Ernest Thompson Seton.

The preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country online

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monk was held, from earthly joy; not by material bars and walls, but by
his duty to the Church, by his word as a man, by the influence of Belle.

She trembled in her thought for him at times, his racing blood was so
strong. She often rode by his side to Fort Ryan and watched him as he
looked on at the training of the Rover. His every remark was a comment
of the connoisseur. "Look at that, look at that, Belle. That's right, he
stopped to change his feet. He's a jockey all right. He ought not to do
that tap-tapping with the quirt - the horse doesn't understand it, it
worries him. I don't like to see a man knee-pinch a horse in that way;
it tells on a two-mile run. He's heavy-handed on the reins; some horses
need it, but not that one," and so on without pause.

Never once did his conversation turn on the Church or its work; and
Belle was puzzled and uneasy. Then, one day when she and Hartigan were
to have ridden out, he sent a note to say that he was in trouble.
Blazing Star was hurt. Belle went at once to the stable and there she
found the Preacher on his knees, in an armless old undershirt, rubbing
linament on to some slight bump on Blazing Star's nigh hock. A sculptor
would have paused to gaze at the great splendid arms - clean and white
and muscled like Theseus - massive, supple, and quick. Hartigan was very

"I don't know just what it is, Belle; it looks like a puff, but it may
be only a sting or a bot. Anyway, I'm afraid it's rest for a week it
means," and he rubbed and rubbed the embrocation in with force, while
Blazing Star looked back with liquid eyes.

This seemed like a misfortune, but it proved a blessing, for it kept
Hartigan out of the racing crowd for a week at a time when he was
skating on ice that was very, very thin.

As Saturday came, the Rev. Dr. Jebb received an unexpected call from a
very regular caller - the Rev. James Hartigan - to ask if Dr. Jebb would
kindly take both sermons on Sunday next. Blazing Star had a puff on his
nigh hock, inside, a little above the leg-wart; it might not amount to
much, but it required a good deal of attention every few hours, both day
and night, to prevent the possibility of its becoming serious from


The Start

September came, with all the multiplied glories of the Black
Hills - calm, beautiful weather in a calm and beautiful country. For days
back, there had been long strings of Indians, with their families and
camp outfits, moving down the trail between the hills, bound all for the
great raceground at Fort Ryan. Lodges were set up every day. Each of the
half-dozen tribes formed its own group. Ranchmen came riding in,
followed by prairie schooners or round-up wagons, for their camps;
motley nondescripts from Deadwood and places round about. There were
even folk from Bismarck and Pierre and, of course, all Cedar Mountain
and the soldiers from the Fort.

"Sure, I didn't know there _were_ so many people," was Hartigan's remark
to Belle, as they rode on the morning of the fifteenth about the camp
with its different kinds of life. Then, after a long pause and gaze
around, he added, in self-examining tone: "Faith, Belle, it seems to me
that, being a Preacher, I ought to get up and denounce the whole thing,
preach right now and evermore against it, and do all I can to stop it,
but - heaven help me if I am a hypocrite - I don't feel that way at all; I
just love it, I love to see all these people here, I love to see the
horses, and I wouldn't miss that race if it were the last thing on earth
I was to look on. Oh, I haven't been betting, Belle," he hastened to
explain as he saw the look of dread on her face. "I've kept clear of it
all, but God only knows what it means to me."

"Never fear, Belle," he went on, "I won't ride in a race, I won't bet;
I've given my word."

"Oh, Jim, you are a riddle; you are not one, you are two men; and they
fight the whole time. But I know the wiser one is winning and I think
the best friend you ever had was that big fellow that threatened you
with the 'bone-rot' if ever you broke your word. I believe in you more
and more," and impulsively she laid her hand on his with a warmth that
provoked such instant response that she smote her horse and swung
away - fearful of a situation for which she was not ready.

At three o'clock, an officer from the Fort rode over to Red Cloud's
lodge and notified him that in one hour the race was to begin. The
War-chief grunted.

