The Sportive Cowboy


THE exigencies of government service have brought four of us, — three being members of the Club by courtesy, — whom the cowboys (the only native inhabitants besides the straggling Indians and coyotes) call tenderfeet, into the close vicinity of Hell Hole, on the borders of the Reservation, and well beyond all settlements. As the mail is brought sixty miles by pony express to a point thirteen miles distant, where civilization stops, dead tired, we are a law unto ourselves, and the cowboys are lawlessness to themselves. Mr. Stockton’s hero says he could n’t get any one to listen to his account of his travels. I wonder if any one will take the trouble to be thrilled by these brief jottings from my diary ?

Monday July 29. Was just starting for the ledges after the others, with the shovel and my gun, and was a little way from camp, when two cowboys came up and wanted to know what we were up to. They had seen the others in the distance. I told them we were after fossils. They said they were from Blue Mountains, and were after stray cattle. Their camp was a mile up the river, and they invited me to call. Pleasant neighbors, very. . . . Late in the afternoon I rode back ahead of the rest, and just as I came into camp the same two cowboys came out of the cabin. They looked rather startled, I thought, till they recognized me. One of them said, with an uneasy laugh, that a cowboy was always hungry, and they had been helping themselves to our corn bread.

“ Did n’t you see the beans?” I asked.

No, they had n’t seen any beans. So I brought out the cold beans. They ate them, but kept looking out for something, and seemed in a hurry to be off. They asked me again to come to their camp and bring my pals, and mounted their horses, which had been in the bush behind the cabin. They disappeared behind the cliffs before the others came into camp. Heard a lot of horses come down in the night.

Tuesday, July 30. After breakfast saw half a dozen riders come down from around the bend, and go down the river at a great pace. Emerson rode off for the mail, — a day’s trip,— and the chief went off to the ledges to work. John (our cook) and I stayed in camp. About ten A. M. a cowboy rode up from around the bend, and hailed us. He wanted to know if we had seen two fellows ride by yesterday: one with hairy shaps (the name here for ridingleggings), and the other with leather shaps. [Qy., from chaparral ?] I said Yes, and told him what they had told me about their camp, and how they were here to look after Blue Mountain cattle. The cowboy laughed when I said they seemed to enjoy their corn bread and beans.

“ Them two fellows was horse-thieves,” said he, “ and we ’re after them. Our camp is up there, and all they told you was a blind. They saw you did n’t know who they were. If you had, they ’d ha’ got the drop on you, sure. They ’re mighty tough chaps, and there’s a reward out of five hundred dollars for their capture.” He went on to tell me that they had broken into a bank in Salt Lake City, and there had been a party after them for the last two weeks. The thieves had made their way across country by stealing fresh horses when their own became fagged. He left me to go back to camp.

An hour later three horsemen came in sight over the crest of a bluff, and rode up to the cabin for water. The one in the middle, who was unarmed, was the fellow in hairy shaps I saw yesterday; the other two were heavily armed. I was a little distance away, and before I could come up they were off. They kept dark, John said.

In the afternoon we heard all about it. A cowboy came over from the camp and told us. The party caught up with the fellows about twelve miles below here, this morning: one of them had a fresh horse, and got away ; but they had the other, the one with hairy shaps, up at their camp. I’m glad they have him, for he was the worse looking of the two; he had a villainous look. I was struck with that before I knew what he was. They think they ‘ll get the other, for there ’s a big crowd after him.

Wednesday, July 31. More excitement ! About nine o’clock last night, just as we were going to turn in, and had spread the blankets on our pile of bark, we heard the noise of a horse crossing the rocky ford near by. We were on the jump at once. Emerson and John went into the cabin, and stood in the dark with their guns cocked. I had my pistols. The chief stood up to do the honors of the camp. The fellow came up coughing painfully. I made him out in the starlight. It was the other rascal, and I whispered this to the chief. Up he came, and asked if we had any pills or physic of any kind. He was dead sick; had been riding all day; could hardly keep on his horse. The chief knew he was shamming, and said we had no medicine; but he gave him the water keg, and the fellow must have drunk a quart. He kept straining at the door of the cabin. He must have seen that we knew who he was, for he turned to me pretty soon and asked if I had seen anything of the fellow who was with him yesterday, and asked the chief, with an attempt at carelessness, if there had been many riders about. We kept mum, and soon he rode off across the ford again. We fired three shots as a signal to the cowboys, and turned in.

This morning, early, a party of cowboys rode by with their prisoner, on their way up river. They stopped, and we photographed him, — an ugly-looking customer. The rest of the cowboys went down the valley in pursuit of the other chap. They heard our shots last night, and thought at first we had winged him ; but as we did n’t ride over they knew he must have got away. They seem sure of him.

Thursday, August 1. All the rampage of the last three days is just a bit of fooling. The cowboys thought we were tenderfeet, and so they got up this little farce to amuse themselves and scare us. The pretended horse-thieves were two of their own number, and they have been racing up and down, and telling all these yarns, as a kind of private Wild West show.