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It rained the following day, making a good excuse to stay in camp and rest beside the little tent-stove. And the next morning I started out on foot with Copple. We went down Beaver Dam Canyon intending to go up on the ridge where R.C. and I had seen the flock of turkeys.
I considered Copple an addition to my long list of outdoor acquaintances in the west, and believed him a worthy partner for Nielsen. Copple was born near Oak Creek, some twenty miles south of Flagstaff, and was one-fourth Indian. He had a good education. His whole life had been in the open, which fact I did not need to be told. A cowboy when only a boy he had also been sheepherder, miner, freighter, and everything Arizonian. Eighteen years he had hunted game and prospected for gold in Mexico. He had been a sailor and fireman on the Pacific, he had served in the army in the Philippines. Altogether his had been an adventurous life; and as Doyle had been a mine of memories for me so would Copple be a mine of information. Such men have taught me the wonder, the violence, the truth of the west.
Copple was inclined to be loquacious--a trait that ordinarily was rather distasteful to me, but in his case would be an advantage. On our way down the canyon not only did he give me an outline of the history of his life, but he talked about how he had foretold the storm just ended. The fresh diggings of gophers--little mounds of dirt thrown up--had indicated the approach of the storm; so had the hooting of owls; likewise the twittering of snowbirds at that season; also the feeding of blackbirds near horses. Particularly a wind from the south meant storm. From that he passed to a discussion of deer. During the light of the moon deer feed at night; and in the day time they will lie in a thicket. If a hunter came near the deer would lower their horns flat and remain motionless, unless almost ridden over. In the dark of the moon deer feed at early morning, lie down during the day, and feed again toward sunset, always alert, trusting to nose more than eyes and ears.
Copple was so interesting that I must have passed the place where R.C. and I had come down into the canyon; at any rate I missed it, and we went on farther. Copple showed me old bear sign, an old wolf track, and then fresh turkey tracks. The latter reminded me that we were out hunting. I could carry a deadly rifle in my hands, yet dream dreams of flower-decked Elysian fields. We climbed a wooded bench or low step of the canyon slope, and though Copple and I were side by side I saw two turkeys before he did. They were running swiftly up hill. I took a snap shot at the lower one, but missed. My bullet struck low, upsetting him. Both of them disappeared.
Then we climbed to the top of the ridge, and in scouting around along the heavily timbered edges we came to a ravine deep enough to be classed as a canyon. Here the forest was dark and still, with sunlight showing down in rays and gleams. While hunting I always liked to sit down here and there to listen and watch. Copple liked this too. So we sat down. Opposite us the rocky edge of the other slope was about two hundred yards. We listened to jays and squirrels. I made note of the significant fact that as soon as we began to hunt Copple became silent.
Presently my roving eye caught sight of a moving object. It is movement that always attracts my eye in the woods. I saw a plump, woolly beast walk out upon the edge of the opposite slope and stand in the shade.
"Copple, is that a sheep?" I whispered, pointing. "Lion--no, big lynx," he replied. I aimed and shot just a little too swiftly. Judging by the puff of dust my bullet barely missed the big cat. He leaped fully fifteen feet. Copple fired, hitting right under his nose as he alighted. That whirled him back. He bounced like a rubber ball. My second shot went over him, and Copple's hit between his legs. Then with another prodigious bound he disappeared in a thicket. "By golly! we missed him," declared Copple. "But you must have shaved him that first time. Biggest lynx I ever saw."
We crossed the canyon and hunted for him, but without success. Then we climbed an open grassy forest slope, up to a level ridge, and crossed that to see down into a beautiful valley, with stately isolated pines, and patches of aspens, and floor of luxuriant grass. A ravine led down into this long park and the mouth of it held a thicket of small pines. Just as we got half way out I saw bobbing black objects above the high grass. I peered sharply. These objects were turkey heads. I got a shot before Copple saw them. There was a bouncing, a whirring, a thumping--and then turkeys appeared to be running every way.