At four, the crowd was dense around the track, and the country near
seemed quite deserted. Near the starting post, which was also the
finish, were a huge crowd and a small army of mounted men. Suddenly
shots were heard, and a great shout went up from the Indian camp; then
forth came Red Cloud, in all his war paint and eagle feathers, followed
by other warriors; and carefully led in the middle of the procession was
the famous buckskin cayuse, sleek, clean-limbed, but decorated with
eagle feathers in mane and tail, with furry danglers on his fetlocks and
a large red hand painted on each shoulder and hip. He had no saddle and
was led with an ordinary hackima of hair rope around his lower jaw. He
walked alertly and proudly, but showed no unusual evidence of pace or

Then a cannon boomed at the Fort, and from the gate there issued another
procession, soldiers chiefly, following their Colonel. First among them
came a bugler, the officers, then next a trooper, leading the white
hope - the precious Red Rover. His groomed and glossy coat was shining in
the sun; his life and power were shown in every movement as he pranced
at times, in spite of the continual restraint of his trainer, who was
leading him. On the other side, rode Peaches, the little English jockey.
It was a bitter pill to the Americans that they should have to trust
their fortunes to an English rider, but all their men were too heavy,
except Little Breeches, and, he, alas, had fallen into the hands of the
whiskey mongers. The ladies of the garrison rode close behind; and last,
came the regimental band, in full thump and blare. As they neared the
starting post, the band was hushed and the bugle blew a fanfare; then,
with the Colonel leading, the racer was taken to the starting post.

Red Cloud was there calmly waiting with his counsellors and braves and
the buckskin cayuse.

"Are you ready?" shouted Colonel Waller.

"Ho," said Red Cloud, and with an imperious wave of his hand he
indicated "Go ahead!"

The light racing pad was put on Red Rover, the jockey mounted and rode
him at a canter for a hundred yards and back, amid an outburst of
applause as the splendid creature showed his pace. Then the groom
approached and tightened the cinch.

The buckskin cayuse was brought to the front. Red Cloud made a gesture.
A sixteen-year-old boy, armed with a quirt, appeared; an Indian gave him
a leg up, and, naked to the breech clout on the naked horse, he sat like
a statue. Jim got a strange thrill as he recognized him for the
vigil-keeper of Cedar Mountain.

"Well," grumbled the Colonel, as he noted the jockey, "that's a
twenty-five pound handicap on us, but I guess we can stand it." Yet,
when they saw the two horses together, there was less disparity in size
than they had supposed. But there was something about the buckskin that
caught Hartigan's eye and made him remark: "It isn't going to be such a
walk-over as our fellows think." And the trainer of Red Rover, as he
noted the round barrel, clean limbs, and flaring nostrils of the
buckskin, had for a moment just a guilty twinge as he recalled how lax
he had been in the training after that run at Yellowbank Canyon.

But all was ready. The white men won the toss for choice and got the
inside track; not that it mattered very much, except at the turn. The
crowd was sent back to the lines, the riders held the racers to the
scratch and, at a pistol crack, they bounded away.

Those that expected to see something spectacular at the start were
disappointed. The English jockey leaned forward, touched Red Rover with
his whip, and alongside the Indian boy on the buckskin did the very same
thing. The Indian boy smiled and the Englishman responded, but in a
superior way. He felt it was almost unfair to run against such a child,
and in such a race, which wasn't a real race at all, in spite of the
heavy stakes.

Thus they rode side by side at a good pace for half a mile, during which
the buckskin drifted behind a little, now a length, now a length and a
half. Next the copper-coloured jockey touched him up and, before the
white man knew it, the bounding buckskin closed again and came right up,
but now on the inside track. If the Englishman had not felt so
confident, he would have stopped this well-known trick. It might not
have been easy, since there were no lines or posts except the turning
point, but it could have been prevented by deft man[oe]uvring. However,
the Indian was now abreast on the inside and as the Englishman watched
him he concluded that this child of nature was not so simple as he
looked. He comforted himself with the thought that the other would need
all he could get out of jockeying.


The Finish

The first mile was covered in good, but not remarkable time. Then they
came to the turning point. There was just the chance of changing places
here, for the inner horse had the disadvantage of the sharper turn, but
the Indian boy made sure by dropping back a half length and the turn was
made without a reverse. After them now with shouts of joy went all the
mounted men who had been waiting and rode in a thundering charge,
yelling and cheering. The white jockey knew now that he was not dealing
with a fool. The red boy, though not so well mounted, was just as good a
rider as himself, and twenty pounds lighter, besides being without
leathers, which raised the handicap to fully twenty-five pounds. In that
first half mile on the home stretch the buckskin still was head and neck
behind. Then the riders put forth all their skill and each did his best
to call forth every ounce of strength and every spurt of speed in his

The Indian boy let off his native yell and cried: "Ho,
Huya - Huya - Huya!" and the keen quirt flashed and the buckskin flew.

