Experience

I

OLD CHARLEY was cook. Clyde, a son of Teton Jackson, the outlaw, was horse wrangler and packer. I was out for elk and deer. We were camped at the head of Big Gros Ventre Creek, high up in the Gros Ventre Mountains, just over the divide from Jackson’s Hole in northwestern Wyoming. The time was late September.

The pack and saddle horses, in a fit of homesickness the first night, had pulled out for the ranch, and Teton Jackson’s boy had a long ride after them in the morning. About noon he galloped up the valley on the wrangle horse, driving the runaway band before him. Clyde was a crackerjack wrangler and it riled him to have his part of the outfit cause delay. He drove the ponies into a rope corral stretched between trees near the tent, reined his sweating mount to its haunches, and hit the ground. He was always quiet, but now, filled with suppressed anger at the horses, he was ominously so. I saw that his face was badly scratched. Those wise old camp horses had scattered when they saw him coming and had cut back for home through thick timber. Clyde had been forced to run his horse under many a low-hanging branch; the skin of his face told the story. No wonder he was in a huff.

' What happened ? ’ drawled Old Charley, grinning as he peered at young Jackson’s lacerated features. ‘You look like you’d been sortin’ wildcats.’ ‘Had to ride clear down to the falls after these buzzards and then fog ’em through the brush. That old Nig of yourn is the worst. He was in the lead when I caught up, and the ornery cuss would n’t drive nowhere. But I walloped him a plenty with the end of my rope. He won’t forget if he’s got a spoonful of brains in that bucket head of his. Where’s the Mocha?’ Clyde’s spurs jingled angrily as he stalked to the fire and selected a tin cup.

Old Charley reached for the coffeepot. He was always delighted when something upset Clyde — something big enough to rouse him from his usual joke-proof serenity. The old man bustled about with exaggerated solicitude, showering attentions upon the boy, spreading a saddle blanket for him to sit on, in a spirit of unaccustomed motherliness calculated to fan the flames of the wrangler’s already overstrained temper.

‘There, there,’ said Old Charley soothingly as he winked at me. ‘Hold your cup, Clyde. I’m pouring this momin’. This is my “at home” day, as the newspapers say of us society folks. And Clyde, if the society reporters ask you for a list of the choice vy-ands and the salubrious vittles that Monsoor Charles employs to regale his guests at this here outdoor social function, you can just tell ’em that I set out fodder by the bale — a feed guaranteed to make Chinamen throw away their chopsticks and crowd into the trough with both feet.’

Clyde was in no mood for jocularity. He snorted with disgust, ‘Was n’t you cook on the round-up that time when Beavertooth found an old horseshoe in his grub? ’

Old Charley bristled like an aged grizzly bear. ‘That was the lowdownedest trick anybody ever played on a cook.’ The remembrance of that occasion was still painful to him, but he tried to pass it off lightly. ‘That old trick did n’t faze me none. Horseshoes are good luck. It ain’t every cook can furnish horseshoes in his mulligans any more than every chef can supply pearls with his oysters. Beavertooth don’t know how lucky he was to get his horseshoe on a tin plate instead of in the seat of his pants. Horseshoes are bad luck in some places. And just because Beavertooth broke one of his fangs on that horseshoe was n’t no fault of mine. The greatest compliment a man can pay to a round-up cook is to break a tush goin’ after his grub. I always did like a two-handed eater, and me and Beavertooth are good friends yet. I never thought he put that horseshoe in the mulligan just to get me in bad with the rest of you fellers, and then forgot about it. Somebody else done it.’

‘Oh — surely — not,’ Clyde drawled, glad to find an outlet for his resentment against the horses. ‘Nobody put that horseshoe in Beavertooth’s grub.’

‘Somebody done it all right.’ The rough joke of long ago still rankled in Old Charley’s breast. ‘ Somebody done it, and I’d like to catch the crossbred son-of-a-gun. I’d make him hard to find!’

