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canyon. R.C. and Romer found running water. Thereupon with immense
relief and joy we pitched camp near the cabins, forgetting our aches
and pains in the certainty of deliverance.

What a cold, dismal, bleak, stony, and lonesome place! We unpacked
only bedding, and our little store of food. And huddled around the
camp-fire we waited upon Doyle's cooking. The old pioneer talked while
he worked.

"Jones' ranch! - I knew Jones in the early days. And I've heard of him
lately. Thirty years ago he rode a prairie schooner down into this
canyon. He had his wife, a fine, strong girl, and he had a gun, an
axe, some chuck, a few horses and cattle, and not much else. He built
him that cabin there and began the real old pioneering of the early
days. He raised cattle. He freighted to the settlements twice a year.
In twenty-five years he had three strapping boys and a girl just as
strapping. And he had a fortune in cattle. Then he sold his stock and
left this ranch. He wanted to give his faithful wife and his children
some of the comforts and luxuries and advantages of civilization. The
war came. His sons did not wait for the draft. They entered the army.
I heard a story about Abe Jones, the old man's first boy. Abe was a
quiet sort of chap. When he got to the army training camp a sergeant
asked Abe if he could shoot. Abe said: 'Nope, not much.' So they gave
him a rifle and told him to shoot at the near target. Abe looked at
it sort of funny like and he picked out the farthest target at one
thousand yards. And he hit the bull's eye ten times straight running.
'Hey!' gasped the sergeant, 'you long, lanky galoot! You said you
couldn't shoot.' Abe sort of laughed. 'Reckon I was thinkin' about
what Dad called shootin'.'... Well, Abe and his brothers got to France
to the front. Abe was a sharpshooter. He was killed at Argonne. Both
his brothers were wounded. They're over there yet.... I met a man not
long ago who'd seen Jones recently. And the old pioneer said he and
his wife would like to be back home. And home to them means right
here - Jones' Ranch!"

Doyle's story affected me profoundly. What a theme for a novel! I
walked away from the camp-fire into the dark, lonely, melancholy
Arizona night. The ruined cabins, the broken-down corrals, the stone
fence, the wash where water ran at wet season - all had subtly changed
for me. Leaning in the doorway of the one-room cabin that had been
home for these Joneses I was stirred to my depths. Their spirits
abided in that lonely hut. At least I felt something there - something
strange, great, simple, inevitable, tragic as life itself. Yet what
could have been more beautiful, more splendid than the life of Jones,
and his wife, and daughter, and sons, especially Abe? Abe Jones! The
name haunted me. In one clear divining flash I saw the life of the
lad. I yearned with tremendous passion for the power to tell the
simplicity, the ruggedness, the pathos and the glory of his story.
The moan of wind in the pines seemed a requiem for the boy who had
prattled and romped and played under them, who had chopped and shot
and rode under them. Into his manhood had gone something of their
strength and nature.

We sought our beds early. The night down in that deep, open canyon was
the coldest we had experienced. I slept but little. At dawn all was
hoar-white with frost. It crackled under foot. The air had a stinging
bite. Yet how sweet, pure, cold to breathe!

Doyle's cheery: "Come and get it," was welcome call to breakfast. Lee
and Pups drove the horses into one of the old corrals. In an hour,
while the frost was yet hard and white, we were ready to start. Then
Doyle somewhat chilled our hopes: "Twenty years ago there was a bad
road out of here. Maybe one's been made since."

But one had not been made. And the old road had not been used for
years. Right at the outset we struck a long, steep, winding, rocky
road. We got stalled at the very foot of it. More toil! Unloading the
wagon we packed on our saddles the whole load more than a mile up this
last and crowning obstacle. Then it took all the horses together to
pull the empty wagon up to a level. By that time sunset had overtaken
us. Where had the hours gone? Nine hours to go one mile! But there had
to be an end to our agonies. By twilight we trotted down into Long
Valley, and crossed the main road to camp in a grove we remembered
well. We partook of a meagre supper, but we were happy. And bed that
night on a thick layer of soft pine needles, in a spot protected from
the cold wind, was immensely comfortable.

Lee woke the crowd next morning. "All rustle," he yelled. "Thirty-five
miles to Mormon Lake. Good road. We'll camp there to-night."