"Ho, Rover! good boy, git, git!" and the white man smote the shining
flank; and both the noble brutes responded as they had not done before.
The sense of play was gone. It was now the real and desperate race. The
gazing thousands ranged about knew that, and the mingled roar of all
their voices rose to a mighty booming sound.

"Ho, Rover! Run, boy, run!"

"Huya, Shunguna, Ho! Ho! Yeh! Yeh! Yeh!" and the redskin rider smote
hard those heaving flanks.

Flash, flash, those shadowy hoofs; thud, thud, upon the plain; the
buckskin's neck forged slowly on, now lapped the red-gold shoulder of
his foe. The redskin shrieked, the riding mob behind gave voice and rode
like madmen. The racers plunged and plunged, the riders lay down almost
to their necks, plying their quirts and shouting words of urge.

The buckskin still won inches on the race, but the Rover led. The last,
the final furlong was at hand. The riders yelled, the rabble yelled,
guns were fired in mad excitement, and all restraint was gone. It was
win - win - burst - die - but _win_! And never jockeys harder rode and never
horses better ran; the test was fair. Red Rover did his best, yet his
rival's legs in that last spurt moved as a rabbit's legs, a maze of
shadowy pounding limbs, and - sickening sight - the buckskin with the
copper rider forged still more ahead - a neck, half a length ahead - and
the race was _won_.

* * * * *

Peaches was in tears. "Colonel," he said, in a broken voice, "it was
that twenty-five pound handicap did it; it wasn't fair."

The Colonel growled something about "a lot of fools to let up on the
training after that Yellowbank trial."

Hartigan was standing near; gloomy, but not so gloomy as the rest; and
when there came a chance to be heard, he said: "Colonel, once I see a
horse close to, in fair daylight, I can always remember him afterward.
I've been looking over their buckskin cayuse, and it's _not the same
one_ we raced in the Yellowbank."

The Colonel turned quickly around. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely certain," was the answer.

"My goodness - you are right. I distrusted the whole business from the
start. You are right; they fooled us on a stool-pigeon; this whole thing
was a put-up job. The simple Red man!"

* * * * *

The "perchers" were gathered at the blacksmith shop next afternoon.
"Well," said Shives, "I've done fifteen dollars' worth of work to-day
and haven't taken in a cent." The audience grunted and he went on.
"Every tap of it was for broken-down bums trying to get out of
town - skinned by the simple Red man. Horses shod, tires set, bolts
fixed, all kinds of cripplements. All they want is help to get out, get
out; at any price get out. Well, it'll do you good, the whole caboodle
of ye. Ye started out to do, and got done - everlastingly soaked." The
blacksmith chuckled. "Serve you all right. I'm glad ye got it."

As Hartigan appeared, swinging a big stick and singing "The Wearing of
the Green," Shives asked: "Well, Jim, how much did you lose?"

"Nothing," sang Hartigan cheerfully; "I don't bet"; and he went on
singing, "'Tis the most distressful country this that ever yet was

"Lucky dog! All the sports round this neck o' the woods are ruined. They
say no gentleman will bet on a sure thing. H'm, maybe not. Well,
fellows, cheer up; no man ever yet was made, until he had been ruined a
couple of times; and all I hope is that the Reds will get up another
race and soak ye to the limit. Then maybe some o' ye will brace up and
be men; but I dunno."

"Guess they've soaked us to the limit now," was the general voice of
those assembled.

Poor Higginbotham had gone in rather strong for him, in spite of his
wife, and there was no blue sky in his world, or prospect of it.