‘Nobody put that horseshoe in Beaver’s grub,’ repeated Clyde positively.

Charley roared at him: ‘Nobody? None of you fellers, you mean! Then I suppose I done it myself?’

‘Oh, no.’ Clyde’s tone implied that he was scandalized at the thought. ‘Oh, no. Nobody was to blame.’

‘Then how did it get there?’ Charley roared again.

‘You remember that old knee-sprung pinto cayuse the straw boss had in his string? ’

‘Sure. Worthless old skate.’

‘Well, he was shod, all four feet, was n’t he?’

‘What if he was?’ The cautious voice with which Old Charley asked the question showed that he knew he ought to shy off, but could n’t.

‘Nothin’,’ returned Clyde. ‘Only you did n’t see the pinto again after Beavertooth found that shoe, did you ? ’

‘I don’t remember. But what’s that got to do with it? All I know is that I never touched that horseshoe, either before it was found in the mulligan or after.’

‘Just what I always told the boys,’ said Clyde, turning to me. ‘Old Charley never put that horseshoe in the grub. Just because a man handles a horse,’ he hesitated, and added mysteriously, ‘for — other— purposes, don’t mean that he has to fondle the horse’s shoe.’ And he took another swig of coffee.

‘Other purposes! ’ bellowed Old Charley. ‘What other purposes? Why don’t you say what you mean?’

‘Give me time,’ replied Clyde, ‘and don’t interrupt no more. I says to the boys: “No, sir! Old Charley never put that shoe in the grub. He did n’t need to. It was just naturally all that was left when he turned the pinto horse into mulligan. You can’t boil a steel horseshoe down to nothin’.” That’s what I says to the boys. But what gets me is — where did them other three horseshoes go? Charley, you don’t suppose some of us swallowed ’em and never knowed it?’

Old Charley, wild with the accumulated rage of years of heckling about this episode, made a dive for Clyde, but the youth leaped across the fire for his horse, gathered the hanging reins, and dashed away through the timber. His unrestrained guffaws drifted back to us on the gentle breeze.

In a moment Old Charley became outwardly calm again. He glanced wistfully toward the tent where his six-shooter lay. ‘ I’ve knowed men shot for less,’ he remarked absent-mindedly, as he began to wash the dishes in the big tin pan. He went on, mumbling half to himself: —

‘That young squirt of a Clyde, he talks too much. I’ll get even with him if it takes a hundred years.’

II

An hour later Clyde came riding back. Old Charley was whistling away at his culinary tasks and the incident was apparently forgotten. Clyde brought news. ‘ You see that thick timber over yonder on the ridge?’ He pointed across the valley. ‘ Well, I took a ride over that way. It’s a good place for elk and I thought I’d take a looksee. There must be a big herd in that timber. The place is all tracked up, and I imagine they have n’t been disturbed all summer.’

That afternoon I mounted and rode alone up the canyon. It was a wild and rough section of country. The swift stream, flowing from the melting snows upon the continental divide, had cut a three-hundred-foot chasm into the solid limestone. Ages ago, when the world was young, the stream had flowed through a mere depression in the rock. Its bed had shifted again and again until, as the centuries passed, a wide valley had been hollowed out. Almost sheer were the cliffs which formed the sides of this valley, and its floor supported an ancient growth of pine and spruce, which stood in scattered clumps, forming a series of beautiful mountain parks.

Tracks of elk and a few of deer wandered aimlessly back and forth across the valley. A distinct game trail meandered up the stream toward the divide which separates the headwaters of the Gros Ventre from those of Spread Creek on the Jackson’s Hole side. The valley was comparatively open, but it was too early in the afternoon for game to be astir, although the sun had almost reached the snow-clad peaks on the western side.