Copple fired. "Turkey number one!" he called out. I missed a big gobbler on the run. Copple shot again. "Turkey number two!" he called out. I could not see what he had done, but of course I knew he had done execution. It roused my ire as well as a desperate ambition. Turkeys were running up hill everywhere. I aimed at this one, then at that. Again I fired. Another miss! How that gobbler ran! He might just as well have flown. Every turkey contrived to get a tree or bush between him and me, just at the critical instant. In despair I tried to hold on the last one, got a bead on it through my peep sight, moved it with him as we moved, and holding tight, I fired. With a great flop and scattering of bronze feathers he went down. I ran up the slope and secured him, a fine gobbler of about fifteen pounds weight.
Upon my return to Copple I found he had collected his two turkeys, both shot in the neck in the same place. He said: "If you hit them in the body you spoil them for cooking. I used to hit all mine in the head. Let me give you a hunch. Always pick out a turkey running straight away from you or straight toward you. Never crossways. You can't hit them running to the side."
Then he bluntly complimented me upon my eyesight. That at least was consolation for my poor shooting. We rested there, and after a while heard a turkey cluck. Copple had no turkey-caller, but he clucked anyhow. We heard answers. The flock evidently was trying to get together again, and some of them were approaching us. Copple continued to call. Then I appreciated how fascinating R.C. had found this calling game. Copple got answers from all around, growing closer. But presently the answers ceased. "They're on to me," he whispered and did not call again. At that moment a young gobbler ran swiftly down the slope and stopped to peer around, his long neck stretching. It was not a very long shot, and I, scorning to do less than Copple, tried to emulate him, and aimed at the neck of the gobbler. All I got, however, was a few feathers. Like a grouse he flew across the opening and was gone. We lingered there a while, hoping to see or hear more of the flock, but did neither. Copple tried to teach me how to tell the age of turkeys from their feet, a lesson I did not think I would assimilate in one hunting season. He tied their legs together and hung them over his shoulder, a net weight of about fifty pounds.
All the way up that valley we saw elk tracks, and once from over the ridge I heard a bugle. On our return toward camp we followed a rather meandering course, over ridge and down dale, and through grassy parks and stately forests, and along the slowly coloring maple-aspen thickets. Copple claimed to hear deer running, but I did not. Many tired footsteps I dragged along before we finally reached Beaver Dam Canyon. How welcome the sight of camp! R.C. had ridden miles with Edd, and had seen one deer that they said was still enjoying his freedom in the woods. Takahashi hailed sight of the turkeys with: "That fine! That fine! Nice fat ones!"
But tired as I was that night I still had enthusiasm enough to visit Haught's camp, and renew acquaintance with the hounds. Haught had not been able to secure more than two new hounds, and these named Rock and Buck were still unknown quantities.
Old Dan remembered me, and my heart warmed to the old gladiator. He was a very big, large-boned hound, gray with age and wrinkled and lame, and bleary-eyed. Dan was too old to be put on trails, or at least to be made chase bear. He loved a camp-fire, and would almost sit in the flames. This fact, and the way he would beg for a morsel to eat, had endeared him to me.
Old Tom was somewhat smaller and leaner than Dan, yet resembled him enough to deceive us at times. Tom was gray, too, and had crinkly ears, and many other honorable battle-scars. Tom was not quite so friendly as Dan; in fact he had more dignity. Still neither hound was ever demonstrative except upon sight of his master. Haught told me that if Dan and Tom saw him shoot at a deer they would chase it till they dropped; accordingly he never shot at anything except bear and lion when he had these hounds with him.
Sue was the best hound in the pack, as she still had, in spite of years of service, a good deal of speed and fight left in her. She was a slim, dark brown hound with fine and very long ears. Rock, one of the new hounds from Kentucky, was white and black, and had remarkably large, clear and beautiful eyes, almost human in expression. I could not account for the fact that I suspected Rock was a deer chaser. Buck, the other hound from Kentucky, was no longer young; he had a stump tail; his color was a little yellow with dark spots, and he had a hang-dog head and distrustful eye. I made certain that Buck had never had any friends, for he did not understand kindness. Nor had he ever had enough to eat. He stayed away from the rest of the pack and growled fiercely when a pup came near him. I tried to make friends with him, but found that I would not have an easy task.
Kaiser Bill was one of the pups, black in color, a long, lean, hungry-looking dog, and crazy. He had not grown any in a year, either in body or intelligence. I remembered how he would yelp just to hear himself and run any kind of a trail--how he would be the first to quit and come back. And if any one fired a gun near him he would run like a scared deer.
