
she looked around, then wheeled to quit the
woods, but a moment later a great Wolverine

Krag 13

sprang from the bank on to her back and laid
her low in an instant.

Nubbins and his mother got a glimpse of the
great brown enemy and fled up the rocks, but
little Whitenose was stupefied with terror.
He stood by staring and feebly bleating till
the Wolverine, with merciful mercilessness,
struck him down as he had done the mother.


Nubbins's mother was a medium-sized, well-
knit creature. She had horns longer and
sharper than usual for a Ewe, and they were
of the kind called Spikehorns or Spikers ; she
also had plenty of good Sheep sense. The re-
gion above Tobacco Creek had been growing
more dangerous each month, thanks .chiefly to
Scotty, but the mother Sheep's intention to
move out was decided for her by the morn-
ing's tragedy.

She careered along the slope of the Gunder
Peak at full speed, but before going over
each rising ground she stopped and looked
over it, ahead and back, remaining still as a
lichen-patched rock for a minute or more
in each place while she scanned the range

1 4 Krag

Once as she did this she saw a dark, moving
figure on a range behind her. It was old
Scotty. She was in plain view, but she held
as still as could be and so escaped notice, and
when the man was lost behind the rocks she
bounded away faster than before, with little
Nubbins scampering after. At each ridge she
looked out carefully, but seeing no more either
of her enemy or her friends, she pushed on
quietly all that day, travelling more slowly as
the dangerfield was left behind.

Toward evening, as she mounted the Yak-in-
i-kak watershed, she caught a glimpse of mov-
ing forms on a ridge ahead ; after a long watch
she made out that they were in the uniform of
Sheep gray, with white striped stockings and
white patches on face and stern. They were
going up wind. Keeping out of view she
made so as to cross their back trail, which she
soon found, and thus learned that her guess
was right. There were the tracks of two
large Bighorn, but the trail also said that they
were Rams. According to Mountain Sheep
etiquette the Rams form one community and
the Ewes and Lambs another. They must not
mix or seek each other's society, excepting
during the early winter, the festal months, the
time of love and mating.

Krag 15

Nubbins's mother, or the Spikerdoe, as we
may call her, left the trail and went over the
watershed, glad to know that this was a Sheep
region. She rested for the night in a hollow,
and next morning she journeyed on, feeding
as she went. Presently the mother caught a
scent that made her pause. She followed it a
little. Others joined on or criss-crossed, and
she knew now that she had found the trail of
a band of Ewes and Lambs. She followed
steadily, and Nubbins skipped alongside, miss-
ing his playmate, but making up as far as pos-
sible by doing double work.

Within a very few minutes she sighted the
band, over a dozen in all her own people.
The top of her head was just over a rock, so
that she saw them first, but when Nubbins
poked up his round head to see, the slight
movement caught the eye of a watchful
mother in the flock. She gave the signal that
turned all the band to statues, with heads their
way. It was now the Spiker's turn. She
walked forth in plain view. The band dashed
over the hill, but circled behind it to the left,
while Nubbins and his mother went to the

In this way their positions in the wind were
reversed. Formerly she could smell them ;

1 6 Krag

now they could smell her, and, having- already
seen her uniform from afar, they were sure
her credentials were right. She came cau-
tiously up to them. A leading Ewe walked
out to meet her. They sniffed and gazed.
The leader stamped her feet, and the Spiker-
doe got ready to fight. They advanced, their
heads met with a " whack," then, as they
pushed, the Spikerdoe twisted so that one of
her sharp points rested on the other Ewe's ear.
The pressure became very unpleasant. The
enemy felt she was getting the worst of it, so
she sniffed, turned, and, shaking her head, re-
joined her friends. The Spikerdoe walked
after her, while little Nubbins, utterly puzzled,
stuck close to her side. The flock wheeled
and ran, but circled back, and as the Spiker
stood her ground, they crowded around her,
and she was admitted one of their number.
This was the ceremony, so far as she was con-
cerned. But Nubbins had to establish his own
footing. There were some seven or. eight
Lambs in the flock. Most of them were older
and bigger than he, and, in common with some
other animals, they were ready to persecute
the stranger simply because he was strange.

The first taste of this that Nubbins had was
an unexpected " bang " behind. It had always

Krag 1 7

seemed very funny to him when he used to
give Whitenose a surprise of this kind, but
now there seemed nothing funny about it. It
was simply annoying, and when he turned to
face the enemy, another one charged from an-
other direction, and whichever way he turned,
there was a Lamb ready to butt at him, till
poor Nubbins was driven to take refuge under
his mother. Of course she could protect him,
but he could not stay there always, and the
rest of the day with the herd was an unhappy
one for poor Nubbins, but a very amusing one
for the others. He was so awed by their num-
bers, the suddenness of it all, that he did not
know what to do. His activity helped but lit-
tle. Next morning it was clear that the others
intended to have some more fun at his ex-
pense. One of these, the largest, was a stocky
little Ram. He had no horns yet, but when
they did come they were just like himself,
thickset and crooked and rough, so that, read-
ing ahead, we may style him " Krinklehorn."
He came over and, just as Nubbins rose, hind
legs first, as is Sheep fashion, the other hit him
square and hard. Nubbins went sprawling,
but jumped up again, and in something like a
little temper went for the bully. Their small
heads came together with about as much noise