How strange that the eagerness to get home now could only be compared
to the wild desire for the woods a few weeks back! We made an early
start. The team horses knew that road. They knew they were now on the
way home. What difference that made! Jaded as they were they trotted
along with a briskness never seen before on that trip. It began to be
a job for us to keep up with Lee, who was on the wagon. Unless a rider
is accustomed to horseback almost all of the time a continuous trot on
a hard road will soon stove him up. My horse had an atrocious trot.
Time and again I had to fall behind to a walk and then lope ahead
to catch up. I welcomed the hills that necessitated Lee walking the
teams.

At noon we halted in a grassy grove for an hour's rest. That seemed
a precious hour, but to start again was painful. I noticed that
Romer-boy no longer rode out far in front, nor did he chase squirrels
with Pups. He sagged, twisted and turned, and lolled in his saddle.
Thereafter I tried to keep close to him. But that was not easy, for
he suspected me of seeing how tired he was, and kept away from me.
Thereafter I took to spying upon him from some distance behind. We
trotted and walked, trotted and walked the long miles. Arizona miles
were twice as long as ordinary properly measured miles. An event of
the afternoon was to meet some Mexican sheepherders, driving a flock
south. Nielsen got some fresh mutton from them. Toward sunset I caught
Romer hanging over his saddle. Then I rode up to him. "Son, are you
tired?" I asked. "Oh, Dad, I sure am, but I'm going to ride Rye to
Mormon Lake." I believed he would accomplish it. His saddle slipped,
letting him down. I saw him fall. When he made no effort to get up I
was frightened. Rye stood perfectly still over him. I leaped off and
ran to the lad. He had hit his head on a stone, drawing the blood, and
appeared to be stunned. I lifted him, holding him up, while somebody
got some water. We bathed his face and washed off the blood. Presently
he revived, and smiled at me, and staggered out of my hold.

"Helluva note that saddle slipped!" he complained. Manifestly he had
acquired some of Joe Isbel's strong language. Possibly he might have
acquired some other of the cowboy's traits, for he asked to have his
saddle straightened and to be put on his horse. I had misgivings, but
I could not resist him then. I lifted him upon Rye. Once more our
cavalcade got under way.

Sunset, twilight, night came as we trotted on and on. We faced a cold
wind. The forest was black, gloomy, full of shadows. Lee gave us all
we could do to keep up with him. At eight o'clock, two hours after
dark, we reached the southern end of Mormon Lake. A gale, cold as ice,
blew off the water from the north. Half a dozen huge pine trees stood
on the only level ground near at hand. "Nielsen, fire - pronto!" I
yelled. "Aye, sir," he shouted, in his deep voice. Then what with
hurry and bustle to get my bedding and packs, and to thresh my
tingling fingers, and press my frozen ears, I was selfishly busy a few
minutes before I thought of Romer.

Nielsen had started a fire, that blazed and roared with burning pine
needles. The blaze blew low, almost on a level with the ground, and a
stream of red sparks flew off into the woods. I was afraid of forest
fire. But what a welcome sight that golden flame! It lighted up a wide
space, showing the huge pines, gloom-encircled, and a pale glimmer of
the lake beyond. The fragrance of burning pine greeted my nostrils.

Dragging my bags I hurried toward the fire. Nielsen was building a
barricade of rocks to block the flying sparks. Suddenly I espied
Romer. He sat on a log close to the blaze. His position struck me as
singular, so I dropped my burdens and went to him. He had on a heavy
coat over sweater and under coat, which made him resemble a little old
man. His sombrero was slouched down sidewise, his gloved hands were
folded across his knees, his body sagged a little to one side, his
head drooped. He was asleep. I got around so I could see his face
in the firelight. Pale, weary, a little sad, very youthful and yet
determined! A bloody bruise showed over his temple. He had said he
would ride all the way to Mormon Lake and he had done it. Never, never
will that picture fade from my memory! Dear, brave, wild, little lad!
He had made for me a magnificent success of this fruitless hunting
trip. I hoped and prayed then that when he grew to man's estate, and
faced the long rides down the hard roads of life, he would meet them
and achieve them as he had the weary thirty-five Arizona miles from
Long Valley to Mormon Lake.

[Illustration: SKUNK, A FREQUENT AND RATHER DANGEROUS VISITOR IN CAMP]

[Illustration: ON THE RIM]

[Illustration: WHERE ELK, DEER, AND TURKEY DRINK]

Mutton tasted good that night around our camp-fire; and Romer ate a
generous portion. A ranger from the station near there visited us, and
two young ranchers, who told us that the influenza epidemic was waning.
This was news to be thankful for. Moreover, I hired the two ranchers to
hurry us by auto to Flagstaff on the morrow. So right there at Mormon
Lake ended our privations.