I dismounted, dropping the reins, and sat upon an old log from which I could wratch the opposite side of the canyon. After a while I tired of this and lay on the cool ground with head on folded hands, gazing upward at the snowy peaks. My horse promptly went to sleep, his eyelids drooping like those of a small boy at bedtime. Occasionally he would open them, lift his head, cock his ears, and appear to listen. I could see him without moving, for he was slightly below me on the slope. After an hour of this I too began to doze, but I was suddenly awakened by a movement of the horse. His head was up and his black cars, close together, pointed across the canyon. He was a wise pony, and I knew that such interested attention on his part meant something.

Coming up the canyon at a brisk trot I saw an old cow elk, wide ears laid back, long ewe neck outstretched, dark coat gleaming in the last rays of the sun. Not far behind her, trailing in single file, came fourteen more, all cows and calves with a sprinkling of yearlings. From their steady, groundcovering trot I knew that they were traveling instead of aimlessly feeding. The cow in the lead was without a calf, and she was old — evidently the experienced leader of the bunch. She stopped, turned her head with great deliberation, and sniffed the air on either side. The others behind her came to a halt like well-drilled soldiers, but they did not bother to turn heads and investigate the breeze; they waited patiently for her to do the investigating. Apparently her judgment was considered sufficient and accepted as final.

The wind blew straight down the canyon from the peaks surrounding the high pass above. The elk were fully five hundred yards away, directly across the wind from me. Unless my horse moved t hey would not see us, although we were in plain sight in the open. The eyes of wild animals are trained to catch the slightest movement, but a stationary object seldom attracts attention, even when it is much closer than we were.

It was the rutting season, and I looked carefully through the glasses for the bull which, by all the rules, should have been with such a large herd. There was no bull. ‘It can hardly be possible,’ I thought, ‘that no bull has yet crossed the trail of this band.’ In the fall, bull elk scour the country like bloodhounds. After the first frosts have hardened their horns, they set out on the great quest; up hill and down, in a long-reaching trot, they go, necks swelling, eyes blazing, pausing only to wallow in cold mountain streams and to throw up their heads occasionally to give forth that wild and stirring call which sounds so like the notes of a bugle and ends in a high falsetto squeal. When they come upon the trail of a band of cows, they follow it wherever it may lead, caring little for danger, answering only that driving instinct which bids them find mates.

I knew that no other hunters were anywhere near in that high and rugged country, so I was sure that the bull had not been shot. And nothing else could have killed him. Even a grizzly bear — that shambling tramp of the wilderness — would walk around a rutting bull elk, not exactly fearing him, but respectfully alert and well satisfied to maintain an armed neutrality. I could not understand why no bull accompanied the herd. But while the leading cow nosed the air I saw through the glasses that the tongues of several lolled from open mouths. Ah, here was the reason! The herd had been badly frightened, perhaps by a whiff of air from our camp miles below in the valley. They had traveled fast and far, and the light, active cows had simply outdistanced the older and heavier bull. On a long run an old bull, handicapped as he is by his weight and his widespreading antlers, is no match for cows and yearlings. I was sure that the bull would be along in a few moments.

The cow in the lead satisfied herself that no danger lurked ahead. She fell again into her stride — that long, ground-covering trot. The others followed, and the band continued up the canyon in single file. But within a few hundred yards the wise leader stopped again. She turned her head slowly and appeared to size up the country. A large grove of tall pines, closely growing, stood three hundred yards to her right. After a moment she decided, apparently, that the place was a haven of concealment where the band might lie down in peace and safety. The grove lay so high up on the canyon side that it gave an uninterrupted view of the entire valley. It was an ideal place for an elk herd to go into temporary retirement.

Then came evidence of wild-animal intelligence, of clear, straight thinking, which we humans with all our scientific knowledge could not have improved upon. The wise old leader did not turn and make directly for that grove across the wind. She did nothing as childish as that. Instead, she led her band directly up wind for at least five hundred yards; then she turned and went cross wind to a point from which she was able to march straight down wind to the grove. Any predatory animal — wolf, mountain lion, or man — following the fresh trail of that herd would have to pass five or six hundred yards directly to windward of the resting place. His scent would be carried down, and, since the noses of wild animals never sleep, his arrival would be as plainly advertised as if it had been announced with the fanfare of trumpets.

