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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 the case of the five days on the old Crook road in 1918, when extreme worry and tremendous exertion had made the hours hideous. So it had been with other arduous and poignant experiences. A poet said that the crown of sorrow was in remembering happier times: I believed that there was a great deal of happiness in remembering times of stress, of despair, of extreme and hazardous effort. Anyway, without these two feelings in my mind I would have given up riding Don Carlos that day, and have abandoned the trip.
We covered twenty-two miles by sundown, a rather poor day's showing; and camped on the bare flat desert, using water and wood we had packed with us. The last thing I remembered, as my eyes closed heavily, was what a blessing it was to rest and to sleep.
Next day we sheered off to the southward, heading toward Chevelon Butte, a black cedared mountain, rising lone out of the desert, thirty miles away. We crossed two streams bank full of water, a circumstance I never before saw in Arizona. Everywhere too the grass was high. We climbed gradually all day, everybody sunburned and weary, the horses settling down to save themselves; and we camped high up on the desert plateau, six thousand feet above sea level, where it was windy, cool, and fragrant with sage and cedar. Except the first few, the hours of this day each marked a little less torture for me; but at that I fell off Don Carlos when we halted. And I was not able to do my share of the camp work. R.C. was not as spry and chipper as I had seen him, a fact from which I gathered infinite consolation. Misery loves company.
A storm threatened. All the west was purple under on-coming purple clouds. At sight of this something strange and subtle, yet familiar, revived in me. It made me feel a little more like the self I thought I knew. So I watched the lightning flare and string along the horizon. Some time in the night thunder awakened me. The imminence of a severe storm forced us to roll out and look after the tent. What a pitch black night! Down through the murky, weird blackness shot a wonderful zigzag rope of lightning, blue-white, dazzling; and it disintegrated, leaving segments of fire in the air. All this showed in a swift flash--then we were absolutely blind. I could not see for several moments. It rained a little. Only the edge of the storm touched us. Thunder rolled and boomed along the battlements, deep and rumbling and detonating.
No dust or heat next morning! The desert floor appeared clean and damp, with fresh gray sage and shining bunches of cedar. We climbed into the high cedars, and then to the pinons, and then to the junipers and pines. Climbing so out of desert to forestland was a gradual and accumulating joy to me. What contrast in vegetation, in air, in color! Still the forest consisted of small trees. Not until next day did we climb farther to the deepening, darkening forest, and at last to the silver spruce. That camp, the fifth night out, was beside a lake of surface water, where we had our first big camp-fire.
September twenty-first and ten miles from Beaver Dam Canyon, where a year before I had planned to meet Haught this day and date at noon! I could make that appointment, saddle-sore and weary as I was, but I doubted we could get the wagons there. The forest ground was soft. All the little swales were full of water. How pleasant, how welcome, how beautiful and lonely the wild forestland! We made advance slowly. It was afternoon by the time we reached the rim road, and four o'clock when we halted at the exact spot where we had left our wagon the year before.
Lee determined to drive the wagons down over the rocky benches into Beaver Dam Canyon; and to that end he and the men began to cut pines, drag logs, and roll stones.
R.C. and I rode down through the forest, crossing half a dozen swift little streams of amber water, where a year before all had been dry as tinder. We found Haught's camp in a grove of yellowing aspens. Haught was there to meet us. He had not changed any more than the rugged pine tree under which a year past we had made our agreement. He wore the same blue shirt and the old black sombrero.
"Hello Haught," was my greeting, as I dismounted and pulled out my watch. "I'm four hours and a quarter late. Sorry. I could have made it, but didn't want to leave the wagons."
"Wal, wal, I shore am glad to see you," he replied, with a keen flash in his hazel eyes and a smile on his craggy face. "I reckoned you'd make it. How are you? Look sort of fagged."
"Just about all in, Haught," I replied, as we shook hands.