To be fair to Kaiser Bill the other pups were not much better. Trailer and Big Foot were young still, and about all they could do was to run and howl.
If, however, they got off right on a bear trail, and no other trail crossed it they would stick, and in fact lead the pack till' the bear got away. Once Big Foot came whimpering into camp with porcupine quills in his nose. Of all the whipped and funny pups!
Bobby was the dog I liked best. He was a curly black half-shepherd, small in size; and he had a sharp, intelligent face, with the brightest hazel eyes. His manner of wagging his tail seemed most comical yet convincing. Bobby wagged only the nether end and that most emphatically. He would stand up to me, holding out his forepaws, and beg. What an appealing beggar he was! Bobby's value to Haught was not inconsiderable. He was the only dog Haught ever had that would herd the pigs. On a bear hunt Bobby lost his shepherd ways and his kindly disposition, and yelped fiercely, and hung on a trail as long as any of the pack. He had no fear of a bear, for which reason Haught did not like to run him.
All told then we had a rather nondescript and poor pack of hounds; and the fact discouraged me. I wanted to hunt the bad cinnamons and the grizzly sheep-killers, with which this rim-rock country was infested. I had nothing against the acorn-eating brown or black bears. And with this pack of hounds I doubted that we could hold one of the vicious fighting species. But there was now nothing to do but try. No one could tell. We might kill a big grizzly. And the fact that the chances were against us perhaps made for more determined effort. I regretted, however, that I had not secured a pack of trained hounds somewhere.
Frost was late this fall. The acorns had hardly ripened, the leaves had scarcely colored; and really good bear hunting seemed weeks off. A storm and then a cold snap would help matters wonderfully, and for these we hoped. Indeed the weather had not settled; hardly a day had been free of clouds. But despite conditions we decided to start in bear hunting every other day, feeling that at least we could train the pack, and get them and ourselves in better shape for a favorable time when it arrived.
Accordingly next day we sallied forth for Horton Thicket, and I went down with Edd and George. It was a fine day, sunny and windy at intervals. The new trail the boys had made was boggy. From above Horton Thicket looked dark, green, verdant, with scarcely any touch of autumn colors; from below, once in it, all seemed a darker green, cool and damp. Water lay in all low places. The creek roared bankfull of clear water.
The new trail led up and down over dark red rich earth, through thickets of jack-pine and maple, and then across long slopes of manzanita and juniper, mescal and oak. Junipers were not fruitful this year as they were last, only a few having clusters of lavender-colored berries. The manzanita brush appeared exceptionally beautiful with its vivid contrasts of crimson and green leaves, orange-colored berries, and smooth, shiny bark of a chocolate red. The mescal consisted of round patches of cactus with spear-shaped leaves, low on the ground, with a long dead stalk standing or broken down. This stalk grows fresh every spring, when it is laden with beautiful yellow blossoms. The honey from the flowers of mescal and mesquite is the best to be obtained in this country of innumerable bees.
Presently the hounds opened up on some kind of a trail and they worked on it around under the ledges toward the next canyon, called See Canyon. After a while the country grew so rough that fast riding was impossible; the thickets tore and clutched at us until they finally stopped the horses. We got off. Edd climbed to a ridge-top. "Pack gone way round," he called. "I'll walk. Take my horse back." I decided to let George take my horse also, and I hurried to catch up with Edd.
Following that long-legged Arizonian on foot was almost as strenuous as keeping him in sight on horseback. I managed it. We climbed steep slopes and the farther we climbed the thicker grew the brush. Often we would halt to listen for hounds, at which welcome intervals I endeavored to catch my breath. We kept the hounds in hearing, which fact incited us to renewed endeavors. At length we got into a belt of live-oak and scrub-pine brush, almost as difficult to penetrate as manzanita, and here we had to bend and crawl. Bear and deer tracks led everywhere. Small stones and large stones had been lifted and displaced by bears searching for grubs. These slopes were dry; we found no water at the heads of ravines, yet the red earth was rich in bearded, tufted grass, yellow daisies and purple asters, and a wan blue flower. We climbed and climbed, until my back began to give me trouble. "Reckon we--bit off--a big hunk," remarked Edd once, and I thought he referred to the endless steep and brushy slopes. By and bye the hounds came back to us one by one, all footsore and weary. Manifestly the bear had outrun them. Our best prospect then was to climb on to the rim and strike across the forest to camp.