The leading cow had gone about the business of setting the stage in such a cool and clever manner that I was amazed. Now no enemy could follow that fresh trail without making an absolute fool of himself. The herd, after entering the thick timber, must have lain down immediately, for none passed through to come out on the far side.

I sat where I was and waited. The bull was t he one I wanted. In ten more minutes my pony again pricked up his cars.

‘Here comes the bull,’ I thought; and as I looked a magnificent specimen — a heavy, dark old warrior, his wide and gleaming horns thrown well back over his shoulders — came up the canyon at a laborious trot. The trail was so fresh and so easy to follow that only occasionally did he lower his nose. He passed the grove and continued up wind to where the cows had turned; there he too circled back and entered the dark line of trees to rejoin his family.

I wanted that bull. I could tell by his blocky size and black neck that he was an old-timer. I also wanted one of the yearlings for meat. The meat of an old bull in the rutting season is strong and tough, and, while it can be eaten in a pinch, it is barely palatable.

III

I was on the point of tying my horse and passing back through the trees to a place down wind from whence an approach could be made when I heard the distant bugle of another bull far down the canyon. It was faint, and against the breeze sounded eerie, almost fairylike.

Was this a bull leading another herd through the valley, or was he a lone warrior whipped away from a herd by a more powerful antagonist? I sat down again to wait, and before many minutes had passed I saw the second bull coming along the trail at a run. lie was alone. I could see with the glasses that he was younger, lighter in weight, and hence a faster traveler than the first. He must have struck the trail but lately, for he appeared fresh and capable of many more miles of fast pursuit.

Fired with the madness to which he was subject at that season of the year, he plunged ahead over the rocky ground oblivious of everything but that broad, fresh trail reaching out ahead of him. The grade was steep and the altitude around eleven thousand feet, but he came on at a gallop. Every few hundred yards he bugled hastily, spasmodically, not stopping to take a deep breath and do full justice to that most, musical of all wilderness sounds.

The old bull, safe in the bosom of his family among the thick trees, did not answer for some minutes. Then, as the newcomer drew abreast of the grove and almost opposite my position, the old fellow gave a deep, answering challenge, and rushed out in a towering rage to meet the interloper. The young bull, seeing the other coming at him like an express train, stopped in his tracks, bugled again furiously, and waited for the attack. He lowered his head, and with his antlers threw up sod and tore up brush.

They came together with a loud clashing of horns, grunting and squealing in their fury. Sod flew. Backs arched as they strained and heaved, each trying with every last ounce of strength to turn the other partly around and have a clear thrust at an unprotected side. They battled in such desperation that I expected any moment to see one or the other lose his footing on that uneven ground and go down, to be gored by his adversary; their movements, however, were catlike in speed, and the unconscious grace of their powerful bodies in a thrust or a riposte was marvelous. Split hoofs rattled. Horns clashed again and again. Squeals and grunts of rage resounded from one side of the canyon to the other.

I noticed with surprise that the cows did not appear at the edge of the timber to watch the fight. I suppose they knew from past experience that they would belong to the winner, but apparently it made no difference to them one way or the other.

It soon became clear that the adversaries were unevenly matched. The first bull, because of his greater weight and larger horns, began to crowd the new arrival backward. The younger bull soon realized that his inevitable defeat was a matter of moments. He adopted defensive tactics, which indicated that he was only waiting for a favorable opportunity to make his getaway. His disappointment must have been keen, and I pitied him from the bottom of my heart. But who was I to interfere in a fair fight? Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has laid down the law that the stronger shall prevail and next year’s calves be fathered by a doughty champion. The system is sound, and in consequence no degenerate elk is born to face the hard and relentless wilderness.