Then Copple appeared, swaggering out of the aspens. He was the man I met in Payson and who so kindly had made me take his rifle. I had engaged him also for this hunt. A brawny man he was, with powerful shoulders, swarthy-skinned, and dark-eyed, looking indeed the Indian blood he claimed.
"Wouldn't have recognized you anywhere's else," he said.
These keen-eyed outdoor men at a glance saw the havoc work and pain had played with me. They were solicitous, and when I explained my condition they made light of that, and showed relief that I was not ill. "Saw wood an' rustle around," said Haught. And Copple said: "He needs venison an' bear meat."
They rode back with us up to the wagons. Copple had been a freighter. He picked out a way to drive down into the canyon. So rough and steep it was that I did not believe driving down would be possible. But with axes and pick and shovel, and a heaving of rocks, they worked a road that Lee drove down. Some places were almost straight down. But the ground was soft, hoofs and wheels sank deeply, and though one wagon lurched almost over, and the heavily laden chuck-wagon almost hurdled the team, Lee made the bad places without accident. Two hours after our arrival, such was the labor of many strong hands, we reached our old camp ground. One thing was certain, however, and that was we would never get back up the way we came down.
Except for a luxuriance of grass and ferns, and two babbling streams of water, our old camp ground had not changed. I sat down with mingled emotions. How familiarly beautiful and lonely this canyon glade! The great pines and spruces looked down upon me with a benediction. How serene, passionless, strong they seemed! It was only men who changed in brief time. The long year of worry and dread and toil and pain had passed. It was nothing. On the soft, fragrant, pine-scented breeze came a whispering of welcome from the forestland: "You are here again. Live now--in the present."
Takahashi beamed upon me: "More better place to camp," he said, grinning. Already the Jap had won my admiration and liking. His ability excited my interest, and I wanted to know more about him. As to this camp-site being a joy compared to the ones stretched back along the road he was assuredly right. That night we did no more than eat and unroll our beds. But next day there set in the pleasant tasks of unpacking, putting up tents and flies, cutting spruce for thick, soft beds, and a hundred odd jobs dear to every camper. Takahashi would not have any one help him. He dug a wide space for fires, erected a stone windbreak, and made two ovens out of baked mud, the like of which, and the cleverness of which I had never seen. He was a whirlwind for work.
The matter of firewood always concerned Nielsen and me more than any one. Nielsen was a Norwegian, raised as a boy to use a crosscut saw; and as for me I was a connoisseur in camp-fires and a lover of them. Hence we had brought a crosscut saw--a long one with two handles. I remembered from the former year a huge dead pine that had towered bleached and white at the edge of the glade. It stood there still. The storms and blasts of another winter had not changed it in the least. It was five feet thick at the base and solid. Nielsen chopped a notch in it on the lower side, and then he and Edd began to saw into it on the other. I saw the first tremor of the lofty top. Then soon it shivered all the way down, gave forth a loud crack, swayed slowly, and fell majestically, to strike with a thundering crash. Only the top of this pine broke in the fall, but there were splinters and knots and branches enough to fill a wagon. These we carried up to our camp-fire.
Then the boys sawed off half a dozen four-foot sections, which served as fine, solid, flat tables for comfort around camp. The method of using a crosscut saw was for two men to take a stand opposite one another, with the log between. The handles of the saw stood upright. Each man should pull easily and steadily toward himself, but should not push back nor bear down. It looked a rhythmic, manly exercise, and not arduous. But what an illusion! Nielsen and Copple were the only ones that day who could saw wholly through the thick log without resting. Later Takahashi turned out to be as good, if not better, than either of them, but we had that, as well as many other wonderful facts, to learn about the Jap.
"Come on," said R.C. to me, invitingly. "You've been talking about this crosscut saw game. I'll bet you find it harder than pulling on a swordfish."