I noticed that tired as I was I had less trouble to keep up with Edd. His boots wore very slippery on grass and pine-needles, so that he might have been trying to climb on ice. I had nails in my boots and they caught hold. Hotter and wetter I grew until I had a burning sensation all over. My legs and arms ached; the rifle weighed a ton; my feet seemed to take hold of the ground and stick. We could not go straight up owing to the nature of that jumble of broken cliffs and matted scrub forests. For hours we toiled onward, upward, downward, and then upward. Only through such experience could I have gained an adequate knowledge of the roughness and vastness of this rim-rock country.
At last we arrived at the base of the gray leaning crags, and there, on a long slide of weathered rock the hounds jumped a bear. I saw the dust he raised, as he piled into the thicket below the slide. What a wild clamor from the hounds! We got out on the rocky slope where we could see and kept sharp eyes roving, but the bear went straight down hill. Amazing indeed was it the way the hounds drew away from us. In a few moments they were at the foot of the slopes, tearing back over the course we had been so many hours in coming. Then we set out to get on the rim, so as to follow along it, and keep track of the chase. Edd distanced me on the rocks. I had to stop often. My breast labored and I could scarcely breathe. I sweat so freely that my rifle stock was wet. My hardest battle was in fighting a tendency to utter weariness and disgust. My old poignant feelings about my physical condition returned to vex me. As a matter of fact I had already that very day accomplished a climb not at all easy for the Arizonian, and I should have been happy. But I had not been used to a lame back. When I reached the rim I fell there, and lay there a few moments, until I could get up. Then I followed along after Edd whose yells to the hounds I heard, and overtook him upon the point of a promontory. Far below the hounds were baying. "They're chasin' him all right," declared Edd, grimly. "He's headin' for low country. I think Sue stopped him once. But the rest of the pack are behind."
I had never been on the point of this promontory. Grand indeed was the panorama. Under me yawned a dark-green, smoky-canyoned, rippling basin of timber and red rocks leading away to the mountain ranges of the Four Peaks and Mazatzals. Westward, toward the yellowing sunset stood out long escarpments for miles, and long sloping lines of black ridges, leading down to the basin where there seemed to be a ripple of the earth, a vast upset region of canyon and ridge, wild and lonely and dark.
I did not get to see the sunset from that wonderful point, a matter I regretted. We were far from camp, and Edd was not sure of a bee-line during daylight, let alone after dark. Deep in the forest the sunset gold and red burned on grass and leaf. The aspens took most of the color. Swift-flying wisps of cloud turned pink, and low along the western horizon of the forest the light seemed golden and blue.
I was almost exhausted, and by the time we reached camp, just at dark, I was wholly exhausted. My voice had sunk to a whisper, a fact that occasioned R.C. some concern until I could explain. Undoubtedly this was the hardest day's work I had done since my lion hunting with Buffalo Jones. It did not surprise me that next day I had to forget my crosscut saw exercise.
Late that afternoon the hounds came straggling into camp, lame and starved. Sue was the last one in, arriving at supper-time.
Another day found me still sore, but able to ride, and R.C. and I went off into the woods in search of any kind of adventure. This day was cloudy and threatening, with spells of sunshine. We saw two bull elk, a cow and a calf. The bulls appeared remarkably agile for so heavy an animal. Neither of these, however, were of such magnificent proportions as the one R.C. and I had stalked the first day out. A few minutes later we scared out three more cows and three yearlings. I dismounted just for fun, and sighted my rifle at four of them. Next we came to a canyon where beaver had cut aspen trees. These animals must have chisel-like teeth. They left chippings somewhat similar to those cut by an axe. Aspen bark was their winter food. In this particular spot we could not find a dam or slide. When we rode down into Turkey Canyon, however, we found a place where beavers had dammed the brook. Many aspens were fresh cut, one at least two feet thick, and all the small branches had been cut off and dragged to the water, where I could find no further trace of them. The grass was matted down, and on the bare bits of ground showed beaver tracks.