The battle continued only a few minutes more. The young bull saw his chance and whirled with such surprising speed that his enemy was just a second too late in thrusting home his gleaming antlers. The defeated bull threw up his head and dashed pell-mell down the canyon, his conqueror at his heels. But the old fellow was no match for the younger one in speed. He followed no more than two or three hundred yards, then stopped, shook his noble antlers, and sent a deep, ringing, triumphant call across the canyon. It echoed back and forth between the limestone cliffs in a series of wild reverberations, a thrilling pæan of victory. He stood panting for a moment, then turned majestically, and with the slowest, most stately stride imaginable strutted back toward the grove. At the edge of the dark trees he turned once more and set the echoes ringing with a last musical, throaty challenge to the world at large, and disappeared among the pines.

He was magnificent, that bull, and I wanted him badly. But after seeing his gallant exhibition in the ring, his superb dignity, and his just pride in his prowess, I did not have the heart to disturb him. I mounted my pony and rode slowly back to camp. I knew well enough that this high and lonely valley was an ideal place for a herd in the rutting season. He would probably keep his family in that isolated grove, or at least somewhere in the neighborhood. The old Trojan had earned a few peaceful days and nights, and as far as I was concerned he could have them. Next week would be time enough to collect him for a specimen, and as for meat — well, I’d have to kill a yearling somewhere else within a day or two.

IV

Old Charley was pottering about the fire when I rode into camp. ‘Well,’he asked, standing up straight like a black bear on its hind legs, ‘what did you see?’ Clyde Jackson reclined by the fire, and, as far as I could tell, the late unpleasantness between them had been completely forgotten.

‘I saw a battle that would make the encounter between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney look like a quiet session of the sewing circle on a Sunday afternoon,’and I told of the fighting bulls.

‘That ain’t nothin’' remarked Charley, sniffing. He always had a better one ready, no matter what you spoke of. ‘Why, one time over on the head of Shoal Creek in Fall River Basin I seen two bull elk fight for a solid hour. They were evenly matched, and me and Buster McIlvain lay behind some rocks and made bets on the outcome. I bet a brand-new six-shooter against Buster’s old thirty-thirty carbine. I won, too, but Buster claimed his bull won. He claimed they got turned around and I was mixed up. Me and him almost went to the ground and chewed ears about it. I never liked Buster much since.’

‘I heard about that,’put in Clyde languidly. ‘ Buster told me all about it, and he seemed to know a heap sight more about that horseshoe business than anybody I’ve talked to. Buster claims —

‘There you go!’ Old Charley’s temper flared up instantly. ‘ Buster claims this and Buster claims that! What do I care what he claims? I know a bull elk when I see one, don’t I?’ He rolled his quid and spat expressively. I could see that the affair of the horseshoe was by no means ended. Clyde was not one to let it die.

In the next few days I got a buck deer or two and a fair mountain-sheep ram. Then we loafed and fished until the week ran out. Meanwhile Clyde managed to keep old Charley in a perpetual state of fuss and fume. As a heckler Clyde was an artist. It might be nothing more than a word or a short sentence pronounced with an irritating inflection, or the exaggerated thoroughness with which he inspected his venison steak, the canned corn, or the beans on his tin plate. He did this invariably as he sat down to a meal. For several days Charley appeared not to notice him, but at last he could stand the silent insult no longer.

‘What’s eatin’ on you, Clyde?’ he blurted out one evening as young Jackson lifted the steak on his plate and looked under it as if he expected to find a horse and buggy. ‘What’s wrong with you? You act like you ain’t never seen a knife and fork. Where was you raised? In a Chinese josh house? ’

‘I ain’t aimin’ to have folks nickname me Beavertooth,’ Clyde answered tauntingly.

So it went. I ’ve never seen a man so seething with suppressed anger as Old Charley during that last week. I began to feel sorry for him. If we had not planned to leave in a day or two and return to the ranch, I should have spoken to Clyde and ordered him to let the old man alone.