Pride goes before a fall! I knew that in my condition I could do little with the saw, but I had to try. R.C. was still fresh when I had to rest. Perhaps no one except myself realized the weakness of my back, but the truth was a couple of dozen pulls on that saw almost made me collapse. Wherefore I grew furious with myself and swore I would do it or die. I sawed till I fell over--then I rested and went back at it. Half an hour of this kind of exercise gave me a stab in my left side infinitely sharper than the pain in my back. Also it made me wringing wet, hot as fire, and as breathless as if I had run a mile up hill. That experience determined me to stick to crosscut sawing every day. Next morning I approached it with enthusiasm, yet with misgivings. I could not keep my breath. Pain I could and did bear without letting on. But to have to stop was humiliating. If I tried to keep up with the sturdy Haught boys, or with the brawny Copple or the giant Nielsen, soon I would be compelled to keel over. In the sawing through a four-foot section of log I had to rest eight times. They all had a great deal of fun out of it, and I pretended to be good natured, but to me who had always been so vigorous and active and enduring it was not fun. It was tragic. But all was not gloom for me. This very afternoon Nielsen, the giant, showed that a stiff climb out of the canyon, at that eight thousand feet altitude, completely floored him. Yet I accomplished that with comparative ease. I could climb, which seemed proof that I was gaining. A man becomes used to certain labors and exercises. I thought the crosscut saw a wonderful tool to train a man, but it must require time. It harked back to pioneer days when men were men. Nielsen said he had lived among Mexican boys who sawed logs for nineteen cents apiece and earned seven dollars a day. Copple said three minutes was good time to saw a four-foot log in two pieces. So much for physical condition! As for firewood, for which our crosscut saw was intended, pitch pine and yellow pine and spruce were all odorous and inflammable woods, but they did not make good firewood. Dead aspen was good; dead oak the best. It burned to red hot coals with little smoke. As for camp-fires, any kind of dry wood pleased, smoke or no smoke. In fact I loved the smell and color of wood-smoke, in spite of the fact that it made my eyes smart.
By October first, which was the opening day of the hunting season, I had labored at various exercises until I felt fit to pack a rifle through the woods. R.C. and I went out alone on foot. Not by any means was the day auspicious. The sun tried to show through a steely haze, making only a pale shift of sunshine. And the air was rather chilly. Enthusiasm, however, knew no deterrents. We walked a mile down Beaver Dam Canyon, then climbed the western slope. As long as the sun shone I knew the country fairly well, or rather my direction. We slipped along through the silent woods, satisfied with everything. Presently the sun broke through the clouds, and shone fitfully, making intervals of shadow, and others of golden-green verdure.
Along an edge of one of the grassy parks we came across fresh deer tracks. Several deer had run out of the woods just ahead of us, evidently having winded us. One track was that of a big buck. We trailed these tracks across the park, then made a detour in hopes of heading the deer off, but failed. A huge, dark cloud scudded out of the west and let down a shower of fine rain. We kept dry under a spreading spruce. The forest then was gloomy and cool with only a faint moan of wind and pattering of raindrops to break the silence. The cloud passed by, the sun shone again, the forest glittered in its dress of diamonds. There had been but little frost, so that aspen and maple thickets had not yet taken on their cloth of gold and blaze of red. Most of the leaves were still on the trees, making these thickets impossible to see into. We hunted along the edges of these, and across the wide, open ridge from canyon to canyon, and saw nothing but old tracks. Black and white clouds rolled up and brought a squall. We took to another spruce tent for shelter. After this squall the sky became obscured by a field of gray cloud through which the sun shone dimly. This matter worried me. I was aware of my direction then, but if I lost the sun I would soon be in difficulties.
Gradually we worked back along the ridge toward camp, and headed several ravines that ran and widened down into the big canyon. All at once R.C. held up a warning finger. "Listen!" With abatement of breath I listened, but heard nothing except the mournful sough of the pines. "Thought I heard a whistle," he said. We went on, all eyes and ears.