Game appeared to be scarce. Haught had told us that deer, turkey and bear had all gone to feed on the mast (fallen acorns); and if we could locate the mast we would find the game. He said he had once seen a herd of several hundred deer migrating from one section of country to another. Apparently this was to find new feeding grounds.
While we were resting under a spruce I espied a white-breasted, blue-headed, gray-backed little bird at work on a pine tree. He walked head first down the bark, pecking here and there. I saw a moth or a winged insect fly off the tree, and then another. Then I saw several more fly away. The bird was feeding on winged insects that lived in the bark. Some of them saw or heard him coming and escaped, but many of them he caught. He went about this death-dealing business with a brisk and cheerful manner. No doubt nature had developed him to help protect the trees from bugs and worms and beetles.
Later that day, in an open grassy canyon, we came upon quite a large bird, near the size of a pigeon, which I thought appeared to be a species of jay or magpie. This bird had gray and black colors, a round head, and a stout bill. At first I thought it was crippled, as it hopped and fluttered about in the grass. I got down to catch it. Then I discovered it was only tame. I could approach to within a foot of reaching it. Once it perched upon a low snag, and peeped at me with little bright dark eyes, very friendly, as if he liked my company. I sat there within a few feet of him for quite a while. We resumed our ride. Crossing a fresh buck track caused us to dismount, and tie our horses. But that buck was too wary for us. We returned to camp as usual, empty handed as far as game was concerned.
I forgot to say anything to Haught or Doyle about the black and gray bird that had so interested me. Quite a coincidence was it then to see another such bird and that one right in camp. He appeared to be as tame as the other. He flew and hopped around camp in such a friendly manner that I placed a piece of meat in a conspicuous place for him. Not long was he in finding it. He alighted on it, and pecked and pulled at a great rate. Doyle claimed it was a Clark crow, named after one of the Lewis and Clark expedition. "It's a rare bird," said Doyle. "First one I've seen in thirty years." As Doyle spent most of his time in the open this statement seemed rather remarkable.
We had frost on two mornings, temperature as low as twenty-six degrees, and then another change indicative of unsettled weather. It rained, and sleeted, and then snowed, but the ground was too wet to hold the snow.
The wilderness began all at once, as if by magic, to take on autumn colors. Then the forest became an enchanted region of white aspens, golden-green aspens, purple spruces, dark green pines, maples a blaze of vermilion, cerise, scarlet, magenta, rose--and slopes of dull red sumac. These were the beginning of Indian summer days, the melancholy days, with their color and silence and beauty and fragrance and mystery.
Hunting then became quite a dream for me, as if it called back to me dim mystic days in the woods of some past weird world. One afternoon Copple, R.C., and I went as far as the east side of Gentry Canyon and worked down. Copple found fresh deer and turkey sign. We tied our horses, and slipped back against the wind. R.C. took one side of a ridge, with Copple and me on the other, and we worked down toward where we had seen the sign. After half an hour of slow, stealthy glide through the forest we sat down at the edge of a park, expecting R.C. to come along soon. The white aspens were all bare, and oak leaves were rustling down. The wind lulled a while, then softly roared in the pines. All at once both of us heard a stick crack, and light steps of a walking deer on leaves. Copple whispered: "Get ready to shoot." We waited, keen and tight, expecting to see a deer walk out into the open. But none came. Leaving our stand we slipped into the woods, careful not to make the slightest sound. Such careful, slow steps were certainly not accountable for the rapid beat of my heart. Something gray moved among the green and yellow leaves. I halted, and held Copple back. Then not twenty paces away I descried what I thought was a fawn. It glided toward us without the slightest sound. Suddenly, half emerging from some maple saplings, it saw us and seemed stricken to stone. Not ten steps from me! Soft gray hue, slender graceful neck and body, sleek small head with long ears, and great dark distended eyes, wilder than any wild eyes I had ever beheld. I saw it quiver all over. I was quivering too, but with emotion. Copple whispered: "Yearlin' buck. Shoot!"
His whisper, low as it was, made the deer leap like a gray flash. Also it broke the spell for me. "Year old buck!" I exclaimed, quite loud. "Thought he was a fawn. But I couldn't have shot----"
A crash of brush interrupted me. Thump of hoofs, crack of branches--then a big buck deer bounded onward into the thicket. I got one snap shot at his fleeting blurred image and missed him. We ran ahead, but to no avail.