Under one of the huge pines I scraped up a pile of needles, made
Romer's bed in it, heated a blanket and wrapped him in it. Almost he
was asleep when he said: "Some ride, Dad - Good-night."

Later, beside him, I lay awake a while, watching the sparks fly, and
the shadows flit, feeling the cold wind on my face, listening to the
crackle of the fire and the roar of the gale.


IV

Eventually R.C. and Romer and I arrived in Los Angeles to find all
well with our people, which fact was indeed something to rejoice over.
Hardly had this 1918 trip ended before I began to plan for that of
1919. But I did not realize how much in earnest I was until I received
word that both Lee Doyle in Flagstaff and Nielsen in San Pedro were
very ill with influenza. Lee all but died, and Nielsen, afterward,
told me he would rather die than have the "flu" again. To my great
relief, however, they recovered.

From that time then it pleased me to begin to plan for my 1919 hunting
trip. I can never do anything reasonably. I always overdo everything.
But what happiness I derive from anticipation! When I am not working
I live in dreams, partly of the past, but mostly of the future. A man
should live only in the present.

I gave Lee instructions to go about in his own way buying teams,
saddle horses, and wagons. For Christmas I sent him a .35 Remington
rifle. Mr. Haught got instructions to add some new dogs to his pack. I
sent Edd also a .35 Remington, and made Nielsen presents of two guns.
In January Nielsen and I went to Picacho, on the lower Colorado river,
and then north to Death Valley. So that I kept in touch with these men
and did not allow their enthusiasm to wane. For myself and R.C. I had
the fun of ordering tents and woolen blankets, and everything that we
did not have on our 1918 trip. But owing to the war it was difficult
to obtain goods of any description. To make sure of getting a .30
Gov't Winchester I ordered from four different firms, including the
Winchester Co. None of them had such a rifle in stock, but all would
try to find one. The upshot of this deal was that, when after months I
despaired of getting any, they all sent me a rifle at the same time.
So I found myself with four, all the same caliber of course, but of
different style and finish. When I saw them and thought of the
Haughts I had to laugh. One was beautifully engraved, and inlaid with
gold - the most elaborate .30 Gov't the Winchester people had ever
built. Another was a walnut-stocked, shot-gun butted, fancy checkered
take-down. This one I presented to R.C. The third was a plain ordinary
rifle with solid frame. And the last was a carbine model, which I gave
to Nielsen.

During the summer at Avalon I used to take the solid frame rifle, and
climb the hills to practice on targets. At Clemente Island I used to
shoot at the ravens. I had a grudge against ravens there for picking
the eyes out of newly born lambs. At five hundred yards a raven was in
danger from me. I could make one jump at even a thousand yards. These
.30 Gov't 1906 rifles with 150-grain bullet are the most wonderful
shooting arms I ever tried. I became expert at inanimate targets.

From time to time I heard encouraging news from Lee about horses. Edd
wrote me about lion tracks in the snow, and lynx up cedar trees, and
gobblers four feet high, and that there was sure to be a good crop
of acorns, and therefore some bears. He told me about a big grizzly
cow-killer being chased and shot in Chevelon Canyon. News about
hounds, however, was slow in coming. Dogs were difficult to find.
At length Haught wrote me that he had secured two; and in this same
letter he said the boys were cutting trails down under the rim.

Everything pertaining to my cherished plans appeared to be turning
out well. But during this time I spent five months at hard work and
intense emotional strain, writing the longest novel I ever attempted;
and I over-taxed my endurance. By the middle of June, when I finished,
I was tired out. That would not have mattered if I had not hurt my
back in an eleven-hour fight with a giant broadbill swordfish. This
strain kept me from getting in my usual physical trim. I could not
climb the hills, or exert myself. Swimming hurt me more than anything.
So I had to be careful and wait until my back slowly got better. By
September it had improved, but not enough to make me feel any thrills
over horseback riding. It seemed to me that I would be compelled to
go ahead and actually work the pain out of my back, an ordeal through
which I had passed before, and surely dreaded.