The night before our last day in camp I set the alarm clock to ring at half an hour before dawn. An alarm clock is a handy thing to have on such an expedition as ours. Without one you cannot depend upon waking when you want to, and upon important mornings you may oversleep an hour and miss the best part of the day. The alarm went off with a bang next morning and we had breakfast by lantern light. I saddled my pony and set out up the valley, instructing Clyde to follow me in about two hours with two pack horses.

I found the elk herd easily enough, and got the big bull. Clyde arrived on schedule and we packed the meat, the hide, and the big bull’s head. It was a perfect six-pointer — that is, six points on each beam. It was wide in spread and unusually thick in the main stems, and perfectly symmetrical.

V

The following day we broke camp. Clyde wrangled the horses for the last time. He was surprisingly affable and friendly toward Old Charley that morning. In fact, he was geniality personified.

I knew what he was up to and I was astonished that Old Charley accepted Clyde’s change of heart at its face value. As Charley washed up the dishes, Clyde seized the dishcloth and dried them as fast as they were ready — a thing he had never deigned to do before.

‘We’ll have everything packed in an hour,’ Clyde called out to me. ‘Old Charley, besides bein’ the best cook in seven states, is a topnotch packer. Ain’t you, Charley? The two of us can pack them ponies in no time.’ Clyde could not have made it plainer that he expected Old Charley to step out of his province and help with the packing, just as ho himself was doing in drying the dishes.

I glanced at Charley and was amazed to hear him chirp brightly: ‘You bet! Me and Clyde work together fine. You ride on ahead and don’t wait for us. I’ll help Clyde get packed and help him start ’em for home. It’s thirty miles. Them ponies will know they’re headin’ for home, and after we get ’em goin’ Clyde can drive ’em alone easy enough. Then I’ll overtake you.’

So I mounted and rode off. If Old Charley was simple enough to let Clyde cajole him into doing most of the hard work, it was his own business, not mine. It was ten o’clock before Charley overtook me. We jogged along together.

‘Clyde seems like a good boy,’ I remarked, to see what the old man would say. ‘He certainly understands horses — and men, too. He’s smart, is Clyde.’

‘Oh, yes,’ Charley answered lazily. He bit off a chew and we rode in silence for a time. Then he added: ‘Yes, Clyde’s a good boy. He’s smart, too, as you say. I would n’t wonder, though, if he ain’t too smart. Lots of young fellers get smart too early in life. It goes to their heads.’

I said nothing, so Charley took out his old silver watch and glanced at its open face. ‘Just twenty minutes past ten,’ he remarked.

We rode on for some distance, then he pulled out his watch again. ‘ Twenty minutes to eleven,’ he said. We talked of many things, and after an interval the watch came out once more. ‘Only ten minutes until eleven o’clock,’ he announced.

’How long have you had that watch?’ I asked. ‘You act like a kid with his first timepiece.’

Charley grinned, a bit sheepishly, I thought. ‘Force of habit, I reckon,’ he grunted. ‘You was speakin’ of Clyde a while back. He’s a good wrangler, all right. He don’t lose no ponies in the timber. But a wrangler is only a wrangler after all. Experience is what young men need these days — yes, or any other days, for that matter. I never yet seen a fresh kid that could n’t be took down by his elders any time them elders got good and ready to do it.’

I had to smile at the old man. ‘You and Clyde appeared to be mighty good friends this morning for the first time. He was as sweet as pie. I suppose you whirled in and did most of the heavy work packing the horses ? ’

‘Sure,’came his cheerful answer. ‘I packed more than my share of them ponies. I worked like a beaver. Me and Clyde parted mighty good friends.’

I was sure of that. From the cleverness I had seen the Jackson youth display at other times I did n’t doubt that he had let fall just enough conversation flattering Charley’s abilities as a packer to keep the old fellow working at top speed. When he thought I was not looking, he pulled the watch from his pocket again. ‘ What time is it now?’ I asked, just to let him know I had seen the motion.