Then they turned on Hartigan, who was going through the movements of
singlestick, on the open floor. "Was he white, or wasn't he? How could
he stand by and see the whole settlement skinned alive by Red Injins
when he had the game in his own hands? Why didn't he enter Blazing Star?
He didn't seem to take much interest in the affair, probably he wanted
the Red skins to win." The jibe stung Jim to the quick; he ceased his
exuberant exercise; the song died on his lips, and he strode away in


The Riders

It is the continual boast of the cowboys that they are the best riders
on earth. It is the continual boast also of Cossack, Boer, Australian,
Gaucho, and all who live on and by the horse. And when we sift the claim
of each of those named we find that it is founded wholly on this, that
they can sit on the back of any steed, however wild, and defy all its
efforts to dislodge them. All their standards are designed to show the
power of the man to overpower the horse. But there is one very large
consideration that seems not to enter their consciousness at all, and
that is how to get the best out of the horse - to develop and utilize,
not crush its power. We undoubtedly find this idea best established in
the riding schools of Europe. In these grammar schools violence is
forbidden, almost unknown. For a man to fight with his horse would be a
disgrace; to abuse or over-ride him - a shame; to lade him with a
three-pound bit and a thirty-pound saddle - a confession of inability to
control or stay on. In every part of the world where the horse has been
developed, it has been in exact ratio with the creed of the riding
schools. No one that has seen both classes of riders can have a doubt
that the best horsemen in the world are those of Europe, who control the
horse with skill - not brute force. The cowboys are mere broncho-busters.

Hartigan had gathered not a little of true horse learning in his early
days, and he was disgusted now to see how lightly and cheaply the
westerner held his horse. "Break him down and get another" was the
method in vogue; and the test of a rider was, "Can he ride a horse to
death?" The thirty-pound saddle used was an evidence of the intent and a
guarantee of the result. As soon as he could afford it, Jim sent back to
Chicago for an English pad, the kind he was used to, and thus he cut his
riding weight down by nearly twenty pounds. Then there arrived at Fort
Ryan a travelling inspector, who spent a month teaching the men the
latest ideas in the care of horses. Among the tricks was the "flat
ambush." This is how it is done: With reins in the left hand, and that
hand in the mane at the withers, you stand at the nigh shoulder; lift
the nigh front foot in your right hand till the hoof is near the horse's
elbow; pull the horse toward you with the left hand in the mane; talk
gently; pull, and press. If your horse trusts you, he will gradually
bend over toward you; lower his body to the ground; and at last lie
flat, head and all, with the animal's legs away from you. Behind the
horse's body the rifleman may squat, shoot from cover, and have an ample
breastwork if the animal is trained to "stand the gun." It is a pretty
trick, though of less practical use than was expected. It is, however, a
quick measure of the horse's confidence in the rider; and it speaks well
for the 99th Cavalry that more than half the horses learned it in a
week. This was a new game to Hartigan, and he found a fresh joy in it as
an excuse for fussing around the stable and playing with his horse.

October came in with glory on the hills. The plains were golden in their
autumn grass, and on a wonderful day in the early part of the month
Hartigan and Belle went riding down the canyon.

Belle had a scheme for coördinating their church work with that of the
Baptists and Presbyterians, both represented now in their town of
fifteen hundred inhabitants. But before she could get it laid before
Jim, he was extolling the quick responsiveness of Blazing Star, and must
needs demonstrate the latest accomplishment the horse had learned. That
over, Belle resurrected her plan; but a gunshot at Fort Ryan switched
the current of his thoughts to the eventful race.

Belle changed the subject and unfolded a scheme for getting all the
Bylow children into the Cedar Mountain school the coming winter. They
had just come to a little twelve-foot cut-bank gully, and Jim exclaimed:
"Now, Belle, just watch him take it," and over they sailed, the
perfection of grace. "I tell you, Belle," he went on, "it was a great
idea to get that eastern pad. I've cut down my riding weight nearly
twenty pounds by dropping all that gear. Blazing Star can clear six
inches higher and go a foot farther in a jump, and I'll bet it gives him
one hundred feet in a mile run."

Again Belle harked back to the school project. "It could be done for
half the teacher's salary and every one of the neglected children might
get a chance. It all depends on the attitude that School Trustee
Higginbotham takes. My idea is to approach him through Hannah. She has a
mighty level head, and if you and Dr. Jebb - - "

"Oh! look at this coyote!" ejaculated Hartigan. "I must give him a run";
and away he went. For half a mile there was an open flat, and the
superior speed of the horse reduced the distance, at a very rapid rate.
But the coyote reached a gully and disappeared with the quickness and
cleverness of its race. Hartigan came galloping back.

Belle was looking amused and also worried. "Oh, Jim," she said, "I don't
know what I am going to do with you. You won't talk Church, you won't
talk school, you won't talk shop. All your thoughts are centred on
horses, hunting - and coyotes," she added with a laugh.