During the summer I had purchased a famous chestnut sorrel horse named
Don Carlos. He was much in demand among the motion-picture companies
doing western plays; and was really too fine and splendid a horse to
be put to the risks common to the movies. I saw him first at Palm
Springs, down in southern California, where my book _Desert Gold_ was
being made into a motion-picture. Don would not have failed to strike
any one as being a wonderful horse. He was tremendously high and rangy
and powerful in build, yet graceful withal, a sleek, shiny chestnut
red in color, with fine legs, broad chest, and a magnificent head. I
rode him only once before I bought him, and that was before I hurt my
back. His stride was what one would expect from sight of him; his trot
seemed to tear me to pieces; his spirit was such that he wanted to
prance all the time. But in spite of his spirit he was a pet. And
how he could run! Nielsen took Don to Flagstaff by express. And when
Nielsen wrote me he said all of Flagstaff came down to the station to
see the famous Don Carlos. The car in which he had traveled was backed
alongside a platform. Don refused to step on the boards they placed
from platform to car. He did not trust them. Don's intelligence had
been sharpened by his experience with the movies. Nielsen tried to
lead, to coax, and to drive Don to step on the board walk. Don would
not go. But suddenly he snorted, and jumped the space clear, to plunge
and pound down upon the platform, scattering the crowd like quail.

The day before my departure from Los Angeles was almost as terrible an
ordeal as I anticipated would be my first day's ride on Don Carlos.
And this ordeal consisted of listening to Romer's passionate appeals
and importunities to let him go on the hunt. My only defence was that
he must not be taken from school. School forsooth! He was way ahead of
his class. If he got behind he could make it up. I talked and argued.
Once he lost his temper, a rare thing with him, and said he would run
away from school, ride on a freight train to Flagstaff, steal a horse
and track me to my camp. I could not say very much in reply to this
threat, because I remembered that I had made worse to my father, and
carried it out. I had to talk sense to Romer. Often we had spoken of
a wonderful hunt in Africa some day, when he was old enough; and I
happened upon a good argument. I said: "You'll miss a year out of
school then. It won't be so very long. Don't you think you ought to
stay in school faithfully now?" So in the end I got away from him,
victorious, though not wholly happy. The truth was I wanted him to go.

My Jap cook Takahashi met me in Flagstaff. He was a very short, very
broad, very muscular little fellow with a brown, strong face, more
pleasant than usually seen in Orientals. Secretly I had made sure that
in Takahashi I had discovered a treasure, but I was careful to conceal
this conviction from R.C., the Doyles, and Nielsen. They were glad to
see him with us, but they manifestly did not expect wonders.

How brief the span of a year! Here I was in Flagstaff again outfitting
for another hunt. It seemed incredible. It revived that old haunting
thought about the shortness of life. But in spite of that or perhaps
more because of it the pleasure was all the keener. In truth the only
drawback to this start was the absence of Romer, and my poor physical
condition. R.C. appeared to be in fine fettle.

But I was not well. In the mornings I could scarcely arise, and when
I did so I could hardly straighten myself. More than once I grew
doubtful of my strength to undertake such a hard trip. This doubt I
fought fiercely, for I knew that the right thing for me to do was
to go - to stand the pain and hardship - to toil along until my old
strength and elasticity returned. What an opportunity to try out my
favorite theory! For I believed that labor and pain were good for
mankind - that strenuous life in the open would cure any bodily ill.

On September fourteenth Edd and George drifted into Flagstaff to join
us, and their report of game and water and grass and acorns was so
favorable that I would have gone if I had been unable to ride on
anything but a wagon.


We got away on September fifteenth at two-thirty o'clock with such an
outfit as I had never had in all my many trips put together. We had a
string of saddle horses besides those the men rode. They were surely a
spirited bunch; and that first day it was indeed a job to keep them with
us. Out of sheer defiance with myself I started on Don Carlos. He was no
trouble, except that it took all my strength to hold him in. He tossed
his head, champed his bit, and pranced sideways along the streets of
Flagstaff, manifestly to show off his brand new black Mexican saddle,
with silver trappings and tapaderos. I was sure that he did not do that
to show me off. But Don liked to dance and prance along before a crowd,
a habit that he had acquired with the motion pictures.

Lee and Nielsen and George had their difficulties driving the free
horses. Takahashi rode a little buckskin Navajo mustang. An evidence of
how extremely short the Jap's legs were made itself plain in the fact
that stirrups could not be fixed so he could reach them with his feet.
When he used any support at all he stuck his feet through the straps
above the stirrups. How funny his squat, broad figure looked in a
saddle! Evidently he was not accustomed to horses. When I saw the
mustang roll the white of his eyes and glance back at Takahashi then I
knew something would happen sooner or later.