R.C. and I flattered ourselves that together we made rather a good hunting team. We were fairly well versed in woodcraft and could slip along stealthily. I possessed an Indian sense of direction that had never yet failed me. To be sure we had much to learn about deer stalking. But I had never hunted with any man whose ears were as quick as R.C.'s. A naturally keen hearing, and many years of still hunting, accounted for this faculty. As for myself, the one gift of which I was especially proud was my eyesight. Almost invariably I could see game in the woods before any one who was with me. This had applied to all my guides except Indians. And I believed that five summers on the Pacific, searching the wide expanse of ocean for swordfish fins, had made my eyes all the keener for the woods. R.C. and I played at a game in which he tried to hear the movement of some forest denizen before I saw it. This fun for us dated back to boyhood days.
Suddenly R.C. stopped short, with his head turning to one side, and his body stiffening. "I heard that whistle again," he said. We stood perfectly motionless for a long moment. Then from far off in the forest I heard a high, clear, melodious, bugling note. How thrilling, how lonely a sound!
"It's a bull-elk," I replied. Then we sat down upon a log and listened. R.C. had heard that whistle in Colorado, but had not recognized it. Just as the mournful howl of a wolf is the wildest, most haunting sound of the wilderness, so is the bugle of the elk the noblest, most melodious and thrilling. With tingling nerves and strained ears we listened. We heard elk bugling in different directions, hard to locate. One bull appeared to be low down, another high up, another working away. R.C. and I decided to stalk them. The law prohibited the killing of elk, but that was no reason why we might not trail them, and have the sport of seeing them in their native haunts. So we stole softly through the woods, halting now and then to listen, pleased to note that every whistle we heard appeared to be closer.
At last, apparently only a deep thicketed ravine separated us from the ridge upon which the elk were bugling. Here our stalk began to become really exciting. We did not make any noise threading that wet thicket, and we ascended the opposite slope very cautiously. What little wind there was blew from the elk toward us, so they could not scent us. Once up on the edge of the ridge we halted to listen. After a long time we heard a far-away bugle, then another at least half a mile distant. Had we miscalculated? R.C. was for working down the ridge and I was for waiting there a few moments. So we sat down again. The forest was almost silent now. Somewhere a squirrel was barking. The sun peeped out of the pale clouds, lighted the glades, rimmed the pines in brightness. I opened my lips to speak to R.C. when I was rendered mute by a piercing whistle, high-pitched and sweet and melodiously prolonged. It made my ears tingle and my blood dance. "Right close," whispered R.C. "Come on." We began to steal through the forest, keeping behind trees and thickets, peeping out, and making no more sound than shadows. The ground was damp, facilitating our noiseless stalk. In this way we became separated by about thirty steps, but we walked on and halted in unison. Passing through a thicket of little pines we came into an open forest full of glades. Keenly I peered everywhere, as I slipped from tree to tree. Finally we stooped along for a space, and then, at a bugle blast so close that it made me jump, I began to crawl. My objective point was a fallen pine the trunk of which appeared high enough to conceal me. R.C. kept working a little farther to the right. Once he beckoned me, but I kept on. Still I saw him drop down to crawl. Our stalk was getting toward its climax. My state was one of quivering intensity of thrill, of excitement, of pleasure. Reaching my log I peeped over it. I saw a cow-elk and a yearling calf trotting across a glade about a hundred yards distant. Wanting R.C. to see them I looked his way, and pointed. But he was pointing also and vehemently beckoning for me to join him. I ran on all fours over to where he knelt. He whispered pantingly: "Grandest sight--ever saw!" I peeped out.
In a glade not seventy-five yards away stood a magnificent bull elk, looking back over his shoulder. His tawny hind-quarters, then his dark brown, almost black shaggy shoulders and head, then his enormous spread of antlers, like the top of a dead cedar--these in turn fascinated my gaze. How graceful, stately, lordly!