1 8 Krag

as two balls of yarn, but they both meant to
win. Nubbins was aroused now, and he
dashed for that other fellow. Their heads
slipped past, and now it was head to shoulder,
both pounding away. At first Nubbins was
being 1 forced back, but soon his unusual
sprouts of horns did good service, and, after
getting one or two punches in his ribs from
them, the bully turned and ran. The others,
standing round, realized that the new-comer
was fit. They received him as one of their
number, and the hazing of Nubbins was ended.

The Spikerdoe soon became known as a very
wise Sheep, wiser than any other in the flock
except one, the chosen leader, and that leader
was no other than the mother of Krinklehorn,
the little bully. Sheep do not give each other
names but they have the idea which in time
resulted in names with us, they always think of
their leaders as the Wise One, who is safe to
follow, and I shall speak of her as such.

Within a few weeks she was killed by a Moun-
tain Lion. The herd scattered as the terrible
animal sprang, and the Spikerdoe led for the
cliffs, followed by the rest. When she reached

Krag 1 9

a safe place high up, she turned to wait for the
stragglers, who came up quickly. Then they
heard from far below a faint " baah " of a Lamb.
All cocked their ears and waited. It is not
wise to answer too quickly, it may be the trick
of some enemy. But it came again, the familiar
" badh " of one of their own flock, and Spiker-
doe answered it.

A rattling of stones, a scrambling up banks,
another " baah ' for guidance and there ap-
peared among them little Krinklehorn an
orphan now.

Of course he did not know this yet, any more
than the others did. But as the day wore on
and no mother came in response to his plaintive
calls, and as his little stomach began also to cry
out for something more than grass or water, he
realized his desolation and " baahed" more and
more plaintively. When night came he was
cold as well as hungry he must snuggle up to
someone or freeze. No one took much notice
of him, but Spikerdoe, seemingly the new
leader, called once or twice in answer to his
call, and almost by accident he drifted near her
when she lay down and warmed himself against
her beside his ancient enemy, young Nubbins.

In the morning he seemed to Mother Spiker-
ioe to be her own, in a limited sense. Rubbing

2O Krag

against Nubbins made him smell like her own,
and when Nubbins set about helping himself to
a breakfast of warm milk, poor hungry Krinkle-
horn took the liberty of joining in on the other
side. Thus Nubbins found himself nose to
nose and dividing his birthright with his old-
time enemy. But neither he nor his mother
made any objection, and thus it was that Krin-
klehorn was adopted by his mother's rival.


There was no one of the others that could
equal Spikerdoe in sagacity. She knew all the
range now, and it was soon understood that
she was to lead. It was also understood that
Krinklehorn, as well as Nubbins, was her Lamb.
The two were like brothers in many things.
But Krinklehorn had no sense of gratitude to
his foster-mother and he always nursed his old
grudge against Nubbins, and now that they
drank daily of the same drink, he viewed Nub-
bins as his rival and soon showed his feeling by
a fresh attempt to master him. But Nubbins
was better able to take care of himself now
than ever. Krinklehorn got nothing but a few
good prods for his pains, and their relative
status was settled.

Krag 2 1

During the rest of the season they grew up
side by side. Krinklehorn, thickset and sulky,
with horns fast growing, but thick and crinkly.
And Nubbins well! it is not fair to call him
Nubbins any longer, as his horns were grow-
ing fast and long, so that we may henceforth
speak of him as Krag, a name that he got years
afterward in the country around Gunder Peak,
and the name by which he went down to his-

During the summer Krag and Krinklehorn
grew in wit as well as in size. They learned
all the ordinary rules of life among Bighorn.
They knew how to give the warning " sniff'
when they saw something, and the danger
" Snoo-of* when they were sure it was dan-
gerous. They were acquainted with all the
pathways and could have gone alone to any
of the near salt-licks when they felt the need
of it.

They could do the zigzag bounding that
baffles the rush of an enemy, as well as the stiff-
legged jumping which carries them safely up
glassy slippery slopes. Krag even excelled his
mother in these accomplishments. They were
well equipped to get their own living, they
could eat grass, and so it was time they were
weaned, for Spikerdoe had to lay on her fat to

2 2 Krag

keep warm in the coming winter. The young,
sters themselves would have been in no hurry
to give up their comforting breakfast, but the
supply began to run short, and the growing
horns of the Lambs began to interfere with the
mother's comfort so much that she proceeded

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Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonKrag and Johnny Bear, with pictures → online text (page 1 of 7)