Nineteen miles on Don Carlos reduced me to a miserable aching specimen
of manhood. But what made me endure and go on and finish to camp was the
strange fact that the longer I rode the less my back pained. Other parts
of my anatomy, however, grew sorer as we progressed. Don Carlos pleased
me immensely, only I feared he was too much horse for me. A Mormon
friend of mine, an Indian trader, looked Don over in Flagstaff, and
pronounced him: "Shore one grand hoss!" This man had broken many wild
horses, and his compliment pleased me. All the same the nineteen miles
on Don hurt my vanity almost as much as my body.

We camped in a cedar pasture off the main road. This road was a new one
for us to take to our hunting grounds. I was too bunged up to help
Nielsen pitch our tent. In fact when I sat down I was anchored. Still I
could use my eyes, and that made life worth living. Sunset was a
gorgeous spectacle. The San Francisco Peaks were shrouded in purple
storm-clouds, and the west was all gold and silver, with low clouds
rimmed in red. This sunset ended in a great flare of dull magenta with a
background of purple.

That evening was the try-out of our new chuck-box and chef. I had
supplied the men with their own outfit and supplies, to do with as they
liked, an arrangement I found to be most satisfactory. Takahashi was to
take care of R.C. and me. In less than half an hour from the time the
Jap lighted a fire he served the best supper I ever had in camp
anywhere. R.C. lauded him to the skies. And I began to think I could
unburden myself of my conviction.

I did not awaken to the old zest and thrill of the open. Something was
wrong with me. The sunset, the camp-fire, the dark clear night with its
trains of stars, the distant yelp of coyotes - these seemed less to me
than what I had hoped for. My feelings were locked round my discomfort
and pain.

About noon next day we rode out of the cedars into the open desert - a
rolling, level land covered with fine grass, and yellow daisies, Indian
paint brush, and a golden flowering weed. This luxuriance attested to
the copious and recent rains. They had been a boon to dry Arizona. No
sage showed or greasewood, and very few rocks. The sun burned hot. I
gazed out at the desert, and the cloud pageant in the sky, trying hard
to forget myself, and to see what I knew was there for me. Rolling
columnar white and cream clouds, majestic and beautiful, formed storms
off on the horizon. Sunset on the open desert that afternoon was
singularly characteristic of Arizona - purple and gold and red, with long
lanes of blue between the colored cloud banks.

We made camp at Meteor Crater, one of the many wonders of this
wonderland. It was a huge hole in the earth over five hundred feet deep,
said to have been made by a meteor burying itself there. Seen from the
outside the slope was gradual up to the edges, which were scalloped and
irregular; on the inside the walls were precipitous. Our camp was on the
windy desert, a long sweeping range of grass, sloping down, dotted with
cattle, with buttes and mountains in the distance. Most of my sensations
of the day partook of the nature of woe.

September seventeenth bade fair to be my worst day - at least I did not
see how any other could ever be so bad. Glaring hot sun - reflected heat
from I the bare road - dust and sand and wind! Particularly hard on me
were what the Arizonians called dust-devils, whirlwinds of sand. On and
off I walked a good many miles, the latter of which I hobbled. Don
Carlos did not know what to make of this. He eyed me, and nosed me, and
tossed his head as if to say I was a strange rider for him. Like my
mustang, Night, he would not stand to be mounted. When I touched the
stirrup that was a signal to go. He had been trained to it. As he was
nearly seventeen hands high, and as I could not get my foot in the
stirrup from level ground, to mount him in my condition seemed little
less than terrible. I always held back out of sight when I attempted
this. Many times I failed. Once I fell flat and lay a moment in the
dust. Don Carlos looked down upon me in a way I imagined was
sympathetic. At least he bent his noble head and smelled at me. I
scrambled to my feet, led him round into a low place, and drawing a deep
breath, and nerving myself to endure the pain like a stab, I got into
the saddle again.

Two things sustained me in this ordeal, which was the crudest horseback
ride I ever had - first, the conviction that I could cure my ills by
enduring the agony of violent action, of hot sun, of hard bed; and
secondly, the knowledge that after it was all over the remembrance of
hardship and achievement would be singularly sweet. So it had been in



Online LibraryZane GreyTales of lonely trails → online text (page 18 of 29)