"Four-point buck," said Copple. "He must have been standin' behind that brush."
"Did you see his horns?" I gasped, incredulously.
"Sure. But he was runnin' some. Let's go down this slope where he jumped.... Now will you look at that! Here's where he started after you shot."
A gentle slope, rather open, led down to the thicket where the buck had vanished. We measured the first of his downhill jumps, and it amounted to eighteen of my rather short steps. What a magnificent leap! It reminded me of the story of Hart-leap Well.
As we retraced our steps R.C. met us, reporting that he had heard the buck running, but could not see him. We scouted around together for an hour, then R.C. and Copple started off on a wide detour, leaving me at a stand in the hope they might drive some turkeys my way. I sat on a log until almost sunset. All the pine tips turned gold and patches of gold brightened the ground. Jays were squalling, gray squirrels were barking, red squirrels were chattering, snowbirds were twittering, pine cones were dropping, leaves were rustling. But there were no turkeys, and I did not miss them. R.C. and Copple returned to tell me there were signs of turkeys and deer all over the ridge. "We'll ride over here early to-morrow," said Copple, "an' I'll bet my gun we pack some meat to camp."
But the unsettled weather claimed the next day and the next, giving us spells of rain and sleet, and periods of sunshine deceptive in their promise. Camp, however, with our big camp-fire, and little tent-stoves, and Takahashi, would have been delightful in almost any weather. Takahashi was insulted, the boys told me, because I said he was born to be a cook. It seemed the Jap looked down upon this culinary job. "Cook--that woman joob!" he said, contemptuously.
As I became better acquainted with Takahashi I learned to think more of the Japanese. I studied Takahashi very earnestly and I grew to like him. The Orientals are mystics and hard to understand. But any one could see that here was a Japanese who was a real man. I never saw him idle. He resented being told what to do, and after my first offense in this regard I never gave him another order. He was a wonderful cook. It pleased his vanity to see how good an appetite I always had. When I would hail him: "George, what you got to eat?" he would grin and reply: "Aw, turkee!" Then I would let out a yell, for I never in my life tasted anything so good as the roast wild turkey Takahashi served us. Or he would say: "Pan-cakes--apple dumplings--rice puddings." No one but the Japs know how to cook rice. I asked him how he cooked rice over an open fire and he said: "I know how hot--when done." Takahashi must have possessed an uncanny knowledge of the effects of heat. How swift, clean, efficient and saving he was! He never wasted anything. In these days of American prodigality a frugal cook like Takahashi was a revelation. Seldom are the real producers of food ever wasters. Takahashi's ambition was to be a rancher in California. I learned many things about him. In summer he went to the Imperial Valley where he picked and packed cantaloupes. He could stand the intense heat. He was an expert. He commanded the highest wage. Then he was a raisin-picker, which for him was another art. He had accumulated a little fortune and knew how to save his money. He would have been a millionaire in Japan, but he intended to live in the United States.
Takahashi had that best of traits--generosity. Whenever he made pie or cake or doughnuts he always saved his share for me to have for my lunch next day. No use to try to break him of this kindly habit! He was keen too, and held in particular disfavor any one who picked out the best portions of turkey or meat. "No like that," he would say; and I heartily agreed with him. Life in the open brought out the little miserable traits of human nature, of which no one was absolutely free.
I admired Takahashi's cooking, I admired the enormous pile of firewood he always had chopped, I admired his generosity; but most of all I liked his cheerfulness and good humor. He grew to be a joy to me. We had some pop corn which we sometimes popped over the camp-fire. He was fond of it and he said: "You eat all time--much pop corn--just so long you keep mouth going all same like horse--you happy." We were troubled a good deal by skunks. Now some skunks were not bad neighbors, but others were disgusting and dangerous. The hog-nosed skunk, according to westerners, very often had hydrophobia and would bite a sleeper. I knew of several men dying of rabies from this bite. Copple said he had been awakened twice at night by skunks biting the noses of his companions in camp. Copple had to choke the skunks off. One of these men died. We were really afraid of them. Doyle said one had visited him in his tent and he had been forced to cover his head until he nearly smothered. Now Takahashi slept in the tent with the store of supplies. One night a skunk awakened him. In reporting this to me the Jap said: "See skunk all black and white at tent door. I flash light. Skunk no 'fraid. He no run. He act funny--then just walk off."