R.C. stepped out from behind the pine in full view. I crawled out, took a kneeling position, and drew a bead on the elk. I had the fun of imagining I could have hit him anywhere. I did not really want to kill him, yet what was the meaning of the sharp, hot gush of my blood, the fiery thrill along my nerves, the feeling of unsatisfied wildness? The bull eyed us for a second, then laid his forest of antlers back over his shoulders, and with singularly swift, level stride, sped like a tawny flash into the green forest.
R.C. and I began to chatter like boys, and to walk toward the glade, without any particular object in mind, when my roving eye caught sight of a moving brown and checkered patch low down on the ground, vanishing behind a thicket. I called R.C. and ran. I got to where I could see beyond the thicket. An immense flock of turkeys! I yelled. As I tried to get a bead on a running turkey R.C. joined me. "Chase 'em!" he yelled. So we dashed through the forest with the turkeys running ahead of us. Never did they come out clear in the open. I halted to shoot, but just as I was about to press the trigger, my moving target vanished. This happened again. No use to shoot at random! I had a third fleeting chance, but absolutely could not grasp it. Then the big flock of turkeys eluded us in an impenetrable, brushy ravine.
"By George!" exclaimed R.C. "Can you beat that? They run like streaks. I couldn't aim. These wild turkeys are great."
I echoed his sentiments. We prowled around for an hour trying to locate this flock again, but all in vain. "Well," said R.C. finally, as he wiped his perspiring face, "it's good to see some game anyhow.... Where are we?"
It developed that our whereabouts was a mystery to me. The sun had become completely obliterated, a fine rain was falling, the forest had grown wet and dismal. We had gotten turned around. The matter did not look serious, however, until we had wandered around for another hour without finding anything familiar. Then we realized we were lost. This sort of experience had happened to R.C. and me often; nevertheless we did not relish it, especially the first day out. As usual on such occasions R.C. argued with me about direction, and then left the responsibility with me. I found an open spot, somewhat sheltered on one side from the misty rain, and there I stationed myself to study trees and sky and clouds for some clue to help me decide what was north or west. After a while I had the good fortune to see a momentary brightening through the clouds. I located the sun, and was pleased to discover that the instinct of direction I had been subtly prompted to take, would have helped me as much as the sun.
We faced east and walked fast, and I took note of trees ahead so that we should not get off a straight line. At last we came to a deep canyon. In the gray misty rain I could not be sure I recognized it. "Well, R.C.," I said, "this may be our canyon, and it may not. But to make sure we'll follow it up to the rim. Then we can locate camp." R.C. replied with weary disdain. "All right, my redskin brother, lead me to camp. As Loren says, I'm starved to death." Loren is my three-year-old boy, who bids fair to be like his brother Romer. He has an enormous appetite and before meal times he complains bitterly: "I'm starv-ved to death!" How strange to remember him while I was lost in the forest!
When we had descended into the canyon rain was falling more heavily. We were in for it. But I determined we would not be kept out all night. So I struck forward with long stride.
In half an hour we came to where the canyon forked. I deliberated a moment. Not one familiar landmark could I descry, from which fact I decided we had better take to the left-hand fork. Grass and leaves appeared almost as wet as running water. Soon we were soaked to the skin. After two miles the canyon narrowed and thickened, so that traveling grew more and more laborsome. It must have been four miles from its mouth to where it headed up near the rim. Once out of it we found ourselves on familiar ground, about five miles from camp. Exhausted and wet and nearly frozen we reached camp just before dark. If I had taken the right-hand fork of the canyon, which was really Beaver Dam Canyon, we would have gotten back to camp in short order. R.C. said to the boys: "Well, Doc dragged me nine miles out of our way." Everybody but the Jap enjoyed my discomfiture. Takahashi said in his imperfect English: "Go get on more better dry clothes. Soon hot supper. Maybe good yes!"
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