‘Eleven-five,’ he said. He returned the watch to his pocket, buttoned the flap down over it, and chuckled softly to himself. ‘No need to watch the time any more,’ he said.

‘Any more? Where was the need to watch the time at all?’

‘That’s so,’ he answered, as if surprised at himself. ‘That’s so. Funny how a habit gets a feller.’

The time was not mentioned again. Early in the afternoon we rode into the ranch, unsaddled our horses, and turned them loose. ‘Clyde ought to make it with the packs before dark,’ I remarked.

‘ Yes,’ agreed Old Charley, ‘ he ought.'

I thought he put a needless accent upon the last word and glanced at his gnarled old face, but it was serene and a trifle vacant. ‘The horses know they’re coming home,’ I added. ‘They’ll drift along like so much thistledown, like a string of baa-lambs when they know that home is at the end of the day’s work. They’d come easily enough with no one to drive ’em.’

‘Yes,’ replied Old Charley, ‘they’ll come stringin’ in soon now.’ Again I was puzzled by his strange emphasis.

VI

Late that evening the horses did come ‘stringin” in. That was just the word for it. First came a pair of young horses not too well broken to packs. They were covered with dried sweat, and their eyes were wild. The packs were loose, but right side up. A mile behind came Nig, Old Charley’s private property. His pack was secure, but he too had been running far and fast.

‘Must have smelled a bear,’ I remarked.

‘Bear?’ said Old Charley, in a tone which implied that he had never heard the word before.

‘Yes, bear.’

‘ Oh, no.’ He was very positive about it. ‘No bear.’

‘Why not a bear? They might easily have got wind of a bear and gone haywire. Something has scared this bunch half to death. You can see that.’

‘Sure. Something has throwed a scare into ’em. But it was n’t no bear.’

‘Well, then, what was it? You seem to know a lot about it.’

‘Wait till Clyde gets in. He’s a topnotch wrangler. You said so yourself. Clyde will tell us. Leave everything to Clyde. He’ll have lots to tell — when he gets in.’

The pack horses came one by one until all were accounted for except a half-broken cayuse which the ranch foreman had traded from the Indians at Fort Washakie. That cayuse had been exceedingly touchy on the trip — so touchy that we had put nothing in his pack but a bed and a tent; he could not be trusted with anything that might develop the slightest rattle.

Neither the cayuse nor Clyde came in until almost noon the next day. The youth’s face was badly scratched again, and he led the runaway with his saddle rope. The pack that had been the well-stowed burden of the cayuse was all awry, and was torn in several places. Our alarm clock was tied around the cayuse’s neck with a short piece of rope.

‘ What happened, Clyde?’ Old Charley bustled out and made a great show of solicitude. ‘Your face looks like you’ve been off sortin’ wildcats again.’

Young Jackson rode straight up to Old Charley. He grinned and reached down his hand. Charley shook it soberly without the flicker of a smile.

‘You ain’t so old and broke down in the hips as you look,’ said Clyde. ‘And the horseshoe episode is closed. You win.’ And with that the son of Teton Jackson rode off to the corral.

Old Charley nodded toward the alarm clock dangling from the neck of the half-broken cayuse and said, ‘He seems to like it — now.’

Then it all came to me. ‘Look here,’I said, ‘did you slip that alarm clock in that cayuse’s pack when you helped Clyde yesterday morning?’

Old Charley’s weather-beaten face cracked in a wide grin. He leaned against the bunk house lazily and slowly completed my thought aloud: ‘And set her to ring at eleven o’clock. I reckon when she went off that Injun pony must have come unglued. It looks like our topnoteh wrangler had to run that cayuse halfway to the Arapahoe Reservation. Sometimes we older men have to take a heap sight more from kids than we ought to. But the thing smart kids need these days is experience.’