After that experience Takahashi set a box-trap for skunks. One morning he said with a huge grin: "I catch skunk. Want you take picture for me send my wife Sadayo."
So I got my camera, and being careful to take a safe position, as did all the boys, I told Takahashi I was ready to photograph him and his skunk. He got a pole that was too short to suit me, and he lifted up the box-trap. A furry white and black cat appeared, with remarkably bushy tail. What a beautiful little animal to bear such opprobrium! "All same like cat," said Takahashi. "Kittee--kittee." It appeared that kitty was not in the least afraid. On the contrary she surveyed the formidable Jap with his pole, and her other enemies in a calm, dignified manner. Then she turned away. Here I tried to photograph her and Takahashi together. When she started off the Jap followed and poked her with the pole. "Take 'nother picture." But kitty suddenly whirled, with fur and tail erect, a most surprising and brave and assured front, then ran at Takahashi. I yelled: "Run George!" Pell-mell everybody fled from that beautiful little beast. We were arrant cowards. But Takahashi grasped up another and longer pole, and charged back at kitty. This time he chased her out of camp. When he returned his face was a study: "Nashty thing! She make awful stink! She no 'fraid a tall. Next time I kill her sure!"
The head of Gentry Canyon was about five miles from camp, and we reached it the following morning while the frost was still white and sparkling. We tied our horses. Copple said: "This is a deer day. I'll show you a buck sure. Let's stick together an' walk easy."
So we made sure to work against the wind, which, however, was so light as almost to be imperceptible, and stole along the dark ravine, taking half a dozen steps or so at a time. How still the forest! When it was like this I always felt as if I had discovered something new. The big trees loomed stately and calm, stretching a rugged network of branches over us. Fortunately no saucy squirrels or squalling jays appeared to be abroad to warn game of our approach. Not only a tang, but a thrill, seemed to come pervasively on the cool air. All the colors of autumn were at their height, and gorgeous plots of maple thicket and sumac burned against the brown and green. We slipped along, each of us strung to be the first to hear or see some living creature of the wild. R.C., as might have been expected, halted us with a softly whispered: "Listen." But neither Copple nor I heard what R.C. heard, and presently we moved on as before. Presently again R.C. made us pause, with a like result. Somehow the forest seemed unusually wild. It provoked a tingling expectation. The pine-covered slope ahead of us, the thicketed ridge to our left, the dark, widening ravine to our right, all seemed to harbor listening, watching, soft-footed denizens of the wild. At length we reached a level bench, beautifully forested, where the ridge ran down in points to where the junction of several ravines formed the head of Gentry Canyon.
How stealthily we stole on! Here Copple said was a place for deer to graze. But the grass plots, golden with sunlight and white with frost and black-barred by shadows of pines, showed no game.
Copple sat down on a log, and I took a seat beside him to the left. R.C. stood just to my left. As I laid my rifle over my knees and opened my lips to whisper I was suddenly struck mute. I saw R.C. stiffen, then crouch a little. He leaned forward--his eyes had the look of a falcon. Then I distinctly heard the soft crack of hoofs on stone and breaking of tiny twigs. Quick as I whirled my head I still caught out of the tail of my eye the jerk of R.C. as he threw up his rifle. I looked--I strained my eyes--I flashed them along the rim of the ravine where R.C. had been gazing. A gray form seemed to move into the field of my vision. That instant it leaped, and R.C.'s rifle shocked me with its bursting crack. I seemed stunned, so near was the report. But I saw the gray form pitch headlong and I heard a solid thump.
"Buck, an' he's your meat!" called Copple, low and sharp. "Look for another one."
No other deer appeared. R.C. ran toward the spot where the gray form had plunged in a heap, and Copple and I followed. It was far enough to make me pant for breath. We found R.C. beside a fine three-point buck that had been shot square in the back of the head between and below the roots of its antlers.
"Never knew what struck him!" exclaimed Copple, and he laid hold of the deer and hauled it out of the edge of the thicket. "Fine an' fat. Venison for camp, boys. One of you go after the horses an' the other help me hang him up."
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