"Sure, Belle, I never see a coyote run without thinking of a night I
spent on the Cheyenne, when that puling little English lord spent the
whole night shivering up a tree, to hear me and Little Breeches snoring
on the ground and he thought it was wolves eating us up, because a
little while before a coyote yelled in the bushes - - " and again he was
off in a racy account of those thrilling moments.

"Jim," she said, "I am going to say nothing but 'yes' and 'no' for a
while, until you exhaust all your horse talk. Then I am going to make
one more effort."

"A jack rabbit, by the powers!" Sure enough, a big white jack leaped up
and darted away. A jack is speedier than a coyote, so Hartigan could not
resist. "Hi, Hi, Hi!" he shouted to Blazing Star; and with flat hand on
the croup, he raised the speed to top gear in a few jumps.

It was a fair sight to behold, and to many a cow-man it would have been
information. The jack rabbit, next to the antelope, is the speediest
quadruped on the plains. The cowboy does not try to follow the jack
rabbit, but the blooded racer did. In a quarter of a mile the horse was
nearly on him. He dodged like chain lightning - dodged as his life had
taught him to dodge before the coyote and the hawk. The horse slowed up;
the rabbit crossed a ridge; and when the rider reined upon the top, the
jack was no more seen.

But just ahead was a finer sight. A band of antelope sprang forward with
their white sterns shining. Of all the quadrupeds on the Plains, the
antelope is the speediest. The greyhound can catch the hare; but is left
a hopeless laggard by the swift-footed courser. No mounted Indian ever
dreamed of overtaking the antelope in open chase. In speed it stands the
highest in the West. Jim had often wished to match his steed against
these plains-born coursers; but, hitherto, although antelope were often
seen, they were protected by rough gullies or boulders or badger holes.
A band of antelope on a level, open stretch was a glorious chance.

Bending low over his horse's neck, he shouted: "Now, Blazing Star, go
it; ho! boy, go it!" and struck the flank behind for clear
interpretation. The horse sprang forth at speed. The bounding wild
things, just ahead, laid back their ears and went so fast that not a leg
was seen, only a whizzing, blurred maze. And Blazing Star took in the
thought and travelled faster and faster. The furlong start they had
began to shrink.

"Good boy!" the rider shouted in elation. "Go it! go it, Blazing Star!"
The antelope spurted - for a moment held their own; then, weakening at a
mile, they lost so fast that Jim yelled and swung his hat, and in a
little more the herd was overtaken. Fear seemed to rob them of power as
Blazing Star dashed in among them. The bright-eyed pronghorns swerved;
and the band split wide, and the horse dashed through. As he wheeled and
galloped back, he shouted: "You saw that, Belle? You saw it? It has
never been done before. In a fair race, on open stretch, they had two
hundred yards' start and I caught them in a mile. Now I know what
Blazing Star is. No creature on legs can beat him; no horse in the West
can match him."

In a little while the riders turned again to Cedar Mountain. Hartigan
led the way - and the talk. It was a stirring ride, but Belle's face wore
a worried look when he left her.


The Fire

Every new town in America has the same set routine of experience. It
springs up on land selected and laid out by a real estate speculator.
The flimsiest and most combustible of buildings are rushed up. When the
town has about five thousand inhabitants and these fire-trap buildings
are close enough to burn one another, a fire breaks out and sweeps the
whole thing away, destroying human lives, valuable stock, and priceless
records; after which begins the epoch of brick buildings and fire

Cedar Mountain had not reached the size or compactness required for the
wipe-out when its baptism of fire took place. Hartigan was roused in the
night by a noise outside. Going to the window, he saw the sky filled
with the glare of fire. As quickly as possible, he dressed and ran
forth, becoming deeply agitated when he found that the fire was in the
hotel whose stable housed Blazing Star. It was with a dreadful heartsink
that he ran there. The stable was smoking, but not yet afire, and, with
a thankful heart, he hurried Blazing Star forth, got him away to a safe
place, and returned just in time to see the stable and all its immovable
contents go up in a ruddy roar as the hay and straw took fire.

There were no human lives lost; nor any dwellings other than the
hotel - for there was a clear space around that fire-trap and there had
been no wind - but it was a valid baptism of fire. It resulted in the
organization of a Volunteer Fire Brigade, and it also resulted in

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Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonThe preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country → online text (page 12 of 24)